Category Archives: Gardening

This California Summer

This heat and drought in California is truly something else. I’m sure many of you have seen the “before and after” photos of bodies of water in California that have experienced devastating consequences from this drought (if not, check it out here). We are particularly feeling the effects of this drought here in Southern California. On top of that, we’re in the middle of a really horrendous heatwave right now that has led to some planned (and unplanned!) power outages around this region. I’m saying this in part to highlight a lot of the important issues that we’re facing in California, but also to really show that we don’t always have perfect, 75 degree temperatures in Southern California! In the Orange County area this past weekend, there was a fire burning over 1,000 acres of land in Silverado Canyon. This particularly hits close to home because it literally was close to my parents’ home in Orange County. Interestingly enough, this fire was started by the metal roofing of a vegetable garden! What a small way for such a devastating fire to start! You can find out more about the story here. Okay; end rant!

As a result of all of this, I have really made an effort to conserve as much water as possible. One way that I’ve been doing this is by choosing more drought-tolerant plants for my balcony garden. Of course, my small, unassuming balcony garden probably wouldn’t use up much water in the first place, but every drop counts, right? On top of that, keeping plants alive in this summer heat is a whole different ballgame, particularly regarding plants that are not suitable for high temperatures. As a resident of the top floor of my apartment complex, my balcony experiences inexplicably high heat. So instead of planting snapdragons and basil as I have before, I’ve planted succulents in my overhanging balcony planters! I feel like it’s a bit of a non-traditional way to use planters, but I love it!

Succulent Planter #1

Succulent Planter #1

Succulent Planter #2

Succulent Planter #2

This is a really great way to also use cuttings of succulents, propagate more succulents, and also, to minimize how many pots you use. I was tired of having so many separate little planters so I threw them all together.

Here are some photos of the rest of the balcony! It’s slowly but surely coming together!

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Balcony Gardening @ www.ecospired.com

What are you doing to keep cool in the last few days before fall begins? Leave a comment! 🙂

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Spring Renewal

Spring in Southern California is kind of a joke. We have “perfect” weather year-round. California’s subtleties in seasonal cycles can make it difficult to differentiate between the months. You have to go through the darkness to see the light, right? Figuratively, we don’t have that “darkness.” At the risk of sounding unappreciative, sometimes it’s hard to appreciate that beautiful day outside because we can trust that it’ll be there tomorrow and the day after. At least that’s how I feel.

My point is, it’s easy to fly by the seasons doing the exact same things when you live in a place that doesn’t obviously display its seasons. But I’ve made it a point of mine to change my actions/attire/perspective seasonally. That’s why I’ve planted a colossal amount of seeds. Even if spring is practically year round, it’s finally that time of year! So I went a little overboard at Home Depot and Orchard the other day. I always feel so dorky when I talk about plants, like I’m “too young” to be gardening. Then I realized that it doesn’t actually matter because at the end of the day, you’ve got to be unabashedly YOU.

Seeds

Yep. This happened. I usually never buy/plant any thing other than herbs, succulents and ferns. I’m branching out (puns)! I’ve decided to grow more vegetables and flowers. I used to think flowers were frivolous on such a small balcony but I’ve changed my mind. Flowers are awesome. Some flower seeds I got were Foxgloves, which are TREMENDOUSLY BEAUTIFUL and definitely too big for my balcony, Zinnias, Poppies, Baby’s Breath, Lupine and a few more. I also got more vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, swiss chard, lettuces, arugula, malabar spinach, etc. AND herbs, as usual. Here are some herbs I cut today from my balcony.

Rosemary, grapefruit mint, chives, dill and parsley

Rosemary, grapefruit mint, chives, dill and parsley

I bought the 72 pod Greenhouse Jiffy kit from Home depot and put some seeds in! I was wondering how to label the seeds so I used some plastic-y tabs and wrote on them with permanent marker and devised a little organizational system to make sure I don’t mix them up.

seeds at www.ecospired.com

seeds at www.ecospired.com

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At first, this was the container I was using. Jokes! It’s too small. So that’s when I bought the 72 pod container and transferred these guys over (that’s why you’ll see that there are a couple of already-sprouted rows).

seeds at www.ecospired.com

What do you think? I’m so excited for these little guys to grow. My balcony/apartment will be a complete jungle. No complaints here!

Sushi, my little parakeet

Sushi, my little parakeet

This is my bird, Sushi. Don’t ask about the name. Named her 13 or so years ago! Ironic that I never had tried sushi at the time that I named her, and no longer eat sushi now…

terrarium at www.ecospired.com

Also, I got bored with the moss terrarium so I took some of Sushi’s bird seeds and just threw them in the terrarium. They’ve sprouted. Surprise!

Lastly, this is some seaweed concentrate that I got for the plants from Orchard. It’s apparently really great for the soil and foliage of plants and apparently keeps bugs from infesting your plants because they don’t like the taste. We’ll see!

seaweed concentrate for gardening!

seaweed concentrate for gardening!

Have you started planting yet? Spring cleaning? Let me know!

-Daria

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I’m back!

It’s been too long. I have nooo excuses other than the fact that so much has happened and changed and it’s finally all settling down. To recap- two very close people in my life got married, I got to play harp in Capital Cities’ new music video “Kangaroo Court” (check it out here) and I’m officially a grad student at USC! So that’s nice, because I’ve felt like one for the past 4 years so now my life finally makes sense. Let’s be real, I never experienced college like most people did. For heaven’s sake, I have a blog about PLANTS. Welllll it’s more than plants, and sustainability is what I’m passionate about, so what gives, right?

A lot has changed over in my little apartment. The decor, for one. Here’s some of my most recent pictures:

www.ecospired.com

my place!

another blurry image of my place!

I’m not sure if I ever showed you before pictures. I’m not brave enough yet. One day I’ll gather up the courage.

Here are some more pictures of what I’ve been up to.

my sea glass chandelier at night.

my sea glass chandelier at night.

I put an exposed filament light bulb in my sea glass chandelier that I made. My tutorial is here and I seriously suggest you do this project. It’s so stunning during the day and night, and it’s totally doable.

manzanita branch!

manzanita branch!

An orchid from LA’s flower district.

The above tree branch is a Manzanita branch. This is one that hasn’t been sand-blasted– the ones you see as decorations are sand-blasted, which gives them their light color. I personally loooove the natural smooth texture and red color of the manzanita, so I bought one that wasn’t sanded. I got it from the Los Angeles Flower District  for $10! It comes assembled with a wooden box at its base. I personally wanted to hang my jewelry off of it, but you could just use it as a decoration or hang little jars with LED (battery-powered) candles inside it (I wouldn’t suggest real candles because it turns out, wood is flammable. Weird.) I also got the orchid at the flower district. I totally suggest going one morning if you’re local! I went with a friend of mine and we had a great time. The flowers are reasonably cheap and you can find any type of manzanita branch imaginable (think- pink glitter…). I wasn’t very impressed by their succulent collection, but they have a lot of great cut flowers.

This is what’s been happening on the balcony:

www.ecospired.com

Getting up close and personal with some dill…

Trader Joes’ herbs! I totally suggest buying them. Only $2.50 and healthy. Love it.

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Malabar Spinach! I bought it from my local farmers’ market.

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I love farmers’ markets.

These are some of the things I love. What about you? What do you get to make your place “home”?

-D

PS: I almost forgot! I harvested my worm compost. It is messy. And gross. It is definitely not for the faint-hearted or for the easily-grossed-out-type. BUT once you get over the fact that you’re touching worms and their sht, it’s great! My plants are so happy with their compost! And I started another vermicompost.

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DIY: Chalkboard Pots Tutorial

Chalkboard Pots at Ecospired.comChalkboard-ing has been around for a while, but I hadn’t really hopped on the bandwagon until now. And the reason is pretty silly. I got this chalkboard pencil that literally screamed “ecospired” so loud, that I bought it just to shut it up. That might just be me justifying my purchase. Regardless, I figured that I had to get a chalkboard in order to actually use the pencil, but chalkboards are just soo traditional. Let’s think outside the box, shall we?

Chalk pencil at ecospired.com

I’m obsessed with plants, which is glaringly obvious to anyone who has read a line of this blog. So I decided to paint the rim of my clay pots with chalkboard paint. Clay pots are a lot better for plants than a lot of other pots. They let the plant breathe, and it’s harder to kill the plants if they’re in clay pots (I’ve learned from experience). Also, instead of buying new pots because you’re bored of your decor, you can simply paint them. Woo! So now, I can write obnoxious notes, informational notes, or just reminders. Or inspirational quotes. Allllll over my plants.

This is extremely easy, so run out and get the materials ASAP!

Materials:

  • Chalkboard paint- I got Martha Stewart’s chalkboard paint from JoAnns. Good ol’ Martha.
  • Foam Brush
  • Clay pot
  • Chalk
  • Towel or paper towel
  • Optional: Steel Wool

Chalkboard Pots at Ecospired.com

Directions:

  • Make sure your clay pot is dry and clean.
  • Paint the rim of the pot.
  • Let dry and wait for an hour.
  • Paint a second coat on the rim of the pot.
  • Let dry another hour.
  • Optional*–Rub the dry, painted area with steel wool.
  • Lightly “chalk” the entire painted area to prep it for chalking, and wipe it off with a dry towel.
  • Write messages! Be awesome!

Chalkboard Pots at ecospired.com

 

Chalkboard Pots at Ecospired.com

And…. drumroll…. my favorites!

To-may-to and to-mah-to

To-may-to and to-mah-to! 

 

Whaddya think? Leave me some comments, at the top left of the post!

-Daria

 

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Staghorn Fern Tutorial!

I’m happy to be writing this post today. So many exciting (and terrifying) things have been happening lately and it’s been hard for me to find time to do a tutorial. For example, I’m playing harp in a Capital Cities‘ music video tomorrow (woo)! But, on the other side of the coin, my grandma had a heart attack last night, but thankfully, she’s doing well now. We were extremely lucky, and my world is back in order. When it rains, it pours, right? I wish it’d actually rain here in Los Angeles to spare us from the agony of perpetual sunlight, which I must say can seriously be annoying. I guess I sound like an ungrateful diva, but when you’re born and raised in a sunny place, rain is a luxury. Forgive me!

Back to the post. I love houseplants. First of all, they help clean the air in your home. Did you know that there are likely more toxins inside of your home than out? So much for escaping the pollution by staying in, huh? So today, I’m going to be posting about mounting a Staghorn Fern to the wall, to have a cool way to clean your air (and to have cool, living decorations).

Staghorn Fern tutorial on ecospired.com

I’ve also always liked the idea of “antlers” on the wall but not the actual idea of taking antlers from an animal and putting it on my wall (vegetarian over here!). So, the Staghorn Fern is an great environmentally-friendly option for those of us who like to keep up with the American tradition of antlers on the wall without necessarily harming something in the process. Anthropologie recently had Staghorn ferns on their wall, too. We all know how much I love Anthro!

Another cool, environmentally-friendly option is cardboard cutouts of animal heads or antlers, which you can get on Etsy.

Image Courtesy of Etsy shop "Cardboard Safari"

Image courtesy of Etsy shop “Cardboard Safari”

Apartment Therapy has a great tutorial for this project. I referenced it when doing mine, although I deviated a bit, mostly because I was determined to not have to buy extra supplies (aka leave my apartment).

Check out their tutorial here!

Materials:

  • Staghorn Fern- Check out your local nursery for this. I bought mine for 5 dollars from Sunset Nursery on none other than Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles.
  • Wooden Plaque- I got mine for 3 dollars from JoAnn Fabrics.
  • Wire
  • Sheet Moss
  • Hammer
  • Nails

Total time: 15 minutes

Total cost: Under 20 dollars

Materials for Staghorn Fern  Tutorial

Materials for Staghorn Fern Tutorial

Directions:

1.  Hammer 2 nails into the back of your board and secure wire in-between the 2 nails, as pictured.

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2. Soak your moss in water.

Moss!

Soaking Moss!

3. Hammer 5-6 nails in a “circle” (epic fail pictured below).

Staghorn Fern tutorial on ecospired.com

4. Place your moss on the plaque and secure it onto the plaque with wire (so it won’t fall down).

Staghorn Fern tutorial on ecospired.com

5.  Take your Staghorn Fern out of the pot and gently “break apart” the roots. Basically, you want your fern to be able to attach to your moss. Staghorn Ferns are epiphytes, so they grow off of other things, hence why we can hang them up on the wall.

6. Place your fern on the moss “bed” you’ve created. Then, wrap it in more moss, so the soil/roots are covered. Then, wrap the wire around the plant, while remembering to secure it to the nails too. This will ensure it stays on the board. I don’t have a particular picture of the step, but this is the finished project because it’s the last step!

Staghorn Fern tutorial on ecospired.com

Staghorn Fern tutorial on ecospired.com

Caring for your Fern:

Staghorn Ferns like to “dry out.” In other words, don’t overwater your plant! They’re similar to orchids in this way.  Spray it with water (from a bottle) once a week, or when the roots are actually dry. They like warm temperatures and high humidity. So feel free to hang them inside and spray the leaves with water whenever you feel like it. They’ll love you for it.

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What do you think? Are you tempted to create some living art for your place? Leave me some comments and let me know!

-Daria

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Books and Coasters

I went to Santa Barbara this weekend, to hear the Music Academy of the West musicians perform on Saturday night. If you’re around Southern California and need an excuse to go to a beautiful place and be inspired, you should seriously hear one of their concerts. Check out their website for more info! I’ve played harp at this festival in past years and I’m so nostalgic for that place. I love it.

Anyway, I also went to hang out with friends who are working and playing there, and it was a ton of fun. I hit up my favorite Goodwill thrift store there too, and shopped in downtown on State st.

Me and a friend stumbled upon a used book store in the cute little town where the musicians stay (Carpinteria). We went in and bought used books for $2 each! Books aren’t necessarily the most environmentally friendly things ever, but I don’t think they use quite as much paper or trees as you’d think. But buying used is still better.  I love reading hard copies of books and having them around, and buying used ensures less paper production, and is a great way to justify buying superficial & trashy books without feeling guilty about the paper or the price tag.

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Anyway, I have an overhanging planter that’s filled with basil. Basil is a really easy herb to grow. It’s perfect for those starting out doing urban gardening or gardening in general. Basil doesn’t require a lot of space and it grows ferociously, so you’ll gain the confidence of thinking that your thumb turned from black to green. 😉 So with that said, I made vegan pesto last night! Here are some pictures of da babies.

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Of course, no picture of food is complete without a mason jar.

I got the pesto recipe from this really awesome book called The Best Veggie Burgers on the Planet. Try it out!

Simple Pesto (recipe adapted from The Best Veggie Burgers on the Planet by Joni Marie Newman)

Ingredients:

  • 14 large fresh basil leaves (No need for precision here)
  • 2 or 3 cloves of garlic (I wouldn’t use that much garlic though!)
  • 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon toasted pine nuts
  • 1 tablespoon raw walnut pieces
  • 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
  • 3 tablespoons of olive oil

I just combine all of the ingredients in a blender. The author suggests blending all of the ingredients in a food processor except for the olive oil and then pulsing it a few more times at the end with the oil.

This should all give you about 1/2 a cup of pesto. It’s soooo good!

And lastly, here’s a new upcycling idea–I used a clay plant saucer as a coaster! I LOVE IT. It’s so simple, cheap, (environmentally friendly) & the perfect size for drinks. You can take the ones from your pots (as I did) or buy them at a hardware store. You can paint them too, but I like the clean and traditional look of the plant saucers without paint.

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I painted this mug at Color Me Mine years ago, with one of my closest childhood friends. I know it looks like I was 5 when I painted it, but I was more like, 18 years old. No judging

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And here’s another look at my water. It looks more like a fruit bowl at this point…

I should mention that I gave up Diet Coke in December, which is a miracle for me that I’ve been able to last this long. That sht is unhealthy and my addiction was using up a lot of plastic and aluminum, recycled or not. So now, I’m trying to have fun drinking water, which is really only fun when you put plants in it, and take pictures of it.

-d

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I’ve Got Worms… in my Compost! (DIY Vermicomposting)

You saw that title coming, didn’t you? Well, I’m finalllly going to be writing about Vermicomposting today.

Composting is very environmentally friendly and great for your garden. Here are a couple of reasons why:

  • It reduces the amount of trash we’re sending to the landfill while using up organic waste.
  • It helps the soil hold onto water more efficiently–poor quality soil leads to higher amounts of water runoff. 
  • It is a natural form of fertilizer for your garden, reducing the need for artificial chemicals and fertilizers. Fertilizer runoff is a huge issue for bodies of water, leading to eutrophication. Simply said, it can lead to algal blooms that deplete the oxygen levels in water, which kills off life in the water, leading to dead zones.
  • Plants need nitrogen in order to properly function. Composting provides these nutrients and microboes to help the plants grow.
  • Composting helps to prevent soil erosion, balance pH levels and promote healthy root and overall plant structure! 

There are a lot of different kinds of composting, but I wanted a type of composting that was urban-space friendly, compact, and didn’t smell/attract other bugs. Vermicomposting is faster than regular composting because you have more concentrated forces of nature decomposing and “processing” the composting material (ie: the worms). It’s super easy to do. Also, I wanted some pets for the apartment. 🙂

SO! I went to this awesome Vermicomposting workshop put on by USC’s Sustainability Office, via their Urban Garden.  If you’re around the LA area and you’d like to be a part of an awesome project, volunteer at their garden on Fridays from 9am to 1pm!

Materials needed: 

  • 2 buckets (from a hardware store) 
    • Home Depot’s 5 Gallon Bucket works for this. I originally used 2 of the 5 gallon BPA-free, food safe containers, but it didn’t fit under my sink! I went back and bought 2 of the 2 gallon buckets instead. 
  • 1 bucket lid 
  • Red Wriggler worms 
    • Most nurseries will have them, or you can buy them online. This worm in particular is great for vermicomposting. You can get a huge amount of them for about $20.
  • Something that can be used to poke holes into the plastic
    • I HIGHLY recommend using an electric drill for this. I will take only 2 minutes to poke the holes in the bucket, as opposed to 45 minutes with a hammer and nail. Trust me on this. 
  • Shredded paper (just make sure it’s not glossy paper)
  • 1/2 a cup of water

Directions:

  • Drill/Poke about 15-20 holes in the lid of your bucket
  • Drill/Poke about 15-20 holes in one of your buckets (only 1!)
  • Stack the bucket with holes in it on top of the bucket without holes. 
  • Place the shredded paper in the top bucket with the holes. 
  • Pour enough water on top of the shredded paper to make it slightly moist. 
  • Dump the worms on top of the shredded paper
  • Add scraps! (Read here for more information about what scraps to put in your bin… this part is important!)

Here are the buckets! I also made a smaller version:

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These are “Food grade, heavy duty, BPA free” which I liked. The smaller buckets aren’t.

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Here are the holes on the lid.  I’ll trust that you can imagine how holes will look in the top bucket.

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Here are the 2 gallon buckets stacked on top of each other with the lid on top.

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Here’s how it looks with scrap material in there.

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Here’s the great part. Try to not be grossed out by this entire process because the compost is seriously good for your plants and for the environment. The holes in the top bucket will allow the worm’s pee to go into the bottom container. Whenever you feel like it, take this pee and dilute it with water in your watering can and feed your plants! Your plants will grow like weeds and be more vibrant. After a couple of months, you’ll get composted material in your main bucket to add to your garden!

If you get mold at any point, add more paper scraps, and let your compost air out a little. If it starts to smell, it may mean that you’re putting too many scraps for the worms to handle- so either add worms or lessen your scraps!

Let me know if you have any questions, and let me know if you make one too! It’s such a great way to compost in a little apartment. I love feeding my new pets with my trash!

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My “New” Chesterfield Sofa

It’s been a few days since I’ve posted… I am aware, sorry not sorry ok maybe a little sorry. Anyway, it’s not my fault that I found the coolest most perfectest Chesterfield sofa on craigslist that is stunning and NOW MINE! I’ve been on the lookout for a sofa for a while, because my current roommate is moving out soon and she brought all of the couches with her.

Anyway, this couch is stunning. It’s a black Chesterfield sofa. In layman terms, it’s tufted (like, buttons that are pushed into the couch) and has rounded ‘arms’.  It’s leatherette, which I thought was great, considering it’s extremely environmentally inefficient (and sad for the cows) to use leather for such things… I’ll be the first to say that I do sometimes get leather products, but I try to make sure I buy them secondhand. Buying secondhand is a great way to be environmentally friendly. We have enough crap already produced in the world.  The less products we produce, the less pressure we put on the environment. Simple. We use SO MUCH water, pesticides and fossil fuels just to produce 1 article of clothing. Just to make 1 pair of jeans, it takes 1,800 gallons of water. Crazy, right? So don’t be a snob to Goodwill or Craigslist. They’re good for you!

Back to the couch. It’s a little worn out on the seats, but what can you do? Hide it with pillows. Isn’t that why people have pillows on their couch anyway?

This couch is integral as the first step to transform my little apartment from blah to aha!  I’m too exhausted to go through the dramas I went through to get this couch, but maybe I’ll say them later.

Here’s an overly-glorified (and fake-looking) stock photo of what I got.

ImageHere’s an actual picture of the couch in my apartment:

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With this 4th couch in our living area, we literally look like we live in a sofa showcase room. Not for long!

In other news, JoAnn(s) is having a huge sale on everything. Literally, I think the majority of the store is 40-70% off until June 15th. Check it out! I got these new pots, each under 10 dollars (don’t mind the crappy picture quality!) I especially like the last pot shown:

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Does anyone know the name of the above left plant? I can’t remember the name, and when I bought it, it only said that it was a “houseplant.”IMG_2439For this little pineapple, I planted an Aloe Vera hybrid. It’s so thorny and sassy. I love it.

Next post is about the vermicompost, I promise! I know y’all have been waiting for it… right?

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I’m Officially…a Plant Lady

I’ve lost my mind.

If you’ve been to my apartment, you’d know about my vast amount of plants. Like… 30 pots worth. Apparently that wasn’t enough.

Here’s my balcony “Before”: (these pictures were taken with my janky iphone)

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Here’s my balcony with 3 ridiculously huge hanging plants:

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Here are some other views:

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(My roommate is out of the country now… time to add more plants!)

SO- I bought 4 containers of Petunias. I don’t know if I really like them. All I know is that they were a whopping 75% OFF at Lowe’s and whether or not I liked them, I had to buy them. So, I bought 3 yellow and purple hanging baskets of Petunias. Like the Lakers’ colors (and I don’t even care for basketball…).

I also bought a big pot of pink Petunias. But before you judge me, They were literally $3.50. And they’re huge. So now I feel like I’m walking out into a jungle when I step out on my balcony, which I’m not sure if I hate or love but WHO CARES because now I’m stuck with my jungle in Los Angeles. Part of the reason I also bought flowers was because there’s this cute little hummingbird that’s been coming around to my balcony and looking around, probably wondering why the hell I have so much basil, spinach and succulents, and no flowers. GET AT ME NOW! I could supply a herd of hummingbirds with these flowers.

I’m not really sure why I’ve gotten soo into plants. I think a part of it is the fact that I’m getting a Master’s degree in Environmental Studies (tree-huggers, by virtue, like plants) and also, they’re my pseudo pets! All of my pets are at my parents’ house, an hourish away. So, I guess I’ve just adopted a colossal amount of plants to fill the void in my house and heart…so deep.

Anyway, the whole purpose of my trip to Lowe’s today was to buy the materials to make a vermicompost bin. In other words, a worm compost bin! I bought the materials and finished the project, but I’m too exhausted to talk about worms right now. I’ll write about them in the next day or so.

Do you live in a small space? Do you have plants? Comment and tell me about them!

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