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Protect Your Food Supply

June 19th, 2012

Increasing seed prices and fuel costs means many Americans are digging a little deeper into their wallets just to put food on the table.  In 2010, the New York Times reported a sharp 32% increase for the price of corn seeds, and a 24% increase for soybeans. Even more shocking, it’s estimated that seed costs have increased roughly 135% since 2001!

What’s the deal?

Competition And Genetically Modified Seeds

More than ten years ago, sales people from dozens of seed companies were able to compete for business, promising healthier crops and larger yields than their competitors. But all of that has changed as large seed companies are now using license agreements that block less expensive generic versions of seeds from entering the market.  This ultimately creates an unfair advantage over the competitors. Consequently, farmers have limited options, which in most cases result in choosing those larger company’s seeds that have been genetically modified.

Unfortunately for farmers and the consumer, it turns out that genetically modified food is not just bad for your health, they are also to blame for rising seed costs. Seed companies understand that weeds, insects and plant diseases have long been a challenge for even the most skilled farmers. To combat this issue, certain biotech qualities have been added to seeds, which result in better weed control and crop resistance to herbicides and pests. While reluctant at first, farmers are now more inclined to spend more money on these engineered seeds, as labor, pesticide and machine costs will ultimately go down.

Yet, even as the market forges ahead and heavily uses genetically modified foods as the new norm, the Organic Center reports that, “The GE corn, soybean and cotton seeds planted over the next five to 10 years will, if current trends hold, contain increasing numbers of stacked traits (usually 3 or more) cost considerably more per acre, and pose unique resistance management, crop health, food safety and environmental risks.”

How Fuel Prices Factor In

Economists are now saying that rising fuel prices are a leading cause behind sky rocketing food costs, specifically for produce and meat. When diesel fuel is needed to power not only tractors by also semis and other forms of transportation – grocery stores are forced to make adjustments to stay in business.  Mike Servert, owner of Servert And Sons Produce was interviewed at the Carolina Reporter And News, and was asked about the rising price of fuel. His response was simply, “the more the cost of transportation, the more it’s going to cost at the table.” Servert also estimated that the cost of a $4 crate of oranges could jump to $10 if fuel costs continue to increase.

What’s the next step?

Investing In Quality Seeds You Can Trust

Unfortunately, it seems we no longer have control over the quality of food currently stocked in our grocery stores. Consumers are ultimately left in the dark to whether their unlabeled produce was the product of genetically altered seeds, or bioengineered to resist harm from extensive sprayed herbicides and pests.  With a population already wary of their food supply – considering the frequency of E.coli and salmonella threats, many are turning towards investing in seeds they can trust and growing them for large organizations, community gardens, and in their backyards.

The Producer’s seed packs not only guarantees 26 varieties of non-GMO, non-hybrid, certified organic and heirloom seeds, it’s also an investment. The Producer will continue to save you money and will provide assurance that your fruits and vegetables are the healthiest food around. At $4-5 a pack, you’re guaranteed quality seeds that have the highest rates of germination when compared with traditional seeds. In these ever-changing times, it’s a relief to know that Humble Seed guarantees seeds that are consistently nutritious and unadulterated.


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5 Easy Ways To Prevent And Remove Weeds

June 17th, 2012

It’s that time of year again.  Summer temperatures are rising, and backyard weeds can grow just as fast as you can pour yourself an ice-cold glass of lemonade. Weeding will most likely be the brunt of the maintenance required in the summer time, as weeds thrive in the dry heat and can inhibit a vibrant garden. Aim to weed about 2-3 times a week, and remove weeds quickly when they are small, as large root systems won’t have the opportunity to form.

But before you run out to buy yourself a tube of Bengay for a future back braking session of weed pulling, we have some tricks to make the process easier.  While prevention is paramount to less grueling summer maintenance, we also have some helpful tips on killing weeds naturally (so you have more time to drink ice-cold glasses of lemonade).

1.  Prevent and control weeds with mulch.  We’ve already discussed the amazing benefits of mulching, and we love that weed control is one of them.  Covering the soil with a layer of mulch blocks weeds from growing, while lowering the soil’s temperature (weeds thrive in hot temperatures). Mulching can be done on the cheap or free, using materials like natural falling leaves, twigs, and pine needles, nut shells, plastic mulch sheets, shredded wood, hay, cardboard, bark, sawdust, crushed rocks or aged compost.

Sheri Blumenthal over at Farmer’s Almanac has this clever tip, “A great mulch combination is to first lay cardboard down and then leaves on top. You can add a layer of compost above the cardboard and then put the leaves on top for an extra nutrient kick. This process is called sheet mulching, and it does a much better job than just leaves alone.”

2.  For further prevention, resist the urge to turn the soil. Unseen to the gardener are a number of dormant weeds underneath the soil that require light and air to surface and thrive. Keeping the weeds underground by minimizing disturbances allows them to remain dormant, and “sleep.”

3.  Spray weeds with vinegar, salt and/or dish soap, a lethal combination that acts like a weed terminator. While salt dehydrates the weeds, vinegar acts as a natural herbicide, allowing plants to decompose in aerobic conditions. The dish soap works to help the solution to “stick” on the plant’s leaves and stalk. The University of Idaho recently conducted a study using vinegar as a weed killer, and found that vinegar had an 80-100% kill rate on selected weeds. To make your own batch, pour 1-quart household vinegar, ¼ cup salt, and 2 teaspoons of liquid dish soap into a spray bottle. Shake well, and spray liberally.

4.  Out of dish soap? Try boiling water and vinegar together.  Then carefully pour it in a heat resistant container. When immediately possible, pour the hot liquid directly over the weeds. The solution must be at boiling or near boiling point for the weed’s roots to “cook” and die.

5.  For acute weed growth, The DIY Network suggests reusing grass clippings by dumping them all over the entire area covered in weeds. The grass clippings acts as a soil amendment, and will stifle light and air from the weeds, until they eventually die.  While unsightly for a few days or weeks, this process can break the weed cycle and improve the overall health of the soil in the long term.

Looking for more maintenance tips to make life easier? Read through our summer guide!

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Dangerous Plants In Your Backyard

June 12th, 2012

In the eyes of your beloved pets, your lush garden may seem like the perfect shady place to meander, or take an afternoon nap.  While each plant may have been carefully selected for its color, shape and height, many of us are less aware about the toxicity levels of common plants and flowers.  You may already know that ornamental plants look harmless and aesthetically pleasing, yet can be quite dangerous to pets and humans if ingested.

But how about the bulbs just planted in the ground? Or your favorite summer time blossoms on the porch?

While we want you to plant your heart’s desire in your garden, it’s important to be aware of which plants can pose a potential threat to your furry pals. With that said, we’re eager to share our list of harmful plants so that your pets stay safe each gardening season. Many gardeners with pets still enjoy growing these flowers, and recommend keeping a careful eye on pets when outside.  Other gardeners advise to take your pet on a walk rather than allow them to freely roam the garden. You’ll get more exercise, and will no longer have to worry about your pets sniffing around the Larkspurs. If you do suspect poisoning from a toxic plant, contact your vet immediately. (Also, see our post on poisonous holiday plants here)

*Chrysanthemum- These brightly colored “mums” are commonly seen in backyard gardens all over the nation. But be aware that touching these flowers can cause skin irritations in pets and humans, and ingesting any part of the plant can cause severe stomach upset, like nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.

*Foxglove – These pretty purple, pink and white bell shaped flowers grow in towers, and look more like a fox “tail” rather than a fox “glove.” Many gardeners love the height these bring to the garden, yet they can be quite toxic for family pets. The entire plant is poisonous, and can cause severe digestive tract problems like diarrhea, nausea and vomiting.

*Hydrangeas – These plants are most appreciated for their showy blue, pink, and white flower clusters. While these look especially lovely in the summer time, do keep in mind that the entire plant is toxic.  If ingested, it can cause dyspnea, fainting, dizziness, rapid heartbeat, and can cause death.

*Larkspur- Many gardeners love these bright blue and purple buttercup flowers for their low maintenance and high impact color. Unfortunately, if eaten, these plants can cause vomiting, diarrhea, and nausea, and a slowed heart beat.  If not treated quickly, these plants can lead to death in both animals and humans.

*Lily Of The Valley – these white bell shaped flowers are sweet smelling and gorgeous.  But the entire plant can be quite dangerous for pets and humans. Even a few bites can cause heart problems, headache, hot flashes, hallucinations, and skin irritations. In some cases, death has been reported.

*Oleander – These plants are prized for their dainty white flowers that exude a wonderful fragrance.  Unfortunately in 2011, a giraffe at Tucson Zoo was accidently fed the leaves from an oleander, and died several days later. This is a cautionary tale for gardeners that aim to grow these plants in their garden.  While they are pretty to look at, eating any part of the plant can cause severe affects on the digestive system, to life threatening central nervous system issues that lead to death.

Peonies: The gorgeous plant’s claims to fame are the red, pink and white blossoms and their longevity. They are one of the few perennial plants that can live up to fifty to seventy five years old, and with little maintenance. Watch your pets around these flowers, as they can lead to digestive problems and rapid heartbeat if swallowed.

*Rhododendron – Many grow these bright red, white, purple and pink flowers for additional shade in their garden.  But if any of this plant is ingested, it can lead to serious side effects from vomiting, to low blood pressure, and even death.

If your dog loves to dig up holes and bury items in the backyard, it’s important to know that a variety of bulbs pose a threat to dogs if ingested.  Use caution when bulbs are planted, or if you store varieties in an area pets can wonder. The most common threats are Amarylis, Autumn Crocus, Daffodil, Elephant Ear, Hyacinth, Iris, and Tulips. Signs of poisoning include oral or skin irritation, upset stomach, weakness, rapid breathing, increased thirst, seizures and disorientation.

Ferns of all types are a potential threat to your pet if chewed or swallowed. Studies show that Asparagus Ferns, Australian Nut, Emerald Feather, Lace Fern, and Plumosa Fern can be the most dangerous. Symptoms can include stomach upset, weakness and fatigue.

Further reading: See this list for a full list of dangerous plants for dogs.


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Five Tips For Prepping

June 5th, 2012

Major life changing events can and do happen. Definitely most occur without surprise, and can affect small, remote areas or major cities. Others are more obvious and one, so attuned, can make the best of preparations. Regardless, they can happen slowly or very quickly, causing insignificant to long lasting deterioration even after the worst is over. Such changes can take on many forms, from hurricanes, earthquakes and tornadoes, dangerous spills, flu outbreaks, and especially severe economic events. Knowing this, “prepper’s” are taking great measures to ready their homes and families for endurance, trying times, or just plain survival. With that said, they are also sharing with neighbors, establishing neighborhood gardens, and taking to social media to sound the alarm so to speak by writing about survival, prepping, and the cyclical nature as to why this is prudent.

Many wonder if government agencies like the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) can truly provide everything we need in an emergency?  Since 2003, FEMA is largely in command of planning and responding to disasters of all varieties.  However, when Hurricane Katrina struck Louisiana in 2005, the FDA reported residents were without basic needs like adequate food or clean water for days, even weeks for some. They also reported that crop supplies and processed goods were completely submerged under water, and exposed to contaminants like chemicals and sewage, forcing residents to fear the very essentials necessary for survival: food and water.

Below are five ways you can better prepare your own food and water supply in the occurrence of a disaster. These tasks should be prepared before a disaster strikes, and with your own location, climate, physical health and family needs in mind.

1)   Store a variety of ways to cook and heat up food.  Depending on whether you’ll have access to electricity, batteries, or even the outdoors – suggests that a few different modes to cook a meal can make a real difference.  If you have access to the outdoors, there are now a variety of survival stoves to choose from.  However, survivalists recommend that the stove heat up to at least 1,200 degrees F.  Furthermore, a stove that can run on rechargeable AA batteries, and equipped for a DC Out Plug and/or a portable solar charger can all prove useful in a survival situation. Along with a survival stove, you can keep food warm by using candle warmers, chafing dishes, and fondue pots. Keep in mind that charcoal grills, a fireplace, a campfire and eating food right out of the can are also options.  In the chance you need to change locations, ensuring some cooking devices are light, portable and easy to use should also be considered.

2)   Begin purifying and storing water sooner rather than later. FEMA suggests that families should store ½ gallon of water, per person, per day in the chance of a disaster.  Yet, keep in mind that children, the elderly, and those with health issues may require more than the ½ gallon to stay hydrated.  Medical emergencies and hot temperatures can also quickly deplete a water supply.  Many disaster preppers aim to more than double FEMA’s suggestion, storing at least one gallon of water, per person, per day. Furthermore, it’s important to consider your own climate, family needs and common sense to build an adequate water supply.

Many choose to store bottles of water for easy access.  Yet, boiling water and using one of the many water purification systems out there are also safe ways to attain water when done properly.  If water is running short, learning how to chlorinate or distill water is incredibly useful in an emergency, and can save lives. Also, avoid carbonated, alcoholic and caffeinated beverages in an emergency – as these can dehydrate the body and lead to more water consumption than planned for.

3.) Store seeds that offer a wide range of nutrition in airtight, long-term packaging. In severe weather, drought, or in the unpredictable nature of any disaster – ensuring your seeds stay fresh and viable can play a major factor in survival.  While there are a wide range of seed packages and storing opportunities to choose from, The Producer  is a great investment and trade. For a around $5.00 a pack, you get a seed kit that offers bulk fruit and vegetables in 26 varieties of non-GMO and non-hybrid seeds, including certified organic and heirloom varieties packaged for long term storage. Seeds are packaged in re-sealable Myler® bags, then stored in waterproof, rodent proof container that is also FDA approved for long-term storage.  Whether you choose to grow your seeds now or later, The Producer ensures a nutritious food supply.

4) Build Your Own Survival Garden. There are never any guarantees that our grocery stores will continue to be stocked full of food, or that a natural disaster will allow us safe roads to drive to the store on. Many emergencies are such that there is no time to start growing a garden, or just begin gaining experience at growing food. Perhaps that knowing this, you have already started a survival garden of your own.  But the only question remaining is, “how do I keep a survival garden thriving all year long?” To learn more about sustaining your own survival garden, this post offers detailed instructions on planting and maintenance.

5) Learn how to can your own food. First invented during Napoleon’s time as a means of feeding troops healthfully during a march, canning is used today as a useful method to preserve garden fresh fruits and vegetables. Never canned before? Canning entails placing fresh or cooked produce in jars and heating them to a temperature that microorganisms are unable to survive in.  If done effectively; canning can prevent unnecessary waste, save money, and provide healthy food for your family all year long, as well as in an emergency situation. Essentially, there are two options for home canning: one is water bath canning, and the other is pressure cooker canning.  View this post for detailed instructions on the canning process, and how to store cans long-term.

If canning your own food for disaster preparedness is something you aim to try, consider canning a variety of nutritious foods.  Canning fruits like mangos, cantaloupe, and passion fruit can offer B vitamins, which are essential for energy, cell production and body growth, whereas pineapple, brussel sprouts and butternut squash have high amounts of vitamin C, which plays a significant role in building the immune system, protecting body tissue, and warding off free radicals.  Be sure to pack at least (2) can openers in your disaster supply kit, and consider opting for low sodium canned food to prevent dehydration.

So, as the old English proverb goes; “Hope for the best and prepare for the worst” is something worth taking to heart given the current state of the world. We thank you for support of this blog and here is a thanks to you, 20% off at check out for any seed kit by using the code: HSBLOG20

You might also like ~ Survival Gardening: How To Boost Your Disaster Preparedness


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Drip Irrigation vs. Hand Watering

June 4th, 2012

As glamorous as lugging a hose around the garden sounds, many gardeners are finding that hoses and sprinklers are watering systems of the past. Drip irrigation is now recognized as the most efficient way to water your garden, while saving time and money.  But what is drip irrigation?  It’s a watering system made up of tubes and drippers, where the tubes send water to various parts of the garden, and the drippers allow water to reach the roots without the risk of evaporation or erosion. But is it right for your garden?

It may prove more useful to water a small garden by hand.  Yet for medium to large flowerbeds, vegetable gardens, as well as shrubs and trees – drip irrigation is more effective than anything else.  For one, while hoses and sprinklers deliver large amounts of water at a rapid rate (as much as 100 gallons every 15 minutes!), drip irrigation systems deliver water directly where it is needed; to the root system. When the soil is allowed time to absorb the water, it can decrease the chances of evaporation, run-off, erosion, and puddles. Not to mention, avoiding water waste is environmentally sound.

Another positive? Drip irrigation can save more time than any other system.  When similar plant needs are grouped together, one is able to create a drip irrigation system that will do the work for you. Widely or irregularly spaced plants normally require running ½ inch tubing as a supply line where plants are growing. 1/8 inch tubing can be built for each dripper outlet, providing each plant equal amounts of water for optimal growth. Small or evenly dispersed plants may also require ½ inch tubing, and the dripper may be already built in.  When using a timer, one can easily change the settings to provide more water in the summer months, and less water when it’s cooler.

Once the irrigation system is installed, you’ll find the maintenance a real breeze. Daily, you may want to check the tubing for leaks, and ensure the system is working properly.  Yet, most tasks can be done weekly, or even seasonally.  This may require more extensive checking for damage, adding and adjusting emitters as plants grow, and changing the watering timers as the weather changes.  In the wintertime, drip irrigation may need to be turned off completely to avoid damage.

Something to think about: Researchers claim that if every American used drip irrigation for their home garden, there would be a significant drop in demand for fresh water in cities and towns. This means tax dollars could fund other projects and necessities in your area. Why not do your part?

Do you use a drip irrigation at home? What system works best for your garden?


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