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TRAP CROPPING – Pest Control the Natural Way

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In the recent years, interest in the use of trap crop in farms and gardens has increased along with the rising attention in organic gardening. The reason behind is the mounting awareness and concern in the potential harm of pesticides to humans and animal life including the environment.
Trap cropping is a technique of using decoy plants in luring pest away from the main crops you are growing. Once the decoy plants are infested, they are then treated or destroyed to eradicate the pest.
Trap cropping is ideal for farm use where planting is widespread, but can be reduced to scale to meet the requirement of smaller farm or garden. There are two ways of using Trap crops. First is by planting several decoy plants of the same species completely surrounding the main crop. This is called perimeter trap cropping. In this way, pest attacks coming from all sides of the field are averted.
Second is by planting the decoy plants in alternating rows within the main crop. These decoy crops, also known as a sacrificial crop, protect the valuable main crop and serves as the food plant for the destructive insects. Once these insects have settled well, the decoy plants are then treated with organic pesticides or mechanically removed.
There are several benefits in using trap crop for pest control. Seed price of trap crops is low, will cause a significant reduction in the use of harmful pesticides, preserves the balance of biodiversity, have a better crop production, conserve the soil and the environment.
To be successful with trap cropping, you need to plan a layout of your farm or garden to guide you on how your decoy crops will be planted. You must study the specific pest in your area in order to learn its food preference. Pick the right decoy crop. Do regular monitoring. And respond quickly in ridding the pest found in the decoy crops. Remember that with trap cropping, timing is important. You have to make sure that everything is in place once the invasion of insect starts which always happens at a specific time of year.
Here are some trap crops you can use on your home gardening. Mustards attracts harlequin bugs. Radishes attract cabbage maggots, flea beetle and harlequin bugs. Dill attracts tomato hornworms. Cucumber beetle loves amaranth. Sunflowers are haven for stink bugs. Japanese beetles go for zinnias. Tomato aphids like okra. And squash bugs prefer millet. Other plants can be used to repel insects. Marigold repels both cabbage moth and nematodes, basil repels tomato hornworms, and tomato deters asparagus beetle. To balance it off, you also need to attract beneficial insects by planting flowers.
Trap cropping will not totally eliminate destructive pest, but will definitely help in reducing the use of pesticides which should be our main objective.
Have fun planting!

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The Most Genetically Modified Foods

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You may not be aware that much of the food that you eat today are genetically modified. And the worst part is the difficulty in identifying them because they are not labelled as GMO. About 60 to 70 percent of food sold in major supermarkets are genetically modified. Corn Starch and soy protein are predominantly derived from GMO crops. Now the question is, can you really be sure that the processed food you buy does not contain ingredients that were genetically engineered? Well, here are some of the most genetically modified food today. If what you are buying contain any of them, then they are 100% GM food.
Corn – in the United States, 90 percent of corn crown is genetically modified. Most crops are processed as animal feed and used the production of ethanol, and the rest is made into processed food. The sweet corn that you eat either grilled or steamed was GMO free until a big corporation started the first Genetically Engineered sweet corn.
Soybeans – The most genetically modified food in the country. It was modified to contain a high level of oleic acid, a monounsaturated omega-9 fatty acids to lower LDL cholesterol. The creation of genetically engineered soybean was given approval in 2010 to the largest U.S. producer of hybrid seeds.
Canola Oil – Its genetic modification was approved in 1996. By 2006, 90 percent of canola crops in the U.S. is genetically modified.
Milk – Cows are given recombinant bovine growth hormone to make them grow faster and increase its milk production. Some of the milk produced by these cow may contain the same growth hormones and has been shown to act in the human body. About one fifth of dairy cows in the U.S. is given growth hormones.
Zucchini – This plant is modified to contain toxic protein to make it highly resistant to insects. And this insecticide has been found in human blood which indicates that rather than being broken down somehow gets into the body when eating genetically modified zucchini. It is also hard to distinguish the difference between GMO and non-GMO zucchini.
Papaya – Those grown in Hawaii since 1999 has been genetically modified and are sold in the United States and Canada. They are modified to delay its maturity and to be resistant to ringspot virus.
These are just some of the many GM food being sold and the companies producing and selling them are not even required to inform the consumers. Not good.
Do you know that the first genetically modified food trial was done in the 1980s? A U.S. biotech company introduced the “Flavr Savr Tomato”, the first GMO approved crop. It was modified to stay ripe on its vine longer.
Stay healthy. Eat organic.

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GMO- A Threat To Health

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Genetically modified foods now abound our supermarkets and grocery stores. From floor to ceiling shelves are packed with food showing off their nutritional benefits and most of us are not aware that certain ingredients are holed up in these products. They have been sold for so many years now and we have been eating them for so long and the sad fact is that no one informed us about these ingredients.  We have the right to know what’s in our food.
Genetically modified organisms (GMO) are plants and animals that has undergone a genetic modification with DNA from other plants and animals or from viruses and bacteria to give it a new attribute like being able to withstand direct application of herbicides, tolerance to extreme drought or heat and more.  Although no scientific proof that GMO crops are not safe for consumption; there are also none to confirm about their safety, leaving the consumers in the dark. The issue over GM food safety has been going around since it was introduced in the 1990s and not enough research was conducted on the effect of GMO. The only sure thing now is that more and more GM products are coming into the market and consumers are no longer given a choice by food manufacturers. To make matter worst is that the U.S. does not require food producers to disclose any modifications of the ingredients.  Whereas our European neighbors are banning GM foods which they believe have been associated with various health issues. Illnesses like infertility, allergies and cancer.
Large industrial farms grow most of GM crops which are then processed into several other ingredients that are added into corn syrup, sweeteners used in soups, canola and cottonseed oil, sauces and spreads.  Try looking on your food label for ingredients like high fructose corn syrup, corn starch, dextrose, soy lecithin. If you find them, chances are you’re eating genetically modified foods. Do you know that 80% of grocery items that you buy are derived from GMOs?  Around 90 percent of U.S. corn crop are GM and is a staple for animal feed, so, unless your meat comes from grass-fed animals,  chances are, you have GMO in your body.
There are ways of avoiding GM products. Going organic. USDA prohibits the use of genetically modified ingredients on organic products. Check the additives used on packaged food, including the source of dairy, eggs, meat and fish.  Choose those that are Non-GMO Project Verified or Organic. Use the Non-GMO shopping guide (App) which you can download on your mobile phone for free. If present in your area, shop with GM free retailers like Whole Foods Market or Trader Joe’s.
The only way to know that the crop is GMO free is the Organic label of the USDA.

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ORGANIC LABEL- What You Need To Know

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To ensure that what you are buying is really organic is to find an organic label in them.  Then again, you need to be absolutely sure as when it comes to organic label, a lot of deception abounds. It is very unfortunate, but reading labels on food is not easy as one might think. To add to the difficulty, determining what is contained in the food, one need to have an essential knowledge of how to translate certain jargon that is used to describe them which most of the time are misleading. A lot of companies nowadays hire advertising experts and even lawyers to create words to be placed on food packaging, but are they really being honest or just being on the legal side?  There are a lot of ways companies will hoax people into buying fake organics like using fake wordings, fake organic labels and using confusing labels like “ healthy”, “natural”, “sustainable” of which none means organic.
USDA Certified Organic label, it’s the only organic label now that gives the assurance that the product is really organic. What does it entail for a product to be certified as one?  For a farmer of organic produce to obtain such certification, they have to meet very strict standards. For a crop to qualify as organic, it must be grown using organic farming methods which are designed to encourage water and soil conservation and reduce pollution. Crops must be cultivated without the use of fertilizers using petroleum and sewage sludge, synthetic pesticides. They are not to contain traces of heavy metals or any contaminants in excess of tolerance set by the FDA. The crops must not be exposed or allowed to contain chemical preservatives or flavorings and are not genetically modified.
Organic producers who sell less than $5,000 a year are exempt of USDA certification to have their product labeled as organic, but they are still required to abide by the USDA’s standards for organic foods.
In the United States, it is most likely that processed food contains a genetically modified organisms specially if they contain soy or corn ingredients. It is also worthwhile to note that all processed food out in the market is sure to contain chemicals which will eventually end up in the body.
Keep in mind that organic doesn’t always equal healthy. Organic foods like baked goods and snacks are usually high in salt, fat, sugar or calories.  It pays to read food labels carefully.
Support local and organic!

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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!

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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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Principles For A Successful Organic Farming

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The main foundation of organic farming is all about land stewardship in order for the land to be still productive in generations. It is not a new issue regarding such matter in farming. However, from manual labor people saw how fast the technology eats the usual farming techniques. Synthetic fertilizers were affordably manufactured and tractors quickly replace manual labor. Farmers all over the world saw the sudden change in farming. They saw an industrialized growth as time pass. However, they still want to practice being the stewards of the land so they began to study and develop methods that increased long term productivity of the land. Thus, practice farming with that stewardship benefit. This type of farming soon known to the people as organic farming.
Let us tackle about the principles of farming that saves land productivity. The philosophy organic production of food maintains specific principles by which it leads to long term growth of the land known to be biodiversity, sustainability, ecological balance, natural pest management, natural plant fertilization and soil integrity. Since there are a variety of products and practices, there are methods in which these principles are applied.
In traditional terms, organic food production has specific characteristics that could maintain land integrity and benefited the next generations. They are grown and raised by a producer who utilizes practices that promotes balance together with the natural environment, utilizing methods and materials that could minimize negative outcome to the environment we are living. In organic farming, farmers are committed to reproducing environment ecology by maintaining biodiversity and promoting soil integrity and growing conditions.
In organic production of foods, they must be produced on land that has been free from toxic chemicals and chemical pesticides and even the use of fertilizers at about three years before the issuance of the certificate and synthetic fertilizers and pesticides must not be used in production of foods from these organic farms. They must be planted on a rotating basis within the technique of the farm system. Crops must be rotated from fields to fields, rather than applying the growing method of the same crop in the same place every year.
With regards to organic meat, poultry and egg products must come from plants that use organic feeds and must not administer added hormones for the promotion of growth or any antibiotics that may be used and they allow the animals the space and freedom to behave naturally.

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Benefits of Lemon Juice

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A lot of people say that lemon is a superfood. Yes! Indeed, a true one, but it is an understatement. The juice you can extract from this type of food does contain antioxidants that truly help you with your overall health. This is the reason why they are useful in treating different ailments and conditions. There are several reasons why you have to include lemon in your diet. They do not only add flavor to a various recipe in your table, but they also had a ton of health benefits which you can also enjoy.
Drinking a half cup of the juice every day increases the citrate level in the urine. Studies showed that it could protect your kidney from forming against calcium stones. Take a healthy diet lifestyle. Split some time to include lemon in your plate because it is proven to prevent your kidney in forming stones that leads to treatment even surgery.
If you have a problem with sore throat, take a sip of the juice with an extra touch of honey which proven to alleviate the discomfort that you are feeling coming from a nasty aches of sore throat. Be extra careful of what you are eating. Take some time to relax those vocals.
Has a fever problem? Don’t worry about it! Forget those suffered days. Drink some lemon juice mixture and for sure it will help bring your temperature down faster.
Are you bitten? Stop the sting with the combination of lemons and cornstarch that indeed stop some of the sting. Other than this, you can add the fruit to what you are eating because aside from bananas, this superfood offers you 80 milligrams of potassium that helps your body to stay strong and helps you to work efficiently and effectively.
Are you struggling with losing weight? Then it’s time for you to lose those weights along with lemon juice. Beyond the old notion that the master cleanse is the only way it could help you lose weight, new studies came out supporting the same goal. It indeed shows that the juice of this superfood contains pectin, known to be a soluble fiber aids in losing weight. You can also start your day with the juice in your life. Leave caffeinated drinks behind and start your day with a hot water and fresh lemon juice to stimulate your digestive track and add vitamin C.
Start a healthy lifestyle with lemon on your side. 

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The Essentials of Coconut Oil

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Coconut, being dubbed as the fruit of life, has been providing immense benefits of maintaining a healthy and fit body. For those who want to lose weight, it is said that the oil coming from the fruit has exemplary components that can help lose weight. Coconut oil contains medium chain of essential fatty acids that are responsible in eliminating excess fats in the body. Aside from fat reduction, it is also responsible in regulating thyroid function and enhancing body metabolism.
Consuming coconut oil on a regular basis facilitates successful weight loss management. Although it may take some time to notice visible results, consumers should be patient as they will attain the desired weight in no time. Moreover, a person needs not to perform any major lifestyle modification; simply adding the oil into the diet is already efficient. For instance, users can add a tablespoon of oil in their coffee. Studies have revealed the effectiveness of consuming organic coconut oil as it provides more energy in the body, making a person feel full and experience less food cravings for high caloric foods like carbohydrates and fats.
For those who are planning to consume coconut oil, they should slowly introduce it into their bodies. This should be practiced because some people may have allergies when taking the coconut, just like any other food selections. Thus, it is essential to slowly introduce the coconut oil in the body. The total amount of oil to be consumed in a day should be based on the consumer’s weight or through a doctor’s prescription. Coconut oil can be easily added in the diet as a replacement of margarine, butter, or even the regular cooking oils.
As mentioned, the daily intake should be based on one’s weight. For those who weigh 100 to 125 pounds, they should take at least two and a half teaspoons in a day; 125 to 150 pounds should take three tablespoons; 150 to 175 pounds should take three and a half teaspoons; and people over 175 pounds should consume four tablespoons in a day. For those who are unsure with their right dosage should consult their physician.
To sum it all, there are lots of things to learn when it comes to the advantages of taking coconut oil. Its medium-chained fatty acid is responsible for eliminating excess fat. On the other hand, it contains anti-bacterial, anti-microbial and anti-fungal properties. Nevertheless, coconut is not only effective for weight loss, but it also provides other immense health benefits like skin health, immunity and overall wellness of the body.

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The Beginner’s Guide on Raising an Organic Garden

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Organic gardening is a method of cultivating plants that don’t make use of pesticides or chemical fertilizers. Instead, implementing the natural methods and application of hard work will certainly help grow and propagate plants in the garden.

The benefits of organic gardening

Offers better nutrition. According to a certain study published in the Journal of Complimentary Medicine, it has been revealed that organic food crops contain significant amounts of essential nutrients that the body needs in order to stay fit and healthy. These food crops are free from harmful chemicals that come from synthetic chemicals that can cause different illnesses and diseases.
Lessens household expenses. Since the garden provides a steady supply of food crops, homeowners will no longer purchase from local stores, thus facilitating cutting back on the grocery bills.
Helps improve the environment. Instead of throwing grass clippings, fallen dried leaves or food scraps, these things can be utilized in making compost. Compost serves as an organic fertilizer in growing fruits and vegetables in the garden.

Easy Tips on Starting an Organic Garden
Although there are plenty of benefits when raising an organic garden, a lot of people tend to be intimidated by the fact that it involves a lot of work compared to conventional farming. Listed below are some of the simple tips that can be used in starting an organic garden:

Know the land area to use. Survey the backyard and see the available space in the organic garden. The area must be sufficient enough to have at least six hours of sun exposure every day. The area should have a proper drainage as well.
Prepare the soil. After selecting an area to use, clear the area of grass and weeds, loosen up the soil and add a great amount of compost in it.
Select the right seedlings to plant on the land. For those who are new in propagating organic garden, it is best to make use of seedlings than growing seeds. Seedlings contain well-developed roots and are already capable of surviving in the land. Also, the waiting time becomes shorter when using seedlings.
Begin in small scale. Even if the space in our backyard is big enough to have an organic garden, it is best to start in small scale. Organic gardening requires a lot of hard work. Thus, starting with a small piece of land with a couple of crops allow users to maintain their garden without becoming too overwhelmed. Then, homeowners can expand their garden and add more crops in the long run.
Label crops. Every crop entails own specific requirements. Thus, adding a label to the crops will ensure homeowners that they will give the right amount of attention and care in order for the crops to grow properly.