Tag Archives: gardening

A Word With You :: Green

Even though I could never consider myself a “green thumb,” I love having plants around our house. They tend to add a little bit of decorating texture and depth that helps to make a room really feel finished and homey. I have managed to discover their one short-coming – they need to be kept alive in order to be pretty.

I have a mixed track-record when it comes to growing things – some successes, but I have killed my fair share of greenery (It’s still too soon to talk about my Fiddle Leaf Fig casualty). Along the way, I have developed a workable routine for keeping them green.

We have had this Philodendron since we moved into our first apartment. It was a house-warming gift from my grandma, and although I might be ashamed to admit to her how poorly I have tended to it over the years, it has kept right on growing in spite of my lack of care. This is a great plant for homes with minimal windows or beginner gardeners.

wpid-plants.jpgThis plant was a gift we received from our friend Jaci when we moved into our current place. It has been extremely easy to care for as long as it’s sitting by a window. At first, I was hesitant to place plants that called for low-to-moderate light in front of windows. I realized though, that our apartment really only has one ‘direct light’ window. Our plants really weren’t getting the sun that they needed by sitting out in the middle of the room, so I shifted things around and now everyone seems to be much healthier.

wpid-plants-4.jpgMy current favorite houseplant is this beauty that I got at Anthropologie for $5. It was something they had previously used in a display and were trying to get rid of. Anthro frequently uses plants throughout their stores, so it’s always worth asking if they have anything left over in the back for sale. (If anyone can identify what type of plant this is, I would be grateful!)

wpid-plants-3.jpgMy new favorite trick has been to take clippings and put them in water near a sunny window. Within 1-2 weeks they start to grow roots and can be repotted in new containers or with the original plant to thicken the foliage. I have also been trying to get in the habit of pruning my plants. Although it seems strange to lop off parts of something perfectly healthy – it helps the plants to grow into a fuller shape.

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While our entire indoor garden makes me smile, my favorites may be Sean’s contributions:

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Making Salsa: A Hot Mess

Our garden has been overflowing with tomatoes recently, so I decided to try my hand at making homemade salsa. I invited my friend Gabby over to help. She said yes (I think) in hopes that she would get a front row seat to how I manage to turn trying something new into an epic disaster. I did not disappoint.

I found a recipe online for canning tomato salsa and decided to go for a ‘something new double-whammy’…new recipe + first attempt at canning. The recipe was for a large batch so I cut everything in a little less than half, bought a bunch of peppers and we got to work.

Gabby wasn't crying because I was forcing her to chop beyond her breaking point...everything was just really spicy!

We threw everything in the pot and that’s where I made my tragic mistake.

The recipe called for a 1/2 cup of salt. Let’s just stop right there. That’s crazy talk. The entire bag of chips + dip I just ate had less sodium than that.

So, thinking I was being smarty pants champion, I decided to cut that right in half, minus a bit.

But that’s still just a little less than 1/4 cup of salty salty salt. Ooooo disaster.

This is us taste-testing. Right before we realized I had just totally ruined perfectly good salsa with a heap of salt.

We had already begun the canning process before we decided it might be a good idea to taste-test. We were totally shocked when our salsa tasted like ocean water.

Not to be deterred, we Googled for possible solutions. Gabby found a response that said a potato would help.

Apparently, the potato trick works better if you peel and slice it first…at this point I was needing remedies for the remedies.

After trying over a half-dozen different methods for de-saltifying food, we watered it down as best we could and decided to try canning instead.

This part of the evening was slightly more successful, and I am looking forward to trying canning again when I actually make something worth saving.

Gabby – It was so much fun failing miserably with you. Things always go better the second time, I promise.

Trip to Phipps

Some friends were gracious enough to give Sean and I free passes to Phipps Conservatory a couple of weekends ago. Phipps is a beautiful glass greenhouse located fairly close to where I work. Sean had been there before, but it was my first time visiting.

We were both really looking forward to our visit, and I was antsy with excitement the entire time we were driving there.

Phipps did not disappoint and we saw some incredibly beautiful plants.

Low Point of our visit: There was a little boy in front of us as we filed through the butterfly room. We watched him kill/severely maim no fewer than 4 butterflies. It was emotionally devastating for me and Sean had to physically restrain me from taking action.

High Point of our visit: Sean had never seen snapdragons before and was elated when I showed him their special trick.

Phipps is definitely one of our favorite places in the city now. I am looking forward to going back another time on a sunny day so that we can see the outdoor gardens! This trip only served to feed our growing addiction to all things gardening.

Lessons Learned in the Bed: A Post about Gardening

My husband is fully responsible for the off-color title of this post. He implores you to “get your mind out of the dirt”.

I married a comedian…I really did.

Last weekend, Sean and I got to work on our vegetable garden. This is the second summer in a row that we have had a community garden plot. Thankfully, vegetable gardens are extremely forgiving and we had lots of success last summer. Despite this, we certainly had some things we wanted to improve on from last year…

Lesson One: Start Early

Last summer, we found out that our neighborhood had a community garden and decided to rent a plot a bit late in the season. This ended up resulting in three drawbacks that we sought to remedy this year:

  1. We received one of the only remaining beds: a half-shaded plot on the other side of the world from the water hose.
  2. We adopted an extended family of weeds that had already taken up permanent residence in our plot:
  3. And many of the veggies we wanted to grow advised planting in late Spring – a mark that had long since passed by the time we were ready to start.

This year, because we got in touch with the organization early enough, we were able to secure a bed with full sunshine, close proximity to the hose, and only a few mild-mannered weeds:

Lesson Two: Plan Ahead

This year, Sean and I spent a full afternoon pulling weeds and preparing the soil. Whereas last year we tried to fit everything into one full day, this year we were able to enjoy the process a bit more and go through all the steps to get the soil in good condition.

I promise I helped out a bit!

We then made a list of all the vegetables we would like to grow this summer before we headed to the store. I found this easy-to–use (and free!) online garden planning tool so that we had an idea about where we’d like to plant things. This year, we thought more about planting shortest to tallest so that shorties like lettuce could get as much sun as the tomatoes.Lesson Three: Buy from a Local Nursery

Last year, Sean and I went to a big-box garden supply center for everything we needed. This summer, we decided to try a local nursery we had heard about from one of the other members of the community garden. This ended up being great advice! They had everything that we needed and the woman who worked there was extremely helpful and a great tutor for new gardeners like us! She let us pick out what we wanted to grow, but gave us lots of helpful advice about how and when to start our seeds. We currently have half of our vegetables in the ground and half at home in pots, saving their strength for a bit warmer weather!

We are really excited to be starting everything from seed this year! There is something completely fascinating to me about seeds – I act like I’m still growing green beans along the window of my second grade classroom! For the past couple of days, as tiny seedlings have started to appear in the pots in our house, I’ve started calling Sean over multiple times a day to “LOOK!” He is just as excited as I am. I know it.

Yesterday, we took a trip to our garden to check on the progress, and our lettuce had sprouted in two nice, neat lines! We currently have about 300 lettuce plants growing which leads me to our 4th and final “lesson” – you can probably take or leave this one:

Lesson Four: Plant as Many Seeds as You Can

Last year, we tried to plant lettuce per the package instructions – evenly spaced and all of that…We ended up completely unable to differentiate the seedlings from the weeds and I’m pretty sure we had accidentally uprooted all of them by the end of the summer.

To that end, this summer, we went a little overboard on the seeds. We planted in clearly marked rows and basically dumped the entire package of seeds down into our shallow trenches. We went a little nuts – and are planning to scale back later. More is more.

This may cause a slight problem when we want to plant more seeds for lettuce later in the season, but for now, I’m enjoying my overgrown little seedlings.

In the event of disaster, there is always more to learn for next year!