Our Growing Practices

At Green Flamingo, we take a more holistic approach to gardening. We strive to provide a beautiful and fruitful ecosystem filled with a biodiversity of plants and insects. This fosters competition and helps keep insects and plant diseases in check. We do till our soil from time to time, but also use no till methods to keep our soil alive with bacteria and fungi that create mutually beneficial relationships with plants’ roots and enable veggies to uptake nutrients otherwise unusable to plants in the soil .

We strive to work with nature, and have decided that this means not using any pesticides, fertilizers, herbicides, fungicides or any other chemical in our fields. We would rather choose natures diversity to man’s interference. This means that we do step in fire ants from time to time 🙂 but we also get to be witness to lady bugs eating aphids, and wasps and spiders taking care of hornworms and lacewings.  When dealing with plant diseases we use compost to make teas to strengthen the plants. We rely on the strength of a healthy plant to recover, while we may have to prune back unhealthy parts and compost them. If you would like to learn more about how we grow please come out to volunteer with us.

We take growing delicious veggies very seriously and we hope that you can taste a difference!

When trying to make responsible decisions about your produce choices you may have to be a bit of an investigator these days. We all know that the terminologies used like “organic” and “all natural” have sometimes been bent to help sell to more customers.

You may hear growers describing their farm as pesticide free or almost organic. I want to help educate you as to what farmers may be alluding to when selling you on their produce. Here are the main claims of Organic Agriculture, and here are some good questions to ask your farmer/grower so that you can make your own choices about what you are purchasing. Some of their answers may surprise you.

Organic means No Synthetic Pesticides. 

Many farmers may say that they only use organic pesticides, or they only use pesticides when absolutely necessary.  I would ask questions about what they do in a worst case scenario. What do they do when they are devastated by an insect? How do they control ants around their farm?

Organic means No Chemical Fertilizers.

This is a big Deal, and this is one claim that farmers may neglect to mention when trying to show you how clean and “organic like” their produce is. Florida is not known for having as rich of soils as other parts of the country, but this does not mean that we cannot grow without the use of chemical fertilizers. Ask your farmer how he/she fertilizes their crops? Fertilizers may not seem as dangerous as pesticides to our health, but they are detrimental to our waterways and with such a shallow water shed (we Floridians know that digging a hole 3 or 4 feet deep will yield ground water) these Fertilizers are adversely affecting our Indian River each day. Please check out the information at

http://www.floridatoday.com/story/news/local/environment/lagoon/2014/05/03/indian-river-lagoon-went-wrong/8672245/

http://www.planetnatural.com/fertilizer-runoff/

 

Organic means No GMO seeds.

Seeds are not labeled as GMO, instead they are often labeled as a protected or selected variety by the seed company. Ask your farmer if they ever buy a trademarked or protected plant variety? Please ask your farmer if they ever purchase treated seeds? Also, ask them if they start all their own transplants or if they purchase them from a nursery? When purchasing from a nursery you are not in control of what methods they are using and what seeds they are using.

Organic means No Herbicides.

This one is a tricky one. Most vegetable farmers will not use herbicides directly around their crops as it would damage the sensitive leaves of most annual crops like vegetables. But ask your farmer if they use herbicides (like round up) in the summer months when they are not growing any crops?               

Organic means no Synthetic Fungicides

Ask your farmer what they do for disease control? A big problem here in Florida is Nematodes, ask what they do to suppress Nematodes? Also, cucumbers and squash have many mold and bacterial diseases (like Downy Mildew or Bacterial Wilt); ask your farmer what they use to help stop these?

 

There are good organic practices that farmers have been using for thousands of years to help face all the challenges associated with growing vegetables in Florida, so do not be fooled if a farmer tells you that it is impossible to grow everything organic on their farm.