April Showers Bring May Flowers…and Vegetables! 8 Organic Gardening Tips You Can Use This Weekend

Organic gardens produce a bountiful harvest.

With what is hopefully the last frost behind us, it’s time to kick your Minnesota vegetable garden into high gear. Growing your own veggies is a fun and fulfilling experience that allows you to try something new and gives you control over how your food is grown.

Keeping a backyard vegetable garden is the epitome of eating local—you can measure the distance your food has traveled in steps, not miles! For a bountiful, organic vegetable garden, follow these eight tips.

  1. Know When to Plant

As we experienced this week, spring temperatures in Minnesota can fluctuate 40 degrees in a matter of hours. It can be tricky to know when to start sowing your crops.

Research the plants you wish to grow to learn if they are cool crops or hot crops. Cool crops, such as root veggies, can resist frost, while tender hot crops, like tomatoes, cannot. Plan your planting schedule so you’re putting hot crops in the ground toward the end of May.

  1. Select Natural Plants and Feed Them Naturally

Once you have a plan for your garden, purchase organic seeds and seedlings. Organic plants are grown without the use of harmful chemicals and are not genetically modified.

Feed your organic plants naturally with organic compost and aged manure. Garden centers sell compost rich in manure. You can also buy separate bags of cow, chicken, rabbit, horse, or sheep manure.

  1. Mulch Your Plants

Mulch does wonders for your organic garden. It keeps weeds at bay, helps your soil retain moisture so you can water less frequently, and provides nutrients as it breaks down in the soil.

If you’re planting from seed, wait to mulch until after seedlings crop up. Choose dye-free, natural mulch. You can also mulch with straw and even grass clippings from your lawn (as long as your lawn is not chemically treated).

  1. Weed Early

The best tools to combat weeds in your vegetable garden are your own two hands. Stay on top of weeds by weeding early and often. As you weed, also pick up any dead leaves or other foliage, as they can harbor disease.

  1. Water Wisely

When you water in the middle of a hot, sunny day, you lose a lot of water to evaporation. Instead, water your plants in the morning, before the sun really heats up. Try to focus the water at the base of the plant to avoid getting the leaves wet. Wet leaves can create an environment for disease. Better yet, invest in a soaker hose. This permeable hose allows water to seep out and into the soil, avoiding foliage and saving you time.

  1. Plant Flowers to Attract Good Bugs

Veggie plants have many pests, but your organic garden will be home to many beneficial insects, too. These bugs eat pests and help keep your garden healthy. Certain flowers, such as nasturtium, black-eyed susans, purple coneflowers, sunflowers, and zinnias attract beneficial insects and keep pests at bay.

  1. Rotate Your Crops

When harvest time comes, take note of where you planted your vegetables. When you plan next year’s garden, avoid growing the same plants in the same spots. Some plant diseases lay dormant in the soil over the winter and can make veggies of the same type sick the next year.

  1. Don’t Expect Perfection

Organic gardening is an exercise in balance. Vegetable plants raised organically will not be spot-free or even disease-free. But allowing nature to take its course will create a healthier garden on the balance. Embrace the little imperfections!

To learn more about how eating organic vegetables can benefit your health, contact me today.

Here’s to breathing easy and living life to the fullest!

Gene Wood, Life’s Pure Balance

Workplace Indoor Air Quality: Is It Time to Get Fresh at Work?

Are cleaning chemicals polluting the air at your workplace?With the high pollen count we Minnesotans are experiencing, outdoor air quality is likely at the top of your mind. Itchy, watery eyes and a runny nose are signs the air contains irritants. Many seasonal allergy sufferers find relief once they get inside.

But for many people, allergy symptoms arise once they walk through their workplace doors. The quality of indoor air can have similar and even more severe health effects than outdoor air.

An Urgent Environmental Risk

If you’re like most business owners, you spend at least 40 hours a week inside your office, studio, showroom, gym, and other workspace. That adds up to 2,000 hours a year—if you’re lucky enough to get two weeks of vacation.

With so many hours spent indoors at work, you want the air you breathe there to be healthy. But the EPA considers indoor air quality one of the “most urgent” risks to your health. Many factors contribute to the quality of the air inside a commercial building, including:

  • the general design and maintenance of the building
  • the maintenance of the HVAC system
  • poor quality of re-circulated air
  • the variety of activities that occur within the building
  • overcrowding
  • moisture
  • radon
  • outside air pollutants making their way inside
  • chemicals in conventional cleaning and disinfecting supplies, including aerosols

When just one of these factors reduces the quality of the air in your workplace, you can start to experience health effects. Symptoms of poor indoor air quality mimic those of the common cold, stress, flu, and allergies. The difference, however, is that the symptoms go away once you leave work.

Maintaining Good Indoor Air Quality

Unless you own your commercial building, improving some of these factors may be out of your hands. However, there are things you and your employees can do to ensure the air you all breathe is healthy. The first step is to test the air quality with a DIY testing kit. It will identify the pollutants in your air so you can make a plan to improve it.

If you’re using conventional commercial cleaning supplies, your air likely contains all the toxins and chemicals found in those cleaners. Simply replacing these cleaners with non-toxic, natural choices will eliminate these pollutants from your air.

If you feel sick every time you’re at the office, you’re not allergic to work. The quality of the air is affecting your health. To learn more about how to improve the quality of the air at your workplace, contact me today.

Here’s to breathing easy and living life to the fullest!

Gene Wood, Life’s Pure Balance