GETTING STARTED IN THE BUSINESS OF ORGANIC GARDENING



1994 by Home Business Publications

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Organic gardening is growing and marketing health foods that have
not been treated with commercial chemicals. Only natural
fertilizers and pest repellents are used to qualify for the
higher, health food prices.

The primary equipment for health food growing is to not use the
chemical fertilizers or toxic pesticides.

Natural and organically grown foods command higher prices because
they cannot easily be mass-produced and generally require more
TLC.  

Not only are natural foods more expensive, they are mandatory for
people who cannot tolerate many of the chemicals commonly used by
the majority of growers today. There are also many people today
who feel very strongly about chemicals and are willing to pay
extra for all natural products.

The organic grower screens pests from the garden, uses insect
repelling plants (like marigolds) and natural enemy insects
(praying mantis, ladbugs) and natural, non-toxic pesticides to
reduce crop damage.

Some organic growers confine their operation to green houses or
shade houses, where control is easier.

Natural foods include fresh fruit and vegetables, dried, frozen
or canned foods, as well as seeds, powders and juices.

They can be sold through health stores, directly from your garden
roadside stands, or to markets in the area. It is also important
to note that processed natural foods are equally as much in
demand.

When advertising your organically grown produce, be sure to
emphasize the "all natural" aspects, which is one of your best
selling points.

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Setting up to grow health foods is very much like readying a
normal garden, except that you take special care to avoid the use
of "forbidden" chemicals.

Fertilizers are restricted to barnyard products and natural plant
left-overs which can be combined into an excellent (and low cost)
garden fertilizer.

In the natural food garden business, you will soon develop a
routine to make your own compost almost exclusively from waste
products -- plant trimmings, fruit hulls. All plant parts that
are not otherwise used ( or diseased) are recycled into compost,
along with other materials that you have on hand or can buy
inexpensively.

The degree of isolation needed for an organic garden depends on
its location. If you live in a hot area, consider a shade cloth
enclosure to screen insects as well as the direct rays of a hot
sun.

Greenhouse enclosures are often used in the more temperate areas
where frost is a consideration.

If your garden is in a relatively insect free and not down wind
from fields that are sprayed with commercial chemicals, you may
need no special considerations other than some of the accepted
insect deterring techniques.

Perhaps the most needed assistance for your organic garden will
be compost, which is sometimes called (ironically) artificial
fertilizer.


The purpose is to fertilize and simultaneously, add humus
(decayed animal and plant matter) to your growing medium.
Depending on the needs of your soil, it may be necessary to add
specifics to attain the desired composition.

If you cannot test it yourself, take several small samples from
different locations in your garden and have them analyzed.

State universities and some large (especially, chain) nurseries
will often provide this service at little or no charge. Call your
county agriculture agent to find other sources of soil analysis
(and remedial actions that may be unique to your area).

In a commercial operation, you will undoubtedly want to generate
at least some of your own compost. You should have at least two
compost piles so you can be using one while the other is
"working."

One way to build an inexpensive compost box is to make an
enclosure of wood and chicken wire, some 3 feet wide, 15 feet
long and perhaps 4 feet high.

Use metal or treated for the four corners and re-enforcing posts
every 3 -4 feet on the sides. There should be no bottom (just
bare soil).

Add the compost materials: dry leaves, grass clippings, cotton
hulls, straw, fruit peelings, sawdust, vegetables, and manure
(clean sacked is fine) in one foot layers.

Kitchen scraps are usually avoided because they give off odors
and attract flies, as are any diseased plant parts. Mix in a
shovel full of regular garden soil here and there, along with
some hybrid earthworms if available.

Between layers, sprinkle well with some 8-8-8 or 5-10-5
commercial fertilizer (about a pound per square foot of compost
surface).

This small amount of commercial chemical doesn't count as a
directly applied chemical. It acts as a catalyst to speed the
decomposing action.

Keep the compost pile moist and use a fork to turn and stir the
material every few days to help foster decomposition. Add more
clippings as the pile shrinks (decomposes).
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When re-starting a compost pile always leave a couple inches of
the old compost on the ground to acts as "starter". Depending on
the weather and how well you take care of your compost pile, it
should be "ready" in 6 to 8 weeks. Of course, if you heavier
products, such as wood that has gone through a compost machine,
it will take a little longer.

Tip: If you can't afford a compost machine, put leaves and other
small clippings into a clean metal garbage can and insert your
weed-eater. This won't work with larger pieces, but does fine
with the light material.

Another idea is to mount a barrel so it can be turned daily. Have
one made with a door and good latch so it can be turned without
its contents falling out. The barrel can either be mounted on
rollers or have axles welded on each end and fit into receptacles
on a sturdy stand.

Organic gardeners learn which insects and garden denizens are
helpers and which are "bad news". Some may look bad but do a lot
of good.

Examples are garden snakes that eat mice and insects, spiders and
eat insects, wasps that each roach eggs and lay their eggs in
insects, dragon flies, and ground beetles and caterpillars.

Other beneficial creatures may be more easily recognized: praying
mantis (insects and aphids), lady-bugs (aphids, scales, spider
mites), bees (pollination), lizards (large quantities of
insects), frogs, toads (ditto), pirate bugs (mites, eggs and
larvae of other insects), birds (worms, bugs), dragonflies
(flies, mosquitoes, etc.).

There are also "organic" pesticides that are used, but one must
be very careful not to step over the line to toxic chemicals and
lose their "organically grown" label!

As you learn more and more about organic gardening, you will
discover many other tricks that work in your area. Some are
iron-clad rules; others may be debatable, but in the final
analysis, what works for you is best for you! Some organic
gardeners NEVER plant anything in the same row twice -- to reduce
the possibility of pests and disease.

For example: Tomatoes are especially sensitive to nematodes (root
insects) as well as tomato worms. A crop of tomatoes may be
followed by onions of cereal (not regular winter) rye for a
winter green fertilizer (turned) under in the spring).

The latter is reputed to kill nematodes which become tangled in
the thick rye roots. Many organic gardeners routinely place
marigolds and other insect repelling plants between rows and/or 5
castor beans to help repel flies and moles.

By subscribing to a good organic gardening magazine, and trial
and error in your particular locale, you will soon become an
expert for the products you raise.

BUSINESS SOURCES

NATIONAL AGRICULTURE LIBRARY, 10301, Baltimore Blvd.,Beltsville,
MD 20705. Offers free list of over 200 sources of information on
organic gardening and farming.

ORGANIC GARDENING, 33 E Minor St.,Emmas, PA 18049. Magazine for
organic gardeners (both amateur and professional).

GROWER TALK, Box 501, Chicago, Il 60185. Trade magazine for
greenhouse growers.

NICHOLS GARDEN NURSERY, 1190 North Pacific Highway, Albany, OR
97321. 503-928-9280. Specializes in herbs and rare seeds; offers
supplies, instructions, ore and advice. Good selection of organic
pest controls.

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE, PUBLICATION CENTER, OPGA,
Washington, DC 20250. Write for a listing of available organic
gardening pamphlets.

DOVER PUBLICATIONS, INC.,31 East 2nd St.,Mineola, NY 11501.
Discount books, clip art, stencils, etc.

QUILL CORPORATION, 100 Schelter Rd.,Lincolnshire, IL 60917-4700,
312/634-6380.

NEBS, 500 Main St.,Groton, MA 04171, 800/225-6380. Office
supplies.

IVEY PRINTING, Box 761, Meridan, TX 76665. Letterhead and
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even whole card. Write for catalog.

WALTER DRAKE, 4199 Drake Bldg.,Colorado Springs, CO 80940. Short
run business cards, stationery, etc. Good quality, but no choice
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