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.
Downy Mildew Susceptibility
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.
There are many different methods of composting and there are many different commercially available composters that help you to get that work done. In this post, we review the GEOBIN composting system for its ease of setup, functionality and overall success at making compost. If you are new to gardening and want to learn more about composting or you are looking for different alternatives to compost, then read on.
Last year, here at the Plant King Blog, we purchased our first GEOBIN system from Amazon for $34.99. We were so pleased with the success of making compost that we bought a second one this year. It is one of the least expensive and largest capacity composting bins on the market today. The GEOBIN backyard compost system is easy to set up and is ideal for all skill levels. Use the finished compost around flowers and garden plants to amend your soil with rich recycled nutrients. Here are some GEOBIN statistics:
Large capacity—expandable up to 4 feet across
Easy to assemble with closure keys
Made from 50% recycled plastic content
Easy to store and reassemble
Excellent slotted ventilation
Backyard Composting Basics: The term “hot composting” refers to a method in which microbial activity within the compost pile is at its optimum level. The end result is that you end up with finished compost in a much shorter period of time. So what exactly is compost? Compost is simply decomposed organic matter that is rich in nutrients. Composting is an aerobic process so it requires oxygen. Additionally, nitrogen, carbon, moisture along with beneficial microorganisms are needed as well. Remember making your own compost helps the environment and benefits good insects, soil bacteria and other microorganisms. The GEOBIN is perfect for hot composting.
Compost Pile Size: The size of your compost bin or pile is very important when it comes to hot composting. The GEOBIN is about 4 feet wide and 3 feet tall. These dimensions happen to be ideal is for hot composting. Smaller piles will not generate sufficient heat and larger piles become unmanageable. The composting system should be placed in full sun, less sun will slow down the process.
How do you start a compost pile? The idea behind hot composting is to get the pile to heat up as fast as possible. For this to occur, we need a large amount of organic matter, with the correct carbon to nitrogen ratio, right from the start. This carbon to nitrogen ratio enhances microbial activity and ramps up the composting process. If you are interested in composting then you will need to collect organic material from the table below. Add the materials to the GEOBIN, mix well, add water. If you have older compost mix, it is already teeming with microorganisms and will serve as an activator, add it to the new pile.
Fresh cut weeds
Vegetable and fruit scraps
Compost Happens: The optimal temperature for microbial activity is 130 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit. At that temperature, microbes break down organic matter and reproduce at high rates. This temperature range is also hot enough to kill most weed seeds and harmful bacteria in the pile. The composting process also requires water. The contents of your compost pile should feel like a wrung-out sponge.
If you are having problems with your compost pile, don’t give up hope. For a compost pile that does not heat up, try the following:
the pile is too small
not enough air
not enough nitrogen
the pile is too wet or too dry
Good luck composting, if you have any questions or comments please post them below.
The Japanese beetle, Popillia japonica, is a highly destructive nonnative plant pest that has become a threat to American agriculture. Homeowners encounter this pest during the summer months as the adults fly and aggregate in clusters to feed upon plant leaves. These skeletonized leaves, missing soft leaf tissues, are a tell tall sign of Japanese beetle activity. If you are having problems with these insects then continue to read and learn about their life cycle, what they like to eat and finally methods of control.
How to control Japanese beetles begins with understanding the insect’s life cycle. The life cycle of a beetle is known as a complete metamorphosis, meaning it has four very different stages: egg, larval, pupal and adult. The eggs are laid in the soil about two to four inches down where they can absorb moisture. A female can lay about 40 eggs over her entire lifetime. Eventually, these eggs develop into beetle larvae or grubs which feed on the roots plants and grasses. The larvae are typically white in color and go through several molts. Larvae are mobile and can become so numerous that they often destroy lawns and turf in golf courses. Larvae will then pupate, change color and transform into adults which leave the soil and begin to immediately search for food.
As adults, Japanese beetles are also destructive plant pests. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), adults forage on the leaves and fruits of several hundred species of trees, shrubs, vines, and vegetables. A telltale sign of their presence is skeletonized leaves and large, irregular holes. The Japanese beetle is considered the most widespread turf-grass pest in the United States.
As we mentioned earlier, the Japanese beetle is a nonnative or invasive species, an organism outside its native distributional range that was most likely introduced by human activity. The Japanese beetle is native to eastern Asia, however, it was first found in the United States in a nursery in southern New Jersey in 1916 probably coming over with a shipment of ornamental flower bulbs. Since this organism had no native biological controls their populations exploded as seen by the USDA map below.
Integrated Pest Management (IPM) comes from the idea that if a pest population is targeted then beneficial insects and other organisms in the environment will be impacted as well. So IPM serves as a means of controlling pest population to levels that lessen their economic impact. It is not the eradication of an invasive species rather IPM can be implemented using biological, chemical, cultural and mechanical methods that are complementary to each other. It is important to understand that using an integrated pest management approach will not completely eliminate Japanese beetles from your property. These particular insects are here to stay, we just need to minimize its impact on our environment.
Although the Japanese beetle feeds on almost 300 species of plants, it feeds sparingly or not at all on many cultivated plants. The various kinds of plants on your property can significantly influence the susceptibility of your property and plants to Japanese beetle damage.
Wood Plants Resistant to Adult Japanese Beetles
Northern red oak
Herbaceous Plants Resistant to Adult Japanese Beetles
Lily of the valley
Pesticides which are useful against adult beetles include Permethrin, Deltamethrin, and Bifenthrin. Homeowners and gardeners need first to assess the risks and benefits of pesticide use. This includes application timing, toxicity, and the fate of pesticides in the environment.
Biological controls include, Heterorhabditis bacteriophora, is a species of entomopathogenic nematode known commonly as beneficial nematodes. They are microscopic and are used in gardening as a form of biological pest control against Japanese beetles.
A naturally occurring soil bacterium called Bacillus thuringiensis or just Bt is used as a microbial insecticide. The Bt strain used for the Japanese beetle is for grub stage only. Bt is an insect digestive system poison that must be ingested to be effective.
Mechanical traps can easily capture thousands of Japanese beetles. This trapping method is an easy and inexpensive way to reduce beetle populations and reduce egg laying. According to the USDA, under favorable conditions, a trap will capture approximately 75 percent of the beetles that approach it. Because these traps attract more beetles than they capture, be sure to place traps away from your favorite plants and vegetable garden. Not only are you attracting and capturing adults on your property but also from the surrounding area. So install traps at the borders of your property. Trap placement should be timed to coincide with the emergence of adult Japanese beetles in your area usually between early June and late August.
Integrated Pest Management to Reduce Japanese Beetle Populations
Remove older fruit from the ground, the odor of such fruit will attract beetles
When considering new plantings use trees, shrubs, and other plants that are not preferred by the beetle.
Make use of both chemical and biological controls
Use of mechanical traps baited with sex pheromone and floral volatiles