Hot House

I believe there is a direct link between your health and being surrounded by plants. Not just consuming healthy vegetation….but absorbing the “mood” benefit of plants can have a direct impact on wellness. Watch this news story where we tried a “Yoga Heat” class in our greenhouse:


How long has this been “growing” on?

How long has this been “growing” on? I’m so anxious to get growing, how about you? After a long winter we’re all ready to grow something. In April a lot of garden activities center on lawn care, mulching, soil preparation and some planting of hardy plants like trees. Remember Arbor Day? Well there’s more to it than that, it’s “grow” time. You can get a jump start on the season with some tender plants by pushing the envelope with some light frost tolerant annuals and by polishing up on your container planting skills. Contain yourself, it’s “grow” time.

Tulips growing through pansies planted last fall and reblooming in the spring

Tulips growing through pansies planted last fall and reblooming in the spring

Let me first “plant” this idea in your head. I’m a big fan of pansies and violas because they’re colorful and tough. That’s right, frost tolerant and durable with the cutest little colorful faces you’ve ever seen. I suggest you plant up some pots of pansies to get your fix. If we get an unfortunate night time temperature that goes beyond a light frost into the 20’s you can always cover them or bring them in for the night. I know of some folks who have their containers on a cart or on wheels so they can roll them into the garage at night if a cold snap occurs. You’ll find pansies enjoy cool weather and with some sunshine will bloom their heads off.Pansies wake up Other cool season tender plants that can help you get a jump on the season are the colorful Swiss Chard, perky Snapdragons, bold Ornamental Kale or the unassuming Sweet Alyssum. If it’s vegetables you crave the hardy and tough cole crops may be your answer. Brussels sprout, cabbage, cauliflower, collards, kale, kohlrabi, mustard, broccoli, turnips are all healthy tough guys. cole crops
Of course other tender plants can be started indoors. A sunny windowsill is a great spot to start some tomatoes or pepper plants. These plants will have to be hardened off before going in the ground sometime in May.
The great thing about container gardening or raised bed gardening is the soil warms quicker in spring than ground soil, maintenance is easier, and you have control over the soil your plants will be growing in. Don’t go dirt cheap on the potting mix. Your soil should be fluffy not clumpy, hold moisture without being soggy, and give plant roots the perfect mix of air, moisture, nutrition, and gravitas. It will keep your plants well grounded. Roots need air, as well as water, to grow.
Now get yourself some colorful pots and get growing. Your friends and neighbors will be asking “how long has this been growing on?”


So what IS under all that snow and ice that has covered your lawn for months? Beer cans? Mole damage? Vole damage? Snow mold? Interesting alert yesterday from my friend Kevin Frank at Michigan State University. He was looking at the potential damage to the Poa annua on putting greens but is it possible some of that damage could carry over to our lawns?

Lawn and order

Lawn and order

His point was the ice storm of December 21-22 coating everything including any exposed turf in ice followed by the polar vortex and snow event after snow event to follow. This has created a continuous layered cover of snow and ice for months. Could some death of turfgrass occur due to oxygen depletion and toxic gas accumulation from soil microbial respiration? What about the layer of leaves you never removed from the lawn because winter started so early and you never got around to it? As they say in the industry “stay tuned” and I’ll keep you “composted”.

Early season “dirty” thoughts on gardening

I had a friend of mine tell me it’s OK to have “dirty thoughts” if you’re a gardener. This made me laugh because I love the smell of soil. When we reach March and the frozen tundra begins to thaw our thoughts turn to the smell of good clean dirt. When we’ve been cooped up inside all winter in dry forced air and a confined space, we discover how much the rich healing texture and smell of soil and sunshine influences how we feel. I’m convinced that soil, fresh air and foliage are significant contributors to how we feel and our overall health. Don’t take my word for it, I’m not a doctor, just an “entre-manure”. A bag of potting soil this time of year can have big remedial effects for the winter blues. Remember as we move into the spring season we do know that there is a direct correlation between the health of your soil and the healthy produce, flowers and herbs you are able to grow in your garden.

Our Backyard Oasis awaits

Our Backyard Oasis awaits

I enjoy reading the Garden Media Group’s report on gardening trends at this time of year. There is a real and “growing” interest in backyard gardening as the yard today performs double duty. Your yard is your oasis for relaxation while also being the hub for social activity and entertaining. Among the numerous trends they point out you may find these to be interesting:
-A trend of “Glamping” which is a great way to describe pitching a tent with some at home glamor. Think throw pillows and a sofa in the tent and you get the general drift.
Pitch a tent in the backyard and bring the bed and sofa out there? You may be a candidate for "Glamping"

Pitch a tent in the backyard and bring the bed and sofa out there? You may be a candidate for “Glamping”

-Interest in staying grounded. Recycling food scraps (11.7% of U.S. waste is food scraps) and making landscapes not landfills starting with your own personal compost pile.
-Edible gardening including “drinking your garden” with the interest in hops, berries and vegetable and herb foliage to create smoothies.
-A “tree”-mendous reversal with a renewed interest in planting trees. With housing starts on the rise after a long slump and the awareness of the loss of millions of trees nationwide in the last 10 years….people are thinking tree planting again.
-Men in the 18-34 age demographic are a big and growing group interested in backyard living. From grilling to taking the youngsters out to play in the yard these young Dads have a real interest in outdoor living.
-”Bee”-neficials is what they call the interest in planting blooming native plants that are pollen rich to support a declining bee population vital to pollination.

Your houseplants have had a long winter. They have cabin fever, are tired of the dry air and whether in the office or the home have probably collected a little dust on their foliage. Lack of light is already a problem throughout winter so don’t compound the problem with dusty dirty foliage. Using some warm water and a pair of soft cotton gloves, dip your hands gloves and all in the warm water and gently using your fingers wipe (don’t pull or tug) the foliage. This is a quick gentle easy way to clean the foliage and improve photosynthesis.
Are you tired of winter about now and want to force the issue? You can force landscape branches into bloom indoors in March to deal with your cabin fever. Spring flowering trees and shrubs need a period of cold dormancy in order to bloom. By February and early March they’ve experienced sufficient dormancy to bloom. A close look in the landscape reveals swelling buds of lilac or forsythia. Look for swollen plump buds on healthy young branches. Cut the branches at an angle with a good clean by-pass pruning shear. Cut the branches long enough to display in a vase, usually 12 to 18 inches is a good length. Plunge the freshly cut branches immediately into water. We don’t want the branches to dry out. You will see best results if you do not place them in a direct sunny window. The warm indoor temperatures will stimulate the buds to wake up without “blasting” them in a window with direct sunlight. Bright indirect light will work best. Contingent on the species you’ve pruned you can expect the buds to swell and open within 1 to 3 weeks. When the buds begin to open you can display them in the vase or use the branches as supplements to a floral arrangement. Forsythia, Pussy Willow, Witchhazel, Honeysuckle, Cornelian Dogwood, Cherry, Juneberry, Crabapple and Bridal Wreath Spirea are all relatively easy spring bloomers to force into bloom indoors. If you’re feeling creative some Quince, Deutzia, Lilac, Red Twig Dogwood, Wisteria, Magnolia, Peach, Pear or Rhododendron might be fun to try.

Detox your home

Detox diets are popular with a New Year’s arrival. I did one this winter. Not sure if it worked but I learned a lot about myself. You have a lot to think about on those “cleanse” days when you are just drinking liquids. Primarily how much you like Pizza. I personally think fresh air and exercise are a key factor to good health. The problem in winter is we spend a large share of our day indoors. Think about it….between home and work many people spend 80%, 90% or more of their day indoors in winter. Our houseplants are also “prisoners” indoors in winter. Dry furnace fed air with no fresh air through the windows can get things rather stale. Aside from elevating your mood or calming you, plants can also raise the humidity in a room which is good when the air is dry.

My good friend "Phil"-o-dendron

My good friend “Phil”-o-Dendron

Houseplants can also have a pulling effect on airborne toxins. Studies by NASA have found that indoor plants can eliminate some toxins in the air including formaldehyde, benzine, carbon monoxide and even act as dust collectors. I have a list of prime air cleaning plants that I have mentioned on my radio show….here’s the list!

  • Areca Palm (I said “Areca” not “Eureka” which some people might exclaim when they are able to actually keep the plant alive)
  • Mother-in-law-tongue (Yes that’s what they call it because most people can’t remember it’s real name Sanseveria. This plant is virtually indestructible)
  • Spider Plant (Unless you have a phobia about spiders)
  • The Golden Pothos (this is not an all you can eat buffet but a great easy to grow vining houseplant in many variegated variations)
  • Aloe Vera (not a waitress in a bad sitcom, this plant is great to have in the kitchen for “owwies”)
  • Peace Lily (not the goofy lady next door who still smokes her herbs instead of using them in her cooking)
  • Dracaena (not a dance craze but a colorful “spikey” plant that comes in many variations.
  • Purple Waffle (not a place you have breakfast, it’s called Purple Waffle because Hemigraphis is too tough to remember)
  • Philodendron (my easy going good friend Phil O’ Dendron. There are color variations, split leaf varieties, floor plants and hanging vines)
  • English Ivy (a spot of tea anyone?)
  • Rubber Plant (Ficus elastica at one time it’s latex was used to make rubber)
  • Money Plant (see money does grow on trees….said to bring good luck)