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Archive for the ‘Watering’ Category

A beautiful "Christmas cactus" blooms on my mom's windowsill in early November

Andre talks about it all the time! Plants are a wonderful “bio-air filter”.

With the increase in energy-efficiency in new homes, indoor air pollution is on the rise. Buildings are being sealed tighter to restrict outside air exchange in order to lower heating and cooling costs. While this does reduce energy consumption, the recirculated air can accumulate a host of pollutants which come from everyday products and activities. These pollutants can build up and cause upper respiratory problems and allergic reactions. They’ve even given this a name: “Sick Building Syndrome”.

But don’t worry – green plants can come to your rescue!

Spider plants are great houseplants and efficient "air cleaners"

Spider plants are great houseplants
and efficient “air cleaners”

There is a lot of scientific evidence showing that plants can actually help improve air quality both indoors and outside. Research conducted by NASA has demonstrated that many plants have rather impressive air-cleaning abilities. In general, NASA found that plants that grow under low light conditions and have large leaves are the most effective at removing indoor pollutants. Spider plants, Peperomia, Schefflera, pothos, Dracaena, and Aloe are some of the best “air purifiers”.

So keep a few houseplants around the house. They not only provide beauty to your indoor landscape but they will act as a great natural air filter as well!

Plants with large leaves are good for filtering the air.

Plants with large leaves are good
for filtering the air.

Keep Them Healthy

Maintaining healthy houseplants will help them perform this important “air-cleaning” task most effectively. The easiest way to ensure that your houseplants remain healthy is to understand their preferred growing conditions. There are many different types of indoor plants and each has its own optimal light conditions, water requirements, and temperature and humidity levels. If you provide them with the right conditions, they will reward you with their beauty and some clean, pure air.

Click for specific growing conditions for some common houseplants.

The following are some general tips to promote the health of your houseplants.

Water Them Correctly

Coleus brought inside over the winter will brighten up your home.

Coleus brought inside over the winter
will brighten up your home.

More houseplants are probably killed due to improper watering than anything else! The rate of water loss and thus the need to water your houseplants depends upon temperature, humidity, and light levels as well as the type of plants you have. Thus, it is hard to set a strict watering schedule.

Know the requirements of your plants and use the “touch method” to evaluate soil moisture and the need (or not) to water.

  • Press the tip of your finger down about 1/4” into the soil.
  • A cool, damp feeling indicates there is still adequate moisture in the soil
  • A dry feeling indicates that you should water.

If you have a lot of house plants, you might want to consider getting a watering wand you can use indoors!

Feed Them!

Plants bring a bit of nature indoors.

Plants bring a bit of nature indoors.

Fresh potting soil contains a reservoir of nutrients but as your plants grow, they absorb this “food” and the nutrients eventually need to be replenished with fertilizers. Fertilizer for houseplants comes in many different forms.

  • Dissolving powders are one of the most economical ways to fertilize your houseplants.
  • Fertilizer spikes and slow release fertilizers are even more convenient and easy to use for your potted plants. Bayer Advanced makes plant spikes for indoor and outdoor potted plants that control certain insect pests and also contain a slow-release fertilizer.
  • Liquid fertilizers are also popular and easy to use.

Keep Them Clean

Wipe dust off large shiny leaves with a soft cloth

Wipe dust off large shiny leaves
with a soft cloth

Dust and dirt on leaves block light and reduce photosynthetic activity. This causes decreased vigor and gradual decline in the plants. There are many ways to clean your houseplants.

  • Larger plants can be put directly in the sink or shower and sprayed with water.
  • Smaller and more delicate plants can be turned upside down (use your hands to hold back the soil) and dunked and swirled around in a sink or bucket of water.
  • Always let the leaves dry completely before exposing them to direct sunlight.
  • For a glossier surface, wipe the leaves with a piece of soft cheesecloth

For more information on the air filtering qualities of plants, check out Andre’s favorite book on the subject: How to Grow Fresh Air: 50 House Plants that Purify Your Home or Office by Dr. B.C. Wolverton.

Until next time – have a Happy Thanksgiving!

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Epimedium leaves collect raindrops after a spring rain.

Dainty Epimedium leaves collect raindrops after a spring rain.

Last year at this time, we were singing, “Rain, rain, go away!” and many of the tips in my newsletters were addressing disease and pest problems associated with excessive rainfall.

This year has been as dry as last year was wet.
We need rain – BAD!

Yesterday we got a little bit of rain and it was the good kind, too; slow, gentle, and soaking – but not enough. I was listening to Andre on the radio yesterday (his local Tuesday morning show) talking about how dry the ground is. He and the guys have been in the field digging daylilies and he was commenting that the soil was dry as far down as they were digging – a good 10 inches. That is very unusual for this time of the year and is bad news for the farmers who rely on the spring soil moisture for the germination of their corn and other crops. Normally in May, there is good residual moisture in the soil from winter and early spring precipitation.

What about all that snow! I’m sure everyone in this area remembers our record snowfall of this winter and I remember that one day in February the local schools were closed due to flooding! Where did all the water go? We started the year in great shape, a surplus even, but we haven’t had a good soaking rain for a very long time. Lack of rainfall, combined with low humidity and many days with strong winds have sucked the moisture right out of the ground.

The famous Viette-made sprinkler

The famous Viette-made sprinkler

Now it’s time to get out the sprinklers and start watering; but when you do, be sure to water correctly so you do not waste this precious resource.

A good sprinkler that delivers water slowly and gently will go a long way to prevent excess runoff and water wastage. The sprinklers we use here at the nursery have been specially designed by Andre with a small nozzle that puts down less water per hour than most sprinklers.

When you water, try to water slowly and deeply over an 8-12 hour period. This will encourage the growth of deep root systems which will make your plants more drought resistant.

Generally, if you water deeply (putting down about 1½” each time you water), you should not have to water your garden beds any more often than once every 10 days or so.

Remember, water responsibly!
Click for more information on proper watering techniques.

Until next time – Happy Gardening and hope for rain!

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