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 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.

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Lawn and Garden Chemicals

Mixing Garden ChemicalsThe 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…)

Good Bugs in Your Garden

Ladybug LarvaePredators, 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 here shows a ladybug larvae feeding on aphids.) (more…)

Vegetable Gardening 101

Organic VegetablesIf 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…)

Tomato Gardening 101

Tomato GardeningEveryone 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

Sunshine
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.

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Theme Gardens: Now there’s an idea!

Butterfly GardenYou 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).
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Sustainable Gardening: It’s All The Rage!

Organic VegetablesTips, Principles and Practices for the Organic Vegetable 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. (more…)

Growing More In Less Space

Vertical Vegetable GardeningIntensive 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…)

Rose Gardening 101

Rose Garden“Gather the rose of love whilst yet is time.” – Edmund Spenser

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. (more…)

Raised Bed Gardening

Raised Vegetable GardensTips and techniques for high-yield, raised bed vegetable gardens.

For centuries, people have been organic gardening in raised beds. Since these are merely garden beds where the soil level is higher than that on the paths around them, it may not be obvious what advantages they offer — except to gardeners with bad backs, that is, who don’t have to stoop as far to tend plants. Actually, though, raised bed gardening improves drainage, uses space more efficiently, increases yield, and simplifies the control of weeds and pests. These are things that benefit all gardeners, including those whose backs are in excellent condition. (more…)

Organic Gardening 101

Garden StandPesticides on our produce, genetically modified ingredients (GMOs) in our food… how do we protect our families? Grow your own. Here’s everything you need to get started, the basics on how to garden, so you can enjoy the benefits of this healthy family activity and a harvest of tasty, bountiful, organically-grown vegetables straight from your own backyard.

Why Organic?

Organic gardens are gaining in popularity as people realize the many benefits to themselves, the environment and other living creatures. Organic gardening simply means not using synthetic or chemical fertilizers, insecticides or pesticides. Instead, organic gardeners stick to fertilizers made from animal or vegetable by-products and get creative when dealing with unwanted pests — often utilizing beneficial insects or plants that deter the unwelcome visitors. (more…)

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