Thursday, May 28, 2009

Your Questions Answered... Gardening and Bug Repellent

Melanie recently asked if I had any tips to share about Patio Gardening.

I am not a gardening expert, even though I do have a little experience. We have lived in several places over the past decade. Some of them have been garden friendly and some have NOT! In the places where we were able, we have kept a medium-sized family garden. Our children have become great seed planters, but they still need improvement in the weeding department : )

Our first garden was beautiful! We used 50 gallon drums cut in half as containers. Each one had three tomato plants or three bell pepper plants. If I'm remembering correctly, we had six of these containers. Then, we had a few raised beds for lettuce, broccoli, cucumbers, pumpkins, peas, beans, herbs and such. At that time, we had the space for a compost pile and our soil was truly nourishing. The result was a few seasons of really great vegetables!

We have grown more variety at different times, but have always had some space constraints. Currently, we live in a neighborhood with even greater regulation. For the last two years, we have kept a garden, but have been defeated by the deer and squirrels -- we have been unable to put in any fencing due to neighborhood regulations. This year, we are taking a break.

So, what are my recommendations? Gardening is SO worth it. Just start. My experience is that you learn the most as you go. Container or Patio Gardening is a great place to get your hands in the dirt. Keeping a variety of pots with tomatoes, beans, peppers or greens is a fabulous way to get into the gardening groove.

Here are a few great sites to get you started:

Also, Saralyn asked if I had any thoughts about a healthy insect repellent.

Unfortunately, insect repellents are laden with toxic chemicals which soak directly through our skin to our blood streams. They often include DEET and/or Dimethylphthalate, which can cause organ toxicity at the very least. But bugs can carry disease... so what is safe to do for our children?

In the past, we have used Burt's Bees Bug Repellent. It is made with rosemary, lemongrass and other natural oils. I would say it works about 70% as well as anything toxic. It does require a reapplication after sweating. And it does go on a little oily. BUT, it is a tradeoff for the toxins.

I have also read that Avon's Skin-So-Soft product is a good alternative to toxic bug repellents. I can remember using this as a teenager, and for all I remember, it really worked. Here is what EWG has to say about it:

Health officials routinely recommend bug repellents with DEET to protect against
mosquitoes that can carry West Nile virus. But insect repellents - especially
chemical ones - can irritate the skin, causing redness and itchiness.

If you do use a DEET product, one option is to apply it to your clothes instead of your skin. DEET was originally developed in 1946 for military use and overall has a
good safety record, yet some people still worry about its safety and dislike the
odor. It has been implicated in seizures in children, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, but there is not enough information to confirm it as the cause of the incidents.

Alternatives to DEET-based products include Avon Skin-So-Soft Bug Guard Plus IR3535 Expedition SPF 30. Avon discovered years ago that its Skin So Soft moisturizer doubled as an insect repellent and the brand now embraces its multitasking. IR3535, a nontoxic synthetic biochemical, offers eight hours of protection against mosquitoes, gnats, sand flies and biting midges, according to Avon.

I hope that this information is helpful! I have another kid-friendly recipe to post and my thoughts about Genetically Modified foods... as soon as time allows. My kids are wrapping up their school year so our daily routine (and my computer time) is changing. Thanks for coming back to check what's new at Health Begins With Mom!


The Pharrs said...

I have grown an organic vegetable garden for about 4 years now and I loooove it!! It is so satisfying to grow something with my own hands that feeds my family. We end up giving A LOT away, so this year I am learning to can my vegetables! I encourage anyone who is thinking about gardening to give it a try and you really don't have to have a lot of room! For a couple of years I had a very small garden in a yard that was only 1/4 of an acre! So rewarding!!

Melanie and Josh said...

Thanks Amy. So far my garden has been growing nicely with all the rain up here...although I'm having a bit of trouble with critters eating away at the leaves. I look forward to perusing the sites you reccommended for tips about pests...I'd love for this is be an affordable way to grow healthier vegetables, although I have to admit, just getting started has cost a pretty penny!

Jaime said...

Amy, I've also heard that garlic and B1 vitamins deter bugs. I've had success with B1, but you WILL smell with either of these - hence the reason the bugs are repelled. With my daughter, whose bug bites transform into huge (and I mean like 3 inches wide!), hard sores, it is worth the interesting fragrance.