Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Organic Bananas Are Tastier

If you are concerned with your health and your family's, you have probably turned to organically grown fruits and vegetables because you  know that eco friendly foods contain no synthetic fertilizers, bioengineering, and most conventional pesticides.

Adopting an organic lifestyle not only allows you to take better care of your health, but it also provides you with the opportunity to minimize your ecological footprint. Green shopping means to buy local produce, food that was grown near you, especially seasonal fruits and vegetables.

In addition, there is the 'taste' thing. An organically grown apple, for example, tastes much better than that from an orchard  which has been treated with pesticides and chemicals.

On top of all that, the issue of social and environmental sustainability stands out as a challenge that is increasingly being overcome. More and more family farmers are choosing organic production and  joining the eco movement across the world.

In southern Brazil, especifically on Rio Grande do Sul's North Coast, family farmers assisted by Centro Ecologico - an NGO that has promoted organic production since 1985 - use agroforestry systems to grow fruits organically and seek to reproduce the Atlantic Forest biome.

These pictures show banana plants and açai palm-trees growing harmoniously together. Banana plants are exotic whereas açai palm-tree is not only native but also a key species in the forest. Birds, felines, rodents, and insects feed on açai palm-tree.

 In November-December 2014, Centro Ecologico welcomed a Swedish student, Tuva Wrenfelt, who came to Brazil for some experience on organic farming. Here's what she said about growing organic bananas:

"I am right now in southern Brazil, specifically in the small coastal town of Torres in Rio Grande do Sul. Here I am a trainee at the organization Centro Ecológico which is working to help small farmers  to convert to organic and agroforestry. Here I have learned something enormously when I visited farmers, walked through banana plantations (both organic and conventional) and helped on farms. If there is something that really makes a big difference in the life of the peasants that is  when you choose to consume organic produce. In Brazil and many parts out of South America it is awful pesticides that cause farmers to get severe cancer and children are born with really serious birth defects. I've talked to farmers and heard their stories. I have deliberately asked why they chose organic farming, to see their reactions and hear their views. In any case, I have been looking as if I were stupid to even ask the question and then long explanations. To shorten the answer is that they feel better. Which is visible. After more than 50 days here, I think it is obvious here that farmers  like feeling better.You may not be the one who normally buy organic. But if you want to make a small effort, buy organic bananas instead of the "ordinary" conventional ones. It makes a huge difference." (originally published in Swedish).

What about you? What is your choice?

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Schoolchildren Learn How to Eat Healthier Food

An initiative of EMATER/RS, the main agricultural agency in Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil's southernmost state, is developing successfully at municipal schools in IMBÉ, a coastal town in the so-called Litoral Norte region.

Oriented by EMATER's technicians, the schools are growing their own veggie gardens, and schoolchildren are learning to eat healthier food.

An idea to be multiplied! Check it out at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2ixlqf8rBaI

Sunday, January 27, 2013

How to Get Rid of Garden Pests

 Are the plants in your garden showing signs of weakness? Do they display spots on their leafs? Do they look somewhat unhealthy?

Perhaps they are infected with parasites or pests. In this case, you must act soon or they may die or even  infect the plants around them.

 I - Sugar Kills!

A very easy, economical solution is to spread some sugar in plant pots and flowerbeds as well. Yes! SUGAR! Surprisingly enough, this will create a hostile environment for parasites as these microorganisms feed on sugar and increase the amount of organic matter in the soil, which will help eliminate them.

Sprinkle a little sugar in your pots and flowerbeds or, if you have a garden, apply 2 kg of sugar per 25m2 of soil.

This is a simple, environmentally-friendly solution that will keep your garden protected.

Mealy bugs

II - White Vinegar X Mealy Bugs

Mealy bugs, one of the most insidious and common pests, may be eliminated  by soaking q-tips (cotton swabs) in white vinegar. Nip them in the bud by dabbing insects with full strength white vinegar.

How to Grow Petunias

Petunias are a great choice for a brightly colored garden. They are annual flowering plants, native to Argentina, and bloom from spring until frost. The petunia family includes great variety: single and double blooms, ruffled or smooth petals, striped, veined or solid colors, mounding and cascading habits and even some fragrance. Most of the petunias sold today are hybrids, developed for specific design purposes.

Among the several varieties of petunias, you will find grandifloras and multifloras, the two oldest types of these flowering annuals. Both are somewhat mounding. Grandiflora has larger flowers, but Multiflora holds up better in the rain.

Spreading type petunias, which include The ‘Wave’, ‘Supertunia’, ‘Cascadia’ and ‘Surfinia’ series are some of the most popular petunias because most don’t need deadheading and they can be used as bedding plants, ground covers or trailing in containers.(Source: About.com.gardening)

Site and Soil

There is one essential thing petunias require to grow beautifully: it is a location with plenty of light. They need at least five or six hours of good sunlight; they'll perform even better when located in full sun all day. They will produce more flowers if they get more light. In case you have shady places, your choice should fall on impatiens, which bloom better there.

Since petunias  grow in moist ground, you will want to keep them well watered. Petunias don't require terribly rich soil, but it must be one that drains decently. "It's always useful to improve garden soil by conditioning it with organic matter, such as baled peat moss, well-rotted leaf compost or manure"(Deborah Brown, Minnesota University http://www.extension.umn.edu/distribution/horticulture/dg1120.html).

Spread the organic matter two to three inches thick. Then incorporate it into the soil to a depth of eight to ten inches, using a rototiller or garden fork. This helps open up heavy clay soil, which improves drainage, but can also increase the ability of light, sandy soil to hold moisture and nutrients.

Planting Tips

The following tips were taken from "Growing Petunias", by Deborah Brown, University of Minnesota. She recommends:

"Wait until soil warms to about 60 degrees and frost danger has passed before transplanting petunias into the garden. Space grandifloras and multifloras about twelve inches apart in full sunlight, or several inches closer together when planted in a shadier location. Milliflora petunias can be spaced as close as four to six inches, but the spreading ground-cover types of petunias should be planted at least one and a half feet apart. Petunias must be planted much more closely together in containers in order to look attractively full right from the start.

Plan to provide some protection from midday sun for the first few days, if weather is hot or windy with few clouds at transplanting time. When grandifloras or multifloras grow about six inches tall, pinch them back to encourage rapid formation of flowering side shoots. Do not pinch millifloras or "spreading" petunias.

Whenever feasible, it's a good idea to remove faded flowers, including the portion below each flower where seeds will develop. This practice, called "deadheading," encourages blooming by preventing seed maturation. Although it may not be practical to deadhead masses of petunias in the garden, it's a must for flowering annuals in containers. Deadheading not only helps prolong blooming, it also keeps plants looking fresh, healthy and well-groomed."

Hopefully, you will enjoy the sight of your brilliant petunias as they bloom in your garden throughout summer.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

How To Produce More Flowers In Your Garden

More Flowers in Your Garden

If you are seeking to increase the production of flowers per plant, then you should consider using castings or vermicompost (earhworm excrement), which is well-known for improving aeration, porosity, structure, drainage, and moisture-holding capacity of soil.

Vermicompost is less variable and much more stable than conventional composts, eliminating the need for additional fertilizer when mixed to the planting medium. A great advantage, indeed!
Since humus is believed to aid in the prevention of harmful plant pathogens, fungi, nematodes and bacteria,  redworm castings, which are the richest and purest humus matter in the world, should be on top of your checklist  for a more flowery garden.

The use of earthworm castings help to increase height, stem diameter, enhance root growth, increase dry weight, and produce more flowers per plant than peat moss. 

Check this out: one pound of worms can convert one pound of pig manure into compost in 48 hours! Worms consume three times their weight a week or more. Red wrigglers are very active, reproduce quickly and consume their own body weight of waste every 24 hours. Therefore ten pounds of worms will eat ten pounds of waste in 24 hours!

For your information, microbial activity in worm castings is 10 to 20 times higher than in the soil and organic matter that the worm ingests.

Now that you know how beneficial worm castings may be, let's see how to use it in the garden to produce more flowers:

a) when planting vegetable and annuals line the rows and holes with about two inches of castings. About every eight weeks side dress the plants with one-half cup of castings per plant or one cup per foot of row;

b) for perennials work one-half cup of castings into the soil in the spring, middle of summer, and early fall;

c) for pots and hanging baskets add one-half inch castings to the top and water in. Then reapply every eight weeks;

d) roses appreciate four cups of castings per plant;

e) if you are starting a new lawn, add 15 pounds of casting per 100
square feet when sowing.
Once established use seven pounds
per 100 square feet.

After following these tips, you will probably take pride in your work as your garden will be full of flowers.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Spring and Autumn

Photos by Melina Duarte
In the northern hemisphere, people are beginning to bring their pot plants indoors. The pictures on this page show beautifully grown geraniums, African violets and hibiscus in Umeä, Sweden. It is amazing how tropical plants like hibiscus can bloom so well even in a country known for its low temperatures. However, when properly cared for, plants do surprise us. Good soil, sun and water make wonders...

Meanwhile, in the southern hemisphere, the opposite movement is going on, I mean, people are looking forward to springtime, and getting outdoors to start off the first steps to clean their gardens, prepare the soil, sow the first seeds.

If you are thinking of having a flowery garden next summer, you'd better begin now. Spring is a few days away only, and you may start thinking about or choosing which varieties you are going to grow this season.

Geraniums are a good choice as they are hardy enough to withstand transplanting while they have buds or flowers, but transplanting a flowering geranium when there is still a risk of a spring frost will kill the flowers. Check what Lisa Chinn has to say about planting and growing these beautiful flowers.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Springtime is Coming

 Flowers, flowers, flowers

Today, I must admit, I'm too lazy to write a regular post. So, I'm publishing this poem
by Julia A. Moore which describes precisely what we all long for at this time of the year in the southern hemisphere. Hope you will like it.

 Springtime is Coming

Beautiful Spring is coming,
Ah, yes, will soon be here,
For the clear bright sun is shining
All human hearts to cheer.
One the brightest gems of nature
Is the orb that o'er us shines,
And o'er the wide creation,
It'll shine to the end of time.

The birds will soon be singing
On shrub and bough of trees,
Their notes will soon be ringing
Out, forth so merrily.
They love the merry spring time,
Those little birds we love,
They love the pleasant sunshine
That comes down from above.

We can hear them sweetly singing
From early morn, till night.
They make music in the woodland
Those little birds; so bright,
We should dearly love them,
Those little harmless things,
And when we hear their music,
We know that it is spring.