Winter Care of Houseplants





Text Box:            During the short days of winter, houseplant growth slows, resulting in a need to change how we care for them. Although frequent watering may have been necessary during the long days of summer, the same amount now could cause problems. Excess water fills air spaces within the soil resulting in roots that receive less oxygen than they need. Water by touch, not by calendar. If the soil is dry an inch deep, it is time to water. Be sure to add enough so that some water flows out the bottom of the pot. This will help wash out excess salts that tend to accumulate within the potting soil.   Fertilization also should be reduced. Normally, it is best to apply half the amount of fertilizer for flowering houseplants and one-fourth the amount for foliage houseplants. Too much fertilizer results in plants that become leggy and weak.

          Location is another factor that should be considered this time of year. Since day length is so short, houseplants may be helped by being moved to areas of the room that receive more light, such as a south-or east-facing window.

          Avoid placing plants where drafts from doors or direct output from heating ducts may contact them. Relative humidity also tends to be low during the winter. If you do not have a humidifier, frequent misting of the plants or placing them on water-filled trays of pebbles can help raise the humidity. (Copyright by Ward Upham)

(Source: Kansas State University Research and Extension, Horticulture Newsletter No. 44, November 4, 2014, page #1)



Roasting Pumpkin Seeds





Text Box:            Now that Halloween is past, you may be wondering what to do with the pumpkins that were used to decorate for the holiday. Consider roasting the seeds before freezing temperatures destroys the pumpkin fruit. Cut open the pumpkin and remove the seeds and stringy material. Seeds should be washed and dried and the “strings” discarded.

          Toss the seeds with a little oil before roasting. Flavor can be enhanced by adding a sprinkling of salt to the oiled seeds. Seeds can then be spread on a cookie sheet and roasted for about 25 minutes at 325 degrees F. Times may vary depending on the size and moisture content of the seed. Seeds are done when they turn a golden brown. If seeds are not eaten immediately, store in a zip closure bag in the refrigerator. (Copyright by Ward Upham)

(Source: Kansas State University Research and Extension, Horticulture Newsletter No. 44, November 4, 2014, page #2)


Can I add wood ashes

to my flower or vegetable garden?

by george edgar


          As I write this the temperature dropped all after noon. The high for tomorrow is forecast for the low 30’s and the lows in the mid-teens. I expect to begin smelling wood smoke as fireplaces are lit and the wood heating stoves are cranked up to provide a little heat. Shortly the question will start to come in: “Can I add wood ashes to my flower and/or vegetable garden?”

          According to Don Janssen, UNL Extension Educator in Lancaster County, “The largest component of wood ash (about 25 percent) is calcium carbonate, a common liming material that increases soil alkalinity. Wood ash has a very fine particle size, so it reacts rapidly and completely in the soil. Although small amounts of nutrients are applied with wood ash, the main effect is that of a liming agent which increases the pH of the soil.

          Increasing the alkalinity (pH) of the soil does affect plant nutrition. Nutrients are most readily available to plants when the soil is slightly acidic. As soil alkalinity increases and the pH rises above 7.0, nutrients such as phosphorus, iron, boron, manganese, copper, zinc and potassium become chemically tied to the soil and less available for plant use.

          Applying small amounts of wood ash to most soils will not adversely affect garden crops, and the ash does help replenish some nutrients. But because wood ash increases soil pH, adding large amounts can do more harm than good. Keep in mind that wood ash that has been exposed to the weather, particularly rainfall, has lost a lot of its potency, including nutrients.”


          Therefore, small amounts of no more than 1 inch will probably not hurt, if worked into the soil at least 6 inches. But be sure and get a soil test before you add more than that once per year as most of the soils in Eastern and South Central Nebraska already are alkaline with a pH of 6.5 to 7.5. Do not add significant amounts without having a soil test.

Copyright 2014