10 Onion Growing Stages: From Bulb & Seed + Growing Tips

Like all root vegetables, much of onion growth is hidden below the soil surface. 

This article will unearth the truth about these versatile bulbs, explaining the best growing conditions for onions, the onion life cycle, and the onion growing stages. 

Plus, we’ll also debunk some myths about spring onions and scallions. 

Onion Growing Conditions

Likely native to southeast Asia, onions now grow in temperate zones worldwide. 

In the United States, onions grow year-round. California produces the most onions, over 25% of the nation’s total onion production. According to the USDA, the Golden State grew an estimated 1,902,600,000 pounds of onions in 2021. 

Onions are a hardy vegetable. But seedlings should only go into the soil once temperatures consistently remain above 28° F. 

Once planted, onions need at least six hours of full sun each day and prefer temperatures ranging from 55 – 75° F. Warmer temperatures tend to produce sweeter and milder onions. 

This bulb vegetable has shallow root systems, making it easy to grow onions in both pots and the ground. However, onion seeds will produce smaller, stunted bulbs without adequate space between plants.

These shorter roots require well-drained soil that is rich in organic matter. Onions will not grow well (if at all) in clay soils, which drain slowly and can become waterlogged. 

Onions prefer frequent watering but not soggy soil. Overwatered onions will begin to rot. 

The best time to plant an onion crop will depend on a few factors: onion variety, regional growing season, available sunlight, and whether you’re growing the vegetable by seed or bulb. 

Let’s look at the onion life cycle in a little more detail. 

Life Cycle of an Onion

The onion is a biennial plant, meaning it has a two-year lifecycle. 

onion growing stages chart

During the first growing season, the onion concentrates its energy on growing green vegetation and storing energy in the bulb. Therefore, farmers tend to harvest onions at the end of the first growing season, as this is when the bulb is at its biggest size.  

If left to grow into a second season, the onion will begin the reproductive process. Bulb size reduces as the plant redirects reserved energy into sprouting and growing a flower. 

This process is known as “going to seed” or “bolting”. Reaching this point of onion growth is only desirable for farmers who intend to harvest onions for the seeds rather than the bulbs. 

Remember: the bulb is where the onion stores energy, so draining this reserve causes the bulb to shrivel. 

Growing onions from seed reduces the risk of bolting. But it requires planning. 

Before planting onion seeds in the ground, you will need to grow seedlings for six to eight weeks in a greenhouse. 

Growing onions from tiny bulbs cuts the growing time in half. These bulbs, also known as onion sets, are onions harvested and stored during the previous year. Since these onions are in their second growing season, they are more likely to bolt. 

It is also possible to grow onions from transplants. Onion transplants are juvenile onion bulbs, fresh from this year’s season. This youthfulness means they are less likely to bolt than onions grown from sets. 

Onion transplants produce the biggest bulbs in the shortest amount of time with the least amount of work — making them a handy option for beginner gardeners. 

Whichever growing method you choose, remember the vegetable’s one-to-one propagation. One bulb will produce one onion. Likewise, one onion will grow from one onion seed. 

Onion Growing Time Lapse

If you’re more of a visual person like me, check out this onion growing time lapse video:

10 Onion Growing Stages of the Common Onion

1.) First is Planting

planting phase of onion growing stages

Different planting methods exist for growing onions, such as from seeds, onion sets, or mature plants. Onions are cool-season vegetables that can be planted in early spring or fall, depending on your location. 

For spring planting, wait until the soil temperature reaches a consistent 28℉ before planting onion sets or transplanting seedlings into your garden beds. This typically happens in late March or early April, just before the last frost date of the season. 

If you’re starting from seed, give yourself a head start by planting them 8 to 10 weeks ahead of time.

If you’re more of a fall gardener, you’ll want to aim to plant your onion sets in August or September so they have enough time to grow before the temperatures drop. As the cool weather sets in, your onions will go dormant, only to resume growth in the spring when things start to warm up again. 

Yarrow is a great companion plant to onions and can be planted together.

Planting from seeds is the simplest way to grow onions, while onion sets are easier to grow than seeds.

You can also use the bottom part of a mature onion plant to grow new sprouts. When planting, it’s important to wait for the right temperature and keep the soil moist.

Check out this video for more tips on planting onions:

2.) Germination

Germination is the process during which an onion seed develops into a plant. 

After a period of dormancy, several combined factors can initiate seed germination: water absorption, light exposure, temperature change, oxygen availability, and the passage of time. 

When the seed’s embryo absorbs water, the cells inside the seed expand. This process, known as imbibition, increases the seed’s respiration and metabolic processes. The organelles in the embryo experience structural changes. 

What does that look like to the naked eye? 

Roots develop downward, anchoring into the soil. These roots hold the seed in place and absorb nutrients and moisture. 

This process depends on temperature, humidity, and soil type. Well-drained soil rich in nutrients is optimal for growing onions, while clay soil should be avoided. If the growing conditions are not optimal, this onion growing stage may take a few weeks longer.

The lime green sprout develops upwards, pushing through the soil’s surface. Above the soil surface, this shoot allows the plant to perform photosynthesis. Photosynthesis produces food for the onion. 

From start to finish, onion germination takes about ten days. Temperature, humidity, soil quality, and nutrient availability all impact germination time.

3.) Vegetative Growth / Sprouting

sprouting phase of onion growth

The seedling rapidly forms vegetative growth over two weeks, during which proper moisture, warmth, and fertilization are crucial. 

During photosynthesis, the seedling converts sunlight into energy. The onion plant uses this energy to grow green vegetation. 

These leaves look like smaller, fleshier versions of those found on a mature onion. Although still tiny, these ever-elongating leaves increase the plant’s ability to perform photosynthesis.  

Once the seedling has produced several sets of mature leaves, the onion has successfully established in the soil. 

Note: If you started your onion plant/s indoors, it should be transplanted into the garden at this stage. But wait! Don’t forget to apply some mulch around the base of your precious plants. Mulch is like a cozy blanket for your onions, helping them retain moisture and keeping pesky weeds at bay.

4.) True Leaves Start to Develop

Picture this: your onion sprouts are now starting to look like real plants! They’ve grown a smaller version of dark green leaves, signaling the formation of true leaves.

At this point, your plant is on its own, relying solely on photosynthesis and the ability to produce glucose for energy.

As more true leaves develop, your sprouts will start to resemble leeks, and small onions will soon emerge.

Once the stalks have reached their full height and have that sturdy, dark green look, your onions are now considered scallions, green onions, or bunching onions – but their botanical name, Allium Cepa, remains the same throughout their growth.

Letting your onion plant finish this stage quickly is vital so bulb development can begin. The sooner the bulb starts forming, the larger your onions will be! Remember to watch your plant’s nutrient and moisture levels.

5.) Bulb Formation

After developing at least four robust leaves, the onion plant begins to direct energy toward bulb formation. Located at the point where the stem meets the root system, the bulb is the edible part of the common onion.

Vegetative growth and bulb formation occur simultaneously until the plant has produced eight to ten leaves. 

At this point, vegetative growth stops. However, bulb formation continues for a period of weeks to months. 

The plant transports food from the above-ground leaves to the scales below the surface. As they receive this energy, the scales swell. The scales eventually form rings around the bulb, providing a central storage tissue.

Length of Time & Varieties of Onions

The length of time for the bulbs to develop usually takes anywhere from 70 to 120 days. However, this time can vary depending on the onion variety and the growing conditions.

Different onion varieties have different day-length requirements for bulb formation. Short-day onions, which need 10 to 12 hours of daylight, are ideal for warmer regions with mild winters, while long-day onions, requiring 14 to 16 hours of daylight, are better suited for cooler regions with longer days.

Day-neutral onions need 12 to 14 hours of daylight and can be grown in most regions.

Long-day onions typically produce the largest bulbs, making them the most commonly sold variety. However, if you’re growing onions primarily for their green tops, then short-day onions are the way to go.

So sit back and enjoy watching your onion plant grow and develop those delicious bulbs, but remember, patience is key!

6.) Bulb Maturation

As the bulb matures, it eventually begins to emerge from the ground. Next, the above-ground leaves turn brown until this vegetation eventually droops toward the ground. 

If grown from seed, onion maturation takes about four months. Growing onions from sets decreases this time to just under three months. 

Also, look to see if the leaves of your onion plant are folding down; it indicates that the nutrients have moved from the top of the leaves to the bottom, leading to the swelling of onion bulbs. This is a sign that the onion is ready to be harvested.

7.) Harvesting or Reproduction

farmer harvesting onions

Determining when bulbs have reached full maturation depends on the regional growing season and the variety of onions you intend to harvest. (More on this topic in the next section.) 

When harvested too early, onions will taste bitter. But harvesting onions too late increases the risk of rotting. It can be tricky to judge when an onion is ready to harvest, so pay attention to how the top leaves appear. 

Brown, wilted top leaves and an exposed bulb indicate that the onion is ready for harvest. 

Harvesting onions is fairly straightforward. Use a digging fork to loosen the soil around the onions, then carefully pull out the onions. Or use a spade or shovel to dig out the onions. 

After removing onions from the soil, you need to cure them for about 20 to 25 days. This process allows the onion to keep its shape. 

To cure your harvest, hang onions in a dry place for four to six weeks. After curing, store the onions in a cool, dry place. They will last up to several months. 

Remember, onions are a biennial plant. So if you don’t harvest them at the end of the first growing season, they will continue their growth cycle in the following spring. 

Since the root systems have already been established, second-year onions will focus their energy on growing a flowery stalk for reproductive purposes. This process is known as bolting and causes onions to shrivel as the plant sends energy above ground. 

If left to continue this end-of-life cycle, onion stalks will produce buds with a white or purple flower at the top of the plant. 

8.) Flowering Stalks Begin

onion plant flowering, signaling the end of the onion growing stages

As the seasons progress and temperatures rise, the onion plant will persist in its growth. Eventually, the vegetative growth will cease and the plant will begin to sprout its flowering stalks. You’ll notice small buds emerging at the top of these stalks, which will eventually blossom into delicate flowers. 

The hue of these blooms may vary, depending on the specific onion variety, but typically they’ll be white, green, or purple. This floral display signals the end of the onion’s lifespan.

9.) Production of Seeds / Pollination

onion plant seeds

Bees, butterflies, and birds pollinate these flower heads, which contain the onion’s seeds. Once seeds appear, the plant has completed its life cycle. 

When the onion plant reaches the seed production stage, it will utilize all the nutrients stored in the bulb to generate seeds. If you were to harvest the onion at this point, the resulting bulbs would likely be dry and unappetizing.

However, there’s still a silver lining! You can collect and save the seeds to plant in your garden during the next growing season. This is especially beneficial if you’ve had a bountiful harvest and the specific variety of onion is particularly pleasing to your palate.

10.) Senescence: The Last of the Onions Growth Stages

Once the plant has completed its seed production, it has reached its final onion growth cycle stage. At this point, the plant will gradually deteriorate and ultimately perish, having expended all of its energy reserves.

We like to leave a few onions in the ground over the winter so that I can utilize their seeds for future plantings. However, this is a matter of personal preference, and you can choose to handle your onions however you see fit. 

Just be aware that if you do decide to use last year’s seeds, you won’t be able to start your new onion plants indoors.

Spring Onions & Green Onions

There’s a common misconception that both spring onions and green onions are both immature versions of common onions. Spring onions and green onions certainly look very similar, but they are not the same vegetable. 

Spring Onions

Spring onions are common onions that the grower has harvested early. Since they are the same species, the growing stages of spring onions and common are exactly the same. 

The only difference is that growers harvest spring onions before the bulbs reach maturation. Typically, growers harvest spring onions when the bulb has reached about an inch in diameter. At this point, the top vegetation is still firm and green, so these leaves are often left attached. 

Green Onions

Green onions, also known as scallions, are not the same species as common onions. Less than half an inch in diameter, the underdeveloped bulb looks more like a thick white stalk.

Although many commercial growers pass off immature common onions as scallions, true green onions come from Chinese onion or Welsh onion plants. 

Onion Growing Tips

Now that you’ve learned about the different onion growing stages, here are five growing tips to ensure success.

  1. When preparing the garden bed, make sure it’s fertile and has good drainage. Add compost, well-rotted manure or a small handful of fertilizer.
  2. Sow onion seeds shallowly and cover lightly, keeping the soil moist until sprouting starts. Sow a generous amount of seeds to allow for poor germination. Transplant seedlings from areas that have germinated well to areas that are sparse. Mulch the bed to reduce weeds.
  3. Sow onion seeds at the right time for your climate. In subtropical climates, sow towards the end of autumn. In warmer climates, sow through the driest part of the year. In cold climates, sow through spring.
  4. Grow the right variety of onion for your climate and match the variety to the daylight hours at the time of year you are growing them. Fast or early maturing varieties are preferred for winter planting.
  5. Crowd the onions in the garden bed to maximize space. This helps to prevent weeds and encourages the onions to grow taller instead of wider.

Common Problems to Avoid

It’s true that growing root vegetables can be challenging, but with proper care and attention, you can minimize the risk of crop damage and failure. Here are some common issues that may arise during onion growing stages, along with tips on how to deal with them:

Stunted Growth

If your onion seedlings are growing slower than they should, it could be due to poor soil conditions or lack of nutrients. Ensure that your soil is well-draining, loose and has a pH of 6.0 to 6.8. Additionally, apply a balanced fertilizer to provide essential nutrients to the plants.

Leaf Discoloration

If your onion leaves are turning yellow, it could be due to nutrient deficiency, lack of water, or pests. Make sure you water your onions regularly and feed them with a fertilizer that contains nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. Also, keep an eye out for onion maggots or thrips, which can cause significant damage to the leaves.

Wilting Plants

If your onion plants are wilting, it could be due to either overwatering or underwatering. Make sure you water your plants appropriately, based on the soil moisture level and the weather conditions.

Misshapen Bulbs

If your onion bulbs are not forming properly, it could be due to inconsistent soil moisture levels or soil compaction. Make sure you water your onions regularly and loosen the soil to allow room for the bulbs to grow.

Pests and Diseases

Onion maggots, thrips, and fungal diseases like downy mildew and white rot can cause significant damage to your onion crops. To prevent these issues, practice good crop rotation, maintain good hygiene by removing infected plants promptly, and use natural or chemical pesticides as needed.

FAQ About Stages of Onion Growth

How long do onions take to grow?

This depends on many factors, such as the type of onion, climate, and growing conditions. But, generally, onions take about 3-5 months to mature from seed to harvest. However, some fast-maturing varieties can be ready for harvest in as little as 60 days, while others can take up to 7-8 months. So, consider the type of onion and the climate when deciding when to plant them to ensure a successful harvest.

How do you know when onions are done growing?

Onions are done growing and ready to harvest when the foliage starts to yellow and fall over. This typically occurs in late summer or early fall, about 100-175 days after planting, depending on the variety and growing conditions.10 Onion Growing Stages: From Bulb & Seed + Growing Tips

This article was originally published at Nature of Home.

Lemon Tree Growth Stages Guide + Unbelievable Growing Trick

lemon tree

Editors note: We should all be growing as much food as possible. This excellent article shows how you can grow a lemon tree from a store-bought lemon!

If you’re a fan of freshly squeezed lemon juice and love gardening, why not try growing your very own lemon tree? And the best part is, you don’t even need a big backyard to do it! Lemon trees can thrive both indoors and outdoors, making them a great addition to any space.

But before you start growing, it’s essential to understand the life cycle of a lemon tree. Unlike other fruit trees, lemon trees grow much faster and can even bear fruit in as little as two years.

We’ll cover the seven stages of lemon tree growth stages, each with its own unique characteristics. By understanding these stages, you can better monitor and care for your tree, ensuring its optimal growth and fruit production. 

So, let’s dive in and explore the exciting journey of a lemon tree!

Lemon Growth Time Lapse Video

If you’re like me and are a visual learner, here is a video showing a lemon tree growth time lapse:

The 7 Lemon Tree Growth Stages From Seed

Did you know that every magnificent citrus tree starts from a tiny seed? It’s true! But for that little seed to transform into a thriving seedling, it must germinate first. And that’s just the beginning!

As the seedling grows, it requires the proper care and environment to thrive. But if you provide it with everything it needs, your new lemon tree will mature into a stunning plant that produces delicious fruit. And the best part? Also, you can grow lemons year-round in the right climate (USDA hardiness zones 9 to 11).

Of course, caring for a lemon tree takes some effort. First, ensure it has well-draining soil, is watered regularly, and is exposed to warm temperatures. And, you can give it an extra boost by fertilizing it with lemon tree-specific fertilizers.

But trust me, it’s all worth it. Seeing your little tree grow and flourish into a mature lemon tree is a rewarding experience. So, let’s explore the exciting stages of growth that your lemon tree will go through!

1.) Germination: Let the Magic Begin!

Lemon tree seeds are small, smooth, and have a milky white hue. If the environment is optimal, they can germinate into a new plant in 5 to 7 days. At this stage, you will observe the emergence of roots and tiny leaves as your lemon plant begins to form.

2.) Seedling Stage

Once your lemon seed has germinated successfully, you will see small green leaves emerging from the soil. The sprouts will continue to grow and produce new leaves, eventually developing into established stems and leaves.

It’s important to remember that during this early stage, your plant is delicate and needs plenty of water, especially the hot summer. After three months, you can then transplant the seedling to a full-sun location in your garden, as lemon plants require ample sunlight to thrive.

3.) Youth & Maturity

As the young seedling grows, it will gradually become a sapling, and during this phase, it is important to shield it from cold temperatures. Over time, the sapling will develop denser leaves, more robust trunks, and branches with thorns.

Now, your lemon tree has grown into a mature plant with a sturdy trunk and branches! Nevertheless, you still need to take good care of it to ensure it stays healthy during this lemon tree growth phase. 

Ensure it receives plenty of sunlight, sufficient nutrients, and water. However, take care not to overwater it, as this can result in root rot and completely destroy your plant.

Although they are not frost-hardy, mature lemon trees are more tolerant of colder weather.

4.) Flowering & Fruiting

At two years of growth, your tree should begin forming buds during winter. Then, as temperatures rise in early spring, beautiful flowers will begin to emerge from the flower buds, producing little white blooms.

One great thing about lemon trees is that they are self-pollinating, which means they don’t need help from other pollinators to produce fruit. As the flowers fade, they will give way to young lemon fruits that eventually ripen into juicy treats.

Remember that your lemon tree needs the proper amount of water to produce those delicious fruits. If you’re growing a container lemon tree, be sure to provide the pot with adequate drainage to prevent root rot.

5.) Ripening Lemons

It takes around 4 months for lemons to mature. You’ll want to make sure to keep your citrus tree well-hydrated and fertilize it regularly. Also, be mindful of pests, particularly aphids, which can harm your tree and impact fruit production.

If you spot an infestation, quickly prune off affected branches or leaves to prevent further spreading and apply pesticides as needed.

Mature lemons have smooth, yellow skin and are oblong in shape. The fruit size can vary based on growing conditions and the type of lemon tree you have. 

Note: Meyer and Eureka lemon trees typically produce the tastiest fruit.

If you come across a particularly large lemon with thick skin, it may have originated from a type of grapefruit or tree rootstock. Keep an eye out for these unique varieties in your lemon harvest!

6.) Harvesting The Lemons

It’s essential to wait until lemons are fully ripe before harvesting them. Green lemons are still unripe; if you pick them prematurely, they will not continue growing and developing.

Instead, wait patiently until the lemons have ripened to a rich, sunny yellow color. At that point, you can confidently harvest them and enjoy the fruits of your labor!

Difference Between Immature Lemons and Mature

An immature lemon is a lemon that has not yet reached its full size and has not fully ripened. Immature lemons are typically green in color, smaller in size, and have a more tart taste than mature lemons.

On the other hand, a mature lemon is a lemon that has reached its full size and has ripened to a yellow color. Mature lemons are larger than immature lemons, have a sweeter taste, and are typically juicier. The skin of a mature lemon is also smoother than an immature lemon’s.

It’s essential to wait until lemons are fully ripe before harvesting them to ensure they have the best flavor and texture.

7.) Drying

If you don’t pick the lemons, they will become discolored and withered. Ultimately, these lemons will detach from the tree.

Your tree will keep producing fruit until it reaches a ripe age. After that, cultivators usually save the seeds and promptly begin cultivating a new lemon tree.

Unbelievable Trick: How to Grow Lemon Tree From Seed Using Eggs Shells & Carton

Check out this trick to growing citrus trees using egg shells and carton:

FAQ About the Growth Stages of a Lemon Tree

How Tall is the Average 1 to 2-Year-Old Lemon Tree?

A 1-2-year-old Eureka Lemon tree is typically 1-2 feet tall. Eureka lemons are the type you would usually find in grocery stores.

How Long Will it Take to Grow a Lemon Tree Fully?

When starting a lemon tree from a seed, you should be prepared to wait up to 7 years for the tree to produce fruit. However, if you opt for commercially sold lemon trees, they are usually grafted onto the rootstock, which can shorten the time it takes for the tree to bear fruit. 

Typically, a grafted lemon tree takes around 2 to 3 years to start bearing fruit. However, the exact timeline can vary based on several factors, including the conditions, lemon tree variety, and the age of the lemon tree when it was planted.

How Many Times a Year do Lemon Trees Produce Fruit?

Again, this depends on the type, but a Meyer lemon tree can yield fruit up to four times yearly.

What Environment is Best for Lemon Trees to Grow?

Lemon trees thrive in a warm, sunny environment with plenty of water and well-draining soil. They prefer temperatures between 70 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit (21-29 degrees Celsius) and cannot tolerate frost or extreme cold. Growing lemon trees in containers that can be moved indoors during winter is suitable if you reside in a colder climate.

This article was originally published on Nature of Home.

Top 10 Most Useful Plants for Food, Medicine, and Materials

motherwort plant

We had the share this article by Nature of Home. Plants are amazing and more people need to be aware of their benefits.

What are the most valuable plants you know for food, medicine, and materials? One of the better-known is the Aloe Vera plant. It has incredible medicinal value. However, after someone asked a popular online forum for other examples of useful plants, these are the top-voted choices you probably have yet to hear of.

1. Moringa Oleifera

Moringa Oleifera plant

Moringa Oleifera is a tree with leaves rich in proteins, calcium, iron, and vitamin C. One shared, “They grow so fast and have so many nutrients that I haven’t bought meat in seven months. I prepare the leaves in many ways. 

The leaves are helpful for tea, juice, and cooking. My favorite recipe is fried rice with onion, bell pepper, carrots, eggs, and moringa. They burn easily, so add them last.”

2. Dandelions

dandelion flowers and salve

Many in the thread agreed that dandelions grow anywhere and are helpful in many ways. The leaves are a nice bitter green that gets much less bitter when sauteed like spinach or can be served raw in recipes that call for ingredients like arugula. 

It’s more nutritious than spinach, kale, or other popular greens. You can make syrups, whines, and many other things with flower heads. The heads are an attractive-looking edible garnish. The dandelion flowers and stems have a much more palatable, non-bitter flavor. 

One added, “The roots can be roasted to make a lovely tea, similar to regular black tea but without caffeine. I like to have it at bedtime.”

3. Yuca (Not Yucca)

yuca root

Have you ever heard of Yuca? It’s not just a word that sounds like someone’s name, but a nutty and delicious root vegetable that is a staple in many parts of the world. Native to South America and also found in Asia and parts of Africa, this starchy tuber is a fantastic carbohydrate source many enjoy.

However, there’s often confusion between Yuca and another plant that sounds almost identical: Yucca. Although they share similar names, these two plants are entirely different. Yucca is a spiky plant that’s native to the southeastern United States, and while it does bear edible seeds, flowers, and fruits, it doesn’t have an edible root.

So if you’re ever talking about Yuca, make sure you’re thinking of something other than Yucca. While the names might be confusing, there’s no mistaking the delicious taste of this root vegetable!

Yucca is great for adding more fiber to your diet. One noted, “When I was younger, my mother would soothe our stomach aches and indigestion with small amounts of yuca. Then, she would add some ginger and a small amount of garlic. It did the trick every time.”

4. Stinging Nettle

freshly harvested stinging nettle

Stinging Nettle can be used for so much. It’s super nutritious and great for seasonal allergies. You can add the leaves to soup or even make tea with them. It is also possible to dry the leaves, grind them into powder, and add them to capsules to create supplements.

5. Willow Trees

willow bark tea

Willow trees are some of the most beautiful and helpful trees you can grow. Willow bark contains salicylic acid, which helps with pain, inflammation, stiffness, and even period cramps. Willow bark has been used through the generations for medicinal purposes.

6. Hemp

hemp plant

Hemp is a plant with multiple purposes. You can use it to make clothing, paper, food cultivation tools, and much more. Hemp grows quicker than most plants, and with all of the possibilities, hemp could replace many of our non-renewable materials.

7. Plantain

plantain trees

Plantain fibers are tough and pliable, which allows them to be used in survival situations to make fishing lines, braiding, or sutures. In addition, the leaves are commonly used in salads when young. 

They become tougher as they get older and more prominent, and many countries use them instead of plates. The leaves contain calcium and nutrients. You can also grind plantains into a flour substitute.

8. Cattails


One ecology expert explained, “Cattails are the mother of all materials. While it has nutritious edible tubers, shoots and green flower heads, and pollen, it is often risky to consume them from unknown sources due to human contamination. 

However, they unequivocally shine in their abundance of uses as materials. The roots contain thin, strong fibers that make for very strong cordage. 

The stalk has many benefits in weaving, wattling, and basketry, making it an excellent structural material; pounding and washing away the stalk may also produce fibers for cordage, but doing so is often lossful overall. 

The mature seeds make for a fantastic insulating material for shoes, primitive pillows, and plushes. Finally, the leaves may be used for basketry and weaving. Overall, an amazing plant.”

9. Chestnut Trees

chestnut tree

Chestnut trees are incredible. The wood is perfect for building because it is so strong. In addition, the chestnuts are an abundant food source that often goes overlooked. They are comparable to sweet potatoes with their carb content and are high in protein and fat.

Popular Reading: 10 Beautiful Household Plants That Are Toxic for Cats

10. Bamboo

bamboo tree forest

Finally, many agreed that bamboo might be the most helpful plant on this list. It grows extremely fast and is near impossible to over-forage. 

Bamboo can be turned into tool handles, bows, fishing rods, spears, arrows, farming tools, pipes, containers, building materials, ladders, shelves, rafts, furniture, baskets, and more with minimal effort.

We hope you enjoyed these Reddit recommendations for the most useful plants.

Can prison gardens help address the problem with mass incarceration?

Inmates carry boxes of produce at Correctional Institute

Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Can prison gardens help address the problem with mass incarceration?

While there is no centralized system that tracks all crime data, FBI and Bureau of Justice Statistics data suggest that reported crime rates, on the whole, are falling.

Yet with nearly 2 million people in confinement, the United States has the largest incarcerated population in the world: both in terms of the total number and relative to the country’s overall population. This includes more than 1.3 million people currently serving out sentences in federal and state prisons and local jails, and close to half a million awaiting convictions.

This begs the question: Is the country plagued by crime, or suffering under an uncalibrated criminal justice system?

Stacker consulted academic research, program outcomes, and government data to look at what the U.S. prison population looks like today, and how horticulture therapy is being used to improve the quality of life for inmates currently incarcerated and after their release.

Beginning in the early 1980s, the “tough on crime” era in the U.S. ushered in a 400% increase in the federal and state prison population over the next two decades. Policy changes such as minimum sentencing requirements, the Three Strikes law, Truth in Sentencing laws, and the concurrent War on Drugs campaign meant more people were sent to prison—and often with longer sentences. The number of people incarcerated for drug offenses alone increased nearly tenfold, according to Bureau of Justice data, from roughly 41,000 in 1980 to 430,926 in 2019.

The idea that increased incarceration rates and longer sentences directly lead to lower crime rates—the core tenet of the “tough on crime” ideology—is widely debated. Some research suggests that over the last 20 years, nearly 0% of the reduction in crime can be attributed to the increased use of incarceration. Data also suggests that in certain communities, increased incarceration can lead to an increase in crime by perpetuating cycles of broken families, police mistrust, and economic disadvantage.

America’s prisons and jails are woefully, and intentionally, bad at preparing inmates to rejoin society because the criminal justice system operates, in large part, on punishment, not reform. As result, two out of every three people who serve time in prison are rearrested within three years of their release. Former inmates are also more than 100 times more likely to die of an overdose, and more likely than the general population to commit suicide.

Recidivism comes with a high price. According to a study conducted by the Illinois Sentencing Policy Advisory Council, which looked at recidivism costs in that state, a single instance of reincarceration can cost taxpayers more than $50,000.

Over the course of five years, recidivism could cost Illinois over $13 billion, a fraction of what it costs the nation as a whole. The U.S. spends near $81 billion annually on mass incarceration, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics. Most states spend more money to keep someone incarcerated than to educate a child.

Programs like prison gardens, which are part of a horticulture therapy movement and a relatively recent push for rehabilitation within the prison system, are helping inmates better prepare for life outside of incarceration by improving mental health, fostering socialization and problem-solving skills, and providing training that could eventually lead to employment. For those who may never rejoin society, prison gardens grow purpose—something beautiful amid something bleak.

Prison gardens are not the solution to mass incarceration or high recidivism rates. They are more akin to a bandaid on a deep wound. But they can teach us the value of providing rehabilitative services if the end goal is to reduce mass incarceration and break the socioeconomic cycles associated with it.

You may also like: Marijuana violations have taken over 10,000 truck drivers off the road this year, adding more supply chain disruptionsPeople work in garden at correctional institute

Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images


The first official prison garden program in the U.S. began at Rikers Island in 1997. Launched by the Horticulture Society of New York, the GreenHouse, as it is referred to, is the country’s oldest and largest prison garden. Six years later, the Insight Garden Program was launched at Solano and San Quentin State Prisons in California. Today, more than 15 state prison systems offer landscaping, gardening, and horticulture training programs.

It is important to note the difference between rehabilitative agricultural training and forced prison labor, which has become more common in the food industry in recent years. With fewer immigrants available for farm labor, many growers have turned to prison labor, or convict leasing, which is cheap and abundant. Inmates are excluded from federal minimum wage laws, and in some states make as little as $3 per hour before deductions. Prison gardens, even those that feed surrounding communities, are structured for the benefit of inmates.Inmates harvest and box up cabbage in garden

Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Mental health in US prisons

The U.S. incarcerates a disproportionate amount of people who have mental health challenges and most prisons and jails are not designed to treat them. More than 40% of people in state prisons have been diagnosed with a mental disorder, and the majority of them never receive any mental health care.

Compared to the overall U.S. population, more incarcerated people suffer from bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and schizophrenia or other psychotic disorders, and the rates of mental illness among incarcerated women are nearly double that of incarcerated men.Peppers being picked at Berks County Jail

Jeremy Drey/MediaNews Group/Reading Eagle via Getty Images

Benefits for the community

In addition to providing fresh food for the prison facilities themselves, many prison gardens donate portions of their harvests to the surrounding communities. In Missouri, for example, Restorative Justice Gardens across the state generate roughly 100 tons of fresh produce to donate to food banks, shelters, schools, and senior centers.

According to the WA Food Fund, the number of people in Washington who were at risk of not having enough to eat during the pandemic reached 1.6 million. The Washington State Corrections’ Hope Gardens donated nearly 74,000 pounds of produce to at-risk communities to help mitigate the risk of food shortages. Inmates across the country are giving back to their surrounding communities—to people perhaps a lot like them, who need help, and whose lives could be positively impacted by receiving it.An inmate consults garden books at Boulder County Jail’s organic garden

David Jennings/Digital First Media/Boulder Daily Camera via Getty Images

Benefits for the inmates

Research shows horticulture therapy increases self-efficacy, self-worth, and life satisfaction for inmates. It also decreases anxiety and depression symptoms and reduces recidivism rates for participants when compared to the rest of the incarcerated population. Less than 10% of the 117 California-based Insight Garden Program participants who were paroled between 2003-2009 were reincarcerated. California’s average recidivism rate over the same period was 64%.

Some programs, like Roots to Re-Entry, also incorporate vocational training into their therapy work so inmates leave with hands-on skills to improve their chances of landing a green job upon their release. Participants build connections with program instructors who can serve as references uniquely positioned to speak to their character and growth.Inmates tend to garden in Berks County Jail

Jeremy Drey/MediaNews Group/Reading Eagle via Getty Images

Concerns, shortcomings, discussion

As mentioned before, many prison garden programs boast lower recidivism rates among participants than the general prison population—a positive result no matter how you look at that fact on its own.

However, participant selection, which is often left to the correctional facilities, may unfairly overlook some inmates, such as those with a history of serious or violent crimes—despite the fact that such inmates make up the overwhelming majority of the prison population. According to a U.S. Department of Justice study tracking recidivism rates between 2005-2014, such prisoners are less likely to be rearrested for committing crimes after release than prisoners released for property offenses. Unfortunately, the majority of states have criminal justice reforms that exclude people convicted of violent offenses.

Program participation does not guarantee a prosperous life upon reentry to society. People who were incarcerated will forever be labeled as criminals and not all employers are willing to take the risk of hiring someone with that history. Research shows that having a criminal record reduces employer callback rates by 50%. Inmates are not reentering a society free from the socioeconomic inequities that may have contributed to their incarceration in the first place.

While their experience with horticulture therapy can inform how they approach adversity, it does not get at the root of the systemic inequality leading to and exacerbated by mass incarceration.

Written by: Lauren Liebhaber. The article was produced by Stacker, and syndicated by healing-water.org.

World’s Oldest Sealed Terrarium by David Latimer

In 1960, David Latimer decided to grow a sealed glass bottle terrarium. He never imagined that it would grow into an incredible research study and be dubbed “the world’s oldest terrarium.” 

Over the years, David’s bottle garden was sealed shut but remains healthy and robust as it can be. It has flourishing plant life even though it has not that has not been watered since 1972.

David established the terrarium by placing a quarter pint of compost and water inside the ten-gallon bottle (custom hand-blown glass makers usually make these). He then added spiderworts seeds with the help of a wire. After that, he sealed the bottle and put it in a corner filled with sunlight. Then, let nature do its job through photosynthesis.

Photosynthesis releases oxygen and moisture into the air via plants. The water will then build up and drip onto the plants. The leaves will also fall and rot, releasing carbon dioxide, which the plants require for their food. 

It is creating a self-sustaining ecosystem. It’s astunning illustration of how nature can preserve itself.

Latimer opened the terrarium in 1972 to supply the plants with water. However, it has been sealed with no air or freshwater ever since.

“It’s six feet from a window, so it is exposed to sunlight. As a result, it’s a little more oriented towards the sun and is rotated around now and then to develop uniformly. It’s also the standard for low-maintenance. I’ve never trimmed it. It just appears to have grown to the boundaries in the bottle.”David Latimer

David’s creation has been featured in the Daily Mail.

The garden has been set in the same room for the past 27 years at the home of the Latimer family (at the time of the interview, it was moved around before that). 

It is situated within Cranleigh, Surrey. The town was first made available via BBC Radio 4’s Gardeners Question Time on BBC by Chris Beardshaw. Chris is a TV host and garden designer. 

The designer said that David’s sealed garden was the perfect cycle of nature and an excellent illustration of the ability of plants to recycle. And he added that it’s similar to the method NASA is looking into bringing plants and seeds into space. 

Saying: “Plants serve as excellent cleaners, eliminating pollution from the air, to ensure that a space station can be self-sustaining.’. 

This is an excellent example of how revolutionary plants are and how they can survive if given a chance.

History of Terrariums

If you’re new to terrariums, let’s start with some background. The name terrarium comes from the Latin words terra(earth), and arium (place). So it’s similar to aquariums but only with earth and plants.

There are two main categories of terrariums:

  • Closed: The most classic (and interesting) kind and the one David chose to create. The sealing off of the terrarium and making it an enclosed system is what makes it an ecosystem. It captures humidity in terrariums and allows for the growth of fascinating tropical plants.
  • Open: This type may lose some of a traditional terrarium’s essential characteristics and features. They’re ideal for plants that don’t need a lot of water.

The first terrarium was created on accident by Nathan Bagshaw Ward

Ward first became aware of the benefits of hermetically-sealed glass bottles in 1829. He had put a chrysalis from a moth called a sphinx in moist soil on the bottom of the bottle and covered the bottle with a lid. Then, he noticed that a grass and fern seedling had sprouted from dirt the following week. 

Incredibly, the evaporated water condensed on the bottles’ walls in the daytime, then returned to the soil at night and maintained constant humidity.

He then adapted this idea for transporting plants across long voyages. The sealed Wardian Case kept the plants moist and alive so they could travel to foreign countries (PDF).

Nowadays, terrariums are used more for decoration and enjoyment rather than travel. Although it still is a great way to transport plants if you’re moving long distances.

Growing a Sealed Bottle Terrarium

As we have said earlier, the sealed terrarium functions by creating a self-sustaining ecosystem. Through photosynthesis, the plants recycle nutrients. 

Light is the sole input that is required externally. This is the source of energy needed for food and growth. The light beams off the leaves and is taken into the plant by proteins that contain chlorophylls (green-colored pigment). 

Plants store a small amount of light with ATP (adenosine triphosphate) to provide energy. The plant’s roots utilize the rest to remove electrons in water.

The electrons are then free to release oxygen through the conversion of carbon dioxide into carbohydrates by chemical reactions.

To compost organic matter like dead leaves in the ecosystem, it uses the process of cellular respiration. This is performed by bacteria that absorb excess oxygen, release carbon dioxide, and help the plant grow.

The plants also use the same process of cellular respiration to break down the substances it has stored up in the absence of light (during nighttime).

Water is cycled throughout, trapped in the plant’s roots, escaping into the air, and condensed in the potting mix. 

The cycle begins anew and continues to repeat itself.

Conclusion to David’s Sealed Bottle Garden

A lot of people are skeptical that David Latimer’s story is factual, and some, such as Bob Flowerdew (organic gardener), think, “It’s wonderful but not for me, thanks. I can’t see the point. I can’t smell it, I can’t eat it.”.

It’s shocking to learn that David feels the same. He says that the bottle garden is pretty dull. It’s not doing anything; however, it is fascinating to him to determine how long it will last.

He plans to pass on the “world’s oldest terrarium” to his children once they are older. Even if they do not have an interest in the meanwhile, if they do not want it, the terrarium will go to the Royal Horticultural Society in London, England.

While this experiment is not explicitly focused on home improvement, it does highlight how a simple project can be brought into the home and connect us with nature.

Also, it would be an excellent conversion piece when the company comes over. Think of the reactions one would get when you say you haven’t watered the terrarium in 50 years!


Desmond, Ray. 1986. Technical Problems in Transporting Living Plants in the Age of Sail. Canadian Horticultural History 1: 74–90.

Loudon, John C. 1834. Growing Ferns and Other Plants in Glass Cases. Gardener’s Magazine. pp. 207–208.

This article was produced by Nature of Home, and syndicated by healing-water.org.

5 Must-Have Cauliflower Companion Plants For Best Harvest

girl showing cauliflower plant.

Today, cauliflower is becoming more trendy, and it’s common to see it used in pizza crust, rice, bread, and crackers. It’s an excellent cool-season vegetable crop that’s adaptable to both partial shade and full sun. Cauliflower also comes in colors other than white and can be used for adding color to your garden and plate.

We’ll cover the best cauliflower companion plants, explain how they attract beneficial insects, and work together.

5 Best Companion Plants for Cauliflower

  1. Beets
  2. Lettuce
  3. Fennel
  4. Nasturtiums
  5. Cosmos

An explanation of why these plants grow well with cauliflower is below.

Beets & Lettuce

Cauliflower grows slowly and takes up a lot of garden space; most growth is more than 6 to 8 inches off the ground. You can underplant fast-growing crops like radishes, beets, and leaf lettuce in that space. 

In the spring, companion planting cauliflower can help control the two main pests that affect all brassicas: aphids and cabbage worms. 


Hoverfly larvae are beneficial insects and will eat aphids when planted with cosmos and are used as a good companion for cauliflower. 


To assist cosmos, plant nasturtiums as a trap crop near cauliflower; aphids will be attracted to the nasturtiums even more than your cauliflower. 


In addition, planting fennel around your cauliflower will draw parasitic wasps, which will lay their eggs under the caterpillars’ skin and then plant their larvae on the worms from the inside out. 

3 Bad Companion Plants For Cauliflower

Avoid planting these three bad cauliflower companion plants:

1.) Tomatoes

Cauliflower will face competition with tomatoes because they’re both heavy feeders for vital nutrients in the soil. Being that they compete, cauliflower could stunt the growth of tomatoes. 

2.) Strawberries 

This is a bad companion plant for cauliflower because strawberries compete for nutrients like tomatoes and cauliflower. 

3.) Brassicas

 Brassicas, such as broccoli, cabbage, and brussels sprouts, should not be planted next to cauliflower. Both brassica and cauliflower belong to the same family. So, together they would attract more pests and diseases to your vegetable garden, and compete with one another. 

Now that you know the best and worst cauliflower companion plants, here are some growing and harvesting tips.

Getting Started & Planting Cauliflower

planting cauliflower in the garden.

Cauliflower can be planted in the late summer or early fall and allowed to grow throughout the winter if your winters only experience light frosts. However, you should plant your cauliflower in the spring if you have freezing temperatures and winter snow. 

It’s generally best to start indoors from seed or transplants, regardless of the weather. However, since cauliflower will only plant in soil that is less than 70°F (21°C) in temperature, growing it from seed in the late summer or early fall is probably too hot. 

Since cauliflower and broccoli can occupy a garden for four to five months, they can eat up space for your warm-season crops, so you’ll want to start planning your spring sowing early. 

You can start cauliflower seeds indoors six weeks before your last frost date. As soon as your seedlings or transplants are prepared to be placed in the garden (can be planted two weeks before your last frost date), ensure they receive at least four to five hours of direct sun, but the more, the better. 

In rich, well-draining soil, space them 15 to 18 inches apart and keep them moist. 

Growing Cauliflower & Harvesting

growing cauliflower plant

Although cauliflower leaves can be eaten, most people grow them for the substantial central stalk and head. 

The plant’s top center is where the head develops; although it starts small, it will eventually get much more prominent. It would be best to cover the cauliflower heads once the leaves begin to part and the sun shines directly on them because direct sunlight can cause them to turn discolored. 

To do this, gather some leaves close to the head and rubber band or clothespin them together. This will protect the head from the sun. 

A cauliflower head is ready to harvest when it is still tight and 6 to 8 inches (15 to 20 cm) in diameter. Then, when the stalk begins to branch into the various segments, take a knife or pair of clippers and cut it off. 

Cauliflower plants stop producing once the central head has been harvested, unlike broccoli plants, which continue to produce a secondary crop of side florets. 

This article was produced by Nature of Home, and syndicated by healing-water.org.