Advice on Organic and Responsible Gardening

Ted Smith, Rogue Community College (RCC) landscaper and groundskeeper, has had a long history with plant life and works hard to keep RCC landscape green. By the age of nine, he was what you could call a child prodigy in the lawn mowing business with his own route of lawns he tended.

When Smith moved to Grants Pass in the late 70s, he didn’t have a skill that allowed him to find work easily. Consequently, this happened to be around the time a new term was starting at RCC, and he pursued his degree in horticulture, graduating in 1979. From there Smith has worked as a landscape/irrigation contractor, owned his own landscaping company, and worked in a garden center in Westchester County, New York while responsible for maintaining an estate. From there he came back to RCC where he has been a landscaper and groundskeeper for 14 years.

When asked the difference between an organic and a nonorganic garden, Smith explained organic gardening focuses first on the soil make-up, making sure to add compost to it and till it yearly. When adding fertilizer to an organic garden, the gardener is concerned with adding fertilizer that comes from animal, plant or mineral.

“With organic gardening you are giving back and building up the soil, not just taking from it. When bugs or disease appear, you use helpful bugs, or organic sprays to combat the problem,” Smith explains. “Personally I only use organic methods in vegetable garden,” he added.

With nonorganic gardens, a synthetic type of fertilizer and pesticides are often used to kill bugs, disease or weeds. This has the potential to upset the balance of nature in your garden, but don’t let that scare anyone way from gardening, if the organic route is not your cup of tea. Smith explains that there is responsible gardening, meaning there is a way to use commercial products safely; a practice that is used at RCC.

Smith takes extra precautions when he uses commercial products. For example, Roundup is a product frequently used at RCC and Smith is always sure to use the product on a sunny day to ensure the product will dry quickly and he displays signs warning that the area has been sprayed, decreasing chances that it can harm the environment.

“If you use pesticides, always read the labels and use the product accordingly making sure to wear the proper protective clothing, boots and gloves. Do not spray on a windy day and keep the spray only on the target,” Smith stated.

When asked what advice he would give to those who don’t have a green thumb, Smith explained, “Start with tomatoes or zucchinis and those already started in containers. These are two of the easiest veggies to grow. And don’t over water.”

Smith also recommends checking out the abundance of resources available online or in the library. There is an array of resources for both organic and nonorganic gardens that explain ideas from do it yourself (DIY) products to ward off damaging elements to advice on how to use commercial products safely.

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