Organic Gardens

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!

We continually add to this section, so please check back often. Also, you can share tips and ask questions over at our Organic Gardening Forum page.

Organic Gardening Guru – How to Grow Organically

Organic Gardening GuruKnowledge 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…)

It’s A Small (Farm) World: Organic Growers In Russia

Russian Farm MarketRussian ban on imported meat, milk and produce spurs farm-to-table revolution.

Your friendly, neighborhood Planet Natural Blogger, like pretty much everyone with an organic garden in the backyard, supports locally-grown, small farm, sustainable agriculture. We buy a lot of organic grains, vegetables, fruits and meats because, well, we simply can’t raise anything close to our yearly needs of everything in our yard’s growing space. We like to buy them from responsible, nearby farmers as much as possible. But there are seasons — like the one we’re in now! — where that isn’t always possible, excluding things like meat, milk, eggs and root vegetables. Everything else comes from elsewhere. (more…)

Gardening With Kids

Child GardenerGardens can be a great place to cultivate a meaningful and fun learning experience for children. It’s a natural match. Gardening can offer children an opportunity to learn the life cycle process, by which plants are grown, as well as responsibility, caretaking, independence, and environmental awareness. Introducing children to gardening is a great way to increase their awareness of where food comes from and the importance of the environment in everyday life.

Gardening Basics

One of the most important things to determine when starting a garden is the location. Ideally the garden should be placed in an area where it will receive maximum sunlight. It is also important to determine the soil quality of the area and assess what needs to be added to the soil chemistry to maximize growth potential. The soil should be dug six to ten inches. Layering the soil with some kind of organic material will help to strengthen it. Drawing up a plan of the garden is another way to help make the most of the garden’s potential. Tallest plants should be at the north end of the garden, while permanent plants should be on the sides. For those who don’t have a lot of space to garden, containers are another option for growing plants. Containers can be made from materials such as plastic or clay, and must have adequate drainage to avoid root rot. Plants grown in containers should be planted in a ready to use potting soil and watered frequently. Some basic gardening tools to have handy are rakes, hoes, spades, trowels, and watering cans. (more…)

Late Season Bulb Planting

Flower BulbsTips for planting your favorite fall bulbs.

Your friendly Planet Natural Blogger is on the record saying that, depending how severe your winters, the best place to store any extra spring-blooming bulbs you might have is in the ground. Bulbs generally don’t store well inside and even those you carefully pack in containers of sawdust or peat moss and kept in the garage or basement (if it’s cool enough) aren’t all going to make it. Those that do will be something other than the bulbs you started with.

The common wisdom on planting bulbs in fall — tulips, daffodils, iris, hyacinths, crocus, and others — is that they should be planted at first frost. Some hardy bulbs, like the crocus colchicum, take to earlier planting than others, They need at least five weeks before the ground freezes hard to develop. In some northern and high elevation areas, that five-weeks is drawing to a close. Timing your planting, of course, depends on your particular conditions. (more…)

Growing Pumpkins For Fun and Pie

Pumpkin PatchPumpkins are easy to grow organically.

My grandfather used to say that a jack-o-lantern was a waste of a good pumpkin. He grew a pumpkin patch at the end of his garden that would spread out over the rough lawn that bordered it. The next year he’d move it to the other side. He’d get a handful of fruits each year and he didn’t want any of them to go to Halloween carving (see “grandma” below).

Grandpa loved pie and he especially loved pumpkin pie which he ate absent whipping cream or any other adulteration. Grandma was celebrated for her pie crusts, though we often wonder what her great grandchildren would think of the cube of lard that was always in the back of the refrigerator. No matter what time of day grandpa took a piece of pie — including as a bedtime snack — he washed it down with a cup of coffee. He seemed immune to caffeine. (more…)

Grow, Eat Shell Beans

Shell BeansHeirloom “cooking beans” are nutritious, delicious, and easy to raise.

Our correspondent writes in to say the most beautiful things he saw at the last farmers market this fall were the large bowls of heirloom shell beans in colors and patterns he’d never seen before. He bought a couple of the four offered: two cups of the surprisingly popular Jacob’s Cattle, each bean big and colored like a Hereford, and a cup or so of brilliant, unusually black and white, yin-yang patterned “Calypso.”

Interest continues to grow in what our great grandmothers called “cooking beans,” dried shell beans that often require soaking and long cooking times, a process that many time-squeezed home cooks forego in favor of pre-cooked, canned beans. (more…)

Safe Food At Home

Eating DangerouslyEating Dangerously discusses the risks, the politics, and the practices that keep meals safe.

Your friendly, health conscious Planet Natural Blogger frequently champions one course to guarantee you’re putting the safest, organically grown food on your family’s table: grow your own. And almost immediately after making that declaration, I provide the caveat: it’s near impossible for us to grow anywhere close to the quantity and variety of food we need for our modern diets.

I’ll admit that this position is something of a cop-out. It leaves unaddressed all the issues connected with the food we buy. It leaves off at discussing just how bad highly processed foods can be for us, how destructive and careless the industry of big agriculture and corporate food is. What exactly does that leave us with? How do we find the healthy foods we want to serve our families and how do we handle it once we have it? (more…)

Your Grandfather’s Apples

Heirloom Apple TreeHeirloom apple trees yield treasures from the past.

This time of the year, when cider presses across the country are squeezing day and night, is a good time to consider the bounty of apples we enjoy. We’re not talking about the stacks of Gala and Fuji and Granny Smith that decorate the produce sections of our local supermarkets. We’re talking about the heirloom apples we find in farmers markets and produce stands, and in our backyard gardens or those of our neighbors, apples with names like Grand Alexander, Cornish Gilliflower, and Macoun (pronounced “McCowan”), apples that taste nothing like the commercial fruits flooding grocery stores. These apples, with various origins and histories, are a link to our past as well as a direct connection to a heritage that may have been lost if not for some persistent and skilled fruit growers. (more…)

Perfect Cabbage, Organic Miracle

Organic Garden CabbageThe priceless rewards of growing unblemished cabbage organically.

Our correspondent in Washington state’s Skagit River Valley farm country writes in:

We’re seeing all the signs of late harvest in farmers markets, small farms, and family gardens lately: winter squash of all sorts, pumpkins, turnips and rutabaga, beets, last crops of spinach that had been second planted in late summer. And then there’s cabbage.

We love big, tight heads of cabbage from plants that we set out right at last frost and then, these past months, watched grow. Like all long season crops, cabbages are prone to problems just because they’re around so long. Pests, always on the come and go, have all that time to find them. (more…)

Food Issues and Organic Growing

Locally Grown FoodsIs the farm bill money spent on promoting organics and locally grown foods worth it?

Your friendly Planet Natural blogger is all about assuring your family gets truly organic fruits and vegetables by growing them at home. But he’s also all about access to quality organic produce, raised on local farms and sold locally at co-ops, farm stands and store fronts, and at farmers markets.

No one I know grows enough of everything. Most of us with modest-sized gardens feel lucky if we can plant a couple short rows of sweet corn that yield enough ears for a big picnic and a couple family dinners. When we do buy produce — and we buy a lot of it with great joy — we want to now that it was grown naturally and nearby. It’s great to buy from a producer — a farmer! — that you know and trust. (more…)

Gardening Basics: Plant Anatomy

Plant AnatomyPlants are diverse living organisms that can be found from your back yard to all over the world. Archaeologists have even discovered fossils of plants! While some plants produce pretty flowers or delicious fruits or vegetables, other types of plants serve as food for animals or even as their shelter. Today some plant experts suggest that there are some 315,000 different varieties of plants! While these different types of plants vary dramatically in appearance and location, many of them contain the same basic parts.

Rooted in Plant Roots

Arguably the most important of the plant, even though we rarely see them, a plant’s roots or “root system” do so many different important jobs for the plant. The roots anchor the plant into the ground and transport water and vitamins from the soil that the plant needs to grow and develop. The root system also stores important nutrients when there may not be nutrients (like during the winter) to keep the plant alive and healthy. If plants were unable to store nutrients for future use they wouldn’t be able to live nearly as long. (more…)

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