War Against Bee Science

Jonathan Lundgren, USDA ResearcherScientist investigating neonicotinoid pesticides and pollinators accuses USDA of intimidation.

Dr. Jonathan Lundgren, a Senior Research Entomologist and Lab Supervisor and 11-year veteran of the USDA Agriculture Research Service based in South Dakota, is a recognized researcher who was named the USDA’s Outstanding Early Career Research Scientist in 2011. Then, in 2014, he published a research paper showing the effects of neonicotinoids, a controversial and widely used class of pesticides, were harmful to monarch butterflies. (more…)

Homegrown Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving Dinner PlateBeing thankful for the foods we grow ourselves.

One of my favorite Thanksgiving memories has to do with green beans. Everything grandma put on the table was excellent — especially the pies — but my favorite Thanksgiving dish was her home-canned green beans. No, they didn’t come in a casserole held together by mushroom soup and topped with French-fried onions. They came just as they were, straight out of the glass jars that grandma had canned them in only a few months earlier. They were and still are the best green beans I’ve ever eaten. (more…)

Storing the Harvest: Drying Fruits and Vegetables

Drying PeppersFood Drying Tips For Home Gardeners

Drying fruits and vegetables has distinct advantages over canning, freezing or other preserving methods that require extreme temperatures. Dried foods require little if any energy to store compared to frozen items that require refrigeration and canned items requiring cooking and container boiling.

Dried fruits and vegetables weigh less and take up less shelf space than canned. They retain most vitamins and minerals better than canning or freezing. They don’t lose fiber. And they don’t lose flavor. They concentrate it. (more…)

Fall Mulching Tips

Garden MulchHow to protect your plants and nourish your soil ahead of winter.

We mulch our gardens to retain moisture, suppress weeds, nourish our soil and prevent extreme soil-temperature fluctuations. In the spring, the first two reasons are most important. In autumn, the last two — especially that bit about temperature changes — are what makes it worth the effort.

All the reasons listed above, and others not mentioned like preventing soil erosion, are in play year round. But the special demands of fall and winter, different than the growing season, guide how we mulch and what we use. Ground doesn’t just freeze solid three months of the year (well, maybe in some places). It’s in a constant cycle of freeze and thaw, something that particularly stresses even dormant plants. (more…)

Fall Is the Time To Plant Lilies

LiliesLilies are among the most beautiful and fragrant flowers in the garden. Here’s how and when to plant them.

Advances in over-winter storage of commercial lily bulbs have allowed gardeners to buy and plant lilies in the spring. But autumn is still the best time to get them in the ground.

Deeply planted and well-mulched, lily bulbs planted in fall will take all but the coldest days of the season to establish themselves before taking off in the spring. Fall planting assures bulb preservation and a good, strong start. (more…)

USDA Program For Bees Not Enough

Honey BeeGovernment needs to address the real problems behind bee decline.

Those concerned with the fate of North America’s honeybee populations have mostly cheered earlier this month with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announcement of $4 million in assistance for farmers, ranchers and forest landowners working to improve food sources for honey bees on private lands in Midwestern and northern plains states. Count your concerned Planet Natural blogger among those who aren’t cheering so loudly. (more…)

Planting Bare Root Fruit Trees

Fruit TreesTips on planting apple, plum, pear, cherry and other fruit trees from bare-root stock.

Spring — as soon after the ground thaws as possible — is the most frequently recommended time to plant bare root fruit trees. Commercial nurseries take advantage of this, providing most of their bare root tree stock to sellers well before winter ends.

The truth is that orchard trees can be planted any time they are dormant as long as you can get a spade into the ground. And fall planting makes for a number of advantages that tree growers can use to their benefit. (more…)

Get Started With Aquaponics

Backyard Aquaponics SystemGrowing vegetables and raising fish in a sustainable garden system.

Indoor and backyard aquaponics combines the craft of hydroponic growing with aquaculture, the art of keeping fish. The water in which the fish live, along with the fish-produced waste, eventually ends up nourishing garden plants. It’s then recycled to the fish tank. The plants get the nutrients they need and the fish get fresh, recycled water.

In return, the savvy gardener gets organic vegetables for salads and fish for the grill.

This is the simplistic explanation of aquaponics gardening. In practice, it’s a balancing act that supports all its living components, including the microscopic life that facilitates the natural conversion of fish-produced waste into usable, beneficial nutrients for plants. (more…)

Companies Spend Big to Fight GMO Labeling

Kellog's Frosted FlakesMedia claims that both sides do it ignores huge disparities.

Data recently collected from the Clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives and the Secretary of the U.S. Senate by the Environmental Working Group, a consumer-oriented health and environment advocacy group, puts the lie to press accounts that both sides in the GMO labeling battle are investing huge amounts to further their interests.

From the EWG report:

Big food and biotechnology companies and trade associations have reported spending $51.6 million over the first half of this year, some or all of which went to lobby for legislation that would block state and federal agencies from requiring food companies to label products that contain GMO ingredients, according to new analysis by EWG. (more…)

Tips to Guarantee Canning Success

PicklesHow to can fruits and vegetables safely and effectively at home.

Canning your own fruits and vegetables seems old-fashioned in our modern age. But canning is contemporary, too. It’s a technology, constantly evolving with better canning equipment and the applied kitchen science needed to safely preserve a food supply that’s evolving as well.

Preserving the harvest in jars connects us with the generations that have gathered in kitchens over the years — thank-you, grandma! — to can produce and other foods. As it seems to do sometime with each generation, canning today is enjoying growing popularity among millennials. (more…)

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