Planning A Kitchen Garden

Backyard Kitchen GardenHow to grow greens and other vegetables right outside your back door.

The term “kitchen garden” is bandied around a lot these days. But what exactly does it mean? We’ve always considered it a vegetable garden in proximity to the kitchen door or whichever portal to the outdoors is closest to the kitchen. Proximity, of course is relevant, and almost any garden plot inside your property growing food no matter how far from the kitchen door qualifies.

As I’ve worked over fresh ideas for my landscape — otherwise know as “the yard” — I’m hoping to turn some features near the back door into vegetable and herb patches. (more…)

Tomato Planting Techniques

Transplanting Tomato PlantsTransplanting tomato starts changes root structure. Here’s how to best plant tomatoes.

Your not-so-young Planet Natural blogger was taught by his grandfather long ago to get as much of a tomato stem under the soil as possible when transplanting. This encouraged strong, new root growth. And I’ve been planting tomato starts, whether from nurseries or my own basement (under T-5 flourescents), that way ever since.

Grandpa, always a good teacher, pointed out the short, fine hairs on the tomato’s stem and explained that once underground they would produce lateral roots (though I’m pretty sure he didn’t use the word “lateral”). Since then, I’ve told many a kid the same story. (more…)

Old Malls Grow Green

Rooftop FarmingRoof-top farms and green-house gardens help reclaim agricultural land from urban sprawl.

All those big malls that were built in the 1970s and 1980s? You know, the kind that had a big anchor store or two and many, many often smaller retails outlets, a multi-plex movie house, and a food court?  They’re beginning to close — completely — in growing numbers.

Some two-dozen have closed across the country since 2010 says the mall tracking group Green Street Advisors. Robin Lewis, co-author of The New Rules of Retailing, has predicted that at least 30% of the behemoth retail complexes will close in the near future.  What to do with all that empty space? (more…)

Best Direct Sow Flowers

Flower GardenLots of annual flowers take to seeding right in the ground.

We’ve made no secret that we intend to start more of our annual flowers indoors, under lights, to set in our landscapes once temperatures cooperate. And as we were putting together a list for an impending order, we realized that we should also consider the flower seed we’ll order to sow directly in the ground.

Direct seeding works well in places like borders or other patches where a number of plants are desired. And the best flowers for these borders are ones that germinate and mature quickly like cosmoszinnias, or marigolds. (more…)

Cruel Livestock Research

Factory FarmingWhat constitutes humane treatment of farm animals?

A recent expose of the United States Department of Agriculture’s Meat Animal Research Center has focused attention on animal cruelity by factory farms and big agriculture. The crowding and debeaking of chickens, the confinement of sows when giving birth, the feed lot conditions of cattle; all these issues (and more) have drawn attention to the livestock industry and its pursuit of extracting profit from animals. But this article raises a whole new set of concerns. (more…)

Gearing Up For Starting Garden Seed

Growing SeedlingsNow’s the time to gather up what you’ll need for growing vegetable and flower seeds indoors.

We’ve been browsing through the seed catalogs that are trickling in, not all of them in the mail, and scribbling down names of some new choices we might try. Our big annual order, full of old favorites, will get sent in a couple weeks. But seeds aren’t the only thing we’ll need.

While we consider which seeds to order, we also take stock of what we’ll need to get them growing. We’ve talked a lot in the past about ways to keep your starts healthy and from getting too leggy. And those things are important. (more…)

Horitculture Programs: Good Grows Here

Senior Garden ProgramThe popularity of urban farming, garden therapy, and organic produce means more jobs and education.

This article about vocational training at Nebraska’s world-famous Boys Town — it’s the site of our favorite Spencer Tracy and Mickey Rooney movie — got us thinking about gardening programs designed to educate. Boys Town has always had roots in agriculture. I remember driving by there as a kid and seeing large greenhouses standing next to rows of corn and other crops. It fit right in among the surrounding farmland. (more…)

Designing A Flower Bed

Flower GardenWhat to consider when planning borders and flower garden designs.

Considering my outdoor landscape and making some changes wasn’t an official New Year’s resolution of mine. But it’s the one I’ve kept. I’ve thought about outdoor containers for decks, patios and walkways, maybe building an arbor and a trellis or two, and of course, making my lawn more water wise or getting rid of it completely. Now I’m ready to think about adding a flower garden or maybe a border along the fence or against the hedge.

Where to start? What’s to consider even before you start to think about where your flower bed might go? (more…)

BPA Water Bottle Substitute Worse Than BPA

Plastic Water BottlesChemicals in plastic water bottles continue to threaten health.

Those cute little stickers on that new water bottle I’m carrying around that announce that the plastic is “BPA Free”? They were reassuring after a lifetime of carrying water in containers made of who-knows-what. Now, even BPA-free bottles are suspect. Who could have predicted?

And while the news requires quick, specific action to switch to an alternative, safe bottle, it also signals an over-reaching issue concerning human health. Replacing a dangerous chemical with other manufactured chemicals never solves the problem. And sometimes it makes it worse. (more…)

The Art of Outdoor Container Growing

Growing in ContainersChoosing pots, plants and places to create beautiful landscapes with containers.

With a porch, a deck and a semi-covered patio, I’ve got as lot of good places for potted plants. I spent sometime this weekend going through some favorite books, getting ideas and reviewing principles that will not only improve my growing but also the aesthetic of potted plants. Here are some of the things that attracted me. Let’s hope they expand your thinking on container growing in the outdoor landscape just as they did mine.

Container Garden Idea Book put together by the editors of Fine Gardening magazine was one of the more browseable gardening books to come out in 2011.

It doesn’t really spend a lot of time discussing soil, drainage and moisture control, and what kind of pots to use for successful gardening. And that’s fine with me. I figure I know enough to grow climate-appropriate plants in containers. It’s the aesthetics that challenge me. I don’t have a good visual eye. Luckily, the Container Garden Idea Book helps me see how pots and plants come together for visual appeal. (more…)

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