Organic Gardening

Organic Gardening, or more simply put 'Gardening the Natural Way', is rapidly growing in popularity.

Below is a document with a brief introduction to this method as recommended by Bella Vista Garden Club member, Tony LiCausi.

Club Member, Toni LiCausi, gave an in depth organic gardening program at the 2012 NW Arkansas District Meeting called 'Introduction to Organics'.

Below are three links to the Information in this presentation. 

Also, on this page - Tony's "Gardening the Natural Way".

Tony LiCausi’s Gardening the Natural Way

Getting Started 

Stimulating and maintaining healthy biological activity is the key to organics.  It's not complicated. Simply avoid doing anything that hurts the life in the soil. Choose only those inputs that benefit the life in the soil and that make sense from a horticultural standpoint. 

Soil amendment includes applying compost, rock materials (such as lava, sand granite, basalt and other paramagnetic materials) and dry molasses to all planting areas.  Use products that introduce and/or stimulate beneficial microbes in the soil.  


Yes, compost is a fertilizer.  In fact it is the best fertilizer as it is a Natural one.  The best compost are those made at home from several materials you have on your own property.  It can be in sun or shade and cover's are not necessary.  There are many recipes, but it's almost impossible to foul up. The best time is when materials are available. 

Piles can be made on natural ground or concrete.  Piles can just be mounded up with no container, or containers

can be built from hog wire, lumber, wooden pallets, cinder blocks or any material that will hold a 4' x 4' x 3' volume of compost.

Ingredients  can include anything that was once living; grass clippings, leaves, sawdust, spent plants, weeds, meal, seaweed, nut hulls, fish scraps, pine needles, wool, silk, cotton, granite dust, vegetable scraps, fruit peelings, pet hair, etc.  Materials should be chopped to decompost easier.  Uniform sizes tend to compact.

Turn monthly, avoid drying out, through in a  shovel or two of soil and/or manure from time to time.  Rule of thumb is trying to keep mixture at a 50% brown to 50% green ratio.   

An easy system for composting:  Drive 4 metal fence post in the ground in a 4' X 4' square. Then wrap it in half/inch galvanized screening 4' wire on three sides.  On the front side cut the screen to 3' and tie it on with wires for easy removal. With three containers, each holding a cubic yard of compost, you can have one that's finished and being used in the garden, one that's cooking (usually 1 year) and one that is being fed and being filled with new materials.



Broadcast organic fertilizer to the entire site 2-3 times per year  at 20 lbs. per 1,000 sq.ft.   Foliar feed all plants during the growing season, at least monthly, with aerated compost tea.  High-nitrogen salt fertilizers and products that contain synthetic material must be eliminated.  Bio-solid products should be avoided on food crops.  Miracle-Gro, Peters, other crystal-type products and Osmocote are not acceptable in an organic program. 


Mulch bare soil around all shrubs, trees, ground covers and food crops with shredded native tree trimmings to protect the soil from sunlight, wind, rain, to inhibit weed germination, decrease watering needs and mediate soil temperature.  Other natural mulches can be used but avoid bermuda grass hay because of herbicide residue.  Also avoid pine bark, cypress mulch and chemically dyed wood products.  Do not pile mulch on the stems of plants. 


Water only as needed.  The organic program will reduce the frequency and volume of water needed.  Add a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar per gallon of water when watering pots.  Use 1 ounce of liquid humate in acid soils. Compost tea can be used in either case.  Be careful of drip irrigation systems because with those systems, it is difficult to avoid dry and waterlogged spots.  Watering from above as nature does is usually best.


Mow turf  as needed and mulch clippings into the lawn to return nutrients and organic matter to the soil. Put occasional excess clippings in the compost pile.  Don't ever let clippings leave the site.  Do not use line trimmers around shrubs and trees.


Hand pull large weeds and work on soil health for overall control.  Mulch bare soil in beds.  Avoid  all synthetic herbicides including Roundup, 2, 4-D, MSMA, pre-emergents, broad-leaf treatments, soil sterilizers and especially the (sulfonylurea) herbicides such as Manage and Oust. Spray noxious weeds as needed with vinegar-based or fatty acid herbicides.


 Do not "lift" or "gut" trees.  Remove dead, diseased and conflicting limbs.  Do not over prune. Do not make flush cuts.  Leave the branch collars intact.  Do not paint cuts.   

Controlling Insect Pests

In general, control insect pests by encouraging beneficial insects and microbes and spraying with compost tea.  Spray minor outbreaks with plant oil products including orange oil, garlic-pepper tea, and Eugene oil. Avoid all pyrethum products, especially those containing Piperony butoxide (PBO), petroleum distillates and other contaminates. 

Controlling Diseases

Most diseases such as black spot, brown patch, powdery mildew and other fungal problems are controlled by prevention through soil improvement, avoidance of high-nitrogen fertilizers and proper watering. Outbreaks can be stopped with sprays of potassium bicarbonate, cornmeal juice, diluted milk or the commercial product Plant Wash. 


Bed Preparation

Scrape away existing grass and weeds;  add compost, lava sand, organic fertilizer, expanded shale, cornmeal and dry molasses and till into the native soil.  Excavation of natural soil  and additional ingredients such as concrete sand, peat moss, foreign soil and pine bark should not be used. More compost is needed for shrubs and flowers than for ground cover.  Add green sand to black and white soils and high calcium lime to acid soils.  Decomposed granite, rock phosphate and zeolite are effective for most all soils.      

There are no gardening mistakes, only experiments.

 Janet Kilburn Phillips