We live in a subdivision in North Texas where everyone has lawn and garden treatment services. You’ll see the True Green or Scotts trucks running up and down the streets doing their periodic pest spraying and fertilization treatments to lawns and shrubs. We have actually used those services for our lawn in the past. Just seemed easier than having to go hand pull weeds and scatter kelp meal or some other natural fertilizer across the lawn. But when I built out the Bell Back 400, I knew I was going to be growing edibles and herbs. And I knew it was going to be easier if I went all organic.
Organic growing easier? That flies in the face of conventional wisdom that maintains you must pay more for organic food because of the extra work and expense that goes into using natural growing methods.
Having spent years on farms when I was younger, I learned early on that it can be very expensive to grow crops the typical way – using pesticides, artificial fertilizers, etc. What you have to remember is that the non-organic method of growing is all about creating an artificial environment to protect plants and encourage them to grow and flower.
Artificial chemicals to control pests. And artificial chemical compounds to feed the plants.
Over a couple of growing seasons, this method becomes expensive and harder to maintain. Why?
- The purchase of artificial pesticides and fertilizers year after year can be expensive. And, by the way, it typically takes more artificial fertilizer and certain pesticides each consecutive season to supply any given plot of ground. Why?
- Because the accumulation of the residue chemicals in pesticides and fertilizers in the soil increasingly kills off all the life in the soil, thus killing off any natural nutrients that plants could use for food or pest control. Over time the soil becomes barren and reliant entirely on artificial means to support plant life.
- Farmers deal with this by leaving fields bare for a season or two to allow the dissolution of chemical residues and the buildup of some level of natural soil life. Then the cycle begins again. Fields that are not producing are expensive to a farmer, but it is a necessary part of the cycle.
- It’s an arduous and time consuming effort to maintain the right chemical balances of fertilizers and pesticides when you are growing in an artificial environment. Alot of trial and error. And alot of wasted food.
Backyard farmers like me have limited space to grow in. I really can’t produce the variety and amount of food I want if I have to rotate the use of my raised beds and plots to deal with chemical accumulations and dead soil.
So, it’s far cheaper for me to make an initial investment in my soil and watch my investment grow. For any new plot I start, I till up about a foot down and add raw compost, dried molasses, worm castings, Texas green sand, lava sand, and expanded shale. In future posts I’m sure I’ll get into what each of those natural amendments provides, but for now, just think of it as a robust soil growth kick start.
Not only am I providing critical plant nutrients to the soil (compost, castings, sand), but I’m also providing food (molasses) for valuable beneficial soil organisms (worms, nematodes, etc) to thrive. The expanded shale opens up my clay-based soil and provides room for those beneficial organisms and plant roots to grow.
Once I kick start my patch of soil, I let it percolate for a month and then plant. For the next season, I only have to top dress with some compost and kelp-based organic fertilizer to support the next round of crops. By this time, the soil is alive and growing, producing a constant flow of natural plant nutrients and pest fighting organisms. The healthy soil also encourages other pest fighting critters such as toads, ladybugs, geckos, and other friendly garden visitors to make your garden their home.
So, while I am a big believer in the go green movement and protecting our environment, I also have very practical reasons for growing organic. It’s cheaper and easier to maintain.
Do you grow organic? What are your reasons? If not, you may want to rethink the time and money you spend in keeping your garden going.
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