The Basic Science of Organic Gardening in Alaska
By: Kate Powers | 28 April, 2014 | 3939 Views
How you can make a simple shift toward organic production
Guest Post by GeorgeAnn Sprinkle, Alaska Community Action on Toxics
There is a common misperception among beginning gardeners that organic gardening means that you don’t put anything to the soil where you grow your plants and vegetables, you just let them grow. However, organic production is based on a system that is just the opposite. Organic growing encourages constant input into the garden which maintains and replenishes the soil’s ability to provide nutrients for plant growth without the use of toxic pesticides and fertilizers. Growing your organic bounty does not exclude the use of fertilizer; the process just looks different than using chemical fertilizers.
Fertilizer is any substance added to soil or water to increase crop productivity. This could be manure, compost or any combination of nitrates. To keep your Alaskan veggies big and healthy, and ensure a productive yield from your garden you must fertilize. When we grow and harvest food, the soil is giving us loads of nutrients and we must replenish them. In the wild where no harvest takes place, the old plants and fruits decompose which rebuilds the soil and continues to nurture the plants.
Starting to grow organically can be a simple shift, buying the fertilizers labeled “organic”, and it can also be a lifestyle change as many of the solutions to bigger and better produce come from a systematic approach to managing and understanding your soil. This can take some patience as you build up your soil through a few seasons, allowing natures’ decomposition and nutrient cycles to do their magic.
You have to put as many nutrients back into the soil as you take out. This will require some research as some plants require more than others, while some plants give back. There are many methods that organic gardeners use to fertilize their garden.
- Learn how to build high quality compost and apply it to your garden
- Utilize organic amendments and fertilizers; Whitney Farms, available at Alaska Mill and Feed has high quality organic compost and other non-toxic fertilizers such as blood meal, bone meal, guano, and kelp meal. Far North Garden Supply also has organic fertilizer for both soil and hydroponic setups
- Apply manures; – horse, cow, chicken are good but also need to decompose at least a year before applying to the garden. That said, it is not uncommon for people to bury hot or fresh manure 8” to a foot under garden soil to help extend the growing season. As the manure rots, it heats the soil around it, raising the soil temp and creating an environment toasty and warm for crops that are more suited for warmer climate such as corn and tomatoes.
- Rotate your crops (even in a small home garden) and plant nitrogen fixers such as peas.
- Water with fish emulsion
- Practice “No Till’ in your garden, disturbing only the area necessary for planting while leaving the rest of the bed undisturbed. Conventional till practices causes soil compactions leading to reduced water retention, organic material (available nutrients), biodiversity, and increases soil erosion.
You can learn more about organic gardening processes by taking a soil workshop Bigger, Better, Lusher Gardens: Organic Growing through Soil Science April 26th and 27th 10am-3pm for more info email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 222-7714
Alaska Community Action on Toxics (ACAT) is a statewide environmental health and justice organization established in 1997.
Our mission is to assure justice by advocating for environmental and community health. We believe that everyone has the right to clean air, clean water, and toxic-free food.
We help communities implement effective strategies to limit their exposure to toxic substances and to protect and restore the ecosystems that sustain them and their way of life.
We work to eliminate the production and release of harmful chemicals by industry and military sources, ensure the public’s right-to-know, achieve policies based on the precautionary principle, and support the rights of Indigenous peoples.
Kate Powers, Co-Founder
Despite having her easy bake oven confiscated from her for questionable experiments, Kate Powers still convinced her Dad to let her continue to bake and cook without recipes. She loves cooking meals for her friends and family, she particularly loves cooking Latin American cuisine, especially Central American and Spanish food where she has been lucky enough to live and study. Kate has a particular interest in immigration and refugee resettlement issues, as well as farm and labor rights. She can make perfect duck egg omelettes, just ask her about it.