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Urban Growing Integration & Benefits

Upcycling HOW TO’S Going Green with


Low Cost



December 2012

Beautiful. Possible. Affordable. FOREVER GREEN CO. Maintaining lawns since 1875





Contents Letter from the Editors Biographies

4 5

Features Green Architecture Edible Eden Going Green by Going Yellow

7 11 19

Informational 9 Nutritious (and Tasty!) Snacks 5 Reasons to Start a Garden

22 24

How To’s Upcycling Milk Cartons When to Plant How to Make a Raised Bed


26 33 34

Growing for a Better Tomorrow

Kathy Zarsky explains the importance of urban gardens.

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Letter from the Editors


Hello Sprouts, Welcome to ideaGarden, the future of gardening in Austin. The magazine you are about to read is all about recycling, architecture, gardening and healthy cooking. We are being presumptuous in assuming that some of you guys may have opened our magazine out of the sheer beauty of our cover. Even if you are not interested in gardening now, after reading our magazine, we can assure you that you will be. Our magazine contains a wide array of information ranging from feature articles to creative how-to’s and survey graphics. Come join us and unearth the wonders of growing your own garden. We will water you and fill you with knowledge until you become a beautiful blossoming flower. Enjoy.

4 | ideaGarden | 2012


Meet Nilan. After a normal school day at LASA he spends two and

a half hours, 4 days a week in the lovely Texas sun with the LBJ baseball team. On weekends he can almost always be found in his countryside backyard. He has caught two rattlesnakes, a few tarantulas, and numerous scorpions. Nilan aspires to become a cardiologist, but will continue to enjoy nature to the fullest.



Meet the Writers

Meet Jessi. She spends her weekends going to math class, doing

Meet Zach.

He leads the freshmen as the 2012 freshman class president. He is working toward his private pilot’s license, regularly flying airplanes and helicopters. He plans to become a commercial pilot for his career. He enjoys working with electronics and gardening. He is a life scout in The Boy Scouts of America, and has been on many camp outs and scouting events.



homework, and watching Korean dramas. Jessi enjoys stealing food from her mother’s garden, sitting outside, watching bamboo grow, and drinking tea. Jessi aspires become a dermatologist and use plants as remedies. For now, her outdoor adventures include walking her dog, Onion, and watering her mother’s plants.

Meet Sesha. Three days a week, she wakes up at five a.m. to jump

into an ice cold pool with the LBJ swim team. Along with swimming, Sesha has been playing piano since she was seven, sings in a choir and plays soccer in her spare time. She enjoys to spend time with little kids and aspires to become an elementary school teacher. Over the weekends, Sesha loves to be outdoors walking through her neighborhood and admiring houses.

2012 | ideaGarden | 5

Living Green

through the eyes of an architect By Sesha McMinn




but it’s really energy efficiency, finding products that are healthy to be around and being responsible to the environment [by] finding resources that are renewable and getting it from close by so that you don’t have long transportation costs,” Mehl says. Mehl says that green architecture is


ccording to Austin architect Nick Mehl, many people regard green architecture solely as energy efficiency. Green architecture is actually an accumulation of three things. “Green architecture has been synonymous with energy efficiency,

Deck with an overhang uses elements of natural sunlight and the direction of breezes.

a popular form of architecture in Austin, and he combines modern architecture, green architecture and environmental sustainability together into designs when building a house. “Modern architecture historically hasn’t been big with the environment,” Mehl said. “What I’m trying to do, and a number of architects in Austin is do modern architecture that has elements that work with the environment.” By using the elements of natural shade, crosswinds and breezes, houses can be more energy sustainable and energy efficient. Mehl says that this is because if a house does not have to generate much energy for itself and instead uses wind and sunlight instead of electricity at all times, electricity bills will decrease immensely. Mehl says that adding overhangs and facing the house in a direction where the easiest sunlight is located is important to consider. “The simplest form of modern architecture is a box. I mean a box isn’t very environmental. It doesn’t have any shade,” Mehl said. “We start with putting a roof over [the box] that has deep overhangs and [we] face the room in the right direction [to receive] breezes. If you have a long narrow house, make sure

This house uses natural sunlight as an energy source for the screened-in porch.

8 | ideaGarden | 2012

Rain barrels collect rain water to be reused.

that it’s mostly facing south or north, because that’s where the easiest light is, that’s where the easiest sunlight is to control.” Another way to use natural resources is through water conservation. There are a few existing contraptions that lower water bills by decreasing the amount of water used in a house. “You [can] put in certain devices, like on water faucets [and] shower heads that concentrates the water so you have less flow, [as well as] dual flush toilets,” Mehl said. “[With] rainwater collection, you can collect your own rainwater to water the plants.” According to Mehl, living in an environmentally sustainable house increases the amount of enjoyment a person receives from living in their own house. “Energy efficiency and [being] enjoyable to live in [are benefits to having an environmentally sustainable

house], and that’s a big one I think.” Mehl said. Though Mehl focuses on modern green architecture, not all architects have the same focus. Mehl says that many architects in Austin are aware of environmentalism, but architects who do not reside in Austin do not always think about the environment when designing a house. “In Austin we’re kind of in a vacuum. I just got back from this conference the last couple of days, and architects from all over the state were here, and not everyone thinks the way we do,” Mehl said. “I mean in Austin we just naturally think about environmentalism. Other architects apparently aren’t so concerned.” Mehl says that most architects who specialize in green architecture do not make much money compared to architects who do not focus on environmentalism. Mehl designs


green architecture and thus makes less money than an architect who is not specialized in a subset of architecture. This is mainly because not everyone wants to hire an architect who focuses on green architecture. Mehl thinks that incorporating elements of energy efficiency and green architecture into a house can be challenging. Mehl also says that even though it can be challenging at times, this fact does not phase him from designing houses that are environmentally sustainable and from doing something that he enjoys. “I was working with an architect for many years where we were building really expensive homes for wealthy people and there was no meaning in that for me. It was artistic and some parts of it were fun, but I got tired of designing houses that were so big, and I think I got a little self conscious about it,” Mehl

In Austin we’re kind of in a vacuum...we just naturally think about environmentalism.

said. “Then when I started my own firm, I wanted something that was green and available to people who didn’t have a whole lot of money.” By building energy efficient houses that use natural energy sources such as wind and sunlight, architects like Mehl are able to build houses that are environmentally sustainable, incorporate nature into their designs and work with the people who live in the house. “I would say [the most important thing is] thinking of a house as a living organism that works with nature. That’s probably the simplest way to describe it because it is a living thing,” Mehl said. “It is a thing that breathes and has a pulse and there’s people inside it that breathe and have a pulse too. I think a lot of architects have forgotten that it’s really about the people. It’s how the people interact with the architecture. It’s about the people who are living in it.”

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Edible Eden Conservation through

edible gardening By Jessi Cai



Bus boy waters Baloutine’s garden.


integrate eye-catching ornamental plants in fiery reds, blazing oranges, and lush greens with flourishing organic produce is not new but rather reemerging. Edible gardening and conservation has become a more prominent trend in Austin over the past few years. Baloutine’s company, Seedling Gardenings, works to help clients achieve low water use edible gardens. These gardens incorporate


hree years ago, Liz Baloutine’s edible garden was a fallow disaster. Not one tomato plant emerged from the terrain that season. Today, Baloutine designs, installs, and maintains edible gardens abundant with crisp, verdant vegetables for both inexperienced gardeners and local Austin restaurants. The idea of nurturing gardens that

the same aspects of a traditional edible garden but exclusively use plants that do not require an abundance of water. Baloutine’s gardening expertise aids like minded people who are concerned about the environment. “I really want my business to be all about conservation,” she says. “I do the vegetable gardens, but I also do landscaping that’s all low water use.” Baloutine’s gardening adventure started on rocky soil. Without much knowledge about fertilizing, soil, or plants in general, she established her first garden. She reminiscences that after her first failed attempt, she was tenacious to ever garden again. “I didn’t know anything about anything, and I was planting stuff when it didn’t need to be planted,” Baloutine says. “It was just kind of chaotic. I don’t think I got anything out of it.” When spring rolled around, Baloutine was once again captivated by an announcement on KUT, an Austin radio station, about a volunteer opportunity called the Green Corn Project. “I was like, ‘wow,’” she recalls. “I decided I wanted to garden, and that’s what I wanted to do for a living.” Once she revitalized her interest in edible gardening, Baloutine began working for The Austin Groundskeeper,

Baloutine harvests greens from her vegetable garden.

12 | ideaGarden | 2012


Baloutine says. “It really makes me feel good about knowing that they’re going to be able to have a good garden that they can actually eat out of the first year.” Austin’s erratic weather does have its benefits, according to Baloutine. The weather makes gardening year round possible she says. Last fall, she was intrigued to plant saffron, an exorbitantly priced spice often used in European cuisine. Every gardening magazine and handbook she read stated saffron could not be grown in the scorching Austin weather, but Baloutine says she decided to try despite the claims that it was

My number one rule is don’t be afraid to fail.

Baloutine uses pruning shears to remove dead parts of plants.

a local landscaping company. Baloutine also worked for DaiDue, a butcher shop that sources all their food locally, while maintaining a garden at Olivia Restaurant on S. Lamar Blvd. on the side. Baloutine says once she started receiving more clients, it became more difficult to find time to fit them all in on Saturday. Last May, Baloutine decided to officially launch her company, Seedlings Gardening, by installing a low water use garden around her friend’s restaurant. “One day I was talking to a friend of mine who’s a chef and I told her that I felt like I was ready to stop working for the landscaping company,” she says. “[My friend] had a couple anchors, and she wanted to clean up the land and start a

little area and plant low water use plants. She wanted me to do it. It was a good opportunity to quit my job and start doing that.” In addition to designing and maintaining edible gardens for clients, Baloutine mentors locals interested in growing their own vegetables through one-on-one sessions and group classes. Her group gardening sessions are held at a different member’s house each time. Baloutine says this allows the gardeners to practice in realistic conditions. She says that teaching others how to produce their own food is one of the most rewarding things about her career. “I know when I started it was really hard and I didn’t know what to do,”

impossible because gardening is all about experimenting. “I was like, ‘why can’t we grow that?’” she says. “I bought a bunch of bulbs last fall and they came up, but only a few flowered. Technically if you plant them last fall they’re not supposed to flower until this fall, but they flowered because it’s hotter here.” According to Baloutine, the difficult component is trying to keep the saffron plants alive after they go dormant in the summer. Everything she read cited reviving the plants as the impossible part to achieve due to the Austin weather. “I was digging around in the bed and I still saw bulbs,” she says. “If they weren’t gonna come back they probably would have rotted out in the soil and they didn’t. I have a feeling that they are going to come back. I’m kind of excited.” With a mind set on conservation, Baloutine’s edible garden landscaping and incorporation of low water use plants is her contribution to a more sustainable and healthy Austin. As she continues to coach locals on how to build a sustainable future, Baloutine provides flourishing edible gardens unlike her first tomato plant. Her mission is to save the world. One seed at a time.

2012 | ideaGarden | 13

Growing for a Better Tomorrow Kathy Zarsky explains the importance and significance of creating buildings using green practices and designs, as well as the importance of growing your own food.

By Zachary Kosub



Kathy Zarsky’s rooftop xeriscaped garden, and a small chiminea on the patio.

By Zachary Kosub


She incorporates agriculture and other aspects of nature and biology into her building designs. This includes commercial, educational and healthcare facilities, including colleges, univewrsities and hospitals. “It will connect them to where their food comes from…and what it takes to sustain the systems that allow it to grow food.” Zarsky says, “Once

Succulents also grow well in this environment, and are often a beautiful addition to rooftop gardens.

16 | ideaGarden | 2012


Growing for a Better Tomorrow

io mimicry and urban gardening can be found in almost everything we see. These things allow buildings and other structures to have less of an impact on the environment, and more of an impact on people’s health, wellbeing, education, and their life overall. Kathy Zarsky works to try and turn these ideas into reality. She is a leader in Austin, Texas in the field of bio mimicry and green architecture. Bio mimicry is when a building mimics the patterns, actions, and looks of nature. She works for a company called HOLOS Collaborative, where she works to change development practices and standards of building and development. She has her bachelor’s degree in architecture from the University of Texas, and an associate’s degree in philosophy from the University of Oslo, Norway.

Once you value something, you will begin to care for it, and it will impact diet.


as an example for rooftop gardens and environmentally friendly design. “They come to understand how food is grown; they’ll recognize the investment of time, energy, and money to care for it.” She says that people with food gardens will be more likely to consume these foods and they will build in a healthier diet. “If you have kids helping to tend gardens, they take such pride in growing and harvesting food from the

garden that if they’ve grown it, they will eat it,” Zarsky says. She also says that growing your own food is different from buying food at the store, and the likelihood of a child eating the healthy food from the store is far less, because the child did not spend time and effort growing it. Her two young children love helping her with the gardens. Zarsky Cactus, prarie grasses, vines, and other plants all flourish says they understand without watering. the value of eating waste into food for the crops. It’s a healthy, as well as the amount of work cycle, the plants use the nutrients that it takes to grow food at home. the fungus creates, and the fungus “We’re consuming what’s consumes the plants waste. become part of the mainstream diet, She explains how the different carrots, lettuces…” These plants are seasons in Texas can drastically affect very water intensive, and usually the amount of food the garden will require some sort of water collection produce. “Summer yields here are system, especially in the Hill Country. not very good… winter is our optimal With the short and far between growing season, our gardens just rain storms, she is forced to take explode…” The fall and winter months other measures to keep her garden in Austin are usually the wettest healthy. “You can bury certain types of logs under the bed because those will support fungal growth that will create wonderful nutrients between the plants, which help to water less.” Using old logs in this fashion can make your garden produce more food. The fungus will help to turn

Tips for New Austin Gardeners

• Bury rotten logs under garden to incourage fungus grown, and to give vital nutrients to your garden. • Make sure you have a water collection system for your garden, so during summer water restrictions you’ll have water for your garden. • Food gardens are a challenge, read our article in this issue for more infomation.

Average Rainfall in Austin, Texas

5 4 3 2 1 0


Feb. March April









2012 | ideaGarden | 17


value something, you will begin to care for it, and it will impact diet.” These principals can help people to live a healthier lifestyle. She lives a very eco-friendly lifestyle, with a concrete home in which she designed, gardens (both edible and xeriscape), rain water collection systems, fruit trees, as well as many other things that help to make her and her family’s lifestyle more economically efficient in the long run. Her home shows many of her goals toward making buildings develop and run better. Her house is featured on her company’s website,


Kathy was on the LEED coordinator of the Shangra La Botanical Gardens’ overhaul.

being just one of many things that they feel is important for development. Net zero water, net zero energy, you have to have biophilic design elements to have natural patterns and views of nature, not emulating nature but literal presence of nature in your design, or emulated form of nature that doesn’t really have any true function.”


months out of the whole year, which makes it easy to collect and save water for later use. Rain collection systems can collect this rainwater during these month, allowing watering during the dry months. Many facilities incorporate water collection systems into their designs. “…Campus projects introducing agriculture to some degree…is a growing trend. For other projects, if they are just pursuing standard green building practices, their thoughtfulness about integrating agriculture isn’t as prevalent, but there are some new certifications that actually require it.” There are many certifications in Austin like this. They provide guidelines for developers trying to build. She explained a new program called the Living Building Challenge. It “is a green building program, nothing is an elective; every aspect of the rating is required.” The program challenges buildings to become more environmentally friendly, and have less of an impact of the environment, and to be more sensitive. The rating focuses on many aspects of green building and bio mimicry, not just on agriculture. “It looks holistically across several factors, agriculture

The wetland purification system at the Shangra La Gardens.

18 | ideaGarden | 2012

The designs of buildings play very important roles in everyday life, from housing, education and commerce. Because of this, Zarsky believes we need to be aware of the impacts that our homes have on the environment. Kathy Zarsky, and many other people in her field are trying to make this a reality, by mimicking nature in their works.


Solar panels on a building.

Going Green by Going Yellow By Nilan Bhakta


he energy potential of 20 days of sunlight falling on the earth is the same as that of all the coal, oil, and natural gas known to humans,” says Brett Biggard, the owner of an Austin solar company Freedom Solar Power. As tensions rise in the Middle East the cost for power is suddenly rising. People are looking for alternative energy than those traditional sources: coal, oil, and fossil fuels. Biggard says that one promising source is solar. Even cavemen harnessed the power of the sun, yet the idea of using the sun for power has only entered the mix of human issues recently. With thousands of square miles in Texas, it has the potential to become the biggest solar energy user in America. “Texas has the ability of generating about 4,330 quadrillion British Thermal Units per year which is the equivalent of 400 times the

amount of energy Texas consumes annually. Yet solar energy technology produces less than one tenth of one percent of [Texas’] energy demands,” shown in a recent 2010 Texas energy report. The report also shows that governor has pushed for solar to become its greatest asset. He has created many organizations to spread solar knowledge and is providing energy rebates for people who are going solar. The government knows that without clean energy the state would end up spending excess money importing other energy sources. “Electricity is the blood of modern civilization and you can get as much as you want from the sun. Natural resources are a limited solution that will eventually be depleted. As we get closer to depleting those resources, the price will continue to increase, making solar the obvious choice for our

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...power through an unlimited resource - the sun...

which generates no pollution or harmful substances to the environment. Solar allows utilities an alternative to expensive and environmentally harmful energy sources, such as coal, oil, and natural gas. Using solar energy to generate 1 kilowatt of power is equivalent to planting 50 trees,” Biggard said. But there are more to solar panels than environmental benefits, in Texas having solar panels on a residency increases the home’s value without property tax increases in Texas. “Adding solar also reduces our reliability on foreign countries for fuel and electricity allowing our economy to improve by adding thousands of new jobs. Generating our own clean solar electricity is one small step towards shifting toward a healthier and sustainable energy source without these costly imports,” Biggard says. When a homeowner goes solar they are also standing against rising utility rates, by locking in low and predictable electricity costs for the future. “Like any promising energy resource there are always drawbacks,” said Lionel Johannes,

20 | ideaGarden | 2012

Solar panels being installed in an Austin neighborhood.

have coal. Balancing these resources with solar and other renewable energy would eventually get to a point where the earth is not affected by our usage.” Johannes says every solar panel installed is just a tiny piece of a much larger puzzle: every system installed

Solar Panel Installation Boom in Texas based on graph by Freedom Solar Power

Total capacity installed (in megawatts) 2000

1891 MW

1500 1245 MW


845 MW





head communicative representative for Circular Energy in Austin. Although Texas receives enough solar radiation in a day to alone to to make fossil fuel resources to look useless, Johannes says “solar should not replace traditional sources of electricity -- at least not completely. The best mix of energy is one that is diversified with a variety of resources that remain available. After all, solar does not generate when there is no sunlight, oil only generates when there is oil, and coal only generates when we


2012 (so far)


electricity needs.” said Biggard. Many people have heard of “photovoltaic cells” (PV cells) or solar panels found on rooftops. PV cells were developed in the 1950s as part of a space program. The cells are able to convert sunlight directly into electricity without creating any air or water pollution. Solar panels contain hundreds of PV cells. “Solar panels provide a renewable, clean energy source that provides

being invested in new photovoltaic technologies that will make solar energy an even bigger part of the energy grid. The solar industry is changing quickly – and change creates opportunities. But Johannes says solar energy is already at a point which it is able to ‘efficiently’ power America without new scientific breakthroughs. “Solar is ready and available today; it only needs smart and consistent policy to thrive.” Solar technology is now poised to play a larger role in the future, thanks to new developments that could result in lower costs and improved efficiency. He also says “More and more architects are also recognizing the value of solar and learning how to effectively incorporate it into building designs. With costs dropping and benefits increasing, the obvious choice is to use the sun.”


allows the electricity network to become more efficient, requiring fewer resources, and balancing usage. He believes solar will continue to improve the balance of our energy mix and create a more stable electric network. As costs continue to decline, solar will help our electric rates avoid price spikes as traditional resources become limited and/or unpredictable. “Investing in solar power and balancing natural resources makes a significant contribution toward preserving the planet. This push for [solar] energy driven by a focus on sustainability and long-lasting benefits will improve society in quality. The energy needs of a typical home in Texas could be met by covering only half of its roof with solar electric panels,” Johannes said. An enormous amount of time is

IN THE NEWS The Flexible Solar Panel The California Institute of Technology has recently figured out a way to create solar panels that have at least three very distinct characteristics for success: They are very good at absorbing light, they are made of cheap plastic and only use a small amount of expensive semiconductors, and are flexible.

Solar Prices Droping The installed price of a solar power systems in the United States fell greatly in 2011 and through the first half of 2012, according to the latest edition of Tracking the Sun. The average price for a solar system on a residency and commercial project fell by roughly 16% in the last two years.

Efficient Solar Technology Rice University scientists have discovered a new technology that converts solar energy directly into steam. The this new method from Rice is so effective it can even produce steam from icy water. The technology is expected to be first used in sanitation and water purification applications.

2012 | ideaGarden | 21

Nutritious Snacks


Each of these yummy offerings contains fewer than 200 calories and have a smart mix of proteins, healthy fats, and energizing carboydrates. And they are quick and simple in your home.


A handful of Almonds


es b y L uigi C hi


o t o b y S ir N i c



This is for nut lovers: The newest study in the Internatioanl Journal of Obesity reveals that just by adding a few almond in your diet you can significantly reduce overall body weight and blood pressure readings.

A can of tomato soup A cup of dried cranberries

P ho

Cranberries are often seen during Thanksgiving, but they are also considered a superfood. Research at Rutgers University found that cranberries are only 45 calories per cup and they are the second highest source of antioxidants, just second to blueberries.

to by

F otoos Va n

Ro bi


Scientifically considered a fruit, a tomato is more of a vegetable when used in cooking due to its savory flavor. Regardless of whether you classify it as a fruit or vegetable, a normal can of Campbell’s tomato soup contains minimal calories and is packed with lycopene, vitamins A and C, and potassium.




e ns En g M og e

l un


A cup of Edamame

by Ta m m y G

re en


22 | ideaGarden | 2012


The Whole Grains Council explains that although most foods are made of wheat, rye should not be forgoten. Foods made from rye not only have a rich taste, but also contain lots of fiber and magnesium that helps to fight against diabetes and obesity.


Rye bread

Edamame is a name given to soybeans when they are boiled in their green pods. Edamame pods can be found it in almost any grocery store. Doctor Elaine Magee, who is passionate about changing the way America eats has done research showing that edamame pods are relatively low in calories and are extremely rich in protein, so they can be beneficial for a variety of diet plans. Edamame also provides fiber and vitamins.

A sliced cucumber


o to by K sd5

Based on a 2011 article from the Livestrong Foundation adding cucumbers to your diet is an effective way to cleanse your digestive system and lose weight. This watery snack can provide a positive effect on the water and salt balance and metabolic process. In addition cucumbers provide cleaner skin and are usually the basis of cosmetic lotions.

A b hijit T e mb

b y Fl agst

a ff



o ot


“An apple a day” is good to regulate your body. Research from the USDA has shown that fruits like apples also provide a natural skin cancer fighting ability. But some apples have more of these disease fighting antioxidants than others. The juicy red apples fare the best out




A cool, crisp red apple


A celery bunch

Unbuttered popcorn



by Flagstaf


Joe Vinson, Ph.D., professor of chemistry at the University of Scranton says that, “Popcorn has more antioxidants in total than other snack foods that you can consume and it also has quite a bit of fiber.” Of course avoid adding oil, butter and salt which can cancel the health benefits of popcorn by adding fat.

According to the Texas A&M Department of Horticultural Sciences many people know celery as the negative calorie snack but researchers have found that celery also contains a natural blood pressure reduction properties. Celery has the ability to relax the arteries that regulate blood pressure allowing these critical vessels to breath. Celery is also a rich source of Vitamin C which has the ability to help reduce cold symptoms.

2012 | ideaGarden | 23

Why Grow?



our ticket to sustainable living? Vegetable gardening. According to the 2011 Garden Trends Report, seed sales have gone up 50 percent since last year. A growing number of Austinites are getting down into the soil to start their very own vegetable gardens. Here are four compelling reasons to dispel your fear of getting dirt under your fingernails and start your own garden. GRAPHICS BY JESSI CAI

It’s 24 | ideaGarden | 2012

Nutritional According to Stephen Scott, a gardener known for his heirloom seed company, Underwood Gardens, vegetables begin losing their nutritional value as soon as they’re picked. Homegrown vegetables that are cooked shortly after being picked are more nutritious than those bought from a store. Fresh produce intended for grocery stores travel long distances, so they are often picked before they are fully ripe, says Rachael Gorman from Eating Well, a magazine about nutrition. Not only does this disrupt the fruits’ natural development of antioxidants and vitamins, but it exposes the produce to heat which diminishes and degrades many vitamins in the vegetables.

$ Cheap



As the price of fresh produce continues to rise, raising your own vegetables is becoming more cost efficient. According to Jennifer Beeler from Real Simple magazine, the most significant reason to grow your own produce is the price. A package of herbs can cost around $3 to $6 and it only contains enough herbs for two meals. On the other hand, potted herbs cost around $2 to $5 and they often live up to eight months. The cost of gardening can be even further alleviated by starting with seeds, which cost anywhere from $1 to $2.

Produce from grocery stores is known to be grown from genetically modified seeds which can be unsafe for humans, says Beeler. Genetically modified foods have been linked with the development of tumors. This has caused many people to turn to vegetable gardening to produce their own food. When you grow your own vegetables, you have ultimate control over which pesticides and fertilizers you choose to use. Eating vegetables from your own garden allows you to know exactly what you’re eating, but more importantly, what toxins you aren’t eating.

Chemicals from nonsustainable farming practices used to grow non-organic crops are contributing to the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico, says Sarah Kingsbury from the Iowa Source, a magazine on entertainment and recreational activities.. Pesticides and chemicals used in most commerical production damage the soil and air with chemical compounds. Organic gardening creates a backyard ecosystem that nourishes the soil which attracts and benefits wildlife. When you grow organic vegetables, you contribute to both your own sustainability and the planet’s sustainabily.

2012 | ideaGarden | 25

Make your own Carton Wallet



n this simple how-to, you will learn how to make an adorable wallet by reusing a milk carton. This project is 100% eco-friendly, and takes a mere 30 minutes to complete. The materials we will need for this project include a 1/2 gallon milk or juice carton with the rinsed plastic cap, scissors, paper towels, tape, a ballpoint pen and the wallet template which can be found on the pages following this activity. This project can also be found online at For more fun craft ideas and activities, visit PHOTOS BY SESHA MCMINN



out wallet template from the pages after this activity. Tape the template on top of the carton so that the circle on the template lines up with the circle where the cap of the carton belongs.


along the outside of the template onto the carton as well as along the outside of the template onto the carton.


Cut along the outside

outline that you drew on the carton. You should now be left with a cut out shape that looks exactly like the wallet template. Cut out the lower circle from the carton that you previously outlined from the wallet template. Use scissors to do this.

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According to an EPA report of Municipal Solid Waste, in 2010, “We recycled more than 62 percent of the paper and paperboard we generated.�


Following the lines you

outlined earlier from the wallet template, create an accordionlike fold on each side of the wallet. The accordion folds will look similar to the picture on the right. Fold each side of the carton separately. Do not fold both at the same time.

Your finished accordion folds should like just like the photo

to the left. Tightly squeeze the finished accordion flaps together to make sure that the folds you have made stay in place.



Fold the top flap with the cut

out hole down over the spout of the carton. Screw on the cap to keep this flap in place.

Congratulations. Your

carton wallet is now complete.

2012 | ideaGarden | 27




4 Great Foods You Can Grow!


Green Beans




Green beans can be a wonderful addition to any garden. They also grow very well in the Texas climate. There are many varietys of green beans, of many different colors. Choose the variety that will best suit your needs as far as yields, climate, sun exposure, and water requirements. Green beans are a warm weather crop, and it is best to plant them in full sunlight. Avoid planting your beans in heavy soil or places where other beans have grown. Green beans grow best when planted in mid or late May. You cannot transplant the plants, so seed directly into the ground. The plants are very sensitive to freezing, so make sure you plant after the last freeze of winter. You can plant the beans in late summer, as long as you plant them at least 45 days before the first predicted freeze. Plant the seeds anywhere between 1 and 1 1/2 inch. Plant deeper for sandy soils and shallower for heavy soil. Do not presoak the seeds. The plants should be watered 1 to 1 1/2 inches each week.

Carrots are a great plant to have in your garden. They require some maintenance, but they are very nutritious and have a large yield. Carrots do best in a sandy, loose soils, where there are little obstructions in the soil. Obstructions will cause the carrots to become deformed. Use your shovel to break up the soil 8 to 12 inches deep. Rake fertilizer in 3 to 4 inches deep.Smooth the soul with a rake, and create raised rows 1 to 2 feet apart from each other. Begin planting in spring, from July to February. Drag a stick down the rows, creating a small depression. Place 20 seeds per foot in the depression, and cover with loose soil. When the carrot plants reach four inches high, thin the plants to one per 2 inches. Keep the bed free of weeds, this is especially important when the plants are young. Carrots should be ready for harvest 70 to 80 days after planting. Pull the carrots when they have a 1 to 1 1/2 inch diameter. Losten the soul around the carrot before pulling to prevent breaking.

Pumpkins require a large area to grow in, and a very specific soil type, but they can be very rewarding. In Texas, it is recommended that you plant your pumpkin seeds from May to early June, according to Life Guides. Allow 3 to 4 months for your pumpkin to grow, the longer the bigger. Pumpkins like deep well drained soil, and lots of sunshine. The location you chose should have at least 6 hours of sunlight everyday. Ideally, the area you chose should also have about 4 feet of soil to grow in, but as little as 2 feet will do. Raised beds are great for meeting these depth requirements. Plant the pumpkin seeds from 1/2 to 1 inch into the soil, in groups of 3-5. The pumpkins should have plenty of room to grow. Once the plant is mature, approximately 45 to 55 days from flowering, the skin of the pumpkin will harden, and the color of the pumpkin will change from green to the breed’s normal color. Cut the pumpkin from the vine leaving a few inches of the vine on the pumpkin.

Cucumbers can be one of the most productive plants you can grow in your garden, states Texas Gardener. If you take advantage of the plant’s tendency to grow vertical, they can be a good plant for small gardens. Start by tilling the area you are planning to plant in, and apply gracious amounts of compost and barnyard manure. Pull all of the soil into a raised bed that is 4 to 6 inches tall. The best way to grow cucumbers is in cages, much like tomatoes. Your young cucumbers may need some guidance with getting intertwined with the cage. You can help them by weaving the vines through the cage a couple of times. Growing your cucumbers in a cage can be helpful in many ways, including making them easier to harvest, and reducing diseases because of the increased air circulation. If you are seeding your plants directly, wait until the soil temperature is at least 60 degrees.

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Make Your own Raised Beds

DIY If you want to plant vegetables or herbs, six inches deep is perfect. To be sure that your plant’s have plenty of room to grow, you may want to use a shovel or garden fork to dig out the existing dirt and loosen the soil to a depth of eight to twelve inches.

Long-time gardeners use raised beds to avoid a lot of gardening challenges. You fill a raised bed with a soil-and-compost blend, so no need to worry about bad dirt. The bed walls help to control drainage, and keep the dirt in. Exposure to the sun warms the bed and extends the growing season. Plants can be placed closely together so water efficiency is maximized and weeds are crowded out, according to Sunset. There are many advantages to using raised beds.

Step 4: Constructing the Bed Using rot-resistant lumber, begin to put together the frame. Two by six lumber is perfect for the job. Cut the pieces to the desired sizes, and then attach them together to make a simple frame. Pre-drill the holes, and attach the lumber together with galvanized screws.

The sides can be made of almost any building material, including brick, wood, concrete and interlocking blocks. If you are using lumber, avoid creosote-treated railroad ties. Use naturally rot-resistant cedar or redwood.

Step 1: Location Chose a location with the amount of sun that your plant needs. You need to place your garden in a flat level area, and your garden should be in an area close to a water source with plenty of room for you to work, according to Popular Mechanics

Step 2: Size and Shape Make sure your garden is fully accessible from all angles. It is a good idea to keep your bed around four feet wide, any length is fine as long as you keep the width around four feet.

Step 3: Prepare your Site Once you’ve found an area to plant your garden, and you know the size an shape you want it, you can start prepping the area you want to build it in. It is important to make your bed deep enough for the type of plants you want to grow.

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Step 5: Level and Fill Use a level to make sure that the frame is level on the ground. If your bed isn’t level, water may sit in one part and quickly run off another. If you find that your frame is not level, just dig out some of the earth below it. The whole point of raised beds is that they give you a lot of control over the soil. Use this to your advantage and fill your bed with a mixture of topsoil, compost, and rotted manure. After raking and leveling the soil, you’re ready to plant rows of seeds.

Maintaining your Bed Raised beds require very little maintenance. It is also a good idea to put more compost on top of your raised bed every spring or fall. Water tends to drain out of raised beds quickly, so moisture retention is important. It is a good idea to mulch your garden every now and then.


This magazine is crafted to educate Austinites on gardening, food, and architecture.