Want the scoop on the latest gardening tips – both indoors and out — as well as in-depth news and information on issues important to natural growers and everyone else interested in a healthy, earth-conscious life style? Here’s where to dig up the details on everything from soil amendments and organic pest control to heirlooms and safe, natural lawn care.
A sensory garden is a garden environment that is designed with the purpose of stimulating the senses. This stimulation occurs courtesy of plants and the use of materials that engage one’s senses of sight, smell, touch, taste, and sound. These types of gardens are popular with and beneficial to both children and adults, especially those who have sensory processing issues, including autism and other disabilities. To get the maximum use from a sensory garden, it is important to take into account for whom the garden is primarily intended. It is also important to understand what plants and features will best achieve the atmosphere that is desired. (more…)
There’s a movement to make organic and natural food labels mean something.
In our world, words like “organic” and “natural” are pretty clear-cut. But that’s not true when it comes to their use on food labels. Use of the word “organic” is controlled by laws and regulations. Some of those rules don’t make sense. The rules that do make sense, the necessary rules (like no pesticide use) aren’t often enforced. Globalization has complicated the issue. Has anybody checked to see those walnuts from Kazakhstan are really organic?
Peter Laufer has. His book Organic: A Journalist’s Quest To Discover the Truth Behind Food Labeling raises some troubling questions (and some troubling answers as well) about the global organic food trade. We’ve plugged it before. It’s creating a stir because Laufer discovers that much of what’s claimed to be organic isn’t. It’s kind of a detective story. He traces the origin of some organic black beans back to Bolivia and decides that they are “as organic as Harry MacCormack’s Sunbow Farm in Oregon’s Willamette Valley.” It’s exciting with the kind of a big-business intrigue that comes of larges sums of money and international markets. (more…)
It’s time for honest nutritional information on all food products.
News this week from the Aspen Ideas Fest that Agricultural Secretary Tom Vilask suggested some day consumers might have an app on their smart phones or a barcode reader that would reveal a trove of nutritional information about the products it scanned, including whether or not it contained genetically modified ingredients. (Video of his complete and wide-ranging discussion with former ag secretary Dan Glickman is here.)
In a follow-up interview, Vilsak said, “The F.D.A. and U.S.D.A. could help coordinate the compilation of information. That way you wouldn’t create a misimpression about the safety of a product, which could happen depending on how something was labeled.” Shoppers would use their phones or scanners at the store to read the codes that would reveal all the information gathered on their make-up and nutritional values. (more…)
Home brewers are growing their own.
Making beer at home is equal parts chemistry, hard work, and American tradition. We’ve been fascinated by the stories of homebrewers who grow their own hops and, if they have room, their own barely for malting.
Home made beer always carries a certain “terroir,” that oft-used term to describe wine and other foods’ local flavors, coming from soil and climate conditions, even the space in which it was brewed. We’ve met homebrewers who used fruits and berries, herbs, and chiles from their own organic gardens to flavor their beers in ways that made them especially unique. (more…)
Make 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…)
Faster 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…)
Supporting locally grown food means supporting local farms; time line of GMO measure.
Farm-To-Table Controversy: An ongoing discussion erupted into a full-scale controversy over the weekend when Dan Barber, co-owner of New York City’s ground-breaking, local-sourced Blue Hill Restaurant, published an opinion piece in The New York Times that seemed to accuse supporters of the farm-to-table movement of being naive. How dare he?
Turns out that Barber was just taking a deeper look at something that we’ve come to accept as absolutely good: small farmers bringing their crops directly to consumers. He uses his own experience — Barber is also on the board of directors and runs the restaurant at the Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture in New York’s Hudson River Valley — to discover just what we’re leaving out of our conception of the farm-to-table revolution. But first — and this is the part that surprised many people — he starts out with a contradiction. (more…)
Home gardens provide habitat for birds, butterflies, and wildlife.
All of us organic gardeners know the value — the necessity! — of attracting pollinators and beneficial insects. We know that making our landscapes friendly to birds can decrease the trouble we have with problem insects. Why, we’ve even come to see bats as beneficial creatures that will devour multitudes of pests in a single night.
But we also know the damage that insects and wildlife can do to our vegetables. Aphids, cabbage loopers, slugs, tomato hornworms, and so many others can destroy our plants before the harvest. Deer will eat our lettuce and raccoons our corn before we have the chance. Crows might pluck the seedlings from our soil just for fun. (more…)
How drug-resistant bacteria became a life-threatening problem.
It seems that cataclysmic predicaments of the sort that threaten widespread hardship and demise are multiplying. Yesterday’s release of the National Climate Assessment that claimed America is already suffering the effects of climate change — everything from drought, wild fires, and increased storm intensity to the spread of asthma and bark beetles — can be added to a list that includes (but not limited to) contamination of drinking water, increasing toxins and contamination of our food supply, the effects of over population, environmental pollution of all sorts, and the spread of exotic diseases. (more…)
Kansas Representative wants to make your right-to-know illegal.
Representative Mike Pompeo, Republican of Kansas, introduced a bill earlier this month that would effectively block labeling of foods containing genetically modified ingredients at both the state and the national level. Pompeo’s bill is a nearly exact copy of a legislative proposal released in January and written by big agricultural and grocery business interests. The Grocery Manufacturers Association was instrumental in defeating Washington State’s GMO labeling initiative last year after flooding the contest with money from its corporate sponsors.
The Environmental Working Group has the story here and an interesting opinion piece that dubs Pompeo’s bill the “Deny Americans the Right To Know” or “DARK” act (a name that seems to have caught on) here. Surveys consistently show that some 95% of American support labeling of foods containing genetically engineered or modified (GMO) ingredients. (more…)