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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Farm-To-Table, GMO Ban News

Farmer's MarketSupporting 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…)

Where the Wild Things Are

Garden HabitatHome 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…)

Your Antibiotics Don’t Work? Blame A Cow.

Drug Resistant BacteriaHow 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…)

New Bill Would Block GMO Labeling

Mike PompeoKansas 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. (more…)

Cities Embrace Composting Programs

Composting ProgramFood waste as well as lawn and garden wastes never see the landfill.

Recycling programs that include composting yard and garden wastes, difficult to find 20 years ago, have become the rule in America’s urban centers. And, as of 2012, 100 American cities include food and kitchen wastes in their composting programs.

Cities that now compost food wastes include Portland and Salem, Oregon, San Francisco, California, and Boulder, Colorado. And their number continue to grow. The cities of Los Angeles and San Diego allows their waste haulers to compost food waste from restaurants and hotels. In 2013, then New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg launched an ambitious campaign to recycle the city’s food waste. This would include not only waste from restaurants and other commercial interest, but from residents as well after pilot programs discovered a surprising rate of interest among households. (more…)

Agricultural Water Use and the California Drought

Agricultural Water100 billion gallons of water, in the form of alfalfa, shipped to China. How can we use less water to grow the produce needed in this country?

Here’s one effect of the drought in California and elsewhere: there’s been a lot of fascinating reporting on water use in commercial agriculture. And the amounts of water that go into some crops, and where those crops are headed, has created something of a controversy.

It comes as no surprise that much of the produce grown in the United States comes from California. Some 95% of all the broccoli, 92% of all the strawberries, 90% of all the tomatoes, and 99% of all the almonds grown in this country come from California. (more…)

Buy Plant Starts? Or Grow Your Own?

Vegetable Starts

How to get the best organic and heirloom vegetable starts for your garden.

Organic gardeners are faced with a dilemma this time of year. How do we obtain organically raised vegetable starts for placement in our gardens? The best answer of course is to start them ourselves. This allows us to control all the variables — the seed, the starting mix, any amendments or rooting formulas we might use — without using or having any unnecessary concern for herbicides, pesticides, inorganic soil additives, or such chemicals as growth regulators. (more…)

Springtime Soil Testing

Soil TestingMaking sure your garden soil has the proper pH and amounts of nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium now helps guarantee growing success.

We often talk about the fact that successful gardening, especially successful organic gardening, requires healthy soil. But how do you know if your soil is healthy? Adding lots of organic material helps assure that your soil is alive with microbes, maintains a balance of nutrients, and has good drainage. But what about its acid-alkaline balance (the measurement known as pH)? What about the nutrients that plants need to be healthy and resist pests and diseases? (more…)

Dangerous Herbicide, Dangerous Business

Water FaucetResearchers looking into atrazine targeted by its maker.

Last week’s blockbuster article in The New Yorker about flamboyant researcher Tyrone Hayes and the crusade to discredit his research on the herbicide atrazine has refocused attention on a controversy that’s been brewing over the last decade. Atrazine, banned in Europe, is the second most frequently used herbicide in the U.S., second only to glysophate, also known as Roundup. It’s commonly used on farm crops, on golf courses, and by professional lawn care services.

Atrazine has been around since 1958. In the last several years, its affects have caused alarm among water managers and the general public, so much so that some 40 water systems from six different states sued Syngenta, the European-based conglomerate that manufactures the compound, in an attempt to get them to remove the herbicide from their water supplies. (more…)

Crop Rotation for Vegetable Gardens

Rotating Garden CropsRotate crops to control disease, weeds, and pests while boosting soil quality.

We’ve all heard of the benefits of crop rotation in large scale agriculture. And we all know that those benefits can transfer to our home vegetable gardens. Even the smallest of gardens can benefit from crop rotation, even if crops are only moved a few feet each year. Crop rotation is especially important to the organic grower because it precludes many of the problems that lead to the use of chemical pesticides and herbicides.

Exactly what are the benefits? Rotating crops is especially critical to preventing disease from getting a foot hold on certain vegetables you might plant. The bacteria and spores that attack specific plants can survive winters and infect those plants again the following year. (more…)

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