Academy of Self-Reliance

Gardening

Planning The Important Things – How Do You Plan Your Garden

Planning? What’s that? I tend to act on instinct, making decisions as I go along. This tendency to fly by the seat of my pants has probably caused me problems that a little planning would have prevented. My husband, on the other hand, is a planner. He likes to have his days, and his things,

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Water and Produce Waste Win

Most of us have tried to grow an avocado pit with some to no success. Mine became a plant but there was no chance of getting fruit, unfortunately. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a win with leftover produce debris? Fortunately, you can, and I did. I tried growing a variety of veggie scraps with

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What I’ve Learned From Starting Seeds Indoors

Starting seeds instead of using transplants, cuttings, or divisions is incredibly rewarding.  You get to see the whole life cycle of a plant, watching it grow from the tiniest of seeds into a full flower, vegetable, or fruit. If you haven’t done it yet, try growing a few things from seed this spring. Start indoors

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Avocados Are Ready to Amaze You

The first plant I ever grew from grocery store produce was an avocado, and for the life of me, I can’t remember what made me decide to do it. I was in law school and thought of myself as a brown-thumb girl. I still remember my total amazement when the seed split and sprouted. That

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Timing Is Everything

The winter weather can be pretty grim where I live. In order to buoy my spirits, I dream about my veggie garden. I’m poring over the earliest seed catalogs as soon as they arrive and making lists of all the varieties I want to try. I’m also waging an interior struggle with myself, on when

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Starting Plants From Produce: Pineapple Tops

As a child, I enjoyed growing a vine from a potato (sweet or russet) suspended in a jar of water. I’m still fascinated by growing potatoes. How amazing is it that you can toss a few potato chunks into the ground, cover them up, and then dig handfuls of tender little spuds a few weeks

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Vegetable Gardening Is A Long-Term Commitment

When I was about five years old, my Dad built a playhouse for me. It was probably about  6 by 8 feet (2-3 m.). He roofed it with cedar shingles, stained it a redwood color to match our house, and painted the door green. It had a play stove, sink, and refrigerator. It was the

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Regrowing Celery And Other Experiments

I love being thrifty with household goods, especially in the kitchen. Since I don’t have my own compost, I try to reduce food waste in creative ways. I use herb stems in stews and vegetable scraps to make stock. One hack I haven’t tried since elementary school is regrowing produce. It’s worth trying again, as

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My Landscaping Design Is A Little Bit Of Everything

Ever since I got my hands on my own plot of land, I have been obsessed with garden design. This not only encompasses the plants but the types of beds, pathways, hedges, and yard décor. I like the ability to look outside the box and use what I have to develop a garden that is

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Postponed Pineapple Dreams

I am a big fan of pineapples and a big fan of gardening too. Yet, it was such a surprise to learn that you can start growing a pineapple tree from a grocery store pineapple top. I can’t even remember who told me about this, perhaps because I didn’t believe them. In a spare moment

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Potatoes With Eyes Get A New Lease On Life

There are only two of us in my household, but I am still compelled to buy in bulk because sometimes buying a bag of lemons is less expensive than buying a single lemon. I tend to do this with fruit, onions, potatoes, and yams. Usually we manage to eat most of the produce before things

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Fig Fruit: My Next Experiment Growing Produce From Scraps

I hate to toss things out, especially plants in the garden. If I think I can save it or start a new plant from a small portion, then I have to at least try. That way if I fail, which occasionally I do, it’s not as much a crushing defeat. Store bought produce isn’t any

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Growing Basil Plants Just Like My Ancestors Did

A century ago, my grandfather left his home and family in Italy to come to America. It took a decade before my grandmother and their children could join him. As we look at our highly connected world today, it’s hard to imagine a time when cell phones and computers didn’t exist and overseas phone calls

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Have You Ever Grown A Plant From Grocery Store Produce?

Regrowing grocery store produce from food scraps is among one of the most popular garden- related discussions online. While the concept of using otherwise discarded plant parts to grow a completely new plant does sound nice, I could not help but initially feel skeptical about the process. It’s for this reason that I began to

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Keep It Simple: Taking A Different Garden Planning Approach

Since we have already had two snowfalls and temps have dipped into the teens a few times already, my garden is DEAD. What does that mean? It means it is time to start planning next year’s garden, of course. You might think that being a garden writer I take planning the successive years’ gardening seriously,

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Seeing Myself In Cacti

Like many teenagers of my era, I was overly obsessed with what I considered flaws in my physical appearance. Each time I looked in the mirror, all I could see was my big ears, round face, and less than perfect figure. I think this was one reason I developed an affinity for cacti. In comparison

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Plants Lost To Deer: Living With Deer Damage

I expect to have some failures in the garden. There are always issues with weather, pests and disease to thwart my gardening efforts. I’ve come to realize I can’t always control the outcome as well as I’d like.  To compensate, I overplant and cultivate a wide array of vegetables. That way, if one crop fails,

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Growing Cacti Isn’t For Everyone

Many newbies to gardening started off with easy care cacti. I’m not one of them. Yes, cacti come in an amazing array of shapes and sizes, and what a treat to see a cactus in bloom. But they aren’t for me. Perhaps their marvelous and surprising attributes are dimmed, at least for me, by their

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Epic Garden Failure – Watering Plants And Killing Plants

My garden fails tend to fall along two lines: underestimating the amount of water plants need, and inviting so much wildlife into my yard that they take advantage and eat my plants. The latter is something I have come to terms with, because I adore the animals. But I have learned many lessons about water

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Cactus Houseplants: My Journey Learning To Grow Cacti

Cacti are beautiful plants. You’ll find them in all sorts of shapes and sizes, and colors too. These prickly delights make exceptional houseplants for their ease of care, and are often great for anyone starting out. This even includes me, the succulent killer! Exploring the World of Cactus Houseplants I never gave much thought to

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Why I Garden – Gaining Independence Through Gardening

I garden because I’m the “baby of the family.” A term which, by the way, I’ve loathed since childhood. Call me the youngest. Call me the last child born. Heck, call me an unexpected surprise. But don’t call me the baby of the family.  This seemingly harmless designation has not only defined who I am,

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No Cacti As Houseplants – Not In The Garden Either

Cacti are fascinating plants. I love to look at them, read about them and tour through wild cactus forests. But after seeing their magnificence in the wild, I have never felt the desire to buy a small indoor cactus for the house, and none of my climates are very conducive to cactus growth anyway. Saguaro

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Dreams Of Future Cacti

I’m fascinated by all types of cactus, although I don’t own many. I have a couple of indoor cacti that I love, plus a few succulents like Christmas cactus, aloe, and bromeliads. I would love to add a few more cactus if I can train myself not to overwater the poor things. I lived in

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Prickly Love

I have always had indoor cactus, even in college when I was a kid. At that time, it was one of those grafted varieties with a bright pink top and grayish green base. I now know this was likely a moon cactus, but at the time my knowledge was all devoted to things like literature,

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Mild Winter Weather: Winter Gardening In Zone 10

Winter in Alaska meant temperatures of 70 below zero and snow that closed the roads, but here in San Francisco, winter means mild temperatures and a bit less fog. Gardening in winter in San Francisco means swapping out warm-season veggies for cool-season veggies and planting for spring. Winter Weather SF Style San Francisco cannot be

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The Struggle To Make My Indoor Cactus Grow

After ten years of gardening, I have tried growing quite an array of plants. From succulents to giant sunflowers, I am continuously drawn to unique and interesting plants. After having some success growing cacti from seed one season, I decided I would try my hand at overwintering them indoors. Ultimately, my prolonged struggle to help

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Winter Life In The Northwest – Muddling Through Seasonal Blues

Gardening through winter life in the Northwest is all about survival. I have Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), and I’m here to tell you, it’s no joke! At times I feel a little blue during winter, but that’s really not the problem. The problem is feeling like I’m walking through invisible Jell-O for a large chunk

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Growing Euphorbia Plants: My Crown Of Thorns Houseplant

When I was a kid, I got one of those little barrel cactus plants from the grocery store that costs a dollar or two. I thought it was so cute but quickly lost interest. Apparently, I thought a cactus didn’t need any water at all, and it died. As I got older and learned more,

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My Oldest Houseplant: A Ponytail Palm That’s Seen It All

As we age, time seems to speed by at a faster pace with each passing year. I find that when I’m watering my houseplants, I tend to think back to when and where each plant came from. My yucca and banana plants were Mother’s Day gifts from my husband. I’ve had them, or more correctly,

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Christmas Cactus Plants Bring Memories Of Grandmother

It doesn’t matter whether it is my Christmas cactus or anyone else’s, as soon as I see one, I am instantly reminded of my paternal grandmother. Her plant was the inspiration behind my small collection of Christmas cactus plants, which are the oldest plants in my household.   Every spring she moved her houseplant, with the

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The Challenges Of Growing Gardenia As A Houseplant

I’ve grown many houseplants throughout my life, and there are certain ones that I’ve learned how to grow very well.  But there are others that I simply refuse to grow indoors anymore! One of the hardest plants that I’ve tried to grow indoors is the gardenia. Although the glossy foliage is certainly beautiful, I’m completely

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Shamrock Plant Care – Growing My Lucky Oxalis Houseplant

I murder houseplants. Not intentionally, of course! But mostly from neglect. When life gets busy, I find myself walking past my houseplants, thinking I need to water them. Later – I need to water them later.  Later has a funny habit of turning into days, then weeks. Next thing I know, my houseplants are wilted

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Favorite Houseplant Debate – Houseplants Are Like Children

Houseplants are a lot like people, especially kids. Yes, this might be a controversial statement, but it’s my opinion and here’s why. One of our writers mentioned that picking a favorite houseplant was like picking a favorite child and you simply can’t do it (or shouldn’t anyway). This is absolutely true. Parents love their children

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Dracaena Corn Plant – Meet My Oldest Houseplant “Corny”

When I first returned to San Francisco for graduate school, I had no houseplants. I had lived for over a decade in France’s Basque Country where I had an entire mountain of trees and bushes to enjoy as well as a big garden. It felt odd and lonely to be without plants to take care

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Dream Garden Improvement – Back To Nature

If we’re talking about dream gardens, I would have a landscaped garden with mountains of beautiful flowers and of course, a swimming pool and hot tub. It’s nice to think about, but not very realistic. That’s okay; I’m happy with the way things are.  I live in the high desert of eastern Oregon. The sky

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Propagating Houseplants 101: Tips For Propagating Plants

Propagating plants is a lot of fun and it’s an inexpensive way to expand your collection. If you’ve never propagated plants, you’ll be surprised how easy it is.  Houseplant Propagation Tips Propagating houseplants: My favorite way to start a new houseplant is to stick a few healthy stems in a bottle of water. Just cut

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The Three Generation Houseplant

My grandma was an avid plant lover. Actually, I come from a long line of plant fanatics, but she had some of the family’s oldest specimens. She gave my mom a cutting of Tradescantia, a common houseplant that roots easily from cuttings. It has a name that is frowned upon nowadays, but I still call

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Sprengeri Fern Plant: Growing Houseplants As Family Heirlooms

Heirlooms are generally described as things that have been passed through families from one generation to the next. Family heirlooms can be virtually anything, from jewelry to large pieces of furniture. However, many gardeners cherish more unique versions of these “family heirlooms” in the form of seeds or plants.  Growing Houseplants as Family Heirlooms While

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My Oldest Houseplant – Janet Craig Dracaena

My oldest houseplant, and probably my ugliest, is a Janet Craig dracaena (corn plant) that my son gave me 25 years or so ago. It’s a rather weird-looking specimen, but it keeps on growing and growing. I don’t have the heart to throw it out. This poor plant is just never completely happy. No matter

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Houseplant Care: Important Tips For Houseplant Success

I grow a huge variety of houseplants and don’t specialize in one particular type of plant, although I do have quite a few aroids and orchids. I grow everything from a handful of Monstera species to several types of orchids, sansevieria, philodendrons, ficus, hoyas, calathea, bromeliads, and so many more!   Tips for Houseplant Success Since

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Fragrant Houseplants: Best Smelling Houseplants You Should Grow

If you love the scent of fresh flowers, grow fragrant plants for indoors. Their bright to intoxicating aromas will freshen the home and add a note of the outdoors. Houseplants also purify the air, removing toxins and emitting oxygen and moisture. Try some of these best smelling houseplants for fragrance and beauty in your home. 

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Peace Lily Growing: The Story of My Peace Lily Houseplant

I have a huge peace lily in a large container that graces my more formal living space in the house. It sits by the window, catching early morning light. This plant is nearly 20 years old and has survived both neglect and destructive kittens.  How My Peace Lily Plant Survived So Long My grandma passed

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Garden Design Plans: Dreamin’ Of A Garden Arbor Over Patio

We bought a house three years ago sight unseen, vetted by my parents. When I say sight unseen, through the miracle of the internet, we did, in fact, view pictures of the home both inside and out. Some of the photos were current while others were from previous owners which gave us a nice perspective

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Why I Hate Making New Year’s Resolutions

I gave up making New Year’s resolutions a long time ago, other than my annual resolution not to make resolutions (I always keep that one). For me, resolutions are just begging to be broken, and then I spend a few days feeling bad about myself for my inability to stick with anything.  I start out

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Planning For Curb Appeal – Top Foundation Plants For Front Yards

The process of planning and installing landscape plants can feel daunting, especially around home foundations. Some people may choose a wide variety of shrubs and perennial plants without any specific plan in mind. This can lead to front yards that lack uniformity and look disjointed or confused. Lackluster foundation plantings can decrease the home’s curb

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New Year Tidings – Fresh New Start In The Garden And Beyond

I, like many of you, am ready for a new year, new garden. The New Year always brings with it a promise of a new start, especially with regards to gardening. New Start in the Garden, Renewed Hope for Us All And that’s the thing about gardening. Whether you had a splendid harvest or your

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New Year’s Resolution: Order Plants Early This Season

As a new homeowner, I am still just getting my landscape going. There are many more plants that I need for my ornamental beds, as well as more food specimens for my edible gardens. Unfortunately, I failed to order things, like grapes, early enough this year. But that won’t be an issue in the upcoming

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New Year’s Gardening Resolutions: Celebrating A New Year In The Garden

I don’t know about anyone else, but my New Year’s resolutions seem destined to be verbal promises with no hope of follow through. That is unless they are New Year’s gardening resolutions. By the time New Year’s Eve arrives (actually months before), gardening is literally all I can think of. It’s already been months since

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Garden-Related Resolutions For The New Year

I love making New Year’s resolutions. While I set goals all year long, there is something magical about the promise of January 1. It represents a fresh start and a chance to set your sights high. As a gardener, I tend to make garden-related resolutions along with more personal goals. Last Year’s Gardening Resolution In

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Deer Free Gardening: New Year, New Garden, Fewer Deer

Like most gardeners, my hopes for the New Year includes growing a successful vegetable garden. Due to family members’ health issues, I didn’t plant an in-ground garden this past year. Instead, I grew a few key veggies in containers. New Year, New Garden… the Vegetable Garden I have to admit, I really missed my big

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