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. (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…)

GMO Vote Close Despite Millions Spent Against

Corporate MoneyOregon results mixed, Maui Imposes GMO Moratorium

NOTE: This post on the Oregon GMO Measure 92 was written the day after the election when the fate of the measure was too close to call. Since then, the Oregonian has declared that the measure lost narrowly. The vote count was so close, 50.4 percent against, 49.6 in favor, that some have questioned how the decision can be called with ballots still to be counted. The issues discussed here — the effect of a surge of corporate money used against the measure in the last days of the race as well as the larger issue of winning elections when vastly out spent by corporate and shadow money — are still worthy. We urge you to comment over at our GMO Forum(more…)

GMO Labeling On Oregon, Colorado Ballots

GMO Labeling in Oregon and CaliforniaWill money defeat common sense once again?

We’ve heard this story before. Anti-labeling forces in Colorado and Oregon are working from the same playbook that previously scuttled GMO labeling measures in Washington and California, spending vast sums of cash donated by the same corporate interests on misleading and false advertising. Sadly, they’re reaping the same results.

The Wall Street Journal reports on polls from both states. One, released in late October and commissioned by the Oregonian newspaper and NBC affiliate KGW, shows 42% respondents in support of the Oregon measure and 48% are against it. The reason? (more…)

Growing Pumpkins For Fun and Pie

Pumpkin PatchPumpkins are easy to grow organically.

My grandfather used to say that a jack-o-lantern was a waste of a good pumpkin. He grew a pumpkin patch at the end of his garden that would spread out over the rough lawn that bordered it. The next year he’d move it to the other side. He’d get a handful of fruits each year and he didn’t want any of them to go to Halloween carving (see “grandma” below).

Grandpa loved pie and he especially loved pumpkin pie which he ate absent whipping cream or any other adulteration. Grandma was celebrated for her pie crusts, though we often wonder what her great grandchildren would think of the cube of lard that was always in the back of the refrigerator. No matter what time of day grandpa took a piece of pie — including as a bedtime snack — he washed it down with a cup of coffee. He seemed immune to caffeine. (more…)

Growing Shell Beans

Shell BeansHeirloom “cooking beans” are nutritious, delicious, and easy to grow.

Our correspondent writes in to say the most beautiful things he saw at the last farmers market this fall were the large bowls of heirloom shell beans in colors and patterns he’d never seen before. He bought a couple of the four offered: two cups of the surprisingly popular Jacob’s Cattle, each bean big and colored like a Hereford, and a cup or so of brilliant, unusually black and white, yin-yang patterned “Calypso.”

Interest continues to grow in what our great grandmothers called “cooking beans,” dried shell beans that often require soaking and long cooking times, a process that many time-squeezed home cooks forego in favor of pre-cooked, canned beans. (more…)

Safe Food At Home

Eating DangerouslyEating Dangerously discusses the risks, the politics, and the practices that keep meals safe.

Your friendly, health conscious Planet Natural Blogger frequently champions one course to guarantee you’re putting the safest, organically grown food on your family’s table: grow your own. And almost immediately after making that declaration, I provide the caveat: it’s near impossible for us to grow anywhere close to the quantity and variety of food we need for our modern diets.

I’ll admit that this position is something of a cop-out. It leaves unaddressed all the issues connected with the food we buy. It leaves off at discussing just how bad highly processed foods can be for us, how destructive and careless the industry of big agriculture and corporate food is. What exactly does that leave us with? How do we find the healthy foods we want to serve our families and how do we handle it once we have it? (more…)

Your Grandfather’s Apples

Heirloom Apple TreeHeirloom apple trees yield treasures from the past.

This time of the year, when cider presses across the country are squeezing day and night, is a good time to consider the bounty of apples we enjoy. We’re not talking about the stacks of Gala and Fuji and Granny Smith that decorate the produce sections of our local supermarkets. We’re talking about the heirloom apples we find in farmers markets and produce stands, and in our backyard gardens or those of our neighbors, apples with names like Grand Alexander, Cornish Gilliflower, and Macoun (pronounced “McCowan”), apples that taste nothing like the commercial fruits flooding grocery stores. These apples, with various origins and histories, are a link to our past as well as a direct connection to a heritage that may have been lost if not for some persistent and skilled fruit growers. (more…)

Worm-Like Parasite Attacks Insect Pests

Insect Parasitic NematodesThese microscopic soil predators control lawn grubs and all kinds of garden pests.

The more we learn about lawn and garden pests, the more we’ve come to love beneficial nematodes. Part of this comes from our study of various grub and worm pests that spend some of their lives in the soil. The other comes from the enthusiastic stories we’ve heard about the value of these microscopic pest destroyers.

The stories offer curious examples of the trial-and-error ways we come to learn about the gardening craft. And it’s also about the value of an Integrated Pest Management program, one that uses a variety of practices to deal with pests at all stages of development, not just when we start noticing damage to our lawns or our fruits and vegetables. (more…)

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