Starting plants inside during the cold months can allow you to have some great looking and well-developed plants to stick outside in your garden once Spring hits! Whether you plan to put your starter plants inside or outside, they're certain to add more appeal to your garden! Here's a few plants I like to play with in my garden, and how easy they are to work with!
A popular and fun way to create a beautiful house plant, is to save your avocado pits. These can be "germinated" and then planted into potting soil, and once they take off they can really start producing some broad leaves that look really cool! Germinating your Avocado Seed: 1) Rinse and clean off the seed. 2) Use toothpicks to support the seed onto a glass. 3) Allow the bottom half of the seed to touch the water, and remember to maintain the water level until roots form. 4) Once you have developed roots, plant in potting soil.
Every year many people will start avocado seeds and typically their avocado plants will die before the gardener can get a chance to see them produce any fruit. The fact that it take FIVE TO FIFTEEN YEARS to produce fruit makes growing avocado plants a real challenge! But under the right conditions, some gardeners get to see their avocado plants yield fruit in just a few years! But if you love avocado like I do then it's worth the wait!...they're delicious, super healthy, and expensive! Getting your avocado plant to yield fruit takes work and patience. The gardener must provide the right environment when growing indoor or outdoor in a greenhouse. And if you plan to put you avocado starter plant outside, you may want to do a little research to make sure you're in a region that can provide a sufficient environment for the avocado plant to thrive into a full grown avocado tree!
Another fun garden project can come from the mango fruit! Many pits that are found in various fruits end up getting discarded into the trash or composted. But did you know you can save the seed and grow your own mango plant?! The mango pit is quite large and usually has much of the fruit's juice and fiber still attached, after eating the good stuff. Next time you eat a mango, save that pit! Do your best to scrub away the juice and fiber, and CAREFULLY take a knife and SLOWLY work the tip of the knife blade into the spine of the pit. It can be tricky and slippery, and DO NOT do this without adult supervision! If you like your fingers, you will be slow and careful! ;)
So once you've worked your knife into the spine of the mango pit, it should become easier to pull the pit apart to locate the actual seed that is inside of the pit. The seed is quite large as well, and you'll want to make sure you don't damage the seed while pulling apart the outer layer of the pit. Once you have the actual seed, you can either soak the seed overnight, and then plant in potting soil...or you can just skip the soaking and plant immediately into your potting soil. Anytime you plant a new seed, you want to make sure that your soil is nice and damp so it doesn't dry out. If the soil dries out, so will the seed sprout. After you've planted your seed you'll soon see it emerge and quickly grow into a small mango tree! Side note: Notice the white stuff on the mango plant? It's called "Diatomaceous Earth" and is a great addition to most Integrated Pest Management (IPM) systems, and can help control or minimize pests around the garden!
Use your store bought produce to collect seeds! If you're a seed junkie like I am, then you probably save seeds from most of the fruits and vegetables that come through your kitchen! It certainly helps to give you many options for your garden, for when Spring time comes and you want to produce your own food or simply have an aesthetic garden! Some produce, like cloves of Garlic, can be planted in potting soil so they can emerge as a plant! It's super simple! Take a few chunks of garlic and begin to peel away the outer skin. What you'll end up with are really fresh "bulbs" that can be placed into some damp potting soil and grown into a large plant! If you love eating Garlic, then I recommend making some space in your indoor or your outdoor garden, because not only is Garlic simple to grow, it produces quite a bit of garlic that is delicious and healthy, and will ultimately save you money and a trip to the market! Remember that when you plant your small, fresh, skinless garlic bulb....that you place it in your soil with the POINTED END UP! The flatter side is where roots will emerge to spread throughout the soil, and the pointed end is where the new green growth will emerge!
Some cuttings can easily be stuck in some potting soil, and they'll quickly take root! Plants such as Aloe can be fickle sometimes. Actually, I personally find some cacti and succulents to be tricky to work with, especially in high humidity regions. But if you have your garden's environment under control then you probably won't have much issue with getting your Aloe cutting to take root. Simply cut a branch away from the "mother" plant, and stick into your potting soil. When getting your Aloe cuttings to take root in your potting soil, I find that it's best to not over water the soil. If it's too wet then the Aloe will just wilt and die. The great thing about Aloe is that once a plant is well established in soil, it will start to produce new sprout clusters. These little clusters that are newly emerging from your potting soil, can be easily pulled up and transplanted into it's own container. This method is the easiest and quickest compared to attempting to clone your Aloe plant.
I've always had various types of cacti hanging around the garden. For whatever reason, they're aesthetically pleasing for me and I always like added value they bring to the garden. For me, cloning cacti can be tricky at times. They're a little more fickle than many other types of plants. They typically like dry regions with low humidity and warmer weather. Taking a cutting from your cacti is easy, but if it has thorns, you'll want to wear gloves and maybe try to cut off the thorns that are at the base of the cutting, allowing you to comfortably hold the cutting and plant it into your potting soil without getting pricked. I generally will water the potting soil with very little water...nearly less than damp. Sometimes I won't even do that, and will simply place the fresh Cacti cutting into the dry potting soil. If you're in an area that has a decent amount of relative humidity in the atmosphere, then you may want to try transplanting your Cacti cutting into dry potting soil because if the soil is too damp, the Cacti will usually wilt and die. "Warm weather, low humidity, dry conditions" are environmental characteristics that are preferred by most types of Cacti.
One of my all time favorite plants to have in the garden is the African Violet plant. The flowers that are produced by the African Violet plant are very visually pleasing! Various shades of blue and purple can be found with the different types of African Violet plants. I love the darker purple colors! And African Violet plants are really low maintenance, and are super easy to clone, which means that once you find a variety of African Violet that you like...you can easily replicate it for many years to come! Each leaf emerges from a cluster found at the top of the soil. And each one of those leaves can become it's own plant! simply pull off a leaf and stick it into slightly damp potting soil, and it will begin to take root and build a new cluster that will soon emerge multiple leaves. Once an African Violet plant becomes established in its new container, it will really begin to take off! African Violet plants do not require much watering. You can let the soil dry out by accident and the plant should still be ok for you to correct the situation. You don't ever want to over water and you definitely want to allow your potting soil to remain on the dry side, most of the time. Most importantly, you want to refrain from getting water on the leaves when watering your African Violet plant. When you water the plant, just water at the soil to make sure you don't get the plant wet. And don't feed it after midnight. ;)
Many plants can easily be cloned, but do require that you take a cutting from a specific part of the plant. And many types of plant cuttings require humidity in order to initiate the rooting process. For these plant varieties, I like to use "Clone Domes" a.k.a. "Humidity Domes" to help create an enclosed environment for the cuttings. You'll want to make sure you get a Tray to go with the Dome, and possible a Heating Mat to control the temperature. By increasing humidity and reducing leaf transpiration, the cutting can focus on cellular growth at the root zone! Many styles Clone Domes exist and can be easily bought online, if your local grow store doesn't carry them. If you're local grow shop does not carry some type of Clone Dome, then see if they'll order them and begin stocking the item. As convenient as it is to order online yourself, and have delivered straight to your door...supporting your local grow store is a great way to support your local economy and small business owners. And by giving them the business, you'll help ensure that their inventory grows to carry many garden necessities! If you get the right Clone Dome, it will last a long time as long as you take care of it and routinely clean it. Routinely cleaning equipment and supplies will also help the plants in your garden to stay free of pests and diseases! For serious gardeners, growers, and farmers...routine cleaning of the garden is a crucial part of IPM!
Lighting, like everything else, is a topic that can lead you down a rabbit hole of information. Lighting is a very serious aspect of an indoor garden and there are certain types of lighting that should be used during specific phases of the plant's life cycle. Serious growers use serious lighting, and that can get costly. Types of lighting used for cultivation include "High Pressure Sodium" (HPS), "Metal Halide" (MH), "Ceramic Metal Halide" (CMH), Compact Flourescent Lamp (CFL), "Light Emitting Diode" (LED),...to name a few. For the simple gardener who wishes to maintain clones and cuttings, as well as new seed sprouts, we will avoid the rabbit hole and quickly discuss "T5 Lighting" for the "Vegetative" growth phase of plants. T5 Lighting is cost efficient and it gets the job done. Lighting for plants will often come in two parts: the lighting ballast and the light bulb. A T5 Lighting Ballast will hold multiple light bulbs and the ballasts are available in various sizes to fit your needs. Many will either be single bulb, double bulb, quadruple bulb, and some of the ballasts will even hold eight light bulbs at once. The more bulbs that the ballast will hold, the more light intensity you're able to offer the plants underneath. The more intense the light is, the plant will have a better chance at producing vigorous growth! The best way to go about shopping a T5 light is to first measure the area that you are trying to illuminate. This will help you determine if you need a 2' Ballast, a 4' ballast, or something different altogether. Another great thing about T5 Lighting during this phase of the plant's life cycle, is that the light intensity and heat from the bulb is minimal and will not burn the plants when the light is hovered directly over the plants. Light bulbs are another rabbit hole that we'll avoid for now. Just know: Blue spectrum vs Red spectrum is what you're really shopping for. Many times when you're shopping a T5 Lighting Ballast, the ballast will include the bulbs and those bulbs are typically designed for vegetative growth of plants. When shopping bulbs for your plants, the important thing to keep in mind is that light bulbs with a lower Kelvin rating, say 2400 Kelvins, will emit a spectrum that is more on the side of Red which is designed for Blooming and Flowering phases of the plant's life cycle. To where as a light bulb with a higher Kelvin rating, like 5000 Kelvins, will emit more of a Blue spectrum which is designed more for the Flowering phase of the plant's life cycle. Spring = Blue Spectrum = Vegetative Growth Fall = Red Spectrum = Bloom and Flower Development
I hope this was a helpful and entertaining read! Let me know if you have specific questions regarding my blog or if there's a specific topic you'd like me to discuss! :)