“Natural” Foods and Genetically Engineered Crops

Grocery StoreConsumer Reports finds current labeling misleading; supports GMO label bills.

The respected pro-consumer publication Consumer Reports is touting two studies that both support the labeling of foods that contain genetically modified ingredients. One study found that foods including breakfast cereals, snack chips and baby formula frequently contained GMOs, even if labeled “natural.” A second study polled a thousand Americans on their beliefs about food labels. It found that 64% of those polled believed that products labeled “natural” were free of GMOs, even though they’re not. (more…)

Fall Pest Prevention

Garden Clean UpCleaning out garden debris also takes out harmful insect eggs and larvae.

We’ve been updating articles on the Planet Natural Pest Problem Solver — a handy resource for the organic gardener and those interested in Integrated Pest Management in our “Learning Center” pull downs on the homepage — and, in particular, going over sections on cabbage worms, asparagus beetles, loopers and the like. It occurred to us that with many pests that overwinter in decaying plant matter, there’s one thing you can do at the end of the season to put all those seedling stealing, leaf-eating, cabbage-ruining worms and beetles at a distinct disadvantage. Clean-up!

Taking away the foliage where the moths have laid eggs, where pupae hide, where a worm has burrowed into a green stem like a sleeping bag and is hoping for a mild winter, eliminates the chance that these pests will emerge in your garden come spring to start the destructive cycle all over again. Not only does removing the remains of your garden take out the pests hiding there, it also reduces the presence of disease and fungal wilt. (more…)

Food Issues and Organic Growing

Locally Grown FoodsIs the farm bill money spent on promoting organics and locally grown foods worth it?

Your friendly Planet Natural blogger is all about assuring your family gets truly organic fruits and vegetables by growing them at home. But he’s also all about access to quality organic produce, raised on local farms and sold locally at co-ops, farm stands and store fronts, and at farmers markets.

No one I know grows enough of everything. Most of us with modest-sized gardens feel lucky if we can plant a couple short rows of sweet corn that yield enough ears for a big picnic and a couple family dinners. When we do buy produce — and we buy a lot of it with great joy — we want to now that it was grown naturally and nearby. It’s great to buy from a producer — a farmer! — that you know and trust. (more…)

GMO Pesticide “Enlist Duo” Moves Forward, Hawaiian GMO Ban Stopped

Spraying WeedsDupont doubles down on spray resistant super weeds.

When the United States Department of Agriculture said in January that it was ready to grant approval to a new pesticide known as “Enlist Duo” developed by Dupont AgroSciences, the resulting outcry delayed the planned final approval which the USDA had promised in “a few months.” The outcry only became louder in April when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said it too was ready to grant approval. Unless it’s been done in secret, no such blanket approval has been made. And that’s for good reason. (more…)

Gardening Basics: Plant Anatomy

Plant AnatomyPlants are diverse living organisms that can be found from your back yard to all over the world. Archaeologists have even discovered fossils of plants! While some plants produce pretty flowers or delicious fruits or vegetables, other types of plants serve as food for animals or even as their shelter. Today some plant experts suggest that there are some 315,000 different varieties of plants! While these different types of plants vary dramatically in appearance and location, many of them contain the same basic parts.

Rooted in Plant Roots

Arguably the most important of the plant, even though we rarely see them, a plant’s roots or “root system” do so many different important jobs for the plant. The roots anchor the plant into the ground and transport water and vitamins from the soil that the plant needs to grow and develop. The root system also stores important nutrients when there may not be nutrients (like during the winter) to keep the plant alive and healthy. If plants were unable to store nutrients for future use they wouldn’t be able to live nearly as long. (more…)

Koi Ponds and Water Gardens

Koi PondKoi ponds and water gardens have been popular for hundreds of years because of their beauty and serenity. Koi are traditional symbols of good luck in Chinese and Japanese culture, with each variety representing different aspects of life such as love, wealth, or happiness. These fish are hardy and do very well in controlled environments like backyard water gardens. Keep reading to find out more about how to put together a healthy environment for these stunning fish.

History of Koi Ponds

With their playful demeanor and rich history of bringing good luck, koi are the perfect addition to any backyard water garden. Dating back centuries to China and Japan, these fish were originally kept as pets by emperors because they were thought to transform into dragons. Nowadays, koi ponds are prized for their beauty and tranquility. The word “koi” in Japanese means “affection, love, and friendship,” so the presence of koi in a backyard pond has become a symbol of luck and love. (more…)

Organic Gardening Based on Location

Climate ZonesThe amount of light, food, and water an organic garden receives is only part of what determines whether the plants in the garden will thrive. Climate also plays a big role. The United States is a large country with many different regions and different climates. The United States Department of Agriculture’s Hardiness Zones map attempts to take the guesswork out of gardening by describing the average lowest temperatures for each area. But, hardiness zones only tell part of the story when it comes to deciding on the best plants to grow in each area of the country.

Northeast

The Northeast makes up the states from Maryland up to Maine. Hardiness zones for the region range from zone 8a, with a minimum temperature of 10 degrees Fahrenheit to zone 3b, with a minimum temperature of -35 degrees Fahrenheit. Typically, the gardening season kicks off in late March and early April in the Northeast. Gardeners can start to plant tender annuals, which can’t withstand frost, around the end of May. The area can experience unexpected cold snaps at the beginning of the gardening season. Some gardeners will use a cold frame to get a head start on gardening and to protect plants from a random frost late in the season. (more…)

What is Gluten? How You Can Garden for a Gluten-Free Lifestyle

Preparing VegetablesCeliac disease is a significant intestinal problem that affects around 1 in 133 people. Sufferers of this disorder often exhibit symptoms of a physical intolerance to gluten after eating foods containing the protein. The high incidence of this disease has led the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to require that food manufacturers follow strict guidelines when labeling their products as “gluten-free.” While many food companies now offer gluten-free alternatives to popular snacks and meals, making changes in the diet to include whole foods, like fresh fruits and vegetables, can significantly improve the condition. For celiac sufferers, growing a personal vegetable garden can ensure that fresh produce free of gluten-free contaminants is always available. (more…)

Elements of Organic Gardening: Composting

Compost PileCompost is an essential element in organic gardening. Compost is made of decomposed organic matter that can be used to improve the health of garden soil. The compost adds humus, organic matter that cannot be broken down any further, to the soil. The humus aids in nutrient and moisture retention in the soil and also changes the density of the soil. Composting is not only beneficial for its soil-building properties; it also greatly decreases the amount of garbage that can end up in a landfill. The compost ingredients are naturally decomposed and reused instead of being thrown away. Compost can also help reduce the amount of toxins in soil due to pesticides or fuels. The compost can regenerate this soil and prevent the spread of the toxins to other plants and into water sources. (more…)

Clean Fifteen and The Dirty Dozen List

Organic Produce ShoppingA guide for selecting pesticide-free produce.

The use of pesticides has become a standard practice in farming. They are used to repel damaging pests and prevent them from destroying whole crops. Unfortunately, pesticides can leave residue on fruits and vegetables that may eventually cause health problems in people who regularly consume them. Although some harmful chemicals are no longer used on food since the passing of the Food Quality Protection Act of 1996, there are still concerns surrounding the amount of pesticides that are currently being put to use. To alert consumers about the amounts of pesticides that are in their food, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) created two important lists. The first of these lists the foods that are considered the cleanest due to the low amounts of pesticides. The second lists foods that are the worst of the offenders and that have the highest levels of pesticides. These EWG lists are called the “Clean 15″ and the “Dirty Dozen.” (more…)

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