It was a huge week that first week of our master gardening course, sorting and resorting, to try to understand the usage of the language and definitions that truly define organic gardening.
To date, the fertilizer industry is enormous. In the 1970s, there was a discussion that this industry was not sustainable because so much natural gas was required in the production of nitrogen fertilizer. That was over 40 years ago, and the worldwide use of chemical fertilizers and GMO crops has exploded. Add to this, all that Monsanto has done in the takeover of the seed industry through patenting and their creation of Roundup-ready seeds. Roundup (glyphosate), initially patented as an antibiotic, is absorbed by plants and glyphosate has even been found (in lower quantities) in the organic food system. It is water-soluble, so it is everywhere, our food, soil, waterways, and even rainfall. But the real damage of Roundup is done to the micro-organisms, the biology, of the soil. That biology is responsible for nourishing the soil so the plants can uptake the nutrition needed to create nutrient-dense food.
We thought we had a pretty good understanding of what we wanted in our garden to create nutritious food without using chemicals or synthetic intervention. In reality, the real understanding of being stewards of the soil was confusing, and the language and definitions perpetuate this confusion. This lack of knowledge was a huge surprise as we started looking at what was offered in garden centers.
The language used in groceries for organic purchases is not the same language used in garden centers. We had to grasp the concept that organic pesticides can be more toxic than some synthetic pesticides. We needed to choose products that do not throw our soil out of balance. That began a process of sorting out the kinds of products that are truly safe and acceptable for the organic gardener.
It was a similar process to what we had gone through in grocery stores to find foods that build health versus all the processed and chemically altered food. We became sleuths, reading all the fine print with every purchase.
In the garden centers, I am finding that I am reading the fine print and questioning the reasons why we would buy a particular product. The word organic is used so loosely, and the product can be far from organic, an example of this is the composted soil sold in municipal programs, they label it organic, but the creation of this soil is with non-organic kitchen waste and by-products. Most of this soil is excellent for landscaping purposes.
We learned that many of the products sold interfere with the ability of plants to absorb nutrients. We, as consumers, need to demand non-GMO products and stricter definitions of organic products.
Growing nutrient-dense food in our garden is the goal and the long-term health benefits are achievable.