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!

New Technology and Old Time Gardening

Edyn Garden SensorSolar-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…)

Tea From Your Own Garden

Herbal TeaGrowing 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…)

Fennel & Fenugreek

Fennel SeedsGrowing 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…)

Taking Care of Fruit Trees . . . Organically

Fruit TreeA comprehensive guide to fruit and nut tree problems for organic growers.

Nothing causes organic gardeners more worries, and more temptation to resort to harmful sprays and other treatments, than problems with fruit trees. You might disagree — after all, the pest and disease problems we have with our plants depends on what we grow and where we grow it — but anyone that’s had to deal with blights, cankers, or caterpillars knows there’s little guidance and few cures that don’t resort to spraying something awful on the trees and bushes that produce the fruits our children will eat. (more…)

A Garden Plot Of Their Own

planting-tomatoesGet kids interested in gardening by giving them their own space.

Your friendly, family-oriented Planet Natural blogger has fond memories gardening as a child with dad and mom, grandma and grandpa, and even an uncle or two. That’s when and how we first learned to garden, not just the craft and practice of it, but also how we learned to love it. That love has lasted throughout our life.

We started at a very young age, toddling out to the garden with grandma to pick strawberries — they tasted so good! — or helping grandpa pull weeds. Not everything we pulled at first were weeds, but with patience, and kind words on what was good and what was bad, we soon learned just what should get plucked. Later we helped dad mark rows and plant seeds. We learned about the conditions and the patience required to see those seeds sprout. Come harvest time, we learned the right way to pinch a pea pod from the vine, break an ear of corn from the stalk, or gently twist a tomato from the plant. (more…)

Charlotte’s Web … In Your Garden

Garden SpiderSpiders are beneficial too!

Our Integrated Pest Management program has long included encouraging and buying, when necessary, beneficial insects. Ladybugs, praying mantis, aphid predators and parasites, lacewings, leafminers, thrips, whitefly parasites, and others offer a virtual arsenal against the specific insects the would do our garden harm. Knowing which ones to use against what problem pests is valuable knowledge for gardeners seeking to avoid harmful chemical sprays, dusts, and other poisons.

There’s one beneficial predator not generally considered and, for the most part, not commercially available (except as pets) that can play an important role in keeping your garden clears of pests: the spider. Unfairly thought of as dangerous and a nuisance, especially when discovered inside your home, spiders are actually an effective predator in the garden and, despite our fears, mostly aren’t dangerous (with some exceptions). (more…)

Last Call for Planting Fruit Trees

Planting Fruit TreesApple, peach, cherry, plums and others planted now can provide a lifetime of rewards.

In a practice — raising one’s own food — that’s full of satisfying activity, there’s little as satisfying as planting fruit trees. Fruit trees planted this season will, in a few years, provide us a lifetime of nourishing harvests, harvests that we will enjoy with our children, harvest that, with the right care of our trees, will nourish their children as well. And there’s hardly a more joyful experience than picking a ripe plum or peach or apple or handful of cherries and enjoying them right there in the shade of your own orchard. (more…)

No-Dig Gardening

No Dig GardenHow working less makes growing easy (and maybe better).

Grandpa always said there was no such thing as a lazy gardener. And he was right. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t ways to make gardening easier while still making it effective. “No-dig” gardening also known as “sheet mulching,” is one of those ways.

Right now, no-dig is all the rage. It was originally popularized in the 1970s when Fukuoka Masanobu, an organic gardener who pioneered ways for growers to be more productive, published his book One Straw Revolution. You can find a good history of no-dig vegetable gardening as well as an in-depth how-to, can be found over at Treehugger’s excellent blog. (more…)

Health Benefits of Parsley

ParsleyEasy to grow once germinated, parsely is a nutritious and attractive addition to any garden.

As a kid, your friendly Planet Natural Blogger was thought weird because he would eat the parsley garnish that came on his plate when we made those infrequent trips to the restaurant. I enjoyed my weird characterization so much that not only would I eat my garnish but would collect and eat everyone else’s parsley as well. Little did they know — little did I know — what a healthy thing it was to be a weird parsley eater. (more…)

Sowing Seeds Directly In the Garden

Planting SeedsThe ritual of planting garden seed keeps us in touch with the past while letting us look forward to the future.

Some of us live in places warm and weather-friendly enough that our gardens are already in. Some of us, with a possibility of frosts and even a heavy wet spring snow still to come, will continue to wait. But for many of us, now’s the time. All it will take is a couple sunny and warm days before we can sow seeds directly in our gardens. Sure, the peas and a few others might already be in. But where the weather turns suddenly — from winter to summer, as it often does here in Montana — we want to be ready.

So let’s pretend that it’s that most exciting (and anticipated) moment of the gardening season: planting time. We’ve gotten in and worked the soil, maybe spread some manure, worked in compost, and tinkered with the pH (after testing) using sulfur or lime. (more…)

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