It occurred to me a few weeks ago that it's been at least 2 years since Andre and I last put any chemicals on our garden or produce. It's not been a deliberate choice, but something that just happened without us even realising it. With kids, chickens, guinea pigs and rabbits ranging about all over the garden it would have been very restrictive for them to have to avoid certain areas because I had used weed killer or sprinkled some kind of fertiliser. But it also comes down to convenience. There is never the wide choice of anything in Norway that other nations have come to expect, and with the rising costs of almost everything I have usually sought alternatives wherever I can. On top of that is the effectiveness of natural fertilisers and pest control. They really are a whole lot better and more effective!!
I guess it started a few years ago when a friend gave me a big container of chicken poop from her farm. I was absolutely delighted and used it on all my tomato plants. They loved it and we had a bumper crop. After that I was determined to use alternatives to shop bought products whenever I could.
Welcoming some organic gardening into your life doesn't have to be painful or even touchy feely. It can be effortless and there's a good chance you are doing some of it already.
Here are few of the ways we include it in our lives:
Oh, the joy of composting! Once you've tried it you'll never go back to the stuff in bags. We compost on a reasonable scale simply because have the available space, but if you only have a small space you can get kits for small scale composting. The basic principle is the same. You are turning organic waste into fertiliser. There are a few rules - no meat, cooked food or citrus. But otherwise nearly all our organic waste goes into the compost heap; everything from vegetable waste to chicken poop, to even a small amount of cardboard and paper. For a really good comprehensive guide, Charles Dowding is your guy and you can see some of his YouTube videos here.
Encourage natural pest control
It's simpler than it sounds. Along the food chain there is always something that is going to eat something else. Aphids are eaten by ladybird larvae, slugs are eaten by toads, mice are eaten by snakes, if you encourage little birds into the garden they are going to help you out be eating the caterpillars on your precious brassicas. For every pest there is a predator. A few years ago we had a bit of a mouse problem (we get "mice years"), so the following year I decided to tackle it head on with some inviting piles of rocks on the edge of our boundary adjacent to a field. The rocks encouraged snakes (and coincidentally toads) which helped keep the mice numbers down. I should add that the only poisonous snakes we get in Norway are adders which are smallish, skinny and very shy.
What are your primary pests and what can you invite into the garden to help keep the numbers down?
Grow your own
If you've grown it yourself (especially if from seed) you know what has gone into feeding that plant from start to finish. You are much more in control of how it is grown and you have the added satisfaction of seeing it grow from start to finish.
Try some natural fertilisers and pest control "potions"
A long time ago I used to buy something called "Algo-flash". It was a super strong fertiliser that was particularly good on tomatoes, but needless to say it's not something I have ever seen in Norway. So this year I really wanted to give my tomatoes a boost and discovered a great homemade tomato fertiliser. You simply put a banana skin in a jar, top up with water and allow it to sit for a few days before watering your tomatoes with it. The potassium in the banana skin leaches out into the water and tomatoes love it! Another solution I found to a problem with a plum tree was a ferment of nettles. Just nettles left in a bucket of water for 5 days and then watered onto the plum tree. Both of these "potions" have proved to be much more effective than anything I would buy.
Of course, all this is a work in progress and we are constantly trying to include more sustainability and self sufficiency in our lives. There is something very rewarding about knowing that you are making a small difference to the world around you and trying to be just a little more sustainable.
Are you including any of these simple ways to be a little more organic and sustainable in your gardening? Maybe you already have some ways you use. If you do I'd love to hear about them and how you are including some organic or sustainable habits in your own life.
If you'd like to follow more of our journey and share your own Nordic living journey with us, we have a Living a Nordic Life Facebook Group and we'd be delighted to welcome you there.