Hi Cascadian Farm fans! You overwhelmed us with such great questions last week! Jim is very busy this time of year, but he's going to take some time to answer a few of your questions each week for the next month.
Q: The first question came from Susan - who asked: "Does organic mean it's not GMO (Genetically Modified Organisms)?"
A: Yes! Certified organic means that GMO crops have not been used. The USDA organic standards board does not allow for any GMO crops to be used in organic agriculture. A farmer using GMO seeds would not be able to use the USDA certified organic seal.
Q: Alice said: "I need some suggestions on feeding your plants organically!!!"
A: Alice, we have a saying in organic farming "Feed the soil, so it can feed the plants." Conventional farming uses water soluble fertilizers which are quickly absorbed by the plants (almost like an IV drip of fertilizers). Organic farming focuses on adding rich organic matter to the soil, so that the various microbes and chemical processes in the soil food web can convert them to available plant nutrients over time. Here are a few ways to add nutrients in the soil:
- Crop rotation: Don't plant the same plants in the same places every year. Different plants pull different nutrients from the soil - so changing up your plants will make sure you're not depleting the same nutrients over and over again.
- Cover crops and green manures can be grown in the soil as part of the rotation and/or in the winter to reduce erosion, and then tilled or dug into the soil about a week or two prior to planting.
- Compost: try saving your grass clippings, leaves, and organic waste in a compost pile. You can mix this in with your garden soil each spring to feed the soil food web. Many municipalities are developing green waste composting programs that take lawn clippings and tree trimmings and turn them into garden compost. Check out what is available in your area.
- Mulch: you could add a layer of mulch (at the farm, we cover our blueberry plants with sawdust!) to your garden each year. This will not only help prevent weeds, but last year's mulch, can decompose and feed the soil for this year's plants! This works best with perennial plants.
- There are several organic blended fertilizers, both granular and liquid that can be used. These are generally based on one or a variety of organic “waste” products like scraps from fish and poultry processing. Check the internet and local resources to find what is available in your area.
Q: Michelle asked how she can keep weeds at bay in her organic garden, without using synthetic chemicals or herbicides. We got Jim on camera to answer this question:
(Facebook folks: the video won't show up here, you'll need to view this post on our blog)
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Thanks for all of your questions! There are a lot of them, but Jim will do his best to share his insights with all of you as he has time.