Reflective White Roofs

White RoofsReduce inside building temperatures and save money on air conditioning with white roofs.

Cities are heat sinks. Their black asphalt parking lots and tar-black rooftops absorb the sun’s energy and give off the heat. The result, says the White Roof Project, is as much as an 80-degree difference on sunny-day roof tops, as black roofs absorb the light and white roofs reflect it back into the atmosphere.

White roofs can help keep building temperatures as much as 35 degrees cooler, saving huge amounts of energy and money spent on air conditioning. (more…)

Neem Benefits

Neem SeedsHow to use neem oil and its extracts to stop most insect pests organically.

Neem oil, one of nature’s best ways to deal with problem insects, is pressed from the fruits, seeds and bark of an evergreen tree (Azadiracta indica) that grows in South Asia, especially India, and parts of Africa. The tree’s oil, known in Sanskrit as Sarva Roga Nirvani or “cure of all ailments,” has a long history of skin-care and medicinal uses. Because of its nourishing, acne-fighting qualities, it’s often found in specialty soaps and other modern skin products. (more…)

Fava Bean Recipes

Fresh Fava BeansFava beans are great in casseroles and salads. Here’s how to cook them, fresh or dried.

Fava beans, a rewarding cool-weather garden crop also called broad beans, have two lives. They’re delicious picked fresh and stripped from their bumpy green, inedible pods, then gently steamed, and served with butter. As the season progresses and the pods have dried, remove the beans and let them dry completely in a warm, airy space. These are the beans we pull out on crisp fall days, soak, then boil up with bacon, onion, and maybe jalapeños, cooking the mixture down with additions of tomato paste and a little mustard just to the moment before the beans split and turn to mush. (more…)

Labeling News: Antibiotics and GMOs

Chicken FarmBig chicken takes on “non-human” antibiotics, Congress takes on food labels.

Chicken producers, answering demands from buyers, have been reducing their use of antibiotics in their flocks, often with much accompanying fanfare. But there’s usually a caveat. These declarations are usually limited to antibiotics “important to human medicine.” In other words, chickens are still getting other classes of antibiotics not used by humans.

Perdue Farms, one of the top three chicken raisers in the United States, has begun running ads claiming that two brands of their poultry use “no antibiotics ever.” In an announcement earlier this month, Perdue stated that the percentage of their chickens receiving “animal-only” antibiotics had dropped from 60% to 42% in the last year. This means that over half their chickens meet the no antibiotics pledge. (more…)

New Study Finds Pesticide In Pollen, Honey

Honey Bee HiveMost hives, honeybees examined in state study found to carry neonicotinoids, the pesticides linked to colony collapse disorder.

A new study has found that over 70% of pollen and honey collected from bees at various times in Massachusetts contained one type or another of neonicotinoids, a class of insecticides that’s been implicated in the honey bee die-offs of the last several years. The study was conducted at Harvard University’s Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. (more…)

Vote Set On Limiting Right-To-Know GMO Bill

Monsanto's Dark ActDARK Act seeks to stop states and other jurisdictions from labeling genetically engineered food products.

The House of Representatives is set to vote as early as today (Thursday, July 23) on Kansas Republican Congressman Mike Pompeo’s House Resolution 1599 titled “The Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2015.” Opponents who have labeled the bill as the “Denying Americans The-Right-To-Know” or DARK Act say the legislation is an attempt to preempt state, county and city laws regulating the labeling and growing of genetically modified crops. (more…)

Mid-Summer Garden News

Summer GardeningWe’re growing great greens, cheering beneficial insects, and planning succession planting half-way into the summer garden.

A friend of Planet Natural, big on words and vegetables, writes in with a summer gardening report. We added the links:

We got our garden in late this year. But the heat we’ve had the last few weeks made catch-up easy. There’s no watering restrictions here in our part of the Pacific Northwest, so it’s been easy to compensate for the dryness. Besides, our garden is so small — not much more than two 4×6 raised beds — that it doesn’t require much water. (more…)

Tips To Save Water This Summer

WateringLawn and garden watering jumps in the summer. Here’s how to save water and money at the same time.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, 30% to 70% of the water consumed by America’s residential homes is used outdoors. Summertime lawn and garden watering can multiply household water use two to four times over what is used the rest of the year.

The shocker: half the water used outdoors is wasted.

While the EPA’s website on outdoor water use is promoting their “Water Sense” certification of approved products — and using the highest quality, water-wise products can make a difference — much of water conservation comes from the design of your landscape, especially the plants you choose to grow, and the ways water is applied to that landscape. (more…)

Beet Recipes

Garden BeetsBeets give us delicious, nutritious greens and delectable roots. Here’s recipes for both.

When asked if there was a vegetable we didn’t like, we used to answer “beets.” Our dislike developed early in our gardening days. Easy-to-grow beets were one of the few things we raised in abundance in our cool, moist Pacific Northwest climate. We loved the greens, adding the early leaf thinnings to our salads and chopping big leaves, stems and all, for use in stir fries.

We loved the roots, too, early in the season. Because of their abundance we pickled maybe three or four dozen jars of beets and they were a great addition to cold hor d’oeuvres plates and holiday salads. But sometime after New Year’s, pickled beets began to loose their attraction. (more…)

Causes of Plant Stress

Water Stressed PlantHow lack of water, poor soil and other plant stresses make your garden vulnerable to pests and disease.

Plants are like us people. No matter which biological classification kingdom we’re in, all of us are affected by stress. In humans, stress comes from an infinite variety of circumstances that involve family, health, work conditions, finances, social contact and just plain worry. Plants are stressed in physical ways and not that many.

Give plants enough sunlight and moisture in the right soil conditions and, other than whatever thinning is required to establish non-competitive space, they’ll thrive pretty much stress free. (more…)

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