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Six Ideas That Allow Gardeners To Think Big

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What do you do when your garden gets, well, enormous? You could do what my friend Robin Jeffries did, which was to buy his neighbour’s house, which he did just so he could till and garden in their backyard, as well as his own. He was kind of a gardening nut back then and he still is.

Of course, the most common complaint for folks whose gardens have grown beyond their means is the simple notion of wishing they had planned things better. With some graph paper, a stub of a pencil and a tiller, gardners know that nothing short of a shade tree is permanent in a garden. And even the shade tree can go if it must.

Step one, then, for gardeners is to plan very thoroughly if you know your garden is destined to grow to becoming a major concern.

I say “major concern,” because a large garden isn’t always dictated by size. Mr. Jeffries, mentioned above, lived in a downtown lot with small houses and fairly small yards – 1,000 square feet or so. He had dozens of small niches in his gardens, whereas I had eight perennial beds at the time and my mistake was that each of them was enormous – a row of irises, for example, that stretched for 40 yards or so.

Still, every garden defined as large shares similar problems, which is that there is too much to do for the time you have to do it in. With that in mind, here are some thoughts:

Planning

The first step is to design and plan your garden(s). This does not always mean plot every border bed on paper, but at least have a concept that you like. A very simple concept, for example, is a path. Layout the path and the garden spaces will naturally fall into place. Or you might want to fill a space from the height of a crabapple tree down to the ground with a colourful landscape. Simple designs are all most gardeners need.

Design with equipment in mind

Novices designing a garden tend to quickly sketch in the plants they love and the colours they are hoping to raise. But old veterans also design gardens around the equipment they own. This will save tons of time down the road.

If you are the type that will buy John Deere riding mowers, then plan your pathways to fit the width of the mower’s swath with extra space to account for the flying shards of grass the mower spits out. With that in mind, in tight spots, leave some room for a grass-catcher, so the sharp wind coming from the mower does not mangle some of your delicate plants and so the cut grass isn’t spewed into your garden bed.

The same consideration goes for tillers and cultivators. If you plant in straight rows, it makes it easier for a cultivator to run though the beds. Provide some space for weed-whackers, too. Otherwise, if you plant too close to the yard, you might accidentally whack away at your precious perennials.

Try Native Varieties

Remember, native varieties are considered exotic as soon as you move them somewhere else. But the pleasure in using native plants for your garden is they take that much less care than trying to nurture non-native plants.

Your local habitat should have just the right conditions much of the time for native species. That means less watering, less time covering plants for a harsh winter and less time working the soil until it matches that plant’s needs.

Weeding

The truth is that weeding is often the No. 1 reason gardens fail. The weeding is so time consuming and the constant, repetitive work so tedious or tiring, that many people give up on their small gardens, let alone a large one.

For a large garden, you don’t just pull weeds, you manage them. For the most part, this means mulch, then more mulch, then even more mulch.

One of my favourite gardeners covers her annual beds in about six inches of sawdust every year. Of course, this wrecks havoc on the soil’s PH. So, every fall, she tills in the sawdust with a healthy heaping of manure and lime. This re-balances her soil. The next spring, she is left with thick beds of pure loam and how much weeding does she do? Almost none.

Perennial beds can also handle tons of mulch, which also traps water, so it cuts down on watering time. For perennials, however, use mulch that doesn’t break down as quickly as sawdust, such as wood chips or bark.

Disease resistance and organic solutions

Remember, your enemy when it comes to large gardens is not only rabbits and insects; it’s time.

Any time saver can help you maintain a large garden and give you a few moments to actually enjoy it once in a while. With that in mind, disease resistant strains can save you valuable time (and money) you might spend replacing them or applying poisons to rid yourself of some gnarly predators.

Organic solutions also save time. Planting marigolds, for example, not only gives you an enjoyable, insect-resistant flower, but it can form a protective wall that discourages insects from invading neighbouring species.

 

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Two Ancient Japanese Philosophies Are the Future of Eco-Living

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Eco-Living
Shutterstock Photos - By Syda Productions | https://www.shutterstock.com/g/dolgachov

Our obsession with all things new has blighted the planet. We have a waste crisis, particularly when it comes to plastic. US scientists have calculated the total amount of plastic ever made – 8.3 billion tons! Unfortunately, only 9% of this is estimated to have been recycled. And current global trends point to there being 12 billion tons of plastic waste by 2050.

However, two ancient Japanese philosophies are providing an antidote to the excesses of modern life. By emphasizing the elimination of waste and the acceptance of the old and imperfect, the concepts of Mottainai and Wabi-Sabi have positively influenced Japanese life for centuries.

They are now making their way into the consciousness of the Western mainstream, with an increasing influence in the UK and US. By encouraging us to be frugal with our possessions, (i.e. using natural materials for interior design) these concepts can be the future of eco-living.

What is Wabi-Sabi and Mottainai??

Wabi-Sabi emphasizes an acceptance of transience and imperfection. Although Wabi had the original meaning of sad and lonely, it has come to describe those that are simple, unmaterialistic and at one with nature. The term Sabi is defined as the “the bloom of time”, and has evolved into a new meaning: taking pleasure and seeing beauty in things that are old and faded. 

Any flaws in objects, like cracks or marks, are cherished because they illustrate the passage of time. Wear and tear is seen as a representation of their loving use. This makes it intrinsically linked to Wabi, due to its emphasis on simplicity and rejection of materialism.

In the West, Wabi-Sabi has infiltrated many elements of daily life, from cuisine to interior design. Specialist Japanese homeware companies, like Sansho, source handmade products that embody the Wabi-Sabi philosophy. Their products, largely made from natural materials, are handcrafted by traditional Japanese artisans – meaning no two pieces are the same and no two pieces are “perfect” in size or shape.

Mottainai

Mottainai is a term expressing a feeling of regret concerning waste, translating roughly in English to either “what a waste!” or “Don’t waste!”. The philosophy emphasizes the intrinsic value of a resource or object, and is linked to hinto animism, the notion that all objects have a spirit, or ‘kami’. The idea that we are part of nature is a key part of Japanese psychology.

Mottainai also has origins in Buddhist philosophy. The Buddhist monastic tradition emphasizes a life of frugality, to allow us to concentrate on attaining enlightenment. It is from this move towards frugality that a link to Mottainai as a concept of waste can be made.

How have Wabi-Sabi and Mottainai promoted eco living?

Wabi-Sabi is still a prominent feature of Japanese life today, and has remained instrumental in the way people design their homes. The ideas of imperfection and frugality are hugely influential.

For example, instead of buying a brand-new kitchen table, many Japanese people instead retain a table that has been passed through the generations. Although its long use can be seen by various marks and scratches, Wabi-Sabi has taught people that they should value it because of its imperfect nature. Those scratches and marks are a story and signify the passage of time. This is a far cry from what we typically associate with the Western World.

Like Wabi Sabi, Mottainai is manifested throughout Japanese life, creating a great respect for Japanese resources. This has had a major impact on home design. For example, the Japanese prefer natural materials in their homes, such as using soil and dried grass as thermal insulation.

Their influence in the UK

The UK appears to be increasingly influenced by thes two concepts. Some new reports indicate that Wabi Sabi has been labelled as ‘the trend of 2018’. For example, Japanese ofuro baths inspired the project that won the New London Architecture’s 2017 Don’t Move, Improve award. Ofuro baths are smaller than typical baths, use less water, and are usually made out of natural materials, like hinoki wood.

Many other UK properties have also been influenced by these philosophies, such as natural Kebony wood being applied to the external cladding of a Victorian property in Hampstead; or a house in Lancaster Gate using rice paper partitions as sub-dividers. These examples embody the spirit of both philosophies. They are representative of Mottainai because of their use of natural resources to discourage waste. And they’re reflective of Wabi-Sabi because they accept imperfect materials that have not been engineered or modified.

In a world that is plagued by mass over-consumption and an incessant need for novelty, the ancient concepts of Mottainai and Wabi-Sabi provide a blueprint for living a more sustainable life. They help us to reduce consumption and put less of a strain on the planet. This refreshing mindset can help us transform the way we go about our day to day lives.

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Environment

How to be More eco-Responsible in 2018

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eco-responsible
Shutterstock / By KENG MERRY Paper Art | https://www.shutterstock.com/g/kengmerrymikeymelody

Nowadays, more and more people are talking about being more eco-responsible. There is a constant growth of information regarding the importance of being aware of ecological issues and the methods of using eco-friendly necessities on daily basis.

Have you been considering becoming more eco-responsible after the New Year? If so, here are some useful tips that could help you make the difference in the following year:

1. Energy – produce it, save it

If you’re building a house or planning to expand your living space, think before deciding on the final square footage. Maybe you don’t really need that much space. Unnecessary square footage will force you to spend more building materials, but it will also result in having to use extra heating, air-conditioning, and electricity in it.

It’s even better if you seek professional help to reduce energy consumption. An energy audit can provide you some great piece of advice on how to save on your energy bills.

While buying appliances such as a refrigerator or a dishwasher, make sure they have “Energy Star” label on, as it means they are energy-efficient.

energy efficient

Shutterstock Licensed Photo – By My Life Graphic

Regarding the production of energy, you can power your home with renewable energy. The most common way is to install rooftop solar panels. They can be used for producing electricity, as well as heat for the house. If powering the whole home is a big step for you, try with solar oven then – they trap the sunlight in order to heat food! Solar air conditioning is another interesting thing to try out – instead of providing you with heat, it cools your house!

2. Don’t be just another tourist

Think about the environment, as well your own enjoyment – try not to travel too far, as most forms of transport contribute to the climate change. Choose the most environmentally friendly means of transport that you can, as well as environmentally friendly accommodation. If you can go to a destination that is being recommended as an eco-travel destination – even better! Interesting countries such as Zambia, Vietnam or Nicaragua are among these destinations that are famous for its sustainability efforts.

3. Let your beauty be also eco-friendly

eco-friendly

Shutterstock / By Khakimullin Aleksandr

We all want to look beautiful. Unfortunately, sometimes (or very often) it comes with a price. Cruelty-free cosmetics are making its way on the world market but be careful with the labels – just because it says a product hasn’t been tested on animals, it doesn’t  mean that some of the product’s ingredients haven’t been tested on some poor animal.

To be sure which companies definitely stay away from the cruel testing on animals, check PETA Bunny list of cosmetic companies just to make sure which ones are truly and completely cruelty-free.

It’s also important if a brand uses toxic ingredients. Brands such as Tata Harper Skincare or Dr Bronner’s use only organic ingredients and biodegradable packaging, as well as being cruelty-free. Of course, this list is longer, so you’ll have to do some online research.

4. Know thy recycling

People often make mistakes while wanting to do something good for the environment. For example, plastic grocery bags, take-out containers, paper coffee cups and shredded paper cannot be recycled in your curb for many reasons, so don’t throw them into recycling bins. The same applies to pizza boxes, household glass, ceramics, and pottery – whether they are contaminated by grease or difficult to recycle, they just can’t go through the usual recycling process.

People usually forget to do is to rinse plastic and metal containers – they always have some residue, so be thorough. Also, bottle caps are allowed, too, so don’t separate them from the bottles. However, yard waste isn’t recyclable, so any yard waste or junk you are unsure of – just contact rubbish removal services instead of piling it up in public containers or in your own yard.

5. Fashion can be both eco-friendly and cool

Believe it or not, there are actually places where you can buy clothes that are eco-friendly, sustainable, as well as ethical. And they look cool, too! Companies like Everlane are very transparent about where their clothes are manufactured and how the price is set. PACT is another great company that uses non-GMO, organic cotton and non-toxic dyes for their clothing, while simultaneously using renewable energy factories. Soko is a company that uses natural and recycled materials in making their clothes and jewelry.

All in all

The truth is – being eco-responsible can be done in many ways. There are tons of small things we could change when it comes to our habits that would make a positive influence on the environment. The point is to start doing research on things that can be done by every person and it can start with the only thing that person has the control of – their own household.

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