DEAR NEW FARM:
Thank you very much for your website! We have learned so
much from it. We are members of the Mystic Community Garden
in the Mystic Housing Development in Somerville, Massachusetts.
Our community garden is currently being rebuilt. As we “begin
again,” we are trying to keep the new community garden
completely free of dangerous pesticides and fertilizers.
We have been utilizing the information on your website so
that our gardeners can be educated on the adverse health effects
of chemicals they have used in our community garden in the
past. Our request is this: Could you please help us find websites
that list organic fertilizers? One of the big issues we are
dealing with as we educate each other in our garden is the
use of fertilizers. We need to completely “switch over”
to safe products and safe methods. One website that we found
with a particularly useful list was called www.beyondpesticides.org.
Do you know of others? The Welcome Project is a community
organization that helps people feel welcome when they move
here and become part of the community. We offer many services,
one of which is the community garden.
Thank you very much for all of your help,
and Armina Nguyen
Organic gardening, like organic farming, is not about input
substitution—simply trading packaged chemical inputs
for packaged "natural" ones—but about creating
a diverse and resilient system above and below the ground—from
insects and plants to soil micro-organisms—where "good"
bugs and "bad" bugs keep each other in balance and
diseases have a hard time gaining a foothold. Plants grown
in healthy soil fortified with compost and other incorporated
plant materials are more resistent to pests and diseases.
Products—soap sprays, fertilizers and what have you—should
always be used as a last resort. Instead utilize cover crops,
nitrogen-fixing food crops such as peas, composted kitchen
scraps or municipal compost and plant residues to feed your
We say: "Feed the soil and let the soil feed the plant."
Concentrated and packaged fertilizers—organic or otherwise—tend
to be a quick, expensive fix and subject to runoff that pollutes
If you want to know what products are allowable under the
national Organic Rule, you can consult OMRI (the Organic Materials
Review Institute): www.omri.org.
Another helpful site for organic production is ATTRA, particularly
its area for horticultural crops: www.attra.org/horticultural.html.
Organic Gardening magazine is also a big supporter of community
gardens and offers a wonderful web resource at www.organicgardening.com.
us with comments, suggestions and questions.