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Cody shows the height of the sorghum in the planter.

I feel lucky that I get to grow things as part of my job as testing coordinator.
Last year, I was asked to grow a variety of plants in the Gardener’s Revolution® Classic Tomato Planter. We wanted to grow something that would get very tall, to make sure our new tie-downs would keep the planter upright.

Cody, our Product Designer, suggested we try sorghum. We grew it from seed, right in the planter. In less than three months it shot up to about 8′ tall and, yes, the new tie-downs successfully prevented the planter from tipping over.

In fall, it was beautiful to see the color of the canes become mottled with reds and oranges.

We harvested them in the hopes of extracting the syrup to make molasses, as we heard they do down south, but we never figured out how to do that. As Vermonters, we know how to make maple syrup, but sorghum syrup is an unknown to us!

Because of their beauty, I didn’t have the heart to compost the canes, and kept them all winter. Come spring, we brought them back out to the test garden and made a trellis out of them for peas, not knowing if they would be strong enough.

The harvested canes in fall — loves those colors! — and the teepee trellis we made in early spring.

As you can see in the photo, the sorghum teepee trellis worked and the peas are growing up the canes beautifully!

Peas have grown mid-way up the trellis. Will it work? Yes! Fully grown peas reaching the top — the perfect height!

It’s always fun to try new crops, isn’t it?

Deborah Miuccio is our Product Testing and Research Coordinator.

The post Sorghum Thrives in Revolution Planter — and the Canes Make a Beautiful Pea Trellis appeared first on Gardener's Journal - From America's Gardening Resource

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When you have chickens, there’s no need for commercial fertilizers. [Photo courtesy of Gardening with Chickens/Voyageur Press]

[Editor’s note: This is the third in a series of three blog posts featuring excerpts from Lisa Steele’s book, Gardening with Chickens: Plans and Plants for You and Your Hens. Read the first post on Getting Started and the second post on Garden Pest Control.]

There are three main ways chickens can help with composting in the garden. You can integrate your chickens with a compost pile, let chickens act as a go-between when it comes to food waste and the garden, and help them along to create compost right inside the coop over winter.

Integrating Chickens with Your Compost Pile

Chickens were born to scratch and turn over soil. They can’t stand to see anything piled up. Thus, chickens are the master compost spreaders. Let them at your compost pile whenever it needs turning, and they will turn it for you. As a bonus, they provide plenty of nitrogen-rich green material in the form of poop as they work the soil with their feet, searching for seeds, bugs, and other goodies to eat.

Let Chickens Compost in the Garden

If you rotate your gardens, planting some in the spring and some in the fall, why not let the chickens into the resting garden? They can help keep the bugs and weeds in check and also deposit their droppings.

As part of this plan, use the chickens as your conduit when composting. Normally, you’re taking your garden trimmings and kitchen scraps and depositing them into the compost pile to decompose slowly. Try this instead: Eliminate the compost pile altogether by letting your chickens process your kitchen waste for you. Feed any appropriate scraps to your chickens; they will digest the food and turn it into manure and then deposit it in the garden. You saved yourself several steps and provide your chickens a more healthy, varied diet.

Just let the garden and soil rest for 3 months after you have rotated your chickens off before you plant your crops.

Compost Inside Your Coop

The coop combines brown matter and green matter just as you’d want in composting. The carbon-containing coop litter, whether it be shavings, straw, hay, or even pine needles or dried leaves, is the brown matter. And the nitrogen-rich manure that your chickens provide on a regular basis is the green matter. Thus, you have your compost ingredients right there in the same place. I have to say, it’s brilliant!

Allow the manure and bedding in the coop to accumulate and decompose inside the coop all winter, then in the spring you clean the whole thing out and have beautiful compost for your garden. [Editor’s note: This is sometimes called “the deep litter method.” Lisa explains the step-by-step process in detail in her Gardening with Chickens book.]

Manure tea is a convenient way to give plants a boost of nutrients. [Photo courtesy of Gardening with Chickens/Voyageur Press]

Make Chicken Manure Tea

Chicken poop tea adds nutrients, enzymes, microorganisms, and other good things to your garden soils as compost does, but the liquid form makes it convenient to give a drink of tea to new transplants or plants that need a bit of a boost.


Lisa Steele’s book is called Gardening with Chickens: Plans and Plants for You and Your Hens [Photo courtesy of Gardening with Chickens/Voyageur Press]

Make a “tea bag” for the manure — such as an old pillowcase. Fill it about 1/3 full with aged chicken manure and partially decomposed straw from the bottom of the coop litter. Tie a piece of twine or clothesline around the top of the pillowcase and then set it in a large plastic pail, barrel or trashcan that leaves some room for water. Add water — about twice as much volume as the pillowcase contents — making sure you cover the pillowcase and its contents completely. Leave the ends of the twine or clothesline hanging over the side of the pail. Then set it uncovered in a sunny location. Dunk the pillowcase up and down a few times a day to agitate the water and introduce oxygen to the solution. After about 2 weeks, remove the pillowcase and discard the solid contents into your compost pile. To use the tea, dilute it (1 part tea to 4 parts water) and it’s ready to give plants a boost.

A note of caution: Fresh chicken manure is extremely high in nitrogen, which can burn young seedlings or plant roots, so you will definitely want to let the manure age for at least 3 months, and preferably 6 months or even a year, before using it on your garden. Also, using fresh chicken manure in your garden increases the chance of spreading diseases such as salmonella and E. coli, so be sure to let it age before you use it on edibles.

About Lisa Steele: Lisa is a lifelong gardener and chicken keeper. On her popular Fresh Eggs Daily website and Facebook page she shares tips on keeping chickens, as well as gardening advice, DIY projects, and  recipes.

The post Gardening with Chickens: Making Compost (It’s Free Fertilizer!) appeared first on Gardener's Journal - From America's Gardening Resource

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[Photo courtesy of Gardening with Chickens/Voyageur Press]

[Editor’s note: This is the second in a series of three blog posts featuring excerpts from Lisa Steele’s book, Gardening with Chickens: Plans and Plants for You and Your Hens. Read the first post.]

As you’d expect, my first recommendation for controlling insect pests in your garden is using your flock of chickens. Now, it’s important to realize that chickens don’t discriminate between the good and bad bugs. They’ll eat the heroes and the villains. But in the long run, chickens tend to be an effective, safe, and inexpensive way to keep your garden’s bug population in check. Here’s a season-by-season rundown of how your flock can help control garden pests.

Spring

When you let your chickens into the garden in the spring, you’ll find they naturally work the soil, turning it over, aerating it, and preparing the ground for planting as they scratch and peck looking for weeds, bugs, and other goodies in the dirt. Chickens have keen eyesight, which allows them to easily spot worms and bugs.

Hopefully, you will find that your chickens have eaten many of the soil-dwelling garden pests, bug larvae, and weed seeds before they have the chance to cause problems in your garden.

Some of the “bad” bugs — those that harm plants — that my chickens help control are cabbageworms, grasshoppers, Japanese beetles, and June bugs. [Photo courtesy of Gardening with Chickens/Voyageur Press]

Summer


Lisa Steele’s book is called Gardening with Chickens: Plans and Plants for You and Your Hens [Photo courtesy of Gardening with Chickens/Voyageur Press]

Once your plants are established and growing well but before the vegetables are ripe, you can let your chickens into the garden for short periods. They will love pulling any weeds that have grown and searching for bugs. If you have a bumper crop on the way, you’ll want to supervise the chickens pretty closely so they don’t eat your harvest along with the bugs.

Chickens are a bit picky as to which bugs they will eat, but unfortunately their preferences probably don’t align with yours. They won’t differentiate between “good” bugs (such as worms, praying mantises, and ants) and “bad” bugs (such as Japanese beetles and stinkbugs), so you might want to safely relocate any of the good bugs you spot before the chickens can gobble them up. Chickens will also eat toads, which are extremely beneficial to gardens, so keep an eye out for them as well so you can move any you find to safety.

Even if you don’t let your chickens into your garden throughout the growing season, be sure to share any bug-eaten produce with your chickens. Not only do they not mind if a tomato is half-eaten, they consider the offending bug a tasty treat as well! Same goes for any vegetables nibbled by rabbits or deer — your chickens will love to eat them.

Fall

Fall is the perfect time to let your chickens wander freely in your garden. Once you have harvested your crops, you can let your chickens in to clean up the remaining stalks, vines, and stems. The chickens will not only collect their fair share of insects, they’ll also make quick work of any bug-eaten leaves or produce that wasn’t fit for harvest. Is there a bug or worm inside a tomato? You might think it’s gross, but to a chicken it’s just free protein!

A cautionary note: Some garden plants are toxic to chickens, especially if eaten in large quantities; these include asparagus, rhubarb, and members of the nightshade family, such as white potatoes, tomatoes and eggplant. Lisa’s Gardening with Chickens book includes a more comprehensive list.

About Lisa Steele: Lisa is a lifelong gardener and chicken keeper. On her popular Fresh Eggs Daily website and Facebook page she shares tips on keeping chickens, as well as gardening advice, DIY projects, and  recipes.

The post Gardening with Chickens: Pest Control appeared first on Gardener's Journal - From America's Gardening Resource

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[[Editor’s note: This is the third in a series of posts from Carrie Bettencourt about her backyard makeover. Read the first post describing the makeover project and second post on seed starting.]

Preparing the space was the hardest part of our garden conversion, but worth all the effort. We moved more than 30 wheelbarrow loads of soil to level the area — whew! I kept telling myself it was a one-time job that would not have to be repeated once done right. An enthusiastic husband is not to be underrated!

The CedarLast raised beds and obelisk arrived in separate, easy-to-move boxes, with everything included except the drill. Most of the work was already done for me. Holes were predrilled and the directions were easy to follow. The instructions said that two people were needed to assemble the obelisk but I was able to do it by myself easily. The assembly of the components turned out to be a breeze and ALL the beds and obelisk were put together in less than two hours — amazing!

We had made a plan prior to choosing the components. On the installation day we altered that plan slightly. Once the final positioning was decided we went to work filling the beds and installing irrigation. We put down a weed barrier on top of the whole space before placing the beds. A 10-minute job worth doing.

We included planting space under and around the obelisk. Our intention was to have different-colored tomatoes growing up each of the sides. Until the tomato plants took off we would grow peas and use the underneath space for shade-loving plants. California is so warm that lettuce really needs a little extra shade to be successful. We also put companion herbs of basil and chives around the tomatoes.

Planting has been a treat.The height of the raised beds makes it comfortable and easy to access the whole bed. I can’t imagine going back to all in-ground planting. I guess I am spoiled now!

The original plantings leaned toward cooler weather choices. These plants would come in fast and then be harvested to make room for summer planting. Initially, we planted lettuces, radishes, kale, chards, herbs, edible flowers, and artichokes. We are keeping with the spirit of a true kitchen garden by making sure each plant has an edible part.

The plants love the new space and thrived right off the bat. We began eating salads by picking the outer leaves within a couple of weeks.

Peas love the obelisk, too. Not only is it a showstopper but it functions — all the tall plants are on the exterior, making harvesting easy. Ultimately our peas grew to the height of the obelisk.

We added areas of in-ground planting in the corners of the beds. This provided a space for perennials and made the beds look more grounded. Flowers were an important part of our planting. We are always thinking about attracting the pollinators.

I love greens! If I could grow just one thing, it would probably be greens, but don’t make me choose. Kale, chard, and mustard make great additions to salads and also work in a stir-fry.

Salad! Do I need to say more? Our salads include mixed greens, herbs and edible flowers. Every day it is like making a little painting on a plate — joy!

Did I mention strawberries? They are perfect in a raised bed. We chose a variety that would hang over the edges and produce all summer, making little spots of red. Considering the edges of a bed and what would fall over the sides adds depth and interest to the garden. Plus, can you have too many strawberries?

— Carrie

Carrie has a passion for cooking using ingredients fresh from her garden and the abundant farmer’s markets in California. She’s learned how to garden in different spaces and climates, from east coast to west, and has loved all the joy and challenges along the way.

Check out her Instagram account and blog for inspiring photos of her beautiful kitchen garden, as well as delicious recipes and gardening tips. 

The post CedarLast Raised Bed Makeover: Installation Day appeared first on Gardener's Journal - From America's Gardening Resource

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[Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of three blog posts featuring excerpts from Lisa Steele’s book, Gardening with Chickens: Plans and Plants for You and Your Hens.]

Good fences make good neighbors — and good chicken blockades. [Photo courtesy of Gardening with Chickens/Voyageur Press]

Chickens and gardening go hand in hand. A garden can provide your chickens with lots of nutritious, inexpensive treats to supplement their regular feed, while their activities — scratching for bugs, loosening the dirt, eating weeds, and providing free fertilizer — can help the garden thrive.

Raising chickens and planting gardens both contribute to a more healthy, sustainable way of life. But the real beauty is when they’re combined. The circle is complete! Nothing goes to waste: not garden trimmings, not vegetable peels, not a single eggshell, not even any chicken poop (AKA bountiful, free, nutrient-rich fertilizer.) It all has a purpose.

While these days I am better known for raising chickens, some of my fondest memories of growing up on a farm are actually rooted in the garden. As I child I convinced my mom to let me plant my own small plot to grow carrots for my pet rabbit. I remember being too impatient to wait for the carrots to grow to maturity and sneaking in to harvest a miniature carrot or two for my bunny.

These days, my garden has grown considerably, although I’m not sure I am any more patient than I was back then! But I generally manage to be patient enough to at least allow the vegetables to grow fully before yanking them out of the ground. Now that I’ve added chickens to the equation, convincing them to leave the growing vegetables alone is the real challenge.

You see, chickens are not very discriminatory when it comes to what they are going to eat, where they scratch, or where they decide to take a dust bath. And they’re certainly not going to take orders! One of the questions I get most frequently is “How can I get my chickens to stop destroying my garden?”

Chickens and Gardens Can Coexist

The simple answer is to pen up the chickens or fence in the garden, but there’s a far better solution than just keeping them separate. With some proper planning and a thoughtful setup, it’s possible for chickens and gardens to live in peace . . . and to benefit each other as well.

There are some compelling reasons to position your gardens near your coop. If you plan on composting the chicken manure from the coop and using it to fertilize your garden, you’ll want your garden fairly close to the coop. And if you expect your chickens to help you in the garden, then a short walk from the coop to the garden will make everyone’s life easier. How do you keep a garden close to your coop and keep it from getting destroyed, though?

Fencing and Barriers

A chicken wire cloche protects plants from chickens. [Photo courtesy of Gardening with Chickens/Voyageur Press]

Installing fencing around your garden is the easiest solution if you plan on allowing your chickens to roam freely on your property. Easy fencing? Actually, yes, since you’re mostly just keeping your chickens out of the garden, as opposed to keeping predators out of your chicken run. Metal or wooden stakes pounded into the ground will do as fence posts, as will bamboo poles or sturdy branches. You just need something to wrap fencing around.

As for fencing materials: plastic poultry netting, bird netting, and chicken wire are all lightweight, inexpensive materials that will do a fine job. Generally speaking, you are going to want to erect fencing that is at least 5 feet high.

Note: Chicken wire is only good for keeping chickens in (or out, depending on the purpose for which it’s being used). It should never be used for run fencing, on coop windows or air vents, or anywhere else that predator proofing is necessary. Most predators can rip through netting in no time.

Other Ways to Protect Plants


Lisa Steele’s book is called Gardening with Chickens: Plans and Plants for You and Your Hens [Photo courtesy of Gardening with Chickens/Voyageur Press]

In addition to nibbling on plants, chickens love to scratch around the bases of plants, shrubs, and bushes looking for bugs, displacing any mulch or gravel and potentially damaging tender roots with their sharp toenails. An easy way to protect plants is to create a ring around the base of each plant with bricks, stones, pavers, or even short boards. I also like to cage plants using a piece of wire fencing.

Note: When selecting landscape materials, be careful not to choose any chemically treated mulch, plastic weed cloth that can be harmful if your chickens peck at and eat it, pressure-treated wood, or landscaping products that contain chemicals, herbicides, or other substances potentially dangerous to your chickens. Instead, go with untreated wood, wood chips, and other natural materials.

The key to setting up your chicken-friendly landscape is to experiment with various types and heights of fencing, edging, pavers, and cages to protect the things you really don’t want the chickens to have access to.

About Lisa Steele: Lisa is a lifelong gardener and chicken keeper. On her popular Fresh Eggs Daily website and Facebook page she shares tips on keeping chickens, as well as gardening advice, DIY projects, and  recipes.

The post Gardening with Chickens: Getting Started appeared first on Gardener's Journal - From America's Gardening Resource

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[Editor’s note: This is the second in a series of posts from Carrie Bettencourt about her backyard makeover. Read first post.]

I am not an expert on seed starting, but I am a total convert to the process. So much so that I envision myself starting seeds year-round now — nothing like going from zero to all in! Don’t get me wrong, I have started seeds in the past, but I gave it a half-hearted effort and had mixed results.

Carrie started most of her plants from seed.

So what brought on this change of heart and action? It started when I began testing new raised beds from Gardener’s Supply Company. The raised beds were arriving in January and Gardener’s wanted me to photograph the beds, with plants, in mid February.

February? Ummmmm… Here in warm southern California, that’s too late for a true winter garden and too early for a spring garden. So what’s a girl to do but start some seeds and try to fool Mother Nature a little — a task that’s doable in our climate. Once I made the decision to give it a go, it turned out to be a pretty fun way to be in the gardening game in December.

Light matters. I started by reading the “how to” article on seed starting on the Gardener’s website. That and other research convinced me that I needed a grow light to really give this a shot. Yes, it’s warm here and the sun shines most days. But a grow light would give me the ability to:

  • Control the light level, no matter the weather.
  • Increase the “day length” from our 10 hours per day in January to the 16 hours that’s optimal for seedlings.
  • Grow the seedlings indoors, protected from outdoor temperature fluctuations.

Next: Which grow light should I order? I finally decided on the Stack-n-Grow unit for a couple of reasons. First, I could start with the base unit, and then stack additional units on top or take them off to increase or shrink the growing space as my needs changed. Second, it looked good and I knew I wouldn’t mind having it in my main living area for a while.

Salad garden in CedarLast Raised Beds

Deciding what to plant. Now to the most fun part, choosing seeds. Shopping for seeds is an eye-opening experience — so many catalogs and websites, so much information! — but the information was amazing. Recommended growing zones, germination times, space requirements, soil preferences, taste descriptions — wow!

I quickly realized that my seed choices were the secret that was going to take me to the next level. The detailed information was always there, but I just hadn’t given it my full attention. Plus, there were so many unique plant options that I would never find in my local nursery. I ordered seeds following the 90 /10 rule — 90 percent practical and 10 percent fun and different. Plus, I ordered some flower seeds to keep the bees happy.

Healthy seedlings ready to transplant.

Time to sow. By January 2, my grow light was here and assembled and seed packets were organized. Plus, I had gotten an amazing care package from my friends at Gardener’s, which included a GrowEase Seed Starter Kit, Pop-Out Pots, Organic Seed Starting Mix and Plant Markers.

Confession: I had started one group in Gardener’s Seed Starting Mix and the other group in a not-to-be-named, well-known brand of seed starting mix. There was a noticeable difference in the two groups. All of my seeds in the Gardener’s organic seed starting mix thrived. That was not the case with the other group. The other mix handled water differently, leaving some my seedlings too moist and growing mold, and others would dry out overnight. Realizing how easy it was to start more seeds in better circumstances, I let most of the suffering seedlings go and started a new batch with the Gardener’s organic mix. I call it “Magic Soil” now.

I started planting seeds and turned on the grow light. I followed all the instructions and began keeping a notebook of the planting details — truly a first for me! Looking back at my notebook now, I see that my first seeds came up on January 8 and I was thinning seedlings on January 17.

Transplants growing in Pop-Out Pots

I looked at the containers everyday, talked to them, and generally did everything you would for any newborn. The result of all this love and attention? I had some strong plants ready for their new raised bed home in February. The photography goals were achieved and my attitude was changed. Seed starting is a game changer! I know everything about the resulting plants — when they were started, when to plant them, what to expect about their growth, and when I will be harvesting them. All that used to be left to guesswork.

FYI, get a grow light! There is a reason there are so many for sale — they work. Consistent good light makes a difference. I know, I am the last person on earth to realize this…..

Why seed starting is great:

  • You know your plant’s history — seed, soil, key dates.
  • Good seedlings make good plants. My seedlings just looked better and stronger than what I saw in the nursery.
  • Plants started at home do not bring in unexpected guests — garden pests.
  • Using good Organic Seed Starting Mix meant I was starting disease-free and chemical-free, resulting in fast germination and a strong germination rate.
  • Seed options are exciting! I started beans that are descendants of beans carried by the Cherokee Indians on the Trail of Tears. Amazing! I also have this crazy little chard that grows like a head of lettuce and has a mild flavor. Find that at the nursery.
  • It is so much easier and simpler to start seeds than I ever thought. I had great equipment from Gardener’s Supply, but that is not a must to receive good results.
  • You have control. So much of gardening is out of our control, but seed starting done right is predictable.

— Carrie

Carrie has a passion for cooking using ingredients fresh from her garden and the abundant farmer’s markets in California. She’s learned how to garden in different spaces and climates, from east coast to west, and has loved all the joy and challenges along the way.

Check out her Instagram account and blog for inspiring photos of her beautiful kitchen garden, as well as delicious recipes and gardening tips. 

The post CedarLast Makeover: Seed Starting appeared first on Gardener's Journal - From America's Gardening Resource

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A longtime customer and product tester for Gardener’s Supply, Carrie has transformed her struggling lawn into a thriving kitchen garden with our new CedarLast Raised Beds and Obelisk.

[Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of posts from Carrie Bettencourt about her backyard makeover.]

To start this story I have to start at the ending — otherwise all the crazy details might not mean so much. Today I have a fabulous garden filled with beautiful cedar raised beds. Wow!

Before the makeover

The story starts with a plan to move to a house in Southern California. The yard had nice sunlight and an area of lawn but, sadly, no gardens. Maybe not a problem for most, but I would be leaving behind an established garden — a rocking urban garden!

Although I knew we’d be making the big move in June — the height of the growing season — I just kept on working my old garden like I would be there forever. I thought that at least the new owners would be all set for a summer of veggies.

In my state of denial, I did one little thing that changed everything — I ordered some planters from Gardener’s Supply, a company I had used as a resource for ages. My three little containers arrived and I filled them with plants that I planned to move with me. I was so happy with the containers, I photographed them and posted the pictures on Instagram. Lucky for me, Deborah from Gardeners Supply Company noticed my photo and contacted me. Deborah coordinates research and product testing, and we began a relationship that involved me testing more garden containers.

The Big Move

Greens, herbs and flowers thrive in Carrie’s new raised beds.

Then moving day came — cue sadness. The new place didn’t have any gardens. But I couldn’t give up on gardening, so I just kept growing things in containers for the rest of that first summer and winter. In spring I would make a decision about where and how to make my new gardens.

This delay had a silver lining, because it gave me time to get to know my new space. I moved my planters around and figured out the seasonal sun path. I won’t bore you with all the challenges and pitfalls, but they included the usual things like pests, drought, and raccoons. Without those insights I would have made different decisions about almost everything. I definitely recommend taking time to get to know a new place before digging in.

As Christmas approached the stars must have aligned, because I was starting to think that raised beds would be the right solution here. At the same time, Deborah at Gardener’s Supply was thinking that maybe I’d want to test the CedarLast raised beds they planned to introduce in February. She didn’t have to twist my arm — I jumped on it and knew just the right area for them.

Planning Time

I poured all my past season’s frustration and longing into the design of the new space. To plan for the new beds, I drew a grid and moved around scaled cutouts of the raised beds I’d be receiving. My goal was a layout that was lovely and functional.

I planned for:

  • Enough space between beds to roll a wheelbarrow,
  • Some areas of shade so I could grow greens during our hot summer,
  • Aesthetics, since this would also be living space for us.

I wasn’t looking for a huge garden with unlimited tomato varieties and such. We are urban dwellers and my aim is to have a kitchen garden full of things we like to eat — a doable goal with our limited space.

My list of planting wants included an herb garden, lots of greens and salad makings, beans, tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, okra, and artichokes. Also on that list are flowers for the pollinators — and the humans. I try to keep everything edible, even the flowers, in the spirit of a true kitchen garden. I left some unplanned space in case I came across something new or interesting to try.

Next step: ordering seeds! In the next post I’ll share my seed starting adventures.

— Carrie

Carrie has a passion for cooking using ingredients fresh from her garden and the abundant farmer’s markets in California. She’s learned how to garden in different spaces and climates, from east coast to west, and has loved all the joy and challenges along the way.

Check out her Instagram account and blog for inspiring photos of her beautiful kitchen garden, as well as delicious recipes and gardening tips. 

The post Lawn-to-Garden Makeover with CedarLast Raised Beds appeared first on Gardener's Journal - From America's Gardening Resource

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Collect your recyclables for the month of February, then post a photo on social media with #FuturisticFebruary. You will be in shock when you realize how much waste you accumulate in just one month!

Last year I went to Nicaragua for an entire month to learn Spanish and teach English. During my time there, I was inspired by fellow eco-tourists to minimize my waste by refusing, reducing and reusing. Nicaragua, like many developing countries, does not have a proper waste disposal system. The country burns all of its waste, including recyclables and plastic.

After my month spent in Nicaragua, I was able to fit all of my recyclables in a small plastic bag and bring them on the plane home with me to dispose of them properly. I made this happen by simply thinking twice about buying a granola bar with a wrapper, refusing to use a plastic bag, refusing plastic straws, and not using paper towels when unnecessary. As an environmentalist and holistic-health enthusiast, it clicked for me that I couldn’t call my lifestyle sustainable while still using plastic regularly.

When I returned from Nicaragua I created a campaign called #FuturisticFebruary. The campaign challenge includes asking people to save all the recyclable materials they use during the month of February and post a photograph of their collections on social media February 28 with the #FuturisticFebruary hashtag. After posting, of course, recycle all those aluminum cans, plastic bottles and other items. I encourage everyone and anyone to participate in Futuristic February in order to help heal the planet. The idea is to raise awareness of pollution and over-consumption.

After my travels, I was motivated to implement a change in my lifestyle considering I was living in a hostel that was starting to deteriorate due to rising sea levels. It made me extremely upset to think about how much we consume as Americans and do not recognize the detrimental effects it has on the environment and surrounding countries. The small islands in Nicaragua experience climate change firsthand and their land is being destroyed by erosion and increasing sea levels. If we do not change our ways, our future will be similar!

All of my fruit and veggie peels go straight into my worm composter. Always!

The best way to reduce your waste is simply to buy products that are reusable. Things like bamboo toothbrushes, mesh grocery bags, reusable bottles, glass straws, and compostable dish brushes are all great options. I have a Gardener’s Supply Worm Farm Composter that I use daily! I eat a plant-based diet and all of my fruit and veggie peels go straight into my composter for my red wigglers to enjoy. I use the finished compost in my Gardener’s Supply GrowEase Seed Starter when I start seeds during the winter!

There is much to learn! Every day I discover new ways to live in a more sustainable way. For example, I carry a reusable bowl and mug so I’m prepared when I’m ordering an acai bowl or heading to a coffee shop, in case they don’t provide reusable options.

My best advice is to keep a dedicated “sustainability bag” with you at all times. Mine includes mesh grocery bags, reusable mugs and bowls, a metal to-go tin, glass straws, reusable water bottles, and bamboo utensils. My guilty pleasure is eating acai bowls a couple times a week so I always leave a reusable bowl and bamboo spoon in my car!

Another good minimal-waste shopping option is to put food from a store’s bulk bins straight into reusable bags. This eliminates the need for plastic bags — and buying in bulk is much cheaper, too! What’s better than reducing your carbon footprint while saving money in the process?

My goal is to have as little impact on the planet as possible, while bettering myself and the environment. Going “minimal waste” isn’t easy, especially at first because you have to break loose of old habits. It truly is a journey, but it’s completely necessary in order to heal the planet. Every effort to make the planet a cleaner place counts!

Carly Bergman
I am Carly Bergman, a student finishing up my degree in Integrated Studies with a focus on sustainability and eco-spirituality. I grew up in the Northwest suburbs of Chicago where I had the opportunity to work at a lovely juice bar, Pure Juice Cafe. I credit this 5-year job with helping me find my passion for health, sustainability, spirituality, and environmentalism. I now live in Fort Myers, Florida, where I work with the vegan protein bar company, Planet Protein, as well as work with Florida Edible Landscaping, a company that emphasizes permaculture and organic horticulture.

I personally invite you to participate in Futuristic February or minimal-waste living to simply be mindful of reducing waste and living more sustainably. I will be adding new posts about zero-waste living as well as plant-based living to my Instagram page, @Carly_Bergman.

The post Futuristic February — Refuse a Future with Single-Use Plastic appeared first on Gardener's Journal - From America's Gardening Resource

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Gardener’s Supply’s self-watering planters will be featured at the 2018 Northwest Flower and Garden Festival, where garden experts will compete to create original container plantings during a daily Container Wars competition. The festival takes place in Seattle on Feb. 7-11.

One of the most productive times of the year for a gardener is the winter — when we’re planning and dreaming of what we’ll do in the dirt this year. What to plant where? And when?

Of course, some of us are also making travel plans for the spring and summer. Maybe a jaunt to the beach. But as gardeners, a weekend away can spell disaster for our beloved tomatoes and flowers. And that’s where that garden planning can really come in handy. Because using a self-watering planter can make the difference between a robust plant and, well, you know.

I first started using self-watering containers a couple years ago, not really knowing that the containers wouldn’t actually water my plants per se. I quickly learned that they do extend the amount of time between waterings, thanks to a clever water reservoir. They also provide consistent moisture to plant roots, eliminating over- and under-watering. It’s a little bit like a secret weapon, protecting against gardening goofs.

Gardener’s Supply’s self-watering containers are in the spotlight in Seattle this week as ten top gardening experts face off in a live-action event called Container Wars at the 2018 Northwest Flower and Garden Festival. The festival takes place February 7-11, and the Container Wars event will be held each day from 11:30 to 12:30. Interested in designing your own creative containers? Check out our Container Gardening article for detailed how-to information.

See you on the beach!

The post Confessions of a Self-Watering Container Novice appeared first on Gardener's Journal - From America's Gardening Resource

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