Organic vegetables and flowers
Photo: Suzanne DeJohn/National Gardening Association
Organic gardening is taking off around the nation, but there's nothing new about gardening without synthetic chemicals. In fact, it was the only way people grew food until a few generations ago.

Barbara W. Ellis, a horticulturist and author of The Veggie Gardener's Answer Book, says the use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides in gardening only became popular in the '40s.

"All of our great-grandparents were organic gardeners. Nonorganic gardening only started after the World Wars, when all the chemicals became available," she says. "We went through a period in the country where we thought we could kill every insect, and then people realized maybe that isn't a good idea."

Questions about the harmful effects of synthetic garden, lawn and agricultural chemicals on food, water, insects, animals and humans has taken center stage. Now, more people are buying organic food, and some want to try growing it themselves too. Barbara says you shouldn't be afraid to try. "It is one thing people can do that they have control over, that they can make the environment a little better," she says.

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