For anyone with a garden, it seems simple: grow your own produce. But the chemical industry is big business, so gardeners have, over the years, been persuaded that they too can "benefit" from research carried out by the commercial growers and farmers. After all, what is good for the professional must be good for amateurs. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth.
While we can certainly benefit in some ways from research, there is absolutely no need for the home gardener to follow commercial practices blindly. Remember, the professional grows on a large scale for profit, while we do so on a small scale for pleasure. He needs all his harvest to be ready at the same time, while we want to stagger it. What's more, there is no need to sacrifice anything in terms of yield and quality. Let me give you an example.
If a farmer has twenty acres of cabbages, he can almost certainly expect an attack of cabbage white butterfly, since no self‐respecting butterfly could miss such an opportunity. So, to stop the hungry caterpillars from devouring the entire crop, the farmer may have no alternative but to spray. The gardener, on the other hand, has perhaps only ten or a dozen plants. And, if he is an organic gardener, they'll be interplanted with other crops and so effectively camouflaged from the butterflies, who recognize them by sight and perhaps smell. Chances are, the cabbages will be missed altogether, but if a butterfly does see them and lay her eggs, there is still no need to reach for a spray. All you need to do is walk down the row occasionally, pick off the offending caterpillars, and drop them into ajar of kerosene. You will get one hundred percent control and it will cost you nothing. What's more, your cabbages will be perfectly clean and healthy. Even better, if you grow the right kind of plants in the ornamental borders and among the vegetables, the birds and the ground beetles will do the job for you.
The same philosophy applies to fertilizers. In a natural soil there are millions of microorganisms beavering away on our behalf, producing the nutrients that plants need for healthy growth. Look after them by feeding the soil (rather than applying chemical fertilizers to feed the plants) and they'll repay you a thousand‐fold. They'll not thank you for a daily dose of paraquat.