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Organics

StrawberriesMost everyone knows best, on how to grow strawberries. Depending on where that everyone resides, there are absolute rules of engagement for producing sweeter, larger and redder strawberries. Not wishing to engage in mental fisticuffs with local experts, I will mosey through the mundane aspects of growing and caring for the only fruit that has its seeds on the outside.

 

Soil preparation is mightily important and I urge readers to now raise their microorganism antennae. Strawberries are often soil-borne, fruit and foliage harbingers of disease. Think prophylactic. Think early prophylactic. Well drained, high organic matter content, sandy loam soils with high fertility is the order of the day for growing strawberries. Also include, for consideration, low saline or alkaline and water with a pH 7.5 or below, as strawberry friendly. Use BioFlora Soil Source as an intregal part of the soil preparation. This liquid organic humic acid product will improve the soil’s organic matter content, enable an increase in both water and nutrient holding capacity and is a food source for beneficial microorganisms, increasing their numbers and diversity. These bacterial animals are responsible for services to plants that include, nutrient recycling, water dynamics and, ta-da, plant disease suppression. Apply this “black gold liquid” as a soil amendment through drip tape all season and through micro-sprinklers, pre-fruit set. It works great on strawberry runners production.

 

I leave personal planting choices to choosing from double-row beds, single-row beds, matted plots, strawberry barrels or pyramids. Buying local plants can remove the possibility of attempting to purchase out-of-state varieties that may have quarantine issues. Your state Department of Agriculture will be able to assist with pertinent information.

 

When to plant will depend on growing zones (elevation) and suitable varieties for those zones. Plant spacing is generally 12 inches apart in a row. Plants may be spaced 3 feet apart in rows with “runners” placed between plants to establish a solid planting. Depth of planting is very important. Set the crown (where leaves are attached) so it is level with the soil surface after settling. Press the soil firmly around the roots so no air spaces are left. Irrigate immediately. Two helpful hints for this stage of planting begs for the use of three BioFlora products. When you are holding the transplants in the field in a tray or shallow pan be sure to maintain root moisture by spritzing the transplants with water containing 1 oz. of BioFlora Seaweed Creme plus 1 oz. of BioFlora Soil Source in a gallon of water. When irrigating after firmly pressing the soil around the transplant, have a soil drench ready, consisting of 1 oz. of BioFlora Plantalizer 1-2-1 plus 1 oz. of BioFlora Soil Source in a gallon of water. Repeat this mix once every two weeks for the remainder of the season. Plastic mulch is often laid previous to planting, for weed control.

 

Irrigation of strawberries should be frequent, but light. Most roots are found in the top 18″ of soil and remember the disease-fighting bacteria are mostly in the top 4-6 inches. Fertilize with BioFlora Dry Crumbles 8-3-6 + 6% Ca where it is possible to incorporate the product into the soil. Covering the crumbles will lessen the loss of nitrogen through volatilization. Cultivation should be often enough to control weeds (unless plastic mulch is in place) being careful as the plants are shallow-rooted.

 

The big four diseases are usually Botrytis (fruit), Pythium (soil), Fusarium (soil) and Rhizoctonia (soil). All four are suppressed by good, gardening cultural practices and spoon-feeding (small amounts, numerous times, instead of one or two large applications) the beneficial microbial population. Diseases are always present in soil, water and air. Keep the good guys in high numbers and diversity and begin with that early prophylactic application. One-and-done does not work for disease suppression.

 

Arthropod pests might include lygus bugs and spider mites (piercing-sucking) and flower thrips (chewing) and can, at times, be very disconcerting. Hit all of these sap/juice feeders with 2-3 oz. of BioFlora Seaweed Crème in a quart of water. The viscous nature of the seaweed will clog their breathing apertures (spiracles). So long “suckers”! Now, for some fresh, delicious strawberry shortcake with dollops of heavy, whipped cream. Yummy!!

 

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Organics

Propagating-Plants-at-HomeA technique known as “vegetative propagation” can be interesting and fun. Any age can participate with little equipment and a few simple guidelines.

 

Vegetative propagation uses stems and leaves to obtain new plants. There are many reasons for using this technique, one of the being that some plants, such as seedless grapes or bananas, do not produce viable seed, so the only way to produce true-to-type plants is to use this technique. Many plants grown from seed also will not resemble the plant from which the seed was taken. New plants grown from stem and leaf cuttings will be true-to-type except on rare occasions.

 

You will need to construct a miniature greenhouse to begin the process. Two wire hoops are inserted in the growing container to support a dome of clean plastic material (clear plastic bag, etc.). Choose an eight or six inch in diameter plastic or clay pot with drainage. Place a saucer under the pot to contain the draining water.

 

Rooting media should be porous and sterile. Concrete sand or horticultural vermiculite are excellent choices. If sand is to be used, be sure to run water through it to flush residual silt and sodium. Let it bake in direct sun for a few days to reduce disease possibilities. The “greenhouse” should be located indoors in an area with even temperature where it can take advantage of morning light and indirect sunlight the remainder of the day.

 

Beginning with stem cuttings is a sure way to gain confidence in both technique and potting materials. Selecting cuttings from vigorous, healthy plants will boost your rooting success.

 

There are three types of stem cuttings used in plant propagation: soft-wood, semi-hardwood, and hardwood cuttings. Soft-wood material is near the terminal ends of branches. Individual cuttings should be about four inches in length. All leaves should be removed except for the one or two near the growing point. Semi-hardwood cuttings are made from more mature wood behind the terminal ends of branches. Hardwood cuttings are made from material located some distance back of the terminal ends of the branches. Leaf removal and length for semi-hardwood and hardwood cuttings are the same as for soft-wood cuttings.

 

Preparing for leaf cuttings falls into two categories: leaf-bud and leaf-blade. Leaf-bud cutting differs from leaf-blade cutting in one aspect; the auxiliary bud and petiole must be taken with the leaf blade. An example of this would be a rubber plant leaf blade cutting. The rubber plant cannot develop an auxiliary bud, as say, an African violet. Remove the bud from the rubber plant stem, so that it can produce a new plant. Leaf-blade cutting of an African violet simply entails removing a leaf blade with a portion of the leaf stem (petiole).

 

You are now ready to put your cuttings in the “indoor greenhouse.” Fill the container with your rooting media and water it thoroughly. Use a blunt sterilized instrument (knife, metal spoon handle, etc.) and make openings in the media to receive the cuttings. These openings will reduce breakage of the cuttings.

 

A few easily rooted plants are as follows: soft-wood cuttings – Chrysanthemums, Coleus, Euonymus, Ivies, Philodendrons, Pothos (Devil’s Ivy), Rosemary, Wandering Jew (Spiderwort); semi-hardwood cuttings – Cocculus (moonseed), Lantana, Pyracantha, Viburnum; hardwood cuttings – Figs, Oleander, Pomegranate, Roses; leaf-bud cuttings – Rubber Plant; leaf-blade cuttings – African violets, Begonias, Jade plant, Peperomia, Sansevieria (Mother-in-Law’s Tongue), Sedum (Stonecrops).

 

Stem cuttings made from hardwood, semi-hardwood, and soft-wood should be inserted about half-way (2″) into the media. Lightly tamp the loose soil around the cutting to reduce moisture loss. Leaf cuttings should be inserted so the petiole and a portion of the leaf blade is buried. Be cautious when placing leaf cuttings such as Sansevieria (Mother-in-Law’s Tongue) in the media, remember that the top part is up and the bottom part is buried.

 

At last, it is time for watering. Be diligent and water twice a day after cutting placement. Use a teaspoon of liquid BioFlora Seaweed in a quart of water used to water the cuttings to enhance the speed and abundance of root formation. Use enough of the water mix to realize a small amount of drainage each watering. Discard the excess water (a large outdoor plant would appreciate the excess water).

 

The hoops in the container are ready to have the clear plastic placed to produce the greenhouse dome. The plastic “tent” keeps humidity and prevents foliage wilting. Lift the edges to water and then replace.

 

Each type of plant will require different time periods to initiate roots; some in three weeks, some longer. After four or five weeks, gently remove a cutting and look for roots. If four to five roots are seen, the cutting can be removed and planted in a good soil mix (add one ounce of BioFlora Dry Crumbles 8-3-6 + 8% Ca to five pounds of soil mix).

 

Pots with rooted cuttings should be placed in an area that gets morning sun and shade in the afternoon. After no wilting occurs, the pots can be moved to more sun if the plant type can tolerate some. Indoor plants will not need conditioning; the can be potted and kept indoors.

 

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Organics

Good-Gardeners-Grow-Soil-FirstCommuning with soil microbes is the order of the day. We know a fraction of what these tiny animals do to aid in plant growth. All plant growth, be it single cell algae or the mighty sequoias or saguaro cacti basking in the desert sun, relies on millions of microorganism for survival.

 

There are thoroughly documented situations where bacteria, fungi and beneficial nematodes formed mutually beneficial associations with plants, improving the plant’s ability to absorb nutrients, resist pests, disease and drought. Microbes are enabling plants to better tolerate challenges of the earth’s changing climate, saline soils and temperature fluctuations. There is evidence that the flavor of your favorite fruit and vegetables may be contributed to by microbes. Can you imagine buying a type or types of microbes in soil amendment products that specifically “sweeten-up” a strawberry or plum or Dragon fruit? Maybe even help color selection for flowers in your flower bed? Those types of microbes must be out there and they will be found and marketed. And don’t forget the flora and fauna found in your own digestive system that are responsible for your hale and heartiness.

 

The seed you plant and the transplant you pot will have a microbial community helping that plant species grow and thrive. Every species of plant in the wild or your garden has its own rhizosphere (roots) community. The begonia growing next to that petunia and also sharing space with any grass or oak tree will have its own unique microbial group. There is some commonality of microbial species for all of the neighboring plants, which allows genetic information to be exchanged through chemical signals. Every microbial group has its position on a plant’s tissue and when the plant is ready and signals same, the beautiful music of plant growth and reproduction begins. It sounds something akin to a Lilliputian opera.

 

A commonly sited example of microbes and plant togetherness are the tiny bacteria called Rhizobia that infect the roots of legumes (green peas, peanuts, beans, sweet peas, etc.). The swollen nodules on the roots of these types of plants are fertilizer factories involved in nitrogen fixation. This elaborate underground activity has been taking place without human input for a very long time.

 

My idea behind this short moment to introduce the microbial world to home gardeners is to stimulate all that garden, and do so for the love of it, to begin every planting experience, be it a half acre or four inch pot, with an “under the ground” mindset. Feed the microbes that will feed the plant, that will feed you with joy.

 

Microbial food comes in many different forms. Carbon is the dominate source. The usual soil amendments that add organic matter are as always, compost, peat, and just about anything lignin and cellulose. Off-the-shelf soil additives like BioFlora Soil Source, a liquid carbon-based humic organic acid would be a good choice. Use it to prepare soil mixes, in-seedbed applications and mix with water to use as a soil drench when backfilling transplant, tree holes. BioFlora Seaweed Crème is a toothsome dessert for many soil microorganisms, while also stimulating new root growth with its special auxins. Use it alone or as a 50/50 blend mix with BioFlora Soil Source when drenching. BioFlora 1-2-1 can be a third member of the organic acid/seaweed combo. That 1-2-1 tincture of fertilizer will give that early kick to seed lines and transplants. For early flower bed and garden plot preparation and soil mixes or turf fertilization the BioFlora Dry Crumbles 8-3-6 +8% Ca is a well-balanced organic-based source of both microbial and plant food. Like plants, microorganisms need to be continuously fed to grow and thrive. A one-and-done will not produce that balanced soil ecosystem that all gardeners strive to achieve.

 

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