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Composting and Gardening

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Composting is an excellent way to make your own soil conditioner and use up kitchen wastes (a large part of our municipal garbage). Composting is used by organic gardeners to hasten decomposition of plant-based wastes into a rich soil amendment and fertilize.

Composting is an excellent way to make your own soil conditioner and use up kitchen wastes (a large part of our municipal garbage). Composting is used by organic gardeners to hasten decomposition of plant-based wastes into a rich soil amendment and fertilizer. You can compost vegetable kitchen scraps, yard clippings, newspaper, natural fabrics, ashes from the fireplace and dryer lint. Techniques vary from layering kitchen and yard waste in a large bin and turning periodically, to using worms in a bin on the balcony, to burying kitchen scraps in an unused section of the garden.

You may think you need to have a yard to have a garden. Not so. Containers on the balcony or windowsill can be a source of fresh, organic herbs and produce. Many herbs and vegetables are easy to grow with enough sunlight, water and good soil.

Most people do not know that a garden is only as healthy as its soil. Toxins in the soil (from pesticides, chemical fertilizers, hazardous waste or vehicle emissions) are poisonous to birds, wildlife and natural soil organisms. Without these organisms to aerate the soil and break down nutrients, plants become nutrient depleted and are unable to grow optimally. Most commercial fruits and vegetables are grown in this type of poor soil.

Improve your soil by adding well-rotted compost and organic matter like leaf mold and rotted manure regularly. Make use of organic and natural products such as fish fertilizer, bone meal and cottonseed meal. This will improve virtually all types of soil structures, retain air, water and nutrients, add nutrients and regulate soil acidity.

Remember, healthy soil equals healthy plants.

Top Ten Reasons Why Organic is a Better Way to Grow

When you buy certified organic food and products, your dollars cast a vote for a healthier planet because organic practices...

1. Protect future generations' health

The average child receives four times more exposure than an adult to at least eight widely used cancer-causing pesticides in food. The food choices consumers make today will impact their childrens' health for tomorrow.

2. Protect water quality

Water makes up two-thirds of our body mass and covers three-quarters of the planet. Despite its importance, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates pesticides some cancer-causing contaminate the ground water in thirty-eight states, polluting the primary source of drinking water for more than half the American population. From the farm to the grocery store, organic growers and processors use practices that eliminate polluting chemicals and nitrogen leaching, and thus protect and conserve precious water resources.

3. Preserve topsoil

Soil is the most revered tool for organic production. Farming organically respects soil as the foundation of the food chain. The soil is built through natural means, such as composted manure, rather than relying on synthetic fertilizers, and by planting diverse crops. The Soil Conservation Service estimates that over three billion tons of topsoil are eroded from American crop lands annually. The cause? Intensive mono-cropping and chemically-intensive practices.

4. Meet stringent standards

Organic certification standards are the public's assurance that their food and products have been grown and handled according to strict sustainable procedures without persistent toxic chemical inputs. Today's consumers can find a diverse spectrum of certified organic products on supermarket and department store shelves, from snack foods and dairy products to cotton clothing and outdoor gear. Until the federal guidelines for regulating the use of the term "organic" are in place, "certified organic" is the only assurance consumers have that products are genuinely organic.

5. Reduce potential health risks

Many EPA-approved pesticides were registered long before extensive research linked these chemicals to cancer and other diseases. Now, the EPA considers sixty percent of all herbicides, ninety percent of all fungicides, and thirty percent of all insecticides as potentially cancer-causing. A 1987 National Academy of Sciences report estimated that pesticides might cause an extra 1.4 million cancer cases among Americans over their lifetimes. In California, five of the top nine pesticides used on cotton are cancer-causing chemicals, according to Pesticide Action Network North America.

6. Protect biodiversity

The loss of a large variety of species (biodiversity) is one of our most pressing environmental concerns. Many organic growers have been collecting and using heirloom seed varieties for decades. On the other hand, many conventional farms still grow hydbridized vegetables and fruits, bred for uniformity, ease of shipping and cosmetic appearance. Such "modern" concerns have ignored the value of preserving a diversity of seed varieties, and therefore a more balanced ecosystem.

7. Keep rural communities healthy

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) predicts that by the year 2000, half of the American farm production will come from only one percent of farms. Organic farming may be one of the few survival tactics left for the family farm and rural communities. Many organic farms are independently owned and operated family farms of less than one hundred acres.

8. Provide a safer, healthier habitat

Organic agriculture respects the balance demanded of a healthy ecosystem, and thereby provides a healthier environment for those living beings in closest contact with the farm: farm workers and natural wildlife.

A National Cancer Institute study found that farmers exposed to herbicides had six times more risk than non-farmers of contracting one type of cancer. Field workers on conventional farms, due to their direct exposure, are the most vulnerable to illness as a result of pesticide use. Organic farms eliminate that risk by excluding harmful pesticides and other chemical inputs from their practices. Organic practices encourage wildlife by including forage crops in rotation and by retaining fence rows, wetlands and other natural areas. Removing synthetic, toxic inputs helps to make an organic farm a lively place.

9. Support a 'true' economy

Organically grown foods may seem more expensive, but retail prices are deceptive because conventionally raised and priced foods represent only a fraction of the true cost. Current conventional food prices do not reflect the costs of federal subsidies to conven-tional agriculture, the cost of contaminated drinking water, the cost of loss of wildlife habitat and top soil, or the cost of disposal and clean-up of hazardous waste generated by the manufacturing of pesticides. Consumers can pay now, or pay later. Buying organic food and products, now, is a direct investment in a more sustainable environment.

10. Make food taste great

Legendary restaurant chefs across the country, from Alice Waters of Chez Panisse in Berkeley, California, to Nora Pouillon of Restaurant Nora in Washington, DC, will tell you-organic foods taste better! Why? t's common sense. Well-balanced soils grow strong, healthy plants, which in turn make vegetables and fruits taste great. Organic food is not coated with pesticides or sprays, which make food taste bitter. True flavors, like those from an organic vine-ripened tomato, are not just for chefs and fancy restaurants, they are for all who care about food.

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