Dig Deeper

Want the scoop on the latest gardening tips – both indoors and out — as well as in-depth news and articles on issues important to organic growers and everyone else interested in a healthy, earth-conscious life style? Here’s where to dig up the details on everything from how to garden and design ideas to heirlooms and safe, natural lawn care.

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Growing More In Less Space

Vertical Vegetable GardeningTips on using raised beds and vertical gardening to get the most from your vegetable patch.

Intensive or square foot gardening uses space more efficiently than traditional methods. Instead of wasted room between rows of crops, the garden area is maximized — that way you get the most vegetables, fruits and flowers in the smallest amount of growing space.

Even if you have plenty of room in your backyard, intensive gardening can require less work while still providing lots of heathy plants. Usually there is less weeding involved since plants are spaced closer together and every bit of garden space is cultivated throughout the entire growing season. However, because there is less room between crops, weeding will need to be done by hand or with smaller garden tools — there will not be enough room for machinery. Another drawback — to some people — is that because plants are always growing, they are not all ready to harvest at the same time. (more…)

New Study Finds Pesticide In Pollen, Honey

Honey Bee HiveMost hives, honeybees examined in state study found to carry neonicotinoids, the pesticides linked to colony collapse disorder.

A new study has found that over 70% of pollen and honey collected from bees at various times in Massachusetts contained one type or another of neonicotinoids, a class of insecticides that’s been implicated in the honey bee die-offs of the last several years. The study was conducted at Harvard University’s Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. (more…)

Rain Garden Design

Rain Garden PlantsHow to design environmentally friendly, water-efficient gardens using natural rainfall.

Rain gardens catch and channel the environment’s natural precipitation, delivering it where it will most benefit our plants. At the same time they protect the environment by keeping polluted runoff out of municipal storm sewers. They allow water to percolate into the soil where its needed, avoiding erosion. A well-designed rain garden is sustainable, requiring little or no additional water to maintain life.

Unlike active rainwater harvesting, where runoff from roofs, pavement, and other impermeable surfaces is collected and stored in barrels and cisterns, passive rainwater collection takes moisture when it falls and puts it to best use. But its water may also be collected from those impermeable surfaces, like driveways, and channeled directly to growing things. (more…)

Rainwater Harvesting

Harvesting RainwaterHow to reduce water use, save money, and fight drought by harvesting and collecting rainwater.

Rainwater collection and storage systems capture a gift from the sky. They’ve been used for centuries where and when rains are absent. Today, in the face of persistent drought and depleted aquifers, rain water harvesting makes more sense than ever.

No matter how it’s collected or what it’s used for, utilizing rainwater lessens the pressure on our water supply. Rainwater harvest is appropriate in desert climates with monsoon seasons or infrequent thunderstorms as well as regions with adequate rainfall. Like solar-generated electricity stored in a battery, harvested rainwater is there when you need it. (more…)

Gardening Reality Check

Cabbage ProblemsNo one said gardening is a bed of roses.

Your enthusiastic Planet Natural blogger writes a lot about the joys of gardening, how it enriches our lives, provides us exercise, and gives us measures of success. Sometimes those measures don’t exactly come in heaping spoonfuls.

Frustration and disappointment are part of gardening, too. Setbacks, mistakes, and out-and-out failure are part of every growing season. Gardening doesn’t promise you a rose garden.

This early in the gardening season (June before the solstice), after everything’s been sown and transplanted, gardeners face a dose of reality. Not every plant we set out survives to give us beautiful blossoms or a bountiful harvest. (more…)

Take Action To Save Pollinators

Bee PollinationPlants that bring bees, butterflies, and other pollinators to your garden can help save them.

It’s the time of year when air-borne pollinators are buzzing and humming and hovering all over our gardens. Honey bees are working the purple orbs atop chive stalks, wild bees are crawling the first pale, stem-bound blossoms of a potted rosemary plant, hummingbirds are working trumpet-shaped azalea blossoms, and various-sized and colored wasps are busy visiting flowers of all sorts blooming in our yards and landscapes.

Earlier in the season, the bees were all over our apple blossoms. Not long from now, they’ll be in the pea blossoms while butterflies will be tracing twisted, sunlit paths above our heads. They’ll all be doing the work of pollination, the natural process so important to the plants that feed us and bring us beauty. (more…)

Chicken Producers Cut Antibiotics

Chicken FarmFoster Farms joins a growing list of commercial chicken raisers to hear consumer calls for antibiotic-free, organic products.

Foster Farms, one of the nation’s largest chicken producers, has announced that it has stopped the use of antibiotics “important to human medicine” in all of its chicken raising facilities. The move was part of a press release announcing two new lines of chicken products, Foster Farms Certified Organic and Foster Farms Simply Raised an antibiotic-free chicken.

The press release can be seen here. (more…)

Early Season Fruit Thinning

Pear TreeThinning emerging apples, peaches and other fruits early in the season improves size, quality and future blooming.

A friend who grew up on an acreage tells us how his favorite apple tree — he doesn’t remember what kind — produced clusters of small, under-sized apples. Some of the fruit developed brown spots, probably apple scab from the way he describes it. His story made us wonder: why was this his favorite apple tree? (Answer: it was the furthest away from the house and offered him a shady, quiet place to escape his younger siblings and read, either sitting on the ground against the trunk or up in its welcoming branches.) (more…)

Bees Still In Peril

Honey Bee ColonyBee deaths accelerate in 2014.

Beekeepers lost over 42% of their colonies in the 12 months that began in April, 2014. This came after a year when total winter losses were 23%, less than the 30% average losses per year since 2005.

The figures come from the Bee Informed Partnership, a collaborative effort between university research laboratories, the United States Department of Agriculture, and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture. The Partnership is dedicated to studying bee health on a “large scale” rather than in individual lab experiments. And that means data collection. (more…)

Businesses Responding To Consumers Demands For Safe Foods

Safe Food ChoicesOrganic Sales Up, Antibiotics, GMOs Out, and Other Healthy Eating News.

Businesses from giant chicken suppliers to fast food chains and super markets seem to be hearing demands from consumers for healthy, humanly raised, and safe foods. Encouraging news on the sales of organic produce plus announcements from major restaurant chains and the corporations that supply them suggests that consumer concerns about pesticides, GMOs, and antibiotics in their food is having more than a ripple effect in the industry. (more…)

Farm-To-Table Boosts Garden Tourism

Skagit Valley Tulip FestivalOrganic produce, local-source dining and rural pleasures tempt visitors.

It’s Tulip Festival month in the Skagit Valley of Washington state, one of the country’s primary tulip bulb production sites. Long before those bulbs are harvested, acres and acres of the tulips flower. When they do hundreds of thousands of visitors come to see the richly and variously colored blossoms on a scale that’s hard to imagine.

Planet Natural’s Pacific Northwest correspondent reports that when the flower-lovers show up, usually in the month of April (flowering came as much as two weeks early this year), they boost the local economy in ways that benefit everything from road side-stands selling rhubarb to nearby motels and restaurants. (more…)

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