Armed with insights of their own and a strong desire to learn more about the world of organic gardening, more than thirty people showed up recently for the first in a series of how-to meetings on the subject, led by organic master gardener Vince Cirasole.
Cirasole is known widely for his experiences growing garlic as well as other organic gardening practices, made good on the promise of an “informal, interactive lecture.”
During the two-hour session, held at the Fellowship Hall of Christ Covenant Church in Copiague on , Cirasole took it upon himself not only to share what he knew, but to elicit commentary from participants, many of whom had experience and knowledge to bring to the discussion.
One of several that have been given throughout the year in a series of such presentations, Cirasole gave an overview of the principles of organic gardening, provided an outline of the seasonal tasks involved in the practice. He also focused particularly on fall organic gardening techniques in this session.
“Organic gardening is not just non-use of pesticides,” said Cirasole. “It involves building up soil to do the best job it can.”
How? He pointed to such practices as multi-cropping, rotation of crops, planting of cover crops over the winter to enrich the soil, composting, close monitoring of pH levels, rototilling and use of natural fertilizers.
Particular tasks in the fall, noted Cirasole, include clean-up of residual plant materials, laying in compost, peat moss and manure, and lime, and putting down a cover crop that includes nitrogen-fixing legumes and various grasses.
“Autumn is when next year’s garden starts,” he pointed out. “Your goal is to strive for a complex medium that, when it's complete, plants respond to with vigor.”
Other topics covered included proper watering techniques. Watering at the base of plants, according to Cirasole, as opposed to sprinkling the leaves is ideal. So is getting a good soak so water gets deep down into the roots, once plants are established.
The town’s organic gardening classes are held seasonally, and focus on topics relevant to spring gardening in March, summer gardening in May, autumn gardening in July and winter gardening in August. Remaining classes this year include and .
The class held for the (very) early spring emphasize planting from seeds in “hot beds” or in a “sunny window.” Summer planting classes focus on transplanting seedlings to their destination in the garden soil. Classes on fall planting, like this one, also stress the care and nurturing of plants that “love the cooler weather” and bear fruit before frost sets in.
The classes held for winter planting feature how to protect and nourish the soil over the harsh winter and prepare it for the spring by the use of the aforementioned nutrient-rich “cover crops.”