Saturday, August 18, 2012

Sustainable Saturday - The Organic Community Garden

Our community garden, located in upstate New York, is going organic in the year 2014.

We've known about it since the beginning of the year, and I've been mulling it over for a while.

You would think that I would be overjoyed.  We don't garden strictly organically, in the pure sense of organic gardening, but I know that many of our community gardening neighbors don't garden organically.

It is going to be an educational experience for many of the gardeners.

But first, what is organic gardening?

Well, that depends who you ask.

It's a bit hard putting a mandate into place when practitioners of "organic gardening" don't always agree on a definition of organic gardening.  But let's give it a whirl.

A definition from Garden Web reads:

"ORGANIC GARDENING - the science and art of gardening by incorporating the entire landscape design and environment to improve and maximize the garden soil's health, structure, texture, as well as maximize the production and health of developing plants without using synthetic commercial fertilizers, pesticides, or fungicides."

The  letter from our gardening association (this is a summary) lists practices that are NOT organic:
1.  Don't use herbicides - plant-killing chemicals of any kind;
2.  Don't use non-organic, chemical pesticides.  Organic ones should be used only as a last resort;
3.  Crop rotation is suggested; companion planting is encouraged;
4.  Don't use chemical fertilizers or plant foods. 

However, there are a lot of shades of grey (a certain number may come to mind but it doesn't have anything to do with organic gardening) in these statements.  The Association is going to have to consider a number of practices that some people consider organic - and some people don't.

One of these involves the use of plastic or other synthetic fabrics or ground covers, which will be banned after this season.   Biodegradeable covers will likely be banned after the 2013 season.   This is a topic I want to explore in a future post.

Community gardening is the best way to provide your family with local food - is it too much to expect that these gardeners be organic, too?

Has your community garden "gone organic"?  Do you have a working definition of what practices are and are not allowed?  Did your garden association have to transition, and was it traumatic for the members?

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