Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Worms... :)

So, before the Ortho rant I had promised worms... Well here they are, my cheapo homemade worm bins :)

Just two 99 cent plastic (#2) shoebox container nestled inside each other. The top one has the bottom cut out to about 3/4" in from the sides. Two strips cut lengthwise from the removed plastic rectangle bridge the opening in the short direction for a bit of support. A piece of 1/4" metal mesh (hardware cloth - $12.99 and the leftovers made a screen for my regular compost bin)  with the cut ends folded over cover the opening in the bottom. (sorry, don't have a pic of the bottom of the top container)

Here's the top container so you can see them better. The bottom container is to catch the worm leachate (pee) and other moisture dripping out. It can be used to fertilize plants too. I think I spent total about $15 buying the materials for these two containers (and part of the leftover is in use for the other composting bin) which sure as hell beats even the subsidized $60 commercial worms bins.

the two bits of broken terra cotta help keep the mesh from the container above from sagging onto the bottom

Originally there were layers of newspaper strips over the mesh to keep everything from falling into the bottom box. But my wonderful know-it-all worms ate it up and now their castings (poo) has been spilling from their feeding container above to the bottom one where I can easily scoop it up as needed. I put most of the worms back in the feeding container, but sometimes I put some of the big ones into my flower pots.

If the worms thrive and reproduce enough I may have to build larger bins at some point, but knowing how easy it is I think it will still be super cheap. For now I have a third container prepped to add whenever it's needed, and still have enough materials to build a fourth and maybe a fifth one of this size. I could have myself a deluxe worm penthouse :)

Originally I got a handful of worms from a gardener in Gardena (of all places) in summer 2010. The first few days they were just in a bucket with some dirt until I built the worms bins. I didn't really know what I was doing and at one point forgot to tend them for over a month. When I looked inside it was fairly dry and I thought for sure I'd killed them. So I let it all sit another month before I opened it up to use whatever castings there were and was astounded to find some worms still alive!

Well, that immediately got me to tending them properly. If those suckers had the will to live through my neglect I was gonna make an effort to keep them alive. And since then checking on them every day or so has become a fun habit and they still live. However, since I started with such a small batch of worms it would take a very long time for them to eat through any food. I got in the habit of putting scraps in the blender to make it easier for them. When I sorted through my regular compost bin or dug in the flower beds I'd save any red worms I found and add them to the worm bins. But there still weren't enough...

Recently I got a super boost to my worms when Archie's Garden gave me almost a full shoe box container full of worms & dirt from their vermicomposing setup. There were plenty of worms in there and they have made friends with my first worms (I hope) and now the bin colony is thriving! I've been giving them a good sized feeding about every two weeks, with a few little scraps in between. They seem to be keeping up with it.

Last Friday I collected a full cup of castings at once and made worm tea for my container garden :) The young seedlings and eager transplants really seemed to like it. When I was picking the worms out of the castings there were quite a few really tiny ones which I think means.... my worms have breeding!


Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Just Checking In...

It's been a crazy few days for me and I haven't had much time to garden let alone blog :P So because of unexpected business I have no Bloom Day post :'( but I will do a belated one sometime this week.

I am still working on the Ortho Elements research, I have more info I will share soon. I just need time to organize it all.

So, happy bloom day to all who had time! I envy you!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Ortho Elementals - More Questions than Answers

Yesterday I wrote about the lies that Ortho put on their Elementals Insecticidal Soap. I also emailed the info to Green UPGRADER and today they've got the info up also.

On my way home last night I stopped at one of the Home Depots I sometimes shop in to see if the final labeling of the product is the same as on Scotts website. Look like yes, if there were any changes they weren't to the info I'm concerned about. Red outlines by me.

Product on the shelf. Includes the "MAY BE USED UP TO DAY OF HARVEST" and OMRI Listed labeling.

"May be applied to edibles up to day of harvest"

Thanks for telling me which foods you want me to use this on Ortho.

I did a little (or rather a LOT) of thinking on this last night. I went back to ORMI's website to look more into them (after all, I've only known of them for a day or two). I am thinking on their statements on their About page

screenshot from OMRI - Copyright © 2010 OMRI

  So this insecticide could be used for a USDA certified organic farm... You know this leads me to think that a small scale farmer - like a local farmer's market vendor - could see this product on the shelf, spot the OMRI logo on the label and assume it was perfect for their organic produce. Especially since the packaging of the product is screaming at you to use it on your food from every angle. A small scale grower might even look it up on OMRI's website to make sure it's organic. And if that grower looked up this product on OMRI's site they'd see this:

 screenshot from OMRI - Copyright © 2010 OMRI

Farmers are people, and people aren't perfect. It's reasonable to assume that a farmer large or small scale might see the above result for their search for Ortho Elementals Insecticidal Soap and accept that as OMRI's approval - then go ahead and use the product just like its instructions say to... on the organic crops he/she is growing for consumers who want certified organic produce. What that farmer might miss (because we all make mistakes) is the info when you click the drop down for this product and the restriction against food crop usage:

screenshot from OMRI - Copyright © 2010 OMRI

I am more confused than ever about this. Why would OMRI approve something for organic growing - for products farmers can use to grow USDA certified organic produce - but not directly on that produce? Why would they allow their OMRI Listed logo to be used on that product's label if the label is also specifying the consumer to use it in a way not consistent with their approval restrictions?

When did I start sounding like an adult?

Sorry, tangent thought there. Their About info also has me thinking about OMRI. It says (and you can see in one of the screenshots above) they are non-profit and receive funding through donations, and "generates income through fees collected for the review of products intended for use in organic production or processing." For some reason this gives me a chill and reminds me of the USDA's deregulation process for Monanto's GMOs.

I am trying to find answers now. Unfortunately OMRI doesn't list an email address for questions. They have an online inquiry form that I filled out, but couldn't submit because their Captcha engine isn't working (it's not even showing up) and I keep getting error messages that the Captcha I entered being incorrect (can't even see or type one).

I have sent an email off to Scotts through their website reading:

I was considering using your Elementals Insecticidal Soap product in my edible container garden. I am working towards a fully organic growing method and by this point I am only buying organic products. Preferable ones I make myself, are certified organic, or approved for USDA certified organic operations. This is just my own personal garden, I'm not selling any produce from it, but I want to make is as pure as I can.

I first heard of the Elementals line through Home Depot. I was happy to see on their (and your) website that it is safe for use on edibles and for organic growing. But then I noticed another info section on Home Depot's site that said it was not organic. I double checked Scotts product page which says it is.

I then checked OMRI since the product labeling states this item is ORMI Listed and found the following use restriction: "nonfood crop uses only; use on any food crop or fallow fields is prohibited." But your product clearly says it is food safe. Why does your ORMI approval depend on it not being used on food crops? If I understand OMRI's usage correctly, it means that this item would only be ok for USDA certified organic growing standards if I don't use it on edibles.

Would you please clarify this for me? I need an insecticidal soap for the summer, but it must be safe for my edibles.

Thank you,
Mary C.

That's non-threatening enough, no?

I think I'm going to continue to update on this...

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Ortho Elementals is a LIE!

Yesterday thanks to Mike I learned about a tactic called Greenwashing. It's basically deceptive marketing to make people think a product is certified organic or all natural and safe. So yesterday I learned that the few Organic Choice products I had picked up are not really organic. Damint! I am going to either toss out what's left or take it to a S.A.F.E. disposal site. Of course that doesn't undo the fact that such product is already in my soil :/

Anyway, after the learning I soaked up yesterday I returned to my computer with a fresh brain today... and started thinking about the coupon Home Depot emailed to me yesterday... A biy one get one free for any 32 oz. Ortho Elementals.  I had looked up what the product was briefly yesterday to see one (there are four types listed on HD's site) was an "organic" insecticidal soap. I was thinking of getting it this weekend.

This morning I decided to investigate this product a little. It turned into much more than a little and I am not happy at all (except that I didn't buy it). I sent what I found off to Green UPGRADER and Mike, and I was gonna wait for more experienced people to look into it... but I'm so pissed I'm sharing now! All emphasis in quoted text is mine.

So here's our culprit:

Notice that big blank green area at the bottom of the sticker?
Remember that for later...

So the most important info gained from Home Depot's site is the following:
  • If you click the Zoom View link to read the labels you find -
    •  The white sticker on the spray head reads "MAY BE USED UP TO DAY OF HARVEST"
    • One the main label sticker it reads "For organic gardening"
  • Product Description tab has the following statement: " "The soap can be used up to the day of harvest and is organic for safe use" and "Organic formula for safe use in your garden"
  • Specifications tab states: "Organic : No" <---- RED FLAG PEOPLES!
Um, that's some kinda contradiction there. Is it organic or no? Also the use of the word "harvest" here obviously implies they expect you to use this product on your veggie, herb and fruit plants. So it has to be safe right? Off to the manufacturer's website!


 This product is owned by Scotts! On that subject let's just say Scotts=Miracle Grow=Round-Up=MONSANTO for now...

On to Scotts info on the Ortho Elementals Insecticidal Soap.  First the product's General tab states "does not persist in the environment, can be used for organic gardening" and under the Details & Usage tab subheading Benefits "For organic gardening" I also found a link on this product's page to a PDF of the product labeling. The one saving factor I find is a note that "THIS FILE IS NOT PRODUCTION READY". So there may have been changes before the final labels that appear on the product were printed. That said:
  • PDF Page 1 (FRONT LABEL): states "For Organic Gardening"and has the OMRI Listed trademark in what is a blank green area in the picture from Home Depot and Scott's product page for this item. This area also includes active ingredient info and some typical warnings.
The rest of the PDF pages include info for label you can't see in pics of the product online and would probably only read after your took it home including the instructions for use:
  • PDF Page 2 (BOOK-OUTSIDE VIEW): "May be applied to edibles up to day of harvest."
  • PDF Page 3 (BOOK-INSIDE VIEW PAGE 2): "May used on edible crops up to and including day of harvest."; "For use...on: fruit and nut tress (e.g., apples, cherries, peaches, pears, pecans, almonts); corn; soybeans; melons; tomatoes; vegetables (e.g., beans, cabbage, cucurbits, peas, potatoes); figs; small fruits (e.g., grapes, strawberry, rasberry); citrus..."
  • PDF Page 5 (the spray head sticker): "MAY BE USED UP TO DAY OF HARVEST L0270356000"
Please note - I have not physically seen a bottle of Ortho Elements yet to see if the above statements from Scott's product website made it all the way to print. I am going to try to stop by a Home Depot today to check it out and will update this post after that.

***UPDATE - I have physically seen this product***

So Scott's really WANTS you to use this on your edible plants. No way that they can deny that after seeing this label info final or not. And since their label is at some point intended to include the OMRI Listed endorsement... off to!

On the Organic Materials Review Institute's site under the info for Ortho Elementals Insecticidal Soap I found the following Restriction for this product's use cleared stated on the drop-down tab:

"May be used as an algicide/demosser, herbicide or insecticide if the requirements of 205.206(e) are met, which requires the use of preventative, mechanical, physical, and other pest, weed, and disease management practices. When used as an herbicide may only be used for farmstead maintenance (roadways, ditches, right of ways, building perimeters) and ornamental crops, nonfood crop uses only; use on any food crop or fallow fields is prohibited."

Holy CRAP! As of this moment it is blatantly apparent to me that Scotts is not only misleading, they are flat out LYING about this product, and probably the other Elementals product as well. I admit I don't know enough about OMRI and their standards, etc. to know if this means this a truly organic product or not - but the fact that it's PROHIBITED TO USE ON ANY FOOD CROP leads me to strongly believe it is not. In fact, it also lacks and USDA Certified Organic labeling either.

So in case you didn't guess - I'm not buying the product. I'm going home to quarantine anything I can find labelled Ortho, Miracle Grow or Scotts in the garage (though dad shall be pissed that includes his grass seed). I don't know how or why OMRI has restricted it from use on edible plants. I don't really care at this point, because if that is the most up to date info OMRI has on the product, then Scotts is LYING and very possible PUTTING THE CONSUMER AT RISK by pushing this product on your organic edible garden.

I'm gonna contact my local Home Depot's about this and the nurseries I visit as well.

Shame on you Scotts.


Mary's Gardening Calendar