It was one year ago that I made a strong commitment to switch to an organic approach to gardening in my nursery.
Having passed the first anniversary of this process, I feel good about my journey. It has been difficult making all of the necessary adjustments. I have tried to advise my readers well, and I’ve written programs to help succeed in every facet of organic gardening. It is an awesome responsibility.
My commitment was born of the realization that we all need to do something to improve our environment. As gardeners, we should be the good guys—and yet we do things that negatively affect the earth. There are better and safer ways to grow our plants and grass.
Our focus in the past has been on cures rather than prevention. But these cures often poison our soils with pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides. These poisons affect the quality of our water and the health of our children, our pets, and ourselves.
Going organic is the way to go; and it employs all of the principles of growing a good plant. Timing, detail, and following a good program are important factors in building up the immune system of a plant. Prevention programs enrich our soils and develop strong plants that will resist insects and diseases. This approach has proven to develop bigger and more beautiful plants and lawns, and has left us with a safer environment to live in—an environment filled with beautiful plants and an abundance of butterflies, birds, and bees.
Mother Nature has shown us the way to tend her gardens, and all we need to do is follow her example. Everything has its source in the earth and the plants that grow from it. If we want to make a change, we must begin in this arena. All life is dependent on plant material; the plants we grow determine the health of our country and world. We are ruining our environment and the younger generations are going to have to pay. We need to get back to the earth and the basic lessons it teaches us.
In nature, diverse collections of plants all coexist, each contributing to the betterment of all. In the human world, we seem to focus on negatives: cures rather than prevention, differences instead of similarities. I like to look at some of the great gardens we have installed and think about how wonderfully all the different plants work together to produce a single beautiful garden. If only we could learn simple lessons like these from our plants.
Growing our plants organically was not an easy task for Sprainbrook Nursery. We turned to beneficial insects instead of insecticidal sprays, and organic fertilizers instead of chemical fertilizers. We added microbes to the soil and sprayed Messenger every three weeks. Our organic programs incorporated every tool we could find that might help grow better plants. Our focus was on sound growing principles.
In addition to our personal experiences—the unbelievable flowering crops we produced for fall and winter sales were our rewards—we had some incredible results, including my own mother’s lawn, reported back by customers. We found the great organic fertilizer Daniels; its results are unbelievable. Our cyclamen, poinsettia, and kalanchoe crops are out of this world. The primroses are coming along, adding more color for winter enjoyment. I feel we were able to grow the best plants in the marketplace.
Now that we have mastered this program, we are excited by what we will be able to produce for spring. Most of the plants sold in Westchester are imported into Westchester. We grow in Westchester for Westchester.
The organic movement is growing in this country. It is the right direction to take. The greatest challenge it faces is the lack of consumer education. The chemical companies flood the airways with advertisements. Our agricultural colleges have been influenced by large grants from these same powerful companies, and legislatures listen to their lobbyists. Finding a way to get the organic message across is difficult.
We need a grassroots, word-of-mouth movement. Those of us who understand what’s at stake need to become the messengers. Pass this message on to those who may benefit. Talk to your friends about the situation we are facing. Most people never even think about the environmental situation—and often those who do, don’t really understand what’s going on.
We will persist in our passion for the organic movement. We feel strongly that this is the right approach to gardening.
I would like to wish all of my readers a very happy and healthy New Year. When I write, I write to you. My aim is to connect with each of you and help you produce more beautiful gardens. I know a person who gardens is a happy person. Happiness is what life is all about.
Garden tip: Fill your house with flowering plants for the New Year.
Photo courtesy of Simon Cataudo