We are not planning to become certified as organic. The bottom line is that for all the hassle and expense it would not mean one more penny in the bank. We have a number of other opinions of the organic program that we would be glad to discuss with you offline.
We were certified as All Natural for several years but dropped that certification. We felt that we were being bombarded by requests for donations and concluded that it was all about the money. Finding someone to do the inspection was difficult at best and we did not feel that the inspection truly identified any issues that we were concerned about.
We do follow organic methods in all that we do. The biggest thing I want to go into here is about our success with castings tea or as some call it “worm tea”. We started a small experimental “worm farm” in 2006. We are conducted many experiments with these castings and incorporated the castings into our production program. Specifically, we use castings tea in our seed germination program and are growing all of our seedlings that we sell and those that we are putting into production in our nursery.
So, here’s what we’ve found. We brew a batches of tea in 5 gallon buckets with aeration. We normally do not dilute the tea with water, but rather apply it as a drench over the top of the seedlings at full strength. We apply tea for two waterings. The third watering we use water only. The results have been astounding. Within a very short time the seedlings responded to the tea and seem to double in size quickly. Tests that are underway will quantify these observations. The leaves are a healthy green and the root system fills the cells quickly. Try your free sample and share your observations with us.
Producing strawberries with organic methods has many challenges. We don’t have many primary insect type pests but disease is always a threat, botrytis (gray mold) in particular. We use a number of cultural practices to control disease. For seedlings we use good air circulation by using fans. We also try not to over-water and we irrigate early in the day so that there is time for the leaves to dry by night time.
In the nursery for production plants we cannot use fans but we optimize the spacing for the plants so there is adequate air circulation. We also irrigate early in the day for the same reason as with seedlings. In addition, it is reported widely in the literature, both in print and online, that castings tea has suppressive activity against both diseases and insect pests above and below ground. We will be developing a spray schedule for applying the tea foliarly. At this stage, our operation is too large to be able to brew enough tea to irrigate the crop but increasing brewing capacity is being planned for the future.
In recent years a number of effective biofungicides and bioinsecticides were developed and labelled. We have tested these and incorporated them into our spray program. The additional pest weapons have made our program even better and have given us some peace of mind.