Friday, January 31, 2020

Help! I Got An Orchid For Christmas!

Phalaenopsis orchid, photo courtesy natural

Contrary to what you may have heard, orchids are not difficult to grow. With the proper amount of light, water, humidity, temperature and fertilizer, orchids can thrive! Some types of orchids such as Phalaenopsis or Cattleya can be easier to care for.

Thursday, January 30, 2020

Use Caution with De-Icing Salts

De-icing salt applicator, photo courtesy
Winter is in full swing in Jefferson County! Even though it's been a warm winter, snow and ice are inevitable. In addition to shoveling all that snow, many people also apply de-icing salts to make the walkways safe and passable. While these products can certainly help ensure safe footing in treacherous conditions, they can also damage the landscape plantings that they contact. So – what to do? Protect your footing or protect your plants? It’s possible to do both.

Monday, January 27, 2020

Vanilla Bean Orchid by Vicky Spelman

Creative Commons License

Do you do a lot of baking with vanilla?  Ever wonder why it is so expensive?

The cultivation of vanilla is extremely labor-intensive.

Vanilla is a genus of orchids that contains roughly 110 species that span the tropical regions of the globe. They are vining orchids, climbing trunks of trees in an attempt to make their bid for the canopy. Some Vanilla orchids have lost their leaves entirely, relying solely on their green, photosynthetic stems and roots. The species that gives us the highly coveted vanilla flavor is Vanilla planifolia from Central America & Mexico.

Vanilla planifolia plants themselves don't even start producing vanilla beans until after 3 years, & when they do produce flowers they are very short-lived. They open up as the sun begins to rise and are mostly closed by the afternoon. Vanilla is not self-fertile so if the flower has not been fertilized by afternoon, it will simply wither and fall off. In the wild, Vanilla relies on stingless bees for pollination. In most cases, Vanilla growers do not rely on the bees, because, if they are present, fertilization rates are often extremely low. If the bees are not present, the plants will not reproduce on their own. Because of this, Vanilla growers must hand-pollinate all the flowers individually.

It's a labor-intensive process that must be done at just the right time if it is to work. This is harder than it sounds considering the flowers are opening every day at different times. It takes 9 months for the seed pods to mature enough to harvest & every pod matures at a different rate requiring workers to harvest daily. Following the harvest, the seed pod curing process takes another 3 months.

There is no rushing the production of pure vanilla extract, which is why this liquid spice remains so expensive.

Sources: In Defense of Plants, 09/14/15 via Extension Master Gardener 12/13/19.  Vanilla and Vegetable gardener contributor Chris McLaughlin.  Vanilla2

House Plants in Wintertime by Vicky Spelman

The Garden Professors FB Page

Houseplants can be a benefit for the winter-weary while we are waiting for Spring.  Here are some tips and myths about caring for houseplants.

1.    The most prevalent myth is that you should always add a layer of gravel or other coarse material at the bottom of pots to improve drainage.  This is a common recommendation.  The water will not move from the finer material to the coarser until the finer soil is completely saturated. 1.    Your entire pot should have the same high-quality soil in it, and nothing else. 

If you need to improve drainage, mix perlite in the soil throughout the pot, making sure there is a drainage hole in the bottom of the pot to avoid having root rot. 

2.    Should you water houseplants on a schedule?  Probably not - your plants may not all need the same watering schedule. Plants often need less water in the cooler, darker days of winter – a plant you water every couple of days in the summer might not need watering for a week in the winter.  Get to know the needs of your plants and watering accordingly and do the 'poke your finger in the soil' to see if it is already moist. 

3.    Do droopy plants always mean it is time to water?  If the finger test mentioned above indicates very dry soil, then you should water that plant.  Double check before you water – plants that are developing root rot due to too much water will also droop, and water is the last thing they need.  
Excerpt from Article by Irene Shonle, Extension Program Associate, Colorado Master Gardener/Horticulture El Paso County, Native Plant Master.   

Complete article:  CSU-houseplants
Plant Talk will give you information about individual plants:  Planttalk