Dig Deeper

Want the scoop on the latest gardening tips – both indoors and out — as well as in-depth news and articles on issues important to organic growers and everyone else interested in a healthy, earth-conscious life style? Here’s where to dig up the details on everything from how to garden and design ideas to heirlooms and safe, natural lawn care.

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Growing More In Less Space

Vertical Vegetable GardeningTips on using raised beds and vertical gardening to get the most from your vegetable patch.

Intensive or square foot gardening uses space more efficiently than traditional methods. Instead of wasted room between rows of crops, the garden area is maximized — that way you get the most vegetables, fruits and flowers in the smallest amount of growing space.

Even if you have plenty of room in your backyard, intensive gardening can require less work while still providing lots of heathy plants. Usually there is less weeding involved since plants are spaced closer together and every bit of garden space is cultivated throughout the entire growing season. However, because there is less room between crops, weeding will need to be done by hand or with smaller garden tools — there will not be enough room for machinery. Another drawback — to some people — is that because plants are always growing, they are not all ready to harvest at the same time. (more…)

New Labeling on Seaweed Fertilizer Explained

Brown Sea KelpEPA requires agricultural advisement on the popular growth amendment.

Gardeners have been using kelp and seaweed extracts for years, outdoors and in. The results are well-known. Seaweed is a tonic for plants at all stages, stimulating root growth, aiding chlorophyll production, invigorating cuttings and bare root starts. It delivers small amounts of nitrogen, potash and phosphorous and contains a wide spectrum of trace minerals in a form that plants can use. It contains other nutrients, including plant hormones and amino acids. (more…)

Tide Turning Against Harmful Chemicals

Mother and ChildPesticides singled out as dangerous, especially to mothers and children.

Will we look back at 2015 and see it as the year public health institutions and the public at large demand changes when it comes to the use of agricultural and industrial chemicals?

The reaction to recent studies that declare all of us are at risk from compounds that can harm human health, but especially children and those in the womb, seems to suggest that the momentum for giving priority to people over chemical company profits is growing. (more…)

War Against Bee Science

Jonathan Lundgren, USDA ResearcherScientist investigating neonicotinoid pesticides and pollinators accuses USDA of intimidation.

Dr. Jonathan Lundgren, a Senior Research Entomologist and Lab Supervisor and 11-year veteran of the USDA Agriculture Research Service based in South Dakota, is a recognized researcher who was named the USDA’s Outstanding Early Career Research Scientist in 2011. Then, in 2014, he published a research paper showing the effects of neonicotinoids, a controversial and widely used class of pesticides, were harmful to monarch butterflies. (more…)

Storing the Harvest: Drying Fruits and Vegetables

Drying PeppersFood Drying Tips For Home Gardeners

Drying fruits and vegetables has distinct advantages over canning, freezing or other preserving methods that require extreme temperatures. Dried foods require little if any energy to store compared to frozen items that require refrigeration and canned items requiring cooking and container boiling.

Dried fruits and vegetables weigh less and take up less shelf space than canned. They retain most vitamins and minerals better than canning or freezing. They don’t lose fiber. And they don’t lose flavor. They concentrate it. (more…)

USDA Program For Bees Not Enough

Honey BeeGovernment needs to address the real problems behind bee decline.

Those concerned with the fate of North America’s honeybee populations have mostly cheered earlier this month with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announcement of $4 million in assistance for farmers, ranchers and forest landowners working to improve food sources for honey bees on private lands in Midwestern and northern plains states. Count your concerned Planet Natural blogger among those who aren’t cheering so loudly. (more…)

Get Started With Aquaponics

Backyard Aquaponics SystemGrowing vegetables and raising fish in a sustainable garden system.

Indoor and backyard aquaponics combines the craft of hydroponic growing with aquaculture, the art of keeping fish. The water in which the fish live, along with the fish-produced waste, eventually ends up nourishing garden plants. It’s then recycled to the fish tank. The plants get the nutrients they need and the fish get fresh, recycled water.

In return, the savvy gardener gets organic vegetables for salads and fish for the grill.

This is the simplistic explanation of aquaponics gardening. In practice, it’s a balancing act that supports all its living components, including the microscopic life that facilitates the natural conversion of fish-produced waste into usable, beneficial nutrients for plants. (more…)

Tips to Guarantee Canning Success

PicklesHow to can fruits and vegetables safely and effectively at home.

Canning your own fruits and vegetables seems old-fashioned in our modern age. But canning is contemporary, too. It’s a technology, constantly evolving with better canning equipment and the applied kitchen science needed to safely preserve a food supply that’s evolving as well.

Preserving the harvest in jars connects us with the generations that have gathered in kitchens over the years — thank-you, grandma! — to can produce and other foods. As it seems to do sometime with each generation, canning today is enjoying growing popularity among millennials. (more…)

Stop Wasting Food!

Dinner PlateReducing food waste at home not only helps the environment, it saves us money. Here’s how.

The Environmental Protection Agency determined in 2013 that 35 million tons of food was wasted that year in the U.S. Some 95% of it ended up in landfills. The Washington Post has reported that in 1980 wasted food accounted for 10% of what went into landfills. Today, food waste makes up well over 20%, a larger percentage than metal, plastic or glass. When that waste decomposes it puts out levels of methane that contribute to climate change.

In a hungry world, food waste is a global problem (PDF). National Geographic reported in 2014 that the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations estimated that one-third of food produced for human consumption worldwide is annually lost or wasted. (more…)

New Study Finds Pesticide In Pollen, Honey

Honey Bee HiveMost hives, honeybees examined in state study found to carry neonicotinoids, the pesticides linked to colony collapse disorder.

A new study has found that over 70% of pollen and honey collected from bees at various times in Massachusetts contained one type or another of neonicotinoids, a class of insecticides that’s been implicated in the honey bee die-offs of the last several years. The study was conducted at Harvard University’s Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. (more…)

Rain Garden Design

Rain Garden PlantsHow to design environmentally friendly, water-efficient gardens using natural rainfall.

Rain gardens catch and channel the environment’s natural precipitation, delivering it where it will most benefit our plants. At the same time they protect the environment by keeping polluted runoff out of municipal storm sewers. They allow water to percolate into the soil where its needed, avoiding erosion. A well-designed rain garden is sustainable, requiring little or no additional water to maintain life.

Unlike active rainwater harvesting, where runoff from roofs, pavement, and other impermeable surfaces is collected and stored in barrels and cisterns, passive rainwater collection takes moisture when it falls and puts it to best use. But its water may also be collected from those impermeable surfaces, like driveways, and channeled directly to growing things. (more…)

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