Last year around this time, I was ready to plant my garden. It was my first Spring in the house Mark and I now share. And, it was my first time as a homeowner instead of a renter. I was going to have the purest, healthiest garden around. No chemicals, unnatural fertilizers, no genetically modified seeds. My garden was going to be the most organic garden in Greene County!
I had to settle for a container garden because we have walnut trees all over the yard--and of course, walnuts kills most of your veggies. Plus, although I had talked Mark out of putting chemicals on the lawn that year, he had used them in years past. So I couldn't very well start my pure garden in a chemical-laden yard. It would be a small garden in containers, but that just made it easier to go organic.
My quest to be organic had started in the winter. I needed something to compost in. I wanted nice, healthy composted soil for my container garden--and I was running out of time! Here's where the trouble began. I should probably start by telling you I have a tendency to get obsessed with things. When I decided I wanted a totally chemical free, organic garden, I meant it. Second, I should probably quit reading books and articles about going organic because they seriously wig me out, and it makes it hard for me to eat anything without feeling bad about it.
So I needed a container for my compost, but I didn't want to spend a few hundred dollars on an actual composter (one of those big ones that you spin as things start to break down). I just wanted a container to hold my soil and natural waste. A garbage can seemed the logical choice. Should I go plastic or metal? Couldn't metal have some dangerous chemicals in it that break down while my compost is breaking down? Tin? Mercury? Something evil I'm sure. But we all know plastic is made of terrible stuff. Would it break down and get into my beautiful healthy soil? Maybe a big clay pot is the way to go? Wait, isn't there a chance the clay pot would have lead in it? I know this sounds silly, but standing in the store thinking about all of this almost brought me to tears. I ended up with the plastic trash can. I figured I wasn't going to microwave my compost in it, just store it. And we all know that plastic doesn't break down in our landfills.
The next order of business was soil. I just wanted plain, clean soil. Dirt. Do you know it's next to impossible to find plain dirt? You need soil in your compost container to help break down the waste. Long story short, I ended up with Miracle-Gro organic soil. It said organic, so I thought it would be okay.
I brought the soil home and dumped it in my plastic trashcan. But something was gnawing at me. I didn't feel right about the Miracle Gro. I went back outside and pulled the bag the soil came in out of the garbage and read the ingredients. Basically the "fertilizer" in organic Miracle Gro is cow manure and chicken poop. Well I've read all about chicken poop and chicken farms. I've read how they keep way too many chickens in a pen, stacked up cage upon cage--with the poor chickens pooping all over each other (read Skinny Bitch or Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle). Farmers give the chickens antibiotics to keep them from getting infections from being exposed to poop all the time. And I'm guessing that a company as big as Scott's (makers of Miracle Gro) don't go to little organic chicken farms to get their poop.
So already in my quest to go organic, I've blown it. I have soil with infected chicken poop in it! Rather than dump it out (it wasn't cheap), I decide to use it and just be careful that everything else I do is pure!
Seeds were the next order of business. Did you know that most seeds are genetically modified (GMO) so they'll grow bigger, be more colorful, survive droughts and have a longer shelf life? Okay, I see why scientists and farmers think this is a good idea. And, it has probably helped some countries tremendously. But again, I'm going for pure. I don't want seeds that have been spliced and modified. I want good old fashion seeds from good old fashion vegetables! So I ordered my seeds from Bountiful Gardens--a non-profit company dedicated to ending world hunger by teaching sustainable agriculture. Now I'm feeling better. Certainly my seeds make up for my Miracle Gro "organic" soil.
When my seeds arrive I start them inside by the window. I lovingly care for them--checking them each day for growth. After a month of tender loving care it became apparent I did not have a green thumb. I had one sprout--a pea plant. So here it was time to put plants outside and I had one sprout. I don't blame this on Bountiful Gardens. I blame it solely on my lack of growing skills--or perhaps bad karma for using the Miracle Gro soil.
So I did what any frustrated organic gardener would do, I found an organic nursery (Marvin's Organic Garden) and off I went to buy some vegetable plants. They didn't have a huge selection, but it was a start. They also had some soil that truly was organic. I passed another nursery on the way home (we drove 45 minutes to find the organic one). Just out of curiosity, we stopped to see what they had. The selection was so much better--I just couldn't help myself--I bought more plants without a clue on how they were grown.
With my plants planted in their containers all that was left was to watch them grow.
My tomatoes and peppers did really well. Some were from the organic place, some were not. I have no idea which was which. We grew two eggplants and enough green beans to cook one potful. My herbs lasted well into Fall. My broccoli, cauliflower, and artichokes failed miserably.
So my organic garden wasn't perfect--it wasn't pure. But I did my best to help the Earth and our health. This year we actually dug out a place for a small in ground garden. I think it's far enough away from the walnut trees. Our yard had been chemical-free for over two years now, so I call it my transitional garden--it's on it's way to being organic. I used my composted soil along with topsoil from Marvin's Organic Garden. I'm not sure what I'm doing about plants/seeds yet. I guess I better decide. I'll have to accept that fact that I'm doing my best to be pure. And that growing your own vegetables of any kind is far better than buying them at the grocery store. And what we're lacking this year we will get at the local farmer's market. Obsessing about it, just isn't worth the stress!
- J.J. Kunkle
- I am the owner of The Fit Life, LLC. The Fit Life, LLC offers fitness instruction and nutrition counseling in a holistic way. I focus on personal training using mainly your own body strength--very little equipment. I also hold a certification in holistic nutrition. Because nutrition counseling regulations are very strict in Ohio, I'm still working on what nutrition services I can provide to my clients; however, I'm happy to provide general nutrition information. I enjoy teaching TRX, Indoor Cycling, and Boot Camps.
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