Organically Thinking


Gladiolus flowers soon to open

I was flipping through a gardening magazine, which I’ll keep nameless, that Chris (my husband) had in his car and after reading several articles it dawned on me how much my viewpoint on organic gardening has changed. Organic gardening is at the forefront of my thinking when I talk or think about gardening. It isn’t necessarily new thinking to me, but the idea of using non-organic pesticides or fertilizers turns my nose up even more now. Frankly, the idea of using these before trying an organic option first seems strange to me.

What really got to me was the letters section where readers wrote in with their concerns. Someone was having a problem with violets in their yard and they wanted to know how to get rid of them. The answer they received in return was to find an herbicide with 2,4-D. Really? For a violet problem? I know violets can be aggressive and invasive, but out of all the things that are aggressive and invasive that seems like one of the prettier ones to keep around. But, attacking it with something like this chemical seemed a little too much to start. Where was another option? I think I found it even more interesting because I’d just listened to an NPR show on Living on Earth that chronicled the spraying of chemicals over forests in Oregon to control deciduous trees in forest plots and 2,4-D was as chemical showing up in urine testing of the local residents in the area.

The other chemical that was mentioned in the gardening Q&A was glyphosate, also known as Round-Up. Now, I have used Round-Up in the past to battle a nasty invasion of air potato and Brazilian pepper in our yard in Florida. I can’t say that I didn’t have fun spraying that stuff on those plants because, well, they are kind of evil down there in Florida! I also had to do multiple rounds of spraying with Brazilian pepper because it had a tendency to re-sprout from the stump months later. It was a rental house so we didn’t remove the stump if you are wondering about that. Anyway, the article was responding to a question about grass around a live-oak and all I could think was, isn’t there another option like laying down newspapers to kill the grass?

I think the biggest thing is that I think twice about chemicals, particularly herbicides and pesticides. Non-organic fertilizers aren’t that great either and I will try to steer clear of them in the future as well, or at least think heavily before buying them again. Oh, I’ve been a Miracle-Gro, Osmocote, and other fertilizer type gardener before but I think those days are mostly over. Those types of fertilizers are generally quick release and taken in by the plant quickly whereas most organic fertilizers and soil additives are slow release, giving nutrition to the plants throughout the growing season instead of in one big lump. Really, you should be building your soil over time and improving your conditions so your plants can thrive. I can’t say that there might not be a time when you give the plants a dose of a synthetic fertilizer, but think about that too—it is synthetic, and sometimes it is a by-product of another chemical reaction or removal system that isn’t necessarily good.

It really is interesting to realize that a thought process has completely changed. A few years ago I might not have thought the advice and advertisements in the magazine were so strange, but now I do. I’ve discovered a whole other world of gardening.

Have your thoughts and views changed the more you read about organic gardening? If not, why have you held onto conventional methods? Do you mix conventional and organic gardening, say keeping organic for edibles but retaining conventional methods for the rest of your yard? Curious minds want to know!

Some interesting things I found while writing this:
+Synthetic vs. Organic Fertilizers: Can Plants Tell the Difference?
+Comparing Synthetic versus Organic Fertilizers
+Organic versus non-organic fertilizer ingredients
+Fertilizers versus Soil Ammendments
+EPA Approves Use of Coal Ash—-synthetic gypsum is a byproduct of this.
+More Information on Boiler Ash—was interested to see this from a local to me (Houston) source. Might have to find out more about this company.
+The Myth of Gypsum from a Washington State University researcher. She has a lot of other interesting things that I will have to flip through one day and see if I agree with her on.

Comments 3

  1. chel wrote:

    I’m kind of a default organic gardener because I’m in containers in a screened-in lanai (and I still get weeds, though plucking them does the job and it only needs to be done a few times a year) AND I have my cats and a few lizards hanging out in my garden so the idea of using anything around there that might be toxic is an absolute non-option. I usually use the mister on the hose, several days in a row, and that does a fairly good job. If not, the plant goes outside on the outside deck. If I need to, I use Safer which is supposedly organic, but I only use it if my garden is at risk in a larger way. I don’t know- maybe if I were tending to the ladnscape at large I would feel different, but considering I often find something growing in the cracks of the pavers on my lanai and pull it out to PLANT it and see what it turns into is a sign that I’m not OCD about having a perfectly planned and manicured garden to begin with. Any plant delights me. But I might not feel that way if I had an invasion of something creeping along and killing something I lovingly tended…

    Posted 07 May 2012 at 9:45 am
  2. Misti wrote:

    I was actually wondering about container gardening and how you did it organically—and if you did. Do you buy organic potting soil?

    Posted 07 May 2012 at 3:10 pm
  3. chel wrote:

    Misti: a lot of the soil we have bought is organic. We get giant bags from Lowes or Home Depot. I guess it’s some local company. I do admit that there is some Miracle Gro mixed in there, though. I reuse all my soil- I just dump it back into the bin when I’m done with it. It’s a motley mix.

    We just get what we can, and hope it’s not mostly sand.

    Come to think of it, I’m not entirely sure what the status is with our fertilizer. That’s something that I *do* feel I have to be aggressive about because I don’t repot as often as I should, so the plants need to “eat” often.

    And we haven’t started composting yet. It’s something I want to do, but am a little hesitant because we do have a rodent/bug situation here on the edge of the Everglades (we’ve seen many rats around but as long as they stay out of our house I don’t care) and I’m trying to keep our house toxin free. So we try not to do anything that *attracts* pests. We’ve had to relocate our bird feeders, move our garbage, etc. to keep the local scavengers away from entry points into the house. But I’m determined to do whatever it takes to keep toxic pest control from happening.

    I also definitely need a rain barrel. Several.

    Posted 09 May 2012 at 5:19 pm

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