Pause and Think…..

 

Today is World Environment Day, celebrated every year on June 5, and run by the United Nations “to raise global awareness to take positive environmental action to protect nature and the planet Earth.”  World Environment Day is a day when the United Nations invites each of the seven billion people on the planet to make one change towards more responsible consumption of resources.  Whether you refuse a plastic bag, have a vegetarian dinner, take public transportation, or recycle your trash, each little step can make a big difference.

Make every day World Environment Day and take the time to read about climate change and its effects around the globe.  Think about your impact and what you can do help protect the earth.  Make it a goal to add new “green” habits to your lifestyle to lessen your carbon footprint.  Share your ideas with family and friends.

Appreciate the beauty of the earth and its many gifts………

 

For more ideas and green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com.

Controlling Mosquitos Naturally

Along with the cookouts, volleyball games, hiking, camping and other glories of summer come mosquitoes and ticks.  But pesticides or products containing DEET, are associated with a variety of health problems ranging from dizziness to seizures with children being particularly susceptible. There are several safer and effective alternatives.

Natural Repellents

A garlic spray in your yard provides excellent control.  Garlic has natural sulfur which repels insects, including mosquitoes, ticks, fleas and even black flies, yet does not harm humans, pets, bees, butterflies or plants. Mosquitoes are soft-bodied insects and garlic juice is toxic to them in increased concentrations. Mosquitoes are also extremely odor sensitive and garlic can repel them for up to a month or more, as long as they can still detect an odor. Farmers have been using garlic for generations. Organic based landscaping or pest control companies often offer a garlic spray or you can buy a product called Garlic Barrier and do it yourself.

For small areas like patios or decks, certain aromatic plants keep mosquitoes away.  Marigolds planted with pungent herbs like catnip (nearly 10 times more effective than DEET) and rosemary are effective and attractive in containers.  I planted a “mosquito plant”, really a wild scented geranium, which grows fast and seems to work.  It was specifically grown to keep pests away. Citronella candles can be helpful, as well as all natural insect repellent incense sticks.

Cultural Practices

Two important and effective cultural practices are: 1) Don’t keep standing or stagnate water around where mosquitoes can breed and 2) consider putting up a bat house.  Mosquitoes are the primary food source for bats and some species eat up to 1000 of them an hour!

Personal Repellents

For personal repellents sprayed directly onto your skin, soybean-oil-based products have been shown to provide protection for a period of time similar to a product with a low concentration of DEET (4.75%).  Other ingredients usually include pure plant extracts like citronella, cedarwood, eucalyptus, geranium, lemongrass and peppermint, which are natural, effective and have a nice aroma.  Buzz Away and Bite Blocker are good brands that are potent and long-lasting.  You can find them at Whole Foods. In areas heavily infested with deer tick,  a DEET product may be needed.  Just spray directly onto your clothes, not your skin! For more information on deer ticks, click here.

Ticks and mosquitos don’t have to ruin your summer!

Appreciate Your Trees  

I love watching the trees take turns blooming this time of year. First the magnolia with its lovely pale pink flowers, followed by the cherries with their brighter pink and fuchsia blossoms, then the apples and their tufts of white flowers. Coming along is the golden chain tree with its delicate, dangling yellow flowers. The oaks are also flowering with their tender green leaves slowly emerging. (Did you know that all trees flower, some less conspicuously than others?) The majestic upright horse chestnut flowers are peaking and the fragrant purple lilacs are everywhere. Take a walk in your yard or around your neighborhood and appreciate the gift of trees.

Horse Chestnut Tree

Trees Need Care Too

Trees like humans, need preventative care to ward off disease, especially as they suffer from environmental stresses like air pollution, soil contamination and compaction, exotic invasive insect pests, temperature extremes, devastating storms and drought.

There are several organic approaches to prolong the life of a tree and maintain its good health and vigor.

  • Fix the soil with compost and organic supplements. Raking leaves in the fall removes vital organic matter, and toxic chemicals and high nitrogen based fertilizers deplete the soil of important nutrients.  It is imperative to replenish the soil with amendments or compost.  Healthy, nutrient rich soil determines how well your trees grow.
  • Consult a local arborist – a tree needs to be periodically inspected for structural defects, insect pests and disease.
  • Trees should be pruned properly and focus on removing dead, dying, diseased and broken branches.
  • Proper irrigation and mulching, especially in times of drought, are essential to maintain a tree’s good health.

Trees play a critical role in the health of the planet. They are not living statues – they need care and protection just like any other living thing.  Please help preserve these majestic beauties.

Some information compiled from bostontreepreservation.com.

 

For more green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com.

 

Controlling Weeds in Your Garden Organically

You can live with a few weeds in your lawn, but in a vegetable garden, weeds are a problem. They quickly spread; compete with the plants for moisture and nutrients; and impact productivity.   If you are growing vegetables organically, then obviously your weed control should be non-toxic as well.

Cultural Practices

Try to smother weed seeds in your vegetable garden before they develop using organic mulches such as hardwood mulch or wood chips, newspaper, cardboard, cocoa mats or straw, which degrade in a few months plus add nutrients to the soil. Synthetic mulches like landscaping paper or plastic don’t breakdown and last several seasons, but I prefer not to use them in an organic garden.

When designing your garden, choose large, leafy shade plants that hide the weeds from the sun, which causes them to proliferate. Include plants like squash, pumpkin, melons, tomatoes and potatoes.

Inevitably weeds will sneak in. Even though pulling weeds is like eating peanuts –  you can’t stop my mother used to say – you will still need to spot spray them. Listed below are simple recipes using basic kitchen ingredients to help you manage your garden.

Recipes 

VINAIGRETTE “DRESSING” FOR DANDELIONS

A well-placed shot of vinegar right on the plant can thwart dandelions or other broad-leaved weeds.  Be careful not to splash it on the turf or any plants you want to keep, because vinegar will kill grassy plants as well. A section of newspaper or cardboard can act as a shield for desirable plants.

Ingredients

Vinegar (as close to 10% acidity as possible); Dishwashing Liquid (optional); Pump Spray Bottle

Directions

Fill the spray bottle with undiluted vinegar (or mix 3 parts vinegar to 1 part dishwashing liquid).  Spray a narrow stream, dousing the weed’s leaves and crown (the area at the base of the plant).   Rinse the sprayer well with water, especially if it has metal parts because vinegar is corrosive.  This is a spot spray only!

ALCOHOL ATTACK

Rubbing alcohol is a simple way to kill a weed.  Mix it with water and it will dehydrate almost any weed.  This also works against spider mites, aphids, and scale, but may require some experimentation to find the right level of effectiveness.  Test spray on one leaf to check for burning.

Ingredients

1-quart water; 1 (or more) tablespoons rubbing alcohol; Pump spray bottle

Directions

Mix water and alcohol in the spray bottle. (Use 1 tablespoon of alcohol for weed seedlings or thin-leaved weeds and 2 tablespoons or more for tougher weeds.)  Spray weed leaves thoroughly but lightly.  (Avoid surrounding plants.)

SORRY, CHARLIE

Creeping Charlie is a low-growing, yellow-flowered perennial weed that can be a real nuisance in lawns.  If you have noticed it in yours, borax can be a very effective weed-killer, particularly in late spring or early summer when weeds are growing most actively.

Ingredients

5 Teaspoons borax, like 20 mule Team Borax, for every 25 square feet of lawn; 1-quart water; Pump spray bottle

Directions

Mix borax in water.  Measure exactly: Too little and it won’t kill the weeds, too much and you could kill the grass too.  Spray to cover a 25-square foot area.  Water and fertilize your turf after the treatment so that it rapidly fills in the space left by the dead weeds.

DELUXE BAKING SODA SPRAY

For a very effective disease and insect fighter, go no further than your kitchen.  This concoction works best as a preventative, so spray susceptible plants before disease symptoms start and continue at weekly intervals.

Ingredients

1 ½ tablespoons baking soda; 1- tablespoon insecticidal soap; 1-tablespoon canola oil; 1 cup plus 1 gallon water; 1-tablespoon vinegar; Backpack or pump sprayer

Directions

Mix the baking soda, soap and oil with 1 cup of water.  Add the vinegar.  Don’t mix the  vinegar in until last or the mixture may bubble over.  Pour the mixture into the sprayer and  add 1 gallon of water.  Shake or stir to combine the ingredients.  Spray plants, covering the bottoms and tops of the leaves.

PLAIN AND SIMPLE GARLIC JUICE

If you are a garlic lover, you may want to use this simple recipe to fight diseases and insects on your plants.

Ingredients

3 garlic cloves; A blender; Pump Spray Bottle; Molasses (optional)

Directions

Liquefy 3 garlic cloves in a blender that is half-filled with water.  Strain out the garlic, then mix the remaining liquid with enough water to make 1 gallon of spicy concentrate.  Two tablespoons of molasses will help the mixture adhere to the leaves.

CITRUS KILLER FOR APHIDS

Aphids and other leaf-sucking insects can cause considerable damage if you don’t control them.  This mixture neutralizes aphids and can also act as a deterrent to ants!

Ingredients

1-pint water; Rind from 1 lemon, grated  (or orange or grapefruit rind); Cheesecloth; Pump Spray Bottle

Directions

Bring the water to a boil.  Remove from heat and add the grated lemon rind.  Allow the mixture to steep overnight.  Strain the mixture through cheesecloth, and pour into the spray bottle. Apply the mixture to plant leaves that are under attack.  (This mixture must come in contact with the insects’ bodies to be effective.)

WEEDS IN HOT WATER

Use boiling water to eliminate weeds from sidewalk or driveway cracks.  Be careful not to splash it on to neighboring plants or turf.

Ingredients

Teakettle or pan

Directions

Boil a full kettle of water.  Pour slowly and carefully, dousing both the weeds and the soil immediately surrounding them.

For more recipes, email me at greenwithbetsy.com.

 

Don’t forget – weeds are a messenger of problems in your soil and will grow where nothing else will. Try and analyze them and find out what your soil needs. How do you control your weeds?

 

Recipes for organic weed, insect pests and disease controls compiled from Great Garden Formulas, 1998 Rodale Press, Inc.

 

Information compiled from: lawncare.about.com/od/lawncarebasics/a/historyoflawn.htm

http://www.wikihow.com/Prevent-Vegetable-Garden-Weeds

 

For more green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com. 

Green Your Bedroom!

If you want to seriously reduce chemical exposure in your home, then switching to an organic bedroom is the most effective place to start.  We spend approximately one-third of our life sleeping – that’s 33. 3 years spent sleeping if you live to be 100 (and leading an organic lifestyle you have a better shot at it), so it clearly makes sense to start there.

The Problem?

Conventional mattresses, blankets, sheets and pillowcases contain a lot of chemicals.  Cotton accounts for up to 25% of the insecticides used worldwide and many are classified as possible human carcinogens.  Cotton is also usually bleached and treated with chemical dyes and color fixers.  Synthetic fabrics such as polyurethane foam and polyester are made from petroleum and can cause allergic reactions and even initiate cancer.  Mattresses and pads must be treated with fire retardants, which emit formaldehyde and pose additional health risks.  Less expensive bed frames use plywood and particle board containing formaldehyde that is off gassed into our bedrooms, also contributing to allergies and potentially other illnesses.

The solution?

Buy untreated or natural bedding such as organic cotton, linen, hemp or bamboo.   Often more expensive, but definitely healthier, you can transition slowly.  First buy a chemical free pillow, ideal for allergy sufferers.  Next try organic cotton sheets and mattress pads.  Finally make the switch to an organic mattress made from natural rubber and covered in organic cotton and wool. Wool has superior insulating qualities and believe it or not is comfortable all year-long.  It is also naturally dust mite and fire resistant. Latex mattresses are:

  • resistant to moisture buildup
  • naturally antibacterial and hypoallergenic
  • mold and dust free
  • with little or no toxic substances or ozone-depleting agents used in the manufacture of the mattress

 

You will find many choices in organic mattresses and bedding online, designed for all preferences and all budgets. Retail outlets are also beginning to carry organic bedding.  Target has an attractive line of organic sheets, and with the demand for organic everything increasing, many local mattress stores now carry natural latex mattresses.  Make the switch and have a safe night’s sleep!

 

For more green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com.

Friday is Arbor Day!

This Friday is Arbor Day – always the last Friday in April – a tradition that began nationwide in 1872 and continues today with individuals and groups celebrating trees and nature.

Planting new trees and caring for existing ones is more important than ever as we battle exotic invasive insect pests, air pollution, soil compaction and contamination, limited water and nutrient availability and the overall effects of extreme weather conditions and climate change.  Trees are much more than just a beautiful big plant; their social, communal, and environmental benefits 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 home property values.
  • Trees save energy, improve air quality, conserve water and provide homes to wildlife.
  • Trees offset our carbon footprints.
  • Large and majestic trees are a major asset to any community.

This Arbor Day, plant a tree seedling, learn how to care for the trees in your yard or neighborhood, read a tree identification book, or simply take a walk and appreciate not only their beauty but what they do for our health and for the health of the planet.

For group activity ideas, go to arborday.org.

For more green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com.

Celebrate Earth Day Wednesday, April 22

 

 

Earth Day is a time when people from all over the world unite to celebrate the earth and appreciate its beauty. Founded in 1970, Earth Day was first organized in “to promote ecology and respect for life on the planet as well as to encourage awareness of the growing problems of air, water and soil pollution.”  Much progress has been made over these last 45 years, but there is lots more to do.

 

What will you do to celebrate? You can…..

 

– Plant a tree – it’s spring!

– Sow some seeds for your garden

– Visit a local farm

– Change a conventional light bulb to an energy-saving compact fluorescent or LED

– Pick up litter on the beach

– Take part in a trash pick-up

– Use a travel mug rather than a styrofoam cup for your coffee-to-go

– Drink from a reusable, BPA-free water bottle

– Recycle newspapers, bottles and cans

– Start a compost bin in your backyard for kitchen waste

– Make a commitment to drive less and carpool or walk more

– Take public transportation

– Shorten your shower by one minute

– Shut down your computer for one hour

– Pick up roadside trash

– Attend an Earth Day event in your area or volunteer

– Include your kids and grandkids and teach them about the importance of protecting our beautiful earth

– Serve an Earth dinner with local, organic ingredients; use candlelight

 

Coincidentally, I will be moving into our just built, energy-efficient, healthy green home, which after several years of designing, permitting, living in rentals and dealing with the headaches of building, is at last ready. I can’t think of a better way to celebrate Earth Day!

More blogs to come about what makes our new home green. Stay tuned…..

 

Some information compiled from: http://www.timanddate.com/

 

For more green tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com.

 

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