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Gardening

The Uncommon Life

10 Easy to Grow Succulents for Every Home [Infographic]

October 6, 2016

Indoor Succulent Advice | UncommonGoods

With fall in full swing it’s time to spruce up your indoor gardening game. If you’re hoping for an easy and beautiful indoor garden sanctuary try succulents. Succulent plants come in a variety of shapes, colors, and sizes, suitable to all kinds of interior spaces. Easily identified by their juicy leaves and stems, these plants aren’t just pretty—they’re designed to hold water during droughts. Good news for the forgetful gardener: succulents are resilient, hardy, and versatile.

But with thousands of varieties to choose from, it’s hard to know which types of succulents are right for your indoor space. Low levels of natural light and cooler temperatures mean you’ll need to adjust how much water and fertilizer you use. Some adapt to hanging planters and terrariums better than others and some indoor succulents can even be toxic to your pets. When you get right down to it, there is a lot to know about succulent care! That’s why we’ve researched and compiled a list of 10 favorite indoor succulents to brighten up your home this fall.

The 10 Best Indoor Succulents | Indoor Plant Tips | UncommonGoods

Thanksgiving Catcus | UncommonGoods Continue Reading…

Maker Stories

This Just In-spiration: Meet Wyatt Little

August 17, 2015

Our makers never fail to motivate us, encourage our creativity, and fill us with inspiration. So, when a new design enters our assortment, we’re always excited to learn more about the person behind the product.

What gets an artist going and keeps them creating is certainly worth sharing, and every great connection starts with a simple introduction. Meet Wyatt Little, the artist behind the Terracotta Shoe Planter.

PicMonkey Collage

When did you know you wanted to be an artist?
For as long as I can remember, I would draw non-stop as a kid and when I was 7. I started sculpting sand stone and making unfired clay pots. I would get a lot of support and positive feedback so I just kept doing it and now its just totally stuck. I feel weird if I’m not always creating something.

What was the most exciting thing about becoming a professional artist?
That moment when you see your creation in its physical form for the first time, after thinking it through and planning every little step.

Mixing Clay

What does your typical day in the studio look like?
I try to knock out quick emails in the morning then jump into production of whatever piece I need that week. I will get lunch with a friend and make sure to have some time to think and maybe ideate on some new ideas or develop current ones a bit further.  Then for the rest of the day I am either developing new stuff or working on orders.

Pouring into mold 01

Is there a trinket, talisman, or other inspirational object you keep near? 
I have a Buddha that presides over my studio space. He just reminds me to stay chill and pay attention to the things that matter.

Soaking Terracotta_post firing

Imagine you just showed your work to a kindergartner for the first time. What do you think they would say?
I think they would have a lot of questions like …”why would you make a shoe out of clay?” “Can I wear it?” Then after I tell them its a planter my hope is that they would want to immediately get some clay and start making something of their own.

Security Cam_overhead

What quote or mantra keeps you motivated?
“Happiness is knowing the right things to want more of.”

26819_zoom2

What are your most essential tools?
My my scale and my kiln. Those two tools are pillars of my entire creative process. The scale allows me to make precise mixtures of anything. In ceramics, consistency is key. You are always mixing things; be it clay, glazes or plaster, if your consistency is off its really hard to scale up and deliver on big orders. The kiln is just like a magic machine. When I first learned how to use and program it, I became addicted. Every morning you open the kiln its like Christmas morning. You get to see all of the little things you made in their full glory.

Gift Guides

Gift Lab: Get Ready to Grow with the Gardener’s Compost Container

April 24, 2014

Kara | UncommonGoods

Product: Gardener’s Compost Container

Research:
I’ve decided to test a new product our Product Development team created, the Gardener’s Compost Container. It’s an earthenware compost bin used to collect food scraps in your kitchen, while keeping away odors and flies with its two piece charcoal filter. I was excited to try this product because throughout my experience of using compost bins, I’ve never managed to find one that offered the functionality and aesthetic that I was looking for. I was hoping that this one would fit my criteria. I’ve been getting ready for summer by preparing my rooftop garden and so this composting project will be a main component of that.

Gardener's Compost Container | UncommonGoods

Hypothesis:

Based on my research, I suspect that this compost collector will perform very well as a bin that eliminates odors and keeps away the flies. In the past, I’ve tested other charcoal filters in my bathroom and in other areas of the house with great success. They not only do keep away odors, but they also reduce moisture. Since composting tends to create a lot of moisture, I’m hoping that this filter will keep the moisture to a minimum and help prevent any mold from growing in the bin.

Experiment:
I began my experiment by setting up the compost bin in my kitchen. Even though I would have loved to display this beautiful compost bin on my counter, I have very limited counter space so instead I placed it under my sink. I had a little trouble when I first placed the bio bag in it. The bio bag that comes with the product isn’t a perfect fit, so the edges of the bag did not fasten securely to the sides of the bin. It was an easy fix, though! In order to keep the sides of the bag from slipping, I used a rubber band to fasten the bag around the edges of the bin. Once the compost collector was set up, I was ready to start testing.

Open container with bio bag
Bio bag with band

For the next couple of weeks, my roommates and I put our food scraps in the collector. Our food scraps included fruit, vegetables, breads, pastas, tea bags, coffee grounds, processed foods, and more. Since meat and fish are typically geared for backyard composters and not indoor compost bins (as they are likely to attract pests), we did not put this in our compost.

Full Compost Container

When we filled it for the first time, I ran into a problem when trying to empty the bin. When I tried pulling the bio bag up and out, it ripped due to the weight of the compost, leaving a mess of food scraps at the bottom of the bin. To remedy this, I recommend not waiting until it’s completely full to change the bag. Since my bag was so full, I had to dump the compost into a grocery bag, carefully avoiding any spillage. Not only was this a hassle, but it defeated the purpose of avoiding regular plastic bags, which will need to be thrown away in the trash because they are not compostable.

Removing compost bag

Throughout these weeks of composting, I constantly checked the bin with no signs of odors and flies. My roommates had confirmed that they had not noticed any odors or flies in the kitchen either since the start of this experiment, which is a good indication that the charcoal filter is functioning as it had been described it would. In addition, I did not see any mold growing inside of the bin, which indicates that the filter is doing its job of reducing the moisture created by the compost.

Conclusion:
In conclusion, I found that the compost collector performed very well when it came to eliminating odors, reducing moisture, and keeping away the flies. The charcoal filter functioned as it said it would, leaving me and my roommates very pleased with the sustained hygiene in the kitchen. Through this experiment, I did come across a couple of problems that I did not expect to run into. The bio bag that came with the compost collector isn’t specifically made for it,so it’s not a perfect fit. It also tore when I tried to lift it out of the bin.

5 - under sink

When I use this bin in the future, I’ll look for other alternatives that would function better. One solution could be to go bag-less and use Bokashi-style composting in order to keep the compost manageable. Bokashi style composting is a method that uses a bran (which consists of a mix of microorganisms) to cover and ferment food waste to decrease odor and flies. Without the bag, people may be concerned with the hygiene of the compost bin, but Bokashi is a great way to solve the bag problem while keeping the compost collector sanitary. Without the reliance on bags, the compost process is naturally more environmentally sustainable as well. However, this solution also creates inconvenience for those who need to carry their compost to a drop-off at a local farmers’ market or community garden. For those who would prefer to use a bag, I would suggest that they use a small, fitted burlap bag, which is sturdy and can be reused over and over again without the concern of wear and tear. These bags are also breathable, letting in plenty of air to help keep the compost from smelling. Most community gardens and farmers’ markets do not accept bio bags, so this makes for a great solution.

Kara with Compost Collector

Overall, the beautiful design and charcoal filter feature make the Gardener’s Compost Container a functional design without sacrificing aesthetic. With a few adjustments to the use of the bin (eliminating the bio-bags for a more practical alternative), it makes a perfect compost collector. NYC Recycles is piloting an organics collection program where they will be picking up compost in my area this summer. So I look forward to using this to collect lots of food scraps, especially in the upcoming months!

Maker Stories

Ricky Giacco’s Eco-Conscious Concrete Creations

April 4, 2014

An avid container gardener and all-around horticulture-lover, Ricky Giacco founded NativeCast in 2010 to create and sell his handcrafted concrete “functional sculpture” while following environmentally responsible business practices. His “green concrete” is amazingly light, yet strong, and made mostly of recycled materials.

Ricky Giacco | UncommonGoods

Giacco’s uniquely creative planters come from an illustrious family tree. The Roman Colosseum, the Hoover Dam, the Panama Canal, and this adorable Cupcake Planter are all made of concrete, the most widely-used building material in the world.

DIY Cupcake Planter

The production of concrete uses much less energy than other building materials, such as steel, aluminum, glass and wood. But it’s not carbon-neutral, and we Earthlings use 19 billion tons of it a year. That adds up. In fact, about 7 percent of human carbon emissions comes from concrete manufacture. So at UncommonGoods, we’re big fans of Ricky’s innovative, ecologically sound concrete, which he makes from scratch in Chadds Ford, PA.

The Mix | UncommonGoods
You could call Giacco a concrete mixologist. He concocts new recipes using ingredients native to his region. But unless you enjoy the taste of seashells, pine cones, and crushed, reclaimed roadway rock, you won’t want to drink these cocktails. Your plants will love drinking from them, though; concrete makes a great planting environment. Because it’s porous, it allows air and moisture to move into plants’ root structure; and it maintains a more stable soil temperature throughout the year, compared to plastic or metals.

NativeCast is a family affair: Giacco is its creative head, his father handles most of the business end, his wife works on trade shows, his mother works in the production studio once a week, and Giacco says each member of his “rather large” family “helps out in one way or another.”

We wanted to know more about every aspect of his business, and he graciously allowed us to indulge our curiosity.

Ricky's Studio

You “design” not only your objects, but the material they’re made of. Does that give you a special satisfaction?
Designing the material I work with is very cool, and I am happy with the results I am getting. There is satisfaction in knowing that my customers also enjoy what I’m doing. I do know the material’s limitations, so as I look to design new pieces and expand the business, I am exploring some new material ideas.

The most important breakthroughs have been in the mixing process. We have successfully replaced the typical heavy aggregates with lighter and more eco-friendly options while maintaining a good strength. This process is much easier said than done.

Ricky's workbench

Gun

Tell us a bit about the process of making your concrete.
Our green concrete is made by hand and is a fairly complicated process to mix. It is made of Portland cement, sand, lime, recycled concrete, post consumer plastic, shells and pine mulch. The ingredients are always the same, but the ratios tend to vary. This is due to a number of different factors; the biggest ones are air temperature and the technique being used to craft the pieces. We use different application processes depending on the individual product. This forces us to hand mix many small batches of concrete.

Is it a form of hypertufa?
It is not exactly hypertufa, but the concept of modifying the concrete mix for planters is the same.

Where and how do you get the recycled material you use? Is it pre-crushed? Do you treat it? Does it affect the color of the stone?
Our recycled content is all locally sourced. The reclaimed concrete is cleaned and crushed into very small pieces so we can properly incorporate into our mix. We do not treat the recycled content any further. The recycled content does not affect the color of the stone. It acts as filler so it is really contained within the concrete walls.

What factors come into play when making these decisions about materials and their suitability for a given piece?
The things I am trying to do with any given piece are fairly straightforward. The first is to make the container as strong as possible while using the smallest amount of concrete material. Then I look for the most efficient way to apply the concrete. And the last part is mostly using the best concrete mix to achieve the surface texture for the container. This process does take a bit of experimentation to get production rolling.

Ricky Giacco

MaterialsDo you actually hand cast every piece yourself? How do you do it quickly enough to fill the demand?
I do cast every piece myself and it is time consuming. I have the experience which allows me to move fast, but efficiency really comes down to making good molds and have a quick system to fill each one.

Your family helps a lot; that sounds lovely… depending! Do they all have a lot of these planters and other items in their homes?
Yes my family helps quite a bit and yes they all have planters in their homes. This is how we test out the product and improve others. I think working with family is a very special thing, if you can find a way to be productive. I’m sure it is not for most people. However, I am constantly surprised how much I like it.

Your materials are sustainably smart. Do you think construction or other types of companies, governments, etc. could use this kind of material on a large scale?
I certainly think it’s a good concept for an eco-friendly building material. However there is a lot of science involved in engineering concrete. What we make is intended for a craft application. I know there are plenty of scientist, engineers and universities working on the construction grade eco-concrete.

Concrete is alkaline, and very porous. Are your planters best used for alkaline-loving plants that don’t need a lot of water?
Yes, concrete is made from limestone, which is an alkaline rock, and therefore alkaline plants will do best in our containers. If you wish to put an acid loving plant in concrete, a liner is recommended. And it is porous, and is better for plants that don’t need a lot of water. In my opinion, porous is good all around; potted plants die because of over-watering.

How should one take care of these pots?
The concrete containers are fairly easy to care for. What I tell most people is to avoid standing water. It can stain over time and in freezing temperatures can crack concrete. Other than that, they are pretty easy to use.

Apple Bark Planter

Your Apple Bark Planter was cast from a crab apple tree that got sick and had to be removed. It sounds like you’re very sentimental about plants! What are your favorite things to grow?
I did know this tree for many years and was disappointed to see it go. I had this idea to make the planter, and I think it turned out pretty well. My favorite plants are cactus and succulents. They seem so exotic to me. I love how rugged and nearly indestructible they are. I wish I lived in a warmer climate to grow them beyond my containers.

Gift Guides

Gift Lab: How to Keep Plants Healthy While You’re Away with the Self Watering Planter

October 23, 2013

Jen | UncommonGoods

Research
I travel a lot and my plants tend to suffer because of it. Turns out it’s easier to find someone to take care of cats than plants – probably because the plants don’t complain as loudly as the cats do. Over the years I’ve tried a bunch of gizmos to get the right amount of water to the plants, but they were all either ineffective, the wrong size for my plant, or just plain old ugly.

Hypothesis
Let me be the first to say that I was skeptical about this planter. It was a good size and attractive, but it seemed too good to be true. The last of my non-succulent plants just died (thanks, cat-sitter), which meant that this was going to be a long experiment. Armed only with slow-drinking succulents, I took a chance on this planter.

Experiment
May 2013: I got my materials together: some succulent planting mix, some decorative rocks, and some new succulents from my favorite store. I took the lid off of the water compartment to check it out, but neglected to put it back on when I started filling the planter with planting mix. Lesson learned: put the lid on because that planting mix goes everywhere and it’s really hard to remove from the water reservoir.

Self Watering Planter With Succulents | UncommonGoods

June 2013: I hadn’t checked the water in a month but the plants looked happy and healthy. The water level had definitely decreased, though it was hard to tell whether this was from the planter soaking up the water and it evaporating, or if the planter was delivering water to the succulents. I filled the reservoir and went on vacation for 3 weeks without leaving watering instructions for the cat-sitter.

Succulents | UncommonGoods

July 2013: I came home to find that (a) the cats were fine and (b) so were the succulents. They were larger than they were when I left and the water was about half gone. I was starting to become a believer.

Growing Succulents | UncommonGoods

August 2013: Baby succulents began popping up – this was the clearest sign that the planter was delivering water as promised. Another sign that the planter was working: the succulents that I hand-watered were all near-dead from over-watering.

Beautiful Baby Succulents | UncommonGoods

Conclusion
1. This planter actually works.
2. The planter has got to be much more impressive with something that needs more water. I’m going to get another one and try to grow some herbs.
3. Put some little plastic feet at the bottom of the planter to raise the planter a bit above the windowsill or table it’s sitting on. I found that the water in the reservoir affected the paint on my windowsill.

Gift Guides

Gift Lab: From Wine Bottle to Watering Globe

May 28, 2013

RESEARCH
Ok, so I don’t have the greenest green thumb, but I love having fresh herbs and veggies on hand. When I’ve planted in the past my poor plants’ main downfall has been lack of water. If my sprouts are not directly in sight every day I tend to forget them. The backyard for my apartment building is accessible, but it isn’t exactly easy to get to each day, so I need a watering system that will babysit my sprouts a few days a week. I’m hoping the Plant Nanny is up for the job!

HYPOTHESIS
The Plant Nanny will keep my herbs and tomato plants well-hydrated without daily watering sessions on my part.

EXPERIMENT
I got my seedlings home and potted in a sunny spot. I also brought home the Plant Nanny wine bottle set. Because my herbs went into pots on the small side I decided to try empty beer bottles for their Nannies. The tomato plants went into a larger pot, so they got a wine bottle. The necks of the beer bottles fit just about perfectly into the wine bottle Plant Nannies. But I wasn’t certain that the water would hold out in them over the next few days.

The directions recommended that the end of the Plant Nanny should be pushed down by the roots. This was easily accomplished without over-packing the soil too tight or crowding out my seedlings.

It was also really simple to get the full bottle into the Plant Nanny. The directions noted to put a finger or two over the top of the bottle before tipping it into the Plant Nanny. The water filled the base of the nanny and balanced out without losing hardly a drop.

Ok, so I have to admit I thought the upside-down bottles might not be that great looking. (Course, neither do the re-used pots I got from a neighbor that was going to chuck them.) It turns out that they look pretty cool, and I can already tell that they’ll blend in a bit better once my plants start to fill out.

CONCLUSION
So, I did my planting on a Sunday afternoon. By Wednesday morning there was only a bit of water left in the both the beer bottles and the wine bottle Nannies. The small-bottle-to-small-pot and large-bottle-to-large-pot idea worked out well with the wine bottle Plant Nannies! The soil in all three pots was moist without being overly flooded.

Looks like I’ll be able to let the Plant Nannies “babysit” for about 2-3 days at a time. If we hit a dry spell I plan on checking my plants every 1-2 days to be on the safe side.

Gift Guides

Uncommon Gifts for the Earth Mama

November 21, 2012

The Earth Mama is a special lady. She’s in touch with her surroundings. She’s down with nature–whether it’s the wind, grass, and trees encapsulating her country hideaway, or the energy of the bustling city streets and other people, all sharing the planet and working with one another. She’s been called a hippie, a new ager, a granola girl, and a bohemian. But she doesn’t mind, because she dances to the beat of her own music and knows that her tune is just one song on the universe’s eternal playlist. So what do you gift someone with such deep love for the sublunary world? One of the organic, handmade, responsibly-created goods on this list could be the perfect uncommon gift for an unconventional gal.


Zen Elephant Garden Sculpture / Inspirational Totem Necklace / Embroidered Belt / Roaring Fork Valley–Renee Leone / Hand of Buddha Jewelry Stand / Agate Coasters / Stone Finish Organic Bowls / Garden Pens / Wool Landscape Scarf / Beer Soap 6 Pack

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