Does Local Environment Affect Your Organic Garden?

Posted on Jul 27 2011 - 2:47am by Mike Lieberman

There was a discussion on my Facebook profile about how there is so much out of our control that we can’t truly be healthy and maintain an organic lifestyle.

That got me thinking about my balcony garden and how organic it really is. My block right now is a freakin circus and a mess. My street is being dug up and repaved and on the other side there is new construction going on.

There is lots of who knows what that is being tossed into the air, machinery and fuel that’s being burned in a close proximity to me and the fumes from the tar…need I say more?

These are all factors that I can’t really control though. I can control them, but I think the construction workers would win out if I attempted to stop them.

I can’t worry about that though. This is why to me organic means much more than just a label and certification. It doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t continue to grow my own food and it shouldn’t be a reason why you don’t either. It’s just another excuse.

I know what I’m putting in my containers and am doing my best given the circumstances that I’m facing.

What’s going on in your environment that might not be considered so organic to your garden?

28 Comments so far. Feel free to join this conversation.

  1. Tris July 27, 2011 at 1:18 pm -

    Our apartment complex was built on what used to be a swamp.  Needless to say, there are still “swampy” areas all around us.  Once a month, helicopters come flying over and spray for mosquitos in those areas.  Being at the southern end of the property, I’m sure we get a fairly large dose of those pesticides.  Yuck!  Another minor non organic problem we face is that we are right next to a main entrance.  People coming in and out tend to use some of my larger pots as an ashtray.  I stopped planting food stuffs in that particular pot and switched to flowers as I don’t want to eat anything that has been soaked in other people’s cigarette butts.  Parents let their kids pick my flowers.  🙁  I’ll keep on, though.  The compliments on our garden from the more concientious neighbors are worth the effort!

  2. Mike Lieberman July 27, 2011 at 2:03 pm -

    Cigarette butts…nasty. It’s crazy what goes on around us.

  3. Megan July 27, 2011 at 2:56 pm -

    unfortunately the air in the city isnt the greatest, but as long as you dont use any pesticides or harsh chemicals or hormones in your garden you will be fine. I live next to a really busy street not far from the free way, and sometimes can smell the sewage from the waste dump a couple miles to the north. From car polutants and other wastes in the air, I know its difficult to really believe that you are being organic. But this is the world we live in, and often one that we have to adapt to.

  4. Cedar Chest July 27, 2011 at 3:04 pm -

    There is shit in the air all the time.  Nothing you can do about that.  Planes and jets and helicopters flying around all the time, crap from volcanoes, nuclear reactors going kaboom, just to name a few.  There’s just no way to be perfect and if your facebook fans are too stupid to know that, how on earth did they get this far in life?  It does make one wonder about some people.  If they’re looking for a pristine life, they better open another planet because this one is planet dumbass in their way of thinking.  Good grief. 

    You have to do the best you can with what you’ve got.  Avoid what you KNOW is bad if you can, if you can’t just go for it regardless. 

  5. Dawn Mischler July 27, 2011 at 4:08 pm -

    On this earth it would be difficult to find a supreme and pristine place to grow our food!   The air we have here in MKE is maybe not as bad as some I suppose (fooling myself to feel better) but I don’t trust the water.   The city water table infiltrates my veges that I have in the ground, and we use rainwater that we gather for all our pots, but the rain falls from the polluted sky completing the vicious circle. 
     (Fooling myself to feel better) once a month we drive to a wooded, seemingly untouched area to gather tons of spring water for drinking, cooking, and watering our potted vegetables..which once upon a time streamed through the polluted sky.  I guess it really boils down to doing the best we can in our environment (s) and feeling good about growing our own food rather than purchasing processed crap that has 15 times more unhealthy stuff in it than our “organic” produce.

  6. Danielle Williams July 27, 2011 at 5:11 pm -

    I have a hard time with the water as well, so we started purchasing reverse osmosis filtered water in 5 gallon bottles and have one of those dispensers. It costs more but it doesn’t have fluoride or any of those wonderful add ins. I like knowing that I can get healthy water.

  7. Mike Lieberman July 27, 2011 at 5:59 pm -

    Well said.

  8. Mike Lieberman July 27, 2011 at 6:00 pm -

    Don’t hold back on your thoughts and beliefs 🙂

  9. Mike Lieberman July 27, 2011 at 6:01 pm -

    Very well stated 😉

  10. Mike Lieberman July 27, 2011 at 6:01 pm -


  11. Farmerfanny July 27, 2011 at 7:56 pm -

    Tris I would be putting up a big sign about those butts or give them a bucket clearly marked. I know what you are going through as my son and his idiot friends smoke all around here and just drop their butts where ever, in dry leaves even. They all have been told NO SMOKING ANY WHERE ON THIS PROPERTY! So they go on the sidewalk and smoke under my pineish tree, DUH! Then boys have a bad habit of spitting talk about toxic waste. Smoking can bring mosaic disease to your tomatoes.  I can’t even be organic if I finally get back to the farm where I was raised as there are hops all around me and they use nasty pesticides. Oh & while I’m complaining even the neighbor cats think my nicely dug dirt is for their use.

  12. Tris July 28, 2011 at 12:27 pm -

    Sadly, there was a butt container by each door.  They just don’t get used very much or have been kicked, abused or broken.  I know this because I’m the caretaker here as well as an avid container gardener.  I forgot all about the cats too!  We have several of them that roam around at night and dig up the dirt. (Not to mention ticking off my cats who aren’t allowed outside.)  So much for the leash laws.  I caught one cat once but animal control in our city consists of 1 man who is overwhelmed and he doesn’t come out for cats anymore as the shelters and foster homes are all full.  🙁   All of this complaining makes me sound like a negative Nancy but I truly try to be a positive person.  Part of apartment living is learning to deal with so many neighbors and like I said in my original comment, the compliments on the garden are worth the effort and the headaches.  Thanks, Fanny and Mike, for your support!

  13. Kathy @ nativegardener July 28, 2011 at 9:05 pm -

    I notice a big difference in the fruit grown at my friend’s house in the SanFernandoValley, than mine here in the SM Mtns. Because of the cars, I guess, her fruit has black soot that needs to be washed off.. Yuck.

  14. Kathy @ nativegardener July 28, 2011 at 10:17 pm -

    But her soil is good & she gets lots of veges.. 

  15. Mike Lieberman July 29, 2011 at 2:54 pm -

    Whoa. That’s pretty crazy.

  16. Ysmeine August 2, 2011 at 1:41 am -

    I live in a rural area with corn fields everywhere. Last year I was concerned when I noticed a plane spraying in the distance. There is a playground closer than I am. They do have regulations to prevent drift, but a couple days later I found both a dead bird and a dead butterfly in my yard. Of course a cat could have drug the bird in or it could have been sick or poisoned elsewhere and was drawn in by the birdfeeder. You still worry.

  17. Ysmeine August 2, 2011 at 1:41 am -

    I live in a rural area with corn fields everywhere. Last year I was concerned when I noticed a plane spraying in the distance. There is a playground closer than I am. They do have regulations to prevent drift, but a couple days later I found both a dead bird and a dead butterfly in my yard. Of course a cat could have drug the bird in or it could have been sick or poisoned elsewhere and was drawn in by the birdfeeder. You still worry.

  18. D.T. Pennington August 3, 2011 at 6:38 pm -

    We have our garden (which is evolving int a small farm) in the middle of the city. The neighborhood we are in is right on the edge of what used to be the manufacturing/factory district. Now it is slowly being converted in art galleries and lofts (gentrification!)

    Our neighborhood was a superfund site and the top 18 inches of top soil in every yard was replaced because it had so many heavy metals in it, little would grow.  The dirt they replaced it with wasn’t much better – just dirt, no nutrient or activity in it. 

    This year we built raised beds for our garden and made a mix of peat, soil and compost to give our garden a fighting chance. We also planted a bunch of stuff directly into the ground we weren’t planning on eating. Instead, the in-ground plants are working the soil, giving it life, and filtering out some of the nasty stuff that could be down there. 

  19. Mike Lieberman August 4, 2011 at 12:37 am -

    Sounds like a nice lil project you got going on.

  20. Mike Lieberman August 7, 2011 at 11:09 pm -


  21. Anonymous August 16, 2011 at 5:09 am -

    “Does Local Environment Affect Your Organic Garden?” It sure does when an idiot neighbor sprays roundup along your property line and across the back corner of your property!!!! GRRRrrrr!~Martin

  22. Mike Lieberman August 16, 2011 at 2:14 pm -

    Ugh. That sucks. Sorry to hear. What can you do about that?

  23. Digitalharr September 28, 2011 at 8:41 pm -

    I wanted to let you know that my organic garden isn’t organic at all.  We have secondary water here and it comes right out of the river.  That might not sound like a big deal but it passes through massive poultry and feed lots, several steel mills, orchards and the likes, these corporations and farms are not grown organic so all their junk, which they aren’t supposed to be dumping into the lake that feeds the river; all their junk ends up in the water.  I grow hydroponic because I can control the leeching.  What I didn’t know years ago was that even though I was growing organic, anything that my neighbors applied to their yard, plus our river water, leeched into our soil.  The results were anything but organic.  The only way I can make sure the water and plants end up organic is to grow hydroponic where I am medium less and can use indoor water to fill the containers. 

    Of course, don’t go down to the market and purchase those big box store seeds, order from a company that doesn’t deal with GMO or pre treat all your seeds with their chemicals of choice, make sure you get organic and heirloom seeds for a reason.  But yes, your neighbors selection of lawn and garden chemicals plus your source of garden water can and do impact your own garden plot. 

  24. Mike Lieberman September 29, 2011 at 1:35 am -

    Wow. That’s pretty crazy!?!? 

  25. Amy Pearson October 13, 2011 at 12:21 pm -

    Eating organic food is a great step towards a
    healthy lifestyle. Unfortunately, many organic fruits and vegetables are a bit
    more costly. To combat the increased cost, and to ensure that the food you are
    eating is 100% organic, you may want to start your own organic garden.


  26. Mike Lieberman October 13, 2011 at 4:40 pm -

    Amen to that.

  27. Katerina May 11, 2012 at 8:48 am -

    I try to keep our garden as close to natural as possible, but I have alot on my side. I live in the country on 6 acres(only about 1 is cleared), we have well water and our neighbors don’t spray things and they are far away enough so it “might” contaminate the ground water, but even the well is 800ft down. We don’t spray except for wasps, we use chicken manure from our chickens and natural fertilizer. And even with all that and the fresh air, you still have to worry about what the hell is in the water, the rain water,etc…nothing is truely safe. I just am content in knowing I’ve done the very most I can with what I”ve got, and think I am very lucky to be tucked away in nature far removed from most chemicals

  28. Mike Lieberman May 12, 2012 at 5:00 pm -

    I’m hoping to one day have that amount of land.

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