When I first turned to organic gardening, it was in the backyard. Working hard to amend our highly clay soil with lots and lots of rocks took many years to bring it up to where the soil was a great quality. Having once been a corn field where GMO seed were grown, it was a mess. Not to mention the fact that where I placed the 50’x35′ growing bed used to be the farmers access road. When there were storms, he would fill the holes up with rocks—-it was a horrible mess and took years to bring it into a proper mixture where we could grow darn near anything.
After ten years of hard work using nothing but organic measures we were at last able to grow a beautiful garden. Curious to see what kind of chemicals were in my produce and soil, I sent samples off to a local lab for testing. My heart sank when the reports came back showing that the garden was anything but organic. Since we didn’t add any of these chemicals and many of them have a life span of five or less years, I wanted to know how these chemicals managed to get into my soil and produce. Ah, leaching, a process by which anything applied to surrounding land would “leech” into my land via ground water. Being as I lived in a subdivision, anything my neighbors applied to their yards would leech into mine.
So we built some hydroponic beds where we could ensure nothing from the neighboring lands could leech into our crops. The next year as we began harvesting our produce, we once again sent it off to be analyzed by a local laboratory. I was in tears when the reports came back. Nothing had improved, my produce was still loaded with toxic chemicals, heavy metals, herbicides and pesticides. How could this happen? I mean I know nothing is perfect, but since I was using nothing but organic products and methods, how could my produce contain so many of the things I was trying to get away from?
Secondary water! You see it is against the law in our area to use culinary water outdoors, we have what is called a “secondary” water system. This is water pumped out of a local river and directly to us via pipes. Before the river arrives to where our town pumps it out, it meanders through commercial farming and agricultural lands, High density cattle and poultry farms, mills, steel mills and petroleum refineries. It was silly of me to think that the environmental laws would keep their waste out of the river and assume they were being tested to ensure they were following the environmental laws. So anything they use ends up in the river. That river feeds our secondary system and goes into everything we grow.
So I went to the city and asked if I built a greenhouse if I could use culinary water, they said no, culinary water could only be piped into the primary residence. So, we set out building a greenhouse inside of our home. Now this is not for the faint of heart, it is very expensive to set up and will cost you around $2,000 or more per year in additional electrical bills, but it was a cost we were willing to pay in order to be organic. For some reason there is only one hydroponic store in a 100 mile radius, it is dirty, the owner smokes so everything stinks when you purchase it and evidently is mostly used for people who grow medicinal marijuana. So I hit the internet, did lots of research and found a hydroponic supply store who not only has some of the best prices around; but the owner himself has his own hydroponic farm. I do mean a large hydroponic farm. He really cares about this industry, I have yet to speak with one of his employees either on the phone or on-line chat tool he has on his website. You can pick any of their brains and they will direct you to exactly what you need, not what they stand to make the most money on. And the best part is, they will tell you when you don’t really need something, even if you want to purchase it, if they decide when speaking with you about your garden needs and goals that something you want is not required, they will tell you. Their website is http://www.bghydro.com I can not recommend them highly enough.
They say you are what you eat, and I really want to have produce that is a pure as possible. We use a combination of mediumless hydroponic method known as Airoponic. This is where we use no medium what so ever and the roots are suspended in the air, misted with a nutrient solution we make from our own compost. However, things like miniature fruit trees love to have their feet in soil, so we painstakingly prepare the soil so we don’t introduce any soil born larvae and bugs into our hydroponic set up from the soil. Even commercial soils are riddled with bug larvae that can eat through your entire greenhouse overnight. However, after another year of growing in our new greenhouse, we again had our produce analyzed.
I am happy to report, not only is our produce at last organic, but I never have to pull a single weed!