Blog posts categorized as: Indoor Growing

Succulent Cuttings

Oct 7, 2017

Fall and winter are seasons that compel me to make more plants...be it by seeds or vegetative cuttings. Succulents are some of the easiest plants to propagate; all you need is one leaf and you can generate new plantlets.

I was gifted this lovely pile of echeveria "muffin tops" that were left over from some wedding floral arrangements. There's no need for them to go to waste, they can be rooted as brand new plants!

If you turn over the succulent tops, you'll see a stub leftover from the original stem. This section of stem can generate new roots. You want to let the cuttings dry, or cure, for a bit before you set the tops in new soil. Once they've begun to seal over, you can simply take the tops and set them on top of some potting soil in a tray or a new pot, making sure that the base/stem section is in contact with the soil (it doesn't need to be buried much). You can add a little moisture to the soil, but do not keep it wet or your succulents will rot before they root. Within a week or two, new roots will begin to develop from the base of the stem.

As I mentioned before, you can also grow new succulents from a leaf. When leaves fall naturally from a succulent, they can develop new roots from the base of the leaf tissue, and generate a new plantlet, as you can see in the photo above. So cute! All you need to do is set the leaf on top of soil, you don't need to bury it.

If you remove a leaf from a succulent to root it, make sure the entire original base of the leaf structure is intact, not broken or cracked. Again, it's best to let the leaves sit out to dry/cure a bit so the exposed leaf base isn't wet when you set it on top of the soil.

Making more plants? Always a good idea!

Collecting & Saving Seeds

Oct 6, 2017

It just so happens that as I'm working on my new book on plant propagation, it's also the perfect time to collect and save seeds. During the fall season many plants form their final seed heads that are prime for the picking. Sowing seeds is one of the simplest and most inexpensive ways to grow more of the plants you love. But if you don't pay attention to the garden right now, you may miss out on collecting some of your favorites.


Orange Cosmos Flower and Seeds

Some plants are prolific seeders, such as orange cosmos; one of my favorite orange annual flowers. Right now plants are absolutely covered in mature seeds ready for the taking.

Plants I'm collecting seed from in my garden right now:

  • Cosmos
  • Tassel Flower
  • Clematis
  • Basil
  • Tomatoes
  • Peppers
  • Garlic Chives
  • Borage
  • Malabar Spinach
  • and more...


Orange Tassel Flower - flowers and seed heads

When collecting seeds it's best to allow seeds to mature and dry completely on the plant (unless of course you're harvesting tomato seeds, which are wet seeds that benefit from fermentation prior to storage). Keep your seeds in a dry sealed container. You can keep non-tropical seeds in the refrigerator to preserve them longer, but they must be kept dry in a sealed water-tight container. Be sure to mark your seed container with the date you collected the seeds, as over time germination rates wil decline.

So, if you want to collect seeds, now is a great time to look around your landscape for freebies!

Book Update: Gardening Under Lights

Sep 11, 2017

It has been a whirlwind the last few months with speaking engagements around the country and finishing up my book edits. Gardening Under Lights is geared towards new and experienced gardeners & growers (even industry folks) who want to learn about grow lighting and gear, extending their growing seasons, and growing all sorts of edibles and ornamentals indoors.

The book is now heading into art production and layout. Start looking for promotion and pre-ordering on Amazon this winter with release date the spring of 2018. Kindle pre-ordering is already up on Amazon. Woo! You are getting a sneak peek of the cover, which could still change slightly before pre-order. I'll update you here on any updates once finalized.

Gardening Under Lights details everything a gardener or hobbyist needs to know to garden indoors. Part One starts with the basics of photosynthesis, the science of light, and how to accurately measure how much light a plant needs. Part Two provides an overview of the most up-to-date tools and gear available. Parts Three and Four offer tips and techniques for growing popular ornamental plants (orchids, succulents, bonsai, and more) and edible plants (arugula, cannabis, oregano, tomatoes, and more) independent of the constraints of volatile outdoor conditions. Gardening Under Lights is a highly-detailed, accessible guide for seed starters, plant collectors, and anyone who wants to successfully garden

And new news, I just singed on for another book with Timber Press, tentatively titled  Propagation, Simplified, set for release in spring 2019. Stay tuned for details.

Too Hot? Bring the Garden Indoors

Jul 5, 2017

It’s too dang hot outside. I don’t blame you if you want nothing to do with your outdoor garden at the moment. So why not take a break from the heat and focus your green thumb on your indoor garden? Now is a great time to refresh the indoors with some easy-care houseplants. Here are a few of my favorites for brown-thumbs and small spaces:

ZZ Plant: Short for Zamioculcas zamifolia (hence the nickname) is about as forgiving as a houseplant can be. ZZ plants can be grown in low-light indoors and hold up to rare waterings. If you forget to water or don’t have bright light in your home this one’s for you.

Mother-in-law’s tongue: Sansevieria sp. earned their common name for their sharp, tongue shaped leaves. But it’s their tough-as-nails constitution that makes them the perfect plant for hardcore plant abusers. Again, this plant will tolerate now light conditions and sparse waterings. I once tortured one in my office during grad school just to see how long it could go without water. It made it 9 months before it ever showed the slightest bit of stress.

Chinese evergreen: Aglaonema sp. are easy to care for and new varieties offer up striking foliage colors. The new Aglaonema ‘Red’ sports wide tropical leaves splashed with shades of red and pink. Chinese evergreen will tolerate low-light, dry indoor air and forgetful waterers.

Now is a great time to feed your gardening need, but still stay out of the heat, by freshening up your home or office with a few new houseplant companions.

Grow Tomatoes in Your Closet?

Dec 20, 2016

It's freezing outside. But living without fresh tomatoes? That's just not an acceptible condition. So this underused closet in my home is now a tomato growing closet!

This 3 x 3 closet is now fitted with reflective film, to maximize light delivery, as well as a Sun System dual watt digital ballas light fixture, which operates both High Pressure SodiHium (HPS) lamps and Metal Halide (MH) lamps. The 250 watt HPS lamp currently in the fixture provides the light spectrum necessary for good fruiting. The young vegetative seedlings, however, are grown under a "cooler" spectrum of light using high output flourescent lamps.

What are you Modern Homesteaders growing in your closet?

Indoor lettuce

Dec 18, 2016

Salad greens are one of the easiest crops you can grow both indoors and out. While lettuces are a cool season crop for those of us in southern parts of the country (hot summers, mild winters but with freezes), and you can start lettuce outdoors in the fall to grow through winter. But by the time December rolls around, temperatures can get too cold for good lettuce seed germination. So seeding lettuce indoors during winter is a great way to keep your harvest growing.

To speed up germination, use a humidity dome and a seedling heat mat to get things moving. Then set your lettuce seedlings under grow lights once they germinate. High Outpot T5 flourescent lamps are great for growing lettuce and other vegetative crops.

It's important to know that lettuce seeds need light to germinate, so don't bury them under the soil when you sow them.

You can sow lettuce seeds into seed plugs or 4" pots. Always drop 2-3 seeds in just in case one or two don't germinate. Thin out extra seedlings after germination.

One of my favorite varieties? 'Black Seeded Simpson'.

Worms on the Ferns!

Sep 16, 2016

Growing plants indoors, be they low-light houseplants, or flowering and fruiting plants you're growing under plant lights, doesn't mean you're going to be free of the kinds of pests and diseases you have to deal with in the outdoor garden. In fact, it's often the assumption of new indoor gardeners that they won't have to deal with any pests, and they're often surprised when pests become one of their first challenges.


Can you see that dark colored caterpillar munching on my little ferns? Drat!!

The reality is that most plants you bring into your home probably bring a few hitchhikers along with them. A seemlingly healthy and attractive plant you purchase and bring home may all of a sudden appear less than healthy. There may also be "evidence" of the critters doing damage.


See all those little "balls"? That's frass; a nice word for pest poop!

Recently, I added some small fern plugs to my Ambienta plant grow lamps. Shortly thereafter, they didn't seem to be looking their best, and I noticed frass (poop -those little pellets you see in the photo) collecting around the bottom of the plants. Yep, they've got worms! Most likely the eggs, or even tiny caterpillars, were hitchiking on the plants, and got to work munching away and growing after I planted the ferns. Caterpillers that chew on plants tend to munch either during the night or day, then retreat back under the soil, or to the center of the plant - making it hard for you to spot them right away. So, you have to look for the frass.

Picking off the caterpillars is the first step to controlling them, as that will help remove most of the critters doing most of the immediate damage. Then, I'll spray these little ferns with a solution of Thuricide (Bt), an organic larvacide that will kill the up and coming caterpillars as they munch on the foliage.

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