Custom Search


Monday, May 16, 2011

Seed Favors

Photo Credit: Recycled Ideas

Photo Credit: Recycled Ideas

If you are planning a wedding, baby shower or birthday party soon consider giving your guests eco-friendly plantable seed favors.  I love the seed favors created by recycledideas.  Their handmade seed favors are available in the shapes of cowboy boots, hearts, stars, puppies, birds, trees, bunnies, giraffes and more.  They also have plantable confetti, seed bombs, plantable seed cards, tags and more.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Windowsill Basil Planter

Photo: Windowsill basil planter.  From left to right, cinnamon basil, opal basil and sweet basil.

The Smith & Hawken Basil Grow Pot I started a while ago is growing very nicely.  I am surprised by how flavorful and fragrant the leaves are!  Although I have basil growing in the yard, I do enjoy having some inside the house.  

Click here to view my earlier post on how to easily start grow pots, and to view the steps I have taken to start this grow pot.   

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Homemade Vanilla Extract

Photo 1: 12 Madagascar vanilla beans split lengthwise steeping in a jar of vodka.

Photo 2: The vanilla bean on the top was split lengthwise with a knife.  
The vanilla bean on the bottom is a whole vanilla bean.

I started making homemade vanilla extract about a month ago.  It is a lot easier than I imagined.  All you have to do is place several vanilla beans (split lengthwise).  See Photo 2.  Then steep the vanilla beans in vodka for a minimum of three weeks.  See Photo 1.  The longer the vanilla beans steep in the vodka, the better the flavor.  I can still detect a slight smell of alcohol so I am going to allow it to sit longer.  [Update: 3 months later I can no longer detect the smell of alcohol.  Now it smells absolutely heavenly!  I have a smile on my face every time I open this jar.  It fills the room with the smell of vanilla.]  For instructions and more information about making vanilla extract, click here.

Quick Tips: 
  • Consider purchasing vanilla beans online.  Grocery stores charge a lot of money for only a couple of vanilla beans.  I purchased mine from, but you can also try places like Amazon or eBay.   
  • If you want to make a "classic" vanilla extract, use Madagascar Vanilla Beans.  Otherwise try experimenting with other kinds of vanilla beans and liquor.  
  • Make sure you use enough vanilla beans or you will just end up with vanilla flavored alcohol.  According to, you need 6 whole vanilla beans to make 1 cup of single fold vanilla extract. 

Last updated: July 25, 2011

Monday, May 9, 2011

Last Chance - Free Composting Classes

Free composting classes are being offered this Saturday (May 14, 2011) at Antioch and Kensington County.  Click here to reserve your spot.  This will be the last free composting class of the season.  The next one will be offered in August.
To see if your city offers free composting classes, go to your city's website and look under your city's waste and recycling department or perform a web search for "free composting classes in (enter your city here)".  Your city may also offer free or discounted composting bins, reading materials, and free compost.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Free Composting Workshops

Contra Costa County is offering a free two-hour composting workshop to its residents.  All you have to do is call and reserve your spot.  Click here to view Contra Costa County's current schedule for free composting classes.
I have seen other cities/counties (e.g., Santa Clara, Solano, San Francisco, etc.),  offer similar free programs so perform a search for free composting classes in your county or check out your city's website and look under the recycling & waste department. You may even find that they offer free compost or free or discounted compost bins.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Seed Organizer

I harvest and store seeds from my existing plants.  In the past I blogged about using photo albums as a way to store and organize seed packets, and take gardening notes.  This worked well for seed packets that had small to medium-sized seeds, but I had so many seeds that I ended up with ziplock bags full of half used seed packets and loose seeds.  Tired of the mess, I found another way to store and organize all of my seeds.  

Photo 1: Shoebox/Photo Storage Seed Organizer

  • Seed Storage Box.  You can transform a shoebox or photo storage box into a seed organizer.  I bought these decorative shoe box/photo storage box at Marshalls for about $3.  However, you can transform an ordinary shoe box or photo storage box into a seed organizer.  Just place an object inside the box to act as a bookstand to keep your seed packets upright (See Photo 1).

Photo 2: Seed packets for the new seed organizer

  • The Seed Packets.  Instead of throwing the seed packets into the box, I created new seed packets out of envelopes to give it a uniform look, and to keep the seeds from spilling out of their packets (See Photo 2).   You can organize the seed packets alphabetically or by category (e.g., herbs, flowers, vegetables, etc.).  You can also create a box for each category or for each new year.  

  • How to Make Seed Packets
    • Materials
      • Envelopes (that fit inside the box)
      • Pen
      • Scissors
      • Elmer's Glue
      • Old Seed Packets (optional)
      • Individual Photos of Plants (optional)
      • Funnel (optional)
    • Directions
      • Place the seeds in the envelope or if you like you can wait to put them in at the end.  If you do wait to put them in at the end, use a funnel to assist you.  
      • Cut a small (1.5" to 2") slit on the folded line of the flap.
      • Seal the envelope.
      • Cut the seed packet so that you have a front and back side of the packet.
      • Paste the front of the seed packet to the front of the envelope (See Photo 2).  Alternatively, you can glue a photo of the plant, and then label it with a marker or pen.   
      • Paste the back of the seed packet to the back of the envelope (See Photo 2).  Alternatively, you can write down planting instructions and other notes on the back.
      • Repeat this process to make more seed packets.  Make sure that the photos and writing are facing the same direction so that it will be easier to catalog and look-up the seed packets.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Free Banana Trees by Mail

Photo: Banana Trees.  May 2011 Free Plant of the Month by

Free Plants By Mail ( was started by local growers as a way to use the surplus plants from nurseries and also as a way to support The Nature Conservancy.  Free Plants By Mail offers a new free plant each month.  This month they are offering banana trees.  Although the plant itself is free, you do have to pay a small shipping and handling fee of $6.95.
This organization also has over 100 plants available for sale on their site.  100% of the proceeds from the sale will go to The Nature Conservancy.
Click here to view Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ).

Monday, May 2, 2011

College Football Stadium Converted into an Urban Farm

Photo: Credit

Paul Quinn College turned its football stadium into a 2-acre urban farm so that it can:
  1. Help address the lack of affordable, healthy food options available to economically depressed areas in the City of Dallas; 
  2. Create a replicable model for achieving sustainable urban re-development built around providing safe food options to economically depressed communities; and 
  3. Create a facility that will deliver preventative health care (that focuses on nutrition and exercise) to the underserved community surrounding the College.
For the full story, click here.

Free Garden Soil and Plants

craigslist can be a good source for free garden soil, plants and other free stuff.  To see what is free in your area visit their website and select your location.  Look under the "for sale" category, and select "free."

Important: Practice caution and use your common sense when posting or responding to these ads.  Below are some safety tips to consider:

  • Tell a friend or family member where you are going and when you expect to return.
  • Bring a friend or family member with you.
  • Bring a cell phone with you if you have one.
  • Request that the free stuff be placed outside the home for pick-up if possible.  
  • Trust your instincts.  If your gut is telling you something is wrong, then leave immediately.
  • If you are posting an ad to give away free stuff, place the items in front of your house to avoid having strangers in your home.  
  • When posting an ad for free stuff, keep in mind you are posting an ad for the world to see so be careful of what information you put out there.  I do not post my address, full name or phone number.  I only list my city and a nearby cross street.  I also use the anonymous email option provided by Craiglist.  I then ask people to email me with their name and contact information.  This allows me to screen emails and I can narrow the number of people I give my address and phone number to.  After I have found a person to pick up the stuff, I delete the ad.