3 ways to capture water for your backyard garden (that wont break the bank)

September 14, 2017 by  
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One major issue a lot of backyard farmers have to contend with is water . All plants need water in order to thrive, and that generally means people have to hose down their gardens twice a day to ensure a healthy, generous harvest. With droughts and water shortages becoming more frequent, we need to be innovative when it comes to harvesting and using this precious resource: read on to find out how you can capture water around your own home, for startlingly less cost than you might have guessed. Trashcan Barrels For about $20, you can make a rainwater collection barrel from a simple trash can. What you’ll need and how to make it: A 20-gallon plastic garbage can—make sure to get one with a domed lid Mosquito netting A drill with a small hole saw bit 1 valve spigot that has a bulkhead fitting Waterproof duct tape or plumbing tape Teflon tape to secure the spigot Step 1 : Use your drill to create several drainage holes in the center of the garbage can’s lid. Then drill an overflow hole into the side of the barrel, about 3 inches down from the top. Step 2 : Cut a piece of mosquito netting large enough to cover those holes, and use the duct or plumber’s tape to secure it on the convex side. You’ll be tipping the lid upside-down to create a bowl, so you want the netting facing downwards, into the barrel. Step 3 : Drill a hole about 3 inches from the barrel’s bottom, get your bulkhead into place, and then insert the spigot. It’s a good idea to use the teflon tape around the spigot first to make sure it’s watertight, and then twist it firmly into place to secure it. Step 4 : Secure that upside-down lid onto the barrel, and seal with duct tape. You’ll need to prop your barrel a foot or two above the ground, so stack up some cement masonry blocks or random bricks as a stand for it. Voila! It’ll catch rainwater when it falls, and the netting will prevent leaf detritus from falling into the water below. Related: Bowl-shaped roofs harvest rainwater and promote natural cooling in arid environments Earth Mounds Got a shovel? Then you can make these. Basically, this technique just involves moving soil around in your yard to create channels that direct rainwater to where you want it to collect. Pretty much every bit of land has naturally occurring microclimates : these are areas that are either higher or lower than the rest of the soil around them, or get more light (or more shade), or have different clay/sand/loam ratios. You can determine where the wetter microclimates in your own land are by doing a quick, heavy watering with your garden hose, and watching where the water runs. You can use your shovel to dig shallow trenches to divert water to where you want it to go, and use the soil you’ve removed to build up shallow walls on either side of that trench for reinforcement. You’re essentially creating mini streams that will flow towards the plants that require the most moisture, and away from those that prefer drier feet. Ideal areas that will benefit from this kind of diversion system are: Trees, especially those that produce fruit or nuts, as they require a lot of water Brassica beds: dedicated areas where you’ll grow kale, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, and so on Lettuce beds: those greens are thirsty Corn rows: its shallow roots don’t hold water well, so it needs to drink often Legume patches: peas, snow peas, beans Related: DIY hugelkultur – how to build raised garden beds Mulch Say it out loud, just for fun: “mmmulch”. Satisfying little word, isn’t it? It’s also a tremendously effective way to collect (and keep) moisture in your garden. A lot of people end up watering their food gardens far more often than should be necessary because so much moisture is lost through evaporation, so the best way to combat that is with mulch . Grass clippings, trimmed leaves from plants like squash and comfrey, and bits of bark can all be lain atop your garden’s soil—just make sure to keep it about half an inch away from vegetable stems so that it doesn’t cause root rot. Here’s a tip: lay strips of copper coil around these mulchy mounds to keep slugs away, since they won’t cross the metal barrier. Those slugs may love moist mulch, but the copper will keep them away from your vegetables. As an aside, don’t be too overzealous with your weeding: those inedible plants may be “unsightly” as far as a traditional garden goes, but they help to keep water in the soil and prevent erosion. Additionally, if you let your chickens roam around freely, they can feed on those weeds instead of on your vegetables. Unless the unwanted plants are causing real harm, let them be. Photos via Pixabay, Unsplash and Wikimedia Creative Commons

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3 ways to capture water for your backyard garden (that wont break the bank)

Scientists discover five new species of the beautiful Peacock spider

September 14, 2017 by  
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Even those who despise arachnids can’t help but admire the gorgeous peacock spider . And now there are even more of them to admire. Researchers from Australia have just announced the discovery of four new species and one subspecies, bringing the total number of peacock spider varieties to 65. Dr. Jurgen Otto in Western Australia has been studying peacock spiders for about a decade. Reportedly, four of the species are completely new to science and one is believed to a be a sub-species. “Each new species is a complete surprise — the patterns and colours of each species are so different and so unpredictable, you never know what the next one and its display and courtship dance will look like,” Otto told ABC News . Otto and Hill named 39 of the species and sub-species that have been discovered. Reportedly, the latest species were found in Western Australia , but the peacock spiders are more native to the southern part of the continent. Related: First spider-silk garment to hit the market is this necktie from Bolt Threads To help people easily identify the spiders, Otto has shared incredibly detailed photographs on his YouTube channel . “In most peacock spider species — and the new ones are no exception — the males are strikingly coloured, and the patterns and colours are very distinctive, making it easy to distinguish one from another,” said Otto. “Cristatus has a pattern on its back that resembles the Union Jack and in addition has eight plumes of white setae (hairs) at its back that no other peacock spider has.” “Electricus stands out by its striking pattern of parallel red lines that make it look like a circuit board, and trigonus can be easily recognised by the white crown at the tip of its abdomen that is not present in any known species ,” Otto added. “One could think that the novelty of this would all have worn off by now, but people still get excited when they see them.” These findings were published in the journal Peckhamia . + Peckhamia Via ABC News Images via Dr. Jurgen Otto

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Scientists discover five new species of the beautiful Peacock spider

SOLARKIOSK E-HUBBs put goods, services, and power back into Africa’s hands

September 14, 2017 by  
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The game-changing power of solar energy is a gift to all of the global community. Nations of the world, having recognized the absolute necessity to do so, are slowly shifting towards a clean energy economy while reaping the benefits. These benefits are being particularly felt in the developing economies of the Global South , where communities are making the transition from no electricity access to resilient, local power through solar energy. SOLARKIOSK, a Berlin-based social enterprise, is supporting this movement and empowering local communities by installing innovative multi-purpose structures called E-HUBBs that are powered by the sun and operated by members of the communities they serve. SOLARKIOSK has been selected as a semifinalist for the 2017 Buckminster Fuller Challenge – read on for a closer look at this world-changing initiative. Although similar in appearance to shipping container homes , the E-HUBB is emphatically much more – it’s “an energy-connectivity gateway.” With the energy generated through its solar panels, a single E-HUBB can provide power for phone and computer charging, a Wi-Fi hotspot, an LED TV, a refrigerator, a printer, interior and exterior lighting, and more. It also offers a display area and storage space, solar products and sustainable consumer goods. “SOLARKIOSK is continuously working on the design of the E-HUBB, in order to make it more efficient in terms of maintenance, implementation and transportation,” said Marija Makejeva, Business Development Manager at SOLARKIOSK. “Over time, the design has evolved across 3 different E-HUBB models from an aluminum to a steel structure, which is more cost-efficient and easier to source. Solar components and remote metering options have also undergone significant improvement as technology has evolved.” Related: Compact OffGridBox provides drinking water and power where it’s needed most E-HUBBs have proven their versatility by serving the needs of different communities. A last-mile distribution retail E-HUBB brings underserved populations much needed products and services across Sub-Saharan Africa. There’s also a Connected Solar Clinic operated by the Jordanian Ministry of Health, a banking kiosk that offers financial tools to off-grid populations in Nigeria , and a solar school unit for the displaced population at the Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan . In addition to the tangible impacts of power generation, commercial empowerment, and more, the E-HUBB also has the ability to positively impact and inspire younger generations who will one day inherit these changing communities. “The fascination always surfaces in the eyes of the kids as they gaze upon the site clearly delighted by the atmosphere emitted by SOLARKIOSK,” reads a statement by the company. “Being accepted and loved by the children is a great reassurance for our work directive and personal initiative; a true blessing.” Related: The Great Green Wall of Africa could fight desertification and poverty Each E-HUBB is uniquely fitted for the local community’s needs and is operated by members of the community, ninety percent of whom are women . “SOLARKIOSK sees great value in empowering women through job creation within the network of E-HUBBs,” said Makejeva. For its success in supporting localized community development, SOLARKIOSK has been nominated for the Buckminster Fuller Challenge. “The Fuller Challenge was established to draw attention to a ‘whole systems’ approach to addressing some of the complex problems facing the world,” said Founding Director Elizabeth Thompson. “Fuller’s hypothesis was that integrated solutions that focus on root cause, and are designed to be models for replication elsewhere, lead to long lasting, transformational change.” The prize winner receives $100,000 in funding as well as inclusion in the Challenge’s Catalyst Program, which offers support in expanding the winner’s work. “Our criteria have been distilled from Fuller’s voluminous writings and talks about the fundamental principles of what he called design science,” said Thompson. “The program set a very high bar for what we are looking for, so the projects selected as semi-finalists, finalists, and winners are truly exceptional examples!” If it were to receive this award, SOLARKIOSK would be well-positioned to scale up its operations in the coming years. While the economic empowerment gained in a local community through the support of SOLARKIOSK is exceptional, the mission and impact is more than that. An E-HUBB is a center for the community, a gathering place around which people can share stories, build strong relationships, and find inspiration for a brighter future. + SOLARKIOSK + Buckminster Fuller Challenge

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SOLARKIOSK E-HUBBs put goods, services, and power back into Africa’s hands

HOW TO: Protect Your Plants Over the Winter

October 22, 2013 by  
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Frozen leaf image via Shutterstock Here in the northern hemisphere, nights are growing chillier, and it’s not unusual to wake up to a light frost clinging to car windshields and lingering garden plants. Sure, the mercury might rise when midday’s temperatures hit “balmy” levels, but that’ll change in the very near future. Those of us who are cultivating plants to last through the colder months , or have young trees that are vulnerable to severe weather, would do well to ensure that these little wonders are protected against winter’s bite. Read the rest of HOW TO: Protect Your Plants Over the Winter Permalink | Add to del.icio.us | digg Post tags: burlap wrapped trees , cloche , greenhouse , mulch , mulching , tree mulch , tree protection , Trees , winter garden        

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