Passionflowers as Houseplants

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“Red Pass” – Whitney Avenue – Wilkinsburg, PA – This post does not fit with my practical permaculture series… In fact… I’m not yet sure how I will classify this… All I know is I will be highlighting 100 plants this winter… Or 90 plants in 90 days… Or one for every actual day of winter…

Testing… Testing… One… Two… Three… This winter I’m going to highlight 100 different plants… Each one complete with original photography and information gained through constant research and practical hands on experience… This post is simply a test… I’m working on a format for the posts so I may post one from time to time before I actually begin… Anyway… Constructive criticism is welcome…

My girlfriend really likes passionflower… Therefore… I’m really good at growing them… And even more important… I can keep them alive over winter without a greenhouse, using a few simple tricks I plan to reveal in the following post…

passionflower tend to become very large plants, it is not uncommon for it to grow 50′ in a single summer… Though 30′ is more common… Living in the North has its restrictions as only a select few varieties are cold hardy, this is why I prefer to grow them in large pots.

passionflower, when available in my area, are almost always found in the greenhouse hanging out with the other tropical plants. I don’t recommend buying them anytime other than summer, this is due to the shock that would be experienced, if you were to move one from a humid greenhouse, into your climate controlled house without first hardening off the plant… A luxury that is often impossible in winter… Buy passionflower during the months when it can be brought home and placed immediately in the sun, this is simply to avoid stressing the plant out to the point of death.

Always re-pot your houseplants when you bring them home, this will stimulate a flurry of growth as the plant gets cozy in the fresh potting soil. This flush of new growth will require a large support system like a fence or trellis, it is important to have this place chosen and ready before you bring your plant home… This will be the plants permanent home until you bring it inside in winter, choose it wisely as you will not want to disturb it. I like to grow them up stair railings… My apartment has a second floor back porch… I grow the vines up the railings… A fence will also work… But be prepared to have 20′ of new growth per season… I would consider that the average…

When frost is near, and the evenings begin to get cool, I start pruning the plant back a little each day. The plant will often have 30′ of vine cut off it, you don’t want to do this all at one time. I find the plant reacts best when I take a little off the top each day for a week or two… By the time I am finished, I am left with nothing more than a little stub and a few leaves, this makes moving and storing the plants a million times easier.

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“Purple Pass” – Whitney Avenue – Wilkinsburg, PA – I’m working on a format that will highlight the type of information that is not normally found on the internet… My tips and secrets learned in the trenches of the garden…

One of the most common issues I come across with houseplants in winter is a lack of humidity in the air, this can be a nail in the coffin for any plant other than cacti and succulents. Many houseplants are tropical plants, therefore they require a certain amount of humidity in order to survive. Home climate control, particularly the furnace, dries the air out to the point where even humans have issues keeping their skin moist… Imagine what that does to a plant…

A simple solution is to create a humidity tray, this is nothing more than a tray underneath your potted plant containing small stones and constant water. As the water evaporates from the tray, it adds to the humidity around the plant… The key to this working is keeping the tray filled with fresh water… Don’t let it go stagnant… And don’t let it fester… Replace it regularly… If the water in the trays does begin to get all nasty… You have a humid house and the humidity tray is doing more bad than good… Passionflowers like to dry out a little bit between watering… They should not constantly sit in water…

During the winter months, whatever growth you manage to get will typically be stretched out and starved for light. It is important to water regularly, and feed the plant with a dilute solution of general-purpose fertilizer once a month. Winter is a tough time of year for passionflower, everything that you do to it should be in moderation… Do not stress the plant any more than you have to… Tropical plants, when brought inside, are super sensitive to stress… What would not be that big of a deal outdoors in Summer… Is a big deal indoors…

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“Red Pass Looking Down” – Whitney Avenue – Wilkinsburg, PA – Red passion-flower in all its glory… I will cut this 20′ vine down to a small nub come fall… It will slowly grow indoors all winter… In spring I will place it right back on the porch to grow up the rails…

Your plant will grow rather slowly indoors… I find it best to keep the plant under control on a small trellis… Anything that grows above the trellis is removed… In spring when the nights are above 60 degrees it is safe to move your plant outdoors… Remember… Though cold might not kill a plant… It will almost always stunt its growth… As is the case with many plants… This can very often be irreversible on tropical plants resulting in a slow death… So watch nighttime temperatures and plan accordingly…

plant petunias and question everything – chriscondello

This site… And all the photographs and information presented within… Are provided free by the author… Me… I sell prints of some of my photography online – www.society6.com/chriscondello… Or you can contact me directly at c.condello@hotmail.com for commissions or locally/personally produced prints… Thank you for reading…

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Practical Permaculture – The Vegetarian Compost Conundrum

Currant

“Inside The Currant Bush” – © chriscondello 2013 – Red Currant – Garden Dreams Urban Farm and Nursery – Holland Avenue – Wilkinsburg, PA – I do not photograph piles of compost… I just don’t do it… I don’t want to look at photographs of steaming piles… So I don’t make you look at them… These red currants are available at Garden Dreams…

Most of you probably know that I am not a fan of urban compost, very few people know how to properly manage a compost pile… And even fewer are willing to take the time to actually flip the pile every once in a while… Hell… I know people who have spinning compost barrels that only require you to move your arm a little bit… And they still don’t do it… Unless that barrel has a timer hooked up to a motor… The barrel is not getting spun… And in turn… The entire neighborhood smells like someone left a Christmas ham in their trunk till August…

Compost, can simply be defined as the controlled decomposition of organic matter, that is really all there is to it. People try to complicate it for profit sake… But if you just put your organic scraps in a pile in your yard… Eventually they will break down…

Very few people realize this next little fact, but, compost and mulches should ideally be indigenous to the climate you are working in. Tropical plants will often not decompose in temperate climates. Furthermore, they can also often harbor bad bacteria or exotic invasive weed seeds. What I am saying is… If pests and diseases hitch-hike all around the country on plants… Imagine what could end up in your mulch… Keep your compost and mulches as local as possible…

Plants and organic material need moisture to decompose… So take all of those black plastic compost barrels I see all over Pittsburgh, and throw them right in the garbage… They do not work… And you will not be happy… Compost is always better off in an open air situation, oxygen is required for decomposition… The more… The better… Those little black barrels become cess pools… Not compost… You will end up dumping the contents into a pile anyways… And even that is a pain in the ass…

Compost will also not break down until it has reached a temperature of 122° F, and it will not get any hotter than 158° F. Dry and hot climates will require shade and moisture. Cool and wet climates may require some cover. When working in the tropics you can compost much larger material than in the temperate zone due to the climate being hot and humid.

In the temperate zone, all high-carbon, slow to break down material should be shredded. The more surface area you can create on your material, the faster it will break down. Shredding is not just about creating surface area, it is about facilitating the handling and turning of the compost pile. Straw and large branches tend to get tangled around each other, this will make the turning of your pile damn near impossible… The smaller your material… The better… Ideally, a compost pile should be flipped every two days… But once in a while will work fine… It’s better than never…

As a last-minute side note… Or little golden nugget of information… Whichever you choose… When it comes to shredable materials available in the suburbs… Freshly fallen trees are gold… Specifically speaking… Branches under 3″… You see… The cambium layer is the part of the tree responsible for nutrient movement… The smaller the branch… The higher the ratio of cambium layer to hardwood… When shredded… Small branches should always be composted… Or at least used for mulch… Use the good stuff when you can get your hands on it…

Bocking14

“Bocking 14” – © chriscondello 2013 – Comfrey – Hamnett Way – Wilkinsburg, PA – When you have a pile of yard debris… Plant comfrey around it… As time goes on… Cut the comfrey and throw it on your pile… It will speed up decomposition considerably…

Compost activators can be used, but should be placed directly in the middle of the pile for maximum efficiency. Believe it or not… Recently deceased animals make a great activator… Fish, comfrey, yarrow, urine and nettles will also work… Many stores and catalogs now sell “compost activators”… My opinion is to steer clear of them and go with something directly out of your garden… Personally… I like yarrow or comfrey… Peeing on my compost pile would not go over well in my neighborhood… And the cats would find the fish no matter how I buried it…

Compost is typically a low-maintenance activity… Though many a teacher today likes to turn it into a two-hour… $100 class… I find that it is relatively easy to make… But judging by the search engine terms people are using to find my blog… More of you have problems with compost than I thought… In my experience… The issues associated with bad compost stems from a simple lack of nitrogen in the pile. Hence the nitrogen rich activator like Comfrey… Or fish… This problem is commonly observed as a white fungus inside of a pile that smells bad… In the city… Grass clippings are the easy to find source of nitrogen… Carbon is the tricky one…

Properly aged compost, will not resemble any of the material it started out as… Think dark black soil… It should have an earthy smell, with hints of vanilla and almonds… Just kidding… As long as it does not smell like ammonia… You are fine… A pile that starts off at 3′ tall, will shrink considerably as the pile ages. You will know you have the formula right when your pile loses very little volume as it ages.

Flies, though annoying, are actually a welcomed addition to your compost pile. In urban environments flies may be considered more of a pest than anything. A simple way to avoid flies around your compost heap is to place all fruits and veggies on the inside of the pile, if you surround them with carbon matter you basically hide them. Once your compost breaks down, you will not have as much of a smell, or fly problem.

Insects and animals will die in your compost, that is why there is no such thing as a vegetarian compost pile… Insects and rodents do not count as vegetables… Unless there is some new diet I haven’t heard about yet… Books will constantly say you can’t compost meat, or fish… This is BULLSHIT!.. Entire road kills can be composted as long as you put them in the middle… Besides… I have smelled compost piles that would make roadkill smell like posies… Now I’m not recommending composting the neighborhood cat… Or throwing meat scraps in your small urban compost pile… What I am saying is more that plant matter will decompose in your compost pile… Don’t be overly disturbed if you find a dead rodent in your pile… because it happens… And it does not hurt the compost… Or you…

Books will also warn about composting certain weeds, or weeds that have gone to seed… This is also bullshit… A compost pile that reaches the proper temperature will cook the seeds… If you are still worried… Cover the aged pile with a black tarp for a couple of days… The added heat will typically finish the job. Often times, seeds germinating in your compost pile are often indicators of germination conditions… Instead of taking it as a bad sign… Take it as a good one… Figure out what type of weed they are… And google them… You will probably end up back on my blog…Regardless… Look at it as a learning experience… If seeds are germinating… You got something right…

PghPetunias

“Pittsburgh Petunias” – © chriscondello 2013 – My Garden – Whitney Avenue – Wilkinsburg, PA – Plant petunias and question everything…

I’m going to add another last-minute nugget of information… A heavy black tarp is a very effective garden bed making tool… Mark off the area you want your garden… Cover it with the black tarp… And let it sit in the sun for a few weeks… The lack of light coupled with the heat created will typically kill all weeds… Including turf grass… And cook any seeds that happen to be in the soil… This is the slow cousin of sheet mulching… Use it where a mound of compost would not be appropriate…

Given the high nutrient content of compost, often the only seeds that will germinate in your pile are climax species, and mineral accumulators. Weeds are actually one of the best things you can compost, if the weeds in your garden are absorbing all of your hard-earned nutrients, it would be silly to just throw them away… Compost everything…

To end this post… I really just want to say… Compost is really just a pile of decomposing organic waste in your backyard… It will smell… And it will attract bugs… So don’t put it next to your neighbors kitchen window…Compost should be in contact with the soil… And exposed to the elements… Man will try to sell you fancy containers… And expensive additives… When in reality … These are nothing more than leaky garbage cans…

Air exposure… In my experience… Is all you need to solve most problems… If you suspect something is awry… Put a fork in it…

plant petunias and question everything – chriscondello

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