Buying products for your organic garden can be a little bit confusing, so how can we be certain that what we're buying is organic and safe for edibles?
One of my friends runs an organic farm, so I asked him about certifications for organic plant foods, and he said to keep an eye out for Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI) listed products. OMRI is a non-profit company that "provides organic certifiers, growers, manufacturers, and suppliers an independent review of products intended for use in certified organic production, handling, and processing." The site will also tell you if any product has restrictions, meaning it's organic for some uses but noth others.
Some states will also certify products as acceptable for use in organic agriculture. For example, the Washington State Department of Agriculture has a list of approved materials that meet National Organic Program requirements. If you see a state certification on your product, you're probably OK to trust any organic claims.
Make Your Own
Of course, if you want to really know what you're putting on your plants, you can make your own soil amendments and insecticides.
Compost is probably the most common DIY soil amendment for home gardening. It's easy to start a compost bin, and as long as you have a good mix of brown matter (like dry leaves) and green matter (like food scraps), you're probably in pretty good shape. Not only is composted food waste a great source of free nutrients for your garden, it keeps that waste out of the landfill where it would otherwise break down and release methane, a greenhouse gas more harmful than CO2.
If you want to get fancy, you can also try making manure tea. Just make sure that you're using organic manure, and you're ready to rock. Mike at Urban Organic Gardener has a great, quick video on how to make your own manure tea:
You can do this with cow manure, like in the video, or with other animal waste, like bat guano.
If you're looking for a vegan soil amendment, check out DIY seaweed fertilizers. You can work the dried kelp meal right into your soil or dissolve kelp powder in water to make liquid plant food. If you live near a beach, you can collect kelp and make your own seaweed tea to use as a soil amendment.
I haven't had many pest problems in my own garden yet, but diluted soapy water is supposed to help keep some pests at bay and neem oil is another organic option for keeping the garden pest-free. You can also try companion planting - pairing up different plants that benefit each other - to deter pests.
I'd love to hear from the gardeners out there! Have you made any other DIY soil amendments?
Image Credit: Creative Commons photo by USDAgov