Uproot your Kids from Boredom with an Up cycle Holiday Garden Project

Summer is almost here; lots of excitement in the air, school break, late nights and oh wait …lots of free time on our kid’s hands. Time to up root those lil’ sprouts from their boredom and have fun together exploring, learning and creating holiday DIY garden gifts. You’d be surprised by the many repurposed items you have hanging around the house making inexpensive and creative garden projects or a sustainable “green” gift.

With Pinterest at the touch of a finger, online crafts of every kind are available for those that want to create and play. I’m sharing just two garden crafts that I found to be family fun and easy to do. Be sure to explore Pinterest for more crafts ideas.

 

 

Recycled Milk Bottle Herb Garden: this herb garden can be hung from a window or patio or can sit on a sunny kitchen counter top. You can use one bottle or as many as five to make this easy savory kitchen herb garden ready to use. If you are a visual learner like myself you can view this herb garden tutorial online from “Not Just Trash on Grillo Designs.”

Items needed:

  • 5 Pint sized plastic milk cartons

  • (If hanging) 3 cm wide wooden pole long enough to fit your window.

  • Scissors

  • Craft knife

  • Hole puncher

  • Metal ruler

  • Permanent black marker

  • 5) Four inch herbs.

  • Bag of organic potting mix

  • Gloves

 

Let’s get started:

Clean your milk bottles with a thorough wash with soap and water and remove labels. Using the scissors cut off the top and bottom handle of the plastic bottle. Plastic bottle should have one side backside higher and the front side lower. Using the craft knife and ruler, from the longer topside of the bottle you will make 2cm vertical cuts slits parallel from the center of the bottle. The cuts need to be approximately 4cm long and at 1.5cm from either side of the bottle center (but this depends on your wooden pole size). The bottle will glide thru the pole. Finish the slits by punching holes on the top end of the vertical cuts (this gives the bottles enough space to slide on). Next use the black permanent marker pen to decorate and label each bottle with your favorite herb.

 

Note: If you are planning to plant the herb in bottle, take scissors and cut two additional slits on the bottom of each bottle for drainage. If you plan to set the 4” plant on top of the container (as seen in the photo) you will need to remove plant to water, you won’t need to cut bottom slits.

 

Select your herbs and plant before you hang the bottles. I like to use basil, chives, mint, rosemary and Italian parsley for cooking and easy to grow. Fill organic vegetable potting soil ½ way, remove plant from container, loosen roots and then place on top of soil, water lightly. Once all bottles are planted slide the bottles thorough the wooden pole using your pre-cut slits and suspend it from the windowsill or let bottles sit on a sunny kitchen counter.

 

The Soup Can Garden:

Items needed:

  • Empty soup cans

  • Hot glue gun

  • Use 2” plants either succulent or herbs.                                                    

  • Potting soil for succulents or herbs.

  • Punch holes with drill in bottom for plant drainage.

  • Natural ribbon, twine or raffia.

  • Optional nametags.

Let’s get started:

Clean your soup cans with a thorough wash with soap and water and remove labels. Use can opener to open top of cans. Take a drill and drill a few holes in bottom of can. Take natural ribbon and cut to width of can and attach with a few hot glue dots. Add potting soil ½ way then add plant. Optional: top dress the soup can with your choice of color aquarium rock. Take twine and cut width of can and tie a bow, optional add nametag to twine.  These are simple ready to go garden gifts for any reason.

 

This Summer remember to slow down and have FUN making happy memories creating your own unique DIY projects with the kids. Be sure to snap a picture and add to Pinterest!



 

Garden Inspiration for 2018: Inspired by Mental Wellness

Nature is the best remedy and medicine for the soul. It keeps the mind and spirit healthy. The buzzword for today is wellness; we seek it from our foods, our jobs, and our vacations, even in our gardens. We create spaces and places that give us an opportunity to disconnect from the clamor all around us to reconnect with Mother Nature in exchange for a relaxed state of mind.

2017 was a year of unpredictability and turmoil from the climate surges to the barrage of media hype and hysterics 24/7.

I wanted to find out just what is on the horizon in the world for 2018. I’m excited to report that self mental wellness is the number one desire driving this new trend globally, locally, indoors and out, connecting in nature for overall health.

Mental wellness is finding a balance in ones life and on many levels using all our senses and surroundings. The World Health Organization predicts anxiety will be the #1 health issue out ranking obesity. Mental health is no longer a stigma and more and more millennial’s are making mental health a priority balancing physical and mental to slow down, disconnect with technology and process thoughts instead of rushing from one thing to the next. Being surrounded in greenery indoors or outside creates a harmonious calming effect to the brain, which in turn creates happy endorphins. Nature shifts our brain towards hope and compassion and away from stress and anger.

What are the seven impacts in 2018 that are adding to this shift towards wellness in our selves and surroundings? Here are areas to examine and ponder for a healthier you and environment.

  1. Climate Control: The last 20 years on record have been heating up globally. We are seeing it with the radical destructive weather patterns this past year. Gardening is just as unpredictable due to the ever-changing seasonal conditions. To help reduce the worry and cost, researchers have put together weather hardy resilient plants that can stand up to any condition. The ideal garden for our coastal yet arid region is a desert garden comprised of a variety of drought tolerant, cacti and trees adding seasonal color, textures, form and longevity. These plants include, Date palm, Euphorbia, fennel, irises and poppies. For hot and dry conditions try adding tall trees such as acacia, mesquite and desert willow that provide shade and help reduce heat in urban areas. Cacti and succulents are slow growing, low water use and provide structure in the landscape.

  2. Plants as social networks. Think of your plants as connected communities instead of individuals. When you walk through a forest you will encounter every square inch is a mosaic of interlocking plants, trees, shrubs and ground covers. When you plant in communities you mange entire plantings not a n individual plant. The focus becomes one of management and not maintenance freeing up weekend mowing. This planting approach creates an open natural garden that is enjoyable in all seasons using grasses, self-seeded flowers and pathways for pondering.

  3. Wabi-Sabi- The art of imperfect gardening: This is the dance between nature and nurture in the garden. It is the ancient Japanese practice that appreciates imperfections in life and the ability to age gracefully. This form or gardening allows you to relax and appreciate the humble plant forms and yes, weeds. This is the time to repurpose items that around the house, or find treasures from barns or antique stores of yesteryear objects, wheel barrel planted with bulbs and alyssum, watering can, wind mill as a water fall. Lose the lawn and your weekly mow and blow gardener. Replace with sedges, ground covers, and perennials for pollinators, birds and bees.

  4. Privacy room: Turn off the noise to breathe and relax. We need to find or create a space inside or outside to call our own just to do the art of nothing. In this moment of nothingness it’s important to have green plants all around. The plants clean the air giving you more oxygen to breathe which clears your mind. Plants to immerse around you include ferns, orchids, palms, philodendron’s, herbs and any leafy plant.

  5. Water Feature: Make a reflective splash in your garden with a simple water feature. Just the sound of running or dripping water is calming and relaxing. Slowing water down by capturing rain in barrels and storing it for landscape use has an impact in our drought conditions saving precious resources.

  6. Grow your own Protein: Planting a garden or purchasing clean local sourced sustainable vegetables is more attainable then 20 years ago. The new plant eater consumer movement is called the Flexitarian ; requesting stores to provide clean, food items that is locally sourced or food grown from their own backyards. Flexitarians are eating less meat and eat protein rich vegetables. Here is a sample of protein rich vegetables that you can plant now. Asparagus, Broccoli, Kale, Peas Millet, Spinach, Quinoa.

  7. Purple is the new color of health: Purple foods have anthocyanin, a known anti-oxidant which help fight off cancer, reduce obesity, protect the heart and has anti aging benefits. Purple foods promote mental acuity. Start the year off right by planting or purchasing beets, blueberries, plums, eggplant, purple cauliflower, asparagus, carrots sweet potatoes acai, black rice, corn and even cereal. Last put not least the Pantone 2018 palette color of the year that inspires designers for all objects worldwide is called Verdure, which is an eggplant, berry infused purple. Be sure to use this restful and restorative color in your personal surroundings, as a planting guide in your garden and as a food group, purple reigns.

 

Dirt Therapy: A Beginner's Guide to Healthier Soil

With autumn settling in and the leaves starting to fill your yard, this is the perfect time to begin composting. Composting is great for all gardeners because it improves soil, which in turn prevents plant diseases. And it can even reduce harmful greenhouse gases. I often call composting the lazy person’s guide to gardening. You don’t really have to think about it once you get going. With the right compost bin and evenly mixed greens and browns, you’ll see amazing results in a few months. The “black gold” you’ve created for the healthiest soil will grow the healthiest plants.

How to Get Started

There are several types of containers to choose from. A simple rubber trash can makes a great compost bin—it fits in small spaces, has a lid to keep animals out and is easy to move around the garden. Be sure to drill holes along the sides and bottom in order for air to circulate the decamped matter you will place inside. Raise the trash can on bricks so material doesn’t stagnate inside bin. Add uncooked vegetable scraps, dried leaves, grass clippings and disease-free plant material. It is helpful to chop the vegetables into small pieces so that they will break down quickly. Keep moist by adding water and be sure to turn every week—you can roll the trash can on its side with the lid on or take a long wooden stick or rebar to stir. Don’t make it too heavy with material that you can’t stir. The compost will be ready in a few months.

I prefer repurposed wooden pallets to create my compost bin. It’s inexpensive, easy to turn material, naturally aerates the decomposed matter and keeps the pets away. I wire three pallets together to form a U shape and start adding waste in a ratio of three “browns” to one “green.” Browns are carbon-rich materials and include wood chips, straw, branches and leaves. Greens provide nitrogen and include grass clippings and kitchen scraps, like eggshells and carrot tops. Be sure to add water as you layer your material and use a pitchfork to turn once a week. Don’t let the pile dry out. If it starts to smell, add more browns.

What Can You Put in Your Composter?

  • Uncooked vegetables and fruits—be sure to cut them up into small pieces so they will break down faster. This is helpful with a small compost bin.
  • Grass clippings
  • Dried leaves
  • Disease-free plant material
  • Shredded paper
  • Avoid sticks and woody plant materials because they will not break down.

How to Tell if Compost is Ready

When it’s ready for use—which could take anywhere from a few months to a year—compost looks and smells like very dark soil. If you’re unsure, put it to the baggie test: place a small amount in a plastic bag and take a whiff before sealing. Then place the bag in a drawer for a few days. When you open the bag, the sample should smell the same as it did before. If it smells worse, your compost needs more time in the pile.

Connect in Nature: It’s Healing

It is not so much for its beauty that the forest makes a claim upon men’s hearts, as for that subtle something, that quality of air, that emanation from old trees, that so wonderfully changes and renews a weary spirit. —Robert Louis Stevenson

Why do we feel better when we’re in nature? Our connection to nature is greater and more powerful then you think.

We are a product of nature; through thousands of years of adaptation and endless interactions to the natural environment, we are intrinsically linked to a relationship with nature. A growing body of research is mounting of the positive effects of contact with nature on our physical, emotional and mental well-being. Think tree therapy.

Breathe, relax, wander, touch, listen and heal, welcome to forest bathing. Introduced in 1982 as a prescient move by the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, coined shinrin-yoku the garden practice encourages people to visit and spend time in the forest. Current studies and research suggests spending time outdoors and in forest make us healthier by supporting increased cerebral blood flow, strengthening immune defense and decreasing stress levels.

Exposure to forests boosts our immune system. Spending time around trees or just looking at trees studies reveal will lower blood pressure reduces anxiety, depression and naturally gives that overall feeling of calm. How does this work?

While we breathe in the fresh air, we breathe in phytoncides, (wood essential oils) airborne chemicals that trees give off to protect themselves from rotting and insects. Phytoncides have antibacterial and anti fungal qualities, which help trees, fight disease. When people breathe in these chemicals, our bodies respond by increasing the number and activity of a type of white blood cell called natural killer cells or NK.These cells kill tumor- and virus-infected cells in our bodies.In one study, increased NK activity from a 3-day, 2-night forest-bathing trip lasted for more than 30 days. Japanese researchers are currently exploring whether exposure to forests can help prevent certain kinds of cancer.

Spending time in nature helps us focus. Nurturing and caring for a garden allows us to slow down and focus better and renew our ability to be patient. We are busier then ever with technological advancement and the demands of job, family and school. Keeping up with life is sometimes hard to do! A regular walk in the park or garden will calm the spirit and reduce anxiety and stress.

Children that spend time in natural outdoors environment have a reduction of fatigue, behavioral outbursts and have better focus. School recess couldn’t be more important, Studies show Juvenile diabetes rates drop when children spend less time on computers and watching TV and take to the great outdoors. It hard not to burn calories when you’re running around in nature, maybe that’s why our Moms kicked us outside when we were acting up inside the house? Just by walking around outside burns calories, reduces stress and lowers cortisol which is the culprit to diabetes.

Spring is here! What are you waiting for? It’s time to connect in nature. Turn off the electronics; get your walking shoes on and head over to a local park or nature trail in your community. Just 30 minutes of walking will boost your spirits and decrease your stress.

Bug Hunting

Us gardeners can often hear the word bug and cringe a bit.  But the truth is that not all those insects are necessarily pests in the garden.  There are certainly beneficial insects that can help with pollination or even pest control themselves.  To expand this mindset of insects as beneficial, Thomas Christopher of Garden Rant has a friend who has created a habitat specifically designed to encourage insects and has started to identify them one by one.  Check out some of the results below!

9 Tips From Professional Organic Farmers That'll Work Wonders In Your Own Garden

Organic gardening is a great way to go in terms of resource management and environmental impact.  Chances are you don't have a large farm or plot of land but you can still take some good tips from professional organic gardeners.  Fritz Stahlbaum over at Rodale's Organic Garden lists out some of the best advice we can glean from the professionals.  From creating the ideal soil, to watering plans, to battling pests, these are some great ideas you can take into the backyard.

10 Key Tips For Growing Squash

With the end of summer and the coming of fall, you will likely be seeing squash popping up at farmer's markets.  There is an opportunity to actually grow your own if you want to take the plunge.  Like any other vegetable or plant, there are methods and strategies to ensure you get the best yield from your planting.  The staff at Rodale's Organic Life have come up with a list of tips on everything from sowing, watering, pollination, fighting pests and diseases, and harvesting.  Check it out!

California Native Plants on the Op-Ed Pages

The drought here in California has many people and municipalities thinking about how to truly conserve water.  Low water landscaping is a big category, though and just because a landscape lacks grass, doesn't mean it's environmentally sustainable.  There are a number of recent op eds crowing about the benefits of using California native plants that will provide proper filtration and habitat area.  Steven L. Hartman of the California Native Plant Society recently went through these writings and noted the trend toward California friendly landscaping.  Check it out and visit Los Rios Park or Reata Park and Event Center if you need inspiration for your own garden!

Dirt Therapy: A Beginner's Guide to Healthier Soil

With autumn settling in and the leaves starting to fill your yard, this is the perfect time to begin composting. Composting is great for all gardeners because it improves soil, which in turn prevents plant diseases. And it can even reduce harmful greenhouse gases. I often call composting the lazy person’s guide to gardening. You don’t really have to think about it once you get going. With the right compost bin and evenly mixed greens and browns, you’ll see amazing results in a few months. The “black gold” you’ve created for the healthiest soil will grow the healthiest plants.

How to Get Started

There are several types of containers to choose from. A simple rubber trash can makes a great compost bin—it fits in small spaces, has a lid to keep animals out and is easy to move around the garden. Be sure to drill holes along the sides and bottom in order for air to circulate the decamped matter you will place inside. Raise the trash can on bricks so material doesn’t stagnate inside bin. Add uncooked vegetable scraps, dried leaves, grass clippings and disease-free plant material. It is helpful to chop the vegetables into small pieces so that they will break down quickly. Keep moist by adding water and be sure to turn every week—you can roll the trash can on its side with the lid on or take a long wooden stick or rebar to stir. Don’t make it too heavy with material that you can’t stir. The compost will be ready in a few months.

I prefer repurposed wooden pallets to create my compost bin. It’s inexpensive, easy to turn material, naturally aerates the decomposed matter and keeps the pets away. I wire three pallets together to form a U shape and start adding waste in a ratio of three “browns” to one “green.” Browns are carbon-rich materials and include wood chips, straw, branches and leaves. Greens provide nitrogen and include grass clippings and kitchen scraps, like eggshells and carrot tops. Be sure to add water as you layer your material and use a pitchfork to turn once a week. Don’t let the pile dry out. If it starts to smell, add more browns.

What Can You Put in Your Composter?

  • Uncooked vegetables and fruits—be sure to cut them up into small pieces so they will break down faster. This is helpful with a small compost bin.
  • Grass clippings
  • Dried leaves
  • Disease-free plant material
  • Shredded paper
  • Avoid sticks and woody plant materials because they will not break down.

How to Tell if Compost is Ready

When it’s ready for use—which could take anywhere from a few months to a year—compost looks and smells like very dark soil. If you’re unsure, put it to the baggie test: place a small amount in a plastic bag and take a whiff before sealing. Then place the bag in a drawer for a few days. When you open the bag, the sample should smell the same as it did before. If it smells worse, your compost needs more time in the pile.