The Chesapeake Bay; Bugs, Barf and Botany


1108230891 327937e41a The Chesapeake Bay; Bugs, Barf and Botany

The field trip I looked forward to the most in the sixth grade was a dawn to dusk outdoor education course on the Chesapeake Bay. I knew that field trips requiring parental wavers or signatures were always the most fun, and this particular trip required both and a mandatory change of clothes, which seemed like gift wrapped by the recess gods to me! The big yellow slip I presented to my mom had bold faced type on the bottom declaring “Sneakers may be lost in the swamp, wear an old pair that you do not mind leaving behind.” And on the day of the trip I’m pretty sure I half-heartedly tied my shoes, in the hopes that although I had given them a sporting chance, my sneakers would catch a hint and allow themselves to be lost in the bogs and Oyster beds.

My class and I packed on the school buses at around 6am, and headed off for morning nature walks and ecology sessions with park rangers.  In the afternoon we trolled the bay for fish and crabs, and studied each creature in a holding tank on the boat before returning it to the wild. I remember that although I was disappointed when my sneakers made it though the knee high mud in the tributary habitat, my mood quickly improved when I was skipped over for a live oyster eating contest that ended up sending a few of the participants running for the rails, hurling their lunches up over the sides of the boat.

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How To: A Recipe To Clean Mineral Deposits From Terra Cotta Pots

266212408 e63d265846 300x225 How To: A Recipe To Clean Mineral Deposits From Terra Cotta PotsSpring seems to take it’s time coming every year, but there are plenty of seeds to buy, and pots to ready in the interim before you can begin the all important planting process, so grab a scrub brush and an empty spray bottle to concoct your eco-friendly flower pot cleanser in, and let’s get started!

What You Need:  

  • Scrub brush
  • Spray bottle
  • Rubbing Alcohol
  • Vinegar
  • Tap water
In your spray bottle combine equal part water, vinegar, and rubbing alcohol. Gently agiitate the mixture for 20 seconds, and prepare to spray your pots either outside the house, or inside a deep kitchen sink.  Thoroughly spray the entire pot inside and out, and scrub gently, the white residue should flake off easily.  Allow the pots to dry before filling them with dirt, and they will look like new!
 
Your Thoughts:  This has worked well for me, what do you use to spiff up your pots?
  
Photo Courtesy of: vosta

Product Review: The Nature Mill Indoor Composter

naturemillpro kitchencouple 216x300 Product Review: The Nature Mill Indoor ComposterUrbanites rejoice, because the Nature Mill company has created an odorless indoor composter specifically made to fit in the average kitchen cabinet!

A traditional composter can be impossible to fit into a small urban living space.  Generally they are bulky, messy, time consuming, and some can be odiforous. A traditional composter naturally breaks down food and yard waste through aeration, the addition of beneficial bacteria, and by exposure to the warm spots created in a bin through the heat generated by decomposing matter. Here’s the hitch though, traditional composters require labor, work slowly when exposed to cold temeratures, and cannot process meat and dairy, while this indoor model can!

The indoor composter from Nature Mill is energy star rated, and utilizes electricity to keep your scrap material constantly warm, rotated, and aerated, speeding up the decomposing process. This model will provide you with a new batch of compost about every two weeks, and can process about 120 pounds of garbage per month!  Another added benefit is that with this warm composter, meat and dairy products can be added and will break down with the rest of your garbage and scraps! The composting process is as simple as scraping you food scraps into the composter, and emptying the compost drawer when the “fill” sensor lights up!

diagram 150x150 Product Review: The Nature Mill Indoor Composter

Just one small bin full of this rich compost can feed and fertilize up to 10-40 square feet of garden, and it can be diluted with water to become a liquid fertilizer suitable for everything from house plants to fruit trees! Check it out either on the home website linked to above, or purchase one at Target or Costco, and turn your waste into compost gold.

Create A Stimulus Package For Your Yard

yard package 300x263 Create A Stimulus Package For Your YardIt’s no secret that the economy is taking a toll on our spending practices and limiting the amount of cash we have to throw to the four winds, but there are great ways to reinvest in your yard that will save you hundreds of dollars in the coming seasons! From creating your own topsoil and fertilizer, to saving money on vegetables and flowers by growing your own from seeds, here is my top 10 list of useful items that comprise my “Yard Stimulus Package,” guaranteed to help you save money in 2009, and give you a healthier and more beautiful yard by 2010.

1. A Yard Composter.  In 2009, eliminate the need for commercial fertilizer, top soil and potting mix by composting yard and household waste.  You can recycle your way to a healthier lawn and garden (even a balcony garden) by saving lawn clippings, leaves, branches, and uneaten food, and layering in in a compost system or a homemade compost bin. Try either a traditional upright composter, or a spinning Composter Create A Stimulus Package For Your Yard to quicken the process. For apartment dwellers, try this odorless indoor composting system specifically designed to fit inside an average kitchen cabinet!

2. A Kitchen Counter Composter: A quick and easy way to save your kitchen scraps until you are ready to add them to a full sized composter, this little crock comes in several colors, uses an odor eliminating filter built into the lid, and blends in with any kitchen decor. It’s a great way to store and collect food scraps near your sink, and works well as a visual reminder that will increase the likelihood that you’ll compost and recycle more food waste, and put less into the landfill! It’s a great tool to have, and makes a great gift too for the gardener in your life.  Check it out as another money saving way to increase your yard and garden’s overall sustainability.

3.  Grass Seed:  There have been many advancements in the quality of grass seed available on the market in the past few years. Much of the seed available now has been specifically bred for drought tolerance, disease resistance, rapid root growth, and low-maintenance care requirements.  Lawns 10 years old and older can benefit the most from over-seeding, and can be revitalized by the introduction of a stronger grass crop. Nurturing new varieties of grass in your lawn can make a big difference in your lawns overall appearance, health, and time requirements, making a long term difference in the curb appeal of your home, with a small price tag attached.

4.  Loose Seed Packets:  Seed packets are inexpensive, costing only about 1-2 dollars each, and yet almost every variety of fruit, vegetable, or flower is available to you inside one of these valuable pouches. The trend to grow more food at home has caused a boom in seed production, and now is a great time to reduce your reliance on the big box garden store’s plant selection, and branch out on your own. A home vegetable patch can save you hundreds of dollars a year as produce prices rise, and it allows you the luxury of knowing that your food has been grown in an organic fashion. With this ‘stimulating’ idea, you can grow 15 times the plants you could afford for the price of one mature plant at the garden center.

4.  Seed Starting Trays:  A great way to save money is through “starting” your seeds indoors, before transferring your plants out into the yard or the vegetable patch. Seed Starting Trays are nurseries for your plants, and allow you to grow more plants away from the threat of frost, predation, or pests, and “start” repeat crops of vegetables and fruits in your home from spring through fall, increasing the amount of food you can harvest through the year. This inexpensive solution provides greater returns in viability than rough sowing into the garden soil, and often comes in biodegradable units that can be dropped into the soil for continued growing. Try a variety that comes with a greenhouse Create A Stimulus Package For Your Yard top to increase the ease of growing by keeping your juvenile plants moist. 

5.  Grow Lights:  Unless you are incredibly lucky, the amount of light available in your house needs supplementing in order to “start” your plants from scratch.  An adjustable grow light system is one of the easiest ways to provide for young plants, and can take up as little as a foot or two of your basement, or laundry area.  Grow lights maximize the number of plants you can grow in your nursery seed starting trays, and speeds the plant growth along in a much quicker fashion than through window light alone.  Look for products that can be adjusted in height to “grow” with your plants, and that work well with seed starting trays.  One of my favorite grow light systems is the Green Thumb Create A Stimulus Package For Your Yard variety, which consists of a low profile support scaffold that eliminates the need for wobbly grow light lamps or the running of electrical wires in your ceiling.  

6.  A Hori-Hori:  This is a great multi-purpose garden tool that everyone should add to their arsenal, especially those who garden in small spaces, and who can’t store a separate tool for every job.  One HORI HORI Create A Stimulus Package For Your Yard can replace a weeding tool, a hand spade, an all purpose knife, and a hand saw. It’s a specialty garden knife with one serrated edge, and one blade edge, that you can use for digging, planting, prying, weeding, trimming roots, dividing plants, and generally looking like a badass with around the neighborhood.  I can’t tell you how many ways I’ve been able to use mine around the home and garden, and highly recommend it as a money and time saving tool to get you out of tight spots while you are working in the yard. 

7.  A Seed Harvesting Bible:  Seed to Seed: Seed Saving and Growing Techniques for Vegetable Gardeners Create A Stimulus Package For Your Yard, is a manual to motivate and instruct you on the best ways to grow and harvest both the vegetables themselves, and this years crop of seeds for storage and use next year.  This book will help you trouble-shoot the pitfalls of gardening from the seed onward, and help you achieve a sustainable garden plan in 2009 after your first crop. Having the right information is crucial to the success of an organic or sustainable gardening, and this book will help you maximize the return on the money you spend on just one years worth of seeds.

8. A Rain Barrel:  Forty percent of the water used by the average American in the summer is used outdoors on the lawn and garden! Reduce your water bills by using a rain barrel Create A Stimulus Package For Your Yard to capture up to 95 gallons of free rain water for use on your lawn or garden.

9.  A Pot Maker:  A pot maker Create A Stimulus Package For Your Yard is not only “Becky-Home-Ecy” friendly, but it’s also a great way to recycle your newsprint and paper garbage into seedling pots for your flower and vegetable garden.  Creating your own pots is a great alternative to purchasing seed starting trays, and can provide you with eco-friendly, ground-ready planters for all of your young seedlings.  These are a great money saving gadget for the committed gardener!

10.  Plant Markers:  No stimulus package would be complete without plant labels with which to mark off you plants either before you plant them or after.  Particularly useful when starting your seeds indoors, or when “companion planting,” these will help you identify where each plant is in the early stages of its development.  Use simple Popsicle sticks, or fancy brass or porcelain markers, but make sure to label your young plants so you remember to provide each one with the proper attention, and pruning that it desires, to maximize your crop.

 

With the items in this Stimulus Package you can turn your yard or garden area into a beautiful, money saving and productive area in 2009.  These are my top picks to help you stretch your money in the coming seasons, and now it’s your turn!  What are some of your money saving gadgets around the yard?

Going Strong And Still No Snow…Knock On Wood

Well, I’m looking forward to the warm weather at this point. The only action my hedge sheers have seen in months is through double duty use, trimming down rolls of insulation for my weekend projects around the house.  Saturday morning’s abnormally cold temperatures caused the pipes to freeze under the house, but I was blessed and using hair dryers, space heaters, and lots of blankets across our hardwood first floor seemed to raise the temperature of the water safely without causing the pipes to burst. I know I am luckier than most of the country, and today’s dusting of snow was as close to winter weather as we’ve had here in Baltimore, which suits me just fine!

img 0560 225x300 Going Strong And Still No Snow...Knock On Wood

Since it was noticeably warmer today I stepped out and pruned a large bundle of Rosemary off the bush in the front yard for a vase arrangement, and kept a few stalks for drying. I bought a beauty supply recipe book to challenge myself with for 2009, and plan to try my hand at making a few health and beauty products this year with supplies from the garden, so I couldn’t resist passing up one of my favorite dried herbs – well really my only herb that’s handy in January.

But! My herb supply is literally growing before my eyes. The Aerogarden I received for Christmas from my main squeeze Mr. ParfectGolfer, is plugging along happily, and showing promise of a great herb crop in the coming months. It cheers me up in the winter to see how much the herbs grow every day, and I like being able to grow anything really in the darker areas of my house. Thus far at least I’m still really pleased with the system, and love having it around – it makes a stellar night light in the kitchen for my late night snacking expeditions too!

What amazes me most is that my cat hasn’t attempted disassembling it!  Yet.

Gardeners Reap Bedroom Benefits

img 0080 225x300 Gardeners Reap Bedroom Benefits

Apparently if you’re a man, the time and place for a ‘quickie’ is in the garden with your clothes on!

A new study by the Medical University of Vienna linked a half hour of moderate gardening activity to both increased sexual performance for men and decreased impotence, along with a myriad of other mood, and stress relieving benefits! The study determined that  about 30% of all performance related issued in men were impacted by depression, and job related stress, impacting blood pressure, and mood. Planting, weeding and mowing for only a half hour per week cut sexual issues in the bedroom by a third, and burned 1,000 calories. Urologists determined that men who increased their gardening activity and who burned 4,000 calories per week cut their impotence risk by 52%!

How does gardening benefit the bedroom bottom line? The physical exercise involved in gardening, and the Vitamin D absorbed through sun exposure lowers blood pressure, benefits circulation, stirs endorphins, and strengthens the immune system. It provides an outlet for stress release, and a moderate exercise routine that almost anyone can participate in, and, unlike gym equipment, this routine will give you beautiful end results from the curb to the front door, with the potential of a happier partner when you walk inside.

It’s just one more reason to love gardening.  Check out the full article from Telegraph.com.

More DIY Deer Repelling Tips!

2676777225 8cdf152fc0 More DIY Deer Repelling Tips!It never hurts to have a few more trick of the trade in your arsenal when it comes to home remedy garden solutions!  Here are a few more DIY deer repelling tips this time from guest blogger Andy, an avid hunter and gardener, who’s rural backyard has taught him a thing or two about deer behavior.

Using powdered milk is a great trick for keeping deer off of one (or just a couple) plants but it can be difficult to keep up with because after a couple rains the powder milk is less effective. So here are a few more choices that might last a little longer or better suit your gardening needs. Each of my suggestions are based on past experience or things that I have heard talking to many people over the years on the subject.

  1. Use Hair Clippings:  My first suggestion for protecting small flower or vegetable gardens is similar to the powdered milk idea; human hair is one of the more popular methods second in line from the powdered milk. Deer smell humans and tend to get scared and leave that area. I have tried this method myself and it does work and can work very well for up to a month, this time frame will depend on the weather conditions and how much hair you use. I have been told by some that deer learn the scent of local humans after a while and are no longer fearful of that area and go about eating your plants.  The solution for this, and what I did from the get-go, is to use a decent amount of hair and change up who it comes from. Using hair from different humans is easy, all you have to do is go to your local barber shop or salon. They are normally more than willing to give you the hair for free which also makes this the cheapest fix for keeping deer away. Remember to put new hair out once every three to four weeks or as needed based on the weather to keep your garden deer free! A trick for keeping deer off of your larger bushes is simple, use the above methods but in order to make this work on bushes is to put some powdered milk around the front of the bushes or on the side that the deer commonly come from. After that you take small clumps of hair and tie them in the upper portions of the bushes, use thin twine and put them about every eighteen inches apart and at different heights. This has worked for me and other’s I know!
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Native Landscaping Plant To Know: Washington Hawthorn

img 0459 225x300 Native Landscaping Plant To Know: Washington HawthornI’m planning some additions in my yard and garden for the spring, and this plant tops the list of prospectives for a bare area near my back fence. I’m familiar with this plant through my work in landscaping and habitat restoration, and I’ve decided that this is the year to add more native plant islands to my yard – partly out of a desire to add to the nonexistent habitat in my area, but mostly driven by my desire to bribe birds other than House Sparrows and Pigeons to my yard!

The Washington Hawthorn is another one of the plants on my “bullet-proof” list, that I recommend to everyone, no matter how green their thumb!  A native North American tree growing naturally from the North East to the Mississippi River, it is best used as a landscaping tree (don’t bother trying to tame it into a shrub), and provides a full four seasons of color, or fruit.

What You’ll Love:

  • This is resistant to many diseases.
  • It thrives in full sun exposure, partial sun, or total shade areas.
  • It can be planted in wet areas, or dry areas.
  • They grow a maximum of 20 feet tall, and fits in a small, or moderately size yard very nicely.
  • Is a great plant to have on hand for floral arrangements, and holiday crafts.

What It Gives Back To You And Your Yard:

  • Spring: The tree is covered in delicate blooms.
  • Summer: Full leafy foliage, and the development of berries.
  • Fall: The foliage turns bright colors for the fall before dropping and leaving the fully grown berries exposed.
  • Winter: The berries remain on the tree all winter long, and add interest in your planting beds, looking especially pretty in the ice and snow.  Songbirds especially will use this tree as a winter food source, and you can use it for decoration since boughs of the branches can be trimmed off to add to Holiday floral arrangements, hurricane lamp displays, or wreaths for your front door.

What It Does For The Environment:

  • Cleans the air,and processes CO2
  • Provides food, and shelter for birds and small mammals. 
  • Rebuilds native habitat, and offsets the need for foreign ornamental plants that can harm the local ecosystem.
I can’t wait to bring this tree into my neighborhood, and hope to build up a few native beds along with the introduction of the Hawthorn tree. I feel like it’s really important, especially in urban areas, to garden and build habitat with plants that are going to be able to adapt to the city, and with those that will really make a difference in the long term of the neighborhood. Thus far there are almost no gardeners in my immediate vicinity, so I want to invest in plants that will look good, meet a need, and thrive in an area that may inflict a little abuse on a plant. 

Site That Inspires Me: January

Well, It’s no secret that we all need a little inspiration from time to time, and the blogosphere is a great place for meeting and forming community with like minded people. This year, one thing I’m adding to the Green Gardenista is a monthly feature to share blogs and websites that have inspired me this past year, that you may want to check out for some serious idea swapping! 

1407950672 Site That Inspires Me: January

 

I still enjoy browsing through the big name gardening magazines, and I’m still fascinated by the fact that Martha can make a tube sock look like an elegant planter, but I’m finding more and more inspiration on the web by the smaller names in the business!  One woman whom I’ve found encouraging is Patti Moreno, who runs The Garden Girl, an article and ‘how-to’ video rich site that both documents her city gardening journey, and gives you plans to recreate her urban farm in your neighborhood. Patti began her garden journey simply, with her only goal being to lose her baby weight, but she worked until she has transformed a open lot behind her city home into a working vegetable farm, complete with goats, chicken, and rabbits, and turned her “Garden Girl” articles into regular contributions with several magazines and the Farmers Almanac! The Garden Girl is January’s “Site That Inspires Me,” and is well worth the time you are guaranteed to spend lost in her archives. Click on the link above and find some ideas to jump-start your spring plans!

Your Thoughts: I find myself constantly looking for ways to beef up my gardens potential even though I live in a city environment. Do you live in an urban environment?  What blogs inspire you to live large in your small space?

Happy New Year Friends!

2919218112 7cf6fd3e30 b 198x300 Happy New Year Friends!

A blessed and happy New Year to all of you!  It’s a crisp 25 degrees outside my Baltimore City townhome this morning, and I’m sipping my coffee and thinking about the year ahead, and what another year’s fresh start will mean.  There’s nothing like the clarity of a winter morning!  My window view shows the bare bone structure of my garden, and the industrial structures surrounding my neighborhood, but little else in this dormant period. I know that much like a garden in winter, a new year allows us to focus on the basic structure of the year ahead, and plan out what we want to nurture in the coming months, so I’m indulging in a little mental gardening today, planning out what I want to nurture in myself, and others this coming year. 

As I’m sitting here thinking through this past year, and the growth and change that has come along with it (both the welcome, and the undesired) I’m reminded of the blessings in my life, and the care with which God always keeps me, regardless of whether I understand his methods or not. This past year has been a year of several new beginnings, including the beginning of this blog several short months ago. I never would have thought that a blogging could help re-direct me toward enjoying again the little things in the day to day life, or that so many of you would be sources of encouragement or inspiration.  I have truly enjoyed getting to know some of you, and seeing the world and your garden through your eyes!  There is so much beauty in the world around us regardless of how much we see to the contrary, and it is my hope that I can continue to cultivate some of the simple tangible beauty in and around my neighborhood this year while growing a few more relationships with you all as well! 

I’m not one for New Years resolution, so I hope this new year finds you blessed in the simple ways, if not on the grand scale that you desire. I hope that you are inspired to see and respond to the world one day at a time this year, and if you are led into the garden along that path, that you drop me an email (greengardenista@gmail.com), or comment, and let me know where you are on the web!  I hope I meet many more of you in 2009, but until then, go drink some cocoa, flip through your seed catalogues, and dream big even if all you own are a few flower pots on your kitchen window. 

Here’s to a “greener” year all around!

 

 

Photo courtesy of geishaboy500