A Water – Wise Herb Garden

Combine drought-tolerant varieties with water-saving techniques for a garden that takes the dry weather in stride.

 

 

Herb gardeners are not the kind of people who give up easily. A few years ago, when we nursed our garden’s through a drought with heavy water {the type carried by hand}. We learned the value of special planting techniques borrowed from the native people of the arid southwest and gained a new appreciation for the natural drought tolerance of lavender, rosemary, and other Mediterranean herbs.

Those of us who grow herbs have a big advantage when it comes to water-wise gardening because we have so many beautiful drought-tolerant choices available to us.

By combining herbs that thrive under dry conditions with several time-tested strategies for reducing moisture loss, you easily can grow a herb garden that requires little or no supplemental water.

 

Strategy # 1:

Create Moisture Zones

In water-strapped communities across the country, gardeners have found that placing plants that share similar moisture needs together makes watering more effective and convenient. For example, you might place St. John’s wort, lovage, marshmallow and other herbs that prefer moist soil together in a spot shaded from hot afternoon sun. Should the rain clouds disappear for weeks at a time, you can efficiently water the heavy drinkers until they are satisfied. In similar fashion, herbs that need little water, such as horehound, Santolina, and all succulents, can be grouped together in hot spots that are difficult to water.

 

Strategy # 2:

Water-Seeking Roots

Newly planted herbs need moist soil until they establish a functioning network of roots. But after a few weeks, you can fine-tune your watering practices to push plants to develop bigger, better root systems.

Covering the soil’s surface with any type of mulch will block weeds and slow evaporative moisture loss, but there’s a catch. In dry weather, hurried watering sessions that moisten only the mulch and top inch or so of soil encourage plants to develop roots close to the surface, where they quickly dry out. Weekly deep watering, on the other hand, encourages the growth of deeper water-seeking roots.

Using drip or soaker hoses for several hours {or overnight} is the easiest way to deeply water established herbs. Or let the water run freely from a hose laid on the ground as you do other things nearby. Avoid using sprinklers, which are inefficient and must be left on for a long time to soak roots deeply.

 

 

Strategy # 3:

Lessons from the Past

Few places are as hot and dry as the desert southwest, where Zuni gardeners developed an ingenious method called waffle gardening. As the gardeners dug the planting beds, they shaped them into squares or rectangles. Within each one, the Zuni used their hands to mound soil into a waffle pattern. Like warm syrup in a waffle, water collects in each basin when it rains. Between rains, the berms shelter roots from drying the sun and the wind.

Most gardens receive more rain than Zuni gardens do, but you can adapt the waffle garden concept for your temperate-climate herb garden.

 

 

A Bountiful, Water-Wise Herb Garden Bed.

Water conservation is built into our planting of more than a dozen herbs and other useful plants. Lavender, Santolina and others that require excellent drainage and dry conditions occupy raised berms. The irrigated heart of the bed is filled with herbs that prefer a little more water, with front door space set aside for hand-watered culinary herbs.

Use a similar “water-zone” approach when planting your favorite herbs. A 5-by-12 footbed can be created on level ground or on a slight slope. If desired, a second soaker hose can be installed atop the berm. You also can make the garden longer to create a border along a fence.

Make the berm just a few inches high and the sunken interior area about 4 to 5 inches deep. After you plant, add a generous layer of mulch; the interior surface will be just slightly below the original surface. Do include an opening that can serve as an open floodgate should a heavy storm drench your planting of water-wise herbs.

Outer berm:

Lavender {Lavandula spp.}, 30-36 inches, Zone 4-8. All varieties adapt to dry conditions; Spanish lavender {L. stoechas} is especially heated tolerant.

Rosemary {Rosmarinus officinalis}, 24-48 inches, Zones 7-10; curling leaf tips indicate a need for supplemental water.

Hens-and-chicks {Sempervivum spp.}, 6 inches, Zones 3-8; heat- and cold-tolerant succulents form robust mounds. Can be grown in a pot.

Sedums {Sedum spp.}, 4-8 inches, Zones 3-8; these hardy succulents come in a range of sizes, colors and forms.

Sage {Salvia officinalis}, 24 inches, Zones 4-8; choose between varieties with gray-green leaves or variegated strains, which tolerate less cold.

Ice plant {Delosperma spp.}, 12 inches, Zones 4-8; heavy-blooming succulents can be grown as annuals or perennials.

Thyme {Thymus spp.}, 12 inches, Zones 5-9; all species show the high tolerance for dry conditions after they are well rooted.

Oregano {Origanum spp.}, 16 inches, Zones 5-9; small, thick leaves hold up well under dry conditions which often enhance flavor.

Gray Santolina {Santolina chamaecyparissus}, 12 inches, Zones 6-8; stiff plants form tight mounds of foliage; require dry conditions.

Echinacea {Echinacea spp.}, 36 inches, Zones 3-9; enjoy flowers in summer, and make healthful tea from the roots in the fall.

Inner Bed, rear tier:

Horehound  {Marrubium vulgare}, 28 inches, Zones 4-9; most drought-tolerant member of the mint family. Leaves used for cough medicine, candy or tea.

Fern-leaf yarrow {Achillea filipendulina}, 36-48 inches, Zones 3-8; produces long-lasting yellow flower clusters in summer; finely cut foliage good for arrangements or crafts.

Russian Sage {Perovskia atriplicifolia}, 3-5 feet, Zones 6-9; arching branches clothed with luminous gray foliage all season, with lavender flowers in summer.

Borage {Borago officinalis}, 36 inches, annual, all zones; fast-growing plants produce flushes of starry blue flowers; cut back to prolong blooming time.

Inner Bed, rear tier:

Anise hyssop {Agastache spp.}, 2-3 feet, Zones 4-9; fragrant foliage topped by spikes of bee-friendly flowers from mid-summer onward.

Basil {Ocimum basilicum}, annual, all zones; 12-18 inches tall.

Cilantro {Coriandrum sativum}, grow as annual; about 6 inches tall.

Parsley {Petroselinum crispum}, a biennial in Zone 6 or grow as annual; about 3-4 inches tall.

A mulched herb garden requires only half as much water as the same space kept in a bluegrass lawn.

Use X-rated Plants:

The word xeriscape always has been a mouthful, so it’s no surprise that the practice of gardening with little or no supplemental water {xeriscaping} has picked up a bit of verbal shorthand. in short, a good xeriscape plant is rated x. Depending on where you live, X-rated plants might include cacti or yucca, or perhaps native grasses or vines. Among herbs, gray Santolina, horehound, and rosemary are rated X. For more information, visit Colorado Water Wise Council at http://Xeriscape.org or Eartheasy at http://www.Eartheasy.com

Native Plants for Your Area.

NORTHEAST {ZONES 2A-7B}

Pink Turtlehead {Chelone Iyonii}: wildflower perennial.

Butterfly Milkweed {Asclepias tuberosa}: wildflower perennial.

Creeping Wintergreen or “Checkerberry” {Gaultheria procumbens}: evergreen perennial/groundcover.

Blue False Indigo {Baptisia australis}: herbaceous perennial.

Sweet Pepperbush {Clethra alnifolia}: deciduous shrub.

NORTHWEST {ZONES 3A-9B}

Showy Fleabane {Erigeron speciosus}: wildflower perennial.

Common Camas {Camassia quamash}: wildflower perennial/groundcover.

Spiraea or “Hardhack” {Spiraea douglasii}: shrub perennial.

Hooker’s Onion {Allium acuminatum}: perennial groundcover.

Trailing Blackberry {Rubus ursinus}: vine/shrub/deciduous perennial.

SOUTHEAST {ZONES 5B-10B}

Rose Verbena {Verbena canadensis}: perennial groundcover.

American Elderberry {Sambucus nigra}: deciduous perennial shrub.

Trumpet Honeysuckle/Coral Honeysuckle {Lonicera sempervirens}; vine perennial.

Swamp Milkweed {Asclepias incarnata}: wildflower perennial.

Blazing Star {Liatris spicata}: wildflower perennial.

SOUTHWEST {ZONES 5B-10B}

Skunkbush Sumac {Rhus trilobata}: perennial deciduous shrub.

Desert Sand Verbena {Abronia villosa}: wildflower annual.

Silver Buffaloberry {Shepherdia argentea}: perennial shrub.

Rocky Mountain Columbine {Aguilegia caerulea}: wildflower perennial.

Western Wallflower {Erysimum asperum}: wildflower biennial.

NORTHERN MIDWEST {ZONES 2B-6A}

Purple Prairie Clover {Dalea purpurea}: wildflower perennial.

Greek Valerian {Polemonium reptans}: wildflower perennial.

Sneezeweed {Helenium autumnale}: wildflower perennial.

Bunchberry {Cornus canadensis}: groundcover perennial.

Cattails {Typha latifolia} grass perennial.

SOUTHERN MIDWEST {ZONES 4B-9B}

Blue Larkspur {Delphinium carolinianum}: wildflower perennial.

Spicebush {Lindera benzoin}: shrub.

Coreopsis {Coreopsis grandiflora}: wildflower perennial.

Wild Hyacinth {Camassia scilloides}: wildflower perennial.

Inkberry {Ilex glabra}: shrub.

Not sure what zone you’re in? Go to http://www.usna.usda.gov/Hardzone to find out.

Creating A Native Plant Garden.

By sticking with species indigenous to your area, you can help save the environment and yourself some back-breaking labor!

In the face of an often bleak midwinter, we do have one joyous event to look forward to the steady arrival of garden catalogs. Those glossy pages tempt us with a dazzling array of flowers, herbs, and vegetables, offering yet another chance to dream and plan for the perfect garden. With fancy foliage, pristine blooms, catchy names, and a color palette that rivals a Monet painting, these myriad choices call out to us, saying “buy me!” And often, in a cabin-fever-induced frenzy, we succumb, putting our hard-earned money toward a host of exotic species.

But later, sometimes years after we’ve planted our seeds, we find that those Asian, bittersweet, multiflora roses and that Japanese honeysuckle have taken over the entire garden, choking out any plants in their path. Where did we go wrong? These wondrous species that looked too good to be true are the culprits. By choosing plants unsuited to the region in which we live, we invite, quite literally, an alien invasion of the plant world.

You don’t have to look far to create a garden filled with gorgeous, carefree blooms and healthy herbs and vegetables. Native plants, those species that have grown in your region for eons, are not only aesthetically pleasing, they support the local ecosystem. A healthier ecosystem means a heartier garden and a happier gardener.

Native Know-How:

One of the main benefits of native plants is that they’ve acclimated to your region. With no need for special pruning, or fertilizing, these species require less maintenance. Native ground covers allow the gardener to cut back on weeding time, and the more plants you grow, the less lawn upkeep you have to stay on top of. {They also prevent soil erosion.} Native plants are also the perfect candidates for companion planting. Growing two or more different kinds of native plants close together can help repel pests, attract beneficial insects, provide shelter for smaller plants, and add important nutrients to the soil. This all translates to less work for the gardener.

Of course, these perks also benefit the environment. Essentially recreating the natural landscape {as it was before humans arrived on the scene with their exotic tastes and penchant for wide expanses of green grass}, a native plant garden provides shelter and food for birds, insects, bats, and other organisms. And, unlike foreign plants, which can be extremely susceptible to your region’s various diseases and pests, native species prove much more resilient because they’ve acclimated over the centuries. You don’t have to resort to harmful pesticides and herbicides to thwart these plant killers.

Plants native to a particular region are also accustomed to the climate and seasonal weather conditions. They require less watering and are often drought resistant. In areas where water use is sometimes restricted during the summer months, native species fare much better than exotic plants.

Native plants {and trees} increase biodiversity by providing wildlife with food in the form of leaves, berries, fruit, and insects. Biodiversity is essential to the stability and existence of most ecosystems. Microorganisms break down decaying matter in the soil, providing energy for plants to grow. Plants provide food and shelter to larger insects {and even some animals}, and these larger insects are often food for animals. It’s a continuous, finely-tuned cycle. Because exotic plants can be toxic to insects {even beneficial ones} and often kill off native plants, they reduce biodiversity, damaging the ecosystem as a result.

Butterfly populations, in particular, are dwindling because native plants serve as their main source of food. For a garden to attract butterflies, two types of plants are necessary: those that provide nectar for adults and those that serve as host plants for larvae. Many exotic species only provide nectar, offering no place for these adults to lay their eggs. Birds, spiders, predatory insects, and even rodents rely on larvae for food, while plants look to these future butterflies to help pollinate.

Yet another benefit, many of these native species are used in herbal medicine. Planting a garden full of local flora gives you easy access to remedies for all kinds of medical conditions and symptoms.

Worried that your native plants will attract deer? These four-legged creatures actually find native plants less appealing, because they grow prolifically in the woods. Like humans, deer find exotic rarities much more desirable!

Getting Started:

Rather than transform your garden all at once, start slowly and incorporate a few native plants into your existing plot to complement your annuals and exotic perennials. If you do decide to start fresh with natives, try a small bed no larger than 3 x 8 feet.

Native plants attract and restore wildlife habitats and also attract beneficial insects. Remember to design your garden around the three pillars of a sustainable habitat: food, water, and shelter. Don’t forget to include some trees and shrubs, which also provide shelter and food.

Many nurseries now carry native plants. Make sure that the plants you intend to purchase were cultivated in your area, preferably from seeds or cuttings. Avoid purchasing cloned cultivars or horticulturally enhanced plants.

Sticking with native plants doesn’t mean giving up your neat and tidy garden beds for a wild field of weeds, nor does it mean resigning yourself to unappealing blooms. A native plants garden virtually cares for itself, while offering a safe haven for wildlife and insects. Help sustain your region’s biodiversity and enjoy the unending beauty these species have to offer.

Ten Tips on Local Advocacy

1. Develop a plan (or don’t wait for a crisis).

If your garden is not protected, understand exactly who owns the land. Know exactly what you are asking for and who you are asking. Is there a public process or is it “who knows whom”? Your plan should include the other tips listed below. Meanwhile keep the garden looking great!

2. Develop allies.

Community gardens, low-income housing organizations, churches, schools, community development organizations all serve the same constituencies. Introduce potential allies, including government officials and business leaders, to the garden. Determine areas of commonality and find ways to have gardeners help your allies. Be sure to ask your allies to take specific actions to help your cause.

3. Be prepared for opposition.

Acknowledge, in advance, that there will be objections to your efforts. Know both who is likely to be in opposition and what objections they will raise. Read opposition material, study the newspapers, watch or listen to talk shows, and check websites. Determine if there are any points of commonality.  Learn, if possible, if you have contacts with those to whom the opposition listens.

4. Become known.

Invite decision-makers and the media to your garden.  Host activities for neighbors. Share your produce. Do other community services – a children’s program; horticulture therapy, conduct neighborhood clean-ups, and plant tree-pits. Make presentations at nearby neighborhood and tenant association meetings.

5. Use the media.

Developacompellingmessagewhichincludeswhatyouareaskingforandaconvincing reason why you should get it. Determine spokespersons and have them practice giving your message. Make a list of the human interest stories of your garden. Write up the stories (with photos!) for neighborhood weeklies. Invite newspaper and TV garden reporters to the garden. Don’t forget public access cable TV.

6. Meetings, meetings, meetings.

Be prepared to attend public meetings of the city council, planning department, parks commission, city planning and zoning hearings, and health department. Whenever possible sign up to speak at these meetings and present your message. Host meetings of your own to inform and motivate gardeners.

7. Resolutions, plans, and ordinances.

Take the offense. Get friendly local legislators to sponsor and champion resolutions and ordinances supporting community gardening. Be alert for opportunities to have community gardening promoted and sanctioned within a neighborhood and citywide planning and re-zoning efforts.

8. Celebrate successes.

Preservation efforts can take many years. However, there can always be something to celebrate (alliances with new organizations, a successful harvest, a resolution sponsored). To keep up spirits, demonstrate progress, become known, use the media, and involve allies – have a press conference, parties, and congratulatory award events.

9. Be persistent.

The opposition is hoping that you will just go away. Don’t let them wear you down. This is why having parties (tip #8) is so important. It is really important that gardeners really do go to ALL the meetings!

10. Be flexible.

Be open to changing your campaign to reflect the needs of allies or what you realize is a more realistic long-term success. For example, you may lose a garden, but gain a commitment to the building of a permanently protected and larger garden across the street.

Sample Garden Rules and Regulations

Garden rules should be established for every community garden. Rules are an excellent way to ensure everyone understands how the garden will operate and what is expected of each gardener. These rules are intended as a guide only. Each garden’s rules will vary depending on the needs of each garden.

 

Sample Garden Rules and Regulations

1. Each gardener is responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of their garden plot.

Watering, weeding, harvesting and any other garden related maintenance are all the responsibility of the gardener. Gardeners may arrange for other gardeners to water their plots.

2. Tools will be made available for use during the regularly scheduled work time each week.

A limited number of tools, hoses, and watering equipment will be available in the community garden storage bin for use during non-scheduled work times. Regularly scheduled work times will be posted on the garden bulletin board.

 3. Each gardener will be given one key to the garden and the storage bin for access to tools and watering equipment.

Gardeners are responsible for bringing that key each time they work in the garden. Keep garden gate and storage bin locked at all times and return all tools.

 4. Children are welcome in the garden but must be accompanied by an adult and must be supervised at all times.

 5. Each gardener must complete a Release of all Claims form before any work in the garden can begin.

 6. Garden plots should be cared for at least once a week.

It is the gardener’s responsibility to notify the coordinator if he or she is not able to care for their plot in any given week. If any plot remains unattended for more than three weeks that plot is subject to reassignment.

 7. The application of herbicides (weed killers) to the garden plots is prohibited.

 8. Assignment of garden plots will be awarded by a lottery system.

Preference for next year’s plots will be given to this year’s participants first.

 9. Plot fees are due in full before the garden season begins.

 10. Gardeners may harvest vegetables and flowers from their garden only.

 11. At the end of the growing season, gardeners are responsible for clearing their plot of all plant material and leaving the plot as they found it in the spring.

 12. The Garden Committee is responsible for ensuring that the rules are followed at all times.

The committee is made up of gardeners elected each year at the spring meeting.

Five Tips for Community Garden Leaders and Organizers

A successful, long-term and healthy garden community requires just as much cultivating as the garden itself. Smart leaders and organizers focus on the people first before the garden is even built. And savvy leaders know that the behavior they model sets the tone for the community as a whole.

No pressure, right?

How to be a good leader:

  • Have an open mind
  • Leave your ego and preconceptions a home
  • Acknowledge and celebrate the contributions of the team
  • Treat all ideas as valuable
  • Be a good listener
  • Begin with the end in mind
  • Make sure everyone leaves a meeting in a better place than when they arrived

How do you do this? Here are a few tips…

Tip #1: API – Assume Positive Intentions

People get really passionate about community action and, particularly, gardens. If someone is coming to you with an issue and they seem to be getting up in your grill, keep in mind that whatever is driving them is important to them. They’re not after you, personally (most of the time!) they are trying to solve a problem that is important to them. If you assume positive intentions, these interactions won’t seem as personal and you can collaborate faster and get an issue resolved.

Tip #2: R-E-S-P-E-C-T

We can all hum that iconic tune, but do we exercise it in our dealings with our community members? One of the fundamental principles of organizing (and life in general) is respect for the ideas, opinions, and wishes of others. By respecting people’s contributions you build an environment of trust that is invaluable to a healthy and well-functioning community.

Tip #3: Communicate!

Nobody likes surprises or feeling left out. When your garden group is young, you can’t over communicate. Make open and frequent interactions part of your organizational playbook. And don’t just talk about the good stuff. Let people know everything that is going on so you can overcome obstacles together.

Tip #4: Listen!

There are two types of listening: listening in order to reply and listening in order to understand. If a garden member presents an issue and, as you listen, you’re taking in information to form a rebuttal, you’re not really listening. If you’re listening to really understand, you may not have an answer. And that’s ok. By really listening to what your gardener’s ideas and concerns are, you build an atmosphere of trust and respect and can figure out solutions together.

Tip #5: Practice What You Preach

Whatever the group agrees to, you as a leader and community member, need to respect those wishes and comply with them. Being a leader does not give you special privileges. The rules and group decisions apply to everyone. Period.

How To Create A Community Garden

There are over 10,000 community gardens in cities across the United States. This popular trend provides fresh produce, exercise, and a place to socialize with friends and neighbors. Community gardens are also attractive and inviting spaces that benefit the environment through composting and recycling. Consider doing a little gardening – whether you have some basil and oregano growing in your kitchen window, tomatoes planted in a container on your patio, or if you decide to take it a step further and organize a community garden.

The first step to organizing a community garden is finding people who are interested in getting involved. Start by asking around and see what kind of response you get. If after this informal research you feel there is significant interest, organize a meeting. Be sure to invite fellow residents, your apartment manager or superintendent, a representative from a local horticulture group, business leaders in the area, etc. At the meeting have an agenda that covers topics such as: Are there any issues or reasons we can’t create a community garden? If we are given the green light, what type of community garden do we want – a vegetable garden, a flower garden, or both? Do we want a strictly organic garden? Who will be allowed to participate? Will we need liability insurance, and should everyone participate sign a liability waiver?

It is possible, especially in a suburban apartment complex, that you’ll be able to get approval to have the garden on the apartment community grounds. If not, look for alternatives: the roof of your urban high-rise, for example, or perhaps an empty lot located nearby – check with local government agencies to find out who owns the lot and see if you can get permission to rent the lot or perhaps even buy it. You want the garden within walking distance so people will stay involved. Also, be sure the location gets plenty of sunlight – about six hours a day.

If you think you have a good shot at getting the space for the garden approved (or rented), the next step is to form a planning committee. You’ll want people who are committed and reliable and who are willing to dedicate a good chunk of time to the project, especially in the beginning stages. The committee will be responsible for getting the garden set up – this includes a weatherproof bulletin board for schedules, events, and notices; a composting area; and if you are using an off-site lot and not a space on the apartment community property, a fence with a locking gate. You may also want to consider sponsors, such as local business leaders, nearby colleges, etc. You’ll need money for rent (if you are renting a lot), donations of tools and seeds, and funds for other expenses. If you don’t want to find sponsors, consider having membership dues (or consider a combination of both).

Before planting anything, the soil should be evaluated. Take a sample and have it tested for possible pollutants. Next, develop the garden. You’ll want to organize the garden into sections and put a sign with the gardener’s name in each section. Use the perimeter of the garden for rose bushes, blackberry bushes, shrubs, and trees that will act as both a deterrent for thieves or vandals and to make the garden attractive to those passing by. Be sure to have spaces for tool storage. Also, leave space for walkways between each garden plot.

You’ll need to keep track of who is planting where, so if they allow their garden to become a bed of dirt and weeds, you know who to contact. Set up some garden rules and post them to the community garden bulletin board. Be sure to include annual clean-up in the rules – everyone with a plot should participate. Also, everyone should have a time when they are responsible for weeding and maintaining the common areas and the perimeter of the garden.

Don’t forget to create common spaces within the garden for people to gather, even if it is just a couple of benches. One of the purposes of a community garden is to help bring people together, so consider holding fun events for garden participants, as well.

In addition to being good for the environment and providing fresh produce for healthier eating, gardening is great exercise and lowers stress.

10 Steps to Starting a Community Garden

The following steps are adapted from the American Community Garden Association’s guidelines for launching a successful community garden in your neighborhood.

1. Organize a Meeting Of Interested People

Determine whether a garden is really needed and wanted, what kind it should be (vegetable, flower, both, organic?), whom it will involve and who benefits. Invite neighbors, tenants, community organizations, gardening and horticultural societies, building superintendents (if it is at an apartment building)—in other words, anyone who is likely to be interested.

2. Form a Planning Committee

This group can be comprised of people who feel committed to the creation of the garden and have the time to devote to it, at least at this initial stage. Choose well-organized persons as garden coordinators Form committees to tackle specific tasks: funding and partnerships, youth activities, construction, and communication.

3. Identify All Your Resources

Do a community asset assessment. What skills and resources already exist in the community that can aid in the garden’s creation? Contact local municipal planners about possible sites, as well as horticultural societies and other local sources of information and assistance. Look within your community for people with experience in landscaping and gardening. In Toronto contact the Toronto Community Garden Network.

4. Approach A Sponsor

Some gardens “self-support” through membership dues, but for many, a sponsor is essential for donations of tools, seeds or money. Churches, schools, private businesses or parks and recreation departments are all possible supporters. One garden raised money by selling “square inches” at $5 each to hundreds of sponsors.

5. Choose A Site

Consider the amount of daily sunshine (vegetables need at least six hours a day), availability of water, and soil testing for possible pollutants. Find out who owns the land. Can the gardeners get a lease agreement for at least three years? Will public liability insurance be necessary?

6. Prepare And Develop The Site

In most cases, the land will need considerable preparation for planting. Organize volunteer work crews to clean it, gather materials and decide on the design and plot arrangement.

7. Organize the Garden

Members must decide how many plots are available and how they will be assigned. Allow space for storing tools, making compost and don’t forget the pathways between plots! Plant flowers or shrubs around the garden’s edges to promote good will with non-gardening neighbors, passersby, and municipal authorities.

8. Plan for Children

Consider creating a special garden just for kids–including them is essential. Children are not as interested in the size of the harvest but rather in the process of gardening. A separate area set aside for them allows them to explore the garden at their own speed.

9. Determine Rules and Put Them In Writing

The gardeners themselves devise the best ground rules. We are more willing to comply with rules that we have had a hand in creating. Ground rules help gardeners to know what is expected of them. Think of it as a code of behavior. Some examples of issues that are best dealt with by agreed upon rules are dues, how will the money be used? How are plots assigned? Will gardeners share tools, meet regularly, handle basic maintenance?

10. Help Members Keep In Touch with Each Other

Good communication ensures a strong community garden with active participation by all. Some ways to do this are: form a telephone tree, create an email list; install a rainproof bulletin board in the garden; have regular celebrations. Community gardens are all about creating and strengthening communities.

Creative Organic Green ~ Mini Tech Detox

OUR BODIES PHYSIOLOGICALLY DEPEND ON ELECTRICAL CURRENTS—our nervous and cardiac systems being the core systems of course that rely on tiny electrical impulses. Even though you can’t feel it, our modern world is increasingly exposing us to larger and larger volumes of electromagnetic fields (EMF), emitted through the use of electricity and particularly from increasing dependency on “wireless” technology (not only are we dependent in terms of modern-day conveniences, but our entertainment often revolves around it too). The advent of smart, connected homes, the use of wireless routers in every home, or simply the simple act of plugging things into an electrical outlet, even things like lamps, means that our exposure is 24-7.

In 2011, the WHO classified cellphones as a possible carcinogen and have launched an International EMF program—after years of research, the results are still inconclusive but there is enough cause for concern that limits on exposure have been suggested. We know that EMF affects our body, placing stress on our systems as the electrical “flow” within our bodies becomes agitated and disturbed. The trouble is that technology has evolved faster than the research, and we don’t truly know what the long-term effects of exposure are. But we suspect… and it’s not very encouraging. Chronic conditions such as fatigue, headaches, adrenal fatigue or sympathetic system hyper-drive (fight or flight stress response) are rampant, and tumors located in the vicinity of where people hold their cell phones have increased. And nearly everyone I know experiences sleep problems—a physiological function that seems to be heavily affected by EMF—and sleep is when your body does most of its regenerative work.

In my own life, I have found that as I remove toxins of all kinds from my life I become more sensitive to them as my body has lowered it’s ‘tolerance’ levels. It’s a positive thing as I can detect pollutants in my immediate environment really easily, but EMF has been a form of pollution I had not yet tackled until now. It’s a tricky field, as it operates on a level we cannot directly feel, and the symptoms can be attributed to any number of things. A quick internet search of EMF-blocking products yields results that can feel, shall we say, dubious. It’s left me questioning how best to deal with the issue, and the easiest most immediate solution has been to make massive efforts to reduce my personal exposure by changing my habits (and I say massive because I truly think we’re addicted to our devices and modern conveniences—it’s taken a lot of conscious effort to leave mine alone).

The following are some super quick, very simple changes you can make in your own home to reduce how much EMF you’re exposing yourself to (and your kids too, whose delicate systems have shown to be even more sensitive).

  1. Replace your cordless phone with an old-school plug-in. The reason this is important is because cordless phones, like cell phones, are constantly emitting a signal to the “home base” within the confines of your own home. A bonus is that you’ll never have to hunt for the handset in the couch cushions again.
  2. Make calls from a landline whenever possible (such as when you are at home or at work).
  3. Don’t charge your phone (or keep any wireless electronics) in your bedroom, and DON’T use your phone as an alarm clock—get a battery-operated one (and then use rechargeable!).
  4. Don’t keep your cell phone on your body all day long (especially in your pocket).
  5. Create a “drop spot” in your home, where you automatically place your phone (and maybe keys, etc.) when you get home. Make a conscious effort to leave it there and resist the urge to check it for messages or updates too frequently.
  6. Don’t use your laptop on your lap, and even avoid if you can using an iPad resting against your body for too long.
  7. Use hard-wired internet connections for desktop computers at home and at work.
  8. Turn your devices off at night.
  9. Unplug your modem/wifi at night. If this sounds too inconvenient for you, you can purchase power bars with built-in timers so that they will shut off and turn back on automatically at the time of your choosing, say 11 p.m. and 6 a.m.
  10. Don’t make checking your device and browsing Facebook etc. the first thing you do in the morning. Give your body time to wake up and use the time for something different instead (family time, meditation, breathwork, yoga, etc.).

Creative Organic Green ~ Detox For Your Home

Summer is the time of year that we start eating lighter and detoxing. It’s time for summer cleaning of body, mind, and home! While there is a lot of focus on what we eat, often not enough attention is paid to how we clean our homes… Making sure that all of your household cleaning products are naturally-derived is extremely important – especially if you have children. The products we use every day may give off toxins that we then breathe in or absorb through our skin. They may also pollute the air in our environment. Studies have shown that environmental toxicity is a contributor to many conditions such as autoimmune disease, heart disease and even cancer(1). The chemicals found in many common household cleaners are carcinogens which mean that they can cause cancer. Bleach and ammonia are highly toxic and, when mixed together, they are a lethal combination(2).  Other chemicals which are hormone and endocrine disruptors are glycol ethers and phthalates (3) so it’s important to be able to identify every ingredient on a label that you are using in your home. If you can’t identify it, don’t use it. With just a few simple ingredients, including some wonderfully fragrant essential oils, you can disinfect and clean, as well as rid your home of bacteria, mold, viruses, unpleasant odors, and dust mites.

As a caution, when you buy essential oils you should beware of anything that says “fragrance added.” If it does not say “100% (pure) essential oils” then the ingredient is synthetic. Most of the fragrance used in household cleaning products and deodorizers are synthetic. There is nothing natural about them and they are harmful to your health. Essential oils are great for the home since they are non-toxic and they possess many therapeutic properties that will benefit you for a clean healthy home. They are antiseptic, disinfectant, anti-bacterial, anti-microbial and anti-fungal – and of course, they smell great.

These are some recipes I created to get you through all your spring cleaning. I use sweet orange (Citrus sinensis) in all three recipes so you don’t have to go out and buy too many essential oils; however, I am also giving you a list of essential oils you can substitute.The citrus oils are all antiseptic, disinfectant, anti-bacterial, anti-microbial and anti-fungal so you can replace orange oil with lemon (Citrus limon), grapefruit (Citrus x paradisi) or lime (Citrus aurantifolia) essential oil.

It’s also fun to experiment and mix scents that you like. It might even make you enjoy cleaning!

General All-purpose Cleaner

Lemon (Citrus limon)

Lemon is one of the most popular citrus fruits in the world. It is extracted from the rind of the fruit. It is antiseptic, a disinfectant, anti-bacterial and anti-microbial, making it a great all-purpose household cleaner. It was even used during World War I as a disinfectant in hospitals. Lemon essential oil is calming but it is also refreshing to the mind, as it helps lift negative emotions. It is believed that inhaling lemon essential oil helps to increase concentration and alertness; therefore, it can be a great room freshener in offices.

 

Orange Sweet (Citrus sinensis)

Orange Sweet is a citrus essential oil that is extracted from the rind of the orange. It is antiseptic, anti-fungal and anti-microbial. It is also very uplifting for your mood, making it a good scent to have in any home. Sweet orange essential oil is an excellent degreaser and cleaner due to an ingredient called, d-Limonene. A study conducted by The University of Arkansas and Colorado State University found that Valencia orange (Citrus sinensis var. valencia) essential oil inhibited E. Coli and Salmonella during the refrigeration process of beef(3). It also inhibited Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) which is a deadly staph infection(4).

 

Peppermint (Mentha x Piperita)

Peppermint essential oil is extracted from the leaves of a herb. It is a hybrid of spearmint (Mentha spicata) and water mint (Mentha aquatica). It is antibacterial, antifungal, antimicrobial and antiseptic. Bugs tend not to like it, so it is a good choice to add to an all-purpose aromatherapy blend around the house.

 

White Distilled Vinegar

White Distilled Vinegar is one of the best cleaning ingredients for the home since it is a natural disinfectant. It can help to kill mold, bacteria, and viruses. In addition, it is very inexpensive.

 

Directions for Use:

You will need a sixteen-ounce size spray bottle.

 

Essential Oils:

20 drops Lemon (Citrus limon)

30 drops Orange Sweet (Citrus sinensis)

15 drops Peppermint (Mentha x Piperita)

White Distilled Vinegar*

Distilled Water*

*Fill the remaining bottle with a 50/50 combination of white vinegar and distilled water.  I prefer distilled water but if you don’t have distilled water, use filtered water. Once you have all of the ingredients in the bottle, shake it prior to every use because the essential oils and water will separate. If you want to change the scent, from time to time you can substitute with lime, grapefruit, eucalyptus (Eucaplyptusspp.), clove bud (Syzygium aromaticum) and lavender (Lavandula angustifolia).

You can use this blend as a general cleaner for your kitchen, especially for the counter tops, refrigerator, cabinets and even wood surfaces.

Window Cleaner

I like using an eight-ounce size bottle since it’s smaller and easier to handle and it will fit in any cabinet. If you want to make a sixteen-ounce bottle, just double up the recipe.

 

Essential Oils:

3 drops Lemon (Citrus limon)

3 drops Peppermint (Mentha x Piperita)

White Distilled Vinegar*

Distilled Water*

*Fill the remaining bottle with a 50/50 combination of white vinegar and distilled water. I prefer distilled water but if you don’t have distilled water, you can use filtered water. Once you have all of the ingredients in the bottle, shake it prior to every use because the essential oils and water will separate. If you want to change the scent from time to time, you can substitute lemon with lime, grapefruit or orange.

Bath and Sink Scrub

Clove (Syzygium aromaticum)

Clove essential oil is extracted from the buds of the clove plant. It is antibacterial, anti-fungal, anti-microbial, antiseptic and antiviral, making it a great choice for cleaning tubs and sinks.

 

Orange Sweet (Citrus sinensis)

See above description under General All-purpose Cleaner

 

Pure Liquid Castile Soap

Make sure that your soap is pure Castile. I use Dr. Bronner’s castile soap because for over 150 years it has been a family-run business and the quality of the product is never comprised for profit. The soap is pure and organic, with no dyes, whiteners or synthetic fragrances. The bottles are made from 100% recycled plastic so you are doing something good for the environment. They are available in different scents such as orange, sweet almond (Prunis Dulcis), eucalyptus, lavender, peppermint and lemon, and the soap blends perfectly with essential oils. You should have this product in your home as it has so many uses and can replace many products. I also use it as a hand and body wash, and shampoo – and you can even wash floors and clothes with it.

 

Baking Soda (Sodium bicarbonate)

Baking soda is right up there with vinegar as a cleaning superstar! It is non-toxic, absorbs odor, and it is great for sinks and tubs due to its abrasive texture. It has many uses in the home – from brushing your teeth to shining silver. I never use toxic oven cleaners. Instead, I mix baking soda and water to get rid of spills in my oven. You can rub it on with a soft cloth or leave some on the spills overnight and then wash it the next day.

Use a twelve-ounce glass jar with an airtight clamp lid or a screw top.

 

Essential Oils:

5 drops Clove bud (Syzygium aromaticum)

5 drops Orange Sweet (Citrus sinensis)

½ cup Pure Liquid Castile Soap*

½ cup Baking Soda*

*I mix equal parts of baking soda and castile soap to make a paste. If you want to make a bigger batch just double-up the recipe. Add the baking soda and castile soap to the jar, then add the essential oils. Once you have all of the ingredients in the jar, mix it together with a spoon or spatula. You can apply a small amount to a cloth or sponge to clean.

As the seasons change, or you just want to try a different aroma, you can use ten drops of any of the following essential oils, or just mix two essential oils together. They all have antiseptic, disinfectant, anti-bacterial, anti-microbial and anti-fungal properties.

 

• Tea Tree (Melaleuca alternifolia)

• Eucalyptus Globulus (Eucalyptus globulus)

• Rosemary ct. cineole (Rosmarinus officinalis)

• Peppermint (Mentha x Piperita)

• Lemon (Citrus limon)

• Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia)

 

Wood Cleaner

Orange Sweet (Citrus sinensis)

See above description under General All-purpose Cleaner

Olive Oil (Olea europaea)

Olive oil moisturizes dry wood and gives it a shine.

White Distilled Vinegar

See above description under General All-purpose Cleaner

You will need a two-ounce flip top bottle.

 

Essential Oil:

15 drops Orange Sweet (Citrus sinensis)

½ ounce of White Distilled Vinegar

Olive Oil (Olea europaea)*

*Fill the remaining bottle with olive oil. Once you have all of the ingredients in the bottle, shake it prior to every use. Put about a tablespoon on a soft cloth and wipe down the wood. Apply more as needed.

Creative Organic Green Household Helpers

Ever wonder if those commercial cleaning products and indoor pesticides you use might do more harm than good? You’re not alone. Natural home-care products {many of which contain herbs} are growing in popularity as more homemakers become aware of indoor toxins. The use of certain cleaning products has been linked to higher rates of asthma, inducing the condition in some people, as well as aggravating the condition in those who already have this chronic inflammatory disease. And although you can buy many excellent nontoxic products for your home, it’s easy and fun to make your own. Just remember that even plant products can be toxic under some circumstances, and the same cautions given for other herbal uses also apply here.

SIMPLY CLEAN SOLUTIONS

With just a few basic ingredients, you can make safer “green” cleaning products for a fraction of the cost of the commercial products and without the scary ingredients. Distilled white vinegar {which contains acetic acid} has anti-fungal and antimicrobial properties and can eliminate mineral deposits from sink and bathroom fixtures, as well as cookware. Acidic lemon juice kills germs on countertops, cutting boards, and more. Baking soda deodorizes and dissolves grease and dirt. Mixed with other ingredients, it makes a gentle but effective scrub. All-natural castile soap made for centuries with olive oil, not only washes dirt and grease from your body, but also from household surfaces and laundry.

Many herbs have potent disinfectant properties, too. Basil, bay, cardamom, clove, coriander, eucalyptus, ginger, hyssop, lavender, lemongrass, oregano, peppermint, rose geranium, rosemary, sage, spearmint, and thyme are cleaning powerhouses. All contain a multitude of plant chemicals that possess antibacterial, antifungal, antiseptic, and antiviral actions. By adding a few drops of these essential oils to your homemade cleaning products, you can boost their cleaning power and impart a delightful fragrance that makes cleaning more pleasurable.

Because essential oils break down plastic over time, it’s best to store your homemade cleaning products in labeled, dark glass containers. Plastic spray bottles are fine for short-term storage of smaller quantities. Also, remember to store all cleaning products, even those made with natural ingredients, in a cool, dark location where children and pets cannot reach them.

KITCHEN COUNTER-TOP SPRAY

Use this fragrant solution to disinfect countertops, refrigerator shelves, and painted surfaces, including walls and wood trim. Feel free to experiment with other antibacterial essential oils, such as basil, thyme, or lemon.

1/2 cup distilled white vinegar

1/2 cup water

10-12 drops rose geranium essential oil

In a small, dark glass jar, combine the vinegar, water, and oil. Stir. Pour small amounts into a spray bottle as necessary.

GENTLE SPEARMINT SCRUBBER

This non-scratching, chlorine-free paste is perfect for cleaning cookware, countertops, and porcelain sinks and tubs. Lemon and lemon verbena essential oils also work well in place of the spearmint.

1 cup baking soda

1 tablespoon liquid castile soap

10-12 drops spearmint essential oil

Warm water {90 to 110 degrees F}

In a small, dark glass jar, combine the baking soda, soap, and enough water to form a thick but pourable paste. Stir in the essential oil. Apply to surfaces, wait for 5 minutes or more, then scrub with a sponge. Rinse off the residue with water.

What Is a Studio Apartment? The Pros and Cons of Studio Life

Whether it’s called a studio apartment, bachelor apartment, efficiency apartment, or studio flat, the answer to the question “What is a studio apartment?” remains the same: It’s a self-contained living unit with the bedroom, living room, and kitchen all in a single open space.

That’s right — a studio apartment allows (or requires) you to do all your living, eating, and sleeping in one room with no barrier walls. But you don’t have to do absolutely everything in the same room. A studio should have a separate room with a door for the bathroom. If it doesn’t, it might be illegal to rent in some states.

To people following the tiny-house movement, the virtues of studio apartments are many and obvious. But for those with a ton of possessions who are used to having more room to stretch out, studio life might be a little tight.

The advantages of studio apartments

“Moving into a studio apartment can be a great way to save money on rent without getting a roommate or settling for a less-than-desirable neighborhood,” says Niccole Schreck, a rental experience expert. “You could save on your monthly rent as much as $924 in Denver, $867 in New York City, $500 in Los Angeles, and $427 in Minneapolis by choosing a studio over a one-bedroom apartment.”

That’s a lot of cheddar. Another financial advantage of the studio apartment?Utility bills will likely be lower. A small space is cheaper to heat and cool, and the entire unit could be illuminated with a single light placed in a strategic location. Also, there’s not a lot of room for a bunch of gadgets to sit around sucking up energy.

And cleaning the place is a snap, according to many studio apartment dwellers. Since there’s little room for clutter, it’s a lot easier to clean and maintain. Of course, you will need to find a place to stash the few cleaning products you’ll need.

The challenges of studio apartments

But there are a few drawbacks as well.

“Living in a studio while I was a proud, single cat lady was so much fun. It was super easy to keep clean. I didn’t have to spend a fortune to decorate it well, and the rent and utilities were affordable,” says Erica D. House, a lifestyle expert, and blogger. “Once I got married, I couldn’t fathom living with my husband in less than 500 square feet! We both like our alone time to veg out and do what we’d like to on our own, and that would have been impossible while living in a studio.”

When House moved into a studio apartment, she had to get rid of at least 50% of her possessions — plus, she had to think twice about her purchases. Would there be room in the closet for that shirt? Room on the shelf for that book? She considered the constraint a mixed blessing.

Some studio apartment dwellers get around the lack of storage space by renting a storage unit — although the cost of storage might mitigate the financial benefits of renting a studio apartment in the first place.

But for those who are willing to streamline their lives and spend less time and money maintaining their living space, the studio apartment could be just the thing! They don’t call them efficiency apartments for anything.

Windowsill Gardening

As long as you have enough sun streaming in through your window or can provide artificial light suspended directly over your plants {for when the sun’s angle is low, in winter, or if the window is on a northern wall}, you can successfully grow herbs. You’ll have to pay attention to the sun-pattern, noticing when the light is direct and indirect. More than 2 to 3 hours of direct sunlight on the herbs daily will mean that you’ll need to water and feed the plant more often. Without enough light, however, your herbs will become leggy and their growth will be soft and lax. Believe it or not, the biggest mistake people make with windowsill growing is neglect.

In a very sunny window, you can experiment with setting pots of herbs in a tray filled with stones and adding water to the tray. {The stones prevent the water from soaking directly into the pots, so take care that the water level doesn’t reach the pots themselves.} This technique provides some humidity, which cuts down the dramatic effects of direct sunlight. Check your pots morning and evening, and let them dry out before watering, but don’t allow the plants to wilt.

Try growing thyme. basil, oregano, rosemary for the first time “windowsill gardeners”!