Create a Sprawling Garden: How to Grow Herbs Indoors

Nothing beats homemade cooking flavored with freshly picked herbs from your own garden. For a convenient way to add culinary flair to your dishes, grow your herbs indoors. Tree Classics’ Create a Sprawling Garden series gives you practical advice on herb gardening to bring freshness straight to your plate!

Choosing a Method

There are different ways you can jumpstart your indoor garden. One of them is by using a hydroponic system. Not only does this soilless method provide your plants with everything they need; it also allows you to set up your garden anywhere in the house. To start, purchase a hydroponic kit, which comes with equipment, special lights, and mineral nutrient solutions that will nourish your plants and stimulate their growth in a safe environment.


Tropical Kitchen by Other Metro Landscape Architects & Designers Savscapes Landscaping Cape Town

 

You can either plant a seed or root a cutting. Herbs like sage, oregano, and rosemary are best prepped for indoor cultivation. Plant a section of their root or stem in a soilless mix. Meanwhile, basil and parsley need to be planted as seeds, although the latter, as well as chives, can also be planted by potting a clump from an existing outdoor plant.

If you have a kitchen window facing either south or east, make the most of it by creating a windowsill herb garden. Bay leaf tree, oregano, rosemary, and most mints are just some of the herbs that are easy to raise on a windowsill. South-facing windows provide your plant with the most sunlight while east-facing ones give you a moderate amount of light (mostly in the morning). Different herbs have varying needs for sunshine, so make sure to find out how much light your herbs require.

Transitioning Indoors

If you are moving an existing outdoor herb garden indoors to prepare for winter, you will need to acclimatize the plants to their new environment first. Gradually introduce them to shaded areas. Instead of directly putting them inside the house, park them in an enclosed porch, an entryway, or a garage. When they have gotten used to it, you can move them to the window where they can receive the most sunshine.


Eclectic Landscape by San Luis Obispo Photographers Jennifer Young

 

Achieving a Balance of Elements

Know how to balance light, temperature, and water. For example, herbs in a clay pot placed on a south -facing windowsill may need more water than plants on an east or west window. Every week, turn each pot around for about a quarter to expose all of the sides of the plant to sunlight. During winter, the air inside your home tends to get dry, especially with artificial heating. Dry air may affect your indoor plants’ growth. As a remedy, spray mist around your plants to keep them from getting brown leaves due to low humidity.

Fertilizing

Your herbs will stay healthy if you fertilize them, but too much of it may keep them from producing the best flavor. Nourish them with fertilizer only once a month, or mix a slow-release plant food into the soil before planting your cuttings or seeds.

Grow your indoor herb garden now and make your meals even more flavorful and special!

Celebrating with Tree Classics: 12 Ways to Christmas in July

If you’re eager to celebrate the holiday season with the exuberance of summer, then you’ll love our ideas for Christmas in July! What better way to cherish all the wonderful memories with friends and family than with a get-together that also lets you soak up the sun. Get ready for some midyear cheer. Fluff your Christmas tree, serve up some eggnog, and kick-start the merrymaking with Tree Classics’ 12 ways to Christmas in July!

12 Ways to Christmas in July

Tree Classics Christmas in July: 5 Simple Ways to Spread Cheer

Christmas has always been a season of giving. Whether you’re handing out gifts at an orphanage or helping out at a local soup kitchen, you know there is nothing more satisfying than being able to make other people happy. Celebrating Christmas in July allows you to continue spreading the joy of the holidays. Join Tree Classics as we list down ways you can turn your Christmas good deed into a year-long tradition.

1. Hold Storytelling Sessions with Kids

Audiobook
Photo from LibAmanda via flickr. CC BY 2.0

Reading is a great way for kids to enrich their imagination. There is a tale of adventure and awe locked inside every page of a good book. But reading can be very difficult for a child who has dyslexia or is visually challenged. Remove this obstacle by lending your voice in an audiobook production and holding a storytelling session with kids.

By using well-loved storybooks and textbooks that have been transformed into electronic recordings, children with learning disabilities can enjoy the lessons that these wonderful literary treasures have to offer. Visit Learning Ally to find out how you can sign up as a volunteer reader.

2. Visit Homes for the Elderly

Elderly
Photo from ryanrocketship via flickr. CC BY 2.0

Time has a way of making us forget the things that really matter. We won’t be where we are today if it weren’t for the people who came before us. Let’s not wait until the Christmas season to check up on Grandpa and Grandma and make them feel appreciated. Drop by your grandparents’ house or your local elderly home and bring back their smiles. You can share a meal, tell stories, and even play fun games with them. Check out organizations such as Little Brothers to learn more about how you can help bring cheer into the lives of our beloved elderly.

3. Become a Red Cross Volunteer

First Aid
Photo from Fort Meade via flickr. CC BY 2.0

If you’re looking for a long-term commitment helping out, you can never go wrong with the American Red Cross. Always ready to help where there is a disaster, the organization has come to symbolize solidarity and care. For decades, it has given aid to those situated in the most dangerous corners of the world. The Red Cross has diversified its volunteer work into different functions. Aside from helping in disaster relief efforts, you can also be a volunteer at blood drives, become a health and safety instructor, or even a social media advocate.

4. Rescue Animals with Your Neighbors

Animal Rescue
Photo from Rocky Mountain Feline Rescue via flickr. CC BY 2.0

Animals have the right to be safe. Sadly, not everybody is aware of this fact. We often find pets neglected or mistreated by their owners. Groups such as Sanctuary One and The Humane Society of the United States try their best to care for these poor critters, but they also need the help of other animal lovers. Sign up for their programs such as rescuing and protecting these pets from cruelty and providing them a loving home.

5. Build Homes for the Homeless

Habitat
Photo from Rob Swystun via flickr. CC BY 2.0

And, yes, there is no place like home. This has always driven the volunteers of Habitat for Humanity. They have dedicated their time and energy to providing homeless people everywhere a shelter where they can be safe and warm. You can join hands with family and friends and turn home-building activities into a time for bonding. With every brick you lay and every beam you hammer into place, you can have the satisfaction of knowing you’ve helped create a better tomorrow for your fellow.

You don’t have to wait until Christmas to spread holiday cheer. Now is as good a time as any other.

Tree Classics Favorite Recipes: 7 Delicious Smoothies that Detoxify

Summer inspires people to get healthy. Just think of all the luscious fruits and mouthwatering veggies bursting with color and flavor! They’re not only tasty. They also cleanse your body. But if you’re looking for something other than your usual summer salad, you can switch things up. Count on these thirst-quenching smoothies that also work as a complete meal, light snack, or summer drink that takes all your worries away.

Summer Smoothies
Photo from Andrew Michaels via flickr. CC BY 2.0

1. Carrot, Mango, and Herb Smoothie

Sip your way to good health with this carrot, mango, and herb smoothie. Carrots are loaded with beta-carotene and vitamin A, which promote good eye health and slow down the aging of cells. The falcarinol and falcarindiol in carrots also reduce the risk of lung, breast, and colon cancers. Meanwhile, mangoes prevent cancer, lower cholesterol, promote good eyesight and help alkalize the body. The fusion of mint, tarragon, and basil helps with its digestive and anti-oxidant properties.

Enjoy these amazing benefits with the carrot, mango, and herb smoothie by Whole Living. Combine two cups of frozen mango chunks, one cup of freshly squeezed orange juice, one cup of fresh carrot juice, 1/4 cup of fresh herbs, such as mint, tarragon, or basil, and blend until smooth. Super easy!

2. Avocado-Apple Smoothie

Avocados are full of monounsaturated fats that help the body absorb vitamins A and E important for maintaining the smoothness of skin. This fleshy green-skinned fruit can also lower cholesterol, fight eye disease, and prevent oral, breast, and prostate cancers. Anti-oxidant and fiber-enriched apples, meanwhile, fight the effects of aging on the brain, providing protection against Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases.

Make the avocado-apple smoothie from Incredible Smoothies by blending together one green apple, 1/2 avocado, one tablespoon of lime juice, and 1/2 to one cup of water. This is one yummy anti-aging recipe that you’ll never get out of your mind!

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Tree Classics Christmas in July: Tips for Caring for Your Christmas Tree

After six months of stashing away your Christmas tree in the attic or basement, it’s time once again to take it out for some much-deserved cleaning and fluffing and celebrate Christmas in July. To help you along, Tree Classics runs down basic steps as you display your beloved tree this summer.

Tree Classics Christmas Tree
Photo from wolfsavard via flickr. CC BY 2.0

Dust off the Tree

Just like any item stored in a box for months, your Christmas tree may have accumulated dust – and dust often sticks deep within the bristles and branches. Cleaning it can get frustrating. To make things easier, you can either use a handy vacuum or go old school with a whisk broom.

  • Vacuums can be used on newer and sturdier trees. When using one to clean your Christmas tree, make sure that the vacuum is not too powerful for it. Attach an upholstery bristle to your vacuum and test it out first on the base of the tree. If your tree can handle it, go ahead and proceed with the vacuuming. Once you get to the needles and branches, keep the vacuum about an inch away from the tree so that it won’t suck in the foliage.
  • When dusting old and delicate Christmas trees, it is better to use a soft whisk broom. Carefully brush the dust off the tree, paying close attention to the branches and needles. You can also use a damp rag for a more meticulous cleaning of the foliage.
  • For the trunk and larger branches, a bucket of warm water and some mild dish soap will do the trick. Soak a rag in the bucket and start wiping the tree. You can also use shampoo.
  • For pre-lit Christmas trees, avoid using any liquid cleaner to prevent short-circuits.

Check the Detailing

Once you’re through getting rid of all that muck from your tree, the next thing to do is to check all of its parts. Sometimes in our haste to store our tree right after Christmas, we tend to leave out some of its pieces.  We wouldn’t know until the next season when we’re about to take it out again.

  • Familiarize yourself with each part of your Christmas tree when setting it up and disassembling it. Also, keep the manual for the tree handy to have a complete list of its pieces.
  • When working on a pre-lit Christmas tree, double check it for loose connections or busted bulbs before plugging it in.

Ask Help Early

If you find that some parts are missing or that there are damages to your Christmas tree, you should notify your tree company’s customer service right away for parts replacements or appropriate repairs. Inspecting your tree’s condition as early as July will save you from further troubles during the busy holiday season.

More than just being a mere summer holiday, Christmas in July is a convenient reminder of how to properly take care of your beloved Christmas tree. Add this to your family tradition and you can be sure of a happy and stress-free yuletide season.

Create a Sprawling Garden: Summer Flowers for Beginners

After highlighting summer crops in last month’s edition of Create a Sprawling Garden, Tree Classics will now take a look at four lovely flowers that are perfect for beginners. Not only are these blooms easy to grow. They also handle the extreme heat of summer very well.

1. Red Valerian

Most other plants wither under the summer sun, but the red valerian thrives in such conditions. In fact, this drought-resistant plant can exist in just about any condition except for wet climates. Originally from the Mediterranean region, red valerians are now commonly found in most western states such as California, Arizona, Utah, Oregon, and Hawaii.

Depending on how you look at it, the self-sowing seeds of the red valerian can either be a convenience or a nuisance. If you don’t want them to overpopulate your garden, make sure you deadhead your red valerian before the next bloom. A bi-weekly watering schedule and some bone meal placed in the soil should also be enough to take care of this summer bloom.

Let red valerians cascade from an elevation or grow along paths, rough slopes, and steep banks. Their lasting blooms enliven any dull and listless garden.

Red Valerian
Photo from M Hillier via flickr. CC BY 2.0

 

2. Moonbeam Coreopsis

The moonbeam coreopsis flourishes even in the brightest of daylight. You can plant this perennial flower in average or poor soil and it will still blossom radiantly. Because of its endurance, the moonbeam coreopsis is ideal for gardens in humid states, such as Florida, Alabama, and Arkansas.

As with most summer plants, this coreopsis cultivar does not require too much attention. One thing to note, though, is that for the moonbeam to bloom without hassle, you must regularly prune the flowers right after they fade. You can do this for a few times during the summer, and then allow the plant to go to seed at season’s end to reproduce new ones.

The pale yellow bloom of the moonbeam coreopsis adds contrast to the large leaves typical of perennials. Use the moonbeam coreopsis to balance the rich purples and blues of other blooms.

Moonbeam
Photo from F. D. Richards via flickr. CC BY 2.0

 

3. Daisy Fleabane

Native to the West Coast, fleabanes are considered one of the most durable summer flowers. It regularly blooms all throughout the harshest conditions of the season, from June to September.

In planting your daisy fleabanes, keep an eye out for “legginess.” It is a condition in which the plants do not get enough sunlight. They grow long thin stems that do not stand upright. When this happens, cut off these plants and remove them from under the shade.

If you’re looking for flowers to place in front of stone walls, then daisy fleabanes are for you. The slender ray petals give a splash of vibrancy to the naturally bland color of stone. Also, the long stalks make these cultivars a classic choice for flower arrangements.

Daisy Fleabane
Photo from wackybadger via flickr. CC BY 2.0

 

4. Goblin Blanket Flower

Also known as the kobold, the goblin blanket flower can withstand arid climate and, with enough leaf mulch, remain in bloom through winter. Similar to other summer flowers, it can survive even on low-quality soil as long as it has good drainage. If you plant them in moist garden loam, the stems tend to grow too far apart.

True to its namesake, the goblin blanket flower has an unusual way of growing. Unlike other plants that develop better in rich soil, this flower benefits more from thriving on poor earth. It is not advisable to enrich the soil by adding compost or other fertilizers. Goblin blanket flowers also do not grow properly in heavy clay.

The dark maroon center and golden yellow tips of the petals give the goblin a sunny appeal. Baring some striking resemblance to the sunflower, it also has a wide bloom that ranges from three to four inches. When planting the goblin in a group, you can place it beside taller flowers with warm tones.

Goblin
Photo from Sarah Korf via flickr. CC BY 2.0

Flowers have a unique way of enlivening any space. Try planting these colorful summer blooms to help you define the aesthetics of your outdoors.

4 Classic Games that Boost Brain Power

Spending summer indoors gives you the perfect opportunity to pick up an old hobby or learn a new one. While some hobbies exercise your body, others help you sharpen your mind. You will find that a simple game that improves memory and concentration will allow you to take on everyday tasks with clarity and renewed passion. This summer, Tree Classics is bringing back those timeless board games and puzzles that boost brain power.

Chess

It’s all about strategy, strategy, strategy. In a game of chess, a lot of analytic thinking is used to come up with a strategy. You must bolster every attack with a purpose. Winning every move may not always guarantee winning the entire game. This forces you to concentrate and lengthen your attention span as you move towards your ultimate goal of taking down the king on your opponent’s side. Players can never be complacent even for a moment.

Tree Classics Brain Games
By podpad / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Rubik’s Cube

This 3D puzzle is about aligning cubes to show only one solid color on each side of the bigger cube. The activity brings you to focus on each step and analyze each shift. It also improves your short-term memory when you recall the tricks you’ve learned. The toy may come in different forms. Some puzzles merely use colors; others sequential numbers that make it even more complex. The point is to use both the left and right sides of the brain for logic, memory, and creativity.

Scrabble

If you want to sharpen your semantic memory – your ability to remember meaning – Scrabble is for you. This 75-year-old board game looks simple. But it is engaging because you have to use your faculty for language as well as your analytic and logical thinking. Since each letter tile has a corresponding value that adds to your individual score and extends the word connections, the amalgam of letters you create not only improves your ranking but also paves the way for you to add on more words as the game progresses.

Crossword

Crossword also exercises language by tapping into the parts of your brain involved in semantics, word association, and spelling. A way to expand your vocabulary by examining the witty word clues, crossword puzzles may be the mental push-up you need to keep sharp.

These mentally stimulating board games have never faded from our memory! In fact, they help improve memory and focus. What are your favorite brain games?

Fantastic July 4 Fireworks Displays

 

It’s almost the Fourth of July! Time once again to take out those sparklers, light up the warm summer sky, and commemorate American Independence. If you’re looking for a good old fashioned fireworks display, check out Tree Classics’ list of the top pyrotechnics shows across the country and the best vantage points to watch them from.

1. Macy’s Fireworks Spectacular – New York City, New York

The most popular fireworks extravaganza in the country, the Macy’s Fireworks Spectacular over the Hudson River began in 1976. Since then, it has become part of New York City’s Independence Day tradition. This 26-minute show attracts an average of two million spectators every year.

If you’re planning on heading to the Big Apple to watch this spectacle, get on board the Independence Day Family Cruise. You can enjoy a fabulous dinner with loved ones while marveling at the breathtaking view from the Hudson.

2. Kaboom Town – Addison, Texas

What this Texan town lacks in size, it certainly makes up for in its stunning fireworks show. Highly regarded by the American Pyrotechnics Association, Addison’s 30-minute Kaboom Town spectacle is watched by 500,000 gazers annually.

Avid fans of Kaboom Town watch the fireworks show from one of the 170 restaurants found in and around town. If you don’t want to get caught in the huge crowds, you can view the whole event from Cantino Laredo. Try out their amazing Mexican delicacies for a full experience. 

3. Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular – Boston, Massachusetts

Residents of this great New England city are no strangers to festive fireworks displays. For over 40 years, Bostonians have kept this Fourth of July celebration running. People line up along the Charles River on picnic blankets to witness the pyrotechnics show while the famed Boston Pops Orchestra performs Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture.

For an intimate celebration with the family, you can set up camp at the Larz Anderson Park down at 23 Newton Street in Brookline. Aside from being a great vantage point for the 21-minute extravaganza, this open area also has room for games and other activities.

4. Go 4th on the River – New Orleans, Louisiana

While the entire show lasts for only 13 minutes, watching the beautiful reflection of the fireworks on the Mississippi River is what sets the Go 4th on the River celebration apart from all the others. Some 200,000 people crowd the Big Easy every year to witness this grand Fourth of July spectacle.

Check out the view of the evening sky from the deck of the Hard Rock Café in New Orleans’ French Quarter. You can also soak up the local jazz scene after the pyrotechnics show.

Wherever you choose to commemorate Independence Day, whichever spectacle you decide to watch, the most important thing is to celebrate the true meaning of this holiday. The Fourth of July is about being able to savor the joys of fun and freedom!

DIY Classics: 3 Ways to Make Vintage Clothes Look New

Vintage clothes shopping is a fun way to look for unique items that can still be made fashionable today. But it’s not too often that an absolutely gorgeous, wearable-off-the-rack piece turns up. Fortunately, there are ways to make vintage clothes look new again while highlighting your love for classic elegance. Here are a few ideas:

update vintage clothes
By …love Maegan / flickr

 

1. Make It Your Size

Make it all about you! So start off with the size. Vintage finds look fashionable only when the garment fits you to a T.  Among the areas that typically need adjustment are the hem, sleeves, bust, and bias.

Remember: Shop for vintage clothes that are at least two to three sizes larger than yours. When it’s time to snip off a few inches here or tuck in a few inches there, you would still have enough of the fabric to work on.

2. Repair the Damage

Sure, there are stains and rips. But these little flaws don’t always render vintage treasures useless. Instead, examine the extent and type of damage to figure out a creative way of repairing, strengthening, and even embellishing your piece.

Cover holes and tears with pockets of a different pattern to make the outfit snazzy. Is the collar wilted? Change up the fabric or cut it off altogether. Replace buttons and zippers to add a more modern touch. You’ll be surprised that a good repair is all you need to make an old garment look fab again.

3.  Revamp the Style

Of course, some vintage pieces are fine just as they are, but refashioning them gives you the benefit of creating a completely unique piece. Snip off dated sleeves, remove those puffy shoulder pads, and change up that droopy neckline to give the piece new life.

One trick we love at Tree Classics is to put a new spin on old things. You can update a dress by having the skirt end just above the knee – a modern style that matches any pattern or material. A short dress with a classy and classic appeal is perfect for the summer!

Vintage clothes are gaining more popularity, thanks to hit period dramas like Mad Men and Pan Am. While not all finds are wearable instantly, a lot of these are great candidates for upcycling.

Create a Sprawling Garden: Summer Crops for Beginners

July is almost here! The warm weather is setting the stage for an amazing harvest. But are you having trouble jumpstarting your own summer garden? Even if you’re still figuring out how to till the soil and prep your seeds or seedlings, it’s not yet too late for you to create a sprawling summer garden that looks professionally made. Tree Classics recommends four hassle-free (well, relatively hassle-free) crops that flourish this season. So let’s get diggin’!

String Beans and Green Beans

Our favorite would have to be snap beans, otherwise known as string beans and green beans. They are best grown in warm soil as they decay easily in damp dirt. You need not dig deep when sowing them in since they have shallow roots. Growing them an inch deep and three inches apart is fine. Place them in a spot that gets a lot of sunshine. Water them once they start to sprout but don’t let the soil turn overly moist. Allow the plants to continue sprouting throughout the season by regularly picking the mature beans.

Eggplants

 

Another summer crop that loves the full sunlight is the eggplant. Our favorite would have to be the rich dark purple Asian variety because they add so much color to a summer garden. Grow this crop in a fertile area where you had not grown eggplants a year before. You can grow the seeds indoors first before planting them in containers outside when the weather starts to warm. Remember to water the eggplants generously.

Tomatoes

Always a favorite during the summer, tomatoes have different varieties to suit any dish this season. For beginning gardeners who love fresh salads, Tree Classics recommends growing cherry tomatoes. Unlike other varieties, cherry tomatoes enjoy just a moderate amount of sunshine and can be grown in containers. Water them generously at the base of the plant. Harvest your cherry tomatoes once they have turned bright red orange and firm.

Cucumbers

 

One summer crop that requires both full sunlight and constant moisture is the cucumber. Whether you’re growing slicers that are best served fresh or picklers that are best preserved, you will find cucumbers to be an essential part of a sprawling summer garden because of the beautiful way their vines grow. If you want them to crawl out gloriously, set up a trellis in your garden. If you’re more of a practical gardener, you can also plant them by making mounds or rows with drip irrigation. Water them well as cucumbers turn bitter when they lose moisture.

Summer is the best time to get your hands dirty even if you’re just starting out as a home gardener.