Home gardening is becoming increasingly popular as we learn more and more about the dangers of genetically modified foods. But did you know that many commercial fertilizers are made from ammonia, which is extracted from natural gas, or that the extraction process releases carbon dioxide? Even worse, nitrates in these fertilizers can harm humans and marine mammals by seeping into groundwater, and ultimately deplete the soil’s nutrients.
Fortunately, most of us have the basic ingredients needed to make homemade fertilizer sitting around the house, including dried coffee grounds and unused vegetable matter, which can be used to create compost. But one of the best tricks for all-natural homemade fertilizer is to use ground up egg shells, which consist primarily of calcium carbonate (or, in fertilizer terms, lime). In addition to the calcium carbonate, egg shells also contain small amounts of nitrogen, phosphoric acid and other nutrients.
To use them, simply save your egg shells by storing them in a pot in a dry place such as the oven. Once they have dried out, blend the shells into a powder, which can then be sprinkled on your lawn, garden or potted plants. If your plants are frequented by snails, jagged shell pieces can be scattered in a border around your plants to ward off hungry snails. Soon, you won’t just be making your garden grow, you’ll be making it greener as well! –Holly Young
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Love to garden, but don’t feel like you have enough space? Here are some simple steps for apartment gardening that can help turn even small-scale deck or patio garden into a wildlife haven beneficial to local birds, butterflies and other creatures.
• PROVIDE FOOD- A bird feeder is a great way to attract birds and provide them with food. If you live in an apartment complex with limited deck space, there are bird feeders specially designed for hanging off balconies. There are also special hooks you can use to mount conventional feeders to your deck. Hanging feeders filled with nectar are also a great way to attract hummingbirds.
• PROVIDE WATER- Another integral part of your backyard haven is providing the wildlife with water. Birdbaths and watering containers are a great way to replenish our feathered friends and keep them cool in the summer heat. For homes with limited spaces, you can mount birdbaths to your balcony or deck with special hooks. You also may consider hanging a waterer from a mounted light fixture, ledge or overhang.
• PROVIDE SHELTER- Container gardening is a great way to provide your wildlife visitors with shade and protection. Potted trees and shrubs will provide them with shade and cover. Fragrant flowers and herbs will also help attract butterflies and beneficial bugs. In addition to any potted flowers you have, consider choosing some native plants, which are great for local wildlife and will grow well in your environment. Ensure all pots have a hole in the bottom to encourage good drainage. –Holly Young
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Other than reading or meditating, few things are more fun without a group of friends or family… especially when that group is working towards a greater good together. That’s the idea the folks at Organic Soul promote, encouraging communities to get together to go green. And we don’t mean just organizing an organic tea party with your pals, either. We’re talking about how to go green in your neighborhood and get everyone together to change their way of thinking (and living). Here are a few ideas for getting you out of the house and into your local ecosystem, whether you’ve got a green thumb or just good intentions.
• Buy Local/Organic- Not only does this support the local community’s economy, but also when done on a large enough scale, it sends a pretty big message to the big-name producers (at your grocer’s) who aren’t practicing organic growing.
• Grow A Garden- Don’t have enough time to prune your tomato plants on your own? Those intentions might make a bigger difference if the garden belonged to the neighborhood and everyone did their part. And just think of the potluck dinner all those fresh veggies would produce!
• Raise Awareness- You throw block parties every weekend. Party with a purpose next time by sharing information on local green efforts, or ways your community can play a more active role in the neighborhood’s eco vitality. Celebrate nation eco-based holidays and set goals for your community to meet once their thinking goes green!
• Create A Community Cleanup Day- Whether you live on the beach, near the park or along a main road, you know one stray paper cup is just the beginning of a trash pile-up. And even though picking up that one cup to do your part is a good start, imagine what you the whole neighborhood could? “Adopt” a section of your community and dedicate days to get everyone together for cleaning/upkeep. –Jenni Williams
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Our friends who live closer to the heart of metro Atlanta mock us mercilessly for living OTP (a.k.a. outside the perimeter, or I-285, which loosely defines the city). But the best part of living in the ‘burbs is being 20 minutes from Lake Allatoona, especially during weeks like this when temperatures are soaring into the mid-’90s daily. We’ve made great efforts to become environmentally conscious boaters, and recently found a story from the Boat U.S. Foundation (of which we are members) on how to make your day on the water more eco-friendly:
• Keep It Clean- Unless you keep your boat covered 24/7 (and what’s the fun in that?), it’s gonna get dirty. Dust, pollen, food and beverage spills, dead bugs, etc. add up quickly. Cleaning your boat regularly with fresh water and a sturdy brush not only shows you take pride in your vessel, but it also reduces the need for heavy cleaners. A simple solution of baking soda and lemon juice works wonders on carpets and upholstery, and make sure you use a hard, non-fouling paint if you plan in scrubbing the bottom of the boat while in the water.
• Keep It In The Tank- As the BP spill last year showed, one of the biggest threats to marine life is hazardous chemicals entering our waters. When filling your boat’s gas and oil, resist the urge to top off the tank, and use oil absorbent pads to catch any drips from the fuel nozzle that occur between the dock and the boat. If you keep your boat on a trailer, consider fueling up before you put your craft in the water.
• Keep It In The Tank, II- This time, we’re talking about poop. Peeing in the water may be a tradition as old as time itself, but untreated sewage is bad for coastal and inland waters alike. If you need to poop, do it in a restroom before leaving shore. If nature calls while you’re out on the water and your boat has a head, use a USCG-approved Marine Sanitation Device, preferably with enzyme deodorizers.
• Keep Your Trash- Nothing spoils the beauty of nature more than piles of garbage (OK, and maybe the noise of jet skis, but that’s a different story). If you take a picnic out on the boat, make sure to bag all your trash carefully before you drive away, using an on-board trash can that can later be divided into recyclable and non-recyclable elements. Don’t throw ANYTHING overboard, not even cigarette butts, and consider spending a few minutes bagging up trash from your favorite cove or beach to leave the place a little bit better than it was when you arrived.
• Keep Only What You’ll Eat- We love fishing just as much as the next family, but sustainable fishing is essential to ensure to future health of the species. Practice catch-and-release unless you plan on eating the fish, and always observe local catch limits. Using circle hooks and wearing gloves while handling the fish you plan on releasing will give them a much better chance for survival, meaning they can grow bigger, have babies and hopefully become the “Big One” someday. –Bret Love