Tag Archives: garden

5 Reasons to Attend Green Festival

Green Fest Banner NYCWhen we think of festivals, we oftentimes think of a community celebration – typically centered on music, food, or art. So it’s apropos that the “largest and longest-running sustainability and green living event” in America is the Green Festival®. Attendees enjoy music, food, and art as well as education and “green” products/services. Over the past 13 years it’s grown into more than a festival – it’s Festival Plus.

Green Festival visits five U.S. cities each year: New York City, Washington D.C., Los Angeles, Chicago, and San Francisco. Chicago’s Navy Per is the next stop, with more than 250 businesses showing their wares over three days. We’ve attended several times in Washington.

Here are the five reasons it’s worth going.

 1. Green Festival Exhibit Floor DCSustainable Stuff. I’m always amazed at the range of exhibitors and presentations as well as the quality of the food and products in the marketplace. On the exhibit floor, there’s everything from Ford showing its latest electric and hybrid cars to a small natural soap maker called The Fanciful Fox. You’ll see brands you know, such as Clif Bar, and many you don’t. We talked with some of the vendors who were still operating out of their homes. And there are many free samples!

2. Ideas. The event is also a great chance to learn new things about living sustainably. The upcoming Chicago event, for example, has almost 50 speakers – including authors, filmmakers, politicians, musicians, and scientists. Ralph Nader spoke at the Washington event. There were 83 speakers at the recent Los Angeles festival. Topics range from gardening to yoga to solar power.

GFCommunityAward3. Awards. Green Festival offers a Community Award at each location – a $5,000 grant awarded to a deserving local non-profit, chosen by the public on-site at the festival and online. Selected at the Washington D.C. event was The Arcadia Center for Sustainable Food and Agriculture, which is dedicated to creating a more equitable and sustainable local food system in the Washington, DC area.

4. Low Cost. Admission is reasonable and family friendly at only ten bucks per person (16 and under free, discounts to seniors and students). Volunteers enjoy free admission.

Kids Activities NYC5. Children and Adult Friendly. There’s a play area, puppet shows, dancing, plus plenty of products geared to children. And with kids (and adults like me) it’s always great to have a ready source of inexpensive and tasty food (some spicy!) nearby. Plus fashion shows, musical performances, and more for the grownups.

Green Festival is a fun way to learn more about sustainable living, through food, music, art, shopping, and discussions.


Patch Up Your Relationship with Pumpkins

2012 pumpkin

This time of year pumpkin moves to the front of our collective consciousness, not only because of their inexorable association with Halloween and Thanksgiving, but because they just seem to be everywhere. From the pumpkin pies to pumpkin donuts and bagels, to the pumpkin iced lattes to pumpkin-scented candles, we are bombarded with these funny-looking orange spheroids until we are out of our gourds.

One media outlet shouts, “Pumpkin is the New Bacon” lamenting the growing ubiquity in food and drink.

Of course we also decorate with them. Many of us carve or paint pumpkins before displaying them on our front porches in a seasonal ritual, their toothy grins and triangle eyes flickering in the darkness of Halloween night. Pumpkins and gourds are in the Cucurbita family and thus are relatives of cucumbers, cantaloupes, squash, and watermelon.

According to the Cooperative Extension Service The University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, gourds were probably one of the first plants domesticated by humans and were used for utensils as early as 2400 B.C.E. And come in sizes up to more than 2,000 pounds. A man in Rhode Island grew on to 2009 pounds this year, according to the Pumpkin Nook. The smallest are generally decorative Jack-o-lantern pumpkins range from 10- to 25-pounds.

According to the Agricultural Marketing Resource Center at Iowa State University, in 2011, pumpkins valued at $113 million were harvested from 47,300 acres in six states: Illinois, California, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Michigan. Most pumpkins end up in canned pumpkin pie mixes. Nestlé Food Company’s Libby’s® pumpkin processing plant cans more than 85 percent of the world’s pumpkin each year.

It turns out that pumpkin is pretty good for us to eat. Self Magazine says that pumpkin, cooked, boiled, drained, and without salt is low in Saturated Fat, and very low in Cholesterol and Sodium. It is also a good source of Vitamin E (Alpha Tocopherol), Thiamin, Niacin, Vitamin B6, Folate, Iron, Magnesium and Phosphorus, and a very good source of Dietary Fiber, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Riboflavin, Potassium, Copper and Manganese. Of course we often then add sugar, salt, eggs, and milk to pumpkin in our recipes.

You might be getting more than pumpkin when you get them, so know your source. Cucumber beetles, squash vine borers and squash bugs go after them. Says Planet Natural, bacterial wilt (spread by cucumber beetles), powdery mildew, downy mildew, and anthracnose are common plant diseases affecting pumpkins. Many pesticides are applied to fight these maladies. You can grow your own pumpkins organically, if you have the space; they can need 500 square feet for a single plant. At the very least, try to find your pumpkins at a local farm, rather than buying one shipped in from another state or county. After you finish carving and using the pumpkin, add it to the compost pile.

Think about that pumpkin

  1. Grow them yourself — or buy local and organic, if possible
  2. Eat the edible parts – they’re good for you
  3. Compost the parts you can’t otherwise use
  4. And this final tip from Sara — Do NOT put your wife in one’s shell!



We Love Composting


There are many websites explaining the basics of composting, but we wanted to add our personal experience with it. While I am more of the gardener, and Ron is more of the maintenance/yard work guy, and we are both the chefs in the kitchen so composting is something that we can both do and benefit from together.

Composting is a great way to reduce the waste that goes in landfills, add beautiful dirt or mulch for your garden, and once you get it set up the price is minimal. Instead of buying those $10 bags of dirt from your local nursery, you are making nutrient rich stuff yourself. When we moved from an apartment to a townhome we were really able to take advantage of composting for two reasons: we actually had yard waste and grass clippings to add, and the space available to really compost the way we wanted. Our county gave free composting bins, it was an adjustable plastic wall that you curved in to a tubular container and added your compost. When we started composting I noticed that a lot of my kitchen waste was now able to go in to the compost bin:

Our first composter- simple design, and held a lot of compost. Inside you can see leaves, grass, food scraps, papershreddings, etc.


Stuff from the house:

veggie/fruit peels, cores, rotten bits

paper shreddings

egg shells


paper towels

coffee grounds

nut shells

dead flower arrangements

really every organic thing in the kitchen besides that on the “no” list.

Things you do not add from this category are meat, fat, oil, or dairy.


We were also adding stuff from the yard: grass clippings, leaves, animal bedding, tree clippings, hay, farm animal manure (horse, cow, chicken).

The things you do not add from this category are: dog/cat/people waste, weeds that have gone to seed, chemicals, metal, plastic.



We used this cylinder composter through fall, winter, and spring. We quickly realized we needed something to collect the kitchen scraps, and bought a cute little pail with a lid that we throw scraps in to carry to the compost pile. It fills up every few days, depending on what I am doing in the kitchen.

This container sits on our counter and collects the scraps to be carried outside to the composter. The lid has a filter, so it does not smell or attract fruit flies. This little tool is vital for becoming accustomed to composting.

So now we are coming around to spring and are realizing a few things.


One. We make a lot of compost a week and with our recycling and composting, our trash creation is shrinking exponentially.

Two. At some point, you need to stop adding to the pile so that way everything can break down. We had one compost bin, and we added to it every week.

Three. With an open top, all sorts of furry animals may become interested in the compost. We had a squirrel invasion. We bought cayenne pepper in bulk, and it seemed to deter the little guys from it.



After these three lessons were learned, we decided to invest in a dual tumbler. The county got us hooked on composting, and now we needed to upgrade from the entry level to the luxury edition composter.

This dual tumbler would fix all three of our realizations: lots of room for compost, two bins- so while one is finishing, we can add to the other, and three, no little squirrels could get in it. I will spare you the agonizing details of building a seemingly easy apparatus, but 6 hours later, we had something I was so proud of, I hardly wanted to fill it with rotten stuff. The greatest benefit to date, is both getting that beautiful black gold to put in my garden, and the major reduction of trash for the trash man each week. 

We love composting because it reduces landfills, adds to the garden, and it is just plain neat to watch your trash turn in to treasure. Happy composting!


Raised Bed Gardening: The Good, the Bad and the Buggly

Raised Bed Gardening: The good, the bad, and the buggly- Sara’s first foray in to raised bed gardening

In fall, most gardeners are happy to end their gardens for the season. Tomato plants are winding down, squashes giving their final fruits before the frost, and pumpkins are sitting patiently. Of course, when gardeners are winding down, I am getting started in trying to push through a small harvest of fall veggies before the winter comes. We recently moved to a place with a yard big enough to grow more food, and I could not resist getting something in the ground, even though it was September. Cool brasilica plants, like cabbage, lettuce, broccoli, cauliflower, and brussel sprouts have a fall harvest, so off to the store I went to get things ready for my first raised bed garden.

We bought a ceder raised bed from home depot for about $30 bucks. It is 4×4 and was fairly easy to build, with help from Ron’s drill.

The raised bed constructed, but not installed. Thanks Ron for your handiwork!


When deciding what to fill the bed with, I discovered this really neat compost called leafgro, created by the Maryland Environmental Service from composted leaf and grass clippings. We mixed that with dirt, vermiculite, and planted our plants. Here’s a photo of me filthy dirty, and smiling wide at my first raised garden.

A good smile for a job well done




The plants were growing well, and I prematurely started bragging about all the brussel sprouts everyone was going to eat in a month or so. As I sat outside and watched the beauty of my garden, I also small small white butterflies dancing around the plants. How beautiful, I thought. How wrong I was. Soon my plants started looking like swiss cheese and within days, the crop was almost ruined. Cabbage worms had invaded in full force, and although I hand picked every one I saw, these little buggers had an appetite like none other.

Oh the humanity! The left over cabbage after the cabbage worm invasion.


I had used EcoSmart http://www.ecosmart.com/ bug spray for inside the house at this summer’s ant invasion with positive results, but even with deliberate and often applications to the cabbage worms who were feasting on my garden did not stop. As I watched my hard work go up in worms, I thought about the mass spreading of pesticides in large farming. I was going to do it the natural way, or not do it at all. I googled other natural ways to stop cabbage worms, and discovered that many use flour, which the worms eat, bloat and die. So I took my flour to the garden and sprinkled it over everything. Either the worms were done feasting on my garden, or the flour worked, because the invasion seems to have ended. The holey remains of my garden and still left, with many plants chewed beyond recognition. I am going to remove the plants who made food for bugs rather than humans, and plant my next crop, garlic, to harvest for next summer.


I made a few big mistakes when I did this: I saw a few holes in the leaves and wasn’t proactive enough at the first sight of this problem. I planted a bunch of plants together all in the same family, which not only takes one nutrient out of the earth, but also made a smorgasbord for an incest that eats that type of plant. My mother is a great gardener, and she reminds me about my many ancestors who were great farmers. Did they ever fail at something like this? You bet. You can’t learn without losing a few brussel sprouts, and you can’t grow food if you don’t try.