Do you have a small backyard for gardening or want to grow vegetables near your kitchen? A flexible way to start a garden is to use ready-made raised beds, so you can shape your plot to fit around a patio or lawn and to use the sun as it changes over the growing season. Put your seeds or small plants into these easy-to-manage beds, called UrBin Growers, and when plants get going, just adjust the location or angle of the bins once you see if they are now getting more shade in the afternoon or early morning.
This flexibility is a great help for a new gardener or in a new home location. Add more of these bins with different plants as you can, working around your available space – a great landscaping idea and pretty sustainable. Another plus is these raised beds make watering very efficient.
Here’s a short video to demonstrate how easy an UrBin Grower is to use:
Every week or so there is another news brief about organic food, and often they report that it doesn’t matter. I wonder who is sponsoring this research. Most of us have grown up to expect perfect-looking fruits and vegetables, no bruises and ready-to-eat. How did they come thousands of miles with lots of handling and look so good? They were probably picked green, had lots of spraying to kill any insects or worms, and then were held until they looked ripe, in some warehouse.
Have you ever tasted a fresh-picked tomato or salad greens that still have the dew on them? If so, you know how great they are. The food value is also higher, more vitamins and minerals, when fresh. Look for a Farmers’ Market near you, with local growers selling their produce once or several times a week, go visit and strike up a conversation. Buy their fresh and nutrient-rich veggies and experience the community sharing. They often will sell baggies of seeds or starts that you can grow as well. A great way to enhance whatever soil you have is to use coconut fiber soil amendments. Experiment with your garden space and eat well!
In contemplating Earth Day, I am hearing more about our food supply being very threatened by the trends of the past 10 to 30 years. Not only do we have less family farms, much smaller numbers of people growing our food, but the source of even the basic part of food – the seeds that grow into our vegetables and fruits and provide the feed for most of the animals, too – is also shrinking. Do you know that a handful of companies own the very seeds that create our food (almost 70% of the varieties, in 2007 – probably much more now)? Farmers, the traditional keepers of heritage seeds, have been pushed aside, in fact taken to court for keeping their own seeds, by mega-companies who may be eliminating the diversity that we need for droughts and new infestations of predator bugs that are adapting to the Round-Up-Ready seeds.
Why is this important to know? Our climate is being unpredictable, and we have more need for flexibility and smaller-scale, more local food production. My first steps are to support the local Farmers’ Markets as much as I can, to grow some of my own food, and to share seeds with other local growers in a gardening group. Even if you have small space, you can try raised bed gardening. We’ll continue this conversation tomorrow.
Earth Day has been around since 1970, and every year it is a reminder of how much beauty and life we have on our planet. We still haven’t found anything better, so let us pledge to save our Earth in every way we can. Do you know how Earth Day started? A US Senator from Wisconsin, Gaylord Nelson, had witnessed a huge oil spill of the California coast and started hatching this idea — enlisting others in Congress and others in a conscious “campaign” to turn attention to life-giving and renewing measures, getting the public to be aware of clean energy, clean air and clean water. From that came the Environmental Protection Act and a turn-around in the pollution of our waterways and the air we breathe.
Forty-three years later we see progress and also more to accomplish. I will renew my pledge, how about you? I could also pull out my anti-squirrel bird feeder to help encourage migrating birds to visit my yard and help them on their travels.
The average person in the US uses as much water in a day as 900 people in Kenya. That seems overwhelming, and as Earth Day is coming, maybe we can think about this precious resource – our drinking water, and all the water we use for bathing, washing our hands and vegetables, our cars and driveways, as well as watering our lawns and gardens. Are we aware how much water goes down the drain or the street?
As we celebrate Earth Day on the 22nd of April, we can pay attention to the little ways to change our habits. Catch some of the shower water in a bucket and use it to water plants, use self-watering planters instead of sprinklers, and steam our veggies rather than boil them. A great step is to take advantage of a rain storm by installing a rain barrel system. However you mark Earth Day this week, connect with our great planet and all it gives us.
My tender young kale plants are starting to recover from a sudden aphid attack. I know it’s hardly planting time in frozen Minnesota, but here in the SW desert, we’ve already had a few hot days and an explosion of aphids devouring the tips of most tender new growth. While it’s cooler, I want to get the balance back.
What to do, short of using “bug bombs”, toxic sprays? Those might be effective for a short-term solution, and yet there are a lot of other insects around that might be killed as well. Then next time the aphids explode, I would be stuck resorting to the same “solution” without addressing the imbalance I’ve encouraged.
What if there are helpful insects that could help restore the balance? By tolerating aphids for little while and letting them attract birds and insects that really like to eat aphids, I could accomplish a lot more. Posting a ladybug house near the garden might provide just the impetus for helpful ladybug beetles to stay around and chomp away on the aphids. Meanwhile I can spray the plants with soapy water every few days, put up some sticky traps, and look for the friendly lady bugs.
As the days shorten, I start thinking and plotting about Fall and even ahead to Winter. It is a good time to plan for more successful growing, trying new things or just tweaking from lessons learned. If I want to have better plants, I need healthier soil – start from the ground up. I have been composting in an large bin for about a year and a half, and turning this into the basic part of my garden soil, the “juice”, is exciting.
What can I do to accelerate the process, to make even better composted soil, and keep it going as the cold weather comes along. My yard and kitchen wastes are not going to break down very well when the temps drop. The most efficient composters I’ve found are red wiggler worms, but mine didn’t make it through the summer outdoors (in 100+ days for the last couple of months!! no wonder). And they don’t like it below 40 either. Using a clever worm bin set-up called the Worm Factory can be a great way to bring the process indoors, since it is attractive, compact and portable – and there’s no smell!! Kitchen to compost in a few steps.