Since the Covid-19 crisis began, I have been lecturing remotely from my basement. No face-to-face classroom activities, just online. I have decided to post short videos that I think readers may enjoy. In this short video, I discuss one of the basic principles of genetics, the monohybrid cross, and how it can be used in plant breeding. Watch this video to learn more about how traits are passed from one generation to the next. It is only a short portion of my recorded talk and I will post more shortly. If you curious about plants then watch this video.
Fall has officially arrived, and as gardeners, we start to change our outdoor activities. Like the changing of the season, so do our gardening projects change. It’s time to clean up that summer vegetable patch, rack those leaves, and fertilize the lawn. But it is also time for planning for next spring, which means now is time to plant ornamental flower bulbs. Early spring flowers like tulips, daffodils, and crocuses all add to the color of your landscape. Keep reading, and we will share everything you need to know about planting your most favorite flower bulbs.
Flower Bulbs Give Vibrant Springtime Color
There is nothing better than watching as your yard is filled with springtime color. We all want to be successful, especially as gardeners. So remember, springtime color begins in the fall. Planting bulbs is easy, but it requires some selection, planning, and timing. Keep reading to learn the secrets that work for us when planting flower bulbs like tulips, daffodils, and crocuses.
What Exactly Are Ornamental Flower Bulbs?
Tulip, daffodil, and crocus plants grow from underground bulbs. These structures are used by plants to store energy while dormant. If you were to cut open a true bulb, you would find many fleshy leaves. As the plant leaves grow, energy is transferred back into the bulb for the next season’s growth.
Other ornamental flowers may not have bulbs; instead, they may develop fleshy storage structures called corms. Still, others may have horizontal underground stems called rhizomes. The nursery industry uses the term bulbs as a general term that customers understand and recognize. You can find a huge variety of bulbs, corms, and rhizomes online and at local nurseries.
Like Buried Treasure, Plant The Best Flower Bulbs In The Right Spot
Bulb planting starts online by selecting high-quality bulbs. This year I ordered Van Zyverden Dutch Master daffodil bulbs from Amazon. The bulbs I received were large, firm, and clear of discolorations. It is best to avoid bulbs that are soft or have some mold growth. So remember, as part of our secrets to success is to look for big bulbs; the bigger they are, the more vibrant blooms come springtime.
Bury your treasure in the right spot. When you’re planting fall bulbs, remember that they are perennials, so location counts. Most bulbs do best in full sun (6 hours or more of direct sun a day) and well-drained soil. Follow the provided instructions for planting depth, but a good rule of thumb is to plant bulbs three times deeper than their height. So a 2″ bulb gets buried about 6″ deep. Another important secret to success is to water bulbs well to establish a root system. Watering also removes airspaces for uncompacted soil, which could damage bulbs. What could be more fun than burying treasure?
Timing Counts: When to Plant Flower Bulbs
Spring-blooming bulbs, such as tulips, daffodils, and crocuses, should be planted in September through mid-November when the soil temperature has started to cool. Another way of timing is to have your bulbs in the ground about six weeks before the ground freezes.
Secrets To Success For Planting Ornamental Flower Bulbs
- Tulips, daffodils, and crocuses are perennials, consider location and lighting before planting
- Give them room to grow
- Follow planting instructions, bury bulbs 6 to 8 inches deep
- Water bulbs well to establish a root system
- Timing is everything; plant in fall for vibrant color in spring
- You may need to cover planted bulbs with netting to keep squirrels away
This spring, I planted my basil in containers. I like Genovese, which is the classic Italian basil. It has extra-large leaves with a strong aromatic flavor. Basil grows quickly in containers, its easy to water and to pick a few leaves to add to a delicious recipe. As the summer ends, basil begins to flower, pinch them off, and the energy goes into vegetative growth instead. That means more leaves for your favorite pesto. But eventually, basil plants get tired, so I propagate basil by using cuttings. The propagation of basil plants is easy, and now let’s see how it’s done.
First, you need to begin by selecting the upper parts of the plant for cuttings. You must choose new shoots, the younger, the better. Use a clean pair of scissors to make a sharp cut. I emphasize clean because there is the potential to infect the plant cutting.
After you select your best cuttings, wet the tip and dip in rooting hormone. The use of rooting hormone is not necessary but almost assures root growth, and that’s a good thing. Next, I place them into a Rockwool cube, which serves as inert support while the roots develop. All that is left to do is add them to a tray of water and wait for roots to appear.
This time of year means its time to bring your basil inside. If you have a sunny window that should do or you may have a greenhouse for protection from the change in season. At any rate, propagation of basil is easy, but it’s not just about making more plants. It’s more about extending your growing season so that you will have plenty of basil brimming with an aromatic aroma to keep flavoring your most delectable dishes.
I intend to grow my basil hydroponically using a deep water culture system along with a Mars Hydro SP 150 LED grow light. Like I have been saying, basil grows excellent in containers, and that means hydroponic containers too. After all, who needs soil to grow plants?
Gladiolus plants are great for mixed borders, naturalized areas, and make for a strong vertical accent. They are impressive in large groups and provides long-lasting cut flowers. But what I find most interesting about Gladiolus is how they are named. There are so many trade names for different varieties of Gladiolus. Names that describe their colors like pastel mix, expresso, green star, or purple flora. There are names for smaller dwarf varieties like “bambino,” and larger plants are designated by “giant” in their names. Gladiolus can be described by their flower tepal shapes as being ruffled or smooth as well as the length of the flower spikes. All these names are descriptive and pertain to some characteristic of the plant.
Biologists like to name and classify plants too. They use a more scientific approach that uses a hierarchal system. In fact, Gladiolus is the scientific genus name for this plant. There are approximately 300 different species of Gladiolus that have been described by biologists. That’s a lot of variation for a garden plant. Why are there so many different species? Well, this plant can be easily crossed by growers to create new hybridized varieties. New genetic combinations that gardeners are interested in like size, color, and tepal ruffling. These new hybridized plants will continue to grow asexually, their corms producing cormlets with identical characteristics. It is because of this that growers needed a simple identification system to describe Gladiolus. They chose a numbering system base on flower size and color. So let’s take a look at Gladiolus by the numbers.
The gladiolus numbering system uses three digits, and calculating your gladiolus number is easy. You can give it a try, here’s how. The first digit is for flower size. Real simple, you need a ruler, hold the flower as flat as possible, and measure along the fullest part of the flower, from tepal to tepal. Get your first digit from the table below.
The second digit refers to the flower’s color and the last digit tells us something about color intensity. An odd number indicates a conspicuous mark or color contrast.
We call them hops cones, but are they really cones? The short answer is no! In this video, I review the structure of hops cones along with the compounds they possess that give beer its pleasant taste. When I think of cones, I think of pine cones but a hops cone is more correctly called a strobilus. The papery leaflike structures on the outside are called bracts, they are modified leaves and are there for protection. Just beneath are the even smaller leaflike structures called bracteoles. Here is where the magic happens because on these bracteoles grow lupulin glands which synthesize the alpha and beta acids that give beer its bitterness and aroma.
As summer passes and fall begins, it is time to start thinking about harvesting your hops! You should expect to begin harvesting sometime between mid-August and September. As the cones reach maturity, the tips of the cones will begin to turn light brown. First-year plants may produce as much as ½ pound of hops, while established plants can produce more than 2 pounds per year.
If you are interested in hops, then please watch this video.
As days grow longer and warmer we begin to see the first signs that spring has arrived. Most gardeners can’t wait to step outside and get their hands dirty. So what can I plant in early spring? Planting early in the season can be a risky endeavor but there are hardy vegetables that can tolerate hard frosts. See the color-coded NOAA Frost Map for the average date for frosts in your area. This will give you an idea of when to plant and how long your harvest season should last. All these veggies we reviewed taste best when they grow and mature in cooler weather. So here are five vegetables that thrive in cool weather and can be planted in your early spring garden.
- Radishes are one of the easiest spring vegetables to grow.
- For a spring planting, sow seeds 4–6 weeks before the average date of the last frost.
- Prepare your garden by removing any rocks before planting. Add compost
- Sow seeds directly ½ to 1 inch deep and 1 inch apart, Thin if necessary, crowded plants do not do well.
- Sow seeds outdoors, do not try to transplant a radish, it will not work!
- The cool, wet weather of spring is the perfect time to get lettuce started.
- Sow seeds directly outdoors as soon as the ground can be worked. Lettuce can be sown after the soil reaches 40°F
- If you want an earlier crop, you can start seeds indoors 4 to 6 weeks before your last spring frost date.
- The most fragile on our list, it may require some protection from frost.
- Broccoli seeds are best started indoors 7 to 9 weeks before the last spring frost. Transplants should have 4 or 5 well-developed leaves. Plant 12 inches apart.
- Direct sow outdoors 2 weeks before the last frost. Soil temperature needs to be 40F. Plant seeds ½ of 1 deep and 3 inches apart. Thin if necessary.
- Planting marigolds as companions with broccoli helps to deter cabbage moth and its damaging cabbageworm stage.
- Peas are one of the first crops to plant in early spring. They are not a summer crop.
- Sow seeds outdoors 4 to 6 weeks before your last spring frost date. Soil temperatures need to be 45°F. Plant seeds 1 inch deep and about 2 inches apart
- A blanket of snow will usually not hurt young pea plants, however, several days with temperatures below 20F could. Be prepared to plant again if the first peas don’t make it.
- Cabbage seeds are best started indoors 6 to 8 weeks before the last frost of spring. Transplant outdoors when they are about 4 inches tall and as early as 3 weeks before the last frost.
- Direct sow seed outdoors as soon as the soil can be worked in spring. Plant seeds 1 inch deep and 6 inches apart. Thin plants as necessary.
- Improve soil conditions by mixing in several inches of compost. Mulch to retain moisture and help regulate soil temperature.
Downy Mildew is caused by the notorious plant pathogen, Pseudoperonospora humuli, an organism that is considered by biologists to be an oomycete protist. Pseudoperonospora results in reduced yield, poor hop quality, and, in severe cases, plant death. With an ever-increasing number of gardeners, home, and local brewers interested in growing their own hops, it is essential that they understand the cause and symptoms associated with this severe pathogen. If you grow hops, you should read this short article, then watch the video explaining the life cycle of downy mildew in hops plants
Symptoms Of Downy Mildew In Hops Plants
Growers begin to see signs of downy mildew in early spring. Pseudoperonospora affects hops plants grown in containers and hopyards. It is one of the most important diseases of hops that are grown in wet and humid regions. Mild temperatures (~65°F) and moisture resulting from rain, overhead irrigation, and morning dew are ideal conditions for infection. Microscopic flagellated zoospores are produced which swim on the surfaces of a leaf, entering through plant stomata and setting up an infection.
Leaves that are infected have black lesions while cones that are infected become brown, harden, and sometimes do not develop correctly. Pseudoperonospora continues to grow and invades the hop tissues, eventually killing healthy plants. The infection moves throughout the entire plant, including the bines, buds, and rhizomes. More zoospores are produced on the underside of leaves, which becomes blackened with masses of sporangia.
Video: Downy Mildew In Hops Plants
Click on the video and see the life cycle of Downy Mildew and how it infects hops plants.
A Change In Classification
For many years, biologists believed that oomycetes were true fungi. In fact, the “mycete” suffix is reserved for fungi. The basis for its classification was based on filamentous cells and the formation of sporangia, which are common characteristics of true fungi. With more advanced techniques available to biologists, there is now evidence that oomycetes are not related to fungi and are more closely associated with a group of protists called Stramenophila. So even though their placement on the tree of life has changed, their name has not.
What Makes Oomycetes Unique?
Oomycetes are unique organisms that differ metabolically, genetically, and in their cell structures. Pseudoperonospora is an obligate plant pathogen, meaning that it requires a living cell to complete its life cycle. Additionally, this organism produces motile zoospores with two flagella. One flagellum is whiplike, while the other is a ‘tinsel’ flagellum. This important characteristic is another reason why they are now classified as Stramenophila.
There are several differences between the characteristics of oomycetes and fungi. For example, the cell walls of Pseudoperonospora are composed of cellulose rather than chitin, and their cells typically do not have septations. Another difference is in the vegetative state that is composed of diploid nuclei, whereas fungi have haploid nuclei. Additionally, oomycetes and fungi have different metabolic pathways for synthesizing the amino acid, lysine, along with enzyme and mitochondrial differences.
Choosing Pseudoperonospora Resistant Varieties
Listed below are hops varieties that are moderately resistant and resistant to downy mildew.
|Hops Variety||Usage||Downy Mildew Susceptibility|
|U.S. Tettnanger||Aroma||Moderately Resistant|
Currently, growers manage downy mildew by removing basal foliage during spring pruning and frequent applications of fungicides. An extensive list for Disease Management and Control for both gardeners and large scale conventional growers can be found at the North Carolina State Extension.
Citation: Judelson H. 2007. Sexual Reproduction in Plant Pathogenic Oomycetes: Biology and Impact on Disease, p 445-458. In Heitman J, Kronstad J, Taylor J, Casselton L (ed), Sex in Fungi. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555815837.ch27
Poinsettias are as symbolic of Christmas as pumpkins are of Halloween.
The poinsettia, Euphorbia pulcherrima, is a commercially important plant species of the diverse spurge family Euphorbiaceae. The species is indigenous to Mexico and was first brought to the United States in the 1820s. Also known as the Christmas Flower, it is particularly well known for its red and green foliage. The poinsettia is a tropical species of Euphorbia. In frost-free regions it is grown as a garden shrub, attaining a height of 12 feet high and 8 feet wide. However, in our colder climate, the poinsettia needs to be maintained as a spectacular potted plant.
Poinsettias, a vibrant holiday plant, are popular Christmas decorations in homes, churches, and offices. They are as much a part of the holiday season as evergreen trees. These plants are available in large numbers from hardware, drug, and grocery stores across the United States. December 12 is National Poinsettia Day to honor Joel R Poinsett and Paul Ecke Jr. who were both instrumental in developing the poinsettia industry. Today, this plant is the world’s most economically important potted plant with over 100 cultivated varieties of poinsettia.
A Flower without petals
What most people mistake as flower petals are in fact specialized leaves called bracts.
The flowers of the poinsettia are unassuming and do not attract pollinators. They are grouped within small yellow structures found in the center of each leaf bunch and are called cyathia. Flowers of this type are unique and are typical of the Spurge family.
What Makes Poinsettias Bracts Turn Red?
It is actually the plant’s specialized leaves called bracts that provide its color through a process called photoperiodism. What this really means its that, poinsettias develop vegetative growth when the photoperiod is long and flowers when the photoperiod is shorter. So a Poinsettia is what is called a short day photoperiod plant, which means that it naturally flowers when the nights become longer than the days.
In order for a poinsettia to change color, it needs 11 hours and 40 minutes, let’s just say twelve hours of darkness for at least five consecutive days. That tells the plant cells in the bracts to develop their vibrant red pigment. In commercial production, many growers use a black cloth to adjust light levels to either produce earlier crops or make the entire crop more uniform. After the color change process has taken place, poinsettias need at least six hours of indirect sunlight per day to maintain their brightest color.
Creating New Varieties of Poinsettia
Active breeding of poinsettia began in the 1950s to develop cultivars that would retain their leaves and bracts for a longer time. These breeding programs focused on stronger stems, leaf retention as well as early blooming and flower color variation. The height of this plant is also critical to sales. With the use of chemical growth retardants, the size of poinsettias can be controlled to produce 9 to 36-inch plants.
Many Plant breeders continue to tinker with poinsettias and modern technology has spawned some interesting mutations, with the use of gamma and X-ray radiation. Their efforts have translated into more color selections and better quality plants for consumers. Bract colors range from red to white, pink to burgundy, there is even an orange variety.
Quick Poinsettia Facts
- Ideal temperatures are 65 to 75° F
- Contrary to popular belief, poinsettias are not poisonous
- If you want to care for them hydroponically, an ebb-and-flow system works best
- When first introduced to the U.S. most botanists dismissed it as a weed
- Studies estimate that 80% of poinsettia sales are made by women
Parsley is a hardy plant, easy to grow, and has amazingly great flavor. Garden parsley, Petroselinum crispum, is a species of flowering plant in the family Apiaceae and is widely cultivated as an herb and a vegetable. It grows as a biennial, in the first year, it forms a rosette of leaves, with numerous leaflets and a taproot for energy storage. In the second year, it grows a flowering stem with fewer leaves topped with yellow flower umbels. Learn how to grow parsley in containers, it’s fun and easy, not to mention all you will have all that parsley for your recipes.
Parsley types to grow: Curly Leaf Parsley (Petroselinum crispum neapolitanum) is used mainly for garnishing and in salads. This type of parsley has thicker ruffled leaves, a bright green color, and a muted flavor that gets more bitter over time.
Flat Leaf Parsley (Petroselinum crispum) has a stronger and sweeter flavor than any other type of parsley and it makes an excellent choice for cooking. Italian flat-leaf parsley adds a fresh flavor to any dish. Use it in soups, stews, and salads. This variety grows taller and lanky and requires a wider pot to grow into. Additionally, the flat-leaf parsley is more heat tolerant than other varieties.
Growing parsley from seed: You can purchase established plants from a local nursery, but you’ll get more plants for less money if you start with parsley seeds. Check out our article on starting seeds indoors. Parsley seeds are notorious for their low and slow germination rate that can take up to 6 weeks to germinate so plant as early as possible. We usually wait until the plants are about five inches tall, and then those plants are transplanted into containers and grown outside or on a sunny window sill. The advantage of growing parsley in containers is that you can move the plant to a new location to optimize its growing requirements.
Choosing a pot and growing requirements: For growing parsley choose a rather large pot, 10 to 12 inches deep and wide. The container must have drainage holes. You can grow as many as 4 plants in this size container. Parsley grows best in moist, well-drained potting soil. You can also add aged compost to the container to supplement nutrients. Parsley in containers should reach 12 to 18 inches in height. It grows best between 72–86 °F and requires full sun. Remember that parsley in containers requires constant watering throughout the season. One container is plenty for an average family.
Harvesting Parsley in Containers: Harvest parsley leaves when needed in your favorite recipes. You can start harvesting parsley about three months after planting. Wait until the stems and leaves have matured. Cut the entire stem carefully from the base as parsley stems are also edible and tasty. Work from the outside of the plant and let the inner portion continue to grow. Think of parsley as a continual harvest crop but do not over pick your parsley, give it some time to grow back. Pick the dead and faded leaves from time to time to keep your plant in shape and looking good. If flower stalks develop remove them to promote green foliage growth.
Horticulture and botany, like any science, has its own terminology. Whether you’re an inexperienced newbie trying to unravel gardening instructions or a professional, here are some horticultural terms decoded. Let’s begin with annual, biennial and perennial plants- what’s the difference? At The Plant King Blog, we always have new posts so check regularly for additional gardening terms, that you’ve always wanted to learn.
Annuals: Plants that complete their entire life cycle from seed to flower to seed again within a single growing season. Marigolds, zinnias, and impatiens are typical examples of annual flowering plants that gardeners plant every year to add vibrant color to their gardens. These plants produce beautiful flowers that bloom profusely during the entire season. All roots, stems, and leaves of annuals die back each season and it is only the dormant seed that begins the next generation. If gardeners are planting annuals there are two options for next season: either buy a new flat of annuals each springtime or direct sowing of seeds in order to see those colorful creations again.
Biennials: Plants that require two years to complete their life cycle. The first year biennial will produce leafy growth but second-year plants produce flowers. Typical examples of biennials include Black-eyed Susan, California poppy,
Canterbury Bells, Hollyhock and Sweet William. Non-flowering in their first year can be frustrating to gardeners growing ornamental flowers. However, you can get around their two-year cycle by starting seeds in the summer instead of the spring.
There are delicious vegetables that are biennials too. Some examples of these biennials include onions, cabbage, carrots and herbs such as parsley. Typically biennial vegetables are usually eaten in about a few weeks after planting. We do not eat second-year plants because they develop wood parts, but if you continue to allow them to grow they will develop flowers and seeds.
Perennials: Perennials are flowers or plants that can live for more than two growing seasons. Perennials form a wide assortment of plant groups from ferns to the highly diverse flowering plants like orchids, grasses, and herbs such as hops and lavender. The term is used extensively to distinguish plants with little or no woody growth from trees and shrubs, which are considered perennials. Woody perennials consist of trees such as pine, maple and apple trees as well as shrubs. Herbaceous personals die back at season’s end but regrow the following year. Plants of this type include daffodils, alfalfa, red clover, and lemon balm.