The Tools You Need To Garden

Yard & Garden ToolsHow to select and care for gardening tools.

Seems folks we talk to have been using their garden tools most of the winter and not for snow shoveling. For those who haven’t, it’s time to clean, sharpen, and oil, as well as check the handles and their attachment to the working end of the tool, if you didn’t do it last fall. We’ll be digging dirt soon.

Top quality, comfortable-to-use garden tools make the work of gardening a joy (“work” and “joy”:  no contradiction there). A good shovel or turning fork with an ageless ash handle and some family history behind it is both a functional tool and a source of pride. How do you describe the feeling you get watching your kid edge his garden patch with the spade your grandfather used? (more…)

Economics, Water Drives Soil Conservation Farming

Soil ConservationNo-till, reduced pesticide and herbicide, cover crop farming methods on the grow.

Organic gardening practice that emphasizes soil quality in our backyard vegetable patch and landscape is one thing. Improving our nation’s farm soils, acre by acre, is another.

So it was with a smile that your cheerful Planet Natural blogger ran across this announcement of the 2015 Tri-Basin Natural Resources District Soil Conservation Award from south-central Nebraska.

The winner, Greg Linder of Loomis, Nebraska, is something of an American inspiration for both the generations of farming his family represents, as well as his efforts to protect two of his county’s greatest resources: its soil and water. It’s worth reading the whole story. (more…)

Tips and Tricks For Spring Garden Planting

Spring PlantingHere’s how to get your vegetable garden off to a great, early start.

Even if much of the country is still locked in winter, many places are warming up to garden planting season. Here’s a roundup of tips and strategies to help insure those first seeds that go in your garden survive the variable conditions of spring.

Plan. You’ll want to carefully choose where you’ll sow the first seeds of peas, greens, and other garden crops. It makes sense you’ll want them in the best conditions. You’ll also want to look to the future, to when and where you’ll plant long season, heat-loving seeds and transplants of things like tomatoes and squash. Remember, too, that late June and July heat may cause your first crops, especially greens to go to seed. There’s a balancing act involved. (more…)

Rewilding Your Home Landscape

Native LandscapingGardening with nature in mind’s new buzz word.

What is “rewilding?” Valerie Easton’s Natural Gardener column in a recent issue of The Seattle TimesPacific NW Sunday magazine puts perspective to the Johnny-come-lately gardening term. The piece, called “In Harmony With Nature,” is sort of a celebration of rewilding which, she notes, only first appeared in the dictionary in 2011. She says, “I like to think that in the gardenesque sense of the word, rewilding represents a desire to meddle less and celebrate nature more.”

Less meddling sounds like less work to me. Needles to say, your mostly-industrious Planet Natural blogger likes the idea of less work. (more…)

Apples Lead New “Dirty Dozen” Pesticide Report

Produce GuideWhich non-organic fruits and vegetables to avoid, plus a “Clean Fifteen.”

The Environmental Working Group’s Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce — the Dirty Dozen and the Clean Fifteen — is always anticipated. Fruits dominate the top half of the list. Apples again are number one, then come peaches, nectarines, strawberries, and grapes, followed by celery, spinach, and bell peppers.

The rankings are based on a six-point evaluation that includes a percentage count of tested items found to have pesticides. 99% of apples tested and 98% of peaches were found to hold pesticides. The rankings also figure in the concentration of pesticides on each test piece. (more…)

Idaho State Rep Calls For U.S.-Wide GMO Labeling

National GMO Labeling SystemIs it part of a back door effort by GMO producers to get ahead of the push to label?

Idaho State Representative Steve Miller is calling for a national GMO labeling system for genetically engineered foods. Miller argues that a nationwide system would avoid a “patchwork” of labeling laws as states consider passing their own measures.

Miller’s call came after the Idaho Farm Bureau Federation expressed concerns that legislation introduced to ban GMO labeling state-wide would bring the wrong kind of attention to Idaho crops. The Bureau, on the record as pro-GMO, doesn’t want to make anti-labeling laws an issue. The passing of an “ag-gag” law in Idaho garnered heavy criticism — and a lawsuit — from consumers and humane treatment advocates. (more…)

Tips for Planting Bare Root Trees

Planting Bare Root TreesThe advantages of buying, and when to plant, bare root trees and shrubs.

Our far-flung correspondents have been sighting bare root trees coming in to nurseries and big-box stores. It’s still a little early for planting in many parts of the country, especially considering the brutal nature of winter 2015 back east.

But places in the prairie states and west, especially the Pacific Northwest, enjoying warm winters? Why not take advantage?

Bare root trees not only cost half or so as much as their potted counterparts, they take better to planting. And there’s reason for that. (more…)

Factory Farm Pigs and Food Safety

The Chain: Farm Factory and the Fate of Our FoodCruel, contained hog raising threatens our health and the environment.

One of our favorite sights each spring in Montana is the running of the piglets. We’d visit a small, Bozeman area organic pork producer up the west side of the Bridger Mountains to see all the little, new-born piggies take it outside.

They had a big pasture to roam and all of a sudden, as they stood rooting and rummaging around, one would take off and the rest would follow. They’d race far south, shoulder to tiny shoulder, make a wide turn, and then came streaming back. Call it a mini-stampede. The sheer joy of it never failed to make everyone laugh.

Of course, most hogs don’t enjoy that kind of life. Reading Ted Genoways’ recent book The Chain: Farm Factory and the Fate of Our Food we flashed on how hard it is not to focus on a single argument against big, meaning giant, agriculture. Humane living conditions and treatment, like those above, are easy for the small farmer. But the giants, always interested in improving the bottom line, find it more efficient –meaning more profitable — to cram pigs — standing room only — in pens with concrete floors. (more…)

GMO Warrior Vandana Shiva

Vandana ShivaThe controversial Indian activist fights the “seed dictatorship.

Every social and political movement has its hero. In the global anti-GMO movement it’s environmentalist Vandana Shiva, a woman who tirelessly attacks patent-protected seeds and corporate agriculture and champions returning the land and the future of seed to small, local farmers.

This stand and the following it’s garnered has, of course, made her one of the most feared anti-corporate activists on the planet. It’s also brought her a lot of controversy. There’s no doubt that she states her case in the strongest terms and occasionally plays loose with the facts. But her principles are solid and her conviction must be admired by friend and foe alike. (more…)

Gardening with Chickens

Raising Backyard ChickensNatural fertilizer and pest control from the birds that give us eggs and companionship.

Our friend the gourmet cook likes to talk about the flavor of fresh eggs as opposed to those you might get from the supermarket. He became so obsessed with using eggs only days old, rather than weeks (or even months), ones produced by backyard chickens with a well-rounded diet that, well, he eventually got some birds of his own.

He’d give me a half carton of his cherished product when the laying cycle was at its peak and those backyard eggs were indeed excellent. Everything you look for in a good, truly naturally nourished egg is there, especially that rich, gooey flavor. He claims that not only are his quiches and other egg dishes better (his hard-boiled eggs are divine) but that his eggs are the key to his baking success. (more…)

Page 5 of 62« First...34567...102030...Last »