food-waste

How to Reduce Food Waste

How to Reduce Food Waste

Every year, the United States chucks nearly 40 percent of its food. Dana Gunders, a senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and the author of The Waste-free Kitchen Handbook, offers money- and planet-saving tips.

shopping-food-waste

Photo by Peter Oumanski

Your book says the United States wastes 50 percent more food now than it did in the 1970s. Why is that?
Portion sizes have grown tremendously since then. Plus, it’s become normal for restaurants and caterers to produce excessive menus and buffets and for consumers to buy more than they need.

We’ve come to expect large amounts of food.
Yes. Research NRDC has done found that people are not comfortable with empty white space on plates or in fridges or grocery carts. There’s an urge to fill those spaces with food. And in our culture, throwing food out is acceptable. In fact, leaving something on your plate is considered posh.

What else contributes to food waste?
A lot of produce won’t get picked for market because it’s not pretty enough to be sold. It gets tossed or turned into the soil.

What’s the environmental impact?
About 70 percent of our water and 50 percent of our land is devoted to agriculture. So when we’re not eating that food, it’s a huge unnecessary use of resources. About 33 million cars’ worth of greenhouse gases are produced to grow food that never gets eaten.

What types of food get wasted most?
Fruits and vegetables. Tied for second are dairy products and bread. Meat is third, but it has the biggest impact. If you throw out a hamburger, that’s the equivalent of taking a 90-minute shower, in terms of the water it took to produce it.

How can we waste less produce?
If you need small amounts of specific fruits or veggies for a recipe, buy them from the salad bar so the excess won’t rot in your fridge. Or buy frozen versions, which have almost the same nutritional value with none of the pressure.

What else can we do?
Be realistic. What tends to happen is you buy all these groceries on the weekend because you’re feeling aspirational about how much you’re going to cook. But by Wednesday, life has happened and you’re ordering takeout. And then the broccoli goes bad. Instead, plan for that. If you can, shop often and buy less.

How else can we be conscientious shoppers?
Use a shopping list or an app. And take a last look in your cart before checking out. Think about when in the near future you’re going to eat each item. If you don’t have a clear answer, don’t buy it.

You also talk about conducting a “waste audit.”
For two weeks, jot down what you throw out to pinpoint what you are wasting and why. Did dinner plans change? Did you get wooed by a sale and buy too much? Write down the cost so you feel the financial pain.

How closely should we follow expiration dates?
Take them with a grain of salt, as they’re not federally regulated. A “use by” or “best by” date typically says when the product will be at its best quality. There may be a change in taste, color, or texture.

So we may be throwing out food that’s still OK?
Yes. A big misunderstanding is that when food is old, it will make you sick. The main reason for illness is pathogens like salmonella and E. coli that contaminate food at the farm or processing plants.

What do we need to be careful of?
Mold, green potatoes, and rancid meat, oil, or nuts.

What are some ideas to use up food?
Toss a mishmash of items into a tortilla or in fried rice or pasta salad. You can also sauté wilted lettuce with butter and garlic. Even if you waste a little bit less, it’s still an accomplishment.

 

flowers-plastic-wrap

5 Unexpected Causes of Pollution

5 Unexpected Causes of Pollution

Five surprising ways you’re hurting the environment—and the surprisingly easy changes you can make to be greener.

1

Using Body Wash All the Time

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Photo by Aaron Dyer, Prop Styling by JoJo Li

Liquid soaps require five times more energy for raw-material production and nearly 20 times more energy for packaging production than bar soaps do. “And higher energy consumption usually correlates with a higher carbon footprint,” says David Tyler, a professor of chemistry at the University of Oregon, in Eugene.

Greener Habit
Stick with bars when you wash up. Not only do they have a considerably lower impact on the environment but also you’ll use less. A study from Zurich’s Institute of Environmental Engineering found that consumers use almost seven times more liquid soap than bar soap when hand washing, so it’s quite likely that we’re overdoing it in the shower as well.

2

Being Oblivious to Your Electronics Settings

The average home contains about 24 energy-sucking electronic devices, with TVs, desktop computers, cable boxes, and game consoles among the worst. Combined, they consumed about $20 billion worth of electricity in 2013, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), in New York.

Greener Habit
It’s easy to tweak a TV, so start there. Select “home” mode in the setup instead of “retail,” which is meant for a bright in-store display. If there is an automatic brightness control, turn it on. “This feature measures the amount of light in a room and adjusts the screen. This can cut energy use by up to 50 percent,” says Noah Horowitz, a senior scientist for the NRDC. On smart TVs, disable the quick-start function, which eats up extra power.

3

Running the Dishwasher and the Clothes Dryer During the Day

These machines produce heat and humidity, which means your air conditioner has to work harder, says Jennifer Amann, the buildings program director at the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, in Washington, D.C. Besides, many utility companies charge higher rates during peak hours.

Greener Habit
Use your dishwasher and dryer during off-peak hours, which typically start between 8 P.M. and midnight and end around sunrise. (Check with your provider.) For maximum efficiency, use a low dryer setting, and line-dry thick items, like jeans and towels, whenever possible.


4

Tossing Used Coffee Pods

Around 9.8 billion K-cup pods were sold in 2014. (They account for a reported 85 to 90 percent of the coffee-pod market.) The number 7 plastic most contain isn’t accepted at many recycling plants (also, plants won’t accept pods if they are filled with coffee), so a majority end up in landfills, says Elizabeth Glazner, the editorial director of the nonprofit organization Plastic Pollution Coalition.

Greener Habit
Find a nearby recycling facility that will take them by searching for “number 7 plastic” at search.earth911.com. Then separate the plastic cup from the lid, the filter, and the grounds. The Recycle A Cup gadget ($13, recycleacup.com) will do this in seconds. Or mail pod plastic to Recycle A Cup for free recycling. Easier yet, use a refillable pod (My K-Cup, $15, keurig.com).

5

Overdoing It With Aluminum Foil

Americans discarded about 2.8 million tons of aluminum—including containers, cans, and foil—in 2013, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Whereas soiled containers can be recycled, dirty foil can’t. And it can take centuries for aluminum to biodegrade.

Greener Habit
Use unbleached parchment paper for baking and roasting as well as for wrapping sandwiches and snacks. It’s biodegradeable, compostable, and often reusable.

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Can Three-Day Weekends Help Save the Planet?

Can Three-Day Weekends Help Save the Planet?

That would be a real win-win.

 

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Photo by Helen Cathcart/Getty Images

This article originally appeared on TravelandLeisure.com.

Everyone loves an extra-long weekend, but evidence is mounting that a three-day weekend isn’t just good for your peace-of-mind (or your personal life). According to a recent article by Alex Williams, a City University London visiting lecturer reporting for Quartz, just one additional day off every week could be majorly beneficial to the environment.

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We already know that when working hours are reduced, there’s a parallel decrease in energy use. People aren’t commuting, and towering office buildings aren’t blasting heat or A/C.

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Utah, for example, saved no less than $1.8 million in energy costs when it transitioned state workers to a Monday through Thursday week. Even with extended daily hours, employees still worked less—and from commuting alone, some 12,000 tons of carbon dioxide were kept out of the atmosphere each year.

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And it’s not just the environment that benefits. A shift in the workweek could reduce illness, increase productivity, and be a boon to our general wellbeing. Make your long weekend a trip to the beach, and you’ll really be reaping the health advantages.

jenny-carney

How—and Why—One Woman Lives in 150 Square Feet

How—and Why—One Woman Lives in 150 Square Feet

What do you do when you’re a reluctant city dweller craving nature? If you’re ecologist Jenny Carney, you build yourself a tiny remote getaway (with a little help from Pa).

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Photo by Rob Howard

Jenny Carney was almost struck by lightning once. A field ecologist, she was using a metal tank of compressed nitrogen to measure the moisture content in a tree. “It started to drizzle,” she says. “Then out of nowhere, a bolt of lightning hit the tank.” Fortunately, the tank didn’t explode. But the simultaneous light-sound experience—“near death by natural disaster,” she jokes—was a pretty exciting moment in her (outdoor) working life.

About 10 years ago, Jenny, now 37, took her scientific-inquiry skills indoors, where she felt they could make more of an impact. She runs a sustainability consulting firm in Chicago called YR&G that advises companies on all aspects of green building and energy-efficiency. It’s rewarding work, for sure. But sitting in front of a computer all day made Jenny, who had grown up in rural Wisconsin and had traversed forests in her previous gig, ache for nature. It’s a familiar feeling, even for those of us with urban roots and desk-centric careers.

Hatching a Plan

Raised by parents who had let their kids wander free with an ethos of “benign neglect,” Jenny had fond memories of slipping past barbed-wire fences to say hello to the neighbors’ cows. She dreamed of a similar vibe for adulthood, but she didn’t have the budget for a traditional country house.

Then she read a book that galvanized her. It was by journalist Richard Louv and titled Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder. Suddenly Jenny had a name for the malaise many of us feel from being cooped up too much—nature-deficit disorder—and confirmation that, as she explains it, “a compulsion toward nature is a health imperative.” If she couldn’t buy a place, she decided, she would build one herself. Something tiny. Did she have the construction chops? Not yet. But she was a good learner, and she had a secret weapon: her dad, Paul, who, she notes, “could build just about anything.” She started combing online listings for affordable property relatively close to Chicago, in a part of her home state that she considered particularly beautiful.

Discovering Xanadu

In early 2009, Jenny purchased six acres of raw land in the Driftless region of southwestern Wisconsin, near the bluffs of the Mississippi River. She taught herself the 3-D modeling software SketchUp and spent that spring designing a small structure. Jenny had never designed anything before, but the software is perfect for beginners. “I was shooting for something more like a studio,” she says. In her head, she downplayed the fact that she would actually need to sleep there overnight. (The land was a good four hours from Chicago.) This “made the project seem attainable despite my lack of experience,” she adds with a laugh.

The structure that she drew and later built is not big and not fancy. Says Jenny: “It’s very intentionally not a house—it’s at best a shelter. I actually call it a shed. Sometimes I sleep in a tent or outside on the porch if the bugs and weather are tolerable. Sometimes I sleep inside.” Jenny’s friend Cayce nicknamed the retreat Xanadu, after the enchanted landscape in Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s poem “Kubla Khan.” It’s an apt moniker. The area features rolling hills, small farms, and country roads dotted with Amish buggies. And at 150 square feet, the shed is all about what surrounds it. “The default state at Xanadu is to be outside in nature,” says Jenny. “You have to make the active decision to go inside.”

It’s in the Genes

Jenny grew up watching both her parents make things with their hands. Her mother, Jane, is an artist who teaches reupholstering (just one of her many skills) at the local tech school. Jane taught Jenny and her sister how to cane chairs, a skill that came in handy when they needed pocket money during graduate school. Jenny’s father, a retired construction foreman who worked on bridges, built the family’s current home and several outbuildings with help from his kids and his brothers. Jenny says, “Lots of people from Wisconsin are like this. They’re industrious—they just do things.”

Raising a Shed

By most accounts, Jenny’s shed went up smoothly one extended October weekend in 2009, in large part because Jenny and Paul made a great team. She’s a planner; he’s a figure-it-out-as-you-go-er. “I enlisted his help right away to look at my drawings and tell me whether it was going to work,” she says. “But he didn’t fully engage in the project until we were actually building it.” Then there was no problem he could not solve.

They started by choosing a location for the structure. Jenny wanted to build deep in the woods, on a level road that followed an old farmer’s fence line. Her city self sought privacy. Paul convinced her to move the site closer to the field where she would park her car, in part so they wouldn’t have to lug building materials as far. (She thanked him later.) They created what’s known as a floating foundation by laying a small bed of gravel for each footing and arranging 12 concrete deck blocks (they look like cinder blocks). Working hard with Jenny and Paul all weekend were Paul’s brother Bob and Jenny’s mom, Jane, who also kept the team well fed. At one point, a couple of friends stopped by to lend extra hands.

Says newbie-builder Jenny, “When you focus on the constituent parts, [a project like this] seems manageable: Build a floor, add some walls, top it with a roof.” And that’s what they did. After the foundation was in place, they framed the floor, dropping supports of different lengths to create a level surface on the hill. Since they were building on an incline, the supports at the top of the hill are shorter than those at the bottom—and the floor appears to stick straight out of the hillside.

Days at Xanadu are spent lounging on the porch and enjoying the company of friends while waiting the 20 minutes it takes for water to boil.

Next they put down plywood floor decking. Then they framed the walls, leaving room for windows, and the roof, which would be metal, to facilitate rainwater collection.

After the skeleton of the shed was in place, they hung exterior walls made of plywood and added a layer of environmentally friendly siding (made of cement, sand, and wood fiber). “Fiber-cement siding,” Jenny explains, “is durable and low-maintenance, yet it’s far more environmentally preferred than vinyl siding. For one thing, it’s inert and noncombustible, so you don’t have to worry about off-gassing or the release of toxic compounds in the event of a fire.” Paul and Jenny finished up by installing energy-efficient windows and a sliding-glass door that opens onto a porch, sheltered by an overhanging roof.

Three and a half days after the project began, the exterior shell was complete. Jenny’s mom rewarded the team with a huge pan of lasagna made on a camp stove.

Filling in the Blanks

The remaining construction took place in stages over the course of the following year. Jenny came back by herself to build the interior walls. She used Energy Star–qualified foam insulation between the studs and finished the inside walls and the ceiling with formaldehyde-free plywood.

That fall, Paul returned, and together they fitted the space with a woodstove and a chimney so it could be used in winter. He and Jenny also built a simple, space-saving Murphy-type bed: It’s a basic platform bed whose head is attached to the wall with hinges. They added hooks to the far legs and chains to the wall so that the bed could be hinged and lifted to hang vertically, flush against the wall, when not in use. Bed linens are kept in two storage bins that, like most everything in the shed, serve a dual purpose—they’re sofa seating.

Something To Eat, Nothing To Do

Jenny researched vegetables that could thrive without care. Since she’s not around to water regularly, they needed to be OK with what nature provides. In raised beds in a nearby field, she grows onions, fingerling potatoes, and beans, which she leaves to dry on the vine, then harvests for dinner.

Days at Xanadu are spent lounging on the porch, blazing trails, hunting for wild morel mushrooms, and enjoying the company of friends and loved ones while waiting the 20 minutes it takes for water to boil on the woodstove.

The Unfinished Product

There’s still no plumbing or electricity installed on the property, and for now Jenny prefers it this way. She collects rainwater in a barrel to wash dishes, cooks on a campfire propane grill or the woodstove, uses a solar-charged battery to power a few lights, and turns to sawdust and a bucket for a loo. As long as you’re prepared to rough it, she says, staying at Xanadu feels like cushy camping.

In an effort to return the land to its original state. Jenny cultivates prairie plants, such as milkweed. (Monarch-butterfly larvae require it, and sadly it’s disappearing.) Last year, she planted heirloom apple trees, which the deer keep picking at. In a field near the garden are tree-swallow houses made by Paul from a design that Jenny found online. Birds make their home there during mating season; field mice take residence the rest of the year. Even the swallows have a second purpose, says Jenny: “They’re insectivores, gobbling mosquitoes to make lounging in the field more appealing for humans.”

Jenny dreams of a high-speed rail link between Chicago and Madison, Wisconsin, which would allow her to make the most of the trek. Until then, she does the four-hour drive whenever she can get away, staying as long as her schedule permits.

At the end of each visit, before she heads back to her city life, she has a ritual. She sits on the porch, drinking a beer and reading a poem.

Paul Carney understands Jenny’s pull toward this rustic project. During his retirement, he figures that he spends 90 percent of his waking time outside, gardening, fishing, and working on his house. “In the summer, I just come in to eat and sleep,” he reports.

Like father, like daughter.

recycled-glass-jugs

6 Eco-Friendly Home Décor Finds

6 Eco-Friendly Home Décor Finds

Going green can also be glamorous with the help of these environmentally-friendly accents.

Recycled Glass Jug

recycled-glass-jug

The touch of twine on the neck gives this recycled glass jug a pretty, earthy flair. Use it as a doorstop in an entryway or as décor on a screened-in porch.

 

Photo by wayfair.com

2

Woven Chindi Metal Bench

woven-chindi-metal-bench

Made in India with repurposed fabric scraps, this one-of-a-kind bench offers a great way to add some eclectic flair into your space.

 

Photo by worldmarket.com

3

Recycled Rope Doormat

recycled-rope-doormat

Leave dirt and debris at the door with this durable mat at the ready. The recycled polyester is resistant to mildew, so it can withstand the springtime mudroom mess.

 

Photo by uncommongoods.com


4

Common Good Dish Soap

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A concentrated, plant-based formula enhanced with natural extracts is stored within a sleek glass bottle to tackle a multitude of kitchen messes.

5

Reclaimed Teak Garden Stool

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Whether adorning your indoor workspace or your exterior potting shed, this reclaimed teak stool will be a—ahem—natural fit wherever it’s placed.

6

Farmstead Stoneware Striped Serving Bowl

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Crafted in Portugal with lead-free glazes and scrap materials, this handmade bowl may have had minor environmental impact, but its bright colors are sure to offer major wow-factor.

Terra Cotta Yarrow flowers

8 Plants You’ll Barely Need to Water

8 Plants You’ll Barely Need to Water

Two experts share their favorite drought-tolerant plants that will make your life easier (and help you save water)!

1

Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)

yarrow-achillea-millefolium

Photo by Mark Turner/Getty Images

“This plant flowers most actively in May and June, so use it in your garden as a seasonal color accent since they come in different colors like pink, purple, and yellow,” says Chris Lambton, professional landscaper and host of DIY Network’s Yard Crashers. “Place it near plants that flower earlier in the spring, such as tulips, or ones that flower later in the summer, like Black-eyed Susans.” It thrives in hot conditions and can also be grown in high elevations.


2

Lamb’s Ear (Stachys byzantina)

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Photo by PeskyMonkey/Getty Images

This flowering perennial herb has a unique fuzzy texture. “It does well in partial-to-full sun,” says Lambton. “It doesn’t love hot and humid, so it’s a great choice for dry climates.” In colder climates, it will appear “dead” in the winter, but will come back to life in the spring. A word of caution from Lambton: This herb spreads as it grows, so keep that in mind when you’re deciding on where to plant it.


3

Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa)

butterfly-weed-asclepias-tuberosa

Photo by jferrer/Getty Images

“These plants yield beautiful clusters of bright orange flowers that attract butterflies, especially Monarchs,” says garden expert Christy Dailey of christygardens. This perennial prefers well-drained sandy soils, requires very little water, and blooms from May to September.



4

Russian Sage (Perovskia atiplicifolia)

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Photo by Image Source/Getty Images

“These billowy and fragrant woody stems produce pretty purple flowers that bees and butterflies love,” says Dailey. “They bloom from late spring through October.” A mature plant grows to three to five feet tall and requires plenty of sun. It’s sturdy enough to withstand wind and cold weather.


5

Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)

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Photo by Hakan Jansson/Getty Images

Rosemary is a great addition to your garden because it’s nice to look at and edible. “Since this is an evergreen plant, you’ll want to prune it regularly to maintain a good shape—and if you’re using it to cook—the freshest taste,” says Lambton. “It loves the sun and can hold up well in dry conditions.” If you live in a warmer region, rosemary will have no problem growing year-round. In colder climates, replace the in-ground plant when the weather starts getting chilly, or bring the plant inside if it’s grown in a container.


6

Stonecrop (Sedum)

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Photo by zorani/Getty Images

The fleshy leaves on this plant help it retain water in dry conditions. “It comes in all shapes and sizes,” says Dailey. “Some are upright, while others creep low to the ground, but all have attractive blooms of hot pink, lime green, and other vibrant colors.” They thrive in soil that can drain well.



7

Coneflower (Echinacea)

coneflower-echinacea

Photo by Nadalinna/Getty Images

Known for its large purple flowers, this plant is native to central and eastern United States. It is often used as a holistic measure to treat common colds and other illnesses. “These plants are a colorful summer accent,” says Lambton. “They tolerate sun and dry soil well, although they should receive light watering in the summer months if there is less than one inch of rain per week.”


8

Lantana

lantana

Photo by Nawin_nachiangmai/Getty Images

Lantana is a genus of about 150 species that are native to tropical areas of South America and Africa. Luckily, these hearty plants can also grow in the United States, especially in the southeastern coast. “They are available in a wide variety of colors, and they often change hues during their bloom cycle, which results in multi-colored flowers,” says Lambton. When you first plant lantana, you’ll want to water the plant more often, but as it grows it will only need to be watered once a week.

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How to Compost

How to Compost

Composting reduces your home’s waste, helps the environment, and refreshes your flower beds.  Get started with these FAQs.

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Photo by Jens Mortensen

The average American household throws away about 25 percent of its food. But if we composted that stuff, we would lighten landfill loads while creating nourishment for gardens and lawns. Cary Oshins, a soil scientist and the director of education for the United States Composting Council, explains the easy, earth-friendly practice.

How do you start?

Get a bottomless plastic, metal, or wooden container that holds about 80 gallons, or 10 cubic feet. (One you can buy: the Earth Machine Composter, $109, homedepot.com.) Place it on the ground in a shady area of your yard. On the kitchen counter, set a small lidded container (such as the Oxo Good Grips compost bin; $20, oxo.com) for catching compostables as you cook. (For more information, see Composting 101).

What foods can go in the compost bin?

Fruit peels, coffee grounds (and paper filters), eggshells, leftover vegetables. Don’t compost meat, cheese, or fish, because they attract animals. And skip cooking oil, which draws insects.

What else?

Any and all organic matter. Most of your compost should be made up of dry materials, like torn-up newspaper, twigs, dead leaves, and paper plates. These items contain carbon, which gives the microbes that decompose the pile the energy necessary to work their magic. Food and other moisture-rich items, like grass clippings, supply the protein that microbes need to reproduce. You’ll get the best results with a roughly three-to-one ratio of dry to wet. No worries if it’s not perfect; composting is very forgiving. For more guidelines, go to seattletilth.org and search “compost pile ingredients.”

Is there any upkeep?

Watch the moisture level. The pile should be damp, like a wrung-out sponge—not soaking, like a swamp, or dry enough to blow around. If it’s too dry, spritz it with the hose. Too wet? Add shredded newspaper or wood chips.

What about the smell?

Maintain a thick layer of dry stuff, like dead leaves, at the top of the pile, and cover new food scraps with old compost. (Have a small shovel handy for this purpose.)

How can you tell when a pile has decomposed?

It usually takes four to six months for compost to turn into dark brown or black soil with a nice, earthy aroma. Once most of your pile fits this profile, take away the bin and let the finished compost continue to break down in your yard for a few weeks. Put the bin in a new spot to start a fresh pile. Kick it off by scooping in anything from the old pile that’s not quite decomposed.

What if you don’t have any outdoor space?

You can still recycle food scraps if you have somewhere to unload them weekly. Check with your local department of public works or a farmers’ market to see if there’s a drop-off site. In between hauls, stash scraps in the freezer in a sealed container lined with newspaper.

Finally, how can you use compost?

Think of it as food for dirt. Spread it over your lawn to nourish the grass, or mix it into garden soil.

purple-tulips

How to Care for Tulips

How to Care for Tulips

Tips for when they’re in the ground, potted, or displayed in a vase.

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Photo by OlgaMiltsova/Getty Images

The start of spring means the abundance of beautiful blooms, especially colorful tulips that appear everywhere from gardens and parks, to florist shops and grocery stores. If you’re looking to take advantage of peak tulip season or want to get ahead for next year’s crop, take note of these guidelines, which include tips for caring for tulips in a vase, in a pot, and in the ground.

In-Vase Tulips

  1. Choose the Right Vase
    “A good rule of thumb is to choose a vase that covers at least half the height of the tulip stems,” says Callie Bladow, production director at BloomThat. “Tulips love to stretch out and will typically grow upwards of two inches in height during their vase life—so it’s best to let them stretch out in the vase and don’t clump them on top of each other, which will reduce petal loss.”
  2. Cut Stems
    Be mindful that tulips grow after they’re in the vase when you’re cutting the stems. Bladow suggests holding the bouquet to the side of the vase first before cutting to make sure the blooms are the exact length you prefer. “Cut them on a bias (a 45-degree angle)—this creates a ‘straw-like effect’ and allows the stems to soak up the fresh water,” she says.
  3. Provide Plenty of Water
    “Tulips love water,” says Bladow. “Cold, fresh water is best. When you bring your tulips home and pick out your favorite vase, fill the vase up about three-quarters of the way, as tulips will drink a lot of water. We suggest changing the water every other day and giving the stems a fresh cut.” To keep your blooms happy, you can also add flower food, throw a penny at the bottom of the vase, or add lemon juice or half a teaspoon of regular cane sugar.
  4. Avoid Overexposure
    Since tulips are “photosensitive,” meaning they grow and open based on sunlight, you should avoid placing the vase in direct sunlight or heat, as they’ll wilt faster once the blooms open up. “In order to achieve maximum vase life, you want to receive tulips at an ‘early’ cut stage or ‘closed’ stage,” says Bladow. “The tulips will have a limited vase life once they reach the ‘open’ stage.” A little bending at the stems is natural for tulips as they “stretch” towards the sunlight, but if the stem looks “floppy,” that’s not a good sign.
  5. Choose Other Flowers to Add Carefully
    If you want to include other flowers in your arrangement, you should be mindful that tulips are very sensitive to other flowers. “Some common flowers that affect the tulip life cycle are daffodils or narcissus—they emit a substance that will make tulips wilt faster,” she says. “We include tulips in almost all of our floral arrangements with roses, kale, hydrangea, and never have issues.”

In-Ground Tulips

  1. Know When to Plant Them
    “The best time for planting tulips depends mostly on where you live,” says Carmen Johnston, a garden lifestyle expert. “If you live up north you can begin planting as early as late September, but if you live down south it is better to wait until December. Just make sure to check your planting zone prior to planting—the general rule is to plant six to eight weeks before the ground freezes.”
  2. Know How to Plant Them
    Johnston recommends using a drill with a bulb pit for easy planting. Dig a hole about three times the size of the tulip bulbs and plant them (pointed side up) six to eight inches deep and four to six inches apart. For the soil, make sure you place them in sandy, well-drained soil. And as for sun exposure, “If you have an area that gets a dose of morning sun with lots of afternoon shade, that is where your tulips will flourish,” Johnston says.
  3. Take Care of Them During the Off-Season
    Johnston recommends two major tasks: covering your bulbs with one to two inches of mulch and fertilizing your perennial bulbs in the fall with a slow release bulb fertilizer. “The tulip is a pretty independent flower and its bulb takes care of most of its maintenance itself,” she says. “However, if you want to give your bulb an extra boost, try giving it a shot of liquid fertilizer three to four weeks after planting and then once again at the beginning of spring.”
  4. Go Light on Watering
    And because tulips are low-maintenance, they rarely need water. Johnston suggests watering them once after planting (a good soaking) and then again when they first start to sprout green leaves.
  5. Clean Up When They Bloom
    This is the exciting part: once they bloom, you can use them to create beautiful arrangements. “You want to cut at the base of the stem, leaving as much of the foliage on the plant,” Johnston says. “Then you want to immediately place it in water so that it can start hydrating.” If your tulips are annuals (and most of them are), meaning they only bloom once, throw out the bulbs when they’re dead. If you have perennial tulips, Johnston recommends cutting and disposing of the foliage once the plant has yellowed and leaving the bulb in the ground for the next year.

Potted Tulips

  1. Choose the Right Pot
    “As far as planters or containers go, make sure yours has proper drainage,” Johnston says. “If your bulbs have to sit in water, they are more likely to rot. Avoid this by using bark to create extra drainage.” Place the bark at the bottom of the container, which will allow air to flow under the soil and prevent rotting.
  2. Plant and Give Them TLC
    Since a grouping of tulips in a pot is more eye-catching than just a single flower, plant the bulbs as close to each other as you can—that’s at least an inch apart. “You can also incorporate a different type of bulb, such as a daffodil or a crocus, between your tulips as well,” she says For care, the method is the same as in-ground tulips: don’t overwater them, add a bit of fertilizer, and make sure they have the same amount of sun exposure. After they bloom, follow the same guidelines for cleanup of the bulbs and foliage.
  3. Be Mindful of Indoor Tulips
    Johnston has two recommendations for indoor tulips: be careful not to overwater and keep them next to a sunny window.