Gardening with Charcoal and Epsom Salts

 

A few weeks ago I did a post on gardening with baking soda.  I recently came across more clever organic gardening tips using common household products – charcoal and Epsom salts.     Read on….

 

Charcoal

 

And yes, I’m talking about the charcoal you’ll barbeque with this Memorial Day, as long as it’s additive-free (natural hardwood charcoal, not briquettes)!                 photo

1.  Activated carbon and water remove pesticides from the soil.  This is good to know if you are putting in a vegetable garden and are not sure if the area was treated        with pesticides in the past.  Combine 1 pound charcoal with 1 gallon water, transfer to a spray bottle and mist directly onto the soil. The charcoal/water combination  absorbs the chemicals.

2. Use charcoal as mulch.  It keeps the soil moist and deters weed growth. Anything that helps control weeds is worth a try!  Simply break the charcoal into small chunks about an inch in diameter and sprinkle around the plants.

3.  Charcoal helps cut flowers last longer.   Put a charcoal chunk in the bottom of a vase to extend the freshness of the water and flowers.

 

Epsom Salts (Magnesium Sulfate)

 

Like baking soda, Epsom salts is an economical and unbelievably diverse product.  Throughout time, not only has it been used to treat a variety of human and animal ailments, but is has also been known as a great garden supplement, especially with organic gardeners.

Tomatoes, peppers and roses need high levels of magnesium for optimal growth and are particularly responsive to Epsom salts.  Tomatoes are prone to magnesium deficiency later in the growing season and you’ll notice this with yellowing leaves.  Epsom salts help with plant chlorosis in general, the loss of chlorophyll in the leaves, even your lawn’s yellowing leaves. According to the National Gardening Association,  “Don’t rely on Epsom salts to correct large soil magnesium deficiencies, but rather use it as a supplement to soils with adequate or slightly low magnesium levels to boost plant growth, flowering, and fruiting.”

Epsom salts enhance the soil’s and fertilizer’s capabilities in much the same way a gourmet salt enhances the flavor of food.  Your houseplants, vegetables, herbs, (with the exception of sage – don’t ask me why), flowers, shrubs, trees and lawn will benefit from their application. You can either apply 1 tablespoon of granules around each plant or spray a solution of 1 tablespoon Epsom salts diluted in 1 gallon of water.  As a foliar spray, it is taken up more quickly by the plants.  Apply after the initial planting, about a month later when the plants begin to grow, and then one more time as the vegetable matures.  For detailed information about specific plants, visit saltworks.us.

Another great property?  Epsom salts also deter slugs!

Learn from the organic gardeners who consider Epsom salts a  “secret ingredient” to a lush, bountiful and affordable garden.

Try both the charcoal and Epsom salts and let me know you think!

 

For more green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com.

Information compiled from:

http://www.saltworks.us/gardening-with-epsom-salt.asphttp://www.garden.org/articles/articles.php?q=show&id=68&page=3 and http://www.care2.com/greenliving/10-surprising-uses-for-charcoal.html

Plant a Tree for the Future


The social, aesthetic, and environmental benefits of trees are numerous.  They manufacture oxygen and absorb carbon dioxide.  They provide shade in summer and windbreak in winter.  The beauty and serenity of trees have been shown to help hospital patients recover more quickly. Trees reduce crime in low-income urban areas and increase property values.   Trees help us save energy and improve air quality, conserve water and provide homes to wildlife.   Large and majestic trees are an important part of the community.

According to American Forests, the national urban tree deficit now stands at more than 634 million trees.  Unprecedented environmental stresses are making it more difficult for trees to grow and flourish in today’s world.  Because trees sequester carbon and offset our carbon footprint, or the amount of energy a person consumes in their day-to-day activities, it is more important than ever to plant trees.  The average person produces 26 tons of CO2 per year.  6 twenty-five year old pine trees absorb 1 ton of CO2.  36 twenty-five year old maple trees absorb 1 ton of CO2.

Planting trees is a way for people to give back to the environment for future generations and to offset the damage done by their carbon footprint. Spring is the perfect time to plant.  Plant a tree for a new grandchild, in memory of a beloved pet, or to honor a special anniversary.  When it comes to planting, the smaller the tree the better.  Smaller trees develop a better root system and you’ll be amazed how quickly they  grow.    If you live in a condo, an apartment or have no place to plant a tree, americanforests.org will plant a tree in your name with a small donation.  Makes a great gift too!

Have You Joined a CSA Yet?

 

CSAs, or Community Supported Agriculture, have grown in popularity over the years. In a CSA, consumers can buy local, seasonal food directly from the farmer. The farmer offers a certain number of shares, or boxes of vegetables or other farm products to the public. Customers in turn pay in advance for a share and receive a box or bag of seasonal produce each week during the farming season.  There are several different CSA formats – half shares, seasonal shares (with more produce grown in hot houses, you can now get winter shares), biweekly shares, or market shares where you choose your own produce. Fish, local meat and flower CSAs are also available.

 

 

There are advantages for both the farmer and the consumer with the CSA model. For farmers, they receive early payment, which helps with their cash flow at a lean time of year, and they have the chance to meet the people who eat the food they grow. For the customer, they eat just picked produce, which is at its most flavorful and nutritious. They are often introduced to different kinds of produce and new preparation ideas. They have the opportunity to get to know the farmers who produce their food, a rare option today with conventional supermarkets where produce is cellophane-wrapped and has traveled 1500 miles from farm to plate.

I’ve been a member of several CSAs over the years, but the spring CSA I am participating in now is clearly the most unique. Fresh produce is limited in spring in New England, but my CSA bag is full of thoughtfully chosen and healthy items.   Run by a nutritionist and her farmer boyfriend, Nicole Cormier and Jim Lough, their bags of “locally sourced, fresh picked, handmade, sustainably grown, non-toxic, real food” are designed to be nutritionally complete.  They contain items like sunchokes, pea greens, fresh chevre goat cheese, homemade almond milk, local cornmeal, black beans, herbs, spices, honey, farm fresh eggs and locally grown mushrooms and grains. I have received locally made skin salves, delicious homemade granola and dried fruits, green juice drinks and even a locally made reusable sandwich and snack bag.  Nicole also includes recipes and nutritional information.  Her CSA model is a little different from the typical one in that she uses many farmers who all grow something different.

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I can hardly wait to see what’s in my CSA bag – it’s apparent each bag is packed with love and care. Check out the CSAs in your area. You’ll not only enjoy eating the freshest and most nutritious produce possible, but the convenience of pre-chosen food too. And, you’re helping to support local farmers.

Information compiled from http://www.localharvest.org/csa/ and deliclioiuslivingnutrition.com.

 

For more green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com.

Gardening with Baking Soda

 

 

Cheap, effective and OG (the original “green”), baking soda bakes, cleans, heals, disinfects, scrubs, deodorizes, exfoliates, and brightens just about everything in the home.  But did you know baking soda works in the garden too?

 

 

I recently came across the following fabulous tips from plantcaretoday.com.

1. Make a Non-Toxic Fungicide

Mix 4 teaspoons of baking soda and 1 gallon of water. Use on roses for black spot fungus and also on grapes and vines when fruit first begins to appear.

2. Spray to Treat and Prevent Powdery Mildew

Powdery mildew is causing major problems with impatiens this year, but also can be a problem for other plants, like lilacs, cucumbers, squash and zinnias.

Spray Recipe: 1 tablespoon of baking soda, 1 gallon of water, 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil, 1 tablespoon of dishwashing liquid

Mix all the ingredients together and spray plants weekly. Apply on overcast days to prevent any potential foliage from burning.

3. Discourage Gnats In Soil & Fungus on Leaves

Mix in 1 gallon of water, 4 teaspoons baking soda, 1 teaspoon biodegradable soap. Mix well, spray infected foliage or soil as needed.

4. Discourage Weeds

Pour or sweep baking soda in a thick layer into cracks on a sidewalk or patios. The baking soda should kill any small weeds already sprouted and prevent new ones from coming up.

5. Kill Cabbage Worms

Mix equals parts flour and baking soda and dust plants (cabbage, broccoli, kale) being eaten by cabbage worms. They munch on the leaves and die usually in a day or two. Repeat as needed.

6. Kill Crabgrass

Simply wet the crabgrass, pour a heavy dusting of baking soda on the weed. The crabgrass should start dying back in 2 or 3 days .CAUTION: When applying baking try NOT to get it on your grass as too much baking soda can burn and kill it.

7. Clean Your Hands

After a day in the garden and dirt, clean your hands by rubbing and scrubbing wet hands with baking soda. Rinse.

 

To those comprehensive tips, I add:

8.  Garden Mildewcide 

Another simple recipe to combat powdery mildew on cucumbers, zucchini, melons, roses, and lilacs.  Fill a spray bottle with 1 teaspoon baking soda in 1 pint water.  Spray as needed.

 Baking Soda Bonanza by Peter A. Ciullo

 

And I really like this ingenious tip:

9.  Test your soil PH. 

Wet the soil and take a small amount of baking soda and sprinkle it onto soil.  If the baking soda bubbles, your soil is acidic with a PH level under 5.

http://thegardeningcook.com/

 

You clearly can’t go wrong with tried and true baking soda, in the home and garden!

 

For more green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com.

 

 

Hot Tea!

Tea is tasty, nutritious, medicinal and “hot” right now.  So is compost tea for your lawn, trees, gardens and shrubs!

What is compost tea?

Compost tea is a natural organic fertilizer made from compost, or more specifically a water extract of compost that is brewed to give the bacteria, fungi, protozoa and nematodes a chance to increase in number and activity using the nutrients present in the water.   It is also a highly effective natural insect and disease inhibitor.  Compost tea is inexpensive and often an easier method of applying compost, especially to your trees and shrubs.

How is compost tea made?

Aerobic water steeps the biology off of the compost through an extraction process. Food-grade molasses, garlic, kelp, and fish emulsion are then added to the mix. The foods activate and cause the biology to multiply, creating a powerful, nutritious food for your plants.

How do you apply compost tea?

Compost tea can either be applied as a foliar spray or as a soil drench. As a foliar spray, nutritious compost tea deposits beneficial organisms to plant surfaces so disease-causing organisms cannot find infection sites or food resources. As a soil drench, compost tea develops a biological barrier around roots to prevent root disease-causing organisms from being able to find the roots. The tea introduces organic matter, which provides nutrients for the roots to improve plant growth and moisture retention.

Where can you get compost tea?

If you are in the Boston area, our tree care company, Boston Tree Preservation, offers compost tea treatments and serves as a tea center where homeowners can purchase the tea to apply themselves.  As the organic movement grows, many tree care and landscape companies understand the value of compost tea and are starting to offer compost tea treatments.  You can also find recipes on-line to make it yourself if you have access to healthy, rich compost.

Click on the video below for a demonstration on how to make compost tea.

Compost tea is vibrant, alive and wakes up your soil!  This spring, give your garden a treat with compost tea.

For more green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com.

Information compiled from bostontreepreservation.com.

Celebrate Earth Day!

 

 

Mark your calendars for Earth Day next Tuesday, April 22, a day to commemorate the earth, celebrate green acts, raise awareness and work towards a more sustainable future.  If you read my blog regularly, I imagine you already practice green acts.  Earth Day is a good time to commit to adding new green habits.

 

What else can you do?

 

  • Adopt “meatless Mondays”. The meat industry is responsible for nearly one-fifth of man-made greenhouse gas emissions. 
  • Spring is a good time to start composting your kitchen waste.  This time next year your compost pile will have turned into dark, rich compost with which to pot your spring plants or to spread on trouble spots on your lawn. By contrast, when food goes into the landfill, it rots and emits methane, a potent greenhouse gas with 21 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide.
  • In addition to your reusable water bottle, bring along a reusable mug when you buy a coffee or tea (Many coffee shops charge you a reduced price when you do so.)  Paper cups are less toxic than polystyrene cups, but they still use a significant amount of resources.  Twenty million trees (a renewable resource) are cut down annually to manufacture paper cups, most of which are coated with a fossil fuel-derived plastic, and 8,095 gallons of water are used to make 10,000 paper cups with sleeves.
  • Think about the amount of electricity you use every day – the coffee maker, blender, hair dryer, hair straightener, electric toothbrush, iron, computer,  printer, tv,  air conditioning, lights, etc.  Try and reduce your usage by unplugging your appliances when not in use; consider power strips to help control  vampire energy.  Encourage your family and friends to do the same.
  • Test drive a hybrid or electric car when you are next in the market for a new car. I drive an electric car and feel so good driving my carbon emission free car and love not paying those high gas prices!  (It doesn’t significantly increase your electricity bill.)
  • Start an Earth Dinner tradition serving local, organic foods, using real cutlery and cloth napkins, and eating by candlelight to save energy.  Find out who grew your food and the history of the recipes you are cooking from.  Connecting to your food makes the experience more meaningful.  Of course you will be washing your dishes with non-toxic detergent, right?

 

With every passing year, I notice greener living  becoming the new way of life.  That’s encouraging!

 

Want to know your ecological footprint?  Click here to find out (and how to reduce it).

 

http://www.earthday.org/footprint-calculator

 

Some information compiled from earthday.org.

 

Organic Lawns – What Kind Do You Want?

 

About this time of year, we’ve had enough of winter and are anxious to start gardening and working on the lawn. There are lots of creative options for lawns and now is the time to start planning.

Though conventional lawns are a perfect medium where kids can play as well as provide a nice, kempt look to your landscape, to get that perfect, weed-free golf course look requires time, expense and unnecessary chemicals and nitrogen-based fertilizers.  Many of these chemicals are known carcinogens and linked to health problems in children, pets and adults.  These chemicals get tracked into our home, seep into our waterways and kill beneficial life in the soil.

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Turf grass is our largest irrigated “crop” using as much as half of all fresh water used in urban areas each year.  With drought striking much of the country, this is an awful waste of water. Lawns also use 20 times more pesticides per acre than farms.  Additionally, the fuel used to power mowers and other fume-belching equipment required to maintain a perfect lawn emits toxic emissions into the air.

 

You can have a beautiful, lush, green lawn where your kids and pets can safely play without the use of chemicals and save money too.  How?

 

  • Feed your grass naturally with organic fertilizers available at your local nursery.
  • Spread a thin layer of compost over the turf, particularly on the trouble spots. The beneficial bacteria in the compost wake up your turf miraculously!
  • Throw down some extra seed.
  • Add plenty of calcium to your turf.
  • Leave your grass clippings, a natural source of nitrogen, after you mow.  Cornell researchers have shown that mulching leaves on to the lawn in the fall results in faster green up in the spring.
  • Mow high.  Longer grass encourages longer roots, which require less water and food.
  • When you water, water deeply and infrequently.
  • Learn to live with a few weeds, or wild herbs.  Dandelions actually add a bit of color,  don’t last long, and in fact are a highly nutritious, edible weed (only on an organic lawn however).  Monocultures like a lawn are not typical in nature and only invite problems.

 

Alternatives to Conventional Lawns

 

  • Edible Landscapes with sustainable, self-perpetuating vegetables, herbs, fruits and nuts.  There are edible landscape companies available to consult and/or install.
  • Wildflower and perennial gardens that attract beneficial bees and butterflies.
  • Cool season or warm season ornamental, drought-tolerant grasses that need no mowing.
  • Low maintenance ground covers like myrtle or nitrogen-enriching clover that stays green even in the driest part of the summer.
  • Trees and shrubs
  • Xeriscapes, or landscapes with an emphasis on water conservation, soil improvement, limited turf, native plants, proper mulching and low-maintenance
  • Or a combination of the above

 

This spring, take a safer and healthier approach to lawn maintenance!

 

Some information compiled from: http://eartheasy.com/grow_lawn_alternatives.htm#c. www.ediblelandscapes.net, and http://www.bostontreepreervation.com.

For more green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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