Care for Orchids Indoors

Orchid biology is often wonderful and tricky in some places. The orchids are so responsive to the care that they may be compared with animals. As only careful parents can manage to grow good children, good plant growing requires careful grower. At the same time looking after orchids such as Phalaenopsis, Paphiopedilum, Cymbidium and some other species does not require a lot of specific care compared to other flowers growing indoors.

If you are wandering how to care for orchids, firstly you should pay attention to a biology of a particular orchid genus you will grow. All orchids have some similarities, but also there are a lot of differences among different species. For example, many orchids have a rest period, when they should be watered much rarely and kept at lower temperature. Dendrochilums have a rest period from April to September, while other species are resting in autumn or winter. At the same time there are orchid species which don’t have any rest period. All of them require uniform watering through all year. Also different indoor orchids grow best at different temperatures. There are “warm”, “moderate” and “cool” orchids.

By applying some techniques you can, for example, get an orchid to bloom again. At the same time there are orchids which will be reblooming naturally every season.

Different orchid species have different ways of propagation. Usually orchids can be easily propagated by division, when they are large enough. Other methods of propagation are not so common, and usually require additional care and sometimes even lab equipment.

First people trying to grow orchids had a lot of trouble, because they usually tried to cultivate orchids in pots with a soil. Most of the orchids with beautiful flowers are epiphytic, this means they grow at trees, but they are not parasitic. They only use a tree as a support to grow on it. That is way most house orchids have to be grown not in pots with a soil. They should be grown in pots filled with substances such as a bark and a moss. Different substances have different amount of nutrients, and different capability of water retention, so how often an orchid should be watered and fed depends on a substance.

Deal With Cucumber Bitterness

Many people will not eat or grow Cucumbers because they are bitter to the taste. This is true of older varieties and is caused by a bitter gene which is part of the make up of Cucumbers.

Almost all the research that has been devoted to the Cucumber has been in and aimed at trying to remove this bitterness. The result of this research has been a host of new varieties that do not contain this bitter gene, or very little of it.

If you are harvesting bitter Cucumbers, the most likely explanation is that you are growing them incorrectly.

On no account let your Cucumber become stressed (lack of water, for example), they tend to bitter up.

If you grow the right kind of Cucumber, and keep the plant free from anything that might check their growth then you will have perfectly nutritious cucumbers that are crisp, refreshing pick-me-ups on a hot summers day.

However, if you want to be on the safe side, there is a trick for removing bitterness. This bitterness is almost all concentrated in the leaves, stems and skin of the Cucumber. If you remove one inch of the cucumber’s stem end and peel the skin back to a thin layer of flesh directly beneath the skin.

I have also found that scoring cucumbers with a fork makes the difference between faintly bitter and palatable cucumbers. You can try this out yourself. Peel a Cucumber. Take two center section. Score one and leave the other alone. Cut a slice from each and taste. You will find that the slice that has been scored is less bitter.

All this is aimed at making the cucumber less bitter, however you may well like bitter ones, in which case grow old varieties.

In the main there are three types of cucumber: field or standard ones, which grow quite large with a bright green color; smaller pickling ones with a more yellowish tone to the skin; and greenhouse forced varieties, which are bred to grow fruit in somewhat lower temperatures like the UK. I find in a good summer here in Oxford I can grow all three. In cool summers the outside ones do not do so well.

You can sow cucumber seeds straight into the ground, however I prefer to start my off in seed-trays and them pot them on until they are big enough to be planted out in the open or glasshouse.

I could list varieties here, but the best is to see what your neighbors are growing or which plants are for sale in your local shop.

Cucumbers are very heavy feeders so grow them in enriched soil with well-rotted manure or compost. Watch out for the usual pest and deal with them.

Starting A Garden In Extreme Summer

Every gardener, with a common sense, can easily know that water poured on soil can evaporate easily. You can dig a small area around the plant, cover with stones and rocks where water can percolate down easily to prevent evaporation.

You can also test in the soil moisture the same way. You can poke a stick in the soil around the plant to see if there is moisture. You should water only if there is dryness on the surface.

You can water only near the root tips. Note, that plants do not catch water flowing around and absorb water only near their root tips. The rest of water all around the plant is wasted.

You can put ‘mulch’ near the plant roots to prevent water from evaporation. Mulch can be prepared from any layer, such as dry leaves, compost, brick pieces, hay to provide moisture near the stem of the plant at its lower part. All the plants, benefit from mulching. However, the mulch has to be changed or moved up and down to prevent infections by fungus and worms.

A grass lawn may be soothing to the eye, but they require water in plenty. Now, we come to the most important part in the article – selecting plants which need less water.

Choose drought resistant plants in the garden. These plants do not need much care, and can thrive in the ordinary garden soil and in the full sun. The best examples are oleander plants. Another plant, if given the natural weather conditions, is Bougainvilleas. They love the heat, and their flowers are bright when there is less water.

There are also other types of plants such as bromeliads, bog plants and water lilies. However, seek the services of a gardener before you start the process.

Water Conservation Lifestyle

Make water conservation part of your lifestyle.

Turn off the taps while you are brushing vessels, or putting soap on your hands and face.

All the rinsed water, without chemicals can be fed to the garden plants.

Fix leaking taps as soon as possible.

Use only a rag and half bucket water for washing your car.

Making Compost From Grass Cuttings

Essentially you must keep in as much heat as possible. One way is to make the pile a large one, although in warmer climes the heat comes naturally within the pile and requires little assistance. Plastic compost bins, or adapted receptacles, are much better than using ordinary plastic bags, are very sturdy and make a big difference.

The actions to take are fairly simple. Firstly, you need to make a layer of grass cuttings about 20 cm in depth. Next, spread a layer of shredded carbohydrate rich material,l such as newspaper or sawdust, over the surface. You can even use oatbran or such like if you have any stale cereal in the cupboard. A couple of small handfuls should be plenty. Now you need to cover this with a thin layer of soil. Approximately 2.5cm will provide an abundance of bacteria and will additionally absorb the water and gases which stop the compost making process. Continue in this manner until all of the grass cuttings are used, then cover the top to keep out the rain, or simply place the lid on the plastic compost bin.

Next time you mow your lawn simply repeat the process on top of the previous pile. A pile made in Spring or Summer can be used in late Autumn or the following Spring. If the grass has been treated with a feed and weed spray leave at least six months between placing grass cuttings on the pile and using the compost.

As well as grass cuttings I tend to add other natural matter such as vegetable peel or other similar waste. I try to avoid anything which contains seeds as these have the potential to sprout and grow in the compost pile. I also absolutely avoid adding any weed matter to my pile as they have the same reaction as seeds, which then defeats the whole object.

Grow And Care For A Papaya Tree

Generally, growing a papaya tree, or any tree for that matter, tends to come naturally to a number of people. If you are one of these lucky few who can grow this tree where you live. Therefore, you must run down to the store and buy some papaya seeds for yourself.

If you are thinking of growing a tree, then read on to learn more about how to grow a papaya tree.

Growing Papaya Trees

Generally, these trees are cultivated from seeds, which are found inside the fruit. Any papaya fruit bought or otherwise, will do the trick. You can scoop out the seeds and use them.

When sowing these seeds, put in more than a few, to ensure germination. Ensure that the seeds receive sufficient sunlight and, in a matter of a couple of weeks, you will be able to see tiny seedlings emerging. Once these seedlings turn into fully fledged papaya trees, in five or six months, they will begin to flower.

The planting location of the tree is an extremely important factor to consider. Place the tree in your garden where it is protected from the wind, as well as the cold weather. When learning how to grow papaya trees, people tend to forget that they need a great deal of sunlight.

Well-drained soil too is extremely important, since wet conditions cannot be tolerated by them.

Seeds bought from a papaya store will also help in this regard.

Caring for the Papaya Trees

When considering growing a papaya tree, you will need to pay close attention to caring for the tree as well. Learning how to grow papaya trees is just half the battle; the other half is dealing with how to care for them, and making sure that they grow well.

In order to ensure that the young plants thrive in the soil, you should add a fertiliser, once every 14 days. The older ones require less maintenance, with fertiliser needing to be added just once a month.

A papaya store, bought or otherwise, should help satiate your craving for papayas, until delicious ones start growing on your tree. However, nothing will beat the sweet taste of the papayas that you have grown yourself.

Keep Potted Plants Safe in Winter

There are many challenges for your potted plants during winter: drying out, wind, sudden temperature drops and root damage, to name a few. Even hardy plants, which are acclimated to your zone, can sustain damage during the cold season. The top part of a plant may be dormant, but the roots don’t enter such a state. Any plant in a container will have its roots exposed to ambient temperatures. Here is how you can protect root systems in the winter:

  • Avoid exposing plants to temperature fluctuations – fluctuating temperatures are the main issue of winter. Going from hot and cold can stress roots and cause other side effects. For instance, it is common for such fluctuations to heave the plant out of the pot. That is easy to avoid when you place the pots on the ground and not on pavement. The main source of heath comes from the earth. A problem with pots on pavement is that it can get warmed up significantly during the day, elevating the temperatures. Then, when night comes, the temperatures drop, leading to unfavorable fluctuations.
  • Choose big pots – most expert gardeners agree that the larger the pot, the better for the plant. The reason is rather simple: with an increased volume of soil, the plant roots will be far better insulated. A small container doesn’t do a decent job at keeping roots safe from cold temperatures. A smaller container will also freeze faster and dry out roots quicker than a large one. For this reason, opt for a pot that is at least an inch thick.
  • Plant early – planting your flowers in containers and pots as soon as possible gives them enough time to harden off. That way, when winter comes around, plants will be healthy and mature, ready to tolerate the stresses of the season. Avoid planting in late autumn, as that is not sufficient time for plants to harden off. A cool trick you can borrow from gardeners is to pick plants that are used to hardiness two zones cooler from the one you are located in.
  • Find a proper location of the pot – the place of the pots also matters a lot. Ideally, you want to place pots on the north side of your property, with more shade. Any spot that experiences a great deal of sun is susceptible to big temperature swings and so should be avoided. Then there is also the interest factor: you want to put plants that have attractive features somewhere they will be easily seen. As such, place them near a window or your front door for easy exposure.

Container Gardening Potpourri

Container gardens are designed for any and every gardener. Whether you just have a deck or patio or you have sprawling acreage, containers are quick, easy, and handy. With my salad bowl garden I can pick fresh greens spring through fall and even into the winter. Cukes grow up their wire surrounding their pot as opposed to cover immense covering stretches of ground, and tomatoes hang in baskets, flowing over the top and then ducking toward earth with their heavy load. All of this is lovely and delicious.

Select containers wisely for the best yields. Porous containers sweat water and so dry very quickly. Enameled pots hold the water and also the heat so direct sunlight for long stretches can fry the roots. I like my plastic pots because they are durable and reusable, and for my purposes as a high desert Nevada planter, they hold the water just right. For my salad bowl I add rich potting soil and then scatter a variety of salad seeds with some green onion mixed in. Be sure to plant very lightly as greens grow fast with what seems like 100% germination. Too many plants crowd each other and so you do not get the leafy salad yield. Sometimes when I have overdone it I thin and transplant young plants into another container or out into the main garden. If I do this on a cool morning or evening and place the plants into warm moist soil, the transplant rate is quite high.

After just a few weeks I can snip my salad, premixed variety with onions already added, rinse, and serve. The next evening I can return, snip and repeat in another section, and salad arrives again. After a couple of days the original salad area has regrown so I can re-snip, repeating this for weeks and months. The same is true with herbs. Whether from seeds or purchased plants, herb containers grow and grow. There are few items tastier than rich, fresh herbs. These are another one not to overplant for crowding reasons as well as how the plants proliferate. Leave them uncut for a day or two and they make take over your deck.

Container tomatoes in hanging baskets simply grow over the sides and produce like mad. I especially like hanging cherry tomatoes since they produce quickly and are at-the-ready to mix with the salad greens. Bigger tomatoes need a trellis for climbing. This keeps the fruit off the ground and convenient for picking. The same works for cucumbers and beans. It is so nice to peak beneath a branch and discover glorious vegetables ready to pick.

Plant Garlic in Autumn

Selecting Quality Garlic Seed Stock

Some gardeners prefer to grow garlic from actual seeds. It is a tough process and one of the reasons most growers prefer using cloves.

Start by researching which varieties grow best in your area and climate. I prefer German White, which belongs to the hardneck garlic family. A moderately spicy flavor and plump cloves set this garlic apart from other varieties. A German White bulb typically has up to six cloves. The bulbs store well in Michigan when kept in a cool area.

You can buy garlic anywhere. It is not recommended to use garlic from local grocery stores as they may have been treated with chemical agents to slow down sprouting. Nonetheless, you can plant the cloves if you are in a pinch. On the other hand, the best results are obtained if you buy bulbs from reputable on- or offline seed dealers. Start with a moderate amount. You can increase your seed supply over the years by using more and more of the cloves you harvested.

Garlic Planting Time

Plant too late and the root system will be weak. Plant too early and the cloves grow above ground shoots. Find out for your area when frost sets in. Check the weather forecasts online. Start planning when temperatures start to go down and stay low.

Planting Instructions

Prepare your planting bed by adding well-composted manure. Remove weeds. Garlic prefers a well-drained, sandy-clay soil. Separate and inspect the garlic bulbs you selected for seed just before planting. Remove blemished cloves.

I lay all the seed cloves out on the bed to eyeball acceptable spacing distances. Space the seed about six to eight inches apart. Plant them at least three inches deep in the ground, with the pointy end facing up. Water the bed thoroughly. Keep the soil moist to allow the cloves to grow roots. You may even need to water during the winter if you live in a mild climate. Do not overwater as the seed will rot.

Popular Garlic Varieties

  • Softneck garlic has a flexible stalk and keeps longer. Silverskin and artichoke are usually sold at supermarkets.
  • Hardneck varieties have fewer, larger cloves. They are more delicate because they have a thinner outer bulb wrapper. This also reduces their shelf life. I dehydrate most of my garlic and grind it into garlic powder, which will stay fresh until the next season. The three main hardneck garlic types are porcelain, purple stripe, and rocambole.

Companion Planting

The sulfur that garlic accumulates as it grows turns it into a natural fungicide. This can be beneficial to plants attracting pests easily. Naturally-occurring fungicide can help protect your plants from diseases.

Garlic works well in various situations as long as it is grown in full sun. Plant it near broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, eggplant, fruit trees, herbs, kale, kohlrabi, peppers, roses, tomatoes, etc. It does not like parsley, peas, potatoes, or legumes like beans. Try not to plant these near your garlic.


Hummingbird Friendly Gardens

With little sense of smell, hummingbirds are attracted to tubular, brightly-colored flowers holding the most nectar. Scent is not prerequisite, rather high nectar and vibrant color are desirable characteristics. When gathering nectar, the hummingbird is replenishing the plant, allowing it to further flower and reproduce. Plant your garden, keeping in mind the need for blooming flowers spring through fall to ensure maximum hummingbird exposure.

Hummingbird favorites include: Verbascum which blooms from late spring until frost, daylillies which bloom from mid to late summer. Major Wheeler Honeysuckle blooms in the summer, Cardinal Flower with its striking red color blooms midsummer to late fall. Deep Blue Scabiosa providing a beautiful cobalt blue blooms from midsummer to fall. Hollyhocks, Columbines and Foxgloves are additional favorites. Annuals such as petunias will bloom all summer providing additional color and nectar!

Following feeding, hummingbirds need to perch 80% of the time in order to conserve energy. Providing perches close to the garden area allows the hummingbird perch time as well as access to the nectar and further garden enjoyment! If feeders are provided, place them in protected areas out of wind and rain. Avoid using pesticides around hummingbird feeders since the insects provide protein for the tiny birds.

Providing a Hummingbird Friendly Garden not only brings delight to your garden, but it provides a habitat for the hummingbird which is being threatened by habitat loss due to urban and tropical development, storms, and logging. These tiny birds are so small, even minor development impacts their habitat! While pesticides and insecticides eliminate their source of protein, the concentration of chemicals can poison these small hummingbirds. Placing perches and feeders close to windows causes collisions which can kill the tiny birds or cause the birds serious damage and if not cleaned properly or regularly feeders can carry mold causing death. Hummingbirds are also susceptible to attacks from cats, and bees and wasps attracted to dripping nectar.

Store Winter Squash Safely After Harvest

Your squash will rot if you do not get rid of excess water. Enjoy benefits like the following:

  • The fruit’s natural sugars are more concentrated when water is removed. The squash tastes sweeter.
  • You slow down the fruit’s respiration rate, thereby encouraging long-term storage.
  • The chances your vegetables will rot are reduced.
  • That harder skin slows respiration. The fruit’s quality will remain intact.

Having squash in the heart of winter will add spice to your menu. Make this happen by first washing dirt off your squash and then laying the fruit in a single layer on the floor, table, or screen. Stacking can cause damage to the rind.

Can you toughen the squash skin anywhere in your house or barn? Not really! Find a cool, dry spot. Except for acorn squash, store your crop at 50 to 55 F. Keep the relative humidity (air moisture) at 60 to 70 percent. This much is needed to protect against extreme shriveling. However, do not go exceed 85 percent humidity as that encourages disease development.

The humidity level for preserving acorn squash is about 50 to 75 percent. Store at 50 F. Higher temperatures can turn the surface yellow, and the fruit’s flesh will become stringy.

Turn the squash periodically to expose all sides to air and humidity.

Winter Squash Storage Tips

  • Acorn squash does not require much skin hardening. The process actually reduces quality loss.
  • The best air circulation can be obtained when placing winter squash on chicken wire that has been attached to a wooden frame. You can also use a sturdy window screen.
  • Maintain 2- to 3-inch long stems on your squash during the harvesting process. The fruit will not store well when the stems broke off or are loose.
  • Use fruit with broken stems first.
  • Check your winter squash weekly to ensure that they are still intact.