May 30th, 2009 - Barbara Feiner
A few weeks ago, we talked about creating a flavorful organic landscape, even in small spaces.
To maintain garden health, water new plantings frequently enough to keep soil moist, but not too wet. Experts advise adding a layer of shredded leaves, evergreen needles or other organic material to conserve moisture, suppress weeds and moderate soil temperatures.
By mid-summer, give your plants a boost with a slow-release, organic nitrogen fertilizer like Milorganite, which meets the Environmental Protection Agency’s Exceptional Quality standards. Even on hot, dry days, the product won’t burn and will remain in soil until your plants need it. Milorganite encourages growth, without interfering with flowering and fruiting.
Photo courtesy of ARA
Read More:Organic Garden Helper: Milorganite
February 7th, 2007 - Barbara Feiner
By Valentine’s Day 2012, the U.S. market for environmentally friendly roses and other flowers will exceed $100 million, predicts OrganicBouquet.com, the leading retailer of organic and certified sustainable flowers.
“We expect to ship 200,000 blooms next week for Valentine’s Day and more than 20 million stems of earth-friendly roses and flowers in 2007,” says founder and CEO Gerald Prolman. “We are racing to keep up with demand.”
Organic Bouquet, founded in 2001, offers flowers grown under certified sustainable farming practices, including organic and Veriflora—a new certification for the fresh-cut flower trade that verifies environmental practices, as well as the social and ecological aspects of growing flowers.
The company is selling one dozen Veriflora-certified Deluxe Red Roses for $64.95, plus tax and shipping. A second dozen can be added for $25.
“Americans are spending $230 billion each year on environmentally considerate purchases,” Prolman says. “Conscious consumerism isn’t a passing fad, but a serious consideration at all levels of the economy.”
Organic flowers are the fastest-growing sector of the non-food organic market, with sales increasing by 50% in 2005.
Read More:Eco-Flower Market to Grow More Than 600% by 2012
January 10th, 2007 - Barbara Feiner
Did your New Year’s resolutions include your organic garden and houseplants?
Here are some gardening tips from the plant doctors at The American Phytopathological Society, a nonprofit, professional scientific organization that advances the public’s understanding of plant pathology and health.
- Mulch perennials after the ground freezes to help them overwinter comfortably, even though temperatures may fluctuate.
- When studying plant catalogs, look for pest- and disease-resistant plants, such as mildew-resistant phlox, fusarium-resistant tomatoes and disease-resistant crabapples. This will make your gardening job easier and keep your plants healthier.
- Send a soil sample to a laboratory to learn about your lime and fertilizer needs, rather than guessing.
- Set plants in the ground only at the proper depth. Deep planting harms roots and kills plants.
- Use only the well-drained areas of your garden for plants—unless you purchase some swamp-loving species!
- Inspect plants carefully before purchasing to find evidence of invaders like spider mites, scale insects or mealybugs, or root swellings that may reveal crown gall disease on plants like flowering cherries or roses.
- Spread a circle of mulch around young trees to keep lawn mowers from damaging the bark, which can lead to canker diseases in the future.
- Use only a few inches of mulch (depth), and keep it a few inches away from trunks and stems of plants to discourage crown rot.
Tune in tomorrow for more plant-savvy tips!
Read More:Grow Healthy Plants in the New Year
October 6th, 2006 - Barbara Feiner
By Charlie Nardozzi
Gardening is dirty business, but that’s a good thing because building healthy soil is essential for growing productive flowers, vegetables and herbs.
One of the best ways to improve your soil is to add compost. While not high in fertilizer value, compost has many benefits, including making nutrients more available to plants, improving water drainage on clay soils and retaining water on sandy soils. Fall is a great time to make or buy compost and add it to your garden beds.
First you need to know how much compost to add. For existing flower and vegetable gardens, work in a 1- to 2-inch-thick layer of compost in spring or fall. For a new garden on poor soil, add a thicker layer.
The easiest way to apply compost to a small garden is to buy bags. Bagged compost is usually sterilized and free of weed seeds. While more expensive than buying in bulk, buying compost in bags is more convenient.
For larger gardens, buy compost in bulk. Many garden centers, nurseries and even municipalities sell bulk compost. Get to know your compost before buying it. The compost should be dark-colored with an earthy smell and some small chunks of organic matter. Avoid foul-smelling compost or compost with large amounts of undecomposed material. To haul it, consider finding a friend with a pick-up truck to share a load.
Making Your Own
The cheapest way to get compost is to make your own.
“Not only do you get the satisfaction of knowing what’s in your compost, you save money by not paying to haul your yard waste away and help the environment by not filling up the local landfill,” says Chip Tynan, horticulturist and composting teacher at the Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis. Fall is the perfect time to make compost. Your yard is loaded with compostable materials, such as grass clippings, leaves, vegetable debris and old plants.
To build a compost pile, choose a spot near your garden or kitchen so you can easily add organic matter. Construct or buy a 3- to 4-foot-wide and tall container. Compost bins are typically constructed of wire, plastic or wood. Add a 4- to 6-inch-thick layer of brown material (chopped leaves, straw, hay) on the bottom of the pile. Add a 2- to 4-inch-thick layer of green materials (grass clippings, vegetable plants, vegetable kitchen scraps) on top of the brown layer. (Avoid adding any meats or oils since these will attract animals.) Alternate layers, moistening each one until the pile fills the bin. Cover the bin to prevent animals from entering and to keep the pile from getting too wet.
The pile will heat up as it decomposes. Once the pile has cooled, mix and moisten the materials, and the pile should heat up again. Repeat this mixing process a few times, and in a few months you should have finished compost to use in your garden.
Charlie Nardozzi, a nationally recognized garden writer, book author, speaker, and radio and television personality, has appeared on HGTV, PBS and Discovery Channel television networks. He is the senior horticulturist and spokesperson for the National Gardening Association and chief gardening officer for the Hilton Garden Inn.
All materials courtesy of the National Gardening Association
Read More:Organic Gardening: The Dirt on Composting
July 28th, 2006 - Barbara Feiner
By Charlie Nardozzi
It’s summer and time to start enjoying the fruits of your gardening labors by harvesting a bounty of vegetables, fruits and flowers. However, you aren’t the only one who has been enjoying these luscious plants. Insect pests and diseases can take a bite out of your summer harvest. Many gardeners would rather not use toxic sprays in their yards and are turning to old-fashioned home remedies to control these pests and fertilize plants. But gardeners should discriminate between fact and lore.
“Over the years, many crazy things have been recommended for getting plants to grow or controlling pests. While there’s a grain of truth to many kitchen cures, be careful; some can be harmful, such as using ammonia as a nitrogen fertilizer,” says Jeff Gillman, University of Minnesota horticulture professor and author of The Truth About Garden Remedies (Timber Press, 2006).
Here are some safe and effective home remedies that Gillman does recommend. Give them a try in your garden.
While not as effective as a commercial fertilizer, milk can deliver a noticeable amount of nitrogen to plants. It’s simple. Milk is high in protein, of which nitrogen is a component. A solution of one part milk diluted with four parts water is recommended. Add 1 to 2 cups of this mixture to a medium-sized plant every week or two.
Yolk It Up
Eggs are a great source of nutrition for humans, and for your plants, too! Eggshells contain minerals that plants need, such as calcium and potassium. Creating a fertilizer based on eggshells is easy. Work four to five crushed and dried eggshells into the soil per plant. Or make a liquid solution by boiling 10 to 20 eggshells in 1 gallon of water for a few minutes. Let cool overnight, strain off the shells, and water your plants once a week with the mixture.
Some (Don’t) Like It Hot
Capsaicin, the active ingredient that puts the hot in chili peppers, is a known insect and animal repellent. It can deter a range of bugs, including mites, aphids and whiteflies. Simply mix a few tablespoons of hot pepper sauce in 1 gallon of water and spray. A tablespoon of liquid soap mixed in helps the repellent stick to leaves. To increase the potency, mix in a bulb of crushed garlic and strain. This repellent can last up to one week and will need to be reapplied, especially after a rain. Test this spray before you treat plants, as it could cause some burn.
This Brew’s for You, Slugs
Slugs are a big problem in many gardens. But it turns out they like to wash down a meal of hosta and astilbe leaves with beer. So, you can use beer as a bait to trap these slimy critters. Bury a 6- to 8-inch-deep container in the ground around slug-favored plants so the lip is even with the soil. Add beer to within 1 to 2 inches of the lip. At night, the slugs are attracted to the beer, they party on and end up falling in the trap and drowning. Remove dead slugs in the morning and replace beer for the next round.
Charlie Nardozzi is a nationally recognized garden writer, book author, speaker, and radio and television personality who has appeared on HGTV, PBS and Discovery Channel television networks. He is the senior horticulturist and spokesperson for the National Gardening Association and chief gardening officer for the Hilton Garden Inn. All materials courtesy of the National Gardening Association.
Read More:Organic Gardening: Pantry Pest Controls
May 5th, 2006 - Barbara Feiner
Yesterday, we covered container gardening for readers who lack sufficient yard space. Today, Stori Snyder, assistant director of the Hilltop Garden and Nature Center at Indiana University Bloomington, provides additional tips on adding tomatoes and vegetables to the mix.
A tomato plant can grow well in a 5-gallon bucket, Snyder says. Plants come in many varieties, although compact ones grow better in containers and require less staking. Cherry and pear tomatoes look great in hanging baskets, she adds. Note: Tomatoes mature at different rates, so organic gardeners may want to select varieties that ripen at different times or that are indeterminate (ripening repeatedly until it becomes too cold).
Carrots and radishes grow quickly. Snyder recommends choosing “companion plants,” which grow well together because one plant provides the soil with a nutrient the other plant needs, and vice versa. Carrots and tomatoes are companion plants, she explains, as are roses and garlic. Basil and tomatoes are a dynamic duo with considerable aesthetic appeal. “They smell fantastic,” she says, and the variety of colors is interesting: yellow tomatoes and purple basil, for example.
Read More:Organic Gardening: Anyone Can Grow a Salad
May 4th, 2006 - Barbara Feiner
If you’re an apartment dweller or have limited yard space, there’s still a way to flex your green thumb: container gardening. Cherry tomatoes draped from hanging baskets, herbs, morning glories and vegetables can thrive in flower pots. And even if you do have space for a vegetable garden, “there’s always the possibility of adding a few more pots,” says Stori Snyder, assistant director of the Hilltop Garden and Nature Center at Indiana University Bloomington. She offers the following tips:
Preparing the Containers
Containers need holes at the bottom for drainage and some rocks for the plant roots to wrap around. The roots “don’t want to have ‘wet feet,’ so to speak,” she says. Containers should be at least one size larger than the purchased pot size.
Feeding the Soil
More plants can be grown in a small space if the soil has been enriched with manure, compost or humus. You can buy a kit to test soil its composition to see if it needs more nitrogen, phosphorus or potassium, which are important nutrients for plants. It’s practically “a given,” Snyder says, that soil will need compost or manure after subsequent plantings because plants always remove nitrogen from dirt. One way to improve the soil is to add a scoop of compost in a hole when burying a plant. Feed the plants again at least once during the summer with a sprinkling of compost or compost tea, where a compost powder is mixed with water.
Consider planting native varieties because they handle a region’s climate better. Local nurseries and county extension services can offer guidance. Some herbs, such as mints, sage and thyme, are hardier than others and grow back in the spring.
Read More:No Room for an Organic Vegetable Garden? Container Garden
April 19th, 2006 - Barbara Feiner
When I was growing up, my grandfather used to go fishing to catch the evening’s main course. After scaling and cleaning the fish, he’d save their heads—quite icky to a little girl’s sensibilities—and plant them in his backyard garden. The fish remnants were (and still are) an extremely effective fertilizer because they boost soil’s nitrogen levels.
Casey Kellar, author of The Good Earth Home & Garden Book, has a not-too-messy alternative for organic gardening enthusiasts who want to give their plants a helping hand. She recommends mixing equal parts of water and tuna “juice”—the liquid you normally drain from canned water-packed tuna (about 1/2 cup each). Then add a drop of unscented mild detergent to the mix, and pour it into a bottle. Shake and use immediately.
It’s a bit stinky, Kellar admits, but she says plants absolutely adore her “fish fertilizer.” You can order her book through Amazon.com.
Read More:Tuna: A Plant’s Best Friend?
March 29th, 2006 - Barbara Feiner
Native American author Devon A. Mihesuah’s book, Recovering Our Ancestors’ Gardens: Indigenous Recipes and Guide to Diet and Fitness
, won the Special Award of the Jury from the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards and is a finalist for “Best in the World.”
“High incidences of diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity and related physical problems among indigenous peoples are pervasive consequences of colonialism,” says Mihesuah, an Oklahoma Choctaw and the Cora Lee Beers Price Teaching Professor in International Cultural Understanding at the University of Kansas’ Center for Indigenous Nations Studies. “Natives once gathered, hunted and cultivated foods that kept them physically strong. Now, many Natives across the Americas are sedentary and have lost touch with their traditional tribal knowledge, including methods of cultivating, preparing and preserving foods. Taking charge of our health by boycotting the greasy, fatty, sugary and salty foods that are killing us in favor of the nutrient-rich and unprocessed indigenous foods of this hemisphere is greatly empowering.”
The book contains sections on exercise, strategies for healthy eating, gardening and indigenous recipes, including Acorn Squash-Pumpkin Soup, Creamed Corn and Boiled Okra Soldiers. Mihesuah strongly believes in consuming fresh, homegrown foods.
“We can only do so much to combat racism and prejudice,” she notes, “but we can control what we eat, what we feed our families and how much we move around. We must take responsibility for our health and for the well-being of our children. In so doing, we pass on a legacy of self-respect and tribal strength to future generations.”
Read More:Organic Food, Choctaw Style
March 6th, 2006 - Barbara Feiner
Ma and Pa Kit
Looking for a unique organic gardening project or gift? Check out the organic shiitake mushroom logs from Perkins, Oklahoma-based Lost Creek Mushroom Farm.
The logs are actual organic oak or similar hardwood logs impregnated with shiitake spawn. They grow shiitakes every 2 months with regular soaking in nonchlorinated room-temperature water. Shocking the log with ice water starts the fruiting process, and mushrooms are ready to harvest within 2 weeks. Logs will produce for 3+ years.
Several kits are available, each containing its own soaking tray, gift basket, log(s) and recipes. The Ma and Pa Kit ($46.50) is the most popular, with two 8″ to 10″ logs that yield mushrooms every month.
“Most food stores carry only shiitakes grown on sawdust, which taste flat and don’t have the same potent health benefits as log-grown shiitakes,” says company founder Doug Williams. “People who love mushrooms and have never had natural shiitakes are in for a treat. It’s a lot of fun to watch the little white buds pop through the bark and then fill out to become beautiful brown shiitakes.”
Lost Creek Mushroom Farm also sells a Shiitake Gift Basket, as well as gourmet items like Shiitake Tortilla Soup, Shiitake Lime-Dill Dip and Shiitake Southwest Dip.
Read More:Organic Gardening: Mushroom Logs