Few pursuits are as rewarding as growing your own organic garden. Not only do you get to enjoy the fruits of your own labor, but you have the satisfaction of knowing that the produce you are eating was grown free of chemicals, pesticides and herbicides. Growing organically produces healthy, more diverse ecosystems which are better able to resist significant pest damage… naturally!
Knowledge is the key to successful organic gardening. Planet Natural has compiled much of the information you’ll need – from the basics of getting started to finding organic solutions to specific problems – here.
The Dirt on Growing Organically
Organic gardening, once seen as something practiced only by health nuts and hippies, is no longer a fad. Everyone wants the food we serve to our families as well as our environment to be safe and healthy. This desire for safety – wanting to do no harm to our families and the world around us– is the central reason people grow organically. The more we learn about chemical herbicides and pesticides, the more we see the effects of synthetic fertilizers and genetically modified crops, the more we realize that we must protect ourselves from them. Growing organically is a way of taking control, an attempt to make the foods you serve full of the good things your family needs, and free of the things they don’t. It’s a way of making the places where your children and pets play as safe as they can be. It’s a sign of respect to both your fellow humans and the environment as a whole. (more…)
A guide for selecting pesticide-free produce.
The use of pesticides has become a standard practice in farming. They are used to repel damaging pests and prevent them from destroying whole crops. Unfortunately, pesticides can leave residue on fruits and vegetables that may eventually cause health problems in people who regularly consume them. Although some harmful chemicals are no longer used on food since the passing of the Food Quality Protection Act of 1996, there are still concerns surrounding the amount of pesticides that are currently being put to use. To alert consumers about the amounts of pesticides that are in their food, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) created two important lists. The first of these lists the foods that are considered the cleanest due to the low amounts of pesticides. The second lists foods that are the worst of the offenders and that have the highest levels of pesticides. These EWG lists are called the “Clean 15″ and the “Dirty Dozen.” (more…)
More nutrition, less toxins from organically grown vegetables.
A study to be released next week states that organically raised vegetables have less incidence of pesticides and more nutrition, including 69% higher antioxidant content, than crops grown with chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Heavy metals — cadmium, mercury, lead — were 50% lower in the organic crops.
As reported in Newcastle, U.K.’s The Journal, the study, done by Carlo Liefert, a professor of ecology at Newcastle University, surveyed 343 studies to arrive at the definitive conclusions. It is the “most extensive analysis of the nutrient content in organic versus conventionally-produced foods ever undertaken,” writes The Journal. A previous U.K. study done in 2009 that vaguely concluded there was little difference between organic and conventional crops used only 46 studies in its conclusions. (more…)
Home brewers are growing their own.
Making beer at home is equal parts chemistry, hard work, and American tradition. We’ve been fascinated by the stories of homebrewers who grow their own hops and, if they have room, their own barely for malting.
Home made beer always carries a certain “terroir,” that oft-used term to describe wine and other foods’ local flavors, coming from soil and climate conditions, even the space in which it was brewed. We’ve met homebrewers who used fruits and berries, herbs, and chiles from their own organic gardens to flavor their beers in ways that made them especially unique. (more…)
Reason, passion, civility in the (online) organic movement.
We’ve been thinking about what it means to be part of the organic movement these days and came to the conclusion that a lot of understanding was required. That means understanding of all sorts: from how we grow organic, why we grow organic, why its good for health, why it’s good for the environment and for the economy. But it also means understanding each other.
This came to mind after an email exchange with one of this blog’s readers. The results were surprisingly reassuring. (more…)
Spring harvest vegetables are among the year’s most enjoyable.
That short season of spring-harvest garden crops is almost — or entirely — gone depending on where you live. Some are yet to come. Here, a week before the official start of summer, our peas are full of blossoms. Pea blossoms make a lovely addition, when still attached to their curling tendrils, to any salad or as a garnish. But peas themselves, one of the first things planted in the garden and one of the first we think to harvest, are still a few days away.
And sure, we’ve been harvesting lettuce — we were thinning it a week ago — and we know its young, fresh flavor won’t be matched by what we pick in July. But the lettuce proves the point: some of our favorite garden harvests come during spring.
Maybe the reason these early season garden crops seem so delicious, and satisfying, and even precious, is that they are the first. Later when the carrots and tomatoes and the summer squash comes, we may have forgotten all about them (unless there’s some rhubarb sauce in the freezer). But for now, they’re the most wonderful harvest we can imagine. (more…)
Make sure your plants don’t receive too little or too much water.
Though it’s not true everywhere — the forecast today for Bozeman includes a 40% chance of scattered showers — we’re fast approaching that time of the growing season when your garden, lawns and flower beds included, need to be closely monitored for moisture. How do we know when our plants aren’t getting enough water? They tell us.
Water stress is the term used to denote any moisture-related problems that plants might have. This includes too much water as well as too little. Water stress can also be caused by the quality of the water given to the plants. Water containing too many dissolved salts or grey (recycled) water that contains pollutants can also stress plants. (Phosphorous, found in many home detergents and soaps, can actually aid plant growth if proper amounts aren’t exceeded… Tip: use natural cleaning products.)
As every gardener knows, determining when plants need water is easy: their leaves wilt. But of course, you don’t want to get to this point. When you spot wilting, you’ve already stressed your plant. (more…)
A challenge to grow and less nutritious than leaf varieties, head lettuce is still a thing of beauty.
When did I become a lettuce snob? It was back in my youth, about the same time I became interested in healthy eating and gardening. I’d been raised on iceberg lettuce, the kind that came from the grocery store in big pale heads. Mom would tear up the leaves, put them in a bowl and voila! Salad. I didn’t mind it. Those tasteless leaves we’re just a way for us to get that sweet, commercial, orange-colored salad dressing in our mouths. Look ma! I’m eating vegetables! (more…)
Solar-powered monitoring and control of garden conditions holds promise.
Developing and using new technology has been part of gardening since ancient peoples first started fashioning stone tools for digging. Nearly all advances in agricultural development, from the first use of antlers as a hoe to the gas-powered roto-tiller (and its big brother, the tractor and plow) have come from technological development. Not all of them have necessarily been good. But most of them are done in the name of advancing the science and craft of food production (some seem done purely for selfish profit-motives).
In terms of home gardening, technology hasn’t really changed that much since our grandparent’s days. And most of the recent advancements, things like electronic soil testers and digital moisture meters are useful advances that help make it easier to gather the information we need for best growing conditions. Some technical advancement, like this and this, are purely mechanical, things that grandpa’s crazy inventor neighbor probably thought up but never brought to market. Then there’s these things, devices that made an ancient practice easier, faster, and all-around more convenient. (more…)
Growing traditional and herbal teas at home is explained in a new book.
We’ve grown herbs in our garden and surrounding landscapes for more years than we remember. Most of them — basil, rosemary, thyme, sage, and the like — were raised for our modest culinary uses. That said, we’ve always grown utility herbs, like mint, that we used in cooking (mint jelly), flavoring (a sprig in iced tea or planted atop some whipped-cream crowned dessert) or for tea (we don’t need to spell this one out). We’ve also used various, usually flowering herbs as ornamentals in flower beds. Some herbs (PDF) are great used in water-conscious, xeriscape gardens. (more…)
Growing seeds for healthy, flavorful herbal teas.
When your culinary-conscious and sustainably minded Planet Natural blogger needs seed for cooking, he usually buys them, already dry, from one of our fine herb stores. They’re used to spice-up some homemade dishes, say flavoring some Middle Eastern cooking with the sharp, licorice flavor of anise or adding some zing to a curry with cilantro seed. When we want to save seeds from our garden, it’s usually for saving some particular heirloom favorite, and most often one of the more easily collected like tomato, cucumber, or winter squash. (more…)