Saturday, January 30, 2016

Houseplant Difficulties

"I have no plants in my house.  They won't live for me.  Some of them don't even wait to die, they commit suicide." 
-  Jerry Seinfeld I might be able to grow beautiful geraniums and big sweet bell peppers, but I find houseplants difficult to keep happy. Although, with some houseplants I find I would do better if I just watered a rock once a week.  I have found growing houseplants to be less difficult when I keep their most important elements: water, light and air into consideration and if I take care of their pest problems right away.

I have killed more houseplants from overdose...okay over watering than any other cause. I have found that many houseplants prefer a moist but not wet root system. While others houseplants prefer to dry out between each watering. I find self-watering planters make it easier to water houseplants.  I also keep in mind that city water is treated with chemicals and that most houseplants do not like chlorine or fluoride. So, I let my tap water sit in an open container for 24 hours, which allows chemicals to evaporate and brings the water to room temperature. Also, houseplants like to eat too and need a formula of 6-12-6 fertilizer to maintain healthy growth. I find that when fertilizing houseplants, fertilize January – September and then allow a lull for the remainder months.

Houseplants receive most of their energy to grow, thrive and stay alive from lighting. Insufficient lighting usually results in pale foliage, lanky growth and lack of luster.  Unfortunately, I can't help that my husband likes to live in a dungeon with the blinds pulled all of the time, but I can usually fix the light exposure by gradually moving the houseplant closer to a window or into a different room. 

Here are some examples of how to tell if a houseplant is not receiving enough light (believe me, I found these out the hard way):
-Growth is spindly with long spacing between leaves.
-New leaves are smaller than existing ones.
-Lower leaves turn yellow and fall off.
-Slow or no growth.
-Fail to bloom properly.
-Variegated plants are solid green.

-Examples of how to tell if a houseplant is receiving too much light:
-Brown scorched patches on leaves.
-Leaves look faded.
-Midday plant wilt.
-Leaves dry and fall off.

Although, houseplants may be of a tropical nature they would rather sacrifice a few degrees of temperature than to lose moisture in the air. My house tends to be dry in the winter with the use of heat.  I have found that for my houseplants to succeed, I keep the temperature as low as possible, while I still keep my home comfortable, but I never let it get below 50 degrees. I also, add additional humidity by using humidifiers and frequent misting. Also, when keeping air temperature in mind, glass is a poor insulator and temperatures near windows can be considerably colder or hotter.

I think my home screams pick me, pick me to every type of insect imaginable but, preventing insects from entering the home is the answer to indoor insect control. I check my houseplants for insects and disease before bringing them home. I have found that if I isolate the houseplant for a few weeks and then I inspect it for pests each time I water, I can prevent an infestation to my other plants. I also wash the leaves of my houseplants several times a year with an insecticidal soap. This also, helps to clear any dust build up on my the plants. Dust decreases photosynthesis and increases spider mites and other pests.

As you can see there is really no mystery to keeping houseplants healthy, once one puts the houseplants ideal living conditions into consideration.  Although, sometimes I still contemplate on that rock....

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

4 Things I Do In Winter To Prepare For My Spring Garden

I'm not sure about you, but this gardener tends to get a bit stir crazy in the dead of winter.  Although, once my seed and plant catalogs start arriving,  my excitement starts revving up!  I could spend hours studying and mapping out my garden for spring, if my 1 year old would allow it.  The time I do get to spend preparing gets me inspired, organized and just plain more intelligent about gardening.  So this is what I do in the blistering cold months of January and February?

I learn...learn...learn...
As an avid  gardener, I have a good idea about what grows well in my zone, plus I’ve already dealt with the process of elimination on what I've had success and failures with.  But, I still read many articles and blogs, because one can never know too much about gardening.

I do a supply roll call...
I find if I inventory and organize all of my gardening supplies now, I won't be running to my favorite Garden Center every time I need something in the Spring.   This also helps my pocket book too...because well...I HAVE to spend money at the Garden Center, you see there are always new plants I can't live without.   I also make sure my tools are clean and my tractor, tiller, mower and weed eater are all serviced.   I check my inventory on seed starting soil, seed trays, pots, and anything else I think I need for when I start my seeds indoors. 
I design my garden... 
Believe me I am no Frank Lloyd Wright, but having some sort of drawing gives me a general idea about the garden space I am planning to plant in.  I always remember to determine the scope of light, water, soil, and space, it helps in choosing the right plants suited for my area.  I add structures or trees that may cause shade throughout the day.  I also consider my soil type and if I need to amend it. 
I order my seeds...
I pick out and order my seeds as early as possible to insure that what I want is not sold out or back-ordered.   I organize the seeds when I receive them and then I separate them by what I need to start in the greenhouse to be later transplanted, and what can be directly sown in the garden.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Let's Wet Our Feathered Friend's Winter Whistle

I'm sure like me, the last thing you are asking yourself in the middle of a winter deep freeze is, "Hmmm...I wonder if there is fresh water in my backyard birdbath.?"  But, if you are a bird feeding enthusiast, open water is critical for birds when puddles and ponds freeze over.  Yes, birds are able to metabolically extract water from seed, but they should be using that energy to help keep themselves warm.
It's quite easy to keep a birdbath from freezing with a submersible electric warmer. Birds usually only bathe when temperatures are above 32°, this way they do not risk getting their feathers wet in the freezing weather.  Be sure to avoid larger heaters, that way you can keep the water unfrozen and not tempt a bird to bathe in the frigid temperatures.
Winter birdbaths can attract an array of birds such as, Cardinals, Cedar Waxwings Goldfinches, Evening Grosbeaks, Mourning Doves, Pine Siskins and Woodpeckers.  Whatever the season or the locale, birdbaths require routine maintenance by flushing out dirty water and scrubbing the basin.  So whatever the season, adding a birdbath to your feeding station is a great way to attract a multitude of birds to your yard.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Helping Our Feathered Friends...

Brrr...Winter is definitely here and unfortunately it has brought it's harsh cold weather, making me feel blessed with the warm home I live in and the fact that I do not have to go outside and hunt for my next meal.  As I look out my window from my perfectly comfy couch I am aware of the harsh elements that mother nature has to offer our fine feathered friends this time of year.  I know I'm not an Ornithologist and I won't lie, I did do a little Google searching.  In researching, I find that birds have an extremely high metabolism and some have to consume up to 80% of their body weight, which is mostly burned up just keeping warm.  Now I am not a genius and I'm a lady so I'm not giving my weight, but let's just calculate that a human, at the weight of 150 lbs, would have to eat about 120 lbs a day just to keep warm.  Now, if there is snow on the ground, I'm sure finding sufficient food without extensive foraging is exhausting to them.  This is where we can help.  Pull those feeders out of your sheds or garages clean them up and the next time you are at your favorite Garden Center or Feed Store pick up a couple pounds of Bird Seed.  Birds are our friends folks.  Without them we could be infected with insects, our crops could not be pollinated properly and come on, they are just fun to watch.  Now, some of our feathered friends have become, "snow birds," and have gone south for the winter, but just stop and watch the snow covered hedges and icy tree branches for the glimpses of Cardinals, Chickadees, Finch, Juncos, Sparrows, Nuthatches and Woodpeckers and tell me they don't bring a little warmth to the Brrr...outside.