5 Tips for Sustainable Gardening

Sustainability

Gardening is sustainable. You are growing your own food, thus eliminating the use of plastic or other packaging that is often used in the grocery store, the fuel that is used to transport said food to the grocery store, as well as all the pesticides and other chemicals used to grow that food commercially. But have you ever thought about how you might save other items while boasting a home garden? I’m going to give you 5 ideas for making your garden and your process more sustainable, and in many cases, cheaper too!

1. Reusable Containers

This is by far the easiest way and cheapest way to be more sustainable when starting your garden from seeds. I’ve mentioned this in a couple of my more gardening process centric posts if you want to check those out. Basically, this step is reusing items that otherwise may be thrown out as garden containers. This can mean using them for seeds, seedlings, small plants (or I guess big plants if you have large containers) or storage. The first reusable container I used for my garden was egg cartons. I used old egg cartons to start my seeds in. This was extremely cost effective and reduced my waste. Other items you can use are old plastic containers, such as for yogurt, spread, cheeses, old solo cups, or even plastic containers from previous plant projects. I’ve seen posts online using old roasted chicken containers as greenhouses, which looked and seemed like a good idea, but since we don’t eat chicken we don’t have those containers. There are also ways to make origami cups out of old newspapers to start seedlings in. For all of these versions, just make sure that when you water your plants, that there will be adequate drainage otherwise you could kill your plants.

2. Secondhand Supplies

 

I am a huge believer in buying secondhand. Most of the items I own are pre-owned and purchased from a thrift store. The same can be said for many of plant pots. I have several terra cotta pots, a few larger plastic pots and other clay pots that were all purchased at the thrift store at a fraction of the cost of my local hardware store. The big breakable pots are usually an especially good deal in comparison, so be sure to always look for those! This not only saves you loads of money but keeps these beautiful and non-biodegradable items out of our landfills. Another tip if you’re using planters that are less than gorgeous is to place the plastic planter inside of a cool basket. This hides the boring plastic container and can also be purchased for super cheap at the thrift store.

I’ve already mentioned buying pots from the thrift store, but have you ever thought about buying other larger supplies secondhand? Believe it or not, some thrift stores have outdoor areas where you can buy other gardening supplies. You could also visit your local flea market where you can sometimes find used tools such as shovels, wheelbarrows and other useful supplies. This cuts way down on cost and you can save these items from making it into our landfills. Other items to consider are reclaimed wood for planter boxes, leftover bricks and pavers for paths and borders, I’ve even seen old trellis and support pieces that you could pick up for cheap. Another great place to look is garage/yard sales. I think many people would rather be able to make a buck off of an old rake they no longer use than to dump it in the trash. You may even find old potting shelves or storage options for your stored seeds and other supplies. 

 

3. Composting

Composting is a more complicated way to be more sustainable with your gardening process. It allows you to discard your plant based kitchen waste into containers to compost for use in your garden. There are several different methods you can use depending on the size of your yard, the time you have available and the effort you want to put into it. The Farmer’s Almanac online has great info on composting if you want to learn more and start implementing this process in your own garden. The EPA also has a site that outlines the benefits versus letting your scraps go to the landfill.

4. Seed Sustainability

Swapping seeds with friends, family or neighbors is a great way to save money and be more sustainable. Check your local online sites for local gatherings of like-minded plant lovers – usually Facebook or NextDoor has groups with these interests. I’ve even seen these take place online – maybe someone who lives in the same zone, but a different area would be fun! You could send the seeds through the mail without too much trouble. You could also speak to people you work with or go to school with to find out if they share the same hobbies of planting and growing their own food. Luckily for me, many of my friends and family like to garden so I’m able to swap with them. Swapping seeds not only saves money and time wasted on going to the store, but helps to eliminate waste caused by over-buying seeds. This includes the packaging that the seeds come in, the transportation, the trip to the store, etc. I also like to save my seeds from year to year. Seeds don’t really go bad, unless stored improperly. I am storing my leftover seeds from this year to try and sprout for my garden next year as well. This will also give me the ability to log what seeds were successful, which ones were the tastiest and which ones I wouldn’t mind swapping next season. In the end, I’m saving money and finding like-minded individuals that share the same passion for growing their own food.

agriculture-crop-cultivation-95215.jpg

 

5. Water Conservation

The last sustainable tip I have for you is something that has become a huge issue here in California – water conservation. It may not seem like a big change, but adding a drip irrigation system to your garden or something similar can save big when it comes to water and your water bill. Watering the conventional way with a hose or a watering can can actually waste water. Instead of the water being concentrated in the right areas, like you can with a drip system, the entire bed gets watered when it really doesn’t need to be. An irrigation system can also be set on a time to ensure you water at the right times, whether you’re available or not and make it so that your water is being used in the best way. Installing a system may require an upfront investment, especially if you have someone else install it for you. But the investment is worth the cost when you think about the time, effort and precious resource it saves in the long run.

Those are all the tips I have for you today. Let me know if you have any additional tips for a more sustainable garden or if you are using any of these practices currently.

Until next time! 

MelissaRose

 

Transplanting Seedlings into Larger Containers

Sustainability

Since starting my seedlings, I wasn’t really sure how the entire process would turn out. It’s my first time starting my garden from seeds, and while I was up for the challenge, I couldn’t help but be nervous that I might somehow screw things up. I am happy to report that so far, everything has been growing according to plan. I presprouted my seeds a few weeks ago, moved them into egg carton planters after about a week and today I moved them into bigger containers to continue to establish strong root systems. It is exciting to watch them grow and see how quickly some of them begin to become recognizable. If you’d like to see more of that process, be sure to check out my other blog posts under Sustainability.

Last year, I started my garden from pre-grown smaller plants from my local hardware store. Doing it this way was definitely convenient, but I found it had been a bit more pricey than I had anticipated. I mean, sure, it’s great to be able to grow my own food, but why were these little plants so expensive? To top it off, they weren’t organic plants, so I couldn’t even really be sure of what I was really getting – what kind of pesticides may have been used, if any weird processes had been used to grow them or if anything had been done to the soil that they were in. Starting my garden from seeds was an easy choice, even if it meant starting the gardening process months before I needed to with the pre-grown plants. Today I feel like I really got to enjoy some of the first fruits of my labor. Moving the tiny seedlings into larger containers gave me the ability to see how much they had grown, not only above the soil, but in their root systems as well. The entire process was so gratifying, and I cannot wait for the next steps coming up within the next few months.

Since starting this process, I knew I wanted to be as cost-effective as possible. After all, this was one of the main reasons I was starting from seeds in the first place. I did this by repurposing items that otherwise would have been thrown out, and this step was no different. The plants I purchased last year for my garden all came in plastic planter pots – nothing too substantial but sturdy enough that I had decided to save them. At the time, I wasn’t sure exactly what I might reuse them for, but luckily had saved every single one of them anyhow. When I remembered I had stowed them away in our backyard shed I was thrilled. I was able to repurpose almost every single plastic pot so far for my garden this year. I’m also hoping, that if I’m careful, that I may be able to save them for yet another go ‘round next year. These were a perfect solution since they already had drainage holes, and were easy to label on the outsides with a permanent marker. This alleviated any need to buy additional markers for the new plants. I did not have any drainage dishes for them, but I was able to use the same black vegetable snack tray I used to place my egg cartons on when I started. They are now sitting in my living room, under the window that gets the best light, and hopefully, living their best life until it’s time to be planted outside.

I’d say this process is fairly simple. The most important part is to be as gentle as possible – we are dealing with babies here after all. As before, I will put this task in a step by step format in an effort to be as clear and concise as possible. Are you starting your garden from seeds this year, or have you ever? I’d love to hear your tips and tricks for success.

Supplies

Seed babies (I guess the technical term would be “seedlings”. These are the ones you have in your egg cartons)

Bigger containers such as terra cotta or plastic pots. You could also get crafty and use red solo cups, old containers for food items such as yogurt, butter spread, etc – just be sure to punch some drainage holes into the bottom.

A small trowel or large spoon. I used a large spoon from my kitchen because it seemed to fit best into my egg carton cups.

Vegetable garden soil. I used Kellog Organic Plus Garden Soil.

A tray to place everything on once completed. This is solely for catching any water that drains out when watering your plants. If you are using a greenhouse or something that you don’t mind getting wet you can skip this supply.

Permanent marker for marking your pots. You can really use any sort of labeling system for these that you like. I’ve seen masking tape with writing on it, popsicle stick labels and even small rocks with the names of the plant written on top. Do whatever makes you happiest!

  1. Collect all of your supplies and mark your pots with the corresponding plant name that will be moving in.
  2. Paying close attention to the name on your first pot, fill the pot with garden soil and get ready to dig out your first seedling (deep breaths! And remember to be gentle).
  3. Once filled with garden soil set the pot close by and grab your large spoon. Use the spoon to carefully wiggle the seedling its roots and the dirt around the roots out of the egg carton.
  4. After you’ve removed the seedling from it’s egg cup, hold it gently in your opposite hand. This frees your dominant hand to dig a new hole in your new pot for your plant.
  5. Gently place the seed baby into the new hole of the new pot and fill around with dirt. Press this new dirt firmly into place, making sure your plant is able to stand upright as it did in the egg carton.
  6. Once firmly planted, water with your spray bottle full of water or use a watering can – whichever method you like best – get some water to the seedling. I actually transplanted all of my seedlings, and then watered them all at once at the end, but you can do in whatever order you like.
  7. Place seedlings in a place with lots of light and warmth and continue to enjoy watching them grow!

I’ve really enjoyed my process so far because I haven’t had to thin anything out this way. I know exactly which seeds sprouted and so I was able to move just one plant at a time. I’m happy to say that I only had a couple of seeds that did not sprout at all, and so I have a pretty wide range of seedlings up to this point. I will continue to keep my fingers crossed that these little seedlings stay alive long enough to provide a yummy harvest this summer. Until next time!

MelissaRose

Transferring Pre-Sprouted Seeds

Sustainability

When I pre-sprouted my seeds, I wasn’t fully sure what I was doing. I read some articles online about pre-sprouting and thought it would be a great choice considering my zone and the time of year. You can read more about my process here. I am happy to say that almost all of my seeds sprouted using this method. I was so happy to open up my little ziploc green houses and see baby plants forming inside. Some of the seeds such as the lettuce and the broccoli only took a few days, the tomatoes, squash and peppers took a bit longer. Sadly, the only ones that didn’t sprout completely, were the peppers. I only had a couple of bell pepper seeds sprout, so I have now planted those directly in the dirt along with some unsprouted seeds, so we will see how that goes. In this post, I want to show you how I transferred them into egg carton planters.

I used egg cartons as planters for a couple of different reasons. First, was for cost – these are basically free versus buying new planters from the store and would ordinarily just be tossed out anyway. Second, because of the material the cartons are made of. I buy cage free organic eggs which come in recycled containers made of paper product pulp. This makes them safe for the plants, but they are also great at retaining moisture, which seedlings need in their earlier stages. So not only is this a great sustainable option it’s a great problem solving option as well that doesn’t cost any money. All in all, I was able to get 10 seed varieties and my bag of seed starter for under $20. This is SO much cheaper than what it cost me last year to start my garden from seedlings from the hardware store, and I think this is so much better because I know exactly how the seeds are being raised and can rest assured that they are completely organic.

I have been saving egg cartons for a few months and a tray from a vegetable snack platter to rest them on. I bought some Jiffy Seed Starter from Lowes to plant my seeds in. Using seed starter is very important as regular potting mix does not have the appropriate nutrients or pH balance for young seedlings, so be sure to use something like this instead. To start, I numbered my egg cartons, 1, 2 and 3. I then created a diagram on another page of my garden planner from Homestead and Chill so that I wouldn’t forget which seed went where. You’d be surprised how difficult it is to tell plants apart when they’re this young! I used a regular kitchen spoon (dirt don’t hurt) to add starter to each egg cup. I then gently pulled the seeds from their paper towels and pressed them each into their own slot. I left the little leaves of each seed atop the dirt but made the sure the roots were covered. The hardest part at this point was making sure I didn’t damage the roots when pulling them from the paper towel. Many of the little roots actually grew through the towel itself, so it was important to pull very gently. If you’re not able to remove it from the paper, you can take some of the towel with the root and plant it with the seed as the paper towel will biodegrade in the starter mix. After planting each type of seed, I wrote it down on my garden planner. I did one seed per cup with the exception of the mixed greens. I had so many seeds (I think I pre-sprouted too many) that I didn’t want to just throw them away. I had enough to put a few per cup (which I imagine I’ll have to thin out later) as well as give some to a friend. It will be a good lesson though, to see how to thin them out and give them their own planters later on.

Once all the little plant babies were in their new homes, I used a spray bottle filled with water to moisten each seed cup. It’s still important to keep the seedlings most and warm as this will continue to encourage growth. I do this by placing them in the sun during the day, and atop the refrigerator at night. Each time I move the cartons I give each cup a good spritz with the water bottle. It’s so exciting to see them grow and perk up even after just a couple of days. There are still some seeds in the ziploc baggies which I need to figure out what to do with. I think I might just plant them also and have a surplus of seedlings to give away to friends, family and neighbors. We will see how many survive, but I’m having a good feeling so far!

Are you doing any gardening yet? I know alot of people throughout the US are stuck in the cold right now. What do you think about starting a garden from seeds?

Until next time,

MelissaRose

Pre-Sprouting Seeds

Sustainability

This post is meant as a New Year’s 2019 Resolution check-in, specifically on the progress of my gardening. I wrote a post a while back about how you could in fact garden in January. Now this doesn’t mean digging in the dirt and planting things, what I meant is to start planning your garden. Throughout January (we only have 3 days left, how crazy is that?) I have been working on planning out my space. This involved sketching out my boxes and plants, figuring out which items would do well grown next to each other, and deciding that I want to implement some sort of irrigation system this year to make my goals easier to attain. I live in zone 9b and we get some pretty crazy hot summers, so deciding to add a drip system is really a no-brainer. Once I had a plan, I made a list of the seeds I wanted to buy. I didn’t need to buy containers or planters, because throughout the last few months, I had been saving things that I thought might prove useful to my new journey. I collected several egg cartons, some random plastic trays from snack packaging and had several ziploc bags on hand for my pre-sprouting.

Get this awesome Garden Planner by subscribing to http://www.homesteadandchill.com

Pre-sprouting is basically a first step in getting your seeds ready to plant. I’ve never started a garden from seeds, so I’m really just doing my research and trying to decide what will work best for me. Pre-sprouting sounded like a good idea because it gave me the ability to see which seeds would actually sprout before throwing them into the dirt. This alleviates a few things – wasting seeds, crowding seeds and eventually thinning out plants if more should sprout than you expect. Pre-sprouting also make the seeds sprout faster than if they were started in soil, and for me, it just seemed like the safest way to get this project started. Since I am in the zone that I am, I can start most of my seeds fairly early in the year indoors. Check the planting times for your zone to ensure your seeds are being started at the proper time for your areas climate. This process is really quite simple, I did it in only about an hours time after work on a weekday, and it only requires a few supplies. I’m going to write it out like a recipe in hopes that it’s easier to follow and understand. Please note, that I did this only a day ago, so nothing has sprouted yet, but I will update on how well this works for me once they do (fingers crossed).

Pre-Sprouting Seeds

Paper towels, I used the narrow towels cut in halves, you need one half for every type of seed you will be pre-sprouting

Ziploc bags, I am using snack bags but any size should work, you need one bag for every type of seed. These act like a green house around your seeds.

Water, you can use the faucet or a spray bottle if you prefer. Spray bottles make it easier to dampen the paper towels down the road when they start to dry out.

Vegetable seeds, all of your favorites will do.

Permanent marker or some way of labeling your baggies

A tray of some sort to keep your baggies on. I am using a black plastic tray from an old vegetable snack tray. I think the black will help with heat retention and keeping the seeds warm.

  1. The first thing I did was label each ziploc bag with the name of the seed that would go into it. This made it so that I didn’t crush the seeds once they were in there. Other ideas I’ve seen online is to place a piece of masking tape on the outside of the bag and write on that.
  2. Take your paper towel halves and dampen. I did this by running them under my kitchen sink and wringing out. You can do this, or use a spray bottle.
  3. Lay the damp paper towel out flat. Place a row of seeds in the center of the paper towel. Do a couple extra seeds to how many plants you want as not all may sprout (this is normal). Do not place them on top of one another or too close. Try to do a nice spaced out row.
  4. Gently fold the damp paper towel around the seeds and place into the ziploc bag. Do not seal.
  5. Place unsealed ziploc bags with seeds onto your tray and put somewhere warm and in the sun. The seeds need sun, warmth and humidity to sprout. If you do not have a sunny place, you can use a grow light. At night, I place my tray on top of my refrigerator to stay slightly warm and during the day, I put under a window that I know gets a bit of natural sun during the day.
  6. Now, we wait. This part is killing me if I’m being honest. I want them to sprout meow. But good things take time. So let’s be patient together, and dampen those paper towels with a spray bottle if they become dry.

According to my research, the seeds should start sprouting in about 2-7 days. I will post an update once mine start sprouting. Good luck!

Are you growing your garden from seeds? Are you pre-sprouting? What are your favorite vegetables to grow?

MelissaRose

6 Easy Swaps for Sustainable Living

Sustainability

When living sustainability first hit the blogosphere, it seemed like it might be some kind of fad. People started toting around reusable grocery bags, and companies began advertising their use of less packaging. But sustainability isn’t just a trend – it’s here to stay. More and more people are catching on. We’re becoming more aware of the effects that everyday items that once seemed harmless are having on our planet and it’s vast ecosystems. Some of the changes can feel daunting. It can feel like we don’t have the time, energy or money to make the changes we so desperately want to make. However, I’ve learned that there are some small changes we can all implement without too much effort that can make real differences. These are my top 5 now 6! easy swaps for sustainability and how you can implement them into your life without breaking the bank, ruining your routine or causing unwanted stress in your already busy and stressful life.

1.Reusable Grocery Bags

Reusable grocery bags are one of the first things I can remember seeing pop up on the market that promoted more sustainable living. Grocery stores everywhere started offering their own branded versions of totes and bags that you could purchase for relatively low costs and reuse time and time again on shopping trips. In California, where I’m from, plastic bags were banned altogether; however, instead of them being completely banned, these even thicker plastic bags started making their way into markets. The thicker plastic bags cost around $.10-$.15 per bag, but didn’t seem to be any less destructive than their lighter plastic counterparts. Not only that, but people who weren’t bringing bags had no quarrel with purchasing a couple of these bags and loading them to the brim with all they could fit, trying to save that next ten or fifteen cent purchase. This doesn’t have to be a difficult switch. In fact, there are several reusable bag options that you can try that cost no money at all. If you’re like me, you’ve been saving your old grocery bags since the dawn of time. You can bring these into the grocery store to reuse. I even have a ton of the smaller produce bags that I take with me to the grocery store as well as the farmers market (admittedly, they also work great as dog poop bags). Another free option is to create your own tote bags out of old t-shirts. Instructables.com has a great tutorial on this, and if you don’t have a sewing machine, you can always cut and tie the bottom of the bag as well. Another option I’ve used quite often for quick trips is just using a large purse. Really anything that you use to carry things in will work – tote bags, purses, backpacks, homemade bags, baskets, cardboard boxes, you name it – if it will hold things it will hold groceries. Want to use reusable bags, but always forget them? Keep a stash in your car. Having bags on hand at all times will make it more difficult to forget grabbing them at all.

2. Reusable Water Bottle

I used to buy Smart Waters at the gas station pretty regularly. I’d buy so many that my car was filled with plastic bottles, sometimes not even fully emptied (such a waste!). Once I realized how much I was wasting (and learning more about sustainability), I knew I needed to make a change. There is a serious water bottle crisis happening on our planet. According to this article from The Guardian, there are 1 million plastic bottles purchased every minute. This influx of plastic, although fully recyclable, has overarched our ability to process it all. There is just too much to handle. If you lined up all the plastic bottles purchased in 2016 alone, they would reach half way to the sun. THIS IS CRAZY. Enter: The reusable water bottle. My reusable water bottle of choice is a 24 oz ThermoFlask stainless steel water bottle. You can purchase a two-pack for around $35 from Amazon (they also sell them at Costco). When you add up all the money you spend on water bottles (if you were like me), you’ll be amazed at how much money you’ll save by switching to something more sustainable. Not only that, but I find that I drink more water, waste less water and I’m no longer contributing to the plastic water bottle crisis that is occurring in our day and age. A perfect accompaniment to your new reusable water bottle, is a filter pitcher. This ensures you have bottle-ready quality water to drink (at a fraction of the cost), but also ensures you aren’t contributing to what is already a crisis of epic proportions.

3. Bring Cutlery From Home

If you’ve read any other part of my blog, you know that I very much enjoy cooking and meal prepping. I love being able to bring homemade lunches to work. Not only does this save me time and money, but it makes me feel better throughout the day. Not only that, but the less fast food I purchase, the less I contribute to the use of single-serve plastic cutlery, containers and other utensils. But up until recently, I was eating my lunch at work and realized that I am still using the single-serve plastic cutlery that my workplace provides. This is an exceptionally easy switch, because it does not cost any extra money, it simply requires you pack utensils from home in your lunch. A typical set for me is a spoon for breakfast and a fork for lunch. I pack them in my lunch bag, use them at work then bring them home to be washed. I think what I’ll eventually do is buy a set of utensils from the thrift store and bring them to work to stay. I can wash and use them at work and stop using the single-serve options that seem so convenient. Truth be told, I think food actually tastes better with real utensils! I’ve also seen people do this on the go so that if they end up eating out somewhere they have their own utensils on hand.

4. Thrift, Thrift. Thrift

Again, if you’ve read any other part of my blog, you know that I’m huge into thrifting. Thrifting is the one thing I’ve been doing pretty much me entire life that I didn’t even realize was sustainable. It’s sustainable because instead of purchasing new things, you are recycling pre-owned items and saving them from the landfill. Truth be told, most of my house is furnished with things from the thrift store and most of the items in my closet are thrifted as well. Not only is it sustainable, it’s a great way to save money. You can find pretty much anything at the thrift store, especially if you’re patient, and I regularly find things that are brand new at a fraction of the price they would normally be. For more tips about what to look for at the thrift store visit my post here.

5. Dryer Balls vs Dryer Sheets

Dryer balls are a great way to live more sustainably in that they cut down on waste as well as save you money. Dryer sheets can add up in cost, but with dryer balls, you buy one set and reuse them over and over. Certain sets allow you to add essential oils for an extra scent and others can even attract lint (for those of us with pets, this is a lifesaver!). My favorite set comes from Grove Collaborative (click here for a referral link).  You can buy them alone or purchase them with a bottle of essential oil. (PS. Grove has alot of other great sustainable options for cleaning supplies and other home items – be sure to use the referral link above for your FREE set of cleaning items). I love my dryer balls because they make it so that the clothes dry faster (less energy) while also helping to reduce lint and static from my laundry. I definitely recommend checking these out.

6. Reuse Your Ziploc Bags

Sometimes, trying to be more sustainable can cost money. All of the new reusable snack bags, beeswax food wrappers, fabric produce bags – sure they all look great on your Instagram, but sometimes it’s just not practical to go out and spend a bunch of money on your newfound values. Plus, I know when I started trying to make small changes to my life, I still had alot of things I wasn’t ready to give up yet, or maybe ever. One of these things is Ziploc bags. I know, I know… They’re plastic, single use and get thrown out super quick thus adding to the overall problem. But this got me thinking, I already have a giant Costco sized pack of bags (it’s just me and my husband in the house, so buying in bulk makes things last forever). I don’t want to just toss them out and then spend even more money to buy new alternatives. I did some research online about the materials and makings of these little zipper pouches. Did you know you can wash them and reuse them? Yup. Thus making the Ziploc bag reusable. There’s a couple different ways you can wash them depending on your preference and time. The first is to hand wash. You simply flip the bag inside out, wash and set on a rack to dry. Make sure the bag is open and standing on top of it’s zipper when it’s drying so that the inside (which is actually the outside) dries completely. Another method that I was super surprised even worked is the top rack on your dishwasher. I prefer to hand wash since this can take up alot of space on your top rack, but it is a faster and easier solution if you’re in a rush. Simply do that same thing and flip the bag inside out. Place on the top rack of your dishwasher. I liked to use heavier glasses and things around the bags so they don’t end up flying around inside the washer. You can run a normal cycle with a dry cycle and voila! Resuable Ziploc bags. This is a great trick, and instead of spending money to buy those fancy velcroed snack bags you’ve been eyeing, you’re saving money instead.

So these are my main easy swaps for living a more sustainable life. Each of them are easy to switch and are either free, low cost or will end up saving you money in the long run. There are a bunch of other less easy swaps that I may write about later on, so let me know if you’re interested in those as well! I should also note that this post is not sponsored in any way. I link products that I enjoy using as a recommendation to you. I purchased these with my own money after doing my own research and have been very happy with the results. Let me know if you have any suggestions or questions!

How do you try and live a more sustainable life? Do you find some things are easier than others? Are you more likely to make a swap if it doesn’t effect your current routine or spending habits?

MelissaRose

Gardening in January

Sustainability

Part of my fourth New Year’s Resolution for 2019 is to become more self-sustainable by increasing the size of my garden. As stated in a previous post, I already have two good sized raised garden beds I plan on using as well as an in-ground bed on the side of my house. Last year, I only used the two raised beds and was able to get a decent crop of tomatoes, squash and zucchini, but this year I want to ramp it up a bit by using my side yard bed to incorporate some other crops into my garden. Now you may be thinking, “Gardening in January? What in the world can you get done in January?” Well, that’s what this post is all about.

I’m the kind of person who loves planning ahead. Whether it be groceries, outings or gardening I find great satisfaction in having a plan in place. When it comes to gardening, January is a great time to lay out what I want to accomplish. This gives me plenty of time to figure out what I will need to buy, what will go where and if there are any larger projects I need to finish before being able to move forward. The first thing I like to do is outline my space. Where am I going to plant? Do I have enough room? Do the beds need to be prepared? And lastly, what am I going to plant? The last question is the most fun and can sometimes take the most time depending on how much space you have. I have pretty limited room if I’m sticking to good spatial requirements between plants, so I have to be a little picky about which plants I choose. I also look at planting calendars for my zone (I’m in 9b – northern-ish California) to determine if there are certain items I can cycle in and out of my garden beds. A good place to check for your zone is Garden.org. You can then use your zone to figure out what your planting  calendar is. I’m using this planting guide from Urban Farmer. Their entire site is filled with great tips and tricks.

I know I have three garden beds I want to use for vegetables. From there, I can pretty much determine how many plants per bed I will be able to fit, of course depending on what the plant is. I am probably going to follow a similar structure to what I did last year, since the plants seemed to have enough room to provide a decent crop. The only difference is that I will not do as many tomato plants as I did last year – I had two normal size varieties and two cherry varieties. This year, I’d like to cut back and maybe do one of each in order to make more room for a different vegetable. The larger plants can only fit a couple per bed, so I will be doing a squash and a zucchini plant in one bed together. I’d also like to have a cucumber plant, which I believe is fairly large also, so I’m planning on leaving room in the side yard bed for that. So far that makes for the following plant list: 1 tomato plant, 1 cherry tomato plant, 1 zucchini plant, 1 summer squash plant and 1 cucumber. The other items I’d like to plant, and may have to cycle, are spinach, carrots, green beans and broccoli. A couple of these are colder weather plants (spinach, carrots, broccoli), so I am going to try and cycle these out of the beds as the warmer crops seeds become ready for transplanting.

The next step I’ve been working on is collecting my items for growing my own seeds. This year I want to grow my own seeds because it will cut down on costs but will also ensure that I’m harvesting fully organic produce. I also love the idea of having extra plants that I can give away to family and friends. Originally, I strayed away from wanting to do seeds because I thought it would cost more than just buying the plants, but I have learned that there are several items that I can repurpose to get started. I am going to use old egg cartons to start my seeds, old food trays (like from vegetable party and cheese trays) to hold them together and catch excess water, and I’ve already starting purchasing small terra cotta pots from the thrift store at a fraction of the cost of the home supply stores. This is already saving me a ton of money and makes me feel better about being able to reuse things that otherwise may have just been thrown away. I’ll be sure to document these steps as I go.

Soon, it will be time to start some seeds. In my zone, I can start planting some of my seeds as early as the end of this month, so that’s what I plan on doing. I haven’t purchased any of my seeds yet since I’m still just in the planning phase, but according to my planting calendar, I can get started on my tomatoes, spinach and broccoli seeds this month. I am going to buy all of my seeds at one time once I’m ready (and figure out where I want to buy them), and then start planting them indoors according to my zone’s calendar. I cannot wait to start this process and see how well I’m able to do. This will be my first time starting a garden from seeds and I’m hoping that with enough determination and research that I will have a flourishing garden that I can feed myself and my husband with all year long.

Do you enjoy gardening at home? What are some of your favorite vegetables to grow? And what are some of your favorite vegetables to eat?

MelissaRose

Dried Orange Garland

Sustainability

A dried orange garland is the perfect bohemian accessory for your home around the holidays. It is cheap, easy to create and has an interesting history. To keep the story short, before Christianity the Romans would celebrate winter solstice. To decorate they would hang wreaths, garlands and other natural elements to honor their gods. This is where the idea for the Christmas tree came from. So in a sense, the dried orange garland is simply a blast from the past – a little piece of nature in honor of nature. Anyway, this garland is a charming and unique addition that I enjoyed making and hanging in my home. Here’s what you need:

2 navel oranges

A knife

Rope, string or twine of some kind for the actual garland

Scissors

Lint free cloth (basically something that isn’t going to leave fuzzies on your oranges)

Parchment or a silicone baking mat

Baking sheet

  1. Preheat oven to 250ºF.
  2. Slice the oranges into 1/4” slices and press with a lint free cloth to dry.
  3. Use your slices and your top to determine how long you want your garland by laying them out as far apart as you want them to be. I made my oranges very close together, almost overlapping one another, but you could also leave space between them as well if you like that look better. Once you have your length determined, cut the rope to size.
  4. Place orange slices on your parchment lined baking sheet (or silicone baking mat) and bake oranges for 1 1/2 hours. Once complete, flip over and bake for additional 1 1/2 hours. After 3 1/2 hours if oranges have started to brown, remove them from the oven and continue baking the rest until they have dried. This took me about 4 hours overall for every slice, but will depend based on varying oven temperatures.
  5. Once all the oranges are dry, thread them onto the rope. You can poke two holes in the oranges about 1/4” apart, or you can do what I did and thread through the center and then through any opening in the fruit. I thought this gave it a more natural look, but both ways work.
  6. Once all slices are on the rope, tie off the ends and hang to enjoy!
Processed with VSCO with t1 preset

ThredUp Update

Sustainability

joel-moisa-229262.jpg

So I decided I wanted to do an update about my ThredUp experience. I ordered a few items from them about a month ago, you can read about it here. Unfortunately, only one of the items really ended up working out for me because of fit. This is not to say that this is ThredUp’s fault by any means, it only means that I need to accept that I have a small and awkward body type that makes it difficult to buy clothing online no matter what the brand is. But, I thought I would share my return experience with you, because it was so quick and easy and hopefully it will help someone out there gain the confidence to at least try the online thrifting experience.

ThredUp Online Thrift Store

Sustainability

thredup.jpg

As I said in my last post, I LOVE thrifting – “love” may not even be appropriate as I have recently become addicted to the idea (and action) of buying everything in my life secondhand at a fraction of the amount I’d normally spend. But there’s another shopping method that shares thrifting’s spot at the top of my love list – online shopping. All of the online services such as Amazon, Prime Now, E-Cart (Raley’s) and more make it so easy to order everything your heart desires without having to get dressed or leave your house (with E-Cart you do have to pick up your order, but you don’t actually have to go into the store). I use all of these pretty often to buy everything from body wash to bluetooth speakers – seriously, I ordered a bluetooth speaker on Prime Now this weekend and had it within two hours – SO COOL. Most recently though, I found that my two loves had been combined by someone who must be one of the smartest people on the planet – allow me to introduce you to ThredUp – the Largest Online Thrift Store – otherwise known as heaven. I had not heard of them until I watched this video by Youtube vlogger thataylaa, where she shows all the items she bought and did a try-on video. What-the-what!? You can get super cute, cheap clothes online without having to put on any clothes!? I said to myself with a squeal of joy – I HAD to try it. And try it I did, and I gotta say, I’m impressed. Keep reading to see what I got, how it showed up and to get yourself $10 off on your order.

Top 5 Items to Thrift

Sustainability

jessica-ruscello-99566.jpg

Love thrifting? I know I do! But some people are still turned off by the idea of buying items that were once used by others. I get it – you imagine someone sweating all over a shirt – it’s wet, stinky and so not okay – you couldn’t possibly wear it after all that. BUT what if that shirt was an Anthropology blouse valued at $65, and you get swoop it up for a mere $4.99, throw it in the wash and have a new-to-you top – would you reconsider? Think about this, when you stay in a hotel room – and I would think most of us have – you are sleeping on sheets that hundreds, maybe even thousands (ick!), of other people have slept in. And sleep is not all that’s happening on these sheets, people – I’ll let your imagination do the wandering. However, these sheets are stripped from countless numbers of beds to be washed and reused by the next poor soul – and the cycle continues. Sorry – did I just ruin hotels for you? This strange example is how I convinced my husband to at least take a peek at the men’s clothes at our local Goodwill – and what do you know, he went home with a J. Crew t-shirt (so PROUD!), a summer tank and a very nice patterned button-up shirt for work, all for around $15 – #winning! (is that still a thing?). The same goes for dishes, utensils, rugs, blankets and pretty much everything else – I draw the line at intimates and bathing suits… just… no. Not only does a thrifty lifestyle save you a bunch of time and money (I say time because you can usually get all goods at one thrift store *cue angelic choir*), but you are also helping to lessen your footprint on our Mother Earth. So many items are manufactured and sold every day only to later be tossed aside or, in the best cases, donated to your local thrift stores. You are literally helping to save the Earth one thrift trip at a time – it doesn’t get better than that!

AND SO – for my first post, I am going to give you my top 5 items to purchase at a thrift store and why. For those of you that are also located in Sacramento, I’ll even include where I think some of the best thrift stores are for specific items AND throw in some note-worthy sale info. Keep reading to learn how you too can get the best for less, while also earning a grown-up sustainability badge that can make anyone feel better about buying more stuff.