How to grow your own pumpkins

October 4, 2019 by  
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Fall is the time of year when we pull out the sweaters and boots, add a jacket to our attire and immerse ourselves in all things pumpkin. From creamer to donuts to home decor , pumpkins represent autumn from when the first leaf falls to long after the Thanksgiving dishes have been dried and put away. Of course, there is also the age-old practice of carving pumpkins for Halloween. While every supermarket has mounds of pumpkins ready for purchase, with a little planning you can grow and harvest your own pumpkins for everything from jack-o’-lanterns to pumpkin bread. Plan ahead By the time October hits, all you can really do is plan for next year’s garden (which is a great idea!). Seeds should go into the ground between the end of May and mid-July, depending on where you live. Be sure you don’t plant too early in the season. Although the plants will thrive and produce fruit happily throughout the late summer and early fall, you may find yourself with rotten fruit before the pumpkin-carving party if they ripen months beforehand. Provide space Pumpkin plants ramble. In fact, they will take over and may cause problems if confined, so give them a dedicated area to thrive. This is not a plant that will be successful on an apartment balcony. Allow them ample room to bush out without running into other garden crops, outbuildings or fencing. For planning purposes, set aside around 9-10 feet in each direction for each mound of plants (around 100 square feet). Related: How to cook a whole pumpkin (seeds, guts and all) Mound it up Rounded mounds of soil provide the drainage and depth pumpkins need to thrive. Pumpkin seeds and vines are finicky, so you don’t want to handle or transplant them once they are in soil . To avoid disturbing them, make sure your mounds are established before planting. Set them at least 5-6 feet apart from each other. Let it shine When choosing the location for your pumpkin mounds, select a space that receives a lot of sunlight . Pumpkin seeds don’t do well in cold soil or dirt that is too wet. They prefer a warm environment, so choose your selection with that in mind. Choose preferred varieties There are many varieties of pumpkins, some that look more like squash in shape and color. In fact, many people use the labels squash and pumpkin interchangeably. There are also a variety of sizes, from small decorative options to giant, 100-pound versions. Choose your seeds well to match the space you have available. Related: How to cook and enjoy 10 types of squash other than pumpkin Make them share Pumpkins grow well in clusters. To find the strongest plants, plant five or six seeds per mound. Seeds should be pressed into the soil about one inch deep and lightly covered. Once they are well-established, thin to the healthiest two to three plants per mound. Each plant will produce multiple pumpkins . You can see the potential when the plants bloom flowers. Soon, each of those flowers will have a pumpkin behind it beginning to form. Be mindful though — only female flowers produce fruit. The male flowers bloom briefly, giving bees an opportunity to find the flowering vines. Then, they drop off the plant. Female flowers, however, will show the bulb of the green emerging fruit behind them. Keep the weeds out Weeds can choke out the productivity of your pumpkin plants, so keep them at bay by frequently checking for new growth and removing them early on. A hoe works well for this task to avoid the back and knee strain from getting on the ground. Try not to dig too deep, which could interfere with the roots of the pumpkin plants. Avoid harmful weed killers anywhere near your plants (and preferably your entire yard). Applying mulch to pumpkin plants will help keep the weeds away and hold the moisture in. Stick to a watering schedule Pumpkins are fairly forgiving of a little neglect when it comes to water , as long as they have a chance to get established with reliable drinks. Give them a drink at least once each week, saturating the soil around the base of each plant while avoiding leaves and fruit wherever possible. In the beginning though, avoid flooding the seed and seedlings as they become established. Instead, give them shallow drinks. Schedule an extra watering if the weather is extreme during the early summer growing season. Growing care You won’t have to dote on your growing pumpkins too frequently. Given the right location, soil and temperature, they are pretty self-sufficient. If you are planning to use your pumpkins for carving, you may want to gently rotate them occasionally. This will help avoid pumpkins with a flat side and help them grow into a more uniform shape; however, the vines are persnickety, so use caution or the vine may be damaged. Tip: Set each pumpkin on a piece of cardboard and gently rotate it every few weeks for even heat and light. Harvest Your pumpkins will likely be ready to harvest during the last two weeks of September. They are ready when the stem is firm and the pumpkin turns from green to deep orange. Cut the stem carefully as most have sharp prickles. Use gloves and a sharp blade. Leave around 3-4 inches of stem attached to the pumpkin. You can leave the pumpkin attached to the vine, or cut it and leave it outside. However, if freezing weather is coming, cut your pumpkins and store them in a cool, dry location. Use as soon as possible for decor or your favorite recipe . Images via James Wheeler , Waldo Jaquith , Austin Kirk and K. Sayer

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How to grow your own pumpkins

Doctors are prescribing gardening to improve patients’ health

October 1, 2019 by  
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During their prime, Teddy Roosevelt and John Muir had waxed eloquent about nature’s ability to soothe and rejuvenate the soul, championing nature’s spiritual and restorative benefits. Today, modern science is taking heed of their message as ecotherapy enters the mainstream medical realm, with gardening, or horticultural ecotherapy, being prescribed to some patients at a medical practice in Manchester, England. Doctors at the Cornbrook Medical Practice in Manchester, England have been prescribing some patients, who have anxiety, depression and feelings of isolation, with a unique form of medicine — ecotherapy in the form of gardening . Each patient is given a dosage of plants, which should be cared for and then returned to the medical center after a set amount of time. Upon return, the patient will carefully transplant their plants into the center’s community garden. Related: Doctor’s orders — 2 hours in nature boosts mental health, study says The medical practice’s garden is now blooming with herbs, flowers and produce , including broccoli, cauliflower and kale. Many of the patients live in the city and have little to no access to green spaces, especially gardens, so the community garden offers them a place to nourish their assigned plants and mingle with others. Things are looking good at Cornbrook, our courgettes are huge and we finally got our beautiful murals up! #communitygarden #growyourown #hulme pic.twitter.com/KL2dzNhjv3 — Cornbrook Wellbeing Garden (@CornbrookGarden) August 30, 2019 “Having something to care for brings so many benefits to people — especially for those who may not have a garden or be able to have pets,” said Augusta Ward , a medical secretary at Cornbrook Medical Practice. “The plant is then a reason to come back to the surgery and get involved in all the other activities in our garden and make new friends.” Ecotherapy is not a modern concept. For one, poets like Romantic William Wordsworth and Transcendentalist Walt Whitman have recounted the harmony and inner joy that comes from contemplating nature’s majesty. While ecotherapy is an emerging Western healing art, it has long been in practice in Native American and Asian cultures. Research has also shown that contact with nature heals, because it transforms us, helps us to unwind and boosts the body’s natural endorphins to relieve stress. Scientific evidence has revealed that reconnecting with nature elevates rates of health , immunity, fitness, stamina, self-esteem, social connection, happiness and well-being. It is no wonder, then, that there are healthcare providers who are now giving “ nature ” and “garden” prescriptions to their patients. An added bonus is that horticultural ecotherapy offers a simple, cost-effective means of improving well-being. “I’ve seen how our patients relax in the garden, and how they then get involved in wider events like picking litter, which all adds to pride in our area,” said Dr. Phillipa James, a general practitioner at the medical practice. “There’s a lot of evidence now about how two hours a week in a green space can lift mood — and then that, too, has physical, mental and emotional benefits. That’s something we need to harness.” + Cornbrook Wellbeing Garden Via The Guardian and Manchester Evening News Image via Lukas

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Best US cities for vegans and vegetarians for World Vegetarian Day

October 1, 2019 by  
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Vegetarians and vegans frequently discuss the best cities to live in or visit, because it’s easier to enjoy a place when there are restaurants and activities that match your preferences. WalletHub’s new study , “Best Cities for Vegetarians and Vegans,” uses a variety of sources and statistics to rank the 100 biggest American cities for affordability, diversity, accessibility and quality, vegetarian lifestyle and overall rank. Just in time for World Vegetarian Day on October 1 and World Vegan Day on November 1, here’s what WalletHub found. The overall winners are: 1. Portland, Oregon 2. Los Angeles, California 3. Orlando, Florida 4. Seattle, Washington 5. Austin, Texas 6. Atlanta, Georgia 7. New York City, New York 8. San Francisco, California 9. San Diego, California 10. Tampa, Florida WalletHub used 17 key indicators of vegan- and vegetarian-friendliness, including grocery costs, proportion of high-ranking plant-based restaurants on online review sites, farmers’ markets and community gardens per capita and the presence of local vegetarian fests and veg cooking classes. The data came from the U.S. Census Bureau, Council for Community and Economic Research, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Feeding America, Yelp, TripAdvisor, USDA Organic INTEGRITY Database, The Trust for Public Land, United States Department of Agriculture, GrubHub, Meetup and Vegan.com. Related: These are the world’s top vegan cities Some of the more social factors, such as festivals and meetups, as well as GrubHub’s list of cities with customers that are most likely to order veg dishes, factored into the vegetarian lifestyle rank. The top five there included a couple of surprises: Anaheim, California and Durham, North Carolina, in addition to the more expected San Francisco, Los Angeles and Atlanta. Affordability had a roughly inverse correlation to veg lifestyle rankings. The top two most affordable cities — Laredo and Corpus Christi, Texas — ranked 98 and 93 on the vegetarian lifestyle index. The best chance of combining affordability with overall rank was Austin , which ranked fifth overall, 11th in affordability but still only 34th in vegetarian lifestyle. Of course, vegetarians will want to know which cities were at the bottom of the list, so if they visit, they can stock up on vegan protein bars beforehand. Here are the least veg-friendly cities in the U.S.: 91. Memphis, Tennessee 92. Tulsa, Oklahoma 93. Stockton, California 94. Winston-Salem, North Carolina 95. Henderson, Nevada 96. Baton Rouge, Lousiana 97: North Las Vegas, Nevada 98. Greensboro, North Carolina 99. San Bernardino, California 100. El Paso, Texas + WalletHub Image via Tony Webster

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LEED Gold-seeking wildlife center emphasizes energy conservation in Quebec

October 1, 2019 by  
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The Canadian city of Laval in southwestern Quebec has recently gained a new wildlife interpretation center with an impressive, energy-efficient design. It’s the first of its kind in the city and is targeting LEED NC v3 Gold certification . Designed by Montreal-based architecture firm Cardin Julien , the $11.5 million project provides a new community and educational resource for visitors to Parc de la Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, an urban wildlife sanctuary that spans 26 hectares rich with recreational opportunities including kayaking, canoeing and island hiking. Completed October 2018, the Parc de la Rivière-des-Mille-Îles exploration center features a main building with three floors. The ground floor houses a large multipurpose hall with a cafe and reception area framing views of the river through full-height glazing as well as museum programming and a monitoring room for conferences and events. The equipment rental space, locker room, ecology laboratory, researchers’ offices and day camp facilities are placed on the lower “river” level. The uppermost floor comprises an employee relaxation area and a flexible multipurpose room that can be partitioned into three sections. Related: Minimalist TRIPTYCH house pulls the Quebec outdoors in “In order for the project to integrate seamlessly into its environment, the use of wood was recommended for the building’s exterior,” reads the press release. “This material, which can also be found inside the building, fosters a warm environment and allows a connection between visitors and the nature around them. In addition, the structure was built in such a way that it preserves the mature trees growing onsite.” The project also includes a new parking pad, bike path, pedestrian walkways and landscaping as well as a new workshop and equipment distribution kiosk housed in a renovated stable. The main building is topped with a green roof as part of the project’s water conservation strategy that includes rainwater recycling. A high-performance building envelope and strategically placed windows and roof overhangs help contribute to energy savings and visitor comfort. + Cardin Julien Photography by David Boyer via Cardin Julien

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LEED Gold-seeking wildlife center emphasizes energy conservation in Quebec

11 unique edible plants for your garden

June 14, 2019 by  
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Part of the joy of gardening is falling in love with the plants you choose to nurture, especially those with a tasty reward. While the traditional carrots and raspberries certainly have their place, you can create a yard full of unique, yummy and eye-catching produce when you select plants that are a little less traditional. The produce department at your local supermarket might have a few dozen choices, there are actually hundreds of fruits and vegetables that you may have never even heard of, let alone considered growing. While some require special adaptations, such as tropical weather, most are just as easy to grow than the mainstream selections. Here are some examples to get you started. Jujube If you’re in USDA zone 5-9, check out the jujube. This is not the beloved candy by the same name, but the candy was inspired by this small, apple-like gem. Jujubes offer a sweet and sour flavor and can be eaten raw, although the sugars intensify when dried. Jujubes like hot, dry environments and tolerate drought quite well. Related: Incredible edible landscape map shows you where to find free food Pawpaw Another heat lover is the pawpaw, similar to tropical fruits like the related cherimoya and custard apple. Happy in zones 5-9, the pawpaw doesn’t do well on a commercial scale, but is a great addition to a backyard garden . The plants itself is a small, uniform tree that produces pleasant foliage. Quince You may have heard of quince jam or seen it on a menu at a restaurant, but few people actually grow quince themselves. At one time, quince trees were as ubiquitous as pear and apples and rightfully so since it is related to both. Quince must be cooked for eating, but the reward is equivalent to apple pie in a single fruit with flavors of vanilla, cinnamon, and a hint of citrus. Quince grows well in zones 4-9. Cattail Did you know cattail is edible? If you have a pond area be sure to include this plant in your design. Young stems can be eaten raw and young flowers can be roasted. In midsummer, the pollen from the cattail can be used as a type of flour in pancakes and breads. It also works as a thickener for soups and sauces. Young shoots on the plant can be cooked like asparagus by roasting or grilling. They can also be added to stir-fry for a distinct flavor. Chocolate Vine Less tropical than other options, the chocolate vine can even tolerate substantial amounts of shade. Best in zones 4-9, it produces sweet-smelling flowers in the spring and long pods later in the summer . The pods can be cooked like a vegetable but should be avoided raw. Before you toss them in the oven though, pop open the pod and scrape out the pulp, which resembles a banana/passionfruit custard that can be eaten directly or mixed with other fruits. Edible Flowers In addition to those traditional and non-traditional fruits and vegetables , remember than many flowers are edible too. This makes for many exciting options for your yard, even outside the designated garden gate. Include nasturtiums, violas, pansies, borage, and calendula in your landscape and you will have a cornucopia of salad greens at your fingertips. Maypop If you love passion fruit, but don’t live in the tropics , try this American cousin instead. Happy in zones 6-10, this vine not only offers a delectable fruit, but also produces large colorful blooms in the form of purple and white blossoms. Haksap More commonly known by a variety of names in the honeysuckle family, haksap produces a delicious sweet-tart berry that tastes like a cross between a blueberry and a raspberry. Almost as great as the tasty treat it produces is the gift it provides with its delicate downward trumpet-shaped blooms. Make sure to plant at least two of the same type of haksap together for effective pollination . Medlar Medlar is an ancient fruit, even though you may have never heard of it. For thousands of years, dating back to at least the Roman era, this small deciduous tree has produced small edible fruits. Related to roses, the one to two-inch fruit resembles large rosehips. The color is a rosy brown. For a commercial product, the medlar is a bit finicky since they have a very small window of the perfect ripeness for consumption. For the backyard gardener, though, your challenge might be picking them at the right time before the animals pluck them for you. Medlars adapt well in climates with hot summers and wintry winters. Red Meat Watermelon Radish While the flavor is similar to the traditional radish, the look is anything but. It’s a bit of a mind game when picking the small radishes off the plant, which look nearly identical to a spotted watermelon at 1/1000 the size. Red meat radishes are a cool weather crop and will bolt if planted when it is too warm. Serviceberry Placed right up next to your garden, trees, or perennials, serviceberries add a lively texture to your landscape and produce a yummy, yet non-commercial, fruit for your backyard enjoyment. Serviceberry grows well in a variety of zones because there are different varietals of trees and shrubs. It is a versatile and durable plant, growing wild in many areas. Plant it right up next to the house or in soggy areas of the yard where other plants are unhappy. Watch for the berries to ripen, which resemble blueberries in size and shape. Images via Shutterstock

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11 unique edible plants for your garden

Upcycled plastic bottles are used to create this durable emergency shelter

June 14, 2019 by  
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Innovative design start-up Six Miles Across London Limited (small.) has just unveiled an emergency shelter made almost entirely out of upcycled plastic bottles . The Recycled BottleHouse is a pyramid-shaped shelter that was constructed from a bamboo frame covered in discarded plastic bottles. Recently debuted at the Clerkenwell Design Week, the innovative shelter is an example of how a truly circular economy is feasible with just a little design know-how. Related: MIT students find a way to make stronger concrete with plastic bottles Designed to be used for emergencies in remote parts of the world, the Recycled BottleHouse shelter is made out of low-cost, lightweight and sustainably sourced materials and built to be thermally comfortable. The frame of the structure is made out of thin bamboo rods joined together in the form of a tipi. The frame is then entirely covered with discarded plastic bottles filled with hay to provide privacy to the interior. For extra stability, the shelter flooring is made out of bottles filled with sand that are burrowed into the landscape. Next, hollow bottles are placed around the main bamboo frame to create four walls with a front door that swings upward. Inside, the space provides protection from both solar radiation and precipitation. The interior also boasts a lantern made from plastic bottles powered by the shelter’s integrated PV panels . According to small. founder Ricky Sandhu, the emergency shelter was inspired by the need to find feasible and sustainable solutions to the world’s growing plastic problem. Sandhu said, “We believe ‘BottleHouse’ provides a new formula for the world’s growing problem of discarded plastic bottles by transforming them into rapidly deployable, protective and valuable shelters in areas of the world that need them the most and, at the same time, setting a new mission for the rest of the world to think about and contribute to — a new circular economy .” + Six Miles Across London Limited Images via Six Miles Across London Limited

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Get outdoors with this guide to sustainable spring activities

April 30, 2019 by  
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Spring is that amazing time of year that celebrates new life everywhere around us. Animals deliver babies, trees regain their leaves and flowers burst into full color. That means it’s the perfect time for you to enjoy the splendor of the season, too. If you’re eager to hit the trails and clean up the yard, remember to keep the environment in mind when planning your activities. Here are some ways you can enjoy seasonal activities while promoting earth-friendly practices. Start a garden It seems there is a natural pull toward the garden when the temperatures rise and the sun appears reliably. So don’t fight it; create a plan and dig in. Even early in the season, there is much you can do to prepare your garden space. Pull weeds in the garden beds, rototill larger spaces or tackle walkways with the weed trimmer and pressure washer. With the chaos reigned in, get some fresh soil and plant crops like peas, lettuce, spinach and carrots. Have a picnic Don’t get stuck inside looking out on a beautiful, sunny day. Instead, walk away from the spring cleaning for awhile to enjoy a leisurely picnic. Pack up some favorite foods and hit a nearby trail. Take the kids to the park and enjoy some reading time while they play. Even simpler, just take lunch out back, throw down a blanket in the grass and have a conversation while you munch. Bird-watch An open window in the spring is an invitation to the sounds of active birds . Flocks of geese flying overhead honk as they travel. Smaller birds forage in your yard. Even raptors and scavengers are busy. Enjoy the action with a set of binoculars and your favorite bird identification book. Equally effective is one of several phone apps available for bird identification. Incorporate bird-watching with a hike and a picnic for a spring-loaded day of natural activity. Install rain barrels As the saying goes, April showers bring May flowers. Whether your climate is still bringing frequent rain or has tapered off in favor of drier days, spring is a great time to install those rain barrels . There will be more rainy days to come between now and the summer season, so getting your rain barrels set up now will give you a watering option when the need arises. Rain barrels are easy to install and are a sustainable way to reduce your water bill. Related: 3 ways to capture water for your backyard garden Volunteer You’re not the only one busy with spring clean-up. Many organizations coordinate activities in the spring to enhance the natural space in a community. This can be anything from a community clean-up event to a tree planting function. Whatever your preference, there are ample opportunities to help out. Swap Because spring cleaning is probably on your mind both inside and outside the house, it stands to reason that you’ll have to find a way to get rid of everything you purge. One great solution is to organize a swap with friends, family and neighbors. Simply choose a category of items, send invites and serve some sun tea. Alternatively, you can complete swaps using the internet to connect with others in your area. Swaps offer you a chance to locate a new home for your usable items while finding things that you might need or like. For example, you could have a clothing swap with friends or put together a plant swap to exchange seeds, cuttings or entire plants. Related: Tips and tricks to make spring cleaning more eco-friendly Landscape Step into any yard in the early spring and you’re likely to be assaulted with new growth, both welcome and invasive. It feels like the natural season to get it all under control, so it’s a great time to tackle landscaping projects. Just remember to design with the environment in mind. Plant native vegetation that requires fewer resources to thrive and gets along well with other plants. Also, find some natural plants to draw in the honeybees and butterflies and contribute to pollination in your yard. Get into nature Of course spring means that it’s time to embrace nature, and there are endless ways to go about it. While working in the yard certainly qualifies, why not try something new? Head out for a run or hop on the mountain bike. If you have very mild spring weather, take your first backpacking trip of the season. If there’s still snow, it might be a good time to hit the slopes or brush up on your climbing skills. For a less adrenaline-filled afternoon, download a plant identification app and see how many flowers you can seek out on the local trail. Host a spring fling Each season offers unique opportunities to enjoy our planet and our friends, and spring is no exception. With the yard tidied and the spring cleaning underway, brush off the grill and invite guests for an afternoon of outdoor eating and playing lawn games. It’s a great excuse for everyone to put down the hedge trimmers for a few hours and take in what the season has to offer. Enjoy! Images via Shutterstock

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Get outdoors with this guide to sustainable spring activities

Pollinate Success: 5 Tips for Planting a Bee Friendly Garden

April 25, 2019 by  
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It’s all over the news — our bee population is … The post Pollinate Success: 5 Tips for Planting a Bee Friendly Garden appeared first on Earth911.com.

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Pollinate Success: 5 Tips for Planting a Bee Friendly Garden

Native Plants: the Key to Eco-Friendly Gardening

April 10, 2019 by  
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After a dreary winter, spring has finally arrived! It’s time … The post Native Plants: the Key to Eco-Friendly Gardening appeared first on Earth911.com.

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Native Plants: the Key to Eco-Friendly Gardening

Native Plants: the Key to Eco-Friendly Gardening

April 10, 2019 by  
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After a dreary winter, spring has finally arrived! It’s time … The post Native Plants: the Key to Eco-Friendly Gardening appeared first on Earth911.com.

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Native Plants: the Key to Eco-Friendly Gardening

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