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.
The basic idea behind companion planting is both simple and sensible: many plants grow better near some companions than they do near others or when alone. By itself it will not work miracles, but applied in a well-maintained garden, it can produce startling results. It can drastically improve the use of space, reduce the number of weeds and garden pests, and provide protection from heat, wind, and even the crushing weight of snow. In the vegetable garden, all this adds up to the best thing of all: increased yield.
Most people think of companion planting in connection with vegetable gardens, but it can also be used when flower gardening and in full-scale fields. Some of the most familiar examples come from farming, where it’s a long-standing practice to sow vetch or some other legume in the fall after the harvest. This cover crop provides erosion control through storms, and supplies both nitrogen and organic material to the soil when it is plowed under in spring. (more…)
Mow Better… Get Reel
By Bill Kohlhaase, Planet Natural
You know the advantages of reel lawn mowers. They start every time. They’re much quieter than gas-powered mowers, so quiet that you can mow early Sunday morning without waking the neighbors. They’re fuel-free unless you count those bowls of cereal or peanut butter sandwiches that power your engine. They don’t degrade air quality (lawn mower engines are terribly inefficient and emit more than 10 times the hydrocarbons per amount of gas burned than auto engines). Not only are reel mowers great for the environment, they require little maintenance and are a great means of exercise. And, they’re cheaper than gas-powered mowers, both in initial outlay and operating costs.
What you may not know is that they’re better for your lawn than gas-powered, rotary mowers. Rotary lawn mowers tend to tear off the tops of grass blades, leaving them exposed to disease. Ever notice how the tops of each grass blade turn brown after mowing with a gas machine? A reel mower snips the grass, like scissors, leaving finer trimmings to mulch in your yard. This mulch not only nourishes your lawn, it prevents weed seeds from germinating. Rotary mowers also create a vacuum as they pass (that’s why they’re great for cutting tall, droopy weeds). They literally vacuum the mulch layer off the ground, providing an opportunity for weeds to find space to take root. Reel mowers will cut shorter (approximately 1-3/4 to 2-1/2 inches depending on the model) without disturbing the soil surface. (more…)
By Bill Kohlhaase, Planet Natural
Here’s something of a Zen puzzle for you. The key to a healthy lawn is healthy, organic soil. And the key to healthy soil is a healthy, organic lawn.
Confused? Don’t be. Organic lawn care starts and ends with healthy soil, soil that is full of nutrients for both grass and the microorganisms that call your dirt their home; soil that is not compromised with toxins and synthetic chemicals that destroy those microorganisms. And nothing contributes to the health of your soil more than a thick, rich organic lawn, one that returns organic nutrients to your soil. In this win-win situation, organic lawn care can actually give you a more vibrant lawn than you would have with regular applications of commercial fertilizer.
To put it another way, the organic lawn is a self-sustaining lawn.
Take it from Paul Sachs, whose books on organic athletic fields and golf courses, have started something of a green playground revolution. “When you feed the life of your soil, those growing populations of microorganisms begin to accomplish many jobs that now consume great amounts of your time, money and energy.” (more…)
Weeding, Watering and Mowing
By Bill Kohlhaase, Planet Natural
Your new organic lawn is up and growing. Or you’ve cut out using herbicides, pesticides and chemical fertilizers on your established lawn. Congratulations! Now what do you do to maintain your organic lawn in a way that’s best for it?
Not surprisingly, what you do to keep up your organic lawn is pretty much the same as you would with a traditional lawn. One difference? It may be less work to keep up your organic lawn. How is that possible? By using spring and fall applications of compost, by returning your grass clippings back to your lawn, by proper watering you will have a rich, thick cover of grass that will crowd out weeds and discourage pests. And you thought this would be difficult. (more…)
All you need to know about buying & using a push reel mower.
I live in a subdivision in Bozeman, Montana where the grass is always greener in the neighbor’s yard, but somehow always longer in mine. Everybody’s expected to keep up with the Jones’ when it comes to keeping a clean and orderly yard — which means lots of weed control as well as trimming the blades of grass to near golf-course perfection.
But, as my neighborhood has filled in with houses, I’ve realized how much time and effort we’ve all been putting into our lawns. The guy down the street has one of those mini-tractor jobs. The family across from me uses the old self-propelled model that’s heavy and although it’s motorized, you still have to push pretty hard to get it to go anywhere. Our yards are alive with the high-pitched whine of motorized lawn mowers every summer. (more…)
What’s there not to like about an organic lawn? It’s relatively cheap. It’s better for the environment and it takes less work than your traditional well-manicured turf.
Americans take their lawns seriously. Lawns used to be for the wealthy who hired a staff to maintain the grounds of their estates. Now they are for everyone. The great equalizer was the invention of the push mower in the 1870′s by Elwood McGuire of Richmond, Indiana. (Before that, a common and labor-intensive way to trim lawns was to use scythes.) Today, U.S. homeowners spend more than $17 billion on outdoor home improvements, including lawn care.
While many of us spend a lot to get our grass mowed, fertilized and sprayed with chemicals to deter weeds and troublesome insects, it doesn’t have to be so.
The good news is that going organic makes good sense when it comes to lawn care. It takes less effort and makes for a lawn that’s safer for you, your family and your pets. (more…)
Lawn Chemicals Could Risk Your Family’s Health
By Bill Kohlhaase, Planet Natural
The most important reason to keep an organic lawn? The health of your family. The second? The health of your planet. If you think those two reasons are one and the same, you’re right. Traditional lawn care products that use synthetic fertilizers and chemical herbicides not only put your family and pets at risk but endanger the world at large. That’s something we all want to avoid.
Stories about the dangerous consequences of lawn chemicals abound. Nearly 50 school children in Ohio developed symptoms of poisoning after herbicides were sprayed near their school. A professional skater makes a claim in Newsweek that her health was “destroyed” after exposure to pesticides sprayed on a neighbor’s lawn (her dog died the same day). Seven dogs die after eating paraquat herbicide in Portland, Oregon park. A noted soil scientist warns the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture that a popular dandelion spray may cause infertility and spontaneous abortion. (more…)
Homeowners choose to maintain an organic or natural lawn for different reasons. For some, it is a commitment to the environment — pesticides and herbicides used in traditional lawn care leach into the water table contaminating it for people, animals and plants.
Others are concerned with how pesticides and herbicides affect the pets and kids that play on their lawns. And some people just don’t want to handle chemicals designed to kill living things.
There’s also the cost — both in time and money. Lawn chemicals can get expensive, and who wants to spend every weekend mowing the lawn? Natural lawns tend to require less mowing, which means more leisure time for you!
Whatever your reason, natural lawn care is easiest if you take the time to create a healthy environment that grasses thrive in. (more…)
Propagating plants is an inexpensive and easy way to get new plants from plants you already have. This asexual means of reproduction produces a plant that is genetically identical to its parent.
There are a variety of plant propagation tools and methods; from taking cuttings to layering to dividing and more. The technique you select will depend on the type of plant you wish to propagate and the amount of time and effort you want to put into it.
One of the most amazing things about plants is that every cell has the ability to duplicate all parts and functions of the plant. By taking a cutting of a leaf or stem and creating the right conditions, you can create an entirely new plant (see Plant Anatomy Basics). (more…)
Indoor plant lights let you shine a light where and when the sun don’t shine. They allow you to extend the growing season; have a year-round supply of fresh flowers, vegetables and herbs; as well as give your seedlings a head start before you can plant them outside.
There are almost as many kinds of grow lights for sale as there are different light spectrums. Everything from a simple $5 incandescent lamp to a sophisticated system using high intensity discharge (HID) lamps can help.
Here’s a rundown on what is available, how much it costs as well as the pro’s and con’s of different types of plant lighting:
Incandescent. Incandescent lamps lay at the low end of the pricing spectrum for plant lights. A good 150 watt bulb will only set you back about $5. You can get such bulbs from a local hardware store or a large nursery. An incandescent lamp can keep a small house plant growing, but isn’t necessarily your best bet for starting a large garden indoors. (more…)