Paul Nickerson

Archive for the ‘Potting’ Category

Cultivating Ginger: Zingiber officinale

In Gardening, Potting, Propagation on March 27, 2012 at 5:57 pm

Plant Credit to Kristen Listor

There are a few of us out there who seem to believe that if it can grow, it should grow. I was walking through the grocery store with a friend of mine when we started talking about cultivation of ginger. She remembered a talk she once heard about how simple it is to propagate ginger from its root. Needless to say, we bought some.

As we were not sure exactly how to go about propagating the root, we figured we would try a couple different methods. The best method was also the easiest. We buried the root just a couple inches deep in pots filled with moist potting mix. The pots were placed in warm locations, and kept lightly moist. After a couple of weeks, we started to see shoots arising from the rhizomes.

ImageHarvesting the ginger is easy. As needed, simply brush back the soil from the rhizome and cut a piece away. The plant will continue to grow healthily.


Desert Rose: Prune and Propagation

In Potting, Propagation on January 15, 2012 at 11:09 pm

I recently did some drastic pruning on my Desert Rose (A. Obesum). I bought the plant a while back as a rescue from a local nursery and have let it grow with little training until now. The plant developed a very prominent, Y, “slingshot” formation. The goal if this hard prune was to develop a better shape of the overall plants, while using the cuttings as propagation stock.

Being advised by a number of bonsai fanatics, I lopped off one of the branches, and truncated the other. I am hoping to use a Dremel to soften the hard edges that resulted from the prune.

The lengths of stock were cut into three-inch sections, each containing a couple nodes. They were potted in a well draining soil and are kept moist. A. Obesum is a relatively easy plant to root from cuttings.

Just for the sake of it, I tried a method typically used with ficus to develop a more developed caudex. Some of the segments I cut length-wise twice, creating a cross that could be opened up when potted. This should create a more flanged caudex. We’ll see how it goes!

Know Your Plants: Pick Your Poisons Wisely

In Identification, Potting on November 7, 2011 at 4:01 pm

Reading through my posts it may be evident that I have a small obsession with Adenium Obesum, the Desert Rose. This common houseplant is treasured for its beautiful blooms and uniquely shaped caudex. What is important to note is that while Adenium Obesum is a prized specimen, many of its parts contain a toxin that is very harmful to humans, pets, etc. In the past, this poison has been harvested from the sap and seeds of this plant as an aid in hunting and fishing.

When working with the Desert Rose, precautions should be taken to avoid contact with the poison. After working with the Desert Rose, especially if the sap comes in contact with your skin, thoroughly wash your hands. If you any part of the plant is ingested contact the Poison Control Center immediately. This goes for any inedible houseplant.

Many other common houseplants, such as Aloe Vera, Amaryllis, Barbados Lily, Bird of Paradise, and countless others are considered poisonous to pets and children. Be sure your know your plants and are aware of any dangers they pose. Full lists of poisonous plants can be found online.

Potting Carnivorous Plants and African Violets

In Potting, Propagation on September 20, 2011 at 3:41 pm

African Violet in Moss System

When potting carnivorous plants, African Violets, and other plants that need a steady, moist environment, it can be difficult to maintain a balance between too dry, and saturated. Typically, these specimens require daily attention, but with this method, you can water these plants once every week or so, and the plant will absorb moisture as needed between watering.

Smaller Porous Pot

This setup require two different pots. The first is a large, watertight (plastic or glazed terra-cotta) pot. The second is a small, very porous, terra-cotta pot. There is a type of clay that is used on a lot of cheap, decorative terra-cotta pots. This work especially well, and is what I used.

Two Pots Set Up

Pot the specimen in the smaller pot as would normally be done. Fill the bottom of the larger pot with peat moss. Fill it so that when the smaller pot is placed into the larger one, the top of the pots are even. When this is done, center the smaller pot within the large one, and firmly pack more peat moss around all side of the smaller pot.

To water the plant, fill the moss-filled space with water. The water will slowly seep through the porous terra-cotta pot, and into the media in which the plant is growing. This osmosis will slowly, evenly, supply water the plant.

Light Bulb Terrariums

In Potting on March 21, 2011 at 9:22 pm

Light Bulb Terrarium

Terrariums are a unique way to display plants in a way that captivates imagination and creativity. When designing and constructing a terrarium, one can create their own world full of colorful foliage. Designs can range from miniature rain forests to open meadows of moss. While many terrariums are created inside larger glass-ware, I want to take some time to show an interesting project I recently undertook.

Copper Tab Removal

When hollowing out a light bulb, it is important to wear protective gloves and eye protection. For this project, I selected a slightly large bulb, as it would give me more area to work with. Also, I was able to find a beautiful, clear bulb. If you are using a bulb that has a white powdered coating on the inside of the glass, you will need to clean it by pouring salt into the bulb and shaking it around.

Bulb Without Tab

To begin the process of hollowing the bulb, hold the bulb, upside down, firmly in one hand. With a pair of needle-nose pliers, remove the copper tag on the nose of the bulb. This should easily break free, leaving a small hole in the ceramic collar. With a small screw driver, or other pointed object, break away the collar. This can be removed in several pieces.

If the inner glass tubes did not break during the removal of the collar, it can be broken apart by inserting a screw driver into the bulb and moving it around. Carefully remove the glass pieces and wash out the bulb. Your terrarium is ready to set up.

Plants Inside Bulb

To balance my bulb, I placed a small amount of stones in the bottom of the bulb and positioned it to where I desired. I then funneled a small amount of succulent potting soil into the bulb. To position my plants I used bent wires as tools to manipulate the soil. It is important to research the plants you are putting in your terrarium to ensure that your desired plants are compatible. I will talk more about selecting plants and setting up larger terrariums in my next post.

Recycling Pistachio Shells

In Potting on February 7, 2011 at 1:47 am

I was eating Pistachios today, and tried to figure out what to do with the shells. While they can recycled into compost, even with a vermiculture system they can take a while to break down.

Pistachio Drainage

After observing the fact that my Desert Rose was not properly draining, as I had put a paper towel in the bottom of the pot when I repotted it last, I decided to use the shells to aid to drainage. I unpotted the Rose, removed what was left of the paper towel, then filled the bottom of the pot with a layer of shells, and repotted the plant. The pot drains wonderfully now! I highly recommend recycling your pistachio shells in this manner!

Gator Aloe Rot

In Potting on January 6, 2011 at 12:56 am

Gator Aloe Rot

In the past I have discussed the effects of over-watering on succulents, as well the role that small stones can play in lessening rot. Unfortunately, I have a wonderful example of what can happen when soil does not drain properly, and facilitates rot along the base of the plant.

I noticed today that my small Gator Aloe was very loose in it’s soil. When I tried to straighten it, it broke free from its base, leaving behind all of its roots. The base    of the plant was rotten through, leaving behind a small amount of black substance.

As far as the cause of the rot is concerned, I have two theories. Firstly, although I did put down a layer of stone, I did it after i had established the plant in its pot. Therefore, the stone was actually sitting slightly above ground level, still allowing some water to pool around the base of the plant. If you are planning to add stone to a plant, it is best to raise the plant so it sits slightly higher than normal, that way the stones will fill the pot to the proper soil level.

Secondly, although I used a succulent soil mix, I planted the aloe in a plastic container. As I have stated before, it is best to plant succulents in Terra Cotta pots, as they will weep excess water and allow the soil to dry more thoroughly between waterings. A plastic container will hold more water, leading to bacterial infections and rot. To aid in the draining of potting soil, it is good to mix the soil with Perlite. Since the rot, I have repotted my succulents with a high mixture of Perlite.

Plants Hate Vacation

In Potting on November 23, 2010 at 4:52 pm

I have just finished loading my luggage into my truck, and am anxiously awaiting the moment when I can leave school! With all the preparations that go into returning home for the week, my plants brought about the most stress. I was frustrated that the very things that brought so much peace and joy into my life could bring out such un-writable words.

Aside from tracking down a place for my Aquaponics system, which, thanks to the Biology Department, is happily spending vacation in the greenhouse, I was worried about the rest of my plants that would be sitting in my dark dorm room. Fortunately, I was eased with the fact that I had prepared for this moments.

As I have explained, succulents are wonderful dorm plants. Because of their ability to adapt to changes in their watering schedule, you can slowly alter each of their water cycles so that they align with one another. I typically do this with every new plant, removing the burden of having to keep track of countless different watering schedules.

Because of the adaptability of succulents, you can give them a fairly heavy watering right before you leave for break, and they should be fine for one to two weeks.

As for your water-loving plants, such as my Red-Splash, VFT, and Mimosa, you will either have to find a plant-sitter, take your plants with you over vacation, or invest in a water-bulb. (The little ones work wonderfully for most smaller dorm plants)

As far as light it concerned, contact your RD, and ask them if they would be so kind as to leave the window-blinds open when they do rounds. Usually after a small amount of begging and bribing, they are more than happy to help you out. If you have blinds like those in my room, which do not actually go up and down, it will be necessary to find out what position allowed the most light to reach your plants.

If you plan ahead, you should be able to peacefully enjoy your vacation, and return to a room of healthy plants.

Plants: College Student’s Best Friend

In Potting on November 2, 2010 at 12:04 am

Hey all! I was recently given this article from a student here on campus and thought it was rather applicable! Enjoy! Remember, I welcome articles and posts written by other students. If you every want to post something, feel free the shoot me an Email!

Plants: College Student’s Best Friend
Elizabeth Stevens

Toward the end of the summer, I scoured department stores, magazines, and websites with one goal in mind–create a “home” in my dorm room.

My bright blue, green, and purple bedding screamed first-year, and I was a junior for crying out loud. Pictures of my travels littered my bulletin board, pinned on with obtrusive tacks. Rainbow Christmas lights ran along the border of “my side” of the room.

I am tired of the immaturity of my dorm room; the same feel I got from every other room I have been in. One problem: I didn’t have the money or the space to create my dream “home.”

The answer I found was by the simple inspiration of a few environmental science majors I know. Plants are a college student’s best friend.

A dorm room with potted cacti, aloe, snake plants, and herbs creates a calming atmosphere stressed college students covets but typically eludes them. It doesn’t even have to hurt a student’s budget.

Gator Aloe

Dr. Virginia Lohr of Washington State University conducted a study in 1996 that measured the stress levels of participants performing tasks on a computer. Participants were tested in a computer lab when plants were present and another where they were absent. Blood pressure, emotions, and reaction speed to questions were monitored.

According to the results, participants were 12 percent more productive when plants decorated the room, and their systolic blood pressure was lower.

This conclusion agrees with Dr. Roger S. Ulrich’s 2002 study on the benefits of hospital gardens that he conducted through Texas A&M University.

Ulrich says “simply looking at environments dominated by greenery, flowers, or water-–as compared to built scenes lacking nature (rooms, buildings, towns)–is significantly more effective in promoting recovery or restoration from stress.” This evidence applies to patients and non-patients, like college students, he says.

My environmental science friends must realize something that students like me may not think about. Indoor plants clean the air we breathe.

According to data collected by the John C. Stennis Space Center of NASA, “low-light requiring houseplants have demonstrated the potential for improving indoor air quality by removing trace organic pollutants from the air in buildings.” A plant can easily get rid of harmful airborne chemicals like formaldehyde and carbon monoxide.

In order to get the proper plants to clean my dorm room air, relax my psyche, and create a mature ambiance, I consulted a couple of Messiah College, dorm plant “experts” (and environmental science majors).

Sitting on Paul Nickerson’s desk is an auquaponics system made of Tupperware containers and a heating lamp constructed of PVC pipe. Both of which are designed specifically for his plants: a jade plant, a desert rose, a living stone, a cactus, and a venus flytrap.

Dani Oudenne’s room is taken over by the 20 plus plants that sit on her desk, shelves, and window sill. Her most recent trip to Ashcombe Farm and Greenhouses exhausted her month’s savings on a gator aloe, thyme, mint, and a dragon bone.

They advised me to consider a couple things when picking out plants for my dorm room.

Stick with desert plants, just in case you are forgetful and can’t remember to water your plants every day. Also, the Grantham/Hess courtyard window doesn’t get much light, so stick with shade or low-light plants. Oh, and Elizabeth, invest in some aloe just in case the sun burns that pale skin.

What is best about plants is that they can be as cheap or as expensive as I like. I’m a major cheap-skate, so I spent less than twenty dollars on my three plants.

Pots are what get expensive. Don’t buy pots at greenhouses; they’re overpriced. Places like Wal-Mart and K-Mart have cheap, nice-looking options.

With my friends’ advice and a little research, I settled on three plants: a peace lily, a gator aloe, and a common houseleek. I have learned over the past few weeks how to best take care of my plants, and I am genuinely excited when I see them grow.

Common Houseleek

Cheap, clean, relaxing, and secretly motivating, what’s not to love about plants? They’re a college student’s best friend. It’s not like I can have a dog here, right?

All Things Green!

In Alternative Agriculture, Aquaponics, Gardening, Identification, Pest Management, Potting, Propagation on October 8, 2010 at 4:28 am

Hey All!

I recently started building an aquaponics system in my dorm room (I hope I have not broken any rules…) Regardless, so many people seemed to be interested in the idea of “indorm gardening,” as I have named it, that I decided I should keep a running blog on it in order to keep everyone updated without having constant visitors! Anyways, as some of you know, and the rest of you will find out, Envi Sci majors have a perfectly healthy obsession with plants. I am hoping that this site can be a way for us to all gather our thoughts together, post questions to one another, and just have an interesting time sharing our love of all things green! Although this site is not an online dating service, I do hope that its content and communication will result in some very fruitful reproduction!

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