You can tell when my husband has gone grocery shopping – home brand things everywhere. When I shop, I try and include some organic vegetables and fruits and other produce in the mix. I’m not sure why my husband ignores the good example I try to set. I suppose I shouldn’t complain. That I should be happy that doing the grocery shopping is one of the only chores he does.
I always thought that when back in Sydney, I would try and buy more organic things and I have tried to do that to a degree. I generally find it okay when something is even double the price of non-organic, but when potatoes and onions cost more than twice as much as standard ones, I do baulk and go for the non-organic variety.
I suppose first I should really state why I am bothering at all. For me personally, I believe that there would be health benefits to eating organic. Whether they have been scientifically proven or not, I don’t care about. I can see how eating organic is going to be worse. Also, I went to a compsting workshop organised by my local Council where the presenter (Peter Rutherford) made a convincing argument about the acidification of our bodies, which can lead to many ailments including cancer and the fact that synthetic fertilizers and pesticides were contributing towards this.
Then there are the many environmental benefits in reducing or eliminating pesticide and synthetic fertilizer application on a wide scale: to the air we breathe, to the water that we drink, to the soil that sustains us and the diversity of life (biodiversity). Having said that, I like many have budget constraints. I know many people that are very ‘pro’ organic will always argue that in the past people were used to spending more of our pay packet (as a proportion) on food compared to now. I don’t know if that is true, but I do know that I have a lot of bills and if there are cheap ‘home brand’ alternatives, then it can be hard to resist saving money on food.
So what should I do? Maybe concentrate on foods that have been found to have a higher percentage of pesticide residues, so as to focus my ‘buy organic’ efforts. What are these foods?
- Apples are the worst culprits – thankfully the Coles organic apples are not too expensive, so I buy those;
- Celery – quite a lot more expensive, so I haven’t bought organic yet;
- Strawberries – hard to find in local supermarkets or fruit shops;
A lot of the fruit and vegetables on the ‘bad’ list are hard for me to find, unless I go searching for an organic shop and there aren’t any in my local area.
So this summer, as I have been a working bee in my garden, I decided to establish my own organic vegetable haven! Firstly I observed over winter, where in my garden gets sun and one of the main areas was by the fence between my neighbor and I in my backyard. So I moved some plants I had recently planted and bought some planter beds from Bunnings (a local hardware store). They were not super cheap and are not so great in quality, but being hard pressed for time as I am, I bought them anyway. I bought six (two were from Aldi, which were much better in quality) 1.2m x 1.2 m wooden boxes.
I then bought some soil from Bexley Sand and Soil Company. It is supposed to have been accredited to Australian Standard 4419, but when I got the soil it was full of contaminants like plastic, glass and other organic waste. Obviously this soil is made from waste management companies and while theoretically I support this, the sight of plastic and other goodies did not fill my heart with joy. I had however bought too much soil, so had to use it all anyway and decided that I would add organic fertilizer like ‘Blood and Bone’, worm castings and worm juice from my worm farm to improve its productivity.
I also did my research about companion planting (where you plant vegetables and fruit that like to be near each other – like tomatoes and basil – to ward off insects and other nasties), so I had all my garden beds planned out! For more information on plants that like to be near each other – go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_companion_plants
So with my garden beds filled, the fun part began. Rather than buy small vegetable plants from nurseries, I decided to grow my own from seed and not any seed – organic seeds. I went online to Eden Seeds http://www.edenseeds.com.au/content/default.asp and went shopping!
Shopping online is so easy and I have to admit I kind of went nuts – I bought so many seeds and in hindsight – too many. I bought different varieties of some vegetables, rather than one. I just couldn’t wait to get them in the ground.
Here is my list: marigolds, Nasturtium, okra, radish, Greek Oregano, Egyptian beetroot, little finger carrots, Carrots all seasons, cayenne peppers, Californian wanderer capsicum, white Lisbon shallots, Lebanese Zucchini, black zucchini, Waltham butternut pumpkin, sweet corn, button squash, cherry tomatoes, tomatoes, Roma tomatoes, Swede turnips, silverbeet, Lebanese cucumber, snowpea Oregon, beans, eggplant, coriander, cilantro, dill, leek, English spinach, Onion Gladalan, Red onion, iceberg lettuce, rocket, Cos lettuce, asparagus, lettuce lollo rosso, parsley, basil….phew! I know! That was a few hundred dollars worth of seeds alone.
What is my planter box ‘map’? in each box I have planted some marigold and nasturtium and the following:
Box 1: tomatoes, basil, capsicum, chillies, squash and snow peas;
Box 2: corn, beans, cucumbers and Lebanese zucchini;
Box 3: Black zucchini, pumpkin, eggplant and okra;
Box 4: sweded turnips, radish, beetroot, carrots, shallots
Box 5: silverbeet, English spinach, onions
Box 6: the different lettuces, rocket
In other pots I then planted seeds for my herbs. I also bought some strawberry plants and blueberries.
Now my house probably sounds like a garden of eden brimming with fruit…well I am having some successes and failures, which I’ll talk more about in my next post…until next time – happy gardening – hopefully organically!