Tagged organic gardening

What to Know About Raised Bed Gardens

Raised gardens are becoming quite popular. As more people find themselves renting property or living in high rise apartment buildings, they have little or no access to garden space. There are many reasons why using raised gardens are desired over tilling the soil for those who wish to have smaller gardens and are limited on space in which to do so. At the same time, those who desire bigger yields are often dissatisfied with the limits of raised gardens. The choice is ultimately yours but I will try to point out some of the pros and cons of this type of garden so that you may decide for yourself.

Plants need air as much as they need good soil and water, and that is often difficult when planted in garden rows as soil becomes packed down with the frequent traffic that is necessary to properly maintain a traditional garden bed. By using a raised garden, which is designed to be worked from without rather than within, there is little fear of compacting the soil around the plants. At the same time many lifelong gardeners feel the inability to walk around in their gardens is a disadvantage in itself and prefer to be able to do so. This is often a matter of preference rather than practicality but a valid opposition just the same.

You can actually plant more plants in the same amount of square footage in a raised bed because there is no need for rows. You should also be aware that plants in raised beds often tend to grow larger than plants in traditional garden rows. That being said you should resist the urge to over plant within the raised garden bed, as this will eliminate that slight benefit. Many traditional gardeners have seen the results of overcrowding in these beds and feel that their way of doing this is much butter.

One huge benefit to raised beds for summer gardens in areas that are nearly saturated with excess moisture is that raised beds allow much better drainage than traditional row gardening. This is one thing that the average gardener will not argue with unless he lives in an area in which this isn’t much of a problem. Most gardeners in the south though, where there is a great deal of humidity and moisture will agree that proper drainage is a problem.

Raised beds are much easier on your back. By being above ground, raised gardens offer easier access for planting, weeding, planting, and investigating for signs of pests. Another great thing about raised gardens is that they are not as quick to cool as the earth, which renders them more productive and with longer growing seasons that most gardens that are placed in the ground.

For those who have unusually shaped yards or growing areas, raised gardens allow the opportunity to have a beautiful summer garden in almost any shape you can build the box for. This means you are not limited to rows, as many gardens tend to be and that you have a few more options for aesthetics when planning and growing your summer garden.

The downside to raised summer gardens is that they are difficult to dismantle and nearly impossible to till. This means you must do all the working of the soil by hand and many gardeners do not fully appreciate the beauty of that process. The most important thing however, is that you choose a summer garden system that works for you. You may find that combining the two provides the best results and is a great use of your time or that you prefer one over the other. There really is no wrong answer only the one that is wrong for you.

Six Tips To Start Organic Gardening

Organic gardening is the way of growing vegetables and fruits with the use of things only found in nature.

Why would one want to indulge in organic gardening?

1. One can easily make compost from garden and kitchen waste matter. Though this is a bit more time-consuming than buying prepared chemical pesticides and fertilizers, it certainly helps to put garbage to good use and so saves the environment.

2. Organic farming does not use chemicals that may have an adverse affect on your health. This is especially important when growing vegetables. Chemical companies tell us that the chemicals we use are safe if used according to direction, but research shows that even tiny amounts of poisons absorbed through the skin can cause such things as cancer, especially in children.

On the average, a child consumes four to five times more cancer-causing pesticides from foods than an adult. This can lead to various diseases later on in the child’s life. With organic gardening, these incidents are lessened.

Remember, pesticides contain toxins that have only one purpose – to kill living things.

3. Less harm to the environment. Poisons are often washed into our waterways, causing death to the native fish and polluting their habitat.

4. Organic farming practices help prevent the loss of topsoil through erosion.
The Soil Conservation Service says that an estimated 30 – 32 billion tons of soil erodes from United States farmlands every year.

5. Cost savings. One does not need to buy costly chemical fertilizers and pesticides with organic gardening. Many organic recipes for the control of pest and disease come straight from the kitchen cupboard. Sometimes other plants can be grown as companions to the main crop. An example of this is the marigold, which helps to repel aphids from vegetables.

Mixing 1 tablespoon of liquid dishwashing soap and 1 cup of cooking oil can make a cheap garden pest spray. Put 3 tablespoons of this mixture in 1 quart of water and spray on plants.

6. A simple mulch of pine needles will help to suppress the growth of weeds as well as keeping the moisture in.

Organic gardening practices help to keep the environment safe for future generations.

New Hydrangeas for 2011

Big Beautiful White Blossoms of the Annabelle Hydrangea
Big Beautiful White Blossoms of the Annabelle Hydrangea

Hydrangeas have become one of my favorite perennials for many reasons.  The large white blooms of the Annabelle remind me of my Grandmother’s large flower garden which was always bursting with color and heavenly scents.  I loved to pick a bouquet to decorate the dinner table.

The range of blue, violet, and pink hues that are available in newer hybrid varieties are breathtakingly beautiful.  If you don’t like the color, add a little aluminum sulfate to the soil for a deeper blue, or add dolomitic lime for a pink flower.

Hydrangeas are hardy and fairly easy to grow given the right conditions. There are new varieties available each year.  2011 varieties include Hydrangea Macrophylla Konigstein which is a deep red; Hydrangea Macrophylla Lemmonhoff, a pink to blue variety depending on acidic level of the soil; Hydrangea Paniculata Phantom, which will produce beautiful creamy white blossoms all through the summer and into fall; and Schizophragma Brookside Little Leaf which is a climbing variety that will bloom all summer long as well.

There are literally hundreds of different types of Hydrangeas so it’s not hard to find a type that works well for any growing conditions.

For a complete guide to growing Hydrangeas, check out the Encylopedia of Hydrangeas.

Ever Thought About Becoming a Bee Keeper?

keeping bees, bee honey, bee hive
Bees Are a Critical Part of the Garden

There’s been a great deal of coverage in the media about disappearing honey bees in the past year or so.  Experts speculate about what may be causing the mysterious disappearing act – cell phones, viruses, weather (climate change/global warming).  It may be years before we know the answers, if we ever do.

As an avid gardener, it’s concerning to think that the bee population is on the decline since our food supply is so dependent on these little buzzing pollinators.  I live in a suburban area with not enough property to become a bee keeper and I have enough respect for the honey bees and all types of bees that I would want to learn as much about bee keeping as possible before attempting to raise bees for honey.

Fortunately I work with an organic farmer who has become quite adept at raising honey bees and he’s very generous with the harvest each year.  He studied at the University of Minnesota and has been raising bees for honey and to pollinate his crops for several years now.  The sweet taste of clover honey cannot be beat by any store bought honey on the shelf.  To learn more about raising your own honey bees, start here: BeeKeeping For Beginners

More Tips For Organic Gardening

Organic gardening is an easy way of increasing vegetables and fruit production with the use of simple items found in nature.

So why would one desire to indulge in organic gardening?

1. It can immediately help make compost from garden and kitchen waste products. Though this is a bit more time-consuming than purchasing prepared poisoned baits plus fertilizers, it certainly really helps to put garbage to good use and thus saves environmental surroundings.

2. Organic farming doesn’t use chemicals that can build up and have an adverse affect on your health. Almost all of the essential when growing veggies. Chemical companies tell us that the chemicals we use are safe if used based on direction, but research indicates that even tiny levels of poisons absorbed throughout the skin can cause diseases such as cancer, especially in youngsters.

An average kid ingests four to five times more cancer-causing pesticides from foods than grown-ups. With organic gardening, these incidents are lessened.

Keep in mind, pesticides contain toxins which have just one purpose – to kill living items.

3. Less harm to the environment. Poisons in many cases are washed into our waterways, causing death in native fish and polluting their habitat.

4.Organic farming practices help prevent losing topsoil through erosion.

It is a well known fact that a great deal of soil erodes from US farmlands every year.

4. Cost savings. There is no need to purchase expensive chemicals when organic gardening. There are many organic recipes that aid in keeping pests away, and many of these ingredients come straight from your kitchen cupboard. At times other plants may be grown as companions to aid in the healthy grown of a main crop. An example of this is the marigold, which helps to repel aphids from veggies.

Mixing one tablespoon of liquid dish-washing soap and even one cup of cooking oil could make an affordable garden pest spray. Put three tbsps of the mixture in 1 quart of water and spray on plants.

5. A fairly easy mulch of pine needles will assist you to suppress the growth of weeds plus keeping moisture in.

6. Organic gardening practices keep the environment risk-free for generations to come.

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BP Oil Geyser Capped; What About the Plastic Leak?

plastic island in the ocean
Plastic Garbage Patch

Hearing that BP finally has gained some control of the geyser that has been pouring millions of gallons of oil and other toxic chemicals into the Gulf of Mexico for almost 3 full months is very good news.  Whether this temporary cap will hold up under the pressure and not cause more leaking in the deep well or the ocean sub-floor is yet to be known.  Still, this is progress in a disaster that has very little success for far too long.

Watching the devastation that the oil leak has caused to wildlife, aquatic life, and beaches as well as the fishermen, tourism and people who’s livelihood is dependent on the gulf has been heart-wrenching.  Cleaning up the effects of the oil leak will without a doubt, take decades – if it’s ever even possible to fully clean it up – which I doubt.

The BP oil leak has been labelled the worst environmental disaster in US history.  But the fact is, there is an ongoing environmental disaster that potentially has as great an impact on the world’s oceans, and it appears that no one has done much to gain control over it yet.

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is a floating island of plastic debris that has been collecting in the Pacific Ocean.  It is estimated to be twice the size of Texas and stretches from the coast of California to Japan.  It contains bits and pieces of plastic trash that has either been dumped or floated into the ocean from streams and rivers.  The toxins poison sea life, birds, and mammals. Fish and birds get caught in the tangled plastic net and die.

Plastic (made from oil) does not break down naturally.  It’s durability means that it is not biodegradable and will likely last for hundreds of years.  Plastic contains chemicals such as artificial estrogen that leach into water, increasing risk of cancers and other diseases.

We can reduce our usage of plastics by using cloth bags, growing our own produce, or purchasing produce from local farmers markets, which reduces pollution and packaging.  Recycling plastics, cardboard, and metals and shopping at consignment shops also helps reduce waste.  Using organic lawn and garden products reduces the runoff of toxic chemicals into our waterways.

The world is one, large environmental system and we are all connected through that system.  The thought that a floating island twice the size of Texas exists because of our waste is very disturbing.  Imagine that island covered in a slimy layer of black oil, trapping sea birds, turtles, fish, and whales in a poisonous net, strangling the life out of them.

Let’s hope the cap on the oil geyser is a success.  Let’s also hope that we can figure out a way to put a cap on the toxic leak of plastic and chemical runoff flowing into our oceans too.

10 Reasons Why I Grow Organic

Bees on flowers
Bees on flowers

The benefits of gardening without the aid of toxic pesticides and herbicides seem very obvious to me, yet it was only about 10 years ago that I stopped using chemicals to control insects and weeds.

I was recently reminded of some of the reasons why I stopped using herbicides and pesticides on my lawn and in my gardens.  My neighbor was applying lawn spray to her yard and the smell of the chemicals in the overspray that blew into our yard as I was tending my garden was overpowering, to the point that I almost couldn’t breath.  I had to quit my outdoor chores and go inside to get away from the overpowering odor.  I kept our dog inside for as long as possible after she finished spraying so that he wouldn’t be exposed to the spray too, since most lawn chemicals are toxic to animals as well as humans.

Here are some reasons for choosing to “grow organic.”  I’m sure there are many more, but these are my own personal motivators.

10 Reasons to Grow Organic

  1. No exposure to toxic chemicals for humans and pets
  2. Don’t need to worry that toxins aren’t totally washed off before eating produce
  3. Less expensive
  4. Builds soil quality year after year instead of degrading it
  5. Encourages beneficial insects (and subsequently birds) in my gardens
  6. No contamination of runoff into sewers
  7. Reduces waste in landfills – compost used to build soil encourages recycling of kitchen and yard waste
  8. Organic (heirloom and non-hybrid seeds) can be harvested for next year’s crops
  9. Food tastes better
  10. Teaches kids to take care of the environment

I’m interested in hearing what motivates you to grow organic – or why you choose not to.  Please  share your comments.