Monday, April 22, 2013

Organic gardening, and how to celebrate Earth Day

May 2012 
Happy Earth Day!

Today I will give the terrace its first dose of organic seaweed emulsion (peugh!), in celebration. Fortunately, the smell dissipates in 24 hours.

I am increasingly mindful of the difference between organic fertilizers and synthetic chemical fertilizers. Recently I have been shocked (naively?) to the roots of my red hairs to learn that there are still serious gardeners and garden writers who see nothing wrong with using all-synthetic fertilizers on their gardens. Such willful ignorance of how gardens are tied to our environment floors me. The information is there at the click of a mouse, now. Not looking for it is like closing your eyes and saying, If I don't see it, it can't be happening.

There are chemicals in both organic and synthetic plant foods. But, very broadly speaking, synthetic chemical fertilizers feed the plant alone, and organics feed the soil, replenishing it and keeping minute soil life alive. The soil feeds the plant.

Organics also do not pollute our waterways and air in the way that synthetic fertilizers do, in terms of  run off and emissions. Those dead zones in the ocean, near river mouths? That's upstream runoff, often from farmland. Gardens and golf courses contribute to this water pollution (which is now thought to be killing manatees, as their sea grass diet is threatened by algal bloom in the Gulf of Mexico). The process of manufacturing synthetic fertilizers is also very different, in terms raw materials used, and of the poisonous and greenhouse emissions that result.

May 2012

As a former blue crystal user I can assure you that there is new soil life and a beautiful garden at the end of the Miracle Gro tunnel. I have been gardening organically for years and the plants are very happy. The results are not as fast. With organics, soil organisms(often microscopic) must first break down the food to make it available to the plant. With synthetic chemicals, the "food" goes straight to the plant. The soil is also bereft of those tiny critters. They cannot tolerate such a salty environment. The soil is, for want of a less dramatic word, dead. And your plants are in constant need of a new fix.

Earth Day, 2013

In the beginning, I needed to exercise patience - always hard for me. But now my plants are rocking along. All you need to do is look at those yearlong strawberries and reblooming roses. Of course, my little garden makes no difference to the world. But if my little garden and the others like it are joined by your gardens, and your friends' gardens, then we have the beginning of the normalization of healthy living. So far, chemicals have been normal; I grew up with them.

We have begun to stop putting artificial ingredients in our bodies. Why? Because they can make us sick.  Now our gardens must follow suit.

May 2012

This evening, we will have supper by candlelight, as we usually do on Earth Day. Such a trivial (though gentle) act makes no difference, in and of itself, in isolation. But the gesture, especially if it is shared, goes towards that building of awareness, which is so important. The more people observe Earth Day, the more normal the conversation - and conservation - becomes...

Earth Friendly Fertilizers:

The key is to read: Ingredients, labels, and what you can about the source of ingredients.

Regarding brands, Espoma, (so far)
Compost - compost is the best thing you can do for your garden. Mix it with top soil and potting soil, and use it as a mulch.
Aged manure - check source. You do not want sludge, which is treated sewage (think heavy metals and tarces of antibiotics)
Guano - bird poo. Wonderful stuff. Check source, if you can.
Worm castings
Seaweed extracts
Fish meal

Please add your suggestions in the comments.

And what are you doing, this Earth Day?

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