Hi everyone – happy Earth Day!
Earth Day is near and dear to both of our hearts. Although for us, the mentality of caring for Mother Earth certainly extends beyond a just a day in late April. We have made a point of buying environmentally-friendly furniture, clothes, organic food, and also taking care of our little piece of land.
Living in Western Pennsylvania, we have all 4 seasons here: Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter. And each brings with it it’s own opportunities for getting outside or growing something fun. We love planting native zone 5/6 plants here, taking care to balance our gardens with a mix of plants that are both ornamental and edible. Naturally, not everything edible is ornamental, and not everything pretty is something you can eat. But in a few special cases, plants can be both ornamental AND edible (Chives, Blueberries, Grapes, and Strawberries, to name a few).
Spring Blueberries (fruit)
Fall Blueberries (foliage)
Many of these edibles are suitable for multiple USDA growing zones, too! Not sure which growing zone you live in? Try out this nifty interactive map.
Over the last 7 years, we’ve posted A LOT about our Gardens. We thought it would be a great time to re-share some of those posts with you. In them, you’ll find a wealth of information about planting vegetable gardens, and how we’ve transformed our yard(s) into lush and beautiful landscapes, peppered with edibles.
Here’s a post that shows our latest iteration of raised vegetable planters. This is at our current home, and we’re on year 3 of planting in these beautiful beds. They have become the talk of the neighborhood, and have even inspired other people to create vegetable gardens of their own!
Last year, we made updates to this same spot in our garden. It’s a south facing wall of our house, so the perfect spot for full-sun plants. We decided to try our hand at growing strawberries in gutters. We’ve seen this method on Pinterest before, and thought it looked really cool. The construction was a little complicated (probably a 6/10), but I included a drawing and materials list for the ambitious DIY’er.
(That’s a grapevine growing between the gutter banks. They take many years to mature enough to produce fruit. 2017 may be the first year we get grapes!)
For a couple years, we tried our hand at raising chickens in our yard. It was a fun experiment, but we ultimately decided that our flock would be happier on a larger piece of land (not in the suburbs) where they could roam daily, and enjoy a more free life. It seemed to be the most humane choice at the time, although we miss having them around. Chickens are great for laying eggs, of course, but they also have the wonderful ability to make grass incredibly green with their nitrogen-rich manure. In this post below, we talk about raising chickens, but also about how to make a green roof. In this case, we made a green roof for part of their run using drought-tolerant, freeze-tolerant, native plants like sedums.
With our raised beds, we also wanted to extend our growing season using cold frames. Many of our favorite plants to grow (and EAT!) are spring and fall plants. So extending the growing season by insulating your plants can really help. One year, we were harvesting fresh lettuce for Christmas dinner! This past year, if we had done the cold frames, we would have never lost our vegetables… it was a very mild winter! In this post, we talk about how you can extend your growing season, which is especially helpful if you live in zones 3-6.
We hope you enjoyed this Earth Day collection of gardening tips, and will consider getting outside and planting something (even a container garden for your apartment balcony!) It’s wonderful to have fresh herbs and vegetables, ready at a moment’s notice. Plus, getting your hands dirty in the soil is good for your microbiome (or so I’m told).
Happy Earth Day!
-Bill & Hayley
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