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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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…)

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…)

Cruel Livestock Research

Factory FarmingWhat constitutes humane treatment of farm animals?

A recent expose of the United States Department of Agriculture’s Meat Animal Research Center has focused attention on animal cruelity by factory farms and big agriculture. The crowding and debeaking of chickens, the confinement of sows when giving birth, the feed lot conditions of cattle; all these issues (and more) have drawn attention to the livestock industry and its pursuit of extracting profit from animals. But this article raises a whole new set of concerns. (more…)

Horitculture Programs: Good Grows Here

Senior Garden ProgramThe popularity of urban farming, garden therapy, and organic produce means more jobs and education.

This article about vocational training at Nebraska’s world-famous Boys Town — it’s the site of our favorite Spencer Tracy and Mickey Rooney movie — got us thinking about gardening programs designed to educate. Boys Town has always had roots in agriculture. I remember driving by there as a kid and seeing large greenhouses standing next to rows of corn and other crops. It fit right in among the surrounding farmland. (more…)

BPA Water Bottle Substitute Worse Than BPA

Plastic Water BottlesChemicals in plastic water bottles continue to threaten health.

Those cute little stickers on that new water bottle I’m carrying around that announce that the plastic is “BPA Free”? They were reassuring after a lifetime of carrying water in containers made of who-knows-what. Now, even BPA-free bottles are suspect. Who could have predicted?

And while the news requires quick, specific action to switch to an alternative, safe bottle, it also signals an over-reaching issue concerning human health. Replacing a dangerous chemical with other manufactured chemicals never solves the problem. And sometimes it makes it worse. (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…)

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…)

How Do Earthworms Survive Winter?

EarthwormHint: It’s the slime.

Maybe your friendly Planet Natural blogger ate too much pie. But during a free hour in our recently passed holiday, he sat quietly — no football, no television — and thought about his garden and the ongoing cold snap. Then, as Dr. Ray Stantz (Dan Akyroyd) says in the film Ghostbusters, it just popped in there. What happens to worms in winter?

Now every gardener loves earthworms. They’re tunneling helps keep your soil porous and conduct moisture. They feed on decaying matter, leaves and other plant matter, as well as fungi, bacteria and nematodes, then excretes them as vermicompost or worm castings, one of the most potent soil amendments there is. As the Colorado State University extension department puts it, both the structure and fertility of your garden soil are in the care of earthworms. (more…)

Shopping, Eating Local

Local Shop OwnerThe global economy demands we support local business of all kinds.

Sure, the folks at Oxford Dictionaries has crowned “vape” as word of the year. But if it were up to us, we’d choose another word, not at all new, but prevalent in so many discussions we’ve had this year. We’d choose “local.” All year long, we’ve been encouraged to shop locally and support local business. “Local sourcing” is the hottest restaurant trend of the year.

In the sense that all politics is local, so is economics. Without strong local economies, towns just vanish. Walmart and the other big box and franchise stores never contribute to these towns. In fact, they’re a big reason that certain small town mainstreets in the plains, in the mountain states, in the south and midwest — heck, all over the country — are now a shadow of their former selves. (more…)

Household Cleaners and Child Poisonings

Toxic DetergentReduce risks by properly storing and using safe, non-toxic soaps and detergents.

The recent news that in the years 2012-2013 poison control centers received over 17,000 calls about children ingesting product from laundry soap detergent pods has your concerned Planet Natural Blogger thinking. That’s a call every hour. What can be done to protect the kids? We certainly can’t package colorful, candy-shaped poisons in containers that look like candy jars.

The findings come even as the pods — they’re also available for automatic dishwashers — are only a small part (6% in 2013 ) of the household detergent markets. Those 17,260 kids reported in the study were all six years old or younger. One-third of them were between the ages of one and two. (more…)

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