What is Organic Health Management(OHM)?
Organic health management is the idea that we need to look after the health of our systems as an ecosystem as a whole, rather than looking at it as an individual managing sections of the ecology to obtain a yield.
Most people are familiar with Integrated Pest Management (IPM), but Organic Health Management (OHM) is something a little different.
It starts with what Darren Doherty calls the climate of the mind. Semantics is important. The language we use can really frame the way we think and act. The idea that we are trying to manage a ‘pest’ is showing us our bias as we are only looking at it from a human-centric perspective, not an ecological one. With that mindset, we are only looking at the insects that predate on our vegetable and fruits as a problem rather than an opportunity to learn.
Calling them a ‘pest’ in some way allows us to think that it is okay to ‘wage war’ on these creatures who have been part of this living ecosystem far longer than we have. Something as simple as changing a word and changing a mindset can start to honour the role these creatures play in our ecosystem. As Bill said, the problem is the solution.
While the yields are limited to our imagination (you do not have a snail problem, you have a duck deficiency), much like weeds (see Weedy Wednesdays) we can take this opportunity to learn and adapt.
What first really brought the idea to my attention years ago was applying compost to my fruit trees. I was diligent in the creation and the application of compost to my trees at certain times of the year. But what I noticed after each use was the aphid population exploded on my trees each time after application. At first, it was the standard approaches of more habitat species to hopefully bring in the beneficial, but this only worked to a point. It was not until I sat and thought about it did I come to understand that the aphids were a feedback loop to the application of the compost I was making. Upon investigation, I discovered that the compost was ultimately too nitrogen-rich, which in turn had an effect on the tree, which lead to an increase of aphids. I was ultimately responsible for, not these creatures.
Sitting back and thinking can be a powerful thing if we allow it. Observe and Interact.
I had to check my biases on everything, with asking myself a simple question – Is this adding to the health of my system? A simple question but quite a deep one. If after assessment, the answer was a ‘no’ then it was banished from my program. Even on the tiniest level.
From there, it was back to the drawing board and starting again. With a bug book in hand, going back to the beginning with observing and interact, I started taking notes on everything that was going on, deeper than I had done with my permaculture design. What plant, what animal, how were they connected, and what was the consequence of that relationship. Looking at soils – there health and composition, pest prey relationships, what plant attracts what beneficial and what plants repel other species.
Some of the things I discovered and mapped out are below, with downloadable pdf’s at the bottom of this post, but these are just based on my own observations.
Every system is different, and you will ultimately need to go wandering through your own property, pen and paper in hand and explore, hopefully with childlike wonder as I did, this new world that opens up before us, the relationships and the overall health of our system.
It really does come down to management, but rather than manage what we perceive to be a pest, how about we manage the overall health of our system to create something that sits in balance. Prevention is better than cure
Organic Pest Management is a practical and environmentally sensitive approach to managing our systems. It relies on an intimate knowledge of what is happening in our design, the life cycles of both beneficial and pest insects, the understanding and health of our soils, and the creation of a healthy garden habitat based on this knowledge. Use of Home Made Insecticides is an absolute last resort, and typically happens after an external event that I have no control over IE: I found that after the helicopters have flown over aerial baiting fire ants, there is a massive drop in the beneficial insect population in my gardens.
Organic Health Management encourages the honing of observational skills, observe and interact, as well as the knowledge of the connections present between all living beings, and the importance of keeping balance.
Good Organic Health Management is based on some basic principles
• Only make choices that improve the overall health of the system
• Healthy soils contain many different organisms, keeping them in check. Maintain the diversity and fertility of the soil. We look after the earth, and the soil looks after the plant
• By using compost
• By planting cover crops and green manures
• living mulches
Encourage Habitat for Beneficial Creatures
*Keep a diversity of plants in your garden to feed and shelter the beneficial creatures that help fight pests. This can include hedgerows, trees, or even intentionally placed bat or birdhouses.
• Having a variety of flowering plants on the property provides food — pollen & nectar — and refuge for numerous beneficial insects.
And above all, always observe
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