Monday, December 13, 2010

Oh Great! A friend just gave me a poinsettia.

You set a wonderful table, invited all the right guests, and are ready to celebrate the coming of Christmas with good friends and family. But .......oh no, someone did not bring you a nice bottle of zinfandel, but a glorious blooming plant. Yes, you have just received a poinsettia, aka Euphorbia pulcherrima, or better yet and according to the Aztecs, Cuitlaxochitl (I can't pronounce it either).

Since poinsettias bloom naturally in October, Franciscan priests during the 17th century near Taxco incorporated the plant into the Fiesta of Santa Pesebre nativity procession signaling the coming of Christmas. They used the concept of blood sacrifices from Aztec tradition to have the poinsettia represent the blood of Christ to Catholics and Christians.

But you don't live in the mountains outside of Mexico City. So what do you do to maintain the glory of this plant? 

Poinsettias thrive on indirect, natural daylight -- at least six hours a day. Avoid direct sunlight, as this may fade the bract color. If direct sun cannot be avoided, diffuse the light with a shade or sheer curtain. To prolong color, keep plants out of traffic areas and protect from cold drafts and excessive heat. Ideal temperatures are 67F to 70F during the day and 60F to 62F at night. Remove damaged or diseased leaves.

Poinsettias require moderately moist soil. Check plants daily and water thoroughly whenever the soil feels dry to the touch. Plants in clay pots require more water, while those in plastic pots are easily over watered. Apply water until it runs out the drainage hole. However, do not allow poinsettias to sit in standing water. If the container is wrapped with foil, remove it when watering or make a hole in it for drainage. Discard any collected water in the drainage receptacle.

A poinsettia does not require fertilization while it is in bloom. However, to maintain green foliage and promote new growth indoors after the holidays, apply a balanced all-purpose house plant fertilizer once per month. Always follow the directions on the fertilizer label.

What to do with your poinsettia after Christmas? Here is what works great for me.
  1. With a sharp pair of shears, trim off the top of the plant near to the soil surface
  2. Gently tap the soil and root ball from its container, taking care to not allow any soil medium to fall to the kitchen floor
  3. Rinse and remove any debris from the pot. After sterilization, put the pot under the kitchen sink or on a shelf in the garage.
  4. Place the stems and leaves into the compost pile out back, and 
  5. Buy a new one next year! Support your local growers
Yes, reblooming a poinsettia is a real pain, but if you really want to try it, instructions for reflowering can be found here.

......and don't even try to tell me that poinsettias are poisonous, 'cause they ain't!

Friday, December 03, 2010

Ode to a Green Poinsettia

I was looking through some old files and I found a wonderfully appropriate poem for this time of year. I must have scanned it years ago, so I apologize to the author, whom I can not locate, if I spelled your name wrong.


Mari Alyce Loguidice,
Horticulture Assistant, Schenectady Co., NY

,Twas a week before Christmas
And I looked down in dread
At my year old poinsettia
With no sign of red

The book said it was simple
To bring Christmas cheer
By saving poinsettias
year after year

I decided to try it
I would get right down to it
I'd feel so creative
The new Martha Stewart

My Holiday guests
would say as eyes gleam
"your plant is so red,
and your thumbs are so green."

The trick, the book said,
Is all in the light
For 15 hours a day
Just simulate night

And gradually‑yes, it said
Your year old poinsettia
Will turn vibrantly red

I pondered my schedule
With a pen and some paper
To figure a way
To pull off this caper

I would rush home from work
So I could deposit
My year old poinsettia
into the closet

At 8 every morning
Oh‑this will be fun
I'll bring my poinsettia
Out In the sun

I became quite a slave
To my plant and my plight
But I desperately wanted
To get it just right.

There were a few mishaps
In the 10 weeks it took
To give my poinsettia
That new Christmas look

Like the few times
We went away overnight
And left the poinsettia
Out in the light
Or the time in the closet

It got a bit battered
By someone’s big parka
But none of this mattered

For I had a mission
Oh what a thrill
I would make this plant flower
By sheer force of will

But obviously something
Went wrong with the scene
For here's my poinsettia
Still hopelessly green

Yet I won't lot this dampen
My bright Christmas spirit
But don't mention poinsettias
'Cause I don't want to hear it

Source: GroNews, Nov/Dec ‘96

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Lessons Even a Master Gardener Could Glean From FarmVille

Last week, I posted the results of a brief poll on the relationship of FarmVille on Facebook to gardening and agriculture. One of my participants did not respond to my poll, preferring to provide a contextual response. I am providing her response as a guest blog.

Lessons Even a Master Gardener Could Glean From FarmVille

Esmaa Self is a a Master Gardener and blogger with both a seasonal outside garden and year-round greenhouse in northern Colorado. Follow her blog Es*sense: Esmaa's Sense of Things

Imagine a world wherein computer gamers learn to grow virtual food. Now imagine that these players gather agricultural know-how while nurturing rows of pixels. In early December 2009, Zynga, creators of the Facebook social game known as FarmVille, announced that the application had surpassed 70 million active monthly users.

According to the USDA, in 1997 there were 1.9 million farms in America. The number of American farms has been in decline since it peaked at 7 million in 1935. With an estimated population of 300 million, it would seem America needs to turn computer farmers into actual farmers.

Thus, the FarmVille phenomenon may have hands-in-soil types wondering what can be learned from a chocolate dairy make believe world. If the question applies solely to farming, the answer from this master gardener and daily FarmVille player would be: not much. Oh, there are rudimentary lessons such as ‘seeds grow in soil’, ‘plants come from seeds’, ‘cows produce milk’ and ‘chickens produce eggs’ but of these lessons, the latter half are sullied by game inaccuracies. The FarmVille farm might house pink cows that produce strawberry milk and golden hens whose eggs produce Zen gardens. In FarmVille, there is no slaughter. There, horned animals (bulls, reindeer, buffalo, deer) are brushed as if tame and dairies produce green and pink calves. The FarmVille cat is more profitable than its sheep, swine or fowl. There is no weather with which to contend. There is no water to buy, no real market for one’s goods. The best farmers are those who keep track of time: strawberries sprout and ripen between breakfast and lunch; potatoes require three days and coffee is ready for harvest in 16 hours.

So, what real world benefit might a gamer gain in such a place as this? Social skills. What FarmVille lacks in terms of future farmer education, it more than makes up for in terms of socialization and cooperation. To expand one’s barn, one must enlist the help of neighbors. To lay the most golden eggs, a farmer needs friends to feed her hens. Others fertilize your crops so that you can earn additional points. Too, you’ll find most personality types in the virtual farming crowd. You’ll encounter hot heads, over-achievers, clutter bugs, hoarders and even nice folks. Learning to navigate the farmers offers plenty of opportunity to acquire life skills, believe me, but hands-on-keyboard, head-in-game is no way to learn to farm.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Do you Farm with FarmVille?

Back in December, I was intrigued by an update on my 14-year-old son's Facebook update that his poinsettias were ready to harvest. Now, I knew good and well that he was not growing poinsettias in his bedroom and I also knew that the last place he wanted to be was at the greenhouse growing plants where he might have to work, but where were these poinsettias that needed to be harvested? "They are on my farm!" explains Thomas, "geeze Dad, sometimes you really don't get it." I guess not.

Many of my Facebook friends do play FarmVille and they play a lot, based on their updates. It does seem to be one of the most popular applications that is on Facebook and the developer Zynga currently provides 13 other social games, plus a handful for the iPhone platform. Zynga's mission is to connect people through games and they seem to do it well. One of the great things that I did not know before my research into FarmVille was that Zynga players, through have raised more than $3 million for international non-profit needs, including the earthquake victims in Haiti.

So just what is FarmVille, FarmVille is an online game hosted on Facebook where you can "farm" with your friends. You spend a good amount of time tending your virtual farm, your crops, and your livestock. You also spend a good deal of time helping your neighbors, which is where the social networking comes into the scene. So being the inquisitive sort, I set up a quick Doodle poll and surveyed some of my own Twitter and Facebook followers to see if their activities with FarmVille had any relevance to gardening and agriculture.

I received 31 responses to my poll, which was not great, but a good snapshot of interest. Most of those answering the poll were older than 50. Well that shows you where my friends are. Only 3% were under 25 and actually the only one to respond from that age group was my son. He thought the poll was stupid, which I guess is a typical response from your own teenage son.

My primary interest was to learn if FarmVille has any relevance to agriculture and to gardening. Of the respondents, 71% do play Farmville and 68% do garden. Does FarmVille encourage gardening? That does not seem to be the case. Does FarmVille teach agriculture? That does not have much relevance either. Of course, the respondents were my friends, many already understand agriculture, and are probably plant nerds like me anyway.

So the main reason that the respondents from this poll use Facebook is to keep up with family and communicate with colleagues. They seem to play Farmville for relaxation and the social interaction.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Earth Day, 22 April 1970 - Where were you?

Realizing that this admission will completely document my age and provide my children with the final proof that I am an old fogey. I remember the first Earth Day that was celebrated during the third week of April in 1970, 40 years ago. I was 14 years old and had become very aware of how we can be a part of the change that protects our environment. I continue to hold the power of the environmental movement as an important tenant of my personal philosophy. My environmental awareness was kindled and fueled by being an active member of the Boy Scouts of America. That organization continues to this day to be among the foremost pro-environmental organizations that this country will ever see.

Our Scout Troop, Troop 667, joined with the local district for Earth Day 1970 to replant a clear-cut site in the Bridger Mountains on US Forest Service land near Bozeman, Montana with Douglas fir seedlings. Even now when driving up State Highway 86 and just before the Bridger Bowl Ski Area, I can view from the road that section of trees, which I helped to plant. I can no longer tell where the clear cut was since the trees are now so tall. I am proud of that section of trees.

For you map geeks:
Latitude: 45°48'17.91"N
Longitude: 110°54'3.49"W

My father was our Scoutmaster then and I remember walking with him on that day, swinging the hoedad to open the soil for the seedling, and dropping in the tree. It was a great day for a 14-year-old to be with his dad. We had many such times, but this day is one I truly remember.

Now that I have two sons of my own, we have participated in several Fort Robinson Tree Plants, near Crawford, Nebraska with their own Scout Troop. I always remember my time on that Earth Day 40 years back as my own sons sink the hoedad into the earth and drop in a Ponderosa pine seedling.

Thank you Dad for my Earth Day memories.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Understanding Injectors And Fertilizer Ratios

Check out this SlideShare Presentation: It was given on 11 February 2010 during the 2010 ProGreen EXPO held in Denver, Colo.

2009 CSU Poinsettia Evaluation

Check out this SlideShare Presentation: It was given on 12 February 2010 during the 2010 ProGreen EXPO held in Denver, Colo.