1/29/2006

Hydroponics in the Classroom- part II

The little hydroponic garden we started two weeks ago has done well. We have a mixture of lima beans, radishes, and tomatoes growing here in vermiculite, as described in my first hydroponics post.

If you're interested in a similar set-up for indoor seed-starting, you don't need to invest in one of these expensive units. I'll post about it later, but my home-made unit (not pictured here) cost about $60.

The tall plants are the lima beans. They grow quite quickly, making them ideal for the classroom. I'll also post more about fun activities with lima beans later.

I feared at first that the tomatoes hadn't made it, but now they are poking up under the bean plants. It took them about a week to germinate, and they are probably going to be too small for our experiment this week. In the future, it looks like they would need over a month to get to a good size for experiments.

Well maybe they will do well enough under lights to produce fruits if I take them home?Finally, the radish plants. They win the prolific plant award. The packet was full of seeds, and it seems like every one germinated! The plants below were sowed by just one group, about 1/4 of a seed packet.

1/25/2006

Baffling the Fire Ants

If you are from the Southern US, or South America, you probably have had the unpleasant experience of being assaulted by fire ants (Solenopsis invicta). Ouch, do they sting. Then they itch like no other insect bite can itch.

I found out recently that fire ants also kill bluebirds! According to Tim Davis, a Clemson extension agent, they are responsible for half the predation on bluebirds. I tend to be a plant person, but bluebirds are one of those animals, like the flatworms, that are just irresistable.

If you love making homes for the bluebirds as much as me, then you might want to protect them with an easy to make baffler. Here are the steps as outlined by Davis to build a fire-ant baffler:

1) Cut the top part off a 12-oz Coke bottle, or the beverage of your choice, to form a funnel. (I also use these makeshift funnels to put dirt into terrariums)

2) Take your funnel and tape it upside-down on the post that holds your bluebird house. Electrical tape works well since it’s waterproof and durable. It’s important to tape it tightly, so you don’t leave any space between the tape and the pole for them to climb through.

3) Enjoy watching your Bluebirds in their safe home!

1/11/2006

The urge to deadhead

Over the holidays our family had nice meal at an Italian restaurant in Atlanta. As we walked out, I tuned out my husband’s comments on the various models of cars in the parking lot and focused on the pansies. They were doing nicely, but I immediately noticed several dead flowers on the plants and (*gasp*) even a well-developed seedpod.

I couldn’t overcome the urge to deadhead. I pulled off a few crispy flowers and a seedpod. Then I couldn’t control the botanical urge to slice the pod with my thumb open with my finger, exposing the tiny developing seeds. How could I resist?

This behavior isn’t limited to commercial property, either. If I see a dead flower in anyone’s yard, I can’t stop myself from picking it off. It’s a compulsion. Is this my duty as a good horticultural citizen, or am I just sticking my nose in other people’s soil where it doesn’t belong? I don’t know, but I can’t stop.

This habit actually started in my childhood, when my brother and I shared a newspaper route. One family on my route never pruned their yew bushes, so I took it upon myself to strip off a rouge branch with my bare hands every time I passed. In other yards, I plucked dandelions and faded marigold flowers. My dead-heading addiction started early.

I also have the urge to water other people’s neglected houseplants, but that can be the subject of another post.

I also discovered a poem about deadheading at Directionally Correct. I love the symbolism!

1/02/2006

Winter Color- A Fashion "Do" for Your Garden

Today's Gardening InStyle tip is to remember winter color when you design your garden.



Lush Red Winter Berries: a garden fashion DO