Green Gardening Tips from The Daily Green

.compost bins at stonecrop gardens in cold spring new york

Learn These 7 Habits of Great Gardeners BEFORE Spring!

Fundamental gardening tips to help you plan your green growing season.

Or is it the Seven Pillars of Horticultural Wisdom, or the Ten All-Time Top Garden Tips? As everyone's resolutions remind us, we love attaching a number to advice, a number smaller than the one I regard as most realistic: The Twenty Three Thousand Four Hundred and Sixty-Two Things It's Important to Remember Before Getting Out of Bed.

So be warned: I haven't really honed it down to only seven; these are just the first seven essentials that came to mind when I decided to do this. And not in order, either.

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The compost bins at Stonecrop Gardens in Cold Spring, New York.
  1. Make Compost
  2. Use Compost
  3. Plant Crops in Wide Beds
  4. Mulch
  5. Feed the Soil, Not the Plants
  6. Share Something
  7. Be There

1. Make Compost

Short version: Mother Nature never throws anything away.
Longer version: Composting is the rare silk purse from sow's ear, something for nothing, win-win. You start out with kitchen, yard and garden debris and wind up with two benefits: 1) a great soil amendment, and 2) many green points for avoiding the landfill.
It's easy to fall into thinking that compost's last name is bin, and that careful layering and turning are part of the deal. But piling shredded leaves in a corner counts too. So does "trench composting," handy for those with little garden space, and so does bringing your kitchen scraps to a place (try the nearest community garden) that will compost them if you can't. I have a friend in Manhattan, for instance, who brings her coffee grounds, orange peels and such to the Lower East Side Ecology Center at Union Square Greenmarket.

2. Use Compost

Spread it around plants to ward off disease; put a bit in your potting mix to add slow-release micronutrients; top-dress beds with it to improve soil structure no matter what kind of soil you have; use it to help restore life to soil that's exhausted from years of chemical abuse. Sprinkle it on the lawn spring and fall to encourage the shallow grass roots... It's almost impossible to use too much.

3. Plant Crops in Wide Beds

wide flower garden beds in maine by leslie land Wide beds for cutting flowers.
Crops are anything planted for harvesting: vegetables, cutting flowers, shrubs on hold to be transplanted... keeping these grouped as tightly as possible in beds that are not trod upon cuts down on weeding, conserves water, allows the compost to be concentrated where it will do the most good and improves soil structure year upon year as the layers of organic matter pile up. These beds are frequently raised or at least corralled neatly by boards or — I saw it once and am still impressed all these years later — by long slabs of granite. Aesthetics aside, the primary virtue of this tidiness is easier path maintenance. From the soil and plant point of view it's the special treatment that matters.

4. Mulch

Mulch clothes the soil in a protective barrier that moderates temperature, conserves water, helps keep soil-borne diseases from splashing up and helps keep soil itself from splashing up — on your lettuce, for instance. Almost any organic mulch that will rot down into the soil is almost always preferable to landscape fabric with some kind of icing, but choosing the right mulch for each job is worth the extra effort.
Straw for instance is inexpensive, but it's untidy compared to wood chips and it breaks down a lot faster. That suits straw to the vegetable patch while the chips win under shrubs. (The specialized mulches for warming soil and/or reflecting back just the right light upon your vegetables are seldom biodegradable. My experiments with them are ongoing so all I can say at this point is: Remember that they work only when light falls on them; the more your garden resembles a jungle — no names, please — the less effective they will be.)

5. Feed the Soil, Not the Plants

Short version: Junk food, including organic junk food, has plenty of calories and may include added vitamins. But it's not great long-term nourishment, for many reasons we've learned and others we can so far only observe. Our bodies know the difference between eating a carrot and taking a capsule of vitamin A. Same deal with the soil.
Longer version: Plant health depends on healthy roots; healthy roots depend on healthy soil for air, water and nutrients delivered in forms plants can use. Soil rich in organic matter — compost! — is generally rich in nutrients and in the teeming life (fungi, bacteria, worms, etc.) that makes those nutrients available to the plants.
Ornamental plants in good soil seldom need added fertilizer, and crop plants that do need extra food need less of it when it's released slowly by friendly soil from things like rock powders, kelp and green manures. For an example of how this works with nitrogen, one of the most important nutrients, here's a Rodale Institute Research Report.

6. Share Something

If you've got a garden, you're rich.
Got seeds? The Seed Savers Exchange isn't just about vegetables; there's an affiliated Flower and Herb exchange, too. Got flowers? Hospitals won't take them anymore (allergies), but group homes, soup kitchens and — why not? — your neighborhood hardware store might be delighted with a bit of brightening up. Got produce? There's a national umbrella campaign for vegetable gardeners who want to plant a row for the hungry, and many food banks, farmers' markets and community gardens have set up organized donations. But there's no law that says you can't just give your extra beans to anyone who genuinely wants them. Hunger isn't always physical.
The garden itself is worth sharing too. Garden tours are popular fundraisers so if you're up for the attendant stress, it's likely there's a cause that's looking for locations. In my experience with these things there's always a lot more preparation than I've allowed for; also a lot more given back in new friends, new ideas and gazillions of pats.

7. Be There

Whether Lao-Tse actually said it or not, it's true: The best fertilizer is the shadow of the gardener.
Photo Credits: Leslie Land, Leslie Land

Environmental activists seek green Black Friday

By ERIKA LOVLEY | 11/27/09 11:03 AM EST
The day after Thanksgiving is known for shopping sprees, but “Black Friday” is getting blacklisted by environmentalists — and they’re hoping President Barack Obama will back them up.

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“In the climate change sense, it’s not that every other retail day isn’t bad. This just happens to be the worst day for the environment,” says Bill Sheehan, executive director of the Product Policy Institute, a nonprofit that aims to prevent waste through better design.
Shoppers will buy mountains of limited-use products wrapped up in disposable boxes, bubble wrap, Styrofoam and other packing materials. It’s a lot of trash that’s not going to go away — and the production of those products has a major effect.
Consider the average microwave oven: It comes in a cardboard box, wrapped in a plastic bag, sandwiched with at least four chunks of Styrofoam and bubble wrap. A new pair of shoes comes in a cardboard box with tissue paper stuffed around and inside the soles.
A recent U.S. Environmental Protection Agency report found that nonfood products and packaging are associated with 37 percent of America’s greenhouse gas emissions — making them the largest source of greenhouse gases. A similar analysis by PPI puts that number closer to 44 percent when the emissions used to produce imported products are included.
“It’s the biggest shopping day of the year. It’s the day we’re celebrating consumption and encouraging people to go buy stuff,” said Sheehan. “But we want people to be aware that buying stuff has huge climate change implications. [Obama] has missed the elephant in the room.”
With the United Nations Climate Change Conference coming up next month, Sheehan and other activists want Obama and world leaders to step up attention to the effect of packaging. The administration has made energy-efficient buildings and power sources one of its top environmental priorities, but those areas account for only 21 percent of the nation’s emissions.

Happy Thanksgiving from AltUse

From the AltUse™ family to yours, AltUse, Inc. wishes you and your loved ones a Happy Thanksgiving.

AltUse Find of the Day: Green Travel Green

Green Travel 101

If want to travel green but don’t know where to start, you’ve come to the right place. Here are the top tips and guides for becoming an eco-conscious traveler.

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Getting Started

What is Green Travel? Defining the latest eco-conscious travel jargon.

15 Reasons to Travel Green: If you’re on the fence about eco travel, learn why people do it.
Shades of Green Travel: Are you pea green, kelly green, or forest green? Find out.
Ultimate Guide to Packing Light: 45 tips to lighten your load - and save you money.
46 Simple Ways to Save Cash Now with Green Travel: 46 tips for saving money while traveling green.

25 Days to Green Travel

This 25-post series will take you from a novice green traveler to an expert. It covers how to get started, what to do before you go, how to travel green while you’re away, and what to do on your way home.
If you would like a free pdf of this series (for easy printing) please email us with the subject line: 25 Days to Green Travel PDF.
  1. 31 Reasons to Travel Green: In Pictures
  2. Defining Green Travel
  3. Ultimate Directory of Top Green Travel Destinations
  4. Learning About the Local Culture
  5. 12 Paper-Free Guidebooks
  6. 4 Principles for Choosing Green Transportation
  7. Bus and Train Routes Across the World
  8. The Best Search Engines for Non-Stop Flights
  9. 11 Best Tips for Packing Light
  10. 6 Pieces of Travel Gear You Should Buy New
  11. 12 Things You Need to Know About Carbon Offsets
  12. How to Find Green Accommodations
  13. Drinking Green Anywhere in the World
  14. Tips for Healthy Water Abroad
  15. Sustainable Dining Guide
  16. 11 Tips and Tricks for Greening your Hotel Stay
  17. Getting Around - Public Transportation
  18. What to Do - Green Activities
  19. Volunteering Abroad - 10 Things to Know
  20. 21 Resources for Volunteering Abroad & Why You Should Do It
  21. Everything I Need to Know About Watching Wildlife I Learned in Kindergarten
  22. How to Take Culturally Sensitive Photos
  23. How to Find Sustainable Souvenirs
  24. 6 Tips for a Green Return Home
  25. Spread the Word

    Digging Deeper

    About Go Green Travel Green

    At Go Green Travel Green, we recognize that living off-the-grid (read: sans electricity) and using earthworm composting toilets isn’t for everyone. But we also love to travel and explore new destination, cultures, and foods. That’s why we focus on simple steps anyone can take to travel greener.

    From green hotels and public transportation to local food and eco-tours, Go Green Travel Green is your source for eco travel tips, reviews, and news.
    We’ve traveled the world over and packed our green travel knowledge and experience into this site.
    Go Green Travel Green has been featured on NewsweekForbesLos Angeles Times,MSN MoneyNational GeographicPC WorldKayak, and Lifehack.

    About the Authors

    Kimberly and Elizabeth Sanberg, co-founders of Go Green Travel Green, are avid travelers committed to reducing their environmental impact.
    After living in Russia and traveling across Eastern Europe, Egypt, and Turkey for 2 months in 2004, they temporarily settled in Washington, DC where they worked at nonprofits.
    After quitting their jobs in DC to travel, Elizabeth and Kimberly gallivanted around Argentina and Belize for 4 months. They’ve now settled in Minneapolis, MN with their golden retriever / black lab mix, Murphy. They’ve been to a collective 32 countries and so far their favorites are Ireland, Egypt, and Argentina. Next on their list is Australia and then New Zealand.
    When she’s not traveling, Elizabeth enjoys sampling local ice cream, playing tennis, and exploring the outdoors. She’s a freelance writer and law school student.
    Kimberly is the Director of Online Strategy at Ignitus where she helps nonprofits and small businesses take advantage of web 2.0, email, online fundraising, and marketing. In her free time she likes frequenting thrift stores and used book stores and listening to records.
    Have suggestions or advice? Let us know.


    For information on our disclosure and privacy policies, please visit our Policies page.

    Recession, Opportunity for AltUse 
    ‘Recession gave me a new opportunity’ readers find surprising, uplifting turns in tough times
    By Sevil Omer
    updated 6:18 a.m. PT, Tues., Nov . 24, 2009

    The recession has hit Terry Zimmerman hard. He is out of work, on the verge of being homeless and barely has money for food.

    But the 47-year-old Army veteran from Sacramento still has something to be thankful for.

    "My health," says the software programmer.

    The recession forced Scott Winterton of Austin, Texas, to question everything about his life. In the end, the unemployed software engineer found a deeper connection to his faith and family.

    "I realized that my faith was not in my paycheck or in the housing market," he says. "Since the recession, I've also noticed a change in the country and how we've taken a step back from excess."

    Just shy of Thanksgiving Day, dozens of readers say they have found unexpected and uplifting turns during the struggling economy's darkest moments and rediscovered what they previously dismissed or took for granted: Family, friends and faith.

    Some readers also say the tough times have helped them seize opportunities they might have ignored before. One woman tapped into her dormant desire to write the great American novel. Others have gone back to school, reinvented their family roles or are on the lookout for an unexpected opportunity.

    'A struggle at first'
    "We had it all and we lost it all," says Lucia Del Barto of Mesa, Ariz., a mom of six who decided to go to college after losing her home and three cars.

    "If it weren't for the economy going so bad, I would still be blowing money left and right and not even trying to better myself with an education," Del Barto says. "I am grateful because of the recession. The recession gave me a new opportunity, hope and purpose."

    It forced new roles on Scott and Julie Dick of Mechanicsburg, Ohio.

    "I'm the major bread winner for the first time," says Julie.

    She returned to work as an office manager with the Ohio Department of Education after giving birth to her son, Matthew, and Scott, who lost his engineering job in 2008, stays home with the newborn.

    "The switch in gender roles was a struggle at first, but we know it's the right thing to do and I am very proud of my husband and the job he is doing at home," Julie says.

    'Going to get better'
    John Temple, a retired U.S. postal worker, never dreamed a recession would make it possible for him to move out of an old Greyhound bus and into his first home.

    "We could never afford a house," says the 55-year-old from Henderson, Nev. "Every penny we had went to our four children and that didn't leave us much for a home."

    But the Temples never stopped saving and sacrificing. Once Nevada's housing prices plunged, they cashed in.

    Zimmerman is watching for his big opportunity.

    "I know it's going to get better," he says. "I believe in this country and I believe we can make it through this recession and become a better nation."


    © 2009

    Power of One -

    Freecycle's Deron Beal
    Brendan Moore for TIME

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    The lightbulb went off the day I realized that while recycling is great, if someone is able to reuse the stuff you no longer want, like your old sofa, you're keeping not just a 100-lb. sofa out of a landfill but also 20 to 40 times that in the raw materials needed to make a new sofa.

    We started storing these items in a warehouse, and I would try to find new homes for them at nonprofits. As that warehouse filled up with things that had no real monetary value, I realized that to reuse it all, we had to find a way to connect people directly.

    So we started a Yahoo! group with 20 or 30 people. The first item posted was my mattress, since my now wife and I were moving in together. Because I was posting so many things from that warehouse, other people got the concept really quickly--that this was a sort of cybercurbside where you could find things in your area to pick up and drop off.

    It's a concept that was able to go viral very quickly. A year after we had set up we had a million members. Today we move 24,000 items a day, helping everyone from a 92-year-old man who collects bike parts so he can rebuild bikes for children to a kid who has set up an orphanage for unwanted guinea pigs.

    The goal now, with our new mobile application, is to reach the developing world, where people don't have computers. We're even starting to see some government buy-in; the EPA has referred to us as a "revolution in reuse."
    Across our network of nearly 7 million members, we reuse 700 tons of material a day--that's the equivalent of what arrives at a midsize landfill daily. There's one less landfill in the world because of this little website.

    AltUse Features™, Business Voice of the Green Economy, is the leading source for news, opinion, best practices, and other resources on the greening of mainstream business. Launched in 2000, its mission is to provide clear, concise, accurate, and balanced information, resources, and learning opportunities to help companies of all sizes and sectors integrate environmental responsibility into their operations in a manner that supports profitable business practices.™ is the flagship website of Greener World Media, the world's first and only mainstream media company focused exclusively on sustainability and the competitive edge it brings to businesses. Founded by green business pioneer Joel Makower and B-to-B publishing veteran Pete May, Greener World Media also produces:

    At™, you’ll find:

    • Daily news from our team of reporters and editors. We don’t merely aggregate news stories from other sites. We research, conduct interviews, and provide insight and analysis into the stories of the day.
    • Opinion and analysis from corporate executives and thought leaders offering insight and inspiration on trends and best practices.
    • Topical resource centers on key environmental management issues: energy and climatedesign and packagingbusiness operationsresource efficiencymarketing and communications — and one dedicated to the special needs of small business.
    • Podcasts and videos featuring interviews with green business thought leaders, and panels from conferences and other events.
    • A wealth of resources to help companies succeed. This is no mere laundry list of links, but handpicked reports, guidebooks, websites, calculators, and other tools — each one summarized by our staff to help increase the effectiveness of your online browsing.
    • Job listingsprofessional eventsdirectories, and books to help you better do your job — or find a new one.
    • Sponsored content from leading companies, featuring white papers, reports, and other useful information.

    You may also subscribe to GreenBuzz, our free weekly e-newsletter featuring the best of the week’s news, analysis, and resources.
    Whether you’re browsing to stay up to date, or searching for specific information you need to know, we hope you’ll take some time to explore the thousands of free resources on

    AltUse Vendor of the Day - GreenovationTV

    About Us

    We all share one planet. GreenovationTV wants to redefine television and redefine home. Our mission is to provide practical information in an entertaining format to help green every home in America, starting with yours.

    Greening our homes is the best way to save money, help the economy, create jobs, make our homes more comfortable and help to avoid climate catastrophe and protect the one home we share. 
    Here are the facts:
    • There are 130 million existing homes in the U.S.
    • Over half are more than 35 years old.
    • 58 million have zero insulation.
    • Our homes consume 22% of the energy in the U.S.
    • In order to tackle energy independence, the water crisis, and climate disruption, we must retrofit every home in America to be more energy and water efficient.
    • Ultimately, every home should be able to produce its own energy, capture its own water, and manage its own waste.
    After six years in gestation, I launched GreenovationTV on Earth Day 2009. My wife Kelly and I are completing the renovation of our 110-year old home on the Old West Side neighborhood in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Using motion sensor occupancy light switches, efficient lighting, Energy Star appliances, geothermal heating; a/c, dual flush toilets, high efficiency shower heads and faucets, rainwater capture, and improved weatherization, we have reduced our utilities by 75%. We broadcast to the world from Ann Arbor, Michigan, home to 22% of the world’s freshwater supply.

    A story on NPR’s “The Environment Report” about our home and GreenovationTV: LISTEN HERE

    GreenovationTV is a new breed of hybrid organizations or what others call values-driven or mission-driven organizations which operate in the blurry space between the for-profit and non-profit worlds.  The purpose is to make a difference and make a living. Consumers need and are demanding this resource. I’d like GTV to be the place for you to find the information that was lacking when Kelly and I began improving our historic home. Please stay in touch . . . and stayed tuned.