How (& Why) to Propagate Houseplants

If you’ve been impatiently waiting for the snow to leave and spring weather to stay so you can get outside and play in the dirt (like I have), propagating your houseplants is a great way to use the time.

photo credit 

Houseplants are amazing. As studies by NASA scientists confirmed, common houseplants make the air in your home healthier. They remove dangerous chemicals and dramatically increase air quality. Plus, they’re beautiful.

In his book, How to Grow Fresh Air–(read my review here), Dr. Wolverton lists the very best purifying indoor plants and recommends you have at least one plant per 100 square feet. That’s a lot of plants.

One of the easiest ways to grow your collection is to propagate the plants you have (or beg cuttings from your mom.)

Not only is it fun to add a new plant to your collection and watching it grow, I consider it plant insurance. My brown thumb is bound to kill at least some of my plants. This way, if the mother plant dies hopefully the daughter will survive.

 Heartleaf Philodendron–one of the easiest houseplants to grow

There are two very easy ways to propagate houseplants that have multiple trailing stems, like ivy.

Water Method: Just cut back long stems right above the leaf node (where a new leaf grows). Trim the bottom few leaves and place the stem in a glass of water.

In a few weeks new roots will emerge and you can plant the stems in a fresh pot with good drainage. Water well after transplanting.  

How to Propagate Wandering Jew

Wandering Jew— I killed the “mother plant”. The one on the left is a four-month-old “daughter plant”. On the right is a three-week-old “granddaughter plant”

Moist Dirt Method: 

Cut off stems above the node. Strip off the bottom few leaves. Place the stem in a pot and keep the soil moist. In about 3 to 6 weeks, new roots will grow and the plant will send out new shoots.

How’s that for easy?

Want to make it a really frugal project? Look for beautiful pots at garage sales (often they’re practically free!) I’ve even found some lovely healthy plants at yard sales for a dollar or two.

Linked up at Mama MomentsGrowing HomeEncourage One AnotherHealthy 2DayFrugal Days, Sustainable Ways,Works for MeWild Crafting WednesdayWalking RedeemedProverbs 31Natural Living, & Simple Lives

[Full disclosure: links to products in this post are my referral links.]

10 Ways to Encourage Healthier Eating

A love for healthy whole foods is a great blessing we can give our children. But like so much in life, developing a love for good foods is  learned.

I wrote this list with my munchkins in mind, but I have a confession to make. My children have actually helped me be a better eater. Their willingness to try new foods has challenged me. Before I had children, I didn’t like olives, dark chocolate, seven grain cereal and many other foods. They love these foods and I’ve finally developed a taste for them.

We’re still learning, but here are some things that have helped my children (and, ahem, me!) be better eaters.

photo credit

10 Ways to Encourage Healthier Eating

  1. Apply the Green Eggs & Ham Rule— don’t say you don’t like a new food unless you’ve tried it. Obvious, I know. But it’s amazing how many times I’ve heard a child vehemently declare they don’t like a food… only to have them love it once they’ve tried it. Try new foods with an open mind (unless, of course, they’re dyed with half a cup of green food coloring!)
  2. Offer Healthy Foods When They’re Hungry- There’s nothing quite like hunger to make a food taste good. Feed salads and vegetables first at meals. It is the easiest way to help kids learn to love them. If your kids complain about being hungry mid-afternoon, offer them healthy choices, not junk food. If they’re really hungry, they’ll learn to appreciate them. (Here are 11 of my favorite healthy snacks.)
  3. Keep trying– If your first attempt at trying to get your kids to eat homemade yogurt is disastrous, next time make it into a parfait or blend it into a fruit smoothy. Once you’ve found something they like, talk about it. The goal isn’t just to sneak healthy foods into the diet. The goal is to encourage them to consciously appreciate good foods.
  4. Buy vegetables and fruits in season- if all they’ve tried is a mealy tomato picked green that’s been sitting for weeks before it gets to your grocery cart, it’s not much of a surprise if they don’t like tomatoes. Buy ripe food or, better yet, grow it yourself with the children (if you don’t have a brown thumb!) It’s much easier to develop a taste for ripe, fresh food! Plus, food in season is generally cheapest anyway!
  5. Make the Servings Small-it’s much better (waste-wise and psychologically)  to have your child ask for more than to force them to finish food* they don’t like or have to throw it away. Serve a bite or two at first. If they don’t like it, you can drop it or try again later. If they love it, yay! Give them seconds.
  6. Incorporate Their (Healthy) Favorites – Everyone’s tastebuds are different. Rose absolutely loves seven grain cereal and oatmeal. Will downs bowl after bowl of honey-sweetened homemade yogurt. Meg eats more eggs than me. All three are good choices, so I serve them regularly for breakfast. (Here are a few other of our favorite healthy breakfasts.)
  7. Learn to Love Flavor, Not Just Sugar/Salt- Creation is full of so many flavors. Sadly though, flavor tends to be masked by loads of sugar (or salt). Gradually cut back on the sweeteners in recipes and focus on appreciating the flavor. Get to the point where you add just enough to enhance the flavor of a dish, not drown it.
  8. Discuss the Health Benefits- talking about why something is good for you and what exactly it helps your body do, not only helps educate your child, but encourages them to take an active part in choosing healthy foods. When I taught Rose, then four, about the importance of protein, she asked “is this good protein” about practically everything, and regularly requested foods that were “good protein.”
  9. Model Gratitude- maybe your grocery budget doesn’t allow you to buy all the foods you want. Maybe the selection where you live isn’t great. If there’s food on the table, that’s cause for gratitude! 
  10. Don’t be Too Strict- When Rose asked “are cookies good protein?” I had to share the sad truth that they don’t have much protein and aren’t really good for us. Her face fell. But, food and taste have been given to us by a good God. We ate the cookies anyway and celebrated His goodness to us.

*To force your child to finish his food, or not? The debate rages. Since sometimes the first sign of a food allergy is a child refusing to eat it, I’ve become more sensitive when my generally-good-eater children don’t want to finish.

 How to you encourage your children to be good eaters? 

Linked up at Living Green, Healthy 2DayFrugal Days, Sustainable WaysWorks for Me, Encourage One AnotherNatural Living, & Simple Lives

Growing Little Gardeners

“Why try to explain miracles to your kids,” asks Robert Brault, “when you can just have them plant a garden?”

Planting tiny seeds, then waiting and watching as they sprout into fruitful plants, really is like watching many mini-miracles blossom. This is the main reason I love to garden with my children. Gardening makes us stand in awe again and again of God’s amazing creation.

photo credit 

There are many other reasons to garden together.

Follow me on over to The Purposeful Mom to read the rest. This post is part of her “Spring into Summer” Series. Be sure to check out the rest of the posts for summery fun! 

A Peak at Our Garden

For the first time since moving here almost four years ago, we will not be gone for months this summer. For some reason, gardens don’t do very well when you entirely neglect them for the months of June, July and/or August. Odd, isn’t it?

Though we are moving in August, the chance to have a garden and actually be here for much of the growing season was too tempting.

Even if things don’t grow, what could be more fun when you’re two than digging in the dirt, with Mama’s full blessing?

Joshua made three little garden boxes for me when we first moved, but so far all gardening efforts have “failed.” I’m hoping to prove the failure was due to the fact of my absence, not presence. (I have had a successful garden in the past!)

Knowing what a temptation seed catalogs can be, I made out a very specific list of what I wanted before looking through the seed catalog. That helped fight the temptation to order half a dozen interesting vegetables that we probably wouldn’t eat.

Plus, as I kept telling myself, when you properly store heirloom seeds, you can use them for years. (If your property manager doesn’t accidentally throw them away–but that’s a long story.) Next year I can add to my collection and buy those pretty zucchini squash seeds.

I ordered beans, cucumber, yellow squash, basil, and spinach seeds from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. (Their heirloom seeds are very affordable and they’ve got great selection and customer service!)

We also walked to a local gardening store to pick up four pepper and cherry tomato plants. While there, we noticed a bin of clearanced herb and flower seeds. They were old, but for 20 cents a packet worth trying. The kids had lots of fun picking out a packet (and I ended up getting to satisfy my “I want to buy lots of seeds” urge for less than $2.)

I used this companion plant listing to plan the garden.

In the first box we planted

  • Four bell pepper plants
  • Three almost cherry tomato plants
  • Lots of garlic (to help with pest control)
  • 20 cent Calendula/marigold seeds (also to help with pest control and make homemade lotion!)
  • Basil
  • Oregano

The second box has

I’m waiting to plant the final box til we get more compost. Dear friends gave us mint and lemon balm plants, which (following your suggestions!) are planted outside the garden boxes.

Baker Creek Seeds sent a free packet of lettuce seeds with our order! It’s already fairly hot down here, so those are inside.

So far, even the old, clearance seeds have sprouted! Now if only my little helpers and I can avoid drowning the plants and keep a scorge of lubber grasshoppers at bay, maybe we’ll actually have a garden this year.

Are you planting a garden? If so, what are you most excited about growing? 


Failed Garden: was it worth it?

There's no such thing as a wasted garden experience. Even if the garden isn't fruitful, it's still worthwhile!

Gardening means hard work, sweat, and dirty hands. It means weeks of waiting for that first sun-ripened bite of produce, with the hope of many baskets full to follow.

But what if the garden doesn’t produce as well as you hoped? What if the produce you reap barely covers the cost of setting up the garden? Is it still worth it?

That’s the question I asked myself as I looked around our garden.

Powdery mildew attacked the zucchini and squash plants. Just as they were reaching the zenith of their producing power, they died. Yesterday we had our last stuffed zucchini from this year’s garden.

I had hoped to have a freezer full of shredded zucchini, but that won’t happen. Many of the other vegetables won’t even be producing before we have to go out-of-state for a month. (And we all know how well a neglected garden does in an Alabaman summer!)

Am I disappointed? Yes. Was it worth it anyway? Definitely!

Frustrated with how your garden turned out? Feel like it was a failure? Don't be discouraged! Here are five reasons even a "failed" garden is totally worthwhile.
If you’re looking for an upbeat, hands-on, gardening guide (with realistic pictures of bug-eaten leaves!) check out One Magic Square (affiliate link). It’s my all time favorite gardening book. 

Gardening restores wonder

Planting a seed and watching it sprout, grow, and blossom makes me stand in awe of God’s creation. I believe the world was spoken into existence. Wonder of creation should keep me dizzy with awe. I forget. Easily. Gardening reminds me. That makes a failed garden worth it. 

Gardening is an incredible science curriculum

Seeds are cheaper (and more fun!) than a child’s science textbook and open the door to countless questions about life cycles, biology, and nature. I don’t want my children to think of science as just a dry and boring subject. I want our study of science to open their eyes to the grandeur of the created world. Even a “failed” garden helps me do that.

Gardening helps you get enough Vitamin D

One of my goals for the year was to spend considerably more time outside than in the past. A garden forces you to get outside, breath in the fresh air, and bask in the vitamin D!

Gardening is good exercise

Finding time to exercise as a busy mom is hard. Gardening not only gets you outside, but it is good exercise too!

Gardening encourages gratitude

Finally, the garden was worthwhile because it encourages gratitude. Not only gratitude for the amazing variety of vegetables or a big glass of ice water after an hour’s hard work, but that even if my garden fails, we still have food to eat.

My children will not go vegetable-less because my zucchini died. For that I am very grateful.

Even a failed garden is worth it

Of course every gardener dreams of having a beautiful, bountiful harvest. But even when all the plants dry up or succumb to disease, a garden is still worthwhile because it helps us teach our children, increases our wonder and gratitude, and forces us to exercise outside.

So don’t be discouraged if your garden didn’t live up to your dreams. Even a “failed” garden is totally worthwhile! (And you never know, next year’s garden might be a smashing success!)

photo by Alicia Jo McMahan

Recipe: Sausage Stuffed Squash

Squash (or zucchini) picked fresh from the garden then stuffed and baked makes one of our favorite simple summer dinners.


Sausage Stuffed Squash

Ingredients: (serves 4)

2 large or 8 small zucchini or squash
2 large eggs
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
1+ cup homemade bread crumbs
1/4-1/2 pound sausage, fried and drained
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup mozzarella or Parmesan cheese

Boil the zucchini for 5-10 minutes or until almost tender. Remove from water and cool slightly.

Once cool enough to handle, gently cut off the top and with a spoon remove the insides, leaving just a small rim.

Blend or mash the pulp and add the eggs, cheese, bread crumbs, sausage and seasonings. If the mixture is soupy add up to half a cup more bread crumbs. Spoon into zucchini.

Place in a greased 9X13 pan and bake at 350 for 2o minutes or until tender. Top with cheese and bake five minutes more. Makes 4 servings. Enjoy!

Gardening on a Dime

The garden blossomed while we were gone and the sunflowers are almost big enough for a toddler to hide behind now! I could scarcely believe my eyes.

We had fresh salad to accompany dinner the past few nights and it looks like before long the squash will attempt to take over the entire the kitchen. Today Rosalind tried her first taste of fresh mint and begged for more of the “candy.”

Even if gardening didn’t save money it would be worth it. Playing in the dirt is fun, but the teaching opportunity is invaluable. Food doesn’t magically appear on the shelves in Wal-mart, but starts as little seeds and with water and sunshine and the blessing of God grows into tomatoes and mint and spinach. Eating salad from seeds you’ve planted and tended helps dispel the divorcement of food from its source that is so easy to fall prey to.

But most of us garden to save money. Building a beautiful garden on next to nothing is definitely possible, especially if you work with others and “scrounge.” In addition to the small garden behind our house, a couple neighbors and I started a community garden by the apartment complexes.

It is beautiful and thriving and cost very little to start.

Soil: If my limited gardening experience (and failures) has taught me anything it is that soil is key.

Good soil equals a good garden.

But improving the soil doesn’t have to cost much. Borrow a roto-tiller from a friend or “rent” one on Craigslist.

Make your own compost or if local colleges have an agriculture department chances are they have a source for inexpensive compost. We were able to get rich compost for $10 a truckload from the University.

Farmers or owners of horses often have aged manure you can pick up for free.

Plants: When at all possible, plant from seeds. Rare Seeds sells heirloom seeds for a reasonable price and if you just want a couple plants, many hardware stores let you purchase individual seeds for a few pennies.

Although it’s too late to start many of the summer vegetables from seed, quick growing plants like cucumbers and squash could still be started from seed and it will soon be time to plant seeds indoors for a fall garden.

Established gardeners often are willing to give you starts of herbs (and lots of helpful advice!) if you ask.

Weed control: An appealing weed-free garden doesn’t have to cost a dime or take hours of work. Discarded bricks scrounged from construction sites and friends work perfectly to divide the plants from walking areas and form pretty beds.

Pine needles, straw or grass clippings are free (or very cheap) and work well to keep the weeds at bay in the walking areas. Depending on the type of plant, they can also be used in the beds to check the growth of weeds, retain moisture and keep the soil from eroding.

Pest Control: Thankfully we haven’t had to deal with many pests yet this year. Companion planting, or the strategic planting of certain herbs, flowers and vegetables next to each other, helps repel many bugs. Some of the most common are garlic and marigolds. Wikipedia has a very cool table of companion plants.

If (or rather when) the bugs arrive, we plan to use a homemade bug spray made of garlic and cayenne pepper. I’ve heard it works great.

part of Thrify Thursday and Frugal Friday