Citrus For All Seasons

Freshly picked, home-grown citrus isn’t a luxury reserved only for the picturesque gardens in the warm and sunny climate of the Mediterranean. Short on garden space? Growing citrus in containers can deliver you lemons even indoors. All it takes is some simple citrus basics, a little human ingenuity and you’re on your way to growing your very own fruits.

Citrus plants grown in containers do best in porous pots that dry out fairly quickly since the roots do not like to remain wet for long. Make sure you remove your citrus from the plastic containers they come in when purchased as the heat from the summer sun and can cause the roots to burn. 

Envious images of potted citrus can steer you toward big pots, but starting small and steady will win this race. Extra soil around trees complicates moisture control, so work your way up in pot size as trees grow. For small trees, a 30-cm diameter container is perfect for starters. Mature trees need pots double that width and at least 50 cm deep. This gives roots growing room and prevents tippy, top-heavy trees. 

Be sure that whatever container you use has plenty of drainage holes so that water drains away freely. It is prudent to raise any container off the ground on “pot feet” to facilitate drainage and ensure good air circulation.

The soil should be sterilized, gritty, and free-draining. Some of the soil mixes especially formulated for containers work well; if they seem to hold too much moisture, add sand or gravel to the mix. Water carefully, as overwatering is a common mistake, you may feel you’re doing the plant a favour, but this smothering of love may lead to the drowning death of the plant.

Most citrus plants like to partially dry out (the top Five centimeters of soil should feel dry) before receiving more water. These plants are quite greedy and require regular feeding to do well. If you are repotting a plant, incorporate some timed-release fertilizer into the soil at planting time. Also, select a liquid fertilizer that is high in nitrogen and apply this approximately every other week.

Standard citrus trees grow too big for indoors, but dwarf varieties are grafted onto special roots that limit their size and speed up fruiting. Growing them in containers keeps them smaller, too. If you’re new to growing citrus, start with dwarf types known to flourish and fruit well indoors. Easy-to-grow favourites, such as Meyer lemon, Key limes, Kumquats and Calamondin oranges, fit the bill.

When bringing pots in from outside before a frost, giving them a nice warm, slightly soapy wash will help to remove dust and any hidden pests, like a good wash should. They will also benefit from daily spritzing with plain water throughout the winter months to help raise the humidity level. When moving citrus from one area to another, do it gradually. Temperature fluctuations will stress the plant and can cause bud and/or fruit drop.

Hibiscus For Days

 

Hibiscus

Hibiscus rosa-sinensis

The Hibiscus originating from China sure can produce the most flamboyant flowers and is the ultimate plant for creating a touch of the tropics. It forms huge blooms, up to 10cm in diameter, on a shrubby upright plant that you can train to grow as a small tree.

THE FLOWERS

The fantastic individual blossoms only last a day or two, but with so many blooms you barely have the chance to notice the ones you’ve missed. The Hibiscus bloom’s freely from late spring through autumn and occasionally spot flowers through winter so they are worth the effort. The giant blooms are eye-catching and irresistible. Plus, hibiscus come in a dizzying array of colour’s from shades of red to pink to orange, yellow and white.

THE ENVIROMENT

They are tough, too. Even a neglected hibiscus can continue to flower through the harshest conditions. It prefers uniformly moist soil and be sure they always receive optimal sunlight. Full sun for the whole day will see your hibiscus grow and flower to its full potential. Hibiscus plants in any level of shade will tend to be leggy and will not flower well and it’s great to also note they are also second line salt tolerant so perfect for the costal home.

POTTED HIBISCUS

Hibiscus plants are great because they can be grown in containers, which works well if you live in a climate affected by frost, as they can be brought inside on those cold nights. But remember that they will depend on you in grown in pots and containers for all their water and nutritional needs. Glazed ceramic or terracotta pots are preferable, but not essential. Plastic pots sitting in the sun can tend to overheat the root system, which in time can lead to health problems.

WATERING

In warm weather, you should be watering your hibiscus plant on a daily basis. During the winter months it should be watered about every 7-8 days or when the first 5cm of soil feels dry.

PRUNING

Pruning hibiscus is a great way to give these plants just what they need, as it helps stimulate budding on new shoots. When to prune depends on the specifics of your area and growing conditions. The main idea is to prune just before a warming trend is coming, so that your hibiscus will grow very actively, and the increasing warmth will pull them forward into lush new growth. It also rejuvenates the plants while encouraging them to maintain an attractive appearance and healthy, vigorous growth. Don’t be afraid to cut far down the stem, leaving 3-4 nodes on each main branch and be sure to leave some leaves on the plant. After a heavy pruning there should still be a dozen or so healthy green leaves to carry on the photosynthesis the plant needs.

WHAT COULD GO WRONG

Yellow leaves the plant gets with time usually mean that these leaves are getting old and soon will be replaced. If there are too many yellow leaves, this means the bush is stressed. The commonest reasons of the stress occurrence are:

  • pest infestation

  • under-watering

  • drastic environmental changes

 

Get The Gardening Glow

 

With almost 67 per cent of Australians living in our capital cities, we’re one of the most highly urbanised countries in the world. Considering the day-to-day stresses or urban living, traffic, overcrowding and simply not enough time – this means up to 16 million of us could benefit from the physical and mental advantages provided by gardening.

Whether it’s a sprawling veggie patch in the backyard, a flowerbed in a small courtyard, a window box or even a community garden space, almost anyone can achieve a gardening glow. 

Gardening is a great workout, It not only works all those major muscle groups, it burns calories as well. Also, gardening improves the mood almost instantly, so it’s fantastic for the soul.

The Fitness Factor

Forget about working hard in the gym or building up a sweat on the treadmill, gardening is just as good as a workout, if not better. Prolonged light exercise such as gardening can burn more calories than a gym session, despite being much easier to do.

Stress Relief

Gardening can increase life satisfaction, reduce and promote recovery from stress, enhance self-esteem and reduce feelings of depression and fatigue. Ask any gardener and almost all will insist that they feel better after getting their hands dirty in the soil. An activity like gardening gives you something to celebrate and care about. When you’ve tended and grown something it gives you a sense of purpose and pride, which in turn make you feel good about yourself.

Mood Enchasing

Having flowers in and around your home not only looks beautiful, they also have amazing health benefits, such as reducing stress and depression. Flowers increase positive energies and soothe and relax the soul. Plants in the home also increase energy levels and vitality. 

Immunity Boost

We often avoid getting our hands dirty but there are health benefits to be gained from exposure to soil. We need to be 100 per cent hygienic but we don’t need to be 100 per cent dirt or germ-free because our immune system needs something to spar with.

Air Quality

Plants have been shown to absorb and degrade all types of urban air pollutants, thereby reducing air pollutants, thereby reducing air pollution levels. We have a vital need for constant connections with plants for cleaner air, so gardening time is vital. Spending just 15 to 20 minutes each day in the garden can also improve sleep quality because breathing fresh air stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system in the brain, which is responsible for relaxation.

 

Growing Garlic At Home

 

There is no requirement at being a seasoned gardener or farmer to grow your very own garlic at home. It’s also very achievable and easy to harvest your own good quality garlic with a little patience due to its long growing time and by just following a few steps and keeping track of the seasons.

Soil Preparation

Garlic is luckily easily grown in almost types of soil with a preferred pH of 6-7, but to grow larger sized garlic bulbs it’s recommended that your soil is fertile and high in organic matter which can also be mixed in to the top layer of soil where you will be planting, also make sure you soil has good drainage or you will end up with rotted garlic.

Getting you Cloves

Sourcing your garlic is at the utmost importance as you don’t want failed garlic after nine months of looking after them, hence why you will need to be patient with garlic. Avoid using garlic heads bought from the supermarket unless you can source certified organic bulbs or some from your local organic farmers market. 

Once you have sourced heads your happy with, then start to break up your garlic head into cloves, as the cloves are what your will be planting. If everything goes well, every planted garlic clove will produce a lovely garlic head, fantastic!

Planting Garlic

Planting garlic is typically done in the autumn after the first frost sets in, so now is the perfect time to start preparing and selecting those garlic heads for planting in the next few weeks.

Just before planting and after you have separated your cloves soak the cloves in water for 10-12 hours, this makes sure you give your cloves the best start, try to also plan out planting area with a clove spaced every 10cm-15cm. 

Ensure you plant the cloves standing upright, so the tip facing upwards, this is where the sprout will shoot. Bury each clove about 6cm-10cm deep and give them a good soaking with a fish emulsion, seaweed fertiliser or homemade worm tea. In colder climates mulching is critical to keep the garlic from freezing and it’s also a great idea to keep those weeds at bay.

On Going Care

The cloves should sprout within a month from planting and the wait begins. Keep the newly planted cloves well hydrated in the warmer autumn months, watering every few days; expect for days with rain. Soils that are sandy may have to be watered more regularly to compensate for the faster water loss.

Feed the garlic with liquid seaweed fertiliser every month, and in midwinter, as the bulbs begin to form, apply a fertiliser high in phosphorous to help them swell and grow into lovely large bulbs.

Harvesting

Garlic is typically harvested in summer, but that can certainly change depending on where you are at in the country and warmer spring conditions. Reduce regular water into allow the bulbs to mature in the ground, checking their progress by digging with your fingers along the stem. The key indicator to know when the garlic is ready to harvest is the colour of the leaves, which will turn yellow and tanned when ready.

To harvest, loosen the soil surrounding the garlic without damaging the garlic heads and gently pull on the foliage. You can always select one as a test and determine by looking at it if the head and inspecting for well-developed cloves.

Once harvested hang your garlic in a cool, dry place. This not only helps the garlic keep for many months but you will also have access to new cloves to be planted once again in autumn.

 

Growing Lettuce At Home

 

Before I started growing our home grown food, I spent a fortune on organically grown salad ingredients. It wasn’t just the lettuce that cost so much. There were the tomatoes, herbs, specialty greens, radish, cucumbers, and more that went into making my lush salads healthy, beautiful, and satisfying.

When I finally did start growing, at first, it was hard to produce all the ingredients required for a salad at the same time. My radishes and lettuce heads would be ready before everything else. Then they’d bolt before I had a tomato ready to even pick.

How Long Does It Take Lettuce Seedlings to Sprout?

If you’re only starting out, lettuce is a great choice and vegetable to practice your green thumb skills and it’s also an easy way to add wonderful flavour to your meals as nothing tastes as good or as satisfying as home grown and fresh picked lettuce.

Since lettuce is a fast growing vegetable, it’s easy to start from seed as they also rapidly-germinate with not much effort and within a few weeks. Lettuce is also great for container-gardening as well as in-ground planting. An added bonus is that they look very ornamental in large terracotta pots. The goal is just to begin Including lettuce in your garden, and watch your family’s enthusiasm for salads increase as you bring this versatile vegetable to harvest. If all the right conditions are present — sunny, mild days, cool nights, sufficient water and good soil fertility — lettuce can go from seed to salad bowl in about under 2 months. Most full-head varieties take 45 to 60 days to reach maturity.

Germination

In good growing conditions, lettuce seed will germinate within 7 to 12 days, depending on variety. Loose-head varieties may sprout more quickly than heading types, but all seeds need similar soil, moisture and light conditions to support germination. Growers vary in their estimate of the percentage of lettuce seeds that will germinate per packet, but you can expect 75 to 80 percent of seeds packed for the current growing season to sprout. Rates decline each year, and a packet of lettuce seeds is usually viable for three years so make sure your continue planting all year round if your climate and weather permits.

Soil Temperature

Lettuce (Lactuca sativa) is an annual vegetable with many varieties able to be grown all year round, but if you’re from colder climates than the Lettuce is defiantly a spring grower. Lettuce requires soil temperatures between 15 and 30 degrees Celsius for seed germination (germination rates decline markedly above 30 degrees) and seeds are best planted outdoors two weeks after your local climates last frost date. If you are uncertain about soil temperature, many garden centers and nurseries carry inexpensive thermometers to take guesswork out of planting.

Soil Quality

Lettuce grows best in neutral to slightly acidic soil, as do many other garden vegetables. Because lettuce seeds are small and fragile, the most important feature of planting soil is texture. Raking and screening soil before you plant lettuce ensures successful sprouting of these delicate seeds (one way to get around this is by making sure your soil is high in composted organic material). One to two inches of fine soil in the bottom of your lettuce furrow and a 1/4-inch to cover your seeds create prime sprouting conditions or just cover your seeds with vermiculite. If your soil is heavy clay or drains poorly, dig in well composted organic matter, coco peat or sand to improve drainage before planting. If you’re planning on starting your lettuce seed indoors, standard potting soil or seed raising potting mixtures have the texture that let seeds sprout and root in your seedling containers.

Moisture

Soil for sprouting lettuce seeds needs constant and consistent moisture. With good drainage, soil will remain moist rather than wet. Regular watering will keep the top of the soil from crusting, which can become too hard for seed sprouts to penetrate. A fast grower, lettuce will absorb a lot of water, but standing water can rot seeds. Do not let the soil dry out, but avoid keeping the surface soil constantly wet. In hot weather or dry conditions, lettuce may require watering every day. Keep growing beds weed free; cultivate shallowly to avoid disturbing lettuce roots.

Light

Lettuce seed needs light to germinate and grow successfully. If you start seeds inside, you will need a sunny window that receives direct light or a grow-light. It’s preferable to grow lettuce in full sun when the growing season is cool. In very warm to hot growing regions, grow lettuce in partial shade–between taller crops or trees. Lettuce requires a minimum of 4 hours of sun each day.

Planting

Lettuce can be planted in the garden as early as 4 weeks before the last expected frost in spring. For a continuous supply, plant lettuce every couple of weeks until about 4 weeks before the average daytime temperature exceeds 28 degrees or the lettuce will just go to flower (after that plant lettuce in the shade). Begin sowing lettuce again towards the end of the growing season, about 8 weeks before the first expected frost in autumn. If you’re lucky and don’t experience frost in your microclimate than you will be planting and growing these gems all year round. Lucky You! More than any other crop, lettuce works best with succession planting because it turns bitter as it matures, especially in warm weather.

Sprouting Stages

When lettuce and many other seeds sprout, the first foliage is a pair of small rounded leaves called cotyledon leaves, or seed-leaves. Cotyledon leaves are the plant’s first food-source and enable the growth of roots and real leaves, but they sustain the plant for only a week to 10 days. Seeds started indoors will need to grow for between four and six weeks to sprout enough leaves to sustain plants in the garden.

Harvesting

One of the keys to having tender lettuce is rapid growth, which is why spring-grown lettuce tastes so good. An exciting thing about lettuce harvest time is that it can be a repeat performance. Pick lettuce on a cut-and-come-again basis; pick the outside leaves as soon as they are big enough to eat. You can harvest loose-leaf varieties twice — and sometimes three times — before the quality of the leaves declines. For heading lettuce–crisphead and Romaine varieties–cut heads as soon as they are solid and firm.

Note: The greatest menace to lettuce is neither slugs nor veggie-hungry aliens, but the heat. When temperatures exceed 30 degrees, lettuce seeds don’t germinate well and mature plants tend to bolt (meaning they stop producing leaves and go to seed). Regular watering, using shade cloths or tall, shade-making companion plants, and planting heat-tolerant varieties can help, but extreme heat over time ultimately takes a toll on lettuce’s flavour and texture.

 

5 Tips to Keep Your House Plants Healthy

 

Best ways to decorate your home with plants

Decorating your home with pot plants is easy and doesn’t take much to make that eye catching feature you want. Choose a pot that makes a statement, decorating your home with some quirky pot plants not only adds some greenery to your life but adds character by using clean and white pot plants for a sleek finish or golds and bronze pots for a rustic look. For a bold statement in the home add plants with big leaves such as palms, umbrella trees and ferns. You can maintain these to appear as big or small as you like. If you have a very neutral home spice it up with some colour. Orchids are great because they not only are interesting to look at they are a beautiful flower as well and can add feature to any dull room. Violets are also extremely easy to grow, maintain and bloom all year round.

Why pot plants make better decorations than materials

While pot plants make a great natural feature for the home they also boost your mood and improve wellbeing. Plants also create a fresh natural environment, which you can style to different décor styles and homes.

Benefits of having house plants

Plants add a sense of life and energy to a home which is why you should add them to your interior styling as it creates a natural and vibrant ‘wow’ factor. Indoor plants set a welcoming tone as the colours of nature make our homes feel fresh, calm as well as renewed, which is a nice ambiance to enjoy after coming home for a long day of work. Not only do indoor plants make a space feel alive, they also add great texture, shape and colour to a room. Plants are also a long term design solution as they can stand the test of time. This can save you money in the long run.

What you need to know about pot plants

When gardening indoors it’s important to take into consideration the follow points. Do I have the right light? Different pot plants thrive on different lights, make sure you tailor your indoor garden to the right lighting needs. Make sure you understand that some plants are poisonous to animals such as the peace lily to cats and dogs – so check these details about your chosen plants before bringing them into the home.

You also need to understand your plants needs – a lot of plants are seasonal based so a lot of your greenthumb work needs to go into the off season. Making sure you have a clear understanding of what is required to care for you plant is really important for the survival.

Tips on looking after indoor plants

Make sure you position pot plants around the home according to their light levels and temperatures, some plants thrive in the colder temperatures, where some need light. Do not over water your plants. While you think you might be doing them a favour some pot plants only require a small amount of water and too much can drown them. 

Be aware of the types of diseases your indoor plants can catch. For example, indoor palms can catch mealy bugs. To avoid this, wipe down the palm leaves and spray a palm safe insecticide. 

5 tips to keep your plants healthy 

1. Keep soil moist with regular but light watering, keep a tray to catch any excess water below to avoid over watering them.

2. Make sure your plants have the right air supply, especially if they are inside. They not only need fresh air to grow it also helps reduce diseases.

3. Fertilise every one to two months pending on your plant. Always make sure you have information about your plant as so many indoor plants vary.

4. Keep an eye out for bugs, if you notice any bugs on your plants remove them and get rid of any dead excess leaves to prevent diseases.

5. Repot your plants every 1 – 2 years pending how quickly they grow. This will help your plant thrive and grow.

 

The Jade “Money” Plant

 

The Money Plant or Jade Plant is one of the most famous and popular of the many succulents used as indoor plants and known to be a symbol of vibrant energy; the owner’s fortunes are believed to increase with each new leaf and Feng Shui enthusiasts even claim it provides positive mental health benefits by nourishing the chi.

The idea of keeping plants indoors is to harmonise human life with the surrounding environment and placement of such plants are chosen to hopefully reflect this growing energy in your own bank balance.

The Jade Plant is easy to look after and has amazing longevity, this is reflected in its past popularity. The impolite phrase “old fashioned” might be slung around when describing the Jade Plant, but as with anything, fashions come and go. So if you like it, pay no attention to the reputation.

This is a plant whose characteristics can evoke emotions. Whether by its radiant beauty, its tiny white flowers, the shape of its leaves or its majestic height, you will no doubt, as have those in the past, experience the overwhelming reasons why you would want to keep such as plant.

With that said, we all know money doesn’t grow on trees, but this one looks a million bucks, so start cultivating that wealth.