Organic Gardening

Organic Gardening

Organic Gardening (24)

Growing Methods

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Plan your plot

Plan your plot (12)

Whether you have a generous plot or a tiny postage stamp in which to grow, it is important to plan how you use the space, both to maximize productivity and to facilitate maintenance.

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Perfect spot

Perfect spot (3)

A perfect spot for crops

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Grow Biointensive

Grow Biointensive (1)

Biointensive is a method of growing as much organic food as possible in the smallest amount of space.

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PGS is a quality assurance initiative that is locally relevant, emphasizing the participation of stakeholders, including producers and consumers and operate outside the frame of third party certification. A group of farmers agrees to practice organic farming in conformity to a set of locally adopted organic standards with accepted procedures for documentation, review, certification, and marketing.

Basic Elements of PGS

  • Participation
  • Shared vision
  • Transparency
  • Trust
  • Horizontality
  • National Networking

PGS National Standards for Organic Production

General requirements

  • Habitat management
  • Habitat management is an important part of organic management
  • Diversified plants/trees on bunds and other non-cultivated areas of the farm
  • Planting of nitrogen-fixing trees
  • Creating rainwater harvesting pits and farm ponds


  • Ensure a balanced nutrition of the soil
  • Combination of mixed cropping, intercropping, relay cropping and rotation with legumes
  • Use of trap crops and barrier crops

Integration of animals/livestock

  • Integrate crop production with livestock rearing

Conversion period it is the time required by the conventional farm to attain PGS organic status

  • The whole farm including the crop production and animal husbandry shall be converted to organic management
  • Parallel or part conversion is not allowed under PGS
  • The conversion period shall be not less than 24 months for seasonal and annual crops
  • It shall be not less than 36 months in case of perrenial and permanent crops from the last date of use of prohibited inputs or from the date of taking the pledge, whichever is later
  • Regional controls may allow conversion in phases, but the entire farm holding of the group members must be brought under PGS organic management within 24 months of joining the group
  • The duration of the conversion period can be reduced to 12 months if no prohibited substances have been used for the last three years.
  • Conversion period for animals provided they are fed with fully organic feed and fodder.

Contamination control

  • All organic production units shall have effective measures to check accidental contamination with prohibited substance through drift
  • All organic farms shall be either protected with a biological fence or maintain a buffer zone
  • Organic farms also need to be protected from contaminated water flow from adjoining non-organic fields by adopting proper measures

Soil and water conservation

  • Measures should be taken to prevent soil erosion, salinization of soil, excessive and improper use of water and the pollution of ground and surface water
  • Clearing of land through the means of burning organic matter eg. Slash and burn, straw burning shall be restricted to the minimum.

Standard requirements for crop production

Selection of seed and planting material

  • Seeds and planting material varieties should be well adapted to the soil, climate conditions
  • Suitable for organic management, resistant to pests and diseases and preferably of organic origin
  • In case organically grown seeds are not available then, chemically untreated conventional materials shall be used
  • Genetically engineered seeds, pollen, transgenic plants or planting material are not allowed.

Manuring or fertilization

  • On-farm bio-degradable material of microbial, plant or animal origin
  • Green manuring, intercropping or crop rotation with legumes shall be an integral part of cropping system
  • Off-farm/purchased bio-degradable material of microbial, plant or animal origin
  • Microbial preparations such as bio-fertilizers, bio-dynamic preparations, EM solutions, etc.
  • Off-farm /industry produced inputs approved by NPOP accredited CB as approved input for use in organic farming can be used
  • Mineral fertilizers shall be used in their natural powdered form as a supplementary source of nutrients
  • The use of synthetic fertilizers is strictly prohibited in any form, directly or indirectly.

Pest, disease and weed management including growth regulators

  • Selection of pest and disease-resistant varieties, suitable crop rotations, green manure crops, balanced fertilization
  • Early planting, mulching, cultural, mechanical and biological control measures
  • Thermic weed control or thermic sterilization of soils
  • Microbial pest control formulations such as bio-pesticides
  • Use of synthetic herbicides, fungicides, insecticides and other chemical preparations including synthetic plant growth regulators are strictly prohibited.
  • Use of genetically engineered organisms or products are also prohibited

Equipment/implements and storage containers

  • All farming equipment, implements, and tools, etc., must be washed and cleaned before use on the organic farm.
  • Bags and containers used to harvest, store and transport organic produce must be clean and free from any chemical contamination.
  • Should not be used for storage of conventional produce

Storage and transport

  • Organic products must be protected at all times from co-mingling with non-organic products.
  • Use of synthetic or chemical storage pesticides/fumigants are prohibited
  • Use of carbon-di-oxide, nitrogen or any other such inert gas is permissible
  • Mineral fertilizers shall be used in their natural powdered form as a supplementary source of nutrients.
  • Use of synthetic fertilizers is strictly prohibited in any form, directly or indirectly

The seeds/planting material selected for planting must be most suited for the local production situation and conditions.

1.1 The producer should choose the variety of crop that is most suited for the geographical location and climate

1.2 The producer should choose the variety of crop that is pest and disease resistant.

1.3 The use of genetically engineered seeds, pollen, transgene plants or plant material should be avoided.

1.4 The producer should maintain records of the seeds/planting materials purchased.

The certified farm must develop a clear and visually identifiable system for avoiding the mixing of certified products with non-certified products.

2.1 Records of the volume of certified products harvested should be regularly available and maintained

2.2 Records of the volume of certified sold products should be regularly available and maintained

2.3 The producer must follow a clear and visually identifiable label while transportation

2.4 The producer must have records of product flow including the balance stock of each certified product.

Conservation of soil and minimising soil erosion and degradation

3.1 The producer must use techniques to prevent soil erosion. In the case of new planting, vetiver grass or other suitable plant species should be planted around the erosion-prone areas

3.2 The producer must use techniques to maintain and improve soil structure and fertility.

3.3 In sloppy areas, planting on contour lines should be followed. Whenever possible, contour bunds must be constructed for soil and water conversation.

Need for appropriate choice and use of recommended fertilizers.

4.1 The fertilizer application should be made on the basis of nutrient availability of the soil

4.2 Fertilizers should be selected and used as per the recommendation of Kerala Agricultural University and other research institutions.

4.3 Records should be maintained for the purchase of fertilizers, storage, and application.

4.4 The fertilizers must be stored safely in facilities that are dry, well ventilated and do not have access to children and unintended people.

4.5 All the applications of organic and inorganic soil and foliar fertilizers are recorded. It should include:

date of application

product brand name, type of fertilizer and chemical composition-quantity or volume per hectare, plot or field

field identification

method of application and equipment used

Minimise the use of CPP’s and safe application and disposal of CPPs

5.1 Integrated pest and weed management programme may be adopted, which promotes the use of physical, biological, mechanical and cultural control methods, and the least possible use of agrochemicals

5.2 CPPs should be selected and used as per the recommendation of Agricultural University

5.3 Documented records for the use of CPPs must be available, including:

pre-harvest interval

date of application

product brand name, type of fertilizer and chemical composition-quantity or volume per hectarre, plot or field

field identification

method of application and equipment used

5.4 The registered pre-harvest intervals should be strictly followed by the farm

5.5 All the plant protection product applications should be recorded including the pre-harvest interval.

5.6 Adequate visual warning signs must be used to inform people on re-entry time.

5.7 The certified unit must have an adequate plan for safe disposal of the CPP empty containers

5.8 Emergency facilities and procedures must be available in the vicinity of CPP storage to deal with spillage of CPP

5.9 Obsolete plant protection products should be securely maintained and disposed off in a safe manner.

5.10 Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) must be available with the farmer to deal with accidental poisoning.

To ensure water conservation and use of water from sustainable sources

6.1 The best possible irrigation method that minimises the wastage of water must be used.

6.2 Sewage water must not be used for irrigation

6.3 Rainwater harvesting or infiltration may be practiced, for example from roofs or retention ponds built-in run-off areas away from streams

Avoid contamination through the processes

7.1 Good hygenic practices should be ensured in packing and labeling

7.2 Product integrity should be maintained during packing and transportation of certified products

7.3 Certified products should be separated from non-certified product during transport with clear labeling.

7.4 Cleaning agents, lubricants, fuel, CPP and fertilizers should not be stored along with the packing materials, finished products, etc., to prevent chemical contamination of produce.

7.5 Transport vehicles should be maintained clean to avoid contamination.

7.6 Rejected produce and waste material in the packing environment should be stored in designated areas.

7.7 Packing materials should be clean and stored in clean and hygenic conditions.

Ensure appropriate waste management Practices

8.1 The farm must implement an integrated waste management program for the wastes it generates

8.2 The farm must appropriately use the crop residues and bio degradable wastes from farm and processing as manure, compost or mulch.

8.3 The use of open waste dumps and open-air burning of waste is prohibited.

8.4 The waste deposit areas on the farm must be managed to reduce the risks of environmental contamination and damage to human health.

8.5 Plastic items, PVC and other toxic items should never be burnt in the farm.

8.6 The farm must be clean and free of non bio-degredable waste products in order to maintain a positive image of the farm.

Training programmes

9.1 Training must be provided to farmers on GAP standards

9.2 Farmers and workers must be trained on the safe use of crop protection products and other agrochemicals.

9.3 Farmers and workers must be trained on use of personal protective equipment while applying the crop protection products.

9.4 Training must be provided to farmers and workers on the safe and appropriate application of fertilizers.

9.5 Farmers and workers should be trained on appropriate on-farm processing and handling activities.

9.6 Farmers and workers should be trained on-farm management activities including maintaining proper buffer zone, water management, waste management.

9.7 Records of training must be maintained for verification.

Conservation and protection of natural ecosystems and biodiversity

10.1 The farming activity must not cause any type of contamination or pollution to the environment.

10.2 No solid waste must be discharged into the farm

10.3 Conduct activities to restore degraded ecosystems

10.4 No destruction of threatened or endangered plant/animal species

Health and safety of workers/farmers in the workplace at the farm

11.1 All workers and or farmer himself who apply, handle, transport or come into contact with agrochemicals must be trained by a qualified trainer.

11.2 The unit shall provide free access to clean and safe drinking water for all workers.

11.3 The production unit should make available first aid boxes

11.4 Farmers/Workers who apply hazardous crop protection products should wear suitable protective clothing and equipment that is in good condition.

Organic certification means having the farm and the farmer’s methods inspected by an organic certifying group to ensure that they comply with the guidelines on organic farming. Organic certification improves the image of organic agriculture and provides transparency in certification. For gaining consumer’s confidence, valid organic certification is an essential pre-requisite for marketing, especially in the export market. Generally, organic certification involves many standards of inspection and certification.

Certification is a procedure by which a third party gives a written assurance, that a product, causes or service is in confirmity with certain standards. Organic standards are defined as minimum production practices including storage, transportation, processing, handling, packing, and labeling requirements, which must be followed for certifying the products as organic.

It is to be recognised that animals are a part of the organic farming system since they contribute to nutrient cycles, soil fertility, and higher yields. Drought purpose is achieved and the by-products are utilized well. Forage crops improve crop rotation and allow for diversification in farming. There are many organic standards on national, as well as international levels. Generally, standards vary with the country and to sell the products in a particular country, the standards of the importing country are to be followed. Certification is the key to the national organic programme.

In US, since 21 st October 2002, it is a federal office to label any food product as organic unless they have been certified. The certification process focuses on the methods and materials used in production. There are two main requirements:

  1. The methods and materials used in production must meet organic standards.
  2. There must be clear and ongoing documentation of these methods and materials.

The concept of organic certification is that a third party(an organic certifying agent) evaluates producers, processors, and handlers to determine whether they conform to an established set of operating guidelines called organic standards. Those confirm to the guidelines are certified by the agent and allowed to use a logo, product statement or certificate to document their product as ‘certified organic’. In other words, the certifier vouches for the producer and assures buyers of organic products integrity.

Organic Certification In India

The Ministry of Commerce launched NPOP (National Programme for Organic production) in March 2000, designed to establish national standards for organic products, which could then be sold under the logo “India organic”. For the proper implementation of NPOP, NAPP (National Accreditation Policy and Programme) has been formulated with Accreditation Regulations announced in May 2001. These make it mandatory that all certification bodies whether international or foreign operating in the country must be accredited by an Accreditation Agency.

There are 6 Accreditation Agencies in India:

  1. Agricultural Processed Food Products Export Development Authority(APEDA)
  2. Coffee board
  3. Spices board
  4. Coconut Developmental Board
  5. Tea Board
  6. Directorate of Cashew and Cocoa development

APEDA has recognised the following inspection certification bodies, all of these are able to certify based on the NPOP:

  1. BVQ1 (India) Pvt. Ltd. (Mumbai)
  2. Ecocert SA (Aurangabad)
  3. IMO Control Private Limited (Bangalore)
  4. Indian Organic Certification Agency (INDOCERT, Aluva)
  5. International Resources for farmer trade members
  6. Lacon Quality Certification Pvt. Ltd. (Theepany. Kerala)
  7. National organic certification Association Pvt. Ltd. (Pune)
  8. One Cert Asia Agri Certification Pvt. Ltd. (Jaipur)
  9. SGS India Pvt. Ltd. (Gurgaon)
  10. Skal International (Bangalore)
  11. Uttaranchal State Organic Certification Agency (Uttaranchal)

Many of the Indian farmers are small and poor farmers, who may not be able to afford the cost of certification. For this, group certification processes like Internal Control System (ICS) and Participatory Guarantee System (PGS) have come as alternative means of certification to reduce the cost of certification.

Biointensive is a method of growing as much organic food as possible in the smallest amount of space.

The method draws upon a variety of intensive agricultural methods practiced thousands of years ago in China, Greece and Latin America, as well as French intensive techniques practiced in the 1700’s and 1800’s, and Biodynamic techniques developed in Europe in the early 1920s. The culmination of these techniques has developed into what is now called GROW BIOINTENSIVE sustainable mini-farming.

There is an exciting challenge ahead of us. How can we revitalize our extraordinary planet, ensuring life and health for the environment, the life-forms of a myriad of ecosystems, humankind, and future generations? The answer is as close to us as the food we consume each day. We can begin to create a better world from right where we are—in home gardens and mini-farms. Millions of people in over 140 countries are already using GROW BIOINENSIVE Sustainable Mini-Farming techniques to work toward this better world.

We “farm” as we eat. If we consume food that has been grown using methods that inadvertently deplete the soil in the growing process, we are responsible for depleting the soil. It is how we are “farming.” If, instead, we raise or request food grown in ways that heal the Earth, then we are healing the Earth and its soils. Our daily food choices make the difference. We can choose to sustain ourselves while increasing the planet’s vitality. In the process, we preserve resources, breathe cleaner air, enjoy good exercise, and eat pure food.

What are the dimensions of the challenge of raising food that sustains the soil?

Current agricultural practices reportedly destroy approximately 6 pounds of soil for each pound of food produced.

Why is this happening?

Conventional agricultural practices often deplete the soil 18 to 80 times more rapidly than nature builds soil. This phenomenon happens when the humus (cured organic matter) in the soil is used up and not replaced, when cropping patterns are used that tend to deplete the soil’s structure, and when minerals are removed from the soil more rapidly than they are replaced. Even organic farming probably depletes the soil 9 to 67 times faster than nature builds it, by importing organic matter and minerals from other soils, which thereby becomes increasingly depleted. The planetary result is a net reduction in overall soil quality.

In contrast, the techniques used in GROW BIOINTENSIVE Sustainable Mini-Farming can build the soil up to 60 times faster than in nature. The overall goal of GROW BIOINTENSIVE techniques, which distinguishes these techniques from Biointensive practices, is the miniaturization of food production in a closed system. GROW BIOINTENSIVE features the use of the following eight techniques in a closed system that does not use any chemical substances. Ten years ago, Ecology Action coined the term “GROW BIOINTENSIVE” to refer to this style of production.

Biointensive techniques include:

Deep soil preparation, which develops good soil structure. Once this structure is established, it may be maintained for several years with 2-inch-deep surface cultivation (until compaction once again necessitates deep soil preparation).

The use of compost (humus) for soil fertility and nutrients.

Close plant spacing, as in nature.

Synergistic planting of crop combinations so plants that are grown together enhance each other.

Carbon-efficient crops by which approximately 60% of the growing area is planted in dual-purpose seed and grain crops for the production of large amounts of carbonaceous material for compost and significant amounts of dietary calories.

Calorie-efficient crops by which approximately 30% of the growing area is planted in special root crops, such as potatoes, leeks, garlic, parsnips, and Jerusalem artichokes, which produce a large amount of calories for the diet per unit of area.

The use of open-pollinated seeds to preserve genetic diversity.

A whole, interrelated farming system. When GROW BIOINTENSIVE is used properly—with all of its components and so all wastes are recycled and enough organic matter is grown to ensure that each farm can produce enough compost to create and maintain sustainable soil fertility—GROW BIOINTENSIVE Sustainable Mini-Farming can create soil rapidly and maintain sustainable soil fertility. It is how each of us uses GROW BIOINTENSIVE, or other food-raising practices, that makes a living difference!

The combination of these techniques makes it possible to greatly reduce resources compared to conventional agricultural practices while greatly increasing soil fertility and productivity.
• A 67% to 88% reduction in water consumption per unit of production
• A 50+% reduction in the amount of purchased fertilizer in organic fertilizer form required per unit of production
• A 94% to 99% reduction in the amount of energy used per unit of production
• A 100+% increase in soil fertility, while productivity increases and resource use decreases
• A 200% to 400% increase in caloric production per unit of area
• A 100+% increase in income per unit of area

However, GROW BIOINTENSIVE Sustainable Mini-Farming (or any other sustainable farming practice) is not a panacea. If not used properly GROW BIOINTENSIVE practices can deplete the soil more rapidly than other farming practices because of the high yields. But above all, using only a single agricultural approach to grow food would not be vital. It would be another form of “monocropping” in a living world ecosystem that thrives on diversity. Sustainable approaches in the future will probably be a synthesis, a sustainable collage, of:
• Agroforestry
• No-till Fukuoka food raising
• Traditional Asian blue-green algal wet rice farming
• Natural rainfall “arid” farming
• Indigenous farming

These food-growing techniques are only part of a sustainable future. To preserve the plant and animal genetic diversity upon which we all depend, we will need to keep one-half of the world’s farmable land in a wild, natural state. As we begin to use sustainable, land- and resource-conserving food-raising approaches, more wilderness areas can remain untouched so more of the endangered plant and animal diversity on this Earth can be preserved. This wealth of genetic diversity is necessary if the planet on which we live is to support abundance.

Temperature is another important consideration when it comes to choosing a site for your crops. Some gardens have frost pockets, which are low-lying areas, where cold air gets trapped on still winter nights, increasing the likelihood of frosts. Check your garden after a hard frost to see if there’s a patch that is still white when everywhere else has thawed. Planting in such a cold spot will lead to frost damage and slow growth, and should be avoided.

Open ground gets the full benefit of any rainfall, so that you are less likely to have to water the plants yourself. However, an open site can leave your crops at the mercy of the weather, particularly damage from strong winds.

In exposed gardens, you should put up windbreaks to reduce the force of gusts as much far as possible. Don’t build a solid wall, because air pressure creates turbulence on the leeward side of the barrier that can be worse than the unimpeded wind. Choose a permeable barrier, such as a fence or a hedge, that will break the force of the wind without creating unpredictable eddies. Also watch out for gaps between buildings and walls that could funnel wind.

A long-neglected corner where nothing much ever seems to grow is not the right place to start a vegetable garden. Provide an open site for your crops, with plenty of sunshine during the day to warm the soil and give the plants energy for rapid growth. A position away
from the shade and competing roots of shrubs or large trees is essential. If your site isn’t ideal, try to improve it as best you can. This will not only ensure better harvests, but also make growing much simpler.

Let in as much light as possible by cutting back overhanging growth, and create raised beds to lift crops above competing roots.

Small-scale covers, such as cloches and cold frames, are invaluable for warming the soil to allow seeds to be sown early. They can also be used to harden off plants raised indoors, keep out damaging winds and hungry pests, and protect overwintering crops.

Cloches, whether made of glass, plastic, or row cover, are relatively cheap and have the advantage that they can be moved where needed, although they must be securely pinned to the soil. Use cut-off plastic bottles to cover individual plants, or low, wire-framed tunnels to protect whole rows.

Cold frames usually have a soil base and a sloping, glazed lid. Although lighter frames can be moved where required, many are permanently positioned against south-facing walls, to give maximum light and heat, and extra frost protection. They are ideal for raising early-sown seeds, hardening off young plants, or growing heat-loving crops like cucumbers and melons.

Plastic mini-greenhouses perform many of the same functions as a cold frame. Taller models are ideal for protecting growing bags planted with tomatoes, although they must be anchored securely and have a sheltered, sunny site. Even sunny windowsills are
perfect for raising tender plants from seed. To stop seedlings from bending toward the light, grow them in a simple light box made by cutting the front away from a small cardboard box, and lining the back with reflective silver foil.

Greenhouses and hoophouses offer exciting possibilities for extending the season for tender crops such as tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, and more. Even unheated, these structures provide enough protection to grow extra Junebearing strawberries in spring, to raise winter crops such as radishes and cut-and-come-again salads, and give many crops a head start.

Greenhouses are expensive to buy new, so make sure the shape and size you choose suits your garden and growing ambitions. Also ensure that there is adequate ventilation to keep air flowing around your plants; aim for one roof- and one side-vent for every 6 ft (2 m) of length.

Hoophouses are cheaper to construct, but not as attractive as a stylish greenhouse. The plastic that covers them has a limited lifespan, as does the plastic used in some greenhouses, and they are more difficult to ventilate, but they still provide a great growing space.

Whichever structure you choose, position it on a bright, level site, away from the shade of buildings and trees, and sheltered from strong winds. Be sure to provide good access, and try to find space outside for a rain barrel and also a tool shed.

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