Granite State Gardening

University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension

Granite State Gardening is a University of New Hampshire podcast for gardeners, landowners and homesteaders in New Hampshire and Northern New England. Hosts Emma Erler and Nate Bernitz share proven tips and solutions for your garden and landscape, giving inspiration and research-based knowhow to cultivate confidence and success wherever and whatever you’re growing. Biweekly episodes feature plant recommendations, pest control advice and answers to listener questions, which are encouraged at gsg.pod@unh.edu.
Planning and Planting Your Home Fruit Tree Orchard, From Apples and Peaches to PawpawSupporting Birds In Your Yard and Garden, plus Bareroot Trees and Common HackberryAll things trees! (part 2) Pruning and Solving Tree Problems, Plus Frost Cracks, White Oak and Wood ChipsLandscape Trees (part 1): Selection, Planting, Transplanting and CareExtending the season and overwintering garden veggies, winter sowing, lovage, and putting the garden to bedFall Gardening for Rewards Next Year: Bulbs, Garlic and LawnsSupporting Animals and Sustaining the Land in the Backyard and on the Homestead
Aug 27 2021
1 hr 10 mins
Vines in Northeast Gardens and Landscapes
At any particular time, a vine can be your worst nightmare or can steal the show in your garden. Vines are unruly by nature, growing in ways other plants simply can’t. Vines can serve many purposes, both aesthetically and even functionally such as softening and breathing life into the outside of otherwise pedestrian structures. Yet they’re largely underused in the garden and much maligned outside of cultivation. In this episode of Granite State Gardening, UNH Extension’s Emma Erler and Nate Bernitz explore the good, bad and always fascinating world of vines, beginning with the bad and transitioning to the oh so good. Enjoy, and brighten up our email inbox with your most beloved vines. And check out the resources below to dig in deeper on some of the topics we touch on. ·         Featured Plant: Cup and saucer vine (Cobaea scandens) Resources: ·         Growing Grapes: https://extension.unh.edu/resource/growing-grapes-new-hampshire-fact-sheet·         Fruitless wild grapes: https://extension.unh.edu/blog/fruitless-wild-grapevines·         Oriental bittersweet: https://extension.unh.edu/blog/invasive-spotlight-oriental-bittersweet·         Native trees, shrubs and vines with wildlife value: https://extension.unh.edu/resource/new-hampshire%E2%80%99s-native-trees-shrubs-and-vines-wildlife-value-chart·         Invasive species in NH: https://www.agriculture.nh.gov/publications-forms/documents/prohibited-invasive-species.pdf·         Poison ivy: https://extension.unh.edu/blog/what-can-i-do-get-rid-poison-ivy-my-yard·         Growing kiwiberries: http://www.noreastkiwiberries.com/production-guide/·         University of Illinois resource on vines: https://web.extension.illinois.edu/vines/intro.cfm·         University of Maryland resource on vines: https://extension.umd.edu/resource/vines Cover image by Lorianne DiSabato, under used under Creative Commons 2.0 Connect with us at @askunhextension on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and subscribe to the monthly Granite State Gardening newsletter. Email us questions, suggestions and feedback at gsg.pod@unh.edu Transcript by Otter.ai
Jul 30 2021
1 hr 9 mins
Growing in Tough Spots and SituationsCelebrating Pollinator Week: Supporting Bees in your Yard and Garden
Jun 25 2021
1 hr 19 mins
Managing Insect Pests in the Vegetable Garden, Ground Cherries and Choosing Your Battles
Jun 12 2021
1 hr 13 mins
The Time to Plant: Garden Center Shopping Tips for Memorial Day WeekendChoosing and Using Fertilizers in the Yard and Garden
Plants need air, water and sunlight, but require sources of essential nutrients too. Fertile soil rich in organic matter provides nutrients to be sure, but fertilizer is typically needed to grow vigorous, healthy plants. Organic or not, slow release or fast acting, specialty products or versatile mainstays – we face a lot of options when choosing fertilizers. And that doesn’t even begin to cover when and how to use the fertilizer for the wide diversity of plants you’re growing.  In this episode of Granite State Gardening, UNH Extension’s Emma Erler and Nate Bernitz are joined by Becky Sideman to share proven tips and solutions for using fertilizer to grow healthy and productive plants in the garden and landscape. The conversation brings up topics and questions bound to get gardeners of all experience levels thinking about fertilizing plants in the yard and garden in new ways.  ·         Featured Question: Should I use fertilizer spikes or a granular fertilizer for my trees and shrubs? ·         Featured Plant: Bee Balm (Monarda fistulosa)·         Closing Tip:   New Hampshire’s Turf Fertilizer Law Resources:  ·         Fertilizing vegetable gardens ·         Fertilizing fruit trees·         Fertilizing trees and shrubs·         New Hampshire’s turf fertilizer law·         Soil testing·         Spring Webinar SeriesUNH Cooperative Extension’s Vegetable & Fruit team, together with a group of undergraduate and graduate students at the University of New Hampshire, conduct research on vegetable and fruit crops. While the team does much of their work at theNH Agricultural Experiment Station in Durham, NH, they are located throughout NH and their research project topics are driven by the needs of NH growers. The team believes that using effective growing practices for our region (including new varieties, new crops, and season extension strategies) can help farmers diversify, improve yields, and improve crop quality. Many of their integrated research and extension projects focus on high-value specialty crop production systems and methods of extending the growing season (e.g. season extension). They offer an up-to-the-minute snapshot of what we're up to on Instagram at unh_sidemanlab. Connect with us at @askunhextension on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and subscribe to the monthly Granite State Gardening newsletter. Email us questions, suggestions and feedback at gsg.pod@unh.edu  Transcript by Otter.ai
May 21 2021
1 hr 6 mins
Soil Amendments, Ground Nesting Bees, Mountain Laurel and Finishing CompostAnnual and Perennial Blooms, Cut Flower Gardens, and Foam FlowerDealing with Nuisance Wildlife, Growing Garlic, Inkberry & Tree Guards
Apr 16 2021
1 hr 17 mins
Growing Cool Season Vegetables in your Spring GardenHow to Start Seeds Successfully Indoors
Show NotesIf you aren’t starting seeds, you’re limited to whatever you can plant directly into the garden and whatever starts you can pick up from your local garden center. Starting your own seeds opens up possibilities for growing new crops you couldn’t grow otherwise, better varieties for your garden and tastes, and earlier and better harvests to make it all worth it. In this episode of Granite State Gardening, UNH Extension’s Emma Erler and Nate Bernitz share proven tips and solutions for successfully starting your seeds indoors, from set up and germination to transplanting. Come for the accessible science, stay for the demystifying banter. Once you learn how to start seeds indoors, you can take your gardening to the next level.  Featured Question: Homemade seed starting and transplant mediaFeatured Plant: Hyacinth Bean (Lablab purpureus)Gardening Tip: Planting DepthBackground Reading:Starting Plants From Seed [fact sheet]Growing Vegetables: When to Plant Your Vegetable Garden [fact sheet]Growing Seedlings Under Lights [fact sheet Connect with us at @askunhextension on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and subscribe to the monthly Granite State Gardening newsletter. Email us questions, suggestions and feedback at gsg.pod@unh.eduTranscript by Otter.aiNate Bernitz  0:00  Welcome to the Granite State gardening podcast from UNH Cooperative Extension. On today's show, we're talking about starting seeds indoors. in the show notes, you'll find a link to our fact sheet on seed starting, as well as helpful resources on when to start your seeds, indoor lighting and more. eight episodes in we're having a blast putting this podcast together and want to hear from you with your feedback, topic suggestions and gardening questions. Our email is gsg dot pod@unh.edu. We really appreciate the emails we've gotten so far. And hey, if you're not already connected with us on social media, we're on Facebook and Instagram. Just search for ask UNH extension. Now let's get started with seed starting.Greetings Granite State gardeners I'm Nate Bernitz, co host with Emma Erler of the Granite State gardening podcast, a production of UNH extension. Today we're talking about seed starting a practice that opens so many possibilities for gardeners, especially somewhere with a relatively short growing season like New Hampshire. By starting seeds. You won't rely on just whatever seedlings you can get your hands on from local garden centers and plant sales. And you won't be limited to what can be so directly in the garden. You'll have your choice of crops, flowers, and varieties galore to choose from all because you'll be able to provide ideal germination conditions indoors. Once you learn the science and know how of seed starting, you'll be at a whole other level of gardening and won't believe how limited you once were, with spring rapidly and mercifully approaching despite what Punxsutawney Phil says there's no time to waste. So let's get started. Emma, when it comes to seed starting, I want to first know the science, we always want to know the science first. So what are those ideal conditions for germinating seeds?Emma E  2:05  Well, a seed is is basically a shell or husk that's holding an an embryo on the inside. And in order for a seed to germinate, you need to have some specific conditions, you need to have moisture in you need to have light, and you need to have oxygen. And if you don't have those things, then the seeds not going to germinate. When we're talking about germinating seeds at home, we are providing that at least the moisture, at least moisture and oxygen in our seed starting mix that we're using. So that's that potting media that we've chosen to start our seeds in. And then light that's either going to be coming from a really bright window, or ideally actually from some sort of some sort of supplemental lighting system that you have inside your home.Nate Bernitz  2:59  Okay, so moisture, oxygen and light, not nutrients because these seeds already have the nutrients they need to at least get started, so to speak. So ideally, we're recreating these really ideal germination conditions indoors. We know the science, it's been researched, it's been determined, this is what you want to do for these seeds. So if you're doing everything right, what kind of germination percentages are you expecting? Like for every 100 seeds you're trying to start? Are all of them going to germinate? And what sort of practices that maybe aren't so ideal might bring that germination rate down?Emma E  3:40  Wow, that's a really good question. And honestly, it depends a lot on the exact plant that you're trying to propagate. Not all plants create viable seeds equally, some produce a lot more viable seeds than others. So germination rates, gonna vary a fair amount, and it's gonna depend a bit too on the age of that seed, exactly how it was harvested, how it was stored. So if you're buying seeds and packets like most of us do, those seed packets will will have been germination tested by the Seed Company. And on that packet, you'll see a percentage stamped on there somewhere that indicates what the germination percentage of that seed should be under ideal conditions. It's interesting though, because, like I said, some plants do you have a lot of really viable seeds. I mean, if we're looking at something outdoors, let's say an invasive plant like oriental bittersweet, the germination percentage of those seeds tends to be well over 90%. Whereas something like a paperbark maple, it's really only about 5%. So, you know, it helps maybe to know a little bit about the seed that you're starting. But if you have brand new seeds in a packet, you really just need to pay attention to what that jar percentage is listed on that packet and know that really, it would be very rare to have absolutely every seed germinate for you, that typically doesn't happen. But if you have some good quality seed, at least 80%, I think would be acceptable.Nate Bernitz  5:17  Okay, folks, don't go out there and just start germinating oriental bittersweet seeds, because you know, you're good germination, it's alright. It's not impressive. They're invasive, don't do it. When I go to the store, really any store right now, there are seed starting kits everywhere. These they're pretty cheap. They claim, you know, this is what you need. But I want to know from you, what do you actually need in terms of supplies, equipment, what kind of setup is really essential to get to get started and be successful with seed starting,Emma E  5:53  it could definitely be handy to buy one of those complete kits, but you're right, you don't need it. So to start with, I think it's helpful to figure out what sort of containers you want to start your seeds in. seed starting containers are typically on the smaller side, because you don't need to have a whole lot of potting media for a small seedlings root system. And they also are going to have drainage of some sort in them just just like you would for any other potted plants, you need to have drainage for your seed starting containers. So purchase options might include plastic cell packs, or if you're looking for to start something that really doesn't like its roots disturbed, you might go with a biodegradable container, like a peat pot or cow pot. Or if you really don't want to spend money at all, you might have enough materials at home, that could work as seed starting containers. So some people like to use egg cartons. I've seen the bottoms of milk jugs and soda bottles used for seed starting, or even yogurt cups. But what you need to do if you're going to use containers like that is punch some drainage holes in the bottom so that excess water can escape. So once you have your containers figured out, then you're going to need to get yourself a really good high quality seed starting mix. And as seed starting mix is going to be soil less. So that means it's composed of peat moss, probably some very fine, vermiculite and perlite. these are these are both volcanic materials that are often added to potting mix to improve drainage and moisture holding capacity. But you can buy bags of product that specifically are called seed starting next. And these are really important for very fine small seeds, using just a regular potting mix will work just fine for larger seeds. But I found that I have much better Success for Small seeds with that that finer specific seed starting mix. And then once you have those two things now you know that's the absolute bare minimum, you should probably also be thinking about getting together some sort of lighting system. Because for most of us, we don't have a greenhouse attached to our home where we're going to have enough natural light to be able to grow seedlings effectively seal need to have some sort of supplemental light. And it can also be really helpful to have a heat mat. So in an electric heat mat that you put underneath those seedlings to help improve germination. Because usually, most of us aren't keeping our homes quite warm enough for optimal seed germination. But if we're able to just heat up the soil that can be really helpful.Nate Bernitz  8:44  One thing I would add that's really simple would be some sort of tray to go underneath your pots to collect water. And I guess if you're buying those cells, and by cells, you just mean a bunch of little pots kind of fuse together and may come with some sort of drainage tray but and right you know a lot of people I see they'll have these kind of shelving systems where it goes like drainage tray, pots, plants, and then a lighting system kind of above that hanging from the shelf. And, you know, rinse and repeat kind of going up to three, four shelves. So those, those work pretty well. It's interesting though, I was just at a, like, just kind of random store and I saw seed starting kits that were labeled as being window. So cats. So what do you make of seed starting? Really simple way just putting it in a bright window. So it's not a greenhouse, you don't have a lighting system? You're just putting it in a window. That sounds really great. I assume you can probably get plants to germinate, right, but are you going to be able to give them the really ideal conditions they need with just natural light that way?Emma E  9:58  Yeah, I'm glad you asked. That. So you can absolutely get seeds to germinate. No problem just in a window. Actually, for a lot of seeds. Light isn't necessary, really at all for germination, it's what comes after the growth after that that seed has germinated. That is important. And this is really where the light comes in. A lot of times with just using a window cell, the plants aren't getting enough light. And when when this happens, what you'll usually see is extremely long, extended stems on those seedlings. So they might be very weak, they might be really bent as they're trying to grow towards the window. And basically, what you're producing is a very low quality transplant, I think it gets a little bit easier to produce seedlings, just using a window, the later or closer to planting time you go once once the length is longer, but if you're trying to start things, let's say in late February, or early March, and those plants are going to need a whole lot of light, and you're gonna need to keep things indoors for a long time. Probably not going to work all that well, just using the windows cell. But you know, you can certainly try, you know, experimenting in your own home to see if, if perhaps the plants that you're trying to grow will tolerate that sort of lighting scenario.Nate Bernitz  11:28  So when you talk about potentially starting something in late February or March, would that be our category of cool season crops like maybe you're starting broccoli or something like that, that you're actually going to be able to start growing outside pretty early in the spring, or what's your thought there on what you might be starting as early as late February, early March.Emma E  11:48  Definitely some of those those cool season crops, onions can take a really long time if you're growing them from seed. So those you'd start early, and also some of the annual flowers that are a little bit trickier. So let's say you're trying to start your own begonias from seed, those can take a really long time to grow from seed into a plant that's actually large enough and worth the effort to plant outside.Nate Bernitz  12:14  So are there charts or something that you can use to kind of figure all this stuff out? It sounds kind of overwhelming to me like, okay, every single flower, every single vegetable like needs to be what started at a different time? How do you figure this stuff out?Emma E  12:27  There are charts out there. And actually, UNH extension does have a chart for vegetable seedlings. We don't have one for flowers, though. And what I find most helpful is actually to create my own chart, once I have my seeds in hand. So I have all my seed packets. And I'll go through and create a table and list exactly when I need to start each based on the last reasonable frost date for my area or you know, the the most last likely frost date. And it's going to vary from year to year. And it's going to vary based on the crop that you're trying to grow. You know, in general, let's say broccoli, cauliflower, you're probably only going to start that, at most maybe, if you're if you're trying if you're trying to just plant in the spring, maybe four to six weeks before you transplant out into the garden. But other things like those onions, those could take as much as eight to 10 weeks. So once once you start seeds starting it's kind of a process that just keeps rolling along through the spring. You don't do it all at once. Or if you're doing it in the best possible way. It's more of a tapered process.Nate Bernitz  13:39  Interesting. Interesting. And are you starting all of your broccoli all at once? Or are you kind of successionally starting individual crops?Emma E  13:49  usually with seeds starting for spring planting, I'll plant everything. You know, if I was growing multiple different types of broccoli, I would plant all of my broccoli seeds at once. If I was hoping for, you know sustained harvest, I'd probably be planting another round of seeds later on actually in in the summer, so that I could have some plants to put in the ground for a fall harvest.Nate Bernitz  14:15  I see. So successional planting might be more associated with plants that you're direct sowing, like your leafy greens or kind of fast growing plants.Emma E  14:26  Often, yeah, leafy greens, root vegetables. You could do some successional planning with with perhaps broccoli, but a lot of other crops are going to be in the garden for the long haul. So your tomatoes, for example. Beans, you usually you don't start beans indoors usually direct so those but you might have a couple harvests there.Nate Bernitz  14:49  Oh, I'm glad you brought that up. So what plants would you and would you not start indoors and how do you figure that out?Emma E  14:56  Well, it depends again, a bit base On what sort of infrastructure you have to actually start seeds indoors, most vegetable plants can be started directly in the garden. So you don't need to be starting things inside at all. The benefit of starting plants indoors though, is that you really get a jump on the season. And because our growing season tends to be on the shorter side in New Hampshire, having plants that already good size to put out in the garden as soon as growing conditions, you know, are appropriate for them to be outdoors, helps you get better harvest. So things that I would definitely think about starting indoors would definitely be some of the warm season crops like let's say tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, I would probably also be starting so my brassicas, so the broccoli, like we mentioned, kale, maybe cauliflower brussel sprouts, what I wouldn't spend too much time on would be most of the root vegetables. So carrots, beets, let's say leeks. Main reason for that is because for me, I've found that they're very difficult to transplant without damaging them, especially carrots. If you damage that root on a carrot, a lot of times when you're transplanting a lot of times the carrot will fork in multiple different directions. So you'll end up with a very odd looking carrot, right, as opposed to that that nice straight route that you're expecting.Nate Bernitz  16:28  Would your seed packet or seed catalog, Will it say one way or the other? Whether you should start it indoors or sow it outside directly?Emma E  16:35  It will it definitely well. And for a lot of crops, you'll notice that there are two different options. So there's instructions for starting indoors, and they'll be instructions for starting outdoors. For a lot of let's say annual flowers. A lot of those are going to be start indoors only. Although there are some that can be started indoors or outdoors. It just depends a little bit more. But yeah, check check your seed packet, that information is going to be there.Nate Bernitz  17:03  But I guess the the logic for starting something like a tomato indoors as well it will germinate outside you'd have to wait until the soil is already pretty warm. So you're just losing valuable growing time. It doesn't need to be outdoors germinating, when when it could be already in the ground as I started Transplant at the same time, like would you potentially put a seed in the ground for tomato at the same time that you would actually be transplanting out something that you already started?Emma E  17:36  The That's exactly right. And so if that tomato did mature to the point to produce fruit, it's probably getting close to the end of the growing season. Whereas if you had planted that indoors and transplanted out a decent size seedling plant, then you could be getting fruit, you know, by mid summer. So yeah, it makes aNate Bernitz  17:57  big difference from from the time that you start a seed to the time that you're transplanting it or is that like a month long process longer shorter? Or does it depend?Emma E  18:06  It depends again, yeah, so plants grow at different rates. For a tomato, usually you're looking at no more than six to eight weeks before you're going to transplant outdoors. But for other things, it's going to be even shorter, you know, for let's say cucumbers, you're probably not going to start those indoors more than a month before you're going to plant them outdoors. And I should also say too, that there are some plants that just don't transplant well. So those are pretty much always better planted directly in the garden. squashes and cucumbers fall in this category, you can start them indoors, but if you do, you want to be really careful to avoid disturbing the roots when you go to plant. So that's where using one of those biodegradable peat pots or maybe a pot meet at a newspaper or something is is good. And the same I found goes for peas and beans. They they germinate readily in the garden once the soil is warm enough. So there's there's no sense in doing it inside.Nate Bernitz  19:05  Right? If you're using those plastic cells, you have to kind of squeeze the bottom to get it loose. And that disturbs the root since you're saying that's okay with something like a tomato but not for a squash.Emma E  19:16  Exactly.Nate Bernitz  19:17  Yep, got it. Going back to the potting media as you called it or seed starting mix. I see three options. So one of them is to buy a premade seed starting mix, like you're buying a bag and it says its seed starting mix. I've seen those vary really widely in price and ingredients too. You can also buy these pellets essentially that you just add water to. And so I've seen those a lot and you can also make it yourself so you could buy the individual ingredients like you were talking about. What's your take on it? Do you prefer one method over the other? I mean, why not just buy the pre mixed bag. That seems like the easiest way to go.Emma E  20:01  That's usually the way I go, just because it is easier. And if you're trying to make a mix yourself, usually those individual components come in such large quantities that you're going to be left with trying to store, perhaps a huge bale of peat moss or vermiculite, perlite, all those materials as opposed to just having a bag that comes with those things already mixed up in a good ratio. So I think it's worthwhile just just getting the the premix. But of course, you know, if you if you really want to dabble and try to make specific seed starting mixes depending on what you're growing, and that might make a difference if you're if you're growing really fussy plants from seed, but most of the seeds starting mixes are going to work just fine. And those peat pellets that you mentioned before, to name those work really nicely as well. And those are also good for plants that you don't want to disturb the root system of. I often don't use them just because they're a little bit more expensive, but they're absolutely a viable option.What is the best soil mix for starting seeds? That's this episode's featured question. By and large, you'll have best luck starting plants from seed if you use a seed starting mix soilless seed starting mixes have a fine texture and are made of peat moss, perlite, coconut coir, fiber, and vermiculite. different brands will have different ratios of these ingredients. But the best products will typically contain about 50% peat moss and 50% fine vermiculite or fine perlite. pasteurized compost may also be a component of some seeds starting mixes, but it isn't absolutely necessary. gardeners who make their own seed starting mix may be interested in incorporating incorporating compost to cut down on the amount of pea enquire they have to use because both of these have environmental consequences. The tricky part of using compost though, is making sure it is free of weed seeds, insects and diseases. Eventually, your seedlings may need to be transplanted into bigger containers. When that happens, you can switch to using a general potting mix. potting mixes are different from seed starting mixes and that they have a coarser texture and often contain fertilizer, something that larger plants need. But seedlings really don't. potting mixes are often a little less expensive than seeds starting mixes, and can be purchased in larger quantities. And used for a larger number of purposes like potting up your house plants. Regular potting mixes can be used for seeds starting to, but they work best for large seeds. Very small seeds may not germinate as well in coarser mixes, because the seeds won't have good contact with the media. A regular potting mix will work just fine for very large seeds like cucumbers or squash, we'll probably have better luck with a seed starting next for most other veggies and flowers. So pick up a package of seed starting mix for your seed starting ventures this spring and have fun planting.Nate Bernitz  23:36  Okay, so in terms of where you're going to be starting your seeds, so obviously indoors, but is the room temperature important. And I know the or the mix temperature is important because you mentioned that warming matt earlier but is this something you can do in a cooler basement or garage or something like that? Where does it really need to be in your home that you're keeping warm enough for you.Emma E  24:01  For most seeds, what's going to be more important is actually that soil temperature. So rather than having the air be really warm, having the soil be warm is key. And so for a large number of seeds, the ideal germination temperature is going to be something like 75, maybe even 80 degrees and most of us aren't going to be keeping our homes quite that warm. So in order to get the soil at least to that ideal temperature, putting a heat map beneath them is important. Once the seed does germinate, though, it is important that the air temperature isn't too cold because if it is too cold just just like with house plants, you can see some damage to foliage. So I wouldn't try starting seeds in a room that's cooler than let's say 50 degrees, which for most of us there should be a place in our home that's at least 50 degrees and if you're using a heat mat that should be perfectly fine. But it's also okay to you know, if your home is warmer, if you don't use a heat mat, it's not the end of the world, it might just take seedlings a little bit longer to germinate. And you might have a slightly lower germination percentage. But let's say you do keep the inside of your home 70 degrees, then perhaps the heat mat is unnecessary. But if you do if you are trying to start them in a slightly cooler environment that that heating mat is is really important.Nate Bernitz  25:34  And is there any benefit to using a humidity dome, like creating a mini greenhouse?Emma E  25:40  Definitely, definitely when you're trying to get seeds to germinate and when seedlings are really small, keeping the humidity up around them is important. And I think one of the number one reasons for this is that that that potting media will dry out really quickly if if you just have that that media open to the air and low humidity conditions in your home. And seedlings do need consistent moisture. So both seeds to germinate need consistent moisture and very, very small seedlings need consistent moisture in order to survive. And so if you have one of these, you know a plastic covering or a dome lid that you can put on a tray that will help you keep the humidity up in that in that little environment around those seedlings. So that you don't have to be watering constantly. Because most of us aren't going to be around to you know, hit the soil at the spray bottle. You know every hour or whatever it takes to keep it evenly moist.Nate Bernitz  26:39  So it's an alternative to humidity dome just watering more often?Emma E  26:43  potentially, yeah, I still think you're going to have better luck, if you do put a cover over top. But it's not absolutely necessary, you can certainly get a lot of things to start just with, you know ambient indoor conditions, as long as you aren't letting that that soil mix get totally dry. You just don't want that mix to get soggy either.Nate Bernitz  27:07  So when you actually get started, do you moisten or get the mix wet before you even put the seeds inEmma E  27:13  you do. So you want that mix to be pre moistened before you sow the seeds. So what I typically do if I have a brand new bag of potting mix, is take them out in a bucket or you know bowl something I'm going to use to fill containers with put in just enough water in it that it's it's moist. But if I if I grab it and squeeze some in my hand, it's not the water's not going to drip out of it, I'm not going to be able to wring it out, that's going to be just about perfect. We'll fill up my containers, I'll plant my seeds. And then rather than totally because it's it's you do want good soil contact with those seeds. So watering a little bit after you've planted can be helpful, but you don't want to drown them. So that's where a spray bottle can come in handy. Or a misting function on a hose. Because if you if you're using just a watering can, or going directly under the faucet, you're going to wash those seeds all around. So they're not going to stay where you planted them. And that's that's probably the biggest concern.Nate Bernitz  28:19  And planting depth is actually pretty important, right?Emma E  28:22  Very important. Yeah, so some seeds require light in order to germinate. So they've actually adapted to basically germinate just on the soil surface, where others actually germinate better if there's a covering of soil. So if they are kept in the dark.Nate Bernitz  28:39  I see, well, and let's talk just a little bit more about planting technique because you just kind of rolled over that you're like you plant your seeds. How do you do that? I know, one issue I've had is seeds vary dramatically in size, and I struggle to kind of manage and handle the really small seeds.Emma E  28:58  Really small seeds can be really difficult. And you know, there are some tools out there for planting individual seeds, like basically little vials and such it'll allow you to just release a single seed at a time. But often what's easier if you're dealing with a really small seed is to plant more like a tray of those seedlings and then transplant them into other containers later on with a larger seed that you can actually pick up individually with your fingers than planting individual seeds in a container works just fine. And I always defer to whatever the depth recommendation is on the seed packet. So pretty common for seeds to be buried like a quarter of an inch to an eighth of an inch. Very large seeds might be buried about half an inch. And if something says it needs light to germinate, then that basically means you're just sprinkling it on the soil surface. Maybe putting a fine dusting of seed starting mix over Top, but you want that to be open so that it's getting plenty of light. So seeds need that.Nate Bernitz  30:05  Is the amount of light important there like you actually need to turn on your grow lights to get them to germinate or as adjust them kind of being on the surface getting some ambient room light, is that enough?Emma E  30:16  I'd either have them under your grow lights, or have them set up in a window cell just to get them going. Because they are they're going to need some some actual you know, real light exposure. As far as I know, I've never tried growing seeds that need light in an interior room without any light sourceNate Bernitz  30:34  easy enough to turn those lights on, though Easy enough is is it just one seed per pot, does it depend on the crop? Is it okay? If you accidentally drop a few seeds into a potEmma E  30:45  depends on the crop a bit, I will usually plant at least two seeds in a pot, just because you know that the germination percentage is is never going to be 100%. And if you're looking at that that packet you have and it says maybe 75% that means that you know every fourth container that you plant, it's likely that a seed isn't going to germinate. So if you put two in there, then chances are pretty good, you're gonna get something and then all you need to do if you have you know more than you need is just thin out the extra. So you just have at the end, one plant growing in that pot. And with very, very small fine seeds, like I said, it can be easier to plant a whole bunch of those in a container. And then as they get bigger and develop their first set of true leaves. So when seedlings first come up, they have what are called their seed leaves, which pretty much look the same on every plant. But once that next set of leaves comes out, or better yet, the second set of true leaves comes out, then you can transplant those into individual containers.Nate Bernitz  31:51  Okay, I see that's really interesting, I didn't realize that you're potentially having to transplant before you transplant.Emma E  31:59  You can Yeah, I mean, the other alternative with very, very small seeds would just be to try to plant as few as you possibly can in one container, and then thinning them out within said container. But I find it's perhaps a little less wasteful, if you just plant in a, you know, a larger container and then take those seedlings out to grow them out a little bit further. And you could do the same thing, basically with any seedling. But with larger size seeds, where it's easy enough to pick up an individual seed, I think it's easier to just plant them directly in the container you want them to be in.Nate Bernitz  32:35  I see. And for those larger seeds where you're planting a single seed, it germinates it, are you ever gonna have to transplant that up to a larger pot before transplanting it outside? Or are you pretty much planting it in the same little pot that it's going to be and until it goes out to your garden?Emma E  32:53  guess that depends a bit on when you've started your seeds. And when you're actually able to get things outside in the garden. Ideally, you're not going to have to put that extra labor in of moving plants from the seed starting pot into a larger size pot. But was were certain things that grow pretty quickly. You might have to so for example, with tomatoes, before I have had to bump my tomatoes into a slightly larger pot. And how I made that decision was was basically just on how quickly that soil media was drying out. Those tomatoes were drying out and they had to be watered multiple times a day. And they were starting to show signs of nutrient deficiency. So I figured it was worth my effort to actually bump them into a larger container so that they'd be at in their best condition at their healthiest when I went to move them into the garden.Nate Bernitz  33:46  Really just an act of necessity there I guess.You mentioned how these seeds really look so similar with just that first set of leaves. So really helpful to label right. I assume you do label your your pots, what do you write on those labels? Just the name of the plant? Or is there anything else that you find helpful?Emma E  34:22  I do. So I will at the very least write the variety down. Because usually I'll all recognize that plant looks like as it gets a little bit bigger. But if you're newer to gardening, write down the the type of plant write down the variety and I think it's helpful to to write down the date of when you actually sowed that seed. Because again, on seed packets, you're going to see information that's going to say the number of days to germination. For a lot of cases, it'll be somewhere between seven to 14 days. And that helps you keep track of whether things are moving along the way they they should or not. So let's say You know, I plant the seed and the packet said, I should start to see growth within seven to 14 days and three weeks later, nothing's happening. That That tells me that I probably need to sow some new seed. If I don't put the date on there, it becomes hard to keep track of that.Nate Bernitz  35:16  there's kind of two periods here. There's the period between when you've put the seed in and germinates, aka like you actually see the plant coming out of the ground. And after that occurs, so what changes, I assume you're having to keep that, that potting medium moist. Before and after, you mentioned how you might as well just have those grow lights on before and after. I'm wondering about fertilization, I'm wondering whether you need to kind of up your watering, as those plants mature. How do you think about that?Emma E  35:50  Well, fertilization is definitely going to come into play. So the seed starting mix, that that we've talked about, doesn't come with any nutrients in it at all. And that's because seeds don't need those nutrients right away, right. But as they continue to grow, those those seedlings are going to exhaust the original stores of energy that they had within those sea believes. And they're going to need those nutrients from someplace else. And so it becomes essential once those seedlings have a few sets of true leaves. So once the leaves look like they showed on a mature plant, then you'll want to start using a fertilizer and for indoor seed starting, I recommend using a complete water soluble fertilizer. So that could be something like a 20 2020. So you have all of the three main mic our macronutrients nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. And often, many of these products will also have some of the micronutrients included as well, with really young seedlings, typically, you can get away with using like a half strength fertilizer, because you don't want to burn those those young new roots. So to play it on the safe side, go with a diluted fertilizer. And depending on the product that you're using, you know, the recommendations might be to apply weekly maybe to apply every two weeks. If you're not applying enough, plants are definitely going to tell you, you'll see signs of nutrient deficiency in the foliage. So leaves all start looking good. They're changing colors that they shouldn't be CLC, you know, maybe yellows, maybe purples. And if you're doing too much, then you might actually be seeing some burning on that foliage. So the edges of leaves might might start to get brown and crispy, actually from Salt damage from the salts that are in the fertilizer.Nate Bernitz  37:53  which might kind of look like too much sun as well.Emma E  37:56  Right? Yeah. So you have to do a little bit of troubleshooting there. And it's useful to keep track of when you applied fertilizer, how much you applied, so that you can maybe try to sleuth out what's going on.Nate Bernitz  38:11  And just to clarify, you said that you wait to apply fertilizer until you've seen the first true set of leaves. So not that first, kind of what false set of leaves, I'm not sure thatEmma E  38:23  leaves, seeds leaves. I would wait until the plant has three or four sets of true leaves. Yeah, I would, I would because actually those seed leaves, those those are eventually going to fall off of the plant as it develops as the the nutrients that are within those are used up. So I would wait a little while because if you start too soon the plants just frankly not going to be using that fertilizer.Nate Bernitz  38:53  Do you find that that's a source of confusion whether a set of leaves is a true set of leaves or not like is there an easy way to tell whether the leaves are that first set of true leaves or are just another set of seeds leaves?Emma E  39:07  Oh, that's a good question. So with all this, the majority of the seedlings that you're going to grow are what are called dicots, dicotyledon, so there's going to be two seed leaves. So the first leaves that you see when a plant germinates, those of those seeds leaves, any leaf, or any leaves that develop after that point, are true leaves as what we call them. So those original seed leaves tend to be fairly nondescript, a lot of times they're just kind of oval shaped smooth edges, but when the true leaves come out, they look more like what you'd expect the the leaves to look like on that plant so uh, you know, a seed leaf on a tomato is just kind of this this strap like little pair of leaves, but when the true leaves come out, you're actually seeing that deeply dissected More like compound leaf of a tomato plant.Nate Bernitz  40:03  That's really helpful. And just one more thing on fertilization. So you mentioned this water soluble, complete fertilizer, the way I would imagine you doing that is you would take some measurement of water like correlating to the instructions on the fertilizer, you mix it up, and then you pour it into the tray and the plants take it up through the bottom, is that the best way to do it? Or is it actually better to to pour it over the top and have that go through the potting mix,Emma E  40:34  you know, you can do it either way. So some people actually exclusively water their their seedling plants from the bottom. And that's, that's a legitimate way to go about this. And you could put the fertilizer in that way. I usually don't just because it to me is a little bit more work to water that way. So all water from the top and I'll apply fertilizer over the top. But either either way is going to work just fine.Nate Bernitz  41:01  So if you're using a water soluble fertilizer, is that a kind of powder? Or is that an actual liquid that you're putting into your water?Emma E  41:11  So the stuff I'm talking about is usually like those, those blue crystals. Nate Bernitz  41:16  Oh so you just sprinkle that on? Emma E  41:18  no, I mix that up according to the label instructions. So it's usually some sort of, you know, crystal and product that you're mixing into water. For starting seedlings, I usually don't use inorganic fertilizer. So like a fish emulsion fertilizer, just because seedlings can't use it very, most of that fertilizer product is going to waste because there there aren't any microbes in that seed starting mix to break down that organic matter and make it available to plants. It's also really smelly. So I tend to save that for outdoors. I start using my organic fertilizers once I have plants outdoors in the garden, and I'm using more of these these chemical fertilizers indoors just to get things started.Nate Bernitz  42:07  Okay, that makes sense. One other fertilizer question. I typically haven't seen seed starting instructions on fertilizer. So, you know, I'll just see kind of measurements for plants in general, was your advice just to kind of half that recommendation for seed starting?Emma E  42:28  Yeah, exactly. So if you buy a product that says it's listed for flowers and vegetables, there will be instructions on the packaging that tell you how you should mix it up for those plants. For seedlings, I do have strength. So just dilute whatever that recommendation is. So that you're applying it at half strength. Okay,Nate Bernitz  42:49  let's talk about lighting. This is a source of confusion for sure it sounds easy enough, just get a great light but we know that it's not that simple. For one thing when you go to the hardware store, the big box store somewhere like that they may not have grow lights, you're going to be looking at a long aisle of a lot of different fluorescent and LED light options. So how do you how do you actually make a decision on what lights to use? is there is there something you should be using a particular or do you actually have to go to some specialty store where they do sell grow lightsEmma E  43:31  I actually do think that it's nice to buy your grow lights from a you know a greenhouse supplier or Garden Supply Company so that you know you're actually getting lights that are intended for plant use that should be kicking out the the wavelengths that that plants need and the intensity of light that plants need. short of that, you know if you really want into one, let's say get into le DS which a lot of people are interested in that I would definitely be buying those from a greenhouse supplier so that you know you're getting good quality plant lights. If you're looking for probably the most affordable option that's honestly pretty foolproof that people have been using for decades. It's just good old fluorescent lights that you put in a shop light fixture so those fluorescent tubes that's what I've always used for indoor seed starting and honestly works really well and it's nothing in particular just cool white bulbs or or a full spectrum bulb will work as well.Nate Bernitz  44:40  Any more specificity there. I've seen the different t numbers and things like that there are there is a lot of choices when it comes to buying lights. EmmaEmma E  44:49  I've always gone with T 8s. There's t fives I think what t 12s but t-8 bulbs worked just fine for me with with fluorescent fixtures, usually there's there's not a lot of heat kicked off by these. And so the the bigger thing that you're dealing with is just having, you know, the right intensity of light for those seedlings. And it's something you'll probably have to experiment a bit with with your own setup you have at home. But plants will tell you pretty quickly whether they're getting enough light or not, there's some some symptoms that show up really quickly. With plants that are either getting too not getting enough or if they're too close to the light fixture. Of course, right, carry on. So if plants aren't if those seedlings aren't getting enough light, their stems are going to get really, really long. And so you're going to have this this really long, skinny, spindly stem that that isn't very strong at all. And if you're really not getting enough light, then the the foliage might might be kind of pale, too. That's that's what you see with dark grown seedlings. If there's too much, and usually it's not so much that there's too much, it's just that the plants are too close to the lights and then the heat that's getting kicked off will damage them, you'll actually see signs of burning on the foliage so so dead areas on the foliage, where it's too close to the lights. If you're using like the the TI eight fluorescent bulbs in a shop light fixture, usually about six inches is perfect is that sweet spot for the lights being kept away from the seedlings. So it no matter what system you're using for your your grow lights, you do want to make sure that it's easy enough to raise and lower them as needed based on what your seedlings need, because these plants are going to grow to write. So you're going to need to raise that light up over the course of the seedlings life.Nate Bernitz  46:54  How much room Do you need to give for these plants to grow? Like if you're designing your system, and you're wondering, okay, how far away does the one shelf need to be from another you're thinking about ultimately, how high can that light go? In your experience with these different vegetables and flowers? How tall are they getting before they're going out to the garden,Emma E  47:17  I guess I would do probably at least 18 to 24 inches in between shelves, if you if you have a whole you know, shelving rack of, of seedlings, you know, tomatoes potentially can get quite tall. While you have them indoors depending on when you started them. And some of the annual flowers too, can sell let's say you're growing cosmos, they can get really tall. So you're going to need that extra height. Now, hopefully, if you've started your seedlings at the appropriate time for when you're going to be able to plant outdoors. They're not going to have outgrown that space.Nate Bernitz  47:55  Well, because the fixture takes up a few inches. And then you said you need six inches between the fixture and the plants. Yeah. So if a plant is getting up to a foot or something, potentially, I would think you might need even a bit more than 18 inches.Emma E  48:13  Yeah, potentially. Yep. So yeah, like, like I said, it's going to depend a bit on what you're growing. So if you're producing a whole bunch of tomatoes, you'll probably need a little bit more space. If you're, let's say growing something like an onion, it's not going to get all that big under the lights at 18 inches is probably going to be more than enough.Yeah, yeah, I think the best systems that it is possible to move things around.Nate Bernitz  48:53  Okay, so ultimately, how do you actually know when seedlings are ready? Or is it more just a matter of It's time for these to go out whether they're ready or not like it, it gets to the point where the soils warm enough where we're past last frost like it's go time you want to get them out there, even if they're not quite ready,Emma E  49:13  I guess if you were trying to, you know, grow out, let's say you know, garden center quality seedlings, then you would want them to have root systems that fill up the entire pot that you've grown them in and have, you know, at least probably, let's say three or four, maybe even five sets of true leaves. If you're trying to transplant a seedling when it's too small, it might not survive the process because the roots get so disturbed with you taking that seedling out of the pot, that it might not make it but if that root system is really robust and is filling up that container nicely, then there shouldn't be really any trouble with transplanting at all.Nate Bernitz  49:59  So that's just why it's so important to get the timing right of when you start them. Because Yeah, generally know how long it's going to take for it to get to that stage where it's ready to be transplanted. So timing is just so key thenEmma E  50:12  exactly, yeah, yep. And that's where having that that whole chart going is, is really helpful. And I think sometimes too, you might adjust things. So usually that the recommendations on a seed packet or on a seed chart, you might find, they'll, it'll say something like, you know, eight to 10 weeks. And so you're like, Alright, so you know, do I do eight do i do nine do i do 10. And, you know, you could, let's say try tried 10 weeks the first year, and if your seedlings are grown out too much, then note that and be like, I think I could really get away with doing that at nine or eight weeks next year.Nate Bernitz  50:49  That makes sense to be more conservative as a beginner. And as you get more comfortable, you can push the envelope in different ways, try and move up your window get a little bit more aggressive, but you should have a good foundation of success.Emma E  51:02  Yeah, if you have absolutely, if you're certain you've, you've really got everything going right, if you've got the girl light setup, you've got the heat mat, you've got your good seed Maxi, seed starting next, then you can probably start your seeds on that, that lower end of the spectrum there. So if it says eight to 10 weeks, I'd probably start the at eight weeks. If you have less than ideal conditions. So you know, it's going to be colder, where the seedlings are germinating, let's say, then you'll probably want to go with that longer window. So if you can't get that soil up to 75 degrees, then let's go with the 10 weeks versus the eight weeks.Nate Bernitz  51:38  And I've heard a lot about hardening off, which is that transition period, you're not just taking plants from under your grow light and just walking out and planting them in your garden, right, they need to kind of get accustomed to being outside accustomed to that different type of intense summer over, you know, light and all of that. So do you need to wait until the root system is filled out until you've got enough true leaves before you start the hardening off process? Or can the hardening off process also be part of those plants getting to where they're ready to be transplanted,Emma E  52:14  I would probably wait to do the hardening off process until those plants are ready to be transplanted or very, very close to being ready to be transplanted. I think if you're if you're doing it too soon, you're probably putting a little bit of stress on that very young plant that's unnecessary. So once you're getting close to you know, when you want to transplant when it's going to be appropriate for you to transplant outdoors, that's when you want to start hardening things. And basically that means getting plants adapted to outdoor conditions being meaning sun exposure, wind exposure and and exposure to cooler temperatures as well.Nate Bernitz  52:53  Yeah, so say more about that. How long does that process take? And where are you actually doing that? Are you how do you actually experience and get that gradual process? I kind of find that to be overwhelming just looking outside like okay, where do I put them first? And where do I move them after that? etcEmma E  53:14  oh, yeah, totally. So I think ideally, you're going to do your hardening over about a two week period. So it's nice and gradual and your plants don't really experience much stress at all. When plants go from indoors to outdoors, they basically are not ready to be exposed to direct full sun, even if they've been under a grow light. And so it's if you have a shady area in your property, let's say underneath a tree, it's appropriate to bring them from indoors to outdoors and have them underneath that tree initially. And then over the course of a couple of weeks, you're going to gradually bring those plants out into full sun for longer and longer periods. So basically, you know tapering over the course of two weeks until by the end of that period, that plant is in full sun out there, you know all day for the entire day. If you don't have a setup like that, and what a lot of people do, we'll set up a little shade cloth situation so you can buy material that's made expressly for this purpose for actually blocking out some of the sunlight to transition plants or to grow plants that require more shade outdoors. So you can you can set up your little shade cloth transition area. And if you're really trying to push the envelope with your your hardening your seedlings, you might have to bring them indoors at night. If there's you know, still a chance of really cold temperatures or frost. If that sounds like too much work to you then you'll want to do your hardening process once the chance of frost is gone so that you can leave things out all night.Nate Bernitz  54:57  Okay, that that makes sense. And I think recently seen a lot of people with these pretty cheap, actually little plastic greenhouses? We hear questions about those all the time, you know, what are they good for? What can I do with them? Is hardening off one part of gardening where they actually could really come in handy?Emma E  55:16  Yeah, I think so that could be a really good use for some of those those inexpensive, unheated greenhouse structures.Nate Bernitz  55:22  Yeah, how would you use it in that way,Emma E  55:24  basically, so that that greenhouse is going to block out some of the light, right, that that's coming in, not a lot, most of that's going to be transmitted. But if I was, if I was bringing seedlings that have been grown indoors out to the greenhouse, I might, you know, have some shade cloth over them, or some remain, or something that's going to protect them a bit. And, you know, over over the course of a week or so, you know, take that off.Nate Bernitz  55:53  Yeah, I guess that plastic structure gives you, you know, a pretty easy ability to drape stuff over it.Emma E  55:59  Yeah, yep, absolutely. AndNate Bernitz  56:02  it's gonna protect the plants a little bit from the elements also from like animals or pests or things like that. It's It's literally an enclosure. I know there are pros and cons with those, but enough people have them that helpful to know what to do with them.Emma E  56:17  Well, in the daytime temps inside those structures to will be considerably warmer than the outside temperatures in the spring. And so that that'll definitely help boost growth as well, you'll just have to pay a little bit closer attention to watering.Nate Bernitz  56:30  I know that there are a few common issues with seed starting. You've mentioned a few you've mentioned that if your plants are leggy, that means not enough light, you've mentioned discolored leaves could be indicating a nutrient issue. And you talked a little bit about that. Another one that we hear a lot about is something called dampening off. What is that? What does that look like? And what's the solution?Emma E  56:57  Yeah, damping off is actually a fungal disease. So it happens sometimes if potting media is tainted in some way, or if you're using containers that hadn't been cleaned out. So basically, what happens if you have very cool conditions is it's favored by by cooler temperatures. So so cool, damp conditions where you're starting your seedlings, seeds will actually rot right at the soil line the stems of the seedling well, and so what you'll notice first typically is that all of your seedlings are tipping over. And when you look really closely, you'll notice that it's actually rotten at the base. The best way to get around this is to keep that soil media warm. Because only seedling plants are susceptible to this and again, when it's cooler temperatures, that's when it's more likely to happen. So keep that soil media warm so that beer helping prevent this disease and seedlings are going to grow faster and get out of that vulnerable stage and use a clean potting mix in clean containers when you go to start your seedlings.Nate Bernitz  58:09  Okay, that is really important information. I'm glad we got to talk about that a little bit. One other issue I've heard about is poor root development. So the roots just never really seeming to fell out and therefore therefore being really difficult to transplant and all that how can you ensure good root developmentEmma E  58:28  if roots really aren't developing on your seedlings I would probably be looking at the the potting mix that you're using and your watering practices. If you're using a really you know lower quality potting mix that's got like big chunks of bark in it or, or it's just not very fine. The seeds might have a hard time growing and that media especially very small seedlings, and if you're over watering, that can be another cause because basically if there is abundant water in that container, the seedling is never really going to have to grow its roots out further to be able to reach water. So letting especially as your your plants start to mature. It's important to let those containers dry out a bit before you water again, you don't want to get to the point of wilting but you want to water you know, just before you get there.Nate Bernitz  59:28  Another one of those fine lines of gardening yeah too much not too little.Emma E  59:32  Exactly.This episode The featured plant is hyacinth bean lablab purpureus. hyacinth bean is a beautiful member of the Pea family fabacea, that is native to tropical Africa. In New Hampshire gardens it can be grown as an annual vine. hyacinth bean is highly ornamental, with purple tinge three part of leaves in spikes of fragrant pea like rose purple flowers that are followed by glossy Ruby purple seed pods. Really, really beautiful. It is a fast growing vine that can grow 20 feet long and completely cover a trellis and a single growing season. hyacinth bean is one of my personal favorites for covering arbors trellises fences and pergolas. This plant is easy to grow in gardens with average well drained soil and full sun. seeds can be sown directly in the garden after the last frost date. Or if you want to get a jump on the season indoors six to eight weeks earlier. hyacinth bean roots don't like to be disturbed though. So if you plant seeds indoors, grow them in biodegradable newspaper peat or cow pots so that you can plant the pot directly in the soil instead of needing to disturb the roots. Once hyacinth bean plants are growing in your garden, the only thing you'll need to watch out for Japanese beetles, which thoroughly enjoy this plant, although they will rarely kill it. So if you're looking for an attractive and interesting vine to plant in your garden this summer, give hyacinth bean a try.As we finish this episode, I'd like to share one more tip how deeply to plant seeds. Planting depth can have a direct impact on seed germination. Planting too shallow may result in poor germination due to low soil moisture retention near the soil surface and planting to deep may exhaust the seeds food reserves before the seedling can reach the soil surface leading the seedling depth or weak seedling development. seed packets will almost always include instructions on how deeply to plant seedlings. If you don't have this information for some reason, then a good rule of thumb is to plant seeds at a depth approximately twice their diameter. Very small seeds should simply be pressed gently into the surface of the soil and then barely covered with media. When in doubt, plant seed shallower. And remember, seeds will also germinate better with even soil moisture. Prevent potting mix from drying around germinating seeds by covering trays with dome lids, or covering individual containers with plastic wrap or plastic bags.Nate Bernitz  1:02:53  insightful tips as always, and I'm betting I'm not the only one excited to try my luck with hyacinth bean. that's gonna do it for today's show on seed starting the eighth episode now of Granite State gardening. Our goal with the podcast is to provide trusted, timely and accessible research based information to you and fellow gardeners. We've been so appreciative of all the great feedback suggestions and questions so far, but keep those emails coming. Our address is g s g dot pod@unh.edu. And we're on social media at ask you an H extension where we post content regularly. You can help us grow this new podcast by sharing it with fellow gardeners and if you're so inclined by giving us a glowing five star review, wherever you're listening, we really appreciate all the great reviews you've already left. Thanks for tuning in to another episode of Granite State gardening until next time, keep on growing and starting seeds Granite State gardeners, we'll talk with you again soon.Granite State gardening is a production of University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension and equal opportunity educator and employer. views expressed on this podcast are not necessarily those of the university's its trustees, or its volunteers, inclusion or exclusion of commercial products and this podcast does not imply endorsement. The University of New Hampshire US Department of Agriculture and New Hampshire County is cooperate to provide extension programming in the Granite State. Learn more@extension.unh.eduTranscribed by https://otter.ai
Mar 19 2021
1 hr 4 mins
Pruning, Topping & Staking Trees & Shrubs, plus Witch Hazel Appreciation
Every homeowner knows they should prune, but beyond that, there’s a lot of confusion. Making things worse, there are examples all around us of poor pruning: fall snipping, summer shearing, tree topping, the list of pruning transgressions goes on and on. In this episode of Granite State Gardening, UNH Extension’s Emma Erler and Nate Bernitz share proven tips and solutions for approaching the ever intimidating and often-counterintuitive task of pruning. Come for the accessible science, stay for the demystifying banter. Once you learn how to prune, you’ll never see the trees and shrubs all around you the same.  Featured question: Can trees be topped to reduce their height?Featured plant segment: Vernal witch hazel (Hamamelis vernalis)Closing gardening tip: Staking treesBackground reading:  It’s Pruning Season article, with information about upcoming events: https://extension.unh.edu/pruningseason  March 17 live event with Emma and Nate on Pruning: https://extension.unh.edu/events/pruning-ornamental-trees-and-shrubs-online  Basics of Pruning Trees and Shrubs fact sheet: https://extension.unh.edu/resource/basics-pruning-trees-and-shrubs-fact-sheet  Pruning Deciduous Trees fact sheet: https://extension.unh.edu/resource/pruning-deciduous-trees-fact-sheet  Pruning Hydrangeas fact sheet: https://extension.unh.edu/resource/pruning-hydrangeas-fact-sheet  Science of Pruning webinar Q&A: https://extension.unh.edu/blog/science-pruning-qa  Cleaning and Sharpening Pruners: https://extension.unh.edu/blog/how-clean-and-sharpen-your-pruners  TRANSCRIPT by Otter.aiNate Bernitz  00:00Welcome to the Granite State gardening podcast from UNH Cooperative Extension. On today's show, we dive into the world of pruning. At the top of the show, I want to put in a plug for a series of online events we're offering on this very topic. The first is on March 9 on pruning fruit trees, then on March 11, on pruning blueberries on March 15, it's burning raspberries, blackberries and grapes. And finally on March 17, ornamental pruning. If this episode leaves you with questions, join us on March 17. To ask me those questions live. These four events will all be streamed for free on our Facebook page, ask UNH extension. And I'll play host and moderator speaking with extension specialists including Emma and Becky Seidman, who you know from our vegetable garden planning episodes. Check the show notes of this podcast for the details. And speaking of the show notes, we have links to several parenting resources Emma has written herself and one of the things I appreciate most about these resources are the hand drawn diagrams Emma has done which really help illustrate these concepts. Greetings Granite State gardeners. I'm Nate bernitz. co host with me earlier of the Granite State gardening podcast a production of UNH extension. Today we're talking about pruning and specifically pruning ornamental trees and shrubs. So not the trees and shrubs that grow edible fruits because we're going to devote a whole other episode to printing those up. Now today we're talking about pruning landscape favorites like hydrangea, lilacs, Rhododendron, and well you get the idea. You may refer to pruning as trimming or cutting, but for today, we'll use the word pruning. Our goal here is for you to feel confident about pruning, and understand just a bit about how plants actually grow and respond to cuts, you're going to find that is really helpful. Inevitably pruning is something that takes practice and experience as well as an understanding of how particular plants grow and what you'd like them to actually look like as the real expert here. So I hope you don't mind if I learn a bit right along with you. Okay, let's get into it. Emma E  02:29Can trees be topped to reduce their height. That's this episode's featured question. Topping a tree is the cutting back of large branches and mature trees, cutting them to Stubbs trees are often top because they're perceived as being too tall to be safe. This fear is largely unjustified though, as a healthy tree we'll have a root system that is adequate to support it. Topping has the potential to harm trees and actually make them more prone to breakage. Trees respond to topping by producing a lot of long sprouts below the cut of the large branch that quickly grow to the height the tree was initially. Additionally, these limbs are weakly attached to the parent branch and are very prone to wind, snow and ice damage, which can obviously be hazardous. Another thing to consider is that large pruning wounds from large branch removal often did not seal properly and invite decay and insect invasions into the tree topping can lead to a long slow decline of a tree. So topping trees is hardly ever a good option. If the height of a tree really needs to be reduced for some reason. My advice, work with a certified arborist to have the work done properly. Your trees will thank you. Nate Bernitz  03:53Emma I mentioned in the introduction how this is a kind of a separate episode from pruning fruit trees and shrubs. Can you just really briefly explain why this is kind of a different animal? Emma E  04:07Well, it's different I think for a few different reasons. First off, when you're pruning or ornamental trees, typically you're most concerned about having the best possible structure to promote the beauty of that plant, as well as the the health of that plant in general. Whereas if you're growing a fruit tree, you're more concerned about production than how that plant looks in the end, right. You just want to be able to get the most fruit you possibly can on a healthy tree. Are those two things different? Well, I mean, they are to a certain extent and it it gets more particular depending on the exact species that you're talking about. But the big thing is that you're you're either looking at promoting the beauty of the plant or you're trying to make it as productive as possible. Nate Bernitz  04:57Hence the word ornamental. So That makes sense. Let's start with the really basic question of wiper and what are some of the benefits and reasons why someone might want to look out their backyard window at the trees and shrubs out there. And think, yeah, pruning is worth my time, I should definitely be doing that. Emma E  05:18I guess I'll start by saying that pruning isn't something that you necessarily have to do in your landscape, it can be really important. But just because you have a tree or shrub growing in your garden doesn't mean that it needs pruning. But there are some key purposes to pruning. The first thing I think of is to maintain or create good structure within a plant. When when plants are young, in particular, their branches may not be in a in a form that's going to be healthy or conducive to that growth to the growth of the tree. As it gets older, it may develop some serious structural defects, meaning the branches are attached weakly by the angles that they are connecting with the main trunk. Branches may be very, very congested crossing rubbing each other. So maintaining that that really good, healthy, strong structure is the first thing. Nate Bernitz  06:14Forgive me, Emma. But why does that actually matter? Emma E  06:19I mean, first off, it can make the tree look better. Second of all, can make trees more resilient to things like storms. So especially in New Hampshire, where we get a lot of winter storms, ice, these things can put a lot of strain. So wind, like I said snow or ice can put a lot of strain on branches, and make them more likely to break. If they aren't attached to that tree in a really strong way, then we can talk about that a little bit more. But it really comes down to that the angle branches are attached. Nate Bernitz  06:53Are there other reasons why you might prune? I guess for me, I'm thinking really practically, like sometimes you want to prune because a plant is too large and growing where you don't want it to. So maybe it's growing against your house or growing into a power line or something like that. So there's a real practical element I think of as well. Emma E  07:17Controlling plant size is often one of the major reasons people prune. Now, if a plant was put in the best possible location for it to mature, then you probably aren't going to need to do a whole lot of pruning to control size. But be that as it may, you know that is a key reason pruning is necessary. Pruning is also important for keeping plants healthy in terms of disease issues in particular. So trees are much less likely to have issues with disease if there's good airflow through the canopy. Things are let's see, let's take apple or crab Apple, for example. A really common disease on these plants is Apple scab. This is a fungal disease, that tends to be worse on trees that have a very dense canopy. So a whole lot of branches really close together a lot of leaf matter that increases haven't having that density increases humidity. And the leaves will stay wetter for longer, which promotes fungal spore germination and infection. So opening up that canopy so that air can get through really will reduce disease incidents. So that's important too. And of course, pruning is also going to influence flowering and fruiting of a plant. So the way that you actually prune or train, the angle of a branch will impact how much fruit it bears will also impact how it flowers. So there's quite a bit that goes into it. Nate Bernitz  08:52Okay, so your birthday, I think just happened. But let's say that your birthday wish list was all the pruning tools you could possibly dream of, like just completing your personal arsenal. What would be on that list? Emma E  09:09Oh, gosh, well, there's so many right. But I think if you need just the basic pruning set, you know what, what's gonna get you by to do basically everything you need to, I'd say a good pair of hand pruners. So you want a nice quality pair that has you know, good steel blades that that are sharp walking mechanisms that on that pair so you can also carry them around in your pocket or in a holster fairly easily. There's a lot of brands out there and I won't get into that everybody has their their preference I have my own. But what I do like to look for is tools, or a ham printer that has some sort of warranty and that that the manufacturer provides spare parts for so it's possible To actually repair that tool as it goes along, not the least of which new blades because you will need them eventually. Beyond that having a nice pair of loppers is important, so long handled lopper that it that comes really in handy for pruning shrubs back in particular, you'll also want a pruning saw. And there's a lot of variation out there too. If you can only have one saw, I prefer a folding saw that it has at least a six inch blade. because that'll get you through, you know the majority of smaller cuts you need to make. And then if you have a whole lot more money to spend a pole pruner is helpful. So this is actually a set of pruners that is at the end of a long pole so that you can extend your reach that happened to be up on a ladder, a pole saw is really helpful. And then if you're really taking down bigger limbs or trees, a chainsaw, of course is helpful. But that that requires a little training to be able to use that safely versus other hand tools. Nate Bernitz  11:07So what the lopper that's just what a really big pair of scissors. Emma E  11:12I'm not quite so the blade part will look like a pair of scissors essentially where you have a blade, bypassing another blade, but the handles on this are really long and straight. So typically, I'd say at least two feet long, sometimes longer. This is going to give you leverage to make a little bit longer, or a little bit wider cuts I should say. So we're looking at branch diameter of let's say in an inch to inch and a half. Nate Bernitz  11:41You use the word bypass and I've seen printers that are labeled as bypass printers, but I've seen some that aren't. Can you explain the kind of different mechanisms these printers might use to actually physically make cuts and whether you have a preference? Emma E  12:03Yeah, for hand pruners. They come typically in two styles either bypass or anvil. So bypass pruner has an action just like scissors where you're having we have two blades essentially coming together, although in most cases is just one cutting blade. And an anvil style pruner you have a blade that connects with a plate. So instead of those blades going across each other, you have just a single blade connecting with a hard surface so it's more of a pinching action as opposed to a cutting action. Usually, I recommend bypass pruners because they do make cleaner cuts. But Anvil style pruners do have their place. So for pruning evergreens, where you're making a lot of really quick, smaller cuts on branches, Anvil pruners can be nicer just because they are a bit more efficient in the way they cut. And you can really speed up your your pruning time. But if you can only have one pair, then you'll definitely want to have some bypass pruners. Nate Bernitz  13:05Realistically, if you could only have one pruning tool, what would it be? Emma E  13:10If I could only have one, I think I'd choose my pruning saw. A lot of times I will use that my pruning sock exclusively and less branches are getting down to less than half an inch in diameter or so. Nate Bernitz  13:25That's, that's interesting. So you'd go with a pruning saw over hand printers. Emma E  13:29I would, yeah, I would. So they hit him pruners are really, really helpful for very small diameter cuts. So we're saying like half an inch or less, it's probably the most efficient tool for making really nice clean cuts. But for anything bigger than that, then you're looking at maybe loppers, but loppers are only good to a certain extent to probably from half an inch diameter branch to maybe an inch and a half. And anything after that you're using a saw. And of course, the sock can be used for smaller diameter cuts as well. So I think it's probably your most useful tool. And certainly, if you're doing a whole lot of pruning and you want to be really efficient, you're probably going to want that saw rather than switching between a whole bunch of different tools. Nate Bernitz  14:18And supposing that maybe you're not getting all these tools for one birthday or something. Because you really want high quality tools. So maybe as a gardener, you might consider investing in one of these tools a year or something to kind of build up your collection. And I say investing because you do kind of get what you pay for right? Yeah, like you're buying something more quality. It's built to last but then you have to maintain it. Right. So What tips do you have around maintaining these high quality tools so that you really do get what you invested in What's important about that, I think one obvious piece is keeping them sharp. I'm not quite sure how you do that with a saw, but I know you can definitely keep blade sharp. Emma E  15:15With the hand pruners and loppers, you are going to want to keep those blades sharp. And I'll just note too that if you're going to look to buy a quality pair of hand pruners, you're probably going to need to spend at least $30. The best pairs are going to be more like 50 or $60. For loppers, you're again probably looking at minimum 30 or $40. If you want the best then you're looking at closer to 75 or $100. With those tools, it's it's not that hard to maintain them if you keep up with it as the season goes along. The blades on loppers and hand pruners tend to be made out of steel, which will rust if they're left wet or stored wet, which is easy to do when when you've been pruning that sap that that ends on the blades ends up there can cause rusting any other sort of moisture, if you're out on a wet day can cause the blades to rust. So wiping them down after every use was really helpful at least to store them dry. If rust does start to build up, then scrubbing that away I find it useful to use steel wool to scrub rust away and then treat blades with wd 40. To try to prevent remove rust and prevent it from coming back. In terms of sharpening there are you know a bunch of different tools out there that you can buy. But basically what you're going to need is whetstone of some sort. And it's really important to sharpen that blade from back to front at about the same or ideally the same bevel that that cutting edge on that blade is currently at. So basically if you look at the edge of your pruners look at that taper from the flat part of the blade down to the sharp edge and you want to try to maintain that same angle. If you're using your pruners your loppers a lot, you may have to do this a couple times throughout the season or you know periodically every few weeks every month, you might want to be removing rust, oiling, moving parts so that they keep moving, you know smoothly and sharpening. If you don't do a whole lot of pruning, then once a year is probably fine. With pruning saws, most modern saws are really it's really not possible to sharpen them yourself. So in most cases, you can buy a replacement blade. If you've bought a really nice pruning saw from a company that's known for its manufacturing pruning equipment, then you'll be able to buy a replacement blade I found with with my pruning saws, you know this is with with consistent use, they still the blades lasts a few years. So this isn't something you're going to need to constantly replace unless you're doing pruning all day every single day. Nate Bernitz  18:18Gotcha. And I will note that at least the sharpening is a little bit of a challenging concept to convey, just throw it kind of out loud description, but you made a I think a really helpful video at least for sharpening hand printers and we'll have the link to that in the show notes. So check that out. If you're looking for a visualization. We haven't done that for loppers. But maybe we will. Emma E  18:47It's pretty similar. If If you figure out how to sharpen your print your hand pruners, you should be able to sharpen your loppers, by following this the same principles. Nate Bernitz  18:59Okay, then not necessary. So getting into the actual technique of how you use these high quality burning tools that are immaculately maintained and very sharp, because you're keeping them that way. What are the types of cuts that you're going to be making? Right? So we're understanding that not all cuts are equal. You're looking at different types of plants with different objectives in mind, maybe you want to control its shape. Maybe you want it to be nice and dense and full really depends on what you're trying to do. But what are the cuts that you're going to be able to use to achieve some of these different goals? Emma E  19:46What one thing that's really important to understand about plants is that their growth is is directed by plant hormones, as well as environmental factors as well within any tree or shrub, there is one really important plant hormone that's at play. That's called oxygen. And this is produced in green shoot tips and flows downward, which and stimulates shoot growth. So what we see in basically any tree or shrub is a phenomenon that we call atypical dominance, where basically, the atypical buds, so the bud that's at the very end of a branch, and if you look at a branch, it'll be the biggest one is producing oxygen, this plant hormone that suppresses growth of all other buds below it, this is what makes a tree, you know, grow up with a single central leader, if if it has the nicest form, because basically that that bud that's at the peak of a branch is suppressing growth of all the others. So knowing this, that's this is where knowing how pruning cuts are gonna affect a plant comes in. So if we know that the the end bud on a branch is producing this plant hormone oxygen, that's suppressing all the other buds, how we actually go about removing a branch is going to impact how the plant responds. So there are really two different types of pruning cuts that you can make on on any woody plant. One of those is called a thinning cut. The other is called a heading cut. With a thinning cut, what you're basically doing is cutting a branch back to an existing stem or branch. So if you're picturing, let's say, a branch that has one strong stem with an another slightly smaller branch coming off of it, you would be cutting the one branch back to the back to that junction where the other branch comes from that again, this might sound kind of kind of confusing, and we do have some diagrams, and a couple of pruning fact sheets that might be helpful for you to look at. But when you do this, when you cut a branch back to another existing branch or stem cutting, cutting just above it or cutting all the way back to the trunk, basically what you're doing is allowing the remaining branch to assume that atypical dominance or atypical control and so the end bud on that branch is then going to control growth from then on out. This is really essential for controlling growth on young trees. thinning cuts are what you're going to use most of the time, because they're going to help shape the plant without altering its overall size or growth habit. Heading cuts are the other type of cut. And basically what these mean is that you're cutting between nodes. So on a branch, this would mean you were cutting somewhere along the stem between two branches where they come off, or cutting to a very small branch or bud. And basically the reaction here is that many buds break and many new shoots form. So if you've ever seen a branch that just gets just cut off arbitrarily at a point and a whole bunch of new shoots originate just behind that cut, you're looking at a heading cut, and that is the typical response. Nate Bernitz  23:29Why would you make a heading cut? Can you give a couple practical examples. Emma E  23:36Heading cuts are used primarily when you're shearing plants if you're looking to create a lot of really dense growth. So a thinning cut is something you'd use. Really anytime you're pruning a tree or you know majority of shrubs that you're trying to maintain their natural habit. A heading cut is what you're going to use. If you are let's say shearing, a you hedge into let's say a particular shape, or you're you're trimming back and Arbor wajdi and you you're looking for a whole bunch of dense growth the form more of a hedge. shearing is is obviously a very particular application. And really, that's the only time that you're going to be using heading primarily in the landscape. Although I should know that if you are cutting something totally back to the ground in a process that we call coppicing or you're cutting it back to the same point every year, that is also a heading cut. So you're cutting these branches back with the expectation that a whole bunch of new growth is going to arise just below where you made that cut.  Nate Bernitz  24:48so most of the time, we're doing thinning cuts. And yeah, you you brought up that kind of instance where you might be cutting a plant essentially to the ground. stimulate a lot of growth. I think that is a technique that you might use in some instances and not others. It seems really risky. If you don't know much about a plant, you don't really know what you're doing. You cut it to the ground, maybe it's gonna grow back. Or maybe you just killed that plant. So can you talk a little bit more about that technique and when you might use it, and when you wouldn't? Emma E  25:31Yeah, what you said there is important for backing up knowing what the plant or how the plant that you have is supposed to grow. How it naturally grows is so important, critically important if you want your plant to not only perform well, but also look really nice. So doing a little bit of research before you go out and start pruning is really key. In certain cases, you can actually rejuvenate a plant by pretty much entirely cutting it to the ground. And this works for really a subset of shrubs, it's not something that you would typically do with a tree. If the trees coming all the way to the ground, something has seriously gone wrong. But with a lot of shrubs, pruning them to the ground is actually the best way to maintain them. And to keep them looking really nice. great examples of shrubs you can do this with would include forsythia, so the nice yellow flowering bush that we all enjoy in the summer, spy Ria dogwoods. So really any of the shrubby dogwoods will prefer this type of pruning, and willows above, among many others. So again, knowing exactly what the plant you have is, is going to be key to deciding whether that's an appropriate way to prune or not. Nate Bernitz  26:53sometimes, you mentioned storms earlier, you might just have broken branches that need to be removed, is that a type of thinning cut, or is that kind of its own category of cut, where you're cutting basically, right to the trunk. And the whole goal there is just to remove the branch and get a nice kind of stump there, without necessarily stimulating a huge response, you just want it to heal. Emma E  27:21Yeah, so that is a thinning cut. So if you have a branch that's badly broken, you're gonna want to cut it back to the next large healthy branch or all the way back to the trunk. So those are those would both scenarios would be considered thinning cuts. And in many cases, that's that's exactly what you need to do. If you do have a broken limb, I should know that. timing of pruning can be important. But if you have any branch that's broken, diseased, actually, usually I say, dead diseased or damaged. If a branch fits into any any of those three buckets, then it's fine to remove that plant at any time of the year, or sorry, remove that branch at any time of the year. Nate Bernitz  28:05Why is timing important, though? Emma E  28:08That's a good question. So there's a few different things to think about when we consider timing with pruning. First off, for in some cases, plants have specific disease issues or pest issues that might be exacerbated if you prune the plant at the wrong time. A really good example is fireblight, which is a disease of plants that are in the Rose family. So Apple, crab, Apple pear, among others. fireblight infects plants through open wounds. So if you're creating a wound, while that disease is active, you are you are, you know, potentially spreading that disease throughout the plant through your pruning. Whereas if you make if you do your pruning while the plant is dormant, then this is no longer a concern that disease isn't active, you're not going to be spreading it around. The ideal time, in general, to prune the majority of trees and shrubs is in the late dormant seasons. So basically, this means late winter, or early spring. This of course, there are some caveats here. You know, depending on the exact plant you're growing, but in general, if you are pruning during this timeframe, so let's say from March through April, maybe even into May, the plants are just coming out of dormancy or just getting ready to come out of dormancy and enter a period of rapid growth. So if you make a cut in March, and that plant starts growing again, let's say by April, that wound isn't going to be open for very long before the plant starts trying to seal it over. Whereas if you make a cut in sometime in the summer, you might get a little bit of growth. To seal over that wound, but maybe not a lot in the fall, you're probably not going to get much at all. And any growth that does start is likely going to get killed by winter temperatures that that new growth won't have hardened off in time. So you're more likely to get die back at the site of pruning wound. If you are doing your pruning in the fall or early in the winter. Nate Bernitz  30:23I'm not trying to call anybody out. But honestly, the time of year I see most people pruning trees and shrubs is the fall, is that something you've noticed, too? And why is that? Emma E  30:33it is and I think there's a pretty simple explanation for it. It's much easier to prune trees and shrubs when their leaves have dropped off of them. And so when the leaves come off in the fall, you can easily see that branch structure and it, it seems like a good time to go ahead and get more yard work done, because you might already be outside raking leaves, putting putting the garden to bed. But if you can hold off and do that in the spring, your plants are going to be much better served. And you still have the benefit of being able to see that branch structure without any leaves obstructing anything. Nate Bernitz  31:09early spring can be a kind of challenging time, logistically because there may be snow on the ground. And if there isn't, the ground is probably sopping wet. Maybe it's raining, as it often does at that time of year. So it's not the most intuitive time to be out there spending a lot of time in the yard, but you're saying it's definitely worth it. Emma E  31:28It is. And if you only have a couple of plants that need to be pruned, you can wait until the ground is totally thought and dried, just before the leaves start to break on that plant, where people really need to get started early as if they have, let's say a commercial orchard and they have hundreds if not 1000s of plants that need to be pruned. So they're going to be out there in all conditions. But for just the backyard. I see no problem with waiting until the end of April to do your pruning. Nate Bernitz  31:59And that's for New Hampshire. Emma E  32:01That's for New Hampshire. Yeah, pruning time is going to vary a bit depending on where you live. But if you're in the northeast, you'll probably be able to do most of your pruning sometime in you know, late February, March or April. Nate Bernitz  32:15I guess my other theory about why sometimes or often people are pruning in the fall, in addition to what you said, is I think a lot of people think of pruning as just a way of controlling a plant. So it's spent all growing season growing. And at the end of the season, you're like, Oh, I don't want it growing there. And there. It's too big. It's unwieldy. So I'm going to cut it back. And I think your message is that burning is really not about directly controlling a plant, it's there's a little bit more to it than that you have to understand how a plant is going to actually respond to cuts, rather than just trying to cut it to the exact shape that you want it to be. Emma E  32:59That's exactly right. Yeah, I couldn't have said it better. And trying to control the size of a plant is really difficult to do through pruning, when a plant is has branches that are hitting the house that are coming up near a power line, it becomes really hard to control the size of that plant and have it still look really good. So it's important to if you are going to plant something, let's say a brand new tree or shrub, that you've done your homework and you know that that plant is going to fit the size that you have our size space that you have for it so that you aren't constantly fighting it with pruning. Nate Bernitz  33:39So when you are making cuts, should you be doing that at a particular angle? Emma E  33:44Yeah, that is true. So again, this is a little hard to describe. So looking again at our pruning factsheets is going to be really helpful. But when you are looking at a tree, let's say when you're looking at the way a branch connects to the trunk, there are a couple of features that you should be able to see that are going to tell you exactly where you need to make your cut. And these features are called the branch color and the branch bark ridge. Now, what are these look like? Ideally, you know if the if it's going to be a plant that that has these pretty clearly that branch color is going to look like kind of like an area of raised tissue that's on the upper side of the branch where it connects to the trunk. The branch collar or sorry, that's the branch bark ridge. The branch collar is a swollen area of tissue that you'll see often beneath that branch where it connects. And so there's these two things this branch color and this branch bark ridge. If you see one or both of those you'll have a better idea of how to make your cut. This, this is how it goes. So basically, if you see that branch collar, that swollen area of tissue, you want to make your cut at basically the same angle of that swollen tissue so that you're not cutting into it, you're cutting just outside of it. And if you just see that branch bark Ridge, so that raised bit of bark that's on the upper side of where the branch connects, then you'll want to make that cut at about the same angle, that that branch bark Ridge connects with the trunk. Now again, yeah, really hard to try to picture. But this is important. Because within that branch collar area, is a ring of cells that's called rather, it's it's called wound wood. And so this tissue that's inside that branch collar, is actually what's going to help seal over a wound. So if you disrupt that, you're gonna be basically eliminating the trees ability or shrubs ability to seal over that wound. Nate Bernitz  36:03So what happens if you cut at a different angle, so when I think of angles, I kind of think of you can either cut sort of flush, you can cut in or you can cut out, this may not be true, this is just how I'm thinking about it. So correct me where I'm getting it wrong. But I would think that the angle you would cut out would maybe dictate how the plant would respond, if it would send out, you know, new branches in a certain direction potentially. Help Help me understand and and by the way, I would know you're a great Illustrator. And one of the fact sheets that that you mentioned that this kind of basics of pruning trees and shrubs. factsheet in the show notes, has some illustrations that you did that are really helpful, I should take another look at the myself. Emma E  36:52Yes, do take a look at those. So the important thing and all this that in the angle of a cut is really just trying to preserve that tissue that's inside of that branch collar that is going to be responsible for sealing over a wound. Years and years ago, decades ago, the recommendation was always to make a flush cut, which basically means cutting the branch off as close as you possibly can to the attaching trunk. The problem there is that if you remove that ring of cells that that wound would that that wound is less likely to seal over. So basically what trees do, they they're not capable of healing an injured tissue like we are, they're basically capable of just sealing it over. So that's what they'll do with a wound. If you ever look at, you know, go outside and look at a tree in the woods, or one that's been pruned in your landscape and look for those cuts where they are made. If it was a good cut, then you'll see this basically ring of new growth that formed over that cut until there might be just the slightest dimple in the center, it's fairly easy to see. But if you cut flush, or if you cut into that branch color and wound wood of the tree, you might only be seeing new growth from one side of that wound. And the other part is just a you know a gaping wound that never seals over or it takes years and years for that wound to seal over for growth from just one side or maybe two sides to totally covered over. But this is this is important. And the smaller you can cut a branch or the smaller the branches that you cut, the more likely it is for that that tree or shrub to be able to totally seal over that wound. If you're making a very large cut, let's say on a mature tree that that wasn't pruned when it was younger, then a lot of times those wounds don't seal over entirely, or it takes so long that a lot of decay occurs in that wound before the plant can totally seal it over. So this is why it's so critical to prune trees, especially when when they're very small and very young and not waiting until they get very large and become an issue. Nate Bernitz  39:13Okay, well, thanks for setting me straight. That actually does make sense. I'm wondering though, if you maybe just don't make the cut kind of in a textbook way. Someone may not totally be following your advice, and then they're wondering, okay, how do I make sure that this tree or shrub heals properly? Can you just use some sort of product? I see a lot of these products that are there to help trees and shrubs, heal wounds, or maybe some sort of paint or sealant something that you're applying to that wound to cover it up is is that kind of an acceptable alternative? Or how do you look at those products? Emma E  40:00Yeah, it's kind of incredible to me that these products are still on the market. Because we've we've known for a number of decades now that these really aren't in the best interest of plants. And they can actually impede wound sealing over and encourage the growth of rot organisms and insect infestation. Because what these are going to do, so if we're talking about some sort of tar, or pruning sealer, or wound paint, what that's going to do is actually seal in moisture and potentially decay, creating the perfect environment for the K to occur for fungal organisms to break down that tissue. Instead, if you leave that wound open to the air, it's gonna end up sealing over much better. And, you know, this kind of makes sense when you figure that trees have developed effective mechanisms for this on their own. You know, trees in the forest don't have humans intervening trying to help them seal over their wounds. Because like I said before, unlike people or animals, woody plants aren't going to heal their damaged tissues. And though a bandage might be really helpful for us, that's really not helpful for a tree at all. So I would skip those products. And by the same token, if you have a hole in a tree, where an old wound did did allow some decay, to get in, maybe the interior of a tree is starting to break down. You also don't need to fill that in with anything, so no need to fill trees with cement. It's not helping the tree on a tree or a shrub, the only part of it that's actually living when you're looking at a branch or a stem is just a very thin layer of cells. It's called the cambium. So that vascular tissue that's right beneath the bark, the interior where all the wood is on the inside. That's not living cells. So plants can survive, even if their trunks are totally hollow, or trees can survive, I should say. Nate Bernitz  42:09That's amazing. And it makes me wonder what other kinds of products are out there that claim to do one thing and in effects kind of undermine that very purpose. But I guess that's for another episode. Spring is a time when a lot of people are bringing home young trees and shrubs. It's really just not financially feasible, in most cases to buy mature trees and shrubs just really expensive, because it took many years of growing them to get to that size. So we're often bringing home fairly young plants. And you mentioned earlier, how important training is for kind of getting these trees and shrubs off on the right foot. Can you I guess expand on that talk more about the principles of training? Is there more to it than certain types of pruning cuts are we also talking about staking and other techniques here? Emma E  43:24there's a little bit more to it. Usually when you are planting a brand new tree or shrub, you shouldn't have to do too much pruning right away. The only thing that I only things that I would be removing potentially would be broken branches, or any branches that are crossing right on top of one another or rubbing against one another. But if you if you're getting quality plants from the nursery, these features probably aren't going to be noticeable are really there. To begin with. What you are going to be looking for, let's say in trees is a nice even branch distribution around the trunk. So ideally, you should have branches that are coming off on all sides. So if you were to look at that plant from above, the branches coming off would look like spokes on a wheel versus all the branches coming off of one side of the plant. If if that is happening, if all the branches are pretty much clustered on one side, then you may want to remove some of those branches, which should in turn, stimulate or release some bud growth on the other side of the plant. It's also important to note to on young trees, that a lot of the branches near the base aren't going to be permanent. So don't get too stressed out about branches that are only two or three feet off the ground. If they aren't perfect or if they're too low. These are going to be removed eventually over the course of that plant's life. So leaving some of those on initially is totally Fine. One other thing you're gonna want to look for on trees is the actual angle that the branches are attached to the main trunk. What you're looking for a really eye, ideally, you're looking at a 60 degree angle or so would be absolutely perfect. So you know, pull out your protractor and see what that looks like. But that that's kind of the ideal attachment angle for the majority of trees. And the reason for that is that when branches are held at that angle, they tend to be pretty productive. So if it's a plant, or a tree, that flowers you should see plenty of flowers, maybe some fruit development there. And branches that angle are also structurally sound. If the branch angle is really, really narrow, let's let's say it's 20%. If any stress is put on that limb, it's more likely to break away from the main trunk. So this is where snow and ice really come into the picture and why trees that naturally tend to have very narrow crotch angles tend to break more. classic example is calorie pear or Bradford pear. These are ornamental pear trees that are planted really commonly on in around homes along streets. But these are really prone to splitting from ice or snow damage. Because those those angles are so narrow, they're very, very likely to break away. Nate Bernitz  46:35So it sounds like at least in year one, you're not doing a heck of a lot. And really the training starts kind of the following year. I bet for a lot of gardeners, it's that following year, when you kind of stopped thinking about that plan, you think a lot about it when you first plant it, and right when you're supposed to really be doing this work of training it to get to the adult form that you want and to be a healthy plant for the long term. That's when it's kind of out of mind. To what extent does the way you train and prune trees and shrubs depend on what it is? At least for me, I'm thinking about some kind of broader categories, I think about our evergreens, plants that that keep their, their needles leaves all year, I think of kind of flowering trees as maybe their own category, although there may be categories within that. I think about hydrangeas as kind of being their own category there. There are lots of different groupings, I would think. So how do you go about, at least understanding this at a basic level, of course, we're not going to go into detail on the exact specifications for how to burn all of these different plants today. But hopefully, you can explain the basics of how to categorize them and basic considerations as well as how to actually learn more. Emma E  48:04When I think about pruning different types of plants, I'm not so much thinking I need to change my technique as I do my approach with evergreen needle trees. Those are plants that I really don't do much pruning on at all in the landscape. And honestly, if if an evergreen tree has been planted in the right location in a landscape, it really shouldn't need much. plants like pines, spruces, hemlocks, have very strong apical dominance. So they'll naturally have that nice conical shape and should have just at one central leader, so you really shouldn't need to do any formative pruning early on in that plant's life, the only thing you might need to do, if there's some sort of damage to that plant, then you might need to get in and do a bit of training. But otherwise, I just kind of want to gloss over those for now. So your evergreen trees leave those alone, they really aren't going to need much in the way of pruning. It gets a little different though, if we're talking about needled evergreen shrubs. These sometimes do require a little bit of shaping to get them to fit a location to give you the design aesthetic you're looking for. So I'm thinking of right now junipers use maybe Arbor wajdi, camera Cypress. The deal with these plants is that some of them will produce new growth from the brown areas in the STEM, the areas where there aren't any living branches coming off, some of them won't. So you need to know specifically what type of plant you have. And then how it's going to respond to those pruning cuts. So for example, if I have, let's say, a you, I could prune that shrub really, really hard, meaning I could cut a branch back basically to a stub where it Have a brown stick leftover. And typically I will get some new growth coming out below that cut. But if I do that same thing to a Juniper, it's unlikely that there's going to be any new growth. So if I'm trying to prune that plant a little bit, I do not want to prune any further back, then I don't want to prune past the point basically, where there are some some green living needle branches. Additionally, with these shrubs, you typically don't want to remove all of the new growth, you can shorten it. If you're doing some shearing, which again, I don't really recommend, you could remove an entire branch if you need to. With a thinning cut, that's going to be acceptable as well. But you don't want to entirely denude it removing all of the new growth all at once. You have to account for, you know, evergreen shrubs, so needle evergreen shrubs getting bigger over time as well. They're, they're gonna continue to grow. And you do need to allow some of that growth to be there. And in terms of timing for those plants. I'm thinking early summer, you know, right after the growth flush. Again, pines are a little different. With pines, you're actually pruning back candles so that that new growth that comes out, before the needles expand, you can you can shorten that growth. But that has to be done in a very specific time in the growing season. And if you prune too late, you could really end up damaging your plant. So research, research, research or reach out to you and H extension, if you have a question about pruning a specific evergreen. So, the other group of plants, of course we're talking about are deciduous plants with deciduous trees. There really aren't any particular things that I'm thinking of, I'm just paying attention to the timing of pruning. So even if it's a flowering tree, I am going to prune in the late dormant season. So I am going to prune in February, March maybe into early April. With deciduous shrubs, then I'm thinking of a couple of different things, right. So I'm thinking of blooming time on these plants. And I'm also thinking about what sort of pruning they will tolerate. So there are a couple different approaches with shrubs. In terms of pruning, there are some that will create, let's say, three, four or five main stems. And you're pretty much just going to leave those stems alone, you're just going to work on shaping that plant selecting branches here and there, maybe removing some that are crossing and rubbing but the main architecture of that shrub you're going to leave alone. I'm thinking let's say of a Korean spice viburnum, I am going to leave that the main trunks alone, those are integral to the structure of the plant, I'm just going to be playing around with some of the smaller branches that arise from those removing some shortening some with other shrubs, so you can cut them pretty much entirely to the ground in order to rejuvenate them. So this, this really include shrubs that have more of a suckering habit, if you will. So forsythia fits into this group. Certainly things like spy Ria, like ninebark, where you can go in and actually prune these plants right to the ground, and they're going to come right back. Or you can do more of a a staged approach, where you remove, let's say, a third of the oldest stems in the first year, half of the remaining old stems The next year, and then in the third year, you're going to remove the final batch of old stems, that's going to be a little bit less stressful for the plant than cutting it entirely to the ground. But those are kind of your two options for rejuvenating things. That's the approach I would take with lilacs for example, right be removing some of those oldest stems about a third that first year, half the next year, the remaining half the final final year. And I'm going to get a whole bunch of new shoots when I do that. And I'm just going to be thinning out the ones that are very small so the ones that are pencil are less than a pencil with in diameter are very, very close because a lot of times they do this you get a whole bunch of new shoots and then you do need to go in and send those out a bit. But it's a lot easier with with shrubs like that, that you can entirely cut back. But like I like I said with the needle evergreens, do a bit of research on exactly what type of shrub you have, and how it can be pruned so that you get the best possible response from that plant. Nate Bernitz  54:59So the Spring flowering trees and shrubs, those are kind of the exception. You're pruning pretty much all of these trees and shrubs and sort of late winter, early spring, except for plants that are actually blooming in the spring. Because if you're doing that you're just cutting off your flower buds. Right? Is that fair to say that they're the exception? Emma E  55:22That's exactly right. Yeah, especially for Spring Boot spring blooming shrubs, if you prune in the spring, before they start flowering, you're just removing those flower buds. So if you prune right after they've finished, then you're still gonna have a, you will have still gotten to enjoy that bloom. And you're gonna have a new crop of flower buds for next year. Nate Bernitz  55:41Emma, how do you help people from getting overwhelmed by pruning, there's so much information, I know that you could talk honestly for hours about the subject. Because there's so many details, so many considerations. But for anyone that is feeling overwhelmed, wondering, if I don't understand all this stuff, should I just not burn it all? Am I gonna make a mistake? How do you help people kind of ease into parenting, understanding that, yeah, you don't need to know every fact about parenting. To do it, they're just maybe a few basic things to know to at least get started. Emma E  56:17Yeah, pruning can be incredibly intimidating. And I have to say, when I first started, I was really, really nervous that if I cut the wrong thing, I was going to ruin a plant forever, I was going to totally destroy the way it looked maybe damage its health. But really, when it comes down to it, plants are incredibly resilient, if they're healthy, and as long as you aren't removing more than a third of the growth of that plant, or really of its of its total total mass, that it's gonna be okay. And there are few pruning cuts, if you've at least made a cut with with good technique, rarely is a plant beyond salvage. So, you know, there There are, of course, you know, really great pruning cuts, and there are some that that aren't so great. But rarely is there, you know, a total disaster situation. So even if you maybe didn't prune a shrub quite the way you should have or even if you're you're dealing with a young tree that you're trying to prune for the first time, that plant is going to produce new growth, and you are often going to get a second chance to prune it, you know, maybe in a more effective manner or a more attractive manner. That's better for the plant's health. So don't freak out, I guess, if you're really nervous, I'd say start with just removing branches that you're confident about. So go through and remove everything, that's, as I said, dead diseased or damaged. And then you can start looking for branches that are crossing or rubbing against one another. And once you've done all that, it's possible, you will have done everything that you needed to do. And you might just want to walk away at that point. Or if you're feeling a little bit more confident, then you can start to look at the actual branch structure within a plant and start to play around a bit with with making those cuts. Nate Bernitz  58:23And for you, you have this background of working at public gardens, Botanic Gardens. And you've just spent so much time around plants that look exactly how they're supposed to look, which gives you, I think, a really big leg up. Because when you look at these plants, you can see what it looks like. But you also know what it can look like. And so that gives you a leg up and manipulating its structure. Is it fair to say that, that's kind of a big part of burning is just knowing what plants can look like what they do look like when they're healthy and well maintained. And maybe the way to do that is to spend time at really well taken care of gardens. Emma E  59:08I think that that's true. Knowing what a plant looks like, at maturity, when it's been really well cared for and well pruned is is really helpful to know, it's not absolutely essential, but it is helpful. So if you can visit a botanical garden or you know another, you know, public garden space where plants have been really well cared for. It's not only going to give you ideas on what to plant, but also give you a sense of how that plant grows naturally. And, you know, you might might want to take a few pictures, jot some notes. And of course, you know, never hesitate to reach out to people that have more pruning expertise. Like me. Happy to answer your questions. Nate Bernitz  59:56Yeah, that's a good point. We're from UNH extension and anyone in New Hampshire, please don't hesitate to reach out to us you can actually email us pictures of the trees and shrubs that you're looking at ask for advice. We can maybe even annotate and point out some recommended places where we would cut or at least kind of give you the basics and weigh in on your situation. And whatever state you're from actually use your Cooperative Extension Service they, they're here to help and the Master Gardeners in your state are here to help as well. Emma E  1:00:30This episode's featured plant is witch hazel specifically Vernal witch, Hamamelis vernalis. Vernal witchhazel is a deciduous shrub that grows six to 10 feet tall and about eight to 15 feet wide. It's native to southern and central portions of the United States and hardy to zone four. Unlike common witch hazel, Hamamelis virginiana, which grows in the wild in New Hampshire and blooms in the fall. Vernal witchhazel blooms in late winter from late February to April depending on location, and it's potentially one of the earliest blooms in the landscape. Often alongside snowdrops. The blooms on Vernal witchhazel are spider like with four strap like pedals that range from pale yellow to reddish purple depending on the plant. The leaves are also really attractive with golden yellow fall color. If you have a good quality garden soil in your landscape that is well drained, organically rich and consistently moist. Vernal witchhazel could be the plant for you. As long as it's grown in full sun, you will definitely be enjoying winter blooms. fertile witch hazel would be one of my picks for a shrub border, woodland garden screen, rain garden or specimen plant. Check out your local nursery this spring for Vernal witchhazel. As always, I'd like to share a closing tip, this time on staking trees. New trees sometimes need stakes to hold them firmly in the soil until their roots become established. container or bare root trees may shift in the wind and could benefit from some temporary support. Note I said temporary. Large bald or burlap trees often don't need stakes because their root balls are heavy enough to prevent movement during moderately windy weather. However, smaller containerized trees might need a little bit of support to keep them from shifting until their roots are established. So if you think you need steaks for your new tree planting, you have a couple of options. The first is to drive three short steaks into the undisturbed soil around the tree and attach them to the trunk with a stretchable material. There are ties made just for this purpose that you should look at purchasing and using. Don't use garden hose and wire. These can actually girdle trees. If you use this standard system, make sure to remove the stakes a year from planting to avoid girdling the trunk and to promote structural strength of the trunk which comes from the tree being able to move just a little bit in the wind. Another option is to drive two or three wooden stakes into the soil against the side of the root ball. driving those stakes deep enough to be more or less level with the soil. This system does not require ties and the stakes do not need to be removed and will rot in place. This might actually be my preference. So staking trees can be a good thing in some cases. Just make sure if you're using Ties and More of a traditional system that you only keep those stakes in place for about a year. Nate Bernitz  1:04:14I really appreciate this time, Emma, this this has. This has been great. It's not a full class or anything on parenting. I mean, really, you need the visuals you need the hands on experience. But hopefully this is a good foundation for folks. We have some useful links in the show notes that I recommend checking out. Hopefully we'll get back soon to being able to do in person demonstrations of burning as well and as a fantastic teacher and once this pandemic is over with and we can get together safely. You'll definitely want to check out one of Emma's pruning demonstrations that she does in various parts of the state in the spring but this year has been an episode of Granite State gardening on ornamental pruning. We'll be back with future episodes on pruning, fruiting trees and shrubs. As we're getting into the spring here, we're going to do a lot more topics around, getting ready for a successful year and the garden, the orchard the landscape. That's what we're doing here. We're trying to set you up for success in your home garden and landscape. We welcome your feedback, your comments, your suggestions, you can email me and I at GSG dot pod@unh.edu. We'd also appreciate your reviews. If you're listening on Apple podcasts, you can give us a five star review. We'd really appreciate it and anyone who's listening you can definitely share Granite State gardening with other gardeners and friends in your life that you think would benefit from listening to the podcast. Thanks for tuning in to Granite State gardening. Until next time, keep on growing and printing Granite State gardeners we'll see you next time. Granite State gardening is a production of University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension and equal opportunity educator and employer views expressed on this podcast are not necessarily those of the universities, its trustees or its volunteers. inclusion or exclusion of commercial products on this podcast does not imply endorsement. The University of New Hampshire US Department of Agriculture and New Hampshire counties cooperate to provide extension programming in the Granite State learn more@extension.unh.edu
Mar 5 2021
1 hr 6 mins
Foliage Houseplants, Fertilizing, Cleaning Leaves, Aphids & ZZ Plant
Houseplants are as popular as ever right now, with many people spending a lot more time at home and craving the warmth and natural touches plants bring. Sometimes, us houseplant enthusiasts can even go a little overboard, bringing too many plants home and sometimes giving those plants a little too much TLC.In this episode of Granite State Gardening, Lake Street Garden Center greenhouse manager Nichole Keyes joins UNH Extension’s Emma Erler and Nate Bernitz to exchange tips for choosing the right houseplants for your home and helping your indoor garden thrive. They also get into their personal favorites, houseplant shopping tips and predictions for popular houseplants in 2021. Featured question: fertilizing houseplants Featured plant: ZZ plant (Zamioculcas zamiifolia) Closing tip: Cleaning houseplant leaves IPM tip: Controlling aphidsConnect with us at @askunhextension on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and subscribe to the monthly Granite State Gardening newsletter. Email us questions, suggestions and feedback at gsg.pod@unh.eduBackground reading:UNH Extension’s houseplant resources: https://extension.unh.edu/tags/house-plantsLake Street Garden Center: https://www.lakestreet.com/TRANSCRIPTNate B  0:00  Welcome to the Granite State gardening podcast from UNH Cooperative Extension. On today's show, Emma and I speak with Nicole Keyes, the greenhouse manager at Lake St. garden center in Salem, New Hampshire. Our conversation is wide ranging, including assessing your home's growing conditions, best growing practices, how to be a smart shopper, personal favorites and predictions for hot foliage houseplants and 2021. By the end of this episode, I guarantee you'll be inspired to grow some new plants because Emma and Nicole's enthusiasm and knowledge just rubs off. And y'all have a few new tips and tricks for your next house plant shopping outing to your favorite local garden center.Greetings, Granite State gardeners. I'm Nate bernitz joined as always by horticulturist and UNH extension field specialist, Emma Erler. And today by Nichole keyes.Nicole, I'm excited to hear some industry insider knowledge from you today. But I'd love to start by getting to know you. Tell us a little bit about yourself.Nicole K  1:14  I work at Lake Street garden center in Salem, New Hampshire. It's a small family owned business. It's been open since the 70s. I'm born and raised from Salem. So I used to go there with my grandfather, like as a child walking through the greenhouses. And when I was old enough to work he he knew the owner pretty well and kind of like gave me a little push and was like go ask for a job. Because I knew I was interested in plants and I love the outdoors. And I'm definitely a nature girl. So I started as a cashier there and just I didn't even know the difference between a Petunia and a philodendron. Back then just being there and and starting to learn I really my passion kind of developed. I've been there 18 years on and off through my life. So it's been a pretty cool journey. It's it's pretty unique that to be a part of still like family run business. Nate B  2:10  Well, I know Emma shares your passion for scientific names for for the Latin. So let's start there. Why is that important?Emma E  2:20  Well, I guess I'll say it's, it's really important because common names can be misleading. It can be misguiding there. In many cases, there are multiple different common names that can be applied to the same plant. And in some cases, two different plants will have the same common name. So if you're using the Latin name, you're being as precise as you can possibly be. And any gardener, any botanist that you're talking to, is going to know exactly which plant you're speaking of and use that Latin name versus a common name. Because to a certain extent that can really be regional as well with what people will call a certain plant. Nate B  3:01  Nicole, do you find that customers sometimes come in and they're asking about one plant, but maybe thinking of another? Or like really kind of actually practical examples where this really comes into play? Nicole K  3:15  Absolutely. I think it's something I deal with on a regular basis and echo everything that Emma said, it's a lot easier for me, when a customer comes in knowing what plant plant they they're, that they're referring to. And like I've noticed, too, that with the trends online today, and like there's a lot of online sales going on all over the internet, and a lot of people are making up common names or coming up with cooler more funky names for plants and customers will come in like, do you have devils IV, and I'm like, what's a devil's IV and it's 1000 I've never heard it called Devil's IV in my life. And so like Google's my best friend today, when it comes to that, I have to do a lot of research online to kind of keep up with the trends and also to be able to educate the customer when we do figure out what they're referring to, you know that the scientific name of the plant and and I've noticed to a lot of the clientele that we have come in, they really do want to know you know, they they want to learn they want to learn the actual names of the plants and and there's this just this huge interest in foliage and houseplants in general. That's up and coming. It's just it's I'm excited to see it happen because it's you know, it's what I love.Nate B  4:48  So when someone is asking about something like Devil's Ivy, is it that that's just a pure rebranding of something that's otherwise actually a pretty common plant or Might that sometimes be referring to a new cultivars? Or is it some of both depending on the situation, Nicole K  5:07  it can definitely be both. There's, there's a lot of new varieties, you know, plants are getting hybridized. And, and all the time. And so I'm find myself like I have to keep up with the different varieties of plants that are being sold and marketed and, and branding to is, is a huge thing. Because a plant that might be called like there's, there's a brand there like Angel plants and it's a trademark and customer will come in looking for that Angel plants, when really it could be a host of all different types of terrarium plants and indoor foliage that are sold in these little cube pots by one company. And they call them a certain thing like exotic angels and, and so I have to kind of differentiate too. And it happens not just with houseplants either like in the spring, it when we buy things in, there's tags in these plants from all different sources and companies. And if they're not read note that they don't know how to read the plant tag properly, they can think that they're calling the plant what it is when actually it's it's a trademark or a brand of the plant.Nate B  6:32  Is there any standardization to what's on those labels?Nicole K  6:37  Usually, they all look different. But most of the time the Latin name of the plant is down at the bottom of the tag. And of course, the brand or company will be in big, beautiful, bold letters across the top of it above the picture. So a lot of the times you have to and sometimes even on the back, you have to flip it over. And then when the lettering at the bottom, it says you know the the true Latin name of the plant. So yes,Nate B  7:06  so we've got these really specific plants science, scientific name, genus species. But if we take a step back Emma, what do you see as the broad categories within foliage house plants?Emma E  7:20  Gosh, you know what? A good question. I mean, broad categories, I'd say First off, I mean, you have vining plants. So perhaps somebody who's looking for something that's trailing, that has, you know, long stems, not necessarily twining, but something that that would have more of a drooping characteristic. Then you also have, you know, a whole broad variety of different foliage types, and different plants within those categories. So for example, I would probably include ferns in foliage plants and ferns are a class their own, then you've got a whole variety of different tropicals that have different needs. So there's a whole bunch of different really cool house plants that are in this foliage plant group that are in the Aram family arrowheads. So that's one group. And then you've got poms, like I mentioned, or actually, I didn't mention palms before, but you got palms and you've got all sorts of other interesting tropicals. Outside of that, too, I mean, you could probably be considering some of the other flowering plants in this foliage plant group as well. Some orchids have really beautiful foliage, and they're grown expressly for their foliage. And some of the bromeliads too, are grown just for their foliage. We're unlikely oftentimes to actually get blooms on them indoors in our homes, but they can be really lovely. So foliage house plants, that's really an artificial distinction that we're making. Right? Maybe it's an industry distinction. It's certainly not an academic distinction. It's, I think, referring to plants that are sold primarily for their foliage, as opposed to some other characteristic. Is that how you see it, Nicole? Nicole K  9:07  Yeah, I mean, it. My greenhouse at this point in time is kind of split between two we have foliage plants, which are mostly, I mean, nowadays, they're not just green. foliage plants come in a host of beautiful colors, which is really cool. But blooming and non blooming or foliage. plants is kind of like how I would generalize it. Emma E  9:36  Yeah, and I guess what I would probably separate out there to are the succulents because it's, they're different. Totally different needs in many cases. And I think in some regards, succulents are maybe waning slightly in popularity, just because a lot of people don't have the growing conditions they need in their homes in order to be able to grow them successful.Nicole K  10:00  Fully, I agree with that. I separate them entirely from everything else in the greenhouse because they, they do need full direct beating sunlight and to be run really dry. And a lot of the times customers will see pictures on Pinterest or in magazines with these beautiful succulent dish gardens like sitting in the corner of a bathroom or in the middle of a living room on a coffee table in these really impractical situations thinking that they can do that too. And I have to be the bearer of bad news. But I can make other suggestions. But um, but yeah, I I've seen a spike in popularity in low light foliage plants and a little bit of a decline when it comes to cactus and succulents. Nate B  10:53  Well, you can't necessarily blame people because if you go into a store, maybe it's a big box store or something else. And they have succulents that are out for display and for sale in growing conditions that wouldn't support them long term, you might think, okay, like you can grow them anywhere there with all these other plants. I mean, you would have a better insight or perspective on this. But I suppose you can have any plant in sub optimal growing conditions for some period of time, but eventually they need to be put into more optimal growing conditions.Nicole K  11:31  Yes, yeah. And and yeah, I don't I don't blame the masses. Certainly not. There's so much false advertising out there. I consider myself somewhat of a plant advocate. I would say that, in regards to placing plants in areas where it might not be optimal for them, plants are super resilient. And a lot of the times they'll struggle for a long time before you can actually kill a plant. So there will be signs and symptoms that come up. But for a good while when you get a plant home, it's not going to really tell you yet if it if it needs to be somewhere else. Emma E  12:25  I think what the you know why people are so interested in say succulents and cacti is just because they're so different from anything you'd see growing in the wild in New Hampshire. And they're really unique, interesting forms. When I first got really interested in plants as a little kid, that's exactly what I wanted to grow. I had a whole bunch of cacti, I had some Jade plants, one of which I still have. And yeah, I was lucky in that my parents, at least at their house had a really bright south facing picture window that I was able to keep my plants in and actually a little greenhouse where things could be in the summertime as well. So I feel like it's almost more of a refinement, I guess, for me to be branching out and looking at some more of these some different plants and focusing more on foliage instead of just really interesting forms that succulents have.Nate B  13:22  So you've both talked about how there's this trend towards, quote unquote, low light plants. Let's talk about low light. Are there any plants that actually thrive in low light? Or is it more of a tolerance and what is meant by low light is low light, just meaning that it's not direct sun? Does low light mean that it can be in a dark corner of a room? What is the distinction between these plants that tolerate or thrive in low light, whatever you say there, versus a plant that has higher light requirements.Nicole K  13:59  I described this all the time at my job because it's a really it's a, there's a lot of confusion around low light, bright, light, direct light, indirect light. And and so the way I usually describe it is plants that thrive in lower light don't necessarily need to be up against a window or in necessarily a brightly lit room. There aren't really any plants that are going to thrive in no light at all, but certain plants like Sansa various snake plant, some philodendrons poffo there's there's quite a few foliage type plants that will do well in the corner of a room or set into the middle of a room that may only have one or two windows and not get sun beating in bright light, in my opinion would be still indirect so not where the sun beets in in warms the area, but a room that's lit up throughout the day from natural light. So there are other types of plants that sometimes get confused with lower light plants but do need more indirect bright light, especially flowering houseplants like begonias or orchids, bromeliads, some types of older plants, like ponytail, palms and shift flera. And sometimes some of those plants can tolerate a broad scale of of that without really showing you, you know that it's too unhappy. SoNate B  15:43  how do you help people evaluate their growing spaces and understand where something fits in like, someone is looking at a north facing window, and they just don't know like, is this good for low light, am I getting more than what I need here, or a corner of the room that sometimes they just kind of walk by, and notice that it's lit up, but it's not like they're standing there with a timer, kind of keeping track of exactly how much light it's getting? Is, are there some other pointers that you might have for evaluating the amount of light a particular space gets?Nicole K  16:22  Yeah, so I'm, I'm kind of a quirky person. So I have these little phrases that I use sometimes. Because a customer will often think that they have full sun in their house, when really, it's just a lot of bright, indirect light. So in differentiating that, I will usually use this phrase of where the kitty would lay, like, where the sun actually beats in that little spot on the floor where it heats up. And I'll say that directly, because people understand that, you know, they can picture that one spot where like the kitty would snuggle. So, I use that oftentimes, and it works pretty well. Or I try to stray away from the directional usage is far as evaluating I mean, it is a good rule of thumb. But most of the time, people don't really know which side of their house is north and south. And unless you sit with a compass and figure it all out, I'm more of a visual learner myself. And so I'll I'll prompt them with questions, you know, between 10 and two is really the most intense part of the day in regards to sunshine. So if they have a window that's lit up until only about, say, 10 or 11 o'clock, in my opinion, that's morning sun that's bright, indirect light. So I kind of use time references with them. And and what it looks like in that room around that time to try and make suggestions of what plants might do well there.Emma E  17:57  I'll say to that, very few plants in my collection, would actually show signs of stress or injury from being closer to a window than I have them. I mean, certainly cold in the wintertime can be an issue with having if you have a drafty window, but in terms of light exposure itself, even my plants that will tolerate low light, are usually happier if I can have them closer to the window as opposed to further away. Probably the only real exception I'd say here is for things that that really like a lower light situation. I'm thinking of say like ferns, I probably wouldn't put my ferns in a really dark place or sorry, in a really bright place like a southern facing window, where it would get really warm. But other than that, oftentimes when I moved my other house plants outdoors in the summer, yeah, like today on their summer vacations.Nicole K  18:55  Windows Sun is lower in the winter than it is in the summer. So if you if you get all these foliage plants in the winter, or you're you know, you're exploring houseplants for the first time, say now and you have these plants in an area just like you said, the sun's actually going to change as to where the intensity is in your house. And so your plants might need to move around in the in the summer and take a little vacation. I like how you put that. My I have a big window in the kitchen, where I have all my little succulents and then they have to go over into the living room in the summer because the sun is totally different. And those two spots,Nate B  19:39  do different house plants have different temperature requirements, or are pretty much all that plants sold and advertised as house plants going to tolerate general and typical household temperatures.Nicole K  19:53  I find that temperature really only is an issue below. See 55 degrees, most plants 55 and up unless it's a you have woodstove, really hot, dry house. If there's a vent, a heat vent blowing in a certain area, those are types of temperatures that are more extreme that could negatively affect the plants that you have there. And then they're also on the other end, there are certain plants that through fall in winter, do like a cooler period, like flowering cyclamen is a big popular flowering plants for Christmas time. And they actually prefer cool temperatures are like a drafty window. And especially at night, they they like to be about 10 degrees cooler, and they do a lot better in that kind of setting. And then there are plants that like a lot of people are into growing fruiting things, edible fig. And what they don't realize is figs go dormant. So they lose all their leaves in September, and they're just these sticks and people think their figs have died. And they really want a cool dormancy period. So they want to be put in, you know, a garage or a basement, they don't need much light, a little bit of water here and there and they instinctually when the day start lengthening, they'll actually push their leaves out and start growing and then you can eventually after frost get them outside. But so there are specific things for certain niches of plants, but for the most part, I will say that, like is benjamina weeping Ficus. They're finicky when it comes to anything drafty or too hot or too, they just like shed all their leaves if they're unhappy. But what most people don't realize is the plants not actually dead. And those guys can completely defoliate and then push new growth in a pretty short amount of time, if you're watering it properly.Nate B  22:01  So you talked about a few examples. Most of them were non foliage plants, like fig or flat flowering cyclamen, you did give the one example of the Ficus but generally it sounds like foliage, house plants are pretty accommodating of normal household temperatures. I think sometimes people ask about temperature because they might be confusing temperature with humidity. In New England, warmer temperatures mean higher humidity, so people may be associating the two. I was speaking with someone a couple days ago, who I think was making that exact assumption. They were thinking that because I was recommending higher humidity for their ferns, they thought the solution was just to increase the temperature.Emma E  22:51  Yeah, not the same thing there. Although you're right, the air can hold more moisture when it is warmer, versus when it's cooler. So if your home is warmer and you have some source of humidity, whether that means a pebble tray near your plants or whether that means actually having a humidifier, you are able to going to be able to keep that that humidity up a little bit more humidity is is really important when it comes to growing houseplants there are certain things that I frankly can't grow in my house because I don't have a humidifier and I don't go out of my way to increase the humidity around plants. I have tried many times to be able to grow prayer plant and they just really don't like my home and I I'm not helping them out because the humidity is too low. Like you mentioned with the the trailing Ficus though a lot of times they will my prayer pylint will come back it'll look terrible winner and then when it gets warmer in the summer it will start to look a little bit better. But it's not the most attractive plant to have in my home in the winter months.Nicole K  24:07  I was laughing to myself over here when he talked about prayer plant because anything in the Columbia family and Miranda family in general they just I'm the same way I'm not gonna I mean a pebble tree is pretty easy. I noticed you mentioned that and just for people listening that don't know what that is, you can actually take a saucer and put a layer of rock or gravel in the saucer and fill it up with water just to the rock and and set the plant there so the plants not actually setting in the water. The water is evaporating up around the general area of the plant and it will raise the relative humidity for the plants itself. And I'm I have so many plants and I just if I if I if I put it where it needs to go and it's not going to do its thing I just grab a new plant because I have the leisure to do That was a profession but I have one coap in my bathroom that's a little brown around the edges but it's it's doing okay and it's pushed new leaves and it's not super happy but that's the most human place I have in my house. And to match the lighting in that room with the humidity is I had to find the correct plant for it, but it's a it's a calafia mosaica which is has this really cool patterning that almost looks like pixelated it's it's a really neat plant but so I was attached to having it no matter what. So that is the one. But other than that I I can't keep them alive for the life of me. It's what I do for a living.Nate B  25:54  house plant pests don't stand a chance when Rachel Maccini spots them. And as UNH extensions pesticide safety education coordinator, she knows you can't control what you don't scout. Now for Rachel's Integrated Pest Management IPM for short featured tip.Rachel Maccini  26:10  One of the most prevalent pests of houseplants are the aphids. These are small, soft bodied pear shaped insects that seem to come from nowhere. They prefer to feed on the new growth of the plants by inserting their mouth parts into the plant and extracting the plant juices. This feeding often results in yellowing and misshapen In addition, the growth of the plant may be stunted and new developing plant buds are often to form also as a phosphine. They excrete a sugary substance we call honeydew. This makes the plant's leaves shiny and sticky. This honeydew becomes a medium for fungus constantly mold to grow, which creates unsightly dark splotches on the plant surfaces. with minor infestations of aphids, you can handpick you can spray with water, or you can wipe the insects with a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol. If there is a major infestation a pesticide maybe warranted.Nate B  27:16  what are some other techniques for increasing the humidity in your home or at least in a particular area of your home to support plants? And can you give some more examples of house plants kind of across the spectrum from plants that don't have humidity requirements and will tolerate pretty much anything even the driest conditions in your house in the winter time to the plants that are maybe the most finicky. And really only for houseplant enthusiasts that are planning on taking significant steps to support their humidity requirements.Nicole K  27:51  I yeah, so I'm I can speak, right there's there's certain plants that you know, we sell pretty regularly. And I and I have tried to broaden our inventory. As I've as I've been in charge of the greenhouse department at Lake Street. So I'm more keen to know about certain plants and there may be some that I'm I'm just not as familiar with. But I'm definitely a driver dry and arid, obviously cactus and succulents. We we mentioned do okay. Shift Lera, I've found it's also called umbrella tree, they tend to be pretty tolerant of drier house settings, there's quite a few it seems like there, there's there's less that that need that that higher humidity than then others. So air plants is a is another one of those categories we were talking about to lancea that is really popular now. And they're they're cute little plants that don't need soil and you can tuck them in all kinds of things and put them in glass and put them in phases and put them in your bathroom and hang them everywhere. But the only way that they absorb the water that they need is through a very fine mist or humidity. in the air. They have these tiny, tiny little hairs all over them. And that's how they absorb you can actually soak them underwater and submerge them which is what I usually recommend people do when they buy them from me because of the fact that they they're not necessarily in the human requirements that they need. So you're kind of giving them what they need in a dose of bath for an hour once once or twice a week. Another thing that I try to decipher with customers if they're just using a regular squirt bottle, oftentimes the droplets are not a fine enough Miss for the plant to actually absorb So there's a lot of recommendations that I'm seeing online in forums and websites and things of missing, missing, missing missing. And you're not really doing too much because those those big droplets are going to evaporate faster than your plant is going to absorb them. We do sell, there's there's certain mysteries you can get that are floral grade and are more of a fine mist. And missing can definitely help with certain things. Like calafia, we were talking about prayer plant, air plants, bromeliads, I think or another one that like that really humid environment. And was there anything else you can think of and add to,Emma E  30:48  I'd say outside of the misting, because I think a lot of times missing for most people probably isn't going to be adequate for really increasing humidity around plants. Because unless you're home all day, and getting up and missing the plant, let's say every 15 minutes, they're still going to be pretty darn dry. And most of us aren't going to do that. Right? I know, I won't, I'll maybe think of it once a day. And that's not nearly enough. So if you're really trying to grow a lot of things that that do like higher humidity, I think it's probably worthwhile to actually get a humidifier. And to set that up in the room where you have those plants nearby, you don't want necessarily moisture to be collecting on the leaves of the plants. And if it's a humidifier, that's that's sending out hot steam, you also don't want that to be hitting foliage, but you do just you want that air to have more of a humid feel. And then there are certain things that just really appreciate more of a greenhouse environment for a lot of tropicals that do really need that humid environment, because they're there from, you know, a really wet rain forest environment, probably looking at 70 80%, humidity, you know, maybe even 90%. Whereas in our home, so probably the best we're gonna get is maybe 50%.Nate B  32:14  So that's in a bathroom.Emma E  32:18  Yeah, probably in a bathroom with a humidifier setup nearby in the winter months, it's probably going to be more likely closer to 30. If you are in a home with, you know, the furnace running wood stove going. But I think that's, you know, like we've already touched on, I think it just helps to, to recognize what the conditions are in your home and pick things that aren't going to be real fussy. And I think that's where it's helpful to talk to the staff. At the garden center, you're going to where you're going to pick up a plant and, and just be frank about what the conditions are like in your home.Nate B  32:55  I see there being somewhat of a spectrum where maybe on the lowest and we're talking about a place in your home, that not only is not humid, but also maybe next to a radiator, just getting pounded with hot dry air. And then you go to just a normal spot in your home. It's not humid in a special way. But it's also not getting hit with hot dry heat. And then maybe your kitchen right above your sink, there might be a little bit more humidity in your bathroom, there might be a little bit more humidity depending on how often people are showering and stuff like that in the house. And then for the enthusiasts, you might be adding a humidifier into the mix or even some sort of more managed growing chamber. Do you see a lot of houseplant enthusiasts actually going to that level and going beyond just conditions that they can create in their house and really introducing managed conditions with terrarium and other enclosures?Nicole K  33:58  Yes, and more so I think in the past six or seven months than ever before. I i there are a lot of people coming in talking about you know, indoor greenhouses and plant shelves and people are home now. You know, a lot of people are in their house and and they want plants because I think it's actually like an instinctual thing that we're coming into this trend because us as a society we're spending so much more time in the house and there's like this craving for nature right? And, and so people just want that atmosphere in their home. I can't tell you how many times I've had customers come in and say I'm making a home office now and I want plants for it. It's a it's a pretty common thing. Recently and and a lot of plant enthusiasts that that we do have a lot of regular customers and really cool plant people that come in and and they have this whole setup in their house with the humidifier and the grow lights and the whole nine yards and and so yeah, I do see a lot of that we don't sell that level of equipment at Lake Street so on there just to help help them you know, pick out what what they've gotten and decipher what they're doing. But a lot of people are pretty self informed. And when it comes to this stuff and, and, and very, very enthusiastic about their houseplants and taking care of them perfectly, I wanted to touch on something that Emma had said about her goldfish plant, it just made me think and this is kind of relative to what we're talking about. She she had described how in the winter, her goldfish plant loses some of its leaves, it doesn't look necessarily the most beautiful. And then in the summer, it's lush, it's full, it pushes new growth, and that's the case kind of with a lot of different plants is it's okay sometimes to lose a leaf or two here and there. Sometimes things defoliate and then regrow plants are just like us, you know, and they're definitely not perfect. And sometimes I get I get a lot of people who like one brown leaf and they come in like my plant is dying and like it's okay, I can help you. I have customers take pictures, email me, you know, describe what's going on bring in a leaf in a bag if they think that there's some type of disease or insect. But a lot of the times it's pretty regular to have some level of I don't want to call it ugliness because plants are awesome. But that defoliation or browning leaves or a little bit of brown tips on the end, especially when it comes to not having the perfect conditions because most of these plants are tropical. And they are from rain forests. And we live in New England. And, and we're trying to keep them in a tiny little pot in our house to admire so it's definitely something to consider that it's okay. And and a lot of the times still they'll survive even though they're they're not thriving at the moment. And there may be certain times in the year where they they do better than others.Nate B  37:26  I appreciate the house plant positivity I guess it's like if you find a gray hair or have something or have a headache or something, it's not the end of the world. It's It's okay.Emma E  37:40  All note too that anybody who's been keeping houseplants for a long time is probably killed a lot of house plants as well. I have certainly killed enough house plants. In the years I've been keeping them and through a lot of that I've learned not only just from the mistakes I've made with those certain plants, I have learned more about what they actually need. And I've you know, frankly learn which things are going to be able to survive and the conditions I can give them in my home and what plants are going to tolerate the care that I can provide. I'm one of these more negligent waters so I will often water less than my plants would probably prefer. And so I've figured out you know exactly what's gonna tolerate my schedule.Nicole K  38:30  I'm the exact same way with my house plants, they they just barely survive sometimes. Also, during the busy season, my houseplants take a hit because I'm I'm at the greenhouse most of the time. But it's actually especially in the winter it's almost a benefit to be light handed water. The number one killer of houseplants from what I've seen in this industry is over watering it's just too much love and and and oftentimes customers will think the plant is drying out to the level it needs to because it looks that way from the top. Um, but really those last few inches of soil in that pot make a huge difference and and being an underwater is more beneficial to your plants than than an overwater for sure a plant is going to come back a lot quicker from from being a little too dry than it ever will be from from over watering and rotting.Nate B  39:34  Emma from a scientific academic perspective, can you explain and demystify why overwatering leads to plant suffering. From a common sense perspective, it almost doesn't make sense but we see it time and time again that plants do suffer from over watering what is actually happening there.Emma E  39:55  So we know that plants are taking water up through their roots, right so it would seem Yeah, more would be better. But really what's also happening with plant roots is that they're also taking in oxygen, the top part of a plant is doing photosynthesis, all those green parts, and you probably know that plants take in carbon dioxide, and then release oxygen. So the top part of the plant is using limited oxygen only when it switches over to that burning energy phase of respiration. But that's solely what's happening in roots respiration. So oxygen needs to be able to get into the root system of the plant. When we water too much. Basically, what we're doing is drowning the roots, the plant is not getting the oxygen it needs. And in many cases, you kill the plant, just by doing that alone by drowning it. There's also the potential when you're creating this overly wet environment, that you're going to have issues with actual fungal pathogens, and experience rot and decay in those roots. So too much is not a good thing. You know, same same for anything else, I guess whether it's with people, animals, I mean, there's a limit. So getting the watering, right is what you need to do. Now, all this being said, there are plants that are adapted, obviously, to live in the water. Usually, we're not growing those indoors, these would be things that you'd be putting more into like a pond situation or maybe even growing in a fish tank or something similar. Not that you couldn't grow them indoors, we just don't usually do it. But most of the the terrestrial plants that you're going to be growing things that you're going to be picking up at the greenhouse, are not going to appreciate too much water, being lighter with the water is important.Nate B  41:52  What are the other factors besides actually how often you're watering on whether plants are going to suffer from over watering? I'm thinking possibilities might include the potting mix that you're using, how much water it's retaining how well it's draining, and maybe the container you're using, too. What do you think about that, Nicole?Nicole K  42:12  Yeah, all of those things you listed are definitely factors. As far as the potting medium, or potting soil that you're using, you definitely want to look for something that's nice and light and fluffy. Like Emma said roots need gas exchange, we don't usually wouldn't necessarily think that. But when I first learned that when I was being trained as a water, it finally made sense to me. You know, when you open that bag of potting soil, you want to be able to dive your fingers right in there. If it takes two hands for you to pick up that bag of potting soil, you might want to reconsider the brand that you're paying per light. If those little white specks in your potting soil, it's actually pumicestone it creates those little spaces, those air pockets that roots need. And then you know there's other plants that don't that might need more specific soil medium like orchids, want to be in a bark mixture. They're epiphytes, they grow on trees naturally. So when we stuffed them in a pot, we need to accommodate them and in some way and the size of the container is huge. I see a lot of people they see a plant they really like and they come in looking for it. And they already have a pot picked out because they love the pot the pot is pretty and it matches their house and but that pot might not necessarily be the correct size for the plant that we have that you want or that you're buying. So a plants there, especially in the winter, they they they like to be a little more rootbound a little tighter in the pot. If you're buying a plant, say a four inch or six inch plant, those are common sizes that are sold all over. You don't want to bump it up into anything bigger than say a six or an eight inch two inches bigger. I i've if you if you the more soil you have, the more moisture you have, the more chance you have of killing that plant. That's kind of how I put it in layman's terms to customers. The type of container to I I keep all my plants in my house and the plastic grower pots. I want a pretty pot, I'll find one that I can set that plastic pot into. I water a lot of my plants at the sink and then put them back where they are just for the sake of not having saucers everywhere and just the setup that I have. It's not really necessary but that's kind of how I do things but I I find the plastic it's air rated at the Bottom it allows the plants to dry out that how they need to. Next Level Up would be terracotta, like non glazed clay. And then glazed pottery dry, it's it takes a plant a plant a lot longer to dry out, say in a clay pot that's glazed because it's not porous, especially if it's ways on the inside or all the way up the rim. And so you, you want to take that into consideration.Nate B  45:33  And it goes without saying that you need drainage holes on the bottom there are a lot of pots that are sold that don't have drainage holes. So I guess that might be useful if you're tucking that plastic pot into it. But I recently learned how to drill holes into pots using a hollow drill bit it worked really well said buying cheap pots, and they're partially cheap, I think because they didn't have holes in the bottom and putting holes in myself that worked really well.Nicole K  46:00  I i've never yet we don't have one of those bits, but I sort of wish we did because the sales manager oftentimes will buy lots of pottery and and they're really cool pots, but sometimes they do come without drainage. And I take advantage sometimes of of what I know, in in just general knowledge as far as plant care, but yes, holes in the bottom of your pot is definitely necessary. You want that water to drain out the bottom. And there are if if if you're a little more comfortable, you have had plants before and you know that you're you're pretty good water, you can manipulate any pot to accommodate your plant, you can put gravel in the bottom of your pot where the water will catch, you can learn how much to put in your plant. So it just goes to the bottom and doesn't necessarily spill out. There's there's tricks to you know, if you're really attached to a pot and you consider yourself a little more experienced water.Nate B  47:07  I'm glad you brought up the gravel at the bottom because that's a question I think that a lot of people have is can you create that drainage layer at the bottom? My concern would be that the potting mix might end up just clogging at the bottom, sort of getting into that gravel and potentially stopping water from draining is my concern founded? might that be true for sand or something else? I mean, there's all sorts of things that you could potentially put at the bottom but is that going to work or what's your take on that Emma?Emma E  47:41  I'd be more concerned about just overflowing that reservoir so you have those stones at the bottom or the sand at the bottom and you have no way of knowing exactly how much water is down there at that level. So I I would be more concerned that I that that space all those pore spaces between the stones it's already full. But the potting mix at the top is looking like it's it's kind of dry so I put more water in there. I i've never personally had a whole lot of luck with with pots that don't have drainage I I have a few actually really nice glaze pots that don't have drainage that I've had for years and I've tried a number of different plants in them and I've found it's just it's really hard to get it quite right. For me anyways, I don't think I ever quite figured it out.Please excuse the interruption. It's time for this episode's featured question. How to fertilize houseplants. fertilizing house plants is something that is often overlooked. Many foliage plants are relatively slow growing and have fairly low nutrient requirements, but they still need a fertilizer boost periodically for healthy growth. Most potting mixes contain few if any nutrients. So if your plants are looking pale or developing smaller than average leaves, then it's probably time to fertilize. Which fertilizer works best depends on what you're growing. Different fertilizers contain various percentages of the three essential macronutrients nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. In general, foliage house plants grow best with fertilizers that are high in nitrogen, whereas flowering house plants grow better with a higher phosphorus source. There are many specialty house plant fertilizers that work quite well for specific plants. However, a balanced fertilizer such as 10 1010, or 20 2020 is usually suitable for the majority of common plants. One thing I would avoid is organic fertilizers for houseplants. Not only can these products be smelly, but they require a soil microbial committee To make their nutrients available to plants, something that potting mix simply doesn't have. Finally, I'll close by saying that it is important to carefully read the fertilizer label and apply only as directed. Too much fertilizer can actually damage plants. Also, you should only fertilize when your plants are actively growing. Usually the spring through the fall, giving it a rest over the winterNate B  50:29  interruption Excused emma. So Nicole, what shopping tips do you have for our listeners for the next time they go to their local garden center and want to pick up healthy plants that will thrive in their homes?Nicole K  50:42  So educating yourself on the most common pests of houseplants I think would be the first step. spider mite is a very very common one. And webbing any type of webbing between the nodes which would be where the leaf meets the stem or over the the leaf itself is is definitely a no no it's a it's a sign that there's there might be some insect damage going on. Looking for mealybug is another one, it's a little and white and fluffy and it kind of looks like mold and sometimes these guys can just be little tiny, white fluffy specks and you don't really know what you're looking at. But googling images of these things I think because coming from I sell a lot of different types of plants in one small one area, you know, and these these pests are gonna happen and we do the best that we can to practice integrated pest management program and be on the ball when when we get things in scouring over making sure that there's there's no little bad guys on there and treating them as well. But it's going to happen you know it to some extent and so I think we pride ourselves at Lake Street on on keeping our plants pretty clean. But insects are definitely something you want to look for fungus gnat is another one that's really popular if plants are getting over watered, consistently, fungus not can get his soil borne. And then they if you Brussel the plant or go to pick it up and these little flies come out, you know that those guys can spread pretty quickly and you can have a problem on your hands in the house looking for a nice lush green foliage, anything chartreuse or if you can see kind of veining and leaves of foliage plants, they're usually lacking nitrogen or you know deficient in some way which can be rectified. But they might not be in the in the in tip top condition. And looking for new growth, I think is a big one to it checking that plant and seeing you know, wherever then the new leaves are pushing out is is there nice healthy new growth on on the plant that you're buying. If there's a whole table of plants and you're you don't know which one to pick, shape, branching, nice full plants and especially the the new growth looking to see that that new growth is pushing is is something you you want to check for as well.Emma E  53:46  I'll often try to take a peek at the roots too. Sometimes that might mean just looking at the underside of that pot through the drain atolls. And I would ideally like to see routes that look white or more of a cream color that are nice and healthy. If I'm seeing just kind of shriveled looking brown roots on the bottom, it's probably a sign there's been some root decay from overwatering and that that plant is going to struggle along for a while if it if it does survive.Nate B  54:12  What exactly do you do with a plant that has at some point suffered from over watering and potentially some root rot? Is that something that plants can come back from and how can you help them or are you having to actually prune roots at that point trying to cut out decaying roots are well those roots potentially heal on their own.Emma E  54:35  So the damaged roots aren't going to heal, but you could potentially get new healthy roots if there's still existing healthy roots on that plant. You could get healthy new growth expanding from those roots. First thing I would do is just totally cut back on watering. And if you're using a pot that doesn't have a drainage hole, or if it's something that's been in the same pot for you Let's say five or more years, it's possible that drainage hole has gotten clogged up. So repotting, it can be helpful. But I have a porthos right now that was given to me that decidedly had some root rot going on when I got it, but it is starting to push some new growth because it is on my watering schedule now. So watering is is very light and those healthy roots that were still on the plant, I think of there, they're still there. And I've gotten some new growth, expanding from those roots too.Nicole K  55:33  Another thing too, is downsizing the pot sometimes, when customers come in and show me pictures, I can usually decipher that it's an over watering issue. And if you if you take that, if you go to report it or just to even see what the roots are, and most of the soil falls away and you have this tiny little root ball in this pot, spit into downsizing the pot into some fresh soil and getting it on a new watering schedule will will help push healthy root growth as well.Nate B  56:08  When you talk about a watering schedule, how do you think about that and plan for a watering schedule for your plants? Is that something where you're watering? When you know that the plants need water? Or are you potentially able to at some point figure out that a plant needs water every week, or every 10 days or whatever it is, how do you really lock that in?Nicole K  56:32  I think using my five senses are some of the senses anyways, maybe not taste. But smell sometimes, you know, you can smell some dank soil. But a I would say that that's the best way to do it with your plants individually. Because most of the time people want things that are convenient. And so they want to water on Wednesday when they're home or one day a week. And oftentimes you have plants in different sized pots that need different watering requirements. So I'll actually take the customers plant that they want to buy. And I'll show them how you can brace the plant with your hand and tip it over and pull that pot off the bottom. And you can actually see that the top might look dry. But further down, you still have moisture. So they bring the plant home and they water it and they put it where it wants to go. Every few days or so with this new plant, they can check and they can see you know how how far it's gone. How much that soil has dried out. Obviously different plants want to dry out to different levels, which you would want to educate yourself on when you buy the plant. But visually when I teach girls how to water in the greenhouse to it, that's another another thing that I do is I have them pull off that pot and see because usually, most often it will look dry on top and it's not ready yet. To checking out the soil would be a big one.Emma E  58:11  Yeah, I would say I don't really have a true schedule. When it comes to watering, I would say I pull out the watering can a couple of times a week that first pass through I'm not watering everybody might be just half of my plants actually need water. So those will get watered and everybody else gets left alone for the time being. And then if I you know come through again, before I disappear for the weekend, I might be watering some of those same plants again, and maybe some of the ones that got left out before so it's, it's really just based on plant need. Rather than saying, I need to do this once a week, every Tuesday my plant gets water. It's really you just need to work on your observational skills, feeling the soil, taking a