Sunday, September 28, 2014

Bring Your Houseplants Inside but Leave the Bugs Outside

It is that time of year again-time to bring in all the houseplants  If you are like me you have had your houseplants outside adorning your deck and front door area giving them a little vacation from being cooped up inside.  Unfortunately it is starting to get cooler and that means I have to start bringing them in before the nighttime temperatures get below 45-50 degrees.  Before I bring them in there are  some steps I take to ensure I don't also bring in hitchhikers.  Not only can I bring in spider mites and aphids there is also the fear of other creepy crawlies like millipedes and spiders that I really don't want in the house.  These steps I take help to keep the bugs to a minimum and I don't need to use pesticides to do it. 

Step 1:  Give the plant a "bath"!  I take a large tote and fill it with water and add a few squirts of Dawn dishsoap and a handful of Epsom salts.  I then sink the potted plant into the "bath" for 15-30 minutes to force out any bugs that might be making the plant home.  

Step 2:  After 15-30 minutes remove the plant.
Step 3:  Spray the plant off with a good stream of water to remove the soap.
Step 4:  Take a sponge or rag and wipe down the pot and then rinse off.

Step 5:  Remove any dead /dying foliage or flowers.  Inspect for bugs under leaves and along the stem.  Repeat the bath if the bugs are not all gone or use a sponge and wipe them off gently then spray again with the hose. 

Step 6:  Let drain completely.  Now they are ready to be taken back inside. 
Step 7:  Reintroduce them slowly to the indoors especially if they were in full sun.  I do this by moving them indoors at night and putting them out in the morning-reducing the amount of time outside daily by an hour or two.  It usually takes about a week. This helps to reduce shock. 

Step 8:  Enjoy you plants!  For the first month your plants may drop some leaves-this is common and caused by the shock of moving back inside but it should recover given time.  Just make sure to cut back on fertilizer, give it enough light and water when needed (don't over water) and your plants should make it through the colder months to enjoy another summer outside. 

This works great for most houseplants except large ones.  My next post I will show you how I prepare my large houseplants for moving inside. 

Until next time-Happy Planting! 


Thursday, September 18, 2014

Easy and Cheap DIY Concrete Pumpkin Planter

Ever look at one of those plastic candy buckets and wonder what the heck can I do with this?  Here is a picture of what I am talking about:
Candy buckets
 Turn it into one of these:
Concrete pumpkin
Concrete pumpkin

Since my kids are too old for these now I was looking to re-purpose the ones I have into something interesting.  At least interesting to me:-))  So, since I like working with all things concrete I decided to turn mine into concrete planters.  I had seen similar ideas on pinterest using a styrofoam pumpkin-but I didn't have one of those:-))  Now don't worry-this is easy-even for uncrafty people like me!  Another plus is that it is really cheap.  If you already have the pumpkins on hand you are in luck but if you buy them they are less than $1 a piece.  If you use a sack of pre-mixed concrete (the cheap stuff) it will cost under $3 and it will do 2 planters.  So, if you do 2 of these it will cost less than $5!  Let's get to work creating.

For this project you will need:

1.  One bag of concrete mix or your favorite concrete/hypertufa recipe
2.  2 plastic pumpkin pails
3.  a tub to mix the concrete
4.  Something to mix with-I use my hands or a hand hoe.
5.  Cooking spray
6.  water
7.  An inner mold-a couple of tall cups or similar will work
8.  Something to create a drainage hole-I used a couple of squares (about 1in) of styrofoam that I cut from a big piece.  It has to be "tall" enough for the inner mold to sit on.
 9.  A mask and a pair of gloves (work safe).
If you want to make a reusable mold you will also need:

10. Some duct tape
11. A sharp cutting instrument-I used an exacto knife to cut the pumpkins in half.

After you get all your supplies together we can begin.  The beginning of the instructions will show you how to make a reusable mold if you prefer to just make a pumpkin once then skip down to step 4.

1.  Start by taking a sharp instrument and cut along the "seam" of the pumpkin (which should be on the side not through the face of the pumpkin.  I did the bottom first them the sides like this:
When you are done cutting it should look like this:
2.  Cut off the handle:
Now it is ready to tape back together!
3.  Hold the pumpkin together and begin taping-use smaller pieces of duct tape at first to get a start then you can use bigger pieces to completely tape it back together.  Also-starting at the bottom is easier (at least I thought so).

Tape the bottom up really good!
When you are done they should look like this:
Now we are ready to go!
4.  Spray the inside of the pumpkins and your inner mold with cooking spray or some other mold release-I usually spray it in then wipe it around on the inside.  Also fill your inner mold with some rocks or sand to weigh it down.

5.  Take your styrofoam "spacer and put it down in the middle of the bottom.
6.  Mix up your concrete according to the directions-remember not too much water!
7.  Let it sit for a few minutes if it is NOT quick setting concrete.  If it is quick setting you can begin to fill.
8.  Fill the bottom of the pumpkin but don't cover the styrofoam cube-just fill around it like this:
9.  Set your middle form on top of the cube making sure it is centered (or close):
10.  Fill up the rest of the way pressing it down as you go.  I use an old dowel I have laying around just for this:
11.  When filled to the top Tap on the sides with your hands for about a minute to help release some air bubbles then let it sit and harden for 24-48 hours.  Don't unmold too early or it might fall apart.

12.  When it has hardened you can remove the mold.  If you don't care about keeping the mold just cut off the pumpkin.  If you have taped it up to reuse it all you need to do is cut off the tape.

13. After you unmold it you need to knock out the styrofoam cube in the bottom.  I used a mallet and my trusty dowel for this:
14.  Pull the middle out or keep tapping with the mallet until it releases.  If it is still difficult let it sit in the sun for a while-sometimes that helps.
Here it is ready to cure:
15.  Let it cure for about a week.  You can either put it in a grocery sack and mist it daily or you can fill a container with water and let it soak.  I prefer the water bath:
16.  After a week or two remove the pumpkin from the water bath and let dry.
17.  Seal or paint to your liking-I used rustoleum wet look sealer on mine.  Glow in the dark paint would be really cool!

18.  Plant it up and set it out in your garden or on your steps.  Here is a picture of mine out in my garden:
Concrete pumpkin planter
Concrete pumpkin planter

Concrete pumpkin
I hope you enjoyed this project and remember that you can paint, stain or seal this project any way you want.  Use your imagination!  I really think the glow in the dark paint would be cool-especially if it was just the eyes.  Also, if you made "molds" remove all the tape and wash the inside out really well.  I use Dawn for this.  Don't worry about the outside just the inside and make sure to try and remove any residual concrete then just store until ready to use again.  Good Luck and if you have any questions or comments just leave it below.

Until next time-Happy Planting!



Sunday, September 14, 2014

Tricyrtis Hirta-A Fall Blooming Shade Plant

A Bumble Bee enjoying a Toad Lily
Are you looking for a charming shade plant that blooms in fall?  I might just have the plant for you!  How about adding Toad Lily (Tricyrtis hirta) to your garden?  Toad Lily sits quietly in the background until Fall when it explodes into flower.  I have plenty of these beauties placed around my shade gardens-they are extremely easy to grow given they do not dry out completely.  I have a few under my pine trees-while they may not be as robust as the others in my garden they still look good and bloom beautifully.  Here are a few pictures from around my gardens:
Tricyrtis hirta-Toad Lily

Tricyrtis hirta-Toad Lily
Tricyrtis hirta-Toad Lily
Tricyrtis hirta-Toad Lily
Tricyrtis hirta-Toad Lily
Here is a pic of one of my White Toad Lilies (they bloom a bit later than the purple):
White Tricyrtis hirta-Toad Lily

Tricyrtis hirta is a perennial that slowly makes a large clump.  It can self seed lightly in ideal conditions which makes it an excellent candidate for wintersowing (visit for more information on wintersowing).  I have grown most of my Toad Lilies from seed using this method-it works beautifully.

Here are some quick facts about Tricyrtis hirta:
Light:    Morning sun to shade
Height:  1-3 feet
Width:   2-3 feet (will get wider with age)
Soil:      Moist, Humus rich (does not like to dry out completely)
Zone:    4-9
Other Attributes:  This plant is also rabbit, squirrel, vole and deer resistant-of all the plants in my gardens this one does not get bothered by any of those darn varmints!  I have also never had any disease or pest issues with them as of yet.  They are definitely a low maintenance perennial.

I hope I have persuaded you to add this wonderful plant to your shade garden-you will not be disappointed!  If you have questions or comments about this plant feel free to leave a comment.

Until next time-Happy planting!  Rhonda