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What is the difference?
What are the best practices for you and your yard or garden? Below, organic gardening, sustainable agriculture and permaculture are discussed. They are similar to each other yet have key differences and are applicable in different scenarios. Mix and match the best of them to best suit your purposes.
Organic gardening is a form of agriculture that relies on techniques such as crop rotation, green manure, compost, and biological pest control.
Simply put organic gardening is growing food without the use of chemical pesticides, herbicides and inorganic fertilizers. It relies on the use of beneficial insects, diversity of plants, and the use of compost to supply the soil with nutrients. Organic gardeners don’t use synthetic fertilizers or pesticides on their plants.
An organic gardener looks at plants as part of the whole system within nature that starts in the soil and includes the water supply, people, wildlife and even insects. An organic gardener strives to work in harmony with natural systems and to minimize and continually replenish any resources the garden consumes.
Sustainable agriculture has been defined as an integrated system of plant and animal production practices having a site-specific application that will last over the long term. In simplest terms, sustainable agriculture is the production of food, fiber, or other plant or animal products using farming techniques that protect and conserve the environment, public health, human communities, and animal welfare. This form of agriculture enables healthy food to be produced without compromising the future generations’ ability to do the same.
A sustainable garden works in harmony with nature. There are many techniques that can improve the health of your garden and minimize any negative impact on the environment. Most are easy and will save you time in the long run.
Sustainable gardening includes: organic gardening, double digging, worm composting, backyard composting, integrated pest management, and more.
It is to cultivate in a way such that there are enough resources to live well and survive in a varied and flourishing environment for a long time. It involves using renewable resources properly.
Permaculture, originally ‘Permanent Agriculture’, is often viewed as a set of gardening techniques, but it has in fact developed into a whole design philosophy and for some people a philosophy for life. It is more inclusive of everything, and is an entire way of living, not just gardening or growing things.
Permaculture teaches us how to build natural, energy-efficient homes, build waste water treatment systems, use recycling techniques, grow our own food, raise our own animals (chickens, cows, pigs, bees, etc.), restore diminished landscapes and ecosystems, catch rainwater, build communities, and much more. Its principles are constantly being developed and refined by people throughout the world in very different climates and cultural circumstances.
Combining the best of natural landscaping and edible landscaping, permaculture aims for a site that sustains itself and the gardener. The purpose of permaculture could be to ultimately develop a site until it meets all the needs of its inhabitants, including food, shelter, fuel and entertainment. Permaculture emphasizes the use of native plants or those that are well adapted to the local area.
Do What Works Best For You
As a gardener you will find your own way as you garden more, and try different and varied techniques. What works best for you may not work for someone else, so look around for ideas, try them, keep what works and toss out what doesn’t.
The best thing is to try new techniques and have fun doing it!
Putting It All Together
Here are five basic ideas to get you thinking:
1. Compost Your Lawn: Instead of reaching for the chemical fertilizers to feed your lawn, compost your lawn instead. It works better, is longer lasting, and it is fast and easy to do. Choosing to use fewer chemical-based products is always the better option.
2. Use Neem and Other Organic Sprays: Companies like Bayer and Ortho have brainwashed a lot people into thinking you need to bomb disease and pests with heavy duty chemicals to rid your houseplants or garden of your problems. Actually there is a nice balance that can be reached, and using more natural based sprays like neem oil, baking powder solutions and homemade organic sprays can go a long way. They may not always entirely rid your plant of the problem, but most plants, if given optimal growing conditions and nutrients, can still grow and be productive as long as the disease or pests are kept at bay.
3. Double-Digging: This means to dig out the first 12 inches (30 cm) of topsoil, take a portion of it for your compost pile, then dig down another 12 inches (30 cm). This aerates 24 inches (61 cm) of your soil, improving its texture and ability to absorb and drain water and nutrients.
4. Worm Composting: A plastic bin with holes can house a family of red wiggler worms, who will eat your kitchen waste (eliminating it from the city waste stream), and they will make it into good, odor-free compost.
5. Backyard Composting: Using a myriad of techniques, you can compost your yard waste, kitchen waste, and create nutrient rich organic matter to add back into your garden soil.
You’ve probably heard about the mysterious disappearance of bees in Europe, North America and other parts of the world. The possible reasons for this phenomenon called colony collapse disorder (CCD) are climate change, genetically modified crops, pesticides and fungicides, parasites and pathogens, toxins in the environment, malnutrition, migratory beekeeping, genetics, habitat loss among several others. The loss of honey bees means much more than just high honey prices: bees are primary pollinators in both the human and animal food chains.
10 Things You Can Do To Help Save Bees
1. Plant bee-friendly plants
Bees are all about pollen and nectar, as they need it to feed their colonies. Just planting flowers in your garden, yard, or in a planter will provide bees with forage. Flowering trees such as tulip poplars, oranges, tupelos and sourwoods are also attractive to bees.
Here are some easy-to-grow bee friendly plants: lilacs, penstemon, lavender, sage, verbena, wisteria, mint, cosmos, squash, tomatoes, pumpkins, sunflowers, oregano, rosemary, poppies, black-eyed Susan, passion flower vine, honeysuckle, fuchsia, toadflax, honeywort, ironweed, yarrow, yellow hyssop, alfalfa, dragonhead, Echinacea, bee balm, buttercup, goldenrod and English thyme.
2. Weeds can be a good thing
If it’s bees you want to help, a lawn full of clover and dandelions is not just a good thing- it’s a great thing- a haven for honeybees and other native pollinators too.
3. Provide bee habitat
A secure place to live is important to solitary and colony bees. Unlike honeybees that live in their cozy waxy hives (they still need a safe location), natural bees make use of many kinds of shelter: abandoned animal burrows, dead trees and branches and in underground nest tunnels.
Help wood-nesting bees by placing a few inexpensive bee blocks out in the garden. Bee blocks are basically blocks of wood with holes of various sizes. Open a rent-free apartment complex for burrowing bees by providing a mound of loose earth near a water source.
4. Eliminate garden chemicals and pesticides.
They may make your plants look pristine and pretty, but they’re actually ruining the life in your garden’s biosphere. Not to mention the residue of toxic pesticides in the soil and crops you grow. Instead investigate and practice organic and natural means of pest control and gardening.
Vibrant chemical-free plants and gardens are a friendly invitation to bees.
5. Buy local, raw honey. Support your local beekeepers.
If you’re buying from a grocery store, the label will say if the honey is untreated as it is a major selling point. Strive to buy local, raw honey that is from hives untreated by chemicals. Seek out your local beekeepers and buy their honey. There are health benefits to eating raw unprocessed honey, and keeping small beekeepers in business is good for everyone.
6. Become a beekeeper.
If it interests you, learn how to be a beekeeper with sustainable practices. Look up a local bee association in your community that offers classes with natural approaches and link up.
7. Keep a bowl of fresh water outside your home.
Did you know bees need to drink water? They seek out shallow water sources like puddles and bird baths. Even if you don’t keep bees, you can help our little pollinator friends by keeping a bird bath or even just a saucer of fresh water out in the garden for them. And while you’re at it, put a stone or something for them to perch on while they drink as bees are not known to be good swimmers.
8. Share solutions with others in your community
Of the many fun ways to help and be a voice for the bees, sharing solutions and educating your local community about the importance of bees can be very fulfilling. Get involved and spread the word at local community meetings, at conferences, in schools and universities, and on online message boards and forums.
9. Let your government officials and policy makers know how you feel.
Change has to happen from both top-down as well as bottom-up. Sign petitions banning pesticides. Write in to your parliament representatives letting them know what you think. Encourage your local authority to do more to help bees. Volunteer to help if you can.
10. Buy organic food, practice organic gardening!
Organic farmers don’t use neonicotinoid pesticides. They also have more complex crop rotations meaning there is a greater diversity of plants for bees to forage on. Supporting organic farmers by buying organic is an everyday action with a big impact. Use organic techniques and grow a wide range of crops in your garden.
Nothing beats the taste of freshly picked ripened homegrown tomatoes which are, without a doubt, superior to store-bought produce. However, as the end of the season nears and temperatures start to decline there are invariably plenty of green tomatoes left on plants that didn’t quite make the cut.
What to do with all of those unripe tomatoes that were left on the plant, you must be pondering! These, too, will ripen over the next few months if stored properly. They won’t be as tasty or juicy as the ones you’ve been enjoying all season long, but they will be real tomatoes from your own garden, and still way better than anything you can buy in a supermarket from November through May.
What makes tomatoes ripen?
Contrary to popular belief, windowsills aren’t the best place for ripening tomatoes. If you’ve noticed, your tomatoes often start to ripen on the side opposite to the side exposed to sunlight although not all varieties show this nature. So, a good amount of light is not required for ripening, furthermore it is known to harden the fruits’ skin.
On the other hand, temperature is an important factor. The warmer the temperature the quicker a tomato fruit will ripen. Hence, ripening can be slowed down by placing tomatoes in a cool area or sped up by placing in moderate warmth.
Another factor that is crucial in the ripening of tomatoes is ethylene gas. Ethylene is actually naturally released by ripening fruits such as bananas, apples and tomatoes. So, placing a ripe banana or apple among green tomatoes helps speed up the ripening process.
Here are several techniques you can employ to ripen tomatoes:
1. Jar method: Place a ripening banana along with your green tomatoes in a glass, ceramic or plastic jar. Do not overfill the jar, or the tomatoes might get bruised. Screw the lid tightly and leave it in a warm, semi-humid environment, out of direct sunlight.
2. Cardboard box method: Line a cardboard box with newspaper and place the green tomatoes on top in a single layer with a little space in between. Placing ripening bananas along is optional. Cover with another layer of newspaper and place the box out of direct sunlight, in a warm and low humid environment such as a basement, insulated garage, or enclosed porch.
3. Paper or plastic bag method: Put 5-10 green tomatoes in a paper or plastic bag with a ripening tomato, banana or apple and place in a warm, low-humid place. Punch in a few air circulation holes in each plastic bag being used. Paper bags are naturally semi-permeable (meaning they allow to an extent air to diffuse through them).
4. Hang the whole plant method: This method is useful at the end of the season when a frost is forecast as frost is damaging to tomatoes making them turn dark green and unable to ripen. Gently pull up the whole tomato plant and hang it upside down in a garage or cellar where temperatures remain above freezing. This method supposedly gives better tasting tomatoes than the other methods.
Tomatoes ripen from the bottom up and the inside out, so don’t put tomatoes on a windowsill to ripen because they will only turn red, but not ripe. They will remain green inside.
The best results are got when the tomatoes are already showing a yellow-orange tinge which indicates that they are ready to ripen. You can be successful with turning fully green tomatoes into ripe ones but they will take longer and may not be so flavorsome.
It takes about 3-4 weeks for ripening at lower temperatures 10-15 deg. C (50-60 deg. F) whereas it can take just 2 weeks at 18-21 deg. C (65-70 deg. F).
Watch out for:
Diseased or damaged fruit is the biggest problem when ripening tomatoes indoors. Avoid piling them up to prevent and protect them from being bruised or squashed. Ensuring adequate air circulation will prevent molds from forming.
Every day or two check up on them and remove anything suspect. Select only the very best tomatoes for ripening as any lower grade tomatoes may be suffering from a disease such as blight.
Warm weather brings with it batch after batch of delicious fruits and vegetables! Sadly though, warmth breeds molds and funguses quicker and the task of keeping them fresh becomes harder. Adding to this, we generally buy in bulk making it almost a necessity to store fruits and veggies for long! Good news is that with little extra care, by the week’s end all our remaining greens and fruits do not have to end up in your compost (not that this is a bad thing)! Read on for tips on how to keep your fruits and veggies fresh longer.
– A hot bath will be berry good for your berries!
Yes, you read right. A way to stop berries from fuzzy fungus-es is to give them a hot bath before storing them. The hot bath therapy called ‘thermo-therapy’ is simply immersing and swirling the berries around in hot water which will kill off mold spores waiting to burst into action! After bathing them, dry them off and store them in a dry container in your refrigerator.
– Contrary to popular belief, keep tomatoes out of the fridge!
Keeping tomatoes from rotting during the summer is troublesome. Storing them in the fridge may seem a sure-shot way of keeping them fresh for long. What most people don’t know is that cold temperatures rid tomatoes of their flavor and transforms their texture in a few days. The best thing would be to keep them at room temperature, away from direct sunlight and in a container void of any moisture. This should keep them ridiculously delicious for a week!
-Got leafy greens? Wrap them up!
Ideally, leafy greens are supposed to be eaten within 2 days of their purchase to experience their freshness and get the most of its nutrients. In the event that you need to store them, extend their freshness by wrapping unwashed leaves in a paper towel, putting it in a plastic bag and then into the fridge. The idea originates from the fact that moisture on the leaves brings about quicker rotting. Also, toss away spoilt leaves that could contaminate the whole bunch!
– An ice bath will freshen up lettuce and herbs
The greens that have gotten to look wilted can be revived and made to look fresh and new by shaking them about for a minute or two in an ice bath!
– Veggies and fruits can go in the freezer!
Wondering what to do with all those ripened fruits and veggies? Think no more! Just blanch them in hot water, chop them up and stick them in your freezer! You can do this to bell peppers, beans, cabbage, celery, cucumbers, eggplant and the list goes on! Not an ounce has to go wasted anymore.
– Ripened bananas go in the fridge!
It is a myth that refrigerating bananas make them go bad quicker. The fact is that the coldness of the fridge encourages the enzyme responsible to make bananas go black on the outside faster. However, the cold temperature keeps the bananas from ripening further making sure that beyond the ugly outside the banana is very much edible!
If you chanced upon this article and want to know about Tower Gardens read about them here!
Your Tower Garden can be used to grow just about anything except root vegetables, bushes, grapevines and trees! The versatility of the Tower Garden allows you to grow a wide range of crops, including fruits and vegetables like tomatoes and lettuce, herbs and flowers.
In addition, you can have your produce in lesser time than it takes to grow in soil. Gourmet lettuce and other leafy greens grow really quick and have been harvested in less than 3 weeks after transplanting.
Here’s an extensive list of crops you can grow in your Tower Garden:
Fruits and Vegetables
- Beans, Broccoli
- Cabbage, Cauliflower, Chards, Collard, Cucumber
- Eggplant, Endive
- Kale, Kohlrabi
- Leeks, Lettuce
- Melons, Mustard Greens
- Pak Choy, Peas, Peppers
- Spinach, Squash, Strawberries
- Calendula, Chamomile, Chervil, Chives, Cilantro
- Lavender, Lemon Grass
- Marjoram, Mint
We have a great variety of certified organic heirlooms that you must check out! Click here to go to our store and browse through our authentic catalog of seeds.
Most of you at some point have had to transplant trees
, shrubs or vegetable plants from the comfort of warmer indoors during cold weathers to outdoors when the sun starts shining brightly on a daily basis. The process is pretty much mundane to most but it is nevertheless a petrifying experience for anyone because there is a possibility of the transplanted plant undergoing a transplant shock. Yes sadly, transplant shock is a big reality in the plant world but is very much manageable. The bottom line is that there are things you can and should do to help out the transplants so that the probability of a successful relocation is good. Before you read tips or go through step by step instructions, it would be good for you to understand what exactly happens to a plant when it is transplanted. Knowledge never hurts, they say!
The Root of the Problem
It is inevitable that the plant you move will experience a transplant shock to some extent. This is just the plant reacting to its move. Just how when you finish eating food, you actually haven’t completely finished because there will always be minute bits remaining… Well, bad analogy, but I hope you get the gist. Now, by treating the plant carefully like you would your kids (I’m strongly assuming) you can minimize the shock such that the plant can cope with the change easily. Ok, back to the subject.
This shock is generally due to damage to the roots. The thickest roots are closest to the root ball below the stem of the plant but these are not the ones you should be too worried about. The thin fragile ones far from this root ball are more important in that they are responsible for doing the actual work which is absorbing nutrients and water with the help of tiny hair like structures. While transplanting, these tiny hairs are damaged, usually by being cut during the uprooting of the plant or by drying out (it has been reported that as less as 3-4 minutes of exposure to air kills them) or simply by being jarred and jostled around while transplanting. If these feeder roots are damaged naturally the plant suffers from lack of nutrients and water and thus goes into a transplant shock.
Besides this major root issue, plants can sense changes in temperature, wind speeds, light intensities and other physical conditions and take time to acclimatize themselves, like any other living organism would! This whole acclimatization process also affects the rate of nutrient and water uptake. Ha, I can tell that by now you have a few ideas of your own to make your next transplant a success. Told you, knowledge never hurts!
In any case the following symptoms are likely to follow. The plant may grow rapidly for a short time and then abruptly stop growing. Or it may grow reservedly all season and produce buds that barely break into stunted small leaves. In very severe cases the buds may not break at all! There may be unusual development of leaves and stems in some transplants undergoing shock. Leaves that immediately start browning at the tips are also a sign of transplant shock. More often than not, transplant shock symptoms mimic those of insect trouble and plant diseases.
No reason to fret though, the success rate of transplants is high when done right!
Weeds are a problem every gardener has to face. Weeds are to gardeners as injuries are to sports people. Well, not quite but weeds are like an occupational hazard! And like most problems there are solutions, some of them not quite pleasant as the other. Taking that into account I would like to divulge the organic view of taking care of weeds.
The bigger the weeds get the harder they are to control. They use up the nutrients and water that your plants need! So get into the habit of a once-a-week intruder patrol to cut down your weed problems. Using the right (organic of course) tools and techniques you will definitely cut down weed growth making it a manageable- maybe even enjoyable- task!
The organic way requires diligent work and aren’t we all quite the buzzing bees in our gardens. The organic way will be very effective if carried out right. Here are ways to organically prevent or remove weeds from your garden. You should use a combination of the below techniques for best results.
Mulch as you know is a layer of material applied to the surface of the soil. Yes, mulching inhibits growth of weeds by not allowing them enough light. And no light means no chlorophyll which in turn means no weeds! The weeds that do manage to get through the thick layer of mulch will be easily removable as their roots will be shallow.
Of course you’re going to be using organic mulches -straw, grass clippings, leaves, shredded bark, sawdust, kitchen scraps- which will decompose in time to nourish the soil. This will serve as a fairly effective weed barrier. Use plenty of newspapers or kraft sheets (paper used to make grocery bags) or cardboards under the mulches, for even better weed protection.
A 6-inch layer of shredded newspaper used at the start of one season allowed no more than 8 weeds per square yard to sprout for 2 seasons without renewing the mulch layer, in a study conducted at the University of Vermont back in 1992-1993. Weeds haven’t learnt much since then so I’m sure these results are still valid!
Hoeing will work effectively when the weeds are still small and haven’t bloomed yet. Annual weeds die when their stems are severed from their roots just below the soil surface. With a sharp hoe you can easily cut those weeds down.
For best results go for a swan neck or oscillating hoe instead of the traditional square-headed garden hoe and to avoid backaches hold it as you would a broom- with your thumbs pointed upward.
Corn Gluten Meal
Corn gluten is 100% natural. It is a byproduct of the wet-milling process and was accidentally discovered to be an effective weed controller. The awesome thing is that apart from suppressing growth of weeds, it will feed your garden as it is a source of nitrogen. Also it is not at all harmful to humans, animals or birds.
Sounds too good to be true? Here’s the catch. It will prevent weed seeds from germinating roots, but once the weeds have gone beyond the sprout stage corn gluten will not affect them. Also, they cannot distinguish between weeds and crop seeds. So don’t use them where you have just planted other seeds. They are best used in established lawns or perennial garden beds.
The sun can do wonders for you in the garden. Apart from the obvious it can help you get rid of persistent weeds if you leave your bed fallow for six weeks in the summer. Maybe you can try this on a small part of your garden. You don’t want to be out of action for so long.
Start pulling, hoeing or raking out as many weeds from your garden bed sometime in late spring or early summer. Then wet the soil and cover it with plastic using weights or by burying the edges. Leave the plastic as it is for those six weeks. When you remove the plastic you will see the fruit of the sun. Rather you won’t see much as the sun will have cooked all the weeds that would have sprouted.
Follow these methods persistently and there’s a good chance that in a few seasons you will have repelled these invaders for good!
Every once in a while we wonder how good our soil actually is. Be it that you get a decent yield or that you seem to be growing lesser than they do in the Sahara desert! But before you jump into the conclusion that you need a soil test, read twice!
A soil test reveals nutrient and contaminant content, composition, acidity and pH level. It can also determine fertility, expected growth potential of the soil, reveal nutrient deficiencies and so on. Sounds great! You should be getting your soil tested immediately right? How you could do with all these numbers you may think.
Well here’s the thing. There’s only so much you could do with those numbers. Just say for example, you find out that you have a deficiency in one of the major nutrients nitrogen. Now nitrogen content in your soil can easily be enhanced by adding fresh compost or ground coffee. When your crop comes out you could still be surprised that it hasn’t really become much better. Yes, Mother Nature is a hard nut to crack and she is sort of unpredictable. So even though a soil test gives an insight of the quality and characteristics of your soil, it’s unreasonable to expect to an awesome yield after rectifying key shortcomings.
Don’t be downtrodden now! You can save that soil test money and evaluate (to some extent) the soil yourself. Vincent Lazaneo, an urban horticulture adviser believes the first question to ask yourself before you get a soil test is “Why you want a soil test?”! He says that if plants or weeds are growing in the area then you may not need a test. It would be cheaper to just add a little fertilizer and compost to enhance your plant performance. If the soil is too sandy you could add an organic amendment to help it hold up water. If it’s the clay-type soil, adding compost would help loosen the soil up thereby helping roots get nutrients easily.
If you do eventually decide to get a soil test done, send it to a lab and insist on getting an interpretation of the results. A number, by itself, doesn’t really tell you much. It can vary, depending on what substance the lab used to extract the various nutrients from the soil, warns Lazaneo.
Also, the first two things a test should indicate is the soil’s pH- how acidic or alkaline it is- and it’s salinity. pH affects the availability of nutrients to plants and most plants grow best in slightly acidic conditions (each plant is different so check before making all your soil acidic). If your pH is too high, you can correct it by adding soil sulfur or peat moss. Salinity test as the name indicates tells you how salty the soil is. Plants like us humans do not like salty water. Enough water though can wash away the salt.
To test or not to test IS the question!
What is it about these Tower Gardens? Even the Hanging Gardens of Babylon weren’t talked of so much being a wonder of the ancient world and all! Any-ways Tower Garden is this new revolutionary gardening system that was developed through years of research and consumer testing at Future Growing LLC. At the moment it is one of the fastest selling gardening-related products and will remain so by the looks of it.
The Tower Garden is a patented plant growing system wherein the arrangement of plants is vertical with aeroponic distribution of earth-based mineral nutrients taking place. The basic residential Tower Garden stands at about 5 pots tall and can accommodate about 20 plants in a meager 2.5 by 2.5 space ( as much as a washing machine!).
It may seem like some crazy new technology but understanding the working of the Tower Garden is very simple. It works on aeroponics which is the method of growing plants by providing nutrition through moist air and entirely without soil. Research has shown that aeroponics is the most efficient and effective way to provide necessary nutrition, hydration and oxygen to developing plants. The pump in the Tower Garden ensures that nutrients are circulated timely and exclusively to every region of the tower.
Now that you know it isn’t rocket science don’t be fooled by its simplicity. The Tower Garden’s unique design makes it capable of withstanding force, heat and varying weather conditions. It can be used in colder regions too with the availability of heaters. You could however attempt to make your own vertical plant growing system with the use of cylindrical pipes, thermocol, ropes, glue, plastic sheets and a good old tool kit. Beware! Don’t name yours Tower Garden. You wouldn’t want to wake up to an overly exaggerated lawsuit.
The advantages of this amazingly refreshing garden system are a plenty. It uses 10% lesser water and space. Also the need for pesticides and insecticides is reduced. The soil free system will definitely end your woes of weeding, tilling or even getting dirty! Not to mention that if you have any trouble there is a dedicated help line.
All this said though, gardening has been in existence for millenniums apparently! Egyptian tomb paintings dating back to 1600 B.C., one of the earliest physical evidences, depict lotus ponds surrounded by symmetrical rows of acacias and palm! But this is the 21st century where space is a valuable commodity. Vertical systems have an upper hand over horizontal gardening systems, thus Tower Gardens becoming a way of life is not really an unrealistic future.