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.

In the Garden: Made in the Shade

Tina talks about the best plants to use for shady ground cover.

Easy Tips For Repotting Houseplants

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Easy step by step tips on how to repot your houseplants

There are many benefits to transplanting your indoor plants. One very important benefit is, all plants need adequate room for their roots to spread and grow.  The roots become constricted leaving no of room for new growth.  Roots begin to wrap around the ball of the plant and eventually inhibit new and lush green foliage. Healthy roots on the bottom mean a healthy plant on the top.

If you are not sure if your plants need to be repotted pot bound they dry out extremely quickly.  Here is a simple checklist.

  1. Plant has inability to hold water. Are you frequently watering everyday and does the water run through the pot in a single stream?
  2. Yellowing Foliage.
  3. Soil looking old, dry or moldy.
  4. Root system is tightly wrapping around the ball of the plant.
  5. Roots are starting to grow out of the drainage hole of pot.

Now is the perfect time to assess the overall health of your houseplants. Transplant any plant that has been in the same pot for more than one year. I Always recommend upgrading pot approximately two sizes larger than the size it is currently in.

Don’t forget to keep turning plants three quarters each week to ensure even growth. Begin fertilizer schedule, once a week.


Here are a few quick tips for transplanting houseplants:

1.) Choose a pot two sizes larger than the size the plant is in. Make sure to choose a pot with a drainage whole.

2.) Select a potting soil with good drainage suitable for indoor plants.  #3 chinese evergreen






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3.)Remove plant from pot and loosen the roots.  Make sure the roots are not wound tight in a ball.





4.) Place plant into new container and fill with soil. Be sure to leave a 1/4″ at the top to allow for watering. If pot is to full water will overflow out of pot.







5.) Finally, water plant in. Wait 10 to 14 days before you begin fertilizing with a 15-15-15 water-soluble fertilizer.

For more Information on houseplants and indoor gardening go to:

Growing Micro Greens

Micro Greens are a mix of sprouts from a variety of greens  and herbs that range in flavor from sweet to spicy.  Researchers have found that micro greens have 40% more nutrients than fully developed greens.  These nutrient rich greens are extremely easy to grow and can grown indoors all year long.  They make a great addition to any sandwich, soup or salad.microgreens1

I planted some micro greens a few weeks ago and decided to use plastic take out containers that have a lid.  I liked this method because I get to reuse a recyclable material.  The lid on the container is an added bonus as well cause it creates a mini greenhouse.  Last year when I  originally posted this blog I used regular terra-cotta pot, it works just as well.

Fill the container with seed starting mix. I prefer a bagged Organic potting mix formulated especially for seeds,  Espoma Organic Seed Starting Mix.

Pre- moisten the soil.  I always find it easier to have the soil moist rather than dry.  When seeds are sown in dry soil and you water seeds can float to the surface.  Directly sow seeds in the soil in rows.  Cover seeds with soil.  Be careful not to over water, this may cause damping off, a fungal disease causing seedlings to break down after germination.  Only water when soil is thoroughly dry.

Close container to create a greenhouse like habitat.  If too much condensation builds vent or open lid during the day.

Seedlings stretching toward the light

Seedlings stretching toward the light

Place in south facing window…If you need more light I would highly recommend adding an artificial light source   I also recommend turning your seed trays to avoid phototropism.  

Harvest greens in 2-3 weeks.

Terrarium Demonstration By Tina Sottolano Of Gardens On The Go

How to make a Terrarium in 5 easy steps.
Terrariums are on of the easiest indoor gardening activities to create and care for, very little light and water are needed.

1. Choose a container. Glass jars are great for terrariums, they hold the moisture and humidity, and easy to find around the house.

2. Select plants for your terrarium. Choose 1-1 1/2” plants with varying colors and textures to provide visual interest when creating your design. Here are a few of my favorites; Fern varieties, Selaginella moss, Fittonia,’ nerve plant’, Hypoestes, ‘polka dot’ plant, Strawberry Begonia. They love the moist humid conditions of a terrarium.

3. Add potting medium. Place a 1/4” layer of horticultural charcoal at the bottom of jar. Next add a 1/4”  layer of river gravel and a 1/4” layer of African Violet soil.

4. Arrange and plant. When planting start in the middle of the jar and then work around the sides, this makes it easy to maneuver in the jar. Loosen root ball and flatten, push back still and place, then fill in.

5. Top dress with moss and water. Create your own mini woodland landscape by adding a few twigs, decorative stone, or pinecone. You can even add a mini animal or garden fairy. Once you have watered your terrarium close the top, if the jar has a lid. You should begin to dee condensation build within the jar. Place jar in indirect light and enjoy. The condensation and humidity build up provides enough moisture for the terrarium to sustain it self for months.

For a closer look on how to create a terrarium click on the video above.

Tina Sottolano-Cain is a horticulturist with 17 years experience in the gardening industry and owner of Gardens on the Go, a gardening and consultation firm.
She is host of Garden Minute for Calkins Media.

Spring Into Gardening with Containers

Container gardening is one of the quickest ways to jump start the growing season.  Once the snow has melted and the northerly winds of winter shift slightly to the south, spring is not far behind.  Ahead is the rebirth of all that is green and glorious in the garden.  Bulbs are bursting with color and Pansies and Primrose are filling the air with their sweet scent of the season.

Tulips, Daffodils, Hyacinths and Pansies are not exclusive to the garden flower bed anymore, nor are they the only cool weather annuals either.  This spring try combining flowering bulbs together in pots for instant color.  Wow your friends with some unique design know-how by grouping different cool weather annuals and perennials in individual pots know as mono cultured pots.

A mono – cultured pot is a single plant in a single pot.  These pots can be grouped together on the patio or entry way of the home to create layers of color and texture much like your garden beds.  Start with three pots in small, medium and large, you can add more if your space allows.  I always design in threes or odd numbers to create layers of texture and color to add visual interest.  When planting any type of container garden begin with a centerpiece or tallest plant in the arrangement.  Consider perennial Columbine with its delicate flowers and soft color palette.  Another alternative is the little known annual bulb Ranunculus,  the flower has looks like a cabbage rose and continues to bloom throughout the spring.  The colors range from bright orange, to the softest yellow and the hottest red.  If you are looking for architectural interest consider adding an obelisk or trellis to the large pot, or bunches of cut curly willow or pussy willow branches, these can add new dimension to your display.

Continue next with the medium sized container planted with bright colored Osteospermum, commonly known as African Daisy.  The watercolored flowers last through the summer since certain varieties have been bred to withstand the heat of the summer.  The ‘Symphony’ series is a great example. The ‘Lemon Symphony’ variety is a soft pale yellow that is the perfect compliment to any color palette you choose.  If you want to add a little fragrance to the garden add Stock, an annual with medium size flower stalks and a delicious spicy fragrance.  Nemesia, another fragrant spring annual, adds delicate texture to any container combination.

Complete the arrangement with the third, small container filled with low growing annuals or perennials.  Pansies are the perennial favorites with there wide range of colors and faces. Primroses are great for early spring planting,  they tolerate the coolest of temps and can be planted later in the garden. For a softer texture try a pot of Alyssum, an annual that blooms throughout the early summer.  Alyssum adds brightness with its white color  and sweet fragrance flowing over the container.  Even Petunias, Million Bells and lush green English Ivy can make their seasonal debut in the month of April and possibly late March if we are lucky!

Once you have your pots planted begin arranging them according to size.  Place the largest and tallest pot towards the back, then place the medium size pot off to one side toward the front and the smallest place on the opposite side toward the front as well.  Think of a triangular pattern, or whatever is visually pleasing to your eye.

Remember spring containers should not remain empty waiting to be filled with summer annuals.  Try some of these new ideas to bring your containers to life this spring season.