Sunday, January 29, 2012

My Amaryllis Finished Blooming, So Now What?

Whatever you do, don't throw out your Amaryllis that finished blooming!

One of the wonderful attributes of the Amaryllis is its re-blooming ability. With a little extra care and patience, one can enjoy its bloom again and again.

Since I posted the progression of my Amaryllis since December, I've placed it in a cool spot, nearest my window. The cooler temps have aided in its longevity. (Not too cool, as a frosty window can be too cold) I've been able to enjoy it's flowering for over 3 weeks now. I've also been careful not to get the bulb wet when I've watered and to also water only when the soil around the bulb is dry. Be sure to not to forget to water, as the flowers will stay hydrated and will last longer when you do.

It's sad to see no colour and it's happy blooms gone, but now is the time to bring life back to the bulb.

2 sets of blooms, removing one set
Once one set of blooms started to wither, I didn't wait to see them drop. I simply pinched the flower stalk back to just an inch above the bulb and let the other two blooms remain. I pinched them off using my thumb-nail rather than using my secateurs.  I find this way I wouldn't of damaged the other blooms. Just watch the stamens and anthers dusted with yellow pollen, they are full of it and it will stick; staining your clothes and furniture.

Remaining two blooms faded :(





About a week later, the remaining two blooms also withered.




I then removed them with my secateurs.

Cutting with my handy Felco's
















Be careful handling the removed blooms, red flowers especially give off staining colour as the bloom gets mushy in parts as it withers. I like to remove them first, and then the stock, so that I don't get pollen everywhere.


Some folks recommend leaving the flower stock until it goes yellow and limp. I cut mine off. Perhaps I am impatient, or not - I just find it's simpler since the bulb does not require to hydrate the stalk and reduce wasted energy until it withers away.

Try real hard not to damage the leaves when removing the stalk. I used my sharp secuteers to do this, which makes a swift cut.
If you use a knife, cut away from the leaves. Energy returns back into the bulb when the leaves are healthy and robust.

Watch when cutting! Water will drain from the stock and can spill out. I just let all that water drain back into the pot.















As soon as you've removed the flower stalk, place the Amaryllis into a bright area. The leaves will begin to thicken and perhaps gain a greener hue because of the light. South facing is best. You can't give too much light. You want to bulk up the leaves, so that the bulb grows in diametre.

Every watering, I have been using Schultz's All Purpose plant food (7-7-7). Although, to increase flower production (bulb embryo inside) it would be best to use fertilizer with a high middle number, which encourages blooms.

I plan on bringing it outside to let it flourish once the threat of frost is gone. The last time I did this, several outer leaves wilted and became yellow. I simple removed them and let the newer leaves emerge from the centre. 

Here is my post what to do to - the way to store and start the process all over again. 

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Reminiscing...Working the Land

Some of my earliest recollections as a child have been about the garden or working the land. Being the last in line of  five children, I got to watch, tag along and generally be a pest to my siblings with so many outdoor activities.

Mom loved Red Salvia and Yellow Marigolds *
One activity was trampling around in the flower garden. My Mom had a love for colour; our front and backyards were always full of colourful annuals. I remember fondly collecting seeds for next years planting.


My parents grew up in rural, subsistence farming communities in Europe. They knew how to work and live off the land. Both had a wealth of knowledge and know-how that I treasure today; having watched and learned so much from them. We owned a farm, quite rough around its edges that became my father's oasis. We as a family managed in the early years to transform part of the land into workable soil, producing sizable crops, at least enough for our needs.


Real poser, while the others did all the hard work*
We were taught pest control techniques that didn't use pesticides or herbicides. My parents were "green" before it was a coined-phrase. I remember the tedious task in collecting potato beetles off of leaves and especially the potato flowers. Ugh... boring job...but foundational.

I remember how we would hoe, weed and seed areas. Watched Dad rototill the soil with his blue tractor. We would work (I'm sure I sat around and played most of the time) real hard and then make our way to the lake to cool off with a summer swim. Good times!

Mom and Dad had us all gather and pick apples at our farm so we could make cider. All wonderful memories that I now cherish. Mind you, at the time we all grumbled (at least I did ;) at the hard work. Well worth it now that I look back at the hard-working ethic my parents modeled.


All my brother's hard work*

Young pumpkin patch*
I love how God works; planting seeds of knowledge and experience, allowing them to nurture and cultivate creative adults. For that I am grateful!

I am also grateful for older brothers who put up with my nagging and quirky ways. I learned heaps from them too.  And now that Mom and Dad are gone, I am so happy to look back and remember our fruitful childhood! Thank you Peter, for taking the above photos!*

Monday, January 23, 2012

Amaryllis Finally In Full Bloom

I chose the Amaryllis this January as the plant of the month simply because I have enjoyed watching the one I received bloom throughout the past 4 weeks.  I just love it!   

For those who are new to this plant, the Amaryllis originated in South America's tropical regions and has the botanical name Hippeastrum. It's available in Ontario, around late fall, up until January. The larger size of bulb, the larger the flower and the possibility of 2-3 bloom stalks. This bulb was about 24cm in diametre, and considered average. 

Most bulbs come in kits - pot, saucer, soil all included. It's also offered in single bulbs as well. Colours ranging in the reds, pinks, bi-colours, and whites.

Planting depth is key when it comes to this bulb, as one needs to plant it with its shoulder and neck exposed. Please don't ever be confused with other assortments of fall bulbs. This is a tropical bulb; it will be damaged if it comes into contact with frost, making it perfect for indoor planting.

Once planted, just a little watering now and again when the soil is dry to the touch, and you're all set!






It's been amazing to see it grow from this...  








 
       ...to this!


I decided to photograph the progress of the blooms every day and put together a collage of photos. I assembled these selections, showing their difference as the bloom unfurls.


It's hard to believe that such a large flower emerges from a bulb, the size of a fist. Found this great Youtube video of an Amaryllis blooming, captured with time-lapse photography.



This one shows the full flower, even up to its end. :(



Now that my Amaryllis is in full bloom, I will continue to keep the blooms hydrated, watering about once a week and I will add some All Purpose liquid plant food to help strengthen the bulb and encourage great leaf growth. When my Amaryllis blooms start to wither, I will post (here is the post) methods to save, renew and re-establish the bulb for future enjoyment!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Fun Seed Packages - McKenzie Seeds

I truly get a kick out of horticultural products which appeal to kids.

I stumbled upon these today, as I was looking at seeds for my garden:


McKenzie Seed line for Kids, see their website below
Aren't they fun?! As one of my earlier posts [ "Toilet Loo Rolls" ] had mentioned, kids love to sow seeds and to watch germination happen. With these seed packages, I think they would be happy to learn more about gardening.

These graphics and cartoon like characters make simple vegetable seed packages come alive - saying sow me!  The back of each package has planting instructions that are understandable to small kids, with great sowing diagrams.

Have a look at their other selections:
McKenzie Seeds for Kids

I snatched a bunch and hope it brings smiles to my nephews and niece.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Common Houseplant Pests Part 2 - Fungus Gnats, Springtails

Winter is the time of year where I have more opportunity to examine things. And upon further examination since my previous part 1 post, I have more invaders in my house plants...quite hidden from view. Yep, I have more unwelcome roomates -oh, no! :)

There are a group of tiny insects that make their home in house plant soil. Fungus Gnats, Springtails and Psocids are really hard to see. In fact, when I was young, my mother used to call me to the living room and have me watch her water the house plants to see if I saw little squirmy larvae or tiny insects float and scatter when the water puddled on the soil surface. Mom was far sighted and I was near sighted. I loved to do this for her, as my inquisitiveness of plants and what "bugs" them happened already at that time.

This Chrsitmas Cactus ( Schlumbergera bridgesii ) has got to be at least 20 years old. The main stock at the base is thicker than my thumb. I've pruned it back so often. So happy it lives on! It was a gift to my mother and I have inherited it. Since it is that old, and since I re-pot it so infrequently, the soil is older and many leaves and plant debris have accumulated in the pot over time.  I find, the more I neglect this plant, the more it thrives.

I watered this Christmas Cactus more frequently this past month, as it went into bloom. I wanted to make sure the blooms lasted longer with added moisture. Now I am paying the price for the increased saturation levels. Worth it to me, as I had a tremendous show of bloom.




Unfortunately, I had no success photographing the insects, as you can see here, my camera cannot magnify enough to capture them.  However, like the time my mother asked me watch while she watered, I've videoed the same way and uploaded it onto Youtube for you.  


The best way I could suggest to view the video is use the expanded view (bottom right corner on the video link) and to fixate your eyes towards the lower centre of the video. I believe I have both Fungus Gnats and Psocids in the soil. You'll see them floating on top of the water, but I have placed a focus box where I saw larger Psocids moving over a pebble once the water dissipates. Fungus Gnat larvae are more worm like and Psocids are more crawlers. Both are sooo tiny, so you'll only notice movement, as apposed to a vivid colour or shape. Hopefully you can see them.

Even blown air over them makes them move, that way you're not over-watering in order to see them disperse.



Fungus Gnats, Springtails and Psocids LOVE MOIST conditions. As one of their name suggests, they love to feed on fungus that soil incubates when it remains consistently moist. They also feed on plant root hairs that can cause reduced plant health, so sometimes a watchful eye can see a plant lose some of its vigor and notice insect damage before being able to visually see the bugs. They are not the most troublesome of pests to have, although, enough populations of them (like my situation), you want to take some action.

The adult stage of the Fungus Gnat is a winged stage.I knew I had them in this pot with the Psocids because as soon as I took hold of the plant, small flies flew away.  Like white fly, with just the slightest disturbance, you'll see them fly and scatter about. Unlike Whitefly, they are dark and slightly larger. They also return to the soil level, where it's moist to lay eggs. When I see larvae moving about at the soil level, I usually tap some of the leaves in order to check for any adults flying about as well.

Springtails and Psocids are different, as their adult life cycles stay tiny and they remain at the soil level. Springtails jump when disturbed, whereas Psocids just move about. I find these guys sometimes at the base of the pots, often soon after watering. They float more easily when you see water puddling at the top. They don't bother me as much, as they eat primarily decaying matter and help compost leafy bits and bark. Yet, sometimes they are useful in detecting other soil borne insects, as other insects like mites can feed off of them. When you have a host of soil loving insects, you usually have other pesky insects.

One way to prevent these bugs from invading is allowing your plants to thoroughly dry out between watering. Don't allow your house plants to sit in water. My Christmas Cactus sits in a larger decorative pot. More water puddles below, and it allows for a breeding ground as you can see. Let the soil go completely dry to the touch, making it inhospitable for new generations to breed.  This is tricky, but can be achieved. You don't want to let the plant completely dry out in some cases (ferns for an example) as many love moist conditions. However, one way is to water the plants from the base of the pot. Filling a saucer or bowl with a few centimetres of water and then sitting the planter pot into the saucer and allowing the holes from beneath the pot to suck up the water. Once all the water is drawn up, remove the saucer and place the house plant back to begin drying out again.

Many plants you buy (even from reputable garden centres) have these bugs. They are just so tiny and hide under soil bits, one can hardly tell if you are bringing them home. When you do bring plants home for the first time, place the pots in a sunny window, allowing the soil to dry out more rapidly. Hold off watering them for a bit, or water from the base as suggested above, especially when the plant needs it. This prevents prolonged moist conditions, making it unfavourable for the insects to feed and breed.

Most tropical, indoor plants enjoy drying out periods between watering anyway. This is a good practice to keep soil borne bugs at bay. For some house plants, the dry conditions encourage flower bloom, giving the plant just a limited amount of stress to trigger the plant to produce flowers.

For much more troublesome insect infestations, a soil drench is a definite solution. The picture on the right is a product I bought over 10 years ago. A simple houseplant insect soil dust. You sprinkle this powder over the soil and then scratch it in and water through. It remains in a powdered state for a day or so and as the water leaches down, it comes in contact with larvae, adult bugs and their pesky eggs.

In Ontario, this product is no longer available, as it is chemically based, and new pesticide laws don't allow it to be sold at the retail level, but it is still available commercially with a pesticide license, just in different packaging.

One other soil drench that I have heard is effective: tea-tree oil, but I would be careful to only use very diluted mixtures, as direct tea-tree oil on roots can burn and damage tender root hairs. Also I have read the use of Neem Oil is effective as well. Be sure to read the bottle for directions before applying.

I've also read using thick potato peels and laying a few on top of the soil, skin side up. Leave for a day and remove them quickly from the soils surface, as the insects have begun to eat and bore through the peels. You'll notice several will stay stuck to the peels when you discard them.

One other hint:  if you notice one of your houseplants has these insects, and the insects have not moved to other plants, remove the plant from its location and proximity to other neighbouring plants. Soon enough, when populations increase (especially with Fungus Gnats) and adults fly about, the gnats will travel to other suitable conditions where they can lay more eggs. Place the infested plant a good distance away and leave there until you don't notice the Fungus Gnats anymore.

Time for this Christmas Cactus to move to a brighter area and no more watering for a while!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Common House Plant Pests Part 1 - Thrips

If you own house plants, you've probably had many of these critters invade your home without even knowing it.

Today, I watered my house plants, and paying attention to some signs, I knew I had an unwanted invader.

I found this leaf damage on my Prayer Plant (Maranta leuconeura).

Now for some of you, you've probably seen various forms of this sort of browning (the loss of green colour, leaving a blotchy mark on your plants) without ever doing anything about it. However, my gut told me to examine things more thoroughly.

During the winter, lack of humidity causes similar effects. Although, loss of humidity usually shows up on the tip or the base of the leaves.

Here, the damage is toward the side and in the middle of the leaf. One thing plant lovers begin to learn, is to see the damage on both sides of the leaf. It helps determine the source of problem.


As I suspected, the damage was coming from beneath the leaf, which then allows me to find other evidence of damage.

If you take a moment to enlarge the above and below photo (both viewing the underside of the leaf), you'll also see small pin prick sized areas of discolouration. And if one looks even closer, you'll see the bug itself. Can you see it?


Forgive the over exposure of this shot, but there, towards the bottom of the leaf, along the stem, to the right of my thumbnail, can you see a dark, sliver of something?  This is an adult insect, known as a Thrip.

Thrips are aggressive sap suckers. Having small mouth parts that prick the under-surface of a leaf, they individually suck sap from leaf cells, causing this decolouration and visible damage.  You can see similar damage at the base of the leaf, near the stem where this Thrip fed as well.  A lot of damage for one small insect. As the leaf ages and gets tougher at the base, the thrip moved along the leaf's edge to more tender tissue. Unfortunately, when you see one, you will find others on the plant. Others of varying ages too. Eggs, hatched nymphs and adults. One adult can do a lot of damage.

Not to fret if you have this insect on your house plants. This isn't the first time for me, nor will it be the last. I work in areas where I can easily bring this insect home on my clothes or other house plants. Sometimes, you can also bring this insect home with the plant themselves. Thrips are slender and move into crevices easily. Some species can fly. I'm most likely the culprit, I probably brought it home, not even knowing it. :(

I find the best way to combat this bug, is simply to use your fingers and water. I'm so used to using non-chemical ways to kill off invaders, but you certainly can use over the counter products available to you at the local garden centre. Some of you might be saying...eww.  So be it. I rather do it this way.

First, I examine and thoroughly look under each leaf, its stem and on any new forming leaves and squish any signs of insects (eggs, adults). With your fingers you can feel grit and their remnants. I then take the plant to a large sink and rinse the leaves and stems as much as I can with water, making sure each leaf is clean by the eye and by feel. It's an arduous task, but worth the results.

Unfortunately, this control is not a one time deal. I have developed patience and perseverance in examining plants for several days, until I see no evidence of a pests presence. It's rather time consuming, but I find I don't have to worry about misapplications of pesticides and since using chemicals indoors don't appeal to my health consciousness, I avoid it as much as I can. When certain leaves are more damaged than others, I also prune them off the plant entirely. Having damaged leaves is unattractive anyway, and their removal helps reduce insect populations - it's rather effective to prune away anything that is disfigured. One hint though: you must not leave bits of leaf remnants. These are fabulous hiding grounds for crawler stages of insects. I prune the leaf as far back to where it's attached, and remove any leafy bits that would be areas to look out for down the road.

If you have infections on numerous house plants, the above treatment would be too difficult to do. There are effective, more natural products out there, like EndAll and Safers Insecticidal Soaps. However, one application is not enough and Thrips hide and move about quickly when leaves are disturbed. For the most part, the application can miss spots and well, rendering the application useless. Spraying indoors is messy and the vapor off of these sprays is awful.  If you're desperate to save the plants, use my squishing and rinsing method, after spray applications (1 week or so later).  Two methods are better employed to be thorough. Although, if the infestation is severe, sometimes it is better to toss the plant out rather than to waste efforts in battling something too hard to rid of.

Two website links I would like to share, and will share often are: 



Each define, describe and give great samples of preventative measures, how to recognize plant damage, pointing to pest problems, and varied methods to control household invaders. I especially like the Colorado State University website for their photographs and warnings regarding chemical controls.

As the weeks progress, and as I examine my plants regularly, I will post more problems for sure...

As they say, "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure".  I'll keep you posted!

Sunday, January 08, 2012

Don't Throw Out Broken Clay Pots! - Part 1

Winter is the season I purge a lot of gardening "stuff". I go through all of my pots, gardening tools and decide as to whether I can find any use with items which have seen better days.

One item I will never throw out:  the broken clay pot.
Garbage...no! Not in this case!
You may be wondering, why.

If there is one question I get asked most often regarding house plants, is how often do you water them. I find folks usually over water their household plants.

One preventative measure to over watering, is proper drainage. This is where the broken clay pot comes in.

Most folks have broken, chipped pots, or terracotta pots you don't like anymore, you know, the ones you can't bother to clean thoroughly. Just make sure you don't have ones that have areas of mold or questionable bits stuck on them. Mineral deposits are fine. Rinse off the worst.

Bundle all up, so no bits come out

Smashing on carpeted floor is ideal, no scratches or damage below
Grab an old cloth, cloth bag or a tarp and a large rock or mallet, place the clay pots inside and smash away.  I find this part quite cathartic!  :)


You want the clay pot to be broken down in small sized pieces, leaving some larger than others.  Use these broken bits as a drainage layer underneath the soil inside your planter pots.





Place the larger sized broken bits over the drainage holes of your pots first. Depending how large your pots are, there may be more than one hole. Just make sure each hole is covered so you don't see it. Then place enough broken bits to cover the entire bottom of the pot.
I've added about an inch of clay bits here

For larger pots, you can add 2 inches of clay bits, smaller pots add only enough to cover the pot.  The larger clay bits will cover the drainage holes, allowing water to drain through instead of the soil.

Using other drainage material is fine at the bottom of your pots, but I do like using clay bits as they are porous, absorbing water more so than gravel or grit. Plus, if you garden a lot like I do, you're bound to have a broken pot or two laying about. Might as well use them. You'll be diverting garbage waste and saving some money while you're at it!

If you don't have drainage holes in your pot, this method of adding a soil-less layer at the bottom is ESSENTIAL. Plants generally don't want to sit in wet soil, unless they are aquatic plants. Adding a layer of large agregate below the soil, allows the water to drain down into this area full of air pockets, leaving the above soil dryer. It creates a reservoir of water, ready for the plants once the soil above begins to dry out.

Don't just think of indoor use, but for outdoors as well. I use my broken clay pot bits in my herb and annual planters.

Any of the finer bits of dust and grit that are leftover, I toss in with my soil mixes.  It's a great way to help aerate the soil, increasing drainage as well!


Check out my other post here for another reason why you should keep your broken clay pots!

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Wedding Favors (Bombonieres) For The Garden

Since I am bent horticulturally, let me offer you some gardening, or "green" ideas as favors:

White Bleeding Hearts (Dicentra spectabilis alba)
Why not get some Bleeding Heart  perennial seeds or other seeds from your favourite plants? Just collect various seeds and buy these great draw string baggies from a dollar store, like Dollar Tree (below). Add a wedding label and you'll have a very personal gift!




  • Little evergreen trees:

    Tree seedlings  are available for planting, come with directions, Plant a memory of the couples union. 
  • Seed packages: 

    Seed packages are blank, until your wedding info is stamped on. Filled with herbs, wild flowers, perennials....these are all lovely ideas for sowing seeds. People love them, as planting directions come on the back of the packages! 
  • Flowering Bulbs:

    So easy to plant and you can buy bulk bulbs at your local garden centre or big box store and wrap them up just the way you want to!  Great for late summer to autumn weddings. 
  • Seeded paper:

     Great idea, which can also be used for table seating cards, thank-you cards...etc.
  • Small potted succulents:  

    These are great if you have succulents yourself. You just take cuttings and force them on your own. Lots of work, but so cute and cost saving!  You don't just have to do succulents. Varied mini potted plants are just as beautiful. Such as mini African Violets, Mini Roses, Mini Orchids. There are lots of plants for every taste and budget.

If there are any gardeners in your life, or those who enjoy flowers or plants, any of these favors will delight them! If there aren't, you'll soon cultivate the desire to be one!

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Garden Gloves: So many to choose from

I've been gardening professionally now...have to think ..over 8 years. Before that I worked at a Garden Centre for just as many years. My hands were always either wet, soiled up, dry, and my nails looked...eeeek - terrible.

I've come to depend upon gloves since my hands have aged considerably. My poor hands were tired of being poked, pricked and scratched to bits.

 I have found a God-send of a product line:

Atlas Gloves Co.

They make all sorts of gloves, but this grip line from Atlas, I find is excellent.

Atlas Gloves Co.
The rubber dipped areas are just on the palm side of the glove. This gives you the adequate grip ability for handling tools, weeding and breathing ability on the backside of your hands - as the gloves are made from a durable cotton blend fabric. I find the green coloured line the best for summer use as it is thinner. The blue for colder or heavier labour (such as stone work). They also have a grey line, which is extra insulated for the winter months.

These gloves last about 2 months for me, before the rubber starts to peel away. I use 8-10 hrs/ 6 days a week (on average). Really good investment, with long wear. Especially since I wash them each week!

For rose pruning, or other thorny plant material, I suggest buying leather gloves. I had a wonderful elbow length pair of gloves  Rose Gloves from Lee Valley  which someone decided to pinch from me last year. :(  They are fabulous for preventing scratched up forearms.

I find thick leather gloves essential for working in areas you have either never worked before, or just for clean up.
No brand name specified, sorry.

Here is a pair of leather gloves that we use in the parks where I work. They have saved me many a prick from hypodermic needles. A true protection come spring clean-up.

I have not seen the Atlas line everywhere, only in reputable garden centres or hardware stores. Atlas Glove Company offers online purchases in case you can't find them. Worth the money in my opinion.

You'll find all kinds of leather brands. Again, you get what you pay for. Pigs skin or suede is often the cheaper quality, and they feel the most soft. Yet, if you want adequate protection, invest in the thicker, more expensive brands.

Hope this helps!

Monday, January 02, 2012

Spring Cleaning..er..I should say...Winter Cleaning

Small sampling of pot sizes
If you're anything like me, you would find ways to cut down on costs. I prefer to save money to buy more plants! hahaha :)

One way to keep money in your pocket-book is to reuse and save pots, year to year.

 Especially pottery and clay pots.   I also keep varied plastic pots sizes and shapes that I use as inserts or for up-potting purposes. Winter time is the ideal time to clean and store pots, ready for the spring.

You probably have pots that look like these:


Yuck

Mineral deposits and stains adhere quite stubbornly.

It's important to truly clean these pots before reusing them. Forms of mold and bacteria can harbor in this grime and should be scrubbed and descaled for reuse.
Mineral deposits

Soak for a good while
First I soak my pots. With plastic pots, the removal of mineral deposits are easily done with hot water, dish detergent and a hand scrubber.

NEVER add bleach with vinegar together, NEVER
For clay pots, the use of White Vinegar in the water eases the use of  elbow grease.  Soak pots in a hot bath of 1 part vinegar and 2 parts water. Give it about an hour to soak and a light scrubbing. You'll notice the deposits may bubble from the vinegar and come straight off without any scrubbing.  If you are using white vinegar, rinse the clay pots by soaking in water again for about a half hour. Clay is porous and soaks up some of the vinegar. When you use these pots later in spring and water the soil, traces of vinegar may seep out and change the pH levels of your soil.

Some folks have recommended further disinfecting of their pots because of insect infestations that may have affected their plants the season before. You must clean thoroughly, especially when you seed or propagate large quantities (it's best to do this before storing in the fall). Baking clay pots in the oven after the pots have dried from washing, truly disinfects the clay. Also people have run their plastic pots through the dishwasher.

Warning: DO NOT MIX BLEACH WITH VINEGAR. USE SEPARATE BATHS. For many pots, I use a mild bleach bath when I know I have had issues with bugs or disease. I use 1 part bleach to 10 parts water. With gloves, I wash and scrub thoroughly, rinse and let dry.

All in all, it's better to put in the effort to clean and disinfect your pots before last years grime makes this years crop go bad. Either that, or invest each year in new pots. But be sure to recycle your last years pots!

Sunday, January 01, 2012

Toilet "Loo" Rolls

HAPPY NEW YEAR, EVERYONE!

I trust you're brimming with excitement regarding plans for your 2012 gardening season! As I look outside, my poor little townhouse garden is being drizzled over with freezing rain. Hard to think about the garden when we have days like this. Nevertheless....

You're probably wondering about the title of this blog entry. No, I haven't gone "loo-pie" :)

Usually by the start of December and into January, I save toilet paper rolls.

Just your ordinary "loo" roll or a paper towel roll will be good too.

I use them for propagating, seed time. Fun, fun, fun! I learned this method years ago at school. There are many products out there for starting up seeds.

Whether you use seed tray kits, or those peaty pop-up disks (when you add water, they swell and look like a cylinder of peat-moss) - I find this method is cheap, easy and a great means of waste diversion.

It takes me months to save up, so depending on your household size, start saving!

Here's a sneak peak at how it's done:
First, cut them in half. Depending on the seed size you plan to sow... you can cut one roll into 3 cylinders. Tiny seeds could benefit from a smaller length. (When cut in half, they stand about 1-1/2 inches tall).

If you have several children or you want to label your propagating seeds, label the cut rolls with permanent marker so you know either which child the seedling belongs to, or what seed is germinating. Saves having to use stick labels or the like.

Then place the cut cardboard roll into your bag of seeding mix soil and pack the soil in both ends until firm.  Place on your seeding tray and you're on your way to propagating your favourite plants.

Made out of cardboard, they are ideal. They help retain water, they stay firm even when you have to pinch back and handle your tiny seedlings. Best of all, once the established seedlings need to be planted outdoors or in pots, they can be planted with the roll, completely composting away in a few weeks.

If you home-school or want a wintery weekend project at the end of January or throughout February, this is a great project for kids. They love seeding and watching the plants pop up. Give it a go!

You'll never look at a toilet loo roll the same way again!
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