Thanks to climate change, the summer sunflowers in your garden could start peeking out before the end of spring.

RODALE NEWS, EMMAUS, PA—Turn on the news, and it’s easy to see how climate change can cause major disasters around the globe. In Somalia, tens of thousands are fleeing the cracked, water-starved land to seek food. In America, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack promised continued multimillion-dollar financial support to farmers affected by catastrophic drought or out-of-the-ordinary rains and floods. Data released on Monday by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) found last month to be the fourth hottest July on record, with 41 of the lower 48 states recording above-normal, much-above-normal, or a record-warm July.

The takeaway? climate change is hitting close to home. We’re talking in-your-backyard kind of close. For home gardeners, climate change is messing with growing seasons, shortening spring and lengthening summer and fall. So a new partnership between NOAA and the American Public Gardens Association is aiming to help gardeners and city planners ID climate change on the local level and protect crops and green spaces in the face of climate destabilization.

THE DETAILS: The two groups teamed up to create a pilot project that seeks to educate gardeners on the local impacts of climate change as it relates to gardening. The exhibit, located at Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, features signs illustrating changes in hardiness zones. Visitors can also pull out a cellphone and dial a specific number to hear scientists go into more detail regarding climate change and gardens. (The number is 610-717-5599, ext. 380# and 381#. FYI, it’s not toll-free.) Even if you don’t live in the Philadelphia area, an exhibit may be coming to your area soon; the American Public Gardens Association plans to install similar climate change displays in public gardens throughout the United States.

WHAT IT MEANS: As most of us watch severe drought ravage Texas and ruin many farmers’ summer crops in that state, you may not realize that the same problems could soon plague your own garden, though on a much smaller scale. July’s extreme heat exacerbated drought conditions, causing the largest exceptional drought footprint in NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center’s 12 years of collecting data. In some areas, drought conditions exceeded those seen in the Dust Bowl era, and some climate experts say such extreme weather could be the new normal.

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We have seen freak weather in Canada already this summer, so it makes sense to know how to protect your seeds in Toronto while they are growing.

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Below you’ll find 11 of the coolest and most useful organic products for the serious or novice organic gardener.  We’ve looked hard to find items that are safe for you, your family, and the environment and that work great.  What’s more, you’ll find that they are just as effective chemically-based products.

Tumbleweed Compost Bin

1. Tumbleweed Compost Bin

The Tumbleweed Compost Bin is one of the coolest composters on the market.  It has a unique patented design that allows for quick aerobic decomposing of organic material, and well-mixed compost.  It tumbles vertically and has a steel rod in the middle of the compost bin.  Tumbling ensures that your compost will be well aerated.  This speeds the decomposing process and reduces odors. The Tumbleweed is designed to have virtually no smell so it won’t attract pests.

The steel rod in the middle of compost this bin further aids the process of mixing and decomposing.  Even when the compost inside the Tumbleweed gets heavy, it’s still easy to turn and mix.  Because of its ease of use and unusual design, members of the National Home Gardening Club gave the Tumbleweed Compost Bin a 100% Approval Percentage rating.  Read the results of their test.  

Compost is one of the most important ingredients in organic gardening.  By building up the soil with compost, you can improve soil drainage, pH, and nutrient content.  This means your plants will be healthier, and more resistant to pests and disease.  Using compost will also help you reduce the amount of fertilizers you need in your garden and landscaping. 

If you’d like to learn more about the benefits of compost, please see this handy composting guide

Mycorrhizal Root Builder

2. Mycor Root Builder

Mycorrhizae are tiny, naturally occurring beneficial fungi that attach themselves to plants’ roots.  They help plants to extract organic nutrients from the soil.  Unfortunately, many garden soils are poor in mycorrhizal fungi.  The good news is that you can stimulate their growth and get them to work more efficiently with Garden-Ville Mycorrhizal Fungi Root Builder.  This natural gardening product contains Endomycorrhiza, Ectomycorrhiza, Scleroderma, Kelp, Zeolite, and Humate.  It will work to green up and improve the health of ornamental and edible plants in your garden, and even turf grass. You can apply it to new transplants or you can penetrate deeper into the soil with a coring drill or auger to treat established plants.

For more information about mycorrhizal fungi, please see this website

fish meal fertilizer

3. Fish Meal Natural Fertilizer

Fish meal is a natural fertilizer that gardeners and farmers often used before the advent of inorganic fertilizers.  Thankfully, this natural gardening product is still readily available on the market today.  It contains important trace elements, making it a complete plant food. Fish meal is rated as a 10-5-0 organic fertilizer. This means that fish meal works quickly to feed your plants and provides plenty of phosphorous and organic nitrogen.   Avoid over fertilizing your plants, use a mild natural fertilizer like fish meal fertilizer instead!

You can read more about the benefits of fish meal and other natural garden amendments at this University of Florida website. 

kelp meal fertilizer

4. Organic Kelp Meal

Kelp meal is a great fertilizer for all your garden plants and even your lawn.  In addition to organic material, kelp has a high content of plant growth hormones and essential minerals. Kelp meal fertilizers are made from brown seaweed harvested from cold ocean waters. After harvest, the kelp is dried and ground into a powder. 

Kelp meal provides a slow, sustained release of nutrients instead of the quick injection of minerals that some chemical fertilizers provide.  With some chemical fertilizers, your plants may not actually be able to absorb all the fertilizer, so it ends up running off or leaching into the ground.  A slower released fertilizer ensures that your plants will use all that they need with minimal waste. Look for kelp meals that are certified as organic! 
 
Electronic Soil Tester

5. Electronic Soil Tester

We all know that successful gardening starts off with high quality soil.  But how do you know if your soil has the proper nutrients, moisture, drainage, and pH to grow a great garden?  An electronic soil tester can help. 

Electronic soil testers allow you to check the conditions of the soil so that you can adjust the soil when needed.  You can test things like total combined nitrogen, phosphorus and potash levels, pH, soil moisture, and even light intensity. 

To use this handy garden gadget, simply take a sample, insert the probes, and select the kind of test you’d like to take.  You can compare the pH against the recommended levels to determine if a fertilizer treatment is needed.  When you use the tester near plant roots, you can take a reading of soil moisture to see if your plants need a drink.   In addition to soil and moisture tests, you can see if your plants are getting enough light with the photocell on top of the meter. 

This is a great tool for all gardeners that will take the guess work out of many of your gardening chores. 

garden apron

6. Waistie Garden Apron

The Waistie Garden Apron is the ultimate gardening gadget for when you’re doing daily pruning, deadheading, or harvesting in the garden.  This garden apron includes pouches for holding tools and a large pocket useful for filling with cuttings, herbs, tomatoes, etc.  When you’re ready to empty it, just use the handy zipper and there you go!  You’re ready to fill it up again.  A great feature is that the apron keeps your hands free to concentrate on your garden tasks.  The Waistie garden apron is also ergonomically designed to save your from back from stress and strain. 

liquid organic lawn fertilizer

7. HastaGro Organic Liquid Lawn Fertilizer

Ideally, you should leave your grass clippings on the lawn after you mow to decompose and naturally add organic material to the soil.  This will cut back on the amount of fertilizer you need apply to your lawn.  However, you’ll probably need to fertilize the lawn every once and a while.  The best fertilizer you can use in this case is a natural or organic fertilizer. 

When you fertilize your grass, try out HastaGro Organic Liquid Lawn Fertilizer.  This product has a NPK rating of 12-4-8, meaning it will provide all the nutrients your turf needs.  It also contains Medina Soil Activator and Humate Liquid Humus. 

HastaGro Organic Liquid Lawn Fertilizer is ideal for turfgrass as it works both to stimulate beneficial soil organisms and to give your turfgrass a deep feeding of essential nutrients, making it a highly effective liquid organic fertilizer.  Remember that all fertilizers, organic or chemical, need to be applied properly.  Read the instructions carefully and don’t apply any kind of fertilizers if it’s not necessary!

green cure

8. GreenCure Organic Fungicide

Harmful fungi are a common cause of problems with garden and landscaping plants.  Unfortunately, there are not many plants out there that are immune to the effects of soil borne fungal diseases.  But before you go out and dump potentially harmful fungicides on your plants, try out GreenCure organic fungicide

Universities have conducted over 200 trials of GreenCure and have found it to be just as effective as chemical fungicides against powdery mildew, Phomopsis blight, Septoria leaf spot, rose black spot, anthracnose, downy mildew and many other common fungal diseases. 

GreenCure contains food grade materials including potassium bicarbonate which are “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS) by the FDA.  I wouldn’t recommend eating it, but I would definitely feel good about using it on my veggie and fruit crops.  It is perfect for all your ornamental and edible crops, and even your lawn. 

GreenCure is popular with commercial growers for treating larger plots and it is used in many commercial vegetable farms, vineyards, production greenhouses, and orchards.  Once applied, it will keep working for up to 2 weeks to help prevent fungal diseases.  Additionally, it does not kill beneficial insects and does not accumulate in the soil. 

Organic Insecticide

8. Organic Insect Killer

No matter how hard you try to avoid it, you’ll always be dealing with insect pests in the garden.  Even if you use organic techniques like companion planting, you may still have occasional invasions of unwanted insects.  Fortunately, natural insecticides derived from citrus oils have been found to be very effective for treating most common insects. 

Natural Insecticide & Fungicide for Fruits, Vegetables is made from natural garlic and organic peperming oil and kills a host of common insect pests.

If you’re having problems with scales, caterpillars, snails, slugs, adult whiteflies, fire ants, aphids, cabbage loopers, flea beetles, Japanese beetles, leafhoppers, mealybugs, mites, rose chafers, or other common insect pests, this natural insecticide and fungicide will effectively take care of these bugs on contact without harming you, your pets, or the environment.  It’s so safe that you can even use it to kill bugs the day you harvest your edible crops. 

hot pepper wax

9. Hot Pepper Wax Animal and Insect Repellent

If you’ve got fruits and vegetables in your garden, then you’ve probably found that there are animals and insects out there that unfortunately enjoy eating them just as much as you do.  Gophers, rabbits, squirrels, prairie dogs, and hedge hogs are all potential threats to your crop.  So what’s the best way to deal with this problem without harming the environment?

When growing edible crops, we feel that it’s especially important to use safe garden products. After all, why would you want to put potentially harmful chemicals on something you and your family are going to eat? 

That’s why Hot Pepper Wax Animal spray is a great alternative to chemical repellents.  Animals hate the stuff because it doesn’t come with beer and corn chips like the delicious salsa that people eat, so they won’t bother messing with your garden. You can safely use it on vegetables, fruits, herbs, flowers, and ornamentals.  It contains a concentrated mix of cayenne pepper oils.  When you spray it on your plants, it has a food grade wax that helps it stick to the plants so that it won’t wash off easily in the rain. 

If you’re worried about residual pepper oils on your vegetables, don’t worry.  Simply wash off your veggies and they’re safe to eat.  There’s no residual pepper taste.  You can even harvest your tomatoes and eat them safely the same day you apply the pepper spray. 

cape cod weeder

10. Ultra Effective Cape Cod Weeder

Everyone struggles with weeds in the garden.  Instead of using chemical herbicides, try out a Cape Cod Weeder to get rid of those weeds.  This weeder has an ingenious design that makes weeding amazingly easy.

It is designed to remove weeds from the roots without disrupting the soil.   You can really get around small areas in your garden with its unique design.  There is even a left handed cape cod weeder manufactured by the same company so you can weed with two hands.  This handy garden gadget is made by a company that has over 100 years of experience manufacturing gardening tools.  This goes to show that some old the oldest ideas and designs are still some of the best!

Terracycle

11. Terracycle Organic Plant Food

TerraCycle organic plant food is an awesome natural gardening product.  It takes recycling to a whole new level.  The contents are made out of recycled organic waste and the packaging is made from recycled soda bottles!  When you purchase Terracycle, you’re not only reducing the use of chemical fertilizers in your own neighborhood, you’re actually cleaning up the environment when you use it! 

TerraCycle is great for spraying directly on houseplants and all your outdoor landscaping and garden plants.  It is currently used in large-scale commercial agricultural productions as well.  Rutgers University tested TerraCycle and found that it outperforms chemical inorganic plant foods. 

Having the right tools to grow you seeds in toronto can make the differences between a relaxing time pulling out weeds at your leisure or you pulling your hair out! Although natural gardening is the best way to go about it, there is no reason you cannot get a little bit of help.

Heirloom vegetables: Are they better than hybrids?

Heirloom vegetables, especially tomatoes, are very popular with gardeners these days. Are they better than newer hybrids?

I had a reader ask me not long ago, “What do they mean when they say that a vegetable is an heirloom?”

Good question, since to me many of the so-called heirlooms of today I remember as new introductions to the gardening scene. I remember many of them being highly praised for their taste, good growing habit, and ease of culture.

In the past few years, gardeners have found that many of the older varieties are as good if not better than many of the newly introduced varieties. This is often found in tomatoes, but is true of other vegetables as well.

Heirlooms growing in popularity

Many of the new hybrids are great, but many of the older varieties are just as good, and gardeners have been finding this out. So, many of the old varieties are once again listed in many catalogs and labeled as “heirlooms.”

I was reminded of this when I got a brochure advertising the National Heirloom Exposition to be held in Santa Rosa, Calif., at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds. It will be held Sept. 13, 14, and 15, and will have a large display of heirloom produce, up to, they say, more than 3,000 varieties of heirlooms. Click here to check it out.

Fans of heirlooms

Am I a gardener who loves heirlooms? Well, maybe. Yes, I grow some heirlooms, but I also grow many new varieties as they come on the market. My son-in-law, John Kinnear, is a great proponent of heirlooms, especially tomatoes, and he swears by them as the best. (See the photo of his garden above.)

Bill MacDowell, who was president of the Burpee Seed Co. when I worked there, grows heirlooms, too, but, he says, “I am not an heirloom nut.” Bill is growing more than 60 tomato varieties this year, and he says half of them might qualify as heirlooms.

His many tomatoes, as well as other produce he grows, are sold at his so-called “charity” vegetable stand. “It’s open 24/7,” he says, “with a coffee can, my mother’s scale, and a price list.” The honor system works most of the time, but a few people don’t pay.

Mr. MacDowell gives the proceeds of the vegetable sales at his stand go to five different groups in Bucks County, Pa.

So these experiences show that there are plenty of excellent heirlooms out there, and, in my opinion, even more good, new introductions each year for discriminating gardeners. They both have a place in our gardens.

—–

Gerald Burke is a travel and horticultural writer who lives in southern California. He spent more than 30 years in the seed business and is a member of the Garden Writers Association. To read more of what he has written here at Diggin’ It, click here.

Interesting and informative article looking at heirloom and hybrid seeds and what makes a seed fall into either category. The writer gives a very balanced case and can give you some real insight into what types of seeds in toronto you wish to plant.

7 Different Strategies To Plan Your Vegetable Garden

January 28, 2009 by Plangarden

So what vegetables should I grow in my garden?”

Invariably, the response will be a long list of questions like climate, soil, what they like to eat/cook, etc. that borders on interrogation –  mouths agape, eyes glazed, head bobbing up and down, trying to take it all in.  Yes, it can be tedious to think about these things!

So to make it a little bit easier, here are several preliminary approaches you can take in deciding what to plant.  You can certainly follow more than one strategy, keeping in mind your climate, soil, acreage, and personal tastes.

  1. Refrigerator Method. Open your fridge and think what has been in it over the last 12 months.  What are things you will always find and what are “one-offs”?  If you have a good climate for growing vegetables, this is the best method because you know you will use what you grow.
  2. Native Method. If you already know what grows in your area, then focus on what grows well.  Don’t grow artichokes if you have hot summers.  Don’t grow carrots if you’ve got heavy, clay soil.
  3. Frugal Method.  Grow vegetables that are expensive at the supermarket.  Think of short shelf life, high consumption veggies like lettuce, or lower production volume but delicious cherry tomatoes that can cost $3 for just a half quart!
  4. Anti-Pesticide Method.  You may want to grow certain vegetables that have the highest pesticide load, such as sweet bell peppers, celery, lettuce, spinach, potatoes, carrots and green beans.
  5. Tiny Garden Method. If you have limited space to grow, then you may find herbs and vegetables that don’t take up much space to be your favorites.  You may also like the Square Foot Gardening techniques by Mel Bartholomew.
  6. Squirrel Garden Method. The opposite of the Tiny Garden Method and may require a large area.  If like a squirrel with its acorns, you want to stow away vegetables for the winter, then think about setting aside garden space for storage vegetables like potatoes, onions and garlic.  Think of what can be dried (beans, herbs) or canned/frozen (tomato sauce).  We highly recommend Yin-Yang beans!
  7. Impress The Neighbors Method.  Ok, so I am guilty of doing this with our purple artichokes that grow next to the sidewalk (purple anything is a great conversation piece). Go through your seed catalogs until you say “What the heck is that?” and then if it grows in your area, grow it in your garden.  Grow it in your front yard to befuddle neighbors walking by with their dogs.

7 great tips to planning your garden and getting your seeds in toronto blooming the way they should. I love that this guide is so practical and the people that wrote it literally spend all their time helping people plan gardens so it is a great organic seed planting tool!

http://s.ytimg.com/yt/swfbin/watch_as3-vflAmVWmP.swf

Good little video, with some tips on growing vegetable seeds in toronto gardens. The video is pretty long for a you tube offering and contains lots of information for any one looking to grow vegetables. From an urban garden perspective rather than a more rural / farming viewpoint.

Why it Matters to Buy Heirloom Plants and Seeds

posted by Annie B. Bond Nov 28, 1999 12:19 pm
Why it Matters to Buy Heirloom Plants and Seeds

The loss of genetic seed diversity facing us today may lead to a catastrophe far beyond our imagining. The Irish potato famine, which led to the death or displacement of two and a half million people in the 1840s, is an example of what can happen when farmers rely on only a few plant species as crop cornerstones.

One blight wiped out the single potato type that came from deep in the Andes mountains; it did not have the necessary resistance. If the Irish had planted different varieties of potatoes, one type would have most likely resisted the blight.

We can help save heirloom seeds by learning how to buy and save these genetically diverse jewels ourselves.

ABOUT SEEDS
One kind of seed, called First generation hybrids (F1 hybrids), have been hand-pollinated, and are patented, often sterile, genetically identical within food types, and sold from multinational seed companies.

A second kind of seeds are genetically engineered. Bioengineered seeds are fast contaminating the global seed supply on a wholesale level, and threatening the purity of seeds everywhere. The DNA of the plant has been changed. A cold water fish gene could be spliced into a tomato to make the plant more resistant to frost, for example.

A third kind of seeds are called heirloom or open-pollinated, genetically diverse jewels that have been passed on from generation to generation.

With heirloom seeds there are 10,000 varieties of apples, compared to the very few F1 hyprid apple types.

The Mayan word “gene” means “spiral of life.” The genes in heirloom seeds give life to our future. Unless the 100 million backyard gardeners and organic farmers keep these seeds alive, they will disappear altogether. This is truly an instance where one person–a lone gardener in a backyard vegetable garden–can potentially make all the difference in the world.

Here are two sources for finding heirloom seeds from seed saving organizations. These organizations represent a movement of several thousand backyard gardeners who are searching the countryside for endangered vegetables, fruits and grains.

The Seed Savers Exchange
The Seed Savers Exchange (SSE), is a non-profit tax-exempt organization that is saving old-time food crops from extinction.

Kent and Diane Whealy founded SSE in 1975 after an elderly, terminally ill relative bestowed three kinds of garden seeds brought from Bavaria four generations earlier.

The Whealys began searching for other “heirloom varieties” (seeds passed down from generation to generation) and soon discovered a vast, little-known genetic treasure.

SSE’s members are maintaining thousands of heirloom varieties, traditional Indian crops, garden varieties of the Mennonite and Amish, vegetables dropped from all seed catalogs and outstanding foreign varieties. Each year hundreds of members use SSE’s publications to distribute such seeds to ensure their survival.

Each winter SSE publishes a 304-page Seed Savers Yearbook which contains names and addresses of 900 members and 6,000 listings of rare vegetable and fruit varieties that they are offering to other gardeners. Seeds are obtained by writing directly to the members who are listing those varieties.

The Seed Savers Exchange.

Native seeds/SEARCH
Native seeds/SEARCH (NS/S) is a non-profit seed conservation organization working to preserve the traditional native crops of the U.S. Southwest and Northwest Mexico. For centuries Native American farmers have grown corn, squash, beans and other crops under a variety of growing conditions.

NS/S encourages the continued use of these plants in their native habitats, and also distributes them widely to home gardeners, researchers and free of charge to Native American farmers. Wild relatives of crops–such as wild beans, chiles, gourds and cotton–are included in Native Seeds/SEARCH’s conservation efforts.

NS/S’s informative annual seed catalog lists more than 200 varieties for sale. Each crop listing includes seed saving information as well as culture and folklore.

Great article, with loads of information for planting organic and heirloom seeds in toronto. Heirloom seeds are actually easier to find than you think and there are a number of nurseries in Toronto that have a great selection. Also, check out Canadian on-line retailers.

By Nikki Phipps
(Author of The Bulb-o-licious Garden)

tarragon

While it’s not particularly attractive, tarragon is a hardy herb commonly grown for its aromatic leaves and peppery-like flavor, which is used in flavoring many dishes, but especially popular for flavoring vinegar. Although tarragon is best grown from seedlings, cuttings, or divisions, some varieties can be propagated from seeds. Growing tarragon can add a sophisticated herb to your garden.

Tarragon Seeds

Tarragon seeds should be started indoors around April or before your area’s last expected frost. It’s usually easier to sow about 4-6 seeds per pot using moist, composted potting soil. Cover the seeds lightly and keep them in low light at room temperature. Once seedlings begin to sprout, or reach a couple inches tall, they can be thinned down to one plant per pot, preferably the healthiest or strongest looking.

Growing Tarragon Herb

Seedlings can be transplanted outdoors once temperatures have significantly warmed. Tarragon herb plants should be grown in areas receiving full sun. Space tarragon plants approximately 1 ½ – 2 feet apart to ensure adequate air circulation as well. They should also be located in well-drained, fertile soil.

However, these hardy plants will tolerate and even thrive in areas having poor, dry or sandy soil. Tarragon has a vigorous root system, making it quite tolerant of arid conditions. Established plants do not require frequent watering, outside of extreme drought. Applying a generous layer of mulch in fall will help the plants throughout winter too. They can also be grown year round indoors as house plants or in the greenhouse.

Harvesting and Storing Tarragon Herb Plants

You can harvest both the leaves and flowers of tarragon herb plants. Harvesting usually takes place in late summer. While best used fresh, tarragon plants can be frozen or dried until ready for use. Plants should be divided every 3-5 years as well.

French Tarragon Plants

French tarragon plants can be grown the same as other tarragon varieties. What sets these plants apart from other tarragon plants is the fact that French tarragon cannot be grown from seeds. Instead, when growing tarragon of this variety, which is prized for its superior anise-like flavor, must be propagated by cuttings or division only.

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Great and informative article about growing Tarragon. Herbs make perfect seeds in toronto urban garden choices mainly because they take up so much space. I would always advise organic seeds, but have you considered heirloom Tarragon seeds, its easy to find varieties that will provide you something out of the ordinary,