Gardening


I love how simple cornhusk can add so much to a votive candle holder!  We are growing corn in our garden this year, and I am so excited to try this out!  Thank you for this idea, Martha!

Cornhusk Votives

Cornhusk Votives

From:

Martha Stewart Living

Wrapped in dried cornhusks, votives cast a soft glow and serve as a reminder that corn was part of the first Thanksgiving feast.

Tools and Materials
Cutting mat
Ruler
Utility knife
Dried cornhusks
Double-sided tape
Votive holders
Ribbon
Scissors

Cornhusk Votives How-To
On a cutting mat, use a ruler and utility knife to cut the widest part of the dried cornhusks (available at crafts stores) to the height of your votive holders. Apply double-sided tape around a votive holder, about 1/4 inch from the bottom. Affix 2 or 3 cornhusks, overlapping the edges, to the holder. Finish by tying with a ribbon.

All winter I have been collecting my food scraps for my compost that I anticipate using this spring (if it would stop snowing!).  I knew I wanted to use the compost for my lawn, but wasn’t quite sure how to go about doing this (since my lawn is already established.  Here’s what I learned from kingcountry:

“Composting


Unlike the air we breathe or the water we drink, soil is often overlooked as an essential element in a balanced, sustainable environment. But healthy soil is critical for good air and water quality and the health of our lawns and gardens. In the Pacific Northwest, the top layer of soil is thin. And in many yards, construction and years of neglect have removed any trace of healthy soil, leaving only poor soil behind. Learn how you can improve your soil and how composting can restore soil to make plants grow and yards healthy.

Compost is a natural organic material that is produced when leaves, plant residue, grass clippings and other yard waste break down over time.

Organic materials decompose in nature to feed soil and make it healthy. You can imitate nature in your own yard by composting your yard waste and kitchen waste. Compost is used as a soil amendment rather than a fertilizer because its nutrients become available slowly. Worm castings, is a nutrient rich top dressing and soil amendment, which provide nutrients for your plants in a form the plants can use as needed. Apply two to three inches of worm castings to your soil as a top dressing in small areas of your garden to feed the plants and nurture their growth.

You can buy compost and worm castings or make your own:

  • Buy bagged compost and worm castings during the Northwest Natural Yard Days promotion
  • Buy a compost bin online (external)
    King County Solid Waste Division sponsors online compost bin sales for up to 29% off retail prices. The compost bin sales are offered year-round.

Benefits of Composting

  • Encourages the growth of earthworms and other macro-organisms, whose tunneling makes room for water and air
  • Provides nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, sulfur and micro-organisms that are essential for plant growth
  • Acts as a glue, holding water and soil particles together, and makes soil resistant to erosion
  • Binds itself to polluting metals, pesticides and other contaminants to prevent them from washing into waterways or being absorbed by plants
  • Suppresses soil-borne diseases and plant pathogens (a number of plant and lawn diseases are suppressed by micro-organisms found in compost)

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Using Compost


How and where should you use compost?

  • Topdress lawns: Spread a thin layer of compost (about a half inch) on your lawn during the spring or fall. This technique works best if you first aerate the lawn.
  • Plant gardens: Mix compost to a 10- to 12-inch depth before each year’s planting.
  • Mulch with it: Place a several-inch-thick layer of mulch around plants to limit weed growth, reduce evaporation, keep soil temperature even and reduce soil erosion.

Mix in organic matter with existing soil before planting perennials or lawns, each time garden beds are replanted and when dividing perennials or repotting container plants. Sandy soils need more compost than do clay soils.

How much compost should you use?

Amounts vary for compost use, and it is possible to use too much. Below are some general guidelines based on 100 square feet of planting area. Check with your local nursery for specific directions.

  • New lawns: Mix compost at least 6 inches but preferably 8 inches deep as follows:
    • clay soils – 8 cubic feet = 1-inch layer of compost
    • Sandy soils – 13 cubic feet = 1-½-inch layer of compost
  • Established lawns: Spread a ½-inch layer and rake in; grass should be standing up, not bent over or buried, when finished. Mixing grass seed with compost encourages new growth.
  • New and established gardens: Mix compost to a 10- to 12-inch depth as follows:
    • clay soils – 16 cubic feet = 2-inch layer of compost
    • Sandy soils – 24 cubic feet = 4-inch layer of compost

For very poor, unhealthy lawns, you may want to consider starting over. For a list of local laboratories that can test the amount of sand, silt and clay in your soil, call the Washington State University/King County Extension at 206-205-3100.

Improve Poor Lawns

1. Aerate to improve root development.

Aerating your lawn in the spring or fall will improve root development and water penetration. Aeration removes little plugs of sod and dirt from the lawn and allows air under the lawn. You can rent an aerator, or get a yard service to aerate for you.

2. Overseed thin areas.

Overseed, after raking or aerating to expose soil, with a perennial rye/fine fescue mix designed for Pacific Northwest conditions. Talk to a knowledgeable nursery-person or contact Cooperative Extension for seed recommendations. A light application of “starter” fertilizer can help the seeds grow quickly and crowd out weeds.

3. Top dress to with compost.

Rake in 1/4 to 1/2 inch of compost to cover the seed and improve the soil.

4. Mulch mow, Once new grass has been established, use a mulch mower to leave clippings on the lawn where they will provide an immediate benefit.

A mulch mower chops up clippings into tiny bits and blows them into the lawn where the moisture from them feeds and waters the lawn each time you mow.

5. Repeat annually.

Repeat these steps annually, as needed, and your lawn will be dense and healthy.”

Thanks to Care2, here are a list of the most contaminated with pesticides produce items.  This helps us who can’t afford to buy everything organic to know what to avoid, or is okay to buy conventional.  Here you go:

What to Avoid in Spring Produce

“What a world-gone-crazy time it is when you can write “produce” and “avoid” in the same sentence. In my version of paradise we don’t need lists to tell us what not to eat because of pesticide contamination, thanks to a spiraling out-of-control food system. But here we are, with the newly published 5th edition of Environmental Working Group’s (EWG)  Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides, which includes the latest government data.

You have probably seen the guide before; it lists 47 popular fruits and vegetables in ranking of pesticide contamination and helps you know which produce to buy organic, and which conventionally-grown fruits and vegetables are okay if organic isn’t available. An EWG simulation of thousands of consumers eating high and low pesticide diets shows that people can lower their pesticide exposure by almost 80 percent by avoiding the top twelve most contaminated fruits and vegetables and eating the least contaminated instead.

According to EWG, every year new research is published demonstrating the toxicity of pesticides to human health and the environment, often at doses previously declared “safe” by the pesticide industry and the government. As acknowledged by the U.S. and international government agencies, different pesticides have been linked with a variety of toxic effects, including nervous system effects, carcinogenic effects, hormone system effects, and skin, eye and lung irritation.

Ideally, for the environment, we’d all choose organic all the time. But for many that’s not realistic, so this list can be very helpful in guiding you to make the healthiest choices available to you. You can download the full list of the 47 at EWG. I have compiled a cheat sheet here of what to look for in your spring produce shopping. The rankings are listed in the parenthesis. Out of 47 items tested, 1 is the most contaminated and 47 is the least.

Buy Organic or Don’t Buy: Five spring items with the highest pesticide loads
Strawberries (6)
Lettuce (9)
Carrots (11)
Spinach (14)
Potatoes (15)

Aim for Organic, But Conventional Will Do: Four spring items with the lowest pesticide loads
broccoli (35)
sweet peas (41)
asparagus (42)
onions (47)

If you can shop at a farmer’s market, remember to ask the vendors about their pest management philosophies. Many farmers are unable or unwilling to file for organic certification but still practice organic, or almost organic, methods. It can be a good way for safer eating without the organic label.”

5 Pesticide Foods to Avoid

1. Peaches. Conventionally farmed peaches are number one because so many pesticides are needed to grow them. Plus, their skin absorbs much of it infecting the flesh with carcinogenic chemicals that far outweigh the peach’s natural health benefits.

2. Apples. Apples are often grown in mid-western states where they are not native and as a result have not developed natural defenses to predators. Because of this, they are treated with many harmful pesticides that seep into the peel. You can always peel your apples but will lose a third of the nutrients and some of the flavor.

3. Sweet Bell Peppers. This vegetable has the highest likelihood of containing multiple pesticides, as many as 64 found on a single sample.

4. Celery. As this vegetable has no skin, the pesticides are absorbed directly into the plant. Scrubbing doesn’t help so it’s best to only buy this fresh and organic.

5. Strawberries. Their skin doesn’t absorb as much as a peach but because they are small, we don’t often wash them as carefully as we should. According to the The Organic Trade Association more than 371 pesticides are approved for use on U.S. strawberries and because they grow so close to the ground are also subject to the chemicals used on soils.

I got this recipe off of the Care2 daily email I receive, and I can’t wait to try it.  Yumm!!!

“Sauteed Spinach with Pine Nuts & Golden Raisins

I think I could eat plain sauteed spinach every day of the week and be happy, but sometimes it’s fun to dress it up a bit. This recipe from Eating Well puts a Catalan spin on spinach with pine nuts and sweet golden raisins to brighten things up.

INGREDIENTS
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons golden raisins
1 tablespoon pine nuts
2 cloves garlic, minced
10 ounces fresh spinach (see Ingredient Note), tough stems removed
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon shaved Parmesan cheese
Freshly ground pepper to taste

1. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add raisins, pine nuts and garlic; cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

2. Add spinach and cook, stirring, until just wilted, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in vinegar and salt. Serve immediately, sprinkled with Parmesan and pepper.

Ingredient Note: The sturdier texture of mature spinach stands up better to sauteing than baby spinach and it’s a more economical choice. We prefer to serve baby spinach raw.

Recipe Nutrition, two servings. Per serving: 158 calories; 9 g fat (2 g saturated fat, 5g mono unsaturated fat); 2 mg cholesterol; 16 g carbohydrates; 6 g protein; 4 g fiber; 310 mg sodium; 804 mg potassium. 1 Carbohydrate Servings. Exchanges: 1 1/2 vegetable, 1/2 fruit, 2 fat

Visit EatingWell.com for free quick and easy healthy recipe collections!”

Okay, so I have to admit, I’m not really a “normal” girl when it comes to receiving flowers.  I’d much rather have the cash, thanks.  I mean, you spend a fortune and they last a few days.  I’d rather have you pick them out of the garden for me! BUT, if I’m going to have flowers for an occassion at my house, or for a wedding (GORGEOUS!!) THIS is the way I’d do it!!!  I love, love, LOVE this idea and needed to be sure I bookmarked it for my memory.  So here it is, and once again from Martha herself!!!  And, if you’re more of the visual type, check out this link for the video of this in action!

Glittered Roses

Sorry, I had to create a picture out of their video so you could see a pic.

Sorry, I had to create a picture out of their video so you could see a pic.

From:

Martha Stewart Show

Try one of these three easy techniques to glitter roses for a one-of-a-kind way to give flowers this Valentine’s Day:

1. Glitter an entire rose by diluting white glue in a spray bottle with water. Your mixture should be equal parts water and glue, with the consistency of milk.

2. Glitter the edges of a rose by thinning white glue just a bit and applying to the tips of a flower with the side of small round paintbrush. Your diluted white glue should be the consistency of house paint.

3. Create a dewdrop effect on a rose by applying Martha Stewart Crafts all-purpose gel adhesive to the flower in rounded droplet shapes.

Wrapping Roses
To wrap your glitter roses, simply use cellophane. Begin by laying down 2 strips of cellophane to make a cross shape. Add more strips of cellophane to create an asterisk, or star shape. Slide you hands underneath all the layers of cellophane, and bring them up toward the sides of your bouquet. Finish by securing the cellophan

Oh, and by the way, they did say it does NOT cause the roses to wilt faster!!!

Photo by Jade Gedeon, courtesy of Simple MomSo I’d never really considered a compost until I read one of my daily reads from Simple Mom.  Although I am all about the green living, at this time I don’t have a garden, so I thought “why would I compost?”  and besides, the smell… Okay, well after reading her post today about making your own compost bin for WAY cheaper than you can buy one, I thought, “hey, I could do that!”, but the thing that really motivated me was that you can use it on your lawn too!  This last summer was a hot one and scorched my yard.  I’m dreading spring simply for the reason that I’m nervous to see what comes back, weeds included!  So…if I can start composting NOW, then this summer I will have a FREE compost/fertilizer for my yard to look beautiful!!! We’re hoping to put our house on the market by Spring, so this will only help our sale, and it won’t cost us a penny!  Do you have an extra plastic garbage can with a locking lid lying around that doesn’t get used all that often?  If so, you’re ready to go!!!  Follow the link above for instructions on how to achieve this for yourself. Oh, and the smell?  Well, you get to keep it outside in the FRESH air, so you won’t have to be inhaling your money saved! ;D Also, I have been told that with the lid on, it’s not stinky.  Think of the pride you will feel in your beautiful lawn/garden— and all the waste that you avoided!  Give yourself a pat on the back! Here’s to Le Dolce Vita!

For a more extensive list on what to and not to compost, go to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s site.

For information on creating a wormery-type compost, check out Worm Composting Basics.  This is a less smelly and quicker turn around compost option.

Here’s another site I found about making the same sort of composting bin.  BUT, it includes info. on ratios of brown to green (coffee grounds, paper, twigs, etc.).  Apparently this is important to know to help with the smell and breakdown.  Good to know, thanks Colleen Vanderlinden from about.com