Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Surprise Plants! Perhaps More Potatoes?

Potatoes may never stop surprising me.  I'm now on a quest of sorts to see exactly how little of a potato needs to be planted to grow a potato plant.  My first surprise potato plant today came when I opened the lid of the puple bin (the purple bin where my surprise potatoes had grown the first time).  After harvesting the potatoes, I had put the soil back in the bin until there was space in my compost bin for it.  I opened the lid to put the soil in the compost bin, but found this potato plant.

When I opened the compost bin, I was attacked by spiders as usual, but as I dug down, I found several long white stems.  I thought they were roots from the old cabbages I'd put in there a few weeks back, but I soon worked out they were actually potato plants.  I planted them in a pot and covered them over.  I will let you know how they all grow!
These are the little white potato plants.  They'll green up when they sprout properly.  I don't have a picture of them in the pot, as they're covered over to protect them from the sun and encourage growth, so it just looks like a really big pot of dirt.

Signed with love,
Cassandra Louise.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Just for something a little different...

Here's a picture of me working in my garden.
I hope you like it, I enjoyed making it.
Lots of love,
Cassandra Louise.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Not a disposable cup

Ok, I told all these links to open in new windows so you can have a look at them as we go.  If it doesn't work, let me know.  I'm not a computy-type person.
Here's something you already know about me: I hate waste.  Here's something you may know about me: I think about waste and waste reduction strategies almost all the time.  Here's something you probably don't know about me: I absolutely love both tea and coffee!  I'll often have a tea or coffee when I'm out somewhere, usually a cappuccino since someone else is making, but I really try to only go to cafes which will give me a ceramic cup.  I don't want to drink from a disposable cup which will end up in landfill unless it's some sort of cappuccino emergency (which I can't think of what that might be).  The problem with this system is that I am a very fidgety person and my mind never stops.  I may decide I need to absolutely be somewhere else right now when I'm not finished my drink yet, so, since it's in a ceramic cup, I can either drink it all down really quickly, burn my throat and not enjoy it at all, or leave some and feel like I wasted milk, coffee, sugar (yes, I do.  What of it?) and a percentage of the money I spent on the drink.  I have decided the only real solution to this conundrum is to bring my own cup.  But first I need to buy one, and what kind do I want?  Let's see:
I had a little explore in internet-land and found that there are all kinds of reusable travel mug and cup, and you don't have to look far at all to find a cheap one, a sturdy one, a plastic or metal or ceramic one, but that's not all that's important to me.  I looked into environmental impact; materials, packaging and transport to me.  I really like the idea of Oxfam's "not a paper cup", even though it's traveled a long way to get to me, but it is ceramic.  When I was doing a little research into the Oxfam reusable cup, I found another not-paper cup which has a very nice design, but is also ceramic.  Even though it looks awesome and would last a long time as just a normal kitchen cup, I don't give it long in the den of horrors that is my hand bag.
I really like the idea of helping a charity through the simple act of buying something I'd buy anyhow, like the Oxfam cup, but I still find myself researching where things are made and how they were shipped to my area.  My searches led me to these Animal Rescue reusable cups, some of which look really great and I'd be proud to carry one.  That is a US site, though, so I kept looking and also found Breast Cancer Awareness travel mugs.  These are only some examples.  Your own searches will take you wonderful places!
Too far away, too big, too expensive... a comment on my last post here suggested Keep Cup, so that is one I looked up specifically.   Keep Cup is very popular, and I had a lot of fun on the site designing my own over and over (oh my gosh you guys!  I made it so pretty!) but haven't actually bought one, yet.  I will, of course, let you know when I do.  I found this review of Keep Cup really helpful and informative, (and it basically said everything so that I don't have to) and I actually really liked a lot of things on the blog, so it's in my "stuff I like to read" section, now.  I was a little skeptical about a plastic cup, but it's only made once.  It can be used for four years (or more) and then can be recycled.  That's pretty awesome!  Think about all the disposable cups you could not-use in four years!  Personally, I'd not-use 208 or more!  Very awesome.  I hope to be telling you about my reusable coffee cup in the near future.
I hope I didn't ramble, but looking at the clock and noticing the time, I'm sure I did...

Love you all, really I do!
Cassandra Louise

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Just a tiny update...

I want to tell you wonderful people about something awesome other than my garden, so I'm currently researching reusable travel coffee cups.  I will post a real update with my findings within the next week.  If any of you know about a good reusable cup, do let me know, please!

Lots of love to you all,
Cassandra Louise.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Surprise Potatoes!

Just a short post today, I'm just so excited!
I say take your blessings where you find them, and I feel I have been blessed!
You guys remember this?
Well I really didn't hold out much hope of actually harvesting any potatoes from my surprise potato plant, since potatoes are sensitive about the amount of water they are given, and this container had no drainage, but when the plant died off, I tipped it out and hunted through just in case.
I was amazed and delighted with the first potato I found, so imagine how I felt at the end of the harvest, when I'd uncovered these:
Oh, they're not green, they're just in a green bucket... Anyhow, I thought that was a pretty good haul for some soggy dirt that I never even expected a plant from, and so I am truly blessed by these wonderful potatoes!

Love to you all,
Cassandra Louise.

Monday, 7 November 2011

Save Money in Your Garden: Refresh Potting Mix!

You can really only use potting mix once, because whatever you planted will have sucked up all the nutrients BUT you can refresh your potting mix and use it at least once more!  If you grow things in pots you will probably have noticed how very different used potting mix looks to new.  You can quite easily bring your potting mix "back to life" much more cheaply than buying all new.  Potting mix doesn't sound expensive, you can get it for under $4 for 30 litres, but do consider this: 40 llitre tub (the average size for a "big pot") takes more than one bag, and you will certainly need more than one tub.  The tubs will need topping up and refreshing regularly.  If your garden is in tubs and pots you can't just use dirt out your garden, as this is usually much too dense.  To refresh your potting mix and use it again:
  1. You can still reuse the potting mix if the pot has gotten full of weeds; plant one or two sunflower seeds in each pot.  When the sunflowers are fully grown, all the weeds will be gone.  Sunflowers kill all other plants in their soil and "suck up" the nutrients, and you get beautiful flowers with useful seeds.  Hint: sunflower seeds sold as birdseed are cheaper than those sold to be planted, and are just as easy to grow.
    This pot was so alive with weeds you couldn't see the dirt.  I had a picture to show you but it seems to have vanished, so you'll have to trust me when I tell you this sunflower really did its job!

  2. After the sunflowers have died off (the roots from the sunflowers contain the nutrients from the weeds, but no weed seeds, so don't try to remove them), tip the potting mix into a large tub.  If you have a compost heap, add some ready compost, about 1/3 as much compost as you have used potting mix.  I used a children's wheelie bin to mix mine.
  3. Add some multi-purpose fertiliser to the tub, several good handfuls; one with a soil wetter included is best, as new potting mix has this included.
    I used this one this time, but any product like this would do the same job.  The word "complete" is always good.  A small bag should be fine as it's usually quite strong.

  4. Mix all of this up together, and it should start to resemble newly bought potting mix a little better.
    Here's my mixing job.  A good watering and let it sit.

  5. Water the potting mix and let it sit, uncovered or covered with mesh for about a week.
    After a week, it looks much more like new potting mix.  I watered this right after mixing, and again after three days.

  6. Your refreshed potting mix should now be ready to use.  I usually find, since the tub should have no drainage holes, the mix will be a little sticky at the bottom, and may smell a little "organic", but this is fine to use, and is actually full of nutrients.
Of course if you have your own compost heap, you can always use that in your pots, but it takes time to get ready compost, and this is a good alternative while you are waiting.  It is best to only refresh your potting mix once, as after this it will become too nutrient rich and may burn your plants, as the "soil" part will be diminished but you add more fertilizer.
I hope this was helpful for you!

Love to you all, and happy gardening!
Cassandra Louise.

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Here's The Thing I'm Really Excited About At The Moment:

Here's why I'm excited by it:
  • everyone needs to clean their teeth
  • toothbrushes are usually made from plastic
  • plastic comes from oil
  • oil has to be mined out the ground
  • the Environmental Toothbrush is not made of plastic, which leaves precious oil for other things
 I'd just like to point out now, before I go any further, this is not a paid review, I just want to let all you guys know about this fantastic thing I'm excited about.
The Environmental Toothbrush is an Australian innovation.  Unlike a regular plastic toothbrush, this toothbrush can be thrown into your compost when it's time to change it.  The toothbrush will break down and go towards feeding your garden!
Unlike other environmentally friendly toothbrushes you may have heard of, there are no animal products used to make the Environmental Toothbrush, and it's not made of wood.  The handle of the toothbrush is bamboo, so there is no deforestation; bamboo is a completely renewable resource! :-D
You can read a more eloquent explanation about them at the company's own website, at this link.
You can also buy a pack of 12 at the site quite cheaply.  I didn't know if I liked them, yet, because I'm fussy about toothbrushes, so I just wanted one to try.  You can buy just one from this company, (that's where I got mine).
I've only used my Environmental Toothbrush once, but I already love, love, love it!
Price wise it compares well to other toothbrushes; despite being fantastic in all ways it is not more expensive than any others, and is cheaper than some.  The bristles are well-anchored, which is something I was worried about with a bamboo toothbrush.  I'm pretty sure nobody likes loose bristles getting caught between their teeth, so just to make sure that wouldn't happen, I gave my teeth a super-scrubbing.  I may actually have the cleanest teeth in the world and absolutely no bristles were lost from this brush.  Win.
Here is a picture of me being stupidly excited about trying the Environmental Toothbrush for the first time.
And I totally wasn't disappointed!
Love to you all!
Cassandra Louise.

Saturday, 27 August 2011

Where Do Your Vegetables Come From?

One thing a lot of people don't think about when buying food is the transport involved in getting the food to the shop/market/stall, and then to their home.  Just in brief, your vegetables (and fruit) are picked and packed, they then have a truck ride (which of course uses fuel and makes pollution) and sometimes even a plane ride (which of course also uses fuel and means another truck ride to the final destination) and then after you buy your fruit and veggies, you transport them too, and unless you can carry all your groceries walking or on a bicycle, you're using fuel and making pollution, too.  Often it is impractical or impossible to completely eliminate this part of your carbon footprint, but there are things you can do to minimise your impact.
If a product has come from another country, that's obviously needed more transportation than something grown in your own country; over and above this, you can buy food from your local farmer's market or fruit and veg shop which is grown in your own state, and quite often your own town - even better!  Remember that it's always ok to ask questions about the origins of what you eat, and local produce will be fresher, too.
But what can be fresher than food from your own backyard?  Not much! 
If you
  • don't have a backyard
  • can't dig in your yard
  • can't bend down to garden and/or
  • have very little money
the following may help you.
What follows here is the wonderful visual cacophony which is the story of my beloved.
This is the what, why and how of my home veggie garden.  It may even have pictures.  I don't know yet because I don't make drafts, I just sit here and type whatever comes into my head.  You'll notice if it has pictures because it'll have pictures in it.
My family has a reasonably big backyard, but we can't plant anything in the part where our dogs run around, as they are gigantic eating machines, and will eat anything in the yard with them, including onions and other things which are bad for dogs.  Our dogs have a very good run, so our yard is reduced a lot.
We can't dig in most of the remaining yard, as lots of important pipes and things that affect the whole entire city run through the yard, and if the council needed to get to them they'd just rip out our garden.  I didn't really want a garden all that way down, anyhow, as I have back and joint pain and it's difficult for me to bend down.
The solution Mum and I came up with was to make an edible garden in tubs and pots, but this posed one problem: tubs and pots cost money.  We worked out that while tubs and pots do cost money, we could make them cost less money.  Mum and I asked our friends for any old, disused flower pots they had; Dad scoured the local tip and second-hand shops, not just for pots but for barrels, wine tubs, big buckets, laundry tubs and anything else we could drill some holes in and fill with potting mix.
Here's a picture of an assortment of our pots and "pots":
We also thought we'd get a little compost going.  One day I opened the lid and found these potatoes growing:

A lot of our first seeds came from vegetables we'd bought from the supermarket, we simply saved the seeds from what we ate, or kept a potato that'd grown eyes.  Seed packets for other plants were sourced from friends and relatives, found on the covers of magazines we were going to buy anyhow (hooray!) and picked up very cheaply from the bargain bin at the hardware store (sometimes $1 or less!).  Dad wondered how we'd (ok, how he'd) get the lawnmower in around the pots to mow the lawn, which is when my fabulous mother had the idea of laying weed mat against the fence line, and placing the pots of veggie seeds on the mat.  The pots and "pots" were placed on the mat and prepared with potting mix and fertilizer.  Mum and I both decided we wanted to keep the garden as organic as possible, so our fertilizer consisted largely of plant matter, animal manure and a dead goldfish who'd lived a wonderful long life and gotten very big; we figured feeding our garden would be a good use for our loved pet now departed.
I planned out which seeds would go in what pot, and got to planting.  Everyday, like an eager child waiting for Christmas, I would run out into the garden and peer into every pot to see if anything had grown, yet.
After a few weeks, we found we needed to buy less food; some of the money we saved went into buying some more "exotic" seeds and seedlings, like yellow zucchini and purple carrot amongst others.
Below is a photo of our pumpkin vine.  The pumpkins were one of the easiest things we grew; we just threw some pumpkin seeds in potting mix in an old wheelbarrow tray with no wheels on it.  We're not sure what kind of pumpkin it is, but it's either JAP or Kent, as that's the kinds we would buy from the supermarket.

Another very easy thing to grow is of course the potatoes, and we start some more when we find one with eyes in the cupboard. Growing them in tubs means harvest is as simple as tipping the tub up on a tarp.  Potatoes do attract one unique garden pest, the "28-spot ladybird".  These ladybirds don't eat aphids like all the others, they just make lattice work out of potato leaves.  Personally I don't worry too much about them, since we can't eat the leaves of the potato, anyhow.  Here's a picture of one and what they do:
And here's a picture of a "good" ladybird on some catnip, so you can compare:
Having the plants in large pots means most of them can be tended from sitting in a chair; some smaller pots we have set up on an old table.
Here's a picture of a pineapple in a tub on the table:

That's some clover growing in the same tub.  It's not bothering the pineapple, so we just leave it.  It's really surprising how many different things you can put in the one tub:
If you want to start your own edible garden from seeds, most seeds are quite straight forward to collect, just take the seeds out the fruit and plant them.  Tomato seeds are a bit tricky to collect, but you can collect and grow the seeds from any tomato like this.  Pineapples are especially easy, just cut the top off a pineapple and plant the top, but they do take about two years to bear their first fruit.  If you have any other questions about starting your own garden in tubs and pots, please comment them on this post, and I'll try to answer them on the next post.
Lots of lovely love and peaceful peace to you all,
Cassandra Louise.
PS- I just really wanted to show off the carrots I'm growing in an old garbage bin, so here's a picture of them.

Hello Everyone!

This is my first post on this blog.  I have had blogs before, but they were never actually about anything; there was no point to them, they were just my (sometimes utterly hilarious) self-centered ramblings.  This blog (so I tell myself) will be different.  This time I intend to follow a theme, which will be: helping us all band together and save the world!  I know it sounds very ambitious indeed, but I intend to do it by coming to this lovely safe bloggy space, and telling you all about the environment-saving thing I'm currently excited about and why, or the environment un-saving thing I'm currently angry about and why that, too!
I'm gonna start by telling you a little about myself, here, so you can decide if you want to take advice from me or not.
I'm twenty-four years old and currently live at home while studying childcare.  I may be a little "unstable", but not in an "I'm gonna stab everyone!" way, just in a "I'm going to the park and I'm going to run around in circles." kind of way.  I love, love, love my vegetable garden, and I grow most of my own food, most of the year (I'd like to step that up a bit, but I'll need my own garden, first!).  I spend a lot of my free time trying to find the most environmentally-friendly, money-friendly, time-friendly way to do things, and all three categories must be ticked for something to meet my approval.  I will have product reviews in this blog, but only things that will help towards my ultimate world-saving goal, so you guys can know what (I believe) ticks the boxes, all in one place, research done for you!
I'll try to update this blog once per week.  This is just my intro to you, so I'm going to leave it a little short.  My next post will be about my vegetable garden, and I'll try to include lots of tips.  My garden is a real space-saver, all in tubs but still delicious!
I hope you all enjoy reading what I have to write.
Love and Peace,

Cassandra Louise.