Almost Ready Fruit

Variegated Lemon

Every harvest is easy when you grow container fruit. Of course, just as it’s easy for the grower, it is easy for any critters might be local to the grower’s area.

I was fortunate this year. I was able to grab my figs away from the squirrels and chipmunks before they got to them. If you were reading earlier in the season, you saw that I had to harvest my tomatoes while they were still practically green to avoid losing them to squirrels, chipmunks and birds.

I also lost 3 of my 4 lemons this year. I think a couple actually blew off in the tropical storm in early August. One was definitely carried away by a squirrel–I saw its teeth marks in it. And surprisingly, one still hangs on. I was surprised to see it when I watered the other day.

And I have these, shown above. The plant is labeled as a kumquat but I think that it’s just a variegated lemon. That’s actually okay. It appears odd enough to fake out the critters, and I can always use more lemons!

Do Squirrels Predict Weather?

Squirrels nest

At the top of the tree in the middle of this photo–the tree that has lost all its leaves–you can see a ball of leaves. That’s a squirrels nest. Folklore says that the higher up in a tree that the squirrels build their nests, the colder the winter will be.

So someone forgot to tell every forecaster that exists about this little bit of lore. All of the major weather services, from NOAA to the commercial types like AccuWeather and the Weather Channel are predicting warm winters for us.

The 2 Almanacs are predicting bitter cold. Maybe they consulted the squirrels.

But time will tell, of course. And in the long run, it matters far more to the squirrels than it does to us humans who can hunker down in our homes and don’t have to live in trees!

Lean, Lean, Lean

Leaning philodendron

When I was in graduate school, I went to an ACC football powerhouse. The school sent 2 quarterbacks to the pros in the 3 years I was there. I went to every home football game–it was exciting.

One of the cheers I vaguely remember ended with the phrase “and lean, lean, lean…” and everyone in the stands would lean one way, then the next.

It was a fun thing for football. For house plants, not so much. This time of year, you may find them reaching for what little sun we get. And it’s only going to get worse, depending on where you live.

In my part of the country, November through February are some of the cloudiest days of the year. When we most need sun, we are least likely to have it. So when it does shine, everything reaches for it–the plants stretch toward it, my dog finds a spot to lay in it–everything wants that light and warmth.

This is natural, but you’ll have make sure to turn your plants when you’re watering. You don’t want to grow a plant with a perpetual bend!

House Plants Slow Down for Winter

When I first brought my plants in from their little “summer vacation ” outside, I found that the ones in the south windows needed water twice a week. It was almost as if they were still outside and needing that constant moisture that they had been getting there.

It’s now been 5 weeks and they’re back on the indoor schedule. Just in this last week, they haven’t needed that mid-week drink. Some of those that I checked this weekend didn’t even need water after a full week. So growth is definitely slowing as the light diminishes.

It’s also getting cooler. And of course, as it gets cooler outside, it gets cooler inside my house. I talk about how cold we keep our house. Yesterday it was 62 degrees when I got up–that’s almost winter cold for the plants. So they will use less water–and if I don’t adjust, I will rot their roots.

Finally, not that I ever feed my house plants, but if I were so inclined, this is definitely the time to stop. With less light, less warmth and growth slowing for the winter, no feeding is needed.

If you are a house plant feeder, you can resume again when growth and light returns. For me, that’s early March. In the southern hemisphere, it would be just the opposite. They are just coming out of their winter now, so now is that time.

Poinsettia Myths

Pink Poinsettia

Remember this plant from last year?

It looks a little different now–and yet, I am expecting a bloom somewhere around the holidays or shortly thereafter.

Notice where this plant is located. It’s on a sunny southern windowsill. I have no idea how many foot candles of light it is getting but what’s important here is that it’s not in a closet or under a box–aren’t those the usual crazy places that you’re supposed to put these plants in order to force them to bloom? I ask you, if you were continually shoved in and out of a box, would you bloom? I sure wouldn’t!

The key to getting a poinsettia to bloom somewhat naturally is to keep it in a room that you don’t generally use in the evenings. That way it gets the 12-14 hours of darkness it needs to re-bloom naturally.

One other myth. Poinsettias are not poisonous. The sap might be irritating to some people. But the plant is not toxic. Other holiday plants like mistletoe and holly are far more toxic. So don’t be afraid to have them in your home.

House Plants: What Must You Know and What’s All the Rest

House plants are amazingly “in” right now. This trend has only increased during our times of quarantine. Some people grew Victory Gardens. Others stayed inside with house plants. Some did both.

But just like when I was beginning to garden (I won’t actually admit to how long ago that was, but let’s put it this way: if any of my house plants had survived from then, they would be approaching antique status), there are numerous people talking about ways to grow plants and what you need to know.

It sounds quaint now–or it does to me, but I never bought into it back then–but there were lots of ” home remedy ” type ideas about growing plants when I was a beginner gardener.

Yes , we still have some home remedies around. I even spray milk myself as a fungicide (speaking of home remedies). But these were things like using 7-Up on your lawn and beer for something–don’t ask me because I paid little attention to most of it.

Today everything is about science. We need to know how many foot candles of light a plant needs in order for it to grow properly. Everyone needs a light meter to place plants appropriately.

Really? I don’t want to discredit the fine folks who are writing about this but really?

Perhaps if I lived in a place with fewer windows–or where my windows were obstructed by tall buildings–I might question the quality of my light. But most likely not. I suspect that I would need plants for low light and adjust accordingly.

South window with house plants

After all, part of the year, my windows are obstructed by deciduous trees. You can see that the window in the above photo–a south window–is actually shaded fairly heavily right now by a Japanese maple. In another month, all that shade will be goner. I, and the plants, manage to adjust accordingly.

There’s surely no harm in using a light meter or figuring out foot candles for your various plants. But I don’t find it necessary and think it is overly complicated. Look out the window. Use common sense.

What you do need to do is to learn botanic–or Latin–names for the plants. It’s the only way to assure yourself of getting the correct plants. You don’t have to memorize anything. But it’s very helpful to know the difference say, between monstera deliciosa and monstera adansonii. Both are referred to as Swiss Cheese Plant (& very trendy right now) but the first has those distinct cut leaves that you often see displayed in vases while the second is a tropical vine with leaves whose perforations are enclosed. You want the one that you want and not a relative or a cousin, so to speak.

So if I were trying to comprehend house plants right now, I would spend some time learning the correct botanic names for the ones that I wanted to grow.

I would learn about the growing conditions they like (warm or cool, lots or humidity or is the average home fine) which catalogs, growers sites, and other resources readily provide. And I would begin to add things slowly.

When find things that grow well for me–that I also like–I generally buy more of the same variety in different cultivars. It works out well.

Fall Will Be Canceled Due to Drought

Is there lawn under there?

A friend in the middle of the country remarked this week that it must be pretty lovely by now where I live.

Normally it should and would be. But we are having such a severe drought that leaves are shriveling on the trees in many cases.

This is not how maple leaves should look. They should be a glorious mix of red, orange and yellow.

This dogwood should be a lovely russet red, not sickly yellow.

And this was a blue spruce. It survived our last drought. It’s going to have to be taken out shortly. Evergreens have a tougher time with drought because they can’t drop leaves to conserve moisture.

Container blueberries

These are about the only things with any color on our property. They look good because they got some regular watering over the summer.

As much as I hate the idea of a snowy winter, we desperately need moisture. I will endure it for the good of the garden!