My wonderful story about Organic Soil

On April 29, 2010 Anne Raver of the New York Times asked:

"How does Tony Avent, the horticultural mythbuster, grow so many plants successfully in his garden?
Rule No. 1: he uses the same mix of 40 percent native soil, dug on his own land, and 60 percent compost for every plant.

''The soil for every plant we have is prepared exactly the same, whether it's a pitcher plant or an agave,'' ....

After he switched to organics, he said, ''it took about a year before everything started jumping. Our insect problems disappeared. It was just amazing.'' ...."

(Tony Avent runs the wonderful Plant Delights Nursery - offering an incredibly diverse collection of plants and the catalog is a collectors' item)
This observation took me back to 1972 when I was a landscape architecture student at the University of Hawaii and also minoring in tropical agriculture

The university farm was in Pearl City ( next to Pearl Harbor) and it was divided into one large section devoted to standard agriculture (agribusiness majors)  plots and a very small section reluctantly relegated to organic gardens (run by us 'hippie haoles' who were studying tropical agriculture)...

I had come to Hawaii via Kenya and was very interested in saving the world through tropical organic gardening.
This is me in Pearl City, Hawaii tending to my vegetable garden years ago - note the Kenyan Kikoy I was wearing..the latest in fashionable gardening clothes.. .:-)

The agriculture students got stipends for their seeds, fertilizer and pesticides...

the organic students got nothing....and you know what happened?


Well,  every semester the organic plots got better and better because the soil was being improved consistently with fish emulsion and compost ( a local health services organization was training mentally disabled students on how to make compost on premises)

while every semester the big fertilized plots run by the aggies got worse and worse...this was back when 'organic' was some weird, unrealistic approach to agriculture....and no professor back then would acknowledge what was pretty evident to the eyes.

Of course, it didn't help when the campus newspaper did a cover story on our 'new organic plots' at Pearl City..and they interviewed me.

I talked about how our crops were flourishing and about a new (ha!) organic pest control called BT -bacillus thuringensis. After that interview,  I presented a report to a Hawaii legislature committee on why Oahu should use their sewage sludge in a soil fertilizer similar to Milwaukee's Milorganite ....

they didn't go for it but look at what is out there today:

Now, almost 40 years later, I marvel at how long it took society to understand what we - the hippie haoles - knew:  Organic is the only is Nature's Way.

And look at what they offer at Pearl City today:

Organic Gardening!

Live demonstrations by UH Master Gardeners including Organic Gardening 101, Building Healthy Soil, and Composting! First demonstration begins 9AM -10AM, next session 10:30AM -11:30AM.

Composting Worms for Hawaii 
Small-Scale Vermicomposting
Backyard Composting Recycling a Natural Product
Building Healthy Garden Soil
Organic Gardening Resources

We have come a long way....

The truth is that true tranquility lies in compost and happy earthworms....

Johnsen Landscapes & Pools - designed and installed

And if you live in Connecticut you should know about these people too:


  1. In my point of view You sure did put a new twist on something that Ive heard so much about. And How did you manage to make a blog that as smart as it is sleek?

    1. wow Exam Cram - you made my day! Thanks! and good luck on those exams....

  2. Jan, Love this post. Very nicely written and illustrated!! Great content too, of course.

  3. Carolyn - I am so glad you enjoyed it...I love to share 'ancient history' with all organic minded friends out there.


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