Sustainable me

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By Deb Quantock McCarey

Contributing reporter/Gardening blogger

I do throw away old "junk," but not much.

I'm a saver, and of course that can take its toll, especially when your house isn't big enough to hold it all.

Note to self: No house is ever big enough, because if you are a saver, those piles always grow to fit the space in which you are living.

And, so it goes.

Right now in my basement are way too many sealed containers with nostalgic stuff that some day my boys may discard.

But, I'm not going anywhere yet, and who knew this would be me now? I'm a Gemini, after all, and my approach to all this will change...and change...and change. Hahaha.

What won't alter is how much I believe in leading a green, more sustainable lifestyle. That just makes sense.

Anyway, my wedding dress and stylish hat have been in a hermetically sealed box for 28 years, waiting for number 30 when I plan to start wearing it until it yellows and shreds.

Nearby are the bins of baby clothes, report cards, homework assignments, lots of Legos and Brio train tracks, plus the boxes and boxes of really cool books -- the stuff I'm saving for the day I might have grandkids. Or, actually put together a scrap book, which I have been putting off.

So, me getting into the garden three years ago was great. This year, though, since I have such a small backyard, and pest problems because of my penchant for growing seed-to-table, "come-and-get-me" heirlooms, as opposed to hybrid plants, I"m doing more work, which is growing me as a gardener.

Because of my choices, this year we have been in a raging battle with pests that currently are at bay because of our IPM practices.

But back to my point. The crawl space under my porch, and the free areas in our one-car garage were getting too cluttered, even for me. So to better control my garden environment, this year I turned to five pieces of our lay-around "junk" and re-purposed them, rather than discarding them out back for the guy in the truck who scavenges for the metal.

This means they now hold veggies and fruits, and so far this growing season, my big growing experiment in the backyard is working out well.

I have two mounds of squash growing out of an old, broken wheelbarrow, and Scarlet Runner Beans, growing in a makeshift raised bed, making its way up our old paint ladder.

Two pumpkin vines tare pushing out of an old chiminea that never worked because of its smallish flue. My hope is that they will trail around the yard and by October provide me with enough pumpkins to make a pie and soup.

As an aside, I did have to purchase lots of soil-less mix this year, which was pricey. Although I did use my own "home cooked" compost, but this year there wasn't enough of that when I needed it most.

In addition, I did have to pay attention to the "dos and don'ts" of growing vegetables in containers. The good news is that I plan to recycle and amend the soil in those containers by rotating its location, and my crops, so different plants will grow in other parts of the yard next year.

The plan is to do everything possible on my "urban farm" to make it harder for those aphids, white flies, slugs and so on to revisit their old feeding stations. Well, I'd rather eradicate them, but chemicals for me are out, so I'm counting on a little help from my friends, the "beneficials": ladybugs, parasitic wasps, and of course, the birds. So, unconventionally I have also planted a 4x8 foot "bird sanctuary" in the middle of my yard, busting with flowers that provide seeds the birds enjoy. My heirloom veggies, I suppose, will provide their protein.

Oh, and I forgot to mention that In an old portable fire pit, I'm attempting to grow strawberries this year. It's an another experiment. So far, don't they look good?

Another cool container I tried this year is a reclaimed wash basin, but I bought that. It's located just out the door, and is where I grow my herbs.

And, on two opposite fences, both running east to west, I'm growing grapes and hops to cover them and provide me with more edible fruits of my labors. I'll let you imagine what they look like, as it is still new growth, but growing strong.

So, with me being a gardener, vermicomposter, composter and now a person who re-purposes whatever whenever possible, I guess I am becoming more sustainable. When it comes to saving the planet, I have found its is fun and rewarding to pitch in.

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