Growing Plants without Dirt!

Growing Plants without Dirt!

Part of Ep. 1602 The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Learn to grow epiphytes – gorgeous artistic plants that prefer not to be in the soil. Caleb Whitney of Green Side Up Landscaping shows a wonderful selection of epiphytes and explains how to grow them. In addition, we invite you to take a closer look at clay pots.

Premiere date: May 14, 2008

TRANSCRIPT+
Wisc Gardener Transcript: 

Shelley:
Gardening is all about getting your hands dirty. Digging, weeding, planting, pruning. It's a hands-on kind of pastime. But sometimes it's smart to keep your hands off! I'm Shelley Ryan. Welcome to the “Wisconsin Gardener.”  Today's program takes a very close look at one of Wisconsin's native species, poison ivy. Believe me, this is one time I'm not going to play with the plants! But we will show you how to identify poison ivy and what to do if you find it close to home. Also on today's program, the insect emerald ash borer has the potential to devastate ash trees throughout Wisconsin. We'll look at trees to plant instead of ash. At Troy Gardens in Madison we'll learn more about the Slow Food movement. But first up, plants that don't need soil to grow. It's a great way to add vertical interest to the garden or an indoor room. That's up next on the “Wisconsin Gardener.” 

Announcer:
Major funding for the Wisconsin Gardener is provided by Fiskars, a Wisconsin developer of universally designed ergonomic garden tools; designed for ease of use. There's more to learn about Fiskars commitment to inspiring gardeners at fiskars.com Additional funding is provided by the Wisconsin Master Gardener Association.

Shelley:
This is my kind of plant: no pot, no soil. This is perfect. This is an epiphyte and we're going to learn more about them. We are in Door County at Bjorklunden a wonderful 400-plus acre estate in Bailey's Harbor. This wonderful piece of property is owned by St. Lawrence University, and a place worth checking out. I'm here with Caleb Whitney of Green Side Up Landscaping. You have a wonderful selection of epiphytes. What is an epiphyte? 

Caleb:
An epiphyte is an air plant that doesn't need soil and actually prefers not to be in soil.

Shelley:
I like it.

Caleb:
It takes what it needs right from the sun and the air. So, we do need to be mindful because this particular body of plants is Tillandsias, which are tropical. They're from South America.

Shelley:
Okay, so not hardy in Wisconsin.

Caleb:
We can't just stick them outside and hope.

Shelley:
But so how do you keep something like this happy then? 

Caleb:
Well, primarily it's about trying to mimic those tropical conditions. The temperature is nothing lower than 50 degrees.

Shelley:
So in the house or out of the house keep it in a warm spot.

Caleb:
No direct sunlight, because we don't want them to burn. These are an under-story plant. So you need to be mindful of that.

Shelley:
Moisture? 

Caleb:
Humid summer temperatures in Wisconsin probably are sufficient. But in dry conditions inside you need to mist or water them.

Shelley:
And how do we water them? 

Caleb:
Because we don't have soil you could mount this on the wall, a hook or shelf. You can mist it there, or you could put it down. Or, dump it in water and let it soak.

Shelley:
For just an hour? 

Caleb:
Just long enough to get good and wet.

Shelley:
Oh, wow! 

Caleb:
Then drain it off because it will actually hold water. That can cause some run. It will need a little bit of a liquid fertilizer.

Shelley:
So spray it, or put it in the water it's soaking in. You use them in unique ways for your business. I mean, I really like this.

Caleb:
This is really fun. Once again, they can be very simple. Hang them on a hook or put in a glass.

Shelley:
Look how artistic these are. And there's no soil!  You've got what? 

Caleb:
This is just tumbled glass readily available at garden centers.

Shelley:
These are gorgeous.

Caleb:
There's this kind of production.

Shelley:
A little more elaborate!  We found this great driftwood.

Shelley:
I've got pieces at home. Now I know what I'm going to do with them.

Caleb:
You could lay this on the ground but there's lots of stuff on the ground. We need vertical elements indoors and outdoors.

Shelley:
Yeah, you're right.

Caleb:
We begin to build this frame. We incorporated Door County stone. But it still lacks punch.
Shelley:
Color.

Caleb:
This is just great, the family of tillandsias. We work with a grower in Florida.

Shelley:
They're so easy to plant. I love it. Look at that! 

(laughs)

Shelley:
See I could do that. This is an indoor-outdoor project.

Caleb:
Because we're dealing with tropicals if you're going to be shipping them from a distance ship them during good temperatures.

Shelley:
Don't do it in the middle of winter.

Caleb:
You can, but there are things you need to do. It's easier in late spring. Get them set up, enjoy them.

Shelley:
The bathroom is high humidity.

Caleb:
Yes, anywhere there's higher humidity inside. Once we're consistently above 50 degrees day and night they can go outside into a protected...

Shelley:
Not full sun.

Caleb:
Reflected light is great. Play with that, then they can come back inside.

Shelley:
You have an even easier, portable version. You can change your mind every day.

Caleb:
Exactly. If you're going to do a primary indoor collection and you want to maintain that verticality. You can actually, simply glue them.

Shelley:
This is just bamboo.

Caleb:
It could be any number of elements.

Shelley:
A smaller piece of driftwood, even.

Caleb:
Or a candlestick, candelabra, anything.

Shelley:
But this is not going to work.
Caleb:
You can wire them. The grower says to use "liquid nails" construction adhesive. Definitely don't use hot glue.

Shelley:
That would burn them.

Caleb:
Yes.

Shelley:
And just glue it like that. I can move it anywhere. I love it! 

Caleb:
If an area is a little too dark you can still enjoy it in that space and then move it back out to get more light.

Shelley:
Just what I need, another plant to be in love with. Thanks, Caleb.

Caleb:
You're welcome.

Shelley:
There's more information on Epiphytes on our Web site.

A Closer Look at Pots

Shelley:
Over the years, I've collected many containers for my garden. From large to small, light to heavy ornamental to plain and simple. I've amassed quite a collection. I've learned that not all pots are created equal. Some are just too fragile for my garden habits. Some are too heavy to drag around the yard anymore. And some are so light the slightest breeze knocks them over.

Throughout today's program we're going to take a closer look at pots. What's available and what's right for our Wisconsin climate. Terra cotta is the classic garden pot. It's made from baked clay and it's very porous, which allows water and air to pass through the walls of the pot. This encourages good drainage and also helps to prevent root rot and disease. On the downside good drainage means that the soil dries out quickly meaning that there's a lot more watering during one of our typical Wisconsin summers. Terra cotta pots are fragile. If you drop them, they break. If you leave them outside in the winter with soil in them they can crack and split open. And they're heavy, too.

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Funding for The Wisconsin Gardener is provided, in part, by The Wisconsin Master Gardener Association.