Plants Tips

How to Grow Your own Valencian Mountain Paella

By Clodagh and Dick Handscombe who live in a rural hanging valley above the Valencia rice fields where they garden holistically producing their own ecological vegetables, herbs, chickens, rabbits, and olive oil for their genuine mountain paellas, plus on occasions their own rice in an old bath.

Introduction to Making Paella

The word paella is known worldwide but there are much confusion and argument about what it is, where it originated from, and its various forms.

Therefore as we live in the unique La Drova/Barx mountain valley above the Valencia rice fields and grow all our own ingredients for preparing the traditional feast day version we decided to share what we have learned from elderly local folk over the past twenty-five years.

The traditional Valencia Mountain Paella is a dish for special occasions.

Growing your own Valencian Mountain Paella

A variety of rice dishes are certainly cooked in shallow paella pans as an inexpensive filling meal, several days a week by some families, but the ingredients of these are limited compared to the festive celebratory family paella dish fit for a king.

In our village and the surrounding area, March is the traditional start of the Valencia Spanish Mountain Paella year. The month in which they are cooked at the various Falleros clubs of Valencian towns during the Fallas Fiesta week which finishes on the 19th March.

Soon after this, in March or April depending on papal calculations as to when Easter should be celebrated, large family groups cook their first genuine mountain paella of the year on Easter Monday.

Traditionally this was in the countryside and cooked over orange and olive wood fires until stringent fire regulations stopped this a decade ago.

Beyond this date, country-folk could originally only afford to use the best of their vegetables and meat for genuine ‘royal’ paellas on the feast of St. James July 25th, christenings, first communion celebrations, and weddings, and from the 1960’s October 9th Valencia Day when paella competitions often take place.

These traditional dates continue, but today most families can afford to produce the real thing for many more gatherings of family and friends. Some families did and still cook a special paella for Christmas day.

We, therefore, consider what is a genuine paella, how the essential ingredients can be largely self-grown, and how to combine them to produce your own gastronomic paella.

What is a genuine celebratory Paella and who might have first eaten it?

If we climb up to the ridge of the mountain in front of our house just to the north we see the famous rice fields south of Valencia and to the south the smaller rice fields of the Pego marshes.

Between the two where oranges and tourist developments now grow were mosquito-ridden marshes. An area where few persons lived except for a few fishermen and rice field workers until the C19 century when raids by North African pirates came to an end and the 1950’s when DDT helped clear the mosquito plagues.

The populated town of Gandia and villages were inland along the banks of the several rivers that run through the marshes to the sea and two or three hundred meters up in the coastal mountains. For centuries it was therefore normal that inland olive oil and livestock were bartered/traded for rice and fish from the coastal plain.

But the mountain villages themselves were not big meat eaters for economic reasons. Until 1836 our village of Barx was under the harsh feudal rule of a monastery at the foot of the mountains. Much produce went to the monastery including the wine, vegetables, and meat and after the dissolution of the monasteries to the growing coastal towns.

Additionally for several centuries during the mid 15th to mid 19th centuries mini ice age the village ice caves, tavernas, acted as the monastery deep freeze and fridge.

Today we are told that three local dishes evolved. A day-to-day rice stew with little meat and Arroz al Horno cooked in a wood oven with poor quality meat and the fully-fledged mountain paella for the important family gatherings previously listed.

But richer people in the town of Gandia and others could afford the best ingredients throughout the year and indeed Gandia was the economic epicenter of the Safor area and lands of the Dukes of Borja from the late C15. The family that provided several abbots of the Simat monastery, two of whom became popes and took the Safor gastronomic expertise to Rome from where it influenced the evolution of Italian gastronomy.

What is missed in the history of the paella is that the Monastery in Simat established a summer residence and rest home for the monks in La Droid. This would have been halfway on the direct route from the Monastery to the Borja family Palace in Gandia and from Gandia to other family palaces in Xativa where Pope Alexander VI was born.

It is therefore not inconceivable that demanding a meal comprising the best of locally grown and hunted produce members of the Borja family dined on an early version of today’s Mountain Paella in La Drova.

Interestingly the specialist paella restaurant Papallo was established in part of the buildings of the old Monastery mountain retreat and at the other end of the valley, the equivalent of today’s bed and breakfast with paella for lunch or dinner for travelers was established in 1925. Above both are caves where prehistoric families lived well off the herbs and wildlife of the then unspoiled valley.

The paella was and is, therefore, a special dish. An entire meal, one originally designed for communal eating from the pan but today more on individual plates, one worth the best fresh ingredients that can be afforded or spared from those normally traded and one worth spending time preparing by the head cook of the family.

Often this is still grandmother preparing something special for her entire brood. In other cases, the father or eldest son is the paella specialist but sadly this tradition is dying out.

So to take advantage of the historic valley in which we live we developed a holistic garden and nearby allotment and olive grove to ensure that we have the best ingredients for any Paella that we might prepare.

What are the essential ingredients that need to be grown or in the short term bought?

Growing your own Valencian Mountain Paella

They are medium-grained Valencian rice, vegetables, meats, herbs and spices, local cold-pressed virgin olive plus fresh spring water if possible to avoid the subtle blend of flavors being tainted by the chlorine and other chemicals now added to domestic drinking water. All the ingredients can be grown in a holistic Spanish or Mediterranean garden elsewhere.

Within this framework, the most authentic and traditional mix of ingredients for a feast day mountain paella is described below.

A. Vegetables for Paella

The diversity of vegetables used makes the paella flavorsome, colorful, and healthy. The following are those generally used with popular seasonal variations. All can be homegrown relatively easily.

  • Fruit vegetables
  • Tomatoes
  • Butter beans – fresh or dried
  • Haricot beans – fresh or dried
  • Climbing beans – green or red pod varieties
  • Red pepper

n.b. In the spring fresh peas and broad beans are often used instead of the above beans which are only available fresh in the summer and autumn

  • Flower/seed vegetables
  • Artichokes add flavor and a greenish tint.

Medium grained rice grown in the Valencia rice fields or in an old bath in your garden. Our yield was 2.5 kilos!

  • Saffron, an autumn crocus for coloring and flavor.
  • Leafy vegetables/herbs
  • Parsley
  • Thyme
  • Rosemary
  • Root vegetables
  • Garlic – added to the meatballs and when cooking the meat according to taste.

All except for the rice can be easily grown in the garden as explained in our book ‘Growing Healthy Vegetables in Spain’ and for apartment terrace gardeners as explained in ‘Apartment Gardening Mediterranean Style’.

B. Meats for Paella

Growing your own Valencian Mountain Paella

Today the main meat ingredients are rabbit and chicken, minced pork for the very important meatballs(albondigas), and snails collected from the vegetable plot or mountainside. The latter is normally left out by expatriates or restaurants with a non-Spanish clientele.

We normally offer them as an optional side plate if nonsnail eaters are to be present. So apart from the pork the meat ingredients are easily raised in a holistic garden and are likely to be tastier if fed on greens, dried grass, herbs, and grains rather than commercial pellet feed.

Snails are normally fed on rosemary for two or three weeks before cooking to clean them and flavor the meat.

C. Other essential ingredients for Paella

Good water – preferably non-chlorinated – best from a local spring.

A chunk of several days old locally or home-baked bread for bread crumbs.

Flavorings and colorings as explained in the chart below.

A convenient place to cook the paella, the paellera, which might be a specially constructed outdoor kitchen with a wood fire, a wood fire in a sheltered place, or more and more a specially manufactured gas ring on a stand with a tube to a butane bottle.

A sunny day so that the paella can be eaten in the open air under the shade of a tree or umbrella.

Finally the most important thing the flat metal Caldero, or paella pan’ without which a paella cannot be cooked. For ease of cleaning some persons now use enameled covered calderas but the heat transfer is not as good.

In total, a paella meets all the requirements for being termed a Slow Food gastronome dish. Local ingredients are grown ecologically, part of a social and cultural tradition, fair reward for growers of ingredients and the chef, impossible to reproduce satisfactorily in a frozen or canned commercial version.

Gardening Plants

Planting Basil in Your Herb Garden

Basil is originally native to Iran and India but has made its way across the world into recipes of numerous varieties. From Italian sauces to soups and stews, it is generally simmered into the sauce to get the best taste.

Starting the Plants

Sow Right Seeds - Genovese Sweet Basil Seed for Planting - Heirloom, Non-GMO with Instructions to Plant and Grow a Kitchen Herb Garden - Great Gardening Gift - Minimum of 500mg per Packet (1)

Basil does not do well in cold climates as it is a tender, low-growing herb. It is very sensitive to the ground temperatures, so is best planted in areas that have a hot climate, or should be grown indoors in pots to protect it from cooler temperatures. It will act as an annual plant if the frost threat is present. The plant senses the cooler temperatures and will wither, possibly even to death, very quickly.

If you have these plants in a hot climate, they will grow and provide you with more fresh herbs than you can use – feel free to share with your friends. You might even motivate someone else to begin gardening her own herbs and you can share different ones with one another.

To grow more plants, take cuttings from the existing plant, and suspend them in water until roots develop. Once the roots have started, you can move the plants to your indoor pots or outdoors into an herb garden bed. Once the flowers bloom, it may give you some black seeds which can be collected and replanted next year for new plants.

Care of the Plants

Miracle-Gro Nature's Care Organic & Natural Tomato, Vegetable & Herb Plant Food, 3 lbs.

In the right environment, the basil plants will grow from 30-130 cm tall and have silky, light green leaves. Though in cold climates, it grows better indoors, it is best to have this herb planted as an outdoor plant. The sun and heat from hot summers help it to flourish well. Indoors, it should be placed on a windowsill facing the sun for as much of the day as possible. If this is not possible in your home, the plants can be grown under fluorescent lights.

Uses of Basil

Scientific studies have shown that the oil compounds from the leaves of basil have antioxidant qualities. It is also used to help relieve stress and asthma. It has been classified as a known carcinogen; however, these studies show that one must consume 100 – 1000 times the normal amount of basil to develop cancer cells attributed to the use of this herb.

Used in many sauces and stews, this is a staple in your kitchen herbs. Like all herbs, nothing takes the place of using fresh herbs. Add this to your herb garden today and enjoy the benefits of spicing your foods with your home-grown herbs!

House Plants

How To Incorporate Plants Inside Your Home For The Best Effect

Home is where the heart is, so it’s natural for us to want to make it look as best we can in order to make it the most welcoming place for us. After all, this is where we nurture ourselves and the ones we love.

However, when it comes to home improvement, improving the appearance of our homes can be a pain, especially when it comes to design choices. However, if you’re a green thumb, here are a few good tips on how to incorporate plants inside your home for the best effect.

The Basics: Appearances Matter

Don't plant boringly
Don’t plant boringly

This might seem a bit of an odd option, but it’s true when we say that appearances matter. Incorporating plants inside your home works best the way certain clothes are fit for certain body types. We need to assess the kind of home structure you have and the way you want to modify your home in order to accommodate your intended plant design.

  • Plants work with a minimalist setting. If your room is scarcely filled with furniture, a plant can give a much-needed emphasis on the room in question. This works with big living rooms or living spaces such as dining rooms.
  • Plants work within monochromatic color schemes. This means rooms with a predominant color, especially warm ones, can use the help of a plant as a green spotlight tends to catch the attention of others.
  • Plants that are big in nature work best when placed on corners or beside the wall. Plants that need a lot of air and sunlight would naturally have to be placed near windows and sources of ventilation.
  • Plants also add good natural lighting to the house. It’s not a light source, but its colors can add a warmer glow to the room if sunlight hits it at just the right angle.

Going Green: Using Plants to Decorate Homes

Who said plants should only be used outside? Indoor plants are great to fill out a lot of empty corners, especially if those parts of the room lack any substantial indoor decoration.

Sometimes, there are corners at home that obstruct other pieces of furniture, so instead of getting a plain decoration for it, go for a plant instead.

  • If you have very few opportunities to fill your home with decor because of a lack of space, then perhaps you may want to consider hanging plants. This allows you to utilize your space more efficiently, and this way you don’t have to fill out all the spaces in your room with it.
  • Along the same vein, a plant wall might be up your alley. The design is a bit grand, but it’s perfect if you have a wall at home or even a pathway. The right kind of indoor plants can thrive on a plant wall, and it can add the kind of “green” you’re looking for.
  • Plants can emphasize or divide a room. For instance, you can use a plant as a centerpiece of a room so that everything else can “revolve” around it. If you’re aiming for a more minimalist design, the less decor there is around the plant centerpiece, the more sophisticated your home will look. Likewise, you can also use plants as dividers to add some sort of “division” in your home. This can create the illusion of space as well.
  • What if you allot space at home for plants? Some indoor designers love the idea of gardening indoors with a zen garden or even a sunroom. If you want to try this, make sure your indoor plants such as bamboo trees or fern trees have enough water and sunlight to hit them at just the right angle for growth. For sunrooms, try to accommodate your plants with a translucent roof or even translucent walls. If you’re not into indoor gardening, perhaps plants as decorations in your hallways might help add that spice as well.

Indoor Plants: The Benefits

If you’re a certified green thumb, you know that plants aren’t just healthy, but they’re great for decoration. They do have considerable benefits when placed outside, especially when it comes to improving the outdoor appearance of the home. So it’s only natural for us to think of making it work on the inside. Judging from how some home improvement enthusiasts do it, it is possible!

If you’re a bit hesitant, consider:

  • Plants still work as air purifiers inside the home. It’s much better to have plants at home because of this perk, as plants now allow air around the home to be cleaner for everyone in it. This is useful and helpful for those who want a dash of clean air they can’t easily get outside.
  • Plants are therapeutic when used properly. They add a dash of aesthetic that can be relaxing, which is good for those who are stressed from work and studying.
  • Plants encourage care and responsibility. This can be a bit of a downer for some, and there are plants that are low-maintenance. However, plants do encourage a positive atmosphere of actively caring and making sure we always work towards achieving our goals – in this case, making sure plants fulfill their roles in the house only if we care for them enough. This can be good practice for responsibility.

Remember: Maintenance Is Key

Remember: Maintenance Is Key for indoor plants
Remember: Maintenance Is Key for indoor plants

If there’s anything the methods above show, it’s that plants can easily be incorporated into both indoor and outdoor settings given the right planning. However, using plants inside the home can add that extra twist you may have been looking for to make your house livelier. Remember, though, that we can’t just put plants haphazardly in areas we tend to forget. If we want to incorporate plants inside our homes, we need to make sure they’re maintained.

  • Research on the kind of plants you want to use and see if they’re native to your area. If yes, try to assess the potential living conditions the plant will have in your home. If not, is there any way you can modify your home to accommodate the needs of the plant?
  • Check if the plants you want are available for purchase in your area. If it has to be shipped, how long would it take, and can you use that time to plan the rest of your home setup?
  • In speaking of the home setup, check your budget to check if you can accommodate some adjustments the plants may need in order to fit in your home. These include extra pots and vases, extra modifications to structural parts of the house like the roof, the walls, and the ceiling if need be.


The best ways on how to incorporate plants inside your home for the best effect might be under your nose after all, and it takes a while to plant (no pun intended) a creative seed into your head and let it work your green thumb magic. However, if there’s anything these methods show, it’s that having plants around the home is not just aesthetic, but it’s eco-friendly and therapeutic as well.

The benefits of plants, if combined with good planning, can help make the home a more enjoyable place to be. Our home will really be where the heart is, as it’s going to be just as extra a bit as relaxing as we thought it’d be.


Desert Gardening with Lavender-Scallops: Planting the Kalanchoe fedtschenkoi

The South American air plant is also known by the common names of lavender scallops and gray sedum. Botanically it is known as Kalanchoe fedtschenkoi, a member of the orpine family, and is a succulent that originated in Madagascar.

There are over 200 different cultivars of the Kalanchoe so gardeners have plenty to choose from. While not fragrant, it is an easy-to-grow plant that is perfectly nestled in a desert garden. It is both easy to propagate and isn’t too picky about its growing soil.


Lavender Scallops is a perennial that is evergreen and good for indoor container use. It grows 24 inches tall and 12 inches wide with hairless succulent leaves that are blue-green in color. Leaves are approximately one to two inches long. Flowers are purple or red-brown and bell-shaped, nearly a quarter of an inch long. Flowers will bloom on tall stems above the foliage.


Kalanchoe fedtschenkoi
Kalanchoe fedtschenkoi

Grow a Kalanchoe fedtschenkoi in partial shade if planted in an outdoor location or if indoors put in bright light that isn’t direct light. Feed twice a year, preferably in April and July, with a good water-soluble fertilizer. It will need water during the growing season but does not need supplemental watering while in the winter season. If indoors, plant with potting soil with some sand added.

Propagation and Hardiness

To propagate this plant by cuttings is without difficulty. It can also root from stems hitting the ground and taking root. Try sticking leaves in the potting medium for an easy way to propagate. This plant is hardy in warm weather locations, the USDA hardiness zones of 9b through 12. They are not able to live through a hard freeze.


Gray sedum has great use as a ground cover or in rock gardens. In a desert garden setting the plant rises above the sand and rock to create a light airy feel to the landscape. It makes a great potted plant for those that like to bring a little of their desert garden indoors with them.

The South American air plant can be plagued with scale or mealybugs so keep an eye on the plant throughout the season. Always look for the healthiest plant before bringing it home. It has been shown to remove formaldehyde from the air and is listed as a clean air plant. As a clean air potted plant, it does well in office settings to help filter the air.

Gardening Plants

Garden and House Plants That Are Safe for Children And Pets

Child and Pet-Safe Garden and House Plants

Children and pets are always inquisitive about their environment. Vivid and colorful flowers and leaves are an invitation for further exploration and even snacking – so to make a safe environment for your whole family, check out those plants and seeds before you bring them into your home and garden. Knowing a little about the plant world can make a difference in the health and happiness of those sharing your home.

Some plants to avoid

Moonflower – Ipomoea: You may be tempted to plant this one simply because of the fragrant flowers that open at night. This vining plant has been enjoyed by many satisfied gardeners for years. The perfume of these blossoms attracts hummingbird moths to the moonlight garden and this one even self-seeds. Avoid it as the seeds are poisonous.

Plant safety away from home

Some parks and other public places and even your friends and family may be using plants for ornamental landscaping that could be poison to children and pets if eaten. Learn to identify the castor oil plant with its ornamental and exotic-type leaves of bronze and scarlet and displays of vivid red flowers. Used in some places to produce biodiesel, this one is very poisonous.

Use care in watering plants

Some pesticides and plants foods could be toxic and standing water is an open invitation offering a drink to pets and children. If you have to use pesticides use organic and safe products and check all labels carefully or avoid using them at all especially if there is anyone in the family with breathing problems that could be affected.

The flaming red poinsettia

What is a holiday without that poinsettia with its fiery red leaves sitting in the middle of the dining room table – and now even available in shades of cream, orange, pale green, pink, white, or marbled. Though not highly toxic, these leaves can be irritating to the skin or stomach and may cause diarrhea and vomiting if the leaf is eaten.

Have a happy home and garden and enjoy safe plants!


10 Ways Your Plants Save the Planet

We already know that gardening and tending plants is a great activity that benefits us personally in some amazing ways. Besides providing our neighbors and communities with aesthetically pleasing landscapes, our plants also affect the environment in some surprising ways.

This is important because within the past 50 years we have seen the average global temperature accelerate at the fastest rate since we began recording history. Unfortunately, this trend is only expected to keep increasing. Just consider that out of the hottest years, all but one has occurred since the year 2000!

While this news is a little overwhelming, we can take a little comfort in the fact that our gardens and plants help out the planet. Scroll through the list below of ten ways your plants save the environment:

1. Plants reduce levels of pollution and carbon dioxide.

Our plants naturally take in carbon dioxide and produce fresh oxygen in the process called photosynthesis. Carbon dioxide is one of the biggest contributors to the greenhouse effect which is causing global warming. Plants also remove dangerous chemicals, heavy metals, and bacteria from the air and groundwater.

2. Trees and green spaces reduce cooling costs.

In the United States alone, trees eliminate about 800 million tons of carbon. When we add up this impact, it saves about $22 billion in climate control costs. As an added bonus, all of our trees can reduce cooling costs in our homes by providing valuable shade.

This really adds up, because according to the Arbor Day Foundation one healthy tree’s shade saves the production of energy equal to running 10 room-size air conditioners up to 20 hours a day. If that isn’t caused to garden, note green spaces are often 3 to 4 degrees cooler in the day and up to 22 degrees in the evening than urban centers. Over time, our plants reduce our needs for electricity relying on fossil fuels and increase our home’s energy efficiency.

3. Can be turned into renewable products.

Our plants also provide us with renewable products that can be used for building or energy. Some good examples are bamboo, compost, hemp, and even ethanol.

4. Produces food locally.

One way we can significantly impact the environment with our plants is by growing our own products locally. Growing edible plants prevents shopping at grocery stores and the toll shipping, processing, and packaging take on the planet. Sometimes our food has traveled halfway around the world to our dinner plates. By eating locally grown produce, we can save a lot of energy, waste, and money.

5. Replenishes lost nutrients in the soil.

Over the years, many of our soils have lost valuable nutrients either through overgrowing of the same crops or by depleting the soil with overuse. We can use our plant choices to replenish these minerals to rebalance soil compositions. For example, flax and radishes provide great ground cover, and clover, beans, or legumes add back valuable nitrogen to the soil which is an essential nutrient for thriving plants. Over time, we can reduce the need for expensive and chemical fertilizers.

6. Reduces noise pollution.

Another way our plants can save the environment is by reducing noise pollution. Green spaces, plants, and trees absorb sound and can reduce interference from loud highways or railways by up to 10 decibels. This can prevent urban noises from disturbing our homes and wildlife.

7. Prevents erosion.

Erosion can be caused by a variety of conditions, but in the end, we are allowing our priceless topsoils to be carried away. Thankfully, we can use our plants to prevent erosion. This is a common ecological practice in land management and is relatively easy. We can choose native plants or ground cover that provide extensive root systems to hold the dirt and nutrients in the soil so they don’t wear away.

8. Provides sanctuary to local wildlife.

Our plants also help wildlife, reptiles, insects, and bees by providing food, places to hide from predators, and habitat. This is important because we can combat the impact of urban sprawl on our environment.

9. Plants provide herbal and natural alternative health remedies.

For centuries we have been using plants, flowers, and herbs for medicinal purposes. Looking for natural alternatives can prevent unnecessary energy use or chemicals contaminating our water and soil.

10. Our plants help foster eco-consciousness in others.

Green spaces have some very amazing side effects on people. Just being surrounded by plants and trees can make us feel better, reduce stress, and boost our mental health. However, access to nature and green spaces is shown to foster a better appreciation for the environment in our children. And, this will help future generations look for ways to save the environment.

In what ways have you seen plants improve the environment?

Plants Tips

Best Tips to Grow Hydroponic Plants

Hydroponic growing your plants is a great alternative for a lot of people. If you are lacking yard space or have no access to soil, you can grow your favorite plants hydroponically. This means that you will have access to fresh plants in the comfort of your home whenever you want.

There are a lot of plants that grow exceptionally well with the most efficient hydroponic system, however, there might still be some questions that you keep on asking yourself. How often to water hydroponic plants? How to check the PH level? Which nutrients should you use? The answers to these questions can greatly affect your experience with hydroponically growing various plants.

Best Tips to Grow Hydroponic Plants
Best Tips to Grow Hydroponic Plants

Which Nutrients Should I use?

A hydroponic system depends on water-soluble nutrients that will make your plants grow. Unlike traditional plants, yours will not have to dig through the soil to have access to nutrients. You shouldn’t use the nutrients that you would typically use for growing your plants in the soil since it is already rich with some of the elements your plant needs. You should, however, buy specific nutrients that are designed to nourish hydroponic plants. You can easily find different options on the market. Choose liquid or dry fertilizers depending on your preference.

How often do Water Hydroponic Plants?

A lot of people ask this question, mainly because there is no one specific right answer. It solely depends on the type of your plant, the weather, and how fast it absorbs water. So basically speaking the answer to this question will vary every time you ask it. A good answer that you can use as a rule of thumb is to water your plants enough to wet the roots but not so much they suffocate and die.

Every growing situation is different depending on the hydroponic system you are using, the growing medium, the level of humidity, and the temperature. This is why it should be smart to invest in a timer that grants you some flexibility while growing your hydroponic plants.

Although plants are highly adaptable, it would be smart to keep an eye on the roots to see how they react to your watering schedule. If they seem to be dry most of the time, then you can easily increase the frequency of watering. However, if they seem to be too wet, you might want to cut down on the water to avoid root rot. Check how they look and adjust your technique, your plant will teach you what it needs.

Bigger plants need more water than smaller plants. Plants growing in humid conditions will not need as much water as the amount needed by those growing in dry conditions. You can also skip night watering since the plant will only soak the water up when it is exposed to light.

Water Quality:

Using high-quality filtered water can save you a lot of headaches and hassle. Tap water, spring water, well water, and rainwater might work with plants that grow in the soil since they have access to nutrients by digging into the soil. But for your hydroponic plants, water is the main source of nutrients. The low quality of water can greatly jeopardize the health of your plants.

Water filtered through a water softener still has traces of sodium chloride which is toxic to some plants. Even if it doesn’t kill your plants on the spot, it will accumulate in your hydroponic system over time. Invest in a good filtration system that will remove all the toxins, chemicals and minerals that can harm your plants.

Checking the PH Level:

You can check this article, where I talked about pH soil meters, there you will find all information you should know. You shouldn’t be overwhelmed by the PH level thing. It is not rocket science since plants are highly adaptable. However, there is a limit to what they can tolerate. This is why you need to keep an eye on the PH level to make sure that your plant is OK.

There are two ways you can check the PH level, using electric meters and PH drops. Electric meters are typically more accurate and will provide the correct reading to the nearest tenth. Nevertheless, you don’t really to have such accurate readings when you are dealing with hydroponic plants. You actually need to have your PH level within the correct range. For this reason, you can use PH drops. These are very easy to use and store and don’t need to be calibrated. They are affordable and last a long time. Use them according to the manufacturer’s instructions and fill the vial to get the correct reading.

Use the Adequate PH Adjuster:

PH adjusters are what you need to use when your PH level is off. Remember that you need to buy an adjuster that is specifically designed for hydroponics. Using one that works with soil is not suitable. You can’t either use other substances that you can find at home like baking soda or vinegar to adjust the PH level. Such adjustors will add other elements and substances to the water that mess up with the nutrients your plant needs to survive.

Again, you can find dry and liquid adjustors to use. Liquid adjustors, just like liquid nutrients, are easier to use but more expensive than dry ones. You should get a PH up and a PH down even if you don’t feel that you will ever need both. You will never know what can come up with your water and you should always make sure that the medium works for your plant.

There are different requirements when it comes to growing fruit, vegetables, and flowering plants. Check those before adjusting the PH level. Adjustors last a long time and keep your plants healthy.

Pump Timers:

Most hydroponic systems need pump timers to run the water pump. You will need a timer if you are growing your hydroponic plants in an Ebb and Flow System, Aeroponic system, or Drip system. However, you won’t need a pump timer if you are growing your plants in a water culture system. This one uses an air pump that should be left to run around the clock to avoid root suffocation.

Use an indoor-outdoor timer because it is generally safe to use around water. This will grant you some flexibility when it comes to watering your plant in your hydroponic system. A timer answers the question of how often to water hydroponic plants because it can be easily adjusted whenever you like.

Mechanical timers are very reliable and don’t cost as much as digital timers. If you experience a power short, your digital timer’s memory will be wiped off and you will have to adjust everything all over again. However, they are typically more accurate than the traditional mechanical ones. Make sure that you pick a mechanical timer with a lot of pins around the dial as these provide more settings. A timer with 15 minutes minimum setting provides more flexibility than one with a 30 minutes minimum.

Doing the right things will guarantee the best results. Growing your plants in a hydroponic system may not seem very easy at the beginning. You might not get everything right from the first time, but this shouldn’t discourage you. You will learn from your mistakes and the results will be exceptional. Happy gardening!

House Plants

Things To Consider When Starting Your Balcony Garden

If you’re living in a flat or apartment and you have access to your very own balcony, the chances are you’re going to want to personalize this in your own way. A balcony garden is extremely convenient when compared to other types of gardens.

With minimal maintenance, an area big enough to sit on, and the perfect way to create a ‘wow’ area in your home, the balcony garden can provide you with a great sense of openness. In order to provide you with a few tips and tricks, we’ve put together a list of things to consider when starting your own balcony garden.

Tips for Beautiful Balcony Garden
Tips for Beautiful Balcony Garden


One of the things to really consider when it comes to your balcony garden is how you’re going to personalize it in your very own way. Personalization of your balcony garden can be as simple as adding a few plants or adding beautiful furniture such as teak coffee tables or lounge chairs. There are a great number of different ways that you can put your own touch on your balcony garden, and if you have the space, you can even treat the area as your own with decorations and pottery.


Something many people tend to forget with balcony gardens is the safety aspect. If you’re high up in a flat, you’re going to want to consider the windy days, particularly in the winter. Some of the main issues when it comes to safety are things falling off, putting too much weight on your balcony which can damage the structure and drainage to ensure that your garden balcony doesn’t flood.

When it comes to putting plants in your balcony garden, you’re going to need to ensure that you are watering them, where the water is going to come from and where it is going to go afterward. Making sure that you have some form of drainage system in place is imperative.


When you’re in a flat, there are a number of different views that you can have from your balcony, however, you’re going to want to also consider the conditions. If your balcony is facing the sunny side, then you’re going to want to ensure that you’re bringing in some shade for the hot summer months.

If it is often windy on your balcony then windbreakers can help to ensure that you’re keeping your balcony safe and making the experience of sitting on your balcony more enjoyable. If you don’t have a very good view then consider trellises.

7 Tips for Beautiful Balcony Garden
7 Tips for Beautiful Balcony Garden

Balconies are often left to deal with some of the most extreme forms of weather, so it is important that the plants you choose are durable. If you have a sunny balcony for example, why not choose the Mediterranean balcony garden plant of choice the geranium.

There are a great number of different colors and styles to choose from, and they’re used to dealing with the sun! Grasses and herbs are also a great choice for balcony gardens as they are durable, and don’t require much maintenance.

Landscape Plants

How To Use Landscape Plants To Design A Beautiful Yard

Everyone knows it is a bad idea to put water plants inside of their desert garden. That is a recipe for complete disaster. The same thing is true when it comes to many other kinds of plants – numerous rock garden plants will fall over when they are planted into loamy, rich garden beds and many prairie plants will not survive in waterlogged soil.

So how can you know whether or not a plant will not only survive in your landscape but also thrive? It all comes down to having the right plants in the right place. The following are some of the best landscaping ideas Houston has to offer.

How To Use Landscape Plants To Design A Beautiful Yard
How To Use Landscape Plants To Design A Beautiful Yard

The first thing you need to do is carefully analyze the environmental conditions of your landscape – its soil composition, shade and sun patterns, planting zone and microclimate – and then choose plants according to how they can thrive in a certain spot in your yard.

Native (indigenous) plants offer a low-maintenance, drought-resistant, hardy, and beautiful landscape. Since these plants have evolved in a specific region over the course of thousands of years, they are well-suited to the area’s climate, hydrology, and geography. Fewer pesticides and no fertilizers are required by native plants compared to non-natives and lawns. They also require less water, which helps to reduce air pollution. These plants also provide shelter and food for butterflies, birds and other forms of wildlife.

When using native plants, it is still very important that they are grouped together according to having similar needs when it comes to soil, water, and sun conditions. Master gardeners often recommend that you create microclimate zones so that your least thirsty plants are located on the edges of your garden and the ones that need the most water are closest to your house.

Using these kinds of hydro zoning techniques can save you money on water and installation costs since less irrigation will be required. You will save money on your energy bills also. When there is more water in your soil next to your house, during the summer it will result in increased evaporative cooling, which will make your patio area and house cooler. This is what is known as the oasis effect.

With this modern gardening design philosophy, plants are matched with the landscape and then placed in areas where they will thrive naturally – without the gardener having to add too much input. This results in having a landscape design that is easy to maintain.

Benefits of Having the Right Plants in the Right Places

How To Use Landscape Plants To Design A Beautiful Yard

How To Use Landscape Plants To Design A Beautiful YardWhen the right plants are put into the right places, it several things occur due to you providing the plants with practically ideal growing conditions:

  • Plants are established, grow and bulk up quickly
  • Plants experience steady top growth and healthy root systems are produced
  • Plants are able to withstand attacks from diseases and insects. When plants are in the wrong place it results in their immune systems being compromised, and they are ripe for becoming infected whenever a bug or disease comes along.

The largest investment you make when making sure you put the right plants in the right places happens before you ever place your trowel in the soil. With this concept, the key to success is proper planning. When you invest more time into planning before planting, you won’t have to spend as much time maintaining your plants. You will be gardening green and smarter – and save money as well.

Begin With The Hardiness Zone

Check the USDA Hardiness Zone to find out if plants you are considering can survive your region’s winter weather conditions. Many gardeners try pushing the envelope when it comes to the hardiness zone and try growing plants from a warmer zone.

They try planting the questionable survivors in a backyard that is sheltered or perhaps in a bed close to a southern wall of their house, where the temperature doesn’t drop as low in the winter. However, to ensure success, your landscape design should be filled with plants that can survive in your zone.

Assess The Lighting Condition

There are some plants that need to have full sun in order to thrive, while others need shade. To get the best gardening results, make sure you are familiar with the type of light that is offered by your yard.

To determine this, watch the sun hitting your landscape areas one day. You should ideally check this every hour and take notes. Then when you run across a plant tag that states “partial shade,” you will know whether or not your yard provides those conditions.

Consider Your Soil

How To Use Landscape Plants To Design A Beautiful Yard
How To Use Landscape Plants To Design A Beautiful Yard

Plants are going to need very specific kinds of soil if they are going to grow best. One great thing about your soil is that you can often change it with the addition of amendments.

For example, you might make slow-draining clay soil more porous so it drains faster with the addition of organic matter, such as compost. Alternatively, you can even make an entirely new kind of soil across your landscape through the building and then filling raised beds, which can also bring some handy hardscaping to the area in question.

When you put the wrong plant into the wrong type of soil, your results will be mixed at best. In the very worst case, your plant will die. In the best possible case, it will survive but produces lackluster results.

Every kind of soil is able to accommodate its own group of plants. Prior to being the agent of large-scale change in your soil, look up what kinds of plants will grow in the very soil that’s already there. You can possibly create that attention-grabbing landscape using those, or you can turn to a landscape professional or business for advice and suggestions.

Size Matters Up

Plant tags are something that tells you just how big plants might grow in the most ideal of situations. You should plan like this, siting your plants in a corresponding fashion, allowing each of them sufficient room for growth both outward and upward.

When placed appropriately, taller plants might create a useful privacy screen or even become a strong backdrop against other plantings. However, when placed improperly, they can become an eyesore. On the other hand, plants that are not big at all might get dwarfed by

Embrace Both Texture And Color

When you pick plants, keep in mind both flower and leaf color, so you can figure out whether it’s going to clash or blend with your existing hardscaping or landscape. One simple path to success here in terms of color is designing using hues all in one color family. This works particularly well for a front-yard garden, where you might want to put your best foot forward to both visitors and passersby.

Scattering same-color clumps through your planting areas is another goof-proof way of going about it. This is called a color echo. Don’t neglect to look up bloom times so you can plan for constant color from the start of the gardening season to the end. Install a bit of drama into your landscape by adding contrasts among your plant and leaf textures.

Be Smarter Than Wildlife

How To Use Landscape Plants To Design A Beautiful Yard
How To Use Landscape Plants To Design A Beautiful Yard

Many gardeners eventually deal with some form of critter issue. It could be tunneling voles, strolling deer, or hopping rabbits, but whatever it is, it can wipe out your landscape design, turning your gardening work into a wasteland of stubs and stems.

You can’t likely win every battle, but you can usually be smarter than wildlife. The installation of hardscaping, such as fencing, puts a physical barrier up which limits the access of wildlife to your gardening space. However, fences aren’t always practical choices, much less affordable ones, in huge backyards or formal frontal spaces.

Picking plants that critters don’t like is another way to outwit them. Rabbits aren’t supposed to eat coralbells, but if they do, you might want to ditch them for something that your local bunnies don’t find as palatable. Landscaping businesses or professionals might know certain species of plants to use if you live in that area. In the long term, you’ll spare yourself many hours of stress and even save money that you might have otherwise spent on replacement plants.

You’ll have more breathing room in other categories of various plant selections. However, if you put a big tree in an improper place, you’re going to have problems with your hand later on. A lot of homeowners wind up paying for a tree with dangerous overhangs to be curtailed or just brought down altogether.

Gardening Plants

10 Funny Plant Names

It’s good to have some fun when doing gardening and especially if you plant plants with a funny name. Let your friends laugh when you tell them about your garden! So here is the list of 10 funny plant names. Plant them in your garden because most of them are growing all over the world.

1. Shaggy Soldier (Galinsoga quadriradiata)

Galinsoga quadriradiata and its follower G. parfivolia are edible, and you can use it as a potherb or in salads. Mostly used in China because of wild-looking outside.

Shaggy Soldier
Shaggy Soldier

2. Stiffcock (diospyros crassenevis)


BBC had to apologize to their listeners because they mentioned on the radio this plant and everybody think that this is a random rude word.

If you look at the pictures, you can see why this herb is claimed to be an herbal Viagra. It smells very strong and tea is very strong, with a delicious taste. This plant is also known as Black Man’s Willy.

3. Shagbark Hickory (Carya ovata)


When growing over 100ft high and living more than 350 years, they give nuts, which are edible and have a very sweet taste. It has 12-24in big leaves. Grows in the United States and Canada.  The nuts are very excellent and taste perfect

4. Cockhold Herb (bidens connata)


Daisy’s family plant grows in Eurasia, North Africa, and North America. You can grow them also in Australia and the Pacific Islands.

The plant is approximately 80 inches tall, and each year it has up to 3 yellow flowers.

5. Family Jewels Milkweed (asclepias physocarpus)

Seed Needs, Milkweed Seed Collection (6 Individual Seed Packets) Open Pollinated Seeds

Milkweed from South Africa. Mostly grows in summer and does it very quickly. Plant flowers are small, 1cm wide and with light hoods, and covered with sharp pinches. The brown seeds have silky clusters.

6. Sausage Tree (Kigelia africana)

Sausage Tree
Sausage Tree

Kigelia is the Bignoniaceae family plant. This plant is growing only in tropical Africa. The fruit is 2 feet long and weighs about 16lbs, and it looks like a hot dog or sausage.

7. Knobweed (Hyptis capitata)


Knotweed is a plant of the family Lamiaceae. You can see and plant it all over Florida, Mexico, Central America, Australia, and Southeast Asia. It grows up to 1.5m, but be careful with this plant because mostly this counts as a weed.

8. Sticky Willy (galium aparine)

Sticky Willy
Sticky Willy

This plant has a lot of names – Galium aparine, clivers, goosegrass, catchweed, sticky weed, robin-run-the-hedge, sticky willy, sticky willow, stickyjack, stickeljack. A lot, yes? This plant grows all over your garden and all over your other plants and flowers. It attaches small legs everywhere and can grow almost in every place and get everywhere, so be careful, it grows fast and crawls everywhere. And this plant for some people can be dangerous because it can cause contact dermatitis.

9. Nipplewort (Lapsana communis)


Lapsana communis, the common nipplewort is almost as same as sunflower. It is native in Europe and southwestern Asia and naturalized all over the world. It’s edible, and the flower is a herb and very healthy. Young leaves can be cooked like spinach. Years ago it was used as a treatment for breast ulcers.

10. Virgin Thistle (cirsium virginense)

Virgin Thistle
Virgin Thistle

Also known as Mojave thistle. A plant that is native to the southwestern United States and it grows in arid places and deserts. It grows up to 100 inches tall. The leaves are toothed, wooly, and can hurt a lot if gets in your body. In Spain they are called – Pinche Puta.

Of course, there are a lot of other funny plants, but these are more likely to be rude than funny. Most of these plants I do not suggest to plant in your garden because they are more liable to be a weed than a natural plant. Take care!