Inside an Organic Greenhouse
We’ve all heard about food miles - the distance our food travels from farm to table - but we may not realize how far some plants travel to land in the gardening section of a retail box store. Here in the Treasure Valley there are only a handful of greenhouses that grow and sell their own plants. Most bedding plants have come from huge greenhouse businesses and complexes in western Washington and Oregon, some 400-plus miles away.
Besides arriving weary from the road trip, most of these plants are grown in a nice tropical environment. Lots of heat is used to make them grow fast but that warm and damp environment can stress the plants. High temperatures combined with a nice amount of nitrogen fertilizer make it ideal for insects and diseases to thrive.
These pampered plants also make a hard landing in your garden because they haven’t seen a cool, windy day and go into shock when placed in cool soil, wind and cold temperatures.
I like to avoid this perfect storm of bad growing conditions in my organic greenhouses. My bedding plants have been anything but pampered. They are given just enough heat to grow and are accustomed to cooler temperatures. I use an organic potting mix with very little fertilizer. If I need to give them some nitrogen, I’ll use a very diluted certified organic fertilizer. I want the starts to have a stocky, football linebacker sort of look. And from the moment the seeds have germinated, a fan has been blowing on them to strengthen the stems.
Use your pot stakes.
My greenhouses are on the small side because they don’t get as hot as the big ones. Their size also makes it easier to quickly cool down and or heat up, too. I have the option of rolling up the sides of the greenhouses to vent or take advantage of a breeze.
To deal with pests I use integrated pest management (IPM). Alyssum flower seeds are planted in January and bloom by April. Predator type insects (such as Hover flies/syrphids) are attracted to the nectar/pollen of the alyssum and spend the rest of their time in the greenhouse hunting down the bad type of insects like aphids. It’s a very effective approach.
Whenever possible I use organic seeds. They used to be hard to obtain but more and more organic varieties are now available. This is exciting because plants grown in organic conditions are very adaptable. Whereas plants grown with high chemical inputs have a narrower more defined way to grow. One way to describe the difference between conventionally raised plants and seeds to organic types is to imagine a wide boardwalk and a balance beam. Organic varieties are like a wide boardwalk they can adapt easier to different soils, climates, nutrient levels. And conventionally raised crops are bred for a very specific type of conditions - precarious like a balance beam.
Most importantly, these plants are food you plan to feed to you and your family. You want them to be as healthy as possible. There is no reason to buy plants that have been grown with conventional fertilizer and pesticides. The organic plants grown at Canyon Bounty Farm are chosen for their flavor, vigor and adaptability. I want you to have as much success as possible in your garden, and start by raising some healthy plants for you. So let’s grow good food!