Organic Gardening

Organic gardening is undoubtedly the best way to grow plants. We shouldn’t mess with Mother Nature. She really does know what is best for us. In this day and age, chemicals are present in most of the commercially grown fruits and vegetables we eat. With this philosophy of gardening it is imperative we slow down and take a good look at what is happening around us. This method avoids the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides that cause damage to soil and wildlife with their toxic side effects.

Adding humus and other organic matter to the improves fertility, avoids erosion, conserves energy and is sound gardening advice. Many people also feel organic gardening produces food that tastes better and is more nutritious. A compost pile produces humus, the best possible food for your garden. A compost pile initiates a biological process that involves the breakdown of organic material by micro-organisms (bacteria and insects) thereby releasing valuable nutrients for your plants. Minerals are also made available for food and flower production. If the humus used in crop production is continually replenished, through organic gardening methods, the soil will continue to produce abundant blooms and/or harvests. Another option for delivering nutrients from compost is the use of Compost Tea. There are also a wide variety of natural fertilizers that can be used if your soil is deficient in any area especially if composting is not an option where you live.

Commercial growers use synthetic fertilizers such as nitrogen and phosphorus because they are the cheapest and easiest way to create lush plant growth and boost yields. This causes the plant roots to become flooded with the chemicals and they lose their ability to forage for other nutrients such as zinc, calcium, selenium, and others. The result is a general plant deficiency and mineral imbalance. They also use pesticides on plants to kill the harmful insects but in the same process, are killing insects that are beneficial to plants. These harmful pesticides and fertilizers contaminate our food, soil and eventually drain into our drinking water. Continual use of the highly toxic and expensive pesticides has shown that insects may gain immunity after several generations, requiring even more potent pesticides. All this not withstanding, there is an increasing movement towards using organic gardening and farming methods because there is an economic demand for it.

"Organic foods" and "beverages" are the newest buzz words these days when you see food ads in the newspapers or signs in grocery stores. In the 1990s, organic farming became very popular in agricultural circles.

In 2002, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) established national standards for food labeled "organic" that must be met to be certified as organic whether grown in or out of the United States. The USDA definition of organic food is "Organic food produced by farmers who emphasize the use of renewable resources and the conservation of soil and water to enhance the environmental quality of future generations. Organic meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products come from animals that are given no antibiotics or growth hormones. Organic food is produced without using most conventional pesticides, fertilizers made with synthetic ingredients or sewage sludge, bioengineering, or ionizing radiation."

The regulations also require that a government approved certified inspector visit the farms where the organic food is produced to make sure the farmer is adhering to the rules necessary to meet USDA standards. The food companies that handle or process the foods must be certified also. In labeling a product as "organic" the USDA only claims that the food is different from conventionally produced food in the way it is grown, handled, and processed, and is not necessarily safe or more nutritious.

USDA Organic Seal

After reading many articles there is really no conclusive evidence at this time to suggest that organic gardening and farming methods produce foods are more nutritious. Only that organic foods and fiber are spared the application of toxic additives. Many EPA-approved pesticides were registered long before extensive research linked these chemicals to cancer and other diseases. In the long run, organic farming techniques provide a safer, more sustainable environment for everyone.

Good advice is to look at the label on the food. The USDA seal indicates that the food is at least 95 percent organic. There are single ingredient foods with a small sticker version of the USDA organic seal (see above). The information might also be on a sign above the food in the store. There are also multiple-ingredient foods with three labeling categories. "100 percent organic;" "organic" (95 to 100 percent organic ingredients); and “made with organic ingredients” (at least 70 percent organic ingredients).

The USDA cautions the words "natural" and "organic" are not interchangeable. You should also remember that use of the seal is voluntary. Some farmers prefer not to apply for certification even though they might qualify. If a farmer misuses the label, there is a fine of $10,000 for each violation.

Growing your own fruits and vegetables with organic gardening methods is the only way to ensure that the food you feed your family is the healthiest possible.

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