recycle

Clever Watering Technique

So here’s a clever method for watering your plants — bury a plastic bottle!

tomato-water-bottle

That’s right. Think of this method as recycling at its finest. You consume the contents of, say, a water bottle, then you poke holes in the sides, bury it next to your plant and ta-da! You have a root watering system. VERY important for tomato plants. It’s quite efficient for tomatoes, because they HATE water on their leaves. It can lead to fungus and tomatoes HATE fungus. Come to think of it, I hate fungus, too!

tomato-soda-bottle-water-method

When I discovered this image while perusing Pinterest, I thought, “Very cool.”

Of course, I had to give it a whirl. Stay-tuned! I’ll keep you posted on how well it works. Speaking of cool watering systems, check out this futuristic-looking hydroponics setup. It’s a hydroponic green sphere that allows for growing vegetables all winter long.

hydroponic-gardening1

Pretty cool, huh? And all the rage. More and more gardeners are opting for hydroponic systems. Not only are they “cleaner,” but they allow for more control, longer growing seasons and conservative watering practices. Win-win-win! Check out my blog post on Hydroponics for more details.

Recycling Gone Amuck?

Call me a waste-not-want-not kinda gal, but this is a motto I can live by, but I think we can all agree there’s no sense in waste. From frugal consumption to garbage disposal, we should all practice clean living habits, using the old instead of increasing our dump sites and generally be good stewards of our environment. I mean, even a dog knows better than to soil his living space, shouldn’t we humans?

We should. And we gardeners know better than anyone the value of leftovers and waste—we collect it and build gorgeous compost piles with it! From our veggie omelet to our lawn clippings, we reuse everything. And for good reason. We’re building piles of black gold, a.k.a. organic soil for our gardens.

But how about your coffee? Sure, we use old coffee grounds to decrease the pH of our soil, scattering them among the blueberries, raspberries, potatoes, azaleas and gardenia (don’t fight kids, there’s enough for all of you!). My rose bushes, too! Some plants simply thrive in acidic soil. But what about the coffee I didn’t drink? Need I pour it down the sink?

coffee-grounds

Absolutely not! Save that old coffee and dilute it with water for a most effective spray against insects. Whiteflies abhor the stuff, but your plants don’t mind a bit! And don’t forget that newspaper you’re reading. When you’re finished, use it as mulch in your garden, maybe beneath the more beautiful hay or pine needles? More

Make Earth Day Your Own

Earth Day began back in April of 1979 coinciding with the birth of the environmental movement. Poor air and water quality were fundamental to the movement, along with protecting endangered species, a push that drew support from all sides of the political spectrum in an effort to save the earth we inhabit. We’ve come a long way since those first days but we’re not there yet. While many of us yearn for a gas and oil free lifestyle, our technology is not quite there. But that doesn’t mean we can’t make real differences in our every day lives.

Most of us recycle our plastics and glass, newspaper and cardboard. Many of us conserve water with every flush, every faucet turn, but how about moving our conservation efforts into the kitchen, the backyard? Eating is a must for life, but sometimes we prepare too much. We seal the leftovers, eat what we can, but why not compost? What goes in, must come out, right? 🙂 As I tell the kids, there’s nothing easier than growing our own dirt. Kitchen scraps, fall leaves, grass cuttings–it all works! And the things our compost pile can grow–squash, beans and sweet potato (as seen below). It’s so EASY!

compost progress

It’s a real way to make a real difference. A good beginning. As with any new endeavor, start small, allow those new lifestyle actions to grow into habits. How about saving the gas it takes a truck to haul your fresh veggies around town, across the country, and grow your own? It’s a lot easier than you think. I mean, if my compost pile can do it, you can do it. And instead of depositing that old newspaper into the recycle bin, use it as “mulch” around your plants in the garden. Does a wonderful job of retaining moisture and breaks down into the soil without any harmful effects. More

Spearhead YOUR School Garden!

Our school has started a garden (with a little help from willing parents and teachers).  How about starting one where you live?  If not school, maybe your local community center?  Gardens are easy when you have an assortment of hands involved.  Literally.  And it’s fun! 

The garden we decided on is a good size, about 20 feet by 30 feet.  We chose a nice sunny spot with a brief wave of shade in the afternoon — a good thing under the Central Florida sun.  People aren’t the only ones who benefit from a break in the heat!  First there was the big job of weed removal.  Our middle schoolers began the chore, breaking up a large part of the grassy area, followed by the little ones.

We decided on a variety of vegetables and herbs;  beans and peas, corn and broccoli, tomatoes and peppers to name a few, accompanied by some fragrant basil and rosemary and a solid staple of parsley!   Once the temperatures get a bit cooler, we’ll indulge in some broccoli and cabbage, potatoes come December.  

Actually, our upper elementary students will begin the broccoli and spinach indoors and watch them grow before making the transplant to the garden.  They’re studying leaves and roots and seedlings make for a fine project.

Of course when you have this many kids in nature at one time, you never know what exciting things you’ll discover.  “Look there!”

“What is it?”

Nobody knew, exactly.  I think there were a few bugs I saw for the first time, actually.  Leave it to the youth to teach you a thing or two about the wild!

Within days, our weeds were pulled and our rows outlined, using weed-preventer paper.  We do like to keep the maintenance manageable.   I learned THAT from my children! 

Awe, Mom.  Weeding again?  Why were weeds even invented?”

Can’t answer that one for you, except maybe oxygen?   They’re green, they must help the environment, right?  Either way, it’s amazing what a group of energetic kids can accomplish!

To keep things simple, we’ll use the current fence line for our pole beans and peas to climb at will.  We’ll also garden in “sections” and ease into a good crop rotation for the future.   We are organic, you know. 

As part of the process, we’ve designated an area nearby for a compost pile.  Now all those scraps from lunch and snack time won’t go to waste!  Well, technically they’ll still be waste, but now it will be “waste not want not” —  we’re making compost here,  not garbage!

And in the middle of it all, we have children learning the meaning of hard work (trust me, weeding and tilling is NOT for the weak), the camaraderie of working together, the basics of botany, the value of recycling, and the wonderous thing we call life as they watch plants sprout, grow, produce — amaze and delight!  Not to mention an excuse to get OUT of the classroom.  Does it get any better?

So  consider the same for you and your school and share the adventure of gardening!  Stay tuned as these kids explore and discover their own world of gardening.