Sunday, December 24, 2006

Organic Pesticides Certified USDA-Compliant

A family of organic growers has developed the world's first and only pesticides certified as USDA-compliant with national organic regulations. This company's products are said to combat mildews, molds, rusts and blackspot, over-wintering eggs and larvae.

Here is the classic case of a need being filled. As more and more organic farmers, gardeners, and consumers ask, demand organic alternatives to meet their needs, someone will step up to the plate and fill it.

So let your voice be heard for more organic alternatives in all aspects of our lives. We don't have to settle for poisoning ourselves, our children, and our environment.

Check it out at: Pharm Solutions Inc.

Happy Holidays and an Organic 2007!


Friday, October 13, 2006

Organic Landscaping

Because there is such an increasing need for information about organic landscaping and lawn care practices, the Organic Landscape Alliance (OLA) has a new website, providing the public with a credible source of information on organic lawn and landscaping practices. The non-profit trade organization’s website includes fact sheets on organic lawn care and landscaping...

Atlantic Canadian Organic Regional Network (ACORN) has developed a new on-line “gardener’s tool.” The Grower’s Database is a free to access and lists the top 100 pests and weeds. Within the database, are pictures of the various growth stages to help with identification, as well as information on the life and growth cycle, damage caused, prevention options and treatments – all without the use of chemical pesticides and herbicides. Just go to and select “Grower’s Database.”

There really is no excuse for ignorance when it comes to organic solutions for gardening and landscaping.

Happy Gardening!


Sunday, August 27, 2006

Organic Pest Control

Pest control is one of the places where organic gardening can actually be superior to chemical methods. Instead of using harsh pesticides to get rid of garden pests, it is often better and more effective to use beneficial insects to get rid of harmful ones. Harmful insects are often unable to compete once more beneficial insects have been brought in to the organic garden.One of the most common pests encountered by gardeners, and one of the biggest reasons they use chemical pesticides, is aphids. These common garden pests can be organically controlled by spraying the infested stems, leaves and buds with a diluted mixture of soapy water, then an application of fresh, clear water. This technique has been used by organic gardeners for many years, and it is effective even against heavy infections of aphids. By using organic methods you are not killing the beneficial insects as well, thereby leaving the beneficials to populate your yard and return year after year.

If you garden organically your yard will naturally attract the predators you need to take care of the pests you have.

If you use chemicals you will kill everything and will have to continue to use chemicals over and over. It becomes a never ending cycle of potential harm to you, your family, your pets, and the environment.

The earth can take care of itself if you let it. Where there is pest there is predator.

Happy gardening, organically!

Mother Earth's Farm

Sunday, August 20, 2006

If a healthy soil is full of death, it is also full of life:
worms, fungi, microorganisms of all kinds ...
Given only the health of the soil,
nothing that dies is dead for very long.
- Wendell Berry, The Unsettling of America, 1977
"Teaming With Microbes: A Gardener's Guide to the Soil Food Web"

Sometimes scientists can talk over the layman's head and not even realize that the message is not being conveyed. This book is written in a very understandable language, that even a simple worm farmer like myself could understand and relate to. A must read for anyone who wants to learn more about the life producing your food.

Smart gardeners understand that soil is alive and what is in the soil is what supports plant life. Healthy soil is exploding with life - beyond the worms and insects we can see with the naked eye - there are a multitude of bacteria, fungi, and other microbial forms of life vital to the soil food web that sustains healthy plant life. Resorting to chemicals destroys this delicate balance and results in an unhealthy situation for the soil, the plants, and the environment. You can't destroy this balance and not have an affect on the people, the children, family and friends. As gardeners, farmers, and inhabitants of the Earth we have an obligation to the next generation to leave behind a healthy soil. Venture beyond your current understanding that good soil grows healthy plants and understand why...

This book is newly available and can be purchased by clicking on the buy from link above.

Learn the why and strengthen your resolve to garden organically.

Garden for your health and the health of the earth.


Sunday, July 09, 2006

Summer Squash Sensation

Summer squash comes in many popular varieties, the most common being -

Zucchini: Probably the most familiar to home gardeners (and their neighbors).

Crookneck: Traditional yellow squash with slender, bent necks.

Straight-neck: Cylindrical yellow squash, typically smoother and more uniform than crooknecks, with a straighter neck.

Patty pan: Also known as scalloped squash because of the scalloped edges, these squash are round and flat.

Each type has different textures, flavors and growing habits. Experiment to find the one just right for you.

Squash Blossoms

Summer squash produce both male and female blossoms with only the female blossoms producing fruit.

Squash blossoms are edible flowers, and are quite a delicacy. Both summer and winter squash blossoms can be battered and fired in a little oil for wonderful taste sensation.

The male blossoms are best for harvesting unless your goal is to reduce production, or you can harvest the small fruit with the blossom still attached.

Growing Tips

Summer squash have roots that don't like to be disturbed. You could sprout your seeds in a peat pot that you can then bury pot and all. Make sure all of the pot is buried under the soil or cut the top portion of the pot off. If a portion of the pot is left to stick up into the air it will act as a wick and suck the moisture right out of the soil right where your roots are.
Squash like to have the soil evenly moist and with their shallow root system the will do well with a quality organic mulch.

Because squash grow so quickly and prolifically, it's easy to let the fruit get oversized. If this happens, unless you plan on stuffing and baking it, then throw it on the mulch pile. The worms will thank you. They should be harvested when small and tender for best quality. Most elongated varieties are picked when they are 2 inches or less in diameter and 6 to 8 inches long. Patty Pan types are harvested when they are 3 to 4 inches in diameter. Slightly larger fruit may be salvaged by hollowing out and using them for stuffing. These larger fruits may also be grated for baking in breads and other items. Check your plants every 1 to 2 days for perfect sized fruit.

For squash blossom recipes click here.

Happy gardening, reward yourself.


Thursday, June 08, 2006


Ahh...The days are getting longer and warmer, but be careful with those tender young seedlings. Cold nights can set your warm weather varieties back and they may not recover. A cold frame is a simple way to stretch the season out on both ends.

It can be used to harden off seedlings before they are transplanted out into the garden, store nursery bought plants until it is warm enough to plant out, or it can be planted directly with early or late crops of salad greens, spinach, or a warm weather plant such as tomato or peppers.
A cold frame is simply a specified area that can be enclosed with a material that lets light in and helps keep the temperature of the enclosed area warm and protected.

This can be done by surrounding the area with bales of hay or straw, cinder blocks, or a wooden framed box (without a bottom or lid).

The lid can be made from salvaged windows, fiberglass, or plastic sheeting. Be creative and see what you might have sitting around you can use.

The finished size will be determined by the material you use, but the ideal size is between 2-by4 feet and 3-by-6 feet. which allows you to reach to the back of the bed without stepping into it. The back should be 6-12" higher than the front to allow the maximum amount of light in and rain and snow to drain off easily.

Place the cold frame in the full sun with the slanted side facing the south to catch all the warming sun as possible. Protect from the wind as cold winds can suck the heat out of the box quickly. Make sure water drains away from the box.

The trickiest part of a cold frame is managing the internal temperature. On a sunny day the temperature inside can rise quickly even though the outside temperature is still frigid. Ideally, the temperature inside should stay below 75 degrees for summer crops and 60 for cool-season crops. The rule of thumb is to open the lid of the box 6 inches once the daytime temperature reaches 40 degrees and open it completely if the temperature is over 50 degrees. Be sure and close it down in the late afternoon to trap heat in for the night. If temperatures are going to be into the low 20s, cover the lid with straw, insulation board, a tarp or blanket to help trap the heat. Remove it in the morning.

As you can see by my pictures there are many ways that you can protect your investment of time and money from the ravages of Mother Nature.

Happy Gardening,

See my newsletter at for more gardening tips.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Organic Success | Battle of the Slugs

The cool wet weather of Spring is like a wake up call for the Slugs.
They arrive in the garden in early spring and stay till fall. They can grow to be six inches or more and can live five years or more. They are gray, black, yellow or brown in color.

They have 27,000 little shredding teeth that can decimate a young row of seedlings in a night. They can actually eat twice their weight once the sun goes down.

Slugs have a sense of smell and use it to locate a meal. They secrete mucus from their "foot", leaving behind the tell tale slimey trail.

Snails and slugs feed on a variety of living plants as well as on decaying plant matter. On plants they chew irregular holes with smooth edges in leaves and flowers and can clip succulent plant parts. They can also chew fruit and young plant bark. Because they prefer succulent foliage or flowers, they are primarily pests of seedlings and herbaceous plants, but they are also serious pests of ripening fruits, such as strawberries, artichokes, and tomatoes, that are close to the ground. However, they will also feed on foliage and fruit of some trees; citrus are especially susceptible to damage. Look for the silvery mucous trails to confirm damage was caused by slugs or snails and not earwigs, caterpillars, or other chewing insects.

A good snail and slug management program relies on a combination of methods. The first step is to eliminate, to the extent possible, all places where snails or slugs can hide during the day. Boards, stones, debris, weedy areas around tree trunks, leafy branches growing close to the ground, and dense ground covers such as ivy are ideal sheltering spots. There will be shelters that are not possible to eliminate—e.g., low ledges on fences, the undersides of wooden decks, and water meter boxes. Make a regular practice of trapping and removing snails and slugs in these areas. Also, locate vegetable gardens or susceptible plants as far away as possible from these areas. Reducing hiding places allows fewer snails and slugs to survive. The survivors congregate in the remaining shelters, where they can more easily be located and removed. Switching from sprinkler irrigation to drip irrigation will reduce humidity and moist surfaces, making the habitat less favorable for these pests. Choose snail-proof plants for areas where snails and slugs are dense. Copper barriers can be useful for protecting especially susceptible plants. Though baits can be part of a management program for snails and slugs, by themselves they don’t provide adequate control in gardens that contain plenty of shelter, food, and moisture.

Choice of plant can greatly affect how difficult your battle with snails and slugs will be. Snails and slugs favor seedlings and plants with succulent foliage and these plants must be vigilantly protected. Some plants that are seriously damaged include basil, beans, cabbage, dahlia, delphinium, hosta, lettuce, marigolds, strawberries, and many vegetable plants. On the other hand, many plants resist damage from snails and slugs including begonias, California poppy, fuchias, geraniums, impatiens, lantana, nasturtiums, and purple robe cup flower, and many plants with stiff leaves and highly scented foliage like lavender, rosemary, and sage. Most ornamental woody plants and ornamental grasses are also not seriously affected. If you design your landscape using plants like these, you are likely to have very limited damage from snails and slugs.

Handpicking can be very effective if done thoroughly on a regular basis. At first it should be done daily. After the population has noticeably declined, a weekly handpicking may be sufficient. To draw out snails, water the infested area in the late afternoon. After dark, search them out using a flashlight, pick them up (rubber gloves are handy when slugs are involved), place them in a plastic bag, and dispose of them in the trash; or they can be put in a bucket with soapy water and then disposed of in your compost pile. Alternatively, captured snails and slugs can be crushed and left in the garden. Household ammonia diluted to a 5 to 10% solution in water can also be sprayed on collected slugs to kill them.

Snails and slugs can be trapped under boards or flower pots positioned throughout the garden and landscape. Inverted melon rinds make good traps. You can make traps from 12" x 15" boards (or any easy-to-handle size) raised off the ground by 1-inch runners. The runners make it easy for the pests to crawl underneath. Scrape off the accumulated snails and slugs daily and destroy them. Crushing is the most common method of destruction. Do not use salt to destroy snails and slugs; it will increase soil salinity.

Beer-baited traps have been used to trap and drown slugs and snails; however, they are not very effective for the labor involved. Beer traps attract slugs and snails within an area of only a few feet, and must be refilled every few days to keep the level deep enough to drown the mollusks. Traps are buried at ground level, so the mollusks easily fall into them. It is the fermented product that attracts them and a sugar-water and yeast mixture can be used in place of beer. Traps must have deep, vertical sides to keep the snails and slugs from crawling out and a top to reduce evaporation. Snail and slug traps can also be purchased at garden supply stores.

Several types of barriers will keep snails and slugs out of planting beds. The easiest to maintain are those made with copper flashing and screen. Copper barriers are effective because it is thought that the copper reacts with the slime that the snail or slug secretes, causing a flow of electricity. Vertical copper screens can be erected around planting beds. The screen should be 6 inches tall and buried several inches below the soil to prevent slugs from crawling through the soil beneath the barrier.

Copper foil (for example, Snail-Barr) can be wrapped around planting boxes, headers, or trunks to repel snails for several years. When banding trunks, wrap the copper foil around the trunk, tab side down, and cut it to allow an 8-inch overlap. Attach one end or the middle of the band to the trunk with one staple oriented parallel to the trunk. Overlap and fasten the ends with one or two large paper clips to allow the copper band to slide as the trunk grows. Bend the tabs out at a 90° angle from the trunk. The bands need to be cleaned occasionally with a vinegar solution. When using copper bands on planter boxes, be sure the soil within the boxes is snail-free before applying bands. If it is not, handpick the snails and slugs from the soil after applying the band until the box is free of these pests.

Instead of copper bands, Bordeaux mixture (a copper sulfate and hydrated lime mixture) or copper sulfate alone can be brushed on trunks to repel snails. One treatment should last about a year. Adding a commercial spreader or white latex paint may increase the persistence of Bordeaux mixture through two seasons. Barriers of dry ashes or diatomaceous earth, heaped in a band 1 inch high and 3 inches wide around the garden, have also been shown to be effective. However, these barriers lose their effectiveness after becoming damp and are therefore difficult to maintain and not very useful in most garden situations.

Snails and slugs have many natural enemies, including ground beetles, pathogens, snakes, toads, turtles, and birds, but most are rarely effective enough to provide satisfactory control in the garden. An exception is the use of domesticated fowl—ducks, geese, or chickens—kept penned in infested areas. (Be careful, though, as these birds may also eat seedlings.) The predaceous decollate snail (Rumina decollata) has been released in southern California citrus orchards for control of the brown garden snail and is providing very effective biological control. It feeds only on small snails, not full-sized ones. Also, decollate snails may feed on seedlings, small plants, and flowers as well as be a nuisance when they cover the back patio on a misty day. Decollate snails will be killed by snail baits.

Snail and slug baits can be effective when used properly in conjunction with a cultural program incorporating the other methods discussed above. However, baits alone will not effectively control snails or slugs. Several types of snail and slug bait products are available. Baits containing the active ingredient metaldehyde are most common. Of course the most common are generally the most dangerous. Metaldehyde baits are particularly poisonous to dogs and cats, and the pelleted form is especially attractive to dogs. Metaldehyde snail baits should not be used where children and pets cannot be kept away from them. Some metaldehyde products are formulated with carbaryl, partly to increase the spectrum of pests controlled to include soil and debris-dwelling insects, spiders, and sowbugs. However, carbaryl is toxic to soil-inhabiting beneficials like ground beetles and earthworms and should be avoided. Metaldehyde baits containing 4% metaldehyde are significantly more effective than those products containing only 2% metaldehyde; however, they are also more toxic to dogs and wildlife. Most currently available 4% products are formulated for use in enclosed bait stations to minimize their hazard.
Avoid getting metaldehyde bait on plants, especially vegetables. Baits containing only metaldehyde are most reliable when temperatures are warm or following a rain when snails and slugs are active. Metaldehyde does not kill snails and slugs directly unless they eat a substantial amount; rather, it stimulates their mucous-producing cells to overproduce mucous in an attempt to detoxify the bait. The cells eventually fail and the snail dies. When it is sunny or hot, they die from desiccation. If baiting is followed by cool and wet weather, they may recover if they ingest a sublethal dose. Do not water heavily for at least 3 or 4 days after bait placement; watering will reduce effectiveness and snails may recover from metaldehyde poisoning if high moisture conditions occur. Most metaldehyde baits break down rapidly when exposed to sunlight; however, some paste or bullet formulations (such as Deadline) hold up somewhat longer under conditions of sunlight and moisture.
A recently registered snail and slug bait, iron phosphate (available under many trade names including Sluggo and Escar-Go), has the advantage of being safe for use around domestic animals, children, birds, fish, and other wildlife and is a good choice for a garden IPM program. Ingestion of the iron phosphate bait, even in small amounts, will cause snails and slugs to cease feeding, although it may take several days for the snails to die. Iron phosphate bait can be scattered on lawns or on the soil around any vegetables, ornamentals, or fruit trees to be protected. Iron phosphate baits may be more effective against snails than slugs.
Sprinkle baits in areas that snails and slugs regularly frequent such as areas around sprinkler heads. Placing baits repeatedly in the same areas maximizes control because molluscs tend to return to food source sites. Never pile bait in mounds or clumps, especially those baits that are hazardous, because piling makes a bait attractive to pets and children. Placement of the bait in a commercial bait trap reduces hazards to pets and children and can protect baits from moisture, but may also reduce their effectiveness. Thick liquid baits may persist better under conditions of rain and sprinklers.

The timing of any baiting is critical; baiting is less effective during very hot, very dry, or cold times of the year because snails and slugs are less active during these periods. Irrigate before applying a bait to promote snail activity and apply the bait in the late afternoon or evening. Application on a warm, humid evening is ideal. Apply bait in a narrow strip around sprinklers, close to walls and fences or in other moist and protected locations, or scatter it along areas that snails and slugs cross to get from sheltered areas to the garden.

Whether you ever really get a handle on slugs or not, if you don't at least try then any attempt at growing some of their favorite delicacies will end in growing a meal for the slugs.

How to Manage Pests
Pesticides are poisonous. Always read and carefully follow all precautions and safety recommendations given on the container label. Store all chemicals in the original labeled containers in a locked cabinet or shed, away from food or feeds, and out of the reach of children, unauthorized persons, pets, and livestock. Consult the pesticide label to determine active ingredients and signal words.

Pesticides applied in your home and landscape can move and contaminate creeks, lakes, and rivers. Confine chemicals to the property being treated and never allow them to get into drains or creeks. Avoid drift onto neighboring properties, especially gardens containing fruits or vegetables ready to be picked.

Do not place containers containing pesticide in the trash or pour pesticides down sink, toilet, or outside drains. Either use the pesticide according to the label until the container is empty, or take unwanted pesticides to a Household Hazardous Waste Collection site. Contact your county agricultural commissioner for additional information on safe container disposal and for the location of the Hazardous Waste Collection site nearest you. Dispose of empty containers by following label directions. Never reuse or burn the containers or dispose of them in such a manner that they may contaminate water supplies or natural waterways.

I do not personally suggest using poisons or chemicals to solve any of your pest problems in your yard and garden.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Are Insects Taking the Fun Out of Gardening?

Johnny's Select Seeds is a terrific gardeners resource for outstanding tools and organic seed.

Crawling, flying, stinging insects can really make it miserable to be out in the garden, particularly in the part of the day when it's cooler and more comfortable to be out there working. Even just sitting out and enjoying your garden after a hard days work can be made unbearable. Yet, poisoning our skin in order to poison the bugs is not a viable alternative. So...

Try Johnny's all natural, herb and water-based insect repellent!
This formula contains witch hazel, lemongrass, and lavender in a water base and is non-greasy. While it must be applied more often than DEET-based repellents, the refreshing qualities make it worth it!
This formula has been tested and found effective by Johnny's employees. The non-breakable, 8 Oz. spray bottle makes it easy to use. It is safe for children and animals. Made in Maine.

8 Oz. - $7.95 item #9632

Click Here to go to Johnny's catalog.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Spring is a Good Time For Organic Success

Spring is a time of renewal. It can be a time of renewal for ourselves as well. A time to renew our commitment to our children, the Earth and to let Nature take care of itself without the use of our man-made chemicals.

I recommend growing your own pesticide and chemical free food for your family, but not all of us are lucky enough to have a piece of earth in which to garden. So if you must buy your fruits and veggies here's a list you might be interested in.

The following foods have been found to contain the highest levels of pesticides and are healthiest for you when purchased organic: spinach, pear, winter squash, green beans, grapes, celery, strawberries, peaches, apples, and wheat products.

Industrial corn farming consumes 44% of all chemical fertilizers and ½ to ¼ of all farm pesticides and herbicides used in the United States.

I would also encourage you to support the Organic Farming Industry by buying organic foods, both at your local Farmers Market and your local grocery store. By supporting organic farming we are playing a part in keeping our Earth healthy.

Look for the "USDA Organic" label to be sure that your favorite is pesticide-free.

To your Organic Success in your garden and at your dinner table!


Monday, April 24, 2006

Early Arrival

Organic success immediately...

This is one of the first bits of color each year in my garden. One of the keys to organic gardening success is choosing the right plants for your yard. Everything should be considered from sun, to moisture, to soil condition and traffic. Don't set yourself and your plant up for failure by trying to make a plant grow where the conditions do not favor its needs.

This particular plant is one of my personal favorites. It is tough as nails, has a delightful leaf of extraordinary texture and the bloom as you can see has the beauty of simplicity. It is called "Brunnera Macrophylla" and it is a hardy perennial which means it comes back every year, requires no special treatment from me to do so and reseeds itself, popping up in the most surprising spots to delight the senses.

Welcome to My Garden!

Welcome to my organic garden. It's the end of April here and a bit of color is showing up here and there. The grass has begun to grow and the remnant of the winter kill is begging to be removed. The evidence of life lies beneath.