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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Organic Lawn Maintenance

Lawn MaintenanceWeeding, 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…)

How I Learned to Love My Reel Mower

Reel Lawn MowingAll 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…)

The Grass is Greener with Organic Lawn Care

Backyard FunWhat’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…)

Dangerous Backyards

Spreading Lawn FertilizerLawn 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…)

Growing a Natural Lawn

Playing in the GrassHomeowners 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…)

Plant Propagation 101

Plant PropagationPropagating 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.

Cuttings

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…)

Let There Be Plant Light

Indoor Plant LightingIndoor 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…)

Indoor Plant Care

Growing HouseplantsIndoor plants add color, texture and warmth to the home. They allow year-round access to gardening and can even improve air quality. Many houseplants are easy to grow, but they must be given appropriate care in order to thrive. Since your plants were probably started in a greenhouse — grown under ideal conditions — moving them into your home takes a bit of adjustment on their part.

Proper watering and lighting are the most important components of indoor plant care, but humidity and temperatures also play a role. The trick is to try to mimic the climate of the place that plant came from.

Tropical plants thrive in warm, humid environments, while cacti and succulents prefer hot, dry climes. Of course, your home can’t be everything to every plant, but you can take plant needs into consideration when choosing plants. And, with a few tricks, you can convince your green friends that they are living in their ideal environment. (more…)

Greenhouse Gardening 101

Greenhouse GardeningSo, you want to grow year round? Or maybe extend your gardening season? Interested in growing plants that normally don’t survive in your neck of the woods? If the answer to any of these questions is “yes,” then a greenhouse might be for you.

Hobby Greenhouses

A backyard greenhouse kit can provide a stable, warm environment where plants can be grown all year. They can also be used to get a jump start on the growing season, where plants, like tomatoes and peppers, are planted early and later moved out to the garden. Whatever your reason for wanting a greenhouse, there are several types, styles and costs for almost anyone who wants to start gardening under glass — or polycarbonate, for that matter! (more…)

Indoor Gardening 101

Indoor Tomato GardenWhen the winter blahs set in and your dreaming of fresh greens from your summer garden, consider growing indoors. Not only do plants cleanse your household air (read about Greens That Clean) and improve the aesthetics of any indoor space, they can provide your family with a wealth of yummy, organic foods.

City dwellers, or those without a good gardening spot in the yard, may find growing indoors especially useful. Plants don’t need to take up much space — a windowsill is fine if that’s all you have. For others, the indoor garden may become starter plants for an outdoor garden come spring.

Getting Started

Space
An indoor garden can take up as much or as little space as you are willing to give it. Growing plants of all kinds, even tomato gardening can be done on a windowsill or on a table.

Larger growers, or the more dedicated may want to set up a table or bench specifically for the garden. Find an area with a tile or linoleum floor to catch the inevitable drops of water, or place a tarp under your table. (more…)

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