Planet Natural: The Blog

Planet Natural BlogWelcome to Planet Natural’s Gardening Blog, a clearinghouse for all things green and growing. What are we about? Organic gardening, sustainability, and the natural lifestyle, of course. That means you’ll find how-tos on raising healthy, great-tasting, heirloom vegetables, growing beautiful landscapes and flowers, composting, and improving soil health. We’re all about controlling weeds without harmful herbicides and pests without toxic pesticides. We’re engaged in conserving water and xeriscaping, growing herbs, and raising cover crops, and all the wise-use practices that make for sustainable, healthy gardens and landscapes.

The practice of growing organically is as old as gardening itself. It’s only in the last several generations that we’ve embraced the chemical fertilizers and risky pesticides that lead to short-term production gains while sacrificing our soil, our wildlife, and our very health. (more…)

Growing the Most Cost-Effective Vegetables

Vegetable HarvestPlant these backyard vegetable crops to save money, eat well.

As your expectant Planet Natural blogger prepares to enter a season flush with zucchini, a thought entered his mind. Which of the vegetables that we plant each year give us the biggest return on our dollar? Zucchini, so prolific, should certainly be on any list of vegetables that give the most bang for the buck. What are the others?

The answer depends on several things: how well certain vegetables grow in your conditions, what you like to eat (and what you don’t), and what you pay for produce at the market. Some vegetables give high yields when conditions are right — think tomatoes — but may not be so productive when grown in cool, cloudy and otherwise less than ideal conditions. We grow tomatoes even if we do live where there’s a short or cool growing season just because we love home-grown tomatoes. (more…)

New Labeling on Seaweed Fertilizer Explained

Brown Sea KelpEPA requires agricultural advisement on the popular growth amendment.

Gardeners have been using kelp and seaweed extracts for years, outdoors and in. The results are well-known. Seaweed is a tonic for plants at all stages, stimulating root growth, aiding chlorophyll production, invigorating cuttings and bare root starts. It delivers small amounts of nitrogen, potash and phosphorous and contains a wide spectrum of trace minerals in a form that plants can use. It contains other nutrients, including plant hormones and amino acids. (more…)

EPA Says Neonicotinoids Harm Bees

Honey BeesPesticide manufacturer Bayer attacks study, then backs down.

The Environmental Protection Agency has gone on record implicating imidacloprid, one of a class of pesticides known as neonicotinoids, as harmful to bees. The EPA’s assessment found that bees receive the pesticide in sufficient amounts to harm them when pollinating cotton and citrus crops.

The EPA statement “Preliminary Pollinator Assessment to Support the Registration Review of Imidacloprid” can be viewed here. The methods of the assessment are discussed here. (more…)

Best Garden Veggies To Over-Winter

Winter Garden VegetablesOrdering seeds? Don’t forget vegetables for fall planting and winter gardens.

We know some gardeners who do more than order seed in February. They’re out in their patch, cutting kale and other greens, pulling a leek or two and generally bringing in fresh veggies they’ve dug out from under mulches or hoop shelters.

Granted, these gardeners mostly don’t live in Montana as we do. They’re situated in the maritime Northwest and in the wide inland river valleys of Oregon and in coastal regions of the south and in the Midwest, even in those areas that suffer frost and the infrequent snow cover. In hardiness zones where you least expect it, winter gardens are producing salads and braising greens, beets and turnips and maybe a green onion, often a volunteer missed the previous season. (more…)

Gardening In Space

Gardening in SpaceAstronauts on the International Space Station grow hydroponic food crops, flowers.

The recent announcement that astronauts aboard the International Space Station have grown their first zinnias has focused attention on just how you grow plants in space.

The answer? Grow bags.

Turns out that a high-tech variation on one of the simplest forms of soil-less, hydroponic growing is the favored method of space travelers inside the orbiting space station, a craft with a truly self-contained environment. (more…)

Tips for Successful Winter Composting

Winter CompostingHow to compost your kitchen scraps and other green waste over the winter months.

Winter traditionally puts a chill on composting. Short, cold days allow conditions inside your compost piles to cool down to almost nothing. The supply of compostable materials from your landscape falls off once the leaves are raked and the freeze is on.

But composting doesn’t have to come to a full-stop during the cold months. Here’s how to care for your established, outdoor compost pile during winter, plus tips to start new ones, even in January. (more…)

Reality Check: Campbell’s Supports GMO Labeling

Campbell's Soup CanHas the Campbell Soup Company switched sides on genetically modified ingredients? Not completely.

Campbell’s Soup announcement that it now supports mandatory labeling of products containing genetically modified organisms was greeted with much fanfare when it was made January 7. National Public Radio’s “The Salt,” comparing the battle over GMOs to trench warfare or World War I ran a headline that suggested Campbells had gone over to the other side. Bloomberg Business called the move “breaking ranks.” In the war over GMOs, Campbell’s suddenly appears to be a traitor. (more…)

Resolution for the New Year: Grow More Vegetables

Garden VegetablesConsider the space you have for growing vegetables then raise all you can.

Your optimistic and forward-thinking Planet Natural blogger has always enjoyed New Year’s resolutions, especially when they pertain to our garden and landscape. And we especially enjoy learning from other gardeners’ lists. This new year, having not put much of a list together ourselves, we’ve taken a new tact. We’re resolving to do the opposite of what some gardeners are resolving to do. (more…)

Keeping Amaryllis Year Round

Amaryllis CareReceive this winter flowering beauty as a holiday gift? Here’s all you need to know about amaryllis care.

Amaryllis, with its beautiful clusters of fragrant blossoms, is a holiday favorite. A South African-native, it delivers its trumpet-shaped blossoms in the winter, often just in time for the holidays. That can mean Christmas but can also include Valentine’s Day. There’s nothing like the lift the bright red, white or pink blossoms can give your spirit during the coldest part of winter. (more…)

Tide Turning Against Harmful Chemicals

Mother and ChildPesticides singled out as dangerous, especially to mothers and children.

Will we look back at 2015 and see it as the year public health institutions and the public at large demand changes when it comes to the use of agricultural and industrial chemicals?

The reaction to recent studies that declare all of us are at risk from compounds that can harm human health, but especially children and those in the womb, seems to suggest that the momentum for giving priority to people over chemical company profits is growing. (more…)

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