- It all starts with soil. Healthy soil has always been the foundation for a successful garden. It may be possible to purchase good soil, but this is expensive and will quickly be spent within a few growing seasons, so learning how to nurture your own soil will save you both time and money in the long run. Never skimp on this step. Building your own soil from scratch can also be very satisfying. This means annual applications of organic matter and fertilizer. This is a step that is critical on an ongoing basis.
- Drainage cannot be overemphasized as it is the infrastructure of a good garden. Create ways to channel excess water and potentially store it for future use. This can be in ponds, berms, water and rain gardens or a bog feature planted with moisture loving vegetation.
- Don't be afraid to make changes. Not everything is going to work in your location and not everything will work in the next year which did in the previous. Some are changes made by nature - a year that has a distinctly different weather pattern from previous years. Some by new, invasive species moving into your area. Always be observant of these changes and modify your plant selections accordingly.
- Walk through your garden daily and look at what is going on. Plants will tell you if they are struggling long before they have reached the point of no return. Learn to recognize signs of stress and address them before it is too late.
- Visit other gardens, whether your neighbors', nurseries that specialize in localized plant species, and resources such as arboretums. This will allow you to observe some of the best horticultural designs and botanical collections in your area. Many local garden clubs have summer garden tours that will help you learn what is working and what isn't in your area.
- Never stop learning. Websites and books that are regionally appropriate are a great start. Other resources include universities, agricultural extension agents and online groups found on social media sties that will allow you to join and converse with master gardeners and others with a wealth of experience.
- Make it fun. Gardening should fuel both your body and your soul. It can sometimes be discouraging when things don't work out, but with some changes, they may work out next time. Or perhaps a different varietal of that particular plant - maybe one that works better in your specific garden - should be selected. There is definitely always an element of trial and error, so make it about the journey of learning as well as the end destination.
t lWhen compiling my blogs, the content always comes from personal experience and learnings - both good and bad. Two of the biggest challenges I've been facing over the last few years is unpredictabie weather and what seems to be an increasing number of pests. Both can be attributed to a number of reasons, but in the end, the reason doesn't matter, it's about how you deal with the blows. To help manage these variables, it is critical to focus on the basics. Many of these are covered in other entries in this blog, so you can check them out for more details, but here is a top level overview and/or reminder.
Ode to the Invaluable Onion
Although warm to hot weather is still plaguing much of the planet, cooler weather gardening is not out or reach with careful planning. Planting in areas with shade in the afternoons or using shade cloths will help prevent stress from the hot afternoon sun. Water misters or a light shower of water timed in the afternoon will further help reduce stress. Onions are one of the crops that can tolerate more of these broader temperature swings and are invaluable assets in the kitchen.
The onion bulb beings forming when exposed to certain lenghts of day and is classified accordingly. Short-day onions have had 12 to 13 hours of daylight, intermediate and long-day varieties have upwards of 14 hours. If you are interested in growing your own onions, check out our tips.
Onions, an edible bulb of the plant, and have been cultivated for more than 5,000 years, making them one of the oldest cultivated vegetables. They are belived to have originated in Asia and their easy cultivation suggests their use proliferated quickly. The onion was widely eaten in Egypt, where it was considered a sacred fruit, the symbol of eternity. Onions were also widely used by the Greeks and Romans to not only add flavors to their other foods, but because they were thought to make soldiers brave.
Low in calories, but packed with important nutrients and vitamins, onions have been a key staple to fortify bodies and souls. Onions are members of the 325 member genus Allium family, along with shallots, leeks and garlic - all of which prefer similar growing conditions and can be used somewhat similarly in dishes, but each with their own subtle nuances. In general, I find white onions to be the most versatile, but they are not the least expensive, so experiment as to what best suits your taste buds and wallet.
If you are buying onions - or curious as to when to harvest them - onions should have a vibrant green, fresh looking, crisp stems. Bulbs should be unblemished. Dry onions should be firm and covered tightly in at least one layer of tan to yellow or deep red skin. An onion with a strong aroma should be avoided as that is an indication of damage or rot. Also avoid sprouting onions. When growing onions in the garden, we prefer to harvest some of them as young onions because of the more delicate flavors.
A properly sharpened knife mitigates the amount of tear-inducing chemical, lachrymator, that combines with the moisture in your eyes to form a weak solution of sulfuric acid adn results in the burning sensation one may feel. Cut a thin slice off the stem end, then make a small shallow cut, just through the skin and the top layer of flesh. Peel off both together, then slide or chop as needed. If you need to peel a lot of onions, drop them into biling water for 30 seconds to 1 minute, then rinse in cold water. Slice off the stem end and the skins will slip off easily.
Easy Tomato Sauce
Tomatoes are often the "candy" of the garden. With a myriad of bright colors, ranging from yellow to orange to brownish purple and green and different sizes and shapes, there is literally a tomato for every purpose. Although most often thought of as a vegetable, they are actually fruit. Originally from South America and brought to Europe by discoverers, tomatoes were first thought to be poisonous and then later used as "peasant" food by people in Italy. Then the enthusiasm for tomatoes took off. Whether fresh in salads of sliced, or in soups, salsas, pastas, or processed to make concentrates, ketchups and juices, tomatoes are very healthy with only 32 calories in a chopped cup. Tomatoes provide vitamin C potassium, vitamin K and folate.
When selecting tomato types for your garden, you'll want to focus on each of the seven versatile types of tomatoes and match the ones that grow best in your climate as well as suit your personal culinary tastes. Tomatoes flavors are based on their ratio of sugar to acid as well as their aroma. Sweet tasting tomatoes, such as cherry tomatoes, contain more sugar and less acid - hence why so many of those little fruits are actually eaten in the garden while harvesting as opposed to making their way to the dinner table.
For ideas as to how to use all these, bite size cherry tomatoes are lovely in salads and on skewers and kababs. Grape tomatoes are excellent for snacking. Harvest larger tomatoes on the vine to preserve longevity and continues to provide nutrients, are perfect for slicing and eating as is, or perhaps with a pinch of salt and, sometimes, pepper. These are also great for sandwiches and burgers. Puree them and use them in sauces for pizzas, pastas, meat loafs, chicken and eggplants.
We discovered a simple way to start heirloom tomato plants for your next season by feeding them to chickens. After some time, clean out your coop and remove the debris to an area where the chickens do not have access, but has adequate light and moisture, it is not unusual for your next season's plants to germinate and grown on their own. You can then relocate the plants to your preferred sites.
Easy Basic Tomato Sauce
For a quick, versatile sauce that works well as a base for pizza or pasta, simple puree, or slice tomatoes and place into a sauté pan with olive oil, garlic, and a bit of salt. Use a non-reactive spoon for smashing the tomatoes. Once the tomatoes have reduced to a sauce, add in preferred seasons such as pepper, oregano, thyme, basil or whatever else you'd like your dish to reflect. Taste your sauce occasionally and correct the flavors as desired. Adding a pinch of sugar will help balance acidity.
How Weather Impacts Your Boiled Eggs
As the amount of daylight increases, so typically do chores and egg production. An easy grab and go breakfast is a hard boiled egg. It's already in it's own packaging and easily portable, minus the packaging, preservatives and other additives you get in many other "Grab and Go" breakfasts - or lunches. They also make great toppers for salads, sandwiches and even with many meats.
An alternative to the very same egg is the soft boiled egg, either just barely soft or, alternatively, very soft, which can be also be served over a breakfast bread. While on a recent trip and without access to our own eggs, we acquired farm fresh eggs from a farmer. However, we learned a few things that should be elaborated on in addition to the piece on Perfectly Boiled Eggs.
One of these is probably already obvious: elevation matters. However, another challenge came into play I hadn't recently anticipated - weather will often affect the outcome of your eggs, particularly low pressure systems. Although weather won't necessarily ruin your eggs, if you are expecting a particular outcome or don't care for runny whites in the case of soft boiled eggs, it is a factor to take into consideration.
The general rule for a soft boiled egg placed in gently boiling water is 4 minutes at about a 300 foot elevation. For every 200 feet additional elevation, add about 15 seconds. Now, the really tricky part of the equation is your current weather. If you have a high pressure system, stay with what typically work best for you. If you are in a low pressure system, add about another 15 seconds to your boiling time. Very low pressure, try another 15 seconds.
The same will hold true for a hard boiled egg that you truly want hard boiled. You will want to boil your egg for some additional time. However, be careful not to overboil your eggs which makes them hard, rubbery and rather tasteless.
Easy Tips and Tools for Supporting the Food Web
As climate change continues, farmland is continuously lost to urban sprawl, and water supplies continue to become scarce and compromised, scientists are reporting alarming negative ecosystem impacts. Supply chain problems and rampant inflation are impacting almost every corner of the planet. It is critical things change immediately.
Everyone should be encouraged to try to use every available space to help grow food for ourselves and support our fellow creatures. Everything has a place and the loss of apex predators in various locations and invasive species in others are setting up catastrophic scenarios.
Even the simplest steps help. Here are just a few ideas:
1. Focus on indigenous plants. Native plants help support pollinators and predators.
Controlling Food Costs and Climate Change by Gardening
In prepartion for our garden next season we noticed a significant increase in supply prices. Some inputs have more than doubled in price from earlier in 2021. With costs on the rapid increase and climate change continuing to challenge growing and supply chain conditions, next year looks like it will bring even higher food price - and not unlikely food shortages as well. With that in mind, starting or improving your own garden and careful planning will allow you to help offset some of the negative impact.
This newest battle seems to logically call for the resurrection of entity originally known as the Victory Garden. Victory Gardens were used to offset food shortages and free up commercial food supplies for troops, as well as a means of offering patriotic solidarity. Today "Victory Gardens" serve to help address the concerns families are facing relative to food security and affordability. These gardens also serve as an excellent means for offseting the negative impacgts of big agriculture, reducing the degradation of water supplies via chemical runoffs, eliminating usage of chemicals and pesticides, and decreasing carbon footprint by eliminating the need to transport food.
No space is too small. Containers, window boxes, spaces between walkways, side yards or any space where you can build well-draining soil can work. Make sure your location will receive a sufficient number of sunlight hours for the plants you have selected. Also consider how you will water your garden when selecting your location. Locations near buildings will allow for easy rain water collection, drip irrigation and of course, rainfall, are all ideal. Sometimes nature is going to need help, so also have watering buckets and garden hoses at the ready.
Below are some ideas to help you stretch your food budget while helping the environment.
Rodent Control You Will Feel Good About
As seasons change, critters also get busy looking for homes to either stay warm or raise young. These times of the year are also when rodents begin to create havoc in structures, vehicles, feed stores and whatever else they can work their way into.
Mice and rodents can carry diseases, some serious to humans. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, mice and rats directly or indirectly transmit over 20 diseases worldwide. Several of these, such as leptospirosis and salmonellosis, are contagious to animals.
In fields and pastures moles, gophers and other burrowing rodents can just make a mess of things with their telltale piles of dirt and holes everywhere. In summer months can wreak havoc with irrigation and in the winter they will often gnaw on the roots of shurbs such as blueberries and kill the plants - often by chewing right through them.
Rodents are probably one of the toughest things to deal with on properties. They are small, stealthy, and primarily active after dark when we don’t see them. The challenge is can we go about reducing the populations of these persistent little things without lethal trapping or using poisonous chemicals which are deadly to other animals in the ecosystem—as well as to our pets and livestock?
The anwer lies in predators. Some people are concerned that encouraging predators will create risks for their livestock, but properly managed, there is minimal to no negative impact and the positive effect of fewer rodents and their respective damage will fall outweigh any downside.
An easy first step to encouraging natural rodent control is encouraging predatory birds to frequent your property - both a night and during the day. Day hunters, such as kestrels, will also help with rodents such as squirrels and rabbits, thereby helping protect your edibles. During the night, avian predators such as owls. One predatory particularly wide spread and well suited to the task is the barn owl. Barn owls are common on every continent in the world except for Antarctica. So, no matter where in the world you are, your property can benefit from having a barn owl working for you.
Barn owls have become very popular to attract for various reasons. Owners of vineyards, orchards, and farms have found that barn owls can significant reduce damage by crop-eating rodents. Property owners can benefit the same way with sometimes no more than one or two nest boxes. Conservationists are finding that erecting owl houses is the best way for bringing back numbers of barn owls in areas where they have declined. And bird lovers simply love having them around to enjoy the opportunity of watching these white-faced, golden winged raptors sail out over a field at dusk on the hunt.
Barn owls are perfectly suited to livestock properties as they hunt in open meadows and grasslands. These creatures of the night have excellent low-light vision, they fly silently, they have sharp beaks and powerful talons, and their hearing is extraordinary. All that makes them death on wings for rodents. A family of barn owls will consume about 2000 mice or other rodents in a couple of months!
One of the ways to help encourage barn owl habitation is by providing nesting boxes and the right habitat for their prey. This is a great project during moths with weather less conducive to outdoor chores.
Barn owls are secondary cavity dwellers. That means they live in the hole that somebody else has created, like a hole in an old tree made by a woodpecker or the dark rafters inside a quiet barn. Storage barns may be better suited than barns that get a lot of traffic. Regardless, humans can take advantage of their desire for secondary cavities because it means that barn owls adapt well to nest boxes which can be purchased or made.
Place a barn owl nest box in a quiet location, 10-20 feet high. Shade the opening from direct sun and prevailing winds. Boxes can be hung inside an unused barn, on the outside of farm buildings, on a pole or in a tree. If the box is mounted on a pole or post, consider a baffle to prevent cats, raccoons, and other predators from reaching it. Many barn owls will reuse the same nest box year after year. In North America it is best to hang them by January or February as barn owls begin nesting in late February. When selecting a tree location, you will also have the benefit of selecting the most advantageous sideof the tree.
It’s hard to find an easier method of rodent control. Once you install the barn owl box nature does the rest. Plus, barn owls are not aggressive to people, nor will they attack pets or livestock. Not only will owls help reduce your rodent population, but their tawny colors are beautiful to see at dusk and their bone-chilling, screechy cry is thrilling to hear at night.
Building the Nesting Box
The popularity of attracting barn owls has resulted in a wide range of barn owls box designs, both do-it-yourself and those that are sold commercially. It is important to take into account the biology and daily needs of these large owls. With so many versions of nest box to choose from, some excellent, some not so good, it is important to make wise decisions about which elements are ideal for successfully attracting and housing these beautiful raptors.
1. Appropriate Size: Make sure your box is big enough. Many barn owl box designs create a nest box only 18” deep. Although this size can attract a breeding pair, barn owls produce an extraordinary number of young—seven is quite common. The entire brood of owls must reach adult size inside that nest box before fledging, each of them 12 to 14 inches high, and flapping their wings in preparation for flight. In small boxes, flight feathers are damaged, smaller birds will not receive food, and young birds are pushed accidentally from their nest boxes - weaker ones may be intentionally pushed out. In short, fewer birds survive from such owl houses.Takeaway: Select designs that are at least 24” deep, 18” high, and 18” wide.
2. Size of Entrance Hole: Conversely, many designs err on making the size of the entrance hole too large. All cavity nesting birds, including barn owls, prefer an entrance hole that is just large enough for them to squeeze through, but too small for larger animals that might prey on the eggs or chicks. Barn owls vary in size. Like all predatory birds, femails are typically 30% larger than males and American barn owls larger than those in Europe. Takeaway: Takeaway: The box should have a 5” to 5 ½” entrance hole.
3. Location of Entrance Hole: Holes too close to the floor are a problem because the ever curious and rambunctious chicks tend to crowd toward the entrance hole as they get older. A hole too close to the floor allows for them to fall out way too early. Takeaway: The entrance hole at least six inches off the floor.
4. The perch: Don't forget the owls will like some sort of "front porch". This can be as simples as a dowl or a full ledge where the owl can rest and feed.
5. Color: Many wooden boxes are left natural to blend into the environment. The problem is that most wooden boxes are heat traps. As the sun beats down on dark wood, the interior can become excessively hot. Biologists have found young owls, too young to leave the nest, on the ground where they took refuge from the stifling heat inside wooden boxes. Also, consider your location selection - again, away from direct sun, wind and rain. Takeaway: If you do buy or make a wooden box, be sure to paint the entire outside with bright white paint to reduce heat absorption and plan to repaint every year or two.
6. Material: Most commercially made boxes and available plans use half-inch plywood. The problem with such thin wood is that, after the expense and labor of construction and installation, half inch plywood deteriorates rapidly in sun and rain. The alternate choice, ¾ to 1” plywood will last somewhat longer, but it is heavy, expensive and difficult to install. So, when it comes to plywood owl houses, the choice is between longer life and ease of installation. Takeaway: If you are buying a wooden box, ask the builder the thickness of the wood.
The Final Summary
Published in the Journal of Pest Management, Newport Beach, California: From 2011 through 2013, researcher Mark Browning and a team of students from U.C. Davis and Columnes River College saturated a 100-acre vineyard south of Sacramento, California with 25 barn owl nest boxes, eventually resulting in a population of 36 adult owls that fledged 66 young. This produced a population of 102 barn owls hunting the vineyard and surrounding area. Using data gleaned from nest box cams, the research was able to conclude that this rather incredible density of owls consumed 30,000+ rodents over a 3 year period. Statistical analysis showed a strong correlation of number of owls to a decline in rodent activity. This study is the first of its kind to accurately record the number of rodent deliveries to growing barn owl chicks, and the first to establish the economic value of barn owls to farmers and property owners. Cost comparison data showed that the average cost of trapping per rodent was $8.11 while the nest box program resulted in a cost of .27 per rodent taken by barn owls. This provides very valuable and useful information for farmers to use in assessing the effectiveness and results of barn owl nest box programs.
How to Attract Pollinators for a Better Garden
Without pollinators our gardens and orchards would not be able to produce the foods that we need and love so much. Even if you don't have an edible garden, it is still important to help pollinators when ever and where ever you can. This can be as simple as placing a beneficial pot of flowers in a pot - or even a week such as the milkweed that migrating monarchs depend upon for food supplies - and watch the magic happen.
1. Select a location:
The Link Between Insects and Successfully Growing Food
As gardeners we talk a lot about how to sustainably control pests in our garden. Of course some pests are more harmful than others. Those pests that are indigenous to an area have evolved in a system where both their food sources, as well as natural predators have evolved. Birds and insects trend together, plants and pollinators trend together. The health of one is a solid indicator of the health or another. As humans migrated around the world, they either knowingly took with them or imported perceived desirable plants, such as introduced "exoctics". They also unknowingly transported accidentally in cargo and crops, such as the Lantern Fly in North American. We have disrupted ecosystems to the point where some are being decimated. Invasive insects, plants and animals can have devestating consequences and should be dealt with in sustainable ways, but indigenous insects are vital to the health of the food web.
Insects are at the heart of the food web, the primary way that nature converts plant protoplasm into animal life. Overall, plants can tolerate a wide range of environmental conditions. However, insects tend to be specialists, feeding and pollinating a narrow spectrum of plant life, often times just a single species. In fact, 90% of plant eatting insects can develop and reproduce only on the plants with which they share an evolutionary history. This is why when you see the decline of one species; it's not uncommon to see the decline of another. One of the best examples of this is the Monarch butterfly and milkweed.
As a result, plants have developed defense mechanisms specific to these threats such as chemical and morphological defenses, including toxins, sticky sap, rough bark, and waxy cuticles. However, these defenses don't typically work well with species they have never encountered, including very closely related species.The unfortunately downside of human's trying to control pests has resulted in an estimated decine of arthropids, chiefly insects, has decined by 45% from preindustrial times. Without insects, lizards, frogs, toads, birds and many mammals would lose all or part of their diet. This is an ecological crisis.
Another concern, is as land is continuously converted from "wild" to "farmed" and then "farmed" to "subdivision" or "apartment complex", there is not enough "wild" land to support that important ecosystem. As such, it's imperative to look at every open space available and think about how to return that land to a "wild" state. Because much of the earth's available land is either used for farming, or in wealthy nations, for areas like lawns, sterile, unproductive landscapes are created.
Because most people own little to no land, one way to help is to create habitats that are sustainable and can act as a networked ecosystem. Tbe idea is to reduce the distance that creatures must travel for food. This land can be created from any area such a lawn, manicured park areas, golf courses and other rereational areas. Douglas Tallamy, an entomologist at the University of Delware, offers some suggestions to help return manicured spaces back to the wild.
Using the Change of Seasons to Prepare for Harsh Weather
During this time of year, most of the planet is shifting from either warm weather to cold weather, currently fall here in the northern hemisphere, or spring in the southern. The last few years, we've noticed the high temperatures are coming much earlier in the season, but also much later. The same seems to be true of colder weather. Earlier and later freezes are challenging what crops can be grown and how crops may need to be grown.
Because of this, proactive preparation is more important than ever. This means you will want to have plenty of supplies on hand at least a couple of months before you may need them. With weather changes occur more rapidly severely and supply chain challenges still creating shortages, you don't want to be caught on your heels. There are always plenty of things to do, but here a few top things that you may want to check:
Carefully monitor weather for first and last frosts to determine when produce will need to be harvested or it may be time for indoor germinated seeds to begin their move to the outdoors. Quickly changing conditions are particularly tough on young, tender plants or those plants that have set buds. Additionally excessive heat discourages pollinators. Use moisture such as dampening the soil and shade cloths to help reduce damagingly high temperatures that cause plants and animals to go outside their tolerable temperature zones. Sometimes the extremes only last for short periods of time and simple precautions will be sufficient. For multi- hour and -day extremes, more comprehensive measures will need to be taken.
Clover: The Solution for Many Gardening Challenges
When thinking about how to use outdoor spaces, sometimes the choices are limited by the physical space including the size, the amount of sun, the amount of accessible water for ourselves and animals and most importantly, how we need to use that space.
Many enjoy growing some of their own food as well as a flower garden, but often space is also needed for kids and/or animals to play. An excellent alternative to a turfgrass lawn is clover, but in recent decades it has been perceived as a weed, along with dandelions, another hugely beneficial plant.
Before the 1950’s, grass seed mixes always included over. Clover is a legume, rather than a grass. It is rather drought tolerant, green year-round, except in exceptionally dry periods, is resistant to trampling, and isn’t picky about soil quality or sun exposure. Clover flower nectar is a delight for pollinators and beneficial insects such as butterflies, bees and bumble bees. Plant it near vegetable garden or orchard to attract pollinators. Clover flower tea is a nice drink and the leaves may be eaten in salads or co cooked. Clover tea is recommended during a cough and cold.
Legumes benefit soil quality by increasing soil organic matter, improving soil porosity, recycling nutrients, improving soil structure, decreasing soil pH, diversifying the microscopic life in the soil, and breaking disease build-up and weed problems of grass-type crops.
Legumes possess the ability to convert the pure form of nitrogen to its ammonia form which is extremely helpful in fixing the nitrogen in the soil. Legumes are used as nitrogen fixers in agriculture and clover is one of the best nitrogen fixing plants available. Clovers have the ability to obtain nitrogen from the atmosphere and “fix” it in nodules on its roots; this is called nitrogen fixation. The amount of nitrogen fixed varies depending on species, stand density, fertility, weather, and the extent to which the clover has been defoliated.
As a part of the bigger picture, legumes play a supporting role in converting the nitrogen to its ammonia form. For the conversion of nitrogen, a particular type of soil bacteria known as Rhizobium plays the major role. Rhizobium enters to the roots of legumes and then start to multiply at a rapid rate and starts converting nitrogen to its ammonia form in this process.
In any healthy soil, you will find immense amounts of Rhizobium bacteria. This is because without fixed nitrogen plants are unable to grow.
For unhealthy soils or those who are in the middle range, it is often recommended to add a good amount of Rhizobium in the soil. This soil bacteria is easily available in the market in packets.
Rhizobium is a must for maintaining the fertility of the soil and ensure a healthy sprout. They add a lot of benefits to the soil and do not hurt the plants even a bit while performing the conversion of nitrogen into its ammonia form, which plants require for their growth.
White clover is generally the most used clover, is the easiest seed to find and is better for grazing animals than red clover. Clover is a herbaceous perennial plant. Its leaves are long-stalked, composed of three leaflets. Flowering occurs in April-May to September. Its flowers attract bees and bumblebees. The flowers are grouped in spherical flower heads, white in color, sometimes slightly pinkish white.
So, growing a clover lawn may be just the environmentally friendly solution for your green space as well as easier on you and your pocketbook. It’s low growing, so you never need to mow it. You can also use it as “living mulch” to fill in the spaces between your perennials and garden to keep the weeds out. If you aren’t ready to make a full change, try out a small clover patch and all its potential habitat.
Now that you’re familiar with the benefits, here are some planting and growing guidelines:
Propagation and Planting Clover
It is mainly propagated by seeds. Clover seeds are sown directly on the ground but can also be broadcast over the top of existing grasses and weeds. Prepare the soil well before planting seeds and be prepared to broadcast a couple of times. Clover seeds are a favorite of birds – good and bad news. Keep some seed in reserve and broadcast more than once to help successful establishment.
Regions where Clover Grows
Clovers live in temperate and subtropical parts of North and South America and the Old World. Three geographic regions have the most clover diversity: the Mediterranean basin, western North America and the highlands of eastern Africa.
When to Plant Clover Seeds
Spring is the best time though late-summer sowing is a practical alternative provided there are adequate soil moisture and sufficient time for the clover seedlings to develop well before winter.
The standard seeding rate is two pounds per acre. The optimum sowing depth is 10-12 mm with a light but firm soil cover. An easy way of planting is to broadcast it and then walk over the area.
Requirements for Growing Clover
How Technology Plays a Part in Going Green
This piece was contributed as a courtesty of our guest blogger, Neil Stawski
We all are well aware of the countless benefits that technology provides us in today's day and age, but did you know there is technology available that can help you support and protect our planet? Technology is a part of our everyday routines, and it is essential that you learn how it could be helping you lead a more energy-efficient life, improving the conditions of your environment, economy, and health. Life Slice invites you to read on to see how tech can provide you with a chance to level up your eco-friendly lifestyle.
Over the past few years, smart thermostats have established a well-known reputation for saving money and energy. As a result, they are now becoming increasingly popular, with The News reporting 15 percent of U.S. households are already using them. Not only do smart thermostats save their customers money, they allow them to monitor usage from their phones from near or far.
Products like the Nest Thermostat use the technological features to take efficiency to a whole new level. The Nest Thermostat quickly learns your schedule and preferences so it is able to make the most accurate and comfortable adjustments for each home. When no one is home, the Nest will modify the temperature so it is not overly heating or cooling your home while you’re away. The Ecobee 4 thermostat is another terrific option, as it can integrate with other smart home devices, has Alexa built in, and features a remote room sensor.
In an effort to combat the effects of global warming, solar panels are becoming more prevalent in the residential market. There is the obvious advantage of saving money on electric bills, but beyond that, the solar panels play a vital role in reducing our carbon footprint. Pollutants and carbon dioxide emissions are notably decreased when solar power is being used instead of fossil fuels.
On top of saving energy and money every month, you may be able to deduct some of the costs of installing solar panels from your taxes. If you’re ready to add solar panels to your home, EnergySage notes homeowners can expect to pay between $11,411 and $14,874 after solar tax credits.
There are absolutely no downfalls to deciding to live a green lifestyle. Being mindful of energy consumption is the first step in supporting a healthier planet. Plus, individuals who choose to live a green way of life are greatly improving the conditions of their environment, economy, and health. But finding ways to apply that to daily living can be tough. This is where apps come in.
For example, mobile applications like Dropcountr give individuals easy and inside access to the details of their water usage at home. Dropcountr allows people to compare their water usage to their local neighbors’ and set personal water goals. Applications such as this one can be crucial in the discovery of a leak, and some areas report a usage drop of 30 to 50 percent following broad implementation of using the app.
Farmstand is another awesome app that makes living a green lifestyle easier. This application was designed for people to share photos and information from local farmer markets and vendors. By sharing the related information and knowledge, the community is better equipped to make dietary selections that support the environment and encourage energy-efficient decisions.
Get Down to Business
If you’re a new business owner, there’s a lot to manage whether you’re writing a business plan, creating a marketing strategy, hiring employees or deciding on a Texas business entity. But there is no reason that these terrific earth-friendly policies must be limited to your personal life. Be sure to embrace them in the workplace, too! Follow best practices whenever possible and set the tone for the company by enacting strategies consistent with your personal ideals.
You might even look to the local government to paint a broader, greener picture. Approach the powers that be and point out that in other locations, cities are seeing economic success that is linked with their ecological measures. Encourage simple changes like better walk- and bikeability and more use of renewable energy. As the town sees positive financial growth, more green efforts are sure to follow!
Now more than ever it is essential that we try our best to live green lives. Make sure you are staying up-to-date on the latest trends and technological advancements that will support you in this invaluable endeavor. Being mindful of energy consumption and adjusting your lifestyle accordingly is the first step in supporting the planet.
For more tips and insight into sustainable living, be sure to subscribe to the Life Slice blog today!
Maximizing Your Garden with Containers
Cleanse Your Home and Mind Affordably and Sustainably
Are you looking for greener, easier ways to keep your home clean, but you’re also on a budget? Tidying up your home doesn’t have to involve a lot of costs or toxic chemicals. In fact, some of the simplest solutions for maintaining a cleaner home are also ones that cause less harm to the environment. Keep reading for a few green and budget-friendly decluttering and cleaning tips.
Stock Up on Green Cleaning Options
You don’t have to use toxic chemicals or dangerous products to clean your home. Chances are; however, you will need to pick up some supplies. Green cleaning supplies can be expensive but buying in bulk can help you save. You also have the option to make your own, which is the most environmentally friendly option (also the cheapest!). With a few ingredients, such as vinegar, lemons, and baking soda, you can clean most any surface in your home.
Pick Up Purifying Plants without Burning Your Budget
You should do your home a favor and pick up some purifying plants. You can typically find snake plants and philodendrons for fairly low prices, but even the biggest house plants are bound to be less expensive and more effective than buying pricey air purifiers for your home. Plants work naturally to remove harmful pollutants, like chemicals and fragrances, from the air in your home, all while adding a touch of relaxing nature. Can’t find plants at local retailers? You can still stock up on beautiful houseplants without breaking the bank by shopping online plant retailers. Amazon is getting in on the plant game, but you can also shop selections from smaller online shops.
Build DIY Storage Solutions Instead of Buying New Ones
If you are going to tidy up your home, you need somewhere to store all of your stuff. Buying storage furniture and organizing tools, however, can really do a number on your budget. Instead of overspending on overpriced solutions, why not spend some time making your own? If you need extra bathroom storage, you can easily repurpose mason jars (which are as cheap as 50 cents apiece at most craft stores) to hold cotton balls, makeup brushes or any little items you need in order to get ready each day. For other areas of your home, wooden crates can be fashioned into just about any kind of storage you can think of. Use scrap or reclaimed wood for a more environmentally friendly solution. Focus on your closets first since you will still need storage for other items when your decluttering efforts are complete.
Spend More Time Cleaning to Boost Your Mental Healt
So far, we’ve given you some pretty savvy ways to declutter your home and keep your budget intact while doing so. But why should you be worried about cleaning your home to begin with? Studies show a strong link between the presence of clutter in the home and an increased severity in mental health issues. If you have clutter and mess in your home, you may be more likely to feel anxious, depressed and unable to focus, so maintaining a clean home is a natural and easy way to maintain your mental health. Best of all, you can save time as you save money doing so. Try eliminating paper clutter by using cloud storage, and always keep a few cleaning supplies on hand to tackle messes ASAP.
Decluttering your home and keeping it organized can be a green endeavor without costing you a lot of green. Just be a strategic about choosing the right supplies, and take some time to find coupons and promo codes that can help you be extra budget-savvy.
Photo Credit: Pexels
About the Author
Neil Stawski is a frequent contributor to our blog. He has discovered that when we look at how our green actions impact our communities we start to see a real difference and wants to inspire others to join in the fight against climate change. As a result, Neil is passionate about educating people on environmentally-friendly changes we can make to our homes and within our communities to live more sustainably. You can read more from Neil at www.climatewise.co.
Sustainable Living at Home and in Your Community
Authored by Neil Stawski
Of the many problems facing our world right now, climate change is one of the most serious. If steps are not taken to counteract its progress, serious effects may take shape as soon as a decade from now — or even earlier. However, we can do a great deal to combat climate change in our own communities. Here are some changes you can make in your home and around your community that can help slow the progress of climate change
Start on the Personal Level
Change starts on a personal level, and the best way you can begin to fight climate change is by making small changes in your own home. For instance, did you know that traditional incandescent bulbs use a great deal of energy due to the amount of heat they produce? By swapping out your incandescent bulbs for LED lights, not only will you help conserve energy, but you can also save a fair amount on your electric bill. While LED lights may be more expensive than incandescent bulbs or CFLs, they rapidly pay for themselves. To make them even more appealing, while 10 years ago they were limited to an icy blue shade, today, the entire range of colors is available, from bright white, which is good for offices, to warm yellows for cozy living rooms. LEDs can help you save energy while making the design and look of your home seem even more appealing.
Reduce the Amount of Energy Used in Your Home
You can also help reduce the amount of energy in your home by taking steps to prevent the loss of your home’s heating and cooling energy. Many homes, particularly older ones, are poorly insulated. If you have good insulation in your home, that means less energy will transfer — meaning that it will take less energy to keep your home warm or cool, no matter the season. You can acquire recycled insulation made from things like old newspapers to reduce waste.
Another way you can keep the energy you spend in your home where it belongs is by updating your windows. Cheaper or older windows typically are not 100 percent sealed, even when they are completely shut. This means that it is likely that you are losing a significant portion of your air-conditioned (or heated) air without even realizing it. By replacing your windows, you will further reduce the amount of energy used to keep your home at the temperature you prefer.
Go Out Into the Community
Of course, going green can only be effective if you also enlist others to take part in the cause. This is why it is important to get out into your community and convince your neighbors to adopt similar types of environmentally friendly adjustments to their homes. The first step is to get to know the members of your community on a general level, as acquaintances or friends. Next, if they show interest in your home improvements, tell them what you’ve done and why each part is important. While you cannot force someone to go green, you can help raise their curiosity on the matter. You can also help out your community by buying local produce and by finding alternatives to your car, such as bicycles, scooters, or public transportation.
Going green is a twofold task — not only is it important to make your home more environmentally friendly, but it is also critical to spread the information among your community. By getting to know people and sharing your passion for sustainable living, you can help counteract the effects of climate change today.
About the Author
Neil Stawski has discovered that when we look at how our green actions impact our communities we start to see a real difference and wants to inspire others to join in the fight against climate change. As a result, Neil is passionate about educating people on environmentally-friendly changes we can make to our homes and within our communities to live more sustainably. You can read more from Neil at www.climatewise.co.
Virulent Newcastle Disease (vND) Found in Backyard Poultry Flocks
Virulent Newcastle Disease (vND), which is highly contagious, has been found in numerous backyard poultry flocks in southern California, prompting reminders for all veterinarians to urge flock owners to be vigilant in preventing its spread.
At least 52 cases of vND have been confirmed in southern California since May 18, according to an alert issued by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS). Most cases have been in San Bernardino County, near the Los Angeles area, and all have involved backyard poultry.
Virulent Newcastle Disease is a viral disease that spreads quickly and can infect and cause death even in vaccinated poultry. The American Association of Avian Pathologists (AAAP) and APHIS advise that all bird owners should be aware of the basics of the disease, how to help prevent it, and what to do if they suspect their birds might have it.
The disease is spread mainly through direct contact between healthy birds and the bodily discharges of infected birds. Virus-bearing material can be picked up on shoes and clothing and carried from an infected flock to a healthy one.
Signs of Virulent Newcastle Disease
If you see any of the following signs in your birds, they could be sick and should be checked out:
Report Sick Birds ASAP If your birds are sick or dying, report it right away.
Early detection and testing of possible cases of virulent Newcastle disease is critical to preventing a large-scale outbreak.
Contact your agricultural extension office/agent, local veterinarian, local animal health diagnostic laboratory, or the State veterinarian. Or, call USDA toll free at 1-866-5367593. There is no charge for a disease investigation.
How Virulent Newcastle Disease Spreads
Virulent Newcastle disease spreads when healthy birds come in direct contact with bodily fluids from sick birds. The disease affects almost all birds and poultry, even vaccinated poultry. The virus can travel on manure, egg flats, crates, other farming materials or equipment, and people who have picked up the virus on their clothing, shoes, or hands.
APHIS and AAAP advise poultry owners to protect their birds by following these measures:
Virulent Newcastle Disease has not been found in commercial poultry in the United States since 2003, and no human cases of Newcastle disease have ever occurred from eating poultry products, according to APHIS. Properly cooked poultry products are safe to eat. In very rare instances, people working directly with sick birds can become infected. Symptoms are usually very mild and limited to conjunctivitis. Infection is easily prevented by using standard personal protective equipment.
Top Ways to Conserve Water While Still Cultivating a Lovely Landscape
Water is a natural resource that must be conserved in order to ensure a thriving planet. But in our pursuit to achieve a green, gorgeous outdoor space, we often waste gallons of water, and lots of it. More than 50 percent of water used by businesses and your average homeowner goes to waste through runoff, evaporation or over-watering. That’s a lot of water going down the drain. So how can you conserve this precious natural resource and still cultivate beautiful acreage? Read on for some handy tips.
Collect the Rain
Use rain barrels to collect rain for your garden. You can find them at local discount or home improvement stores. Stick them beneath the gutter down spouts so you can reuse the water to keep your foliage healthy while conserving water at the same time. When you don your garden gloves to dig in the dirt, you’ll be satisfied knowing that you are caring for your plants in an eco-friendly manner.
Choose the Right Plants
Select plants resistant to drought. According to Everyday Health, “some plants are thirstier than others.” To avoid watering your plants all of the time, chose ones that don’t require heavy watering. Consider planting them in a shady spot so they won’t be parched by the sun. Is your ornamental/grazing grass dry if you don’t water it on a consistent basis? You can fill up those patches with drought-resistant varieties that requires less watering.
Select native plants for your garden. The reason is simple. Plants native to your area have had thousands of years to acclimate to the area’s climate, rainfall level, and soil. These types of plants can withstand the onslaught of the sun a bit easier than plants that aren’t native to your part of the country.
Go Easy on the Watering
You may be overwatering your plants, contributing to the wasting of water. If there’s grass growing on the sidewalk, driveway or in your vegetable garden, you’re probably watering too much. And if you step on a patch of land, watch to see if it springs back up. Grass that springs up after you step on it doesn’t need water. In other words, you don’t have to water your pastures every single day.
To be safe, only use a water-efficient spray nozzle for your water hose. Hoses that don’t have nozzles waste around 8 gallons or more of water before you can hustle back over to the spigot to turn it off. You can also try drip irrigation, which is a low-pressure system in which nozzles are placed at the base of plants and water is applied slowly. It’s a highly efficient watering system both in terms of water and energy use.
Plant a Tree
If you want to shade your property so it doesn’t get too thirsty, plant a few trees. Once they mature, they serve a threefold purpose. They provide shade, make your landscape beautiful and are a lasting reminder of your commitment to the environment.
Finding eco-friendly ways to enhance your greenspace and still conserve water isn’t as difficult as you might think. Using rain barrels, planting native plants, going easy on watering, and planting trees to shade your precious grass and plants can go a long way toward helping your flora flourish.
Note: This blog post was provided courtesy of Clara Beaufort at Gardenergigs.com.
Helpful Hints for Preparing your Garden for Warm Weather
Getting the exterior of your home ready for warm weather can be a big job, especially if you have children or pets. You’ll want to ensure that the front and backyards are safe and present practical spaces to use for gardening, playtime, and areas for your pets to safely get in some exercise; all this requires a good plan. Take into account how big the spaces are and how best to use them for your needs. For instance, creating a sustainable plot of land that can be used for growing food or herbs is a great way to reduce your carbon footprint and live a little greener (and it can save you money in the long run), but you’ll need to come up with a strategy to keep it healthy and out of the paths of children and pets.
Making everything safer is, of course, a priority, especially if you have kids who love the outdoors. Taking steps now to get things ready for warm weather will give you peace of mind and will cut back on your workload when the summer heat rolls in.
Here are a few tips on how to get started.
Plot out your lawn
If your goal is to grow food or raise animals, you’ll need to plan for getting the land ready. Not all soil is good for growing fruits and veggies, so it may take some work to prepare everything. Animals need bedding, a place to eat and drink, and safe places to rest, along with some shade away from the harsh sun. Plotting out your lawn for your needs will help you create the best place to raise food or animals and make it a success.
Start a budget
No matter what you want your lawn to look like, you’ll need to start with a budget. Raising animals can be expensive if you aren’t prepared, and while growing your own food is a cost-effective and sustainable way of living, you’ll need the right tools for the job. Creating a budget will help you stay focused and will help prevent any issues down the road.
Trim the greenery
A big part of preparing your lawn for summer is trimming up bushes and trees. This will help your kids stay safe when they’re playing outdoors as well as provide an uncluttered view of everything that’s happening. Not only that, it will keep loose limbs and detritus from becoming dangerous during summer storms. Depending on the size of your trees, it might be necessary to call in a pro. The average cost for tree and shrub maintenance is $416; click here for more information on choosing the right business to help you.
Prepare any water-based areas
If your yard includes a pool, pond, or even a birdbath, it’s important to make sure everything is clean, up-to-date, and ready for warm weather. Fall and winter can wreak havoc on water spaces, and animals can do some damage during cold weather months when looking for someplace warm to burrow down. Before filling any space with water, have it thoroughly cleaned and make any necessary repairs.
Use natural pesticides
Once spring rolls around and all the bugs make an appearance, it’s tempting to use pesticides to keep them away from your freshly-planted garden. However, your children and pets need a safe place to play, so using natural pesticides is a better way to go. Soap and water or vinegar-based solvents will take care of the job quite nicely.
Preparing your yard for warm weather is essential if you and your family enjoy spending time outdoors. With a good plan in place, you can get everything taken care of now so that you and your loved ones can relax and have fun once the days begin to heat up.
Note: This blog post was provided courtesy of Clara Beaufort at Gardenergigs.com.
How to Help Bees and your Plants
Spring is coming to the northern hemisphere and that means it's time to think about gardening. Many plants are dependent upon pollinators, specifically bees, so keep these busy little critters healthy by helping them out.
1. Don't use chemical pesticides in your garden, orchards, pastures and lawns. When buying plants for your flower beds, do not buy any plants tagged as "treated with neonicotinoids". Neonicotinoids are poisoning and killing bees, causing severe declines in the bee populations. Neonicotinoids are taken up through the plant's vascular system as it grows, as a result, the chemical is expressed in the pollen and nectar of the plant. Bess, butterflies and other pollinators ingest it and die. Some beekeepers frequently lose 75% of more of their bees annually because of this insidious chemical.
2. Put water out for the insects. Typically the pollinators will drink from puddles on the leaves and petals of the plants, but extended drought and drip water systems sometimes results in a lack of water. Bees use lots of water when foraging for pollen and food.
3. Plant bee-attracting plants. Native plants are always high on the list. Also herbs like basil, Echinacea, mints, sage, rosemary, lavender and fennel are always enjoyed. Flowering plants include sunflowers, poppies, yucca, aloes, lantana, and many fruit bearing trees. In short, they will find almost any fragrant flower attractive and many of these plants result in fabulous tasting honey.
4. If you have unwanted bees leaving in a structure or tree, please do not kill them. Contact a bee removal and relocation service and have them relocate the bees to a more suitable location.
How to Feed a Chicken Flock of Mixed Ages
Once you chicks have grown to a size where they can be carefully integrated into your primary flock, you may be wondering what the best way is to go about feeding the birds of mixed ages. It is highly recommended to feed chicks a chick starter feed until six weeks of age. During this time, it is typically easiest and safest for the chicks to house them separately to ensure they get the proper heat and nutrition. If the hens have raised the chicks from eggs, it may be possible to keep the chicks with the hens, but the fatality rate may be higher due to accidents, nutrition needs that may not be met and other environmental factors.
Once the chicks reach 6 weeks of age, you can switch them to a high protein grower mash. Once the birds reach 5 to 6 months of age, they are considered to be of laying age. Laying hens should be fed a layer feed in addition to whatever food they forage, as well as any other supplements or appropriate treats you may be providing.
Often a challenge occurs when the chicks are old enough to be combined with the older hens. In addition to taking the usual precautions when introducing the new birds into the existing flock, it is not uncommon to find the older hens prefer to eat the higher protein grower feed.
The simplest solution is to simply allow the older hens to consume the grower feed along with the younger hens. The older hens enjoy it and the younger hens are guaranteed to still received the health benefits from the high protein levels in the starter feed. On the other hand, layer feed can be harmful to the younger hens because it does not contain all the necessary nutrients.
To compensate for the lower levels of calcium in the layer feed, place some oyster shell or egg shells from hard boiled eggs in with the hens. Once your hens all reach laying age, you can switch them all back to the layer feed.
Salmonella is a bacteria that makes people sick. It was discovered by an American scientist named Dr. Salmon, and has been known to cause illness for over 125 years. The illness people get from a Salmonella infection is called salmonellosis.
It's common for chickens, ducks and other poultry to carry Salmonella as it is a germ that naturally lives in the intestines of poultry, as well as many other animals. While it usually doesn't make birds sick, it can cause serious illenss when it is passed to people.
Most people infected with Salmonella develop diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps between 12 and 72 hours after infection. The illness usually lasts 4 to 7 days, and most individuals recover without treatment. In some cases, diarrhea may be so severe that the patient needs to be hospitalized. In these patients, the Salmonella infection may spread from the intestines to the blood stream, and then to other body sites. In these cases, Salmonella can cause death unless the person is treated promptly with antibiotics. The elderly, infants, and those with impaired immune systems are more likely to have a severe illness.
Tips for avoiding Salmonella infection include:
Suitable Materials for Chicken Coop Litter
Chicken keepers often wonder what the best materials are for litter in a chicken coop. There are a number of good choices and most of them come down to personal preference, poultry safety and cost considerations.
Chickens Stopped Laying Eggs
Occasionally, and luckily infrequently, it may occur that your hens will not lay eggs for many days or even weeks at a time. When the entire flock stops laying, you need to dig deeper to understand the underlying issue. Once you have identified the issue, it may take some time for your hens to recover and get back to the business of laying. Here are a few possibilities you may want to check into:
How to Stop Chickens from Eating Eggs
Are you having problems with your chickens eating the eggs that they lay before you are able to collect them? This is not an uncommon problem, but one that needs to be addressed as soon as you see a problem. Sometimes this behavior is not as obvious as it may seem. If you suddenly find yourself going to the coop, only to return with minimal to no eggs for no apparent reason, you may have egg-eaters on your hand. Or you may enter the nesting boxes one day and see the crime in action. Either way, this is a problem that must be addressed quickly.
This behavior often starts very innocently. Perhaps when a hen lays an egg it breaks, one or more of your chickens may give it a try and they quickly develop a taste for eggs. This will quickly evolve to the hens proactively pecking the eggs open and eating the entire egg. Other chickens will quickly learn to join in and your problem will quickly grow from one egg-eating hen to potentially the entire flock joining in. At this point, it's nearly impossible to stop with few options left other than culling, so early detection is key.
Here are a few things you can try to address egg-eaters:
Chickens and Gardens
Many people think that allowing their chickens to enjoy garden time is healthy for both the chickens and their garden. While this is definitely a fun way for the chickens to spend some time, it may not be so great for your garden, except perhaps for times of the year when you have zero plants, seeds or bulbs that you are looking to retain.
Chickens in the garden can spell disaster. They disrupt carefully mulched beds and destroy seedlings with their scratching. They also love to eat most of what is in your garden, so unless you are prepared to sacrifice your entire plants to your chickens, this can be very annoying.
The best way to use both your garden and chickens to benefit one another is to mixyard and garden waste such as leaves and plant clippings to the ground in their coop area. The chickens will bledn in their droppings, work it all together and scrach it down into nutrient-rich fertilizer. The foraging chickens will also help keep the flea and tick population under control. Then remove the mixture and compost it in an area until it is well broken-down. For more on composting, reading more on our Composting Page. After composting, apply the mixture to your garden at the approrpriate times.
In addition, tossing your chickens a few bits of produce from your garden as well as plants you may pull from your garden when they are done for the season, will gain you a lot of appreciation from your chicken family. By keeping the two separate, but managing them together, you will reap the advantage of the best from both.
Our blog is dedicated to bringing you current information on sustainable, healthy living.