Monthly Archives: August 2016

Tips for Growing Turmeric Indoors

download-6Turmeric (Curcuma longa) is a tropical plant that is used as food as well as a beautiful addition to any garden. It can be argued that the rhizome of a turmeric plant is one of the healthiest foods that is widely available, leading nutritionists to call it a miracle drug. Interestingly, while it is commonly known that the rhizomes are edible, most people discard the leaves, stem, and flowers. In reality, the entire plant is edible and can be used as a good source of nutrition.

While buying turmeric powder from the market is easy, the fresh, raw, rhizomes offer a lot more potential benefits and versatility in usage. In such cases, growing your own turmeric plant is your best option. Doing this is not very difficult. Although the plant is best grown in a garden, one can also grow it indoors, in a large pot. It is a hardy plant that tolerates changes in weather to a large extent. It can also provide a lush green addition to the indoor environment. Let us now look at the things you need to know while creating an indoor turmeric garden in your home.

How to Grow Turmeric Plant in a Pot

  1. Soil: Get a few large and deep pots, at least a 1 ½ foot wide in diameter, for growing the turmeric plants. Fill the pots with rich organic loamy soil, which is lightly moist but well drained. The ideal pH should range from 4.5 to 7.5
  2. Planting Season: Dig the soil around 3-5 inches deep and bury large pieces of store-bought rhizomes with nodes on them. Pick only those rhizomes that are firm, and avoid diseased or rotting ones. Ideally, you should plant the rhizomes in the month of March, as it takes around 8 months for the plant to fully mature. So, you will get your harvest in winter, just before the frost sets in. In warmer regions, you can plant turmeric at any time of the year. Use the same process if you are using seeds instead of the rhizomes.
  3. Mulching and Fertilizing: Put in a mix of organic fertilizer and manure on top of the soil. On top of this, spread a ½-inch layer of mulch to protect the plant from the cold. Fertilizers should be replenished every 6- 7 months.
  4. Climate requirements: Ideally, the turmeric plant grows well in areas with a temperate summer with good humidity, and will eventually fade in winter. Place the pots in an area that receives bright, warm, indirect sunlight. The plants can also survive in full sunlight, as long as watering is increased. Your plant will need artificial warming if the temperature falls below 65 degrees Fahrenheit.
  5. Watering: The soil of the turmeric plant should always be moist, but not too wet. Ideally, watering once in 2-3 days is good for the growth of the plant. However, check the soil for moisture before every watering session. A daily misting session with a spray bottle will also help the plant stay healthy.
  6. Harvesting: At the end of the season, the foliage starts to wilt and die. It is usually assumed that at this time, the turmeric is ready to harvest. It is best if you take out all the rhizomes in the soil at the same time. You will get approximately 500 grams of fresh roots from each plant.

Pruning
After the saplings have grown into full-fledged pleated leaves, you will soon see them grow to around 4 feet tall. Eventually, during the summer, you will find that the plant has white and green cones surrounding yellow flowers, between the leaves. You will need to cut the plant to the ground to encourage the growing turmeric root to bloom even more. The foliage will grow again and wilt for a final time just before winter begins, signaling the time for harvest.

Pests and Diseases
Turmeric plants are highly resilient against pests and diseases, except a few varieties of aphids and mites. Keep a watch for these insects and wash them off with a spray of water if you find any. The plants can also be affected by leaf spot. This condition can be cured with appropriate fungicides.

Turmeric Plant Life Cycle
To help you understand how a turmeric plant grows, it is important for us to understand, the process of reproduction in the plant. In the following paragraphs, we will describe the process in which the reproduction occurs asexually, in the same flower, to form seeds by meiosis and mitosis.

Life Cycle of a Turmeric Plant
In the flower of the turmeric plant, the ovary and the anther start a process of maturing cells. The single-celled microspores filled in the microsporangium of the anther, carry out a cell division process of meiosis and mitosis to form a pollen grain.
By a similar process of cell division, the ovary forms many embryos filled with fertile eggs.
When the pollen grain reaches the ovary, a pollen tube extends out to transport the sperm to the egg for fertilization.
The fertilized ovary now matures into turmeric seeds, while the flower deteriorates.
Eventually the seed falls off the plant, and begins the process of germination to form a new plant.

Other Tips
When handling turmeric, it is advisable to wear gloves, as the roots can stain your hands yellow.
To create turmeric powder from the rhizomes, boil them for 45 minutes in water, and dry them in the shade for a week till they turn hard. You can now grind them to a powder, with a food processor or a mortar and pestle.
After harvesting the roots, store them in a cool and dark place, till the time you use them.
Do not over-water the plant as this slows down its growth.
So you see, growing turmeric is very easy. You can try growing ginger in a similar fashion, and enjoy the benefits of all the herbal goodness.

Tips to Take Care Chinese Evergreens

Studies have suggested that Chinese evergreens are extremely effective when it comes to the removal of formaldehyde and xylene from the air.

Chinese evergreens belong to Aglaonema genus and Araceae family. It is a popular indoor ornamental plant, that is relatively easy to care for. Though Aglaonema is a genus of flowering plants, it is the speckled or variegated foliage of this plant that interests gardening enthusiasts, and not its flowers. Its leaves are long and pointed. Its glossy foliage has pronounced patterns of green, silver-gray, or creamy white. Aglaonema ‘Silver Queen’ is one of the most popular cultivars that has received the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit.

Over the years, several cultivars and varieties have been developed that have foliage with more visually-appealing patterns. Breeders have been able to develop varieties that have shades of yellow, pink, or red on the foliage. Some of the hybrid varieties are more resistant to diseases, and grow at a faster rate. Another feature that makes this an ideal houseplant is its compact size. This plant will flourish, if you provide it with the ideal environment.

Chinese Evergreen Plant Information
✦Genus: Aglaonema
✦Family: Araceae
✦Subfamily: Aroideae
✦Scientific name: Aglaonema spp.
✦Also Called: Aglaonema, Pewter plant
✦Plant Type: Evergreen perennial
✦Foliage Type: Green-colored leaves that are large, long, and pointed
✦Height: Up to 3 feet
✦Width: Up to 3 feet
✦Native to: Southeast Asia
✦USDA Hardiness Zone: 14 to 15
✦Temperature: Between 65-80ºF (18-27ºC)
✦Humidity: Average indoor humidity levels or higher
✦Light Requirements: Partial to full shade, Partial Sun; Avoid direct sunlight
✦Soil Requirements: Well-drained soil
✦Watering Needs: Average watering to keep the soil moist
✦Maintenance Category: Low
✦Fertilization: Once a month from spring through summer
✦Propagation: Stem cuttings or root division
✦Pests: Aphids, spider mites, mealybugs

How to Take Care of Chinese Evergreens

Light and Temperature
Chinese evergreens make ideal indoor plants, as they can thrive in low light or shade. The plant can be placed around a north-facing window. It can tolerate filtered sunlight, but exposure to direct sunlight can cause damage to its foliage, which is the best feature of this low light indoor plant. Also, make sure that the temperature falls in the range of 65-80°F. If the temperature dips lower than 60°F, the foliage might begin to show signs of damage. For instance, dark patches might appear on the leaves. The foliage might even start curling due to the decrease in the temperature.

Watering and Humidity
For the Chinese evergreens to thrive, you need to ensure that the soil remains evenly moist. So, water thoroughly till water starts draining from the drainage holes at the bottom of the pot. However, refrain from heavy watering, as that can make the plant susceptible to root rot. Allow the soil to become somewhat dry, before you water the plant again. Don’t wait till the soil becomes completely dry. Since this plant does well in average to slightly high humidity, you can use a humidity tray.

Soil and Fertilizer
As far as the soil type is concerned, you could use a regular potting soil. However, the plant needs a well-drained soil, which is why you can add sand or perlite to the potting soil in the ratio of 1:3. The soil should also be replenished with a fertilizer during the growing season. You can apply a balanced liquid fertilizer (20-20-20) every 2-3 weeks. You can reduce the frequency of fertilizer application during the winter season.

Pruning
During the spring, you will spot blooms, which then turn into berries. Since the flowers don’t offer any visual interest, and the berries are poisonous, it would be best to remove them. Moreover, these will only compete with the foliage for nutrients. So, the removal of flowers and berries is to ensure that the leaves get all the nourishment they need. Also, pruning will be required if leaves are yellowing or wilting.

Repotting
After every 2-3 years, the plant should be repotted or placed in a pot that is bigger than the one that was used previously. Make sure that the potting soil drains well. The best time to repot Chinese evergreens is during the spring.

Propagating
Chinese evergreens can be propagated through division. In order to do so, you will need to remove the root ball. Use a clean knife to sever the thick rhizomes, so as to get clumps with several stems. The cut ends of the rhizomes can be dipped in rooting hormone to promote new root growth. Stem cuttings can be used for the purpose of propagation. All you need to do is cut the stem back to about 2 cm from the soil line. New growth will appear where the cut was made, and the top of the stem with leaves can be used as tip cuttings. Shoot tip cuttings that have at least 5 leaves can be used for propagating aglaonema silver queen or other cultivars. Remove two basal leaves from each cutting and push them in a pot filled with potting soil. Make sure that the pot is placed at a location that receives filtered sunlight. To encourage new root growth, water regularly for keeping the soil evenly moist.

On a concluding note, the Chinese evergreen is an excellent choice for an indoor plant, not only due to its glossy, variegated foliage, but also due to its ability to purify air. Provide aglaonema with the ideal conditions that it needs to thrive, and watch its glossy foliage add visual interest to your home.

Herb Gardening Tips for Beginners

Herbs are used for many purposes. Mostly, we use them for adding delicious aroma and flavor to different recipes. You can also use them to garnish different recipes or add a strong flavor to a drink. Herbs are also used in many home remedies like you can use garlic, ginger, and holy basil to get rid of throat infections. Some herbs when planted, act as a natural insect repellent like lemongrass. You can also use various herbs from your garden and use them to infuse oils. Simply put, you can use and enjoy herbs for many purposes.

Selecting the Herbs
Assuming you are interested in growing herbs you must already have some kind of herbs in mind you wish to grow in the garden. But, before you plant your herbs in the garden soil or containers it is very important to place the herbs in a group where they are compatible with each other. To plant many herbs in a group, you need to consider the space between the herb plants, their light requirement, and check if they can grow with each other in harmony. So, first of all make a list of the herbs you wish to grow, then form groups according to the common light requirements and the compatibly factor. Some herbs prefer full sun, some do good in partial shade.

For herbs that prefer partial shade, you can plant them on a patio, or under a tree, or create a shade so that the herbs get filtered light. If you are learning herb gardening then go with herbs like basil, lemon thyme, and chives and place them in a box near a sunny window. If you want herbs that have beautiful fragrance then lavender, rosemary, and sage are great choices which can be grown in full sun. Mint can be grown in a shaded area or in a container. Certain herbs like bergamot, catmint, and sweet marjoram attract bees which can be grown in sun or partial shade. If you want to grow insect-repelling plants than consider citronella, lemongrass, or sage.

Preparing the Soil
After you are done selecting the herbs, it is time to prepare the soil. If you are planting herbs in the ground soil, then pour a layer of compost on the soil. Then loosen it up, so that the soil becomes well-drained and the composting fertilizer gets mixed in it. Herbs prefer a well-drained soil and a good fertilizer. For container gardening, select pots which are big and made of clay and have sufficient holes in it to allow drainage of water. It is important that you select big containers because smaller containers can stunt the growth of plants.

Planting and Caring for the Herbs
Select healthy and strong plants, bulbs, or seeds of the individual herbs. Plant them by maintaining approximately 3 – 4 feet diameter distance between each herb. Plant the herbs in their particular season and use a water can or hose for supplying water to the plant. Make sure you don’t over water the plants as it can lead to diseases. To check for the watering time, use a wooden rod or pencil and insert it in the ground, if you find the top 2 – 3 inches of the soil layer to be dry, then provide water. Also keep in check the temperature and humidity levels.

Follow the above steps you can grow herbs of your choice in containers or on a bed. For harvesting wait till the plant has reached to a height of six to eight inches, and then cut one-third of the branches.
Read more at Buzzle: http://www.buzzle.com/articles/herb-gardening-for-beginners.html

How to Grow Herbs Indoors

Nothing beats the flavor of fresh culinary herbs. They have the potential to vamp up the most normal and boring of all dishes. While you can easily purchase them from groceries, adding home-grown herbs to the food makes a whole lot of difference. That is why, most people who reside in apartments still prefer growing their herbs to enjoy the flavor of just-picked herbs. Maintaining a culinary herb garden will not only satiate your culinary requirements, but will also create a cooling effect in your interiors.

Appropriate planning, sufficient knowledge about gardening basics, and a little bit of patience are all that you need. While almost all plants require direct sunlight for optimal growth, majority of the herbaceous cultivars perform well indoors and require less maintenance. For avid gardeners, environmental conditions that become unfavorable for maintaining an outdoor herb garden are no deterrent and they prefer growing herbs indoors. The following guide is a step-wise approach to growing and maintaining an indoor garden.

Choose the Location
The preferred area to start is a windowsill, or in areas near the door or window, where the plants can receive indirect sunlight. In case your kitchen window faces south and receives an adequate amount of sunlight, you can start a kitchen garden right there. That way, irrigating the herbs and harvesting the leaves (whenever you need), will become easy for you.

Gather some Containers
Using pots of the right size is mandatory for container gardening. The ideal pot size varies according to the herb that you want to grow. The logic behind this is that the plants should get adequate space for spreading. Say for instance, parsley and sage require a larger pot, while scallion can be planted in smaller pots. Also, to ensure good drainage, selecting pots with drainage holes is a must.

Prepare Potting Media
The potting soil plays a major role in maintaining a healthy garden. It serves as a medium for supplying water and nutrients to the plants. If you are using heavy garden soil, amend it with sand, vermiculite, and lime components for solving water drainage issues. And before you fill soil in the containers, lay, gravel, small rocks, and brick pieces at the bottom. Then, add soil to match about three-fourth of the pot’s height.

Select the Best Herbs
Be careful while selection of herbs and start with the local varieties that adapt well in your area. Once you get the hang of it, you can include other exotic herb species later to your project. Some of the cultivars that remain all-time favorites for gardeners are coriander, chives, dill, basil, oregano, mint, sage, bay, chamomile, rosemary, lavender, and parsley. Of these, dill and coriander are annual plants, while bay and parsley are perennial herbs.

Decide the Propagation Mode
Purchasing healthy seeds and plants should be of prime importance. Or, if you already have a herb garden outdoors, make cuttings out of the plants and root them. You can also start gardening using seeds. But, this requires additional efforts for seeding, germinating seeds, and transplanting the seedlings to individual containers. So, decide which one is a better option for you, and proceed accordingly.

Plantation of Herbs
This step will depend on your choice of method of propagation. If you purchase young plants, you can plant them directly. Take a pot and make a planting hole such that the root ball size matches with the hole dimension. Place the young plant, and fill the pot with soil. Likewise, you can transplant seedlings and rooted cuttings in the original pots, as per your plan.

Sufficient Care
Providing sufficient water is of utmost importance for your plants to grow healthily. Over-watering is a common problem occurring in winter gardening that beginners should be careful about. Excess soil moisture reduces air circulation in the underground parts, resulting in leaf-yellowing and root-rotting. Ideally, watering once in every two weeks is ideal for moisturizing the soil and proper maintenance.

When the temperature of the outdoors rises or becomes warm, place your potted plants in direct sun for some time in the morning. This will boost their growth and promote production of new leaves. You may add organic matter to the plants to supply nutrients, but should absolutely refrain from using chemical fertilizers. A plus point with indoor gardening is easy control over pests and unwanted weeds.