The zen of organic container gardening

organic container gardeningOrganic container gardening can help reduce your worry about chemicals that people use, we need to have some level certainty in our lives. Wouldn’t it be nice to know where your food comes from?

I know it isn’t farming per se, but it is definitely an important aspect of farm life. Especially, if you have a booth at your local farmers market.

I love knowing where my food comes from don’t you? So why take the risk when you can start organic container gardening.

I took a page out of our friends at Organic and Urban‘s playbook, and I recently attended a workshop on organic gardening, and I learned a lot. The following is some of what I learned at the workshop.

What is organic really?

Organic is something all-natural with no pesticides no herbicides no insecticides used, but can you really be 100% organic?

It is really difficult to be 100% organic because we would have to live in a bubble to support it. How many farmers go the 100% organic route. Not many because it is such a pain in the ass.

Because being 100% organic isn’t easy, we are between 100% organic and non-organic.

We find that happy median between both organic and non-organic because being an extreme is too much.

It is definitely easier for a gardener to start organic than it is for a farmer.

So how to get certified organic?

Here are the quick and dirty steps to getting certified organic for a farm.

  1. Contact certification bodies.
  2. Understand the rules and regulations.
  3. Research organic practices.
  4. Know how long you need to be organic BEFORE you become certified organic.
  5. Choose which certifying bodies you want to work with.
  6. Apply for inspection for transition(fee).
  7. Apply for inspection.
  8. Inspector checks farm while your product is being produced.
  9. Inspector reports findings to the certifying bodies.
  10. Farmer gets notified.
  11. The NEXT year after you get APPROVED you can apply to get certified organic. An inspector is appointed to the farm and inspects it again.
  12. ANNUAL certification application (fee).
  13. Sell products.
  14. Annual reviews of your farm.

That is a shortened version from OMAFRA.

I don’t know about you, but by looking at that process, I would say that it is a multi-year process. How ridiculous is that? How many farmers are going to go through that process? Not many.

Now, being organic and not certified is possible,many farmer tend to do it that way.

Many farmers choose not to get certified organic because of the rigorous process that you have to go through. It is more of difficult to get certified organic than it is to be something like organically based.

Because the process is so lengthy, you can turn to other forms of being organic like organic container gardening.

Organic container gardening to the rescue

organic gardeningThe really nice thing about organic container gardening is the fact that you can control the environment where you are growing your plants. That means that you can cut the amount of pesticides and insecticides used around your plants. This is fantastic because you can make sure that your plants are more organic.

The added benefit is the fact that you can actually move your plants around and maximize the light the plants are getting.

Think of container gardening this way, it is like a studio in a very controlled environment, but in-ground gardening is like a live show, so it is more difficult to control the crowd the songs etc.

What kind of container can you use?

You are not limited to a traditional pot for your plants. You can use anything you can find in your house that is a receptacle for soil.

For example, you could use old pots, kettles, butter tubs, even ice cream containers. You are really only limited by your imagination.

Now there are some special containers you can get such as self-watering containers that work fabulously, but you can use recycled pots just as easily.

One of the disadvantages of self watering containers is that they are more expensive than just using an ice cream container. But they do do a good job.

You can think about things like what the material is made out of. Some materials are porous and others are not, you need to be careful about what you put in porous containers. For example, terra-cotta is porous so be careful what you use in it.

When you use something like metal, be careful because it heats up a lot, so you can cook your plants if you’re not careful.

Another thing to think about is whether to use biodegradable containers or not. The best type of biodegradable containers are cow manure ones. They are plentiful in North America and also biodegradable.

There are also some other options like coconut husk and starch biodegradable pots, but they tend to have a larger carbon footprint.

What can you plant in a container?

You can plant pretty much plant anything in a container. You can plant something as small as herbs all the way up to something as big as a tree. For example, in the Botanical Gardens in Montréal they have trees that are growing out of containers, and they have grown there for more than 50 years.

Where do you find organic seeds?

Nowadays, the most common place to find organic seeds this is online. You can also find organic seeds at your local nursery as well, but be sure to look for the OMRI symbol. Also, you can find a list of places to buy organic seeds on OMRI’s website.

If you can’t find organic seeds, why not try some regular seeds? You don’t have to be 100% organic for everything as long as you start growing something now.

What type of soil mix should you use?

A good potting mix will have a good balance between nutrients and pH balance. Now you can make your own potting mix, but that means you have to store all the individual pieces at your house. In most cases, it’s probably easier to buy a premade mix.

Again, you should look for the OMRI symbol on potting mix packages.

What type of fertilizer should you use?

The ideal fertilizer will have 5– 10 – 5 on the package itself. This indicates that it is a slow release fertilizer. It means it has a good balance between nitrogen phosphorus and potassium.

The best type of fertilizer that you could use is sheep manure. You can either get that directly from a farmer or you could buy it from a store. I suggest going directly to the farmer as you should support your local farmers.

Final thoughts

Organic container gardening is a great way to start gardening. It is also a way to ease your way into the organic realm.

It allows you to try gardening in a controlled environment limiting the number of weeds.

Also, by growing your own vegetables you can enjoy the fruits of your labor, which tastes great. You can also sell what you grow at your local farmers market.

As I mentioned, you can basically use any type of container for gardening.

Finally, make sure you look out for the OMRI symbol on your potting mix.

If you found this helpful, share it with someone who wants to start gardening.


Building your support network

building a support networkI can’t tell you how important building a support network is. Without the proper support from other people who will you turn to when you have a problem? Who will you ask for help?

As a new farmer, having a support network is super important. You need to find someone you can turn to in order to ask questions. Because you’re so new at this whole farming thing, you’re going to have a lot of questions.

I mean you generally have an expert for everything. Think about it, you have your mechanic friend, your computer friend, and now you need a farmer friend.

So where do you find this farmer friend?

There are many places where you can find a farmer friend. My favourite place these days is to find one on Twitter.

I recently participated in I chat which is a fantastic place for farmers to connect with other farmers.#Agchat provides you with a large number of farmers in the same place at the same time. It’s a place where you can get your questions answered which is so important when you’re young farmer.

You don’t have to feel shy, you don’t have to feel embarrassed, everyone has questions.

The difference will be those people who get the questions answered, and those people who do not, so make sure you are a person who gets your questions answered.

Because you want to be one of those people who gets questions answered, this is when the support network comes and play.

They are going to be the people that you turn to when you need your questions answered.

So by building your support network, you will have somewhere to turn to and get questions answered.

Another place to find a support network is a young farmer are places like Farm Start and Farm Link.

These two organizations provide you with connections to other farmers, which is so important when you’re starting out.

If you are looking for more web-based information, you can also check out Agriwebinar.

Final thoughts on building your support network

As a new farmer, building a support network is so important. It gives you a place to get your questions answered, it gives you a place to ask questions that also gives you a place to have fun/

If you don’t build your support network who will you turn to?

How do you build your support network? Leave a comment below with the answer.