Author: Lara Whybrow
Regrowing new organic food for free in your home is so easy with the use of
kitchen scraps. Simply place the tops of your carrots in water and top up every day. The water should sit in the middle of the root so that the top part is exposed to air. After careful cultivation the carrot will start sprouting roots and can be carefully switched over to soil or other substrate.
Bees are one of the most useful insects in the world as the help with pollination, without which some plants cannot reproduce and create seeds. Besides being so useful, I personally find them to be really cute! Their big black eyes and fuzzy little bodies…and if you have ever seen a bee drink water you will also think they are adorable, they seem to gulp down the water – the bee’s whole body bobs up and down. Too cute!
I have a tiny little garden in front of my flat near Johannesburg, and although the space is tiny, there is SO much life brimming in this little space. I have herbs, flowers, shrubs and vegetables, since I cannot exist without things growing and thriving near me. Recently I added a little glass bowl so that the birds could have something to drink, and I was blown away by the result! The bees love this hydrating mini pond! At any given time there are at least 6 bees drinking water. Less now with the spring rains and increased nectar available.
The reason my bee hydrator works so well is because there are no fish that might eat the bees or running water that will drown them. The pebbles ensure that the bees always have somewhere to “perch” and drink water, not like a swimming pool that is too large. What happens is that bees tend to flip over onto their backs in the water and then they can’t fly out or grab onto something nearby to lift them off their backs and they eventually drown. Swimming pool water is also chlorinated so it is probably toxic to the bees too.
Most people shudder at the thought of bees flying everywhere but there is no reason to be. All creatures and even plants sense dangerous intent and neither myself nor my daughter have ever been stung. I use the opportunity to teach her valuable lessons about life and how to respect Nature. I would rather that she learn to stay away from the bees and respect them, rather than keep her away and let her become scared of everything. I often have to work right next to the bees, planting seeds or doing some weeding, and they are completely at ease at the “bar”.
What is the benefit of this? Well, nearby plants that need bees for reproduction will produce more flowers and thus higher yields. Looking after bees literally increases abundance in the plant kingdom. It is an honor to assist Nature in this way.
And do you want to know something else? That little section of my garden now smells like honey 🙂
SCRATCH – DIBBLE – SLASH -WEED MAIZE
by Gabe Garms
Poison hemlock (Conium maculatum) is one of the deadliest plants in North America and can be fatal if just a small amount is ingested. It has been in flower here in Washington for the last month or so and can be found across much of the United States. It grows (often in dense patches) along roads, trails and the edges of fields and streams. I actually have it growing in my back yard, right along side one of it’s most common look-a-likes, Queen Anne’s lace (Daucus carota).
Queen Anne’s lace is a wild edible (the root) and given that it typically does grow in the same conditions as poison hemlock, being able to tell the difference could save your life. Plus, you’ll want to know if you have it growing on your property because it’s also toxic to pets and livestock. So let’s walk through how to identify both so that you can confidently identify them in the future.
Poison hemlock (Conium maculatum) vs. Queen Anne’s lace (Daucus carota):
1. Both are in the Apiaceae family and have hollow stems, but poison hemlock’s stem is hairless and has purple blotches. Even a very young poison hemlock will display the purple blotching. On the other hand, the stem of Queen Anne’s lace doesn’t have purple blotches and is hairy. See the photos below for a comparison.
In short, yes, due to increased nutrients and healthy seed. The importance of excellent growing mediums cannot be emphasized enough in organic farming. Healthy soil has an active microbial network that assists in breaking down nutrients into something plants can use. However, overuse of chemical fertilizers in conventional farming eventually destroys soil as it does not support soil microbes or earthworms and other insects.
Bacterial life forms are not only valuable in soil – they are key elements in proper digestion in animals and people. We call them probiotics and these days doctors advise those on antibiotics to take probiotics to ensure that their digestive systems continue to function optimally.
Conventional farming relies heavily on chemical fertilizers but this is the equivalent of giving people nothing but vitamin pills to eat.
This brings us to the key question – is organic farming more profitable than conventional farming? The answer is undoubtedly yes. Conventional farming may seem simple – plant, fertilize, harvest, repeat. In actual fact, conventional farming renders most soil almost lifeless in a few years. Chemical fertilizers may promote healthy leaves and crops may look outwardly healthy but there are little to no micronutrients being absorbed and the soil starts to lack organic matter with which to anchor and feed plants, worms and microbes. The soil can start to become sandy and when the crops are harvested and there is nothing in the ground, strong winds can cause serious erosion.
Conventional farming may be more profitable in the short term but in the long run the farmer is left with poor soil that no amount of chemical fertilizers can improve. Even resting the land doesn’t help much. The farmer knows to rotate crops and let the land rest every few years to let it recover. But this can further compound the problem because the few remaining bacterial lifeforms in the soil need roots to survive and if herbicides were used extensively chances are the soil will not have much vegetation growing in it for a few months or more. This further decreases the amount of microbes in the soil, compounding the problem.
Organic farming protects and feeds soil microbes which in turn help plants to thrive by helping with nutrient absorption and other functions. The same principle applies for animals too – probiotics in the digestive tract help break down food into nutrients. The reason why a lot of factory farmed animals suffer from poor health is because they are fed sterile feed that has had most bacteria destroyed. This is to prevent toxins, but leaves the animals vulnerable to poor nutrient absorption because they don’t have enough good bacteria in their digestive tracts. This results in susceptibility to disease – and the farmer then gives the animals more antibiotics which only makes things worse. Animals should be fed treats such as mealworms or fruit and vegetables and meat scraps for probiotics and extra nutrients.
Organic pecan nut farmer Gerhard Ysie Oosthuizen has this to say about yields in organic farming:
I’ve been at some farms where they are certified organic but the trees and plants are not healthy at all. Producing plants need nutrients and after years of neglect and destruction soils aren’t able to supply these nutrients and become reliant on chemical fertilizers. Advancing monoculture by using herbicides and pesticides only further damages the ecosystem that was suppose to help your plant grow. How to change: Soil is life…and life is in soil. 80% of all life on land is under our feet in the soil. This is true for a reason. These organisms support the plants that grows in the soil. But the plants also support the life in the soil by supplying them with exudates/sugar compounds. This is a mutual relationship. But after years of soil and microbial neglect you have to start again ensuring that the “good” microbes are in your soil. Innoculating your soil with stuff like manure…compost…urine…or Microbial products like EMLife and Biocults Mycorizah. But these microorganisms need food so you can’t just have plants growing for only 6 months of the year…you need to have active cover crops esp. Legumes (plants that fix nitrogen) Cover crops will mine minerals from the soil…and when mulched…this will become available to microorganisms and ultimately to your crop
Organic farming should be the norm rather than the exception as it is has so many benefits other than maintaining soil health. Most seed used in conventional farming results in plants that produce poor seeds, if these seeds are planted they grow into weak specimens that can’t reproduce themselves past one or two generations, if they even germinate at all. Nature is designed to be abundant and a farmer should be able to save a portion of the seeds for planting in the next season and each year the farmer should have more seed to plant, exponentially increasing yields FOR FREE. One plant can create hundreds if not thousands of more plants. The fact that we have people on Earth that are starving is mind boggling when you really think about it.
Organic farming is also bee friendly, eco friendly, people friendly… it is working with Nature not against it. Insects can still invade plants but organic pesticides are far less harmful to the environment than usual pesticides. In addition, healthy plants exude substances which deter pests.
The Farming Systems Trial (FST)® at Rodale Institute is America’s longest running, side-by-side comparison of organic and chemical agriculture. Started in 1981 to study what happens during the transition from chemical to organic agriculture, the FST surprised a food community that still scoffed at organic practices. After an initial decline in yields during the first few years of transition, the organic system soon rebounded to match or surpass the conventional system. Over time, FST became a comparison between the long term potential of the two systems.
After a 30 year side-by-side trial, the Rodale report shows:
Organic yields match conventional yields.
Organic outperforms conventional in years of drought.
Organic farming systems build rather than deplete soil organic matter, making it a more sustainable system.
Organic farming uses 45% less energy and is more efficient.
Conventional systems produce 40% more greenhouse gases.
Organic farming systems are more profitable than conventional.
To find organic heirloom seed suppliers in SA visit this link: http://www.ethicalsuppliers.co.za/organic-heirloom-seed-suppliers-south-africa/
Organic farms can be found on the Ethical Suppliers Retail Map: http://www.ethicalsuppliers.co.za/organic-non-gmo-store-locator/
For cheap organic fertilizer that is used by golf courses for green lush grass with no offensive odor e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Broccoli is a brassica, and should not be grown with other brassicas like cauliflower, cabbage, brussel sprouts, savoy, kohlrabi and kai-lan. They are very healthy. The plant grows a stem with leaves developing in the middle, and then specialization occurs and a broccoli head develops. It likes full sun, cool moist conditions and of course plenty of fertilizer. Once the main head is harvested, numerous side shoots develop.
Seed saving Tutorial
This is an extremely important article. I would like to warn you about something that is currently going on. You may not believe me, and there is a chance I am wrong, but protecting yourself from what I am about to share with you will only do good so rather safe than sorry right?
At the moment, most of our food is produced with hybrid seed. When you go to Pick n Pay, Checkers, your local nursery etc and you buy packets of seeds, these seeds are hybrid seeds and have been specially formulated to be very easy to germinate and produce high yields. This sounds like a dream come true – but the problem is that these plants usually fail to reproduce. If you save seeds from these plants, they will probably not grow very well. So every season new seeds to be bought. If you use heirloom seeds, you don’t have this problem. Heirloom plants reproduce faithfully year after year and produce healthy, hardy specimens. In addition, these plants adapt over the seasons to become perfectly suited to the climate. They are also very healthy so they have a strong “immune system” and often require less pesticides etc.
Currently, there is a huge push to get farmers to use GM seeds. The seeds are touted as the answer to our food shortage problems but in reality the yields are not that much higher than heirloom plants. Also, consider this: if I have 10 tomato plants and each plant produces 10 tomatoes, then I can take 2 tomatoes, save their seeds, and more than double the harvest next year. So I plant 20 tomato plants. I can then take 4 tomatoes and quadruple the harvest for the next season. Nature is designed to be exponentially bountiful – we should have no problem with food shortages! We have so much public land – the botanical gardens in every city could be community food forests, townhouse developers could plant more fruit and nut trees, these are just some ideas of how we can have an abundance of fresh healthy organic food.
At the moment, we have a less than perfect scenario: food is mass produced in farms far away from the cities and transportation costs to get food to the retail outlets can add a lot to the final cost of food. This food is sprayed with so many poisons because companion planting, which helps deter pests, has gone out the window and because of mono-culture farming, it is so easy for pests to spread.
And then we have the sinister part, where farmers are being strongly encouraged not to seed save, but to do the opposite – buy GM hybrid seeds every season. Huge global corporations like Monsanto are trying to patent most if not all our seeds and don’t encourage heirloom seeds and seed saving because they want to have full control over the world’s food supply. And we are seeing the same trend with animals – common farm animals are becoming more and more modified – and patented – and the average small scale farmer can no longer breed their own animals or save their own seeds as everything will be patented and owned by corporations.
Save our genetic diversity and economic sovereignty by going organic and growing your own heirloom organic foods. Support local organic farmers so that they don’t go out of business and leave a gap for the corporations to fill.
Going organic is more important than ever….