Jan 19

Bromeliads

Bromeliads are one of the most striking plants that you can have in the home, and to this day, I cannot figure why they are so overlooked. Thousands of varieties have been identified and more are being discovered daily. If you’ve never had a bromeliad, you are in for a treat,especially if you appreciate colorful foliage and unique blooms.

Although the bromeliad is somewhat tropical, it doesn’t like wet feet. As a matter of fact, overwatering is the best way to kill a bromeliad, especially if they are planted and growing in soil. In their natural habitat, they are epiphytic. Meaning they live (host) on another plant such as a tree and receive moisture and nutrients from air and rain. Water uptake is not the primary function of their root systems. Because of this, refrain from keeping them too wet. Their main source of water is from rainfall that becomes trapped in their rosettes where the leaves meet the stem of the plant. In addition to the rain water, leaf debris also collects and serves as a valuable source of nutrients.

It was once thought bromeliads were difficult to grow and only meant for the experienced gardener. Not so, they are easy to grow and extremely adaptable to growing in pots therefore making them suitable houseplants.


Tips for growing Bromeliads

When it come to light, there are some varieties that will tolerate sun and there are those that will easily scorch. To be on the safe side, provide bright indirect light. If placing next to a window, monitor closely to make sure the amount of light isn’t too much and the glass isn’t magnifying the sun’s rays.

As for temperature, bromeliads aren’t too fussy. They prefer temperatures between 50oF and 80oF.

An interesting fact about the bromeliad is; most, but not all, are monocarpic. Which means after blooming, the parent plant will never bloom again and will eventually die. Fortunately, you will get new offspring, one or more smaller pups at the base of the plant. Carefully remove the pups and plant them individually in whatever spare containers you have. Hopefully, you may carry out future generations for many years.

I have found bromeliads to be somewhat drought tolerant. So when it comes to watering (As I always say) error on the dry side not the wet. I like to water bromeliads in the center where the leaves meet the central stem. But only water centrally if there is plenty of light available, temperatures are warm and there is plenty of humidity. You may also water soil around the base, however do not water using both methods simultaneously and make sure there is quick drainage. If you keep a saucer under your pot, never allow your bromeliad to sit in water.

When it comes to fertilizing, bromeliads are not heavy feeders and never use fertilizers that are high in salts. I like using organic fertilizers such as Neptune’s Harvest Seaweed or Neptune’s Fish Emulsion with Seaweed.

Last but not least, what should you do if insects take residence on your bromeliad? Early detection is the best approach for any plant inside or out. First line of defense, I suggest using tepid water and gently spray/rinse the plant free of insects. If situation persists, try using an Insecticidal Soap. If the infestation is severe, discard the plant all together, especially if you have other plants close by.

Join us Saturday on In and Around the House, as we talk more about bromeliads and things you could be doing to get yourself ready for the upcoming spring season.

Jan 06

Champion Trees

We all like a champion, especially when it comes to sports. However, there is another type of champion that I would like to bring to your attention and that would be champion trees. There are national champion trees and there are state champion trees.

Champion trees have endured the test of time. Some have experienced severe droughts, cold winters and countless storms. Most importantly, they have escaped man’s quest to develop and build.

So what constitutes a tree to be identified as a champion. Must it win a fight, no? Must it win a race, no? Champion trees are measured and assigned points. The tree with the most points of each species is considered the largest or champion. The formula for points is: Trunk Circumference (inches) + Height (feet) + 1/4 Average Crown Spread (feet) = Total Points This Champion Tree Measurement Formula was developed by Fred Besley, Maryland’s first State Forester. With some modifications, it was later adopted nationwide and is still used today. Mr. Besley began keeping records of “notable trees” in Maryland in 1925.

We are very fortunate to have quite a few champion trees right in our own backyard in Spring Grove Cemetery. In addition to being state champions, some are Centenarians, north of being a hundred years old.

 

Imagine some of the stories our champion trees could tell. I always wonder how many rounds of golf some of the old oak trees at Twin Oaks have seen in their lifetime. Even better, the golfer who is looking for their ball, pulls one out of their pocket, drops it and yells…… “I found it”.

We owe a great deal of thanks to all trees and especially champion trees. If it weren’t for trees, our forests would be non existent, our communities would be barren and our environment would be harsh.

Join us Saturday on In and Around the House, we’ll be discussing champion trees and things that you can be doing to prepare for the upcoming spring season.

Dec 10

A Blooming Holiday

Blooming plants are the perfect gift when you don’t know what to give someone for the holiday season. While the Poinsettia is probably the most popular holiday plant, there are other beautiful plants such as the Christmas cactus, Cyclamen and Amaryllis that are appropriate to give. As we draw nearer to the holidays, these plants are readily available from your local florists and year round garden centers.

The most common holiday plant gift is the poinsettia, which was a traditional favorite in its native Mexico long before the American ambassador (Poinsett) for whom it is named discovered it and brought it to the United States.

The large colorful bracts grow around the flowers that are small and yellow. Thanks to breeders such as the late Paul Ecke, there are numerous hybrid varieties that offer bracts in a variety of colors.

poinsettia1 poinsettia2

Another favorite is the Christmas cactus, especially when they are in full bloom. They are easy to take care of and in many cases have become treasured heirlooms. It’s not uncommon for the original plant to be passed from one generation to the next and cuttings shared with many friends.

christmas_cactus1 christmas_cactus2.jpg

One of my favorite blooming plants to have around during holiday is the Cyclamen. Every year I place a white Cyclamen on our kitchen table. I think the Cyclamen’s foliage is attractive showing off the silver marbling effect on the top side of its leaves. That in contrast with the white blooms is why it’s a must have for me every year. The Cyclamen come in a variety of colors. If you’ve never had a Cyclamen, they are definitely worth considering.

cyclamen1 cyclamen2

The Amaryllis is another stand out during the holiday. Red Lion has been a favorite and just steels the show with its vivid red trumpet shaped blooms when fully open. You will not be disappointed and they too make excellent gifts.

amaryllis1 amaryllis2

Of course, there are the Paper Whites that are always cheerful and fun to watch as they grow when planted in glass cylinder vases.

paper_whites_bulbs paper_whites

There are local holiday events taking place such as the Cincinnati Zoo’s Festival of Lights, which is one of my favorite events. Don’t forget about Duke Energy’s train display which is now held at the Cincinnati Museum Center. Enjoy the holiday season with family and friends and forget about work related things and the stress it creates.

Dec 01

The Perfect Fresh Cut Christmas Tree

Scotch pine, Douglas fir and Fraser fir are among the most popular selections for fresh cut trees. Scotch pine has stiff branches with good needle retention. The Douglas fir has soft needles that radiate in all directions from the branch. When crushed, its needles give off a sweet fragrance. Fraser fir is considered to be the Cadillac of trees. It has stiff branches and soft, short needles that are very fragrant. If you’ve never had a Fraser Fir, it’s definitely worth considering.

How to Select a Clean, Fresh Tree

A cut Christmas tree will last the entire holiday season without becoming too dry or dropping a lot of needles, provided it is fresh and given proper care.

tree_lot1 tree_lot2

When selecting a cut tree from a retail tree lot, more care is needed to ensure that the tree selected is fresh. The best way to determine the freshness of a cut Christmas tree is by how firmly the needles are attached to the branches.

tree_needles1 tree_needles2

You can check by lightly grasping a branch of the tree and gently pull the branch and needles through your hand. If the tree is fresh, very few needles will come off.

Other methods of checking the freshness of a Christmas tree include needle flexibility, tree color, aroma, and a look to see how dry the bottom of the trunk looks.

Caring for the Tree Before it Goes in the House

If the tree is to be stored more than a couple of days, I suggest placing it in water until you are ready to take it inside your home and decorate.

cut_tree_trunk bag tree

Give your tree a fresh cut, an inch or more is adequate. Generally a cut will be good for about 6-8 hours. Anything longer than that, the tree should have another fresh cut. Sap will usually seal the bottom of the trunk and will more than likely prohibit or disrupt water intake.

Once inside, refrain from placing your tree near sources of heat such as a fireplace, an open heat duct, or a radiator, or in front of a window that receives the direct sun. Consider using a tree disposal bag and place the bag around the base of the tree before it is put in the stand.

christmas_tree_stand1 christmas_tree_stand2

The most important thing you can do is make sure your tree stand is large enough and strong enough to hold your tree. If you’re in doubt, then it probably isn’t. In addition, make sure your tree stand can hold an adequate amount of water.

Water is important because it prevents the needles from drying out. Your tree should take in a fair amount of water, especially during the first week, and it’s important that the water level in the stand never goes below the cut end of the trunk. If that happens a seal of dried sap will form, then you’re out of luck!

When you string lights on your tree, use only approved lighting that carry the UL (United Laboratories) stamp of approval. Carefully inspect electrical lights and extension cords before decorating your tree. Remember, before going to bed or leaving the home, turn the tree lights off.

 

 

Nov 18

Giving Thanks

15129825_10157827579020531_1536201672_n

We can attribute the Thanksgiving Holiday to the early colonists sharing an autumn harvest feast with the Wampanoag Indians. For more than two centuries, days of thanksgiving were celebrated by individual colonies and states. It wasn’t until 1863, during the Civil War, that President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national Thanksgiving Day to be held each November.
If you’re an avid cook looking to prepare that perfect Thanksgiving turkey, you may consider purchasing a fresh turkey from a local farm.

15152841_10157827579070531_1426794567_o
                                                                       From this………. To this Mmm!

In Northern Kentucky, Tewes Poultry farm located in Erlanger is a favorite place for locals to go and pick up their Thanksgiving turkey. You can visit their website for more information and directions www.tewesfarm.com.
Nothing says welcome to my home more than a beautifully decorated wreath or swag on the front door. Seasonal decorations create a special warmth that make your guests feel welcomed and invited when they visit your home.

15135484_10157827579040531_2118651729_nA fresh floral arrangement for the dining room table adds an inviting and appealing touch as well.

15151114_10157827579030531_1061031232_n

Our lives are stressful enough with work and our busy schedules do not allow us the opportunity to enjoy things like we should. That’s why decorating with seasonal floral arrangements make us feel good and helps relax us from the hectic life styles we live.

15139600_10157827579035531_1418291879_n

If you are interested in creating an arrangement yourself, your local florist is a great source for quality flowers. Most florists will sell flowers and greenery by the bunch. If you’re too busy and do not have the time, ask your local florist to arrange something for you during the holidays. Remember, getting ready for the holiday is half the fun.

14508574_10157827579045531_499962595_n

If you don’t already have a preferred florist, consider any of the following. HJ Benken (513) 891-1040, Jackson Florist & Garden Center (859) 331-0222, Ft. Thomas Florist (859) 441-8049, McCabes Floral & Greenhouses (812) 537-4525 and Robbens Florist & Garden Center (513) 251-2737. We are members of the Cincinnati Flower Growers Association. The Cincinnati flower grower’s Association is an association of growers, retailers, suppliers and educators, dedicated to the promotion of flowers and the well being of those around us. www.cincinnatiflowergrowers.org. You will always get beautiful arrangements, quality flowers and exceptional service from your local florist.

Oct 22

Time to Clean up the Garden

You can already sense daylight hours getting shorter and nightfall quickly creeping upon us. As a matter of fact, we aren’t far away from setting the clocks back which takes place November 6th.screen-shot-2016-10-22-at-6-22-17-am

It’s time to tidy up our gardens while the weather is still cooperative. For example, our vegetable and herb gardens do not look near as good as they did earlier. Therefore, it’s a good time to get rid of the mess and start putting things away. Removing leaf debris from under plants, such as perennials, trees and shrubs will help prevent diseases from spreading throughout your garden next spring.

Do your best to remove all the fallen leaves from your lawn and landscape beds. If leaves remain on the lawn and stay wet throughout the winter months you can expect to see some damage.

Leaves will smother out parts of the lawn, as a result leaving you repairing your lawn in the spring when you would rather be doing something else. If you don’t have a leaf shredder, which are very nice by the way, you can use a lawnmower and bag your leaves.screen-shot-2016-10-22-at-6-22-29-am

If you have the room, now might be a good time to try composting. In the landscape beds, I found the leaf blower converted into vacuum mode to be the most effective. It does an excellent job shredding leaves.

screen-shot-2016-10-22-at-6-22-40-am

 

PERENNIALS

We sometimes take our perennials for granted, I think if we gave them a little more attention they would reward us even more. One of the most important things we overlook is dividing our perennials. You may see the need for division when you notice a perennial plant no longer looking good. Maybe it hasn’t been flowering prolifically, the leaves are getting smaller or the center is opening up. Dividing perennial plants is a great way to rejuvenate tired plants.

screen-shot-2016-10-22-at-6-23-13-am

When replanting, prune off about half of the foliage. Plant the crown at the same level it was growing in the ground on the original plant. While some perennials prefer being divided in the spring, there are some perennials that prefer division in the fall. Typically home gardeners have the greatest success in the fall. Whenever you choose to divide your perennials, be sure to save a few to give to your neighbors.

FALL IS A PERFECT TIME FOR PLANTING TREES AND SHRUBS

It’s still a great time to plant trees and shrubs. The cooler temperatures signal plants to stop growing new shoots and leaves above ground, but not below. Trees and shrubs continue to develop their root systems, making fall an ideal time to plant. The cooler weather during the fall reduces the risk of transplant shock, or dieback, giving plants the opportunity to acclimate themselves to their new home and set out new feeder roots before winter arrives.

If you like fall color, now is the perfect time to visit your local garden center and nursery. You get the opportunity to see what color the tree or shrub you are interested in is turning. Below are a few trees and shrubs worth having that will reward you will beautiful fall color!

screen-shot-2016-10-22-at-6-23-27-am screen-shot-2016-10-22-at-6-23-55-am screen-shot-2016-10-22-at-6-25-32-am screen-shot-2016-10-22-at-6-25-24-am screen-shot-2016-10-22-at-6-24-15-am screen-shot-2016-10-22-at-6-24-08-am

 

Oct 13

Aerating the Lawn

     It’s not often we put a lot of thought into the condition of our lawn’s soil. Healthy soil is a key component to having a beautiful lawn. Poor soil conditions are usually an open invitation to lawn issues such as limited growth, weed problems, insect damage and diseases.

Before winter sets in, there are a couple more things we can do to create a healthier and more beautiful lawn. One of those is aerating the lawn. If you haven’t already done so, October early November is an excellent time to aerate.

screen-shot-2016-10-13-at-3-32-42-pm

Aerating is an easy project and the process is rather simple. The aerating machine pulls 2 – 3 inch long plugs from the ground and lays them up on top of the lawn as you work through the yard. I’m often asked should all the plugs be raked up and the answer is no. The plugs are healthful in such a way that when they break down, beneficial bacteria works its way back into the soil which in turn help reduce thatch.

screen-shot-2016-10-13-at-3-32-54-pm     Aerating the lawn will help loosen compacted soil, especially in areas where there is heavy foot traffic. The holes will then allow water, oxygen and most importantly, nutrients work their way back into the soil.

The other important timely thing we can do for our lawns this fall is fertilize. If you haven’t fertilized your lawn yet, don’t put it off. Get out to your local garden centers and nurseries and pick up Ferti-lome’s Lawn Food Plus Iron. Applying nitrogen late in the season promotes strong root development, enhances storage of energy reserves, and extends color retention in cool-season lawns. Most of the benefits from late fall nitrogen will be seen next spring and summer with earlier green-up, improved turf density and improved tolerance to diseases and weed reduction.

screen-shot-2016-10-13-at-3-33-09-pm screen-shot-2016-10-13-at-3-33-17-pm
Take advantage of the fall season, especially if you want a greener and healthier lawn. You will definitely benefit the most by starting with the three step program now rather than in the spring.

Oct 05

Bringing Plants Indoors

If you haven’t already and since there is a potential for frost the next couple of days you may want to bring your plants in from outside. Since many of us have a collection of plants outside on our decks and patios, try wintering them over versus throwing them away. Although it may sound difficult to do, it’s really not. All you need to know is what to do, what to expect and, most importantly, how to prepare.

The type of plant you have will dictate how you approach looking after it. For example, tropical plants, such as the flowering hibiscus and mandevilla, can be brought inside and placed next to or near a window that provides as much light as possible. In addition, you will need to treat them totally different inside versus outside. You will reduce your watering habits considerably. Do not keep your plants too wet. Get into the habit of a good drink and allow the plant to dry thoroughly between watering. In addition, it’s not necessary to fertilize during the winter months. Your plants are somewhat going through a semi-dormant stage. Fertilizing will only spur long, lanky new growth which in turn attracts insects. You will also notice growing conditions inside are not as conducive for supporting new growth as they are outside.

tropical plant1  tropical plant2

Once inside, you can expect some leaf yellowing and dropping as they acclimate themselves to the change in light. You can prune back your flowering tropicals lightly and remove all blooms.

If there are space constraints, you may also place your blooming tropicals in the basement. Again, try to place them in an area that gets as much light as possible.

In addition to the blooming tropical plants, many homeowners can take the same approach with other tropical plants such as Ficus trees, Palms, Boston Ferns and most others that we treat as indoor plants.

tropical plant3 sm  tropical plant4

Before you bring any plant inside, the most important thing you can do is treat them for insects prior to bringing in for the winter. I recommend using systemic insecticides. Systemic controls will enter into a plant through its root system and will protect your plants for up to two months against insects such as aphids, mealy bug

Aphids

Aphids

Mealy Bug

Mealy Bug

Scale

Scale

White Fly

White Fly

Spider Mite

Spider Mite

Bonide makes an excellent systemic product designed for container plants. It will help protect against a majority of insect issues. You simply apply it to the soil, work it in and around the plant, then water.

Because Bonide’s systemic insecticide will not protect your plants against spider mites, I also recommend spraying your plants before bringing inside. You can use Ferti-lome’s Triple Action Plus or Bayer’s Insect, Disease and Mite Control.

houseplant insect control  triple_action_plus

In March, move your tropical plants back to a warm location and begin regular watering, keeping the soil moist but not wet.  Fertilize about every two weeks with a balanced fertilizer.  When day and night temperatures reach above 70 degrees move your tropical plants outside. Keep in mind, your plants must become acclimated to their outside environment. If it requires full sun, place it in the sun a few hours per day for a few days. This approach will keep your plants from getting leaf scorch.

Join us Saturday on In and Around the House as we’ll be discussing what you need to know about bringing your plants inside for the winter.

 

Sep 27

Planting Fall Bulbs

planting_bulbs_header

Autumn is here and it’s time to plant fall bulbs. I can’t think of a better way to usher in a new spring season than seeing crocuses, daffodils, tulips and other fall bulbs greeting us with beautiful color. They signal the end of winter and definitely make planting bulbs worth the wait.

planting_bulbs  tulips_daffodils

Planting bulbs doesn’t take a lot of effort and is one of the most rewarding things that homeowners who have a passion for gardening can do. Start by digging a hole, place the bulb or bulbs into position and cover them with soil. Your efforts this fall will definitely bring delayed spring gratification.

In our area, the months of October and November are ideal for planting fall bulbs. Plant your fall bulbs once the soil starts to cool and preferably before the first couple of hard frosts occur.

bulb_planting_map

Visit your local garden center for the best selections of bulbs as early as you can, even if you aren’t ready to plant. If you wait too long, your favorites might be sold out. Select bulbs that are firm and store them in a cool area such as a garage until you are ready to plant.

bulb_bins_1  bulb_bins_2

When planting fall bulbs, select a site where the soil drains well, because bulbs will rot if soil conditions remain overly wet. You can use a bulb digger type of tool to plant individual bulbs, but I found it best to use a posthole digger to dig a wider hole or trench that can hold a number of bulbs. I think bulbs look best planted in drifts or mass plantings versus straight lines. Mass plantings of a single variety or color create a visual impact and make a dramatic statement.

tulips_daffodils purple_tulips

Large bulbs such as tulips and daffodils go down six to eight inches and small bulbs about three to five inches. When in doubt and there aren’t any instructions, the planting depth can be three times the bulb’s length. In addition, the bulb should be planted pointy side up.

bulb_growth_chart

Don’t forget to fertilize your existing and newly planted bulbs in your landscape. I recommend using Bulb Tone from Espoma or Hi-Yield’s Bone Meal.

bulb_tonebone meal_sm

 

Sep 23

Plant Garlic Now

We all know that fall means planting bulbs such as tulips and daffodils that will reward us with beautiful color come spring time. However, there is another bulb that I think a lot of us often overlook. It’s not known for its bloom but more for its pungent flavor. I’m talking about garlic and October is the ideal time to plant it in our area.

garlic1  garlic2

I really never thought much about growing garlic and that was partly due to how readily available it is at the local grocery stores. It wasn’t until a couple of years ago that I purchased fresh, locally grown garlic for the first time and I’ve been hooked ever since. Experiencing the taste of fresh garlic from the garden totally surpasses what you’re accustomed to getting at the store.

The history behind garlic is very interesting and its true origin is commonly argued by historians. The use of garlic goes back as far as the Egyptian days but for the most part it’s believed it originated in central Asia.

In addition to its culinary uses, garlic possesses many medicinal benefits. Garlic has been known to lower blood pressure, provide antiseptic protection, lower bad cholesterol and protect against heart disease, just to name a few.

There are only two basic types of garlic, softneck and hardneck. You can easily tell them apart. If the stem at the top of the bulb is soft and papery, it is a softneck. Most of the garlic you see today in the store is the softneck variety. The botanical name for softneck garlic is Allium sativum and it does not produce a flowering stalk. The softnecks tend to have longer shelf lives than the hardnecks. They also tend to have more, but smaller cloves per bulb, and are sometimes harder to peel than hardnecks. This variety is the one that you will see braided or sometimes made into a decorative wreath. Recommended varieties; “German Extra Hardy,” “California” and “Mother of Pearl.”

garlic_cloves

Hardneck, as the name implies, has a hard stalk almost as thick as a pencil and are the hardier of the two varieties. The botanical name for hardneck garlic is Allium sativum ophioscorodon. Hardneck garlic will produce scapes which should be removed so that all the energy is directed towards the development of the bulb and not the bloom. Hardneck varieties will grow one ring of cloves around the stem and are larger than softneck cloves making them easier to work with in my opinion. Recommended Varieties; “Music,” “Spanish Roja” and “Chesnok Red.”

garlic_3   garlic_4The bulb is not the only edible part when it comes to cooking with garlic. The scapes add a wonderful flavor and pizzazz to pasta, pesto and dips and can also be sautéed as a simple side dish.

The one thing you have to try is roasting garlic, the flavor is absolutely wonderful! Every garlic fanatic has to have a garlic roaster, they’re mostly available in terra cotta clay and occasionally you’ll see cast iron versions, as well.

When roasting, preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Just trim the upper quarter inch or so off the bulb, exposing the cloves. Drizzle olive oil and place in the oven and roast until soft, about 45 minutes.

garlic_5   garlic_6

After removing from the oven, you will need to squeeze the pulp from the bulb. Grip the bottom of the bulb and squeeze with your thumb and fingers. The pulp will easily slide out and remove any remaining bits and skins. Be careful, the garlic is extremely hot. Some garlic roasters come with a rubber holder that keeps you from potentially burning your finger tips.

Place the garlic in a ramekin, add olive oil and whisk into a creamy paste. Get creative by adding some of your favorite fresh or dried herbs. Forget the carbs; you can’t beat the subtle flavor of roasted garlic, especially when you spread it on your favorite bread.

plant_garlic_1   plant_garlic_2

Garlic is easy to grow, rewarding and well worth the wait. Plant cloves pointed side up, 3 inches deep, leave the paper on, space cloves about 6 inches apart. Plant in an area that receives full sun, make sure there is adequate drainage because garlic does not like wet feet. As with any new planting, always amend the soil with organic matter, compost or aged manures.

If you enjoy cooking with garlic then get planting! Check with your local garden centers and nurseries that sell fall bulbs, they should have garlic readily available.

 

Older posts «