Burnett: Feeding your house plants

It’s just amazing how another year has passed and Christmas is upon us.

And now today is  the year’s shortest day after which there will be a gradual increase in day length until the longest day about June 22.

In these short dark days of winter that lie ahead, we must adjust our habits when it comes to our house plants.

Without light, the need for plant food is diminished, in fact too much can cause decline and death in some cases.

Actually the words  plant food are an often used misnomer. I guess it feels like we are feeding plants when we mix up some water soluble fertilizer and apply it lovingly to the soil just as we do when we feed the cat.

Plants do not actually “eat.” Plants manufacture their own food by taking in elements and then with a wonderful process called photosynthesis create sugars and starches that are used to enhance growth but are often stored away in various parts.

It’s these parts that humans and other higher forms of life eat to sustain themselves.

Potatoes, carrots, beets and turnips are just a few of the classic storage organs we eat.

Plants also store their manufactured energy in fruits and berries so the accompanying seeds will have a bit if a start after germination unless of course we eat them first.

But I digress. I was talking about house plants. It’s a good idea to give your plants a turn in a south window so they can take advantage of what little sun we have at this time of year.

Because the metabolism of the plant has slowed down it does not need as much moisture so if you have been watering according to the calendar you need to cut back some.

A good rule of thumb for most plants is to wait until the soil is on the dry side then wait a bit longer.

Water the plant by letting water run through the soil and out the bottom of the pot.

With smaller pots this is best done by taking it to the sink or bath tub however with larger plants you may need to let the water drain into the saucer and suck it out with a turkey baster.

Pruning and transplanting should be postponed until March or April when the days become longer otherwise these procedures can stimulate new growth that will be spindly while reaching for light.

On some plants it can be helpful to wipe the leaves clean of dust to enhance photosynthesis but for the most part keep in mind my advice on watering and fertilizing and your plants will be just fine until the long days return.

I would like to wish all the best to everyone for the Christmas and holiday season and my hope is that everyone can be with and enjoy family and friends.

Tune in to The Don Burnett Garden Show on AM 1150  Saturdays.


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