Your cart
Close Alternative Icon
The Dirt

The Dirt

Planning a Vegetable Garden, Including Ideas, Layouts & Recommendations

Planning a Vegetable Garden, Including Ideas, Layouts & Recommendations
The first step in planning your vegetable garden is to assess your space and plant growing conditions (light, water, temperature, soil). Once you have an idea of what might be possible, you should set your goals, I recommend setting your goals for the whole year. Continue reading

Growing and Caring for Anthuriums: 7 Essential Things You Need to Know

Growing and Caring for Anthuriums: 7 Essential Things You Need to Know

Pink Anthurium Flowers

Anthuriums are a favorite among flower enthusiasts and gardeners for their ornamental foliage (leaves) in distinct shapes and flower spathes in bright hues. Also known as Flamingo Lily, Painted Tongue, Tail Flower or Lace Leaf, the plants thrive in tropical areas in America.

About 900 varieties of the flowering plants native to tropical America are found in the Mexican tropics, Uruguay and northern Argentina. Whereas some flowering Anthurium species feature colorful spathes, others have large, deeply-veined leaves.

Although the plants can be grown in greenhouses, they can be domesticated and cultivated indoors. However, they require lots of attention and proper care. Anthurium flowers come in various colors, including pink, red, green, yellow and orange, among others. The colors vary from cultivar to another.

The attractive flowers grow on elongated stalks, and together with their wax-like surfaces, make it stand out. With proper, diligent care, a bloom can last four to six weeks. However, the period varies based on the prevailing season and the specific cultivar.

Top 7 Important Things You Need to Know about Growing and Caring for Anthuriums

Anthuriums require consistent moisture, warm temperatures and sufficient fertilizer to grow. Anthurium andreanum and Anthurium scherzerianum are popularly grown either indoors or in greenhouses. They’re easy to grow and thus can be extensively hybridized for accessibility in garden centers.

However, foliage Anthuriums are rare, available only in online seedling nurseries or specialty greenhouses. They thrive in similar conditions as their natural habitats in the tropical zones.

  1. Grow Anthuriums in the Right Soil

Anthuriums grow in all types of soil ranging from heavy clays to sandy loams. They require highly organic soil with high water-retention capabilities and proper drainage. Excess water in soil can cause fungal houseplant diseases such as root rot and stalk rot. Plant them 5cm deep maximum to prevent similar diseases.

Mulch the plants with sugarcane bagasse or coconut husks to reduce the loss of moisture. Also, provide some sort of support for optimal plant growth.

  1. Water Anthuriums to Prevent Continual Dryness

Water Anthuriums after planting. Make sure the water is enough to keep the soil moist without flooding it. Re-water only after the soil dries up because the plants love short-lived dryness in between the watering sessions. Use potting soil mixed with orchid bark and pumice for better drainage.

The roots mound out of the pot as the plant ages, exposing its slender stem. Spray the stem once exposed to help with regulation of the whole plant’s hydration.

  1. Expose the Plant to Sufficient Lighting, but not Direct Sunlight

Anthuriums require proper lighting to bloom indoors. Place them near windows for access to natural light. Install blinds or light curtains on the windows to protect the plants from direct sunlight, especially in the early afternoons.

During the cold months, direct sunlight is hard to come-by, hence not harsh on the plants. The plants get hard-pressed for survival if temperatures sip below 600 F. Opt for full-spectrum lighting if there’s no access to natural light.

Flamingo Plant in Bold Colors

  1. Fertilize Regularly with an Organic Fertilizer

Use liquid organic fertilizer throughout the growing period and fertilizer pellets in spring. Apply dilute fertilizer solution every third or fourth time the plants are fertilized for healthy flowering Anthuriums. A 7-9-5 fertilizer low in nitrogen is recommended.

  1. Provide Humidity Indoors

Native to tropical climates, Anthuriums require additional moisture indoors or in other climates. Mist them daily in dry climates; place a try with pebbles beneath the potted plants to humidify them.

  1. Repot Annually

Grow Anthurium in loose potting soil. Keep it moist, but not drenched in water to prevent fungal diseases. Add ¼ part orchid bark in the potting soil mix in dry climates to improve drainage. Repotting becomes necessary if the plants begin drying out fast between watering intervals.

Repot them in larger containers (one size larger than the pot in use). Make sure the pot is only 1/3 of the entire volume of the plant and pot combined while the plant makes up 2/3.  Repot the plants every year.

  1. Watch Out for Pests and Diseases, and Look Out for Kids and Pets

Most Anthurium species are resistant to diseases because they’re rich in natural oils often poisonous to pests. However, they’re prone to spider mites and thus require regular misting as a preventive measure. Some cause skin irritation and thus should be placed indoors in areas inaccessible to pets and kids.

Potted Anthurium Plant

Potted Anthurium Plant

Anthurium Species

Here are some popular Anthurium cultivars:

  • Anthurium acaule
  • Anthurium albidum
  • Anthurium albispatha
  • Anthurium albovirescens
  • Anthurium macrolonchium
  • Anthurium anceps
  • Anthurium magnifolium
  • Anthurium andraeanum
  • Anthurium aristatum
  • Anthurium navasii

Conclusion

Although Anthuriums care might sound daunting to beginner gardeners, it’s easy after mastering what’s involved. Watering and repotting the plants becomes easy as long as they’re grown in the right soil and placed in strategic positions indoors. Growing Anthuriums at home rewards with beautiful, long-blooming flowers worth your effort and investment.

Are you looking for growing bags to start your Anthuriums at home? Browse through our collection of grow bags in all sorts of sizes for the exact fabric pot you need.

Continue reading

Tomato Gardening: How to Plant Tomatoes at Home

Tomato Gardening: How to Plant Tomatoes at Home


 

Tomatoes have a range of health benefits, including good stomach health, better digestion, body detoxification, eye care, improved fluid balance, and reduced blood pressure.

Tomatoes can also help reduce cholesterol levels, fight cardiovascular diseases and stimulate blood circulation, just to mention a few. With the many health benefits of this vegetable, it becomes necessary to plant tomatoes at home.

What is a Tomato?

Also known as Solanum lycopersicum in scientific terms, tomatoes are both a fruit and vegetable. Tomatoes are believed to have their origin in Mexico from where they spread to America during the colonial times. They are annual nightshade plants with round, red fruits.

Tomatoes grow in small-to-moderately sized clusters. The fruits are soft, with pinkish-red flesh and moderately sweet flavor. They are an important cuisine ingredient in the Mediterranean region and other parts of the world. They also flavor food.

Why You Should Plant Tomatoes at Home

Tomatoes are fruits and vegetables rich in antioxidants, and vitamins and minerals. Due to their rich nutrient content, tomatoes have many health benefits as stated above. Planting tomatoes at home will allow you to access this vegetable from your garden at no cost.

In addition to easily accessing tomatoes when you need them, and gaining from their range of health benefits, you get to use organic vegetables without harmful chemicals. You'll use healthy, sustainable techniques to grow organic tomatoes from your yard. This further guarantees you better health.

Last, but not least, you can easily sell excess tomatoes in your garden to your friends, family or neighbors. With the extra money earned, you can easily pay off your other expenses or bills. However, this depends on the number of tomatoes your gardening space allows you to plant, and of course, your crop yield.

A Guide on How to Plant Tomatoes at Home

Any gardener would agree that every garden should have at least one tomato plant. However, most gardeners fail to grow the right number of plants in the space they have available. Many gardeners often end up with a higher plant population on their gardens than is recommended.

Even avid gardeners tend to make this and other common mistakes, leaving them with a less than desirable tomato harvest. However, if done properly, growing tomatoes can be fun. Nothing beats the joy of seeing a plant grow from a seed, watching it grow and flower into fruition.

Tomato gardening is easy, and harvesting ripe fruits when they are ready is worth the effort. There are factors every gardener should consider before planting tomatoes at home. They range from the right tomato type or variety to grow, to where to grow your tomato seedlings, to existing crops in your garden.

Factors to Consider When Planting Tomatoes

Want to grow tomatoes? If you're here, your answer is probably a yes. The following factors are important to successful tomato gardening. Factor them before preparing your soil, during planting, while caring for your plants and even during harvesting.

  1. Tomato Seeds/Starter Plants

Do you want to plant your tomatoes from seeds or starter plants? Starter plants are 6 to 8-inch tall seedlings often sold in nurseries or garden centers. Unlike seeds, the seedlings have a head start at growing, making them more advantageous.

However, the unknown condition of tomato seedlings can be a drawback. Is it disease resistant? How healthy is it? These are questions you must answer if you intend to buy tomato seedlings for planting in your home garden. Will it grow into a healthy, disease resistant and vibrant plant?

Do you know the type of seeds that were used to grow the tomato seedlings? How was their quality? Prefer growing tomato seeds? Buy high-quality tomato seeds for resistance to common diseases and increased vitality.

  1. Choose the Best Tomato Type/Variety

Tomato plant seeds can either be determinate or indeterminate.

Determinate Tomato Seeds - Also referred to as bush tomato seeds, determinate seeds grow to a fixed height, ranging from 2 to 4 feet. Upon maturation, tomato plants flower and develop fruits at the edge of the stems. The fruits ripen within 14 days.

However, fruit production typically ends with the first harvest, and the plant eventually dies. Tomato plants grown from determinate seeds have a one-off high yield, making them ideal for making home-made tomato sauce.

Tomato staking is recommended to prevent fruits from touching the ground, atop supporting the weight of the plants. It takes proper soil preparation with the right fertilizer and regular watering and determined tomato seeds to grow and flourish.

Note that these plants also don't require pruning. Roma tomato seeds are a good example of determinate seeds.

Indeterminate Tomato Seeds - These seeds grow into vining tomato plants, meaning they require support. Tomato cages, tripods or even strong sticks can be used to support these tomato plants.

Tomato fruits develop along the stems, and the plants continue fruiting throughout the entire growing season. The plants only start dying once the weather becomes frosty.

With a large selection of tomato variety to choose from, indeterminate seeds are the most popular among vegetable gardeners. Brandywine, Big Boy, most heirlooms and cheery are good examples of indeterminate tomato seeds. Depending on tomato variety, they take 49 to 100 days to mature.

  1. Tomato Growing Zone

Know your tomato growing zone and choose varieties that do well in your region. While a specific tomato variety can do well in a specific zone, they might not grow in another area. Check the Zone Map to determine your growing zone for the right variety that does well in your locality.

You can also assess the packaging of any seeds variety when you go seeds shopping to find out if your area is covered. Tomatoes do well in warm weather; planting is recommended when the day-time temperature is at 66 degrees F and temperatures at night is not more than 55 degrees F.

How to Start Growing Tomatoes

  1. Soil Preparation

 Tomatoes grow in well-prepared soil mixed with the right fertilizer in the right proportions. Depending on the amount of space available in your home for gardening, you can prepare soil on the ground in your backyard or prepare a raised bed tomato garden.

A raised bed tomato garden is superior to a ground garden for many reasons as follows:

  • A garden bed is raised, meaning you grow your tomatoes while standing. This saves your back unnecessary pain
  • Weeds and pests associated with ground gardening are not a problem with raised garden beds
  • Some raised beds come with protrusions on the edges to allow you a seating area while gardening
  • You get to choose the best soil quality for your raised bed, giving you more control over your gardening
  • Raised tomato garden beds are portable, meaning you get to till your tomatoes from your favorite point within your home
  • Raised garden beds also support outdoor or indoor gardening to suit different preferences
  1. Fertilizer Application

Fertilizer is important for both traditional gardening on the ground and planting your tomatoes on a raised garden bed. Using fertilizer on ground gardens is easy as long as your soil is good; simply mix the soil with the fertilizer before planting. There is also the need to water your plants and control weeds and pests on traditional gardens.

First, test the pH level of your soil to ensure it is conducive for vegetable gardening. Tomatoes grow in slightly acidic soil. The right soil pH range for tomatoes is 6 to 6.8. Take a soil sample from your garden and send it to a garden center for testing or simply buy a soil pH test kit from a garden center near you and do a DIY test.

Fill your raised garden bed halfway with soil and top up with organic compost. Tomatoes do well with organic fertilizer. You might have to prepare compost manure in advance or buy some, but the former option is easier and more cost-effective.

Buy steer or blood meal manure to grow your tomatoes. Although chemical fertilizers are also available in many garden centers, they are more complex and require some knowledge to use. One pro of organic fertilizers for sale is that they are deodorized, hence odor-free.

Level your garden soil and water it slowly until your entire garden gets wet. Let the soil settle and dry before you start planting.

  1. Watering

Unlike other vegetables, tomatoes require constant attention, including more watering more so when the weather gets hot. You might also need plant covers & garden fabrics to protect your tomato plants from harsh weather conditions such as too much sunshine (can cause tomato wilting) or rainfall (can cause certain tomato diseases).

Watering your tomatoes regularly protects your plants from stress. Visit any garden center near you to buy a moisture meter to help you determine whether your garden soil is too wet or too dry. With knowledge of your garden soil's dryness level, you can water your tomatoes to get the right amount of moisture.

This is important because over watering or under watering your plants can cause them undue stress, leading to low crop yield. The meters are not just cost-effective, but also easy to use. After planting, it's important to mulch your tomato garden to minimize moisture loss. Use vermiculite; bark chips saw dust or pine straw as mulch.

  1. Planting

Requirements for Planting Tomatoes at Home

Prepare the following things to enable you to grow tomatoes from the comfort of your home:

                                    Tomato Growth Cycle

Steps for Planting Tomatoes

  • Pour seed starting mix (which usually has little to no actual soil) into small or medium seed starting grow pots. The size you choose depends on how far you are from transporting them outside.  If you’re starting seeds outside, make sure there is no fertilizer touching your seeds.
  • If you’re patient, warm the wet soil under grow lights or on a heated mat for a day before planting the seeds.
  • Plant 2-3 seeds about ¼” deep in the grow pot. If you’re starting them outside: give each set of seeds a 3’ radius.
  • Seeds NEED warmth to germinate. Keep them under grow lights (70˚-80˚F) and spray with water every day for the first week.
  1. Caring for Your Tomato Plants

 Spraying a Tomato Plant with Water

 

  • Seedlings should be in direct sunlight; however, they don’t need as much heat (65˚-70˚).
  • Keep the soil moist, but do not drown them in water. This happy medium is most easily reached with a spray bottle.
  • Make sure only one plant is growing in each pot. If two begin to compete, choose the one you’d like to keep and uproot the other; this is also called plant thinning to achieve the right plant population. Try not to stray too far from Darwinian principles.
  • Do not transplant outside until after the last average frost date. If you’re concerned about another possible frost, cover them with our Pop-Up Plant Covers.
  • Most tomato plants often need some sort of support. Use a cage or a pole for single plants, or build a fence support system if you have many tomato plants to stake.
  • Prune when necessary, watch for aphids, and remove leaves that grow at the bottom foot of the plant.
  1. Tomato Harvesting

When are tomatoes ready for harvest? Your tomatoes are ready for harvesting when the green fruits mature. Look for red coloring at the bottom of the fruit, an indication of ripening. You can also squeeze your tomatoes for firmness to determine if they are ready for harvesting. Mature fruits are not so firm as they begin to ripen.

  • Tomatoes can be picked when they’re semi-ripe, (called “breakers”)—if you want these, pick them once they reach a light shade of green or begin to turn pinkish or orange.
  • If you want a ripe tomato, wait until they’re a deep color, but are still firm.
  1. Tomato Storage

What do you do with your tomatoes after harvesting? Store your harvested tomatoes properly to ensure they stay for long without going bad. You can also process your harvest into a value-added end-product such as home-made tomato sauce.

Store tomatoes inside a shade. Do not put them in the fridge! Cold temperatures cause both their flavor and texture to break down.

 Additional Tips

Heat & Water: Tomato plants are kind of needy! They need consistent warmth to germinate, and their need for water varies throughout their growth stages.

Use the Right Spacing: Give each plant a radius of about 3 feet of space. Gardeners often plant seeds 3 feet apart in one direction, but then plant other things in the next row.  So, remember, it’s a 3-foot radius. This protects both your tomato plants and their neighboring crops.

Know How & When to Fertilize: It is easy to burn your plant with fertilizer.  Yes, you can add fertilizer to the soil when you plant seeds. However, make sure that your seeds are not touching that fertilized soil.  See below for further instruction on this.

Remove Bottom Leaves: Once your plants are almost fully grown, remove the bottom leaves, especially those that look like they are wilting or dead. They’re usually out of the sun’s reach and start to create problems.

A Note on Fertilizer

Too much fertilizer can kill your tomato plants.  Here are three tips to avoid this:

  • Make sure that your tomatoes are not down the hill from other plants you are heavily fertilizing.
  • Tomato seeds sown outside should have a buffer of at least 3-inches of NON-fertilized soil.
  • Once the tomato plant is beginning to grow fruit, you can fertilize, but do not place it directly at the plants' base. The fertilizer can still burn the stock of the plant.

As you grow your tomatoes, expect to have so much fun caring for your babies (well, they need care just like babies). You'll have a high yield and harvest juicy, tasty tomatoes by ensuring you follow this simple guide to the letter.

Check out our planters and raised beds, including other gardening tools and supplies you'll need to start planting tomatoes at home

Continue reading

The Incredible Onion - How to Plant Onions at Home

The Incredible Onion - How to Plant Onions at Home

The Basics - Growing Onions

Onions, just like any other vegetable, have a range of health benefits. They can prevent and treat various diseases and repel certain bloodthirsty insects. Onions can treat asthma, the common cold, respiratory problems, coughs, bacterial infections, and angina.

With regular use, onions can also prevent heart disorders, cancer, and diabetes, among other life-threatening diseases. They can also boost your sexual drive, heal various skin conditions such as acne and help nourish your hair, among other benefits.

What is an Onion?

Also known as Allium cepa scientifically, onion is a type of vegetable. Onions are rich in antioxidants to help fight free radicals in the body. They have been used for their medicinal values since time immemorial.

Available as bulbs, onions can be yellow, red or white. Spring onions are also known as scallions or green onions. Onions have a sharp, pungent flavor and strong taste. Despite being a temperate vegetable, onions do relatively well in tropical, temperate and subtropical climatic conditions.

Humans have cultivated and used onions in their diet as a staple plant for at least 7,000 years. Although you'll find some wild onion species in specific regions in Asia, onions are mostly cultivated and grown worldwide. Egyptians buried pharaohs with onions to help enrich their diet in the next world.

In 5000 BC, onions were already being used in China. The popularity of onions can be attributed to their medicinal values, high availability, and versatility. Onions have antibacterial and anti-fungal properties, hence their use in treating fungal infections in households.

Why You Should Plant Onions at Home

Apart from the health benefits of using onions, there are many reasons why you should plant them at home. Onions do well in well-drained soil with sufficient moisture levels. Grow onions in your garden or backyard to gain the most from their range of benefits.

Onions are an integral part of preparing culinary and cuisines worldwide. You can also use them to cook your simple dishes at home. Since they are 'companion plants,' you can grow onions beside your other plants and vegetables. They also do well in a wide range of climates.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), onions can help treat atherosclerosis and improve appetite. Furthermore, studies have proven that people with allergic bronchitis, chronic asthma, coughs, and the common cold can immensely benefit from consuming diets rich in onions.

Onions are rich in vitamins, minerals, sulfuric compounds, quercetin, and dietary fibers, hence their medicinal properties. Moreover, they act as insect repellents and can be used to treat insect stings and bites. With all these benefits, you should plant onions at home in your garden, backyard or indoors.

A Guide on How to Plant Onions at Home

Onions’ hardiness, high yield, and easy storage make them a must-have in any avid Gardener’s list of crops to grow.  Be aware, however, that onions planted from seeds can take five months or more to reach maturity.  So, if you’re starting from seeds, sow seeds indoors 8 to 10 weeks before the last average frost date—this is usually in February or early March. 

If you’re starting with sets, plant them in late April or May. With Green Valley Supply grows bags, you can do this indoors and simply carry grow bags outside once weather permits. With no transplanting necessary, your seedlings are less likely to suffer from transplant shock.

Our pop-up plant cover will allow you to move seedlings outside in their grow bag weeks earlier if you need to free up space in your home.

Factors to Consider When Growing Onions at Home

Whether you want to plant onions indoors or outdoors, consider the following factors for a good start:

  1. Planting Zones

Onions can do well in zones 3 to 9. Find out if your zone is conducive for planting onions at home on the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map website.

  1. Type of Onion to Plant

There are various types of onions you might want to plant at home as follows:

  • Sweet Onions - Usually large, sweet onions are less opaque with slightly lighter skin color.
  • Yellow Onions - Popular for their strong, sulfur-like scent, yellow onions are brown on the outside and ivory white on the inside (the flesh).
  • Shallots - These onions are small with purple flesh and brown skins on the outside.
  • White Onions - Unlike yellow onions, white onions are sweeter and milder with white skin.
  • Green Onions - These are onions without bulbs.
  • Red Onions - These onions are deep magenta on the flesh and skin. Since they are sweet and mild, red onions are often eaten raw.
  • Leeks - Resembling overgrown scallions, leeks have long leaves and small bulbs. This type of onion is often used to prepare soups and sauces.

Whether you choose bulb or green onions, you can grow them in containers, pots or plastic water bottles. Your geographical location is a determinant factor when choosing the type of onion to grow.

  1. Onion Varieties

Choose between long-day (14-16 hours) and short-day (10-12 hours) onion varieties. You can also consider intermediate-day (12-14 hours) varieties. Whereas short-day varieties do well in the south, long-day varieties are best grown in the north.

  1. Growth Requirements
  • Temperatures - Onions require cool temperatures for early development and warmth or sunshine as they mature. 21 degrees F is the ideal temperature for growing onions, but anything below 18 degrees F can kill your plants.

Onion seeds emergence and germination occurs at a temperature range of 55 to 83 degrees F. Onion cycle in the tropical regions take 90 to 150 days after transplanting while in warm temperature regions, the cycle lasts 9 to 10 months.

Onion bulb development requires high temperatures and 12 to 15 hours of a day. The right onion planting density and early leaf cover can promote big bulb sizes and high yields, respectively.

  • Light - Onions require sufficient light. If you're growing your onions indoors, place the garden near windows to ensure they get enough light. You can also use artificial lights to supplement natural light to ensure what your onion crops get is enough to support photosynthesis.

Consider growing lights, like fluorescent lights to ensure your onions get sufficient light during bulb development. However, make sure the specific onion variety only gets the right amount of light after which you can put off the lights. Onions also require dark hours to enable them to complete their day-night growth cycle.

  • Plant Spacing & Depth - When growing onions, let the plant spacing be three inches. Plant each onion 6 to 10 inches deep to promote root and bulb development. However, you can grow smaller onion varieties or scallions with less spacing between plants.
  1. Selecting the Right Container

Choose a 6-10 inch deep container; width can be your choice based on the space available indoors. The right depth in your chosen container ensures your onion roots increase in size and quality. Bottle onion gardens are popular for their novelty and attractive looks.

  1. Soil Preparation & Water Management

Fertile, well-structured soil is the key to optimal onion growth and high yields. Prepare a seedbed with fine soil if you intend to grow your onions from seeds for optimal germination and plant development.

Onions generally have short, sparse roots with few hairs, hence the need for moisture and nutrients just 10 inches from the topsoil. Onions require sufficient water to grow and produce high yields. During drought, although onions can survive, they undergo stress and are likely to split or develop many bulbs on just a single plant.

Onions require up to 3 inches of water on a weekly basis during early plant development. As onions mature their water requirements go down and reducing available water can help speed maturity. Overwatering onions can lead to their skin cracking or bursting.

Mulch your onions with straw or grow them with wheat or barley to minimize soil erosion, especially if grown on light soils. If you intend to grow onions in your backyard or garden, make sure it's free from stones and clods that can hamper the efficiency of herbicides, growth and mechanical harvesting.

The right soil pH for growing onions is 6 to 7. However, if your soil is organic, the pH can be as low as 4. Soil with a pH of 5.5 lacks molybdenum and magnesium whereas a pH above 6.5 lacks manganese, zinc, and iron.

Avoid salty water and saline soils because onions are sensitive to salinity, leading to reduced yields. Fertilizers with chlorides are also not allowed because they reduce the growth of onions. Opt for sulfate and nitrate fertilizers to boost the growth of your onions.

Note that you can easily grow green onions in water indoors without using soil. You can grow them in a glass or bottle of water.

  1. Onion Starter Plant Sets or Seeds

Choose to grow your onions from sets or seeds. If you have sprouting onions in your kitchen, use them to start your indoor onion garden instead of throwing them away. Whichever you choose, allow your plants to grow for at least 4 to 6 weeks.


Planting Onion Sets

                                                     Planting Onion Sets

The sets need to sprout properly while the seeds require time to germinate. Although sets are easy to plant as they've been started, they might not give the best yield.

  Onion Seeds

                                                   Onion Seeds for Planting

On the other hand, onions grown from seeds flower in the second year as they're bi-annual plants, giving yield to large bulbs with longer storage life. Onion starter plants or sets are also prone to rotting, hence the need for you to plant your garden onions from seeds.

How to Plant & Care for Onions

 

                       A Video on Onion Seeds Sprouting, Ready for Transplanting

What you'll need

  1. Green Valley Supply Grow Bags
  2. Seeds or sets/Kitchen onion scraps
  3. Potting mix soil
  4. Seed Starter
  5. Trowel
  6. An extra source of light (optional)

Table 1: A Table Comparing What it Takes to Plant, Care for & Harvest Onions

Planting Care Harvest
  • Pour soil (and seed starter if necessary) into your grow bag; or, make sure your raised bed has about 10-12 inches of loose, loamy soil.
  • Plant seeds about ¼” away from each other, about ¼” deep in rows. Rows should be 4”-6” apart.  If you’re starting from sets, plant 3-4 small bulbs about 1” deep together—Brady Bunch style; groups should be 6” away from each other.
  • Keep soil moist. If the soil is dry when you’re planting, water immediately.
  • Place in direct sunlight or under plant lights.
  • Remember! Seeds can take up to two weeks to germinate as in the video above (do not despair!)
  • These little guys need water and warmth to germinate and grow!
  • Make sure they get lots of sunlight.
  • Add general nitrogen fertilizer every 2-3 weeks to promote bulb development.
  • Move seedlings outdoors once they have three leaves.
  • Use mulch to reduce watering levels as it retains moisture and suppresses weeds.
  • Onions mature when their tops begin to fall over or yellow.
  • Once most leaves have fallen over, bend the rest over manually, stop watering them and wait for 2-3 days.
  • Pull your onions out and let them sun dry for about a week.
  • Harvest and store somewhere dry with sufficient air flow.

    Onion Life Cycle

    Onion seeds are planted in the first year, and they germinate in 7 or 14 days. The onion develops leaves as it continues to grow for photosynthesis. The onions use the energy produced during photosynthesis for bulb development in spring, fall, and summer.

    If not harvested, onions can remain dormant underground in winter. During the second year, they flower. When temperatures warm up in spring, onions flower, get pollinated and develop seeds.

    Note that early onion dormancy due to sudden cooling in summer can cause your onion plants to flower despite being in their first year of growth.

    Onion Life-cycle

                                                                  The Life Cycle of an Onion

    Provide Protection for Your Onions

    Use hand weeding, herbicides and inter-row cultivation with other crops to help keep your onion garden weed free. Since onions generally take time to grow after transplanting, they cannot compete well with weeds for nutrients, water and other necessities for growth.

    Make sure your soil is sterilized and use nematode-free seeds and good plant rotational practices to keep nematodes and eelworms from your onion plants.

    Whereas the former restricts uptake of moisture and nutrients through roots and stems, the latter attacks stem, causing damages, plant distortion and death, including shoot twisting. Onion thrips, on the other hand, are common in regions with warmer climates.

    Thrips don't just damage onion leaves, but also cause stunted growth. Use insecticides to kill onion maggots or fly, including thrips. Control of fungicidal and bacterial diseases is essential to improving crop yield.

    Fungicide sprays, deep cultivation, soil sterilization, and wide rotations can control most disease problems. Leek rust, white onion rot, and downy mildew are some common problems you can expect to face while planting onions at home.

    Onion Harvesting

    Onions are harvested in fall when the leaves yellow, dry and fall over. According to various studies, you should harvest your onions when they still have between 30% to 40% foliage. This increases their storage life.

    Strike a balance between reducing the quality of your bulbs in storage and getting the maximum yield to harvest your onions at the right time. Do not over dry the onions to prevent them from balding while in storage. Harvest in late summer.

    Loosen the soil and pull your onions from the container, pot or raised bed and dry them in the sun. Remove the roots once they're dry and ready for storage.

    Onion Storage

    After harvesting, onions can be cured outdoors. During the curing process, the onions should be covered in your garden or backyard, but must never be left out for too long. Controlled storage with the right atmospheric conditions can help preserve the quality of your onions.

    Low oxygen levels in storage minimize sprouting while low CO2 levels prevent fungal sporulation. Keep humidity levels between 65% and 70% and temperatures at 34 degrees F to prevent fungi from spreading and minimize respiration, respectively.

    You can store your harvested onions for many months. Keep them in a cool, dry place with proper ventilation for up to one month. Neither store your onions under the sink or in a refrigerator as the high moisture level can make them soft and thus spoil them.

    Inspect your onions regularly during storage for discoloration or slimy substances. Discard those that are either discolored or have become soft and slimy.

    Refrigerate spring onions for up to seven days. If you want your onions to stay fresh for up to a year, cover them in foil and refrigerate. Never store your onions near pears or apples for prolonged storage.


     

    Continue reading

    Raised Vegetable Beds: How to Affordably Fill Raised Garden Beds

    Raised Vegetable Beds: How to Affordably Fill Raised Garden Beds

    Vegetable Permaculture Raised Garden

    Vegetable Permaculture Raised Garden

    What is a Raised Bed?

    Raised beds have been in use for centuries. They’re often elevated to higher levels than the surrounding grounds. Although a temporary bed is usually edged, permanent variations are enclosed or framed with various materials such as wood, concrete, bottles and metal sheets, among others.

    The beds are built four feet wide for ergonomic reasons to ensure gardeners can easily reach across the bed for efficient access. The length of raised beds vary, but gardeners should keep them as short as possible for easy maneuverability around the bed. For instance, a bed measuring 4’ x 8’ isn’t just easy to build, but also walk around.

    However, beds with shorter widths have a better ‘edge effect’ and thus higher productivity. Although more edging material would be needed for edging, it would be more beneficial than if fewer materials were used. Raised garden beds increase productivity, improve soil conditions such as drainage, increases flexibility and makes irrigation more efficient.

    Vegetable Garden Beds

    Vegetable Garden Beds

    The beds also make it easy to tend to plants, give control over the type of soil to use, and make gardening fun and easier for beginner gardeners. With garden beds, weed and pest control become easier and space is used efficiently. Furthermore, the beds benefit gardeners with back problems and those without.

    Building Raised Garden Beds

    Raised beds can either be temporary or permanent. The former beds are often made from mounded earth soil. On the other hand, the latter beds are usually made from bricks, wood, metal, concrete, plastics or even stones. Semi-permanent beds can be made from pressed straw bales.

    Container gardening or growing plants in pots is a representation of smaller beds with similar benefits. Ready-made raised beds can also be bought online or locally instead of making DIY beds. Plastic or metal watering troughs can also make instant container beds; they only require holes at the bottom to support plant growth.

    Herbs and Vegetables in a Raised Pot

    Herbs and Vegetables in Raised Pots

    Before building a bed, it’s important to embark on the following tasks:

    1. Create a plan.
    2. Choose a site with proper drainage and safe from harsh weather elements such as strong winds.
    3. Choose an irrigation and drainage system suitable for the specifically raised bed – drip irrigation is recommended for raised bed gardening.
    4. Kill existing vegetation on site, especially weeds such as the creeping bellflower, kudzu or bindweed, or even rhizomatous grass. Cut back or hand-pull weeds, use an organic weed killer or lay a black plastic sheeting a couple of months earlier to kill weeds or vegetation on the site.
    5. Lay irrigation hoses beneath the foundation or edging.
    6. Build a foundation for the bed. A concrete foundation is ideal for concrete, stone or brick raised garden beds. It’s ideal for sites with clay soils for proper leveling and bed stability. If edging is necessary, it’s installed beneath the foundation on dug trenches.

    Wooden Raised Bed with Weed Cloth Beneath

    Wooden Raised Bed with Weed Cloth Beneath

    Deep holes at the corners are recommended for wooden beds to accommodate posts. Consider metal flashing, metal edging, plastic edging, or weed cloth to deter weeds.

    1. Install irrigation systems.
    2. Fill soil in beds before planting.

    Fill Soil in Beds

    Whether the bed in question is DIY made or bought, it requires soil or any other growth medium. Plants require rich, nutritious soil with proper drainage to grow optimally. Here are four ways to fill a raised bed:

    Raised Wooden Garden Beds with Soil

    Raised Wooden Garden Beds with Soil

    4 Ways to Fill Raised Garden Beds Affordably

    Here's a Video Courtesy of Youtube on How to Fill Raised Beds

               https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OAMf9JEckFI

    1. Collect Organic Materials

    The method dictates that you collect various organic materials that can compost such as leaves, plants and grass clippings. The bottom layer of the garden bed should comprise of compost with soil in the top layer. 1 part grass clippings and 2 parts shredded or cut leaves are often used to make the compost for the bottom layers.

    Organic Materials

    Organic Materials

    Mow your lawn to gather grass clippings and prune trees in your yard to get leaves. Visit a local gardening store or center for alternatives to organic materials. If possible, get them from your neighbors, friends or even colleagues.

    1. Lay Compost on the Bed

    With a collection of organic materials, lay compost at the bottom of your raised bed. Spread the materials evenly to cover the entire bottom area of your bed. Make sure your bed is covered halfway with the compostable materials. If using all sorts of organic materials, use your hands to mix them up.

    Raised Bed with Organic Materials

    Raised Bed with Organic Materials

    1. Cover the Compost with Newspapers or Cardboards

    Use newspapers or a cardboard(s) to separate the topsoil from the compost beneath. A layer of cardboard or two to three layers of newspapers is recommended. Ascertain that the compost beneath is covered in entirety, from edge to edge.

    Cardboards Covering Raised Beds

    Cardboards Covering Raised Beds - Image Courtesy of Wikihow

    1. Source for Soil to Top the Raised Bed

    Collect native soil in your yard to use as topsoil on the bed. Local gardening centers or stores retail topsoil and other substitutes such as potting mixes. Visit one near you to buy topsoil.

    1. Rake the Soil to Remove Stones

    Rake the soil or run your hands through it to remove stones and break down large soil particles. The obstacles can easily obstruct plants roots from growing optimally.

    Raking Soil to Remove Stones

    Raking Soil to Remove Stones

    1. Fill Your Raised Garden Bed

    Add the soil on the layer of newspapers or cardboard to fill your bed. Fill it to the brim or leave a few inches of spaces for fertilization if you deem necessary. If planting tomatoes, you might want to fill the bed to the top. However, flowers would need some space to ensure they bloom prominently.

    • Use a Mixture of Compost and Soil
    1. How Much Soil Do You Need?

    Measure the width, length, and depth of the garden bed to determine its measurements. With the measurements, you can determine the amount of soil you need. Key in the measurements in the Gardeners Soil Calculator.

    Alternatively, do a quick search in Google for other soil calculators online. The figure you get from the calculator is the total after mixing compost with soil.

    1. Find Soil

    Native soil is the best for your raised bed. Use a wheelbarrow or bucket and a shovel to collect enough from your yard. Pour the heap of soil near your bed. Visit a garden supply center if you can’t find soil in your yard. Buy faux soil mixture or topsoil to mix with compost.

    Loamy Topsoil

    Loamy Topsoil

    If there’s need to mix your yard soil with what you buy, make sure there’s consistency in soil properties. It ensures proper soil drainage after mixing the two. Buy topsoil with certified compost to get quality soil.

    1. Buy or Make Homemade Compost

    Visit a local garden center to buy compost. Make sure it was made from food craps, plant matter, and manure. Buy compost from a reputable supplier that sells certified compost. However, you can make your compost to save cost. Collect organic materials to decompose in a bin or compost pit.

    Preparing Homemade Compost with Organic Materials & Kitchen Waste

    Preparing Homemade Compost with Organic Materials & Kitchen Waste

    Source materials from your compost pile or build up one with kitchen remains. According to the U.S Composting Council, a growing medium such as soil should contain a minimum of 5% organic matter.

    1. Mix Compost and Soil in a Ratio of 1:1

    Mix the soil and compost in a ratio of 1:1 for even output. Make sure the amount of compost is equal to the amount of soil. Measure the quantity of the two or simply make approximations to ensure none is more than the other. Wear gloves and mix them thoroughly. Remove any rocks in the soil and break down large soil particles.

    Mixing Rotten Compost with Soil

    Mixing Rotten Compost with Soil

    1. Fill the Raised Bed

    After coming up with a proper mixture of the compost and soil, fill the bed with it. Depending on what you want to grow in the bed, fill it with the mixture accordingly.

    Raised Bed Filled with Soil Ready for Planting

    Raised Bed Filled with Soil Ready for Planting

    What You Need

    • 1 part coarse vermiculite (use perlite to reduce cost)
    • 1 part peat moss (increases in size when wet)

    Soil Peat Moss

    Soil Peat Moss

    • 1 part compost made from organic materials
    • 1 part dry fertilizers
    • Two parts loamy soil (optional)

     Procedure:

    1. First, calculate the amount of soil mix you need.
    2. Make rich compost using animal manure, mushrooms and worm castings, including other organic materials. Make sure the compost has heated up and is completely composted to kill weed seeds and pathogens. Mix compost with loamy soil at a ratio of 75:25, with the former being more than the soil. Note that anything that rots can go into the compost.
    3. Add 3.5 pounds of lime to make the mixture alkaline because peat moss is acidic. Spruce duff and pine can reduce the pH of the soil if it’s alkaline
    4. Peat moss and coconut coir add organic matter into the soil, improving its drainage. Peat can be added within the first year or later. It makes soil light, promotes drainage and growth of roots. Perlite or vermiculite is used in a similar way.
    5. Add dry slow-release fertilizers such as greensand for potassium, bone meal for phosphorus and blood meal rich in nitrogen. They’re ideal for replacing leached nutrients.
    6. Mix all the materials with compost using your hands. Make sure you wear gloves.
    7. Fill your bed with the mix to the right level. Leave some spacing at the top for optimal growth and any other later additions.

    Raised Garden Beds Ready for Planting

    Raised Garden Beds Ready for Planting

    • Botanical Edging

    If your yard has good, fertile soil or you’re working with a large space, botanical edging can also help save costs. Instead of using a constructed bed, you edge the soil on the ground to form a raised bed. Use a half-moon lawn edger or sharp spade to cut out soil and create edges. Here’s how to cut a botanical edge:

    Botanical Edging

    Botanical Edging

    1. Mark out the edges. Use a string or wood plank for straight edges. A thick rope or a garden hose can help mark out curves.
    2. Push the spade or edger into the ground and step both edges to drive it underground. Lift it towards your bed once it’s in the ground to scoop out soil. Repeat the procedure all round to create a vertical edge. Each time, toss the soil in your garden bed.
    3. Rake the soil on your bed to level and break it down. Make sure you remove grass and weeds in the soil as you rake. Your edging is complete at this point. Add mulch or soil on the bed to raise it further if you deem fit. Slope any material you add inwards on the bed to stabilize the edges.

    How to Push the Edger in the Ground to Scoop Out Soil

    How to Push the Edger in the Ground to Scoop Out Soil

    Top 6 Organic Materials to Mix with Compost and Topsoil

    When making growing medium for your raised bed, topsoil should make up 50%, organic matter 30% and sources of minerals 20%. Here are materials you can add at a rate of 5% to compost and topsoil until you get the 20%:

    1. Mineralized soil blends such as granite, granite dust, and azomite.
    2. Shredded leaves to add bulk. Wet the leaves for about six months until they rot.
    3. Worm castings (vermicompost) to add nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium.
    4. Ground bark such as pine. It’s an excellent source of carbon. It also adds texture to the soil for better aeration and water drainage. Let it age and rot before using it.
    5. Dark brown mushroom compost with a neutral pH. It’s rich in nitrogen, potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, and calcium.
    6. Composted poultry or cow manure

    Worm Castings

    Worm Castings

    Top 3 Additives

    • Mycorrhizae – Although it’s often found in native soil, it’s harmless.
    • Charcoal fire ash – often contains elements not ideal for organic gardening. Opt for wood-based ash in small amounts.
    • Biochar – rich source of carbon with high nutrition value.

    Charcoal Biochar

    Charcoal Biochar

    What to Avoid

    • Artificial fillers – hamper drainage
    • Fill dirt – found beneath the topsoil and isn’t healthy.
    • Peat moss – Although it has high water retention ability, it doesn’t rehydrate once dry. Therefore, it’s unsustainable. Opt for the recommended alternative.
    • Horse manure – often contains herbicides because horses feed on hay sourced from fields sprayed with the chemicals.

    A Raised Garden Bed with Herbs

    A Raised Garden Bed with Herbs

    Conclusion

    Choosing the right soil or growing medium is key to developing a productive garden. Raised beds give gardeners the ability to control what goes into their gardens. Soil determines how much food yield your garden can produce. The best soil helps in Ormaximizing growing space in gardens for maximum productivity.

    Therefore, take time to research before creating your garden bed to ensure you come up with the best. And, when reducing costs is necessary, learn to be patient because your bed would need time to fully decompose and give the best output. Forego the topsoil to grow your plants in an organic growing medium.

    Raised Garden Beds with Vegetables

    Raised Garden Beds with Vegetables

    Add compost annually, grow cover crops in summer and fall and apply lime if the soil is too acidic for the best soil your crops need. When making compost, water it properly for the best outcomes. Furthermore, only use organic materials free from herbicides. Good soil promotes the development of a proper soil food web with all the nutrients your plants need.

    Developing healthy soil is cost-effective and key to building an optimum growth medium. Soil gets better with time. Expect the growing medium in your bed to improve season after season. Make sure you add organic material or compost every year to replenish lost nutrients. Invest in a soil test to determine deficiencies and pH of your soil before making any additions to it.

    Balance your soil pH because plants take up the most nutrients if it’s neutral. With an efficient irrigation system in place, your raised bed is ready for planting. After planting your edibles, mulch your bed to reduce the loss of water. Enjoy gardening in your raised bed!

    Start Your Raised Vegetable Garden Today

    Check out our gardening tools and supplies to get a metal raised bed and other items you need to start and maintain your garden.

    Continue reading

    Dragon Flowers/Antirrhinum: How to Grow Snapdragon

    Dragon Flowers/Antirrhinum: How to Grow Snapdragon

     

    Colorful Snapdragon Flowers
    Colorful Snapdragon Flowers

     

    Snapdragon obtained its name from the shape of its flowers. It resembles the appearance of the face of a ‘dragon’ when opened and closed. The plant is easy to grow and maintain. Available in almost all colors, there are a Snapdragon species for every interior décor out there. They also come in bi-colors to choose from.

    Bright colors such as playful oranges and reds can add life and warmth indoors, brightening your space. On the contrary, flowers in pale pastels tone down a home decorated in bright colors, giving a cool backdrop for interior items and accessories to stand out.

    They can also make outdoor spaces stand out in your neighborhood. Although they bloom throughout the cold season, they also grow in summer. The plant blossoms resemble open mouths when squeezed, hence most of its common names. Blend the right flower colors with those inside your home to achieve an exceptional look.

    What is a Snapdragon?

    Also known as dragon flowers or Antirrhinum, Snapdragon is native to the Mediterranean. It is also known as Dog’s mouth, Lion’s mouth or Toad’s mouth. Antirrhinum refers to ‘like a snout’ because seed pods take the shape of the nose of a calf. It also grows in rocky areas in the US, Europe, and North Africa. The plants are available as creeping or trailing varieties, and tall or short hybrids.

    The annual plants for cold seasons thrive in partial shade or full sun. Its cultivation occurs in temperate to tropical zones. They can be grown as rockery, bedding, container plants or herbaceous borders, among other uses. The plants are grown for flower cuts.

    Antirrhinum majus

    Acabashi, 'Antirrhinum majus' Sundial Garden Hatfield House Hertfordshire England, CC BY-SA 4.0

    Traditionally, they provided protection from evil powers (witchcraft) because people believed they had supernatural powers. The plants also helped restore women’s youthfulness and beauty. Heirloom flowers transition homes into a luxury oasis for relaxed, stress-free living.

    Why Grow Snapdragons

    Snapdragons come in all sort of colors ranging from bold colors to light hues except blues. Two months before the last frost, the seeds can be started indoors. Organic matter easily amends the soil (thus reduces costs), and Snapdragon seedlings enjoy growing in the full sun. Furthermore, they’re less susceptible to pests such as aphids and plant diseases.

    The plants can give a complete bushy appearance if trimmed for better ornamental value. They’re perfect for cut flowers. Snapdragons also produce a sweet scent, making them ideal houseplants. Dwarf varieties grow indoors throughout the year. The plants are also compact, meaning they can easily grow in window boxes, patio containers, grow bags and along border gardens.

    Trailing Snapdragons can grow in hanging baskets for display outdoors. They’re a perfect way to add life and depth to your walls. They begin blooming from stalk bottoms upwards for a prolonged bloom in fall or spring, indoors or outdoors. The stalks are also brightly-colored and spiky, adding to the plant’s interesting appearance.

    Snapdragon Flowers in Bold Red

     

    Moreover, you can grow Snapdragons as filler plants in your hanging baskets, containers, pots or fabric bags or even tuck them into your walls. Group purples, pinks, yellows, and reds to color your interior space.

    Snapdragon Planting Guide

    Snapdragon varies in height from 6 inches to 3 feet. Whether you want to grow your plants indoors or outdoors, it’s important to start your seeds before the last frost in the year. The plants thrive in cool climates and go into dormancy during the dry seasons. Read on to find out how to successfully grow your Antirrhinum at home.

    Factors to Consider When Growing Snapdragons

    When growing Snapdragons, consider various factors discussed below to support optimal growth of your plants. Here are the top factors to look into:

    1. Snapdragon Growth Conditions
    • Exposure to the Sun/Light Requirements

    In spring, Snapdragons require partial shade to full sun to grow optimally. They require similar conditions to bloom. However, they cease blooming the moment high temperatures set in. Grow them in partial shades in summer and water them properly so they bloom in fall. Even so, the plants are so easy to grow that you can replace them each season.

    • Hardiness Zones

    The tender perennials thrive in USDA Hardiness Zones 8 to 9. However, they’re often grown as annuals. People think they’re biennials because the plants overwinter and bloom again, but not as in the first growth year. Seed pods develop within the first year and sometimes, Snapdragons self-sow.

    • Soil

    Snapdragons thrive in soils with a neutral pH. Although the plants aren’t heavy feeders and live for short periods, organic manure is essential in promoting blooms and plant health. They do well in cool soils, not warm or hot soils.

    A good quality potting mix is ideal for indoor growth; the addition of perlite to the soil is recommended. Mulch the soil with vermiculite to improve ventilation.

    • Water Requirements

    Snapdragon grows in moist soils with proper drainage. Water regularly and thoroughly and use pots with good drainage to prevent fungal diseases such as root rot.

    • Humidity

    The plants require about 40% relative humidity. Use humidifiers to improve humid conditions indoors.

    • Temperature

    Antirrhinum grows in temperatures ranging from cool to moderate, that’s 600 to 750 F. Harden Snapdragon seedlings before transplanting them outdoors at the beginning of spring. They’re hardy to light frost, but require over-wintering in extremely cold seasons.

    • Fertilizer

    Apply diluted liquid fertilizer every couple of weeks.

    1. Period of Bloom

    Snapdragons thrive in mild climates from spring and fall to winter. Deadheading increases growth. However, the plants generally bloom for a long period.

    White Snapdragon Antirrhinum majus Flowers

    1. Size of Mature Plants

    The plants range from tall to dwarf varieties, with the information often on the seed packet label. Tall varieties grow up to 30 to 48 inches while dwarf varieties range in height from 6 to 15 inches. The latter species are dense and bushy, with several flower stalks. On the other hand, tall species are less dense.

    Varieties with qualities of dwarf and tall species grow in height from 15 to 30 inches. Growth conditions vary based on a species’ fullness and size at maturity. A plant’s size also comes in when choosing varieties to grow indoors or outdoors. Dwarf varieties are ideal for indoor growth.

    1. Snapdragon Species

    Just like choosing the size of a mature plant, the specific species also comes in handy. The two go hand-in-hand.

    1. Propagation

    Antirrhinum can be grown from seeds or seedlings as you deem fit.

    How to Plant Snapdragons

    You can plant Snapdragons from seeds indoors in pots and let them grow as indoor plants or bring them outside for transplanting in beds as seedlings. Here's how you can grow your Snapdragon plants at home:

    1. Start Your Snapdragon Seeds in Pots

    You can start your seeds for planting. Alternatively, buy seedlings from a local nursery or garden center.

    Choose the Right Snapdragon Seeds and Buy – Growing up to 3 feet tall, Snapdragon plants bloom bold flowers in various colors. Choose a variety based on the color(s) you want your plants to produce. Sonnet seed series produce yellow, red, purple, pink and white flowers; they grow up to one and a half feet tall.

    Rocket seed series produce pink, red, purple, yellow and white flowers; they grow up to three feet tall. On the other hand, Liberty seed series produce purple, red, white, pink, yellow and other flower colors; they grow up to two feet tall.

    Start Your Dragon Seeds Indoors – Six to eight weeks before the last frost in the year, start your seeds indoors. It should be at the onset of spring, the right Snapdragon planting time. Instead of using regular potting soil, use seed substrate or sterile seed starting mix. Make DIY pots or buy grow bags to start your seeds. Fill the pots with soil up to three-quarters and sprinkle seeds on them lightly to cover the entire surface.

    Press the seeds lightly to partially submerge them in soil; they require light to sprout. Place the pot near a window with access to sufficient light for warmth. Water it often to keep the soil moist. Alternatively, plant the seeds outdoors in late fall.

    Prepare a garden bed and press the seeds onto it after sprinkling them. You can also buy Snapdragon seedlings from a local garden center or nursery to avoid starting your seeds. Expect the seeds to germinate in 10 to 14 days.

    Sprouting Seeds in Pots

    Sprouting Plants in Pots

    Nurture Your Seedlings as they Grow – Water your seedlings properly as they grow and keep them warm. Keep the temperatures from 600 to 700 F. Water the seeds as they germinate for optimal growth.

    Prune Tips at 6 Leaves – After the seedlings grow six leaves, cut off their tips to boost bloom. The same applies to seedlings bought from stores. However, they must have six leaves to resist the effects of pruning out the tip.

    1. Transplanting Snapdragon Seedlings

    Prepare a Raised Garden Bed Outdoors – Antirrhinum thrives in cool temperatures, making the start of spring the best time to plant the seedlings outdoors. Make sure your bed is ready for planting before the last frost in the year. They thrive in neutral soils under the full sun.

    Use organic materials such as rotten leaves to amend the soil for prolonged bloom. Till the bed before applying the organic matter up to six inches deep. Mix the soil with organic matter thoroughly to improve drainage.

    Plant the Seedlings on the Last Frost Date – Snapdragon can withstand light frost. Dig planting holes at a minimum of 1 foot apart for the right spacing between plants. It allows free flow of air and protects the plants from diseases such as rot, rust, and mildew. The plants are susceptible to the diseases. Water your seedlings after planting.

    1. Caring for Snapdragons

    Water Regularly – Water your plants every time the soil becomes dry. Avoid overwatering because it can promote mold growth. Water the plants at the roots, but not overhead. The latter can damage flowers due to high pressure. Make sure you water the plants in the morning to ensure water is completely absorbed before nightfall. Otherwise, standing water would foster mildew or rot growth.

    Watering Snapdragon Seedlings

    Watering Snapdragon Seedlings

    Deadhead Wilting Flowers and Stems – Cut off wilting flowers and stems to keep your plants healthy and promote blooming.

    Mulch Your Bed in Hot Weather – Mulch your plants with organic materials such as straw and leaves. It keeps the soil moist and roots cool. It also ensures your Snapdragons last longer before dying in summer. Mulching also helps suppress weeds. Alternatively, opt for artificial weed suppressors for the same reasons.

    Harvest Snapdragon Seeds – Antirrhinum seed pods develop at the rear end of the stalks as the plant matures. Buy recyclable bags and attach them over the pods. It captures seeds as they drop naturally from the pods. Dry the seeds in the sun and keep them for planting the following year.

    Alternatively, let the seeds drop on the soil to self-sow in spring the next year. Cut Snapdragon flowers at the peak of bloom to prevent seeds from developing so you don’t have to worry about collecting them.

    1. Prune Your Dog’s Mouth

    Cut off diseased leaves, stems or even flowers. Collect all leaves on the ground for disposal to prevent infected leaves from spreading diseases such as mildew and rot, among other fungal diseases. Proper spacing, one foot between plants, can prevent fungal diseases.

    1. Grow Snapdragons Indoors

    Do you want to grow Snapdragons indoors or take them outdoors to add to your flower garden? You can use containers, grow bags, beds, hanging baskets or pots to grow Antirrhinum.

    Snapdragon Species

    Some popular Antirrhinum plant species include the following:

    • Antirrhinum orontium
    • Antirrhinum calycinum
    • Antirrhinum cornutum
    • Antirrhinum majus
    • Antirrhinum filipes
    • Antirrhinum virga
    • Antirrhinum multiflorum

    Check out our large planters and metal raised garden beds to start your Snapdragon seeds or transplant store-bought seedlings.

    Continue reading

    Growing Alocasia: Learn How to Grow and Care for 'Elephant Ears'

    Growing Alocasia: Learn How to Grow and Care for 'Elephant Ears'

    Alocasia Plants

    Mature Elephant Ears Alocasia Plants

    Alocasia is a unique addition to an existing houseplants collection. It's renowned for its large, veined leaves, hence its common name, 'elephant ear.' The leaves are heart-shaped and glossy with wavy edges, making them ideal for improving interior decor. Available in bronze, red, purple and blue-green, the plants can easily blend into most interiors.

    The distinct appearance of Alocasia plants is bound to give homes a dramatic look when grown as houseplants. There's no better way to give homes the lush look of tropical forests than growing Alocasia indoors or outdoors. The decorative veins on leaves add texture to interior spaces.

    Although they were popular during the Victorian era, they've made a comeback as gardeners and homeowners alike crave exotic plants. They also come in varied sizes to fit in different homes and gardens and meet the unique needs out there.

    What is Alocasia Plant?

    Alocasia is a plants genus of tuberous or rhizomatous perennials. It belongs to the Araceae family of plants. It's native to Eastern Australia and sub-tropical and tropical regions in Asia. As a result, it's cultivated in many places across the U.S and the entire world. The genus has about 79 Alocasia species of plants.

    Also known as African Mask, Elephant Ears or Kris plant, Alocasia is a popular houseplant also grown outdoors. The most popular Alocasia variety has large leaves with decorative veins. The leaves resemble hand-carved ceremonial African masks and thus the Alocasia common name, elephant ears.

    Variegated Alocasia Bambino Leaves

    Variegated Alocasia Bambino Leaves

    Alocasia plants thrive in varying light conditions with the brightest leaf pigments occurring in full sun when it becomes more compact. The converse is also true with the leaves becoming smaller and more elongated.

    However, the Alocasia plant isn't native to Africa. It has its origins in Asia such as the Philippine Islands. Xanthosoma, Caladium, Colocasia, and Monstera genera are other plants often known as elephant ears. Nevertheless, there are variations in the many hybrids and species of the plant.

    Be careful to find out the difference between Alocasia and Colocasia before picking the variety to plant. Often referred to as jewel-like, architectural and stunning, the plant has variegated leaves and resembles tropical plants. In summer, it grows fast in shady gardens to offer cover to the bare ground.

    Alocasia thrives in USDA hardiness zones 8 to 11 depending on the specific cultivar to be planted. Apart from offering green foliage in summer, the plant is hardy to winter if appropriately planted and well cared for.

    Why Grow Alocasia Plant

    Alocasia isn't an easy-care houseplant. However, if properly cared for, it richly rewards with attractive foliage to improve the appearance of indoor or outdoor decor. The Kris plant, specifically Alocasia sanderiana plant, comes in a defined color with clean, crisp lines, making it ideal for modern homes.

    If grouped with other plants, Alocasia adds an exotic, tropical look indoors. The decorative plant is versatile and thus can easily complement almost any existing interior or exterior decor. The leaves can grow up to 18 inches long with silver-white veins for a truly modern look.

    Alocasia flowers are usually brightly-colored for unmatched visual excitement. They bloom seasonally, and when not flowering, foliage growth takes center-stage. Foliage color and shape of leaves are key when picking Alocasia varieties to grow.

    Heart-Shaped Alocasia Leaf with Purple Veins and Stem

    Heart-Shaped Alocasia Leaf with Purple Veins and Stem for a Dramatic Look

    A Short Guide on How to Grow Alocasia

    Alocasia is a genus of popular tropical houseplants. Some species and hybrids have won awards such as the Garden Merit Award of the Royal Horticultural Society. They can be grown in greenhouses, pots or containers, or even raised beds outdoors in gardens.

    The leaves require regular cleaning, and the plant as a whole thrives in moist conditions. Acclimatization prepares the plants for survival indoors, in addition to protecting them from frost in cold winters. The frequency of watering reduces indoors.

    Factors to Consider When Growing Alocasia

    1. Alocasia Growth Conditions

    Alocasia plants have special requirements for optimal growth, whether grown indoors or outdoors. Here are top Alocasia growing conditions to consider:

    • Soil

    Alocasia thrives in loose, porous, well-drained soils. They can also be grown in well-aerated, moist potting mix growth medium. One part coarse potting sand or perlite, one part peat, and part soil are used to make the potting soil for Alocasia.

    • Light

    Alocasia lighting needs vary from one species to another, with some thriving in full light, but not direct sun, and others under shaded conditions. If planning to plant Alocasia seedlings, make sure the plants are sun-trained for growth outdoors.

    • Fertilizer

    Alocasia plants, especially cultivars with large foliage, are heavy feeders. Frequently apply granule fertilizers in small amounts. Alternatively, apply liquid fertilizer (20-20-20) while the plant grows.

    • Water

    Alocasia requires moist conditions all-year round. They're water-loving plants that thrive in areas with high humidity. Fill a tray with pebbles and place the pot holding the plant on it. Add water on the tray to ensure the plant enjoys high humid conditions.

    Group plants or use a humidifier to improve humid conditions around elephant ears. Don't mist Alocasia plants because it promotes fungal diseases.

    • Temperature

    The tropical plants do well in hot climates above 60 F. They're prone to cold weather and thus must be protected from frost in winter. Prolonged exposure to low temperatures causes the leaves to fall, and the plant goes into dormancy. Indoors, keep cold drafts and air conditions far from your houseplants.

    1. Alocasia Cultivars

    Alocasia is available in about a dozen hybrids and 70 species. Hybrids have appealing colors, leaf forms, and even plant sizes. Choose the specific Alocasia species to grow indoors or outdoors. Small varieties make perfect houseplants while larger species are often grown outdoors.

    1. Propagation of Alocasia

    Alocasia plants can be propagated from seeds, bulbs or even rhizomes. Rhizome division or clump involves cutting a piece from underground. It's removed and kept in warm, moist conditions until new growth is spotted.

    Alocasia Leaves Sprouting from a Rhizome

    Alocasia Leaves Sprouting from a Rhizome

    1. Repotting Alocasia

    Alocasia requires repotting every year. Larger pots with fresh, loose, well-drained soil or potting soil are usually used to accommodate the plant's increasing size. Rhizomes are also cut every year to propagate new plants. The yearly division also ensures the size of plants remains manageable.

    How to Plant Alocasia from Bulbs
    1. Choose the Right Site

    Depending on the chosen Alocasia variety, choose the right site for planting. The chosen location must meet the plant's growth requirements. Does the plant require shade, full sun or a combination of both to grow?

    Opt for a bed or garden site that receives enough sunlight in the morning and is shaded for the rest of the day, especially afternoons. Make sure the soil in the area is moist to support Alocasia growth. Add compost to the soil to improve its organic matter and ability to retain water.

    Sandy soils aren't recommended because they don't just drain water faster, but also dry quickly. Growing Alocasia on sandy soils would mean the plants don't get the moisture they need to grow.

    1. Prepare the Soil/Buy Pots

    If working on a raised bed, prepare the soil for planting. Till it with a hoe or rake to loosen the soil and remove all weeds. Buy pots or containers for potted plants. In that case, buy a potting mix from a local garden center.

    1. Choose the Variety to Plant

    Choose the elephant ears species to plant and buy seeds, rhizomes or seedlings to start the plants.

    1. Plant Alocasia

    Plant Alocasia in spring because tuberous roots or rhizomes die in winter. Alternatively, start them in pots two and a half months earlier, indoors. In spring, transplant the Alocasia seedlings outdoors.

    Dig out holes 2 to 10 inches deep, leaving 3 to 5 feet spacing in between for foliage growth. The exact spacing depends on the specific Alocasia cultivar being planted. Place a tuber or rhizome in each hole and cover with soil.

    Make sure the root zone faces done while the narrow end points upwards. The rhizome top must stay above the soil. Water them after planting and expect to start seeing budding growth in 3 to 8 weeks.

    The variation in time depends on the amount of moisture and warmth available to the planted rhizomes. Elephant ears also bud growth from the root runners or bulb offsets.

    1. Watering Alocasia

    What are Alocasia water requirements? Wondering how often to water Alocasia? Alocasia plant watering ensures the soil is always moist for optimal growth. It requires frequent watering once or twice a week in dry weather. During dormancy (late fall to winter), the plant requires less watering.

    Water the plant the moment the topsoil (2 to 3 inches) begins to dry. Mulching and ensuring the plant receives shade partly daily reduces the loss of moisture from the soil. Avoid over-watering the plants because it increases their vulnerability to fungal infections.

    A Potted Alocasia Flowering Plant

    A Potted Alocasia Flowering Plant

    1. Apply Fertilizer for Alocasia

    During growth, elephant ears require fertilization every couple of months. Use fertilizer meant for foliage plants (usually slow release) and apply it at the recommended rate on the package. No fertilizer application is required in winter.

    1. Provide Protection from Pests and Diseases

    Miticide protects the plants from spider mite infestation. Rinse the leaves with a lot of warm, soapy water to remove the pests manually. Frequently cleaning the leaves can also ensure they're free from dust and the damaging spider mites, including other pests such as scale, Mealy Bugs, aphids.

    Alternatively, spray Neem oil or insecticidal oil on the plants to kill the pests. The oils also kill their eggs. Improve air circulation, avoid over-watering and frequently wipe the leaves dry to prevent diseases such as stem rot, crown rot, root rot, Xanthomonas, and Leaf Spot.

    Isolate infected plants, remove affected leaves and use fungicides for disease treatment.

    1. Pruning Alocasia

    Remove yellowing leaves, especially in late fall when the plants start becoming dormant. However, it depends on the location and variety planted because some Alocasia plant species are evergreen. Also remove leaves with black or brown spots, a sign of fungal infection.

    1. Alocasia Winter Care

    Frost tolerance or cold hardiness varies from one Alocasia cultivar to another. Foliage dies in late fall into winter when the plant enters a dormancy period. Cover Alocasia roots with ground cover or 2 to 3 inches of mulch in mild climates without prolonged frosts.

    The mulch or cover insulates the plants for winter protection from frost damage. Alocasia species prone to even the mildest of cold weather require overwintering indoors. Dig out tubers and remove foliage from garden beds for overwintering. Let them dry before storage.

    Use dry peat moss to store the rhizomes or tubers in open containers under room temperature levels in the garage or basement. Leave them in storage until spring when it's time for replanting. Note that Alocasia is poisonous and must be kept away from pets and kids.

    4 Tips for Decorating with Elephant Ears

    • Create a portable focal point outdoors in spring when bulbs or plants that bloom during that time go dormant.
    • Use large elephant ears cultivars to create focal points at the border with perennial plants. It stands out among the brightly-colored flowers.
    • Group Kris plants with tropical plants such as bananas, Caladiums, Cannas, Coleus and variegated tapioca to create a beautiful, jungle garden in summer.
    • Grow pink, silver and chartreuse plants with purple-colored Alocasia for a contrasting yet elegant look.
    • Grow elephant plants with flowering annuals and foliage plants that thrive in moist soils and partly shaded conditions to come up with dramatic centerpieces. Alocasia plants make good companion plants. A large variety grown in a big pot can create a stunning focal point outdoors.

    A Group of Different Alocasia Plants Varieties Indoors

    A Group of Different Alocasia Varieties Indoors

    There's no better way to bring nature indoors with an exotic look than growing Kris plants indoors!

    Alocasia Varieties

    Some popular elephant ears species include the following:

    • Alocasia cucullata
    • Alocasia odora
    • Alocasia macrorrhizos
    • Alocasia brisbanensis
    • Alocasia robusta
    • Alocasia fornicata
    • Alocasia sanderiana

    Alocasia Macrorrhiza

    Alocasia Macrorrhiza

    Grow Alocasia Indoors

    Whether you want to grow elephant ears indoors in pots or outdoors, they can give your home an instant dramatic look. You can start your plants from rhizomes or seeds as you deem necessary.

    Check out our raised garden beds and cloth grow bags for growing Alocasia plants indoors.

    Continue reading

    Grow Bags for Gardening: What are Grow Bags Anyway?

    Grow Bags for Gardening: What are Grow Bags Anyway?

    A Plant Growing in a Grow Bag

    What are Grow Bags?

    Grow bags are used to hold a growing medium for plants such as vegetables. They can be made from breathable fabric or plastic and come in various sizes. Bags made from fabric are well-aerated and have superior drainage. The bags are often filled with organic material or soil. They’re a popular alternative to in-ground gardening and can be used either indoors or outdoors.

    Composted green waste, peat, composted bark, coir, wood chips compost or even a mixture of the materials are usually used as growing medium for salad crops or tomatoes. Nutrients such as nitrogen are added to the growing medium to sustain crops for an entire growing season.

    With grow bags, gardeners only have to sow their crops and water them for optimal growth. They’re ideal for plants with shallow roots. The bags are placed on a bench in the growing area or the floor. Access holes are then cut on the top surface of the bags to create room for inserting plants.

    Use the bags when you don’t have enough garden space or simply got poor soil in your yard. Furthermore, they’re portable, meaning you can move them outdoors, in balconies or reposition them in areas receiving sufficient light for your vegetables. Unlike plastic containers, grow bags are versatile and easy to arrange in your garden.

    The bags are also flexible, meaning you can shape them as you deem necessary. If you want to create the illusion of a raised bed, arrange the bags to form a large rectangle. When not in use, you can store the bags indoors. Moreover, they’re foldable flat for compact storage. The bags take up less storage space than plastic containers.

    Other benefits of using grow bags include improving healthier root systems, preventing over-watering and controls temperature.

    Brief History of Grow Bags

    The first set of grow bags were manufactured in the 1970s. Although they were originally designed for use at home, today they find use in farming and market gardening. The bags are made in various sizes and formulations to meet the needs of different gardeners.

    Traditionally, the soil was used in greenhouses for planting. After harvesting and before the next planting season, the houses were emptied and soil sterilized to prevent disease and pest buildup in the soil. Commercial grounds were steam sterilized before planting. However, it wasn’t feasible for beginner gardeners or those with small gardens to tend to.

    Therefore, grow bags were introduced to support amateur gardeners with a few gardening needs. After harvesting, the plants are disposed of, and the growing material spread over outdoor borders. However, some grow bags cannot be reused.

    Preparing Biodegradable Bags for Planting

    Preparing Biodegradable Bags for Planting

    How to Use Grow Bags

    Growing bags have been designed to minimize waste and support reuse. Whether you’re planning to use your bags indoors or outdoors, it’s important to learn how to use them. Here’s a detailed guide to help you learn how to use your growing bags to plant, care for and nurture your plants:

    Top 3 Steps to Using Growing Bags for Gardening

    1. Prepare Your Grow Bag for Planting
    • Buy the Right Grow Bag

    Buy a grow bag from a home improvement or gardening supplies store, online or locally, or a local nursery. Choose between a plastic and fabric grow bag. The latter is popular but requires more watering.

    Plants Growing in Grow Bags

    Plants Growing in Grow Bags

    Roots usually grow as large as the plant, so choose a bag size accordingly. If you’re planning to sow a large plant, opt for a large grow bag, and vice versa. For instance, a grapefruit tree would fit and grow comfortably in a 50-gallon grow bag.

    • Use Clay Pebbles to Line Your Growing Bag and Improve Drainage

    Do your plants require proper drainage? Place chunky perlite or clay pebbles to line the grow bag for better drainage. Cover the inner bottom of your bag with the materials in two to three layers.

    • Fill Your Bag with Soil

    Add soil into your growing bag. Create your potting mix or use gardening soil that resembles compost. Mix 1/3 compost mixture (such as mushroom compost or chicken manure), 1/3 moss and 1/3 vermiculite (material with high moisture retention properties) to make a home-made potting mix.

    Grow Bags Filled with Soil

    Plastic Grow Bags Filled with Soil

    Fill up the grow bag with the potting mix up to the brim, leaving about two inches of space at the top. Space would come in handy later when you need to fertilize your vegetables.

    • Loosen the Bag and Shape it up

    Shake the bag and knead soil to loosen it as you’d do with your pillow. Shape your bag to resemble a hill, giving it the shape of a low hammock. Loosening the soil and shaping the bag spreads it evenly.

    • Pierce Holes at the Bottom of the Bag

    Use scissors or any sharp-pointed object to pierce holes into the bottom of your grow bag to further enhance its drainage. Make sure the holes are half an inch apart and the size of your scissor piercing, not larger. The holes should be large enough to allow free flow of water, but no soil or your potting mix.

    A Grow Bag with Drainage Holes

    Grow Bag with Drainage Holes

    1. Plant Your Vegetables
    • Select Shallow-Rooted Plants

    Grow bags are ideal for growing plants with shallow roots because they’ll barely reach the bottom of the bag. On the other hand, plants with deep roots often experience stunted growth upon reaching the bottom of the grow bag or container. They then trigger the growth of more roots, eventually killing the plant.

    Capsicum or peppers, tomatoes, zucchini, marrow, eggplants, cucumbers, lettuce, French beans, strawberries, flowers, and herbs are some vegetables you can easily grow in a bag. However, larger plants such as trees can grow in larger growing bags.

    • Place the Bag Where You Want to Create Your Garden

    Grow bags are portable, meaning you can easily move them around. Place your bag filled with soil and now in the right shape in the specific area where you want to create your garden. It could be your garden, backyard, balcony or even a greenhouse. When picking the right location for your plants, make sure it receives enough sunlight and warmth for optimal growth of your vegetables.

    • Dig Out Soil to Sow Your Plants

    Use a large spoon, a trowel or even your hands to dig out soil and create space for the roots of your plants. Scoop out more soil until you create enough space to hold the roots of your plants. If you’re planning to plant seeds directly onto your grow bag, the scooping doesn’t have to be as large.

    • Sow Your Plant

    Take your seedlings and insert their roots into the spaces or small holes you just created. Make sure the roots are fully immersed then cover with the soil you scooped out to the top of the root.

    Tomatoes Ready for Transplanting in Grow Bags

    1. Care for Your Vegetables
    • Mulch and Water Your Grow Bag Frequently

    Unlike potted plants, growing your vegetables in grow bags would mean you water them more often. Mulch your plants before watering to ensure they retain moisture for longer. Check your bags daily and water your plants if you notice any signs of dryness. Constant watering ensures your potting mix doesn’t heat up to a level that’s harmful to your plants.

    • Opt for a Drip Watering System

    Checking your bag daily for dryness can be difficult or even unrealistic, especially if you work on a tight schedule. A drip or self-watering system can ensure your grow bags are always moist.

    It involves the use of a bottle with a small opening to slowly and consistently allow water to flow into your potting mix or soil. Alternatively, place the bag into a large, low-lying container and fill it with water.

    • Fertilize Your Vegetables

    If you’ve grown plants such as tomatoes, corn and leafy vegetables that tend to feed heavily, fertilize them. Buy fertilizer or make your organic manure. Use worm castings, Epsom salt, compost tea, egg shells and dead plants to make organic fertilizer.

    Fertilizing Plants in a Grow Bag

    Fertilizing Plants in Grow Bags

    Lightly apply fertilizer on top of your grow bag soil to form a thin layer. The two inches space you left while filling your bags with soil should be enough. Make sure you fertilize your vegetables once or twice a week.

    • Support Weak Plants, Vines and Climbers

    Vines and climbers are weak plants that often require support during growth. Use sticks to prop your plants. Push a stick into your potting mix, just next to the plant. Attach the stick to a frame for added support and tie the plant to the stick. Propping also ensures plants with heavy tops such as tomatoes don’t get into contact with soil.

    You can grow tall and short plants in the same grow bag. If space is limited in your home, under-planting is a great way to increase your crop yield. For instance, you can grow tomatoes and radishes or lettuce in the same bag. Make sure you grow the tall plants first and let them grow before introducing shorter vegetable varieties.

    • Recycle Soil to Prevent Wastage

    After harvesting, recycle soil for the next crop or dump it in a part of your yard with poor soil, but you’d like to use as a garden in the future. If you opt for recycling, use the soil for up to three seasons, after which you can dump it in your yard to improve underlying soil quality.

    You can also use your potting as mulch for your perennial plants in the yard or garden. Wash your grow bags, let them dry and fold them for storage in a dry place.

    Young Trees in Grow Bags

    Young Trees in Grow Bags

    11 Plants You Can Plant in Grow Bags

    Are you planning to start your container garden, but not sure what to grow in your bags? Here are eleven vegetable plants you can grow in your bags:

    • Strawberries
    • Pumpkin
    • Tomatoes
    • Lettuce
    • Radishes
    • Chilies
    • Capsicum
    • Carrots
    • Courgettes
    • Cucumber
    • Kales

    Conclusion

    Depending on the size of your grow bag, you can grow up to three plants in a single bag. They support versatile and efficient gardening. Prepare your bags for planting and sow the right plants for your specific bags.

    Make sure you care for your plants from the moment you sow your seeds or transplant your seedlings to the time they’re ready for harvesting. Most importantly, don’t forget to buy high quality grow bags from a reputable supplier to guarantee the durability of your bags.

    Looking for grow bags for sale? Find out more about our durable fabric felt-like grow bags available in varied sizes to meet your needs.

    Continue reading

    Aloe Vera - How to Grow Aloe at Home

    Aloe Vera - How to Grow Aloe at Home

                                                              Aloe Vera Pups for Planting

                        Aloe Vera Pups for Planting

    Aloe Vera is a succulent, evergreen perennial plant with several health benefits. Believed to have originated from Southern Europe, Northern Africa, and the Canary Islands, today the Aloe Vera plant is grown in many parts of the world, especially those in tropical climates.

    The sap or gel from Aloe Vera has been used as medicine for thousands of years, its use as a medicinal plant dates back to ancient Egypt. With health benefits ranging from heartburn relief and reducing blood sugar to use as a natural laxative in aiding digestion and better skin care, there's so much to do with the aloe gel.

    What is Aloe Vera?

    Also known as medicinal Aloe Vera, burn plant, desert lily and even the elephant's gall, Aloe Vera is a succulent plant in the genus 'aloe' family. Scientifically, it's known as Aloe barbadensis. Its first use dates back to over 6,000 years, and it is believed to have originated from Sudan in Africa.

    Spanish, Greek, African, Egyptian, Japanese, Italian, Persian and Indian civilizations, among many others, recognized the value of the aloe plant. It is found in large numbers in Africa, India and other arid and semi-arid regions across the world because it does well in warm, dry climates.

    Aloe Vera gel is widely used in herbal medicine due to the various compounds it contains such as lectins, mannans, anthraquinones, and polysaccharides; these elements are critical to human health. The plant is short-stemmed or stemless and juicy with a height of 24 to 39 inches.

    Planting Aloe Vera in the Garden

                                                       Mature Aloe Vera

    The aloe plant has thick, fleshy leaves whose color range from dark to a light shade of green. Certain aloe species feature white flecks on the lower and upper parts of their stems. The plants also have saw-toothed edges on the leaves that can easily prick if not handled with care. It can grow indoors or outdoors, and its flowers bloom in summer.

    Fun Facts about Aloe Vera

    • Aloe gel has over 200 active compounds inclusive of 18 amino acids, 20 minerals, and 12 vitamins. It also contains 75 nutrients.
    • Aloe Vera naturally grows in deserts and arid and semi-arid areas, explaining why it's called the 'Lily of the Desert'.
    • Aloe Vera plants are available in at least 250 species.
    • Aloe gel from mature Aloe Vera plants is more effective than extract from baby plants.
    • Aloe Vera plant can easily disinfect minor cuts and wounds.
    • Aloe plant was first discovered in 1862 by George Ebers.
    • Mature aloe plants produce yellow flowers.
    • Aloe plants can live for up to 100 years.
    • Aloe gel is oxidized if exposed for more than 4 hours, rendering it ineffective.
    • Aloe plants produce latex and gel.
    • Aloe Vera gel is different from Aloe Vera juice.
    • The plant is rich in Calcium.
    • Aloe Vera gel is used in beverage and yogurt production.
    • Aloe Vera seeds can be used as biofuel.
    • Aloe gel is used in hair care and skin care products in the cosmetics industry.

    Potted Aloe Vera Plant

    Potted Aloe Vera

    Why You Should Plant Aloe Vera at Home

    Aloe Vera is a good plant for any gardener; it is easy to grow and extremely rewarding. Aloe Vera propagates easily through offshoots, small clones found at the base of larger plants.

    Aloe gel has many health benefits: it cures ulcers and nausea; reduces oxidative stress; improves the digestive system; heals wounds and reduces arthritic pain; soothes symptoms of acid reflux; inhibits the growth of cancerous cells; treats menstrual and skin problems such as dermatitis; delays the process of aging; and heals radiotherapy treatment side effects, just to mention a few.

    A potted aloe plant is also a great way of bringing nature indoors in case you opt for an indoor aloe garden. Plants use carbon dioxide during photosynthesis and release oxygen, meaning having aloe plants indoor can freshen the air inside your home. As a potted plant, aloe can enhance your interior decor with a natural touch.

    Factors to Consider When Growing Aloe Vera Plant

    Before you start growing Aloe Vera at home, you need to consider the following factors to ensure you provide everything the plants need to thrive.

    1. Aloe Planting Zone

    Aloe Vera is hardy to zone 9, 10 and 11, but it is not frost tolerant. If you are growing aloe Vera outdoors where temperatures can get close to freezing, covering them with a plant blanket or providing cold weather protection is recommended.

    Aloe Vera thrives as an indoor plant. The two most important factors for successfully growing aloe is finding a location with enough sun and ensuring the soil is well-drained.

    1. Soil
    • Well-drained, sandy soil is best – use cacti or succulent mix. If you prefer to mix your own, try a sand base; supplement with potting soil and compost (a 50/50 sand to organic material is a good guideline). Add gravel and sand to your mix.
    1. Water & Fertilizer
    • Water deeply, allow the soil to completely dry out before watering. Create holes in the container to improve drainage. Aloe Vera plants grown outdoors will likely not need additional fertilizer provided adequate drainage and organic material.
    • Aloe Vera plants kept in containers may occasionally benefit from a general purpose fertilizer but frequent re-potting with a new potting mix as young plants increase in size is enough. If you have to use fertilizer, go for organic compost.
    1. Light
    • Full-sun or as much direct sunlight during the day is ideal. Aloe Vera will multiply with an adequate light source if you notice your aloe is leggy or leaves seem thin try to find a spot with more light.

    How to Plant Aloe Vera at Home

      Required Gardening Tools & Supplies
      • Pots for planting
      • A sharp knife
      • Cacti/Succulent soil mix
      • Sand/gravel/pebbles/perlite/granite grit
      • Aloe Vera 'Pups'

      Aloe Vera is easy to plant and grow. You cannot grow aloe from leaf cuttings. The plant is propagated; young clone plants are detached from the root system or the base of a mature plant for planting.

      • If you're planting aloe for the first time, you need to buy propagated aloe for planting. However, if you have existing mature plants, look for 'pup' or small aloe plants near the mature aloe plant for propagation. Follow the procedure as shown in the video below.
      • Leave the young aloe plant in open air for about 5 days to develop callus at the point of detachment from the root system. Make sure the cut part doesn't get in contact with soil to prevent infection.
      • Plant the young plant in soil either outdoors in your garden or a plant pot for indoor gardening. Slightly bury the cut part in soil, but not the leaves. Use, pebbles, sand, and gravel to top up the soil and support your newly planted Aloe Vera 'pup' without a root system.
      • Within weeks, the Aloe Vera plant will develop a root system to give it support. Don't water the plant until it develops a root system; spray water on it every week or fortnight to prevent rotting. The moment roots start to grow, water your aloe plants once every two to three weeks.

       

                                                Splitting/Dividing/Propagating an Aloe Plant

      Caring for Your Aloe Vera Plant

      After planting your Aloe Vera plant, it's important to care for them and troubleshoot any problems that might arise during aloe growth. Consider the following care practices:

      • Water your plants in summer only when the soil becomes dry
      • During the cold season, water the plants sparingly and keep them indoors.
      • Fertilize (use organic manure or fertilizer) your Aloe Vera plants to promote growth, but this is optional.
      • Regularly engage in weed control to stop your plants from competing for food and water with the unwanted plants
      • Use plant covers on occasional days when the weather freezes to protect your Aloe Vera plants.
      • If the leaves look low or flat, give them more sunshine. On the other hand, if the leaves are browning, reduce the amount of sunshine.
      • Curled or thick-looking leaves lack water; water the plants to increase water intake by your Aloe Vera plants.
      • 'Melting' or yellowing leaves are indicative of excess water. Stop watering for about a week or two then reduce your watering frequency.
      • If your plants become too big for their pots, move them to bigger containers, without damaging the root systems.
      • Look out for 'pups' in mature plants for transplanting in new containers using the same procedure described above.

      Caring for your plants will ensure that you have aloe all-year round; during cold weather, move your plants indoors.

      Harvest

      • Aloe Vera is an extremely versatile plant, commonly used in cosmetics and as a treatment for burns, you can produce your soothing aloe by harvesting some mature leaves.

        Aloe Vera Harvest

                                                                 Cut Aloe Vera Leaves

        • Cut mature leaves off at the base of the plant, then split and scrape inner juice out for use. The Aloe Vera juice can be stored refrigerated for a short period or frozen.

        Note that Aloe Vera takes 2 to 3 months to grow. However, if you want to use it for medicinal purposes, let it mature for at least three years to get the most benefits from your aloe gel.

         

        Check out our gardening tools and supplies collection to find what you might need to plant aloe and start growing it at home.

        Continue reading