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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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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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

Peep These Nine Pest-Prevention Plants, Pronto!

March 29, 2019 by  
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This high-tech LED lighting could grow veggies in space

January 22, 2019 by  
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Move over, freeze-dried foods and Tang. The astronauts of tomorrow may be growing veggies in their spacecraft or even on the moon and Mars. OSRAM , a global high-tech lighting company, showed off its PHYTOFY horticultural lighting system at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES) . PHYTOFY RL uses LED lights that can be tuned, controlled and scheduled for different research applications. NASA is experimenting with PHYTOFY at the Kennedy Space Center to create plant recipes, which could eventually be used at the international space station. “While space is limited on spacecraft, NASA hopes to eventually scale up to larger growing areas, such as the lunar surface, the Martian surface or even during space transit,” said Steve Graves, strategic program manager for urban and digital farming. Related: Can vertical farming feed the world and change the agriculture industry? The PHYTOFY system includes an electric light unit, control gear and software. “The ability to control and schedule spectra, dosing plants photon by photon, is extremely innovative, especially when put into the hands of plants scientists,” Graves said. Despite the allure of space, OSRAM isn’t giving up on this planet. The plantCube is an Earth-based example of horticultural tech in OSRAM’s CES 2019 display. This hydroponic “smart garden,” made by agrilution, uses OSRAM’s LED technology to make it easy to grow greens and herbs. “With the plantCube, we meet two different global trends: the desire for people living in big cities to have a healthy diet alongside a switch to local food production,” Maximilian Lössl, co-founder of agrilution, said. “With this closed system, you are able to reduce water consumption and keep the use of fertilizers to a minimum, while eliminating the need for pesticides.” One of OSRAM’s breakthroughs — both in outer space and on Earth — is using different wavelengths of light to control plants’ growth cycles. Plants can then be harvested more or less frequently, as needed. “Light recipes” can also increase the nutrients and vitamins in plants and alter their flavors. OSRAM continues to collaborate with labs and universities to fine-tune and explore applications. + OSRAM Images via OSRAM

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This high-tech LED lighting could grow veggies in space

11 ways to be more self-sufficient in the new year

January 11, 2019 by  
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Self-sufficient living is all about providing for your own needs— and the needs of your household— without resources or help from the outside. To become more self-sufficient, you need knowledge and skills, plus motivation and a spirit of independence. The reasons for living a self-sufficient lifestyle can be political, social or personal, but whatever the motivation may be, learning how to become self-sufficient can offer a feeling of security, even in the event of a disaster. There isn’t a handbook for becoming self-sufficient, but once you change your thinking about dependency, there are things you can do to start living life off the grid in the new year. Plant a Garden Not only can you grow your own food and save the seeds for next year, but you can also plant herbs in pots in your windowsill and use them for medicinal purposes or create your own spice blends . Cook From Scratch This goes hand-in-hand with planting a garden. Cooking from scratch instead of pre-packaged meals in plastic or take-out is a big step towards becoming more self-sufficient. Make A Food Storage Plan Gardens are great, and not having to rely on the grocery store to feed your family is a fantastic goal. But, that will mean that you need to have a plan for storing your food. After properly storing the fruit and veggies from your garden in a freezer or cellar, make a plan for acquiring basics like flour, sugar, water, salt and powdered milk. You can do this one week at a time , and after a year, you will have plenty of essentials. Make Natural Cleaners Ditch those store-bought cleaners that are filled with potentially toxic chemicals and instead switch to making your own natural cleaning products . You can also make your own laundry detergent and set up a clothesline or drying rack for your clothes instead of using a dryer. Learn To Sew This is a big one. Back when our grandparents and great-grandparents were young, there was always someone in the family who knew how to sew anything and everything. Not only could they mend their clothing, but they could also make entire outfits instead of buying clothing from the store. But it’s not always about clothing, as you can sew a number of things like blankets, curtains, towels, napkins, wipes and handkerchiefs. Sewing is a skill that is essential for self-sufficient living. Get Out of Debt When you owe people money it’s impossible to become truly self-sufficient. So, cut up those credit cards, make a budget and put together a plan to get out of debt. It’s not easy, but neither is living a self-sufficient life. Drastically cutting your spending to pay off your debts can be a great experience on what it means to live a self-sufficient life. In addition to getting out of debt, stash some cash in a safe place in your home. Having an emergency fund is a huge advantage when unexpected things happen. Start an Emergency Kit Stock up on basic medical supplies like band-aids, gauze, rubbing alcohol and OTC pain meds, but you want to be prepared for more than just medical emergencies. You also can prepare for power outages with an emergency candle kit . Collect Rainwater Having access to your own water source is a big part of becoming self-sufficient. If you don’t have a well, but want to use your own water to take care of your property, set up a rain barrel with a hose to water your garden. Basic Car Maintenance If you don’t know how to change your own oil or replace a flat tire, now is the time to learn if you want to become self-sufficient. Also, washing your car at home instead of taking it to a car wash is another step you can take when you want to rely on yourself instead of outside sources. Start Exercising If you aren’t in good health it’s difficult to be self-sufficient. Eating food from your own garden and cooking from scratch are big steps towards living a healthy life. Once you add exercise into your daily routine, you will become your healthiest self, which makes it much easier to be self-sufficient. Solar Lights and Windmills One of the biggest ways to move towards a life off the grid is to produce your own power. You can install solar lights outside and put up a windmill on your property to help generate the power you need. Via The Real Farmhouse Images via Couleur , FitNishMedia , Shutterstock

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MVRDV proposes a glowing Times Square Taiwan with interactive media facades

January 11, 2019 by  
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Prolific Dutch architecture firm MVRDV has unveiled a bold proposal to transform Taipei’s Main Station into a “Times Square for Taiwan.” Designed as part of a consortium led by Nan Hai Development, the Taipei Twin Towers aim to reactivate the area with two high-rises clad in interactive media facades. The mixed-use project would offer new retail, office space, two cinemas and two hotels, in addition to the unification and redevelopment of the existing plazas. Located on the east side of the city, Taipei Main Station is currently ensnared in an aging concrete jungle and offers an arrival sequence — the transportation hub includes access to inter- and intra-city buses, metro and the airport railway — that MVRDV principal and co-founder Winy Maas has described as an “anti-climax.” To revitalize the area as a tourist and shopping destination, the architects have proposed stacking a mix of small and large blocks together into “vertical village” skyscrapers. The smaller blocks, located near the bottom, would house different retail outlets while the larger blocks above would contain the offices, cinemas and two hotels. The blocks will be strategically stacked to not only create public atriums  but to also allow for natural ventilation. Landscaped terraces will be located on the top of the retail blocks and connected via escalators and elevated walkways. Some blocks would also be covered with interactive media displays that can be programmed to show major cultural spectacles, sporting events or advertising for the retail tenants. Related: Shimmering bamboo-shaped skyscraper to rise in Taipei “The Taipei Twin Towers will turn this area into the downtown that Taipei deserves, with its vibrant mixture of activities matched only by the vibrant collection of facade treatments on the stacked neighborhood above,” Winy Maas explained. “We break down the required program into pleasant small blocks that echo the surrounding urban quarters, thus fitting the density fit into its surroundings. People can climb over the blocks to the top — a true vertical village . And the space in between allows for social gatherings and natural ventilation.” + MVRDV Images via MVRDV

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