Or can you be politically incorrect, and still sleep at night?
The answer is, I think probably a bit of both, and whatever is easiest for you, and whatever sits easiest on your shoulders.
Organic gardening is loosely understood as gardening without any artificial chemical fertilizers or pesticides. Wikipedia gives a slightly longer explanation “Organic [gardening] is the science and art of growing fruits, vegetables, flowers, or ornamental plants by following the essential principles of organic agriculture in soil building and conservation, pest management, and heirloom variety preservation.”
Organic gardening does imply a closer and, for me, somehow an almost deeper emotional, commitment to your gardening and to your garden.
My personal stance is that I do my best to organically garden – although I fall down sometimes. I think it is important to garden organically for your food in particular – but I do understand that this can sometimes be so hard as to be almost impossible. I am sure committed organic gardeners, to whom I raise my hat in complete admiration, will be screaming at that statement of sin, and I don’t really blame them.
I don’t like all the chemicals and additives that go into our processed food these days. Particularly now, recovering from cancer, I want to have the most organic diet I can manage. My garden is almost entirely organic … save for the little bit that isn’t. My single problem is a weedy perennial grass that survives deep in the soil and can run through an entire garden via deep runner roots. Once it becomes established in a bed then it is virtually impossible to root out.
I do my best, I have spent entire winters turning over a garden bed and removing every single piece of root left behind. But I always miss a piece, and that means, come summer … Nightmare City. So in a couple of beds I have used a glycophosphate spray to remove the grass. I then leave the bed fallow for a year, but even so, the guilt weighs heavily.
So I am not going to criticise anyone who uses chemicals, but I will encourage you to move as much as you can toward chemical-free gardening.
Apart from my Nightmare Grass (I don’t even know the proper term for it, it is only The Nightmare to me) I actually find it very easy to garden without using chemicals. I use compost, legume hay (pea straw), animal manure and organic fertilizers (generally based on animal manure and/or blood and bone with additional minerals) and seaweed fertilizers to keep up the fertility of my soil (together with crop rotation and green manuring). That’s easy.
So far as pests go, I have little trouble apart from rats and the occasional white fly infestation. The cats take care of the rats (are cats organic?) and if they get too bad then I will trap them (the rats, not the cats), and the white fly are taken care of with white-fly traps (sticky yellow boards which trap the insects).
My peach trees get leaf curl … but I spray them with an organic-approved fungicide to prevent that.
Other than those problems I have never had much of a problem. Oh, wait – there are the cockatoos which come to raid my walnut tree, but the local council refuses me permission to take my machine gun to them. Never mind. I’ll just have to share the walnuts instead.
So this one I will leave up to you. If you develop a problem in your garden pest-wise or disease-wise, then try to use an organic solution before the non-organic alternative. The non-organic alternative may be more alluring with promise of quick results … but in a food garden you probably shouldn’t be using it.
Do your best to garden organically. It will give you healthier food and a friendlier garden.