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…)

USDA Approves GMO Apples

GMO Arctic AppleWill genetically modified apples ruin the fruit’s healthy reputation?

We’ve previously addressed the controversy over genetically modified apples being developed, not by Monsanto, but by a specialty Northwest grower. The apples have been engineered to resist browning and bruising, making them more suitable, it’s claimed, to being served as slices. Surprisingly, a number of established apple growers have questioned the need for the GMO varieties that are set to be marketed under the name “Arctic.”

Now the Department of Agriculture has given approval for planting of the genetically modified apple. The company behind the apple, British Columbia-based Okanagan Specialty Fruits, expects small, test-market production in 2016 and larger sales of both trees and fruit coming after that. So far, the apple is available in two strains derived from Golden Delicious and Granny Smith, Arctic Golden and Arctic Granny. Fuji and Gala GMO varities are in the works. (more…)

Plant A Winter Garden Patch

Winter GardensTake advantage of warm winter weather to sow kale, spinach, and other greens for early spring harvest. Here’s how.

Our far-flung correspondents in the west, unlike those in the east and midwest, are all reporting balmy weather these first weeks of February. It’s as if we’ve skipped spring fever this year and gone directly to spring.

Warm temperatures in the Pacific Northwest are bringing early blossoms to ornamental trees, explosions of blooms from some rhododendrons and everywhere thick, lush grass. Even at 7,000 feet above sea level, Santa Fe New Mexico is recording daytime temps in the 60s. Folks are planting greens and perennials, often in containers, and the whole country side is greening up. (more…)

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