Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Winter weather means gardening indoors

Light is certainly important but the leading cause of death to most houseplants comes from overwatering. Soggy soils can happen for a variety of reasons. First, and absolute, your container must have drainage holes. It is unbelievable to see how many beautiful houseplants are placed in expensive decorative containers that need to have holes drilled. Essentially the new plant was put in a bathtub and its days numbered.
Selecting a good lightweight potting soil is also paramount to your success. Cheap potting soil sold by the pound is heavy and it simply holds too much water. I still find many unsuspecting gardeners using topsoil from the garden in containers. This is not a good idea from the standpoint of drainage, soil borne diseases and insects.
Once you do have your plant in good soil you can determine whether or not your plant needs watering by gently pushing your finger to about 1 1/2 to 2 inches deep to feel if it is dry. Make this a regular practice before each water application.
Spring is coming, and the landscape will wait, but for now see where some foliage or flowers might add beauty to your home and indoor environment.

On gardening: Winter

With snow and ice bearing down many of us are left to indoor gardening chores. You may even find yourself thinking about the Christmas cactus, poinsettia or cyclamen you were given as gift. Maybe you are having the blues with the Christmas tree gone and find yourself needing to add some foliage.
Indoor plants can certainly add beauty and enjoyment to your home but only while they remain healthy. Many gardeners begin their struggle with houseplants in choosing the wrong location with regard to light.
The amount of light a plant requires will vary by type. When deciding on where to place your plant in your home it will help to understand the window and light environment.
East facing windows receive cool morning sun, and are good choices for most houseplants. However, in the winter, east windows receive more sun light than the rest of the year. This would be my pick for the Christmas cactus.
North facing windows receive almost no direct light. North windows are great choices for houseplants that thrive on indirect light. The cyclamen that is a popular Christmas plant would love this window, as would the Peace Lily, Chinese evergreen or pothos ivy.
South facing windows receive a lot of sunlight in the winter, but less in the summer. Special care may be needed in using south facing windows or you may simply need to move the plant in the summer. The poinsettia would look good for a couple of more months in this location as would the parlor palm.
West facing windows receive the most sunlight of all. Plants on the west side of your home may need to be protected from the sun. Plants like the Norfolk Island pine and weeping fig would find this window most ideal.
These statements on windows can be greatly changed at your house by tall trees, blinds and curtains. Remember also that light is measured in foot-candles and a bright sunny day outside may register as high as 10,000 foot-candles. Indoors it may drop of to the point of only 300 to 500 depending on where you take the measurement.

Gardens & gardening

One oily-ragger from Whangarei uses fish trays. He says they already have drainage holes and cost only a few dollars at variety stores.
The downside to growing vegetables in pots is the same as with any potted plant. They need a bit more care and attention because they have limited soil from which to draw their nutrients, and the soil dries out faster.
It is therefore necessary to fertilise and water the plants regularly.
Here are some more tips for space-challenged oily-rag gardeners:
Don't grow plants that take up lots of space - like Jack and the Beanstalk runner beans - or ones that have a long growing season.
Small is definitely beautiful, so go for compact veges like finger lettuce, cherry tomatoes, spring onions, spinach and silverbeet.
Avoid using dark-coloured containers - they absorb heat, which may dry out the soil.
The easiest way to add fertiliser to plants growing in containers is to prepare a nutrient solution and pour it over the soil.
There are many good commercial liquid fertilisers available, but a reader has this tip: "Don't throw away your plastic milk bottles. When they are empty, fill with cold water. Place lid on and shake. There is a good milky residue. Use the contents to water your pot plants. It acts like a pick-me-up. My indoor plants thrive and it saves you from having to buy costly fertilisers."
Use a potting mix, not regular garden soil, as some types of soil don't drain well and can become heavy and set like concrete in warm weather.

Pot-luck gardening will help beat those escalating food prices

We have been warned.
Floods, famine, heatwaves and an ice-age type winter in the Northern Hemisphere are likely to have a big impact on the price of food in our supermarkets.
Add to that apocalyptic visions of birds falling from the skies and fish floating belly-up on to our beaches, and the year is off to a disturbing start.
Never fear, there is one thing we can rely on to combat the perils before us, and that's to indulge in a little bit of the good life in our own quarter-acre plot.
Before you venture into chooks, beehives and a humble house cow, it may be best to start with a kitchen garden.
Some people will get excited, start up the rotary hoe and turn the kids' cricket pitch into a corn patch.
Others will adopt the precautionary principle and start more modestly - perhaps with a patio garden. And that's a lot simpler than you may think - all you need is a container, growing mix and plants.
In fact, you could be into backyard gardening within a matter of hours and be dining on delicious and free home-grown produce within weeks.
Here are some simple tips for a patio garden:
Almost any vegetable that will grow in a typical backyard garden will also do well in a container - and almost any container with drainage holes will do.
One reader says they use 10-litre paint pails (which they have collected free, of course) as planters. They drill drainage holes in the bottom, place about 25mm of coarse gravel in the bottom to prevent the holes from blocking, then fill with nutrient-rich soil. Others use flowerpots, wire baskets, wooden boxes, bathtubs, plastic bags and sacks.

Cooperative Extension offers gardening classes

Gardening isn't just a spring thing.  While a cold and wet winter may not have conjured up images of planting and fertilizing, typically mild temperatures in eastern North Carolina make just about any time the right time to do a little vegetable gardening.  What's important is to know what to plant and when.  "You can grow year around, but you have to pick and choose wisely," said Larry Kent of the N.C. Cooperative Extension in Onslow County.  With that in mind, there's H.E.L.P on the way for area gardeners and prospective gardeners interested in learning how to plan, plant, harvest and even market locally grown fruits and vegetables.  The N.C. Cooperative Extension Service and the Onslow County Farmers Market Association have partnered to offer the Horticulture Entrepreneur Leadership Project, better known as H.E.L.P, for the fifth year.  An organizational meeting is set for Monday at 6 p.m. at the Onslow County Extension Office and weekly sessions begin Feb. 25, with classes held each Friday from 5 to 7 p.m.  It's a combination of classroom and hands-on training, with classroom work at the extension office and hands-on work onsite at the quarter-acre garden.  "We'll grow a total of 18 different fruits and vegetables," Kent said.  Early on, participants will start with cold-weather plantings such as potatoes, cabbage, broccoli and onions.  "After the danger of the last frost is behind us, we'll start planting warm-weather crops like snap beans, tomatoes, squash and cucumbers," Kent said.  Add watermelon and cantaloupe to the list as the warm months continue.  And along the way, gardeners will learn to tend the garden from preparing the soil to selling their produce. Among the topics will be taking soil samples and interpreting test results; how to plant and transplant; how to graft tomatoes; irrigation fertilizing; integrated pest control; how to harvest; and marketing the fruits and vegetable.

Prince hopes for a legacy to gardening

PRINCE Charles has told gardeners they could play a crucial role in tackling environmental issues.

The heir to the throne has tried to put his belief in organic and sustainable planting and agriculture into practice at his Highgrove estate in Gloucestershire.

He described how those who cultivate an outdoor space have a "wealth of knowledge about the natural world" and it is vital for them to "sow the seed for future generations".

The Prince's comments come in an article for the 20th anniversary edition of Gardeners' World magazine.

Highgrove features a number of different areas including a meadow with around 32 different varieties of endangered native plants and a walled kitchen garden.

The Prince said: "I would hope that if there is to be any kind of legacy from my gardening activities, it would be that Highgrove may encourage people to garden in a sustainable and environmentally sound way - which is in harmony with nature - that it warms the heart and feeds the soul of those who visit and, maybe for those who have never gardened, provides inspiration to show what can be done in a mere few decades."

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Mixed Up World...

Because I have way too much studying to do, I'll leave you with these bits to ponder:

# The British rural kids think WHAT???

These are the same kids who later go on to believe that rotten teeth are sexy.

# How You Know You've Had A Few Too Many... (been a while since I've been that inebriated!

# But Paris can drink and drive and get 23 days??!?.

What's next, babies sporting this latest hairstyle??? (below the fold)...