When we broke ground for a garden at our 80-year-old house in the middle of Seattle, we took the most obvious thing for granted.
The opportunity to connect to Earth and her gifts in modern times is often waved away as a childish fantasy or an outdated practice, yet the impact of this disconnect is creating huge problems in our environment and mental health. To those who wave away our connectedness with Earth as a fantasy, I offer you an alternative way to consider these practices.
Planting more flowers is a great idea – but it is difficult to predict which flowers different insects will use the most, and whether enough flowers are being provided for them.
Are we facing insect Armageddon? A recent study found that German nature reserves have seen a 75% reduction in flying insects over the last 27 years.
When it comes to making decisions, most of us are influenced to some degree by other people, whether that’s choosing a restaurant or a political candidate.
Ponds are taken for granted. Perhaps it’s because most of us have seen them – and on occasion, fallen into them – and think they’re only good for goldfish.
You might have noticed how bright green your plants look after rain. Or you may have been watering your garden this summer, over many hot days and weeks. So, which water is best for your plants? The stuff that falls out of the sky or the water that comes out of the tap?
Last night I was watering the garden with a hose. It is easy to see how stressed the plants are on a 38 degree day, but then I remembered that the animals in my garden need water too.
For more than 20 years, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has made tens of millions of dollars available in grants and low-interest loans to the local food sector.
Researchers have genetically modified a common houseplant—pothos ivy—to remove chloroform and benzene from the air around it.
Australia has one of the highest rates of pet ownership in the world, with 38% of Australian households owning dogs. Dogs improve the quality of our lives, and studies show that exposure to dogs can even improve our immune system.
A company in Scotland has unveiled what it claims is arguably the world’s most technically advanced indoor farm. Intelligent Growth Solutions’ vertical farm uses artificial intelligence and specially designed power and communication technologies. The firm says this reduces energy costs by 50% and labour costs by 80%...
Eight schools in London have closed this month because of an infestation of spiders. The schools reported that they were concerned for the children’s well-being so they sent their pupils home – in one case for a whole month.
There are seven species of Apis honey bee in the world, all of them native to Asia, Europe and Africa. Apis mellifera, the western honey bee, is the species recognised globally as “the honey bee”. But it’s not the only insect that makes honey. Many other bee, ant and wasp species make and store honey. Many of these insects have been used as a natural sugar source for centuries by indigenous cultures around the world.
It is highly unlikely that a butterfly or moth remembers being a caterpillar. However, it may well remember some experiences it learned as a caterpillar.
That fact in itself is especially amazing because inside the pupa (or chrysalis), the caterpillar actually turns to liquid as it transforms into a butterfly or moth (the adult stage).
When those first fat drops of summer rain fall to the hot, dry ground, have you ever noticed a distinctive odor? I have childhood memories of family members who were farmers describing how they could always “smell rain” right before a storm. Of course rain itself...
Recognizing faces is essential for how we interact in complex societies, and is often thought to be an ability that requires the sophistication of the large human brain. But new evidence we published in Frontiers in Psychology shows that insects such as the honeybee (Apis mellifera) and the European wasp (Vespula vulgaris) use visual processing mechanisms that are similar to humans’, which enables reliable face recognition.
Studies indicate spending time in nature brings physical, mental and social benefits. These include stress reduction, improved mood, accelerated healing, attention restoration, productivity and heightened imagination and creativity.
Many people forget that our gardens can be important havens for wildlife. But with ponds drying up, amphibians are losing out.
After spending many years living in refugee camps, gardening can provide a safe space to establish identity, rebuild lives and attain happiness.
They are one of the most unwelcome signs of summer. Buzzing through beer gardens, attacking innocent picnics, wasps arrive ominously with a sting in their tails.
While you may be familiar with your zodiac sign and maybe even the precious stone associated with the month of your birth, did you know that The Language of Flowers shares with us blossoms connected with not only the month, but also the day and even land of your birth?
One of the biggest knocks against the organics movement is that it has begun to ape conventional agriculture, adopting the latter’s monocultures, reliance on purchased inputs and industrial processes.
When it is done properly, organic growing methods can deliver two to three times the yield of conventional methods. Of course if you take two fields and plant each with a monocrop, then the one without pesticides will do worse than the one with, but that isn't really what organic farming is.
Pollinating insects like bees, butterflies and flies have had a rough time of late. A broad library of evidence suggests there has been a widespread decline in their abundance and diversity since the 1950s.
Slugs and snails are the bane of almost every vegetable planting gardener and farmer. Slugs in particular have voracious appetites and are relentless in eating stems, leaves and shoots.
Researchers have uncovered exactly where a key protein forms before it triggers the flowering process in plants.
Growing food in cities became popular in Europe and North America during and immediately after World War II. Urban farming provided citizens with food, at a time when resources were desperately scarce.
The weather is getting warmer, and gardens are coming alive with bees, flies, butterflies, dragonflies, praying mantises, beetles, millipedes, centipedes, and spiders.
Flowers have a secret signal that’s specially tailored for bees so they know where to collect nectar. And new research has just given us a greater insight into how this signal works.
Although most species of plants on Earth have flowers, the evolutionary origin of flowers themselves are shrouded in mystery.
Unlike parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme, marjoram missed out on a role in the classic song Scarborough Fair, made popular in the 1960s by Paul Simon. But it does have a key advantage over most herbs.
Some local governments are more tolerant than others in allowing residents to grow food where they want.
In Norway, a high-tech seed vault flooded from melting permafrost. In Montana, locals keep their seeds in the library.
A new device can produce enough food to make one salad per week for an entire year—and do it inside an apartment.
The next time you bite into an apple, spare a thought for the soils that helped to produce it. Soils play a vital role, not just in an apple’s growth, but in our own health too.
Is organic agriculture the solution to our global food system challenges?
Since 1880, the average global temperature has increased by 0.8°℃, with large changes in rainfall redistribution.
Urban agriculture, the cultivation of crops and animals in an urban environment, is known to increase access to healthy food.
In the heat zone of Louisville, Kentucky, 170 residents have been trained as “citizen foresters.”
Farmers looking to reduce reliance on pesticides, herbicides, and other pest management tools may want to heed the advice of agricultural scientists: Let nature be nature—to a degree.
A new report has found that U.S. land for organic farming reached 4.1 million acres in 2016, a new record and an 11 percent increase compared to 2014.
During the devastating floods that hit Queensland in 2011, Brisbane and regional centres came perilously close to running out of fresh food.
It is with great sadness that I acknowledge the passing of Bill Mollison on Saturday, September 24 (1928-2016). He was one of the true pioneers of the modern environmental movement, not just in Australia but globally.
As the weather warms and days lengthen, your attention may be turning to that forgotten patch of your backyard. This week we’ve asked our experts to share the science behind gardening. So grab a trowel and your green thumbs, and dig in.
It’s back-to-school time in the United States, and for countless children across the nation, it’s also time to get back into the school garden.
Tiny, biointensive operations show smallholder farmers from around the world how they can grow far more food than conventional approaches.
On a recent Monday evening in Seattle’s Central District, a handful of people gathered to work on a community farm. They pulled weeds, talked about the best ways to string up tomatoes, checked the progress of the greens and beans, harvested radishes and planted wildflowers.
Bees provide us with an invaluable service by pollinating plants, an indispensable part of natural and agricultural ecosystems. This is why declining bee populations are such a big concern.
Plant biologists have discovered how sunflowers use their internal circadian clock, acting on growth hormones, to follow the sun during the day as they grow.
The one fact about plants that most people probably remember from school is that they use sunlight to make their own food. That process, photosynthesis, means that plants are dependent on sunlight.
These herbs aren't just for cooking—here's how you can use them to treat ailments from asthma to anxiety.
Urban flooding represents the most common yet severe environmental threat to cities and towns worldwide. Future changes in rainfall extremes are likely to increase this threat, even in areas that could become drier.
With more people than ever living in cities, how do we reconcile our need for fresh fruit and vegetables with the challenges of life in an urban environment where the time and space for gardening are limited?
Some farmers have turned to less chemically-intensive techniques to reduce the negative impact of agriculture, such as organic farming, which has been shown to outperform conventional farming by many standards of environmental sustainability. The question is whether we can meet the demand for food, which is predicted to rise substantially in the next 50 years.
On a hilly slope in São Paulo City, a group of sixth graders is busy at work. They’re armed with seeds, soil and a range of gardening tools. Upside-down soda bottles, filled with water, outline a series of rectangular garden plots.
The environmental and nutrient impact of our food choices had been on my mind for several weeks when a year-old article in the Telegraph recently came to my attention, prompting me to assemble the thoughts that had been gradually coalescing.
More than half the planet’s population now live in cities, with limited access to the natural world. For Europe and Latin America, the figure is more than 70%. Yet contact with nature has numerous benefits for both our physical and mental health.
Concerns about environmental damage caused by costly chemicals and worries about climate change are altering farming methods in the mountains of Nepal.
Life, for foragers, can be more secure for the simple fact that they understand crop failures happen. Thus, we learn not to depend wholly on one type of food. The lovely thing about foraging is that there are always alternatives. In nature, there are usually plenty of options, and all of them are free.
Most people have never heard of Norman Borlaug. He is, thus far, the only agricultural scientist ever to win the Nobel Peace Prize. His work in the development of high-yielding and disease-resistant cereal crops saved more than one billion (yes, billion) people from starvation.
The key to gardening is dirt. If you can grow good dirt now, you can grow good vegetables this spring. And you don’t have to run to the garden store to load up on boxes and bags of stuff to do it if you start early and think of it as a year-round project.
The key characteristic of the loving landscape is healthy, living soils which foster plant and animal health without artificial inputs. Compost, mulch and worms form the holy trinity of organic soil health.
Midway through spring, the nearly bare planting beds of Carolyn Leadley’s Rising Pheasant Farms, in the Poletown neighborhood of Detroit, barely foreshadow the cornucopian abundance to come. It will be many months before Leadley is selling produce from this one-fifth-acre plot.
Both compost and mulch foster the life of the soil, and both are important components of the loving landscape. Sometimes they are confused for one another, but they are quite different animals. Compost, which we talked about last week, is more nutrient rich than mulch. It’s full of life, and inoculates soil with that life.
So, let’s say we want to play nice with the rest of nature. Let’s say we want public parks, yards and gardens which exist for more than show, spaces which support a diversity of life, steward our resources wisely and are a joy to the eye. We’ve got to change the existing lifeless paradigm of lawn and hedge and disposable annual flowers.
The Posey homestead probably wouldn't strike most Americans as a vision of paradise. We lived on dunes dotted with creosote and mesquite bushes, cactus and yucca. Mostly, the land was bare sand. We had seven or eight inches of total precipitation a year...
You don't need a garden to grow mushrooms—any cool, shady space will do, even a cupboard or dark corner. It’s fairly easy to grow oyster mushrooms indoors in a bag or a 2-gallon bucket using sawdust or spent coffee grounds as the growing medium.
While urban farming is not a new concept, it is making a modern comeback. The benefits of urban farming well surpass the nutrition aspect, though of course that is a major part of it.
When foraging, as with gardening, it is important to know what is available where one lives. The best way to forage is to simply get outside, slow down and walk around, listening and looking. This is really the only way to get to know an area, but when driving anywhere, we will...
Growers wishing to produce crops over as long a season as possible use various methods to extend the survival of frost-tender crops beyond the first fall frosts, keep semi-hardy crops alive through the winter, and boost winter production of hardy crops...
Have you ever tried to grow your favorite summer vegetable or garden herb and something went wrong? Maybe it was poor planting, a disease, or a pesky insect. Maybe you need to troubleshoot problems or want definitive answers to questions like when to plant for your area or exactly when to fertilize.
For years, many of us have kept an eye out for organic and pesticide free vendors at our local farmers markets. Thanks to a new movement hitting the American food scene, we may soon be looking for another important environmental marker: open source seeds. At least, that is the goal of...
There’s something appealing about seeding a yard or garden with the plants that belong there. And in the era of drought and climate change, it’s more effective, too.
Plants reacting to climate change have two strategies to deal with increasing warmth: they escape the heat either by moving towards the poles, or by flowering sooner.
Once we decided to really make foraging a part of our life rather than just some summer-day hobby, like picking trail nibbles when on a hike, we became keenly aware of how little we really knew. We realized that there will always be more to learn about local plants and...
Biodynamic farming offers us a way to both cherish the Earth and attend to the process of growing foods and raising animals properly. According to activist and CSA owner and educator Allan Balliett, biodynamic farming is “a spiritual approach to growing.” Biodynamic farmers “try to take into account all of the forces that affect plant growth and their nutritional value.”
The major lack in most home-garden compost is nitrogen. This deficiency almost always happens because the decomposition process doesn't go far enough. So when this pseudo-compost is mixed into soil, it does not release an abundance of plant nutrients...
For those of us attempting to grow a large portion of our calories ourselves, tomatoes and lettuce are not sufficient. So I've compiled a list of plants, both annual and perennial, that I think are an important addition to many home gardens...
Since over half of humanity now lives in our cities, it is important that food-growing facilities be established where the people are. Imagine how much fuel could be saved if we actually grew our food in our city centers...
Conflict in a garden is all too easy to generate. I remember planting a couple of Bauhinia galpinii shrubs in a garden bed near one of our car ports. When, after five years, it proved difficult to find the entrance to the car port...
I know a fair bit about a lot in the garden, most of it practical, but my great fascination is with the metaphysical aspect, that forever-unfolding energy of life expressing in the garden. For me, a garden is a place to connect with Nature, life, and living...
A tomato seed, which costs only pennies, can grow into a plant that can produce twenty or more pounds of fresh, organic food. In addition to the financial benefits, gardening provides you with a reason to go outside...
The Power of One: One man in India transformed 1,360-acres (approx. 2 square miles) of barren sand into a lush jungle which harbors not only birds, butterflies, and miscellaneous flora, also provides a home for rhinos, tigers and elephants.
When my son and I walked into the basement of John's rural ranch house, the room was well lit and warm from the plant growing lights. The air smelled moist and fresh. The plants I saw were healthy and huge and the fish were active and...
Sweet basil’s many herbal uses include culinary, landscaping, medicinal, and spiritual, and the essential oil can be found in fragrances and insect repellents. Cultivated largely as a culinary herb and often associated with Italian cuisine, basil is excellent in tomato-based dishes. It is also used cooked or raw in...
One of my first awakenings to the myriad benefits of community gardens was when the community police officer in a troubled neighborhood in Vancouver helped get one started. She wanted a project for the homeless people hanging around the neighborhood. They embraced it eagerly...