Organic Gardening

Whether you are a master gardener or just beginning, it is always worth refreshing yourself on some essentials before beginning. As a pursuer of wellness, I am particularly intrigued with organic gardening and how to be successful at this venture. 🙂 I am pleased to introduce the professionals at Top Gardening Services in London. Enjoy their tips for starting and maintaining an organic garden!
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What is Organic Gardening?
To many people this concept is still very unclear. Organic gardening is a production system known across the globe, which has a number of benefits for both human beings and for nature. It focuses on enhancing soil biological activity, conserving biodiversity and promoting ecological balance.

Photo Courtesy of Pixabay

Photo Courtesy of Pixabay

Put simply, organic gardening is an effective and healthy method of growing food that benefits the planet and every living organism. It is non-harmful in that it involves no synthetic fertilizers and pesticides or any harsh chemicals. It uses healthy, non-contaminated soil, which is high in nutrients. As you know, soil feeds the plants. Everything they need to survive, such as nutrients and water, is available in the soil. Thus, it really makes sense to improve soil’s texture.

Where to begin
Ideally, you will start by testing the soil. This means that you will need to collect a sample and send it to a lab as soon as possible before it changes over time. The experts will analyze the soil’s pH level, acidity, composition, and nutrient content, as well as levels of contamination. That way, you can learn what nutrients you lack and the ones you need to provide for your plants to grow.

Next you want to focus on what you can do to improve the soil. It needs some good “food” and water. Food includes the following all-natural and non-toxic alternatives:

*Mulch: This serves to insulate and enrich the soil around plants. Mulch is made of compost,
grass clippings, bark, straw, or decaying leaves. Some people use newspaper, but since you want
to go organic, it is best to opt for one of the other options mentioned above.

*Compost: This acts as a fertilizer. It is made of decayed organic material. It attracts
beneficial organisms and is packed with healthy substances.

The next step is to choose a site. Your plants will need more than five hours of sun a day. Choose wisely. Make sure to also select plants that do well in your climate zone. As much as you want to grow diverse plants, it is essential to stick to crops that will thrive in your area.

What next?
It is very beneficial to draw a plan in advance. Make sure to include enough space for your plants to grow. It is wise to place tall vegetables or flowers north. You would not want them to cast a shadow on the other crops.

Further, use the methods of either raised beds or rows. Raised beds drain faster, reduce weeds, warm up quicker and prolong the planting season. Rows are more common for flat gardens. Both methods have their pros and cons and are listed as follows:

1. Raised Beds…
Advantages:
•Raised beds are neat.
•If the soil is contaminated, raised beds are the best option because they will protect roots from harmful substances in the ground.
•Raised beds do not require soil improvement.
•If plants are high enough, critters will not be able to reach them.

Disadvantages:
•If the climate is hotter, roots are likely to dry out more quickly.
•A raised bed requires tools and supplies to construct.
•Bagged soils are not high in minerals.
•It requires digging every few years, contrary to what many people think.
•It is labor intensive.

2. Rows…
Advantages:
•They are great for wide-row gardening.
•This method is inexpensive.
•There are no additional materials necessary for constructing rows.

Disadvantages:
•Rows use more space.
•Rows do not protect plants from getting waterlogged.
•This method does not protect plants from contaminated soil.
•The gardener needs to select location carefully.

In addition, you will need to know the planting periods for the plants you desire to have in your organic garden. Educate yourself on the plants in your garden, whether they tolerate cold weather or if they need an environment with more full sun. Some crops, such as spinach, radishes, lettuce, peas, kale, onion, garlic, etc. tolerate a bit of frost, while others such as tomatoes need to be started indoors.

Additional Information…
•There are beneficial bugs and harmful bugs. You will need to learn to distinguish between them.
Some bugs eat larvae that feed on your plants (e.g. spined soldier bug, ladybirds, etc.). Hence, do not kill every bug you see on your plants. Always check if it can be a benefit to your crops. At Mother Nature Network, there is more information about helpful and harmful bugs as well as how to tell the good ones from the bad ones. You’ll also learn how to identify as well as how you can control them. In addition, Rodale’s Organic Life offers additional information about beneficial insects, their feeding habits, etc.

•It is wise to rotate your crops. If you always grow one plant in the same area of the garden, you risk ruining the soil.

In conclusion, these are several essentials and basics of organic planting. The largest difference between regular gardening and organic gardening is in the products it uses. Everything has to be organic, from fertilizers to the seeds themselves. Remember, no chemicals and no pesticides.

If you’d like to learn more, feel free to contact us at TopGardeningServices Dulwich. We look forward to hearing from you.
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*This page contains affiliate links.
*Photo(s) courtesy of Pixabay.

Guest Post by Gorilly Goods: An Interview with a Vibrant, Local Organic Food Manufacturer

It is my pleasure to introduce to you today, Chris, the Co-Founder of the delicious, crunchy snacks, Gorilly Goods. Not only are they delicious, but they are snacks which you can feel good about as they are packed full of nutrition. Enjoy learning more about Gorilly Goods, and don’t forget to take advantage of the February PROMO at the end of this post! Give the Gorilly Goods a try for yourself!
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Chris: We met LeNay and her sweet young boys while visiting a couple of stores with our Gorilly Goods products. We are delighted and honored to be able to introduce ourselves through LeNay’s beautiful Avocado Mommy blog.

Avocado Mommy: What are Gorilly Goods?
Chris: Gorilly Goods are crunchy, organic snack “things”. They are packages of tasty goodness that are delicious with your morning coffee or tea, are excellent to grab for a snack “on the go”, and are great for long drives in the car to grandma’s house. In addition, these snacks are ideal for refueling on the hiking trail or after your workout. Finally, they are excellent for kids! Pack them in our kids’ lunch along with a few extra to share with their friends! There are three flavors of which to choose from: The “Original” and the “Chocolate” which are sweet and the “Savory” which are made with seeds and greens. They are handmade in Jackson, WI, in a small family business owned by people who care about others and live like it’s heaven on earth.
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Avocado Mommy: Wow! My mouth is watering already. What are some other aspects that make this product so exceptional for my family?
Chris: Gorilly Goods represent the next generation of nutrition snacking: 100% organic, gluten-free, raw, non-gmo, vegan, and certifiably delicious. They represent cleaner oceans,
fresher air, more fertile soil, sustainability, forest life, healthy dancing children, brilliant
sunsets, and a connection to nature. These are the “things” of Gorilly Goods snacks.

Avocado Mommy: What is the background/inspiration behind the company?
Chris: My husband, Stephen, and I are a conscientious couple that have spent our last
25 years following a passion. Much of the passion has been connected to food, how
food relates to life on our planet, how food impacts the well-being of animals and
humans, how it affects our outlook on life, and how our food choices matter in the
scheme of our world. In 1999, Stephen and I chose to live a raw-food lifestyle
which we embraced, with much study, for several years. During this time, we
developed the Raw Foods Foundation in St Louis, MO. Classes were taught, raw
retreats were held, and many delicious recipes were created. The best of these recipes are
now being produced and introduced to the world through our products, Gorilly Goods.
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Avocado Mommy: Tell us a little more about the production of this product.
Chris: Everything we use in our kitchen is certified organic – that’s important to us. Our first
product to be introduced was the Original Fruit and Nut Things. It’s made mostly of
bananas (fair trade from Ecuador), with California raisins, Texas pecans, Vietnamese
cashews, California walnuts, Philippine coconut as well as coconut nectar, and some
sea salt. The same ingredients are in the Chocolate Fruit and Nut Things variety, but
we coat the Original pieces with an un-roasted, certified organic cacao bean chocolate,
sweetened with coconut palm sugar. It’s all vegan, non-gmo, and created on the tropical
side of heaven – imported from Bali. This Balinese chocolate is 70% dark and full of all
the good antioxidants and nutrients that dark chocolate is known for! Besides fair trade,
it’s certified organic and undeniably, an excellent choice of chocolate. The Savory
variety is made with mighty pumpkin seeds and the cruciferous king: kale (locally
grown from Full Harvest Farm, when available). The seeds and kale are
seasoned with organic nutritional yeast from Germany (info on our blog), gluten-free
organic tamari, and tasty seasonings.
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Avocado Mommy: I have these on my grocery list! Can you share any other thoughts as to why your products are special?
Chris: (As my mom would say…they are…)
• delicious
• nutritious
• make you feel ambitious 🙂
• seriously, they are just good….good tasting, good for you, good for the earth, just
plain old good

We can’t wait for you to try our delicious products! Plus, we have a great promotion for all Avocado Mommy readers:

Rejoice! Use coupon code “avocado” at checkout. You will get you 25% off suggested retail price of any online orders. The coupon is good through February 28th, 2015.

Thank you for reading! Thank you for checking out our products. Thank you for caring
about life. You can read more about us at http://www.gorillygoods.com
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*This post contains affiliate links.

“Spaghetti” and Homemade Meat Sauce

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Who doesn’t love a delicious plate of spaghetti and sauce? I know I sure do! 🙂 Plus, now that I have discovered how wonderful it is to use spaghetti squash in place of noodles, I can’t say enough about this dish. Of course, if you are still craving noodles with your sauce, there are plenty of gluten-free options out there. In fact, Trader Joe’s sells an excellent brown rice noodle which actually cook up quite nicely. Without further ado, here is the recipe for homemade meat sauce! 🙂

Meat Sauce Ingredients:

1 pound organic ground beef (grass-fed is best)
1 pound organic italian chicken or pork sausage (I get ours from the local health food store.)
1/2 cup chopped onion
4 cloves of crushed garlic
*1 (28 oz.) can of crushed tomatoes (If you can find the crushed tomatoes with basil, this is definitely the best option.)
*2 (6 oz.) cans of tomato paste
*13 oz. canned tomato sauce
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons organic white sugar
1/2-2/3 cup chopped, fresh basil (This is so much better than dried! Trust me! 🙂
1/2 teaspoon fennel
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
3/4 tablespoon sea salt (If you can, choose the Himilayan Pink Salt for the health benefits.)
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 tablespoons chopped, fresh parsley

*Note about canned tomato sauce: Make sure you look for BPA-Free cans. The acidity in the tomatoes causes this chemical to be leached a lot more easily.

Directions:
In a large pot, brown the beef, sausage, onion, and garlic until the meat is no longer pink. Add the crushed tomatoes, paste, sauce, and water. Stir. Add the remaining ingredients, and combine well. Cover and simmer for 2 hours, stirring occasionally to make sure there is no burning on the bottom of the pot. Your house will smell amazing!!! 🙂 Serve over spaghetti squash or gluten-free noodles. This makes a very large batch, so it works well to freeze the leftovers. It also works well as the sauce base in lasagna. This meat sauce recipe has actually been adapted from John Chandler’s Recipe: World’s Best Lasagna. If you feel ambitious, go ahead and make the entire lasagna recipe, subbing the lasagna noodles for your favorite gluten-free option. You still will have leftover sauce! 🙂

*This page contains affiliate links.

Honey Sweetened Cupcakes with Buttercream

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Mmmmm….cupcakes. Let’s admit it. Most of us are huge fans of this tasty treat. Yet, many times, cupcakes are filled with loads of sugar as well as gluten. Where do we find a tasty substitute that still tastes like a cupcake? Well, let me tell you that I have a delicious cupcake recipe to share with you today from another “nutrition-minded” blogger. I recently discovered this dessert from Erica over at her blog, Comfy Belly. I’d encourage you to check out her website as she has fantastic ideas! In the meantime, whip up a batch of these, and enjoy them with no guilt. 🙂 I have followed her cupcake recipe exactly because it is so wonderful just the way it is! The only slight change I made was to omit the seeds from the vanilla bean (as I did not have this on hand) and instead, I increased the vanilla extract in the recipe slightly.

Cupcakes:
Ingredients:
1/2 cup coconut flour (Do not pack the coconut flour in the measuring cup.)
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
4 large eggs
1/3 cup coconut oil, melted
*1/2 cup honey
2 tablespoons coconut milk or other milk
1 tablespoon + 1 tsp. vanilla extract

Directions:
*Preheat the oven to 350. Line a muffin tin with muffin liners and set aside. (This recipe makes approx. 8 cupcakes.)
*In a medium-sized mixing bowl, combine the dry ingredients. In a separate bowl, add the eggs, melted oil, honey, milk, and vanilla extract. Using an electric mixer, mix the wet ingredients. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ones, and combine them using the electric mixer until they are well blended. Let the batter set for 3 minutes, and then mix once more for 15 seconds.
*Fill the muffin liners 3/4 of the way full, and pop the cupcakes in the oven for approximately 20 minutes. Keep an eye on them toward the end so that they don’t get too dark. The cupcakes are done when a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
*Cool and frost with the buttercream recipe below. I followed Erica’s buttercream recipe, but I decreased the honey by 1 tablespoon and I used Tropical Traditions Palm Shortening instead of Spectrum’s Vegetable Shortening.

Buttercream Frosting:
4 tablespoons organic butter at room temp.
4 tablespoons palm shortening
*4 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

*With an electric mixer, blend the buttercream ingredients until they are smooth. Frost your amazing cupcakes! 🙂

*Note: If you can get your hands on some local raw honey, it is well worth it for this recipe. Raw honey has a flavor that is superior to regular pasteurized honey. 🙂

*This page contains affiliate links.

*Find the original cupcake recipe here and the frosting recipe here.

Protein Packed Peanut Butter Cups

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This past week, my precious sister was in town to visit for the Thanksgiving holiday, and boy, do I miss her sweet presence, as well as that of her family, now that she has traveled back home to her place. Amongst the many things that we enjoy doing together, one of them is eating chocolate, and we definitely made sure that we tried a few good treats from the kitchen while she was here. One favorite that came as a result of her stay here was these beautiful protein packed peanut butter cups! They are tasty, yet filled with an extra dose of healthy fats and protein. You can feel good about placing these on your holiday tray this Christmas. 🙂

Protein Packed Peanut Butter Cups
Ingredients:
2 tablespoons coconut oil
2 tablespoons organic crunchy peanut butter
*2-3 tablespoons high quality protein powder ( I would suggest this protein powder)
1/2 teaspoon maple syrup (Grade B preferred)
2 ounces dark chocolate + 1 tablespoon coconut oil for melting

Directions:
Melt the the coconut oil, peanut butter, and maple syrup in a sauce pan on low. Stir frequently. Remove the pan from heat and stir in the protein powder. Fill approximately 10 mini muffin liners with the peanut butter mixture. Each liner should be half full. Place in the freezer to set for 10 minutes while you melt the chocolate topping. In a small sauce pan, melt together the chocolate and the coconut oil on low, stirring constantly, making sure not to burn. Remove the peanut butter cups from the freezer and pour chocolate on top of each cup. Place back in the freezer for 10 minutes. Remove and enjoy! 🙂 Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. 🙂

*Thank you to my lovely sister for this great recipe. 🙂 It will be consumed often. 🙂

*Note about whey protein: Above all, I still recommend getting the majority of your protein from high quality grass-fed meat. This is still the most natural way to consume protein and the most easy for one’s body to recognize. If you are still wanting to supplement with a whey protein, then there is some information worth noting.

I do not recommend using several whey proteins on the market as many of them have been denatured, filled with artificial sweeteners, and are very hard on one’s gut. Dr. Axe gives a well written response to what to look for in whey proteins as well as the risks of using one that is not in its natural form:
“Unfortunately, not all whey protein is created equal. Most of the protein powders on the market today have undergone acid treatments, been injected with steroids and hormones like rBGH, contain artificial sweeteners and are denatured.

Consuming denatured protein powder is hard on your digestive tract and can lead to a condition called leaky gut, which can then cause inflammation and autoimmune issues.

 So, I urge you to stay away from all processed non-organic protein powders because they will likely do you more harm than good. 

Instead look for organic and Grassfed whey proteins. 


When buying whey protein, make sure you’re getting both “organic” and “grass-fed”. 

Along with these, here are 7 others important things you’ll want to consider:

Cold Processed, NOT heat processed
Only ORGANIC so it’s free of pesticides, hormones and heavy metals
Grass-fed, NOT grain-fed, which is important for healthy fat ratios of CLA
High Bio-Availability, so better option than rice or vegan protein powders
Sweetened naturally, No artificial sweeteners
Easy to Digest, No protein isolates which harm the digestive tract, concentrates are less processed.
Low Carb, No fructose or other processed sugars
…”

*To read more about Dr. Axe, you can find his website here.

*This page contains affiliate links.

Homemade, Nutrient Rich Bone Broth

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I wish I could take credit for this amazing recipe, but it is quickly becoming a more popular recipe amongst health circles. Known for its amazing health benefits, homemade bone broth is full of calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and collagen. It is extremely beneficial for a strong immune and digestive system, as well as excellent for the joints, skin, nails, and hair. It is great for both children and adults, can be used in place of store bought broth in a recipe (with much higher nutrient quality!), and is super easy to make! I actually have been giving it to my one-year-old son in his sippy cup, and he loves it! Being that I am weaning him currently, I personally feel good knowing that, in addition to the rest of his diet, he is getting valuable nutrients from this broth. If you haven’t made this recipe before, I would really encourage you to start. It helps our family stay healthy during flu/cold seasons, gives the kiddos extra nutrients that I feel are far richer than standard milk, and is so versatile! I order my bones from Northstar Bison, or I save bones from whole chickens that I roast. I follow the recipe on the Wellness Mama blog, and you can find it by clicking on this link. She does an excellent job discussing the “why” and “how” of bone broth. Enjoy, knowing that you are adding a great staple to your family’s diet. 🙂
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Disclosure: This blog contains links/ads of which I may earn a small compensation/commission by your purchase.

Why Grass-Fed Meat?

In my quest to share the passion I have for wellness and healthy living, I have talked with several women who are looking to make positive changes, but don’t know where to start. I agree. It can oftentimes seem incredibly daunting with the wealth of information out there. While I am not saying that much of the information is invalid, I do believe that we can quickly become quite overwhelmed when we try to do all at once. Moms especially face an overwhelming amount of information as they seek to keep their children healthy and well; it can be downright exhausting. Yet, the truth is, there is grace, and the most important thing to remember is that “baby steps” toward healthy living are to be celebrated. So when it comes to diet, where is a positive place to start?

 

As I mentioned, several people whom I have spoken with ask me, “Where do I start making healthy changes?”.  My answer is simple: start eating high quality, grass-fed meat, and avoid gluten as best as possible. I am going to take some time in a future post to share my convictions on why gluten should be avoided by all people, not just those with diagnosed celiac disease, Crohn’s, colitis, and a host of other conditions irritated by consuming gluten containing products. So, why grass-fed? First of all, I can attest to the fact that, hands down, the taste is superior. The flavor is richer and the product is far less greasy. I love that I don’t have to drain so much fat from my meat as I am preparing my family’s meal. I have had the opportunity to buy our meat from Northstar Bison, which is owned by people whom I have the privilege of knowing, and is sold nationwide.  Their meat is both grass-fed and organic; in my mind, it is the best of the best! 🙂  Yet, suppose I did not have the option to choose both grass-fed and organic. Which is better and why?  Aren’t they the same? In her article, “Beyond Organic,” New York Times bestselling writer, Jo Robinson of Eat Wild, explains the reason behind going grass-fed and takes time to decipher between the characteristics of pasture raised meat and grain-fed meat. Even organic, grain-fed meat is far less nutrient packed than non-organic, grass-fed meat. I’d encourage you to take some time to read her short article as you consider the meat your family consumes. Check out her article here. I think you will find it very informative and helpful. Happy grocery shopping! 🙂