How To Grow Vegetables With Aquaponics

March 17, 2021 by  
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If you’re interested in starting a small garden with a minimal carbon footprint, aquaponics is… The post How To Grow Vegetables With Aquaponics appeared first on Earth911.

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How To Grow Vegetables With Aquaponics

Companion plants to consider for your spring garden

March 11, 2021 by  
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Like humans, good plant companions bring out the best in each other. Throughout the forest, certain plants need the same resources and will cause competition between plants. In contrast, companion planting ensures plants are good neighbors, supporting each other instead of clashing. As an example, look to nature, where smaller plants take shelter from taller trees. In the gardening realm, this means equitably sharing nutrients and upholding each other, in a very literal way. It also means improving the health and overall yield of individual plants. When it comes to your garden, think about partnering up some classics that will benefit your landscape and your favorite garden-fresh recipe . Benefits to companion planting Choosing the right plants to combine in a space means being able to use every square foot. Intercropping results in lower plants growing upward by using taller plants as support. It also means different plants aren’t fighting for the same resources, so while carrots grow underground, an adjacent and shallow-rooted lettuce won’t infringe. Related: Top gardening trends of 2020 and what to watch for 2021 In addition, appropriately matched companion plants will provide insect control for the entire space. Similarly, many flowers attract desirable insects (like bees !) that can help out in the garden, naturally. For example, carrots, dill, parsley and parsnip attract beneficial insects like praying mantises, ladybugs and spiders that dine on problem insects on other garden plants. Other benefits of one plant to another include natural shade protection, weed suppression and healthier soil. The famous trio — The Three Sisters Any book on companion planting will mention a Native American discovery known as “ Three Sister Planting .” This trio brings together corn, beans and squash and serves as a perfect example of the power of companion plants. The corn, tall and sturdy, supports the beans below that naturally climb the stalk. The beans, like all legumes, balance nitrogen in the soil, which feeds the corn. Meanwhile, the squash, often in the form of pumpkins, quickly develops large leaves that provide shade and natural weed-blocking for both the beans and the corn. Companions to popular spring crops Here are some excellent suggestions for what to pair with the most popular plants going in the ground this spring. Tomatoes When you get the tomatoes in the ground, surround them with dill and basil to protect them from invasive hornworms. Lots of crops partner well with tomatoes, including asparagus, beans, carrots, celery, lettuce, melons, mint, onions, parsley, peppers, radishes, spinach and thyme. As you move through the seasons, replace the cool weather, early season options with those that perform better during the summer heat. Cabbage Although you don’t want to put cabbage next to tomatoes, they do have several companions in common. Intermingle sage to deter cabbage moths. Also add in beans, celery, cucumbers, dill, kale, lettuce, mint, onions, potatoes, spinach and thyme as the weather and seasons allow. Radishes Radishes are quick-growing, cool weather veggies perfect for spring planting. Radish is also a great partner for other garden inhabitants, because it grows underground. Common radish companion plants include basil, beans, carrots, cucumber, coriander, lettuce, melons, onions, peas, spinach and tomatoes. Keep radishes away from kohlrabi and hyssop. Lettuce All leafy greens appreciate the cool days of spring and start to struggle with the heat that summer brings. The many varieties of lettuce partner well with just about anything else you’re able to plant, and some plants will even keep lettuce shaded and cool enough to extend its season a bit. Good garden neighbors for lettuce include asparagus, beets, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, corn, cucumbers, eggplant, onions, peas, potatoes, radishes, spinach, strawberries, sunflowers and tomatoes. Just keep lettuce away from broccoli. Peas Snow, snap and string peas also excel in a spring garden, especially when paired with beans, carrots, corn, cucumbers, radishes and turnips. Do not allow peas to share garden space with onions and garlic. Onions and garlic Like co-workers after a garlicky lunch, these plants deter a wide range of pests. Even with their notoriously strong statement as a vegetable, the plants are mild and friendly with most garden neighbors. The exception is beans and peas, which are stunted when paired with onions and garlic. Potatoes Avoid putting potatoes next to sunflowers. Otherwise, they are fairly happy in any neighborhood. They do especially well when coupled with beans, cabbage, corn, eggplant and peas. Overall good neighbors There are some plants that are generally seen as good neighbors to everyone. As pest control, marigolds are universally acknowledged for the ability to repel nematodes, a particularly aggressive little bugger. Nasturtiums, in contrast, draw aphids toward them, keeping the insects from munching down nearby tomatoes, lettuce, kale and cabbage. Related: Companion planting for beginners Although toxic to livestock, tansy can be a welcome addition to the garden as a repellent for cutworm , which can decimate asparagus, bean, cabbage, carrot, celery, corn, lettuce, pea, pepper, potato and tomato plants.  Many herbs including catnip, hyssop, rosemary and sage will scare off the cabbage moth, an enemy of crops like broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, turnip and radish. Also note that you can improve your pest control by avoiding planting large groupings or rows of the same type of vegetable, which can serve as a bullseye for problematic pests. Space considerations In addition to balancing out each other’s needs, companion plants work together to provide the greatest yield in the smallest space. Efficiency and organization in your garden means placing quick-growing spring selections like lettuce, spinach, radishes, swiss chard and carrots in between the early buds of long-season crops like melon, pumpkin and squash. With this technique, the quick crops will be ready for harvest before the sprawling plants need more real estate to grow. Images via Adobe Stock

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Agrodomes are individual greenhouses for budding crops

January 29, 2021 by  
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Farmers and backyard gardeners often find themselves rolling the dice in regards to when to safely transport seedlings from the greenhouse to the ground. It can be a crucial decision, as plants are vulnerable to heavy rain, hail or dry conditions. To facilitate healthy plant growth, Agrodome is a solution that eliminates the need for a greenhouse altogether. Designed by Agustin Otegui of NOS Design Consulting in collaboration with Jorge Álvarez, Agrodome is a modular dome for outdoor crops. With its transparent design, it allows farmers to germinate seeds directly in the field rather than growing them in a greenhouse only to transplant them into the field later. In essence, these domes act as individual greenhouses by protecting the plants from harsh weather and providing a temperature-controlled growing environment. Related: Sead Pod offers grassroots solution to air pollution and global warming Agrodomes are made from natural polymers and recycled PET , so they are fully recyclable at the end of their useful product life. Each dome measures 3 square feet, and the height is easily adjusted by simply pulling it up or pushing it deeper into the soil. The translucent upper part of the dome is ventilated to allow oxygen exchange for controlling humidity and temperature. A narrowed center portion works as a funnel, diverting water directly underground so it doesn’t flood the budding plants and allows the soil to achieve better absorption. The bottom portion of the funnel features holes that further disperse the water beneath the surface of the soil. Agrodome is designed to be lightweight yet strong. This allows farmers to easily stack, store and transport it. It also makes it easy to move the domes from one section of the field to another as different sections of the field are ready to plant or as plants are ready to thrive without the Agrodome. The modular aspect means it can be used for a variety of crops in different parts of the field at the same time, taking advantage of natural light and catering to the needs of each plant. + NOS Design Consulting Images via NOS Design Consulting

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Agrodomes are individual greenhouses for budding crops

Top gardening trends of 2020 and what to watch for 2021

November 3, 2020 by  
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Gardening is a hobby, craft and lifestyle that dates back thousands of years. Over that time, the act has taken on different forms and garnered wavering interest. What was once a mandatory way of life to provide food for the family transitioned into an option as global transportation and supermarkets took center stage in providing meals. But there’s something primal about gardening that makes it rewarding, whether that takes shape as growing your own food or simply cultivating a patio of natural decor from a combination of potted and planted foliage.  The coronavirus pandemic of 2020 has changed the way many of us spend our days. Having more time at home, voluntary or not, has encouraged bread baking, language learning, and even instrument playing. Additionally, there’s been a significant uptick in interest around all things gardening related. Google data reports a 39% increase from last year to this year on the topic — a good indicator of what’s on people’s minds. With this information, the experts at Love the Garden analyzed over 100 different garden-related hashtags on Instagram to uncover those growing in popularity and representing likely trends for 2021. Related: Make the most of your late summer garden with these tips Ten trends topped the list, with #balconygardening, #wildgarden and #insideoutside coming in for the top three. Balcony gardening offers a compact way to liven up a space or even grow food , so it makes sense as a popular topic, especially during lockdown. People used this hashtag 96,817 times, showing an international interest. Meanwhile, #wildgarden garnered 91,777 posts, indicating another popular gardening technique in the desire to not tame the wild. Unsurprisingly, #insideoutside saw 83,731 posts. After all, when it comes to plant life, a major goal is surrounding ourselves in nature. Think greenhouse living rooms on your back patio to bring this idea into perspective. Organize the couches and tables in a space with fresh air and naturally growing greenery to bring the indoors outdoors. The next most-populated hashtag was #tinygarden, with an impressive 80,752 posts. This trend illustrates how even urban locations and  tiny home  lots can use a small space to add natural appeal. In the middle of the top 10 was #raisedbedgarden (78,910), outlining ways areas with less-than-desirable soil conditions can still grow food and other greenery. In addition to what’s grown inside the raised beds, designing and building the beds is another hobby to tap into during social distancing.  The 76,576 posts related to #permaculturegarden prove that the design theory is alive and well. Permaculture gardening is a practice that takes into account all the features of the gardening system. It creates a permanent garden that respects the natural forces of wind, sun and  water . Basically, this approach centers holistic gardening and appears to be an ongoing trend to watch.  The number seven spot goes to #whitegarden with 51,750 posts. There’s something  minimalist  about an all-white space; a cleansing palette for the eyes and calming spot to relax. Color coordinating the garden space is not new and going classic with all-white blooms is still an obvious favorite.  Even smaller than the patio or remote section of the yard, using what’s available takes gardening indoors with #windowsillgarden, mentioned 48,432 times. After all, if you live in an apartment with no balcony, a sunny windowsill may be the only garden space up for offer. Especially during quarantine, finding any way to bring  green design  into your home not only sparks joy but also provides the added benefit of natural air filtration for cleaner air that is higher in oxygen and lower in carbon dioxide. Going back to color-themed gardens, #greygardens comes in ninth place with 45,124 mentions. Grey has sat at the top of the interior design color palette for the past decade so it’s not surprising gardeners want to keep the trend alive in outdoor spaces too. While most  plants  don’t fall into the grey category, furniture, stone walkways, water features and decking set a slate foundation for the surrounding landscape.  Finally, rounding out the top 10 most popular gardening related hashtags for 2020 is #cottagegardens at 37,021 posts. Again, this doesn’t seem too outlandish considering the ongoing love for cabins and tiny houses, which fit the cottage vibe. Even Victorian architecture or farmhouse structures can easily take on a cottagecore  interior design  style, so bringing those elements into the garden makes sense.  Having a vision of what piqued interest in 2020 serves as a solid indicator for what trends will continue into 2021, but the team at Love the Garden further took the guesswork out of what to expect by seeking out other popular gardening trends. The hashtags they analyzed covered the topics of Zen, urban, and container gardening and also focused on sustainability . The top 15 hashtags include #growyourown, #urbangarden, #organicgardening, #urbangardening, #vegetablegarden, #succulentgarden, #indoorgarden, #japanesegarden, #containergardening, #gardentotable, #verticalgarden, #outdoorkitchen, #countrygarden, #citygarden and #zengarden, proving that whatever type of gardening you’re considering, there’s a plant for that. + Love the Garden Images via Love the Garden and Pexels

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Top gardening trends of 2020 and what to watch for 2021

Make the most of your late summer garden with these tips

August 31, 2020 by  
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Just because summer is winding down doesn’t mean your gardening has to. In fact, late summer is when the natural world begins preparing for winter and even the seemingly far-off spring. When scheduling for your late summer gardening, plan ahead for the animals , nutrients in the dirt, the changing landscape and colors for subsequent seasons. Create shelter for animals Deadheading and pruning is a common activity in late summer before the cold winter days roll in. If you have the room, consider using those branches to create a protective habitat for animals in your area. After all, they are looking for a warm place to call home, too.  Related: Summer gardening tips for a great harvest Also think about pollinators during your plant selection process. Find native plants with a natural appeal to draw in bees, butterflies and birds, who will spread the seeds, enjoy the nectar and pollinate nearby food and other plants.  There are some pests you don’t want to invite to the party, so use natural repellents to treat the mosquitos, aphids, slugs, beetles, spider mites, scale, whiteflies, grasshoppers and other busy pests that tend to chew through your plants. Care for your soil The drying leaves and dying buds of late summer may make it look like the activity of the season has died down, but in reality, the root systems are coming to life in preparation for the seasons to come. Apply fertilizer to your lawn and plants so they don’t have to work so hard to acquire the nutrients they need. Also continue to provide water as needed. Go ahead and use the rest of the collected rain barrel water before the rain starts again. By the way, if you haven’t set up your water collection system , now is the perfect time to do so. Be conscious of other water waste that could be used in the garden. For example, after boiling pasta, blanching vegetables and canning, allow the water to cool and pour it on plants outdoors. You can also collect water in the shower or reuse bathwater. Late summer is a great time to add mulch to your plants. Not only does it help retain the moisture in the soil, but it also adds vital nutrients. Send branches through a chipper or rely on grass clippings or hay. Just be sure the mulch is weed-free or you could be planting a problem to deal with next year. Plant now and order ahead According to Monrovia , a leading nursery company, certain plants work best for late summer plantings. The company suggests the Strawberry Shake Hydrangea for creamy white to pink blooms in zones 4-8. Evolution Sedum comes in three varieties with hearty stems that maintain their stature throughout the season. Also consider the assortment of color options found in the Grace N’ Grit Roses for a long-lasting wave of color throughout the seasons. Another recommendation is the FloralBerry Sangria Hypericum, which provides fall blooms and berries. Late summer is a great time to plan for the fall , so think ahead to what you will need to plant in the coming season as well. Spring bulbs will need to go in the ground soon, so get your orders in for tulips, crocus and daffodils. Plus, go ahead and plant spring blooming trees, shrubs and perennials. Monrovia suggests Crimson Kisses Weigela for a colorful and compact plant that will bloom throughout the spring and fall. Harlequin Penstemon is a good choice for attracting butterflies and hummingbirds, and Little Joker Physocarpus is drought-tolerant and disease-resistant. Enjoy the season September brings cooler evenings and mornings to most time zones while maintaining many comfortable, workable hours in the day. In contrast to blistering heat in the height of summer or the frigid cold that may be coming, late summer is an enjoyable time to dig, plant, weed and haul. Divide the load As the daylilies and hostas lose blooms and begin to hunker down for the next season, grab your shovel and begin dividing them into additional plants. A hearty hosta may have 70 or more “eyes”. Leaving them in groups of at least 12 can provide at least five new plants to share or plant elsewhere. Plus it gives the original plant more vigor to grow. This is true with many dividable plants, so get your pots and shovel ready.  Plant cool-weather crops While the flurry of gardening is typically associated with spring, many foods thrive in the late summer season, providing fresh produce as autumn arrives. Plant the same cool-weather crops with short seasons you planted in the spring: spinach , lettuce and other greens, beets, carrots, peas and beans. Feed the compost bin While you’re cleaning out the wilting summer plants from the vegetable garden, add those valuable nutrients to the compost bin. Toss in the end-of-the-season grass clippings and some of the smaller twigs and branches from deadheading and pruning existing plants. All of these ingredients will break down over winter, preparing a compost of food for spring plantings. Avoid adding any leaves infected with black spot, mildew or other diseases that can contaminate the compost . + Monrovia Images via Pete Nuij , Goumbik , Genevieve Belcher , Rudy and Peter Skitterians , Pasja1000 , Devanath , Herb007 and Albrecht Fietz

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Make the most of your late summer garden with these tips

Summer gardening tips for a great harvest

June 19, 2020 by  
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When the much-anticipated summer season finally arrives, make the most of your garden time with a checklist of ongoing tasks that will keep your plants healthy year-round. Clean up Much of your clean up might have taken place in the spring. However, if winter rolls straight into summer in your part of the country, or you haven’t had the time or motivation to tackle the task, get busy pulling weeds, mowing the lawn and cleaning the patio furniture. Avoid harsh chemicals and instead borrow a pressure washer to blast the deck, fencing, porch and paver stones. Also, tidy up any concrete blocks along your raised beds. Related: Where to order vegetable seeds online Continue to plant Again, your garden is probably well underway from your spring plantings. But in addition to monitoring the growth of your current plants, continue planting for late summer and fall crops. Plan to keep your garden producing by planting fall crops such as pumpkins and squash. Create a calendar for planting based on where you live and how long crops need until harvest. Use mulch Summer heat zaps moisture out of the soil, and many plants suffer without mulch to help them retain much-needed water. Check your trees, shrubs and flowering bulbs a few times each month and supplement the mulch as needed.  Plant bulbs Although spring and summer steal the show for flowering bulbs, the fall months can dazzle too if you think ahead. Use the warm days of late summer to plant bulbs such as autumn crocus, winter daffodil and Guernsey lily that will burst to life in the fall. Be sure to mark where you placed them, so you don’t plant over them. Install a timer Using water efficiently not only benefits your pocketbook and the planet’s resources, but it also results in better plant production. The best way to water where you need when you need is to use timers that automatically turn the system on and off. Timers can be used for complex underground sprinkler systems with several zones and also for simple drip systems for hanging baskets or berry patches.  Water  in the early morning or late evening, when temperatures are cool and evaporation is less likely. Make sure to turn the timers off when rain is in the forecast. Prune and deadhead As plants continue to thrive throughout the season, they’ll benefit from a trim here and there. Identify plants that bloom early winter to late spring and prune them back during the summer. Deadhead current blooming plants as blossoms die off; this diverts the energy away from spent blooms and towards active ones.  Support your plants Early in the season, get cages around your brambling plants, such as raspberries and tomatoes . Other plants also need support as they grow, including bush beans, snap peas and flowers like delphinium. Check on your plants at least every other day to keep them in line.  Train them to climb Summer is also a productive season for your climbers, and without training, they may grow to undesirable places within or even outside your yard. Keep up with your hops, grapes, clematis and wisteria, guiding them up trellises or along wires as they reach new heights. Close the buffet for animals Your garden full of flowers or fruits is a tempting invitation for the neighborhood  animals . Summer is the time to protect your plants against critters large and small. Put up fencing around your food garden and make sure it is tall enough that deer can’t jump over it. Inside your garden, further protect plants from smaller animals that may squeeze in, such as rabbits and chipmunks. To protect against the smallest of hungry animals, keep ladybugs around to feed on aphids, move old plants to another area of the yard, use natural insecticides and place short, open cans or cups of beer nearby to draw in slugs. You can also use netting over the top of your crops to keep birds from having a free meal at the plant buffet. Feed your plants Even after your plants are well established, most need a little boost now and then to keep up energy for production. Around midseason, provide your plants with some fertilizer to help them out.  Turn your harvest into a meal plan Growing a garden can take a lot of work and money, so you don’t want your resulting harvest to go to waste. The best way to use up fresh vegetables is to plan for their arrival. You can add the tops of radishes, beets and carrots to pesto, which can be eaten fresh or frozen/canned for later. Plan to use your lettuce promptly after harvest with myriad salad options that can incorporate your carrots, beets, snow peas, broccoli, strawberries and more. The point is, as your garden produces various foods , create an upcoming meal plan to match.  Protect wood products Summer is also the time to restain fencing and decking. Apply a fresh coat of paint or stain to furniture and the garden bench. Invite pollinators to the party Pollinators such as  bees, butterflies, birds  and bats can really benefit your yard, so as summer progresses, cater to their needs. Build and install bat, butterfly, bird and bee houses. Keep the bird feeders and baths clean and supplied. Finally, plan your seasonal garden flowers around those that attract your feathered and winged friends to the party.  Start a compost pile Anytime is a great time to start a compost pile. Still, the heat of summer can help the stratified material break down faster than it would during other seasons.  Set up rain barrels Even if you have rare summer rains, getting rain barrels set up now will give you ample water when the rains return. You can then use this to water plants, the lawn or even the animals. Check your state’s rainwater harvesting laws before getting started, though. Preserve your harvest Finally, preserving food is a quintessential part of summer. Rows of canning jars, a freezer full of fresh crops and the dehydrator working overtime all represent the fruits of your labor. Images via Pexels and Pixabay

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10 ways to celebrate Mothers Day virtually in 2020

May 7, 2020 by  
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With the majority of the country continuing to observe social distancing and shelter-in-place laws, families are beginning to face a new normal of interacting for the holidays. Mother’s Day is coming up on Sunday, and while most of us won’t be able to see our moms in person this year, there are still ways to celebrate! A silver-lining? Choosing to celebrate from home, social distance-style, can be a win for the environment, too. 1. Have flowers planted in Central Park In New York’s Central Park, hundreds of thousands of tulips and daffodils bloom every year just in time for Mother’s Day. The city is offering a tax-deductible $1-per-bulb donation so that you can plant flowers in the park in someone’s name. After you’ve made your contribution, New York City will mail a certificate or e-card to your recipient letting them know about the donation. It is an inventive way to give your mom flowers this year that will continue to grow and thrive in a natural setting, rather than cut flowers. Related: Mother’s Day bouquet and other fun DIY ideas 2. Virtual 5K Although nearly all organized group runs this spring and summer have been cancelled, many of them have made the switch to become virtual runs instead. The All Community Events Mother’s Day Run Walk is a virtual 5K, 10K or half-marathon race that you can complete wherever you’d like. If you’re social distancing from your mom, it is a great way to stay connected while getting some exercise . You and Mom can choose your own routes in your own neighborhoods or an alternative favorite running route and log the miles together. 3. Virtual wine tasting Make a list of some organic or biodynamic wines, and send a few to your mom to try (don’t forget to buy some for yourself, as well). Start a video call and taste the wines together, making notes of which ones you like the most. Once you can visit each other in person again, it will be fun to bring your new favorite bottle to enjoy together! 4. Virtual brunch Get the whole family together (virtually, of course) by organizing a Mother’s Day brunch via Zoom, Facetime or Skype. Choose a simple, healthy recipe that everyone can make themselves at home, or have each person make something unique. 5. Take an online course together Choose an online cooking, art or gardening class that interests both of you. Learn a new skill while spending time with Mom, and you might even end up with a new hobby to appreciate together once social distancing rules ease up. Udemy has 100,000 online courses and is running Mother’s Day specials through May 14, or you can browse Skillshare for classes in everything from floral decoration to interior design. 6. Meal delivery kit Make sure that Mom is eating well during the pandemic with a subscription to a meal delivery service. The food will be delivered right to her door, eliminating at least a couple of trips to the grocery store. Daily Harvest offers delicious smoothie and bowl selections that you can give through a gift card or send as a nine-item gift box. Some other popular plant-based subscriptions include Purple Carrot and Sun Basket . 7. Decorate Mom’s front door Surprise Mom and brighten her day by decorating her front door for Mother’s Day with a festive wreath or handmade decorations . You won’t have to interact in person, but it will make you feel connected all the same! 8. Online yoga subscription Everyone is looking for ways to stay in shape from the comfort of their own homes these days, and online yoga provides the perfect combination of exercise and self care. Some of the more popular subscription options that incorporate meditation as well as yoga and Pilates are Glo and Gaia , although you can always check Groupon for online specials, too. 9. Tree planting donation Give an environmentally friendly gift that grows by planting a tree in Mom’s name for Mother’s Day. Check out the Earth Day Canopy Project and help in the fight against deforestation with one tree planted for each $1 donated; the network set a goal of planting 7.8 billion trees (one for every person on the planet) to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Earth Day in 2020. Tree People is offering beautiful, specially designed and sustainably made Mother’s Day cards with custom messages with tree planting donations of $25 or more. 10. Host a Netflix Party Netflix’s new Party feature allows groups to synchronize video playback and chat while watching Netflix together, even from far away. Choose something inspiring like a Planet Earth nature documentary to get excited for when the world opens back up again. Images via Lum3n , Saramatos , Sofia Morin , Petra , Emily Austin and Aiokr Chen

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Bace presents Rotofarm, an automated garden for your kitchen

May 6, 2020 by  
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There’s never been a better time to grow your own herbs and veggies at home, but limited space is a common issue, especially in urban areas. In steps Rotofarm, the newest product from Australian-based company Bace, offering a compact indoor garden suitable for the kitchen counter complete with technology inspired by NASA. Apparently the idea is a popular one since, even at the prototype stage, The Rotofarm was funded in 8 minutes on Indiegogo , where you can now pre-order the device. This indoor garden works using hydroponics and an innovative lighting system that allows plants to grow without soil. Removing soil from the equation makes every step in the process easier. Plus, it significantly reduces the amount of water required for plant growth. Related: PICO microgarden lets you grow anywhere from home to car But a lack of soil doesn’t reduce yield. Rotofarm is intended to supplement your diet with 10 spaces for plants. Although the specialized system does require the use of custom Bace Seed Pods, they are designed to optimize growth while providing a sustainable option; the pods are composed of 100% biodegradable coconut fiber, not plastic. In addition to eliminating soil and designing a compact indoor garden, it was important to Bace that Rotofarm be easy to use. The goal is to be able to grow fresh produce anywhere, regardless of space or light limitations. As such, the system is completely automated and can be controlled by an app. The only thing the user needs to do is pop the seed pods into the machine, mix the nutrient base with water and pour the nutrients into the reservoir at the base of the Rotoform. The circular design makes efficient use of space, and the entire growing area rotates around a central light for consistent and controlled lighting. In addition to giving each plant an equal share of light, the rotation creates a zero-gravity system, which allows plants to grow faster than those in a traditional flat bed. The light can be quite bright, so the Rotofarm can be dimmed with an optional Eclipse cover, which reduces light pollution in the home and increases humidity inside the garden. + Bace Via Design Milk Images via Bace

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Planning a low-water garden with expert Guy Banner

April 28, 2020 by  
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For those fortunate enough to have some outdoor space, gardening has become a top  pandemic  activity. It gets people outdoors doing something constructive while maintaining social distancing. You might even grow something to eat. But as all eco-conscious people know, gardening requires water. Sometimes a lot of water. For low-water gardening tips, we asked horticulturalist Guy Banner of  Red Butte Garden  in Salt Lake City for some tips. Banner worked as a field botanist for federal agencies like the U.S. Geological Service and the U.S. Forest Service in Oregon before going back home to Utah. He now co-owns  Grand Prismatic Seed , which specializes in hardy organic seeds, and works as the assistant horticulturalist in Red Butte’s Water Conservation Garden. Red Butte is a gorgeous 100-acre botanical garden with display gardens, hiking  trails , walking paths, talks, outdoor concerts, flower shows and lots of educational displays for home gardeners. It’s definitely worth a trip once we can leave our houses again. Inhabitat: Could you tell us a little bit about the history and inspiration behind Red Butte’s Water Conservation Garden? Banner: The  Water Conservation Garden (WCG) had been a long-term goal for the garden as a response to our arid climate and regional projected population growth as well as an opportunity to create a garden space with a different feel and plant palette. Ten years of planning and preparation came before the grand opening in the spring of 2017. The hope was to create a water conservation garden that demonstrated low to no water use through design,  plant selection and gardening techniques without sacrificing high aesthetic value. I believe it has been a success. The WCG hosts plants from similar climates across the globe but there is a special emphasis on housing many examples of the beautiful and well-adapted native flora of the western U.S. Inhabitat: Any tips for people planning a low-water garden at home? Banner: There are many lovely dry shade plants, but the majority of the most colorful and structural low-water plants need full sun and warmth. They are great for sunny south and west facing garden beds.  Rocks , slopes, windbreaks, evergreens and structures can be used to create warmer sheltered spaces for more cold-sensitive plants. Low-water plants tend to need good drainage in the  soil , especially in non-arid climates. You can find out your soil’s drainage by doing a simple DIY soil percolation test, like this one from Tennessee State University Cooperative Extension:  Soil Perc. Test. To improve drainage, plant on a slope, use rock, gravel, sharp sand and coarse organic material to amend heavy clay soils and/or use plants adapted to those conditions. You can also build mounded beds with large rocks, cobble, cinder blocks, etc. inside to give height and good drainage. If you are lucky enough to have a naturally moist and/or cool garden site, ‘low-water’ plants for you can have higher water needs. Draw inspiration from your native upland flora . Those plants will indicate plant types that can thrive in your area without extra water. Newly planted and transplanted plants will have to be watered regularly until their roots can establish. Establishment can take between one and three years, depending on how slow-growing the plant is. Only the most low-water plants can establish with little to no water after initial planting. Rainfall should be considered. Plants that grow from seed or seedlings in your beds will create the best root systems most quickly, because the roots are free to grow to their fullest potential while seeking out the nutrients and moisture in your garden soil. Mulch is a great way to improve soil texture, moderate temperature, reduce weeds and retain moisture. Use well-draining inorganic rock or gravel mulches around very xeric plants that are prone to rot if their stems and crowns are surrounded by excess moisture. The spongy organic material, beneficial bacteria and fungi of healthy living soils help plants to better utilize available water and nutrients. The natural symbiosis of roots with beneficial fungi (mycorrhiza) in upwards of 90% of studied plant families help plant roots access much more of the soil’s water and nutrients than they can on their own. To improve sterile and impoverished soils use healthy compost or beneficial soil life inoculants. Be minimal and cautious with pesticides, toxic materials and repeated heavy tillage. Visit and support your local nurseries, botanical gardens, university extension programs and gardening clubs. They can be excellent resources. Inhabitat: What are the biggest water-related mistakes people make when planting a garden? Banner: One of the biggest mistakes in low-water gardening is to mix plants with high and low water needs in the same irrigation zones. This creates a lot of hand watering or drowned low-water plants. The key is to create ‘hydrozones’ of plants with similar water needs that receive the same irrigation. Another water-related mistake is to not maximize the water that naturally falls on your garden area. Unless you live in a heavy rainfall area, slow, spread and sink the water you receive by integrating passive rainwater harvesting into your landscaping . It can be particularly useful to integrate your rain gutter downspouts, create swales and basins and then hydrozone the plantings based on how much water is retained. Be mindful of rainfall patterns, leaks and potential flooding in your designs. Inhabitat: What have you learned from working at the Water Conservation Garden? Banner: It’s always teaching me new things of course but here are some of the most poignant lessons that I have learned. The amount of water used to establish many of our garden’s low-water plants is more than some of the most xeric or sandy soil adapted plants can handle; they establish better now with the lower water scheduling. The natural slopes of our foothill garden have helped significantly with drainage of our rocky, clay soils. The use of native annuals and summer drought-adapted bulbs in the garden can create a wonderfully lush landscape by taking advantage of natural seasonal moisture. People are very excited and often surprised to see the wide range of possibilities in low water gardening that we display, and it inspires me to continue to make the garden botanically interesting, aesthetic and approachable. Inhabitat: Can you recommend some low-water plants? Banner:  My current favorite low-water plants are Northern Blazing Star (Liatris scariosa var. nieuwlandii), Shasta Sulphur Buckwheat (Eriogonum umbellatum var. polyanthum), Long trunked Spanish Dagger (Yucca gloriosa), Palmer’s penstemon (Penstemon palmeri), Smoothstem blazingstar (Mentzelia laevicaulis), Pale stonecrop (Sedum sediforme), Silverleaf Oak (Quercus hypoleucoides), Yellowhorn (Xanthoceras sorbifolium), Texas beargrass (Nolina texana),  Arizona fescue (Festuca arizonica), New Mexico Agave (Agave parryii var. neomexicana), ‘Frazier Park’ Big Berry Manzanita (Arctostaphylos glauca ‘Frazier Park’), Canyon Liveforever (Dudleya cymosa), Saint John’s Chamomile (Anthemis sancti-johannis) Inhabitat: Anything else our readers should know about water conservation and gardening? Banner: There is a lot to explore in finding the best water- conserving garden for your unique situation. While there are many general guidelines and recommendations you will find special opportunities as you dig deeper in your gardening practice (pun intended). Don’t be afraid to experiment and make some mistakes. Have fun with it! For more information on what to plant for your climate zone, check out this EPA site . + Guy Banner, Red Butte Garden Images via Teresa Bergen

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Planning a low-water garden with expert Guy Banner

Gardening Tips: How To Get Kids Involved

March 31, 2020 by  
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