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…)

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…)

Rainwater Harvesting

Harvesting RainwaterHow to reduce water use, save money, and fight drought by harvesting and collecting rainwater.

Rainwater collection and storage systems capture a gift from the sky. They’ve been used for centuries where and when rains are absent. Today, in the face of persistent drought and depleted aquifers, rain water harvesting makes more sense than ever.

No matter how it’s collected or what it’s used for, utilizing rainwater lessens the pressure on our water supply. Rainwater harvest is appropriate in desert climates with monsoon seasons or infrequent thunderstorms as well as regions with adequate rainfall. Like solar-generated electricity stored in a battery, harvested rainwater is there when you need it. (more…)

Gardening Reality Check

Cabbage ProblemsNo one said gardening is a bed of roses.

Your enthusiastic Planet Natural blogger writes a lot about the joys of gardening, how it enriches our lives, provides us exercise, and gives us measures of success. Sometimes those measures don’t exactly come in heaping spoonfuls.

Frustration and disappointment are part of gardening, too. Setbacks, mistakes, and out-and-out failure are part of every growing season. Gardening doesn’t promise you a rose garden.

This early in the gardening season (June before the solstice), after everything’s been sown and transplanted, gardeners face a dose of reality. Not every plant we set out survives to give us beautiful blossoms or a bountiful harvest. (more…)

Take Action To Save Pollinators

Bee PollinationPlants that bring bees, butterflies, and other pollinators to your garden can help save them.

It’s the time of year when air-borne pollinators are buzzing and humming and hovering all over our gardens. Honey bees are working the purple orbs atop chive stalks, wild bees are crawling the first pale, stem-bound blossoms of a potted rosemary plant, hummingbirds are working trumpet-shaped azalea blossoms, and various-sized and colored wasps are busy visiting flowers of all sorts blooming in our yards and landscapes.

Earlier in the season, the bees were all over our apple blossoms. Not long from now, they’ll be in the pea blossoms while butterflies will be tracing twisted, sunlit paths above our heads. They’ll all be doing the work of pollination, the natural process so important to the plants that feed us and bring us beauty. (more…)

Gardening and the Five-Gallon Bucket

5 Gallon BucketChores, container gardens and other uses for 5 gallon buckets.

After our post on garden tools, a friend mentioned that we’d left out an important one: the five-gallon bucket. “Gardeners are doing things with buckets that we can’t imagine,” he enthused. “It’s truly the tool of a thousand uses. And there are uses still out there that no one has yet dreamed.”

He might be exaggerating. But buckets of all sorts are utility tools, good for carrying, mixing, and picking up. And if they’re used, food-grade 5 gallon buckets (no one needs to tell you to stay away from those that held paint or other toxic materials), then you’re making a contribution to sustainability by keeping those buckets out of the landfill. (more…)

Chicken Producers Cut Antibiotics

Chicken FarmFoster Farms joins a growing list of commercial chicken raisers to hear consumer calls for antibiotic-free, organic products.

Foster Farms, one of the nation’s largest chicken producers, has announced that it has stopped the use of antibiotics “important to human medicine” in all of its chicken raising facilities. The move was part of a press release announcing two new lines of chicken products, Foster Farms Certified Organic and Foster Farms Simply Raised an antibiotic-free chicken.

The press release can be seen here. (more…)

Early Season Fruit Thinning

Pear TreeThinning emerging apples, peaches and other fruits early in the season improves size, quality and future blooming.

A friend who grew up on an acreage tells us how his favorite apple tree — he doesn’t remember what kind — produced clusters of small, under-sized apples. Some of the fruit developed brown spots, probably apple scab from the way he describes it. His story made us wonder: why was this his favorite apple tree? (Answer: it was the furthest away from the house and offered him a shady, quiet place to escape his younger siblings and read, either sitting on the ground against the trunk or up in its welcoming branches.) (more…)

USDA Develops Voluntary GMO-Free Label

Inspecting Food LabelIs the USDA’s GMO-free certification program an attempt to kill comprehensive genetically modified labeling initiatives?

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack announced last month that the Department of Agriculture will create a voluntary certification program for food products that claim to be free of genetically modified ingredients. A USDA “Process Verified” label will be awarded to products that request and meet certification.

Whether or not the certified products will carry a “non-GMO” label is unclear at this point. (more…)

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