Growing Practices

At Ter-Lee Gardens, we pride ourselves in the ability to take care of the land so that it is bountiful for generations to come. We would like to take a few moments to answer questions often asked and explain our growing philosophies.

Tied for the first place questions is:  Do you grow GMO’s?  No, we produce zero GMO's on our farm.  GMO stands for “Genetically Modified Organism”.

The second question asked is: Do you spray? The short answer is yes. But, just because we very occasionally spray does not mean that we are using harmful chemicals. The better question to ask is: What do you spray? This opens the door to discussion regarding the growing practices here at Ter-Lee Gardens.

While growing excellent produce in our far northern location is difficult, to say the least, it does have some excellent healthful advantages. For example, most of the harmful insects that affect the vegetables we grow will not survive our long, cold winters; therefore, the need for organic or any type of pesticides, for that matter, are drastically reduced or eliminated. The vast majority of the crops that we grow have never been sprayed with any pesticides over the 29 years we have sold produce. Many of the insects that we occasionally deal with are native to the southern United States and are basically blown up here by southern winds.  

The other common question received is: Are you organic? No, we are not 100% organic. We do use many organic techniques on our farm, which takes us back to the question: Do you spray? Being organic is often misunderstood with the concept assumed that the crop is never sprayed. This does not have to be the case. There are many, many pesticides that organic producers are permitted to use, but the organic pesticides must be approved by the OMRI (Organic Materials Review Institute). Many of the same pesticides are used by both organic and conventional growers .We have chosen not to be certified organic, with the major reasons being the cost of certification by agencies, paperwork and time, in addition to our firm belief that using biologically sustainable production is better for the environment than just being certified organic. We do reserve the right to use chemical intervention, if it is necessary to save a crop, if we have no other feasible options.

We believe and have seen it proven that crops grown in healthy soil, with a high amount of nutrients, have the ability to fight off a lot of insects and diseases, just like a heathy person does, so we concentrate on putting effort into soil health.

Another point that we feel is extremely important is:  “How often a crop is sprayed during the growing season”. If we do have to spray a crop, it is usually only once to take care of a problem, as compared to a same crop that is being grown in the south or another intense growing region, which may need to be sprayed weekly or even more often during the growing season.   

To understand our growing practices even further, let's break down the pesticide areas as the following:

 Herbicides = control weeds
 Fungicides = control diseases
 Insecticides = control insects  

Herbicides: Since most of our crops for our CSA are produced within our high tunnels, we use no herbicides. (Refer to high tunnel page) Within the high tunnels, our crops are grown on raised soil beds covered with a plastic film mulch which prevents weed growth. Below this film is our drip irrigation, which waters only a narrow band for root growth, thus keeping weed growth to a minimum as there is little moisture for the weed seeds to germinate and grow.   

Much of our outside production (examples: cucumbers/pickles, zucchini, cantaloupe, watermelon, squash, pumpkins, and more) also use plastic mulch, therefore eliminating the need for herbicides around the plants.     
Fungicides: We use very few, if any, because the majority of our CSA products are grown in tunnels where the environment is quite dry, due to high tunnel construction (no rain and dew).  Thus, coupled with our philosophy to produce healthy plants, we have not had to use any fungicides on our farm for the last 10 years, with the exception of strawberries.

Insecticides: Within our high tunnel production, we have not had to use any insecticides for many years. We have not had any serious insect problems. We can/will use beneficial insects (lady bugs, persimilis) to control insect/pest outbreaks.   We do plant things like flowers and plants that attract beneficial insects so as to keep the “bad” insects under control.

As far as sweet corn is concerned, we sometimes need to spray in the fall to prevent earworm infestation. There are organically approved products that work well, unless the infestation gets really bad (as it does almost every year in major sweet corn production areas, which luckily we are not a part of).

Lastly, but very important, our farm is located in a “remote area” where there are no other vegetable farms for long distances, which really cuts down on the incidences of all classes of pests.