Pest Prevention, Soil Testing …

Garden Work…and other garden tasks we should have done this past year.

Your friendly Planet Natural blogger is not ready to start making New Year’s gardening resolutions just yet. But with the new year in mind and our ongoing resolve to be a better organic gardener year after year, we’ve gone back through our gardening journal and found problems that we might have solved, if only … well, you know the rest.

So, in the interest of growing better organically, here’s some things we could have done better last growing season. (more…)

The Year In GMOs

Reviewing GMOsEvidence that GMOs are harmful to our health, our environment, and our farming economy continues to grow.

Yes, 2014 was a frustrating, difficult year for those of us concerned about the effects of genetically modified crops on our health, our environment, and on the economics of food production. Defeats of the labeling initiative at the tail end of 2013 in Washington, the turn-down of a labeling initiative in Colorado, and a near-miss, no more than 800 some votes in Oregon, all seemed to point to the inevitability of our never knowing what kinds of food we’re putting on our tables. (more…)

The Spirit of Gardening

Spirit GardeningGardens nourish the soul as well as the body.

I like gardening – it’s a place where I find myself when I need to lose myself. –Alice Sebold

Your practical and down-to-earth Planet Natural blogger is usually all about the work of gardening, the planning, the digging, the weeding. But this time of year, when the days are short and outdoor garden activities (but not the indoor) have all but come to an end, we find that our garden continues to nurture us even as we nurtured it during the growing season.

The physical rewards of gardening — the work that makes us healthy and strong, the fruits and vegetables produced and the nourishment gained from it — are a wonderful reason to keep a little garden patch. But we can’t deny the spiritual rewards that gardening gives us. Gardening, like family and gainful work, keeps us whole. (more…)

Is the Christmas Cactus A Succulent?

Christmas CactusHow to grow this holiday favorite, and other cactus and succulents, indoors.

Our friends have pointed out that we seem fixated on poinsettia and holly this time of year. Looking back over our ever-growing gardening blog we’d have to agree. These same friends point out that a visit to our home shows that we give equal space, if not more, to another colorful indoor plant: the Christmas cactus.

We kept a wonderful Christmas cactus, started from a cutting by our grandmother, for years until, until…well, we’ll save that story for later. The Christmas cactus left behind!

But let’s get down to the matter at hand. Is it a cactus, as its name implies? Or a succulent? (more…)

Soil Health: The New, Sustainable Green Revolution

Healthy SoilsThe world is learning the value of improving soils and growing without chemicals.

As organic gardeners, we’ve long known the value of maintaining healthy soil. It’s the key to successful growing and the means to avoiding the use of harmful chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Keeping our garden soil in top condition by adding plenty of compost and other organic matter, using cover crops and mulch to protect it, and doing all we can to promote healthy microbes, fungi, and other living organisms that promote the restoration of nutrients, goes a long way in assuring successful gardening without environmental harm.

Organic gardeners know that soil is alive and must be treated as a living organism. Treating it with harmful chemicals and poisons, otherwise known as herbicides and pesticides, takes the life (and therefore the productivity) from the dirt in which our crops grow. (more…)

Growing Holly for the Holidays

Winter HollyFind the right kind of holly for your landscape and grow it!

We love the ever-green, natural plants associated with the holidays: the firs and pine trees celebrated in song, the poinsettia, mistletoe  (actually a parasite that attaches itself to trees from which it draws water and nutrition). But our favorite, despite the fact that no presents go under it, is holly.

We had a large holly bush growing against the south side of one of our out-buildings when we lived on a small hippie homestead in the Pacific Northwest. Partially shaded a couple hours each day by two very large Douglas firs that were several yards away, the bush grew up to the roof and supplied a bounty of sprigs and red berries each year without any care from us. (more…)

Food Safety … Who’s Paying Attention?

Hog FarmNew pork program calling for quicker, less thorough inspection creates issues.

The safety of our food supply is a critical issue to those of us who care about the health and well-being of our families. But those issues seldom surface in the mainstream media and then only when death or a massive recall is involved. Smaller, localized news items and changes in the regulatory and inspection systems that are supposed to guard us from contaminated food often pass under the radar.

That thought occurred to us this past week when we read investigative journalist Ted Genoways’ opinion piece about changes in U.S. pork inspection already being tried at a number of packing plants and soon, possibly, to be rolled out across the entire industry. (more…)

Growing Pea Shoots

Organic Pea ShootsGrow your own pea, sunflower and other shoots for the kitchen table.

Your friendly, gourmet-minded Planet Natural blogger likes to keep up on cooking and restaurant trends when planning next year’s garden. Why else would we have tried growing radicchio not so many years ago? (Since then, it’s become a favorite, though it needs a little growing attention.)

This year, we’ve taken note of how many restaurant salads, especially at restaurant’s that feature organic, locally sourced foods, add pea tendrils to their salads. Those curling lengths of green add visual interest to a bowl of greens as well as adding something of a snap pea flavor to the cornucopia of tastes that come with mixed green and mesclun salads.

Of course, you don’t have to wait until spring to grow pea shoots for your salads. You can do it indoors and within weeks have a bumper crop of curly, tasty tendrils to add to salads or use as plate decorations. Like growing sprouts, growing shoots indoors makes a wonderful family project, one in which your kids will probably be glad to take part. (more…)

GMOS and Pesticides: Votes, Heart Disease & Seed Diversity

GMO Crop HarverstOregon GMO recount, new Roundup study, heritage seeds threatened.

As the deadline for release of the recount in Oregon nears, we’re reminded that genetically engineered crops create a myriad of problems that aren’t often considered by GMO-labeling foes. Evidence of growing threats to organic farming, seed stocks, and to our health from the herbicides that genetically engineered crops are designed to resist continues to grow. Even liberty and democracy are at stake. Some recent news, a study, and an informative article addressing seed diversity and the dangers of monoculture farming all suggest how complex — and important — the GMO issue is. (more…)

Keeping Mice From Your Compost Heap

Mouse in Compost PileMice in your compost bin can be a problem year-round, but especially in the winter.

We love mice, as long as they’re in a children’s book. Out in the real world? Not so much.

Mice are associated with everything from Lyme disease to hantavirus. Many of the diseases they transmit are harbored in their feces and it’s hard to top the disgusting feeling you get finding tiny, black mouse cylinders all over a kitchen counter. Don’t think the disease potential is bad or only doesn’t happens outside the dusty southwest? Read this poor fellow’s story (spoiler alert: he survives).

You probably do a good job keeping mice from inside your home. But keeping mice out of your compost is a different proposition. (more…)

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