March 2023 BEGONIA BLING....It seems that in the months of January and February there is a big push in nurseries for houseplants, since not much else is out there yet. And the latest research indicates that these darlings not only help us get through the winter, but are capable of transforming homes, moods and stale air. Begonias are making a comeback, as shown by many Flower Show vendors who offered beautiful samples to take home. With their colorful hybridized leaves, the fancy-leaf begonias range from the angel-wings, wax wings, rex begonias to small terrarium types, which look great clustered together. There is a begonia for everyone.
However, there is a trick to successful begonia parenting. Foremost, most houseplant specialists suggest that they like humidity—whether that’s misting or sitting on a bit of water-filled rock tray. A humidifier would also be beneficial. Throw in bright light and well-draining soil. Many begonias have fleshy, brittle stems that are easily broken, so keep them out of areas where they will be bumped. Overwatering is the biggest cause of indoor begonia death. Do not keep pots too wet. Remember, not all begonias love sunlight and too much exposure can damage some of them. Follow whatever instructions you received for that specific begonia. And now for that pesky powdery mildew-on-the-leaves problem, which has been the kiss of death for my begonias of years gone by. Begonias with powdery mildew are infected by Odium begoniae. This species of fungus only infects begonias, but it will spread readily between begonia plants.
Tip: Giving plants adequate space and quickly destroying any diseased leaves can help control infections. If you see powdery mildew on begonia leaves, wet them to prevent spread and then remove and dispose. Treating begonia powdery mildew can also be done with chemicals and biological agents. There are several fungicides that will kill the powdery mildew that specifically infects begonias. Quarantine and a move to a warm spot might help, as the fungus will not grow in heat. Best Begonia Bargain and Tip? You’ll soon find yourself back into Begonia love and lusting after collection expansion. Those available today, are not your mother’s begonias. You’ll be happy to know that most begonias are super easy to propagate either from a stem cutting, a tip cutting, a rhizome, a leaf or seed. Probably the easiest way to propagate is to take a cutting and place the stem or leaf cutting in a jar of room-temperature water. Once the stem cutting grows roots, transfer it to a pot. Consider begonias for instant indoor fall/winter color, complete with blooms and benefits. February 2023 Houseplants start to emerge as daylight hours increase and a need for a shot in the roots becomes evident. An easy, natural fertilizer was discovered via a garden online group—simple, nutritious, and easy. And so far, effective and appealing (sorry). The idea is to fill a large bucket with water and dump your daily banana peels into the bucket to ferment into a compost tea-like look. For weekly or monthly watering, remember to refill the water accordingly. Bananas not only provide some of our daily nutrition needs, but the peel works well for our plant friends too. Memo: Keep this bucket outside in easy reach, as it turns a muddy brown color during the process. The jury is still out as banana peel studies haven’t been conducted. Imagine that...controversy also exists over compost tea in the scientific world. In a nutshell, it’s all anecdotal evidence, not science-based studies that claim banana peels are good for plants. “One person’s experience with one or two plants doesn’t prove anything because the data size is too small,” says Sam Schmitz from Ball Horticultural Company. Slippery results, but worth an organic try. January 2023 Garden Resolutions For The 2023 New Year From the ‘Impatient Gardener Files’ In my search for garden resolutions this year...not mind you, those never-kept, easily-broken resolutions for myself, I turned to the Impatient Gardener humor for a chuckle. Her favorites are the humorous ones that keep it real in the garden spaces of our heads. As she explains it, “Traditional new year’s resolutions are for the birds, as far as I’m concerned. I gave up making them ages ago. Basically, I try to be a better person than I was the year before. But I thought it might be fun to make a few resolutions for gardeners. These are specific to me, but I suspect they translate well to most other gardeners.” Amen to that. 1) I WILL NOT TAKE ON MORE GARDENING THAN I CAN REASONABLY HANDLE. (I totally will, it cannot be helped) 2) I WILL NOT BEAT MYSELF UP WHEN I TAKE ON MORE GARDENING THAN I SHOULD HAVE. 3) I WILL ACCEPT THAT GARDENS ARE EVER CHANGING AND WILL NEVER BE FINISHED OR PERFECT. 4) I WILL CLEAN MY TOOLS WHEN I’M FINISHED WITH THEM. 5) I WILL SEEK INSPIRATION IN OTHER GARDENS. (Definitely).
December 2022 House Plant Insect Rescue – Fine Gardening Magazine Turning our attention inward after colder weather arrived, house plants newly returned from the outdoor summer break time, can use a once-over inspection for insects. I have a bird of paradise that’s a flashy lady, but after the power and heat were removed for several days, she took a turn with some browning leaves. I inspected further to determine that along with the cool temps, those pesky white scale insects hitched a ride back into the house to suck the life out of these leaves. I turned to some tips from Fine Gardening magazine Q&A. One reader recommended using Buf-Puf facial cleansing sponges (without soap in them) moistened with isopropyl alcohol to gently scrub them away. The 3M sponges are available in cosmetics sections, have a surface that is rough enough to do the job but not rough enough to hurt the plant. These work better than cotton swabs, which are too soft, and toothbrushes, which are too large to reach into small crevices. As effective as these sponges are, one scrubbing usually isn’t enough, so check once a week for several weeks to ensure these critters have all vacated their host and put an end to the infestation. Buf-Puf to the rescue on both sides of the leaves.
November 2022 Garlic: October is garlic planting month...But this can also be an indoor growing experience too, which may require some grow lights and vigilance. www.thegardenbeds.com site recommends hardneck garlic as typically the indoor variety to use. Choose a bright spot, as garlic needs at least 6 hours of sunlight per day. Second, make sure the soil is well-draining and rich in nutrients. Garlic doesn’t like wet or dry soil, so make sure it drains well and lastly make sure it is planted at the correct depth. Some good choices include Chesnok White, Leningrad or Solent Wight. Cut a bulb that has not been treated with chemicals in half horizontally, then plant each half in a pot. Water regularly and bright light. Fertilize every few weeks and harvest when the leaves turn brown. Cut off the leaves, dig the bulbs and store in a cool, dry place. After about two month or so, get ready for some awesome garlic recipes at your fingertips.
SKIDGER Xtreme Weeder Thanks to a member for turning us on to this cool tool. Several club members have already bought this nifty weeder and have the same reaction as Leigh Ann’s testimonial below: “This tool lives up to the hype. It’s almost-heart-shaped sharpened metal end easily pushes through soil to cut weeds at the roots. It is designed to remove weeds with a push-pull method that cuts weeds just below the surface. The pointed blade is sharpened on both sides and allows it to cut into the soil and reach into tighter spaces more easily. The Skidger is sharp and cuts through weeds easily in normal soil, but doesn’t do much in hardened clay or unworked rocky dirt. With the push and pull action of this, I’m able to clear out weeds quickly in large areas, skimming below the surface of the dirt. The pointed end allows me to navigate between plants that are tightly packed, so it’s been helpful in the flower garden. I can even get into the corners! I’m able to clean up a space without damaging my plants. It has a nice long handle which I appreciate, so I don’t need to bend as much as with other tools. Overall, it’s on the top of my tool list. It cuts my weeding time significantly, being able to clear weeds from my Daylily beds and landscaping quickly and (relatively) painlessly. I have knee problems and can’t kneel, so this has saved the day for me! It really works.”
October 2022 In keeping with our September speaker’s suggestions on composting and putting the garden to bed, a NY gardener provided an idea for those carved pumpkins, soon to be gracing our front steps. When Halloween is over, she puts her carved pumpkins on the top board over the compost bin to admire the view from her kitchen. The squirrels feast on the pumpkin seeds scattered on the compost pile all though fall, and when the jack-o-lantern’s faces cave in, she just tosses the whole thing overboard into the compost bin. Scary guy disappears in about 8-12 weeks.
September 2022 Tip for Easy Hydrangea propagation: Start with a new stem (one that hasn’t bloomed yet) and cut at an angle right below a node, say 4 or 6 leaves down. Pinch off the lower leaves and section off parts of old pool noodles. Insert the stems into the rounds and put in water. Wait for several weeks. You won’t see roots, but the plant will be very green and fresh looking. Take the stem out and dip in rooting power. Cover each node (where roots will pop out). Plant in good potting soil, keep in the shade and well-watered.
May 2022 Garden Tip from Whidbey Is. Gardening Meta (FaceBook) Site: It’s tomato-planting season or maybe it will be soon, once it warms up. One tip on successful tomato growing that seems to be a bit controversial includes the following: “Before placing your tomato plants into the ground or a pot, place an antacid tablet, like Tums, in the soil. These are mostly made up of calcium carbonate, and added flavors and colors, neither of which will harm tomatoes.” However, in fairness to this myth, the Laidback Gardener blog states that “this idea began as a strategy to stop blossom end rot, which is attributed to a lack of calcium in the plant—not the soil. Calcium is present in the soil, but it’s uneven watering that is a major contributor to this problem.” However, adding Tums may be OK, just as an added “relief”. Can’t hurt…
Horticulture Magazine columnist Gregg Coppa devised a strategy for propagation of plants with long roots. He uses those tall Pringle Pot Tubes (or reasonable facsimiles) for just this need, stating “they serve as great pots for nursing along young plants with long taproots, such as windmill palm (Trachycarpus fortunei) or Ginkgo biloba. Stash a couple in your pot collection so you can gift extra plants of this type.” Bonus: Another reason to munch these stackable potato chips.
ROSE REFLECTOR: A love of roses, doesn’t always work out so well in our cooler climate. But a tip from a rosarian to help increase flower production, seems likely to work here. Her 5 ft. tall bush had not been getting enough sun because of the siting of the house and an overhanging roof. Her simple solution was to put a piece of aluminum foil in front of the plant to act as a light reflector, which resulted in more blooms and a more vigorous-looking plant. If the foil is on top of mulch close to the plant, it may provide extra protection to the soil, too, helping to keep it from baking and losing moisture. Worth a try…think of it as rose bush suntanning
February 2022 And still they pour in….Our member’s treasure trove of garden tips have spilled over into February, including: • I always mix my compost with soil. Half compost, half soil that results in the best soil ever! • I never put weeds in my compost. • I have a relaxing chair in all my garden rooms and always use them. • I carry scissors to cut all slugs in pieces. • I carry a plastic handled tote with all the tools I need to work in the garden. One of the easy-care (and deer-resistant) plants, grasses, only require a division now and then and a haircut. I have several tall miscanthus, as well as shorter grasses that benefit from a February haircut. After enjoying the beautiful ornamental grass stalks and seed-heads through the winter, my husband discovered an efficient and easy way to deadhead them in early spring. We wrap a bungee cord (or several) around the clumps at the height we want the grass to sprout back from and then trim them straight across with a chain saw right above the cords. This is very convenient, and only requires a raking of the debris afterwards…and perhaps another person adept at chainsaws.