The Organic Gardener Recommends Green Fertilizers

Growing cut flowers requires healthy and fertile soil.  All soil has a few main components: sand, clay,  silt, and organic matter.  You want a good mix of these components so that you have balanced soil.  Sand helps with drainage, clay helps to retain moisture, organic matter offers nutrients to help plants grow flowers.

Here’s a posting from the Organic Gardener that suggests planting a green manure, such as alfalfa or buckwheat to retain nitrogen in soil and prevent weeds from growing in unused soil.


A Case for Organic Flowers

The Flower Confidential by Amy Stewart  takes a look at commercial flowers as a mass produced, engineered commodity.

Here’s a review from Adrian Higgins at the Washington Post:

In an ideal world, we would buy cut flowers for a sweetheart’s birthday from Teresa Sabankaya. From her green kiosk in Santa Cruz, Calif., she sells blooms that she has raised lovingly on her flower farm. Her flowers, held in buckets that crowd her stall, are “all interesting, unusual, old-fashioned, ephemeral, perfumy,” Amy Stewart writes in her eye-opening new Flower Confidential. In summer, Sabankaya’s customers grab larkspur and poppies; in winter, heathers and berried plants.

But this isn’t how most American consumers get their flowers. Instead, our blooms are more likely to have been raised in high-altitude flower factories in Ecuador or Colombia, dunked in chemicals, flown to Miami and distributed to wholesale markets around the country. A rose cut on a Monday morning in the shadow of a snow-capped volcano might find its way to a Manhattan florist the following Friday, and then be good for a week or more with a little care. In your local supermarket, you will find roses completely devoid of fragrance — pretty in a stiff and uniform sort of way, but not the earthy roses of the garden or Sabankaya’s stall.

Indeed, readers of Flower Confidential will be surprised and appalled to learn the extent to which something as fleeting and romantic as a rose or a lily has been turned into an industrial widget. You might accept today that a desk fan or a flashlight has been made somewhere other than in the United States, but a flower? An old Irish song speaks of the last rose of summer “left blooming alone.” But today, there is no last rose of summer, nor a first rose of spring — just roses spewing forth continuously from the jet-age conveyor belt of floriculture. Stewart believes these roses are enchanting as a single bouquet, a personal expression of caring. But force us to look at the machinery of this mass production, as she does so well, and the feeling is a little more queasy.

There’s also a short YouTube video showing a tour of commercial flower growing facilities.

Stylish Green Pots for Your Green Garden

I was browsing at Garden District , my neighborhood garden shop here in DC, and came across a great new product.  Green Pots by Ecosource.

These colorful pots are an environmentally friendly alternative to plastic and heavy ceramic gardening containers.


  • are completely renewable, made from grain by-products
  • contain no wood or petroleum
  • deplete no natural resources
  • last five years, then easily decompose in landfills or compost
  • are strong, light weight and weather resistant

Ecosource also offers wholesale nursery pots that would be great for a small organic farm!

Friday Flowers!

This week’s Friday Flowers are Dutch Iris.

Iris are named after the Greek Goddess of the Rainbow.  Iris was messenger of the gods of Olympia.  In line with this imagery, the Spanish word for rainbow is Arco Iris.

Although Iris are grown in all colors of the rainbow, the most common colors you will find at the market are blue, yellow and white.

A few pointers for buying your iris.  You want to choose closed buds that have exposed petals that show you the color of the flower (see bud picture below).  When you take your iris home, give them a new cut and plenty of fresh water.  Do not over crowd the iris in the vase.  They open into very full flowers and need space to do so.

If you give your iris plenty of space and plenty of water, you will have a living masterpiece for about one week.

Vacant Lots Turned Organic Farms

Here is a great story from the New York Times describing a growing movement of urban farmers.

G. Paul Burnett/The New York Times
Karen Washington, in the Garden of Happiness in the Bronx, always wanted to farm. She began growing food in 1985, after a city program offering a house with a yard lured her, then a single mother of two, to the South Bronx from Harlem.

Though she works as a physical therapist, Ms. Washington always knew she had another calling. “When I was a little kid I used to watch the farm report,” she said. “I always wanted to grow and be a farmer.”

Wary of chemicals and their effect on her health, Ms. Washington was determined to farm organically. She learned how to deter pests with mild soapy sprays and marigolds, encourage natural pest killers like ladybugs, and turn food scraps into fertile compost. As her skills grew, so did her ambitions. First she helped turn a vacant lot on her block into the Garden of Happiness. Then she helped defend local gardens from developers, and later persuaded the resulting coalition, La Familia Verde, to run a farm stand and test the waters for a farmers’ market.

“It’s not about making money,” Ms. Washington said. “We’re selling so that people in our neighborhood have good quality. There’s no Whole Foods in my neighborhood.”

Another Source for Organic Roses

Fifty Flowers announced this month that they are offering 33 varieties of organic roses.

These roses are 100% organic and backed by German BCS OKO and USDA GOCA certifications. Fifty Flowers sells “wholesale” to the public…for about $2/ stem.

This is a nice selection and competes with Organic Bouquet.


This week, treat yourself or someone you love to Lily of the Valley

Lily of the valley are small, delicate, bell shaped flowers in a mass of green lily leaves.  They are most often seen in white.  But the beauties above are grown in Richie Sheehan’s garden and are pink.

Lily of the valley have a soft fragrance that is reminiscent of well, Ponds Cold Cream.  (in a good way). Lily of the valley is the official flower of May.  It is a very popular choice for bridal bouquets and a single sprig makes a great boutonnière for the groom.

These will certainly be difficult to come across at your local market.  So if you find them, snag a bunch.  Lily of the valley is a very unique flower only available at this time of year.  Florists may be able to get them at other times of the year, but they will have to be shipped in from England.