Thursday, February 5, 2009

Pasa Thursday - Organic preference?

I'd heard that organically grown plants were more vigorous and hardier. No one, until today, had given me the "why. "

I gained some insight on that from talking with one of the many vendors here at the "Farming for the Future" conference. And from attending the "21st Century Victory Garden" seminar.

The core of the answer came as I spoke with vendors Bruce and Carmen Pape, proprietors of Deep Grass Nursery in Greenwood, Delaware. The Papes grow starter vegetable plants that they ship to locales as diverse as Iowa and Puerto Rico. The Papes explained, that even though they are certified organic growers, many conventional farmers prefer their plants because they thrive in the field.

Conventional vegetable starter plant growers use soluble salt fertilizers and spray to prevent disease problems. The Pape's, and other organic growers, use kelp or other organic fertilizers. Bruce Pape explained, " Organic fertilizer is slower reacting and longer lasting than conventional fertilizers. Plants green slower but stay green longer." Carmen said there is evidence that organic fertilizers also allow plants to absorb micro-nutrients better. Applying a soluble salt fertilizer shocks the plant like a sugar rush.

A plant grown in a controlled environment like a greenhouse and given regular doses of fertilizer might have a harder time standing up to mother nature. Plants raised with methods similar to the Pape's , organically and allowed to acclimate in a field or a vented greenhouse, are less stressed when transplanted to the field. Carmen said many of their customers buy from them, not especially because they are organic, but because of the quality of their plants. They note thick stems and beautiful roots.

Harlan Holmes helped me further understand the soil's role in helping organically grown plants flourish. The soil is home to micro-organisms that break down organic matter into nutrients plants need to grow. Earthworm's aerate the soil and leave nitrogen rich droppings. If plants and soil are treated with chemicals, the soil becomes inhospitable to the little critters that live under the ground that are beneficial. Chemicals effect both the beneficial and harmful pests in the same way.

Harlan mentioned his love of garden experimentation. I am curious if any of you have done any - possibly unscientific experiments- that have swayed you toward organic growing or conventional growing. Maybe for you, like Harlan Holmes and the Papes, many years of experience has shown you a path to success one way or the other. I'd like to know.

For more info on Deep Grass Nursery, try or

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