Get The Gardening Glow

 

With almost 67 per cent of Australians living in our capital cities, we’re one of the most highly urbanised countries in the world. Considering the day-to-day stresses or urban living, traffic, overcrowding and simply not enough time – this means up to 16 million of us could benefit from the physical and mental advantages provided by gardening.

Whether it’s a sprawling veggie patch in the backyard, a flowerbed in a small courtyard, a window box or even a community garden space, almost anyone can achieve a gardening glow. 

Gardening is a great workout, It not only works all those major muscle groups, it burns calories as well. Also, gardening improves the mood almost instantly, so it’s fantastic for the soul.

The Fitness Factor

Forget about working hard in the gym or building up a sweat on the treadmill, gardening is just as good as a workout, if not better. Prolonged light exercise such as gardening can burn more calories than a gym session, despite being much easier to do.

Stress Relief

Gardening can increase life satisfaction, reduce and promote recovery from stress, enhance self-esteem and reduce feelings of depression and fatigue. Ask any gardener and almost all will insist that they feel better after getting their hands dirty in the soil. An activity like gardening gives you something to celebrate and care about. When you’ve tended and grown something it gives you a sense of purpose and pride, which in turn make you feel good about yourself.

Mood Enchasing

Having flowers in and around your home not only looks beautiful, they also have amazing health benefits, such as reducing stress and depression. Flowers increase positive energies and soothe and relax the soul. Plants in the home also increase energy levels and vitality. 

Immunity Boost

We often avoid getting our hands dirty but there are health benefits to be gained from exposure to soil. We need to be 100 per cent hygienic but we don’t need to be 100 per cent dirt or germ-free because our immune system needs something to spar with.

Air Quality

Plants have been shown to absorb and degrade all types of urban air pollutants, thereby reducing air pollutants, thereby reducing air pollution levels. We have a vital need for constant connections with plants for cleaner air, so gardening time is vital. Spending just 15 to 20 minutes each day in the garden can also improve sleep quality because breathing fresh air stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system in the brain, which is responsible for relaxation.

 

Gardening As A Workout

Spring is almost here and with it comes gardening and seeing new foliage grow and flourish, it’s the season for rejuvenation.

But did you know that while you’re getting your garden ready for the sunny season your also working up a sweat! Wow. Maybe we can have our cake and eat it too.

As a gardening enthusiast, you’ve probably spent hours reading and exploring how to produce a healthier, more beautiful garden or simply how to keep your plants alive and thriving. But have you ever considered how gardening can produce a healthier you without ever having to consume a single home grown meal.

There are so many simple gardening activities like raking, fertilizing, weeding and mowing that can all give you an enjoyable and rewarding workout. Gardening is, in fact, a legit physical activity. Sweet! It’s also a great alternative to traditional exercise because it incorporates elements of exercise while enabling you to engage in an enjoyable activity in the privacy of your own surroundings and amongst your own family.

Elements of gardening such as digging, weeding, trimming shrubs and mowing the lawn can require the same energy requirements as other physical activities such as walking, cycling, swimming and aerobics. It gives you zest for life and can even make you feel younger, after all it reminds us of those days as kids looking for the latest insect.

Gardening helps tone your physique while also tending to the plants. Work such as raking and carrying leaves can tone the upper arms and increase flexibility and strength. Gardening tasks qualify as moderate to high-intensity physical activity, you can expend as much effort raking the lawn as you would during a leisurely bicycle ride…it’s also great at perfecting your squat technique when pulling out those rude weeds.

Not only does gardening help you physically, but it provides us with the satisfaction of a beautiful lawn to look at or fresh fruits and vegetables to enjoy. So as the gardening season approaches, consider your gardening time as an opportunity to get a healthier lawn and a healthier you! Go green to get lean, seriously it can put a spring back in your step.

So tell me have you been gardening lately? Would you give up a day of working out to work in the yard? I highly recommend it. You can also incorporate this time and include the kids. Teaching the little ones about plants and seeing them discover the process and transformation plants undergo with both time and seasons is beautiful.

I love the idea that just gardening as a workout can exercise nearly every part of your body. It’s also soothing for the soul to be in touch with the earth, a concept known as “grounding”. It can also be a very meditative activity as you’re absorbed with the task at hand, so it’s great for clearing the mind of white noise. Finally sit back and enjoy the literal fruits of your labour. Simply being in the presence of trees and plants reduces stress, so once your garden is looking neat and tidy it will be time to start the barbeque.

How To Get the Kids Eating Veggies

With the promise of summer just around the corner, all we’re craving is lighter meals packed with spring’s greens. Salads, fresh pasta sauces and dishes loaded with vegetables are the best way to banish memories of winter and it’s heavy food. But, as we all know, our own taste buds and those of our kids are rarely aligned.

Not only does gardening have the all-important fun factor, it also involves your kids in what’s put on their plate each night, so they’re far more likely to eat it. And every family can do it, no matter what size your backyard (or balcony) may be. These tips will get you on your way.

Make The Most Of Your Garden

Whether it’s a balcony, courtyard or green lawns as far as the eye can see, we’ve all got some sort of outdoor space that can be turned into a garden. Let your imagination run wild. Growing food in containers shouldn’t be a drawback. Urban gardening in pots and window boxes can yield more food than you might think, plus you get the benefits of some beautiful greenery outside your windows.

Choose Your Veggies

If you’re gardening with your kids, choose vegetables that grow quickly and are interesting to touch or look at. A great place to start is carrots, which prefer mild temperatures and mature in about 30 days, so the kids won’t get bored. Other varieties that do well in containers are beetroot, tomatoes, salad leaves, spring onion and baby spinach. Most herbs are also a safe bet. Your salads will be popping with colour!

Get The Kids Involved

Involving your kids in your exciting new project of urban gardening is a surefire way to get them more interested in the prospect of vegetables. Give each child a plant to tend to, place them in charge of watering duties and then let them pick the produce themselves. They’ll be far more inclined to eat the salad they planted, grew and picked as opposed to seeing a bag of products thrown into a bowl.

Watch Them Learn

Kids are naturally inquisitive, so getting them involved in growing their own veggies is a great way for them to learn more about nature and where food comes from. They’ll also gain valuable skills they can take into adulthood. Beyond Sunflowers founder Gisele Zanier links her career today to her childhood spent surrounded by plants in her parents’ garden. Zanier is a strong believer in the power of green to keep us happy, well and de-stressed. Introduce your kids to plants now and there’ll be numerous benefits for them down the track.

Save Money

The great thing about growing your own veggies is that you only use as much as you need. How often have you rescued a soggy bag of half-used herbs or salad leaves from the bottom of the crisper? With your own garden, you can pick exactly what you need, when you need it, and save a tonne of money on pre-packed salad ingredients.

Taste The Difference 

Once your garden starts yielding its first crops, you’ll notice the incredible taste of freshly picked produce straight away. Bright juicy tomatoes, crisp lettuce leaves, and carrots bursting with flavour – your kids won’t be able to say no to your cooking! And once you’ve tried your own homegrown food, the stuff from the supermarket just won’t compare. Bon appétit!

Growing Lettuce At Home

 

Before I started growing our home grown food, I spent a fortune on organically grown salad ingredients. It wasn’t just the lettuce that cost so much. There were the tomatoes, herbs, specialty greens, radish, cucumbers, and more that went into making my lush salads healthy, beautiful, and satisfying.

When I finally did start growing, at first, it was hard to produce all the ingredients required for a salad at the same time. My radishes and lettuce heads would be ready before everything else. Then they’d bolt before I had a tomato ready to even pick.

How Long Does It Take Lettuce Seedlings to Sprout?

If you’re only starting out, lettuce is a great choice and vegetable to practice your green thumb skills and it’s also an easy way to add wonderful flavour to your meals as nothing tastes as good or as satisfying as home grown and fresh picked lettuce.

Since lettuce is a fast growing vegetable, it’s easy to start from seed as they also rapidly-germinate with not much effort and within a few weeks. Lettuce is also great for container-gardening as well as in-ground planting. An added bonus is that they look very ornamental in large terracotta pots. The goal is just to begin Including lettuce in your garden, and watch your family’s enthusiasm for salads increase as you bring this versatile vegetable to harvest. If all the right conditions are present — sunny, mild days, cool nights, sufficient water and good soil fertility — lettuce can go from seed to salad bowl in about under 2 months. Most full-head varieties take 45 to 60 days to reach maturity.

Germination

In good growing conditions, lettuce seed will germinate within 7 to 12 days, depending on variety. Loose-head varieties may sprout more quickly than heading types, but all seeds need similar soil, moisture and light conditions to support germination. Growers vary in their estimate of the percentage of lettuce seeds that will germinate per packet, but you can expect 75 to 80 percent of seeds packed for the current growing season to sprout. Rates decline each year, and a packet of lettuce seeds is usually viable for three years so make sure your continue planting all year round if your climate and weather permits.

Soil Temperature

Lettuce (Lactuca sativa) is an annual vegetable with many varieties able to be grown all year round, but if you’re from colder climates than the Lettuce is defiantly a spring grower. Lettuce requires soil temperatures between 15 and 30 degrees Celsius for seed germination (germination rates decline markedly above 30 degrees) and seeds are best planted outdoors two weeks after your local climates last frost date. If you are uncertain about soil temperature, many garden centers and nurseries carry inexpensive thermometers to take guesswork out of planting.

Soil Quality

Lettuce grows best in neutral to slightly acidic soil, as do many other garden vegetables. Because lettuce seeds are small and fragile, the most important feature of planting soil is texture. Raking and screening soil before you plant lettuce ensures successful sprouting of these delicate seeds (one way to get around this is by making sure your soil is high in composted organic material). One to two inches of fine soil in the bottom of your lettuce furrow and a 1/4-inch to cover your seeds create prime sprouting conditions or just cover your seeds with vermiculite. If your soil is heavy clay or drains poorly, dig in well composted organic matter, coco peat or sand to improve drainage before planting. If you’re planning on starting your lettuce seed indoors, standard potting soil or seed raising potting mixtures have the texture that let seeds sprout and root in your seedling containers.

Moisture

Soil for sprouting lettuce seeds needs constant and consistent moisture. With good drainage, soil will remain moist rather than wet. Regular watering will keep the top of the soil from crusting, which can become too hard for seed sprouts to penetrate. A fast grower, lettuce will absorb a lot of water, but standing water can rot seeds. Do not let the soil dry out, but avoid keeping the surface soil constantly wet. In hot weather or dry conditions, lettuce may require watering every day. Keep growing beds weed free; cultivate shallowly to avoid disturbing lettuce roots.

Light

Lettuce seed needs light to germinate and grow successfully. If you start seeds inside, you will need a sunny window that receives direct light or a grow-light. It’s preferable to grow lettuce in full sun when the growing season is cool. In very warm to hot growing regions, grow lettuce in partial shade–between taller crops or trees. Lettuce requires a minimum of 4 hours of sun each day.

Planting

Lettuce can be planted in the garden as early as 4 weeks before the last expected frost in spring. For a continuous supply, plant lettuce every couple of weeks until about 4 weeks before the average daytime temperature exceeds 28 degrees or the lettuce will just go to flower (after that plant lettuce in the shade). Begin sowing lettuce again towards the end of the growing season, about 8 weeks before the first expected frost in autumn. If you’re lucky and don’t experience frost in your microclimate than you will be planting and growing these gems all year round. Lucky You! More than any other crop, lettuce works best with succession planting because it turns bitter as it matures, especially in warm weather.

Sprouting Stages

When lettuce and many other seeds sprout, the first foliage is a pair of small rounded leaves called cotyledon leaves, or seed-leaves. Cotyledon leaves are the plant’s first food-source and enable the growth of roots and real leaves, but they sustain the plant for only a week to 10 days. Seeds started indoors will need to grow for between four and six weeks to sprout enough leaves to sustain plants in the garden.

Harvesting

One of the keys to having tender lettuce is rapid growth, which is why spring-grown lettuce tastes so good. An exciting thing about lettuce harvest time is that it can be a repeat performance. Pick lettuce on a cut-and-come-again basis; pick the outside leaves as soon as they are big enough to eat. You can harvest loose-leaf varieties twice — and sometimes three times — before the quality of the leaves declines. For heading lettuce–crisphead and Romaine varieties–cut heads as soon as they are solid and firm.

Note: The greatest menace to lettuce is neither slugs nor veggie-hungry aliens, but the heat. When temperatures exceed 30 degrees, lettuce seeds don’t germinate well and mature plants tend to bolt (meaning they stop producing leaves and go to seed). Regular watering, using shade cloths or tall, shade-making companion plants, and planting heat-tolerant varieties can help, but extreme heat over time ultimately takes a toll on lettuce’s flavour and texture.

 

Changing The Way We Breath

 

The move to city-living has given us great benefits, but at some costs to our health and wellbeing. Urban air pollution is a growing health concern, as is indoor air quality. Since we are indoors 90% of the time, we are constantly breathing contaminated air, which is generally more polluted inside than outdoors. The journey for good health has thus, unavoidably added the pursuit for a healthy built environment, and especially a healthy ‘indoor living environment’. However, relatively few know of the role Plants can play inimprovements to people’s lives both outside and inside the home.

Plants, including ‘indoor’ species, have been shown to absorb and degrade all types of urban air pollutants, thereby reducing air pollution levels. Conflicting to what many people assume, urban indoor air is generally more polluted than outdoors, even in the city centre. Sources of pollutants include components of furniture, fabrics, fittings, paints, glues and varnishes, computers, printers, solvents, detergents, shampoos, cosmetics, etc. Basically large and important aspects of our indoor lives are potentially subjecting our health to unknown risks. Although great efforts are being made to finish and fit out new buildings with low-volatile organic compound materials, it is impossible to remove it altogether.

Indoor plants are already coming to be recognised as a vital element in enabling sustainable urban communities. It’s expected that, along with lighting, air-con, plumbing, etc., interior foliage plants will be utilised as a convenient, natural, beautiful, useful, effective and relatively low-cost, standard method to improve and transform our indoor living environments. Our ancestors also recognised an essential role for plants in providing pleasure, perfumes, peace and glimpses of ‘paradise’. We still have the same requirements today. As City-dwellers, we lack the continuing emotional and physical links with nature similar to that from which we have evolved.

We are now taking steps to combat this environmental detachment, from open green pockets of parks and gardens to pot-planted forecourts and building entrances, office staff, residents and visitors in our CBD’s and built environments are being provided with the natural oases of yesteryear. So, not only do plants absorb air pollution, they also offer coolness, shade and time enjoyed in an environment capable of reducing stress and anxiety, such an important quality now in an otherwise pressured filled life for most.

We have vital need for constant connections with plants – for cleaner air, calmer spirit, lighter mood, improved concentration and performance, and productivity. One way of maintaining that people-plant linkage is by the use of interior foliage plants as a standard part of our indoor spaces. This can only result in a win-win situation – so let’s all start greening the great indoors by adding some nature to our homes and offices.

 

Plants That Discourage The Bitting Bugs

 

Our patios, decks, porches and yards offer the rare opportunity to extend our living space, and to be truly at home in the outdoors. From Landscaped grounds to the tiniest urban balcony, nearly any exterior area can be the setting for a comfortable outdoor room, but pesky bugs are quick to drive a party indoors. Many slather themselves in a synthetic chemical cocktail in efforts to keep biting, stinging nasties at bay. But there are plenty of reasons to stay away from traditional insect repellents and use more natural deterrents such as plants. For a chemical-free way to keep insects at bay in the warmer spring/summer season here are some easy-to-grow plants that can help deter bugs and insects. Planted near the doorway, these 7 natural plant options deter mosquitoes, flies, and uninvited guests in the garden and home without harming people, pet’s or the environment.

MARIGOLDS are hardy annual plants which have a distinctive smell which mosquitoes, and bugs, like aphids find particularly offensive. Marigolds prefer full sunlight and reasonably fertile soil. Although marigolds can be planted from seed, starter plants are inexpensive. Potted marigolds can be positioned near entrances to your home and any common mosquito/bugs entry points, such as open windows and furnished courtyards and balconies. The smell may deter mosquitoes and bugs from going past this barrier.

ROSEMARY Is also a herb that contains wonderful properties to keep fleas and ticks away. The woody smell keeps all the unwanted bugs away that’s why permaculture farmers love planting Rosemary throughout their fields. Grow rosemary in pots then shift it indoors in winter, since the plant does not tolerate long periods of cold climate. To control mosquitoes in warmer months, place rosemary plant pots in the yard and they can be moved about as you please.

LEMON BALM This easy-to-grow herb also has several additional applications, from infused teas and vinegars to green salads. Lemon balm also keeps the mosquitoes at bay as its leaves contain citronella compounds. You can grow lemon balm in your garden and allow them to thrive, leaving less room for mosquitoes to want to linger. To keep mosquitoes at bay, you can also rub crushed lemon balm leaves on your skin.

LEMON GRASS contains natural citronella essential oil to repel mosquitoes and stable flies, which prey on domestic animals. Lemongrass is widely used as a culinary herb in Asian cuisines and as medicinal herb in India. It works in a similar way as a potent natural insect repellent, with the added benefit of antibacterial and antifungal properties. 

LAVENDER offers practical protection from mosquitoes, flies, fleas, and moths. Lavender can be planted near entryways or freshly cut and placed in a window to keep bugs outside. Lavender has been used for centuries to add a pleasantly sweet fragrance to homes and clothes drawers. Although people love the smell of lavender, mosquitoes, flies and other unwanted insects hate it.

BASIL repels houseflies and mosquitos naturally. Simply get your garden area some pots of basil. As one of the most pungent of herbs, basil makes an outstanding natural mosquito repellent, giving off a scent without the leaves having to be crushed or touched.

PETUNIAS repel aphids, tomato hornworms, asparagus beetles, leafhoppers and squash bugs. . They are popular mostly because they are available in a variety of bright colours, require such minimal maintenance they are almost foolproof to grow and can be grown in garden beds, containers or hanging baskets. Plant them in sunny areas near vegetables and herbs such as beans, tomatoes, peppers and basil.

 

Harvest Your Own Rose Tea

The simple ritual of sharing a cup of tea brings people together in a way that restores body mind and spirit. There is something beautiful about tea, the scent, the dried herbs and flowers, and of course the taste. But have you ever attempted to make your own blend.

I wanted to create an invigorating tea using rose petals, after all it’s the start of rose season and we soon will have roses in abundance, so why not enjoy them once they have bloomed.

The important thing to note when making your own tea is to be sure that all your ingredients are safe for consumption. You could dry your own roses if you like. Just be sure they have not been sprayed with any type of insecticide or chemical. If you don’t have insecticide free roses this season, bring on a couple of your most fragrant varieties for next year and use organic protection methods to make them available for culinary use.

Blown blooms (fully mature flowers) that haven’t browned will make the most flavorful tea petals. The most fragrant rose varieties typically make the best tea.

Although you can use any color of rose, you may find that sticking with a single color or color range makes the most visually appealing tea. (It does make a lovely gift.)

WHAT YOU’LL NEED:

2 cups fresh rose petals

2 vanilla pods

PREPARE YOUR INGREDIENTS:

1. You will first need to dry out your Rose Petals and toast your Vanilla pods. Rose petals dry quickly if you’re using a heat source, so watch them closely to make sure they don’t scorch. They should be “shatter” dry, but not brown. In an oven, they just take 30 min to dry completely (in a single layer).

2. Split your Vanilla pods and then add them on the same tray your drying out your rose petals so that they are also slightly toasted in the oven.

3. Once your Vanilla beans have been toasted and cooled roughly chop them and add them to a small glass container along with your dried rose petals, give them a good shake so they are all mixed in together, and your new tea blend is now ready to be brewed or gifted.

BREWING YOUR TEA

1. Measure the desired amount of your tea blend and place into a teapot or teacup. Use 1 tsp of tea for every 1 cup of water.

2. Add enough hot water at 90°c (just before reaching boiling) to submerse the tea.

3. Let the tea steep for 2-3 minutes for the first and then 4-5 minutes on the second brewing.

Note: Adding sugar or honey is optional. You can make rose-scented sugar to accompany the rose-scented tea.

Plants that benefit our health

 

Are you looking for ways to purify the air in your home? Look no further than houseplants… as they are both functional and decorative.

Plants don’t just brighten our homes and offices but they also purify the air, help create a more relaxed, restful ambience in any room and make a space feel welcome.

For city-dwellers who spend most of their day’s indoors we are faced with constantly having to deal with toxins and we are not immune to the effects. Toxic compounds found in furnishings, upholstery, building materials and cleaning products contribute to making our air quality less then pleasant, and yes, we and our families are breathing these all in. But don’t panic as our green friend’s “plants” are perfect for helping us with this problem.

So, we’ve rounded up 10 beautiful houseplants that are easy to take care of for novice gardeners, which are effective at increasing oxygen, humidity and clearing out the toxins with are breathing in.

So at Beyond Sunflowers we are revealing our top picks for air-purifying plants:

1. Peace Lily Among the few air purifiers that flower, the peace lily adapts well to low light but requires weekly watering and is poisonous to pets. Removes: Ammonia, Benzene, Formaldehyde and Trichloroethylene

2. Boston Fern First popularised during the Victorian era, the Boston fern features feather-like leaves and curved fronds that are well suited to indoor hanging baskets. It can prove a bit difficult to maintain because of its need for constant moisture and humidity. Removes: Formaldehyde and Xylene

3. Spider Plant A good option for beginning gardeners, the spider plant reproduces quickly, growing long, grassy leaves as well as hanging stems, which eventually sprout plant-lets—hence its arachnid-inspired name. Removes:Formaldehyde and Benzene.

4. Mother In-Laws Tongue, is also an excellent choice for a beginner’s indoor garden. The broad green and yellow leaves grow upright and require little water and light. This plant serves more than just an aesthetic purpose; Removes:Formaldehyde and Benzene.

5. Golden Pothos is a wonderfully low-maintenance species perfect for those just beginning to cultivate houseplants. It does well in low light, and the soil should be allowed to dry in between watering’s. Its glossy vines like to tumble away from the pot, so putting the pothos in a hanging basket is an eye-catching way to accent a room. Removes: Formaldehyde, Benzene and targets Carbon Monoxide.

6. Parlour Palm the quintessential houseplant native to the forests of Mexico, and they are non-toxic to dogs and cats. They add a charming beachfront feel to any indoor area and grows well in indirect sunlight. Removes: Formaldehyde and Xylene

7. Anthurium a statement plant with stunning purple, pink and red flowers/spadices that last almost forever, they are a cinch to grow, with gorgeous glossy heart shaped leaves, perfect if your trying to add colour to your home. Removes: Formaldehyde, Ammonia, Toluene and Xylene

8. Weeping Fig This low-maintenance, evergreen plant grows well both inside and out. If you use it as a houseplant, place it in an area that has plenty of bright indirect natural light. If you place it directly in the sun, it’s possible that the leaves will burn. Water it frequently, but to avoid root rot allow the soil to dry before adding more water. Removes: Formaldehyde, Benzene and Trichloroethylene

9. Fiddle Leaf Fig are cropping up all over the interior design scene lately, making them one of the most photogenic and popular indoor plants around. And not only are they aesthetically appealing, but they’re also wonderful for improving air quality by providing high levels of oxygen and cleaning the air of allergens. Removes: Formaldehyde

10. Rubber Tree requiring less light than many other plants and outperforming all other ficuses. Multiple variegated options with striking colours, they are also non-toxic to dogs and cats. Removes: Formaldehyde.

The best method to improve you indoor air quality is to have some of these houseplants around, try to eliminate the source of the pollutants and have an air purifier working to cleanse the air at all times.