Green Your Life

Talking about amazing eco-friendly products and access to my online Wikaniko shop.


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The Joy of Gardening

Much of the hard work has been done (well, except the weeding – that is never ending), and now the fun part of having a wildflower garden and a vegetable patch is here!

First in the wild flowers…..

Oldest section in 3rd summer of flowering, It starts in early spring and continues through to late autumn.

Oldest section in 3rd summer of flowering, It starts in early spring and continues through to late autumn.

Middle section with loads of flowers grown from seeds saved from last year - anyone know what the purple flowers are?

Middle section with loads of flowers grown from seeds saved from last year – anyone know what the purple flowers are?

Most recently dug and planted, courtesy of the wonderful Farnham Local Food along with our home-grown seeds

Most recently dug and planted, courtesy of the wonderful Farnham Local Food along with our home-grown seeds

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lesser Trefoil (I think) hiding in the grass with vetch seed pod ready to burst!

Lesser Trefoil (I think) hiding in the grass with vetch seed pod ready to burst!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This little bumble bee flitted between the flowers, fabulous to watch

This little bumble bee flitted between the flowers, fabulous to watch

Bugs or beetles enjoying this yellow flower

Bugs or beetles enjoying this yellow flower

Sitting and watching for just a few minutes and I could see lots of insects among the flowers. No idea what this one is though!

Sitting and watching for just a few minutes and I could see lots of insects among the flowers. No idea what this one is though!

Many of the wildflowers in my garden came from our fabulous Wildflower Seed Balls – the best time for planting wildflower seeds is early autumn or early spring, so you can start preparing a wildflower zone in your garden now!

Over in the veg garden, some things survived the slug invasion!  The wet spring and summer has not been kind to the gardener with little time to spare!

A whole punnet of strawberries from the garden - despite the slugs!  And a lovely lettuce

A whole punnet of strawberries from the garden – despite the slugs! And a lovely lettuce

‘Mummy, why do garden peas and strawberries taste so much better than shop ones?’ asked my (almost) 4 yr old!  Now if that is not ringing endorsement for growing your own, then I don’t know what is!

Sadly the strawberries are nearly over now – we have had a steady supply for about 3 weeks from mostly 1st year plants.  Punnets made their way to the kitchen, but I have no idea how some of my WI friends manage to make jam!! They must have acres of strawberries.

Peas did not do well this year – too many slugs!  However, getting a few off the plants and these add to the kids lunches.

Many-legged carrots - hard to clean and peel, but oh so tasty!

Many-legged carrots – hard to clean and peel, but oh so tasty!

Carrots just simply are not straight when they come from my garden!  They need to have at least 2 legs and appear to be in dire need of the toilet!

Beetroot is a great vegetable to grow - it hardly ever goes wrong and slugs don't seem that fond of it!

Beetroot is a great vegetable to grow – it hardly ever goes wrong and slugs don’t seem that fond of it!

Beetroots were roasted in the oven and then pickled – do love pickled beetroot and loads more ready to be picked too.  We have a spiralizer so plan to get some beetroot spirals – perhaps for a salad or stir fry!

The chard is coming on really well too – need to think of some more recipes for that as it lasts in the garden for ages!

There is still time for planting this year – quick growing things such as radishes, lettuce, beetroot, carrot (choose an autumn variety such as our Autumn King) can all be planted and harvested into the autumn.  They may need some protection though if frosts are predicted before harvesting.

Please do visit the Garden section of my shop (www.greenyourlife.co.uk)  to see how we can help you with your garden dreams.

 

 

 

 

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Microbeads:- What to look for in personal products

A handful of microbeads, photo courtesy of Beat The Microbead.

A handful of microbeads, photo courtesy of Beat The Microbead.

Microbeads are a top issue at the moment.  The United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) is calling for them to be banned, they have been identified as a serious pollutant in our seas and oceans and were a focus of World Environment Day 2015.

But what are microbeads?                 What products are they in and why?         Why should you care? 

What Are Microbeads?

Microbeads are small pieces of plastic that are put into cosmetics, skin care products, shampoos, conditioners, toothpaste and more to aid with things like exfoliation, bulking up, forming a film, providing a base for the active ingredients, a binding agent, sparkly bits and more.

They have been used for about 50 years and are very widespread in products around the world.

Different products have different amounts – some only 1%, others 90% or more.  The size of these plastic particles varies too – some you can see and feel and others are so minuscule that you don’t know they are there.

Why are they a Problem?

Many of the products microbeads are found in are ones that you put on your skin/hair/teeth and then wash off.  The tiny bits of plastic get washed down the drains and into sewers.

They are far too small for sewage works to collect (and recycle), so they end up in the rivers and then the seas.

Many marine animals such as molluscs, fish, basking sharks and even baleen whales feed by filtering the sea water through their various feeding apparatus before expelling it out.  Usually they trap plankton and krill.  However, they also trap and eat microbeads.

They cannot digest the microbeads.  The marine creatures suffer as the amount of microbeads (and other pieces of micro-plastics which have broken down from larger plastics floating in our oceans) builds up in their bodies.  Even worse is that microbeads are known to attract and absorb persistant organic pollutants such as PCP’s and DDT from the marine environment.  Though these chemicals are banned in the UK, they are still used in other countries and are still found in our oceans.  (more details here)

This impacts on us too – we eat some of those marine animals, possibly including the pollutants that are now part of their bodies.

So What Can YOU Do?

MicrobeadAppWell, the main thing is to not purchase products that have these chemicals in them.  If you really need a scrub then there are many great alternatives available – Dead Sea Salts work well or even a loofah or sisal soap bag.  Other products use natural abraisives such as crushed apricot seed shells or similar.  Our Faith In Nature and PHB ranges have some great alternatives too.

Luckily for us, the lovely people at the North Sea Foundation and the Plastic Soup Foundation have created an app so you can scan the barcode of a product with your phone and see if it has any microbeads in.  You can download the app at Beatthemicrobead.

Otherwise the most common microbeads to look for in the ingredients list are:-

  • Polyethylene/Polythene (PE)
  • Polypropylene (PP)
  • Polyethylene terephthalate (PET)
  • Polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA)
  • Nylon

Some companies have announced their intent to stop using microbeads including Unilever, Johnson & Johnson and the Body Shop, many others have not.  So putting pressure on companies to stop using these plastics in their products is also a great step.

For further information and updates, please do look at Beat The Microbead and the Marine Conservation Society.

I have gone Microbead free – will you?

UPDATE: 24th August 2016:  In the UK the Environmental Audit Committee of MP’s has recommended a total ban on microbeads.  Please help keep the pressure on the government to ensure that microbeads are banned and soon!

Thanks!

 

 

 

 


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Wonderful Wildflowers

Animals 056Spring is really here!  It was so wonderfully warm today, my two children spent most of the time in the ‘not-a-lot’, we even got the sun cream on them.

Now is a great time to be thinking about wildflowers – or at least it is in my mind!  There is still time to be planting wildflowers to get great summer blooms and give fabulous colour to your garden – no matter how big or small.  I do admit that wildflowers can be a bit hit and miss – sometimes they take more than one year to grow and flower, but once you have created a mini-meadow, then it will bloom year on year with relatively little attention from you (compared to a lawn that is!).

So one good reason to have a wildflower meadow – reduce the mowing!  Fabulous if like me, this is not a great way for you to spend a dry day!

Why else do I plant native wildflowers over ornate blooms or tropical imports?

Well, a major reason is bees, bugs and butterflies and all the things that rely on them for food (including us!). Without bees and other pollinators, our food supplies would dwindle dramatically so, in my mind, it is essential to do a little to give the pollinators, decomposers, seed disperses, predators, and yes, even slugs, a helping hand.  So gradually I am turning my front lawn into a wildflower meadow.

I have removed a 1x 3m rectangle of grass and a large number of flower-seeds have gone into this.  Some are growing, but not all (yet).  There is only about another 4x3m section of grass left to remove and I already have lots of flowers starting to grow indoors – all ready for planting out.

Seed ball tinsMany wildflowers are not so keen on really fertile soil, preferring fairly nutrient poor ground.  They are not good in heavy competition either so it is good to remove the turf and top-soil prior to planting.  Depending on flowering time, once the meadow is doing well you can get away with an early spring mow (for summer flowers) and then a mow after the flowers are over and seeds are set.  But don’t do really short mows as this may damage the plants too much.

Also, when you do mow, do remove the cut grass – perhaps after a day or so, so any seeds can drop off seed-heads and into the soil for next years flowers.

Planting is best in spring or autumn and now we have a great, hassle-free way to plant using seed-balls.  The range is fabulous and we even have sets for your own table!

 

 

urban_meadow_2We have

Salad Mix – an easy way to get a mix of salad greens, just plant one ball every few weeks for salad all summer long.

Herb Mix – with basil, marjoram, chives, dill and parsley, you can get many of your cooking herbs from these seed-balls, and provide wildlife with fabulous pollen!

Cloud Meadow Mix – a range of white blooms that go on throughout the summer

Urban Meadow Mix – hardy plants that will survive even in fairly polluted areas, providing pollen for bees and butterflies.

Poppy Mix – lovely poppies add beautiful colour to your garden and attract a whole host of wildlife.

Butterfly Mix – flowers that butterflies love including red campion, forget-me-not, yarrow, purple loosestrife and musk mallow.

Bee Mix – attract a wide range of bees to your garden with these pretty flowers, including foxglove, vipers bugloss, birds foot trefoil, wild marjoram and red clover.

Sky Meadow – give your garden a wild blue make-over with these seed-balls.  A mix of early and late summer flowers including forget-me-not, meadow cranesbill, cornflower, self heal and wild clary.

Tea Mix – flowers for the bees and butterflies and leaves and flowers to make your tea!  Includes chamomile, mint and anise.

So what are you waiting for?

Time to get planting.