A Mini Bio
If you're a friend of mine, you already know a little about me & my history. But if you're a new visitor to Albopepper you might wonder about the person behind this site. You would be right to consider the reliability of any information you find out here on the web. So allow me to explain my background and philosophies.
My name is Al (Albert) Gracian III. I don't have a degree beyond a simple Associate Degree. I'm not a credited, certified horticulturalist or botanist. I've never taken a Master Gardener course. I don't work for an agricultural extension at a university.
In other words, I'm quite possibly like you. Someone who, loves gardening and wants to learn more.
I'm not a farmer. I'm a graphic designer. Well that's my profession (for now). But not my passion. Urban gardening has been my most fulfilling physical endeavor ever. It provides content to fuel my design skills. But also: writing, math, chemistry, botany, drafting, carpentry. And oh yes! Landscaping.
I grew up digging holes with my Father who took me on landscaping jobs when I was 6 years old. He's a hard worker who loves plants, loves the outdoors and recently regained his love for home gardening. I know he's influenced me. And as I've delved into urban gardening, I've inspired him as well. The concept of landscaping is always present with me when planning a planter or herb bed. My ideal approach would be an entirely edible landscape. I strongly dislike landscapes composed of purely ornamental trees, shrubs & flowers. Where are the fruit & nut trees? What about the lovely perennial herbs? Edible flowers? Sure! Why not? There are entire books about the idea and they're worth reading.
ORGANIC? Yes! I support organic gardening. I'm not a purist, per say. For me, it's not about being certified organic. But I try to adopt as many organic practices as I can.
GMO? I am strongly opposed to GMO. I believe that the genetic engineering of plants goes against the natural laws governing life. There are certain natural mechanisms of reproduction or propagation that have been used by humans for thousands of years. Humans might artificially select strains, but they do so within the natural framework of life. Incompatible forms of life are not able to produce viable offspring. Thus, two totally different forms of life (like a fish and a tomato) cannot exchange genes.
I do not agree with the bypassing of these natural barriers. I'm not afraid that the food is unsafe. I simply disagree with the ethics of GMO technology. The way to find better strains should always be through breeding. Hybrids, and then ultimately Heirlooms, should be our future, not our past. The only splicing should be done through grafts.
PESTICIDES? Predatory insects. Physical barriers. HEALTHY PLANTS. That's the key. Keep sprays to the minimum and only use organic. Save them for really bad infestations and only use them in those specific spots, like a scalpel.
FERTILIZER? I understand the advantages of chemical fertilizers. I'm not religiously opposed to them. A good time-release fertilizer can provide reliable, trouble-free results. And remember, all of those "synthetic chemicals" get turned into organic matter which can then be composted.
But please do not rely solely on synthetics. I believe strongly in the inclusion of organic supplementation. This is actually not that hard, especially for a home gardener. Try to build a healthy soil profile of beneficial bacteria and fungi. Even in pots, I've had great success with organic fertilizers and I hope to gain greater success in years to come. It's worth it!
I'm an Urban Gardener, with limited space. At times, sustainability can be a challenge. Container gardening, and in particular, SIPs require specific materials for optimal results. Of course, even the very concept of being sustainable can mean different things to different people.
MY PERSONAL GOALS IN SUSTAINABILITY: First and foremost, I've focused on waste reduction. In addition to obvious recycling efforts, I've tried to develop a system of reusing my organic waste. For me, the key has been hot composting with a tumbler and vermi-composting by means of red worms. These two combined efforts have resulted in the complete recycling of kitchen food scraps, tree trimmings, weeds and garden plants (even diseased plants). The compost is used in my in-ground beds. The worm castings are used in my containers and seed-starting mixes. Nothing is wasted.
For water conservation, I've found SIP containers to be a nice help. I use them in such a way that they harvest and store rain water. I also use a rain barrel, although I don't rely solely on that water for irrigation. But I definitely don't waste water on my lawn. In fact, I mow my tiny grassed areas with a reel mower (no fossil fuels).
WHAT IS SUSTAINABILITY TO YOU? Some people may have a rigid set of standards when it comes to permaculture and sustainable gardening techniques. Myself personally, I feel the most important thing is to garden! Just dig in and get started. As you learn and grow, you can refine your philosophy and techniques. But do your best.
And one last piece of advice: Don't judge other gardeners based on your own self-imposed gardening standards. Not everyone has the same level of experience or the same amount of resources. If a person is trying though, then that's a good start! Share ideas, without resorting to attacking a person or their methods.