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A blog about all things allergen-free and delicious

Entries in organic garden (3)


Green manure for garden & soul.


You may have noticed that there weren't any shots of the garden or its bounty this year.  After last year's constant rain & mold; three replantings -- thanks to deer that have no boundaries (yes, the garden was double fenced - one 9 foot, 1 electric), I decided to give the garden, and me a break. 

Like us, the soil has an immune system.  Sometimes it needs to rest.  Not to work so hard.  To let go. 

Now, my garden is behaving in interesting ways - just by doing nothing.  But it is not replenishing properly.  I left my tougher herbs to fight it out in the hot summer sun.  Others, I put into pots.  However, as seasoned farmers and gardeners will tell you, just letting the soil "be" might be interesting, but that doesn't mean that your precious soil is replenishing.  To help that process, I plan to plant some green manure, like clover, mustard, and marigolds; let them over-winter, then mow them under.

This fall is a great time to take control of that garden recovery period so that next summer your soil is ready to be productive.  Green manure is one fantastic, organic means of planned replenishment.  The practice involves planting specific plants that interact with the soil to boost its nutrients, bio-diversity, and healthy organisms.  From what I understand, there are "legume" and "non-legume" versions of green manure.  Some plants work better in the spring, and others in the fall. 

Here are a few examples.



Crimson,White Dutch, or yellow clover



Winter Tarres

Field Peas



IMPORTANT GLUTEN-FREE NOTE:  Rye grass and other gluten based grains are also recommended as green manure.  If you need a gluten-free diet, its best to choose a non-gluten option like those above.

Using Green Manure (or cover cropping) is all new to me.  So here are links from folks who know a great deal about this:

Organic Gardening Magazine:  Cover Crops for Fall

Permaculture Pathways: Green Manure Cropping

Buy Seeds through


On a human note, fall is also a great time to "remember" & schedule regular downtime throughout the busy-ness of school, work, family, and what-not.  Sow your own "green manure" to keep yourself renewed throughout the cold, immune busting months.  Eat seasonal, nutritious food, and do what replenishes you so you have a bounty to give back to those around you.

Fellow gardeners, let the foodie community know what you are doing to keep your soil healthy this fall!  In the meantime, here is the state of my wild, crazy, beautiful though unkempt lady.


Crazy, Wild Garden

Lambs Ear, just one, appeared out of nowhere.

This little blue flower seems like a Phacelia, but is it?English Thyme was the only plant that I kept a reverent soil circle around it.The chives, mint, and oregano became out of control. Beautiful.Chocolate Daisy peeking up through the chives.The entire garden, an unkempt, spent lady.

A beautiful polinator. The chives were covered in them.



You Buy Organic. But What About Your Lawn?

Organic produce and meat are becoming popluar dietary choices for many of us.   Some folks have even put in organic gardens, hoping to save money and grow the organic veggies they love the most.  We, the crunchy, the green, and the health-aware, are a group of people who have become conscious about what we put into our bodies and on our gardens.  But what about our lawns? 

I've heard for years about how pesticides and commercial fertilizers have been seeping into our water supply, are being found in high quantities in fish and other animals, and are directly making people sick.  I've even met a few sad folks who have been poisoned from something as "harmless" and ant spray.  So I was intrigued to find two articles recently that help explain how our obsession with pesticides is turning against us.   And what we can do about it.

The Dark Side of the Perfect Lawn

The first article, The Dark Side of Lawns, helps us understand why and how our everyday lawn care practices affect our health and the health of our planet.  Now don't get all "Oh, you are such a left-wing environmentalist" on me because I said the word, "planet".  These are really interesting and well-researched articles.   Super smart people from Harvard and the National Cancer Institute have been studying the use of pesticides and their resulting data is really clarifying.   According to the former, garden pesticides "can increase the risk of childhood leukemia seven-fold."  According to researchers at Harvard School of Public Health, "frequent exposure to pesticides increased the incidence of Parkinson's disease by 70 percent."  There is nothing political or partisan about those facts.  Even if you have the liver of a Superman, most of us cannot process all of the chemicals and toxins that we pump into our bodies via the earth.  It's not just the big companies that are doing it.  It's us, the little people, too.

Because the FDA does not require it, Commercial fertilizers also do not include specifics on their label about non-active ingredients.  Non-active ingredients can include high amounts of heavy metals.  We don't want those in our water either.  This article is a must read, so please read more....


An Organic Lawn:  First Step - Think Differently

I really love it when web sites and information sources not only tell you what NOT to do, but also give you a plan that will help you make a change.  The second article, Your 6-Step Organic Lawn Plan, will probably take seven steps because as they say in their introductory paragrah, thinking organically demands a change of mind. As I learned from the experts that helped me save my organic garden from blight, healthy plants require the immune system in their soil to be healthy, too, just like humans do. That takes nuture, not control.

As a Tender Foodie, I've had to change my habits and my way of thinking many times.  With each new mysterious symptom, with the realization that many of these symptoms could be cured with food and lifestyle changes, and with each new kind of food that crosses my path, a whole fresh world has slowly opened up to me.  With a few exceptions, my food is more delicious and more nutritious.  My body likes that and responds in kind.  As a result, I have become concerned with "why" so many people have food allergies and other health problems in the first place.  I also wonder why people with food allergies have multiple food allergies, many of them life-threatening.  The number of people with food allergies has risen so sharply in the last decade or so, that this is concerning researchers, too.  And it isn't just because more people are being diagnosed.  There is actually a change in our environment and our food.  Research Says So.  At least, it is beginning to.

For people with food allergies, "you are what you eat" takes on a whole new meaning.  So does, "know where your food comes from."  The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that about 80 million U.S. households dump nearly 90 million pounds of herbicides and pesticides on lawns in a year.  The grass doesn't use very much of that.  So the rest gets into our ground water, rivers and lakes.  Our crops use that water.  Cows, fish, chickens, and sheep ingest that water.  We drink that water, eat those crops and ingest cows, chickens, fish and sheep.  I think this subject is worth a little change of mind.  A change of heart.  And a change in practice.  Don't you?



Garden Organic: The Battle of the Blight

In the Beginning

It started last year with little black spots on my oregano.  I was surprised.  Maybe this plant (whose oils are usually powerful enough to resist anything) wasn’t getting enough sun.  But I was quite sure that Adam and Eve had never seen little black spots in their garden.  Then the spots spread to my precious mint and tarragon.   I did what the Internet told me to do and cleared out all of the infected leaves, bagged them and trashed them.  I started spraying every leaf with a mixture of apple cider vinegar and water every single evening.  It seemed to work.  But after a week of heavy rain and strong wind, the blight spores waved their little victory flag and left that discriminating corner of herbs.   It attacked the zucchini (dead quickly) and then spread to my prized tomatoes.  Those flippin' spots soon felled so many leaves that the tomato plants looked like their proverbial loin clothes had been ripped off – love apples exposed.  My rosemary and cucumbers even got it (and I’m not saying anything proverbial about the cucumbers).  

The spots didn’t affect any of the vegetables directly until late in the season.  But without leaf cover, the produce throughout the summer was thin at best.  My plants were prematurely balding and not in a sexy, high-testosterone kinda way. 

And my greens.  Oh my 10 different varieties of health-giving greens that were so bountiful in the past provided no garden-to-table salad last summer.  

Lessons Learned:  Tenderly Nurture

The Fulton Street Farmers' Market in Grand Rapids, MI
In past seasons, I’ve learned that if you plant a seed, it comes up miraculously bringing joy and love to all with appetites.  I have also learned that 25 zucchini plants can fuel a small restaurant for 3 months.  

This summer, I thought my lesson was about control because infuriating stuff happens that interferes with the miracle of food and sends you to the grocery store instead of the dirt behind your house.  But my lesson is really about nurture.  A little knowledge from the experts can help keep the love coming from backyard to table.  

I found my first lead at the Fulton Street Farmers Market in Grand Rapids, MI.

UnPesticidal Advice:  How to Control Leaf Spot

I had contacted several experts throughout the year and no one wanted to touch this one.  I almost gave up, dumped a bunch of manure on the land and left it for a year.  Or maybe forever.  But the gardening bug bit again this spring and I was so excited to play in the dirt that I simply I had to try.  

First Expert: Trillium Haven Farms

When I went to the Fulton Street Farmers’ Market a couple of weekends ago, I hesitantly picked up heirloom tomato and pepper plants.  Then I spoke to Trillium Haven Farm owners Anja Mast and Michael Vanderbrug.  We had a very interesting conversation and were kind enough to answer a few of my questions.

Rainy Day Advice From Michael VerBrug from Trillium Haven FarmsTheir Advice:  Build up the immune system of your soil.  Soil is like your own immune system and 75% of yours lies in your intestines.  Your intestines, like the soil, need a healthy balance of vitamins and minerals to absorb into your body.  Your intestines also need the right balance of friendly bacteria in order to digest those nutrients so they can be absorbed.  Maintain this delicate balance and you thrive.  

Plants need this kind of harmony in their soil’s immune system as well.  In my gardening life, I’ve learned that not all plants need the same mix of nutrients.  Some plants need more acidic soil where there is a lot of iron (like azaleas).  Some plants need more of an alkaline soil.  According to the National Gardening Association, tomatoes need a pH between 6.0 and 6.8. 

As Michael pointed out, if your plants don’t get enough of the specific nutrients they need, they simply can’t fight disease.

This is a concept that hits home for me, and for anyone whose own immune system has issues -- food allergy-related or otherwise.  Anja and I discussed plainly that we are what we eat – but not only because of the fruit or vegetables we put into our mouths.   We can truly benefit or suffer because of health of the soil from which our foodstuffs arise.  

So, good information, but how do you organically change the pH and nutritional content of your soil?

Second Expert:  Morgan Composting

Since you don’t know what you are going to get in your compost or aged manure from traditional companies, Michael recommended that I give Morgan Composting a call.  They sell completely organic, aged cow poo, worm casings… all kinds of earthy stuff for your garden.  They balance their products to enrich and maintain the health of your soil no matter what.  

I emailed Morgan’s and Alyson wrote me back.  Here is what she said:

First, our DairyDoo compost is a great start.  It will definitely get some good beneficial organisms in your soil to counteract the bad bugs...blight. I would apply it this year at a rate of 1/2 inch, over the entire garden.  This will ensure that the blight doesn't get into the walkways, and repopulate. If you did this, you will need about 2 yards (a pickup truck full).

Second, I would recommend using a summer foliar of fish Hydrosolate.  We use MultiBloom, which is real easy, and convenient to hook up to your hose. You can spray this once a week throughout the summer.   It is a fertilizer, but you would get more benefit from the essential oils, and also the minerals that fish has to offer.  It is also a systemic, and will go to work right away.  We sell those bottles for $12.95ea.

You can find these products at any of our fine local retailers, which are located on our website,

Third Expert:  Friends and Friends of Friends

I had also spoken to a coOrganic Heirloom Tomato and Pepper Plants from Trillium Havenuple of friends about their battles with blight.  Many gardeners are having this problem.  One person suggested lime (from limestone).  I asked Alysson about this at Morgan’s Composting.  She said that this might be helpful, as calcium can help in the battle of the blight, but the nutrients in the compost and oils in the fish Hydosolate will be the key.  She suggested getting a bag of high calcium (not dolomite, or high magnesium) lime.  The calcium content needs to be higher than the magnesium, because too much magnesium can cause a fruit rot in tomatoes.  So I picked up a 40 lb bag and spread half of it on the entire garden today.  If that goes well, we’ll do the other half.  It is supposed to be "non-toxic", and my dear father found me a pelleted version, so the dust was less annoying.  I didn’t wear a mask, but I would recommend doing so anyway.  Blagh.

Another friend of a friend battles blight in wet weather by dusting her tomato plants with powdered milk.  How interesting is that?  Since I have dairy allergies, I’ll stick with the lime.  This weekend, I’m hoping to start step two - building the immune system.  That is if I can get to the nearest Morgan’s retailer which will be a bit of a drive.   I bet it will be worth it.

Wish me luck!  Now go get your poo, then let me know about your gardening adventures and your battle with the blight.