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…)
Eating 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…)
Heirloom 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…)
The 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…)
Is 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…)
Plants 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…)
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…)