Beginning Gardening Tips

Spring is arriving, which means it’s time for planning and preparing gardens. With the rebirth of healthy eating, many want to grow their own vegetables. However, there's a science and an art to it so I’ve asked 85-year-old master gardener, Robert Taylor, to share a few tips with us. He earned both his undergraduate and graduate degrees from Purdue University’s Agricultural and Horticultural programs; and has spent most of his life successfully growing all varieties of plants, and professionally teaching and helping others do the same. Welcome to Disease Proof, Mr. Taylor.    

      

What’s the first thing to consider when starting a garden?

Make sure the location is sunny, and the top soil is highly organic without pollutants such as mercury and lead. Most every county in the US has a County Extension Office directed by the agricultural university of that state. For a nominal fee, soil samples can be taken to them for testing and recommendations. 

Urban and suburban developments have a lot of clay soil, so most likely black top soil will need to be purchased. Many landscaping companies can haul truckloads of garden soil for a fraction of the cost of bagged soils bought from stores. However, if space is limited, and soil is poor quality, it's best to grow plants in containers filled with bags of potting soil.

 

What’s next?  

At the county extension office you can also pick up a garden planning guide, because it’s important to plan your garden before purchasing seeds and/or seedlings. You can purchase packs of seeds from most any store, including grocery stores. However, I highly recommend buying seeds from reputable garden catalogues such as Burpees, Gurneys, or Henry Fields. Seeds from nurseries are the best as they have been tested and dated for quality germination. To help avoid diseases such as tomato wilt and cucumber wilt, select hybrid seeds that are disease-resistant. They cost a bit more, but are worth the investment. Now is the time to be placing orders for seeds. 

A new product this year from several catalogues is a seed starting kit. Each kit includes a cell growing tray, humidity dome, water reservoir tray, and 55 grow plugs. This combination allows each seedling to take in the proper amount of water for healthy root development and uniform germination of the seeds. This is a great tool for beginning gardeners.

 

In a few weeks, after seedlings are started, Mr. Taylor will discuss tilling, gardening tools, when to plant outdoors, spacing, staking, composting, and controlling insects, diseases and fungus. Also, if you enjoy the aesthetic beauty of flower beds, you can grow vegetables right along with flowers that require full sun. Some gorgeous combinations are spring lettuces and pansies, tomatoes and marigolds, peppers, Swiss chard, kale, and eggplants. 

Enjoy your gardening endeavors!  

 

image credits: chiotsrun.com; coopext.colostate.edu

Nanoparticles in Personal Care Products Harm the Environment

At the National Meeting of the American Chemical Society scientists expressed concern over the environmental and human health risks of nanotechnology, microscopic particles used in personal care products like sunscreen and cosmetics that are highly effective at penetrating the skin. Researchers suggest the chemicals many nanoparticles contain, like nano-titanium dioxide, which blocks ultraviolet rays, may harm the environment, such as possibly disrupting beneficial soil microbes; via EurekAlert!

Like many experts, Dr. Fuhrman acknowledges the potential of nanotechnology, but urges caution. Saying nanoparticles are 70 times smaller than a red blood cell allowing them to penetrate the skin, possibly elude the immune system and reach the brain. Nanotechnology in food packaging has already drawn heavy scrutiny by the United States Food and Drug Administration.

Carbon nanotubes, used to make car bumpers, computer displays and bicycle components, pose health risks similar to inhaling asbestos. So many factories manufacture nanoparticles in closed chemical reactors and require workers to wear respirators.

Image credit: ThinkNik

Veggies, Now with Fewer Nutrients?

Wow, a new study in the Journal of HortScience claims nutrient composition of fruits and vegetables in the United States has been dropping over the last 50 to 100 years, in some cases median declines of 5% to 40% for minerals, with similar results in protein and vitamins. The studied crops, broccoli and wheat, may be victim of the newly recognized genetic dilution effect, referring to the use of genetic methods to increase crop yield, but consequently dilute nutrient concentrations in crops; from U.S. Food Policy.

More reason to buy organic! Organic fruits and veggies usually have more nutrients than conventional produce. According to Dr. Fuhrman, the theory is when plants are forced to deal with the stress, like insects, they produce more compounds beneficial to humans, like flavonoids. Plus organic tastes better and is better for the environment.

In related news, crops grown in dirt fertilized with livestock manure may actually absorb the antibiotics injected into cattle, helping spawn antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Eek!

Via kottke.

Image credit: Elizabeth Thomsen