Do you have a vegetable garden? Growing some of your own food has many benefits, and it’s an idea that gets even better when you opt to grow your food as naturally as possible. You can do that by choosing natural fertilizers and mulches, which break down slowly and improve the long-term health of the soil. You can also opt for safer, less toxic methods of pest and weed control. Anytime you can use fewer toxic pesticides, you’re keeping these chemicals out of the environment where they can harm wildlife, as well as making their way into our air and soil.
Some of these natural materials are easy to find: For natural fertilizers and mulches you can turn to your own backyard compost, dried leaves and (pesticide-free) grass clippings. For others you may need to look a little further, including doing some shopping online. Here are some resources that can make your search for organic gardening supplies a little simpler.
Is it OMRI Listed? If you’re not sure whether a fertilizer, pest-control, or weed-control product is a good idea for your garden, check to see whether it’s allowed in organic farming. To do that, look to see if it’s listed with the non-profit Organic Materials and Review Institute as being approved for organic production. When you’re shopping online, you’re likely to see relevant products labeled as “OMRI Listed.” You can also search the online directory at OMRI. Also check out a new section on the OMRI website that points people to retailers that sell listed products. One mail-order company that’s currently listed is Johnny’s Selected Seeds. A couple of other good online sources for organic gardening products include Peaceful Valley Farm Supply and Planet Natural, both of which have sections specifically for OMRI-listed products.
Labels for Seeds and Plants. When you’re thinking about organic gardening supplies, don’t overlook a big category — seeds and plants. By seeking out the most naturally grown options, you can keep even more synthetic chemicals and pesticides out of the environment. It’s a simple way to support sustainable farming and environmentally minded seed companies.
“Organic” is one label you’ll see on some seed selections. These seeds come from certified organic operations, and many mail-order seed companies offer a sizable selection. However, getting officially certified for organic production can be costly, so keep in mind that some farms and small seed companies opt for alternative certifications. One label to look for is “Certified Naturally Grown.” Learn more about this certification here.
Another concern for many gardeners is avoiding genetically modified plants and seeds. A long list of seed companies have taken the Safe Seed Pledge, promising that they will not knowingly trade in genetically modified seeds or plants. In most cases this information will be prominently displayed on their websites. Find a full list of participating companies on the website of the Council for Responsible Genetics.
This blog is part of the MOTHER EARTH NEWS guide Find the Best Green Products and Services.
Photo by Fotolia/DLeonis