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   Mon, Jul 15, 2019 | 21:01 MST

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Organic Gardening
Wayside Gardens    Park Seed

Organic/Biodynamic Gardening

by John Livingstone, Founder,

At GGR we have heard a great deal about the emphasis on pure foods available in Costa Rica. Of course, the climate is great, but we wanted to learn more about organic and biodynamic farming techniques.

Through our research we learned of a place called Finca Luna Nueva in a Tico Times article. Author Janiva Cifuentes-Hiss wrote, "Finca Luna Nueva has long been a destination for the world's foremost ethnobotanists, researchers and students for its Sacred Seed Sanctuary, innovative biodynamic agriculture and organic medicinal herb production."

The finca, or farm, is now open to guests. Beautiful rooms are complemented by the rainforest setting.

The farm reflects the vision of New Chapter, the first company in the world to produce a full line of whole-food complex vitamins and supplements certified to be made with organic ingredients.

NewChapter's web site states, "A vision of New Chapter President and Co-CEO Tom Newmark, we originally started the farm because most commercial ginger is heavily sprayed and fumigated, and we needed a consistent, superior-quality supply of organic ginger that exploded with flavor and phytonutrient benefit. For us, Finca Luna Nueva has become a paradise, and hopefully for others, a world model of organic, biodynamic, sustainable agriculture.

We traveled to the finca and met Steven Farrell, farm manager, and a real inspiration. Steven has 30 years of experience as an organic and biodynamic farmer in California, Puerto Rico and Costa Rica. Biodynamics, as described by Janiva is a "holistic form of agriculture that goes hand in hand with permaculture, or permanent agriculture based on living systems. The approach is based on diversity, living soil and ecological systems, rather than chemical inputs found in conventional agriculture."

"In permaculture, every element has at least five uses. For example, a single plant might simultaneously provide shade for other crops, give fruit, provide a home for wild birds, fix nitrogen in the soil and repel certain pests. Even the farm's sheep, water buffalo, cows, worms, goats, chickens, ducks, oxen, turkeys and pigs serve multiple roles in agro-ecological systems."

Steven took us on a tour of the finca and gave us an easy to understand example of this type of farming. The chickens have a henhouse built on wheels and they are surrounded by a moveable fence. Within the fence, the chickens are free to roam and eat grasses and grubs. As they eat, their waste is also fertilizing the land. Every day or so the fencing and henhouse are moved to create a new feeding area. The original area grows new grasses for future feeding. Beautiful, tasty, pesticide-free and very fresh eggs are served everyday at mealtimes.

Steven adds, "No permaculture farm would be complete without animals. At Luna Nueva, gentle oxen allow us to avoid the pollutants created by tractors and other farm equipment while goats happily clear rested fields for planting. Three to four hundred varieties of butterflies and numerous monkeys provide endless entertainment for the "kids" of all our co-habitating species."

Please watch for future articles about this wonderful place. For more information please visit As well, future topics as a follow-up to our visit will be on the Earth School of Tropical Agriculture, the National Organic Program (NOP), Demeter USA and Ecologica.

Plow & Hearth

Grow Your Own Organic Herbs and Veggies!

by Amanda Quraishi, Austin TX

The health benefits of organic foods has been established in countless studies, but for the ultimate ‘green’ diet, you can grow your own organic herbs and veggies to supplement what you buy at the store! Even if you only have a small space like an apartment patio, you are going to be able to grow some produce. You'll use almost no energy, you can be sure it is 100% organic, and you'll have a real sense of satisfaction that comes from the ancient tradition of growing your own food.

• Seeds
The first thing you want to do is decide what you want to grow. There are several factors involved with this decision, including your geographic location, the time you have to spend taking care of your garden, and of course, your personal preferences about what you like to eat. Keep in mind that there are certain pairings of plants which work well together through companion planting. This technique boosts the plants' germination or helps control the insect population without the use of pesticides.
Once you've made your decision about what to plant, you can buy your seeds from the internet, from local nurseries, or you can harvest them yourself from the organic veggies you eat.

• Soil, Compost, and Fertilizer
Start with the highest quality soil you can find. If you need to, you always have the option to buy organic soil to get yourself started. Then, if you have the space, make your own compost; or you can buy organic compost to mix in to the soil. When it comes to fertilizing your plants, there are plenty of natural and organic options that you can purchase or even make yourself. Since soil is the building block of any green garden, don't skimp on these three things, because they are essential to a healthy, nutritious final product. There are literally thousands of resources online and off that can provide you with the necessary information to optimize your soil.

• Harvesting
When your veggies are ripe, it's time to enjoy! Share your crop with your friends and family. Make sure you freeze, can, or pickle items that you won't be able to consume right away. Even though your veggies are organic, wash them gently with a vegetable wash and inspect them for any damage or decomposition. Taste the tender greens, ripe tomatoes, and crisp cucumbers freshly cut and unseasoned to really experience the joy of an organic garden!

Natural Sprays for Insects

by Alison Kroulek

Almost everyone hates bugs. Even if you understand and appreciate their ecological function, you still don't want to share your house with them. However, conventional insect sprays are toxic, exposing you, your family, and the surrounding environment to harmful chemicals. Fortunately, going green does not mean having to put up with insects in the home. Resources are available that will help you control bugs safely and naturally.

Conventional pesticides can contaminate soil and groundwater. Like many synthetic chemicals, they break down slowly and can persist in the food chain. Most natural pesticides are made of either minerals or botanical extracts. Many natural pesticides can cause poisoning if handled improperly. However, they break down into nontoxic components very quickly, so they are a much better choice. Some natural insect sprays do not aim to kill insects but rather to repel them. Check the label-if you have a population that you need to kill rather than relocate, a repellent will not solve your problem. You can often make your own natural insect sprays, but some people are too busy. If you are going green but need to control pests, the resources below should help.

• Neem oil sprays: Neem oil is extracted from the neem trea, native to India. Neem repels many insects and also acts as growth regulator, keeping them from maturing and reproducing.

• Essential oil blends: There are many essential oils that are toxic to bugs. Green Light Organics uses clove, sesame and thyme oils in its "Bioganic" Home and Garden insect spray.

• Citrus-derived Ingredients- D-Limonene and linalool are citrus-derived ingredients that kill many insects, including ants. For more information on these products, see the Orange Guard website.

• Pyrethrum / Pyrethrins-These products kill a broad spectrum of insects using extracts from an African species of chrysanthemum.

If you are used to using conventional pesticides, going green can seem like a challenge. Many companies do offer effective natural resources for pest control. If your favorite store does not carry any natural pest control products, ask the manager if they will stock them for you. Or, you can order online.

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