Archive for the ‘Green Living’ Category

Planters that water themselves – for months!

When you imagine growing your own greens, you may think of a number of obstacles that keep you from starting. We’ve all heard the excuses. Things like “I live in a condo,” “I don’t have a backyard,” even “I forget to water my plants, so they just die.”

So when we discovered self-watering containers, we had to learn more. Turns out you can now grow in condos and other indoor spaces with nothing but a windowsill. Turns out you can water your plants once in a blue moon (as minimally as every twelve weeks)—and they don’t have to die. Turns out you can enjoy flowers, herbs, vegetables, and fruits in beautiful planters that complement your space and enable you to #growyourown.

We understand the desire to add greenery to your indoor and outdoor spaces, and we understand the desire to eat some of said greens. (Perhaps your dog already does?) When we lived in a condo, we loved having flowers throughout our home and herbs in the kitchen. Small tomato plants thrived on the balcony, enhancing our salads and other homemade dishes from early summer to fall. We had a few lettuce plants as well, to help round out fresh homegrown salads.

Self-watering planters make all of this easier, and they are simple enough to operate. The first (or outside) layer is filled with water while the second (or inside) layer holds the soil (or small rocks called pon) as well as the plant itself, allowing the roots to grow down through the layer to the water. A small water-level metre indicates when the planter needs a refill. Depending on what you grow, watering can happen as infrequently as four times a year!

A wide selection of planters ranging from windowsill and tabletop designs to larger patio and deck designs are available in a variety of finishes and colours, for both indoor and outdoor use.

What you want to grow will dictate your planter size. Delta windowsill planters are small and sleek and ideal for indoor use, fitting two average basil or parsley plants, whereas the Trio Cottage planter works well outside and can fit multiple hearty tomato plants.

We are happy to consult with you on planter choices and can also offer you a variety of different flowers, herbs, vegetables, or fruits to fill your living space with beautiful plants that you (and your dog) can enjoy.

Happy Growing
At Home Organic Farms

@homeorganicfarm
www.fb.com/athomeorganicfarms

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Plants that don’t need watering? Yes please!

When you think about growing plants or vegetables maybe you have specific obstacles that keep you from gardening.  We hear it often.  Things like “I live in a condo and I don’t have a backyard,” or “I have a brown thumb and forget to water my plants so they just die.”

We feel your strife! That’s why when we discovered self-watering containers we had to learn more.  Turns out you can grow indoors, with as little space as your windowsill.  Turns out you can enjoy organic vegetables that require watering as little as every couple of months.

We are so excited about being able to bring gardening to condo owners as well as homeowners, brown thumbs as well as green thumbs that we decided to join forces with a local organization that supports green living, LiveGreen Toronto, to make self-watering containers available to everyone looking to enjoy fresh, local and organic produce (or maybe just some lovely flowering plants) regardless of their abode.

To learn more about our exclusive offer for LiveGreen Toronto Members please visit www.toronto.ca/livegreen/e-blasts/exclusiveoffer_ahof.htm

To learn more about the wide selection of self-watering containers that are available please visit the At Home Organic Farms General Store

Why you might want a self-watering container instead of a more traditional garden:

  • How it works. In a nutshell, each self-watering containers feature a sub-irrigation system that holds a reservoir of water, and a water-level-indicator which tells you when water levels are low
  • What colours or sizes do the containers come in?  A very wide selection of choices ranging from windowsill and table top designs to larger patio and deck designs are available.  To see a full range of options please visit AHOF’s Green General Store.
  • What can I grow in my container? Virtually any plant that grows in soil can be grown in these self-watering containers.  You can choose to add soil and seeds/seedlings to any planter.  A full selection of what 100% certified organic veggies available can be found here.
  • Can I use my container inside or outside? Yes! These models feature a plug that easily and quickly converts containers from indoor to outdoor use.
  • How often do I need to water? Depending on the size of your container, watering may be required as little as every few months

We hope you’ll be as excited about this breakthrough as we are!

Happy Growing
At Home Organic Farms

@homeorganicfarm
www.fb.com/athomeorganicfarms

Protect Your Garden, The Natural Way: Compost Tea Recipe

 Compost Tea is a natural product, simple to make, easy to use helps control common garden ailments.

This is the first in a series of posts about Compost Tea. In this post we cover the basics: What it is. What it is used for. And how to make it.

What is it?
Compost tea is exactly what it sounds like; compost that has been steeped in water.
The water that is drained is known as the ‘tea.’

What is it used for?
Compost tea, when sprayed on your plants, serves as a mild fungicide and disease controller due to its high content for natural beneficial microbes and nutrients. It will also act as a mild insect repellent – which is very handy.

How to make it?

Ingredients:

  • Minimum 5L bucket with lid or cover
  • Pillowcase
  • Homemade compost or store bought organic compost
  • Sprayer

Directions:

  1. Place the pillowcase in the bucket
  2. Add compost to the pillowcase, filling the bucket approximately ½ – ¾ full. Remeber to tie the top fo the pillowcase.
  3. Add water to fill the bucket, enough to submerge the pillowcase
  4. Cover and let sit for at least 2 weeks. The tea needs time to ferment and brew.
  5. After 2 weeks, remove the pillow case with compost, allowing it to drain as completely as possible first (you can return this compost to your composter if desired)
  6. Dilute the remaining mixture 1 part compost tea to 3 parts water
  7. Use this mixture to spray on your plants, liberally

Notes:

  • If using to control bugs then be sure to spray the underside of the leaves as well.
  • For maximum effectiveness apply first thing in the morning before full sun.
  • Re-application is required after watering or rain.
  • If using as a root fertilizer, dilute the tea as above and pour directly on top of the soil instead of spraying. Use every few days.

Eat drink and be merry,
At Home Organic Farms
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What’s in Your Food? Understanding the Ingredients List

In an age where eating healthy is a growing concern, more and more of us take the time to read the ingredients list on the foods we buy.

When our family goes grocery shopping we follow a few simple rules

  • shop around the perimeter of the store where foods are perishable and therefore exclude preservatives
  • avoid canned foodsfor children and pregnant women (the BPA in the lining is a developmental inhibitor and should be avoided duringdevelopmental stages of life)
  • avoid anything with high-fructose corn syrup (warning: you’ll be shocked at how many foods include this! Cut back slowly if you need to)
  • avoid anything with artificial colour or flavour– if it’s not real, your body may not know how to digest it properly and it will add to your waist line
  • avoid products with ingredients you can’t spell, pronounce or understand

Did you know that packaged foods must list their ingredients in the order they are present in the foods?  So if you’re buying dried cranberries for examples and the package lists sugar ahead of cranberries on the ingredients list it means that there is more sugar in the recipe than cranberries!

Here are a list of a few common items you may find in your food ingredients list and their meaning:

  • Sodium bicarbonatebaking soda
  • Soy lecithin – often used as an emulsifier, lecithin is not bad for you either and has been linked, in some studies, to helping treat dementia
  • Calcium carbonate – often used as a food additive or firming agent; excessive consumption can be hazardous (which is why Tums lists a maximum daily dosage)
  • Glycerin/e – used as sweetener, especially for low-calorie foods – the jury is out on whether Glycerin is good or bad – so limit quantities for now

We’ll keep our eyes peeled for other bizarre, hard to spell, or hazardous sounding ingredients and follow up with another post soon.

Have an ingredient you’d like us to shed some light on?  Please let us know.

Want to try and shed your diet of processed foods all together?  Consider growing your own food!

Eat, drink and be merry,
The At Home Organic

The Almighty Push Mower

Almost every Saturday between May and October someone will update their Facebook or Twitter account about how they were woken up to the sound of a gas or electric lawn mower when they should have still been sleeping.

We’ve been there, so we know how frustrating it is to have your rest cut short by some inconsiderate neighbour or lawn services company as they power up their mower right beneath your window.  Inconsiderate because of how early in the morning it is, but equally inconsiderate to the environment, especially now that environmentally friendly, equally effective, and silent alternatives exist.

When push mowers first hit the market, they were heavy, hard to maneuver and didn’t provide the same results you could get with your gas or electric mower.  This was especially true if you had an uneven or bumpy lawn.

Well good news everyone, push mowers have come a long way.
So if you’re ready to fight back, send a not-so-subtle message to your neighbour that they should consider a NaturCut mower by sending them a copy of this link.  (If you prefer the non confrontational approach you can always print a copy and leave it anonymously on their doorstep).

These mowers are affordable, light-weight, work well on smooth and uneven lawns alike and best of all; make virtually no noise at all.  They also come with a 2 year warranty (and if you or your neighbour places an order before June 20th, you’ll get a free Grass Catcher – a $35 value).

So make nice with your neighbour, and make nice with your lawn.

Eat, drink and be merry,
The At Home Organic

How to Cut Your Laundry Bill in Half this year!

Household cleaning products are one of the first places to start removing strong chemicals from your home and greening your life.  A lot of strong chemicals are used in regular cleaning products in our home and they all find their way to the drain and into the water table.  This is the start of a series about cleaning products and what I have to say about them when cleaning my house.  Today we’re going to start with laundry. 

Plant based laundry detergent was the first green cleaning agent that I brought into my home and I’ve been using different brands for the past few years.  The results have been good.  For the really tough stains we’ll use Oxy Clean to pretreat and then run them normally in the cycle.  For my baby’s stuff – well that’s a different story entirely.  Let’s just say I pretreat a lot and use an old toothbrush for the scrubbing parts.

Recently, I have been looking around for a softer detergent to use on my baby’s clothes as she’s developed a bit of an irritation.  Well I found what I was looking for and more. 

We found the Laundry Ball from SmartKlean® and it doesn’t use detergent at all! No kidding and it works great!  The ball is filled with specialized ceramic beads that kill germs, mildew and odor.  Simply toss the ball into the laundry machine (works with high efficiency too) and let it do the work. Once a month we leave the ball out in the sun for a few hours to regenerate the ceramic balls inside.  It will last for a full 365 loads (at about 18lbs. per load)

There are no detergents so the rinse cycle isn’t necessary– I haven’t found out how to turn that off on my machine so I had to monitor it with a timer.  But it works great.  Clothes come out clean without fragrances, which is great for hypo allergenic people.  If you miss the fragrance you can add a fabric softener sheet to the dryer or a linen bag filled with lavender etc. I washed my kitchen towels and added a little vinegar for an added cleaning boost and they came out just as clean as with detergent alternatives!

Let’s talk money.

The detergent I currently have cost $15.99 and claimed to wash up to 54 loads. (Up to being the operative words there – most people will get 30-40 loads per container.)  If I managed to extract 54 full loads per container, 365 loads would cost me $107.93.  The $45.00 spent on the Laundry Ball will save you money and clean your clothes, PLUS there’s the added benefit of eliminating harsh chemicals released into the water table through your laundry.

Oh, and the packaging and ball itself are 100% recyclable and the ceramic beads biodegrade.  The Laundry ball is so safe that once the laundry ball is no longer in contact with the water in your machine, if it wasn’t for the fact that the water is dirty you could drink it! 

I love this thing.  What a great invention.  At Home Organic Farms is thinking about carrying this to complement our product line – is this something you’d be interested in?  If so let us know.

Eat drink and be merry.

The At Home Organic

www.twitter.com/homeorganicfarm
www.facebook.com/athomeorganicfarms
www.athomeorganicfarms.com

Composter Dos and Don’ts

Our swanky new composter

Image by binarydreams via Flickr

Our clients, friends and family often ask us, what can I put in my composter? Well here’s a quick list to help you out, starting with what you can put in it:

  • Organic materials:
    • for sure: this includes all types of food and drink, tea bags, coffee filters, flowers and plants (leaves, grass clippings)
    • with caution: corn cobs, pine needles (take a long time to decompose), milk (in small amounts), soap scraps (Ivory and Dove only)
    • avoid: raw meat scraps, bones and carnivore manure (unless you can heat your composter up to a very high temperature and cook out any bacteria)
  • Paper materials:
    • Paper napkins/towels, post-it notes, shredded newspaper , kleenex tissues, unpaid bills (this is my favourite!), movie tickets stubs, shredded cereal boxes, grocery receipts and greeting card envelopes.  Remember to shred paper/cardboard before adding to your composter
  • Other Miscellaneous:
    • Who knew? Q-tips (cotton swabs: cardboard, not plastic sticks), old leather gardening gloves. straw, leather wallets, lint from clothes dryer, fingernail and toenail clippings, wooden toothpicks, pencil shavings, wool socks, leather watch bands, vacuum cleaner bag contents, dead bees and flies and urine (it’s sterile, really)
  • Do compost as often or as seldom as you like
  • Do put your composter in the sun for at least part of the day (the sun helps cook down what’s inside)
  • Do roll your composter to help mix the contents if you can
  • Don’t compost only organic materials or only paper materials.  A good compost includes a good mix of both.

We use two large recycled olive barrels for our composters.  They’re light weight and easy to roll (mix) and blend into our foliage.  But if you’re looking for a more commerical style composter we’re happy to tell you we’re in the process of sourcing a composter supplier.  Check our site soon for details on which composters you can choose from. 

If you live in Toronto we invite you take the Free Me From the Green Bin Challenge where you try to compost everything for a full month thereby eliminating the need for your green bin.  Your garbage man will thank you.

Eat drink and be merry.

The At Home Organic

www.twitter.com/homeorganicfarm
www.facebook.com/athomeorganicfarms
www.athomeorganicfarms.com

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