Home » Sustain

From Sustain

tea tree oil

Tea tree oil: Nature’s Disinfectant

16_07207-copy

Tea tree oil might be the most essential of the essential oils. Native to Australia, the oil of the tea tree (Melaleuca alternifolia) was issued to infantry men in that country in the early 1900s to treat infections. And they were on to something. Scientific studies have shown when used in combination with other oils on wound dressings, tea tree oil can inhibit the growth of bacteria and fungus like Staphylococcus aureus and Candida albicans. And, when combined with geranium oil, tea tree oil inhibited the growth of antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria.

Read more

fermentation

Fermentation 101: Preserve Your Veggies and Your Health

Fermentation was the original way to preserve the harvest, and it’s very easy, said Cat Swenson, the fermenter-in-chief and managing partner of Great Ferments. It predates canning and pickling, and is even more fool-proof than those. People have been fermenting foods for 7,000 years under some very unsanitary conditions, she said with a laugh, and fermentation can preserve food for longer than you ever thought possible. (Look below to see Cat demonstrate her process to Allen. Or click here.)

Read more

Donation_web

Garden Harvest Given to At-Risk Children

The cafeteria at Centers for Youth and Families overflows with organically grown tomatoes, peppers and more, and the staff barely has room for the harvest donation from Moss Mountain Farm. In the coming weeks, they’ll see even more produce arrive to provide nutritious meals for children in treatment and summer programs at Centers.

IMG_5208Moss Mountain Farm, owned by P. Allen Smith, has been fortunate enough to share its bounty with neighboring outreach programs. These hundreds of pounds of summer vegetables have been given to nonprofits in Little Rock and Conway. The Centers for Youth and Families was one location chosen to receive a donation because of a shared project to install a therapy garden on the campus. Centers for Youth and Families provides treatment for family issues and emotionally disturbed or at-risk youth in a residential setting, and studies have shown therapeutic gardening, sometimes called horticulture therapy, provides relief for stress and mental and developmental disabilities.

“On behalf of The Centers Foundation, it’s always an honor to receive donations from corporate and community partners like this, that will go on to benefit our children and youth. What makes this donation even more special is that it’s also symbolic of Centers for Youth & Families roots,” said Doug Stadter, president and CEO of Centers.  In 1884, Elizabeth Mitchell couldn’t bear the thought of children in need and began to taken them into her home. She quickly inspired others to do the same. Her actions led to the formation of the organization now known as Centers for Youth & Families. “More than 130 Years later, this is a great reminder of the importance of helping children and youth who need it the most,” Stadter added.

IMG_5200Centers believes the garden project would greatly benefit its patients, and while planning for that project continues, the Acre Garden at Moss Mountain Farm overflowed with a summer harvest of Bonnie Plants and those grown from Sakata Seeds. The farm produced crates and crates of Juliet, Yellow Jubilee and Sungold tomatoes as well as Banana and Yes to Yellow peppers, among others. The cafeteria at Centers proved to be the ideal landing spot for the farm’s harvest. And this donation will have the dual purpose of prepping the staff at Centers for an influx of fresh produce from its on-site gardens once the project is completed.  Smith and his farm plan to continue weekly donations as long as the harvest allows.

“Thanks to the generosity of the Moss Mountain Farm Foundation, children in our residential treatment program, emergency shelter and summer program are enjoying farm fresh, organic produce this summer,” said Stadter. “Providing a nutritious diet and teaching our kids the importance and fun of healthy eating is an essential part of our work at Centers for Youth & Families. We’re grateful to P. Allen Smith and the Moss Mountain Farm Foundation for being such a great partner in our efforts to build happier and healthier children, families, and communities across Arkansas.”

In addition to Centers, Moss Mountain Farm’s Acre Garden also supplied 125 lbs of fresh tomatoes, peppers and okra to St. Peters Food Pantry in Conway.

15_09920_forweb

What’s the Fig Idea? Find out in the summer e-mag

The summer issue of our Naturally magazine is full of recipes, architecture, DIYs and more. Be inspired to party with sweet figgy bourbon cocktails, spicy green beans and sunny, heat-hardy flowers that will brighten up your home all summer.

In this issue, learn how easy it is to grow and harvest your own baby broccoli, get a peek into an historic piece of architecture designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and learn how to make the most of your water feature. Click below to start reading!

16_03738

Cabbage Patch Kid: How a plant inspired one girl to feed needy families

Many years ago, the Bonnie Plants Third Grade Cabbage Program — where third-grade students are given a cabbage plant to tend either at home or at school – inspired one young student in South Carolina to create an organization to feed those in need.

Katie's-Crops-1Katie Stagliano was given a plant in third grade. It grew to be almost 40 lbs! Her cabbage was too big for one family. So, she donated it to a soup kitchen, where it fed more than 275 people. Amazed by how many people her cabbage fed, Katie started a vegetable garden specifically to donate to hungry people in her community. Her initiative continued to grow and expand, and  in 2012, at the age of 14, Katie became the youngest person to receive the Clinton Global Citizen Award.  She met Matt Damon at the awards ceremony!

Katie's-Crops-2Today, she’s the founder and chief executive gardener at Katie’s Krops, a nonprofit organization that continues to grow food to feed the needy. Offering grants to students and schools, her organization has expanded into 51 gardens run by kids in 21 states. Those gardens produce thousands of pounds of healthy produce for families. We are so inspired by what Katie is doing, and to think it all started with a small cabbage plant donation.

The Bonnie Plants Third Grade Cabbage Program is open schools across America. This program aims to connect children to their food and nature. Sometimes the cabbages grow up to 50 lbs! Principals and teachers can register here.  Plants will be delivered at the optimal time for your growing zone. Once the cabbages are grown, classrooms can submit entries for a chance to win a $1,000 scholarship. See previous winners here. Warning: They’re adorable.

Crescent-TruDrop

Plan your summer vacation: A self-watering container review

A guest post by Gary Pilarchik

In early May, I was fortunate enough to attend Garden2Grow 2016 at Moss Mountain Farm in Little Rock, and I had a wonderful time.  I never would have thought my experiences there would lead me to grow an entire cucumber and tomato salad garden in a single container.  The greatest issue with container vegetables is water or more specifically, watering.  Once the soil in a container completely dries out, a lot of harm is done to the plants.  Months of work can be lost by accidently missing a single day of watering.  I have been there too many times while battling our 100-degree summers in Maryland (Zone 7).

During the event, teams of five competed to build a fairy container garden, and the winners got their choice of a Crescent Garden container.  Before the contest started, we were introduced to Crescent’s TruDrop® self-watering system. I was intrigued at the size of some of the plants in the containers. Well, a bit of luck fell our way, and my team won the contest!  That little, yet exciting, victory, led to the experiment I am starting in my container garden today. Maybe now I can beat the heat.

fairygarden

 

This is a demanding experiment, so I did some research on the TruDrop containers.  The one I looked at was 26 inches wide and 26 inches tall, a solid design for growing larger vegetables. The watering system is self-contained and sealed. No insects will find shelter in the water. The TruDrop container’s reservoir holds 12.8 gallons of water, and it has a simple visual display that tells you where the water level sits; making it extremely easy to know when water needs to be added. The container is double walled, which helps with temperature regulation.  It is made from food safe material and it is recyclable.

photos crescent 004I then had the idea to grow a complete tomato and cucumber salad garden in one container. The 26-inch containers were the perfect size.  I typically grow single tomato plants in 5-gallon containers which can be a challenge as they generally need to be watered twice a day in July.  Vacation is almost not an option during the heat of the summer. When I saw the TruDrop container holding large plants, I really wondered how vegetables would fare in that type of self-watering system. Now I can find out and come late July I will have the results!  And I have to say the brail design and color is so much more attractive than my gray 5-gallon containers.

The system evenly waters from the bottom, which is the best way to water plants. It cuts down on waste and decreases the chances of fungus and other diseases that can occur from overhead watering. The soil stays evenly moist at root level and this promotes a strong well-developed root system.  I will be mixing a water soluble fertilizer in the reservoir to keep the plants evenly fed. With this size container, I will only need to fill it about every 10-14 days when the plants are up to size, maybe less.  I could honestly take a vacation and not worry about watering.

photos crescent 003All of the needed vegetables will be planted in a growing area with 19.5 gallons of soil capacity. That space will hold both a dwarf determinate tomato that delivers pink, 12-16 ounce fruits and an indeterminate compact cherry tomato for sweet cherry tomatoes all summer long.  A bush variety cucumber will be joining the bunch.  Nothing beats the scent and sweetness of a freshly sliced cucumber picked straight from the vine.  I’ll add a jalapeno pepper plant to spice the salads up occasionally, onions of some sort, some basil and maybe some cilantro into the Crescent container.  Like I said, not an easy test for any self-watering system, but I think this one can handle it. Stay posted for updates here or on my channel.

Gary Pilarchik’s Rusted Garden YouTube channel has more than 75,000 subscribers and 600 quick, focused vegetable garden videos. A video update on this tomato and cucumber salad container will be featured at  the end of July.  The channel is a culmination of more than 20 years of gardening experience, and he hopes to help you with your gardens and teach children that vegetables don’t come from a grocery store!

Trash-Can-Rain-Barrel

Trash Can Rain Barrel

Supplies:
1 32 Gallon trashcan
1 roll of window screen
1 90 foot hose
1 Nozzle set
1 set of 3 conduit locknuts
2 1/2 inch boiler drains
4 flat metal washers
4 rubber washers

Tools:
Utility knife
Scissors
Staple Gun (optional)
Twine
Pliers
Screwdriver
Dremel tool (optional)

Directions:
1. Make sure trash clean is clean.

2. Use the utility knife to cut a hole in the trash can for the faucet several inches from the bottom of the can. The rubber washers will keep any of your harvested rainwater from leaking out of your rain barrel, but be careful not to make the hole too big.

3. Thread the metal washer onto the faucet first then the rubber washer.

4. Place the faucet through the hole and put another rubber washer on the inside of the trash can.

5. Use the pliers to help screw the locknut on tightly. The tighter you get it screwed on the less likely you are to have leaks.

6. Repeat this process for the second faucet several inches from the top of the trash can. This will act as an overflow valve.

7. Lay the screen over the top of the trash can and cut enough to cover the top.

8. Tie cut screen with twine around the rim of the trash can (staple gun is optional).

9. Use the scissors to trim off the excess screen.

10. Using the utility knife cut out an opening in the lid of the trash can. This will be the intake for the downspout from your gutters. Put the lid on over the screen and your rain barrel is complete.

11. To install a rain barrel, cut down your waterspout to desired height using a utility knife or Dremel tool. Then, reattach curvy part of a waterspout and set your rain barrel underneath lining up with the hole cut on top of the lid.

12. You can also attach a hose at the bottom faucet for watering your lawn and landscape.

Lettuce and nasturtiums

Intensive Gardening: Growing Organic in Small Spaces

What is Intensive Gardening?

Gardening in small spaces uses an intensive or close spacing that is not the traditional spacing like you see on the back of your seed packets or use in the traditional row garden. It is designed to fit a lot more plants into a smaller space than would normally be required if traditional spacing were used. To be successful, this approach relies on optimum soil texture and fertility so that plants do not find it necessary to compete with each other for the nutrients they need to grow and produce fruit. Using raised beds makes this easy as it keeps the amended soil contained.

Good Soil is the Secret to Success

For some time now we have recognized that there is a whole world beneath the soil; small microscopic organisms that are necessary for the life and health of plants. These organisms are responsible for creating an ecology that enables the plants to feed and take up water; so we must protect that system by doing no harm to these organisms. By avoiding toxic chemicals, synthetic fertilizers and practices like excessive tillage that are harmful to soil organisms and using natural amendments, we allow the plants to excel.

Good texture provides soil that is loose and friable and allows plant roots to penetrate through it easily. This is accomplished by the addition of organic matter, which also increases the soils ability to take in and store water.

The Root of Intensive Gardening

Each type of plant has its own distinctive growth habit above ground, which we are more familiar with. We know that by tucking in the smaller plants such as radishes around some of the larger plants like beans, we can make better use of space and light, but did you know there are also distinctive growth pattern of roots underground that are common to each type? Some plants have deep growing roots, and some plants root grow very shallowly. Some plants root spread wide and far, and some are narrow and compact. If you take these growth patterns, for example, pairing a medium rooting bush bean plant, a shallow rooted onion and a deep rooted sweet potato there is minimal competition for water and nutrients at the same soil level. By combining the above and below ground habits, you can create quite a mosaic in each of your beds increasing your harvest in a small space and keeping the weeding, watering and general labor at a minimum, saving your back. I’m all for having more leisure time to enjoy the harvest!

Silkie Chickens

Poultry Profile: Silkie Chickens

One of the most adorable chickens at the Garden Home is called the Silkie because of its fine feathers that feel and look like strands of silk.

The Silkie isn’t a prolific egg producer, but it’s one of the best breeds to have as a pet. Docile and friendly, they will come to you when called and like to be held. The more you spend time with your Silkie chickens the more socialized they will be.

Children love Silkies because of their wacky appearance. They have a top hat like crest and turquoise earlobes that look like fancy earrings. And they have five toes! Most chickens only have four. They also have feathers on their legs, which makes them look like they are walking around in their pajamas.

Silkies come in both large and bantam (dwarf) sizes, but even the large version is small. They come in black, white, buff, gray, blue, and partridge (brown and black). You can get ones with or without a beard.

As an added bonus Silkie chickens don’t make a lot of noise, which is ideal if you live in an urban environment.

Where can you find these fuzzy fowl? One of the best ways to find them is at a poultry show. At the show you can find a breeder who offers baby chicks or adult birds.

Did you know?
Silkies came from China and were referenced by Marco Polo in the 13th century.

DIY Hand Balm

Homemade Hand Balm

This homemade moisturizing balm is perfect for anyone who’s into gardening or who just wants to take better care of their hands. It’s a soy hand balm, and it’s really easy to make. You can get the ingredients at a hobby store or health food store.

Materials for Making Hand Balm:

  • 6 ounces of soy wax
  • 9 ounces of coconut oil
  • 6 ounces of cocoa butter
  • 6 ounces of sweet almond oil
  • Lavender essential oil

Directions for Making Hand Balm:

You begin by melting six ounces of soy wax on a double boiler.

Once it melts, add nine ounces of coconut oil and six ounces of cocoa butter.

Continue to heat and stir the mixture until everything is in liquid state, then add in six ounces of sweet almond oil.

As a final step add about 20 drops of lavender essential oil to give the balm a nice fragrance.

Pour the solution into a small container with a snug-fitting lid.