A New Approach For The Grill

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In a recent issue of National Geographic devoted to food* I discovered some eye opening stats. Consider this-
 

“Today only 55% of the worlds’ crop calories feed people directly; the rest are fed to livestock (about 36%) or turned into biofuels and industrial products (roughly 9%). Though many of us consume meat, dairy and eggs from animals raised on feedlots, only a fraction of the calories in feed given to livestock make their way into the meat and milk that we consume. For every 100 calories of grain we feed animals, we get only about 40 new calories of milk, 22 calories of eggs, 12 of chicken, 10 of pork, or 3 of beef.”

 
You’re probably asking yourself – So what does that have to do with my backyard barbecue?
 

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Spring Chores: Dust Off The Plants

Dieffenbachia leaves, the larger the leaves, the more they trap dust.

Dieffenbachia leaves. The larger the leaves, the more they trap dust.

I’m into minimal household dusting—books and tabletops can wait—but house plants are another thing altogether. Too much dust on the leaves means that plants can’t perform their bodily (plantily?) functions all that well. All plants have holes in their leaves, called stomata, that allow them to breathe, and transpire. Carbon dioxide enters, and oxygen and water exit through the stomata. If those holes are clogged with dust, your plant won’t be healthy as it could be.  And neither will you. Those plants provide you and your home with fresh oxygen. Cleaning your plant’s leaves is like cleaning the air filter in your air conditioner, or your car. Plus they look much better when they’ve been wiped clean of all that dust.

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Succulents: New Plants From Old

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The bad thing about succulents is that they’re very brittle. It’s also the good thing about succulents, in that any time you knock off a fat, brittle leaf you’ve got the beginning of a brand-new plant. I’m talking about succulents with smooth, fat, fleshy leaves, not the kind with spines, like cactus.

While most typical house plants’s leaves need to be yanked or cut off, most succulents’ leaves will fall off if you look at them sideways. Accidentally brushing against them, moving pots about and jostling them slightly almost guarantees some leaf drop. It’s a little heartbreaking to spoil the symmetry of an established plant or to accidentally lop leaves off one that’s just beginning to take off, but the opportunity propagation helps to take the sting out. Got dismembered leaves? Make new plants.

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Orchids Need Air

moth orchid phalenopsis

Phalenopsis or ‘Moth’ Orchid, in bloom.

Plants tell you that that you’re not treating them right. Eventually. By dying, usually. But sometimes you get warning signs. That’s what happened to me with my Phalenopsis orchids. It was a “What’s Wrong With My Orchid” situation. I overwatered. I had planted them in a container with no drainage. They drooped and almost died. My thinking was, they live in the jungle, so lots of water and moisture is what they need. I discovered that no, that’s not quite right.

Orchids are air plants, epiphytes, that grow in the crooks of trees, with their air roots dangling every which way.

An epiphyte is a plant that grows non-parasitically upon another plant (such as a tree), and derives its moisture and nutrients from the air, rain, and sometimes from debris accumulating around it instead of the structure it is fastened to.

So, while orchids do love high humidity in the air, they don’t like their leaves to be submerged in water. Especially not the central pocket of leaves at the growth point. I was in the habit of pouring water into this area thinking that this would make the orchids feel right at home. The root of the problem is this: While we grow orchids with leaves facing straight up in pots, in the jungle, orchid leaves grow sideways on trees, allowing water to drain right off. 

I’m trying a new strategy now, and potted (what was left of) my orchids into smaller clay pots. They now look much happier and are putting out new leaf growth. While I might mist them occasionally, I won’t let water collect, letting them enjoy their new, less soggy life. 



Shred Those Leaves

fallen maple leavesFall is the time when good stuff for the garden literally grows on trees. It also conveniently falls right where you need it. So, rather than raking and putting your fall leaves out for the city to collect, hang onto those leaves. Pile them on your garden beds intact, or even better, shred them. Shredded leaves are a perfect mulch and soil builder, insulating your garden soil and improving it as they break down. One of the best pieces of garden equipment you can own, even if it’s used once a year, is a leaf shredder. Small electric ones, like the Flowtron, work sort of like a weed whipper, and shred leaves through a small hopper into a waiting garbage bin. Maybe you can talk your neighbours into sharing a leaf shredder with you.

Alternative methods of leaf shredding:

  • pile 6-8 inches of leaves into a metal garbage bin and hold your weed whipper inside it to shred leaves. You can add more leaves on top while whipper is on. 2 person job. Wear safety glasses.
  • run mulching mower over leaves, and either leave on grass to compost or add to garden beds.