Feb 7, 2014 Product Review
[I received a complimentary AeroGarden and starter seed kit to review.]
Usually around this time of year I’m looking wistfully out of the window into my backyard, wondering when I’ll be able to get out there are start planting. But not this year, because I’ve been growing things all winter!
I was really excited when my AeroGarden arrived, because I caught the gardening bug a few years ago, and winters since then have seemed extra long.
Unpacking and assembly took less than five minutes. Super easy. Things got even easier once I plugged my AeroGarden in, because the screen led me through everything step-by-step.
I placed the seed pods into the holes, covered them with their little plastic caps, filled the reservoir with water and plant food (which came with the seed kit), and then it was waiting time.
There was literally nothing I had to do at this point. The grow lights go on and off themselves. The water circulates when it’s supposed to. There is NO dirt to deal with!
In less than a week the first tiny little sprouts started to appear in the pods. Once they’d grown enough to almost touch the plastic caps, it was time to uncover them.
Once they’d started growing, all I had to do was add water when the screen told me to, add plant food, and prune the taller plants to give the shorter ones time to catch up. It’s been the easiest thing to maintain ever. As long as you follow the instructions, it’s basically idiot-proof.
My herbs have been growing for 71 days now, and they’re just beautiful!
Now, everything was not perfect. Two of the pods – savory and chives – never really did much of anything for whatever reason (I think I could have contacted the company about that, because the pods are guaranteed to grow). But that actually works out OK, because I use basil like crazy. So now I’m looking in to cloning the basil and adding two more pods of it. I’ve ordered a grow anything kit from AeroGarden that doesn’t come with any seeds – you can use your own, or use plant cuttings. I’ll let you know how it goes.
In the meantime, I’ve been using fresh herbs all over the place. Usually in the winter if I want fresh herbs I have to buy a pack of them for $3-4, and most of it goes to waste. With my AeroGarden, I just cut off exactly what I need!
I can sprinkle fresh basil on pasta, and put it on delicious homemade pizzas:
I also put basil in sauces, and I make a lot of sauce. Can you see why I need to grow more basil?
My husband’s favorite fish recipe uses a ton of thyme, and the AeroGarden has plenty.
And parsley goes in so many different recipes. So useful!
I can honestly say that having all of those fresh herbs available at a moment’s notice has transformed my winter cooking. I’m still looking forward to spring, but now I’m not as desperate for it.
I highly recommend the AeroGarden. It’s something that I would absolutely spend my own money on. In fact, I’m thinking of buying a second AeroGarden, just so that I can have fresh tomatoes year round!
Something to keep in mind: Think about where you’re going to place your AeroGarden, because when the grow lights are on they are very bright, and the sound of water circulating through the system can be loud as well. Ours started out in our dining room, and we ended up moving it to the pantry due to the bright lights.
Jun 28, 2013 Paid/Sponsored Post
[The following post was commissioned by Scotts Miracle-Gro]
A few days ago the kids and I headed into the city to visit a community garden that has benefited from the Scotts Miracle-Gro Gro1000 program, a community outreach initiative that provides grants to community gardens. This particular garden is on the roof of Metro Baptist Church, and is managed by the Clinton Housing Development Company, which is headquartered across the street.
The Hell’s Kitchen Farm Project was started as a way to provide more fresh produce to the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood. All of the produce grown on the church’s roof is donated to a food pantry, which is also located in the church. Last year, they provided the Rauschenbush Metro Ministries Food Pantry with over 150 pounds of fresh produce! From what I know about food pantries in NYC, it is not very common for them to have fresh produce, so this is much-needed.
Metro Baptist Church
We met Lauren, who runs the Hell’s Kitchen Farm Project, as well as some other programs for the CHDC. She started out as a volunteer, but is now in charge of coordinating all of the other volunteers who work on the garden. We headed up many flights of stairs (four? Five? I lost count) and emerged in an urban oasis.
As you know I’ve really gotten into gardening in the past few years, and I love that all of these veggies are being grown in plastic kiddie pools! Anybody could reproduce this at home. You drill holes in the bottom of the pool for drainage, and then put a layer of drainage fill in the pool (they used the little plastic containers that plants come in, turned upside-down of course – brilliant!). Next comes a bed liner to keep the drainage fill in place, then soil (I’m a big fan of Miracle-Gro Moisture Control Potting Mix). Add some chicken wire and netting if you have bird issues, like they did. These pools are also up on foam blocks, to help drainage even more.
Lauren giving Jake and Fiona a tour of the garden
On the day we visited, the rooftop was filled with volunteers from a large corporation, as well as some of the garden’s regular volunteers. Jake and Fiona got to help out by planting some radishes. But first, we took a tour of the garden, trying to identify the herbs by smell and taste.
The kids both got mint right, of course. Basil and thyme were harder for them. Fiona got rosemary right away though – she’d just eaten some from our garden a couple days before. Also, Jake answered “Parsley!” first for anything he didn’t know. I have no idea why. He doesn’t even like parsley!
This community garden has tomatoes, lettuce, cucumbers, a bunch of different herbs, and more. The lettuce looked especially good. I’ve never grown lettuce, which is crazy, since I love salad!
The kids got their hands dirty doing a little planting, guided by Lauren.
Everything that’s grown in the garden is recorded (and everything that’s harvested is weighed). Jake entered the radish planting into the record book.
And then they made sure that the seeds wouldn’t be eaten by birds.
I really loved spending time in this garden. I’ve donated lots of food to food pantries, and it was always shelf-stable – canned and boxed food. Fresh produce is so important for a healthy diet, but in many parts of NYC it can be expensive and hard to get. The amount of work it takes to make this rooftop garden happen is not small, but the people I met at the Hell’s Kitchen Farm Project were so dedicated and enthusiastic. Fiona got really fired up and said she wanted to start something like this in Brooklyn!
This post was written as part of my partnership with Scotts Miracle-Gro and its GRO1000 grant program.
Originally posted on Selfish Mom. All opinions expressed on this website come straight from Amy unless otherwise noted. This post has a Compensation Level of 13. Please visit Amy’s Full Disclosure page for more information.
Jun 21, 2013 What's Going On
I am not an outdoor person. Sure, I enjoy eating outside once in a while, at a picnic or in our backyard (as long as I have at least three of these going). And I prefer to exercise outdoors, because it seems to go faster. But for the most part, I’d rather be inside. I like climate-controlled environments. I hate bugs. I don’t like putting on sunscreen.
So, I am continually surprised at how much I like to garden. I caught the bug about four years ago, starting in the most unlikely way possible: a Chia Herb Garden. At the time our backyard was completely unusable, so I was stuck with windowsill gardening. But I was thrilled just to get something to grow!
Once we had use of our backyard I moved on to growing vegetables in containers. In the past I have produced the best tomatoes and strawberries I’ve ever tasted. This year I’m growing those again, plus zucchini, jalapeno peppers, and peas.
Every morning I go outside to check things out, usually in my pajamas (anybody bothering to look down into my backyard deserves what they see at 6:30 in the morning). I’m always amazed at how things have changed overnight. I swear, the tomato plants grow a visible amount every twenty-four hour period.
And I’m still growing herbs, but I’ve graduated from the Chia ones.
One of the best things in the world is being able to run outside while cooking and grab just the right amount of basil or dill, instead of having to buy a big bunch and waste most of it.
The flowers in our flower beds don’t interest me nearly as much (I can’t eat them!), but they are pretty. These Asiatic lilies are just about ready to bloom.
I still don’t have my dad’s green thumb – he’s able to grow anything, anywhere. But I am getting better. With advice from my friend Judith, who does landscaping for a living, we’ve got grass growing in the crappy Brooklyn soil and the veggies in the best place for optimal growth. The slugs are leaving the plants completely alone this year thanks to something called Sluggo, and I don’t have to deal with cat poop in the flower beds thanks to this motion-detection sprayer (it also gets me about half of the mornings) – both recommendations from Judith.
Even though it’s almost July, my garden is still in the early stages this year – I got a late start thanks to the late spring. But I’m really excited for what’s coming! I’m not sure what the attraction is, but I feel a sense of accomplishment with the garden that never seems to get old.
Originally posted on Selfish Mom. All opinions expressed on this website come straight from Amy unless otherwise noted. This post has a Compensation Level of 0. Please visit Amy’s Full Disclosure page for more information.
Jun 24, 2011 Love Your Veggies
So our garden is coming along surprisingly well, after a few bumps in the road. The first bump was when I returned from a three-day trip to find one of my planters dug up and filled with several days of cat poop. After cleaning it up and throwing up in my mouth a few times I hit the internet and did some research and came away with some things to try. Then, I vented about it on twitter
and a follower, NorthWestMommy, came to my rescue:
So, first I watered all of the areas the cats could dig in, figuring that the chili powder would stick better. Then I sprinkled all of the chili powder I had in the house. I checked the next day, and no poop. No poop the next day either. I was convinced, so I ordered some giant jars of chili powder and have been using it since, and have had zero problem with anything digging anything up! I reapply after a very hard rain. The only lingering problem from the cats is that I think they might have dug up all of the hot pepper seeds, because I just realized this morning that I don’t really see any of those coming up, but I’m not completely sure. I guess time will tell.
The next bump was the fact that 48 hours after Fiona and I planted all of our carrots, there was a huge, all-night downpour. I was afraid that those little seeds, which were only 1/2 inch below the surface, were splashed right out of the container. But finally, earlier this week, I saw their tiny little leaves break through!
So we’ve got tomatoes (the big ones on the outside are beefsteak, the small ones in the middle are regular old small round ones (I forget the name)…
And zucchini (and possibly hot peppers, but thankfully no cat poop)..
And cauliflower and romanesco broccoli…
And itty bitty carrot plants…
And even watermelon!
I hope this inspires you to get your garden going. It’s not too late! Lots of the stuff I planted could have been planted in July. In fact, if it looks like I’ve got some extra space I might add some more in a few weeks.
And a huge thank you to the fantastic folks at Hidden Valley for the excellent prizes and support!
Originally posted on Selfish Mom. All opinions expressed on this website come straight from Amy unless otherwise noted. This post has a Compensation Level of 14. Please visit Amy’s Full Disclosure page for more information.
Jun 22, 2011 What's Going On
I slept for eleven hours last night. Of course, the night before I slept for a whopping two hours, so together they barely average out to two decent nights of sleep, but I feel much better. And after doing some disaster relief in my kitchen and laundry room (I found Sean Penn under a pile of dirty underwear) I’m ready to take on the world.
It’s all-out war this summer against mosquitoes at Casa Selfish, and this is the latest round in my gun, so I need to unpack it and see if it works. The reviews of the Stinger Indoor Insect Trap on Amazon.com were pretty good, but if it catches even one skeeter today I’ll consider it money well spent. I hate those little suckers with every inch of my mosquito-ravaged skin.
The latest installment of The Blogging Angels’ podcast will be put up later today, by me, which is why it’s late, because everything I’ve done lately has been late. (Hell, I wanted to post this post about five hours ago.) But look for it later on our facebook page.
If you’ve never listened to a Blogging Angels podcast and have absolutely no idea what I’m talking about, I do a weekly (ish) podcast with three other bloggers: Rebecca, Nancy, and Heidi. The podcasts cover everything from blogging and social media to family tech and work-life balance, and I’ve been told by many non-bloggers that we’re funny and interesting enough to listen to even if you have no interest in the behind-the-scenes world of blogging (although that can be interesting for non-bloggers too!).
Speaking of The Blogging Angels, I need to get my thoughts together for a panel three of us are speaking on tomorrow morning at ten as part of Consumer Electronics Week in New York, put on by the same group that does the fabulous Consumer Electronics Show in Vegas each January (you know, the one down the street from the annual porn convention – Ah, Vegas!).
We’ll be speaking to a group of brand reps and public relations people about how to work with mom bloggers in a way that’s mutually beneficial to the brand, the blogger, and the readers. Also known as, how not to piss me off so much that I mention our terrible interaction on a Blogging Angels podcast and never get invited to another Ford event again (true story, and a shame for both sides).
Later today I’ll be announcing the two winners of my Love Your Veggies gardening giveaway. I really enjoyed holding that giveaway, and am thrilled to announce that as of this week, every single thing that I’ve planted so far has popped through the soil. Even the watermelon!
Tonight after my husband gets home I’ll be racing into the city to catch the second half of a holiday gift guide show. I went to two yesterday, and as I was falling asleep last night I asked myself, what holiday? That’s when I realized that I had spent half of the first day of summer looking at gifts that companies want to promote for Christmas. Well, I can’t wait until Christmas, so I’ll be posting my top picks sooner than that.
And last, getting on my treadmill for even twenty minutes would be fantastic. Let’s see if it happens.
Enjoy your day! How the hell did get to be almost 2pm already…
Originally posted on Selfish Mom. All opinions expressed on this website come straight from Amy unless otherwise noted. This post has a Compensation Level of 14 (Love Your Veggies). Please visit Amy’s Full Disclosure page for more information.
Jun 12, 2011 Posted From My Phone
I was was just joking around on twitter about growing my own avocados, since I spend so much on them. Then I started googling it and decided to give it a try! I’ll let you know in five to ten years if my efforts bear fruit.
Originally posted on SelfishMom, from Amy’s cell phone (so please excuse any weird formatting). All opinions expressed on this website come straight from Amy unless otherwise noted. This post has a Compensation Level of 0 . Please see Amy’s Full Disclosure page for more information.
May 26, 2011 Love Your Veggies
I’m writing this post under the best possible circumstances: in the early morning light, out in my newly-renovated back yard, gazing upon my new raised garden beds just waiting to be filled. (If any of my neighbors are looking my way, they’re not getting as good a deal – they’re gazing on me in my pajama pants and a ratty tank top.) In the two years since I started gardening very modestly with a Chia Herb Garden, I’ve come a long way. I’ve learned how to produce more tomatoes than I could ever eat in one container, and now I’m ready to graduate to the next step with lots more room for lots more veggies (and one fruit that Fiona begged for).
After consulting with the family, we decided on the following:
- Tomatoes. They will always be my first choice for planting because after eating home-grown tomatoes, anything else tastes like a plastic red nothing.
- Romanesco Broccoli. Because I’ve only seen it on TV and I really want to try it!
- Orange Cauliflower. Because I go through a couple heads a week, mashing it and mixing it with potatoes and Hidden Valley Ranch dressing. So why not make it orange?
- Purple and Orange Carrots. Because my son loves carrots sautéed with dill, and the purple ones will freak him out, and Fiona and I dip these in Hidden Valley Ranch dressing for a quick, colorful snack.
- Zucchini. I go through these like crazy, sautéing them with dill for pasta, shredding them for zucchini pancakes, and making loaves of the most delicious zucchini bread ever.
- Jabanero Peppers. Because my husband likes things HOT!
- Watermelon. I have no idea if watermelon will grow in Brooklyn, but our backyard is super sunny, so it’s worth a try. This was Fiona’s first choice, so how could I say no?
- Herbs. I haven’t decided which ones yet, although parsley, chives and basil are the ones I use the most so that’s probably what I’ll grow.
I actually wanted to get started almost two weeks ago, but almost as soon as the backyard renovation was done I threw my back out. But now I’m feeling great and ready to go, just in time for the long weekend!
Because of our totally leaded soil here in Brooklyn we still have to grow our vegetables in containers (I prefer my children un-leaded). So I’ve got two big round containers, a long trough, and a giant bathtub, although now they’ll be buried and looking like they’re part of the raised beds.
The BIG Giveaway
I’m extraordinary lucky that I was able to have these planting beds built for me. But I’m even luckier that thanks to the wonderful people at Hidden Valley’s Love Your Veggies, as a mom panelist I get to help two of my readers start their own vegetable gardens in a very big way, and help them enjoy their veggies once they’re grown. Two winners will each get the following:
Frame It All Raised Vegetable Garden, 8’X8’X12”. This amazing raised bed system can be put together quickly with a hammer and screwdriver, and the shape can be adapted for your space. Don’t have grass or even a yard? Just take out the stakes on the bottom, set it up on a patio or on cement, fill with dirt, and you’re ready to garden!
Vertex 7-Piece Garden Tool Set with Folding Seat, because I’m one of those people who believes having the right tools makes any project more fun.
Magid Terra Women’s Gardening Gloves, so that you don’t have to get dirt under your nails (I hate that!).
Ball Home Canning Starter Kit, because trust me, you will grow more than you know what to do with.
Twelve Ball Jars with Canning Lids
$35 Gift Certificate to Home Depot, to pick up seeds, soil, Miracle Grow, whatever else you need to get your garden started.
And of course, products from Hidden Valley to eat your veggies with!
The total prize value for each winner is just a few cents short of $500!
To enter to win, all you have to do is leave a comment on this post telling me about where you are with gardening. Are you a seasoned pro who’s constantly delivering extra veggies to grateful neighbors? Do you have a window box full of lush herbs? Or are you a beginner eager to get started?
For a second entry, you may tweet about this contest with a link back to this page. Or, you can copy and tweet the following:
Hidden Valley & @SelfishMom are giving away 2 gardening packages worth $500 each, everything you need! http://bit.ly/ke1jt0 #LoveYourVeggies
Make sure to leave a second comment with a link to your tweet, or it won’t count (instructions on how to find and post the url of your tweet can be found here).
So, that’s a maximum of two entries per household please! This contest will close at noon-ish on Monday, June 13th. The two winners will be chosen by random.org. You must be at least 18 years of age to enter. Prizes may be shipped within the continental United States and Canada only. See my complete Giveaway Rules page for more information.
Good luck! I am so excited to be holding this contest and want to give a BIG shout out to the folks at Love Your Veggies, who have been a dream to work with. Now let’s get gardening!
Originally posted on Selfish Mom. All opinions expressed on this website come straight from Amy unless otherwise noted. This post has Compensation Levels of 9 & 14. Please visit Amy’s Full Disclosure page for more information.
May 12, 2011 What's Going On
This is the story of how our backyard went from being a disaster to being a beautiful oasis of grass and bricks in just two short weeks. Five years and two weeks.
When we moved in to our brownstone the backyard was a complete mess. It had a hideous plastic and wood “shelter” built on to the back of the house that contained two hornets’ nests. There was a cracked and ugly cement patio, a mess of wires covering the back wall, and ugly weeds and bushes everywhere. The ground was littered with glass, metal and rocks, and it wasn’t just on the surface either: decades of abuse had filled the dirt with layers of garbage. It wasn’t just ugly, it was unusable. and dangerous.
For the first couple of years we didn’t care much. We were only living in the top half of our house, so we never came into contact with the backyard, except out of the windows. As our renovation progressed more junk got put back there: wood, pipes, two big radiators that no longer worked, a bathtub, and other contractor junk.
Eventually my husband started tackling the backyard. He had a plan: he would dig down a couple of feet and “sift” the metal, glass and rocks out of the dirt using a big wood-and-chicken-wire contraption he built. Some weekends the kids would help him. I begged him to just hire someone and get it done quickly, but honestly I think he was enjoying taking things into his own hands.
He dug for two summers. As much time as he spent on it, he seemed to be making little progress. He did find some interesting things though: old bottles and coins, a pipe, and most impressively, an almost-intact toilet buried in the back next to a tree.
I’m not positive what pushed him over the edge this year, but I suspect it was visiting a friend’s renovated house. He decided to give up on his little project, and hired the same guys who had done his friend’s backyard. They got to work two weeks ago today.
The first step was to break apart the old cement patio. The crazy thing is, they found a layer of blue stone under it, which my next door neighbor’s husband happily took off our hands. After that mess was cleared out, the bricks and sand and cement mix started coming in.
And kept coming.
And kept coming.
The raised garden beds were the first to go in. We had them bury some containers in there so that we could grow vegetables without our dirt getting mixed in with the completely leaded Brooklyn dirt, and we’ll be putting in a bunch of flowers too.
Days of leveling and brick-laying followed.
Finally our lawn was pieced together. That was the day I almost cried. And in the three days that we’ve had grass I’ve turned into one of those lawn-obsessed people. Thank goodness it’s behind the house, so I only have to chase my own children off of it (I’m not being mean, we have to water it three times a day and treat it very gently for a few weeks, until the roots take hold in our dirt).
The very last thing left to do is to put a big awning on the back of the house over the patio (our backyard gets sun pretty much all day), and that should be done tomorrow, so basically it’s finished. I keep glancing out of the window expecting to see the hideous mess that I’d been looking at for so long, but instead I see a gorgeous space that I’ve been looking forward to for years.
Originally posted on Selfish Mom. All opinions expressed on this website come straight from Amy unless otherwise noted. This post has a Compensation Level of 0. Please visit Amy’s Full Disclosure page for more information.