Posted in Sustainable Homes and Living

Closing website

Thank you for visiting Natural Home and Garden! After a decade of running the website, we have decided to close it. It has been fun, but time to move on.

For now, we will keep this site up and running so readers can find all of the archived posts. We may even give the site a new direction in the future. If you have some good ideas, please let us know.

See you on Facebook!

Dianne and Marcel

Posted in Sustainable Homes and Living

New Direction for Natural Home and Garden

As you know, our main contributor has recently passed away. This has meant that we have come to a cross-roads in how we should move forward with the site a little sooner than we had planned. After ten years of sharing, it is time to re-evaluate what NHG is all about.

NHG started as a way to bring together interesting sustainable building, living and eating ideas into one site for ourselves and anyone else interested, to easily keep on top of what we thought were some innovative and common-sense ideas. Now there are many outlets to find this information. Many other sites have come and gone over the last decade, but as we were doing this as more of a hobby, we could keep on going without worrying about advertising revenues or other forms of remuneration.

As with anything, our contributors have come and gone as well. Mostly people just run out of energy in trying to come up with new content. The same thing happened to us a while back, which is why we relied heavily on contributors to help keep the content new and interesting.

We do get many offers of new articles to post, but they are mainly from people who don’t really have any interest in sustainable ways of living and building, which we believe is needed more now then ever.

So, we would like to hear from you if you have some good ideas.  Should we head a different direction? Should we become a natural products store?  Should we offer someone else a chance to take over the site? Or is it just time to close down?

If you have some good ideas, please let us know. Thanks in advance for your thoughts. Thank you to everyone in our community.

Dianne and Marcel


Posted in Gardening & Backyard Farming, Sustainable Homes and Living

LED grow lights vs Fluorescents

We have been growing microgreens for a few years now and are in to our 3rd growing season for our Friends & Family Microgreens Club.  We have been using T5 and T8* Fluorescent lights since the beginning, but the old T8’s are only used in a pinch. Seeing as we have changed pretty well all of our home lights to LED’s now, we thought we better start looking into changing out the lighting we use to grow our microgreens as well.

I belong to a microgreen growers group on Facebook and this question comes up over and over again. What type of lighting should I use for growing microgreens? I’m sure the group admins pull their hair out every time it gets asked…

As with anything, there are many different answers to this, based on several parameters. What is the budget? What level of grower are you – Personal use only, Growing Club, Start-up Entrepreneur, Large-scale Commercial Grower or something in-between.

As Growing Club members, we need to keep our budget to a minimum, as we are not a profit centre. Because of this, we started looking at LED tape / strip lights, which come in a roll and run on low-voltage. There are mixed reviews on these lights, with concerns of safety, quality and growth of plants on one side and loving the low power consumption and ease of setting up on the other.

Because of this we popped into our local LED lighting shop to see what they might offer. Canadian Wholesale Lighting supplied us with 2 different versions of LED grow lights: The tape or strip light I was thinking of, along with a package of 5 – T5 LED Tube fixtures.

What did we compare?

  • Ease of use
  • Energy use
  • Quality of Microgreens, including:
    • Taste
    • Visual – Colour / Growth / Volume

Ease of use / Energy use

The TopLED Strip Light comes with cord / transformer and mounting brackets, but has no in-line switch. This means you would have to use a power bar as switch, as we have done, but if not using that growing shelf one growing cycle,  you have to unplug the light. Not a big deal, but a little less convenient.

As we were just doing a test, we used cable ties to hold it on to wood hangers. This will have reduced the efficiency a bit, as strip curled around each end. In proper install, we would cut to length and attach with cord connectors. Light is a Red / Blue at 4 – 1 ratio. 1 – LED Strip light tested at 38 watts


TopLED Strip Light

The T5 LED Series Tube fixtures are boxed as a set of five 280mm x 10mm LED strip lights built in to reflective tubes, with a power cord / transformer / switch, connection cords which allow for one power cord to run a series of fixtures and brackets. Very easy set-up. The light is very hard on eyes, so we mounted them on lowest grow shelf. If you were using this style in larger install, I would recommend wearing UV eye protection. 5 – LED T5 Tubes tested at 27 watts


T5 LED Series Tube fixtures


Our existing 60cm / 2 ft. Sun Blaster T5 Fluorescent lights are in their 3rd season. They also came with power-cord / switch,  built-in ballast, connection cords which allow for one power cord to run a series of fixtures and brackets. Tubes can be replaced as needed.  4 – T5 Fluorescents tested at 84 watts total.


T5 Fluorescent Lights

Quality of Microgreens

Now to the part you have probably been waiting for. How did the microgreens grow under the 3 different lights?

We grew three trays of each, making sure they were all given the exact same conditions. All were grown in 10 x 20 trays (standard greenhouse tray size), using certified organic ProMix container mix.

The grow room was kept at a 20 C / 70 F temperature (we keep it cooler then some growers as we work on a 2 week cycle).  We grew Sunflowers and a Brassica mix. All trays were put under light on day 5, which includes a day for Sunflowers to be soaked before planting.

During the first cycle, the approximate height from top of soil to bottom of lights were as follows.

  • LED Strip – 27 cm / 10.5 inches
  • LED Tube – 24 cm / 9.5 inches
  • T5 Fluorescent – 22 cm / 8.5 inches (our standard height for these)

During the second cycle, we lowered the LED’s hoping to get better results

  • LED Strip – 18 cm / 7 inches
  • LED Tube – 14 cm / 5.5 inches
  • T5 Fluorescent – 22 cm / 8.5 inches

How did they grow?

You will see below, that there is a considerable difference in volume and density of the crops. The two types of LED lights had quite different success with each variety of Microgreens, while the T5 Fluorescents remained more consistent.

Sunflowers

Sunflowers        T5 Fluorescents          LED Strip / Tape Light         LED T5 Tubes

Sunflowers        T5 Fluorescents          LED Strip / Tape Light         LED T5 Tubes

Brassica Mix


Brassica Mix       T5 Fluorescents          LED Strip / Tape Light         LED T5 Tubes

Brassica Mix        T5 Fluorescents          LED Strip / Tape Light         LED T5 Tubes

Taste Test

We did a taste test at end of second cycle. A very experienced tasting team, which included two family members and myself 😉 We did a simple 1st, 2nd & 3rd rating system. The results are as follows…

Sunflowers

  1. LED Strip light – Nice taste, good water content
  2. T5 Fluorescents – Not a lot of difference to above, just a hair behind
  3. LED T5 Tubes – Very bitter. We used in a smoothie.

Brassica Mix

  1. LED T5 Tubes – Nice taste, good water content
  2. T5 Fluorescents – Not a lot of difference to above, just a hair behind
  3. LED Strip – Limp. No appeal

Final Conclusion

It seems that the different Microgreen varieties fared differently with the different lights. All I can really say is that you will have to try out which Microgreens grow well under your lighting. The big difference for most of us will be the cost to buy and cost to run.

The LED Stip lights should be the least costly to buy, as you can easily take one 5m / 16.4 ft strip and cover a 4 ft. shelf. The LED T5 Tubes used the least amount of power, but I don’t really think that the five tube package covered all the plants on 4 foot shelf that well.

The T5 Fluorescents used considerably more wattage, but are quite consistent in growing a good crop. If you are growing a few trays for yourself, the overall cost wouldn’t be that much. If growing on a larger scale, that cost would add up quickly.

We definitely would need more time to really make a proper conclusion. 

*We didn’t use one of our old 4ft T8 Fluorescents as part of this test, but just for fun, its power was rated at 54 watts for a two tube fixture.

Posted in Sustainable Homes and Living

Microgreen Lighting test

Watch for the results of our lighting test, which will come out in about a week! Over the last month, we have been testing out 2 types of LED grow lights. We will be comparing them to each other and to our existing T5 Fluorescents. Thank you to Canadian Wholesale Lighting for asking us to try these out!

T5 Fluorescents
LED plant growing strip light (Tape Light)
LED 1 foot T5 lights
Posted in Healthy (& Tasty!) Eating

Fermenting root veggies

We have just started fermenting our own root veggies

I must admit that I never really liked foods like store-bought Sauerkraut. We had both tried Kimchi at Korean and Japanese restaurants and were not impressed. So when I started reading and hearing about how important our gut bacteria is, to not only only our digestive system, but the healthiness of our entire body, we were both rather skeptical.

Then we realized that fermented foods we have eaten previously sometimes contained vinegars, which is what gave them such a harsh flavour. Looking into fermented foods further, and talking to family that grew up with fermented foods, we realized that “real” fermented foods were much simpler.

On to YouTube to look at some videos and away I went with trying out my first fermented food trial. We happened to have a few turnips in the cool room that were getting towards the end of their storage life. We picked up a small celeriac (celery root) to go with the turnips and also added ginger root, mustard seed and Himalayan salt.

All I did was put grated ingredients together, pound them for a bit to get juices coming out and put them into an earthen bowl. There was not quite enough liquid to make sure veggies were fully covered (otherwise there will be spoilage), so I poured small amount of previously boiled water over the mix.

A lid from another bowl fit in upside down to give a partially sealed cover. I also added a few extra plates on top to make sure it stayed down on first batch. Didn’t need it on this one. Then I just covered it up and put it in a dark corner of kitchen for a week or so.

It tasted great! It wasn’t harsh like the vinegar-based products at all and the ginger gave it a nice little kick.

This time I am using sweet potatoes, carrots and ginger, along with mustard seed and salt. Next time, I may even add some onions and garlic!

Try it out for yourself. It is very good for your health and adds a flavourful condiment to your meal as well. Don’t eat too much in a day to start or your digestive system might not be too happy. Also, if you have health issues, or an overbalance of bad bacteria in your system, you may experience die-off like I did.

Be sure to sterilize everything used in process, and don’t use any veggies with molds on them.

Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

Posted in Gardening & Backyard Farming, Healthy (& Tasty!) Eating

Microgreens

wp-1476915124094.jpgWe’ve just recently started playing around with microgreens for our family. Taking two old window blind displays that are best kept out of landfill, I reconfigured them a bit to line up the horizontal supports to allow for continuous shelves across both units. The light fixture that was previously hanging vertically inside one of the units makes great lighting for the top shelf.

 

 

We also picked up a few grow-light units that were on clearance at a local indoor gardening shop for the middle. These use very little power, but as you can see below, the plants love them! We still have a couple of 3 foot fixtures sitting in shop that will work once we expand to using bottom section of displays. The plastic panels that used to sit in behind the display blinds were handy as shelf covers (makes easy cleaning) and light reflectors.

wp-1476912753779.jpg
1 week old Peas – Can’t wait to try these!

This little storage room in our shop is heated with a small oil-filled heater each year already, so there will be no additional cost to keep the plants happy. We keep the heat very low and will see how happy the micro greens are once winter really sets in. About a week before this post, we were down to -4 C overnight and it was still comfortable in room.

Total cost to get going was only about $80.00 + cost of seeds. We decided to buy larger quantities. The two below we bought 10 kgs. of each. A little costly up front, but will save a lot over winter and spring. From what I can read, micro greens have an average 4 – 5 times the nutrients as their mature counterparts. There was a study at the University of Maryland that tested the claims on nutrition and found some exciting results. Here is the short version from WebMD.

We bought our seeds in bulk from a Canadian seed supplier that sells only organic, non-GMO seeds. Here is part of our first indoor crop!

wp-1476912753774.jpg
The Sunflowers (Sunnies) are looking great as well. Diannes’ favorite! The black pieces are just the seed hulls that haven’t fallen off yet.

If anyone else is experimenting with microgreens, please let us know. We are thinking of starting a local ‘MicroGreens Club’ next year if all goes well, where we could have affordable monthly subscriptions. Let us know if there is anything along those lines in your area.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Flooring

3 Reasons to Choose Sustainable Hardwood Flooring

When you’re thinking about redoing your floors you have a lot of options to choose from. From bamboo to vinyl there are many different materials available that can be used for flooring. Here are 3 reasons to choose our  hardwood for your flooring needs.

Hardwood is Healthy

3 Reasons to Choose Hardwood Flooring - blog.ecotimber.comCarpet is notorious for releasing unhealthy Volatile Organic Compounds, or VOCs, into the air. Exposure to these VOCs can have any number of long-term health effects. With hardwood flooring most if not all of the danger of VOCs is eliminated. Factory finished hardwood is sealed and UV-cured which means that it does not emit VOCs. If you’re finishing the wood on-site look for a water-based finish to minimize the VOCs. In addition, look for a low VOC glue to use when installing a hardwood floor to further minimize the risk of long-term health effects.

Hardwood is Sustainable

3 Reasons to Choose Hardwood Flooring - blog.ecotimber.com

These bluegrass planks were collected from fences that were being replaced and will be made into flooring.

Trees are a renewable resource. Responsible harvesters plant new trees to replace those that they cut down. Wood is also recyclable. Sawdust, a byproduct of manufacturing wood flooring, is the primary material used to make particle board. Hardwood can be reclaimed. When old buildings are torn down there is frequently wood in them that can be reused in other buildings.

The Forest Stewardship Council certifies wood that is harvested from well-managed forests. They ensure that these forests are not damaged and that the local ecosystems are unharmed. When you purchase wood that carries the Forest Stewardship Council seal you’re helping to support the Earth’s forests.

Hardwood is Eco-Friendly

3 Reasons to Choose Hardwood Flooring - blog.ecotimber.comAs trees grow they take carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. The carbon dioxide is converted into carbon and oxygen.  The carbon is stored in the tree and the oxygen is released back into the air.

Forests around the world provide habitats for numerous species. They also help to prevent soil erosion and flooding. In addition, turning trees into flooring requires less energy and produces less waste than many other methods of manufacturing flooring.

The next time you’re shopping for new flooring remember these 3 reasons to choose hardwood flooring.

Posted in Flooring

Benefits of Cork – One of Nature’s Great Resources

Benefits of Cork – One of Nature’s Great RESOURCES

Check out this video in which Candace Olson talks about why she likes cork flooring.

Cork, used for everything from wine bottle stoppers to bulletin boards, has become very popular among designers. But what makes cork flooring such a good fit for your home or business? Read on to discover some of the many benefits of cork.

Renewable

Cork comes from the bark of Cork Oak trees. These trees are native to the Mediterranean region where they can live over 200 years. The bark from the trees is first harvested when the trees are about 25 years old and after that it is harvested every 9-12 years.

Sustainable

Cork Oak trees are not harmed when their bark is removed and will in fact continue to grow. In many Mediterranean countries Cork Oak trees are protected by law and can only be cut down with government permission. In addition, the Cork Oak forests provide homes for a number of endangered species.

WEZP-PA-Beja-CAFF_Vignette_1Recyclable

Cork is recyclable and there is very little waste in the process of turning cork bark into consumer goods.  Some cork flooring is created from the remnants left from making cork bottle stoppers.

Healthy

Cork is naturally hypoallergenic and it resists dust mites and mold. In addition it repels some insects.

Easy Care

Due to its nature cork both repels water and resists fire.  It also retains its shape even when heavy furniture has been sitting on it and it resists wear and tear.

Insulating

Cork provides thermal insulation, aiding in the regulation of temperatures, and it helps to absorb ambient sound.

Comfortable

Cork flooring feels warm and, because of its elasticity, cushioning.  As a result it is easier to stand on for long periods of time than harder floors.

100% Cork Candice Olson Discusses Benefits of Real Cork.wmv from EcoTimber onVimeo.