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Growing Food in Small Spaces

Once you start eating freshly picked vegetables, you realize that’s the only way to go. Fortunately, growing your own food, or at least some of your own, is easy to do, even in small spaces.

Last night's dinner of fresh-picked asparagus

Last night’s dinner of fresh-picked asparagus

 

There are as many ways to garden in small spaces as your imagination will allow, but listed below are a few ideas.

Container Gardening

Containers range from traditional clay pots to self-watering ones to antique ice chests and even old work boots. All are perfect for growing herbs or small vegetables, just make sure there is sufficient drainage and good soil.

Raised Beds

A raised bed garden is a garden built on top of your native soil.  The basic idea of a raised bed is that instead of battling against poor soil conditions, you build above ground where you have absolute control over the soil texture and ingredients. You can make a raised bed garden any size you want and any height. They are easy to weed and easier on your back. Check out the advantageshere.

Vertical Growing

Vertical growing is also ideal for small spaces, allowing you to actually grow a lot as long as you have enough sun. The idea is to grow up, not out, like with beans, tomatoes, peas and cucumbers, on trellises for example.

Though garden catalogs are filled with expensive vertical growing containers, you can also upcycle things you already have or invest in cheaper things like shoe pockets, a great idea for lettuces and herbs, old pallets or gutters mounted on a fence. Check out this website for fun ideas.

Sunny Kitchen Windows

Don’t forget sunny window sills, which are perfect for growing herbs, microgreens, and some vegetables like spring onions, even all year long.

 

Whether you are an apartment dweller with a sunny balcony or a new gardener with a tiny yard, discover the joy and satisfaction of growing your own food.  All it takes is sun, good soil, adequate water and a little time.  Bon appetit!

 

Some information compiled from bostontreepreservation.com and inhabitat.com.

 

For more green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com.

 

 

Recipes for Safe Weed, Insect Pests and Disease Control in Your Landscape

After six years of writing “What’s Green With Betsy?”, my blog post Recipes for Safe Weed, Insect Pests and Disease Control in Your Landscape continues to be my most popularFor those of you who missed it, I am reposting them.

An organic lawn

An organic lawn

A word about lawns first. Monocultures, like lawns, are not typical in nature and only invite problems. A picture-perfect, weed free lawn has come to symbolize a lawn treated with toxic chemicals. Weeds actually are messengers for what’s wrong with the soil. Dandelions, for example, are an indication of a lack of calcium. I say learn to live with a few weeds in the lawn – dandelions actually add a bit of color for a few days and attract honeybees – and throw down some extra grass seed to keep grass lush. But if weeds really bother you or before they overtake a vegetable or flower garden, try some of the solutions  listed below.

Recipes for organic weed, insect pests and disease controls compiled from Great Garden Formulas, 1998 Rodale Press, Inc.

 

 

VINAIGRETTE “DRESSING” FOR DANDELIONS

A well-placed shot of vinegar right on the plant can thwart dandelions or other broad-leaved weeds.  Be careful not to splash it on the turf or any plants you want to keep, because vinegar will kill grassy plants as well. A section of newspaper or cardboard can act as a shield for desirable plants.

Ingredients

Vinegar (as close to 10% acidity as possible)

Dishwashing Liquid (optional)

Pump Spray Bottle

Directions

Fill the spray bottle with undiluted vinegar (or mix 3 parts vinegar to 1 part dishwashing liquid).  Spray a narrow stream, dousing the weed’s leaves and crown (the area at the base of the plant).   Rinse the sprayer well with water, especially if it has metal parts because vinegar is corrosive.  This is a spot spray only!

 

ALCOHOL ATTACK

Rubbing alcohol is a simple way to kill a weed.  Mix it with water and it will dehydrate almost any weed.  This also works against spider mites, aphids, and scale, but may require some experimentation to find the right level of effectiveness.  Test spray on one leaf to check for burning.

Ingredients

1-quart water

1 (or more) tablespoons rubbing alcohol

Pump spray bottle

Directions

Mix water and alcohol in the spray bottle. (Use 1 tablespoon of alcohol for weed seedlings orthin-leaved weeds and 2 tablespoons or more for tougher weeds.)  Spray weed leaves thoroughly but lightly.  (Avoid surrounding plants.)

 

SORRY, CHARLIE

Creeping Charlie is a low-growing, yellow-flowered perennial weed that can be a real nuisance in lawns.  If you have noticed it in yours, borax can be a very effective weed-killer, particularly in late spring or early summer when weeds are growing most actively.

Ingredients

5 Teaspoons borax, like 20 mule Team Borax, for every 25 square feet of lawn

1-quart water

Pump spray bottle

Directions

Mix borax in water.  Measure exactly: Too little and it won’t kill the weeds, too much and you could kill the grass too.  Spray to cover a 25-square foot area.  Water and fertilize your turf after the treatment so that it rapidly fills in the space left by the dead weeds.

 

SPRAY AWAY BROWN PATCH IN LAWNS

Brown or yellow rings that die out in your lawn, caused by rhizoctonia fungi, which comes from poor drainage, too much rain and/or too much nitrogen fertilizer, can be treated with this simple solution.

Ingredients

1 rounded tablespoon baking soda or potassium bicarbonate  (a better choice since it has less salt)

1-tablespoon horticultural oil

1-gallon water

Directions

Mix all ingredients thoroughly.  Spray lightly on your lawn.  Avoid overuse or drenching the soil.

 

DELUXE BAKING SODA SPRAY

For a very effective disease and insect fighter, go no further than your kitchen.  This concoction works best as a preventative, so spray susceptible plants before disease symptoms start and continue at weekly intervals.

Ingredients

1 ½ tablespoons baking soda

1-tablespoon canola oil

1 cup plus 1 gallon water

1-tablespoon vinegar

Backpack or pump sprayer

Directions

Mix the baking soda, soap and oil with 1 cup of water.  Add the vinegar.  Don’t mix the  vinegar in until last or the mixture may bubble over.  Pour the mixture into the sprayer and  add 1 gallon of water.  Shake or stir to combine the ingredients.  Spray plants, covering the bottoms and tops of the leaves.

 

PLAIN AND SIMPLE GARLIC JUICE

If you are a garlic lover, you may want to use this simple recipe to fight diseases and insects on your plants.

Ingredients

3 garlic cloves

A blender

Pump Spray Bottle

Molasses (optional)

Directions

Liquefy 3 garlic cloves in a blender that is half-filled with water.  Strain out the garlic, then mix the remaining liquid with enough water to make 1 gallon of  spicy concentrate.  Two tablespoons of molasses will help the mixture adhere to the leaves.

 

CITRUS KILLER FOR APHIDS

Aphids and other leaf-sucking insects can cause considerable damage if you don’t control them.  This mixture neutralizes aphids and can also act as a deterrent to ants!

Ingredients

1-pint water

Rind from 1 lemon, grated  (or orange or grapefruit rind)

Cheesecloth

Pump Spray Bottle

Directions

Bring the water to a boil.  Remove from heat and add the grated lemon rind.  Allow the mixture to steep overnight.  Strain the mixture through cheesecloth, and pour into the spray bottle. Apply the mixture to plant leaves that are under attack.  (This mixture must come in contact with the insects’ bodies to be effective.)

 

WEEDS IN HOT WATER

Use boiling water to eliminate weeds from sidewalk or driveway cracks.  Be careful not to splash it on to neighboring plants or turf.

Ingredients

Teakettle or pan

Directions

Boil a full kettle of water.  Pour slowly and carefully, dousing both the weeds and the soil immediately surrounding them.  You may have to repeat a couple of times.

For more green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com.

Celebrate Earth Day!

Tomorrow is Earth Day – This year’s theme is planting trees, the first of five major initiatives earthday.org is undertaking to make a significant impact towards a cleaner, healthier, more sustainable planet.  As Earth Day approaches its 50th anniversary, help earthday.org reach its ambitious goal of planting 7.8 billion trees!

In addition to planting a tree (see recent blog posts about the importance of planting a tree and theproper way to do so), also consider the following.

In the morning,

  • Take an extra short shower
  • Turn off the water as you brush your teeth or shave
  • Make a green smoothie for breakfast

In the afternoon,

  • Walk, ride a bike or take public transportation to do your errands; if you drive, go the speed limit to conserve energy
  • Take a reusable water bottle or mug with you
  • Pick up any litter you see and recycle what can be recycled
  • Sow some seeds

In the evening,

  • Have a meatless “Earth Dinner” by candlelight with local, organic produce; use real cutlery and cloth napkins
  • Turn off your computer for one hour
  • Unplug your appliances when you go to bed

While everyday is really earth day, make a special effort tomorrow to honor our beautiful planet.

 

For more green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com.

Some information compiled from earthday.org.

Dig a Five-dollar Hole for a Fifty-cent Plant

“It’s better to dig a five-dollar hole for a fifty-cent plant than to dig a fifty-cent hole for a five-dollar plant.” goes the old garden adage and how true that is. A good plant won’t grow in poor soil, but a poor plant will grow in good soil.

Spring means planting and after a long winter, nothing is more exciting than preparing your vegetable garden or potting pansies to liven up your front porch. The key to a healthy and thriving garden is a rich, nutritious soil with the right mix of organic amendments.

What’s the right mix?

Organic amendments vary depending on the need of the soil and the plant. For example, the soil pH may need fixing, or certain plants like roses, azaleas or tomatoes may require specific minerals. Fish, blood or bone meal, charcoal, kelp, humic acids, earthworm castings are some. Or, you can simply supplement your soil with compost, or decomposed organic matter, the most important and beneficial soil amendment. Compost builds soil structure and improves drainage; it helps with water/nutrient retention and air exchange; it introduces beneficial biology; it is vital for healthy roots, and healthy roots produce healthy plants.

Using compost made from your decomposed kitchen waste is gratifying, but if you haven’t started composting yet, you can buy good quality compost from a garden center. There are many different types of compost like manure, worm castings or decomposed leaf and wood litter. All are good, just make sure the compost is 3-year finished.

Digging the Hole

Dig the hole twice the diameter of the root ball of the tree, shrub or plant and then mix the existing soil with the amendments. Don’t plant too deep – “plant it high it won’t die, plant it low, it won’t grow.” With extra soil, make a well around the plant to hold water.

 

It’s easy to just throw the plants in the ground without much thought to the soil, but by taking the time to improve your soil, you will get a higher yield from your vegetables, more blooms on your flowers and a better start for your shrubs or trees. Last year, one heirloom tomato plant produced more than 100 tomatoes in my raised bed garden filled with super soil.

 

So, go play in the dirt with some compost and watch your plants thrive!

 

For more green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com.

 Information compiled from bostontreepreservation.com.

Plant A Tree

“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.” – Chinese Proverb

 

The social, aesthetic, and environmental benefits of trees are numerous.

  • They manufacture oxygen and absorb carbon dioxide.
  • They provide shade in summer and windbreak in winter.
  • The beauty and serenity of trees have been shown to help hospital patients recover more quickly.
  • Trees reduce crime in low-income urban areas.
  • Trees increase property values.
  • Trees help us save energy.
  • Trees improve air quality.
  • Trees conserve water.
  • Trees provide homes to wildlife.
  • Trees provide a beautiful backdrop to outdoor recreational activities.
  • Large and majestic trees are an important part of the community.

According to American Forests, the national urban tree deficit now stands at more than 634 million trees.  Alarmingly, up to 57% of all Amazonian trees, the planet’s lungs, may already fit the criteria of being globally threatened. Unprecedented environmental stresses – warmer temperatures, changes in precipitation, increased droughts – and global trade are making trees more susceptible to insect infestation and disease and therefore more difficult to grow and flourish in today’s world.

Because trees sequester carbon and offset our carbon footprint, the amount of energy a person consumes in their day-to-day activities, it is more important than ever to plant trees.  The average person produces 26 tons of CO2 per year.  6 twenty-five year old pine trees absorb 1 ton of CO2.  36 twenty-five year old maple trees absorb 1 ton of CO2.

 

stock-photo-seeding-seedling-male-hand-watering-young-tree-over-green-background-seed-planting-225149986Planting trees is a way to give back to the environment for future generations and to offset our carbon footprint. Spring is the perfect time to plant.  Plant a tree for a new grandchild, in memory of a parent or a beloved pet, or to honor a special anniversary. If you have no place to plant a tree,americanforests.org will plant a tree in your name with a small donation. Makes a great gift too!


Some information compiled from www.americanforests.org and http://www.bbc.com

For more green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com.

 

 

Greener, "Cleaner" Spring Cleaning!

Spring is here! Whether it feels like it or not, there is a psychological lift to just spotting a crocus or a daffodil and knowing that winter is officially over.  It may be too early to start gardening, but it’s not too early to start a thorough spring-cleaning!

Non-Toxic Cleaners

If you don’t already use non-toxic cleaners, now is the time to switch!  Indoor air pollution, partially caused by the use of chemical based cleaners, is a much more serious problem than people realize and one of the reasons for increased cases of asthma and allergies, among other diseases. Fortunately you can find several brands of greener, ‘‘cleaner” cleaning supplies at your local grocery store; many of the conventional brands are now making a less toxic product as well.  Be sure to read the ingredients though; some products claim to be “natural” when they really aren’t. Visit Environmental Working Group’s Cleaners  database to check the toxicity of your brand and for the lowest toxicity cleaners.  Seventh Generation, Mrs. Myers, Ecover, are a few good ones.  Remember, you really don’t need a different product for each surface in your home.  That’s just marketing.

Make Your Own Cleaners

Making your own cleaning supplies using baking soda, vinegar, and lemon juice is a fun and easy option too!  Baking soda cleans nearly everything from stained kitchen sinks to mildewed showers to tea stained coffee mugs to flatware to fruit or even teeth, and it’s cheap!  White vinegar works great on hardwood floors.  Easy, long-lasting microfiber cloths lift off dirt, dust and grime with no need for additional products.  Don’t be fooled into thinking that if there is no “clean” smell, then it’s not effective – fragrances are part of the chemical danger. (Organic cleaners with safe, natural essential oils are an exception.)

Recipe for All-Purpose Cleaner

All-Purpose Cleaner: Mix 1/2 cup vinegar and 1/4 cup baking soda (or 2 teaspoons borax) into 1/2 gallon (2 liters) water. Store and keep. Use for removal of water deposit stains on shower stall panels, bathroom chrome fixtures, windows, bathroom mirrors, countertops etc.  Keep out of reach of children.

For more green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com.

Thoughtful Purchasing

Now more than ever acquiring possessions, and lots of them, is convenient and cheap. We are bombarded with advertisements, on average about 3000 per day, telling us we need to buy new furniture, clothes, electronics, appliances, personal care products, sports equipment, etc., which can be bought for incredibly low prices online or at megastores like Walmart, Costco or Marshalls, to name a few.

There are hidden costs though for purchasing things so cheaply.  The accessibility of such affordable items makes accumulating “stuff” so easy that we often end up with things we don’t need, that have to be managed, and thrown away into the landfill.  In order to keep prices down, manufacturers often employ underage workers overseas who are poorly paid and work in unsafe conditions.  Quality is usually compromised and manufactured with planned obsolescence so that we are constantly replacing things, creating more waste for the landfill.

BuyMeOnce      

A reader referred me to a new website called buymeonce.com, which finds and promotes durable, reasonably priced, quality products which last. Started in January by a young British entrepreneur with a mission to “throw away our throw away culture”, BuyMeOnce doesn’t sell directly to the consumer, but rather provides links to the manufacturer or retail sites.  BuyMeOnce encourages people to buy just a few great things, to take care of the things they have, and challenges manufacturers to make products that last.

While consumerism is good for the economy, it’s time to purchase more responsibly.  Ask yourself some questions before you buy something. Where was the product manufactured and under what conditions? How will my purchase impact the environment? Do I really need the high impulse item at the checkout counter? Am I better off spending a little more for a quality item that lasts longer? The average person makes 4 ½ pounds of garbage a day and America creates 30% of the world’s waste. Make it a goal to lessen your waste with more thoughtful purchasing. Check outbuymeonce.com.

 

For more green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com.

The Dirty Dozen and the Clean Fifteen

The only way to insure that your food is safer – no pesticides, artificial colorants, preservatives, or GMO’s – is to eat organically. (Organic produce may contain more natural antioxidants and nutrients, and taste better too! ) The biggest obstacle to eating organically however, is the cost. And while I still maintain eating organically is cheaper than the doctor, I understand. That’s where the Dirty Dozen and the Clean Fifteen guidelines from the Environmental Working Group come in.

The Dirty Dozen

The Dirty Dozen are the 12 fruits and vegetables most heavily sprayed with pesticides – they contain 47 to 67 pesticides per serving – and the ones you should always buy organic. These foods are most susceptible because they have soft skin that tends to absorb more pesticides.  They are, starting with the worst first:

  • Apples
  • Peaches
  • Nectarines
  • Grapes
  • Celery
  • Spinach
  • Sweet bell peppers
  • Cucumbers
  • Cherry Tomatoes
  • Snap Peas – Imported
  • Potatoes

     + 2 more

  • Hot Peppers
  • Kale/Collard Greens

 The Clean Fifteen

The Clean 15 are the fifteen fruits and vegetables lowest in pesticides and notnecessary to buy organic.  They are, starting with the best:

  • Avocados
  • Sweet corn*
  • Pineapples
  • Cabbage
  • Sweet peas – frozen
  • Onions
  • Asparagus
  • Mangoes
  • Papaya*
  • Kiwi
  • Eggplant
  • Grapefruit
  • Cantaloupe
  • Cauliflower
  • Sweet Potatoes

*A small amount of sweet corn, papaya and summer squash sold in the United States is produced from GE seedstock. Buy organic varieties of these crops if you want to avoid GE produce.

It’s easier than ever to buy organic produce, which are now found in conventional grocery store chains as well as natural food markets.  To be sure the produce you choose is organic, check the sticker on the fruit or vegetable. The code number should start with a 9.

Visit the Environmental Working Group to download the EWG Shoppers Guide to Pesticides in Produce and to see their full list of all 48 fruits and vegetables with pesticide residue data. Their website also contains shopper’s guides to safe cleaning products, safe cosmetics, safe sunscreen and a variety of other important topics.

For more green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com.

 

Is Your Mani-Pedi Toxic?

Are you bothered by the sickening smell in the nail salon when you go for a relaxing manicure? Have you ever wondered why the manicurists wear facemasks? Those potent fumes are from chemicals in the nail polish and remover and are not good for us. According to a NY Times report on toxic nail products, “The prevalence of respiratory and skin ailments among nail salon workers is widely acknowledged. More uncertain, however, is their risk for direr medical issues.”

Nail products contain three chemicals of concern:

  • Toulene, (produces the smooth finish) is a chemical known to cause reproductive harm and dizziness. Also found in gasoline, the CDC warns that it can cause central nervous system problems.
  • Formaldehyde (hardener) is a known carcinogen found in many nail polishes and used for preserving dead animals. It has strict warnings to avoid inhalation or skin contact.
  • Dibutyl phthalate (DBP)(flexibility and moisturizing sheen) is banned in Europe and known to cause reproductive problems, especially in boys. The Environmental Working Group classifies this chemical as the highest danger level and warns that it can cause organ problems and endocrine disruption.

Research is limited in this largely unregulated industry, especially with salon workers, but a number of studies have found that cosmetologists have elevated rates of death from Hodgkin’s disease, of low birth-weight babies and of multiple myeloma, a type of cancer. Research is showing a link between the chemicals in nail products and serious health issues.

Succumbing to pressure from environmental groups and European lawmakers, several cosmetics makers are removing one of the chemicals in nail polish that is possibly linked to interference with the endocrine system. It has always shocked me why companies sell nail polish without these harmful chemicals in their European market and the same polish with chemicals in the American market! European laws are obviously stricter.

With sandal season coming, it’s nice to have polished nails, so what can you do? As with processed food or cleaning and personal care products, always read the labels – the fewer the ingredients the better, and beware of names that are hard to pronounce – and use a low toxicity or non-toxic polish, which are now more available. If you want to check the toxicity level of your nail products, visit safecosmetics.org or download the app Think Dirty, which rates the safety of specific products and provides cleaner solutions.

 

Information compiled from Sarah Maslin Nir, May 8, 2015 New York Times and safecosmetics.org

For more green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mindful Eating

Though the word mindful is fast becoming overused, it does accurately describe the best approach to life, including eating. Mindful eating means eating with intention and attention.

My daughter and I recently went to a yoga retreat where one of the classes we attended was on mindful eating. We started the class by carefully examining an almond and then chewing it for 30 chews. While this is a bit extreme, there were several reasons for this exercise. One was to eat more slowly (Michael Pollan, noted author and food activist, says to spend as much time enjoying the food as it took to prepare it.) Another was awareness of what you are eating; chewing the food with intention to really notice the texture and the various tastes – bitter, sweet, savory, salty, spicy, sour.  And another, ask questions of your food – Does this food nourish my body? Will it satiate me? Will it properly fuel my lifestyle? Is it enjoyable? By doing this, you are practicing mindful eating and more likely to eat less, enjoy more and honor the cook!

 

Mindful eating also means awareness of when and why you eat, or knowing your body’s non-hunger triggers for eating. Are you eating out of boredom or habit even when you aren’t hungry? Before you eat something, ask yourself first if you are hungry. If so, eat, if not, don’t, and stop eating when your body tells you to stop. By being mindful of your body’s physical and emotional cues, you are more likely to control when, why and how much you eat.

The opposite of mindful eating is mindless eating, which in our busy and fast-paced society usually happens. Food is something we must have, so we often eat on the run, in our car, at our desk or in front of the television. For your next meal, turn off the TV, set the table, light a candle, place your fork down between bites, and savor the experience. Your body and your mind will thank you!

 

 

For more green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com.

 

Some information compiled from amihungry.com/what-is-mindfuleating/

 

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