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.
Long term natural pest control is the most cost effective approach to managing insect pests. This method provides stable, continuous suppression of pests by promoting their natural enemies. The long term approach is also the least toxic method of controlling insects. Chemicals, used only as a last resort, are normally not needed.
Why not just spray?
Most chemical insecticides have very poor aim: they cannot target a particular kind of insect, but blast everything in their path, killing not just the pests but their predators as well. The white flies will go, but so will the ladybugs which feed on them. This means, ironically, that these products are effective for only a limited time. Because they cut such a broad swath through the insect kingdom, they leave a “hole,” an ecological niche, into which the pests can easily return–unless you spray again, and again. Toxic insecticides, therefore, are a tactic of limited use.
There’s another compelling reason to avoid toxic sprays, and this is their tendency to move up the food chain. Remember DDT? This was the insecticide used so widely in the fifties and sixties, until it was found to be weakening the eggshells of birds who fed on the poisoned insects. (more…)
The more we discover about synthetic pesticides, herbicides and insecticides the more we learn how unhealthy they are for the environment and the people and animals that live in it. Pesticides can create more problems than they solve.
Spraying garden chemicals to get rid of bugs and weeds not only cause health risks, they often aren’t even that effective. Initially, they will kill off a lot of pests, but eventually these pests can develop resistance to the pesticide and come back even stronger. Another problem is the side effects many synthetic pesticides can have on unintended targets (think of DDT and birds).
The best plan is to avoid the need to use pest control in the first place by starting with healthy fertile soil, matching your plants to the soil type, ensuring proper sunlight levels and watering conditions, and using appropriate organic fertilization and pruning, when necessary. But, if that doesn’t work there are many alternatives to chemical pesticides that can reduce pests while leaving a healthy environment for your plants, pets and family. (more…)
The Problem with Pesticides, Herbicides and Fertilizers
At one time garden chemicals were championed as the panacea for agricultural shortages and deficits. Pesticides, it was said, were the technological answer to dealing with insects, weeds and other intruders that nature sent the farmer’s way. Herbicides increased yields by decreasing weeds. And chemicals kept soils fertile, making for more vigorous, more productive crops. Over time, we’ve learned that these claims are exaggerated if not completely false
But these synthetic products have a down-side, one that threatens the environment and the very future of food production. Chemical fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides poison our waters, our soils, other living creatures and our own bodies. Their effectiveness, touted by big budget, corporate-driven marketing plans, isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. In light of these trade-offs, and the fact that healthy and potentially more effective organic alternatives exist, why should we risk our soils, our water and the health of our children? (more…)
Predators, Parasites and Pollinators — oh my!
Attracting or importing beneficial insects — “the good bugs” — into your yard or garden is a great way to reduce the number of detrimental insect pests without having to resort to toxic pesticides or insecticides.
There are four categories of beneficial insects:
Predators are generally larger than their prey and consume many pest insects throughout their lifetime. They are often considered general feeders, which means that they eat a variety of insect species. Unfortunately, some predators, like the voracious praying mantis, will eat just about anything in its path, including other beneficial insects. Both immature and adult predatory insects consume garden pests and some feed on pollen and nectar at various stages of their life-cycle. (The picture above shows a ladybug larvae feeding on aphids.) (more…)
If the thought of a ripe, juicy tomato makes your mouth water, or imagining snapping a crisp pea makes your fingers itch, then vegetable gardening is for you. Everyone knows that home grown veggies and fruits taste a million times better than the varieties purchased at the grocery store. So, go ahead and grow your own — it’s easy to do.
Planning Your Garden
Whether you are starting a new garden or improving an existing one, it’s best to start with a plan. A well-planned vegetable garden will not only be more successful, it will be better organized and easier to manage. Consider the following: (more…)
Everyone knows that homegrown tomatoes taste an order of magnitude better than ones that come from the grocery stores’ shelves. They are fresher, juicer, sweeter and just plain delicious. Tomatoes grown for supermarkets are bred for their firmness, hardiness, ability to withstand travel and even color. That also makes them bland, mealy and not very tasty.
So, consider growing tomatoes on your own; there are plenty of varieties to choose from and you can grow them until they are perfectly ripe and delicious.
Tomato Garden Essentials
More than anything, tomatoes need sun. Full sun, for that matter and no less than 8-hours per day. If your garden plot receives less than ideal amounts of sunshine (and the warmth it provides) you can still grow beautiful tomatoes, but will have to improve conditions for them to thrive.
You may not know the term “theme gardens,” but you’d recognize one if you saw one. A Japanese garden is a theme garden. So is an herb garden, and a rose garden, and a rock garden. A garden with only shades of blue has a theme, as does a maze, or a garden with a dozen fountains, or one with a little gnome behind every second bush. Any garden organized around some unifying idea is a theme garden.
Clearly, there’s an infinite range of choices, for theme gardens can be arranged around types of plant (such as gardens growing roses, growing herbs, and even growing vegetables) or around colors, shapes, or the type of visitors you wish to attract, such as butterflies, honeybees or birds. Other options include a country, a historical period, or an ethnic group. Examples of ethnic gardens include the Japanese garden mentioned above, or the African American Garden described by the DuSable Museum of African American History, an Italian garden, or the Native American garden grown by an elementary school in Illinois (see link below).
Principles and Practices for the Organic Gardener
By Bill Kohlhaase, Planet Natural
Sustainability is a movement that embraces all facets of human endeavor. “Sustainable” means to perpetuate existence as well as to provide sustenance and nourishment. Today, the word is attached to everything from forestry to ceiling tile.
Sustainability is most often associated with the environment and specifically to our landscapes and gardens. What is a sustainable garden? It is an organic garden taken a step further. Following organic gardening practices will sustain soils and plants while it nourishes and sustains your family, both physically and aesthetically. Organic gardening also points us towards other gardening practices that pursue the goal of sustainability by conserving resources.
Sustainability isn’t a commodity as much as it is a lifestyle. It has immediate as well as long-term rewards. Generally, sustainability is forward-thinking, looking ahead to secure a future for you and yours, getting things to last, making things better than you’ve found them. When one chooses to preserve and protect resources, to make as little negative impact on the earth as possible, to nurture the planet as well as those around us, one has chosen the path of sustainability.
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.
A raised bed is simply when the level of the soil is higher than the surrounding ground. The Ohio State University Extension has listed several benefits of gardening in a raised bed. A few of these benefits are: (more…)
Roses are one of the most popular plants in flower gardens and landscapes. From delicate tea roses to voluptuous Grandiflora blooms, roses delight all the senses. Roses also have a reputation for being difficult. But like anything, rose gardening is easy… if you know the tips and tricks of the trade.
Select a Site
Before planting your rose garden take some time to determine the best site. If possible, check out the site at different times during the day and different times during the year.
• Find a place with rich, well-drained soil. If this doesn’t sound like any spot in your yard, amend the soil with compost before planting.
• Roses prefer slightly acidic soil (6.0-6.5 pH is best). Don’t know your soil’s pH? Get a pH test kit and find out.
• Be sure your rose site will get plenty of water. Plan to install a drip irrigation system or use a garden hose to water regularly (see Drip Irrigation for Home Gardens).
• Roses need at least 8-10 hours of sun a day, so choose a site away from shade-inducing trees or houses. (more…)