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The Plant Hunter

Prepping Plants for Summer Vacation

Posted by The Sill on

Before you fade away into sweet summer vacation oblivion, take a little time to prep your plants so you can focus on more important things - like strong sunscreen and a good book. 

1. Watering 

- If you're planning to be away for a week or less - a good soil-soaking before departure should be sufficient. While you shouldn't regularly overwater your plants, this is an exception to the rule. Make sure to let any excess water drain from your potted plant before you're on your way so the soil is soaked but your plants aren't sitting directly in a saucer of leftover water, which could attract pests. 

- If you'll be away for more than a week - there are a couple ways to prepare your plant. You can try one of the tips below or a combination, depending on the length of your trip and the variety of plant. 

  1. Add mulch, wood chips, or rocks directly on top of your plant's soil to help hold moisture before thoroughly watering. Last minute trip? We've heard damp newspaper can also do the trick. Again, make sure your plant is damp (not soaked) to avoid possible pest problems upon your return. 
  2. Water your plant thoroughly and then cover it from the top with a clear plastic bag, creating a makeshift greenhouse. Make sure to cut a couple slits in the plastic bag to allow for air circulation. Use birch sticks (or leftover chopsticks) to hold the bag up and away from the foliage. Do not cover the planter's bottom and drainage holes. 
  3. Line a shallow tray with small rocks, then fill the tray with water almost to the top of the rocks but not quite. You do not want the base of your planter to be sitting directly in the idle water - but instead resting on top of the rocks, with the water level slightly beneath the top of the rocks. This increases levels of humidity and moisture, but helps to prevent possible root rot. 
  4. Transport all of your plants to your bathroom (provided you have a window that receives natural light), or another small room like a galley kitchen, and group them together. The smaller the room - the easier it is to maintain humidity and moisture. 

2. Sunlight & Temperature 

- The more natural sunlight your plant receives, the more thirsty it is. (Why? Click here to learn why plants need water!) Most plants are likely to wilt if placed in direct sunlight for an extended period of time, especially if there's a sudden lack of water. Because you will not be around to keep a close eye on your plants, move those that are usually kept on a sunny sill to the center of the room, or a spot lit by indirect sunlight, while you're away. This helps to keep the plant's soil from drying out completely, so it is still able to conduct photosynthesis and transpiration, and keep its leaves from burning. Once you return from your trip, you can move your plants back to their usual spots. 

3. Fertilizer & Pruning 

- If you occasionally use fertilizer, make sure to hold off until you return. You want your plants to grow as slowly as possible while you're gone - so they are exerting the least amount of energy and losing the least amount of water possible. Prune off any dead of dying foliage, along with flowers and buds, which require more water.

(The tips above do not apply to your drought-tolerate and sun-loving cacti and succulents. If you are an avid traveler, with a space that receives bright light, those are the perfect plant picks.) 

Whatever preparation you decide to take - give yourself a big pat on the back when you return to a healthy and happy houseplant. And if you don't - don't beat yourself up about it. Show me someone that hasn't killed a houseplant and I'll show you a liar ;-) 

Have a plant care tip you'd like to share? Comment below. 


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Singapore Botanic Gardens

Posted by The Sill on

At the 39th World Heritage Committee meeting, held this past weekend in Germany, four locations were awarded the status of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. One of those sites, the 150+ year-old Singapore Botanic Gardens, was acknowledged as a top-notch scientific center for conservation and education.

It is the first botanical site to be recognized in Asia, and now one of only four botanical sites to be recognized by UNESCO -- along with Orto Botanico in Padua, Italy; Royal Botanical Gardens in Kew, England; and Richtersveld Cultural & Botanical Landscape in South Africa. 

The Sill team’s own Andrew Erdle visited the SBG in 2013. Enjoy his photos below! 

(Photography courtesy of Andrew Erdle) 


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Easy Apartment Upgrades from Move Loot

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(In celebration of Move Loot's recent launch in NYC - we've partnered with the buy and sell furniture consignment company to share their top tips for easy, budget-friendly rental upgrades. We'll let them take it from here...) 

You’re all moved in to your new rental and ready to nest, but there are a few things holding you back from really feeling at home. Living in a rental can sometimes be frustrating: bad paint jobs, poor light, or a claustrophobia inducing layout. There are lots of ways to improve your space without upsetting your landlord or breaking your lease (or budget, for that matter). 

Move Loot's Easy Upgrades (5 Tips & Tricks) 

(Images via Apartment Therapy and Remodelista)

- Kitchen Hardware
Starting in the kitchen, a great way to easily, cheaply, and non-permanently personalize your space is to switch out the hardware. Simply upgrading the knobs and pulls of draws and cabinets can turn a truly awful kitchen into a kitsch-en. Go cute or sleek, either way it will help you feel more at home in your new space. Another option is to remove the cabinet doors altogether for a clean, minimal look.

- Bathroom Fixtures
The fastest and easiest upgrade to create a clean, personalized bathroom is changing out the fixtures. A new showered can go a long way: there is not enough stock put in the restorative power of good water pressure! You can also add extra storage by mounting a medicine cabinet or open shelving on the wall.

(Images via Apartment Therapy and Move Loot

- Lighting
Just by switching out that outdated, grimy shade in your living room you can totally change the lighting and atmosphere of the space. Once you’re ready to move, simply change the fixture back and take yours with you. Also, never underestimate the power of ambient lighting. Table and floor lamps make a space feel like home - and their warm glow will make you and your guests feel at ease.

- Lean-To Storage
Looking to add storage without wall-damaging nails and screws? Forget about wall-mounted shelves - lean-to pieces are where it’s at. Whether it be a desk or bookcase, a wall-leaning piece will add a modern, sleek feel to your space while providing you with versatile work and storage space that doesn’t damage the walls. 
* Shop the Lene Desk, pictured above right, on Move Loot New York

(Images via Remodelista and The Sill

- Window Dressing
The answer to guy, cheap blinds - curtains, baby, curtains. Curtain rods can be pricy, but it is easy to create your own out of pipes or rods, and the internet is chock full of DIYs. You can go simple, hanging only light sheers, or find a brightly patterned fabric that makes your decor and really livens those windows up. Don’t forget what an impact small plants can make on a wide windowsill - bringing fresh, air-purifying benefits into your home.

You are now armed and ready to make your rental livable, personal, and clean. Make sure you carefully read your lead and discuss any questionable changes with your landlord before making them. 


P.S. Join Move Loot to receive a $25 credit automatically - exclusive to The Sill customers. Sign up here! 

+ Catch our Top 5 Apartment-Friendly Plants on the Move Loot Blog here


(*All images courtesy of Move Loot & friends) 


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Hops 101

Posted by The Sill on

If you're new to growing hops like we are - don't fret! We've teamed up with Immaculate Brewery to provide you with everything you need to know, and maybe some things you don't, for successfully growing hops at home...

below: The Sill - The Hops Starter Gift Set (shop now

What do I do when it arrives?
Upon arrival, unwrap the shrink-wrap around your hops plant to prepare it for planting. Select a location outside that fits the following requirements: full sun, access to water for irrigation, good air flow, and healthy soil. The soil should ideally have a pH balance between 6 and 7, and a good level of organic matter, which can be mixed in prior to planting or added with a cover crop. Although not recommended - if you prefer to plant your hops in an outdoor container, rather than into the ground, make sure to choose one that is at least 5 gallons and drill holes in the bottom for drainage. IB cautions, "Even then, I'd expect the plant to be root bound by the end of the year. You'll want to transport to an even bigger container after that... Hops need room to stretch their legs." They are not conducive to container gardening. 

How do I plant my hops plant?
Once you’ve chosen a location, plant your hops plant as quickly and efficiently as possible into the ground, making sure the root system is completely covered. IB says, "You should see it start to grow immediately after transplant shock wears off, which shouldn't be more than a few days. You'll want to plant the hop crown so that the ground level stays about the same." Once planted - water immediately.

Help! I am unable to plant my hops right away.
You can store your hops plant for up to 2 weeks in a cool dark spot, preferably with a temperature of under 42 degrees fahrenheit. Alternatively, you can pot your hops plant in a 1-2 gallon container until you are able to plant it in the ground outside. Keep the potted hops plant well-watered. Make sure to plant your hops plant into the ground outside no later than early fall. 

Help! I ordered multiple hops plants.
Just make sure to plant each hops plant at least 36-40 inches away from each other. Ample spacing makes sure you’ll have enough space to weed between plants and cultivate later on.

How much water do my plants need once planted?
Your new hops plant will need at least an inch of rain water per week during the first growing season.

How much can I expect my plants to grow once planted?
Your plant should grow into a full-grown hops plant in about a year’s time. It should bear cones as well.

Will I need a trellis?
Yes - your plant will need something to grow up. And hops grow quite vigorously so it’s never too soon to get a trellis or put together a makeshift one. If you're planning to DIY your trellis - Immaculate Brewery recommends using coir, jute, or hemp twine as a training string instead of synthetic cords. "Natural fibers are easier for the bine to grab onto," IB explains. Additionally, they make any bine 'leftovers' recycling and compost-friendly. 

Will I need to weed?
Yes! Hops do not compete well with weeds. Use a weed killer or cover crop to clear weeds and grasses prior to planting.

Will I need to cover my hops plants?
Nope. “Hops need a period of cold dormancy to thrive, so unless you live in a frozen tundra or a meat locker… you’ll be fine,” says Immaculate Brewery. The rule of thumb? If temperatures outside are above -20 degrees F - your hops plants will be fine. 

When do I harvest my cones? 
Immaculate Brewery recommends using this guide by UMV that explains when hops are really ready to harvest and how to calculate it. They even offer an online calculator to help. "I pick a few sacrificial cones, weigh them, microwave on low or toast in the oven on low, and reweigh them," IB explains. Going through this process for the first few harvests will give you an idea of what your hops look like when they're ready - so you can eventually graduate to what IB calls "the folksy squeeze method" - i.e. waiting for the cones to feel papery to the touch, yet spring back when squeezed. The lupulin glands will also go from translucent yellow to opaque yellow, and the cone might start to open up a tiny bit on the bine. All signs your cones are ready for harvest. 

What do I do with my harvested cones? 
Once you separate the cones from the bines, you'll want to dry them out. IB recommends spreading the cones out on a window screen and position a small fan to blow air on them. "Once you have them down to about 8% moisture, you'll want to vacuum seal them. (If you don't have a vacuum sealer - use a freezer bag and make sure to squeeze as much air out as possible.) Store in the freezer until you're reading to use them," says IB. They should keep anywhere from 6 months to a year. 

Once I've harvested the cones - what do I do with the bine? 
"Once the cones are gone, the bine will continue to put any energy it makes from photosynthesis into root development. This is especially beneficial in your first year or two of growing hops," Immaculate Brewery points out. A strong root system makes for a better harvest. If you've opted to plant your hops in containers instead of directly in the ground, you'll need to do light crown maintenance (not after the first year, but after the 2nd and following years). You can find more about that on Immaculate Brewery's site here. Crown maintenance can also be beneficial for plants potted directly in the ground, but not crucial. 


Immaculate Brewery - Growing Hops At Home* A HUGE thank you goes out to Immaculate Brewery for all their help on composing the information above. Their "Growing Hops At Home" and "Fall Hops Maintenance" articles should be mandatory reads for any hops newbie. You can also follow them on Twitter and Facebook





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Union Square Flower Market 1900s

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Photography of Union Square's Flower Market during the very early 1900s from the Library of Congress proves that NYC has always been an urban beauty and that its occupants will always crave some greenery.


 (Photography courtesy of The Library of Congress Archive) 



June 02, 2015 by The Sill

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