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Eco Friendly vs Organic Gardening

By Kenneth Barbalace
[Friday, May 22, 2009]
It is the season to start vegetable garden in the northern hemisphere and organic gardening is all the rage. As I've been planning and working on our garden I've been pondering the merits and limits of organic gardening. Something I've been thinking about is whether organic gardening is necessarily eco friendly gardening. To be an "orthodox" organic garden, one must use: certified organic everything (seeds, compost, etc.) and one must forego chemical fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, etc. I'm totally into the foregoing chemicals bit, but I'm not sold that buying organically certified everything is necessarily eco friendlier.

For instance, I bought my seeds from a local nursery, who buys them wholesale from a company that produces them locally here in Maine. For all tense and purposes, the seeds are heirloom seeds because the company has been cultivating their own varieties of seeds for around 100 years, however, they are not certified organic. From the seed producer to my local nursery, to my garden these seeds probably traveled no more than 50 miles. On the other hand, I don't know where the certified organic seeds came from. They could have come from hundreds of miles away and may not even be fully adapted for our local climate. Are seeds that have to be trucked hundreds of miles to me and aren't optimized for my local climate truly more eco friendly than locally produced heirloom seeds?

Compost is another example; I had my local nursery deliver three cubic yards of compost for my garden, which they get from local producers (lots of dairy farms and horse stables in the area). Again it isn't certified organic, but the nose can certainly tell what some of the key ingredients are. Is certified organic compost that would have come from a long distance away really more eco friendly than using locally produced compost?

When we look at growing our gardens, I just can't help but think that obsessing about buying everything certified organic isn't missing the forest through the trees. If we are trying to be better for the environment, don't we also want to cut down the transportation footprint of the stuff we buy for our gardens? Shouldn't we also be buying seeds that are optimized for our own local climates so that they can do well with minimal care?


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Ken (EnvironmentalChemistry.com) said...

I was pointed to an article titled "Why organic food is bad for the environment." This article discusses a research study that weighed the environmental costs of transporting organic and regular produce. The study found that because organic produce frequently traveled longer distances, the environmental costs of transporting the produce outweighed any environmental benefits of the produce having been grown organically.

While the point of my post above is about growing an organic garden, many of the same principles from that research study would apply to seed, compost, etc. At the very least this is something that should be considered when having an organic garden to be environmentally responsible.

Nova Person said...

Hi, I like the points that you raised here. I never thought of going organic having such effect on the environment because of too much "transporting". It would really help a lot if more organic products are available in more regions.

glasshouse said...

The post is excellent regarding gardening.

Karina said...

You are so right on pointing out the local-vs-transportation issue when it comes to organic options. With awareness gaining and urgency pivotal, organic options can become THE local option as well if we demand, support, and foster it.
Fortunately there is an organic herbicide on the market that can help transition a weedy plot to a productive garden plot. Just getting rid of weeds is not enough-respecting and improving the soil matrix will insure that your desirable plants will crowd out the garden crashers for the long term.

tigerturflandscape said...

A great blog, although simple it brings across a great message about organic vs eco friendly gardening. I enjoyed reading this thank you for the post.

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