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Category: Gardening

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Here’s How to Go Green: 5 Easy Lifestyle Changes to Implement Today

So you want to go green? Living an eco-friendly lifestyle that is both personally rewarding and environmentally viable is all the rage these days and for a good reason. You’ll see your carbon footprint decrease, electricity bills go down, and property value skyrocket. If you’re looking for compelling ways to live more green this year, SUNTEX breaks it down below. 

 1. Start with Your Home

GreenIf you’re shopping for a new home, this is the perfect time to start your eco-friendly mission. Look for specific features in potential homes that will support your sustainable ethos. For example, homes that come with Energy Star appliances are a good sign, as these appliances conserve energy and power. Next, consider the home’s building materials. Are the materials used eco-friendly? For example, pre-cast concrete and recycled steel structures will lower your gas usage while reducing the negative impact on the carbon footprint (you can learn more about how pre-cast concrete helps with carbon foot-printing by visiting Informed Infrastructure). Lastly, look for pre-existing LED light fixtures, which are great for reducing energy consumption.   

2. Go Solar 

 According to Solar Power World, one out of every 600 U.S. homes are installing solar panels every quarter. In addition to reducing your carbon footprint and reliance on depleting resources like fossil fuels, going solar comes with significant economic benefits. solar power can cut down on your electricity bill by half each year, and the government also offers solar tax rebates and incentives if your home is powered by solar energy. For more information on adding solar panels to your home, connect with SUNTEX today. 

 3. Watch That Insulation 

 Be sure to check for drafts in your new home. Drafts are a good indication that your insulation isn’t working as it should, which means you’re using more energy for heating and cooling. Patching up any holes or leaks in insulation will be critical here, but luckily, the fix is simple with a little bit of caulk. You could also spring for a complete renovation to overhaul your insulation system to a more robust, eco-friendly option (if you have a bigger budget). 

4. Green Up Your Landscaping 

Green

Growing a lush, green lawn is the dream of many homeowners. However, traditional lawns are high-maintenance, requiring regular watering and fertilizing. They can also be damaging to the environment, as chemical runoff from lawncare products can pollute waterways. For a more sustainable option, implement eco-friendly landscaping in your yard. Opt for drought-friendly plants or native flowers, add more hardscaping, and ditch the sprinkler system. If you need help pulling this off, connect with local landscapers that get top marks for eco-friendly design and execution. Start by reading online reviews and customer testimonials to find the ideal provider in your part of town.  

 5. Look at Those Small Details

Last but not least, watch out for those small details. It doesn’t quite add up if you’re using solar power but also cleaning your home with toxic and harmful chemicals. Create an exhaustive list of all the products and items you use regularly, and consider more environmentally-sound swaps. You can also cut back on consumption and waste starting by swapping paper towels for reusable rags or ditching plastic baggies for beeswax wraps. Consider powder detergent over giant plastic bottles, and purchase refills instead of buying new hand-soap containers. You can even start composting on a small scale.  

Green

Going green is more than implementing a few strategies around your house. Instead, it is a holistic lifestyle that you will need to practice in all your decisions for it to make a difference. Start by working toward solar power, or update your landscaping to avoid water waste. Implement a kitchen composting system, and change out your cleaning products. The good news is that consistent effort in the eco-friendly department can stack up to real and tangible environmental benefits, so keep on keeping at it!

Note: This article was written for SUNTEX by guest writer, Emma Grace Brown. Please reach out directly to SUNTEX if you have any questions regarding this article, or the blog post content.

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American Cuisine: Farm to Table, Part 1 of Many

This week we’ll focus on a natural cross-over between what we typically discuss on this blog forum – living sustainably – and those who have lived the “farm to table” lifestyle for generations, and have led this modern movement since the beginning of agriculture in America.

We’ve looked at this topic plenty of times on our blog previously – just check out those posts here:

However, today’s blog post will explore the origins of this lifestyle and their early introduction on and in American soil. I am of course talking about Native Americans.

There are several documented cases of Native American agriculture, however as English writing styles had not been widely adopted until colonization enforced them, there are even more cases that have gone unpublished or lost to history. Thankfully however, some of the ancestral knowledge of this land was passed down through word of mouth, journals and drawings, and eventually made its way into historical texts and non-fiction writing that transports us back to that time and allows us to learn more about what types of agricultural practices people were engaged in during the early days of American life.

Farm to Table: Indigenous CuisineFor example, while doing some research I came across a book called Enduring Seeds: Native American Agriculture and Wild Plant Conservation by “nature writer, agrarian activist and ethnobiologist” Gary Paul Nabhan (https://www.garynabhan.com/). In his book, he discusses some of the earliest recorded agricultural findings from North America and how they shaped the diet, culture, and livelihoods of people who lived there at the time. Check out a couple of excerpts below describing the encounter of Native Americans by Cabeza de Vaca’s contingency as they explored what is now Texas (pages 49-50):

https://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=eIorDQAAQBAJ&oi=fnd&pg=PR7&dq=native+american+agriculture&ots=Si5Hs39-kj&sig=Cva4MTvaX61ovqB0KrndCqYRXsI#v=onepage&q=native%20american%20agriculture&f=false

The beauty of learning more about learning more about native plant species and practices for cultivating them is that they have a neutral longevity and thus are highly sustainable. So, though this seems to be a current fad sweeping across the globe, the practice of living sustainably has more longevity than any other practice we humans could possibly engage in because it’s how we survived for centuries before modern technology gave way to industrial farming.

As outlined in this Washington Post article – which in my opinion is a fascinating segue between ancient practices and modern technology and trends – the practice of sustainable farming is certainly not new:

“Indigenous peoples have known for millennia to plant under the shade of the mesquite and paloverde trees that mark the Sonoran Desert here, shielding their crops from the intense sun and reducing the amount of water needed.

The modern-day version of this can be seen in the Santa Catalina Mountains north of Tucson, where a canopy of elevated solar panels helps to protect rows of squash, tomatoes and onions. Even on a November afternoon, with the temperature climbing into the 80s, the air under the panels stays comfortably cool” (“Native Americans’ farming practices may help feed a warming world”, https://www.washingtonpost.com/climate-solutions/interactive/2021/native-americans-farming-practices-may-help-feed-warming-world/).

The article goes on to describe the current research being done in the Sonoran Desert on growing native crops that require little water, and the work being done to re-build and preserve the Native American practices that make this practice even possible.

“The Tohono O’odham have farmed in the Sonoran Desert for several thousand years. Like many Indigenous groups, they now are on the front lines of climate change, with food security a paramount concern. Their expansive reservation, nearly the size of Connecticut, has just a few grocery stores. It is a food desert in a desert where conditions are only getting more extreme,” (“Native Americans’ farming practices may help feed a warming world”, https://www.washingtonpost.com/climate-solutions/interactive/2021/native-americans-farming-practices-may-help-feed-warming-world/).

If you’re looking for more on the subject, additional sources aren’t hard to find. Just check out the incredible list of North American crops on sciencedirect.com to see what I mean – the article had this to say regarding the varied plant species discovered in North America originally:

“It is estimated that about 60% of the current world food supply originated in North America. When Europeans arrived, the Native Americans had already developed new varieties of corn, beans, and squashes and had an abundant supply of nutritious food. The foods of the Native Americans are widely consumed and their culinary skills still enrich the diets of nearly all people of the world today” (https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2352618116300750).

So, why on earth during Black History Month are we focusing on Native American cuisine? For the simple reason that you cannot fully appreciate American history, and more specifically American cuisine, without a base set of facts regarding what grew here originally, and how Native Americans helped to cultivate the land for modern-day agriculture. Follow along in tomorrow’s blog post to learn about the next phase in American agriculture and beyond.

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Environmentalism for and from Environmentalists: Part 2 of 2

In yesterday’s post we covered just the first half of people highlighted in Greenpeace’s article, “8 Black Environmentalists You Need to Know” (https://www.greenpeace.org/usa/8-black-environmentalists-need-know/), and my head is still swimming with ideas on how to help my own community in environmental justice. I hope you’re ready for more, because today’s post will focus on the second half of that list, which is by no means any less impressive than the first half.

Environmentalist Christopher Bradshaw and Dreaming Out Loud

Environment Christopher Bradshaw, Founder & Executive Director of Dreaming Out Loud

Christopher Bradshaw, Founder & Executive Director of Dreaming Out Loud

First up is Christopher Bradshaw – whom, according to the article, is “a social justice entrepreneur who founded Dreaming Out Loud, Inc., an organization dedicated to creating economic opportunities for the marginalized community in the D.C. metro area” (https://www.greenpeace.org/usa/8-black-environmentalists-need-know/). Bradshaw does an incredible job in his work in connecting the disparaging parts of Black history – from slavery and sharecropping – to today’s inadequacies in food equality – and addressing both through leadership and economic opportunity. Just take a look at the Dreaming Out Loud homepage, and specifically their journey, to see what I mean:

“DOL began with teaching character and leadership development in DC public charter schools but soon recognized systemic issues around the food system which led to the creation of community farmers markets, with the help of a local church and one farmer.

Chris also recognized that these issues were connected to historical legacies of slavery, sharecropping, and entrenched systemic racism with intersections across the spectrum of social justice issues. As the organization evolved, we expanded into urban agriculture and food system work with a focus on economic empowerment of marginalized communities.

Through economic opportunity, using workforce development and entrepreneurship training, DOL is driving deeper change within the community creating financial stability and food security. DOL aims to use the food system as a powerful tool of resistance, resilience, and advocacy for structural change.”

Link here: http://dreamingoutloud.org/about/.

Similar to the work that Tanya Fields is doing in New York (check out yesterday’s blog post to learn more: https://suntexllc.com/environmentalism-for-and-from-environmentalists/), Mr. Bradshaw helps communities in the DC area familiarize themselves with sustainable farming practices, and even provides a space for people to get their hands dirty working directly with the soil and building community as they go (https://dreamingoutloud.org/farm-food-hub-at-kelly-miller/).

Environmentalist Peggy Shepard and WE ACT

Environment, Peggy Shepard, Co-Founder of WE ACT for Environmental Justice

Peggy Shepard, Co-founder of WE ACT

Next up from the Greenpeace list of inspiring environmentalists: Peggy Shepard. According to the article, “Peggy Shepard is co-founder and executive director of WE ACT For Environmental Justice and has a long history of organizing and engaging Northern Manhattan residents in community-based planning” (https://www.greenpeace.org/usa/8-black-environmentalists-need-know/). Just a quick browse of their website and you can tell that you’re dealing with an impressive group of social and environmental justice warriors. WE ACT’s mission is to (https://www.weact.org/):

“build healthy communities by ensuring that people of color and/or low income residents participate meaningfully in the creation of sound and fair environmental health and protection policies and practices.”

If you check out their laundry list of activities on the “What We Do” page of their website, you’ll see exactly how they work to accomplish this mission, and there is certainly no shortage of reading material outlining their impressive accomplishments.

Environmentalist Jeaninne Kayembe and Urban Creators

Environment, Jeaninne Kayembe and Urban Creators

Jeaninne Kayembe, Founder of Urban Creators

Speaking of talent and hard work, next on our Greenpeace list of inspiring environmentalists is Jeaninne Kayembe. Given my own personal devotion to composting, I can already tell you that the work she has done to co-create Urban Creators, and in “transforming a 2-acre garbage dump into a farm” has me giddy (https://www.greenpeace.org/usa/8-black-environmentalists-need-know/). What does Urban Creators do? Check out the following quote directly from their ‘About Us’ section to learn more (https://urbancreators.org/):

“Since 2010 we have used food, art, and education as tools to nurture resilience and self-determination in our neighborhood. Now, we are supporting the emergence of a new generation of Urban Creators, organizers, artists, growers, and local businesses who are working to build equity and collective liberation in our communities.

Life Do Grow (LDG) is a Neighborhood Creative Commons, situated in the heart of North Central Philadelphia on the ancestral lands of the indigenous Lenni-Lenape. LDG is a dynamic and ever-evolving ecosystem of creative ideas, currently comprised of an urban farm, public park, outdoor classroom, community marketplace, venue for artistic and cultural expression, and co-working/co-creation space for local businesses, artists, organizers, growers, and creators. It is a canvas for ingenuity; a safe-space to explore boundaries, discover passions, and experiment with new ideas; a hub for community to organize, build equity, and foster economic opportunity; and an organic garden where we can all connect more deeply with the earth and one another.”

Because we are a solar company, I can’t help myself in also highlighting that “In 2019 we [Urban Creators] installed a solar energy system with Youth Build Charter School to power Life Do Grow, and were honored by the Bread & Roses Community Fund with their Annual ‘Tribute to Change’ Award” (https://urbancreators.org/mission-history/). It’s safe to say the work they’re doing is transformative and nothing short of phenomenal.

Environmentalist Omar Freilla and Green Worker Cooperatives

Environment, Omar Freilla, Founder of Green Worker Cooperatives

Omar Freilla, Founder of Green Worker Cooperatives

This brings us to the final honoree on the Greenpeace list of inspiring environmentalists, Omar Freilla. Thanks to the article, we know that “Freilla is the Founder of Green Worker Cooperatives and creator of the academy model of cooperative development. Green Worker Cooperatives is a South-Bronx based organization dedicated to incubating worker-owned green businesses in order to build a strong local economy rooted in democracy and environmental justice” (https://www.greenpeace.org/usa/8-black-environmentalists-need-know/). On further inspection of the company website however, we get the full picture of what this means. Check it out for yourself, here: https://www.greenworker.coop/coopacademy, including their partner organizations, here: https://www.greenworker.coop/ourcoops.

While I can’t speak to the future of SUNTEX, I know that these incredible people will be part of the fabric of inspiring stories which carry us forward in our work in Texas, and I couldn’t be more grateful to them for all that they do. Huge shoutout to Greenpeace as well for curating this list so that we may learn more about their work and how to help. Please check out the individual links throughout today’s and yesterday’s blog posts to learn more about how you can help support their work directly too!

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Environmentalism for and from Environmentalists: Part 1 of 2

Are you an avid environmentalist? In other words, are you concerned about the protection of the environment? If so, then you may already know the focal points of today’s blog post discussion – however even the most avid environmental heroes need to study up to stay up to date with the latest and greatest people and techniques in their respective field.

For this reason, today we’ll highlight a few people that have really paved the way in recent years for the protection of our planet and are serious advocates for keeping Earth safe and hospitable. For a short-list of people to know in environmental protection, feel free to peruse the following Green Peace article which highlights several excellent environmentalists and the important work they’re doing: https://www.greenpeace.org/usa/8-black-environmentalists-need-know/.

Green Peace is an organization known for its leadership in environmental protection, so it’s only natural that they would come up with an exceptional list of people to follow in the field – literally and figuratively.

Environmentalist Savonala Horne and the Land Loss Prevention Project

Environment, Savi Horne, Executive Director of the Land Loss Prevention Project

Savi Horne, Executive Director of the Land Loss Prevention Project

Starting with Savonala “Savi” Horne, Executive Director of the Land Loss Prevention Project, we already know that this list of professionals is no joke. According to their website, their mission statement reads as follows:

“The Land Loss Prevention Project was founded in 1982 by the North Carolina Association of Black Lawyers to curtail epidemic losses of Black owned land in North Carolina. Land Loss Prevention Project was incorporated in the state of North Carolina in 1983. The organization broadened its mission in 1993 to provide legal support and assistance to all financially distressed and limited resource farmers and landowners in North Carolina.”

Link here: https://www.landloss.org/index.html

Perhaps most importantly, they also help “family farmers and landowners develop sustainable agricultural practices that are environmentally friendly and economically viable for their rural communities” (https://www.landloss.org/index.html), meaning that they’re working on the ground, with Black farmers to not only maintain their properties, but to do so sustainably – which benefits everyone, but is hugely helpful to the families they serve. To learn more about the work they’ve done, check out their ‘Services’ page, here: https://www.landloss.org/services/index.html.

Environmentalist Chantel Johnson and Off Grid in Color

Environment, Chantel Johnson, Founder of Off Grid in Color (OGIC)

Chantel Johnson, Founder of Off Grid in Color (OGIC)

Perhaps more relevant to this year’s Black History Month theme of “Black Health,” and looking to the Greenpeace list, we find Chantel Johnson in spot #2 of Inspiring Environmentalists. If you read the Greenpeace article you’ll find that “Chantel Johnson founded  Off Grid in Color (OGIC) in 2016 to help lead her community, to greater self-sufficiency through farm raised food, birth coaching, and community outreach” (https://www.greenpeace.org/usa/8-black-environmentalists-need-know/), however her personal reason for starting this organization is founded in tragedy.

Looking at the very front page of https://offgridincolors.com/, we learn that her brother died from gun violence in 2015 – and while she goes on to describe the insurmountable pain she felt watching his life decline, she herself would continue to live on, honoring his memory, and paving a way for herself, and others like her, to give back to her community working as an environmentalist.

To learn more about her journey and how you can contribute to Off Grid in Color, check out the site directly, where she tells her story about how this foundation came to be – https://offgridincolors.com/. To share just a brief tidbit, please read the following:

“When Richie died, I was lost and depressed. Mother Earth saved me. She showed me how to use the trees for shelter, the sun for light and energy, soil for veggies, wildlife for meat and with a little extra effort, generate an income. My brother’s death created space for me to heal with Mother Earth and birth Off Grid In Color. I’ve been doing this work since 2016: pasture raising animals for meat, providing doula services, and educating the community all while landless and with very little funds.”

The courage it takes to build a company from the ground up, while mourning the loss of a loved one is powerful and is certainly someone worthy of the title “inspirational.” The tough part is that too many of our American neighbors and friends have undergone a similar story, and hopefully through environmental justice we can help to change just that.

Environmentalist Tanya Fields and the Black Feminist Project

Environment Tanya Fields, founder of the Black Feminist Project

Tanya Fields, founder of the Black Feminist Project

Next on our Greenpeace list of inspiring environmentalists is Tanya Fields, who founded the Black Feminist Project, whose focus is “enrich[ing] the lives of, restores agency, justice, joy and health to Black womxn, girls and non-men, often referred to as marginalized genders or MaGes and the children they care for – with an emphasis on mother-led families” (https://www.theblackfeministproject.org/). How does this work coincide with the environmental movement?

I’m glad you asked, because it’s an important part of the story – thanks to the Black Feminist Project, the Black Joy Farm has been established as a “safe, healthy, bold space where MaGes are nurtured to be their full selves, un-policed and judgement free” (https://www.theblackfeministproject.org/blackjoyfarm). Please do read their full story within this link about the seven-year journey to transfer a community green space into a working farm – hosting Youth Employment camps, Family Movie nights, and several other workshops for the community – I can assure you this is one story you don’t want to miss.

Environmentalist Rue Mapp and Outdoor Afro

Environment, Rue Mapp, founder of Outdoor Afro

Rue Mapp, founder of Outdoor Afro

Going back to our short list from Greenpeace, you’ll find Rue Mapp is next on the list of inspiring environmentalists, and for good reason. Rue Mapp started Outdoor Afro in 2009 as a blog to “build a broader community and leadership in nature” (https://outdoorafro.com/team/rue-mapp/). Since then, she was invited to the White House to participate in America’s Great Outdoors Conference and assist Michelle Obama in her “Let’s Move” initiative; her writing would go on to be featured in several prominent news outlets, and “in 2019 Rue was named a National Geographic fellow and in 2021 selected as an AFAR Travel Vanguard Honoree” (https://outdoorafro.com/team/rue-mapp/).

What does Outdoor Afro do today? Well, look no further than the ‘About Us’ section of their website to learn more (https://outdoorafro.com/about-us/):

“Outdoor Afro has become the nation’s leading, cutting edge network that celebrates and inspires Black connections and leadership in nature. We are a national not for profit organization with leadership networks around the country. With more than 100 leaders in 56 cities around the country, we connect thousands of people to nature experiences, who are changing the face of conservation.”

Only half-way through this list and I feel inspired to build a few raised beds, plant seeds physically and metaphorically, and spread the word within my community on how to do so. The importance of this work cannot be over-stated – because through their works these powerful women have created a space for their communities to be themselves while addressing food shortages and build an inclusive community around food safety and security, as well as environmental justice. Check out tomorrow’s post for highlights including the rest of this short list, and take a look at blog posts all month long to learn more about the important contributions of Black Americans to our ever-diverse country.

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3 Easy Steps to Homestead Home Buying and Preparing for Retirement

Homestead

You’ve worked your whole life toward retirement, and you’re ready to pursue your homesteading dreams. You’ll likely need a bigger home to handle the undertaking and still have room for visiting loved ones. Below I’ve prepared an outline for SUNTEX customers and home-owner-enthusiasts alike, to explain the path to making your homestead dreams a reality, starting with these practical steps.

  1. Figure Out Your Finances

Before you can buy a home, you need to get your finances sorted and get an idea of the kind of funding you have available to you; this includes savings, retirement income, real estate revenue, or other sources. If you have a lot of debt, most experts agree that you should work to eliminate or significantly pay down any outstanding debt.

You don’t have to do this alone. Explore debt management options in your area. These solutions are often determined by factors specific to your situation, such as how much debt you have, your employment status, and how you plan to pay your debt.

Once you have your debt sorted out, start planning how to make your finances work with the type of home you want to buy. Keep in mind that, with proper planning, it is possible to buy and sell your properties at the same time. Start by researching the housing market in your area. Then, begin applying for a loan preapproval.

If you aren’t set on using a specific bank, it can be beneficial to consider a national online bank. This allows you to compare rates not just in your area but from all over, increasing your chances of getting the best rate available. Research online banks to decide which ones are the best fit for you and your family, and then gather your documents to apply online. Typically, lenders require bank statements, pay stubs, driver’s licenses, or other identification. Each bank is different, so check with your potential lender to see what specific documentation you need.

Bear in mind that if you plan to make changes to your new home such as installing solar panels or more energy-efficient windows and systems, you could be eligible for a Conventional Energy Efficient Mortgage, which can boost your purchasing power and help you afford to make sustainable upgrades.

  1. Define What Homesteading Looks Like to You

HomesteadWhen it comes to homesteading setups, they are all unique. Some prioritize raising small animals such as chickens and rabbits. Others focus on vegetable crops and fruit trees. You may want to raise bees or do leatherwork. Make decisions about what you want most out of homesteading.

If you are meat eaters, decide whether you want to raise all the meat you will eat on your own or if you are comfortable supplementing what you raise with meat from outside sources. The same applies to vegetables, fruits, and other goods. Many homesteaders work together with local farmers to trade or purchase goods directly so they can uphold their principles without carrying the whole burden of raising everything they eat themselves. Consider what you are comfortable with so you can choose a home that will facilitate it.

If part of your homesteading efforts are to build a business, there are other particulars you will need to keep in mind as well. This starts with registering your business with the state and choosing a business entity. Registering as an LLC offers tax advantages, easier bookkeeping, and limited liability (click here to learn more about the process).

If you have questions about what ‘homesteading’ is, or how you can qualify, feel free to check out the Texas Comptroller website on Homestead exemptions, here: https://comptroller.texas.gov/taxes/property-tax/exemptions/residence-faq.php.

  1. Decide What Your Dream Home Needs

Now that you know what space you need for homesteading, think about what you need in terms of family. If you have grandchildren over often, for instance, plan on spaces specially dedicated to their use, such as extra bedrooms or playrooms. If you typically host holidays, make sure to prioritize space for entertaining.

Part of your dream home setup will be your outdoor space. Depending on what kind of gardens or animals you are planning to raise, you might need quite a lot of land. Research what works best for your specific homesteading plans so that you know how much land you will need. You may also want to set aside space specifically for the use of grandkids, pets, and perhaps houseplants – making room for a playset and trampoline, or even space to play ball.

Retirement should be a time for pursuing your dreams surrounded by those you love. If you’re not sure how to prepare, I hope these steps will at least help get you started. With your finances sorted, your homesteading plans in hand, and your dream home details finalized, all you need is the right realtor! With your realtor to guide you, you will be well on your way to making those homesteading dreams a reality.

SUNTEX provides sustainable energy solutions to the North Texas area and is happy to discuss your home energy consumption, and potential savings. To find out more about adding innovative energy solutions to your home, reach out today! Our number is: 817-841-9632

 

Note: This article was written for SUNTEX by guest writer, Janet Lovelace. Please reach out directly to SUNTEX if you have any questions regarding this article, or the blog post content.

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Home Gardens and Cold Fronts don’t Mix

You might be surprised to hear me say that in addition to the doom and gloom climate change undoubtedly brings, there are a couple of areas that will benefit from hotter temps. One thing I was extremely grateful about this year, was that our garden has absolutely Loved the humidity we’ve seen in central Texas! We’ve grown okra into December – see photo on the right of our latest blooms on 12/18/2021 – and you might also see the small green pepper behind it, and basil plant growing strong as well.

Home Garden: Tomatoes

Home Garden: Tomatoes, 6-11-21

I know, I know, this topic is certainly nothing new to this blog – those of you that follow this blog already know, that “Ever since I was a little girl, I wanted to live on a farm” (https://suntexllc.com/home-gardens-farm-to-table/). Likely you’ve even seen the plethora of other garden blogs we’ve produced, here: https://suntexllc.com/?s=garden. However, most of our previous posts have focused on the excitement of the harvest, whereas today we’ll explore a little more about the entire process itself, and how to keep your garden safe in the winter time.

Now, to be fair, in our own garden this year, the bell pepper, basil, and even the okra plant needed much more water than I gave them. The basil plant specifically, needs more consistent trimming), and while I like to think I’m much less neglectful of plants these days than say in my college years, when I killed a cactus I’d names Mike only a few months prior, they really didn’t get much water from me.

My saving grace was that the weather, while hot, had been plenty humid and we did get a decent amount of rain this year, as compared to years past. Check out the following link to compare rainfall from this past year, as well as 2020, and years prior: https://etweather.tamu.edu/rainhistory/

The only water I provided to my garden this year was from the humble rainwater catchment ‘system’ in my back yard – if you can even call it that – and a few morning waters (waterings?) just after they were planted months ago. So I think it’s safe to say that these plants were mostly on their own for survival! All joking aside however, I did follow a more strategic process this year in growing our garden than in years past, and if you’re interested in learning more about our experience this year, check out the full story below…

Our Home-Garden Process: To be more specific, I planted starter plants from the Natural Gardener (see details below, but the key factor here is that these plants were not started from seeds):

Home Garden: Okra

Home Garden: Okra in October, 10-16-21

In March: strawberries (which, I always struggle with, but love to eat so I keep trying to grow these), mint, oregano, thyme, tomatoes (featured in post), basil, sweet potatoes (from the store, although it is NOT recommended to do that – see why, here: https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/edible/vegetables/potato/can-you-grow-store-bought-potatoes.htm), garlic, okra (featured, right).

Then in September, after the scorching heat ceased: bell pepper, brussel sprouts, a new basil plant (the summer basil unfortunately perished in the August heat), asparagus, arugula, and a new crop of sweet potatoes.

Home Garden: Okra

Home Garden: Okra in December! 12-18-21

Each of these plants grew from small starter plants from either the Natural Gardener (details below) or Lowes, to large, home-garden, veggie-producing plants harvested all summer & fall. In both seasons, we were able to pickle the okra using vinegar and canning jars, and had basil whenever we needed it – making pizza, or one of my personal favorites, bruschetta – without buying a whole bunch at the store just to see it go bad in my fridge a week later.

The other plants did grow and produce, however they weren’t nearly as big of a success in all honesty, and something kept eating the strawberries before we could, though we never really solved that riddle. And, though there are several other recipes that call for okra and basil, I don’t cook with these often, hence my eagerness to plant and use only as-needed.

Beyond the base need for more water, we had built raised beds in the back yard to support the garden. We built 5 boxes in an area with plenty of sun – using a simple, 4 by 3’x4”x1” base design (for more detail: we also added 3 of these squares for additional height, adjoining each layer with a support block inside, screwed into each corner of the interior of the raised beds). We even added a lid with chicken wire so that our dog, Earl, couldn’t eat everything as soon as it started to bear fruit (also helped with the squirrels). 

We filled the 12-16” tall beds with the following:

  • Compost!!! If you’ve seen previous posts on composting, you know that I am a fierce advocate for the breaking down process. Check out more details, here: BLOG 1, 2, 3
  • Organic Top Soil specifically designed for outdoor gardens (check it out here: )
  • Black mulch (to capture moisture longer, and ideally to prevent weeds)
Home Garden: Raised Beds

Home Garden: Raised Beds

Please note, there are much cuter and likely easier to follow designs online, not to mention a more thorough explanation of the need to mix fertile soils together – so be sure to check them out as well if you’d like to learn more about this process: https://joegardener.com/, https://www.epa.gov/recycle/composting-home, https://www.thespruce.com/raised-bed-garden-ideas-4172154

Alas, this design worked for us and still left us with a cute path through the garden, in the sunshine, that we were able to collect from March – July (for the 1st batch), and then again from September – December (mostly for arugula, as several plants in the second batch have not bloomed yet).

I think it’s safe to say at least for this year, climate change helped my Texas garden. So while the most dire effects from climate change can be catastrophic, there are efficient, money-savings means of doing your part to mitigate it, and if you’re lucky, maybe even take advantage of the new tropical summers. 

That said, this winter, we’ll need to make sure we keep the ground as warm as possible when the temperature drops below freezing, and be sure to bring in any potted plants if we want them to survive into next year. For the outdoor garden, I may consider adding some extra tarp and/or sand on top of the outdoor plants in the ground that I want to make sure survive the winter, but we shall see.

I’ll be sure to keep this blog updated from time to time, so check back in a few months to learn more, and please do feel free to share any garden winter-weatherization tips in the comments below!

The Natural Gardener Nursery: Garden Blogger's Fling, Austin

Quick Natural Gardener insider tip –

If you have kids, or even if you don’t, definitely check this place out! They’ve got an expansive outdoor garden, and not to give away too many spoilers but there are also goats and chickens in the back part of the lot that you can check out!

Even if you’re in an apartment there indoor selection – within the greenhouse outdoors – is fantastic, and we have even managed to keep several of these alive and thriving for a few years since we moved in to our current home. The staff is also very knowledgeable about what to grow and when/how, and teaches classes in the summer time. For more details about this place or the types of plants they sell, check out their website here: https://tngaustin.com/.

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