Saturday, April 21, 2012

#EarthDay - Growing Green: Get your garden ready for spring

Start your Garden this Earth Day Weekend!
The recent warm spell across the country has prompted many to start thinking towards summer gardens and itching to start spring planting.  The most important requirements for starting an organic garden are fertile soil, quality organic seeds, proper timing and adequate temperatures, sunlight and water.

Soil: An great eco-friendly alternative to peat moss for planting and potting soil is a coconut fiber growing media.  Traditionally used peat moss is extracted from peat bogs that take thousands of years to form and years to recover and therefore is not a renewable resource. Coconut fiber is a renewable resource, made from the husks of coconut and is very suitable as a soil additive to increase aeration and water retention. It is also light weight so it is perfect for roof gardens and large containers.  I found this great product on Amazon called CocoFiber - it is a dehydrated coconut fiber brick that when placed in a bucket with water expands to fill the bucket.  Since I have a totally containerized garden, I used it recently to amend my potting soil to improve aeration and water retention.  It also makes a great mulch! Check it out:

Coco Garden cocofiber is a completely renewable resource made from 100-Percent natural recycled fibers of the coconut husk. Cocofiber's micro sponge effect dramatically increases the water retention of soil and improves aeration, ensuring optimal root growth and maximum water and nutrient uptake for lawn grasses and container and garden plants. Cocofiber is excellent for use as a seed starter, planting seedlings and transferring plants. Can be added to dry soil conditions to improve water retention and also for soils high in clay to improve aeration and root growth. Coco Garden compresses its cocofiber into a convenient light weight package that expands several times its size when placed in water. When compared to conventional potting mixes compressed cocofiber lasts longer, requires significantly less packaging material and has a lower shipping weight and volume which greatly reduces its impact on the planet.

Seeds:  Choose organic seeds as they were produced without the use of chemicals.  My favorite organic seed companies are Botanical Interests and Burpee (who sell both traditional and organic).  Since I plant only in containers (since I do not have a yard), I really like the Botanical Interests Container Garden Collection.  This collection is a lot cheaper than buying individual packets and have enough variety to grow a vibrant garden in a small area!  This makes a great gift as well (Mother's Day, maybe?!). The seeds are all veggies, herbs and flowers that will do well in shallower growing conditions or containers - Lettuce, Cilantro, Basil, Chives, Radish, Carrots, and Peppers.

Burpee has a wonderful selection as well and you can purchase both seeds and ready to plant established root stock (and they will ship at the correct time for planting in your zone).

If you want to get started early outdoors, start with cold hardy plants like radishes, peas, lettuce, broccoli, beets, spinach, parsely and other leafy greens.

Timing and temperature:
Certain plants require a minimum temperature for seeds to sprout and some plants are killed by frost and freezing.  The best way to find out approximate dates for planting outdoors is to first consult the USDA Plant Hardiness Map, which was just updated earlier this year.  The 2012 USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map is the standard by which gardeners and growers can determine which plants are most likely to thrive at a location. The map is based on the average annual minimum winter temperature.
Next, based on the hardiness zone you live in, determine what plants you can start outdoors and which ones you should start indoors.  One of my favorite resources for listing what do in your garden when, broken down by zone, is Organic Gardening's Gardener's To-Do-List -  Sign up for their mailing list and you will get a monthly update on what garden tasks you should do that month.

Whether you start your seeds indoors or out, keeping your seeds moist until sprouting is important.  I usually mist my indoor seeds/sprouts with a squirt bottle every couple of days or when the soil is dry.  The same thing should be done outdoors with a garden hose if it hasn't rained enough - but water gently so you don't disturb the fragile sprouts.

So for Earth Day this year, do something good for the earth and good for you by planting or getting seeds started. If you need supplies, check out Amazon's great selection of garden equipment and Earth Day Specials:

Monday, April 16, 2012

#Ecomon Post: Recycle Containers to start your Seeds!

Reuse household trash to start your spring sprouting!

A few nice warm sunny days in the early spring is all it takes for many people to start itching to plant or start seeds.  I got my herbs started several weeks ago as I am impatient to have fresh basil again!  If you have a sunny window it's easy to grow herbs and start many seeds indoors.  You don't even need to have fancy pots or specialty "seed starting" boxes or kits - there are many things you can reuse to start seeds - here is a short list:

  • plastic jugs (like half-gallon milk jugs) - just cut the top off and pierce a few small holes at the bottom; you can also use the top part as a scoop for your dirt!  No waste here!
  • yogurt cups/containers
  • egg cartons - perfect for seedlings that you plan to transplant outdoors
  • egg shells - when using eggs for cooking, gently break only the top part of the shell with a sharp knife to keep most of the shell in tact, wash it out well, let dry.  These are also perfect to start seeds then they can be planted - shell and all! into your outdoor garden
  • cans - any cans like empty coffee cans, cleaned out food cans, even soda cans - just make sure to punch holes in the bottom for drainage
  • take out coffee cups
  • you can even create little seedling pouches by making soil balls using old shirts, cut into small circles or squares, then place dirt inside and enclose bundle by tying with string or twine.  Cut a small area out and plant seeds.
  • To keep the soil moist to promote better seedlings, reuse your plastic bags or zip lock bags - I find that old zip lock bags (large or small) work really well to create a mini-greenhouse by fitting them over the top of planters
  • You can also get creative and decorate your containers - get the kids involved - have fun!

What ideas do you have for reusing containers for gardening?  I'd love to hear from my readers so leave comments below.
Thanks and Happy Gardening!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Grab Bag Giveaway! Ends 4/22

Since I have not been good about keeping up my blog lately, I am offering another giveaway to bring my readers back!  This will be a quick, easy giveaway so enter now and enter often - and spread the word around!

The prize this time will be a grab bag filled with samples of many brands (mostly for women and mom's)... see photo for included items.  I'm cleaning out closets this weekend so I'll include any other great samples I find! Many of these samples I have received multiples of, some are items that I don't use so instead of throwing them away, I feel it is better to "recycle" by giving them away!

How to enter:
Mandatory - You must follow me on GFC (Google Friend Connect) or Networked Blogs - please leave a comment below stating that you do with your email address to contact you if you win.

Giveaway ends Sunday 4/22 at midnight EST.  Winner will be selected by

Extra Entries (each one = 1 entry unless otherwise stated):

  • Follow me on Twitter (@sprout5) - leave a comment with your twitter name
  • Tweet about this giveaway and leave a comment below with your post address (tweet once every 6 hours only - don't want anyone ending up in Twitter Jail!) Sample Tweet:  @sprout5 Grab bag #Giveaway!ends 4/22 enter now: PLS RT
  • Like Sprout's Green Family on Facebook  and leave a comment on this blog... feel free to write on my wall too!
  • Sign up for my email newsletter (on right sidebar) - leave a comment stating you did along with your email address
  • Follow along on Networked Blogs (if you used GFC as your mandatory entry) - leave a comment stating you are with your profile name
  • Follow me on Blog Frog - leave a comment stating you are with your profile name
  • Follow me on Pinterest  - leave a comment stating you are with your profile name
  • Comment on any other Sprout's Green Family post (see right sidebar for posts and labels lists) and leave a comment telling what you commented on (1 entry per comment)
  • Refer a friend! Have your friend sign up to follow Sprout's Green Family on GFC and leave a comment with your friends GFC name - worth 2 comments! 
  • Purchase anything from Sprout's GREEN Store and leave a comment tell what you purchased - worth 6 extra entries!!! (just leave 6 separate comments stating what you purchased and number each one)
Winners will be chosen from the comments and randomly selected using  All comments will be reviewed for compliance and winners will be notified by email.

Disclaimer:  I did not receive any compensation for this giveaway or review of product - this is just me trying to boost my blog by giving away free stuff!  If you have a product you would like me to review and/or have items to giveaway, I am  more than happy to discuss with you - please contact me by email

Thanks much!
~* Sprout

Here are a few great deals not to miss this month:
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