Foliar Feeding

As organic gardeners, we are constantly reminded to feed our soil, not our plants. But there are circumstances where we want to directly feed our plants through foliar feeding.

Foliar feeding can give plants a direct boost of nutrients through their leaves. This is done by means of thousands of microscopic pores on leaf surfaces. These openings, called stomata (Greek: stoma, meaning “mouth”) are located primarily on the underside of the leaves. This prevents them from plugging up with dust and other environmental contaminants and also prevents fungal spores from entering. The primary functions of stomata openings are to permit gases containing carbon, hydrogen and oxygen to enter the plant. These are then used to manufacture sugars during photosynthesis. Conversely, stomata allow water vapor to escape from plants. In most cases, stomata close at night because the absorption of carbon dioxide is unnecessary when photosynthesis is not taking place. Stomata may also close on hot, dry days, in heavy winds or when the soil becomes dry.

We can use these stomata openings to help increase a plants growth, health, and overall production through the application an organic fertilizer in the form of a foliar spray. The stomata are able to absorb dissolved nutrients and minerals and translocate them to the parts of the plant where they are needed.

Dr. Earth® Liquid Solution™ 3-3-3- liquid fertilizer and Dr. Earth® Seaweed Extract 0-0-4.5 are rich in organic nutrients, humic acids, and seaweed extract and can make a huge difference in plant growth and performance. Seaweed extract contains an abundance of trace minerals as well as growth hormones that can quickly stimulate plant growth through the division, enlargement, and elongation of cells. Plant hormones called cytokinins, which increase the speed of cell division, are particularly important. Dr. Earth® Liquid Solutions introduces these hormones, increasing growth rates and causing plants to break dormancy early. It is effective as a short term measure for ensuring healthy plants within a long term soil building program. Nothing can replace feeding the soil, but foliar applications can be a good addition at certain times of the year or as a strategy and remedy for nutrient deficiencies, until the soil is able to supply them. Supplementary foliar feeding may also be necessary as an annual practice in some soil and climate situations. For example, in cold northern soils, foliar fertilizer may be necessary each spring to supply nitrogen, phosphorous, and other essential nutrients until the soil warms up and nutrients become available from the soil.

When To Foliar Spray
The best time to spray is late in the afternoon or in the early dawn, when temperatures are mild and wind is minimal. When wind is minimal, finely atomized sprays drift readily. This is most desirable. Absorption is further enhanced when weather conditions are humid and moist. The presence of dew on leaves facilitates foliar feeding. Absorption is maximized when sprays coat the underside of leaves where the majority of the stomata are located.

When Not To Foliar Spray
It is best not to use this method when it is windy and dry. When the air temperature reaches or exceeds 80° F, absorption is very poor, because plant stomata are closed. Avoid spraying during the height of solar indexing (10:00 AM to 4:00 PM) to avoid burning the leaves.

For Best Results
Be certain to read all product labels. Apply a small amount of fertilizer to start until you know how your plants will respond. Sometimes using a small amount of surfactant added to the mix will decrease surface tension on the leaf and better facilitate absorption.

Application Equipment
You can use any kind of sprayer to apply foliar fertilizers, keeping in mind that you want the finest mist possible. The finer the mist, the more easily it will be absorbed by the stomata openings. Hand pump sprayers or even hose-end sprayers will work just fine.

Dr. Earth® Liquid Solution™ Listed is certified 100organic by OMRITM Listed and is people and pet safe. Most importantly, it works fast to feed plants through either the leaves or the soil.

Home Grown Tomatoes

 

I have never tasted an organically grown tomato that was not delicious. In fact, every home grown organic tomato I have ever tasted has been more delicious than any tomato I have ever bought at the supermarket. Tomatoes are fun and easy to grow once you know the basic growing requirements: sun, water, trellising, good soil, and feeding.

Sun
Most tomatoes require full sunlight for maximum growth and fruit size, although there are varieties that can tolerate less sunlight than others and still remain very productive. Check with your local nursery professional for those varieties if sunlight is limited in your garden.

Water
Water tomatoes as they require it. Young tomatoes will require a little more water at first until they become established and their root system has penetrated deep into the soil. You can check to see if your plants might need water simply by poking your finger into the soil. If it is dry to the touch two inches below the soil surface, then it is time to water. Depending on the time of year and your climate, you will have to water as the tomato plants require it. The warmer it is, the more you water. Tomato plants will tell you very quickly if they are in drought stress by wilting their leaves, so it is very important to keep an eye on your garden and change your watering habits according to your climate and your plants’ needs.

Trellising
Staking or trellising your tomatoes is very important as a means of exposing as many of the leaves to sunlight as possible. The more sunlight energy tomatoes have, the larger the fruit size. Sunlight translates into sugar, and sugar translates into food, taste, and nutrition for your tomatoes.

Good Soil
Soil preparation is one of the most important elements of a successful tomato harvest. Organically grown tomatoes start with adding the proper organic ingredients to the soil, such as compost, mulch, planting mix and, most importantly, organic fertilizer (tomatoes are heavy feeders.) Compost and mulch will help create a friable soil that is workable, retains water, discourages weed growth, creates a friendly environment for earthworms, and reduces water runoff. These factors will also help it retain more nutrition, made available to plants through a continuous supply, as the organic ingredients break-down slowly over time.

You can do all of this preparation, OR you can simply purchase our perfectly customized Dr. Earth® Home Grown® Vegetable Garden Planting Mix. Make it easy on yourself by taking advantage of the scientific research behind this specialized mix.

Feeding
The organic fertilizer will feed the living soil. By feeding the beneficial soil organisms—or ”microbes”—that make the soil “alive,” we feed our tomatoes. This process is achieved as the microbes digest the organic fertilizer and convert it into a form that plants can use. For example, when we feed our soil with fish meal, plants cannot use the fish meal in its protein form. It must be broken down into a simpler, more accessible form of nitrogen that tomato plants can use directly, for their growth. Think of these microbes as enzymes, very similar to the enzymes in our stomachs. When we eat proteins, such as those found in fish, red meats, or fowl, they must be digested or broken down in our stomach before we can receive the nutritional benefits of the protein. The same exact thing occurs in the soil through the enzymatic action of the beneficial soil microbes.

Also, tomatoes are susceptible to a condition called ”blossom end rot” which will distort the growth and ruin the tomatoes. This is usually caused by a calcium deficiency in the soil. Dr. Earth® Organic 5™ Tomato Vegetable and Herb Fertilizer contains a high calcium value, to avoid blossom end rot. Feeding the soil with rich organic materials is necessary to achieve tasty, vigorous, large, abundant, and nutritious tomatoes. Visit your local independent nursery professional for advice on which tomato varieties will work best in your garden.

Milo Lou Shammas
Founder and Formulator

Compost Tea

Soil Drench
Apply tea directly to the soil. Note: Expect to see solid material at the bottom of the bucket. Do not throw this solid material away. Spread these solids as nutrient-rich mulch around any plant in the garden.

That’s it! Tea is fun in the sun! Sit back and watch your plants grow.

PROBIOTIC™ Dr. Earth Organic Fertilizer Tea
For a rich tea made from Dr. Earth’s® Organic Fertilizer, mix 2 pounds, or 5 cups of fertilizer for every 5 gallons of water. Let the mixture set for 24 hours. Strain well and mulch all the solids around the root zone.

To Use
The liquid portion (tea) can be applied @ 1 to 2 cups for roses, or 2 to 4 cups for larger shrubs. Use the tea full strength as a foliar feed and as a soil drench for deep root feeding of all plants.

Check out my ”How to make fertilizer tea” video by clicking on “videos.”)

Container Vegetables

 

Container Vegetable Gardens
A 4 foot by 8 foot balcony is all you need to grow enough organic vegetables to satisfy your hungry appetite. When space is limited in your garden, or if you live in an apartment or just do not want to invest time in a full-scale vegetable garden, you can still enjoy homegrown vegetables within reach of your kitchen.

Growing organic vegetables in containers is rewarding and easy. Just pay close attention to a few important rules and you can invest minimal amounts of time to harvest an abundance of organic vegetables. The tips in this article will supply you with all the information you need to create a productive container garden that is easy to set up, maintain, and harvest. Container vegetables can provide you with nutritious, tasty, and visually pleasing organic vegetable plants. Also, there is nothing tastier than picking a few fresh vegetables from the garden and putting them in a salad within minutes of harvest, truly a reward.

Five things must be considered prior to planting your organic vegetable garden.
1) Sunlight
2) Container size
3) Potting medium
4) Fertilizer
5) Trellising support.

Sunlight
More is better! This will be the most important factor to consider. Too little, and your plants will not be able to convert sufficient sunlight energy to produce fruit of any real value. (But on the other hand, some herbs that are grown specifically for their foliage may do fine in areas with lower sunlight.) Tracking the sun and shade patterns in your garden will give you a good analysis of the space you plan on gardening in and a clear idea of what plants you can grow there with success.

Remember this very simple rule: if you are growing plants that will set flowers that turn into fruit—such as tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplants, peppers, squashes, and other vegetables—they will require a lot of sunlight.

It takes sufficient photosynthesis to produce the required levels of sugars to make fruit of any real size, taste, and value for the gardener. Photosynthesis will produce sugars that will directly feed flowers and fruits. That is why sunlight is very important for these kinds of vegetables.

For a more specific list of plants that will thrive in your garden, and for further information on the amount of sunlight they will require, it is best to consult with your local independent nursery. They know what kind of plants you can grow and enjoy with immediate success.

Container Size
Size Matters! It is the second most important variable for success. Container size is very important because the more soil volume that your plants have, the more water and nutrients will be available for their root systems. That will directly influence the size and quality of the vegetables and herbs you will harvest, so more is better. We have learned that tomatoes require a minimum of five gallons of soil in order to develop into full size plants, with the ability to produce fruits full of good taste and nutrition. Other vegetable crops can survive in containers with less soil volume, but even they would enjoy more soil and will produce larger, more bountiful crops in a larger container.

The material your container is made of also makes a big difference. Terracotta containers are always a good choice because they breathe with the soil and do not fluctuate to extreme temperatures quickly. Redwood is also a good. It will breathe and has the ability retain moisture and not dry out too quickly. There are also a wide variety of plastic containers you can choose from, and they will work just fine, but will require a little more watering than thicker, denser pots.

It is especially important to use mulch if you are planning on using a plastic container in order to retain as much moisture as possible. I would recommend using mulch with all containers. Plants in small containers will dry out quickly, so keep an extra close eye on these pots. Less plant foliage will mean less watering later. A larger plant will require more water. Pay close attention to all of your plants and water as often as they require it.

Potting Medium
Just Go Organic!™ Soil is the source of life for every living thing on earth. It must be treated with respect, dignity, reverence, and the understanding that it is not “dirt”! It is alive with an abundance of beneficial living organisms that promote life for all plants, directly affecting the health of the plants and animals we consume. If the soil is healthy, the crop that is grown in it will be healthy. The type of soil or ”potting medium” you choose will have a large impact on your plants and their ability to produce an abundance of large, nutritious vegetables.

If you have a potting soil that you like, and have had good success, stick with it. Please make sure that the bagged potting soil you are using does not contain any chemicals, such as synthetic plant nutrients, which are common in bagged potting soils.

We recommend using Dr. Earth® Potting Soil™. It contains everything your vegetables will need to produce an abundant crop. Dr. Earth® Potting Soil™ contains Pro-Biotic™ beneficial soil microbes plus ecto and endo mycorrhizae, which help your seedlings and transplants get off to a great start. Dr. Earth® soil also retains the maximum amount of water and nutrients, while simultaneously making sure that the soil drains properly, to avoid fungal diseases that could destroy your plants quickly.

Fertilizer
Feed Your Soil! You must feed the soil that will feed your plants’ root systems. Tomatoes and most other vegetables, especially in containers, will require a lot of fertilizer to live up to their full potential. In containers, the roots do not have the ability to tap into food reserves from the soil environment. What you provide for them is what they get. It is especially important to use Dr. Earth® Organic 5™ tomato, vegetable and herb fertilizer when growing vegetables in containers. Dr. Earth will feed the soil slowly and steadily, which in turn will feed the roots of your vegetable plants steadily and consistently. Organic 5™ is rich with a plethora of multi-minerals which your vegetables will take up. In return, you will benefit from these nutrients as you consume your harvest. Healthy soil equates to healthy vegetables.

Use Dr. Earth® fertilizer once at planting and repeat the application 2 to 3 months later depending on the length of your gardening season. Imagine the pleasure of having rich, tasty, and nutritious vegetables growing right outside your kitchen door.

Trellising Support
Give your plants a shoulder to lean on! Exposing as many leaves to sunlight as possible will help to increase your harvest. Some of your vegetables will not require any support at all, but cucumbers, tomatoes, and other vine plants require support to keep them off the ground and growing in the desired location.
Air space between your plants is very important as well, to help minimize fungal diseases your plants may be exposed to. Air space will also aid beneficial insects and allow them to do their work more easily, as flowers are more accessible to them. When purchasing your seeds or transplants, ask your local independent nursery professional what type of support he or she recommends for the specific plants you plan to grow.

Nutrient Information

Nutrient Function in Plants

Nitrogen (N): The most used nutrient. It stimulates dark green vegetative growth and is involved with amino acids, protein, chlorophyll and genetic material. Nitrogen is made available by soil microbes.
• Deficiency: Older leaves are yellow. New leaves are
• Excess: Plant leaves burn with elongated growth, bud drop, poor fruit and flower production.

Phosphorus (P): Needed for seed, root, flower, and fruit growth. Essential for genetic material, membrane formation, and energy transfer. Soil pH should be between 6.0 and 7.0.
• Deficiency: Reddish to purple leaves. Stunted growth. Dark green leaves with tip burn. Poor fruit, flower, and root set.
• Excess: Restricts the availability of Zinc, Manganese and Iron.

Potassium (K): Improves overall plant vigor and disease resistance. Encourages root growth and fruit quality. Used for carbohydrate metabolism and cell division. Required for stomata guard cells, regulates absorption of calcium, sodium, and nitrogen. Helps roots withstand compacted soils.
• Deficiency: Plants exhibit chlorosis (loss of green color) along the leaf margins or tips, starting with the bottom leaves and progressing up the plant.
• Excess: Restricts availability of Magnesium and Boron.

Calcium (Ca): Stimulates root growth. It promotes firm, thick stems and helps to correct soil acidity. Needed for nitrogen uptake and protein synthesis. Must be present for cell walls and also plays a role in enzyme activation and cell reproduction.
• Deficiency: Symptoms appear in the meristem regions (new growth) of leaves, stems, buds and roots. Younger leaves are affected first and are usually deformed. In extreme cases, the growing tips die. Roots on calcium -deficient plants are short and stubby. In tomatoes and peppers, a black leathery appearance develops on the blossom end of the fruit (a disorder called blossom end rot).
• Excess: Restricts availability of magnesium, potassium, iron, zinc, phosphorus and boron.

Magnesium (Mg): Essential for chlorophyll production. Magnesium is necessary for phosphorus metabolism and enzyme activation. It enhances the production of oils and fars and facilitates the translocation of carbohydrates (sugars and starches). Some plants, such as citrus and roses, are heavy users.
• Deficiency: The predominant symptom is interveinal chlorosis (dark green veins with yellow areas between the veins). The bottom leaves are always affected first.
• Excess: Restricts availability of potassium, zinc, manganese, and boron.

Sulfur (S): Stimulates plant growth and seed formation. An essential element, sulfur is used in amino acids, proteins, and several vitamins. Sulfur will lower the pH in the soil.
• Deficiency: Characterized by stunted growth, delayed maturity and general yellowing of plants. Yellowed plants are also characteristic of nitrogen deficiency. However, unlike nitrogen deficiency—which begins in the older leaves and progresses up the plant—deficiency symptoms begin in the young, upper leaves first, often misdiagnosed as nitrogen problems.
• Excess: Can create acidic pH that can be toxic.

Iron (Fe): Promotes green color. Iron is essential for the formation of chlorophyll and is a constituent of various enzymes and proteins. It is restricted by pH and lime. Excess will restrict Zinc, Magnesium and
Calcium.
• Deficiency: Interveinal chlorosis of young leaves and twig die back.
• Excess: Restricts availability of Zinc and Manganese.

Manganese (Mn): Promotes plant maturity. Manganese acts as an enzyme activator for nitrogen assimilation. It is essential for the manufacture of chlorophyll. Low plant manganese, therefore, reduces the chlorophyll content causing leaves to turn yellow (chlorosis).
• Deficiency: Typically characterized by interveinal chlorosis (dark green veins with yellow discoloration between the veins), but symptoms vary depending on the plant.
• Excess: Iron is restricted.

Zinc (Zn): Part of the enzyme systems which regulate plant growth. It is essential for the transformation of carbohydrates and regulates consumption of sugar.
• Deficiency: The first obvious symptom of deficiency is interveinal chlorosis of the upper (youngest) leaves. Afterwards, shoot growth slows down.
• Excess: Restricts availability of iron, copper and manganese.

Copper (Cu): Important for reproductive growth and a catalyst for enzyme and chlorophyll synthesis. Aids in root metabolism and helps in the utilization of proteins.
• Deficiency: Symptoms generally appear on young plants. The first symptoms are yellowing of the youngest leaves accompanied by slightly stunted growth. In extreme cases, leaves become shriveled, twisted, broken, ragged and die.

Boron (B): Essential for seed, root and fruit development. Boron aids in production and transport of sugar and starch. Helps in the use of nutrients and regulates other nutrients.
• Deficiency: The first visible symptom of deficiency is death of the growing tips. This disorder is generally followed by growth of lateral shoots, which may also be deformed or die. Other symptoms include stunted roots, failure to set flowers.

Molybdenum (Mo): Is required for symbiotic nitrogen fixation (nodulation) by legumes and reduction of nitrates for protein synthesis.
• Deficiency: Symptoms are very similar to those of Nitrogen: pale-green to yellow leaves; yellow spots on leaves; marginal chlorosis alongside and tip of blade; thick cupped leaves. The marginal chlorosis exhibited by some plants looks similar to Potassium deficiency.

Chlorine (Cl): Aids plant metabolism. Chlorine is naturally found in the soil.
• Deficiency: Reduced growth; stubby roots; interveinal chlorosis; nonsucculent tissue (in leafy vegetables

Nutrient Sources

 

Natural / Organic Sources of Plant Nutrients

Nitrogen (N)
• Feather Meal (12 – 0 – 0) Poultry feathers are steamed under pressure, dried, then ground into a powdery feather meal. Feather meal gradually releases organic nitrogen throughout the season as the protein decomposes through microbial activity.

• Fish Meal (9 – 4 – 1) Blended from natural marine products. It is an excellent fertilizer that contains a wide variety of primary, secondary and micro nutrients. It is also a great compost activator.

• Alfalfa Meal (2 – 1 – 2) As a fertilizer, alfalfa meal provides plants with primary and secondary nutrients as well as many enzymes, vitamins, minerals and triaconatol, a natural fatty-acid growth stimulant. Excellent for roses, vegetable gardens, containers and bedding plants. Rich in Magnesium!

Phosphorous (P)
• Bone Meal (3 – 15 – 0) A good source of organic phosphorous, nitrogen, and calcium (24%). Bone meal is made from animal bones at slaughterhouses. It is steamed, then ground into a powder, which allows it to release nutrients sooner. Excellent for root and flower production. Use for shrubs, flowers and roses.

Potassium (K)
Kelp Meal (.6 – .5 – 2.5). Ascophyllum Nodosum kelp meal is the most readily available source of potassium and is harvested off the coast of Norway. It contains over 70 minerals, 21 amino acids, simple and complex carbohydrates, and several essential growth hormones, including cytokinins, auxins and gibberellins, which stimulate cell division, cell elongation, internode elongation and cell enlargement. Kelp enhances seed germination, increases the uptake of nutrients, and helps with frost protection and stress recovery. Kelp is an excellent source of chelated minerals necessary for proper plant growth. Mannitol and alginic acid are major components of kelp and act as agents helping in the formation of humus.

Clean Water, Clean Lakes

 

The Connection Between Fertilizer and Water Quality

Water quality starts at home
Clean water in our lakes, reservoirs and streams starts at home with basic practices you can incorporate into your lawn and garden care program. There is a pipeline from your garden to a body of water. Regardless of where you live, you are a part of a watershed —a region where water flows across or under on its way to a lake, river, stream or ocean. Year-round lawn and garden care practices impact water quality even if you don’t live near a body of water.

The problem: Water-soluble Phosphorous
Thanks to modern science, we now understand how the phosphorous contained in fertilizer contributes to poor water quality. Phosphorous is the middle number on the ”NPK” analysis printed on a fertilizer bag. It is present in all living things including the soil. Too much phosphorous however, can disrupt nature’s delicate balance. Runoff carries excess phosphorous from fertilizers across lawns, roads and woods into ditches and streams which eventually run into reservoirs, lakes, bays or the ocean. Water soluble phosphorous is ”junk food” for the algae present in all these waterways.

Lawns – a big contributor to the problem
Lawns and plants are not usually able to absorb all of the water soluble fertilizers in chemical fertilizers, so some of it becomes the source of water pollution. As algae grow out of control (known as algae ”bloom”) it reduces the clarity and visibility of the water. This in turn reduces photosynthesis by oxygen-producing aquatic plants, therefore reducing the oxygen in the water. Some forms of blue-green algae can even be toxic. Repeated algae blooms can create green-colored lakes with low oxygen that often results in fish kills or depleted water habitat for fish, wildlife and humans. Additionally, such conditions may degrade drinking water supplies and create other environmental nuisances. Many cities have put a ban on the use of chemical fertilizers in close proximity to lakes and rivers for this very reason.

The impact of algae
As watersheds are adapted from their natural state to residential, commercial, or industrial uses, the amount of phosphorous runoff into lakes may increase up to five to ten times. Algae-impacted lakes affect a community in several ways. Poor water quality significantly impacts the recreational value and use of the waterway and may reduce the value of the surrounding properties.

My personal concern
I am personally affected in this manner. I live on a 45 acre walnut farm which also serves as a testing ground for a wide variety of plants and trees. A good-sized creek runs through the property. From time to time, I personally witness algae blooms in the creek’s water as the neighboring farms apply chemical fertilizers and sprays to their crops. I enjoy fishing and eating a fresh-caught trout or bass once in a while, but I am genuinely concerned about the quality of the creek water which directly affects the quality of the fish in this creek. Of course, I only use organic fertilizers on my farm, but I cannot control what the other farmers use. This is a good illustration of the importance of using water-insoluble fertilizers such as Dr. Earth® around our homes, farms and communities.

Pollution from runoff
Runoff of agro-chemicals during storm and irrigation events is a significant concern from the standpoint of surface water quality. The delivery of phosphorous and pesticides into the surface water via runoff may contribute acute or chronic eco-toxic effects. Numerous studies have documented that the transport of agro-chemicals via runoff to streams is facilitated primarily by sediment movement. It has been observed that concentrations of phosphorous and nitrogen are often richer in the deposited sediment than the source soil. Fine soil particles if not blended with coarse organic materials tend to move quickly during irrigation or runoff events. This becomes even more critical in times of heavy rainfall as sediment-laden runoff moves from the land to the waterways.

The solution
There is a solution to phosphorous runoff. Dr. Earth® organic fertilizers contain only water-insoluble forms of phosphorous and will ensure that the fertilizer applied remains in the soil. The phosphorous will not leach into the water table and travel into waterways. Dr. Earth® contains Pro-Biotic™ with its beneficial soil microbes and mycorrhizae. A vital mechanism for nutrient transfer by plants lies in the microbial process of the soil. The microbes’ ability to breakdown organic matter quickly, then release it as plant nutrients slowly and continuously over time, increases yield and builds the humus reserve in the soil. Humus conversion increases the soils ability to absorb and retain water, further reducing runoff and fertilizer loss caused by water or other erosive forces.

Be part of the solution!
Apply fertilizers only when they are needed, during the proper season, and in the correct amounts. Avoid getting the fertilizer on driveways, sidewalks, and in storm drains. Above all, apply carefully, especially when using chemical fertilizers.

Don’t let your fertilizers get into lakes, streams, or ponds. On lawns, use a mulching mower and cut no more than the top third of the grass. Keep leaves, grass clippings and soil out of streets and gutters. Clean up after your pet, pet waste contains phosphorous. Prevent soil erosion by covering the ground with vegetation or mulch. Feed plants in your yard, garden, and lawn with Dr. Earth® organic fertilizers, to avoid applying water soluble phosphorous.

We all share the same pool of water. Be conscientious in your gardening habits to ensure that future generations will enjoy a healthy, toxic-free environment. Poor water quality can impact the ability of fish and other wildlife to reproduce, feed, and survive in the dynamic aquatic environment. It all starts in our own backyard and ends in a large body of water. Please act as a responsible steward of our environment.

Planting with Nature

 

If your soil presents specific problems with its structure—for example, being very wet or very dry—rather than expend great quantities of energy trying to bring it closer to the norm, you can always copy nature, and grow those plants that will thrive naturally in such conditions.

For instance, if you have an area of land in your garden that has poor drainage, often caused by heavy clay soil, you have the ideal conditions in which to create a bog garden. The virtues of a bog garden are that the plants that thrive there are usually large and lush with beautiful foliage. So, before you drain the site, think about whether it might be worthwhile adapting to the conditions that you have, rather than the reverse, and growing what nature intended for it.

If you have very sandy soil, you may want to grow those plants that will do well in those conditions. Cactus and succulents will be very happy in sandy soils that contain little to no nutrients and hold little moisture.

When you are buying a plant from your local nursery, tell your nursery professional about the soil types you have and ask them to recommend those plants that will thrive in your specific soils. It is better to work with nature, than to try changing it. Sunlight and moisture should be considered prior to buying any plants. Keep in mind that all plants will do better with organic materials added to them, regardless of their indigenous setting.

Tina Allworth
Organic Gardener

Diversity is Key to Abundance

 

In the natural world, diversity is the perfect model for sustainable ecosystems. Diversity is a major factor in preventing pest and disease build-up because of the way in which organisms interact. When any one species becomes dominant in an area, its predators will move in to take advantage of the bounty. Eventually, they will reduce the numbers of the dominant species, restoring the balance of Nature.

In the past, farmers relied on natural methods of farming because chemicals were not available to them. Now, it is possible to grow crops as monocultures, because the use of pesticides has given us a way of controlling competition. This unnatural form of agriculture has created a range of unintended problems. We can learn from these mistakes by planting a diverse range of species in our gardens, thus naturally reducing pests and diseases.

The advantages of heirloom varieties
Heirloom plants are varieties that have been handed down through decades, or even centuries, from farmer to farmer and gardener to gardener. For roughly 12,000 years, human civilization has been based on agriculture and horticulture. During this time, thousands of genetically unique strains of fruits and vegetables have been selected and bred by farmers and gardeners. They represent a genetic heritage that is disappearing from commercial horticulture, where large-scale factory-type production demands that plants conform to strict guidelines to fit into mechanized systems.

By contrast, heirloom varieties are a celebration of genetic diversity whose greatest strength is the fact that there are individuals within each crop that mature a bit earlier or are more resistant to pests and diseases. Such characteristics are a tremendous advantage in the organic garden, where the produce does not have to fit into a narrow commercial window.

Fortunately, there are many gardeners who recognize the value of maintaining genetic diversity for future generations. Consequently, around the world various non-profit organizations have been formed to store seed or to help gardeners and farmers form networks that enable them to swap seed and vegetative material of heirloom plant varieties.

The many vital roles of herbs and flowers
Introducing a wide range of herbs and flowers into your organic garden will have all sorts of benefits. They will help attract an increased range of birds, insects, lizards, and other animals. Insects and birds will act as pollinators for your fruit and vegetables resulting in increased yields. Many of these creatures will also help to control pests. Inevitably, there will also be some negative consequences, such as birds feeding on fruit, but the diversity you create will be your insurance policy in that if one food crop is decimated there will be a host of others that can replace it.

Herbs often have aromatic oils that give their foliage and flowers as characteristic perfume. Herbs such as pyrethrum and garlic can be used to create organic remedies for pest and disease problems. In addition, such plants release oils into the air and soil that surrounds them, thereby helping to repel pests from your garden naturally. I have been a gardener for over many years and I have grown thousands of different plants, both commercially and personally. Diversification is a great insurance policy in everyone’s garden.

The Organic Revolution

The Organic Revolution

There are proven methods that farmers can use worldwide to sustain profits, address hunger and malnutrition, and renew ecological health.

To feed the world in the most effective manner, a vast movement of scientists, development experts, farming associations and environmentalists is calling for a new emphasis on sustainable agriculture. This is an extreme opposite from current practices.

”The Green Movement”
New research shows that the latest ecological approaches to organic agriculture offer affordable, readily usable ways to increase yields and access to nutritional foods in Third World countries. The organic method, applied to agriculture, can feed the world and may be the only way we can solve the growing problem of hunger in these places.

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) states that its extensive research ”challenges the popular myth that organic agriculture cannot increase agricultural productivity.” In an analysis of 114 farming projects in 24 African countries, the UNEP reported that organic, or near-organic, practices resulted in a yield increase of more than 100 percent.

Just imagine what we can do as gardeners in our own backyards, to offset the increases in food prices. Those of us lucky enough to own some land can also feed our livestock with more nutritional food, which in return will provide more nutrition for us. Also, nothing is wasted, as the manure is returned to the soil in the form of compost, and the bones can be buried to breakdown slowly over time. This is truly thinking green. We at Dr. Earth® use only components that would otherwise be wasted, such as fish, kelp, cotton, alfalfa, chicken feathers and comparable ingredients. And with our infusion of Pro-Biotic® (For-Life), we truly bring life to the soil.

Rejuvenate and protect soil and environmental health
The organic revolution, using integrated farming practices such as nitrogen rich cover crops, organic fertilizer, and the practice of returning everything back to the land, not only improves yields but also keeps the soil alive and improves environmental health. Yield data alone makes the best argument to go organic on a large scale farm, in Third World countries and in our backyards. Organic practices are building the soil with life, reducing CO2, keeping our waterways clean, and returning greater profits to the farmer. Since these practices build soil structure, they also increase drought and flood resistance as well as making plants more adaptable to climate changes.

Every time we buy and grow organic foods we are helping farmers become more profitable, thus bringing down the prices of all organic foods, such as produce, meats, juices and all associated products. This is a collective effort that we as consumers, farmers, and gardeners should adopt to make a real impact on the environment and our health.

Millions of people undernourished
Numerous independent studies claim the commodity-oriented organic revolution has not fed, and cannot feed, the world sustainably. Nine hundred twenty-three million people are seriously undernourished, and 25,000 people die every day from starvation. The Rodale Institute cites a major 2008 study which assessed results from 286 farms in 57 countries, finding that small farmers increased their crop yields by an average of 79 percent by using environmentally sustainable techniques, including organic farming and crop rotation. Organic soils have better physical structure, which helps prevent erosion. They are also more permeable, which increases healthier microorganism growth, increasing the availability of nutrients necessary for crop productivity.

Global warming
Organic soils sequester carbon in soil from carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, making organic farming the most available strategy to fight global warming. The research and data prove that organic farming practices should be established. They are commercially successful and applicable to any scale operation, from our own backyards and small family market farms to large scale farms consisting of thousands of acres. Organic methods can be adapted to virtually any location, make best use of local inputs, and creatively transform carbon waste streams into valuable products.

We are all in this changing climate together. If all of us make changes, we can drastically slow global warming and leave our Earth clean and well diversified for future generations.