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USDA Organic & True Organic

USDA Organic Standard & Honey
Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook

Many farmers, some apart of the real organic project, and organic growers such as Eliot Coleman have been sounding the alarm, that the USDA standards are not true to organic growing. They allow for some and certain pesticides and include hydroponic foods, which true organic farmers reject because they believe food must be grown in soil to be considered organic. So, while the USDA Organic label provides some standards and guidelines, true organic growers do not believe these standards go far enough and have been broaden to allow corporate industrial complexes to slide in under the label. Do you know what hydroponic growing involves? What do you think of the farmers and growers comments on the USDA standards? As a consumer, what do you think the standards should be? Share your comments with the community by posting your comments below. Share the wealth of health with your friends and family by sharing this article with 3 people today. As always you are the best part of what we do. Keep sharing!

Scroll up and down…learn more about Eliot Coleman and what true organic means.

If these articles have been helpful to you and yours, give a donation to Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook Ezine today.

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Saving Time in the Garden

Garden Sprayer

We do not have many big tools in our garden tool box but, we have a few key tools that have begun to save us a ton of time. The sprayer pictured above is holds a gallon. It pumps the air out of the container and you hold the lever down for a continuous spray powered by air pressure. The more pressure the more liquid sprayed. There are sieves to filter the liquid so, what you put in the container must be fairly liquid. For things that are less liquid like our ground pepper and water mix we use the water can. We can more than cover our garden space with 2 passes of the water can. The holes in the water can are larger and should be able to hold most mixtures you apply to your garden.

Besides watering the garden, we also fertilize on a regular basis. We have also been applying different mixtures to the soil and plants to discourage pests. You will find that your Organic Remedies are less processed than chemical remedies and, thus may require a water can or sprayer that can hold a less refined liquid.  Thus far the water can, oscillating sprinkler and sprayer are all we need to apply what we need to the garden as well as save time. The most expensive item was the water can because we opted for metal over plastic. There is always something to do in the garden so, anytime we can automate or save time in a manner that makes financial sense for our size garden we do so.

Did you know that you can use wooden paint stirrers to stake smaller plants? Do you know how to stake a plant? Read our article “Stake Holder” dated May 9, 2020 to learn more about staking. Curious as to how you can save time in your garden? Just Ask! Did you know that you can get globes that water your house plants as needed? All you do is fill the globe. Want to know more? Just Ask. As always you are the best part of what we do. Keep growing.

If these articles have been helpful to you and yours, give a donation to Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook Ezine today.

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Savings

Nature is an interesting thing. Just when you think you have a pest under control, you do not and just when you think a plant is done, it comes back. During this journey the days have been rare when I have felt ahead of the curve when it comes to pests. Some of the seemingly easiest things to do are not Organic. The Organic Remedy can be that of great patience as it will often work in conjunction with nature and on her time table not ours. If all things are effective, our known pest issues should soon come under control. Things definitely seem to be getting better and not worse although time will tell. We still have a ways to go with the snails and ants in the garden.

The good news is that we believe the Vole was the root of the problem as it was eating our vegetables from underneath the ground. We will be keeping our eyes peeled and hoping things come under control. There are a few things that have truly been time savers for us affording us an opportunity to give our attention to other things in the garden and they both surround watering and pest control applications.

First we purchased a water can, which is designed to mimic the application of water in a manner similar to nature (rain fall). My can is super fast and can cover a large amount of space in a short time. I placed both my fertilizer (promote plant health) and ground black pepper (ant deterrent) in my water can and was able to apply it within minutes. The second solution was an oscillating water sprinkler. By the time we put our salad on the plate for dinner the garden had been watered. We came out to check the sprinkler and had to turn it off because it had spread so much water so fast it was beginning to pool.

These two items saved me so much time I had time to transplant a couple of plants into new pots; clean some previously emptied pots and clean up around the garden. Anytime you can save time around the garden through automation or quick applications for example do so. What are some things you do to save time? What are some new ways you can save time? What is the cost savings or expense to these methods? Does it make sense overall? As always you are the best part of what we do. Keep growing.

If these articles have been helpful to you and yours, give a donation to Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook Ezine today.

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Slug to Snail in 60 Seconds

Garden Snails

When you read Eliot Coleman’s books one of the things he will tell you is that, some of the best farmers are great observers of nature. What we have observed is while nature may take its time to produce a tomato, a slug can turn into a snail within a matter of a day. Either these slugs are very good at hiding or they are very fast at transformation. So, why should the gardener be concerned about such observations and nature?

The Slug was first larva. Most gardeners will tell you that some insects and animals are there to help the processes you need to occur in the garden to produce healthy fruit bearing trees while others are not helpful. Normally they are described as either good or bad bugs as some plants are described as plants and others as weeds. Some things will help you along the way and others things will not. Nonetheless, within it all is the overall balance of nature, which we are still observing. Observing implies that we do not all there is to know about nature.

As we identify those things that are helpful to our Organic Garden Pursuits and those that are not, we can begin to enhance the garden experience by managing these things. First we have to identify those things that are helpful and those things that are not. Then we can decide how to properly address them. An Organic Remedy for larva is different than that of a slug and even a snail. This is not always the case but often there are some differences.

Time is of the essence when you are dealing with those things that are not helpful to your garden. I have found that in the case of the snail things moved very quickly. One day I had larva the next I had slugs and the next I had snails and some at the same time. Just as I was researching one Organic Remedy, my pest had transformed into something else. Yesterday I found that I had to conduct research for the pest and address the pest within the hour albeit it was a snail at this point. I mistook larva for an insect caught in a spider web and while I was still identifying my pest half the crop was being eaten up.

The good news is as one becomes more experienced and quicker to respond the better these issues can be addressed. How do you know when a plant is in trouble? How do you try to get at the root of the problem? How do you identify what the problem is? How can you solve a problem if you do not know what the problem is? As always you are the best part of what we do. Keep growing!

If these articles have been helpful to you and yours, give a donation to Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook Ezine today.

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Bugging

Good Garden Bugs

Being on an Organic Journey there are many organizations that you come to like such as the USDA Organic Certification Program. The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) is one of them. Our government does not do everything right but the EPA is definitely a move in the right direction. We have found them to be a great resource of information. They have compiled a book to help us identify garden bugs, so we know which ones are good and which ones are ‘not helpful’ and how we can address these pests in an Organic manner. Click EPA to get this booklet.

Our transplanted Cabbage and Brussels Sprouts (learn more about effective ways to transplant by reading our May 2, 2020 article “True to Transplanting”) from the garden center, that came to us as small plants, have faced one pest after the other. Just when we got rid of one here came another. They ate both plants before we even had a chance to say harvest. Now we have found that what we believed to have been spider webs was actually larva, big lesson, and they hatched and became what we believe to be slugs. We are pretty certain since we have snails on the garage door and found some on the plants. First, the best thing to do is to remove the larva before they hatch. Just when we reduced the number of ants then came the flies. They were munching on the plants and we did not know. Then came the snails who laid their eggs and now we have slugs.

Plant shock threw these plants into one predator issue to another. The good news is that the EPA has an Organic Remedy to these bugs. We will be employing some of these remedies and will let you know what we discover. The Mole Max (uses sound) has thus far proven to be very useful in resolving our Vole issue. We believe, we never saw it, that a Vole was eating our plants from underneath the ground. This also caused a lot of stress and probably root problems for our plants. Our plants have been through a lot. Nonetheless, the Organic Remedies are plentiful and we believe one is bound to work. FYI: Lady Bugs are Good Bugs.

What are some other tools you can use to help identify the issue(s) your plants are having when they get in trouble? What are some other organizations that provide helpful information for Organic Consuming? What is important to you as an Organic Consumer? As always you are the best part of what we do. Keep growing!

If these articles have been helpful to you and yours, give a donation to Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook Ezine today.

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Transplant for Take Out

Transplanting

When we were just a collection of pots, soil and seeds, we were very excited to begin the gardening portion of our journey and you were just as excited as we were. Since then we have faced and seen many challenges from environmental to nutritional to disease to predatory. It has been non-stop for our new garden. Needless to say, as we learn together, we have learned a lot since February. Some plants are growing tall and flourishing. Other seeds never sprouted and some have begun to bear vegetables.

As we begin to get the many challenges we face under control, we can begin to see our garden taking flight. The Organic Journey has truly been one of great patience and observation. Some of the greatest challenges have been just understanding nature. Understanding nature better has helped us with identifying why a plant is in trouble as well as when and if a plant is in trouble.  This alone, we have found, is half the battle. The other half is finding an effective and Organic Remedy as well as being persistent until the issue is resolved.

Through that journey we have seen some plants flounder and others come back stronger than Rocky after being knocked down. This is always an amazing experience. We promised a few kitchen plants to some of our early enthusiasts and hope to deliver on those promises. Some of the kitchen plants that we almost gave up on have come back and just may go to their new homes after all. We re-potted Oregano and placed a few Soil Blocks in pots.

Included in this article you can see the process of transplanting a plant, Oregano, from one, smaller pot, to a larger pot. A good way to know if your plant is ready for a new pot is to check the drainage hole at the bottom of the pot, in the case of our clay pots, and if the roots are peaking out you know they are in search of more resources. Larger pots can encourage plant growth by giving your plant more resources to feed off of. You may also find that you are okay with the size of your plant and maintain the pot size you have despite what the roots are telling you. These images are a great learning tool for those who have kitchen or container gardener and will not be planting outdoors or in the ground. Note: we added soil to the larger pot first. Remember you container plants / potted plants need food. So, remember to fertilize your pot soil so that your plants continue to get the nutrients it needs.

Have you started your own urban garden? How is it going? Drop us a line and give us an update anytime. We know the process can be one of patience, so we will check back with you. What is the best part about having a garden? Do you have a small space outside where you can grow one plant? Have you considered growing an edible flower? As always you are the best part of what we do. Keep growing!

If these articles have been helpful to you and yours, give a donation to Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook Ezine today.

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Infectious Disease

Swiss Chard with Disease

In keeping good plant health, one must consider the nutrients the plant receives as well as the predators and disease the plants may experience. In our garden we have to address all of these. With lack of proper nutrition comes disease and with disease comes predators. The health of the plant must also be considered. Has it experienced shock? Was it over watered or under watered? Was it properly drained? Did it receive too much sun or not enough sun?

Many factors can contribute to the overall health of a plant. As we discovered it is not just enough to plant a seed, provide some light and water. Starting with one plant and getting to know the needs and overall challenges that come with that one plant is a good way to begin if you are just starting out. The Organic Journey is a patient one that takes an understanding of the cycle of nature. Just as we may resolve one pest or disease issue, here comes another. The cycle of the nature process may not be over yet and may give rise to another issue or predator.

Recently our Swiss Chard sprout, planted in one of our Soil Blocks, became sick and dropped its leaves. We are not sure what caused it yet. However, the mini garage as we call it, is indeed a garage that we think likes moisture too much. We believe that it was some type of yellow mold. When we removed the plant and went to select the next round of transplants we saw signs of the yellow mold all around where Swiss Chard had been in the clay tray with the other seedlings. Removing the disease plant allowed us to see how the disease was attempting to spread.

Because we were able to identify the mold, we could quickly address the disease and remove it by washing the Soil Blocks with a bleach and water solution. The good thing about these Soil Blocks, more specially Soil Pellets, is that they had a medium holding the soil together. We were able to easily remove the mold from the outside. It looked as if this medium kept the soil from getting infected.

We have found that the best way to address an issue whether its weeds or a predator is to:

  • Identify the issue
    • When you see a plant in trouble, ask why and investigate
    • Document the issue and enlist or consult other gardening experts
    • Conduct research regarding the issue
  •  Resolve the issue before it gets started
    • Research and Identify Organic Remedies
  • Follow through for 2 – 4 weeks after the issue has seemed to be resolved to ensure the issue has been resolved. This may vary depending on the issue you are addressing.
  • Reevaluate
    • Was the issue resolved
    • Did the plant survive
    • Did another disease or pest come in after you resolved that issue
    • What did you learn

What have been some of the challenges that you have faced in your garden? We will face them together; tell us all about it. Did you know that plants could get disease? What did you think are the best ways to address disease when identified? What can observing disease in plants teach you about the nature of disease? What can disease in plants teach us about disease in our bodies? As always you are the best part of what we do. Stay healthy!

If these articles have been helpful to you and yours, give a donation to Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook Ezine today.

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Air Flow

Oregano

As we shared with all of you, we moved some diseased plants and plants that never sprouted outside near our back porch to segregate them from the other healthier plants. So far this coupled with the fresh air we have been allowing to circulate in the garage (aka mini green house) has seemed to help. Not to mention the fresh air the struggling plants get now that they are outside near the back porch. Plants need a flow of fresh air also. This is how some plants pollinate. It is also contributes to plant health and discourages disease. Since we have moved the struggling plants about 4 of the plants have made surprising come backs. 

It is so interesting to continue to watch a plant and to continue to nourish it. Just when you think the plant is done and you are ready to give up on it, it makes a surprising come back. We were recently asked about our Oregano plant by someone, you guessed it, who loves Oregano. Oregano was one of those plants that was really struggling. It sprouted and looked just fine. But, its leaves were very small and the sprouts were no taller than an eighth of an inch. Since we have been clearing the transplants out of the garage. Moving the diseased and struggling plants completely out of the garage and increased the air flow in the garage, plants like Oregano have seen positive results. 

The Three Benefits of Air Flow

  • it is how some plants pollinate
  • promotes plant health
  • discourages disease
Swiss Chard, Cilantro, Dill & Eggplant

We are really focusing on plant health and the health conditions of the environment we put our plants in. For those plants that struggle and experience disease we remove the plants from the healthy plants environment quick and isolate them. We are also trying to create an environment in which the plants can thrive such as discouraging predators that feed off struggling plants. And bringing in all sorts of plants and plant products (such as Neem Oil) that plant predators just do not like. We want to give our plants a fighting chance since in many ways we are also learning. So far, the biggest lesson is to nip any issues or trouble in the bud. When you first see a plant in trouble immediately identify and address the issue. It could take weeks if not months for an Organic Remedy to take effect. You may also have to try some other things that work better for you. In the mean time your plants may struggle or not survive.

What lessons have you learned? What are some of your favorite plants that you would like to know about? Ok, maybe we should have said food instead of plant. What is the difference between Organic Remedies and Chemical Pesticides? What difference does it make to you which one is used on your foods? Share your comments with the community by posting them below. Share the wealth of health with your friends and family by sharing this article with 3 people today. As always you are the best part of what we do. Keep growing.

If these articles have been helpful to you and yours, give a donation to Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook Ezine today.

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How is the Garden?

Transplants

We always get the question: how is the garden doing? Well we are happy to report that while some pest issues still remain: namely the ants and flies, the pests have either disappeared (vole) are been reduced. The ants remain our most persistent and clandestine pest. As with most things worth doing persistence is key when it comes to addressing these pests. Check back in with us to see how things are going.

100% Pure & Organic Neem Oil

Which brings us to Neem Oil, an Organic and Natural pesticide, fungicide and miticide. Because the Neem Oil Solution we found had 1% Neem oil and 99% of unknown ingredients, we decided to make our own solution. One it is cheaper and Two we will know what is in the product. We were able to source 100% pure unrefined organic Neem Oil from a small women business owner and at about the same cost as the (excluding shipping) the Neem Oil Solution we initially purchased. Because we will be mixing it with water (and possible a detergent to enhance application), the bang for our buck will increase even further. So, thus far we are pretty pleased with this find and purchase. It should help us significantly with our pest problem and is inline with our Organic pursuits and sourcing of Organic Remedies.

We are still using the remainder of the initial Neem Oil Solution we purchased and still need to try out our new Neem Oil. Stay tuned for how this works out including the mixing ratio and whether or not we decided to add detergent as well as the comparative benefits of the Neem Oil Solution we purchased and the one we will be making ourselves.

Transplants

Now that our pest problems have begun to come under control, we have started putting our transplants out in the garden. Yesterday we put out 6 – 7 plants and thus far we are happy to report they are all doing just fine. We also hope to be sending some kitchen plants home from our “nursery” from those who have requested plants. Right now these potential kitchen or patio/porch plants are out near MiMi’s flower on the lawn table taking full advantage of the sun which has been sweltering for some of our plants. Our Marketmore Cucumber plantling just did not make it through the transplant process as the sun was just too much for it.

Green Beans

We are happy to report that the Green Bean plant sported its beautiful purple flowers, which is a sign of pollination, and soon after sprouted 2 green bean pods, thus far! We can not help but lick our lips and wait for the others to sprout. They should be good in a salad or as a side dish.

What are your questions about the garden? What are your questions about gardening? If you could start your own garden, would it be in or outdoors? What would you grow and why? What keeps you from getting started? Share your comments with the community by posting them below. Share the wealth of health with your friends and family by sharing this article with 3 people today. As always you are the best part of what we do. Keep growing!

If these articles have been helpful to you and yours, give a donation to Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook Ezine today.

Green Beans
Green Bean Pods
Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook

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The Organic Consumer

Organic Consumer
Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook

For one, Organic Consumers are health conscious. The Pew Research Center (Science & Society) reported that “Americans’ appetite for organic foods has grown steadily over the past few decades. According to the Economic Research Service, retail sales of organic foods more than doubled from 1994 to 2014 with a steady uptick of about 10% annual growth in retail sales over the past several years. Almost surely, a driver of this trend is people’s health concerns. Most Americans believe organic produce is better for one’s health than conventionally grown produce. Whether the science lines up behind this belief is less clear. Organic farming typically eliminates the use of conventional pesticides and fertilizers and, as a result, organic fruits, vegetables and grains have substantially lower levels of pesticides. At least one recent meta-analysis, reviewing the results of more than 340 studies, found that on average, organic foods also have higher levels of antioxidants. But having more antioxidants is not sufficient for foods to be more nutritious and there is considerable scientific debate over whether organic foods provide a nutritional boost when compared with eating conventionally grown foods.”

Organic Consumers are also very passionate and purposeful. Just visit the Organic Consumers Association and you will find a host of resources and information about being active, organized and engaged regarding your food production and food offerings. A view of this site will reveal that Organic Consumers are not only organized, the statistics that state Organic Consumers are growing in numbers are substantiated by the existence of organizations such as the Organic Consumers Association.

Why buy organic?

Most Organic Consumers have a list, short or long, of why they buy organic and the benefits of consuming organic. Share your list with us! The Balance compiled a list of their own as well:

  • Organic food is healthy and safe
  • Organic food builds strong future generations
  • Organic food keeps our water clean
  • Organic food help protect animals
  • Organic food results in less soil erosion
  • Organic food conserves fossil fuels
  • Organic food taste good
  • Organic food is becoming more affordable

Go to The Balance to learn more about their list and why these 8 reasons made their list

How to buy Organic?

Read our article “Certified Organic” to learn more about how organic food is labeled and produced. Essentially there are 2 categories of organic. Those who are exempt from being certified and those who must be certified in order to bear the USDA Certified label. The USDA has a strict certification process, which oversees the certification of the products that carry its seal. How you feel about these standards is another thing. We have found them to be fairly sound thus far. The labels that make organic clams can do so, but are also regulated by the USDA and can be fined for not following Organic Regulations. These labels cannot carry the USDA seal but can label their products as organic and must follow the USDA regulations to do so.

Fore more facts about Organic Consumers visit the Provisioner Online. How has this helped you as an Organic Consumer? How will you shop differently now? What did you learn about your food labels? Why do you buy organic? What did you learn about other Organic Consumers? As always you are the best part of what we do. Share your comments with the community by posting them below. Share the wealth of health with your friends and family by sharing this article with 3 people today. Thank you for taking this journey with us.

If these articles have been helpful to you and yours, give a donation to Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook Ezine today.