Wednesday, July 29, 2015

We've Moved!

This week we have a special announcement for all of our dear readers.

We've been working on a new blog site for a while, and it's finally LIVE!

The new site is a place where we can share more recent news, tips, and helpful articles on sustainable and organic gardening, as well as urban gardening, and gardening in small spaces. It has a fresh, new look, and more frequent updates, so you can find the information you need to grow a successful garden - no matter where you live!

Check it out now at

And also be sure to Like our new Facebook page - dedicated solely to sustainable and organic gardening topics!

We've enjoyed providing valuable gardening resources to you for all these years, and we look forward to continuing to do so on our new site, so we hope you will check us out, download the free small space gardening report, and follow us on Facebook to stay updated.

You can also submit a contact form on the new website and ask us your gardening questions!

See you on the new site!

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Make Gardening a Family Affair - Part 4: Have Fun!

There are a lot of things you can do in the garden that can be a lot of fun for your whole family, while making your garden even better!

For example, composting can be a fun project for adults or kids. Even though it does require some patience and effort, it’s something that kids will enjoy getting to help with. If you have depleted soil, you can give it back its natural vitality and health by using compost.

English: Composting in the Escuela Barreales.
Compost scraps in a bin. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
You can easily make your own compost, and it’s a great thing to add to the soil to grow better fruits and vegetables. You can get everyone involved in helping save the household waste that can go into the composting pile instead of into the garbage can.

Your family can learn how composting helps the garden by helping the soil retain moisture so that plants get the water that they need. Kids can learn how to tell when a compost pile is ready and which containers are best or easiest to use when creating a compost pile.

Gardening can be a fun family project when you allow your children to decorate their designated spaces in the garden. They can decorate with little toy butterflies or birds, and of course they can grow flowers as natural decorations!

You can let your child plant a fairy garden somewhere in their garden, and there are kits to help you do this. They can also use small decorative lights in the garden. Just make sure they’re placed far enough away from the plants so nothing hinders their growth.

Another fun thing that you can do is to make sure that every family member has his or her own gardening tools. Kids especially love this idea. You can even get a gardening bag that’s monogrammed with his or her name on it.

Child sized rakes, shovels, watering cans and hoes are good items to get, especially if the children are small - because they won’t be able to use many of the standard full-sized gardening tools.

When they have their own tools, kids will feel more involved in the process. Plus, child-size gardening tools also come in fun colors, which will help make it more interesting for your child. They’re also much safer for small children to use than standard adult-size gardening tools.

Skip The Teddy Bear (l) and Dog the Teddy Bear...
Toys gardening together. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Encourage your child to learn how to take care of his tools, how to clean them, and then keep them safely stored with yours until the next time they’re needed.

By teaching your child about the joy of gardening, they’re more likely to enjoy healthier food later in life.

Gardening will also open your child up to the huge variety of different fruits and vegetables available to choose from when it comes to eating. Instead of having to eat standard vegetables like peas and carrots all the time, your child may be open to trying more exotic and unique ones. This is a good way to get your child to eat vegetables. Many times kids don’t like standard vegetables like Brussels sprouts and broccoli, but if you introduce them to different ones - especially vegetables they grew themselves, they may be a lot more open to eating them.

The fun doesn’t have to stop when the garden items are harvested, either. You can teach your child how to make their favorite dishes with the vegetables and fruits that they grew as well! If you have a lot of berries, you can also teach your child how to make jam - or tasty smoothies using fresh fruit from the garden.

Not only can gardening help create special time together, but you’ll also be eating healthier as a family, and teaching your kids healthy habits that can last a lifetime. There's no better gift you can give!

Gardening Tools for Kids:


Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Make Gardening a Family Affair - Part 3: Get the Whole Family Involved

It may seem easier to do some of the harder steps of growing a garden by yourself - especially if you’ve had some experience gardening and can get it done faster. However, if you want to garden together as a family, and receive all of the benefits this can bring, it’s important that the others in your family also know how to do all of the steps.

They’re more likely to appreciate the end result more when they’ve been involved every step of the way. Also, if they only know the easy steps, they won’t know everything they need to know to begin their own garden!

By letting your family help in every step, they learn all the basics of gardening. They also learn the tips like when the best time is to plant certain seeds and what type of fruits and vegetables are the easiest to grow. They’ll learn how to prepare the soil and how to test it to make sure that it’s ready for growing things.

Kitchen garden
 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Your family will enjoy telling friends that they know how to garden. Many of the fruits and vegetables can be harvested and then canned or frozen. You can share them that way or in their fresh-from-the-garden state with family or friends. Giving a basket full of freshly grown food to someone can also teach your family about the importance of sharing and giving.

When the family is working in the garden, especially when it’s gardening with children, you want to make sure that they’re actually working in the gardening during that time. You want to check on them, but you also want to make sure that you’re giving them the freedom to learn and make discoveries on their own. It can be easy to hover over your children and tell them what to do every step of the way.

However, that should only be done the first few times you work in the garden together. If you continually hover, your child won’t learn how to work on his own and his accomplishment at having grown fruits and vegetables won’t be “just his.”

It’s important that you teach your child every step, make sure he or she understands, and then let him work on his own. If you’re worried that your child won’t remember to do certain things in the garden, you can make a colorful calendar for him!

Mark the days when he needs to water the plants or pull weeds. This way, you don’t have to continually remind him and he feels as though he’s accomplishing something on his own.

If you’re working in the garden with your spouse, remember that everyone has a way they like to do things, and not everything has to be done "your way." While this can be challenging if you're used to gardening on your own, if you approach it the right way, this can actually bring a fun and unique twist to gardening as a family.

Keep in mind that even though the garden might be hard work, it should still be something that all of you find fun and enjoy doing together. One of the ways that you can make sure your family enjoys gardening is to make sure that you do what you can to have fun throughout the process!

Next week, we'll cover some ways to make gardening fun for the whole family!

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Make Gardening a Family Affair - Part 2: Getting the Kids Involved

It isn’t always easy to get the kids to help around the house or work outside. Gardening can be a great way to change that. Let your entire family be involved from start to finish.

If you’re starting a garden from scratch, it’s a good idea to include your family members when picking a spot for the garden. This will help them feel needed in the garden and will get them excited at the thought of planting.

Make sure you involve the kids when you’re picking out most of the fruits and vegetables to grow. While you may choose something more useful, or a vegetable everyone in the family will eat, younger kids will enjoy a variety of plants. Some kids can have fun picking brightly colored fruits and vegetables.

Miniature bell peppers
Miniature bell peppers (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Bell peppers are great for small children because they’re some of the easiest vegetables to grow. Radishes are also very easy to grow and brightly colored. Snow peas are another great crop to garden with kids.

Both radishes and snow peas grow during the cool seasons. Kids tend to enjoy fruits more than vegetables, so strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries are great choices. Others may like getting fruits and vegetables that are more unique and that they aren’t used to seeing daily.

Also, you can look into miniature vegetables, like baby carrots and potatoes, baby cauliflower, and baby lettuce. These are perfect for little hands and they come in a variety of colors.

Baby vegetables are perfect for helping your child feel more confident when working in the garden because they’re easier. You don’t want to overwhelm him or her by starting with large fruits and vegetables that may be more difficult to care for.

Be careful that you don’t overwhelm your family if you’re someone who’s been gardening for awhile. Keep in mind that a medium-sized garden to you can seem huge to a child and a large garden can seem like it’s a daunting task to someone who isn’t used to it.

A good way to handle this is, if your children are very young, you can assign them each their own “spots” or “plants” in the garden. This way, you can look over them in the overall larger garden, but they’ll be learning how to water and care for a vegetable or fruit on their own, without feeling too overwhelmed.

As your children get older, you can expand their garden spaces so they’re growing more plants. You can also help to make sure as the space expands, that your children learn how to grow a wider variety of fruits and vegetables.

You can also broaden their cultural knowledge by planting fruits and vegetables that are used in different ethnic meals. You can introduce your family to several different vegetables when growing them.

Experimenting with different dishes is a great way to have some fun with your family. Your kids will enjoy picking out new dinners based on the foods that were grown in the garden!

Aside from picking out the seeds to plant, your family can help with the preparation. Kids especially like this part. Most kids love to help with getting the soil ready for planting. Digging is often a kid’s favorite part of working outside, but don’t limit him to just working in the dirt. Kids are very resourceful and will enjoy learning about and working in all parts of the garden.

A Girl with a Watering Can
Girl with Watering Can (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
If your children are very young, make sure to let them know they’re doing a great job whenever they’re working. It will help them feel more confident about what they’re doing.

Children can also help plant the seeds and water the fruits and vegetables as they grow. If your children are little, you can purchase tiny plastic watering cans so they’re able to water the plants along with you.

You can also keep a small corner of the garden for growing flowers along with the food items that your family chooses to use. Marigolds are great for gardens because they’re low maintenance and easy to care for.

Whatever flower you decide on, make sure it’s non-toxic if you’re gardening with small kids. When planting and caring for a garden, remember that while you know better, if you’re working with younger ones, they might not realize that they can’t put everything from the garden into their mouths. Some vegetable tops can make a child sick. So make sure they understand the importance of not eating out of the garden unless it’s an appropriate food item and has been washed first.

Engaging your kids in the process of growing a garden can be a great way to help them learn about the world and become more self-sufficient!

It's also a good way to keep your family involved with one another, and give everyone a sense of responsibility over their own area of the garden. We'll discuss this aspect more next week, so be sure to check back then for some more family-friendly gardening tips!

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Make Gardening a Family Affair - Part 1: Why Gardening Is Good for the Whole Family!

Gardening offers so many benefits for those who make it a part of their lives! It can put some extra food on the table, offer nutritious foods for your family’s good health, and it can be a fun hobby, too. However, not only can it be a great activity for one person, but it can also be a bonding experience for the whole family to do together.

When you involve your loved ones in gardening, it also lightens the workload of one person having to prepare and care for a garden, and it will give your family time to support each other, offer praise, and share excitement – all in a peaceful setting without the intrusion of electronics.

It’s easy to get your whole family involved in creating and maintaining a sustainable garden. Your spouse and children can help take care of the garden as a whole - with everyone working side by side, or you can split up portions of the garden into different sections and rotate it among family members so that each person spends time helping another person in your family.

Why Gardening Is Good for the Family

English: Children gardening
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Gardening isn’t just a good hobby. You can learn a lot of different things through gardening, including self-sufficiency. When you involve your family in the process of growing their own fruits and vegetables, you’ll be helping them learn many useful things that can benefit them now as well as later on in life.

When your family gardens, everyone will have to learn which fruits and vegetables are best grown in the spring and summer, and which ones are best grown in the fall. You can give everyone a lesson on planting zones and how to choose which produce grows best in your area.

You will also learn how weather can affect plants, how water and sunshine help the plant to grow, and what bugs are attracted to certain plants. These facts will interest teens as well as younger kids.

You can learn more than just the facts and benefits of plants for food. When you garden with your family, you can learn other uses for a plant. For instance, some of them have been used throughout human history to treat certain health issues.

Teach them that the basil they’re growing can possibly help treat headaches. Let them know that the lavender they see sprouting up is something that can help calm and soothe them after a stressful day, even helping them sleep better at night!

As you work with your family to plant and care for a garden, let them learn which fruits and vegetables work best with certain dishes and which ones they like most. You don’t want to plant something no one likes and that you’ll never eat!

Gardening is also a great way to explore and learn brand new foods to try. If you’re first starting out, use fruits and vegetables that are easy to grow, such as beets, carrots, cucumbers, snap peas, and blackberries.

Once you’ve been gardening for awhile, don’t be afraid to experiment with different fruits and vegetables. Mix up your garden to create some color and variety. Have fun letting others in your family choose what to plant in the garden! Teens and younger kids will especially enjoy having this choice.

Another benefit of gardening is getting to watch your kids become self-confident when they learn to grow a vegetable or fruit on their own.

You’ll also get to see your child become more responsible as they take care to water the plants and pull weeds to help the garden grow.

Let your family members each be responsible for their own fruits and vegetables. Allow them to learn and to research the care that different types of plants need.

English: Brian Farrell with helper plants at O...
 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Gardening can also help open up communication. If you have older kids and teenagers, many parents find it hard to communicate with them. But if you can have them help you in the garden, it creates time you can spend with them one on one – without friends texting them or the TV blaring in the background. Sometimes, all it takes is doing an activity together to help strengthen family bonds!

Not only does gardening help with communication, but it also opens your family up to having something they all share. It helps bring the family together and adds closeness.

This works the same with your spouse.

If you both work, time with each other can be limited. But having something that you both take care of together can offer a time for communication as well as a fun hobby.

Just keep in mind that different family members will enjoy certain tasks more than others. While you might enjoy pulling weeds, another family member might not be so thrilled with it. Make sure to split up the tasks so no one gets stuck doing something he or she hates.

As you can see, gardening together as a family has many benefits for everyone, and can help bring your family closer together doing something productive that you all can enjoy!

Be sure to check back next week for some more helpful tips on getting your kids involved in the garden....

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

14 Organic Vegetable Gardening Tips

Gardening is one of those pastimes that is more than a hobby - it's personal! And to complicate it, Mother Nature doesn't always help you out. How, then, do you succeed with your vegetable garden? It's never a sure thing, but these gardening tips and bits of advice might help.

1. Keep a journal. Record when you plant, how much you planted, how much you harvested, any bug or disease issues and what you think you might do differently next year. Then next year, refer back to what you wrote. You'll be surprised by how much you can forget in a year if you don't write it down.

Raised bed of lettuce, tomatoes, 6 different t...
Raised bed of lettuce, tomatoes, 6 different types of basil, marigolds, zinnias, garlic chives, zucchini. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
2. Keep a positive attitude. That total fail with your tomatoes this year? It will make a good discussion piece with other gardeners. And next year can only be better. Hopefully.

3. Tis better to cover your tender plants before the heavy rain and hail starts, not during. Keep your eye to the sky and take weather forecasts seriously.

4. Every year is different. Don't ever think you've got this thing in the bag, because if you do, you're jinxing your next crop.

5. Plan for moderation. When planning out your garden during the winter, reduce the size and number of plantings you think you want. Looking at those seed catalogs makes you go overboard - I know from experience!

6. It starts and ends with your soil. (I would double-bold that if I could.) The health of your soil is more important than you might realize. Healthy soil makes healthy disease-resistant plants that give a good yield.

Also, it's soil, not dirt.  :-)

7. Kitchen gardens are placed near the kitchen for a reason. Gardeners who break their backs digging, hoeing and weeding, don't want to walk too far to pick a few things to go in the dinner.

8. When seed packs say not to plant outside before the first frost date, they mean it.  But sometimes you can get away with starting before the approved planting date by using row covers, cold frames, or Wall O' Waters. It's up to you if you want to take your chances.

9. If you're planting a seedling, peat pot and all, tear off the bottom of the pot. The pots are supposed to decompose but that can take a while and you don't want your seedlings to become root-bound.

10. Pole beans aren't the only thing that can climb a trellis; so can cucumbers, melons and squash. Think vertical - especially when you're space-challenged.

11. If you have raised beds, you can use an old window or door screen to cover small seedlings so they're protected from birds, bunnies and bugs.

English: Powdery Mildew on a tomato plant Fran...
Powdery Mildew on a tomato plant. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
12. Worms in your garden are a good sign. Slugs are not.

13. Your tomatoes will never taste exactly the same from year to year; it's going to depend on the weather and water conditions.

14. Water your vegetables in the early mornings. Midday watering can mean evaporation in the hot sun, and can sometimes burn the leaves if they get wet, and nighttime watering might give your plants powdery mildew problems from being moist all night.

These vegetable gardening tips should give you a leg up, but they're only the beginning. For more, get yourself a gardening app for your phone or iPad, read gardening books and magazines, talk to experienced old-timers, and get out there and experience it firsthand. There's nothing more rewarding than growing a successful garden!

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Product Review: Forest City Yimby Tumbling Composter

Composting is one of those things that all gardeners know they should be doing, but a lot avoid. Most say they don’t know how to set up an area to compost, they don’t know what to do, or they simply don’t have anywhere to set up a compost pit. One of the easiest ways to compost is with a tumbling composter.

A tumbling composter is basically a canister on its side. You put all of the things you want to compost in there and you can mix it by spinning the chamber. With a normal composting bin, turning your compost is by far the most unpleasant part of the entire experience. 

I have an Envirocycle, but I don't think they make these anymore, so I wanted to find one I could recommend to our readers, and this one seems to be a highly-reviewed model.

Dual canisters mean you can start using your compost sooner. Once you start seeing good soil in the first canister you can start putting your vegetable matter in the second canister. By the time you finish up using the first batch the second will be well on its way to being ready.

A sturdy steel frame means you don’t need to worry about it falling over as you fill up the barrel.

Easily remove the compost by opening up the door of the chamber that’s ready and turn it so it can pour out into your cart, wheelbarrow, or bucket. (I do wish my Envirocycle had this feature - since it's not on a raised frame, it gets very hard to empty when it's full and heavy.)

This one can hold up to 37 gallons which is enough for the average family even if you eat a lot of vegetables.
Adjustable air vents mean you can control how much airflow is going through the compost.

The tumbler is built to resist rodents. No one likes rats in their compost! Raccoons shouldn’t be able to get in either.

Are There Any Downsides?

You will need to do some assembly. It’s mostly just setting up the legs and then attaching the barrel. Some people say it’s difficult, others say it was a breeze. It probably depends on how good you are at putting things together based on paper instructions.

I’ve noticed some people complaining about an odor from the composter but I doubt it’s actually the tumbler. Any compost will smell if you’re only using food scraps and not also adding enough yard clippings, shredded paper or leaves, and stuff like that. 

While you won’t have issues with rodents, this composter isn’t water proof. A little rain won’t hurt your compost but a lot of rain will slow it down because it won’t be dry enough to decompose. Make sure you put it somewhere sunny so if it does get rained on it dries quickly and can get back to doing what it needs to do.


If you live somewhere where it rains nearly every day this might not work to well for you, though if it rains that much you may have trouble composting no matter how you do it. Otherwise, this is a great tumbler that doesn’t take up much room.

The dual chambers are something that sounds really cool. Being able to load up one and just let it decompose while I’m still adding to chamber two would be a great asset.

As an added bonus, the Forest City (Yimby) Tumbling Composter is priced just right for someone getting into composting for the first time or just looking for a more efficient way to make enough compost for their own gardens. I wouldn't see why it couldn't provide a lifetime of composty goodness for your garden!