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Backyard Betty Design

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Tag Archives: Green

Even with limited outdoor space it is possible to have an inviting functional area for you to enjoy as temperatures warm up.  I recently designed a balcony for myself, to meet my needs I included seating for two, and a table just big enough that I could do work or eat at. Speaking of eating, I love cooking with fresh herbs, so I incorporated customized planters and an assortment of pots planted with Rosemary, Thyme, Summer Savoury, Sweet Basil, Sweet Marjoram, as well as annual flowers and an ornamental grass for visual interest.  

Backyard Betty Balcony Design

Balconies are great, and allow for keen design opportunities to get creative and maximize the space you have to perfectly meet all of your needs, whatever they may be. Since the use of a balcony in this part of the world is primarily limited to the summer, the primary choice for all plant material should be viewed as temporary. My balcony design included the use of annual herbs, grass, and flowers, all of which can be started early indoors. Starting from seed will save you a fair amount of money, since with a balcony you are limited to a few of a few varieties one package of seeds really goes along way.

To be even more frugal, never feel like you should go out and buy new furniture, or new pots. Yard sales are great places to find REALLY cheap patio furniture and flower pots. Use your judgement though, if it can’t look awesome with a little bit of love, don’t buy it. To put this design together could cost me as little as $95, furniture, planters, pots, plants, soil. That’s pretty good considering, my left over seeds will be good for another 5 years, and the herbs can be harvested and dried to last me though the winter.


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By Kara

I’ve always been amazed by seeds.  Holding a single seed in your hand may seem insignificant but you are holding the fullness of that plant, you literally are holding the potential for something truly amazing. If you are at all familiar with quantum mechanics you know that seeds are the full representation of suspended animation.  Seeds are the only things on the planet that JUST need water to take it from a dormant inanimate object to something that is alive and growing.  

A pack of Certified Organic seeds, which I got for free at a trade show.

My preferred use for seeds is vegetables, herbs, and annuals flowers. I suppose that we could just make it simple and say that I prefer to seed things that will need to be removed with frost kill in the fall. One time only plants.

I like to do this because first of all, I have access to a very sunny window which makes starting my seeds early a really easy task, made easier with a reusable plant dome or trays and a table. Let’s not forget that watching plants grow is awesome, and a neat activity that kids can participate in as well.

Secondly, starting your own seeds is so much cheaper than buying already started plants from your local garden center. Although you may be able to get 6 lettuce plants for $7 which to you may seem like good value, buying a 50 pack of organic seeds is only $3, and all you need to do is water it, perhaps add a little natural fertilizer solution, and you still have 44 seeds for next year if properly stored.  

Thirdly, I don’t know about the plants that the local garden center is pushing, I don’t know what kind of seeds they came from, if they are genetically modified, or what kind of chemicals they may have been treated with. Speaking for myself, I’m not really a fan of the unknown when it comes to the food I put in my body.

 Lastly, many garden centers don’t start their own seeds, some do, but many of the big box stores have seedlings shipped in, which is a huge waste of gas and packaging, when a truckload of plants really equals a couple of hand fulls of seeds.


  1. Get a pack of organic seeds
  2. Get a clean air tight reusable container and line it with paper towel.
  3. Place seeds on the paper towel. (We can’t guarantee exactly how many will germinate, a good guideline is to add at least 3 extra seeds of each variety you are starting.)
  4. Moisten the paper towel and seeds seal the container and store. Because the container is air tight, the paper towel won’t dry out.

    Organic lettuce and tomato action!

  5. Give the seeds a few days to germinate (sprout)
  6. After your seeds have sprouted it’s time to plant! Depending on how many seeds and how many varieties you have going, you will either be planting them in pots or trays for your window until it’s time to plant outdoors.  The absolute best mix for your new “plantlings” is 50% potting soil, which is generally very nutrient rich to 50% sand. The sand/soil mix allows for the perfect amount of drainage and aeration, this will give you strong roots which in turn will be a healthy plant.
  7. Water when needed. (Use the finger test, touch the soil with your finger, if it’s clean, that means your soil is dry, and you need to water, if it’s dirty the soil is moist enough for the particles to stick to your dry finger.)
  8. Transplant to your garden! However only do this after the last anticipated frost date, in New Brunswick, most gardeners prefer to wait until after the long weekend in May. However more recently this date has been fudged by earlier springs, use your own judgement but don’t vary more than a week or two from the anticipated date. If a frost warning should come, cover your plants for the night.

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By Kara

When the majority of North Americans think of the word “organic” the first thing that comes to mind is produce that was grown without spraying toxic amounts of chemical pesticides. While the lack of spray pesticides is a great first step, organics goes way beyond pesticides.

In recent years most of the produce that you might find at your favourite fast food restaurant or on the shelves of your grocery stores produce department likely began in a lab. Since the late 90’s genetically modified produce has been approved for use in North America.

Genetic modification is something that a lot of people, let alone gardeners and farmers truly understand.  We understand genetic, and how that relates to our DNA, or the pattern that gives every living thing its unique characteristics. Genetic modification in plants generally and most efficiently happens at the seed level, this is because the largest amount of DNA is concentrated in the smallest space.

There are two main types of genetic modification. The first type includes spraying the seeds with herbicides/pesticides/fungicides which are effectively being absorbed into the plants genetic make-up. This means turning a normal tomato plant into a weapon against “pests”.  What is awful about this type of modification is the insect you are trying to control may not be the only insect benefiting from your garden.

We’ve all heard about the disappearance of bees in North America, we really need to be concerned about this. Bees are the most efficient pollinators on the planet, and are responsible for our food supply. This is to say, without our greatest natural source of pollinators we will be facing a MAJOR FOOD SHORTAGE.  Everything with seeds comes from a fruit (nuts are fruits too). Fruits are the offspring of a fertilized flower, more fertilized flowers equals more fruits.  If the flowers don’t get fertilized, then we don’t get fruit, and without fruit, we can’t get seeds.  While it is possible to fertilize flowers by just poking the center of a flower, that’s pretty inefficient if a plant has 20 flowers and you have an acre of crops.

The other type of genetic modification consists of removing a plants natural genes and replacing certain genes with the genes of other living things.  For example to make a type potatoe resistant to a potato beetle, you just need to splice some genes from a type of fish that is toxic to the potato beetle. No big deal right?  Well, yes, it is a big deal, the plants we have on the planet today have been evolving longer than humans have been around. Plants are made to thrive in the areas where they are naturally found. By adding genes from animals we are severely undermining the natural process, of letting the most naturally strong plants thrive.  Let’s not forget that we are undermining the decisions made by people who choose not to eat meat. 

The biggest problem when it comes to purchasing seeds is that modified seeds aren’t labelled. There is god knows what in the seeds, but thanks to government, and the race for the almighty dollar, we really have no idea what we are putting into our bodies with genetically modified plants. I would like to point out that this isn’t limited to the produce isle, flour, canola, olive oil, chips, ect anything that was once a plant.  Remember if it isn’t labelled organic, then it should likely be labelled “Genetically Modified” or perhaps just “Toxic” would suffice.

Think about this next time you are at the super market. It’s time we start becoming responsible for our food and what we put into our bodies. There is a lot of wisdom in the old saying “You are what you eat”.

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By Kara

I have mentioned that it really isn’t overly hard, complicated, or expensive to grow. But, I know that convincing YOU isn’t that easy. Maybe if I told you that the tomatoes from your “local” super box grocer are different then the kinds you could grow in your front yard. That’s right they are different.  I’m not a complete monster; I will explain how these store tomatoes are different.  Let’s do a retrospective on how those tomatoes made it into your home.

The tomato’s you eyeball in the grocery store were put there by a lovely and likely underpaid produce department worker. Before that they were sitting in a box on a shelf. Before they got to the shelf they were on a truck, before that they were either at big box distribution warehouse, or directly at a produce warehouse. Before that, they were on a truck again likely from a packaging facility. Before that they may have sat around for a while and were sorted. Before that they were harvested by either a machine, or an underpaid worker. Before that, they were likely sprayed with all sorts of things that got to the farm on a truck that came from a chemical factory. Before that, the farmer planted seeds, or seedlings.  That’s right. We are nearly to the end of our tomato tale but we are also at the crescendo. The farmer choose the variety of seeds for the tomato’s based on how well they can be shipped, not the tastiest variety, not the heartiest.  

Discovering the best variety of tomato seed could have either been done by natural plant breeding between varieties of tomato, or it could have been genetically modified. Genetic modification is a process where a scientist would replace tomato genes, with other plant or animal genes. The truth is you’ll never know if you tomato has been crossed with fish genes, because Genetically Modified foods do not yet need to be labelled. The farmers choice (as determined by the big box)for the best tomato variety based on the ruggedness of the tomato skin and its ability to be handled and shipped over a period of time,  in synch with the time it takes for a green under-ripe tomato to turn red .

We know that big box stores/produce pumping farms are not eco-friendly in their practices, we know that the food there has to get their on a truck that burns gas, and before that from a farm or factory where god only knows what else got in there from pesticides/herbicides/chemical fertilizers. We get tricked into thinking that because the grocery store tomato’s are convenient that they are the best, and  we’ll pay top dollar for that. We trade our money that we work all too hard for, to pay $3.99/lb for tomatoes selected for their ability to not turn to mush after a weeks of being handled, stored, handled, shipped, stored, handled again, purchased, and stored again on your counter or fridge.

You sacrifice quality by not growing yourself. That is, at this point quite obvious. What if I told you that for what you pay at your super market for 1lb of tomato’s  could grow you 100 great tomato  plants from seed, seeds from plants that are cultivated for the deliciousness and  hardiness of the tomato.  It’s ok to feel a slight sense of despair and anger knowing that you’ve been had by the supermarkets, and most of the agriculture and food industries. You may be shocked to know that it isn’t just tomatoes.  I know your thinking “Well I know a thing or two and I know it’s more complicated buying a package of seeds”. To which I respond, it is, but not nearly as complicated as you think, trust me.

Be sure to check back to learn how to go from seed to salad.

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By Kara

I’m too busy to tinker in a garden. I need to go to the gym. I need to go get groceries. When would I have the time to garden?  Our society is too busy to sustain itself, that is the sad truth that we have been learning.  Every home owner should be responsible for making the best use of their patch of land. My opinion is that making the best use of the land you have is having something that looks aesthetically pleasing and functional. This is attainable through good design, and bio-diversity.  Two things that many people know very little about, with proper plant choices it can be easy to have a great looking garden that also provides a crop yield. 

Making the most of your land, having a out-door space that is both pretty and practical doesn’t have to be time-consuming. Bed construction can be broken into smaller steps completed a few hours at a time at your leisure, or as a day/weekend project.  Maintenance time can be limited by (you’ll never believe how easy this is) selecting low maintenance plants.  In fact, substituting one gym session a week for  an equal amount of gardening time is more than enough to perform basic maintenance, and you still get the workout plus a free tan.

Creating a professional and functional landscape isn’t unimaginably difficult, nor does it require an advanced education or years of experience. Just ask the crew members of your local landscape companies. Many landscape workers are labourers with little or no education and depending on how fast a company goes through labourers may be somewhat inexperienced.  Not exactly bang for the buck, eh?

We have been conditioned to believe that we barely have time for ourselves, let alone the treachery of playing in the garden.  We have been conditioned to believe that growing our own vegetables is complicated and only “green thumbs” can do it. The truth is the color of your thumb has very little relevance at all.

It is my position that everyone is a gardener/landscaper/farmer. It is also my belief that we can do it in a manner that is sustainable, and affordable.  The biggest barrier for most people doing their own gardens is having no idea where to start, and the process involved in having a finished garden that they can maintain. It is my goal that by the time you are through reading you’ll have the zeal and zest (more importantly the information & steps) to want to tackle your own sustainable “yard farm garden”.

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by Kara

The internet is now the biggest platform for people to get together and share what you know. Backyard Betty Design is taking advantage of this platform to bring to you the upmost professional information about eco-friendly gardening and landscaping practices. I’m sure many of you know that not all gardening is eco-friendly, but maybe you didn’t know that some of the things you do to your own property are not only unfriendly, but toxic. I am here to guide you and help you sort out the best in environmentally friendly, energy efficient, sustainable gardening and landscaping practices.
In addition to gardening, you can look for our Guest Writer Series where we will feature experts in organics and nutrition. So stay tuned.

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