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9 Plants to Grow that Repel Mosquitoes

You?ve likely experienced the disappointment of having an outdoor party, hike or other event ruined by a swarm of mosquitoes. If you?re looking for a natural way to get rid of these uninvited guests, try adding some mosquito-repelling plants to your garden this year.

Simply having these plants in your yard and outdoor living spaces can be helpful, but you?ll get the most benefit by crushing the leaves and flowers to release their pungent, bug-repelling essential oils. You can then rub the oils on your skin, clothing or outdoor furniture to deter mosquitoes. You can also cut and hang fresh cuttings around your home, or dry them to keep on hand for later use.

1. Basil

Scientific Name: Ocimum basilicum

Mosquito larvae are aquatic, living underwater until they mature and emerge as adult mosquitoes. A 2009 study found that basil extract was highly toxic to mosquito larvae. Planting basil near wet areas is unlikely to directly kill mosquito larvae, but the plants may ward off any approaching adults and convince them to lay their eggs elsewhere.

Basil is an easy-to-grow annual herb you can sow directly in the ground after the risk of frost has passed.

2. Bay Laurel

Scientific Name: Laurus nobilis

Bay laurel is the plant bay leaves are taken from. This commonly used herb has been shown to contain compounds that repel various insect pests, including mosquitoes. You can also use bay leaves to ward off ants, cockroaches, flies and wasps.

Bay laurel is hardy in USDA zones 8 and up, or it can be grown as a houseplant in colder climates. You can also easily buy bay leaves and place them around your home to deter mosquitoes and other pests.

3. Catnip

Scientific Name: Nepeta cataria

If you want to attract cats to your garden and beat bugs at the same time, catnip is a great choice. Catnip contains a compound called nepetalactone that gives the plant its distinct odor. Cats find the scent irresistible, but mosquitoes hate it. In fact, nepetalactone has been found to be about 10 times more effective than DEET in repelling mosquitoes.

Catnip is perennial in most regions. Just make sure you protect small plants so they can get established before your local cats devour them.

4. Citronella Grass

Scientific Name: Cymbopogon nardus

Citronella grass is the plant citronella oil is derived from, which is used in a variety of insect repelling products. Citronella oil has been proven to be more effective than DEET when it?s first applied to an area, but its mosquito-repelling power slowly decreases after one hour. To maintain citronella?s strength, reapply citronella oil or crush some fresh leaves against your skin or clothing every hour or two when you?re outside.

Citronella grass is native to tropical areas of Asia and is only hardy in USDA zones 10 to 12. It can be grown as an annual in colder regions. The plants are very attractive and can grow up to 6 feet (2 meters) tall.

5. Garlic

Scientific Name: Allium sativum

Research is limited so far, but the oil that?s released when you cut up garlic cloves has been reported by many to effectively repel mosquitoes. Garlic is also included in various commercial bug and mosquito repellants. The chemical compound that gives garlic its distinct smell is called allicin, which is likely what wards off bugs. If you eat garlic, the allicin will come through to your skin. This may also help prevent mosquito attacks.

Garlic grows as a perennial in USDA zones 3 to 8. You can simply grow it as an ornamental plant, or you can harvest it in early summer to eat and replant some of the bulbs for next year.

6. Lavender

Scientific Name: Lavandula species

Research has shown that lavender essential oil is as effective as the chemical bug repellant DEET for repelling a variety of bugs. This is a good thing, considering that DEET-based repellants have been linked to motor function impairment and nervous system damage in humans.

Lavender is a perennial in USDA zones 7 and up. It can be grown as an annual or indoor herb in colder climates. You can crush the leaves to rub on your skin and clothing to repel mosquitoes, as well as promote relaxation and calmness.

Related: 6 Natural Remedies for Mosquito Bites

7. Lemon Balm

Scientific Name: Melissa officinalis

Research has shown that lemon balm has a variety of natural compounds that can repel mosquitoes. In addition, researchers made an extract of basil and lemon balm that was toxic to adult mosquitoes, whether they inhaled it or came in contact with it.

Lemon balm is a hardy perennial, but it can be fairly invasive as it?s related to mint. Plant it in a container sunk in the ground to prevent spreading. It also makes a good indoor plant.

8. Marigolds

Scientific Name: Tagetes species

Marigolds produce what are known as allelochemicals, which are harmful to a range of insect pests, including mosquitoes. One study extracted these allelochemicals from the roots, leaves and flowers of different species of marigold plants. The researchers found that marigold flowers have the highest amounts of insecticidal allelochemicals. So, it would likely be most effective to use marigold flowers to repel mosquitoes by crushing them and distributing them around your home.

Marigolds are annuals that you can easily grow from seed or buy seedlings at most garden centers or nurseries in the spring. They come in a wide range of stunning colors and can handle a variety of growing conditions.

9. Peppermint

Scientific Name: Mentha x piperita

A study published in Bioresource Technology found that peppermint essential oil was toxic to mosquito larvae. Also, when peppermint oil was rubbed onto human skin, it repelled 92 percent of mosquitoes across a range of species.

Peppermint is hardy in USDA zones 3 to 8. The plants can be invasive, so try planting them in an unused corner of your garden or sinking a pot in the ground to contain the roots.

Related on Care2

Why You?re a Mosquito Magnet, According to Science
Foods You Can Eat to Repel Mosquitoes
8 Natural Mosquito Repellants

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6 Delicious Weeds that You Can Eat

The availability of nutritionally-dense food that is free from the clutches of corporate agriculture companies like Bayer AG and Monsanto is a growing concern to many people. And, while food security is indeed something to take seriously, few people are aware of their own already-available food growing in their yards.

That?s why I?m launching FoodHouseProject.com, a food adventure site in which my husband Curtis and I are combining his extensive food security background with my love of nutrition and disgust for Big Agra, and combining our love of foraging, gardening and food, in general to turn our neglected old farmhouse built in 1890 into the ultimate food-growing home. We will showcase the abundance of food all around, demonstrate how easy it is to forage or grow more of your own food to save you money, boost your nutrition, reduce your ecological footprint and start the ultimate revolution in which we reclaim our food sovereignty from Big Agra.

While I encourage you to start growing your own food, either sprouts, microgreens, container-tomatoes or full-blown gardens, I also hope you?ll take a look at the food that?s already around you, in the form of wild edibles, or weeds, as most people call them. Here are some of my favorite weeds that offer delicious and nutritious, as well as free food.


Hard to miss, these pretty flowers often pop up in our lawns if we let the grass grow a bit. While they can be a bit bitter, both the leaves and the flowers are edible and can be eaten raw or cooked. Don’t eat the ones you find in floral bouquets as they’ve likely been sprayed with toxic pesticides.

Dandelion Greens, Flowers and Roots

Even if you?re not familiar with foraging, finding dandelion greens should not be a problem. They?re almost everywhere. Choose the small leaves as more mature leaves tend to become bitter. The immature leaves can be added to salads, soups or saut?ed like spinach, along with a little garlic, olive oil, squeeze of lemon juice and a bit of sea salt for a delicious side dish. The flowers can be added to salads and eaten raw. The roots are absolutely delicious when roasted, ground and added to smoothies or steeped as you would tea. They have a slightly chocolate-coffee flavor, which is why blending them with a handful of cashews, a dash of stevia, some almond milk and a little ice makes my favorite smoothie. Dandelion helps to boost the kidneys and liver.

Dandelion leaves, flowers, stems, and roots are edible

Lamb?s Quarters

Not just for grazing sheep, lamb?s quarters are found in plentiful quantities in most people?s lawns and make a delicious alternative to spinach. Add them raw to salads or saute them in a little olive oil and sea salt for a tasty plate of wild greens.


You won?t miss these herbs, particularly if you try to pick them without gloves. That?s because the fine hairs along the stems of the plant will give your skin a bit of a sting when you touch them. However, when they are cooked, they lose their stinging sensation. You?re left with one of the most nutritional greens you can eat, which are great in soups and stews. Nettles boost your overall nutrition but also help fight off seasonal allergies, which are a nuisance for many people this time of year.

Nettles are nutritional powerhouses that are delicious additions to your diet.

Plantain Leaves

Found in most lawns, you?ve probably stepped on these plants hundreds of time without consideration for them. Yet, they are an excellent addition to your diet. Chop and add to salads, soups or saute them as you would spinach.

Plantain leaves make a delicious alternative to spinach.

Red Clover Leaves and Flowers

Easy to spot when in flower thanks to their purplish-pink flowerheads, red clover leaves make an excellent addition to salads, soups or can be saut?ed for a delicious plate of wild greens. The flowers can be added to salads or infused in boiled water to make tea.

Red clover leaves and flowers are edible.

If you?re not 100% certain you?ve identified the correct plant, it is best not to eat them. If you?re unsure, you might find an herb walk or foraging course helpful. Of course, stay clear of lawns near highways or any that have been sprayed with pesticides.

Related Stories:

15 Green Challenges Just in Time for Earth Day
7 Ways to Make Your Garden More Earth-Friendly
7 Medicinal Weeds Growing in Your Yard

Dr. Michelle Schoffro Cook, PhD, DNM shares her food growing, cooking, and other food self-sufficiency adventures at FoodHouseProject.com. She is the publisher of the free e-newsletter World?s Healthiest News, founder of Scent-sational Wellness, and an international best-selling and 20-time published book author whose works include: Be Your Own Herbalist: Essential Herbs for Health, Beauty, & Cooking. Follow her work.

Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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7 Creative Ways to Preserve & Enjoy Homegrown Herbs

You had a great year in your herb patch and now you have a lush crop of herbs waiting to be harvested. Don?t know where to start? Check out some of the ideas below on how to use and preserve your herbs so you can enjoy your harvest all winter.

1. Freezing

You can freeze herbs in a few different ways. One of the easiest ways is to simply chop up your fresh herbs, pack them into freezer bags and put the bags directly in your freezer. When you?re packing them, make sure you squeeze out as much air as possible to prevent oxidation and freezer burn. Also, use small freezer bags if you?ll only need small amounts at a time for cooking.

Another convenient option is to freeze your herbs in ice cube trays with water. You can either blend your herbs with water in a food processor or blender, then put the mix into ice cube trays. You can also chop fresh herbs, pack them into ice cube trays, then fill the remaining space in the trays with water. Once the trays are frozen, take out the cubes and store them in bags to save freezer space.

2. Herbed Oil and Butter

Instead of using water as a base in your ice cube trays, you can also combine fresh herbs with olive or coconut oil. You can use herbed oil cubes directly in dishes. You can also use them as a vegan herbed butter substitute by taking the frozen cubes and spreading them on bread while the oil is still solid.

If you?d like to make a traditional herbed butter, you can mix freshly chopped herbs with some softened butter, roll the butter into a log, wrap it in greaseproof paper, then twist the ends closed. Herbed butter will last in the fridge for about two weeks and in the freezer for up to six months.

3. Drying

Herbs can be easily air dried or dried in a dehydrator. To air dry, it?s easiest to hang your herbs in small bunches in a warm, well-ventilated area. The key is to give them lots of space and air movement to prevent any mildew from starting. Keeping your herbs indoors or under cover will prevent any dew or rain from reaching them.

Using a dehydrator can speed up the process. You can buy a few different types of commercial dehydrators, or you can try making a dehydrator of your own. Whichever type of dehydrator you try, always keep it at a low heat when drying herbs. Too high of a heat can detract from their flavor.

To store dried herbs, make sure whatever container you use is completely air tight. If air can leak in, so can humidity, which can spoil your herbs.

4. Pesto

Pesto is traditionally made with basil, but many other herbs can also make a delicious pesto. And prepared pesto can be easily frozen in jars for storage. The National Center for Home Food Preservation does not recommend canning pesto as it?s typically prepared with raw, fresh herbs in oil, which would not can safely.

Need a few recipe ideas? Try some of these unique pesto blends.

An Easy Twist on Basil Pesto
Parsley Pesto with Walnuts Pasta
Oil-Free Sage and Walnut Pesto
Basil, Lime and Pumpkin Seed Pesto
Pea, Pistachio and Mint Pesto
Leftover Herb Pesto

Related: 10 Things You Can Do with a Jar of Pesto

5. Herb-Infused Vinegar and Oil

Making your own herb-infused vinegar and oil is not as difficult as it may sound. And both are extremely tasty additions to salads, sauces, dips or main dishes.

What?s Cooking America has excellent guidelines on how to make your own herbed vinegar. It can last from 6 to 8 months when stored properly.

Herbed oil is not as acidic as vinegar and does not last as long. Homemade herbed oils should be used within two months if kept in the fridge, or up to six months if frozen. Check out The Spruce?s guidelines on how to make your own herbed oil.

6. Fermented Herbs

You may have tried fermenting your own sauerkraut or dill pickles, but did you know you can also ferment fresh herbs? It can be a tasty way to preserve your herbs and get beneficial probiotics while you?re at it. You can use almost any herb and experiment with different blends. Joybilee Farm has detailed instructions on how to ferment your own herbs. You can keep your ferments in the fridge for up to 6 months.

7. Salt Preserving

A traditional method for preserving fresh foods is to mix them with salt. This can also be done with fresh herbs. It works particularly well with soft, leafy herbs that often lose some flavor when dried, such as cilantro, basil, parsley or chives. Kitchen Stewardship has a great overview on how to salt preserve your herbs.

Another similar option is to create a herb finishing salt. This is a herb-flavored salt that doesn?t use as many herbs, but it can make a delicious addition to a dish. Check out Garden Therapy?s recipe for making an herb finishing salt.

Related on Care2

8 Lesser-Known Medicinal Herbs You Should Add to Your Garden
7 Health Benefits of Horseradish
8 Easy Vegetables & Herbs to Grow Indoors

Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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The Many Benefits of Swale Landscaping

Does your property have excessive runoff from rainwater or melting snow? All that liquid can not only make your yard a soupy mess, it may even threaten the structural stability of your home. Digging a swale in your yard will reduce or eliminate this serious problem. A swale will also help conserve water and create a lovely, low maintenance landscape for your home.

What is a swale and why build one on your property?

The landscaping term ?swale? refers to a shallow trench, which may be dug on a property for 3 important related purposes:

  1. to catch storm water
  2. to direct the water away from your home
  3. to slow the water?s movement so it can be gradually absorbed into the ground

A swale usually is designed to follow the natural contours of the surrounding landscape, often with a berm (a human-made ridge of earth, which may be sown with plantings for stability) along the lower edge.

A driveway swale flanks your drive on one or both sides, in order to keep runoff from flowing into your garage or your home.

A swale may be combined with underground piping to handle your roof runoff.

The standard swale dimensions generally range from 6-18 inches deep and 8-24 inches wide, depending on the volume of water you are dealing with.

The many benefits of swale landscaping

Digging a swale will benefit your landscape in a number of ways. You will:

Avoid storm water pooling around your house and prevent damage to the foundation.
Help hold off flooding of your house, garage, and yard ? and perhaps your neighbor?s property.
Reduce soil erosion and loss of high quality top soil.
Collect rainwater much more easily than with a barrel or tank system.
?Recycle? rainwater to irrigate your garden, for a flourishing low maintenance landscape.

Before you start to dig a swale

Contact a one-call center for clearance before you begin swale construction, or any other home improvement that involves digging. Otherwise, you run the risk of hitting underground utility pipes or cables … and the hefty fine that can result.

In addition, check with the building authority in your area to see whether you?ll need a permit for the job. Many local governments have enacted strict laws concerning landscaping work that could possibly affect the groundwater system.

Consult a professional landscape contractor to plan and implement your project in the best and greenest way.

A swale as part of your landscape design

Plan your landscape design to include your swale. Make sure that any new feature you install, such as a fence, will not block the flow of runoff through the swale.

The swale does not need to be an unappealing stretch of bare earth. You can seed it with grass, but be sure that your swale?s sloping sides won?t make it too difficult to mow your new patch of lawn. An alternative is to plant it with low care wetland species such as cattails or lovely marsh hibiscus.

You might prefer to line the swale with nice-looking pea gravel or river rocks. Besides permitting storm water to infiltrate the soil more efficiently, small stones will give your swale the attractive appearance of a dry creek bed.

Finally, permeable pavers are perfect for stabilizing the bottom of a swale which will double as a garden walkway during the dry season.

By Laura Firszt, Networx.

Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.


The Many Benefits of Swale Landscaping

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How to Protect Your Fall Garden from Cold Weather & Strong Winds

Regardless of which hardiness zone you live in, fall weather can pack a punch. Whether it?s sudden wind storms or plunging temperatures, your garden needs to be prepared. Check out some of the following tips to get your garden in top shape for the cold season ahead.

Keep Your Soil Moist

If you?ve had a dry summer, it?s always beneficial to give your garden a thorough watering before cold weather sets in. Cooler fall temperatures reduce evaporation, which helps water absorb into the ground more easily than in the heat of summer.

Moist soil is ideal during cold snaps because it holds heat longer and insulates roots better than dry soil. Just be careful not to overwater; very wet soils can promote rot and disease.

Mulch Your Beds

Another excellent way to keep heat and moisture in your soil is to apply a good layer of mulch to any exposed areas in the fall. This will also help protect any tender surface roots.

One of the easiest methods of mulching is to leave plant debris on the ground. Any fallen leaves can be left on top of your soil, as well as the remains of any annual or perennial plants that have died back for the year.

Many other types of mulch also work well, check out these great mulch choices for your yard.

Cover Tender Plants

Plants that are borderline hardy in your climate zone often need to be wrapped or covered before freezing temperatures start.

You can use any fabric that breathes for wrapping, such as burlap, commercial frost blankets or your old blankets from home. Landscape Ontario has helpful step-by-step instructions on how to wrap a plant.

If you have smaller plants that don?t need a full wrapping, such as vegetables, you can use a fabric row cover instead. Row cover is a light material that?s sold at most garden centers. It can be placed directly over your tender plants and weighted down on the edges with rocks, bricks or staples. You can also install short hoops over your plants for the fabric to rest on. PVC or other thin, flexible materials are good for hoops.

Protect Container Plants

Plants grown in containers are less cold tolerant than plants in the ground. The limited amount of growing medium in a pot has far less temperature buffering capacity, so plunging temperatures can spell disaster for potted plants.

Bring potted plants indoors for the cold season when possible. Even moving them into your garage or other non-heated space may be enough protection, depending on the plant and your hardiness zone.

If you need to leave a container plant outside, at least move it to a protected location, such as up against your house or under dense trees. Wrap it well in fabric, and remember to wrap the pot as well. Containers can easily crack during cold weather when left to the elements.

Don?t Fall Prune

Do you have any plants that consistently have tip damage in the spring from cold damage over winter? You can avoid this by simply not pruning them in the fall. This year?s growth will take the brunt of the cold and protect the core of your cold-sensitive plants.

Tuck Your Veggies in for Winter

Many root vegetables like leeks, parsnips, carrots, beets and garlic overwinter well when they?re left in the ground and covered for the cold season.

You can cover them with straw, fabric row covers, dry fallen leaves or other dry material or fabric. Avoid covering with extra soil or anything that will absorb excess water and promote rot. It?s also beneficial to allow the soil to remain somewhat dry. This reduces the chances of excess water in the soil freezing and heaving, which can damage your crops.

Create Windbreaks

Windbreaks are typically tall, dense plantings of trees and/or shrubs. These block strong winds, which helps moderate temperature changes in your yard and prevents physical damage to outdoor plants.

Windbreaks can also lower heating costs for your home. It?s estimated that winds during the cold season can account for up to 30 percent of your heating bills. These winds can be significantly reduced with an effective windbreak.

Permaculture and Sanity has a great description of how to design and establish a windbreak.

Artificial structures, such as fences, sheds and walls, also make excellent windbreaks.

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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How to Protect Your Fall Garden from Cold Weather & Strong Winds

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12 of the Best Cover Crops for Your Garden

Also known as green manure, cover crops are plants grown for the purpose of adding organic matter to your soil.

Organic matter from broken down plant material is vital for soil health. Not only does it contain essential nutrients for the growth of new plants, organic matter also stores carbon in the soil. This is important for maintaining the earth?s atmosphere and mitigating climate change.

Cover crops are typically planted in the fall or early spring when your garden beds are empty. You can also plant them in open areas during your growing season.

They can either be pulled up or tilled under when finished, or left in place to die over winter. It?s best to wait 3 to 5 weeks after tilling for the cover crop to decompose before planting any food or ornamental plants.

Almost any plant could be used as a cover crop, although the plants given below stand out because they?re fast, easy to grow and have proven benefits for your soil. You can get seeds at most garden centers or online retailers.

1. Alfalfa

Scientific name: Medicago sativa

Benefits: Alfalfa?s long tap roots are good for breaking up hard soils, which improves soil aeration and drainage. The long roots can also bring up trace minerals from deep in the soil. Alfalfa is a legume that fixes nitrogen in the soil.

Hardiness: Perennial in USDA zones 3 and higher.

Best time to sow seeds: Spring

Maintenance: Can be tilled under in summer or fall. Good to shear the plants periodically to prevent flowering and seeding.

2. Barley

Scientific name: Hordeum vulgare

Benefits: Barley has a short growing season, so it is ideal for northern gardens. It produces more biomass in a shorter time than other cereal grasses used for cover crops. Barley is also drought resistant.

Hardiness: Annual, but can live over winter in USDA zones 8 and higher. Barley will die over winter in lower zones.

Best time to sow seeds: Spring in lower zones, or fall for zones 8 or higher.

Maintenance: Barley does not reseed very well, so you can let it grow throughout your regular season, and let it die over winter in lower zones or till in spring for higher zones.

3. Berseem Clover

Scientific name: Trifolium alexandrinum

Benefits: Berseem clover builds the most nitrogen in your soil compared to all other legume crops. It also creates the most biomass of all the clovers.

Hardiness: Annual, but can live over winter in USDA zones 8 and higher.

Best time to sow seeds: Spring or early summer in lower zones, or fall for zones 8 or higher.

Maintenance: If you cut or mow the plants prior to seed set, they can grow back at least 2 to 3 times over your growing season to provide more organic matter.

4. Common Buckwheat

Scientific name: Fagopyrum esculentum

Benefits: Buckwheat can germinate within days of planting if planted in warmer weather. It can tolerate drought and poor soils. It will start to bloom after about 5 weeks and is excellent for supporting bees and other pollinators.

Hardiness: There are a few different varieties of buckwheat. Some are perennial, but common buckwheat is an annual. This is ideal because it dies over winter.

Best time to sow seeds: Spring or early summer

Maintenance: Mow or cut down buckwheat within two weeks of the first flowering if you want to avoid setting seed.

5. Crimson Clover

Scientific name: Trifolium incarnatum

Benefits: The fastest growing annual nitrogen fixer, which makes it great for fall seeding. Grows well in many conditions, including shade.

Hardiness: Annual, but can live over winter in USDA zones 8 and higher.

Best time to sow seeds: Due to its rapid growth, you can seed in spring, summer or fall.

Maintenance: Cutting or mowing when crimson clover starts to set flower buds will kill the plants. If you want it to flower and reseed, it will naturally die back after flowering.

6. Fall Mustards

Scientific names: Sinapsis alba (aka. Brassica hirta), Brassica juncea, or Brassica nigra

Benefits: All plants in the cabbage family have been shown to release biotoxic compounds that act against bacteria, fungi, insects, nematodes and weeds. These compounds are especially high in mustard crops.

Hardiness: Annuals, but may live over winter in USDA zones 8 and higher.

Best time to sow seeds: Spring or summer

Maintenance: The biotoxic compounds of mustards are only released when individual plant cells are ruptured. In order to maximize this, it?s best to till the plants under to break them up and incorporate them into the soil during your growing season.

7. Fall or Winter Rye

Scientific name: Secale cereale

Benefits: Rye is the hardiest cereal crop, so it makes an excellent winter cover crop in most climates. Rye quickly establishes a dense root system, which effectively suppresses weeds and breaks up hard soils.

Hardiness: Annual, but will live over winter in USDA zone 3 and higher.

Best time to sow seeds: Spring or fall

Maintenance: Beneficial to cut the plants periodically to prevent flowering and seeding.

8. Field Peas

Scientific name: Pisum sativum subsp. arvense

Benefits: Field peas grow rapidly in cool, moist weather. Their succulent stems break down easily for a quick source of available nitrogen.

Hardiness: Annual, but will live over winter in USDA zone 6 and higher.

Best time to sow seeds: Early spring

Maintenance: Field peas tend to stop growing in hot weather, so they?re best grown in spring and tilled under in early summer.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

9. Hairy Vetch

Scientific name: Vicia villosa

Benefits: Hairy vetch is the hardiest legume cover crop, so it overwinters well and provides plenty of soil nitrogen for spring.

Hardiness: Annual, but will live over winter in USDA zone 4 and higher.

Best time to sow seeds: Fall

Maintenance: Hairy vetch grows slowly at first, but will continue establishing roots over winter. In spring, it grows long, vine-like branches up to 12 feet (3.7 meters) long. This provides great biomass as long as you have a tiller strong enough to break them up. Otherwise, cut hairy vetch early to prevent its extensive growth.

10. Marigolds

Scientific name: Tagetes species

Benefits: Marigolds can control a variety of pests, including nematodes, fungi, bacteria, weeds and insects. Research has shown marigolds are most effective when planted in large quantities as a cover crop.

Hardiness: Annual, will die as soon as temperatures reach freezing.

Best time to sow seeds: Spring

Maintenance: Can be tilled under in summer or fall.

Related: Do Marigolds Really Repel Garden Pests?

11. Oats

Scientific name: Avena sativa

Benefits: Oats grow well in cool weather, so they can be planted in the fall. They also can improve the productivity of legumes when planted in a mixture.

Hardiness: Annual, but can live over winter in USDA zones 7 and higher.

Best time to sow seeds: Summer or fall alone, or spring as part of a mixture with legumes.

Maintenance: When planted in spring, oats can be tilled under with your legume crop. If planting in summer or fall alone, try to seed them 40 to 60 days before your first frost. This will give them enough time to mature, but they will be winter killed before they set seed.

12. White Clover

Scientific name: Trifolium repens

Benefits: White clover can make a good living mulch in areas such as footpaths, between shrubs and trees, or on slopes. It only grows 6 to 12 inches (15 to 30 centimeters) high and does well with regular mowing or foot traffic.

Hardiness: Perennial in USDA zones 3 and higher.

Best time to sow seeds: Spring or summer

Maintenance: Can be tilled under in summer or fall, or left as a long-term, nitrogen-fixing groundcover.

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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12 of the Best Cover Crops for Your Garden

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How to Share Extra Bounty from Your Garden with the Community

You?ve frozen, dried and canned all the fruit and vegetables you can use over winter. But your garden keeps on producing. Now what?

Your extra fruit and veggies can easily find a loving home. And there?s good reason to make sure your entire harvest makes it to someone?s table.

About 50 percent of all fruits and vegetables grown worldwide go to waste. This staggering number is especially tragic considering that one in nine people in the world suffer from chronic undernourishment, including one in approximately 650 people in developed countries.

You can make a difference in your community by using some of the following suggestions to share the food you grow.

Donate to Charitable Organizations

Many different organizations will welcome your extra fruit and vegetables, such as food banks, homeless shelters, community or seniors? centers, spiritual groups and churches, or home-delivered meal programs.

AmpleHarvest.org has an extensive listing of different organizations throughout the United States that will accept extra produce. You can search for one near you on their website.

FeedingAmerica.org also has a searchable listing of food banks throughout the U.S.

Contact Your Local Gleaners

Gleaning is the act of collecting fresh foods from farms, gardens or other sources to share it with those in need. Many communities have a gleaning group that can come to your home and collect your excess produce.

Food Rescue has a listing of groups you can contact in the U.S., or you can search the internet for groups in other countries.

Can?t find any gleaners near you? The United States Department of Agriculture has published a good guide on how to start your own gleaning program.

Put Up a Stand

A simple table on your front lawn with some veggies and a ?Free? sign on it should encourage most of them to find a new home.

A more elaborate option is to build a stand or booth to shade your fruit and vegetables. You could also add a basket or lockbox for donations to your favorite charity in exchange.

Feed It to Your Pets and Livestock

Your animal friends don?t need to miss out on your harvest. Many pet birds, rodents, horses, goats, reptiles and other animals would appreciate your extra produce. It?s even been shown that some vegetables are healthy for dogs.

Related: Best & Worst Fruits and Veggies for Pets

Advertise Your Bounty

RipeNear.Me is a great site designed for home growers to share their overabundance with others. You can choose to give away your produce or charge a fee for it.

You can also advertise to trade, give away or sell your extra fruit and veggies in your local newspaper, community newsletter or online at sites like Freecycle.org, Kijiji.ca, EbayClassifieds.com, or Craigslist.org.

Community sites like Nextdoor or your community Facebook page are other excellent places to post.

Organize a Group Cook-off

Cooking big batches of food is a fun excuse to get together with friends and try making something new. And the best part is, everyone has some healthy meals to take home for later.

Check out MamaBake.com for suggestions on organizing group cooking and some big batch recipes.

It?s also a great idea to donate extra prepared food you make to a neighbor in need.

Host a Meal

This can be as basic as inviting a few friends over for a meal featuring lots of your home-grown fruit and vegetables.

If you?re interested in something a bit more ambitious, try hosting a pop-up restaurant. You can register on sites like EatWith.com that matches up hosts and diners to share meals worldwide.

Swap with Other Gardeners

Ask your friends, neighbors and around your community to find people interested in trading their excess fruit and veggies with yours.

You can also throw a produce swapping party and invite guests to bring their overabundance to be redistributed.

Check out programs like Food Is Free that helps communities grow and share fresh food.

Donate to Animal Rescue Organizations

Certain animal shelters can use excess fruit and veggies to feed plant-eating animals like rabbits, guinea pigs, parrots, iguanas and turtles. Check with your local shelters to see if they have these types of animals before bringing over your produce.

Save Your Seeds

It?s not a loss if your crops have become over-mature or gone to seed. That?s a great time to keep them for harvesting seeds for next year.

You can also give your seeds to organizations like Seed Savers Exchange or Seedsave.org, who work towards saving and distributing non-GMO, heirloom and organic seeds for now and into the future.

Another option is to start a seed library for your local community. Shareable has detailed instructions on how to create your own seed lending library.

Recycle Your Produce

There?s no shame in rounding up your bolted lettuce and the zucchinis that somehow grew 3 feet long, and tossing them on your compost pile. All their goodness will go towards nourishing next year?s bountiful crop.

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.


How to Share Extra Bounty from Your Garden with the Community

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Keep Your Home And Yourself Cool Now That Heatwave Time Is Here

Who doesn’t love summer? Wait, do I see a few hands being shyly raised? Well, go head and admit it: summertime is absolutely incredible . until it’s not. When the thermometer starts to climb up past that 90-degree mark, the heat is on and suddenly sunny turns into steamy. Your electricity bills start to shoot up too, and you worry about the effect on the environment. Fortunately, there are ways to keep cool at home without cranking the thermostat up, up, and away.

Refresh yourself fast.

After commuting home from the office or doing some work in your garden, give yourself a quick, cool lift without cranking up the ol’ A/C. Takea mini “shower” by spritzing face and neck with cold water from a plant sprayer. Alternatively, change into a T-shirt that you stashed in the freezer before you headed out. Or you can simply cuddle up with an ice pack. (Wrap it in a dishtowel to prevent skin damage, please.)

Stay hydrated.

Drink lots of water during a heatwave, even indoors. Remember that if you begin to feel thirsty, that’s a sign you’re already beginning to dehydrate. As well as watching your fluid intake, replenish your electrolytes with natural yogurt,coconut water, or miso broth (lukewarm if the very idea of hot soup gives you the heebie-jeebies). Think of your animal friends, as well make sure your pet’s water dish is constantly full of clean water.

Tune up your air conditioner.

Make yourair conditioningrun more efficiently: give it a tune-up every summer and clean the filter at least once a month in the warm weather, more oftenif you live on a dusty area or have furry pets. To save even more energy, set the temperature two or three degrees higher than you normally would and supplement with a fan.


You will feel cooler if the relative humidity indoors is fairly low. Forty degrees is comfortable for most people. To reach this level, use the dehumidifying function on your A/C or a separate dehumidifier.

Don’t add useless heat.

Turn off as many electrical appliances and lights possible when not in use, to avoid adding unnecessary heat to your home. A timer,smart home system, or power strip will make this task easier. Include your fan in the list of appliances to switch off; it cools people not air, so it can only do its job when someone is in the room.

Hang thermal window treatments.

Hanging sun- and heat-blocking curtains and blinds is an inexpensive, eco-friendly way to keep your home cooler. They are especially useful when you have unshaded south or west facing windows. These exposures tend to make your house nice and sunny, which is pleasant when the weather is mild, but HOT in the summer.

Take advantage of cooler nighttime air.

Open draperies and windows themselves at night. This works when both the dew point andpollen countare low, usually below 50. The pollen count starts to increase shortly after the sun comes up, so close all those open windows as early in the morning as you can.

Insulate your attic.

Attic insulation is not just for winter. It will also help reduce heat exchange in summer, increasing your A/C energy efficiency by keeping hot airoutsideand air conditioned airinsideyour home. You will feel more comfortable while using less electricity. No wonder this upgrade offers the best return on investment of any home improvement, according toRemodeling Magazine’s annual report. HANDY HINT: If you already have insulation but it’s not enough for your needs, you can install more right on top of the existing insulation. Just don’t put a vapor barrier between the two.

Handle your thermostat with TLC.

Test this useful device to make sure that it is functioning as it should. Move heat-producing appliances like lamps or TV sets away from the thermostat so that they don’t trigger it to get the air conditioner going needlessly.

By Laura Firszt,Networx.

Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.


Keep Your Home And Yourself Cool Now That Heatwave Time Is Here

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How to Control All Types of Garden Pests Without Using Chemicals

Each year, homes in the United States apply approximately 171 million pounds of pesticides on gardens and lawns. You can avoid many of these toxic chemicals by using natural pest control methods instead. Taking a preventative approach will also save you time and money in the long run.

For all pests, the best defense is vigorous, healthy plants. Make sure your plants have plenty of water, nutrients, sunshine and attention. You can also boost beneficial microorganisms in your soil by applying compost tea, which is shown to help reduce damage from insects and diseases.

Related: How & Why to Make Compost Tea

These are some easy and effective ways to control common garden pests.

Bugs and Insects

Insect pests can seem to move into your garden overnight. Preventing them from getting started in the first place is especially important.

Get to know your bugs. If youre not sure who youre dealing with, catch a few bugs in a clear plastic bag and take them to your local garden center for identification. You can plan the best defense once you know your enemy.
Grow organically. Many broad-spectrum insecticides will kill beneficial insects as well as the bad ones. Keeping your yard chemical-free will encourage good populations of predatory bugs.
Install row covers. A row cover is a cloth thats hung over a garden bed like a tent. It protects the plants underneath from flying insects. This is particularly helpful for plants in the cabbage family to protect against pests like cabbage moths and loopers.
Use companion plants. Planting certain plants together has been shown to help deter pests. Check out some of the best companion planting pairs.
Choose appropriate plants. Select plants that will flourish in your local conditions. Plants in wrong locations will become stressed and attract pests. Also try planting varieties that are resistant to pests in your area.
Wash your plants. If you see unwanted visitors, washing them off with your hose or other water sprayer can be surprisingly effective.
Plant decoys. You can outsmart pests by growing plants theyll eat instead of your crops. For example, if you plant nasturtiums near your vegetables, aphids will often attack the nasturtiums and leave your other plants alone.

Related: 5 Simple Pest Remedies for the Garden

Slugs and Snails

These soft-bodied mollusks love fresh and succulent plant parts, especially leaves and young seedlings. You can do a lot to keep them out of your prized vegetables.

Remove them by hand. Wear an old pair of gloves while you do this, or use tongs or chopsticks. Theyll be covered in slime by the time youre done, so use something disposable. After youre done, you can manually squish your invaders, drown them in a bucket of salt water or throw them on the road.
Put out beer traps. For some reason, slugs and snails are attracted to the smell of beer. You can use this to your advantage. Slug Off has a great description of how to make your own slug beer trap.
Use a lure. A lure is any object that slugs and snails will crawl under to seek shelter from the days sun. You can then collect and dispose of them each day. You can use anything as a lure, such as cabbage leaves, an overturned pot, a plate or a plank of wood.
Get some ducks. You may not think of ducks as vicious predators, but they love eating slugs. Theyll keep your slug population in check.
Spread scratchy materials. Slugs and snails are deterred by rough materials like sandpaper, diatomaceous earth, crushed eggshells or wood ashes, because theyre hard to slither across. Spread these around plants you want to protect or around the edges of garden beds as a barrier.

Related: 16 Natural Ways to Defeat Garden Slugs

Fungal Diseases

Keeping your plants clean and dry is the key for preventing fungal diseases like powdery mildew, leaf spot, rusts and blights. This will prevent their spores from spreading.

Water plants in the morning. Any excess water on your plants can evaporate during the day. Watering at the soil level is also helpful because it keeps water off the leaves altogether.
Give your plants space. Good air flow in between plants will prevent moisture buildup and potential fungal problems, especially for vegetables and other closely-planted annuals. Also weed regularly to keep areas open.
Rotate your vegetable crops. Dont plant the same veggies in the same place year after year. This invites soil-borne diseases. Check out the Old Farmers Almanac guide to easy crop rotation.
Remove infected plant debris. If youve had a fungal infection, make sure you remove the affected plants from your property. Dont leave them on the ground or compost them, which could spread fungal spores.
Harvest regularly. Fruit and vegetables left to spoil on the plants will encourage fungal invasion.
Clean your tools. Wash any tools youve used with infected plants or soil. Wash with soap and hot water and dry thoroughly before storing your tools.

Foraging Animals

Deer, rabbits and squirrels can be very cute visitors in your garden, but these and other furry critters can do a lot of damage to your plants. Your best defense is to make your property as uninviting as possible.

Get a cat or a dog. Even if your pet would rather snuggle with you than chase an invading rodent, often their presence is enough to scare away potential four-legged pests.
Keep your yard clean. Garbage, standing water, piles of yard trimmings and other debris can all provide food and homes for visitors.
Put up fencing. The height of your fence depends on the type of animal youre trying to keep out. A one- or two-foot high barrier is fine for rabbits, voles and most other rodents. Whereas, a deer fence often needs to be at least eight or ten feet high. Its also helpful to bury the bottom of your fence at least 6-inches to prevent critters tunneling underneath.
Sprinkle deterrents around your property. Some excellent options are human hair, hot pepper flakes, human or animal urine, kitty litter, blood meal or fabric softener.
Use pungent plants. Garlic, chives, onions, hot peppers, marigolds, sage and yarrow are well-known for their pest-repelling scents.
Startle your visitors. Many garden props can scare off animals, such as floodlights or noisemakers triggered by motion sensors, flags waving in the wind, radios playing, hidden fishing lines or water sprinklers.

12 Ways to Get Rid of Aggressive Weeds Without Resorting to Roundup
25+ Beneficial Plants That Ward Off Pests and Protect Your Garden
9 Beneficial Bugs and Insects to Welcome in the Garden

Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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Donald Trump Has Made Socialism Cool Again

Mother Jones

A month after President Donald Trump took office, khalid kamau was eating lunch in the cluttered kitchen of the Mayday Space, a leftist community center in Brooklyn. A year earlier, the 39-year-old (who prefers to spell his name without capital letters) had been driving a bus in Atlanta. Then his life took a hard left turn. When the city slashed public pensions, he became a union organizer. He then launched a Black Lives Matter chapter, became a delegate for Sen. Bernie Sanders, and led a walkout at the Democratic National Convention when Hillary Clinton clinched the nomination. In December, kamau announced his candidacy for City Council in South Fulton, Georgia. Not long after that, he joined the Democratic Socialists of America.

kamau, who was wearing a black T-shirt that said, “Don’t let your new president get your ass whooped,” had been a DSA member for all of a few weeks, but he already had big plans. Leaning forward on his wooden stool, he said, “I want to be the Obama of democratic socialism.”

First, kamau needed to win an election. Which is why, on an unseasonably warm weekend in February, he had come to Brooklyn for the Revolution at the Crossroads conference, a gathering of about 300 teen and twentysomething leftists that was sponsored by the Young Democratic Socialists, a subgroup of the DSA. After speaking on the kickoff panel the night before, kamau had taught the attendees how to use the free canvassing app MiniVAN and signed up dozens of volunteers for his campaign. (His organizing paid off; last Tuesday, kamau won his runoff election with 67 percent of the vote.)

Founded in 1982, the DSA claims to be the largest socialist organization in the country. It’s not a political party along the lines of the Communist Party USA or the Green Party. Many of its members are Democrats or the kind of left-­leaning independents who usually vote for Democrats. But just as the Obama era ushered in a boomlet of libertarianism on the right, the DSA is banking on Trump to make socialism great again. Its goal is not just to stop Trump’s worst policies, but to push the political conversation on the left even further to the left through a mix of political action and cultural engagement. There are signs it’s already working.

Fueled by disenchantment with the traditional institutions of the Democratic Party, the promise of Sanders’ candidacy, and the specter of Trumpism, DSA membership has more than doubled since the election. The DSA now boasts more than 20,000 members and more than 120 local chapters. Sure, you could fit just about everyone comfortably inside Madison Square Garden, but being a socialist hasn’t been this cool in years.

“The Bernie campaign really opened that Overton Window,” said Winnie Wong, a 41-year-old activist who co-founded the group People for Bernie and coined the phrase “Feel the Bern.” “We funneled thousands of people, hundreds of thousands—15 million people!—through to the other side. Are those people democratic socialists? No. Do they feel comfortable with the idea of socialism? Well, yeah! Because they voted for it.” Normalizing socialism, she said, is “the most important thing we can do.”

MAD LIBS: A quick guide to channeling your anti-Trump fervor

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Revolution at the Crossroads existed in a parallel universe to other political confabs, such as the Conservative Political Action Conference, known for its corporate sponsors, bad suits, and ritzy Beltway hotels. The opening panel was delayed because the speaker system was picking up an AM radio station. An attendee joked that “neoliberal capitalism”—”neoliberal” being the epithet of choice among the DSA set—was to blame. Sleeping bags littered the side walls. The dress code was plaid.

Socialism’s hipster makeover has been accelerated by a flowering of leftist media and culture. The DSA’s unofficial hype man is not Sanders—who is not a member—but the comedian Rob Delaney, who joined up after the election, inspired by his positive experiences with the British National Health Service as an expat living in England. Delaney has tweeted about the DSA more than 100 times since November and describes himself as a “fucking cockroach” for socialism, because of his persistence. “A lot of people have written me and said that they’ve joined because I won’t shut up about Democratic Socialists on Twitter,” he told me. He even raised money to defray expenses for some of the students who traveled to Brooklyn.

A popular gateway drug for democratic socialists is Chapo Trap House, a podcast hosted by a small clique of millennial Sandernistas that takes its deliberately head-scratching name from the jailed Mexican cartel king. It is incisive and irreverent but often scathing toward politicians, journalists, or anyone else insufficiently in line with its politics. (For instance: Clinton is an “entitled fucking slob,” and Democratic leaders should have “fucking killed themselves” after losing the election.)

Outside the conference, activists hawked Workers Vanguard, the ubiquitous Trotskyist newspaper. But inside, students chatted with writers from the two-year-old journal Current Affairs (“the world’s first readable political publication”) and Jacobin, a quarterly launched in 2010 by Bhaskar Sunkara, then an undergrad at George Washington University. Jacobin aims to do for socialism what National Review did for conservatism half a century ago. It’s polemical but not stodgy; its writers are as likely to discourse on the NBA as they are to inveigh against Uber. The magazine’s audience doubled, to 30,000 subscribers, in the four months after the election.

At the conference, where he was selling the most recent issue from a folding table along the wall, Sunkara, also a vice chair of the DSA, was a minor celebrity. “I think there’s a feeling that with the center kind of defeated, or at the very least temporarily discredited, we are the new center-left,” he told me. That newfound popularity has caused him to rethink the limitations of leftist politics. “Compared to where the goalposts were five years ago, we’re already basically there,” he said. Socialists won’t run Washington by 2020—but maybe they will in his lifetime.

But the DSA’s continued growth is hardly guaranteed. One challenge as it seeks to broaden its appeal is messaging. Members of the new socialist vanguard pride themselves on a certain degree of unfiltered vulgarity, and they target mainline liberals as often as they do Trump-backing conservatives. Amber A’Lee Frost, a Chapo co-host and YDS panelist, has referred to her cohort’s style as the “Dirtbag Left.” Frost contends that rudeness is essential to disrupting the political status quo. It is, however, a weird way to make new friends. Coalition politics are hard when everyone else is a sellout.

More pressing than its inability to play nice is the movement’s inescapable whiteness. If the audience at the conference was any indication, the DSA’s future is doomed to demographic failure—a point kamau emphasized on the event’s opening night. “I want you to look around the room,” he said, “and then I want you to realize that we’re in Flatbush, Brooklyn, right?” It was Bushwick, but the point stood. “I love Bernie, but I also think that the leaders of the Democratic Party and the leaders of the left are going to have to come to terms with the fact that the American left is a movement of black and brown people,” he told me. “And the leadership of the Democratic Party doesn’t look like that—the leadership of the DSA doesn’t look like that.”

In South Fulton, a mostly working-class, African American community of 100,000 people, kamau sees an opportunity to broaden the appeal of democratic socialism. He believed his race, which was nonpartisan, was a chance to act on a DSA manifesto that calls for running “openly democratic socialist candidates for local office, in and outside the Democratic Party,” and “taking out pro-corporate, neoliberal Democrats.” YDS had given each conferencegoer a three-page reading list with titles by writers such as Karl Marx, Antonio Gramsci, and Barbara Ehrenreich. Wong suggested that young socialists study up on the hard lessons of electoral politics instead. “Learn about the mechanics it takes to win these elections,” she said. “You’re not gonna learn those by reading all three volumes of Capital, I promise you.”

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Donald Trump Has Made Socialism Cool Again

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