Cultual practices includes all those things that a gardener does
in the care of the garden. Many of the non-organic materials
used by non-organic gardeners have the capacity to mask the
importance of these cultural practices in the prevention and
control of garden pests. In organic gardening, however, these
cultural practices are of central importance and constitute the
first line of defense against both plant disease and garden
This section deals with the principals and particulars of the
various cultural practices for the home garden.
Prevention and/or Treatment of Plant & Soil Disease by
cultural practices, deals with the use of specific cultural
practices to prevent or correct specific disease problems.
Prevention and/or Treatment of Plant Pests
using cultural practices, deals with the specific cultural
practices to prevent or correct specific pests.
A gardener can avoid a lot of disease and pest problems by
just selecting the right plants for the garden. A plant that
is well suited for the specific growing conditions in the
garden is usually more disease resistant and more tolerant of
pest damage. Just because a plant looks handsome in a catalog
or in some display garden, it doesn't mean that it will do
well in your garden unless the conditions are the same. The
plant that isn't doing well is often a prime candidate for
disease and garden pests and, in turn, it may become a problem
source for the entire garden.
Companion plants are used in several ways. The original way
was to use specific plants in the garden to repel garden
pests. Some time later it was found that certain plants had
the ability to attract and to maintain populations of
beneficial insects. There is now an appreciation that
combinations of plant materials contribute to the overall
content and working of the garden's ecosystem. This
sub-section is about the use of companion plants and their
contributions to the garden.
Really good garden soils don't just happen. They are crafted
by the gardener working with nature. Quality is a function of
the content and the texture. A good garden soil contains about
two-thirds by volume rock particles of various sizes plus the
complete range of the essential mineral nutrients at the
appropriate levels, one-third by volume organic material which
includes a large number of living organisms along with organic
material in various stages of decomposition, plus moisture,
plus a considerable amount of air space. The texture should be
open enough to just accommodate penetration by air, water, and
living organisms that sub-section and just closed enough for
This sub-section is about the cultural; practices that go into
the initial preparation and amending of the soil.
"Soil Structure & Content; Soil Properties &
Amendments; Soil Microorganisms; Soil Macro Organisms;
Correcting Soil Problems; and Mulches" deals primarily
with soil science.
Garden design is normally only considered in the context of
the esthetics or look of the garden but design is also an
important element in the performance of the garden as well.
This is particularly true in the case of the organic garden.
For example, the organic gardener needs to keep an extra clean
garden to minimize problems with disease and/or garden pests.
The job of keeping the garden clean can be made easier or more
difficult as a result of design. Over-crowding, a function of
poor design, hinders the gardener's efforts to keep the garden
clean. This sub-section is about the design of the garden in
terms of esthetics and performance.
Garden editing is the process of going through the garden
plant by plant and evaluating their individual performance.
Editing is usually limited to established perennials, shrubs,
and trees. The issue is that if plants are not doing well or
they are not serving their intended purpose, they may need to
be tried in a different location or removed from the garden
all together. It is a kind of fine tuning that is done in fine
gardens for the sake of esthetics.
Garden editing, however, is also a way to minimize or prevent
plant disease or problems with garden pests. The plant that is
not doing well is often more subject to disease or pest
problems and should it become infected or infested, it could
become a source of problems for the whole garden. This
sub-section is about the processing of assessing plant
performance and dealing with problem plants.
There are many ways to water a garden. The kind of watering
system that is best is dependent upon the particulars of the
garden and the ecosystem. If, for example, one gardens in an
area that tends to be hot and dry, it is likely that Powdery
Mildew is one of the major disease problems in that garden.
There are many different kinds of Powdery Mildew but they all
like and need dry foliage and low humidity to become
established and to flourish. Simple overhead watering
minimizes problems with Powdery Mildew.
If one gardens in an area that is mostly cool and humid, it is
likely that the major disease problems will be caused by those
fungus organisms that like wet or moist foliage along with
cool and humid conditions. Overhead watering is an area with
these conditions would be an invitation to chronic disease
problems. This sub-section is about the ways the different
watering systems work with the various conditions in the
A few disease spores and plant pests can be found in even the
healthiest of gardens. They are an integral part of nature.
The disease spores are contested by the natural resistance of
the plants. The plant pests are contested by the natural
predators. The "health" garden is the garden in
which there is a natural balance and the disease spores or
plant pests do not have the upper hand. A lot of the build up
of disease and plant pests takes place in the clutter of the
garden. Accumulations of decomposing plant debris are breeding
places for garden problems. Just keeping the garden clean is
one of the best defenses against disease and pest problems.
This sub-section is about the various ways to get and keep the
Sometimes thoughts on pruning are limited to shaping, removing
spent or damaged plant material, promoting growth in a certain
direction, or promoting more flowers or fruit. There are a
host of other ways pruning can contribute to a better garden.
Pruning is a particularly good way of preventing and
correcting many disease and plant pest problems. This
sub-section is about the many uses of pruning in the home
Some of the established cultural practices based on earlier
options are now being challenged by current technology.
"Digging in" organic material to amend the soil, for
example, dates back to the start of recorded history. Now it
is known that mycorrhizae, beneficial soil fungi, do better
when the soil is not disturbed. Current thinking is that it
would be a better practice to simply lay the organic material
on top of the soil and let nature do the incorporation. (Earth
worms move back and forth between the soil and the layer of
organic material in their feeding process and they open the
soil structure as they go.)
Some of the products of current technology that are being
promoted for the home garden may or may not be a good idea.
Many of these new products are not regulated. The current
fracas over the use of genetically engineered plants is a
prime example. This sub-section is about those many cultural
practices that are in dispute.