Author Archives: Garden Decor

The effects of gardening

GREEN GARDENING: The Effects of Gardening

Spending time in your garden is not only good for the environment but it’s good for you too! Let’s explore the effects of gardening!

Studies show that gardening has a positive effect on your health by lowering stress, reducing blood pressure and cholesterol, and lessening muscle tension. Additionally, the time spent outside digging in the dirt can have a positive effect on your weight.

The environment can benefit from your time in the garden, too. Living things like bees, butterflies, and birds can gain food sources, water sources, and living spaces as a result of your garden. Putting flowering plants in your garden offers these species an opportunity to snack on nectar, while accessories like birdfeeders give birds an opportunity to fill up in your yard. Creating spaces specifically for these critters allows them to dine without the fear of predators that may typically disturb them in nature.

Gardening also creates learning lessons for kids. Youngsters are so tightly connected to electronics lately and it is hard to get them outside. Time outdoors shows kids how plants can grow from seed to harvest and gives them a goal to work towards. The additional responsibilities of watering, weeding, and caring for plants shows them that accountability can pay off, and that’s a lesson they can use for life.

Gardening’s effects are pretty positive; however what we do in our gardens can have a negative impact on Mother Nature. The use of pesticides and chemicals in gardening practices has caused a destructive effect on the environment. As a result, we have seen plant diseases and insects that have become immune to treatment. We’ve also seen an effect on the honeybee species that could result from pesticide use. Learn more about Colony Collapse Disorder and how you can help here.

Gardeners who are not cognizant of water use can be wasteful, so it is important to remember when and how to water to maximize each drop. We can cut back on water use by choosing native plants for our gardens. These plants will thrive best because they are indigenous to the region in which you live. Learn more about water conservation and gardening here.

Gardening is such a positive experience for humans and for the land we love. Taking a few precautions, making some good decisions, and spending time doing the right thing will all make your gardening efforts go further. Mother Nature and our future generations will be grateful for it, and your garden will be happier now, too.

create habitats in your garden

GREEN GARDENING: Create Habitats in Your Garden

Although humans interfere with natural habitats often, whether it is removing trees, building new structures, or employing chemical solutions that cause trauma to animals, we are also able to create habitats for our furry friends that allow them to thrive. Gardens are the perfect place for this, and with the help of a few trees, plants, and accessories, your property can become a safe haven!

Bees and butterflies are huge fans of flowering plants. They love to eat the nectar, and bees are superstars at transplanting pollen, which helps our ecosystem. Take a 3-foot by 3-foot space in your yard or garden and dedicate it to black-eyed Susans, honeysuckle, climbing vines, and more to attract and support bees and butterflies. A water supply that is shallow and filled with rocks will help these little bugs get hydrated without fear of drowning.

Feathered friends love to visit our gardens if they’re equipped with the right stuff. Like bees and butterflies, some birds like hummingbirds love flowering plants. Orioles love jelly and orange slices, and almost all birds love feeders packed with seed.

Birds also love water and we often underestimate how this makes a difference to them. Fresh, clean water sources allow birds to hydrate without fear of predators. Hanging a bird waterer in your garden allows birds to access water away from the ground where trouble typically lurks.

Man-made accessories combined with plants create desirable atmospheres for birds and bugs. Try dedicating space in your garden next planting season and enjoy as garden friends visit to take pleasure in your efforts!

Composting

GREEN GARDENING: Composting

Raise your hand if you recycle! A mainstream practice in most of our lives, recycling has gained widespread popularity through the use of formal recycling programs, updated laws and regulations, and the popular use of reusable bags! Recycling in everyday life is simple, but it’s even simpler in the garden through the practice of composting. Composting allows you to recycle waste and scraps to create a very robust fertilizer for your plants.

Compost is a mixture of decomposed organic matter that provides nutrients and fertilizers to your garden. An equal combination of green materials and brown materials ensure compost success. Green materials are rich in nitrogen and protein and cause heat in a compost pile. Brown materials are carbon- and carbohydrate-rich and they feed the organisms and microbes that cause decomposition. Compost eliminates the need for chemical fertilizers, reduces the need for extra watering, and promotes higher crop yield.

It is easy to get started with your homegrown compost pile! More than 25% of an average household’s waste consists of yard trimmings and food scraps that can be composted. Use a contained bin or a vacant space in your garden and collect leaves, twigs, straw, grass clippings, ground coffee, vegetable and fruit scraps, and more. Following the provided directions, add a compost starter like Ringer® Compost Plus Organic Compost Starter to activate and expedite the decomposition process and mix the waste materials thoroughly.

Continually add kitchen and yard scraps to your compost pile to continue the process. The most crucial aspect of composting is an on-going presence of greens and browns in the compost pile. Mix and stir your compost pile every week or so to add the new compost materials and introduce them to the decomposition process.

Add compost to your beds when transplanting seedlings, sowing seeds, or moving plants around in your garden. Throughout the growing season, use compost to provide ongoing nutrients to your plants.

Water Conservation

GREEN GARDENING: Water Conservation

Water conservation is key to preserving our natural resources while also providing your lawn and garden with the moisture it needs. Lawns and plants typically need about 1 inch of water a week. Manual watering is necessary for areas that do not have sufficient rainfall or areas that experience dryer conditions during the height of summer.

Water your flower and garden beds deeply. Get into the root systems so that your plants and lawn are not being superficially watered. A little extra water during a watering, rather than multiple lower volume watering, will be more beneficial.

Water evaporation is the largest source of waste. Water in early morning hours or later in the evening to ensure that evaporation doesn’t steal from the process. Watering in the early morning allows you to avoid possible fungus or mold issues as a result of standing and pooling water on leaves and petals. Plants and grass can dry off during the day, which mitigates risk of disease growth.

Reduce evaporation by creating a shorter path of water travel with drip irrigators and soaker hoses. Deliver water directly to plant roots and soak water into the ground rather than losing some of it on plant leaves.

Mulch and ground covers are an alternative that helps conserve water, too. Mulch creates a layer of protection to your garden beds that not only helps prevent weeds, but also retains water. Ground covers keep your yard cool and less likely to dry out. There are various types of mulch and ground covers that will work for any garden style and gardener’s preference.

Using plants that are native to a region will help conserve water. Plants that are adapted to local water allowances and heat will better survive in your garden than plants that demand resources that do not naturally occur in your garden. Check with your local garden center to understand which plants are indigenous to your region and which plants you should use to save water.

Colony Collapse Disorder

GREEN GARDENING: Bees and Colony Collapse Disorder

Bees are a vital part of our ecosystem and the success of the agricultural community. The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that bees pollinate 80 percent of our flowering crops, which constitute a third of everything we eat. A low or non-existent bee population would not only affect the produce we eat, but also the feed supply available to livestock.

The bee population is a waning one. In the winter of 2006-2007 a low hive population was reported to the USDA. With worker bee population losses spanning from 30-90% and an absence of dead bees, the phenomenon known as Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) gained attention. Although these beehives still had a queen bee and young bees, coupled with an abundant honey and pollen supply, the hives would not sustain without the worker bees.

Why is CCD occurring? Researchers, along with the USDA, have focused their efforts on causes including:

  1. the invasive varroa mite (a pest of honeybees)
  2. the Israeli Acute Paralysis virus and the gut parasite Nosema, which are new and emerging diseases
  3. pesticide poisoning used for in-hive insect or mite control
  4. bee management stress
  5. foraging habitat modification
  6. inadequate forage and poor nutrition supply

Although not one particular factor is gaining more credit than another, some believe a combination of the above incidences could be creating CCD. Researchers are using four overall methods of study to determine why CCD is happening. They are collecting data from beekeepers, analyzing bee samples, conducting hypothesis-driven research, and instituting preventive measures to see the effect they have on bee health and habitat.

You can help the bees by providing space in your garden with flowering plants that support their need for nectar and pollen. Use OMRI Listed products to keep your garden chemical free and prevent bees from transporting chemicals to their hive. Provide a shallow water source to allow thirsty bees to drink without the danger of drowning.

OMRI-listed-logo

GREEN GARDENING: OMRI Listed Products

Organic gardening has grown from a “fad” to a commonplace way of gardening life. With its popularity growing, so have the products that help support keeping your garden organic. Unfortunately impostors, cheaters, and fakes began to share shelf space with true organic gardening solutions. How do you keep the bad out and understand what is really organic?

For a product to achieve organic certification, it must successfully pass a litany of tests and reviews from third party agencies, which are recognized by the USDA. The leading non-profit agency supporting these efforts is the Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI), which validates and promotes the use of certified organic products.

The Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI) is an independent international nonprofit organization that determines which products are allowed for use in organic production and processing. OMRI Listed® products are allowed for use in certified organic operations under the USDA National Organic Program.

OMRI conducts a range of tests and reviews and assesses if a product is viable to be listed. When a product is “OMRI Listed” it carries the OMRI Listed Seal, which assures the suitability of a product for organic production, handling, and processing.

OMRI Listed products range from fertilizers for your yard to insect killing solutions to fungicides and more.

Zucchini Noodles via Nom Nom Paleo

ALL ABOUT SQUASH: Squash Recipes

You’ve got tons of squash on your hands. Now get it to the table with these awesome squash recipes!

Health Starts Here® Butternut Squash Soup via Whole Foods

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cup water, divided

1 small yellow onion, chopped (about 1 cup)

1 large carrot, chopped (about 1 cup)

1 stalk celery, chopped (about 1/2 cup)

1 medium butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch chunks (about 5 cups)

1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme

4 cups low-sodium vegetable broth

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

Simmer ½ cup water in a large saucepot. Add onion, carrot, and celery and cook until vegetables soften and onion turns translucent, about 6-7 minutes. Add butternut squash and thyme. Stir in broth, remaining 1-cup water, and pepper.

Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until squash is fork-tender, about 40 minutes. Use an immersion blender to carefully puree soup. Or, let the soup cool slightly and carefully puree in batches in a traditional blender.

Serves 4-6

 

Zucchini Noodles

Ingredients:

4-6 medium sized zucchini

1 garlic clove

Olive oil

Directions:

Using a box grater you will create spaghetti like noodles to be used in your favorite pasta dishes. Place the grater on its side with the large holes up. Run the zucchini along the grater to create noodle-like pieces.

Zucchini is high in water content, so you’ll need to sweat the noodles before using them. Heat your oven to 200 degrees. Line a baking tray with paper towels and place the zucchini noodles flat. Lightly salt the zucchini and then place the tray in the oven for 30 minutes. This helps to “sweat out” the moisture and make the noodles ready to cook with.

To cook the noodles place them in a saucepan with olive oil and garlic. Sautee the noodles for 3-4 minutes and they’re ready to be used in your pasta recipes!

 

Spaghetti Squash Lasagna Boats via Skinny Taste

Ingredients:

3 small to medium spaghetti squash (about 5 cups cooked)

salt and fresh pepper, to taste

1/3 cup part skim ricotta cheese

2 tbsp grated parmesan cheese

1 tbsp chopped parsley (or basil)

3/4 cup whole milk shredded mozzarella cheese

For the sauce:

1 tsp olive oil

1/2 onion, finely chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced

14 oz Italian chicken sausage

14 oz (1/2 can) crushed tomatoes (I prefer Tuttorosso)

salt and fresh pepper, to taste

2 tbsp chopped basil

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400ºF. Cut spaghetti squash in half lengthwise and scoop out seeds and membrane. Season lightly with salt and black pepper; bake about 1 hour or until tender, cut side down. Allow spaghetti squash to cool 10 minutes before adding filling.

In a small bowl combine the ricotta cheese, 2 tbsp parmesan cheese and parsley.

To make the sauce, heat oil and add onions and garlic; sauté on medium-low for about 3 to 4 minutes, until soft in a large deep sauté pan. Add the sausage and cook, breaking up into smaller pieces until browned and cooked through. When cooked, add the crushed tomatoes and adjust salt and pepper to taste. Add the bay leaf and cover, reducing heat to low. Simmer 20 to 30 minutes, adding in fresh basil at the very end.

When the spaghetti squash is cool enough to handle, use a fork to remove flesh, which will come out in spaghetti looking strands reserving the shells. Drain the squash on a paper towel to soak up any excess liquid, and then toss with half of the sauce. Place the spaghetti squash back into the 6 shells and place on a baking sheet.

Top each with remaining sauce, 1 tbsp ricotta cheese mixture, and 2 tbsp mozzarella cheese. Bake the boats in the oven for 20 – 30 minutes, or until everything is hot, and the cheese is melted.

Squash Harvest

ALL ABOUT SQUASH: Harvesting Squash

Your squash plants are in the ground and are ready to grow! We’ve got tips for you to help keep your plants growing and and make your squash harvesting an abundant effort.

Squash are fast-growing crops that offer high yields. Keep garden beds filled with compost to give your plants tons of nutrients. Mulch beds to assist with moisture retention and weed deprivation. When seedlings are about two inches tall apply a layer of mulch to help regulate soil temperature and protect plants. As plants mature apply more mulch to continue helping growth.

Plants need a continued supply of moisture. Supply plants with about an inch of water per week. Ground irrigation systems allow water to feed directly to roots without pooling on leaves. Watering during early daytime is best so that plants avoid sitting in water in cool evening temperatures, which could cause mold to form.

Squash plants have male and female flowers on each plant. Pollination must occur for large fruits to bear. If you do not have enough bees in your region you can manually pollinate plants by transferring pollen from male to female flowers using a paintbrush or Q-Tip.

PlantingSquash

ALL ABOUT SQUASH: Planting Squash

Now that you’ve decided your squash varieties for your garden, it is time to get to planting squash. Here are a few tips to keep your squash plants happy and healthy!

Summer squash needs full-sun, warm temperatures, and a steady moisture supply. Stock garden beds with plenty of compost matter and make sure drainage is plentiful. If you’d prefer to keep your squash growing contained you can do so. They thrive well in 5-gallon planter containers.

Directly sow summer squash seeds in late spring to early summer, once all threat of frost has passed.  Space your plantings about 1.5-2 feet apart, depending on variety. Typically squash plants can harvest in about 60-90 days. If you want to have a continuous supply, plant seeds in succession.

Winter squash appreciates well-drained soil and warm conditions, too. Prepare three-foot wide planting hills for your winter squash and loosen the soil to at least 12 inches deep. Mix in compost for a nutrient rich base. Plant six seeds per hill to later thin out to three seeds per hill.  Winter squash varieties can be planted throughout the summer up until about 14 weeks before fall frost dates are expected.

Protective row covers should be used on your winter squash varieties. Row covers can be used for various reasons – to hold heat, to keep plants from pests and disease, to guard from weather elements that can be damaging. Using row covers as frost blankets can give them up to 8 degrees of frost protection or can help your almost harvested crops continue to grow even in cooler temperatures.

SquashBeetles

ALL ABOUT SQUASH: Squash Bugs and Diseases

As with most vegetable plants, squash bugs and diseases can quickly eliminate a garden crop without regret. Keep eyes peeled for damage to leaves, flowers, or fruits to eliminate a garden takeover before it is too late!

Aphids – curled or yellowed leaves indicate an aphid infestation. Use a pyrethrin-based spray like Safer® Brand Tomato and Vegetable Insect Killer to kill insects on contact without harming plants.

Cucumber Beetles – chewed holes present on your plants are often a result of cucumber beetles. Cucumber beetles help the spread of disease so using an insecticidal soap will control this issue. Safer® Brand Insect Killing Soap kills insects on contact without damaging the integrity of your organic garden.

Squash Borers – wilted plant leaves and stems are caused by a squash borer presence.  Safer® Brand Bug Patrol will attach to your hose and can be applied quickly and evenly to your squash plants.

Powdery Mildew – although often mistaken for dirt, powdery mildew is a strain of fungi. Yellowing or stunted leaves, a dirt-like presence on leaves and vines, or premature leaf drop all indicate a possible powdery mildew presence. Safer® Brand Garden Fungicide is compliant with organic gardening and effective in powdery mildew control.