Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Eco-Friendly and Budget-Friendly Gift Giving

Christmas is right around the corner.  Every year the news reports of crazy shoppers and over-consumption around this time.  This year I have a few ideas for Eco-Friendly gifts, all of which are Made in the USA. Whether handmade, homemade, locally grown or locally produced, why not try something new this year.

DIY Lotions and Soap:  There are literally hundreds of recipes available online to make your own cosmetics and toiletries.  Most recipes don't require special equipment or fancy ingredients.  I've experimented with both lotion and soap and have been pleased with the results. (Recipes to follow tomorrow)

Check out your local farmer's market or craft fairs. Ask the seller where the items came from and what they are made of to ensure a quality product.

Give the gift of life!  
Give a small tree, homegrown potted herbs or veggies. Or, give a DIY "green" gift basket using a planer as a "basket" and fill it with garden seed (preferable organic), peat pellets, small hand tools and garden gloves.  It might be a good idea to include a guide for beginner gardeners.

Buy from a local business or small online business.  November 26th was "Small Business Saturday." Why do we need a day?  Why not make EVERY day an opportunity to support our community?

I read an interesting article this week about a company called "Eat More Kale".  The owner, Bo Muller-Moore, silk-screens all of his organic shirt using several different logos.  Speaking of small business owners, Pablo at Soul Grind Skate Shop (my dad) has a few great gift ideas for the skateboarder in your family.

I love Handmade items.  One year I made scarves for a few family members.  I don't have much use for a scarf in South Florida but it gets cold in other parts of the country.  Ornaments, Apron, Quilts, Cookies or Candy, Candles, Cookbooks, Drink-Mixes, Spices and Sauces are all AMAZING gifts that can be made on just about any budget.  Most importantly, they are gifts from the heart and made with love.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Growing from Seed in Containers

I have talked about container gardening a few times in the past few months.  At the moment I have plants growing both in the ground and in containers.  I noticed recently that I have less of a pest problem in containers than in-ground.

Whether you live in an apartment (or tipi), a house or a farm, container gardening is a simple solution for low-cost, organic gardening.

Most herbs love containers.  A window box or small tray can produce most of your herbs for cooking.  A few easy starters include: Basil, Cilantro, Sage and Thyme.

My favorite veggies for containers include Peppers (all varieties so far), Lettuce and Spinach, Squash and Tomatoes.

It's not necessary to purchase fancy or expensive containers.  I prefer to use recycled pots and containers.  For seedlings, I have cleaned (sterilized) yogurt or cottage cheese containers and then poked holes in them for drainage.  When I ran out of plastic I used recycled toilet paper rolls. When I ran out of TP rolls I bought peat pots.

Get it? Cheap!

One item I did splurge on was organic seed-starter mix.  In the past I have mixed my own but this season I was behind schedule so I bought a bag. Gasp!  It wasn't all that expensive and it saved me a bit of time.  Drainage is very important for starting seeds.

For self-watering trays I re-use plastic or styrofoam trays.  When seedlings are ready to be transplanted there are several low cost/no cost options available.
1. Clean kitty litter buckets
2. 5 gallon utility buckets
3. Thrift store or garage sales
Use your imagination!  Decorate ugly buckets or pots.  Just because it isn't stamp "planter" doesn't mean it wouldn't make a great plant container.

Happy Planting!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

November has been a busy Month

I'm back from San Diego!  I had the best of intentions to post recipes but it was busy in San Diego.  My nieces and nephew are getting so big and they are beautiful!

While I was away my hubby took such good care of the garden.  I am so proud of him!

The Hungarian Heart tomatoes are doing wonderful.

My 2 Jalapeno Peppers and hanging in there.  Each has a single pepper growing.

I'm shocked!  My first attempt at Huckleberries and it seems to be a success.
First Huckleberry Harvest
I have 4 Eggplants but no fruit.  I'm looking forward to beautiful purple fruit!

Last but certainly not least are my Beets and Swiss Chard.  I planted these babies in a tuffbin and they seem to be doing quite well.  I've never grown beets before and I'm so excited to make fresh beet salad.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Thanksgiving Recipe

Less than 24 hours and I'll be in San Diego.  While I'm away I'll be posting recipes in preparation of Thanksgiving. Yippie!

Dried Cranberry Chutney Appetizers

1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh ginger
3/4 cup mango chutney
soft cheese or cream cheese
apple, slices
toasted baguette, sliced or cracker

Combine dried cranberries, water, sugar, and ginger in a small saucepan.
Bring to boiling.
Cover and remove from heat.
Let stand for 15 minutes.
Snip any large pieces of mango chutney.
Stir chutney into cranberry mixture.
Cover and chill at least 2 hours (overnight recommended).
Serve cranberry chutney with soft cheese or cream cheese, apple slices, and crackers, or with toasted baguette slices.

Makes about 1-1/3 cups chutney (twenty-one 1-tablespoon servings).

Make-Ahead Tip: Refrigerate chutney, covered, up to 2 days.

This recipe is SO easy!

Friday, November 11, 2011

On My Mind...

My mom and her husband

"Sister is probably the most competitive relationship within the family, but once the sisters are grown, it becomes the strongest relationship." -Margaret Mead

Today my thoughts are with my family in San Diego.  I am anxiously waiting, counting down the days until next Wednesday when I'll be able to see everyone again.  So much has happened in the past year and I really miss the daily family interaction.  My youngest niece turned 1 in October and I missed it!

"Family is the most important thing in the world." -Princess Diana

In the meantime I have carefully prepared meals for my hubby.  They're stored safely in the freezer for when I'm gone.  He is SO spoiled!  No living on cereal and ham sandwiches while I'm away, although he'll still sneak in a few bowls of cereal that I've purchased just for the occasion.

This is a Friday photo feature that anyone with a blog can join. To take part, post a photo on your own blog, write a short caption explaining it, and link it back to here from your blog by saying you're part of "On my mind". Please write a new post, don't link to an older one. When you've done that, come back here and add a comment below, with a link to your blog.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Seed Starting Basics (part 2)

No, I didn't forget to include seeds in the first post.  More important than clean containers, soil, water and sun are SEEDS.  I am biased when it comes to garden seeds as I run an online seed company.  However, I did years of research before I came to the decision to only grow plants from organic, heirloom, open-pollinated, non-gmo seeds.


I'll simplify here because my soapbox isn't big enough for me to be here all day.  Heirlooms seed varieties are a seeds variety over 50 years old and have not been modified and are open-pollinated.  GMO seeds are genetically modified organisms, also called "franken-seeds."   

Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) are created using gene-splicing techniques of biotechnology (also called genetic engineering, GE)  In 30 other countries around the world there are significant restrictions or outright bans on the production of GMOs, because they are not considered proven safe. In the U.S. on the other hand, the FDA approved commercial production of GMOs based on studies conducted by the companies who created them and profit from their sale. 

For more information,
check out

Depending on the variety of vegetable or herb seed you choose, germination can take between 3-21 days.  

Don't forget to label your seeds!!!  Recently, I ran out of recycled containers so I bought Jiffy Pots.  I placed several jiffy pots in recycled trays and then simply labeled the tray.  Same with recycled toilet paper rolls in the plastic tray with only the tray labeled.  The seeds I planted in plastic containers are individually labeled with painter's tape.

Starting plants from seed take patience and commitment.  Seedlings (baby plants) should be ready to be transplanted between 4 to 6 weeks from germination.  If seeds are started in a small container it might be necessary to transplant earlier into a larger container.

While seeds are germinating and seedlings are growing tall it's time to decide what to do with them once they're ready to transplant.  (more on transplanting later this week)

Happy Planting!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Seed Starting Basics

There are a few VERY important things to remember when starting plants from seed.

1. Containers. I use recycled containers from previous plant purchases, yogurt or cottage cheese containers and even empty toilet paper rolls.

2. Soil.  It is possible to mix your own seed starting soil using potting soil, perlite and moss.  Otherwise, your local garden center should carry a pre-mixed seed starter soil.

3. Water.  It is important to moisten the soil before you plant seeds so you don't wash them away.  While seeds are germinating keep the soil moist but not soggy.

4. Heat or sun.  In Florida I am able to leave most of my seed pots in a covered patio area.  In other parts of the country it might be necessary to start seeds indoors using a grow light or by placing pots on top of a fridge or a sunny windowsill.

Most of the seeds I planted last week are growing wonderfully.  Several are just barely peaking out of the dirt.

If you are growing seedlings indoors it is important to "harden off" plants about 2 weeks before transplanting.  To do this, set them outside and water less but don't forget about them.  If a frost warning has been issued cover seedlings or bring them inside.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Crazy weekend

What a wild weekend we had in South Florida!  It rained and it rained and then it rained some more.  I'm not quite sure if all of my plants lived through the deluge but I'm sure I'll find out soon enough.

All of the recently planted seeds are still on the nice comfy covered patio.  Unfortunately the wind blew the rain so hard even a few of the seedlings were washed out.

Oh well, I can always plant more seeds.

"Earth laughs in flowers."  -Ralph Waldo Emerson