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How to Dry Herbs

A simple, inexpensive way to enjoy your herbs beyond the growing season is to dry them!

When talking about herbs, we’re referring to the leaves of certain plants that are usually green in color. Spices, on the other hand, are the flowers, fruit, seeds, bark and roots of tropical plants and  are typically more pungent than herbs.

While the best flavors come from freshly picked herbs, however there is always an abundance that you cannot use in one season. Drying your herbs is the next best thing!

Dried herbs can be used for anything from flavoring recipes to making a fragrant fire starter.

When to Harvest:

We recommend growing organic herbs in Espoma Organic’s Potting Mix. To get the most flavor from herbs you need to harvest them at just the right time. The fullest flavor comes from herbs harvested before they flower. If you use a lot of freshly picked herbs, they may never flower. If that is the case, and you want to savor that flavor during the non-growing months, be sure to harvest them by the end of summer before the weather cools to get the most flavor out of them.

Focus on one type of herb at a time and remember to only cut back what you need. Try to avoid cutting back the entire plant, unless you are ready to replace it.

8 Steps to Harvesting and Drying Herbs:

  • Cut healthy branches from your herb plant.
  • Discard any damaged leaves as they have already lost their flavor. Yellowed leaves aren’t worth saving.
  • Gently shake the cut branches to remove insects and excess soil as you won’t be washing the stems.
  • Remove the bottom inch of the stem and the lower leaves to allow room for tying. Place the leaves aside – you can add them to the bag on their own.
  • Tie 5 or 6 stems together with either string or a rubber band. Make sure to check in on them as they dry as herbs shrink down and may slip out of the band.
  • Place herbs in a paper bag, stem side up. Tie the end of the bag closed, being sure not to squish herbs.
  • Poke a few holes in the bag for ventilation.
  • Hang the bag by the top in a warm, well ventilated room.

Once your herbs are dry enough to crumble, they are ready to be stored. Keep dried herbs in an air tight container, like a small canning jar or a zippered bag.

There you have it: freshly dried herbs to enjoy all year long!

Learn what to plant next with Laura from Garden Answer.

Products for Healthy Herbs

 

Fern Care Guide

We all love ferns, they are a classic houseplant. Ferns come in all kinds of sizes, textures and colors. Yet as far as plants go, they can be fussy. Laura from Garden Answer has the scoop.

If your fern is happy and healthy, great job! You can probably skip some of the topics toward the end.

Now let’s take a look at your fern and double check it is living its best life.

Here are 10 things to keep in mind as you tend to your fern:

Light Exposure

Contrary to popular belief, ferns need quite a bit of light. Though, they don’t like to be in direct sunlight as their foliage will change to a lighter yellow color or burn. Keep them near a place that receives plenty of sunshine throughout the day.

Only few varieties can handle shade and moisture like most people think. Check your plant tag for the most accurate information for your fern.

Temperature

Ferns like their surroundings to be similar to what we like between 65 and 75°F, matching the temperatures in our home. They don’t like it too drafty so keep them away from doors that lead outside and away from air vents.

Humidity

This is the most important thing to be aware of for keeping your fern healthy, especially if you live in a dry climate. Placing your fern in a bathroom or kitchen near the water source can help, since they typically get more moisture in there naturally.

For a more decorative option, place pebbles in tray with some water and place your fern on top. The moisture will carry up to the foliage as it evaporates. Add water to the tray as needed.

Soil Type

Use Espoma’s Organic Potting Mix for your ferns. Organic potting mixes have the right kind of drainage, and will hold just enough water that is needed without drowning your fern.

Repotting

Typically, ferns need to be repotted every two years. Check its roots once a year. If the roots are starting to circle around the container, it is time to repot. If there is still soil around the edge of it, it should be fine for another year.

When it is time to repot your fern, only go up one size for your container. Be sure there is a drainage hole at the bottom of your container. Place a small layer of Espoma’s Organic Potting Mix in the bottom and fill around the sides as needed.

Watering

Ferns like to be consistently damp, but not wet and soggy like many people think. Each fern and home is a bit different, especially this time of year. Water your fern and keep an eye on it. If the soil at the top feels dry, water it again.

Fertilizing

Ferns like to be fed about once a month during their growing season. Each zone and climate will have a different growing season, which you can ask your local garden center about. Feed your fern with Espoma’s Organic’s Indoor! liquid plant food. Check the label for instructions on how to use.

Grooming

All houseplants should be groomed about once a month. Remove any foliage that looks damaged, unhealthy or is turning brown or yellow. Discard any leaves or debris that is  on top of the soil to keep insects and disease at bay.

Insects

The most common insects to watch out for are mealybugs, aphids, fungus mites, white fly and spider mites for just about any houseplant. If you are unsure of the insect you are dealing with, take a picture and take it to your local garden center. They will be able to offer suggestions on how to get rid of it.

Toxicity

Ferns are non-toxic, but it is still a smart idea to keep your pets and kids away from eating or playing with a fern. That might just cause a tummy ache or a mess in your home!

Drop any other questions below in the comments and we will help you out the best we can!

 

Houseplants that bloom – 5 orchids that put on a show

Orchids are the perfect way to introduce a stunning houseplant into your home. They bloom for up to four months, which make them the perfect plant to add some color and flair to any home. They love indirect light, a little bit of water and to be away from any drafty windows, air vents or ducts.

Plus, they will continue to rebloom every year with a little love and patience and fertilizer.

An organic fertilizer, such as Espoma’s Orchid! liquid plant food, will help keep your blooms looking fresh and colorful year after year.

There is a HUGE variety to choose from, all in different sizes, colors and fragrances so you can find one that you absolutely love.

Not sure where to start? Don’t worry; we’ve collected our favorite show stopping orchids for you.

 

Five Orchids That Put on a Show

Pansy Orchid

This flat-faced flower is one of the friendliest looking orchids you can choose. They bloom early in the spring and, in some varieties, will bloom again in the fall. Producing up to 10 flowers, each growing 4 inches across, this orchid will provide a stunning display. Mist weekly with water to give it the moisture it needs.

Sharry Baby Orchid

Growing best in filtered light, this orchid has small, but striking chocolate-colored petals. Unlike typical orchids, its flowering stalks will reach lengths up to four feet. Fertilizing regularly will encourage growth. Mist it lightly once a week to keep moderate humidity.

Image courtesy of Costa Farms

Moth Orchid

Its blooms look like butterflies and it’ll look great individually, but is stunning en masse. Gather a few different colors and textures and have every houseguest talking. They love bright, indirect sunlight, so near a window with a sheer curtain would make them happiest.

Lady’s Slipper Orchid

Coming in dozens of varieties, you can really play around with color combinations. Small enough to place anywhere in the home, we even recommend placing one a bathroom sink. It is beautiful from all angles, so mirrors can be beneficial. Plus, it enjoys low light with lots of humidity. After watering, be sure you allow it to drain completely.

Cattleya Orchid

This orchid thrives off a barky soil, so be sure to use Espoma Organic’s Orchid Mix, as it will wilt in regular potting soil. It is a light lover, so keep it near a window, but out of direct sun. It is happy in the same temperature as your home, around 65-75 degrees.

 

Laura from Garden Answer shows us the basics of caring for orchids.

 

 

 

Products for Happy Orchids:

Espoma Organic Orchid Mix

 

New Year, New Gardening Reads

Spend winter months brushing up on your plant knowledge and cozying up indoors with a book on plants. The options can be endless and there’s certainly something for every level of gardener. Explore a whole new world of plants with our recommendations below.

How Not to Kill Your Houseplant: Survival Tips for the Horticulturally Challenged

By Veronica Peerless

From the basics of horticulture to detailed information about what type of plant will thrive in your living space, How Not To Kill Your Houseplant will be your comprehensive guide. This book covers 50 popular house plants and teaches you how to look for warning signs of sickness, pests and disease. With helpful tips, pictures and informational panels How Not To Kill Your Houseplant will help you create a plant paradise right in your own home.

Homestead Brooklyn shows you how to fertilize your houseplants.

Photo courtesy of Urban Jungle

Urban Jungle: Living and Styling with Plants

By Igor Josifovic and Judith de Graaff

This book will inspire beginners as well as advanced plant parents. It goes beyond the basic of plant care into the art of styling your home with plants. Travel across Europe to 5 different green homes with urban jungle bloggers, Igor and Judith. Along with style tips you’ll find DIY ideas with step-by-step instructions along with beautiful photography. Take your design skills to the next level and create and care for your own urban jungle.

Gardening Under Lights: The Complete Guide for Indoor Growers

By Leslie F. Halleck

Growing under indoor lights opens up a whole new world of possibilities for home growers. Gardening Under lights is a complete guide to high tech growing. It explains the basics and gives an overview of the most up-to-date tools and gear available. It also offers tips and techniques for growing ornamentals like orchids and bonsai, to growing a whole range of edibles from arugula to zucchini. There is also a complete guide to starting seed indoors.

New to seed starting? Watch this video to get up to speed.

Root, Nurture, Grow: The Essential Guide to Propagating and Sharing Houseplants

By Caro Langton and Rose Ray

A follow up to their successful debut book House of Plants, Caro and Rose show how easy it is to propagate house plants at home in their stylish new book. Beginner friendly techniques such as stem cutting, rooting in water, runners, offsets, grafting, and division are all covered. It also includes DIY projects like seed-bombs and how to make self-watering plant pots. Find out how fun and easy it is to create new plants for meaningful gifts and displays.

Here’s how to propagate the hottest houseplant.

The Savage Garden, Revised: Cultivating Carnivorous Plants 

By Peter D’Amato

While this might not be new, The Savage Garden is still the best-selling book for anyone interested in carnivorous plants. The new edition is fully revised to include the latest developments and discoveries in the carnivorous plant world, making it the most accurate and up-to-date book of its kind. Beautifully illustrated with over 200 color photographs, let this be your guide to the beautiful, unusual world of easy to grow savage plants.

Bonus: Houseplant Masterclass

The Houseplant Masterclass is the first comprehensive online audiovisual course on houseplant cultivation, care and maintenance taught by Summer Rayne Oakes, founder of the blog, HomesteadBrooklyn.com, the weekly web series Plant One On Me, and author of the forthcoming book, How to Make a Plant Love You (Optimism Press, July 2019).

The course was fully funded on Kickstarter in April 2018 and went on sale in December 2018. The Masterclass features five sections and 100+ sub-sections on houseplant growing, care and cultivation; over 4 hours of audiovisual recordings; 300 full-color images and charts; a comprehensive care spreadsheet of 300+ common houseplants; 100+ botanical terms and 350+ botanical Latin names; product and book recommendations; access to a private Facebook community; and more. Participants will get houseplant badges as they complete sections and a certificate of completion at the end of the course.

Want to learn the basics of one of the most common houseplants? Summer Rayne teaches us all about Pilea Peperomioides.

 

 

Products to Buy

 

 

Classic Houseplants for your Living Room

What is the most commonly used room in your home? It’s probably the living room. It’s where the whole family comes together, where visitors sit and enjoy conversations and where memories are made. We’ve already shared houseplants for your kitchen and bedroom; now let’s focus on the living room.

Houseplants differ in needs of light, space and water. So we are outlining the perfect houseplants to add to a medium or brightly lit living room.

Head to your local garden center to pick any of these beauties up. And don’t forget to grab some Indoor! liquid fertilizer to give your plants a boost.

Here are our top picks for plants in the living room:

String of Pearls

This easy to grow succulent adds dimension and design to any space. As the string of pearls gently cascade down the container, it resembles jewelry hanging off of a shelf. You can’t go wrong with this classic plant. It grows best in bright light. Make sure you feed regularly with Espoma Organic’s Cactus! liquid fertilizer.

Philodendron

This heart-leafed plant will inspire anyone who comes in contact with it. It has gained popularity due to it’s big, angular leaves. It is easy to grow and will tell you when it needs a little bit of love through it’s slightly dropping leaves. Philodendrons prefer bright, indirect light.

Umbrella Tree

Aptly named for foliage that look like miniature umbrellas, this tree is the perfect addition to your home. This tree needs bright, indirect light – if they do not receive enough light, they can get leggy, so be sure to keep an eye on it to ensure it is getting the light it needs. Learn more about dealing with leggy plants.

Rubber Tree

Don’t be intimidated by a tree this size. Get a young rubber tree and train it to any size you want. Caring for this tree is simple – put it in bright, indirect light so it doesn’t over heat. Enjoy the oversized foliage, and a few compliments from visitors.

Staghorn Fern

This antler-like foliage will be the conversation starter you were looking for. Mount this fern on any wall or place it in a basket to really show off it’s beauty. This fern does well in low-to-medium light, so it will be happy anywhere you place it.

Learn how to fertilize these houseplants from Homestead Brooklyn.

 

DIY Cat Tower Garden

Find out how Laura from Garden Answer makes this clever indoor cat tower garden! Laura uses Espoma’s Organic Seed Starter to get her seeds off to a great start.

Spice Up Your Life – Start an Indoor Herb Garden

Add an extra special kick to homemade dishes by incorporating fresh herbs from your kitchen garden. It’s especially easy when flavorful herbs just need to be snipped from your kitchen windowsill.

Grow a winter herb garden in your kitchen with easy herbs like rosemary, chives, oregano, thyme, lemongrass and mint in just a few steps.

Herbs are perfect for growing in the kitchen. Be sure to feed with Indoor! plant fertilizer to give them a boost.

How to Grow Herbs Indoors in 5 Steps:

  1. Pick a container. Visit your local garden center to purchase herbs and pots. Choose 6” containers that have drainage holes and saucers. Herbs don’t like wet feet.
  2. Pot up your herbs. Fill containers halfway with Espoma’s Organic Potting Mix. Remove herbs from containers by pushing from the bottom. Gently loosen roots and place plant in the pot. Fill with soil to the depth the plants were growing in the original pots. Water well.
  3. Choose a Spot. Place plants in a sunny window that receives at least 6 hours of strong sunlight each day.
  4. Refresh plants. Water as needed to keep the soil lightly moist, but don’t overwater.
  5. Give herbs a boost. Feed with Espoma’s Indoor! liquid plant fertilizer as needed to give plants the nutrients they need.

Once warm weather does arrive, get ready to plant more veggie crops!

 

Houseplants for the Bedroom

Your bedroom should be a sanctuary. The place to go at the end of a day and unwind, relax and rest. We’ve already shared the best houseplants for the kitchen; now let’s focus on the bedroom.

Unique indoor plants are the perfect solution to help purify the air and add serenity to your space. Plus, they can add natural color and exotic beauty to bedrooms.

Not all houseplants are the same. Some will let off CO2 while others release oxygen, which can really make a difference. The best indoor houseplants do the double duty – they help you relax while purifying the air in your room.

Here are our top picks for plants in the bedroom:

  1. Snake Plant

This plant is an excellent night breather, which leads to a better night’s sleep. It has tall pointed foliage and is easy to care for. Anywhere you need to add a little height, this plant will do the trick. The foliage can be green, yellow or white, with spots and lines of various shades. Read more about healthy houseplants.

  1. Bamboo Palm

With foliage that’s a little wild and crazy, this plant is certainly a showstopper. Bamboo palms bring color and warmth to bedrooms with their exotic textures. Plus this palm can be happy almost anywhere since it grows in low light. Plus, it is pet-friendly! Learn about more pet-friendly plants.

  1. Fiddle-Leaf Fig

The most popular houseplant of the moment, the fiddle-leaf fig, is a stylist’s dream accent. Its violin-shaped glossy leaves and mass will fill space in larger bedrooms. It truly is a plant that you will admire. Read more about oversized houseplants here.

  1. Orchids

Orchids are perfect houseplants for your bedroom. Keep them happy with Espoma’s Orchid! liquid fertilizer.

Orchids are also excellent night breathers and offer gorgeous blooms. Orchids provide the perfect balance of elegance for décor and tranquility for health. With Espoma’s Orchid! Liquid fertilizer your orchid will be thriving and happy. Visit your local garden center to learn more about orchids. Learn more about orchid care. 

  1. Dracaena

Most Dracena’s grow upwards with smooth strap-like leaves in various shades of greens, with white, cream or red touches. Depending on the species, the leaves can be short and pointy or long and grass-like, making this tropical plant even more unique. Read more about unique indoor plants.

Remember to keep your bedroom a place of relaxation and serenity to help unplug, unwind and sleep well. Feed your houseplants regularly with Espoma’s Indoor! liquid fertilizer to help keep them healthy and strong. Visit your local garden center to learn more.

Have a Christmas cactus that needs some care? Watch Laura help explain what these plants need to survive these cold months.

How To Make An Easy Terrarium

Terrariums make great additions to any room. There are endless options for variety, decorations and plants. They can be assembled in minutes and will continue to be enjoyed for months.

They can even match this season, like these adorable winter snow globes!

Whether you’re a terrarium expert or just making your first one, here are six easy steps to follow again and again.

Six Steps to Create a Terrarium

Step 1: Assemble materials

First, envision the terrarium you want. Where will you place it? What kind of plants are in it? What type of container will you use? Does it have a lid? Once you’ve got an idea, visit your local garden center to find many of the materials needed to make a terrarium.

You will need:

  • Glass jar or bowl
  • Sand
  • Activated charcoal
  • Espoma’s organic potting soil or cactus mix, depending on plants
  • Ornamental moss
  • Decorative elements such as fairies, rocks, shells, or stones
  • Small plants or succulents
  • Watering can
  • Espoma’s Indoor! or Cactus! liquid fertilizer depending on plant needs
  • Optional: Tweezers
  • Optional: Small sticks or bark

Step 2: Sand Layer

The first layer in your terrarium will be for drainage. Add about a 1-inch layer of sand, rocks or pebbles at the bottom. This ensures that water will not linger in the soil and will help to prevent root rot.

Step 3: Activated Charcoal Layer

Add about ¼ cup of activated charcoal to the terrarium to help keep it healthy. The charcoal helps the water stay clear of buildup and microorganisms that can grow on any living thing.

Step 4: Add Soil and plants

Add an adequate amount of soil for your plants. Dig a small hole to place the plant in. Choose a few standout succulents or add as many plants as you’d like. Make sure each plant has room to grow. Remember to leave some space to add in creative elements.

Step 5: Get Creative

Once your terrarium has plants, it’s time to add the finishing touches. Layer different types of ornamental mosses or decorative stones to enhance the look. If you’ve got fairy garden elements, add them in now. If you’re adding any pieces that you may have brought in from outside, make sure to rinse them off well first. You might find it’s easier to use a set of tweezers to place these pieces in smaller terrariums.

Step 6: Fertilize

Help your terrarium plants stay healthy and strong by feeding with the proper Espoma liquid fertilizer.

Enjoy! Switch up your terrarium whenever you feel like you need a change or new plants!

When Life Gives You Lemons – Grow Them Indoors!

Everyone loves houseplants – they provide greenery and pops of color to your home. Sometimes it’s fun to switch things up a little bit. Growing citrus indoors is actually easier than you think!

Unless you live in a warm climate year round, growing citrus outside can be tough. Bringing it indoors will keep it at the temperature it needs and gives it a chance to thrive.

Just imagine seasoning your salmon on a chilly night, adding fresh lemon to your water, or making a natural cleaner and being able to grab citrus right out of your living room to do it! And Meyer lemon trees smell so good too!

How to Grow a Citrus Tree Indoors:

1. Choose your container

If allowed, citrus trees will grow incredibly tall. Keep citrus trees from hitting the ceiling by choosing a container that is deeper than it is wide. This will help roots to grow down and not out, keeping the tree balanced as it grows.

If the tree will stay in one well-lit area year-round, any container will do. If you are moving it from room to room to follow the sunlight per season, a thinner plastic container is lighter and easier to transport. Make sure your container has adequate drainage holes.

2.The right soil

Citrus trees don’t like wet feet. A light well-drained soil mix, such as Espoma’s Cactus Potting Soil, works best to grow your tree in. It provides the tree with enough water to keep it happy and allows the excess to drain quickly.

Fill your container with just enough soil so your root ball is just under the lip of the container. This helps your tree to get the right nutrients and drain correctly.

3. Plant your tree

Before placing the root ball in the container, be sure to sprinkle Espoma’s Citrus-Tone on your soil as directed.

Center your tree’s root ball and fil the sides in with soil. Tuck the soil in the sides, so the tree doesn’t lean. Feed your tree regularly to ensure successful and juicy citrus.

4. Choose your location

Citrus trees require 8-12 hours of sunlight a day. Be sure to choose a south-facing window with good airflow. In the winter months, you may need to supplement with a grow light if there isn’t enough daylight.

5. Give it a drink

While citrus trees don’t like their feet wet, they also don’t like to dry out. If the first inch of the soil dries out, be sure to water your tree. If you water about once a week, you should be using around ¼ of a gallon. If the tree is standing in drainage overflow, be sure to allow it to dry before watering again.

Do you have outdoor trees that need to be fertilized? Watch this video to learn how!