Save Your Poinsettia for Year-round Beauty

End of January usually finds me scouring my landscape for an opening suitable for my potted Poinsettia. Over the years, I’ve had meager success in transplanting these beauties to my yard. They’re still alive mind you, but not thriving as I had hoped.

poinsettias not doing well

The reason?  Well, I’d toss the blame off to a lack of sunlight. The front of my house faces north and the plants simply don’t get enough light to keep them happy. The rear is too hot for these gals, so I’ve steered clear of any attempt to spruce up my backyard with them. However, if I’m to be truly objective about the state-of-affairs, I’d have to bear some of the responsibility.

leggy poinsettia

I’m not good with watering. Okay, I’m not good with “remembering” to water. Or feed. I know, it’s a problem. Ask any of my plants that do not sit in the direct path of the sprinklers and they’ll tell you the same thing. She forgets us. A lot!

Hmph. Well, this year I’ve made new resolutions, one of which includes beginning my day with a stroll around the house. If I see the plants, I’ll remember to water them, right?

Of course I will. It’ll be great. I’ll find a spot to the west and nestle my potted Poinsettia in the ground. Prior to bloom, they prefer less than 12 hours of sunlight, which makes west my better bet, keeping them in the complete darkness from 5:00 pm to 7:00 am. I’ll water them regularly (Poinsettia don’t like to dry out) and feed them a well-balanced fertilizer come spring. More

Do You Know the Secret?

If you’re a follower of my blog, you do.  It’s time to start my tomato sprouts and the secret to beautiful, healthy, blossom-end rot free tomatoes is the combination of Epsom salts and eggshells.  Yep, just mix some crumbled eggshells together and Epsom salts into your potting mix and you’re good to go!

This disease is the result of a lack of calcium.  Calcium’s most important function during the crop fruiting stage is its role in cell wall/cell membrane stability.  If Ca is deficient in developing fruits, an irreversible condition known as blossom-end rot will develop. Blossom-end rot occurs when cell wall calcium “concrete” is deficient during early fruit development, and results in cell wall membrane collapse and the appearance of dark, sunken pits at the blossom end of fruit so this blend does wonders to give your plants a head start.  The magnesium helps plants grow bigger, heartier tomatoes but go easy.  Too much Mg can cause trouble, too.

I start my tomato sprouts now because it’s too hot to put them in the ground outside.  For those of you unfamiliar with the Florida heat, we call these the “Dogs Days of August” which has to refer to the fact this weather is unsuitable for man or beast.  Not that my pumpkin dog is a beast, mind you, but he wants nothing to do with the outdoors right now–unless he’s in a lake.  Or pool.  He’s not fussy and either works, but my tender tomato sprouts?

The tiny green shoots would fry the minute they poked through the surface.  So now is when I set out my seedling trays and start my seeds.  I mix up the Epsom salts and eggshells with my compost and this seems to do the trick.  Come September, I’ll transplant into the garden and once again, add my secret blend of ingredients to ward off blossom-end rot.

It’s official. We’ve got a pumpkin.

So much for my freak-of-nature expertise in the garden.  Remember that enormous, magnificent zucchini I grew? 

Well, apparently, it’s not a zucchini.  It’s a pumpkin.  I guess.  I really don’t know.  I’m assuming because it looks like a pumpkin, it’s a pumpkin (but you know the old wives tale about how to spell assume, don’t you?).  I do, too, and I don’t prefer to do either

Maybe a pumpkin seed slipped into the zucchini seed packet at the “packaging plant.”  It’s possible, though I don’t remember seeing anything that “stood out from the crowd” as I was dropping seeds into the dirt.  Not that I’d notice.  I’m very intent on my business when I’m planting.  Have it down to a real system

Could be a zucchini-pumpkin hybrid.  Is there such a thing?  Could even be a stray seed from the compost dirt.  I did buy pumpkins last fall…to carve Jack-o-lanterns and make pumpkin pie.  It’s possible one survived, though rather unlikely it would have conveniently ended up in the exact row for its specific family of plants — in the exact spot I planted the zucchini! 

It’s a good theory, now that I think about it.  Spotting “stray” sprouts across my garden, I transplanted several of these accidental compost “thrivers”  (I’m a sucker for a plant with the will to fight for survival).  While I don’t recall this particular one, it could have made its way there.  Happens.  

At this point, it doesn’t matter, does it?  I have a pumpkin.  I’m accepting it as a pumpkin and while not thoroughly overjoyed, I am still proud to call it my own.  After all, I grew it myself.

Check back in October and see if I’m as good growing pumpkins I mean to grow as I am with those I don’t!

Save the Poinsettias!

This time of year poinsettias take center stage, boasting big, beautiful red blooms (leaves, really, known as bracts), with petite yellow flowers nestled amidst the magnificent color.  While also available in pink and white, for me, red remains the heart and soul of the Christmas season.

Last year I decided to save my poinsettia plants, and actually put them in the ground.  What better way to decorate the house for the season than an abundance of beautiful poinsettias, right? 

Okay, so it’s easier.  They grow by themselves all year long then, poof!  Gorgeous red blooms for Christmas.  Does it get any better?  To tell the truth, I first came up the idea while driving through the neighborhood.  On the corner of my usual route, there’s a cute cottage home with a HUGE poinsettia plant.  (More tree than plant, the way this thing has grown wild.)  Wild and beautiful.  

The first time I saw the red blooms take over the scraggly branches – and realized it was a poinsettia – I was in awe.  Complete awe.  I had no idea poinsettias grew this way!  And if looks were any indication, it appeared as though it was growing naturally, without the assistance of pruning or fertilization.  Perfect, I mused.  A seasonal plant that survives on its own, yet heralds in this glorious time of year… 

Why, it’s doubly perfect!  Chocked full of inspiration, away I went, determined to have one for my own yard.  If they could do it, I could do it

Immediately upon my return home, I thumbed through my home and garden magazines, and noticed a plethora of articles on this very subject.  Wonderful.  It meant I didn’t have to start this project from scratch. 

As directed, I placed my plant in the ground, selecting a nice spot where it would receive plenty of indirect sunlight, and made sure it was well protected from cool drafts.  As a native of Mexico, this plant doesn’t like the cold, so whenever the temperature dips below 50-55 degrees, you must be vigilant and cover it else it shrivel up and die.

Note:  For you Arctic Amigos living north of the Florida border, don’t try this at home.  Save your plants, but keep them as indoor “pets” only.  Do remember to water them, a common problem with any indoor plant I adopt.  (The whole watering schedule thing puts a crimp in my carefree and spontaneous style – that, and children tend to be quite demanding, though getting pretty good at accomplishing their own chore list.  Note to self: houseplant watering is now a kid’s job.) 

But as I was saying, outdoors I have an irrigation system.  It works on a timer and is quite reliable.  Following my gardening guidelines, I decided on the northern side of my house (summers can be brutal in Central Florida), dug the hole, loosened the roots, fertilized with an all purpose fertilizer and let it grow!  

Fanning my feathers like a grand peacock, I’m proud to say:  it’s alive and doing well.  Then — another brainstorm hit.  How about reproducing these spectacular results?  If one can survive, so can two, or three, or as many cuttings as I can root from this existing plant of mine! 

Excited by the prospect, though uncertain which method was best, I decided to experiment.  Have I mentioned I have mad scientist tendencies?  I prefer to refer to it as creative, but either way, some cuttings went into dirt and one went into water.  Shoot, if my mother can do it, I can do it!  (Whoa back, cowgirl — she is the “rooting” queen.) 

That's my little gal, down toward the left

But so full of gusto, I decided to continue full steam ahead.  Just to be sure, I gave myself a boost with rooting “tonic.”  You know, that little powder you dip the stems into before you plant them?  For this particular experiment, I used Rootone, though I imagine there are others on the market that will produce results equally as well. 

The stuff works wonders.  As you can see, my little babies are faring quite nicely.  (Big smiles here.)  Small, but I only rooted this past September.  With relative ease, I might add – unlike my human darlings.  Those children take work and lots of it.  Albeit, a labor of love, I add with another smile, but if you want to give the gift that keeps on giving, my advice: Save the poinsettias!  Next year, when you come home to a yard full of spectacular seasonal color, you’ll be glad you did. 

One caveat:  General consensus suggests you may need to “trick” your poinsettias into blooming if you have less than 14 hours of nightfall per day.  Mine achieved the red without any effort on my part, though I wonder if there wouldn’t be quite a bit more if I had covered the plant for a few extra hours each day, a month or so before Christmas.  

This one was fully "rooted" in water only

It’s something to consider, though you can be sure my neighbor doesn’t do this for their wild beauty!  Either way, have fun and enjoy the process.    When all else fails, that’s what’s it’s really about. 
Share the joy!

Thank Heaven for seed and feeds!

Onions are in, onions are in!  And not a moment too soon – yahoo! 

This is big excitement for me, cause I have tried to sprout my sweet onion seeds – repeatedly — but to no avail.  Zip.  Nada.  Nothing.  The nice fellow at my local feed and seed said, “Might be too early.”  I nodded, declining to inform him that my seed plant date data sheet clearly states I could start “trying” in August. 

But okay.  I’ll go with it.  A simple case of “operator error.”  It isn’t the first time for me and won’t be the last, of this I can be sure, but perhaps the true culprit was distance.  They were too far from my sight – as in, the garden – and were allowed to get too dry.  Listing says, these isty bitsy guys need consistent moisture.  Alrighty, then —  on to plan B!

So I started the next batch on my back patio, you know, so I could see them, and remember to water them — much like I do with my fragile broccoli sprouts.  But nope, this didn’t work either (temperamental little things).  So not only can I NOT claim an advance toward my goal of self-sustainability — this failure is ruining coveted visions of giving my sprouts that “hair trim” so cutely illustrated in the book! 

Whatever.  Some times, you just have to let go. 

September was blowing in and I was still onion-less, so I trotted down to my local seed store.  Now mind you, my local seed store is a Godsend.   They patiently answer all my questions – my very basic questions – most probably thinking:  Should you be gardening?  But ever the professionals, they never let on, though it does remind me of my school days.  I was that kid up front asking so many questions, my fellow students would snicker, dunce.  While I never actually heard them utter the word, I know they were thinking it.  Want to ask who got an A on the test come Friday?

You guessed it (me, for the slow kids in the back).   And that’s the point.  If you keep at it, you will succeed – with the help of your local seed and feed store.   It’s an invaluable resource, not to mention a great place to buy your hay, compost, organic fertilizers and the like.  For those high on excitement but short on time, many stores offer ready to go veggie plants making it super EASY to get your garden growing! transplants

But pssssst…  Don’t let on you’re interested in sustainable gardening and seed preservation procedures —  kinda puts a damper on their seed sales, if you know what I mean.   And trust me, you don’t want them to set out the unwelcome mat for you cause you’re gonna need them when those seeds you’ve been drying get mistaken for crumbs, or knocked off the counter by an overzealous Labrador.  Sometimes, you drop them on your way out to the garden.   Get the picture? 

Visit your seed store early and often and you’ll enjoy a row of sprouts like these beauties – though they do resemble a bad hair transplant a bit, don’t they?

Lookee who I found in the compost pile!

My neighbor warned this might happen.  I’ve been so busy tossing everything into my compost pile, planning for my next growing season, I didn’t pay attention to what was growing in it this season.  A tomato plant!  I knew right away what it was, because there’s one thing about tomato plants and that is – they are aromatic.  I’m no “olfactologist,” but I can tell a tomato plant when I smell one – it’s a distinct fragrance.  


And I’m excited!  Another experiment in the making – woohoo!  But due to the fact that I yanked the thing out of my compost pile like the intrusive weed that I mistook it for, my expectations are somewhat dimmed.  Tomato plants are not known for their transplanting capability.  And while I have a few in my garden disproving that notion, this one might not survive, as its roots were fairly ripped.  And torn.  (I can be fairly aggressive when there’s work to be done.)

But looking on the bright side of the compost pile, it might just be the stimulation this little guy needs to get busy and get growing.  It’s already day two, and he hasn’t shown signs of stress, yet!  Give him time, my husband says.  Give him time