Sunday, January 20, 2013

Keep The Compost Going

It's pretty darn cold outside right now.  No matter what the temperature, it is mandatory to keep the most important thing you can do for your garden going!  If you keep up with my Facebook page at  Home Life Ideas you'll recognize my new composter.  I didn't go out and spend a bundle on this toy.  My husband, the ever thrifty picker, found it on the side of the road for me.  When he found it he knew I'd get a big kick out of it.  I'd never go out and buy something like this for myself.  We previously had a compost cooking up in some chicken wire fencing.  This thing even has appropriate ventilation.  Composting needs good airflow to help with the deterioration and transformation to an appropriate gardening tool.

It didn't take long before I began to find things all over to fill it with.  Clippings from the yard, coffee grounds, food scraps.  If you are looking for a detailed list of what is or is not appropriate for a compost check Compost Junkie.  He'll have the answer to just about any question you have when it comes to creating a nutritious boost for you garden.

 One of the biggest set backs of composting is avoiding the insects.    During the hotter summer months flies, ants and several ground critters will try to invade your work.  Rule #1-NEVER EVER pour insecticide inside your composter.  This would be a major draw back to your accomplishment. Those insecticides will transfer where ever the soil is placed. A good line of defense is to be sure you keep a balance between green and brown.  Maintain an equal portion of food scraps:plant trimmings.  This will also help avoid an over pungent compost. It's also a very good ideas to add moisture to the compost.  Ants are not fond of anything wet.  Be careful though.  You've got to hold on to those earth worms.  They help break down the compost and keep it fit.

Anther good defense against insects is to pay attention.  Do not simply leave the compost unattended hoping it will do the work on it's own.  One of the most important things to do for you compost, no matter where you do it, is keep it rotated.  When I peal back the top layer of my compost I can see (and smell) the rich, dark soil my garden craves developing beneath. When this packed mixture is added to my plants they grown healthy, and ready to produce.  To help keep the process going, and keep the insects in check, I like to stir the contents no less than once a week, more if the temperature is hotter.  Keeping the process going can actually speed up the transformation, cutting down the time it takes to produce a soil ready product.  A  development that can typically take anywhere from two to six months to complete.

It is undoubtedly one of the best things you can do to maintain a healthy garden.  That's just the greatest benefit.  If you are conscious about what goes into the compost you will find up to 30% of your household trash stays out of the landfill.  You could actually purchase compost from a supplier, but don't you think you deserve all of the benefits without paying for them?  Don't think of composting as a chore, think of it as a fun and beneficial way to feed your garden, and promote the environment.

Monday, January 7, 2013

A Very Special Plant

 We spent a lot of time with my grandmother growing up.  She loved to go fishing with grandpa and could fry up a catfish that is unbelievable.  I can still smell that wonderful aroma filling the house on a Sunday evening.  She enjoyed quilting.  Even won several ribbons for her beautiful designs.  I'm fortunate enough to be in possession of one of those special treasures.  She loved the garden too.  She composed some great dishes with those home grown crops.

She enjoyed having birds around too.  She loved to hear them singing in the mornings. She raised a family and remained strong even when things seemed to be hopeless.  I like to think I've got a little something of her in me.  I know my mom does.  Mom's a remarkable cook and still loves to garden.  I think they are inherent qualities.

The Chlorophytum Comosum, more typically referred to as a spider plant, is the first plant I ever received. I must have been in my early twenties when I received what would be the beginning of many generations and start overs for this common beauty.

When I set up house on my own I had no plants.  Grandma figured that wasn't proper so she donated a handful of transplants so I could start my own home grown house plants.  The spider plant is an excellent choice for a new beginner.  Not only is this plant a gorgeous color, but it is about the easiest plant I know to get started.
Every one of those little sprouts flying out of the middle of the plant actually develops it's own strong healthy roots.  Simply clip a the sprout slightly above the wing   All you need is a good pot, potting soil and some healthy fertilizer.  I have to caution though.  This plant will grow fast, and the bigger they get the more pleasant they are to have around.  Be prepared to get a much larger pot and transplant it soon. (see Transplanting Plants for more information).   These are a tropical plant and do not tolerate hot temperatures very well.  They do, however enjoy lots of indirect sunlight.

On a couple of  occasions I have opted to to give my spider plant a fresh start.  I clipped a handful of starts and produced a  new plant. I personally have three full grown plants growing in my living room right now.  My daughters have received there own share of starts from this plant.  It will always be grandma's plant and it's like I'm passing on a part of her to them.  I still see her when I look at my plant.  When I know my plant is reaching signs of distress I react quickly.  It wouldn't do me any good to let grandmas plant phase away to nothing.  It's one small way I can keep her close to me.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Keep Your Christmas Cactus Healthy All Year Long

It is one of the most beautiful, and perhaps unique plants around.  Given it's name for a timely seasonal blossoming the Christmas Cactus has a vibrant, satiny flower that is unlike any foliage I've seen. They also happen to be a very fragile plant. My mom gave me this cactus, well lets just say a few years ago. 

Classified as a tropical cactus, and not a typically identified desert cactus a Christmas Cactus requires year round care to assure that is is perky and ready to celebrate the holidays each year.  You can expect many years of pleasure since these jewels have been reported to live up to 100 years old.

Christmas Cactus enjoy plenty of sunlight, but not direct sunlight.  Set the plant a few feet from the window or any light source.  To much direct sunlight, or heat will cause the tips of the plant to burn. This tropical beauty enjoys a healthy dose of sand.  It will progress best with a blend of 75:25 potting soil to sand.  They bloom during the winter when the days are shorter and the nights are longer.  Move the plant away from direct sunlight to make sure you get the best blooms.  Cover the plant with a light sheet at night and to give the cactus a big boost.

Avoid pouring water directly into the plant.  Make sure you have planter with drainage holes, and fill a bottom saucer with a dash of water. TIP: I like to add a touch of coffee to the water about once a month to boost and promote healthy growth. Over watering a Christmas Cactus is the largest cause of damage.  If your plant is indoors the best rule is approximately 1 1/2 cups of water weekly.  Check the soil before watering.  It should never be moist to the touch.  If the ridges of the cactus begin to break off you may be watering too often.

The Grooves of the cactus plant will snap easily if
you aren't careful
The Christmas Cactus will survive well outdoors also.  Be sure it is placed in a well shaded area, and never left outdoors if the temperature rises above 90 degrees as it will burn quickly.  If  moving the plant to the outdoors be sure to adjust your watering routine to accommodate the warmer climate.  Instead of watering once a week you will need to add water every two to three days.   Be sure to add a sufficient amount of food for the plant and keep your eyes open for signs of soil bugs.Controlling Pests and Feeding your Garden for more tips.

It is easy to grow your own Christmas Cactus, or start another one from your own plant.  In the picture above you can see that each stem of the cactus is divided into several segments.  Break a few piece off at least three segments long.  Allow the end to dry for a few hours before you attempt to plant it.  Prepare the above mention mixture of 75:20 potting soil and sand.  When ready dip the tip in rooting compound and plant the stem at least 2 inches below the soil.  You can use a natural rooting compound made with willow shoots gathered from the spring and soaking them in water, or you can purchase some at any nursery.