Myths and truths about organic gardening and farming

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

There is a book on the market written by Jeff Gillman, a professor of horticulture (and entomologist by training) at the University of Minnesota, called “The Truth About Organic Gardening” and which I reviewed in the pages of the GREEN (LIVING) REVIEW not long after it saw the light of day.

What Prof Gillman says in his book is, to a degree, the same as what I tend to tell people. In the same way it is like with herbal medicines. Just because it is natural and a plant, does not means that it is safe and non-toxic.

Some of the organic practices, while they may work, are not safe unless the food is, for instances, washed very thoroughly.

E-coli infections from organic spinach, for instance, and other vegetables, which have happened in more than one country, is due to the application of animal waste or even human waste.

Also, while organic produce and animal products may taste better and may be free of pesticides, etc., they are not higher in nutrition than commercially farmed produce and products. It is a myths perpetuated by the lobby.

So let's look below at a small number of those truths and myths:

1. Compost and manure teas are great ways to provide nutrients and control diseases.

False. While these teas may provide small amounts of nutrients, they have the potential to spread nasty bacteria and their long-term benefits are unproven. Please note he is referring here to making your own compost tea brews and not composting tea leaves and tea bags. That is fine and, in fact, a good addition to the compost heap, as are coffee grounds, even with the filter papers.

2. Japanese beetle traps are an effective pest control.

False. These traps generally attract more beetles than they trap and act similar to the Waspinator. The latter seems to bring about more wasps in your area.

3. Manure is always a desirable soil amendment.

False. Composted manure is a wonderful addition to the soil. Fresh manure shouldn't be used because it can release ammonia, which can injure plants. Fresh animal manure can also contain weed seeds and human pathogens. E. coli can live in uncomposted manure for up to 21 months and this is the very reason why we have had E-coli outbreaks from foods coming from organic farms.

4. Garlic not only repels vampires, it also repels whiteflies, aphids, and beetles.

True. Sprays made from garlic extract and water repel a variety of insect pests, as long as the spray reaches every part of the plant you want to protect.

5. Corn gluten meal suppresses weeds when applied to the soil.

True. If given enough time to work (usually a couple of years) and reapplied each year, corn gluten meal is a safe and effective pre-emergent herbicide.

The above are just a small selections of myths and truths that Professor Gillman highlights in his book and therefore this book is very much worth a read and it will help expel many of the myths and erroneous beliefs as to organic gardening and farming.

Just because something is organic does not mean that it is good for the plants, the soil, the Planet or you.

© 2012