Carrot Sprout Carnage

Carrot Sprout Carnage

It’s carrot seed planting time! It’s an exciting and rejuvenating time of year, seeds being planted, perennial sprouts emerging, spring flowers and summer flower buds are abundant everywhere.

Well, what am I talking about then…carrot sprout carnage??

Back up a little while: Read how I built a small raised bed on a pallet that had side walls already fixed to it about two weeks ago.

This unique pallet was re-purposed and thereby creating a raised bed for planting Rainbow Blend and Purple Haze carrot seeds.

May Showers

Anyway, it’s late April and early May, summer is right around the corner. In this area we don’t get summer until a few serious spring time rain storms have gone through. This is normal and usually there is little damage to the garden and the new babies, but yesterday was different. It was not a normal storm that came through.

My local area on the west coast of BC received approximately 83mm of rain in less than one day. Even for this wet, rainy location of the country this is a huge amount of rain.

It poured for hours and hours with HUGE drops just pounding everything and causing rivers down the street with flooding and damage all over. It sounded like a freight train barreling across the roof of the house for nearly the whole day and night.

We normally get less than 83mm of rain in the entire month of May, yesterday we received that amount in less than 24 hours!

Treat Rain as a Pest

As far as gardening goes, rain can be considered a serious “pest” and a hazard to your growing efforts and eventual harvests.

Rain can be a potentially big problem for the tender little sprouts, but vicious rain like what’s described above can be detrimental to a garden and lethal to baby sprouts.

Two weeks ago I planted the carrot seeds in the “raised bed on a pallet”. They had just begun to sprout and emerge from the soil (14-17 days usually) with the Cotyledon leaves showing their new perfect beauty last week.

This is their most tender and vulnerable time. The rain struck at the worst possible moment in their growing cycle.

No Rescue

Hindsight is always 20/20 and I’m not sure why I didn’t run to their rescue when the rain began, but I didn’t. I could have easily covered them with a plank of wood (the pallet edge is higher than the sprouts) and they would have been fine.

The next day the bed looked like a battlefield with not a lot of survivors. Many of the baby sprouts were crushed, tipped over and broken, some were buried in mud or just simply gone.

The bed had protection to keep cats from digging in it, which are the green metal grids you can see in the images however these are a very bad thing when heavy rain strikes.

Rain Damage from Grid May 2014

Rain Damage from Grid May 2014

They add an ability for the rain to “dig” down in to the soil and seriously harm seeds. You can see in the image that the grid damage can easily be seen as the rain dug square divets out of the soil. You can just barely, faintly see the poor flattened carrot sprouts.

I should have put a layer of plastic over the green grids or a piece of plywood over the whole bed for the time it was raining. This would have protected them perfectly and they would be unharmed now.

In this case since I didn’t protect them, it’s likely that I will have to abandon the few seeds that made it through the storm and replant the whole bed.

Lesson learned.

Carrot Sprout Carnage 2

The other option is to wait two weeks and see how many survived and how many didn’t. This isn’t preferable because I would lose two weeks of growing time while waiting to probably find out that not many survived, then I would just be two weeks behind on the road to another crop harvest.

I decided to let them grow and see just how many made it through that storm. It looks like about 75% made it and survived the rain. Most of them needed a little help “up” in getting unstuck from the soil/mud. Once freed they stood up again and will soon resume growing.

Replanting

The lesson to learn here is that when you see rain in the forecast after you’ve planted seeds, you have to run to protect them as soon as you can.

Have you had any disasters in your carrot patch? Leave a comment and share the story or ask if you have any questions.


Featured Product Links

Rainbow Blend Carrot Seeds

Purple Haze Carrot Seeds


 

How to Build a Raised Bed on a Pallet

How to Build a Raised Bed on a Pallet

If you keep your eyes peeled when driving around the neighborhood you will sometimes see unique pallets that have been specifically created for uncommon jobs and transportation of odd shaped objects.

These are usually not reusable for further shipping and quite often considered garbage by the receiving business. These types of pallets are easier to acquire because of this detail.

Try to locate a smaller size pallet that has sides already built on to it. If you can find one of those then you’re more than half way to your raised bed already.

Depending on how strong they are and how well they’re made you can re-purpose them in great ways and use them to build a very easy and inexpensive raised bed for your home garden.

Raised Bed on a Pallet 1 April 2014

Line with Metal Mesh or Plastic Netting

Supplies Needed

The steps are simple and the required supplies are minimal. They are:

  • your awesome unique pallet
  • blocks or bricks to level the pallet (if necessary)
  • gloves
  • landscape fabric
  • chicken wire or metal mesh with small openings
  • plastic mesh is ok too
  • staple gun
  • scissors

1. Choose the location that you will want your raised bed, place the pallet there and level it before lining it with landscape fabric and filling it with soil. It’ll be too heavy to move once it’s full.

2. Cut the chicken wire or metal mesh to fit as closely as possible to the inside of the bed. Staple it down securely in several spots and really well around the top edge. Fold in sharp edges with pliers.

3. Cut large sheets of landscape fabric and place it over top of the wire mesh right in to the corners. It doesn’t need to be flat and perfect but it does need to have complete coverage with no holes or gaps in it at all.

Raised Bed on a Pallet 2 April 2014

Line with Layers of Landscape Fabric

If the landscape fabric is thin (rated 5 year or less) then use two or three layers of it over the metal mesh. 12 year landscape fabric will only need one layer.

Then poke a few holes in it with a small screwdriver so that the water can escape in a few additional areas. Don’t make the holes large enough for the soil to escape.

Filling with Soil

Fill your new raised bed with garden soil. Choose good healthy soil enriched with manure, this will help your veggies be as healthy as possible. Fill it leaving just about two inches of space up to the top edge.

This will allow enough space to spread your carrot seeds and then cover them with a thin layer of soil without it spilling over when it rains or when watering.

Raised Bed on a Pallet 3

Fill with Garden Soil

Spread the Seeds

Sprinkle the carrot seeds over the soil using a size control seeder, this is the one I use. It makes spreading the tiny carrot seeds easier and more consistent. It’s really easy to over plant carrot seeds because they cannot easily be seen once they hit the soil.

Cover the seeds with a layer of soil about an inch thick and then pat down the soil to secure the seeds. Water them gently and you’re done.

Raised Bed on a Pallet 5

Seed Spreader and Rainbow Carrot Blend

Trellis Creation

Trellises can be made out of many different materials created in different ways for plant support. This is limited only by your imagination. Just make them strong because the plants can get heavy especially if they are food bearing.

The best idea is 8′ tall square stakes that get secured to the side of the raised bed on a pallet. They are tall and strong and it’s easy to staple netting between them to create a vertical pea or bean trellis. There are beans planted in with the carrots along the edge so we will need a trellis added shortly.

June Fruit Drop

There is a condition called June Fruit Drop that is common in cherry trees and expected to a certain degree around the month of June.

It’s ok to see up to 30% of the immature fruit drops naturally from a healthy tree. Read my entire June Fruit Drop article.

In the images below you’ll see the basic steps that I took to create a raised bed on a pallet. Step one begins after you have chosen a sunny location for it and it’s level.

Step 1: Line the raised bed with metal mesh or plastic bird netting and staple it down securely.
Step 2: Line the raised bed with 3 layers of landscape fabric and staple it down securely.
Step 3: Poke a few holes in the bottom for additional water drainage.
Step 4: Fill with garden soil.
Step 5: Plant desired seeds, in this case it’s carrots.
Step 6: Cover the soil with something to stop the cats from digging in your beautiful new garden.
Step 7: Wait. There’s a 2 month wait until carrots

Please leave a comment if you need more details or help with building your own raised bed on a pallet.


Featured Product Links

Square Wood Tree Stake 1″ x 1″ x 8′ – Sold in singles

6 Foot Long Square Wood Tree Stake – 5 Pack

1″ x 1″ x 6′ Square Wooden Garden StakesPack of 24

Easy Gardener – Bird Block Protective Mesh - 7′ x 20′ (pictured)

Dewitt 12-Year Weed Barrier Fabric - 4′ x 50′ 

Luster Leaf Dial Seed Sower (pictured above)

Rainbow (Carnival) Carrot Seed Blend


 

The Cherries are Falling Off – Is My Fruit Tree Sick?

The Cherries are Falling Off – Is My Fruit Tree Sick?

It’s almost June and spring is fully underway. The cherry blossoms have bloomed their dazzling spring beauty and are now almost gone. The immature cherries are just forming behind the flower petals as they blow away in the wind.

But then disaster happens…

The newly formed, immature cherries start falling off your cherry tree. And there is a lot of them that fall!

It makes you wonder the obvious question: Is My Fruit Tree Sick?

The answer is “Probably Not”.

It really depends on how much of the total crop of cherries actually fall off. If it’s 30% or less of the entire crop on that tree then what you are seeing is a natural occurrence called “June Fruit Drop” or “June Drop”.

Normal “fruit drop” happens to many fruit trees including peach, plum, cherry and apple. The larger fruit producing trees need additional human help in thinning their fruit.

But for now, we’ll keep it focused on young cherry trees in containers. Cherry trees do not usually need this added human intervention.

If the tree loses more than 30% of the total crop then you could be seeing symptoms of a disease or bigger problem with your fruit tree.

Why Do Cherries Drop?

Some cherry trees do not drop any fruit and seems to be a minimal problem for some, but if yours is dropping some of its fruit not to worry.

Fruit drop happens for natural reasons to aid the health and strength of the tree. The biggest reason is that the tree has limited resources to nurture all of the growing young fruit.

To accommodate this limitation on resources, the tree will reserve energy and naturally shed some of the unformed fruit to allow for a fewer number of cherries to stay on and mature more healthily and grow larger.

June Fruit Drop on Cherry Tree 2013

The added benefits to the tree are improved air flow and increased sun exposure to each cherry. This also helps each piece of fruit grow more perfectly.

If ALL Cherries Drop

In rare cases the cherry tree will drop ALL of its immature fruit. This is not a good thing and is an indicator of a diseased or very sick tree. It’s usually easiest to discard the entire tree and start again with a new healthy one from a good nursery.

This happened to one of my trees two years in a row, so I chose to remove the tree from the garden entirely rather than babysit a sick tree and risk the health of the rest.

If you have normal fruit drop you will see it thin out but most of the young fruit will stay on the tree. These remaining fruit will share the resources of the tree more efficiently.

Unripe Cherries 2013 After the "Drop"

 

After the “drop” you can expect most fruit to remain on the tree. Then your tree will be able to grow large healthy delicious fruit more easily and successfully.

Leave a comment if you wish. Are you already growing cherry trees in containers?

How is it going for you? Share your stories and help others.

Raspberry Crown Borer

Raspberry Crown Borer

The Raspberry Crown Borer (Pennisetia marginata) and its larva are common pests of the raspberry plant. They are common throughout most of North America and are very common here on the west coast of BC and Washington.

They are also known as Blackberry Clearwing Borer, as they can affect the closely related blackberry plant as well. Wild blackberries are a carrier of this pest and they will spread to nearby gardens if they are close enough.

Their life cycle is nearly invisible and you don’t notice they are there until your plant is badly infested. The larva bore into the crown of the plant and chew tunnels in to it over the winter.

Identify the Signs

The canes with healthy green growth will just tip over as if they were broken or cut and then just lie on the ground or across the top of the pot.

Canes that have done this are easy to tug and pull off. Quite often you’ll actually be able to see the borer right there in the end of the stalk. He hides in the completely hollowed out floricane that he calls home.

The raspberry plants that have infestations like this will, slowly over time fail to produce new primocanes, and without new primocanes to replace the older floricanes, the entire plant will eventually die.

Identification

In order to determine if you have a crown borer problem, simply dig up a crown and look for the larva. You may also spot a ‘sawdust’ like material, which is actually the shredded remains of your raspberry crown.

Appearance

At maturity the raspberry crown borer larva can reach 2.5 cm long. It is a whitish-yellowish color with a darker brown head. They are unlike other worm-like larva in that they have clearly visible legs. The cane in the image below is about the size and diameter of a chopstick, very small.

You can easily see the crown borer in the hollowed out, dying cane below. Raspberry Crown Borer 20140403 Close up

The adult raspberry crown borer bears no resemblance at all to it’s larval stage. It’s long and narrow with black and yellow stripes. It’s color markings make it look like a yellow-jacket wasp, but it is actually a moth of the “Sesiidae” family. It has brownish clear wings and a total body length of 1″ and a wing span of up to 3 cm. 

This family includes many other “borers” such as the peach borer, lilac borer, grape root borer, strawberry crown borer and more.

Life Cycle

Most of the time it is a two year cycle but in some cases the life cycle completes in just one year.

The winged adult lays its eggs in the summer on the on the leaves of the plant. The larva hatch and then make their way down the canes to the crown of the plant. Once there they bore into the crown where they spend the winter well protected. Sometimes they will bore into the larger roots as well.

The larva remain there for two years where they mature to adulthood while at the same time destroying your raspberry plant from the inside out.

Late in the second summer, just about the time you are enjoying your harvest, they emerge as winged adults identical to the ones that originally laid eggs two years before.

You may see the adults flying around in the warm days of July and August, looking just like huge yellow jacket wasps. 

Control Measures

It is possible to rid your raspberry patch (or container) of this pest, but it takes two years of consistent treatment to completely break the life cycle of this pest.

Insecticides that contain pyrethrins are recommended. Apply the solution directly to the crown of the plant early in the spring as well as in the fall after harvesting. This will kill the larva heading down the canes to bore in to the crown for the winter.  

Insecticides that are targeted directly at the crown and base of the canes in fall and early spring before the larvae tunnel in have a good success rate. 

If the infestation is beyond control then just dig up and discard the plant in the garbage or burn it. Start over again fresh with good quality root stock and fresh soil.

Nematodes

This particular nematode “Steinernema feltiae” is one of the few natural enemies of the Raspberry Crown Borer.

Nematodes have been used in horticulture for years and are an effective predator against many garden pests. They hunt and feed on soil pests among hundreds of other garden pests too.

They are not even classified as a pesticide because they are very safe to use. 


Featured Product Links

Beneficial Nematodes 7 Million Active Units

Pyrethrin Garden Spray 8oz


Leave a comment and let me know if you need more help with Raspberry Crown borers.

Have you seen this pest in your garden? How do you deal with it?

Big Fat Worm on Basil

Big Fat Worm on Basil

It is so easy to grow basil from seeds, it’s usually unnecessary to buy the plants if you have a vacant bright window sill in your home. Last year I decided that I wanted to grow more and dry a lot more of it for generous use in winter time recipes.

There was no time to sprout new seeds at this point as the season was already well under way. I purchased several young plants from the local nursery and brought them home to grow larger and harvest.

I hadn’t pinched any yet but started to notice some of the branches looked as though they had been harvested already. Odd.

After some research I discovered these perfectly green, fat, juicy worms to be Cabbage Worms (Pieris rapae). They will consume many things in the Cabbage family, hence their name.

Cabbage Worm on Store Bought Basil 2013

Cabbage Worm Diet

They will happily eat Cabbage, Broccoli, Brussel Sprouts, Kale, Cauliflower and Basil voraciously. If given the opportunity they will likely eat other plants too, keep your eyes peeled for them when your plants are young and fresh in the spring and early summer. Sometimes they are hard to see because their color is often perfectly matched to the plant they are on.

This pest can be a prolific problem out in the garden if left unchecked. This particular worm hitched a ride into my living room on the basil. He had a few friends as well on the other plants as well. In this case it was nothing caused by improper growing on my part.

The plants all had to be cut down and only some of it could be harvested. If you have these worms in your garden then choose one of the recommended remedies below, if you have a hitchhiker into your home then just destroy the whole plant.

BTKSafer Brand Caterpillar Killer with BT

There are a few remedies that you can choose from depending on how squeamish you are. You can choose BTK (Bacillus thuringiensis kurstakis) spray, hand picking and using row cover material.

BTK spray is a natural pesticide comprised of a certain BT bacteria named “kurstakis” that attacks worms and caterpillars only.

Bacteria in general is not necessarily bad and is present in numerous forms and places including in our food, in the soil we grow our food and on our bodies as well. 

The BTK bacteria is known to attack and weaken the caterpillars, larvae and other worm like creatures such as the Cabbage Looper. The caterpillar must eat the BTK in order for it to work.

Cabbage Worm on Store Bought Basil 2013BTK doesn’t work on adult butterflies or pupae, it is only effective on caterpillars and most effective on young caterpillars.

BTK has been approved and available for sale in Canada for 30 years. It is always recommended as a plan of attack for this type pest because it’s not harmful to any beneficial insect, birds, humans or our domestic pets.

If you notice fast moving white colored butterflies in the spring then you’ll know that you are a facing a fight with Cabbage worms in the upcoming season.

Handpicking

Handpicking is just as fun as it sounds. Go around your garden and pick them off one by one. Put on a pair of gloves that allow you to have good finger dexterity.

Then use a small container with a lid and take a trip around the garden looking for the nasty pests. Pick them off as you find them and put them in the container, then put the container in the garbage or just wait for them to suffocate and die.

Row Cover

This pest control method is usually used in large scale farming and gardening, but also can prove effective in small areas as well. Purchase the standard white “frost cover” from your local nursery or purchase here or below.

Apply the row cover early in spring as soon as you plant. One drawback with this product is that the packages are quite large and will be much more than you need if you are doing small space gardening. Keep the product dry and it will be good to use for many years.

A second drawback to row cover is that it will hold out more rain than your plants need and it cuts sunlight penetration to approximately 85%. However, row cover is great for protecting your plants from pests as well as bad weather such as hail. 

Tulle

You read that right. Tulle, the same stuff that is used in weddings and other events to decorate ball rooms. This product works great for a job that it was never intended. Stop by your local fabric store and buy some white tulle, in the appropriate amount the your size of garden. 

Tulle works because it has tiny holes large enough for rain and 100% of sunlight to get through but not at all large enough forCabbage Moth Butterfly garden pests to get through. 

The Adult

This is what the Cabbage worm looks like after it pupates and changes into a flying insect, known as a Cabbage Worm Butterfly. It can be confused with a regular pasty white moth but these are indeed a more destructive creature. They look nothing like a lovely butterfly so should be easy to spot around your garden.

Using these methods should help you get rid of this pest for good.


Featured Product LinksSafer Brand Caterpillar Killer with BTK

Dalen Harvest Guard Row Cover 25′ x 5′ 

4″ by 180″ (15ft) Tulle, White (small package) 

54″ x 120′ Extra Large Bolt Tulle, White (large bolt) 

Safer Brand Caterpillar Killer (BTK) 


 

Cheesy Homegrown Potatoes

Cheesy Homegrown Potatoes

This is a deliciously simple recipe that can be made on short notice and is best with small homegrown potatoes of any color. Fingerling potatoes are also suitable. This recipe can be made using tiny store bought “new” potatoes if you don’t have any left from the garden. They should be no larger than a ping-pong ball.

I don’t recommend Russet potatoes at all for this recipe, even if you’ve grown them yourself. Different potato varieties are suited to different types of cooking and recipes. Russet potatoes break down too much during cooking, the “new” potatoes hold their shape better and are a little firmer.

Step One 

Boil the potatoes until tender in a large pot of salted boiling water. When tested with a toothpick it should slide easily through.

Step Two

While the potatoes are boiling prepare the herbs, hold them aside in a bowl until the potatoes are done boiling. Use fresh herbs if you have them otherwise dry herbs are fine. Add some salt and pepper of course as well as chopped Basil, Oregano, Rosemary and Thyme. If they are dry I would recommend using a mortar and pestle to grind them up.

Step Three

When the potatoes are tender drain off the water and return them to the pot you cooked them in. Add a good size glop of butter (relative to how many potatoes you’ve cooked) and spices as suggested above or use your own combination of flavors.

Step Four

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

Line a baking tray with parchment paper (not wax paper) or tin foil. Locate a strong heavy bottomed glass or something similar to do the squishing. Pour the potatoes out on the tray and sort them out in a single layer. Squash each one of them until they are about a 1/4″ thick.

Step Five

Place a “large pinch” of cheese on each one as in picture 6. Choose your favorite type of cheese. I used Jalapeno Jack and Cheddar in the images but any good flavorful cheese will work.

Place the tray in the hot oven when all have cheese topping. Stay with them and watch, don’t walk away. They will brown up quite quickly and will easily burn. The exact length of cooking time depends entirely on your oven.

Step Six

Remove from the oven when they become golden brown and a little bit crispy on top. Let them cool a little bit. Enjoy!

 

Slugs in January!

Slugs in January!

Slug Chewed Sprouts 2014

The garden usually goes to bed in November depending on the weather and when the rain returns. Usually the rainy season has arrived by the end of November and the gardeners of this area retreat to the dry warmth of the house.  

Now is the time to relax and enjoy the hard earned break from the heavy work load of the spring and summer planting and growing season.

That was two months ago. We don’t really get “winter” around here in the true Canadian sense, we just get a lot of rain and quite warm temperatures compared to the rest of the continent. It’s very rare that snow falls at all and even more rare to get snow that lasts more than a day or two.

For a two or three months it’s usually ok to assume that the garden doesn’t really need anything other than time to rest…or so I thought! The slugs have been busy all month long while I was resting.


The Slugs were Not Sleeping

Spring feels just around the corner even though it’s not really. I took a walk around the garden the other day to see what was happening and see if anyone (the plants) were waking up from the “winter” dormancy season.  

I found a lot of perennials and herbaceous plants like Hosta starting to show life and the spring sprouts are evident on several plants already.

I love Oriental lilies so I always keep an eye on them. The calendar says it’s winter, therefore I didn’t even think about doing pest control right now in January. Usually that isn’t needed, but I didn’t notice how high the temperature has been lately.

It’s NOT cold. The slugs didn’t miss that, but I sure did.

This article “Slugs and Snails and What to do About Them” has details, ideas and several products to help you in the fight against these relentless garden pests.


Buffet for Slugs

Brown Slug Hiding

To my dismay all of my young sprouts are being destroyed by voraciously hungry slugs and snails. All of these sprouts in the image have been chewed almost to the ground.

Though they had just emerged and are only a few centimeters high, the slugs had them mostly demolished.

It’s easy to tell if you have slugs in your garden even if you never see them around. The young pointed tips of your lily sprouts and other young perennials will have noticeable gouges out of them.

The slime trails are usually pretty easy to spot if you look closely.

They tend to come out of hiding in the evening and night time or if the day is really rainy then you will see them in the daytime too.

If slugs are left uncontrolled they can easily kill a plant by eating it faster than it can grow. Eventually the plant will just die from stress.  There will be a need for slug bait or some kind of control measure or you won’t have any beautiful flowers when July arrives. 


Slug Remedies
Scotts Company Bug Geta Plus Snail Slug and Insect Killer, 3-Pound

My personal favorite is the good old fashioned slug poison and bait. It’s easy to apply and works without you having to do anything else. Just reapply the bait after 1-2 weeks and you’ll see a great reduction in them. 

 There are several products on the market to address the slug and snail problem. This is one of my favorites and works really well. 

Scotts Company Bug-Geta Plus Snail Slug and Insect Killer, 3-Pound


Hummingbird in Winter Video

The video you are about to watch was shot from my kitchen window in mid January 2012.

You can clearly see the snow on the ground in the background and a serious lack of flowers. There are very limited food sources for the birds this time of year.

I had never hung a feeder out before this video. It is quite literally the first time the bird has seen it.

I made this hummingbird food recipe and put it out around 3pm. It took about 30 minutes for the first bird to come around and within an hour I had three distinctly different birds repeatedly coming in for food.

This birds’ actions clearly illustrate the importance of having food out for the hummingbirds in winter.  The first time this little guy found the feeder he stayed and drank for about 45 seconds without leaving.

He went back and forth many times and in the sunbeam of the evening you could even see his teeny little tongue flitting in and out after sipping up the sweet liquid.

There were even drips down his beak and it was pretty clear he was very thankful to find food.

The variety that you are likely to see here on the west coast of BC are the Anna’s hummingbird. They are distinctively glossy greenish black, they almost glow in the sunlight. They are the only one’s that can survive the west coast winter.

They make it through by eating the few bugs or spiders they happen to find or the occasional flower helps them along too. They will do much better if we feed them.

There are two other bird feeders above, one with seed and one with suet. If you watch closely you can see the hummingbird looking up and keeping a sharp eye on the larger birds above, but holds his ground and is not scared away.

I brought in the feeder so it wouldn’t freeze over night. He was back early in the morning looking for more, before 6 am. I hadn’t put it out yet and he was hovering looking in the window at me. My apologies, I’ll be more prompt next time. :)

Perennials to Cut Down in Spring

Perennials to Cut Down in Spring

Some perennial flowers and grasses need to have the assistance of their wilted summer foliage to use for winter insulation from frost or rain.

Many need the protection for the many drab rainy months of a temperate climate. These ones listed below prefer to be cut back in the spring for this reason.

It’s not the end of the world if you cut something at the wrong time of the year most plants can handle that and will recover. You may lose some of the more sensitive varieties though. I’ve included the zone range for these flowers.

Artemesia – Trim in early spring. The new growth that results due to a fall prune is too tender to survive the winter and the cold is often enough to kill the whole plant. Zone 5-9

Aster – Fall blooming asters usually have been pinched a lot during the growing season. They like to rest once they are allowed to bloom. This is why they like to be pruned in spring. Zone 4-8

Astilbe – This plant likes to use it’s dead foliage to insulate it through the winter. In the spring, it’s easy to rake away the loose fall debris to allow new growth to emerge. Zone 3-8

Balloon Flower (Platycodon) - The Balloon flower blooms until frost and remains attractive for a long time. The new sprouts will arrive late in the spring so it helps to leave last years foliage in place until then so their place is marked. Zone 3-8

Bear’s Breeches (Acanthus) -Cut back the leaves as they turn yellow and become unattractive. Leave the latest ones on as they should remain evergreen throughout the winter. Trim back in spring to allow new growth to emerge. Zone 6-10

Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia) – If you can tolerate the site of this perennial in the winter then leave the stalks standing in the fall and the seed heads will feed the birds in the winter. Zone 3-9

Scarlet Red Rudebekia 2011

Scarlet Red Rudebekia 2011

Bleeding Heart (Dicentra) - In the fall the foliage will turn yellow and die back completely like a Hosta. No pruning is really needed in the spring as there will likely be nothing there. Zone 3-9

Butterfly Bush (Buddleia) - If you prune this one the fall then you greatly increase the chances of it dying over the winter. Leave it as is until signs of new growth show in the spring and then cit it back to 8″ to 12″ tall. Zone 6-9

 

Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa) – This plant is a prolific self-seeder and should be deadheaded in the fall if dozens of new plants would be unwelcome in the spring. Leave the seed heads on to feed the birds through the winter if you wish. Zone 4-9

Campanula - This one gets cut back in the spring to clean up unsightly or damaged foliage and to encourage more blooms. Fresh basal foliage will result. This should be left on the plant through winter, so as not to encourage more tender growth in the fall. Zone 3-8

Cardinal Flower (Lobelia cardinalis) - The beautiful Lobelia likes evenly moist soil, but doesn’t like living in cold, wet soil for the months of winter. When you leave the foliage and flower stems in tact it protects the plant from the stresses of winter and possible crown rot from too much rain. Clean up in the spring when the wet weather comes to an end.  May or may not survive. Zone 3-9

Chrysanthemum - The foliage is critical in order to protect the crown over winter, but  prone to mildew. Zone 5-9

Coral Bells (Heuchera) - This plant is susceptible to the freezing and thawing of a temperate climate. It’s recommended to leave the foliage in tact to act as a mulch to protect them through winter. Zone 4-9

Cushion Spurge (Euphorbia) - Prune back to its base in the spring, that’s it. Zone 4-8

Delphinium – Cut back the flower stalks in fall, but allow the foliage to stay on until spring. Cut back before new growth emerges. Zone 3-8

 

Delphinium- Just About to Bloom 2013

Delphinium- Just About to Bloom 2013

Dianthus (Sweet William) – Most varieties will remain evergreen, so just give it minimal clean-up in the spring as needed. Zone 5-8

Gayfeather (Liatris spicata) - This one doesn’t like wet feet and can rot. The seed heads provide food for the birds over winter, but the plant may die. Zone 3-9

Goldenrod – The new hybrid goldenrod doesn’t seed all over the garden and can be left standing for the winter. The old-fashioned species “Solidago” should be cut in fall to avoid becoming invasive. Zone 2-8

Lamb’s Ear (Stachys) - Let the leaves stay and remove winter damage when the leaves sprout again in the spring. Lamb’s Ear is very invasive in temperate climates. Zone 4-8

Lavender -  Lavender doesn’t like to be cold and wet and easily dies over the winter. Fall foliage protects it a bit so if it survives cut it back in the spring when new growth appears. Zone 5-9

Lavender Cotton - Doesn’t like the cold. Don’t prune after middle of August. Wait until you see new growth in the spring before pruning again. Zone 6-8

Lupin - Lupins cannot stand very much, they are not hardy. It’s best to treat them as an annual in most locations, but if not cut it back after the flowers fade, leave the greens on until spring. they are susceptible to mildew. Zone 4-6

Oriental Poppy - Cut back flower stalks after they fade in fall, but leave the foliage to protect the crown over winter. Zone 3-7

Coneflower (Echinacea) - This perennial doesn’t look very attractive in the winter, but if you leave the stalks standing the seed heads will feed the birds. Zone 3-8

Red-Hot Poker (Kniphofia) - This one is also very sensitive to wet and can easily rot. Cut the green back by half and the rest will help to protect the crown. Zone 5-9

Russian Sage (Perovskia) - Treat the same as Lavender. Prune back any dead woody branches to the ground. Zone 5-9

Sea Lavender – Cut back dead foliage in spring  Zone 3-9

Sea Holly - Cut back once per year in August or September only and the new basal growth is enough to get the plants through winter. Zone 3-8

Sedum- Prune in very early spring if needed Zone 3-10

 

 

How to Help the Mason Bees

How to Help the Mason Bees

We need to help the Mason bees and provide habitats for them whenever we possibly can.Mason Bee 

Most everyone knows about the honey bee and how critically important its pollination functions are to the food supply we rely on.

The honey bee is in trouble due to viruses, they are dying off at an alarming rate. This is why we need to help the Mason bee survive and thrive at every opportunity.

 

There are teams of scientists and beekeepers working on this problem but in the meantime we need to take our own small scale action.

Many people do not know about the industrious little Mason Bee. The Mason bee is much smaller than the honey bee but it pollinates 75% more efficiently. There are over 300 different species of them in the Northern Hemisphere. Due to their size and docile nature they often go unnoticed or mistaken for flies. 

They are always in the garden finding natural places to live in, but with our help, the bees will do much better and we can help them increase their population numbers.

If you hang up a bee house customized just for them you’ll give these important little creatures the boost they need to thrive. The reward for you and your plants is of course that your garden gets completely pollinated.

You’ll have many beautiful flowers and a bounty of fruit and vegetables.

Supplies 

The options when buying a commercially made homes for them are numerous. 

You can make one out of a few small chunks of wood. There are basic construction plans available online, but it doesn’t need to be much more than a small square frame.

At your local nursery pick up a package of small bamboo plant stakes (not the green ones), they are usually very cheap. These are actually tubes that when you cut them to 6″ lengths they become perfect for the bees. See the image for an example.

If you prefer you can purchase specially made paper tubes each year for them to lay their eggs in. Replacing them annually is very important to keep them healthy and disease free. 

This image shows a Mason bee and bug house together which serves dual purpose of creating a home for other beneficial insects as well such as Ladybugs.

Bee House ProtectionMason Bee and Bug House

Whether you buy a commercial mason bee house or make one yourself it’s very important to put a large piece of wire mesh in a dome type shape over the entire house. Secure the mesh to the tree or fence completely so that there are no gaps for birds to get in.

Woodpeckers love to eat mason bee cocoons and will happily sit on the edge of the house and peck out your little bee nursery in no time at all. Applying the mesh correctly and completely will stop the birds in their tracks.

The mesh should have small 1/4″ square openings. This is to allow the bees to come and go freely but no predators such as birds can get at them.

How to Hang the House

Hang the house filled with empty tubes about 4′ off the ground on a tree or the side of your house in the early spring. Choose the side of your house that gets the warmest the earliest in the day. 

Once you hang the house you likely won’t need to buy cocoons because the bees that are already around will begin to use these tubes on their own to lay eggs for the next year.

To increase the Mason Bee population in your area you can buy additional packages of cocoons in the early spring containing new bees that are not yet hatched. 

Lifecycle and Facts

The mason bee is a solitary bee and therefore does not live in a hive. It doesn’t make wax or honey either. They are very docile. The males cannot sting at all and the females will only sting if they are threatened. This makes the Mason Bee is quite safe to be around and have in the garden doing their job along side the family.

  • The females do most of the work 
  • The males die after mating in the very early spring
  • They don’t carve out their own places to lay eggs
  • They use holes bored by other creatures that have since been abandoned

This is why they are so quickly attracted to the paper tubes we put out for them.

  • The female spends the summer pollinating and collecting food and laying eggs
  • The female destined eggs get laid first and the male eggs second toward the front of the tube
  • Then she packs the tube with mud between the two cocoons and on the outside as well
  • The males emerge first in spring and hang around close to the house until the females emerge
  • They mate right away and then the males die

The female carries on with the work of the summer and laying next years eggs. The cycle repeats. 

I encourage you to help the mason bee by setting up a home for them in your garden.

Leave me a comment if you need additional guidance and also tell me about your experiences with Mason Bees if you already have them.


Featured Product Links

Mason Bee House with 48-hole Wooden Tray 

Live (hibernating) Mason Bee Cocoons 

Mason Bee Guard Tubes and Inserts - 40 pack 

1/4″ square mesh: 24″ x 5′ Hardware Cloth (Wire Mesh) 


How To Care for Carnivorous Plants

How To Care for Carnivorous Plants

They encompass a large and interesting family of plants including over 720 species.

They need some very different care than normal tropical plants, it’s important to learn how to care for carnivorous plants properly for the best chance of success.

They are well worth the effort it takes to learn their special needs and care for the them in a way that allows them to thrive.

The most common carnivorous plant you’ll see around is the Venus Fly trap (Dionaea muscipula). They are readily available in many nurseries and even in some grocery stores.

Sundew -Drosera capensis

They’ll trap and eat anything that walks across the “Trigger Hairs” inside their jaws that when hit correctly they release the jaws to close on unsuspecting prey insects.

There are many other kinds of carnivorous plants available if you find a specialty higher end nursery, they will likely carry several more varieties and may even be able to order them in for you.

My favorite is the Sundew (Drosera capensis).  There are several styles and growth habits of this one but they all operate the same way by producing a sweet sticky syrup that attracts the flies and other bugs to it.

They then get stuck in it and cannot escape and they are eventually digested by the plant.


Care of Carnivorous Plants

The first thing to know is that they don’t have roots in the same fashion as normal plant. As well they don’t use what roots they have for nutrient absorption because they get their nutrients from the bugs that they eat from above.

That means, do not give them any fertilizer.

Water them only with distilled water, not tap water.

They are sensitive to the chemicals that are in our water supply and it will harm them. If your home has dry air then you may need to mist your Sundews every few days to keep them producing enough of their sticky syrup.

Carnivorous plants are bog plants and they like to be quite wet during the growing season.


Best Planting Medium

Plant them in fresh sphagnum peat moss (purchase below) only about an inch deep if they are small. Place them to the same depth at they were in the container you bought it in, not higher than the crown of the plant.

The only pest that’s really a concern with indoor carnivorous plants is mealy bugs, if you notice little white-almost fluffy looking things around and on your plants then you’ve got’em and it’s best to dispose of the whole plant altogether.

For the dormancy: allow the water to go down a bit in the winter and add water less frequently, the plants will be less than attractive while they are dormant but will come back to life as their life cycle goes around again.

If you buy a large pitcher plant, in the warm summer months you can put it out on your deck or any area that has a wasp or mosquito problem.


Featured Product Links

Carnivorous Yellow Pitcher PlantThey are generally not available throughout the winter. Please refer back here if the plant order page says “currently unavailable”

Pitcher plant (Sarracenia Flava) 

Nidiformis Sundew (Drosera)  

Spoonleaf Sundew Plant – Drosera spathulata 

Venus Flytrap 

New Zealand Sphagnum Moss (planting medium) 


 

 

 

 

 

 

Why Use a Mini Drip System?

Why Use a Mini Drip System?

Watering takes a long time and if you have a large garden watering can become quite a time burden.Using a drip irrigation system is a very efficient way to maximize your time, effort and also reduce water usage in the garden.

Employing the use of a properly constructed drip system will keep all the plants watered at a slow rate directly to where it’s needed and you can relax and enjoy your garden knowing that every plant is getting the water it needs.


 

Visit The Drip Depot- Drip Irrigation Store Here


If you are working in a small space or have only a few containers then you likely will be able to handle the task of watering on your own with just a hose and nozzle or watering can.

But if you have a medium to large size garden or anything greater than say, 10 containers or hanging planters then it’s time to seriously consider employing the use of a drip irrigation system.

Benefits of a Drip System

There are several benefits to installing a drip system, the greatest of all is that it’ll save you time.

You won’t have to stand with a hose while you could be doing other things like eating the delicious fruit that you’ve grown. Containers benefit greatly by using a slow watering drip system.

They can be set to water at an adjustable rate through the drip heads and mini sprinklers. You can choose each drip head individually so it suits each container or basket.

This helps the plants in that they get a more complete soaking down to the small roots at the center of the root ball over a much longer period of time. This can counteract a problem that some containers can acquire over time where the water runs out too fast around the rootball without soaking in.  

The repeated watering month after month or year after year cause the water to find the “path of least resistance” and form canals down through the edges of the pot to the holes in the bottom.

The water runs straight out of the pot as fast as you pour it in and makes no contact at all with the inner roots or root ball.

Purchasing and using a drip system suited for container gardening is a great investment of time and money. 


Slow Speed Watering

I have several containers where the water runs out too fast before the roots were able to absorb the water.

The general health of the plant was suffering because it wasn’t getting the water I was trying to give them.

Drip System Kits

There are kits specially designed for container gardens, greenhouses, window boxes and even vacation drip kits. A drip system kit is perfect for a raised bed garden because they have all the necessary pieces already included.

The 1/2″ tubing can be constructed and fixed to run tightly up the side of the bed and then turn the corner to have a 1/4″ tube run a mini-sprinkler into the center of the bed or anywhere you choose. Kits are wonderfully versatile and easy to work with.

The sprinkler heads clip into a little support that keeps them up out of the soil, with proper placement you can attain complete coverage of the bed.

A drip system is also perfect for hanging baskets. The 1/4″ tube can run up to the basket and be secured there with a drip head nicely keeping the very thirsty annual flower basket moist all through the hot days of summer. 


 

Visit The Drip Depot- Drip Irrigation Store Here


Featured Product Links

Drip Depot has many complete kits with all the parts you will need to make a system for any size garden.

Visit The Drip Depot- Drip Irrigation Store Here

30 Container Drip System Kit 

1/4″ Tubing – 100′ 

Orbit DripMaster 92-Piece Drip Parts Kit 


 

Skeletonizers

What is a Skeletonizer? 

The pest group called “skeletonizers” is a category of worms or bugs that completely devour the entire green leafy part of a plant leaving only the veins.

They are very destructive and highly traumatizing to the plant involved.


Types of Skeletonizer

The Oak Leaf Skeletonizer is common and affects the Great Lakes Region as well as southern Canada across to BC and northern USA

The Apple and Thorn, or Apple Leaf Skeletonizer is common to the Pacific Northwest and BC as well as up and down both coasts of North America.

It feeds voraciously on Crab apple, Hawthorn, Cherry, Willow, Birch, Mountain Ash and more.

Sawfly Larva on Currant Leaves

Sawfly Larva on Currant Leaves

The picture shows a red currant plant that’s being decimated by Sawfly larva which is a Skeletonizer. If left untreated the Sawfly Larva will eat the plant right down to sticks and then it will die of stress.

If you have more than one currant plant then separate them as far apart as you can in your yard. This way if you get worms on one plant it is not likely to spread easily to the rest.

As the week went by the leaf in the picture was completely stripped of all green I was left with just the ‘skeleton’ of the leaf. You’ll need an attack plan in place to save your plant from this creature. One solution is a natural effective type of control called BTK, is strongly recommended.


BTK

BTK (Bacillus thuringiensis kurstaki)  is the recommended natural remedy for this and any worm or caterpillar that might be causing issues in your garden. It’s an environmentally sound and natural product. 

It’s sold in a small bottle which is a concentrated liquid bacteria that you mix with water and spray on the affected plants.

Large Sawfly Larva on Currant Plant 2013

Large Sawfly Larva on Currant Plant 2013

This bacteria attacks the worms/caterpillars, they die before they can do more damage. If you have large tree or high area then a backpack sprayer or hose-end sprayer is the best method.

If you have areas that are small square footage or low down then you can get away with a good quality hand held spray bottle.


Chemical Pesticides

Sometimes the natural remedy isn’t enough to save a plant being attacked. When this happens you might need to pull out the nasty chemical pesticide.

A true chemical pesticide such as Malathion should only be used under extreme circumstances and definitely not to be used carelessly.

This is because it kills all bugs including beneficial insects like ladybugs and bees. It is “non-Selective” which means it kills everything, not just the bad bugs that are doing the damage to your garden. 

So before using a product like Malathion, you’ll need to decide if the plant is worth fighting for to that degree. Stay chemical pesticide free if at all possible.

If you don’t have an emotional attachment to a special plant, then just destroy it. Dig it up and start with a fresh young plant from a good quality nursery. Sometimes this is a better option to avoid the use of chemicals in the garden. Also, this is a good way to make sure the rest of your garden doesn’t pick up the disease from one sick plant.

If you have a problem as large as the one shown in the images, then you need to pull out all the tools necessary to get rid of them.  

Use chemicals only if you are trying to save a plant of great sentimental value. 


It’s better in the long run to add a healthy new plant to your garden than it is to try and heal one single plant because while you are trying to save the one plant the health of the rest of your garden is in jeopardy.


They’re Back…again

Sawfly Larva on Currant Plant 2013

Sawfly Larva on Currant Plant 2013

These worms (on the west coast) have two hatching cycles per growing season. If you keep your eye sharply on the plant in the early spring you’ll see them just emerging and starting to eat. You can kill them before they destroy your whole plant.

After you successfully combat them with your chosen method in the spring, they will show up again around August and repeat the cycle again but even more voraciously.

They are very hard to see at the beginning. They can be hard to see at any size for that matter, but if you are aware to what to look for then you will have a better chance at a reaching a good harvest.

Leave a comment and let me know if you have to deal with this pest in your area.


Featured Product Links

BTK
Malathion 32oz Concentrate 

Green Basil Dressing or Marinade

Green Basil Dressing or Marinade

This delicious Green Basil Dressing or marinade is useful for many different dishes and appetizers. Your guests will love the fresh from the garden flavor when you use your own home grown basil. I recommend Genovese Basil or Sweet Basil when you choose the seeds.

Ingredient List

1/2 cup    Freshly grown basil leaves
2 cloves   Fresh garlic, crushed
3 Tbsp      Fresh squeezed lemon Juice
1/2 cup    Olive oil

Method

  • In a food processor blend the first three ingredients until smooth
  • Then add the olive oil very slowly as the processor is running
  • Add measured oil until the mixture is of pouring consistency, it’s important to add the oil slowly for complete emulsification to happen

Other Basil Ideas

  • Marinade any meat for 24 hours, drizzle over salad
  • Use it as a spread on bruschetta 
  • Toss hot pasta in it
  • Use it as a dressing on cold pasta saladBasil Sprouts 2011

There are so many ways you could use this wonderfully fresh and delicious recipe from the backyard garden.

*This mixture can be put on chicken or fish as a marinade 12-24 hours before before baking or barbecuing. Use a ziplock bag, it’s easy with no mess.

*Try tossing your green salad with it and make a very aromatic and flavorful low-fat dressing for any salad.

*This mixture can be made with a little less oil and then used as a spread for delicious toasted bruschetta bread.

*Toss some slightly stale bread chunks in a generous amount of the mixture and then toast them dry for amazing croutons or bread crumbs.

Slugs and Snails and What to Do About Them

Slugs and Snails and What to Do About Them

If you live in a climate that’s even the slightest bit rainy or wet, then you know all to well about slugs and snails and the damage they can inflict on a garden.

What to do and how to combat them is always the question for many gardeners. Slugs and snails are “Molluscs” similar creatures and can essentially be treated the same when it come to control and eradication.

Brown Slug

Brown Slug

The wetter, rainier and more temperate your climate is the more likely you are to have an issue with slugs. Slugs like to hide in dark shady spots in the daytime and then come out in the evening and through the night.

They’ll even come out in the daytime if it’s cool, raining and wet enough. They have a voracious appetite for your garden. You’ll need to have an attack plan in action to defend against them.

They love Hosta, Lilies, Strawberries, Marigolds, Delphinium and so many more plants we usually have. For the battle plan, you can choose from a wide variety of remedies ranging from barriers to poisons and traps. The options are several from Marigolds to Poison and Traps, Barriers and Eggshells and more can all be employed as part of your line of defense. A short description of each one is below.

They can all help you deal with the slimy little icky creatures (the slugs are sometimes quite large, up to 6″-8″ long). Over the years they have destroyed hundreds of pounds of my harvests.

Slug on Dandelion 2013

Slug on Dandelion 2013

Remedies

Thankfully, we have several choices when it comes to keeping them at bay or getting rid of them altogether.

At one point I was told to put Marigolds all around my garden because they repelled slugs. I planted them in front  and all around my Lilies in the early spring as soon as I could get them from the stores.

Well, it did work. But not as planned. The slugs loved and devoured my Marigolds. So in the end the slugs stayed off my Lilies which is ultimately what I wanted but the Marigolds became the sacrifice and not the barrier they were intended to be.


Products 

Corry’s Slug and Snail Bait

Corry's Slug And Snail Death 6lb

Corry’s Slug And Snail Death 6lb

My old standby is Corry’s metaldehyde powderIt works well but you need to make sure your domestic pets don’t get into it.

Use it every week or so throughout your rainy season, depending on how fast the powder deteriorates. By doing this you will kill all the upcoming generations of them. 

Eco and Pet Friendly Pellets 

Garden Safe Slug and Snail Bait, 2-Pound

Garden Safe Slug and Snail Bait, 2-Pound

Iron pellets present as Ferric phosphate is the best option if you don’t want to use chemical pesticides. The iron is a natural element found in soil, so the uneaten bait just gets absorbed into the soil. 

When the slug or snail eats the iron they immediately stop eating, which instantly stops them from destroying your garden.  They will then crawl off to die within one week and there is no mess to clean up.

Beer Traps 

Sunflower Snail and Slug Killer by Pure GardenT

Sunflower Snail and Slug Killer by Pure GardenT

The slugs are attracted to the yeasty sweetness of beer or ale. Don’t use lager, it doesn’t work. They are attracted to the trap, they drink the beer, they fall in and drown. That’s it.

You’ll need to empty it of the bodies everyday and put in new beer. Designs such as this sunflower pictured here are very effective.  If you do this consistently you will have an impact on their population and greatly reduce their numbers.

Copper Mesh or Tape

Corry's Slug and Snail Tape

Corry’s Slug and Snail Tape

Copper works by creating a little electric shock on the slugs and snails. The idea is that they will be less likely to cross the barrier. Copper can be expensive and loses its power after a while and eventually doesn’t shock the slug.

Hair 

Along the way I’ve heard that it’s possible to use your own hair from your hairbrush or use the hair from your dog or cat after your brush them.

Make a barrier of this and they slugs will not have an easy time crossing that because the hair gets stuck in their slime. However, I’m not so sure I want clumps of hair all over my garden.

Eggshells

Ground up eggshells are very uncomfortable for the slug to crawl across. They will be deterred by a wide barrier of eggshell around your plants, containers and garden area.

The eggshells have sharp edges and the slugs will choose an easier path first before they choose to go across the barrier to your yummy strawberries.

This one works but you need to keep the eggshells fresh and the barrier complete. Re-establish your barrier after a heavy rain or if it gets kicked or broken in any way. But also note that this method does not consider the slugs that are already living within the boundary you set by your ring of eggshells. However, eggshells are cheap. You can buy a giant bag of them from your local nursery for low cost. 

Ducks

Ducks love to eat slugs and slug eggs! Do you know someone with a farm or someone who owns a few ducks? Ask if you can borrow them for a few hours twice a week. The ducks will get some bonus ‘free range’ time when they visit your garden and a yummy snack  of slugs and slug eggs at the same time. They root up the eggs with their bills and eat the adults in one gulp happily.

Thankfully slugs are easy to control with consistent effort, your garden will quickly recover after the removal of the slugs.

If you employ even one of these methods of slug control you will likely see a great reduction in their numbers and much less damage to your garden. It’s best to use a couple of the methods in conjunction with each other to see greatest results.

If you live in a wet climate then you will always have slugs and snails but knowing what to do about them should no longer be a puzzle. Your garden will be preserved, unchewed and free to happily grow all season without the threat of any slug or snail damage. 

Please leave a comment and tell me if you have to deal with slugs and if you do, how do you get rid of them?


Featured Product Links

Corry’s Metaldehyde powder 4lb

GardenSafe Slug and Snail Killer 2lb

Sunflower Snail and Slug Killer by Pure GardenT 

Copper Mesh 100′

Copper Tape 15′


What Is Basic Tropical Plant Care?

Basic Tropical Plant Care

The tropical plants are always so beautiful when you go to the nursery. You know they would look just great in that empty spot in the office.

The plant store has the most beautiful plants because they get wonderful care from a staff of people all the time. They usually live in a pristine and perfectly tropical environment of a greenhouse or indoor store area. How do you keep them that way once you get them home? 

Basic tropical plant care is quite a bit easier than it first appears. The first thing that most people forget is that they are tropical plants. This means they love a warm, humid environment with good airflow. Just like the tropics.

If you follow a handful of steps and choose the right plants for your particular home and lighting conditions, you’ll do just fine.


Tropical Plant Rules 

The first rule for tropical plant care must start out with an understanding that plants do not respond well when we try to put them on our schedule.

Rule #1: Most plants don’t need as much water as we think

Rule #2: They definitely don’t need water on a schedule every week all year long

They will need much less water in the damp winter or rainy months. And of course, they will need more in the summer when the air is drier and the soil dries quicker.

Choose the Right Plants

When choosing the plant from the store consider the environment that you are putting it into. Ask for consultation in your local nursery.

Rule #3: Choose a plant for the right lighting situation

Some plants are tolerant of lower light levels and others would suffer and die in the same location.

Low light tolerant plants include:Variegated Rubber Tree 2012

  • Sansevieria
  • Solid green Pothos
  • Money Tree
  • Rubber plant

The plants that need higher light levels are marbled Pothos, Zygocactus (Christmas Cactus), and any indoor plant that produces flowers.

The variegated Pothos ‘Marble Queen’ will slowly change to solid green on the leaves if the light level is too low.


Replanting

Replant your new tropical plant in the pot that it will live for the next few years. Choose a pot that is about 2″ larger in circumference than the pot it is in now.

It can be plastic or ceramic or something else but it must have drainage and be filled with good quality indoor potting mix.

Rule #4: Use a good quality indoor tropical soil potting mix

If it’s a fast grower then account enough container space for that. Go larger if you need to, but don’t put a tiny plant in a huge container.

Rule #5: Put it in a place that will be it’s permanent home

Tropical plants do not like to be moved about once you’ve given them a spot in your home or office. Let them get accustomed to one place and they will be much happier for much longer.

Rule #6: They don’t like to be placed in walkways where people will brush back and forth on them

If you need to put then in a hallway then set them back towards the wall as much as you can.

The best plan for an area like that would be to choose a plant like the Sansevieria that stands tall and straight and doesn’t have leafy branches that lean over and get in the way.


How to Water

First step is to buy a moisture meter, it’ll take all the guesswork out of when to water your plants. You can buy moisture meters at your local garden center, they are inexpensive and are well worth the price.

Every time the meter says they need water, water them with a light solution of indoor water soluble plant fertilizer.

Rule #7: Do not fertilize on a regular schedule, such as every week

Rule #8: Water the plant about half as much as you think you should

Rule #9: Dust the plants with a clean, damp cloth

This allows the plant to breath and helps raise the humidity level. The plants will enjoy being misted sometimes, especially in the summer. Don’t mist the hairy leaved ones such as African Violet. If you do these 9 simple steps then you are well on your way to having beautiful indoor plants.


 

Please leave me a comment below and tell me your tropical plant stories.