How to Start a Beginner Balcony Vegetable Garden from Seed

Start a container garden to grow plants you can eat!

A balcony vegetable garden is a fantastic way to take advantage of a limited amount of space and turn it green (and edible!).  After all, just because you live in an apartment, it doesn’t mean that you can’t grow anything except for that sad looking spider plant you occasionally water.  If you have any exterior space at all, you’ve got enough room to grow something.

Balcony Vegetable Garden Harvest

Planning Your Balcony Vegetable Garden

Any type of gardening requires a bit of planning. When you’re working with pots in a limited space, that planning takes a different form from what would be involved if you were digging into the ground.  Still, there are some basics that you need to begin growing plants anywhere at all. 

STOP

Be sure to find out if plants are allowed on your balcony and if there are regulations/limitations to what you’re allowed to grow or how much you’re allowed to grow. The last thing you want to do is begin a gorgeous container garden only to have to remove it.

Proceed

Once you’ve confirmed that your apartment or condo allows you to grow a balcony vegetable garden, and you’ve adapted your expectations to meet any limitations in place, you can continue your planning.

Before you buy anything at all for your balcony vegetable garden, grab a pen and paper (or your phone if you’re better at taking notes there than I am) and jot down:

  • How much space you have for pots
  • How much sunlight the space gets (keeping in mind that this will change at different times of the year, so you might need to approximate unless you started planning a year in advance)
  • How much wind and pelting rain the space is exposed to during the growing season
  • How much growing time you have (especially if you’re getting started once the growing season has already started)

This information will help to decide what types of plants you’ll grow and if you have time to grow them from seed or whether you’ll need to get seedlings this year because it’s too late to begin from scratch.

Naturally, there are a lot of other things to consider

Balcony Vegetable Garden

A Note About My Location/Zone

I’m writing this from Ontario, Canada, in a growing Zone 5b. My growing times and appropriate plants might be different from yours. Find out what zone you’re in by googling it.

If you don’t know what kinds of veggies thrive in your zone, I recommend joining an online group where people in the same zone as you talk about their gardens and are willing to answer newbie questions. I’m a part of a Facebook group based in my own city that has provided invaluable advice and vital frost warnings at the start and end of the season, too. Community is a surprisingly fun part of creating a balcony vegetable garden, especially when it comes to sharing pictures of your victories!  

Balcony Container Garden Supplies

What Do You Need to Start a Balcony Vegetable Garden?

The following is a list of the things a beginner balcony vegetable garden will require if you’re growing your plants from seed. 

1 – Time

I typically start planning my garden in February. That way, I can look into different seeds and the amount of time they’ll need to grow before they bear fruit…er…veg. I take into account that the last frost typically happens here at the end of May, so I’ll need to plant inside my home before taking the seedling outside, to maximize growing time and yield.

2 – Containers

Fabric Grow Bag - Amazon - Balcony Vegetable Garden

Containers need to be big enough for the plants you want to grow, but light enough that your balcony will hold the weight. Remember that the pots will be filled with soil, the plant itself, and water.  For many places, this means ceramic and terra cotta are out of the question. Plastic pots and fabric grow bags* have always worked great for me, but fiberglass or rice pots are also options.

3 – Watering Can

Balcony Vegetable Garden Watering Can - Amazon

Choosing a watering can* for a balcony vegetable garden might seem like something that can be done without any thought and planning, but it does require a bit of a balance. It’s unlikely that you have a garden hose outside to refill it. Therefore, you’ll need to remember that you’ll need to lug it from the kitchen sink or bathtub where you’ll be filling it. So it’s a balance between how much you can comfortably carry and how many trips you’d have to make.

4 – Seed Pots

Peat Seed Pots - Container Garden - Amazon

These are pretty easy to obtain. Little peat seed pots* can be found online, at garden centers or even dollar stores. For fast-growing seedlings, cardboard egg crates are a perfect choice (though not for slower growing plants because the cardboard does start softening and breaking down fast). Choosing something like peat or cardboard makes life far easier than going with plastic, since you can plant the whole darned thing into the bigger container later on when you move your balcony vegetable garden outside. The seed pots will break down in the soil. It’s way easier than fussing with the seedlings and trying to get them out of plastic containers and you’re far less likely to tear delicate little roots that way. Just make sure they have proper drainage and that you’re sitting them on a plastic tray that will catch the excess water/moisture after watering.

5 – Soil

The soil you choose will depend on the seeds you choose for your balcony vegetable garden. If possible, go for your lightest choice to help keep the overall weight to a minimum. Seedling soil is great for getting plants started and a general potting soil (not the same as the black earth and garden soils you’d choose for beds in a yard) will do the trick for most beginner plants. Pay attention to options such as organic soils, if your goal is to grow an organic garden.

6 – Grow Light

Grow Light - Balcony Container Garden - Amazon

Not every container garden needs this option. My windows are north-facing, so I don’t get the kind of direct sunlight seedlings need to thrive (my balcony gets far more light than my windows). If you’re growing your seeds at windows with low light, or intend to grow them away from a window, then grow lights* will be very helpful to you. These are quite affordable. I try to get red/blue LED wand-style. Mine has four adjustable wands so I can cover lots of area from one plug (which is on a timer, that I find hugely helpful). This will serve as your seedling sunlight until they can move outside for the real thing.

7 – Plant Labels

Plant Label Tags - Balcony Vegetable Garden - Amazon

Unless you’re growing just one or two plants in your balcony vegetable garden, plant labels* will be a lifesaver for remembering what is where. This is particularly important for beginners, when seedlings offer little help in identifying what is growing. Inexpensive plant tags and a sharpie remind you what you’ve planted so that you’ll be tending them properly.

8 – Seeds

Balcony Vegetable Garden Seeds - Amazon

Surprise! When you want to grow a balcony vegetable garden from seed, you need seeds! What you choose depends on your local weather, the amount of sunlight your balcony gets (the more hours of sunlight you get, the more options you’ll have), ease of growing (some plants are “beginner” plants, while others take some experience and knowledge), etc. Great options for beginner vegetable seeds with a decent amount of sunlight include:

  • Green/yellow beans
  • Snap/snow peas
  • Cherry/grape tomatoes (dwarf varieties…don’t get me started on my 8-foot cherry tomato plant. Let me just tell you that “sweet 100s” is not the variety for you)
  • Herbs such as basil, parsley, cilantro, mint
  • Leaf lettuce varieties (I had tons of luck with buttercrisp last year!)
  • Kale
  • Chives
  • Radishes
  • Swiss/rainbow chard
  • Potatoes
  • Bok choy
  • Green onions
  • Carrots
  • Some types of squash
  • Some types of peppers

Make sure to read the seed packets for the growing information recommended for each specific seed variety. If your balcony doesn’t suit the plant’s needs, don’t assume that you’re the exception and that you can make it work (not that I’m speaking from experience…ahem). You’ll only set yourself up for disappointment. Instead, find the perfect match for your space, don’t over-crowd, and have fun harvesting food you grew yourself on your own balcony container vegetable garden!

*This website is supported by its users. Commissions might be earned by this site when you click through the affiliate links here.

The 7 Best Must-Read Young Adult Book Series

Love at First Plight mask music

If you love YA novels, then these are the series that you can’t miss.

The young adult fiction genre has been adding some awesome books to personal, public, and ebook library shelves. Both stand-alone and series books have been taking off explosively!

It’s no wonder why. There have been some fun, unique, and genuinely captivating reads tossed into the mix over the last while. Readers of all ages are grabbing hold of the latest in young adult fiction at the same time that they reach back through the decades and centuries to some of the classics that are timeless enough to keep their audiences entranced.

Check out this list of young adult series favs. Obviously, this is far from a complete list. It is just a mention of the top few that are making waves in today’s reading scene based on results from sources like Goodreads, Google, Amazon, and others.

Warning: each series on this list is accompanied by a brief summary. While it has been written to provide the type of information you’d find on the back of the book so that there won’t be any spoilers, if you were hoping to start to read one of these books without any prior knowledge whatsoever, you might want to stop here.

The Hunger GamesThe Hunger Games – Root for Katniss Everdeen, the tough, independently-minded teen whose story begins on the day of the “reaping”, when tributes are chosen to take part in the Hunger Games. For purposes ranging from politics to sheer twisted entertainment, these representatives are pitted against each other to see which one will stay alive.

 

TwilightTwilight – Follow Bella Swan, as she arrives in the small town of Forks, Washington to live with her father, after having moved away from her mother in Phoenix, Arizona. She quickly finds herself facing danger – and one heck of a deadly crush – when she meets Edward Cullen, a vampire.

 

Perspective - Love at First PlightPerspective – Set on the world of Qarradune, this story begins with Love at First Plight, in which you meet Megan Wynters, an 18 year-old from Earth, and Irys Godeleva, a young lady of about the same age from Syliza, a country that is somewhat like a Victorian England-spinoff. The story of these books is told from each of the points of view of these two young women, as they fight with everything that they know to save each other, stay alive, and discover what is truly going on around them.

 

DivergentDivergent – This series drops you into a futuristic dystopian society that is broken down into five different factions. Each one represents a different virtue. Adolescents in this world need to decide whether they want to remain within their current faction or transfer to another one. Their choice will decide the path for the rest of their lives. In the case of Tris Prior, the selection she makes shocks everyone around her. Tris and the rest of her faction must then make their way through a brutal initiation process to be able to live with their choices.

 

The Maze RunnerThe Maze Runner – Thomas awakens on an elevator, one day, with only one memory: his name. Everything other than that is a mystery. When the doors to the elevator open, a group of teenage boys – who also remember only their names – pull him into a glade.

 

The 100The 100 – Following the destruction of Earth by nuclear war, the only remaining humans return to the planet after having lived on the Ark space station for 97 years. The decision is made to send 100 young prisoners to the surface, where they quickly establish a “no law” government system. Soon, though, the 100 discover that they are not alone, and must adapt rapidly to their new lives.

 

The SelectionThe Selection – This series combines romance with a dystopian society as America Singer finds herself among 35 young women who are chosen in a type of lottery to live in a palace and vie for the heart and hand of the handsome Prince Maxon. Unfortunately for America, her heart already belonged to Aspen, a young man who is trapped in a caste below her own. Living in the palace proves to be a far different experience than America had expected, and even as they suffer violent attacks from rebels, she finds herself questioning the plans that she has previously made for herself and opening her mind to different possibilities for the future.

Don’t see your favourite young adult fiction series there? Your own additions are welcome in the comments, below.

Fresh Pasta or Dry Pasta – Which One is Better?

It’s hip to be a foodie, these days, but does fresh really mean a more gourmet meal?

Penguin fresh pastaWhen it comes to food fashion, freshness is always better, but fresh pasta still isn’t nearly as popular as the dry variety. Does this mean that it isn’t as good? If that’s the case, why do all of the top Italian restaurants choose handmade noodles for their menus?  Why would so many chefs brag about it if it wasn’t superior to what you can easily purchase in a box or a plastic package in any grocery store?

The truth is that both types of pasta can be wonderful!

Fresh Pasta Barrie, OntarioThe most important factor isn’t whether you choose fresh pasta or dry. The key is to make sure that you insist on the best quality of the style that you do choose and that you use it for the right types of meals. Whether you’re choosing noodles or stuffed varieties such as ravioli and cannelloni, you need to know that the perfect flours have been selected, that only all natural ingredients have been brought together, and that no cheap fillers have been added.

Fresh pasta is an art form that is best used with high quality sauces.

Dry PastaWhen you do opt for handmade fresh pasta, then make sure that you pair it with the perfect kind of sauce. Since these noodles are softer and tender in texture, a more delicate sauce is preferable. This allows the beauty of the dish to shine through without becoming overwhelmed. Fettuccine Alfredo, for instance, is perfect when you have chosen to go fresh. Also ideal are light sauces made with tomatoes, oil, cream, or herb-flavoured butter.

On the other hand, dry pasta is a heartier, type of noodle that pairs well with more rustic types of dish, such as ragu sauces, and in casseroles and soups. It is has a firmer texture that will be able to hold its own with stronger ingredients or when submerged in liquids for a longer period of time.

Handmade Fresh PastaStrangely enough, fresh pasta can prove offer a much faster way to serve a noodle-based dish. If you make the pasta in advance, or if you pick it up from an artisan who uses traditional methods to create handmade noodles, then it takes fewer minutes to create a gourmet dish with fresh than it would with dry. So if time is a factor, freshness does help, as you don’t need to wait the extra time to rehydrate the noodles; you just need to heat them up.

10 World-Changing Geniuses Who Suffered from Mental Illnesses

As the famous saying popularized by Stan Lee’s Spider-Man (2002) movie goes: “With great power comes great responsibility.” Similar to that, though not quite as woven into comic book culture, is the phrase “With great genius comes great risk of mental illness.” Not quite as sexy, but just as fascinating! Especially when you apply that concept to some of the sharpest minds in human history.

Julie Campbell writer - geniuses with mental illnessFor over a century, speculations have been developed regarding the specific conditions suffered by many of these individuals. As it turns out, some of the brightest people throughout history have been heavily associated with fits, extreme oddness, and plain-old insanity. If you were hoping to change the world through the powers of your mind, you might think again after reading this list of some of the top geniuses that humankind has ever known, who also suffered deeply from mental woes.

Vincent van Gogh1. Vincent van Gogh (1853 – 1890)

Who better to start the list of geniuses than the most famous individual in history to cut off his own ear? (Link 1) Indeed, van Gogh did slice off his left earlobe in 1888, with a razor blade, and then subsequently painted a self portrait of himself, cleverly entitled “Self-Portrait with a Bandaged Ear”. However, the behaviors of this genius who changed the face of the artistic world – with paintings such as “Starry Night”, “The Cafe Terrace on the Place du Forum”, Starry Night over the Rhone”, and “Irises, Saint-Remy” – indicated that he suffered from one or several different mental disorders.

Speculations (Link 2) about what condition was behind his bizarre behaviors – which ranged from attempting to eat paint to drinking turpentine, and from psychotic behaviors that aligned with the seasons to eventually committing suicide – have included bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, epilepsy, lead poisoning, acute intermittent porphyria, Méniere’s disease, and even sunstroke.

John Nash2. John Nash (1928 – )

Even without following the fascinating world of mathematics over the years (likely because most of us would describe most of mathematics as less-than-fascinating), many of us can still name a very important Nobel Prize winning mathematician (won in the field of Economic Sciences). That person is John Nash, whose story was popularized (through some artistic license) in the movie “A Beautiful Mind”.

Nash (Link 3) created the “Nash Equilibrium” and has greatly progressed the concepts of game theory and economics through his contributions. Some of his ideas were used by the U.S. Military for their own Cold War tactics. At the same time that he has come up with these groundbreaking thoughts, Nash has also been suffering from schizophrenia, which has caused him to experience delusions and hallucinations, including hearing voices.

Abraham Lincoln3. Abraham Lincoln (1809 – 1865)

Abraham Lincoln may have been the Great Emancipator who brought the United States through one of the most difficult periods in its own history, using his genius, strategy, and sheer gall, but he suffered severe consequences as a result. Indeed, the evening at Ford’s theatre was certainly a drawback to his political efforts, but aside from the loss of his life from the intensity of his career, he also suffered the loss of his mental health (Link 4).

Some of the most challenging times that he faced as U.S. President were also the periods in which he suffered from the most severe bouts of depression. He was seen as being greatly melancholy (Link 5) by those who knew him. It is even believed that he was the author behind a poem that was published in 1838, called “The Suicide’s Soliloquy”.

Isaac Newton4. Sir Isaac Newton (1642 – 1727)

Know as one of history’s most brilliant thinkers, Sir Isaac Newton (the guy we know best for being hit by an apple while sitting under an apple tree) made many broad-reaching contributions to both mechanics and physics. Many believe that his influence on these fields exceed that of Einstein. He invented calculus, developed laws of motion, explained “universal gravitation” and even constructed the first reflective telescope (Link 6). Take that, Einstein!

Outside of making unparalleled changes to our understanding of the way things are, Newton suffered from massive mood swings, psychotic tendencies, and antisocial behaviors. It is now believed that he likely suffered from bipolar disorder, but that because of his delusions (as described in his own letters) it is also thought that he was likely schizophrenic (Link 7). Many have speculated that his mental conditions may have been the outcome of a prolonged and highly traumatic childhood experience.

Charles Darwin5. Charles Darwin (1809 – 1882)

The man behind “On the Origin of Species” and the tremendous controversy regarding his theories on evolution made contributions to biology and science that would change the way the world looked at all of the millions upon millions of species of life. He became famous for the voyage that he took on the Beagle over a period of five years, which was a time that defined and made his career, but during which he was nearly incapacitated for the full length of the trip. It is not known exactly what was wrong with him (Link 8) but he suffered from visual hallucinations, hysterical crying, constant trembling and nausea.

It has been speculated by many that these were all symptoms of a severe case of agoraphobia (Link 9), which were exacerbated from having to live in close quarters with the other people on the boat. After turning thirty, he was bedridden nearly all of the time, avoiding speaking with everybody; including his own children. At least one letter from Darwin mentioned that he had feelings of suicide as a result of the controversy associated with his most famous publication. It has also been suggested that he might have been a hypochondriac and that he suffered from obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), due to the meticulous records that he kept of each symptom – new or recurring – from which he suffered.

Yoshiro Nakamatsu6. Yoshiro Nakamatsu (1928 – )

Yoshiro Nakamatsu is a genius inventor who has the world record for the largest number of patents that anyone has owned in history. While Thomas Edison is typically considered to be a massive patent owner, having slightly over a thousand to his name. Nakamatsu, on the other hand, has well over 3,000 of them, making Edison look like quite the slacker! Many of the patents are for items that the world uses on a daily basis, ranging from the CD to the DVD, and from the taxicab meter to the digital watch.

That said, in the great tradition of being a genius with mental illness, Nakamatsu also has a severe case of obsessive compulsive disorder. He conducts extensive analyses of everything that eats (made up almost entirely of “Yummy Nutri Brain Food” which consists of yogurt, seaweed, beef, cheese, eel, eggs, and chicken liver), meticulously recording and cataloging each ingredient and its related information, because he is determined to live to exactly 144 years of age (Link 10). He has dedicated his life to surviving for that precise number of years. He sleeps for exactly four hours every night and regularly holds his breath underwater until he brings himself near the point of death. He believes that depriving himself of oxygen to that degree provides him with the “flash” he requires to be inspired to invent something new, which he records on a special waterproof writing pad made of Plexiglas…that he invented.

Edgar Allan Poe7. Edgar Allan Poe (1809 – 1849)

Due to the nature of the poetry and prose created by Edgar Allan Poe, it may not come as a complete surprise that he was suffering from a form of serious mental illness. His genius as a horror writer – having produced works such as “The Raven”, “The Masque of the Red Death”, “The System of Doctor Tarr and Professor Fether”, and “The Murders in the Rue Morgue”, and so on – is clear and has been celebrated worldwide.

Unfortunately, his skill as a poet did not save him from mental illness (Link 11), which included a drinking problem and a battle with suicidal thoughts, which he described in a number of letters. It has also been speculated that he may have had bipolar disorder. Although the circumstances and the causes of his death at the young age of 40 are not known, it is believed that it was likely linked to his drinking, which may have led to heart failure.

Nicola Tesla8. Nicola Tesla (1856 – 1943)

Nicola Tesla has made a long list of contributions to humanity and to the lives we live today. Among his inventions include wireless technology, the induction motor, radio astronomy, AC, radar, the Tesla Coil, and even robotics. Though he never actually created one, he was also the original person to think up the idea of a “death ray”.

Although an individual will typically need to be very focused on detail to be able to create the type of inventions that Tesla had on his list, he took that to the far extreme with a severe case of obsessive compulsive disorder (Link 12). He was obsessed with the number three, needing to circle the block 3 times (clockwise) before ever entering a building. He would stay in a hotel room only if its number was divisible by 3. At his meals, he would use precisely 9 napkins (which he stacked in piles of 3). Much of his mealtime was spent calculating his food volume before he would actually consume it. Another of his obsessions was with pigeons, which he loved to the degree that he would import special seeds so that he could feed these birds in the park. Occasionally, he would bring a pigeon home with him. He despised jewelry (particularly earrings, pearls, or a combination of the two), had a fear of anything metal and/or round, and would never touch anything with dust on it.

Ludwig van Beethoven9. Ludwig van Beethoven (1770 – 1827)

The musical genius of Ludwig van Beethoven is recognized not only for its profound beauty, but also because the composer of these magnificent works created many of them while completely deaf; a state which occurred at some point in his life between the ages of 30 and 49 years old. What is less commonly known is that Beethoven was the victim of a terrible childhood (Link 13), and that he was raised by a father who was both abusive and an alcoholic.

The struggles in his life, and in composing as he gradually lost his hearing caused Beethoven to battle with mental illness (Link 14), including suffering from thoughts of suicide, which he described in letters to his brothers. However, it is also believed that he was not just suicidal, but that he also had bipolar disorder. History has shown that the composer would have wild emotional bursts ranging from blissful euphoria to deep depression. This – and the digestive discomforts of which he frequently complained – may have been caused by lead poisoning, as tests of his hair samples have shown that they contained a lead content that was dangerously high.

Michelangelo10. Michelangelo (1475 – 1564)

One of the most skilled artists of all times, Michelangelo contributed to the world by adding stunning sculptures, paintings, architecture, poems, and even Renaissance engineering. He was the man behind the stunning ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, among other breathtaking pieces.

In 2004, however, the understanding of this artist changed when the Journal of Medical Biography published a study that suggested that he had clear signs of a high-functioning level of autism (Link 15). He had a well known single-minded routine and was, according to his friends and family “preoccupied with his own reality”. This was common among all of the male members of his family. Michelangelo was said to have experienced serious struggles in developing relationships with other people, having very few friends and not bothering to attend the funeral of his own brother. This, in combination with his clear genius in art as well as in mathematics, has brought researchers (Link 16) to believe that he likely had Asperger’s, the highest functioning condition on the autism spectrum.

We consider these ten geniuses to be among the greatest minds of all time, and yet it turns out that their minds were sometimes their own worst enemies. This certainly makes mediocrity a lot bit more appealing for the rest of us, doesn’t it?

Sources

Link 1 – http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/sudden-genius/201103/does-madness-enhance-or-diminish-genius
Link 2 – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8242520
Link 3 – http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/nash/peopleevents/p_jnash.html
Link 4 – http://www.takepart.com/article/2013/05/01/abraham-lincoln-struggle-with-depression
Link 5 – http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2005/10/lincolns-great-depression/304247/
Link 6 – http://www-history.mcs.st-and.ac.uk/Biographies/Newton.html
Link 7 – http://corrosion-doctors.org/Biographies/Newton.htm
Link 8 – http://www.americanscientist.org/issues/pub/2009/3/darwins-enigmatic-health
Link 9 – http://www.icr.org/article/112/
Link 10 – http://www.spike.com/articles/5xmj4e/the-top-10-crazy-bastards-who-actually-changed-the-world-for-the-better
Link 11 – http://iml.jou.ufl.edu/projects/Fall05/cusatis/
Link 12 – http://io9.com/5648455/the-mad-scientist-hall-of-fame-nikola-tesla
Link 13 – http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMbkrev58635
Link 14 – http://www.vaniercollege.qc.ca/tlc/publications/soundings/soundings-2008/philip-dehm.pdf
Link 15 – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15079170
Link 16 – http://www.webmd.com/mental-health/news/20040526/did-michelangelo-have-autism

6 Ways You’re Not Using Light to its Fullest (but probably should)

Julie Campbell writer - using light

The one resource that we all have, that we barely understand, and that we could be using for dozens of very powerful purposes (but aren’t), is light – which you have likely already figured out because of the title. 😉

Julie Campbell writer - Light spectrumLight is an incredible form of energy, but unless your favourite class in school was science, and you just can’t get enough of the latest energy, biology, and medical journals, then the odds are that you’re not using all of this free power to its fullest.

Is this an ad for solar panels? Absolutely not! This blog doesn’t sell anything! But you can choose to take this information and use it for a lot of very positive benefits in your life, if you want.

Check out some of the greatest ways you could be using light but aren’t (yet!).

1. Skin Care

You may have been told that the best way to keep your skin healthy is to stay out of the sun because the UV light will cause photodamage and increase the risk of skin cancer, which is true, but certain other wavelengths of light can do a lot of good for your skin! In fact, by using the right wavelengths of light through certain properly designed lamps and LED bulbs, you could actually throw away many of the products that you’ve been purchasing from the drugstore to try to resolve a number of your skin issues.

Light will never replace a proper cleansing and moisturizing routine (or the application of a good SPF lotion when you’re headed outside), but it can provide a natural, healthy, side effect-free substitute for many other products that you likely use – or have used – in your life. Here are some of the products you could throw away if you had the right LED lamp at home:

• Acne Creams

Julie Campbell writer - blue and red lightThrough the use of blue and red light, acne can be both healed and prevented without drying or the use of any medications. It is gentler on the skin, encourages a healthy complexion through natural processes in the skin, and the devices cost far less than the medicated products that you would purchase over the lifetime of the lamp.

• Anti-Aging Creams

Julie Campbell writer -red lightIn this case, treatments with red light that you can use at home can help to boost collagen and fibroblast production, increase circulation to the skin, and promotes better activity in the lymph system. This helps to reduce the look and appearance of wrinkles and fine lines, decrease the appearance of broken capillaries, repair damage from the sun, moisturize the skin, and even promotes smoother, more even skin. Again, like the acne creams, one lamp at home is far cheaper than all of the anti aging creams, lotions, and serums that you’ll buy over the years. NASA was behind a great deal of the research at the foundation of this discovery, for these devices that are now FDA approved.

• Skin Calming/Anti-Redness Creams

Julie Campbell writer - amber lightIf you have reactive skin or conditions such as rosacea, which cause the skin to be flushed and red, the amber light could allow you to toss all of those skin soothing and calming creams that are supposed to reduce redness, but rarely do (although many will increase your skin’s sensitivity to sunlight, which can worsen the problem). You’ll save a fortune on all of those specialty products and give your skin a much gentler treatment than those from a bottle.

2. Hair Loss

Julie Campbell writer - hair loss light therapyBelieve it or not, low level light therapy (L.L.L.T.) is being used as an effective treatment option for hair loss. It uses red to near-infrared light that is emitted from either a light emitting diode (LED) device or a laser. Laser treatments need to be received from a licensed professional in a clinic, but LED treatments can be done at home while you surf the net or watch TV. Although not all forms of hair loss are treatable, most of the most common forms – such as androgenic alopecia (male pattern hair loss) – can benefit from this method as an alternative to prescription drugs, hair transplant surgery, and other experimental treatments. It is also being used for alopecia areata (female pattern hair loss) and can improve the health and texture of hair that is already growing unassisted.

3. Mental Health

Julie Campbell writer - SAD treatmentOur current lifestyles – combined with the fact that many of us live in climates that are too hot or too cold to allow us to remain outside for any length of time – have forced us to live the majority of our lives indoors, out of direct sunlight. Though this does help to keep our skin protected from sun damage and lowers the risk of skin cancer, it does make another condition much more common.

This condition is called seasonal affective disorder (SAD), and it is quite serious. It sends millions of people into a form of depression during the fall and winter months of every year. A light therapy box is a highly recommended form of treatment by many doctors and highly reputed medical organizations, such as the Mayo Clinic. It consists of a device that has a stand or that can sit on a tabletop, that shines a full spectrum light onto you as you sit at work or watch TV. It safely mimics the impact of natural light in order to help prevent and overcome SAD.

4. Physical Health

Certain forms of light can help you to heal wounds, fight disease, prevent illness, and even cure certain conditions. Some of the ways in which light can physically treat you include the following:

• Neonatal jaundice

Julie Campbell writer - neonatal jaundice light therapyFor more than 30 years, it has become a very common practice in hospitals in Canada, the United States, and many other parts of the world, to use blue light wavelength exposure to help to treat newborns and infants with jaundice. This phototherapy allows the baby’s body to naturally eliminate the bilirubin in the bloodstream. A single blue LED spotlight of the right wavelengths, or a row of smaller lights, shining directly on an undressed (diapered and eye-patched) baby is often all the treatment that is needed to overcome this condition. This completely avoids the need for a blood transfusion.

• MRSA infections

Julie Campbell writer - MRSA light therapyIt has never been more important to avoid overusing antibiotics in order to reduce the instance of resistant strains of bacteria. For this reason, it is becoming common practice (and already is in some Canadian and American hospitals) to use light based therapies and treatments to prevent and treat infections of drug-resistant bacteria, such as MRSA, following a surgical procedure.

• Vitamin D Deficiency

Julie Campbell writer - vitamin DAs is the case with the development of SAD symptoms, our indoor lifestyles are also reducing the vitamin D levels in our bodies. The production of vitamin D is dependent on exposure to certain light wavelengths that we simply aren’t getting. Though milk is supplemented with this nutrient, studies are showing that the majority of the population still isn’t receiving this nutrient in adequate supply. This can lead to a number of health problems and symptoms, and researching is beginning to suggest that vitamin D deficiency is also increasing the risk of certain cancers, such as breast cancer. The use of the right light emitting products can help to make sure that our bodies are producing adequate amounts of vitamin D in order to keep us healthy.

5. Home Energy

Julie Campbell writer - solar panelOf course this list wouldn’t be complete if solar panels for home energy weren’t recognized. Though they are seen as relatively expensive, the price of the panels is falling, while their efficiency is increasing, meaning that it is costing less to be able to generate a larger amount of energy. Some programs are available in certain regions that allow a homeowner to receive the panels and their installation for free, provided that they agree to be connected to the grid so that any excess energy that is generated will contribute to the local community. Many of these programs will even share some of the profits with the homeowners. Not a bad deal for free, green solar energy!

6. Sneezing

Julie Campbell writer - sneezing from sunlightAlright, sneezing isn’t exactly an area where you can benefit from light but it was considered fun and interesting, so it couldn’t be left out of this list! After all, interesting information is what The Discovery Spot is all about!

Between 18 and 35 percent of the human population is affected by what is known as a “photic sneeze reflex”. That’s why you or someone you know will often sneeze when suddenly exposed to bright light. For example, if you’ve been inside in dim light all day and you step outside into direct sunlight, you may sneeze – or you know someone who would in this same circumstance. This condition is harmless, inherited, and very poorly understood. Aristotle blamed it on the sudden heat from the sun onto the nose, while today’s scientists feel that it has something to do with a cranial nerve relating to motor control and the senses that is reacting to signals from the optic nerve. Whatever it is, it’s interesting and it’s all brought to you by light exposure.

Julie Campbell writer - using lightHave you ever used light for any of these reasons (or others, for that matter)? Please share your stories through the comments below. Find out what your friends have tried to accomplish with light by sharing on Facebook, Twitter, and other social networks (buttons conveniently provided below). Sharing this kind of science will also make you look smarter. 😉

SOURCES:

http://lighttherapyoptions.com/acne-light-therapy
http://lighttherapyoptions.com/what-is-red-light-therapy/red-light-therapy-for-anti-aging/
http://www.academia.edu/1276426/Red_Light_Therapy_-_Does_Red_Light_Therapy_Anti-Aging_Treatment_Work
http://lighttherapyoptions.com/what-is-light-therapy/amber-light-therapy/
http://link.springer.com/chapter/10.3920%2F978-90-8686-728-8_19?LI=true
http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/light-therapy/MY00195
http://www.med.umich.edu/1libr/pa/umphototherapy.htm
http://www.vancouversun.com/health/Light+therapy+cuts+post+surgery+infections+Vancouver+General+Hospital+with+video/7694026/story.html
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10888476
http://www.pure-energies.com/makeitright/
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8108024

The Best Home Remedies that Actually Work With Stuff You Actually Have!

Julie Campbell writer - home remedies

There are a lot of home remedies out there. Thousands of them, in fact. The problem with many of them is that they either don’t work, or they include items that you just don’t have when you need them. To be a home remedy that is realistically beneficial, it has to work well enough that it is worth giving up all of the over the counter and prescription medications that could alternatively be used, and it has to be something that you don’t need to climb Mount Everest to obtain.

Julie Campbell writer - best home remediesAfter all, if you were just stung by a bee or are suffering from a migraine, the last thing that you’ll want to do is drive across town to a specialty health food store where you can buy the rare, ultra-purified, organic and humanely harvested tears from a pink sparkly dragon. At the same time, if you’re trying to manage eczema, you don’t want to cover yourself in something unpleasant or stinky for an hour if it doesn’t make the slightest bit of difference to the rash, itching, or length of time that an outbreak takes to clear up.

So here are some of the best home remedies for common ailments, which actually work, and that use items that you probably have in your cupboards on any given day.

1. Upset Stomach

Julie Campbell writer - nausea remedyWhen your stomach is upset, there are two home remedies that can make a very big difference in helping to ease the discomfort: baking soda and tea (though not together, ew!). Both peppermint tea and fennel tea are great for easing stomach discomforts and help you to relax. Relaxation enhances the benefits because it eases your body’s muscles, which is also important for combating nausea. If your upset stomach is caused by overeating, gas, or excess stomach acid, try a glass of warm (not hot) water with a teaspoon of baking soda mixed into it. This will neutralize the extra acids and reduce gas pain and bloating.

2. Sore Throat

Julie Campbell writer - sore throat remedyNext time your throat is sore, mix up a batch of your own healthy syrup, using ingredients in your kitchen that will work quickly to ease the discomfort. In a small jar, mix 1 tablespoon of honey with 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar, 2 tablespoons of water, and ¼ tablespoon of cayenne pepper. This also helps to ease a persistent cough.

3. Eczema

Julie Campbell writer - eczema remedyEase the itchy rashes and scaling from this condition by taking a warm (not hot) bath in uncooked oats and/or a bath that includes a sprinkling of baking soda. To make sure that the oats won’t wreak havoc in the tub drain and plumbing, run them through the blender and turn them into a powder before adding them to the bathwater. Stay in the bath for only 5 to 10 minutes, and don’t dunk your head under the water.

4. Warts

Julie Campbell writer - warts remedyMany people find that all that is needed to get rid of an ugly, painful wart is duct tape! That’s right, it’s not just for fixing upholstery on recliners anymore! It is believed that this works because when the tape is applied to the wart, it becomes irritated, which triggers the immune system, encouraging the natural healing process. The tape should be changed twice per day. Between applications, soak the wart in warm water and gently exfoliate with a pumice stone (dispose of the stone when the wart has healed).

5. Constipation

Julie Campbell writer - constipation remedyIf you need help getting things moving, drink a glass of warm (not hot) water with lemon juice in it. Avoid adding sugar, this will only make the constipation worse. Remember that this is a remedy, not lemonade. Drinking this first thing in the morning every day can also help to prevent the constipation from recurring (especially when combined with a high fiber diet). If you need an extra boost, toss a handful of raisins into some water and soak them overnight. First thing in the morning, drain water and eat the raisins on an empty stomach. Note: do not take this remedy immediately before a long morning commute on public transit or in bumper-to-bumper traffic.

6. Foot Odor

Julie Campbell writer - foot odor remedyDo you find that your feet stink even if you shower every day and wear clean or new shoes, or even if you’re going barefoot? A daily foot bath at the end of the day may be all you need to stop the stink from coming back. The odor is coming from bacteria that naturally resides on feet. Kill it with one of two foot baths. The first is a soak of one part vinegar to two parts warm (not hot) water. The second is strong black tea that has been allowed to cool so that it is merely warm. Either of these baths, done daily for a week, will take care of the excess bacteria levels. While you’re at it, sprinkle some corn starch, talc, or baby powder into your shoes and always wear good quality, clean socks. Only soak your feet if they do not have any cuts.

7. Bad Breath

Julie Campbell writer - bad breath remedyPut an end to bad breath by gargling with a bit of lemon juice for thirty seconds. This will kill the odor causing bacteria in your mouth. Spit that out and then eat some plain, unsweetened yogurt. It’s lactobacillus beneficial bacteria content will replace the stinky stuff you just eliminated. This combination will neutralize the odors for 12 to 24 hours and is great for digestion, to boot!

8. Chapped Lips

Julie Campbell writer - chapped lips remedySoften and ease chapped lips by rubbing olive oil onto them two to three times per day. If you have a lot of dry, peeling skin on your lips, add a bit of sugar to the olive oil and gently massage it on like a scrub before rinsing it away and replacing it with plain olive oil. Olive oil is an antioxidant, an anti-inflammatory, and a great moisturizer.

9. Blisters

Julie Campbell writer - blisters remedyBlisters are extremely painful and make it difficult to function until they’ve fully healed. Speed up the process by soaking a cotton ball in a good antiseptic mouthwash and gently hold it against the blister for a few seconds. Do this three times per day to encourage the blister to dry out and heal up more quickly. Note: resist the urge to pop the blister. This does not speed healing but it greatly increases the risk of infection. As long as a blister is in-tact, it remains sterile inside.

10. The Common Cold

Julie Campbell writer - cold remedyEven the best efforts to prevent catching a cold aren’t always effective. Once you have one, though, there are some things that you can do to cut it short. This one is relaxing, warming, and tastes good, too. As soon as you think that you might be getting a cold (or if someone in your family has one and you think that you risk catching it), sit back and enjoy a twice-daily cup of this remedy. Squeeze the juice from half of a lemon into a big mug. Once you squeezed out all the juice, add the “spent” lemon half right into the cup. Add a teaspoon of honey and fill the cup the rest of the way with boiling water. Let that cool to the point that you can drink it and enjoy. It may not stop you from catching the cold, but its immune system boosters can shorten its length and severity.

Turns out that getting healthy isn’t that hard or expensive, after all! Please note that these are not cures. They are home remedies that are commonly known to be very helpful in treating these conditions for many people. Before you use any of them, it’s still recommended that you speak with your doctor to ensure that your condition has been properly diagnosed.

Know a great home remedy that works and that uses items and/or ingredients found in most kitchens? Please share them by clicking “Leave a Comment” below this post!

10 Air-Purifying Plants That Don’t Require a Green Thumb

Julie Campbell writer - plants

The air in all homes contains a certain level of unhealthy toxins that are both completely invisible odorless. Gross, right? They’re unhealthy, too! They are present regardless of the age of the house and whether it is located within an urban core, a sprawling suburb, or even an open countryside. Although air pollution from outside does play a contributing role to the level of these chemical compounds in the air we’re breathing inside our homes, many of those chemicals come from everyday items found in virtually every living room, bedroom, kitchen, and bathroom. They are emissions from carpets, wall paints, plastics, cleaning solutions, and even the building materials in the structure itself. Airborne toxins (Link 1) primarily include benzene, formaldehyde, and trichloroethylene.

Julie Campbell writer - healthThough there are many different things that we can do to reduce the presence of these substances in the air that we are inhaling while enjoying dinners, watching a movie, and even sleeping at night, nothing is simpler and more environmentally friendly than using the right air-purifying houseplants. Fortunately, some of the top performing houseplants are so difficult to kill that you can forget about them for months and they’ll still recover. So even those of us with less-than-green thumbs can still enjoy the benefits. Here are the best healthy air-producing plants that can make the biggest difference in the air quality of a house and to our own personal health.

1. Spider Plant (Chlorophytum comosum)

Julie Campbell writer - spider plant

Photo by: Eptalon

The Spider Plant is the ideal plant not only for its air cleaning properties, but also because it is extremely difficult to kill; even when it has been grossly neglected. It can be left un-watered for weeks and will still spring back from its sad, drooping state when we finally remember that it exists. That said, it does clean the air most effectively when it is given adequate water. It features lots of rich, variegated foliage in white and green, with tiny white flowers that precede the formation of “baby” sprout plants, which can be given their own pots and become their own individual plants. This feature allows a single Spider Plant to provide a home with as many additional plants as we want, over the years. The Spider Plant (Link 2) is effective for reducing the levels of formaldehyde, benzene, carbon monoxide, and xylene in the air.

2. Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum)

Julie Campbell writer - Peace Lily

Photo by: JJ Harrison

The Peace Lily is not only a unique and attractive looking flowering plant, but it is so effective at cleaning the air that it has been recognized by NASA for this purpose. In 1989, NASA worked with the Associated Landscape Contractors of America (Link 3) and found that this plant can absorb formaldehyde, benzene, trichloroethylene, ammonia, xylene, and a number of other airborne chemical toxins. This plant is most effective for cleaning the air when the leaves are gently dusted on a regular basis. Lightly misting the leaves with water using a spray bottle, every few days, can also promote the best results.

3. Golden Pothos (Epipremnum aureum)

Julie Campbell writer - Golden PothosThe Golden Pothos is a type of nearly indestructible vine that grows very quickly and that is quite flexible in its potting style. Even for those of us who don’t have a green thumb on either hand, it would still be difficult to kill this plant. It can be trained for climbing a support or trellis (a process that sounds far more complicated than it is – this is a plant, not a dog) or, as an easier option, It can simply be allowed to cascade from a hanging basket. The leaves are dark green and feature marbling and streaks in gold, so that its appearance is a striking addition to an interior décor. Naturally, it isn’t just eye candy. It also helps to reduce the formaldehyde, benzene, and carbon monoxide levels in a home. For houses with an attached garage, consider placing the Golden Pothos (Link 2) near that entry, or anywhere else that car exhaust fumes may work their way inside.

4. Lady Palm (Rhapis excels)

Julie Campbell writer - Lady PalmThe Lady Palm is a tree-like species of plant that is quite simple to grow and that is attractive in even the most basic pot. Give it lots of room in its pot or it will need to be replanted frequently. Though it will seem to take a while to get going, once it does, it takes off, revealing its spectacular fan-like leaves in charming patterns. At this point, the Lady Palm (Link 4) will become highly effective in filtering ammonia out of the air in a home. As this ammonia is an agent often found in textiles, dyes, and cleaners, it can benefit virtually any location in which we will find it appealing.

5. Areca Palm (Chrysalidocarpus lutescens)

Julie Campbell writer - Areca Palm

Photo by: Forest & Kim Starr

Another plant recognized by NASA from its work with the Associated Landscape Contractors of America (Link 3) is the Areca Palm. Native to Madagascar, this is a small, cluster-forming plant with smoothly arching leaves and a fascinating shape. It is considered to be among the most efficient air purifying plants, but it also comes with the benefit of humidifying the air, which is very important to the health of homes (and the people within them) that are located in climates with cold winters. Its graceful leaves help to eliminate formaldehyde, carbon monoxide, xylene, trichloroethylene, benzene, and other toxins in the air.

6. Red-Edged Dracaena (Dracaena marginata)

Julie Campbell writer - Red-Edged DracaenaThe Red-Edged Dracaena is a form of shrub that grows very slowly. Though it can reach as high as 15 feet, it is quite compact and can be kept trimmed to size (except in homes with exceptionally high ceilings and where a focal piece for the interior décor is needed) making it possible to achieve maximum air purification from a small amount of real estate on the floor. Very easy to care for, this plant also provides a burst of red color from the trim of its otherwise green leaves. Red-Edged Dracaena (Link 5) is an effective purifier of xylene, formaldehyde, toluene, benzene, and trichloroethylene.

7. Wax Begonia (Begonia semperflorens)

Julie Campbell writer - wax begonia

Photo by: Wildfeuer

The Wax Begonia is a pretty plant that produces delicate looking flowers in clusters of red, white, or pink. It is a semi-woody succulent that doesn’t require much watering (though it does love sunlight) and will bloom all summer long. This plant is prone to fungal diseases, so make sure that it is placed in an area with good air circulation; which will also help to circulate the cleaned air from the plant into the rest of the home. Wax Begonia (Link 6) is among the most effective air cleaning flowering plants and will help to reduce the levels of benzene in a home.

8. Bamboo Palm (Chamaedorea seifrizii)

Julie Campbell writer - Bamboo palmThe Bamboo Palm is sturdy and elegant and can grow from three to six feet tall. Like the Areca Palm, it not only works to clean the air in a home, but it boosts humidity levels, too. This added moisture in the air is very welcome in the cold winter months and is helpful in reducing many respiratory issues. In fact, improved humidity levels in the house may even reduce the risk of spreading a common cold among our family members. Though this plant does require bright light, it prefers not to be in direct sunlight, so it is a great option for a room with north-facing windows. Throughout its long life, the Bamboo Palm (Link 7) will help to cleanse the air in our homes of xylene, chloroform, benzene, formaldehyde, carbon monoxide, and more.

9. Rubber Plant (Ficus elastica)

Julie Campbell writer - Rubber PlantRubber Plants are native to India and are a type of evergreen. Their broad, shiny, rich green leaves have a tropical appearance and the plants will thrive in appropriately sized pots. If something with a little more zip is preferred, choose one of the Rubber Plant varieties with purple and/or cream variegation to its leaves. Place this plant in an area with lots of light. Scientific testing has shown that the Rubber Plant (Link 2) is particularly efficient in reducing formaldehyde levels in the air, though it can also help to eliminate trichloroethylene, carbon monoxide, formaldehyde, and other common airborne chemicals.

10. Chinese Evergreen (Agalaonema modestrum)

Julie Campbell writer - chinese evergreenThe Chinese Evergreen is native to Asian forests and is a perennial evergreen plant. It is exceptionally easy to keep alive, which is good to know for those of us whose thumbs have yet to turn green. They are easily recognizable due to their bountiful foliage and attractively variegated leaf patterns. The sheer number of leaves help Chinese Evergreen (Link 5) to act as a powerful eliminator of air toxins such as carbon monoxide, benzene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, and many others. It is a very low maintenance plant that is best watered only when its soil is nearly dry and that needs to be repotted only every two or three years.

Julie Campbell writer - plantsPlants are one of our best weapons against the pollutants in the air of our homes and, when properly placed in adequate quantities, they can be far more effective than electronic or ion air purifying devices. The key is to use the plants properly. In a home with 2,000 square feet, try to include 15 to 20 plants within pots of at least 6 inches in diameter. For both visual appeal and air purification efficacy, create group displays of plants in each room, instead of feeling the need to scatter them around. As a final word of caution, when purchasing plants, make certain that they are safe for young children and pets, in case they are ingested. Once our plants are purchased and placed, all we need to do is sit back and breathe easy – and healthy!

Link 1: http://www.oxford.net/~steve/sick.htm
Link 2: http://www.mnn.com/health/healthy-spaces/stories/best-air-filtering-houseplants-according-to-nasa
Link 3: http://www.scribd.com/doc/1837156/NASA-Indoor-Plants
Link 4: http://www.thisoldhouse.com/toh/photos/0,,20452423_20892294,00.html
Link 5: http://www.extension.umn.edu/yardandgarden/ygbriefs/h110indoorair.html
Link 6: http://www.thisoldhouse.com/toh/photos/0,,20452423_20892301,00.html
Link 7: http://www.davidsuzuki.org/what-you-can-do/queen-of-green/faqs/cleaning/can-indoor-plants-improve-air-quality-inside-my-home/