April 14, 2013

The Sophomore Organic Garden- Shopping, Finding, and Recycling

As I enter my 2nd year as an organic gardener and 6th as a worm wrangler, I know that preparation and organization are half the battle!

Because planning is half the fun, I've started a list of things to either buy or find to make sure this growing season blooms successfully:

1. Starter Planters
2012 Buy

Last year, I used biodegradable containers that got transferred right into the garden when it came time to plant:

Although they were convenient, I found an even better idea that's completely recycled and FREE!

2013 Find
My environmentally friendly alternative to the peat pots are to use the cardboard rolls leftover at the end of toilet paper and paper towels. I'll still use the sturdier plastic trays from last year to place the new cardboard planters in so I can move the whole stash around while the seeds start, but these little planters were easy to make.
recycled seed starter planters
 I cut the roll into three parts:
recycled seed starter planters
 I cut little grooves around one of the edges:
recycled seed starter planters
 I folded in the grooves together to make the bottoms:
recycled seed starter planters
And voila! Free, recycled seed starter planters!

2. Dirt & Fertilizer
2012 & 2013 Find

Last year, I used some sifted dirt I dug out of the yard mixed with a healthy heaping of vermicompost (thank you, worms!). This was super-successful, so I'll just replicate for this season.  I put the garden to bed last fall:
And here's what it looked like today:

See those berries already?!? Yippee! We are going to give the beds a few good turns and good dose of vermicompost next weekend. If you got excited about those berries and wanted to see them close up, here you go!

3. Seeds
2012 & 2013 Buy:

Last year, I bought my seeds at the local home improvement store. Everything turned out OK, except the onions were a little harsh. I'm going to purchase red raspberry, tomato, cucumber, red pepper, spinach, and onion seeds again.

2013 Find:
I have some marigold seeds I salvaged from the ones on my front porch, and I'll be potting them in row boxes.

4. Stakes
2012 Buy:

You may have read my absolute amazement at finding the perfect garden stakes in various sizes last year.

2013 Find:

I'll be reusing the stakes from last year, and if I need more, I'll construct more out of wire coat hangers.

5. Fencing
2012 Buy:

We bought materials last year to construct berry protection from the birds.

2013 Find:

I'll find it right in my garage! Flashback from last year:
garden fencing

6. Rain Barrel

2012 Buy:
We invested in this beauty last year:

2013 Find:

We'll just reconnect it from it's winter nap on the side of the house.

The worms have been happily eating through our scraps all winter, and the vermicompost has been piling up almost to the top of the Wigwam again- so I know they are ready for me to get planting!

Seed starting update soon!

April 7, 2013

Cha Cha Cha Chia! Chia Seeds

When I first talk to people about chia seeds, I know this is what they are thinking:

But, really, this is what I mean:

I first tried chia seeds at a resort gym in beautiful Cabo, Mexico- they were floating in some lemon flavored water. They looked like little black dots with gel around them.

Cabo Mexico
(Gym not pictured!)

The resort gym must have been asked a million times what the small black things floating in the water were, because they had a flyer with a short explanation.

Chia seeds, or salvia hispanica, belong to the mint family. They are packed with nutrition, especially omega-3 fatty acids- which is great if you don't eat fish or flax seed.  One ounce contains 9 grams of fat, 11 grams of dietary fiber, and 4 grams of protein.

When chia seeds sit in liquid, they develop this funny little clear jello-like capsule around them. Supposedly, once they land in your belly, the jelly casing helps you feel fuller longer.

Despite having never heard of them until that trip, when we got home I ordered mine easily from Amazon. The three places I've been able to painlessly add chia to my routine:

1. Half teaspoon in my morning tea and coffee
It's a little odd to get used to these little solid bits in your morning drink, but once you do, it seems odd NOT to have them in it. I keep a little Tupperware container in my car for any coffee shop stops, too.

2. One teaspoon in smoothies
I pretty much smoothie any fruit or veggie in my path, and I throw in a teaspoon of chia with all of them. I'm a huge Vitamix fan, and it chops the chia up so fine, I don't even know it's there (works the same with spinach, too!).

3. Sprinkle on salads
Along with garlic sea salt and pepper, sometimes I'll add some chia. Why not?

Chia seeds might be small, but I've found them to be a mighty addition to my diet.

Next up: organic gardening, year 2!