Planet Natural: The Blog

Planet Natural BlogWelcome to the Planet Natural Blog, a clearinghouse for all things green and growing. What are we about? Organic gardening, sustainability, and the natural lifestyle, of course. That means you’ll find how-tos on raising healthy, great-tasting, heirloom vegetables, growing beautiful landscapes and flowers, composting, and improving soil health. We’re all about controlling weeds without harmful herbicides and pests without toxic pesticides. We’re engaged in conserving water and xeriscape gardening, growing herbs, and raising cover crops, and all the wise-use practices that make for sustainable, healthy gardens and landscapes.

The practice of organic gardening is as old as gardening itself. It’s only in the last several generations that farming and gardening has embraced the chemical fertilizers and risky pesticides that lead to short-term production gains while sacrificing our soil, our wildlife, and our very health. (more…)

Labeling News: Antibiotics and GMOs

Chicken FarmBig chicken takes on “non-human” antibiotics, Congress takes on food labels.

Chicken producers, answering demands from buyers, have been reducing their use of antibiotics in their flocks, often with much accompanying fanfare. But there’s usually a caveat. These declarations are usually limited to antibiotics “important to human medicine.” In other words, chickens are still getting other classes of antibiotics not used by humans.

Perdue Farms, one of the top three chicken raisers in the United States, has begun running ads claiming that two brands of their poultry use “no antibiotics ever.” In an announcement earlier this month, Perdue stated that the percentage of their chickens receiving “animal-only” antibiotics had dropped from 60% to 42% in the last year. This means that over half their chickens meet the no antibiotics pledge. (more…)

New Study Finds Pesticide In Pollen, Honey

Honey Bee HiveMost hives, honeybees examined in state study found to carry neonicotinoids, the pesticides linked to colony collapse disorder.

A new study has found that over 70% of pollen and honey collected from bees at various times in Massachusetts contained one type or another of neonicotinoids, a class of insecticides that’s been implicated in the honey bee die-offs of the last several years. The study was conducted at Harvard University’s Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. (more…)

Vote Set On Limiting Right-To-Know GMO Bill

Monsanto's Dark ActDARK Act seeks to stop states and other jurisdictions from labeling genetically engineered food products.

The House of Representatives is set to vote as early as today (Thursday, July 23) on Kansas Republican Congressman Mike Pompeo’s House Resolution 1599 titled “The Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2015.” Opponents who have labeled the bill as the “Denying Americans The-Right-To-Know” or DARK Act say the legislation is an attempt to preempt state, county and city laws regulating the labeling and growing of genetically modified crops. (more…)

Mid-Summer Garden News

Summer GardeningWe’re growing great greens, cheering beneficial insects, and planning succession planting half-way into the summer garden.

A friend of Planet Natural, big on words and vegetables, writes in with a summer gardening report. We added the links:

We got our garden in late this year. But the heat we’ve had the last few weeks made catch-up easy. There’s no watering restrictions here in our part of the Pacific Northwest, so it’s been easy to compensate for the dryness. Besides, our garden is so small — not much more than two 4×6 raised beds — that it doesn’t require much water. (more…)

Tips To Save Water This Summer

WateringLawn and garden watering jumps in the summer. Here’s how to save water and money at the same time.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, 30% to 70% of the water consumed by America’s residential homes is used outdoors. Summertime lawn and garden watering can multiply household water use two to four times over what is used the rest of the year.

The shocker: half the water used outdoors is wasted.

While the EPA’s website on outdoor water use is promoting their “Water Sense” certification of approved products — and using the highest quality, water-wise products can make a difference — much of water conservation comes from the design of your landscape, especially the plants you choose to grow, and the ways water is applied to that landscape. (more…)

Beet Recipes

Garden BeetsBeets give us delicious, nutritious greens and delectable roots. Here’s recipes for both.

When asked if there was a vegetable we didn’t like, we used to answer “beets.” Our dislike developed early in our gardening days. Easy-to-grow beets were one of the few things we raised in abundance in our cool, moist Pacific Northwest climate. We loved the greens, adding the early leaf thinnings to our salads and chopping big leaves, stems and all, for use in stir fries.

We loved the roots, too, early in the season. Because of their abundance we pickled maybe three or four dozen jars of beets and they were a great addition to cold hor d’oeuvres plates and holiday salads. But sometime after New Year’s, pickled beets began to loose their attraction. (more…)

Causes of Plant Stress

Water Stressed PlantHow lack of water, poor soil and other plant stresses make your garden vulnerable to pests and disease.

Plants are like us people. No matter which biological classification kingdom we’re in, all of us are affected by stress. In humans, stress comes from an infinite variety of circumstances that involve family, health, work conditions, finances, social contact and just plain worry. Plants are stressed in physical ways and not that many.

Give plants enough sunlight and moisture in the right soil conditions and, other than whatever thinning is required to establish non-competitive space, they’ll thrive pretty much stress free. (more…)

GMO Wheat Fails Trials in Great Britain

GMO Wheat FieldEngineered to repel aphids, the genetically modified wheat was instead attacked by the pests in field tests.

The first press reports in 2012 were positively glowing. Scientists in the United Kingdom had developed a GMO wheat using peppermint genes that repelled aphids. Not only would the wheat suffer less damage from the pests, it would reduce the amount of pesticides normally used on it. “Whiffy Wheat” as it was called was said to be the first in a new generation of genetically engineered crops, GMOs that were environmentally friendly and more naturally produced. (more…)

Rain Garden Design

Rain Garden PlantsHow to design environmentally friendly, water-efficient gardens using natural rainfall.

Rain gardens catch and channel the environment’s natural precipitation, delivering it where it will most benefit our plants. At the same time they protect the environment by keeping polluted runoff out of municipal storm sewers. They allow water to percolate into the soil where its needed, avoiding erosion. A well-designed rain garden is sustainable, requiring little or no additional water to maintain life.

Unlike active rainwater harvesting, where runoff from roofs, pavement, and other impermeable surfaces is collected and stored in barrels and cisterns, passive rainwater collection takes moisture when it falls and puts it to best use. But its water may also be collected from those impermeable surfaces, like driveways, and channeled directly to growing things. (more…)

Arugula Recipes

Fresh ArugulaGreat in salads and stir-fries — even casseroles –arugula is a bold, versatile addition to many recipes.

Arugula is one of the first crops we harvest in the spring. It’s quick germination makes it suitable for plantings throughout the growing season. It’s one of the last greens cut in the fall. In milder climates, it will overwinter.

This garden versatility is matched in the kitchen. In the spring, tender young arugula greens with their hint of spiciness, make a perfect pair with another early crop: radishes. In the fall, it’s great in stir fries, can take the place of spinach in lasagne and casseroles, or can be braised briefly with other late greens and served with its pot liquor. (more…)

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