Garden Tip: Recycle Your Sunflowers

landing pad

Image by .B.P.M. via Flickr

One way to avoid purchasing expensive pre-made trellises and cages for your garden is to make your own from wood or bamboo, but those materials can also be quite costly these days. One alternative is to grow your own!

Sunflowers are not just a great source of beauty for you garden, but they can also be recycled into some pretty nice lightweight stakes.

For best results, I recommend planting the taller varieties of sunflowers. We have several different varieties of sunflowers growing throughout our property and most of our sunflower stakes are in the 5-7 foot range with some of them bearing a diameter of up to 2 inches.

I like the idea, but how do I turn my sunflowers into garden stakes?

Once the flowers have completed their bloom and the plants start to die, simply dig up the sunflowers, remove all the leaves, and then carefully saw off the root balls and let the stalks dry out a bit. The thicker stalks are obviously the strongest, but even some of the smaller stalks prove to be strong enough to help support lightweight vine-type plants in your garden. Keep in mind that sunflower stalks are not wood and they can be crushed or broken so it’s best to tie them to each other as often as possible in order to help distribute any weight that they will bear.

Continue reading

How Green Is Your Chainsaw?

An eco-friendly chainsaw that runs vegetable oil for bar lubricant. Photograph by Todd Bryan PhotographyIf you haven’t done so already, start now and convert your chainsaw into a lean, mean, green, machine. Not only will your garden thank you, but so will the environment.

For anyone that has ever used a chainsaw, you know that they require more then just fuel or electricity. Chainsaws require bar and chain lubricant in order to keep the bar and chain oiled. Since chainsaws rotate the chain at very high RPM’s, the bar and chain oil ends up being sprayed into the environment. Now just think about when you use your chainsaw in the garden, not only does petroleum get slung all over your fruits and vegetables, but much of the oil becomes atomized into the air that you are breathing. Well that’s a problem since it’s a well known fact that petroleum based oil is a carcinogen. If you can smell it, you can be sure that you are polluting your lungs.

So how can I make my chainsaw more environmentally friendly and safer to use in my garden?

Continue reading

Is Your Health At Risk With The Food Safety Modernization Act?

Farmers' Market
Image by NatalieMaynor via Flickr

There is not much time, and I highly encourage you all to act now because Senate Bill S.510 will go to vote by the Senate on November 29, 2010. Please start immediately, and go research Senate bill S.510, also commonly referred to as The Food Safety Modernization Act.

Since the main objective of is to promote awareness rather than propaganda, I will try to differentiate myself from most of the other sites reporting on this issue and let you all form your own opinions.

What is the purpose of The Food Safety Modernization Act?

Continue reading

Wait, What’s Wrong With My Seeds?

My Trip to Comstock, Ferre & Co. + Free Seeds
Image by Chiot’s Run via Flickr

For those of you gardeners out there that prefer to grow your own fruits and vegetables, have you researched your seeds and do you know what you’re actually planting? Unfortunately not all seeds are the same and some seeds may be hybrid or genetically modified. If you care what you are eating then you have to be very careful about what you are planting.

What exactly are seed developers doing to seeds and why?

Large seed developers like Syngenta, Dupont and Bayer, and Monsanto, are genetically modifying and patenting their seed technologies with claims of increased food production for farmers. Monsanto specifically, is engineering a line of genetically modified seeds with Roundup Ready Technology that produces plants that inoculate against the popular herbicide Roundup, which also happens to be a product of Monsanto. Monsanto isn’t just limiting seed modification to it’s herbicide resistant Roundup Ready Technology, but they are also using a process called “trait stacking” which allows them to produce seeds that are not only resistant to Roundup, but also contain insect control for pests above the ground as well as below the ground. It’s these “advantages” that Monsanto claims will help farmers produce higher yielding crops.

What kind of health risk do genetically modified seeds pose?

In the United States, the FDA Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition only reviews summaries of food safety data provided by the developers of the engineered foods. The FDA does not require any specific tests in order to determine that genetically modified food is safe. After review of the food safety data, the FDA does not approve the safety of the genetically modified food but rather, acknowledges that the developer of the food has determined it is safe. Published reports state that no adverse health effects attributed to genetically modified food have been documented in the human population, but without epidemiological studies, it is highly unlikely that any harm that might occur will be detected and attributed to genetically modified food.

Traditionally, farmers saved thier seeds year after year, using them to replant thier crops. Now that seeds are genetically modified, seed developers have protected the seeds under patents. GMO seeds are now subject to licensing by their developers in written contracts that prevent farmers from practicing the tradition of saving seeds for replanting purposes.  Now, because farmers cannot save and replant seeds, they are forced to purchase new seeds for each crop and with seed prices rising at extortionate rates, farmers are beginning to find that the “benefits” are just not worth the extra cost.

Which seeds should I buy and how can I tell if they’ve been genetically modified?

Because the FDA does not require special labeling of genetically modified food unless there is a “material difference” in the final product, responsible product suppliers often identify themselves by adding their own “Non-GMO” label. When buying seeds, look for the “Non-GMO” label or purchase Heirloom seeds sometimes known as “heritage” seeds. Also, be sure to stay away from hybrid seeds, and if you don’t see a “Non-GMO” label, then make sure that they are labeled as certified organic or 100% organic.

What kind of seeds do you use in your garden?