Brining Green Olives at Home

There’s a reason why the ancient Greeks served olives with breakfast, lunch, and dinner. This delicious little fruit complements countless dishes and makes a great snack all on its own. But eat olives straight off the vine and you’re in for a bitter surprise. The curing process drains uncured olives of their overwhelming taste.  

Brine-curing your own olives is an easy, cost-effective way to restock your pantry. Furthermore, harvesting your own olives is better for your body. Most olives on supermarket shelves are filled with excess sodium. Just a few servings can contain up to 1300 milligrams of salt, or more than half the daily amount recommended by the American Heart Association. Like any healthy snack, it’s easy to overdo it with olives—and all the salt is hard on your kidneys and puts you at risk for high blood pressure. (Plus, no one wants to look bloated after trying to eat clean!)  

The Benefits of Eating Olives  

The olive makes the Mediterranean diet one of the best eating plans for a long, healthy life.  According to nutrition expert Jaclyn London, MS, RD, CDN, olives should be a staple on your shopping list because their compounds

increase nitric oxide production, improving vascular function by promoting blood flow to your tissues. That’s beneficial for both short-term and long-term health, since better circulation enhances everything from sprints at the gym to overall risk of chronic disease. Some types of olives can also provide up to 25% of your iron needs, an important mineral that helps deliver oxygen to your organs.

The fats that make olives and olive oil so good for you also fill you up. Eating a small handful of olives every day makes it easier to avoid unhealthy snacking.  

Which Olive Curing Method is Best?

You can make olives at home using a few different techniques. The ideal curing method depends on the type of olives you pick. Common ways to cure olives include:  

  • Dry-curing involves rubbing olives in coarse sea salt for 3-4 weeks. The salt soaks up excess bitterness. This method works best for black olives. After the curing process, the black olives can be immediately eaten as-is or preserved with an olive oil bath.
  • Oil-curing takes dry-curing a step further. This method works best for black olives. After the olives are dried out, they are transported into an airtight container filled with olive oil and spices like rosemary, thyme, and garlic. Oil-curing for 1-2 months gives olives a meaty, soft texture. Black Moroccan olives are typically cured in oil.
  • Brine-curing is the easiest method for beginners and a good choice for all varieties of olives. All you need is a little coarse sea salt, water, and apple cider vinegar to turn your olives into seasonings or delicious snacks. It’s not the fastest way to transfer olives from the vine to your plate, but the wait is well worth it. The fermentation process packs your olives with impeccable flavor. This method makes green olives perfectly salty and a little tangy.

Brine-Curing Green Olives at Home in 7 Steps

Traditionally, olives were brine-cured by being left in large bags on seaside docks. But no matter where you live, you can brine-cure green olives using your choice of salt, spices, and vinegar. It takes around 8 months to completely break down the oleuropein, a bitter compound that makes uncured olives too overwhelming to eat.   

Supplies to concoct your brine   

  • Green, uncured olives  
  • Purified water  
  • Kosher salt
  • Apple cider vinegar
  • Garlic, chili peppers, rosemary, and thyme (optional)
  • 1 plastic tub, 5-gallon bucket, a curing crock, or narrow-neck jars

 How to brine-cure your olives

  1. Begin by removing bruised or shriveled olives from your batch. Transfer the olives into a BPA-free container or a curing crock.
  2. For every four cups of water, add 1/4 cup of kosher salt and ACV. Keep adding your water-salt-vinegar mixture until your olives are fully submerged.
  3. To keep the olive from bobbing to the top, place a mesh cloth. Alternatively, line a 5-gallon bucket with a brining bag and tie the bag closed. If you don’t have access to a large container, narrow-neck jars will weigh down your olives.  
  4. Place your containers in a cool place away from sunlight, then cover them with a cloth. Prevent flies from ruining your olives by placing cotton balls soaked in peppermint oil around the containers.
  5. Periodically check on the olives. Every few weeks, remove debris off the surface of the brine.
  6. In 12 to 14 weeks, your olives should be ready to transfer into a new brine. Refer to steps two and three.
  7. Repeat the brine transfer every few months until the green olives are sufficiently sweet. Transfer the olives into jars filled with a weaker brine: for every 4 cups of water, add 1/8 cup of kosher salt and ACV. Add your favorite spices and pop them into the fridge.

Brine-cured olives typically expire after 6 to 8 months. The process takes patience and persistence. But the pay-off is in the flavor. Just one bite of a homemade olive will convince you to never go for store-bought again!

Five Pet Friendly Houseplants for Your Dogs (and other Pets)!

House plants are all the rage these days as they can add a touch of serene green to your home. Whether your cooped up working remotely, looking at long winter months ahead, or simply want to bring some of the outdoors indoors, house plants are a great addition to your home. That’s why we’re going to look at five indoor plants that are safe for dogs and many other pets.

It’s important to note that the wrong plants could be a danger inside your home. As PetMD notes:

Some plants and cut flowers can actually be toxic to dogs, causing symptoms such as swelling of the mouth, vomiting, trembling, loss of coordination, seizures, difficulty breathing, or even death. 

But that doesn’t mean you can’t ever decorate your place with indoor plants or accept a gift of flowers from a friend. Before you bring home a nice flower arrangement or new houseplant, you just need to make sure it’s on the list of flowers and plants that are safe for dogs. 

that said, let’s take a look at 5 great dog-friendly houseplants!

  • African Violet
  • Spider Plant
  • Basil and some other herbs
  • Friendship Plant
  • Christmas Cactus

First Up, The Colorful African Violet

Many pretty flowering plants are actually poisonous for dogs and cats, but not the African violet. This absolutely gorgeous plant is perfectly safe and also offers some exceptionally beautiful blooms. Generally, flowers are pink and purple. Besides being safe for many pets, the African violet doesn’t need a ton of light and is generally easy to care for, making it a great house plant.

African violets can be a bit picky when it comes to water. So make sure you’re careful with the sprinkler. With a bit of proper care, however, these violets can brighten up your home and you won’t have to sweat your dog getting sick if she happens to nibble on the plant.

Spider Plant: A Newbie and Pet-Friendly Houseplant

The Spider Plant may be the toughest, easiest to care for plant on this list. If you’re a green thumb and own dogs, this plant offers an excellent starting point. It’s a pretty plant that is easy to grow and care for. If you forgot to water this plant occasionally or you suffer a long stretch of cloudy days, your spider plant will probably be fine.

The Spider Plant is non-toxic for cats and dogs, making it a great houseplant for pet-filled homes. And if your rambunctious companions damage the plant, it’ll probably be fine.

Basil and Other Dog-Approved Herbs for Your Herb Garden

Herbs are common has house plants in many homes. However, growing toxic herbs in your herb garden could lead to some problems, so you want to choose the right ones. Oregano, chamomile, and mint are bad for your dogs. Although mint is generally only bad for your pets in large amounts. Fortunately, many herbs are pet and dog friendly, including cilantro, basil, thyme, and parsley. The bonus with herbs is you can use them in your own food to enhance flavors.  And if you let them flower, they can produce beautiful, delicate small flowers. They are a perfect addition to a bright window sill.

Pet Friendly Fun with the Friendship Plant

Friendship plants are a common gift and make for a great dog-friendly house plant. The plants are quite hardy and you can separate them to gift to friends and loved ones. They also have lush, soft green quilted leaves that draw the eye. Care-wise, they do prefer humid environments but besides that are relatively easy to care for.

If you got a Friendship plant as a gift or are looking for present ideas for people with dogs and other pets, the Friendship plant is a great pet-friendly houseplant. They are non-toxic and don’t have any thorns that will hurt beloved companions.

Cacti Fun: the Christmas Cactus

Cactuses can be a bit tricky for pet owners as many of them are poisonous. Sharp thorns can also hurt your dog or other pet if she rubs up against or swats the plant. Still, if you want cactuses around the house, you do have some options, including the Christmas Cactus. It’s a nonpoisonous houseplant, and unlike many cacti, it doesn’t have sharp or dangerous thorns.

That said, if your dog eats too much of the plant, it could cause diarrhea or vomiting. The plant’s fibers aren’t meant for carnivores. Generally speaking, however, your pet won’t be at any serious risk but may have an upset stomach for a day or two. If your pet is a nibbler, consider putting the Christmas Cactus in a hard to reach place.

You’ve Got Plenty of Pet Friendly Indoor Plant Options

We covered 5 of the best dog friendly house plants, but rest assured, there are many more. Consider your local climate, how much care you can provide, and other factors when selecting indoor plants. Also, keep light levels in mind. Some plants do perfectly fine with minimal light, others need plenty of time in the sun.

If you happen to receive a plant as a gift or pick one up on the whim, make sure you do some research. Many house plants that are toxic to dogs and other pets will only cause minor discomfort if eaten in a small quantity. Still, some are quite dangerous. So it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Making Herbal Teas at Home from Your Garden

It is common knowledge that most teas have a variety of health benefits. Green teas can decrease cholesterol, and black teas can raise low blood pressure. Have a sore throat or a bad day? Pour yourself a hot cup of tea.

Herbal teas have been used for centuries as home remedies to cure anything from indigestion to insomnia. Many of the plants and herbs used in these teas can be grown in your own backyard. Make sure you have a spot in your yard that gets plenty of sunlight, as these all of these herbs and plants require good drainage and lots of light.

Harvesting these herbs at the right time is important. Make sure to cut them before they flower and before it gets cold enough for a frost. Some of these plants grow quickly and can be cut many times. Many believe cutting them in the morning in cool weather is better for the taste. Do not cut too much at once, especially during the hotter months, as the plant could go into shock and die.

Once these herbs have grown to maturity, you can make tea from fresh herbs, or you can dry them. Drying them means you can store them for a longer period of time. Once you’ve cut them, wash and dry them, and then hang them upside down using string or twine for at least 24 hours, or until they are stiff. You want to make sure they are dry, otherwise, they will mold and you cannot use them for anything. Store them in an airtight container.

Using a tea ball or tightly wrapped cheesecloth, place the herbs into a cup of boiling water. Times will vary depending on the herb, and personal preference, but be sure to strain the liquid before drinking. If using dried herbs, two tablespoons should be enough for one cup of tea. If using dried herbs, double the amount.

Lemon Verbena Tea

Brew two tablespoons of these dried leaves for at least 10 minutes. This tea can boost the immune system, relieve stomach pain, and reduce joint pain.


This herb is ready when daisy-like flowers bloom. Use the head of the flower, not the leaves, to make the tea. It needs a lot of sun and a lot of water. This tea is commonly used to aid with sleep and anxiety.

Peppermint Tea

Peppermint does best when grown in a container, with full sun and water. Peppermint tea helps with inflammation, eases stomach pain, and it can also stimulate the appetite. The aroma of peppermint tea is said to increase alertness and memory functions.

Lavender Tea

Lavender plants thrive best when they have plenty of sun and good drainage. Use the flower buds to make this tea. It can reduce tension and alleviate headaches. It can also be used to decrease stress and is often paired with chamomile as a calming brew.

Ginger Tea

What makes this tea unique is that it is made using the root and leaves from the plant. It grows best in filtered light and makes an excellent indoor plant as long as it is kept moist. This tea can be used to treat cold and flu symptoms, digestion issues, and nausea. It is also packed full of antioxidants, which makes it the perfect tea to drink daily.

Sage Tea

Sage can have a very strong astringent flavor, so steep time for this tea varies based on preference. Sage tea can help with skin inflammation, mouth sores, and hot flashes.

Rosemary Tea

Make sure to use only the leaves of the rosemary plant when making tea. This herb is grown in many gardens and is a staple in most kitchens. The tea can be used to protect the body against heart disease, as well as improving digestion. Drinking it also helps with boosting immune health.

Due to these teas being herbal, they all contain little to no caffeine. Any of these herbs can be combined for different flavored teas. Ginger and mint are commonly infused together to soothe upset stomachs. Lavender and chamomile are a good combination to aid in restful sleep.

It is also perfectly okay to add other flavors to the teas. Adding lemon (juice and dried rind), honey, or agave will not take away from the health benefits. The taste of these teas should be enjoyable.

Cheers to your health!

The Best Herbs to Grow That Can Be Used In Cocktails

In my humble opinion, cocktail gardens should be more of a thing. Yes, having a cocktail in your garden sounds wonderfully relaxing, but a garden devoted entirely to things that can go straight from the garden bed into your glass sounds very convenient. It can also be called “the bartender’s garden,” which sounds just as fun.

As with all herbs, these herbs need lots of sun and water to grow well enough to be suitable in a cocktail. If grown indoors, put them in a place that gets plenty of sun; perhaps on your kitchen window sill. Be sure to clean all herbs thoroughly before using them in your drink.

One very easy way to use herbs in cocktails is to make them into a simple syrup. Once you have grown your herbs of choice, bring water, sugar, and your cut herbs to a boil in a pot. Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove from heat, and let it sit for at least one hour. Strain the remaining liquid, and keep it refrigerated. You can do this with any herbs, such as lavender or sage.

Whether you have an entire garden bed devoted to these herbs or a container garden with a select few for the cocktails you love the most is entirely your choice. Here is a list of herbs that can be grown to put straight into your glass.


This one is a no brainer. Mint, which should be grown in a pot due to its very invasive nature, can go into almost any cocktail. There are many varieties of mint sold at garden centers, but the one most commonly used is spearmint for its bolder flavor. It can be muddled, it can be chopped finely and added into ice, or it can merely be a garnish.

Mint typically pairs well with cocktails that use rum or vodka. Use the mint in classic cocktails such as mojitos or mint juleps.


This herb has so many uses in the kitchen, but I never would’ve imagined putting it into a cocktail. Basil is a very hearty plant that needs a lot of sunlight, but very little water. Grow it in the garden, or on the sill, and not only will it be a great addition to your drink, but it is also a natural pest deterrent.

I recently muddled rosemary and mixed it with grapefruit juice, gin, and triple sec. The cocktail was very refreshing, and perfect for a warm summer day on the patio. Basil also mixes well with tequila-based cocktails.


I have had very little experience with using rosemary in drinks, but it is life changing. When growing rosemary, keep in mind that your plant can grow out, as well as up. It’s not as invasive as mint, but the plant itself can become more of a bush if left untrimmed. All the more reason to cut it and put it in your cocktail!

Try adding a sprig of it to an Italian Greyhound: grapefruit juice and vodka. The rosemary not only adds a beautiful pop of color, but also an earthy taste. A rosemary gin fizz is also delicious. It pairs very well with bourbon.


It could be said that lavender is one of the most popular and recognizable plants grown in the world. Its scent is just so soothing, and it has so many uses and benefits. Lavender does well in drier conditions with lots of sun and make sure it has good drainage.

Using it in a cocktail is easier when it is used as a simple syrup. For a refreshing spin on lavender lemonade, try this combination: lavender simple syrup, lemon juice, sparkling water, and gin. Use a sprig of it for garnish.


Like all other herbs, thyme needs plenty of sun, good drainage, and low watering to thrive. It is a slow growing plant and does well in garden beds with other herbs. Thyme is a strong herb and is perfect for muddling, but be sure to strain the drink before consumption.

It is the perfect addition to a classic cranberry and vodka. Also try it with blueberries, lemon, and prosecco for a light afternoon cocktail. Thyme also pairs well with whiskey cocktails.

I hope these cocktails whet your appetite. Salut!

Best Plants for a Container Garden

Sometimes a person just doesn’t have the space for planting things in the ground. Perhaps you’ve only got a concrete yard, or you have a bit of patio that could use some color. Maybe you can’t spare any extra space in your garden box. Container gardening is the practice of growing things in containers or pots.

Whether those pots be plastic, metal, or terracotta, there are plants that thrive under these growing conditions. Mint, for example, is a spreading plant. It would take over if placed in a garden bed. Keeping plants that spread in a container will keep them isolated, and therefore thriving in your space.

Container gardens are a great way to add color, height, and texture to a space. If one so chooses, these plants can attract bees, aid in cleaning the air, or give off a lovely scent. In this article, we will be focusing on one type of plant per pot. Here is a list of some of the best plants to grow in a container garden.


Ivy is one of those rare plants that do well in both sun and shade. It also has the benefit of being very cold hardy, so does not require much attention during the winter months. It has a cascading effect as it grows within the container, which adds a lovely dimension to any space. Varieties such as English ivy also help filter toxins out of the air, so keeping it in a pot indoors where it can get some light would be a great idea.


Ferns are shade-loving plants that do best in moist soil. It would be an easy plant to remember to water often if kept next to a deck chair or by a door. The roots do not need a lot of extra space, so be sure to plant it in a shallow container that is not much wider than the plastic pot it came in.


Marigolds will add a beautiful pop of color to any container garden. They do like at least 6 hours of sun, and will do best in light potting soil with good drainage. Be careful not to overwater this plant, as they are susceptible to rot.  It is also believed that certain varieties carry a scent that repels mosquitoes and aphids.


Hydrangeas will add a beautiful burst of color and fluffy texture to a patio. They come in a variety of shapes and colors. They do best in a partially shaded area and can be kept small to fill in front space. For best results, keep the soil moist and make sure it is in a spot that gets morning sun.


If you would like to try your hand at vegetable container gardening, peppers are the perfect starter. They do require a deeper pot to allow the roots to grow, as well as good drainage. To really thrive, the pepper plant will need at least 6 hours of sun per day.


Another vegetable (or fruit, depending on who you ask) that does incredibly well when grown in a container. This can be grown in a variety of containers, but consider growing this in a recycled material fabric pot. Be sure that when choosing the best container for tomatoes, you choose when that gives its roots plenty of room to grow. Also, choose a location that gets plenty of sunlight. They can get quite tall, so keep that in mind as well.


Strawberries are spreaders, so growing them in their own container is wise. When planted in a strawberry planter, they can spread and cascade in such a unique way that it will add a beautiful addition to your space. They are also quick-growing plants that do best in a space that gets at least partial sun. They also like to be kept relatively moist.


Aloe is technically a succulent and does not need much attention to really thrive. Choose a pot that will give its roots plenty of room to grow, and it will consistently amaze you with the shapes it takes as it gets larger. It is best to get succulent soil when planting this one. Aloe can also flourish indoors and will act as an air purifier. It does need some sun exposure to grow; at least 4 hours of sun will suffice.

Above all, be sure to fill your patio and containers with flowers that will bring you joy.

How to Make Your Yard Bee Friendly Using Plants and Flowers

Saving bees seem to be all the rage these days. If you thought they were just those scary bugs who fly around your trashcan and sting you from time to time, they actually are more beneficial than we all thought.

Bees are the reason we have fruits and vegetables. Bees are the reason fields stay so green. They are necessary for almost everything in nature staying fertile and lovely. They have also gifted us with honey, essentially making all our lives sweeter. After years of treating them badly, it is time we start to return the favor.

Bee Houses and Bee Baths

Bee houses, or “hotels” as the internet loving calls them, are meant primarily for solitary bees. Think of these guys as the introverts of the bee world; the ones who don’t adhere to the hive mentality. They also tend to be more docile. They are beneficial to the garden, and they need a place to stay. Even calling it a hotel is a misnomer, as the solitary bee typically moves in and will not relocate.

Picking a location for the bee house is imperative to its success. Pick somewhere close to the pollinating plants in the garden, and somewhere close to a fresh water source. Putting it in the shade may attract more wasps than bees, so give it a spot that gets a lot of sun. The key to a successful bee house is to make sure it has a rainproof roof.  

Bees need fresh water. They can often collect it from leaves after a rain shower, or in the mornings from dew on plants, but in the drier months, they need our help. In a shallow bowl place some marbles or rocks at the bottom, and then fill it with just enough water that it does not cover the top. Bees can easily drown and when collecting the water, they need a dry place to perch.

Planting pollinators

The first thing to know is that not all flowers attract bees. In fact, there are some plants that repel bees. Bees are very picky when it comes to what they want. If you are one who frequents your local garden nursery, ask the staff which plants would be best for attracting bees. Be specific about which pollinators you want in your garden. Depending on the region you live in, your options will vary. Odds are that each person you ask will have a different answer, which will benefit your garden in the long run. The more, the merrier!

Bees are attracted to bright colors, such as yellow, purple, white, and pink. The brighter, the better. To keep bees coming into your yard all year long, get a variety of plants that will bloom during different seasons.

Herbs can also be a great way to attract bees. Try planting herbs such as lavender and basil in the garden. Mint is another herb that attracts them, but for gardening purposes, you will want to keep it separate.

If you are allergic to pollen, or just have valuable space that you’d rather not waste on flowers, fear not. Bees love flower-bearing fruits and vegetables too! Try planting things like raspberries or blackberries.

If you’ve got the space, bees also love flowering trees. While fruit trees do seem to be the obvious choice here, willows, red maples, and crape myrtles are all attractive to them. This not only gives them a bigger space to forage, but will provide your yard with shade, and possibly an opportunity for that hammock you’ve always wanted!

Making your yard bee friendly

Stay as natural as possible, but if you do need to spray for pests, make sure to use something organic. Have an ant problem? Try beneficial nematodes. Using chemicals in your backyard can drive bees away from the yard. Fertilizers can also contain harmful chemicals, so look for organic or natural ones that will benefit all the critters in your yard.

Here’s a tip that will save you time on the weekends: mow your lawn less. Allow those dandelion weeds to grow. Try as one might to plant all the pollinators, bees still tend to love the weeds the most.

When choosing plants to grow in your garden, make sure the tag says “organic.” This helps to ensure that no harmful fertilizers or insecticides were used in its growth, and that will keep it from being introduced into your space.

Bees in the garden is a good indication that your yard is healthy and thriving! Enjoy the afternoon in the garden making it a more welcoming place for them.

The 5 Best Cooking Herbs to Grow in Your Garden

There are so many wonderful herbs that can be grown in a garden, but here are the ones most commonly used, and easiest to grow. Keep in mind that most herbs need well-draining soil and plenty of sunlight. The herbs in this article are Mediterranean herbs, and therefore do not need to be watered as often. They also need to be free of pests and herbicides. Clean all herbs thoroughly before consuming. Herbs can also be dried and stored for later use.


It is one of the best herbs with the widest variety of uses. It can be used in teas, salads, desserts, or sauces. Mint is popular in many types of cocktails, such as mojitos and mint juleps. It can also act as a natural cure for indigestion, nausea, and headaches. When planted in the garden, it can be a natural deterrent for spiders.

If you decide to grow this in your garden, grow it in a large pot by itself. It grows rapidly, so plant it in a container that is at least twice as wide. It is invasive, so if you do plant it in a garden bed, plant it in a bottomless bucket set into the soil. This will keep it from spreading. To really help mint thrive in the garden, keep it moist, and water any time the leaves start to look wilted or run down.


Basil is one of the most popular herbs at any garden center. There are an overwhelming amount of varieties of basil, the most common of which is Sweet Basil. It is full of calcium and antioxidants. It is also high in fiber, and has a detoxifying effect on the liver.

Once established, it requires little maintenance. It does have a low tolerance for cold weather and should be brought indoors during colder months. Basil grows well indoors as long as it still gets enough sunlight. In the hotter months of summer, basil should only be watered every other day, if necessary. In order to better retain the flavor in the leaves, clip the buds if they begin to flower. Alternately, by keeping the blossoms, the smell is fresh and wonderful, and will attract pollinators.


Also commonly called “wild marjoram,” this herb is very popular in Italian dishes. It is best known as the “pizza herb” for its tasty addition in marinara sauces on pizzas. It can also be used to flavor eggs, poultry, and bread. One word of advice when cooking with fresh oregano: be sure to add it last. It is quite delicate, and while the flavor is strong, the leaves do not hold up well if cooked on high heat for too long.

Oregano thrives in a hot, sunny environment. Its leaves and flowers are edible. Be careful to not overwater this herb, and check to make sure the soil is dry to the touch before giving it any moisture. In the winter months, protect the roots from frost to ensure that it makes a hearty comeback when the weather warms up again.


Dill used to be regarded as a cure for hiccups. While that may not be the case anymore, it is an herb full of antioxidants. It also has the ability to reduce cramps and swelling, and aid in digestion. It is the perfect herb to use with seafood or eggs, and goes nicely in soups or with potatoes.

It is grown best in full sun, although planting it in partial shade can keep it from flowering too quickly. It thrives in deep soils so that its roots have plenty of room to grow. It will attract helpful insects to your garden, such as wasps, but keep an eye on the leaves, as it also attract caterpillars.


Of all the herbs on this list, sage has the most medicinal properties. When made into tea, it can aid with anxiety, as well as enhance memory. It is an antiseptic, and contains antioxidants. It is said to help the body fight fatigue, and reduce fever. Supposedly it can also get rid of grey hairs (personally, this just seems unrealistic, but who can argue with science?). Sage is often paired with pork. One of the most unusual things about sage is that the bigger its leaf, the more flavor it will have.

It grows best in sunlight, with good soil and drainage. In the hotter months, it needs water every other day. The bees love the flowers. To retain the health and flavor, remove any branches that appear woody. It is also important to thin out sage in the spring, to let air flow through the plant and let sunlight into the base.

How to Safely Get Rid of Aphids and Stop Them From Killing Your Vegetables

Yuck — nothing is worse than heading out to your garden to grab some veggies for dinner and finding that they’ve been devastated by some unseen plague. What on earth?!? 

There’s a good change that you’ve been stricken by aphids: nearly invisible little creatures that can plow quickly through a garden full of veggies and leave you without much left in terms of your garden. They love to eat, and they eat everything from fruit, flowers, roots, stems, buds, leaves and even plant juices — basically, everything they can find! Aphids particularly love sweet new buds and vegetation, which can cause stunted growth in your garden. Learn more about these pests and a homemade aphid treatment that will leave you feeling good about eating the fruits of your labor without worrying about you or your loved ones ingesting dangerous chemicals. 

All About Aphids

Aphids are small, soft-bodied little insects that multiply at a frightening rate, which means you could have several generations of aphids in your home within a single season. The little pests will make you want to spend hours searching for ways to get rid of aphids, but the natural resolution is surprisingly easy. There are many types of aphids, generally named by the type of plant they prefer to attack: green peach aphids, wooly apple aphids, rose aphids, cabbage aphids and potato aphids to name a few. Aphids are so small that they are nearly invisible to the human eye — at less than 1/4 inch long as adults, they can create an outsized problem in your garden. Their pear-shaped bodies and cornicles (short projectiles on their hind end) are how you can differentiate these nasty little beasties. 

Believe it or not, a single aphid could spawn as many as 5 billion aphids each year!

This truly shocking rate of reproduction means that your problem could become worse very quickly. Females may have up to 100 offspring and her reproductive system goes into overdrive in the spring — with as many as 40 different generations of young aphids each year. These little mites are also called "plant lice", because they suck up all the good stuff from your veggies and can leave you with blackened, shriveled plants if you’re not careful.

Signs That You Have Aphids

Do you have these little critters in your garden? Since they’re so tiny and hard to see, here are some tips of determining whether you have aphids or some other problem.

  • You see a sticky, sugary liquid on leaves or stems. This is actually the waste left behind after they eat — Eww!
  • Leaves that are yellow, curled up or misshapen
  • You see small, colored moving spots on your plants (you guessed it — aphids!)

Now that you know what aphids look like and how to spot them on your plants, here are tips for creating your own homemade aphid spray. 

Aphid Treatment: Homemade Aphid Spray

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The good news is that although aphids are a serious pest problem for your veggies, they are relatively easy to kill — and natural methods work quite effectively. Killing aphids with soapy water is quite easy to do, and will not harm your plants at all. While some farmers leave behind a small number of aphids to feed beneficial bugs such as ladybugs, others look for ways to completely eradicate the pests. Simple water or a slightly soapy solution will wash the little buggers down to the dirt, where they will not survive for long.

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If you are looking for a quick and easy commericial solution, they do sell organic pre-mixed solutions.  These make it a bit easier for those that don’t want to make their own homemade solution.

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One other way to remove aphids is with ladybugs! That’s right, those cute red and black bugs love to eat aphids. And the best part is they leave your plants alone.  There are bags of live ladybugs you can buy that when released on your plants will eat up the aphids, mate, and then fly away.  When their babies hatch, they will also come around eating any aphids that might have been missed.

No matter how you slice it, aphids can wreak some serious havoc in your garden. The best option is to safely wash them off and get them out to he way — or release a lot of ladybugs to eat them up!

The Most Expensive Bonsai Trees You Can Buy

The Bonsai tree is an ornamental tree (or shrub!) that is grown in a pot and does not grow to a full-sized tree. They are considered ornamental and artificially dwarfed. Bonsai is an ancient practice, dating back to many Asian cultures and especially in Japan, cultivating small tree growths into pieces of living art. Each bonsai is carefully crafted over decades to embody a virtue or share similarities with human nature. It is common to find award-winning bonsai trees described with sayings “male-like strength” and “powerful.” But what makes them rare and what makes them the most expensive Bonsai Trees in the world?

Some bonsai trunks are stronger than you are

When looking to buy a bonsai, remember: they’re living works of art. Some bonsai trees are hundreds of years old, and the care that went into crafting them will reflect in the price tag. In general, a beginner’s bonsai will run you around $20 at a garden center, and there are many tutorials online that will teach you how to craft your own.

If you’re insistent on shelling out the big bucks for a bonsai that someone else put all the work into, then here are a few things to look for in a quality bonsai:

  1. The more mature the bonsai looks, the higher the price, but sturdier the tree

  2. No sudden tapering – if the trunk has tapering, it was once a tall tree that has been cut down. A bonsai will have a smooth, uninterrupted trunk & taper gradually

  3. The older the pot, the older the bonsai – bonsai are not changed from pot to pot, so if the pot is antique, the tree will more than likely be very rare

Best Seller: $2 Million

In 1981, a 250-year-old juniper sold for reportedly $2 million USD.  

Runner-Up: $1.3 Million

The medal for the most expensive bonsai tree ever sold is currently held by a centuries-old Pine that sold for $1.3 million at the International Bonsai Convention in Takamatsu, Japan.

Bronze: $900,000

Third place goes to a hundreds of years old bonsai that was recently on display (and for purchase) at the 8th World Bonsai Convention in Saitama, Japan.

Honorable mention: $90,000

The honorable mention goes to a small, beautiful bonsai that is very old. The trunk is the real showrunner here.

Prices for the rest of us

If you’d like to start to cultivate your own bonsai tree, well-known bonsai blog and enthusiast Bonsai Empire has a starter kit for $39.99. The kit comes with a three-year-old juniper, and the materials you need to begin caring for a bonsai. If you’re a fan of things being delivered to your house (I mean, who isn’t?), this Fiscus Bonsai is about $745 from Amazon. Of course, if you want to go for something one-of-a-kind, check out Bonsai Boy’s One-of-a-Kind Bonsai collection, including this $12,000 Trident Maple Bonsai Tree.

If you’d like to learn more about Bonsai trees, check out Bonsai Empire, and the website of master grower Kunio Kobayashi.

In terms of growing and cultivating your own bonsai tree, here are some tips for the best life for your bonsai:

  1. Trim your tree often

  2. Water the bonsai frequently based on the type of tree and your environment

  3. Fertilize the bonsai regularly, using nutrients specific to the bonsai’s needs

  4. Re-pot the bonsai as necessary, when it has become root-bound or needs the soil refreshed

  5. Keep the tree in a location that will encourage growth and longevity

  6. Learn how to style it properly, using bonsai-specific pruning and wiring techniques

  7. Select the right tree species for your environment. While the juniper and fig tree are the most common types of bonsai trees, there are many other kinds that might be better suited to your environment. The atmosphere, sea level, humidity, soil concentration, and more factors should be weighed when growing or maintaining your own bonsai tree

The Most Expensive Flowers in the World: Three Varieties You Should Know

Mary, Mary quite contrary how does your garden grow says the nursery rhyme. If you’re aiming for a garden worthy of a dozen Marys, you’ll want to think about these fabulous flowers. They’re no ordinary buds. These are eye catching glories designed to surprise and delight. It’s no wonder they come with a hefty price tag to match. Add in other touches like thick bushes and majestic trees and you’ll turn you ordinary garden into a haven for yourself and all your guests all year long. 

Here are some of the world’s expensive flowers: 

  1. Gold of Kinabalu Orchid
  2. Shenzhen Nongke Orchid
  3. Juliet Rose 
  4. Flowers For Everyone — With a Big Budget! 

    Go big. You’ll impress the neighbors, the birds and the bunnies.

    Growing flowers isn’t as easy as it looks. Sometimes, all you need are a few seeds and someone else to water them for you. Once in a while, you need an entire team of scientists, years of research and oh lots and lots of money. Such is the case with the most expensive flowers in the world. These aren’t the kind of flowers your Aunt Lucy grows for her favorite grandkids when she’s back from Boca. These are flowers with oomph and yards of research. 

    Gold of Kinabalu Orchid

    Rare and remarkable, the gold is a marvel. Growing solely in Malaysia’s Kinabalu National Park, the gold thrives at high altitudes. Scientists didn’t even know about the flower until until about twenty years ago. Locals adore the orchid’s intense color and graceful shape. They appreciate that can it can also be grown even in very high places. The plant is so valuable you can’t even pick it! Malaysian government officials want to do all they can to preserve this one in the wild. Perhaps one day soon, you’ll be able to have one in your own garden. Or at least visit it at your local botanical gardens. 

    Shenzhen Nongke Orchid

    The Shenzhen Nongke Orchid is another rare breed of orchid. For centuries, orchids have been prized by those who appreciate lovely flowers — and flowers that help demonstrate just wealthy they are! Many orchids are beautiful but very hard to grow. This one is no exception. Like the others on this list, the Shenzhen requires a lot of effort to find. They’re also very rare and easily damaged. Scientists spent over eight years developing this one for the gardener with lots of cash. The Chinese love their orchids and it shows. If you have $300,000 it can be yours. With delicate blossoms and an intense scent that calls to mind languid summer days and the rush of spring, it’s one flower that people remember again and again. 

    Juliet Rose

    Ah the rose. Does anything ever quite say I love you like the lush bloom of these flowers? Who doesn’t love the beauty, the history and the sheer power of the rose? The Juliet Rose takes the rose even further. The thick petals are a soft peach that immediately asks to be touched and admired. The Juliet Rose is often called the three million dollar rose. That’s because it took over a decade and lots of hard work to develop. Don’t have the entire three million on hand? You’re in luck. No need to empty your bank account. Your local florist probably has them on hand for about a hundred bucks a bouquet.