Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Gardening With Limited Space

Container Gardens Can Be Prolific

For many years now, I have had no yard space available for my own garden. At previous homes, I had been able to cut out a section of dirt in my yard to section off for growing vegetables. With my current home, however, I do not have an area in the grass that I am comfortable removing or that would afford the necessary amount of full sun to grow what I want.

This posed an interesting problem when I moved here because I definitely wanted a garden to grow my own produce. Yet the only area on the property that truly seemed to have the proper conditions for sunlight was my driveway. Because I do not use the garage for parking a car, it seemed reasonable to re-purpose a section of the driveway for container gardening. But I wanted something big enough and deep enough to grow the plants I had in mind. It's a no-brainer that tomatoes can do well in containers, but I really wanted to expand into pumpkins and root vegetables and other plants that need a little more room to maneuver. So several years ago I sat down with a measuring tape and some paper and figured out the dimensions for a box that could fit alongside the driveway in the narrow space next to the fence.

I discovered that there was plenty of room for a quite sizable box garden, which could be deeper than any of my other containers and offer the space to plant several rows of vegetables. The first year, I even grew corn. 

Building a container is fairly easy, though you need to start with the proper materials. Buying wood for the frame that is not chemically treated is essential, because those chemicals do not belong in your food. Check with the local lumber store to find out which of your locally available wood options will resist rot the best. Untreated pine seems to do a fine job. And it looks good naturally, weathers well and is very easy to work with.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Natural Cleaners for the Home

When we clean the house, my family no longer uses brand name cleansers and the house has never felt or looked cleaner. Another big bonus is that it smells better, too! There is no chemical smell. Instead, the air in each room feels fresh. Windows have fewer streaks. Counter tops are disinfected. Floors shine. Tubs and sinks sparkle. And we save money in the process. It is not all about harder scrubbing and working ourselves to the bone, either.

What's the secret? Only common sense (and a little bit of research).

The Green Clean Book
Hydrogen Peroxide
Guide to Speedy Green Cleaning

Natural Cleaning Agents

Like most people, I used to clean with products purchased at the grocery or hardware store. In fact, I had spent some time as a youth working as a janitor at my father's office. Typically, the most toxic chemicals were chosen with the idea that they would get the job done most quickly and with the least amount of effort. That is how most people appear to approach the cleaning process, professionally or otherwise. Spray on something that will "scrub" the tiles so you don't have to. Squirt something to dissolve the stains so the brush (and physical contact) becomes unnecessary. Use disposable pads and avoid having to touch anything dirty or full of germs. These selling angles appear everywhere these days and seem to be convincing consumers that there is no better way. But there is a better way, a healthier way and a smarter way to clean.

The best part is, it is also cheaper to clean with natural ingredients. While there are terrific pre-made environmentally friendly alternatives on the market, like the Conserve brand, it is easy to mix up your own home concoction from simple ingredients you probably already have.

Image of white vinegar, rubbing alcohol, baking soda and a lemon

Ingredients for a better clean

Start by looking in the kitchen pantry and the bathroom medicine cabinet. These two places are commonly stocked with the basics. What is not already there can be easily retrieved from virtually any grocery or convenience store, usually at a cost of less than $1 per item. The best news: nothing toxic to worry about.
  • Alcohol
  • Vinegar
  • Hydrogen Peroxide
  • Baking Soda
  • Lemon Juice
  • Water

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Growing an Organic Garden

As people learn more about what is involved with factory farming, planting and growing organic food at home is becoming a more appealing option. The increasing costs of healthy grocery store options vs the effort involved with creating an organic garden at home have lead more and more people to develop small garden plots. Urban farming continues to rise.

Growing Organic Gardens

Going organic can begin with some simple steps. Regardless of the garden size, the first and most important step is to establish the physical parameters and fill the area with clean, chemical-free soil. Using a proper compost base layer will lead to healthier vegetable growth by loosening the soil and filling it with nutrients. Composting takes a long time to do at home, so initially it may be necessary to utilize commercial compost. Over time, however, it pays off to create a personal compost reserve suited to the size of an established garden.

One of the primary tenets of an organic home garden is to avoid the use of chemical fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides. While these are readily available and highly effective, there is much research to show that these chemicals may be absorbed into the body and that they may cause lasting damage to the environment. Natural alternatives frequently do not work as advertised, which causes many would-be organic farmers endless frustration. Yet there are simple physical options that can inexpensively solve many of the more common problems.