Mar 07, 14
Your plants face multiple problems on a regular basis: too much water, not enough water, too much sunlight, not enough sunlight, etc. Besides the usual difficulties, there are also pests and diseases to contend with, both of which can greatly hamper your plants’ productivity and even kill them. Fortunately, there are a few ways to protect your plants, which we’ve gathered below.
Plants, like humans, are able fight off disease better when they’re stronger and healthier. So what does this mean for your plants? For starters, it means having proper airflow and not over or under-watering your plants. As we mentioned in an earlier blog post, too much water causes saturation, preventing the roots from uptaking the necessary nutrients.
*The products mentioned below can be used on all plants, whether indoor or outdoor.
Botanicare BCSIBQT Silica Blast
One way to strengthen your plants is through additives that contain potassium silicate found in Botanicare’s Silica Blast or in General Hydroponics’ Armor Si. The potassium silicate found in these products will thicken the stem and leaves, making them a less attractive target for pests and better equipped to fight off disease.
*If you’re growing vegetables, make sure you don’t overdo it on the potassium silicate. Using too much can impact the taste of your vegetables.
Another additive that will strengthen your plants and prevent disease is Hygrozyme. Designed to speed up natural chemical reactions in plants, Hygrozyme breaks down old root mass, promoting new root growth and allows your plants to absorb more nutrients, making the plant stronger.
The Guano Company GUST128 Super Tea Mix
Composed of all organic materials, such as earthworm castings, bat guano, and soluble seaweed, composted tea is great for plants as it serves as a vegetative and root stimulator. This nutrient solution promotes balanced growth and lush vegetation and can be used during all stages of the growth cycle.
Nothing is more maddening than coming out and seeing some bug-eyed creature happily munching on your plants. Spider mites, white flies, gnats, aphids, caterpillars, and grasshoppers are a few of the pests you’ll probably encounter in your garden. All of these are incredibly destructive and will ruin your hard work. The good news is that you can keep these creatures under control without using harsh chemicals. Below are some organic methods to control those pesky pests.
Liquid Ladybug is an all-natural miticide that controls all sorts of pests, from aphids to fungus gnats to thrips. Available in an assortment of volumes in either concentrate or ready-to-use, Liquid Ladybug is an excellent choice when you need to control a wide variety of pests.
Got a problem with caterpillars or grasshoppers? These are particularly devastating as they eat the leaves of your plants, but can be controlled with AzaMax. Safe to use on all plants in all stages of the growth process, the active ingredient in AzaMax is Azadirachtin which is a naturally occurring insecticide from the neem tree.
Seabright Laboratories HGSLWFT Sticky Trap
A great option for controlling flying insects such as gnats, white flies, and aphids are sticky traps. Non-poisonous and weather-proof, these traps hang in your garden at plant height and attract these winged pests with their bright yellow and blue colors. Once the trap is covered in either insects or dust, simply throw it out and replace it.
For more organic pesticides, including products that eliminate pests indoors, visit our pests and fungicides section.
What do you use to keep away the pests and keep your plants disease-free? Let us know in the comments below, or hit us up on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, or Google Plus!
Feb 28, 14
My approach to watering plants is similar to wrapping Christmas presents: there’s no such thing as too much. When my mom would send me out to water her garden, each plant looked as if it had had its own torrential downpour. There were massive puddles, and the water would take a good 30 minutes to soak into the soil. I mean, it’s summertime in Texas; surely these things need three gallons of water each, right? Not quite. In fact, over-watering your plants can be as detrimental as under-watering.
So how do you keep from over-watering your plants? We’ll throw some tips your way to maintain that perfect balance of moisture.
Too Much = Certain Death
While “certain death” may seem a bit extreme, it isn’t far from the truth when it comes to watering your plants. So what actually happens when your plants have too much water?
- The soil becomes saturated
- Saturated soil prevents the plant from drawing much-needed oxygen
- The roots begin to decay, also referred to as “root rot”
- Your plant is more susceptible to fungal diseases
Pythium, Rhizoctonia, and Phytophthora are the culprits behind root rot. While root rot is difficult to reverse once it has set in, Hygrozyme, an enzyme that breaks down old root mass and stimulates new root growth, can certainly help. Not only does Hygrozyme eat dead roots that provide protein for your plants, it also helps prevent disease and helps plants absorb more nutrients from the soil.
Time to Water?
Interestingly enough, the signs of over-watering your plants resemble the signs of a lack of water. When there is too much water, the leaves will wilt and droop, turn yellow, and will fall off the plant. So how do you know when your plants need water? Well, there are a few ways.
The Finger Test
The simplest way to find out if your plants need water is to put your finger in the soil at the base of the plant, up to your second knuckle. If there’s soil stuck to your finger, your plants don’t need water. However, if your finger is relatively clean, it’s time to water.
The Dig Test
A little more complicated and requiring a tad more effort is the dig test. The point here is to determine how long it takes the water to soak the soil. Before you start watering, check the moisture level about 6 to 12 inches below the surface. Start watering and take note of the time. After a few minutes (depending on the flow rate), shut the water off and check the moisture level again. If the soil is saturated, then you’ll know just how long to water your plants without overdoing it.
Luster Leaf LL01880 Rapitest
If you’re a little leery about sticking your fingers in soil, try a moisture meter. Often not requiring batteries, these simple, yet effective tools and test the moisture levels of your soil, taking the guesswork out of watering.
Watering Tips for Potted Plants
That Catnip you have growing in your kitchen windowsill can also fall victim to over-watering. Below are some tips to practice with your potted plants.
- Make sure to moisten the entire root ball when watering. This can be tricky because as the root ball dries, it pulls away from the edges, and as it’s moistened, it expands. In order to accomplish this, fill the space between the surface of the soil and the rim of the pot with water. Let the water soak in, and repeat. This should sufficiently moisten the root ball.
- Make sure the drainage hole at the bottom of the pot drains properly. If not, this will cause the saturation mentioned earlier. If necessary, expand the holes with a knife.
- If you have containers underneath your pots to catch the water, empty those out when the plant is done draining. Otherwise, the root ball will absorb too much water from the container and the roots will drown.
- Forget to water your plant for a few days? No worries. It’s ok to submerge your potted plants in water for a bit. Use the kitchen sink, or a bucket. Leave them in there for an hour or so, remove them, and then let the excess water drain.
*A good rule of thumb is to give your plants an inch of supplemental water whenever nature isn’t feeling too generous with the rain.
Were there any watering tips we forgot to mention? Let us know in the comments below or holler at us on Google Plus, Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn!
Feb 21, 14
For all you gardeners out there, you know the frustrations of growing outdoors: the unrelenting heat withers your plants and makes it almost impossible to enjoy working in your garden, the weather can change in the blink of an eye, bringing a heat wave or torrential downpours, or that giant garden spider that’s made itself nice and cozy around your Rosemary bushes. With all these variables, it’s no wonder outdoor gardening can be so maddening and why moving your growing indoors isn’t as crazy as it sounds. While this isn’t a comprehensive how-to, we’ve gathered the high points of starting your first indoor grow.
So what exactly is hydroponics? Hydroponics is the art and science of indoor growing using all sorts of growing mediums, from growstones, clay rocks, rockwool, soil, coco, and soilless mixes. The beauty of hydroponics is that there’s no one way to grow and there’s no limit on what you can grow. Some choose to grow vegetables to have purely organic vegetables, bypassing all the pesticides, while others grow indoors as a hobby. Plus, hydroponics gives you the control to grow whatever you want whenever you want. Whether it’s 15 degrees with three feet of snow or it’s 110 degrees with 90 percent humidity, your indoor grows aren’t affected.
Where to Start?
First decide what you want to grow. Do you want to grow non-flowering herbs like cilantro or basil, or are you looking to grow flowering plants like vegetables? Your set up will depend on what you choose to grow. For example, if you want to grow vegetables or flowers, you’ll need a 400-watt HID grow light fixture, with both HPS and metal halide bulbs for the different growth stages. For those non-flowering plants, like basil and cilantro, you can stick with T5 grow lights for the whole growing cycle. Commercial growing will need a bigger coverage area, produced by multiple 1000-watt HID fixtures.
*Note: Since hydroponics can be a bit overwhelming, we’ll save many of the details, such as coverage area, for a later time.
As we know from elementary school science, plants need light to grow. If you’re growing indoors, you have to supply your own sun in the form of HID (high intensity discharge) grow lights, which include high pressure sodium (HPS) and metal halide bulbs. There are also LED grow lights, which, just like their household counterparts, use less electricity and last longer than other types of bulbs.
Plants go through stages: a growth stage, also called a vegetative stage, and a flowering stage, also called the budding stage. Both of these stages need different color temperatures in order to flourish: the vegetative stage requires color temperatures of 5000K or higher as this produces the blue part of the color spectrum, while the flowering stage needs a color temperature of around 2000K, which produces light in the red spectrum ideal for this stage.
Just like the sun doesn’t shine 24 hours a day, neither should your grow lights. For the growth cycle, it’s recommended to have between 18 and 20 hours of light, while that amount decreases to only 12 hours during the flowering cycle. The easiest way to control your lights is with timers. Timers streamline the entire growing process and eliminate forgetting to turn your lights on and off.
XtraSun XT8AC 8-Inch Reflector
Now let’s talk grow light reflectors. While there are many different types of reflectors, from parabolic to wing reflectors, to all-in-one reflectors, to air cooled reflectors, and each one offers its own advantages. Wing reflectors, for example, feature adjustable “wings” which increase light coverage, therefore helping to reduce the number of areas without light. Not to mention they’re usually cheaper. All-in-one reflectors, beside the bulbs, include everything you need, like the ballast. All you have to do is plug it in and go. Air-cooled reflectors have ducts on each end for cooling hoses and are determined by the diameter of these ducts, ranging from four to eight inches in diameter. These types of reflectors are usually for the serious grower as they require the proper ducting for cooling. The type of reflector you need depends on the size of your grow area.
HydroFarm EMSYST Emily’s Garden
Before getting too hot-to-trot over setting up a professional grow space, it’s best to start small. Try an all-in-one hydroponics kit, like the Emily’s Garden. This kit comes with everything you need to start a small, successful grow: growing medium, seed starter cubes, even nutrients. While this may seem like child’s play, it’s a great way to get your feet wet with the world of indoor growing.
Jump Start JSV2 2-Ft. Stand
For great beginner experience with grow lights, check out the Jumpstart T5 reflectors. Available in heights from two to four feet, these reflectors include the bulbs and the fixtures and are adjustable as the plants grow taller.
*Note: For more information about indoor growing, check out our hydroponics books.
What do you plan on growing in your indoor garden? Tell us in the comments below, or give us a shout on Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus, or LinkedIn!
Feb 12, 14
One of the easiest, yet one of the most overlooked, ways to enhance key areas of your home is with lighting. With a little tweaking and a few additions, you can liven up your space, making rooms seem bigger, making ceilings seem higher than they actually are, etc. Below are a few simple tips we’ve collected to transform the mundane into the extraordinary.
Some key players in wall washing are recessed cans and eyeball cans. Typically six inches in diameter, these are used mainly to flood an area with light, such as in department stores and theaters. Even though these are found commercially, they’re great for residential applications as well. Wall washing serves two purposes: aesthetic appeal and task lighting. Washing a wall gives the impression of an expanding space, making the room feel larger, which is great for those smaller spaces, while also calling attention to all those pictures on the wall or your stone fireplace.
Does having sloped ceilings means you’re left out of the fun? Not at all. This just means you’ll need those eyeball cans (these allow you to adjust the angle of the fixture as you see fit) mentioned above and will most likely need either need lamps with a wide flood or a very wide flood beam angle.
While it depends on how much space you’re wanting to light, it’s generally best to opt for bulbs that have either a “flood” (FL), “wide flood” (WFL), or “very wide flood” (VWFL) beam angle such as R/BR bulbs. Bulbs with these beam angles are great for covering wide areas, creating an overlapping of light.
*Note: if you don’t already have recessed fixtures, these can be easily installed. However, it’s probably best if a licensed electrician performs the work for you. This way you can rest assured the work is done correctly and safely.
The possibilities are endless with accent lighting and it’s a great way to add depth to any room. The key to great accent lighting is to ensure there’s light coming from multiple angles: from down lights, to table and floor lamps, to under cabinet lighting on your bookcases in your bedroom or living room. A nice touch is LED tape light on the back of your TV, which not only calls attention to the TV, but also adds a unique flair.
The picture on the left is a pretty good example of utilizing light from multiple angles. Notice the wall sconces on each side of the bed, which give off light vertically and horizontally, while the recessed light above the bed directs its light downward. The eyeball can above the bookcase neatly displays the picture, books, and the few knick knacks on the shelves.
In the battle against poorly-lit rooms, shadows are your enemy, as they make your space look small and drab. Defeat those pesky shadows with a well-placed floor lamp in the corner of your room, providing you not only with task lighting, but directing the light upwards, eliminating dark spots. A great way to make your ceilings seem higher than they actually are is to utilize overcabinet lighting. You can accomplish this in a multitude of ways, with LED rope light or plug-in fixtures.
Which of these tips will you use to liven up your home? Let us know in the comments below, or drop us a line on Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, LinkedIn, or Pinterest!!
Feb 07, 14
Ever feel “not quite yourself” when there’s a lack of light, but can’t quite put your finger on it? Ever notice how your mood seems to improve when you’re in a brighter room? This isn’t your imagination. Studies have shown that light levels do in fact affect our disposition. But how does light affect your mood, and how can you adjust the lighting in your home to improve it?
Low Light = Low Mood?
As mentioned above, low light levels do indeed affect how you feel. While I won’t throw a bunch of science-y terms your way, there are a few terms you should become familiar with: melatonin and serotonin.
Melatonin also helps control weight gain.
Melatonin is vital in controlling your sleeping and waking patterns and is typically highest around bedtime, while serotonin affects many functionalities, such as sleep, appetite, memory, mood, and depression. Specifically, serotonin has a hand in affecting your happiness.
There are both psychological and physiological side effects linked to poor lighting. For example, poor light conditions can impact the amount of melatonin that’s produced, therefore creating an imbalance within your body: the more melatonin that’s produced, the levels of serotonin decrease, as more serotonin is converted to melatonin. So in poorly lit rooms, melatonin levels may be higher, which can cause you to feel depressed and drowsy.
On the contrary, higher levels of light can get your body back in balance, increasing your levels of serotonin and are sometimes even used as a therapy to alleviate common emotional issues.
In what ways can you boost the mood in your home? Does this mean you have to transform your home into the surface of the sun so you’ll be cheery all the time? Not quite. Below are a few ways to brighten things up and make the most of your new-found knowledge of serotonin and melatonin:
- Since bright light can actually give you more energy and increase alertness, it’s recommended to either dim the lights or use warmer color temperatures (2700K to 3000K) to wind down in the evenings.
- If you’re looking to boost your mood, consider switching to full spectrum light bulbs (5000K), as these types of bulbs mimic natural light. If you’re not a fan of bulbs with this color temperature, try some cool white bulbs with color temperatures between 4000K and 4100K.
- Do you like your current lineup of bulbs just the way they are and don’t want to trade them out? Try opening some blinds. The influx of natural light will have almost the same effect as the full-spectrum bulbs.
Did you put any of these tips into practice? Let us know in the comments below , or give us a shout on Twitter, Google Plus, Facebook, Pinterest, or LinkedIn!