#DIY Simple (Organic) Gardens – Joys and Failures

The joys and education of failure from planting gardens, and trying a vertical garden. Not everything goes as planned, but learning how to adapt for a simple garden is education.

It’s pretty late in the growing season to start planting, so I’ll skip the how to’s of starting your garden and share my experiences this year.

Vertical gardening was my experiment. I failed, however of successfully growing anything.
Vertical gardening was my experiment. I failed, however of successfully growing anything.

I really wanted to try vertical gardening using pallets…plants that grow up instead on the ground. I tried a couple different techniques, neither that worked however. The only technique that worked was using a small pallet as a support for a plant that doesn’t actually have a vine – yellow squash!

Gardening with pallets. Strawberries worked well until I put it in a vertical position.
Gardening with pallets. Strawberries worked well until I put it in a vertical position.

Last year I had mostly container veggies and used a great organic soil by Butterfield Farms in Michigan; however, I couldn’t find the same soil this year and had to opt for another brand. That soil that was supposedly “organic” and was a total flop for all my vegetables and flowers alike. It was very sandy and didn’t retain any moisture in the pots (or the pallet). I had to ultimately replant the ones I wanted to save. I call this “garden failure education.” It didn’t work, but I learned from it.

This year I also wanted to try canning, so I wanted to grow a vegetable that I eat frequently and could preserve. I got the jist of freezing, so that is my alternative to canning. I made a list of vegetables I eat often, looked up my garden zone and prepped my garden area about a month prior to planting. Vegetables this year:

  • Roma Tomatoes

  • Yellow Reduced Acid Tomatoes

  • Yellow Squash

  • Zucchini, and

  • Bell Peppers

4 out of 5 plants are doing well and are producing a sizable yield.

Caring for the Garden

I had issues with worms and something else eating the leaves off my peppers and tomato plants last year. This year, I didn’t plant anything that would invite the moth worms back; however, still had problems with that other invisible insert. I asked a couple other of my garden neighbors what they used – Seven, which I thought was safe for animals and humans. It did deter the invisible leaf munchers, but I broke out in a rash every time I used it (a powder). Thankfully, it rained often enough to keep the pests away for awhile.

#DIY: Growing (Organic) Gardens and Canning Month

Putting forth the effort into a garden and reaping the rewards through canning.

Dear Readers –

This month is all about DIY gardening and canning. This is my second year of experimenting with a small garden. Last year, I was able to reap the leftovers of my neighbors’ gardens, but I missed my lesson on canning. However, this year, I’m prepared with canning jars, lids, and two ladies who volunteered to help me!

I hope you are looking forward to simple garden ideas, growing and harvesting your own garden as well as how to preserve your toils of the earth. We’ll also be including a couple other DIY recipes to save you money throughout the year – not just summer – things I have tried and actually work.

So let’s get started….

Simple organic garden Bell peppers were planted at the end of May.

Review: Vinegar Uses as #DIY Home Cleansers and More

I like to save money and use less chemicals in my home, so I have tried several of the suggested vinegar uses. Here are my reviews on ways to use vinegar in your home for cleaning and more.

I’m sure you have heard or seen posts on Facebook or Pinterest about the many uses of vinegar – 11, 20, 31, 50 or 101 – but does it really work as a home cleanser? What are the benefits of using distilled vinegar vs. store bought cleaners?

vinegar-usesVinegar really does have many uses and due to high acidity, it is effective to kill many bacteria, mold, mildew and germs. It is safe for the environment, does not harm plumbing, does not leave stains or harm most non-porous surfaces, so it’s safe to use around children and pets.

I like to save money and use less chemicals in my home, so I have tried several of the suggested vinegar uses. Here are my reviews on ways to use vinegar in your home for cleaning and more.

  1. Household Disinfectant – Works just as good as a general purpose cleaner. No harsh scent or residue. I dilute with water and put in a clearly marked spray bottle for frequent use. Kills most bacteria, mold, mildew and germs that cause allergies and illness.
    Uses: Bathroom and kitchen surfaces, inside trashcans and refrigerators, sinks, and any non-porous surface.
  2. Extend freshness of fruits and vegetables – Best way to keep fruit and veggies from spoiling.  Put equal amounts of water and distilled vinegar in a small spray bottle. Spray once and they will last several days longer and sometimes up to a week before the skin starts to wrinkle. You do not have to refrigerate many fruits and vegetables to keep them fresher longer. I have a couple large flat bottom baskets that I leave on the kitchen counter or table with the fresh produce.
    Uses:  Instead of washing fresh fruits and vegetables before eating, spray it with the diluted solution and it’s safe to eat. Especially good for soft edible skin produce such as tomatoes, oranges, apples, eggplant, cucumbers, and green peppers.
  3. Removes coffee/tea stains – Combine with salt for stubborn stains and a little elbow power and you’ll have a safer cleanser than bleach in a can. Use full strength for stubborn stains, let it sit for awhile (an hour or overnight), scrub, rinse and you’re done!
    Uses: I use on my stainless steel coffee pot, and plastic or glass iced tea containers as well as stained coffee mugs. (No, it won’t taste like vinegar.)
  4. Removes lime buildup – Yes, it does work on lime scale buildup on shower heads and tiled bathroom/kitchen walls. Remove your shower head and put in a container (bowl or bucket, depending on the size). Add enough full strength vinegar to cover water inlets. Allow to soak for several hours or overnight, and rinse in fresh water. You’ll see an improvement with your shower stream!
    Uses: Removable shower heads or tiled walls. For stubborn buildup on walls, make a paste with salt and vinegar and scrub walls. Rinse clean and dry.
  5. Carpet Stains – Have pet or food stains on your carpets? Use vinegar and baking soda (yes, together!). Remove as much as the substance as you can by blotting the stain (never rubbing or scrubbing). Sprinkle baking soda over the stain and spray or cover with vinegar. It will bubble and foam, do not stand directly over the stain until the foam settles. Cover with a plate and allow to sit overnight. Remove plate and vacuum up remaining residue. Poof! Stain disappears!
    Uses: This works on old stains too, however, you may need to repeat the process a couple times to remove the stain. This method is so much less cumbersome than using a store-rented carpet shampooer and much less expensive than having your carpets cleaned.

I’ll add more as I try them, but I love the many uses of white vinegar instead of using toxic commercial household cleaners.

What have been your experiences using vinegar? We’d love to hear your stories!

Pros and Cons of Living Off the Grid


Many people have romantic notions about what it means to live off of the power grid. Here are a few pros and cons for alternative living.

Living Off Of The Grid Pros

1. No building codes. Building codes are based on decision by a community’s government  protect the health and safety of people from the environment. However, problems  arise when the building codes interfere with the rights of individual citizens.

The government may not be as concerned about the effects of construction on the planet’s environment. If building codes aren’t an issue, a greener, more frugal, experimental housing plan
may be used. And no building codes mean you  are free to use your land to raise animals and to grow a garden.

2. No dependency on the power grid. If the power goes out in a city, the citizens are at the mercy of repair crews. However, living off of the grid (as in power grid) may use alternative energy sources, such as solar and wind energy, and often can be accomplished as a DIY project. Thus reducing your dependency on the frail power grid.

You may say, “Sign me up for that!” But what are you really agreeing to?

Living Off Of The Grid Cons

1. Sewage regulations. Even in areas without building codes, you’ll probably run into sewage regulations. Allowable off grid options include septic tanks with buried leach fields and open-­air lagoon pits. Composting toilets are acceptable in many regions. Personal septic systems require ongoing maintenance and inspections to keep them functioning correctly.

Going off­ grid can be an expensive proposition if you try to replace all the modern amenities (running water, flushable toilets, washer/dryer) and most people prefer their amenities.

2. Clean water source. A site with a reliable water supply is essential to off ­grid living, and prospective landowners. If you’re buying land, you’ll still need a reliable water source. Can a stipulation to include the use of potable water?

3. Property taxes. I don’t know of any vicinity that doesn’t collect property taxes, unless you rent the land from someone else. Make sure you know what the property taxes are and the permits necessary to build a home, if that is permissible.

Consider this, will you have the legal right to use any existing roads, paths or waterways to reach your land? If you do not have access to water or road ways, then consider another plot of land.

Is living off the grid for you? What could you live with or without? Could you sacrifice those
things you take for granted everyday such as running water, electricity for all your electronics,
electric lights?

We want to hear your comments below!

What is Living Off the Grid?

Living off the grid is defined as having a home that could conceivably survive in the event that our civilization collapses. This may sound a bit apocalyptic, but it’s not just conspiracy theorists who choose homesteading as a way of life.

Cam and Heather Mather live off the grid in Ontario, CA on Sunflower Farm. Courtesy of MotherEarthNews.com

Many people are interested in “living off the grid” or homesteading as a greener way of life. Homesteading is broadly defined as a lifestyle of self­-sufficiency.

It may include any of the following:

  • Hobby farming,

  • Home preservation of foodstuffs,

  • Small scale production of textiles or clothing, and

  • Craft work for household use or sale.

Living off the grid is defined as having a home that could conceivably survive in the event that our civilization collapses. This may sound a bit apocalyptic, but it’s not just conspiracy theorists who choose homesteading as a way of life.

Who would choose to live off the grid?

  • Environmentalists,

  • Farmers,

  • Those with an independent mindset and

  • Other people who want to have a simple lifestyle.

Living off the grid means having a home that does not rely on public utilities. This sounds like an attractive option to people who love to homestead or do not want to rely on the high cost of gas and electricity.  It is a choice to reduce energy consumption and live in a more natural setting.

Where could one live off the grid?

The most likely places to live off the grid are homes in the country due to fewer zoning laws and more space. A plot of land is needed that can conceivably allow for alternative wind and solar energy. You may need to purchase a home unless a home is inherited or you buy a more affordable and portable living space (mobile home or shipping container home).

People who are most likely to live well off the grid don’t mind hard work and sacrifice. Homesteading requires a spirit of independence.  Also, commitment to lifelong learning is essential.  One day you are fixing your power source, the next day the plumbing, another day might include tending to a sick animal. A willingness to learn as you go is needed unless money is no object.

Why would you want to live off the grid?

For many, living off the grid is a sustainable way of life. It is their own, personal commitment to a greener way of life.  When solar and wind energy are used, it decreases the dependence on fossil fuels and reduces your carbon footprint.

A lot of people love the idea of the challenges that living off the grid offers.  Every day there’s something new to learn:

  • How to grow a garden,

  • How to preserve food,

  • How to care for livestock,

  • How to generate and store energy, water, heat, etc.

Many people grow enough of their own food and rarely go to a grocery store.

For many people, homesteading is a good way to be friendly to the environment and it’s a relief not to rely on overworked utility companies to meet their needs.

But it’s not for everyone.

In the next article, I’ll explain the pros and cons of living off the grid.

Home Canning: Better Quality Food on a Budget


Home canning is experiencing a resurgence as an increasing amount of people want to know what’s in their food and want to be good stewards of the environment, but they are on a budget. If you are interested, there is an initial investment (to buy jars, lids, canner, etc) and time too, then home canning just might be for you.

Everything in home canning is reusable, except the food and the lids.  This helps the environment since there is less waste for landfills. The practical benefit is that after the initial investment, you’ll save more by spending less on canning supplies in the future.

What Canning Supplies Do I Need?

Jars: The jars you can get at little or no cost.  I found my canning jars from my mother-in-law who rarely uses them.  There may be someone close to you that would love to give you the canning jars from their basement, maybe even give you some tips.  Try buying jars at thrift stores, garage sales, and flea markets for even less than retail.

Bands and Lids: In retail stores, the bands and lids are about $12 for a twelve pack (depending on the jar size). The lids themselves are around $6 for twelve.

Canner: The biggest investment is the canner, which is around $20 – ­$100 depending if you want a boiling water bath canner or a pressure canner.  If you just want to can high acid foods like tomatoes, jams, and jellies, then a boiling water bath canner is for you.  However, I would suggest the pressure canner because you can preserve both high and low acid foods as it doubles as a boiling water bath canner.  I know this is expensive; however, they are made to last several lifetimes and you can always buy it on layaway.

Miscellaneous: You will also need the Ball Blue Book or Putting Food By ($6­ – $14) and a basic canning utensil kit ($8­ – $12).  All of the mentioned canning paraphernalia will last quite a few years if you take care of them properly.


I’ll be writing more how-to’s of home canning as well as other homesteading articles! What are your experiences with canning food?

Welcome New Blogger, Kelly!


It’s been a work in progress, but I’ve hired one new blogger to keep this site updated monthly.

Please give a warm welcome to Kelly! We met many years ago in high school and we were reunited about a year ago when I relocated to my hometown. I’m soo excited to have her on board as a writer, friend and greener living advocate.

Kelly has dabbled in freelance writing, but nothing as exciting as Just About Greener Living. Her passions include baking her own bread and making food from scratch without additives or preservatives. “Passionate about using Scratch Cooking as a way to be healthier and healthier for the planet too,” Kelly says.

If she won the lottery, “I’d give everyone in my family professional mixers because they’ve been my most useful kitchen tool.”

Kelly is a true angel of the heart, she enjoys helping people out in any way she can whether it’s cooking a meal or donating some of her own canned food to just lending an ear.

A Random Act of Kindness Kelly likes is, “giving strangers a compliment to make their day.”

Look for blogs about her experiences and love of cooking, canning and other homesteading topics.

Got a question about the above topics for Kelly? Email kpelton@greenerlivingblog.com

Welcome to the Just About Greener Living family and advocating a healthier lifestyle for the planet!

Earth Day 2014 Celebrates 44 Years!


One of my favorite un-holidays of the year. Besides St. Patrick’s Day, this is the best green-wearing day. Recognizing all the many ways to celebrate the Earth.

A few notable websites and initiatives that have encouraged me to become even more eco-friendly are:

Earth Day Network – a worldwide initiative in 192 countries taking action to protect our planet. Schools, organizations, and individuals pledge their green acts of kindness. Buy Earth Day T-shirts, evaluate your Ecological footprint, and so much more.

I took the Ecological footprint quiz – my results based on questions such as my grocery buying habits (buy produce vs. packaged goods, local vs. regional), living accommodations, travel/commuting, recycling, etc. My footprint is: According to my lifestyle, if everyone lived like me, we’d need 3.6 Earths to provide enough resources (ouch!) To support my lifestyle, it takes 15.9 global acres of the Earth’s productive area (16.1 tons of carbon dioxide) – btw – I do not a consume meat or dairy frequently either. What can I do to reduce my footprint? Travel by airplane less, take a local vacation (I usually do), reduce amount of animal products by ½ that I eat, and most importantly, purchase products that use less packaging or were made out of 100% post-consumer recycled content. – Take the quiz, what’s your footprint say about your lifestyle?

Earth Hour – A call for action against climate change held annually on or around March 27. Participants turn off their lights for 1 hour. I’ve seen many businesses do this as well. Put it on your calendar for next year and spread the word.

Earth911 – An invaluable resource for finding what is recyclable and where to recycle your items as well as articles on reusing items and news.

Green Living Tips – A blog resource for many green and eco friendly news, how to’s, simple living, impact of sustainable living and more. This was one of the blogs that encouraged me to get this site live on the web-o-sphere! (Thank you!)

Shipping Container Homes – I don’t remember where or when I first saw my first one, but this is my passion now – to self-finance and build a shipping container home. One of the most eco friendly and affordable homes to build. You’ll be seeing more of these in the next few years in the U. S., I’m sure! I have a huge Pinterest board filled with shipping container images, exterior and interior designs. Find and follow me on Pinterest.

Earth Day News Articles and Information

This year marks the 44th anniversary of celebrating Earth Day in the U.S. Read about the first Earth Day celebration and how it has become a worldwide event, activities for teachers and students, and more!

Earth Day 2014: How It Became a Global Environmental Event – National Geographic

What is Earth Day 2014? – The Old Farmer’s Almanac

Earth Day Activities – Scholastic

Earth Day Freebies – WRAL

How are you contributing to reduce your global footprint? Preserve the Earth’s resources? Reduce waste or other contributions for the Earth this year? Share your activities here!

Worm Composting: Preparing the Worm Bin

How do you recycle your food waste? Or do you?

If you’ve been sending your veggie scraps, leftover spaghetti and moldy food to the garbage disposal, there’s another option – a worm bin or worm compost.

Worm bins do not smell (as long as you maintain it properly), can reduce your garbage by as much as 20 percent and the fertilizer produced is purely organic, which is great for indoor and outdoor plants.

You can buy a worm composter on Amazon, your local home improvement store or make one yourself from plastic totes. The retail version usually comes with 3 composting bins, and a bottom collection bin for excess  moisture. The bottom bin has a spigot, so you can use the fertilized water or “worm tea” to water your plants. This organic liquid is much better than those that you buy at home improvement stores because you know there isn’t any other chemicals in it, and your plants know too.

The retail version also contains a “starter kit” complete with fibrous bedding (shredded newsprint), core (shredded coconut husks), pumice stone, and detailed instructions how to initially setup your worm bin along with helpful hints to maintain it. The worms must be purchased separately. I highly suggest you purchase the worms from a reputable and local resource. I live in Ohio, so I bought mine from Uncle Jim’s Worm Farm in Michigan. Worms arrive LIVE and within a day or two after you order them, DO NOT allow them to sit outside; otherwise, you might have dead worms! These are NOT earthworms, they are RED WRIGGLERS, a smaller breed that help break down your food scraps. Start small, you do not need 3000 worms if you’re just beginning a worm bin. They will MULTIPLY quickly!

Tips before you order your worms:

  • Setup your worm bin first – follow the steps below or the directions included with the worm bin. You may use the worm bin indoors (I have mine in the kitchen) such as in the basement or an attached garage or outdoors if your climate remains temperate year-round. Worms need a consistent temperature between 50 and about 75 degrees (you don’t want them to freeze or burn or become too dry).
  • Be ready to “feed” the worms upon arrival. Worms need about 1/4 pound of food per day to be effective (but less initially when introduced to a new environment).
  • Make sure you are home when the worms are due to arrive.
  • Although instructions say you can add cereal boxes and paper towel rolls to the worm bin, I discovered this is not a good practice if you have the worm bin indoors. Evidently tiny worms are in the cardboard, and you’ll produce gnats if you add the cardboard to the bin (yuck!).

Preparing the first worm bin for the red wrigglers:

1. Layer 1: Soak layers of newspaper (printed is fine, better to use the black and white print rather than the color inserts for the first bin. Squeeze out excess water and lay this in the bottom of the bin (with the holes).

2. Add a mixture of core (included with your worm bin, it’s coconut husk), pumice stone (also included with your worm bin), and either soil, leaves (from yard, but without chemicals) strips of moist newspaper or eggshells. I used paper from my shredder soaked in water for moisture, and egg shells. Worms need moisture to decompose food through their skin because they have no mouths. Note: If you’re adding another bin, you’ll want to leave the holes accessible so they can move upward to the next layer of food and bedding. So omit the layer of newspaper at the bottom.

The first layer, a mixture of core, pumice stone and shredded paper (moistened). Enough to cover the bottom of the bin.

3. After the bedding is a layer of food. Note: Do not add food until your worms arrive; otherwise, you’ll have bugs flying around! I used some leftover pasta with cabbage and carrots from the frig. It’s best to use food that has been refrigerated or frozen (but defrost first) to reduce infestations of insects that live on the skins of fresh veggies and fruit. Keep the food in a thin layer and put in a different section of the bin.

worm bin composting
Add a layer of food on top of the bedding.

4. Add another layer of moist newsprint, enough to completely cover the inside of the bin. It’s okay for the layers to overlap. Worms do not like light, so they will burrow under the top layer of newspaper. Worms also use the newspaper as food if other food has been decomposed. Hence, worms can survive in this environment for weeks without your food scraps.

Layer soaked newspaper on top of food scraps.
Completely cover the inside of the worm bin with moist newspaper.

Put the lid over the newspaper layer. Now you’re ready to order your worms.

5. Add worms: When your worms arrive, read the instructions for adding them to their new environment. You’ll want to “peel back” the soaked top layer of the newsprint and add the worms here. Cover the worms with the newsprint again and allow them to adapt to their new environment for a couple days undisturbed.

What questions do you have about composting with worms? Ask them below!

Ringing in the New Year with Healthy Food Remedies

Happy 2014! It’s been awhile since I’ve posted here, but I’ve been working on other endeavors. This year, you’ll see more posts about homesteading, eco-living, and healthy mind, body & spirit articles.

Here are some foods that have natural antibiotic properties that help ward off colds and more.

Garlic: Antibacterial properties make it useful for treating and preventing colds, athlete’s foot and other infectious problems. Scientists attribute garlic’s powers to a sulfur compound called allicin, which it releases when cut or crushed. Because cooking changes and deteriorates this compound, eating raw garlic is the best way to derive the healing qualities from this antibacterial food.
Tip: Try chopping garlic, let it set for a few minutes, and put it on crackers or toast to get the most prevention.

Honey: Use as an antibacterial salve like treating cuts and wounds. Researchers at the Academic Medical Center in Amsterdam recently discovered that bees add a protein to honey from their immune systems that gives honey its antibacterial quality. Honey also produces an enzyme that in turn produces hydrogen peroxide, which prohibits the growth of bacteria.
Tip: Mix honey and cinnamon, take a teaspoon every morning. Add to oatmeal, pancakes, and tea as well.

Cranberries: Well-known for their ability to help prevent and treat bladder infections, in part because of their antibacterial properties. Cranberries prevent bacteria from latching onto the walls of the bladder and urinary tract by altering bacteria such as E. coli—responsible for illnesses such as kidney infections and the flu—to prevent them from forming the biofilm necessary for an infection to develop.
Tip: Buy fresh cranberries in the store, usually around November, and freeze them. Frozen cranberries are good for 1 year. Make your own cranberry sauce using sugar or honey and whole cranberries.

Tumeric: Essential oils contain a wealth of antibiotic molecules, making this antibacterial food useful for treating topical cuts and wounds. Turmeric is also often taken in Ayurvedic medicine to prevent and treat colds and other internal infections.

Oregano: Essential oils in oregano lend this herb antibacterial powers that have been shown to inhibit even salmonella and E. coli bacteria. Oregano oil is also useful at boosting immunity,  preventing and treating common colds. Because oregano’s antibacterial powers are found in its oil, an oregano oil supplement is better than the dried version.

Peppermint: commonly used in toothpaste, mouthwash and other oral hygiene products—and for good reason, too. Peppermint oil has antibacterial powers that help to kill bad breath-causing bacteria in the mouth.
Tip: Eat a peppermint after meals, it will settle your stomach and freshen your breath!

Basil: Thanks to its volatile oils, this flavorful antibacterial herb can inhibit bacteria growth. Studies have shown that basil can restrict the growth of E. coli, Listeria monocytogenes and Staphylococcus bacteria, as well as inhibit growth in strains of bacteria that have become resistant to antibiotics.
Tip: Use raw/fresh basil to get the most use from it. Basil is also easy to grow in pots or in gardens. Snip the leaves regularly, and it will multiply quickly throughout the season. Add to pizza, soups, salads and more.

Note: Above content is credited to: Susan Melgren from a Jan 18, 2012 article originally posted on Mother Earth Living.