Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Earth Day 2010 - Making Smaller Footprints

What changes are you making to reduce your carbon footprint? I started thinking about how I am reducing, re-using and recycling and how I can do more. Here are some of the things I am doing to make my footprints smaller:

I'm tilling my soil with the pitch fork again this year, by doing this, I am not burning fossil fuel using a tiller to work up the garden. It takes longer, but, I get some much-needed exercise and I find it more thorough and consistent than with the tiller.The worms are happier too, they aren't getting chopped up by a blade and are able to continue to aerate and replenish the soil with their castings.

I am ridding the garden of winter weeds at the same time, as I loosen the soil the weeds are easier to pull. I don't use weed killer in my garden, but with my soil being sandy, I have found the need to use some additional fertilizer.

I am using mushroom compost for soil improvement, it is full of nutrients and retains moisture, which is great, and is also weed seed free. I am going to mulch with my grass clippings, the clippings will be used to keep weeds down and retain moisture in the vegetable garden.At the same time it will be adding fertilizer to the soil by feeding the worms and will improve the soil as it decomposes too. This way I am reducing the watering needs of the garden.

We have added a second rain barrel to act as a holding tank, tripling the water storage that we use for topping off the pond, so we will not have to use any tap water at all in it. We have lots of toads that use the pond for reproduction, kind of loud at night, but the toads are beneficial in the garden and around the yard to keep harmful insects such as crickets, mosquitoes and flies down, and there are thousands of them that hop out of the pond every spring so we don't have much of a mosquito problem here.

I haven't bought any seedling trays etc. for years, I always reuse them, if they are broken, I use them as filler in the bottom of my big pots, to keep the weight down, for better drainage and to reduce the amount of soil needed.

I have decided to plant some herbs, salad vegetables and edible flowers in my containers this year instead of just decorative flowers. I am thinking of planting my pole beans in my two largest pots, having them climb on string, and some parsnips and baby carrots in a couple of them too.

I am hoping to get enough variety of vegetables so that we don't have to buy too many over the winter. What I can't grow myself, I'll buy locally when in season to preserve for use throughout the year. That way, I am reducing the number of canned goods that I buy, as well as re-using my canning jars.I am growing some herbs to use and dry instead of buying them at the grocery store. I also buy my spices at the bulk food store and put them in my own containers when I get home.

In the house, we have recently switched from making our own aquarium water with our Reverse Osmosis filter to taking the bottles to be refilled to the store. Since the bottles don't need to be sterilized before refilling, we pay a little less than if it was for human consumption. We found that we were wasting about 36 gal. of water filling one five gallon bottle with our filter. Getting refills from the store is faster and more efficient.

In the kitchen, I don't use very much processed food, I cook from scratch, saving on the waste from packaging of prepared mixes and eliminating a majority of the artificial flavours, colouring and preservatives from our diet. This way I know what is in it and how fresh it is without looking for a best before date. I can also control the salt, fat and sugar content as well as the quality of the food we eat.

We are using mostly energy-saving fluorescent light bulbs in our house, with the exception of an antique chandelier in the dining room on a dimmer switch, a chandelier in the guest bedroom which doesn't get much use and a light over the pool table which is used occasionally.

We are fortunate to have bought a house that had blown-in insulation so our cost for heating and cooling is about half as much as a similar house with another insulation material. All of our appliances are Energy Star rated so our power consumption is low too. Our house is about 90 years old and the windows are original so we could improve our energy consumption with new windows but we have to put up a new roof first, it isn't leaking yet, but the shingles are in rough shape after the winter winds, maybe next year.

Not In The Same Boat

Our boat restoration project is on again, with a different boat though. My husband ended up selling the 15' Evinrude last summer, he didn't want to mess repairing the fibreglass, but the guys that bought the boat work with fibreglass and knew how to fix it. He sees them once in a while and they are really happy with the boat and will have it in the water soon.

Here's the boat that he bought last night:

It is 19' and needs engine work and reupholstering but other than that it is sound. It was in the water last summer. There is a bunk inside which needs redoing:

and the bench seats on top need to be replaced along with the seat over the engine. The pilot seats look like they're in pretty good shape, at least what I could see of them, I held the camera up and took the pictures of the inside of the boat instead of trying to climb up into it.

So, I'll be shopping for vinyl for the boat seats in the near future. With any luck, we'll be out on the lake fishing before fall.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

I Need A Plan...

First thing I have to do to get my garden ready for planting my vegetables is to make a plan of my garden, where I want my tomatoes, beans, corn etc. this year. I change the plantings every year so that the crops will be healthier and more productive. I want all of the garden to get the best light possible so I plant taller plants towards the back of the garden so as not to shade the rest of the garden.
I usually start out with a drawing of where I want the crops but I decided to try an online garden design this year. The one I chose is a 30 day free trial from The program has the frost-free dates for your area by just adding your postal or zip code. It shows the growing conditions for every vegetable, spaces the plants and rows automatically and even keeps track of your garden plan for crop rotation the following season.

I like the fact that this program is fairly easy to use and all of your plans are available at once, just go to the tabs and switch between the designs. I also like the Plant List feature, it puts all of the information needed on one page.

Here is my plan for 2009, I created this for crop rotation purposes. I like the fact that you don't have to guess at how many plants to buy, which makes going to the nursery a lot easier. You can even print out the plan and take it with you.

Here is my garden plan for 2010, and the next one is the same but with the background filled.

There is a Plant list page of all of the crops I'm planting this year with the growing instructions and planting schedule. I think this is a very useful tool in planting a successful garden, even for beginners.

GroVeg Vegetable Garden Planner
BHG Plan a Garden Online - flower gardens