Right before Mother’s Day, I posted an article on the gift of a garden as a special and unique present for mothers, emphasizing that a garden can be a great family activity and could be accomplished in spaces of all sizes. I am proud to report that I took my own advice and planted a summer garden, using both my upper deck and the bordering areas of my back yard.

Planning My Garden

In selecting plants for my garden, I decided that I wanted both vegetables and flowers.  I also knew that I wanted the flowers to include fragrant blooms that could be cut, placed in vases and used for decorations.  Additionally, I wanted flowers that attracted hummingbirds, honeybees and butterflies, as well as flowers that repel mosquitos.  As a result, I chose colorful dahlias (both plant and bulb varieties), Lantus, roses and red Salvia for the flowers, tomatoes (both bush and patio varieties, bush beans, cucumbers for vegetables and rosemary (my lonely herb).

I contracted with my neighbor to build two large planters, which I used for the tomatoes and bush beans.  I then proceeded to gather flower pots and planters that I had on hand for the rest of the plants.  I note that the key to the success of my garden was the use of Miracle-Gro© potting soil as opposed to topsoil.   The Miracle-Gro© is rich, clean and porous and a great medium for both vegetables and flowers.

With the assistance of my husband, I was able to prepare the lower backyard borders for planting.  After planting, we watered our garden areas and plants diligently and  fertilized a couple of times.  Most importantly, we deadheaded the flowers to keep them fresh and beautiful.

Lessons Learned From My Summer Garden

As stated previously, I learned that it was well worth it to use the Miracle-Gro© potting soil, rather than cheap topsoil.  Everything that we planted grew very well in the Miracle-Gro©.

A second lesson came as a result of my tardiness in starting this project.  Secondary to other obligations, this garden project was not initiated until the third week of June, which, in the middle Atlantic states where I reside, is “very late” for planting.  When shopping for plants, I found the inventory to be paltry in both volume and appearance.

Turning to seeds, the only thing available was seeds from Renee’s Garden, a small company committed to organic gardening for over 25 years.  I selected this company’s bush bean seeds and was very pleased with the crop.  While visiting my area Farmer’s Market the following week, I spoke to a farmer regarding the scarcity of vegetable and fruit plants and seeds.  He graciously agreed to bring me some cucumber plants on his return visit the following week. Most importantly, he cautioned me to pay attention to nature, not commercial businesses.  As hard as corporations try to harness the seed and plant industry, they cannot dictate the growing season.  That is Mother Nature‘s job.  He said, “keep planting, and your seeds and plants will grow.”

So even though I planted out of season by Monsanto and Burpee‘s definition, my garden was (and still is) hardy and beautiful.  Everyday we enjoy colorful fragrant flowers and visits by butterflies, honeybees and hummingbirds.  We are surprised on regular intervals by bursts of color from beautiful dahlia bulbs.

Gardening presents a unique opportunity to celebrate nature and its gifts of beauty and food.  Hopefully, many of you will try a garden next year or maybe a winter garden this year.  Please remember that no space is too small.  A garden can be one plant, a windowsill planter or an entire yard.  This really is a wonderful chance to live green, be green.

Pictures From My Garden

God’s Garden by Robert Frost

“God made a beauteous garden
With lovely flowers strown,
But one straight, narrow pathway
That was not overgrown.
And to this beauteous garden
He brought mankind to live,
And said “To you, my children,
These lovely flowers I give.
Prune ye my vines and fig trees,
With care my flowers tend,
But keep the pathway open
Your home is at the end.”

The Nourishmat, a 4′ x 6′ garden system, is an all-in-one roll out garden designed to empower people to start growing food and flowers. The Nourishmat is rolled out onto your soil for easy DIY food production. Roll out the mat, push in the seedballs (clay, seeds, chili-powder and all-natural nutrients), and hook it up to the hose. We think of the Nourishmat as the way to cultivate the next generation of food growers.People have become disconnected from their soil. Earth Starter was formed in order to solve what we believe will be the world’s most pressing issue in upcoming years: sustainable healthy food supplies. Given limited resources and budgets, food as it is available today might not be so accessible in the future. By using the Nourishmat products, you are preparing yourself for this future. Our products offer cost-effective solutions that have a tangible return in your wallet. Our goal is to help people reduce their dependency on global food markets while focusing on creating a more nourishing Earth.

Earth Starter is doing more than just empowering consumers to grow their own food.  They are now making a huge push to help feed children who struggle with hunger. Earth Starter has teamed up with Two Degrees Foods to give 4 meals to children in the United States when you purchase the highly anticipated Nourishmat.  For every Nourishmat YOU PURCHASE, WE GIVE 4 meals to children suffering from hunger in the United States.
The Nourishmat is made of polypropylene, a recyclable landscape fabric used in industrial agriculture.
The Nourishmat was designed to be multi-sensory and intuitive. We used colors in combination with the square-foot method. The layout of the plants revolves around companion planting. For example, the bugs that like marigolds are the same bugs that love to eat the bugs that love to eat tomatoes. Other plants like Nasturitum (everyone’s first question, what is nasti-tu-…..) are great pollinators and so forth. The Nourishmat comes with a planting guide that tells the user where and when to plant.
Every 4′ x 6′ Nourishmat and 2′ x 6′ Herbmat comes with pre-planted seedballs separated by plant type. There is a combination of spring, summer and fall crops so users can continue to grow almost year round (we even have winter wheat during the winter).
We completed a 22 state beta test over the last year and a half. In order for us to have a successful first year run, we had to choose plants that would grow in all USDA hardiness zones. We took the data from our beta test and created the first Nourishmat iteration and adapted a planting guide accordingly. The combination of cool and warm weather crops with a mix of herbs for the summer allows for more successful yields. Bio-diversity promotes more pollinators and the seedballs help protect seeds against harsh environments and pests.
Eventually users will receive instructions based on their geo-location online. That is one of the goals with our Kickstarter — to make information available to our users without overwhelming them or keeping them glued to a tablet or PC. By 2014, users will be able to go-online – select their zip code, we will tell them what grows best in that location, choose a size, and based on seedball inventory, we will use a companion planting method to automatically position and space the plants. It’s all about cultivating gardeners not gardens.
After Kickstarter the the mat will run $39-$79
Nourishmat with Irrigation – $79.95
Nourishmat without Irrigation – $64.95
Herbmat with Irrigation – $49.95
Herbmat without Irrigation – $39.95
The nourishmat
We have already done some pilot testing with the summer camps and schools on the east coast. Right now we are working with the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) and the Mayors office in SF to work on using our curriculum and the Nourishmat as an educational tool. It reduces the intimidation factor because all of the tools are already laid out.
When you combine outdoor learning with something like the ‘Nourishmat’ designed to allow students to grow their own garden and share with other students around the country using the Nourishmat application…well this is hands on learning at its best… students can watch plants grow, share their growing time and success, read, write and communicate with other students, sharing together in the learning experience. Designed for students and schools in mind, the inventors of this creative product are developing a user-friendly curriculum for students as well.Theresa May – Head of School Prince William Academy 

Working with charter schools and visiting the school fairs has been helpful, but parents have been some of the biggest advocates. They have purchased some of beta quantities to be tested in schools in MD and VA. Some of our Kickstarter levels focus directly on allowing folks to give directly to a school of their choice. By working with the SFUSD we are able to use initiatives like Proposition A which gave 120 schools in the San Francisco area each $150,000 for schoolyard greening. We have proposed to put Nourishmats in those spaces with a curriculum with a much small $6,500 budget. Each school is receiving  $150,000 for their own green schoolyard. This gets spent on landscape architects, and plants, mainly and for some, the process will most likely take a few years to get completed.
Our focus is on providing people with all the resources needed to start growing food and flowers today. We have come a long way and have had many bumps and scrapes on the way. Our Kickstarter page doesn’t show the grit that it took to keep going and how hard manufacturing in the US can really be. But it’s part of our mission. We’ve been getting pushed around since day one. Family friends tried to take our idea, the doors to banks were closed and the only funding we could get was from our bank accounts. We started as two young professionals from the University of Maryland who stepped out of their comfort zone to self fund a company. Our team worked hard to beat out better funded company and apps that were poised to win the 2013 Cupid’s Cup presented by fellow UMD Alumnus Kevin Plank. We took the Nourishmat from three stages of product development on our own dime and just when we thought things were going great, a deal with Orchard Supply went by the wayside when the company fell bankrupt a few weeks ago. It hasn’t been easy but it has always been a battle against the rays of the sun.
In order for Kickstarter to be successful we must reach our $70,000 goal.
Here is a link to the campaign: http://bit.ly/goodmagnourishmat

It is amazing that in this whimsical world of information and technology, we are bombarded on a frequent basis with “new” and often-conflicting information on health regimens and dietary and nutritional information.  Yesterday Vitamin D was a good thing.  Today it is bad.  The same thing applies to fish oil– a miracle supplement a few months ago and now useless.

I find it refreshing that Jesse Ziff Cool, chef and lecturer, and owner of Cool Cafe has dug in her heels on the health benefits of organic nutrition.  It is interesting to note that Jesse Cool operates out of Stanford University, the home of the recent study questioning organics.  It is with strong conviction that Ms. Cool, who also is the author of Simply Organic, states, “I’ve been pioneering and advocating organics for 37 years.  Once you really embrace that, you don’t want to feed yourself or anyone near you anything that could some day harm you.  All you want is real food”.  Her philosophy will not be changed by one study.

Others in the business of organics concur with Ms. Cool.  They include Bob Quinn, the president of KAMUT International (www.Kamut.com) and Arran Stephens, CEO of Nature’s Path (http://us.naturepath.com).  These two men note that the Stanford study is inconsistent with their experiences of 25 and 45 years respectively.  I agree with the theory of organics from a common sense approach.  Surely food grown without “toxic pesticides, glyphosate herbicides, synthetic fertilizers, genetically modified organisms, sewage sludge and radiation” must be healthier for everyone—farmers, consumers and the environment, than food produced using these substances.

It is important to keep abreast of research and studies on organics and other matters affecting your health and the environment.  It also is important for each of us to turn on our internal filters and delete false or faulty information from our internal and external databases.  As quoted by Voltaire and aptly restated by Ellen Kamer, (columnist at the Edgie Veggie) “tend your own garden”.  Let’s eat green, live green be green.

Rebellious Naturals refuse to be moved by Stanford Study which dismisses the benefits of organics