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5 Ways to Reduce Water Usage in the Garden

Reducing your water usage in your garden is almost always a positive thing. 

 

It will lower your water bill and produce healthier plants. 

Why reduce your water usage in your garden?

Overwatering is a common mistake among gardeners. However, the truth is that plants have adapted to require less water than most people assume. 

 

And when you reduce your water usage, you will find your soil and plants are healthier. 

Signs of Overwatering 

There are some undeniable signs of watering. 

Split Fruit

If you pick a lot of split fruit, you are probably overwatering. This is very common with things like tomatoes. 

Soft and Rotting Stems

When a plant absorbs too much water, this can cause damage to the parts of the plant cells that help support it and keep its shape. This causes the plant stems to become soft and start to rot. 

Root Rot

This degradation of the roots is caused by fungal or bacterial infections that thrive in wet soil. 

Changes in  Leaves  

Sometimes the plants will drop leaves to signal a problem like overwatering. The fallen leaves can be green, brown, or yellow. 

 

Another sign of watering is brown spots on the edges of leaves, which can be an infection of the leave. 

Fungus

Fungus appears as white or gray patches of powdery or hair-like structures stretching across the dirt around the plants. Sometimes, it can be on the plant, like powdery mildew

 

How to Reduce Your Water Usage in the Garden

There are thousands of ideas for reducing water usage in the garden, but here are a few low-cost, easy-to-implement suggestions. 

Mulch

Adding some kind of mulch will keep the ground cooler and reduce water loss due to evaporation. 

 

There are tons of mulch available commercially. If you buy commercial, just make sure to buy some that are safe for vegetable gardens.

 

But if you don’t want to buy commercial mulch, you can also use compost spread evenly across your topsoil. This will give you the bonus of improving soil quality as well. 

 

Some other popular natural mulches include leaves, grass clippings, pine needles, or straw.

Newspaper 

Some people use layers of newspaper to achieve the same effect as mulch. 

Plastic Sheeting

You can buy plastic sheets that do double the duty of reducing evaporation and preventing weed growth. 

Water at Cool Times

Watering early in the morning, late in the evening, or at night will give the soil and plants plenty of time to absorb water so you can water less.

Drip Irrigation Systems

Drip irrigation systems are composed of hoses with holes along the bottom that release water along the entire line but very slowly, a drip at a time. You can build your own or buy one with options like timers or automatic start. 

Conclusion

Reducing water usage in your garden is a great way to save money and produce healthier plants and tastier food. 

 




Good Bugs for the Garden

How much gardening media is consumed with pest control topics? Gardening store shelves are filled with pesticides, and organic gardening books are full of tactics to beat bugs with more natural tools. But having a bug-free garden is a bad thing. Here are some good bugs for the garden. 

Why are Bugs Beneficial to a Garden?

Your garden is an ecosystem that relies on healthy soil.  And bugs play a massive part in maintaining the soil. So much so that some soil scientists argue that invertebrate life can indicate healthy soil. Bugs can add organic matter to the soil, increase aeration, change the pH, increase drainage, and even deter other bugs from coming into your garden. 

What Bugs are Good for the Garden?

Of course, there are some bugs you want to keep out of the garden, but what invertebrates are beneficial for the garden?

Worms

They eat all the organic matter that falls to the ground and becomes incorporated into the soil. This means they take nutrients that plants can’t use and turn them into something they can. They also aerate the soil as they move through it. This can bring much need oxygen into the soil and increase the area’s drainage. If you start working in the soil and notice the soil is gathered into tiny little pebbles, you probably have a good amount of worms in the ground. 

If you want to bring more worms into your garden, you can buy them and introduce them. But please be careful. Buy worms that are native to your area so they will be adapted to live in the area. For North America, the most popular type is Red Wigglers (Eisenia Foetida).

Wolf Spiders

Wolf spiders get big and are quite capable of giving you a scare when you find one in the garden. But you have nothing to fear. 

They will not hurt the plants or you and are not venomous. But they are predators that live on the ground without a web and will eat the bugs in your garden that will eat your plants. So they are like free pest control. And in the fall, you may see a mother wolf spider carrying dozens of babies on her back. It was pretty shocking the first time I saw it, but it is a great way to know they were doing their job and eating plenty of pests. 

Garden Spiders

These are typically big, bright yellow, and black in North America. They spin webs to trap pests to eat them. They are usually very calm and fun to watch while spinning their webs. 

 Lady Bugs

Lady bugs (not to be confused with Asian Lady Beetles) eat aphids, and they do it aggressively. They eat scale, mealybugs, mites, eggs, and other soft-body invertebrates. To make your garden place ladybugs want to be, you should plant things with yellow or white flowers like dill, cilantro, fennel, or chives. 

Conclusion

Do you like to have bugs in the garden? Let us know below!

 




Cheap Ways to Improve Garden Soil

Soil is the heart of your garden. And if we want to keep our gardens healthy and producing plenty, it’s essential to care for the soil diligently. Here are some practical and cheap ways to improve garden soil.

Fertilizer

When people think of improving soil, they most often think of adding fertilizer. This is because plants pull nutrients out of the soil, so we must put them back. There are 2 ways to add fertilizer: organic matter and inorganic fertilizers.

Organic Matter

Adding organic matter means adding products from living things into your soil. Some common ways of doing this include adding compost, manure, blood/bone meal, or seaweed-based fertilizer

Inorganic Fertilizers

You can also use inorganic products. You can buy these at any gardening store. And they come in all kinds of varieties, like succulent, for encouraging blooms, fruits, or houseplants.

Soil Amendments

Nutrients are just 1 facet of keeping soil healthy. Paying attention to several soil characteristics like pH and permeability/drainage is essential. 

Soil pH

Soil pH is a measure of the soil’s acidity. For example, you need acid soil to grow blueberries, corn, cucumbers, and onions.

How to Lower Soil pH

The easiest way to lower soil pH is to add sulfur, which you can find at garden supply stores. How much sulfur you need is determined by how much you need to lower the pH, so it’s a good idea to start with a pH test. Then you work it evenly into the soil according to the package directions. Be sure to wear protective gear as indicated. Be sure to give a 1 month’s break between adding sulfur and planting. If you do not, you will burn the roots of your plants. 

How to Raise Soil pH

Adding agricultural lime, or simply lime is the go-to way to raise soil pH. Lime is ground-up limestone. Like lowering the pH, you need to start with a soil test to add the proper amount of lime. Then work it into the soil until evenly distributed. Allow at least 2 months, ideally 3, between treatment and planting to ensure enough time for the lime to neutralize the acid. 

 

Permeability

The rate at which water moves through the soil is an integral part of growing healthy gardens. If water moves too fast, it may not be absorbed by the plant and leech nutrients away.If it drains too slowly, it can cause root rot and encourage fungal growth. 

Improving Permeability 

There are several cheap ways of improving the permeability of your soil. 

Sand

Sand is a cheap way to make soil drain. How much and how fine the sand needs to be depends on what your soil is composed of. 

Manure

You can aged manure to increase your soil’s permeability. 

Mulch

An excellent way to prevent water loss from the soil is to keep the soil mulched. It will also make the soil cooler and prevent weeds from growing. 

Conclusion

Growing delicious food starts with caring for your soil. So what do you add to it? 

 




How to Keep Gardening from Being Boring

Most of the time, growing a kitchen garden is a somewhat predictable task.

 

Many people grow the same things year after year. And that’s great because it means they eat something they love that are nutritious and delicious.

 

But I encourage people to grow at least one new or challenging thing each year.

 

Growing an Adventure

 

You might be thinking, why should I mess with success?

 

Don’t. I am not encouraging you to change what you are doing completely. I want you to explore. 

 

Explore what?

 

The whole of food. What we plant and eat is a tiny sampling of the food world. 

 

Do you love turnips? Why not grow kohlrabi? Both come from Brassica species, wild mustards, but kohlrabi is an Asian variety instead of a European one. 

 

Do you love potatoes? Did you know that South America’s Incas of the Andes Mountains domesticated potatoes and ate hundreds of varieties that came in tons of different colors like purple and blue? 

 

The same goes for carrots. They come in tons of colors like red, yellow, and purple. 

 

Why Grow New Things?

 

Besides being fun, there is a few reasons to grow new things. 

 

The Challenge

Challenges make you grow. They teach you new skills and can help keep your body and brain healthy. 

 

Growing new things will expose to you new diseases, pests, and gardening techniques. These may bring frustration, but that is necessary to learn. 

Cool Things

Plant genetics are really cool. 

 

You can cross a lot of fruit and vegetable hybrids to get new varieties. For example, plumerries are crosses between plums and cherries that taste like a big cherry.

 

And you can get things like fasciation, a genetic condition that causes elongated growth. It can make flowers that normally circles to become ovals. And it causes cacti to become ribbon like instead of cylindrical.

 

You will find the plant world is full of beautiful colors and heavenly smells, even when it comes to a kitchen garden. 

 

New Tastes

You will also get to taste new things, learn new recipes, and master new cooking techniques. 

 

You can choose to grow things from all over the world and experience food from different cultures. 

 

You can also choose to seek out native edible plants that are disappearing from cultural use, like pokeweed

 

Or you could grow new varieties of old favorites like yellow watermelons or lemon cucumbers.

 

Community Perks

There are couple of community perks to growing something unique.

 

First, I know a lot of gardeners who love to trade extra crops. And bringing something exotic or different is always fun. 

 

Second, you can also use growing something adventurous as a way to learn about your community and it’s food traditions. 

 

You can find other people interested in growing traditional foods by finding a local seed library. Seed libraries allow you to check out seeds, grow the plants, and return seeds at the best time. My local public library hosts one. 

 

Conclusion

If you could grow anything, regardless of climate, what would you grow? I would love to grow a banana tree and a cocoa tree. 

 




Benefits of Buying Grafted Trees

Why buy grafted fruit trees when you can grow them from the scraps of your food? 

 

While this is a great way to regrow some veggies, it just doesn’t work for fruit trees. But there are several benefits to buying grafted fruit trees. 

 

What are Grafted Trees?

Grafted fruit trees are simply 2 trees fitted to grow as one. 

 

The rootstock is the root of a tree that is cut to let a second tree be fitted into it so it can bind the inner tissues together, heal and continue to grow. 

 

The second tree, called the scion, is usually cut from a young growth on an established tree. This is the part that will produce fruit. And since it has been taken from a known tree, we can be sure the fruit will taste the same. 

 

Benefits of Buying Grafted Fruit Trees

Taste

Fruit trees are not true to seed. 

 

This means that if you grow an apple tree from seed, its fruit may not taste like the variety of apples you took the seed from. Simply put, there is no guarantee a Honeycrisp apple seed will grow into a tree that produces Honeycrisp apples.

 

Hardiness

Because you can mix and match the rootstock and the scion, you can get trees that are very well adapted to your exact conditions, giving them a chance to thrive without much help. 

 

Resistance

Grafted fruit trees often have better resistance to disease and insect activity. 

 

Can You Graft Trees Yourself?

Yes. Grafting trees is not difficult and requires a few supplies. 

 

How to Graft

With just a little knowledge, you can graft trees by yourself and end up with a tree that produces multiple types of fruit, like the Tree of 40 Fruits

 

Pick the Right Trees

You have to start by picking compatible rootstock and scion. This means that they have to be closely related. 

 

Gather Supplies

You will need a sanitized sharp knife, tape, and grafting wax. 

 

Cut Your Trees

There are several methods for cutting, like Bark Grafting or Whip and Tongue

 

They all boil down to using a clean, sharp knife to expose a broad portion of the green tissues underneath the bark. Next, you need to make sure they fit tightly together. 

 

And it is essential to be as precise as you can. Sharp cuts and a tight fit will help the tree heal quickly from this stressful event. 

 

Bind and Seal Your Trees

Use the tape to bind the two pieces together and the wax to seal the wound to help keep out bacteria and fungi that will cause infections or worse. 

 

When to Graft Fruit Trees?

The best time to graft fruit trees is during the late summer or early fall. This means the tree will have a short time to heal before going dormant for the winter. 

 

Conclusion

Buying grafted fruit trees is the only way to be confident they will produce a specific fruit. So what trees do you want to plant?

 




6 Health Benefits of Gardening: How It Boosts your Physical and Mental Health

The health benefits of gardening are not limited to supplying your food. Gardening is also a form of self-care. You can reap several tangible benefits from growing your food, including physical and mental changes. 

 

Improves Mood

 

Exercise, eating more veggies, and sunlight are all linked to improved mood. 

 

Exercise and eating more veggies keep your blood sugar steady, and you avoid the ups and downs of mood that are associated with unhealthy blood sugar levels. 

 

Sunlight and engaging in natural spaces correlate with improved moods, although we do not know why exactly. Both have been shown to reduce depression symptoms and alleviate anxiety.  

 

Improves Physical Health

Gardening involves carrying heavy things, bending and stretching, and walking. That’s a whole workout: stretching, weight training, and aerobics. 

 

And since gardens need almost daily attention, you can get regular exercise which is a key to preserving your health. 

 

Reduces Risk of Lifestyle Diseases 

The increased veggie intake and exercise levels in gardeners are associated with lower risks of things like diabetes and heart disease. 

 

These diseases are called lifestyle diseases because your lifestyle heavily influences them. For example, high sugar, low-nutrient diets, and little exercise can exacerbate these conditions, while increased veggie eating and exercise can relieve them. 

Reduces Stress

Gardening has been shown to reduce cortisol levels. Cortisol is the hormone we use to measure stress levels. High cortisol levels are associated with elevated blood sugar levels and reduced immune system efficacy and can alter your mood. 

 

So while you are out weeding and feeding your garden, you are giving your body the tools it needs to deal with stress on a chemical level.

 

Time for Yourself

Gardening gives you time to pursue your curiosities. You can try different gardening experiments like growing exciting or exotic things, trying out other gardening tonics, or using your creativity to decorate and create beautiful sitting spaces to enjoy your garden even when you aren’t working in it. 

Self-Esteem

Gardening allows you to show yourself you can do amazing things. It is the perfect way to  prove to yourself that you can solve complicated problems, set goals and achieve them, and be consistent enough to help another living thing thrive. 

 

Accomplishing these things will raise your self-esteem and make you feel more capable and robust. 

Conclusion: Health Benefits of Gardening

Gardening is a great way to improve the overall quality of your life while saving money and providing your food. For example, improved mood, nutrition, and exercise result in significant physical and mental health benefits. 




2 Homemade Fertilizers You Can Sell

Looking to make extra money? Mixing up homemade fertilizer is a great side hustle for gardeners. 

 

What is fertilizer?

I want to discuss fertilizers. They are anything you add to the soil to make it a hospitable place for plants. They can be organic or non-organic. 

 

When looking at fertilizers, they seem to come in all different kinds. For example, there are fertilizers for growing big and flavorful fruits and veggies, encouraging root, foliage, or flower growth, and even ones formulated for specific plants like roses. 

 

Fertilizers usually have 3 numbers on the front that refer to the ratio of 3 elements they contain. These are called the NPK ratio. 

 

Nitrogen (N), Phosphorus(P), and Potassium (K) are essential for plant growth. Nitrogen is critical for producing amino acids, and the proteins plants use for structure. Phosphorus is vital in photosynthesis. Potassium is necessary to move water and nutrients through plants and create energy. 

 

What is a soil amendment?

Many people confuse fertilizer and soil amendments. They are both things you add to the soil to encourage plant growth. Amendments include changing the soil’s acidity, drainage, or water retention. 

 

Best Homemade Fertilizers to Sell

These easy recipes are great to mix up and sell. 

 

Homemade Fertilizer: Seaweed

Water plants, both salt, and freshwater varieties, are rich in nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus.

 

And there is a long history of people gathering water plants off the shores, steeping them in water, and then using that water to feed plants. 

You can create your seaweed fertilizer in 2 ways: 

 

Simple Seaweed Tonic

  1. Collect weeds from the shore 
  2. Lay weeds in a single layer and let dry. You can do this slowly in the sun or use your oven at a very low temperature (160-180℉) for a couple of hours until dry.
  3. Steep in hot water until the water has tinted green. 
  4. Let it cool, then water your plants with it.

 

Seaweed Powder

This one seems to be the preferred way of using seaweed. 

  1. Dry seaweed like above 
  2. Use a large grinder, food processor, or blender to pulverize the dry weeds. 
  3. Add the powder directly to the soil in the garden. 

 

Kitchen Ingredient Fertilizer

This simple fertilizer can be mixed up from simple, everyday kitchen ingredients and provides nitrogen, magnesium, and sulfur, all crucial nutrients for general plant growth. Some of the elements also protect plants from fungal diseases. 

 

Follow this recipe to the letter, though. Adding too much of each ingredient can cause burns on your plants. 

 

Kitchen Ingredient Fertilizer Recipe

  1. Gather a plastic gallon pitcher, Epsom salt (not table salt), baking powder, and ammonia. 
  2. Add 1.5 tablespoons Epsom Salt, 1.5 teaspoons baking powder, and just under .5 teaspoons ammonia to the empty pitcher. 
  3. Add water to the mixture to make 1 gallon.
  4. Let sit for 15 minutes to make sure all solids are fully dissolved.
  5. Apply to your plants 

 

Conclusion

Do you make your fertilizer? Let us know your recipe in the comments below.

 




Year Round Guide: What to Plant in Each Growing Season

Year Round Gardening Guide

Planning what to plant each season can be fun as you dream of all the delicious things your kitchen garden will bring you, but you should know your hardiness before you start buying plants.

Your Zone

The USDA has divided America into hardiness zones. A hardiness zone is a geographical area that determines which plants grow best in that climate.

You can use your zone to pick varieties especially well adapted to your climate.

And if you know your hardiness zone, you can find average soil temperature data during different parts of the year, so you always plant seeds or transfers at the right time.

Spring

Growing a spring garden means growing cold-weather crops. Some of these veggies can survive frost, and others get sweeter with low temperatures.

Leafy Greens

Lettuce

Seeds can be sowed as soon as the ground can be worked, 2 weeks before the last frost, or up to 1 month before the last frost date if you are sowing inside.

Kale

Seeds are ready to plant immediately after the last frost or inside, 4-6 weeks before the last frost.

Spinach

Spinach can be started inside as early as 6 weeks before the last frost date, and you can sow seeds directly in the soil as soon as it can be worked.

Cabbage

Cabbage should be planted 4 weeks before the last frost, or it can be started up to 8 weeks before the last frost.

Fruit Trees

Most fruit trees are sold as bare-root plants meaning they come without being potted in soil. Instead, they have been stored in a cool area all winter while in a dormant state. Early spring is the best to get fruit trees in the ground because transplanting the dormant tree is less stressful than planting the active tree.

Summer

The season of plenty. Gardeners love summer.

Tomatoes and other Nightshades

The nightshades include tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, and potatoes. These crops should be started within 4-6 weeks before the last frost or sowed directly in the soil within a few weeks.

Cucumbers and Melons

Cucumbers, watermelons, and honeydew can be started 4-6 weeks before the last spring frost or after the soil has reached about 60℉.

Squashes

Squashes, like crooked neck or zucchini, have the best chance of germination if they are sowed directly in the soil soon after the last frost.

Beans

You should directly sow beans into the garden soil shortly after the last frost.

Autumn

You can grow everything listed for the spring in the autumn.

Leafy Greens

Lettuce

Start inside in a cool place 60 days before the first frost date.

Kale

Start at least 45 days before the first frost, but 60 days is ideal.

Spinach

You should start spinach at least 60 days before the first frost date.

Cabbage

Plant cabbage as early as 8 weeks before the first frost date.

Onions

Onions are a staple of the fall garden. Plant onion seeds directly in the soil 2-3 weeks before the first frost.

Garlic

Plant garlic bulbs 3 weeks before the ground freeze in your area.

Conclusion

As you think about planning your garden throughout each season, double-check the dates of frost and freezing, and check for varieties that are well adapted to your hardiness zone.

 

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Gardens, Books, and Legacies

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Gardens, Books, and Legacies

Gardening wasn’t a hobby in my mother’s family. Instead, it was essential to their lives. In the 1950s and 60s in rural Arkansas, the garden was their only source of fruits and vegetables. And when they wanted something different, they bartered their oversupply with their neighbors.

As the decades passed, my grandmother’s life changed dramatically. In the 1990s, the rural farming community had a grocery store, but my grandmother used it sparingly. She loved buying things like snack cakes and out-of-season fruits, but her heart still lived in the growing and cooking of food she grew.

Gardens and Books

Before the internet, my grandmother was an adventurous gardener, so she had all kinds of magazines, pamphlets, and books around her home. And they called to my bibliophile soul, y’all.

I remember spending hours upon hours looking through the books with her. Sometimes, she would plan a garden, so we would make charts and draw out maps on graphing paper.

She taught me how to use the index and cross-reference between 2 sources to check facts.

Even more important than these skills, she taught me that garden work was not all weeding, feeding, and harvesting.

It is a place where we can provide for ourselves. Food, creativity, beauty, and community intersect in the garden, and she knew it.

Gardens and Legacies

My grandmother took a lot of pride in her garden.

When I was in high school, my grandmother grew a peach tree from the pit of a fruit she bought at the grocery store.

I remember seeing the seedling pop up, then she kept it in a pot and brought it inside that first winter. The day she planted it, she had never seemed so happy. And I remember seeing the first flower and tasting that first peach.

It was delicious, but it was so much more than that. It was the culmination of 4 years of meticulous care. Instead of keeping it to herself, she cut it up and served as many of her children, grandchildren, and great-grandkids as she could.

It wasn’t about the peach anyway. It was about sharing in the loving family she cared for just as meticulously as that peach tree she nurtured.

Conclusion

My grandmother has passed away, but the things she taught me while working in the garden, like patience, diligence, and compassion, live on. I am using my garden to teach these things to my children.

I still have some old gardening books that fed my passion for reading and growing things. So I get them out and look through them now and then. I will share pictures of them below.

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10 Best Gardening Podcasts Worth Listening To

Best Gardening Podcasts

 

Enjoy this list of the best gardening podcasts if you want something to listen to while you weed or do other chores.And if you want something to read, check out this list of the best gardening books

Let’s Argue About Plants

LAAB is a podcast focused on common gardening problems; sometimes, arguments happen. But these arguments, from the best minds in horticulture, give you both sides of the issue and a deeper understanding. Topics include herbs, weeds, pest control, seed saving, and winter gardening.

Epic Gardening Podcast

This podcast is known for being under 10 minutes and for answering questions sent in by listeners. It focuses on giving tips for growing fruits and veggies, saving seeds, and conserving soil.

Gardening with the RHS

The Royal Horticultural Society in the UK produces this podcast to inspire everyone to garden. Topics include money-saving tips, pest control, gardening contests and competitions, and specialty gardens like sensory gardens or nocturnal gardens. 

Cultivating Place

Ever wonder why humans started growing food or what the early days of agriculture looked like? This podcast is for you. In addition to those academic topics, Cultivating Place also explores what we can learn from our history intertwined with growing food with issues like the historical importance of tomatoes and seed saving as cultural communication.

All the Dirt

All the Dirt is Australia’s most popular gardening podcast and focuses on sustainability. The topics covered include planning garden plots, homesteading/self-sufficiency, and low, impact techniques for growing fruits, veggies, and herbs. 

Roots and All

This podcast goes a bit deeper into creating wonderful outdoor spaces and gardens in both the practical and artistic sense. In addition to growing food, they also talk about gardening for the senses, to benefit the wildlife around you, and using different gardening techniques.  

Gardenerd

Gardenerd is a wonderful podcast that focuses more on urban gardening and the creative use of garden spaces and general gardening topics like growing fruits and vegetables, raised beds, and community gardens.

The Veg Grower Podcast

This podcast follows one man in his trial and error efforts gardening in his backyard. Use his experience to learn about cold-weather/winter gardening, pest control, and growing veggies in containers. 

The Dirt by Grow Your Own Magazine

All about growing fruits and veg, The Dirt is an insightful program that will help you grow healthier and tastier food and help you use your space to its fullest potential. Topics include container growing, soil conservation, and fertilizing practices. 

Kitchen Garden by The Kitchen Garden

This British podcast focuses on practical advice for growing everything you need in your kitchen, like herbs, fruits, and veggies. In addition, the podcast covers pest control, tips for individual crops like lettuce or grapes, and gardening for mental health. 

Conclusion

Which of these gardening podcasts would you listen to? What topics would you like to see covered in a podcast?

Read More:

What to Plant in your Fall or Winter Garden

5 Gardening Communities Where You Can Share Your Harvests

5 Affordable Indoor Plants That You Might Also Get for Free