Category: gardening

Ceramic travel mug with lid

Enjoying My Homemade Tea In My New Travel Tea Mug

October 18, 2019

I have mentioned my love of tea before on this blog. I also mentioned that I had the idea to start growing my own tea using indoor grow lights and indoor growing techniques. I have learned so much about growing food indoors, that it made a lot of sense to start growing tea as well.

Tea growing in tea plantation

And I’m here to report that it was a great success. Obviously, I’m not making tea that I will ever be able to sell to anyone else, but I’m getting results and I’m enjoying them. The tea leaves produced from my little tea garden taste amazing. So far I have only made them into green tea, because the process for that seem fairly easy, but I think I will try to produce other types of tea very soon.

I have gotten so much tea from that, that I’ve started drinking tea all day. The only issue is that I am on the road all day as well, traveling between different locations for work. That meant I needed a way to take my tea with me. For coffee you have the thermos and this works pretty well also, but there is an even better option. That is a travel mug.

I got myself a large ceramic travel mug with a lid. This allows me to use it with the lid on, which keeps in the heat and keeps my tea hot longer and it also prevents spills. I got one that fits into a cup holder, since I mostly cruise around in my car.

Ceramic travel mug with lid

But it also has a no slip bottom, so that if I were to travel by bus or train, I could use it there as well. I also use it when I’m in the office, because it is just easier to keep using that instead of switching to a different kind of mug. It might be called a travel mug, but you can use it anywhere.

The hardest part when buying it, was to decide on the design. I had no idea, but there are thousands, even hundreds of thousands, of different types of travel mugs. They come in all materials, like plastic glass and metal, but I decided on ceramic.

It is the material a regular coffee or tea mug is made from, so it only makes sense that my travel mug should also be from that material. It is the only one where you know that it is not leaving any kind of residue in your hot drink.

Ceramic may not insulate quite as well in some of the double-walled metal mugs, but it is close. And since mine is a double-walled ceramic mug, it is very close. I find it keeps my tea hot long enough for my tastes.

Of course, I actually like cold tea as well. In fact, in the summer I let my tea cool down before I put it in the mug. I guess I would need an insulated mug after all, for the times I try to make iced tea, but I never do that. I just drink it at room temperature. And in the winter I drink it when it is hot, because it really does warm you up.

So that is where I am now. I am making my own tea hydroponically and I’m drinking it all day, every day. And I’m loving it. Growing your own food organically is just amazing, and that extends to things like tea and coffee as well.

Bringing A Dead Plant Back To Life With Grow Lights

February 7, 2018

Let me tell you the story of Mr. Plant. T’s what I call a little tomato plant I have. I got him a year ago at a community garden where I volunteer. He was not doing well and they were going to throw him away. It made a lot of sense, but when I saw him, I just felt bad for him. I had to take him home and try to give them a new life.

a tomato plant

So that’s just what I did.

I took Mr. Plant and put him in a separate pot and carried him home. At home, I started by putting him by a window, but it seemed he wasn’t getting enough light. In fact, that’s what he looked like overall. He looked like he had not been getting enough light for a long time and that’s why he was dying.

Luckily, I had some spare fluorescent grow light bulbs lying around from an old project. So I decided to move Mr. Plant away from the window, where it was a bit cold and put him in the middle of my apartment. I surrounded him with fluorescent light bulbs.

Let me have a quick interlude here and talk about florescent grow lights real quick. A lot of people think florescent lights only work for very young plants, like seedlings and sprouts. That is not true.

tomatoes growing on a vineFlorescent lights can both grow and even flower plants. That said, they are not as efficient as HID grow lights or LED grow lights, which is what you’d use for a full hydroponic grow operation. But they are much more readily available and much cheaper to buy. Even though they cost a little more to run, if you only have a plant or two, you end up saving a ton of money using fluorescents.

And that is why I used the florescent bulbs on Mr. Plant. Well, that and the fact that I had them already and didn’t have to buy new ones. They were just your standard compact fluorescent bulbs and were only about 60 watts each.

They were a warmer color spectrum, which means they would work well for all stages of growth (I think they were around 3000K). After few weeks with these lights, and a lot of loving care, Mr. Plant made a comeback. He came back to life. Now, a year later he even gives me a few tomatoes. It is wonderful.

Apart from adding the florescent bulbs, I also gave him nutritious soil and added a few extra nutrients in there occasionally. I even fed him some tea. That’s an old trick my aunt used to use. She used to brew a nice cup of tea for herself and always make a bit extra for her favorite plants. She swore by it. I don’t think it really makes a difference, but I don’t think hurts them either, so why not give them some tea. I enjoy it, why shouldn’t they.

Anyway, as mentioned, Mr. Plant is back in commission. At this point, he not only looks green and healthy again, but he is also producing wonderful ripe red tomatoes. And those tomatoes taste amazing. They are so much better than anything you could buy in a store.

glass teapot infusing blooming tea

An Afternoon Tea Leads To a Garden Idea

February 4, 2017

Every week I go to a meeting of my local gardening group. We run a small urban garden in our town and we talk a lot about that, about gardening in general and also about expanding to more urban gardens.

One of the big discussions we’ve had in recent times is getting more of the local children involved and perhaps even getting a gardening program into schools. I’ve talked a lot about that on this site, but in my town, we’ve yet to implement something like that.

One of the ladies in our gardening group is an avid tea drinker. She’s even gone so far as to travel to Asia simply to sample the best teas in the world and to bring some of them back. Whenever we have a meeting, she brings a new type of tea and lets us try it. This last meeting was no exception.

She had even just bought a brand-new beautiful glass teapot with a see-through infuser inside. It allows you to watch the tea leaves unfurl as the hot water grabs hold of them. It’s a beautiful sight and kind of hypnotizing.

glass teapot infusing blooming tea

To debut this pot, she brought what is called a flowering (or blooming) tea. These teas are actually different types of flowers that are dried in a certain way that when they hit the hot water they slowly begin to unfurl. What was a little lump turns into a beautiful flower inside the pot.

As it expands it also lends its essence to the tea making for a really wonderful taste. I’d never seen this before and I thought it was amazing. The following video shows what I mean.

I had actually just read an article about growing tea recently, for some reason. And watching my friend’s tea unfurl in the pot at our community garden meeting, I put two and two together. Why not plant tea in our garden. Or perhaps in a new garden. Wouldn’t that be wonderful?

I thought this was a brilliant idea. It was the second brilliant idea I had during that meeting. The first being that I would get my own see-through glass teapot just like hers. I also wanted to experience the hypnotizing view of tea leaves unfurling every day. I’ve been meaning to get more into tea anyway, and I think this would do it for me. It is certainly better than my current coffee habit.

Now how cool would it be if I could watch my own tea leaves unfurl in that teapot. I would love to debut it with tea leaves grown in our own personal garden. Since that meeting I’ve been reading up a lot on this and it doesn’t seem that hard to grow tea. You just have to get the right plant, and my friend is actually planning a trip to China, where she can find some of the best tea plants and bring them back. So that problem is taken care of.

Our garden is indoors, but tea leaves don’t need that much light to grow. The lighting we currently use, some of it fluorescent lights and some of it LED lights, will work just fine to grow tea in our garden. I don’t think we’ll even need to use natural light.

In terms of environment, tea generally likes a lot of water and a lot of humidity, but the temperature doesn’t matter that much. I learned that some tea grows in very hot and humid areas, while other tea grows in high altitude cool areas. The common theme is the humidity.

The best teas actually grow in cooler climates. Places like the mountains of Japan or Fujian province in China or the Highlands of Taiwan or the Darjeeling region in India. None of these places are hot.

In fact only some tea, like Assam, grows in a hot region. And this is nowhere near the best tea. The best teas all seem to grow in cooler areas and high altitude areas.

And we live in a cold region. We don’t have too much humidity here, apart from the summer, but we keep our garden fairly humid, because we grow a lot of plants that need humidity. I think we’ve got it all pretty well set up.

The only thing left to do is get the actual tea plants and start growing. And, of course, getting my beautiful new glass teapot ready for our first harvest. I can’t wait.

small community garden

Community Gardens Can Change Lives

December 16, 2016

Community gardens have the potential to improve the lives of people everywhere crossing all boundaries of age, race, gender and nationality. These group effort gardens are making a positive difference one plant at a time.

small community garden

Just Add Water and Watch it Grow

Have you ever helped a neighbor with a garden? Planted up a small container for an elderly relative? Shared fresh herbs for cooking with someone intimidated by gardening? Fixed up planters of annuals in your town square? Spent a day working with a school group sowing quick-growing vegetable seeds? Joined your coworkers as corporate volunteers weeding, raking, and mulching in a public space?

Perhaps you have helped install a wall water fountain or concrete fountain. Then you are already a community gardener, part of a great social movement that has the power to transform neighborhoods, unite people who are different in many ways, and invest in the future of our children.

Teaching them about gardening can have just as much impact as a vocal coach teaching them about music. Just like those vocal lessons will impact other areas of their life, so too will lessons on gardening.

Community Assets Can be Pulled Together to Help a Garden Flourish

You will find many ways to participate in this movement, and they can be as simple as donating money or offering to fund resources, or volunteering time to senior garden programs to help with hard work such as turning soil and spreading mulch. Hook up with a group of gardeners, whether it’s once a week or once a month, and you will get to know and help people that are coaxing vacant lots to life. Very few activities have a nurturing and healing quality that work on our souls and hearts the way gardening does.

Building Community With Community Gardens

  1. A community garden yields many benefits to a neighborhood.
  2. While an abandoned lot suggests that nobody cares, a garden creates hope through beauty.
  3. Connection to nature inspires and soothes even those just passing by.
  4. Bees, birds, and butterflies attracted to a garden are great companions, help with pollination and bug control, and remind us that we still share our world with wildlife.
  5. Cultural gardening traditions are practiced and shared.
  6. Pride in the neighborhood increases.
  7. Seasonal food production improves well-being, fosters healthy eating habits, and creates awareness of how food is produced and why that matters.
  8. Informal teaching engages active minds.
  9. Social gathering spots increase neighborhood harmony.
  10. Rainwater harvesting leads to environmental awareness.
  11. Gardening connects urban dwellers to their rural roots.

 

How to Start a Community Garden

Here’s a checklist:

  • Identify space that could be donated for a garden. Look at churchyards, school or library lots, housing organizations, or abandoned property.
  • Identify resources to help you get started, such as neighborhood institutions.
  • Enlist local politicians or organizations to help secure the land for long-term usage at a nominal fee and assist with insurance and other technicalities.
  • Create a core group of at least a dozen volunteers to raise funds, work on design, organize volunteers, and establish rules and regulations.
  • Organize meetings to identify the people and resources needed. Reach out to those with special skills that might not be directly related to gardening, such as grant and flyer writing, light construction, site searching, and planning.
  • Determine what the community wants out of the space: quiet contemplation, a place for children to play, plots to raise food in?
  • Establish a core group to maintain the land.
  • Appeal to local Master Gardener programs for volunteer assistance.
  • Reach out to your local university Cooperative Extension for help securing supplies and resolving bureaucratic issues, such as cleaning up toxins.
  • Develop a fund-raising strategy that starts with the group and reaches out to local individuals and businesses. This kind of support highlights the importance of the garden to the neighborhood and includes something lovely with a cast stone water feature.
garden inside abandoned warehouse

Community Center Grows Food In Abandoned Warehouse Garden

July 29, 2016

I recently visited a community center that was doing something really cool. They had taken an old abandoned warehouse and converted it into a large indoor community garden. They were already dealing with a lot of disadvantaged youth from the neighborhood and they gave each of them a small plot inside this garden warehouse. The children are completely responsible for the plants they planted, for taking care of them, for doing most of the landscaping and for harvesting whatever fruits or vegetables they may grow.

Just having this little bit of responsibility has made a huge different difference in their lives. But what also helped them was seeing food being grown in front of their eyes. These were inner-city children who had never witnessed something like this. What sounds completely mundane to a farmer or anyone who’s been out of the city, must have seemed like a complete miracle to these kids.

garden inside abandoned warehouse

A garden planted in an old warehouse. By Roland zh – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0

Now obviously growing a huge garden like this is not going to be cheap. The largest expense, of course, are the lights. Plants need light and they don’t get any of it inside a dark warehouse. Not much at least. That’s where the community really came together.

Donations poured in from all over the region that allowed the community center to buy grow lights and all the other equipment they needed. First they bought simple T5 fluorescent tubes, but they soon realized that these were not very efficient. They ended up switching to MH bulbs during vegging and HPS bulbs during flowering. This was much more efficient but it also created a lot of heat and ate a lot of power. But these lights were relatively inexpensive.

The donations kept pouring in, though, so they were eventually able to replace all of these lights with full-spectrum LED grow lights. These are much more expensive, but once you’ve made the initial purchase, they’re much cheaper to run. They also much easier to run and maintain, so the kids were able to run everything themselves. They learned about plant grow cycles and changing the length of daylight artificially. They also learned about watering needs, soil pH and various other technologies necessary when growing plants.

growing food on abandoned lot in LA

Growing food on an abandoned lot. By Jonathan McIntosh – Own work, CC BY 2.5

Every morning before school, these kids go and tend to the garden for a bit. Their school also gives them a free period or two, which is not hard to do given all the time wasted at most public schools. The kids use that free period to head over to the warehouse and spend some more time with their garden. After school, most of them go back and do even more gardening. Basically they use all their free time to garden. They do this voluntarily and are having a great time. Tending to this community garden is keeping them off the streets and keeping them out of danger.

The organizers of this community center are to thank for this wonderful idea. They had it and they set it all up they got it all organized, hired the landscaping expert and they still run it. We thank them so much for this. We also get tons of fresh tomatoes out of it!

On top of these people, we must thank everyone in the community for supporting this idea and for their generous donations. You can see a list of donations on the community center website, but we will just thank them in general here. We don’t want to single anyone out on our site.

So again, thank you so much for your generous donations that have allowed the community to provide these children and their plants with the best indoor LED grow lights available. The kind LED K5 XL 1000 units that are each lighting an individual child’s plot are a true miracle of technology. They have grown some wonderful vegetables and fruits and the children have taken those and have sold them at the local farmers market. They are allowed to keep the profits, which makes this whole endeavor even more exciting to them. They are basically able to run their own little business.

I don’t imagine that many of them will go on to become farmers later in their life, but this isn’t just an experience in farming and gardening. It is also an experience in running a business and that will help them throughout the rest of their lives, whether they stay in their little town or whether they move elsewhere in the US or the world. What a wonderful community centered idea and a wonderful way to make use of an old abandoned warehouse space!

home grown vegetable basket

Growing Your Own Food For Your Family’s Health

May 28, 2016

Meet John. John used to eat processed foods and other unhealthy things. He drank soda pop also. He was gigantic. He was one of those people you always hear about, those obese Americans. But not today. He turned his life around and today he weighs what a normal person should. He eats healthy, but he doesn’t spend the money you usually associate with healthy produce. How does he do it?

organic vegetable garden

A home vegetable garden. By Srl – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0

He grows his own vegetables, that’s how. Now I know what you’re thinking. You think I can’t grow my own vegetables because I don’t have a garden. And I don’t have space for a garden. Well, neither does John.

What John does have is a little bit of extra space in his house, as many of us do. He converted that space into a little garden. It’s his own indoor gardening area. He outfitted it with some buckets and put some soil in them. Then he got himself some florescent grow lights to supplement the sunlight. He started the planting herbs and vegetables that are easy to grow and while it didn’t go as planned at first, he eventually got some pretty good yields.

And that’s the key. Many people who try gardening indoors don’t succeed right away. Actually, make that most people. It’s not easy and gardening takes a bit of practice, just like anything else. This is true whether gardening outdoors or indoors. You will make some mistakes and you will kill some plants. And even if your plants survive, that doesn’t mean they’re going to yield you the kind of fruits you want. You need to learn by doing.

And that’s what John did. He read articles you can find for free online and taught himself how to garden. He made those mistakes during the first few grow cycles, but once those were ironed out, he started seeing the fruits of his labor. Literally. His plans fruited and gave him the vegetables he wanted. He still supplemented them with food he bought at the store, but eventually he was growing enough that he could live off them entirely.

organic home grown tomatoes

Tomatoes grown indoors under grow lights

He even got to the point where he would sell some of his extra produce to his neighbors. Today, he has actually made back all of the money he put into his little garden, in terms of equipment costs and electricity costs to keep the lights running.

So what’s my point? My point is, be like John. If you find yourself eating crappy food, because you think you can’t afford to buy vegetables, just start buying those vegetables and save money elsewhere. Cut back on that coffee or the cigarettes or something. There’s always something you can cut out of your life to make room for something better.

home grown vegetable basket

Basket of vegetables grown in John’s indoor garden

Then put a little bit of money into setting up your garden. It doesn’t have to cost much to start. All the equipment can be had fairly cheaply and you quickly make your costs back in terms of savings from not having to buy anything from the store and you may make even more money by selling your excess produce. Everyone one loves home-grown tomatoes!

And you can make your own drinks too. Use your fruits and vegetables to make smoothies or brew tea leaves you have grown yourself in your own garden and brew them in your ceramic mug with infuser for the road. You can grow your own coffee as well.

More importantly, you and your family will be much healthier. Not only will you be healthier, you also save money and, maybe more importantly, you will enjoy fruits and herbs like you’ve never tasted before. Seriously, when you grow them yourself and eat them fresh from the vine, they taste so much better than they do when you buy them in the store.

Plus, you know exactly what’s on them. You know there are no pesticides or other harmful chemicals. You’ll be healthier and feel better all around. You will save money. You will even be the envy of your friends. And if you’re like John, you can earn even more money by teaching others to do what you’ve just done. You lost a few grows because you had to learn what to do, but now you can teach others so they don’t have to lose those first few grow cycles. And they pay you for your expertise. You make even more money. What you have to lose? Get started!

community gardening two gardeners and a plant

Community Gardening Is The Food Source of the Future

April 21, 2016

Here at growing food, growing community, we advocate making your own food. Not only do you save a lot of money over buying your groceries in a store, you also know exactly what you put on them. You know there are no pesticides, unless you use them of course, or any other chemicals on your food. You can rest assured that you and your family are not being poisoned.

community gardening two gardeners and a plant

Gardening together as a community

Also, most people will agree that the vegetables, fruits and herbs you raise yourself simply taste much better than the ones you buy in a store.Not jst the vegetables. The tea too. I always take my ceramic lidded travel mug with me wherever I go and these days, it is filled with tea leaves that I have grown myself.

That takes care of the growing food part of the equation, but what about the growing community part? Well, not only do we advocate growing your own food, we advocate growing food for the whole community. There is even an association dedicated to this.

Perhaps your family grows potatoes and corn. Another family will grow apples and something else. A third family will grow yet other things. This way, everybody gets everything they need.

It would be impossible for each family to grow all the fruits, vegetables and herbs they consume. But if everyone grows a few things only, and grows them well, and then shares amongst each other, it works. You could even exchange the foods for money, in which case you would basically have a community-wide farmers garden.

Easier though, is putting all the food together and rationing it out amongst the families, at least the ones who want each individual item of food. Learn much more about community gardens if you’re interested.

community garden outdoors in small town

A small town community garden

One of the biggest participants in this would be the local schools. Not only can they grow a huge portion of the town’s food supply, since they have a lot of students to use as labor, the process of planting their own food is also a great educational tool for the students. Knowing where food comes from is important, especially in today’s convenience- based society.

It is also important for students to see the benefits of growing their own food, and more than that, growing it organically. They need to see that there are alternatives to supermarket food. More importantly, they need to see that there are alternatives to the overly processed food sold so heavily in our supermarkets today.

What does your community currently do? Does it have any kind of growing programs like this? Do the local schools teach students about organic gardening? A lot of schools say they don’t have the land to do this and they might be right. I say use some of the land appropriated for the various sports as a garden. Sports are completely unimportant, but learning how to sustain ourselves on this overpopulated planet is vital.

Even if there is no space outdoors, there are always going to be unused rooms at schools. And if not at schools, somewhere in the community there will be plenty of unused indoor space. Why not grow your food indoors in an indoor garden? You can use a hydroponic system or a regular soil system, but growing food indoors saves a lot of space and it means you can grow year-round.

Yes, you’ll need to spend money on grow lights and, if you choose to go with the modern LED grow lights, this can be a bit expensive. But you do save money in the long run over HPS grow lights, since the LED ones use far less electricity. Fluorescent lights are another option but only if you have a small garden and if you’re growing for the whole community you probably don’t.

And this is not just for schools. Even for individual families, we also recommend growing indoors. You can grow larger plants outdoors and then move the small plants indoors. Grow your herbs in your indoor garden and maybe some smaller vegetables as well.

If few want to get a program this this started in your community, but don’t know how to begin, get in touch with us. Or get in touch with your local gardening group. Either they or we will be very happy to help you set up a program like this. We also found this helpful checklist for getting a gardening program going in your local community.

We know how important it is to the survival of the human race and each community that does their own gardening like this gets us one step closer to saving our planet. Grow your own food, grow it indoors, grow it outdoors, grow it wherever, just grow it. Stop buying it.