Tag Archives: the nation has an appetite for environmentalism

Milk Crate Container Garden for the ‘pocalypse

After Doc S (I think) mentioned that we were going to run into shortages of produce as supply chains were stress out by the pandemic Dr. Chop and I got down to business planting vegetables and herbs. We try to grow stuff every year, and every year we lose most the crop to the insects. This year we were able to spend a lot more time in the yard and we were able to kill enough caterpillars to keep the peppers and squash alive. And now we've got peppers for days. We also installed a bird feeder which I think has a positive effect on the insect problem as well.

As I mentioned in the CoC we got an Aero Garden at the start of the year, and we've been able to produce several heads of lettuce, spinach, and herbs. Currently, we've got chives sprouting, a new head of spinach, and bok choi growing to be transferred to the containers. We've always grown food stuff in containers, including our citrus, fig and olive trees, because the soil in New Orleans is suspect to begin with and the flooding from Katrina didn't help matters. We've found that you need to use high quality potting soil, compost, and an occasional fertilizing in order to get enough nutrient into the containers to provide good growth.

While out walking the neighborhood I found several milk crates littered in vacant lots, and the idea sprouted to turn them into square foot garden boxes. I had some stupid expensive dirt and ground cloth delivered for free (I heavily tipped the driver) from the local garden shop. I measured the crates - 12 x 12 x 10 3/4(h), so I cut the 48 inch long cloth into 14 inch wide strips with excess to account for seam allowance.

I laid two strips across each other at their centers and sewed 2 sides together. I decided that doubling the cloth on the bottom would slow drainage, and add an extra layer of protection from weeds and other intruders.

 

 

Then you gather up the corners and sew them face to face to make a box

 

 

Repeat for the remaining 3 corners and you've got a ground cloth box.

Instead of making these cloth boxes to match the actual size of the crate, I made them much taller so that I could wrap the excess over the top to keep the pressure of the dirt from spilling out of the bag.

As a side note, making sweet potatoes from a sprouting sweet potato is the easiest, and one of the most satisfying horticultural endeavors I've ever undertaken. I put the sprouted spud in a clear cup of water and let the roots grow out and alien looking purple leaves and veins multiplied quickly under the grow light of the aero garden. I was a little late getting these into the boxes for them to produce large potatoes, but they'll certainly make a bunch of tubers.

Food

Thanks so much to DG for suggesting this as our next topic! The good news is that it's super simple and not complex in any respect.

Oh, wait.

After spending the last week avoiding writing this post and finally deciding that the best approach would be to start by deriding DG, I finally did a little research*. Not too much, though, because one of my big frustrations with trying to make environmentally-friendly choices is that if you research long enough, the less clear everything becomes.

So here are some of the key tips and resources I found that all seem to make sense.

How You Shop
Remember last month's topic? It's back! That's because bringing reusable bags to the grocery store is a great idea. At first, this was hard to remember, but once it's a habit, it becomes automatic.

Produce
Recommendations include to eat local, organic, and in season. Sounds easy enough, but what's local and in season in Minnesota in early February? Our family shops primarily at a co-op, and a certain amount of the produce is local, even in the winter. But with kids in the house, buying things they'll probably actually eat is just as much as a consideration as what's local.

How do you balance a desire to eat flavors from around the globe with the desire to eat foods grown close to home?

Meat and Dairy
Eating local and buying organic both come up in this category as well. But along with that, eating less is also recommended. I'm vegetarian and the family eats vegetarian at home, though the boys choose to eat meat pretty regularly at school lunch. When the boys were a little younger, I worried that they just wouldn't like most of the vegetarian dinners we made, but it turns out that if you expose them to things enough times (just like the advice books all recommend), kids really do start to eat more things! That's not to say they don't have their moments, and the peperoncino still ends up having a quesadilla once or twice a week when he won't eat what the rest of us are having for dinner.

Seafood
Our oceans are in trouble, as are many fish populations. The good news is that if you eat fish, there are a couple of great resources to help you make more environmentally friendly choices. There's the Marine Stewardship Council and the Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch.

Leftovers
Eat them!

Okay, yes, there's a bit more to it than that. And one of my ongoing frustrations in my household is seeing how much food is uneaten any given week. I try to at least talk to the boys off and on about the concept of wasting something and what we can do to not waste so much (this applies to much more than just food).

As I mentioned last month, we do have a great composting program in our community, so at the very least I can take a little comfort in knowing that what's not eaten isn't going into a landfill.

Things I'd Like to Change in My Own Home

  • Consider cutting back on dairy. We do eat some vegan meals already (which are in the repertoire because we like them, not specifically because they're vegan), but I like the idea of being on the lookout for some additional recipes to try. I had to give up dairy for a time when the peperoncino was young (because it was linked to his reflux), and I found that the best vegan dishes are really well seasoned so that they still have a lot of flavor.
  • Get some cloth napkins for everyday use. We don't use napkins at all of our meals, but some of the time they're essential, and I'd like to stop just giving everyone paper towels when that happens.
  • For cleaning up spills, use cleaning rags more often instead of paper towels. I cut up a pair of very old flannel pajamas recently, and I've been working on reaching for one of those rags rather than automatically grabbing a paper towel. Of course not having any toddlers in the house also helps when it comes to cutting down on spills...

So what about you? What are you doing well when it comes to food and would you like to do differently?

*Here's the main article I used for reference when writing this post if you'd like to peruse the full list of tips.