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Seed Starting Trays: Best Three On the Market & Tips

Seedlings growing in a seed starting tray
Reviewing Seed Starting Trays Get Growing with Confidence

Are you tired of spending too much on starter plants, and having difficulty getting your own seeds to sprout? Well, seed starting trays may be your answer. You can get a head start on the spring season, and begin planting early before the weather warms up. Not to mention, there's something special about starting a seedling and growing it into a full plant. You have to nurture the seeds from the very beginning, which makes the entire process very hands-on. Imagine starting a seed and diligently working at it until it blossoms into a beautiful flower or a tasty vegetable; the result is very rewarding.

If you already understand how great seed starting trays are for gardeners, you know that having the right one can make all the difference. However, if you do not like the idea of starting indoors, you should reconsider. Many experienced gardeners work inside and outside to grow the plants they want, and both methods provide a unique experience. But the question is, do you think seed starting trays will work well for you?

Purpose of Seed Starting Trays

Purpose of Seed Starting Trays

Seed starting trays are specially designed to hold numerous seeds that start at the germination stage until they're ready for transplantation. Using the trays helps to ensure that each seed gets its nutrients, and it also dismisses the need for multiple plantings. Seed starting trays keep the seeds contained as well. The trays are typically plastic, and certain ones come with a dome to help increase humidity, while others include heating pads which help to speed up germination.

There are many different reasons as to why gardeners use their own starter seeds, but there are a few common reasons. One primary reason is to have the ability to plant rare and hard-to-find vegetation. You'll probably find less than a dozen variety of unique plants at a garden center, but you'll find hundreds of seed options. It also saves you money as well. Packets of seeds are cheap, and they contain dozens of seeds. But, often a single starter plant will cost a great deal more than seeds. Using seed starting trays is also a good way to get your gardening fix through the winter months. Plus, it gives an even better sense of accomplishment to take care of a plant from the very beginning.

Furthermore, there are a few seeds you can try out that are awesome for beginning indoors. The most common seeds are peppers, basil, tomatoes, marigold, and cosmos. You can also try zinnias; they're one of the most simple flowers to grow from a seed. But, all of these tend to germinate and grow rather quickly. Once you've gotten the hang of these, you can move on to more complicated plants.

When to start seeds

Type of seeds to use

The Steps to Help Your Seeds Grow

Your main goal is to get your seeds to grow so that you can successfully transfer them into your garden, but you have to make sure you're following the right procedures.

Find the right seed starting tray

Prepare the potting soil

Give the seeds light

Slowly move the plants to your garden

What Happens If Your Seeds Didn't Grow

What Happens If Your Seeds Didn't Grow

The first possibility is poor germination. Certain plants tend to have low germination rates, and often that warning is stated on the seed packaging. The information will usually indicate to plant more than one seed together to improve your chances of successful growth. Soil that is too wet or too cold can cause bad germination, which causes the seeds to rot. Dry soil can also interfere with growth and prevent germination. Plus, sometimes seeds are out-dated or haven't been properly stored, and that keeps the seedling from growing as well.

Mold and algae

Mold and algae

If you notice white growth or green spots on the surface of the planting mixture, or on the outside of the pots, it's most likely mold or algae. It's usually harmless to the seedlings, but it's a good sign that the soil mix is too wet. Give it time to dry out a little between watering, and increase air circulation through the use of fan or better ventilation.

Seed Starting Trays Pros and Cons

The great thing about starting your own seeds is that it allows you to grow food and plants organically from your own hands. It's a long process, but if you like gardening, you'll enjoy every minute of it. Not to mention, it's less expensive to buy seeds than it is to buy organic fruits and veggies from the market. And if you handle your trays correctly, you can reuse them, which helps save you money. So it's a win-win.

On the contrary, nurturing your own seeds is tedious. For some people that might present a problem, especially if something goes wrong with the growth process. 

Pros

  • Allows you to grow plants organically
  • Reusable if they are handled well
  • Save on food and vegetables

Cons

  • Growing seeds may be tedious

The Best Seed Starting Trays

We've compiled a list of the best seed containers we could find that had the best customer satisfaction. So hopefully, you can pick one that's well-suited for you and your gardening level of expertise.

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This tray consists of ultra-durable BPA-free polypropylene plastic and no drain holes. The flats are heavy duty and can hold heavy loads without breaking. You can use these for fodder, wheatgrass, hydroponic systems, sprouting, soil blocks, microgreens, and heat mats. Plus, it fits most cell plug trays and humidity domes.


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This Koram tray is perfect for starting flowers, herbs, and vegetable saplings such as tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, and more. The humidity lid allows heat to easily absorb into the soil and keeps it at consistent temperatures, which is great for indoor home and greenhouse use. Plus, it contains six cell packs that make transplanting effortless. The thickened bottom edge material can hold up against pressure and doesn't lose soil or soak in too much water. Additionally, the drain holes help the plants grow faster, and this tray fits well in a germination station.

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Sili-seedlings contain silicone which helps to regulate the temperature of the soil better than plastic or peat pots. It's smooth and durable and crafted to be resistant to breaking and melting. It's also FDA approved, BPA-free, and it never becomes brittle or melts, even in the hottest of conditions. Plus, they're eco-friendly so you can use them in your garden, or on the inside of your home.


Comparison Table

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Are You Excited About Growing Your Own Plants?

Seed starting trays are a fun way to grow plants and veggies, and we feel like they're worth investing in. They're far superior to DIY solutions, minus cost -- and the cost isn't too high anyway. 

So, are they worth it? Absolutely. These trays are for growing indoors, so unless something happens to interfere with germination, you're sure to get the results you're looking for. Plus, they're reusable. So you can continue to use them and repeat the growing process as much as you'd like.

The Best Types of Cucumbers to Grow, And How To Choose Them

types of cucumbers
The Best Types of Cucumbers to Grow, And How To Choose Them

With so many different types of cucumbers, it is difficult to pick the right one to grow in your garden. It’s even harder to pick cucumbers for a smaller garden. Fresh cukes for sauces and pickles for your salads and sandwiches are a beautiful thing, but with a small space, you may think they’re out of reach. Thankfully you don’t have to settle when it comes to the perfect cucumber to add to wherever you grow.

So, with just a little work you can have fresh cucumbers growing in your space. Many of us wonder: Can cucumbers be adapted to grow wherever? How many types of cucumbers can you grow in a small space? How do you pick and plant the right cucumber plant for your needs? Are there dangers that could threaten your cucumbers? How can we keep our veggies away from them?

Well, let’s start at the beginning!

What Are Cucumbers?

Cucumbers

Cucumber is a creeping vine plant that produces fruits in a wide range of sizes. The cucumber fruits are delicious, and though they don’t have much nutritional value, they’re used in salads often. The smaller fruits are often pickled depending on the kind of cucumber. With a long and tough stem, the vine sprawls out and can climb or cover a wide variety of spaces. The leaves are broad and hairy, and the lengthy stem sends out tendrils to help support the plant.

The bright yellow flowers have five petals and are either male or female, but both sexes appear on the same vine. Cucumber plants are picky when it comes to temperature and moisture. That makes cukes a little challenging to handle in a traditional outdoor garden, depending on where you live.

There are many types of cucumbers available from bush cucumbers to a more traditional vine plant.

Types of Cucumbers

How many different types of cucumbers could there be

There are over 33 different types of cucumbers you can grow at home. They include both pickling cucumbers and eating cucumbers. Unfortunately, not all of them are compact enough to grow wherever you are. There are a few varieties, regardless of your needs, that is great for a compact growing lifestyle. The different cucumber plants below should flourish well in smaller spaces. There’s even a variety of salad and pickling cucumbers here, allowing you to pick and choose from a group of great crops based on your needs.

Saber F1

These slender delightful straight green fruits are great salad cucumbers. They flourish in a smaller potting situation such as a greenhouse and have thicker smooth skin that takes handling well and shipped. This variety lends itself to growing a large crop for distribution. The thick skin, though, results in a slightly less appealing cucumber in comparison to the thinner-skinned European types.

It also has serious resistance to a variety of different diseases. Including TLS, SCAB, and CMV. These viruses and diseases can demolish a crop easily, especially in an enclosed greenhouse set up. These cucumbers are planted a week after all dangers of frost are gone for sure. You can raise them in the greenhouse or transplant them outside if you’re working with a small garden.

National Pickling

One of many types of cucumbers used for pickling, the National Pickling variety dates back several decades to 1924. The cucumbers end up being about 6-7 inches, and they grow best in a really warm area. The seeds won’t take unless they’re in soil over 50 degrees. You can save the seeds of these cucumbers to be used to plant a new crop in the next year, considering that they’re organic.

With male flowers blooming first, it’s sometimes difficult to get the female flowers pollinated. If bees don’t have access to your plant, you can hand pollinate with a q-tip to encourage growth. These pickling cucumbers also have difficulties if you plant them in the same place year after year, which encourages mold growth and pest development that can kill off your crops.

Potluck

These delightful cucumbers grow incredibly well in pots and flourish in small areas such as an enclosed garden or patio space. They form up in a bush, much like zucchini, allowing them to fit in more compact areas. Add a lattice to the equation and you’ll have hanging cucumbers in no time. They grow up to 8 inches long and do still require lots of sun and water like any other cucumber plant. You’ll need to water them enough, but even just a little too much and the seeds will rot instead of sprout. These types of cucumbers are best for eating with salads and sandwiches.

Spacemaster

This plant is so compact that it can fit in a pot on your porch. It’s a short plant with incredibly strong vines, delivering delicious cucumbers. They grow fast and can produce quite a few cucumbers from one plant. If you like to garden in a container, there is no cucumber better than this Spacemaster. They’re smart space-wise, efficient, and produce sweet fruit as well. They’re hearty and fight back against a variety of diseases, but there is a downside to this delightful cucumber plant. Some diseases, such as powdery mildew, hit them hard and can kill them fast if you don’t keep on top of it.

Bush Champion

These types of cucumber plants require full sun for six hours and produce fruit at about eleven inches. For a space saver plant, that is amazing considering the small space it’s growing in. You’ll get quite a few crisp and delicious cucumbers that appear hearty and have an amazing flavor. With just 55 days from germination to harvest these cucumbers are quick to grow and efficient in space as well.

As always it’s a demanding plant and needs great soil food, and a plethora of water to thrive. As well as almost full sun, so prepare to ensure this plant has the right conditions. If you do, you’ll reap quite a delectable reward for your hard work.

Fanfare

This semi-dwarf plant is a hybrid that produces cucumbers up to 10 inches long. With a mild taste, this cucumber is best for salads and isn’t good for pickling at all. You can plant it in rows, closer together, or you can plant it in pots since it is a space saver plant. With a long harvest season, you’ll get more cucumbers for a longer period of time. It’s also an incredibly disease-resistant plant, though it isn’t impossible for it to become diseased or pest-ridden.

It’s a wonderful plant to pick if you’re trying to get a lot of crops out over a longer growing season. As with most cucumber plants, it works best in full sunlight but can also thrive in partial shade. Planted in spring or late summer this plant is one of the many types of cucumbers that people have adored for years.

Salad Bush

This cucumber plant grows delightful cucumbers without forcing you to deal with a plethora of vines. It takes up so little room because it’s a space saver plant. Planted in pots it is an excellent addition to just about any small garden. This plant grows cucumbers to reach about 8 inches which are relatively large for such a tiny plant.

With a very high resistance to diseases, this plant has a long harvesting season and can produce a large number of cucumbers. It’s not at all recommended to use these for pickling. Instead look at some of the pickling varieties if you’re looking for pickles instead of just salad cucumbers. It’s also great in raised beds and other small areas such as patios and greenhouses. There are a lot of things that go into picking the right cucumber plant for your needs though.

Can You Grow Cucumbers Anywhere?

Cucumbers

Cucumbers, traditionally grown outside, also do surprisingly well in a container. If you use a lattice in the pot you can grow them in the climb, just like a bean plant. They need warmth, fertile soil, and consistent moisture. The constant need makes them high maintenance, but with the right supplies, you can grow them anywhere.

When you pick the types of cucumbers you want for your garden, you will need a compact or space saver variety. Otherwise, it’ll be useless to try to grow them in a small space. A conventional cucumber plant can quickly overtake your small garden if allowed to do so. Starting the right plant enables you to grow cucumbers in a smaller space.

Picking and Planting The Right Type of Cucumbers

Picking and Planting The Right Cucumber

It’s incredibly important to choose and properly plant the cucumber plant that’s right for you. Your choice of cucumber plants should focus on what you want out of the plant. Do you want pickles or cucumbers you can eat outright? How much space do you have available and will this cucumber plant fit in this space effectively? Will it grow out of the space you currently have?

On top of that cucumbers need a lot of water to grow properly, and a lot of soil as well. Without the water and soil combination, you’re not going to get a healthy plant or a lush harvest. The pot you pick needs to both be deep enough and have good drainage. Otherwise, you will attract mildew, fungus, and pests to your cucumber plants.

Once you have the right plant, container, productive soil, and water you’ll also need food. Container gardens or small gardens often need a little help in keeping the plants healthy. You can do this by providing them with plant food that will encourage their growth. That will help them yield a delicious crop of either pickling or eating cucumbers for you and your family.

But, do pests and mildew and fungus still affect your plant if you’re growing it inside?

Dangers to Your Cucumbers

cucumber beetle

There are a wide variety of pests and diseases that can damage or even kill any type of cucumbers. Cucumber beetles and squash bugs seem to be the most common pests for these veggies. Some bugs are slow movers and are easy to kill others are swift and will eat, and lay eggs at an alarming rate. That makes it difficult to keep up with the population, and even harder to keep them off your plants. There are many sprays you can use to keep bugs like these off of your cucumbers. The right spray depends on if you want an all-organic crop, don’t mind pesticides, and what bugs you want to target.

Bugs aren’t the only thing with a hunger for all types of cucumbers. There are a variety of fungi and mildew also taken to plants like cucumbers. This mildew can look like a powdery white substance, it takes over every leaf and kills them effectively killing the plant as it spreads. You’ll need to trim and remove any affected leaves and even apply a spray to end the spread of the problem.

Final Thoughts

Finally, with all the information above you’re prepared to make the right choice for your space. You know how to choose, handle, and grow any kind of cucumber plant you want. Also, you’ll be able to figure out what types of cucumbers you wish to grow overall. Last but not least, remember to factor in, if you want pickles or salad cucumbers because there are still those two different kinds of plants.

So, now that you know every essential detail about growing, choosing, and caring for cucumbers, it’s time for you to share your thoughts. Have you successfully grown cucumber plants in a small space? What did you learn about growing cucumbers? Do you have more useful information that I forgot to mention? What is your favorite type of cucumber and why? Tell us everything in the comment section below!

Tips For Growing A Mushroom Garden: Guide & Tips

Mushroom Garden

You may have been thinking about starting a mushroom garden where you live to round out the selection of vegetables and fruits you grow. There’s nothing more delicious than covering your burger or pizza in mushrooms sauteed in buttered. And deep-fried mushrooms have been a pub favorite for decades. Best of all, they’re easy to grow just about anywhere and at any time of year.

Although many people think of mushrooms as vegetables, they’re edible fungus. Mushrooms make up over 14,000 different individual plant species, and as of this writing, scientists have identified roughly 10 percent of the potential mushroom species.

Packed With Nutritional And Medicinal Value

Edible mushroom species are not only low in calories but also filled with nutrients. Rich in B vitamins, niacin, riboflavin, and pantothenic acid, they also come with a healthy dose of potassium, copper, and selenium. Mushrooms have proven promising in boosting the immune system, in anti-cancer therapy, and promoting heart health.

They contain high levels of beta-glucans that stimulate immune cells. They also produce an antioxidant called ergothioneine that can help lower inflammation throughout the body.

Growing Your Own Mushroom Garden

mushrooms

Some outdoor climates are less hospitable than others. If you live in an area that’s either too hot, too cold, or too dry, you may need to start your mushroom garden indoors. Edible mushrooms grow best in temperatures between 55 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit, with humid conditions.

Start your outdoor mushroom garden in the spring. The mild weather and copious rainfall make for the perfect conditions to grow your mushrooms.

The Mushroom Growth Cycle

Before you begin, you should understand the life cycle of your mushrooms. Mushrooms don’t grow randomly, as some people believe. They grow from a dense network of root-like cells called “mycelium.” In nature, these small threads of white mycelium will grow in all directions in a constant search for nutrients and water. In soil, under leaves, and in the bark of dead logs, they will spread anywhere while feeding through the tendrils of this network.

When they find a suitable environment, or when the mycelium feels threatened by environmental factors, it will sprout a very tiny button-like growth about the size of a pinhead resembling a small egg. This button is covered in a crisscrossing layer of mycelium tendrils.

As the network becomes larger, a rounded cap with gill-like membranes on the underside will separate from the stalk. As the new mushroom matures, the membranes will develop and release millions of tiny spores into the wind to germinate and begin the mycelium cycle again.

If you can recreate these environmental factors on a carefully managed mycelium network, you can produce unlimited amounts of delicious mushrooms for use at your own dinner table.

Oyster Mushrooms

The easiest of the mushroom varieties to begin your mushroom garden with are oyster mushrooms. They are the easiest to cultivate and will reproduce faster than most other types. One advantage of the oyster variety is that they will readily accept used coffee grounds as a growing medium.

Mushroom Garden Medium

Even though we prefer starting a mushroom garden with oyster mushrooms and a medium of used coffee grounds for the reasons discussed above, you can use other types if you prefer. As you become more proficient in mushroom gardening, you may want to branch out to more exotic kinds of mushrooms that require different types of medium to thrive. These are the most commonly used types of medium for mushroom gardening.

Coffee Grounds

Loaded with nutrients, coffee grounds are an excellent growth medium where mushrooms can thrive. Another plus is that the normal brewing process has already sterilized the coffee grounds. This means that the germs and other living micro-organisms that your mushrooms may have to compete with for nutrients in other mediums, such as raw wood or straw, have been eliminated.

Organic Compost

Compost will take the longest to prepare, but it will be bursting with nutrients and makes an excellent medium for your mushroom garden. You can use anything from leaves, weeds, and lawn clippings to eggshells, coffee grounds, and vegetable peelings for composting.

After a few months of heat and moisture, these discarded organic odds and ends will break down. In time, they will become rich, soil-like material that makes an excellent fertilizer for your mushroom garden as well as your regular house and garden plants.

Straw

You can use clean, chopped straw as the substrate soil substitute and find it well suited for your mushroom garden. Because it may contain impurities and micro-organisms that can be detrimental to your mushrooms, you’ll need to sterilize the straw. The quickest way to accomplish this is to put it in 150-degree water for at least an hour to kill the bacteria and other impurities.

Remove it from the water and allow it to drain. Once it has reached room temperature, place it in a thick plastic bag with your mycelium. Cut several holes in the bag and then allow the mycelium to grow. After the mycelium has sprouted mushrooms, you should open the bag to expose them to the air.

Wood Chips

Mushrooms that grow best in a woody material besides oyster are shiitake, maitake, reishi, and lion’s mane. Ordinary wood chips can have several issues, including micro-organisms, treatment chemicals, or even parasites that can damage or kill your mushroom garden. Fortunately, you can buy pre-sterilized wood chips that serve perfectly well for growing your mushroom spawn.

Horse Manure

Horse manure is famous for growing mushrooms. It usually works best when composted and mixed with clean, sterilized straw. Simply place the spawn on manure straw mix and (wearing rubber gloves) rub it into the surface of the manure.

Be sure not to water this medium for at least four weeks. There will be enough moisture in the compost to keep it in good shape for propagating your mushrooms. Sterilized horse manure is available at gardening shops and online.

Regular Potting Soil

While it is possible to use ordinary potting soil to grow your mushroom garden, you must remember to fortify it with additional organic material nutrients for your mycelium to feed on. Add used coffee grounds or even raw coffee beans that have been cut in half and left to soak in warm water for at least 5 minutes. This will fortify your potting soil and make it more nutritious for your growing mushrooms. You can also add some vermiculite to help aerate the soil.

Setting Up Your Mushroom Garden

garden mushrooms and vegetables

Mushrooms require very different growing conditions than typical green plants do, but you can grow them easily in almost any suitable container. For your container, you can use almost anything that will support a moist and warm growing medium.

If you are starting your mushroom garden, you may wish to use a plastic bin until you have developed your skills. Available at almost any department store, these bins are inexpensive and very easy to move from place to place as needed. They are leak-proof and easy to clean, making them ideal starter containers.

Preparing The Medium

Make sure any medium you use is sanitary. If not, it could harbor micro-organisms that are either harmful to your mycelium or will grow and compete with them for nourishment. Since mushrooms are incapable of photosynthesis, they extract their nutrients from whatever medium they find themselves in. As mentioned earlier, used coffee grounds are rich in these nutrients.

Fill your container with an amount of medium based on the amount of spawn you plan to add. If using coffee grounds, your best chance for success will be if you start with a very high spawn to coffee grounds ratio. Usually a ratio of 500 g of spawn for every 2.5 kg of coffee grounds.

You may need to research other formulas if you plan to use different types of medium. In the beginning, place the container with the growing medium on a heating pad. The idea here is to maintain a minimum temperature of 70 degrees Fahrenheit until the composting process takes over and generates internal heat.

Be sure to occasionally add warm water to your growing medium to keep it moist and humid. And till the medium with a small rake to ensure that it contains an adequate amount of oxygen throughout.

Adding Your Mushroom Spawn

Mushrooms do not grow from traditional seeds. They propagate by releasing microscopic spores. A single mushroom may be capable of producing some 16 billion spores. If all goes right, your chances of propagating your mushroom garden will be very high. 

To sell mushroom mycelium for cultivation, horticulturists produce “mushroom spawn.” This is an organic substance inoculated with the mycelium to help transfer the spores to a new location. 

You can purchase spawn for a wide range of mushroom varieties online. They come in plugs or blocks, and you’ll be surprised at the low cost. You can also purchase grain spawn for broader distribution.

Once you have your container and substrate set up, sprinkle your mushroom spawn on top of the growing medium liberally.

Where to Place Your New Mushroom Garden

Keep your newly spawned container somewhere that will get the least amount of sunlight. A closet or dark area of a basement is perfect for this purpose but be sure that you can access your mushrooms easily to maintain your medium as well as for ease of harvesting.

Here they come!

Once you notice that your spawn begins to root, you should lower the medium temperature to somewhere between 55 and 60 degrees Fahrenheit. You will soon notice mycelium filaments spreading through the growing medium. This should take about three weeks.

When you see your mycelium spreading, add an inch of garden soil to cover your spawn and then place a damp, lightweight cloth over the soil from edge to edge inside your container. Make sure the cloth is damp, but not too wet. This cloth will keep the medium moist and supply the necessary humidity to encourage your mushroom garden to grow.

And there they are!

Oyster mushrooms are ready to pick when they go from concave to convex. This occurs about three to five days after you first see mushrooms forming. Some oyster mushrooms grow in clusters, and for best results, harvest the whole bunch when the largest one is ready.

Enjoy Your New Mushroom Garden

mushrooms

Finally, once you have assembled a satisfactory growing medium and created the right conditions, you should have no trouble maintaining a steady production of delicious mushrooms for years to come. And because you have grown them yourself, you know they are always fresh. How amazing is this actually sound!

Growing your food is very satisfying, and a mushroom garden can prove to be one of the best gardening investments you can make. Soon, you can add other varieties to your gardens such as button mushrooms, portabellos, and shitakes. If you have any handy tips you’ve picked up on growing mushrooms, please add them in the comments below. We’d love to share your growing tips with our readers. Here is about community and helping each other when it comes to green projects of any kind. So, share any of your thoughts, tips, and ideas below!

How To Grow Mint Indoors: Guide & Tips

growing mint indoors

This article covers the many uses of fresh mint, the different varieties available, and the processes for growing mint indoors in the U.S. First, consider that there are over 600 varieties of mint, which is a plant of the Mentha genus. In turn, Mentha species are part of the Lamiaceae family, which is more commonly known as the mint family. Basil, catnip family, lemon and lavender are also part of the Mentha group.

You can easily grow mint just about anywhere and always have an abundant supply of fresh mint leaves to add taste and fragrance to your food and drinks. Mint is a versatile herb that can be used in sweet and savory dishes. It's great for flavoring meat and fish dishes and desserts such as ice cream. Mint is also used to flavor a range of hot and cold beverages like tea and mojitos

Mint has medicinal properties, and mint tea is a known herbal cure for upset stomachs. Tea with mint can also be a refreshing pick-me-up when served chilled in the summer with a dash of lemon. Growing mint indoors is incredibly rewarding because mint is a wonderfully low-maintenance plant that makes a delicious treat to have in the kitchen. Growing mint indoors is surprisingly easy, and it's a great starter plant for your own herb garden to have at your fingertips when you are cooking.

mint leaves

Popular Mint Varieties

dark mint leaves

The two most popular varieties of mint are peppermint, which is the species Mentha piperita, and spearmint (Mentha spicata). Peppermint has a 40% menthol content compared to the 0.5% menthol content in spearmint. Menthol is the substance in mint which gives us a cooling sensation, and it is this quality that explains why peppermintis often used in foot creams, toothpaste, and muscle rubs for its medicinal properties.

Mentha piperita is often used in the preparation of peppermint oil, which has curative medicinal properties for the stomach and digestive system. Mint leaves are best used fresh, but they are often dried for storage before being used in teas and other food and drink recipes. In some countries, peppermint is strongly preferred over other varieties for making mint tea.

Spearmint's distinctive taste, which most people associate with Wrigley's gum, comes primarily from a chemical called Carvonne, It is most often used in recipes for drinks, and desserts because of its slightly sweet flavor. 

There are many varieties of mint available for cooking that grow and thrive best in different climate zones across the U.S. To highlight a few:

Spearmint

Spearmint grows well in zones 3 to 11. It is attractive to certain insects and draws bees, but is a natural repellant of mosquitoes. It has dark green leaves that are slightly smaller than peppermint leaves.

Apple Mint

apple mint plant

Image via Pixabay

Apple mint is hardy in zones 5 to 9, and a variegated type is good for jellies, desserts, and drinks. It is milder in taste than peppermint while still being aromatic. The plant has spikes of purplish-white flowers.

Ginger Mint

Ginger mint, also known as red mint, has a slightly fruity flavor and is used to flavor desserts. It flourishes in zones 6 to 9.

Orange Mint

Also hardy in zones 6 to 9, the semi-aquatic plant orange mint has lavender like sprigs of purple flowers and a very strong citrus tang to its flavor. Orange mint has a very strong flavor overall, and so it is often used sparingly in desserts and puddings.

These mint varieties can add flair and taste to your cooking with their subtly different flavors. Depending on your location, some will be easier to find or grow than others. If growing indoors, most Mentha plants will flourish if kept in average temperatures between 50 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Most are easily available throughout the country via online ordering.

What Is The Best Environment To Grow Mint In?

Mint can and does flourish anywhere, both outdoors and indoors. You can grow it on patios, inside houses, and even on pathways or rocky slopes. Once established, it will quickly take over any area if left unchecked, so mint is most often grown in plant containers and pots.

Can Mint Be Grown Indoors In An Apartment?

Mint can easily be grown indoors or on a balcony. When growing mint indoors, mint plants and mint seedlings should be kept warm: preferably in an average temperature of at least 60 to 70 degrees F., and compost should be kept moist. Peppermint plants grow profusely and will do especially well if positioned where they can receive morning or early afternoon light.                      

Growing Mint Indoors For Beginners

aromatic mint plants

Image via Pexels

Mint seeds or seedlings can be purchased relatively cheaply from your local garden center or from an online seller. You may choose several varieties of spearmint: apple, chocolate, and curly mint are good, tasty varieties to start with, and you will need only one of each as they are easy to propagate. You may want to place different varieties of mint in different rooms to prevent cross-pollination, although this is also a way to combine your favorite varieties and flavors into new creations.

Re-potting Store-Bought Plants For Growing Mint Indoors

Here are some basic steps to follow if you choose this approach:

  1. 1

    Soak the temporary pots completely, always submerging them in water for at least an hour before removing your plant.

  2. 2

    Gently straighten out the roots if they become tangled when taking them out of the original pot. Do this before moving the plant over into its larger pot.

  3. 3

    Fill a large surface container with well-drained but moist compost and add your mint plants about 5 inches apart.

  4. 4

    The plant pots should be placed on a window sill near a window which receives morning light.  Rotate the plant pot every 3 or 4 days.

  5. 5

    Pinching out the uppermost tips of the plant will encourage it to become bushier.

Generally, Mint does better in shallow containers than deep ones because it can spread its roots throughout the soil and generate runners, which produce shoots and new plants. When growing mint indoors it is important to remember to water your plants every 2-3 days.  The soil should be kept moist, and more water may be needed if your home gets warm in the summer.

Growing mint does not require fertilizer, but if you want to give your plants a boost in the Spring, a water-soluble fertilizer can be used. Be sure to follow the manufacturer's instructions carefully, though, because too much will change the taste of the leaves. You may want to use organic fertilizers which will not damage the ecosystem of the plant, especially when growing mint indoors.

After repotting your shop-bought plants, you can harvest some leaves in around 6-8 weeks. When growing mint indoors, you should never take more than one-third of the leaves at once, but you can also take small cuttings if you wish to grow more plants. Mint can be grown from seeds, but is most easily propagated or grown from cuttings, especially when growing mint indoors.

peppermint plant

Growing Mint From Cuttings

Mint is one of the easiest plants in the world to propagate, If you take 3-inch to 4-inch cuttings from a well-established plant and place them in water, after removing the lower leaves you will have a seedling with a small root system in 10 to 14 days. These tiny plants can then be placed in soil-filled containers. (Some growers dip the lower tips in hormone solution before putting them in soil). Cuttings should be placed in a warm room, but out of direct sunlight. 

Ideally, you should place plant containers where they receive morning sunlight, away from any drying heat source such as a radiator. These plants may take a while to root.                              

Plants normally flourish for about 3 years before they start to get woody, and then they need to be replaced. To ensure a steady supply of mint leaves, it is essential to harvest leaves regularly from the top part of the plant initially to encourage plants to become bushier. To extend the growing season, pinch out the flowers as soon as they appear, using your forefingers or very sharp scissors.

Final Thoughts

All in all, mint is a versatile plant that can be easily grown from cuttings, or you can start with whole plants when growing mint inside. So, the many varieties offer infinite possibilities for incorporating this inexpensive, flavorful herb into your cooking and beverages.  Although delicious, mint is often overlooked by beginners starting their own indoor herb gardens, and this oversight can be easily remedied by purchasing this inexpensive herb.  

Last but not least, favorite varieties of mint are great to share among friends and colleagues, and with over 600 varieties, the exploration of mint flavors could become an enduring hobby and a source of delight for you and your family. Also, growing mint indoors can also be an original way of involving children and young people in gardening, which they may enjoy even more if promised mint puddings in the winter and homemade mint ice creams in the summer!

So, tell me what you think about all these ideas and steps to follow in the comment section below. Please, do not hesitate to share your thoughts and further questions too. 

Where to Buy Ladybugs to Help Control Garden Pests

where to buy live lady bugs

You may have heard that you can buy ladybugs as a natural way to remove garden pests without the use of harmful pesticides. You can find them on several gardening sites around the country, as well as brick and mortar hardware stores and big box home centers. Many organic gardeners find ways to attract these helpful insects to destroy those that damage food crops.

If you want to buy ladybugs, also known in some parts of the country as ladybirds, lady beetles, and even ladybird beetles, you need to look no further than your computer. Some online sites specialize in selling nothing but ladybugs for gardeners and farmers. This is because ladybugs, in both the adult and larval stages, devour garden pests such as aphids, spider mites, and mealybugs. Ladybugs will eat thousands of these pests in their lifetime. However, before we buy them, let us first learn a few relevant facts about ladybugs to understand them better.

Recognizing Ladybugs

Ladybug

Most people are familiar with the appearance of the adult Coccinellidae, commonly known as the ladybug. They are round and measure approximately 3/8 of an inch in length when fully grown. The females are usually a bit larger than the males. Although they are most commonly red with black spots, there are also orange and black varieties with and without spots.

Ladybug eggs appear white or pale yellow and have an oval shape. You'll find them on plant leaves in orange clusters. The larvae look a bit like blue or black alligators with tiny spiked projections and orange stripes.

Ladybug habitats

Hundreds of Ladybugs

Ladybugs range throughout the continental United States. One species, called the Asian lady beetle, recently located to the US. Like most living things, ladybugs establish and thrive where their food supply is plentiful. This means they are prolific in farm fields, parks, green spaces, and gardens.

As winter approaches, they congregate in places where they become dormant for the winter. They will take up residence in rotting trees, under rocks and leaves, or almost anywhere where they will be safe from the harsh winter weather. Including in your house, light fixtures, window sills, and beneath your siding.

Why Ladybugs Are Beneficial

Ladybug eating insect

Because of their preferred diet, ladybugs are considered beneficial to humans. They eat pest insects that cause damage to food crops, flowers, and other plants humans find useful or attractive. Not only are the adult ladybugs beneficial, but they lay their eggs where there are aphids and other insect eggs. While ladybugs themselves don't eat that many pest insects, their larvae are voracious. After gestating for approximately five to eight days, the newly hatched ladybug larvae immediately go to work devouring these pests. After about 15 days, they mature into adults and will live for around a year.

Ladybugs are considered very beneficial to farmers and gardeners alike due to their voracious appetites for pest species of insects. While they prefer aphids and will devour over 5,000 during a lifespan, they are also partial to other insects that are considered pests. Scales, tomato hornworm, bollworm, whitefly, cabbage moth, broccoli worm, as well as mites and mealybugs, are all on the ladybug menu. As if that wasn’t enough to classify them as beneficial, some species also eat mildew.

Natural defenses

Diapause

Buying Ladybugs for Your Garden

Ladybug on plant

Now that we know a bit more about these fascinating and beneficial insects, we've identified several places to buy ladybugs online and from brick and mortar stores.

  • How we reviewed

Because the actual ladybugs should not vary too much from supplier to supplier, this list was determined mostly by the reviews and opinions of their customers. Consideration for inclusion was also made based on the price, packaging, speed of shipment, and condition of the ladybugs upon arrival. The addition of extras and the ability to follow-up with the supplier if there were problems or questions were also determining factors. Also, unless noted, these prices do not include shipping, which can vary based on your location.


Hirt’s Gardens

Founded in 1915, Hirt’s Gardens has a stellar reputation for growing healthy plants and insects and shipping them damage free. One of Ohio’s oldest horticultural centers, they offer packages to buy ladybugs in several price ranges. They currently offer three ways to buy ladybugs, with all population numbers approximated.

  • 750 live ladybugs plus Hirt’s “Natural Nectar” with a guarantee of live delivery
  • 1,500 live ladybugs plus Hirt’s “Natural Nectar” with a guarantee of live delivery
  • 4,500 live ladybugs plus Hirt’s “Natural Nectar” with a guarantee of live delivery

Hirt’s Nature Nectar is a specially formulized nutritional food supplement. To quote their website: “This nutrient-rich food successfully substitutes for many of the nutrients found in natural nectars, pollen, and honeydew (aphid waste).” This supplement will sustain your newly acquired ladybug population after their long trip until they can locate a proper food supply. You can also purchase the Natural Nectar separately.

Besides being a wealth of information concerning the care and maintenance of your ladybug "herd," they are also available to answer any of your gardening and horticultural questions. When you are ready to buy ladybugs, Hirt's is a good option.


Planet Natural

Planet Natural has an excellent reputation and offers Ladybugs in packages based on the amount of area that needs coverage. They're another excellent place to buy ladybugs.

They offer packages ranging from 2,000 that will cover up to 1,000 square feet to 72,000 and patrol an entire acre. Packages range from $2,000, up to 72,000, priced between $25 and $150. Their pricing includes shipping in the continental US. Their ladybug shipping occurs from Monday through Wednesday. Orders received after 8 a.m. (EST) Wednesday will be shipped the following week.


Buglogical

Since 1966, Don and Leah have been providing many eco-friendly alternatives to dangerous pesticides for pest control. These many alternatives also include Ladybugs. They enjoy a first-rate reputation among their customers for being fair, honest and helpful. Buglogical also warrants high praise for being genuinely committed to what they do to protect the environment and your children.

They offer packages of 1,500 or 3,000 live, fresh, healthy ladybugs, priced between $15 and $25. You can place your order through Buglogical.com to buy ladybugs.


Gurney's

Another old and established company, Gurney's began operations in 1866. Their seed catalog is a staple of farmers throughout the country. Gurney’s remains a trusted name and leading seed and nursery company, and they have been for over 130 years.

They offer the “Sta-Home” lady beetle only in the fall and spring to assure top quality stock and peak health of their ladybugs. You can subscribe to their email list to receive notifications of availability. And their customers comment that these ladybugs do tend to stay in the area where they are released. Gurney's sells in packages that contain enough ladybugs to cover 1,000 square feet for about $15.


High Sierra Ladybugs

High Sierra is a small family business that offers several Ladybug packages and accepts PayPal for its customer's convenience. Located in the Sierra Nevada mountains, unlike most drop-ship distributors, they harvest their ladybugs twice a week from their own property. This ensures that they can control the quality and guarantee the viability of their entire stock.

Some of their larger packages include 5,000 or 10,000 ladybugs priced between $50 to $75. They also offer smaller batches for home gardeners containing 200 or 1,500 ladybugs priced between $8 and $14. All their ladybugs are shipped free in re-usable plastic containers.

Buy Ladybugs Available through Amazon

Along with the excellent retailers mentioned above, we've identified other companies that sell ladybugs on Amazon. While we consider them to be the best of the best, it would be remiss not to also list those that are exclusive of that site. In fact, in some cases, there was no other site available. Here are some of the more popular among them.


Amazon Bug Sales

Bug Sales is a brand available through Amazon.com that offers many options to buy ladybugs. They have a very good customer reputation and broad customer base.

Bug Sales offers packages for as many as 9,000 insects to as few as 150. The company guarantees live delivery, and the shipping cost for large bundles is reasonable. Bug sales also offers worm castings and other beneficial insects for organic gardeners.

Ladybugs 4 You


Ladybugs 4 You

Ladybugs 4 U offers 1,500 live Ladybugs for about $15. The company has a high rating and positive customer reviews that average 3.8 out of 5 stars.


Nature's Good Guys

Nature's Good Guys include a list of release tips, a ladybug fun facts sheet, and an FAQ list with every order. They offer packages of 1,500 or 3,000 ladybugs priced between $11 and $22. Their ladybugs come packaged in mesh bags containing 1,500 ladybugs each. This company enjoys good ratings from Amazon customers, averaging 4.4 out of 5 stars, based on over 2,700 reviews.


Organic Control

Ocron offers 1,500 live ladybugs for about $22, as well as other beneficial garden insects. They usually ship within three to four days, and you'll receive your ladybugs in a plastic container with a perforated lid.

After You Buy Ladybugs: Tips

Finally, while doing our research, we noticed that many customers had trouble convincing their ladybugs to stay put and eat the aphids provided. While there is no way to guarantee your ladybugs will remain once you release them, we've gathered some tips to help improve your chances of success.

  1. If you don't have the types of insects that ladybugs enjoy, they probably won't stick around. While ladybugs are fun to release (some people purchase them to release at children's parties), they may decide to go elsewhere.
  2. First of all, keep your ladybugs in the refrigerator until you're ready to release them. This helps them live longer once out of hibernation.
  3. Then, release ladybugs in the evening. Also, remaining overnight will increase the chance that they'll homestead for a longer period.
  4. In addition, place the ladybug container near any plants infested with aphids.
  5. Mist down your garden thoroughly before release. Ladybugs are more likely to set up shop in damp conditions. Also, hibernation and transport can dehydrate your ladybugs, so provide a well-watered garden with leaves covered in moisture.
  6. Last but not least, a drop of honey on a piece of cardboard by the container will convince them to stick around. It provides a bit of fuel, so they're less likely to fly off in search of the next meal.
  7. Most important of all, never release ladybugs on plants that you have sprayed with chemical pesticides.

Further Advice after Buying Ladybugs

Experts have discovered that even under the best conditions, most purchased ladybugs migrate elsewhere. They've found that 95 percent move on within 48 hours, and the rest fly away within a week.

So, along with purchasing ladybugs, make your garden someplace they're likely to enjoy to attract those that are native to your area. Besides other insects, ladybugs also enjoy nectar and pollen from plants. They're partial to coneflowers, sunflowers, and yarrow. They also like cilantro, carrots, chives, and dill plants.

You can also add a feeder and mix up a batch of "Wheast," a combination of sugar and yeast that professionals use to feed their insects. Hirt's ladybug nectar may also help attractive native species.

Were your Ladybugs Helpful?

All in all, there are, of course, several local gardening centers and arborists near you where you can buy ladybugs, but we obviously cannot list them all here. So, this list contains the more reputable, established, or most convenient online outlets where you can buy ladybugs.

Finally, as a rule, you may find with a local horticulturist or arborist much more knowledgeable than a national big-box chain store employee. They also may have access to ladybug species native to your region. And they will be, by necessity, experts concerning the care and maintenance of ladybugs and plants under local conditions. However, we have endeavored to include those retailers with a reputation for helpfulness and knowledge as reported by their satisfied customers.

Last but not least, please share with us all your thoughts about this article and ladybugs in general. Have you ever considered buying ladybugs for preventing garden pests? If so, from where did you buy them and why? Tell us everything in the comment section below!

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