Ashley Cook

Tag: Plants

The tree that lived!

I wanted to hold off on this one until I was sure that it was going to live. At this point we have green leaves. I repeat we have new green leaves!

Some backstory. I really like tree lined streets. I think they bring a life to our cement city blocks (something to decorate for the holidays), they help decrease the temperature (read: lower AC bill!), and are generally nice to look at. Long story short, I want a tree.

Trees make for great photos

Disclaimer: not my tree, but another random tree in the city

With the help of P we found that in the tree plan for our neighborhood the house was originally scheduled to have a tree pit outside our front door. Bingo. Off went an email into the ether asking the city to come dig our tree pit! We could have hired someone to dig the pit for us (or maybe done it ourselves? unclear from the city website), but I’m not in a hurry and winter was approaching. After some waiting and pinging the city to see what the deal was. Answer: there’s a waitlist for tree pits, you get added to the list and X number of tree pits get dug each year. Sit back and wait it out.

My new tree pit! Complete with the don’t trip in me cone.

To my great surprise, so much so I couldn’t be bothered to take a good picture, I came home to this December 5th. Not to waste, since we had a warmer December, a tree was delivered on the 14th. Now I assumed I would have to go get a tree to fill it in the spring. I never thought we should plant a tree in December.

The December tree

Actually the next photo in my phone is putting up Christmas decorations. It was late in the year for this tree to get planted. And to be fair it looked a lot like a big twig for the next few months as it weathered an icing later that week and some snow after the first of the year.

The tree that lived!

And I’m happy to announce my tree is alive, well, and growing! One win for using city services!

New floors (in one spot)!

I’ve finally laid some flooring, just not inside the house. I’ve been outside more to water my tomato plants. In doing so I have developed a deep dislike for the outdoor rug I had outside the back door. It was nice to not stand on the cement (especially when it was hot), but the rug was always wet (maybe it wasn’t an outdoor rug…) and slowly being bleached by the sun. It wasn’t pretty.

Insert a run to Ikea, where I found a easy option to spruce up the look of the back porch, and also felt good to stand on while watering the plants. I ended up choosing the Runnen floor decking (and they were on end of the summer sale!) in brown. I love this color and may end up using a similar on for my other backyard ideas in the future.


They look even better in person! These took me all of 10 minutes to lay and snap into place. And a large part of that 10 minutes was figuring out how to move the massive planter with my tomato plants.

The final product:


It was so easy to lay, I have to decide if I’ll be taking it up for winter. But that’s for another night. For now I’ll just enjoy my new wood flooring.

Green Thumb part 2

I finally feel safe writing this entry as it has been a month and a half and most of the plants from this attempt are still alive!

Part1: Plant clippings

Over the 4th of July, P and I went to visit my mom and on the way back her friend generously loaded me up with clippings from her beautiful yard. When we got back I tore the house up looking for a bag of soil I put away during the last house organization. Unable to find it and one midnight trip to Home Depot later, I was ready to plant.


With fresh soil and a few pots, I planted 5 of the clippings in 2 larger pots. In the 2 smaller pots went another 3 clippings (one of the clippings snapped in half! So there was now 2 clippings of the same plant). Being pessimistic about this attempt, more than one clipping went into each pot, in hopes that one per pot would survive!




While I like the way each of these look I have no idea what kind of plants they are. The ones in the blue pot have been prolific and make a ton of little plantlings that it has been dropping in its pot.

As of today 8/23/16 all of the clippings in the clay pot have not made it (perhaps due to our long heat waves this summer). While the rest are happily alive. I ended up moving the babies from the blue pot so they can grow a bit bigger before being transplanted to their own pot.


Part 2: Tomatoes

Why stop at just plant clippings? We’re giving a solid attempt at growing plants this summer. Earlier in the year I’d watched a friends cats for a week (and also his tomato seedlings).


Long story short there were a ton of tomato plants that survived so much so that I ended up with 5 of them. P found a nice planter at BJ’s perfect for these guys and they were planted shortly after my cuttings from Florida.

Just after planting

Just after planting

These guys grew quickly. At this point I have a ton of flowers, which made me nervous about the weight of the potential future tomatoes. Another trip to Home Depot meant these guys now have stakes to help carry the weight and Velcro ties holding them to the stakes. I was really intrigued by the Velcro ties since they can be re-used and easily moved (Which was important with how fast these guys grew!).

Some research online led me to prune the plants as they grew to remove excess branches (suckers) growing from the nodes of the main stem. We’ll see how this goes.

Post Staking

The plants after tethering them to the stakes

With the heat from the last week or so the tomatoes that I had growing have appeared to slow down. Fingers crossed this cold front that’s passing though will lower the temperature so they can continue to develop.

All the pictures here!

The greening continued

It feels like this was a really long winter. The cold has been keeping me inside for the most part meaning my greening of the house has continued.

As an attempt to create more plants without shelling out the $$ (since I assume some of them won’t live very long) I’ve been interested in the idea of taking cuttings. Essentially taking a small branch from a mature plant and turning it into it’s own plant which 1. saves money and 2. makes small plants. Since I don’t have a lot of open counter/shelf space right now smaller plants are better (plus they’ll have more room to grow).

And then, it was as if the community was reading my mind. I noticed an event at Baltimore’s Neighborhood Grow Center all about Maximizing Your Growth through Plant Propagation. Perfect!

I attended the event which turned out to be a small group. It was perfect for swapping of stories, tips, techniques, and also taking cuttings from the plants the presenter brought to take home with us. She also created a short write up of the workshop!

Thus far the cuttings from the workshop haven’t completely died on me but only time will tell if they’ve taken root. In the mean time I’ve also gotten a hold of cuttings from some succulents that I have hopes of adding to the office.


Green Things are Growing!

I’ve been intrigued by adding plants to my house for a while now. There are few benefits of them that especially peak my interest namely, increasing air quality and general self sustainability. Plants can be a great addition for those seeking better air quality, they’ve been shown to sequester any heavy metals and reduce carbon dioxide from the air into harmless by-products. Its a topic that NASA explored as part of its possibilities for long term space habitation. (for a more detailed summary see this article). While I understand that any tiny houseplants I manage to keep alive won’t completely purify the air, they will (hopefully) add some benefit.

This is one succulent I’d love to have up by my desk. Image from

My eventual goal for the home is to have a nice spread of succulents on the 2nd floor since they require less light, water and day to day attention. In the kitchen I envision a few herbs that I can use for cooking. For the rest of the house I envision the occasional fern or other plant with a high filter rating and is rather hearty (again less hands on time needed). And in the backyard I’d love to have a few pots to attempt to grow simple things like tomatoes (I love home grown tomatoes) and zucchini. That’s a long list and I can’t guarantee it’ll all happen on this house. I’ve spent a lot of time figuring out where was the best place to start this plant adventure.

Last spring my mom sent me some bulbs that I planted outside with my 2nd attempt to grow lavender (year 2 attempt at lavender). The bulbs did well and are now hibernating in my basement for winter. I managed to take no pictures of those guys so hopefully if they grow again in the spring I’ll snap a picture. And I don’t want to talk about the lavender I’ve attempted to grow twice.

With that little experience under my belt, I happened across a few tiny ferns on clearance when my local Walmart closed two weeks ago and for $1.50 I figured this was worth a shot. They lived on my windowsill successfully without dying for a week so I upgraded them to pots this past weekend.


Green onions in their onion mug

Using some pots I had in the basement, a mug, some coffee grounds, and the potting soil I had stashed in the basement last season, these guys have a new home. I also am attempting to see if I can grow these green onions (the start of my kitchen herb garden). See their new home in appropriately decorated mugs. As a side note there was a large number of coffee mugs in the house when I moved in. They are fantastic and I was looking for a great opportunity to use them. I’ll have to move the one fern from the mug (I think it needs a bigger space), but until I can get out and find one I like, it’ll have to do.


This fern has found his official spot above the TV

This is a start. Eventually I’ll be looking into using gray water to water the non-edible plants. But that is a topic for another day. Perhaps when there is less snow on the ground.

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