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What Are Some of the Best Eco-Friendly Apps that can Help You Go Green?

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Going green can have major benefits for the environment and for your health. However, it can be difficult to make some of the major changes that come with going green and focusing on sustainability, even if you believe in the cause.

So, what can you do to make going green easier? There are a number of tools right at your fingertips that can help. Let’s go over some of the best eco-friendly apps that can help you go green right here.

General Eco-Friendly Apps

We’re going to break our eco-friendly app suggestions into categories. Some apps offer a well-rounded focus on all things green. You can check out:

  • BrightNest
  • JouleBug
  • Oroeco

These apps focus on your lifestyle choices and actions around the home as a whole, allowing you to focus on going green in all aspects of your life. Some of these apps, like Oroeco, offer you personalized tips that can make going green even easier.

Recycling Eco-Friendly Apps

If you want to focus specifically on recycling as you go green, you may want to focus on apps like:

  • iRecycle
  • RecycleNation

These apps can help you improve your recycling habits and they’re both free. You can get information about where to recycle in your area and about what items can be recycled.

Energy Usage Eco-Friendly Apps

Energy usage – and the kind of energy you use – is a big part of going green. You can monitor your carbon footprint with apps like:

  • greenMeter
  • Energy Cost Calculator

These apps can help you determine areas where you can lower your carbon footprint, perhaps by deciding to drive an energy-efficient car or by deciding to purchase energy-efficient light bulbs. You can even check out Light Bulb Finder if you need help selecting the eco-friendliest lightbulbs for you.

Shopping Eco-Friendly Apps

Going green can mean making some big changes to your shopping habits. Fortunately, there are some apps you can turn to if you need help focusing on sustainability while you’re out doing your shopping. You can check out:

  • GoodGuide
  • EWG’s Food Scores
  • Locavore

These apps can help you compare products to determine which ones are the most environmentally friendly, or to find local food in your area.

Additional Eco-Friendly Apps

Some of the best eco-friendly apps are very highly focused on specific aspects of going green. For example, you can use Dropcountr to monitor your water consumption on a daily, weekly, monthly, or yearly basis to decrease your water usage.

You can also cut down on paper waste in your life with PaperKarma. This app can remove you from mailing lists that end up with you dealing with mountains of junk mail, reducing the overall strain on the planet.

Start Using Eco-Friendly Apps in Your Life

You don’t have to figure out how to go green all on your own. There options out there that can help you shift to an eco-friendlier lifestyle.

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Pest Control

How to Kill Vegetable Garden Pests with Ease

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When it comes to harvesting the vegetables from your garden, you don’t want to find out they’ve been destroyed by insects or pests. Luckily, it’s quite simple to kill any pests that may be damaging your crops.

  • Slugs and Snails

Both slugs and snails are commonly found in gardens, but unfortunately, these pests are notorious for damaging crops. Not only do they feed on crops, but they also only come out at night, making it tricky to kill them during the day. Slugs and snails also lay many eggs, which can lay dormant for several years before they hatch.

If you’re struggling with a slug and snail infestation, try a beer bath. Simply place small vats of beer around your garden. Slugs and snails are drawn to the yeast in beer. However, once they try to drink this yeasty beverage, they will fall in and drown.

  • Aphids

Perhaps one of the most destructive insects, aphids love to drink the sap out of any plant in your vegetable garden. They even spread diseases. If you notice signs of an aphid outbreak, then you should make an organic insecticide out of dish soap.

Simply mix a few tablespoons of organic dish soap with a quart of water. Add a couple drops of orange or lemon essential oil. Spray this concoction directly onto your plants, making sure to fully saturate the leaves. This dish soap insecticide is also effective at killing other vegetable garden pests, including mites, mealybugs, and whiteflies.

  • Cabbage Root Fly

The cabbage root fly is known for destroying vegetables by damaging the roots. These pests lay their eggs at the base of plants. When the eggs hatch, the maggots burrow deep down to the roots, where they feast. This can quickly kill your vegetable garden.

If you notice damage to the roots of your crops or you find maggots on the roots, you can quickly remedy the situation by placing a cabbage collar around the base of your plants. This will prevent any newly hatched maggots from reaching the roots.

  • Rodents

Rodents, including mice, rabbits, moles, and squirrels, are always looking for their next meal. However, you don’t want them feeding on your vegetable garden. Spraying a mixture of soap, chili powder, and garlic onto your vegetables is one of the best ways to deter these pests. It even works to repel beetles, slugs, leafhoppers, and borers. This mixture will also keep your family pets out of your garden without harming them.

It doesn’t take very much effort to keep your vegetable garden healthy and free of insects and other pests. Natural and organic products are often all that’s needed to deter or kill these unwanted visitors.

Be proactive all year long to ensure your vegetable garden thrives and kill garden pests organically.

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Pest Control

Mosquito Foggers

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Nasty mosquitos can be one of the problems in a home. When they sting its itchy and may cause diseases. The foggers are handy in ridding them. They create a fog when the insecticide solution is sprinkled. The fog is able to penetrate into the depth of grass, trees and bushes making them the best alternative. Here are foggers worth trying; –

Burgess 1443 40-ounces Outdoor Propane Insect Fogger

This propane fogger is a reliable product. It is a thermal fogger making it suitable for outdoor use. It is effective in killing even in damp and marshy regions. It holds up to 40 Oz and uses the insecticide without wastage. The fog does not damage trees or shrubs when droplets fall on them.

Tri Jet ULV Non-Thermal Flogger

The fogger is easy to set up and use and operates using electricity. Though it has not become very popular the few customers have expresses satisfaction in its effectiveness. The fogger can be used for both indoors and outdoors purposes. It is effective in eradicating mosquitoes, molds, spiders, roaches and bugs. It sprays 4000 sq. ft of territory and has a tank volume of 1 gallon, the approximate insecticide needed for 1000 sq feet is 1 quart of the insecticide. The fogger sprinkles up to thirty feet. After spraying the fog covers the area to up to 25 to 30 mins. One defect is that it is expensive.

Bonide420 Fog-Rx Propane Insect Fogger

This propane powered fogger is effective in getting rid of mosquitoes and midges. It is easy to operate and fast acting giving up to 4 days of mosquito-free time. However, it requires safety measures as the flogging fluid can shoot flames mosquito foggers

Burgess 960 40 oz. Outdoor Electric Insect Flogger

It the successor of burgess 1443 however it uses electricity instead of propane. Very effective for outdoor use. A compatible insecticide is recommended for use. Treatment may last 3 to 5 hours or longer offering protection by vaporizing the insecticide killing mosquitos and other biting insects. Dissatisfaction by the users has been expressed, stating that it does not have any effect on the number of mosquitos.

BEAMNOVA Mist Duster Blower Spray Gasoline Powered Mosquito Powered Cold-Fogger Backpack Sprayer

Its engine operates using petrol. Not only can it be used as a fogger but also can also be used in pest control. It can also be used with both liquids and dust. Users feedback is positive, it is highly recommended for its speed and works without any mechanical issues. However, it is expensive and assembly manuals, to others, may not be so helpful.

Aerosol fogger

Are simple and easy to use. There are very effective outdoors and kills mosquitos on contact when sprayed effectively.

Black Flag 190255 fogging insecticide works with a variety of foggers such as black flag, burgess, and repel thermal fogger. When sprayed it kills the mosquitos and offer protection few hours up to 3 days.  It’s well for use.

Hope the information above helps!

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Pest Control

Get Control Of Your Garden By First Knowing Who The Enemy Is

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Every now and then, people encounter intruders in their gardens and they don’t know how to react. Unfortunately, there are many different animal species that can infest your garden and live off of your vegetables, fruits, or even flowers. The thing is, it’s kind of impossible to expect that everyone will know everything about potential infestations and pests.

That’s why people aren’t strangers to exterminators and wildlife experts, depending on what type of animal we’re talking about. Although, something can be said which I think most people would love to hear. In short, you’re entirely capable of dealing with an infestation yourself. You don’t need any expensive services and people that’ll deal with the infestation instead of you (of course, if you tried everything and nothing works, the exterminators are a good option).

In this article, we’ll be talking about how you can gain control over your garden and what’s in it by identifying what type of animal is bothering you. We’ll also mention something about how to get rid of mice in the garden (as they’re also a type of pest that may annoy you).

Identify the Enemy

Each pest can be dealt with as long as you know what you’re doing. But before you actually start researching about the various methods to get rid of vermin from your garden, you’ll need to figure out what exactly is ruining it.

The most common pests found in the garden are raccoons, mice, rats, and others. With the exception of mice and rats, killing wildlife isn’t exactly allowed (unless you have a permit, and some US states don’t allow those either).

You best hope that you’re dealing with mice or rats because it will take a bit more effort for anything else.

Prepare your Defenses

Once you’ve identified the enemy, you’ll be entirely capable of setting up your defenses. When talking about mice or rats, your best bet would be to get traps. And, luckily for everyone, there are many different traps available. For example, snap traps are great against mice but not very effective against rats.

Then again, there are specific rat traps as well. But, if we’re talking about raccoons, squirrels, or even moles – you won’t exactly be able to kill them. Just to be safe, make sure you use live traps (otherwise called catch & release traps). Also, bait choice is very important so be sure to educate yourself on this as well. Peanut butter should work great for most pests, but again, knowledge is everything.

Conclusion

And that’s basically it. Place your traps in potent trap locations such as entry points (doors, windows…), and throughout your garden. Also, make sure you keep your garden clean and without clutter. Most pests will have to find shelter, water, and food. The entire process isn’t difficult, but if you, for whatever reason, can’t clear out your garden – call the professionals. Additionally, ask them for some tips so if there’s another infestation, you have a bit more knowledge with you!

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Natural Pest Control for Greenhouses and Indoor Gardens

Natural Pest Control for the Garden

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Greenhouses

Preventing Pest Infestations in a Greenhouse

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The spring season brings new beginnings for plant growth. The landscape becomes green again and multitudes of colors and fragrances fill the air as flowers break through the ground’s surface. The new life brought on by spring is rejuvenating for horticulturists. It is not just plants and flowers that “come alive” during this time of year. Just as new plant life emerges all around us in spring, new life for pest insects is also resurrected. As temperatures rise and the summer months approach, more and more insects leave dormancy and begin new life cycles. This is why it is so important for greenhouse gardeners to be aware of and take counter measures against pest insects during the spring and early summer seasons. In many cases, a few simple preventative steps can reduce the likelihood of a devastating pest insect attack.

Sanitation

Sanitation is the number one defense against pest insect infestations. Keeping the greenhouse and the plants clean and tidy can do wonders in preventing pest insects and pathogens. Periodically wiping down the surface of the greenhouse and removing dead or dying vegetation will greatly reduce the possibility of pest insects. Plants should be closely monitored for pest insects on a weekly basis (at the very least).

It is a good idea to set up a quarantine area in the greenhouse. Whenever a new plant is purchased or gifted, it should be quarantined immediately for a week or two to ensure it does not harbor pest insects. After the quarantine period is over and the plant has received a clean bill of health, it may join the other plants in the greenhouse. Bringing new plants into a greenhouse is the most common way a greenhouse gardener will introduce pest insects into his or her own garden. If pest insects are observed on any new plant, it should be thoroughly treated before being introduced to the other plants in the greenhouse.

Monitoring for Pests

As previously mentioned, it is important for greenhouse growers to monitor their gardens for any signs of pest insects. Yellow sticky traps are great tools for monitoring a greenhouse. Yellow sticky traps are similar to fly paper in that they “catch” flying insects in a glue-like substance. By closely examining the yellow sticky trap, a gardener can see if and what types of pest insects are present in the garden. Yellow sticky traps allow a horticulturist to identify potential problems before they get out of hand.

Identifying the Pest Insect

Identifying the pest insect early and accurately is vital to stopping a few pest insects from becoming an infestation. When monitoring the plants, there are some tell-tale signs that will indicate which pest insect a gardener may be dealing with.

Spider Mites

The first sign of a spider mite problem usually shows up in the form of yellow speckling on the surface of the leaves, which is caused by the insects sucking nutrients from the underside of the plant leaves. The speckling from spider mite damage will resemble light yellow spray paint misted on the leaves. Closer examination of the bottom of the leaves will reveal clusters of very tiny red mites and their eggs. A magnifying glass may be necessary to see them. In more extreme infestations, webbing may be found in-between or on the tips of branches and leaves. This webbing looks very much like a spider web and is how these nasty bugs received their name. Spider mites are difficult to get rid of and require a miticide for treatment.

Mealybugs

The first sign of mealybugs is normally cotton-like, fluffy masses found in the crotches or joints of the plant, typically near young tender growth. These tiny “cotton balls” are actually clusters of the slow moving mealybugs. These bugs can reproduce and lay eggs every seven days, so they should be treated immediately to reduce any possible contaminations. It’s difficult to kill the eggs, often in the soil, so it’s important to treat for live mealy bugs every five to seven days for three to four weeks to terminate all adults before they become mature enough to lay eggs.

Fungus Gnats

The first sign of a fungus gnat problem is typically the small, mosquito-like, black or gray insects that fly around aimlessly. They are most prevalent right after a watering or when the soil is disturbed. Fungus gnat larvae look like tiny, light-colored worms that wiggle around in the top layer of soil. They can sometimes be seen “dancing” in standing water after a feeding.

Thrips

The first sign of a thrip issue is usually “shiny streaks” that show up on the surface of the leaves. The shiny trails are actually the areas of the leaf where the thrip larvae have been feeding. Gardeners may also notice tiny black specs on the leaf surface; this is actually the larvae’s fecal matter. To the naked eye, thrip larvae resemble fast moving grains of rice. The larvae can be many different colors, but are usually yellowish-green.

Scale

The first sign of scale is usually a protective covering or bumps on the stems and stalks of the plants. The females lay eggs underneath the protective covering, which will hatch in one to three weeks. The newly hatched nymphs leave the protective covering as tiny white specs and move around the plant to feed. Nymphs insert their piercing mouthparts into the plant and begin to feed, gradually developing their own protective covering as they turn into immobile adults. Scale do not pupate and may have several overlapping generations in one season. A scale infestation is difficult to eliminate and requires a systemic insecticide.

Treatment and Control

Early detection and treatment diligence are the keys to eradicating pest insects. A gardener can start treatment with an organic or all-natural insecticide that is designed for the particular pest insect he or she is battling. Yellow sticky traps are effective in capturing most flying insects, such as fungus gnats and white flies. Denatured alcohol is highly effective as a combatant against mealy bugs and scale by wiping it on the infected areas with a cotton swab or small paint brush. Pyrethrum is an organic derivative of the chrysanthemum plant and is extremely effective against many greenhouse pest insects. Pyrethrum is the primary ingredient in several commercial spray products commonly available at most garden centers. In some cases, a pest insect (scale and mites), cannot be controlled with an organic or all-natural approach.

When this occurs, the gardener may need to implement a systemic chemical control. Systemic pesticides, such as Orthene, are effective against pest insects because they enter the plant’s tissue and kill the bugs as they feed on the plant tissue. Regardless of the treatment program, horticulturists should always use caution and be sure to read the manufacturer’s directions for application.

For more information visit ArcadiaGlasshouse.com

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Propagation

Tips for Cloning Success

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Most of these tips will work for traditional cuttings as well as hydroponic cloning.

Select the plant you plan to clone. Select only plants that are in good health and are at least two months old.  New growth is best if it’s available, however, any healthy stem with at least two or three healthy sets of leaves will work. Only take cuttings from well hydrated plants.  Plants that are dry will not perform as well as cuttings.

Hygiene cannot be stressed enough.  Disease, fungus and viruses spread quickly and are a primary cause of failure.  Luckily, a few easy steps will ensure healthy cuttings.  It may be tempting to skip the cleaning steps, but you will be rewarded with quick healthy cuttings by spending a few extra seconds.

  • Gather your tools: A sharp craft knife or razor blade, cutting shears, container with water, rooting hormone, clean cutting mat, cloning system.
  • Prepare the water bath in the cloner.  Measure nutrients carefully.
  • Select a 2”-3” stem of plant, ideally with new growth.  (Note: fall is the ideal time to find new growth, but cuttings will work in spring) cut below the intersection of leaves on the stem.  Immediately place cutting into water until you are ready to process all cuttings.
  • Remove lower leaves by carefully slicing them at the stem.  Leave several leaves at the top of the stem. If leaves are too large for the cloning space, cut then lengthwise.
  • Place cutting on a clean cutting mat. Sterilize blade with alcohol and carefully cut the stem diagonally at a 45° angle to expose as much of the plant’s cambium as possible. Be careful not to crush any tissues. Dip knife in alcohol between each cutting.
  • Place a small amount of rooting hormone in a small Dixie cup or small glass and dip cutting into hormone.  Do not dip the cutting directly into main container to avoid contamination.  Throw the excess compound away; do not add back to the original container. Note: Commercial growers typically use liquid rooting hormone because the plant absorbs the liquid faster than the powder.
  • Secure the cutting in the basket and place in cloner.

Check your cuttings frequently.  In a few days you will start to see nodes forming just prior to root development.  Change the water once a week or per the manufacturer’s instructions.  Once roots are formed, transplant into 4” pots.  Placing them in a cool greenhouse with bottom heat will encourage healthy root growth while keeping top growth compact and healthy.

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Pest Control

Tips for Keeping Pests Out of the Greenhouse

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The best way to avoid pest problems in a greenhouse is to keep them out to begin with. The list that follows gives many ways to help keep a greenhouse pest free. The more of these that can be integrate into greenhouse gardening practices, the better chance a gardener will have of winning the war against undesirable garden pests.

Start Plants from Seed

If plants are bought at a nursery or a garden center, one can not be assured that the plants are perfectly clean. If one has been getting plants from a reputable producer and has not had problems in the past, it would be a good idea to stick with that grower, even if the prices are higher. Treated seeds are safer for starting your greenhouse plants. Untreated seeds are more likely to carry a seed-borne bacterial or fungal disease.

Repot Plants Outside the Greenhouse

Repotting plants should be done outside of the greenhouse, and any used pots should be cleaned and disinfected with a 10% bleach solution before use. Commercially available soilless mix should be used as the media for seed starting and potting greenhouse plants. This will allow one to avoid introducing insect and microbial pests that often live in soil.

Protect the Work Area

Protect the ground on the floor of the greenhouse with a barrier to keep soil born pests from digging their way in from the outside. Work in the greenhouse first before working in the outside garden. Outside plants should not be kept near the greenhouse door. These plants can be a safe harbor for bugs waiting for a chance to get in the greenhouse.

Hands should always be washed before going into the greenhouse. This is particularly important after working with plants, or produce in the kitchen.

If one has been in close contact with plants, grass or dirt/mud, a change of clothing may be in order before entering the greenhouse. If one has been walking through grass or mud, it is a good idea to remove footwear, before entering your greenhouse. If one will be walking in the woods or a wooded area under trees, or even just walking on dirt paths, try to do it after working in the greenhouse.

Consider possible contamination by visitors to the greenhouse. Visitors should not enter the greenhouse after being in another greenhouse, a garden or an agricultural field.

Clean the Tools

Insects, mites or diseases can be taken into the greenhouse on garden tools that have been used outside. Tools should be thoroughly washed and disinfected with a 10% bleach solution before bringing them in the greenhouse and in between working on separate plants.

Items that have been exposed to plants or produce are a source of contaminants. Used plant shipping boxes and produce shipping boxes may be very useful, but they should never be taken into the greenhouse.

No Pets Allowed

Dogs and cats, that live or spend time outdoors, should never be allowed in the greenhouse.

A Few More Things

Screen air intakes to the greenhouse with a very fine mesh. The screen area should be at least five times the area of the greenhouse air intake, as to not restrict airflow.

Consider if a double door is possible. This is particularly helpful in keeping moths and butterflies out. Moths and butterflies are not generally a problem themselves, but when they lay their eggs on your plants, they will soon hatch caterpillars and start to eat their hosts. On your daily bases remove any of them that are present.

Sticky fly traps can help in early detection of some flying and crawling pests.

Inspect plants as often as possible for visual predators or damage caused by harmful pests, fungus, bacteria or disease.

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Pest Control

Conventional Pesticides Versus Minimum Risk Pesticides

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A pesticide is any substance or mixture of substances intended for preventing, destroying, repelling, or mitigating any pest and will make claims of this on the label and advertising. Any substance falling within this definition of a pesticide must be registered by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) before it can be legally sold or distributed in the United States. Section 25(b) of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) has determined a Minimum Risk Pesticide does not require EPA registration because it poses little to no risk to human health or the environment. Individual states may still require registration of minimum risk pesticides.

Even the most careful indoor gardeners can suffer from insect and disease problems with their plants. Minimum risk pesticides are made from natural ingredients that have proven over time to defend against insects and disease, making them an effective option for prevention and control that is also non-toxic to humans. Minimum risk pesticides are generally a solution of botanical oils from herbs such as clove, thyme and rosemary. They work on contact by smothering and dehydrating insects and disease spores while providing a barrier preventing pest establishment.

Things to Consider When Selecting a Minimum Risk Pesticide

Safety and Use

It is important to remember that these products are still pesticides and though their ingredients are naturally occurring, it does not mean all of them are suitable for consumption. Not all minimum risk pesticides are allowed for use on food crops. EPA regulations are very specific on which products are allowed and which are not. A product label should clearly list specific insects, diseases, and the crops they can be applied on.

Ingredients Approved for Use on Food

Castor oil (U.S.P. or equivalent), cinnamon and cinnamon oil, citric acid, cloves and clove oil, corn gluten meal, corn oil, cottonseed oil, garlic and garlic oil, geraniol, mint and mint oil, peppermint and peppermint oil, potassium sorbate, putrescent whole egg solids, rosemary and rosemary oil, sesame (includes ground sesame plant) and sesame oil, sodium chloride (common salt), soybean oil, thyme and thyme oil, white pepper

Ingredients Not Approved for Use on Food

Cedar oil, citronella and citronella oil, dried blood, eugenol, geranium oil, lauryl sulfate, lemongrass oil, linseed oil, malic acid, 2-phenethyl propionate, sodium lauryl sulfate,  zinc metal strips

Efficacy and Control

There are significant differences in efficacy and control when using natural products. It may cost a little more, but purchasing the right product should resolve your pest problem and be safe for you and your plant. An easy test is to compare two products with the same active ingredient at different price points. The higher priced item is likely to have more active ingredient leading to a greater chance for control. Research the products before you make a purchase, a little digging can give you a lot of insight into what goes into making and supporting each product. For example, can you find test data to prove efficacy? Has a product been formulated using new techniques or technologies to give it a performance edge? These questions are just the start to finding the best minimum risk pesticide for your needs.

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Propagation

A Consistent Environment is a Key Factor in Successful Plant Propagation

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Although germination and rooting techniques vary depending on the specific plant species, there are some general guidelines that can be followed for propagating the majority of greenhouse ornamentals and vegetable plants.

From Seed (Sexual Propagation)

A plant started from seed receives its genetics in a manner similar to the way humans receive genetics. Just as we are made up of a combination of our father and mother, a plant started from seed is made from the genetics of its father and mother. As with humans, some traits can skip generations and there is no guarantee that a plant started from seed will inherit specific traits from its mother or father. This is the main reason the majority of commercial plant propagation is done by clone or tissue culture. Starting from seed is unpredictable but it is also a chance to start a completely unique plant that will add more biodiversity to our wonderful planet.

Temperature and Humidity for Starting Seeds

Germination is the process in which the plant emerges from the seed to start its life. For most plants germination is best done in a very moist (high humidity) environment at a reasonably warm temperature, usually around 75-85 degrees F (the exception to this would be seeds that are generally planted in early spring when the ground temperature is much cooler). Propagation trays with humidity domes are great for starting seeds because they create a microclimate that is more easily controlled. Seeds can be placed directly into a moist medium in the tray and covered with the humidity dome. If the environment is not at least 75 degrees F consistently, it is advised to place a seedling heat mat under the tray to keep a constant temperature. Plants, in general, respond better to consistency and this is especially true with seeds or clones. Keep the top portion of the medium moist until all of the seeds have sprouted. Once the seedlings have broken the surface, lift the dome off periodically to bring in fresh air and also acclimate the seedlings to the lower humidity of the environment. Slowly increase the amount of time each day the dome is removed until it is removed entirely. Most varieties of plants can be acclimated in a matter of a few days. Follow the seed packet’s instructions for thinning, spacing, and transplanting.

Another popular germination method is the wet paper towel technique. Place your seeds in a damp paper towel and fold the paper towel over the seeds. Put the paper towel in a ziplock bag and place it on top of your refrigerator (toward the back; this keeps the seeds at a consistent temperature). Check daily by gently unfolding the paper towel to examine the seeds. Keep the paper towel moist; adding water if necessary. In a few days you should see the first root coming out of the seed (radicle root). Gently, using a tweezers if necessary, place the seed into the soil with the radicle root facing downward. Cover the seed and keep the top layer of soil moist until the plant breaks the soil’s surface. The paper towel technique is a fun way to teach children how plants start from seeds. This technique works best with larger seeds (melons, cucumbers, squash, corn, sunflower, etc.). Most smaller seeds, such as lettuce, are best planted directly into the soil.

From Clone (Asexual Propagation)

Starting a plant from a donor or mother plant is a form of cloning or asexual propagation. Some plants naturally propagate themselves this way; a good example is the inch plant (wandering jew). Cloning has become the most popular method among commercial growers because the offspring are identical to the donor plant so the growers know exactly what they are going to get. It also allows the gardener to replicate plants with desirable qualities such as a certain fragrance, color, resistance to pathogens, or any other trait that could be deemed as beneficial.

There are two popular types of cloning techniques: cuttings and tissue culture. Hobbyist gardeners generally take cuttings to replicate their favorite plants because tissue culture is a more involved process that requires special equipment. African violets, pothos, gardenia, crepe myrtle, cyperus, geranium, wandering jew, coleus, impatiens, spider plants and hibiscus are all easily propagated by cutting. Many vegetables, including peppers, tomatoes, cucumber and squash, can also be propagated by cutting. Some vegetables, like cabbage, can be cloned via their root.  Although there is a slight variance in cloning techniques (depending on plant species) the majority of the focus should be on environmental conditions as they are usually the determining factor in cloning success.

Temperature for Cloning

Like plants started from seed, plants propagated from cuttings respond best to consistent temperatures. Ideally the root zone (or potential root zone) is kept at a temperature of 75-85 degrees F. If the environment where the clones are kept has fluctuating temperatures it is best to utilize a heat mat or heat cables to rectify this problem and maintain consistent temperatures. For most species of plants, if temperatures are too low or continually fluctuate below the desired range, the plants enter what I refer to as a state of suspended animation. In other words, they remain green and healthy looking but fail to create roots or carry out any vital functions needed to stimulate new growth. Eventually these clones will die without ever creating a root.

In cases where humidity levels are high and temperatures are low a cutting or seedling will dampen off. Damping off is a horticultural disease caused by pathogenic microorganisms which destroy a seedling or cutting before it has a chance to grow. On the other end of the spectrum, clones that are kept in temperature ranges above the desired range will commonly wilt or rot and turn into mush long before they develop a new root zone. An inexpensive digital thermometer is a great way to monitor the temperature of the root zone. Make sure to monitor the temperature during the coldest and hottest points of the day to ensure you stay within the desired range even when the atmospheric conditions are the most volatile.

Humidity for Cloning

Humidity levels for cuttings should be kept high for at least the first few days. Although they are not yet established plants, cuttings still transpire moisture through their stomata and without the ability to absorb replacement moisture through a root zone a cutting can quickly wilt in lower humidity environments. Ideally, the humidity level for cuttings should be kept at 80-100% for the first few days. Humidity domes, plastic bags, or any way you can temporarily enclose the cuttings to retain a high humidity environment will suffice. I prefer the humidity domes sold at local gardening centers because they make it very easy to acclimate the plants to their future environment.

After you take your cuttings, lightly spray the inside of the humidity dome with water and place it on the tray. In the subsequent days remove the humidity dome for a few minutes each day to give the cuttings some fresh air; very similarly to the way you would acclimate seedlings. After four days, you can incrementally increase the amount of time you remove the dome each day until the cuttings are completely acclimated to their environment. Although some plant species are more finicky than others, generally speaking, the cuttings will have created their own roots in 7-14 days and at that time should be completely acclimated to the environment.

Sterilize Equipment

Seedlings and cuttings are more sensitive, not only to environmental conditions but also to pests and pathogenic microorganisms, than adult plants. Before planting seeds or taking cuttings completely sterilize all the equipment you plan on using. Diluted bleach or hydrogen peroxide are great ways to effectively sterilize your propagation equipment before each use. Make sure the medium you choose is sterile as well. Prepackaged propagation mediums offer the peace of mind of a sterilized medium and ensure the seedlings or cuttings aren’t being placed in a compromised medium.

There are many products on the market designed to aid the propagation process. Rooting hormones, seedling heat mats, aeroponic clone machines, humidity domes, sterile disposable scalpels and numerous prepackaged mediums are all products that can help achieve successful propagation. Just remember, there is no magic product that will automatically guarantee propagation success. These products teamed with sound environmental conditions are the keys to thriving seedlings and clones. Stable environmental conditions are the foundation for making any aspect of greenhouse gardening flourish and propagation is no different.

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Propagation

A Stable Atmosphere Equals More Success with Plant Clones

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Unstable atmospheric conditions may be the biggest cause of failure in cloning by novice gardeners. Some plant varieties are resilient and will not be adversely affected by large temperature or humidity swings. However, many plant varieties require uniform atmospheric conditions during the initial rooting stage.

A temperature range of 70-80 degrees F for clones is generally accepted. If this is not possible in your greenhouse or indoor garden it may be necessary to create a small sub-climate elsewhere. Uniform temperature is probably the single largest factor for cloning success. If the temperature gets too hot, the clones will wilt and die before creating roots and if the temperature gets too cold, the clones will enter a state of suspended animation and never create the root systems they need to become individual plants.

Seedling heat mats are a great way for horticulturists to maintain the proper temperature during the cloning process. Humidity is also a large contributing factor to successful cloning. Many plant varieties do best with a high humidity (80-99%) during the beginning stages of cloning.

The cutting, once removed from the donor plant, has no root system to bring in moisture. It is, however, able to lose moisture through the surface of its leaves. This makes the cutting rely heavily on the moisture in the surrounding air to maintain health, especially for the first few days. Humidity domes or humidity chambers are great ways for a gardener to maintain a higher level of humidity for the initial stages of cloning. Generally speaking, it is a good idea to acclimate the clone to the ambient humidity after three to seven days. This can be done by taking off the humidity dome each day for a few minutes and then increasing the duration of removal each day.

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Propagation

What to do With a Fresh Cutting

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After selecting, inspecting, and preparing the donor plant, a gardener may begin taking cuttings. Generally speaking, it is best to make a 45 degree angle cut just above a node site (the place where a leaf or branch attaches to the main stem). There are some varieties of plants that create roots very easily. Those plants can be placed directly into a cup of water after being cut from the donor plant. For example, spider plants, wandering jew, and coleus can all be easily rooted in a cup of water. However, some plant varieties need a little extra care to ensure rooting success. For these plants it may be necessary to use a rooting hormone or cloning gel. These products aid in speeding up the cloning process by immediately providing the cutting with the hormones necessary for root production. When using a rooting hormone or cloning gel, the freshly cut end should be dipped into the hormone right after it has been taken from the donor plant. After dipping the cutting, it can be placed into the chosen medium.

Some plants can be rooted directly in water and do not require a special medium for rooting. Many plant varieties clone best when placed in some sort of inert grow medium designed for root development. Stonewool, coco fiber, peat moss, perlite and clay pebbles are all examples of inert media that gardeners commonly use to root clones. Some gardeners even choose to place the freshly cut clones into a light soil mix for rooting. In many ways the medium chosen is personal preference. As long as the medium has the ability to hold some moisture and provide oxygen to the developing roots, it will work just fine. Nutrition is not as important in the medium during the early stages of root development. In fact, soils rich in nutrients (especially high nitrogen soils) can slow or inhibit early root development. Most gardeners use no fertilizers during the cloning process; although I have had more than a few people swear by using a very diluted blooming fertilizer (less nitrogen) until the clone has developed a healthy root system.

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Propagation

Selecting a Donor Plant for Plant Cuttings

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One of the most important aspects of cloning by taking cuttings is selecting an appropriate donor plant. The idea is to select a plant variety that has the traits a grower wishes to replicate. However, it is also very important to select a donor plant that is in good health. If the donor plant has diseases, pest insects, or other pathogens chances are good that any clones taken from that plant will have those same problems. Always inspect a potential donor plant carefully before taking cuttings.

Once a donor plant is selected, it can be prepared for the cloning procedure. One technique that helps to increase cloning success rates is to limit the donor plant’s exposure to intense light for 24 hour prior to taking clones. The plant does not need to be moved into complete darkness. Moving the donor plant to a shaded section of the greenhouse or removing the plant from direct horticultural lighting will help to prepare the plant for cloning purposes. It is also important that the donor plant is not showing any signs of environmental stresses. In other words, it is not wise to take clones from a donor plant that is wilted due to heat or lack of water. If possible, try to make sure the donor plant is at the highest level of health before taking clones.

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Propagation

Ten General Houseplant Propagation Rules

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There are several easy propagation methods you can use for houseplants. There are some basic concepts that apply to all propagation methods, rather you are try plant plant cuttings, plant division, offsets, air layering, or plantlets.

General Propagation Rules

  1. Always use clean sharp utensils that have been sterilized in alcohol.
  2. Whichever propagation method you select, the parent plant must be healthy. Cuttings taken from a sick or dying plant are doomed to fail.
  3. Rooting hormone helps roots develop; but too much is worse than none at all.
  4. Since moist conditions are needed for rooting to be successful, it is important to use a rooting hormone that contains a fungicide to prevent plant diseases.
  5. The rooting medium should be light and fast draining. If you purchase new construction sand, vermiculite, peat moss, or perlite, it can be used directly from the bag. Medium taken from any other source should be sterilized by heating it in the oven at 200 degrees for 30 minutes.
  6. Pots or containers for the new plants must be clean and free of old soil and plant material; if using old pots be sure to wash them well with a household disinfectant. It’s important to use very small containers when you propagate to prevent over watering and help roots development. 2” or 4” pots work well for a single cutting or use a 6” pot for several cuttings.
  7. Roots that form in water are different than roots that form in soil. If possible, use soil rather than water to propagate plants.
  8. Indirect light and temperatures between 70-80 degrees are best for propagation.
  9. Never allow the soil of newly propagated plants to dry out, but on the other hand, the soil should never be soggy. If the planting medium is too dry or too wet, roots don’t develop.
  10. To increase the humidity and keep the soil from drying out place newly propagated plants into a plastic bag and seal the top or cover the plants with a sheet of plastic. You can use small picks or sticks to keep the plastic from resting on the plants.
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Propagation

Tips for Tissue Culture Cloning

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Tissue culture, in horticulture, refers to the replication of a plant from its cells or tissue which are grown in a nutrient culture medium under sterile conditions. Basically, tissue culture is like growing a plant in a petri dish from just the tiniest slice of tissue. Most plant varieties can be successfully duplicated with tissue collected from the root, stem, leaves, seed, flower, or virtually any other part of the plant. Sterile conditions are crucial for the tissue culture technique because living plant materials are naturally contaminated with microorganisms. Tissue culturists must sterilize the starting plant material in a chemical solution, usually consisting of alcohol and sodium hypochlorite. After sterilization, the starting plant material is placed in a sterilized container which contains the nutrient culture medium. The nutrient culture medium consists of a correct balance of plant hormones (auxin and cytokinin) and a nitrogen source. Too much auxin will result in excess root growth, whereas too much cytokinin will result in excess shoot growth. Once the specimens grow large enough, they can be transplanted into potting soil or other desired medium to grow like normal plants.

Tissue culture offers the horticulturist many different advantages. Like conventional cloning, tissue culture offers the ability to create large numbers of genetic copies of a desirable plant. Unlike conventional cloning, tissue culture can be used as a way to preserve rare or endangered plant species and can also be used to rescue embryos in distantly related cross pollinated species. The biopharmaceutical industry uses massive bioreactors filled with tissue cultures which can produce valuable compounds used as biopharmaceuticals. Another huge advantage of tissue culture is the ability to “clean” plant material of contaminates. In other words, a plant that has developed a disease or virus can still be propagated without bringing the pathogen along with it. This advantage alone provides an invaluable asset of preservation to modern horticulture.

Tissue culture kits are available for hobbyists to use. There are even some recipes online for creating tissue culture kits out of mostly around-the-house items. Because sterilization is so important, hobbyists who want to experiment with tissue culture need to have a dedicated area. Although tissue culture may be a fun experiment, other asexual propagation techniques are more practical for the average greenhouse hobbyist.

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Propagation

Propagating Plants from Seeds

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A plant started from seed receives its genetics in a manner similar to the way humans receive genetics. Just as we are made up of a combination of our father and mother, a plant started from seed is made from the genetics of its father and mother. As with humans, some traits can skip generations and there is no guarantee that a plant started from seed will inherit specific traits from its mother or father. This is the main reason the majority of commercial plant propagation is done by clone or tissue culture. Starting from seed is unpredictable but it is also a chance to start a completely unique plant that will add more biodiversity to our wonderful planet.

Temperature and Humidity for Starting Seeds

Germination is the process in which the plant emerges from the seed to start its life. For most plants germination is best done in a very moist (high humidity) environment at a reasonably warm temperature, usually around 75-85 degrees F (the exception to this would be seeds that are generally planted in early spring when the ground temperature is much cooler). Propagation trays with humidity domes are great for starting seeds because they create a microclimate that is more easily controlled. Seeds can be placed directly into a moist medium in the tray and covered with the humidity dome. If the environment is not at least 75 degrees F consistently, it is advised to place a seedling heat mat under the tray to keep a constant temperature. Plants, in general, respond better to consistency and this is especially true with seeds or clones. Keep the top portion of the medium moist until all of the seeds have sprouted. Once the seedlings have broken the surface, lift the dome off periodically to bring in fresh air and also acclimate the seedlings to the lower humidity of the environment. Slowly increase the amount of time each day the dome is removed until it is removed entirely. Most varieties of plants can be acclimated in a matter of a few days. Follow the seed packet’s instructions for thinning, spacing, and transplanting.

Another popular germination method is the wet paper towel technique. Place your seeds in a damp paper towel and fold the paper towel over the seeds. Put the paper towel in a ziplock bag and place it on top of your refrigerator (toward the back; this keeps the seeds at a consistent temperature). Check daily by gently unfolding the paper towel to examine the seeds. Keep the paper towel moist; adding water if necessary. In a few days you should see the first root coming out of the seed (radicle root). Gently, using a tweezers if necessary, place the seed into the soil with the radicle root facing downward. Cover the seed and keep the top layer of soil moist until the plant breaks the soil’s surface. The paper towel technique is a fun way to teach children how plants start from seeds. This technique works best with larger seeds (melons, cucumbers, squash, corn, sunflower, etc.). Most smaller seeds, such as lettuce, are best planted directly into the soil.

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Propagation

Asexual Propagation Using Cuttings is Easy and Effective

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For years commercial horticulturists have been taking advantage of the multiple advantages offered by asexual propagation. These advantages are now being reaped not only by the commercial growers but by hobbyists as well. One of the largest advantages of asexual propagation is the reduced time it takes for a plant to reach maturity or get to a sellable size. This has obvious advantages for the commercial grower but the advantages extend to the hobbyist as well. The faster the plants can reach maturity, the longer the hobbyist can literally enjoy the fruits of his or her labor. Asexual propagation also gives the gardener the ability to create identical replicas of the most prized plants. This can be especially advantageous for the vegetable grower who wishes to replicate the plants with desirable traits. The best tasting tomatoes or crispest cucumbers can be perpetually grown and cloned in a hobby greenhouse and enjoyed year after year. Aside from flavor and aroma, plants can be cloned to preserve other desirable traits like a heightened resistance to stress or disease. Cloning by taking cuttings is the most common asexual propagation technique used by the hobbyist.

This technique is very effective on a wide variety of plants and is also relatively easy to master. The process of cloning some varieties of plants may only consist of cutting a small branch off the plant and placing the stem in water. After a few days roots will begin to form and the plant can be transplanted into soil or another desired medium. The once part-of-a-plant becomes a plant itself; a genetic duplicate of its donor plant. Spider plants, wandering jew, and coleus are a few plants that clone very easily in straight water and with very little effort.

However, not all plants will root as easily as a coleus. Other plant varieties require a little more attention to obtain a high propagation success rate. These varieties usually root better with the aid of a rooting hormone and more precise control over temperature and humidity. Tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and many other vegetable varieties clone best in a consistent environment. Geraniums, hibiscus, and some African Violet varieties will root much faster and at a higher percentage within a consistent environment. When cloning these more finicky plants, try to keep the temperature consistently between 72-85 degrees F, especially in the root zone. A seedling heat mat may be necessary to ensure a consistent temperature during the night hours. The optimal humidity for clones during the first stages of propagation is 80-100%. After the plants create their own roots they can be acclimated into the ambient humidity. Humidity domes placed over the propagation trays are a great way to control the higher humidity needs of clones and seedlings without affecting the ambient humidity of the greenhouse. Clones that are kept in a consistent environment will root faster and also have a higher overall success rate.

Tip for the Hobbyist

When taking a cutting off a plant, it is best to do so just above a node site (a site where a branch occurs). A 45 degree angle cut just above a node site is my preferred method for most soft stemmed plant varieties. After cutting, place the clone directly into a rooting compound or water. Not only does this method create healthy clones, it also promotes the donor plant to multiply its shoots.

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