Category Archives: Gardening

Organic Gardening: 7 Things You Can Repurpose to Use in Your Garden

It makes both good sense, and good cents, to grow your own vegetables at home in an organic garden. No matter how much or how little space and/or time you have, you can still plant a container garden and harvest some home grown tomatoes and peppers. Whether you’re a seasoned gardener or trying out your green thumb for the first time in organic gardening, try these ideas for 7 things you can recycle to use in your garden.

Food Scraps

Any food items other than meat scraps or grease can be recycled into compost and used to enrich your soil, which in turn feeds plants and enables them to yield a bigger harvest. Used coffee grounds and crumbled egg shells are two of the best soil amendments and can be placed directly on top of the soil (in-ground or container gardens) to nourish plants. Create a small compost pile to toss other food scraps until they decompose into ‘black gold’ then work into garden soil for free and chemical-free compost.

Tin Cans

Large tin cans, like those that spaghetti sauce or juice come in, can be recycled and used as feeding and watering tubes for garden plants. Wash the tin cans and cut both ends. Dig a hole the size of the tin can in the garden soil and place the can in the soil, then plant a few vegetables around the can. Use the open-ended tin can to deliver water directly to plant roots throughout the growing season. Make compost tea to pour in the cans to provide organic food to plants.

Recycled Mulch

Grass clippings and tree leaves (raked during the fall) provide free, organic mulch for vegetable plants. Mulch helps keep the soil cool, retain moisture and discourage weed growth.

Plastic Milk Jugs

Get a head start on the growing season by using clean plastic milk jugs as mini greenhouses. Cut the bottom fourth off a gallon milk jug and place over tiny vegetable seedlings to provide them with protection from the elements and create a greenhouse environment. Remove lid on warm days and replace during cold nights.

Plastic Buckets

Food grade plastic buckets that are used in the deli and restaurant industry are perfect for recycling into harvesting buckets. The size, handles and lids make these buckets perfect for carrying to the garden to harvest fresh produce and for transporting vegetables.

Pantyhose

Many vegetable plants, like tomatoes and cucumbers, need to be staked and tied to keep them off the ground during the growing season. Nothing beats strips of used pantyhose for tying vegetable plants to their support system. Pantyhose stretch and will not cut into tender vines like rope or twine will and the nylon fabric is strong enough to last all summer.

Recycled Support

Tree limbs that have been pruned can be fashioned into a tee-pee for supporting climbing veggies, like cucumbers and sugar snap peas. Old iron headboards, fence posts or shovel handles or other tall, portable items can be given new life in an organic garden as vegetable stakes and trellises to keep produce off the ground.

Jeremy Aarons writes about home improvement, parenting and all things related to being a stay at home dad. Recently, he’s explored his journey earning a sociology degree online while spearheading a communal garden for his neighborhood.

 

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Simple Outdoor Home Security Projects

Protecting your home is easier than you think. More often than not, people choose not to protect their home because they think the cost is astronomical or that nothing will ever happen to them. However, there are a lot of security projects that you can implement around your home for little to no cost, but that can actually boost your security portfolio as much as larger projects would.

This post is designed to share these outdoor security tips in the hope that someone will jump on these projects to protect themselves before anything happens. While these tips will not stop all burglars, it can help deter most criminals to keep you and your family safe.

Security Sign

Here are some simple home security tips and projects:

–          Mind your landscaping. Your landscaping can say a lot about you, but one thing you don’t want it to say is, “rob me!” However, it is very common to find an overgrown lawn or an unattended row of bushes. To a burglar, this means that you might be away on vacation. Regularly trim your lawn and the rest of your landscaping. When it comes to bushes around your home, keep them three feet or shorter in height. Taller bushes provide a hiding place for burglars so they can work without being noticed.

–          Trim the trees that come within 7-9 feet of your home. Burglars can climb these trees and make a jump for a second story window. You may think it sounds impossible, but it does happen. Trimming these trees is also beneficial for neighborhood support. More often than not, your neighbors are the ones spotting something out of place so having trimmed trees where passersby can see your lawn will ward off burglars.

–          Put gravel around the immediate perimeter of your home. This acts like a security alarm for any burglars prowling around your windows. Burglars will try to avoid making any possible noise. Stepping on a large trail of pebbles will easily give them away so a potential burglar might move on.

–          Put home security signs around your home. Four out of 5 burglars said that they are deterred by a home security sign outside. Burglars don’t want to risk any chance of being caught so if it comes down to your home with a sign and your neighbor’s without, they would be more likely to go next door.

–          An additional security measure you could take is adding a surveillance system to your home. If you think it is overly expensive, there are other options such as a fake security camera. These look like the real thing and even have a battery operated “recording light.” This can help ward off many burglars who avoid wearing masks or disguises to better blend in like a person who should be there. They don’t want to be caught on camera and a surveillance system, real or fake, can help protect your home.

These are just some of the simple steps that you can take to protect your home. These projects are designed to increase the security of your home without breaking the bank.

About the Author: Dan Miller is a writer and home security expert for http://www.homesecuritydeals.com. He seeks to provide low cost security solutions for those looking to protect themselves. When he is not working on a DIY project, he is watching football with his lovely wife.

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Two Environmental Actions You Can Take to Address Multiple Problems at Once

Every day brings more reasons to be concerned about the modern economy’s environmental costs. These costs were once effectively hidden from view, but mass media, social networking, and the scale of consumer activity have all brought knowledge of environmental destruction into everyone’s backyard. A walk in the local park will more than likely reveal tires, abandoned construction materials and other toxic trash, and almost every waterway features a polluting industry upstream that makes parents warn their kids to not go swimming.

The scale of pollution and abuse being heaped on the places many adults safely enjoyed just decades ago can be disheartening. The idea that dealing with these problems effectively requires sacrifice is a popular one, and it adds to the hopelessness. Everyday people have shown time and again, however, that caring for the land provides benefits far in excess of the sacrifice. Positive actions can even provide savings in your budget. Consider these two actions to begin visualizing what is possible.

Master Gardeners 015

Organizing Clean-ups

American culture is filled with stories of rugged individualism where one person begins doing something for the benefit of all only to be joined by others in the same pursuit. Why not start off with community involvement? Some parks are regularly maintained by municipal areas for public relations purposes. Other parks, and even out of the way places in popular parks, are often left uncared for by bureaucracies with limited budgets. There may be ordinances against dumping, but these areas become filled with waste. A lot of it is toxic.

Partnering with a local environmental group to sponsor a clean-up of your favorite park will have profound effects. The water will be cleaner for starters, and outdoors enthusiasts will find these more isolated areas enhance their ability to enjoy the local flora and fauna. Removing old tires in these locations will dramatically reduce mosquito populations.

This action could easily be combined with local recycling programs or efforts to replace invasive plants with native vegetation. The possibilities depend only on your dedication and community resources.

Gardening

The combination of pesticide use, monoculture farms and yards, and a general fear of insects and germs has combined to reduce wildlife and put species diversity in danger. The most common remedy for this is planting native plants that provide food for native wildlife. If attracting local butterflies and songbirds to your yard isn’t enough of a benefit, native plants can always be chosen based on their usefulness. A little research will reveal every region has a number of native plants that once provided inhabitants with food, medicines, and aesthetic pleasure.

Any individual can make this effort, but community efforts will create more opportunities. Partnerships with native plant societies and trusts created by concerned citizens can ensure larger tracts of land will always be available to future community gardeners. Summer and after-school programs can receive grants with the right non-profit partnership, which will ensure a safe place for children to get exercise and learn local lore from older generations.

Of course, native gardening is only part of the picture. Vegetable gardens and miniature forests can also be used for the same effects. Many gardeners combine all of these with composting, vermiculture, chicken cooping, and other efforts. A combination of clean-ups and gardening will reduce your impact on the land and reduce the community’s impact on the global systems everyone relies upon.

Billie Seddon is a conservation writer who works with NRDC and other organizations to protect our health and environment. She urges everyone to learn about the damaging effects being caused by extreme weather conditions.

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Things To Enjoy In An Organic Garden

An organic garden is a place where you don’t utilize any type of chemical fertilizers to your plants.  Every plant in the garden is nurtured using the natural way and they grow physically healthier than plants fertilized with chemicals.  There are many things you can do in an organic garden, and you will find out that it is fun to work in one.

To grow an organic garden you need to know some of its rules.  The method of planting is basically the same but there are also some distinctive differences when growing an organic garden.  First of all, you have to determine what type of plant you want to grow in your garden.  It can be a flower garden, a vegetable garden or even a garden filled with herbs.  You must set a realistic plan, though.  It is more appropriate to begin growing a small garden because it is easier to manage.  You can always expand it anytime you want in the future.

It is also important to choose an appropriate location to grow your organic garden.  It mainly depends on the type of plants you want to grow in the garden.  If you want to grow a vegetable garden, it is best to select a location where the ground receives sunshine at a minimum of 6 hours daily.  You must also include a proper drainage system in your vegetable garden.  If you decide to grow a flower garden, the most suitable location is where you are able to view the beauty of your garden from the interior part of your home.

You will need some storage space for all the tools and the bulbs, seeds and planting equipment a deck storage box is not likely to be big enough but getting a couple of them may be just enough space and they are easier to use than a shed.

When your organic garden is already matured, it will look really beautiful.  You can even arrange for a wedding gazebo to be placed in your organic flower garden.  The wedding gazebo looks pretty if you put it there as a decoration, but it is also possible to organize a real wedding ceremony if you want to.

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Suntory Vs. The Blue Rose Petals

True Blue

Suntory Holdings unveiled its blue rose ‘Applause’ at a press conference on October 20, 2009, almost a year ago now. The first thing one notices, in spite of all the coverage, including the internet ‘acclaim’ long before the reality, and the fact its petals, genetically, are supposed to contain blue pigment (from an advertisement: “…Suntory Holdings said to be the world’s first roses with nearly 100 percent blue pigment in the petals…”), these roses are, to the naked eye, not truly blue at all, but a shade of lilac. Please see an image of one below.

Perhaps the ‘applause’ should have been held until an authentic blue rose, one that in appearance matches what has been sought in reality, indeed makes its appearance. True the search has been something of a Holy Grail to breeders for at least a century and really quite a long time before this century; and the comparison to the search for the Holy Grail is as ubiquitous as the claim that search has ended at last with the cultivar of Suntory and Florigene. Still this is not an authentic blue rose, and the real claim that should be voiced is simply this ‘cultivar’ now has, perhaps, the potential of breeding what will be, sometime in the future, an authentic blue rose.

Blue Moon Etc.

Of course blue roses don’t exist in nature. The gene making the color possible doesn’t exist in roses; a fact that has only relatively recently come into the light. Florigene isolated the gene responsible for the expression of the color blue in 1991.

Traditionally the alternative has been dyeing white roses creating ‘faux blue’ roses; in fact, a book from the 12th century, by Zubair ibn al-Awam, The Book of Andalusian Agriculture, and translated into French by J. J. Clement-Mullet in 1874, describes a process for creating blue roses by placing blue dye in the bark of the roots.

The desire for blue roses has been around a long time! There is also supposed to have been a prize of 500,000 francs offered back in 1840 by the horticultural societies of Britain and Belgium to the first person able to create a blue rose.

Of course conventional breeding methods for creating a blue rose ‘naturally’ have long been attempted but yielded, well, only roses of a lilac hue, such as the ‘Blue Moon’ variety of hybrid tea roses. The Blue Moon variety is very reminiscent of the Suntory ‘Applause’.

The blue rose has a meaning in the so-called language of flowers; having fallen out of use nowadays, in Victorian times coded messages could be sent in this language allowing expression of feelings that otherwise could not be spoken. In this language the blue rose, courtesy of Wikipedia, has meant: “Mystery, attaining the impossible, love at first sight.”

The collaboration between Santory and Florigene that resulted in the blue rose is in fact no mean feat and has been an ongoing project for some twenty years. Really it is only by using one of the latest techniques in genetic engineering, so-called gene silencing, that the blue rose was birthed. And still we are not really at the end of the road. It has proven a little more difficult to create a blue rose than Florigene may have imagined when first setting their sights on the target.

Suntory vs. the Blue Rose Petals

The blue rose developed by Santory is more of a triumph of the current age’s belief in Science than anything else; seeing is believing notwithstanding. It is easy to imagine people buying these up, sending them to co-workers, friends and lovers etc, proclaiming their ‘blueness’ when in fact they don’t look blue at all. Still the faith is the line will eventually succeed in producing the real thing. Roses that not only are blue, but even look blue as well.

For the time being these are the real thing! Twenty years of hard work and Santory and Science can’t be wrong. There is a species of counterfactual, even surreal humor in the marketing of these blue roses that aren’t blue. Rene Magritte would have smiled.

Bans on Genetically Modified Plants

The other interesting thing about the Suntory blue roses, beyond being not blue, is their being genetically modified; their cultivation might not be allowed in some countries because of controls placed on genetically modified plants. Monsanto has spoiled this game a bit, for everybody, with its ‘Terminator’ seed technology.

From Genetically Modified Plants & Sterile Seeds on healthy-eating-politics.com:

This “Terminator” technology produces genetically modified plants that have sterile seeds, which do not flower or grow fruit after the initial planting, requiring customers to purchase new seed from Monsanto for every planting in which they use Monsanto seed varieties.”

And from The Guardian re a recent meeting in Europe on this very subject:

“We hope this will break the deadlock over GM, but it’s missing a defence of fundamental principles [of choice]. In some countries there might be more cultivation, but in many it will mean the end of the right of farmers to grow them at all.”

TKO

From physorg.com: “Blue shades should be achievable if Florigene and Suntory researchers can make the rose’s petals less acidic.  Rose petals are moderately acidic, with a pH around 4.5, while carnation petals are less so, with a pH of 5.5.

Florigene and Suntory researchers have ‘fished around’ for roses with higher petal pH, but the low-acidity trait appears to be genetically limited in roses. Researchers are now using RNAi gene-knockout technology to identify genes that influence petal acidity, or that modulate petal colour in other ways.”

The delphinidin gene cloned from a pansy, an enzyme gene from an iris to trigger the reaction, and a synthetic gene, suppressing the DFR gene in a pink rose, this was the 1-2-3 combination that did the trick. Of course the residue of cyanidin, and the natural ph of roses have combined and left not a blue rose, but one just like what you see above, in the picture.

In other words, even with the ‘TKO’ Florigene and Suntory may have scored with its Blue Roses so-called, the real thing, roses that are in fact blue, may yet be years away. And of course, it goes without saying, Suntory and Florigene, after some 20 years of research, were probably anxious to at last get their roses on the market, blue or not.

Florigene

Originally Calgene Pacific Ltd, one of Australia’s first biotechnology companies, after acquiring Florigene, a Dutch rival in 1993, they took their name; Florigene had an international reputation. They were in turn acquired by Nufam in ’99 and Suntory, through Nufam, a global agrochemicals giant, now has a 98.5% equity holding in Florigene.

Here is what Florigene has to say of their research effort, from their website:

“In July 2004 Suntory scientists joint project team announced to the world the development of the first rose in the pipeline to a true blue rose.”

Also from their website:

“Florigene’s original mission was to create the world’s first “blue rose” through genetic modification. With our then partner Suntory Limited, our scientists succeeded in isolating the blue gene (from the petunia flower) in 1991 and patents were filed in all major countries in 1992.”

Neanderthal Genes

Probably, out of all this talk of blue roses, the use of gene silencing technology to ‘knockout’ the expression of the rose’s DFR gene, and our faith in Science to lead us eventually to a rose that is truly blue, and not the counterfeit Suntory has put on the market, these two points stand out.

The ‘quiet’ revolution molecular genetics is ushering in, under our noses, so close most of us don’t notice the first repercussions, is without doubt sobering and even a wee bit frightening; considering Monsanto’s bid to monopolize the market really way beyond sobering and frightening to something else entirely. The word evil springs to mind as being closer to reality.

Yet another aspect of this ‘quiet’ revolution, on a totally different front, is the possibility of creating a colony of Neanderthals in our very midst; their genome is being recreated and the idea of doing such a thing, ‘cloning’ a colony, is being considered in some depth, in some scientific quarters; see Should We Clone Neanderthals at Archaeology Magazine on-line. Perhaps the authentic blue roses, hawked at a ridiculously high price of course, will arrive just in time to welcome this equally unique colony to the age of the impossible.

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