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Friday, September 18, 2020

What are You Really Getting When You Buy Stamped Organic Seeds and Non-GMO Seeds? Not Much Really

The Rusted Garden Seed and Garden Shop

What are You Really Getting 
When You Buy Stamped Organic Seeds and Non-GMO Seeds? Not Much Really

First off, let's no equate a pack of 'organic' seeds to the tried and true practices of organic gardening and the use of compost.  You are or are not an 'organic' gardener and you do or don't have an 'organic' garden based on the seeds you use. Second off, let's not go down the rabbit hole, that was dug over the last decade, that 'organic' gardening is about buying stamped certified products. Third off, let's not argue that chemicals (as a blanket statement) are bad, because all thing are chemicals including organic products. It is up to us to learn and know what they are (whatever 'they are' may be) and what they do, beyond looking for a shiny stamp.

Gardening has been organic for thousands of years. Clear and prepare the earth, plants seeds, make compost, use fish and animal byproducts, collect seeds, manage pests and diseases and harvest. Somewhere down the line we were sold that we are not capable of educating ourselves to the garden products out there and that we need to follow stamp certifications to be organic. 

What is in an 'Organic Seed' packet?

Stamps are misleading. Stamps do not mean that if you don't have the stamp then you are not what the stamp states you are or your product is if it had a stamp on it. This is where I laugh. Read that line again. Here is the question I recommend using; What Is In That Product? If you answer is I don't know but it has (or doesn't have) a stamp... take some time to read more about the things you are purchasing and using in your garden. 

Certifications to get stamps are expensive and they hurt the small time farmers and small family run businesses. I choose to know my local farmers and support them as people. I choose to learn about products and educate myself. You know who can afford the cost to organically certify an entire farm and every product and maintain certifications? The giant companies. Not the local guy or small business. It is potentially true that both people and stamps can lie to us but you can look a person in the eye, while at their farm, and ask them questions. 

You have to be certified (cost money) for organic stamps to be on your products but you can label packets and products how ever you want. You can put non-GMO on anything and don't have to pay for it. This is important to understand because labeling in not regulated for the most part.

'Non-GMO' is just seed packet labeling

The 'Organic' stamp means certified

I also spent a lot of time reading about how land and seeds get certified. This is were I laugh again. But that is for another post. It is really silly when it comes to seeds and land.  Okay, here is one bit... 3 years of no chemical fertilizers and your land can produce organic seeds. What was your land producing before that 3 years? You do know that fertilizers of any kind, don't change the genetic make-up of a tiny tiny tiny seed.  But... many of us getting started, don't know that and that is why I made this video and post. Seeds are seeds are seeds. Here is the question to ask; What Could and Tiny Seed Pick Up and Hold Inside from Earth that Had a Chemical Fertilizer? Exactly... nothing. 

Okay here is one more... the certification officer says, "Are you spraying any synthetic chemicals or using chemical fertilizers, may I see your product usage log. Looks good."  As far as I know land and produce are not tested for harmful chemicals (at the spray level). What if the person fakes his logs? I do agree with knowing what sprays are on food. I dont agree with a log that can be well... as I said faked. The soil and food aren't tested for bad stuff with respect to sprays, again keep that point in mind. Which goes back to... know your farmer and food sources and ask them eye to eye, how they manage their farm and livestock. Do I really need a certifying body to do this for me?  Who certifies the certifying companies anyway?

What could possibly be or not be in that tiny oregano seed with or without a 'Stamp'.

To be honest, my real concern are what new to market dusts or sprays do. And those companies that make these dusts and sprays are already protected well from really having to disclose information to us in a viable and useful way. Not all of the products are bad. We really need to stop are 'on or off' thinking. But all of them, dont really have to tell us what the side-effects and hazards are... well sure we can go track down a website, with tiny font and tons of words and all that. How about a stamp... these processed chemicals are 'Hazard Free'.  That will never happen but we get to be fooled with 'organic' stamps on seed packets. We never needed that. It was never a health issue or a hazard. That is why I am posting this. 

Now being organic is outstanding. I am 90% organic by choice. I give myself an A. We 'old' gardeners now the truth (most of the time), make educated choices and manage our gardens in healthy and safe ways. My concern is for the new gardener who is stepping into the crazy gardening world of stamps and certifications. Someone that is just getting started hears things like; Chemical fertilizers are fake and will harm you... Don't by GMO seeds for your garden... Make sure you buy organic seeds so they dont hurt you and are healthy. The best word to define these statements is nonsense. Absolute nonsense. Compost is King or Queen. Organic practices, not stamps, are golden. 

Today I am not going to address chemical fertilizers which I will use infrequently. My recommendation is to make your own compost and have a worm composter or two. What I hope I am addressing today is feeling you have to pay more for seeds stamped organic or labeled non-GMO. Why? because I want you to know what you are paying for and once you do, you know what you are buying. And then, spend your money as you wish.


GMO's stand for genetically modified organism. It is the wrong name, by the way, for what they are trying to describe. Genetic modification occurs when breeding animals. It occurs when you cross two tomato varieties by hand or by Nature using natural 'but not stamped' friendly pollinators. This type of modification is happening all the time. What GMO really means is crossing two plants through engineering that could not be done by Nature.  These new plants should be called GEO's or genetically engineered organisms. Basically, scientist literally blast one plant's DNA into another plants DNA. They do this 1000's of times and see what happens. They are created in a lab. They can not be created otherwise. Once created, the seeds (if viable), cuttings or divisions, hold the new traits. These are new organisms engineered by people. Good news is... you will never find them in a pack of seeds!

That is right, you will never see them in a seed packet because they are too expensive and big business. But someone got the idea to label their packet non-GMO. Which 'technically' is a lie of course if it is a hybrid because hybrids are made by cross pollination and modified in a natural and cool way.  Don't confuse hybrids with being bad. We are talking GEO's engineered by means other than what Nature can do. Hybrids are a totally safe crossing of like plants, for new traits, via pollen and flowers.  My point... once someone put non-GMO on a packet, it made you think... well do the other seed packs have GMO's.  No.. they never did. By the way I sell seeds at my seed shop and they are all LEAD & HEAVY METAL FREE.  I also have a collection of ALL NATURAL seeds and some very hard to get COMPOST GROWN seeds. You can find them at The Rusted Garden Seed and Garden Shop.

Buying GMO seeds requires signing legal documents, a huge outlay of money and agreement you wont sell them. And there aren't many of them around. So why do we need to have non-GMO on a seed packet? Simple, it made you buy them over the other seed packet. Again, I just want you to know what you are paying for when you buy stamped and labeled organic and non-GMO seeds. If we are not careful the size of seed packs will have to increase to include; organic, non-GMO, Lead Free, Heavy Metal Free, Clean Watered, Compost Grown and Clean Hand Harvested. And by the way when you see GMO Free Heirloom... well that's another post. 

To summarize... buy any seeds that you want. The goal is for good seed germination. Leave it to people to make something as simple as buying seeds so needlessly complicated.

Cheers & Enjoy Your Gardens,

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Thursday, September 17, 2020

How to Inexpensively and Effectively Fill a No-Dig Raised Bed for Almost No Cost: Use These 1/3 Filling Principles and They Will Also Feed Your Plants!

The Rusted Garden Seed and Garden Shop

How to Inexpensively and Effectively Fill a No-Dig Raised Bed for Almost No Cost: 
Use These 1/3 Filling Principles and They Will Also Feed Your Plants!

Filling large sided raised beds can cost 100's of dollars when using bagged potting mixes and other products. It works, but that is the most expensive way to do it. You can fill the bed for free or at a greatly reduced cost by following the principles of 1/3 filling. It is not new and it is known by many other names like hugelkultur, lasagna gardening and the simple... layering.  Of course, if  you have tons of fully broken down compost... you can just use compost to fill the beds, but most of have a limited supply.

How to Inexpensively Fill a Raised Garden Bed

This principles are best used for beds over 12 inches tall. A variation can be used for beds under 12 inches, which generally means using finer cut materials and materials that are a bit more composted or broken down. It is best to do this in the fall as to give your bed several months to establish. It can be done in the spring.  However, you may want to supplement the 'lower' layers with more nitrogen, such as blood meal, to prevent the decaying organic matter from competing with your spring plantings. Nitrogen is used by soil microbes to break down the organic matter. 

Filling a Raised Garden Bed at Little or No Cost

As you build the layers, you want to have 6-12 inches of good planting soil on top, depending on the height of the sides.. Save the good stuff for last. Most plants will establish well in that depth range of soil. If you have to spend money for materials, that is where you would spend it, the final top or planting layer. For plants like radishes, lettuces, spinach, arugula and other greens, 4 inches of good soil will work. The top layer is more important for the first year of using the bed. After a full season the bed will be established and continue to feed your plants year after year. All you have to do is add top dressings of compost, shredded hardwood, grass or combinations. Compost is always king but other materials will work as they will breakdown each season and get integrated into the raised bed by the soil life. You will not have to dig and turn this bed.

The principle is simple and can be adjusted based on the size of your bed and the materials available to you. The example 'fill', in the pictures and video, is based on a raised bed with 17 inch side. To start, the bottom is filled with coarser less decayed materials like tree branches and even logs. It can also include green grass and green yard waste as the 'green' has nitrogen and that will help the soil microbes breakdown the coarser less decayed materials. The materials in the bottom are initially less likely to impact the root systems of the plants but eventually they will enjoy what they find there, year after year, as it establishes. Cardboard can also be put down to cover over grass and weeds in shallower raised beds. It also is good to use in the lower layers as worms love it and it breaks down quickly.

Worms Love Cardboard

Coarser Materials in the Bottom & Grass Supplies Nitrogen

The bottom can also contain leaves, wood chips, materials you collected that are just starting to compost down (a couple months old). The bottom 1/3 is what will decay over time and feed your plants over the years, with help from the soil life. It will also hold moisture. An added bonus to this type of fill, is that you will have to water less and the layers will maintain even moisture over the seasons.

Materials for Filling the Lower 1/3 of the Raised Bed

Materials for Filling the Lower 1/3 of the Raised Bed

Materials for Filling the Lower 1/3 of the Raised Bed

Materials for Filling the Lower 1/3 of the Raised Bed

Partially Composted Material for Bottom or Middle 1/3

The next step is to move into better material to fill the middle 1/3. This is where I use a lot of earth from digging edges around my flower beds or when I am doing construction. Any earth will support the roots of the plants. You can also use composted materials that are not 100% composted down but getting close. A good volume addition at this point is peat moss or coco coir. They are less expensive than potting mix. They can also be used in the final or top 1/3 of filling the bed. Thinks of it this way... bottom 1/3 needs time, middle 1/3 is okay stuff and top 1/3 is better stuff for the plants to root and establish. They are so many variations to this. Don't follow this as an exact recipe but use it to create and experiment.

Takes Earth from Around Your Yard for Middle Filler

Fill the Middle Layer with Earth from the Yard

The middle layer can pretty much just be earth from around your yard. If you want, you can mix in peat moss, coco coir, compost as mentioned, but soil life will move through there over time and improve it. We will all have different resources available for the middle layer, and generally speaking, the whole filling process. The final layer should be your better layer of about 6 inches of 'good stuff'. You can buy potting mix or mix peat moss and any yard earth at a 50-50 ratio. You can mix in or completely use high quality compost to finish off the bed. They key is that the bottom 2/3 of the fill doesn't have to be costly. Just fill it and let Nature work her magic.

The general 1/3 filling principles will save you a lot of money and build great raised bed soil over time. If plants struggle the first year, don't be afraid to add higher nitrogen fertilizers, like blood meal, and/or water them often with water-soluble fertilizers, like fish emulsion.  Moving forward from year two, just add materials to the top of the raised bed and enjoy the harvest.

The Final 1/3 of the Filled Raised Garden Bed


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Wednesday, September 2, 2020

How to Set-Up a 'Wine Cap' Mushroom Garden Bed: Now You Can Have A Garden In Full Shade!

The Rusted Garden Seed and Garden Shop

How to Set-Up a 'Wine Cap' Mushroom Garden Bed: 
Now You Can Have A Garden In Full Shade!

What can I grow in full shade? I get that question asked often and the answer is mushrooms! Full shade is perfect for growing 'Wine Cap' mushrooms. Unlike the white button mushrooms and portabella mushrooms, we get at the grocery store... these mushrooms should always be cooked. And yes, I worry about eating the wrong mushroom but when you set up a mushroom garden, you know what to look for and it is easy to identify a wine cap. 

Wine Cap Mushrooms

The best way to 'seed' your mushroom bed is with mushroom spawn. You can look on-line for different companies to buy the spawn. You simply want wine cap mushroom spawn. It is typically grown in sawdust and the spawn itself is mushroom mycelium. The sawdust will be covered in white threads and it comes in a sealed bag. The mycelium is kind of like your seeds. The pack of sawdust, covered in mushroom mycelium, gets crumbled and sprinkled over your bedding. 

Mushroom Spawn - Mycelium for 'Seeding'

Pick a location that gets full shade or nearly full shade. If is going to get sun, morning or late evening soon is better than mid day sun.  A 5 pound bag of mushroom spawn is good for a 4x4 foot space. The first video covers the basics of setting up your mushroom garden. You will need bedding or substrate for it to grow on. I am using cardboard, shredded hardwood or hardwood chips and straw (not hay).  I basically framed out a 4x4 foot area for my space. I layered in the materials and sprinkled spawn across the layers. 

After sprinkling the spawn across each layer, water it in and add the next layer. The next video shows the entire set up process if you want more details. Basically... frame out area, put down a layer of cardboard, put down a layer of hardwood, sprinkle on the spawn, water it in, put a layer of straw down, sprinkle on the spawn, water it in and repeat the process. Each layer can be about 1-2 inches. The key is making sure the area stays moist. Typically, a fully shaded area will take care of itself.

Layers of Hardwood and Straw

If you are building this in the fall (which I did), typically the mushrooms will pin and form the following spring, if the mycelium is well established. The mycelium can manage freezing temperatures too. If you are building it in the spring, the earlier the better. Mushroom form when the mycelium is established and moisture and  temperatures are right. Dropping, rising or changing temperatures cause the mushrooms to pin and form. Wine cap mushrooms are best suited for your first mushroom garden and do well with temperatures found in my home State, Maryland. Remember to make sure your garden stays moist. And good luck with your first harvest!


My Wine Cap Mushroom Garden Set-Up

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Over 1000 Garden Videos Designed to Quickly Present Information!

Visit The Rusted Garden Seed and Garden Shop for your Seeds, Starting Supplies, Neem Oil,
Peppermint and Other Oils, Calcium Nitrate and More.
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