Category Archives: organic gardening

How & Why to Participate in a Seed Swap

Seed swaps refer to the many different ways people can exchange seeds they?ve grown themselves. A seed swap can be done through a community event, online, or simply between friends. However you choose to do it, there are many benefits to preserving and sharing seeds. Let?s look at some of the reasons why to swap seeds and how to get started.


1. You Save Money

If you buy fresh seeds every year from a garden center, catalogue, or other supplier, you know the costs can quickly add up. Whereas, saving your own seeds and trading them with others is completely free, other than taking a little time in the process. You will also find many unique varieties that simply don?t exist in the catalogues.

2. You Get Quality, Local Seeds

The majority of store-bought seeds come from somewhere else. And the parent plants could have grown in conditions completely different from your local environment. This makes it hard to predict how those plant varieties will fare in your garden.

Seeds you get from seed swaps are typically grown by other gardeners who live near you, which means you already know they can grow well in your local area. Also, the longer you save your seeds, you may find they?ll get stronger and better each year as they continue to adapt to your local conditions over many generations.

3. You Help Maintain Genetic Diversity

Our world is rapidly losing genetic diversity as both plant and animal species throughout the world are becoming extinct at an alarming rate. It?s estimated that farmers used to grow about 80,000 species of plants prior to industrialization. Currently, they rely on around 150 species.

The primary reason for this is to create predictable, uniform crops that can be easily harvested and processed on large-scale farms. Needless to say, this does not support plant diversity. It also creates a very dangerous situation where disease can kill off a certain variety of plant, and there are no other varieties to take its place. We need as many different varieties as possible to ensure a healthy, secure food supply for the future.

Related: Why It Matters to Buy Heirloom Plants and Seeds

4. You Support Non-GMO Seeds

A particularly insidious development in the industrialization of seeds is genetic modification. Various food crops have been genetically altered to fit into the industrial agriculture model even better. Genetically modified organisms have been linked to certain health risks, as well as adding disturbing mutations to our already dwindling gene pool of plants. Growing and sharing your own seeds is a way to keep genetic modification out of our gardens and our food.


1. Collect your favorite seeds

Seed collection typically involves gathering either dry or wet seeds. The easiest seeds to start with are dry seeds, which are produced by most ornamental flowers and herbs. Simply wait until the flowers have matured and gone to seed, then break open any pods or seed heads and shake out the dry seeds into a paper bag for storage.

Most vegetables make wet seeds that need to be cleaned and dried before storage. This is a straight-forward process, and you can find more details on processing wet seeds here. Once you have your seeds dried, they should be stored in a paper bag or envelope in a cool, dark location.

2. Share your seeds

Seed swapping can be as simple as trading some seeds with a few friends, or you can go bigger and attend a community seed swap near you. Ask a local garden center, gardening club, or botanical garden if they know of any seed swaps happening in town.

If you can?t find a swap locally, try starting your own. Mother Earth News has a great overview of how to organize a community seed swap. You can also donate your extra seeds to organizations like Seed Savers Exchange, who work to preserve and distribute rare and heirloom seed varieties.

3. Go online

Many sites offer online seed swapping opportunities, such as the National Gardening Association, Houzz, or Reddit. You?ll usually need to be a member of a site in order to participate, but once you?ve signed up, you can often advertise what you have or ask for varieties you?re looking for. Once you?ve made a match, you can either arrange to meet up locally or mail your exchanged seeds.

4. Start a seed lending library

A seed library works by allowing gardeners to ?borrow? seeds at planting time, and then save some fresh seeds at the end of the season to return to the library for the following year. If you?re intrigued by the idea, shareable has a great description of how to create your own seed lending library.

5. Grow your seeds

Another important step in seed saving is to keep the cycle going. Plant your saved seeds, as well as any new varieties you?ve gotten at a swap, every spring for a fresh crop. Then collect seeds in the fall again to share and grow next year.

Related on Care2

How to Share Extra Bounty from Your Garden with the Community
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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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How & Why to Participate in a Seed Swap

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Organic Gardening Books to Help Your Garden Grow


At the core of homesteading, the ultimate self-sufficient lifestyle, is growing your own food. Today, even those living in inner-city apartments can rent their own garden plot or participate in community garden programs. Gardening for personal consumption is an eco-friendly and healthy movement sweeping the nation.

Food grown au naturel is always preferred — organic gardening establishes exceptionally fertile soil and is otherwise great for the planet. Growing food organically focuses on sustainability, removing synthetic fertilizers and avoiding toxic pesticides. Organic gardeners use natural materials like compost and techniques such as crop rotation to create a flourishing garden.

Are you itching to put your green thumb to work this spring? Both experts and novices will find inspiration and guidance in these five organic gardening books:

Rodale’s Ultimate Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening: The Indispensable Green Resource for Every Gardener

By Fern Marshall Bradley, Barbara W. Ellis and Ellen Phillips

When in doubt, grab Rodale’s. This book belongs on the shelf of any proficient organic gardener. Novices will love its accessible advice on all things plants, and those already adept will find inspiration in the photos of the latest garden trends.

Rodale’s Ultimate Encyclopedia has earned its title — it’s the go-to resource for organic gardeners everywhere. All your burning gardening questions will be answered in just one volume.

The Chicken Chick’s Guide to Backyard Chickens: Simple Steps for Healthy, Happy Hens

By Kathy Shea Mormino

The concept of organic gardening doesn’t exclude livestock. Chickens are a great addition to an organic garden — they naturally get rid of pests, provide important nutrients, and even turn over fertile soil by scratching. The two go hand in hand. If you are an organic gardener, consider adding chickens to the mix.

Mormino’s book is a great resource for those looking to raise chickens. She’ll turn you into a chicken expert with in-depth lessons on feeding, housing, flock health and more.

Rodale’s Basic Organic Gardening: A Beginner’s Guide to Starting a Healthy Garden

By Deborah L. Martin

Are you just thinking about dipping your (hopefully) green thumb into the world of organic gardening? When it comes to getting started on the right foot, this is the perfect guide to steer you toward success. You’ll learn how to lay out your garden, where to dig, and plenty of handy tips and tricks to use along the way. There’s no better resource for those just starting out.

Teaming with Microbes: The Organic Gardener’s Guide to the Soil Food Web

By Jeff Lowenfels and Wayne Lewis

Healthy soil is the key to organic gardening. Maintaining a robust underground ecosystem full of worms, insects, bacteria, fungi and other microorganisms will provide a flourishing garden in turn.

In their book, Lewis and Lowenfels walk you through the science behind it all, revealing fascinating insights on organic gardening.

Mini Farming: Self-Sufficiency on 1/4 Acre

By Brett L. Markham

Taking a big, juicy bite of your prized homegrown tomato is an otherworldly experience. There’s no reason to miss out just because of your property size — in fact, you can become self-sufficient and earn extra income with less than one acre of land.

Organic gardens only need a quarter of an acre to thrive, according to Markham. This guide is guaranteed to teach you how to create your own mini-farm. It even covers topics in farm planning, canning your extras and crop rotation — all essentials for self-sufficiency.

Are there any organic gardening books you’ve found particularly helpful? Share them in the comments below!

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Beginner’s Guide to Growing Your Own Vegetable Garden

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Organic Gardening Books to Help Your Garden Grow

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The Ultimate Guide to Conserving Water at Home

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Organic Gardening Books to Help Your Garden Grow

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4 Ways to Kill Weeds the All-Natural Way


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4 Ways to Kill Weeds the All-Natural Way

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Ourharvest: How To Grow Your Own Organic Food

When it comes to the ways in which people obtain organic food, most cases involve actually going to a market. However, there are those who maintain their own organic gardens, which allows them a greater sense of freedom. The likes of OurHarvest will agree, but the ways in which organic food is grown might not be so familiar to you. If you’d like to know how to cultivate your own garden, for this reason, please read on.

The first step to maintaining your organic garden is protection, which is especially important when you think about the various elements that can come about. One of the reasons why greenhouses are created is due to how well they can protect whatever is growing inside of them. Of course, not everyone can make this investment. For those who can, though, you can be certain that the effort will pay off.

You must also keep the right tools at your side so that your organic garden can be made better. The tools in question include – but aren’t limited to – clay pots, soil, and compost. Each of these, as well as others, will ensure that the crops you have in mind will be grown. Leaving even a single one out of the equation will stunt your garden’s growth, as I’m sure that companies such as OurHarvest will be able to attest.

For those who are just starting out, when it comes to organic gardening, make a point to focus on the easiest crops to grow first. If you were to ask questions at a Long Island farmers market in your area, you might be given a number of responses. Some of the most common ones include lettuce and tomatoes, so make it a point to cultivate these first. Your confidence will surely grow, resulting in you being better able to maintain your garden.

Hopefully these tips have helped you kick off your organic garden. What are some of the crops that you’re looking to produce this season? Whatever the case may be, you’re not going to get far without taking the time to learn. After all, organic gardening takes ample work, not to mention a healthy dose of patience, in order to prove viable. By putting forth the effort, though, you’ll see why a garden of this nature is worth maintaining.

For info regarding farmers markets in your location, please visit OurHarvest.. Free reprint available from: Ourharvest: How To Grow Your Own Organic Food.

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Weeds That Are Good for Your Garden

While some weeds are invasive and steal nutrients from intentionally planted flowers or edibles, there are other “weeds” that may actually helpyour garden or lawn. Before declaring war on those dandelions, read on to learn aboutsome of the beneficial volunteer plants.You might find some new helpers and save yourself some work.

1. Nitrogen Fixers

Plants require nitrogen to survive. The problem is most nitrogen naturally occurs as a gas in our atmosphere and is unavailable to plants.

Nitrogen fixing plants solve this issue with specialized root nodules that can take nitrogen from the air and store it in their roots. The nitrogen becomes available to other plants once the nitrogen fixers die and the roots start to decompose.

The legume family of plants are excellent nitrogen fixers, including clover, vetch, peas, beans, lupines, false indigo, and alfalfa. Leave these plants to die at the end of the season or till in perennial varieties to allow the nitrogen to be released.

Even some potentially weedy trees and shrubs are great for fixing nitrogen, such as sea buckthorn, broom, alder, locust trees, and Russian olives. The older roots that die off naturally will release nitrogen into the surrounding soil.


2. Deeply-Rooted Weeds

Plants with deep root systems, like docks, dandelion, pigweed, or thistles, will draw hidden nutrients to the soil surface. This often includes trace minerals that many of your shallow-rooted ornamental plants would have a hard time accessing. The deep roots also break up compacted soil to improve water permeability and texture.

These weeds are excellent to add to your compost. Try leaving some in place throughout the growing season to harvest and compost the leaves regularly before they start to flower or seed.

You can also dig up the roots at the end of the season. But make sure they dont survive in your finished compost. Try putting the harvested roots in the sun for at least a week to thoroughly dry out. Soaking the roots in a bucket of water until they ferment will also finish them off before adding to your compost.

3. Ground Covers

Ground cover plants in any form, including weeds, can help your garden in many ways.

Their roots will stabilize soil, preventing erosion and the loss of nutrient-rich top soil. The stems and leaves will provide shade to keep your ground moist and reduce irrigation needs.

Although it may sound contradictory, a good ground cover of weeds will also help with weed control. Weeds that make a tight mat of vegetation over the ground, such as purslane or dead-nettle, will prevent more invasive weeds from taking hold.


4. Edible Weeds

Many of our modern-day weeds were once sought-after food crops. The flavor of wild greens is often stronger than our cultivated varieties, but this is no reason to disregard them.

In fact, weeds such as lambs quarters, yellow dock, dandelion leaves, purslane, chickweed, and sorrel have two or three times the nutritional value of spinach or Swiss chard.

If you steam or saut the greens, it will remove any bitter aftertaste they may have when raw. Then you can use them as you would any other green vegetable in soups, stews, sauces, or as a simple side dish.

These are some tasty edible weeds you can try:

Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) eat the fresh leaves or dry the roots in small pieces and use in tea.
Clover (Trifolium pretense) leaves and blossoms are good fresh, blossoms can be steeped in tea.
Plantain (Plantago major) leaves are excellent steamed.
Sorrel (Rumex acetosella) lemon-flavored leaves are tasty raw when young, or steamed when older.
Watercress (Nasturtium officinale) tangy leaves are good fresh or steamed.
Chickweed (Stellaria media) fresh leaves are great in salad.
Lambs quarters (Chenopodium album) young leaves are good raw or steamed, and the seeds are also very nutritious.

5. Cover Crops

The main purpose of a cover crop is to provide more nutrients and organic matter for your soil. Many farmers and gardeners will purposely sow certain plants as cover crops, but you can also use your existing weed species.

Its recommended to regularly cut off the greens of a cover crop and leave them as a mulch to decompose on the soil, or take them to your compost. The plants can be tilled into the ground at the end of the season.

You can leave lush weeds you already have in place, such as clover, burdock, thistles, chickweed, or pigweed. Just make sure to keep cutting them down before they flower and make seeds.

Ladybug on Burdock

6. Insect Attractants and Repellants

You can help support pollinating insects by keeping some wild, flowering weeds around to provide food. Some of their favorites include dandelions, clover, thistles, evening primrose, borage, and Queen Annes lace. Allowing weedy shrubs, such as wild cherries or roses, to grow in unused corners of your yard is also useful.

These weeds can attract beneficial predatory insects to your garden as well, such as ladybugs, parasitic wasps and lacewings, which control your bad bugs.

On the other hand, some weeds can keep unwanted bugs away. A study in Florida found there was less armyworm damage in cornfields with weeds like dandelion, cockleburs and goldenrod. Plants like pennyroyal, feverfew and peppermint are known to repel mosquitos.

Weeds can also lure harmful insects away from your desired plants. For example, lambs quarters often attracts leafminers, which could attack your spinach or other greens instead.

7. Soil Indicators

Certain weeds grow best under specific soil and climate conditions. If you see them growing in an area, youll have a good idea of whats going on in that soil.

For instance, knotweed, sow thistle and plantain are all indicators of an acidic soil. Whereas sheep sorrel and yellow toadflax will often grow in poor soils low in organic matter.

If you see a lot of one or two types of weeds in a location, look into what theyre telling you before you make any further plans for the area.

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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Weeds That Are Good for Your Garden

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Homemade Pepper Spray: To Deter Garden Critters Naturally

I’m the crazy lady who talks to squirrels and pigeons. When I was a kid, it was a rare thrill to see a few deer in the backyard. Now the deer literally walk up our street and wander in and out of the neighborhood yards, brazenly munching on whatever suits them.

If you are a gardener, you’ve probably experienced the frustration of planting seeds or seedlings and nurturing them to the point where the buds are abundant only to come out one morning and see sad, stubby green stems as if someone accidentally weed-whacked your beloved plants.

I’m not inclined towards violence, but I would seriously like to deter them. So, one of the best deterrents for most of these critters has been hot pepper spray. It turns out thecapsaicin found in hot peppers of the Capsicum genus are distasteful to mammals like deer, squirrels, rabbits, voles, possum, groundhogs, chipmunks and some insects. It doesn’t harm them, the environment, the plants or the humans who might eat them.

You can buy a variety of capsaicin sprays, but they tend to get expensive, and homemade pepper sprayis actually super easy to make.

The trick is to spray frequently as soon as you see evidence a critteris poaching your plants, and make sure to respray after rain. If you are consistent about applying weekly (or any time after rain), hopefully the uninvited guests will move on to tastier gardens.

Green Diva Meg’s Homemade Pepper Spray Recipe

What you need:

1 gallon of water
3 tablespoons crushed red pepper flakes
2 teaspoons castile soap (I used peppermint because it can be an insect repellent)
spray bottle (either a couple of them or a gallon container to keep what doesn’t fit in the spray bottle)

What to do:

add the red pepper flakes to the water in a large pot and simmer for about 15 minutes
stir in castile soap (important to help the concoction stick to the plants)
take off the heat and let stand for 24 hours
strain out the pepper flakes
and use funnel to pour into your spray bottle
NOTE: be mindful that the cooking liquid can cause some irritation to nose and eyes, and of course the liquid itself can be irritating.


Heres the latest episode of The Green Divas Radio Show for more on green and healthy living

Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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Homemade Pepper Spray: To Deter Garden Critters Naturally

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Want Pollinators to Visit Your Yard? Here’s How to Attract Them.

One way to protect the birds, bees, bats and beetles that help pollinate plants is by growing a garden that will help feed and nurture them. National Pollinator Week is a perfect time to plant a garden these creatures will love. Here’s how to get it off the ground.

Choose Your Plants – Start by identifying the “eco region” you live in. The Pollinator Partnership offers plant guides to attract pollinators for 32 different regions of the U.S., plus Canada. Some examples of eco regions are: the Sierran Steppe, the Southeastern mixed forest, prairie parkland (subtropical), Ouachita mixed forest, outer coastal and Lower Mississippi riverine. You can find the guide that’s right for your ecoregion here.

Learn About Your Eco Region – The guide to your ecoregion will describe your microclimate, general topography and the flora (plants) and fauna (animals) commonly found in your region. It’ll provide an estimate of the amount of rain that falls in your ecoregion annually, let you know when the first frost usually strikes, and when the last frost usually occurs, which normally signals when it’s time to plant.

Get Familiar With the Plant Traits the Pollinators Like – For example, bats prefer dull white, green or purple flowers with a strong musty odor emitted at night. On the other hand, bees prefer bright white, yellow or blue flowers that emit a fresh, mild scent and that have a sort of landing platform they can sit on, since they don’t extract pollen when they’re flying. Birdsneed strong perch supports and are attracted to scarlet, orange, red or white flowers. Pollinators are different animals, so the greater variety of plants you grow, the greater variety of pollinators you’ll attract.

Plant for Food – Flowers provide nectar and pollen, but fermenting fallen fruits also provide food for bees, beetles and butterflies.

Plant in Groups, and Plant a Lot – Planting in groups increases the efficiency by which the pollinator can feed on your plants. That makes it easier both to gather the pollen and to transfer the pollen to the same species, rather than depositing it on a plant that can’t use it.

Plant Many Different Plants – This “biodiversity” will attract and support a bevy of different pollinators while also making your garden more interesting and beautiful to behold.

Don’t Necessarily Weed – What may be a weed to you may be another great source of nectar and pollen to a pollinator. Before you pull a weed, make sure it’s not breakfast, lunch or dinner for the insects and birds you’ve started attracting to your yard.

Grow Different Sizes of Plants, but Also Leave Bare Soil – Different birds and insects inhabit plants at different heights, so make a variety available. Dead tree snags make good shelter, as does bare soil for ground nesting insects.

Provide Water – A pond with gently moving water so mosquitoes don’t proliferate provides drinking and bathing water for pollinators, as does a small container, like the bottom dish of a planter. Make sure the sides slope so the animals can approach the water without drowning.

Grow Organically – Skip the toxic pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers. Pollinators are small to tiny animals and even extremely smalldoses of potent chemicals can kill or harm them.

Plant for Beauty as Well as For Bounty – Make sure you enjoy your garden as much as the pollinators do. Plan your garden so you have something blooming spring, summer, fall and even winter. You may not drink the nectar of the plants you cultivate, but there’s no reason why you can’t relish their gorgeous blooms and rich fragrances.


Use Your Summer Gardening to Attract Butterflies and Bees

Beautiful Wildflower Gardens

Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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Want Pollinators to Visit Your Yard? Here’s How to Attract Them.

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Here’s What’s Killing 4 Important Pollinators (And How You Can Stop It)

Why are so many animals that pollinate our flowers, trees and food crops under siege? Generally speaking, it’s because we humans don’t value these creatures enough to band together to protect them.

So much food is available in grocery stores and farmers markets, it’s probably hard to believe that our food system might actually be threatened due to lack of pollination.

Regardless of the reason for our nonchalance, it’s a mistake. That’s because the creatures that pollinate the plants that produce our food also pollinate the plants that support the very web of life, what scientists call biodiversity. So even if you don’t care whether bees will be around to pollinate your almonds or apples, you should probably worrythat pollinatingbees, butterflies, bats and birdsmay not be around to helpthousands of plants survive in the wild.Because without all those wild plants, entire ecosystems could collapse.

To drive the point home, here’s a description of what’s killing four pollinators we depend on for both food and beauty and what you can do to stop it.

Honey Bees and Bumble Bees– Honey bees live in colonies of tens of thousands, buzzing around in a hive or a colony. The colonies have become infected with a bacteria called Paenibacillus larvae. The bees themselves have been attacked by mites. Both the mites and the bacteria, plus pesticide exposure, and the disruptive way the bees are trucked around the country to pollinate crops like almonds, have led to what scientists call colony collapse disorder.

Climate change is also a large factor, because warming global temperatures has accelerated flowering seasons and the bees haven’t quite caught up yet. In other words, flowers that bees normally depend on for food have bloomed and faded before the bees arrive to feed on them. Bees are also particularly susceptible to a kind of pesticide called a neonicotinoid. “Fully half of the 46 or 47 species of bumble bees in the U.S. seem to be in some level of decline,” reports Bioscience.

What you can do: You can help make a difference by not only gardening organically yourself, but by shifting your spending to purchasing organically grown food. Consumer demand creates the financial incentives farmers need to stop using insecticides. Show them there’s a market for food grown with pollinators in mind. On the energy front, do your part to help put the breaks on climate change by driving less, switching to solar and wind, and saving energy at home and at work. Here are some great energy saving tips you can adopt today.

Monarch Butterflies – Any animal that migrates is particularly at risk, because opportunities for them to be exposed to threats occur all along their migratory path and at virtually every stage of their life cycle. One such case is that of monarch butterflies.

These elegant creatures have a complex life cycle that takes them, in some cases all the way from the eastern seaboard of the U.S. to Mexico, a trip of 2,000 miles. As they travel,they need flowers on which to lay their eggs and nectar to eat. But lack of their primary food source, milkweed, along with rampant pesticide spraying, habitat loss and climate change, is killing monarchs in alarming numbers. Scientists say that the number of monarchs that overwintered in Mexico in 2012-2013 was only 59 percent of those that overwintered the year before, reports Bioscience. Monarchs cannot survive cold winters so they have no choice but to migrate.

What you can do:Grow a butterfly garden that will provide both food for the adults and host plants on which adults can lay eggs to support new populations. Practice organic gardening, planting milkweed and other plants that monarchs specifically love. Consider becoming a Certified Monarch Waystationand convince your neighbors and community to do the same.

Bats – In addition to loss and degradation of habitat, bats may be killed indiscriminately simply because people aresuperstitious about them or fear bats carry disease. Bats are also hunted for food and folk medicine. Non-native, invasive species like snakes, ants and feral pigs can also take their toll. Bat Conservation International saysas many as 25 of the 47 U.S. and Canadian bat species may be vulnerable to the introduced fungusPseudogymnoascus destructans, the cause of White-nose Syndrome. By some estimates, WNS has killed more than 6 million bats since 2006 in central and eastern North America.

What you can do: Support global bat conservation by “adopting” a baby bat. Urge your elected officials to support national and global policies that will protect endangered bat “hot spots,” reduce habitat destruction and fund research into strategies to protect bats. At home, build bat houses to make it easy for bats to reproduce, raise their young and shelter in a safe place. You can find instructions here.

Hummingbirds – Hummingbirds are important in the U.S. for the role they play in pollinating wildflowers. Because hummingbirds have good eyes, they’re particularly attracted to bright colors like red, yellow or orange. They love flowers that produce abundant nectar, so they manage to collect pollen on their heads and back when they stick their long beaks into the flower blossom to take a nectary slurp.

But hummingbirds face a lot of threats. Like other animals, they’re losing habitat as suburbs expand, industrial agriculture spreads and clearcutting knocks down forests. Hummingbirds are much smaller than may other birds which makes them more vulnerable to pesticides, insecticides, fertilizers and pollution. They could be attacked by cats, fly into windows or get diseases from dirty hummingbird feeders. Plus, invasive plants might crowd out the native nectar producers that hummingbirds need to survive.

What you can do: If you have a cat, keep it inside, particularly during the day, when hummingbirds are out and feeding. Put up a hummingbird feeder, but clean it regularly so that the food it provides is clean and healthy to eat. Of course, garden organically and use no toxic chemicals in and around your yard. Urge your neighbors to do the same, and work with local officials to create non-toxic, safe habitats for all of the pollinators that visit your ecoregion. And plantcardinal flowers and other plants specifically to attract and nourish hummingbirds.

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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Here’s What’s Killing 4 Important Pollinators (And How You Can Stop It)

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What’s Better: CSA, Farmers Market, Grocery Store, or Garden?

Whenfruit and vegetable stands are about to be filled with all kinds of fabulous summer produce, does it make more sense to buy from a CSA, farmer’s market, or grocery store? And where does your own garden fit in?

Here are the pros and cons of each option, designed to help you maximize your access to fresh and delicious locally grown, hopefully organic, food.

CSA:CSA stands for “community supported agriculture.” Farmers sell “shares” in the food they harvest; consumers sign up at the beginning of the growing season, and then get fresh food usually every week throughout thesummer and fall.

PROS: An advantage of the farmers is that they get investments up front to help with cash flow. The number of CSA shares they sell will tell them what demand for their food will be. Consumers have the chance tobuild a relationship with the people who grow their food, and also get very fresh food. Plus, CSA shareholder may be able to visit the farm their food comes from and help with harvesting and other chores.

CONS: One complaint some people have about CSAs is that they get a lot of greens they don’t necessarily know what to do with. When lettuce, spinach, kale, mustard and the like start to be harvested, they’reusually available in abundance. Some farmers help by providing recipes on their websites. But farmers also encourage consumers to split shares if they can’t consume everything in a full share in one week. Most CSAs have a pick-up spot that’s central to a lot of shareholders, so when you sign up, make sure it’s convenient to where you work or live. Other CSAs distribute their produce at farmers markets, which is good because you can supplement your share with other produce that your particular farmer might not grow.

Is a CSA cheaper than shopping on your own? It will depend on what you normally buy and what the price of a share or half-share is. You might want to start with a half-share and see how it works for you, both financially and in terms of the choices you have.

You can find the nearest CSA to you at the Local Harvest website.

FARMER’S MARKET:Some farmer’s markets operate all year long; others are spring, summer and fall markets only. Obviously, weather is the determining factor in many regions. I live in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. Our market runs 12 months a year, but food vendors vary, depending on the season. The summer and fall fruit and vegetable growers give way to wineries, cheesemakers, bakeries, and egg producers once the cold weather hits. There is also a hydroponic lettuce grower who sells at our market in the winter, but not the summer.

PROS: Shopping at a farmer’s market is a great experience because the food is so fresh, the farmers are so accessible, and you’ll inevitably run into friends and neighbors. You get to taste almost everything you want to buy. And farmers at the markets have a tendency to grow heirloom varieties, so rather than having one bland Beefsteak tomato to choose from at the grocery store, you might have four or five different, delicious options at the market. You’ll also get food that’s picked when it’s at its ripest, rather than food that’s been picked green and shipped half-way around the world.

CONS: Farmer’s markets can be more expensive than grocery stores because they don’t have the industrial output that allows grocery stores to charge lower prices. Also, farmer’s markets are usually open only once a week, so you can’t necessarily rely on them if you need groceries in the middle of the week. While some farmers markets sell meat and dairy products, selection is usually pretty limited.

GROCERY STORE:Grocery stores have gotten better about stocking food that’s locally grown. Many stores will put up signs so shoppers know what’s local and what’s not.

PROS: Because grocery store chains buy so much food at one time, they’re able to charge much less for it than farmers selling at local markets or CSAs. Grocery stores are open 7 days a week, usually from 7 or 8 in the morning until 10 p.m. or later, and they often deliver. If you get stuck for salad fixings or a dozen eggs, they’re pretty easy to pick up on your way home from work. You can also set up a regular weekly delivery from a lot of grocery stores so you never have to set foot in the actual store. Grocery stores that are buying from local farmers instead of far-away producers are helping to boost the local economy, and of course, grocery stores employ a lot of people locally, too.

CONS: Grocery stores sell a lot of junk and shoppers end up buying — and wasting — food they don’t need because they impulse-buy productsthey see on theshelf. It’s also possible that people waste more food when they shop at a grocery store because they overbuy, something that’s easy to do when you’re pushing a shopping cart around but perhaps less likely if you’re carrying a couple of shopping bags through a farmer’s market. Farmers aren’t on hand in grocery stores, so you don’t get to build a relationship with the people who are growing and harvesting your food. You don’t get to visit the farm, either, since grocery stores usually don’t tell you which farm produced which apple or tomato.

YOUR OWN GARDEN:The garden you plant is about the freshest, most local, and most organic food source you can have.

PROS: You can plant exactly what you like to eat, plus try a few unusual foods to expand your palate. Gardening is great exercise, and will get you outside and active. For many people, gardening is a spiritual and wondrous experience. It’s extremelysatisfying planting seeds, watching them grow, harvesting them, and serving a meal consisting of food produced with your own sweat and care. When you grow your own food, you have total control over what chemicals are used in the process. Growing your own is the cheapest way to get organic food from “field to table.”

CONS: Gardening can be hard work. It takes time and effort to sow seeds, keep garden beds weeded, and ward off bugs if you’re gardening organically. Growing enough food to feed a family for a summer is tough without enough space, though there are ways to use raised beds and companion planting to increase your yields. You need to keep an eye on your own garden and be available to harvest the food when it’s ripe, or all your effort will have been made in vain. You also need to be prepared to water your garden regularly in the event that a drought hits — in which case, you may have a very high water bill. Depending on where you live, rodents and deer might get into your garden and eat your food; birds will happily eat up all the berries when your bushes are ripe. On the other hand, freshly picked tomatoes and beans are absolutely delicious, and extra special because they came from your own yard.

My recommendation is that you take advantage of them all: CSAs, farmer’s markets, the grocery store and your own garden. Find someone to split a CSA share with, and get to know the variety of interesting foods that will inevitably show up in your box. Supplement the share with additional fruits and vegetables from your farmer’s market, and if you need to stop bythe grocery store, shop at the local produce bins first. If you’re new to gardening, start with pots of herbs you can keep in a sunny spot on a porch or patio, along with cherry tomatoes, and even a pot of lettuce. Or be bold, and till a section of your yard so you can plant beans, cucumbers, radishes, and zucchini along with lettuce and tomatoes.


Get a Head Start on Planning Your Organic Salad Garden

Want to Support Local Farmers and Get Fresh Food? join a CSA.

Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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What’s Better: CSA, Farmers Market, Grocery Store, or Garden?

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Posted in alternative energy, Cyber, eco-friendly, FF, G & F, GE, LAI, LG, Monterey, ONA, organic, organic gardening, PUR, solar, solar power, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Young Analysts Press the Case for Innovation, and Tolerance, in Pursuing a Post-Carbon Energy Menu