Melania Trump Wears $1,380 Shirt While Gardening And People Online React

Twitter

Initial news coverage focused on the event itself, with reporters commenting on Trump continuing former First Lady Michelle Obama’s gardening traditions. But after First Lady fashion-watcher Kate Bennett noted the shirt’s price on her Twitter, the media exploded.

According to Net-A-Porter, the online designer store that stocks it, Trump’s shirt is meant to have a “rebellious ’80s attitude,” and draws its inspiration from counterculture icons David Bowie, George Michael and Prince. It’s a part of their “grunge” collection, meant to be worn with distressed jeans to emphasize its “laid-back feel.”

Trump isn’t the first First Lady to make waves for the cost of her outfits.

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Harper’s Bazaar

 

Obama was famous for her gorgeous-yet-affordable J. Crew chic, and her “sartorial diplomacy” helped define her role as the administration’s approachable “mom-in-chief.”

michelle-obama_s-tracy-reese-sophisticated-ambiance-floral-dress
RCFA

And as Obama drew criticism for “not looking like a First Lady,” and showing her scandalously-gorgeous upper arms, Trump is currently under fire for wearing a shirt worth almost half the average monthly American salary.

EAT THE RICH
Balmain

Reactions online were split evenly; some deriding the First Lady’s expensive fashion choices, others calling the focus on it “typical liberal fake news.”

eesh
Twitter

While some lashed out at Bennet for what they saw as a partisan tweet, Bennett pointed out that she had given the exact same coverage to former FLOTUS Obama, including the pricing research.

oh wo
Twitter

And while some frustration about Melania’s outfit focused on the shirt’s political optics, other Twitter users expressed bafflement that Trump’s thrift-store-chic tartan had been that much, to begin with.

i'm gonna fucking KERMIT
Twitter

Finally, some opined that, given Trump’s obvious discomfort getting up close and personal with the dirt, the fact that she was wearing such an expensive outfit to do so was unsurprising.

weird
Twitter

Implications about the Trump family’s “out-of-touchness” aside, the story gave people a chance for a few bipartisan laughs. In a month when the world faced nuclear woes, mass shootings, monster storms and political crises, the moment of levity was well-needed.

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Organic Gardening: How to Grow a Thriving Backyard Garden

Gardening was once a normal part of life for most people, and in almost all parts of the world, we still have the ability to grow some of our own food, at least part of the year. Yet, statistically, many of us don’t (especially in the US).

Back to a Backyard Garden…

As the population has moved away from agriculture and into more urban settings, gardening is not as necessary and there isn’t as much land to grow on, but it is certainly still possible.

In war times, families were encouraged to grow “victory gardens” to help prevent food shortage and at their peak, there were over 20,000,000 of these gardens in the US.

With rising food & gas prices, droughts, and issues with the food supply, perhaps it is time to bring back the backyard garden.

Growing some of your own food, even in small containers on a patio, will let you have fresh, organic produce at a fraction of the cost. If you have the room, a medium to large garden can produce enough food to feed a family, especially if you have time to devote to preservation and storage.

Decide What To Grow

The first year especially, it can be tough to know how much of each variety to plant. When I started gardening, we often ended up with too many tomatoes to use and wished we had more cucumbers. This website has a good list with an average of how much to grow for a family of four.

My strategy now is to grow foods that (a) we eat the most of and (b) are the most expensive to buy organically. For us, this means lots of spinach, strawberries, winter squash, tomatoes (which are canned or fermented), herbs, cucumbers (naturally fermented to preserve), blueberries, sweet potatoes and peppers (usually dried to preserve).

To help figure out how much of each plant to grow and when to plant, check out GrowVeg.com. They offer a free 30-day trial of their garden planning guide, which lets you see visually how many of each variety to plant.

Here’s a picture of what our spring garden looked like one year using this garden planner:

They also give you a great chart of planting dates for your climate:

Start Seeds Indoors Early

Starting seeds indoors lets you get a head start on the garden and a longer growing season. For plants like tomatoes and peppers, starting them inside is almost necessary for a good growing season.

To make it easy, get small seeds starter trays that can be kept on a kitchen table or counter. They even make organic versions of these! Start tomatoes and peppers about 4-6 weeks before you plant them outside, so for us that means starting early April indoors and transplanting outdoors in mid-May.

To speed up the process, you can pre-germinate the seeds in unbleached coffee filters or paper towels in unzipped plastic bags. To pre-germinate:

Just place about 10 seeds with space in between on 1 unbleached coffee filter.
Put another coffee filter on top and get damp with warm water.
Fold in half and put in a quart size or larger plastic bag, but don’t zip it!
Place the bag on a plate and put on top of your fridge or in another slightly warm place
In 2-3 days, you should see tiny sprouts coming from the seeds.
At this point, plant seeds in small pots indoors using tweezers.
Gardening in Any Backyard

I know many people who are fortunate enough to have a huge backyard with plenty of room to garden, but many of us live in the city and have limited space that gets enough sun.

Even a small backyard can produce a lot of food:

Grow beets, radishes, lettuces and some greens on a balcony or patio
Vines like beans, peas, and cucumbers do well in hanging baskets or in barrels on a deck or patio
Peppers, tomatoes and beans need more sun (6-8 hours per day) for optimal growth
Just make sure that any container plants get enough sun and water, and that the container has proper drainage.

Here are a few simple ways that I’ve personally tried for backyard gardening…

DIY Planter Box

I shared the instructions for my simple cedar planter box before, and this is one of the simplest ways to grow a small backyard garden.

This planter is only three feet long, so it will fit on almost any patio or porch. We are currently growing Kale, herbs and a few microgreens.

Natural Container Gardening

If you aren’t the DIY type and don’t want to build a container for gardening, there are many pre-existing natural containers that will work:

Bushel baskets
Old Barrels (cut in half)
Metal drums or planters
Wooden boxes
Ceramic pots
Just make sure that any container has adequate drainage and water container plants often.

Square Foot Garden

This is one of the first types of backyard gardening I tried when we moved into our first home. The basic concept is using a 4×4 raised bed (or several of them) in a very calculated way to maximize the amount of food that can be grown. The 4×4 foot bed is divided into 16 one-foot squares and each square is used for one type of plant (based on size).

For instance, you might plant one tomato plant in one square, four basil plants in another and nine spinach plants in another.

This site has some additional information about how to plan a square foot garden, but to get started, you just need:

A 4×4 raised bed kit (or materials to make your own)
Optional: a square foot gardening grid
Soil + sunlight
Raised Beds

An extension of the square foot garden is a larger raised bed. The square foot method can actually be used in a larger bed as well to optimize production.

We have permanent raised beds in our yard and they are big enough for us to grow most of the seasonal vegetables for our family.

By using companion planting and succession planting, we are able to grow food from April-October in our climate.

Prepare the Garden

Figure out how much space you can devote to a garden and plan accordingly. If you just have a few containers on a patio, make sure to get quality soil and use organic fertilizer to maximize production.

If you are growing an outdoor garden, consider using raised beds to maximize space and production.

Once you have the space for the garden reserved, you need to make sure you have decent soil to work with. Many county extension offices offer soil testing at very inexpensive prices. Getting your soil tested will help you pinpoint what, if anything, you need to add to the soil to make sure your plants grow well.

We tilled in several truckloads of organic compost over the last couple of years. While this was a little pricey upfront, it paid off in the long run. Our soil is naturally very acidic dense clay that doesn’t drain well. Adding the compost gave us beautiful, black soil that produced veggies in abundance last year!

Making the Most of Your Space

You can easily maximize your growing space and often prevent pests with the same methods. To make sure you get the most production from small spaces, practices like intercropping, companion planting, and succession planting can really help.

Companion Planting

Companion planting allows you to grow multiple plants that help each other in the same area. A classic example is the Indian custom of planting corn, beans and squash together. The corn provides a structure for the beans and squash, and the beans add nitrogen back into the soil to feed the corn and squash.

Another example is planting basil under tomatoes. Besides tasting great together, these two help deter pests from each other and improve the growing quality of each other. Check out this list for a chart of good companion plants.

My favorite plants to plant together are:

Basil with tomato to promote growth and keep pests away
Marigolds throughout the garden to deter pests and reduce nematodes
Dill with cucumber
Catnip, mint and chamomile in brassicas (cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, etc.) to deter pests
Beets under cabbage to maximize space
Cucumbers with mammoth sunflowers- the sunflowers act as the trellis
Succession Planting

Planting a variety of crops in succession will give you more yield from your garden and extend your harvest season. For instance, right now, my garden has young cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kale, chart, spinach and lettuce. Once those are harvested, the same beds will become a space for melons or winter squash.

Vertical Gardening

Growing some plants up rather than letting them sprawl can reduce the amount of space they need and actually increase yield by reducing disease exposure.

Trellises and cages are great for tomatoes, cucumbers, vining squash and others. Here’s an informative article that explains more. I’ll be posting soon on the system we use to grow tomatoes that gives great airflow and maximizes production (its also very easy and inexpensive!)

So far, our garden is on track to produce lots of cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, spinach, lettuce, strawberries, beets, radishes and others in the next couple of months. In the next few weeks, I’ll be putting plants in the ground for summer crops of tomatoes, peppers, squash, etc.

Natural Pest Control for Organic Gardens

It is so frustrating to spend hours working on your garden only to have plants destroyed by pests. With organic gardening, many of the normal pesticides are off-limits, but there are still many great ways to keep the pests out! Check out this post for a variety of natural pest control options.

How to Get Started with Square Foot Gardening (and Why)

A little research on starting a backyard garden will quickly show there are many (maybe too many?) ways to plan your own plot. But don’t let it overwhelm you. Of the many methods I’ve tried in our garden over the years, Square Foot Gardening makes a tidy, productive garden possible even for those with little know-how, time, or space, and the neighbors won’t even mind looking at it!

What Is Square Foot Gardening?

In the early 1980s retired engineer Mel Bartholomew came up with an easily replicated concept to grow more food in less space, coining the term “Square Foot Gardening™.” His method has not lost popularity in the years since and has been improved and modernized. (1)

A Square Foot Garden has several unique characteristics:

  1. Small, uniform raised beds (usually 4 x 4)
  2. Rich amended soil
  3. A physical grid dividing the surface of each bed into 1’ squares
  4. A set number of plants per square foot

Square foot gardens can be a simple wooden frame or can even become more elaborate vertical gardens:

While I love the idea of a sprawling garden in all its glory, you can see how the tidy, manicured look of a square foot garden might be appreciated in a variety of residential settings, especially if you’re tight on space.

Square Foot Gardening vs. Traditional Gardens

In the traditional row garden, between every long row of green goodness there is an equal bare space for an aisle or path. Not only are these paths taking up space in your yard, they are prime territory for weeds and compact nearby roots.

Now imagine a small 4 x 4 foot raised bed capable of growing all the produce a traditional garden can. The uniformly spaced plants crowd out weed growth, the ideal soil mix reduces the need every inch of soil remains aerated and fluffy, all areas of the bed can be reached easily for tending, and the small footprint means water savings.

And it gets better:

With square foot gardening’s easy but precise formula for deciding what to plant in each square foot, simply based on a plant’s general size at maturity, amateur gardeners are spared having to learn every plant’s particular spacing and nutritional needs.

Sound too good to be true? How about this claim:

Square Foot Gardening yields 100% of the harvest of a traditional garden in 80% less space, and with a mere 2% of the work. (2)

Here’s how to get started on your own square foot garden bed in a few easy steps:

How to Start Square Foot Gardening

Before you get started creating your new garden, there’s a few things to keep in mind:

1. Size it up

No clever garden design can make up for lack of sun or poor drainage. Track sun and shade patterns to find a location with 6-8 hours of sun in a level part of the yard, with no trees or other obstacles blocking the rays from the southeast.

If possible, keep the garden close to the house for ease of watering and harvesting.

Consider how much food you want to grow. One 4 x 4 foot raised Square Foot Garden bed can produce enough food for a small family, but you may want more if you plan to can or freeze some of your harvest. Leave 3 foot aisles between garden beds and mulch them well for weed control.

Garden boxes can also be raised off the ground in areas without green space and set at any height, easy on the knees and back.

Now it’s time to get to work!

2. Make Your Bed

While you can buy ready-made Square Foot Garden boxes in a variety of forms, with a few simple supplies you can construct your own for about $20 a box:

  • (4) 2 x 6 in. boards, 4 ft. long, untreated (Cedar is a good choice)
  • (12) 4 in. wood screws
  • (6) 4 ft. lattice strips
  • (9) machine bolts
  • Weed barrier
  • Power drill
  • Staple gun
  • Screws/nails

This helpful video tutorial shows the process of building your garden bed step-by-step, and even gives cost estimates for building materials and soil.

The boxes can be as decorative or as simple as you want them to be, depending on budget, time, and the surrounding landscape. Once you build your box you may also want to add a vertical trellis for climbing plants like cucumbers or beans (again, more produce in less space!).

The lattice strips go on top of the finished planter box forming a grid or tic-tac-toe-style box of 16 (one-foot) squares. While this may seem strange at first, you’ll see why in Step 4.

3. Mix the Perfect Soil Cocktail

For filling your new boxes, Mel Bartholomew, Square Foot Gardening creator, recommends his “Mel’s Mix” soil blend:

1/3 compost + 1/3 coarse vermiculite + 1/3 peat moss (by volume)

While paying for dirt may seem counterintuitive, genuine top-quality garden soil is the key to garden growth as well as to cutting down on fertilizers and pesticides. You’ll be glad you invested now to save time and produce down the road.

To achieve a balanced nutrient mix, use a variety of compost sources such as chicken and cow manure, mushroom compost, and worm castings. If you don’t find vermiculite at your local garden center, check a farm supply store. (Note: Vermiculite is a somewhat hard-to-find and controversial ingredient. If you can’t find it or don’t want to use it, some sources recommend substituting sand or extra compost in its place.)

For one 4 x 4 foot garden box with 6 inch sides, you will need 8 cubic feet of soil mix. Since you will be measuring by volume and not weight as marked on the bag, use a 5 gallon bucket to measure your ratios. Mix in a wheelbarrow or right in the garden bed.

Lay your weed block right over the grass inside the box in your desired location and fill with the soil mix, trying not to compact it.

On to my favorite part of Square Foot Gardening: the planting grid.

4. Choose Your Plants (with Confidence!)

Think about your family’s likes and dislikes before you choose what to plant. Do you eat a lot of salads? Do you want to be able make fresh salsa? If you have young children, go for fruits and veggies that are naturally sweet and easy to snack on like snap peas, strawberries, cherry tomatoes, and carrots. Fresh herbs are useful, easy to grow, smell amazing, and even help deter pests.

Here’s where the Square Foot grid comes into play. Look at the plant spacing (not the row spacing) on the back of your seed packet. From there you’ll think about the plants in terms of small, medium, large, and extra large:

  • Small: 3” apart (or smaller) = 16 per square (radishes, beets, etc)
  • Medium: 4” apart = 9 per square (carrots, onions, et)
  • Large: 6” apart = 4 per square (lettuces, etc)
  • Extra Large: 12” apart = 1 per square (cabbage, broccoli, peppers, tomato, etc)

Melons, squash, and other very large growers can be placed in the middle of four squares in the grid. Save space by training cucumbers and other climbing vines up a trellis attached to your garden box.

A quick search will turn up many visual “cheat sheets” to take any guesswork out of the process.

A time-saving tip for the ambitious: make your grid double as an irrigation system!

5. Maintain with Ease

Since the right nutrients are already present in your amended soil mix, Square Foot Gardening should reduce your need for additional fertilizers and pesticides. Add a scoop of compost to each hole before planting, keep evenly watered until plant growth begins, and then let the greenery create its own living mulch.

Weed around plants as needed, catching them when they’re small.

Raised bed gardens have another bonus: Cold frames or pest-deterring frames can easily be designed and fit to the 4 x 4 box. A box made from 4-foot 2 x 2 boards and chicken wire makes a tidy and not too unattractive floating cover to prevent garden pests from stealing your precious fruits and veggies–a lifesaver for strawberry patches and tender greens.

Sources:
1. Illinois University Extension, “Square Foot Gardening Still Popular in 2016”
2. Square Foot Gardening Foundation