Guest Erica Renaud offers helpful tips for creating an organic garden.
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Creating an Organic Garden
Paul James: Having been an organic gardener for nearly 30 years now. I can tell you that no one grows organic better than the folks at the Seeds of Change Research Farm. And although you may not grow on this scale, there’s no better way to learn the tricks of the trade than from the Pros.
Erica Renaud: What we tried to do for visitors is we try to have an example of things we sell in the catalog and we grown on the farm in a small garden size setting. We practice all the same techniques that we use on the farm. We cover cropping here, we add compost. We got a lot of flowers for insect attraction. We also grow different food crops.
Paul James: There are lots of lessons to learn from organic view room that Erica Renaud among them how to control insects through diversity, who needs pesticides when insects can control their own population.
Erica Renaud: Look at all the bees, it’s awesome and the leaf hoppers are prevalent as well. They’re keeping themselves in natural check because some of them are natural predators of each other. And also they’re competing for food sources from each other. And so when that happens they will monitor and manage their populations.
Paul James: Creating what Erica calls an insect dairy is easier than you might think. Pick the right plants and they will come.
Erica Renaud: This is Echinacea Purpurea, it’s one of nine species of Echinacea in the United States, some native species and it really attracts a lot of butterflies and bees and it’s a perfect plant to add into your garden to attract insects.
Paul James: Not only is it beneficial to the environment, it’s pretty cool to watch all the buzzing bugs that you’ll attract.
Erica Renaud: This is an example of both insect dairy and cover cropping. So we plant this to attract all of the insects and to entrap the pollinators and they were also planting to cover the soil and protect it from soil erosion.
Cover cropping is a technique used to control weeds, to promote soil fertility and what we call soil tilth which helps with drainage of water and helps plant access nutrients from the soil. And this is an example behind me. This is buckwheat this is the easiest cover crop for a gardener to grow.
Paul James: Father Beans and clover are also great for cover cropping. Of course compost plays a huge role in the organic process. Here at the farm, composting is done on a large scale in formations called windrows
Erica Renaud: This is the beginning of a windrow. They are usually about eight feet wide and five feet tall when they are in their full form.
Paul James: Compost master Erica has a mixture that consists of manure of a nitrogen, twigs and leaves for carbon and the vegetable matter for nutrients.
A general rule of thumb, the more you turn the compost the faster it will mature. The total maturation process for one windrow is eight to nine months. It’s like a little compost baby maturing. Ever seen anyone frolic in compost? Erica is definitely compost fan number one.
Erica Renaud: This is the finishes compost, it just looks like soil. It’s a deep dark soil, it’s a real indicator of high humus and also it has no aroma, no stinky aroma and that’s what’s important if you’re compost still has a bad and anaerobic smell, too much oxygen. And it’s like fermenting then it’s not ready. And it can actually be toxic to your plant.
Paul James: Since gardeners all over the country buy seeds. It’s important to have varieties that can grow in a range itself. So one of the objectives of the farm is to develop new organic varieties of crops. And onions are just one of the crops that are popular among growers.
Erica Renaud: This is a Rosa de Milano, it’s a red onion that has a beautiful unique shape that’s a little more glovy shaped. One of our customer’s favorites keeps her a long time. It has a sweet flavor.
This is a white sweet onion. And it’s the sweetest onion we have.
Paul James: Basil is another fan favorite.
Erica Renaud: This is a Genovese Basil which is like our best seller in all of our basils. This is predominantly popular because this is the pasta variety. And it’s most ideal to harvest by pinching right under in between these two weeds, you can pinch here. It keeps the plants growing wider rather than up. And so you get more volume into your plant and more leaves and more basil are growing.
Paul James: And there is no shortage of variety when it comes to basil.
Erica Renaud: This is cinnamon variety, it flowers a purple a week and has a purple stem and it can be used both as a coronary herb in you and/or as a horticultural accent plant to where you want for pulling green shades on a boarder or mix it in your plant.
Paul James: This deep purple variety is called Red Rubin and its favorite among growers for its dark pigmentation.
Erica Renaud: This is an earlier flowering variety.
Paul James: And last but not the least, my favorite, organic flowers. If you think you have to sacrifice the beauty of the petal to grow organic. This will surely change your mind.
Erica Renaud: This is one of our popular in any varieties. And they come in a cluster of colors. This is one of the mixed color varieties and the great thing about them as the name tells us, this is called cut and come again so we can harvest them all season long.
Paul James: And if you find these brilliant colors appealing, you’re not the only one.
Erica Renaud: Butterflies are really attracted to color. So you can see there’s lots of pinks and oranges.
Paul James: Now, compare these beauties to the intense blue flowers you see at the grocery store. Every one of them got so bright.
Erica Renaud: A lot of those are dyed and their synthetic flower colorings and these are all natural colorings from this variety growing in organic soils.
Paul James: See folks, no need to sacrifice anything to grow organic. You can have the best of all worlds. Beautiful flowers, delicious foods and a healthy environment.
So the next time you’re at the grocery store and you reach for that knee-on pink bouquet of flowers or some flawless fruit, consider the healthy organic alternative instead. I certainly do.
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