Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Fresh Air Plants

Improving the Air Quality Inside Your Home

As a horticulturist I have always had houseplants in my home and I would like to explore with you the health and medical benefits of having these wonderful creatures around. As a child I Bamboo Palmremember there were always houseplants around the home. Having houseplants around the house became second nature to us; it was like having another brother or sister around, it just did not talk back to you. It was not until years later that houseplants received recognition for all the benefits that you receive from them. Several studies have been done on the benefits of houseplants and how houseplants in your home or office remove indoor pollutants, and toxic chemicals from the air. These studies have shown which houseplant removes what indoor pollutant or toxic chemical from the air. There are many health benefits that people receive from plants in the home or work place.

Colorama DracaenaAs newly built homes and offices were being constructed to be more energy efficient, the homes and offices become airtight and sealed, and the quality of air inside these newly built homes and offices led to indoor pollution or what is called sick building syndrome. Newly built homes or offices are loaded with indoor pollutants such as: benzene, trichloroethylene, and formaldehyde. There are more indoor pollutants and toxic chemicals, but these are the big three, and are found in numerous household products and building materials. Formaldehyde is found in many building materials, and consumer products including paper towels, garbage bags, facial tissues, carpet-backing, plywood, and particleboard. Benzene is found in adhesives, caulking compounds, ceiling tiles, electro photographic printers, floor coverings, paints, particleboard, photocopiers, wall coverings, stains, and varnishes. Trichloroethylene is found in duplicating machines, electro photographic printers, and photocopiers.

A NASA study was a huge stepping-stone to raising public awareness of the benefits of houseplants. NASA’s 2-year study done in conjunction with the Associated Landscape Contractors of America (ALCA) showed that certain houseplants remove a specific indoor pollutant better than other houseplants studied.Corn Plant The study also showed that some houseplants would remove more than just one indoor pollutant. Another study involving houseplants showed that employees that work in office buildings that had interior plants in their lobbies and also in their offices had a lower rate of sickness, had better employee morale, and had a lower rate of employee sick days, when compared to employees that did not have interior plants at their work place. In a recent study published in February involving houseplants and patient recovery times, researchers monitored hospital patients that had undergone the same exact surgery. One group of patients had houseplant(s) in their room, and the other group did not. The group with plants required less pain medication, were in less pain, and had a faster recovery time than the patients that had the same surgical procedure done, but did not have houseplant(s) in their hospital room.

In the book “How To Grow Fresh Air” by Dr. B. C. Wolverton, He mentions 50 interior plants that remove indoor pollutants from your home or office. The plants in his book were rated according to ease of plant care maintenance, pest resistance, efficiency of chemical removal, and transpiration rates.

Dendrobium OrchidHere are a few of my favorite houseplants that remove indoor pollutants and toxic chemicals from the air. I have chosen these plants for their excellence in improving the air quality in interiors, and also for their ease of care.

Bamboo Palm – Chamaedorea seifrizii. The Bamboo Palm is easy to care for, is more resistant to bug infestations, will give you an overall height of 6-8 feet, Dracaena marginataand will take any type of light conditions. Bamboo Palm has a high transpiration rate, which means during the dry winter months with dryer air coming from your heating system the air will feel less dry. Due to the Bamboo Palm’s upright growth it is an excellent plant to place in bare, empty corners or anywhere you need a little more height. This palm removes high rates of benzene, trichloroethylene, and formaldehyde.

Chinese Evergreen – Aglaonema spp. The Chinese Evergreen will remain one of interior landscapers favorites because of its durability indoors. The plant is easy to care for and is fairly resistant to pest infestations. The overall height is about 3 feet and maybe placed in any type of light conditions, except direct sunlight.

Lady PalmLady Palm – Rhapis excelsa. The Lady Palm is another excellent choice for removing indoor pollutants. The palm is fairly slow growing and is easy to care for.

Janet Craig Dracaena – Dracaena deremensis `Janet Craig'. There are two cultivars of Janet Craig Dracaena. There is Janet Craig Compacta variety that can be used as a table plant and there is Janet Craig Dracaena that makes an excellent floor specimen. Both varieties can be placed in dimly lit areas, and can tolerate neglect.Janet Craig Dracaena

English Ivy – Hedera helix. English Ivy is a vining plant and can be used in hanging baskets or trailing down the sides of pots. The plant will take any type of interior light conditions, and I have realized during the winter months to let the soil dry out between watering. There are several cultivars to choose from, but anyone you choose will be an excellent choice. The English Ivy removes high levels of formaldehyde.

English IvyFicus Alii – Ficus maclellandii ‘Alii’. Ficus Alii will enhance your home interiors with its stately tree shaped form. The Ficus can be grown as a bush or as a standard (grown as a tree). This Ficus is not as picky when it is moved and is easier to care for than Weeping Fig. The Ficus will tolerate lower levels of light than Weeping Fig and does not drop its leaves.

Peace Lily – Spathiphyllum spp. The Peace Lily will enjoy any type of light conditions, except being in direct sunlight. Peace Lily will group nicely around other plants, and reaches an overall height of 2 to 3 feet. This plant has been rated as one of the top performers of removing benzene, trichloroethylene, and formaldehyde from the air.

Corn Plant - Dracaena fragrans ‘Massangeana’. Corn Plant is a wonderful plant to have around because of its ease of care and the natural upright, columnar Golden Pothosgrowth habit of the plant. This plant can be placed in Low to Bright light areas, and is one of the plants that removes formaldehyde from the air.

Golden Pathos – Epipremnum aureum. Golden Pothos is a beautiful plant to use in hanging baskets or anywhere you would like a trailing plant. The plant can be placed in any type of light conditions and can tolerate neglect.

Warneckii DracaenaWarneckii Dracaena - Dracaena deremensis ‘Warneckii’. Warneckii Dracaena will brighten up your living space with its green and white foliage. The plant makes an excellent specimen that will tolerate lower light conditions, and will remove benzene from the air.

Dragon Tree - Dracaena marginata. Dragon Tree has wonderful green with red-edged foliage and with age will develop a small trunk. The plant needs medium to high light, and removes trichloroethylene from the air.

Syngonium - Syngonium podophyllum. Syngonium is a vining plant that can be used in hanging baskets or trailing down the sides of pots. The plant will take anySyngonium type of light conditions and is very easy to care for.

Weeping Fig - Ficus benjamina. Weeping Fig will enhance your home’s interiors with its stately tree shaped form. The Ficus can be grown as a bush or as a standard (grown as a tree). This Ficus is picky when it is moved, and does not like to be placed in drafty areas. Once Weeping Fig has adjusted to its new interior home the leaf drop will stop. Weeping Fig requires high to medium light, and removes formaldehyde from the air.

Schefflera actinophyllaSchefflera - Schefflera actinophylla. Schefflera at one time was one of the most popular interior houseplants, but as new varieties of houseplants were introduced to the market its popularity lessened. Schefflera is a good plant for beginners, and can tolerate some neglect. The plant has a tendency to attract some pests, and to prevent this, mist the foliage monthly.

Schefflera - Schefflera arboricola. This variety of Schefflera is bushy in nature, and will take less light than S. actinophylla. There are several new cultivars on the market that will give you a variety of colorful foliage.

Heart Leaf Philodendron – Philodendron scandens oxycardium. Heart Leaf Philodendron is one of my personal favorites because you can place this plant Heart Leaf Philodendronanywhere in your home. It can be used in hanging baskets or trailing down the sides of pots.

Moth Orchid – Phalaenopsis spp. The Moth Orchid is an orchid for beginners and will give you years of enjoyment. After the flower has faded trim back underneath the faded flower(s), and sometimes a new flower spike will emerge. I give my orchids a weak solution of water-soluble orchid food bi-weekly.

Moth OrchidDendrobium Orchid - Dendrobium spp. The Dendrobium Orchid is an orchid for beginners and will give you years of enjoyment. After the flower has faded trim back underneath the faded flower(s), and sometimes a new flower spike will emerge, or a new plantlet will emerge. I give my orchids a weak solution of water-soluble orchid food bi-weekly. Dendrobium Orchid removes formaldehyde from the air.

Anthurium – Anthurium ‘Lady Jane’. Anthuriums will give you tropical foliage and flowers.

Oakleaf Ivy – Cissus rhombifolia ‘Ellen Danika’. Oakleaf Ivy is excellent to use in hanging baskets, or trailing down the sides of pots. This plant has beautiful oakleaf foliage, and will take any type of interior light conditions. I have realized during the winter months to let the soil dry out between watering.

Here are a few guidelines to help you care for your houseplants:Lady Jane Anthurium

Water: As a general rule, I water my houseplants once a week or biweekly depending on the plants light requirements. The less light the plant is located in the less frequently you would have to water versus a plant that is located in a high light location. Plants that are located in high light areas should be checked once a week for water, and plants that are located in low light areas should be checked every other week for water. This rule has always been a successful way to guide a new plant owner to success.

Peace LilyFertilizer: I fertilize my interior plants with a water-soluble plant food once a month or I use a time-release indoor-outdoor fertilizer. If I were using a time-release fertilizer, bimonthly I would give my plants a treat by applying a half recommended strength water-soluble plant food for a little extra boost. The orchids that I mentioned in this newsletter would need a fertilizer recommended for orchids, but you may use an orchid food for your houseplants, too.

Containers: For newly purchased houseplants I would keep them in their original pots and just purchase a wicker basket, a ceramic, or a brass container as a pot cover. When putting the plants in a decorative container don’t forget a plastic saucer to put in the bottom of the decorative pot, and especially with wicker baskets.

Lighting: There are several houseplants to choose from and each has their own light requirements. Some houseplants tolerate the darkest corner in the room, while other houseplants need the brightest area of the room. When choosing houseplants pick the one best suited for the room and also the lighting of the room. You don’t want to pick a houseplant that will overwhelm the room, or pick a houseplant that gets dwarfed by the room size.

Placing: For a home that has 2,000 or less square feet, use a total of 15 houseplants that have a pot size of six inches or more. I would recommend placing one to two houseplants in the rooms Schefflera arboricolathat are occupied the most for best removal of indoor pollutants. Depending on the size of my rooms, I use at least two or more houseplants in every room.

Take advantage of Hibiscus and More's 10% off spring coupon of orders $50.00 or more. Hurry the coupon expires June 30, 2009. Use redemption code: Newsletter at checkout.

All photographs and digital images are ©Cheryl Ann Meola 2007. All Rights Reserved. All photographs and digital images displayed in this article are for viewing purposes only and cannot be duplicated. Place your cursor over the picture for the plant name.

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Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Spring Vegetables

Spring Vegetables

As the weather warms, we gardeners start thinking about gardening again. With this in mind I would like to mention Tomatoesthe wonderful benefits of a spring garden.

Home-grown vegetables have a richer, fuller, and better taste than store bought since you pick them yourself. Home-grown vegetables are easy and inexpensive to grow as well. Vegetable gardening has a lot of appeal: it can involve the entire family from the little ones to the teens. As well as being an educational tool, the time the family spends in the garden is quality time spent together, and can give one a sense of pride.

Onions

In today’s economy more and more families are finding ways to save money, and one way to save money on your grocery bill would be to start your own vegetable garden. Vegetables can be grown from seeds or vegetable starts, and more retail garden centers this year are reporting that vegetable starts and seeds are up from last year’s sales. And with our current economy more families are deciding to spend more time at home and in the garden.

Some of you may be thinking to yourself I have never grown vegetables before, and I don’t think I can grow vegetables now. One of my tasks as a professional horticulturist to a private estate was to grow home-grown vegetables. Before I tried to grow vegetables, I was not too confident about growing them. Now as a Texas Certified Horticultural Professional I advise our retail gardening customers on how to grow vegetables. Last year I took my own vegetable gardening advice that I give to my retail gardening customers, plus my horticultural experience and put all that knowledge to the test. The results of the vegetable garden test are in the pictures included in this article.

The vegetable garden that I planted last year had a wide variety of root vegetables and above ground vegetables. Root vegetables would include: potatoes, onions, garlic, carrots, turnips, rutabagas, parsnips, beets, radishes, sweet potato, and shallots. The key to growing root vegetables is giving enough space in between each plant so the actual root (vegetable) will mature and not be misshapen because of planting too close. I grew Georgia Sweet onions from onion sets, Cherry Belle radishes, and Tall Top Early Wonder beets, all from seeds. The wonderful aspect of radishes is that the radishes mature in 22 days, and to have radishes all season replant your seeds Radishesevery ten days. I was amazed and thrilled at how easy it was to grow vegetables from seed. The above ground vegetables include: peppers, tomatoes, strawberries, spinach, lettuce, peas, beans, sweet corn, cucumbers, and cantaloupes. For the above ground vegetables I grew from vegetable starts, green peppers, tomatoes, and strawberries; and from seed there was Tender Pod bush beans, Black-Seeded Simpson lettuce, Mesclun Sweet Salad lettuce, Little Caesar Romaine lettuce, and Early Long Purple eggplant. For recommended varieties to your area, contact your local extension office.

When planning your vegetable garden, either from vegetable starts or seeds don’t forget to add a little color to the garden. In the last couple of years seed Beetscompanies have established several different colors in vegetables. You can now purchase peppers, carrots, and tomatoes seeds that will produce a wide range of colors. You can purchase bell pepper seeds that come in ivory, lavender, chocolate brown, yellow, and orange. Wouldn’t some or all of those colors look wonderful in a fresh tossed salad or homemade stuffed bell peppers? Carrot seeds now come in colors of yellow, white, golden yellow, red, light and dark purple, and of course your typical orange. Your family will just go wild over the variety of colors that will adorn the family dinner table each evening. Tomato seeds are now available in different shades of red, orange, yellow, and even a dark brown. With all the vegetable colors that are available on the market today, you can now color coordinate your dinner plate with home-grown vegetables, and become the ultimate gourmet chef without paying a gourmet price tag.

Black-Seeded Simpson LettuceChoosing a Location: Choose an area that gets 5 - 6 hours of full sun; and if, you have an area that receives more than 6 hours of sunlight that’s all right, too.

Choosing a Container(s): Pick a container that is 14 inches or larger, but the lettuces and radishes can be grown in smaller containers. I would like to suggest when growing tomatoes or peppers to put one plant per container.

Choosing Potting Soil: Several commercial potting soils are available, and choosing one is a matter of your gardening preferences. Some of the choices are inorganic verses organic, with moisture control or without moisture control, with timed-release fertilizer or without fertilizer. Some potting soils are especially formulated for vegetables.

Choosing a Fertilizer: Several commercial fertilizers are available, and choosing one is a matter of your gardening preferences. Some of the choices are water soluble, granular, time-release, slow-release, organic, or inorganic. Choose a fertilizer that is formulated for vegetable plants.


EggplantChoosing an Insecticide: Choosing an insecticide is a matter of your gardening preferences, and while I was growing the vegetable garden I had an IPM (Integrated Pest Management) approach method. I would only use Safer Soaps or Horticultural Oils on all the vegetables that I grew, and realistically I hardly had to spray the vegetables at all. I was constantly watching for any insect or worm that would start eating my prize vegetables, and when I did see one I would simply dispose of the insect.

Choosing a Vegetable Support: Some of the vegetable plants that I mentioned above will need to be staked or in need of a vegetable cage such as tomatoes, eggplant, cucumbers, peas, cantaloupes, and sometimes peppers.


Watering: Of all the ingredients that I have mentioned for vegetable gardening success, water, is the most important to a successful vegetable garden. The soil for your vegetables will need to be consistently moist at all times, and the water source should be city water or treated water. This is one of the reasons for one of last’s years E. coil outbreaks; the vegetables that were recalled received untreated water during the growing process. More gardeners are starting to grow their own vegetables this year versus last year due to the recent E. coli outbreaks in store-bought produce. Just another reason to start growing your own vegetables, you supply the water, you supply the insecticide, and you know exactly what ingredients went into your vegetables. For states that are currently under water restrictions, you can water your food crops, personal food garden, or personal vegetable garden without penalty. Wash all vegetables before eating or cooking.

LettucePlanting: There are a few vegetables that do not like to be planted next to each other, and the vegetable combinations to avoid are:

Onions with peas or beans. Tomatoes or squash with potatoes.

Carrots with dill or fennel. Beans with onions and garlic.


Planting Tomato Plants: Another planting rule that has always worked for me is to plant your tomato plants deeper than the original soil line, even if you grow your tomatoes from seed. When Beans and Tomatoesyou are ready to plant your tomato plants remove two sets of leaves or four leaves total and plant the tomato plant that deep in the soil. You just do this with tomatoes and the reason for this procedure is that tomatoes will establish more roots along the stem where you removed the leaves, and tomatoes require a lot more water than the other vegetables mentioned in this article, and tomatoes are one vegetable that is a heavy feeder, i.e. tomatoes require a steady supply of fertilizer.


An article in Chemically Speaking, January 2009 on honeybees and crop yield that has just been published may entice my readers to plant more than just a vegetable garden this spring. The article states that planting more flowers to attract honeybees will help plants defend themselves against attacks from caterpillars. The study suggests that this could lead to a new biological control method to try.

Put on your gardening gloves and reap the rewards and benefits of a spring vegetable garden. Tastier vegetables than store bought that you harvest on your own. As a vegetable gardener you know the ingredients, and there is nothing more rewarding than tasting the “vegetables” of your labors. Take advantage of Hibiscus and More's 10% off spring coupon of orders $50.00 or more. Hurry the coupon expires June 30, 2009. Use redemption code: Newsletter at checkout.

For more gardening information about Roses visit my Spring Newsletter.

All photographs and digital images are ©Cheryl Ann Meola 2007. All Rights Reserved. All photographs and digital images displayed in this article are for viewing purposes only and cannot be duplicated.