Planet Natural: The Garden 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. (more…)

What is Gluten? How You Can Garden for a Gluten-Free Lifestyle

Preparing VegetablesCeliac disease is a significant intestinal problem that affects around 1 in 133 people. Sufferers of this disorder often exhibit symptoms of a physical intolerance to gluten after eating foods containing the protein. The high incidence of this disease has led the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to require that food manufacturers follow strict guidelines when labeling their products as “gluten-free.” While many food companies now offer gluten-free alternatives to popular snacks and meals, making changes in the diet to include whole foods, like fresh fruits and vegetables, can significantly improve the condition. For celiac sufferers, growing a personal vegetable garden can ensure that fresh produce free of gluten-free contaminants is always available. (more…)

Elements of Organic Gardening: Composting

Compost PileCompost is an essential element in organic gardening. Compost is made of decomposed organic matter that can be used to improve the health of garden soil. The compost adds humus, organic matter that cannot be broken down any further, to the soil. The humus aids in nutrient and moisture retention in the soil and also changes the density of the soil. Composting is not only beneficial for its soil-building properties; it also greatly decreases the amount of garbage that can end up in a landfill. The compost ingredients are naturally decomposed and reused instead of being thrown away. Compost can also help reduce the amount of toxins in soil due to pesticides or fuels. The compost can regenerate this soil and prevent the spread of the toxins to other plants and into water sources. (more…)

Clean Fifteen and The Dirty Dozen List

Organic Produce ShoppingA guide for selecting pesticide-free produce.

The use of pesticides has become a standard practice in farming. They are used to repel damaging pests and prevent them from destroying whole crops. Unfortunately, pesticides can leave residue on fruits and vegetables that may eventually cause health problems in people who regularly consume them. Although some harmful chemicals are no longer used on food since the passing of the Food Quality Protection Act of 1996, there are still concerns surrounding the amount of pesticides that are currently being put to use. To alert consumers about the amounts of pesticides that are in their food, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) created two important lists. The first of these lists the foods that are considered the cleanest due to the low amounts of pesticides. The second lists foods that are the worst of the offenders and that have the highest levels of pesticides. These EWG lists are called the “Clean 15″ and the “Dirty Dozen.” (more…)

Butterfly Gardening Resource Guide

ButterflyButterfly gardening belongs to a growing school of gardening that focuses on the preservation of wildlife. It focuses on creating an environment for butterflies to thrive and reproduce. Gardeners who specialize in butterfly gardening place nectar-producing plants and host plants around the garden with hopes of attracting these beautiful insects. Each person has their own reason for creating a butterfly sanctuary that ranges from purely aesthetic to passionate about preserving the species. Many people find a fluttering rainbow fascinating enough to create a garden that attracts butterflies. Others take a more scientific approach by raising or rearing butterflies from ova to imago. Regardless of the reasoning behind this brand of niche gardening, people tend to love it and do so with a clear conscious. Find out more about butterfly gardening below. (more…)

Organic Gardening Pest Control

Pest BugGardening is a relaxing hobby for some and a way of life for others. Regardless of why a person maintains a garden, they will want to keep it as healthy as possible. Gardens are susceptible to pests, which can destroy plants and flowers. While it is common practice to use pesticides, it is important to consider what types of pesticides are right for the environment and one’s health. There are many concerns about the use of synthetic pesticides, which have caused an increase in organic growing methods. There are many benefits that are associated with organic pest removal methods. To fully understand and appreciate these benefits, people should understand the pests that plague their gardens and how synthetic chemicals can be harmful. (more…)

Many Benefits of Sensory Gardens

Child GardenA sensory garden is a garden environment that is designed with the purpose of stimulating the senses. This stimulation occurs courtesy of plants and the use of materials that engage one’s senses of sight, smell, touch, taste, and sound. These types of gardens are popular with and beneficial to both children and adults, especially those who have sensory processing issues, including autism and other disabilities. To get the maximum use from a sensory garden, it is important to take into account for whom the garden is primarily intended. It is also important to understand what plants and features will best achieve the atmosphere that is desired. (more…)

Organic Vegetables vs. Conventional

Organic FoodMore nutrition, less toxins from organically grown vegetables.

A study to be released next week states that organically raised vegetables have less incidence of pesticides and more nutrition, including 69% higher antioxidant content, than crops grown with chemical fertilizers and pesticides.  Heavy metals — cadmium, mercury, lead — were 50% lower in the organic crops.

As reported in Newcastle, U.K.’s The Journal, the study, done by Carlo Liefert, a professor of ecology at Newcastle University, surveyed 343 studies to arrive at the definitive conclusions. It is the “most extensive analysis of the nutrient content in organic versus conventionally-produced foods ever undertaken,” writes The Journal. A previous U.K. study done in 2009 that vaguely concluded there was little difference between organic and conventional crops used only 46 studies in its conclusions. (more…)

The Truth Behind Food Labeling

Food LabelingThere’s a movement to make organic and natural food labels mean something.

In our world, words like “organic” and “natural” are pretty clear-cut. But that’s not true when it comes to their use on food labels. Use of the word “organic” is controlled by laws and regulations. Some of those rules don’t make sense. The rules that do make sense, the necessary rules (like no pesticide use) aren’t often enforced. Globalization has complicated the issue. Has anybody checked to see those walnuts from Kazakhstan are really organic?

Peter Laufer has. His book Organic: A Journalist’s Quest To Discover the Truth Behind Food Labeling raises some troubling questions (and some troubling answers as well) about the global organic food trade. We’ve plugged it before. It’s creating a stir because Laufer discovers that much of what’s claimed to be organic isn’t. It’s kind of a detective story. He traces the origin of some organic black beans back to Bolivia and decides that they are “as organic as Harry MacCormack’s Sunbow Farm in Oregon’s Willamette Valley.” It’s exciting with the kind of a big-business intrigue that comes of larges sums of money and international markets. (more…)

Diatomaceous Earth and Bees

Honey BeeThis effective, organic pest killer (it’s not a poison) won’t hurt bees if used wisely.

Who hasn’t been bailed out by diatomaceous earth, basically a powder made of fossilized diatoms millions of years old? Keeping armies of slugs at bay, drawing a no-roach line between our apartment and our neighbors’ apartments, protecting seedlings from early season grubs and maggots. I’ve known people who’ve rubbed the stuff into their dog’s coat to stop fleas and heard that’s it’s a common big-city cure for bed bugs. (more…)

Save Water On Your Lawn

Watering the LawnTips for using less water when city restrictions demand it.

The drought, widespread and persistent, continues across great swaths of the United States. The effects of climate change and heavy demands on water use have seen formerly reliable supplies dwindle. Cities and counties across the nation, from Williams, Arizona (natch) to Mount Pleasant, Tennessee, from the St. Johns River district in north central Florida to Chanhassen, Minnesota and all across California have put water use and watering restrictions in place. What’s their most frequent target? Watering of lawns.

We’ve frequently considered the water spent on lawns and have advocated replacing them with native grasses or something altogether different. But let’s face it. Kids like lawns, dogs like lawns, and we like lawns too for family activities. We’ll cut back on lawn as the kids grow up. But for now . . . badminton! (more…)

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