Categories
Houseplants

I Just Wet My Houseplants

In my book ‘I Just Wet My Plants’ I note that water is the number one killer of houseplants. Usually too much. We kill them with kindness. I took the following pictures to illustrate a couple of easy tips to improve your watering practices that maybe you haven’t considered. As an example it is a popular practice to put a houseplant in a coffee mug for desk, office or kitchen counter. Avoid planting directly into the coffee mug.

Use a cache pot with drainage holes inside the coffee mug

Coffee is hot. The coffee mug for obvious reasons has no drainage holes. Good for coffee but no so much for your plant.  A cache pot is a decorative container that holds a potted houseplant. Think of it as a  pot inside a pot. The cache pot does not have drainage. The “grower pot” inside the decorative pot has drainage holes. By using a cache pot combined with a grower pot with drainage holes the plant will be healthier and it will make both watering and maintenance easier for you. Everybody wins.

An additional watering tip is to avoid making the mistake I often see people make. They give up trying to figure out when and how much water to apply to their houseplant. What they end up with is what they believe is a compromise. They pour on a “little” water frequently. They meet their desire to water on a schedule (frequently aka kill it with kindness) and the end result is the soil in the upper half of the pot remains wet. The roots in the upper half of the pot rot while the roots at the lower portion of the pot dry out. The plant quickly displays its displeasure with browning leaf tips and decline. The sight of the plant suffering causes the owner to water even more which speeds up the decline. The appropriate way to water is when the plant needs it (indoor plants like outdoor plants have seasonal needs). In winter lack of light, day length and humidity causes the plants to “slow down” compared to their vigor in spring and summer.

For smaller pots you can tell if the plant needs water based on the weight of the pot. Pick it up. You can learn to tell when it’s time to water. Then when you water, water thoroughly so the water is available to the soil at the top, in the middle and at the bottom of the pot. Because you have provided for drainage with your cache pot grower pot technique, the excess can drain out the bottom. Now allow the soil to dry and wait until the plant needs water again. Remember in winter you will be watering far less frequently than when the days are longer and the light is bright in spring and summer.

Example of grower pots inside a decorative cache pot (click on image to enlarge)

 

Categories
Fall

Fall is simply Mumbelievable for gardening

People ask me…..Rick why do you always say Fall is one of your favorite times of year to garden? Well first…. I like Autumn….that makes me the fall guy. But a more important reason is it is one of the most efficient and effective times of the year to plant. It’s also a time for the Mumbelievable, playful Pansies and fabulous foliage. That’s why they call it Awwwtumn. And Mums the word for instant color! Mum Ma Mia! Chrysanthemum is coined from Greek words chrysos meaning gold and anthos meaning flower. They are Mumbelieveable!

For instant color they are simply Mumbelievable!

1. Plants in Fall put their efforts into establishment (roots) instead of a focus on top growth (spring)
2. In Fall the soil is warm compared to spring making it easier to work with….and again great for root establishment.

Fall is for planting (click on image to enlarge)

3. You can effectively feed woody plants in Fall. Even though air temperatures drop the soil stays warm often all the way to Christmas! Hoe Hoe Hoe. The plant can take in the fertilizer and will get next spring off on the right foot!
4. We generally get plenty of natural rainfall in Fall. That’s why they call it rainfall!

Fall is a great time of year for perennials

5. Autumn provides great comfortable weather for people to work in the yard.
6. You can often get end of season bargains in Fall.
7. It beats watching your favorite football team frustrate you….again.
8. It’s the perfect time to fix your lawn….September and October is the ideal time to seed a new lawn or reseed or repair an existing lawn.
9. An ideal time to control weeds! Winter annual weeds (like Henbit or our friend Harry Bittercress) are establishing in the yard so get them now before they bloom next spring and produce seed. Perennial weeds (Dandelions) are like the trees shutting down for winter so when you spray them with an herbicide it is more effective getting into the root system for total kill versus the top kill only you often get in spring. Take me to your weeder!

Fall is the perfect time to establish or repair a lawn

10. Bulbs! Dig drop and done. Bulbs are easy and when the tulips, daffodils, hyacinths, allium, crocus and more bloom next spring you’ll be glad you invested in Fall!

Fall is for planting Spring Flowering Bulbs!

11. It’s a great time of year to move plants. Cooler temperatures means less stress AND a moved plant gets a dormant time of rest (winter)…..not like a spring planted plant that has the heat of summer to follow.

If you’re going to move some plants Fall is a great time to do it

12. You don’t want to leave roots above soil level (in pots) so get them in the ground. The plants may be winter hardy but the roots will freeze if left in the pots above the soils surface. If you don’t have the planting area yet, plant them pot and all temporarily to be moved next spring.
13. You can even plant “Annuals”. Ornamental Kale, Pansies, Swiss Chard, Snapdragons will tolerate frosts to bloom this Fall.

Plant some annuals for Fall color like Ornamental Kale
Categories
Summer

Hooray for Hibiscus

When it comes to the word “Hibiscus” it can cause a hubbub of befuddlement for some understanding the broad descriptive terminology for what is a “Hibiscus?” It is a diverse genus of hundreds of species that are deciduous, perennial or tropical.
You then hear “Rose of Sharon” or “Althea” thrown into the mix and soon the bewilderment. The primary types of “Hibiscus” we enjoy in our yards and gardens are a “woody” hibiscus, an “herbaceous” perennial hibiscus and a “tropical” hibiscus. When they bloom in the heat of summer it’s “hooray for Hibiscus!” Here is a brief tutorial with pictures.

In August the giant dinner plate blooms of herbaceous Hibiscus moscheutos or “Mallow” hibiscus are stunning and a real showstopper. The plants grow to 4 to 5 feet tall and the blooms can be 6 inches to a foot across. They die back to the ground in winter and start slow in spring. But once warm summer temperatures arrive they are off to the races to wow admirers to their impressive blooms.

In July and August the “woody” type of Hibiscus blooms in abundance on trees and shrubs and is known as Hibiscus syriacus. It was given the epithet “syriacus” because it had been collected from gardens in Syria but is native to Asia. People commonly refer to them as “Rose of Sharon” or Althea. Good for late season flowering (July to September) it can get “leggy” as a woody landscape plant so it responds well to pruning.

 

And last but not least is the “tropical” Hibiscus we put out on our decks and patios or around the poolside in summer. Hibiscus rosa-sinensis. The word “tropical” should clue you that we enjoy it outside in summer and have to bring it indoors as a “houseplant” in winter or grow as an annual and replace next year.

Categories
Lake Michigan

Incoming

Living along the West Michigan Lake Michigan shoreline I tend to watch the weather for changes. Something like a sailor, just with both feet firmly planted on the shoreline. When storms are in the forecast I keep an eye on radar throughout the day in the event something crops up. On Sunday evening July 26, 2020 that’s just what happened. Shelf clouds are fun to watch form on the horizon and they develop a menacing look as they approach and draw closer.  My experience has been most of the shelf clouds I have captured on Pere Marquette beach in Muskegon Michigan will develop and move in from either the North or the West.

Incoming Storm Shelf Cloud

A ridge of menacing clouds starts to form on the horizon and as it approaches the air temperature changes. The cloud morphs from a grey line on the horizon to a “monster” white on the top and dark on the bottom as it “rolls” in. A shelf cloud is a low-hanging, well-defined, wedge-shaped formation that occurs along the leading edge of the gust ushering in a thunderstorm. Updrafts feed warm, moist air into the thunderstorm to provide it with the energy it needs to survive. The day this shelf cloud formed the beach was packed as daytime temperatures were near 90 with high dew points.

Incoming Shelf Cloud

The downdraft consists of dense, rain-cooled air that sinks to the surface underneath a thunderstorm. The air from a downdraft pools up at the surface beneath the storm in what’s known as a cold pool and tilts the updraft letting the storm take shape and begin to move dramatically over the lake. As the outflow boundary or gust front begins to lead and pull the thunderstorm south it is ingesting warm, moist air and the results are dramatic. As the updraft’s warm, moist air rises up along the outflow boundary, it cools and condenses into a shelf cloud perfect for picture taking.

Passing overhead
Look at this boat trying to outrun the storm
Categories
Deer resistant plants

The end of the line. The buck stops here.

The topic came up on my radio show that deer pressure is a real problem for many who find themselves suddenly growing a plot of vegetables. The spirit is willing but the fence is weak. You may have ray, a drop of golden sun, but doe, a deer, a female deer wants to eat the fruits of your labors. A barrier to thwart rabbits is much easier to establish than one that will deter a deer. The barrier would have to be substantial resulting in a sizable investment and effort. An 8 foot tall barrier is not practical or acceptable in many neighborhoods and deer repellents can become expensive and annoying to continually apply. If you do apply just make sure the breeze is not blowing in your direction or you will smell like garlic and putrescent egg solids all day. Putrescent is a nice and important sounding way of saying rotting and decay. You can try noise cannons intermittently fired or play recorded sound effects but in most suburban neighborhoods that can easily get you kicked out of the association.

What was that? I better toe the line around here

The end of the line. The buck stops here.

A caller phoned into the show recommending a fish line. Stringing fish lines around the garden or the yard can frustrate or deter deer. If they run up against a barrier that they can feel, but they can’t see, it’ll confuse them. It’s the end of the line and the buck stops here. One line isn’t going to do it. It takes two to tangle. Maybe three. An important caveat to share is that there are many articles to read warning of the dangers of fish line to wildlife particularly birds. One side of the conundrum says don’t use fish line as a deterrent. It is harmful to wildlife. Another side of the argument says one of the tricks is to pick a low test fishing line. If you pick a line meant for deep sea fishing and catching hefty tunas they will probably spot the line and avoid it. Ten to 15 pound line is probably best and tie it ankle height and at 3 feet and at “nose height” for an average size deer.

Stringing them along?

The other trick is to add aluminum pie pans. When the intruding deer toes the line the rattle of pie pans might cause Bambi to move his intentions to another neighborhood.