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…)

Get Started With Aquaponics

Backyard Aquaponics SystemGrowing vegetables and raising fish in a sustainable garden system.

Indoor and backyard aquaponics combines the craft of hydroponic growing with aquaculture, the art of keeping fish. The water in which the fish live, along with the fish-produced waste, eventually ends up nourishing garden plants. It’s then recycled to the fish tank. The plants get the nutrients they need and the fish get fresh, recycled water.

In return, the savvy gardener gets organic vegetables for salads and fish for the grill.

This is the simplistic explanation of aquaponics gardening. In practice, it’s a balancing act that supports all its living components, including the microscopic life that facilitates the natural conversion of fish-produced waste into usable, beneficial nutrients for plants. (more…)

Companies Spend Big to Fight GMO Labeling

Kellog's Frosted FlakesMedia claims that both sides do it ignores huge disparities.

Data recently collected from the Clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives and the Secretary of the U.S. Senate by the Environmental Working Group, a consumer-oriented health and environment advocacy group, puts the lie to press accounts that both sides in the GMO labeling battle are investing huge amounts to further their interests.

From the EWG report:

Big food and biotechnology companies and trade associations have reported spending $51.6 million over the first half of this year, some or all of which went to lobby for legislation that would block state and federal agencies from requiring food companies to label products that contain GMO ingredients, according to new analysis by EWG. (more…)


Organic FennelThis attractive, licorice-flavored herb is easy to grow in the home garden.

Fennel may resemble dill but its taste is something different. The anise-flavored bulbs, fronds and seeds, suggesting licorice, make fennel a unique, even unusual seasoning. Every kitchen garden should be graced with a fennel plant or two, both for it’s beautiful wispy leaves and crunchy, flavorful bulbs.

Fennel is a mainstay of home-style Italian cooking. It’s especially wonderful as a grilled accompaniment to fish or grated raw onto a salad. The leaves make for a beautiful garnish. The seeds are a wonderful addition to salad dressings. Fennel bulbs can be eaten like celery — they’re wonderful scoops for dip — and are braised and roasted to be served aside chicken and other poultry (especially game birds). (more…)

Tips to Guarantee Canning Success

PicklesHow to can fruits and vegetables safely and effectively at home.

Canning your own fruits and vegetables seems old-fashioned in our modern age. But canning is contemporary, too. It’s a technology, constantly evolving with better canning equipment and the applied kitchen science needed to safely preserve a food supply that’s evolving as well.

Preserving the harvest in jars connects us with the generations that have gathered in kitchens over the years — thank-you, grandma! — to can produce and other foods. As it seems to do sometime with each generation, canning today is enjoying growing popularity among millennials. (more…)

Why Are Today’s Vegetables Less Nutritious?

VegetablesHow building soil, growing heirlooms can stop nutrient decline in vegetables and fruits.

It’s an old question among those interested in the quality of the food we eat. Do we get enough nutrition from the fruits, vegetables, and other foods we consume? Or do we need to supplement our meals with vitamins and minerals?

The answers to this two-part question is both no and yes. No, we don’t get enough nutrition from our foods and yes, we do need to supplement to make up the difference. This thinking has been backed by one simple fact. There’s been a decline in the nutritional value of vegetables and fruits over time. (more…)

Stop Wasting Food!

Dinner PlateReducing food waste at home not only helps the environment, it saves us money. Here’s how.

The Environmental Protection Agency determined in 2013 that 35 million tons of food was wasted that year in the U.S. Some 95% of it ended up in landfills. The Washington Post has reported that in 1980 wasted food accounted for 10% of what went into landfills. Today, food waste makes up well over 20%, a larger percentage than metal, plastic or glass. When that waste decomposes it puts out levels of methane that contribute to climate change.

In a hungry world, food waste is a global problem (PDF). National Geographic reported in 2014 that the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations estimated that one-third of food produced for human consumption worldwide is annually lost or wasted. (more…)

GMO Fight Gets Personal

MonsantoIs Monsanto buying biotech scientists to support its genetically modified industry?

Freedom of Information Act requests submitted by U.S. Right To Know, a food industry watchdog that emphasizes consumers’ right to information about the food they and their families eat has revealed the close — and may we say it? — shameless ties between Monsanto and the academics that serve as spokespeople for the pro-GMO industry.

A blockbuster story in The New York Times that looked into the emails Right To Know dug up between industry employees and researchers finds incidents of these scientists being given generous grants for travel and other “biotechnology outreach” as well as continuous research grant money. (more…)


Grass RecyclingMulching grass clippings back into your lawn means less labor and healthier turf.

It’s not hard to deduce what grasscycling means. It’s something about grass and recycling. What’s unspoken — the where and how that grass is recycled — is what makes the practice so beneficial.

Generally, grass-cycling is the practice of not bagging or raking up your lawn clippings as you mow. The benefits are obvious. You’re not stopping to empty the mower bag every time it fills. And you’re not filling up the local landfill with green waste from your yard. (more…)

Can You Compost Tomatoes?

Composting TomatoesKeep tomato plants out of the landfill? Or keep tomato diseases out of your garden? It’s not always simple.

Your friendly Planet Natural blogger never thought much about composting tomatoes until a reader sent in a question about it. We’ve always done it if, at the end of the season, the plants had been healthy and showed no signs of blight, wilt or insect infestations. Thing is, by the end of the season, especially in damper climates, tomatoes often show signs of all these things.

Add to that the fact that the dry, stringy vines don’t break down quickly and tend to get tangled up with everything else in the pile, and the result is this: I don’t end up composting tomato plants very often. (more…)

Green House Buyer’s Guide

Backyard GreenhouseWhat frame and coverings to consider when buying a greenhouse kit.

Gardeners view green houses as a dream or a necessity, the latter by those who already have them, the former by those who wish they did. A greenhouse serves many functions and grants many advantages. It’s a place to give seedlings a jump start ahead of the growing season, a place to raise plants, including everything from tomatoes to lemons, that won’t find the growing season they require outdoors. It’s a place to overwinter potted plants and extend the vegetable harvest well past the first (and second, and third) frost. A green house can add immensely to your enjoyment of gardening and its rewards. (more…)

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