If you want a thriving organic garden, you will need wildlife. I?m not talking deer, mice, and bears here, I?m talking bees, butterflies, ladybugs, birds, and other gardening pals, some that aren?t even wild! To attract them, you will need backyard wildlife habitat. A backyard habitat provides food, water, safe shelter, and nesting spaces for wildlife. Essentially, you need to ensure your garden meets all their basic needs!
Ever since I started gardening, I have wanted to also invite others to share the space and create a backyard wildlife habitat for all. While many pests are inevitably going to find their way into my garden, I also make an effort to get the good guys to call my garden home.
I even dedicated a chapter in my book, , to recipes for attracting backyard visitors (and a few more recipes to deter pests). Everything from plants to soil can affect the habitat of wildlife.
As I have been writing backyard wildlife habitat posts for many years, this post is a curated list that will help you encourage wildlife into your garden. From what plants to grow to DIY projects for critters, you?ll have a backyard teeming with wildlife in no time!
Why Create a Backyard Wildlife Habitat?
Creating a backyard wildlife habitat is essential as we continue to expand our cities. We need to create urban sanctuaries that are safe, healthy, and abundant for little critters to seek refuge. As we take away resources for bees, butterflies, birds, and other wildlife, it?s important that we also add it back.
Learn More About Backyard Wildlife and Their Habitats
Be it a small deck garden or a big urban backyard, everyone has the ability to make a wildlife-friendly oasis. The National Wildlife Federation has a wonderful program called . This encourages people to make their homes a haven for wildlife. Passing the certification means you get to boast about your accomplishments and encourage your family, friends, and neighbours to do the same!
For all my Canadian Gardeners, you can check out the Canadian Wildlife Federations similar program, . And for all my gardeners out in the UK, you can take The Wildlife Trusts? pledge for a .
Many of these projects, plants, and tips below can help you reach certification. Making a wildlife-friendly garden may be easier than you think!
Inviting Wildlife to Your Backyard Habitat
I don?t know about you, but the sound of buzzing bees gives me an immediate happiness boost. Bees, butterflies, and other lovely pollinators are always a welcome addition to my garden and I am sure to plant some flowers and buds with them in mind. Plus, they are practically free labour! We need them in our gardens, otherwise, we will be hand-pollinating our fruit trees with a paintbrush, or worse, using drone bees. Attract all the right insects by giving these posts a read.
Have you ever spotted a visiting bird from your window? It?s exciting to see these birds up close, especially if they are a rarity to your area. We can do bird watching from our own backyards! It?s fun to have these silly and songful visitors, acting as free backyard entertainment with their music, antics, and even pest control! Invite them in with these ideas and you won?t be disappointed.
Controlling Backyard Pests
While there may be some pests in your garden, it?s important to remember that all bugs exist for a reason. The anthill that has taken over your hostas may actually be helping to aerate the soil and clean up garden debris. That nasty cabbage worm that has taken a liking to your leafy vegetables is the same white butterfly that is pollinating all your blooms. I don?t recommend getting rid of all pests, because if we did that, what would the wildlife have to eat? Here are some ideas to naturally control the populations of pests while you attract predators to control them for you.
Yes, yes, chickens are not wildlife! They are livestock. I get that, but I thought there was still some room on this list to include the feathered friends we introduce into the garden as well. I included them because they are super helpful as pest control and even more fun as entertainment.
And the eggs!
There is nothing like having farm fresh eggs right from your own backyard.
In addition to providing us with delicious breakfast and baking material, they are also a wonderful gardening companion. While you putter away with your plants, they will eat up worms and grass right alongside you. Plus, their shells and poop make for great compost additions.
Be sure to check your local bylaws for regulations on chickens in your area. If you?ve got the A-okay, then start your hen research with these posts.
DIY Backyard Wildlife Projects
If you?re thinking to buckle down and get crafty, get out your tools and build these projects. These projects are aimed at making your backyard a more bug-friendly place, because, who doesn?t want as many bees and butterflies as possible, right? Incorporate them right into your garden or make them a new centerpiece. Try one of these projects and your local wildlife will thank you.
Great Read: Garden Alchemy
My book, has a whole chapter dedicated to working with backyard wildlife and a bunch more great recipes for the organic gardener!
Garden Alchemy is a hands-on guide for do-it-yourself gardeners who want to turn their garden into gold using natural recipes and herbal concoctions (while saving both time and money!). This gardening recipe and project book is packed with over 80 ideas to naturally beautify your garden, using organic methods that regenerate your soil and revitalize your plants. By following the processes that are closest to nature, it brings the gardener in sync with the garden, allowing plants to thrive with less effort and less cost.
Learn all about how to care for your granite and the earth at the same time by making your own DIY granite cleaner out of rubbing alcohol, castile soap, and a couple of essential oils. Using this alcohol-based cleaner will disinfect your countertops and leave them extra shiny!
Clean Your Countertops With An All-Natural DIY Granite Cleaner
When I moved into my new house, I was so happy to finally have granite countertops! The gorgeous rock-turned-showpiece counters made cleaning up the kitchen a bit more pleasant.
I also love how low-maintenance it is and that I can place a hot pan directly on the counter without destroying it. Now I can say first-hand that granite lives up to its reputation as the perfect counter material for a busy kitchen.
How To Really Clean Granite
Did you know there is a specific way to clean granite that is different from other types of countertops? I didn?t until I owned granite!
The one thing I didn?t expect was that I would have to buy a different type of cleaner for it. I use this everywhere else in my house, except my granite counters. Both the vinegar and the citrus are considered acidic and will wear away at the granite?s finish.
Instead, I used pure soap and water, which I know is safe for granite. However, over time, I?ve noticed my counters were becoming dull. It seemed that a soap residue had been collecting on the surface of my once beautiful counters.
I tried a few recipes for granite cleaners with different varying strengths and scents and have found one that combines my love of citrus-scented cleaners with my love for shiny granite.
This homemade DIY granite cleaner is made from all-natural ingredients and lasts a really long time. It only takes a few moments to mix it together too!
Follow these steps to make your granite countertops shine.
1. Clean Off The Counters
The first step in cleaning your granite counters is to wash them with soap.
When I made my DIY granite cleaner, I added Castile soap for this reason. is a biodegradable and non-toxic soap made from olive oil.
It works by helping break up food and other things that are stuck on your counters so you can wipe them away easily.
2. Disinfect The Granite
I recommend vodka as your best choice for an all-natural disinfectant. Vodka is only around 40% alcohol, so it isn?t sufficient to kill viruses. But it is a strong enough cleaner for me to use in my home and counters on a daily basis, I don?t have exposure to high risk locations so it is completely suitable for my family.
If you are interested in learning more about making a higher alcohol percentage formulation, . If killing viruses is important to you, then the formulation for your cleaner will need to be 60% alcohol. You can do this by using 120 proof alcohol or.
In this cleaner recipe, I added a few drops of and essential oils. Both of them are known for being naturally antiseptic.
3. Make Your Granite Counters Shine
My homemade cleaner recipe with castile soap can help leave granite nice and shiny. After your counter is completely clean, spray a tiny bit on the counters and then buff it in with a soft cloth. You can add a little bit more of your favorite all-natural oils on top for even more shine.
Frequently Asked Questions About Cleaning Granite
Still have a couple of questions? That?s okay! Here are a couple of questions other readers have asked about cleaning granite countertops?
How Do I Remove Stains?
If you do happen to get a stain on your granite, don?t panic. Here?s how to remove it naturally.
- Mix just enough water in some to make a thick paste.
- Then, gently begin scrubbing the post with the paste and a .
You don?t want to scratch the granite, so don?t use anything harsher than the baking soda paste and a soft cloth. It might take a few tries of this method to completely remove tough stains.
If the stain is particularly tough, apply the paste to it and then cover it with plastic cling wrap. Tape the plastic wrap to the countertop and let it dry.
Fair warning- This could take a few days! After it is dry, use to wipe away the paste and scrub it clean.
If that stain is from a permanent marker (all my parent friends out there know and fear the wrath of a ), a cool spot 11x11 popup gazebo tent instant with mosquito netting outdoor gazebo canopy shelter with 121 square feet of shade beige_700053 trick I learned is to colour over the sharpie with a and the wipe clean. This trick has removed permanent marker from so many surfaces in my home!
Can You Use Lemon On Granite?
As I mentioned, this DIY cleaner uses .
And as I also mentioned lemon or other citrus ingredients should not be used on granite because the acid in the lemon will wear out the granite.
Am I contradicting myself?
Thankfully, lemon essential oil doesn?t contain citric acid like in fresh lemon and other fruits. It?s completely safe to use a lemon essential oil on your granite but I would still recommend trying this cleaner out in a small section for a few days before applying it to all of your counters.
What Not To Use on Granite Countertops
Everything in my DIY granite cleaner is safe for your countertops. So if you are going to try and make your own, you should definitely try out this recipe.
At the same time, I wanted to pass along some of the things you should never use on your granite.
I would recommend trying to avoid:
All three of these are really acidic. They will dull the granite over time and could even weaken the sealant too! So, I wouldn?t use this homemade recipe because it?s too acidic. You can still make it but use it on other surfaces in your home.
You should also avoid using abrasive cleaning pads like steel wool as well. Granite can actually be scratched, so only use soft cloths when you are cleaning even stubborn stains!
Prevention is Key
Granite might not be as porous as marble, but it can still soak up stains which can be really difficult to get out. Mop up spills as soon as they happen before they penetrate the surface. You can also seal your granite and keep maintaining this seal which should make it resist stains even better!
DIY Granite Cleaner Recipe
Ready to make this fantastic granite cleaner? It?s simple! Check the recipe card below for the ingredients and materials you will need to make this homemade granite cleaner.
DIY Granite Cleaner
- 3 cups water
- 5 drops
- 3/4 cup
- 8 drops unscented
- 5 drops
Add all of the ingredients to a spray bottle.
Shake to combine.
More Natural Cleaning Recipes
Here are some more ways to use all-natural ingredients around your home.
Swiss chard is a popular vegetable to grow because you can enjoy both the leaves and the stems while also adding a splash of fun color to your veggie garden. It?s at home in both containers and garden beds (even ornamental borders!) and is a great long season crop in cool climates. If you can grow chard, you absolutely should! Here?s everything you need to know about growing Swiss chard.
Swiss Chard is the colorful star of this installment of the series, where we will talk about growing, harvesting, cooking, and eating these extremely ornamental greens.
What Is Swiss Chard?
Let?s start off by talking about what Swiss chard actually is.
Swiss chard is a leafy green vegetable that is closely related to beets and spinach. Like beets and spinach, the leaves are edible, taste great raw as baby greens, and grow up to be a hearty green that can be sauteed into a tasty side dish.
Of course, it?s most noticeable feature is its colorful stems! You will typically find they are bright pink, yellow, orange, red, pink or white colours ? I just love them!
To distinguish the different types of chard, let?s take a closer look at the colors of their stalks.
Different Types of Chard
There are many different kinds of Swiss chard you can grow in your garden. It just depends on what you are looking for flavour-wise.
Either way, all of them will add color and beauty to your garden!
Here are a few of the different kinds of chard you can grow:
- looks like rhubarb with deep red stems and dark green leaves
- has bright, almost neon, multicoloured stems and green leaves.
- is a fun variety with pink and white stripes on the stems and green leaves.
Frequently Asked Questions About Growing Swiss Chard
There?s a lot to learn out there about Swiss chard. That?s part of the fun and joy of gardening! Here are a couple of questions I have received about Swiss chard.
How Big Does Swiss Chard Grow?
If you water them enough, Swiss chard can grow up to be two feet tall! If you harvest them when the leaves are smaller, they will keep producing more leaves like cut-and-come again salad greens.
Can I Grow Swiss Chard Indoors?
Yes, you can grow Swiss chard indoors! However, you need to be careful and make sure they get as much sun as possible. You can , and as a few of the seedlings get larger, transplant them to a windowsill planter and let them grow to 6-8 inches before harvesting as baby greens.
Try and set them up next to a window that receives plenty of natural sunlight at all times of the day, but keep in mind that hot, direct sunlight streaming through the glass can burn tender leaves. It?s best to keep the planter just far enough away from the window that the plants get all the light but not the heat.
Can I Grow Swiss Chard in Containers?
This is a vegetable plant that does just perfectly in containers! If you want to learn how to grow Swiss chard in containers, refer to my . You will learn everything you need to know, including the best types of containers to use and how to water them! and then you can add a few plants to your decorative planters as well. Chard is the beauty queen of the vegetable world, and it looks wonderful alongside ornamental plants.
How To Plant Swiss Chard
Swiss chard is a very popular plant to grow in Zones 2-10 because it grows so quickly and it?s so breathtakingly beautiful too. It lasts for a really long time so you can grow it over many months and then harvest it over and over again during that time.
Just like with lettuce plants, you can harvest just the leaves and let the rest of the plant grow or you can harvest the whole head and leave space for the other plants around it to grow larger.
Like beets, each chard seed is actually a little bundle of seeds that will grow more than one plant. So no matter how diligent you are about spacing, you will have to thin them out to give the stems enough room to get big.
Thinning is the best part as it helps to really extend the number of months you can eat these beauties. Chard naturally grows a few plants together so it is ok with close quarters. They have pretty small roots compared to what grows above ground, so they can share space easily.
I go out to the garden to harvest chard regularly, removing small plants to give room for others to grow larger, or removing the largest ones to give room for the others to get big. I choose which to do based on how much chard I want to eat! It?s that simple.
Steps to Growing Swiss Chard
Chard comes in many different colors as I mentioned above and is highly decorative in the garden. This cool-season lover is right at home in the flower garden, but it makes such a delicious meal when cooked, that you will want to have lots on hand. You can really never have enough in my opinion.
Here is how you can grow your very own Swiss chard in your backyard!
1. Choose Your Favorite Chard Seeds
Before you even get to planting them, you want to make sure you know what you are going to grow. If you want a selection of vibrant neon stalk colors, then choose seed varieties like ?Bright Lights? or ?Rainbow.?
In optimal conditions, about 75% of the seeds will germinate which I?m sure is why Mother Nature has them packaged in bundles! You can start the seeds indoors and transplant them to the garden when they have 3 true leaves, or just plant them directly in the garden.
2. Plant In Full Sun
Plant the Swiss chard in full sun from mid-spring all the way through summer. The optimal soil temperature is 10-30?C (50-85?F) because this plant grows best when you plant it in the cool season. Chard is most sensitive to summer heat so plant it where it will get little shade in the hottest of the summer months.
Space the seeds 12? apart or closer and thin the small tender plants to add to salads.
Seeds should start sprouting in 7-14 days.
3. Water And Care for the Swiss Chard
Water well through the growing season. As the plants grow larger, they will need more water. Pay close attention to the pH of the soil as the ideal pH for Swiss chard is 6.0-6.5. By the way ? did you know you can right at home?
This plant prefers loose, deep, and fertile soil. So, you are going to want to fill it with lots of organic matter and add a liquid fertilizer or twice during the summer.
This will help it grow big and healthy!
4. Harvest Swiss Chard
Harvest individual stalks from the outer part of the plant and allow the inner ones to grow larger. If you notice the plants are starting to grow taller, harvest the whole plant before they ?bolt,? or send up a flower spike.
Overwintering Swiss Chard
Chard will do well in the winter in milder areas where winter temperatures don?t go below 15 degrees F. / -9 degrees C. Healthy summer plants will slow down growth in the fall and died back over winter. They might not look like much until the following spring when they pop back up again and the plant will quickly grow into sweet and tasty greens ready for your kitchen. See how and when to plant it here:
Swiss Chard Pests & Diseases
I find that chard gets a few pests and diseases worth noting. In my garden, leaf miners are the biggest culprit, but chard can also get aphids and flea beetles. The best advice I have for pests is to accept there will be some, and try to manage the population. Do a daily vegetable garden walk through and remove pest infested leaves or stems immediately. The leaves that are no affected are still tasty, so just wash them well and keep tossing the buggy ones in a bucket of water.
There are also a few fungal diseases that tend to pop up: Leaf Spot and Downy Mildew. Fungal diseases spread more easily when conditions are wet and there is a lack of spacing. Keep plants spaced properly, remove infected leaves immediately, and use this to treat and prevent more fungal growth.
How To Eat Swiss Chard
Now, let?s get down to brass tacks, shall we. I know you want to grow it, but is it worth the effort? I wouldn?t be writing this if not! Chard is one of my favourite vegetables OF ALL TIME. Seriously.
When the leaves are small and tender they can be harvested as baby greens and are great in salads and sandwiches. But let this robust vegetable grow to maturity and it each plant will give you enough food to serve a party!
It?s sooo tasty when the mature leaves are cooked correctly. It?s not hard to do, but you have to know WHAT to do: cook the leaves and the stalks differently!
Easy Sauteed Swiss Chard with White Balsamic
The leaves of Swiss chard are a lot like spinach and the stalks you would cook more like asparagus or green beans. My parents? neighbour once harvested a bunch and I watched her cook it, and now that is the only way I do it. You cook the whole thing together in one pan with this special chop and cook method.
- 4 cups prepared Swiss chard
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1-2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
- Salt and pepper to taste
Wash freshly harvested chard and dry in a salad spinner.
Cut the leaves away from the stalk and give them a rough chop. Set them aside.
Chop the stems in 2? long pieces and add them to a hot pan with the olive oil at the bottom.
Place the pan on the stove and cover over medium-low heat. Make sure that there is enough moisture for the chard and that the stems are steaming, not frying up. Add a bit more water if they seem dry.
After a few minutes, toss the chopped leaves on top. Grate a clove of garlic over the top. Drizzle another tablespoon of olive oil and the white balsamic vinegar over the leaves and cover again. I use less balsamic for tender chard, and a bit more to counter the bitterness of more mature chard.
Cook the chard like this until the stalks can be pierced with a fork and the leaves have wilted.
Stir and dress with salt, pepper along with more olive oil and vinegar to taste.
Or, try it with some fennel and goat cheese in this !
More Grow It! Eat It! Posts
There are more plants and vegetables you can pan to grow and eat, just like the Swiss Chard!
Simple Swiss Chard Side
- swiss chard
Cut the off the swiss chard stalk and roughly chop them, then set aside.
Chop the swiss chard stems into 2-inch long pieces.
Drizzle a little bit of olive oil into the bottom of a wok, then add your stems.
Put your pan over medium-low heat. Check to make sure there's enough moisture in the pan - you'll want your stems to steam, not fry.
After a few minutes, add the leaves to the pan.
Grate fresh garlic over the top. Drizzle olive oil and white balsamic vinegar over the leaves and cook again until a fork can pierce the stalk.
Remove from heat and add salt, pepper, olive oil, and white balsamic vinegar to taste.
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