Tuesday, June 24, 2008


Throughout history, the story has repeated itself: Great civilizations have grown where soils were fertile enough to support high-density human communities, and fallen when soils could no longer sustain our rough treatment. Soil directly and indirectly affects agricultural productivity, water quality and climate. From the food we eat to the clothes we wear to the air we breathe, humanity depends on the very dirt beneath our feet. Biodiversity in the soil ranges in size from microscopic one-celled bacteria, algae, fungi and protozoa, to larger nematodes, arthropods, earthworms, insects, plant roots and small animals. This community of organisms help to break down and incorporate organic materials into the soil, convert nutrients into useable forms for plants, and help to hold carbon which might otherwise enter the atmosphere, potentially contributing to global warming. Healthy soils also contain an abundance of minerals, air, water and organic materials, all which are essential for healthy plant growth. We must learn to understand, respect and rebuild our soils, before this precious commodity degrades beyond repair.

The major threats to our soil, and ultimately our water is: over-intensive farming and gardening practices that arise from tilling, heavy machinery and the use of harsh chemical pesticides and fertilizers. Soil compaction from heavy equipment reduces the soils air space and ability to take in water and nutrients. Compacted soils become hard when dry, and can restrict root growth and the activity of soil organisms. Deep tilling accelerates soil erosion, which ends up washing into our streams, rivers and eventually the ocean. When excessive nutrients from eroded soil enters waterways, algal bloom is stimulated to grow in abundance, and suck up most of the available oxygen as it breaks down. This process known as eutrophication, leads to death of aquatic life, and has created a “dead zone” in the mouth of the Mississippi river larger than the size of New Jersey. In addition to water degradation, a 1995 study published in Science concluded that in North America alone, the loss of soil from croplands in the form of erosion decreases agricultural productivity by about $27 billion per year. Lastly, the use of chemical pesticides and fertilizer can not only over acidify the soil, but also destroy the very soil organisms that support healthy plant growth. Soil is being lost faster than it can naturally replenish itself, but the good news is that we can rebuild our soils and revitalize soil life.

Soil is the skin of our planet, and a vital living system. Too often we forget that soil sustains all life, and is arguably the most important natural resource we have. The more abundant, diverse forms of life we can nurture in the soil, the more fruitful and self-sustaining our crops and landscapes will be. Harvey Blatt, author of the 2004 book, America’s Environmental Report Card, points out that one heaping tablespoon of healthy soil contains up to nine billion living microorganisms, which is more than the human population of earth. Better known as the soil food web, this complex group of organisms bear the important task of breaking down toxic pollutants and purifying water as it passes through the soil. Other roles include increasing the soils porosity, which improves air and water movement, as well as increasing the soils ability to bind, which can lessen the damaging affects of soil erosion. There is constant interaction among the organisms living in the soil. The few “bad” soil organisms are kept in check by the vast diversity of beneficial organisms, wherein keeping healthy soils in balance for optimum plant growth with the least amount of effort to upkeep them. If we do our part to encourage healthier soils, the organisms of our soils will flourish, and work even harder to help us build more nutrient rich crops, cleaner water and bigger, brighter blooms in our gardens.

We can increase the health of our soils, and ultimately the productivity of landscape plants and crops with a few simple techniques. Most soil organisms like cool, moist conditions, which are enhanced by the addition of mulch, plants of all sorts or lawns. Such groundcovers also help to hold soil, which lessens the affects of soil erosion. Also, the addition of well-aged compost can add organic matter back into the soils. The more diverse the ingredients that are incorporated into a compost pile results in a greater diversity of nutrients and soil organisms in the end product that is ready to be applied to your lawn and garden areas. Compost ingredients such as plant debris and manure should be aged for at least one year before being applied to such areas. Reducing the amount of tilling in one’s garden areas also help to reduce the loss of organic matter. Leave all landscape plant and crop residues in your bed areas through the winter to help reduce erosion in otherwise barren areas, as well as providing habitat for over wintering beneficial insects. Such plant debris can be removed in the spring to encourage soil temperatures to warm faster, which can increase early season plant growth. All over the world, a great portion of our useable soils are worn out, depleted and close to death. These soils possess the ability to be restored to maximum productivity. We need to continue to work together to enrich our soils and treat them as living communities of organisms that can enrich all life that stands a top them. Only when we stop treating our soils like dirt, will civilizations such as ours be able to sustain themselves permanently.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Our Organic Gardening Arsenal

At Marvin’s Organic Gardens, we are dedicated to safe and natural, lawn and garden practices. We approach plant health and pest control with products and techniques that reduce soil and water pollution, and to minimize health concerns for both humans and wildlife. We continue to introduce new and useful organic gardening products to our garden center shelves so that we can all approach plant health, pest pressures and weed problems naturally and safely. Some of the earth friendly products in our organic gardening arsenal include:

1. Organic 8-3-3 and 3-3-3 Fertilizer - These multipurpose granular fertilizers have a range of short and long-term growth and disease suppressive benefits for lawns, gardens and containerized plants when used at the proper rate. These poultry manure-based fertilizers are easy to spread, reduce the risk of soil and water pollution, and promote healthy lawns and landscapes.

2. Corn Gluten- This natural pre-emergent weed control contains naturally occurring substances that inhibit weed seeds tiny feeder roots when applied to lawns and garden in early spring, late spring and fall. Also, C.G. naturally contains 9% nitrogen which helps promote healthy lawn and landscape growth.

3. Bagged and Bulk Compost- These superb compost blends are an excellent amendment for both garden and container plantings, and help to restore worn out lawns in need of rejuvenation. Compost helps reduce disease incidence in both lawns and gardens, and will loosen compacted clay soils when applied at a ½”-1” rate.

4. Burn Out Weed Control- This safe, fast acting product is for non-selective control of most broadleaf and grass weeds. Burn Out is most affective when applied on warm, sunny days, and can be used to spot treat weeds in lawns, mulch beds, patio, walkways, fence lines and driveways.

5. Milky Spore- An all-natural bacteria-based product for Japanese beetle control developed by the USDA that will not harm beneficial insects, humans or animals. Once applied, Milky Spore can last up to 20 years in your soil controlling Japanese beetle grubs. This safe grub control product can be applied to open lawns, mulch beds, flower and vegetable gardens.

6. Diatomaceous Earth- This safe and affective control for ants, fleas, ticks, slugs, termites, spiders and roaches is derived from fossilized remains of diatoms, a type of hard-shelled algae. This product is so safe that it can be rubbed right into your dog or cat’s fur for flea control. Can be applied around home foundations, around garden plants and in the corners and crevices inside your home.

7. Deer Scram- Our most popular organic granular deer and rabbit scent based repellant works for up to 45-60 days, even when rained on. D.S. has no foul odor to people, but when applied as a protective band at the base of vulnerable plants, will prevent damage to valuable landscape plants and vegetable crops, and also acts as a mild fertilizer.

8. Mycorrhizal CPR-We are proud to introduce this beneficial plant fungi product which helps encourage overall plant health and growth, lessen disease pressures and increases plants drought tolerance when applied around the root system of almost all plants. As the mycorrhizae associate themselves with plant roots, they send out hair-like strands in the soil, which act as siphons to dissolve and facilitate the absorption of many minerals and water essential for healthy plant growth.

9. Fertilome Bt- This naturally occurring biological/microbial insecticide-based spray is intended for control of bagworms, borers, leaf miners and most leaf-eating caterpillars. When larvae eat the treated plant leaves, the Bt bacteria destroys their stomachs, and kills target insects in 1-2 days. It is most effective to apply Bt to young, heavily feeding larvae, and poses no health risk to humans, pets, birds, bees and fish.

10. Mosquito Barrier- When first sprayed, the natural sulfurs kill the mosquitoes that are struck by the spray, afterwards any mosquitoes entering the area detect the garlic sulfurs and avoid the area for 2-4 weeks. The M.B. spray also works well to keep fleas and ticks from your yard, and is entirely safe for humans, pets and wildlife. M.B. is designed for spraying on all plant foliage and areas of standing water.

Stop in today to Marvin’s Organic Gardens to arm your lawn and gardens with our vast arsenal of environmentally safe plant health and pest control products. We have numerous organic gardening products in addition to the abovementioned, and a helpful and friendly staff to answer all your gardening questions. Please mention this article at our garden center to receive 25% off all Ornamental Grasses, Asters, Mums and Ornamental Kale and Cabbage. Go Organic! It’s Only Natural.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Top 5 Reasons to Go Organic!

Here are the top 5 reasons that we have found to Go Organic!

1. FOR HUMAN HEALTH (and pets too!)- Countless studies have linked conventional chemical gardening pesticides and fertilizers to cancer, reproductive and neurological damage. Organic fertilizers and pest control products are safe for both pets and humans, most of which are derived from plant remains, animal waste and naturally derived minerals from both soil and water.

2. FOR SOIL HEALTH-One application of a chemical fertilizer, herbicide, insecticide, fungicide (and so on) can kill soil organisms. Soil is alive and teeming with microorganisms that help to convert inactive minerals and water into the building blocks of life, reduce soil erosion and compaction, reduce soil borne disease, break down soil pollution and much more. Studies
even show that soil, with its many life forms, can reduce global warming by holding carbon in the soil rather than releasing it into the air. Soil is the base for all life, and one can improve the quality of their soil by simply adding compost. Compost helps to regenerate soil life, and corrects many soil imbalances, eliminating the need for harmful chemical fertilizers and pesticides.

3. FOR WILDLIFE HEALTH-Many recent studies have correlated the use of garden chemicals to a decline in the health of birds, aquatic life and land animals. Many of these garden chemicals are not only proven to have an immediate adverse impact on wildlife, but additionally, these chemicals are gradually magnified as they move up the food chain. For example, minute water life feed on pesticide tainted algae, a small fish then consumes many of these small water animals, which are then consumed by a larger fish. The larger the animal, the more food it must consume, which means it is taking in more and more of these harmful pesticides. Scientific studies have shown that organic farms and gardens support a greater number and diversity of wild creatures than most conventionally managed farmland and residence. By planting more Ohio native shrubs, trees and perennials, one can help to attract more wildlife to ones gardens.

4. FOR INSECT HEALTH-An estimated 80% to 90% of all insects have a beneficial impact on plants. One application of a chemical pesticide can eliminate many of these helpful critters. Beneficial insect help by pollinating plants and reducing pest insect numbers in our gardens. Pest insects are proven to recover more quickly after a pesticide application than beneficial insect populations, which could compound an infestation of pest insects in the long run. The insect world is a system of checks and balances, which if unaltered by chemical inputs, can work to minimize insect damage on our garden plants. With organic control methods, the goal is not to eliminate pest insects, but to reduce their populations enough to prevent serious injury to plants. By mixing flowering plants with vegetables and fruits, one can increase the diversity of beneficial predator insects in ones gardens.

5. FOR THE FUTURES HEALTH-The idea that we do not inherit the earth from our ancestors but borrow it from our children is a compelling one. The conventional gardening world is wrought with “quick fix” products with many long-term repercussions. For every pest, disease or weed problem one might have, there is always a safe and natural approach to correct that problem. Organic gardening creates a healthy environment for you and your family, and causes little to no soil and water pollution. The hidden cost of chemical agriculture and gardening is tremendous. The cost of cleaning up our drinking water to reduce pesticide content is now well over $200 million a year in the U.S. alone. Organic gardening helps to create more sustainable agriculture and home gardens, and encourages a healthier environment for future generations.

Monday, June 9, 2008

A blog of fantastic firsts!

The month of June is a month of firsts for us here at Marvin’s. As you can see, this is our first blog entry!

In addition to our pioneering post, we are preparing for our first annual Farmers Market at MOG. Saturday the 14th will be the first time the market is open. (aha another first!) We are still in the process of confirming a couple of vendors and we are still looking for additional farmers to partake in the market. If you or someone you know is interested feel free to contact us at info@marvinsorganicgardens.com or click here for more info. If you make homemade jams/jellies, grow organic veggies, produce quality baked goods, etc. we would love to have you join us! The market will be open from 10am to 3pm on Saturdays through October, weather permitting.

We are also in the process of adding some new photos to our website from our first thinkGREEN event. Check them out here.

(I know we may have some first time readers to our blog so let me just verify that MOG stands for Marvin’s Organic Gardens. If you are going to be a dedicated reader you need to understand our jiffy lingo!)