Indoor Gardening With Foliage Plants

Plants grown primarily for their leaf characteristics and utilized for interior decoration or landscape purposes are called foliage plants.  As our society becomes more urban, living plants as part of the interior landscape increases. The use of live foliage plants brings individuals closer to an outdoor type of environment, and the large variety of plants gives us the opportunity to select species that will serve as attractive additions to interior decor.  Foliage plants are excellent for indoor culture since they are able to survive environmental conditions unfavourable to many other plants.

Most avid gardeners continue to grow plants year-round.  We start seeds in the living room, grow ferns in the bathroom, bring in begonias from the outdoor garden year after year, and have pots of herbs in the kitchen.  Today there are so many interesting plants that can be grown indoors that there’s simply no reason for a gardener not to be surrounded by plants all year-round.

Everyone can grow foliage plants indoors with little effort if the right plant is used in the right location.   Large-leaved species such as rubber plants (Ficus elastica), Monstera deliciosa, dumb-cane (Dieffenbachia amoena), and Philodendron are especially suited to commercial building interiors.  They provide the size required to make them focal points in interior landscaping.  These large leaved-plants as well as the smaller specimens such as ferns, vines, and ivies can serve a similar purpose in the home or apartment.

Practical Steps To Buying House Plants

Indoor plants are raised in glass greenhouses in which the air is warm and humid.  When brought into the average home, they need to withstand more adverse conditions than the average outdoor plant.  Challenging conditions such as minimum light, inadequate ventilation, warmer temperatures, drafts, and dry air contribute to stressful conditions for plants.  Considering the following points will help in the selection of house plants that will complement your interior décor and live for many years to come.

1.  Strong and vigorous.  Give the plant a quick shake. A plant that’s unsteady in its pot may not be well-rooted.  Shaking the plant also tells you whether the plant has whiteflies that will scattered in every direction if the plant is infested.

2.  Evergreen – Since it will be seen everyday of the year, plants need to be evergreen.

3.  Attractive – Some of the foliage plants will flower from time to time, but the primary reason for purchasing is the plant’s foliage and how the plants grow.  The leaves may be selected for their colour or form, or both and the growth habit should be attractive and require minimum maintenance.

4.  Slow-growing – Select plants that are slow-growing without a lot of pruning or training.  They will perform better over a longer period of time.

5.  Crowded roots – Check the bottom of the plant for roots coming out of the drainage hole.  Roots emerging from holes in the pot don’t necessarily mean that the plant is under-potted, but it’s frequently a first symptom.  Root bound plants will require transplanting when you get the plant home.

6.  Unhealthy roots – If you can, have the clerk take the plant out of the pot to check for crowded roots.  Roots come in all shapes, sizes, and colours.  They should always feel firm and not squishy.  Squishy roots are a sign of root rot.

7.  Stem or root rot – Sniff the potting mix.  Signs of rot smell like the sickly sweet smell of a rotting potato.  Don’t buy this plant, as it likely has a bad case of stem rot or root rot.

8.  Leaf spots, yellowed leaves, or abundant leaf loss  – Leaf spots can be a sign of disease or caused by the jostling of the plants in a garden centre.  A yellow leaf or two at the base of the plant is nothing to worry about.  If you see many yellow or fallen leaves, however, the plant’s probably stressed and therefore not a good choice.  Damaged leaves never recover.  Ask yourself whether you are willing to wait for the plant to produce new leaves or would you rather purchase a healthier looking specimen.

9.  Leggy plants or brown leaf tips – These conditions are signs of a plant that has not received adequate care over a period of time.  Spindly plants indicate a lack of adequate light.

10. Signs of insects or disease – Look under the leaves and at the leaf axils (the place where the leaf attaches to the stem) where most often pests hang out.  Do not purchase this plant, as not only will you have a problem with it, but you may also infest the other plants in your home.

Gardening Review ???…Questions and Answers

Questions and Answers on Gardening

Question #1
How to Test Soil For Magnesium Level

This question is in response to last month’s emailed gardening tip. You mentioned to make sure to do a soil test to see what your magnesium level is before adding any Epsom salt to outdoor plants. You said, “Without knowing your current magnesium levels, you shouldn’t apply Epsom salt at all to outdoor plants. Many areas have almost toxic proportions of magnesium present in the soil, and continually adding more will end up poisoning the plants and the soil.” That’s great, but how do I test for Magnesium levels?

Jim Trueman, UK

Hi Jim! Great question. Since most home “do-it-yourself” soil testing kits only test for pH, Nitrogen, Potassium, and Phosphorous, in order to find out your calcium and magnesium levels you’ll have to take a sample to a local soil testing lab. Every county has one, and the cost is usually around $10 (£5). It’s fast and very accurate.

The weekendgardener…

Question #2:
Out Of Control Weeds

We have recently moved into our house, and the gardens are full of weeds. We have tried pulling them out, we have tried both chemical and organic weed killers, and tried solarization. Is there any other way. We just can’t seem to contain them.

Brad Martin, Lismore, NSW Australia

Hi Brad! I can hear and understand your frustration. Nothing is worse than a battle of the weeds. Unfortunately, the best advice I can give you is diligence, and try mixing up your techniques a bit more.

The problem with a lot of chemical weed killers is they do a great job of killing what’s there, but if you simply leave that area bare, and don’t do anything else, new weed and grass seeds can blow in and take root in the now clean and open area.

You also have to realize there are perennial and annual weeds, which means that at any time of the year, some kind of weed will be growing. The trick is to keep after it year-round and in a season or two, you will see a huge decrease in the problem as you kill each weed’s growing cycle and start to get the upper hand.

So what I would suggest is to pick a general weed killing method, I like solarization because it’s chemical free, but many people opt for RoundUp or another systemic weed killer.

Once you have killed everything back, come back in and put down some corn gluten, I mentioned this up on question # 6, see above if you didn’t read it.

Corn gluten is great because it will keep any new seeds from germinating. Keep in mind, it will keep all seeds from germinating, so if you are planning on starting a vegetable garden from seed, this will be a problem.

If that is the case, and you can’t put down a pre-emergent, put down a good layer of mulch, 2 to 3 inches (5.1 to 7.6 cm) to keep any new weeds smothered.

Hang in there, you have the right idea, and in time, your garden is going to look great.

The weekendgardener…

Question #3:
What Is Heavy Soil

I want to start a water garden. I went and bought a Papyrus plant. I was told to repot plant and to use “heavy soil” and water plant fertilizer. Can you tell me what “heavy soil” is? And what type of fertilizer to use that can be used with fish in pond?

Ramona Diorec, Honolulu, HI, USA

Hi Ramona! Good question. Soils come in various “textures” meaning there sandy, loam, and clay soils, which some people can refer to as light, medium, and heavy soils.

Heavy soils (the same as a clay soil) are called that because they contain more clay, are sticky, and have little pore space, drain slowly and retain water and nutrients longer, which tend to make them more fertile than other soils, and are ideal for pond plants.

A medium soil (the same as a loam soil) which is considered the ideal garden soil (not for pond plants, but general gardening), because it has a nice balance of 3 particle types, clay, silt, and sand, giving it a combination of large and small pore spaces allowing it to have air for healthy root growth, and to drain well and lose nutrients at only a moderate rate.

Lastly, a light soil (the same as a sandy soil) contains particles that are fairly large and irregular, and have large pore spaces between the particles giving the soil lots of air, which drains very quickly losing nutrients and water. That’s why plants in sand need watering and feeding more often.

In your situation, you will want to use a heavy clay soil, and there are such soils packaged specifically for aquatic plants, so ask for that. In a pond situation, using the wrong type of soil can cause numerous problems, so start your plants out correctly with the right soil.

Now, just a few extra tips for you. One of the problems with ponds is that they can get a brown tinge to the water. This is because the soil has come out of the pot, which can happen in a high wind when the pot blows or falls over spilling soil into the water, or the soil washes out of the bottom of the pot. To avoid this problem here are a couple of things you can do:

1. Use a shorter wider pot (sometimes called a “pan”) because it is less likely to blow over than a taller pot, especially if it is a taller growing plant (like some Papyrus); and make sure that you add some medium sized stones on top of the soil to keep the soil in the pot. The stones will also add extra weight which will keep the pot from tipping over in the pond in the wind.

2. Line the pot with burlap, weed barrier mat or a few layers of damp newspaper. After the bottom of the pot is lined then add your soil and plant. This helps keep the soil from washing out the drainage holes into the pond. Once the plant is potted up, soak the entire pot in a bucket that is large enough to cover the top of the pot for about 24 hours. This will allow any loose soil to be washed off into the bucket of water and not in your pond.

3. When you are putting the plant in the pond make sure that you slowly lower the pot into the water rather than just plunge the pot into the water. By lowering the pot slowly this will keep the force of the water from washing the soil out of the pot and into the water.

The final part of your question was about fertilizer. There are many made especially for ponds, just ask for fertilizer for Pond Plants. It will be safe for all aquatic life, and it won’t turn water green from algae growth.

The weekendgardener…

Question #4:
Leafminers on Tomatoes

I have 5 pots of “patio” tomotoes growing in large pots on my balcony. All 5 plants have tan “schrigely” marks on them, as you can see in the picture. Not all leaves have these marks. Also, the newest growth leaves on top of plants do not have these marks (yet??). Any suggestions as to the problem? Thanks.

Bob Coyne, FL, USA

Hi Bob! First of all, thank you for sending a picture with your question. It always is so helpful to be able to see exactly what you are talking about.

What you have are called Leafminers. They like to feed on bean, beet, cabbage, chard, lettuce, pepper, tomato, and other vegetables; also many ornamentals, especially chrysanthemum and nasturtium.

The larvae tunnel through the leaf tissue making hollowed-out, winding mines. They can kill seedlings, but the good news is that on older plants, such as your tomatoes, the larvae are more of a nuisance, and a cosmetic issue, than a serious problem.

There are a few things you can do:

1. Handpick and destroy mined leaves.

2. Remove any egg clusters you may see on the undersides of the leafs as soon as they are visible in the spring.

3. You can also spray neem oil. Read more about neem oil.

The weekendgardener

Gardening Tips for Avoiding Fungal Diseases

Summertime is a time of great joy for the gardening enthusiast. He gets to gaze on his garden in it’s full glory and show off the fruits of her efforts. Unfortunately, it is no time to rest on your laurels, as it were, because this is one of the times of year that funguses can take hold and destroy your plants. These type of plant diseases thrive on moisture and humidity, so they can quickly get out of hand.

Avoid Evening Watering

During summer, many climate zones are subjected to high humidity, which might result in lots of problems in your garden. To get your plants nice and dry, tuck them in for night nice and dry. In other words, watering in the evening should be avoided to prevent damage to the plants.

Plan for Powdery Mildew

Powdery mildew is a common fungus mostly affecting ornamental plants. This fungal growth creates a white film on the leaves of the plants in your garden. It can be partially removed by rubbing the leaves, but unless you only have a few plants this isn’t a very effective remedy. You should begin by applying a fungicide product containing Bacillus subtilis, jojoba oil, sulfur or lime sulfur when the initial white patches are observed. This fungus also favors closely spaced plants, densely growing plants, and shady areas.  So take this into account when planning your garden layout if your summer climate has high humidity.

Prevention of Pythium Blight

If you’re in the north, and have perennial Rye grass, then you need to be careful not to leave your grass wet at night. A fungus called Pythium Blight may take hold, because this fungus love to grow in high humid conditions, especially at night. If uncontrolled, this disease can cause large areas of turf to wilt, turn brown and die.

Pythium blight can be readily seen in the early morning on the top of the lawn as a white cotton candy-like growth. Pythium blight can easily be controlled by watering in the day at the earliest possible time. Other preventative measures include removing thatch periodically, avoiding overly thick growth by moderating use of fertilizers and improving soil drainage through aeration.

Fire Blight

Fire Blight, yet another culprit that likes to grow during summer months. This fungus attacks Pear, crabapple and Apple trees. Fire Blight can be seen as a blossom blight a week or two after the blooming, which turns black on pear and brown on apple trees, causing the whole blossom cluster to wilt and die. Antibiotic sprays are quite successful in countering the blossom blight phase of Fire Blight.

Fire Blight can also be controlled by overwinter pruning of affected branches from the main plant. Cuts should be made at least four inches below the affected areas, which can be detected by dead bark. Don’t forget the Fire Blight is contagious, so any prunings should be burnt, and pruning shears should be washed or dipped in alcohol.

Organic Gardening: 10 Practical Steps

“Organic gardening is not just the avoidance of chemicals, in the larger view, it is organic living using nature’s laws.” I read this quote by an unknown person sometime ago and realized that my parents and others like them were organic gardeners long before the current resurrection of these principles.  They didn’t use chemicals on the food they would feed to their children and gardening was a part of daily living to ensure there was sufficient food to preserve for the long winters.  Everything was re-cycled and kitchen scraps were routinely thrown onto the garden to replenish the earth.  Organic fertilizers such as manure were used and the only fertilizer on the roses was bone meal.  My mother and father produced the best tasting vegetables and lots of them – enough to feed a family of seven throughout the winter.  Birds, worms, and other signs of a living earth were welcomed into the garden.

In recent times synthetic chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides have become the practice most common among commercial agricultural practices.  These practices have had some undesirable results such as the loss or depletion of topsoil, land becomes less fertile, and the excessive use of pesticides has resulted in pests resistant to the current chemicals resulting in the development of even stronger chemicals.  Our environment is being damaged by toxic chemical spills, chemicals leaching into rivers and water supplies are contaminating our drinking water, and the effect of global warming is becoming a major part of the political agenda.

Our personal diet and health is a major topic of importance as more attention is being paid to the relationship between food and health.  Research has demonstrated that organically grown vegetables are higher in vitamins and minerals than those grown with inorganic fertilizers.  Gardening organically and growing as much of our own food as possible is one of the steps we can take to start healing the earth on which we live and in the process healing ourselves. Several key components are fundamental to the practice of organic gardening.

Practical Steps to Organic Gardening

1.    Soil.  The soil is kept healthy by working with Nature rather than against it.  Practices include using organic fertilizers such as manure to replenish the earth and all refuse produced by the garden should be recycled back into the garden.  Organic gardening uses all of the waste produced in the garden such as grass clippings, leaves, and leftovers from the kitchen to make compost that feeds the soil and keeps it full of the nutrients necessary to grow crops.

2.    Avoid the use of all synthetic chemical fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides.  Eliminating the use of chemicals in the garden allows gardeners to not worry about children, pets, and wildlife coming in contact with synthetic weed killers and fertilizers on the lawn and shrubs.  The food grown is pesticide-free, additive-free, and nutritious food for the table.

3.    Sustainability.  In his book, Gardening Organically, John Fedor defines sustainability as “the ability of a society or an ecosystem to function indefinitely without squandering the resources on which it relies.”  Organic gardening does this by ensuring there is no loss of nutrients or topsoil in the garden.

4.    Environmental Stewardship.  Gardening organically means that the environment benefits from the reduction in contamination of the water supply and air pollution.  It means that we provide a habitat for wildlife including beneficial insects and animals.

5.    Wildlife-friendly Habitats.  Informal areas can be created to assist wildlife in their search for habitat where they can survive the destruction of many areas; destructions that have now endangered many species.

6.    Intensive planting.  Plants are spaced closely together to conserve water and shield the soil from sunlight thus helping to prevent weed seeds from germinating and growing.

7.    Biodiversity.  Biodiversity ensures that when a change in growing conditions occurs, a single crop from a monoculture does not lead to a crop failure.  The food supply does not become jeopardized when a diversity of species are planted.

8.    Rotating Crops.  Crop rotation assists in the control against soil-borne pests and diseases. This rotation makes a difference in the productivity of the garden as those diseases that affect the plants are kept in check by the rotation of the crops to other areas of the garden.

9.    Watering and Weeding.  Rainwater can be saved to water the garden.  Soaker hoses, drip irrigation, and watering by hand conserve water.  Mulches are invaluable in both water conservation and slowing down weed germination.

10.    Saving Seeds.  Save some seeds from your best plants when harvesting crops.  Many old varieties are being lost at an alarming rate and preserving this biodiversity is important.  Some of these saved seeds have been used to develop new strains after disaster has affected commonly cultivated varieties.

Gardening tips, techniques and plant information

Some of the most spectacular gardening is on the rooftops and patios of the world’s largest cities. Today’s homeowners and apartment dwellers do not have to discard gardening. In fact, they can create their own garden hideaway.

Gardening in small space means you plant in containers, choose plants carefully, grow up on trellises instead of outdoor, hang plants from something overhead. Herbs, vegetables, shrubs, and citrus fruits can all be grown in containers. More and more vegetable varieties are available specifically for container growing.

For small-space growing people can grow in everything from custom-made pottery to clay pots and wooden planters. Your gardening containers must have drainage holes at the bottom. Cover the holes with a section of window screen so the soil doesn’t leak out.

Get a bag of dry, soulless mix for container gardening. You need to soak the soil with water before planting. This process can be messy, so plan ahead and do it outside if possible. Moisten only as much as you’ll need for the current task.

Keep an eye on your gardening container. It can dry out quickly in hot weather. If you really get into it, you might want to consider a drip irrigation system. This is a network of plastic tubing that can be regulated to provide a constant moisture supply to your plants.

Most plants need an average of 1 inch of water every week. You should try to water your garden plants earlier in the day, so the sun can help dry off any water left on the plant. If you see a plant drooping, be sure to water it, because some plants wilt and do not recover if they dry out.

Benefits Of Gardening For Kids

Apparently, we can see how nature is treated these days. It is a sad thing to know that people do not pay attention so much anymore to the environmental problems. What can we do about this? It’s as simple as starting with the children. It is good to see the children’s involvement with environment-friendly activities. One such nature-loving activity that children could easily get their hands on is gardening. Why should you consider gardening for your children?

Here are the benefits that gardening could easily provide the children with:

1. Science

In planting, children are indirectly taught the wonders of science like the plant’s life cycle and how human’s intervention can break or make the environment. They can have a first hand experience on the miracle of life through a seed. This would definitely be a new and enjoyable experience for the kids.

2. Life

Watching a seed grow into a tree is just as wondrous as the conception to birth and growth of a child. In time, kids will learn to love their plants and appreciate the life in them. Gardening could actually help simulate how life should be treated — it should be with care. The necessities to live will be emphasized to kids with the help of gardening – water, sunlight, air, soil. Those necessities could easily be corresponded to human necessities, i.e., water, shelter, air, food. By simply weeding out, one could educate how bad influences should be avoided to be able to live life smoothly.

3. Relaxation

Studies show that gardening can reduce stress because of its calming effect. This is applicable to any age group. More so, it stimulates all the five senses. Believe it or not, gardening may be used as therapy to children who have been abused or those who are members of broken homes. It helps build one’s self-esteem.

4. Quality Time with the Family

You can forget about your stressful work life for a while be soothed by the lovely ambience in the garden. You can play and spend quality time with your children. You can talk while watering the plants or you can work quietly beside each other. The bottom line is, always do what you have to do, together with your kids. You might discover a lot of new things about your child while mingling with them in your garden.

Let kids become aware of their environment’s needs. And one way to jumpstart that environmental education may be through gardening. It’s hitting two birds with one stone — teach them to respect life while you bond with them.

Gardening information and design ideas

A good garden design is usually the result of good planning. The first step to planning a garden for you is to work out what you want. There are many styles to choose, there is a great range of product to incorporate in your private domain, whether it be a large country garden or a tiny townhouse section.

Creating a garden that satisfies the hunger for beauty, while catering to life needs becomes more than just planting. There is no need to spend a fortune on a professional garden designer when you can create your own garden design on your computer with 3D landscape 2 Deluxe.

This advanced garden design program provides you with realistic 3-D views and you can even see your garden change through the seasons. The program is packed with lots of design tips.

Whether you are a professional landscape designer or a gardening enthusiast, 3D Landscape 2 will help you achieve the look you’ve always wanted before lifting a space.

A simple mouse click places trees, shrubs and flowers and over 100 garden design features such as brick pathways, wooden fences, lights and retaining walls.

Over 100 step-by-step explanations, and what tools and materials you will need are all included in this informative CD. We want to be able to use our garden designs, to entertain friends, children to play, and just to sit and enjoy the environment.