Where the Wild Things Are

Garden HabitatHome gardens provide habitat for birds, butterflies, and wildlife.

All of us organic gardeners know the value — the necessity! — of attracting pollinators and beneficial insects. We know that making our landscapes friendly to birds can decrease the trouble we have with problem insects. Why, we’ve even come to see bats as beneficial creatures that will devour multitudes of pests in a single night.

But we also know the damage that insects and wildlife can do to our vegetables. Aphids, cabbage loopers, slugs, tomato hornworms, and so many others can destroy our plants before the harvest. Deer will eat our lettuce and raccoons our corn before we have the chance. Crows might pluck the seedlings from our soil just for fun. (more…)

Lessons From the Garden

CrowA crow, a row of seedlings, and repeated frustration spotlight the adaptability and ingenuity of gardeners.

A friend of this blog, someone who’s good at seeing the big picture, writes in to tell us about a problem solved and how it reflects on the art and craft of gardening. It’s a good example of how we develop our gardening techniques over the years by paying attention, considering all the variables, and measuring the results. We’ve added a few follow-up links in his story, as we do in ours:

Our family loves sweet corn and every year I plant a “square” of corn; four or five-foot long rows, two of the rows planted a week or two after the first rows went in, an often in-vain attempt to extend the harvest. Somehow the corn all seems to arrive at the same time no matter how I stagger the planting. (more…)

Your Antibiotics Don’t Work? Blame A Cow.

Drug Resistant BacteriaHow drug-resistant bacteria became a life-threatening problem.

It seems that cataclysmic predicaments of the sort that threaten widespread hardship and demise are multiplying. Yesterday’s release of the National Climate Assessment that claimed America is already suffering the effects of climate change — everything from drought, wild fires, and increased storm intensity to the spread of asthma and bark beetles — can be added to a list that includes (but not limited to) contamination of drinking water, increasing toxins and contamination of our food supply, the effects of over population, environmental pollution of all sorts, and the spread of exotic diseases. (more…)

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…)

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