By Larry Maeder
Black Lake Organic suffers from a serious lack of exposure. Unless you are already a customer or a friend of a customer, there is a small probability that you will find it by accident. Even knowing where it is, do not be distracted by the lake on your left or you will miss the drive way on your right.
At this fertilizer supply store and gardening information center you can buy any possible organic nutrient or combination. No chemical solutions sold here – it is totally natural. Customers range from the well-educated in organic gardening to the novice who is finding his way. All levels are welcome. You can choose from ten pre-mixed formulas, such as vegetables, shrubs, blueberry-rhododendron mix, lawn feed, and so on. If you just want to buy rock phosphate, blood meal, oyster shell, seabird guano, and dozens of others, they are also here.
Services include soil testing to determine what nutrients are lacking and gives you the pH. The soil profile in our region is very acidic because of the constant rain. It is also rated by National Geographic and other publications as the highest quality in texture.
Most nurseries now carry a similar menu, but few have the technical knowledge and passion as does Gary Klein, the Sultan of Soil, who will walk you through your garden problems and their solutions. Why does your tomato have a black spot on the bottom? Why does your lettuce turn to seed before it ripens? Why don’t I get any fruit on my cherry tree? Ask Gary. He has the knowledge and the tools to fix these common gardening problems.
Trained as a biologist and conservationist, Gary has a bachelors degree from Oregon State University and also from Simpson College in Iowa. His fields of study are biology and wildlife management. He was also the chairman of the first Earth Day at Oregon State University. After working ten years for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, he developed a specialized knowledge of the aquatic environment.
“I bought my house in 1976 and then converted the adjacent land to the current store, office, and sheds of Black Lake Organic,” says Gary, remembering his decision to move back to Olympia.
When Gary became interested in organic gardening, the concepts of conservation were just entering our vocabulary. Many societal topics like global warming and carbon footprints would come years later. Gary’s philosophy, “Don’t tinker with a system that took three and a half billion years to balance and refine – replace the nutrients that are lost every year,” has become common wisdom in organic farming circles. His penchant for tech talk became obvious when the discussion turned to cation exchange, appropriate pH, and N-P-K balance, and the panoply of dozens of other nutrients and their functions.
“I like to remind my customers of the importance of timing,” he states. “You can ruin plants by applying nitrogen at the wrong time. You can waste kelp by applying it at the wrong time. Applying everything at one time in the spring can also be problematic.” More of Gary’s theories can be found on his website.
In the last few months, Gary has sold the business to his step-daughter, Ginger, and has opened a consulting business called Blossom. His services include soil analysis, site inspection, classes and lectures, telephone advice and much more. When it comes to soil, Gary says, “I created the motto – It’s as easy as A B C, which means: amount, balance, completeness.” His passion for these topics, as well as for Ginger and salesman Chris, has reached the level of a missionary zeal. “It has come to now or never as regards to turning around the Earth’s crisis,” says Chris as I talked with him from behind the counter. They are no longer interested in just preaching to the choir, but would like to spread the word to a broader audience.
Ginger is happy with her new role as owner and says, “I feel comfortable because I have great technical knowledge from working here so many years.”
Modern gardeners can grow heirloom tomatoes, bib lettuce, French beans, and a variety of other interesting flowers, produce, and trees in our Olympia backyards. But if your your veggies are signing the blues, put down that shovel and rake and head over to Black Lake Organic and say hello to Ginger.
To learn more, visit the Black Lake Organic website.
Black Lake Organic
4711 Black Lake Blvd SW
Olympia, WA 98512
Hours: Tuesday through Saturday from 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.