organic farming, the practice of raising plants—especially fruits and vegetables, but ornamentals as well—without the use of synthetic pesticides, herbicides, or fertilizers. In the United States, as elsewhere, awareness of the environmental damage and threats to health (see pollution; environmentalism) caused by DDT, dieldrin, and other insecticides and by the excessive use of chemical fertilizers has fostered interest in organic gardening, particularly among home gardeners. Organic gardeners use short-lived, biodegradable pest-killers or biological pest control and prefer manure for fertilizer. Organic farming on a large scale is both difficult and costly, but a small, steady market for organically grown, or "natural," foods supports a limited commercial effort in the United States. See also Integrated Pest Management; organic food.
See J. I. Rodale et al., ed., The Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening (1959, repr. 1971); C. O. Foster, The Organic Gardener (1972).