Organic lifestyles and pet safety – Ditching the plastic Easter grass

3123411196465814010_Up-close-eggs-1024x768With Easter just around the corner, have you started shopping for items to fill your child’s Easter basket? If so, this is a good time to remind those with pets in the home to be careful when using the popular plastic Easter “grass” to fill that basket. Like Christmas tinsel, pets are not able to digest these plastic strands, and it can bunch up in your pet’s digestive tract causing intestinal blockages which may require surgery.  Strands of the grass can actually get wrapped around the base of your pet’s tongue causing injury. While plastic Easter grass can be a hazard to dogs or cats, it is especially enticing to cats that are drawn to play with the strands.

You may be surprised to learn that plastic Easter grass is also a danger to birds which are nesting at this time of year.  Birds are drawn to the colorful strands and weave them into their nest.  The sturdy plastic strands may wrap around and entrap a bird’s foot, or wrap around a chick’s neck. If you have an outdoor Easter egg hunt, be sure to pick up all errant strands of plastic grass.

As a safer alternative to plastic Easter grass, look for colorful shredded paper grass or use Easter-themed tissue paper.

From Pezoogle News – Social Networking for Pets – Why should humans have all the fun?

The Benefit of Growing an Organic Vegetable Garden: You Can Have Your Garden and Eat It, Too

When I see grocery produce prices rise, I immediately think of how much money we could all save if we grew our own organic vegetables.

So when I came across this article–originally published May 1992 by the National Garden Bureau, I wanted to share it. (I just added a few photos from the Gro-O archive.)


You Can Have Your Garden and Eat It, Too

Somewhere, sometime, someone started a pesky rumor that growing vegetables is more work and trouble than growing flowers. Let us now lay that rumor to rest – it isn’t so. Keeping a vegetable garden is no more trouble than a flower garden and, for many gardeners; the rewards are even greater because (in one sense) you can have your garden and eat it too.

The Seven Joys of Vegetable Gardening

Gro-O raised organic vegetable garden planter

Organically grown vegetables enjoying the sun.

If you haven’t tried growing vegetables in your garden, you don’t know what you are missing. Not only does a neatly tended vegetable garden look great, but you can enjoy many of the fruits of your labors well into the winter months. Here are seven reasons to start or continue a vegetable garden

Exercise: Gardening does require some work, but this can easily be considered exercise. Stretch to pull that nasty crabgrass…dig to remove that dandelion root…breathe deeply to fill your lungs with fresh air. All of these gardening activities help to burn up calories and increase your physical well-being.

Food: An obvious benefit to vegetable gardening is that it results in good things to eat. And fresh vegetables always taste better than any store-bought produce. In fact, the exceptional flavor of homegrown foods is one major reason why people grow vegetables.

organic lettuce grown in backyard vegetable gardens

Freshly harvested organic lettuce.

Health: Fresh vegetables are health foods. Most vegetables have traveled hundreds of miles to be on display at the grocery stores. This journey results in lost vitamins and minerals. The vegetables from your garden are the most nutritious, containing the vitamins and minerals for healthy bodies.

Beauty: A vegetable garden is as pleasing to the eyes as a flower garden. And most vegetables flower before they fruit, so you really do get both in one garden.

Organic food grown in backyard gardens

Organically grown pea blossoms and pods.

Knowledge: Experience is the best teacher. When you garden you can see Nature at work. You can’t help but learn about nature and nurturing plants. As a parent, you can share this knowledge with your children.

Self-satisfaction: There is something very satisfying about tending a garden and reaping its rewards. One feels almost virtuous. Plus gardening is an occupation that the whole family can do together.

kid gardeners

A tomato lovin’ child gardener!

Money savings: The monetary investment in seeds, plants, fertilizer, etc., is minimal, and compared to buying fresh or canned produce you could save a lot of money, especially if you store some of your bounty for the later months.

Digging In

This is the hard part, but it’s the same whether you do it for flowers or vegetables. And once this is done, the rest is easy. Preparation: If you don’t already have a vegetable garden, choose a sunny location to start one. Dig up the soil, removing grass if this is virgin territory, breaking up large clods and getting things smoothed out. Renting a rototiller may be a good way to dig up the soil. A soil test is always a good idea. Your local county extension agent (listed under county offices in the phone book or on the web at is the person to contact. Once you have the soil test results you will now know fertilizer, mineral and soil additions to make to bring your soil up to good growing conditions. All plants need some fertilizer, and almost all types will work for you – granular, liquid or composted organic materials. Adding fertilizer to the soil now is a good idea. Remember that the fertilizer is food for the plants that eventually are going to be your food. After you have added peat or other recommended amendments, rake the top of the soil to smooth things out.

The Easier Part

Sow Seeds: Seeds are available from mail order catalogs, online retailers, or in packets at retail stores. Select your seeds carefully. If no one in your family likes to eat carrots, don’t grow any. Grow the food your family loves to eat. Here are some easy-to-grow vegetables:

Bush green beans, Cucumbers, Leaf lettuces, Garden peas, Pumpkins, Radishes, Spaghetti squash, Summer squash, Winter Squash, Spinach, Sweet Corn

Sowing seeds

Sowing seeds

On the seed packet there are specific growing directions. Basically you will make a hole or long trench, called a furrow, in the soil. Place the seed in the bottom of the hole or furrow; cover with soil, and water gently.

Watering: The seed in the soil needs moisture to germinate. If there is no rain, gently water your garden daily to provide moisture. The seed will most likely germinate if the soil temperature and moisture are adequate. Most vegetable seeds will germinate in 7 to 14 days. If sown under cooler conditions, need may take longer than 2 weeks to germinate.

Thinning: Some of your food crops may need thinning. If you grow bush beans, lettuce, radishes or spinach, they will need thinning. This allows the remaining seedlings more space to grow. Continue watering the vegetable plants, weed when needed, and enjoy the sight of your growing garden.

Starting from plants: Some food crops, such as tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, okra, cabbage, cantaloupe, and watermelons are easier to grow from started plants than from seed. A good selection of vegetable plants can be found at garden centers, nurseries, or other retail stores. Look for young, sturdy-looking, green plants with a label that provides the variety name and planting instructions. Since small tomato plants tend to all look alike, labels can be very important. It is best to plant your plants as soon as you can after purchasing – the same day if possible.

Planting a pepper seedling.

Planting a pepper seedling.

The easiest way to plant started plants is to actually place the individual plants, still in their containers, where you want to put them in the garden. Adjust spacing as necessary, and then dig a hole for them where you put them. Push the soil back over the newly planted hold, just covering the soil the plant came in, and then water the plants when you are done planting.

A Caged Tomato: Caging a tomato plant is the easiest way to grow one. No pinching, pruning or extra labor will be required. You can buy tomato cages at the store, or make one out of the wire used to reinforce concrete, or out of any similar wire. After you have planted the tomato, carefully place the cage over it, and that’s that. Water and fertilize as you normally would.

planting a raised organic vegetable garden

Newly planted garden with tomato caged seedlings.

Indeterminate tomato plants (check the label) will perform best if tied to a stake and pruned. Some gardeners love to grow tomatoes this way. Fussing over your tomato plants can be fun.

Let’s Eat!

By mid to late summer you will start to reap the rewards of your vegetable garden. As the different fruits mature, harvest them and use them in salads and as side dishes for your meals. You, your family, and the friends you share with will all notice the great taste that comes from fresh vegetables picked from your garden.

If you are like most gardeners, you will probably find that you have “too many” of whatever you planted. You can share your bounty with neighbors and co-workers or make donations to a local food pantry or to Plant A Row for the Hungry You can make zucchini bread and other special dishes to use up surplus, and there are some fast and easy ways to “preserve” your harvest for later months (blanching and then freezing green beans is one example.) Check your cookbooks, the public library, or search the web for easy ways to save all this good stuff for later.


Of course, you can always contact
via toll free phone:

855-LetsGro! (855-538-7476) or
via email:

and we’ll be glad to help you get  your organic vegetable garden “gro-ing”!


Gro-O Vegetable Garden Education Scholarships — Your Chance to Invest in a Child’s Education

Gro-O has partnered with Harvest Funders to raise funds to expand our efforts to establish more school gardens and an Afterschool Garden scholarship to a deserving student. [Harvest Funders provides the agricultural community with the ability to obtain non-conventional funding for conventional needs through crowdfunding.]

ESC students with veggiesGro-O offers a fun and educational AfterSchool Garden Program that allows students to engage in a unique learning environment. Students learn a variety of subjects while appreciating and connecting with nature and unplugging from technology. Here is an overview of the Gro-O Afterschool Gardening Program Scholarship:

You will be sponsoring 1 child for a 6 week afterschool program. You will receive a photo of the student you personally sponsor in the garden and a thank you letter too.

Click here to donate to a scholarship and learn more about the program.benefits of school gardensGro-O works in conjunction with your child’s school to offer quality, educational programs that promote social, physical, intellectual, and emotional development of youth – building upon strengths and interests necessary for lifelong success.

1-Jordan Flye planting Radish seeds 12-10-10After School Garden Club testimonials:


“My daughter LOVES the gardening club!! She wants to
make a compost pile and her own little garden at our house.
Thank you so much for offering it!”–  Emily


“I can’t believe how my potatoes are growing,
and today we dug up radishes! I want to come here
every day for the whole year!’– Ella

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

To learn more about the benefits of school gardens, read a previous Gro-O blog post here.

Additional sources:

Children and – Benefits of Gardening for Children — (Children, Youth and Environments Center for Research and Design, University of Colorado at Denver and Health Sciences Center)

Rain Gutter Gardening


Backyard Gardening In Small Spaces

If you really want to garden but you don’t have much space, don’t let that deter you. Here is a space-saving gardening idea that just so happens to be affordable too.

Rain Gutter Gardening

Rain gutters provide an ideal space for growing salad greens since lettuce, spinach and other greens have shallow root systems. This can be done in March and April since lettuce grows best in cool weather in the springtime. Mount the rain gutters the same way you would along the eaves of your house. They don’t take up much space on the side of a shed or any other building. Mount them anywhere you have vertical space, such as on a fence, along a deck railing or under a windowsill. All you have to do is cut the rain gutter to size, cap the ends and drill holes every 6 inches for drainage. You can purchase the supplies to hang them at any place that sells rain gutters.

Supplies needed:

Rain gutter, any length you desire
Rain gutter caps (2 per length)
Rain gutter hangers (3-5 per length) mount every 3 feet
Drill and 1/8 inch drill bit


Place the length of rain gutter that you desire on a work surface. Clip one rain gutter cap on each end and lock them into place.

Turn the rain gutter upside down on a workbench. Drill 1/8-inch-diameter holes through the rain gutter every 6 inches along the entire length. The holes will allow the rain gutters to drain.

Position the rain gutter hangers along the surface where you want to hang the gutter every 3 to 4 feet. Using a screw gun, drive the screws through the mounting holes in the hangers and into the side of the building or fence to fasten them in place. Slide the gutter into the hangers to lock them in place.

Add potting soil to the gutter and fill it up so that it is level with the top edges of the rain gutter. You may need a stepladder to reach the top gutter. Water the soil with a sprinkling hose or a watering can. With your finger make a furrow in the center of the soil down the length of the gutter. Plant the lettuce seeds into the furrow, planting approximately 20 seeds per foot. Cover over the seeds with potting soil and gently pack it down with your fingertips.

Water the lettuce often as it grows, keeping the soil moist at all times.

March 24, 2014 by Peggy Layton

Learn how to cook vegan

YOU’RE INVITED this Saturday, March 29th to a Vegan Cooking Class & Social!  Demystify vegan food — Learn and enjoy with fellow foodies.

Summer rolls with a Thai marinade
Raw Asian noodle in a mango avocado sauce
Fresh spring salad with a miso grapefruit dressing
Individual cheesecakes!!!! Assorted flavors….YUM!

(Is your mouth watering yet?)

Vegan cooking classSaturday, March 29, 2014  6-8 pm
Capshaw-Spielberg Center for the Performing Arts
and Educational Justice
3131 Olympic Blvd.
Santa Monica, CA  90404

SPECIAL VALUE This time only $30!!!! (Normally $45-$60/class)

RSVP: call 818-276-7412 or email

Bianca Blanco (Vegan Culinary Artist of Bella SavOur and Dancer of CONTRA-TIEMPO) will be doing a vegan cooking class/social at the Capshaw-Spielberg Center for the Performing Arts and Educational Justice. Blanco is certified in plant-based nutrition and is a fun loving foodie always happy to share recipes and nutrition tips!  Come join the delicious fun!  The menu this time is mostly raw, completely nutritious and packed full of flavor.