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Entries in house plant (3)

Friday
Feb142014

Indoor Greenhouse Oasis

Feels a little tropical, even in the winterOne thing that gets me through these dreary winter months is knowing I will be back outside in my garden soon. Another thing is my indoor plants. No matter how big or how little your living space is, there's always room for a plant.

Not only do indoor plants look attractive but they also have health benefits. Plants increase the air quality in your home by raising oxygen levels, removing toxins from the air and maintaining healthy humidity levels. Low humidity indoors during the winter can do dastardly things to your respiratory system, caused by the heating systems that keep us warm. Plants can make you happy and improve your mental health. Caring for another living thing can give you purpose and be fun, too.

Some plants are super easy to grow indoors, like the Snake Plant. Snake Plant, cacti and succulents make great first time plants for a person just getting started. They need minimal care beyond occasional watering. The only real issue to watch out for is over watering, as that will rot the roots. Other plants are super temperamental like African Violets. They need special soil, fertilizer and much more care than other options. Just make sure when you choose a plant that it has attributes you want; non-toxic if you have small children or pets, if your windows face north and/or east  get a plant that thrives in low light, or a plant that tolerates dry soil if you're not around much.

A ponytail palm adds great texture all year round

In my experience, where you buy a plant from can have a bigger impact on how they grow than how you treat the plant. You can't see inside the soil at the store and you won't know until you have the plant home for a few weeks if there are any issues such as fungus gnats, mold, or root rot. Repotting might save the plant if you catch the problem in time. I usually quarantine a plant for a month in a separate room before I let it join the others. This prevents insects and diseases from spreading to all my plants if I bring home a sick one. You should do the same when bringing plants in from outdoors to over winter them. You don't want the outdoor garden pests coming in!

They sell all kinds of gadgets to help an indoor plant owner; moisture meters, irrigation globes, grow lights, and other products, but nothing compares to experience. So buy a plant and start learning! Start with something easy, like the aforementioned Snake Plant. Seriously, you can't kill it. I brought one home from college and it didn't take the move well. I took it out of the soil and left it to dry out in a vase for over a year. Repotted it and that Snake Plant is thriving today. Dracaena marginata, Dracaena 'Janet Craig' or a Spider Plant would also be good to start with. Some of the other plants in my home are Ponytail Palm, Jade Plant, Dracaena, African Violets, Orchids, cacti, Agave, Aloe and an array of succulents, among others. They all have different colors and textures to liven up my living areas. The Aloe is especially helpful if I burn myself in the kitchen. I even have basil and mint in one of my greenhouse windows. I miss my herb and vegetable garden immensely in the winter and these tide me over until spring. Next year I'm going to see if I can bring more inside! 

If you have any questions about your indoor plants or your outdoor landscape, email me at ashley@goldbergandrodler.net. Let's figure out your plantscape together.

A blown glass watering globe adds color to plants not in flower


A closeup of the aloe plant, great for soothing skin irritations; just watch out for the tiny spines when you peel it!


Thursday
Feb062014

Do You Have Cabin Fever?

After a January snowstorm in Centerport. Photo by Nick OnestoIt looks like old man winter still has his grip on Long Island. As I look outside, the ground is still white and it is snowing again with even more snow in the forecast for later this week. It would be nice to get outside and go for a walk without worrying about frostbite or dodging over snow banks to avoid oncoming traffic. Boy, would I like to go somewhere warm and sunny for a week or two.

What can we do to alleviate cabin fever as the winter wanes and the spring approaches? If you can take a few weeks in a warm climate, go ahead. If you can't, here are a few ideas to help deal with the dreary days remaining in winter.

Your indoor plants are living with less light during the winter which translates to needing less fertilizer. How do you know if they need to be fertilized? Well, if they are actively growing or flowering indoors, fertilize them. At least once this winter, give your indoor plants a boost with some fertilizer. Make sure the soil is moist before fertilizing. Water soluble 20-20-20 is good for non-flowering houseplants and 15-30-15 fertilizer is best for flowering plants. If your indoor plants are dormant, suspend fertilizing until the spring.

Housebound weekend days seem to go by more pleasantly when observing nature through a window into your garden. Install a bird feeder outside a window next to a comfy seat and watch the wide variety of birds display their colorful feathers against the gray and white of winter. You can vary the type of seed you provide and thus vary the population of birds that come to visit. Try to keep the squirrels away by placing the feeder away from jumping off points like branches or furniture. The less landing surface the squirrels can find on the feeder will help deter them as well, but a hungry squirrel is a determined squirrel, so there are really no squirrel-proof feeders. Watching the squirrels' antics is sometimes more entertaining than watching the birds eat!

A picture every year to document where your bulbs come up helps to plan for next yearAnother way to banish the winter blues is to look ahead. What would you like to improve outdoors? Planning is an important part in the process of developing a landscape and all of the elements that are integral to a wonderful garden. I like to start with a photo review of last season to assess and evaluate what worked well and what needs improvement. If you don't have photos (think about photo documenting your garden next season), you can mentally walk through your garden in your mind's eye and jot down a few notes. Once the snow melts and the weather warms up a bit, take a walk around your property again. How is the hardscape holding up? Are the trees safe and healthy? What areas of the garden need some help and what areas are doing well? Then develop a strategy for what to improve and how to do it.

Shopping in your own backyard for produce is quick and easyI like to cook, so I always make sure I have enough room for a variety of herbs. What was I missing last year that I want to make sure I have on hand this year? How will I fit in additional plants? Will I have to swap out a variety? How did your vegetable garden do last year? Do you need more light or compost? Maybe you need to have an arborist evaluate your shade trees and selectively prune to boost your vegetable garden's yield. Maybe you don't have an irrigation system, and after the hot, dry summer we had in 2013, you might consider putting in a drip system to make your life easier.

This is where landscape design professionals can be of great value. Planning, creativity and garden development strategy are our expertise. An accomplished and experienced landscape designer can help you remodel portions of your garden, recommend hardscape improvements, help develop new garden areas or prepare plans for a complete renovation if that's the path you're on. Prepare a wish list including your favorite plants, garden themes and lifestyle needs. A landscape plan can be a great way to develop and improve your property with both short and long term goals in mind. Contacting a landscape designer at Goldberg & Rodler in the winter will give you a jump start on spring.

Other ways to beat the winter doldrums include attending garden lectures and workshops or settling in with a good gardening book. Check with your local garden center, library or arboretum to see what activities are on their schedules. If you are looking for a good book focusing on sustainable design and methodology, try "Grow More with Less," by Vincent Simione, the director of Planting Fields Arboretum and Historic State Park in Oyster Bay, Long Island. It is a great guide for a homeowner or professional that can put you on the right track developing your garden in an easy and sustainable way.

So there you have it, a few ideas to distract you from winter until we can get outside again. Good luck, and if you'd like to talk to me about your garden, call me, Sal Masullo, at (631) 271-6460 or email me salm@goldbergandrodler.net, and I would be happy to discuss your landscape with you.

Written by Sal Masullo

Wednesday
Oct172012

Watering an Orchid with Ice Cubes

Look at all the new growth!

I have never had good luck with orchids and other indoor plants. Turns out I have been too caring, too loving and too nurturing and that has been detrimental to their health. Less is more! With my newest orchid, the instructions that came with it said to water it with ice cubes. I thought they were crazy, but since it had an unlikely survival rate I figured what could be the harm? So once a week I put three ice cubes on top of the growing medium, under the leaves. I ended up with little white bugs in the medium and all my flowers fell off! What did I do wrong?! I scoured the internet looking for help. The most common advice was to let the orchid dry out. If you can see its roots, let them go gray, and then you can start watering it again.

Fertilizer Ice CubesSeveral weeks later, I try the ice cubes again, but now less often, maybe once every two weeks. It is working! I'm getting new growth! New flowers! I'm great at this! Then it says in the instructions to fertilize after the orchid is done blooming. Hmmm, I'm doing such a good job, it hasn't stopped blooming yet! When I look at the fertilizer directions, it tells me how much to use, and to fertilize each time I water it. They give me a very small fertilizer to water ratio and I don't know what I'm supposed to do with all the extra. How long will it keep? I only have one orchid.

So I take a water bottle out of my recycling bin and wash it out. I mix up a water bottle full of orchid fertilizer and then pour it into an inexpensive ice cube tray. I figure I can freeze these forever and I won't have to worry about overfeeding my orchid. Since the ice melts slowly through the medium it can be absorbed better by the roots. Orchids don't like to sit in water and this has been super successful for my orchid. I am getting so many flowers and buds for new stems! I'm thinking about getting another!

 

UPDATE: 10.17.12 My orchid is blooming amazingly!!! Check it out!