Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Plant a Garden for Earth Day

Gardening in April

             by Angela Yannessa

plant, garden, tree, earth day, glassdharma,

Early spring is the perfect time to plant your garden, even if there is still a chill in the air. Do you dream of a large backyard vegetable garden that will feed your family through the Fall, or growing your own ingredients for smoothies and juices? Maybe you want to add some eye catching flowers and plants to your front walkway. In any case, GlassDharma has gathered some tips for you. These are great activities to do with friends and family through April for Earth Month. Give the Earth around you some care, and watch your future salad, smoothies, and juices grow!

Always consider the many different varieties within each plant group, and take some time to find out which will best suit your garden and local climate. Growing plants native to your area can make tending to your garden much easier and ultimately more successful. This can be achieved by asking your local nursery or doing some research online. Keep in mind the temperature and forecast for seed starting; some plants can handle a frost and others cannot.

Pick an area in your yard that gets sunlight and is not often disturbed by pets/kids, and check your soil. (If pets will be close by, be sure nothing you are planting is toxic to them.)  You will want to learn if the pH levels are balanced (though some plants will thrive in acidic soil, others in alkaline). The easiest way to check is with litmus paper (available online or at the local pharmacy store), which offer an inexpensive option and provide a speedy answer.

  • Mix about 2 teaspoons of soil from the garden area with 1/4 cup of distilled or rain water to form a thick liquid. Allow it to set for 30 minutes to an hour.
  • Dip the test strip in the mixture and let it sit for 30 seconds. Rinse with the distilled or rain water, and compare the color it changes to the pH chart (which will come with your litmus paper).

It is easy to check the consistency of soil, a factor that can tell you a lot about the nutrients already there. Check out Organic Gardening’s resource for checking soil. There are a lot of steps here, and it might seem a little time consuming at first. It is much better to start with the right soil then to only find out the condition is poor when your plants do not grow. Once this step is complete, start digging! Using a rake and shovel, work the soil and remove weeds to prepare for planting.

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Swiss Chard
For some easy vegetables to start with, consider leafy greens like kale, Swiss chard, spinach, and lettuce. These are typically viewed as winter growth, but can provide many months of food when planted in the early spring. Kale is strong enough to withstand frosts as well as warmer temperatures, and will nourish you and your family with various vitamins. Lettuce and spinach are also healthy, easy, and fruitful leafy crops.

  • Plant in neutral soil during early spring (lettuce can be planted indoors first, then transplanted outside)
  • Water roots in the morning regularly. Kale and spinach thrive with moisture, lettuce can stand dryness. 
  • Once lettuce leaves grow, harvest to allow more to grow, until it bolts (forming flowers)
  • Kale and spinach are fantastic additions to smoothies and juices

Potatoes are easily planted for starter gardens as well. Being left too long in the pantry, potatoes will start to sprout. Take advantage of this! Planting sprouted potatoes instead of throwing them away avoids waste and can reward you with freshly grown vegetables for years to come.
  • Place sprouted potato in a warm, sunny place inside
  • After a couple weeks to a month, carefully cut the potato between the sprouts, leaving a couple "eyes" within each cut, and let them dry for 1-2 days
  • Plant eye side up, spread them out 6-10 inches to allow the potatoes to grow to an adequate size 
  • Enjoy roasted with herbs, mashed, in a potato salad, or one of the other endless possibilities
Green beans and snap peas are great to have on hand and easy plants to start from seedlings. These will survive much better if planted inside and nurtured for a couple of weeks prior to outdoor planting.
  •  Use eggshell halves for initial planters: they are the perfect size and the shell provides calcium to the growing seedling.
  • Rotting commonly occurs; it is a good idea to plant extra seedlings to make up for some lost. 
  • When planting a vining variety, be sure to provide a large stake, trellis, or plant them near a fence so the vines can climb.
  • If the season has a steady amount of rainfall, the peas/beans will only need watering weekly.
  • Eat them raw for a quick, healthy snack, or cook alongside your favorite meal
Lavender provides a beautiful and fragrant plant, and makes a nice addition to various main courses, side dishes, and even beverages. Include it in a dry rub for seasoning meat, juices/smoothies, lemonade, mojitos, roasted potatoes, and more! 
  • Lavender needs a plot or pot with good drainage. It can withstand drought and will not survive with too much moisture.
  • Line the bottom of the pot with stones to ensure good drainage.
  • At harvest, separate the lavender you plan to dry, tie the ends and hang upside down. Once dried, these will be best used for spicing, tea, and even for a calming smoothie to sip with your GlassDharma straw.
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Lavender
Gaillardia or “Blanket Flowers” grow tall each year and produce beautiful, vibrant colors above many leaves. Have fun with different textures and styles in the garden, contrasting big blooming flowers to grasses and shrubs.

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Kale Grown in a Pot from Seed
For those with limited space, planting in pots outside your doors can be the best option to serve as your garden and an inviting display. Baskets, pails, old coffee tins, milk cartons, and old juice bottles are useful tools for planting as well. Herbs can thrive right in your kitchen window. Whether you are roasting veggies, chicken, making soup, or pizza, additions such as basil and rosemary from your own garden will surely spice up the dish. The fragrance of herbs adds a nice touch in the house as well, acting as a natural deodorizer. 

To maintain all of your new garden plants, make your own organic fertilizer with compost from your kitchen/yard to be sure they thrive. It might take some getting used to, but fruit and vegetable scraps, pulp from the juicer, egg shells, used coffee grinds, grass, and leaves from your yard can help your soil nurture your plants.
Other options suggest including rock phosphate and kelp; you can make your own mixture if you make sure to have nitrogen, potassium, phosphorus, and micronutrients. Organic fertilizers are also available commercially. 

Is Your Garden Complete?

We hope your gardens are prosperous and provide many years of beauty and nourishment for your efforts. If your home garden is complete or you would rather work with a group, consider volunteering for a cooperative garden that benefits a school, senior center, or low-income project. Other options include joining a local community effort of planting trees or cleaning up a beach or park, especially throughout April for Earth Month! Educational events like talks and expos can help you and your family learn more about an environmental cause, and serve as motivation to be kinder to the Earth.  

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Where are the Friends of GlassDharma this Earth Day?

GlassDharma founders David and Gail are attending EcoCruz's Earth Day Santa Cruz event! Beth Terry of My Plastic Free Life will be joining them for the event on Saturday, April 19 for a day of fun, educational information and activities. 

Milo Cress of Be Straw Free will be speaking at the Monterey Bay Aquarium on May 10 for the Ocean Plastic Pollution Seminar, and later in the month at the  Marine Research Center in Port Townsend, Washington. Milo has won the Founder's Medal for the Daughter's of the American Revolution as a result of his hard work spreading the word about the downsides of plastic straws. Great job Milo!  

Carter and Olivia of One More Generation have written a Proclamation requesting an entire month during the school year be designated as "Plastic Awareness Month" so schools will be required to teach students about the issue and help them find solutions they can immediately introduce.  This Proclamation is now being introduced in Washington DC for consideration nationwide. 

If you will be in Pawleys Island, SC on Earth Day, be sure to see this fabulous movie, "Plastic Paradise" sponsored by a group of environmentally inspired peepers and the turtle conservation group, SCUTE. Plastic effects everything and everyone! 


Danielle and Chelsie of Balloons Blow will be focused on Beach Cleanups and spreading awareness to others to not wait for one day a year to get involved! 

What are you doing for Earth Day 2014? 

GlassDharma and friends focus beyond Earth Day/Month, spreading the word to treat every day like Earth Day! We hope you will participate throughout the year in these, or other, events.  Please share your own local events in the comments of this post and tell us about your own Earth Day festivities and celebrations. Sharing keeps the spirit of the day alive all year long!