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I resolve to go organic

Let me preface this by saying I hate New Year's resolutions.

I don't remember exactly when this aversion began, but I can vividly recall the painful occasions when I was reminded of my failure to apply what I had hoped would become a central tenet in my life by the mere affirmation that it was a New Year's resolution. It usually did not take long. It seems to me that meaningful change is better affected by any means other than a formal declaration based upon a calendar date. Setting oneself up for failure is a slippery path to tread.

That is why I approach this article with so much trepidation. The subject matter is far too important to trifle with. I hardly dare to chance failure, yet it must be done. I have a New Year's resolution that I would like to adopt.

I feel a great need to leave the Earth a little greener than it was when I arrived. I have made a few steps forward along with my few steps backwards. If I am very lucky, the small amount of good that I have done won't be outweighed by the missteps I have taken along the way. I was introduced to the agribusiness world by working as a sprayer in a large wholesale nursery.

When I think back to the time when all I did, day after day, was to apply chemicals to kill unwanted life forms, I cringe. I bought into the agri-chemical world's justifications of creating a more perfect world. After all the gallons and pounds of pesticides and insecticides that I applied are added up — along with the potential and real problems we are now certain are caused by these agents — was anything gained in the process?

I doubt there are fewer harmful insects now than there were 35 years ago. In fact, I would think one could build a good case for exactly the opposite effect having taken place.

Synthetic fertilizers revolutionized the way we grow plants. They made possible the conversion of thousands of acres of formerly "unproductive" land into commercial farms. The cost was the degradation of our surface waters due to fertilizer runoff. Phosphate pollution is a huge problem where synthetics are used. To feed our exploding populations, the world embraced the success of the technology that increased food supply and turned its back on the problems it created.

We have run out of time and space in which to hide. We have to face the music and change our tune. It is in this spirit that I am willing to risk making a New Year's resolution. I resolve to change my fertilizer regimen to using all organic products and learning to due so properly. This will be much easier to accomplish in 2008 than in years past due to the greater availability of organic fertilizers in the marketplace. That is due to the large consumer demand for such products. I applaud home gardeners for that.

In the past, I have had less than exemplary results using organic fertilizers. I feel that I can achieve better growth and higher yields if I learn more about the ingredients that are used in deriving the different complete formulations. There are bound to be significant differences in how plants use nutrients from varying sources. It will be my job to know when to use blood meal as the basis for growth versus another material such as feather meal. By having a better understanding of the products involved, I'm hoping to eliminate some of my past disappointments.

I promise to share my successes and failures with you through this column during the coming year. The willingness to share information with others is a quality that gardeners have demonstrated for a long time. It is one of the reasons I enjoy being with them so much. I hope I can call on that bond as we start a new year that holds so much promise.

Stan Mapolski, aka The Rogue Gardener, can be heard from 9-11 a.m. Sunday mornings on KMED 1440 AM and seen in periodic gardening segments for KTVL Channel 10 News. Reach him at stanmapolski@yahoo.com.