Caption: Sally's organic allotment
Caption: Author Sally Morgan
Organic September is a month-long campaign designed to encourage more people to try organic as a way to promote and educate people about organic food & farming practices. Following a year of unprecedented environmental protest and ground-breaking research, there’s never been a better moment to shout about the role organic farming has to play in the climate change debate.
Here, Author Sally Morgan, co-author of The Climate Change Garden, writes about Soil Association certification & why its so important.
'I discovered Dalefoot Compost 3 years ago while exhibiting at the Edible Garden Show where I was promoting my book, Living on One Acre or Less. Being neighbouring stall holders we got talking and I came home with several bags of compost that had been part of their display. The composts were exactly what I wanted - made from renewable and natural ingredients and #peat-free. But there was one snag. I could use the compost on my garden, but not on my one acre plot which is certified organic. Everything I use on my plot has to be certified organic, including compost. About a third of my one acre plot is given over to allotments and the 6 allotment holders have to grow to full organic standards too. I was thrilled to learn that the whole range has now got Soil Association certification and I could start using it for sowing seeds and mulching.'
'I have always gardened organically, so look for products that are organic. Like many gardeners, I don’t want to add chemicals to my soil. I want to care for my soil and enhance the soil life, not kill it off. The organic symbol is important too because there are a number of composts on sale that shout ‘organic’ but are not actually certified organic. They may well have been made from ‘organic straw’ or contain natural ingredients, but there are no checks to verify their labelling or their sourcing of ingredients. Every organic licensee has to go through an annual inspection when we are asked to produce all our records, receipts, invoices and checks are made on all the products that we have bought during the year, from livestock feed to seed packets to ensure they are also certified organic, so the integrity of the whole food chain is maintained. That’s why you will pay a bit more for a certified product.'
'There is another reason to look for organic certification. There had been a lot of ‘chatter’ on social media in recent weeks about aminopyralid, a broad-leaved weedkiller used by farmers on pasture. The closely related clopyralid is the main ingredient in a popular weedkiller used by gardeners to kill weeds in their lawn. It seems that the drought last year meant that farmers and gardeners experienced weed problems and out came the weedkiller. This persistent weedkiller gets into animal manure on farms while lawn clippings contaminate council green waste. Many composts, both peat-free and peat-based composts make use of green waste so gardeners have found themselves using a compost that contains this weedkiller. Its reared its head this year and there is a new campaign to get it banned. Plants grown in contaminated waste show distorted growth and there is nothing to do but throw the whole lot away in the bin (not on the compost or green waste bin). Aminopyralid was withdrawn in 2005 but was reintroduced in 2008 which more stringent controls – farmers could spray it on fields grazed by livestock but the manure was not to leave the farm, but these controls obviously fail. And gardeners who use weedkiller on their lawns, merrily dump the contaminated clippings in their green waste bins to cause misery for other gardeners down the line. It’s reassuring to know that the Dalefoot compost range doesn’t use green waste, hay or animal manures, but sheep’s wool and bracken.'