Archive for the ‘light’ Category

Welcome favorite month Friday, October 1st, 2010

October is my favorite month of the year. I love Halloween, the colors, the crisp and crunch of the air and leaves, the slow down before the holiday season, no snow, no mosquitoes, school routine is now that and an anniversary as well.

This has been a pretty good fall. The temps fluctuate from 70s during the day to 40/50s at night. This back and forth over a few weeks combined with the shorter days is what spurs the trees to change their colors. On the years when temp change is gradual we get the best colors and on the years where it cuts from 80 to freezing the leaves simply go brown and shed.  I’m sad thinking that this will be a an October that we won’t get to Sica Hollow for our near-annual trek around the scenic and mythic park. We will have to make do with the colors in our much closer parks. Ms. Nova has no problem with that.

Tomorrow might bring the lightest of frosts to our area. Predictions say just above freezing. How hard a frost is and what damage it will do only not only depends on the temperature but how long it stays at them. A quick dip to 30 might not be as detrimental, or finalizing as a long linger at 32. If you have anything you want to keeps going, it’s best to cover it with a bucket or sheet or plastic during the coldest hours.

A peppering of children Thursday, March 11th, 2010

Even though I was unable to attend the canceled children’s gardening workshop, I still wrote a story that will appear in March 14‘s edition of the American News.

One can only fit so much into print so from time to time I’ll elaborate on some kid-friendly projects you can do with children, whether you are a caregiver or parent. I’ve briefly written of terrariums.  Today I planted seeds with the kiddos, and tried my hardest not to add too many, “no,no,no”, “stop,stop,stop”s to the mix. So far the peppers are planted – they were suggested to start by seed 8-10 weeks before the last frost. That puts the time frame to get them in dirt and under light anywhere from last week to next. A lovely friend gave me a couple grow lights for my birthday so I’ve rigged those with some poster brackets and hemp twine so I can raise and lower them on some free-standing wooden shelves. I’ll have to post pictures when I can find one of two cameras. I’ve set a timer on my cell phone for 12 hrs. – from 8am to 8pm to have the lights on. On 3 sides I’ve taped some foil as a lot of light is lost if not reflected back on the seeds. It’s not pretty, but it should be pretty functional. The lights should stay approximately 2 inches above the pots and then the plants once started. This will hopefully ensure that they don’t get too lanky and stay squatter and more robust. I’m also using cut down TP and paper towel rolls as pots. Some already have a little fuzz growing on the outside so I’ll have to watch that.

I just spoke with my mother and she asked if I had bottom heat on my seeds. “Um, nope.” I guess peppers enjoy warmth, so, if I don’t see germination early next week I might have to try adding some warmth. She has a special mat that warms seeds from the bottom so I might borrow that. I’m a little apprehensive to use a heat pad but I suppose that could also be an option. Or, moving the set up closer to a heat vent. We’ll see, I have plenty of seeds leftover so I could try something else completely next week as well. Especially if the TP rolls disintegrate before my seeds even germinate.

I’m using the Miracle Grow seed-starting mix and it isn’t as fine as I’d like plus there seems to be a lot of sticks. I’ll have to look into making my own mix once I run out. I also mix is with water in a bowl right away so it’s a little easier to handle and after the seeds are planting a little watering at the end won’t upheave the seeds.

Orchids Monday, January 25th, 2010

Orchids have always been a siren’s call for me. I’ve tried my hand at a 1/2 dozen and had one last for nearly 3 yrs. but it never bloomed after that initial siren call of demure burgundy flowers (dendrobium variety).

This variety, along with phalaenopsis and cattleya are some of the more common available for homeowners. Just this last weekend I found some marked-down to $5 at Walmart – not alerting me with their arching stem of blooms, there weren’t any, but with their thick, large, almond-shaped leaves. The leaves had lost their gloss, but were still green. A healthy one will have shiny green leaves that hold themselves up, not limp, leathery, brown or yellow. I didn’t have a chance to inspect the roots which, if healthy, should be a cool pale, frosted green with a fleshy look, not shriveled, brown or with noticeable decay. I did see some very pretty specimens at Shopko, but trying to conserve my budget I couldn’t hand over the $19.99 it’d cost for one. But, of course I wanted to.

So, if you get a chance – seems to be the season for them at the department stores – and want to try one. Take note of my above descriptions of healthy plants. Now for some care instructions (you may be thinking, “Why the heck should I listen to a girls who has killed a 1/2 dozen?” Well, I learn best from my mistakes which have been: not repotting, too much sun, old potting medium, cats, over-watering, lack of circulation, lack of humidity, fussing. Onto the solutions:

  • Light – east window or south window with a sheer curtain is best. Avoid direct sun from south and west, north isn’t enough.
  • Use a porous, clay pot or orchid specific pot – they usually have cut-outs to allow for more air circulation. Remove any plastic liner pots
  • Misting frequently is way better than watering
  • Orchid specific potting medium is best – usually fibrous bark that holds moisture but also breaths
  • Keep away from furnace vents, but they do like air movement – just not the drying type, so a ceiling fan is good.
  • Use a weak fertilizer when blooming – alternate fresh waterings with a watering/misting of a solution of orchid-specific fertilizer and water. This makes sure you don’t burn the roots or get a buildup of fertilizer. Better yet, opt for fish emulsion – a natural, slow-release plant food.
  • Use a wide tray, a couple inches deep, fill with pebbles or marbles and then add water just below the top of the pebbles – set your orchid pot directly on the pebbles. This creates a micro-climate of higher humidity.

Think circulation and humidity with orchids – they like water, but mostly in the air around them. An old fishtank might also be an option – set it up like a terrarium. It could make quite a lovely display.

Garden plans Friday, January 15th, 2010

Whether you are just starting out or are a garden pro (are any of us?!) it does one good to start garden plans early.

If you’ve gardened before, think back about what worked and didn’t as far as layout.

  • Were things too crowded
  • Too spread out
  • Too far from a water source
  • Could you not get to your peppers because of the jungle of raspberries

Taking note of these items always helps to improve on the coming growing season.

If you are new or like things orderly – here are a couple good sources for planning.

The square foot garden is great for beginners and those with limited space.

This garden-planning helper is just plain fun to dink around with.

At any rate – make sure your garden is:

  • By a water source
  • Away from fence lines – neighbors have been known to get carried away with weed killer so keeping your edibles a bit away from property lines will help ensure their survival
  • Little plants can get big fast so don’t think you can cram too much into a small space – then nothing does well
  • Low-lying areas can mean wet feet (rot, mildew) for plants so opt for higher ground
  • Vegetable gardens need a lot of sun – so stay away from big trees (which can also suck up all the moisture) or north and west sides of any structures
Wishing season Tuesday, January 12th, 2010

My mom asked me the other day if I’d received any garden catalogs yet? “Um, one – Baker Creek.” She wanders away just to come back and plop down what looked like a dozen seed, perennial, vegetable, and supply catalogs.

Yes, folks, it’s that time of year again. The anger over tomato blights and squash maggots has softened like labor pains for a mother looking upon another birth (like me come April). The hope is here again. South Dakota is a nice place to garden for that. Everything is covered with a blanket of snow – some survivors will mark the building blocks of what is to come and among them a blank slate to fill anew. Without our killing winters I couldn’t imagine anything turning the switch on the jungle I inevitably find myself in come August. By then I’m just willing the growing season to end.

So, with my impending 2-month leave April and May I’m going to give a shot to starting some seeds. I’m had very minimal success in the past. Lighting has always been my problem. The seeds sprout, grow, become lanky and flop over – growing in much too long and weak to rebound the transplanting to come.

In steps my first wish – this is why I love my March birthday, just in time for garden season – a grow light with adjustable height. You see I have a great south window, but it’s never enough, nor can one regulate the S.D. sun. Also, seeds just give us a sate to our early gardening thirst, they also give us a jump so we can grow some things our growing season just can’t accommodate without a head start.

The hub and I have started a seed list just from Baker Creek:

These are just a few ‘wishes’ – haven’t filled out the order yet – guess it’s also the time to figure out the garden budget before we get too ahead of ourselves.