What to Know If You’re Planning on Growing Strawberries

153166621Strawberries are a favorite fruit for many. They are relatively easy to grow, and most strawberry plants produce an abundance of fruit each year.

The Life Cycle of a Strawberry Plant

Strawberries start growing between February and June, depending on the region. A lot of strawberries produce runners that have baby plants at the tips. The runners root themselves nearby and stay attached to the central plant. Strawberries then usually take a break from producing during the second half of the summer. Keep your parent plant weeded and lightly watered, and it will grow again in the fall. In September, the plants develop latent buds that grow into flowers the next spring.

How to Care for Your Strawberry Plant

Your strawberry plant should have at least eight hours of direct sun every day. If your area has naturally alkaline soil, grow your strawberries in half-barrels or in another type of large container filled with potting soil. You can also sulk your strawberries in heavy clay.

Space your strawberries 18 inches apart, since they eagerly produce offspring. Some strawberries, like Loran, don’t produce many runners, if any at all, and they can be spaced 6 inches apart instead. Make sure the roots are well covered by soil, and that the central growing bud, otherwise called the crown, is exposed to fresh air and light. Water your strawberries well, and use mulch to keep the plants clean and the soil moist. Your plants will most likely start blooming in early spring, and once bees and other pollinating insects visit the flowers, they will start to set fruit. If you live in a warm, sunny climate, your berries will ripen about 30 days after the blossoms are fertilized.

Troubleshooting

Certain pests, diseases and climate conditions can keep your strawberry plant from thriving.

  • Slugs—If you notice slugs as your fruit ripens, use plastic mulch instead of straw mulch.
  • Fungal diseases—In the summer, you may notice dark spots on your leaves, which is an indication of a fungal disease. Clip or mow your strawberry foliage and rake it away in the summer. This disrupts the life cycle of some strawberry diseases, as well as pests.
  • Birds—Keep robins, brown thrashers, and other pests from stealing your berries by covering the plants with a lightweight bird netting as the berries begin to ripen.
  • Heat and drought—If you have a particularly dry year, the fruit should return to normal size once the weather improves. Also make sure to water your plant well.

Harvesting and Storing

Pick your strawberries in the morning, when the fruit is still cool, and put it in the refrigerator right away. Rinse the berries right before you cook or eat them. If you have extra strawberries, you can freeze them, dry them or make them into jam or preserves.

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Indoor Plants that Are Easy to Keep Alive

186753608Just because you don’t have a garden doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy having your own plants. These plants liven up any room and are easy to care for. Some even help clean up your indoor air.

Aloe

This succulent has long, pointed leaves with well known medicinal properties. It can grow up to three feet high and is perfect for a small, sunny space indoors. The aloe plant prefers room temperatures of about 70 degrees and lots of sunlight. It doesn’t like frequent watering, so it’s very easy to care for.

English Ivy

Ivy has timeless elegance, and you can easily start a new plant by cutting some of the stem. English ivy trails nicely down furniture for a beautiful accent. It likes cooler room temperatures, between the mid-50s and 70, and it prefers moist soil.

Jade Plant

Jade plants have thick, lush leaves with interesting branches. These plants grow slowly and can live up to about 20 years. Jade plants prefer normal indoor temperatures and bright light, and they don’t require a lot of water.

Rubber Tree

This tree can grow to an impressive eight feet high indoors. You can also keep it smaller by pruning it to your desired height. The green leaves have a nice shine and can brighten up any room. The rubber tree prefers medium to bright light and temperatures between 60 and 80. Let the surface of the soil dry out in between watering.

Peace Lily

Peace lilies are a popular choice due to their pretty appearance. They have curving white blooms and dark leaves, and they don’t take up much space. This plant likes low light and low humidity and prefers moist soil. It will grow best in a room without windows, and grows best in temperatures up to about 85 degrees.

Snake Plant

Snake plants are great accent pieces that can make any room look more sophisticated. They have a very unique look, with leaves that grow completely upright. They also produce small flowers, though these don’t bloom very regularly. The snake plant can grow in a wide range of lighting options and prefers somewhat dry air and soil.

Shamrock Plant

For an indoor plant with pretty flowers, a shamrock plant is the perfect choice. Its tall stems have white flowers, and the plant has full, bright green leaves. Place it in bright light that isn’t direct. Let the soil get somewhat dry in between watering, and water it about once a week.

With so many options, you’re sure to find the perfect plant for your home.

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How to Transplant a Cactus

Saguaro Cactus and MountainsTransplanting a cactus is a bit different from transplanting any other type of plant, due mostly to its awkward shape and prickly surface. The following steps can help make the transition go smoothly.

Step 1: Choose a Healthy Cactus

If you transplant a cactus that isn’t healthy, there is a good chance it won’t survive the move. Choose one without blemishes, bruises or disease. Also check for sunburning and insect and rodent damage.

Step 2: Mark the Cactus

Mark the cactus so you’re sure to plant it in the same direction as it was before. A simple marker can be placed with a piece of string loosely wrapped around the top of the cactus.

Step 3: Dig out the Roots

Cactus roots are very fragile and close to the soil surface, so you want to dig them out very carefully. Start digging about six inches from the plant, slowly working your way around.

Step 4: Lift out the Cactus with a Shovel

Once the cactus has become loose from all sides, gently move a shovel underneath the cactus. Then lift it with gentle prying.

Step 5: Use a Hose if Extra Heavy

If your cactus is large or heavy, you may need something else to help you lift it out. An easy method is to wrap a garden hose around the cactus, slightly below the middle of the plant. Then lift the cactus out of the ground with the hose.

Step 6: Trim Damaged Roots

Trim off damaged roots while the cactus is on its side. If left alone, these roots will decompose and invite pathogens, which can harm the plant. Only trim the damaged parts of the roots, as the cactus won’t grow new roots after it’s been planted.

Step 7: Leave to Air Dry

After you’ve trimmed the damaged roots, let the plant air dry for at least two days. The air will help the roots to scab over, which will prevent pathogens from entering the roots.

Step 8: Use a Hand Truck to Move a Large Cactus

For a large cactus, move it using a hand truck with proper padding. Be sure the spine and ribs are protected during transit.

Step 9: Prepare the New Location

Dig a wide and shallow hole for the cactus. Make sure the soil has enough moisture by adding organic compost, pumice or perlite. Choose soil that drains quickly.

Step 10: Place the Plant

Place the cactus into the hole, making sure it’s oriented correctly. With the back of a shovel or a stick, backfill the soil so there are no air pockets.

Step 11: Water Thoroughly

Water the cactus thoroughly. Irrigate twice a week if needed, unless the nighttime temperature is below 60 degrees.

Step 12: Cover

Cover the cactus with a shade cloth for several weeks, unless the temperature is particularly low. The cover can be taken off when the cactus begins growing again.

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How To Grow Your Own Quinoa At Home

485575052Quinoa is a grain like crop that’s grown for its edible seeds. Its leaves can also serve as vegetables, albeit on a limited scale. The plant thrives in well-drained soils and needs a considerably long maturing season. It also requires warm temperatures not exceeding 90°F (32°C.

How to Grow Quinoa

Quinoa resembles lambs’-quarters especially during the early growth stages. Seeds should thus be sown in rows to avoid confusion with the weeds. Due to the small size of the seeds, one could preempt thinning by mixing it with radish seed or sand, as is at times done with carrot seeds.

The small seeds need good surface preparation and sufficient moisture for them to germinate successfully. They should be sown in quarter inch deep rows with about one and a half to two feet between rows. One could plant them by hand or use a row seeder.

After germination, the seedlings need to be thinned to yield a 6-18-inch gap between them. The thinned seedlings can be used as additions to salads. One gram of seed sows about 50 feet of row, with an acre requiring about a pound.

Quinoa Garden Maintenance

Though quinoa is a low maintenance crop, it’s normally affected by weeds, especially in the early growth stage. There are two ways in which they can be avoided, namely mulching and cultivating. If soil moisture is sufficient, germination could be achieved without irrigation.

In such a case, one should start watering the plants only when the reach the two- or three-leaf stage. Quinoa appears to grow slowly at first but is tremendously drought resistant. When the plants reach a height of 1-2 feet, they start growing rapidly with the canopy closing in.

This helps shade out the weeds and keeps moisture evaporation low. During inspections, one may notice symptoms of insect larvae munching the seedlings. This shouldn’t be much of a concern as it won’t impact the harvest significantly.

Harvesting Quinoa

The plant is ready for harvesting when all leaves have fallen and only the dried seed heads remain. One should watch the weather when the plant reaches this stage because the dry seeds could germinate if rained on. If the heads haven’t dried completely, they should be harvested when the seeds are hard enough to resist indentation when pressed with thumbnails. They then need thorough drying before storage.

To determine if the plant is harvestable, the flower heads should be shaken briskly but gently. If the seeds fall off readily, then one could commence harvesting. Ripe grain can be gathered easily in dry weather by bending the plants over a bucket and rubbing the seed heads between one’s hands.

The seeds need to be cleaned by winnowing using a fan. Further drying is usually necessary to keep off mold during storage. One can spread it on trays during hot days or use an indoor heat source. One should keep stirring them from time to time until they’re completely dry. Quinoa seeds should be stored in in a cool, dry place using air-tight containers.

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Plants That Love Shade

Have you always wondered what you would do with those shade spots in your back garden? Or maybe the entire garden is shaded that you don’t possibly imagine anything growing in it. Well, what you don’t know is the fact that there are plants that love shade and will make your backyard beautiful despite the sunlight strains.

Plantain Lilies

They are also known as the hostas and are perfect for a shady wet ground. They are known for their immaculate foliage and flowers plus they come in different color shades of hold, variegated, gold or green. There are perennials so don’t worry about the ground being too moist for them. Just make sure you keep them safe from slugs or snails (egg shells will help here).

Bergenia

Bergenia are another example of plants that love shade. They are nicknamed ‘Elephant Ears’ because of their large leather-like leaves. In spring, you will see their beautiful bloomy flowers which come in wide variety thanks to the extensive breeding of the Bergenia over the years. Winter will turn the foliage a beautiful purple, so that is something to look forward to as well.

Ferns

Ferns are easy to find and they will thrive in any shaded areas. They are loved for their pristine foliage and their green profile gives any garden that coveted natural look. Ferns are ideal for creating mood and they will fit in any kind of garden offering a lustrous contrast.

Bamboo

Even though it may take years before seeing the bamboo bloom, you will definitely reap huge benefits once foliage season comes. They are known to create the tropical feeling to any garden plus they vary in shapes and sizes. Additionally, bamboo provides shade from the seething sun and act as great wind breakers in your garden.

Lilly of the Valley

An excellent choice for plants that love shade thanks to their beautiful colors. They will thrive under any shade and will form a dense green carpet on your garden with tiny white flower details. They also produce amazing scents in their bloom adding to the serenity of your garden.

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Climbing Plants That Do Well In Dry Areas

We understand that achieving a beautiful garden can be challenging, but the key to a successful garden in any climate begins with plants that are ideal to that climate. In a dry climate, climbing plants can be a haven, providing plenty of leafy vines and a welcoming, cool, shady arbor.

Look for those that love the sun and heat, such as the Pink Trumpet Vine–native to South Africa. This is a slow grower at first, requiring moderate watering, but will speed up its growth once established.

The Clematis, a fast-growing climber, is another fine choice for a dry climate, although requires ample water. It performs well when planted in a sheltered corner, especially when its roots are kept cool. To keep roots cool, cover the root zone with rocks or tile. Don’t worry if it looks dead in the winter, as it will revive come Spring.

A very fast-growing climbing plant for a dry climate is Hall’s Honeysuckle. Its trumpet-shaped flowers produce a heavenly fragrance, putting on its show during Spring and early Summer. This no-fuss climber requires little water, loves the heat, and can tolerate poor soil conditions. It is known to be invasive, so cut it back in Winter.

We love the Cape Honeysuckle on pergolas or arbors. A South African native, the plant can grow up to 25 feet with little water! Ensure it’s initially tied to the pergola.

The Algerian Ivy is a fast grower that climbs virtually anything. It’s a gorgeous climbing vine that boasts lush dark leaves, which can, unfortunately, sunburn. At first, it requires moderate watering, but once established, needs very little water.

The Cat’s Claw is an impressive, vigorous climber that attaches to almost anything. Beware of its eagerness to grow, however, as it can be extremely invasive. Its green leaves and vines allow for pretty, yet short-lived, flowers in Spring.

We’ve chosen some of the fastest growing climbing plants for dry climates because most want quick results, but there are numerous other show-stopping climbers that are worth considering. They will also provide the great looks, beautiful blooms, and the natural shade many homeowners desire.

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How To Start A Wildflower Meadow

If want to have a natural look to replace some of your lawn, consider learning how to grow a wildflower meadow. This type of landscaping requires much less water and fertilizer than lawns and rarely, if ever, needs mowing.

Proper preparation is essential to the success of your meadow. first remove grass and woods and cut existing vegetation close to the ground. Till soil, water thoroughly and cover with sheets of clear plastic for two to six weeks. This will solarize the soil and kill weed seeds. After removing the plastic, till the area, water and wait two weeks for any remaining weeds to germinate.

After the soil is free of weeds, spread up to two inches of compost over the selected area, moisten lightly and till into the top three to six inches of soil. Rake until smooth.

Selecting the correct seed mix is essential. Most natural landscape seed mixtures contain native grasses along with annual and perennial. Determine whether you would like such a mixture or something heavy on flowering plants. Also pay attention to sun, soil and climate conditions and choose mixtures that will thrive in your area. Be aware that mixes that contain only wildflowers will require reseeding within a couple of years.

For best results, sow seeds in mid to late summer as this will eliminate many of the weeds that often wreak havoc with spring plantings. Plant perennial and grass mixtures for best results. Annual wildflower mixtures are better sown in spring. No matter when you plant, use a broadcast spreader and sow seeds at a rate recommended for the mix. After the seeds are spread, rake them gently into the top inch of soil. Keep the soil moist for the first growing season and pull invasive weeds, tree and shrub seedlings as they appear. Add to the mix in subsequent years as bare spots appear, particularly when annuals begin to die out. Many mixtures contain annuals such as bachelor’s buttons and cosmos because they often self-sow.

Don’t get fancy. For best results for a low-maintenance and natural-looking meadow, don’t purchase mixes for areas other than your local habitat. Follow us at Pushing Daisies for the best advice in growing flowers and vegetables.