15 December 2010

Green thumb guide: 12 cool ways to sow eco-savings (part one)

1) Swap Seeds To Shake Up Your Diet & Stretch Your Budget

At the beginning of the planting season, we tend to dream about the bumper crop of diverse organic and heirloom varieties that we’ll no doubt enjoy all summer long. Then, reality sets in. Hmmm, those seeds really add up, but it doesn’t have to be that way if you make a pact with fellow green thumbs to share the wealth. Decide who will buy what and arrange a meeting time to divvy out the goods – in addition to saving money, everyone will enjoy far more diversity in their garden and on their dinner plates. If you don’t have any gardening enthusiasts in your social circle, check with an online garden-themed forum such as Seed Savers Exchange in order to effortlessly hook up with like-minded veggie warriors.

2) Sprout From Scratch Rather Than Purchasing Seedlings

It’s far more convenient to purchase plants that have already gotten a head start in the greenhouse, but they’re generally produced in conditions that are anything but sustainable. If you’re one of those people who cares deeply about making every aspect of the gardening experience as green as possible, then support a local nursery that recycles their plastic pots and embraces other eco-friendly strategies. If this is an unheard of concept in your neck of the woods, why not try growing your own collection of heirloom seeds indoors using a grow light, organic soil and recycled container options? Not only is it budget-friendly and pretty fascinating…it also happens to be more fulfilling, too.

3) Turn Household Materials Into Freebie Pots

From old yogurt cups, salad clamshell containers and cardboard egg cartons to actual empty eggshells and handmade newspaper pots, use your imagination and repurpose what you already own. Pretty much anything that can accommodate soil and ever-growing roots is fair game. If you’re more of a purist and don’t like the idea of straying from the real deal, keep an eye on your local Craigslist or Freecycle postings. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at how many people will go out of their way to unload their dusty old pots on you without charging a cent – in fact, they’ll think that you’re the one doing them the bigger favor.

4) Wrangle Weeds The Natural Way

If you saturate unwanted weeds with chemicals, you ruin your chances of composting what could have been perfectly good biodegradable material. There are several safe alternatives to consider that will stop them dead in their tracks, preferably when employed on hot days -- just make sure that none of your other welcome garden residents are exposed to any of these treatments.
Drowning weeds with plain old boiling water will do the trick (the heat even destroys their seeds), but you might try spraying 5% acetic acid on them instead for an extra layer of protection. Better yet, apply vinegar with at least a 9% acetic acid content (also known as pickling vinegar) for a serious wallop that they won’t soon forget – oh wait, they will because they’ll be dead.

Are you under siege by weeds that refuse to give up the fight? Time to pull out the big guns by adding 5 tablespoons of alcohol to 4 cups of water and spraying liberally on your invaders, or just create a soapy version using the same ratio of liquid soap to water.

As a pre-emptive measure to stop weeds dead in their tracks before they’ve had a chance to establish themselves, apply a liberal amount of any of the following materials around the base of garden plants: corn meal gluten, cocoa bean hulls, newspaper, cardboard, tree bark, straw, rocks or shredded tree bark (all of which won’t compromise veggie plants that are already well-established).

5) Battle Hungry Garden Invaders, No Chemicals Necessary

Create an all-purpose chemical-free weapon that will make all sorts of sucking, chomping and slurping insects such as grasshoppers, aphids and thrips quake in their boots, keeling over without thinking twice. Just pulse the following magical trinity in your food processor along with ¼ cup of water: 1 large diced onion, 2 diced hot peppers and whole head of garlic. Whoo-eee, that’s gonna bite them in the you-know-what realllly well! Pour the mixture into a large container along with 1 gallon of hot tap water and allow the searingly spicy combination to marinate for a minimum of 24 hours. Once you strain the solids out, pour the liquid into a spray bottle and go to town!

6) Create Homemade Plant Markers

Keep track of assorted botanicals by handwriting their names on a vast assortment of recycled materials such as unwanted compact discs, the slats of a standard mini blind, popsicle sticks, food container lids, soda cans, flat stones, wooden clothes pins, mismatched spoons or plastic milk jugs. You’ll never miss the store bought versions…ever!

Elizah Leigh | @elizahleigh
Elizah Leigh's master's degree in education combined with her passion for the written word and deep-seated interest in environmental issues has proven to be the ideal trifecta for her present status as a green journalist. Currently commissioned to write a reference book on vegetarianism, Elizah hopes to inspire people through her words. Follow Elizah on Facebook.

Photo credit:cc:flickr.com/photos/southernpixel