The short answer is yes. The whole answer is "not always", and that takes some explaining. Chemically grown and sprayed produce may look great, but it is nearly always grown with incomplete and unbalanced fertilization resulting in the destruction of needed soil life and organic matter. Simple NPK fertilization also leads to depletion of vital trace elements following repeated cropping.
Exhausted and devitalized soil results in internally weak plants which are highly vulnerable to diseases and pest attack, thus making spraying a necessity for the plants just to survive and keep up their appearances. They will also be nutritionally incomplete, will keep poorly and taste inferior compared to the way food tasted prior to the synthetic chemical fertilization era. Inadequately fertilized organic produce suffers the same consequences. Our outstandingly beautiful and healthy vegetable starts testify that the Mineral Augmented Organic method of growing developed by Black Lake Organic enables you to grow wonderful and nutritious produce with little or no spraying at all for pests.
2. Why do you distinguish between ordinary organic growing and Mineral Augmented Organic growing?
Organically grown food, while free from toxic spray materials, is not automatically nutritious. Consequently it may not look as good as conventional store-bought produce. So much depends on the quality of the soil and its fertility. Too many organic growers and gardeners lack fully balanced soil fertility and fail to incorporate natural earth minerals along with the organic matter, manures and unfortified compost that they typically supply in abundance. The eventual result is poorly nourished plants that keep poorly and do not measure up in taste to well-grown minerally augmented produce.
Inadequately fertilized crops, whether grown chemically or organically, will invite more pests and will require a greater control effort and expense. Often the results of a losing battle will be exhibited in the crop's market appearance, or deterioration soon after you get it home. However, there is no excuse for ugly organic produce of low quality and exorbitantly high price. Whether you grow for market or your own table, we say Grow it Right, The Mineral Augmented Organic Way!
3. In organic growing, what do you do about bugs and diseases?
The spraying of food crops and ornamental plants with highly toxic chemicals is not only bad for your health and environmentally inexcusable, it is also unnecessary. Plants that are properly grown and well fed seldom get diseases or insect attacks. In organic growing there is a two-pronged approach to dealing with pests and you may need to use both at first.
The best approach is the defensive one of properly feeding the plant to increase its strength and resistance to pests and doing it the Mineral Augmented Organic Way. This may be done with foliar nutrient sprays and by applying all-natural fertilizing materials on or in the soil, along with protective mulching where appropriate.
In the offensive approach you deal directly with the pest (or try to get ahead of it) through a number of natural pest control options that can include releasing beneficial insects and applying compost teas to counter disease organisms. In addition, there are a number of effective natural pesticides and fungicides ranging from mild to quite strong that have been used in organic growing for decades and which biodegrade quickly.
4. What can I do for my old apple (or other fruit) trees that are going downhill with fewer and smaller fruits and worsening damage from bugs and diseases?
In a word, fertile-mulch. This Mineral Augmented Organic method has proven amazingly effective in reviving sickly fruit trees and other plants to vigorous production within a year or two. Essentially you apply BLO's Tree and Shrub Fertilizer Mix (B.L.O.O.M. #7) or Rhododendron and Blueberry Fertilizer Mix (B.L.O.O.M. #6) to wetted ground beneath the tree or shrub canopy and beyond, then add half-inch layer of quality compost or aged manure and cover with about 3" of ground bark or other natural mulch material. The above method is more fully described and illustrated in our Gardening Information Leaflet No. 4 titled Fertile Mulching, which is available at the store.
Where you have grass or weeds growing beneath your trees you need to apply a thick layer of well over-lapped newspapers or corrugated cardboard prior to the bark covering in order to block their growth and prevent competition with the tree's feeder roots.
In addition to the above treatment we recommend monthly foliar spraying with liquid seaweed through the spring and summer. Meanwhile, you may need to also employ customary dormant spraying with horticultural oil and lime sulfur until you see a noticeable improvement in your trees or shrubs.
5. What can be done to stop deer from eating my vegetables and ruining my roses and flowers?
Short of shooting the offenders, the only nearly guaranteed solution is an 8 ft. high fence or an electric fence. Various scare devices can be somewhat effective. Many gardeners report that putting human hair, bloodmeal and certain kinds of soap around their plants or hung in cloth sacks from the limbs is effective, although these may require frequent renewal following heavy rains.
Several B.L.O. customers have found two organic repellents that work quite well. Perhaps the most effective is Liquid Fence, made from garlic and rotten eggs. While it has to be renewed from time to time, customers generally report it to be very effective. Another very good deer repellent is Plantskydd made from micronized bloodmeal. It can be sprayed on lawns to keep deer away from your ornamental plantings. Neither product has been approved for use directly on food plants or produce.
6. Would it cost more to fertilize my lawn organically compared to using conventional chemical fertilizers?
At first glance, organic fertilizers appear to cost more on the basis of pounds used per hundred or thousand square feet. However, the total cost for year round fertilization when using a synthetic chemical fertilizer works out to be more than if you used an organic fertilizer. When using a synthetic chemical fertilizer you pay for at least 4 applications for year-long fertilization coverage; whereas, with an organic fertilizer you only need to pay for two applications and receive the benefits gained from having an increasingly healthy lawn with far fewer disease problems that cause additional cost and effort. We can liken this to the cost of staying healthy by eating properly versus paying doctor bills on top of grocery bills. Good food is a bargain. That holds true with feeding your lawn as well.
Most chemical fertilizers are concentrated and highly soluble. They produce a quick green-up and then fade quickly so you have to apply them four or five times a year compared to twice for BLO's popular Organic Lawn Food (7-2-3 NPK) which gives a continual green even through drought periods. Note: Our lawn mix (B.L.O.O.M. No. 4) has been reformulated as an 8-2-4 NPK formula and has added beneficial microbes (bacteria, mycorrhizae etc.) and is now recommended to be applied at half the former rate, but in 3 applications using a drop-type spreader. Combined with correct and inexpensive liming, you achieve a Mineral Augmented Organic feeding of the grass which fosters its health rather than undermining it, and this is before mentioning the peace of mind from knowing it is safe to use around kids, pets, wildlife, and ground water. That's why we say Grow it Right, The Mineral-Augmented Organic Way!
7. Is it safe to use natural organic fertilizers around kids and pets?
Yes. In general it is far safer to use natural fertilizers in your garden and landscape as opposed to synthetic, chemical fertilizers that are concentrated and often caustic and may contain toxic herbicide ingredients. Organic fertilizers consist of ground rock minerals, plant meals and animal meals. Many of these materials are used to feed livestock and pets. Because they evolved in nature, nature is fully capable of handling them, whereas many synthetic fertilizer materials are foreign and harmful to nature and to the ecological makeup of soils.
Organic fertilizers tend to be utilized and processed where placed in the topsoil whereas a major portion of synthetic chemical fertilizer usually does not get used by your crops and turf or processed by soil organisms. Synthetics tend to get washed through the soil, out of reach of roots and into the ground water where they contaminate it for drinking or go on to pollute streams and bodies of water. In this way they are doubly wasteful and they certainly will not do pets and kids who might get them into their mouths any good. Black Lake Organic carries a number of safe and sane organic fertilizers suited to a variety of gardening purposes.
7. Is it safe to use natural organic fertilizers around kids and pets?
Yes, as long as you use caution not to put them directly in the water or allow them to be blown or washed into the water bodies before nature has had a little time to break them down into totally harmless products. Often just a few hours of sunlight will biodegrade organic pesticides and, if not, rain and soil microorganisms will do the job before they get very far. As with all registered pesticides, natural or organic pesticides will have label cautions or warnings and directions for proper application, which should always be followed.
8. If you have a well or you live next to a lake, a stream, or wetland, can you be assured that organic fertilizers and natural pest controls won't contaminate the water or harm wildlife and fish?
Compared to synthetic chemical fertilizers and pesticides, the natural ones are generally the least toxic and least polluting. Whereas many chemical pesticides are truly health hazards and may persist for decades in the environment, natural ones generally are of low toxicity to humans and short environmental persistence. There are exceptions, for instance nicotine is quite toxic and the natural pesticide Rotenone is very strong and is sometimes put into lakes to kill less desirable fish before stocking a more desirable species. Most other organic products will not harm aquatic life.
9. Is it worth the expense to get a professional soil test and wouldn't a do-it-yourself kit be good enough?
Yes, it is nearly always worth the cost to get at least one professional soil test for your garden or lawn to know where you are starting from before purchasing or applying fertilizers. Often the money paid to get this accurate information is more than offset by savings from purchasing the right types and amounts of fertilizers, rather than applying what you don't need or a product that does more harm than good.
Do-it-yourself testing kits are useful for limited purposes, but simply don't give you anywhere near the complete and accurate measurements needed to address the total fertility balance required for the best crop or plant performance. This is particularly important in relation to growing food crops for your own proper nourishment. If your FOOD is malnourished, YOU will be too! That is why BLO recommends professional soil testing, which uses the Albrecht method of soils analysis focusing on mineral balance. We supply the fertilizer types and rates recommended from a Mineral Augmented Organic perspective. It's the Only Way To GROW!