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Gardens that Heal: Two Botanical Gardens Reach Out To Their Communities

January 29th, 2012

Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote, “All my hurts my garden spade can heal.”  Two extraordinary Botanical Gardens are using this idea to make a big difference in their communities.  They have created programs using nature related activities to improve the well being of those that need it most, and have inspired other organizations to partner with them so that people of all ages and abilities can blossom within a garden.

 Toledo Botanical Gardens: Toledo GROWs

If you ever visit Northwest Ohio, you’ll notice the beautiful lakes and may perhaps sample some of the local Midwest food.  But many do not plan on running into any of the 50-plus community gardens organized by Toledo Botanical Gardens of Toledo, Ohio.  TBG hosts Toledo GROWs, a community outreach program with an aim of offering organizational resources and technical assistance that help cultivate and sustain community gardening projects all throughout Northwestern Ohio.

You may know that community gardens help beautify neighborhoods and provide nutritious food for its members.  What also makes this organization so special are the partnerships that have formed to help sustain each of these local gardens.  Toledo GROWs has created a safe haven and therapeutic experience for at-risk youth, seniors, those with disabilities and families who want to provide a valuable service for their neighborhood.

A shining example of this is when Toledo GROWs partnered with the Lucas County Juvenile Justice System, and provided 100 adjudicated youth with paid employment, a place to learn new skills and gain work experience, and the chance to connect with positive mentors. Other youth-centered farms organized by Toledo GROWs are equipped with greenhouses, chicken coops, orchards, rain gardens, beekeeping and training centers, and are sustained with the help of children and teens.

 Tucson Botanical Gardens: Horticulture Therapy Program

Located in Southern Arizona, Tucson Botanical Gardens was once a charming family home with an extraordinary garden in the late 1920’s.  It is now an organization that offers more than just the beauty of its 5 acres of varying gardens and exhibits.  Juliet, the Horticulture Therapist along with trained docents and volunteers have worked with more than 40 different schools and agencies to serve seniors and children with disabilities throughout Tucson. Once a program started by a docent in 1983, the Horticulture Therapy Program maintains the belief that “persons working in the garden and greenhouse become calmer and more focused, need less medication and are more receptive to therapy” after becoming involved in horticulture therapy.

Members of the program work onsite at the Botanical Gardens performing seasonal maintenance duties from planting to harvesting the gardens’ fruits, vegetables and herbs.  Furthermore, high school students have opportunities to earn internships offsite at neighboring farms and gardens to further their gardening knowledge and provide a service for their community.  Juliet feels that there is a real need for these types of programs in her community, as those with special needs not only learn about gardening, but are also taught invaluable skills like responsibility and proper socialization.  When she sees children with behavioral issues switch gears and maintain a clear focus and excitement for building and maintaining a garden, it’s certain that the healing powers of the garden is something difficult to replicate.

 Do you feel your own garden has served you or others in a therapeutic way? Share your experience! 


About Us:

Humble Seed specializes in premium garden seed kits that are packaged and themed for convenience and ease.  We are dedicated to providing the highest quality heirloom, non-GMO, non-hybrid, and organic seed varieties to those who choose to start from seed.

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Ready, Set…Juice!

January 15th, 2012

Let’s set the scene: It’s 3 p.m. and your eyelids begin to feel heavier than they did this morning before your cup of coffee.  You have plans to meet friends for dinner tonight, but you can’t imagine mustering the energy after a long day’s work. You reach for a can of soda, but feel completely drained once you arrive home.  Sound familiar? The truth is, soda and caffeine have the ability to energize for a few hours, but what to do when the inevitable crash comes? Juicing has become the latest trend in maintaining a healthy lifestyle, and has been studied to sustain long-term energy better than caffeine. In fact, juicing has also been attributed to weight loss, fighting the effects of aging and healing various ailments from insomnia to IBS.  Intrigued?

The latest nutritional guidelines advocate that we consume at least 9-13 fruits and vegetables each day, while focusing on dark leafy greens and red/yellow vegetables and fruit.  But with work, home and social life obligations, who has the time? Juicing your fruits and vegetables is an effective way to fill in the gaps.  It provides the nutritional content in plants (like vitamins A, C D E, K and B complex, and minerals such as calcium, phosphorus and magnesium) that’s concentrated and easy to digest.  With the right recipes, juicing can be a satiating and delicious addition to the day.

Juice is not only tasty and energizing, but it is also linked to preventing and healing a host of illnesses and ailments.  Cherie Calbom, M.S. provides a great list of insightful natural remedies to common ailments in her book, The Juice Lady’s Guide to Juicing for Health. Below are just a few natural remedies to consider:

Allergies: Alfalfa sprouts and parsley can reduce symptoms.

Asthma: Onion, parsley, ginger and radish have been studied to reduce mucus and asthma symptoms.

Canker Sores: Cabbage is linked to reducing mouth and stomach ulcers.

Colds/Flu: Apples, beetroot, garlic, gingerroot, grapefruit, lemon, parsley, wheatgrass, garlic, ginger and green tea have antiviral and symptom relieving properties.

Headaches: Cantaloupe, gingerroot, garlic, celery, parsley have been shown to reduce headaches.

High Blood Pressure: St. Bartholomew Hospital in London found that beetroot juice can lower blood pressure in just one hour.

Indigestion: Ginger, cabbage, fennel, lemon and papaya can relieve gas, improve digestion and heal heartburn.

Kidney Stones/High Sodium: Consuming citrus juice regularly can help prevent kidney stones and lower sodium.

Stress/Anxiety: Carrots, onions, beetroot, spinach, celery, avocados, celery, fennel, and parsley all have calming effects.

Weight Loss: Alfalfa, asparagus, dandelion, lemon and parsley can help detox the body and promote a healthy thyroid – both essential for weight loss.

Not sure where to begin? Blenders and simple juicers work fine, but to gain the greatest benefits from your produce, choose a juicer with high horsepower (.5 hp).  You’ll notice the investment pays off as you squeeze out more juice from your produce, and there are fewer parts to clean.  A few guidelines to remember while juicing are: wash all produce before juicing, remove the peels, pits, stones and hard seeds before running them through, juice the stems and leaves for added nutrients, and cut everything into chunks for easier processing.

Ready to get started? New York Times best-selling author and wellness warrior, Kris Carr recommends this green juice for a daily dose of health benefits:

Make Juice Not War Green Drink:

Makes 32 ounces

2 large cucumbers (peeled if not organic)

1 big fistful of kale

1 big fistful of sweet pea sprouts

4-5 stalks celery

1-2 broccoli stems

1 pear or green apple (optional)

1 inch ginger (or less)

*Other optional ingredients: romaine, parsley, spinach and dandelion.

Method: Blend or juice and drink immediately.  Reserve the additional juice in an airtight container.

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When Good Food Goes Bad: How To Prevent A Foodborne Illness

January 11th, 2012

When produce like celery and cilantro are recalled due to Salmonella (read a full list here), and after one of the deadliest outbreaks of E. coli this year killing 19 people in Europe and sickening thousands; many of us have become increasingly concerned about what could be tainted next, and if it could directly impact our families. Although we normally associate both Salmonella and E. coli with undercooked beef and poultry, contaminated foods can include eggs, milk, herbs and produce. In fact, produce can become a hazard when they are fertilized with animal manure, and if the manure is contaminated with Salmonella or E-coli.  Yet, it’s irrational to avoid all foods that could pose a threat, especially when there are so many health benefits in each tasty fruit and vegetable we eat. Luckily, there are a few tips that can minimize the risk of a hazardous pathogen ending up on your plate.

Prevention In Your Garden: Colorado State University recommends building your own garden, allowing you more control over safe gardening practices. To reduce the propensity of foodborne illness; locate your garden away from animal pens or manure, and keep your pets and animals away from the garden during growing season.  Also, cover your bases by checking for a neighbor’s run-off that may have be exposed to manure.  When watering, try using drinking water or water from a deep well, as these sources are less likely to contain Salmonella and E.coli.  Also, it’s good practice to never apply manure directly to the edible parts of fruits, vegetables and herbs.

Prevention In Your Kitchen:  Thoroughly washing hands and tools that may have been exposed to manure in your garden will prevent foodborne illness from being spread in your home.  While in the kitchen, washing your hands, cutting boards, utensils, fruits and vegetables in warm soapy water will also prevent sickness.  To further remove dirt, pesticides and bacteria, use a brush or peel the skin off of fruits and vegetables before eating them.  Although, contrary to what many assume, washing meat in your sink can actually splash more harmful bacteria in your kitchen. The Food Safety And Inspection Service recommends cooking poultry to at least 165 degrees F., and all beef, pork and lamb to 160 degrees F. to kill all known pathogens.  Also, store your leftovers at 40 degrees F. or below in the refrigerator, and 0 degrees in the freezer.

In The Case Of A Suspected Foodborne Illness:  If you suspect a food-related illness, first securely wrap up the potential food,-mark it “DANGER” and place it in the freezer. Saving the tainted food and any wrapping, cans and labels associated with it, can be useful in tracking the illness back to its source.  Also, seek treatment if you experience bloody diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, or a high temperature.  Call the Health Department if the food was served from a local restaurant, or the USDA Hotline (1-888-MPHotline) if the suspected food was packaged in the United States.

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Eat Healthy and Save Money in 2012: How Gardening Can Do Both

January 5th, 2012

If you’re like the millions of people making New Year’s Resolutions for 2012, eating healthy and saving money may be at the top of your list.  Sadly, we now live in a world where it’s inexpensive to buy processed foods, and costly to purchase healthy foods; making many believe that eating healthfully while saving money is an oxymoron. Yet, many are discovering that a simple garden is quite the financial stimulus during these dark economic times, while providing plenty of fruits and vegetables for the whole family. What could you do with the extra money saved from your garden?

Planting your own home garden is as trendy as ever, especially when we see Michelle Obama planting her own family garden at the White House, and seed sales increasing by upwards 20% this year. Luckily this means that there are plenty of resources out there that can help you build a successful garden.  Below are our top 5 reasons to ditch the grocery store and instead, plant a simple garden and bulk up your wallet.

The Top 5 Reasons A Garden Can Save You Money

1. Bruce Butterfield, a researcher at the National Gardening Association claims that one well maintained garden is able to return (on average) $1 and ½ pound of vegetables per square foot.  You can increase your savings even further by cutting down on capital costs.  This means that forgoing fencing, fertilizer and preventing weeds by planting closer together may increase your returns.

2. A study at the University of Arizona found that 40-50% of American food goes to waste, while each family throws away almost $600 a year on groceries. Gardening allows you to customize exactly what and how much you would like to grow, reducing unnecessary food waste.

3. According to W. Atlee Burpee Co., every $1 you spend on seeds is able produce at least $25 in fruits and vegetables.  This means that investing $50 in seeds could eventually yield $1,250 in groceries – wow!

4. MSN claims that fruit trees, lettuce, herbs, vine vegetables and bell peppers are less costly if grown in your own backyard.  If you can resist expensive gardening gadgets and unnecessary expenses, these vegetables will give you the most bang for your buck.

5. Freezing, canning and drying vegetables grown in your garden can increase the cost-benefit ration even higher.  Plus, saving leftover vegetables means you can eat healthy all year, with no additives or chemicals normally used in preserving. There are countless online resources that give detailed instructions on this process.

 Do you grow your own fruits, vegetables and herbs? How much are your estimated savings a year?

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