Thursday, April 25, 2013

72,000 Ladybugs released inside the Mall of America!

Now that we're on the subject of gardening, one of the most destructive and common pests that can invade your plantings are Aphids.

On Earth Day, April 22nd, a group of Twin Cities third graders from the Visitation School in Bloomington, Minnesota, received a wonderful environmentally friendly and healthy lesson in how to combat pests naturally as they released 72,000 Ladybugs inside the Mall of America.

The Mall of America is so large that it houses well over 30,000 live plants that have attracted an infestation of Aphids. The release of these wonderful natural beneficial insects will combat the infestation while keeping the Mall and it's employees and shoppers healthier.

Watch the interview and release!


Watch our blog for more information on beneficial insects!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Grow an organic vegetable garden for your dog!

Vegetables and fruits are a great addition to your dog's diet and can add a whole form of important vitamins, minerals and other nutrients that help keep them the healthiest they can be!

If you are interested in growing a few vegetables for you and your dog, read on to learn how you can easily grow your own organic vegetable garden.

Steps in preparing your organic vegetable (and fruit) garden

Choose your location wisely - Great soil, that's well draining and contains a good mix of light loam and organic matter and receives good sun are keys to a successful garden. A spot in your yard that receives at least six hours of direct sun each day and preferably near a water source, like your spigot or rain barrel help maintaining your garden easier.

Test the soil - If you initially want to check to see if your soil is a good mix, simply grab a handful of the soil and squeeze. if the clump falls apart quickly your soil is too sandy, if the clump stays together then your soil has too much clay. Loamy soil (which is what you want) holds together, but crumples when poked.

Good soil has a mix of nitrogen, potassium and phosphorous at a pH of about 6-7. To check the make up of your soil run a basic soil test to determine it's pH balance. To add nitrogen you can supplement your soil with organic manure, for phosphorus you can add organic bone meal, for potassium you can add organic potash or greensand (all available at your local organic garden center). Generally speaking you can add material from your compost pile, or a good organic compost to your soil for a good garden.

Prep the soil - Tilling the soil, mixing all added nutrients until your soil is loamy down about six inches or so, allows for easier planting, good root generation, and a well drained bed free of weeds for the best vegetable and fruit growing conditions.

Selecting your crops - Decide which organic vegetables and fruits you want to plant for your dog garden. You can choose from these few examples that are healthy and recommended by many sources for your dog. Remember: vegetables and fruits are always best given to your dog in moderation, introducing them gradually and always under 20% or so of their total diet.
  • Carrots
  • Broccoli
  • Cantaloupe (no seeds)
  • Watermelon (no seeds)
  • Celery
  • Green Beans
  • Spinach and other leafy greens (minimally)
  • Pumpkin (no seeds)
  • Sweet Potato
  • Squash
  • Zucchini
Once you've decided what plants you want to grow you need to check your planting zone to see when is the best time to plant that particular vegetable. You can determine your planting zone by inserting your zip code. Once you've determined your planting zone you can then click these various links to determine the best time to plant your vegetables:
Why organic? - With all the dangers we've discussed about GMO fruits and vegetables and pesticides, insecticides and herbicides added to seeds and plants, it's important to start your organic garden with organic seeds and plantings. And then keep your garden organic for the health of your dog. You can find organic seeds and plantings at your local organic garden center, where they will also have organic material to keep the soil organic as well. If you don't have a local organic garden center, you can find organic seeds online.

Planting - Once you've selected your crops, purchased your organic seeds, you are ready to plant! Plant following all the directions included on your seed packet or planting tag.

Maintenance - Stake tall growing plants. During certain times of dry weather you may need to water your garden, otherwise don't water too often as you want to encourage deep and strong root growth. Weed often to allow the vegetables to receive all the wonderful water and nutrients of the soil. Control pests utilizing beneficial insects or by spaying with a mix of eco-friendly dish soap and water. Control slugs by placing a shallow pan of beer near your vegetables.

Feeding - All dogs don't like all vegetables and fruits. What I've found is that many vegetables are not only digested more easily and enjoyed more by my dogs if they are lightly steamed. And remember, as we explained above, everything in moderation!

Additional Resources:
Books:
Starter Vegetable Gardens: 24 No-Fail Plans for Small Organic Gardens
Organic Gardening Beginner's Manual: The ultimate "Take-You-By-The-Hand" beginner's gardening manual for creating and managing your own organic garden.

Websites:
Organic Gardening
Mother Earth News
The Daily Green

ASPCA list of dangerous plants to dogs:
Plants, whether in part or whole, that may pose a danger to your dog via the ASPCA.

Photo courtesy of OakleyOriginals.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Earth Day: A day to take a step for the environment and the health of your dog!

Today, April 22nd, is Earth Day, a day that marks the anniversary of what many consider the birth of the modern environmental movement.

It's also a great day to make one more significant step in you and your dog's life for a healthier planet, a healthier you and a healthier dog.

This Earth Day, we want you to make just one more change to help your dog live a healthier, greener life, by....
These are just a few examples of little things you can do to help our environment and your dog's health. You can find many, many more great healthy and environmentally friendly ideas in the Learn to be Green section of our website.

And don't forget, get out there and enjoy our wonderful, wonderful planet Earth!

Visit our prior year Earth Day posts listed below for lots of tips and information about how to bring positive, green, healthy change to your dog's life. And, then come back here and leave a comment about how you are working towards a healthier, happier pup and environment. Share your pawsome ideas with other great, green dog families!



Tuesday, April 9, 2013

It's Spring! Your complete checklist for a healthier, safer lawn for your dog!

Yee haw....it's Spring!!!

It's been (and still is in some states) quite the winter. Even here in the Georgia mountains, we had more snow falls than I can count on two paws. And it's been a little colder than usual, as well.

The nice thing about a good winter is less bugs in the spring. Well, that's what some folks say. We can keep our paws crossed, can't we?

But the best thing about spring is getting out there and enjoying it!

Now that we're living in the mountains in Georgia, we don't have a lawn like we did back when we lived in Indiana (see the photos from a few years ago). But we still know a lot about keeping a lawn free from harmful chemicals and making it a green lush, weed free (well almost), soft, enjoyable place to play, roll and even eat (a few grass blades, that is) - healthily and safely.

Over the years several companies have conducted studies on the dangers of those store bought four step lawn chemicals that you see your neighbors spreading on their lawns or hiring the lawn company to put down throughout the year.

If you haven't read these studies, we encourage you to they will enlighten you to the extreme dangers of those lawn chemicals fertilizers, pesticides, insecticides and herbicides. Some even believe that lawn chemicals are contributing to the much more prevalent incidences of cancer in dogs.

Here are a few resources to bone up on information of the dangers of lawn chemicals:
  • A respected report and DVD "The Truth About Cats, Dogs and Lawn Chemicals," funded by Newman’s Own Foundation.
  • BeyondPesticides.org has facts and figures that relate to the use and affects of pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers and insecticides on humans, pets and children.
  • Despite what those lawn chemical companies say (and frequently advertise) about how safe their products are for pets and children, many have found that they may actually spur grave illnesses in our small two leggers, through a check sheet, Children and Pesticides Don't Mix.
So how do you get that lush, green, pawsome lawn without using dangerous chemicals? Go organic!

To get your lawn ready for preparation for a great, healthy year, we recommend:
  • Cleaning up all the poo after the spring thaw.
  • Raking up any leaves and debris.
  • Mowing if needed.
  • Wait for a good rain, and then pull any unnecessary weeds, as this is the easiest time to get those weeds from the root so they won't come back again and again.
Once you've done the clean up:
  • Put down a good quality, organic, weed preventer that includes corn gluten before or during the blooming of the Forsythia. Getting this product down before weed seeds begin to germinate is key to cutting back on crabgrass, dandelions and other unwanted weeds throughout the year. But remember corn gluten will prevent all seed from germinating so...
  • Wait approximately one month and then overseed your lawn with a good quality uncoated grass seed that's appropriate for your area. Uncoated seed is important as coated seed is many times coated with a non-organic fertilizer or other growth hormones that may be harmful for birds, rodents and other small bodied living things.
  • Wait a few days and then spread a good organic fertilizer, like spray Fish Emulsion, or Worm Poo (these fertilizers won't hamper the growth of new grass seed). We like sprays because they are not as attractive to dogs once they have been on the lawn for a few hours. You can also look into a good organic fertilizer that's pellet based, like Lawn Restore, or Espoma Brand organic foods. Even though these are perfectly safe for dogs, some dogs, like my sis Gracie, just can't help herself from sniffing the pellets prolifically which gives her a runny nose, so we use a spray organic fertilizer.
  • Continue to pull unwanted weeds after each good rain.
  • If your lawn is in very poor shape, continue to reseed until the hot parts of summer and fertilize with a safe organic fertilizer every 6-8 weeks. You can even fertilize with a healthy fertilizer during the summer months without worrying about it burning your lawn like those chemical-based products do.
  • If you have unwanted grass or weeds in your patio or along your fence line there are two really safe ways you can kill the plants in those areas. You can take boiling water and pour over them (this works well for newer shoots), or you can try white vinegar (spray on the leaves and at the root) or  purchase an agricultural vinegar (for those pesky, persistent weeds) for spraying. But remember these solutions will kill everything they touch, so they don't work for weeds within your lawn.
  • If you have insects (like aphids) that like to eat your plants try some safe eco-friendly dish washing soap, mixed with water and spray on the bugs and plants. Or you can even purchase beneficial insects, like ladybugs for aphids to feed on the aphids, and let nature take it's course.
Below are some recommended products if you are having trouble finding them at your local independent garden center.

Now you have a great plan to get your lawn in shape for spring, summer and fall...Happy lawning!



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