flickr user maggie hoffman

Two years ago, I was living in a loft conversion in the New York City neighborhood of Bushwick.  One of the big perks of living here was our roof access – which we turned into a rather extensive rooftop garden.  We had heirloom tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, chard, and any number of other vegetables (and perhaps a few fruits).

But one of the major issues we faced was watering our garden, especially on hot, dry days.  Up on a tar-covered urban roof, raised planters (especially wood planters) dried out quickly.  At the time, our only recourse to prevent our plants from dying was to carry gallon jugs of water up four flights of stairs several times a week.

It occurred to us a few weeks later that we should have collected dew and rainwater in barrels and use those for irrigation!

Even though our plans for rooftop rain barrels never panned out, capturing and reusing rainwater for a garden – or a lawn – is a really great idea.  It cuts down on municipal or well water consumption, reducing your impact on the environment, and on your wallet.  And if you’re watering a rooftop garden, it saves you the torture of carrying dozens of gallons of water up the stairs!

GREEN DEPOT SOLUTIONS

RAIN BARRELS ARE ON SALE THROUGH MAY 1! Here are three options for storing rainwater around the home:

The Bosmere Pop-up Rain Barrel holds 50 gallons of rainwater from the rain or a downspout.  A screen keeps out leaves and other debris.  This collapsible rain barrel can be stored flat in a work shed or garage and pulled out when you need it.  A handy on/off spigot at the bottom can be attached to a hose or the collected water can be accessed through the wide-mouth top which opens with a zipper for easy pail-filling.

The Garden Watersaver rainwater diverter makes it easy to redirect the rainwater flowing down your downspout to a rain barrel. It Installs right onto your downspout in minutes and is easy to activate and de-activate as needed by removing the hose & adding the plug in winter.

The Slim-Line Water barrel holds 26 gallons of water and is made from molded UV-stable plastic. It comes with its own stand so that you can fill your watering can easily from the tap provided. The barrel has snap on-off lid for easy filling and keeping insects & debris out. This tool is designed to be unobtrusive and compact for small gardens, patios and decks.

For green building materials, like eco insulation, as well as many other green products for a sustainable lifestyle, visit http://www.greendepot.com.

flickr user wisemandarine

This article is part of a series on reducing waste and living more sustainably.

I live in a small apartment in Brooklyn, New York, with four other people.  One of the largest amounts of waste products I notice that we produce (besides plastics, recyclable or non-recyclable) is the amount of food scraps and food waste we throw away.

Food waste is actually an important issue for the environment.  In New York City, roughly one-third of all the trash we send to the landfill is compostable materials — usually kitchen scraps that will quickly and naturally decompose.  This is significant, because when a compostable item decomposes in an oxygen-free environment, like a landfill, it produces the greenhouse gas methane.  Methane is actually over 20 times more potent of a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide is, which is why composting is such an important activity to pursue.

In my own apartment, the vegetable matter we produce could easily be composted indoors; unfortunately one of our roommates is uncomfortable with having a live compost in the kitchen area.  (Alas, this is the all-too-common human factor of trying to live environmentally: sometimes the social environment around us precludes us from living as sustainably as we’d like.)

In the meantime, though, I’ve two solutions:

  1. I save all of my vegetable scraps in the freezer, in an airtight container.  About three-quarters of these scraps go towards my vegetable stock supply, which I wind up replenishing about every three weeks.
  2. The rest I take down to the park for the public composting program.

It’s a little extra effort, but it helps the environment and saves me a clean conscience.  And it’s especially helpful for future compost projects: freezing compost scraps kills whatever insect eggs and fungi might be present in those scraps, ensuring a clean, uncontaminated compost pile.

GREEN DEPOT SOLUTIONS

Through May 1st, Green Depot is offering up to 20% off a number of green products, including composting supplies.  For all of our discounted composting supplies, click here.

The All Seasons Indoor Composter kit is a unique, in-house system that recycles kitchen scraps into compost. The anaerobic fermentation method used in this kit prepares your compost in less than half the time of conventional composting methods, without the odors.  Two unique features, the strainer and spigot, allow the moisture released by your food scraps to be drained out to prevent spoilage. This liquid can be diluted and used as a fertilizer for household plants.

For green building materials, like eco insulation, as well as many other green products for a sustainable lifestyle, visit http://www.greendepot.com.

From Flickr User: pmulloy2112

From Flickr User: pmulloy2112

Last week, the New York Times ran an article detailing a long-standing debate between the proponents of hybrid seeds and the proponents of heirloom seeds.  Its basic premise was that while heirloom seeds are growing in popularity, there are still distinct advantages to using hybridized seeds.

There actually is some truth in this.  I grew up on a farm, where our two principle products were lamb and vegetables.  I have seen my parents battle each year with pests and diseases – and chose hybridized plants that were bred to be resistant to some of these ailments, but still had the bright and robust flavor we came to expect from our garden vegetables.

To say a plant is hybridized, though, is not to say that it is designated as GMO – as genetically modified (that is, genetically modified using technologies beyond the simple cross-pollination techniques utilized by Gregor Mendel).  This seems to be a common point of confusion.  GMO also possess certain resistances to diseases and pests – or, in the case of Monsanto’s notorious line of Roundup-Ready seeds, to certain pesticides.

Heirloom seeds possess one very distinct advantage over many hybrid and GMO seeds: they are open pollinated, meaning that one can save the seeds from a plant one year to reuse the next.  Often, when plants are hybridized, the seeds are not plantable – meaning that one must re-purchase seeds the following year.  This ensures a reliance on the seed company for gardening needs, and a permanent income for companies selling hybridized or genetically-modified seeds.

But heirloom seed-saving faces its own challenges: that is, preserving the genetic integrity of the heirloom seeds year-to-year.  When browsing through an open-pollinated seed catalog, detailed instructions are given on how to ensure that the seeds do not cross-pollinate with other varieties and become hybridized.  Often these instructions include an isolation radius, i.e., “ensure there are no other tomato varieties growing within .25 miles.”  Because pollen can travel over long distances by wind or insect, saving seeds by avoiding cross-pollination can be difficult, if not impossible for persons living in more dense urban or suburban neighborhoods.

Of course, there’s no reason one can’t re-purchase heirloom seeds the following year, and many folks do for some important, but often overlooked, reasons: heirloom vegetables often have very vibrant flavors, and unique aesthetic qualities.  While hybridized seeds often have vibrant flavors of their own (a point which the Times is keen to point out), they are more commonly associated with the milder and standardized varieties found in supermarkets.  It’s likely this association that has given rise to the newfound popularity of heirloom seeds.  Who wants to risk growing the mealy, tough, perfectly spherical supermarket tomato when other succulent, curious-looking heirloom tomato seeds are now so readily available?

But even if the debate over hybrids and heirlooms continues on, there is one last important reason to support heirloom seed growers: they preserve the genetic diversity and uniqueness of many species of plants, and in doing so help to preserve our agricultural heritage.  Heirloom seeds connect us to old traditions and histories that many commercial, hybridized seeds lack.

GREEN DEPOT SOLUTIONS

Green Depot carries lots of green products with both heirloom and non-heirloom seeds for the home gardener.

Green Depot carries seeds from the Seed Savers Exchange.  Seed Saver’s mission is to preserve our diverse, but endangered, garden heritage for future generations by building a network of people committed to collecting, conserving and sharing heirloom seeds and plants.  Seed Savers also works to educate people about the value of genetic and cultural diversity.  Green Depot carries flower, herb, and vegetable seeds from Seed Savers.  To see the different kinds of seeds we carry in each of these categories, you can visit our page for each category: flowers, herbs, and vegetables.

Easy-to-Grow Mushroom Garden: These growing kits allow you to grow up to two pounds of mushrooms over several weeks.  The mushrooms grow in recycled coffee grounds, which are a safe and healthy medium, and can be stored in a closet or refrigerator for several weeks before activating the mushrooms for growth, simply by placing the kit in an area that is room-temperature, and receives lots of fresh air and indirect sunlight.  The mushroomer then opens a slit in the exposed plastic and mists with water twice a day, yielding a mushroom bounty.

Rice Hull Gardens are a complete gardening set for indoors or outdoors.  The pots are made from rice grain husks and organic pigments – they are constructed from highly renewable resources.  The pots last for up to five years and are 100% biodegradable.  They come with many different kinds of herb seeds already contained within – available in lemon basil, lavender, parsley, oregano, garlic chives, heirloom sweet pepper, heirloom mini-tomato, and an organic basil boutique.

For lots more indoor and outdoor gardening products, you can visit our gardening department.

For green building materials, like eco insulation, as well as many other green products for a sustainable lifestyle, visit http://www.greendepot.com.

Growing in woolly pockets on the wall.One of the challenges that I have always faced in a small apartment has been not only where to garden, but where to store all of my gardening supplies.

I live in a small apartment in Brooklyn, with four roommates.  It’s a tight space, and storage area is limited.  Whatever space we do use has to be shared equally, and fairly.  This can make some activities like gardening or composting difficult to coordinate – where can I store all of my excess seeding trays, for example, after I am done using them for the spring?

It can also be difficult finding space to share in sunny windows.  Living in New York City, it’s not uncommon to hear stories on how bedroom and other windows face directly into an alleyway (actually, my own bedroom is no exception).  Maximizing space becomes essential to growing houseplants and vegetables successfully.

Below are two options to help growing in a small apartment a little more feasible.

GREEN DEPOT SOLUTIONS

Woolly Pockets planters come in two different styles: Freestanding Islands, and Living Wall Systems.  They are both constructed from 100% post-consumer recycled thick felt that allows excess moisture to evaporate, and a moisture-barrier reservoir that holds water for plants to draw from.  The wall system is totally modular – allowing stacking to create an entire indoor or outdoor living wall, saving valuable space near windows.

Cowpot Seed Starting flats are an amazing green product not only because they will save space that would otherwise go to storing plastic, petroleum-based (and non-biodegradable!) seed flats, but because of their essential design.  They are made from renewable, composted cow manure that can be planted directly into the ground and biodegrade completely.  A manufacturing process removes any of the weeds, pathogens and odor that may be present in the manure.

For green building materials, like eco insulation, as well as many other green products for a sustainable lifestyle, visit http://www.greendepot.com.

Grow, Grow, Grow

March 3rd, 2011 | Posted by tjones in Gardening | Green Products | Living Green - (0 Comments)

Welcoming growing things into the home is, I think, one of the better ways to express appreciation for the earth and all the beautiful things it offers.  Plants can change the mood of a room, clean the air, and provide a project to watch grow and bear fruit (sometimes, literally!).

Green Depot offers several green products to brings plants into the home for a variety of purposes — some decorative, some for more practical purposes (like producing food).  Here is a quick guide to all of the growing options that Green Depot provides:

GREEN DEPOT SOLUTIONS

1. Easy-to-Grow Mushroom Garden: These growing kits allow you to grow up to two pounds of mushrooms over several weeks.  The mushrooms grow in recycled coffee grounds, which are a safe and healthy medium, and can be stored in a closet or refrigerator for several weeks before activating the mushrooms for growth, simply by placing the kit in an area that is room-temperature, and receives lots of fresh air and indirect sunlight.  The mushroomer then opens a slit in the exposed plastic and mists with water twice a day, yielding a mushroom bounty.

2. Grow Bottles: Grow Bottles from Potting Shed Creations are created from up-cycled (the process of converting a waste product into a new and more useful product) wine bottles, allowing anyone to grow herbs hydroponically indoors.  The growing kit includes organic heirloom herb seeds in several varieties — allowing you to choose between basil, chives, mint, oregano, or parsley — as well as clay growing pebbles, plant nutrients, wool-felt water wick, and a cork coaster to protect the surface the bottles rest on.

3. Rice Hull Garden Pots: Rice Hull Gardens are a complete gardening set for indoors or outdoors.  The pots are made from rice grain husks and organic pigments – they are constructed from highly renewable resources.  The pots last for up to five years and are 100% biodegradable.  They come with many different kinds of herb seeds already contained within – available in lemon basil, lavender, parsley, oregano, garlic chives, heirloom sweet pepper, heirloom mini-tomato, and an organic basil boutique.

4. Seed Bombs: Seed Bombs by Visualingual allow you to “practice random acts of gardening.”  These gumball-sized packet of seeds allow you to toss the bombs anywhere there is dirt and watch things grow.  They are handmade and come in a hand-screenprinted muslim bag, and contain either wildflower seeds, or herb seeds.  Speaking of food, the herb bombs contain basil, dill, cilantro, chives, and parsley.

5. Woolly Pockets: Woolly Pockets planters come in two different styles: Freestanding Islands, and Living Wall Systems.  They are both constructed from thick felt that allows excess moisture to evaporate, and a moisture-barrier reservoir that holds water for plants to draw from.  The wall system is totally modular – allowing stacking to create an entire indoor or outdoor living wall.

For many green products, including green building materials like eco insulation, visit our website: http://www.greendepot.com.

One of the main concerns folks seem to have about composting in small apartments — especially in urban apartments, where roommates or neighbors can put up opposition to compost — is the smell, and the threat of invading pests.

A properly managed compost bin, one that has a healthy balance of dry organic matter (browns, like newspaper or leafs) with wet organic matter (like vegetable scraps), will never have a bad smell.  Instead, it will have the musty, earthy smell of humus.  Likewise, maintaining a healthy compost bin — with a proper acidity — means pests won’t find the bins all that welcoming.

But it can be difficult to always keep a close tab on a compost bin.  And even then, sometimes roommates can feel uncomfortable having an active compost in the kitchen.  For folks that prefer not to compost indoors, who drop their compost off at a community or city composting program or keep an outdoor bin, storing compost in a bin can be a good solution

GREEN DEPOT SOLUTIONS

One green product that Green Depot is currently featuring is the freezer compost bin from Fuccillo Design, pictured above.  It is a simple solution that resolves concerns over odor and insect invasions.

Constructed from silicone, the bin sits inside of the freezer and keeps the compost from decomposing.  Doing this eliminates odor, and also kills any fruit fly or other insect eggs that might be present in the compost (this is a common problem with composting banana peels, actually).

The bin is 11 inches wide, 6 inches high, and 6 inches deep.

For many green products, including new green building materials carried by both Ecohaus and Greendepot, visit our websites: http://www.greendepot.com, and http://www.ecohaus.com.