Instead of Pesticides, Use Plants

This is the year nobody should use pesticides, if you’re on the fence about using pesticides I’ll remind you that they do more harm than good. They negatively impact human health, kill unintended species, and even taint groundwater. Many smart gardeners already avoid using the killer chemicals and you too can be a smart gardener. Why use dangerous chemicals when you can use plants?

Over at PopSci they’ve complied a list of what plants in North America you should plant to protect your garden from pests.

You can find examples of pesticide plants stretching back thousands of years. Native Americans, for example, may have developed companion planting as early as 10,000 years ago, long before home gardening became a pastime. Although synthetic chemical-based pesticides have become common, you don’t need to follow that trend.

When you use plants to keep pests away, you’re employing a proven gardening technique backed by scientific research. Installing the right plants in your garden is fast, easy, and (the best part) extremely fun. If you’re not sure where to start, we have some suggestions for every planting zone in the US.

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This is Why Nature Helps Your Cognitive Health

It’s clear that being around nature is good for one’s health, but why? Researchers have been looking into the physiological reasons for the benefits of nature and multiple reasons have been found. Being in nature is good for you in many tiny ways that culminate into a big benefit to your immune system. Everything from a small house plants to large trees in local parks helps your immune system function better.

Be comforted knowing that you can improve your health (and other’s) by just helping plants grow.

In built environments, trees and landscaping may promote health not only by contributing positive factors like phytoncides but also by reducing negative factors. Air pollution is associated with myocardial inflammation and respiratory conditions (Villarreal-Calderon et al., 2012). High temperatures can cause heat exhaustion, heat-related aggression and violence, and respiratory distress due to heat-related smog formation (Anderson, 2001; Akbari, 2002; Tawatsupa et al., 2012). And violence affects physical and mental health (e.g., Groves et al., 1993). Vegetation filters pollutants from the air (although see Table 2 in the Supplementary Materials for details), dampens the urban heat island (e.g., Souch and Souch, 1993), and appears to reduce violence (Table 2 in the Supplementary Materials for review).

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Gardening for Beginners

Stuck inside due to the coronavirus? Why not learn to garden so when the good weather comes you can socially isolate yourself while also feeding yourself?

Rob Greenfield was nervous and hesitant gardner when he started and wants you to know that it’s ok to be intimidated by growing your own fruits and veggies. He’s created a great guide to help you get started in converting your lawn (which are not good) to a bountiful land of crops!

My goal with this guide is to help you get past the parts you may be nervous about. I want to empower you and activate you into growing your own food and sharing it with your community. Once your confidence level has risen and you feel like you’ve got the hang of it, I’m confident that you can figure out the rest!

This guide is geared toward beginner and first-time gardeners in the Orlando, Florida area. I would not recommend this guide if you are outside Florida. Instead I would use my Free Seed Project Gardening Guide. Florida is a pretty unique state when it comes to growing food and this guide is aimed at helping people working within the circumstances that Central Florida provides. This guide focuses on the basics of growing food and provides a general rule of thumb with ideas. It is by no means the end all be all of beginner gardening. However, I do feel that reading this whole guide will be extremely helpful to those of you who are just getting started.

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Plant Blindness and You

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Can you tell the difference between a big leaf maple and a Japanese maple tree? If not, then you may suffer from plant blindness. Hopefully you can tell them apart when looking at them though. The concept of plant blindness is not so much being able to name every species as it is to appreciate the variety of species that exist. It’s also very easy to cure – just go look at plants.

One key to reducing plant blindness is increasing the frequency and variety of ways we see plants. This should start early – as Schussler, who is a professor of biology at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, puts it, “before students start saying they are bored with plants”. One citizen science project aiming to help with this is TreeVersity, which asks ordinary people to help classify images of plants from Harvard University’s Arnold Arboretum.
Everyday interactions with plants is the best strategy, says Schussler. She lists talking about conservation of plants in local parks and gardening.

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Flowers Reduce use of Pesticide Spraying in Farms

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Farms in the UK and Switzerland are trying a classic approach to reducing their use of pesticides: flowers. Yes, the flowers provide nutrients for insects that eat crops, but they also provide for predators. The difference in the approach for these experimental farms is how they arrange the flowers so the insects get what they need while not enough to damage the crops. Rows of flowers are spaced precisely so that insects can’t travel to far on these factory farms. Smaller farms might naturally benefit from insect proximity already.

As a bonus, the flowers make the farm a little prettier and smell better.

Similar studies have tested the same approach elsewhere. In one study in Switzerland, researchers planted poppies, cilantro, dill, and other flowers along fields of winter wheat. The plants fed and sheltered insects like ladybugs that ate the bugs that eat wheat, and ultimately reduced leaf damage 61%. The researchers estimated that choosing the right mix of flowers could increase yield 10%, making it economically self-sustaining or even profitable to keep planting flowers.

They also want to understand the economic value of the approach, and how it can be incorporated with modern farming tech. “We hope this will underpin a rethink of farming practice to include a more ecological approach to agriculture where farmers actively enhance the underlying ecological processes that benefit crop production,” they say. “We also intend to use this experimental network to demonstrate this approach to industry and to train farmers–our experience has shown that farmers often need to see these approaches in action on real farms before they adopt them.”

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