Growing Organic Produce at Home
Some gardeners prefer growing organic produce for environmental reasons and some choose growing organic produce out of concern for health. Some gardeners simply find that growing organic produce is a cheaper option that paying out for all the chemicals required for conventional kitchen gardening. All are sound and reasons for opting for growing organic produce, but there’s no need to become embroiled in controversy as to whether growing organic produce results in better tasting vegetables. Anything grown at home will probably taste better than bought produce because it can be picked immediately before it’s eaten and economics of growing at home are different from growing commercially. Growing organic produce at home is usually cheaper than using chemicals.
Growing Organic Produce is Healthier, Good for the Environment and Cheaper
Rates of childhood leukaemia are up to seven times higher for children who have been exposed to high concentrations of garden chemicals. This is not remotely surprising. When we consider that children are sensitive to all sorts of apparently benign substances, it’s no great leap of faith so suspect that many are hypersensitive to the chemicals in weed killers and insecticides. Growing organic produce avoids these risks.
Growing organic produce also avoids the risk of chemicals, especially fertilisers washing into the local water system and killing marine life or affecting the ecological balance We see reports about ‘colony collapse disorder’ and wonder whether the beneficial insects are being killed off by pesticides gardeners use. And growing organic produce reduces dependence on the petrochemicals (oil) which are important ingredients in most lawn and garden chemicals. Confining our home gardening to growing organic produce only, makes the garden a more attractive environment for wildlife.
Pesticides are designed to kill, often through attacking the nervous system. There should be no surprise that they might also have a detrimental effect of the most vulnerable humans. If growing organic produce helps avoids these risks it must be worth trying.
Chemicals cost money. Growing organic produce is cheaper. Killing path weeds with a flame gun or pulling them up by the roots and then pouring boiling water in to the roots is free. Compost can be made from the weeds so turning the process of growing organic produce into a virtuous annual circle.
A Garden Suitable for Growing Organic Produce
Much of the technique involved in growing organic produce lies in observing the garden itself. Gardeners need to be alert to early signs of disease and insect damage.
It’s possible to start a new garden suitable for growing organic produce with little or even no digging but before starting the new gardener needs to know what the garden is capable of growing and design it with the prospective occupants in mind. Things to consider are
- Does the location suffer from high winds. If so and there’s no natural windbreak such as a wall or hedge present growing organic produce or anything else for that matter may be very difficult. If necessary erect a trellis or some other form of windbreak feature
- Find a spot which benefits from at least six to eight hours of sun in the growing season. Growing organic produce requires the best natural conditions possible to make up for the absence of artificial benefits provided by chemical fertilisers
- Choose a spot for growing organic produce which is easily accessible so as to avoid carrying tools and watering cans long distances
- Growing organic produce requires the right terrain. If the land slopes it will need to be re-orientated to take best advantage of the sun. And if there are any depressions where water can collect they should be filled in with soil. Soil which takes too long to dry out in wetter times of the year will make growing organic produce very difficult. The roots might rot
- Check out the soil. If it’s full of tree roots or rocks growing organic produce will be difficult or impossible. It might be better to consider a lasagne garden or a raised bed vegetable garden. KCS will be featuring further articles on constructing different types of gardens
- Test the soil. Before you start growing organic produce you will need to know the type of soil you have, what state of health it’s in, whether it drains well and what its Ph is. Soil testing services are available by post and DIY soil testing kits can be obtained from many companies advertising on the Internet. KCS will be featuring further articles on how to improve different types of soil
Seeds for Growing Organic Produce
Growing organic produce requires organically grown seeds and plants to start off with, otherwise chemical fertilisers and pesticides will be present from the start. Organically grown seed come from organically grown plants and are readily available on line. Growing organic produce benefits from ‘companion planting’ so it’s worth doing the necessary research to find what plants thrive in each others’ company and more importantly which don’t.
When starting growing organic produce or gardening in general from scratch it’s best to start with fruits and vegetables that don’t go wrong. One completely failed season might result in you abandoning growing organic produce altogether.
One Step Further
If you’re interested in taking your commitment to growing organic produce one step further. Deep Organic Gardening is a concept which goes beyond growing organic produce without chemicals and artificial fertilisers. Devotees refer to the way many of us go about growing organic produce as ‘shallow organic gardening’ ‘Deep organic’ gardeners are committed to growing organic produce in line with nature’s guidelines. They focus on producing as much soil building material themselves and avoid introducing off site inputs to assist with growing organic produce.
The practice however as much a political statement as anything else as it makes virtually no difference to the objective most of us have when growing organic produce, that being to obtain healthy cheap food. It does have a sound philosophical basis for gardeners who care deeply about the environment. Although growing organic produce has all the advantages we’ve already described and is much more environmentally sound than using chemicals and fertilisers, there is still a knock on effect into the environment. Growing organic produce still often engages us in varying degrees of contact with the agro chemical industry. Growing organic produce at home still often involves using some of the potting soils and organic fertilisers manufactured by the agro chemical industry. Devotees of ‘deep organic gardening’ also identify a tendency towards growing organic produce using methods which appear to mimic the direction in which chemical agriculture has gone.
So, to be truly organic or at least come closer to the goal you may wish to ensure that your venture into growing organic produce keeps you as close to nature as possible. Nurture your own soil naturally, grow your own cover crops, and make your own compost.