How and why we decided to plant the way we do in the greenhouse:

Once we knew that we wanted the greenhouse and that we wanted to make enough out of it to supplement future retirement income; we began researching different growing techniques.

HYDROPONICS

hydroponics-system

This was a fairly new fad that was popular at the time we were doing our research.  I think we got lucky when we found a place near the farm we were buying that grew tomatoes through hydroponics.  The man/owner we met informed us of his past in Agricultural Science and how he had developed a great liquid fertilizer that he used on his plants.  His tomatoes were beautiful…perfectly formed, all about the same size, smelled like a really great tomato should.  He was kind enough to give us a free half case to sample.  We thanked him for the tour of his facility and the samples and went home.

The first thing we did was review the pictures we took and discussed his set up and operations in relation to what we had in mind.  His help was immensely helpful.  Unfortunately, the taste of the tomatoes fell flat.  They had no flavor at all – bland!  We wanted to have produce that excited your taste buds from the moment it touches your lips.

To be fair, we then went to some specialty markets in the Denver-metro area and selected a variety of “hydroponic grown” tomatoes for comparison.  We found the same end results.  Yes, they were pleasing to the eye, but all flat on flavor.  That helped us to decide that hydroponics was not for us.

ORGANIC

organic-growing-system

This was something we knew a little about, mainly due to the cultural movement at the time.  Everyone wanted to go “organic” to save the planet.  Once again I began my research on it.

I knew the basics that it was grown using better methods, thus making it better for you to eat.  This was a good start, but I needed to know “how” it was grown better.  What methods were used and why?  This is what I found:

  1. A) The first thing you are going to come to is the Wikipedia definition:
    1.      Organic horticulture is the science and art of growing fruits, vegetables, flowers, or ornamental plants by following the essential principles of organic agriculture in soil building and conservation, pest management, and heirloom variety preservation.
    2. This took me to what are “essential principles of organic agriculture”, and how can I apply them? Again on Wikipedia I found this: (fyi – it’s huge, so I only took a part of the description)
    3. The principles are intended to “apply to agriculture in the broadest sense, including the way people tend soils, water, plants and animals in order to produce, prepare and distribute goods. They concern the way people interact with living landscapes, relate to one another and shape the legacy of future generations.”

2)      The four principles of organic agriculture are as follows:

(i)       The Principle of Health – Organic agriculture should sustain and enhance the health of soil, plant, animal and human as one and indivisible.

(ii)      The Principle of Ecology – Organic agriculture should be based on living ecological systems and cycles, work with them, emulate them and help sustain them.

(iii)    The Principle of Fairness – Organic agriculture should build on relationships that ensure fairness with regard to the common environment and life opportunities.

(iv)     The Principle of Care – Organic agriculture should be managed in a precautionary and responsible manner to protect the health and well being of current and future generations and the environment.

3)      This next section I found (again in Wikipedia) goes into the pest control part – the section we were (and still very much are) concerned about:

  1. a) Integrated pest management (IPM), also known as integrated pest control (IPC) is a broad-based approach that integrates practices for economic control of pests. IPM aims to suppress pest populations below the economic injury level (EIL). The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation defines IPM as “the careful consideration of all available pest control techniques and subsequent integration of appropriate measures that discourage the development of pest populations and keep pesticides and other interventions to levels that are economically justified and reduce or minimize risks to human health and the environment. IPM emphasizes the growth of a healthy crop with the least possible disruption to agro-ecosystems and encourages natural pest control mechanisms

4)      What # 3a) is actually talking about is how much pesticides they will allow a person/business to use on their plants – YET – still be labeled as “organic.”

We did not like the sound of this. According to the USDA (e) When the practices provided for in paragraphs (a) through (d) of this section are insufficient to prevent or control crop pests, weeds, and diseases, a biological or botanical substance or a substance included on the National List of synthetic substances allowed for use in organic crop production may be applied to prevent, suppress, or control pests, weeds, or diseases: Provided, That, the conditions for using the substance are documented in the organic system plan.

The big words that stood out in our heads were “may be applied.”  They are stating that if you have tried all of the natural, or organic, methods and you still can’t get rid of your pests; here’s a list of chemicals we do allow you to use and still use the label organic.  WHAT??!!  The Federal Regulations goes into a ton of beat-around-the-bush lingo but boils down to the fact that they do allow certain types of chemicals but only up to a certain limit (last I knew was up to 15% chemicals were allowed to be used but still called organic).  The also go on to let you know the National List of synthetic (Definition: of a substance made by chemical synthesis, especially to imitate a natural product) substances allowed.  Oh, and they also have a ton of things that are exempt from all the regulations.

THIS ALL BOILED DOWN TO ONE BIG THING: We did not want to use any chemicals – AND – we did not want to have to report to “big brother”  all the time.  If a person creates income from organic foods, in excess of $5000, they have to share all their records of operations and maintenance under allowable organic methods.  Well, our personal preference is that the US Government needs to keep their eyes on bigger matters and keep they nose out of our personal lives.  Result: no organic partying for us.

NATURAL METHODS

natural-growing-system

This became our destination!  What better idea is there for us than to go “natural?”  We do not use chemicals on any of our edibles or flowers.  The only thing we do with our lawn spaces is water and mow.  The farm birds take very good care of the fertilizer part (chickens mainly), and we compost.  If any manure needs to be added, we have plenty of friends willing to assist.

We pull weeds by hand or use weedless gardening methods (this is basically covering a plot or space with bio-degradable material like cardboard or newspaper to kill off the unwanted weeds) and companion planting with EVERYTHING!  Then good soil and compost are topped on that, then plant away on top.  It does not kill off everything forever, but it does limit growth and slows them down.) so, with proper prepping and being the Constant Gardener, we can spend more time on tending to our crops needs.

We use a TON of companion planting to repel or distract unwanted pests.  Some things we grow lure bad bugs away from our good foods, some just simply keep them at bay.  We have a great list of reading materials that I would be happy to share, for anyone that would want to learn more.  Read (and still do) all kinds of different growing methods and techniques, but I still have some favs that work best.

Next, I will share How we set up the inside of our greenhouse and why.

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