Houseplant Basics 101: Containers

container.jpgYour houseplants need a suitable home to live successfully indoors. That is why your choice of a container is critical to the success of your houseplant. With such a wide range of containers available, you should be able to find just the right home for your houseplant. The two most important factors to consider when choosing a container are size in both depth and diameter and drainage.

Size

Make sure that your plant has the proper root to soil volume. This simply means choosing a container that will accommodate a plant’s root system and a sufficient amount of soil to sustain it. An oversized pot holds more soil than is needed and that soil can easily become saturated with water. This will disrupt the air/water balance and will increase the houseplant’s chance of dying of root rot. You should never increase soil volume by more than one pot size when repotting.

Drainage

Unless you are growing an indoor water garden, be sure to choose containers that have drainage holes. Water must be able to drain through the soil and out of the pot. Without proper drainage, your houseplant is likely to die. If you are thinking about putting rocks at the bottom of your container to help with drainage, don’t do it. Pebbles and rocks will shorten the column of soil which will allow for the soil to become more easily waterlogged.

Aesthetics

Just because a container has to be functional doesn’t mean that it can’t be attractive too. Garden centers are full of beautiful containers that will fit any style and budget. The right container can make just as big an impression as the plant itself, so take your time and pay attention to those finishing touches, as they have a way of making all the difference.

Tips

  • Remember to buy a saucer or tray to go under a container. Many containers are sold with a container already, but make sure to get one if your container doesn’t have one.
  • Add caster wheels to the bottom of a large container for easy mobility.
  • Use decorative moss, pebbles and driftwood on the soil surface to create visual interest and to discourage pets from digging.
  • Conceal less attractive pots and saucers in decorative baskets, crocks or plant stands. Be sure to remove any plastic liners that may prohibit drainage. This is a common problem for many sick houseplants as their roots are literally being drowned and smothered. Remember that the roots need air to survive.

What are some of your favorite containers for your houseplants? Leave me a comment and share.

Photo Provided by kevinrosseel

A Gardening Carnival – July 30, 2008

Welcome to the July 30, 2008 edition of a gardening carnival.

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flowers

AdmirableIndia.com presents Trip to Ooty: Day 2: Part 1: Ooty Lake – Boat House and Thread garden, Ooty posted at AdmirableIndia.com.

gardening

Jason Isbell presents Needs for a Butterfly Garden posted at Tired Garden.

Amy L. presents Four Secrets to Growing Indoor Miniature Roses posted at Housekeeping Tips, saying, “Every year, thousands of people purchase miniature roses, only to have them die in a few months.”

Ty Cee presents Pinoy Horticulture posted at Pinoy Horticulture, saying, “Pinoy Horticulutre provides information about the activities of horticulture societies and plant enthusiasts in the Philippines”

Laura Williams presents Around the Homestead Today… posted at Laura Williams’ Musings, saying, “Gardening and Canning. We grow and herb garden in addition to a grapes, cherry trees, blueberry bushes, and a traditional garden. We stil have 6 cranberry bushes, 7 plum trees, and 2 fig trees to plant this season.”

Louise Manning presents Woodland birds under threat posted at The Human Imprint.

valereee presents No dirt under your nails? No tomatoes for you! posted at Cincinnati Locavore, saying, “Don’t like to garden? Hire a gardener!”

Jdebosdari presents Dead and Dying Yew Trees and Hedges posted at Ashridge Trees, saying, “Yew (taxus) hedging sometimes causes trouble in the summer after it is planted. Here are a few reasons why and suggestions as to how to help it establish”

Alison presents Help! Tomato 911! posted at Green Me, saying, “Hello experienced tomato gardeners! I need your help pronto or I may have complete crop failure!”

Deanna Caswell presents How to Compost posted at Little House in the Suburbs.

herbs

Gwen Mangelson presents Calendula HERB OF THE YEAR 2008~ posted at Paper Expressions.

lawn care

Sarah presents Caring for Your Lawn in the Winter | Spring Lawn Care – Lawn Care Tips posted at Lawn Care Tips, saying, “Even though your grass doesn’t need much attention during the winter, it’s still important to follow some basic seasonal lawn care guidelines ”

Sarah presents Diagnosing and Managing Brown Spots on Your Lawn | Spring Lawn Care – Lawn Care Tips posted at Lawn Care Tips, saying, “If there are brown spots on your lawn, repairing them and preventing them from returning can be an exercise in frustration.”

organic gardening

Jamie McIntosh presents Control Carpenter Bees posted at Suite101: Organic Gardens blog, saying, “No one likes carpenter bees drilling into their decks and homes. However, these insects have an important role in your organic garden.”

Candice Brokenshire presents Harry Hopkins – Motivational Landscaper posted at The Red Barn Cooperative.

Teri presents My Work as an Environmental Biologist posted at Teri’s Organic Garden, saying, “My work as an environmental biologist working with 2 amazing grants – the Public Seed Initiative and the Organic Seed Partnership – both grants involve organic vegetable farming issues and ways to solve them.”

Fiona Lohrenz presents Going Organic…Why We Should! posted at Child Care Only.

vegetables

Chris presents 3 Steps to the Perfect Vegetable Garden (Part Two) posted at Smith Family Garden.

:: Suzanne :: presents works for me? tomato posted at :: adventures in daily living ::.

Dave Trenholm presents Growing Potatoes In Straw posted at Alberta Home Gardening.

valereee presents Garlic Mustard Dill Pickle Relish posted at Cincinnati Locavore, saying, “Those first early cukes are perfect for pickle relish!”

Condo Blues presents How to Grow Upside Down Tomato Plants posted at Condo Blues, saying, “How to plant an upsidedown tomato planter.”

Katrina Cain presents Did You Know That Raw Runner Beans Are Toxic? posted at Were You Wondering….

Miscellaneous

Matt DiChiara presents Alleviating Sick Building Syndrome with Plants in Your Apartment | MyNewPlace Blog posted at MyNewPlace Blog.

Tip Diva presents Top Ten Tips – Treating And Preventing Mosquito Bites posted at Tip Diva, saying, “Ahh, summer. The sun is warm, the water is cool, the flowers are blooming, and unfortunately, the bugs are biting. The worst offender of them all is the mosquito, carrier of pain, itching and possible diseases like West Nile. Here’s how to treat and further prevent bites”

AdmirableIndia.com presents Bangalore to Mysore on Bike: Day 1: Part 2: Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary, Brindavan gardens and Krishnarajasagara or KRS dam posted at AdmirableIndia.com.

GrannyJ presents Deadly symmetry posted at Walking Prescott, saying, “Because I live in the dry Southwest on the side of a hill, most of my in-the-ground plants tend to be wildflowers. sometimes they are not the easiest to get growing!”

Sean presents JAPANESE GARDENS – KILDARE – IRELAND posted at MY SECRET IRELAND, saying, “One of the most beautiful places in Ireland for the Gardening community.”

GrrlScientist presents Introduced Parasite Suspected of Killing Wild Bumblebees in Canada posted at Living the Scientific Life, saying, “A mysterious decline in North American bumblebee populations is apparently the result of “spillover” of pathogen-infected commercial bumblebees, Bombus species, from agricultural greenhouses where tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers are commonly grown in huge quantities. Includes images and data.”

That concludes this edition. Submit your blog article to the next edition of a gardening carnival using our carnival submission form. The next edition will be posted on August 27, 2008.

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House Plants Gone Wild

Do you know what happens to your plants when you leave on vacation? Hopefully you don’t do what these folks did when they left. Take my advice and find a trustworthy someone to keep an eye on your house plants when you take that much deserved break. Your houseplants will stay in line and you will both be much happier when you return.

Here is a short video that will show you what just may happen if you leave those house plants unattended on your vacation. I hope you enjoy this tongue-in-cheek video and it brings a smile to your face today.

Now that you know what the consequences may be, what are your plans for your houseplants while you are gone? Leave me a comment and share.

Go Away Deer

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These past two weeks I have been keeping an eye on a young buck who seems to be perusing my neighborhood. He is a beautiful specimen and his antlers are in velvet, even though he only has 3 points at this stage of his life. Anyone who gardens knows that despite the gentle appearance and the coolness of having a deer so close to home, deer are a nuisance in the garden and are difficult to keep out.

So what do I do to safely and effectively protect my corn that I just know he has been eying? There are many different things that you can do, although some are definitely more effective than others.

I found this great article by Kathy Bond Borie that I thought you might enjoy. Her article is appearing on the National Gardening Association Website of which I am a member. Here is some of what she had to say on the subject:

Even if you don’t see deer browsing through ornamental and edible gardens, you’ll know they’ve been there by their calling cards — hoof prints and chewed plants. In many regions deer are growing bolder and less fearful of humans, meaning even gardens in urban areas are vulnerable.

A Fencing Strategy

The only surefire way to keep deer out of gardens is fencing them out. And it can’t be just any fence. A gardening friend of mine was so frustrated by deer chomping on his apple trees that he put up a 7-foot-high electric fence. The deer jumped it. He put a second fence right next to the electric fence. The deer jumped both. He installed a third, 3-foot-high fence a couple of feet away from the second one, and the deer finally gave up. They now travel next to his orchard instead of through it. Apparently deer are intimidated about jumping when they cannot tell how much distance they have to clear. The three parallel fences kept the deer from sighting a clear landing spot.

For the same reason, deer are apt to be skittish about jumping a fence over a long, narrow garden. The two long sides appear too close together for the deer to see a place to land. Installing a fence at a slant so it leans outward from the garden can also work because it makes the fence appear wider.

A 5-foot-high fence can keep deer out if you use taller posts and attach strands of wire at intervals, such as at 6 feet and 7 feet. In extreme cases, you may need to erect a second fence, say a 3-foot-high one, about 3 feet outside of your other fence. Even a barrier made of fishing line attached to posts at a height of 3 to 4 feet is sometimes enough to startle a deer into changing its course. Of course this is dangerous if you have children and pets.

Since deer are creatures of habit, the sooner you can deter their foraging, the better. Baiting an electric fence with peanut butter can train deer to stay out of an area. Tree guards that wrap around the trunks are a must in winter, and I encircle young fruit trees with fencing for the first few years so deer can’t reach the branches. Covering shrubs in early spring with fabric row covers can deter feeding long enough for wild food plants to become available. ~ Kathy Bond Borie

To finish reading her great article, you will want to visit her here. There is a lot of great advice on how to keep deer out of your garden.

Do you have trouble with deer in your garden? What do you do to control the situation? Leave me a comment and share.

Photo provided by marykbaird

Houseplant Basics 101: Fertilizer

All houseplants need fertilizer to supplement their diets. Think of it as a good shot of vitamins and minerals. Although your houseplants feed on light and the nutrients in the soil, a boost of fertilizer can help to promote and support strong, healthy growth.

Fertilizers contain three major nutrients to support stem and leaf production, flowering and healthy roots. These elements are nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K). Whenever you look at a container of fertilizer, pay close attention to the fertilizer analysis which is represented by three hyphenated numbers. For example, it may look something like this: 20-20-20 or 10-6-16, or 10-15-10 like on this bottle of “SCHULTZ” LIQUID PLANT FOOD PLUS . The first number always represents the available nitrogen in the fertilizer. The second number always represents the available phosphate and the third number always represents the available potash in the fertilizer. The higher the number, the greater the percentage by weight of that nutrient.

Houseplants require nitrogen for leafy growth. As a general rule, houseplants that are grown primarily for their foliage will require a fertilizer with a high first number, a lower second number and a third number that is comparable to the first. Houseplants that are grown primarily for their blooms are given a fertilizer with a high third number (K or potash) that promotes flower development.

Fertilizers are most beneficial to a plant during its growing season, which is February to October. During the winter months when there is less light, you will want to hold back on fertilizing unless your houseplant is beginning to show signs of new growth. Your houseplant’s consumption of fertilizer will follow its growth curve, which in turn follows a light and temperature curve.

General Rules for Fertilizing

  • Granular and liquid fertilizers work similarly. Be sure to read the instructions and mix and feed accordingly.

  • Hold off fertilizing for at least a few weeks after houseplants are repotted. It isn’t that your houseplant doesn’t need food; it is that they only need so much. Most soils contain unknown amounts of fertilizers and it is easy to overfeed your transplant.

  • Water until water flows out the bottom of the container. This step will flush out any built up soluble salt deposits. As salts become more concentrated, it becomes harder for a houseplant to take up a proper supply of water.

What is your favorite fertilizer to use in your houseplants? Leave me a comment and share.

PODCAST: How to Build a Terrarium

podcast.jpgIn this podcast, we are focusing on how to build a terrarium. Building a terrarium is both fun and easy. However, because a terrarium is a self-contained ecosystem, you will want to be sure to set it up properly the first time, making sure to use the correct materials. Take the time to buy a high quality potting soil and select the plants which will be the most appropriate for your terrarium.

Here is a list of the supplies you will need to build your terrarium:

  • One terrarium with air holes or a glass jar without a lid. A glass fishbowl or a pickle jar will do nicely.
  • Small gravel or aquarium gravel
  • High quality potting soil
  • Sphagnum moss
  • Plants—two or three plants for every 3 L of space. Be sure to avoid any fuzzy leaved plants as they will hold water and are susceptible to rotting.
  • Decorative accessories such as stone or driftwood. Use your imagination!

If you have a question for us here at Her Gardening Blog, please leave a comment below the podcast. We will be happy to answer your questions and build an entire podcast around them. Enjoy!

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Houseplant Basics 101: Soil

potting-soil.jpgThe quality of the potting soil you use can mean the difference between life and death for your houseplant. This means that you will want to invest in a high-quality potting soil that offers the correct balance of water and oxygen. This balance is important because the soil must be able to retain moisture long enough to sustain your houseplant between waterings as well as allow for proper drainage.

Be sure that you do not reuse potting soil from the pots of previous houseplants. If the houseplant died because of pests or disease, the potting soil could be contaminated. Even if the houseplant died because you let it dry out one too many times, do not reuse the soil. The soil may have far to few pore spaces, which are pockets of open spaces that can be filled with water, to sustain a new houseplant. As soil decomposes, it starts to lose pore space and it becomes too dense for air to infiltrate and for roots to grow properly. However, your pots can be reused. Just be sure to scrub them clean and then soak them in a solution of 10% bleach and water.

Potting Mix vs. Soil Mix

Soil is the term that most people use to describe the black medium in which we pot plants. But the truth is that most of the soil to which we refer is actually soil-less. It is completely free of what we traditionally think of as garden soil. It looks like rich garden soil and it even smells like it, but it is completely different.

Most potting mixes contain at least one of the following material: peat moss, vermiculite, perlite, sand and lime to neutralize the peat moss, bark, pumice or compost. On the other hand, soil mixes contain a blend of soil. So when you’re looking for soil, be sure to read the bags carefully and choose a high quality soil-less potting mix.

Specialty Potting Mixes

There are some houseplants that require special potting mixes like orchids, cacti and African violets. Since these houseplants are so popular, distributors have come up with special commercial blends of each type.

Orchid mixes: To the uninitiated, this planting medium might look unable to sustain anything other than a beaver. Many contain two or three types of bark, coarse sphagnum peat, fine grade pumice and sponge rock. It is a rather odd combination, but it is one that serves an important purpose.

Some species of orchids grow on trees in their natural habitat. These orchids are referred to as epiphytic plants, which are those having their roots exposed to the air. One of the reasons that orchid mixes contain bark and moss is to allow the air to move freely through the medium. This air movement allows the roots of an orchid to absorb moisture and nutrients from the humid air.

Cacti mixes: Even someone who doesn’t know much about cacti knows that these plants prefer dry soil. It should therefore come as no surprise that the standard potting medium for cacti is composed of coarse sand, potting mix, peat and perlite. Although the formula varies from one commercial mix to another, all cacti mixes are designed to provide rapid drainage.

African violet mixes: African violets like a soil that is light, loose and porous. Most African violet mixes consist of three parts peat moss, two parts vermiculite and one part perlite. Lime is also often added to bring the pH level to the 5.8 to 6.0 range. African violets hate having their roots sitting in water, so the loose, porous soil is important for the health of these plants.

What is your favorite potting soil to use with your houseplants? Leave me a comment and share.

Photo provided by anitapatterson

Houseplants…Bach or Rock?

Have you ever wondered what kind of music your houseplants prefer to listen to? There have been many studies over the years, both formal and informal, that have tried to find out this very thing. As I was pondering this very topic, I came across a video put together by a couple of teenagers in Idaho. They thought it would be fun to do an experiment and try it out to see which type of music their houseplants preferred.

Here is the video I watched and I must warn you to prepare to have a laugh or two. They put their experiment to music and this is a very enjoyable video.

So which type of music do you plan on playing to your houseplants? Do you have a preference? Do they? Leave me a comment and share.

Houseplant Basics 101: Watering

watering-can.jpgThere are several tools and gadgets on the market today that are designed to measure the moisture in the soil of your houseplants. However, be advised that there really isn’t any secret method to checking whether a house plant needs water. All you really need to do is walk over, stick your finger into the potting soil, scratching down around 2 to 3 cm into the soil. If the soil is moist, it will feel about as wet as a damp sponge. In fact, the soil should also feel a little spongy too. Even when the top of the soil is dry, there may actually be enough moisture just beneath the surface for your houseplants.

How much water your houseplants need and how often they need it will depend on the following factors:

  • Type of house plant
  • Size of house plant
  • Size and type of container
  • Soil composition
  • Humidity of the growing environment
  • Season
  • Location of the plant in the room
  • Average room temperature

You will need to know your houseplants preferences and water them accordingly. Don’t forget that although most houseplants will forgive a missed watering here and there, not all houseplants are as forgiving and tolerant. For example, Boston ferns hate soil that is dry, while cacti hate being too wet.

Watering Methods

Most houseplants seem to get watered from the top, but that is really more about the preference of the person watering it than it is about the houseplant’s preference. In fact, most houseplants could care less if they are watered from the top or from the bottom as long as they are watered regularly and sufficiently.

Generally, in order to check that you are giving your houseplants enough water, you will want to check for water running through the drainage holes at the bottom of your container. This runoff is especially important as it flushes the excess salts from the soil. Be sure to drain any water that remains at the base of the saucer.

Watering from the top

  • Consider grouping your houseplants together in the bathtub and giving them a gentle watering and shower. After you have watered, leave your houseplants in the tub for a few hours. This will allow them to drain properly and will help you to not track water all across your home.
  • Do not water form high above your plant. Place the spout of your watering can close to the lip of the container and water from a different side each time. Watering from the same spot each and every time will wash away sections of topsoil and leave craters behind.

Watering from the bottom

There are some plants, such as African violets, that prefer to wick water through the drainage holes in the bottoms of their pots. They will essentially draw up water until the soil is moist. This method is particularly beneficial to fuzzy-leaved houseplants that tend to blemish whenever they come into contact with water.

Whichever method you choose, your houseplants will thank you and be grateful for a regular and consistent watering schedule. Which method do you prefer? Leave me a comment and share.

Photo provided by kevinrosseel

Houseplant Basics 101: Temperature & Humidity

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If you were providing your houseplants an ideal world, then you would help them to feel at home by adjusting the temperature of their indoor environment to mimic their natural environment. However, this is not really practical and your own comfort will most likely come before your houseplants. And even if you were to choose the comfort of your houseplants over your own, the reality is that your home has warmer and cooler spots that are just waiting to present problems.

Since there are so many species of houseplants, it would follow that there is a wide range of ideal growing temperatures. Lucky for us that houseplants are fairly tolerant and reasonable when it comes to variations from their ideal. As a general rule of thumb, you will want to keep temperatures during the nighttime a few degrees cooler than the temperatures of the daytime.

The cooler nighttime temperature is important because it allows your houseplants to store energy. When the temperature at night is hot, your houseplants have no choice but to burn a portion of the energy that they worked so hard to accumulate during the day. Flowering houseplants especially appreciate a cool rest in the evenings because it prolongs the life of the flowers and the intensity of the colors.

Here is a list of conditions that your houseplants will generally NOT like:

  • Extreme changes in temperature
  • Cold drafts from windows or exterior doors
  • Hot air blasts from fireplaces, heat registers or exterior doors
  • Close proximity to hot or cold window panes
  • Night temperatures that dip below 57?F (14?C)
  • Daytime temperatures in the upper 68? to 86?F (20? to 30?C)

Relative humidity is simply a measure of the amount of water that the air will hold in a given temperature. The reason that it becomes an important factor in the health of your houseplant is that it affects the amount of moisture that your houseplant may lose.

The ideal relative humidity for the majority of houseplants is about 60%. However, during the winter when our homes are much drier, a more realistic percentage to aim for is 25%. Do not try to raise the relative humidity to 60% during the winter as your windows will have more condensation that you would probably want or enjoy. Although your plants may appreciate your efforts, remember that you can grow a beautiful houseplant in a dry home or office. Keep in mind that there are both deserts and rainforests in nature and plants will thrive in both types of environments.

Here is a list of ways to maintain an ideal humidity level for your houseplants:

  • Use a humidifier
  • Group plants closely together so they can benefit from each other’s transpiration
  • Keep plants away from heat sources such as registers and fireplaces
  • Grow plants that are extra sensitive to humidity in a terrarium if they are small enough

Some of the symptoms that you may see that may indicate that a houseplant is suffering from a lack of water, including relative humidity are brown leaf edges, abnormally small leaves, misshapen plant growth and drooping or wilting. It is important to remember that in most cases, the real problem will be a lack of soil moisture and not a low relative humidity.

How do you address the problems of temperature and humidity in your houseplants? Leave me a comment and share.

Photo Provided by bluekdesign