Amy’s Kitchen, Organic Foods

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Discover more about all things organic. Do you want to plant some veggies? Interested in learning more about organically grown products and produce? We  with some information and ideas. Keep checking back as we are going to talk about GMOs (genetically modified organisms) in food and recommend other great producers of tasty organic foods.

Archive 2006

Report Card: Pesticides in Produce

Adjusting your eating habits can lower your intake of pesticides -- sometimes dramatically so. Substitute organic for conventional produce that is consistently contaminated with pesticides. When organic is not available, eat fruits and vegetables with consistently low pesticide loads.

12 Most Contaminated: Buy These Organic
Bell Pepper• Apples
• Bell Peppers
• Celery
• Cherries
• Imported Grapes
• Nectarines
Bell Pepper• Peaches
• Pears
• Potatoes
• Red Raspberries
• Spinach
• Strawberries

12 Least Contaminated
Broccoli• Asparagus
• Avocados
• Bananas
• Broccoli
• Cauliflower
• Corn (sweet)
• Kiwi
Onion• Mangos
• Onions
• Papaya
• Pineapples
• Peas (sweet)

For more information log on to:

Grow Your Veggies Anywhere: Container Gardening

Vegetables are easy to grow and are very rewarding at harvest time. The most important requirements are sunshine and watering. Loosened soil, fertilizer, and a little bit of weeding come in second. If you have an area in your yard that receives 6-8 hours of sunlight in the summer, then you can have a vegetable garden. Even if that area is mostly concrete, you can grow vegetables in containers. This article will help you start a vegetable garden using containers.

Pluses for container gardens
There are quite a few benefits to growing vegetables in containers. Containers can help you overcome problems like poorly drained soil, pests such as gophers, and soil-borne diseases. Because container gardens do not succumb to such troubles, an organic garden is practically guaranteed when using containers. Also, the soil in containers will warm up more quickly in spring than it does in the ground, so plants get a head start while growing in a pot. And tall pots (or pots placed high off the ground) make it easier for gardeners with limited mobility.

Before you plant Take the time to do some planning. Make sure that there is enough room in your pots for the vegetables you want to grow. The plants can get very large and you need to allow enough space for each one, or the plants will become stressed and may not produce good fruit. Purchasing vegetable starts from a knowledgeable nursery staff is invaluable. They can provide information about how much room each vegetable plant will need when fully grown. Some varieties, such as lettuces. can be grown together in one pot. (See information below about the best pots to purchase.)

Prepare the soil
Use a high-quality potting mix containing peat moss and perlite. If such a mixture is unavailable at your local store, perlite and peat moss can be mixed into any organic soil. If you compost, add a quantity of 1 part compost to 4 parts soil to the mixture. Don’t fret if you do not compost, if your local waste management company accepts yard waste, they often have compost available a low or no-cost to their customers.

Do not use garden soil. Garden soil does not provide enough drainage and usually contains weed seeds. Containers will make garden soil form a compacted heavy mass, which prevents the roots from spreading and will inhibit fertilizer absorption.

Pre-moisten the potting mix. Before filling your containers, sprinkle your mix with water to make it damp enough to form a ball when squeezed, but not dripping wet. Fill containers to about one inch below the rim of the pot and press down firmly to settle air pockets. Place in a well-protected spot overnight before planting.

Picking Plants. We recommend organic heirloom varieties. Heirlooms are older varieties of vegetables that might not necessarily be the “standard” type of vegetable that you would find at a supermarket. Seed starts that are organic and heirloom can often be found at a local nursery. Growing heirlooms give you the opportunity to try varieties that are not available in the grocery store.

Remember to fertilize
Because of the nature of a contained space, nutrients in the soil will be used up more quickly. It is important to remember to enrich the soil regularly with fertilizer or compost. Organic fertilizers are available that are specifically designed for vegetable gardens. Any vegetable fertilizer can be used in container gardens. Use about one-half the fertilizer strength called for on the label every ten days to two weeks. Or premix fertilizer into a one-fifth-strength solution and use it at every other watering.

The best way to water vegetables in containers is with drip irrigation operated by an automatic controller. For each container, install a circle of inline emitters over the soil or distribute three or four 1/2-gallon-per-hour emitters over the soil surface (use more for very large pots). Set the controller to water often enough to keep the soil moist (in hot climates, this could mean daily or every other day).

If you prefer to hand-water, be mindful about keeping the soil moist; it should never dry out completely.

Mulching keeps the soil moist and helps cut down on watering. Plus it helps cut down on weeds. Newspaper strips or pine needles serve as good mulching material. Place mulch around the plants to protect the soil from drying out so quickly and to keep the soil cool when temperatures go up.

Pest control
If aphids, mites, or whiteflies appear, spray them with a mixture of 1 tablespoon of Peppermint oil castile soap (such as Dr. Bronner’s) per 1 quart of water. Remember to wash vegetables thoroughly before eating.

Garden with your kids
Kids love to play in the dirt, so gardening is a natural activity. If you have children, get them involved. Take them to the nursery to help pick out the plants. Once they see the plants growing, they will be excited to eat the results. Plants that yield early results are also a good bet when gardening with kids. Lettuce, radishes, spinach are ready to eat in a short growing time. Lettuce and spinach are also good growing bets because you can pick only what you need. The plant continues to grow and give more food.

Planting tips
Line the base of the pot with newspaper before filling with soil to prevent dirt from falling through the drainage opening.

Don’t let the fact that you only have a patio or balcony deter you. Planter boxes, wooden barrels, hanging baskets and large flowerpots can all be used for successful vegetable gardening. When picking out containers for vegetable gardening, consider the following:

  • We do not recommend the use of plastic pots. The pots used by nurseries for selling plants can deteriorate when exposed to too much sunlight.
  • Unglazed terracotta pots dry out rapidly. Glazed ceramic pots are an excellent choice but require several drainage holes. Plants in clay pots should be monitored more closely for loss of moisture.
  • Redwood and cedar containers are the best choice for wood containers as they are relatively rot resistant and can be used without staining or painting.
  • Do not use treated wood because the toxins will leach into the soil.
  • Half wine barrels are also a great choice and they make attractive and inexpensive containers.
  • Use large containers (5 to 50 gallon capacity). Small pots restrict the root area and dry out very quickly.
  • Make sure your pot has adequate drainage.
  • In hot climates use light-colored containers to lessen heat absorption.
  • Set containers on bricks or blocks to allow free drainage.
  • Line hanging baskets with sphagnum moss for water retention. Keep baskets away from afternoon sun.
  • Place pots in an area that receives at least 6 hours of full sun daily.

Here are the plants we are using in Amy’s garden. These plants are all suitable for containers:

  • Tomatoes (cherry, pear and “steak” tomatoes)
  • Zucchini
  • Yellow Squash
  • Cilantro
  • Basil
  • Lettuce
  • Strawberries
  • Green Beans (bush green beans are best for pots)
  • Bell Peppers

If you follow the instructions above, you will be successful in harvesting lots of vegetables. It really is easy and you will learn more every year. Experiment and do not get discouraged if something does not work the first time. People have been gardening for thousands of years and are still learning new things every year. Good luck!

Pesticide-Free Lawn Door Hangers

Pesticide Free Lawn Door HangerIt’s not always easy to talk to people about pesticides. It can be especially awkward when the time you think of it most is right at the moment that your neighbor has a sprayer in his hand or a ChemLawn truck in the driveway.

The new Safe Lawn Door-Hanger helps concerned neighbors spread the word about lawn pesticides and alternatives with minimal confrontation. It can be used as an icebreaker for conversation or just hung on the the front door or other visible spot of the homes you know or suspect use pesticides. The information on the hanger leads them to helpful resources on safe lawn care from every region of the country.

+ Visit Beyond Pesticides for more information

Flowers Go Green

Cut FlowersGiving a gift of cut flowers may not be the wonderful expression of love that you intend it to be. That’s because whenever you or a loved one touches the flowers or inhales the scent of your conventional bouquet, you are probably touching or inhaling poisonous chemicals. The floral industry is one of the heaviest users of hazardous agricultural and processing pesticides. In addition, the majority of flowers sold in North America are imported from countries like Ecuador and Columbia, where labor practices are sometimes questionable. Studies by the International Labor Organization and Ecuador’s Catholic University have found that many farm and post-harvest workers complain of pesticide-poisoning symptoms. Women, who represent 70 percent of all rose workers, experience significantly elevated rates of miscarriages and birth defects.

But things are improving. This year, if you plan to give cut flowers for Valentine’s Day – or, in fact, to buy them as a gift or for yourself at anytime during the year – you can now make a responsible, healthy choice. Flowers and ornamental plants certified with the Veriflora label are different. The certification program requires growers to use pesticide-free, sustainable agriculture methods and includes fair treatment of workers (health benefits, safe labor practices, fair wages, the right to organize, etc.,) water conservation, habitat protection, waste management and a commitment to energy efficiency and responsible packaging.

Two of the largest North American wholesalers of cut flowers are VeriFlora certified – Sierra Flower Trading of Canada and Delaware Valley Floral Group in the US. As well, one of the largest online suppliers of organic and sustainable flowers, Organic Bouquet, has requested that all of its suppliers seek VeriFlora certification as a condition of business. Certified growers include the Sun Valley Group, the largest cut flower grower in the United States. Twenty flower farms in Ecuador, Colombia and the U.S. are VeriFlora certified, with 40 in the pipeline.

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