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6 Tips to Help You Grow Your Own Organic Veggie Garden

NOTE FROM SWEET GREENS: Thank you supporting the companies that keep Sweet Greens in business.

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Have you ever tried to grow your own vegetables?

If not, you’re missing out. Eating vegetables is part of a healthy diet and can greatly cut down your risk of diseases and illnesses. Organic veggies, grown in your own garden, reveal just how bland, both in color and flavor, grocery store veggies are. Not to mention the huge markup that supermarkets put on organic foods. If you are simply buying your vegetables at the store, eating organic can be extremely expensive!

You may also be concerned about the wasteful ways that supermarket produce is grown and the pesticides used to get them to grow and thrive. With this knowledge, more and more people are making an effort to grow their own vegetables and live an eco-friendly lifestyle. Having your own garden is an excellent way to preserve the planet, while also helping keep your household costs to a minimum.

If you like the idea of growing your own veggies organically, but you don’t know where to begin, here are 6 simple tips to get you started:

#1: Soil Preparation
Many new gardens wonder, “What’s my first step?” The best place to begin with your garden is preparing your soil. Although some plants may thrive in poor soil conditions, others will offer a more bountiful yield with soil that contains organic matter. Utilizing important nutrients such as fertilizer and mushroom compost can give your soil a boost.

You can also have your soil tested by a landscape professional to ensure it is prime for planting. Simply take a sample of your soil, bring it to the professional, and the nursery can test the organic particles in it. If it is less than ideal, they will give you advice on how to improve the quality of your soil so your organic garden and thrive and flourish.

#2: Choose Regional Vegetation
Before buying seeds for your garden, you want to determine the type of vegetables that are sure to thrive, based on your region. Important things to take into consideration include our local growing zones, rainfall, and sunlight quantities. The internet has a wealth of information that can help guide you to find the plants that best reflect your region. You can also take a look at the directions on the back of the seed packets or planting stakes.

Another thing to consider is the weather in the later stages of the growing season. Some regions may experience frost at earlier times of the season than others. Unless you are making ice wine, frozen produce isn’t what you want in your garden. Before you begin to plant, ensure that your veggies will be safe from the cold by determining the latest point you should harvest them.

#3: Plant a Garden that Attracts Pollinators
Your garden needs the help of Mother Nature to grow. You can encourage pollinators such as bees, pollen wasps, butterflies, flower beetles, and moths to visit your organic beds by planting flowers near your crops.

Nature is a delicate balance, and today, it seems like that balance is upset. You constantly hear horror stories on the news about how essential pollinators, such as bees, are dying off in massive numbers. This is called Colony Collapse Disorder. Nobody knows why this is happening, although there have been many theories (Cell phones, pesticides, etc.) These kinds of stories can make us feel helpless, like there is nothing we can do for the planet. By planting flowers with pollen that support bees around your produce, you will be helping them thrive, along with your garden. Clover can be an excellent choice for this.

#4: Make Your Own Compost
Like we mentioned above with preparing your soil, natural compounds are necessary to help your garden flourish. Without them, any growth will be stunted. You can make your own organic compost pile using grass clippings, leaves, coffee grounds, egg shells, and other household waste. Find a place in your backyard to house your compost pile. If you prefer not to have the pile out in the open, you can invest in a number of different containers that will help the organic material breakdown. As you tend to your vegetables, add the compost material as needed around the plants base. If you find that you don’t have enough compost, you can also purchase organic mulch to help your soil retain its moisture throughout the season.

#5: Purchase Product from Reputable Resources
If you’re going to all of the trouble of growing your own garden, you want to make sure that all of the produce is organic and natural. When you’re ready to purchase seeds or plants, you need to ensure the company you are buying from is certified organic. This means both the seeds and starter plants have been manufactured without the use of chemicals, pesticides, or GMOs. Check your local home improvement stores or nurseries for their certified organic offerings. You may also want to check your regions farmers markets for organic starters and seeds.

The internet can also be a great place to find fantastic quality organic seeds. Just make sure you do your research on the company first to confirm that they are certified organic and have quality plants.

#6: Eliminate Pests Naturally
Creating a successful vegetable garden takes a lot of hard work. Unfortunately, before you can reap what you’ve sown, pests such as aphids, ants, beetles, deer, and rabbits may decide to prematurely sample your bounty. Turns out that they like organic produce too. While you want to turn these vegetable thieves away, you also want to avoid using chemicals or poisons that will hurt both them and Mother Nature (and you too, while they’re at it).

To prevent your garden from being devoured by these uninvited guests, you can eliminate hazardous insects and pests naturally. Marigolds, soap sprays, garlic, and natural oils can help provide your yard with relief from the vermin. Research your region to find the most likely pests that will attack your garden and prepare for them well ahead of time.

Starting your own organic garden may sound challenging, but can be well worth the effort. Eating nutrient rich foods has a host of benefits. Simple things such as cutting out sugar and consuming broccoli, tomatoes, spinach, zucchini, and green beans will help preserve brain function and reduce risks of diseases such as dementia, diabetes, and cancer. If you don’t have a green thumb and have never worked in the yard, growing your own may seem to be more of a nuisance than purchasing your organic produce at the local market. But with the right plan, soil, and organic seeds, you can grow veggies that are eco-friendly, healthy, and bountiful.

Looking for Fun Organic Summer Fashion? Check out Nordstrom!

Nowadays it’s easier than ever to shop stylish, eco-friendly fashion with big stores like Nordstrom stocking organic and sustainable clothing. Designer Eileen Fisher creates simple, wearable styles with organic linen and cotton that are perfect for the upcoming summer months.

Not only are organic fabrics good for the environment, they also result in garments which are wonderfully soft and breathable, creating the perfect blend of style, comfort, and sustainability.

For those hot summer afternoons in the garden, Eileen Fisher’s Organic Linen Crop Pants will keep you cool with light fabric and a breezy style. For year-round layering, top them off with a simple Organic Cotton Tank. There’s nothing quite so comfortable in a basic layering piece as the incredible softness and breath-ability of sustainable, organic cotton. If you’re looking to build a complete outfit with organic fashion from Nordstrom, finish those two pieces with an Organic Linen Open Front Cardigan. Made from breathable organic linen, this cardigan is a great option for cooler summer nights and the eventual transition into fall weather.

Shopping for organic, eco-friendly clothing doesn’t mean sacrificing all the versatility and simplicity we’ve come to expect from less sustainable brands. Nordstrom features organic fashions for every body type with certain styles designed specifically for petite women. Most pieces by Eileen Fisher are also machine washable and safe to put in the dryer so it’s easy to incorporate sustainable fashion into your existing clothing routine. Fun organic fashion also doesn’t have to break the bank with Groupon offering promo codes and discounts to shop at Nordstrom on a budget.

It used to be that you had to travel to specialty stores to find stylish and sustainably made clothing, but Nordstrom has made it possible to shop online and buy stylish eco-friendly products no matter where you live.

 

Full Disclosure: This post was brought to you in part by Groupon – all opinions are my own.

A Visit to the Palm Beach Florida Zoo with Stonyfield!

NOTE FROM SWEET GREENS: I am a #StonyfieldBlogger  and  I received compensation and product coupons in exchange for sharing information. All opinions are 100% my own.
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Thank goodness the rain finally stopped! We were able to visit the Palm Beach Zoo here in Florida yesterday with our AZA SAFE (Saving Animals from Extinction) tickets.

In case you forgot, as part of a year-long effort, Stonyfield will not only be contributing funds to field work but also to drive kids and their families to see animals and conservation projects first hand at zoos, aquariums, and on the ground where the research is happening.

I have been taking Eben to the Palm Beach Zoo since he was little! We hadn’t been back to visit in quite some time, and it was nice to see how the zoo had grown and changed. Here is a little tour of the Palm Beach Zoo!

Wow! My teenager is almost as tall as the mister – how time flies!

I kind of love the peacock and I might be partial to the capybara! Watch the video of him eating here! Love.

Don’t forget, Stonyfield YoKids is also featuring an on-pack offer to get families out to visit any of the 131 participating AZA accredited member zoos and aquariums in their own communities. Now through the end of September families who buy two specially-marked YoKids yogurt multipacks will receive a FREE kid’s admission to their local AZA-accredited zoo or aquarium when they also buy an adult ticket.

If you are looking for something fun to do with the family this summer, hit the zoo with your family!

Go to an AZA Accredited Zoo for Free this Summer with Stonyfield!

NOTE FROM SWEET GREENS: I am a #StonyfieldBlogger  and  I received compensation and product coupons in exchange for sharing information. All opinions are 100% my own. ________________________________________________________________________

Last weekend, we had plans to visit our local zoo to support the Stonyfield YoKids sponsor AZA SAFE (Saving Animals from Extinction) program. But guess what? It rained all weekend!

As part of a year-long effort, Stonyfield will not only be contributing funds to field work but also to drive kids and their families to see animals and conservation projects first hand at zoos, aquariums, and on the ground where the research is happening.

We have plans to visit on a sunny weekend in the very near future. With today being World Penguin Day, Stonyfield and AZA are hosting a Facebook live for kids and their parents to get a firsthand look at these majestic seabirds, as well as the conservation work being done to save them. Tune in to this Facebook Live broadcast direct from Mystic Aquarium in Mystic, CT today at 12pm on the Stonyfield Facebook page. How fun is that? I know, we will be tuning in!

Stonyfield YoKids is also featuring an on-pack offer to get families out to visit any of the 131 participating AZA accredited member zoos and aquariums in their own communities. Now through the end of September families who buy two specially-marked YoKids yogurt multipacks will receive a FREE kid’s admission to their local AZA-accredited zoo or aquarium when they also buy an adult ticket.

If you are looking for something fun to do with the family this summer, I think you should jump on this great deal!

Paying It Forward (to Local Wildlife) this Holiday Season!

Disclosure: I am an ambassador for Stonyfield Farm, all opinions included here are my own.

For many, the holiday season is a time to celebrate and come together with friends and family. However, for many others it can be a painful and difficult time depending on their circumstances. I like to try and do something for others and the planet each holiday season, to give back. I find it makes celebrating with my family all the more special, when we know we’ve done a good deed or donated to a good cause as part of our holiday time together!

As an ambassador for Stonyfield Farm, I’m partnering with them this holiday season for their giving back campaign. Stonyfield wants all of us to take some time with our families this month to spread good fortune in the form of a charitable act—in the hopes that our compassion will inspire others to do the same! I think it’s an admirable idea, and am excited to share with you what I chose to do this year.

Stonyfield gave me a $50 Visa Gift Card to donate towards a good deed or a charitable organization of my choice. I decided to match their donation and added my own $50 too, for a total $100 donation. The charity that I choose was our local wildlife sanctuary, Busch Wildlife Sanctuary, who have done great work that we’ve been privileged to witness firsthand! Since most folks I know choose to make donations to help other humans at this time of year (which is of course a wonderful cause), I worried that the animals would get skipped over! It’s easy to forget that the other creatures we share the planet with need help, too.

Helping animals is a family activity
My family is all about animals, and I’ve put effort into saving them for my whole life. Just ask my husband about our bunny rabbit Peanut—While we were dating, I overheard at the pet store that they were going to feed a bunny to a snake because he had an injured leg! Nope – Peanut came home with him. Ha! You’ve probably seen me post about Olive the French Bulldog, who was a rescue, and Noodles the Pug, they are our sweet little snuggle bunnies. They’re important members of the family, too! So we thought it would be great to remind people to help our furry friends at this time of year.

My dad is super passionate about helping animals, too. When I was a kid, we had a Great Horned Owl and a Bat, both of whom my dad found injured, and brought home to nurse back to health. This was before there were places that would help with injured wildlife. He instilled in me a strong sense of care and responsibility for the other species on our planet. As a teenager, I was driving home from visiting my parents, and at the end of my hour-long car ride, I saw an injured duck in traffic. His wing was broken and he wasn’t looking too good. I scooped him into a box and called my dad, who told me to bring him right back to their house. My dad set his wing and built a pond for him in the backyard. He nursed him back to health, and then when spring come around, a flock of ducks flew by and my duck joined them. Hooray!

Our great experience with Busch Wildlife Sanctuary
Just recently, Eben and I found a juvenile Cooper’s Hawk, injured in the bike lane of a major road outside our neighborhood. He was so hurt he couldn’t move, but an injured animal can be dangerous when they’re scared. I called my favorite local wildlife rescue group, and they came out to pick up the hawk.  I wasn’t going near those talons! The great people from Busch Wildlife Sanctuary rushed out at 10:30 at night to rescue him. They rushed him into surgery, and he was later released to the wild.

I found that the experience with the hawk was a great chance to teach Eben about how to handle a situation involving an injured wild animal. It’s so important to teach our kids how to help injured wildlife, and what the best practices are when you find a hurt animal. If you want to talk to your kids about this, try using these points for discussion:

  • You really shouldn’t try to touch the animal. They can lash out when they feel threatened and are hurting. You could get an infection from them if you aren’t careful with how you handle them and wild animals have sharp teeth and claws.
  • It’s best to call for help. Always get an adult who can assist you with helping the animal and keep your distant.
  • Let the professional rescue organizations take over whenever possible. Look up your local wildlife sanctuary and contact them when you find an injured animal. They’ll know what to do and give you instructions.

Another thing I love about Busch Wildlife Sanctuary is that they offer a bunch of educational programs, weekly activities, and special events that are fun for the whole family! If you’re located in South Florida, definitely check out their programs and see if there’s one or two that would be good to take your kids to. They offer everything from wildlife encounters, large animal feeding shows, story time, snake and bird of prey introductions, exhibits, to nature tours and nighttime walks at the sanctuary. We have been visiting the sanctuary since Eben was little, it’s fun for the whole family!

I hope that your family gets the chance to do something charitable this holiday season. It’s a great bonding experience and I think it’s so great to impress upon our kids the importance of helping others and the planet. Plus, doing acts of generosity or good deeds really helps you get into the holiday spirit of giving! So whether you choose an organization to make a financial donation to, or one to volunteer some of your time with, try giving back this holiday season. I guarantee it’ll make you feel as jolly as Santa himself!

Helping Holidays: 4 Green Gifts That Give Back

The holidays are all about celebrating acts of giving, making it the perfect opportunity to make your gift giving smarter this season. There are so many amazing businesses out there that give back when you purchase one of their products. These companies are tied to doing good somewhere in the world every time a purchase is made. Read on for my 4 favorite gifts that give back – and if you hurry you can still get these goodies by Christmas.

1. Warby Parker Glasses
Eben and I both wear glasses and love the stylish, affordable frames from Warby Parker. For every pair of glasses that you buy, a pair is donated to a person in need. If you don’t wear glasses, that is alright – Warby Parker also offers fantastic sunglasses.

+ Warby Parker  

2. Feed Bags
I have been familiar with FEED Bags for a very long time – I remember first seeing them in Whole Foods back when we lived in Georgia! FEED Bags come in a huge selection of styles and sizes and with each purchase a portion of the proceeds go towards feeding the children of the world.

+ FEED Projects

3. TOMS Shoes
Most likely you are already familiar with TOMS shoes – for every pair you purchase a pair is donated to a child in need. With a great selection of shoes for everyone on your list, TOMS is the perfect holiday gift!

+ TOMS
4. Smile Squared
Every year I stick a toothbrush in the holiday stocking – this year I will be stuffing a brush from Smile Squared! Smile Squared is another company that donates a product to a child in need – in this case, an eco-friendly bamboo toothbrush – because a healthy smile is a happy smile.

+ Smile Squared

Do you have a favorite gift to give that gives back too?

Blue Orange Games Make Excellent Holiday Gifts + A Giveaway

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Are you getting excited for the holidays? I know my family is! We all love the extra time we get to spend together, the fun seasonal activities, and delicious foods that come along with the holiday season. Of course, there are some additional stresses at this time of year—party planning, attending events or taking your kids on various outings, finishing end-of-year tasks, preparing to host family, and gift shopping, to name a few.

If you’re anything like me, coming up with gift ideas ahead of time takes away some of the pressure surrounding the holidays and makes everything more enjoyable. With that in mind, I thought I’d share a great gift idea for the kids or other families in your life! You may have seen me talking about Blue Orange Games before, because they’re a great company and their games are always a hit with Eben and Mr. Sweet Greens. With a chance to win a game from them in this blog post, hopefully they’ll become a favorite with your family, too!

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Why Blue Orange Games Make Great Gifts
These games get my seal of approval for gift giving for many reasons. The games produced by Blue Orange are heirloom quality, so you can pass them on to younger generations in the family when your own kids outgrow them. These games are also eco-friendly, made from high-quality materials that gets replenished by the Blue Orange Games commitment to plant 2 trees for each one used in creating their products. That kind of commitment to sustainability and keeping the planet green for our kids and grandkids makes you feel good about buying their games as gifts.

Beyond the basic facts of sustainability and good design, these games are my favorite ones to play with my family. They’re fun, they make you think, and they’re a convenient length to squeeze in between homework and dinner, or in between activities on the weekend. Many of the Blue Orange Games are also designed with families in mind, being fun to play with a small but flexible number of people; often 2-4 makes for a great gameplay experience (it’s great too because Eben and I can play together when Mr. Sweet Greens is at work!) Plus, they work on your cognitive skills, memory, creativity, fine motor skills, and more, so you’re getting some real benefits from playing!

I purchase a handful of these games every year to gift to Eben and Mr. Sweet Greens as our family gift. I always pair it with some of our favorite organic snacks and hot cocoa. It gives us something new and fun to play as a family during winter break, and is a really positive way to spend some of the extra time we have together. This year, I am also giving Blue Orange Games as gifts to my sister’s family, I’m hoping that her and her family will love them as much as we do!

flash

Enter the Giveaway
Want a chance to win your very own game from Blue Orange Games? I’m happy to be able to give away a copy of Flash! to one lucky winner. Flash! is a super quick and exciting dice game with multiple play variations and 8 challenges to complete. It has a fun element of competition and is great for all ages, from 7 to 97! It is a huge hit in our home and it will make a great holiday gift for your family.

Leave a comment below to enter. Tell me which game you’re most interested in, or what your family enjoys doing together over the holiday break.

For extra entries, follow Sweet Greens and Blue Orange Games via your favorite social media platforms and leave a separate comment for each!

Blue Orange Social Media Channels:

Facebook: Blue Orange Games USA
Twitter: @BlueOrangeGames
Pinterest: Blue Orange Games
Instagram: @blueorangegames

Sweet Greens Social Media Channels:

Facebook: Sweet Greens page
Twitter: @SweetGreens
Pinterest: Sweet Greens
Instagram: @SweetGreens

 

US winners only, please. Sorry to my international readers! Winner will be announced on December 13th!

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