Posts Tagged ‘gardening’

The Secret Ingredient Your Succulents Need

Succulent Care Tips

How do I keep succulents alive? Help, my succulent is dying! As a succulent garden hobbyist, I get asked questions like these a lot. My own interest in succulents began with one of my very first blog posts, and it intensified when I started my own succulent garden last year. I can’t stop sharing these beauties on Instagram!

Once you start growing succulents, it’s hard to stop! I just bought four tiny cuttings from a neighbor this week. But even though succulents are easy to grow, they aren’t foolproof. Do you have ailing succulents? It’s a myth that you can’t kill a succulent. In fact, it’s unfortunately much easier than you think.

I’ve killed them by underwatering and by overwatering. That’s the tricky part! So first, make sure the issue isn’t either of those things – this post has some advice on that. Sometimes they’ll perk right up with a little water — or try moving them to a sunnier location. If none of those things have helped, keep reading to find out how to fix the soil. It’s so disappointing when a beloved plant fails to thrive, so I want to help you reach succulent success.

Save your ailing succulents

When I was in Oregon for Thanksgiving, my entire family went to the Holiday Market, which is the Eugene Saturday Market that moves indoors for the winter. There are craft booths, music, food and a farmer’s market section. And just to show how popular this market is, I ran into a friend there who was in town visiting family. It’s not a small town, either. So as far as I can tell, the entire city of Eugene was attending the Saturday Market that day because 100% of the people I know in the city were there.

In the farmer’s market section is actually where I learned about this secret ingredient! A vendor was selling succulents and bags of ground up pumice for succulent soil. I bought a small amount of the pumice stone, and more succulents just because. Like I said, it’s hard to stop.

Keep succulents alive with one secret soil ingredient

I don’t know how I went this long without knowing about it, but it turns out that ground pumice is THE key to getting healthy succulents! The plants need well-draining soil, and 1/4 inch size pumice rock amends the soil in the ideal way. The common brand of succulent potting mix, Miracle Gro, does NOT include pumice. It’s also unlikely that pumice is in the soil when you buy a succulent from a store. If you have succulents that aren’t thriving, poor soil might be the culprit. So mix 1/2 pumice and 1/2 soil to make a mixture that your succulents will thrive in. If you want to keep your succulents alive and thriving, I can’t recommend this enough! After I ran out of the pumice from the farmer’s market, I bought a bag at my local garden shop. Of course, you can get it on Amazon either mixed into potting soil or on its own (these are affiliate links).

If you do add pumice to your succulents, do let me know if they perk up! I’ve noticed improvement in succulents within a week of adding pumice. This is an important ingredient to keep succulents alive and I hope it works for you too.

Floral Arranging with Wildflowers

Using wildflowers as wedding florals

When my dear little cousin got married last year, she did a DIY farm wedding. Her florals were almost all made of wildflowers picked from the property. It was genius, and it looked so good! She saved $$$, and it fit the style of the wedding exactly. Here’s a photo recap of the wildflower wedding floral arrangements, taken by me and first published in Midwest Living.

How to make your own rustic chic wildflower wedding bouquets

Think about storage and how to keep the flowers fresh! The day before the wedding, a group of friends and family scoured the farm for the best wild blooms. After putting the cuttings in big 5-gallon buckets of water, we made bouquets and then stored them in a walk in refrigerator in the barn. Here’s what it looked like behind the scenes.

Rules of floral design

If you’re doing a DIY floral arrangement, don’t forget this rule of flower design. No matter which type of flowers you’re choosing, use a big, unique bloom as a thriller, one to create mass as a filler, and a drapey one to hang down as a spiller. Getting the style right for wildflower weddings is pretty easy if you keep this in mind.

wildflower wedding

Mix it up

In addition to farm wildflowers, the bride bought roses, lavender, eucalyptus and baby’s breath to mix into the decor. Putting them into re-used glass containers of various sizes added depth and variety to each table. This approach was thrifty and Eco-friendly but so rustic and beautiful!
wildflower weddings

Here you can see the simplicity of the idea behind the floral arrangements. The wildflowers are a seamless complement to the lavender and baby’s breath, don’t you think?

wildflower wedding

Wildflowers in floral arrangements are perfect for outdoor events. How flawless does this look on the outdoor bar?

rustic elegant floral design

Do it yourself floral design

This event totally changed any preconceived ideas I had about do-it-yourself flowers and wildflowers for weddings. It just looked good, and that’s all there is to it! Here’s the bride’s professional bouquet along with the bridesmaids’ wildflower bouquets.

wildflower weddings

Get a peek at the organic farm where the wedding was held, Trillium Wood Farm.

Growing Succulents in Style

Starting your own succulent garden

While in California, I discovered the fun of growing succulents.

Walking around the beautifully manicured streets of the south bay, I saw so many gorgeously landscaped yards with cacti, aloe, and echeveria varietals just…growing. In the yard. (Can you tell I’m a northern gal?!)

I decided I would become a succulent hobbyist. (That’s a thing. I asked Pinterest.)

I went to SummerWinds nursery in my tropical themed tank from Merch Nerds (more on that later) and picked out a couple succulent plants. My favorite was an Echeveria Elegans, a native to Mexico succulent with frosty mint green rosettes that bloom delicate pink flowers with yellow tips.

After photographing them for Instagram (naturally), I researched how to take care of them and start a succulent garden.

Two Ways to Grow Succulents

They can thrive indoors in a pot anywhere or outdoors if you live in certain zones. Quick test: is it like a desert where you live? If yes, plant succulents indoors. No? Mmm, better not, but you can create an indoor succulent garden in a wide bowl. Potted succulent gardens can be gorgeous. Just look at these ones I found at the nursery:

For more inspiration, check out Succulent Garden on Pinterest.

Choosing Your Succulents

I asked the garden center and asked a ton of questions, because my succulent knowledge was low. Here’s what I learned. Some succulents spread on their own, like the Hen and Chicks variety, while some don’t. All are fairly similar in terms of the care needed.

I think just choosing the ones you like the best is the best way to start a succulent garden. See what’s available and go from there. You can add decorative landscaping rock for looks as seen in the succulent bowl above, but you don’t have to.

Caring for Succulents

I’m not an authority on succulents yet, but here is some succulent care advice I’ve picked up from experts so far.

Water them fully, then let them dry completely. If it’s a pot, put it in the sink and water it until the water runs out the bottom. Then don’t water it again until the soil is dry when you touch it. This will likely be about once a month but it could vary depending on how dry your air is.

Make sure your succulent is in a pot that drains! They don’t like their roots sitting in water. And if you have a rosette like my Echeveria Elegans, water the soil and not the rosette itself or the moisture can cause it to rot.

Obvi, they need a lot of light. Keep them away from cold windows, especially at night in cold climates.

Outfit Details

Big thanks to the clever graphic tee company Merch Nerds for this pineapple tank. It’s organic cotton and so soft and comfy! They have tons of other styles and colors on their website, including a cactus tee! How perfect is that? I also really love the Mermaid Off Duty style because if you haven’t heard, I like mermaids.

P.S. if you want to know why buying organic clothing is important to me, read this.

What do you think of my new found succulent gardening hobby? Drop your green thumb wisdom my way!

Pick Your Own Berries Season

What to wear berry pickingSummer isn’t complete until I’ve gone blueberry picking at least once. Maybe it’s because I grew up near a pick-your-own berry farm, or more likely because there’s no other food in the world I like quite as much as blueberries. There’s also just something so rewarding about being involved in procuring the berries you eat and seeing the land where it’s grown.

The season varies every year for blueberry picking, because the crops are sensitive to moisture and temperature changes. I’ve been picking in the Pacific Northwest as early as June and in Wisconsin as late as August. Some years there hasn’t been a crop at all, which is disappointing to say the least!

The general rule for the Midwest is early summer strawberries, mid summer blueberries and late summer raspberries. So not to worry if you’ve missed strawberries and blueberries where you live, there might still be raspberries on the horizon.

Here’s what I’ve learned from years of faithful berry picking.

what to wear berry pickingWhat to wear berry picking

When choosing what to wear berry picking, consider clothing that you don’t mind getting stained. Blue and black clothes for blueberry picking work out well. Pants or shorts are ideal because picking berries can require crouching and sitting on the ground.

A hat to keep the bugs and sun off your face. Need hat inspiration? Here are three of my  favorites, at different price points:

What to bring:

Bug spray.

A cooler with a tray and/or container to transport your berries home in.

Cash, as some berry farms don’t take credit cards.

A small child or two. Berry picking is a fun activity for little ones, so give the kids in your life a chance to learn about farming, food production and nature if you can!

What to leave at home:

Your pets! Most farms don’t allow dogs.

Picking baskets and buckets. The farm will supply these, though you can bring your own if you prefer.

What to know:

Call ahead! Most berry farms are small family operations that will close if they get picked out or if there’s inclement weather. Before you drive way out into the country, confirm that the farm will be open when you get there.

Not all farms are pesticide free, so do your research ahead of time if you prefer organic produce.

what to wear berry pickingWhere to pick:

Find farms near you at pickyourown.org.

What berries are in season near you?