You might have read our recent post about the excessive use of damaging pesticides in imported cut flowers, but of almost equal concern is fungicide usage. You see, Ecuador, where many of the roses sold in the US are grown, has high amounts of rainfall and the greenhouses where these flowers are grown are notorious for holding in humidity and creating fungus issues like Botrytis. Botrytis can create spots on a rose, and often won't appear on a rose until after it's left the farm.
To prevent these spots from showing up on roses once they hit the retail market and dissuading customers from buying them, foreign growers have developed a worrisome and toxic method of dipping the entire rose into a vat of fungicide, first dunking the bloom, and then the stem. The workers in charge of this job wear respirator masks to avoid inhaling the products, which are then packaged directly into flower sleeves and shipped to the US (no, they are not rinsed off afterward). Of the 37 products that are used as rose dip treatments, 17 of them have been identified by the Pesticide Action Network to be problematic as groundwater pollutants or harmful to humans, toxic to life and the environment. Unfortunately, Valentine's Day, the biggest flower holiday in the US, is also a time when domestic roses are, by and large, dormant in their fields. This means the VAST majority of cut roses purchased during February have been dipped in a toxic blend of fungicides and pesticides. Not exactly the way I'd want to say "I love you!"
As we have completely eliminated peat from our seed starting and growing (see more about that in this post), we had to seek out an alternative (previously we were using the Vermont Compost Company's Fort Vee mix to soil block). This led us to develop a couple of peat-free soil blocking recipes.
Hey, farmer/gardener/soil curator! Been looking for an inexpensive way to increase the level of beneficial microbes, slow release nitrogen and minerals? Have you heard of mesophyllic fertilizer? No? Neither had we, until we stumbled across this recipe...