Category Archives: Garden

All the Preps…..Jonas

If you have been following our bathroom remodel, sorry to say that it was put on hold for the last week. Although I do have at least one post to do about it, this week has been spent preparing for the inevitable Jonas Storm hitting the east coast. I am not a doomsday prepper, but I do seriously believe in prepping for the eventuality-nay reality-of natural disasters; like winter storm Jonas.

It is not just about going to the local big box and buying up all the necessities: water, milk, bread, toilet paper, etc. Although these are good items to make sure you have on hand.  There are a lot of other preparing depending on the disaster that is going to hit. It our case in Baltimore-Blizzard Jonas.

Since our chicken coop is a mile from our house (due to local 0123 2440123 245regulations), I went and took the time to wrap the entire coop in a heavy mil plastic to keep the majority of the snow at least outside. But with 60-70 mph wind gusts, I hope it will hold up.

I did make it to the coop yesterday morning and it seemed to be fine, but the worst of the storm did not really hit until yesterday afternoon. I am stuck this morning-even 4-wheel drives are not moving for a while because of the 4-5ft snow drifts surrounding them.

0123 240Next I concerned myself with the rabbits. Although rabbits handle cold well, I really did not want to worry about trudging through the snow to take care of them. So we decided to move them into the greenhouse.

There is not really much room in the greenhouse, but I nestled them into the back corner, covering the rear entrance. We use this entrance very little and with snow piled outside, the likelihood of needing it was less.

Yeti 1200 w/ two solar panels (in case)
Yeti 1250 w/ two solar panels (in case)
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Yeti 1200 and 150
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Full charge on Yeti 1250

 

 

 

 

You can never have enough good batteries, especially if you get into a grid down situation. So on my stock up trip to Costco, I did buy extra batteries. I also made sure that my solar powered generators, batteries, and lights were fully charged. I love Goal Zero’s products, so I have most of their product line and solar panels. We do have a Honda gas fired generator, which I fueled and started just to make sure there were no issues.

So in comes Jonas! I did everything I could to be ready, but it seems, there could always be more. I forgot to dig out my heavy hat, gloves, boots and scarves. It was not too bad rounding them up, but I could have had them out and ready.

Spent most of yesterday transporting essential personnel. My wife is a nurse, so not going to work is not an option! I was hoping she would not get stuck there all weekend, but that all depended on transport picking up the personnel that could not drive in. They were able to get fully staffed so my wife was able to leave at the end of her regularly scheduled shift. But she did have to get a ride in this morning since my 4wd is plowed in!

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I did take a little time to dig out the greenhouse entrance so I could feed the rabbits and fish, as well as check on the aquaponics operation. Although it was nice and toasty in the greenhouse, I was a little concerned about the amount of snow laying on our windows. Since we used conservatory windows, they are not built to withstand holding that much weight. I thought starting a fire in the Rocket Mass Heater might help to melt it off a little quicker.

The rest of my day was spent, shoveling and snow-blowing to insure that emergency personnel could get on our street if need be. The majority of my neighbors are either elderly or disabled, so it falls on the few of us able bodied to keep the road and driveways open to essential personnel.

My neighbors son-in-law, my brother-in-law, and I dug out most houses on the street. We live on a short section of one-way street, so there are only 10 houses on the block. Out of the 10, we dug out 6 before the worst of the storm hit.  At this point we had already had about 15-18 inches, so I thought it would make it easier on us this morning.

Most of the work we did yesterday was gone! The winds, gusting up to 70mph, re-covered everything and pretty much buried any vehicle.  There are a few people out shoveling, blowing now and I will join them soon, even though I am still trying to recover from yesterday.

I do love snow but Baltimore ended in a new single snowfall record of 29.3 inches. Add the wind to the mix and this was definitely one of the worst storms to hit our area in my lifetime. We are looking at cloudy skies and sun for the next week, so we should be able to recover quickly and get Baltimore “open for business” again!

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Cutting Back for winter

My last few posts have demonstrated how chaotic this last year has been, but especially since harvest season. (Two months… , Beginning Winter Aquaponics) I tend to also do pruning of my fruit trees and arbor in late fall, early winter, but with the weather maintaining in the 60’s and 70’s through Christmas, I had to wait a little longer.

There are many that say to prune in the spring, others in the winter, but I am a fall pruner. It seems to work out well for me and my timeline, but usually show good results the next grow season.

We have apples, pears, peaches, persimmons, and a huge grape arbor, so there is a lot to be pruned and prepped for next season. I have now been able to get most of it done but still need to cut back on my arbor a lot more. I should have time in the next few days to finish it up. Probably not tomorrow, with a high predicted of 26, but it is suppose to be back around 40 by Thursday.

Forgot to mention the loofa’s also. We got almost 3 dozen from 1 plant. This was a first for us, but I think we will do them again.

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Beginning winter aquaponics

If you caught my post a few days ago, you know how increasingly hectic things have been around the little suburban homestead. I am really trying to carve out the time to catch up a few posts, but it has still been difficult. I can start to share some of the posts and projects that have occupied so much time.

The greenhouse and aquaponics setups have been pretty good. I cleaned the grow beds out, cleaned out all the filters and lines and prepared the beds for winter planting.

I started planting with the usuals for our winter feeding of the chickens: lettuce, spinach etc. Then I added a few tomato plants and some peppers, along with some bush bean plants that were volunteers that I transplanted from outside.

Tomatoes 20160108_082335 20160108_082344 20151224_082127 20151224_082139

Also, you may notice the onions. This was a first for us. I threw them in just to see what would happen and surprisingly, they took off. They seem very happy in the rocky, water-laden media.

Along with getting the grow beds together, I did some basic maintenance on the greenhouse; sealing air gaps and insuring fewer heat leaks this winter. Of course I also test fired the rocket mass heater to check the flue for any obstruction. All went well and I think the greenhouse is ready to produce great things this winter.

Two Months….

It has been two months since I have shared anything. I thought it was only a few weeks, but regardless, not good for anyone blogging. These last two months have been so eventful and packed full of activities that it is hard to determine where to start.

Of course, trying to get ready for winter has been a priority. Cleaning the little homestead, pulling up the garden beds, pruning trees and arbor, laying new wood chips around the garden paths, mulching trees to protect roots from winter, cleaning out aquaponics tanks, setting up greenhouse, readying the animals (rabbits, chickens, bees) etc, etc, etc. I have pictures and will post more later….

Fortunately so far this year it has been very mild for us. We have stayed pretty consistently in the 50’s and 60’s-a good 15-20 degrees above normal for the Mid-Atlantic Region. They are even calling for 72 degrees on Christmas Eve, with Christmas Day in the 60’s! It has given me some extra time at least to get our gardens and yard together.

We have had a few health scares as well, both myself and my wife. My Melanoma keeps spreading, so keeping on top of it with my doctor has to be a priority. I was also diagnosed with C.O.P.D. not bad enough yet for oxygen, but fatigue and shortness of breath set in quickly.

My wife ended up with the hospital with what they determined a cardiac “episode” I guess they determine an episode when they cannot truly find anything, but all symptoms seemed like a heart attack to me. AT least enough to transport by ambulance instead of taking a chance driving her. She is back to normal, just have to be sure to see a heart specialist after Christmas to, if nothing else, get baseline readings.

We moved into our little homestead in 2005, with a plan to remodel the bathrooms and kitchen within a short time. We did do our guest bathroom about 4 years ago when my brother-in-law became disabled and moved in with us, but have not made progress on the other bath or kitchen. The beginning of November came and we made the determined decision to gut our primary bathroom. This is currently a work in progress, which was hoping to have done by Christmas, but things happen. We should be done early in the new year and I will do a post on the rehab as well as having a lot of pictures. Stay tuned…

Well, for now, I wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. I will start posting more regularly again very soon!

Preparing for winter-too much to do!

I am taking advantage of the nice-but cool weather today to start preparing the suburban homestead for winter. Bees, chickens, rabbits, fish, the greenhouse, the aquaponics systems the garden, canning, freezing, dehydrating, and I am sure there are a few other things that will need my attention over the coming weeks.

This morning started at 5:30, fixing breakfast for the little woman. Yes she still works outside the home, which is why I became here “Homestead Hero”, as she calls me. Hero I am not, but it is a full time job to take care of a homestead-even a small 1/5 acre suburban homestead.

After getting her off to work, its time to gather food scraps and greens (grow in the garden and greenhouse) to feed the chickens. Taking food and water to the chickens is not as easy as walking out the back door since we can not legally keep fowl on our property. (In Baltimore County-must have 1 acre for any chickens) So I have to take a short drive of about 1 1/2 miles to get to the chicken coop on our friends property. This isn’t so bad and I really do not have to go every day since we installed the solar electric door to let them in and lock them up at night. But it’s nice to feed them greens and scraps to keep our feed bill low.

Once back from the coop, I focused on getting the bees wrapped all warm and toasty. We have had a few nights now at 30 degrees, so why wait until the last minute.

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I start the wrap with a layer of 2″ foam board around three sides. This is held tight with a metal plumbing strap. Then I can surround the hive with straw bales. These serve as a great wind break and an insulator for the cold weather accompanied by high winds that we usually have here on the east coast.

In the third picture, many of the bees came out to see what was going on, almost looks as if they are getting ready to swarm, but they quickly settled back inside to their routine.  I was going to start feeding them today, but with the activity I will just wait until tomorrow before I disturb them again.

While I was outside, I just checked on the rabbits. We have a mating pair of Florida Whites, of which our female is currently pregnant. She is due on the 27th, so I just added some straw in the cage so she could build a nice comfy warm nest to deliver the litter. I have the plastic wrap put up but have not surrounded the hutches with it yet. That only takes a few minutes to unroll and attached to the outside of the hutch, so I can wait until later this month.

Our buck-Columbus
Our buck-Columbus
Our female-Sweet Pea, Just 7 more days to delivery!
Our female-Sweet Pea, Just 7 more days to delivery!
Plastic ready to wrap
Plastic ready to wrap

 

 

 

 

 

Chickens, bees, and rabbits-check, check, and check. So on to the greenhouse. I have not been real active in the greenhouse over the summer, since all of my attention has been devoted to the outside garden projects.

Of course the last few weeks have been filled with canning, freezing and dehydrating our spring and summer crops. “crops” that makes it sound like we have so many acres, but we have just enough for one little homestead hero to handle.  You would be amazed at how much can be grown on a 1/5 acre!

Anyway, back to the greenhouse. I wrote a couple of months ago about our cherry tomato plant in the aquaponic grow bed. I figured today was a good day to say goodbye to it-after 11 months of growing and fruiting. Yes it was still delivering cherry tomatoes, but the growth had taken over the greenhouse and the vines had rooted in several places throughout 2 grow beds.

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winter 008It took some time to clean out the remains of the tomato plant, along with some lettuce, spinach, and mint that the growth had been hiding from me. But now that the grow beds are empty, except for a thriving mint plant in one corner, I can start to plant for winter growth.

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Our outside Bean Tower during season

While working outside I found some bean plants that had sprouted around my outside grow tower. I guess when I let some stay on the vine to dry for use as seeds next year, they must have fallen off and germinated in the ground around the barrel.  There were six small plants that seemed to be thriving, even after the frost we encountered the last two nights.  I thought this would be a perfect time to try green beans in our aquaponics system.

I installed one of our larger tomato cages into the center of the grow bed. Then I dug up the 6 bean plants and cleaned the roots for transplanting. This will be a first for me trying green beans so I am excited to see how well they do.

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The other grow bed, with the mint in the corner is now planted with seed for lettuce, mescaline, spinach, and arugula. It is nice to be able in the winter to feed our chickens and rabbits fresh greens.

Part of preparing for winter is also thinking ahead to spring, so today I had a full load of wood chips delivered. I use these to spread on paths and walkways between the raised beds, as well as around fruit trees to keep roots warm in the winter.

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Anyone like pumpkins this time of year? I did not plant pumpkins this year because it absolutely took over our garden beds last year. But I guess God had other plans for the garden this year as I have a great amount of pumpkins that grew. I think it fascinating that they are hanging from my tomato cages and green bean tunnel.

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winter 003While working around the homestead today, I had an engineer here all morning checking, measuring, taking pictures and asking questions, readying our house for a solar panel installation. We are really looking forward to adding solar to our property, hopefully to help get our utility costs reduced and be more in line with our belief in sustainability and eco-friendly.

I think this is the first time I have ever written over 1000 words for one post. I hope I did not bore you, but there is always a lot going on at the little suburban homestead this time of year. This hero, although tired, really enjoys the activity.

 

Organic, Food Safety & GMO’s

usda-certified-organic How do you know if the food you are purchasing is genuinely free of synthetic pesticides, fertilizers and genetically engineered food? How can the consumer rely on the fact that a farmer says his produce is “organic”?  The only way to be sure that it is really an organic product is to purchase certified organic products that have the label USDA/Certified Organic.

In 1990, the Organic Foods Production Act established national standards for labeling found on the USDA website. Businesses cannot claim they are organic without having the USDA certification or they risk a heavy fine.  Farmers apply for “organic” certification. Diligent records must be kept. The land must meet certain standards. The farmland must remain dormant for three years. During this time synthetic chemicals, pesticides, fertilizers, or fungicides cannot be utilized. Third party inspectors check the fields, and complete stringent soil and water tests.

The USDA/Certified Organic seal may be found on products like meats, milk, eggs, cheese, and vegetables. What do the labels on these products mean?

  • 100% Organic- on the product means 100% organic ingredients. Packaging can display the USDA/Certified Organic seal.
  • Organic on the product means that the ingredients are 95-99% organic ingredients. Product can bear the USDA/Certified Organic seal.
  • Made with Organic Ingredients means that the item contains 70-94% organic ingredients. They cannot display the certified organic label.
  • Other- on the packaging contains less than 70% organic ingredients and cannot bear the certified seal.
  • Natural- should be interpreted as no artificial colors or flavors

Organic vegetables and fruits can be more expensive to buy than traditionally grown produce. If you are not able to grow your own fruits and veggies use this simple trick to decrease your family’s health risk. If you are concerned about the synthetic pesticides that have been used on produce but can’t afford to buy all organic food then consider buying only the organic fruits and vegetables that have the most pesticide exposure. Typically, the following produce have the most exposure to synthetic chemicals so consider buying them in “organic.”

  • Green beans
  • Winter Squash
  • Strawberries
  • Bell peppers
  • Apples
  • Pears
  • Celery
  • Cherries
  • Red Raspberries
  • Potatoes
  • Peaches
  • Imported Grapes
  • Spinach
  • Nectarines

What about GMO’s?

A genetically modified organism (GMO) is an organism whose genetic material has been altered through ggmo-1enetic engineering. DNA molecules from different sources are combined into a molecule to create a new set of genes. This DNA is then transferred into an organism. This may give the new organism desired traits, such as better disease resistance or withstanding cold temperatures better.

Genes are spliced into the host like tumors invade cells. Scientists can alter an organism by manipulating DNA with cancer causing pesticides in the cells of the plant to produce plants that can withstand greater amounts of pesticide without wilting or dying. Scientists have also crossed tomato plants with fish genes so that tomato plants will become more resistant to cold weather.

These genetically modified organisms contain pollen with the new genetically altered traits. The pollen can be eaten by birds or insects and travel through the wind to pollinate other organisms that have not been genetically altered. The natural species can not survive with the GMO one.   Thus, all of the pollinated plants will produce genetically altered seeds/plants/organisms.

Food labels in the US do not have to inform the consumer that the product has been genetically engineered. But if an item is marked “certified organic” that means the produce is free from genetically modified organisms. Five of the top hosts of GMO are corn and corn products, soy/soy products, rice, wheat, canola and cottonseed oil.

How safe are the new GMO’s that we eat? How long were the GMO’s studied? There are some groups that think that a complete ban on all GM food would be necessary until studied further. Still, others want a least a mandatory labeling of GM food until the long term health effects of eating these foods are known. These products still have some environmental safety issues: possible destruction of entire food chains if the GMO is unleashed to pollinate non GMO produce. Some countries around the world are banning production of any GMO’s.   Some counties in California are putting bans on producing genetically modified food at this time until some of these issues are resolved.

What options do we have? Of course, first and foremost if you have the land, or enough area for a container garden, grow your own. (At least until the genetically engineered foods have been studied longer.)   Growing your own food gives you the knowledge of where your food came from and how it was grown. You can feel comfortable feeding your family and know that you are not eating genetically modified foods.

Secondly, you the consumer can shop at grocery retailers that sell certified organic foods. This segment of foods is growing quickly as more and more consumers turn to a healthier lifestyle. At the time of this writing, these foods are approximately 5-8% higher in price, but as with anything, as demand grows the price will drop.

Personally,  I feel that the consumer should be informed about any foods that contain GMO. That we, the consumer,  should have the  right to decide whether we want to or eat these foods or not.

Backyard Composting 101

The Basics
The microbiological process that creates compost is the natural process through which plants and other organic wastes are broken down. Worms, insects, fungi, bacteria, and other microorganisms help breakdown the waste to create compost.

The Golden Rule of Composting
Composting is a natural process. There is no need to obsess over creating a rapid, robust compost because even a failed compost heap will eventually succeed. That said, a very effectively created compost heap will proceed to finished compost much, much more quickly (and can be a strangely rewarding accomplishment).

The Requirements
For the composting process to occur, oxygen, water, some warmth, and a good ratio of carbon-based to nitrogen-based materials are necessary. Fortunately, every one of these materials is abundantly available and should be essentially free!

The Bin
Many different compost bins are available, for many different prices. In fact, many cities offer conservation incentives through compost which they offer bins at highly discounted rates. Which one should you get? Choose the one that fits your household.  thing  In fact, no container at all is just fine too! Some of the best compost heaps are just that – a heap in a corner of the yard with a small enclosure or picket fence to keep things looking tidy.

The Ingredients
The insects and microorganisms that do the work of composting will come no matter what you do. Fortunately, putting out the right combination of nitrogen- and carbon- based materials will be like offering them a free all-you-can-eat buffet. Carbon-based materials to add to your compost should be available in abundance. These are the brown materials such as dead grass clippings, leaves, and even shredded cardboard. Nitrogen-based, or green, materials, can take the form of fruit peels, green grass clippings, and food wastes (avoid adding dairy and meat wastes). The ideal ratio for your compost is about 30 parts carbon to 1 part nitrogen, but anywhere in that neighborhood will work just fine.

The other two ingredients you will need to ensure a speedy process are water and air. Because the center of your heap will retain a great deal of water, the compost should not need to be wetted very often except during dry spells.

Oxygen is introduced by turning the compost (a pitchfork works best) about once a week, or when the decomposition slows down.

What Will Happen
If you have built a heap with a good carbon to nitrogen ratio, and one that’s sufficiently damp and oxygenated, the composting process should start immediately. When the process peaks, the center of your pile will be producing heat (sometimes a surprising amount of heat!). It is up to you whether you want to completely compost a batch of wastes and then start over, or simply add wastes as they become available. When the center of the pile cools, the process has slowed and it’s probably time to turn your pile. Repeat until you’ve got nothing left but black gold.

The Product
When your compost has been – well – composted – what will remain is a moist, black, sweet-smelling mulch approximately the consistency of soggy cardboard. Nature’s most potent fertilizer, compost can be spread on your flowers, in your garden, on your lawn, and anywhere else you want healthy, strong plants.

Skip the trash can for some of your waste – six weeks in your compost heap can break down more material than six years in a landfill – and the end result is free, natural fertilizer for your efforts!

Happy Composting!

Suburban Homesteading-A New Way of Life?

Urban and suburban homesteading have grown beyond belief in the last decade. Many living in the city or near a city have chosen to be more self-sustainable through gardening, beekeeping, aquaponics, permaculture, and raising/breeding meat animals (rabbits, chicken). Not all inclusive, this list is considered by many, a new way to be more self-sustainable, more “green” in today’s world.

Planted Garden
Ready and planted garden beds for 2014 growing season.

Being a part of suburban homesteading, doing all I can to make the best of our little 1/5 acre, has taught me many lessons. Among those is that this trend is not a new lifestyle- it is a reversion to the lifestyle of our ancestors. Our ancestors being self-sustainable out of necessity were really living a “green” lifestyle before green was cool!

Our trip into homesteading began with two major forces driving our decisions, beginning with the economy, on to the need to house and feed more people under our roof. Economic conditions over the last decade have not been all the best, of course coming to a head in 2007-8 with the collapse of the housing market. This is when we truly became serious about be more self-sustainable.

We have always gardened, but the amount of land dedicated to gardening grew substantially as more relatives (children and siblings) began to move back in with us due to lost jobs, lost homes, and health issues. As our population grew, the need to produce more of our own food grew. We quickly went from one main garden bed in our back yard to over 30 raised beds throughout the property.

Growing our own food became a necessity, but we found that we had some much more control over what was going into our bodies. We chose to never again use any type of pesticide or herbicide within our property limits, determining that using natural substances made better sense and in many cases was more effective. Enter the chickens!

Chicken manure is among the best “natural” fertilizers available, but having the actual chicken made so much more sense with the added value they bring to any yard and garden. The pecking, natural soil aeration, eliminating bugs and other pests, the eggs, and not to mention the shear joy of just watching them run and play in the yard made having them a no-brainer. Of course the County did not have the same opinion and took our chickens after a year because of local zoning regulations. More on this in other posts.

Bee package
First 3# Bee Package

So without chickens, we moved to rabbits. Choosing to raise meat rabbits at least gave us another great fertilizer source, but also another source of meat. There were no regulations on growing personal use rabbits, as well as we did not sell any, nor could we butcher any in public view. So at least we could still accomplish some of our goals without the County constantly in our business.

As our garden grew, we felt a need to expand our ability to insure a good crop each year by adding bees to our little homestead. Seemed like a natural jump and fortunately we live in a county that has no regulations concerning beekeeping. Bees are an interesting lot and require little effort on the part of humans. If we provide proper housing for them, they are very attentive to their own needs to survive. This was a great step into our expanding homestead.

First Aquaponics bed
First AP Tank/bed

Extending our growing season for some fresh vegetables became a project last year, opting to try indoor aquaponics. Although this process had a huge learning curve for me, since I had no knowledge of fish or gardening without soil, we ventured forward. This has been one of the most enjoyable ventures so far and one that I was able to actually help fill a need to others in perfecting a “portable” AP system for other local enthusiast’s.

Greenhouse
Completed Greenhouse side view

This year was a major project year, deciding to build a 10′ x 20′ greenhouse to expand our growing season to year round and move our aquaponics into a larger area outside our basement. Again comes the County! This fight through multiple hearings, petitions, emails and phone calls finally came to an end in our favor after about 8 months. So we have been able to move forward and complete the structure, we are still very much in the set up phase of the interior.

Of course how could I get through this post without thanking my parents and grand-parents for teaching me many of the skills I never thought I would use in  my life. Canning, freezing, and dehydrating have become commonplace to extend our ability to use our own fresh crops, which I learned from my mother and grand-mother. Planting, growing, and harvesting knowledge are an extension of my father’s passed down skills. My grand-father taught me about chickens, cows, and horses-although our land could never accommodate large animals, I understood the value of chickens on our property.

Every day is a joy to be able to get out of bed and do something I love that is a benefit to my family, my budget, and my community since we always have enough to spare to our elderly and disabled neighbors and our friends. Although my initial reasoning for our lifestyle had nothing to do with being more “green” I have found that many of the skills handed down to me are just that-a greener lifestyle. Self-sustainable and green can go hand in hand, but a” new” lifestyle it is not. Our ancestors understood a green lifestyle out of necessity, and passed down the knowledge and skills so future generations could enjoy the benefits of a self-sustaining lifestyle!

Go Green and Save in 2016-Part 2

SaveMoney

There were far too many ideas to put in the first post on saving in 2016, so here are a few more simple things you can do to save money while being eco-friendly. If you have a limited budget, start with the free ones and then try and add another step as you can afford them. In the long run, the savings will far outweigh the initial cost!  

Go Green to Save Green in 2016!

 
Money Saving Gardening Ideas

  • ·Plant a vegetable, herb, or container garden. This will save lots of green and is a very green thing to do!
  • ·        Plant deciduous trees on the east and west side of your house to keep sun out of house, thereby reducing AC bills. In the winter, the leaves will fall off the trees and allow the sun to come into the windows to provide warmth.
  • ·        A cheaper, quicker way to provide shade now is to grow an annual vine in front of windows to provide shade in summer months. Hyacinth beans grow quickly and are beautiful where I live. (And a bonus, the hummingbird visited the vines.)
  • ·        Shred paper (to protect against identity theft) and use it in the compost pile.
  • ·        Start a worm bin with your kitchen scraps (vermicomposting) for use around flowers, herbs and vegetables. Save money not spending money on expensive chemical fertilizers that are not environmentally friendly any way.
  • ·        Mulch, mulch, mulch. You can use things like leaves, grass clippings, straw and compost.
  • ·        Collect rain in rain barrels to water the gardens.
  • ·        Use the boiled egg water, water from the dehumidifier, or water that ran off your vegetables when cleaning them, to water plants.
  • ·        Plant native plants for your area, they may need to be watered less.
  • ·        Choose plants that can thrive with other plants with similar needs.
  • ·        Plant for wildlife. Planting the right plant can attract birds, butterflies and bees.
  • ·        Build healthy soil with the use of organic matter. Compost with things that you may have on hand such as grass clippings, leaves, and old kitchen scraps such as lettuce leaves, old banana peels, etc. (No meat or dairy)
  • ·        Check out what the neighbor is putting in his trash too but check to see if they use synthetic chemicals.
  • ·        Compost healthy garden wastes.
  • ·        Composting for fertilizer and increasing soil health is not expensive and very eco-friendly.
  • ·        Composting attracts earthworms, so let them aerate and fertilize your soil. No need for tilling, the earthworms will do it for you.
  • ·        Join a garden club for seed swapping or plant exchanging.
  • ·        Control disease and pests through natural cures first. Last year I used the Cornell recipe for powdery mildew on my roses and it worked!
  • ·        Water during the early morning to prevent diseases that spread when leaves are wet and to prevent evaporation during the heat of the day.
  • ·        Mulch to suppress weeds and hold in moisture.
  • ·        Use newspapers in your compost and also as mulch. Don’t use the shiny kind of papers just the dull paper.
  • ·        Use cardboard for composting and also can be used before laying down the mulch. (Make sure their isn’t any tape on the box it won’t break down.)
  • ·        Check with places like Craigslist or FreeCycle for things you need for the garden or other projects. Talk to your neighbors and friends. Remember to rethink, remake, reuse and recycle. Recently, I found things that I had been looking for the coming garden season. Of course my price had to be free and close to where I live. In the winter, people don’t want to get out because of the cold so the odds are greater that you can actually pick some of this unwanted stuff up. One neighbor saves coffee grounds and filters for my worm bin. The other neighbor redid her windows-so now I have old windows for some cold frames. On Craigslist.com I found bags of old leaves, old stakes and chicken wire for my peas, and 5 dozen Ball canning jars. Last year I picked up a bunch of old bricks for walkways for free. You can also find plants and flowers. I went and dug about 9 currant bushes for free. Also, picked up around the corner from where I live enough rocks to use around my new pond that I am building to encourage wildlife. All of these things were free, eco-friendly and will be reused or remade into something!!!!

Automobile (Transportation)

  • Bicycle or walk short distances instead of driving.  
  • Change your automobiles air filter every 10,000 miles can reduce gas mileage as much as 10%.  
  • Check your tire pressure once monthly.  
  • Drive the speed limit, the faster you drive the more gas your vehicle guzzles.  
  • Don’t accelerate and break swiftly, uses more gas.  
  • Remove luggage rack and bike racks.
  • Don’t need to use premium fuel unless automobile manual states to use it.
  • Turn off engine if you are idling for more than 30 minutes or more.
  • Get a tune up and oil change as manual states.
  • Change your fuel and air filter on your automobile as the manufacturer states for optimum efficiency.

Save on Groceries

  • Use coupons for items that you would normally use. Some stores offer double or triple coupons. Be sure that the item you would have bought wouldn’t have been cheaper.
  • Calculate savings using the price per smallest possible unit. Usually found below shelf item on tag-calculated ounce, pound, etc.
  • Read grocery circulars.
  • Write up menu for the entire week before shopping. Stick to the menu and what you need for each meal. You can use items that were on sale that week for some of the meals.
  • Don’t buy prepackaged foods, such as pre-cut lettuce. You will pay premium price for this.
  • Plant a vegetable garden. This can save you lots of money and give you the assurance of how the food was grown.
  • Plant fruit trees, and bushes.
  • If you plant a garden, an economical way to preserve produce for all year would be to can, freeze, or dehydrate your food for later usage.

 General Money Saving Tips

  • Don’t buy your coffee out every morning, make your java at home- serve in a coffee travel mug.
  • Pack your lunch for work.
  • Recycle your printer cartridges. Many places like Staples Office Supplies will give you credit when you recycle your printer cartridges through them.
  • Use the correct size pan on the stove for the cooking job, use lids when cooking.
  • Make your own safe cleaners using baking soda, vinegar, and lemon juice. See our home section for some of these cleaning ideas.
  • Don’t buy bottled water, buy a reusable bottle and fill at home. If you are concerned with water contaminants purchase a water filtration system.

If you can think of ideas-feel free to add them in the comments!

Cherry tomatoes all year long

When I was in the greenhouse today cleaning out the filters on the aquaponics tanks, I realized that my 1 cherry tomato plant has taken over both of the grow beds.

I planted 1(one) cherry tomato plant in January of 2015 and it is grown phenomenally. Not only has it grown, but it still flowers and produces great red cherry tomatoes. I am so happy that we decided to move forward with the greenhouse so I can extend my grow season and my aquaponics adventure!

Let me emphasize this is one plant that has taken over more than  a 4′ X 8′ section of the greenhouse-yet still producing after 8 months! I wonder if I can keep growing it as “permaculture”?

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