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Growing fruit and vegetables for your own consumption has a lot of advantages not just cash-wise. Healthier foods, particularly if you go for ecological growing, with guaranteed traceability and the lowest ecological footprint possible, are just some of the advantages of starting up an urban vegetable garden.

But, how do you dive in when you’ve got no vegetable growing experience? Well, you just simply make the decision and act because that’s the secret of just about everything, you learn by doing. So, with that and our 10 recommendations you’ll find it easy to get your first homegrown vegetable garden going then tweak it to perfection little by little.

  1. Don’t start with the most difficult vegetables

 

As obvious as it might seem it’s worth highlighting, i.e. to start by growing the most difficult foods greatly increases the risk of them not working, thereby increasing your insecurity.

As there’s time for everything, start off in this world with plants that grow easily in the area where you live. Aromatic herbs are a good starting point because they’re not very demanding yet quite resistant.

So, basil, oregano or rosemary can help you get on your feet in your vegetable garden.

 

  1. Little demanding seasonal plants

 

Apart from choosing hardy fruits and vegetables requiring little care, and preferably from your area, there’s something else you really must pay attention to as well, if you want your products to yield their fruits, i.e. the season when each should be planted.

 

Cauliflower with the onset of summer or spinach when the sun is scorching? If you do that, then all the odds are stacked against your plants yielding any fruit, therefore, you must check when it’s the right time to grow any product in your area, and in that way have a greater guarantee of success at harvest time.

 

  1. Do I use seeds or plant plugs?

There is no one answer on this point. On the one hand, opting for plant plugs usually makes the task easier, because it’s generally quicker and easier. On the other hand, however, (and here you may well have to ask for more expert advice and information) some species tolerate transplants worse than others, and generally anything involving movement of its root.

Carrots are a good example, since in this case planting seeds is the better option for plant success. While at the same time, foods like tomatoes can be transplanted without any serious complications, so in this case, you can use either seeds or plant plugs.

4. You get what you pay for 

This is particularly true in relation to nutrients for the soil to be conditioned for your homegrown produce.

So, if you find yourself tempted by a cheap substrate, beware! Because in this case quality matters. In fact, nutrient richness is essential for successful plant produce.

Anyhow, as you gradually gain experience, you could even use homemade compost, an ideal solution you can produce from the organic waste generated in your household.

 

5. Sun or shade?

 Learning everything you can about the plants you’re going to choose to sow for the first time is vital. So, apart from knowing whether you have to grow during a specific season or whether a plant plug or seed is better to use, you also have to pay attention to what they need in order to grow. In this area the amount of exposure to sunlight has a lot of importance.

Although it’s logical to assume sunlight is more; it’s not true for 100% of cases, to give you just a couple of examples, i.e. lettuce and spinach, these plants appreciate a bit of a break and periods of shade.

 

 6. Pay great attention to water 

However, your learning must go beyond that to include yet another critical element for correct growth of your plants, i.e. water.

Generally speaking neither too much nor too little is a good line to follow that said, it would be more efficient to find out about each plant you sow, to know its specific needs. Once you have this information, constancy and paying attention will be critical.

So don’t forget to touch the soil periodically to see if it’s still moist.

7. Optimism and patience are the keys

The key to success with your first plants also lies with you.

And you know, it’s like so many other things, a confident positive attitude is essential because it’ll help you with the constancy, not to mention in the decision making when something unexpected happens. And rest assured, they’ll pop up so get yourself ready!

 

8. Keep feelings of guilt at bay

And, as the unexpected does happen, there are many reasons why the products you planted may not come to fruition or that whatever you do they spoil.

Pests, frosts, hailstorms, etc., there are many threats, so however much you try to foresee these, they are frequently beyond your control and you end up losing one or several species in your vegetable garden. So in the face of these situations keep your feelings of guilt at bay.

 

9.  Failure? No! An opportunity to continue learning

Just do exactly that! Don’t let yourself be defeated by a feeling of guilt or failure! The fact you’ve lost what you’ve tried to grow isn’t important in itself, but rather for the next time.

Because everything that’s happened during your initial experience with your homegrown vegetable garden serves to teach you how to improve and minimize your mistakes.

This means in many fields, and this one is no exception, whilst practice might not make perfect it will bring you closer and closer.

 

 10. Ask and share experiences

Apart from learning from your own mistakes, it’s important to learn from others, because many before you started their own urban vegetable garden or because there are a lot of people with green fingers when it comes to domestic plant growing.

 

So ask questions, talk about your vegetable garden, share your experience with your family, friends, acquaintances, etc. If none of them are interested in this, then find somebody in your community or via the Internet, where there are loads of forums and recommendations for novices which can serve as a guide.

So, with these recommendations and, essentially, your enthusiasm to set up your vegetable garden and enjoy your own fresh food, you shouldn’t have any problems going ahead and growing your first veggies, not to mention all the advantages given at the beginning of this post, will also bring you a great deal of personal satisfaction.

Let’s think about a cup of coffee. Did you know that to make it a mere 0.2% of the product is used? The trashcan is the sad end of the remaining 99.8%. During its decomposition on dumps, the coffee grounds generate millions of tons of methane gas, which is very bad news for the ozone layer. Although highly contaminating they are also a source rich in nutrients susceptible to continuing the cycle as food for other living beings, which in turn, convert them into organic matter.

Well now, let’s think about the main decomposers of organic matter, i.e. fungi. According to Iberfunghi “coffee grounds are rich in antioxidants and other useful substances which mushrooms can use to grow, by degrading the caffeine present in them and eliminating a large of the toxicity of this waste”. This company located in Morés (Aragon) manages coffee and its waste undertaking a small yet great revolution: “Even today, legislation in our country considers coffee grounds common organic waste, so they finish their cycle of use in general dumps, emitting greenhouse effect gases on degradation and polluting our waters as they filter. Our project arose to prevent this, because we reuse the coffee grounds we collect from bars and cafeterias in the area to manufacture a substrate apt for growing mushrooms. Thanks to the metabolism of fungi, we eliminate the pollutant gas from the environment, which use to contaminate our soil, and as a result receive 2 products, one rich in proteins to add to our diet and the other an excellent compost for our plants”, according to the founders.

economía circular

Physics, chemistry and biology transform the waste generated into a job opportunity and innovation. These entrepreneurs claim the key lies in seeking solutions inspired by the natural functioning of ecosystems. It was this premise which led to the materialization of their project, and they most definitely got off on the right foot, because with them there are over 3000 people worldwide who have turned the management of coffee grounds into a business. Some estimations say that in 10 or 20 years’ time there will be over a million companies producing fungi using this kind of waste product.

“Initiatives are seeing the light which was unthinkable awhile back. While classic traditional industry strives to survive, circular economy is producing irreversible changes”.

The irruption of this new model responds to the need to put a stop to the predatory growth model, which has dominated since the Industrial Revolution based on the linear diagram of produce, use and throw. Moreover, its equation is straightforward, i.e. copy nature’s processes and translate them to economy.

“Economy is like nature. On the trophic chain, each link of the biological commuter feeds on the previous and in turns becomes food for the next. There is no waste concept. All waste is a resource. A vicious circle where life provides conditions to create more life”, explains Rafael Aparicio, an industrial engineer and CEO of Biomival. This company commercializes turbines whose design imitates the beak of the red flamingo (Phoenicopterus ruber) to obtain energy from seawaves. This expert states: “There are hundreds of examples like this”.

Buildings inspired in the bicolor of zebras to regulate temperature without using air conditions, chemical component free Velcro based on lizards’ adhesion mechanisms, fog water catchers which replicate desert beetle shells, domestic appliances whose mechanisms imitate beehives to minimize use of energy or solar panels which reproduce the photosynthesis of leaves. Aparicio commented: “We should bear in mind nature’s dynamics when planning our entire cities”.

Should the transition from a linear economic model to circular one be applied, 160,000 new jobs could be generated in Spain until 2020, according to the European Commission’s data, which calculates that up to 3 million jobs could be created worldwide during the same period. Aparicio concludes: “Man is highly resistant to change. Circular economy should be a State strategy. As a country, we have only one option, i.e. to jump on the bandwagon”.

 

 

In Spain we consume 142 liters of water per inhabitant/day and each home emits 12.5 tons of CO2/year. Our daily routines take a heavy toll on the environment and to make our home most ecological is not so difficult.

If you want to make your home a sustainable place, we’ll give you a series of recommendations in our next post to help you achieve this in a few steps.

 

1.Switch off (all) domestic appliances

We very often have the bad habit of leaving all our electronic devices in ‘standby’, you know, the infamous little red light on. It’s more convenient, for example, in the case of our TV where all we have to do is hit the button on the remote to switch it on, without having to physically switch appliance on or off, meaning we consume 14% more electricity.

2.Just enough fresh foods (perishables)

Buying frozen or longlasting products helps reduce the number of times we go to the supermarket. However, their origin is not the most sustainable, since many of them include chemical substances to increase their durability and the majority are packaged.

Local stores and fresh produce make sure that we protect the environment every time we eat, not to mention only buying the amount we’re going to consume. Let’s not forget that according to the latest report from the Spanish Ministry of Agriculture and Environment that here in Spain we throw 3.7 million tons/day of food into the trash.

Fresh food

3.Plan B for detergents

Cleaning products are necessary to maintain your home’s salubriousness; however, their production and above all throwing them down the drain has an impact on ecosystems. There are natural products like: vinegar, salt, lemon juice or hydrogen peroxide which you can use to make non-contaminating soaps and detergents, which are just as efficient.

 

4.Save on lighting… and cold

Occasionally, certain initial investment mean a large saving in the medium and long term, not only for your pocket but also the environment. Double glazing with sealed joins, for example, may mean a reduction of 50% in heating. You should also know that LED lightbulbs last much longer than conventional ones; up to 70,000 hours plus they don’t contain any toxic substances. They’re a little more expensive but in the long term they mean less expense for both you and the planet.

Save on lighting

5.Without going to extremes: readjusting thermostats

We very often make unnecessary use of air-conditioning systems. We believe the function of air-conditioning is to cool a room and that heating means we can walk around in short sleeves however cold it is outside. But that’s not true.

Air-conditioning set at 25ºC is capable of cooling a room, while heating set at 21ºC can warm one. As for hot water, 35ºC is sufficient for a comfortable shower. By the way, you can save tens of liters of water by turning the faucet off while you soap up.

water

6.Hacks for green ‘cooks’

 

Something so routine as cooking can very harmful for the environment. By making a few minor changes in your habits that you’ll hardly notice in your daily life, will make you a much more sustainable cook. For example, by using a pressure cooker regularly you’ll save time and energy. When you want to defrost some food, think ahead, and instead of using the microwave or hot water, take it out of the freezer a few hours earlier or the day before. And, when using the oven, open it as little as possible, because every time you open the door, the over drops approx. 20ºC so it requires more energy to compensate.

 

7.Furniture – better ecological

When furnishing a home, we always think about esthetics and functionality, but never about the composition and origin of the objects. Materials and paints, apart from emitting harmful gases in some cases, they may have had a huge impact on the environment during their manufacture. A good option is to always choose natural wood and pigments, whose origin from sustainable forests is accredited.

We hope you’ll find these guidelines useful when making your home a sustainable space.

There is no firm step towards a sustainable life without paying attention to our feet. It doesn’t matter how much we support clean energies, non-contaminating mobility or recycling , the path towards a society which looks after its environment isn’t worth a dime if it doesn’t pay attention to something so simple yet with such an impact, as the pair of shoes you wear.

What makes them so decisive? Why should you buy ecological footwear? We’ll give a few clues below:

Footwear manufacture – a crushing blow to the environment

With over 20,000 million pairs of shoes produced a year worldwide, knowing what each one means in terms of carbon footprint is critical; i.e. every single pair alone exceeds 10 kilos in emissions on average according to the CO2Shoe project.

Widening the spectrum, the industry emits 250 million tons of CO2 per year. The most harmful stage, although not the only one, is the manufacture of components for an industry, which in addition is not indifferent to delocalization. This circumstance increases the factors in play when wearing either a sustainable shoe  or a conventional one.

The greater distance between production centers and markets increases emissions, in this case through transport. Moreover, the history of many shoes displayed in shopwindows is the abundance of chemical products used in production.

With lax labor and environmental regulations, places like China or India have become manufacturing epicenters. There, they resort to fossil energies for production processes or the application of toxic products to glue or dye parts is standard. This can be prevented; however, to do so, we must prioritize proximity markets and manufacturers who are transparent regarding their production chains. This demand is on the increase and led to the launching of initiatives like this.

However, so that changing shoes can change this dynamic we must also support handcrafted footwear manufactured with natural recycled and recyclable products, meaning glued becomes sewn; vegetable dye instead of chemical, and organic materials instead of plastic. But let’s not forget packaging because that also adds to the emissions.

Vegetarian for food only?

Not only the environment and people suffer with the conventional footwear industry but also animals. Are you a vegetarian who hasn’t paid attention to the kind of footwear you use? If that’s the case, then start checking the labels, because there are many species which can’t avoid being exploited in this industry, in addition to others of animal slaughter.

Sustainable footwear, which includes vegan footwear, offers alternatives for those who no longer wish to use shoes unless they are 100% free of animal components.

In this sense, El Naturalista has a vegan footwear linecharacterized by not having any trace of animal components, in either the lining and cut or in the treatment and finish of the end product.

Old shoes? Add contamination non-stop

Now, that you know more about ecological footwear, are you going to replace your old shoes with some more ecofriendly? Well, beware, because the impact is non-stop, because old footwear is frequently thrown into the trash and from there to the tips.

During their decomposition, which may last 2 centuries, those chemicals used in the manufacture will impregnate soils and water once the shoe has disintegrated yet its print will persist. You don’t want to be a part of that, do you? So you have yet another reason to go for ecological footwear which is chemical free and manufactured with natural biodegradable materials.

At El Naturalista  we are responsible and environment friendly through ongoing research, creating and innovating to achieve top quality sustainable footwear. In fact, all our production centers develop initiatives aimed at reducing climate change effects; energy saving ; efficient water use not to mention all resources, likewise correct waste management.

We have also improved use of materials, by using more natural raw materials and reusing all surpluses.

If among these reasons you’ve found the one to convert you to this kind of footwear, prioritizing conscientious shopping and product durability will also lend a helping hand. Just think that in Spain alone 102 million shoes year are sold per year. How and what are they made with? These questions should pop-up automatically to advance with your feet as well, towards a responsible sustainable society.