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December 26, 2012

Holiday Plant Safety

Filed under: Holiday Season Articles — webmaster @ 11:03 pm

Holiday Plant Safety
Hi everybody. With the holidays in full swing many of us are going to purchase one or more of the colorful holiday plants that are available. For the most part, most of these plants are safe but some safety precautions should be taken. With some common sense precautions, you can have a safe and happy Holiday Season.
Poinsettia - These colorful holiday plants are safe plants to have around your home during the holidays. As with any ornamental, they should be kept out of reach of small children and should never be ingested. Although not particularly toxic to humans, they can be very toxic to small animals. If you have pets that have a habit of chewing your plants, opt for the artificial variety. They can often look just as spectacular as the real thing and you can reuse them year after year. Over time, this can save you a pile of money.
Mistletoe - Using the mistletoe as a decoration is a tradition that has been carried out for centuries. During Pagan times, troops at war that met in the presence of mistletoe were required to lay down their weapons and unite in a day of truce. Mistletoe was also used during rituals that celebrated the Winter Solstice. It was used as a symbol of the eventual return of the sun.
In Christianity, mistletoe has been used as symbol of love ever since the Middle Ages. During this era, the mistletoe was blessed by a priest and all those that walked under it were kissed as a sign of friendship and all bad feelings were extinguished.
In modern times, the tradition of being kissed under the mistletoe is still in full force. A trip to your local holiday shop will usually yield both live and artificial versions of this popular holiday plant. The “live” mistletoe plant is toxic if ingested and should be kept out of the reach of small children and pets. As long as it is not ingested, this plant can still create a warm feeling of friendship to all who walk under it.
Live Christmas Trees - Although live trees are the main symbol of this great day, they can pose hazards if not handled and cared for properly. The main hazard from live trees is fire. When you first bring your tree home, be sure to cut a slice off the bottom of your tree before placing it in its new location. This will help the tree to absorb water faster, which will greatly lengthen its useful life. There are many products on the market that are labeled as “tree savers” that are useful in helping the tree to absorb water faster and over a longer period of time. It is important when choosing the location for your new tree to place it away from any heat sources or sparks. In the past, using faulty Christmas lights that either shorted out or sparked has caused most tree related fires. In addition, lights that produce too much heat can be a problem on a tree that has been in use for an extended period of time.
Today, one of the best ways to stay safe is to use the new LED lights that are available for decorating. They look great and besides running way cooler then other lights, they also save you green. They use a fraction of the power of conventional lighting methods. In addition, use only UL approved extension cords and power strips. Using LED lights will not create as much as a load on your extension cords and power adapters.
With the availability of a large selection of artificial trees, for many people this will be a great alternative to the live tree. Most are now in 3 pieces with all the lights already attached and they last year after year saving you lots of money over time.
As you can see, with some common sense practices, you can stay safe this holiday season.
Author: Joe Zelenak who is also Owner/CEO of Computer Repair Online http://www.computerrepairol.com

Beyond The Poinsettia

Filed under: Holiday Season Articles — webmaster @ 11:02 pm

Beyond Poinsettias

Hi everybody and welcome! In the past several columns I have been talking about all sorts of plants that are popular during the holidays. Today, I am going to talk about a couple of plants that just don’t seem to have as much fame as some of the other holiday plants. Although you may find these varieties a bit harder to locate locally, they are available at some specialty garden centers.
The Cyclamen plant is the first we are going to talk about. The blossoms of the Cyclamen twist and turn almost like the small wings of a butterfly. The foliage has a distinct silvery, marbleized coloring that makes this plant unique. These plants are quite beautiful but they do require a lot of care to stay healthy. The most important criteria for success is temperature and moisture.
Cyclamen require low temperatures in order to thrive for any length of time. You must keep them out of the warm outdoor temperatures and try to keep them in an area of your house that is cool. This is tricky because at the same time they also must be in an area that has ample light. Cyclamen also are finicky about watering. They need to be watered daily so that the soil is kept evenly moist. Always water your Cyclamen by wetting the soil and not the plant. Watering the plant foliage can cause the plant to rot and die. Since the plants like humidity, placing the plant on a tray filled with pebbles and water will help provide the moisture the plant needs. Feed your plants monthly with a liquid plant food designed for houseplants.
The Anthurium plant is another great plant that is popular during the holidays and can make a really nice holiday table decoration. These plants can grow in the most diverse habitats and do really well in our hot tropical climate. Unlike the delicate Cyclamen, these plants will serve well as both a holiday table decoration and as an outside potted plant. These plats are native to both Hawaii and also in South America. They are also readily available at most local garden centers.
Anthurium are relatively easy to care for and enjoy. They have very attractive foliage and can produce flowers almost year round! They prefer a growing medium that is course and well drained. The best mixture is a composite of peat moss, pine bark and perilite. These plants like to be watered completely and then allowed to dry slightly before watering again.
Anthurium will grow either indoors or out and will do well in very bright locations. I have had tremendous luck with my plants under the protected overhang of my front porch. They also require regular fertilization in order to keep their lush green foliage and colorful flowers. Fertilize using a slow release fertilizer such as Osmocote for indoor plants.
Although I have never had any pest problems with my plants, they are susceptible to the usual indoor pests such as scale, mealy bugs and aphids. If problems arise, use a plant insecticide that is designed for indoor plants and be sure to spray all parts of the plant, especially under the leaves.

Holiday Cleanup

Filed under: Holiday Season Articles — webmaster @ 11:00 pm

Holiday Cleanup

Hi everybody and welcome. I hope you and your family had a wonderful Christmas holiday for the 2012 season! Now that the holidays are rapidly coming to a close, many of us will have an abundance of holiday plants to nurture for an entire year so we can enjoy them again next year. One of the most popular gifts of the holiday season are Amaryllis bulbs.
Amaryllis bulbs are relatively easy to take of. If you give them adequate water and bright light they should bloom in about six weeks. The best way to water is to keep the plants evenly moist. Do not water so much that the plants are sitting in standing water. Keep the plants on a windowsill or on a protected porch for the best results. If your bulbs are too small in size, you may have to wait till next year before you get blooms to form.
If you received a Norfolk Pine as a gift or bought one for yourself, you can successfully grow them indoors. As a matter of fact I recommend that you either grow them indoors or plant them in a container. I do not recommend planting them outdoors. These trees do not fare well in hurricane force winds and they grow extremely large. With that said, Norfolk Pines will do extremely well in an indoor environment as long as there is ample light. Position your plant near a window will it will receive a bit of sun daily. These plants will do best if they are watered on a regular schedule. Keep the plants evenly moist but not dripping wet. Do not allow the plants to sit in standing water. Norfolk Pines also enjoy a humid environment so if the plant is indoors, you may find it beneficial to lightly mist the plant from time to time to help increase the humidity around the plant. Improper watering can result in needle loss that will not regenerate itself. In addition, never try to prune the tree to shape it. The only pruning that should be done on this plant is for basic maintenance such as trimming off dead or yellow lower branches.
In the past I have discussed about how to choose and nurture Poinsettia plants during the holidays. These delicate plants can also be planted outdoors after the season is over. First, choose a location that is sheltered away from strong winds and the full direct rays of the summer sun. Also, choose an area where you can control the artificial light at night so you can get your plants to bloom next season with minimal effort. Use a good quality potting mix to place your plants in the ground and be sure it is a well-drained location. It might be wise to repot your plant in a large pot until all danger of frost and cold weather has past. March would be a great transition month to place your prize in the ground. Once the plant is planted and established, be sure to trim off all the old red bracts. You will need to do this in order to get blooms next season.
Now comes the tricky part. Starting around November or sooner, the plant is going to need long nights in order to re-bloom. During this 2 month period. You will need to eliminate as much as possible all signs of artificial lighting at night. Keep the area as dark as possible. This is the key to getting new blooms for the holidays.
One of the biggest problems you might encounter with a poinsettia plant is root rot. Often times. You will see poinsettia plants wilting as if they were not watered in days. You go to check the soil and it is still moist. So why is the plant wilting? Actually, the poinsettia most likely has a root fungus or disease that is preventing the plant from taking on water. That explains the wilted condition. This is usually caused from the plant being in soil that overly moist. This condition will almost always lead to a dead plant. In addition, you must also keep watchful eye out for whiteflies. Treat them at the very first indication with Orthenex. With a little luck and some skill. You should be rewarded with some great holiday color in your garden next season.
I would like to take this opportunity to wish all our readers a very Happy and safe New Year! I will be looking forward to seeing everybody in 2013!

Author: Joe Zelenak is also the owner/ceo of Advantage Computers http://www.advantagecomputersol.com/

Bok Tower Gardens

Filed under: General Garden Articles — webmaster @ 10:55 pm

Bok Tower Gardens

Hi everybody. This past weekend my wife and I decided to take a ride to the center of the state of Florida to a small quaint city called Lake Wales. The ride takes about an hour and thirty minutes from Port St Lucie and it is an easy ride as well. Simply take the Turnpike to Highway 60 and head west. Once on 60 it takes about 45 minutes to get to your destination at Bok Tower.
If you have never visited this wonderful sanctuary then you are in for a treat. The setting is quiet and beautiful with picturesque winding paths that let you see the way Florida foliage at it’s best. In addition to the great plants, Bok Tower also has a large tower at the highest point of the Gardens. The tower was built to house one of the worlds finest carillons and it hoses 60 bells that sound enchanting as they go off every 30 minutes and when they have their daily concerts.
The gardens are lined with both native and non-native plants of almost every variety and a camera is an absolute must.
In addition to the main gardens is a vintage home called Pinewood Estates. This area is now totally transformed into a Christmas wonderland with dozens of perfectly trimmed hedges and loads of colorful poinsettias. When you take the house tour, you are in for a real treat. Every room is decorated to a different theme and the sights are breathtaking.
Near the entrance to the gardens they have a very nice gift shop with an outside garden center. Here you can find some nice live plants that will make a rewarding addition to your home garden.
One of my favorites this past trip was a hanging plant called a pitcher plant (Nepenthes). This interesting plant gets its name from the so-called “pitchers” that hang from the leaves. These plants can make a great addition to a bright location in your home or a porch and can also grow outdoors in a part shade environment. The plants will do best if they are not in the direct sun. You should not let Nepenthes dry out completely between watering but at the same token, they need to be able to drain as well. These plants are great for Florida because they love high humidity. They will not tolerate temperatures below 50 degrees.
If you choose to replant your Nepenthes, you can use a mixture that has fir bark, long fibered sphagnum and peat moss in the mixture. Do not use clay pots as they build up too many salts in the soil.
Another great colorful accent plant we found there was a gem called the Bolivian Sunset. This plant can be grown outdoors or as a houseplant. Right now is the prime blooming period, which ranges from early fall to early winter. Even when not in bloom, the plant has great looking foliage that will look good almost anywhere. The plant will take full sun to partial shade but an ideal balance between sun and shade is where it will do best.

For the latest Florida Weather Radar visit us here. http://www.joesdiscoweathercentral.com/Florida_Doppler_radar.html

Filed under: General Garden Articles — webmaster @ 10:55 pm

November 23, 2009

Compost

Filed under: General Garden Articles, Composting — webmaster @ 11:08 pm

Hi everybody. Today we are going to talk a little about creating your own compost pile. Composting is both fun to do and it is great for the environment. When you compost your organic material, you are making a great contribution to our earth. The organic items that you add to your pile would of ended up taking up space in one of our local landfills. In addition, the processed compost will significantly help to keep your plants and lawn looking great!

            Before we decide to set up a compost project, you should know the five basic variables that must be controlled in order to achieve good results. The first process is the balance of brown and green organic ingredients. The “Green” category includes grass clippings, food scraps and manure. The “Brown” category includes dry leaves, wood chips and small branches. This mix must be balanced in order to get good results.

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            The second category is Particle Size. Chipping and shredding organic materials will help to get a better mix and allow for better air flow as opposed to large objects that are big and bulky. At the same token, if the particles are too small, there will be very little airflow in the pile.

            The third is moisture content. Your compost pile will need an adequate amount of moisture in order to thrive. Water is one of the most important ingredients to a productive compost pile.

            The fourth category is Oxygen. If the pile is placed on a series of pipes or other larger object, the compost pile will exhibit a better and faster rate of decomposition. On the other hand, way too much oxygen will actually slow down the process.

            The fifth and final category is temperature. Microorganisms require an optimum temperature in order to survive. It is not uncommon for the core temperature of a compost pile to reach 140 degrees! These higher temperatures will be achieved if the first four factors are all in line.

            Now that we know the basics, you must select a good location for your compost pile. Select a dry, shady area that is located near a convenient water source. Once you select your location, start adding your fuel. Add green and brown materials, as previously mentioned, and be sure to chop or shred larger objects. It is important to moisten the materials as they are added to be sure that the entire pile is moist. Now, you can add more grass clippings and be sure to mix them up in the pile. You can also add fruit and vegetable scraps and bury them 10 inches below the compost. Be sure to keep the pile moist. You can optionally cover the pile with a tarp to help retain the moisture.

            When you notice the material at the bottom of the pile looks dark in color, it is ready to use. This can take anywhere from a few months to a couple of years. The easiest way to turn the pile is with a pitchfork. You can also use a shovel to help keep the pile aerated and turned.

            As you can see, with a little hard work, you can get great rewards and have great looking plants. Your neighbors will want to know your secret! Using your own compost can help your plants look way better then using commercial chemical fertilizers. Stay green everybody and we will see you next week!

Poinsettias

Filed under: General Garden Articles, Poinsettia Plants — webmaster @ 11:04 pm

Hi, everybody!

With the holidays rapidly approaching, soon one of the most popular plants on earth will be available for sale.

The plant I am referring to is the colorful poinsettia plant. These beautiful plants are most commonly known for their red color but they also can come in many other colors such as white, pink or multi-colored.

Since most retailers offer mass displays of these gems, you will have an almost unlimited choice to bring home. As beautiful as these plants are, they are also very fragile and you must handle them gently or the delicate branches will break and fall off.

During my lifetime, I have unpacked and displayed no less then 100,000 of these beauties and I still do not tire of their delicate appearance.

Poinsettias have an interesting history that dates back to the 14th century. In fact, during the period from the 14th to the 16th century, the Aztec Indians called poinsettias cuetlaxochitle and they used the sap to control fevers and the leaves, or bracts, to produce a red dye.

The actual botanical name for the poinsettia was coined by the German botanist Wilenow. He called it euphorbia pulcherria. He first discovered the plant growing through a crack in his greenhouse and was so amazed at the color, so gave it that name which means very beautiful.

For many years, and in fact still today, many people believe that poinsettias are poisonous. The truth is they are not. It is true, however, that some people are allergic to the white sap of the plant and skin irritation can develop. If you are one of those people with sensitive skin, handle the plants with care.

For a retailer during the holiday season, having a fresh batch of poinsettias is like a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. These wonderful plants create an eye-catching display that will certainly draw a crowd.

So, with all these choices, how do I pick that perfect plant?

First, look for plants that have been removed from their sleeves. Many retailers will display the plants with sleeves intact, and if plants sit on the shelf too long, this can cause the leaves to yellow and drop and eventually, the plant may die. Choose plants that have been removed from their sleeves.

If you do choose a plant that is sleeved, remove the plastic as soon as you get home.

Next, look for plants that have little or no pollen showing on the flower clusters. This is a good indicator of the maturity of the flower bracts. You should always choose plants that have a lush, green color to their foliage and have a good, healthy appearance. Avoid plants that look droopy or have yellowing leaves.

While choosing your plants, handle them carefully so as not to break the adjoining plants so everybody can have a chance at getting a prime- looking plant.

Once you have chosen your gem and you’re home, some standard TLC will ensure you get a long lifespan from your new houseguest.

If you are keeping your plant indoors and it is not near a good light source, occasionally put it in a sunny location so it can get the light it needs to maintain a healthy look. If the plant starts to drop leaves excessively, it is probably not getting enough bright light and you need to move it.

Always keep your plant away from cold drafts and low temperatures. Poinsettias will not do well if the temperatures drop below 45. Check your plants for soil moisture daily and be sure they have good drainage and do not sit in standing water. Keep the plant evenly moist but not soaking wet.

If you follow these simple tips, you should be able to enjoy your plants through the entire holiday season.

After the holidays are over, you can plant them outdoors in a protected location, such as under a tree, and you can enjoy them year after year.

That’s all for this week’s column and I hope you enjoyed it. I will see you next week with more great garden tips and solutions. See you then!

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Joe Zelenak has 28 years experience in gardening and landscape. Send e-mails to hometowngarden@gmail.com or visit his Web site www.hometowngarden.com

November 14, 2008

Christmas Cactus

Filed under: General Garden Articles, Christmas Cactus — webmaster @ 8:56 pm

Christmas CactusHoliday Magic

 
            Hi everybody! One of the greatest joys of the holiday season is the colorful Christmas cactus. These majestic plants come in a variety of colors including red, white, pink, magenta, yellow and orange. These plants are a popular commodity at most retail outlets during the holidays and usually will sell out fast. The individual flowers can add a burst of color to your décor for a week or more while a single plants blooming cycle can continue for a month or more.

            Christmas cacti or Schlumbergera russelliana are not true cacti so they will not tolerate totally dry conditions for long periods of time. These plants are native to Brazil and normally grow up in the trees and thrive on organic materials such as mold and rotting leaves. Since they enjoy the shade of the tropical forest, they will not tolerate direct sun or dry conditions. These plants can last for many years under the right conditions and with a little TLC. When the plants mature, the leaves tend to form a cascading burst of color that looks great in a hanging basket. You can also easily propagate the plants by taking cuttings and planting them directly in a high quality potting soil that is light in texture.
            Christmas cacti are fairly easy to grow in an indoor home atmosphere. They have a great ability top withstand cool temperatures and short periods of dry spells. As easy as it is for these plants to grow, it will take a little extra TLC to get the bountiful flowers that are their trademark. One important factor in the flowering process is to start allowing the soil to dry out between watering cycles as winter approaches. It is also very important to place the plants in an area that will have less then 12 hours of natural or artificial light for at least 6 weeks. Also, it is important to keep the temperature cool during this process. Once you have your flowers started, you can resume your normal watering schedule along with your normal room temperatures.
            As you can see, with a little TLC and some special care, you can have beautiful flowering Christmas cacti year after year without the cost of having to replace your plants every year.
            If you buy Poinsettias for the holidays, one of the most common pest problems you might encounter is a little pest known as a whitefly. If you shake the leaves of the plant and you see little white specs flying around the plant, your poinsettia is infested with whiteflies. Whiteflies are typically very hard to control but with this quick tip, you can avoid dangerous insecticides. You can use a handheld vacuum to get rid of these pests, simply disturb the leaves of the plant (carefully) with one hand while you vacuum the whiteflies away with a sweeping motion around the plant. This process can also be used for other houseplants that might acquire these pests.
            That’s all for this week and I hope you found the content informative and entertaining. I will see you next week with more great gardening tips and information.

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