Monday, October 24, 2011

Bringing the garden indoors

Much of this blog has been devoted to outdoor gardening…ornamental and edible. But as summer fades into fall (as it is here in central Virginia, where I live), and soon into winter, people want to continue enjoying plants in the off-season as well. Unfortunately, many people believe houseplants are tricky to keep alive, requiring constant watering or fertilizing. To the contrary, many houseplants prefer NOT to be pampered with such treatment. Good news, right? Below, I’ll show you some plants that thrive without meticulous care: they tolerate medium to low light, dry air, and low to moderate moisture.

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My favorite: “ZZ Plant” (I won’t even try to pronounce the botanical name!). This one has nice texture provided by the thick, deep green, glossy leaves. Branches arch out in various directions. Tough as nails…I only water it maybe once a month and is perfectly happy with only filtered light through the blinds.

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Golden Pothos: This trailing plant exhibits a wonderful yellow and green marbling on the foliage. It can be trimmed to stay compact, or allowed to trail over the edge of the pot. Like ZZ Plant, it tolerates low light but the variegation in the foliage is best under medium to bright indirect light. Prefers to dry out a bit between waterings.

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Snake Plant: This well-known houseplant is just about indestructible, perfect for folks with a black thumb! Large, sword-like leaves stand tall, adding vertical interest. Snake plant does well with a good watering only once or twice a month (allow to dry between waterings) and low to medium light. There are dozens of varieties of this plant, some with yellow margins on the leaves, others with lighter green marbling on the foliage.

Friday, October 21, 2011

No luck with Gel2Root

Wanted to post a quick update on the rooting hormone gel blocks I was trying out a few weeks ago, to root cuttings. I took cuttings from Gardenia, Weigelia, and Buddleia and stuck them in the gel, and placed the gel cups by a south-facing window which gets bright indirect sunlight. I kept the cuttings misted, and put some of them under a plastic container, to maintain humidity. The result? After 2 weeks of just kind of hanging in there, the cuttings failed. Only the gardenia cuttings still looked decent, and even on that one I see no signs of rooting. The packaging said “for houseplants” but I felt brave and wanted to see if I could get some more plants from my garden outside. No such luck. For now, I’ll stick to seedlings and let nature do the work for me.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Change it up!

Great article here on the importance of rotating crops in vegetable beds (in-ground or raised), to avoid creating a monoculture that fosters disease and pests.

http://indianapublicmedia.org/eartheats/beginners-guide-gardening-crop-rotation/

I have to admit to being guilty of not keeping up on rotating through crops when one group is finished. My “first love” is my ornamental garden…shrubs, perennials, vines, conifers, etc. and so that garden wins most of my attention and time. Trying to balance two jobs with the upkeep of the garden is difficult at times, and some chores end up slipping through the cracks. This year’s crops have been rather underwhelming, as I discussed in a previous post. As I am now finding out, it’s not enough to supplement garden soil with organic matter…the nutrients from manure and compost are quickly depleted by certain crops and need to be replenished by planting a different group of crops in that soil for the next season, and sowing cover crops (vetch, clover, buckwheat, etc.) between crops.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Attack of the hungry caterpillars!

While making my weekly "inspection" of the garden the other day, checking on my surprise butterfly bushes that have suddenly popped up like mushrooms, I was dismayed to discover masses of caterpillars munching on my Mugo pine (Pinus mugo). They were having a feast on the needles coming off of the new, developing candles. I also found holes chewed in the leaves of my kale nearby. Now, I'm not one to just flippantly start spraying bugs (readers of this blog are aware of my devotion to chemical-free, sustainable gardening) but attacks on my conifers will not be tolerated. [Sidebar] Over the past two years, I've developed an affinity for conifers...pines, false cypress, yews, arborvitaes, junipers, etc. They have a character unto themselves, reflected in the thousands of different cultivars of varying sizes, shapes, colors, and textures. For a great reference on conifers, check out Richard Bitner's "Conifers for Gardens." [End Sidebar]

So, I grabbed the EcoSmart Insect spray (non toxic, made entirely of natural plant-based oils) and let the little buggers have it. Time will tell if they back off and find something else to munch on (how about the weeds? Lots of those poking up out there!). They also get into my kale, so I sprayed there as well. I really hope to get a good harvest of winter vegetables this year, considering that peppers were the only success story from this summer. I'm getting the hint from nature that it's time to give some nutrients back to the soil, so I may be ordering a cover crop for the raised beds. I'd love to hear from someone who uses cover crops as I'm not overly familiar with them. Feel free to post a comment!

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