The demand for organically grown produce shows no sign of waning, and an increasing number of people are going one step further and raising their own organic crops at home.

Michael Wilson, of Suburban Farmer, said the trend was fuelled by people putting more emphasis on healthy living and sustainability, and having access to better organic supplies and information.

He said the concept was all about working with the environment to achieve the best-quality produce without the use of synthetic fertilisers, chemicals or pest control.

“The key is to maintain the balance between the natural environment and your food crops by only using supplies provided by nature, ” he said.

“So swap packaged man-made fertilisers with a big bag of chook poo or, for pest management, swap a bottle of unpronounceable chemicals for a garlic and oil spray with ingredients that are found in the pantry.

“With a little amount of work you can produce an abundance of organically produced food all year round; simply encourage nature, embrace the natural ecosystems and let nature take care of the rest.”

The benefits

Your Patch Organic’s Tim Woodard said that while the benefits of eating organic produce were well-known, the advantages of growing your own were even more impressive.

He said that not only did you know exactly what products and practices had been used to grow your food, many people also found themselves experimenting more with seasonal varieties in their cooking.

As for the common misconception that going organic meant compromising on flavour? A myth, according to Mr Wilson. “I always hear people biting into their organic vegies saying things like, ‘that was the best tomato I’ve ever tasted’, ” he said.

Going organic

While some people may be discouraged by the perceived time, effort and space required, Mr Wilson said you didn’t need a lot of space to start growing your own organic edibles.

Mr Woodard agreed that just about anybody could try their hand at organic crops.

“You just have to have the drive to research for answers and the ability to problem-solve the organic way, ” he said.

“Even if you start with a herb or small pot garden, it’s important to just get started and grow from there.”

James Lingwood, manager of Swan Valley Nursery, home to WA’s biggest organic herb and vegetable collection, said it was important to ensure that the soil was high in organic matter. He suggested mixing through a seaweed and fish solution and a pellet-based fertiliser such as Blood ’n’ Bone Organic 2000 pellets, certified organic and produced in WA.

Authentic organics

To ensure you achieve your organic goal, Sandy McKay, of U Grow Vegies, said that when purchasing products to use in the garden, look for those with a certified organic symbol or logo on the label.

“Certified organic is where a product will have the producer’s name, a certification number and the certification body (such as NASAA, ACO or Demeter) as certified organic products and produce have to be traceable back to their origins, ” she said.

“The places that produce these certified organic items are audited every year to ensure there are no chemicals or sprays used, which is why certified organic products are more expensive because the certification process is not cheap and the process of growing is much more labour intensive.”

And, importantly, Mr Wilson said to achieve a wholly organic environment you should choose certified organic seeds, seedlings or plants, as settling for non-organic plants would interrupt the true organic design.

TIP: Michael Wilson said the golden rule to organic gardening was “a little, often”. For example, he said to only add a small amount of organic fertiliser every week rather than one big scattering every so often.

© The West Australian

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