DIY: Celebrate Earth day by sprouting your own seeds

Around this time of the year, kids get to learn a lot about recycling, planting and trash clean up in celebration of Earth day. I think it’s important to let them know we must do these things all year around and Earth should be celebrated every day.

So, it doesn’t matter if you do this project on Earth day, this week or next month as long

as your kids experience the joys and wonders of watching their own seedlings emerge. Plus, they’ll get a little lesson on recycling and composting on top of it all!

You will need:

* An empty egg carton (the

molded pulp

ones, not plastic or

polystyrene)

* Potting soil

* Seeds

* Plastic wrap or bag

* Pen or pecil

* Tooth picks and paper to make labels

Tip: to make the germination process a breeze, pick seeds that germinate easily such as beans, pees, carrots, squash, cucumber and pumpkins. Hard to start seeds might not even sprout and you’ll end up having a frustrated kid!

Get started:

1. Separate the bottom part from the lid of the egg carton. Take the bottom part and poke holes in each cell using the tip of a pen or pencil.

Those will be the drainage holes. Place the lid of the egg carton under the bottom part, nesting one under the other. Now you have your seedling tray.

2. Place small amounts of soil in each cell and plant the seeds making sure the seeds are lightly covered by soil (follow package directions)

3. Water each cell. Be mindful not to over water the seeds, a spray bottle comes in handy.

4. Use tooth picks and paper to make labels.

You can also use rocks or clothes pins to label the seeds.

5. Cover your tray with plastic wrap or a bag to create greenhouse conditions.

6. Place the tray by the window and watch your seeds grow! Keep soil watered and remove the plastic wrap when the first leaves appear.

7. When your plants have more than two leaves, separate each cell and plant it directly into the ground (or pot). The pulp that the egg carton is made of will decompose and become

compost

.

Doing this project is a great way to teach kids about the importance of planting and re-planting, recycling and composting. Explain to them why we should plant trees, how you are recycling the egg carton and how it becomes plant food. Let them have fun while you guide them.

Make a photo journal, they’ll enjoy comparing the growth of the plants and making observations later on.

 I know I did when I was little and now I pass the experience on to my kids.

Natasha K.

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Urban Composting


The rain showers here in NYC haven't let up in what seems weeks. If you are anything like me, your overall summertime morale hasn't benefited from all this precipitation, but the flowers, gardens and lawns sure have. My own urban garden is growing so fast, lush and green it's amazing!

Gardening is one of my favorite DIY hobbies. Such satisfaction from planting tiny little seeds, taking care of them, feeding the soil and watching everything grow! I used to think I didn't have much of a green thumb, but those days are a changin' my friends. Like anything else, the more you work at it the more you learn over time.


After covering the basics, the next logical step in my gardening journey is composting. For some reason composting had always intimidated me, I have always felt that you have to really 'know what you are doing' to get results....I sort of chuckle thinking about that now, because it's actually pretty easy. You throw stuff in a bin, mix it up once in a while and you get beautiful lush fertilizer. It just takes a little elbow grease and patience (and of course knowing your 'greens' and your 'browns')! Not only is it organic, it reduces your garbage output and it's totally free.

Urban composting can be done indoors or outdoors in various different ways, in small spaces and large. You can make it work for you, your lifestyle and your space. To fend off my composting fears (like how do I prevent a stinky bin, what about rats and flies and stuff...?) I attended a composting workshop held by the Lower East Side Ecology Center (through the NYC Compost Project). It gave me the confidence to go for it on my own and have been working mine for just over a month now!

My metal compost bin + what I added today (before it got a good stir!)

Don't have enough space, time or resources to compost yourself - but want to put your organic waste to good use?

Several of the city's Greenmarkets are running a pilot composting collection program. You can save your compost materials (like your veggie scraps, coffee grinds or eggshells) and bring them to the collection site. Did you know that over the past nine weekends they have collected almost 50,000 pounds of food scraps in Brooklyn and Manhattan? That is a ton of waste being kept out of New York City's garbage turned into useful nutrients.

Even if your urban garden is your windowsill or your fire escape it's enough space to have a DIY garden all your own. Carve out a little piece of green :)

Happy gardening!

Useful composting resources + links for NYC residents:
Now go out there and get your hands dirty!!

Until next time.....
~ Corey

Urban Garden Inspiration

Happy first day of spring! And to help us ring in the new season, NYC had a full day of soaking rain, preparing all the garden beds for new shoots, bulbs, and seedlings. Despite the fact that I live in Harlem, a.k.a. "Concrete Wasteland", there are plenty of opportunities to garden... and if I can find a patch of dirt to work with, then so can you!

Until about three years ago, I always thought that having a green thumb was inherited or somehow a God-given gift. Then my perspective changed - I had kids. I realized that to keep things alive I actually had to take care of them. Just like I couldn't set my kid out on the windowsill and expect her to thrive, I shouldn't expect a store bought plant to live after a week of neglect. If you're just getting started or want new gardening tips, two great books I would suggest for urban gardeners are by Gayla Trail, "You Grow Girl" and "Grow Great Grub".



Urban gardening is gaining a resurgence of followers who want to bring a little bit of green to the city. Community gardens, green streets, courtyard planters, container gardens, rooftop decks, windowsill herbs, and even the fire escape have great potential to be an urban oasis. My daughters and I started working our garden last week, which consisted of churning up the dirt in our outdoor pots, pruning the perennials, and even planting some cold loving seeds that can be sown as soon as the ground thaws like Bloomsdale spinach, dark red beets, arugula, and fennel.

Right now is a great time to get certain seedlings like tomatoes or herbs who need a long growing season started indoors. Don't feel pressured to purchase expensive seed trays or greenhouses to do this - clean yogurt containers, empty tin cans, or recycled take-out containers do just fine. Just make sure to poke or drill holes in the bottom for drainage and place the lids under the containers to catch water run-off. Fill your pots with organic potting mix and plant seeds according to the seed directions. Transplant the seedlings to a larger container well after the last frost and when the weather is consistently warm.

Gardening is a source of inspiration and joy to me, and I love seeing how spring gardens inspire NYC artists!











And because I'm always the mommy blogger, an absolutely amazing book for kids about gardening is "The Gardener" written by Sarah Stewart and beautifully illustrated by David Small.

May your gardens be bountiful and bring joy to the city!

Karina
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NYC Rooftop Gardening


Every summer I dream of getting out of the city heat for a few months to some nice summer home upstate. That dream hasn't come true yet, but I've found a way to bring a little bit of that summer back home to the city.

My garden is my refuge, my happy place, my growing place. It's amazing what a few plants will do to your outlook. They've lived on my fire escape and window sills before I graduated to the rooftop.

A few tips

I love the book The City Gardener's Handbook. It's written by a New Yorker, and I swear for New Yorkers, though I think anyone would benefit from it. Easy enough for a beginner but with plenty of resources for the intermediate (and dare I say advanced) gardener.


Don't spend too much money!
All of my pots (or plastic tubs) I got off of craig's list or from the dollar store. I even got a few just regular tubs and drilled lots of holes into the bottom for drainage. Some of them were free.

Try growing from seed.
They're cheap and I certainly don't mind that they sprout irregularly. You can move them around or trim them back as they grow so you have even seedlings throughout your pots. Or try growing them inside!


Spend money on plants that you know will last.
This is the rose bush's second season on my roof. Handled the winter just fine. Learn what zone you're in and shop accordingly. Perennial plant tags say what zones are best for them. Otherwise, you can bring tropical plants indoors. Just remember to keep them in until the temperature has stabilized above 40 deg F at night. I tried to bring my Aloe Vera plants out too early this year and almost killed them.


Know what you have and Use what's already there.
And I spent a few days going up to the roof at different times of day to get a feeling for how much sun and shade my roof gets. During the summer it gets more sun than some plants can handle. But I do have that wall that provides a bit of shade in the afternoon, even with the silver paint.


And I use what's already on my roof, like this pole will eventually be supporting these snap pea plants.

Ask an expert!
Find your local nursery, plant and garden store, or even a hardware store and find someone that will answer your questions. Start out small and learn as you go. It's ok if it doesn't work out at first, a lot of it is trial and error. While I love the plants themselves, I also just love playing in the dirt.