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Sewer Sludge Fertilizer: What You Need to Know

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Early in the 1990s, close to a million acres of America’s farmland have been covered with apparently toxic sewage sludge as food crop fertilizer, about a million tons were used. And this has been favored by the government as a program for disposing byproducts gathers from municipal waste water treatment plants.
Just what are sewage sludge? Well, they’re toxic wastes taken from a lot of sources like homes, hospitals, chemical manufacturers, other businesses, and storm water drain which are flushed or dumped into wastewater systems across the nation. And the kind of waste includes human fecal, pathogens, heavy metals, and several hundreds of contaminants. These wastes undergo a process in the wastewater treatment plants where it tries to remove as much contaminants as it can from the water. The water is later discharged and the solids that remain are sludge or “biosolids”. Except for some handful of contaminants, most has not undergone tests for its effect to human health and the environment.
Despite its obscurity, sewage sludge continues to be used as fertilizers, some are even mixed with other materials and bagged as “biosolid compost” for use in farm and garden landscaping. But why not use them, they are given free anyway, right?… Big mistake! The use of sewage sludge is under-publicized and with so much hidden threat. Before the 1980, these “biosolids” were dumped in the ocean, and after they realized that it was an environmental and human health disaster, some PR experts came up with a brilliant idea… apply them to farmlands under the guise of “biofertilizer”… and give them out legally for free! Wow!… I want some for my farm!
Just how perilous is sewage sludge as fertilizers? To give you an idea, past analysis conducted on sewage sludge resulted in the discovery of a large number of dioxins and synthetic compounds like toluene and phthalates. There was also a good number of heavy metals in high concentrations and various pesticides.
When applied to the soil, some of these chemicals will bind to the soil, and others will leach into the groundwater. Some chemicals are really not filtered out in the process, like heavy metals, flame retardants, and other carcinogens which accumulates in the soil. And a good question to ask is, have these “biosolids” actually been treated at all?
While hundreds of individuals have fallen ill due to exposure sewer sludge fertilizers, the application to farmlands and gardens continues. As consumers, the only way we can be sure that what we are getting are not grown in sewage sludge is to buy organic foods from trusted suppliers at farmers markets. Your local grocery stores are definitely not the ideal place to buy safe, fresh food.
Support family farm. Go organic.

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Effects of Synthetic Fertilizers

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The only good thing I see about synthetic fertilizer is its ability to give instant nutrient to plants and soil, nothing more. Actually, synthetic fertilizers do more harm than good to us and the environment. Its long term use has detrimental effect on both health and structure of the soil, which lead to compaction and erosion.
You see, our soil is a living soil… an ecosystem on its own. It is made up of mineral, water, air and organic matters that includes humus, earthworms and several millions of micro-organisms, like bacteria, nematodes, fungi, algae and actinomycetes. Organic matters live, eat and die in the soil, in various stages of breakdown. By converting nutrients into compounds, these micro-organisms are able to provide the plants the nourishment it requires to grow. We often fail to see just how significant micro-organisms are in keeping the soil healthy.
Chemical fertilizers are usually made up of synthetic nitrogen and phosphorous. Nitrogen is only present in the atmosphere and very rarely on soil. To make a synthetic nitrogen, anhydrous ammonia (NH3) was developed, which is salt based. And we all know what salt build-up in soil can do. The Romans knew that salt can permanently eliminate soil fertility and that is what they did when they conquered Carthage. They salted Carthage and turned it into a vast arid land.
Use of chemical fertilizers poses a lot of danger to the environment. The most damaging effect of synthetic fertilizers is the elimination of micro-organisms and the ability of soil to nourish itself. Without these micro-organisms, there’s, just no way plant will survive. Since the 1940s, close to 4.7 billion acres of soil worldwide have been degraded due to the heavy use of synthetic fertilizers. This resulted to poor crop yield.
It causes water pollution. With rain water or excessive watering, chemical fertilizers leach into rivers, stream or lakes and possibly our water supply polluting them in the process. This creates a widespread health hazard not only to us humans, but also to our wildlife. Synthesized nitrogen when converted to nitrates and presented itself to our drinking water can be a serious threat to infants. Have you heard of “blue baby syndrome”?… Well, nitrate is the culprit.
Over time, it becomes a serious threat as these harmful chemical accumulates in the bodies of humans and animals via ingestion, respiration or direct contact. Mercury and cadmium which are commonly found in chemical fertilizers are taken up by plants through soil and water or by animals in our food chain. Once this contaminant gets into our bodies, it stays around for a very long time. Take mercury, for example, it becomes a neurotoxin once inside the body which interferes with the brain and nervous system.
There’s always a better way, a natural way to feed the plant without depleting the soil and polluting the water.
Have fun gardening!

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Edible Weeds in Your Garden

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Weeds, they come from all sides of the plant kingdom. Their favorite habitat is bare, disturbed soil. They developed in harsh environments and this is where they thrive well. They can germinate and grow really fast. And this is their characteristics that we fail to see that plays a critical role in bringing about a healthy ecosystem. And they are merely undoing the damages we caused to the environment.
Now, let us take a look at some of edible weeds and the other benefits they can give which may somehow change the way we look at them… pesky weeds.
Bamboo – a notoriously invasive giant grass, but produces shoots that are deliciously edible. A frequent ingredient in Asian cooking because of its fiber rich content. To the Japanese, it’s the king of forest vegetable. It can be served as a daily dish because it is non-toxic and highly nutritious. It is rich in protein, amino acids, fat, inorganic salt and sugar. Its medicinal benefits include treatment of hypertension and hyperglycemia because it’s low in sugar, cancer prevention due to its anti-cancer agents, eliminate free radicals in the body. It is also perfect for weight loss.
Japanese Knotweed – often mistaken as a bamboo, this weed belongs to the buckwheat family. They look like fat stalks poking up from the ground in green and red color. It grows in disturbed soil, along river banks, roadsides, and other moist areas. The stem is usually steamed as vegetable. It can be baked on dessert dishes, turned into jam or sauce. It is tangy and strong tartness in taste like rhubarb, but a lot better. Japanese knotweed is a rich source of vitamin A and C. It also supplies minerals like manganese, zinc, potassium, and phosphorus. The best part is that it also packed with a substance called Resveratrol that is effective in lowering LDL Cholesterol level, reduces the risk of heart attacks and can delay or slow down the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.
Chickweed – An ancient, wild edible weed that is hardy and thrives in many locations. This weed grows from 5 to 50cm tall. It is delicate and easy to grow plant and produces small white flowers. The leaves are smooth and a bit hairy with an oval shape and pointed tips. It is very much valued for its nutritional content. It stores vitamins like vitamin A, B1 and B2, and Vitamin C including essential minerals such as sodium, selenium, iron, phosphorus, magnesium and calcium. Chickweed is known to treat stomach ailments and constipation. It is also used to give relief from over-fatigue and several skin conditions such as burns, eczema and skin wound. Taken raw, they taste like corn silk and when cooked taste like spinach. They are best added raw to salads and sandwiches.
These are just some of the many edible weeds you can find around. The next time you see one, think of the benefits it can provide you and your family. Control them, but try not to exterminate them.
A word of caution, be sure to positively identify the weeds as edible before you start eating them.
Have fun foraging for some delicious weeds.

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Practicing Food Safety In Your Garden

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Garden fruits and vegetables if not managed well can be carriers of pathogens that can cause foodborne illnesses which can be fatal. Harmful bacteria like E. coli and Salmonella may be present in the soil where the crops are grown and most likely will contaminate them.
For gardeners this means a lot, especially if family members are exposed to such risk and no matter how small your garden, the risk is always there. A possibility that pathogen can always find their way onto your homegrown fruits and veggies. The sad thing is that the persons that are prone to this food borne illness are the young children, older adults, pregnant women and those with immune compromising diseases like AIDS.
It’s a simple fact that food safety starts in the garden and by incorporating some food safety measures in your gardening activities will greatly improve your chance of having a garden that is free of disease causing bacteria. There are a number of ways to avoid the potential risk of food-borne diseases and some are simply common sense:

Keep your soil clean. Do not add pet waste or meat scraps in your compost. Keep pets away from your garden. When using manure fertilizer, mix it into the soil. Avoid putting manure when transplanting edibles.
Use clean water. If you wouldn’t drink the water, do not use them to your edible plants. Use drip irrigation to reduce wetting of the leaves and fruits and spray the edible part of the crop with tap water when needed.
Clean your garden tools, boots, gloves right after working. Contaminated tools will likely pass pathogens to the next vegetable it gets in contact with. Clean tools should be stored in closed containers or shack.
Handle your harvest well. Containers used for gathering crops should always be clean to avoid cross contamination. Never re-use plastic bags for your harvest. Clean off dirt from crops thoroughly while in the garden. Handle the harvested crops with care to keep them from getting bruised or damaged. Bag your fresh veggies and fruits unwashed when storing them in your refrigerator to prevent the growth of spoilage bacteria.
Lastly, before and after working on your garden be sure to wash your hands well, especially when you’re not wearing gloves.

It is also good to note that no matter where your fresh produce comes from, the chance of having pathogen is always there, it is a natural part of the environment, so it’s always best to wash fresh fruit or veggie before eating them.
Stay safe and healthy… keep everything clean from your garden to your kitchen!
Have fun gardening!

“From Two Sticks” To A Million Trees – Fighting Malnutrition Organically!

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“From Two Sticks” is a concept of one community development worker and organic farmer to fight malnutrition in Indonesia. His mission… spread the Chaya plant in all of Indonesia and eventually to other third world countries.
Indonesia, the 4th largest country in the world. With a population of over 240 million, around 32 percent are under 18 years of age.  Child malnutrition affects around 36 percent of  children under the age of 5 in Indonesia and because of the lack of necessary micronutrients that they need in their diet, these children suffers one of the many consequences of malnutrition – Stunting.
Child stunting… is a reduced growth rate in child’s development caused by malnutrition in their early childhood and even during their fetal development brought on by their malnourish mother. Children affected by stunting will never be able to regain their lost height and corresponding body weight. This may also lead to their premature death later in life due to undeveloped vital organs. Stunting and its effect cannot be reversed.
One solution that will provide pregnant mothers and children the nourishment they need at no cost at all is to plant CHAYA around their houses.
What is Chaya?  It is a bush that produces leafy vegetable similar to spinach, but the nutrients it contains is three times than other green vegetables.  It is packed with iron, calcium and potassium.  Chaya leaf is also high in protein and crude fiber, including a good amount of other essential minerals needed by the body.
This super leaf has a lot of health benefits to offer.  It can enhance calcium in the bones, improves blood circulation and lower the bad cholesterol.  Because of its very high vitamin C content, it can boost the immune system, prevent common cold, treats scurvy, infections, and kidney disorders.  Chaya can also maintain glucose metabolism to prevent diabetes and improves brain function.
It is important to note that raw Chaya leaves contain hydrogen cyanide, a very toxic chemical. Therefore, it needs to be cooked for at least 20 minutes to get rid of them. Another way is to dry the leaves.
When cooking Chaya, never use aluminum cookware as it causes toxic reaction, avoid smelling the steam too.
Chaya leaves and shoots are available year round, making it ideal to include in the daily diet. It is very easy to plant and can thrive on a varied range of environment. It’s almost maintenance free.
Indeed, Chaya is a practical solution in the fight against malnutrition,… organically and economically!
Andy Bell, the man behind the initial spreading of chaya and Jon Iannacone, Director of the new documentary film “From Two Sticks” have joined forces for this noble cause. A very daunting task, but nevertheless achievable.
To tell their story to the world, they need funding support to complete the film.
Know more by visiting:  http://tinyurl.com/from2sticks; www.fromtwosticks.com

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KITCHEN GARDEN: Why You Need To Have One

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Kitchen garden is believed to have evolved different ancient garden styles in Babylon, Egypt, and Persia. Monasteries in the Middle Ages designed an intricate garden of their own since they were secluded from the outside world. They need to grow their own food in order to survive. Louis XIV, near the end of the 17th century constructed a huge kitchen garden in Versailles, which provided the king’s household of seasonal crops anytime.
Kitchen garden is just like a vegetable garden with a little twist. Its design integrates flowers together with the vegetables, making the garden look more appealing the whole year round. You can have it built from the ground or have it in raised beds. You can start small and gradually expand. It does not have to be right outside your kitchen door, although the closer it is, the easier for you. What could be more fun than stepping out, picking the freshest, cooking it and serving it to your family? If you do not have the space to grow your garden, you may use pots or other containers which you can hang or simply arrange them in your kitchen counter.
What do you gain in having your own kitchen garden? A lot!… With prices skyrocketing these days, growing your own food can save money on your groceries. You can help the environment by reducing water and air pollution by growing your food organically. Get to enjoy fresh and a much better tasting food when you want it, when you need it. Do you know how much chemicals are used to preserve the condition of commercially grown crops from the time of transport until someone bought it in the supermarket?
Having your own garden gives you a sense of satisfaction. Being able to care for your plant, see them grow and finally harvesting them is one of the most meaningful and rewarding experience thing you can have. You actually improve your family’s health since you are providing them with the freshest, safest and the most nourishing fruits and vegetables straight from your garden. Think also of how much food you can prevent from turning to waste. You do not need to store so much food in the refrigerator to save on trips to the supermarket. Gardening also gives you a chance to enjoy the sunshine and fresh air. It’s also a way to de-stress yourself.
Start getting your hands dirty and grow your own organic food today.

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XERISCAPING: Gardening With Little Water

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The word Xeriscape comes from two words – “xeros”, a Greek word meaning dry and the word “scape” which also means scene. It is said to be coined by a Denver Water employee to a style of gardening using drought resistant plants to create a waste-efficient landscape using minimal amount of water.
Xeriscaping is an ecological way and a great choice for vegetable gardener. With little rain being experienced in some years, carrying out water conservation by reducing usage of water for garden is a great relief. Watering the garden directly above only wastes as much of the water through evaporation, and imagine the time you spend watering your garden so often. Indeed, by applying xeriscaping, you not only grow your plants the practical way, but you also get better produce with less water.
This gardening process also requires the selection of plant varieties which will do well in drought conditions. Plants like tomatoes, eggplants, snap beans and peppers can tolerate drought and has good yield-to-space ratio. Herbs are also great as they thrive well in dry and hot conditions.
When you set your vegetable garden, consider the most efficient layout that will maximize the space, rather than making it look attractive. But if you’re planting flowers, it’s a different story. Your garden should receive at least six hours of direct sunlight, so find a place where it can get sunlight in the morning and gets a shade in the afternoon. Another thing to do is to rid the area of as much weed as possible as they soak up the water meant for your vegetables. Try watering your plants at night where evaporation is minimal. Use drip irrigation so that water is delivered directly and deeply to the plants’ root for better absorption. Once the seedlings have grown to a few inches high, you can put a thick layer of mulch or organic compost for protection and to prevent water from evaporating quickly.
By doing soil irrigation and putting fertilizers when needed, you can maintain the health of your vegetable garden coupled with regular inspection for diseases or pests and treating them promptly. Plant your vegetables with herbs, they are a great combination. Cucumber like to grow next to a lemon balm, turnips do well with thyme and put tomatoes and basil together.
Try xeriscaping, you’re not just helping the environment by conserving water, but you’re also saving on your water bill!

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BOKASHI – Composting The Japanese Way

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Have you heard of the word “Bokashi”?   It is a farming practice used by Japanese farmers centuries ago that makes use of microorganisms to quickly breakdown organic wastes.  With the discovery of microorganisms by Dr. Teruo Higa who specializes in agricultural research, Bokashi fermentation was made even better by introducing the right combination of microbes. This ensured better quality and larger harvest of produce that are free of harmful chemicals.
As commonly thought of typical composting, Bokashi is actually more of a process of fermentation. The procedure does not require use of air to ferment the organic matters and this is what makes the whole process odorless. It’s good to have one even in the kitchen. You may ask about those pestering insects and animals gathering around your bin and messing up the place. Well, the nice thing about this system is that it can be sealed completely so you don’t have to worry about them.
Bokashi is an excellent way of adding nutrients to your garden instead of throwing them to landfills. With this process you can include food scraps that normally cannot be added to regular composting method like dairy products, meat, cheese and scraped cook foods.
Throughout the whole fermenting process, a certain liquid from the organic matter accumulates and can be drained. This liquid is commonly called as Bokashi Tea (which I am sure is not the type you would like to take a sip!). There are two ways on how you can use this amazing tea… as a great fertilizer and as a highly effective drain cleaner (goodbye to chemical based household cleaners).
The fermenting process is rather quick. Covering the food waste with some rich soil that contain microorganisms would start the process by quickly breaking down the organic waste that is fermented and not rotten.  In two weeks’ time, you’ll yourself a bin full of highly nutritious Bokashi organic matter.
By this phase of the fermentation process, the scraps have been broken down into nutrients which the plants can use directly. This organic matter can now be mixed with garden soil and depending on the soil temperature, it will take more or less a couple of months to be completely fused with the soil. Since no aeration or soil turning is needed, no other attention or caring is required.  Another great idea is to add it in worm compost if you have one. Surely, the worms will love it and will work more efficiently.
Let’s take care of our environment by keeping wastes out of landfills and start recycling at home… the Bokashi way!

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HYDROPONIC – Future Farming System from the Past

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Hydroponics originates from two ancient Greek words, “hydros” meaning water and “ponics” meaning work or labor.
Let’s have a short history about hydroponics.
Do you know that this concept has been used for thousands of years?  Really!  You may have heard of the “Hanging Gardens of Babylon” built around 600 B.C. and the “Floating Gardens of China” in the 13th century?  Well, both are believed to have functioned based on the principle of hydroponics so it’s actually a technology borrowed from the past.
It was until the 17th century that scientists started experimenting with the idea of a soil-less gardening.  The research was started by Sir Francis Bacon and was posthumously published in 1627.  This triggered surges of intensive research in Hydroponics from different countries and produced astonishing results.
Now, let’s talk about the benefits of Hydroponics.  As the human population grows and the land for crop production declines, this soil-less farming is a welcome relief.  Hydroponics definitely has several advantages over the traditional soil gardening.  It offers us the capacity to grow our food where traditional farming is not possible like deserts, places with dry climates and remote places with very limited space.  With hydroponics, plants can be stacked to save on space.  In fact, you can place them on multiple-story buildings or rooftops.  The growth rate of hydroponic plants as compared to soil plants is much faster under the same growing conditions.  Even the plant yield is higher. Plants require very minimal energy to find and break down their food.  This saved up energy is then used to help them grow much faster. The nutrients mixed with water are sent directly to the root system of the plant which is delivered several times each day. With hydroponics, plants encounter fewer diseases and bug infestations so they grow happier and healthier.
Hydroponics also offers significant benefits to the environment.  It requires very little pesticides and therefore no harmful chemicals are released to pollute the air. This system has lesser water requirements than soil based farming. No water is wasted because hydroponics recycles the water including the nutrient solution. This is good news to areas where water is scarce.
Perhaps you’d like to start a soil-less garden where you can grow your own vegetables. It does not have to be a full scale hydroponic garden but just the size to let you experience the fun of growing plants in water.
How about growing some basil in your kitchen?

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Value-Based Selling IS Personal

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The Sales and Marketing Magazine (www.salesandmarketing.com) recently provided to their members and subscribers a series of free white paper downloads.  One of the white papers available was written by a consultant working for ZS Associates (a highly regarded firm that does much of their business in “pharma.”  www.zsassociates.com). The specific white paper was titled, “Value-Based […]