Is organic gardening viable?

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*** note the cross post ***
Hi all :)
I have just finished reading an online book "Chemicals, Humus, and The Soil" written by Donald P. Hopkins. This book is available through the agriculture library at http://www.soilandhealth.org .
It seems to me that Mr Hopkins makes a very strong case in favour of using the fertilisers that are not permissible under the "rules" of organic gardening. Although Mr Hopkins has discussed this matter in the context of commercial farming it seems to me that as home growers we are also looking for best yield for least cost (direct and labour) and that the arguments he presents are mostly just as valid for home growers as for commercial.
Mr Hopkins emphasises to a very great extent the need for large amounts of organic matter in the soil but is also convincing in his argument that the amounts of humus that are required to provide sufficient nutrients for the high density planting that both home and commercial growers favour is difficult for the home grower and expensive to the point of impossibility in the case of the commercial grower to obtain.
I wonder if anyone else has read this book and can comment on the validity of the arguments put forward by Mr Hopkins.
Also, are there any peer-reviewed studies regarding the "taste" of organic vs. non-organic produce (presumably these would be double blind trials) and the bio-availability of nutrients in organic vs. non-organic produce. Obviously, I would prefer at least abstracts to be available via the internet.
Ivan.
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Ivan McDonagh wrote:

thanks for the url. Looks very helpful.
...snip.....

Umm , I think different people garden for different reasons. Having a vegetable garden is an optional activity for most people these days and those that have them do so for different reasons.
Some of the ideas are; 1) it is a relaxing activity, 2) greater variety of foods, 3) greater variety of types, 4) reduced agricultural chemical intake, 5) self reliance, 6) skill development, 7) other.
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G'day, I'm glad you jumped in Terry, a bloke could earn a PH.D answering this one in detail!
China Wingham NSW
p.s. Ivan, yours is a fair post, but while you are at your library, also check out a book by the name of 'The One Straw Revolution', also interesting reading.
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Don't forget the big reason:
The food tastes so much better!
Ray
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<SNIP>

It's this sort of anectodal evidence, Ray, that I'm curious about - one of my friends had a load of vegies from my totally organic garden last year and maintained how much better they were than the chemically grown ones. Yet I genuinely couldn't say definitely one way or the other ... sure, they were nicer but was that just a matter of being 5 minutes old versus being at least 5 days old?
Thanks for the comment though :)
Ivan.
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As I understand it, someone did some blind tests to prove or disprove the claim that home-grown veggies taste better, and the results basically were that even the home growers couldn't tell their own produce from supermarket bought produce. I don't know whether this was cooked, raw or a mixture of both.
But I don't care, there's nothing to beat the smug feeling of knowing that you grew what you're eating.
And I could smug for England.
Steve
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I wonder who did the study. I wonder what veggies were used. Radishes and lettuce might be difficult, but I have yet to see a store-boughten peach that comes even close to one that was picked ripe from the tree (as opposed to being picked green and ripened after being severed from its source of sugar). The same sort of goes for tomatoes. It isn't as much an issue of vine-ripening, but there is a taste that comes with home grown tomatoes that is missing in the store-boughten fare. Perhaps buying some of the $3.00/pound premium tomatoes would fix that, but I wouldn't bet on it.
Ray Drouillard
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<snip>
There is nothing on gods green earth more heavenly than a VINE RIPE tomato fresh off the vine! Most sweet 100 cherry tomatoes never even make it into the house. <G> Eat them puppies right off the vine, sun warmed. ;-d
Fresh picked string beans steamed right off the vine run a close second. <G>
I think it is more of a question of freshness. Really, but that's just my opinion. I also just love to go and pull fresh onions for that day's brunch.
K.
--
Sprout the Mung Bean to reply...

>,,<Cat's Haven Hobby Farm>,,<Katra at centurytel dot net>,,<
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On Sun, 15 Feb 2004 23:25:51 -0500, "Ray Drouillard"

Yeah, but... "home grown" and "organic" are not the same thing. Backing up the thread a bit, we come to 'taste tests' between organic and non-. There's no question that a tomato picked in one's own garden, or a peach from one's (or one's neighbor's) tree is superior to well-travelled produce, whether they've been fertilized with (organic) goat manure or something in a plastic bag.
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Some people are purists :-)
I prefer to eat veggies that don't require the removal of chemicals before eating. Also, whether or not you add ammonium nitrate or whatever to the soil, having good humus in the soil makes for better produce. Also, while the plants themselves don't need much in the way of trace minerals, we need them. You won't find selenium and the like in a bag of chemical fertilizer, but you'll find a variety of minerals in the dairy doo, compost, or whatever you are using.
Ray
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On Mon, 16 Feb 2004 20:59:28 -0500, "Ray Drouillard"

This is where I quarrel with the purists. I don't care for insecticides and I don't use them (except once, in a pot where Japanese beetles were devouring a woodruff plant). I *have* used Bt San Diego to control Colorado potato beetles. In Virginia. :-) *I* don't want to wash stuff off my veg either. But I see a difference in the level of 'sin' between wholesale use of pesticide and a little MiracleGro. That is, I think that fertilizers, perticides, and herbicides should be separate categories, not lumped together as "evil chemicals."

Selenium is found in the soil, and in animal protein, as well as in some veg. If the soil is deficient in a given area, local animal poo and compost will be, too. In which case, the mineral can be applied as...commercial fertilizer!
http://oregonstate.edu/dept/ncs/newsarch/1997/July97/selenium.htm
When someone posts that they're starting a garden and want to know what brand of fertilizer to use, I often reply that lively plants need more than a sprinkling from a bag of granules. I go on and on about the benefits of compost, not so much for nutrition but for general soil improvement, aeration and water drainage/retention. But if someone posts about an obvious nitrogen deficiency, I'd recommend ammonium nitrate. Animal poo does *not* appear to be perfectly balanced fertilizer. Good? Yes. Perfect, convenient, without any downside? No.
I think we essentially agree that mad-dog conviction on either side of the organic-chemical Great Divide are wrong-headed. There are too many gray areas in a controversy that is often seen as black&white.
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I wuldn't either -- I've paid the premium for truss tomatoes and, while they taste better than the cheap ones, they have nothing on home-grown for flavour. OTOH I can fully believe that a home-grown iceberg lettuce doesn't taste much better than a shop one. A home-grown cos lettuce outshines a shop one, though -- even when grown under far-from-ideal conditions, ie with me as gardener!
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Chookie -- Sydney, Australia
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$3.00/pound ? whatever happened to kilograms that replaced the 'pound' (weight) in circa 1970 ? Has Brutus Costello or Honest Johnny been tampering with the systems again ?
cheers, helene
wrote:

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USA is still on pound and ounces, inches feet yards, miles, acres; ounces, cups, pints, quarts, gallons.

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Yes, absolutely!
The fulfilment of a dream of some years of growing my own vegies is the reason I started in the first place - just for the "smug" factor.
Unfortunately growing vegies will be actually be of quite some economic importance to me by this time next year and hence my interest in factory fertilisers versus non-factory - I'm sure I will be able to realise my needs without factory fertiliser but if using factory fertiliser will be cheaper in terms of land, currency and labour and doesn't necessarily sacrifice health and/or taste then I'm all for it.

This is some use of the word "smug" with which I'm not familiar

Ivan.
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Ivan McDonagh wrote:
....snip.....

If that is the case, work out how much your motor vehicle costs to run, because you will need to factor that into everything you do food wise.
The cheapest food is bulk buying at the markets. The early markets where all the grocers buy, not the retail/paddy's type. the problem then becomes with what to do with 40kg bags of carrots, etc. which you can always compost 50% {;-).
Otherwise, start looking around for supplies of organic matter; manure and compost.
Perhaps a local restaurant won't mind you taking vege scraps away. If you are going to handle meat scraps, you really have to know what you are doing with composting as it can smell = problems with neighbours.
Look at race tracks, they are generally quite happy for people to take the manure away.
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wrote:

<snip>
Take a look at those two statements. It's *obviously* going to be cheaper (in terms of auto/truck use) to bring home a few bags of commercial/chemical/non-'organic' fertilizer than chase around for and transport manure and compost. If you work in labor costs, cheaper still. I think the limit in this line was 'organic' advice to keep manure in a bucket on an apt. balcony rather than commit the 'crime' of feeding a potted tomato (or rose -- it's been some time) with a little convenient and readily-available Miracle-Gro.
'Organic' is lovely. Recycling waste of all sorts into useful nourishment for plants. It's just not too practical for all gardeners. I *adore* cow manure because it just *looks* so rich and nourishing...in its plastic 40lb bag which I can bring home in the trunk of my (compact) car. Shoveling and transporting *real* manure for a good-sized garden is just not an option. And there's no guarantee it's 'nature's most perfect food' for plants. At least evil 'chemical' fertilizers can be formulated to supply the necessary ingredients for many plants.

On your bicycle? Or on your back? If a restaurant is separating veg scraps from used napkins, emptied ashtrays, and plate-scrapings, the owner is probably saving for his *own* compost pile.

It's your own fault. You introduced the transportation issue. :-) You're advising the previous poster to spend a couple of days a week chasing around to restaurants and race tracks to find and transport large-volume materials to replace a couple of bags of the chemical nutrients plants require?
I don't understand why 'artificial' fertilizers have such vociferous opponents. AFAIK, plants don't care whether their nitrogen and phosphorous comes from cowpats or granules.
The previous poster is looking at real-life issues, and doubtless already uses all the 'organic' processes he can manage. *His* cost/benefit analysis appears to have come down on the side of manufactured fertilizer. Makes sense to me. He's not talking about wholesale DDT spraying, or lowering the water table to keep his golfcourse green.
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That was actually one of the points made in the book that I referenced in the original post. The way the author described it makes good sense to me.

I do and I'm looking for ways to increase that still further.

It seems that way at the moment based on the responses I've had.

No, definitely not!
The *huge* amount of grass clippings, equally huge amounts of chook poo and, possibly, a smaller amount of clay are all at least partly focused on reducing water requirements as much as possible.
And my position on *no* factory pesticides remains firm - increased productivity through factory fertilisers is one thing but I haven't seen a cogent argument yet as to why a well managed, mixed crop would need a pesticide.
Thanks to all who responded.
Ivan.
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(snip)

That's still being investigated. It's been claimed that our bodies don't absorb nutrients from pills the same way they absorb nutrients from food. I've seen many organic advocates make the same claim about plants.

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On Tue, 24 Feb 2004 18:23:01 GMT, don' snipped-for-privacy@there.com (The Watcher) wrote:

Another thing about chemical fertilizers is they only provide what is put in the bag, what "science" has decided what plants need. Just like when we buy vitamins, there are only certain vitamins and minerals added, only those that "science" has decided we need.
Relying only on chemical amendments and chemical vitamins might be ok, but there may be some essential trace minerals that we do not know about yet, so it's still a good idea even if you use chemical fertilizers and vitamins to "feed" your land and yourself with a wide variety of nutritional sources.
There are people who say chemical fertilizers are the devil incarnate, and would not use them no matter what, and others who aren't that hard line. I figure that if you are trying to get a compost to heat and you don't happen to have or don't want to use blood meal, some chemical nitrogen won't end the world as we know it if you toss a handful in now and then. But, I wouldn't run out and buy some today, but I'd probably use it up if I already had some.
If my garden is deficient of boron.. I think it was epsom salts you can spray on it .. those crystals you can soak your sore tired feet in, or take as a laxative. They're boxed or bagged up, but they've been around forever. Chemical or organic? Or they mined crystals, or artificially "induced" to crystal? Does the ground care?
The main thing wrong with using chemical fertilizers other than their limiting factors, is they seemingly burn the organic matter from the soil! Or maybe it's just that it doesn't add any, and it builds up salts in the soil, which will soon ruin your soil. If there is lots organic matter used, it buffers those salts, water etc.
If you need to use the chemical fertilizers, use LOTS of organic matter too.
Janice
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