7 Great Reasons to Start Your Own Vegetable Garden

7 great reasonsHaving your own garden can give you much more than just a few extra tomatoes and cucumbers to share with your neighbors.  It can better MANY aspects of your life – including your finances, family relationships and of course, your health! Easy to say, but still wondering how this is possible?  Here you go!

Easy access to fresh fruits and vegetables.  The first is quite obvious.  With a bunch of growing veggies right there in your backyard, you will have easy access to fresh fruits and veggies – and they’ll be pesticide-free.  You’ll be cooking healthier meals for your family by incorporating more veggies on a regular basis.  For those who have a hard time planning meals, you won’t have to plan quite as much as everything will be right in your own backyard.

Saving money on your grocery bill.  The recent rise in taxes and the ever-rising cost of living combined with a stagnant or decreasing income in most American families today, the grocery budget has become one of the first places to make a few cuts.  What could be better than saving money and providing healthier food for your family??  Having your own garden does just that!  A packet of seeds usually costs about $1 or less and provides much more than that if you bought the same amount of produce in the grocery store.

Go greenIf we’re not talking about saving money, we’re talking about saving the environment.  Having your own garden not only saves our earth from the pesticides that would be used on the produce you would buy, but also saves it from the pollution that comes from the trucks and machinery that harvest and transport it.  It might seem miniscule, even microscopic, when you think about it on an individual family basis, but every little bit counts!  Who knows?  Seeing your garden may even convince your friends and neighbors to start a garden of their own and spread your impact in saving our environment that way.

Teach your children about the benefits of hard work, and get them active outside.  Has your child ever come home from school with a bean wrapped in a wet paper towel, so excited to watch it grow into a real, live plant?  Think about how much more excited they’ll be with a whole garden full of … real, live plants!  Not only will they feel the excitement watching the plants grow, they’ll also learn about the life cycle of a plant, the value of hard work and it’ll give them a reason to get away from the TV and outdoors, enjoying our beautiful world, without much of a fight!  As a parent myself, I know how difficult those fights can be some days – sometimes I just don’t have the energy to explain again why it’s not good to sit in front of the TV again.  If your children have a project outside, such as a garden, they’ll want to tend to it and make parenting just that much easier for you. 🙂

Fun, productive exercise for you too.  Not only will your children get more exercise, but you will too – and what better way to burn some calories than to do it while saving money, providing healthy food for you and your family, scaling down your carbon footprint, bonding with your children as you cooperate on a project, and enjoying our beautiful world.  Multi-tasking at its finest!

Safer food.  Who wants to worry if the produce you’re buying is going to make you sick or be recalled in a couple weeks?  Who wants to spend more for organic produce so you don’t have to worry about ingesting dangerous pesticides?  Not me, thank you!  Having your own garden rids you of these worries, providing you with safe, non-toxic food for you and your family at a fraction of the cost of buying organic.  You know where your veggies have been because you’ve watched them grow from seedlings.

Better taste and better for you.  As I’ve already mentioned a few times, one of the great benefits of having your own garden is easy access to pesticide-free produce.  Not only will your veggies be healthier for this reason, they’ll also be riper – and taste better too.  Because you’ll be picking them straight from your own yard, you will effectively cut the transportation time from days/weeks to just a few minutes!  Thus, your veggies will be able to fully ripen, will never be sprayed or waxed to look better, and will most certainly taste better too.

If you don’t have the space, you might want to think about joining a community garden in your area, or even starting one of your own!  The Peterson Garden Project is a community garden in Chicago where you can reserve a plot to grow your own veggies, or you can look into organizing a “block garden” with some of your neighbors in a communal spot closer to your home.  Click here to find a community garden in your area!

Ready to get started?  We’ll post again soon with some tips on how to actually start your own garden, so stay tuned!

My Indoor Plant Laboratory

Experimenting is one of the things I love most about growing plants indoors.  Now that it’s cold outside, you can have lots of fun trying new things with your plants indoors.  I have SO many plants in my indoor plant lab (aka. dining room to most :)) that we literally have no space to eat!  It’s fun though and gets me through the dreary winter days.

One of the easiest things to experiment with are containers.  I love buying different containers and am always looking for cute ones.  My asparagus plants are currently growing in repurposed water cans.  To do this, I first drilled holes in the bottoms for drainage.

indoor garden

I also love putting a variety of plants together in the same container and they seem to love it too!  One of my favorite blends is Geraniums with Coleus.  Geraniums are great because they’ll bloom in the middle of winter when everything else is asleep.  I’ve really had fun with my scented geranium.  Every summer, it goes outside and every fall, it comes back in.  I’ve trimmed it and shaped it to be very sculpturesque.

With a little experience, you may begin to find that some plants actually grow better inside and you’ll want to keep them indoors year round.  I have stopped taking my jade plant outside even though it would grow there and I now know that my Norfolk pine will only grow outside.  I still have to bring it in because our temperatures drop too low here, but it stays dormant through the winter and will grow another few inches as soon as I can put it back outside.

 

Don’t be afraid to experiment!  It’s a lot of fun.  Even though you’re bound to fail at something (I know I certainly have), you’ll have some great successes too and the discovery process can be fun and exciting to experience.  If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again!

Norfolk Pine

Cooking with Kale

Photo Credit: http://i301.photobucket.com/albums/nn80/levi_spicoli/kale.jpg
If you want to sneak some vitamin-rich kale into your child’s diet without them knowing, this is the recipe for you!

Kale, known as the “Queen of Greens”, is one of the healthiest vegetables on the planet.  Just one cup of this stuff gives you 36 calories, 5 grams of fiber, 15% of your daily requirement of calcium, 180% of your vitamin A, 40% of magnesium, 200% vitamin C and 1,020% vitamin K.  It’s also a great source of iron and potassium!

Vitamins A, C and K are antioxidant vitamins associated with anti-cancer health benefits AND kale is associated with lutein and zeaxanthin, which promote eye health.  Moreover, the fiber content of kale helps reduce cholesterol and the risk of heart disease.  If this didn’t just convince you to add a little more kale to your diet, I don’t know what will!

Try out this recipe as a nice and easy introduction to this nutritionally-packed veggie:

1 medium onion , finely chopped
1 bunch of carrots
2-5 stalks of celery
3 sweet potatoes
1 large bunch of kale
salt and pepper
fresh parsley
1 lb red lentils
2-3 cartons chicken soup stock

Saute onion until golden brown.  Then add lentils to onions and cook for about 2 minutes, turning constantly until lentils slightly open.

Can be made in a slow cooker or in a regular pot on low for as long as necessary until lentils can no longer be seen.

Add chicken broth to onion and lentil mixture.  Add carrots, kale, celery and sweet potato (finely chopped) to onion and lentil mixture.

To thicken up the soup and to add texture, slice one small sweet potato lengthwise, about the thickness of a potato chip and add to the soup mixture.  It will melt and dissolve.  I make mine in a slow cooker so I can set it and forget it.  Hope you enjoy!  Leave a comment and let us know what you think!

Fireplace Accent & Condo Painting in Chicago

Happy New Year!  We ended 2012 with a fun painting project using Behr paint.  Check out the pictures below and let us know what you think!

We love how the fireplace is now the focal point of the living room and brings a pop of color (Behr’s Sequoia) that complements her existing furniture well.  It’s amazing how just a small splash of color can make such a difference in updating a room’s design.

Behr’s Natural Almond was used for the living room walls and Gentle Rain brought a tranquil, yet neutral, feel to the bedroom, perfect for relaxing.

We are still offering free color consultations with every signed painting contract.  Give us a call to schedule your free estimate and update your home for the new year!  773-517-1198

The BEFORES:

The AFTERS:

living room after3

living room after2living room after

kitchen after hallway2 after hallway after corner hallway afterbedroom afterbedroom after2