Plant Parenting: Use Coir to Increase Humidity for Seeds

June 10, 2020

Maintaining proper moisture is key to successful germination and healthy seedlings. The growing media should always be damp to the touch, like a wrung-out sponge. Never let it dry out, but don't let it stay too soggy either.

A new seeding of peas topped with coir.
PC: Leslie F. Halleck

One trick to maintaining even moisture as seeds germinate and keep the surface of the soil from drying out is to sprinkle a thin layer of a material such as coir or vermiculite on top of the soil. I prefer to use coir. These materials will hold additional moisture, which can help prevent your seeds from drying out before they germinate.

Coir after it has been rehydrated.
PC: Leslie F. Halleck

Coir is a lightweight material made from the byproduct of coconut husks. It absorbs and holds water, while aerating the soil. Coir typically comes in a compressed block that you soak in water to rehydrate. After it soaks up water, coir becomes light and fluffy.

Plant Parenting: Thinning Out Seedlings

June 10, 2020

Once your seeds have germinated, it is time to thin their numbers. This part can be tough—no one wants to kill the seedlings they just grew.

When too many seeds germinate too closely together, the seedlings can struggle. It is tempting to let them all continue to grow, but your seedlings will be better off if you cull the weakest ones. More than one seedling per cell causes too much shading and resource competition, resulting in weaker seedlings overall.

If multiple seeds germinate in the same cell, keep the strongest and snip off the extras.
PC: Leslie F. Halleck

After your seeds have sprouted, choose the strongest, stockiest seedling in each cell and snip the remaining seedlings at the base. Throw the excess seedlings on your salad or feed them to any critters that would appreciate some greens.

Plant Parenting: Herb Stem-Tip Cuttings

June 8, 2020

When it comes to plant cloning, you'll probably take more stem cuttings than any other type. Herbs are a fantastic place to start multiplying your outdoor garden this spring as they are easy and quick to root by stem-tip cuttings.

Tip cuttings of oregano, watercress, lavender, thyme, rosemary, and a different variety of oregano.
PC: Leslie F. Halleck

Above, I used small short snips to remove a 2-inch section that contains two or three nodes along the stem. Each of these herbs will typically root directly in water, if I choose not to root them in a growing media. Make sure to remove any leaves that will be below the water or soil line.

I used a porcelain sprouting plate to keep cuttings from falling into water.
PC: Leslie F. Halleck

Don't overcrowd your cuttings. While you must maintain humidity around the cuttings during rooting, they also need good air circulation. Rooting media should be kept moist, but not soggy.

Herb stem-tip cuttings stuck in rockwool.
PC: Leslie F. Halleck

Herb tip cuttings can also be rooted in a lightweight growing media. Dip cutting in rooting hormone before sticking them. And be patient: while most herbs root relatively quickly, you will find that different plants will require more time than others.

Plant Parenting: How to Know When to Transplant

June 8, 2020

Two common mistakes that new plant propagators make include transplanting young seedlings or clones before they've developed a large enough root system -- or waiting too long to transplant. If you’re not sure how to gauge when a young plant is ready for transplanting to a larger container, the root system will tell you.

These tomato seedling shave started developing their first set of true leaves. Time to check their root growth!
PC: Leslie F. Halleck

After gently removing two plugs from the growing tray, I can see that the tomato seedling on the left has rooted completely to the bottom of the cell and is ready for transplanting. The plug on the right belongs to a slower-growing dwarf variety; its root system hasn’t quite filled the entire plug and some soil has fallen away when I removed it.

PC: Leslie F. Halleck

If you transplant too soon, you risk failure,since the root system isn't big enough to handle the disruption or a bigger pot with more soil.

Waiting too long may stunt the plant & they may not recover.

Plant Parenting: Crops Vary in Days-to-Harvest

June 3, 2020

Are you wondering when to start seeding your spring & summer vegetables? For all crops, you have to take the days-to-harvest into consideration.

Days-to-harvest varies, depending on whether you direct seed or transplant your edible crops.
PC: Leslie F. Halleck

The number of days-to-harvest can vary significantly, depending on whether you direct seed a crop into the garden or first grow a transplant. If you direct seed your crop into the garden or the container in which it will grow indoors, the days-to-harvest number on the seed packet is calculated from the date of germination.

For tomatoes, days-to-harvest start once they are planted into the garden.
PC: Leslie F. Halleck

Tropical crops, such as eggplant, peppers, and tomatoes, are typically started early indoors as transplants, allowing for bigger plants in the outdoor garden once temperatures are appropriate. For these crops, the days-to-harvest is counted from the date they are transplanted into their final container or outdoor garden location.

This is why you see southern gardeners starting their tomato seeds seeds indoors in January.

Texas: Lawn & Garden Tax Holiday!

May 1, 2020

Lawn & Garden Tax Holi​day ​Memorial Day Weekend 2020

Saturday, May 23 - Monday, May 25, 2020

The Lawn & Garden Tax Holiday was created in 2016 to encourage responsible water use in Texas. Over Memorial Day Weekend, retailers can sell select water saving products without charging sales tax (includes all plants & more). Below is a list of the items that qualify for the sales tax exemption:

Picture WaterSense Products During Memorial Day Weekend, retailers do not need to charge sales tax on any product tax free that displays a WaterSense label or logo. These items can be bought for either personal or business purposes.

Water-Conserving Products

Consumers can also purchase certain water-conserving products tax free. Unlike WaterSense-labeled items, these items are only exempt when purchased for use at a residential property.

Items are tax free during the holiday that are used or planted for:

  • conserving or retaining groundwater;
  • recharging water tables; or
  • decreasing ambient air temperature, and so limiting water evaporation

Examples of items that qualify for the exemption include:

  • a soaker or drip-irrigation hose
  • a moisture control for a sprinkler or irrigation system
  • mulch
  • a rain barrel or an alternative rain and moisture collection system
  • a permeable ground cover surface that allows water to reach underground basins, aquifers or water collection points
  • all plants, trees and grasses
  • water-saving surfactants
  • soil and compost

Examples of items that do not qualify for the exemption include:

  • construction/building materials
  • awnings and other items used to create shade
  • air conditioners
  • ceiling fans
  • sprinklers

Plant a Container Victory Garden 2.0

April 16, 2020

This post is provided as an educational/inspirational service of the National Garden Bureau and their members. See original post here:

Grow a Container Victory Garden? Yes, You Can!

James H. Burdett did not address container growing in The Victory Garden Manual, but times were different in 1943. Today, growing edibles in containers is probably one of the fastest emerging trends we are seeing. Plus, with vegetable breeders working on more compact varieties, your choices for what to grow in a confined space are countless.

Ten Tips for Growing a Container Victory Garden 2.0:

1. Don’t underestimate the size of container needed for growing some vegetables.

Bigger is almost always better, but with larger containers comes a need for more soil and thus weight becomes a consideration, especially if you plan to move your containers often. Drainage is very important in a container as is soil depth. Good guidelines for choosing containers are provided in this article. For some additional vegetable container guidelines, this article will help.

2. Just as with in-ground plantings, you need enough sunlight.

Containers need 6-8 hours of sun per day to produce, but unlike in-ground plantings, you can move containers around to get more sunlight. Consider using containers with wheels, or otherwise easily movable containers, so they can receive enough sunlight.

3. What about wind? Are you on a corner balcony of a tall high-rise?

Think about how the wind might impact fragile plants or even topple the containers. Consider clusters of containers. Not only is it aesthetically pleasing, with plants providing some needed humidity for their neighbors, but also some plants can protect other plants from wind.

4. Vining crops need trellises

not only for support but also to grow upwards, saving horizontal space which might be at a premium.

5. Soilless potting mixes are great for containers, providing good drainage with less weight (less chance of soil compaction).

The larger the container, the more potting mix you’ll need which means less frequent watering.

6. Consider drip irrigation or self-watering containers depending on your availability to water frequently enough.

Container gardens do require more frequent watering (sometimes multiple times each day if it’s hot and dry) than in-ground plantings.

7. Proper fertilization is more important for container plantings.

More frequent watering can wash out some of the nutrients a plant needs to produce vegetables.

8. As with in-ground plantings: Know your zone and know your last frost date…

without that knowledge, you are setting yourself up for disappointment.

9. Think combinations!

Why not plant basil with a tomato plant? Or put beans with carrots? Spinach and onions work well together too. Some vegetables are pretty enough to be front and center and act like ornamentals!

To make it even easier, many suppliers and garden centers have searchable options for varieties that grow well in containers. Here are a few:

    1. All-America Selections
    2. Johnny’s Selected Seeds
    3. Burpee
    4. GardenTrends/Harris Seeds
    5. Park Seed
    6. Territorial Seed
    7. True Leaf Market
    8. West Coast Seeds

10. And last, but not least, don’t forget to plant some flowers for pollinators!

Flowers that attract bees are good and necessary no matter how or where you plant your vegetable garden.

Note: Currently there is a very high interest in gardening. Please be aware that many online suppliers are experiencing extremely high demand. Thus, there may be shipping delays and inventory shortages. Please be understanding and supportive during these strange times of uncertainty.

SUCCULENTS: Little Prince of Oregon Plant Unboxing!

March 31, 2020

Unboxing: Succulents for Your Indoor Garden

If you know me, you know I'm a big fan of tiny plants and unusual succulents, and am always on the hunt for new plants to collect. With many of you sheltering in place right now and spending a lot of extra time with your gardens and houseplants, I thought now would be a great time to share one of my favorite online retailers of unique plants.

I recently received a box of amazing Petite Prince succulents (some in their Plant Poppers line) from Little Prince of Oregon Nursery and wanted to share some of the amazing tiny plants they sent me. I'm often asked which type of succulents can be grown indoors with lower light levels, so I in the video I thought I'd share some of the plants I received that are perfect for beginners or indoor gardeners without a lot of space, specifically species and varieties of Haworthia.

At the end of my video I list all of the species Little Prince included in my box, and below I've added photos and descriptions of the species they currently have available at their retail shop. There were a few species I received that they don't quite yet have available, so I'll include those on a future post once they are ready!

Available Plants Included in my Unboxing

Click on the images of each plant if you want to visit the Little Prince retail shop!

Haworthia chloracantha var. denticulifera

So, I believe the current accepted botanical name for this plant is Haworthia chloracantha var. denticulifera - however it may be sold under the synonym Haworthia angustifolia or Haworthia angustifolia var. denticulifera (but I understand these to be older now synonyms - if you ave updated info on this please let me know!)

is an easy-to-grow haworthia featuring adorable, narrow, lanceolate leaves in a dense clump. I love this species because it looks fairly different from many other Haworthia. Tiny and compact for tiny pots! Low to Medium light.

Alligator Plant, Haworthia tessellata

Haworthia tessellata is an interesting, star-like rosette of thick, rough, green succulent leaves with distinct veining that looks oddly like alligator skin. In full sun the tough leaves will turn brownish-red in color. I absolutely love the striking leaf pattern on this species and it can be kept in truly tiny pots. Low to Medium Light.

Thimble Cactus, Mammillaria gracilis fragilis

This adorable, compact-growing cactus, nicknamed Thimble Cactus, features bright green cylindrical offsets each with a network of white spines. The offsets have a tendency to roll off, so handle with care. In fact, you won't always find this species shipped from online sources because it's so delicate (hence the subspecies fragilis). You need bright light for this cactus so place it under grow lights.

Echeveria globulosa

Echeveria globulosa is an adorable succulent with tiny, chunky, pointed leaves growing in a dense rosette. SO PHAT. New growth will emerge lime green and upright, but mature to blue-green and more outward-facing. Medium to bright light.

Echeveria chihuahensis

Echeveria chihuahensis features chunky, scalloped, bluish-gray succulent leaves with pink margins and tips in a rosette. The pink color intensifies when the plant is joyfully stressed. A really beautiful and colorful tiny specimen for medium to bright light.

Haworthia ‘Universe’

This form of Haworthia features thin, upward turned lanceolate leaves with white spots and ribs. Provide a well-drained soil away from reflected heat. Once established, water infrequently during the hot season. Fabulous foliage contrast and texture. Low to Medium Light.

Fairy Washboard, Haworthia limifolia

Nicknamed Fairy Washboard for its characteristic white, raised ridges, Haworthia limifolia is sure to impress! Features dramatically whorled, outward growing leaves. Haworthia is a small, slow-growing, low maintenance plant. Low to Medium light.

Leatherpetal, Echeveria rusbyi

Echeveria rusbyi, also called Leatherpetal, features adorable rosettes with dusty pinkish brown to blue-green leaves. Will grow in a tight cluster of rosettes. Displays white to yellow, star-shaped flowers with red banding. Medium to Bright light.

Zebra Plant, Haworthia ‘Superfasciata’

Haworthia ‘Superfasciata' is a s temless, clustering succulent with green pointed leaves wearing white spots. A small, slow-growing, low maintenance plant. It will bloom in summer with small white flowers. Provide a well-drained soil away from reflected heat.Low to Medium light.

Haworthia herbacea

Haworthia herbacea is a slow growing succulent featuring yellowish-green foliage with firm, hairy spines and glassy white edges. Pointed leaves curve upwards in a dense rosette that is low to the ground. It will bloom in summer with creamy-white flowers with pink tips. Low to Medium Light.

Sedeveria ‘Blue Elf’

Sedeveria ‘Blue Elf (Sedum x Echeveria) is a wonderful hybrid succulent known for its pastel colors and repeating blooms. The rosettes feature pointed, blue-green succulent leaves flushed with pink. Displays an explosion of bright, yellow, star-shaped flowers on a thin stalks. Medium to Bright light.

Haworthia ‘Super Big Band’

Stemless, clustering succulent with green pointed leaves wearing white spots. A small, slow-growing, low maintenance plant. It will bloom in summer with small white flowers. Provide a well-drained soil away. Low to Medium light.

Calico Hearts Plant, Adromischus rupicola

Look at these chubby, speckled leaves! Adorbs! (Kinda reminds us of a frog.) Adromischus rupicola, aka Calico Hearts Plant is a dwarf, succulent shrublet that grows up to 3 inches tall. If you are lucky enough to get a bloom, the flowers are pale yellow and sit upon a tall fluorescence. Medium to Bright light.

Echeveria graptopetalum filiferum

SO PRETTY...Echeveria graptopetalum filiferum is a gorgeous rosette with a delicate, fine red filament that tips each leaf. A small, slow-growing, low maintenance plant. Provide a well-drained soil away. Low to Medium light.

Little Prince or Oregon did not pay to sponsor this post or my video. I do have affiliate links with them for their retail shop. I just happen to love them and they are super nice people - and they have fab plants!

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