What You Need to Know about Organic Gardening
Organic gardening is a "natural" way to grow things without chemical additives. For the most part, that means that you don't use chemical fertilizers or pesticides, but organic gardening may entail far more than that, especially if you intend to sell produce from your garden.
Organic Gardening for Personal Use
If your goal in organic gardening is to grow produce for your own personal use, you are not required to meet USDA standards. You decide how organic you want to go. Most organic home gardeners pay a lot of attention to the soil, making sure they don't use chemical additives. Most also eliminate chemical pesticides, but may fudge a little if they are invaded with some bug that they can't get rid of with organic means.
Most home organic gardeners do not worry about buying organic seeds or making certain there are no foreign chemicals in the soil. And most home organic gardeners produce healthy, chemical-free produce. They are also protecting the environment by keeping chemicals out of the water supply and food chain.
USDA Organic Certification
If you start organic gardening planning to sell organic produce, you will want to look into getting USDA Organic Certification. You cannot label the produce you sell as "organic" without this certification.
USDA Organic Certification came about because there were no standards for organic gardening, and consumers had no way of knowing what they were getting. Now, if you buy food that is labeled "organic," you know that it was grown without chemical additives. You also know that the seed was organic, and that the soil has had no chemical additives in it for at least five years. It is time-consuming, expensive and a paperwork headache to get USDA organic certification and many organic gardening enthusiasts don't go through the process.
Other Organic Certification
There are other certifications you can get if your organic gardening is going to produce profit as well as food. These certifications are not authorized by the USDA, and you cannot call your produce "organic" if you choose them.
One such certification is "Certified Naturally Grown." Produce with this label is grown under the same conditions as USDA Organic produce, but you don't have to pay the USDA fees and do the USDA recordkeeping. It is a realistic option for small organic gardening endeavors. Organic gardening is a good way to provide healthy produce for you and your family (and your neighborhood, if you grow zucchini). Whether you grow food just for your own use, or you grow it to sell, you are protecting the environment and the health of those who eat it.