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Quick fixes, long-term consequences


I'm not proud of it, but I don't always practice what I preach. See, I was certain I'd planted enough Yukon Gold potatoes to last us all year, but now things don't look good. Instead of compact, robust plants, mine are spindly and yellowing. At first I thought it was one of the many potato diseases out there, but, no, I know better. Maybe I was lazy or in a hurry or both, but I planted my seed potatoes in the old corn-growing plot without bothering to amend the soil. Sweet corn is a heavy-feeding crop, and I thought the soil might be a little nitrogen-deficient, but how bad could it be? As it turns out, quite bad.

I could've corrected the nitrogen deficiency by adding more organic matter, fresh compost, or worm castings, but I didn't. And now I face certain crop failure -- or, at the very least, a very disappointing haul of teeny, tiny potatoes. Still, I'm not willing to give up just yet. . .

Admittedly, I've contemplated going over to the Dark Side and pouring on a little Miracle Grow or some other heavy-duty, synthetic fertilizer. After all, my dad swears by the stuff, and he gets great results. But I know there is a price. Synthetic fertilizers contribute to harmful salt build-up, they're not good for the organisms naturally found in the soil, and, because they release nutrients so quickly, much of our synthetic fertilizers leach into the groundwater and, eventually, contribute to algal blooms in waterways.

So, I guess I'll take my lumps and buy my potatoes this year like everyone else. I realize that being a good organic gardener means thinking about the long-term health of the soil and planning ahead for plants' needs, rather than depending year after year on quick fixes. I'll probably try again next year, but before I do, I'm going to mix in some organic soil amendments, maybe plant some green manure, and contact my local extension office about conducting a soil test. If my growing conditions still look bad? I'll be patient and give that old plot a rest.