Those of you who keep up with our blog know that we at GreenTown have been cultivating a garden full of veggies, herbs, and flowers in our back yard. For those of you who are new to our blog, our garden was planted with the help of hundreds of Kansas Girl Scouts. The Girl Scouts of Kansas Heartland opted to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the organization by coming to Greensburg the last weekend of April. To learn more about the Girl Scouts Go Greensburg event and the planting of our garden check out our previous blog post, Oh Beautiful. The girls were able to participate in many service projects and activities around town, including the planting of our demonstration garden. We tried to use a wide range of planting techniques including using found objects as planters, different types of raised beds, and planting directly in the ground. We have also employed organic practices in the planting and management of our garden.
You may have seen organic certified labels in your local grocery store, or have heard the term thrown around. But you may be wondering, what exactly does it mean to have an organic garden? In simple terms, organic gardeners only use animal or vegetable fertilizers rather than synthetics. It also means natural pest control devoid of industrial insecticides. In other words, it means using natural substances and beneficial insects to ward off pests instead of chemical products, such as Roundup or Raid. Organic gardening stresses increasing the natural health of the soil, choosing appropriate plants that are suited to your area, and working with nature to produce a healthy and productive garden.
So what does it mean for a product have the certified organic label? As of 2002, farmers must follow the national guidelines set by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) if they use the word organic, or else be subject to a $10,000 fine. These standards can be found through USDA’s National Organic Standards website. The regulations include everything from livestock feed, crop rotation, soil fertility, to pest and disease control. But for small farmers - have no fear - if your gross sales of organic product are less than $5,000 per year (which is most of us backyard gardeners), then you fall under the “small farm exception,” and may use the word organic, but not “certified organic” in your sales and promotions, provided that you are of course following the organic guidelines.
GreenTown's organic gardening has consisted of using local and natural compost, using straw mulch to keep our soil moist and keep the weeds from growing, using a vinegar mixture to kill weeds, and using linseed oil to seal our pine raised beds. For more organic gardening tips check out the links below:
Organic Gardening Tips - Organic Garden Guru
Organic Gardening Information and Tips – Organic Gardening Tips 101
Alternatives to Pesticides – The Northwest Center for Alternatives to Pesticides
How to Build Healthy Soil – Virginia Cooperative Extension
Beneficial Insects – Beneficial Insects 101