Legume Inoculants Increase Yields, Keep Plants Healthy

Garden Pea PlantNitrogen-fixing bacteria and organic compost for peas, beans, and healthy soil.

Now that we’re well into pea planting season and bean planting isn’t far behind, we’ve been considering the practice of inoculating pea and bean seeds with nodule-forming, nitrogen-fixing Rhizobium bacteria, commonly known as legume inoculant.

We’ve inoculated our peas and beans every year for so long that we take for granted the nitrogen that it will return to the garden and the growth benefits to our plants. Those years we forgot to order or otherwise just didn’t have inoculant enough to go around have shown us the difference. Nitrogen may be invisible but its presence can be seen in better growth and soil health. (more…)

Organic Artichokes For the Garden

ArtichokesGrowing artichokes as edibles or ornamentals at home.

Artichokes, once the domain of cool, coastal climates and inland areas of moderate temperatures, are moving into gardens where they’ve never be seen before. Even Utah (PDF) is growing artichokes.

It may be that warmer, longer summer seasons are encouraging gardeners in zones previously not suitable to growing artichokes to try their luck. But there are other factors at play as well.

One of the reasons is the popularity of recently available heirlooms that are offered next to the classic “Green Globe” variety. Restaurants and gourmet growers are offering types of artichokes that were unknown not long ago. (more…)

Roundup Linked To Cancer, Monsanto Throws Hissy-Fit

Roundup and CancerWorld Health Organization review of pesticide used on GMOs attacked.

Monsanto came out swinging after the the World Health Organization said that glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup, is “probably” carcinogenic. The review, conducted by WHO’s International Agency for Research In Cancer, found that glyphosate increased risks for non-Hodgkin lymphoma as well as DNA and chromosomal damage.

Monsanto’s emphatic press release of March 20 attacking the very consideration of that probability was followed by a string of media stories that gave full airing to the corporation’s complaints. At the same time, some reporters — Alice G. Walton at Forbes and Mark Bittmann at The New York Times  — began to question what they were hearing from the chem-ag giant. (more…)

Timing Important for Pest and Disease Problems

Plant ProblemSpring is the time to deal with caterpillars, black spot on roses, and other plant problems.

The use of natural and organic methods for pest and disease controls on lawns and gardens is time sensitive, more so than using chemical sprays that will persist in the landscape. Whether you’re using beneficial insects to fight off a an aphid infestation, liquid copper to rid your roses of fungus or disease, or applying Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) to do in cabbage worms, timing is everything. And early in the season — springtime — is often the right time to prevent problems down the road. (more…)

Farm-To-Table Boosts Garden Tourism

Skagit Valley Tulip FestivalOrganic produce, local-source dining and rural pleasures tempt visitors.

It’s Tulip Festival month in the Skagit Valley of Washington state, one of the country’s primary tulip bulb production sites. Long before those bulbs are harvested, acres and acres of the tulips flower. When they do hundreds of thousands of visitors come to see the richly and variously colored blossoms on a scale that’s hard to imagine.

Planet Natural’s Pacific Northwest correspondent reports that when the flower-lovers show up, usually in the month of April (flowering came as much as two weeks early this year), they boost the local economy in ways that benefit everything from road side-stands selling rhubarb to nearby motels and restaurants. (more…)

Now In Stores: Genetically Engineered Papaya

GMO PapayasGMO papaya, both fresh and as juice, threatens Hawaiian organics.

It wasn’t so many years ago that papayas were a novelty in our grocery market’s produce department. Markets now have papayas in abundance and priced to move. What’s the difference between now and then? Why it’s the GMO papaya.

Unless it’s labeled organic, the Hawaiian papaya you buy for your family is most likely from a genetically engineered tree.

Papayas are an excellent example of the good intention-bad result history of GMO development, really a smaller part of the GMO struggle when compared to the bad intention- bad result (think Mosanto) history of development. Papayas also offer a lesson in the issue’s complexity with all the various reasons that make GMOs, even those developed with the best intentions, a multi-faceted problem. (more…)

Grow, Enjoy Rhubarb

Rhubarb PlantHealthy, delicious recipes from a dependable, cool-weather, garden perennial.

Our correspondent in Northwest Washington’s Skagit Valley, home to family farms, organic growers, nurseries and a surprisingly rich country dining scene, reports that farm markets and country produce stands were open over the weekend with two products: asparagus and rhubarb.

Of all the early season crops, these two are often the most anticipated and the first to harvest. (more…)

Springtime Care of Roses

Springtime RosesPruning and fertilizing of rose bushes rewards with rich, sumptuous blooms.

April is the time in many places to get your rose bushes prepared for the growing season. The spring pruning and feeding of roses is rewarded with vigorous new growth and blossoms.

Even if you live in an area where roses are showing signs of green growth and budding — and that happened early in some parts of the country this year — it’s not too late to clean them up a bit. Giving a rose bush shape and removing second-year growth (and older if your plants have been neglected) not only help strengthen the plant but increase it’s flower power in years to come. (more…)

Make Soil For Your Raised Beds

Raised Bed GardenStraw bale gardening and other tips to build the best soil for your raised beds.

Adding some raised beds to your garden this year? Great idea. I’ve seen it said that raised beds produce about four times the amount of produce as do row crops. Plants seem more vigorous there in early season, probably because the soil in a raised bed warms faster than that in the garden patch. As gardeners, we love early season growth.

None of this is true, of course, if the soil in your raised bed isn’t at its best. And that’s the great things about raised beds. You can dig them out and fill them as you like. Think of them as a controlled experiment in which you’re looking for just the right, airy mix of organic materials — including beneficial microbes and other living things — and naturally occurring nutrients like nitrogen and minerals. (more…)

Plant Now For New Spring Potatoes

New Potato HarvestHow to grow tender, young “new potatoes” right in your own garden.

“New potatoes,” those harvested small and early, are all the rage in America’s kitchens and for good reason. They’re often fork- sized (well, close), retain their shape when cooked up, and come out nice and tender. They’re also a touch sweet. They haven’t developed long enough for their sugars to turn to starch. And that makes them the perfect accompaniment to late spring- early summer meals when they go well with other early vegetables from your garden.

They’re also great for early season potato salads. (more…)

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