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Category Archive for: ‘Gardens for Vegetables’
Soil and the Organic Garden

According to Wikipedia:

Organic farming is the form of agriculture that relies on techniques such as crop rotationgreen manurecompost and biological pest control. Organic farming uses fertilizers and pesticides but excludes or strictly limits the use of manufactured (synthetic) fertilizerspesticides (which include herbicidesinsecticides and fungicides), plant growth regulators such as hormones, livestock antibioticsfood additivesgenetically modified organisms,[1] human sewage sludge, and nanomaterials.[2]

Organic agricultural methods are internationally regulated and legally enforced by many nations, based in large part on the standards set by the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM), an international umbrella organization for organic farming organizations established in 1972.[3] IFOAM defines the overarching goal of organic farming as:

“Organic agriculture is a production system that sustains the health of soils, ecosystems and people. It relies on ecological processes, biodiversity and cycles adapted to local conditions, rather than the use of inputs with adverse effects. Organic agriculture combines tradition, innovation and science to benefit the shared environment and promote fair relationships and a good quality of life for all involved…”

Soil

Apparently the soil in an organic farm or garden MUST be turned and amended and the crops MUST be rotated to insure problem free growth.

Crop rotation is one of the oldest and most effective strategies for organic pest control and healthy soil culture in your organic garden. Specifically, it means the planned order of vegetables or fruits in garden beds; avoiding planting the same crop in the same space for a two or three year period; and knowing what family your edibles belong to.

Where the same vegetables or fruits are grown in the same patch of soil successively, soil depletion and pest infestation may follow. As organic gardeners don’t use insecticides, preventing pest infestations must be controlled by other means.

Many soil dwelling insects are fairly immobile. Take wireworms for instance. They love to feast on sweet potatoes and carrots. If you plant those edibles in the sameraised bed every year, wireworms will build up in the soil and in a few seasons you’ll have a terrible infestation on your hands. But if you follow carrots or sweet potatoes the following season with a non-root vegetable like lettuce or spinach, the wireworms will lose their food source and will be incapable of multiplying.

The same idea holds true for diseases such as tomato blight. If your tomatoes were infected with blight last year, fungal spores from the blight may overwinter in your soil. Planting tomatoes the following year in the farthest garden bed from the blight infested bed will minimize the chances that your tomatoes will pick up the diseaseagain.

Crop rotation also spares depletion of your garden soil. Every plant requires unique amounts of nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium (N-P-K) and other trace minerals. When the same plant makes repeated demands of the same patch of soil, the elements it requires are quickly depleted and may take years to replace. For this reason, heavy composting in between crops is recommended for soil health and using a soil test kit formonitoring levels of N-P-K.

Rotating your vegetables and fruit also greatly reduces the need for fertilizers and pesticides. In my organic garden, I have no need for pesticides at all – there simply are no infestations – and I only use a small amount of organic fertilizer, but large amounts of compost.

For more information on crop rotation and identifying which families your vegetables are in, check out this explanation on crop rotation from OrganicLife.

crop rotation potatoes Don’s follow potatoes with potatoes in your garden.

 

What to use in your soil?

Bee Deaths Affect Our Crops

Our Bees are dying at an alarming rate.  Actually dying is the wrong word to use.  The Bees are vanishing, like something out of a science fiction movie.  If you haven’t heard about this problem yet, please let me bring you up to date.

Colony Collapse Disorder

DEAD_BEES_0930_rdax_676x456

The phenomena is known as “Colony Collapse Disorder”.  Bees have vanished in huge numbers to the point that crops such as almonds, avocados, blueberries, pears, plums and apple crops may fail THIS YEAR, as a result of nothing more than not being pollinated.  That’s right, no blight, pests or weather problems, just a lack of Bees.  The photo above is an unusual occurrence of a colony of dead bees.  Most of the time the colony just disappears.  It seems that bees are so smart that if they know or sense something is wrong with them they will basically commit suicide so not to infect the colony.

 

Experts Don’t Have A Clue

Oh sure, there are people who have good educated guesses at what might be causing the problem, but nobody knows for sure.  Could be pesticides, GMOs, a bacteria or a virus or a combination of all of those things.

 

Bee Keepers

truck of bees

bee trucks

 

 

 

 

 

 

When you think of bee keepers, most people envision a person in a funny white outfit harvesting honey from hives.  Bee keeping has made it to the “big business” scale.  There are bee keepers who travel the country in multiple tractor trailer rigs full of bees.  They hire out to large farmers for specific periods of time to let their bees loose on the farm to pollinate the crops at just the right time.

Crops

avocado tree

Hass avocados ripening

Almond tree in bloom

Almond Tree in Bloom

blueberry2 (1)

Blueberry Bush

 

Imagine no more blueberries, almonds or avocados this year

 

So, how can we save the bees?

The following is from an article in the Food Renegad written by KristenM

1. We should err on the side of the environment, rather than on the side of economic profits for the pesticide industry, and immediately ban neonicotinoids.

2. We should encourage and support local beekeepers feeding their bees honey rather than HFCS. Heck, why not start keeping your own bees?

3. We should plant bee-friendly flowers and allow the pollinators free reign in our lawns and gardens instead of immediately trying to kill any nearby hives.

4. We can encourage and support the work of researchers trying to breed sturdier bees.

The report recommends stepping up efforts to identify genetic traits in particular bees that make them resistant to suspected causes of CCD. Some honey bees, it turns out, take “suicidal risks” when infected with disease to prevent spreading the contagion to the colony.

The report also suggests importing Russian honey bees and other “Old World” bees to diversify bee breeding stock and build up CCD resistance. Scientists already have begun to stockpile bee semen and germplasm in case the worst comes to pass.
(source)

All of this together may not be enough. There are still too many unknown variables — like GMO crops where the plant itself is registered as an insecticide with the EPA.

Who can say what the long-term effect of these crops is on the honey bee population? Perhaps they are like neonicotinoids — initially appearing safe, but ultimately weakening the bees across generations.

Conclusion

As always let logic be your guide.  If you’ve never gotten behind a “cause” before, this might just bee the one to start with.  Call your local and state representatives and tell them you are worried.  They all have phone numbers with answering machines to record your concerns.  Heck, sometimes a real person will answer.  Call your extension service and ask what you can do to help.  Write me and tell me you are concerned and I’ll pass it along – jughandle

Canary in the Vegetable patch

You may be familiar with the use of a Canary to warn miners in coal mines when toxic levels of gas or the lack of O2 was imminent.  The bird would sing it’s happy song until a problem was present and then it would either die or at least stop singing which was a warning to the miners that there was a problem and to get the hell out.  The canary was much more sensitive to the change in the environment than the miners.   Today of course we have electronic sensors to warn of such problems, but nature has and always will be the best indicator of problems to which humans as the top of the food chain should pay close attention to.


frog

Turtles, Frogs and Fish are the Canaries of our crops and waters

Amphibians, not unlike the canary, are many times more sensitive to chemicals and changes in the water chemistry and soil make up than are humans.  When large populations of amphibians start to die or move to other more suitable locations we NEED TO PAY ATTENTION!

Sad when we change our eating habits only to find our vegetables are tainted too!

It makes me mad to do all the research into finding a more healthy diet only to find that the so called “good” things we eat have problems too.  Farmers and scientists have been partnered up for years to find ways to grow fruits and vegetables larger, more quickly and with more nutrition than ever before.  It isn’t surprising then to imagine that some of these partnerships could get carried away with their experiments and approach the “Frankenstein” level of experimentation.

Scientists now are finding ways to kill pests and weeds but also make growing easier for the farmer resulting in producing more yield per acre than ever before.

crop-duster-mtopper

Growing food isn’t easy

It may seem that growing food is as easy as putting it in the ground and adding water and maybe some fertilizer.  You then wait, and when nature is done growing the seed you gather your crop and sell it.  Not so much.  First of all, changes are being made even in the seeds and the way the ground, or soil is being handled.  There are genetically altered seeds that can be cast upon un-tilled soil.  Not only that, but the farmer doesn’t worry about weeds hogging the nutrients from the crop.  All the farmer has to do is have a crop duster spray the entire crop with Round-up.  Oh, you might be thinking, Round-Up kills everything.  It is a herbicide after all.  Not any more.  There are genetically altered crops that are “Round-Up Ready”, meaning that the crop itself is resistant to Round-Up while the weeds around it die.  Seems great doesn’t it?  Just wait.  There will be huge problems.  Already the base chemical in Round-Up, Glyphosate, can be detected in the rain in many states like Nebraska and Kansas where large amounts of crops are treated this way.  Soon there will be weeds that are resistant to glyphosate just like there are rats and roaches that are resistant to the poisons humans use on them.  I won’t bore you with why there are diseases resistant to antibiotics.

So that I don’t lose your attention, I will try to get to the point.  Fast forward to the teams of farmers and scientists who are bored with making faster growing, larger producing crops.  There are still some problems to address in the growing cycle.  Under certain conditions crops can be damaged by fungus that can stunt the growth or even kill a plant.  This happen mostly on crops that are low to the ground and leafy, such as lettuce, strawberries, kale, beets and such.

Fungicides Kill Amphibians Quickly! Are our Children Next?

A chemical fungicide commonly used on the crops I mentioned before, called pyraclostrobin, has been shown to kill amphibians in as fast as MINUTES!

Residues of this chemical are found on non-organic supermarket greens and berries.. In the US, chemicals are often approved for farming or industrial use without adequate research to make clear what their health effect might be. Current findings show even minuscule exposures to certain chemicals at important times in human development such as, in utero and in early childhood, in particular, could affect a person’s life and health decades down the line, or even that of possible future generations.

dog pooping in yard

family playing in yard

Doesn’t Effect You?

From Health Hazards of Pesticides by Leah Zerbe – Rodale

According to the Minnesota Department of Health, in addition to its use as a fungicide, pyraclostrobin is used for its ability to speed the growth of plants. It’s also a go-to fungus killer for lawns and golf courses, a potential problem because rainstorms create runoff from the grass that can carry the amphibian-killing chemical into surface waters.

Frogs around the globe are facing extreme extinction pressure, and this new study provides insight into one of the possible major contributors to these amphibians’ decline. Aside from pyraclostrobin, British researchers also looked at other common fungicides, herbicides, and insecticides. Another startling finding? The insect-killing chemical dimethoate, an insecticide sometimes found on spinach, killed about 40 percent of exposed frogs within a seven-day period.

Plus, if you or your lawn company are using a spray treatment on your grass, just think of the danger it potentially has for your children, who play in the yard, or your pets who walk across it, then lick their paws.

Short term Solution

There are many things that need to be done about this problem, but YOU are the most important key to change.  First, you need to be aware that there is a problem.  Hopefully I’ve helped with that in this article.  Then, right away, today, next time at the market, buy organically grown food of all kinds.

 

I could write for days on this subject, but I’ve been told to “leave them wanting more”, so if you have a burning question or would like to make a statement, please respond to this post. – jughandle

Farmers’ Market Scams

This post is taken from a recent article from Organic Gardening.com

So you’ve decided to try and eat organic vegetables?  You might even think that buying produce at local Farmers’ markets would even be better.  Maybe, maybe not.

Types of Markets

Generally there are two types of farmers markets and various combinations there of.

Real Farmers Markets – are small markets, usually set up seasonally that feature produce from local farmers.  It is up to you to ask whether or not the farmer grew their produce organically or not.  These markets are “producer-only” markets where only the farmer can sell their own product.  Keep in mind that the offerings may not be as large as a wholesale market.  After all your local climate dictates when the produce is ripe.  You don’t get watermelon in May in Atlanta, GA.

Re-sellers Farmers Markets – more often than not, you’ll find small farmers markets on the side of the road set up just like the real farmers markets, but the produce they are selling has been bought from a wholesale grocery or marketer that has gotten the produce from other states, or even other countries.

Look for Certified organic

If your market doesn’t certify that it’s food is grown organically it might be just as likely to contain chemicals as your local grocery store.  National Organic Program, farmers who market their product as “organic” must become certified by a USDA-accredited third party and keep very detailed records regarding their farming practices. There is an exception: If growers earn less than $5,000 a year, they can legally market their produce as organic, provided they keep records to prove they are organic. They just don’t have to go through the certifying process.

Unless the farm is certified as organic you have no way to know if the farmer’s claims are true.

If your grower says he or she grows organic produce but is avoiding organic certification because of the cost, take that excuse with a grain of salt. “I find that particular argument to be very frustrating,” says Franczyk. “The smallest growers are exempt from certification under the National Organic Program.” Beyond that, growers who gross between $5,001 and $20,000 a year generally only pay about $100 a year when it’s all said and done because the federally subsidized program refunds up to three-quarters of the cost. “That is pretty cheap for putting a trained third-party inspector on farm every year,” says Franczyk. Again, some farmers may be truly organic but opt out of the certification program. But you’ll want to ask more questions to be sure that they’re not talking the talk without walking the walk.

Bugs on your food

If you are truly buying direct from an organic farmer, don’t worry if you find a bug or two on your produce when you get it home.  Wash it and refrigerate as normal.

Organic Manifesto | Why We All Need an Organic Manifesto | Rodale News

Why We All Need an Organic Manifesto

In her book Organic Manifesto, Maria Rodale explains why demanding organic is a much-needed solution to protect our health and heal our planet. The following is another great article from www.rodale.com

 Choosing Organic food protects not just us, but the environment

BY LEAH ZERBE

Choosing food grown with organic methods keeps toxic chemicals out of the soil, and out of your body.

RODALE NEWS, EMMAUS, PA—Organic matters, to all of us. Red state, blue state, churchgoer or atheist, soccer mom or single bachelor, what our society does to the soil (or allows to be done to it) directly affects our health. Sure, eating organic has long been a battle cry of environmentalists trying to protect the land, but as more and more science is telling us, we need to eat organic to save ourselves. As Maria Rodale, CEO of Rodale Inc. and author of the book Organic Manifesto, points out, “the planet will be fine without us.” We’re the ones in trouble if things don’t change.

Rodale, a third-generation advocate for organic farmers and farming practices, spent the last two years poring over peer-reviewed scientific research, traveling all over the country to meet with and learn about chemical and organic farmers, and interviewing the world’s leading environmental health experts. What she found is that we’re all living in a “great chemical experiment in which we are all guinea pigs.”

The warnings in Organic Manifesto apply to you if you are:

A parent.

Do you know of any mother who would purposefully feed her child a plateful of food contaminated with residue that could lead to early puberty, ADHD, and increased cancer risk? How about a glass of poison-spiked water, or meat and dairy products raised in a way that makes our medicines useless?

The levels of atrazine, a common farm crop weed killer, routinely spike in drinking water and are linked to learning disabilities in children, miscarriages, and fertility problems, along with the feminization of males. Other recent research has linked the chemical to the castration of male frogs that live in atrazine-polluted waters, raising questions about the chemical’s effects on human development. And there have been huge jumps in the number of cases of ADHD, autism, asthma, diabetes, and childhood obesity. “Scientists can’t explain why the number of children with food allergies has increased 18 percent in the last decade,” Rodale writes. “Is it a coincidence that the prevalence of these problems has increased as we have increased the use of chemicals to grow our food?”

A farmer.

Chemical farmers face all the health problems listed above, but also suffer in other ways. They are lied to by chemical companies like Monsanto, who convince them they need genetically engineered seeds and toxic sprays to increase yields, when this really isn’t the case at all. Pesticides kill all the beneficial life in the soil that help store carbon (a climate change solution), retain water (reducing runoff and flooding during storms and storing more water for times of drought), and keep plants healthy and more resilient against pests and diseases. United Nations studies have found that organic farming methods increase yields over expensive and intensive chemical methods, even in places like food-starved Africa. Organic farmers also earn more livable wages, according to a USDA survey.

As Rodale points out in Organic Manifesto, perhaps nowhere is the sad case of chemical farmers more evident than in India, where desperate farmers, nearly run out of business because of U.S. farming subsidies, turn to “magic” GM (genetically modified) seeds. “After the first year, they find out that it costs much more to maintain their crops due to the ever-increasing prices of seeds and chemicals,” Rodale writes. “Yet they are still plagued by insects and, like all promises of magic, the yields are disappointing at best. Before long, the money lenders are knocking on their doors and there is not enough revenue from the crops to pay the debts.”

“More than 160,000 Indian cotton farmers have killed themselves in the past decade,” she continues. “The favored method of suicide? Ingesting chemical pesticides.”

A grocery store owner—or shopper

Farmer’s markets are great places to find healthy, organic food, but not everyone has a farmer’s market or backyard organic garden available year-round. (VisitLocalHarvest.org to find farm-direct organic food.) The more that consumers vote by purchasing organic food, the more stores will be inclined to carry it. If your grocery store’s organic section is scant, talk to the manager, lay out the health risks involved with chemical food, and tell him or her you’ll take your business elsewhere unless the situation improves.

A policy maker

Sales of organic food and products are growing, but they still represent just a sliver of the market. Complicating matters, the corporate domination of soy and corn seeds (ingredients in tons of food products) makes it impossible for all farmers to go organic tomorrow, even if they wanted to. There just aren’t enough non-GM seeds. Science has associated eating food grown from GM crops with an increase in food allergies and autoimmune disease, and even accelerated aging. And the GM crops are built to withstand very heavy sprayings of synthetic pesticides, chemicals that science has tied to everything from autism, ADHD, sexual development problems, some cancers, Parkinson’s disease, diabetes, and obesity.

To build up a bank of non-GM seeds in the next few years, we have to take action now, Rodale told an audience at Natural Products Expo West in Anaheim last Friday. And that needs to start by ending broken farming policies that reward chemical farming methods that are poisoning us all and contributing to the healthcare crisis. Leading her list of “Five Solutions that Might Save Us,” Rodale demands a government ban of agricultural chemicals and GM seeds. “We need to demand that the government stop rewarding businesses that harm people and the planet by giving them subsidies and tax breaks and easing regulations,” she writes in Organic Manifesto.

Anyone else

Our existence—our children’s existence—depends on how we farm our food. Organic farming methods keep toxins out of our food and water, help mitigate global climate change, keep GM crops—which have barely even been tested for safety—out of the food supply, and can feed the world in a sustainable way. “We must restore the earth’s natural ability to absorb and store carbon,” writes Rodale. “Going organic will not only do that, it will also heal many other major ills as well: the poisoning of our children, our water, our wildlife, and our world.”

Visit DemandOrganic.org to learn more about how buying and growing organic can improve your personal health and help heal the planet. You can also become a fan of Organic Manifesto on Facebook, and follow Rodale’s blog, Maria’s Farm Country Kitchen.

via Organic Manifesto | Why We All Need an Organic Manifesto | Rodale News.

RoundUp Weed Killer – What Biotech Pesticides Are Doing to Our Bodies

Just had this conversation with my family during a Easter get together.  Hope we can make some changes before there is no turning back. – jughandle

The following is a story from Rodale News “where health meets life”  They have some great articles and research that I will be passing on to you soon.

 

Roundup weed killer is now turning up in rain and the air. And that has potentially devastating impacts on our health.

BY LEAH ZERBE
Thanks to biotech firms, now even our storms are Roundup-ready.

RODALE NEWS, EMMAUS, PA—The scientific evidence piling up against Roundup, the best-selling weed killer for home and farm use, is starting to sound a bit sci-fi. The latest damaging evidence against this potent herbicide, once widely believed to be safe, comes from the United States Geological Survey (USGS), which is now detecting glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, in streams, the air, and even rain.

While the concentrations detected in rain and air are thousands of times less than what farmers dump onto field crops, emerging scientific evidence about what these chronic low-level exposures do to our bodies is cause for major concern, particularly among unborn babies and young children. These tiny amounts we’re breathing in daily could be altering our hormones and wreaking all sorts of havoc on our bodies, but the human health effects may not show up for years or decades. “We don’t fully know what our results mean,” says study author Paul Capel, PhD, environmental chemist at USGS. “If we go out to the streams or air, we see it. There’s a broader off-field exposure. The significance of that, I don’t think we really know.”

Pesticide-exposure expert Warren Porter, PhD, professor of environmental toxicity and zoology at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, did the math. He took the air exposure numbers from the USGS study and found some reason for concern. His calculations showed that the levels found in the USGS survey could lead to accumulated levels that could alter endocrine mediated biochemical pathways, leading to obesity, heart problems, circulation problems, and diabetes. Low-level exposure to hormone disruptors like glyphosate (Roundup’s main ingredient) has also been linked to weakened immune function and learning disabilities. “This study is just looking at a single day of exposure,” he says. “If you consider that our body hormones work in the parts per trillion and you disrupt normal endocrine function, which tends to alter biochemical pathways, you may be flipping biological switches that have long-term impacts. No one has explored whether Roundup has epigenetic impacts which alter gene expression, possibly for a lifetime.”

So why the influx of Roundup in the air? Easy. The majority of corn, cotton, canola, and soy crops grown in the United States are genetically engineered to tolerate heavy dousings of Roundup. Interestingly, the same company, Monsanto, developed both the pesticide and the genetically engineered seed created to handle that pesticide—they’re sold together as a package. When we eat those crops (or when they’re turned into ingredients used in processed foods), we wind up eating the Roundup, too. Roundup is actually taken up inside of food that we eat, so not only are we breathing it in and getting soaked in it when it rains, but we’re also eating it at dinnertime.

Ready to Plant?

I’m hot to start my organic garden but I can’t decide what to plant.  So many good vegetable and so little time and space.  The following are 10 easy vegetables and when to plant them

10 Easy Vegetables from Lowe’s Creative Ideas magizine

  1. Beans – so the seed directly in late spring once the ground has warmed to around 70 deg.  Provide support for the plants to grow up or just let them trail down from a raised bed or flower box.
  2. Beets:  Plant the seed in the spring or late summer while it is still cool.  Havest before the beets get thick and woody
  3. Carrots:  Sow the little bitty seeds in the spring or late summer like the beets.  Till or turn your soil deeply and amend with peat or spagnum moss and sand to allow for good drainage and a easy growing space for the carrots, which are of course just a big root.  A tip in planting is to mix a table spoon of sand into your carrot seeds to help space them when planting.  I hate to thin fresh little growths.  It seems like a waste.
  4. Leaf Lettuce:  Plant the seed or starts in the cool spring.  Harvet before the weather turns hot to have the most tender lettuce.  Protect from rabbits and chipmunks.
  5. Onions:  Plant onion starts just about any time.  Harvest when the foliage begins to yellow.  Dry them out for a week before storing.
  6. Peppers:  Plant after the last danger of frost.  Support the plants by staking or with cages as you do tomatoes.  Banana peppers are the earliest to pick.  Bell peppers are later.
  7. Radishes:  Some radishes are ready to pick in 20 days.  Sow the seeds directly in the spring or fall and thin tight groups.
  8. Spinach:  Plant in the spring or fall and harvest before the heat of summer or the first frost.
  9. Tomatoes: Plant as soon as the fear of frost has passed or plant starts when the ground has warmed to 70 degrees.  Stake or cage the plants to keep the fruit off the ground and water consistently to prevent cracked fruit.  Mulch to prevent soil-borne diseases from splash up on the foliage.
  10. Zucchini:  Sow seeds in late spring.  The plant needs lots of sun and room to grow.  Harvest while the skin is still shiny.

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