Organic Gardens

Few pursuits are as rewarding as growing your own organic gardens. 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 blog, so please check back often. Also, you can search existing messages for answers or post a new message for others to reply to at our Organic Garden Forum page.

Growing Community’s Common Discourse

Social MediaReason, 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…)

Early Season Garden Crops

Asparagus HarvestCool season, spring harvest, cold crop 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…)

Avoiding Water Stressed Plants

Watering PlantsMake 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…)

Growing Classic, Heirloom Head Lettuce

Head LettuceHarder to grow and less nutritious than leaf varieties, organic 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…)

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. (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…)

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