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Product Review: iPhone Plant Light Meter

Written by Mindy on March 24th, 2018

Ok, now there is a technology that can answer the burning question every gardener has when it comes to indoor light. Is it very low, low, medium, or high? While the latter two may seem simple to answer, the very low to low can be confusing. What is the big hype about the light requirement? Well, believe it or not, improper sun exposure is a leading cause of plant death, which ties with overwatering. The problem is this, if your plant does not receive enough light it will grow spindly and the stem will continue to be smaller and smaller as the plant tries to reach more light. The leaf nodes will also be spaced farther and farther apart. Once your plant reaches this point, the only thing you can do is take a cutting and start over.

iphone.plant.meterOn the other hand, too much light can burn it up like a piece of paper in a campfire. To prevent either one of these situations, one must know what level of light you have in your planned space and now you can find out with just an app called “Plant Light Meter.”

How this app works is simple. You aim the camera on your phone at the natural light source and take a “picture.” From this “picture” the amount of light is measured and classified as very low, low, medium, and high. All of this with a simple click of your phone camera and the guesswork is done for you.

Another wonderful feature to this app is what if you do not know what light level is required for your houseplant. Well, this app has a data base by which you can search for your plant and its light requirement. Keep in mind though that there is no way of encapsulating all the houseplants in the world so you may find that your plant is not listed.

As wonderful as this app is there are a few problems. First, it only works on IPhones, which I do not have and had to borrow one to test the app out. Second, this app can give a beginning gardener a bit of falsehood when it comes to measuring the light. As outdoor light can change as trees leaf out or fall due to seasonal change, so can the indoor environment.  A windowsill that was once consider high light can change with the tree right outside the window leafs out and shades that space. While an experienced gardener knows this, one less knowledgeable may not think about this fact.

All in all, this is a fun gardening app to play with. It is inexpensive but do not solely depend on technology to read the sun.


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Guide to Growing the Zebra Plant

Written by Mindy on March 14th, 2018

Looking for a houseplant that is hard to kill? Well, if the answer is yes then you need the Zebra plant (Hawothiopsis altenala). This is a tough little succulent that can survive even when conditions are not ideal. While you may guess where the “zebra” part of the name comes from, the best part beyond its easy care, if the fact that it adds texture to a singular planting or cactus garden. Past the white stripes on the plant, it also has pointy leaves that add visual interest.

growing.the.zebra.plantWhen it comes to grow the Zebra plant, the process is simple and begins with the soil selection. Since this plant is a succulent, it does require a well draining soil. The best choice is a planting medium that is especially designed for succulents and cactuses. If you cannot find one, do not worry you can make your own. This is simply done by combining an all purpose potting soil with coarse sand at a one to one ratio. If you have not already selected your container, this is the time but…..keep in mind that you only need a small one if you are using the Zebra plant as a specimen. The reason for the small pot size is the fact that this plant grows very slowly.

Once that is done, clean your pot, add drainage material and fill half way with the planting medium. Now you are ready to remove your Zebra plant from its container and plant.

As stated before, the Zebra plant is hard to kill. It loves bright sunlight so the best location is a sunny windowsill but it can tolerate darker environments that receive indirect sunlight.  If you are to kill your Zebra plant, the easiest way is to overwater and/or getting the leaves wet. When it comes to watering this succulent, you will want to check the soil’s moisture first. Yes, there are meters that can be bought to test the soil moisture but you are actually born with the best meter. What is it? Your finger and it can tell you everything you need to know. To use this technique, just push your finger down into the planting medium and pull straight up. If your finger comes out dry then you need to water. On the other hand, if it appears covered in soil then do not water.

When it comes to watering, do not just throw water on the plant. As I stated before, one of the ways to kill this plant is to get the leaves wet. Because of the shape of the leaves, water easily pools in between the leaves. This pooling will eventually cause the leaves to rot. To prevent this, only water the soil. Continue to add water until you see moisture coming out of the drainage hole.


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How to Grow Paddle Plant

Written by Mindy on March 4th, 2018

When you first look at this succulent plant you see why it is called commonly the Paddle plant. While I do see a paddle when I view (Kalanchoe thrsiflora) I also see the second common name and that is flapjacks. As funny as the names are, this is another plant that tolerates neglect. But before you run out to the plant nursery to get one, let’s learn a bit more about this plant.

paddle.plantYes, this plant can easily grow in a pot or in a landscape in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 10 through 12 but for this discussion, let’s look at growing it as a houseplant.

The first important factor of the Paddle plant is the fact that it loves full sun but can tolerate shade. Why is this factor important beyond the health of the plant? Well, it gives you some flexibility as far as location in your home.

The second important factor is that it loves humidity. This is easily solved by making a humidity tray, which consists of a shallow pan or saucer filled with rocks and then water. The plant is then placed on this tray.

The third factor is its size. If this plant is grown outside, its average foliage height is 18 inches but when it blooms this height will increase to 30 inches. Having said that Paddle plants grown as houseplants will only top 10 inches, which makes this a very manageable plant size.

The fourth factor is both a positive and negative. This succulent does produce a very beautiful yellow flower that is very fragrant but with beauty there is death when it comes to this plant. Once the Paddle plant has reached a mature size, it will send up a flower stalk. After the flowers on the flower stalk have died, the plant itself will die. This is not the end of the story. Mature Paddle plants typically will send out pups or offshoots from the parent plant. These pups can be harvested and replanted.

When it comes to planting your Paddle plant, make sure you use a planting medium designed for cactus or make your own with equal parts of all purpose potting soil and grit. Prior to adding planting medium to your pot, make sure that it is clean and sterilized. Add drainage material and top this layer with the planting medium. Once the Paddle plant has been planted, water it in until you see moisture come out the bottom. Then, place on humidity tray in a sunny location.

Prior to watering the Paddle plant, always check the dryness of the soil with your finger. If it comes out clean then you water. On the other hand, if it comes up covered in soil then do not water.


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Growing Chenille Plant

Written by Mindy on February 19th, 2018

This plant goes by many common names, which includes chenille plant, red hot cat’s tail, foxtail, and Philippine’s Medusa. But regardless of what common name you know it as; its scientific name is Acalypha hispida. This plant can be grown outdoors permanently in warmer areas or as a houseplant. While the foliage is the typical green color that creates a monochromatic backdrop for the real show piece of this plant, which are the flowers. Believe it or not, the flowers do look like red hot cat’s tails drooping down over the side of the foliage.

growing.chenilleGrowing the chenille plant is not difficult. To begin with, this plant is propagated by semi-ripe wood in the summer. Once rooted, plant this plant in a hanging basket so that the drooping flowers can be displayed properly.

While your chenille plant outside was placed in full sun, indoors it will need to be placed in an area that receives indirect sunlight. Room temperatures are also important and are really no problem in the indoor environment. The nighttime temperature needs to be a minimum of 60 degrees Fahrenheit while the daytime temperature need not exceed 80 degrees Fahrenheit.

The chenille plant likes a soil that is evenly moist all the time but not wet. To accomplish this, simply water the plant until you see moisture come out of the bottom of the hanging basket but………do not get the flowers wet.

Feeding your plant will keep it looking its best. But there are months that you need to avoid due to the fact that the growing season has passed. Instead of wasting your fertilizer, avoid feeding October through February. What do you feed this plant? Well a 1:2:1 fertilizer formulation is fine.

To spur new growth, prune back the plant heavily in the spring.

When comes to pests and/or plant diseases, the chenille plant is pretty much safe. The only time that problems really appear is when the plant is not receiving enough sun. If this is the case, you can expect to find scale, aphids and/or mites. These problems can be treated with an insecticidal soap but if you find them on your chenille plant, make sure to check your other houseplants and treat accordingly.

While the chenille plant makes a colorful addition to your houseplant collection, do not forget to slowly introduce it to the outdoor environment when the weather warms. In doing so, you can sure the beauty of this plant inside and out.


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Protect your Pets – Tips on Reducing Ticks and Fleas in your Lawn Naturally

Written by Mindy on February 10th, 2018

While there are chemical treatments that be sprayed on your lawn to hopefully kill fleas and ticks, this is a haphazard approach at best. The best way to reduce the number of pet pests to deal with is through proper environmental management and this starts with allowing Mother Nature do what she does best-manage. first step is to maintain the proper grass height. Keeping the grass too tall gives the fleas and ticks areas to hide. On the other hand, mowing the grass too short chases away the natural predators of these blood sucking pests. What are these natural predators? Well, believe it or not, it is spiders and ants. Keeping your grass at the optional grass is the key to keep these beneficial bugs around but that height is dependent on the type of grass you have.

A moist environment is something else that fleas and ticks love. Not overwatering your grass and making sure that the soil remains well draining is a simple way of controlling these blood suckers.

To reduce areas by which fleas and ticks can hide is another approach. What this means is to remove any debris around the yard. This includes leaves, dead plant material along with empty pots. Also, do not forget to clean out the vegetable garden and flowerbeds. Doing this will not only cut down on the hiding places but will also not create areas by which their eggs can be laid.

Since fleas and ticks like moist place, they also love shade. Properly pruning your trees and shrubs so that you allow the sunshine in will encourage these pests to move on.

While some may feel that the old story of using cedar mulch is an old-wise-tale when it comes to fleas and ticks, believe it or not it is not. Using cedar mulch where your pets play and/or live can reduce the numbers. Using this type of mulch in flowerbeds around your home can discourage the entrance of these pests into your home. Another technique is to make a border of cedar around your property. This may not be a favorite approach; it does create that protective area.

Lastly, attracting birds to your landscape but………this too can be a problem. While birds will eat garden pests, it you are attracting the birds with bird food then you are also attracting a warm blooded creature the squirrel. This animal will carry in fleas and ticks into the environment. But do not throw this approach out immediately. You will have to weigh the benefits of birds and pest control compared to the chance of reintroduction.


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