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…)

It’s A Small (Farm) World: Organic Growers In Russia

Russian Farm MarketRussian ban on imported meat, milk and produce spurs farm-to-table revolution.

Your friendly, neighborhood Planet Natural Blogger, like pretty much everyone with an organic garden in the backyard, supports locally-grown, small farm, sustainable agriculture. We buy a lot of organic grains, vegetables, fruits and meats because, well, we simply can’t raise anything close to our yearly needs of everything in our yard’s growing space. We like to buy them from responsible, nearby farmers as much as possible. But there are seasons — like the one we’re in now! — where that isn’t always possible, excluding things like meat, milk, eggs and root vegetables. Everything else comes from elsewhere. (more…)

Conifers In the Winter Landscape

Snowy ConiferGrowing evergreens takes planning, care … and water.

Our latest cold snap here in Bozeman is breaking and the forecast says that tomorrow the temperature will rise above freezing for the first time in, well, I don’t even want to think about it. As winter sets in more than a month before its calendar arrival, it reminds us how much we love evergreens. With the leaves dead and mostly gone from the deciduous trees, we never lack in our favorite color. Luckily conifers of all types keep us in green through the long winter.

We in the West love our pines and firs and spruce and junipers. Not only are there native varieties to plant, but grafted or otherwise naturally altered evergreens will also do well in cold and colder environments.The native conifers tend to be water-wise plants, able to exist in your natural xeriscape. Many are appropriate for planting on inclines and side hills where drainage is good. That’s because they can get by on less water. (more…)

Gardening With Kids

Child GardenerGardens can be a great place to cultivate a meaningful and fun learning experience for children. It’s a natural match. Gardening can offer children an opportunity to learn the life cycle process, by which plants are grown, as well as responsibility, caretaking, independence, and environmental awareness. Introducing children to gardening is a great way to increase their awareness of where food comes from and the importance of the environment in everyday life.

Gardening Basics

One of the most important things to determine when starting a garden is the location. Ideally the garden should be placed in an area where it will receive maximum sunlight. It is also important to determine the soil quality of the area and assess what needs to be added to the soil chemistry to maximize growth potential. The soil should be dug six to ten inches. Layering the soil with some kind of organic material will help to strengthen it. Drawing up a plan of the garden is another way to help make the most of the garden’s potential. Tallest plants should be at the north end of the garden, while permanent plants should be on the sides. For those who don’t have a lot of space to garden, containers are another option for growing plants. Containers can be made from materials such as plastic or clay, and must have adequate drainage to avoid root rot. Plants grown in containers should be planted in a ready to use potting soil and watered frequently. Some basic gardening tools to have handy are rakes, hoes, spades, trowels, and watering cans. (more…)

Cold Snap Puts Freeze On Gardening

Cold Weather GardenWhy gardeners are more sensitive to the weather.

Your warm and friendly Planet Natural Blogger was all smug over finishing his last post about sticking bulbs in the ground late in the fall when Mother Nature delivered a well-deserved lesson. Almost everything depends on her.

So with the surface soil frozen solid and snow covering it anyway, bulb planting season is probably over for us here in Montana and in other parts of the country as well.

The temperatures are so cold that a friend who was hoping to keep a crop of greens going in his cold frame until Thanksgiving reports that despite plenty of mulch over the greens and a tarp over the frame (securely anchored) he’s lost his crop, except for maybe the kale. Last year, he was proud to serve up fresh salad from the garden at his Thanksgiving feast. (more…)

USDA Approves Genetically Modified Potato

GMO PotatoesNew potato underscores complexity of GMO issue.

Potatoes genetically engineered to resist bruising and contain less of a suspected cancer causing agent were approved November 7 by the United States Department of Agriculture for commercial planting. A story in The New York Times says the potatoes were developed by the J. R Simplot Company of Boise, Idaho, the first company to provide potatoes to the McDonald’s hamburger chain beginning in the 1960s. Simplot continues to provide the international fast-food chain with potatoes.

The GMO potato raises a variety of questions and a host of issues when it comes to the engineering and the marketing of GMO crops. Is there ever a time when genetic engineering is okay? (more…)

Late Season Bulb Planting

Flower BulbsTips for planting your favorite fall bulbs.

Your friendly Planet Natural Blogger is on the record saying that, depending how severe your winters, the best place to store any extra spring-blooming bulbs you might have is in the ground. Bulbs generally don’t store well inside and even those you carefully pack in containers of sawdust or peat moss and kept in the garage or basement (if it’s cool enough) aren’t all going to make it. Those that do will be something other than the bulbs you started with.

The common wisdom on planting bulbs in fall — tulips, daffodils, iris, hyacinths, crocus, and others — is that they should be planted at first frost. Some hardy bulbs, like the crocus colchicum, take to earlier planting than others, They need at least five weeks before the ground freezes hard to develop. In some northern and high elevation areas, that five-weeks is drawing to a close. Timing your planting, of course, depends on your particular conditions. (more…)

GMO Vote Close Despite Millions Spent Against

Corporate MoneyOregon results mixed, Maui Imposes GMO Moratorium

NOTE: This post on the Oregon GMO Measure 92 was written the day after the election when the fate of the measure was too close to call. Since then, the Oregonian has declared that the measure lost narrowly. The vote count was so close, 50.4 percent against, 49.6 in favor, that some have questioned how the decision can be called with ballots still to be counted. The issues discussed here — the effect of a surge of corporate money used against the measure in the last days of the race as well as the larger issue of winning elections when vastly out spent by corporate and shadow money — are still worthy. We urge you to comment over at our GMO Forum

It’s the morning after voting on GMO ballot measures in Colorado and Oregon and the Oregon measure’s fate is still undecided in a close race. The labeling measure in Colorado was defeated by a two-to-one margin. (more…)

GMO Labeling On Oregon, Colorado Ballots

GMO Labeling in Oregon and CaliforniaWill money defeat common sense once again?

We’ve heard this story before. Anti-labeling forces in Colorado and Oregon are working from the same playbook that previously scuttled GMO labeling measures in Washington and California, spending vast sums of cash donated by the same corporate interests on misleading and false advertising. Sadly, they’re reaping the same results.

The Wall Street Journal reports on polls from both states. One, released in late October and commissioned by the Oregonian newspaper and NBC affiliate KGW, shows 42% respondents in support of the Oregon measure and 48% are against it. The reason? As the Journal reports:

Both supporters and opponents of Oregon’s Prop 92 have funneled millions into the campaign, making it one of the most expensive ballot measures in the state’s history. Among the largest donors against the measure are PepsiCo Inc., Coca-Cola Co., Kraft Foods and seed companies DuPont Co. and Monsanto Co. (more…)

Growing Pumpkins For Fun and Pie

Pumpkin PatchPumpkins are easy to grow organically.

My grandfather used to say that a jack-o-lantern was a waste of a good pumpkin. He grew a pumpkin patch at the end of his garden that would spread out over the rough lawn that bordered it. The next year he’d move it to the other side. He’d get a handful of fruits each year and he didn’t want any of them to go to Halloween carving (see “grandma” below).

Grandpa loved pie and he especially loved pumpkin pie which he ate absent whipping cream or any other adulteration. Grandma was celebrated for her pie crusts, though we often wonder what her great grandchildren would think of the cube of lard that was always in the back of the refrigerator. No matter what time of day grandpa took a piece of pie — including as a bedtime snack — he washed it down with a cup of coffee. He seemed immune to caffeine. (more…)

Grow, Eat Shell Beans

Shell BeansHeirloom “cooking beans” are nutritious, delicious, and easy to raise.

Our correspondent writes in to say the most beautiful things he saw at the last farmers market this fall were the large bowls of heirloom shell beans in colors and patterns he’d never seen before. He bought a couple of the four offered: two cups of the surprisingly popular Jacob’s Cattle, each bean big and colored like a Hereford, and a cup or so of brilliant, unusually black and white, yin-yang patterned “Calypso.”

Interest continues to grow in what our great grandmothers called “cooking beans,” dried shell beans that often require soaking and long cooking times, a process that many time-squeezed home cooks forego in favor of pre-cooked, canned beans. (more…)

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