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Dangerous Backyards

Spreading Lawn FertilizerLawn Chemicals Could Risk Your Family’s Health

By Bill Kohlhaase, Planet Natural

The most important reason to keep an organic lawn? The health of your family. The second? The health of your planet. If you think those two reasons are one and the same, you’re right. Traditional lawn care products that use synthetic fertilizers and chemical herbicides not only put your family and pets at risk but endanger the world at large. That’s something we all want to avoid.

Stories about the dangerous consequences of lawn chemicals abound. Nearly 50 school children in Ohio developed symptoms of poisoning after herbicides were sprayed near their school. A professional skater makes a claim in Newsweek that her health was “destroyed” after exposure to pesticides sprayed on a neighbor’s lawn (her dog died the same day). Seven dogs die after eating paraquat herbicide in Portland, Oregon park. A noted soil scientist warns the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture that a popular dandelion spray may cause infertility and spontaneous abortion. (more…)

Growing the Perfect Natural Lawn

Playing in the GrassHomeowners choose to maintain an organic or natural lawn for different reasons. For some, it is a commitment to the environment — pesticides and herbicides used in traditional lawn care leach into the water table contaminating it for people, animals and plants.

Others are concerned with how pesticides and herbicides affect the pets and kids that play on their lawns. And some people just don’t want to handle chemicals designed to kill living things.

There’s also the cost — both in time and money. Lawn chemicals can get expensive, and who wants to spend every weekend mowing the lawn? Natural lawns tend to require less mowing, which means more leisure time for you!

Whatever your reason, natural lawn care is easiest if you take the time to create a healthy environment that grasses thrive in. (more…)

Grow Light Coverage

Light CoverageSupplying adequate light coverage for strong, healthy growth is critical to the indoor gardener. Using a light that is too small can result in uneven growth and weakened plants. Using too large a lamp can result in burn or other damage as well as wasted electricity. Deciding which High Intensity Discharge Light to use doesn’t have to be difficult. The size of your indoor garden will determine what wattage system you should purchase. The chart below gives general guidelines for the area coverage a particular lamp will provide. Plants such as tomatoes or basil that need strong, direct light will do best in the primary areas shown in blue. Most salad greens and other leafy plants including kale and spinach will find all the light they require in supplementary areas shown in white.

A number of variables including the type of reflector used, the reflective qualities of the grow room walls, and distance of plants from the light source will affect the amount of light that reaches your plants. The intensity of the light is greatest near the bulb and diminishes relatively quickly as the distance between source and plant increases. To avoid burning plants — HID lamps are also a source of heat as well as light — follow the chart to keep your lamp a safe distance from tender plant tops. You can generally determine if your plants are a safe distance from the lamp by putting the back of your hand level with the plants to test for a comfortable temperature. (more…)

Plant Propagation 101

Plant PropagationPropagating plants is an inexpensive and easy way to get new plants from plants you already have. This asexual means of reproduction produces a plant that is genetically identical to its parent.

There are a variety of plant propagation methods; from taking cuttings to layering to dividing and more. The technique you select will depend on the type of plant you wish to propagate and the amount of time and effort you want to put into it.

Cuttings

One of the most amazing things about plants is that every cell has the ability to duplicate all parts and functions of the plant. By taking a cutting of a leaf or stem and creating the right conditions, you can create an entirely new plant. (more…)

Let There Be Plant Lights

Indoor Plant LightingIndoor plant lights let you shine a light where and when the sun don’t shine. They allow you to extend the growing season; have a year-round supply of fresh flowers, vegetables and herbs; as well as give your seedlings a head start before you can plant them outside.

There are almost as many kinds of grow lights for sale as there are different light spectrums. Everything from a simple $5 incandescent lamp to a sophisticated system using high intensity discharge (HID) lamps can help.

Here’s a rundown on what is available, how much it costs as well as the pro’s and con’s of different types of plant lighting:

Incandescent. Incandescent lamps lay at the low end of the pricing spectrum for plant lights. A good 150 watt bulb will only set you back about $5. You can get such bulbs from a local hardware store or a large nursery. An incandescent lamp can keep a small house plant growing, but isn’t necessarily your best bet for starting a large garden indoors. (more…)

Indoor Plant Care

Growing HouseplantsIndoor plants add color, texture and warmth to the home. They allow year-round access to gardening and can even improve air quality. Many houseplants are easy to grow, but they must be given appropriate care in order to thrive. Since your plants were probably started in a greenhouse — grown under ideal conditions — moving them into your home takes a bit of adjustment on their part.

Proper watering and lighting are the most important components of indoor plant cares, but humidity and temperatures also play a role. The trick is to try to mimic the climate of the place that plant came from.

Tropical plants thrive in warm, humid environments, while cacti and succulents prefer hot, dry climes. Of course, your home can’t be everything to every plant, but you can take plant needs into consideration when choosing plants. And, with a few tricks, you can convince your green friends that they are living in their ideal environment. (more…)

Greenhouse Gardening 101

Greenhouse GardeningSo, you want to grow year round? Or maybe extend your gardening season? Interested in growing plants that normally don’t survive in your neck of the woods? If the answer to any of these questions is “yes,” then a greenhouse might be for you.

Hobby Greenhouses

A backyard greenhouse kit can provide a stable, warm environment where plants can be grown all year. They can also be used to get a jump start on the growing season, where plants, like tomatoes and peppers, are planted early and later moved out to the garden. Whatever your reason for wanting a greenhouse, there are several types, styles and costs for almost anyone who wants to start gardening under glass — or polycarbonate, for that matter! (more…)

Indoor Gardening 101

Indoor Tomato GardenWhen the winter blahs set in and your dreaming of fresh greens from your summer garden, consider growing indoors. Not only do plants cleanse your household air (read about Greens That Clean) and improve the aesthetics of any indoor space, they can provide your family with a wealth of yummy, organic foods.

City dwellers, or those without a good gardening spot in the yard, may find growing indoors especially useful. Plants don’t need to take up much space — a windowsill is fine if that’s all you have. For others, the indoor garden may become starter plants for an outdoor garden come spring.

Getting Started

Space
An indoor garden can take up as much or as little space as you are willing to give it. Growing plants of all kinds, even tomato gardening can be done on a windowsill or on a table.

Larger growers, or the more dedicated may want to set up a table or bench specifically for the garden. Find an area with a tile or linoleum floor to catch the inevitable drops of water, or place a tarp under your table. (more…)

Growing Watermelon

WatermelonsSweet, cool and refreshing… there’s nothing like growing watermelon in your own backyard garden. A heat-loving annual, it can be grown in all parts of the country, but the warmer temperatures and longer season of southern areas especially favor this delicious plant. In cooler areas choose short-season varieties and do whatever it takes to protect them from frost.

Site Preparation:

Choose a location where your plants will get full sun and good air circulation. A gentle, south-facing slope is ideal. Watermelons can grow in many kinds of soil, but prefer a light, sandy, fertile loam that is well-drained. Add generous amounts of manure, compost and leaves to your garden and work the soil well prior to planting. Watermelons like lots of water. Keep the soil moist at all times. (more…)

Growing Tomato Plants

Tasty TomatoesWhile technically a fruit, growing tomato plants is a vegetable gardeners delight! Nothing beats the taste of  fresh, vine ripened heirloom tomatoes from the home garden. Originating in Central and South America, tomato plants are grown in an ever increasing range of colors, sizes and shapes with the recent interest in heirloom cultivars fueling further interest (see History of Tomatoes).

Site Preparation:

Tomatoes are very deep rooted and don’t need nearly as much water as most people believe. They will do much better in the garden soil than in pots and require plenty of sun. Plant after the soil has warmed in the spring in rich, fast draining soil which has been amended with ample amounts of organic compost and calcium to prevent blossom end rot.

How to Plant:

Allow enough space (1-1/2 – 2 feet) between tomato plants to permit good sun penetration and air circulation. Plant the tomatoes deep in the soil, up to the first set of leaves or deeper. Roots will form all along the stem. Water deeply (long periods of time, once or twice a week) to encourage roots to grow down into the soil. Once the plants are established, start them on a biweekly fertilizer program. (more…)

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