Growing Organic at Home

So many turn to gardening as a way to get food products, and know exactly what it is that is going into them. Some even bout to their friends on social media with their giant plants that they are all organic. Now to the unknowing eye, they don’t notice that container of Miracle Grow sitting on the side. They think WOW! If organic is this easy why am I paying these prices when I can do this all on my own!

Well the truth is that sneaky bottle of Miracle Grow in the background is actually taking away the organic integrity of those seeds, and later plants. Just because something begins it’s life cycle organic doesn’t mean it will stay that way.  It’s organic integrity can be challenged at almost every single step of its growth.

Let’s get started!

First off when talking about organic growing there are so many abbreviations, it may make you feel like the reason organics are so expensive is because they’re some CIA operative plant. Don’t worry we are going to break it all down.

OFPA – Organic Foods Production Act is a program that is based on federal protocol and regulations that define standard organic practices.

NOSB – no they aren’t some 90’s boy band, who sang one song and then disappeared. NOSB, or the National Organic Standards Board, these are the people who make decisions and recommendations on things from production, handling and processing of organic products.

USDA –  US Department of Agriculture. They certify foods, seeds, and farms as being both authentically and correctly processed as organic.

OMRI – Organic Material Review Institute review products so that organic producers know what products are appropriate to use on their organic things.

Now that we’ve broken down the Organic alphabet. Let’s talk about how you can grow organic at home authentically, and if you’re up to it and we can even tell you how to do it a little neurotically as if the USDA were actually going to check!

Organic seeds are the starting point for planting organic, that small circle holds a big meaning!  Those small seeds are your first big step to your organic garden.

You will also want a seed starting set up that is OMRI certified. Now for most of us these last two pieces of the puzzle are the same products that we know and trust for our other seeds already.

Seems simple right? That’s because so far it is. Take your trays just like you would with any other seeds, either greenhouse them, cover them in some way, and then give them a heat source around 65-75 degrees for 4-14 days. Be sure like with all seeds to check on them everyday after about day 3 to be sure that once they do pop they do not contract fungus from having little light and no air circulation.

Once your seeds have sprouted place them under either a grow light, or in natural light. Like you would with any other seedling water as necessary.

Transplant time is when the next step in our organic process begins.

Now you could just plant those organic seedlings in your regular garden and call it a day.  Being hobby gardeners we don’t have the USDA breathing down our neck so if you’ve used synthetic fertilizers there is no one that is actually going to be checking.  You don’t use synthetic fertilizers this year it will be okay. Know though that if you have used synthetic fertilizers in your garden space in the last three years, your organic plants have lost a little of their organic integrity.

So if you want to be a little neurotic about it, you want to follow USDA guidelines. Let’s talk about options, the easiest of course being a container garden.  5 gallon pails will provide a tomato plant with a sufficient amount of space.  While they are not always the prettiest of options, they are wise both financially and spacially.

You can pick up a 10 pack of 5 gallon Paul’s from Home Depot for about $30! Breaking down to about $3 a bucket which is the cheapest I’ve found.

And if you don’t want to use all 10 of the buckets for tomatoes ((which as a tomato enthusiast, and member of The World Tomato Society I would never understand, anyways )) you don’t have to and I will be showing you another great project you could use these left over pails for.

Your other option for getting these organic plants is to put them into a raised garden bed.   Certainly not as easy, as filling a 5 gallon pail with soil, but still an easy option, especially with many companies making kits.

Now, the reason that both of these options are exceptionally organic is because you actually have to fill them with your soil which is the next key ingredient in our organic process.  I would love to sit here and tell you that I have the ALL MIGHTY SOIL RECIPE FOR RAISED BEDS AND CONTAINER PLANTS!! But the truth is no one really does and that is the thing about gardening in all forms.  It is trial and error for all of us. What works for me in 6b might now work for Sally or Bilky who are also in 6B. Why? Because there are so many factors at play.

What I can say is this though… for me when it comes to my plants or my raised bed which I use to start some young seedlings I use a mixture of 1/2 composted manure, if I don’t have the patience to wait the year for it to compost naturally I use Black Kow which is an organic friendly manure. 1/4 organic composted material (humus) from my composting bin. And 1/4 topsoil. There is no set mixture though, as long as it is organic!

Once those seedlings have been transplanted you are now at the peak of your ORGANIC JOURNEY! You have gone from organic seeds, to organic seedlings, now to strong growing organic plants.  It bares the question, what now?

Well, now is when people would want to help supplement growth, they want to add.  They want to decrease bugs and weeds.  ALAS! All of that can be done organically too, it may just be a bit more work!! Lets start with the adding.


The first trick of which isn’t adding anything to make your plants bigger and stronger producers but in fact TAKING AWAY! This is something that my dad had always shown me, his dad had always showed him, and so and so fourth.  Pinching back non-producing limbs on your tomato plant will help beef up those ORGANIC BEEFSTEAKS, that is because the plant doesn’t have to put that energy for growth into a non producing limb.

Now to the actual adding and of course with organics it is a lot about what you DON’T add.  That being NO SYNTHETIC FERTILIZERS.  But that 30 hole compost bin is good for so very many things! And the compost inside of it is it’s very own magic! So once your plants begin producing you can supplement it’s nutrition with more compost around the base of the plant.


If you really wanted to there are store brand OMRI certified fertilizers that you could add.  ECOscraps, which is actually owned by Miracle Grow is an organic fertilizer that is OMRI certified.  Now, as I always say, and I have said it in this very post already.  What does or doesn’t work for me may not be the same for you.  I did not have the best of luck with EcoScraps fertilizer, I actually wound up losing about 30 – 40 tomato plants last year after feeding it to them and them developing a fungus.  BUT, there are so many different factors as I always say.  I had the chance to meet with the people of EcoScraps, Miracle Grow, Scott’s and Bonnie last year shortly after it happened and found out that I was actually one of only a few that had that complaint.

That means…

well I fudged that one up some how!

It doesn’t mean that it is a bad product, it simply means that it didn’t work for ME.

As for weeds, bugs, and birds they are a bother to all gardeners and their are organic solutions for dealing with all of those as well.

One of the other things about organic gardening is that it forces you to be so much more in tune to your garden, it’s a type of experience all of it’s own.
Starting with Birds!

Birds can be known to eat your tomatoes, although this is something that I have never personally had a problem with.  Many gardeners suggest hanging red Christmas ornaments from your tomato cages prior to your plants actually producing fruit.  The birds will attempt to peak at what they think is a delicious juice tomato and will be deterred when they realize that they aren’t edible.  I’ve seen many similar tricks like this used for strawberries as well, painting rocks to imitate the berries.  If you don’t want to deck your tomato plant out like the man with the bag is coming you can use as biodegradable netting and gently drape your plants with it.

As for bugs I wish I could tell you that there was so OMRI safe pesticide that I know of, unfortunately I don’t, the same goes for the weeds.  Unfortunately those are both done the good ol’fashioned way or with a little gardeners ingenuity.  I do know that Irish Spring soap is a big deterrent for both animals and bugs, I can also tell you that cinnamon is a natural pest deterrent.  As for things like slugs, you have to get out there every morning and check your plants.  Weeding if done on a regular basis shouldn’t be hard to go in and manually pick out the weeds. Keep in mind too that your soil is in need of oxygen and as you continuously walk to those rows, and pack down the soil, and summer heat comes another option for getting rid of those weeds is LIGHTLY cultivating the top of your soil with a hand cultivator.

Now if you have done all of this, KNOW, you’re organic seeds have been given most organic life they could have been given.  But also acknowledge it was a bit more work, so next time January comes and you head to the grocery store for tomatoes and are outraged at the cost of organics, remember those farmers  have to do all of this and so much more with the USDA breathing down their neck!

You can see all of the USDA/NOP Program Guidelines at



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