Tide Turning Against Harmful Chemicals

Mother and ChildPesticides singled out as dangerous, especially to mothers and children.

Will we look back at 2015 and see it as the year public health institutions and the public at large demand changes when it comes to the use of agricultural and industrial chemicals?

The reaction to recent studies that declare all of us are at risk from compounds that can harm human health, but especially children and those in the womb, seems to suggest that the momentum for giving priority to people over chemical company profits is growing. (more…)

Pesticides Found Harmful To Children’s Lungs

Kids At SchoolWidely used pesticides decrease childhood breathing function.

The evidence of the harm caused by widespread pesticide use continues to build. Time magazine is reporting on new research that shows some of the most heavily used pesticides hurt children in a not-so-unexpected way. The compounds actually inhibit breathing ability.

The result was part of an ongoing study that focuses on pregnant women and the children they bore in the heavily agricultural Salinas Valley of California. At age seven, subjects with levels of pesticide were found to have significantly decreased breathing function. The decrease was comparable to that experienced by children with ongoing exposure to second-hand cigarette smoke. (more…)

Brussels Sprouts Recipes

Brussels Sprouts RecipesSteamed, braised and roasted these little cabbages are a healthy favorite in recipes.

Brussel sprouts — those wonderful miniature cabbages — are both cute and tasty. The old notion of them as flabby, smelly and mushy has long-since faded thanks to homegrown and small-farm sprouts that are tight, crisp-leaved and pleasantly flavored.

Their fading, less-than-stellar reputation was based on a texture that could range from tough to soggy and the strange, sulfur like smell they can give off when overcooked. Negative traits can still be found in commercially raised sprouts that are harvested too large and then stored too long. Those picked at the peak of perfection from a home garden and cooked quickly after harvest are uniquely sweet with only a suggestion of their cabbage heritage. (more…)

War Against Bee Science

Jonathan Lundgren, USDA ResearcherScientist investigating neonicotinoid pesticides and pollinators accuses USDA of intimidation.

Dr. Jonathan Lundgren, a Senior Research Entomologist and Lab Supervisor and 11-year veteran of the USDA Agriculture Research Service based in South Dakota, is a recognized researcher who was named the USDA’s Outstanding Early Career Research Scientist in 2011. Then, in 2014, he published a research paper showing the effects of neonicotinoids, a controversial and widely used class of pesticides, were harmful to monarch butterflies. (more…)

Homegrown Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving Dinner PlateBeing thankful for the foods we grow ourselves.

One of my favorite Thanksgiving memories has to do with green beans. Everything grandma put on the table was excellent — especially the pies — but my favorite Thanksgiving dish was her home-canned green beans. No, they didn’t come in a casserole held together by mushroom soup and topped with French-fried onions. They came just as they were, straight out of the glass jars that grandma had canned them in only a few months earlier. They were and still are the best green beans I’ve ever eaten. (more…)

Storing the Harvest: Drying Fruits and Vegetables

Drying PeppersFood Drying Tips For Home Gardeners

Drying fruits and vegetables has distinct advantages over canning, freezing or other preserving methods that require extreme temperatures. Dried foods require little if any energy to store compared to frozen items that require refrigeration and canned items requiring cooking and container boiling.

Dried fruits and vegetables weigh less and take up less shelf space than canned. They retain most vitamins and minerals better than canning or freezing. They don’t lose fiber. And they don’t lose flavor. They concentrate it. (more…)

Fall Mulching Tips

Garden MulchHow to protect your plants and nourish your soil ahead of winter.

We mulch our gardens to retain moisture, suppress weeds, nourish our soil and prevent extreme soil-temperature fluctuations. In the spring, the first two reasons are most important. In autumn, the last two — especially that bit about temperature changes — are what makes it worth the effort.

All the reasons listed above, and others not mentioned like preventing soil erosion, are in play year round. But the special demands of fall and winter, different than the growing season, guide how we mulch and what we use. Ground doesn’t just freeze solid three months of the year (well, maybe in some places). It’s in a constant cycle of freeze and thaw, something that particularly stresses even dormant plants. (more…)

Fall Is the Time To Plant Lilies

LiliesLilies are among the most beautiful and fragrant flowers in the garden. Here’s how and when to plant them.

Advances in over-winter storage of commercial lily bulbs have allowed gardeners to buy and plant lilies in the spring. But autumn is still the best time to get them in the ground.

Deeply planted and well-mulched, lily bulbs planted in fall will take all but the coldest days of the season to establish themselves before taking off in the spring. Fall planting assures bulb preservation and a good, strong start. (more…)

USDA Program For Bees Not Enough

Honey BeeGovernment needs to address the real problems behind bee decline.

Those concerned with the fate of North America’s honeybee populations have mostly cheered earlier this month with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announcement of $4 million in assistance for farmers, ranchers and forest landowners working to improve food sources for honey bees on private lands in Midwestern and northern plains states. Count your concerned Planet Natural blogger among those who aren’t cheering so loudly. (more…)

Planting Bare Root Fruit Trees

Fruit TreesTips on planting apple, plum, pear, cherry and other fruit trees from bare-root stock.

Spring — as soon after the ground thaws as possible — is the most frequently recommended time to plant bare root fruit trees. Commercial nurseries take advantage of this, providing most of their bare root tree stock to sellers well before winter ends.

The truth is that orchard trees can be planted any time they are dormant as long as you can get a spade into the ground. And fall planting makes for a number of advantages that tree growers can use to their benefit. (more…)

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