Monday, January 16, 2012

Organic or Conventional

Gardening is the newest, biggest trend lately.  With food prices skyrocketing, "green" living becoming something average people do (not just hippies and gurus), and more emphasis put on the dangers of GMOs and processed foods; it makes sense that gardening, or "urban homesteading", has become a major trend.  Most of my generation considers this a new thing and doesn't really think about the fact that their grandparents most likely grew at least a few if not all of their own produce.  Grandma did not eat bananas and bell peppers in January.  So what we consider "conventional" gardening (i.e. using pesticides, commercial fertilizers, etc.) is really not all that conventional.  In fact that style of gardening was only popularized after World War II, when the chemical companies that had supplied the troops with chemical weapons found themselves with an overstock of ingredients and no further need for their products.  So they revamped them into pest killers, fertilizers, fungicides, and all the rest of that arsenal the gardener uses to protect their crops.
The pros and cons of conventional gardening are as follows:
-Expensive! Those chemicals are not cheap
-Has environmental repercussions.  Chemical farm practices may be to blame for the dying off of many beneficial species, including the honey bee and monarch butterflies; pesticide runoff pollutes water, soil, and the air.
-May have health repercussions.  Roundup alone contains at least two chemicals that are associated with altered endocrine function.
-Makes taking out a colony of aphids or whiteflies a breeze.
-Chemical fertilizers give a huge nitrogen boost to plants making them look lush and happy.

Organic gardening has picked up major momentum in the past few years, unlike conventional gardening, there are no expensive chemicals to buy.  You can make your own natural fertilizer, compost, and you can be sure your kids won't grow a third eye from chemical exposure in the garden.  Probably more importantly than any of the other reasons to grow organics is the impact on the environment.  Organics grown at home do not pollute streams and lakes, they do not pollute soils and the air. In fact, an organic garden promotes air quality with plant respiration, and it promotes insect and animal health, providing a safe food source, habitat, and protection for birds, bees, rodents (sadly), praying mantises, ladybugs, lacewings, etc.

There really is no choice here, organic is the only way to go.  Although I personally have no problem using certain products to help manage my garden's health, I do make certain they are stamped as "organic approved" or something similar. (The one product that I do use is a slug bait, slugs are a major problem in this area, and if not controlled they will eat everything I put in the ground until July).
If you do prefer to grow conventionally I recommend switching, or at least putting in a new planting area that will be organic only and seeing what kind of difference it makes.  You may be surprised to find the organics need less work on your part and grow just as well or better.

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