Organic Gardening & Natural Living
Diana's Organic Garden Story
I am an organic gardener and have been for years and love to use my herbs and flowers in recipes; teas and in quite a few home remedies for my own family.
It is also wonderful to be able to use them in my gifts by formulating lightly perfumed soaps & bath salt teas to match and to hand sew eye masks/pillows, neck pillows, and sachets stuffed full with real lavender and/or other herbs and flowers inside.
What Can You Do With One Acre or Less?
Small Yard or Even No Yard, Almost Anyone Can Have an Organic Garden.
I get asked quite often "Isn't is hard to garden organically?" and "Don't the bugs eat all of it?"
It can be harder to be an organic gardener, but the results and knowing that you are not poisoning your family are so worth it.
Once you get your compost going well and you understand about rotating your crops and companion planting... then it isn't as hard as you would think.
There are natural herbal pesticides that you can make to ward off some bugs and rabbits...
Still, there can be a total loss of a crop - so it is best to plant a variety.
This ensures that you will get something for your efforts.
I have only 1 acre, yet I have 3 peach trees, 2 pear trees, 1 wild plum tree, 4 apple trees, 2 cherry trees, 4 hazelnut bushes, almonds trees that are just babies so it will be several years before I get a crop, dozens of raspberry bushes, several blackberry bushes, several herb gardens, several vegetable gardens, several rose bushes and lavender plants, and several flower beds that also have some edible flowers.
I'm sure I forgot a few things, but you get the idea - it does not take a huge piece of land to grow your own food.
I still want to put in more blackberries and get some blueberries.
I had a blueberry bush before, but it did not like where it was planted - even though I amended the soil to be more acidic.
So, I want to try it again, but closer to the old burn barrel where the soil should be more to a blueberry bush's liking.
I have health issues that make gardening more difficult. I have a genetic condition that has killed my brother, several aunts and uncles... and it is trying to cripple me. I do what I can and some days I do too much and pay for it the next few days.
Fighting with the weeds is the biggest problem, but hubby helps out a little bit with that if I ask him a few times.
I am trying to get raised bed gardens so I can sit on the edges and do my planting and weeding a lot easier, but I am waiting to save up some money to have someone help me put them in.
If having a big garden is too hard to do, and you can't get raised beds put in, or you have no yard, put some heavy duty hooks up around your porch or somewhere easy to reach and plant some things in hanging baskets and you can put window/porch boxes on your porch or patio...
I do this too so that I can have some herbs, tomatoes, peppers even cucumbers... near the door to make a quick snack or salad.
It is so satisfying to have something growing right by the door where my kids or I can help ourselves on a whim.
Composting Makes For a Great Organic Garden
There are other pages there to help with organic gardening and natural living, but this one is all about composting :
Natural Relief for Skin Issues
Do you have very dry skin, sensitive skin or other skin problems?
I hope you are not using chemical-laden commercial laundry soaps, perfumes, fabric softeners, soaps... these are veryhard on your skin.
Even the so-called gentle/sensitive-skin ones have what they call "masking scents" in them or other fake ingredients.
If at all possible, switch to all-natural versions of these things.
Make sure to read the labels to see if what they call "natural" is really all natural.
I grate up some of my handmade goat milk soap and dissolve it in hot water until it stays "gloopy" even after sitting all night. If after sitting all night it got too thick, then I add a little more boiling water - stir and check on it again the next day.
I use this for my laundry and shampoo.
It doesn't look pretty, in fact it looks rather disgusting, but it works well and I am not polluting the earth or adding to the landfill mess this way.
I find I don't need to use hair conditioners hardly at all any more as my soaps do not strip my hair, just cleans it.
I use my luxury solid perfumed creams as hair perfume on the very ends where it is dry all of the time and this is enough to smooth it as it softly scents it too.
Use a 1/4 cup of vinegar in your last rinse cycle instead of using store bought fabric softener and do not use those sheets in your dryer.
If you still want to use a little scent in the dryer, put a drop or two of real essential oil on a clean wash cloth and toss it in with your clothes. Or use a dryer bag stuffed full of of lavender... like this. I use lavender in a muslin bag and can get anywhere from 4-9 uses from it before the scent is almost gone.
I also use the natural citrus cleaner that I make. I had my formula published in an magazine and the magazine's online E-Zine as well. It works great and smells good too.
Winter Time Gardening Chores
Winter is a Great Time to Plan your Next Gardening or Landscaping Project
While it is not actual gardening, planning your gardens or on what to change/add is very important and can save you some work in the long run.
What do you want to add, what didn't work so well last year and how will you try to fix the problem, would you like to find other uses for what you already grow?
Take out a notebook or drawing pad and jot down notes about what kinds of things you want to grow and where you might like them to be and how will you use them.
Make sure you check on the proper growing conditions for the plants and for your area.
Do you have enough room for that plant/tree/vine?
Are there more uses than just food for that plant than you thought such as for healing, or to make baskets, or as a companion plant, or a trap plant, or to attract honey bees to pollinate your fruit trees? If so, then you may want to try to fit it in even if it does take up extra room or has special needs, it just might be worth a little extra effort.
It is possible to push the envelope a little with what you can grow if you are careful. Even within your own yard, sometimes you can have micro climates that allow you to grow something that you shouldn't be able to in your area. We can use the shelter of our house/shed/garage/taller plants/trees to give protection to more delicate plants and this might let us grow them even when the zone limit is borderline for us.
I am in zone 5 and I have easily been able to grow many zone 6 crops using mulch/sheltered spots/other plants as protection from wind.
There are many tricks to help us, but learn the proper methods first because even then, success is not assured.
I do not want anyone to try to push the limits right off the bat and then give up thinking that they cannot do well at organic gardening.
After you have figured out the basics, go for it and have fun experimenting!
Early Spring is Lilac Blossom Harvesting Time
That Delicate, Heady Scent is Wonderful
I make a soap with my old purple lilacs and one with my white lilacs too. The scent is almost the same, but loyal customers know which one is their favorite and say they can tell the difference just by the smell, so I keep making both.
The colors of the two are a little different too with the purple lilac soap having a slight tinge of color to it.
It is a lot of work making all natural soaps and other products, so most folks don't bother, but I guess I am too much of a nature lover to compromise my beliefs so I cannot and will not use the fake stuff even though it would be so much easier.
Most folks just use a fake lilac fragrance oil to scent a soap and other products, but I will not. Instead, I make a softly scented lilac soap that is real.
I use the lilac blossoms in soaps and I get a hint of lilac scent in the soap - not very strong, but you can tell it is lilac.
Of course, I have to rebatch the soap with blossom water in it so I don't kill the scent in the saponification process.
If you softly steam a few handfuls of cleaned and de-stemmed blossoms in a little water and then strain - you have nicely scented 1/2 to 3/4 cup of scented floral water to use in your soap via rebatch.
I also grind up some of my lilac blossoms and add them into the soap for a little more scent and for some texture as well.
Rebatching is so much extra work, but it is the only way to get a lilac soap that doesn't use the fake fragrance oils.
I'm the crazy one who spends hours harvesting each kind of blossom (seriously, I spend at least 8-10 hours just on the lilac blossoms for the gathering and de-stemming alone) and I also do the same with herbs, although they do not usually need to be as babied as the lilac and other blossoms need to be.
I use these blossoms as I stated above in a soap rebatch or infuse them into oils and use this scented oil for perfumed creams or balms. If I keep recharging the oil with lilac blossoms, I will eventually get a nicely scented oil to use alone or in a blend.