Using Cold Frames: A Year Round Gardening Tool

Cold Frame GardeningGive you plants a head-start and shelter from the cold with a versatile cold frame.

Springtime sees your friendly, think-ahead Planet Natural blogger putting his cold frame (PDF) to heavy use. Now, in a time of year where frosts are still possible, many of our indoor vegetable starts are almost ready to go into the garden. They need to get use to being outdoors. Many of them can’t survive the night-time cold but can when protected inside a cold frame, maybe draped with a blanket on the coldest nights. (more…)

Soil: America’s Greatest Resource

Healthy SoilA recent project looks to catalog the earth beneath us.

We were fortunate to have had a middle school teacher (when middle school was still called “junior high”) who when teaching American history gave a lot of attention to the the dust bowl years of the 1930s. This fine instructor — if only we could remember his name! — not only discussed the destruction of farm land, the migration of displaced farmers from Texas, Oklahoma, and other states, and the huge black clouds that rolled into cities as far away as St. Louis, but the causes of the disaster; not just drought but the wrong-headed, unsustainable farming practices that turned once verdant farm and pasture land into what today would be called an environmental disaster area. (more…)

Learning To Love (Some) Bugs

Bug BookA new book takes a wholistic approach to the use of beneficial insects in organic gardens.

Regular readers of the Planet Natural Blog know our enthusiasm for including beneficial insects in any Integrated Pest Management program.  Gardening author Jessica Walliser  — she co-hosts “The Organic Gardeners” radio program aired on station KDKA in Pittsburgh , Pennsylvania — has a new book out that discusses beneficials role in your garden environment and what you can do to create landscapes friendly to them.

Attracting Beneficial Bugs To Your Garden: A Natural Approach To Pest Control (Timber Press) is a detailed, wholistic, and wonderfully illustrated guide to the lifestyles of all the insects that inhabit the organic garden as well as creating the conditions needed to encourage those you want in the fight against those you don’t. (more…)

Gardening Blogs: A Growing Community

Gardening BlogGardeners share their experience and knowledge — with pictures! — online.

Friends and readers have questions: You’re always preaching patience this time of year. Wait until the last frost, wait until the soil is workable, don’t get into the garden too soon. That’s all well and good. But what do we do in the meantime?

Well, we’ve always counseled planning and dreaming. Plan your coming garden and landscape. Dream of what your yard, your vegetable patch will look like in just a few months. To facilitate that planning and stimulate that dreaming? Read. (more…)

Starting Annual Flowers Indoors

Annual FlowersRaising your own flowering annuals gives you variety, costs savings, and home-grown quality.

Why would your start your own flowering annuals from seed when they’re readily available as starts at nurseries and big box stores? The answer is cost, selection, and quality.

Sure you can find marigolds and other common annuals as ready-to-plant starts. And they’re relatively inexpensive if you’re just growing a few here and there. But if you’re looking for unusual annuals, either heirlooms or strains of favorites that you can’t get just anywhere, well, then, you’ll have to start them yourself. And if you’re using annuals as borders, say along sidewalks, or filling an entire garden bed with color, then you’ll need a lot of starts and suddenly the cost of those individual plants start to add up. A packet or two that contain enough seed for your needs? Probably $5 or less (more…)

Composter Connection

Composter ConnectionWelcome to COMPOSTER Connection, Planet Natural’s comprehensive source of information on the making and using of compost. The Connection provides first-time composters with everything they need to know to get started and be successful. Experienced composters will find new techniques and detailed information on the practice and science of composting. Just getting started? Go to the “Making Compost” section below for the basics. Ready to jump in? Visit Planet Natural for our complete line of composting bins and tumblers, tools and supplies.

Compost: In the Bin, the Garden, and the Environment

When I started composting several years ago, I was like a lot of gardeners: I knew that compost was good for my garden, but I had no idea why. (more…)

Organics Gain In Farm Bill

Farm BillLocal and organically grown foods, in demand now more than ever, get a nod from legislators.

There’s plenty in the recently passed Farm Bill that requires us to plug our noses. That’s true for nearly everyone, no matter which side of the ideological divide you’re on. Some say the Farm Bill is a hand out to corporate agriculture. Some say its a hand-out to poor families in the form of food stamps, called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program known as SNAP. No one is happy.

The often cranky British magazine The Economist points out why folks on both sides aren’t happy. It claims that 80% of the Farm Bill spending has nothing to do with farming. At the same time, it points out that 75% of the farm subsidies the bill provides are taken by the top 10% of farm business. (more…)

Growing the Perfect Radish

Organic RadishesRadishes are great for getting kids started with gardening. Yet growing good radishes isn’t child’s play.

Anybody can grow radishes. Even a kid can do it. But growing a good radish? Now that takes a little work and a lot of attention. And really, isn’t that exactly the kind of lesson you want to pass on to your little ones when it comes to gardening?

Radishes, a cool-weather crop, can be planted early, as soon as the soil can be worked and weeks before the last frost. In our household, they’re the first scratch on the itch to garden. Let’s go to the center of the country to gauge when you can sow radish seed. The Iowa State University Extension Service’s radish page says they can be planted in late March in the southern part of the state, in mid-April in the state’s northern counties. This suggests that they can be planted early, say February, further south. And in higher elevations and along the northern tier, try putting in radishes as soon as the snow is out and the soil is half-way friable. (more…)

Cities Embrace Composting Programs

Composting ProgramFood waste as well as lawn and garden wastes never see the landfill.

Recycling programs that include composting yard and garden wastes, difficult to find 20 years ago, have become the rule in America’s urban centers. And, as of 2012, 100 American cities include food and kitchen wastes in their composting programs.

Cities that now compost food wastes include Portland and Salem, Oregon, San Francisco, California, and Boulder, Colorado. And their number continue to grow. The cities of Los Angeles and San Diego allows their waste haulers to compost food waste from restaurants and hotels. In 2013, then New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg launched an ambitious campaign to recycle the city’s food waste. This would include not only waste from restaurants and other commercial interest, but from residents as well after pilot programs discovered a surprising rate of interest among households. (more…)

Patience When Planting Peas: The Payoff

Pea PlantsWait for the right soil temperatures and conditions before planting peas.

This time of year we’re thinking peas. Peas are always the first thing to go in our garden and the common wisdom — “plant as soon as the soil can be worked” — is our cue to get into the garden as soon as the soil dries enough that it doesn’t ball up when squeezed in our fists. Peas are also a cool weather crop, doing best in spring and early summer but also planted in late summer-early fall in places where winter doesn’t jump the shark as soon as October comes around.

Not only great eating — we were all about serving curls of fresh pea shoots in salads before it became popular in gourmet, farm-to-table restaurants — peas serve another purpose that promotes well-being in gardeners. They give us something to do in the weeks (and months ) ahead of when the rest of the garden goes in.

If you’re like me, you’re chomping at the bit once March rolls around and garden season is imminent. It’s like waiting for Christmas when you’re a kid. Sometimes you just can’t keep your hands off the presents even before the big day. (more…)

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