Category Archives: gardening

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What’s the Big Deal About Organic?

I May Be Preaching to the Choir, Here

You may already be convinced that eating organic foods is the best thing for you, your family, and the planet.  But just in case you aren’t, here’s some information and some reasons why choosing organic makes a lot of sense.

 

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First, a Definition of Terms

“Organic” refers to the way in which food is grown.  This includes produce, dairy products, grains, and meats.  Farmers who grow organically do not use chemical pesticides or herbicides or drugs to control bugs, weeds, or diseases.  They are committed to using methods and practices that encourage healthy soil and water, as well as that reduce pollution.  Food that is not produced organically is termed “Conventional.”
 
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As you can imagine, an organic farmer has chosen to use methods requiring more labor and time.  For example, a conventional farmer will just preemptively spray crops for bugs and weeds.  But an organic farmer will examine the crops regularly for weed or insect infestation, and then pull weeds, use traps, hand-remove pests, or use friendly insects and birds to take care of the pests.  They may also use sophisticated crop rotation and organic fertilizers to encourage healthy growth and healthy soil, rather than chemical fertilizers.  They will spread mulch or manure to discourage weed growth.  Organic farmers also use targeted watering systems (such as drip or water tape) to make sure the water goes directly to the plants, rather than to weeds.  This also conserves water resources.   

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This is Burroughs Family Farms–Happy cows and happy chickens, and healthy soil and pasture grasses!

Organically producing foods generally takes more space, too.  Animals are allowed to have a large range to wander, rather than being grown in small-space cages.  Crops often have smaller yields, since the farmer is not using chemical fertilizers to spur growth.   

The United States Department of Agriculture has established strict guidelines for a food to carry the USDA Organic label.  Any product that carries this label must adhere to those guidelines, and be certified by the USDA.  There is an exception for those who produce less than $5,000 worth of produce per year, but if it is labeled “Organic” (even without the certification) it has to be grown according to the certification standards.  Lassen’s works only with reputable producers to make sure that what we carry in our stores really is the best quality organic food available.

What Does the Organic Seal Mean?

 

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“100% Organic” means that everything in the product is wholly organic.  “Organic” means that at least 95% of the ingredients meet the organic standard.  Products labeled with “Made with Organic Ingredients” have to have at least 70% of the ingredients organic.  If a product has less that 70% organically grown ingredients, it cannot use the word “Organic” on the label or include the USDA seal, but it can list the organic ingredients in the ingredient list.  
 
Organic regulations also prohibit or severely restrict the use of food additives, processing agents, and fortifying agents.  This means that organic processed foods (such as cereals and canned goods) will not have the preservatives, colorings, artificial sweeteners and flavorings, as well as chemicals such as MSG that conventionally produced foods may have.  Produce will not have waxes and dyes sprayed onto the foods to make them look better and may give them a longer shelf life.

So What’s the Benefit of Buying and Eating Organic Foods?

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No Pesticides.  I know that conventionally grown foods do not exceed the Government Standard for an acceptable level of pesticides in my body.  But I don’t really want to be voluntarily eating any poisons.  This link will take you to an article about the produce items that have the most pesticides in them.  Their premise is to cut back on pesticide ingestion by changing to organic on these dozen items, but although those are the worst, all conventional produce has pesticides and insecticides.  My goal is to eat as little as possible.
 
No Chemical Weeds Killers.  Ditto the above.  No matter how much I wash my produce, those chemicals are designed to be absorbed into the plants.  And they are still there when I or my family eats them.

 

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Taste.  I think organic just tastes better.  It is subjective, but a fun family activity might be to do a taste test.  Buy both conventional and organic foods and compare the taste.   We have found that apples are a good test subject.  And meats!

Nutrition.  The jury is still out on the question of if organically produced food is more nutritious than conventionally produced food.  There are some studies that suggest it is.   There is clear evidence of more phytonutrients in organically produced foods.  Click here for more information about some of the studies being done.

 

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Better for the Environment.  If more of our food was produced organically, we would not have the threats to our water and soils that we do now.  The residue of all of those chemicals is washed through the fields, absorbed into the soil, and spilled into our waterways.  Then the fish and other sea life are impacted by those chemicals. 

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You can tell this Burroughs Family Farm almond grove is Organic because there are grasses under the trees.  A commercial grove would be bare–the grasses killed by herbicides

Sustainable.  Many fertilizers are made from fossil fuels, on which I think we’d all like to reduce our dependence!  Soils are healthier when organic farming is practiced.   

No GMOs.  This is a big topic that will have to wait for another day.  There is some great information in this article (17 Essential Reasons to Eat Organic Food) on GMOs, as well as other great ideas.  
 
Better for Farm Laborers.  One day several years ago after riding my bike past some fields on the Oxnard plain, I developed a rash all over my skin that had been exposed to the air.  Legs, arms and face.  It was itchy and blotchy and took several weeks to go away.  I have no idea what had been sprayed on those fields as I was riding by, but can you imagine the exposure to dangerous chemicals that the farms workers and the neighbors are suffering?  

What About the Cost?

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Lassen’s always has several delicious–and always organic– produce items on sale!
There can be a concern about the cost of organic produce and other food.  As you can see, producing organic food takes more space, time, and labor, thus higher costs.  But we at Lassen’s are committed to bringing you the very best value in organic produce and other organic foods.  We also bring you local produce whenever possible, thus cutting down on shipping expenses (and, as a bonus, helping to reduce the carbon footprint.)  Click here for our website, and you will find a link there for our monthly sales newsletter, which always has great produce specials.  You can also find a link to the newsletter on the right-hand side of the blog.
 

This is a helpful article on organic eating.  And even TLC (the channel that brings us all kinds of shows about sugar–Cake Boss and DC Cupcakes!) has an article on why we should eat organic!  Click here to see their 15 reasons to eat organic food.

Come to Lassen’s and enjoy our beautiful, organically produced food and supplements!

love,

Lassen’s

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Reduce Your Waste for Earth Day!

It’s a Beautiful Thing

When I was a teenager I went to visit my sister who was living is Seattle in a darling, tiny house.  She had strings of sweet peas lining the whole side of her garage, and I thought she had created paradise within sight of Lake Washington. 

And to go in her house and have the scent of those amazing little flowers, placed all around in jars and vases, permeating the air–it was heaven!

But she had done something else that didn’t strike me as quite so beautiful (at least until I was older!)  She had a compost pile.

Now, isn’t that a beautiful sight?

Composting…  Made Easy!

My recollection is that my sister had dug down a foot or so deep, and then added organic materials such as kitchen scraps (including fruit and vegetable peelings and egg shells, but no meats or dairy), yard clippings, even coffee grounds and shredded paper!

According to this article, there are 5 easy steps to composting.

1.  Shred and Chop.  The smaller your ingredients, the faster you’ll have usable compost.
2.  Mix dry browns and wet greens.  This means to mix yard waste (grass, dry leaves, etc) and kitchen waste (vegetable and fruit peelings, cores, etc).  Make sure not to make the mix too wet and bogged down.
3.  Strive for Size.  Your compost pile should be about 3x3x3 so that there is enough material to heat up and compost more quickly.
4.  Add water as needed.  The compost should not be soggy, just damp.
5.  Keep things moving.  The compost needs air to be mixed in.  The article has a couple of methods to do that–the easiest it to just pitchfork it around, regularly mixing the stuff on the edges into the middle.

Here’s an easy, inexpensive way to Compost

 

 

 

Or If You Want to Go All Out…

 
Or…
 
 

Or…

 

Looks so tidy!

 

So to sum up…

 

  

This article from Purdue University was really helpful.

Here is another article on composting that you might like.

I liked this website that had six great ways to make compost.

I’m going to celebrate Earth Day by getting my hands in the earth!  

I’ve had a compost pile in the past, but gotten away from it lately.  But I’m inspired now!  Look out, I’m composting again!

And then I’m going to plant hundreds of sweet peas!

 

Don’t forget to stop by Lassen’s this Saturday, April 20, for our Earth Day Celebrations!

Click  here  to see our Earth Day flier for more information on all of the fun activities and celebrations going on at Lassen’s this Saturday!
 
Love,
 
Lassen’s
 
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Ooo, I want to get outside!

The Sun is Shining…

 

When I stopped by the Ventura store the other day I was greeted by the lovely sight of gardening supplies!

organic+gardening
 

Pots and soil, trowels and fertilizer, even strawberry plants greeted my delighted eyes!

As I have mentioned before, gardening has long been a part of my life.  I spent the first seven years of my life on a dairy farm, and then my parents were constantly growing everything from tomatoes to lilacs!  So every spring (even year-round, in California!) I get a hankering to plant a garden.

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It’s so nice that there are organic soil and amendments available–even fertilizers for flowers and vegetables and fruit trees.

organic+gardening

So Fun!

These adorable planting kits caught my eye, too.  They are an easy and fun way to start gardening!

The first time I attempted a back-yard garden, I made a classic first-timer’s mistake:  I planted sun-loving plants–tomatoes–in a spot that just did not get enough sun.  We got lots of blossoms, but very few tomatoes.  So make sure your plants get what they need.  The information on the seed packets will tell you how much sun they need, and when to plant.  Pay attention to that info!  If you don’t, you’ll have to learn the hard way, like I did!

One of the most important steps to having a successful garden is amending the soil.  Very few of us have perfect soil in our yards.  So make sure your soil is healthy.

organic+gardening

Use some compost and some leaf or grass clippings.  If you want to grow organic produce, you have to make sure your compost and your grass clippings are also organic (this is a tricky one, since most gardening services use non-organic pesticides and herbicides.)  Mix your soil thoroughly.

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Seeds or plants?  Your choice.  If you are impatient, plants are a great choice.  However, the economics of seeds make them very attractive, too!  Make sure your plants get enough water and keep the weeds from crowding them.  A few minutes a day is all it takes, once your garden is growing.

Gardening by Josh…

Josh, our buyer, is becoming quite the Farmer Fred!  Here are some pictures of his growing garden!

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Gotta have onions!
 
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He has at least three varieties of peas–can’t wait to taste these!
 
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Josh is inspiring me!  If only I could figure out a way to outsmart those tricky rabbits, gophers and squirrels that roam our neighborhood!  (I think I’m going to have to build a greenhouse!)

organic+gardening

If you’d like a nice tutorial for how to start an organic garden in nine easy steps, from Goodhousekeeping, click here.   Here is another one from Better Homes and Gardens.  I also like this article from the Organic Gardening Guru.

 
Enjoy this glorious Easter weekend–maybe by planting a garden!
 
love,
 
Lassen’s
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It’s Almost Spring! Time to Get Your Hands in the Dirt!

Nothing Like Getting Dirty! 

 
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I love going into garden centers and seeing all of the little plants; It takes me back to when my mom and dad (with a lot of forced kid labor!) would plant a great big garden each spring.
 
And checking out all of the neatly lined-up packets of garden seeds–Oh!  The possibilities!  We would start the tomatoes from seed in egg cartons, and I loved checking to see if the little leaves were pressing their way through the soil.
 
So in honor of impending Spring, here is a fun idea to start your garden, kitchen herbs, or flowers.
 
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Since we’ve been eating a lot of grapefruit lately (it is SO delicious!) we have plenty of grapefruit rinds.  You could also use orange or lemon rinds, too.  I pulled the membranes out of the rinds, but that isn’t necessary.
You’ll need some potting soil–or just some rich dirt–and some seeds.  Lassen’s has just stocked a large variety of organic garden seeds.
 
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Fill the rind with some soil.  Doesn’t that feel good?
 
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I decided to plant Sweet Basil, since I cook with it every week.
 
grapefruit+rind+garden
 
Sprinkle a few seeds over the soil, and then add 1/4 inch more of soil on the top.  Water lightly (it doesn’t take much in this little planter, 
and you don’t want the rind to get moldy!)
 
Place in a warm sunny place, and watch for the sprouts!
 
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There’s nothing like using your own fresh herbs!
 
You can start tomatoes or peas or beans or other vegetables in the citris rinds, and when it is time to plant in your garden (or larger containers), you can just put the whole thing in the ground.  The rinds will decompose and enrich your garden soil!  You’ll be both gardening and composting!  Now, doesn’t that make you feel green?
 
Happy Gardening!
 
Love,
 
Lassen’s