At Mother Earth Gardens we strive to provide you with beautiful plants and products, but a central part of our mission is also to choose plants and products that have been grown, produced, and delivered in a sustainable manner. We talk about the following words in our buying and decision-making: organic, sustainable, local, family, independently and cooperatively owned. We are trying to incorporate one or more of those words into as many products as possible. While we are far from perfect, especially in the difficult gift area, we are doing our best to mix in as many responsibly produced products as we can. More and more gift and decor items are becoming available that combine sustainability and beauty.
Here ARE SOME OF THE WAYS WE CERTIFY THAT OUR PRODUCTS MEET THE IDEALS WE'VE SET FOR OURSELVES
ORGANIC refers to a sustainable system of agriculture popularized in the U.S. by farmer and publisher J. I. Rodale in 1946. Organic farming seeks to work with nature, not against it, by utilizing agricultural techniques that build soil fertility and protect the surrounding air, water and wildlife. It emphasizes building healthy, rich soil to produce plants that are high in nutritional value and resistant to pests
The Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI) provides organic certifiers, growers, manufacturers, and suppliers an independent review of products intended for use in certified organic production, handling, and processing. You'll see the labels Certified Organic and OMRI certified on many of our pesticides, herbicides and
Some of our local growers and producers prefer to operate outside the certification process, because of both the expense and what they consider to be low or arbitrary standards. We, and they, refer to their products as MORganic, because their standards are actually higher than those of the official boards of review.
Our main grower, Rush Creek Growers, supplier of most of our bedding plants and perennials, includes the following in their annual product publication:
WHAT IS SUSTAINABLE GROWING?
This term for us reflects a process and attitude through which decisions are made in our business. It is not a simple series of steps taken and then suddenly something achieved. But rather an on-going concern or lens through which to consider decisions not only concerning growing techniques but encompassing equipment purchases, quests to reduce waste, plans for future growth and our workplace environment. We also want to let you know what “sustainable” means in practical terms.
In the future, we may have industry standards to follow but for now we are following these practices and feel good about our progress.
There are many benefits of starting plants in sterile potting mixes but a major downside as well. Sterile media provides ample space for undesirable organisms to take up residence. We are refining our growing techniques to introduce beneficial organisms back into the system. This has major ramifications for fertility, disease and
For the spring crop we'll be using the same coir based soilless mix. For this summer's crop, however, we'll be switching over to a Minnesota peat product that will have Sustane composted turkey manure incorporated as a slow release fertilizer. We've been experimenting with this mix for the past two years.
We’ve purchased a number of high efficiency furnaces. Other major changes in our heating systems are hopefully not too far down the road.
Finally found the right filter for the system of tanks that collect the rainwater and snow melt from some of our gutter connected greenhouses. It's a wine maker's fabric that is big enough to fit the tank opening but is simple to remove and clean. So often it's the small things in life….
In 2008 we began brewing our own compost tea and fed it to our crops in the irrigation water on a weekly basis. In the day-long brewing process, the microbes are fed and aerated so the microflora and fauna are able to multiply exponentially. The fresh tea is then mixed into our irrigation system.
We are using Daniels fertilizer. This is a soy based product. We occasionally will use a conventional water soluble fertilizer on special crops and we supplement with chelated iron which becomes limited by the alkalinity of our well water.
We are using a variety of products that essentially supply the plant roots with beneficial organisms. Besides our compost tea, there are a number of biological products that we may employ to prevent disease. These organisms take up residence on the root system protecting it and producing beneficial substances. Healthy plants resist diseases, are drought resistant and hold better in their pots.
We have several predatory insects that have taken up residence in our greenhouses. In addition, we use plant extracts and substances that physically harm pests rather than poison them. If needed, we’ll resort to insect growth regulators or more conventional products.
Our banker plant systems of pest control were highly successful this past summer. Pots of Purple Flash Pepper hosted Minute Pirate Bugs which feed on thrips. In the same pot an Asclepias c. Silky Gold lured the thrips to the predators. These bankers were placed throughout the range. Another banker system we used were pots of grain aphids that were raised in a predator free cage. Then on a weekly basis the aphids were placed around the greenhouse to make sure that our predatory wasps and midges had a steady supply of food. Besides beneficial insect we used some fungi in our insect control efforts. Met 52, Preferal, and Mycotrol are all fungi that were sprayed onto pest outbreaks. Under warm moist conditions the spores hatch and attack the pests. Once again, Steinernema feltiae nematodes were applied through the irrigation water on a regular basis to consume fungus gnat and thrips larvae.
We have switched a great bulk of our soilless mix to a coir and parboiled rice hull mix. These are both waste products from food crops. We’ve also added some calcined clay to hold onto nutrients and buffer the pH. To sustain our backs we’ve purchased a big hoist and had our soilless mix put in giant bags.
We have made a commitment to using compostable pots. We are using attractive, sturdy pots in our 4 ½" annual and our 3 ½" herb programs. The pots are made from rice hulls, bamboo and straw. They’re made to last up to 18 months for growing and can be composted in a backyard or municipal compost pile. They are not meant to be planted in the ground.
Unfortunately, another compostable pot manufacturer has ceased production. Rush Creek is actively pursuing other options.
This is a topic Mother Earth Gardens gets many questions about, for good reason. Find our extensive comments on neonics here. Hopefully this helps to clear up any confusion and answer any questions you may have about Neonicotinoids.