Organic Seed Potatoes and Other Organic Seeds

If Elyse’s potato-related gardening post inspired you last week, and you’re interested in planting your own patio potatoes, check out Seed Savers Exchange in Decorah, Iowa.

They are selling several varieties of organic seed potatoes for 40% while their stock lasts! Seed Savers Exchange is a great group, aiming to preserve heritage strains and connect gardeners with the best seed quality possible! To clarify, this is an unsolicited endorsement of Seed Savers, a friend of mine used to work for them so I know they are high quality!

From their website:

“SSE offers only USDA Certified Seed Potatoes that have passed repeated inspections through out the growing season and post-harvest. Potatoes can be planted as soon as the soil can be worked. Each package of potatoes contains a detailed planting guide. SSE reserves the right to substitute a similar variety in case of a crop failure or shortage.”

Check it out here!

They are also offering a 30%-off sale on select varieties of seed packets. View sale items here:

Happy gardening!


Make-A-Difference Month Impact Survey

This was our first Make-A-Difference Month ever, the first of many to come, we hope! The staff at Mobile Baykeeper all feel that Make-A-Difference has made an impact on our lives–now we want to hear the impact it has had on your life! 

Take a few minutes to fill out our survey to let us know which posts were your favorites, what we can do better next time, and what you’d like to see from us in the coming weeks and months!

Take the Survey!

Also, if you were inspired by one of our posts, please send us an email and let us know! Share a few sentences, a few paragraphs, a blog post, or pictures! In the next week or so we will post stories of people making a difference, as well as the winners of our weekly drawing! Send emails to

Thanks again to everyone who read, commented, liked, and shared our posts this month! You are all our inspiration. Together, we can make a difference!

Versatile Blogger Award!

Thank you for the nomination!

Intergenerational nominated Make-A-Difference Month for a Versatile Blogging Award! Thank you so much!! Following VBA Rules, here are 15 (or so) blogs that we have come across, as well as 7 things about the editor of Make-A-Difference Month (me!).

Awesome Blogs to Check Out

(1) “My Botanical Garden” has already been nominated, but it is worth checking out this blog to read about what Tamara is up to! I love the pictures and the scientific information about the plants she features. Thank you again for the nomination, for being such a great and constant reader, and for doing your part to make a difference!

(2) The Maya Guesthouse – This is an awesome project in Switzerland to a super eco-friendly, sustainable, and fully functional hotel. Check out their progress, they are uploading new photos and information all the time!

(3) The Jolly Good News – I love the sentiment of this blog; there is so much negative and troubling news out there, but there are also great things happening around the world every day. Whether it’s a medical innovation, a restaurant being nominated best in town, or exciting environmental news, there is always something to celebrate. I recommend subscribing to this blog so there are at least a few rays of sunshine in you email inbox every day, regardless of what else is going on in your world.

(4) The Frog Blog – The Rainforest Alliance posts about two things that I think are really important: (1) environmental education efforts in the US and around the world, and (2) a compilation of global environmental news. They share some really cool lessons/ideas for teaching about sustainability and personal impact on the environment, and it is great to have a weekly list of resources/articles to keep up-to-date with important developments, technologies, and information in the environmental world. Thanks for all you do, Rainforest Alliance!

(5) Greener Heights – I must admit that I have not spent as much time reading this blog as I would like, but I am so glad to have found this resource about green roofs! I am proud to be an alum of a college with a green roof on the science building, and am also excited to learn more about how green roofs work in general. Maybe one day I’ll work somewhere with a green roof — maybe I’ll help them get a green roof! Thanks for this!

(6) Confessions from a Novice Gardener – Blog posts are short, sweet, and often consist of beautiful photographs of flowers, plants, and the stages of gardening. It’s wonderful living vicariously through someone else as I don’t currently have my own backyard garden to maintain.

(7) Book It – This blog is my inspiration to keep reading, widely and often. KatieO posts at least one book review a week. Even though most of them won’t make my reading list (there are too many books and just not enough time!) I really appreciate knowing what’s out there and getting an idea of what sort of books might appeal to me. Thanks, KatieO!

7 Things About Me

(1) I ate a mango for breakfast this morning – it was delightful.

(2) I am thrilled with the VBA Nomination!

(3) I feel guilty for not posting this sooner, as I was nominated several days ago.

(4) I may be taking a trip to New Orleans this weekend, because my dad and his best friend may be spontaneously flying down to visit!

(5) I am currently charging my cell phone with solar power!

(6) I have two tomato plants, a basil plant, and a mint plant that I am planning to transport to the office in the next few weeks so I can grow fresh vegetables and herbs on our balcony.

(7) I am excited that people are still reading Make-A-Difference Month blog posts even though the Month is officially over.

Thank you to everyone who has helped make Make-A-Difference Month a success, and thank you to all the bloggers out there who are making a difference in their own ways, whether it’s gardening, sharing good information, or simply spreading the good news. Together we are making a difference!

Something Simple: Junk Mail and Online Billing

Saturday was the Great American Cleanup, and I spent some time picking up trash with my daughter near the Bel Air mall in Mobile.  Most of the trash from this area ultimately ends up in Dog River after a heavy rain, making a mess for area residents.  As we picked up the many forms of Styrofoam, plastic and paper, it made me think that one of our biggest problems (besides the fact that people litter!) is that we need to reduce the amount of trash we produce in the first place.

There are two very easy ways you can reduce the amount of paper you receive or produce.  One is paperless billing and the other is to opt out of junk mail that comes to your home every day.  Paperless billing is relatively easy to do these days.  Many creditors and billing agencies offer paperless billing, and all it takes is a trip to their website to find out how to subscribe.  You may not think paperless billing makes a big difference, but a recent article on states that each household that switches from paper statements to online payments can save 24 square feet of forest each year.

I recently switched to paperless billing for my cable company.  Each month, I receive an email with my billing information, and I have now set up automatic withdrawals from my checking account.  If you don’t like automatic withdrawals, check with your bank to see if they offer online payments.  My bank allows me to set up and pay my bills online, and I rarely ever place a bill in the mail.  This online payment system saves me time each month and eliminates the money I would spend on stamps to mail those bills.

A slightly less simple but also effective way to reduce paper is to opt out of junk mail.  A recent news report on CBS reported that Americans receive 90 billion pieces of advertising mail every year.  Although it’s not as simple to reduce junk mail, two websites can help you for free. and both allow you to choose which types of mail you would like to stop receiving and help you through the process.  You can opt out of credit offers, catalogs, magazine offers and the many other junk mail to reducing paper and the amount of time you spend sorting through unwanted mail.  Although it takes some time and you must follow through to report any unsolicited pieces of mail you continue to receive, it is well worth the time it takes to go through the process.

Take a few minutes to look into these mail-reducing options. They will save pounds of paper, acres of trees, and reduce aggravation at the mailbox. Let’s make a difference, today and every day!

Shopping Saturday: Second-Hand Shopping

Earlier this week we talked about spring cleaning, and giving away the excess stuff in our houses. We shared a sampling of the various charities, organizations, and businesses to which you can donate or sell items for which you no longer have a use.

Today the focus is on the other end of this, second-hand shopping. There are several reasons, both environmental and economic, to consider buying gently-used items rather than brand new.

First, buying used items contributes to a green lifestyle by reducing waste and reusing items that would otherwise end up in landfills. Every year enormous amounts of energy, water, plastic and other materials are used to make new clothes, consumer goods, and the packaging to contain them. When you purchase a second-hand item in place of a new item, you reduce your environmental impact.

Don’t forget to bring your reusable shopping bag!

Secondly, second-hand shopping can save you money. Most of the time second-hand items are available for a fraction of the price of new clothes or furniture. If you are buying from a small locally-owned business, that money goes back into the local economy, or to a great charity if it’s a shop like Goodwill or the Salvation Army.

Finally, for the fashion-conscious, shopping second-hand shops provides you with a variety of unique choices. You can find sporty, chic, or girly clothes that none of your friends are going to have. The same is true of furniture and other home decorations. Shopping this way is adventurous and allows you to be creative and resourceful. Second-hand shops can truly make your style yours!

And of course, we can’t forget books! In Mobile, be sure to check out Bienville Books on Dauphin St.

So how can you find a good deal when buying secondhand?

Here is a list of items that are best to buy used. It includes things like furniture, tools, and of course clothes! This way you are saving money and helping the environment.

Also, keep a running list in a small notebook or on your cellphone of the items you are looking for. Whether it’s lampshades, picture frames, dress shoes, or Nancy Drew books,  if you have a goal in mind when you walk into a second-hand store, you won’t be as overwhelmed and you’ll have a better chance of finding what you’re looking for and not spending money on things you don’t really need.

You can also consult this guide for further advice about second-hand shopping:

Tips for Thrift Shopping

Now as far as where to shop, there are countless stores and shops out there just waiting for you! Here are a few in Mobile, reply in comments about other stores around Mobile Bay that you love to shop. And if you’re not form the coast, let us know where you shop where you live!

Seconds on Sage

Penelope’s Closet


Salvation Army

Divine Consign (women’s clothes)

Divine Consignment (furniture and home decorations)

Bienville Books

Weekend Project: Patio Container Gardening

A few weeks ago Elyse, Development Director at Mobile Baykeeper, shared the story of how she got started composting. Today she invites us into her backyard again to share her “container garden” farm. Make sure to read our post about windowsill gardening too!

My husband affectionately refers to my collection of pots on our deck as “the farm.”  I started “the farm” as a way to help my two grandsons understand that fruits and vegetables have to be cared for and do not just appear in the grocery store.  I wasn’t ambitious enough to want to care for a real garden plot so I started my farm in a variety of buckets, pots and containers.

I have had the most luck with tomatoes, potatoes, corn, green beans, Rainbow kale, lettuce, strawberries, Myer Lemon, and various herbs.

I have attempted several times to grow cucumbers, zucchini and yellow squash and have finally given up.  Every year I will have beautiful blossoms and then some insect bores into the stem and everything dies.  Last year I planted all three in a large upside-down tomato planter, and I had a little better luck with my cucumbers. I still only got a few zucchini before the boring critter destroyed the plants, and didn’t get any yellow squash.  That is one group of vegetables that I will purchase locally.

The most fun have been the potatoes.  In fact, as you read this, I should be uncovering my Yukon Golds.  It will be fun to see how many I have this time around.  I was lucky enough to receive a potato grow bag but potatoes can be grown in black heavy-duty leaf bags or the bag that your growing mix (potting soil) came in as long as it has plenty of drainage slits.

Home-Grown Potato, in Potato Grow Bag

The Potato Grow Bag, from Gardener’s Supply, has made growing potatoes very easy.  Place the bag in a sunny spot where it will get 6 or more hours of sun each day.  Roll the sides down so the container is about 8” deep; fill with 4” of good potting soil; place 5 seed potatoes on soil and cover with 3” of soil.  Seed potatoes should be about the size of a lime and can be cut in half if very large.

When the potato foliage has grown to about 8”, unroll the turned over edge of the bag and add about 4 more inches of soil.  It is OK if some of the foliage is covered.  Repeat process until bag is full.

The joy of using the porous Grow Bag is that it is hard to over water.  The soil should be moist but not soggy and in the hottest part of the summer, you may need to water everyday.

Through last summer I watered, watched for beetles, and did nothing else.  I am glad I was warned that toward the end of the growing cycle that the foliage would wilt, turn yellow, and look terrible.  At this point, stop watering, wait another two weeks and then dig out your potatoes!!!  You can dump out the dirt and find your potatoes but watching my two grandboys dig for them is more fun.

Do you have the urge to become a container gardener? If so, I hope you’ll join me! The experience has been so fun, rewarding, and delicious.

Check out these resources to learn more and get started:

Little House in the Suburbs: Guide to Alternative Gardening

How to Plant an Outdoor Potter Herb Garden

Container Gardening For Food

Let us know in comments what’s growing on your patio! Make a difference!



Check out the potatoes Elyse unearthed! The one next to the glove is the biggest one she has ever grown. The smallest one is about the size of her thumb. Congratulations, Elyse!

Yukon Gold Potato Harvest

Water Wednesday: 10 Ways to Conserve at Home

Usually we talk about ways to keep our water clean on Water Wednesday. This week we are talking about 10 super simple ways to cut down on your water use at home.

(1) Fix leaky faucets (and toilets!).

(2) Take shorter showers, or try showering one time less a week.

{Reducing a 10-minute shower to 5 minutes saves 12.5 gallons of water if the showerhead has a flow rate of 2.5 gallons per minute–even more if the showerhead has a higher flow rate.}

(3) Collect rainwater to water your flowers or houseplants. You can do this with a rain barrel or on a smaller scale with buckets.

(4) Turn off the water when brushing your teeth, shaving, or lathering your hands.

{Turn off the water while brushing your teeth and save 25 gallons a month.}

(5) Empty your water bottle or glass in a houseplant instead of pouring it down the drain.

(6) Load up the dishwasher instead of hand-washing. Also, when it comes time to replace your dishwasher, invest in a high-efficiency model. This will save water, energy, and money.

{When comparing only the water used inside the dishwasher, handwashing uses an average of 23 gallons more per session (Stamminger, et. al., 2004, European Comparison of Cleaning Dishes by Hand, Univ. of Bonn) or up to five times that of a new dishwasher.}

(7) When washing dishes, turn off the tap when you’re not using it.

(8) Don’t run the garbage disposal; compost food waste instead.

(9) Only run the washing machine when you have a full load.

{Conventional washers built before 2011 typically use about 40 gallons per load; resource-efficient washers may use as little as 15 gallons per load.}

(10) Insulate water pipes so that hot water heats up faster, reducing the time the tap has to run.

These are only a few ways to save water at home. How else do you conserve water?

For more ideas, check out these resources:

Residential Water-Saving Tips, from the Alliance for Water Efficiency

100 Ways to Conserve, from

25 Ways to Conserve Water in the Home and Yard, by