Bahamas for You, Bathtub for Plants.

The recent deep freeze sure makes some of us long for a winter vacation. Here are a few pointers, if you have house plants that you'll leave behind. A bathtub or shower with a curtain can serve as a self-contained greenhouse for short term care of house plants. Three weeks is definitely within serviceable limits.

Longer than that, and you might have someone come in.

Here's what you do. Place a drop cloth, or thin sheet of plastic like a dry cleaning bag down first, and then line the bathtub or shower with newspapers about an inch thick. Place plants on the newspaper bed and water thoroughly. Make sure all the paper is saturated. Close the shower curtain or door and leave the light on. If there's a window in the room, you won't even need the light.

With a little forethought there are a variety of self-watering devices that you can create. Large plastic bottles with the tiniest pinhole in the bottom can serve as automatic drip irrigators. Heavy cotton cord can act as a wick to deliver water to your plants without much fuss. With a sharply pointed stick make a fairly deep hole into the soil and insert the cord. Tamp down the soil to keep the wick in place. Place the other end of the cord in your reservoir of water. As the soil dries capillary action will draw water through the wick to the roots as it is needed.

Here's a quote I came across that I just have to pass on to our readers. "Our property seems to be the most beautiful in the world. It is so close to (the city) that we enjoy all of the advantages of the city, and yet, when we come home, we are far from the noise and the dust." This is from a letter written on a clay tablet in 539 B.C. The city referred to is Babylon.

A frequently asked question concerns the difference between pruning and training apple trees. Pruning is a term that applies to fruiting trees. Cuts that are made are to thin out growth to allow more sunlight to fruit spurs and to increase air circulation.

Annual pruning is a management practice to improve crop production while minimizing vegetative growth.

Training on the other hand is a term applied to young non-bearing trees. Cuts are restricted to those, which improve branch position, encourage horizontal growth, and remove completely unacceptable branches such as those with very acute crotch angles that would be very weak. The goal is to develop a strong, well-formed framework that can later be managed by annual pruning for fruitfulness.

As we've reached month's end, here's a garden calendar for February. I'll restrict myself to indoor activities.


Garden Calendar for February (Indoors).

* Houseplants: check for insect pests such as aphids, spider mites, mealy bugs, and scale; check to see which need repotting; if any are showing new growth, begin to fertilize at half strength, once a month; air layer tall or leggy ones like dracaenas, dieffenbachias and rubber plants.

* Pot up some paperwhites.

* Start tuberous begonias any time from now forward to have blooms by June.

* Start rooting cuttings of geraniums and houseplants.

* Clean and disinfect pots and seedling trays using a 10% bleach and water mix.

* Inventory seeds and test for viability. Place ten on a moist paper towel and put in a plastic bag and keep warm. Allow two weeks. If five or fewer germinate, consider ordering new seeds.

* Brighten up your home by forcing some branches inside. Some proven winners are magnolia, flowering crabapple, cherry, dogwood, forsythia, pear, witchhazel, pussywillow.


Who would have thought we'd be seeing X-Rated plants. Welby Gardens of Denver, Co is set to promote drought tolerant plants for Xeriscape programs. X rated plants will survive on less than one inch of water a week. XX on less that a half inch a week. XXX on zero to one half an inch every other week.

FYI department. The University of Connecticut is sponsoring a Perennial Plant Conference on Tuesday, March 18, 2003. For more information, contact Dr. Mark Brand at (860) 486-2930 or e-mail: or visit


From The Garden of Ed. Submitted for publication in The Towne Crier on January 28, 2003

© 2003 Ed Mues. All Rights Reserved.