In July of 1989 after studying and working in horticulture for 15 years, Windy Meadow Nursery was founded with the ultimate objective of reducing the need for chemical fertilizers and pesticides in the greenhouse and nursery. Borrowing from the saying “You are what you eat” I embarked on a thorough study of soil science, plant nutrition and microbiology to create the first disease suppressive WSDA certified organic potting soil in the United States. We are celebrating thirteen years of growing in our own certified organic potting soil.What started as a proactive stand on environmental issues such as nutrient retention and integrated pest management has blossomed into a holistic production system that continuously strives to use resources efficiently, minimize waste and foster a greater understanding of sustainable production practices in the horticulture industry and for our customer, home gardeners.
Biological Control / INTREPID Coco-Coir®and INTREPID Health Assure
Plant health has been associated with healthy soil for only the last 100 years when microbiologists discovered that organic crop residues and green manures plowed into the field could suppress plant pathogens. These practices encouraged the growth of large populations of unidentified soil microbes that suppressed disease by out numbering them through the process of antagonistic competition.
Modern microbiologists are able to isolate, name and culture microbes they find useful for Medicine, Agriculture and Industrial remediation. Today, 80% of antibiotics and almost half of all new drugs are derived from microorganisms. The diversity of useful metabolites each microbe produces is as varied as each strain of organism. The common bacterium Bacillus subtilis has 890 strains identified within the species, each producing its own unique set if metabolites. Most soil organisms are benign causing neither harm nor good but a few have shown to be beneficial to plant growth, some acting as natural fungicides when applied to the soil and even the leaves of plants. When a consortium of physiologically and ecologically compatible microbes is introduced to young plants early in the crop cycle, plants respond in ways that eliminate transplant shock and enhance vigor and garden performance. Successfully establishing populations of Plant Growth Promoting Rhizobacteria in the nursery and garden has been our focus for over a decade. Metabolites produced by bacteria and fungi improve growth, yield and quality of crops and increases tilth, fertility and productivity of soils. Microbes produce humates when complex organic amendments are mineralized and cycled to plant roots boosting nutrient absorption, often resulting in reduced crop production times and productivity gains.
Many times, when conventionally grown plants leave the protective confines of the greenhouse, cultural and environmental stresses render even mature plants susceptible to pathogenic infections. INTREPID plants withstand the inclement spring weather the Northwest is famous for without fail. Every plant grown at Windy Meadow under the INTREPID Coco-Coir® and INTREPID Health Assuretm brands are inoculated with several strains of beneficial microbes that shift the microbial equilibrium away from ‘sterile’ and potentially unhealthy soil to a naturally healthy and stable ecosystem. In 1997, while formulating our potting soil, the decision to use Coconut fiber was made because aged peat moss is able to support the growth of many plant pathogens because they prefer the same cold wet conditions that peat moss evolved in. Expensive and energy intensive steam sterilization of peat based potting soils has been the recommendation for decades but still does not cure the problem, because naked environments attract life, either good or bad. Weeks after transplanting young plants into peat based mixes (when the soil is not ‘sterile’ any longer) a dose of chemical fungicide is recommended. When its effectiveness diminishes, reapplication often becomes necessary.
Coconut fiber is a much healthier choice for potting soils, growing in the heat of the tropics; it’s a foreign substrate to temperate zone plant pathogens and will not decompose as quickly in a biologically active potting soil. Its use as a potting soil has been documented since 1678 as depicted on our vegetable tags and soil label. Adding several protein based organic fertilizers to the potting soil ensures a greater microbial diversity with each material supplying the complex organic molecules needed for maintaining stable population densities. Another benefit of these water insoluble nutrients is their inability to leach from the root zone like chemical fertilizers and will supply some nutrients to plants and microbes over the entire growing season. The organic amendments in INTREPID Coco-Coir®; Fish meal, Feather meal, Bone meal and Blood meal supply a balance of controlled release nutrients that maintain dense populations of beneficial soil microbes including free living bacteria and biological fungicides that colonize all parts of the plant to protect it from many types of stress and attack by insects and disease. Organisms that suppress disease in soil may limit plant stress by inducing Systemic Resistance, the plants natural defense mechanism.
Biologically dynamic synergies arise when growing with these natural system strategies. We refer to this as The INTREPID Advantage, as inoculated plants grow larger, so does the population of beneficial organisms, providing protection to neighboring plants growing in the garden. Less sustainable and toxic chemical remedies lose their effectiveness and require rotating between chemical classes to reduce resistant strains of pathogens from developing. No pathogen has developed resistance to biological controls because of their unique mode of action. Abandoning the ossified paradigm of chemical agriculture and embracing biologically mediated processes has resulted in substantial savings of fertilizer, pesticides and loss of plants due to health concerns over the past two decades. In 2012 these sustainable production methods will again be used to produce close to 1000 varieties of flowers and 250 varieties of herb and vegetable starts and will make their way to independent garden centers across the Puget Sound Region.
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