Favorite or New Plant
While common wisdom has it that overwatering is the cause of most houseplant deaths, that's never been the case for me. I need plants that can survive neglect and sporadic watering. Some of my resilient choices are old windowsill standbys -- snake plant, jade plant, pothos, and ponytail palm. But I'm always on the lookout for something new that can withstand my sometimes neglectful care. New to my collection of indoor plants is ZZ Plant (Zamioculcas zamiifolia), also sometimes call money tree or Zanzibar gem. Its dark green, shiny leaves are arranged in alternate ranks on stout arching stalks that can reach up to 2 feet tall. Tolerant of a wide range of conditions, it does well in bright or dim light but no direct sun, puts up with low humidity, and doesn't seem to mind my sometimes haphazard watering. (If kept too dry, it will drop its leaves but will rebound with more regular watering.) I give it monthly feedings during spring and summer with a dilute houseplant fertilizer. This plant is poisonous if ingested, so may not be the best choice if you have young children or pets.
Vegetable Gardening Questions Answered
Did you have some head-scratching moments in the vegetable garden this year? The Veggie Gardener's Answer Book by Barbara Ellis (Storey Publishing, 2008, $14.95) is here to help! While its subtitle Solutions to Every Problem You'll Ever Face, Answers to Every Question You'll Ever Ask is a BIT over-reaching, this handy little book does have loads of helpful and easily accessible information on growing vegetables in question-and-answer format. It begins with general gardening topics such as planning, planting, and caring for the garden, soil and composting, and dealing with pests, diseases, and other problems. Then sections on individual crops, from artichokes to tomatoes, follow. It's a great book to dip into over the winter as you plan for next year's garden, and would make a great stocking stuffer this Christmas for both beginning and experienced gardeners.