Monthly Archives: March 2016

Growing OrchidsDiversity of orchids is absolutely amazing. Orchids belong to Orchidaceae family, which is the largest family of flowering plants, with at least 24,000 different species. It is not surprising, that orchid flowers are extremely various; they could be of any colour you can imagine, and their shape and size may very much differ among different species and genera as well. Flowers of a great number of orchids look really gorgeous.

In addition, many of them have very nice fragrance, which is also different among different species. Some orchids, for example Stanhopea, are so fragrant that their owners have to keep them outside when those orchids are blooming, because the fragrance is tremendously strong. Some orchids, for instance Brassavola orchids, smell at nocturnal time, which is wonderful. It is also interesting that the flower smell of certain orchids, for example Bulbophyllum, is quite repulsive, because natural pollinators of these orchids are flies feeding on rotten meat. Nevertheless, many of such orchids are valuable items for many orchid collectors.

Moreover, different orchids bloom in different seasons. It is possible to collect a combination of certain species or hybrids, which will be blooming one after another all year-round. Besides, there is a group of orchids prized for its ornamental foliage, rather than flowers, so-called group of jewel orchids.

Although, there are some terrestrial orchids, as jewel orchids for example, almost all orchids grown indoors are epiphytic plants, which grow in natural conditions on trees rather than on ground. This doesn't mean that orchids are parasitic; instead they use photosynthesis for energy like all green plants, and collect nutrients from plant debris or dust and water from moist air or the substrate. They attach to the trees and use them only as a physical support, with the main purpose to be closer to sun, because in a tropical forest it is almost impossible for herbaceous plants to survive under dense tree crowns. Perhaps, that is the main difference between orchids and majority of common house plants, though there are other epiphytes among house plants, for instance epiphytic cacti.

The first thing you should remember if you grow epiphytic orchids is that they must not be grown in soil, because it is not natural to them, and they will sooner or later die in such conditions. There are many different potting medium for orchids, but tree bark will do in most cases, and you can buy it in any gardening store.

As I said earlier, orchids are very various plants, which may very much differ in their care requirements. For instance, there are orchids which require bright light to grow well and flower regularly, but others like shady conditions; some orchids can grow and even bloom during the whole year, but others need a certain period of rest. So the second important thing you should consider is what particular type of orchid you grow. Then you can easily find info about growing requirements for this type of orchid, and eventually give your orchid all proper conditions to grow in.

Phalaenopsis hybrids are likely the most well-known orchids, which you can grow easily, but also there are many other orchids which can be grown at home without too much difficulty. Today, most orchids for sale in shops are hybrids which often have less strict requirements for growing at home than natural species. However, there are many different orchids which are very difficult to grow indoors, for example even some Phalaenopsis species might be very difficult to take care of in home conditions. Such orchids are usually grown by some sophisticated collectors, who have cultivated different orchids for a long time.

So orchids are very beautiful and diverse plants, which deserve to be a real beauty of every house, but to grow orchids successfully you should keep in mind that these little beauties are epiphytic plants, and you should also know what type of orchid you're going to grow to care for that appropriately.

Avocado TreeMost avocado trees are grown in tropical climates, primarily in Mexico (the world's leading producer of avocado), California, Hawaii, and Florida. California is the number one producer of avocados in the United States, with most of the crop being of the Hass variety. But why not growing an avocado tree at home?

Growing an avocado from seed...

To grow an avocado tree, you need to get an avocado seed, clean it off and poke three toothpicks into the side of it. Then immerse the seed halfway in the water while the three sticks rest on the rim of a drinking glass. Set the seed with the wider portion down.

Place the glass with the seed somewhere warm with not too much direct light. The water should be changed at least every couple of weeks, before it gets dirty and depleted of oxygen.

In four to six weeks, the seed should split and out should come roots and a sprout. Once the stem has grown a few inches, place it in a pot with soil. Avocados have been known to grow large, so you will have to repot the plant several times.

What's the ideal place to grow an avocado tree?

The ideal spot for the plant is at the brightest window. Avocados are widely cultivated in tropical to subtropical climates. They may grow in shade but require full exposure to sunlight for best productivity. It should also be watered every few days.

How long does it take to grow an avocado tree?

Under good conditions, growing avocado takes many years, even up to a decade or two, to begin producing fruits. Indeed do not expect to get fruits but you can still grow a beautiful houseplant!

How big is an avocado tree?

Avocado is a medium to large evergreen tree with large, leathery, deep green leaves. The tree grows to 20 m, with leaves 12 cm to 25cm long. The flowers are greenish-yellow.

Why growing an avocado tree at home?

To grow an endless amount of organic avocados! Avocados are very healthy for you. They have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and alkalizing properties. They can help you lower your cholesterol level and contain lot's of healthy nutrients. They are also very rich in fiber. So there're many reasons why it's recommended to include avocado in the diet. Try growing an avocado tree at home if you don't like making regular trips to the grocery store for your daily supply or if you are fed up with spending lot's of money for quality produce!

Organic GardeningIn this age of global warming of our planet, increasing pollution and fast food, many people no longer are confident of fresh products that are offered as many try to exert some control over what they eat.

Similarly, chemicals that have been used for so long within gardens are no longer accepted as the only means of channeling the vicissitudes of nature.

One of the key ways to improve our environment (and our health) is to 'be organic. "

Why organic gardening?

Organic gardening is one that uses only naturally occurring materials and does not use artificial fertilizers or chemicals.

Try to work with nature rather than against it.

Advantage

Organically grown foods taste better than those grown with artificial fertilizers.

Costs: the organic material can be created by returning all waste back to the land, which is a cheap process compared to Inorganic which tend to be way more expensive in the long run.

Same with chemical sprays, If an orchard where parasites do not prove a problem is created, it saves a lot in the cost of chemicals.

Another advantage is that by adding organic material to Earth, it keeps getting better, pitching chemicals ultimately impoverishes the soil.

The size of the fruits of an organic garden are usually larger and higher quality.

Tips for planning organic garden

The first step to take when planning a garden is to make a list of what you want from it, imagine what you can achieve within the space and time available.

Once you have determined the priorities, then its time to situate or organize space available within that garden.

Some areas will be sunnier, others will have better land or soil, some spots much more humid and so on.

To cultivate a good garden you will have to look for the best position in relation to the sun and air.

If weeds grow better in one part than another, this may mean that the land is better there, Note the areas which have sun all day or only a partial day.

Caring for the Earth

Land is the most important part of your garden, the soil composition varies so keep a watch for this variance.

Sandy soils are very light and friable and easily drain.

The clay is formed consists of fine particles that stick together creating the stickiness characteristic of the clay. Clay drains very slowly, so clay soils create a wet and slippery environment in which few plants feel comfortable. Sticky and dry land is also very difficult to work.

Between these two types, clay and sandy soils can be improved simply by addition of fertile mulch.

A soil may be acidic or alkaline. The relative acidity / alkalinity of the soil pH is measured on a scale of 0 to 14 where 7 is neutral.

For the best organic garden soil it should be on the acid side of neutral point, at point 6.5, Below that the soil is too acidic and will not allow some minerals that plants need.

But clay soils, sandy, alkaline or acid can be modified.

Another consideration of soil structure is its profile. usually in a garden the topsoil contains the best land. The layer beneath it is known as groundwater. And below this is the true underground.
It is essential to keep these layers in their respective places.

Identification of layers of earth

Surface layer: is the darkest and richest part of the garden profile. It is where plants grow mainly and also where the most worms, bacteria and insects reside, many of them beneficial for plant growth.

Finally we must consider the area of hardness which can occur between the different soil layers. This is a correctable problem if it is not known early, If not correct it may compromise ones digging depth.

Soil analysis

To find out if your garden soil is clayey or sandy place a sample of it in a jar with water then shake it up, allow the different components to settle in layers and any organic material will float to the top.

For their ability to retain or lose water, dig a hole depth of a shovel and fill with water. Allow to drain and refill the hole. If that water disappears quickly that means that the soil drains well too. On the other hand if you still there after a few hours or even days it is clear that it is blocked to the opposite extreme.

If it disappears on a regular basis in half an hour or so, then its usage and capacity is correct.

There are several natural indicators of acidity or alkalinity of your soil. For example, if ferns are rowing in your garden or rhododendrons this means the soil is acidic.

Improve the land

Once the soil is analyzed only then will it be possible to see what can be done to improve it.

In light soils, such as gritty, its best to add decomposed organic material, this will help retain moisture and also provide nutrients for plants.

Clay soils are more problematic to treat, especially because they are hard and difficult to work. To improve it, you must add stones (gravel), because it improves drainage, separates the soil and makes it easier to work.

You can also add ash burnt weeds, organic material in the form of manure or poultry manure also help transform the ground into a lighter medium. Worms will constantly break it up and mix with the ground, worms will mulch most of the new layer down so that the original ground becomes fertile and usable again.

Sewer system

Drainage is an important part of improving the your soil. In the waterlogged terrain you can add gravel but if it's a serious problem with water stagnating after each downpour, you must install a proper drainage system.

This is done by digging ditches in the form of drainage pipes.

Cover with small stones or simply fill trenches with gravel covered rubble.

An alternative is to use water to create a pond then install water drainage pipes.

Gardening is not just about planting seeds and then sit back and wait for the harvest. In between these two events weeds try to colonize the bare soil and crop eating bugs seek these succulent plants.

Gardener job is to prevent this from happening.

For some, hoeing and weeding can be a very relaxing and not to mention therapeutic. When control of weeds or soil balance is lost, the gardening becomes a battle.

The secret is "little and often". If time permits devote an hour a day.

Another obstacle will be nature, it tends to get in the way of the gardener with occasional bad weather.

You can take steps to minimize their effect:

Wind

Creates several problems. First the wind can easily bring down the whole garden bed.

Windbreaks is something to consider in setting up any garden, although it may not be essential if you live in an urban area where the buildings protect it from the wind, but in rural areas it can be vital.

The best windbreaks are those that allow air to seep through. Although a wall or a fence will have a solid look and seem the best against strong winds, actually they cause much turbulence that can be as devastating as the wind itself.

A row of trees allows the wind to seep through naturally.

A much quicker solution is to build a fence to allow the wind to pass through it, It can be built of wood or bamboo.

A modern alternative is to use screens, sold especially for this. this type of wind shield must be firmly anchored in the ground and need to be renewed or replaced from time to time.

A hedge creates a perfect barrier slowing the wind causing it to seep through at a moderate stream.

Cold

The cold is not bad during the winter. It helps break down and kill the bugs that have surfaced. But when spring starts and you have started plantations, frost can be a killer or at very least a hindrance.

The gaps can be covered with metal or fabric, place a fence or a hedge at an angle across the slope above the frost hole so that the cold air is diverted to one side and go elsewhere. A row of shrubs or curve as V uphill also divert cold air frost.

It is always advisable to have a flower garden near a field of vegetables. In some cases it may even help to mix the two.

An alternative preferred by many organic gardeners is to create a series of raised beds, each with one type or more of vegetables, planted in blocks rather than in rows.

Some plants grow better in containers or trays for planting later.

It is best to plant on cold days, preferably if there is a possibility that a light rain may fall. The damp and cold help the plant survive.

Vegetable Garden1. Decide What Vegetables to Plant

My first step in planning my garden is to decide which vegetables to plant.

This may seem obvious, but only plant vegetables you and your family like to eat and only plant the amount that your family can use - or that you can give away, can, or otherwise store for the winter.

Do you know anyone who plants tomatoes just because they're a popular garden veggie, even though they either don't like them or can't eat them? I do and maybe you do, too! Or how about those four zucchini plants that someone I know planted one year - and then they tried to give away the surplus. Oops. (No, it wasn't me!)

2. Decide Which Varieties to Plant

For each type of vegetable, I try to choose one variety that's good for fresh eating (either raw or cooked), one that stores well in the root cellar, and one that is especially resistance to the type of insect pests and diseases I have in my garden. Sometimes a single variety will meet more than one of these criteria.

Your criteria are probably different than mine, so it's a good idea to identify what qualities are important for you and then choose varieties that work for your situation.

3. Make a List of Vegetables to Plant

For each vegetable, I list the following:

The vegetable variety (for example, Red-cored Chantenay Carrots)
How many weeks it should be planted before or after the Last Frost Date in the spring (for example, 4-6 weeks before the Last Frost Date). You will find this information on the seed packet.
Taking the last frost date for my area, I count back (or forward) to the actual day for planting - and write that down, too.
Lastly, I write down the ideal soil temperature for planting that type of vegetable. This information should also be shown on the seed packet.
Listing Seeds to Plant Indoors

I make a separate list for seeds that I'm planting indoors. This list includes both the date for starting the seeds indoors and the date for transplanting them into the garden.

If I'm buying any seedlings (instead of starting the seeds myself), I put those on the list, too, so I won't forget to go buy them.

4. Design Your Garden

Draw a sketch of your garden and where you plan to plant each veggie. Some people use graph paper for this and draw to scale, so it is easier to tell how much space is being taken by each vegetable. But using a plain piece of paper can work well, too.

Check the seed packets so you'll know how much space to allow between rows and between plants.

If you prefer not to design your garden with pencil and paper, there are numerous software packages and websites that can help with this process.

5. Rotate Your Crops

When designing the layout of your garden, it's important to take into account where the various vegetables were planted in previous years.

It's generally advised to rotate your crops, so plants from the same family of vegetables are not planted in the same place more than once every three years. Some people wait five years, which is harder to do unless you have a fairly large garden or are only planting a few types of vegetables.

The two main reasons for rotating crops are 1) to help avoid insect and soil-borne diseases and 2) because different vegetables take different minerals from the soil. If crops aren't rotated, insect pests and harmful soil organisms tend to build up in the soil and, also, the soil can become depleted of important minerals.

6. Successive Plantings

When designing your garden, take into account the possibility that you may be able to successively plant more than one vegetable in the same spot during the season.

For example, when you're done harvesting your lettuce, you could plant a later crop of carrots in that same place.

7. Companion Planting

Some plants do well when planted next to each other and some don't.

When deciding which plants to grow in your garden and where to put them, consider whether they will be good companions to each other. You may also want to plant some flowers and veggies solely for their role as companions.

For example, I plant marigolds in quite a few spots within the garden because of their tendency to ward off insect pests and soil diseases. They also attract some pests, which then keeps those critters from bothering other plants.

Other examples would be planting basil near tomatoes to help the tomatoes grow better or planting radishes near squash, melons and cucumbers to deter insect pests.

8. Plant Hybrids for Pest & Disease Resistance

I used to plant only vegetable varieties that were open-pollinated, that is, varieties whose seeds would grow "true" to the original plant.

Now I've found that it's helpful to plant some hybrids that are resistant to the insect pests and diseases that tend to show up in my garden. If my garden gets severely affected by a certain type of pest or disease, this gives me a little insurance against my entire crop being wiped out.

For example, if powdery mildew hits my garden really hard, it could have a big effect on the productiveness of my squash, melons, and cucumbers. Having some hybrid varieties that are resistant to powdery mildew could save the day.

9. Consider the Plant's Need for Sun & Soil Type

Some vegetables do better when grown in full sun and some do better with a bit of shade. You can find this information on the seed packet.

Remember that plants that grow tall will shade other smaller plants behind them, so put those tall ones on the north side of garden, if possible. On the other hand, if you have plants that don't tolerate direct sun very well (such as lettuce), you can use tall plants to shade them.

So, when planning your garden, plant according to the needs of your veggies in regard to sun or shade. Also, be sure to pick varieties that are suited to your climate and soil conditions.

10. Buy Plant Supports Ahead of Time

For plants that use supports, such as tomatoes and peas, I find it best to put the supports in the ground before planting the seeds or, when transplanting seedlings, before they get very tall. Otherwise, the seeds may be displaced or the roots of the seedlings may be disturbed.

For this reason, I make sure I've bought or made all the supports I need before planting time arrives.