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…)

The Best Pumpkin Pie

Pumpkin Pie…might just be made from squash.

Squash pie. My grandmother didn’t make them — rhubarb pie was her specialty — but I knew households where women did. Those households almost always, as I remember, had gardens with winter squash patches.

Well, squash pies, sometimes masquerading as pumpkin, are all the rage this year. And butternut squash is the favorite choice, as this big-stuff newspaper video or this featured recipe from America Public Media’s popular radio program Splendid Table demonstrate.

Your desert-loving Planet Natural blogger wouldn’t say anything against pumpkins. But I would say something against canned pumpkin fillings. Canned fillings are often tasteless, little more than a bulky way to carry the sweet and spice flavor we associate with pumpkin pie. (more…)

Grassroots GMO Triumph

Organic Farm WorkersProtecting farmland and economies from GMO contamination.

The recent loss of GMO labeling efforts in Oregon (barely) and Colorado (not so close) have been a set back for pro-labeling forces, a set-back that raises question of how concerned consumer groups can ever win against massive amounts of money and a flood of advertising.

The cover story of the Seattle Times PacificNW Sunday magazine this past week, “Seeding A Movement: Little San Juan County takes a stand against the GMO giants” written by Brian J. Cantwell, reminds us that there have been small but significant victories in the fight to halt the takeover of our food supplies by the corporate behemoths that patent genetically modified crops and related products. (more…)

How to Start Your Own Organic Garden

Tomato GardeningStarting and maintaining an organic garden is not very different from a regular one. Using common tools and planting processes, you can experience high yields of crops right in your own backyard. Knowing which plants grow best in your particular region and climate can help ensure your garden’s success. Exercising natural pest solutions for gardens can protect the integrity of your crops and your soil’s potential for another productive yield the following year. Read these tips to learn how to get started with your organic garden.

Getting Started

When choosing a space to plant your garden, it’s important to select an area that is open, arid, and is exposed to at least 7 hours of sunlight a day. Planting in natural ground has many benefits, including providing the nutrients providing for a great yield. If, however, your soil isn’t in optimal condition or you live in an area with little to no soil, you may try a raised bed or a container garden. You’ll have to do a fair amount of more planning with raised beds and container gardens, because they will likely require more work to maintain optimal conditions for growing plants. (more…)

Household Cleaners and Child Poisonings

Toxic DetergentReduce risks by properly storing and using safe, non-toxic soaps and detergents.

The recent news that in the years 2012-2013 poison control centers received over 17,000 calls about children ingesting product from laundry soap detergent pods has your concerned Planet Natural Blogger thinking. That’s a call every hour. What can be done to protect the kids? We certainly can’t package colorful, candy-shaped poisons in containers that look like candy jars.

The findings come even as the pods — they’re also available for automatic dishwashers — are only a small part (6% in 2013 ) of the household detergent markets. Those 17,260 kids reported in the study were all six years old or younger. One-third of them were between the ages of one and two. (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…)

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