Archive for the ‘General Articles & Info’ Category

PostHeaderIcon Plant Care Tips for a Beautiful Garden

Taking care of plants can be an enjoyable past time, especially when you are rewarded with the fruits of your labor. Many people treat plant care like an experiment when they first started gardening. How do you know when or how much to water, how much sunlight do my plant need, when do I need to add fertilizers? These are just some of the common questions that most gardeners have at the top of their mind.

Gardening is meant to be a relaxing hobby, so plant care should not add on to your stress. If you are one of those trial-and-error gardeners, here are 3 gardening plant care tips to guide you along.

1. Watering

Plant care tips on watering your plant

Image: Simon Howden / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Water is life. All living plants need water; hence it is a must to have a watering can in every garden. To ensure your plants have sufficient water, it is recommended that you buy a watering can with a narrow spout. It should also be noted that plants absorb different amount of water at different stages of its life cycle. More water is absorbed during the growth stage and lesser during rest periods.

How do you know if your plant has enough water? One way is to use the finger test. Insert your index finger into the soil and feel the moisture level of the soil. If the soil feels damp, don’t water your plant. Alternatively, you can use a soil moisture meter to test the moisture level if you don’t wish to dirty your finger.

The size and type of pots and containers that you use has direct influence on the moisture level too. Porous clay pot will require frequent watering as compared to a plastic pot. Meanwhile, water in smaller pots tends to absorbed more quickly than a large pot.

2. Fertilizers
Fertilizers are added to plants to provide nutrients and help them to grow strong and healthy. Does that mean it is the more, the merrier when it comes to adding fertilizers? The answer is no. Over-adding fertilizers to your plants will cause it to have wilting leaves. The edges of your plant leaves will also appear scorched; sometimes there might be pigmentation that looks like brown spots on the leaves.

The type of fertilizers you should use depends on the type of plants you are growing. Generally, fertilizers contain nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium in different proportions depending on the plant type that it is meant for. Read the labels before you purchase and follow the manufacturer’s instructions on usage. Do not over fertilize your plants.

Here are some signs that indicate your plants need fertilizing. Weak stems, slow or weak growth, dull colored leaves, dropped leaves and lacking in flowering. It is worthy to note that newly repotted or relocated plants are not suitable for fertilizing. Plants can get stressed too and will need a month or so to get used to its new home.

3. Lighting
Sunlight is needed for plants to thrive and stay healthy. Different types of plants have different needs on the amount of light it requires. If you are planting tomatoes, ensure that your tomato plant has lots of sunshine. Tomatoes thrive in warm temperatures. If you have insufficient sunlight for your indoor tomato plant, consider using artificial grow lights.

Most flowering house plants require adequate sunlight to bloom. If you have plants like Begonia, Bromeliad, African violet or Orchid, ensure that they are exposed to sufficient sunlight. Likewise, if your indoor lighting conditions is less than satisfactory, use artificial lights to supplement lighting.

When we talk about lighting for plant care, it is not just the amount of light but its intensity as well. How do you know which spot in your house is best for your plant? You can get more information on getting the right location and learn more about plant lighting here.

In this post, we have covered the three basic elements in plant care tips. In our next post, we will discuss more about the other 3 tips that you should not miss if you are serious about caring for your plants.

 

PostHeaderIcon Garden Soil (Part 2) – What is Good Soil and How to Improve Soil Health?

Previously, we talked about the composition of soil, its functions and the different soil textures. Loamy soil has the most ideal texture and is the best soil you can ever ask for in gardening. If you have missed our earlier post, click here to read more about the basics of garden soil.

Create healthy soil with compost and organic fertilizers

Image: zirconicusso / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

One of the basic requirements for having a bountiful harvest is to have quality, good soil. Healthy, good soil is determined by the soil structure and soil fertility. Fertile soil has abundant nutrients and a suitable pH value to create the best environment for plants to thrive. It should contain essential nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorous. Nitrogen boosts leaf growth while phosphorous is vital to root growth and the overall health of the plant. Apart from nitrogen and phosphorous, healthy soil should also contain trace elements such as calcium and magnesium.

The pH level of soil refers to its acidity or alkalinity. Plants can be fussy living things and it is not uncommon to find each plant having its own preferred pH value. Planting your vegetables (or other types of plants) into fertile, healthy soil will yield good crops, if other conditions like lighting and climate are favorable too.

Soil texture also plays a part in determining the health level of soil. Previously, we have learned that loamy soil is the best for gardening. Loamy textured soil retains nutrients well and has the right drainage system for water and air to permeate through.

How to Improve Soil Health

To improve soil health, you have to learn how to create healthy soil. If your soil texture is not ideal, simply add organic matter to it. This will help to replenish the nutrients in the soil and improve its texture. You can create organic matter by decomposing your kitchen leftovers, animal manure and plants. You will need to get a compost bin to compost your own organic matter.

The Tumbleweed 200003 Rotating Compost Bin
has 58 gallon capacity and is perfect for your kitchen waste, grass, leaves or animal manure. Its steel frame design is easy to assemble and its stainless steel central helps to aerate each time it tumbles. The Tumbleweed compost bin comes with dual locking lids with 4 vents to provide oxygen to your compost. Composting with the Tumbleweed compost bin is a breeze as composting can be done as quickly as 21 days.

To see the Tumbleweed compost bin in action, click on the video below.





Read customer reviews for Tumbleweed 200003 Rotating Compost Bin


Compost is at its best when it reaches the advanced stage of decomposition, where it is dark and odorless. The rampant microorganism activity encourages soil particles to clump together and form aggregates. Spaces in the soil are then created, thereby improving its drainage.

Suppose you do not have access to compost heap, an alternative to increasing the nutrient level of your soil is to use inorganic or organic fertilizers. Inorganic fertilizers are chemically manufactured inorganic salts. While inorganic fertilizers will work fine, they tend to release their nutrients too quickly. It has also been found that plants tend to develop resistance to inorganic fertilizers, thus requiring a greater amount of fertilizers to achieve the same effect over time.

Organic fertilizers are the preferred option as they are naturally created from the remains or by-product of an organism. Organic fertilizers gradually improve soil health rather than acting like steroids to quickly fix a problem.

Regardless of the soil structure, you can improve your garden soil by feeding nutrients to it. Healthy, fertile soil requires maintenance but the rewards of a good harvest will surely motivate you to work on the soil basics.


PostHeaderIcon Garden Soil (Part 1) – Understanding the Basics

Garden soil is one of the most basic elements required in gardening. A gardener cannot do without soil, regardless of the type of plants he is planting. Good quality soil is essential to your plants’ health but have you ever thought what the humble garden soil is made of?

What is Soil Made of?

There are four main components of soil – mineral matter, organic matter (humus), water and air. Within the soil contains inorganic elements such as stones and gravel. These are the mineral matter and they make up to 40%-60% of the soil volume. Mineral matter originates from the bedrock that is under the soil.

Organic matter or humus is the decomposed remains and waste products of plants and animals. Soil nutrients or the chemical properties of the soil are largely affected by organic matter. In between the mineral matter and organic matter is the space occupied by water and air.

Purpose of Soil

The role of garden soil is much like the role played by parents. They provide support and help the plant to grow strong and healthy, just like the way our parents supported and provided for us when we were young. Soil is needed to support the plant by allowing its roots to grow through the soil and hold itself in place. With its ability to store nutrients and water, soil also plays a vital role in the biological support for the plant.

In addition to supporting plant life, garden soil also supports other life forms. Microorganisms and insects rely on soil to survive while contributing to the plant by decomposing organic material and adding structure to the soil. Microorganisms like fungi and bacteria that live in soil are used to produce antibiotics, which have benefited much to mankind. Soil is also used to support vegetation growth for mankind’s consumption to ensure survival. All life on earth is dependant on it either directly and indirectly.

Now, let’s explore further the different types of soil texture.

Different Types of Soil Texture

Soil texture is determined by the different mineral particles and its respective size distribution. These mineral particles are sand, silt and clay. Sand particles are 2 to 0.05 mm in diameter, silt particles are 0.05 to 0.002 mm in diameter and clay particles are less than 0.002 mm in diameter. These particles exhibit different properties and their combinations in different proportions will have favorable outcomes for certain plant life. Let’s take a look at the most common classes of soil texture:

Sandy soil
As the term suggests, sandy soil feels gritty to the touch and contains a high percentage of sand particles. There is a lot of space in between the particles and therefore, it does not hold water well. Hence, essential plant nutrients also get washed away due to the free draining nature of sandy soil.

Clay soil
Clay soil has small size particles which makes it clump together easily. What this means is, there is less room for air spaces and drainage capability is relatively poor. Besides, clay soil does not hold nutrients well, thus it’s not an ideal garden soil. Clay soil is heavy, feels lumpy and becomes sticky when it’s wet, making it difficult to work with.

Silty soil
Contrary to clay soil, silty soil feels smooth to the touch. It contains a high percentage of silt particles and has good drainage capability due to the small size of the particles. Water is able to permeate through easily with silty soil. Silty soil holds nutrients better than clay soil and is easy to cultivate but it can be compacted quite easily.

Loamy soil
Loamy soil has the best soil texture and is a gardener’s dream soil. It has a good proportion of clay, silt and sand particles thereby providing the perfect amount of drainage. Unlike sandy soil, it does not lose water excessively. Loamy soil is able to retain nutrients for your plants. Thanks to its good structure, loamy soil is also easy to cultivate.

Healthy soil provides the basis for healthy plants. In the second part of our Garden Soil series, we will look at what constitutes healthy soil and how to create healthy soil.

Stay tuned.

PostHeaderIcon Clearly Fresh Bags Review and Discount Code

Recently, I was invited to put Clearly Fresh Bags to the test. Apio Inc, the manufacturer of Clearly Fresh Bags sent me a sample pack for review and I embarked on my experiment with four different types of fresh produce. Before I go further, I’d like to stress that I did not receive monetary compensation for this product review; my opinion are unbiased and honest.

So, what exactly is Clearly Fresh Bag? Clearly Fresh Bag is a fresh produce storage bag that promises to keep your produce fresher. It claims to be able to extend the storage life of your produce up to 50% longer. Clearly Fresh Bags come in a pack of 10 resealable bags, at a price of US$3.99. The produce storage bags look like your typical Ziploc bags, except that it has a breathable 3 inch square membrane on one side. Known as BreatheWay membrane, this hi-tech membrane creates the passageway for the right amount of oxygen inflow and much more carbon dioxide outflow. This ensures the environment within the bags is kept at optimum, thus allowing your produce to remain fresh longer.

Each resealable Clearly Fresh storage bag measures 12″ x 14″, which is a handy size for most produce. Usage is easy – simply put your fresh produce (preferably unwashed) into the storage bag, gently push out some of the air from the bag, zip the bag and store your produce as usual.

Do note that it is recommended to place ONE type of produce in each storage bag since different produce have different environmental requirements to stay fresh. Clearly Fresh Bags can be used for all kinds of produce. It works especially well with popular fresh produce such as apples, asparagus, avocados, bananas, berries, broccoli, carrots, cucumbers, lettuce, mangoes, and papayas.

As part of my Clearly Fresh Bags test, I bought four types of produce and kept them for 10 days – in Clearly Fresh Bags versus regular resealable storage bags. The results are shown in the series of photographs below. The left column displays the produce at Day One while the right column shows the condition of the produce at Day Ten.




For a detailed review of my Day Ten observation, read my previous post here. You may also like to read my Day Five observation in my earlier post.

Personally, I am surprised at the outcome of my Clearly Fresh Bags test. I was rather skeptical initially with the claims of this product but I am now convinced that this product works. BreatheWay Technology does keep fresh fruits and vegetables fresh longer!

So, what do I like about Clearly Fresh Bags? Hmm…besides its proven ability to keep my produce fresh longer, I also like the handy size and tight zip closure. I love the thickness of the storage bag too, it doesn’t feel thin like some low quality storage bags. You just know you can count on it to keep your veggies fresh.

I guess you’re probably wondering if the Clearly Fresh Bags are truly that good and if there’s anything that I don’t fancy about it. Well, I think it’ll be great if Apio Inc can offer the storage bags in smaller sizes. While the current size is good for fresh produce, I would love to have a smaller size resealable bag for my cut veggies (salad) so as to retain its freshness better with minimum opening of the zip.

I hope you enjoy reading my review of Clearly Fresh Bags. If you have experienced this product, you’re welcome to share your thoughts and leave me a comment. But if you’re new to Clearly Fresh Bags, here’s your chance to try this amazing product at a discounted price.

For a limited time, Apio Inc will be offering a 15% discount for readers of IndoorVegetableGardeningTips.com. Get more details of the promotion below.

**DISCOUNT CODE FOR YOU**

Enjoy a 15% discount when you purchase Clearly Fresh Bags today. Simply place your order at www.ClearlyFreshBags.com and enter the promo code IVG15 upon checkout. Promotion ends July 4th, 2011.
 

 

PostHeaderIcon Clearly Fresh Bags – Are My Produce Still Edible? (Day Ten)

It’s been ten days since I started my experiment with Clearly Fresh Bags. Clearly Fresh Bags are much like your regular resealable produce storage bags except that it has a 3 inch breathable membrane that is supposed to extend the freshness of your produce up to 50% longer. If you’ve missed my earlier posts, you can read more about Clearly Fresh Bags here.

To recap, I have bought four different types of produce and placed a set of each produce in a regular resealable storage bag and a Clearly Fresh Bag. The vegetables were then stored in the refrigerator while the bananas, on the counter top. I checked on them five days ago and found the result to be encouraging. Read more about my Day 5 review here.

Now that it’s Day Ten, it’s time to review my produce again.

The first thing that caught my attention was the Banana. There is such a stark contrast between the banana in the Clearly Fresh Bag versus the one in the regular resealable bag. Without Clearly Fresh Bag, the banana ripens rapidly and turned black by Day Ten. The banana was extremely soft, I’m sure even the monkeys wouldn’t be interested in it. In comparison, the banana in the Clearly Fresh Bag remains yellow in color although it has also developed black spots on its skin by now. Come on’, it’s been 10 days since I first bought it! You’re supposed to eat your bananas fresh and not keep it for souvenir, right?

The Butterhead Lettuce in the Clearly Fresh Bag looks green even on Day Ten. The outermost layer of leaves may be a little soft but those leaves within still retained its moisture relatively well. Will I eat the Butterhead Lettuce? Yes, I’ll simply peel off the outer layers and have the rest of it in my salad bowl. How about the one in the regular resealable bag? Errh… I probably wouldn’t eat it as the edges of the leaves are already rotting. Moreover, the leaves are also turning yellowish and soft. It’ll be a waste of my effort chewing the veggies if the nutrients are already lost.

Looking at the Wong Bok Cabbage here, you might think there isn’t much difference between the two. I thought so too till I looked at the underside of the veggie. Five days ago, I remarked that the cabbage in the regular resealable bag has begun to shown some black marks. The bad news is, those marks have turned darker and there are new ones appearing too. In contrast, the Wong Bok Cabbage in the Clearly Fresh Bag has lesser black marks; its texture also remains crunchy. I would say the condition of the cabbage isn’t too bad, considering that I’ve been keeping it for 10 days.

Finally, let’s talk about the Carrot. Carrots, being hardy vegetables, did not exhibit much visible differences after 10 days of storage. Generally, both carrots still look and feel fresh but on closer examination, the carrot in the regular resealable bag seems to have a dryer texture on the surface. It is still edible but I don’t think it’ll be as sweet and crunchy as the other carrot in the Clearly Fresh Bag.

I have personally reviewed the Clearly Fresh Bag without receiving monetary compensation. My thoughts and opinions of this product are honest and unbiased. If you have used this product before, you are welcome to share your experience too. Feel free to leave me a comment.

**DISCOUNT CODE FOR YOU**

Enjoy a 15% discount when you purchase Clearly Fresh Bags today. Simply place your order at www.ClearlyFreshBags.com and enter the promo code IVG15 upon checkout. Promotion ends July 4th, 2011.