If you are a beginner gardener or looking to expand your existing garden, you are going to need seeds. While you could, of course, head to a local nursery or go online and purchase seed packets, there are other options for getting free seeds and cuttings for your vegetable garden or flowerbed.
These options also give you the opportunity to learn from local gardeners, build community, and support seed sovereignty.
So, let’s get right to it with these 11 ways to get free seeds and cuttings for your garden.
1. Save seeds from your garden.
If you have a vegetable garden or flowerbeds already in place, you can save seeds from your existing plants to plant for the next growing season.
If you are interested in saving seeds, check out this guide to seed saving from The Seed Ambassadors Project and this guide from HowtoSaveSeeds.com. I recommend checking out both of these guides, since The Seed Ambassadors Project guide gives a great overview of seed saving, including a glossary to help you learn the lingo, while the guide on HowtoSaveSeeds.com is great for easily looking up how to save particular types of seeds.
2. Save seeds from produce.
You can also save seeds from produce you have purchased. It is best to save seeds from organic, non-GMO foods, since seeds from genetically modified produce may not germinate or may grow unpredictably.
Saving seeds from local produce purchased from produce stands or the farmers market is best, since you know these seeds have already proven to thrive where you live. You are also more likely to get organic, non-GMO seeds this way.
3. Grow food plants from purchased herbs and produce.
Many foods purchased at the store can be regrown from cuttings or by saving the base to replant. Celery, romaine lettuce, parsley, and basil are examples of foods that can be grown from cuttings or saving and planting the base.
4. Ask friends for cuttings of ornamental plants.
Succulents are particularly easy to grow from cuttings, but you can also grow many houseplants and other ornamental plants for free by asking friends or family for small cuttings.
5. Divide your current plants.
Perennials can often be divided into multiple plants to plant in your garden. To accomplish this, you can either dig up the entire plant and root system to divide, or you can use a shovel to dig up just part of the plant and root system to relocate.
6. Attend the Annual Ojai Seed & Plant Swap.
Going to a local seed swap, such as the Annual Ojai Seed & Plant Swap hosted by the Ojai Valley Green Coalition, is a great way to get free seeds that grow well in your area. Aside from exchanging your surplus seeds for seeds or cuttings for your garden, local seed swaps also provide the opportunity to learn from local gardeners and farmers to take your gardening game to the next level.
7. Start your own seed swap group.
If you have friends, family members or co-workers who also like to garden, consider starting your own seed swapping group to exchange seeds, cuttings and plants. If you don’t know any gardeners, this is a great opportunity to expand your social circle and connect with local gardeners in your area.
8. Join an online seed swapping group.
If you missed your local seed swapping event or just prefer to do things online, look for an online seed swapping group where you can exchange seeds with other members. Your best bests are the groups available on GardenWeb and Facebook.
9. Borrow seeds from a seed library.
Seed libraries are a good solution for new gardeners who do not yet have seeds to swap with other gardeners. This option allows you to get free seeds for your garden, and then save seeds when you harvest the crop so that you can return an equal or greater amount of seeds to the library to share with others.
I believe the closest seed library is at the Camarillo Library, but please add a comment below if you are aware of one closer to Ojai.
10. Check the free section of websites like Craigslist.
You can find all sorts of treasures in the free section on Craigslist and this sometimes includes seeds, cuttings or plants.
11. Request seeds from The Free Seed Project.
Each year, The Free Seed Project sends thousands of free seed packets to folks who register on their website. To request free seeds from this non-profit organization, the group asks that you fit one of these criteria:
If you know of other ways to get free seeds for backyard gardens in Ojai and the surrounding area, please share them with us in the comments!
AimeeJo Davis-Varela is a member of The Davis Group and a freelance writer specializing in real estate, sustainable home improvement, eco-friendly landscaping, green living and travel writing. She is also the owner of Mind Your Manors, which provides second home management services.
5 Ways to Save Water When It Rains
1. Set out your houseplants.
Plants prefer rainwater to tap water, so they are sure to thank you if you set them outside during gentle rainfall. Anything too heavy can damage the plant, so only set your plants outside if light to medium rain is expected. If you have plants on a covered patio that are not too heavy to move, you can also set them out in the open to enjoy the rain.
2. Turn off automatic irrigation systems.
If you do not have a rain sensor that automatically turns off your irrigation system when it rains, make sure to turn it off manually when rain is expected.
3. Fill water bowls with the rain.
Take your pet’s water bowls from in the house or on covered patios and set them outside to fill them with rainwater. Keep in mind that contaminated rainwater can make your pets sick (or worse), so make sure the bowls are in an area where they will collect pure rainwater falling from the sky. Keep the bowls away from areas where they may collect runoff from your roof or other structures.
4. Collect water in buckets.
While runoff from your roof or canopies is not potable and should not be used for drinking or to irrigate food plants, it can be used for other purposes, such as rinsing recyclables or watering ornamental landscaping. So, if you do not have rain barrels or have some corners where gutters do not divert the water, set out buckets to capture the water in these areas. You can also set out buckets away from structures to capture pure rainwater to irrigate food plants.
5. Do your planting just before it rains.
Any time you plant seeds or transplant plants in your garden, they need a good watering. So, one easy way to save water when it rains is to hold off on your planting until the forecast calls for rain. This is a good time to reseed patchy lawns, plant new flowers or seeds, or transplant plants from your container garden into borders or garden beds. Just be sure that we are not expecting heavy rain, since this might wash your seeds away.
Find more ways to converse water;
10 Ways to Use Water from Rain Barrels
11 Ways to Save Water in Winter
10 Easy Ways to Save Water
Ojai needs to conserve water now more than ever, so don’t let a little rain convince you otherwise. As we move deeper into the rainy season and start getting a few showers here and there, it might be tempting to ease up on your water conservation efforts and enjoy just a few extra minutes in a hot shower or run your sprinklers an extra day to try to keep your lawn green. But all you need to do is take a drive out by Lake Casitas to be reminded that every drop counts.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), American families use an average of 300 gallons of water at home every day. Nationwide, about 70 percent of residential water use occurs inside the home and about 30 percent is used outdoors.
Ojaians have really come together on this issue and most of us have taken steps to significantly reduce our water use. Unfortunately, we all know that we are beyond the point where installing low-flow showerheads or turning off the water when we brush our teeth is going to save us. Therefore, we can not slack off as we head into winter and hope for rain.
To help you keep conserving water throughout the year, here are 11 ways you can save water in winter.
11 Ways to Save Water in Winter
1. Check for water leaks regularly and fix them quickly.
Even a small leak can waste a huge amount of water. Toilets are the most common source of indoor water leaks, so start here if you think you may have a leak. You also should not ignore dripping faucets and showerheads, since one drip per second wastes five gallons every day that you do not get that leak fixed.
For most homes here, the most common source of outdoor water leaks is automatic irrigation systems. It can be difficult to know if you have a small leak in a drip system, so you will need to check your lines, emitters and sprinklers regularly, while also keeping an eye out for any areas that look wetter than they should be. If you have gardeners, ask them to add checking your drip system or sprinkler system to their regular tasks. This can help detect leaks faster so that you can repair them quickly.
If you think you might have a leak and you know where your water meter is, you can confirm your suspicions by making sure all of the water is turned off on your property, and then looking at the meter. If your meter is moving while the water is turned off, you have a leak.
To make it even easier to stay on top of leaks, install a water monitoring system, which will watch your water meter for you and alert you to leaks.
2. Fix leaking swimming pools.
Swimming pools lose water to evaporation every day and need to be refilled at least a couple of inches every week. Because of this, it can be difficult to determine if your pool is leaking. Now, if you are adding several inches of water each week and it is not the middle of a scorching summer, you can be pretty sure you have a leak and should call a professional out for testing. But, if you are losing between two and four inches per week, it is more difficult to determine if the water loss is just from evaporation and your kids splashing around or if it is from leakage.
Before you pay a professional to test your pool for leaks, you can perform your own test with a bucket, a permanent marker, and a tape measure or ruler. Take a five-gallon bucket and fill it almost to the top with water from the pool. Set the bucket on one of the steps leading into your pool so that it is partially submerged. Use your permanent marker to mark the level of the water inside your bucket and to mark the level of the water on the outside of the bucket. Make sure no one uses the pool during the test, since that could disturb your bucket of water or cause excess water to leave the pool through splashing.
Make sure you leave your bucket out for at least one full day before you check the water levels. When you return to see how much water you have lost, use your tape measure or ruler to measure the distance between the water level you marked on the bucket the day before and where the water level is now. If the two water levels dropped the same amount, then your water loss is likely from evaporation. If the water level on the outside of the bucket has dropped more than the water level inside the bucket has, it is time to call a leak detection company to assess the situation.
Winter is the perfect time to address pool leaks, since you likely are not using your pool as much anyways, so it will not be as much of an inconvenience to have it out of commission during the repair.
3. Cover your pool.
Since we know that swimming pools generally lose between one-quarter and one-half inch of water to evaporation every day, it makes sense that anything we can do to reduce this water loss is a good idea.
You will probably not be using your pool quite as much during the winter months, so – even if you do not cover it in the summer (which you should) – you can more conveniently keep it covered in between uses in the winter. Just making this one change could help you save thousands of gallons of water every year.
4. Insulate your pipes.
Pipe insulation is generally associated with colder parts of the country, but it is still a good idea to insulate exposed pipes even in areas where pipes bursting from freezing temperatures is not a common occurrence. Frozen pipes that burst are obviously big water wasters, so if there is any chance of your pipes freezing in winter, you should insulate them as part of your water-saving efforts.
To save water throughout the year, insulate your hot water pipes. You know how you turn the faucet on in your shower and watch the water run down the drain while you wait for it to get warm enough to step in? Insulating your hot water pipes can shorten the amount of time water is being wasted while you wait for it to warm up.
This will make more of a difference in the winter, but it can help you conserve water all year by getting hot water to your faucets faster.
5. Keep buckets on hand.
Another way to save water while waiting for your shower to warm up is to use a bucket or two to catch the cold water during your wait. You can then use this water to flush your toilet or irrigate landscaping. Keeping a shallow tub or bowl in your kitchen sink allows you to save even more water by capturing the water you use to wash fruits and vegetables.
Of course, you can do these two water-saving tricks throughout the year, but, to save even more water in winter, you can take all of your buckets outside whenever the forecast calls for rain.
6. Set plants outside when rain is expected.
Your houseplants may not be able to live outside during the winter, since they are accustomed to the cozy temperature inside, but you can set them out to be irrigated by Mother Nature when rain is in the forecast.
Rainwater is untreated, slightly acidic and naturally soft. Most plants prefer it to tap water, and watering your plants with rainwater is an easy way to conserve water during winter and spring when we get the majority of our annual rain.
So, if rain is coming our way and is not expected to be a heavy storm that could damage your plants, set out your houseplants and any outdoor plants that are under cover but easily moveable.
7. Open your compost bin when rain is coming.
This one is not going to save a ton of water, but every drop counts, so it is still worth doing. If your compost bin is too dry, it will take longer for your kitchen scraps and yard clippings to turn into usable compost. So, if your compost pile is a bit on the dry side, uncover it before the next rain to let it get some much-needed moisture that didn’t have to come from your garden hose.
Since you do not want your compost bin to stay too wet for too long (to avoid unwanted smells), you probably will not need to do this every time it rains. When it is not the winter rainy season, you can save a few gallons of water by saving your cooking water to add to your compost bin.
8. Install one or more rain barrels.
If just 1,000 square feet of your roof drains into your rain barrel system, you can collect between about 225 and 300 gallons of water every time we get one-half inch of rain. Most rain barrels sold at garden centers hold between 50 and 70 gallons of water, so you can easily collect enough rainwater to fill four to six barrels in a single storm.
This makes winter the perfect time to install a rain barrel or two to collect water you can use to irrigate ornamental landscaping during the dry season.
You may even qualify for a $35 rebate per barrel from SoCal Water$mart for up to two barrels, which helps offset the cost of this winter water-saving idea. To see if you qualify, visit the SoCal Water$mart website – where you can even apply online.
9. Install a tankless water heater and a recirculating pump.
There is nothing quite like a hot shower on a cold, winter day, but waiting for the water to warm up wastes gallons every time you shower. Even with a low-flow showerhead, you could be wasting up to 2.5 gallons for each minute you let it run before stepping in.
A tankless water heater and recirculating pump, together, will give you almost instant hot water to help you save water in winter and throughout the year.
10. Install a rain sensor.
It may not seem like we get much rain in Ventura County, but we do get some. During the rainy season, we get enough to reduce our irrigation needs – at least during weeks when we have had rainfall. Therefore, a rain sensor can help you easily conserve water during the wetter months of winter and early spring.
Simply connect the rain sensor to your automatic irrigation system, and this rain-sensing switch will automatically shut off the system when it rains.
11. Allow faucets to drip.
I know this one does not sound like a good idea when we are trying to save water, but, in certain circumstances, you can potentially save hundreds of gallons of water by sacrificing a few. Here’s the deal: If you haven’t had a chance to insulate your pipes and the temperature drops below freezing where you live, it is possible that a pipe could break. Most folks in the Ojai area are not going to need to worry about this, but, if you do, letting your faucets drip can help you avoid a big water leak from a busted pipe.
To save the water dripping from your faucets, simply place a bowl or bucket under each faucet. This will allow you to catch every drip to use for other purposes, such as watering plants or rinsing recyclables.
AimeeJo Davis-Varela is a freelance writer specializing in real estate, sustainable home improvement, eco-friendly landscaping, green living and travel writing. She is also the owner of Mind Your Manors, which provides second home management services.
The ongoing drought may make rain barrels seem like a waste of space, but did you know that you could have filled an entire barrel just with the rain we received on the first rainy day of the season?
It’s true – it takes only one inch of rain on an average-sized roof to fill a 1,000-gallon tank, and most rain barrels only hold about 50 to 55 gallons.
That means that each of us could have filled multiple barrels just with the rain we have received so far this year. This is one reason so many Southern Californians are installing rain barrels as part of their efforts to conserve water and lower their environmental impact.
Rain barrels are not the only way to harvest rain water; however, they provide an efficient, convenient method for rain collection that requires very little effort on your part. Once they are installed, there is very little maintenance, which makes this a simple, nearly effortless way to take a step towards a greener lifestyle.
The best way to install a rain barrel for maximum efficiency is to reroute one of your downspouts to deliver the water from your gutters into your rain barrel. You can also connect a series of rain barrels together to collect even more water from a single downspout. However, you can start harvesting rainwater even before you get around to directing your downspout into your barrel system.
I bought my first rain barrel last year and decided to simply set it under a corner of my roof line where I usually have a steady stream of water. It rained later that day and, by the next morning, the barrel was too heavy to move. We got a little more rain that day, and my 55-gallon rain barrel was completely full. So that shows just how easy it is to capture 55 gallons of water that can then be used around your house and property.
The first step, of course, is to purchase and install a rain barrel or rain barrel system. If you would like to get a better idea of your catchment potential, The Ecology Center has a handy guide to help you determine the amount of water you can collect from your roof and how many barrels you may want to add to your system.
10 Ways to Use Rainwater from Rain Barrels
Once you have your system installed and begin harvesting rainwater, here are 10 ways you can use it as part of your water conservation efforts:
1. If you still have a natural grass lawn, you can reduce its water consumption at least a little by irrigating it with rain barrel water.
2. You can also use your harvested water to provide water for a drip system that irrigates non-food plants.
3. Use your rainwater to irrigate trees that do not produce food.
4. Use reclaimed water to water houseplants and flowers.
5. Rinse your recyclable cans and bottles with rainwater instead of water from the tap.
6. Spray down walkways, decks, driveways and patios with reclaimed water.
7. Use recycled water to fill your toilet tanks to flush your toilet.
8. Rinse down dog houses, sheds and other exterior surfaces with harvested rainwater.
9. Wash your car with rainwater – and get extra points if you park it on your lawn or near other plants that can be irrigated with the water as you wash it.
10. If you replaced your natural grass lawn with artificial turf, you can use reclaimed rainwater for the occasional spraying off it needs to continue looking clean. You can also use rainwater mixed with vinegar in a spray bottle to spray down areas your pets use as a restroom.
Now…you probably noticed that I did not mention some obvious uses for water, such as drinking, filling your dog’s water bowl and irrigating your vegetable garden. While there are some studies that show it is safe to use collected rainwater for these purposes, it requires special care to minimize risks and it is generally considered best to avoid these uses. If you are interested in watering plants grown for food with harvested rainwater, read this fact sheet published by Rutgers, which includes best practices for doing this.
For the most part, it is best to use potable water for drinking, filling water dishes for animals, and irrigating plants and trees grown for food. At the same time, you can increase your water conservation efforts by using your collected rainwater for some of the purposes mentioned above.
How do you use water from your rain barrels? Let us know in the comments below!
California continues to be in a state of drought, and if you have driven out by Lake Casitas lately, you know just how close to home this drought is hitting. Most of us have taken steps to reduce our water consumption, and nearly all Californians are living under mandatory water restrictions.
For example, as of July 1, 2016, Casitas Municipal Water District customers can only water outdoors on Saturdays before 10:00am or after 6:00pm, and customer allocations were reduced by 10%.
It is imperative that we continue our water conservation efforts and that we all look for more ways we can reduce the amount of water we use inside and outside of our homes.
To help you determine how you can save more water in your everyday life, here are 10 things you can do to conserve water:
1. Save Your Cooking Water
Water used for cooking vegetables or grains can be saved, allowed to cool, and then used for other purposes. Two of the best ways to reuse cooking water is to fill your toilet tank or water trees or a vegetable garden.
2. Replace Your Shower Head
If you haven't changed out your shower head since the early 1990s, it is definitely time for a new one. Older shower heads use about three times as much water as newer versions, so this is an easy way to immediately reduce the amount of water you use. Even if your shower head is post-1992, the newest models are likely more efficient than what you are currently using. The U.S. Department of Energy recommends choosing a shower head with a flow rate of less than 2.5 gallons per minute.
If you are a Casitas Municipal Water District customer, contact them to see about getting a free low-flow shower head as part of their water conservation project.
3. Invest in Rain Barrels
Rain barrels come in a variety of styles and are widely available locally and online. While you may shell out a bit more for the perfect barrel to match your home's architectural style, you can easily find basic rain barrels for less than $100. Plus, you may be eligible for a rebate through the Ventura County Rain Barrel Program.
You can opt for just one rain barrel, but you might be surprised at just how quickly they fill up. This means that you will probably want more than one, so you may want to purchase them at the same time to make sure they match.
You can use your harvested rain water to irrigate ornamental landscaping to conserve water and lower your water bill.
4. Stop Brushing Your Teeth in the Shower
Several years ago, we somehow got on the trend of brushing our teeth in the shower as a way to save water. Since you need no water to brush your teeth until it's time to rinse your tooth brush and rinse out your mouth, it is actually better to brush your teeth outside of the shower. Brushing them in the shower just prolongs your time in there, which means using more water.
5. Shorten Your Shower
While we are on the topic of bathing, we might as well mention an oldie but goodie. Shortening your shower by just a few minutes is one of the easiest steps you can take to conserve water in your home. You might be able to do this by shaving your legs every other day instead of every day or by washing your hair fewer times per week.
6. Install a Gray Water System
Gray water systems allow us to reclaim water we use in our homes to reuse for irrigation purposes. They are most often used to reclaim water used in washing machines. Water recaptured in this manner is best used for ornamental landscaping and should not be used to irrigate plants grown for food.
Depending on the type of gray water system you choose to install, you may need a permit. If you are working with a contractor, they can handle this process for you. If you are thinking about making this a do-it-yourself project, contact Building & Safety at the County of Ventura to see if a permit is necessary.
You can see a gray water system model at the Ojai Valley Green Coalition's resource center, which is located at 206 N. Signal Street, Suite S and is open Wednesday through Friday from noon to 5:00pm.
7. Reclaim Water Without a Gray Water System
You don't have to install a gray water system to reclaim some of the water you and your family use. With a few buckets and bowls, you can capture water used while showering, washing your hands or cleaning produce.
Again, it is best to use reclaimed water to irrigate ornamental landscaping. If you want to use this water on plants grown for food, be sure to only use non-toxic, all-natural or organic shampoos, conditioners and soaps.
8. Fix Leaks Quickly
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, a one-drip-per-second leak can waste 1,661 gallons of water in one year. Check your sinks, bath tubs, shower heads, toilets and outdoor faucets for leaks, and fix them right away to conserve water and save money.
9. Go Meatless Once a Week
You can save hundreds of gallons of water every year just by refraining from eating meat one day each week. If you also skip dairy once a week, you can save even more water.
10. Use Your Dishwasher Wisely
You can save more than 10 gallons of water per load if you wash a full load of dishes in your dishwasher, rather than by hand. If you have an Energy Star dishwasher (which you should), you can expect to save even more water. Large items, such as pots and pans should be washed by hand so that you do not take up space in your dishwasher that could be better filled with several small items.
What is your favorite way to save water in your everyday life? Let us know in the comments below!
AimeeJo Davis-Varela is the marketing director for The Davis Group and a freelance writer specializing in real estate, sustainable home improvement, eco-friendly landscaping, green living and travel writing.
by: Aimee Jo Davis-Varela
One of the many benefits of living in the Ojai Valley is the ability to enjoy outdoor living any month of the year. Cooking outdoors is an important part of this, and most of us look forward to hosting family barbecues or grilling with our friends when the weekend rolls around. While grilling is an eco-friendlier cooking method than indoor cooking in most cases, dowsing charcoal with lighter fluid and charring meats until they are barely recognizable are not that great for the planet or your family’s health.
The smoke from burning charcoal or wood is filled with carcinogens and unhealthy compounds that increase environmental pollution and can accumulate in our bodies, increasing our risk for a variety of ailments. When you use lighter fluid, you are also filling the air with harmful petrochemicals that are bad for you, your family and the planet. Top that off with some chemical-laden pest control products to keep your guests comfortable, disposable plates and cups that end up in a landfill, and even more chemicals being released into the air with every bit of fat that drops from your meat onto the grill, and you can see how conventional grilling may be a lot of fun but is not the healthiest activity.
Fortunately, all you need to do is take a few simple steps to green your grilling routine and make your next al fresco dinner party an earth-conscious affair. The first step, of course, is choosing the right barbecue. Propane is better than charcoal, natural gas and electric grills are better than propane, and solar-powered grills, hydrogen-powered grills and corn-burning grills are even better. Of course, if you don’t want to part with your beloved charcoal barbecue, you can go greener with your grilling by switching to lump charcoal, natural charcoal or plant-based ethanol discs.
Once you’ve found your perfect barbecue grill and are ready for your first cookout, try these simple tips to lower your carbon footprint and enjoy healthier, eco-friendlier grilling:
1. If you have to light your cooking fuel, use an electric starter or charcoal chimney, and skip the lighter fluid.
2. Avoid excess smoke by keeping your grill clean. Avoid chemical cleaners and use a paste made from baking soda and water instead.
3. Purchase local meats and produce to avoid the energy and pollution of transporting foods.
4. Purchase organic foods to avoid feeding your family and friends chemical-laden products and to help keep those chemicals out of the air, water supply and soil.
5. Make the most of your fire by preparing the entire meal on the grill and making enough for leftovers.
6. If you do not want to use your indoor dinnerware outdoors, purchase cloth napkins and tablecloths, reusable plates and glasses, and other reusable party supplies for your grill-based gatherings.
7. Use natural pest control methods, such as citronella oil candles, bay leaves tucked under chairs, rosemary or sage tossed into the fire, or marigolds, sage, mint or rosemary planted around your outdoor living areas.
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