Gardening with a (Re)Purpose

April 14, 2013 by  
Filed under Blog, DIY, Front Page, Gardening, Repurposing, Slideshow

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Starting a backyard garden doesn’t have to involve spending a lot on containers, watering systems and soil additives. In fact, you could probably plant a rich, healthy and visually attractive garden right now with what you have lying around your house. Everything from that pile of recyclables to the yard waste sitting at the curb can be used to build a low-cost, low-maintenance source of kitchen herbs, vegetables and day-brightening flora. Following are a few ideas to get you started and to spur on your gardening imagination.

Consider using all those leaves, sticks and pine cones you rake out of your yard every couple of months as free and effective mulch in your garden. Leaves and pine straw are a great finishing touch to your garden beds as they help your soil maintain a consistent temperature and moisture level as well as help to keep out weeds.

Planters with a New Purpose

Instead of asking yourself, “What can I repurpose and turn into a planter?” you should be asking what you can’t, because just about anything that can hold soil and drain water can be used for your planting purposes. Assorted old coffee tins make great containers for flowering gardens and the two center holes of stacked, staggered cinder blocks can be filled with potting soil for a unique wall garden.

Have an old wooden wine box? Drill some holes in the bottom, fill with a short layer of gravel, top with potting soil and hang from sturdy eyelets screwed into the four corners for an intriguing and useful kitchen garden ….

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Rainwater Harvesting Options for Homeowners

December 11, 2012 by  
Filed under Blog, Front Page, Gardening, Slideshow, Sustainability, Water

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Depending on where you live, your water bill can be one of your larger monthly expenses, especially during the summer. With the help of landscapers, you can set up a rainwater harvesting system that will save you money and reduce the demand for water in your community.
Rainwater harvesting systems can be as simple as using a barrel or as complex as installing underground tanks. Whichever method you choose, it’s important to remember that your landscape design should prevent water from pooling around the foundation of your home. Also keep in mind that plain rainwater is non-potable, so you’ll need to set up a purification system if you plan to drink it….

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5 Things to Consider When Picking a Spot for Your Urban Garden

August 25, 2012 by  
Filed under Blog, Front Page, Gardening, Slideshow, Sustainability, Tips

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People who live in an apartment or townhouse don’t usually have the luxury of available green space to start a garden. And those who rent houses and have the green space may not be able to use it to grow fruit and vegetables, since the land doesn’t belong to them. Yet, those in tight living spaces can still get involved with urban gardening by using the space they do have to grow herbs, fruits, and vegetables.

Growing a garden not only saves money in the long-term, but it also creates a sustainable lifestyle by reducing the waste and carbon emissions that come from transporting these goods all across the world — and from making trips to the store and back to buy them. Plus it’s a commonly known fact among gardeners that if you grow something, it tastes better! …

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The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Composting by Chris McLaughlin

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Maybe you’re already a gardener, ready to plant some vegetables to reduce your grocery bill and gain some peace of mind about what additives you will not be putting into your family’s bodies. Or, maybe you secretly yearn for a yard filled with colorful flower blossoms from early spring until late fall.

If you see yourself in either of these scenarios, then The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Composting: Turn your organic waste material into black gold, is for you. No, this isn’t a book about planting a garden. It’s about how to nourish the soil you will use to grow amazing veggies and posies. And, I have to say, it’s even fun to read….

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Energy-Wise Landscape Design – This Book Will Save You Money

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In the depths of winter, it’s always good to remember that spring is just around the corner. After the holiday rush ends, it will be a great time to start planning and dreaming about your yard. And if you’re planning to build or renovate this coming year, you’ll want to be sure you incorporate landscaping ideas that not only look pretty, but that are also energy efficient.

Careful landscaping can be much more effective at saving energy than many of the other efforts we make each day, like turning off lights and turning down the heat. Having the right plantings outside your home will not only save you money, it will also help you live more comfortably in an esthetically pleasing environment.

That’s the essence of the message embedded in every page of Energy-Wise Landscape Design: A New Approach for your Home and Garden by Sue Reed….

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9 Months – 11 Buckets of Dirt

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There are many things in life that require patience: the growth of an embryo into a full-term baby, the long slog through a school year, the development of seedlings into luscious tomatoes … and the turning of garbage into rich, healthy soil.

In July of 2009, Joe built a compost bin in our backyard. It was a relatively simple structure that cost less than $100 (it could have been nearly free, if I hadn’t Freecycled the “extra” cinder blocks we thought we wouldn’t need again). We started dumping our food and garden waste — along with contributions from close neighbors — and didn’t give it too much thought.

When the pile grew to the top of the bin, we kept throwing in food. Mysteriously, all summer and into the fall, the pile never grew higher than the lid. We never stopped adding food and leaves and such — even paper towels and toilet paper rolls. We were careful, though, not to add newsprint or any paper with ink on it. Ours is an organic garden.

It wasn’t until winter set in solidly that we had to add more cinder blocks. That’s when the mass froze, and the pile stopped sinking down. (Thank you, Freecycle, for providing more blocks for the extra height.)

Spring finally rolled around, and, as our thoughts turned to gardening, Joe decided to dig out the pile.

Wow! …

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Backyard Abundance – Reconnecting People to Nature

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Fred Meyer isn’t a man who lets a problem stop him — not even when the problem covers the entire planet.

“Most everyone feels a desire to improve the health of our environment, but when faced with our monumental environmental problems, the task seems too large — understanding how to proceed can feel overwhelming,” Meyer writes at BackyardAbundance.org.

Because Meyer understood that feeling of powerlessness and frustration, he wanted to do something about it — not only for himself, but to help others as well.

MEYER: I started Backyard Abundance because I saw a need in our community for a holistic view of how we could improve the health of our environment. I have always been a big tree hugger. I had been hugging the trees, picking up roadways, planting plants, and doing all that for years — even in high school.

After a while, I had to take a step back and see if what I was doing was actually making a difference. When I did, I saw that the environment was continuing to crumble all around me….

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How to Master Organic Gardening (An eBook)

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We’re not quite to New Year’s Eve, and already I’m dreaming of my summer garden. If you, too, are digging your fingers into virtual soil and planting a garden in your head, then you might want to read How to Master Organic Gardening, an e-book by Katie Elzer-Peters and Chris Molnar.

Perhaps you’re an experienced gardener who is just now getting into organic methods. You’ll learn a lot from this book. Or maybe you’re a total beginner, essentially clueless about the meaning of such terms as compost, soil compaction, and brown rot. This book is also for you. If you’re already an expert organic gardener, you don’t need this book. But think about the people you know who could use a primer; this book is for them….

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How to Build a Compost Bin in Your Own Backyard

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Perhaps you’ve been thinking about it for a while now, and you’ve decided that your family needs a compost bin in your backyard. You could go out and buy one of those really nice, plastic-barrel ones, the kind that sits on a fancy rack and rotates with a spin of the handle. But you don’t have to shell out a couple hundred dollars or experience the frustration of trying to assemble it when you get it home. Build your own. It’s less expensive, relatively simple to construct, and — as important, in my mind — easy to disassemble and repurpose if you ever want to.

I’m always looking for reasons to avoid buying anything new, especially new plastic things. I like to use old stuff when I can; it’s eco-friendly and helps create a sustainable lifestyle. Better yet, I prefer to make my own. But I have to be careful to not get carried away. I tend to over-design, and then over-build, so my projects end up costing twice as much and taking twice as long as yours might. Most people build their compost piles with four stakes and some chicken wire wrapped around the outside. That’s an option, of course, but it’s not raccoon-proof, and that was my first requirement…

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How to Build a Quick and Easy Vegetable Trellis

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It’s spring in Iowa, and the smell of the moist, black soil calls out to the gardener in all of us. Ever since the first hint of bulbs peeking through the dirt, I’ve been itching to get started planting an organic garden. On Friday, the temperature was 60 degrees Fahrenheit. By Saturday, it was 35 degrees and dropping. The Weather Channel showed a big snowstorm coming in a few hours. I decided I’d better hurry.

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Organic Gardening in Your Own Backyard

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Spring in Iowa feels like stepping out of the Ice Age into some of the most appreciated warm weather on the planet. After enduring 20 snow and ice storms from November to March (and more still possible all the way to early May), a person’s patience begins to thin. Mine does, anyway. But a few days of warmer weather, say in the 50s and 60s, changes my whole outlook….

I am ready for spring. I am ready for the rain to wash all those chilly memories away. I am ready for the plants in my garden to return. I am ready to see green buds pushing up through the dead leaves. I long for the feel of dirt under my fingernails. If you live in a cool climate, I’ll bet you’re ready, too.

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