Tag Archives: Garden

Innovative New Green House Grows Food In The Desert

A new type of green house that uses cardboard and sea water, grows healthy food in the desert…and it’s affordable.

Free wood chips help local small business, local landfills, and homeowners

IMG_2450What do you do if you’re a small tree chipping company and you don’t want to spend your money on dumping fees? What do you do if you’re a city planner trying to keep your landfills from filling up so fast?  What do you do if you’re a homeowner who wants to do some sustainable and frugal landscaping pathways?

IMG_2441A new website in Portland Oregon solves this three way problem with chipdrop.  You open an account and give your address, and whatever local tree chipping company has a load of chips they need to dump, they drive it to your house and dump it free in whatever location you mention. It helps the tree chipping companies because otherwise they’d have to pay dump fees. It helps the homeowner because you get free wood chips delivered to your door. It helps the city because it doesn’t get it’s landfills full of woodchips. Everybody wins.

We took advantage of this new service and created front and backyard pathways!  Our load, we were told, was mostly douglas fir, so the whole yard smells wonderful, and it’s safe for our backyard free range chickens.

Public urinal goes green

pplanterWhat happens when you combine bamboo plants and simple green science to create a public urinal?  The PPlanter.

The PPlanter is a simple and attractive public system that allows you to privately pee in a urinal (there are disposable women’s adapters as well), then step on a foot pedal that brings fresh water to wash your hands.  The fresh water flushes/cleans the urinal with liquids going into a holding tank.  From there, the mixed liquid is pumped into the planter/biofilter, where bamboo plants are growing in a mixture of rocks, wood chips and styrofoam. The water, nitrogen and phosphorous are used by the bamboo, while bacteria living in the growing medium break down carbohydrates and protein.

I talked to my son and he says guys would have no problem with this, but probably women wouldn’t be all that enthusiastic.  According to the Gizmag article, the test project had plenty of volunteers, but they didn’t break down how many were men/women.  Also what would you do if you ended up needing to do more than just pee – this particular invention doesn’t cover that.  But I think it’s a good start to re-imagine how to simplify waste systems.

Thanks to Gizmag for this article.

Garden Terrace Apartment Building uses recycled water and solar power

clearpoint-12Here’s an innovative apartment building in Sri Lanka.  It uses recycled water (including rainwater) to water the outdoor plants and flush toilets, and a solar panel to run the lobby lights and other shared resources.

When it’s completed in 2016 it will be the tallest residential vertical garden in the world, with planted terraces circling the entire structure.  The 164 apartments, each with 2300 square-feet of floor space and an open feel, are designed to give residents a sense of ground-level living, as well as privacy and tranquility in a bustling city.

The planted terraces for each apartment will help absorb sound, provide shade, and cleanse the air. They’ll be automatically watered using a drip-irrigation system of rainwater, and along with recycled water to flush toilets, will help to reduce intake from the national water supply by an estimated 45 percent.

Check out this innovative Sri Lankan apartment building here.  Thanks to Gizmag for this article.

Free fruit gleaning from all over the world!

pear tree lots of pearsFallingFruit.org is an an urban harvesting map that brings together community and city data bases from all over the internet/world.  Find, add, and edit information on the wild edibles growing in your neighborhood.  Check out  http://www.fallingfruit.org/ to find and share free urban fruit that otherwise would go to waste.

TomTato plant grows both tomatoes AND potatoes

This is not a genetic hybrid, but created with the age-old method of grafting by hand the top of a cherry tomato plant to the roots of a white potato plant, so that a single plant produces both tomatoes and potatoes at the same time.

UK Horticulture company Thompson and Morgan states that the Brix (sugar content) of the TomTato’s fruit is higher than most supermarket tomatoes, and the potatoes are fine for boiling, mashing, or roasting.  At this time the TomTato is only available in the UK, but the BBC reports that another such plant has been released in New Zealand, made by the company Incredible Edibles, and known as the Potato Tom.

Can’t wait for the US to develop such a plant – I’ve always had good luck with cherry tomatoes, but never with potatoes.  Maybe if I had a plant like this I could easily grow both on my little city lot – or better yet in a pot?

Thanks to Gizmag for this article.

Aronia: The North American super berry with cancer-fighting properties | Fox News

Aronia berry clusterAronia Berries, also known as Choke Cherries, are a native American fruit.  They are full of antioxidents and make great juice.  So why don’t more people grow them?  Well, for one, they taste puckery/mealy if you eat them fresh.  The juice stains your skin. They don’t cook down all that well because of the tiny bitter seeds and skin, and they are terrible dried.

So what do you do with them?  I enjoy them two ways:

1. I wash the berries, take off the stems, and put berries in the blender with about 1 part berries to 3/4 parts water.  Then I strain and keep the juice, composting the remaining seed/skin sludge.  After the juice settles I strain it again to get the second smaller wave of sludge off.  I do this over the sink wearing an apron so I don’t stain anything (the stains scrub out of the sink and off your hands eventually). I put the juice in bottles in the fridge and Continue reading

RentTheChicken.com lets you practice raising backyard chickens

rent-the-chicken-dot-com-photo.JPG.662x0_q100_crop-scale

If you like the idea of having fresh eggs straight from the backyard, but aren’t sure if you’re ready to commit, RentTheChicken.com lets you rent some chickens!

Here’s how they pitch their service:

Thought of Raising Backyard Chickens? Every spring, thousands of chickens are sold at local farm supply stores. Often these chickens die before they are ready to start laying eggs (16-30 weeks). Children quickly realize that chickens are not as fun as the Xbox and parents find out that chickens cannot be house broken! The costs quickly start becoming more and more, then chickens are “sent to the farm”. Other people think about chickens but think they don’t have the space, worry about regulations, or just don’t know what they need. Do you build or buy a coop? Do you buy peeps? How do you raise an egg-laying hen if you buy a peep? Did someone tell you about a heat lamp? It can all be overwhelming and we take the guesswork out of all of the questions by offering a portable coop, the food & supplies, and the egg-laying hens!

RentTheChicken.com is based in Continue reading

All five tastes in one berry: Schisandra Vine

Schisandra VineThe Chinese name for Schisandra is wu-wei-zi, which means “five taste-fruits” or “five flavor herb” because the fruits contain all five flavors: sweet, sour, bitter, pungent and salty. Sucking on a dry fruit is an interesting experience because of its many flavors. Chomping into a fresh one you don’t quite get the ending sweet note, so are left with a funny look on your face due to the mouth gymnastics.  But the after effect is a zing of energy, at least for me.  Maybe it’s just because my taste buds get a good work out.

Since I’m working towards an edible landscape, and this is a berry/vine that grows in the shade, I’ve got it growing next the north side of the house in full shade on a wooden trellis.  It’s an easy-care vine, and likes well-drained soil with Continue reading

Milk crate toilet and other urban living/farming ideas

This urban farm in LA shows how one couple is growing their own fresh vegetables and fruit trees, raising chickens, and composting.  They also have a solar food dryer, show how to make your own outdoor emergency toilet using a milk crate, and how to make a stove. Since they live in earthquake territory, these items have been used in the past when the city systems have been down.   Many of these ideas can also be used when camping.

Thanks to Upworthy for this article.

Goji Berry: chinese shrub provides delicious berries

Goji berryWolfberry or Goji berry is a yummy anti-oxidant berry on an easy to grow vine.  We’ve got our vine bungee-corded to a metal pole with a curved plant hanger on each side, but you can run this vine up anything from an arbor to a dead tree.  The first year it just kinda sat there and looked sad, the second year it had a few berries, but after the third year it’s been healthy and happy and keeps producing more berries as I pick off the ripe ones.  They’ve got a definite juicy honey-sweet flavor to them.  I’ve found that it’s not a good idea to let them dry on the vine, because they get so sweet they attract ants.  Maybe in a few years when the vine is totally full of fruit we might think about picking them fresh to dry, but at this point in time they are so good none get past the picking-fresh-and-popping-in-the-mouth stage.

(Lycium barbarum) Also known as Matrimony Vine, is an attractive Chinese Continue reading

Food Forest tour – plants change people

Why have brown grass when you can be feeding people?  This gentleman planted a food forest in the parking strip in front of his house.  Neighbors come by to walk the paths.  What a great community builder, sharing food, peace, and care. Here’s Ron Finley talking about the Food Forest in his yard:

Thanks to Upworthy for this story.

My computer has been holding me hostage

Last mid-week I visited my sister in a small rural town for a few days.  We enjoyed visiting with her women friends at her house for a potluck dinner.  My sister and I walked through a local forest munching a snack of woodland sorrel and the first ripe salmon berries as we smelled the fresh ferns, and viewed the straggly moss hanging off the vibrant green trees and crumbling nurse logs.  We took her small perky dog to a field and my sister combed out copious amounts of the dogs winter undercoat to take off the weight/warmth for spring, allowing the fur to blow through the field to be picked up by birds for their nests.  We went to a local teashop for sandwiches, tea and brainstorming.  When my sister was at work I journaled, read, and took a hot bath in the quiet privacy of her home.  It was bliss.  One thing I didn’t do was go online, as my sister’s home has no Continue reading

Put a beehive on your roof!

beeRecently, Portland-based grocer New Seasons Market introduced colonies of honeybee hives on the roof of its Happy Valley store.  Aware of the honeybee’s plight and decrease in populations, New Seasons Market wanted to be part of the solution by raising bees and educating customers. This team of 50,000 bee workers forage for nectar and pollen, and produce honey, which will eventually be available in stores.

This project is a team effort: The hives were donated by New Seasons Market’s longtime partner Continue reading

Goumi: a pie-cherry substitute with health benefits

GoumiNative to China, the Russian Far East, and Japan, Goumi is a very popular fruit, which is catching on in European and American gardens too.  Goumi (Elaeagnus multiflora) forms a medium size shrub about 6 feet tall, with attractive, silvery green foliage.  It’s flowers supposedly bloom in the middle to end of May, but mine are in full bloom in Portland Oregon in early to mid April. The juicy, scarlet-red fruit is speckled with silver and ripens elsewhere in July, In Portland in June.  The flavor is similar to pie cherries, and the fruit is about the size of a huckleberry or blueberry.  We usually just eat them fresh/raw or juice them.  They have a sweet/tart taste, with an interesting dry after taste.

The Goumi has been reported to be a nutraceutical- high in vitamin A and E, Continue reading

Shovels designed for short women

Wouldn’t it be great if shovels were easier to use for short people?  If you’re a short gardener, you know exactly what I mean – you’re out there with this long handle trying to weld the shovel and you can’t get a good angle or grip.  Well, one very innovative company thought to design shovels by a height so they are easier to use.  Gardeners Supply HERS™ Shovels are ergonomically designed to maximize women’s strengths and minimize strain, based on research into how women use tools differently than men. The extra-deep step has a non-slip tread to prevent slipping, letting you use your body weight and lower body strength to dig. The shaft and blade angle let you dig and carry soil efficiently. The large D-shaped handle lets you use multiple hand positions and grip the shovel easily with both hands   Shovels come in size small for those under 5′ 2″, medium for those between 5′ 2″ to 5′ 7″, and large if you are over 5′ 7″ tall.  What a great way to garden and not get as sore from all the shovel work. Plus, it might make it easier for other short people (like kids?) to help a bit more in the garden.  For more information, click here.

Bay Tree: Evergreen edible tree

Bay treeOne of the fun goals for my little urban yard is to feature as many edible plants as possible.  I try to go for trees, bushes, and groundcovers that are also somewhat ornamental as well.

We were looking for an evergreen tree to block a backyard view, and discovered the Bay Tree.  You may be familiar with using Bay Leaves in cooking, but the tree itself is rather nice in it’s own right.  And yes, it is a tree, although it can be kept small by keeping it in a pot, or with regular pruning.  In fact, you could prune off the ‘extra’, dry it, and give it away as gifts to cooks, turn it into potpourri, or create a Laurel Wreath Of Victory for the athlete, poet, or high ranking official in your life.

Kindness creates kindness

RedprimroseToday was a beautiful Spring Day. Cleared out the front veggie bed and planted peas. A lot of people were out walking and visiting. A neighbor named Maria who I’ve never met asked me about my Bloody Dock, so I rattled off about it. She said “I think it’s so pretty – I had one and someone stole it!” So I offered her a healthy one of mine (they self-seed). She said she was going shopping and would pick it up on the way home. When she stopped by she had a red Primrose plant she gave me in trade! How nice was that? I put the plant in my garden and gave her the pot back so she could take her new Bloody Dock plant home with her. I think I have a new friend:)

Cooking and medicinal herb: Sage

sage plant

This is our garden sage plant in February.  Granted, we’ve had a fairly mild winter in the Pacific Northwest, but this just goes to show that garden sage can provide edible herbs into the winter months during mild years even without protection from the elements.  If we do have a big freeze it will die back temporarily if it’s not covered, but always comes back when the temperature warms up.

To harvest, I cut off the ends and put them in the food dryer.  When they’re dry Continue reading

Pruning service and free wood chips for your yard!

Tree pruningWe needed a tree-size camellia bush pruned so called Jim Meyers of Hedgehog Tree Care. We had a specific goal:  to give the fruit trees on either side of the overgrown Camellia bush room to grow…while keeping the bush’s screening capabilities of the massive apartment behind us. To the left you can see him making some major pruning of our HUGE bush.

Driveway full of woodchipsJim loves his job and did great work, plus dumped a load of wood chips in our driveway.  After 2 days of shoveling and hauling we and our chickens are no longer walking in backyard mud.   Instead, we’ve recycled a waste woodchip product into an eco-friendly ground cover that will slowly decompose. Landscaping companies have to drive and pay for disposal of their Continue reading