Mulch Hits the Big Screen

Back To Eden FilmDocumentary film on master gardener Paul Gautschi’s got the spirit.

In the battle over what constitutes healthy food, it’s no longer surprising to see the documentary film as an effective weapon, most often deployed on the side against corporate agriculture and for public health and well-being. Films including Food Inc (watch it here), 2004’s Supersize Me, a month of nothing but McDonald’s, and most recently Fed Up which implicates a government-corporate collaboration to promote and reward refined sugar, are all convincing, visual arguments of the dangers of the commercial food culture.

Broadly about food, these films are specifically about processed foods, organic and locally raised farming, the health consequences of certain refined foods and fast-food diets. Related films include GMO/OMG , a study of the corporate takeover of farming through seed production, GMOs, and related pesticides. Now even documentaries championing organic gardening are getting into the act. (more…)

Growing Community’s Common Discourse

Social MediaReason, passion, civility in the (online) organic movement.

We’ve been thinking about what it means to be part of the organic movement these days and came to the conclusion that a lot of understanding was required. That means understanding of all sorts: from how we grow organic, why we grow organic, why its good for health, why it’s good for the environment and for the economy. But it also means understanding each other.

This came to mind after an email exchange with one of this blog’s readers. The results were surprisingly reassuring. (more…)

Early Season Garden Crops

Asparagus HarvestSpring harvest vegetables are among the year’s most enjoyable.

That short season of spring-harvest garden crops is almost — or entirely — gone depending on where you live. Some are yet to come. Here, a week before the official start of summer, our peas are full of blossoms. Pea blossoms make a lovely addition, when still attached to their curling tendrils, to any salad or as a garnish. But peas themselves, one of the first things planted in the garden and one of the first we think to harvest, are still a few days away.

And sure, we’ve been harvesting lettuce — we were thinning it a week ago — and we know its young, fresh flavor won’t be matched by what we pick in July. But the lettuce proves the point: some of our favorite garden harvests come during spring.

Maybe the reason these early season garden crops seem so delicious, and satisfying, and even precious, is that they are the first. Later when the carrots and tomatoes and the summer squash comes, we may have forgotten all about them (unless there’s some rhubarb sauce in the freezer). But for now, they’re the most wonderful harvest we can imagine. (more…)

Avoiding Water Stressed Plants

Watering PlantsMake sure your plants don’t receive too little or too much water.

Though it’s not true everywhere — the forecast today for Bozeman includes a 40% chance of scattered showers — we’re fast approaching that time of the growing season when your garden, lawns and flower beds included, need to be closely monitored for moisture. How do we know when our plants aren’t getting enough water? They tell us.

Water stress is the term used to denote any moisture-related problems that plants might have. This includes too much water as well as too little. Water stress can also be caused by the quality of the water given to the plants. Water containing too many dissolved salts or grey (recycled) water that contains pollutants can also stress plants. (Phosphorous, found in many home detergents and soaps, can actually aid plant growth if proper amounts aren’t exceeded… Tip: use natural cleaning products.)

As every gardener knows, determining when plants need water is easy: their leaves wilt. But of course, you don’t want to get to this point. When you spot wilting, you’ve already stressed your plant. (more…)

Growing Classic, Heirloom Head Lettuce

Head LettuceA challenge to grow and less nutritious than leaf varieties, head lettuce is still a thing of beauty.

When did I become a lettuce snob? It was back in my youth, about the same time I became interested in healthy eating and gardening. I’d been raised on iceberg lettuce, the kind that came from the grocery store in big pale heads. Mom would tear up the leaves, put them in a bowl and voila! Salad. I didn’t mind it. Those tasteless leaves we’re just a way for us to get that sweet, commercial, orange-colored salad dressing in our mouths. Look ma! I’m eating vegetables! (more…)

New Technology and Old Time Gardening

Edyn Garden SensorSolar-powered monitoring and control of garden conditions holds promise.

Developing and using new technology has been part of gardening since ancient peoples first started fashioning stone tools for digging. Nearly all advances in agricultural development, from the first use of antlers as a hoe to the gas-powered roto-tiller (and its big brother, the tractor and plow) have come from technological development. Not all of them have necessarily been good. But most of them are done in the name of advancing the science and craft of food production (some seem done purely for selfish profit-motives).

In terms of home gardening, technology hasn’t really changed that much since our grandparent’s days. And most of the recent advancements, things like electronic soil testers and digital moisture meters are useful advances that help make it easier to gather the information we need for best growing conditions. Some technical advancement, like this and this, are purely mechanical, things that grandpa’s crazy inventor neighbor probably thought up but never brought to market. Then there’s these things, devices that made an ancient practice easier, faster, and all-around more convenient. (more…)

Tea From Your Own Garden

Herbal TeaGrowing traditional and herbal teas at home is explained in a new book.

We’ve grown herbs in our garden and surrounding landscapes for more years than we remember. Most of them — basil, rosemary, thyme, sage, and the like — were raised for our modest culinary uses. That said, we’ve always grown utility herbs, like mint, that we used in cooking (mint jelly), flavoring (a sprig in iced tea or planted atop some whipped-cream crowned dessert) or for tea (we don’t need to spell this one out). We’ve also used various, usually flowering herbs as ornamentals in flower beds. Some herbs (PDF) are great used in water-conscious, xeriscape gardens. (more…)

Controlling Weeds By Design

Landscape DesignDefeat unwanted plants in your landscape by planning ahead.

A spark of warm weather and everything’s growing great guns in the garden. And that includes the weeds. Time to get down on our knees and start pulling the plants in our vegetable gardens and flower beds that don’t belong.

If only we’d planned to control them from the start.

Attacking weeds at ground level by pulling them is often the organic gardener’s last line of defense. Though we’re doused in advertisements this time of year showing us how easy it is to spray a dangerous herbicide — they don’t tell us about the dangerous part — that will rid our lawns of dandelions and otherwise kill the green invaders in our landscapes, spraying just isn’t our thing. (more…)

These Bugs Raise A Stink

Stink BugHow to identify and control the brown marmorated stink bug.

They landed on our shores in Pennsylvania some 15 years ago and have since spread across the country, leaving a trail of destruction behind them. Voracious feeders, they’re not content to destroy our food sources. They’ve come to occupy our homes in ways that have changed the very nature of our lives. In an all-0ut effort to stop the invasion, humans have joined forces to bring an end to their march across America. And while some progress has been reported, the battle is far from over. (more…)

Wanted: More Compost

Compost PileFaster composting for all your lawn and garden uses.

It’s a common complaint among us gardeners this time of year, and not just this time of year: We need more compost. When you’re working it into your garden soil, side dressing the plants in your borders and the transplants in your vegetable patch, even spreading it in the lawn to insure a healthy, weed-smothering and pest resistant carpet of green, well, you can go through a lot of compost rather quickly. You don’t want to skimp. But its hard not too when you have so many places in your landscape calling out for rich, organic soil amendment and only a limited amount of production capacity. (more…)

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