Bee Afraid

HoneybeeThe decline of honeybees in the United States — a third of the country’s hives were wiped out in 2008 — and elsewhere has been a matter of concern for a number of years. Recent studies in France and Britain now point the finger at a class of pesticides known as neonicotinoids. These commonly-used pesticides, which are often used to treat seed corn ahead of planting, work against the bees in two ways: by confusing their homing capability and limiting their ability to provide enough food to their hives for producing new queens. Other studies in the U.S. and Germany indict the pesticides but for different reasons. Calls for banning neonicotinoids were immediate.

Why should we care about bees and pesticides? Honeybees are responsible for pollinating some 70% of the earth’s food crops. No less an authority than Albert Einstein predicted that “if the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe, man would have only four years to live.” (more…)

Setting Out, Hardening Off

Hardening Off PlantsMy grandparents always called it “setting out plants.” We know the process of introducing our indoor raised or recently purchased seedlings to the outdoors as “hardening off.” Whatever you call it, the gradual introduction of your tender young plants to the cold, cruel world of the outdoors needs to be done with attention and patience. You wouldn’t just push your children out the door without some experience of what they were about to face, would you? Your plants are like your children. They need to adapt to conditions outside the home.

Hardening off is the process of acclimating plants to outdoor conditions. In some parts of the country, this process is well under way. In northern settings or places of higher altitude where the possibilities of frosts will continue for another two or three weeks, we’re still waiting. Timing is important. Many garden books will tell you that plants started indoors are ready to go out when its roots have filled the container. But if outdoor conditions are still too cold or wet, your tender plants may be set back. On the other hand, if they’re left in pots and their roots continue to grow, it may set back their growth. Transplanting into a larger pot is called for when outdoor conditions aren’t yet right. (more…)

The Heirloom Life Gardener

The Heirloom Life GardenerThe Baker Creek Way of Growing Your Own Food Easily and Naturally

Jere and Emilee Gettle have turned the grass-roots practice of raising heirloom vegetable seed into what passes for big business in the back-to-basics world. Their Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company, founded in 1998 when Jere was 17, has expanded to become something of a green giant, with a seed catalog distributed to over 300,00 gardeners, a tourist-friendly, old-time village in the Ozarks; and other seed-outlet properties in Petaluma, CA and Wethersfield, CT.

The Gettle’s publish a quarterly magazine, Heirloom Gardener, hold garden festivals, supply free heirloom seed to third world countries and are active in the anti-GMO (genetically modified organism) movement. While their image focuses on nostalgia right down to overalls, bonnets and horse-drawn manure spreaders, their business model is cutting edge, appealing to health-conscious, environmental, anti-corporate, locavore and sustainability cultures. (more…)

USDA Updates Hardiness Zone Map

USDA Zone MapDid you miss it? Last January, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), in conjunction with Oregon State University’s Prism Climate Group (a great site for those interested in climate), updated their “Plant Hardiness Zone Map.” The map includes new features which should make it easier to use:

“For the first time, the map is available as an interactive GIS-based map, for which a broadband Internet connection is recommended, and as static images for those with slower Internet access. Users may also simply type in a ZIP Code and find the hardiness zone for that area.”

The new map can be found here. And yes, there has been a general revision because of new climate data: (more…)

Warm Winter Confusion

Winter BlossomsHow will the mild, dry winter experienced in many parts of the country and Canada effect gardening? Links from around the country suggest that mother nature is confused, something we doubt. It’s us humans who are usually the ones confused. Mother Nature always seems to know what she’s doing even if it’s different than what we’re used to. In New York State, gardeners are worried that late snows after dry winter months will endanger tulip and other bulb shoots as well as early blossoms on fruit trees. A Raleigh, N.C. nursery expects the mild winter will affect the number of peony blossoms. Peonies need a minimum number of cold dormant days to flower. On the other hand, the nursery expects a banner year for magnolia blossoms.

(more…)

Planet Natural: The Garden Blog

Planet Natural BlogWelcome to the Planet Natural Gardening Blog, a clearinghouse for all things green and growing. What are we about? Organic gardening, sustainability, and the natural lifestyle, of course. That means you’ll find how-tos on raising healthy, great-tasting, heirloom vegetables, growing beautiful landscapes and flowers, composting, and improving soil health. We’re all about controlling weeds without harmful herbicides and pests without toxic pesticides. We’re engaged in conserving water and xeriscape gardening, growing herbs, and raising cover crops, and all the wise-use practices that make for sustainable, healthy gardens and landscapes. (more…)

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