Monday, March 19, 2012

Organic veggies the cheap way

Every summer when I was growing up, my dad always put in a huge garden. I loved helping plan, plant, harvest, and eat the tons of fresh vegetables that grew every summer. When my husband and I bought our first house, I was so excited to put in our own small garden in the back yard. My Miami-born and raised hubby thought this labeled him as a "farmer". Whatever you think, dear.

That was 6 years ago and between moving, kids, job, and the business of life, I haven't done a big garden since. Last year, I hated to pay so much at the farmer's market for fresh vegetables that I could have grown for a few cents! So this year, I decided to really do it and plant a garden.

Now, there are several hesitations I have about trying the gardening project this year:
1} We live out in a wooded/farmland area so the deer may eat up everything
2} Our yard has a lot of clay in the dirt and there are lots of trees
3} Baby #3 is due June 16
All of these factors, especially the 3rd one, might cause a bit of a hiccup in my vegetable producing plan but I'm going to give it a go anyway.

I am no expert on gardening and there is much about growing things that I don't know about. Thankfully, it doesn't take a lot of skill to grow a tomato plant...or 5. Even if you only grew one type of vegetable, that's one less vegetable you have to buy AND you would know it is healthy and organic because you grew it yourself! So even if you know nothing about gardening, don't be afraid to give it a try this summer. Like I said, I barely know what I am doing but here is my method this year - I'll keep you posted on how well this works...

In the past, I have bought my plants as seedlings at places like Lowes or Home Depot. I decided this time, however, to start my own plants out as seeds because it is cheaper, the plants are hardier, and this really ensures my vegetables will be organically grown. But starting your vegetables from seedlings is certainly still a great option. I made a list of what I wanted to grow and used this site to tell me when to start seeds indoors and when to plant them outside.

A few weeks ago, I started my tomato plants. They are looking good so far!

They needed to be started a few weeks before the other indoor starter plants. A couple days ago, I got everything else together and planted the rest of my indoor seeds: cucumber, pumpkin, marigolds, and squash.

A side note about the seeds. I only bought 5 or 6 seed packets. The rest of the seeds I got from several friends when we did a "seed exchange" (like doing a cookie exchange at Christmas, only with seeds). Even though seed packets are cheap, this still helped to save money. I will plant directly outside in the ground, my corn, spinach, carrots, and maybe some onion sets (these I will go ahead and get pre-started from the store) in a few weeks. I also want zucchini so one of my friends is growing those and I am growing squash. On Sundays, we are going to trade squash and zucchini with each other. These are 2 types of vegetables that grow like crazy so its a great veggie to share or trade with someone else.

Gardening is fun, and educational of course, to do with kids. I opted to do this project with my 4 year old while Miss I'm-almost-two-and-can-do-everything-all-by-myself was napping. No sense in inflicting unnecessary disaster on myself. 

I re-used clean, empty food containers as my seedling pots. The back of each seed packet (or Google) has directions on how deep to plant each type of seed. 

Cover with the amount of soil specified on the seed packet, water, and put in a sunny spot. That's it for now! I had such a cute gardening helper. ;-)

Be sure to clearly label and date each container:

Here is our little inside garden spot:

It didn't take me long to realize some of the plants would have to be moved (remember the 2 year old?). But so far, no plants have been lost! For now, we are just keeping the soil moist (I covered them with a little plastic wrap to keep the moisture a little greenhouse) and watching for little plants to emerge. 

Stay tuned!

Anyone else gardening this year?

Sunday, March 11, 2012

The green clean

This has been quite the week. And by that, I don't mean, "Wow, everything went just as planned and I got so much accomplished!" Not quite. So in light of wanting start this next week off clean and fresh, I thought I would share my favorite all-natural cleaning regime.

Do you know what is one of the best, cheapest, and all natural cleaners?

Baking Soda. It's pretty amazing stuff. Otherwise known as sodium bicarbinate, it is an alkaline type of substance that reverses acidity. As a nurse, I have given many patients the liquid form of Sodium Bicarb through an IV to reverse the build up of acid in the body from life-threatening problems like inadequate breathing, or not breathing at all, diabetic acidosis, and all sorts of other problems. It is fascinating how it works in the body and how it can reverse serious conditions. That's only one spectrum of use - you can also use it for cleaning, hygiene uses, and, of course, the well known use as an air freshener. Thus baking soda can literally be used to save your life, then you can proceed to use it to brush your teeth, wash your clothes, and scrub your toilet! How great, huh?

If you are not into science stuff and stopped reading the above at the word "alkaline," you can start reading again...My best friend, Jay, {friends since we were 8 which is so hard to believe!} shared with me this concoction for making your own soft scrub. I use this to scrub out my sinks, tub, and toilets.

Here is how I make it and what you will need:

~ Empty bottle {my fav to use is empty ketchup bottles. They provide the perfect "squirtability" factor. You don't want to use any empty cleaner bottles though because of the chemicals that absorb into the plastic and can then leach out to what is put in them.}
~ Baking soda {super cheap! These were 79 cents at Kroger.}
~ Salt
~ Liquid soap
~ Funnel {I have one just for this purpose so I don't have to wash it}

I usually mix up several bottles of this at a time and keep one in each bathroom for easy access. Now, you are not making a cake or anything so there is NO exact measurements to this! You can't exactly mess this up and the worst that can happen is it can be too soapy {which I have done before}.

First, I use the funnel to fill the bottle about 2/3 full with baking soda:

Next is the salt - about 1-2 tablespoons.
Take the funnel off and squeeze in about 1-2 tsp of liquid soap. I have used Dawn, 7th Generation, Palmolive, or whatever is on hand. You just don't want to add too much because this is the part that can make it too soapy. Lastly, you add water. I prefer mine on the thin side so adjust the amount of water to how "pasty" you would like it. 
Here is how much I add:

Give it a good shake and you have some mega cheap cleaner! And, if your curious child decides to take a swig, it will only serve to reduce any stomach acid he might have and probably tastes disgusting and salty. I was going to show you the before and after of using this to clean my porcelain kitchen sink but it was already sparkling clean.

Ok, that was a total lie. I actually just didn't feel like scrubbing out the pot soaking from dinner first to get to the dirty sink to then scrub it clean. Just take my word for it; this cleaner works really well. :-)

With my homemade scrub, this is all I use to clean my bathroom & kitchen:

As you can see, my old ketchup bottle has been well used for this purpose. To clean mirrors and glass, I use white vinegar, either straight or slightly watered down. I like to use coffee filters to wipe with because they don't leave all the lint that paper towels do. I keep meaning to try one of those lint free cloths I have seen at the store but I don't think about it until I'm in the midst of house cleaning. To sanitize counter tops, faucets, & toilet seats, I really like the seventh generation multi-surface or bathroom cleaner. It uses natural oils like those from thyme to kill bacteria. This is also not too costly at less than $3 or so a bottle. For really dirty surfaces, I will squirt some scrub, spray with vinegar, and let it sit and foam for a little while before scrubbing. The scrub mixture will settle in between uses {some weeks mine gets a little extra settling time...if you know what I mean} so just be sure to give it a good shake before cleaning again. 

Speaking of which, I'm going to go do some cleaning myself before my kiddo's wake up and give new purpose to why I clean in the first place! :-) 
Happy cleaning this week!