Thursday, July 30, 2009

To be organic, or not to be?

Do you ever feel confused about buying, or not buying organic food?

One reason I am learning to grow food organically, is because I instinctively know it is better for my family. I also believe organic food is more nutritious. Then I read this article in The Globe and Mail titled "Organic isn't any more nutritious". Funded by the Food Standards Agency of Britain, the study claims that organically grown food is not more nutritious than their chemically enhanced equivalents.

Like many people, I am confused. Common sense tells me that we are what we eat, and if we are eating food laden with chemicals, then those chemicals are in our bodies. And it's not just about nutrition. More than this, organically grown food assists with creating healthy water, wildlife and soil.

On the other hand, when it comes to buying organic or not, I don't always go the organic route, for the simple reason that it's more expensive. My pocket book is winning over my common sense.

What's happened to the bees?
One thing I watched recently, that is convincing me to buy organic food the majority of the time, was a documentary called "Silence of the Bees". You can watch it below. The bee documentary claims evidence that bees have a virus, possibly caused by pesticides, and that they are disappearing. As gardeners we know we need bees to pollinate our plants. Are the bees the canary in the Cole mine?

Documentary exploring why bees are dying

What about you? Do you buy organic, or non organic food?

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Look at these herb babies

I believe there is truth to the old adage that, "If at first you don't succeed, try, try again." As an avid cook, I have dreamed for many years of having my own indoor herb garden. I’m proud to report, that after several attempts over the years to plant herbs indoors from seed, and my second seed planting this year (see my first post), that my indoor herb garden is coming along extremely well. I feel like a proud mama! So what did I do differently?

Pay attention!
First of all, I think the peat pellets helped. I discovered that this seed medium retains water very well. In the past, I planted seeds in small containers. I am not sure what soil I used. They would sprout, but then die. I admit my guilt in not paying enough attention to the seedlings. I would forget to spritz them as they sprouted and they’d dry up. The peat pellets, on the other hand, took away the need to constantly add moisture. The pellets stayed damp for several weeks. In fact, it’s recommended not to spritz them, as mold may develop.

Next, I planted the herb seedlings in large containers before they outgrew the peat pellets. The planting involved ensuring the pots had holes for drainage, adding a layer of gravel and using proper potting soil. Finally, a sunny window and consistent watering helped them to survive. And voila! At last herbs to use in cooking whenever I need them. Now I just need to make them last during the winter months.

Hope this helps those of you who also want in indoor herb garden.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Controlling Ants in the Garden

The ants are marching all, around, the town … and in our lawn
Ants are amazing creatures. I caught this guy, in the photo, hauling something as big as he was, up and down the trellis on our deck. They are able to lift 10 times their weight, are great aerators of soil, keep wasps at bay and eat the larvae of other potentially harmful insects. They also bite, encourage unwanted insects like aphids and can destroy your plants.

We have an ant problem with our lawn, as you can see by the photo. I was content with leaving them be, but my “other half” was upset about it. Now that pesticides are illegal where I live (and I say good riddance to them) I had to find an organic way to control the ants.

I tried a 50:50 mix of sugar and Borax, which I sprinkled around the anthill. The picture you see is the “after” shot. I think the Borax/Sugar mixture did more harm to the grass than the ants – opps.

I probably should have put the Borax and sugar in some kind of container, with holes for the ants to get in and out of, rather than spreading the mixture over the grass. Have also read, unfortunately after using this treatment, that the mixture could be harmful to pets and wildlife, so a trap of some sort would work best.

The theory is that the ants, which love sugar, will take some sugar along with Borax back to the nest and feed it to the Queen. She dies and so do the ants that ingest the Borax. With no Queen Bee, the rest go elsewhere I suppose. You may have to do this several times.

I believe the Borax/sugar mixture worked, as upon examination, I see neither ants nor grass.

Other Organic Ant Control Methods
The Farmers Almanac recommends planting catnip, pennyroyal, peppermint, sage, and/or spearmint to deter them. You could make a tea of these herbs and pour into and around anthills. You could also pour boiling water, over a period of several days, down the anthills.

You could also try Diatomaceous Earth, which you should be able to get at your local garden nursery. As mentioned in a previous blog, Diatomaceous Earth is also useful for controlling those dreaded slugs.

Please share your tips on controlling ants!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

O Canada & The Maple Tree - Together Forever

For those of us living in Canada, we celebrated Canada Day on July 1. This is our Country's official birthday. We Canadians don't display our flag as much as Americans, but on this day, you can see many a flag adorned with the Maple Leaf. The flag was introduced in 1965. The Maple Tree has been our national arboreal emblem since 1996.

Did you know there are 150 known species of Maple Tree? 13 of these are native to North America and 10 types grow in Canada. In fact, in Ontario, it is hard escape the Maple Tree. It is quite an amazing site to see Maples turning colour in the fall. Those which grow most abundantly in Canada are Sugar Maples. You can see a Maple Tree almost everywhere, particulary in Ontario and Quebec.

A Love - Hate Relationship
Our neighbour has a huge tree. It must be 30' tall. I've read that they can grow to 100' high. At certain times of the year we see, what must be, 100s of maple keys floating down from the tree. The keys blow in the wind reminding you of helicoper propellers, which is why we sometimes call them "helicopters".

Quite a few of them take root and start to grow saplings, which are hard to control! This is something I'm not fond of when it comes to Maple Trees. I have a couple of Maples Tree saplings which I did not pull in time and now it is almost impossible to pull them out. It is almost impossible to not be able to grow a maple tree in Ontario. They have absolutely no problem with the frigid cold of our winters and require little if any tending.

How Sweet It Is
On the other hand, something I love about the Maple Tree is Canadian Maple Syrup. It's a wonderful taste experience. If you've never tried pancakes topped with Canadian maple syrup, you are missing a sweet treat.


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