Heirloom Seeds and Plants

Heirloom Seeds and Plants and Cultivars Heirlooms handed down from generation to generation is a time-honored custom in families to keep the history and people from the past alive in the present. Bits of times gone by can be seen in the pieces that have been around for many years. The same is true of ‘heirloom plants’, or cultivars that were grown many years ago before the age of commercialized farming. There are many debates over what specifically defines plants or seedlings as heirlooms. The common feature in all is that they are seedlings from plants that originated many years ago and have reproduced naturally through open pollination. Heirloom Seeds Some people place an age limit on originating cultivars, usually placing them between 100 and 50 years old. Some are handed down from generation to generation in families, such as garden items or prize-winning rose-bushes. There are also seedlings that were discontinued for commercial use and have been saved for special distribution. Each heirloom, by whichever definition is considered, has a major component in common, which is they are all products of open or natural pollination. This keeps the plant true to its original cultivar, some of which are said to go back hundreds of years. Those who swear by heirloom plants and vegetables are vigilant advocates for its superior quality and appearance. Heirloom plants and vegetables have also provided continuations of plants that may have died out years ago due to the hybrids that became popular for commercial food production in the last forty years. Why Heirloom Seeds and Plants? Why Heirlooms? One may ask why heirloom plants are so important to gardeners. For many, it is the idea of continuing cultivars from times past to literally taste a simpler time. As the years have passed, fewer families save starter plants to be passed on from each generation to the next. The idea of keeping the same plant going for potentially hundreds of years encourages the concept of keeping history alive. There is a sense of family connection when looking at plants growing in the garden that got their start many years ago with the loving touch of a treasured grandmother or aunt. Another aspect that attracts many gardeners to heirloom plants is the strongly held belief that the lushness of the flowers or the superior quality of the vegetable is due to starting from seedlings begun many years ago. If it is grown in the same type of soil, the plant adapts to the environment around it with greater ease than hybrids which change from year to year. This increases its durability and resistance to pests and other conditions which can cause plants to falter. Most importantly, heirloom plants allow the continued production of seedlings that might otherwise die out. To increase the productivity of plants, many hybrids have been developed. Hybrids do not reproduce exactly from seeds that are saved as heirloom plants will do if properly cultivated. Saving seed from heirlooms and continuing their production will in turn allow plants and vegetables that would otherwise be in danger of dying out. How To Obtain Heirloom Seeds and Plants The easiest way of course to obtain the seeds for heirloom plants is to save them from ones you have already grown. It is extremely important to choose only the healthiest heirlooms to pick over for seed. They should always be put in clearly marked packaging so that the varieties of vegetables will not get mixed up. It is essential to grow the same heirloom varieties together rather than mixing them up. Seeds can be saved for up to five years if stored properly in a cool, dry place. “Indian” Corn The ways to obtain the seeds from the plants themselves vary depending on the species. Beans are left to dry at room temperature, whereas other plants such as tomatoes require some extra preparation. Tomato seeds need to be scooped out, insides and all, and left to sit in a small amount of water for several days until a fine layer of mold appears. Once this happens, the seeds can be cleaned off and laid out to dry.   Another way to obtain seeds if you don’t have the heirlooms available to work from is going to a seed swap. This may require some looking around, but many gardeners are willing to share the excess seeds and plants they have cultivated. Getting together with others who are planting heirlooms will not only add variety to your garden, it will put you in touch with others who are cultivating generational plants and vegetables. Community gardening is something that helped build this country to...

How to Make Compost Naturally

Learn How to Make Compost Compost not only recycles garbage to where it has benefits, it gives the soil the healthy bacteria and nutrients that it needs. Best of all, making compost isn’t difficult to do – it simply requires a little patience and diligence. Anyone who grows their own food knows that it all starts with the soil and the nutrients it gets. There are many commercially prepared fertilizers, but most organic farmers and gardeners prefer using natural compost. Naturally made, especially if it is on-site, compost is very beneficial for organic gardening whether it is large scale commercial, a family business or just as a ‘back yard’ hobby. What is Compost? Compost in and of itself should have three components that make it up: water, “green” waste (vegetable and fruit scraps, coffee grounds, lawn clippings, etc.) and “brown” waste (tree branched, twigs and dried leaves). “Green” waste provides nitrogen and “brown waste” provides carbon, two essentials in healthy soil. The water keeps the whole thing moist and easily broken down absorbed by the garden soil bedding. How is Compost Created? Compost piles do not happen overnight. This is something that needs to be started a few weeks to a few months ahead of time at the very least. Some compost piles are left to develop for as long as two years. There is no set way to have a compost pile or bin, although the indoor bins will produce faster results. Compost Methods One method for getting a compost pile started in your back yard is to find a shady spot and chop the brown and green waste into smaller bits as it is collected, moistening with water periodically. It is also a good idea to have a backyard compost pile near a water source. Once the pile has gotten going, then the grass clippings and fruit and vegetable waste as well as other strictly green waste materials can be added and buried ten inches below the original pile. This pile can be left for up to two years and is ready in generally two months or when the green waste added and buried is a dark color. A tarp can be placed on top to seal it, but that isn’t required. Another method for outdoor backyard composting also requires a shady spot that is preferably near a water source. Chop the waste into smaller bits as in the first method and cover the bottom with a layer of brown waste approximately six inches in depth. Then place a three inch layer of green waste along with a bit of dirt or finished compost material, and mix them up a little bit. After it is mixed, add another three inches of brown waste and moisten with water. With a pitchfork turn the mixture over every couple of weeks or so, making sure the dry materials are moved toward the middle. Do this for up to four months, depending on the size of the pile, and when it is completed, let sit for a couple of weeks before using. Indoor Compost Bins Some people prefer to make indoor bins that can be kept going year round. This is also a good method for people who do not have the room in the yard to keep one. To make an indoor compost bin, first get a large, clean, plastic garbage can. Drill some holes for ventilation, about 1/2 inch in diameter, at the bottom of the can as well as the sides. Take a slightly larger garbage can and put a brick in the bottom along with some soil and bits of wood. The smaller can should then be placed inside the larger one, seated firmly on the brick. The larger can should have some form of insulation wrapped around it tightly and a lid should be kept on top once the compost materials are added. The insulation will keep the compost warm as well as prevent odors and bacteria from building up. What Can Be Added to a Compost Pile? There are many things that can be added to a compost pile, however it is important to note that many are not. Some of the things that are acceptable to add are; Bits of newspaper or clean paper  Coffee grounds (including filter)  Grass clippings  Human and animal hair clippings  Ashes from the fireplace  Leaves from houseplants or outside  Vegetables  Fruits  Sawdust  Shells from nuts  Tea bags  Hay  Straw  Rags made out of wool or cotton  Lint from the dryer or vacuum  Eggshells  Cardboard  Wood chips and most trimmings from the yard Worms and castings from developed worm farms or worm composters are also...

The Jade Plant

Jade Plants are very common in homes due to the fact they are super easy to care for. They are a native of South Africa. The leaves on these plants kind of look leathery with a glossy look to them. The leaves are thick and have a woody stem to them. Jade The best temperatures for these plants are just normal indoor temps but they do not like high humidity. They like the temps at night time to be around 50 to 55 degrees and during the days 75 to 80 degrees. They can survive in temps as low as 40 but it is not a very good idea to let them get that cool. Jade Plant Pests Jade Plants seem to attract mealy bugs and mites, so if you are growing these plants indoors just keep an eye out for these pests. If your Jade Plant starts to get these pests on them the best way to get rid of them is to spray the leaves and stems down with a soapy dish water at least twice a day until you no longer see these pests on your beautiful Jade plant. Jade Plants and Lighting The lighting that is needed for them is medium to bright light. Placing them in front of a window that gets about 4 hours of direct or filtered sun light. But keep in mind that if it is placed in direct strong sun light the edges of the leaves will turn reddish leaving a red border around the leaves. In less direct sun the leaves will be a dark green and will look more healthy. So place them about 3 or 4 inches away from a window because the glass reacts as a magnifier, making the sun rays hotter on the plant. The redness is a sign of the plant getting scorched. Jade Plant Water Requirements The Jade Plants are part of the Crassula family meaning that they are a succulent. Succulent plants do not need that much water because they store it with in their leaves. When watering these plants let the soil in the pot dry out but do not let it get too dry. If it starts to get dusty then this means it is too dry. Also another tell-tale sign that your plant is not getting enough water is that its plump leaves will start to wither and wrinkle up somewhat. During the winter months there is not as much of a need to water them for they start to go dormant somewhat. Less watering during this time will prevent root rot as well as leaves falling off. Jade Plant Soil Requirements Jade The soil needs to be the type that drains fast. The perfect recipe for these plants is one third coarse sand,  one third peat moss and then a third perlite mixed well. This will help the soil from losing all of its moisture and will keep the soil compact to keep the roots in place. The perfect pH for soil is around 6.3. This is what the Jade Plants thrives in the best. Fertilizing Jade Plants Fertilizer with the ratio of 10-20-10 or 5-10-5 is the best for the Jade plants. When fertilizing your Jade use only the liquid fertilizer and mix it a lot weaker than what it says to. They only need to be fertilized every two to three months during the spring and summer months. Do not fertilize them from the months of November all the way through March for this is when they are dormant. Although it is not required unless they get too big for the pot they have been placed in but if you want to re-pot your Jade plant it is best to do this during the spring months when they have new growth on them. Making New Jade Plants Taking the leaves that are still green and laying them on the soil making sure that the bottom end of the leaf is touching the soil just leave them lay there. Within 30 to 60 days that leaf will start to take root and produce you a brand new Jade plant. You can prune your Jade plant when ever you feel the need to and pick off the dead or dying leaves on it. If you have stems that is growing out of control feel free to cut them back to the main stem and if you so desire you can use the leaves of the stems to propagate new plants. This plant can get quite large but there are also dwarf Jade plants that do not get very big, but the same care...

Natural Nitrogen Enrichment in Indoor Garden Soil

An indoor garden can last all year round. An indoor garden can give you a steady supply of beautiful flowers, herbs and can even help to feed the family. Since the garden is indoors, or in a grow box, all of the natural conditions of the outdoors must be recreated as closely as possible for the best results. Soil needs many nutrients to thrive, but three in particular are nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. Of these three, the most important is nitrogen, and while fertilizers are commercially sold that contain the right amounts of these ingredients, they are also not as healthy for the environment as ones that are naturally obtained. Why is Nitrogen Important for Your Indoor Garden? First, what is nitrogen? Quite simply, it is an elemental gas that is odorless and colorless. Nitrogen lives in the air we breathe but equally important, it is a major part of the proteins that are needed for soil to grow plants at maximum potential. There are many commercial fertilizers on the market today that are rich in nitrogen. However, they are also filled with chemicals that the garden doesn’t need and may potentially harm the environment. This is especially important for those who are interested in natural organic gardening. Plants go through a process where sunlight is taken in and combines with the water and carbon dioxide to produce the natural sugars essential to plant growth. Nitrogen contains chlorophyll, which is the compound that makes this process possible. Nitrogen is also a component of the amino acids that make up proteins. These amino acids act as enzymes and also literally “build” the structure of the plant itself. Nitrogen exists in the DNA that makes the plant grow and create other vegetation. Nitrogen often runs off through natural processes and when this happens, it must be replaced. Depletion can occur when plants are removed, or from natural water run-off. For the indoor garden or grow box, the soil has been transplanted from the ground into another environment… one that will deplete it of nitrogen. To add this essential element to the indoor garden soil and plants naturally, there are many things that can organically break down back to the basics and replenish the soil with nitrogen. Too Much Nitrogen? As is often the case, “too much of a good thing” can cause problems for your plants as well so you want to makes sure that a good eye is kept on the plant production in an indoor garden or grow box. When there is an excess of nitrogen producing materials in the soil compost, plants will grow at a speed much faster than they were structured for. This will cause the stalks of the plants to be weakened and reduce the production of any fruits, vegetables, or flowers. Plant leaves that are too brightly colored green can be a warning sign as well. Not Enough Nitrogen? Plants that are not getting enough nitrogen are slow to develop in growth because without the nitrogen to produce the genetic materials, the structure of the plant cannot thrive. Lack of light can cause yellowing of leaves in older plants, and soil that is lacking in nitrogen can cause that same effect. Either scenario can cause a disruption of healthy vegetation, so it is something that should be carefully monitored by checking foliage, stalks, fruits and flowers. How to Increase Nitrogen Levels in Indoor Gardening One way to keep nitrogen levels where they should be is to move the plants to a larger space. Consider buying a bigger grow box if the problem keeps occurring. Another way to regulate the levels of nitrogen is to start at the area that the roots begin growing well below the surface. If there is a worm farm being kept for fertilizing purposes, the worm “tea” or the fluid that comes from the bottom sump bin of the composter is ideal to use. Periodically, this “tea” should be added to the root system and left to enrich the plant with nitrogen and healthy bacteria. Crop residue from decaying plants is one way to add nitrogen to the soil. Whenever the plants from the indoor garden are picked away or pinched, all of the excess scraps should be saved as well as the remains from harvested vegetation. It is important that the plants used have had time to dry out and decay. This breaks down the components and reduces the plant back to its original organic state. This process is known as composting. Legumes such as peanuts and lima beans are good sources of nitrogen once they are broken down to their base material. The...

How to Grow a Dwarf Banana Tree

A banana Tree as a house plant, some would think this was a crazy idea but they are very commonly used on an office desk or window sill or even in a corner decoration. They are not really trees either but they are a large perennial herb that bare edible fruit that are much like the bananas you can buy at a farmers market or store just a bit shorter. These can get as tall as 4 to 7 feet in height and need the same care as the larger banana trees needs. There are different types of Dwarf Banana Trees. I will go into details for different types of these plants. The type that I am about to tell you how to care for is like a Musa the Dwarf Cavendish banana tree Dwarf Banana Tree These Dwarf Banana Trees are just like most bananas trees and likes warm weather in places where the temperature does not get below 65 degrees making the indoors a perfect place for them to thrive on. They like full light but they manage just fine in partly shady areas but they still need to be placed where they can get some sun light and they will still produce fruit but not as much or as large as if it would do in full sun. If you are planting them for decorative foliage then it is best to let them be grown in 30 to about 60 percent shaded areas because the leaves will be more of a darker green and will keep their deep dark colors year around. If you want them for their fruits only then full sun is the best but their leaves will turn slightly yellow baring more fruits. When picking the right pot for your Dwarf Banana Tree take in consideration how big they will get and that they need plenty of room for the roots to spread out. So the bigger the pot the better results you will have with them. You can start them out in a small container but as they grow you will need to keep re-potting them until they are fully grown. Watering is very important to this plant for it is well known for root rot and fungal infection. So make sure that the soil is perfect for them. Soil for them needs to be at a pH balance of 5.5 to about 7.0 and will stay moist but not wet. The root rot and fungal infection will increase ten times if they are over watered or stays wet to long the Dwarf Banana Tree will take well at all to being flooded and will die fast if they are watered to much. The soil needs to be almost dry but still moist before the next watering time for them. If a Dwarf Banana Tree is out doors in full sun they will use allot more water and allow them to dry slightly before re-watering. When growing these out doors they do much better with more water but still do not flood them and do not let them set in soppy water to long. Fertilizer should be applied to your Dwarf Banana Tree at least once a month. The best fertilizer is 8-10-8 and higher in phosphorus and pour it around your plant evenly. With young Dwarf Banana Trees you should mix the fertilizer about a quarter to a third weaker then the directions says to. Give about a quarter to a third of what you would give to a mature Dwarf Banana Tree. Also remember that when pouring liquid fertilizer for your plant, never let it touch the plants leaves or stems. Also pour it as far from the plant as you can. If it touches the plant it will burn it up. This is not just for this plant but for all plants. If you have planted your Dwarf Banana Tree out side and your winter months gets below 28 degrees then it would be best that you plant them in a container so they can be brought indoors for the winter time. If you have mild winters and the night time temps do not get below 28 degrees then they will be fine all that you will have to do is bring some dirt up the around the stalk and maybe wrap a blanket around it which will maintain enough heat to keep it from dying. Even planting them under an eve or on the warmest side of the house can help to shelter them from the frost and keep them getting damaged. Ok as I said there are different types of Dwarf Banana...

Hawaiian Ti Plant

Hawaiian Ti Plant also known as Cordyline spp. The Hawaiian Ti Plant has three commonly known names, Hawaiian Ti, Good Luck Tree and the Red Sister. Although this plant is recognized as being from Hawaii it really is a  Native plant to Australia, Polynesia and Asia. The Hawaiian Ti plant was introduced to the ancient  Hawaiian people from the Polynesian settlers. This plant is a flowering evergreen plant that is a house plant, most people do not realize that it fairs better in houses. These planets likes high humidity and lots of water. Although it can be planted out doors and if so then place it in full sun or at least a place where it can get 4 to 6 hours of sun, if you do place it with in the house place it about 3 to 5 feet away from a  window so it can get sun light but with being in the sun it does not need as much sun light. A Ti Plant is very beautiful with its multi colored leaves although there are some that has solid colored leaves but the most desired ones are those with the multi colored leaves. This plant can reach a height of 3 to 10 feet tall the bigger the pot you place this plant in the bigger it will grow. If you have placed your Ti Plant out doors and the temperature is going to get lower then 60 then you should bring it in because it will die. They do not fare well in low temps. Also spritz your Ti plant with water every day to keep it healthy and looking its best. Planting Your New Ti Plant Pick The perfect location for your plant a place that has good soil and will get at least 4 to 6 hours of well filtered sun light. When picking the right spot make sure that the soil that you planting this in has good drainage. Till the soil up and if needed add in some peat moss and per-lite to the soil if it is heavy hard clay like soil. This will also improve the drainage for your Ti Plant. Make sure that you get rid of all of the grass and weeds that may be with in the location of where the Ti Plant will be planted. These unwanted plants will need to be killed out by bring up the main root systems up, you do not want any other plants taking any nutrients and water from your Ti plant. When digging the hole for your plant make sure to dig it twice the size of its roots after the hole has been dug now place in some of the lose dirt back into the hole packing it down lightly then place you Hawaiian Ti in the hole raking the rest of the dug dirt around it then press down firmly, planting it half way making sure all of the roots are buried and bring the dirt up the stalk some what, right after you have done this down water it and do not be stingy with the water. Always make sure it is moist every day. It is better to water it in the morning and then in the evening so the heat will not evaporate the water. Extra things to keep in mind with this plant on the inside is to keep it away from any hot drafts never place close or near a vent. The watering part is the most important thing to this plant inside or out side. Make sure to keep the soil moist every day but do not flood it just enough to keep it all moist. It is better to add small amounts of water to it daily but you can water it twice a week just make sure to keep an eye on it and not to let it get to dry. Water that is free of chemicals makes the best water. If your leaves begin to fall off then this is telling you that it is not getting enough water. If it starts to turn brown then add very little and very diluted Miracle Grow house plant fertilizer or you can get these sticks for house plants. If using the sticks then place them as far away from you your plant as you can. If you are Using the liquid then make sure to pour it away from the plant not letting any of it touch the leaves or the stalks this will burn your plant up and this is not just for this plant when using fertilizer this is with all plants....

Zamioculcas Zamiifolia the ZZ Plant

Zamioculcas zamiifolia is one of the toughest house plants you could ask for. It can almost survive any type of living conditions. This plant is seen mostly out doors but until recently it has become a very popular house plant. Zamioculcas zamiifolia is in the aroid plant family along with the Aglaonema and Spathiphyllum, Philodendron and the Anthurium plant family’s, although just by the looks of it you would not think that because it looks allot like the Cycad Zamia Furfuracea which also has the name the Cardboard palm. This plant has really thick and fleshy leaves and has such of a glossy look to it that some might think that it was polished. The Zamioculcas Zamiifolia plant thrives on neglect and if you forget to water it, it will not die and hardly ever needs to be fertilized. It does have small flowers that blooms out but are not too attractive. Pests seem not to bother it to much. If pests do get on it this plant seems to be able to get rid of them by itself with out any help from us. Plant these amazing plants in a well balanced soil of one part sand sharp sand at that, one part peat moss and one part per-lite, add this into the soil mixing this well. This will help the soil to drain better and keep in the moister longer. Although they are strong to drought they still need to be watered to keep them looking their best. They are a slow growing plant and can get up to a three foot height span indoors which is taller then how it grows in its native habitat. This plant is native to East Africa. The lighting for this plant really makes no matter but it does like some sun light if it can get it but does not like direct sun light for this will scorch the  leaves. When watering it do not over water it, do not make the soil soggy because this will cause its roots to rot. Let the soil dry out at least two inches deep into the soil before watering it again, but if the soil is dry all the way do not fear it is fine. When humidity is talked about with this plant it can stand what ever humidity it is given so the average indoor humidity will fine with it. Although Fertilize is not really needed but to make it look its best you can use liquid Fertilizer four times a year making sure it is diluted by half as much as the directions say to mix it. Also remember that when pouring the Fertilizer to your plant never let it touch the plants leaves or stems. Also pour it as far from the plant as you can. If it touches the plant it will burn it up. This is not just for this plant but for all plants. You can take the cuttings from your Zamioculcas zamiifolia and propagated more but it takes months for these cuttings to take root and to start to grow. You never have to worry about re-potting these plants. Planting them a smaller pot makes them a perfect home. Although if the plants roots system starts getting to crowed in the pot you may want to re-pot them into a larger one so they will grow some what faster. These plants are also some times thought to be part the snake plants family but are not part of their family. There is only one down side to this plant. CAUTION This plant is very poisonous: all parts of it. It must be kept away from children and all pets. Also it is a good idea to wear gloves when handling this plant or washing your hands thoroughly after you are done with the plant. So this plant can live with very little care. Bring it home shove it a corner and watch it still grow just like it was getting great care. One of the easiest plants to grow in door or out doors. Written by Tasha Slone, Copyright 2011...