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5 Ways Healthy Gardens Help The Planet

Ways Healthy Gardens Help The Planet

I just started reading the book “The Healthy Garden: Simple Steps For a Greener World.” It’s all about sustainable gardening that’s good for individuals and communities. A simple paragraph in the introduction got me thinking about all of the ways that the choices we make in our gardens can not only save us money but also offer benefits to our neighborhoods and the larger planet around us. Let’s consider some examples.

What Is a Healthy Garden?

Authors Kathleen N. Brenzel and Mary-Kate Mackey have put together an entire large book about healthy gardens. So, obviously, this isn’t a simple question to answer. Basically, though, they define health as balance. They look at ways to grow gardens that are sustained, benefit your own mind and body, and spread out to help the world around you.

Ways Healthy Gardens Help the Planet

Here are some of the ways that they list in that introduction and then go on to share details about throughout the book.

1. Strengthen the Soil

They talk a lot about choosing the right plants. Don’t choose plants that steal all of the water from a dry desert area. Instead, choose plants that are good for the growth all around them. When you do that, you improve the soil. You bring balance to the nature of the area. As a result, the whole ecosystem begins to thrive more.

2. Composting Is Good For The Planet

When you compost, you improve the soil. More that that, though, you also keep organic materials out of landfills. There are already way too many things crowding our landfills. We all know that this waste is bad for the planet. We can do our own small part by composting in our own gardens.

3. Upcycling In The Garden

You can save other stuff from going to the landfill, too, when you choose to use it in your garden. I’ve told you before about the Pine Street Garden which is a little local neighborhood garden where they’ve upcycled cans and bottles into beautiful plant pots for the whole neighborhood to enjoy. We’ve also talked here in the blog about how to use upcycled tires in the garden. You can DIY decor and functional items for the garden and make sure those items don’t go to waste.

4. Grow Food For Yourself and Others

There was once a time when almost everyone grew their own food. These days, we mostly buy our own food. When you grow your own food for yourself and others, you restore health and balance to your own little part of the community. When you and your children understand where your food really comes from, you are less inclined to waste it. When you give garden food to others in need, you improve their lives and health.

5. Feed The Local Wildlife

A friend of mine had a garden that was certified as a local wildlife habitat. She learned how to choose the right plants to provide water sources and food sources to the local wildlife native to her area. Mostly, she fed birds, but she also fed some raccoons and other critters. As your plants come to life, the wildlife comes, then they help spread that new life around the area, and everyone benefits. The planet is better for it.

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Inexpensive Alternatives To Grow Lights

(X) Inexpensive Alternatives To Grow Lights

Grow lights can be a really helpful tool for indoor gardening. Many people find that they are worth their cost. However, they aren’t cheap. Therefore, you might want to consider some of these inexpensive alternatives to grow lights.

What Are Grow Lights?

Grow lights are exactly what their name says: lights designed to help plants grow better. As you might guess, these aren’t just any regular light, though. You can’t just turn a desk lamp on to your plants and assume that they’ll grow better as a result. Instead, plants need light that’s similar to sunlight. Grow lights use particular colors from the light spectrum to help your indoor plants grow.

Inexpensive Alternatives To Grow Lights

There are several good inexpensive alternatives to grow lights. However, it’s important that when you look at these cheaper alternatives, you make sure that you’re choosing the right ones for your plants. There are different types of grow lights, with different intensity and energy efficiency, etc. Do your research to find out what works best with your particular setup.

1. Fluorescent Lights

Hydroponic Way suggests using fluorescent lighting as one of the best inexpensive alternatives to grow lights. They note that they generally don’t emit a lot of heat, which is important. A light bulb that burns too hot can burn your plants, doing the exact opposite of helping them to grow! However, because they don’t burn too hot, they also don’t burn too bright. As a result, they don’t produce enough light for some plants to grow well. Do your research to find plants that will grow well under fluorescent lighting.

2. LED Grow Lights

There are actually many different types of grow lights on the market. Some are more expensive than others. If you want to purchase grow lights made for your indoor garden but don’t want to spend a lot of money, then consider purchasing LED grow lights. They’re easy to find. Moreover, they’re energy-efficient so they won’t run up the cost of your home electric bill.

3. Halogen Lights

Hydroponic Way notes that these are not the most efficient option. However, if you already have halogen lights or you can get them affordably, then you might want to see if they work well for your indoor garden.

4. Incandescent Light Bulbs

Today’s Homeowner notes that you can use incandescent lighting bulbs as grow lights. However, as aforementioned, they burn hot so they have the potential to burn your plants. As a result, make sure that you keep the lights further away from the plants than you would with the other types of alternative lights. They note that a nice option is to combine incandescent lights with fluorescent lights because each emits a different type of light on the spectrum, giving your plants a better balance for good growth.

5. Sunlight

Obviously, the sun is the best light source for your plants. If you can skip the grow lights and use nature, then that’s your best option. It’s free, after all. Of course, you might not have the choice to grow all of your plants outdoors. Or you might want to enjoy indoor gardening during months when it’s too cold for plants outside. If you can set plants up near windows that get the right amount of sun, this is still your best option.

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5 Ways Depression Costs Me In the Garden

5 Ways Depression Costs Me In the Garden

I struggle with chronic, recurring depression. While it’s well-managed, the symptoms do creep up from time to time. Depression is an expensive mental health condition, in ways that might surprise you. In fact, during bouts of depression, I find that it costs me in the garden. This does mitigate the many mental health benefits of gardening. However, it’s an important thing to know about if you’re a frugal gardener who lives with a similar mental health challenge.

5 Ways Depression Costs Me In The Garden

Here are the five most common ways that depression costs me in the garden.

1. Lack of Energy Means Slack in the Garden

A garden requires tending. Most plants need attention weekly if not daily. When this is part of a normal routine, it’s great. In fact, it’s a healthy part of the day. However, sometimes, depression wins. When it does, fatigue sets in. It literally feels impossible to get up out of the bed to do anything at all. If that happens, then gardening doesn’t. And this can mean the plants wither and die.

2. What’s The Point Anyway?

That refrain runs through my head when I’m dealing with a bout of depression. Depression is characterized by hopelessness and pointlessness and a lack of interest in doing things normally enjoyed. It’s really hard to stay motivated to work in the garden when you can’t see the point of doing it. Again, this means that the garden withers and dies.

If we can overcome these feelings (through medication, therapy, self-care, and other means,) then the growth and beauty of the garden can remind us of the point. But, sometimes, depression takes over.

3. Low Self-Esteem or Black/White Thinking

For me, depression is accompanied by a feeling of worthlessness. Some people experience black and white thinking because of their mental health conditions. In either case, this can lead to feeling like you aren’t good enough to make a garden grow. A plant starts to die, I feel like “I don’t know how to garden,” and I just give up.

Someone who loves gardening might see a small mistake in the garden and suddenly hate gardening. We lose the joy as we lose ourselves in depression. So, we abandon the garden. Or we get in there and rip it up entirely, destroying what we spent time and money creating.

4. Reckless Shopping

Although this is more commonly a characteristic of mania in bipolar depression, people, like myself, with unipolar depression, can fall into wasteful shopping as well. For me, it’s usually online shopping. I’m imagining some other life I want to have where I’m not depressed, and I’m allowing the easy mindlessness of the scroll to convince me that I just need this gadget or that to feel better. So, suddenly, I find myself buying new garden tools, plants, or a gardening apron that I can’t afford and won’t ever use.

5. Injuries

Ideally, I work through the challenges and overcome them and get back to doing things that I love. However, sometimes, when you push through before you’re ready, you end up injuring yourself. If you’re in the brain fog of depression while working with gardening tools, then you might injure yourself. This can cost me in medical care as well as lost work.

Tips for Coping

There are many amazing benefits of gardening. It’s just sometimes hard to remember them in the throes of depression. It’s helpful for me to keep lists of things I love, what the benefits are, little stories or photos that remind me of the good parts, etc. Then I look at those in depression to try to help myself overcome the inertia and get back to myself.

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5 Frugal Ways To Disinfect Garden Tools

Frugal Ways To Disinfect Garden Tools

Did you know that it’s important for you to disinfect your garden tools? It is! You want to do this regularly. If you’re having a problem with fungus or bacteria, then you should even disinfect items before using them to work on different sections of the garden. It’s not hard, though, so don’t fret. And it doesn’t have to be expensive either. Here are some frugal ways to disinfect garden tools.

Why You Have to Disinfect Garden Tools

First of all, you should regularly clean your garden tools. After all, the better shape you keep your tools in, the longer that they’re going to last, and the better they’ll do their job. So, you should regularly clean with water, soap, scrubbing, etc. to keep those tools in good shape. Get rid of the dirt, sap, rust, etc.

You don’t have to disinfect garden tools every single time that you use them. However, you’ll want to do so periodically. For example, you might do so at the start or end of each gardening season. That said, if you experience a problem with fungi or bacteria, get proactive and disinfect more often. After all, you don’t want to spread the problem all around your garden!

Frugal Ways to Disinfect Garden Tools

Here are some of the most common frugal ways to disinfect garden tools that we know:

1. Bleach Water

There’s a lot of debate about whether or not you want to use bleach in your garden. If you’re growing food that you want to eat, or you regularly have pets or kids in your garden, then you might find bleach to be too toxic an option. However, we’ll start here, because it’s one of the most common frugal ways to disinfect garden tools. Gardening.org recommends a solution of nine cups hot water to one cup of chlorine bleach.

Note: Bleach is fine for most of your garden tools but it’s not good for your plants. It can kill them. Therefore, if using this option, do your disinfecting away from the actual garden itself.

2. Distilled White Vinegar

For those of you who don’t want to use bleach in the garden, which is totally understandable, try vinegar instead. Gardening.org says that you can use distilled white vinegar on its own or make a 50/50 solution with water. Either way works to disinfect your garden tools.

Note: Like with bleach, you want to use the vinegar outside of the actual garden area in order to protect the plants.

3. Alcohol

Obviously, alcohol is one of the most common disinfectants that most people use around the home. Chances are that you already have some. University of Florida’s Gardening Solutions says it’s a terrific option for disinfecting garden tools. When you use bleach or vinegar, you usually have to create a solution in which to soak your tools. In contrast, you can simply wipe alcohol onto your tools, wipe it off, and you’re ready to go. If you do want to make a solution, it can be as much as 100% alcohol or you can distill it with water but it shouldn’t be less than 70% alcohol. U of F says that you can use ethanol or isopropyl alcohol.

4. Trisodium Phosphates (TSPs)

Here’s another one from the University of Florida list. They note that it’s a great option because it’s one of your most frugal choices. However, it’s also highly corrosive, so you want to be especially careful if using this one. Like with the bleach water, you want nine parts water to one part TSP. And, as you probably would with bleach, you want to keep it far away from your skin.

5. Bleach-Free Disinfectant Wipes

HGTV recommends this option for easily wiping down tools. If you want to disinfect regularly between uses, this can be a terrific option. We wouldn’t necessarily have always put this on a list of frugal choices. However, with COVID-19, many people have started using these regularly in their homes. If they’re already worked into your budget, then they’re a fairly frugal choice.

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Are Old Tires Toxic to Plants?

Old Tires Toxic to Plants

Some people like to use old tires in their gardening. However, you might wonder, “are old tires too to plants?” It’s important to think about those things, especially if you eat food from your garden.

How To Use Old Tires In Your Garden

There are so many great, fun ways to use old tires in a garden. You can create all kinds of fun garden decor and art like that shown above. Other ways to use old tires in your garden include:

  • Hang a tire swing from a tree.
  • Build a small playground for your kids or pets with old tires.
  • Fill the center of tires with soil and plant in there for a unique plant bed.
  • Hang tires to create shelving for a vertical garden.
  • Build chairs, tables, and other lawn furniture from recycled tires.
  • Use tires to create a big, dramatic garden border or fence or edge a pathway in your garden.
  • Stack tires to create a retaining wall.

Are Old Tires Toxic to Plants?

Lots of people like the options above for their gardens. They’re fun. They keep tires out of landfills. It’s a great way to make new use of something old. But, are old tires toxic to plants?

There’s actually been a lot of debate about this in the gardening community over the years. Although there’s been some research, we still don’t have a clear answer that’s absolutely definitive. On one hand, tires do obviously contain harmful chemicals that are toxic to humans. These chemicals leach into the soil over time. On the other hand, the leaching process is so slow, particularly on really old tires that have already done most of their chemical off-gassing during years on the road, that they’re probably not actually harmfully toxic to most humans.

That’s the argument on either side. If you ask specifically “are old tires toxic to plants,” then the answer is basically no. The plants seem to still thrive. But if you want to know if they’re toxic to you if you eat plants grown in them, the answer isn’t as simple. Likely a little bit yes, enough to harm you – who knows?

If you have small children that play in the garden, pets that dig and romp in the garden, or you grow food in your garden, then you might want to err on the side of assuming that they could potentially be toxic.

Alternatives to Old Tires in the Garden

If you want to be better safe than sorry, then you might want to consider alternatives to using old tires in the garden. Lucy Bradley recommends upcycling wood in the garden instead. Specifically, she recommends non-treated wood, ACQ pressure-treated wood, and naturally rot-resistant wood. You can use wood to build planters, raised beds, fences, vertical gardens, and playgrounds in the garden. The important thing is that you make sure you choose wood that hasn’t been exposed to chemical treatments.

Likewise, you can upcycle stone, concrete, and bricks. Again, you just want to make sure that these recycled materials weren’t first exposed to chemicals like lead-based paint or asbestos. Think of it this way: if you wouldn’t use it in your house then you probably don’t want to use it in your garden.

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Pine Street Garden, San Francisco

pine street garden san francisco

Pine Street Garden is one of my favorite little things in San Francisco. Sure, we have the huge botanical gardens and the very special Japanese Tea Gardens. But the Pine Street Garden is the type of little gem that to me is what the heart of San Francisco is all about.

What Is Pine Street Garden?

pine street garden sf

It’s actually just a little fence on which local people have created a garden of small plants inside of upcycled containers for the neighborhood to enjoy. I’m not sure who established this spot. I’d assume it’s one or more of the people who live in the small apartment/house closest to it. I’ve loved watching it grow over the years during my walks past the place. It started out as just a few small plants hanging on the fence. Now the whole fence has plants on it in various containers.

Where Is Pine Street Garden?

If you want to find this little gem, then you need to walk along Pine Street in San Francisco. You’ll find it on the south side of the street, between Pierce and Scott streets. It’s located right in front of a residential parking lot. In fact, the housing’s trash cans are right on the other side of the fence. Before this was here, you just saw the trash cans. Now, you see gardens and art!

Upcycled Garden Containers

pine street garden

Each small plant, mostly succulents, grow inside of small upcycled containers hung on the fence. These containers include:

  • La Croix cans with the tops cut off
  • Water bottles cut in half and turned upside down
  • Wine bottles , also cut and turned upside down
  • Mason jars
  • Aluminum / tin cans (the kind for canned veggies)
  • Old gardening pots
  • Wooden containers

They also have a fabric hanging shelf, like the kind you’d hang over a door to tuck your shoes into the pockets. Little plants are tucked inside of soil in each pocket.

Why I Love Pine Street Garden

pine street garden

This is such a simple little garden. However, it speaks so much to me. I enjoy it every time I walk by. Just a few of the reasons why I love it so much include:

  • It’s a contribution to the whole neighborhood. It beautifies the block.
  • It’s also an inspiration. Many people here don’t have yards or decks where they can have big gardens. This is a reminder to make a garden in whatever space you do have.
  • There are such great upcycling garden ideas showcased here!
  • San Francisco has such an indomitable spirit. In the toughest of times, I’ve seen the people of this city come together, help each other, and bring creativity out into the streets in so many different ways. This is one small example of that.
  • It reminds me to look for the little things. It’s all too easy to get distracted on walks – by music or podcasts or just thoughts in my head. I love looking around to see unique, different, interesting, beautiful things. It reminds me to be in the moment and enjoy the small stuff. The way this garden subtly changes over time with its new additions reminds me of that.

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Cheap and Economical Humidity Dome Alternatives

Cheap and Economical Humidity Dome Alternatives

If you grow your plants from seeds then you probably know what a humidity dome is. (If not, don’t worry, we’ll go over it briefly below.) Just like with all of your other gardening supplies, you can buy humidity domes from a variety of different sources. However, you can also DIY them. Here are some cheap and economical humidity dome alternatives.

What Is a Humidity Dome?

A humidity dome sounds like really fancy device, doesn’t it? Bootstrap Farmer says that they’re an important part of your seed starting tool kit. But what are they? Basically, they’re just plastic lids for your seed trays. Very important, very helpful, but not necessarily fancy at all.

Why Use a Humidity Dome For Seed Starting?

Humidity domes help retain moisture in the soil. Instead of evaporating into the air, the plastic lid catches the moisture and keeps it there with the seeds. Additionally, the lid helps maintain an even temperature for the seeds in the tray. Benefits of using a humidity dome include:

  • Less time spent watering
  • Less time spent checking and maintaining temperature
  • Improved germination rates
  • Faster germination
  • Protection for delicate, expensive, favorite seeds

Are they necessary? Some say yes, some say no. But as long as you can find cheap and economical humidity dome alternatives then there’s really no harm in at least seeing if they improve your seed growing process.

Cheap and Economical Humidity Dome Alternatives

So, you can obviously shop around and purchase a variety of humidity domes for your gardening. And you can purchase seed trays that come with their own domes. But you can also come up with your own cheap and economical humidity dome alternatives. For example, alternatives offered in a National Gardening Association forum and over on the Green Upside website include:

Living Lettuce Containers

Obviously, these are already designed to grow plants – you buy them with lettuce growing inside. When you’re done with the lettuce, use the container. It’s roomy, about the same width as height, and it’s a great option for starting your seeds in at home.

Plastic Wrap

Green Upside explains that you can use plastic wrap around an egg carton seed starting tray or almost any other container to create the humidity dome.

Plastic Bag

Alternatively, you can use a plastic bag the same way. Specifically, Green Upside notes that you can use a wet paper towel inside of a plastic bag to start your seeds … no other containers needed!

Ready-To-Eat Chicken Containers

You know those chickens that you buy whole, ready to eat, from Costco or the supermarket? They usually come on a plastic tray with a plastic dome over it. If you’re a gardener, you might look at that container and think, “that would be perfect for my garden.” If you have plants that need room for leaves to grow, these can be great humidity dome alternatives.

Plastic Bottle

Cut the bottom out of a large plastic bottle, such as a gallon milk bottle. Use that as your humidity dome over your seed tray.

Plastic Containers for Berries

These are an interesting choice. They’re shallow, so you have to choose what you’re growing in there carefully. Moreover, they’re vented with air holes. Sometimes this is a good thing and sometimes it defeats the purpose of your humidity dome. Sometimes too much humidity leads to mold so the venting is good. It depends on varied factors. So, consider this as a potential option but maybe not the best one.

Old Food Containers

Do you have a bunch of food containers that you keep to store your leftovers? Do you have too many of them? Green Upside suggests using any food container with a lid to create your seed tray with its own humidity dome.

In other words, look around for plastic that you can recycle/upcycle to create a humidity home!

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Could I Make Money With Worm Farming?

worm farming

I was chatting with a friend the other day and she asked me if I’d ever heard about worm farming. I said, “sure, like to compost in your apartment, right?” And she said, “sure, but did you know that you can actually make money with worm farms?” Huh. I did not know that.

My Friend’s Worm Farming Story

She had been out and about running her daily errands. In a parking lot, she saw someone pull up to a woman’s car that was beside her and call out, “hey do you have any worms?” How could you not be curious about such an interaction! So, she got to talking to the woman. She found out that she’s a worm farmer for a living. The woman raises about 8000-10000 worms. She sells them to gardeners and farmers and even to the city.

Occasionally, she faces battles you would never think about if you weren’t a worm farmer. For example, her worms got taken over by centipedes and she lost most of her farm. She had to start over. How do you write off that loss on your taxes at the end of the year? The whole thing is so fascinating. And it got me wondering what’s really involved in becoming a worm farmer.

Worms Are Good For Gardens

There are, of course, many different types of worms. Not all are ones you would want in your garden. But there are lot of benefits to worms in garden, particularly earthworms. And actually, most worms are earthworms. If you see worms in your garden, then it’s often a sign that your garden is healthy. And if you want a healthier garden, you might choose to add worms to your garden.

Worms help gardens by:

  • Processing your soil and compost and turning it into nutrients. They essentially compost for you in a super effective way. As a result, they make your soil healthier and improve garden growth.
  • They also move the earth around. They create tunnels in the soil that improve air and water movement as well as growth opportunities for the roots of plants.

So, I see two main benefits to worm farming:

  1. The worms help your own garden to grow.
  2. You can sell the worms to other people who want their gardens to grow.

You Can Make Money Worm Farming

In our conversation, my friend mention a pilot in Sonoma who made his money worm farming. So, I did my research and learned about Jack Chambers. The story goes that he put some worms into his compost, left for five days, and came home shocked to discover rich soil where the worms were living. He fell in love with worm farming (called vermiculture, by the way) and turned it into a business. He’s raised millions for his company, which sells the worms to farmers. In Sonoma, that means a lot of vineyards, too.

It seems like you could start this kind of business with relatively little investment. The Savvy Smallholder says that it can be a part-time or full-time job. Seems like something you could start small and see if you like it. At the very least, you will probably improve your own garden’s soil in the process. They explain that if you aren’t ready to raise worms to sell, then you can start with vermicomposting: “worm farming for recycling waste.”

Apparently you can sell worm castings, various worm products, and the worms themselves. Worm castings are basically earthworm-created manure or fertilizer. As for the worms themselves, in addition to selling them to farms, you can sell them for bait. It’s a business to think about!

How Much Do Garden Worms Cost?

I’ve never bought worms. Therefore, I was a little surprised to learn that you can buy them on Amazon for your garden. One pound of red wigglers, which seems to be about 1000 worms, sells for between $40 and $100 there. That said, there are lots of options at various price points. I would imagine that if you sell directly to small gardeners, and perhaps you use organic gardening techniques, then that would change your price. Likewise, if you have a huge worm farm and sell in bulk to big farms, that would change the price. So, I can’t tell what kind of profit you could make. But you don’t seem to pay anything for worm upkeep since they’re doing their thing in the compost and soil, so most of it must be profit.

What do you think about giving worm farming a try?

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Can You Make Money Selling Tree Sprouts?

Make Money Selling Tree Sprouts

If you have tons of land then you can grow trees for sale. But what if you have a smaller space, as most of do? Is there anything you can do with trees to make money? For example, can you make money selling tree sprouts? Likely, yes.

What Are Tree Sprouts?

Before we talk about how to make money selling tree sprouts, let’s define what they even are. This is harder than you might think. Browse around online, particularly in gardening forums, and you’ll discover it’s a point of contention because many people use the term to define different phases of a tree’s growth.

Sprouts Are a Stage of Tree Growth

Trees grow in stages. Some of them are obvious. For example, seeds become saplings, seeds being an earlier stage of the process and saplings being the first few feet of tree growth. But some, like sprouts, are less obvious or agreed-upon. Different ways people define tree sprouts include:

  • Some say a sprout is the same as a sapling. But even a sapling definition varies. It’s a small still-growing tree, but is it under one foot tall or three feet tall?
  • Others say that the five stages are seed, sprout, seedling, sapling, and tree. In this instance, then, the sprout is smaller than a seedling.
  • Along those lines, some use seed and sprout interchangeably, and others say that a sprout is a seed that has just broken through the soil.

Generally speaking, we can say that tree sprouts are trees that have sprouted from their seeds and are growing but are in the early stages of growth.

Tree Sucker Growth

Note that sometimes when people talk about tree sprouts, they’re actually referring to tree suckers. They’re little growth that sprout out from the roots of the tree. They usually grow due to stress and you need to remove them to keep your tree growing healthy.

Can You Make Money Selling Tree Sprouts?

If you are good at sales, you can sell just about anything in this world. But, of course, some products make more sense to sell than others. Can you make money selling tree sprouts? Probably. You can actually make money selling trees in various growth stages from seed to sapling and even large trees. Seeds, sprouts, and saplings are ideal. They’re small, so you haven’t invested a lot of time and space into them.

Benefits of selling tree sprouts:

  • You get the joy of growing trees even if you don’t have a lot of space to keep them.
  • Adding more trees to the world is good for the planet.
  • If you are good at the early stages of the growth process, you can sell sprouts and saplings to people who find it hard to start from a seed.

In fact, some tree nurseries actually prefer to start with sprouts or saplings. Therefore, you might be able to connect with local nurseries and sell directly to them. This could be a great business. If you really love growing trees into sprouts and saplings, then you might even want to start your own tree nursery. There are lots of different options for making money selling tree sprouts. Give it a try.

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Natural Fabric Dyeing: Colorfast vs. Fugitive Dyes From Plants

Natural Fabric Dyeing: Colorfast vs. Fugitive Dyes From Plants

Last month I mentioned that I’m working with the book A Garden to Dye For to learn more about growing plants that you can use to natural dye fabrics. One of the first important concepts is learning about how well or how long a plant’s color is likely to adhere to the fabric that you’re dyeing. After all, you don’t want to grow a plant for dyes that will immediately fade, right? So, I’m learning about colorfast and fugitive dyes.

Colorfast vs. Fugitive Plant Dyes

You can technically dye fabric with almost any plant. However, some plants simply work better than others. Basically, colorfast plants create a natural dye that will easily stick to your fabric and won’t fade very much. In contrast, fugitive plant dyes won’t stick or stay on fabric for very long at all. You an still use fugitive plant dyes, but you’ll usually use them for other crafting projects, such as coloring homemade play dough, rather than for dyeing fabric.

Colorfast, Lightfast, Washfast

In the aforementioned book, author Chris McLaughlin notes that we should consider not just how colorfast a plant’s dyes will be but also whether they are lightfast and washfast. Colorfast means the color will stick and not fade. Lightfast refers to color that doesn’t fade much even after frequent exposure to light. Washfast, as you might guess, refers to colors that don’t fade much even after many times of washing the fabric.

McLaughlin emphasizes, “a color might be one and not the other” of these three things. Solstice Studio notes that sometimes when a plant is one but not the other, we call it “semi-fugitive.”

Common Fugitive Plant Dyes

Berries are so beautiful as plants that it’s tempting to try to dye fabric with them. However, they are often fugitive dyes. The color rarely sticks.

Other common examples of plants that are less than ideal for dyeing, according to Solstice Studio, include:

  • Basil
  • Beets
  • Black beans
  • Black rice
  • Citrus
  • Pomegranate kernels
  • Red cabbage
  • Roses
  • Spinach
  • Turmeric
  • Wine

Good Colorfast Plants for Dyeing

In contrast, though, there are many great plants for fabric dyeing. Obviously, McLaughlin’s entire book is about this, so I can’t cover it all in a paragraph. However, some of the most popular options include:

  • Marigolds, dahlias, yarrow, and goldenrod for yellow and orange colors
  • Hollyhock, lichen, Japanese maple and madder for reds and purples
  • Walnuts and pomegranate skin for shades of brown; eucalyptus and oak for more orange or reddish brown
  • Avocado for pink
  • Indigo for blue
  • Mint for green

Factors Affecting Colorfastness of Plants

You want to start by choosing plants with good colorfastness and/or lightfastness and/or wash fastness. However, do note that other factors come into play. How much of the plant you use to dye, the temperature of the dye bath, whether or not you add mordant or modifiers, the fabric you use, and how long you leave the fabric in the plant dye bath are just a few examples fo those additional factors.

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