Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The Hardest Green Change That My Family Has Made

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When I discuss my efforts to be green, which involve cloth diapering, making my own household cleaners, personal care items, indoor composting (fyi - this only involves food waste, because personally, I can't go beyond that!), etc., I always receive the same shocking response..."why on earth would you waste so much time doing all of these things?".

In reality, being "green" is fairly easy...and I don't consider it a waste of time.

A) It doesn't take much time up at all, if saves time. I can make 2 months worth of cleaning supplies, detergents, and soaps in less than 30 minutes, roughly the time it takes to complete a shopping trip. Same idea applies to cloth diapers, since the washer does most of the work. The only time consuming part is hanging them up (since I choose to line dry) and stuff the inserts or pockets...which I actually find relaxing.

B) When it comes to the health of my family, any minute considered "wasted" is worth it. Believe it or not, my family's "green" activities are actually our bonding time. My kids LOVE to help measure ingredients for soaps, detergents, and even garden (as much as a 2 and 4 year old possibly can!)

However, not all "green" lifestyle changes come easy.

I'd say that our biggest struggle involves organic gardening. At first, I was thrilled to save a bit of money by growing our own produce...but what I loathed was attempting to keep the pests from attacking the fruits of our hard labor. Personally, I had a very hard time eating our veggies the first year we gardened, especially after finding out that Sevin Dust had been used on our tomatoes. My husband tried convincing me a number of times that I should not worry, since it would just "wash away" or had a short "half-life". In fact, Sevin Dust has been linked to a number of health issues.

My husband spent hours researching ways on how to keep the bugs away and destroying our crops. Luckily he came across a few blogs that mentioned "companion planting".

Last years cucumber bed with nasturtiums

How does companion planting work?

Companion planting is beneficial for a few reasons :

* Companions help each other grow — Tall plants can provide shade for shorter plants that require more shade.

* Garden space efficiently - some plants can be used as a ground cover between others, or help fill up space without "choking" out other plants.

* Prevent pest problems - some pests don't like some plants.

* Attract beneficial insects - some plants attract insects that keep away the "harmful" ones.

If you are currently planting a garden and want to grow your crops organically, check out this plant-pairing list from Organic Gardening that we found very helpful in growing a very productive garden last year!

Roses and chives: Gardeners have been planting garlic with roses for eons, because garlic is said to repel rose pests. Garlic chives probably are just as repellent, and their small purple or white flowers in late spring looks great with rose flowers and foliage.

Tomatoes and cabbage: Tomatoes are repellent to diamondback moth larvae, which are caterpillars that chew large holes in cabbage leaves.

Cucumbers and nasturtiums: The nasturtium's vining stems make them a great companion rambling among your growing cucumbers and squash plants, suggests Sally Jean Cunningham, master gardener and author of Great Garden Companions. Nasturtiums "are reputed to repel cucumber beetles, but I depend on them more as habitat for predatory insects," such as spiders and ground beetles.

Peppers and pigweed or ragweed: Leafminers preferred the weeds to pepper plants in a study at the Coastal Plains Experiment Station in Tifton, Georgia. Just be careful to remove the weeds' flowers before they set seed or you'll have trouble controlling the weeds.

Cabbage and dill: "Dill is a great companion for cabbage family plants, such as broccoli and brussels sprouts," Cunningham says. "The cabbages support the floppy dill," while the dill attracts the tiny beneficial wasps that control imported cabbageworms and other cabbage pests.

Corn and beans: The beans attract beneficial insects that prey on corn pests such as leafhoppers, fall armyworms and leaf beetles. And bean vines climb up the corn stalks.

Lettuce and tall flowers: Nicotiana (flowering tobacco) and cleome (spider flower) give lettuce the light shade it grows best in.

Radishes and spinach: Planting radishes among yor spinach will draw leafminers away from the spinach. The damage the leafminers do to radish leaves doesn't prevent the radishes from growing nicely underground.

Potatoes and sweet alyssum: The sweet alyssum has tiny flowers that attract delicate beneficial insects, such as predatory wasps. Plant sweet alyssum alongside bushy crops like potatoes, or let it spread to form a living ground cover under arching plants like broccoli. Bonus: The alyssum's sweet fragrance will scent your garden all summer.

Cauliflower and dwarf zinnias: The nectar from the dwarf zinnias lures ladybugs and otherpredators that help protect cauliflower.

Collards and catnip: Studies have found that planting catnip alongside collards reduces flea-beetle damage on the collards.

Strawberries and love-in-a-mist: Tall, blue-flowered "love-in-a-mist (Nigella damascena) looks wonderful planted in the center of a wide row of strawberries," Cunningham says.

Marigolds and Melons. Certain marigold varieties control nematodes in the roots of melon as effectively as chemical treatments.

Yes, our garden has been two years of trial and error, but it is comforting to know that we will have thriving & chemical-free plants. Our next challenge - finding a chemical-free way to weed our yard.

What do you think the biggest challenge to "being green" is?


  1. Squash bugs have been the bane of our existence when it comes to organic gardening. No organic sprays have worked for us, and since I work full-time with an hour commute, going out and picking off each egg is not a possibly. So, we started planting radishes around our squash plants - and they're fairly good at keeping the bugs at bay. The first year it worked until I picked the radishes to eat, so the next year I just left them alone and let them go to seed around the squash plants. Not the perfect solution, but the plants last much longer than they used to, and we're getting more squash than before!

  2. My family refuses to eat squash, sadly...but I do remember how hard it was for my mom to keep our garden free of those pests.

    Our problem over here consists mostly of Japanese beetles, so I am thinking of planting garlic and onions surrounding them since "stinky" plants are supposed to ward off pests and rabbits...we shall soon see!

  3. That looks like a really awesome garden you've got!
    I had a lot of pest issues last year as well, and just was at my witts end halfway through the year. I pulled some things, and replanted them - but... it was maddening.

    1. Our first year we tossed out more than half of our tomatoes...very discouraging since we grew everything from seed. It seemed like my husband and I spend 100% of our free time picking off bugs, finding ways to ward off was hard!

      I am hoping to compile any and all posts about our garden this year in hopes that it would relieve some stress for others.

  4. Gardening in general is just hard for me. We just don't have a space since we rent. :( Once we own a house I'll be gardening for sure!

  5. That is amazing! I think my biggest struggle is getting support! In an area where being green is hard work, people just throw it out the window. So when I go grocery shopping and ask for an item I get weird looks. Or when I bring my reusable bags they usually end up bagging it inside a plastic bag! :0
    Kudos to you and hubby for continuing to garden after the troubles. Hopefully some day we will start a garden!
    -Cinella @ The Mami Blog

  6. I have never heard of companion gardening! I love the idea of naturally repelling bugs with other plants. Pinned it for future use. I have felt the same way about organic gardening...since I don't spray a lot of our plants have been eaten. All that hard work...wasted!

  7. This is a fabulous post! So informative!! I would love to start a garden once we finally settle down in a house of our own. I'm pinning this for future reference!

  8. That is such a HUGE task! Huge Kudos for being able to tackle something so big and succeeding. My eco-friendliness doesn't go quite that big, because I don't have a yard in which I can plant anything, but I'm working on a balcony garden! <3

  9. I think one of the most difficult tasks is combatting the modern world that we live in and how wasteful it's become.


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