RED BANK: TALKING DIRT AT THE LIBRARY

organicgardenA dozen or so cilantro seedlings and twice as many gardeners were on hand last night at the Red Bank Public Library for a talk on organic gardening. (Photo by Jim Willis. Click to enlarge)

By JIM WILLIS

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Pick up a bunch of conventionally grown spinach at the grocery store, and there’s a good chance that along with your bag of leafy greens, you’ll be brining home some carcinogens, suspected hormone disruptors and neurotoxins.

That’s reason enough for many to take up organic gardening at home, and it’s a topic that drew a good crowd to the Red Bank Public Library Wednesday night.

More than two dozen gardeners were on hand to hear Master Gardner Carolyn Heuser’s talk about “Vegetable Gardening with an Organic Twist.”

Heuser says it just makes sense to forego chemicals in the home garden. “If you’re growing your own vegetables, you want them to be the best,” she says. “Besides, chemicals are expensive.”

Heuser, who’s been gardening for 50 years, shared tips on composting, mulching and how to handle insects without pesticides.

She made it clear that the organic gardener needs to focus on feeding the soil, not the plants.

“The soil is the life-blood of the plants,” says Heuser. To that end, she encouraged audience members to get their soil tested.

PieHole picked up a few additional pointers, such as:

  • Don’t till your garden bed. It is unnecessary, and disrupts the soil.
  • Don’t mulch your garden until the soil gets warm. Heuser suggested waiting til mid-June.
  • Grass clippings should be left on the lawn, but if you’re going to pick them up, don’t use them as mulch in the garden: put them in a compost bin instead.
  • Newspaper makes a great garden mulch, but needs to be covered with a thin layer of soil to keep it from blowing away.
  • Plant flowers around and near your vegetables to attract pollinators like bees.

We’ll be incorporating these suggestions just as soon as we can. Around here, that should mean March 23, which is our zone’s last likely frost date.