Your garden needs soil amendments. Here’s where pros suggest you buy them

We asked the pros: Where do you shop? Here's what they told us. <span class="copyright">(Stephanie DeAngelis / For The Times)</span>
We asked the pros: Where do you shop? Here’s what they told us. (Stephanie DeAngelis / For The Times)

Almost every gardening guru extols the virtues of adding good organic amendments to your soil, but where can you buy them? We asked many experts and here’s a list of the suppliers and nurseries they recommend for a more personalized shopping experience. Did we miss your personal favorite? Drop us a line at [email protected] and it might be included.

Armstrong Garden Centers, with 29 locations around Southern California, are employee-owned, full-service nurseries whose sister company, Armstrong Growers, grows many of the plants they sells, including a full line of organic fruits, veggies and herbs. The nurseries are open for customers and also offer online ordering and curbside pickup, organic fertilizers and potting soils, pots and garden tools. armstronggarden.com

Artemisia, 5068 Valley Blvd., El Sereno. California native plants, herbs and edibles as well as ceramic pots, gardening tools, and organic fertilizers and soils. Online ordering, curbside pickup or local delivery only. artemisianursery.com

Avalon Nursery & Ceramics, 5334 Avalon Blvd., South Park, is one of the few full-service nurseries in South Los Angeles. The family-owned nursery specializes in houseplants but also sells organic soils and fertilizers, pots, succulents, flowers, veggies and fruit trees. @avalonnurseryla on Instagram.

Cal Blend Soils, 1270 E. Arrow Highway #A, Irwindale. This family-owned business is the go-to supplier for landscape designers Leigh Adams and Shawn Maestretti of Studio Petrichor. It offers landscaping materials, including soils, mulches and wood chips. The minimum delivery charge is $75, so consider finding a pickup to haul your own. calblendsoils.com

Sarvodaya Farms & Nursery, Pomona, open by appointment only; online ordering available. The nursery offers organic soils and amendments, irrigation supplies, and organic vegetables, fruits (check out the strawberries) and herbs, some unusual or rare. Trees are grown in fabric grow pots, not plastic pots. sarvodayainstitute.org/collections/all

Ramon Franco has owned Pasadena's Lincoln Avenue Nursery since 2003. <span class="copyright">(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)</span>
Ramon Franco has owned Pasadena’s Lincoln Avenue Nursery since 2003. (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

Fig Earth Supply, 3577 N. Figueroa St., Mount Washington, a small but mighty nursery with raised beds, organic soils and fertilizers, garden tools, organic veggies, fruits, berries and seeds, containers, and garden art and online classes. Order online for curbside pickup or make an appointment to shop in person. figearthsupply.com

Glendora Garden Nursery, 1132 S. Grand Ave., Glendora, is fun for strolling, with its 10 acres of koi ponds plus waterwise plants, bagged and bulk soils, fruit trees, berries, veggies, succulents and houseplants. glendoragardens.com

H&H Nursery, 6220 Lakewood Ave., Lakewood, has bagged soils (organic and non), fruit trees, berries, veggies and flowers. hhnursery.com

Hashimoto Nursery, 1935 Sawtelle Blvd., Sawtelle. Serving West L.A. for more than 80 years, the nursery offers ceramic pots, wooden and concrete containers, as well as seasonal annuals, perennial shrubs and ground covers, succulents, vegetables, herbs, fruit trees, sod and houseplants. hashimotonursery.com

Lincoln Avenue Nursery, 804 Lincoln Ave., Pasadena, was started by a German immigrant family in 1903, then purchased in 1923 by the

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6 Holiday Decor Trends That Will Be Huge This Year, According to Pros at Etsy, Pinterest, and More

No matter if you started listening to Christmas music back in March or you prefer to put off decorating until post-Thanksgiving, it seems that the holiday season is beginning extra early this year. According to data from the coupon and deals website RetailMeNot, 31 percent of consumers plan to shop early this year in order to avoid inventory issues and shipping delays. “In-store foot traffic is down due to the pandemic, so we will continue to see shoppers shifting to shopping online throughout the holidays,” says Sara Skirboll, the shopping and trends expert at RetailMeNot. Plus, with many of us spending more time at home this year, we predict that holiday home decorating—both inside and out—will happen earlier than ever.

Eager to welcome some holiday cheer into your home? We asked the trend experts at Etsy, Pinterest, Home Depot, and Bloomingdale’s for their predictions for the top holiday decor trends of 2020, so you can shop early and start decorating ASAP.

Rainbow Brights

“Technicolor will be a big decorating trend that we’ll see this holiday season,” says Kelley Carter, the home fashion director at Bloomingdale’s. “It’s all about embracing vivid colors as a way to brighten up a room and bring joy to a space.”

To get the look, embrace multi-color retro string lights and vibrant barware. 

From $50, bloomingdales.com


a glass bottle next to a cup of water: technicolor glassware from Bloomingdale's


© Provided by Real Simple
technicolor glassware from Bloomingdale’s

Decked-Out Front Doors

According to Pinterest, door decor will be particularly popular this holiday season. “Pinners are decorating their front doors to express holiday cheer while staying in, with searches for ‘Christmas door decorations’ up 125 percent,” says Swasti Sarna, the insights manager at Pinterest. Even if you’re spending more time at home, decking out the front door is an easy way to share some holiday spirit with the rest of your neighborhood. 

When it comes to celebrations, Pinners are increasingly interested in micro-holidays. “They are also still celebrating, but in smaller ways,” explains Sarna. “In past years, about 4 in 10 Pinners said they care about micro-holidays like Friendsgiving or New Year’s brunch. But this year, 7 in 10 say they’ll celebrate the smaller moments.” 



a bedroom with a fireplace and a large window: Front Door Colors, Red Front Door in Winter


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Front Door Colors, Red Front Door in Winter

Blue Christmas

For holiday decor with a handmade touch, search for indigo-dyed accents. “We’ve been wild about tie-dye all year long, so we’re pleased this natural, often earth-friendly design is here to stay,” says Dayna Isom Johnson, Etsy’s trend expert (and one of the designers of this year’s Real Simple Home!). “There are so many ways to showcase this striking motif—try a festive tablecloth or a bold Christmas tree skirt.” 

$84, MaraVeraTextiles.etsy.com


a pink flower on a table: Blue indigo dyed table cloth from Etsy


© Provided by Real Simple
Blue indigo dyed table cloth from Etsy

Natural Elements

Natural touches—think, fresh greenery, dried foliage, and raw wood—will make welcome additions to our holiday decor this year. “Add it to your front door via a beautiful wreath, to your staircase within a festive garland, or to your table with textured placemats,” suggests Dayna Isom

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The Pros and Cons of Using Quartz Bathroom Vanities

One of the hottest trends in countertops today is the usage of quartz. It is popular for both kitchen counters and as well as for bathroom vanities and can be used to work with virtually any decorating style. But exactly what are the benefits of quarts bathroom vanities over another choice? Is the difference worth the investment? If you have wondered about either of these questions then take a few minutes to consider the pros and cons of choosing quartz bathroom vanity.

The Pros of Quartz for a Bathroom Vanity

· Quartz is a manufactured product that can be a beautiful addition to your space. Because it is a manufactured product, you can purchase it in virtually any color you desire, as well as being designed to mimic the look of natural stones. In fact, it is available in more colors than natural stones such as granite or marble.

· Quartz is just as durable as concrete or granite countertops, but can take more usage. For example, a quartz bathroom vanity can stand up to drop items, so you don’t have to be concerned about chips or cracks.

· Quartz is extremely non-porous so stains like juice, wine, oil, tomato, coffee, makeup or other products will not stain the surface.

· Not only are stains uncommon, but quartz is also bacteria and virus resistant.

· Unlike granite countertops, it is not necessary to seal and then reseal quartz countertops.

· Quartz is available in pre-made vanity top configurations.

The Cons of Quartz Bathroom Vanities

· Quartz countertops are not something for the average DIYer to tackle. The installation process requires specific tools and knowledge so it will be necessary bring in a professional.

· Though resistant to stains and bacteria, quartz is not as resistant to heat as other countertop choices, so if you use heat-based hair styling items, you will want to have a cooling pad on which to place these items upon completing your look.

· Quartz can be damaged by highly alkaline or acidic chemicals such as drain cleaner, as well as solvents such as bleach and abrasive cleaners. Also, you will not want to use abrasive cleaners on your quartz bathroom vanity top as that can result in dulling its beautiful, shiny finish.

· Quartz is more expensive than any other choice in kitchen or bathroom vanity tops. In fact, it can run anywhere from $115 to $200 per square foot.

· While not necessarily a weakness, quartz is considered by many to be a contemporary countertop covering.

Quartz bathroom vanities are a wonderful option if you are looking for a countertop to make you feel as though you have stepped into your own personal spa. They will add elegance and beauty to nearly any décor and can be installed by a professional with relative ease. If you are looking for a quartz countertop vendor in the Twin Cities area, the pros at Universal Stone can answer your questions-whether about quartz, granite or other stone countertops. …

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Pros and Cons of Sealing Bathroom Shower Tiles

A tile shower can be a beautiful addition to any bathroom. One common question asked with regard to tiling a shower is “should I seal the tile?” First, a distinction needs to be made between tile and grout.

Grout is the mixture used to fill in the gaps between the tiles. Grout needs to be sealed. Sealing it will make it easier to clean, protect it from mold and mildew, and keep it looking new. Since grout needs to set for about one day before sealing, most installers don’t seal the grout- it’s something you might have to do yourself. Grout should generally be re-sealed every few years. Failure to seal the grout will result in water leaking behind the tiles, which can cause mold problems and then you might end up having to re-tile the whole shower.

Sealing the tile is usually optional, and depends on the kind of tile being used. Marble, natural stone, slate, limestone, terra cotta, and matte tiles should be sealed to protect them from water, mold, mildew, and stains. Since stone is naturally porous, it absorbs any water washed over it, breeding mildew. Plus it stains fairly easily. Ceramic tile generally doesn’t need to be sealed. The benefit of sealing tiles is that they will require less cleaning and won’t absorb any moisture.

Sealing the whole tile does have its drawbacks. For example, some kinds of sealers can darken or stain the tiles, altering the natural color. It is also extremely time consuming to seal the entire shower, rather than just the grout. Tiles also need to be re-sealed every few years to maintain quality. Past sealers needed to be re-applied every year, but now you can find some that are professed to last up to fifteen years.

Before a shower can be sealed, it needs to be completely dry. If the shower isn’t brand new, this can take up to five days, as the moisture behind the tiles needs to completely evaporate before being locked in. If you decide to seal your new shower, make sure you do so before using it, or you will have to find another means of bathing while the shower dries out. If you’re sealing your old shower for the first time, you may have to wait several weeks for the tiles to completely dry, in which case sealing the whole floor might not be the best option.…

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Interior Design Ideas: Pros and Cons of Silk

Silk is a gorgeous fabric and its beauty is difficult to beat. However knowing the pros and cons should ensure that it is used where its best features can be enjoyed for a long time.

Silk – Pros

  1. Strength: Silk in the strongest natural fiber in the world. It has particularly good tensile strength which means it’s able to withstand great pulling pressures.
  2. Texture: Everyone knows how nice silk is to touch, it has a smooth, soft texture that unlike many synthetic fibers is not slippery.
  3. Elasticity: Silk fiber is very elastic. It can stretch up to 20% of its original length before breaking. And unless its elasticity is tested frequently it will bounce back to original size.
  4. Resilience: Silk fabrics are moderately wrinkle resistant which makes them great for both clothing and is an interior designer dream.
  5. Drapability: Silk curtains have the wow factor. They are so popular because silk has few rivals when it comes to drapability. The fiber is supple and elastic and tough enough to cope with frequent handling.
  6. Cleanliness: Silk fabric stays relatively clean. It’s smooth surface does not capture dirt easily.
  7. Absorbency: Silk fiber can generally absorb about 11 percent of its weight in moisture and as a result it’s easy to print and dye. Dyed silk is normally colourfast.

Cons of Silk

  1. Sunlight: Sunlight exposure weakens silk fabrics. This is obviously something you need to consider for blinds and curtains. Raw silk is best suited to cope with sunlight.
  2. Washing: Silk fabrics need to be washed with a mild detergent and ideally on a smoother cycle in the washing machine. Water spots appear easily on silk but washing the fabric should get rid of these easily.
  3. Resistance to Insects: Insects love silk, particularly clothes moths and carpet beetles, and if you aren’t careful they could ruin your fabric.
  4. Mildew Resistance: Silks are not highly susceptible to mildew but if left in a room with high humidity they won’t fare very well.
  5. Effect of Heat: At high temperatures silk begins to decompose. Not only can direct sunlight cause heat damage but also be aware of proximity to any cooking appliances.

There is a quality that silk has that is very difficult to quantify in a pro and con list. In has a certain grandeur that’s hard to put a value on. If you are on the fence about using silk our recommendation (within reason of course) would be to go for it. You are unlikely to regret the decision.

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Resin, Metal, Or Concrete Gardens Statues – The Pros and Cons of Each

Garden sculptures can be made from nearly any durable material. The most popular are concrete, resin, and metal. Here are some things you should know about each.

Concrete garden statues: Because these are made from molds, you can get nearly any size, shape, or style of this type of statue that you would like. Concrete statues are sold in both finished and unfinished styles. It is very affordable and if you buy unfinished and paint it yourself then it is even more so.

One thing you should know about concrete garden statuary is that it can get very heavy, very quickly. If you live in a high wind area this is great, but be sure that you have help moving big pieces. The only real downside is that concrete is not as detailed as resin.

Resin garden statues: Resin is a hard plastic material that can be molded into just about any shape imaginable. Because it takes detail very well, it is a great material for statues for your garden. You will often find statues of children playing, Disney characters, and animals made out of resin.

Resin is an extremely durable substance. It is much lighter than concrete, but often more more expensive. Resin statues look great in cottage gardens.

Metal garden statues: These are perfect for formal gardens & are generally absolutely beautiful. However, metal statues for the garden can be quite pricey. Also you need to be aware that many metal statues will develop a patina over time. For instance, copper will turn a lovely shade of green (think the Statue of Liberty). In general metal garden statues are well worth it.

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Kitchen Island? Pros and Cons

Kitchen islands used to be the area where friends and family would gather as well as providing that extra counter space we cooks love so much! Kitchen islands are now not just an area to have extra counter space. They can include a stove top, prep sink, small fridge, microwave, wine cooler, bookcase, and numerous other items for the kitchen.

There are certainly many pros to having a kitchen island. The first pro we will look at is that of extra counter space. Having resided in homes where counter space was at a minimum, the kitchen island was a life saver when cooking for larger gatherings. The second pro would be extra storage space. Who doesn't need extra storage space in a kitchen? One kitchen owned was so small the laundry room next to the kitchen wound up being turned into a pantry as there was next to no storage in the kitchen.

Another positive point about an island is that it can be designed or customized to fit the needs of the owner. As mentioned above, many islands can house various appliances, or they can provide the storage space to take the appliances off of the kitchen counters. The kitchen island may also be used as a makeshift kitchen office space. A kitchen island can be somewhere to organize meal planning, cookbooks, or helping a child with homework, while still being able to keep an eye on what may be cooking.

There are also kitchen islands which can be moved as they are on rollers. This can be a benefit if the kitchen is small enough a stationary island could get in the way. The moveable island can be put into place when working in the kitchen, then moved when the tasks have been completed.

One of the largest pros to a kitchen island is having that space for friends or family members to congregate in the kitchen area. One can place bar stools, or high seated chairs up against a kitchen island which invites that comfort zone. Most of us are aware that people tend to congregate to the kitchen area, after all it is the heart of the home.

There are some cons of having a kitchen island. The largest one is expense. Placing a permanent kitchen island with running water and electric as many of the islands have can be extremely expensive. If one is doing a kitchen remodel, adding the electric or gas line to an island during a remodel can cost a tremendous amount of extra money. Even without electric, gas, or water, the cost of a stationary island can run into several thousand dollars, which might be better used elsewhere.

Another con is space. While it was mentioned previously that there are rolling islands, if space is at a premium, an island may just not be practical. There is nothing more frustrating to a cook than having something "in the way" when you are trying to prepare meals for your family, or yourself. …

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