3-in-1 Plant Spray
24 fl. oz. Ready-to-Use

  • 3-in-1 insecticide, miticide and fungicide
  • Controls bugs and diseases with botanical oils
  • Proven bee safe
  • Ideal for use on vegetable gardens, houseplants, succulents, flowers and ornamentals
  • Safe for people, pets and planet when used as directed
  • OMRI listed for use in organic gardening

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Earth’s Ally 3-in-1 Plant Spray makes no compromises, effectively controlling soft-bodied insects and common plant diseases with a synergistic blend of thyme, rosemary, clove and peppermint oils. The formula leaves no harmful residue on plants and can be safely sprayed on herbs and vegetables up until the day of harvest.

  • Kills spider mites, whiteflies, aphids, thrips, mealy bugs, leaf rollers and scale insects
  • Controls powdery mildew, downy mildew, blight, canker, black spot and leaf spot

Made with Safe Ingredients

  • Active Ingredients: Thyme Oil, Rosemary Oil, Clove Oil, Peppermint Oil (0.31%)
  • Inert Ingredients: Water, Glycerol monooleate, Sorbitol, Isopropyl myristate, Butyl lactate, Lauric acid, Myristic acid, Palmitic acid, Stearic acid, Oleic acid (99.70%)
  • View the labels and SDS sheets here

Directions for Use

For best results, shake the bottle and fully saturate the stems and leaves of the plant you are treating, including the undersides of the leaves where bugs are often found. Do not apply in temperatures over 90 degrees and for additional safety, avoid use when pollinators are active. This product is also available in a 1-quart concentrate for larger gardens.

Available Sizes

  • 24 fl. oz. ready-to-use
  • 1 qt. concentrate (makes 3 gallons)


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By Angelo Randaci, Earth’s Ally Horticulturist

More about the author: Angelo's passion for plants has led him to explore many areas of horticulture over the last three decades including: design, grounds management, research, technical training and nursery management. Read more about Angelo's experience and credentials or ask him a question, here.

If you are interested in boosting your health and looking for food packed with nutrients that are easy on your digestive system, inexpensive, and simple to grow at home, then microgreens are for you. Microgreens are a cost-effective way to boost your nutrient intake. They’re sustainable, incredibly dense in nutrients with beneficial compounds, and often contain higher nutrient levels than more mature vegetable greens.

 Microgreens usually mature in about a week or two but factors such as light, temperature, and growing medium can enhance or delay the process. You can grow them indoors year-round and there are many ways to incorporate them into your meal plans since they offer a wide range of textures and flavors. Add them to any salad, mix them into a smoothie, add to the final stage of soup making, sandwiches, stir-fries, or for a boost of flavor to any savory dish.

What are microgreens?

Microgreens are not sprouts. The difference between them is a matter of degree of maturity. Sprouts are young shoots grown in water for 3-5 days and harvested when still pale in color or just beginning to show a hint of green. Growth is initiated by using the nutrition already present within the seed. Light is not necessary during this brief process because they are harvested before developing true leaves. The whole sprout is eaten, roots and all. The mild flavor adds texture as well as crunch to many cuisines.

Microgreens are more mature, having true leaves, stems, and roots. They are often considered a superfood because they contain key nutrients, minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants. The tops and stems are harvested by cutting them off about one inch above the roots and eaten raw.

Water: Use filtered water. Your filtered water should ideally be a pH of 6 - 6.5 but most microgreens will grow well with normal tap water that is anywhere between 6 and 7. Whatever water you use, it’s a good practice to test to see if your water is too alkaline or too acid. If after testing your water with pH strips, your pH is higher than 6.5, use a mild household acid like strained lemon juice or vinegar. To lower the pH, add 1/2 teaspoon of lemon juice to a gallon of water and stir thoroughly then recheck the pH. If still too high, continue with lemon juice until it comes down. If the pH is lower than six, which is rare, add a small amount of baking soda. Test until you reach the desired pH.

How to Grow Microgreens at Home

Water method using growing pads or mats (hydroponic):

Hydroponics is a germinating method using growing pads or mats instead of soil to provide the medium to support the microgreen roots. The matting is what the roots will grow through and into the water below. The mats and roots are kept moist throughout the growing process. Growing microgreens hydroponically is the cleanest way to grow and harvest microgreens since there are no soil particles to clean from the greens or your workspace when harvested. You can use any food-grade plastic containers that hold water for the bottom. Cut a piece of matting to fit your container. There are several growing mediums to use for matting such as coco coir, burlap, jute, hemp matting, and other types of growing mats designed especially for growing microgreens. Other options include silicone dehydrator sheets and silicone steamer liners which are all reusable. Paper towels work as an inexpensive type of matting as well.

The grow mats will accommodate any size of seeds because of the solid surface. Other types of liners with holes may not accommodate smaller seeds. Do a little research to help you decide what will work best for you. You can also purchase a microgreen growing system which includes everything you need to grow microgreens. Regardless of which method you choose, you will want to provide darkness for the seeds until they germinate.

After the seedlings sprout, roots will begin to grow through the matting. Remove the dark covering and move them to a light source so they can photosynthesize and create sugars. Adequate light (six hours of natural light or 12 hours of artificial light) encourages shorter, denser microgreens on shorter stems.

Soil Method: 

Begin by choosing a container about 2-3 inches deep with drainage holes. Choose containers that are easy to clean with smooth sides and bottoms. The containers should be food grade and BPA-free. You will want to put a tray without holes underneath the container to catch any excess water.

Next is selecting the growing medium. You can purchase an organic seed starting mix or blend your own. Seed starting mixes are finer soil blends that make it easier for seedlings to germinate and grow. To prepare your germinating trays, pre-soak your soil to make sure it is evenly moist. Soilless mixes that contain peat moss repel water when dry so be sure they are good and wet, to begin with. Add about 1.5-2 inches of soil in the tray and gently tamp it down to create an even surface. The surface should be firm, but not compacted. Gently mist the surface again with a spray bottle.

Before sowing seeds, you can pre-soak your seeds to initiate the germination phase. Pre-soaked seeds will sprout sooner and more evenly. A list of seeds benefiting from a pre-soaking are chard, beets, sunflowers, pea seeds, barley grass, wheatgrass, oat grass, and alfalfa.

While these seeds will be easier to spread evenly in your tray, smaller seeds such as kale, broccoli, radish, cabbage, and kohlrabi are more difficult to sow when wet. Sow these seeds while dry and generously mist the soil with a misting bottle.

Mucilaginous seeds (seeds that develop a gel-like coating on the outer surface of the seed upon contact with moisture) should not be pre-soaked because they will be difficult to spread on your growing medium. This list includes basil, arugula, cress, mustard, chia, and flax.

Space your seeds thinly and evenly on your soil surface and gently tamp the seeds so they make firm contact with the soil. You may cover large seeds with a thin layer of soil, but tiny seeds should not be covered. Mist them thoroughly and cover them with another tray or clear dome covered with black plastic. The seeds require both humidity and darkness to germinate. Set your tray in a warm area where the temperature is 65-75 degrees Fahrenheit and mist daily. Once the seeds begin to sprout, uncover your tray so they will receive light. They will thrive in direct sunlight, incandescent lights, or grow lights. Rotate your tray every day or so if you see your seedlings stretching for their light source. Check your seedlings daily and apply water as needed to keep the soil moist but not soggy. Your microgreens will be ready to harvest in 7 to 10 days. Harvest the greens during the early morning or evening for optimal freshness.

To harvest use scissors or a sharp knife. Clip the greens close to the surface of the soil. Rinse using a colander or similar kitchen tool in cold water and let them air dry under paper towels. If no soil is attached, then rinsing the microgreens is not necessary. Microgreens last up to two weeks in the refrigerator. They will not re-grow once harvested. Recycle your spent soil in the garden or compost pile. 

Types of Microgreens to Consider Growing

  • Alfalfa
  • Arugula
  • Barley grass
  • Beets
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Chard
  • Cilantro
  • Hamama
  • Kale
  • Kohlrabi
  • Oat grass
  • Pea seeds
  • Radish
  • Sunflowers
  • Wheatgrass

We’d love to hear how Earth’s Ally is helping you care for your microgreens and garden! Share your experience and stay connected with the #EarthsAlly community on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter for access to our latest blog posts, giveaways and exclusive promotions.

quotation mark right How to Grow Microgreens Indoors at Home
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By Angelo Randaci, Earth’s Ally Horticulturist

More about the author: Angelo's passion for plants has led him to explore many areas of horticulture over the last three decades including: design, grounds management, research, technical training and nursery management. Read more about Angelo's experience and credentials or ask him a question, here.

Across the country homes and offices, shops, and restaurants are adorned with flowering plants adding color and charm throughout the holiday season. It’s delightful to have a house filled with the fragrance of a rosemary topiary or brightened by the ruby red color of poinsettias or graced by the delicate porcelain flowers of the Christmas cactus. Although the blooms may fade with the close of the holiday season, with the proper care they can remain our companions through the winter months to reemerge next holiday season by growing them on through the summer months. This is a tradition our family started long ago and continues to enjoy year after year. The poinsettias gracing the front entrance of our home in Sarasota have been with us now for three seasons. We follow certain growing and re-blooming techniques that I will share with you here, so you too can keep your holiday plants for years to come.

Before and Aftercare of Christmas Plants

Poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima)

Poinsettias are perennials in mild climates, becoming large, leggy shrubs in their native home. They are sometimes thought of as poinsettia trees when they grow large. Color is provided by the attractive bracts that surround tiny flowers. Many people think the bracts are the poinsettia flower, but they’re modified leaves. One of the lovely features of poinsettias is their long life span. In their native habitat, they bloom as the days get shorter and then fade as the days get longer. Purchased poinsettias can maintain good color for 3-4 months well after the holiday season.

Choosing your poinsettia:

Here are a few things to look for when choosing your plant:

  • Avoid plants sprayed with glitter as this may affect plant health. Foliage should be dark green unless it is a variegated variety.
  • Avoid plants with wilted or yellow leaves.
  • Inspect plants by checking the undersides of the leaves for insect pests. 
  • Look for tight yellow, white, or green buds for flower buds. Avoid flowers showing yellow pollen because they will not provide the longest show of color.
  • Leave wrappers on the plant while transporting home to avoid cold damage but remove wrappers and sleeves, especially plants enclosed in cellophane wrappers once you get them home. They can cause premature aging due to excess buildup of ethylene and moisture.
  • Do not leave your plant in the car unattended for any length of time because temperatures below 50° F can damage them.
  • Once you get home, move your plant to a warm sunny location receiving at least 6 hours of bright indirect sunlight free of drafts.
  • Do not place your plants close to windows where they may get too much of a chill at night. Avoid hot spots like the tops of appliances or near fireplaces. Day temperatures of 65-70° F are ideal but temperatures below 60° F may cause leaf drop.

Water: Make sure the plant’s pot has drainage holes. If not, repot your plant in a similar-sized container with drainage holes. Watering frequency depends on the conditions in your home. Check the soil surface of the plant and when it feels dry to the touch, water thoroughly with tepid water. Water regularly to keep the soil lightly moist but not soggy. You may only need to water your plant once every few weeks. Yellow leaves are an indication that your plant is receiving too much water. Water until you see water draining out of the pot and never let the plant sit in standing water.  

Poinsettias react to shortening day length. This change in light exposure initiates flower bud production along with colorful bracts. Your new plant has already gone through several weeks of darkness in the greenhouse to produce its beautifully colored bracts and now the bright light of its new home will initiate further growth and color.

Aftercare: In the wild, poinsettias go through a dormancy period to survive yearly drought conditions in their native tropical dry forests of North and Central America. Likewise, in your home at some point, your plant will begin to drop its leaves and bracts. This is normal because it is going through its natural dormancy period.

Gradually reduce watering frequency when about half of the leaves have fallen off. Allow the soil to dry out gradually. Keep your plant under normal household conditions where it will receive bright, indirect light. Water sparingly, only enough to prevent stems from shriveling. Newer varieties of poinsettias are bred for lasting flowers that may last well into March. In this case, dormancy will be short before new growth begins.

Once your plant initiates new growth, repot in fresh well-draining potting soil. Choose a pot that is roughly one size larger. Give it a complete watering and place it in a bright area. Fertilize with a house plant fertilizer around the first of March according to label recommendations. You can place them outdoors in a bright partially shaded area when nighttime temperatures remain above 60° F.

Commercial growers treat their poinsettias for Christmas with a growth regulator to maintain compact, bushy plants. Though you will not achieve the same look as commercially grown plants, you can create bushy plants by pruning old stems in late spring. Cut stems back to four or six inches in height leaving one to three leaves on each stem. Pruning will produce new compact growth. As the day length becomes shorter in early fall, your plant will begin producing colorful bracts.

Fall: Coloring up of the bracts involves your plant receiving approximately 10 weeks of 13-14 hours of complete darkness and 6 hours of bright indirect sunlight. Begin this process sometime between mid-September and early October. In the wild, poinsettias receive complete darkness naturally at nighttime but plants in the home must be in a room with complete darkness for 13-14 hours. Once your plant has beautifully colored bracts (around early December), it is ready to be moved among your other festive holiday décor.

If you live in hardiness zones 9-11 and practice proper poinsettia care, you can grow your plants outdoors year-round.

Toxicity: Poinsettias emit a milky sap that oozes from the leaves and stems when broken. This milky sap may irritate people with a latex allergy or sensitive skin.

Poinsettias are considered mildly toxic to pets and people. Most people would have to eat five hundred leaves to reach even a potentially toxic dose. Some people are more sensitive and may experience nausea, vomiting or diarrhea if accidentally ingested. To date, there are no confirmed or documented cases of anyone dying or becoming gravely ill but be sure to wear gloves when handling plant parts and especially when pruning. The ASPCA lists[AWG1]  this plant as poisonous to dogs and cats and that it is irritating to the mouth and stomach, sometimes causing vomiting.

Insect Pests: The number one insect pest problem is whiteflies. Other pests include mealybugs, thrips, and spider mites.

Christmas Cactus (Schlumbergera bridgesii)

The Christmas cactus plant is not a true desert cactus but is classified as a tropical cactus originating from Brazil’s shady, humid rain forests. In their native land, they grow as epiphytes on trees, shrubs, or among rocks in shade. Although we cannot completely replicate these conditions, providing the correct amount of water, light, food, and rest will assure success through the holiday season.

Watering: Because Christmas cactus is considered a tropical cactus and not a desert cactus, your plant will not tolerate completely dry soil. Water when the top inch of soil feels dry to the touch. Less water is better than too much water. If your plant is outdoors in a dry climate, you may need to water every 2-3 days. If in a humid, cool, or indoor environment watering once a week may be sufficient. As a rule, water less frequently during the fall and winter months to promote blooming.

Aftercare: Your Christmas cactus should bloom around February-March. After it’s finished, water sparingly for six weeks to allow the plant to rest. Water just enough to keep stems from shriveling.

In April-June the dormancy period will be over and new growth will appear. Begin your watering cycle again, adding water only when the top one inch or so of soil is dry to the touch. Check the roots of your container to be sure your plant is not pot bound and if so repot or top-dress your existing pot with fresh potting mix. Your potting mix must be well-draining. A succulent potting mix works well for repotting. When actively growing, apply a houseplant fertilizer at half the recommended rate monthly. You can prune your plant in late spring to encourage branching.

Move your plant outdoors in summer in a bright well-lit but partially shaded area. Avoid afternoon full sun. During July-August reduce watering, allowing the soil to dry between watering but not to where the stems shrivel. Move the plant indoors before temperatures drop below 50° F after inspecting for insect pests. Water sparingly, until you see signs of new flower buds, then increase watering to keep soil evenly moist. Avoid overwatering and do not add fertilizer at this time.

A Christmas cactus will produce flowers during cool temperatures (60 to 65°F) along with short days. Keeping in a cool area for six weeks will promote flower bud formation. Once new buds have formed, move your plant to a well-lighted area and water when the top one-third of soil is dry to the touch. Proper Christmas cactus care can help your plant successfully live an extremely long time and propagate new plants.

Toxicity: Christmas Cactus is not toxic to humans and pets.

Insect Pests: Pests include aphids, mealybugs, spider mites, scale, thrips, and whiteflies.

Amaryllis (Amaryllis belladonna)

Before discussing the aftercare of your amaryllis bulb, I want to give you a few tips on selecting bulbs. Amaryllis are often sold around the holidays as part of a kit containing a bulb, pot, and growing mix. They are ready to bloom, just add light and water. But before you purchase, open the box and inspect the bulb. Look for a bulb that has a bud tip showing. The taller the bud, the sooner it will bloom. If you only see leaves, your plant may not bloom. If it has both leaves and a flower bud, do not remove the leaves because these leaves will help the bulb make food after it blooms. The containers provided in the kit often do not have drainage holes. If this is the case, be very careful your bulb does not sit in soggy soil. My preference is to plant it in a container with ample drainage. Another option is to purchase loose bulbs. Look for the largest bulb for the variety. You will often have choices on size with the larger bulbs displaying more flowers.

Amaryllis Care after blooming: Your bulb may send up one to three flower stems. Once flowering is finished, prune the spent flower stems to about ½” from the bulb but do not remove healthy leaves. After your amaryllis blooms, it will need its leaves to make sugars for next year’s flowering show. Place your plant in bright light. Water to keep the soil lightly moist. Move it outdoors when night temperatures remain above 50°F. Repot your bulb in a slightly larger pot that drains well. Replant at the same depth it was in its original container. You can nestle it in your garden among your other plants. Fertilize once a month with a balanced fertilizer following label recommendations. Bring your plant indoors before the first frost and remove all the foliage 1-2 inches from the top of the bulb. Place it in a dry, dark area of your home and allow it to rest for ten to twelve weeks. At this time, it will go into dormancy. Do not water. After ten to twelve weeks, place it in bright light and water your plant. Once new leaves appear, you can place your plant on a regular watering schedule. Planted bulbs in zones 8b and higher can remain in your garden and will bloom naturally in the spring without any special care, but in colder zones, they must be brought indoors before the danger of frost.

Toxicity: All species of the Amaryllis family are toxic; all flowers, bulbs, and stems.

Insect pests: Pests include aphids and mealybugs.

Rosemary Tree (Salvia rosmarinus)

Most garden centers sell rosemary Christmas trees as a festive ornamental addition to the holidays. These plants are functional as well as ornamental when used in culinary dishes. You can keep your rosemary going through the holiday season and beyond by following a few crucial steps to assure your plant will make it through the holiday season and into the growing season.

There is a good chance your newly purchased plant will be root-bound. Growers tend to grow these plants in the smallest possible containers for ease of shipping. Remove the rosemary from its pot and inspect the roots when you get your plant home. If you see only a small amount of soil for the roots to grow in, move to a bigger pot. Choose a pot that is approximate twice the size of its original container and be sure it has plenty of drainage holes. A terra-cotta pot is best because it will wick moisture through the sides of the pot and keep roots from staying too wet. Use a well-drained potting mix and water thoroughly. Water again when the top few inches of soil are dry to the touch. Rosemary plants are very moisture sensitive so be careful that it does not dry out. Unlike many other plants once rosemary dries out it will most likely not recover.

If your plant is not root-bound, you can wait until new growth begins in the spring to move it to a larger pot. Once new growth appears, you can begin pruning to the desired shape. It will eventually return to its natural habit of a shrub form if not pruned. You can move your plant outdoors anytime the temperatures are 40° F. and above but bring it back indoors in the evening if a frost is expected. Move it outdoors when temperatures remain above 40°F. gradually introducing it to the full summer sun. Rosemary plants can endure outdoor temperatures from hardiness zones 8 and up. The variety ‘Arp’ will tolerate zone 7 conditions.

Toxicity: Rosemary is an edible herb and is not toxic to neither humans nor pets.

Pests and diseases: Insect pests include aphids, thrips, whiteflies, mealybugs, and scale. Diseases include powdery and downy mildew, botrytis, and root rots.

Christmas Peppers (Capsicum annuum)

Christmas Peppers are ornamental garden peppers or chili peppers grown during the holidays for their colorful fruits that somewhat resemble Christmas lights. The fruits change colors as they mature from green to yellow to orange to red or purple depending on the variety.

Christmas peppers were popular as far back as the 16th century as holiday ornamental plants along with poinsettias. Although not as popular as poinsettias are today, they provide a distinctive look for cheerful holiday displays. You can sometimes find them this time of year in garden centers, but they are easy to grow from seeds. Sow seeds toward the end of August in a well-draining potting mix. Give them a very bright light or full sun for the best growth. Pinch new growth to encourage branching.

If you grow them outdoors, be sure to bring them indoors before temperatures drop below the 50s. Use them for displays until after Christmas, then place them in a bright sunny window or under fluorescent lights to keep them going through the winter. They may stop growing and flowering if in low light conditions but will resume new growth when planted outdoors in the garden after the danger of frost in your area.

They make great unusual gifts during the holidays, especially if plants are hard to find in your area.

Toxicity: Caution: These peppers are edible, but the fruits are fiery hot. The juice from them can cause painful burning of the eyes and mouth just like any other hot pepper if fruits are handled, so be sure to wash your hands thoroughly if touching the fruits.

Pests: Inspect for whiteflies and aphids.

Cyclamen (Cyclamen persicum)

Cyclamens are easy-care houseplants that will bloom throughout the winter months. When purchasing, choose one with healthy-looking leaves and lots of buds that are just beginning to open. Cyclamens need cool temperatures below 70° F. to continue blooming. Warmer temperatures send the plant into dormancy while cooler temperatures signal new growth. Give it bright, indirect light in a cool room and water when the soil is slightly dry. Avoid getting water on the leaves and in the center of the tuber. Fertilize at ¼ teaspoon per gallon once every few weeks while in bloom. Remove spent flowers by removing the entire flower stalk where it attaches to the tuber.

Aftercare: When cyclamens stop blooming, leaves will turn yellow. The plant is very much alive but going dormant. Gradually reduce water, remove all dead foliage, and set outdoors in partial shade. Provide only enough water to keep the soil from completely drying out until new leaves emerge in the fall. When the new leaves emerge, repot in well-drained potting soil, bring indoors, and keep your plant cool throughout its blooming period. Repeat steps above for indoor care.

Toxicity: Cyclamen is toxic to pets and humans, especially when tubers and roots are eaten. A large amount of the plant would need to be ingested for serious symptoms to develop.

Pests: Cyclamen mites are the most serious problem.

Tips for long-lasting holiday plants:

  • Before you head to the store, research your desired plants to make sure they’ll be safe for your needs. Depending on your family situation, plants that are toxic for humans or pets may be a hazard you need to avoid.
  • Carefully examine the plants at the store to make sure you’re purchasing a healthy specimen.
  • Determine if the pot or growing environment your plant came with is ideal for its growing needs, or for the supplier’s shipping and retail needs. Repot if needed. This is a great time to also double-check your plant to see if it has any unwanted pests or diseases.
  • If your plant needs help with bugs or fungus, spray Earth’s Ally 3-in-1 Plant Spray to help kill and repel. Unlike many holiday plants, Earth’s Ally is safe for people and pets when used as directed.
  • Follow the dormancy and reproduction cycles that are natural for your plant rather than try and force it to produce out-of-season.

We’d love to hear how Earth’s Ally is helping you care for your holiday houseplants! Share your experience and stay connected with the #EarthsAlly community on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter for access to our latest blog posts, giveaways and exclusive promotions.

quotation mark right Holiday Plant Care Through the Seasons
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By Angelo Randaci, Earth’s Ally Horticulturist

More about the author: Angelo's passion for plants has led him to explore many areas of horticulture over the last three decades including: design, grounds management, research, technical training and nursery management. Read more about Angelo's experience and credentials or ask him a question, here.

Angelo’s Grocery Store Hack

My mother made the best spaghetti sauce from a recipe used as a girl in Sicily. She started with thick sauce from tomatoes grown in our garden. As she cooked down the tomatoes into sauce, she added handfuls of fresh herbs: basil, thyme, savory, and parsley. Our family loved having fresh herbs straight from our garden from spring right through fall. There is nothing like fresh herbs for cooking. The aroma of the herbs filling the air as they begin to blend is exquisite. Experiencing all these fragrances together is the best part of cooking, so having a kitchen herb garden is one of the best things a cook can do to flavor up their dishes. With herbs grown in containers lining a patio, or raised beds and garden rows, you will expand your recipe palette with a substantial variety of readily available flavors. It is possible to enjoy a selection of fresh herbs throughout the winter months as well, from fresh herbs you can find at most grocery stores. Following just a few simple steps, you can successfully grow an array of delightful herbs.

How to Propagate Herbs

Of all the propagating techniques, rooting cuttings in water is the easiest method, especially for beginners. This method works particularly well for soft-stemmed herbs. Simply follow these easy steps.

First gather your tools and choose your containers. All you need is a pair of sharp scissors or other sharp cutting tool, rubbing alcohol to sanitize your tools prior to using and when finished, clean water and a collection of bottles or jars. When rooting cuttings in water, it is best to use either a dark colored bottle or cover a clear glass bottle with dark plastic. Using dark bottles along with changing the water in the bottle every few days, will keep algae from growing in the water. The dark bottles mimic underground conditions, where roots live.

Among the easiest herbs to grow in water are plants with tender herbaceous stems as opposed to stems that have gone woody with age. The list of easily rooted herbs includes basil, mint, rosemary, oregano, pineapple sage, lemon balm, and winter savory.

Once you have containers, it’s time to buy your herb cuttings at your local grocery store. Look for packages that contain healthy, long, green stems. Avoid bunches with woody stems, dried up or blackened leaves.

Prepare your cuttings immediately after getting them home. After cleaning and sanitizing your cutting tool, take a stem cutting (make a fresh cut) 3 or 4 inches long depending on the size of your container. Remove leaves from the lower two-thirds of the stem.

Make an angled cut, just below a leaf node. The leaf node is where the leaves join the stem of the plant. You want to do this for all your cuttings. See the image above for reference.

Put cuttings in your container filled with clean water keeping the leaves above the water level and place in an area receiving bright light. Change water every few days.

Easy Herbs to Propagate

Basils:  This includes all the basils. Some, such as Thai basil, may be difficult to find in the grocery store, but you can find bunches in your local Asian market. Stem cuttings will root easily in water either from a plant you purchase or pack of fresh herbs. Make sure you purchase basil with stems because the leaves alone will not root.

Mints:  All mints including spearmint, peppermint, lemon balm, and catmint will root easily in water. I like to throw in a few fresh mint leaves with my tea bag. As a treat for your kitty, you can grow catnip the same as the other mints. The mints are perennials and will grow back from the roots every year. Mints can be invasive outdoors so best contain your plants with a barrier to keep runners from traveling throughout your garden.

Chives, garlic chives, garlic, and spring onions:  This group of plants are grown from bulbs rather than cuttings. Look for bulbs with roots still attached to the base in the organic produce section of your local store.

Snip off the leaves to about three inches above the bulb. Place in container and add water. Keep the water line halfway up the bulb. Cut fresh leaves from new growth as needed. Plant bulbs outdoors in the spring in the herb garden, vegetable garden, or anywhere in the landscape. They are hardy perennials and will come back every year. They provide abundant edible flowers outdoors and as a bonus attract pollinators.

Tips for Growing Herbs Indoors:

  • Handle your cuttings carefully when stripping lower leaves. Pull too hard and you may break the stem. Scissors work well for removing leaves without breaking stems. Take a few cuttings because some may not root.
  • At some point, your herbs should be transplanted into a potting soil so they can receive nutrients needed for sustained growth. Potted herbs in the spring will be ready to plant outdoors when soil temperatures warm after danger of frost.
  • Your kitchen herbs will grow well under artificial lights all winter.
  • Keep an eye on pest problems that may arise. Earth’s Ally 3-in-1 Plant Spray controls bugs and common diseases. The formula is for organic gardening and can be applied to herbs up until the day of harvest. 
  • You can also purchase “living herbs” from your supermarket. These are fresh herbs with roots attached, sold in small containers. They consist of multiple seedlings in a bunch and should be divided. Gently pull the root ball apart leaving each division with three or so plants. Transplant them in fresh potting soil immediately after purchase. Keep them in bright light until they can be moved to the garden.
  • Herbs such as the basils and summer savory are annuals and will not return after one season in the garden. Take cuttings while the plants are still healthy before the end of the growing season to grow indoors. Experiment with this technique on different plants from your garden, both indoors and out.

We’d love to hear how Earth’s Ally is helping you grow healthy herbs! Share your experience and stay connected with the #EarthsAlly community on FacebookInstagram and Twitter for access to our latest blog posts, giveaways and exclusive promotions.

quotation mark right Growing Herbs From Cuttings
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By Angelo Randaci, Earth’s Ally Master Gardener and Horticulture Expert

Angelo’s Favorite Throwback Plants

A Brief History of Houseplants

In the 1970s, houseplants were a craze.  They experienced a decorative revival fashioned off the lavish lifestyle of the Roaring 1920s. But houseplants used as home accents can be traced all the way back to the Greek, Roman and even Egyptian eras when families decorated their homes and courtyards with specimens gathered from the local fields and woods. It was during the 1800s that an English doctor and amateur horticulturist, Dr. Nathaniel Bagshaw Ward made

a discovery. He discovered that plants enclosed in a sealed glass case would be protected against this toxic environment.  His glass case would also allow plants to survive for long periods of time without water.  As a result, plant explorers could collect plant specimens from exotic locations around the world. Plant enthusiasts would bring these new plants into their gardens, into the conservatories and into their homes. They were called Wardian cases but are now known as terrariums.   

By the 1960’s a new movement began after the publishing of Racheal Carlson’s New York Times best seller Silent Spring in 1962.  Her book raised public awareness about the degradation happening through our chemical farming and gardening practices.  In 1970s the first Earth Day was born which further encouraged a rise in environmental awareness.  

With all the environmental awareness stirring underneath the societal surface many people turned to a stunning selection of their favorite vintage plants to regenerate their nature connection within both their outdoor and indoor living areas.  Outdoors, elaborate perennial gardens beautified their yards. Indoors, homes were decorated with an array of indoor plants either hanging near windows or sitting atop the kitchen table.  Vintage garden plants have stood the test of time. This list is just a few of my favorite vintage indoor plants.

6 Throwback Houseplants

African Violet (Saintpaulia ionantha)

Non-toxic to children and pets

African violets were one of those long ago collected varieties that became a favorite plant for a time during the ’70s.  Their petite purple, pink and red bell-shaped flowers on tiny compact plants were irresistible. African violets, although having a reputation for being a bit fussy, became a collectors delight with the resurgence of the Wardian case and were one of the most popular houseplants throughout the ’70s.  They remain one of the world’s most popular and beautiful houseplants today.  Their delicate flowers symbolize feminine energy, adding joy and love to your home.  When properly cared for they are easy houseplants that flower all year long, given bright light, in warm humid conditions and are especially suited to growing under lights.  Water with room-temperature water because cold water shocks the roots and causes leaf spots. Avoid getting water on the leaves.  Repot as necessary in a well-draining African violet potting mix.  Fertilize with an African violet fertilizer following label recommendations.  Cyclamen mites and mealybugs are the most common pests.

Cape Primrose (Streptocarpus sp.

Non-toxic to children and pets

Another member of the African Violet family is Streptocarpus.  The name Streptocarpus is derived from the Greek word streptos, describing the twisted seed capsule.  Carpus simply means fruit. The most popular common name is Cape Primrose, taken from its origins in the Cape region of South Africa.   Cape Primroses display a dazzling array of flowers on sturdy stems, borne well above the leathery elongated leaves. Prior to the 1970s the main flower colors were blue and white, but in 1972, seven new varieties were introduced bringing new colors of reds, magenta, purples and pinks.  

Cape Primrose growing requirements are similar to African violets, but not as challenging.  Grow them in an organic potting mix formulated for African violets.  This mix will encourage healthy foliage as well as beautiful blooms.  Position them in an area receiving bright light but never in full sun because the foliage can easily be damaged.  Temperatures around 70°F are ideal.  Fertilize with a weak solution of African violet fertilizer during periods of active growth but feed regularly to maintain a steady supply of nutrients.   Allow your plants to dry out slightly before watering to avoid root rot and never let them sit in water.  Aphids and mealybugs are the main insect pests. 

Jade Plant (Crassula ovata)

Mildly toxic to children but extremely toxic to pets

Jade plants were trendy during the 1970s and were one of the most popular houseplants grown.  Also known as money plants, people considered them good luck, bringing wealth, prosperity, and good fortune. You don’t need luck or good fortune to grow jade plants though and by following a few simple guidelines, the same guidelines for growing most succulents, your jade plant will thrive for many years.

Jade plants require bright, natural sunlight to flourish. In low light situations they grow spindly, stretching for the sunlight.  Jade plants, like other succulents, store water in their stems and leaves. For this reason, they can survive for long periods without water and may only need water once every couple of weeks during summer and even less during winter months.  Mealybugs and scale pests often hide under leaves and stems. Earth’s Ally Insect Control is a safe and effective spray for treatment when these pests pop up.

Spider Plant (Chlorophytum comosum)  

Non-toxic to children and pets

The 1970s also spawned a new fad of macramé plant hangers and spider plants were their main recipients because of the lovely little sports grown at the ends of cascading foliage.  The hangers cradled the plants beautifully and enhanced the tumbling foliage, each stem carrying a baby “spider” at the tip.  They thrived on very little attention hanging from ceilings and rafters of homes and businesses.  It is said this plant brings abundance into the home and serves as a symbol of renewal as well as making connections with others.  Spider plants are one of the most adaptable houseplants and will grow in many varied environments around your home with minimal care.  Provide them with a well-drained potting mix and an area receiving bright, indirect light.  Allow them to dry out slightly between watering periods and never let them sit in water.  Spider plants are sensitive to fluoride and chlorine in tap water, which may cause browning of the leaf tips.  Avoid this issue by watering with rainwater, filtered or distilled water.  A few common pests of spider plants are aphids, whiteflies, and spider mites.  

English Ivy (Hedera helix)

Toxic to children and pets

In 1989, ivy sales increased when NASA listed English Ivy as an air purifier to absorb formaldehyde and was reputed to reduce airborne molds by up to 94%.  But English ivy was popular long before that as part of the houseplant craze during the ’70s. There were many favorite varieties and different forms climbing indiscriminately throughout many homes. English Ivy is a symbol of devoted attachment, dedication and affection towards partners or friends.  Ivy wreaths were given to married couples as a symbol of fidelity as well as symbolizing faithfulness between people bound by trust and duty.  Having one in your home meant prosperity.  They were sold in most nurseries and even hospital gift shops where they were given as gifts to cheer up patients. They tolerate low light, but a bright light out of direct sun will assure vibrant growth.   Avoid overwatering as this will cause root rot.  The main pests of English ivy are spider mites and mealybugs which will thrive in the warm, dry, home environment.  

Devil’s Ivy (Epipremnum aureum)

Toxic to children and pets

Pothos is known as a lucky plant which will bring its owner wealth and good fortune.  I’ve seen them hanging from the ceiling in one of Sarasota’s local coffee shops where a half dozen or so plants are suspended in hanging pots.  Pothos is as common now as it was back then.  It is still widely used in homes as well as business establishments for good reason.  It is one of the easiest plants to grow tolerating low light, humidity, and even a touch of neglect for periods of time.  Grow them in any well-drained potting soil.  Allow them to dry out a bit between watering cycles.  Mealybugs, spider mites and scales are common pests of this plant.

Vintage Houseplants Worthy of Honorable Mention

This is just a small list of the many types of houseplants still well-worthy of home and office.

  • Prayer Plant (Maranta leuconeura)
  • Hoya (Hoya sp.)
  • Boston Ferns and others
  • Begonias; Rex Begonia, Tuberous Begonias and others
  • Pepperomias
  • Sansievierias
  • Goldfish Plant (Columnea gloriosa)
  • Grape Ivy (Cissus rhombifolia)
  • Swiss Cheese Plant (Monstera adansonii)
  • Tradescantia sp.
  • Pregnant Onion (Ornithogalum lonibracteatum)
  • Dracaena sp.
  • And many more…

Retro Houseplant Tips

While this list contains just a few of the most popular plants during the 1970s, many new varieties exist today. Look for new colors and forms of your favorite oldies. Explore the many types of plants.

  • Wherever you see healthy houseplants growing, observe the conditions in which they grow. It will give you a good idea of where your plant would be happy.
  • Put your plants outside during warm summer months (out of direct sunlight).  Remember that houseplants are happiest outdoors where they belong.
  • Chopsticks work well for tamping soil around smaller pots when repotting.  Save your chopsticks after eating at your favorite oriental restaurant.
  • Do not fertilize your plants when the soil is dry as this may cause damage to roots and leaves. Water your plants first with plain water, then follow up with a feeding.
  • Growing houseplants under lights makes a great hobby.  Flowering plants such as African Violets and Cape Primroses will reward you with flowers all winter long.
  • When planting more than one species of plants together in the same pot, make sure they share the same cultural requirements. 
  • Improving your indoor air circulation will keep diseases and insect pests to a minimum.   Humidity is best increased by a humidifier. It is better for your health as well.
  • Inspect plants before you purchase for insects or disease. Inspect your houseplants regularly as well.  A magnifying lens and preventative applications of Earth’s Ally Insect and Disease Control will make the job much easier.   
  • Complete growing instructions are not given here. Research the plants you wish to add to your collection before you buy.
  • Avoid softened water, which is too salty and may damage your plants.

We’d love to hear how Earth’s Ally is helping you grow healthy houseplants! Share your experience and stay connected with the #EarthsAlly community on FacebookInstagram and Twitter for access to our latest blog posts, giveaways and exclusive promotions.

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By Angelo Randaci, Earth’s Ally Horticulturist

More about the author: Angelo's passion for plants has led him to explore many areas of horticulture over the last three decades including: design, grounds management, research, technical training and nursery management. Read more about Angelo's experience and credentials or ask him a question, here.

How to Bring Plants Inside  

Temperatures will soon drop to 50°F degrees and below in many parts of the country.   Since most houseplants originated from the tropics, they cannot withstand sudden changes in temperature.  Because light and humidity conditions are so drastically different, gradual acclimating from outside to inside conditions is preferred. 

As days get shorter, the natural reduction of light is beneficial to your plants acclimating to lower light conditions in your home. Cooler outdoor temperatures however may cause shock, wilting, and leaf drop.  A gradual acclimating over a few weeks will help your plants adjust to their new indoor environment.  Begin the process by bringing your plants inside at night.  Put them back outside during the day, gradually increasing their time indoors over the next few weeks.  Keep a close watch on weather conditions to protect from a sudden cold spell or frost.

Inspect your plants before bringing them inside. Prune long, leggy stems. Remove the plant from its pot and inspect roots. Healthy roots should be either white, green, or tan.  Soil should have an earthy scent. Foul smelling soil is an indication of root rot from poorly draining soil, overwatering, or fungus.  Check for insect pests. Check the undersides of leaves for spider mites, aphids, and mealybugs.  A hand lens is helpful to spot tiny pests. Treat with Earth’s Ally Insect Control to combat any soft-bodied insects.

Repot into the next size larger container in a well-draining quality potting mix.  If repotting in the same container, give the pot a good scrubbing to kill any diseases or pests.  Avoid potting mixes that contain fertilizer, while fertilizer is helpful to plant growth during summer months, fertilizing during periods of slow growth may be detrimental.  If your plants are actively growing, use a low strength liquid houseplant fertilizer following label directions.    

Humidity: Indoor conditions are generally dry due to heating sources in the home.  A humidifier is the best way to raise humidity.  Grouping plants together will also add humidity around the plants.  

Healthy Water Sources: The quality of your tap water depends on where you live.  Some plants are sensitive to chemicals added to tap water such as chlorine and fluoride which may cause brown tips or spots on leaves.  Some water can cause minerals such as calcium and magnesium salts to accumulate in soil.  Avoid using water treated with water softeners because the added sodium may severely damage your plants.

Oxygen in Water: Well-draining soil provides oxygen to plant roots, but water also provides oxygen content.  Higher oxygen content in water is beneficial to plant growth.  Cool water contains higher oxygen than warm water and rainwater has the highest levels of oxygen.  The best water for your plants is therefore rainwater. If rainwater is not available, use distilled, filtered, or bottled water.

Light: The amount of light you provide is the difference between success and failure. Group your plants according to their lighting needs.  Plants receiving insufficient light will lean toward their light source with pale leaves, weak stems, and little new growth.  Plants receiving too much light will be extremely compact.  In this case, leaves may curl under or develop yellow patches.  A south-facing window will supply maximum light. A west-facing exposure is the next best choice.  If you have inadequate light, consider a grow light system. Many attractive grow light options are available that will add aesthetic appeal to your indoor surroundings.  

Helpful Tips:

  • Clean windows to maximize light intensity on your plants.
  • Determine where your plants will go.  If you have plants in hanging pots, decide where to place ceiling hooks.  Other plants will require shelf space. Make sure your shelves are wide enough to accommodate the containers.  Decide on type of trays to put underneath your plants to collect excess water.  You might not want to keep all your outdoor plants, especially if space is limited.  Just think of the fun you will have buying new plants in the spring.
  • A windowsill in your kitchen is a perfect place to grow your favorite herbs within easy reach for cooking. Make sure you either have adequate light such as a south facing window or by the addition of a grow light.  If your herbs become leggy or stretch toward the light source, more light is necessary.
  • Take cuttings of annuals from your garden.  Impatiens, coleus, and begonias, cut back and exposed to bright light, will extend your season. 
  • Some plants that you bring indoors will drop their leaves naturally due to reduced light and their new environment.  Be patient.  They may grow new leaves acclimated to the new conditions.
  • Grow lights expand your growing options.  They can be placed anywhere you want to show off your plants.  A simple grow light stand will allow you to enjoy your gardening hobby throughout cold winter days.
  • Inspect your plants regularly for pests and diseases and treat with Earth’s Ally Insect Control and Earth’s Ally Disease Control as needed. The formulas can be used both outdoors and indoors, and are safe for people, pets and the planet.
  • Protect plants from cold windowsills, especially at night.
  • Give plants a quarter turn toward your light source each week to promote symmetrical growth.
  • Do an internet search for a list of toxic plants before you bring them indoors.  Some plants may not be suitable inside your home. They may cause allergies or are toxic to children and pets. 
  • If you use tap water to water your plants, it is a good idea to periodically replace the tap water with rainwater, filtered water, or distilled water to flush out any contaminants in the tap water. Do this once a month or so.

Tips for Planting and Replanting in Clay Pots:

  • Clay pots will help remove excess moisture from the soil and guard against overwatering.  If reusing a clay pot, first clean out the soil. A stiff wire brush works great for this step. Next, soak the pot in a 1:4 ratio of vinegar to water to remove minerals that build up in the clay or soak in soapy water overnight.  
  • Soak your pot in water for 30 minutes or so to absorb water.  This will help prevent your newly potted plant from losing water through the clay.  Once repotted, water your plant generously until water comes out of the drainage hole.  
  • Use plastic saucers underneath your pots instead of clay.  Clay saucers will transpire water and stain surfaces.
  • Do not leave clay pots outdoors in cold climates.  Freezing/thawing temperatures can crack your pots.

We’d love to hear how Earth’s Ally is helping you grow healthy plants, both outdoors and in your home! Share your experience and stay connected with the #EarthsAlly community on FacebookInstagram and Twitter for access to our latest blog posts, giveaways and exclusive promotions.

quotation mark right Bringing Houseplants Indoors for Winter
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By Angelo Randaci, Earth’s Ally Horticulturist

More about the author: Angelo's passion for plants has led him to explore many areas of horticulture over the last three decades including: design, grounds management, research, technical training and nursery management. Read more about Angelo's experience and credentials or ask him a question, here.

Seed Saving Primer

My first experience of seed saving was my early years of gardening with my father. My Dad was from Sicily where most people grew much of their own food and used flowers to splash colors across the neighborhoods.  He saved seeds from his marigolds, zinnias, impatiens, foxgloves, columbines, and Italian basil. Herbs and rare veggies were a large portion of the garden.  We used every plant in the garden to either flavor food, eat as the main course or bring color and life to our yard. My Dad saved the seeds of a special variety of sauce making heirloom tomatoes his mother sent from Italy, and we ate the delicious sauce made from those tomatoes all winter long. We used a small room in our basement where we kept each year’s seed crop safe, dry, and cool.   

Many plants will self-seed naturally so collecting and saving seeds needs a bit of special care if you wish to maintain purity of any certain variety.  The following is a beginner’s guide to seed saving; terms, collecting, storage and plenty of tips to help you.  

Why Save Garden Seeds?

Old garden variety heirloom plants are often difficult to find and saving seeds is a way to preserve a variety.  Many plants available one year, may disappear the next.  Saving seeds of your favorite varieties will offer a steady supply of useful seeds.

If you need a large quantity of plants, collecting seeds will save money as opposed to buying individual plants.  If you want to incorporate 20 foxglove plants into your garden, buying 20 plants can be costly when compared to collecting seeds from one of your established plants.  Seeds saved from your garden plants will be better adapted to your own growing conditions. And it’s fun because you can get into cross pollination of your favorite flowers to develop different colors and forms.

Open Pollinated vs. Hybrids

To understand what and when of saving seeds, let’s begin with the two categories of plants. Open pollinated (also called heir loom or self-pollinated) and hybrids.

  • Open pollinated plants: Open pollinated plants are those pollinated by insects, birds, wind, etc. or human hands. They will grow true from seed, and seedlings will be exact replicas of their parents.  Examples include heirloom tomatoes, beans, peas, and other vegetables as well as an assortment of flowering plants such as foxgloves, sweet Williams, marigolds, and many others.  Open-pollinated plants can and often do, cross-pollinate with other members of their species by wind or insects. When this happens, you may lose your original open-pollinated variety. It is possible to obtain different colors or forms, but seeds may or may not grow identical to the parent plants.   
  • Hybrids: Seeds from hybridized plants, unlike open-pollinated plants may share characteristics of either or both parents and will not come true from collected seeds.  To maintain an exact clone of a hybrid, you would need to propagate hybrid plants from cuttings, or purchase seed every year.

Collecting Seeds

Be sure to collect seeds from the healthiest plants in your garden. If you are looking to improve certain traits such as biggest fruits, collect seeds from the biggest fruits. The same is true for other traits you wish to see improved such as disease resistance, color, form, habit, and size. Collect seeds with the desirable attributes when they are viable. This means they need to be fully ripened, or they may not germinate. The optimal time to collect seeds is most often after the plant has flowered or produced fruits and the seeds are left to fully mature. By this time, the original plants have finished their growing cycle for the season.  Seeds that grow in pods are not ready to collect until the pods turn brown and begin to split open.  Harvest marigold seeds when the flowers dry out on the plants.  Seeds of corn should dry on their cobs while still in the garden. Always check for specific time-table instructions for each variety you are interested in collecting.

Long Term Seed Storage

Seeds must be dry to avoid mold during storage.  Extract any seeds enveloped in pulp, spread them out on screens, and provide air flow to hasten the process.  Seeds of marigolds and zinnias can be removed from their spent flowers and placed in a paper bag in a cool dark place.  Don’t forget to label your seed storage containers.

Helpful Tips for Seed Saving

  • Plants that self-seed such as columbines, forget-me-nots, and sweet Williams will germinate in the soil near the parent plants.  They can easily be transplanted from one spot and moved to another or let them naturalize throughout the garden.  No seed saving is necessary in this case.
  • Collecting seeds from zinnias and marigolds are among the easiest to collect and germinate.  They are great for beginners as well as peas and beans.  
  • Share your seeds with other gardeners, neighbors, and friends. Seed exchanges can be a fun social event.
  • Be sure to incorporate pollinator plants in your garden. You can easily obtain a list of pollinator plants for your area. 
  • If you are a beginner, keep it simple by planting one variety per species. This is a good way to avoid cross-pollination.
  • Know how pollination occurs of different plants.  Some plants are called “selfers” and they will self-pollinate before the flowers open and limit success with cross-pollination. Some are pollinated by insects and others are wind pollinated.
  • Become acquainted with botanical names; genus, and species of the plants you grow.  This will help you avoid cross-pollination between two different varieties within the same species.  Some species of plants will cross-pollinate, and some will not.  A little research will go a long way.  Know if you are growing an annual, biennial or perennial.  Biennials, for instance may not set seeds until their second year of growth.

Tips for Cross Pollinated Plants:

  • Plant only one variety of a species. If you are planting different varieties, they will need to be separated by distance.  Planting one variety separated by another may provide enough distance to avoid cross pollination. 
  • Separate one variety from another by using a physical barrier.  A row cover can be used to avoid cross pollination.  Cover one variety and allow enough time for pollination of the other variety.  Then repeat the process with the covered variety.

We’d love to hear how Earth’s Ally is helping you grow healthy, organic gardens. Share your experience and stay connected with the #EarthsAlly community on FacebookInstagram and Twitter for access to our latest blog posts, giveaways and exclusive promotions.

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