Friday, March 17, 2017

Using Snow To Deter Squirrels Digging Up Bulbs

Nothing gets me more frustrated than seeing tulips dug up by squirrels.


Tender yellow shoots emerging from the ground must be a thrill for the squirrel after a long harsh winter. Although, once they get the taste of the shoots, they continue to dig down and go for the bulb.

What bothers me finding these half eaten green bits all about. At least eat everything if you're going to destroy the plant. Grrrr....

Even though this process is slightly redundant, that heap of snow you have at the side of the drive or in that shaded corner - well, it can be quite useful.

It will buy you a day or two of time, so that the squirrels become frustrated and move on - elsewhere.

Fill in the dug up areas, add some cayenne pepper or netting if you prefer and then cover the tulips with snow. Will give you a chance to come up with other ideas to ward off those pesky squirrels.

Depending on how warm it gets, you'll have to decide whether this process is worth the effort.  At least the slow melting will give the area adequate moisture to help make the tulips pop up more rapidly.

To us, it was...

Snow on top is like leaving a sign that says - take a hike!

I sure don't want to miss out on this display:

(with a Happy Dance, as spring is 3 days away)

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Repotting Peace Lily House Plant

Once upon a time, this peace lily was glorious. (2014)

It was repotted in 2016, as the plant outgrew the old pot.

Yeesh....then all of a sudden, two weeks ago - what's going on?!

Here you can see the comparison...   Once you see leaves droop (even though you are giving the plant adequate waterings), this is the sign you need to recognize that something else is happening.

Have a peak and see what the problem is. Don't be frightened to poke around and see what is happening at the root level. I moved the leaves/stems around and noticed they were not sturdy and firmly stabilized at the base of the plant. In the centre of the plant, you've got to feel what should be fleshy roots (like root vegetables). In what is normally a dense area of root growth, I felt a soft centre and noticed leafy debris.

Every leaf was floppy and had no resistance to me tugging at it, especially at the centre.

I just grabbed the whole plant and gave it a tug.  The whole thing popped right out - easily.

The culprit: the main parent plant has withered away and now what is left are the newer plants that emerge along the side of the original plant.

Time to repot.

Note, this plant was potted up a year ago in a slightly larger pot than what I would recommend. House plants thrive generally in root bound conditions. Meaning, they prefer to be root bound (less room) than swimming in soil.

Once you've tugged and lifted the mass away from the soil, find good sturdy groupings of plants and pull them apart gently. Try not to sever roots. I gently grabbed two bunches and pulled (soil being slightly moist) and they separated easily. If you are familiar with Hostas, Peace Lily Roots are quite similar and you can divide them in the same way.

You can see, they have a dense network of fleshy roots - long like spaghetti. This is still a healthy plant but we need to search for the rotting centre.

Here is the rotting old plant main stem.  Remove and toss out. I don't compost this, in case any sort of bacteria/virus hangs around. I looked through the healthy roots and removed any dead dangling roots that would be weaved in and among the healthy ones.

Remove any browning leaves.  Remove any leaves that aren't rigidly attached the base of the stem.

Like celery, they easily snap off at the base. Remove any broken bits or anything that can rot or decay later on.

When you remove leaves and debris, you'll notice little bumps and new developing roots.  These are ideal and what you want to see.

Time to repot:

I found two smaller pots (I cleaned and prepped them earlier). Try to pick pots based upon the root mass. The more roots, the bigger the pot. The less, the smaller pot is best.  This way, the plant won't swim in over watered soil and rot further.

Try to do this process of separating and cleaning the plants quickly when the roots are exposed. If there is a lot of dead material to clean out or can't get the job done quickly, use a spray bottle and spray roots - keeping them moist. This prevents them from drying out and going into shock. If you do get interrupted, for a while, place the roots into a clean bucket with water. Be sure to keep the roots hydrated.

Fill the pots with some soil to begin and gently place 3-4 plant bunches together and place into the centre of the pot. You could space them out more, but it is quite the job to get them to stand up evenly as you place the soil around.  I used an indoor potting soil, mixed with cactus soil (which has some sand added for better drainage). Peace Lilies like moist soil conditions but they like the soil to dry out between watering.  

Pinch firmly down.

Don't go over a two inch gap between the plant base and the sides of the pot. Otherwise the pot is too large.

Pinching the plant downwards, while adding more soil, will just fill the air pockets and keep the plant firmly in place.  I tamp down the soil as I go to help keep the roots below the soil surface.  Tap the sides of the pot to help level off the soil.

Water fairly well (do not oversoak) and place the plants close to a sunny window.

Don't be shocked if the plant shows stress and wilted leaves. It'll take a week of recuperation. Don't fret.

Here is the result 2 weeks later:

Shiny new leaves emerging. Leaves are turgid again and sturdy. Pointing outward again and not wilted. Success!


Two plants now, instead of one.  Great for gift giving or increasing your collection.

I love Peace Lily plants for their well known benefit of cleansing household air and their pervasive blooming ability. They are one of my most favourite house plants for low light conditions.

 Will update you on how they fair in the next month.  Stay linked....

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Pruning and Propagating Jade Plants

With spring coming around the corner, I need to get some house plant duties done.

Three years ago, I rescued a Jade plant which was abandoned in an office corner - covered in mealy bug. (Here's the post on it: Taking care of Mealy Bug). The plant's habit was quite distorted and funky looking when it was brought home. Once the mealy bugs were gone, I just let it rest and recover first before pruning hard.

Now that it has fully recovered, too many stems are meandering and jutting out here and there. I would prefer to get it back on track.

Tiny buds started to emerge from the stem about 5 months ago - now growing upright, towards the light. Yes!  I was patiently waiting for these to grow.

A little pruning and staking will give a better shape and tighter habit. I prefer using a budding knife, or like in this case - a sharp kitchen knife to make the cuts. I just cleaned the blade with rubbing alcohol first (to prevent bacteria or pathogens entering in the stem). Leaving about 1 cm of the main stem to the right of the new green shoot (as seen above). What ever you do, don't cut too close to the shoot.

Even if you only have tiny shoots standing straight up, you can cut off the main stalk to your desired shape.
Finished first step of pruning. I left that wonky stem on the left side, planning to cut and root it once I get better growth, so it remains for now.

With Jade plants - they tend to be slow growing in our environment at home. Patience is key. Pruning will have to take on several stages before the final desired shape will be achieved. But, I love plants and will wait for proper pruning results. Now I can adjust the stake and wait until those new shoots develop into sturdy stems.

But wait - what about all the cut off bits?  Don't chuck them in the compost. Save and restart the process by making new plant-lets. You can give them as gifts - it's so easy to do!

Jade plants have to be one of the easiest to propagate. As seen all over the main stems, little aerial roots are developing at bud axils. These are what you want to reserve.

The trick with propagating succulents, when you take cuttings, you MUST callouss them off first.
This just means, you make and take cuttings and allow the fresh cut ends to seal off and dry completely.

This prevents pathogens and bacteria entering in those cuts when you root them on in potting soil.

Freshly cut.

Here I've placed them by the window, so the light and air movement from the radiator and window will help to dry them out. They've been drying out for about 15 days.

2 weeks old.

Two weeks later, the leaves and stems are still plump and are not shrivelled. Tells you what reserves these amazing Jade plants have built in! And as you can see, the cut off blunt end is all callused. Sealed over. Roots are still white and firm. Good sample.

Now, don't throw out any leaves that have fallen off, until you have a good look at their base.

The right side are the kinds of leaves you want to save. 

Here's why:

Jade plant leaves are great to start new plants with. But you need to know a trick. Don't tear off the leaves by damaging the basal part of the leaf that was attached to the stem. They must have wings as shown above. New buds and leaves will emerge from these undamaged ends. So be careful removing them from the stem.

With propagating cuttings and leaves, you need to use succulent or cactus soil. The soil must be porous and loose.

Or make your own:

Make sure the pot you use is not too large. Or too much moisture will dominate and mould and rot will take over.

On this cutting sample, I removed many leaves so that the cutting won't suffer from lack of root development. You see, when propagating, roots should equal the amount leaves. When there aren't any roots, reducing the amount of leaves - the cutting is less stressed. 

In removing the leaves, sometimes little leaf axil bits still stick on the stem. Use a clean spoon to scrape any bits from the bud. They flick off easily from the stem, now that they were calloused over. Leaving these green bits attached would attract decay. And we need to make sure that roots develop with ease. You can use rooting hormone if you wish, but since I have small rootlets already, this isn't necessary.

This pot is about 3 inches high, slightly taller than the length of the cutting. I just used a metal prong to pre-dig a hole and then...

...inserted the cuttings, without firming the soil around. I placed two cuttings in each pot and used a larger pot with a shallow insert to root on the leaves. Here I situated them next to the window, close to a radiator beneath. Perfect spot. Warm base, sunny top.

I only gave a 1/4 cup or so of water for each pot and lightly watered each leaf separately. DO NOT OVER WATER at this stage. Let the little bit of moisture from the damp soil and the air pockets help draw out new roots.

Some folks add grit/course sand to the top. You can, but I find I can't tell how wet the soil is at this stage. In a month or so, I may go ahead and add grit to help trap in moisture, that way I don't need to water as often. Until then, I can easily see damp soil and know when to prevent overwatering.

Wait a month or two and new leaves will emerge from the base of each leaf and new terminal buds will developed on the cuttings. I can't wait! It's so easy!

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Spruce Bits Falling From Above

In my travels today, I stumbled upon a strange sight. From afar, it looked like a beautiful dense green ground cover, until I heard debris falling from above.

Had a closer look and these bits were all over the ground.

Perfect cuttings of terminal and side spruce tree shoots, littering the ground.

Notice anything missing?

There are no buds on any of these shoots. Why?

No, it's not the tree aborting last year's worth of shoots, it's our lovely squirrel population munching at the base of each segment, where the dwarf shoot meets the stem. Plump buds and immature cones are usually nestled at these joints. Making them a great food source for squirrels. As I took these photos, I could hear more falling down below. Must of been 3 squirrels feeding in this area.

Looking up, you'll notice it happens only to Norway Spruce - or at least that is in my experience. I think it's because they have larger cones (makes for larger buds) and their branching habit is more airy and open (easy access).

If you're wondering: if this damage will kill the tree. No, but it certainly sets it back and "prunes" the tree - somewhat stunting them. Removing next year's buds makes the tree respond later in developing dwarf shoots. Open wounds are now also susceptible to bacterial/virus threats too.


If this happens on your property, perhaps invest in some ultrasonic squirrel deterrent device, to help them not congregate on your Norway Spruce.

It is a shame.  Like a carpet of's so sad.
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