Charlotte’s Web … In Your Garden

Garden SpiderSpiders are beneficial too!

Our Integrated Pest Management program has long included encouraging and buying, when necessary, beneficial insects. Ladybugs, praying mantis, aphid predators and parasites, lacewings, leafminers, thrips, whitefly parasites, and others offer a virtual arsenal against the specific insects the would do our garden harm. Knowing which ones to use against what problem pests is valuable knowledge for gardeners seeking to avoid harmful chemical sprays, dusts, and other poisons.

There’s one beneficial predator not generally considered and, for the most part, not commercially available (except as pets) that can play an important role in keeping your garden clears of pests: the spider. Unfairly thought of as dangerous and a nuisance, especially when discovered inside your home, spiders are actually an effective predator in the garden and, despite our fears, mostly aren’t dangerous (with some exceptions). (more…)

Last Call for Planting Fruit Trees

Planting Fruit TreesApple, peach, cherry, plums and others planted now can provide a lifetime of rewards.

In a practice — raising one’s own food — that’s full of satisfying activity, there’s little as satisfying as planting fruit trees. Fruit trees planted this season will, in a few years, provide us a lifetime of nourishing harvests, harvests that we will enjoy with our children, harvest that, with the right care of our trees, will nourish their children as well. And there’s hardly a more joyful experience than picking a ripe plum or peach or apple or handful of cherries and enjoying them right there in the shade of your own orchard. (more…)

No-Dig Gardening

No Dig GardenHow working less makes growing easy (and maybe better).

Grandpa always said there was no such thing as a lazy gardener. And he was right. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t ways to make gardening easier while still making it effective. “No-dig” gardening also known as “sheet mulching,” is one of those ways.

Right now, no-dig is all the rage. It was originally popularized in the 1970s when Fukuoka Masanobu, an organic gardener who pioneered ways for growers to be more productive, published his book One Straw Revolution. You can find a good history of no-dig vegetable gardening as well as an in-depth how-to, can be found over at Treehugger’s excellent blog. (more…)

GMO Labeling Victory In Vermont

GMO LabelingState passes GMO labeling bill despite lies, corporate threats.

The Vermont House of Representatives on Wednesday of last week passed a bill requiring the labeling of foods with genetically modified ingredients. The bill, passed earlier by the Senate, will now go to the governor’s desk. Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin has indicated he will sign it.

The bill passed the House on a vote of 114 – 30. The usual corporate bullying techniques were used to no avail.

The vote capped a 20 year effort in Vermont to pass various types of legislation designed to protect consumers and organic farmers from GMO products. Unlike Maine and Connecticut, which earlier passed bills to label GMO products contingent on being joined by labeling in other states, the Vermont bill is stand alone, putting the requirement in effect regardless of the action of other states. (more…)

Herbicide Found In Mother’s Milk

Baby Girl SleepingDoes America’s most-used weed killer endanger infants?

A recent study has found that the herbicide glyphosate, sold under the trade name Roundup (and others), is present in alarming levels in breast milk of American females. The study found that samples of mother’s milk from women in the United States contained levels of the weed-killer that were 760 to 1,600 time greater than the amount of pesticides allowed by the European Water Directive. Those levels are still less than the 700 ug/l maximum contaminant level (MCL) that the Environmental Protection Agency has decided is safe.

The findings are sure to be controversial. The EPA contamination level was decided on the much-challenged assumption that glyphosate was excreted and did not accumulate in the human body. Those non-accumulation findings were based on studies sponsored by, among others, Monsanto, the maker of Roundup. (more…)

New Bill Would Block GMO Labeling

Mike PompeoKansas Representative wants to make your right-to-know illegal.

Representative Mike Pompeo, Republican of Kansas, introduced a bill earlier this month that would effectively block labeling of foods containing genetically modified ingredients at both the state and the national level. Pompeo’s bill is a nearly exact copy of a legislative proposal released in January and written by big agricultural and grocery business interests. The Grocery Manufacturers Association was instrumental in defeating Washington State’s GMO labeling initiative last year after flooding the contest with money from its corporate sponsors.

The Environmental Working Group has the story here and an interesting opinion piece that dubs Pompeo’s bill the “Deny Americans the Right To Know” or “DARK” act (a name that seems to have caught on) here. Surveys consistently show that some 95% of American support labeling of foods containing genetically engineered or modified (GMO) ingredients. (more…)

Health Benefits of Parsley

ParsleyEasy to grow once germinated, parsely is a nutritious and attractive addition to any garden.

As a kid, your friendly Planet Natural Blogger was thought weird because he would eat the parsley garnish that came on his plate when we made those infrequent trips to the restaurant. I enjoyed my weird characterization so much that not only would I eat my garnish but would collect and eat everyone else’s parsley as well. Little did they know — little did I know — what a healthy thing it was to be a weird parsley eater. (more…)

Sowing Seeds Directly In the Garden

Planting SeedsThe ritual of planting garden seed keeps us in touch with the past while letting us look forward to the future.

Some of us live in places warm and weather-friendly enough that our gardens are already in. Some of us, with a possibility of frosts and even a heavy wet spring snow still to come, will continue to wait. But for many of us, now’s the time. All it will take is a couple sunny and warm days before we can sow seeds directly in our gardens. Sure, the peas and a few others might already be in. But where the weather turns suddenly — from winter to summer, as it often does here in Montana — we want to be ready.

So let’s pretend that it’s that most exciting (and anticipated) moment of the gardening season: planting time. We’ve gotten in and worked the soil, maybe spread some manure, worked in compost, and tinkered with the pH (after testing) using sulfur or lime. (more…)

Easy-To-Grow (Tasty, Too) Jerusalem Artichokes

Jerusalem ArtichokeThese toot-sweet (ha!) tubers are a healthy addition at meal time.

Your friendly and inquisitive Planet Natural Blogger once inherited a garden that had an established bed of Jerusalem artichokes. At the time we took it over, the artichokes were already growing and some, despite a rainy summer there in the great Northwest, were already sporting flowers. “We don’t do anything to ‘em,” the crusty old gardener from whom we bought the property told us. “They just come back every year.” “Whatta ya use them for?” we wanted to know. “Oh, all kinds of things,” he said, which we later found out included throwing a bunch of them to the couple of hogs he was raising. (more…)

Our Food, Our Health, Our Gardens

French FriesComparing organic and conventional produce, milk, more; poison and potato farms, and exposing corporate agriculture’s challenge to the nation.

One of the great reasons to garden organically is to assure that the food we put on the table for our friends and family is as healthy as it can be. But even the most intensive gardener can’t grow everything she or he brings to the kitchen. Here’s some recent food issues and related topics that have caught our eye here at Planet Natural. If you’ve seen other stories of interest to us and our readers (you!) then, please, by all means (including Facebook) let us know. (more…)

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