Welcome to the Planet Natural Gardening 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…)
Making sure your garden soil has the proper pH and amounts of nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium now helps guarantee growing success.
We often talk about the fact that successful gardening, especially successful organic gardening, requires healthy soil. But how do you know if your soil is healthy? Adding lots of organic material helps assure that your soil is alive with microbes, maintains a balance of nutrients, and has good drainage. But what about its acid-alkaline balance (the measurement known as pH)? What about the nutrients that plants need to be healthy and resist pests and diseases? (more…)
Moisture control, proper containers, and good starting mix are key to seedling success.
We’re smack dab in the middle of the seed starting season, or maybe just getting ready to start in more northern climes. It seems like a good time to review some tips for starting seeds and growing seedlings indoors ahead of outdoor planting. And while the basics of seed starting are pretty simple, there are always some tried-and-true tricks as well as some timely reminders to make your seed starting experience a worthwhile one. First time seed starter or someone who just wants to review the basics? Try here.
Most Important: The one thing we’ve found to be most important among many important things when starting seeds indoors? Moisture control. This means not only controlling the moisture in your starting mix, but providing the proper drainage. And, in the circular, everything-is-related-to-everything-else world of gardening, this means using the right starting mix. (more…)
New FDA labeling rules include added sugars. And why the bread on that sandwich might taste like a yoga mat.
The big food news this week is the Food and Drug Administration’s announcement that it will update its Nutrition Facts Label requirements “to reflect the latest scientific information, including the link between diet and chronic diseases such as obesity and heart disease.” Part of this change deals with portion size. These have been changed in some cases — like increasing the single portion of soda from 12 to 20 ounces — to reflect sizes that are more commonly consumed. We’ll agree that’s a good thing if indeed the change makes figuring what you’re getting from what you consume without having to do any extra math. (more…)
Plan now to start and grow one of the garden’s most nutritious plants.
Brussels sprouts have enjoyed a surge in popularity lately. Much of that is due to the fact we’ve realized how good they are for us. Those little miniature cabbages — they are actually quite different from cabbages even though they belong to the same family, the crucifers, as do kale, broccoli, and kohlrabi — are a gold mine of necessary nutrition.
Brussels sprouts contain a lot of cardiovascular disease fighting and cholesterol lowering fiber — 13% of a man’s daily requirement in a one cup serving (9% of a woman’s) — as well as lots of vitamins C and K for bone health, carotenoids for healthy vision, and a surprising amount of protein for a vegetable — 3 grams per serving. Another attraction: that single, one cup serving has only 38 calories. Here’s the complete nutrition rundown.
But the thing that’s really made Brussels sprouts so attractive is their use in the kitchen. Brussels sprouts had gained something of a bad reputation for a couple reasons. The first was the quality of the sprouts sold at the market. Often harvested during the still-warm months, or shipped up from southern countries in the spring, they didn’t have the advantage of taking on some cold weather just as they were ready for harvest. Everyone knows that a light frost brings out a sweet flavor in any of the crucifers. (more…)
Companion planting, interplanting, and healthy soil tricks that keep pests away from your vegetables.
We like the way Edward C. Smith thinks about insect pests. As he states in his fine book The Vegetable Gardener’s Bible, he treats pests (and that includes disease) as predators on the hunt. “Just as lions select the weakest wildebeest, aphids are drawn to the weakest plants,” he writes. “Anything you can do to improve growing conditions for a plant makes the plant less likely to be attacked by pests and disease. Good pest management means understanding that pests and diseases are not problems in themselves, but symptoms of the problem.”
Smith doesn’t use the term Integrated Pest Management. But of course, that’s what he’s doing: not using chemical pesticides to take care of his problems (which often causes even more garden problems in addition to exposing you and your family to dangerous compounds) but instead using a variety of non-chemical techniques to discourage and control insects that might want to invade his plants. (more…)
Knowledge is the key to successful organic gardening. We’ve compiled much of the information you’ll need – from the basics of getting started to finding organic solutions to specific problems – here.
The Dirt on Growing Organically
Organic gardening, once seen as something practiced only by health nuts and hippies, is no longer a fad. Everyone wants the food we serve to our families as well as our environment to be safe and healthy. This desire for safety – wanting to do no harm to our families and the world around us– is the central reason people grow organically. The more we learn about chemical herbicides and pesticides, the more we see the effects of synthetic fertilizers and genetically modified crops, the more we realize that we must protect ourselves from them. Growing organically is a way of taking control, an attempt to make the foods you serve full of the good things your family needs, and free of the things they don’t. It’s a way of making the places where your children and pets play as safe as they can be. It’s a sign of respect to both your fellow humans and the environment as a whole. (more…)
You don’t have to grow organic, but we can’t deny it’s a beautiful thing when the plants you love just love you right back. This site is here to answer your biggest vegetable gardening questions, no matter how you choose to tend your harvest.
Why Bother Growing Organic?
What’s all the fuss about organic produce? When you see it stacked and misted on in the produce section, it all looks about the same. I never understood the hype.
Then one day, a box full of fresh-from-the-farm veggies was loaded into my arms. An organic farm just 30 minutes away from my door was selling shares of their crops, and I signed up for a weekly delivery. I didn’t realize I’d stepped into the flourishing world of Community Supported Agriculture that’s changing the face of farming today. (more…)
The Grass is Greener … and Safer!
Lawns may have been invented in Europe, but they’ve reached their apotheosis in North America. For those in the U.S. of A, that green, green grass ranks right up there with apple pie, backyard barbecues and softball. For Canadians it’s proof of place, both a responsibility and a privilege, like wearing decent clothes when you leave the house. Keep your teeth clean and your grass green. In the lower 48 states and much of southern Canada, grass is practically an obsession.
The problem with the perfect lawn is that it wreaks havoc on both your wallet and the environment. Between 30 and 40 million acres of land in the U.S. are devoted to turfgrass (see Curbing the Lawn), and Americans collectively spend big bucks — about $40 billion annually — on seed, sod and chemicals. In Canada, which has around one tenth the population of the U.S., sales from all lawn care products have risen steadily over the past five years, to over $2 billion by 2007. (more…)
Growing Killer Tomatoes
It’s a true story, and one to give a prospective gardener pause: the young couple decides to grow their own tomatoes, and when the summer is over, they manage to harvest a single fruit.
How did they do it, one wonders? Is tomato gardening so difficult that only the few, the botanically exalted, should try it? To judge from the number of books and articles on the subject, one would think it must be so. Indeed, the amount of information out there can be as intimidating as the prospect of a one-tomato harvest.
It’s easy to get bogged down in fine-tuned instructions on testing soil pH, the precise timing and placement of mulches, the selection of heirloom varieties and the rest of it. Actually, though, the basics are pretty — well, basic. If the couple had asked a friend to water their plants on the weekend they left town, all would have been well. (more…)
Growing Herbs Cultivates Good Taste!
We all know and love herbs. Chances are that you’ve already used a product today that has an herbal ingredient. The soap you showered with this morning used lavender for its scent. The organic wool sweater that you’re wearing may have been dyed using herbs. The aspirin you took after lunch is derived from a plant and some experts say that more than 25 percent of drugs currently on the market contain plant extracts. Tonight, when you sit down to your roast beef dinner, your carrots will be graced by tarragon and your potatoes adorned with rosemary. Herbs make everything smell, taste and feel better. (more…)