Tag Archives: Gardening

Thinking Over a Green Summer

I’m watching my husband and oldest daughter in the garden today. They’re planting some aloe vera we bought the other day. I have fond memories of aloe vera from my childhood, as my skin has always sunburned easily. My kids tan like their father, but aloe is still good to have around. We also have some swallows nesting on our house for the first time ever. I’ve heard that can be messy, but they’ve picked pretty good spots so far as I’m concerned (not near any doors), and will hopefully help control our hornet problem.

It’s a good start to the summer.

We have a lot of plans this summer. Camping in Yosemite is the big one and I can hardly wait for my kids to see it. Yosemite is very special to my husband, and it has been far too many years since he has been there.

I’m preparing the kids for all the hiking by taking regular family walks. Now that school is out, I want to take regular walks in the morning to the local park, about a mile each way, and mostly uphill on the way there. Given summer temps around here, these have to be in the morning. I don’t want to do a lot of walking in 100+ degrees F weather, and that’s what we get pretty often here during the summer. I bought some Blue Lizard sunscreen to help ward off sunburn.

That will also be a part of their tradeoff for TV/computer time. They have to play outside to earn time sitting in front of a screen.

I’m working on Mylar covers for some of my windows. Now Mylar is rather ugly, so I’ve added some white tissue paper on the parts visible from outside, so the homeowner’s association won’t give me any trouble if anyone notices. It’s mostly back windows anyhow, but with the white facing out, it’s not that different in appearance from the white backing of some of my curtains. Or so I hope. I can really tell which windows I’ve done, and even with the tissue paper, the Mylar seems to be doing a pretty good job of keeping the heat out. From the inside, of course, the curtains hide it.

Are You Making the Most of Your Weeds?

I don’t think my garden will ever be that perfect, weed-free space many people picture when they talk about having a vegetable garden. I just don’t care enough about beating back every single weed. Within reason, I like them.

I have some nice zucchini growing, as well as tomatoes, pumpkins, and a few other plants. The heat is driving the basil nuts, as it’s constantly trying to flower out much sooner than I’m ready to let it go. The flowers planted to be flowers look great. And there are weeds everywhere.

I do control a few of them. You have to give the plants you intend to grow some space to do so. I don’t let weeds interfere with that. But beyond that, they don’t bother me.

Weeds are useful, some ways. They’re clearly adapted to the soil and watering conditions. Some of them are rather pretty, if you quit looking at them as pesky weeds. Certain weeds can even improve the soil overall.

I know I’ve said this before, but weeds can also be good for bees. They often have flowers of types that help bees stay healthy. That means more bees for the flowers you want pollinated in your garden.

It may be worth looking into what kinds of weeds you have growing in your yard and garden, as some are edible. If you don’t spray them and don’t remove them, you could have an interesting addition to your kitchen routine.

9 Eco Friendly Activities to Keep Your Kids Busy This Summer

My son is out of school for the year, and soon my oldest daughter will be too. It’s time to start thinking about how I’m going to keep them busy, ideally without spending a lot of money or wasting a lot of resources. Here are some of the ideas I’ve come up with.

1. Grow a garden.

This is already started, of course. We have more tomatoes than I think we’ll manage to eat, but my husband always wants to grow a big variety of tomatoes. If they go well, I’ll either have to figure out how to preserve them or start giving the excess away to family, friends and neighbors. Not a bad deal.

We also have zucchini, basil, pumpkins growing from the seeds of last year’s Halloween pumpkin, strawberries and beans. Not a big garden, but we’re pretty limited in this house we’re renting to what we can do to the yard. We also have a few flowers planted just for attracting bees and for pretty. My favorite so far are the native larkspur that grew on their own.

The kids are learning to weed and are responsible to help keep the garden watered. They love knowing that they can snack freely on what grows and is edible.

2. Stargazing

Kids love looking at the stars, and my son picked a small telescope out for his birthday earlier this year. Stargazing is a great way to make those summer nights special for your family.

3. Camping

Take a little time and go camping with your family. Most areas have decent local campgrounds, or you could camp in your own backyard. Older children may even enjoy camping out in the backyard on their own. This was a favorite when I was growing up.

4. Playing with friends.

Don’t get so into doing activities with your kids that they don’t get a ton of time to just play with friends, whether it’s at your house, the friend’s house or on their own at the park once they’re old enough and responsible enough. Let them have fun doing their own things.

5. Visit the library.

Our library has a summer reading program that allows kids in grades 1-5 to earn prizes for the number of pages they read. Prizes shouldn’t be needed to get kids reading if you’ve encouraged it all along, but make sure they keep the habit of reading books that interest them all summer long. The library is a great resource that will allow them to read more books than you could probably afford to buy.

Don’t forget to check out any special activities your local library may have over the summer. Many have activities for all age ranges, which is great when your kids have a range of interests and abilities.

6. Do recycled crafts.

I covered a few good books to help you get ideas for recycled crafts just the other day. Summer is a great time for trying some of these ideas out.

7. Visit museums.

While museums bring a picture of boredom to some minds, they don’t have to. Most kids love a good, hands-on science museum, and many other museums have come to recognize that having a hands-on component makes it more interesting for children.

Check with your local museums to see if they have any free or reduced price days to keep the expense down. These days are usually more crowded, but may put this activity into a more budget friendly category.

8. Go to the zoo.

Most children love the zoo. Annual passes may be quite affordable, or you can suggest that family give passes as a gift. Children will be impressed by the range of animals, and it’s a great opportunity to discuss why we need to protect the habitat of various animals.

9. Go hiking.

Yet another thing you can do fairly locally in most places. Find out where the hiking trails are in your area and you have a great family activity that will help to keep you fit while seeing nature in action.

20 Things Your Kids Can Do for the Environment

It’s not just adults who should be doing the best they can for the environment. Kids can help too. Take some time and teach them to do their part.

1. Reduce

The 3 Rs apply to your kids, and reduce is the first one to teach them. Help them to learn the difference between need and want. When you go shopping with them, and they start begging for whatever it is they see on the shelves, discuss why they want it. If it’s needed, talk about what makes it needed. If it’s just something they want, talk about when you buy things you just want and when you should skip them.

2. Reuse

Kids who enjoy crafts are great at reusing things. They can make wonderful projects from things you might have otherwise thrown into the recycle bin or thrown away.

3. Recycle

Teach them from a young age to sort items into the recycle bin. Once they’re old enough to recognize the types of paper, plastic and metals that can be recycled in your area they can help put recyclables in the right place rather than in the trash.

4. Walk or Bike to School

If your child’s school is at all within a reasonable distance, why not have them walk or ride a bike there. Odds are good that you did the same growing up if your school was near enough. It never ceases to amaze me how many people I see driving less than a block to bring their child to school. With the crowd of cars around the school, walking would be faster for many of them, including the time to return themselves home if the parents went with the kids.

5. Pick Up Trash

We love to go hiking as a family. One thing we include in our hikes is picking up trash if we pass some. It’s easy to carry a bag for trash as you go walking. This can be done at neighborhood playgrounds as well.

6. Turn Off Extra Lights

There are some ages where kids will be really good at this one. They’ll give you a hard time anytime you forget to turn off a light as you leave a room. Other times, they won’t be so good at it.

7. Turn Off Electronics When Not in Use

Kids these days spend a lot of time with electronics these days. Television, computers, video games, kids love them.

Some of these you only need to teach the kids to turn off when they’re done with them. For others, you may want to consider adding in a power strip so that the electronics can be turned completely off, and not use any extra power at all, even for displaying a clock. You can also buy a smart strip so that when certain electronics are shut down, associated items are turned off as well.

8. Plant a Garden

Whether you plant a serious vegetable garden, a few herbs, some flowers or a tree, it’s all good for the environment if you keep it organic. Kids usually love gardening, and any produce grown is good for them too. Remember the bees when you choose your flowers!

9. Help Compost

While dealing with much of the compost pile may be an adult or teen job, kids of any age can throw fresh vegetable scraps into the compost pile.

10. Volunteer

It can be hard to find age appropriate volunteer opportunities when the kids are young sometimes, but it gets easier as they get older. Volunteering helps your children to see how fortunate they are in what they have and that others make do with far less.

11. Use Reusable Containers to Bring Lunch to School

Many school lunches aren’t so healthy, so having your kids bring their lunch to school is a great idea. Don’t use paper bags or plastic bags for their lunches. Buy reusable lunch containers for them. I particularly like my daughter’s Klean Kanteen water bottle.

12. Donate Old Clothes and Toys

Have your kids help you to go through their old clothes and toys and find the ones in good enough condition to donate to a worthwhile charity.

13. Shop Resale and Thrift Shops

If you don’t teach your kids this one while they’re young, you can get a lot of resistance at first. Keep it up and they will realize how many great outfits are available for a lot less money. This teaches them to be thrifty and to look for used items before buying new.

14. Use Homemade Cleansers

Kids should start doing chores around the house as soon as they’re old enough. But why expose them to the harsh chemicals of store bought cleansers when you can teach them how to clean with healthier products such as baking soda and vinegar? Better for them and for the environment.

15. Eat Less Fast Food

Kids love fast food, but most of it is bad for them and the environment. Talk to them about why eating out too much is a bad habit.

16. Close Blinds and Curtains

This is most important during the summer, when the heat comes in through windows. Closing the blinds or curtains helps to block much of that heat. It’s also a help in winter, to keep heat from escaping the house, however there are times where having even the winter sun come into the house is a benefit, so help your kids know when to let the sunlight into your home.

17. Open a Window

As the day cools, teach your kids to open windows rather than run the air conditioner during the summer. It works really well, keeps the power bill down and doesn’t create any carbon to open a window.

18. Set Up a Bird Feeder

Feeding the birds in your area not only can help them, it lets the kids see the range of birds that live in your area. You may have to explain about predators, however. My sister has a bird feeder, and sometimes sees hawks chasing the smaller birds.

19. Use Fewer Toys that Require Batteries

Many children’s toys require batteries. The problem isn’t just the batteries, it’s that many of these don’t encourage creative or active play. Do get rechargeable batteries for those toys that do need them, but have your kids think about playing more with toys that don’t need batteries at all.

20. Eat Less Meat

This comes easier to some kids than others. Some may be ready to go for complete vegetarianism or veganism. Others will struggle to cut back, just as many adults do.

Have regular meatless meals. Explore new recipes as a family. Be amazed at how wonderful some meatless meals can taste.

Plan and Plant a Garden – Green Step By Step

When it comes to being green, food miles is an important consideration. The further your food comes to reach your table, the less efficient it is. Eating organic food is nice too.

Gardening is a wonderful way to be green and to encourage the entire family to appreciate what it takes to bring food to the table. You may or may not save money gardening, but you can’t beat the food quality when it all works out.

Plan by what your family will eat and what grows well in your area. If you’re in an area with water shortages, do take that into consideration as well.

Especially for younger children there is nothing like seeing a plant go from seed to the table. It can even encourage some of the pickier ones to try vegetables they thought they didn’t like.

There are many ways to keep your garden organic. Delight younger children by getting lady bugs to help with pest control. Plant marigolds near tomatoes. Get a good organic gardening bookSquare Foot Gardening is a good choice for your typical, space limited yard as well as for larger properties.

Gardening also gives you a great excuse to make the most of your compost pile. Some cities do now take yard waste in special containers, which is a big help, but it’s better yet if you can use it yourself. Much better than using chemicals on your garden. There are plenty of compost bins and such that you can buy to keep the process running with a minimum of odor.