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.

Out! Out! Garden Pests

grasshopper.JPGOne of the biggest problems in the garden at this time of year are pests. These pests can either be insects or mammals. Both of them can decimate a garden and neither one is necessarily better than the other. In light of this problem, I found a great article and post for you by Debra Roby. Here is some of what she had to say:

My approach to pests in the garden or landscape is usually to adopt a technique that is least harmful to the general environment while being highly destructive to the pest itself. So I often use soap, dusts, hot pepper and young men to deal with my pests. Except for muskrats. They actually drove me to buy a .22. But let’s hope your garden invasions don’t end up resorting to that degree of destructive power.

More than likely your invaders this time of year come in one of two varieties: insect or mammal. What can you do to discourage, or eliminate the problem if each case?

Insects:

In many of the spring/fall vegetables, planting time is the most important factor in preventing damage. If you plant brassicas, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, spinach, beets and swish chard as soon as the soil can be worked but before the first frost-free day, the plants become established and you can pick a crop before warmer weather brings on insect invasions. So it’s too late for early spring plantings, keep in mind that any open garden space come mid- to late-September might be prime territory for a fall crop of these goodies.

Good commercial organic pest controls include Safer Soap, (dehydrates the dasterdly things) diatomaceous earth, (cuts softs bodied insects to shreds. like mini-glass shards) horticultural oils, (smothers those suckers!) and floating row covers (if the pests can’t get in they can’t eat it). ‘Bacillus thurengiensis’, or Bt and it’s known to gardeners everywhere is a bacteria you can apply as the insect worms are appearing. It is deadly to the invaders, but does not harm humans, birds or other animals. Look for it commercial by name or as Dipel.

—-Debra Roby

To read the rest of what Debra has to say, please click here. Now, while you are reading her advice, I’m off to rid my garden and lawn of some pesky grasshoppers. I’ll tell you more about that later. What pests drive you crazy in the garden?

Photo provided by almogaver

Garden Remedies

Today I wanted to let you know about a great book that you are sure to want to add to your bookshelf for your garden. This book is chock full of great remedies for your garden and the author even tells you which ones work and which ones don’t and why.

The name of the book is The Truth About Garden Remedies: What Works, What Doesn’t, and Why. You can just click on that link to purchase it or on the picture of the book. It will be a great addition to your garden library for organic gardening methods. The author is Jeff Gillman. He has a Ph.D and is an associate professor in the Department of Horticultural Science at the University of Minnesota. I even found a video for you to watch with the author who explains a couple of the remedies and even one that isn’t in the book. You can watch that short video here:

What are some of your favorite organic home remedies for the garden? Please leave a comment and share.

More Common Disease Problems in Roses

roses-5.jpgYesterday we began discussing the many disease problems which can affect your roses. We covered how to diagnose and treat three different disease problems such gall, powdery mildew and downy mildew. Today we are going to talk about three more diseases which are common in roses and how to treat them.

Symptom: Yellow blotches on upper surfaces of leaves, small powdery orange or black postules on underside of mature leaves.

Cause: Rust—This is a fungal disease that may appear when days are warm and nights are cool and moist.

Treatment: Ensure that the rose plants have good air circulation and ample sunlight. If further treatment is necessary, you will need to treat with a fungicidal treatment that is listed for rust control.

Symptom: Brown dieback of cut canes; brown fuzzy mold on debris around the rose plant. In severe cases, the entire flower bud rots.

Cause: Botrytis blight (grey mold)—This fungal growth favors rainy cool periods or nights with high humidity.

Treatment: Remove all of the damaged areas of the rose plant and clean up leaves and debris from below the plant to prevent the fungus from spreading. Maintain good air circulation around your roses.

Symptoms: Dark black spots with irregular edges on the leaves. The spots tend to be round, varying in size from pinpoint to quarter-sized. Half of leaf yellows or leaf drops completely from the rose plant.

Cause: Black spot—This fungal disease favors rainy weather, poor air circulation or improper watering.

Treatment: Spray-Dust-Watering technique. After winter pruning, apply a dormant lime-sulphur spray. Remove dropped leaves and other debris. During the growing season, spray with fungicides listing rose black spot as a target on a rotational basis. Fungus spores are found on the undersides of leaves, so spray upward from underneath the rose plant. Spray in the early morning when the weather is calm and cool. Water your roses early to allow the foliage to dry thoroughly.

Now that you know some of the most common disease problems in roses, which ones have you had experience with? What have you done to control or eradicate the disease? Leave me a comment and share.

Photo Provided by FreeFoto

Identifying and Treating Diseases in Roses

roses-4.jpgLast week we began discussing the many different problems which are common in roses and are caused by insects. We discussed how to diagnose and treat insect problems such as beetles, rose midge, leaf cutter bees, rose cane borers, aphids, thrips, leaf rollers and spider mites. This week we are going to address several more common problems which may be affecting your roses, such as disease and how to treat those problems.

Symptom: Tumor-like growths on canes, roots, or at the bud union.

Cause: Gall (aerial, crown or root)—This is a bacterial pathogen that enters through a wound on your rose plant or by a pruning tool that is contaminated.

Treatment: Prune away any sections which are infected if possible. Sterilize your pruning shears and other hand tools with bleach or alcohol to prevent the bacteria from spreading. Any plants which are seriously weakened should be destroyed. You will need to treat the soil with a bactericide or leave it fallow for two seasons before you replant.

Symptom: White powdery material appears on young growth.

Cause: Powdery Mildew—This is a fungal disease that is fostered by warm days and cool nights.

Treatment: At first you should try spraying the affected areas with a solution of baking soda and dish soap. Make sure that the plants have good air circulation and an ample amount of sunlight. If you need to treat your roses further, then you will need to treat them with a fungicidal product for powdery mildew control.

Symptom: Dark, irregular splotches on foliage, dropping of apparently healthy leaves, sections of yellow leaves.

Cause: Downy Mildew—This is a fungal disease that may appear when nights are cool and humid. This mildew can develop very rapidly.

Treatment: Water your rose plants early in the day to allow the surface of them to dry thoroughly. Avoid overhead irrigation and prevent water from collecting around the plants. Cut the defoliated plant back. Clean up any debris and then dust with sulfur. Then spray the roses with a fungicide that lists downy mildew as a target.

Which of the above problems do you have or have had with your roses? Which methods have you used to eradicate the disease? Leave me a comment and share. Tomorrow I will discuss problems with rust, blight and black spot in your roses.

Photo provided by FreeFoto

A Gardening Carnival – June 25, 2008

Welcome to the June 25, 2008 edition of a gardening carnival.

carnival-ride.JPGTiffany Washko presents Freedom Gardens – Grow Your Own Food posted at Natural Family Living Blog.

Dora Renee Wilkerson presents Y-2K Hippie: 06/19/08 posted at Knitting, horses, and my family., saying, “Just posted about some of the things I made with my parents when they came to visit me. We picked wild blackberries and made a berry berry jam, made cheese, and shampoo with soapwort.”

gardening

Matthew Sauer presents Garden Update: Bio-diversity? posted at Play the Dad? Be the Dad!, saying, “It is my first year with a vegetable garden of my own , working on keeping track of what I learn as I go through the process. Growing up on the inside and the outside.”

Sam presents The Secret Lives of Bees. Honey, Health and Harvests ! Surfer Sam posted at Surfer Sam and Friends, saying, “The Secret Lives of Bees. About one-third of the human food supply depends on bee pollination. We also use honey and bee pollen as natural food products to promote wellness. Bees are beneficial for everyone. Bees, we can’t do without them.”

Tip Diva presents Top Ten Tips – Cheap Gardening posted at Tip Diva, saying, “Gardening is a fun, relaxing hobby for many, and the end result yields plenty of food, flowers and foliage. But it does not have to be expensive. Here are ways to save while gardening”

Nancy Canyon presents The Beginnings of My Community Garden posted at The Community Gardener, saying, “I have a community garden in Fairhaven and I’m writing about gardening by myself, now that I’m a single woman again. And a grandmother. The blog is humerous, and also I’ve been gardening all my life, so it’s full of info too.”

Adam Berry presents How to Extend The Life of Garden Tools posted at The Compost Heap, saying, “some tips on how to extend the lifespan of your garden tools”

Sarah presents Ridding Your Lawn of Gophers, Moles and Other Rodents | Spring Lawn Care – Lawn Care Tips posted at Lawn Care Tips, saying, “If you’ve ever turned your ankle in a gopher hole, you know that these animal pests can be hazardous as well as make your lawn look unsightly.”

Amy L. presents Creating a Butterfly Garden posted at Housekeeping Tips, saying, “A great way to bring butterflies closer to your home is with the construction of a garden that includes plants known to attract butterflies.”

James presents Gardening For A Sustainable Planet posted at Ways To Simplify.

Jeff Tincher presents Get Out And Do Some Gardening, It’s Good For The Body and Soul | West Glenmoore, PA – Beautiful. Green. Home. posted at West Glenmoore, PA – Beautiful. Green. Home., saying, “The benefits of gardening and how it works to exercise your body.”

herbs

nimuae905@yahoo.com presents Tips for Growing Herbs Indoors posted at The Herb Gardener, saying, “Keeping herbs indoors is easier if you understand the two of the most important aspects of living in a pot – light and water.”

kids gardening

Mother Hen presents Squash Eatin’ Squid posted at Mother Hen.

landscape

Elizabeth Harrin presents SmartDraw 2008: planning the garden posted at A Girl’s Guide to Managing Projects, saying, “This is a review of a piece of software that will give you the opportunity to plan out your garden before you take the plunge: great for landscapers.”

lawn care

Raimondo Solari presents Inexpensive, Eco-Friendly Green Lawn Care posted at Garden Gab, saying, “With the availability of water becoming a scarce resource and lawns being one of the top culprits of sucking up valuable water, it’s time to try and keep an “eco-friendly” lawn that will still look good and yet not thirst so much.”

organic gardening

Melanie Rimmer presents Jungle Clearance – Before and After posted at Bean-Sprouts, saying, “How to clear a large weedy area without weedkiller and without backbreaking digging.”

patio furniture

Amy L. presents Which Mattress Is Best For You? posted at Housekeeping Tips, saying, “Every year, thousands of people purchase mattresses, only to find that their new mattresses are as uncomfortable as the old ones.”

vegetables

:: Suzanne :: presents garden update posted at :: adventures in daily living ::.

Tiffany Ludwig presents Not a Crock-Pot Recipe posted at Loving the Low-Carb Lifestyle, saying, “A great recipe for lasagna using what’s in your garden.”

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 July 30, 2008

More Common Insect Problems in Roses

roses-3.jpgYesterday we began discussing the many different insect problems which are common in roses. We discussed how to diagnose and treat insect problems such as aphids, thrips, leaf rollers and spider mites. Today we are going to address four more insect problems which are common in roses and how to treat those problems.

Symptom: Leaves have been eaten leaving a skeletal structure. Unopened flower buds chewed and opened flower buds damaged.

Cause: Beetles—The most notorious of these is the Japanese beetle. These beetles are a metallic brown color with a green head. The same symptoms can also be caused by caterpillars.

Treatment: An effective and practical approach is to spread plastic or a cloth on the ground and gently shake the plants to remove the beetles. If you place them away from your roses, then traps are also effective. You will want to spray your roses with an insecticide that lists beetles as a target pest. Your roses will need to be sprayed when the problem is first detected, either in the spring or the late summer. If the beetles are in the larvae stage, then Spinosad will work very well on them or on caterpillars. Remember, that Spinosad is an organic chemical that will control most of the insect problems in your roses.

Symptom: Drooping, unopened buds, accompanied by a small discolored stem slightly below the bud.

Cause: Rose Midge—this is a small fly that pupates in the ground below the rose bush. Midges fly up and lay their eggs in the soft upper stem of the rose plant. The hatched larvae then eat the stems and cause breakage.

Treatment: Spread a systemic insecticide granule on the ground to control the pests. Sprays are of a very limited value with the rose midge because of their development below the ground. Spinosad may work to kill the active insects on the plant, and I would be willing to try it.

Symptom: Holes in pruned cane ends. Circular pieces cut from leaf margins.

Cause: Leaf cutter bees—these insects use the circular leaf pieces for egg partitions inside of the burrowed rose cane.

Treatment: Control by applying white glue to the cane ends. The leaf cutter bee is a beneficial insect in the garden as it is an effective garden pollinator. I strongly recommend against eradication of this insect. Instead, I recommend using the above preventative measure to lessen any damage to your roses.

Symptom: Wilting and dying foliage at the top of the rose bush. Leaves may turn yellow and drop off the plant.

Cause: Rose cane borer—These pests are the larvae of sawflies, some wasps and bees. The rose cane borer enters the rose from the top of any pruned rose canes. These pests search for freshly pruned stems of the rose plant to lay their eggs on in the late spring or early summer. The eggs then hatch and the larvae bore their way by eating into the center of the rose plant down the length of the rose cane.

Treatment: The most effective method of treatment is to prune the rose bush below any area of damage. You may need to prune the cane a couple of times to find an area that is not damaged. Then you will want to place a little dab of white glue over the pruning cut. This will prevent the insects from successfully laying new eggs on the freshly pruned rose plant. Another idea to aid in prevention is to try some companion planting. These insects do not seem to like Allium, so planting some near your rose bushes may help to repel them.

Now that you know some of the most common insect problems with roses, which ones have you had experience with? Leave me a comment and share.

Photo provided by FreeFoto

Identifying and Treating Insect Problems in Roses

roses-2.jpgWhen your roses are given the proper attention and a healthy environment, they will stay healthy and will flourish for many years. However, even under the best of conditions, your roses may on occasion suffer some form of disease or be troubled by common pests. Inadequate drainage, poor soil, insufficient water, lack of nutrition or other environmental problems may encourage pests and disease to take hold of your roses.

Roses may be affected by either environmental conditions or living pathogens. If you find that the damage to your roses is uniform, then it is usually an environmental or cultural problem that you are dealing with. However, if there is visible damage that is not uniform, then you are usually dealing with a problem with living pathogens.

Today and tomorrow I will discuss how to identify and treat the most common insect problems in your roses. Next week I will discuss how to identify and treat the most common diseases which may affect your roses.

Symptoms: Masses of small insects on the buds and leaves.

Cause: Aphids—these are green, red or black bugs which are soft and about 1/8” long. They can be found in clusters and will be found mainly on the new growth. These pests appear in the spring and can remain all summer.

Treatment: You will want to begin by simply hosing the insects off of the rose plant with water. Should you need to treat the problem further, then most of the commercial insecticidal sprays are effective. You can also use a solution of household dish soap and water. This is done by using just a few drops of dish soap in a quart spray bottle and filling it up with water. Then just spray it on your roses. There are also many aerosol insecticides labeled for plant pests that will also work. Just be sure to read the label on the product to verify which insects the product will control. Spray the product upwind and ensure that you apply a coverage that is thorough. Or if you want to just make life easy on yourself, go to your local garden center and purchase a product called Spinosad. This is an organic chemical that will control most insect problems in your roses.

Symptom: Buds are distorted and bloom tips appear discolored.

Cause: Thrips—these are light brown insects which are very slender and are about 1/8” long. These insects can appear inside petals and they move very quickly. They are spread by the wind.

Treatment: You will want to apply a systemic insecticide that lists thrips as a target. You will want to apply this when new growth of 1” or more emerges in the spring. Contact treatments can be used on a rotational basis when the rose buds are pea-sized. Or, just make life easy on your self and go and get some Spinosad from your local garden center.

Symptom: Leaves stuck together, unopened buds with holes.

Cause: Omnivorous leaf roller—this is a moth larvae that makes a cocoon type of structure with leaves.

Treatment: Remove all of the cocoon structures from your rose plant. If you need to treat your rose plant further, then apply a systemic insecticide that targets leaf rollers when new growth of 1” or more emerges in the spring. Contact treatments can also be used on a rotational basis when the buds of the roses are pea-sized. Personally, I just use the Spinosad as it is easier.

Symptom: Leaves appear fuzzy and yellow on surface; underside has small red specks, webbing or spider-like insects may be seen.

Cause: Spider mite (red spider or 2-spotted mite)—these insects are microscopic in size, but are visible to the naked eye. Spider mites thrive in hot weather.

Treatment: Apply an insecticidal soap, horticultural oils, miticides, or high pressure hose water, or my favorite product, Spinosad. All of the treatments must be applied to the underside of the leaves of the rose plant, in order to come into contact with the spider mites. Keep the roses well watered during hot weather and avoid dust on the leaves of your plants.

Tomorrow I will discuss Beetles, Rose Midge, Leaf Cutter Bees and Rose Cane Borer. Which of the above treatments do you favor for the treatment of your roses? Leave me a comment and share.

Photo provided by Major-Maróthy Szabolcs

Eradicating Weeds in the Garden

One of the biggest sources of frustration for a gardener is our nemesis, the weed. Weeds seem to grow wherever they want, whenever they want. It doesn’t seem to matter if anything else will grow in that location or not. Invariably, a weed will grow and do it well.

So what are some options for getting rid of those pesky troublemakers? Of course there are many chemical solutions for weeds, but if you are looking for something a little more organic, then have I got a video for you! This week’s video is full of some really great ideas to get rid of those pesky weeds once and for all. And the video even explains why weeds grow and how we can inadvertently make things worse for ourselves. And who wants that to happen, right?

Now that you have seen the video, which techniques will you use in your garden? Do you have other solutions for getting rid of those nuisance-causing weeds? Leave me a comment and share.

Do-It-Yourself Soil Tests

soil.jpgOne of the most important things you can do for your organic garden is to learn about your soil. This can help you to make your soil environment the best it can be for your plants. I found some great information in a post by Colleen Vanderlinden of About.com. Here is some of what she had to say:

Learning as much as you can about your soil will help you decide what needs to be done to make it ideal for the plants you want to grow. If you can learn about your soil’s texture, composition, drainage, acidity, and mineral density, you will avoid, up front, the disappointing results that can occur when your soil is unsuitable for your dream garden.

Soil Test #1: The Squeeze Test

One of the most basic characteristics of soil is its composition. In general, soils are classified as clay soils, sandy soils, or loamy soils. Clay is nutrient rich, but slow draining. Sand is quick draining, but has trouble retaining nutrients and moisture. Loam is generally considered to be ideal soil because it retains moisture and nutrients but doesn’t stay soggy.

To determine your soil type, take a handful of moist (but not wet) soil from your garden, and give it a firm squeeze. Then, open your hand. One of three things will happen:

  1. It will hold its shape, and when you give it a light poke, it crumbles. Lucky you—this means you have luxurious loam!
  2. It will hold its shape, and, when poked, sits stubbornly in your hand. This means you have clay soil.
  3. It will fall apart as soon as you open your hand. This means you have sandy soil.

Now that you know what type of soil you have, you can work on improving it.

By Colleen Vanderlinden, About.com

For more of Colleen’s great advice and the rest of her post, please visit her here. She walks you through three more tests that you can do to make your soil be the best it can be. When growing an organic garden, you want as many things in your favor as possible. You will already be getting several benefits from the things you grow organically.

What are your thoughts on improving your soil for your organic garden? Leave me a comment and let me know.

Photo provided by Freephoto.com