Tips, tricks and lessons you have learned

love_the_yard(z9A Jax FL)May 17, 2014

Let's start a thread with tips, tricks and lessons you have learned. I'm always learning something new. I've been thinking about and wanting to post this topic for awhile. So here are a few of my recent lightbulbs. Please add yours to the list!

Clay and ceramic pots - When carrying/moving clay pots larger than 6", carry them with two hands. I figured this out after repairing a number of cracked pots this winter. If you pick them up with one hand, the pressure is on the inside of the lip and if the plant is heavy enough, it will cause cracks. If you carry them with two hands, the pressure is the opposite - on the outside of the lip - and will never cause it to crack. Yes, it takes longer. It depends upon how much you like your larger clay and ceramic pots. :)

Crown of thorns, epiphyllum and begonias - While for most plants it is recommended that you never plant it any deeper than the root ball, crown of thorns, epiphyllum and begonias can be planted or repotted as deeply as needed. Are there other plants that you can do this?

Watering cans and measuring spoons - Store your plastic measuring spoons (the one that comes with Peters/Miracle-Gro) right inside the watering can. Then any time you are measuring out anything in liquid form (fish emulsion, tea, liquid kelp, etc), when you are done, just drop the tablespoon right in with the water. That way you never lose a drop and don't have to go looking for the measuring spoon. I have one or two inside each watering can. Doesn't bother anything, doesn't clog the nozzle and is very handy.

Rooting cuttings - Start cuttings as early in the season as possible. Almost anything will root in March. Some things get a little more fussy by May and some are downright stubborn in August and September. But in March/April, they all seem easy. I wish I had posted this in March. :)

Hydrangeas and pentas cuttings - Unlike most plants, these do not root from a node. So when you strike cuttings, all you need is a nice piece of stem.

Pentas - the name is Pentas (not "Penta"). If you have only one, I learned that it is still a Pentas.

Colocasia esculenta 'Mojito' - The first year I purchased this plant, I almost lost him. I planted him in the ground, did not keep him watered well enough (2-3 times a week was not cutting it for this guy), and he withered away. The next year, I thought he was gone. I searched and searched the area until finally two teensy, tiny green leaves came up. Well, I had read that Colocasia thrives in wet soil and can be grown in standing water. So I moved him into a pot with no drainage holes. Boy, that was genius. Good golly did he take off! The benefit was two-fold: 1) I can fill the pot with a ridiculous amount of water and 2) I don't have to hunt him down in the spring. He has multiplied like crazy - I now have three pots full.

Potting Mix - Keep two tubs of potting mix: one of cheap stuff (ex. rooting plants that will eventually go in the ground) and one of good potting mix (stuff that will stay in the pot). No need to waste good stuff on temporary pot-ups.

Potted Plants that need good drainage - I fill the bottom of almost every pot with a 1-2" layer of pine bark mulch before I add any soil at all. I use the Walmart purple bag - the one with the finely chopped mulch - unless it is a huge pot and then I use the Walmart pink bag (pinebark mini-nuggets) and then I use a 3-5" layer. The advantage of doing this is twofold: better drainage and less expensive than the potting mix. I just think it makes a good base in the bottom of a pot.

Please give us your tips, tricks and lightbulb moments!

Carol in Jacksonville

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This is pretty general, but spend the money for high quality garden tools and equipment. That $60 trimmer you got on sale is only going to last you one or two seasons if you're lucky. Want to know what brand to buy? Look at what the professional lawn service guys use.

    Bookmark   May 17, 2014 at 5:23PM
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Don't plant Crepe Myrtle trees overhanging the sidewalk (or any flowering tree for that matter).

Don't plant a bouganvilla next to the house unless it's in a container.

Never, ever for any reason plant an asparagus fern in the ground.

Look around your immediate area before planting to see if what you want is growing well there. Just because it grows 5 miles down the road doesn't mean it will grow in your particular area due to different soils and micro-climates.

    Bookmark   May 17, 2014 at 8:07PM
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Michael AKA Leekle2ManE - Zone 9a - Lady Lake

Plant berry/fruit producing bushes/trees away from the front yard/driveway. This will reduce the amount of bird droppings on your or your friends' cars.

This one is basic, but I see it often: Mulch deep. 3-4 inches. If you think you 'might' have 3 inches, add another bag/wagon/barrow full. Anything less than 3 inches and weeds/grass can still grow through, even with newspaper.

Monitor the sunlight in your yard at least twice a year, mid-summer and mid-winter. That deep shade spot on the north side of the house in January can be full sun come May.

If you have room, let one bed go 'wild' with wildflowers. While other plants are good at bringing in pollinators, a wildflower bed can keep them around all year long.

Give any plastic planters/tools/watering cans two coats of spray polyurathane. The sun will eventually do these in, but the poly can greatly extend the life of the plastic and color.

    Bookmark   May 18, 2014 at 6:01AM
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garyfla_gw(10 Florida)

Since I grow almost everything in pots , always on the eternal quest for the ultimate material and have come to the conclusion there isn't one lol.
I find the general mix of pine bark fines along with some top soil as effective as most potting mixes and costs around a third . .
This is just for terrestrial plants of course NOT orchids, water plants succulents or cacti
I put a layer of crushed lava rock on top which prevents most diggers but not ants lol
Some of best things I've done over the years is a compost bin. keeping a color coded log, and carefully researching BEFORE I buy rather than after lol

    Bookmark   May 20, 2014 at 4:40AM
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I want to thank you for the Mojito tip. AND my Hilo Beauty thanks you, too.

I went to Kirby's nursery today to find a replacement for my Mojito that did not come back this year. Now I know why...

While there I saw a Hilo Beauty planted in several inches of flowing water in a display pond. My own Hilo is my second one and is struggling. The first one died.

#2 now has some fresh dirt on top and is immersed in my little pondlett until I can repot into a non draining container.

Alas, no new Mojito... Yet. So thanks again. Great tip!

    Bookmark   June 10, 2014 at 9:58PM
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Stopped using Round-Up and pesticides. Weeds are a nightmare, but manageable with lots of cardboard and wood chips.

No pesticides and my garden beds are filled with butterflies. I am amazed how many different varieties there are and I've stared planting 'host' plants to feed them. I'm still only seeing a few bees.

Most orchids love Florida. I feel like a kid in a candy store with all the blooms. I hardly have to do anything and they grow and grow.


    Bookmark   June 11, 2014 at 12:18AM
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Another one I forgot is you can make your own potting mix cheap by mixing top soil with fine pine mark mulch, and you can fluff it up more if needed with perlite. I have also put a layer of mulch in the bottom of pots for drainage like Carol mentioned. We also keep a couple of compost piles going, and all excess soil from seedlings that are transplanted get tossed in there. Also, I occasionally mix some Epsom Salt in with the Miracle Grow when I fertilize the blooming and fruiting plants.

    Bookmark   June 11, 2014 at 6:14AM
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love_the_yard(z9A Jax FL)

You all have such great tips! I was hoping this thread would slowly string along... it is amazing how much I learn from you all.

Yes, Photobucket has topped me out. I have exceeded bandwidth so my pictures do not display. (I think they will display again next month - each month your bandwidth starts over). I will move to another host. Sorry my pics don't show up. :(

Thonotorose (tell us about your user name.. is it "Though 'No', to rose"? Do you dislike roses? I've always wondered), I have Hilo Beauty, too, and have it in pots. This is my first year with it. There has been lots and lots of discussion on the web about whether or not Hilo Beauty is an alocasia or a caladium. I believe it was recently definitively determined to be a caladium by the Aroid Society. Please see link to various discussions, below. You may want to be careful, if you have that one in a non-draining pot, in winter because caladium do not like to be wet when dormant. They will usually rot. I put my Hilo Beauty in draining, clay pots with labels (because they will go dormant in winter and I may forget what I put in the pot). I know, I know, it is conflicting info from the Mojito and probably not what you wanted to hear... but I do not want you to lose your plant! If you keep it the way it is, I will be eager to hear how it goes through the winter. Will you be going to the Fall swap? I can probably bring you a Mojito...

Greenie - I agree. I bought a really good quality lawn mower and edger/weedwacker and I'm glad I did. (I bought a cheap blower, but I've been very lucky with it, too.) That was good advice.

Rita - all good advice! My mother made the Asparagus fern mistake at the old house. Every time I see it in the box stores - and I see it there all the time - I think someone should be held accountable for the future problems it holds.

Jane - I'm still trying to grow orchids like any ONE of yours. Boy, you have the touch. I hope I get a bloom next year.

Leekle - excellent tips. I think I started noticing where the sun came up and set after several years of gardening. I thought I had planned my shade and didn't realize it changed throughout the year for awhile... I have adjusted and my shade is planned (targeted) for June/July/August.

Gary - where do you buy crushed lava rock? And you just spread it on the top of the plant? How do you remove it when reusing the pot - does the old soil and lava rock mix get tossed into the yard somewhere together? Or do you have to pull out the lava rock for separate disposal?

Gary, also interested to hear about your color-coded log. I keep a log, too, but haven't used colors. Is your log on paper or electronic? How does it work?

Here's a "quick log" method for new gardeners. If you don't have time to keep a log, but want to maintain basic information on your plants, you might like this. I keep an old cigar box for plant tags. First, if the tag is plastic, I wash and dry it. Then, on the tag, with a Sharpie pen, I write:
- Date (I planted it)
- Store name
- Price
- If I buy 12 of something, I don't throw all 12 tags into the box. I just take one and write Q12 (quantity of 12).
Then I just toss the tag into the box. I don't try to keep the box sorted. This way, if something doesn't get onto the log, I always have the tags as a backup. I like having the tag info, anyway, if I ever need to look something up.

Here's one more random, crazy tip... at least it is something that works for me. If you rotate your plant pots (I'm talking about turning them while in place, not swapping them around), I always turn mine the SAME way - a 1/4 turn clockwise... so that I don't have to remember how I turned them last time. It's always a 1/4 turn clockwise.

I know lots of you have other random, miscellaneous tips rolling around in your heads. Throw one on here! :)


Here is a link that might be useful: Google - Hilo Beauty classification

    Bookmark   June 11, 2014 at 9:16AM
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Interesting about Hilo. I will keep that in mind.

LOL...! I am BESOTTED with roses. I have about 60 different ones, mostly antiques. I live in Thonotosassa. Tho-no-to-sass-a. All of the first three syllables rhyme with "toe". Even our weather man has called it Thon-o-sassa. FYI, Sassa is a Native American word for "big water".

One day I will make Silvia's swap. I caretake my 90 year old mother. She is in very good shape but it is hard to get away.

    Bookmark   June 11, 2014 at 9:16PM
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whgille(FL 9b)

Carol, it is fun to read all your tips. You are so organized and think about every detail and of course you are the cheerleader in the forum.:)

Veronica, I remember that one time you explain about the handle name, and when I saw the name while traveling in the car, I thought of you again.:) Hope to meet you one day when you are ready...


    Bookmark   June 12, 2014 at 7:46AM
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tomncath(St Pete Z10a Heat 10)

Some good info here!

I use a 2 foot concrete mixing tub as my potting bench, not only does it keep the soil from being messy by containing it, I can move it around to work in the shade and breeze :-)

Also, when potting up root bound plants after soaking them thoroughly, I use a hacksaw blade to loosen the roots from the pot and minimize root damage for transfer.


    Bookmark   June 12, 2014 at 7:56AM
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garyfla_gw(10 Florida)

I use the crushed lava around 3/4 1 inch for epi orchids
It will not rot nor hold too much water Two problems in large containers it's too heavy so use styrofoam on the bottom half 2/3 depending on the plant
The large 2/3 inch I place on top keeps most things from digging. You can use hardware cloth to separate when time to repot. You can get it at walmart but Bushel stop carries several grades
the note book has edges in various colors . You can write on the cover various plants then just go to that color when referencing ofr adding info.. An example "Bottle Palm " Blue On the blue page Potted dates, fert.,
frond dates and so on. Can't trust computers ?? lol
i try to assign a color to various plants such as blue for palms, red for orchids ,green for aroids so when full can continue on to the next book . I have info going back to 1981 lol saves going through all the pages to get particular info. Two flaws in the system you MUST actually write down the info and you must be able to read your own writing lol Still working on those . gary

    Bookmark   June 13, 2014 at 4:25AM
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