Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Why Organic?

My dad asked why we bothered pulling all the couch grass out by hand, rather than just zapping it all with weedkiller. I love this kind of question because it prompts me to think clearly about my philosophy and the basis for my actions.

There are lots of reasons why I choose to garden organically. One of them is much more important than the others, and I will come to that last.
  1. It costs money - the people who rented that plot before us told me they sprayed £60 of weedkiller on it. And it's still full of weeds. I can only imagine it would be even worse if they hadn't but still, it cost Ed and I nothing to entirely clear a quarter of it by hand, and we'll do the other three quarters over the next weeks and months.

  2. Artificial herbicides, pesticides and fertilisers are made from oil, and the oil is running out. We need to learn how to live without them. Organic gardening isn't a middle-class fad, it's the future.

  3. We eat the produce from our allotment. I don't want to put poisons anywhere near our food. Just seems like common sense to me.

  4. The ground needed digging anyway (in response to Hedgie's astute observation that digging makes couch grass worse - in fact we forked it, then removed all the roots, then forked again and removed more roots until either there were no more roots or we were fed up). So using weedkiller wouldn't have saved us a job, it would just have saved us the "removing roots" stage of the job.

  5. We could have used weedkiller and then hired a rotavator to clear and cultivate the soil. That would have been pretty easy and quick. But then again we could have bought all our veggies from Tesco in the first place, even easier and quicker. But it's not about what's easiest, it's about what's best, in our opinion.

  6. It's good exercise. Some people join gyms at great expense and spend an hour a day on treadmills and rowing machines to keep fit, and then they hire someone at great expense to mow their lawn and trim their hedge for them. Seems to me you could save some money on that arrangement and still keep fit. This isn't really a "reason" why I chose to dig, but it is one of several nice benefits.

  7. There's a promising new blog called Allotment Junkies which is about allotment gardening and depression recovery. Being out in the daylight, taking vigorous exercise, having short-term achievable goals and seeing the tangible results of your labours (not to mention eating a healthy diet rich in fruit and vegetables) are all proven to be more effective treatment and prevention for depression than anti-depressant drugs. I have experienced depression in the past and have no intention of going there again if I can help it. Digging the garden or allotment helps keep me happy and healthy. This is also a pleasant bonus rather than a reason for my choice.

  8. But the main reason why I choose not to use Roundup is that soil is alive. Or rather it is an ecosystem of lots of interdependent organisms - plants, animals, fungi and bacteria, both microscopic and macroscopic. Using herbicides and pesticides damages that ecosystem and in extreme cases can result in sterile i.e. dead soil. As a gardener, I am in the business firstly of creating healthy soil. Healthy plants follow on from that. I won't do anything that damages the health of my soil if I can possibly avoid it, which is the same thing as saying I garden organically.

13 comments:

Mel's Dad said...

Points taken. A lot to think about here. Will puzzle and ponder and, hopefully, some time in the future, return to the topic.

Organic McBurro said...

Amen, sister! I'm with you all the way - we have to understand that chemicals don't just vanish once they've gone on the soil. Some remain and consumed by us. The long term damage to ourselves and our children should be reason enough to avoid them.

WB Paddocks is 100% unapologetically organic. Except when my mum came round and put some slug pellets down without telling me. I went spare!

hb - www.wildburro.co.uk
******************************

Andrea said...

Great points, you've covered pretty much everything.

I would add that chemicals such as pesticides and fertilisers end up polluting our waterways, which obviously isn't good for anyone.

lilymarlene said...

As it doesn't work anyway, as you said, I don't understand why people use the stuff!
Nicely put!

Clare said...

An absolutely brilliant post that articulates so much of what I feel but struggle to say in any coherent way about gardening organically. I paticularly love your final point about the soil being alive. Wonderful.

Craig said...

>But the main reason why I choose not to use Roundup is that soil is alive.

Excellent stuff Melanie. Spraying is a vicious cycle (and a profitable one for some - but not the user). The soil is not only alive, but it's trying to work for us! You and your readers may like to take a look at a post I just did on soil. Feedback appreciated.

keener said...

Hi Mel

What can I say - great post!
Best wishes, Keener

Hedgewizard said...

Yeppers - but I bet you got fed up before the couch did!

As for the soil being alive, I had a horrible moment the other day when I realised that by not watering half a bed which was standing empty in the polytunnel I was effectively dessicating it. Okay, macro-organisms can migrate into the other half of the bed, but plenty of stuff doesn't have that luxury. We all know what dead soil looks like, so I've watered in a little compost tea, soaked ir thoroughly, and mulched it. Hopefully once the warmer weather arrives it'll be business as usual.

Steph, Mel's sister said...

Hiya. I've just also read Craig's article. Great going both of you. I don't mean to dumb down the issue, but I do remember a Star Trek episode of a planet who's life was dying. And by life, I mean that a woman had been analysing soil samples over a period of years, checking what the plantet could support in 'higher' forms of life. I remember feeling very deeply the loss she exhibited when her lastest few weeks had shown a total lack of life for a once rich & fertile planet. I'd probably cringe if I ever watched the episode again after writing this comment, but there goes. I'm not the coolest person you'll ever meet.

Beam Me Up Burro said...

You like Star Trek, you can't be bad :)

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