Question: Hi, is it okay to use my backyard dirt to pot my house plants in? I’ve been to a couple of the stores recently and compost and garden soil is kind of hard to come by.
NICK: There's no doubt that there is a supply chain problem in the yard and garden industry. When it comes to soils, oh boy, people have to be very inventive and creative in what they're doing. Now it's not the end of the world if you use soil from your yard, but typically you're depleting that from your yard and it's usually a heavier kind of soil which may have different kind of insects and disease problems that you don't want to bring into the house. Whenever possible, try to get your hands on that real garden soil or potting soil (instead of using backyard dirt for house plants) because that would be best for your plants.
Learn more about soil by checking out this video!
Question: My rabbit's foot ferns are turning a dark green and drying up before fully opening. Any ideas on what I’m doing wrong?
NICK: A Rabbit's Foot Fern does have its little idiosyncrasies, but they're pretty easy to take care of. This is a plant that would rather be in a shady situation like maybe morning sun, but nothing after that. The second thing we have to do is mist the plants. Now we don't want the soil to be saturated, just a little bit moist on top. Come through there every two or three days with a sprayer and just kind of mist the tops. This way they can absorb it in their leaves and maybe they'll open better for you. The last thing that we have to keep in mind is that the plants really like to be kind of on the root bound side which is something we don't hear about in the world of gardening.
Question: I was hoping you could give me some information on caring for Gardenias.
NICK: There are so many different varieties and hybrids of Gardenias. The Mystery is the granddaddy of them all, and the nana is the little itty bitty one. They all have similar characteristics on how they're supposed to be taken care of. If you live by either coast, you can grow them in full sun. Everywhere else, you've got to grow them in half shade (preferably morning shade). The more sun they get however, the more flowers they're going to have. The scent of that flower is just ah, dynamic. Okay now what you want to do is to deadhead those flowers so that they keep on producing for you. Don't forget to keep your soil moist (not wet) and also make sure it's an acidic soil when caring for Gardenias
Question: Is hummus fertilizer good for vegetables and houseplants?
NICK: Hummus is something that you can eat. It's thick and pasty stuff that tastes really good on bread. I suppose if you don't like chickpeas and garlic then chances are you can probably use hummus as a fertilizer for your plants. If you are however talking about "humus fertilizer", that's a different story. Humus is kind of like this: Think of the floor of a forest when you pick up the leaves. You'll see that dark, brown and beautiful mulch down material. That right there is something that's alive and could be used as a fertilizer for your plants. And by golly, if you can get your hands on something like that, I definitely would.
Question: I have a Kalanchoe plant that has been traumatized. My girlfriend accidentally knocked it off the counter and now it's dying. What am I supposed to do?
NICK: I sure hope that you're asking for advice on the plant and not the girlfriend because that is way outside my expertise. As far as the plant is concerned, when it fell down to the ground, chances are the roots dislodged from the soil. We have to tell the roots "Hey, it's ok! We're going to take care of you". Firstly, you need to pick the plant up. Kind of push the soil down a little bit so that there's a little bit of hugging going on. After that, you want to get yourself some vitamin b1 with a fish hydrolysate. This right here would be perfect to let the roots know that "Hey, it's okay, you're going to live". Water away, cross your fingers, let's see what happens.
Question: I had a driveway installed last fall and I’m looking for some ideas on dressing up the sidewall. It's only about four feet tall and I definitely do not want to block the neighbor's view. What do you think?
NICK: I’m going to assume that you don't have a lot of room to play with here, and that you want a plant that's going to slurp up right against that wall to soften it up. I would start off with something that can actually attach itself to the wall. There are two plants that come to mind that will do that. "Ficus Pumila", which is in the Ficus family like the big Ficus Benjamina (but it's a vine). That's a wonderful plant for an area like this as well as its' friend "Needlepoint Ivy". Needlepoint Ivy is not very invasive. Also, if you want something that you could trellis on the side, think about using climbing roses for dressing up the sidewall.
Question: Last year I planted radishes in my garden. I planted the seeds at the recommended depth based on the instructions on the packet. When they started growing, I noticed the radishes growing on top of the soil instead of in the soil. Later on I planted Purple Top Turnip greens and Detroit Red Beets. They did the exact same thing. Can you tell me how to fix this?
NICK: Unlike any other kind of vegetable where you harvest above ground, these are root crops and your soil has to be prepared properly in order for them to venture down into that soil. It's imperative that you rototill down six to eight inches and make sure that it's a little bit more on the sandy side. A highly organic kind of soil will actually rot them out.
Question: It was suggested to me that I install heavenly bamboo in a front yard planter to hide the gas meter. Aren't bamboo plants really aggressive and aren't they going to take over the whole yard if I do that?
NICK: I’m all about using common names for plants because the botanical names can get really confusing (plus who wants to memorize all that stuff?). This is one case however where knowing the genus and species of a plant is really important. Phyllostachys are bamboo which is probably the one you're talking about. Underground rhizomes get absolutely everywhere, oh it is just crazy how quickly that grows. The one you're talking about or that was suggested to you is called Nandina domestica. It's a totally a different plant and a wonderful choice if you're trying to hide the gas meter.
Question: I've recently noticed that I have all these tiny little pebble sized mounds of dirt all over my lawn that kind of resemble BB's. I don't see any critters or insects, is this harmful?
NICK: Let's not make a molehill out of something that's much smaller. These little piles of dirt that you're talking about are created by worms. They're usually only about a quarter to a half dollar in diameter, and never much more than a half inch tall. What's happening here is that your soil is too saturated and the worms are digging themselves out, trying to get a breath of fresh air for lack of better words. So what you need to do is to dial down on your irrigation, so that you don't smother them.
Question: We have a new cat that we keep indoors and I'm noticing she has a tendency to snack on my house plants! I'm growing concerned because I think some of them might be poisonous. I don't know what to do, how can I deter her from hanging around my plants?
NICK: Just so we're all on the same page let's agree that people don't own cats, cats own people, but the people own the plants. The best defense to have is to make sure you do your homework to find out which plants have a higher toxicity than the others, if any at all. For instance, a Dieffenbachia is commonly referred to as "Dumb cane" and if you eat it, you can't talk anymore. That's a poisonous plant and you should get it out of the house. The bottom line is do your homework and then you'll know which plants are safe to have.