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Garden Organic guidelines

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default Garden Organic guidelines

Post by Chilli-head on 4th May 2011, 10:52 am

Garden Organic (HDRA prior to dumbing down) have a set of organic gardening guidelines on their website that has recently been pointed out to me. It covers ten areas and lists best practice, acceptable practice, acceptable but not for regular use, and unacceptable. What do you think ? How would you measure up ?

I regard myself as quite concious of environmental matters, but I certainly do some things they wouldn't like. I try to mostly use what is to hand and would otherwise be wasted. My "bulky organic matter" seems pretty much to fit with their best practice, although my heavy clay which has not had a lot done to it for many years gets a lot more than 1 wheelbarrow of compost per 5 sq m ! I am a bit at a loss as to where enough nitrogen would come from if you stuck to their best practices. Or how you would improve the drainage of a compost without sand, grit, vermiculite or perlite. There also seems to be no good means of raising soil pH ...

Whilst I like the idea of chosing plants that grow well in your soil, I do want to grow and eat a full range of vegetables. Carrots would not grow in my soil without improvement by digging in improvers they would not like. Should I buy carrots instead, with the food miles that incurs ? Similarly I could not achieve weed control without substantial cultivation - apparently I should ensure all perrenial weeds are removed before planting by hoeing or digging. They clearly don't have Horesetails (equisetum arvense) at Ryton !

Well said on gas patio heaters though Evil or Very Mad Should have been banned upon invention.
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default Re: Garden Organic guidelines

Post by Compostwoman on 4th May 2011, 11:07 am

I'll come back to the question of organic guidelines, but want to make a tiny point about the name change.

The charity is still HDRA (Henry Doubleday Research Association) . Garden Organic is the operating name and is seen as being more people ( and printer!) friendly. We had the debate about the name change, it changed a fair few years back and actually has improved perceptions of the charity I believe, as being a more descriptive and " does what it says on the tin" name.

Just a comment, not a dig btw!

I agree with you to a point about the use of "improvers". I don't use pearlite or lime or anything like that except home made compost and wood ash and the last of the bag of "Rooster" pelleted , certified organic, chicken poo fertiliser.

BUT if I couldn't grow basic staples without it and ( living where we do) I would have to travel to get them, instead, I would think about using such products sparingly.

But, I might also consider growing and eating something else... Wink

I also do dig the beds and I use geotextile sheets to cover my fallow plots over winter. Its acceptable and if I didn't do this I would not be able to grow as much food.

I have a polytunnel - the pro and con of that is a whole other thread I think!

However, the guidelines do say, right at the very front...

In an ideal world, every garden would be run using only ‘Best organic
practice’ but this is not realistic in this day and age. We hope that, as you gain
experience, and your garden develops organically, you will be able to move
more towards (Best organic practice – the first choice) and away from (Acceptable, but not for regular use).


Which I think sums it all up nicely Very Happy

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default Re: Garden Organic guidelines

Post by Chilli-head on 4th May 2011, 12:02 pm

No offence taken. I preferred HDRA though.

I guess if you regard it as an aspirational document, it is well intentioned.

I am struck by how far beyond the "Organics" described by, e.g., Geoff Hamilton they go. Geoff used fish, blood and bone meal as his basic fertiliser (GO: acceptable but not for regular use. Can't for the life of me understand them - it is waste). He was a proponent of double dug deep (not raised !) beds for increasing productivity (GO: excessive cultivation - never acceptable. Why ? is min tillage a fundamental part of organics ? not to my knowledge). I could go on to list many of the fertiliser/soil improvers he would recommend that GO would frown upon.

I've also worked on a research project in which HDRA were a partner, where we did field work at Sheepdrove organic farm. This was about 10 years ago mind. Now Sheepdrove looks to me like an idyllic model farm - but what about that gigantic compost heap ? Loads of imported materials - spent coffee grounds (not organic, but apparently all the pesticide residues leach out into the coffee Shocked ) , horse manure from the stables Lambourn, council green waste ... Presumably Garden Organic would not approve of them either ?

Now I know time has passed, and definition of Organic seems to have extended to include a lot more consideration of the ecological impact of the sourcing of materials. But I do worry that GO may go too far; some will dismiss it all as unachieveable. And if you are considering these sort of concerns they must be balanced against the environmental cost of supermarket fruit and veg - I wish I could find the reference but I once saw a study - Swedish I think (Question) which found of all the "eco" steps an ordinary person might take, fruit and veg growing was one of the most valuable.
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default Re: Garden Organic guidelines

Post by Compostwoman on 4th May 2011, 12:25 pm

I agree with you on many of these issues and I know when GO were consulting on the guidelines recently - I made similar points in my response.

BUT, do they set out guidelines which are down at the very lowest end of "organic practice" OR do they have a firm line and say " work towards that - it is best practice"? Personally I think getting peopleto aim high is best, whilst accepting that it is all fluid and everyone's circumstances are different.

BUT no using the "unacceptable" practices so no spraying or mined peat useage. Evil or Very Mad

I actually do pretty well all they say APART from the digging and definately the composting imput - my compost has a lot of organically grown "green" stuff in it from home and the organically fed chicken poo and the straw I use for the chickens is certified organic. The hay for the small animals is unsprayed and sometimes certified organic. BUT the (lots of ) paper I use to add high carbon content is not.

So yes I do deviate from the guidelines with that. But if I didn't I would not grow anything like the crops I get!

Guidelines, for home growers, NOT standards, for certification is the way to read them I think.

Really interesting post there C-H. Thank you for putting it up.


Last edited by Compostwoman on 4th May 2011, 12:30 pm; edited 1 time in total

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default Re: Garden Organic guidelines

Post by Compostwoman on 4th May 2011, 12:27 pm

Ah, the minimum tillage is to preserve the soil structure and fauna. Worms etc don't actualy like being dug up....

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default Re: Garden Organic guidelines

Post by Compostwoman on 4th May 2011, 12:31 pm

Next time I am at Ryton I will look in the compost heaps to see what is in there... Twisted Evil

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default Re: Garden Organic guidelines

Post by mr_sfstk8d on 5th May 2011, 1:42 pm

Great discussion here. I'll have to give the link a read. Sounds like good stuff.
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