During a period of cold and rainy days, and holiday season attractions (and distractions), it may be difficult to focus on gardening priorities and attend to necessary tasks. On the other hand, this could be a very good time to plan future directions.
In this column, we consider resolutions for the coming year.
Our resolutions often address immediate needs, e.g., weeding in a more timely and consistent manner, upgrading the landscape design, removing a tree or shrub that has evolved from asset to liability, or installing a long-overdue drip irrigation system.
Each avid gardener could develop his or her own list of resolutions that are certainly worthy and not to be dismissed. Today’s goal is not to discourage productive actions but to suggest the importance of the long view.
This column is inspired by a recent report that chemical pesticides are used more extensively in the United States now than ever before. See below for a link to “Pesticides: Now More Than Ever,” by Mark Bittman, New York Times, December 11, 2012. The author cites research evidence of the link between pesticide exposure and certain cancers and other health problems and negative impacts on the environment, and states that genetically engineered crops are leading to dramatic increases in the use of pesticides.
These data are particularly troublesome, given the recent defeat of a state proposition to label genetically modified organisms (fruits, vegetables and meats). This proposition lost 47% to 53%, when multinational food corporations spent $46 million in a campaign that claimed falsely that the proposition was “flawed” and would be costly to consumers. The Organic Consumers Association, an advocate of that proposition, points to several similar initiatives in other states, begins preparing for another vote in California, and insists it is only a matter of time before GMO labeling becomes law.
Residential gardeners can resolve to support reduced uses of chemical pesticides by applying only organic methods in their own gardens, buying organically grown groceries and supporting the labeling of GMOs, when another vote is scheduled.
So-called “conventional” gardening, which relies upon chemical fertilizers and pesticides, was introduced in the early 1940s, during World War II. Americans are only beginning to recognize its threats to human health and the environment.
Organic gardening methods originated hundreds or even thousands of years ago. These methods are attuned with nature, inexpensive to apply, and proven to be effective.
For more satisfying gardening in the short term, a good resolution is to bring new-to-you plants into your garden regularly. Countless options are available in garden centers, catalogs and websites. New horticultural treasures can add learning opportunities and rewarding experiences to your gardening activities.
If you think that pesticides are simply a good thing in the garden or the agricultural field, read “Pesticides: Now More Than Ever,” by Mark Bittman, New York Times, December 11, 2012.
For a good introduction to organic gardening methods, read Organic Gardening magazine which is available from magazine stands or the Organic Gardening website. This publication has been a leading advocate of this natural approach to gardening for decades. It offers its magazine, online information and several authoritative books from various publishers. Rodale’s Ultimate Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening is a classic in the field.
Guidance in purchasing organically grown foods is available from The Daily Green, which lists “The Dirty Dozen” (foods with the highest pesticide residue), beginning with apples. When these foods are grown with so-called “conventional” methods, they will have relatively high concentrations of pesticides. If you want to eat these foods, buy only produce that has been certified as organically grown. Federal regulations require that foods that are labeled as “organic are grown without the use of pesticides.
Consumer demands to label genetically modified organisms are sure to continue on a state-by-state basis, until such initiatives force federal requirements for such labeling.To follow the political battle, visit the website of the non-profit Organic Consumers Association. This is one of several organizations that are pressing this issue, with determination to succeed in the long run.
The Organic Consumers Association seeks to persuade the Natural Products Association to stop calling GMOs “natural.” The term “natural” when applied to foods has no federal definition or standard and should not be mistaken for “organic” foods.