Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Northern California Coastal & Inland Valleys
February, 2009
Regional Report

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Hopefully, my gang of indoor plants will be alive and well when I return from knee surgery.

A Self-Tending Garden

Tomorrow morning, bright and early, I check into the hospital to have knee replacement surgery. The timing for this procedure is ideal; I'm not currently employed and can take my time with the arduous recovery.

My main concern is with my office plants that reside at the top of two flights of stairs. My sweet husband has kindly offered to water, but he is not a gardener and watering to him means splashing a thimbleful of water onto the surface of the soil. As we well know, watering potted plants requires much more than that.

Preparing my potted houseplants and the little atrium garden downstairs began weeks ago. Although it's time to prune the fuchsia, I have let it go. Plants that have been recently pruned will respond by pushing out a flush of new growth. New growth equals higher water usage. The downstairs planting beds have been thoroughly watered and since we are not expecting a heat wave, should be fine for at least 3 weeks.

I have thoroughly saturated the pots upstairs and have not applied the early spring fertilizer. The plants will be fine without the treatment and will use less water because they are still in winter resting mode. After watering, I closed the window blinds because more light means higher water usage.

If I had a bathtub at my disposal, I would place a damp towel in the bottom and put the pots directly on top so that the clay could soak up the moisture and prevent the pots from drying out. I don't have a tub so instead I have added water to the gravel-filled saucers.

The only plant I am worried about is a philodendron that is desperately in need of transplanting. It outgrew its 6-inch pot at least two years ago, but I have been neglecting my duties as caretaker. Hopefully, it will be forgiving and not topple off the perch until I can once again climb the stairs to my office.

I have grouped all the potted plants together so that they can create a humid environment for each other and set several of the smaller pots together in a large, gravel-filled saucer. The only one I have had to isolate is a large Christmas cactus that has been troubled with a minor mealy bug infestation. It has been treated with insecticidal soap and hopefully, the mealy bug problem will have vanished about the same time I make my reappearance.

All of these techniques will work to keep your potted plants alive should you have to be away from them for up to one month, depending on the time of year and the weather. Of course if it's hot, the plants will dry out faster.

I hope to only be disabled for about 3 weeks. My mom played in a golf tournament 8 weeks after double knee replacements and she was 80 at the time. Hopefully, my plants will be glad to see me when I can once again climb the stairs.

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