GardenSmart :: EPISODES :: 2001 show15
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Let's just imagine you lived somewhere else, now I don't mean another city or state, I mean another planet. And imagine what we lived on a planet where there were no trees or shrubs or flowers. Nothing that relied on the sun for energy. Now imagine that you sent a rocket ship to that planet, the third one from the sun and brought back this living organism that was able to change sunlight into a food source. Why it would absolutely amaze everyone. It would be the most incredible find, the most fascinating new living creature ever. And we take it for granted everyday because it happens trillions and trillions and trillions of times every second, whenever photosynthesis is the process that literally changes our waste products, carbon dioxide, and water in the presence of sunlight into food. Specifically, photosynthesis takes 6 Carbon dioxide molecules and 12 water molecules and breaks them apart and turns them into 1 molecule of sugar and 6 molecules of oxygen and 6 molecules of water. Now this happens wherever there is chlorophyll. Typically in the leaves but in young plants it can happen in stems as well. And, as important as photosynthesis is, did you know that scientists still cannot duplicate it in the lab. We know what goes in and what comes out, but not exactly how the whole thing occurs at the cellular level.

Photosynthesis drives the world as we know it! And photosynthesis is determined by how much or how little light is available to the plant. Outdoors, light levels are rarely the limiting factor to plant growth but indoors, the lack of light can be a serious concern.

You see every plant has an optimum amount of light that it can use. And a number of our houseplants are plants that grow in full sun but have the ability to adapt to much lower light levels. This Ficus benjamina or Weeping fig is a good example of a tree that grows 50-60 feet tall in many tropical parts of the world and thrives in full sun.

A mistake we often make with our houseplants, is if a plant is not growing or propering in an indoor situation, it must be hungry for fertilizer. That's perfectly incorrect. The notion that plant food is a source of energy is really a problem for our indoor plants (Label of fertilizer) Fertilizer does not supply energy to the plant, that comes from light. Light is what limits our houseplants from growing, not fertilizer or water. In fact, I read where the average life expectancy for a typical indoor plant was 6 months. The reason most houseplants die is that they receive much too little light and therefore, too much water or fertilizer. Indoor lighting like these fluorescent lights help a bit but let me show you the difference between light levels indoors and outdoors. I think it will really amaze you. This is a light meter ( a great tool if you are serious about indoor gardening) In a typical indoor room we have about 50 footcandles of light. A footcandle is one way in which we measure quantity of light. One footcandle equals the amount of light one candle gives off, one foot away. Now go outside, even in the shade and we see we have 5000 footcandles of light. The difference is staggering! Imagine if you were living off of 5000 calories of food everyday and then had to start trying to exist on 50. That's why indoor plants do not do so well. So stop watering your indoor plants. Stop fertilizing them unless you are seeing a great deal of growth. They are fed enormous amount of fertilizer at the nursery and just don't need it in an indoor environment for several years if then. Try to give your plant more light, move it closer to the window, take it outdoors, put it somewhere the lights are on more often. You'll have much more success with your indoor plants if you remember that energy comes from light not fertilizer.

Gardeners Dictionary - Annuals, Perennials and Biennials

Annuals grow from seeds planted every year.
Perennials grow each year from roots in the ground.
Biennials require two seasons to flower or fruit.

Propagating Ferns

Have you ever wondered how ferns get started. Well it's not from seed. Take a look under a mature fern leaf and you'll see hundreds of tiny reddish brown bumps. Often they are mistaken for bugs. Believe me there has been more than one fern taken back to the store because of these little dots. In reality, they are SORI and they contain thousands of fern spores.

Let me show you a way to propagate your own ferns from spores. First, you'll need a mature fern frond (not a leaf but a frond) and you can use any type of fern you choose.

Now, you'll also need a brick and a saucer without holes in it. Place the brick in the saucer and pour boiling hot water over it. This sterilizes the brick and kills any existing bacteria or fungus on the brick. Now you want to keep about an inch of water in the bottom of the saucer so that the water can be wicked up by the brick and it will keep it slightly moist, creating a perfect environment for the germinating spores.

Take the fern frond and on a piece of white paper, gently tap the frond. If the sori are mature a yellow or brown colored dust will land on the paper. These are the fern spores and you can now take them and gently dust the brick. Best to do this indoors or where there is no wind.

Within 2-6 weeks you will see a velvet green covering the brick. It looks a bit like algae but if you look close you will see hundreds of very tiny heart-shaped leaves on very short stems. These are NOT baby ferns but prothalli, which are the predecessors of ferns. The prothalli will fertilize one another and then growing on the brick will emerge baby ferns and you can gently tease them off the brick into a container and grow them out until they are ready to put in the garden.

Let me emphasize that you use good potting soil. How do you know if you've got good potting soil. Well don't be deceived by color. That black dark earth you can buy from the garden center may look great but looks ain't everything. Soil texture is as important esp. if you are growing in a container. This good looking soil which is very inexpensive is much too fine textured. It is full of sand and very small organic particles and as a result, will drain very poorly.

Sprouting Dahlias

Dahlias are a favorite summertime plant. We plant them in the spring
from a Tuber. They are easy to propagate and it is easier to do after
they have been planted. Make cuttings approximately 3"-4" long, strip
the bottom leaves, put into a rooting box filled with Perlite, cover and
put outside in a shady place for about 3 weeks. At that point the
cutting should have roots and the new plant should be ready to plant in
your garden.


If you are looking for a large background or screening type plant esp. in the summer months, take a look at Vitex agnus-castus. Common name is Chaste tree. Handsome divided foliage, slightly aromatic fan shaped leaves 5-7 grayish green above, gray beneath. Dr. Rick introduces us to Vitex. It is a large screening plant with coarse texture foliage. It has beautiful blue blooms, is somewhat fragrant and drought tolerant.

Yellow Jackets

Several summers ago, I was weed-eating a strip of grass and was attacked by a swarm of yellow jacket As far as I could tell, I wasn't doing anything that would provoke an attack. I suppose that if a weedeater bigger than your house started buzzing around your front door, you'd become a little agitated as well. Let me tell you, they sting painfully and believe it or not, unlike bees, they can sting repeatedly. About the only good thing one can say about yellow jackets is that they are predators of cabbageworms and some other smaller caterpillars . I suppose they help pollinate crops somewhat but otherwise their sting is something that you'll never forget.

Eastern Yellow Jackets are the most famous wasp we have here in the south. Their Scientific name is Vespula maculifrons . They're about 5/8" long and have long yellow and black stripes. They're pesky because they are particularly fond of sweets and meat. You'll often find them hanging around picnic tables and garbage cans If you're bothered by them at an outdoor event because they are attracted to sugar, try sugar-free soft drinks as a way to keep them from pursuing the soda in your can.

Yellow jackets are ground dwellers building a nest under rocks or in dry ground. The entrance is about 1" across and you can see them coming in and out of the entrance all day long. If you suspect you have them in your yard, don't walk around barefoot, don't empty the trash in the middle of the day They're not active at night, in fact that's the best time to get them just sneak up on the mound and use a jet-spray wasp control product according to directions.

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GardenSMART Featured Article

By Heirloom Roses
Photographs courtesy of Heirloom Roses

In many areas of the country this is an excellent time to prune roses. Although rose pruning may seems daunting, it’s not hard to learn and the results are well worth the effort. For an informative article on rose pruning, click here .

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