A Strawberry Kit is also available, but the seedlings are not organic.
Each kit ($15.99) contains instructions, an eco-friendly tray, high-quality soil, a reusable “greenhouse bag” and biodegradable seedling starter shells, all housed in a decorative container.
Users can start up to 10 seedlings and then transplant them into their gardens.
Ecosource founders Chad Callihan and Chuck Rose quit the corporate world and started the Decatur, GA-based company in 2006 to develop stylish, affordable and eco-friendly products.
“We’re not trying to be perfect, but we’re learning every day about how to make better choices for ourselves and the future of our children’s planet,” they state. “We hope that by sharing our experience, you’ll want to do the same.”
Jim and Kristen Mitchell, a Scottsdale, AZ-based husband-and-wife team, have just launched Humble Seed, a company that offers premium organic seed kits that produce an array of edible plants.
Four themed garden kits are available:
Hot Mama’s Peppers and Chiles (including Yankee bell, habanero, cayenne, Caribbean red and Anaheim chile peppers)
Uncle Herb’s Favorites (including bouquet dill, common sage, Greek oregano, cumin and German winter thyme)
Veggin’ Out (including Washington cherry tomatoes, Bull’s Blood beets, De Cicco broccoli, Marketmore cucumbers and black seeded Simpson leaf lettuce)
The Producer, a bulk fruit and vegetable kit for community gardens and organizations
Each kit contains at least 10 premium heirloom, non-GMO, non-hybrid and organic seed packets for environmentally conscious growers.
“My whole life, I’ve been trying to find one calling—one passion that would help people,” Jim says. “I really connected to growing my own food. There are so many health, financial and environmental benefits, and creating a stable, healthy food supply reduces our reliance on other economies.”
“We are extremely excited that we’re helping empower people in a down economy,” adds Kristen. “Families can now get fresh food at a fraction of the cost found at your local produce section.”
Kits start at $21.95. The website also features books, recipes and seed-growing tips.
Humble Seed’s launch party is Thursday (Earth Day), with proceeds benefiting Waste Not, a local nonprofit organization that delivers food to more than 80 agencies that feed the hungry.
To maximize your organic garden’s yield, plant vegetables and herbs that are easy to grow and versatile in a variety of dishes.
Here are the six top springtime picks from the experts at Bonnie Plants, a green-garden wholesaler in Union Springs, AL:
Tomatoes. The most popular fruit in U.S. home gardens, tomatoes are hard to beat in terms of taste, health benefits and versatility.
Yellow squash and zucchini. While their growing season is shorter than the tomato’s, squash are very productive. You’ll pick them every day once the season starts.
Lettuce. As long as weather is mild, leaf lettuce will continue to produce. If you regularly enjoy salads, growing your own lettuce can offer substantial savings.
Cucumbers. Grown in a cage or on a trellis, a single cucumber plant can produce five to 10 cukes. You can place two or three plants in a cage just 18 inches in diameter and 4 feet high. Your yield: 15 to 30 cucumbers from a slice of ground no bigger than an end table.
Specialty peppers. Price jalapeños and other specialty peppers in the supermarket, and you’ll realize the benefit of growing your own. These peppers produce especially high yields in areas with a long, hot summer.
Herbs. Also pricey in supermarkets, fresh herbs are easy and economical to grow. Consider planting sage, rosemary, mint, thyme and chives (one plant each), plus at least three basil plants. Try different basil varieties: sweet, cinnamon, Thai and/or boxwood.
Organic gardeners are busily cutting out sections of lawn, retiring flower beds, building raised vegetable beds and spending lots of spare time playing in the dirt.
In fact, many are first-timers, tilling the soil to save money on grocery bills.
Growing your own organic vegetables offers additional benefits:
Freshness and flavor
The ability to exercise control over what your family eats
Family activity time
Here are 5 tips for getting started from the experts at Bonnie Plants, a green-garden wholesaler in Union Springs, AL:
Pick your plot. Most vegetables thrive when exposed to plenty of sun, so pick a plot that gets at least 6 to 8 hours of direct sun every day. It’s OK to plant leafy greens like lettuce and spinach in shadier spots, but get them in the ground in the cooler part of the season. Tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and squash do best in the hotter months.
Think outside the box planter. Get creative with space. You don’t need a huge yard to plant a veggie patch. Try planting lettuce under tomato vines, or mix veggies into flower beds among the colorful blooms.
Give veggies a raise. Try raised beds, which offer an easy solution to planning out a plot. They’ll enable you to use near-perfect soil, better organize your garden, improve drainage and more easily maintain your plants. Timesaving tip: Use transplants instead of seeds.
Opt for natural/organic plant food. Be sure to use safe, organic and all-natural products in your garden. Research shows plants are healthier when gardeners use organically based foods in lieu of chemical options.
Water wisely. One inch of water per week is adequate for most vegetables. Soaker hoses or drip systems deliver water efficiently and keep foliage dry, fending off leaf diseases.
Tune in tomorrow for a list of Bonnie Plants’ favorite seasonal planting picks.
First Lady Michelle Obama wants to garden, and nothing can stop her, not even a couple feet of snow.
The White House chefs just got done with their spring harvest. Over the winter, the White House’s garden grew close to 50 lbs of its own turnips, spinach, lettuce, arugula, and carrots by using small, temporary “hoop houses,” which acted like greenhouses by trapping sunlight and protecting the plants from the elements. Remember snowmageddon?
But that’s not all. Michelle plans to expand the garden to plant even more for the summer season. Can’t wait to see what they can grow by fall! Check out the new White House video featuring the garden:
And if you want to get an organic garden going in your own yard, check out our gardening section.
From heat waves to rainstorms to droughts, climate change has a significant impact on your organic lawn.
As hundreds of communities endure record-breaking temperatures, homeowners’ lawns are stressed out—brown, weakened and dying.
There are, however, effective ways to reduce and reverse the toll climate change takes on your yard:
Top Dress. This simple technique can reap huge rewards. This spring, use a rake to spread 1/4” to 1/2” of sphagnum peat moss over your lawn. This will gradually condition your lawn throughout the year, strengthening grass so it can resist weather damage, disease, weeds and thatch. Peat moss slowly releases water and nutrients as grass plants need it, so you won’t need to water or fertilize as frequently.
Aerate. This season, remove plugs of sod to loosen soil and allow water, air and fertilizer to reach grass plants’ root structure. For smaller yards or concentrated trouble spots in larger yards, use a manual aerating tool to remove plugs from turf. If you have an extremely large yard, consider renting a power aerator.
Start from Scratch. Is your lawn so far gone that you need to scrap it and start over? Proper soil preparation can help lay the groundwork—literally—for a healthier, more trouble-resistant lawn. Before you seed or lay sod, dig or rototill 2” of peat moss into the top 6 inches of soil to help provide extra protection from the elements. The next time Mother Nature unleashes weird weather, your lawn will be better equipped to cope.
The mint family offers a mouthwatering array, including pineapple mint, chocolate mint, apple mint, orange mint, spearmint and peppermint. These refreshing scents and flavors will enhance cooked meals, beverages and potpourris.
Mint can also be an indispensable plant. Bumblebees and other pollinators are attracted to the delicate flowers that appear in mid- to late summer. Some varieties even sport variegated foliage for added interest in the herb garden.
Mint’s only downside is its ability to take over your garden if it gets half a chance. But you can contain its exuberance and keep it close at hand by growing it in pots—and I do mean “pots,” plural.
You can also confine mint to a garden bed with an edging of metal or plastic. Bury the edging to a depth of 14 inches around the perimeter of the mint patch.
A Sampling of Mints
Spearmint (Mentha spicata), with its slightly sweet flavor, makes a refreshing tea, and it can be used to highlight flavors in a fruit salad. You can also add it to new potatoes or grain pilaf.
Spearmint is the mint in mint jelly and a key ingredient in mint juleps. Plants grow 2 to 3 feet tall, with pale pink or white blooms appearing in mid- to late summer.
Peppermint(Mentha x piperita) is more pungent than spearmint, growing to 3 feet tall, with pinkish lavender flowers. It’s a common ingredient in teas, especially those that soothe the stomach.
Corsican mint (Mentha requienii) hugs the ground and prefers shade. It drapes over a container or weaves itself between stepping stones or stone walls.
Growing and Harvesting Mint
Most mints can be started from seed, with the exception of peppermint, which is propagated by cuttings.
Choose a sunny location (except for Corsican mint) with moderately fertile, humusy soil. Use a light mulch to retain moisture and keep leaves clean. Most mints are hardy to zones 3 or 4; Corsican mint is hardy to zone 6, so treat it as an annual in colder regions.
Once plants are growing vigorously, you can harvest young or mature leaves. Don’t be afraid to cut back the plants frequently to promote fresh growth. Use fresh leaves in cooking, or dry mint leaves on trays or by hanging bunched branches upside down in a warm, dark, well-ventilated area.
A former floral designer and interior plantscaper, Kathy Bond-Borie has spent 20 years as a garden writer/editor, including her current role as horticultural editor for the National Gardening Association. She loves designing with plants and spends more time playing in the garden—planting and trying new combinations—than sitting and appreciating it.
Photo courtesy of the National Gardening Association/Fotolia