Home Food Tulsans develop organic soils for healthier plants | Home & Garden

Tulsans develop organic soils for healthier plants | Home & Garden

by Atlanta Business Journal

Before entering the horticulture business over a decade ago, Carla and Kelly Grogg didn’t consider themselves to be gardening experts of any kind.

“I’m not a horticulturist, and neither is my husband — we don’t have any botany background — but we always really enjoyed being in our yard together,” Carla Grogg said.

In 2008, however, a family member received a cancer diagnosis, and the Groggs wanted to do anything they could to help. The couple turned to organic edible gardening, in hopes of growing healthier food with less harsh chemicals to help their family member along the path of recovery.

“Staying away from high-pesticide foods and ensuring that your immune system is at its best during that time is critical,” Carla Grogg said.

Realizing there weren’t many resources available for organic farming at the time, the Groggs did extensive research into the practice, honing their home garden little by little and learning to grow fruits and vegetables free of pesticides in their backyard.

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With time, the couple realized they weren’t the only ones interested in growing healthy food at home and decided to open their own organic garden center, Grogg’s Green Barn — the first and only organic garden center in Oklahoma at the time.

“We had so many people approaching us asking, ‘How do I grow my own pepper plants?’ ‘How do I grow my own lettuce and tomatoes?’” Carla Grogg said. “So we decided that would be our focus and passion and what we wanted to share more about with our customers, which set us apart from other garden centers.”

Throughout the years of owning Grogg’s Green Barn, the Groggs realized that some of the most popular soil brands on the market contained ingredients in their products that weren’t conducive to the organic farming their customers wanted to do.

“We saw firsthand the quality and ingredients of other leading brands of soil,” Carla Grogg said. “(Their products were) packed full of synthetic chemicals, bags with shredded mulch to act as a filler and the lack of good nutrients made us begin to think there must be a better product out there … We wanted to assist our customers in being successful gardeners, however, these soils were letting our gardening and sustainable-minded customers down.”

On top of that, growers flocking to Oklahoma after the legalization of cannabis were buying up any organic soil the Groggs sold at Grogg’s Green Barn.

“Cannabis growers are really conscious about how they grow because they don’t want heavy metals or other things showing up on their testing,” Carla Grogg said. “They have to hold their products to a higher standard, so they were buying our organic products and cleaning us out of our soil — we couldn’t get soil fast enough.”

With that, the Groggs decided to pivot their business, eventually closing the garden center to focus solely on creating organic soil in 2019.

“My husband and I looked at each other and were like, ‘We’re in the middle of agriculture country, so why is no one producing organic soil?’” Carla Grogg said. “We knew from owning the garden center what components needed to go into making good soil, so we decided to make our own.”

The Groggs began working with experts to develop a multi-use organic soil that’s easy to use and maintain while using less water than other popular soils. They started bagging their own soil in unmarked bags and eventually, as their venture grew, rebranded their business to become what it is now GP Soils.

GP Soils sells two products: a seed starter and base soil and an infused living soil. What makes the soil “living” is the fact that it keeps nourishing a plant long after it’s planted, Carla Grogg said.

“Living soil has more longevity for your plant over a longer length of time,” Carla Grogg said. “If you’re planting a tree, you want the root system and the trunk to be really strong. Over time, the living soil will still be releasing nourishment to the tree. People are busy and now that things are open, they’re traveling more. Our soil is going to maintain the health of the plant. Even if you’re out of town or you forget to water it, it keeps working.”

GP Soils is now being distributed by seven local centers, and the Groggs hope to keep the business growing and expanding. They hope to raise awareness of the many benefits organic farming can have on personal health. Having healthier soil produces healthier plants with a wider array of nutrients, Carla Grogg said.

“When you’re growing your crops with organic soil, those crops are going to be more nutrient-dense for our own health systems to intake,” Carla Grogg said.

Growing healthy plants and crops without chemicals and pesticides is not only beneficial for the health of humans, but also for the animals like pollinators, she said.

“If you’re growing zinnias with an organic soil, it’s going to release nutrients in a timely cycle for the plant, and those nutrients will go up through the stem and into the actual pollen of the plant,” Carla Grogg said. “If you’re using a soil with a lot of harsh chemicals, it can make the pollen toxic to pollinators, so any butterfly or bee who feeds on it will ingest that, which can be detrimental to our health.”

During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Carla Grogg said she saw many people express a new interest in organic farming.

“Over the past 20 to 30 years, our human nature has strayed away from the act of gardening … I think many things bring that back to us — but most definitely the thought of being ill,” Carla Grogg said. “The pandemic (over) the past two years brought light to this topic once again. Not only were we boosting our immune systems, but we also had the threat of scarcity of food on the grocery store shelves.”

Grogg said she and her husband want to keep the spirit of organic farming alive, teaching people all over that organic farming is not just important, but easier to do than some might think.

“Even if you live in an apartment or if you have a small backyard, you can grow your own crops — you don’t need a tractor or several acres of land!” Carla Grogg said.

For more information about GP Soils, visit gpsoils.com or follow them on Instagram at @gpsoils.

Join their Facebook group, Carla’s Greenspace, for information about community gardening and resources to get started.

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