Now In Stores: Genetically Engineered Papaya

GMO PapayasGMO papaya, both fresh and as juice, threatens Hawaiian organics.

It wasn’t so many years ago that papayas were a novelty in our grocery market’s produce department. Markets now have papayas in abundance and priced to move. What’s the difference between now and then? Why it’s the GMO papaya.

Unless it’s labeled organic, the Hawaiian papaya you buy for your family is most likely from a genetically engineered tree.

Papayas are an excellent example of the good intention-bad result history of GMO development, really a smaller part of the GMO struggle when compared to the bad intention- bad result (think Mosanto) history of development. Papayas also offer a lesson in the issue’s complexity with all the various reasons that make GMOs, even those developed with the best intentions, a multi-faceted problem. (more…)

Grow, Enjoy Rhubarb

Rhubarb PlantHealthy, delicious recipes from a dependable, cool-weather, garden perennial.

Our correspondent in Northwest Washington’s Skagit Valley, home to family farms, organic growers, nurseries and a surprisingly rich country dining scene, reports that farm markets and country produce stands were open over the weekend with two products: asparagus and rhubarb.

Of all the early season crops, these two are often the most anticipated and the first to harvest. (more…)

Springtime Care of Roses

Springtime RosesPruning and fertilizing of rose bushes rewards with rich, sumptuous blooms.

April is the time in many places to get your rose bushes prepared for the growing season. The spring pruning and feeding of roses is rewarded with vigorous new growth and blossoms.

Even if you live in an area where roses are showing signs of green growth and budding — and that happened early in some parts of the country this year — it’s not too late to clean them up a bit. Giving a rose bush shape and removing second-year growth (and older if your plants have been neglected) not only help strengthen the plant but increase it’s flower power in years to come. (more…)

Make Soil For Your Raised Beds

Raised Bed GardenStraw bale gardening and other tips to build the best soil for your raised beds.

Adding some raised beds to your garden this year? Great idea. I’ve seen it said that raised beds produce about four times the amount of produce as do row crops. Plants seem more vigorous there in early season, probably because the soil in a raised bed warms faster than that in the garden patch. As gardeners, we love early season growth.

None of this is true, of course, if the soil in your raised bed isn’t at its best. And that’s the great things about raised beds. You can dig them out and fill them as you like. Think of them as a controlled experiment in which you’re looking for just the right, airy mix of organic materials — including beneficial microbes and other living things — and naturally occurring nutrients like nitrogen and minerals. (more…)

Plant Now For New Spring Potatoes

New Potato HarvestHow to grow tender, young “new potatoes” right in your own garden.

“New potatoes,” those harvested small and early, are all the rage in America’s kitchens and for good reason. They’re often fork- sized (well, close), retain their shape when cooked up, and come out nice and tender. They’re also a touch sweet. They haven’t developed long enough for their sugars to turn to starch. And that makes them the perfect accompaniment to late spring- early summer meals when they go well with other early vegetables from your garden.

They’re also great for early season potato salads. (more…)

Contaminated Potting Soil and Compost

Potting SoilBagged soils can contain herbicides, gnats, and other unsavory problems.

Stories about compost possibly contaminated with heavy metals from sewage waste and disastrous herbicides turning up in potting soil aren’t new. In 2010, the University of Maryland Extension put out a “Gardener’s Alert! Beware of Herbicide-Contaminated Compost and Manure.” The Ohio State University Extension put out a fact sheet on one persistent pesticide showing up in compost that kills off tomato, eggplant and other nightshade family vegetables as well as beans and sunflower.

But it seems more recently that gardeners are starting to pay attention to other problems that come with mass-produced, commercial potting soils and compost: the importation of pests and disease into your garden or indoor grow space. (more…)

April Lawn and Garden Tasks

Early April GardenGet a good start on growing season with these spring-time, how-to yard and garden chores.

Is April the garden’s busiest month? Suddenly, there’s so much to do, like start putting a garden in. Many websites put up monthly task lists, often suited to their specific region. Here’s some April gardening tips and chores that have served this gardener well over the years.

Fertilize fall-planted garlic with a high-nitrogen source, like blood meal or bat guano. Got onion sets that over-wintered? Now’s the time to start hitting them with nitrogen boosts, maybe fish fertilizer, periodically until their tops go soft and wilt in the coming summer. (more…)

Selecting Nursery Plants

Nursery PlantsNot able to grow your own? Here’s how to choose the best vegetable and flower starts.

Your friendly Planet Natural Blogger, in anticipation of the season that may have already arrived, has been going through Jim Fox’s excellent 2013 book How To Buy the Right Plants, Tools & Garden Supplies (Timber Press), particularly the chapters on choosing healthy nursery plants. Seems with recent life complications — we all have them, from health to weather to a family move — a lot of people didn’t get their vegetables started at home this year.

That’s okay. There’s actually still time to start even tomatoes and pepper seedlings indoors if you can supply the perfect conditions to encourage growth. But there’s an easier way: buy plants from a reputable nursery. (more…)

World Health Organization Links Roundup and Cancer

Glyphosate Roundup CancerNew glyphosate review finds it a probable cause of lymphoma, chromosome damage.

A review by the World Health Organization recently determined that glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup, is “probably” carcinogenic. As reported in a study in the The Lancet (free registration required), the review, done by WHO’s International Agency for Research In Cancer, found that glyphosate increased risks for non-Hodgkin lymphoma as well as DNA and chromosomal damage. It implicates other pesticides as well. (more…)

How to Stratify Seeds and Improve Germination

Garden SeedsRefrigerate seeds before planting to improve germination.

It’s not always so simple as just sticking seeds in the ground. There are a number of techniques and treatments that encourage seeds to germinate. We’ve all soaked wrinkled-skinned pea and other big seeds to help loosen those skins and make water absorption easier. Or we’ve nicked hard skin seeds with a sharp blade or even a fingernail (scarification) for the same purpose.

Then there’s stratification, the act of simulating winter conditions — cold and moist — to prep seeds for their usual germination temperatures come spring. This can involve placing them in the refrigerator, usually in some kind of moist potting soil. Or it can mean storing seeds outside during winter in a sealed plastic bag or covered container, again with grow mix. (more…)

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