Getting a Vegetable Garden Ready to Grow

Every President’s day weekend, I swear up and down that I’m going to get my vegetable garden started. Early spring/late winter is the best time to plant green peas and spinach (in our zone) but it seems my best intentions don’t quite make it happen. It’s too rainy or too cold – for my taste anyway – and I get around to it about mid-May.

Go Gingham: Tomatoes from garden

Today, while out for a walk with my husband, I mentioned that I wanted to plant one of the raised garden beds with peas and spinach and move the blueberry plants. Today. The voice of logic who I’m married to replied, “Let’s do it – as soon as we get all of our tax paperwork together for our upcoming meeting.”

Drats! Of course he’s right. As soon as the annual tax meeting is done, look for me to do the following:

Growing space Go Gingham

Getting a Garden Ready to Grow

  1. Amend the soil :: It’s not super easy to amend soil that’s sopping wet so I’ll try my best on this. Even organic gardens need lime and fertilizer – organic that is. I like to hit our local store, Concentrate’s, where they sell it in bulk. Buy as much as you need but don’t rely on just what comes out of the compost bin to feed your garden. We use our compost in the garden but it still needs some additional nutrients that only fertilizer and lime can provide. (Here are tips on composting.)
  2. Rotate the crops :: While I love having the tomatoes growing directly outside the kitchen door, this year I’m rotating my crops and moving the tomatoes to another sunny spot. Having the same plants growing in the same spots, year after year, depletes the nutrients. Mixing it up gives me a chance to see what does well elsewhere. (Here’s how to install square gardening spaces.)
  3. Stick with winners :: Every year I try to grow beets and they never turn out. According to my neighbor, she says I need to try beet tape. It evidently keeps the seeds spaced and deep exactly how they need to be. Well, that may be true but I may simply skip them this year and go with what I know works in our garden – and what we eat. (Here are 5 spots to plant a vegetable garden.)
  4. Go with the flow :: Yes, please, let the water flow and by that I mean watering flowing through a drip system. Sometimes I think my husband uses the, “I’m going out to water the garden,” as a way to escape what’s happening inside the house. Between dinner dishes and teenagers, he may be onto something with his escape plan but I would like a drip system with a timer to water regularly and consistently. All of the tubes and supplies are sitting in the garage but need to be put into place when the planting happens. (Here’s how to remove hedges and grow vegetables.)
  5. Don’t buy seeds :: I have so many seeds. Many from previous years and many from seeds I’ve saved this winter. (Here’s how to save seeds for growing.) Before getting overly stimulated from all of the seed packets at the garden store or grocery store, I need to check my inventory first. Stick with what works and use what’s on hand are part of the plan for this year.

Grow vegetables from saved seeds

That’s it. This is the year I will actually get started in February and plant the first crops before summer. I think.

When do you get your vegetable garden started?

Warm and Cozy Window Coverings for Winter

Today’s post is sponsored by IKEA. Thank you for supporting the occasional sponsored post that helps support this site and all of the gingham-ness you see here.

Window coverings Go Gingham

Keeping our home warm and cozy in the winter and cool in the summer – especially the living room where we spend lots of time – can be tricky with a 100-plus-year-old home. The windows let in cold air in the winter but replacing them is simply too great an expense. Plus, the windows look good on our old house. We wanted our home to be warm and cozy this winter and covering the windows was the sustainable solution.

We used window coverings and roller shades together as our one-two punch to keep the cold out. This summer, we’ll use these to keep the sun and heat out.

  • Insulation :: Using both window coverings and shades together this winter has been like putting a big sweater on the windows. It provided insulation for the living room with lots of style. We’ve been able to keep the room warm and cozy with the heat staying inside our home rather than escaping out through the inefficient windows.
  • Price point :: The price of the roller shades is very reasonable. While custom roller shades will set you back, these TUPPLAR shades have the look of custom but not the custom price point. They’re a good value for stock shades and you can easily customize them to fit your window size. The INGERT curtains we chose are made of a natural fabric – 80% cotton and 20% flax. These have the look of linen and the fabric is sustainably grown. The curtains can also be used on their own, without drawing the roller shades. We can have privacy without blocking out all the light.
  • Energy saving :: Were you wondering how we could still see to read with all that room darkening and blocking out of light? Lamps – we chose RANARP – equipped with LED lights to the rescue! IKEA has made the commitment to only sell LED light bulbs and several of their lights have adjustable features. What I really like is that even though these light bulbs last for years, when they do reach the end of their lives, they can be returned and recycled at IKEA. Located near the customer service counter is a recycling station where you can drop off batteries and LED light bulbs. You know how I feel about stores taking responsibility for the products and packaging they sell. Supporting companies and organizations who make this a priority is important.

Living room Go Gingham

The products

  • Roller shades :: The TUPPLAR shades are definitely room darkening and keep out every bit of light. (It’s too bad I didn’t have these when I had napping children!) They pull up and down easily and can be mounted in several ways, depending on your windows.
  • Window coverings :: While these INGERT curtains come two panels to a package they also include an added bonus: tie backs. No need to add more hardware since the tie backs do the job. The curtains can be hemmed easily, too. I like the dramatic effect of the longer curtain but that works best in catalogs and showrooms. In our living room, those longer curtains were acting as dust-bunny collectors so they got a quick hem! If you don’t sew, there is iron on tape that can be used with an iron to make a no-sew hem.

Shades and lamps Go Gingham

Installation tips…

  • The roller shades are best cut with a fabric rotary cutter. If you have one, use it! Placing the shade on the grid for cutting made quick work of cutting the entire shade. Also, because I used the grid, there was no need to mark the shade before cutting. If you don’t have one, ask friends and family who quilts. Quilters always have a rotary cutter and mat.
  • If you have a power hack saw, use that for cutting the metal base of the shade. We do not have one but this would have made quicker work of shortening the metal tube. Be sure and wrap a protective piece of fabric or towel when cutting the tube so that you don’t accidentally cut the shade. While this didn’t happen to us, we came awfully close.
  • Cover up previous holes with the window covering hardware. Our last curtain hardware left several holes that neither my husband or I wanted to patch, sand, and paint. After realizing the hardware comes with a cover, we installed and popped the cover on. Job done and no grumbling!

Curtains and lamp Go Gingham

Keeping our home warm and cozy in the winter and cool in the summer without using additional resources is something we strive for. Using window coverings and roller shades together really provides a one-two punch for our older home. Achieving this goal with minimal cost and having it look good makes everyone very happy.

How do you keep your windows insulated? Blinds, curtains or shades?

Thank you to IKEA for sponsoring this post. As always, all opinions are my own. Thank you for supporting brands that help support Go Gingham.

How to Have a Sustainable Wardrobe

Spend less and enjoy more from Go Gingham

Skirt that was a dress Go Gingham

Here’s how to have a sustainable wardrobe: buy fewer items and wear the ones you have for a longer period of time. That’s the simple answer. Having a sustainable wardrobe is easier for men but more difficult for women.

Repurposed dress Go Gingham

Buying fewer items and keeping them longer is easier for men because their clothing is better made and is meant to last longer. Women’s clothing – while more expensive – isn’t as well made and not meant to last as a long. Women are expected to change styles more often – and don’t get me started on all of the accessorizing that needs to go with the more expensive clothing. Buying quality well made women’s clothing is smart but it is more expensive. What can we do?

Jeans turned into capris Go Gingham

How to Have a Sustainable Wardrobe

While I can’t control what clothing designers and manufacturers have for sale, I can control what I’m willing to buy from them. My solution? I shop-second hand. By finding second-hand or consignment stores that have quality, stylish resale items in my area, I can buy beautiful, well made clothing without it costing a fortune.

What do I look for? Cashmere (which I love) and anything gingham (which I also love). I look for designer names that I know are quality and well made but are expensive. If I’m going shopping with friends or my family, we hit second-hand stores, first, and skip the mall.

If you can mend clothing – whether it’s what you own or you buy an item second-hand that needs mending – you can have really nice clothes for years to come and save a bundle of money. There’s no need to be a super-seamstress to make simple changes or mending to clothes. Sewers know how easy it is to sew on a button or shorten or hem pants. Learn how to do a few basic sewing stitches or mending and then try one of these easy projects:

Dress = top + skirt Go Gingham

  1. How to remake sweat pants :: There’s no fun in buying fancy sweats, is there? OK, not for me. Follow this easy tuturoial and find out how I turned sweat pants into yoga plants.
  2. Up-cycled dress becomes a skirt + top :: This fabric from this dress caught my eye but it was too big. With scissors and elastic and a little sewing, it’s a great top and skirt.
  3. Jeans too short? Make capris :: These were perfectly fine jeans but a little too short. My daughter had bought the jeans herself so was happy to extend the life of them.
  4. Skinny jeans? Yes, please :: More altering of jeans but this time copying a pair of jeans that fit and cutting down the pair that was too wide. A serger sewing machine helps but this project can be done with a regular machine, too.
  5. Need a smaller waistband :: Jeans or pants with a waistband that’s a little too big can easily be taken in with a tuck – or two – and then a stitch. No belt needed.
  6. Worn out t-shirts? No problem :: Use those worn out t-shirts and make mop covers! No need to ever buy a throw-away cloth for mopping floors. Old t-shirts are excellent for this project.
  7. Make a cape :: Who doesn’t love a cape? OK, well not everyone but this cape and little purse came from two prom dresses and were perfect for a winter coat substitute. My daughter loved this cape and now the neighbor girls are enjoying it.
Winter cape with bag from prom dresses Go Gingham
This winter cape with bag is made from two prom dresses. It was perfect for a winter coat alternative.

Having fewer clothing items means there’s less to take care, too. Wearing what’s in the closet or mending is an easy way to save resources and money. It’s sustainable for the environment and the wallet!

What do you like to mend? What’s your best find from a second-hand store?

For a Healthier Home, Change Cleaning Supplies

Home cleaning glass bottle Go Gingham

ReThinking Laundry and Cleaning Supplies

Over several years, we have switched out all of our laundry detergents, dish washing detergent, dish soap, window cleaner, grease cutter cleaner, gritty scrub, hand soap, and shampoo. While this may sound like lots of work (it’s actually not) the result has been a much healthier home and family.

While I do make several cleaners, I also buy some products from companies who I trust. But how did I know who to trust? The resource I use for all of our cleaning and consumer products – and before I buy anything – is the Environmental Working Group (EWG.org). They are a non-profit, bipartisan group who rate products based on the effects they have on our health and the environment. Products who get top scores on EWG’s website are those who list what ingredients are in their cleaning supplies and what risks they pose. These risks are to our health as well as environmental.

Simple cleaning supplies Go Gingham

While I thought we’d save money on buying those products – and we have – our family is physically healthier. My husband’s asthma and allergies have vanished. That has saved use a ton of money on prescription costs! We’re also  generating a lot less waste because I reuse glass vinegar bottles for our cleaning supplies. I’m trying to buy less plastic so reusing is important.

Using fewer chemicals is better for the environment, too. Water connects us all and the health of the ocean touches everyone. When we pour something down the drain or put something on our lawns to kill weeds, it all eventually ends up in the ocean. Even facial scrub contains very small plastic balls to add grit and scrubbing action. Fish can’t tell the difference between plastic balls and food.

Here’s my attitude: If a company isn’t willing to state or list what ingredients they put into their cleaning supplies or other consumer products, then I won’t buy their items. Consumers have the power to make a difference with their purchasing dollars but we have to make the effort. The future of our planet and the quality of our oceans depend on how we treat it today. We all have to do our part.

Changing cleaning supplies Go Gingham

Changing our cleaning supplies and consumer products has changed our lives. We’re healthier and have generated a lot less waste. We all need to think about our purchases and ask more from companies.

Do you make your own cleaning supplies?

Stay Healthy and Fit by Exercising Outside All Winter

Winter Workout Go Gingham

Winter Workout Go Gingham

Baby, it’s cold outside, isn’t it? And, when it’s cold outside, I don’t always feel like going out and exercising. When it’s dark, rainy, and wet, I know what’s coming: me being cold and wet. To stay healthy and fit, I still exercise outside all winter but it’s hard! Here’s how I get out the door – either running or walking – all winter long.

Training for half marathon with Go Gingham

Stay Healthy and Fit by Exercising Outside All Winter

  1. Get it set: Get workout clothes ready the night before and put them on first thing in the morning. When the alarm goes off, get going on the walk, run, yoga class or hula hooping before any excuses arise. If my workout routine gets done in the morning, I do it. Later in the day, I have too many excuses.
  2. Get a partner: Working out with a partner, friend, or group means you’re less likely to skip. When someone is waiting, don’t let them down. Grab your workout gear and go. When my Wednesday morning walking crew shows up at our scheduled time, I know they’re expecting me to be there. We love to catch up with each other on our weekly walks! We use walking sticks and they’re super easy to make.
  3. Eat real food: By keeping healthy, whole foods on hand, when hunger strikes, junk food isn’t an option. Keep containers of crunchy carrots and fresh celery around so there’s something to munch. I have all the will power in the world, as long as it’s not in my house. I don’t buy what I don’t want to eat – or have my family eat.
  4. Make a plan: Weekly meal planning (here are 11 reasons to meal plan) gives a guideline for what healthy meals are getting cooked – and what healthy foods need to bought at the farmer’s market or grocery store. Evenings go smoother if I know what we’re having for dinner. If we have a plan, we eat healthier at home – skipping fast food restaurants. Added bonus? Cook extra and enjoy a healthy, tasty lunch the next day.
  5. Hang it up: We have a laundry room sink where all the wet, muddy running and walking gear gets hung above. Wet workout clothes need to drip and sometimes, the gear is sopping wet! I keep hangers for the dirty and wet workout gear to hang on because when it’s dry, it can get worn again. No need to wash workout gear after one wear. Once a week washing or perhaps if it’s really smelly (and I mean really) otherwise it gets worn again.
  6. Don’t buy expensive workout attire: Nothing is water proof (ok, except perhaps rubberized canvas but it’s difficult to run in!) so don’t spend money on expensive workout attire. My running and walking gear is mostly second-hand and works great! Whatever you wear outside will get wet so plan to hang it up. Embrace the rain or snow but do wear a baseball cap. Water hitting my face can drives me nuts so a cap it is.

Training for half marathon with Go Gingham

Keep working out in this winter. It will feel so good when it’s done, I promise!

What does your winter workout routine consist of? What’s your least favorite winter weather?

Artichoke, Spinach and Cauliflower Dip

Artichoke spinach dip Go Gingham

‘Tis the dipping time of year, isn’t it? Usually dip recipes are too rich for digging in with a spoon but not this one. It’s got all the favorites – artichokes, Parmesan cheese, and sour cream – but lots of health, too. With cauliflower and spinach in the dip, no one even notices how healthy this recipe actually is!

Cauliflower Go Gingham

Enjoy it with veggies, crackers, or sliced bread. Continue reading “Artichoke, Spinach and Cauliflower Dip”

5 Tips for Green and Healthy Holidays Without Going Broke

Green and Healthy Holidays Go Gingham

The average cost of Christmas spending is up to about $800 this year. That is a staggering amount of money for one season. How can you have fun and be festive during the holidays but not go broke? First, think sustainable when giving gifts. Next, follow these 5 tips for enjoying the holidays while being green and healthy. Added bonus? They all save money, too.

Green and Healthy Holidays Go Gingham

  1. Game night :: Charades, anyone? What about Taboo? Apples to Apples? Yes, it’s called game night and playing a fun game with friends doesn’t cost a thing. Serve our very favorite brownies – Betsy’s Best Brownies – and a little cup of ice cream. Nothing is tastier. {Here’s our family’s list of favorite games.}
  2. Go natural :: Use decorations from outdoors to decorate. Decorating with nature is free – and my favorite! Everything looks pretty in a vase or bowl. Best part? When you’re done into the compost bin it goes. {Here are sustainable holiday decorations.}
  3. Box wine :: Before the wine snob in you turns up your nose at this, just try it. Less waste, no cork, recyclable packaging – and a great value! Check out Franzia wine – I like the white and my husband likes the cab sav.
  4. Make popcorn :: Packaged organic popcorn from the store is a big waste of money – and packaging! Buy popcorn by the pound in the bulk section and spend a fraction of the cost on the bulk than on the already popped packaged stuff. Flavor it however you’d like. I like Bob’s Red Mill organic popcorn (from the bulk bin section, of course!) and when it goes on sale, we stock up. {Here’s how to make popcorn without a microwave.}
  5. Have a potluck party :: It’s a busy time of year so don’t wear yourself out by doing everything. Enjoy the holidays and have a potluck party! Invite friends, assign dishes and/or recipes and have a party! We love potluck parties so much we have a potluck dinner group based on rotating houses and contributing dishes and drinks. Don’t let cost or the idea of too much work stop you from entertaining – share instead. {Here’s how to start a potluck dinner group.}

Christmas Decorations Advent Wreath Go Gingham

The holiday season doesn’t have to cost a fortune. Follow these 5 easy tips and not only will you have zero regrets when the season is over (and when the credit card statement arrives!) but you’ll have had fun, too. Don’t get caught up in the frenzy. Slow down and have a glass of wine – from the box, of course.

Green and Healthy Holidays Go Gingham

Having fun with family and friends, enjoying more, wasting less, eating healthy foods and snacks – and saving money. These are all my favorites!

What’s your favorite way to enjoy the holidays and save?

Go Gingham related links:

Quick and easy holiday decorating: very easy
Green holiday living: generate less waste this holiday season
Holiday attire that’s all used clothing – frugal and fancy to wear!
Hostess gift ideas that are frugal and fancy!