It's Our Garden

Why Do Organic Grower's Disapprove of Chemical Fertilizers?

Chemical fertilizers are =quick-acting, short-term plant boosters and are responsible for: (1)deterioration of soil friability, creating hardpans soil, (2) destruction of beneficial soillife, including earthworms,(3) altering vitamin and protein content of certain crops, (4)making certain crops more vulnerable to diseases, and (5) preventing plants from absorbing some needed minerals.

The soil must be regarded as a living organism. An acid fertilizer, because of its acids,dissolves the cementing material, made up of the dead bodies of soil organisms, which holds the rock particles together in the form of soil crumbs. This compact surface layer of rock particles encourages rain water to run off rather than enter the soil.

For example: A highly soluble fertilizer, such as 5-10-5, goes into solution in the soil waterrapidly so that much of it may be leached away (into our ground water) without benefiting theplants at all. This chemical causes the soil to assume a cement-like hardness. When present inlarge concentrations, recolate into the subsoil where they interact with the clay to formimpervious layers of precipitates called hardpan.

Many artificial chemical fertilizers contain acids, as sulfuric and hydrochloric, which willincrease the acidity of the soil. Changes in the soil acidity (pH) are accompanied by the changes in the kinds of organisms which can live in the soil. For this reason, the artificialfertilizer people tell their customers to increase the organic matter content of their soil,offsetting the deleterious effects of these acids; also to use lime.

There are several ways by which artificial fertilizers reduce aeration of soils. Earth worms,whose numerous borings made the soil more porous, are killed. The acid fertilizers will also destroy the cementing material which bins rock particles together in crumbs. Chemical fertilizers rob plants of some natural immunity by killing off the microorganisms in the soil.Many plant diseases have already been considerably checked when antibiotic producing bacteriaor fungi thrived around the roots. When plants are supplied with much nitrogen (N) and only amedium amount of phosphate (P), plants will most easily contract mosaic infections. Host resistance is obtained if there is a small amount of nitrogen (N) and a large supply ofphosphate (P). Fungus and bacterial diseases have been relate to high nitrogen fertilization,and lack of trace elements.

Plants grown with artificial chemical fertilizers tend to have less nutrient value than organically grown plants. For example,several tests have found that by supplying citrus fruits with a large amount of soluble nitrogen will lower the vitamin C content of oranges. It has also been found, that these fertilizers that provide soluble nitrogen will lower the capacity of corn to produce a high protein content.

Probably the most regularly observed deficiency in plants doped continually with chemical fertilizers are deficiencies in trace minerals. To explain this principle will mean delvinginto a little physics and chemistry, but you will then easily see the unbalanced nutrition created in chemical fertilized plants, Note: The colloidal humus particles are the convoys thattransfer most of the minerals from the soil solution to the root hairs. Each humus particle is negatively charged and will, attract the positive elements, such as potassium (K), sodium,calcium, magnesium, manganese, aluminum, boron, iron, copper and other metals. When sodiumnitrate, is dumped into the soil year after year, in large doses, a radical change takes placeon the humus articles.

The very numerous sodium ions (atomic particles) will eventually crowd out the other ions,making them practically unavailable for plant use. The humus becomes coated with sodium,glutting the root hairs with the excess. Finally, the plant is unable to pick up the minerals that it really needs.

So, with chemical fertilizers, in short, you have short-time results, and long-term damage tothe soil, ground water and to our health.


Your Winter Herb Garden

You can start some herbs from seed in late summer. Best to include annuals such as basil andchervil, as well as parsley, a biennial. Sow them in a light, seed-starting mix in flats, watergently, cover with plastic wrap and put them where temperatures will stay warmer than 60F.When the seeds sprout, remove the plastic, and when the seedlings have their second set of trueleaves, put them in 4-inch pots; then, as they outgrow these into 6-inch pots. Those should hold them nicely until next spring.

You also can propagate new plants from established ones by cuttings or layering. This works well for rosemary, thyme, oregano and sage. Take a 4-inch tip cutting, strip off the lowerleaves and stick the stem into moist soiless mix such as perlite and/or/ vermiculite. To ensuregood humidity, cover with glass or clear plastic, and keep the growing medium moist.

To propagate by layering, select a branch near the base of a parent plant. Strip the leaveswhere it touches the soil when you bend it over, and pin it down with a bent piece of wire.Keep the soil moist until roots develop. When this new plant begins to grow, cut the connecting stem and pot it up.

Before the first fall frost (While the weather is still on the mild side), it's time to start moving your potted herb plants toward their winter home. Move them to an area with lots of sun(south-facing windows are the brightest). But protect them from heat and dryness. Most herbsprefer daytime temperatures of about 65 to 75F, although they can withstands climbs into the 80s. It's especially important that night temperatures drop at least 10 degrees, down into the 50s would be better, to simulate outdoor conditions.

Most herbs like to be well-watered, but don't like wet feet. That's why good drainage isimportant. Water when the top of the container feels dry, or learn to judge the moisture in the soil by the weight of the pot. Add sand or vermiculite to the potting soil to ensure gooddrainage. Learn to juggle water, light and temperature. An herb in a south window in a clay potwill need more water than one in a plastic pot in an east window

If the light is low, keep the temperature low. Temperatures that mimic May combined with thelow light levels of a short December day will make for unhealthy plants. Choose the soil for your indoor herb garden carefully. And for a good soil mix, blend 1 part potting soil with 1part compost, and 1 part perlite, vermiculite and sand. Keep transplants separate from your other house plants while you're gradually acclimating them to the indoors. If you see insectson a plant during this quarantine, leave it outside.

If, despite such defenses, your indoor plants do end-up under insect attack, help them stayhealthy by providing the correct mix of light and temperature, and spray them once a week withliquid sea-kelp. A plant weakened by hot, dry indoor conditions is even more susceptible tospider mites, whitefly or aphid damage than a healthy one.

If you choose to control these with insecticidal soap spray, remember that the wet spray must come in contact with the insect to be effective. It takes 3-spray treatments at 5-days intervals to eradicate soft-bodied insects. Spray in the evening (and never in bright sunlight) to prevent rapid drying, and wash off residues the next day.

Treat your herbs like a mini-garden, hold back on the water and organic fertilizer through December, but when the days start getting longer in mid-January, feed them with liquidseaweed-fish spray. Even potted soil gets compacted as you water it, so cultivate it with alittle fork, them topdress it with compost.

February is usually a great month for indoor plants, because of all the bright light. By March,they are starting to get buds, and in April, be sure to put them outside on a warm day.


"The Natural Family"

In a sense we all belong to an natural family. Its members include not only our immediate relatives, but also the plants we eat,the animals that support us, and the soil that feeds everyone.

Yes, the soil that feeds us, that's something we should all think about these days. Whenever you turn around you hear about this farm or that, that's been sold because of poor farming methods and now their building condos, houses, or mini-malls. Sure people have to have a place to live, but without food there is no life. 80% of all food consumed here on Long Island is truckedin. If for some reason it stopped being trucked in what are you going to do for food? Eat a condo?

People are suddenly realizing that the traditional family is slowly disintegrating, its members eating on the run, parents livingseparately, and children banding together in new associations. To a member of a non-natural family, potatoes come in the formof a white powder packed in a cardboard box. Milk comes from containers, and soup from envelopes. It's a plastic world?

In a truly natural situation, many different plant and animals grow together. Each organism complements the other in some way.Tall plants provide the shade which small plants need. Weeds send their roots deep into the subsoil to bring up minerals into their leaves. When the leaves fall those minerals feed the shallow rooted plants. Animals eat certain plants, dropping manure which becomes the natural fertilizer for other plants. Even when plants and animals crowd each other out, they are servingconstructively the order and balance of Nature.

Of course, Nature can't be left alone to balance itself out if we are going to have the high production of farms and gardens, andare going to allow some people to live in cities while others live and work on farms. But the so-called modern commercial,chemicalized farm tears apart the natural family and disrupts the balance of Nature far more then is necessary or desirable.Food of better quality could be produced more cheaply if the natural family were treated with respect.

The chemical farmer put toxic chemicals on their land to kill all but the one type of plant he wants to grow. Then they grow that same plant year after year in the same field, without rotating crops to give the soil a chance to rest or regenerate itself.Whenever an insect comes on the scene or some other problem arises, more toxic chemicals are brought out to blast the offender.

Many chemical farmers don't even eat the crops they grow. Wheat growers buy bread at the store, and cattleman eat hot dogs.Natural people are different. They look on their farms and gardens as part of a natural system, of which they themseleves are apart. They want a good harvest, not only to sell but to eat. Natural people also want the natural system to keep functioning.They observe and try to understand the web of life that Nature weaves, and put to practical use the lessons they learn. As aresult they have themselves a healthier and happier family.

Many years ago, I had this dream, or you could say a nightmare about my Son, Zeb, who was only 3 years old at the time. Inthis dream my Son Zeb was a very old man. Sitting on his knee was his Great Grand son.

And as the violin started to fade away, I heard the boy say, "Great Grand Paw Zeb, What is a Tree? Did we ever have onehere on Earth?" "Were there really things call fish that lived in Oceans and Rivers? And where are all the rivers now? And did people really drink water that came out of the Earth?" "But why didn't they care?"

Remember, "We did not inherit the Earth from our parents, we are borrowing it from our children." (Old Zeb, The AmishFarmer)

"Let's Plant The Seeds For A Green And Growing, Strong America."

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Written by: Crow Miller, Syndication, OrganicCyberGarden.


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