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5 Indoor Gardening Projects You Can Do This Winter

Wondering what to do this winter to keep your hands dirty in the garden?Why not bring the garden inside. Growing tropical houseplants are fun and easy! I have 5 easy indoor gardening projects to get you psyched for spring.  

1: Create a mini garden oasis in your window.  Keeping a few indoor houseplants through the winter can be just what the doctor ordered.  Growing tropical foliage plants indoors can have added health benefits.  Ornamental plants like, Sansevieria, Snake Plants, Spathyphyllum Peace lilies, Boston ferns and Spider plants are a few beneficials that can act as air purifiers,  removing toxins from the atmosphere in your home.  Having greenery indoors also helps relieve stress and boost your mood as well. http://gardensonthego.com/garden-minute-bring-your-garden-indoors/

Tropical foliage display

2: Grow herbs and edibles indoors.  Believe or not growing edible plants such as herbs, micro greens and sprouts are easy. http://gardensonthego.com/growing-sprouts-beans-greens-alfalfa/

Micro greens seedlings

3: Create a garden under glass.  Terrariums continue to be a strong trend in indoor gardening, whether they are table top or hanging in a clever glass orb, terrariums are one of the easiest and low maintenance gardens to have in your home.  If you are not convinced just take a look at Instagram and Pinterest for inspiration. http://gardensonthego.com/terrarium-demonstration-by-tina-sottolano-of-gardens-on-the-go/

4: Make a Kokedama, the Japanese style of growing ornamental plants in the shape of a ball. Kokedama literally means “moss ball”.  Plant roots are stripped clean and formed into a firm round ball using a bonsai soil blend.  Wrap the ball in moss and tie with string. Kokedama are perfect for small spaces. They can hang in a window or placed in a dish or tray on a table or plant stand. 

Kokedama

5: Add living wall art by mounting ferns.  Vertical gardening is extremely popular!  If the thought of having a massed wall of green foliage intimidates you why not start small.  Try mounting a Stag horn fern.   Stag horn ferns are actually Epiphytes, much like orchids and air plants.  This unique group of plants don’t require soil to grow. They are easily mounted onto a piece of wood using moss, twine and a couple of screws to hold it in place. 

Vertical Garden with tropical foliage
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Soil pH is Essential for a Healthy Garden

Soil pH is an important part of gardening. It measures fertility of the soil and health of your plants. So what does pH mean and how does it effect our plants. pH stands for “potenz hydrogen” or potential hydrogen.  It is the ability of plants to attract hydrogen ions in the soil. It’s measured on a scale from 0-14, 7 is the most neutral. To put it simpler terms pH measures the acidity or alkalinity in the soil thus effecting the health of what you grow from landscape trees and shrubs to flowers, vegetables and even your lawn.

Many flowers, vegetables, and grasses prefer a ph level between 6.0-6.5 Plants like azalea, rhododendrons, and most evergreens, blueberries and potatoes are the exceptions, they prefer a ph level slightly higher than 7. Most plants can easily absorb available minerals in the soil like phosphorous, nitrogen, iron and potassium when the pH levels range from 6.0-6.5. When the soil pH is lower than 6.5 minerals like zinc phosphorous can be easily absorbed by the roots of the plant. Whatever your pH levels are too high or too low you can make minor adjustments by adding soil amendments. Adding organic matter or compost can help to bring the soil to a neutral base which is beneficial when growing most vegetables and flowering plants.

Finding out the pH is easy and can done at anytime during the growing season, but Spring and Fall are ideal especially if you are planting a new garden in a new area of your yard. There are easy at home testing kits available at your local garden center. Knowing the soil pH can help you make the appropriate fertilizer adjustments. If you need a more I depth analysis consult your local extension agency.
Some effects of soil imbalance in the garden include, underdeveloped growth and limited fruiting. This also effects the plants ability to fight of pests and diseases.

A few easy solutions you do now to lower soil ph is add water-soluble, Coffee grounds over time to help reduce pH, just like manure or compost.  Add Aluminum Sulfate to the soil to keep your blue hydrangeas blue. To correct high acidic soil pH simply add dolimite lime, calcium magnesium carbonate to the soil a few weeks before you plant.

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When Pruning Trees and Shrubs, Timing Is Everything

Pruning is always a question for many gardeners, when and how to prune are the most common. It really depends on what you are pruning. For trees and shrubs pruning is a way to help rejuvenate and stimulate new growth. But there is a right time and a wrong time to prune.

Here are a few general rules you need to know before you pick up your pruning shears this spring.

For many trees and shrubs timing is key, especially when pruning spring flowering shrubs. Plants like Azalea, Forsythia, and lilac bloom on the previous years growth. Flower buds are produced the previous growing season and overwinter on the plant. Pruning these shrubs in the fall or winter will prohibit flowering in the spring. Many of these shrubs benefit from light pruning to keep the natural shape of the plant. You want to avoid over pruning or shearing too closely. This practice alters the natural growth structure of the plant resulting in unhealthy looking plants that will flower very little.

Trees and shrubs flowering in the summer should be pruned in late winter or early spring. These plants flower on the the same years growth and are fast growing, like Buddleia and Caryopteris. Roses, Hybrid tea and floribunda should also be pruned in early spring, just before plant breaks dormancy. Shrub and Knockout roses can benefit from this as well. Fruit trees, evergreens, Viburnum, Crepe Myrtle and Rose of Sharon can also be pruned in the early spring.

Pruning hydrangeas on the other hand can be tricky. Hydrangea paniculata and arborescens, flower on the new seasons growth. Pruning in the late winter or early spring is ideal. Hydrangea macrophylla flower from the previous years growth. Many of the new breeds and varieties of hydrangeas bloom from old and new wood, like the endless summer series. It is best to cut back in the late summer. If your plant has become too large or if you are cutting blooms for floral arrangements be careful not to over prune, this can result in fewer blooms the following year.

Pruning tips:

1. Use sharp shears that are cleaned and sanitized to avoid spreading any disease.

2. Remove diseased wood immediately.

3. Make cuts at an angle and close to the collar of the tree. This will keep insects out that can carry disease and harm the tree.

4. Remove crossing branches. Always cut off the smaller branch.

5. Remove thin and spindly looking branches. This helps to thin out the tree or shrub, opening it up for more light and wind to pass through.

6. Remove suckers growing from the trunk of tree.

7. Cut shoots growing straight up towards the center of the tree from thebark or on branches.

8. Avoid pruning in fall. Plants are still growing in the fall. Pruning stimulates growth in plants who are otherwise winding down their growing season and preparing for dormancy. Freezing temps can injure plants pushing new growth.

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Get A Jumpstart On Your Garden Now

Photo By Gardens On The Go

It is never too early or too late to start planning and prepping your garden.  March is always a month of transition.  As the old saying goes March can come in like a lamb or with the vengeance of a lion.  Of course this can vary from year to year and also depends on what part of the country your live in.  One thing that remains constant is spring arrives March 20th on the calendar regardless of the weather conditions.  So why not get a head start in the garden now.  Here is a list of things to do in the garden now.

Edible Gardening

Late winter and early spring apply horticultural dormant oil on fruit trees before the first set of leaves pushes out.

Plant cool season vegetables in cold frames or garden if the soil is workable for lettuces, spinach, Swiss Chard, broccoli, kale and other cole crops.  Continue to sow indoors in the weather is not favorable.

Mid- March begin planting peas and potatoes in the garden, provided soil is workable.

Mulch strawberries with pine straw.

Late march begin planting blueberries, grapes and raspberries in the garden.

Sow seeds indoors and under grow lights for sweet peas, tomatoes, peppers, cucurbits, eggplant, Brussel sprouts and herbs

Indoor Gardening

Monitor houseplants for insect pests and rotate pots a 1/4 turn every week.

Early March start fertilizing houseplants weekly with 10-15-10 or 15-30-15 formulated for tropical foliage plants.

Container Gardens By Gardens On The Go

Annuals and Perennials

Plant Pansies and ranunculus and primroses.

Plant container gardens for your porch and patio.

Divide perennials that will bloom in June and July in the spring.  Perennials like echinacea, hosta, phlox and ornamental grasses.  Leave perennials that bloom in spring to be divided in fall.

Cut back ornamental grasses.

 

Pruning Pear Tree by Cainimages

Trees and Shrubs

Prune fruit trees, evergreens like boxwoods, yew and hollies.

Roses, like Hybrid tea and floribunda should be pruned in early spring, just before plant breaks dormancy. Shrub roses and Knockout roses can benefit from this as well.

Hydrangea paniculata and arborescens, bloom off of new wood.  Hydrangea macrophylla blooms off the previous years growth as well as new wood growth.

Clean and prep tools for the upcoming season.

Lawn

If ground is not covered in snow apply a pre-emergent herbicide, Step 1 to control crab grass.

 

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Making Seed Tape


If you are like me and save seeds from your garden every year or you like to direct sow cool season vegetables like carrots and radishes, you can’t wait to get in the garden and plant them.  For anyone who has done this knows that seed cultivation by directly sowing them into the ground can be a tedious and tricky process, especially when the seeds are very tiny and lightweight.  Making seed tape is a way for you to plant seeds without worrying about waste. They are so easy to make from biodegradable materials that you already have in your home.  Seeds are evenly spaced and glued to strips of paper using newspaper, paper towels or toilet paper and glued using flour and water.

To make seed tape you will need:

Toilet paper, newspaper or paper towels

White flour

Tweezers

Ruler

Small brush or Q-tips.

  1. Mix about two tablespoons of white flour with one tablespoon of water to make a thick paste. You may have to adjust amounts.  Thicker glue will dry faster.  The paste should not be too watery.  You don’t want seed to absorb too much water.  The glue will hold the seed in place.
  2. Using a ruler cut one inch strips of newspaper, TP or paper towels.
  3. Place seed on the one inch strips in the middle.  Space seed according to the distance on package. You can spread the glue on the paper using a tiny brush then using the tweezers place one to two seeds per space.
  4. When you are done place a top layer of paper on top and glue together.
  5. Wait for glue to dry overnight before storing in a dry container.  Add rice to keep inside or container dry from humidity  and or condensation.  Don’t for get to label your seed tape.

When you are ready to plant take your seed tape to the garden and lay in the ground.  Lightly cover the tape with soil and water in.  Once your seeds germinate you will notice there is no need for tedious thinning and wasting of seeds.

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How to keep that beautiful poinsettia blooming

by Tina Sottolano Cain

Keeping your poinsettia alive until next Christmas is not as challenging as you may think. With a little knowledge of the history of the plant and a few easy growing tips you will have an easy time getting your poinsettia to bloom again.

The poinsettia, Euphorbia pulcherrima is a tropical plant that is native to the southern region Mexico and was brought to the United States by the ambassador to Mexico Joel Roberts Poinsett in 1825.

The beautiful red color of its leaves known as bracts make this plant very unique. When grown in their native environment they traditionally grow in part sun and shade, and can grow up to 13 feet tall.

To keep your poinsettias looking good throughout the winter months give them a sunny, south-facing windowsill where it is bright, be sure the light is filtered and free of any drafts. You also want to keep the plant away from any heat vents as well. I find that keeping the temperature between 68-70 degrees is ideal.

Watering poinsettias can be challenging for many. Striking the right balance of moisture and humidity can make all the difference in keeping your plant looking happy and healthy. I recommend checking water regularly. Remove the foil cover from the pot, if you already haven’t. This will allow the plant to drain properly. Too often I have seen a poinsettia take a turn for the worse only to find out later that it has been sitting in a pool of water at the bottom of the foil cover. This will also allow for proper air flow around the base of the plant. Some of the warning signs are the lower leaves turning yellow and curling followed by dropping off. Allow plants to dry out between watering cycles. Never leave excess water in saucers and cache pots.

Continue with this practice until spring. Stop watering and allow the plant to dry out, leaving the stems to shrivel and leaves to drop. Place plant in a cool location where temperature ranges from 50-60 degrees. At the end of spring cut back stems to a couple of inches above the soil line and repot using fresh potting soil. Begin watering again and place plant outside for the summer months in a shaded location. Begin fertilizing using a 10-10-10 ratio weekly at the first sign of new growth. Mid-summer begin pinching off the tips from the top of the plant. This is the new growth you are taking off to promote side branching. You want to do this two times during the growing season before you bring the plant indoors in the fall. Place in a sunny location and continue to water and fertilize regularly.

In autumn move the plant to complete darkness between the hours of 5 pm and 8 am. This triggers the plant to change its growth pattern. Its bracts will change color from dark green to red and flower. Once the plants bracts have completely colored, typically in November, return to a sunny location and enjoy for another holiday season.

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Winter Houseplant Care

Caring for houseplants indoors during the winter is much more challenging than outdoors.  Controlled temperatures, shorter day length and forced hot air from our indoor heating systems leave the atmosphere dry.  You also need to be mindful of cold drafts. Plants near drafty windows and doors result in dark brown sections on leaves.  Plants struggle to push out new growth, foliage turns yellow and edges brown thus resulting in unhappy looking houseplants.

I avoid these problems by following a few simple rules…

Increase Humidity…plants love humidity, especially indoor tropicals.  Make sure you keep plants away from forced dry heat vents.  Increase humidity by placing the plant on a bed of moist crushed stones, cluster your plants together if possible, or mist the leaves 2-3 times per week.

Rotate…plants are phototropic, meaning they lean, or grow in the direction of the light.  With day length slowing increasing each day, plants are stretching toward the brightest area, forcing a normally full healthy looking plant to have an irregular shape.   Remember to turn 1/4 – 1/2 spin per week.

Water…wisely during the winter time.  Take time to water your plants on a regular schedule.  Keep a gardening journal to keep track of watering, misting and fertilizing your plants.  This will help to minimize long dry periods and help prevent overwintering.  Be aware of the water temperature.  Believe or not water that is too cold or too hot can effect your houseplants causing leaves to yellow and curl.  I always use tepid water during extreme cold spells.

Pest Patrol…be on the lookout for unexpected pest guests.  Insects, like Aphids, Mealy bugs, Fungus Gnats, and Scale are the most common pests.  Plants need adequate air flow, especially in extremely warm areas.  Keeping temperatures between 62°-72°from night to day is ideal and helps to keep pests away.

 

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Winter Container Gardens

Gone are the days of garden pots sitting idle on the front porch during the winter season.  Container gardening doesn’t have to end when the weather turns cold in fact the local garden centers are filled with a wide variety of conifers and fresh cut greens, perfect for greening your containers.   Using boughs of pine, fir, and cedar and a few dried and faux accents give your planters life when the short gray days of winter set in.

What I most like about this DIY project is that you don’t have spend a great deal of money.  Bundles of fresh cut greens are reasonably priced and if you are fortunate to have conifers and broadleaf evergreens on your property you’ll have a nice variety to choose.   

Use heavy duty ceramic, iron or fiber planters if possible, these materials are more frost tolerant than basic terra cotta, fill pot with soil. If you have plants leftover from the fall cut them down to the soil.  This actually provides a sturdy base for arranging the stems.  You want to begin by sticking greens in the pot starting from the middle.  Greens should be cut proportioned to the size of the pot.  Consider using a taller branch for the center and then cut branches at varied lengths.  Ideally you want to achieve a triangular or fan shape to your arrangement.  I prefer using fraser fir as my base when possible, It’s short needles provide a sturdy base and the blue green color add dimension. You can use pine and douglas fir as well.  Continue building your arrangement, working from the center of the pot until the soil is covered.  Begin adding accent greens like pine, and port orford cedar to soften and add drape to your arrangement.  I suggest adding magnolia or holly to vary textures or head outside and forage in your own backyard for materials.

Once you have placed all the greens now the fun begins.  You are ready to take your arrangement to the next level.  Branches, like white birch, and sweet huck along wth red twig dogwod add height and brighten greens.  For a more holiday feel add clusters of red berries and pine cones.  I encourage you to experiment with your design. If you prefer a more natural  arrangement use fresh materials. If you want a more festive look for the holidays add glittered branches and faux picks of silver and gold.  The holiday displays at the local garden center are filled with faux and natural picks to choose.

Another option for pots is using potted evergreens. Potted Alberta and Colorado spruces as well as varieties of cypress, holly and boxwoods are just a few shrubs you can plant into pots now.  You can add cut fresh boughs of cedar or pine at the base and holiday lights for a custom design look.    Remember to water your arrangement and spray with an anti -transpirant like, Wilt Pruf or Wilt-Stop.  This will help reduce any water loss through the leaves and needles of your potted arrangements.