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A Time To Plant

For your reading convenients below you will find all the A Time To Plant published in 2019

January 2019

A Thyme to Grow

Most of the time indoor plants are only green. Do you realize that greenery has different shades? textures and shapes? Succulents are a plant family that fits this description.

Succulents are plants that store water in their roots, stems and leaves. Often the leaves and stems are thick and fleshy. Many times, people consider them an ornamental plant because of their striking appearance. In their native habitats, they thrive in hot areas with low rainfall. In other words, they tend to be drought resistant.

Botanists and horticulturalists differ with their definitions, but in the plant family, cacti are a subspecies of succulents. In other words, all cacti (the plural form of cactus) are succulents, but not all succulents are cacti.

Cacti are found in different shapes, from short and squatty to tall and thin. When they reproduce, some babies form on the cactus itself, some form new plants along their root system, and some reproduce by seeds. With limited or no vision, be careful if you want to feel what a particular cactus is like. Many cacti have sharp, prickly spines, although some tropical cacti varieties have no spines.

Hen and Chicks, Jade or Aloe Vera are a few kinds of succulents. There are many varieties that have no particular name. Plan on keeping them in a warm environment. If you have a lot of bright sunshine, succulents should be fine. Plants will reach toward the sun wherever they are. If your succulents become long and leggy, lose their color, or lose their compact shape, they probably aren�t getting enough light. You may want to consider using a grow light if you find that your plants aren�t doing well. Succulents should have at least six hours of sunlight per day to thrive. Give them periods of darkness, such as at night. During the winter, most succulents are dormant, and show little or no growth.

Succulents definitely need good drainage. Overwatering succulents will kill them. Perhaps you should consider setting up a calendar of when to water, then check that off your �to-do� list after accomplishing the task. Check the dampness of your potting mix by sticking your finger tip up to the first knuckle. If it is moist, it is not time to water again. If it is dry, water at the soil level until water flows out the bottom of your container, then wait about 20 minutes for all the water to flow through before returning to the spot where you will place the plant. Keep in mind that succulents have a shallow root system; their roots don�t grow deep. A coarse sand potting soil or cactus potting soil will provide the kind of drainage that succulents need. During the dormant stage, plants need less water than they will in an active growth stage.

If you want colorful plants, get a variety with color. I am now trying to nurse a cactus back to health that had been painted. That may take many years, if it survives long enough.

I hope that in 2019 you will take �thyme� to have a happy, healthy garden, one plant at a �thyme�.

February 2019

How does your garden grow? Do you remember that part of a nursery rhyme?

Due to ground and cold weather conditions in the winter, many people can only dream of their outdoor gardens. Some of us try to purify our indoor environment with houseplants.

Consider planting bulbs if you want blooming plants indoors. Find out if your bulbs have been through a chill time. Some bulbs, such as amaryllis, don�t need a chill time. Watch or listen to YouTube telling how to grow bulbs inside. Some bulbs grow well on rocks or marbles, and only need watering to produce flowers. Other bulbs need to grow in soil. Packages should tell how long between planting and blooming that you can expect to wait.

Have you heard of tallandsia, also known as air plants? These are plants that can grow without soil. Usually, they have long, thin, triangular shaped or short, broad leaves, with tubular or funnel shaped flowers. From mid Argentina to Central America and the southern part of the United States air plants can be found in their native environments. There are many varieties, sizes and colors of these beauties.

Air plants like humidity; they enjoy being misted. They will be a silvery color before moisturizing, then turn greener once spritzed. Dunk the whole plant in water for a few hours or overnight if they become really dry, then return them to their containers. Make sure these plants dry between watering.

In the wild, roots attach air plants to trees, shrubs, rocks and the ground. Some plants seem to not have or need any roots!

Keep air plants in sunny locations. You can use orchid clips to attach these plants to some surfaces, or they can be placed in containers.

Because their native habitats are diverse, there is not a one size fits all answer to caring for all tallandsias. In a warm temperature growing zone, you may notice that bats, hummingbirds or moths are common pollinators outside.

If you decide to garden with low maintenance air plants, you can expect to pay 3 to 10 dollars per plant, depending on its size. I hope you enjoy the experience.

Once again, it is �thyme� for me to get back to my plants. Happy gardening!

March 2019

What is needed when gardening? Plants, lighting and water are the first things to consider. Then, you should consider how to make those work. Let�s talk about tools you will need.

First, consider your plant. A spade, a long bladed, hand held tool is useful for making a tiny hole. It is a miniature version of a shovel. A spoon could work if you only have one transplant to set in the soil, such as when you start off with a single hanging container. A cultivating fork is a three-pronged tool for weeding and loosening soil. With low vision or blindness, I suggest you hold your plant gently at the base so you don�t uproot it.

How will you water your plant? Some people bring containers of plants to the water. If that is inconvenient, a watering can might be useful to wet the soil at the base of the plant. Remember that if your hanging plant is hanging above your head, the water might travel down your arm, so consider a way to get the plant to a comfortable level for watering. If your plants are in a square foot garden, a hose that has an adjustable spray works well.

Buckets can save your rain water. Chlorine from tap might kill beneficial bacteria for plants. If your only choice is tap water, plant roots need moisture, so use it! Cover the bucket with a lid to deter insects, particularly mosquitoes.

A bucket can be used to mix potting soil and water before placing soil in a hanging basket.

When cutting your plants, clippers, also known as pruning shears, are needed. The blades are sharper than scissors, so be careful when using them! When I use them, I choose the stem or branch I want, then feel the riveted area of the clippers, moving the clippers into place. Reposition your hand an inch or two away so that when you cut, the blades affect just the plant. Usually, pruning shears cut stems or branches 1/2� or less. Low vision people should consider getting a pair with bright orange or red handles so they can be found if you put them down. When carrying your clippers, use the locking mechanism for safety purposes!

Clippers have short handles. Loppers, for cutting small tree branches, have long handles. The ones I have experienced don�t have a locking mechanism, so be careful when carrying them.

When using clippers or loppers, it is best to sterilize them between plants so diseases aren�t spread. The blades of your tool should be put into rubbing alcohol or a 10% bleach solution for a few minutes, then run under water, and then dried.

Scrape soil off your tools before storing them. If they are wet, dry them off. In the case of clippers that don�t work well, check for soil between the blades. A drop of light weight oil, such as WD-40, may help to lubricate the blades. If your blades are not cutting, they can be sharpened. Find out if one or both sides of a blade need to be worked on, then proceed with caution. If you don�t want to sharpen your own tools, perhaps your local hardware store can suggest someone who can perform that service.

It�s now �thyme� for me to make sure my garden tools are ready to be used. Let�s enjoy our plants!

April 2019

Herbs can flavor food, help with healing, and appeal to those with eye sight. If you choose to use an herb as a medicinal plant, read up on it. Check with your healthcare professional before eating or applying it to your body.

If you find someone in your local area who can provide an herbal tour, you might discover new herbs to add to your garden, or find out about edible herbs in the wild.

When seasoning food with herbs, find out which parts (roots, stems, leaves, flowers or seeds) are useful. Some plants are totally edible, while others only use a portion of the plant. Herbs and spices in grocery stores are generally recognized as safe.

What is the difference between herbs and spices? It could depend on the part of the plant used. Spices tend to be more processed than herbs. One example is that the spice coriander is the seed of the herb cilantro.

Frost zones determine which plants are annuals, those that need to be planted every year, or perennials, those that live year-round. Just because a plant doesn�t have growth you can see or feel, doesn�t mean that it isn�t rejuvenating to grow again the following year. Perennials that grow too early in the spring, and appear dead because of a cold snap, might sprout up again at the correct time for normal growth. Many tender perennials originally came from warm climates and don�t tolerate cool temperatures. Some tender perennials can be brought inside during cooler weather, and returned outside when danger of frost is past.

Many herbs with a Mediterranean background like sunshine. A great edible combination for a container herb garden might include basil, oregano and thyme. The basil is your tall, showy plant, the oregano is a medium height herb, and the thyme is a low draping herb. Purple flowered chives also look nice in this arrangement. Leave at least 2 to 3 inches when you snip back your herbs to keep them growing all season.

Some herbs tolerate shade, especially some growing in the southern United States, where direct sun all day is not good. Mint is one of these. Container gardening of mint is suggested, because of its quick spreading growth. If you have several varieties of mint, they should be kept 20 feet apart to maintain each particular variety. If you snip off mint before its flowers, you can avoid this situation. Mint leaves can flavor a glass of water or can be put in fruit salads. A refreshing smoothie combines watermelon and mint leaves. I have made a delightful yeast bread using chopped mint.

In some climates, herb plants, like cilantro, will bolt. It means that the typical growing season is over because the plant puts its production into making seeds and not growing leaves. Generally, this happens when a cool season plant gets too much hot weather.

Herb gardening is a fragrant way to enjoy beautiful plants. Edible herbs have taste appeal. Our eco-system might benefit when native wildlife species are attracted to our favorite herbs. Sharing herbs that you have propagated is a great way to spread your love of gardening!

Now, it is �thyme� for me to check out my herb gardens. Yes! That is plural. I keep finding new herbs that I want to grow!

May 2019

What makes a nice garden? Pretty blooms, lovely fragrant scents, and plants that stay alive!

Water and the correct amount of sunshine are the best indicators of plants that will live, perhaps even thrive. Individual plants have their different scents characteristic to their variety.

Pollination is the process of transferring pollen from the anther to the stigma. If you aren�t into technicalities, this just refers to the reproductive process that takes place in a plant. If the transfer of pollen is successful, seeds will result.

One way to ensure that your plant(s) will probably survive is to have native plants. These plants have survived the growing conditions of your area for many generations. Some conditions include drought, heat and cold tolerance, along with insect resistance. This might also include animal resistance. Plant nurseries or the extension service should be able to provide you with suggestions of good choices for your area.

Pollinators are the animals or insects that are attracted to the scents, colors and/or shapes of flowers that have characteristics these creatures need for feeding. Butterflies like to rest on flowers as they feed. Some insects like only the flowers that open in the afternoon or evening.

If you plant species that bloom through different seasons, you will be providing food for many creatures. Colors and flower shapes attract different creatures as pollinators. Did you know that you need to have different kinds of plants if you hope to see butterflies? The larval stage needs host plants with leaves to eat, while the butterfly stage needs flower nectar to thrive.

Native plants creatures have adapted to the needs of each other. Hybrid plants may look nice and/or smell sweet, but they may not have adapted to your area, and may have a very short season.

Insects and birds need water for survival. You may want the beauty of a bird bath or the soothing sound of a waterfall, but remember that mosquitoes are also attracted to water! Some species of plants tend to repel mosquitoes, so you may want those plants near your patio or doorway.

If you hope to attract birds to your area, leave some nesting materials such as threads and string outside. Nests sometimes are created in upside down flower pots. I once had a mother bird build her nest and lay her eggs in my hanging basket, almost camouflaging herself with the plant foliage!

Herbicides and pesticides are not healthy for people or the insects we don�t want. Consider tolerating some plant damage while protecting your environment.

I have portions of my yard dedicated to native plants sometimes known as weeds. I love the colors and beauty of volunteer plants outside of my official garden!

It is now �thyme� for me to see if I have any new plants growing outside!

June 2019

What an amazing world we live in!

Leaves, stems and flowers come in many varieties of sizes, shapes and colors. We can use our sense of smell near plants and/or soil. Fresh fruits and vegetables taste interestingly different from one another. Our tactile sense lets us discover plants, though we need to be careful near those with thorns or spines!

Plants, in their natural settings, are part of a biome. This is a community of plants and animals in a particular climate. An example is the biome of a forest. The upper leaves get direct sunshine and rain. Small animals and birds are comfortable here. The middle level might include shrubs and shade loving plants. Light is filtered by shade provided from the upper leaves. Larger animals live here. The low level is below ground, where sunshine does not penetrate to plant roots. This is where burrowing animals and insects live. Each level has its own habitat, where the needs of plants and animals are met.

Photosynthesis is the process of plants becoming green. Derived from Greek words, the meaning is that light is used to put things together. Chlorophyll cells in green plants use energy from the sun to change carbon and water into carbohydrates. It is a multi-stage process.

Plants are part of the food chain that connects plants, insects and animals. A simple version is that plants grow, providing energy for animals or people that eat them. In turn, that animal energy provides a host site for insects such as ones that sting. When animals and insects are no longer living, their bodies, along with plant matter become compost. Then, the process is repeated.

Causes and effects exist in our environment. A forest fire or a flood could destroy life in an area. Human choices, such as cutting down a forest or pouring chemicals into our water supply will alter a biome. We live in a society where we leave biological footprints that could change the way future generations think of us.

We can help our personal environment by having plants to help with pollution issues. On a larger scale, our gardens can produce food for family and friends. A community atmosphere can be enhanced with a scent garden, where plants can excite our sense of smell.

What if you don�t have a green thumb? A cute idea is to paint a rock green, then stick it in a colorful pot filled with soil. It is a �plant� for people who don�t remember to water or take care of normal growing plants!

Plants can provide interest year-round with growth, changing colors, and different scents. Gardens can be as small as a container with a plant, or as large as there is space. Small seeds can result in large plants; cuttings of plants can root up, and become like the parent plant. Although our sense of a garden changes depending on the type of plants and the best environment for that species, we can have a part in our naturally changing world.

Now, it is �thyme� for me to check on my ever-changing garden!

July 2019

Gardening with no sight or a visual limitation is challenging. I will relate some of my solutions, and hope that you will offer suggestions that have helped you!

First, let�s cover the basics. Most plants need to live in soil, have water and some amount of sunshine. Containers need to allow for water drainage; a plant can live in a container without drainage, but will do better over a longer period if its roots don�t stay wet.

Some plants are annuals, meaning that they live for only one season, produce seeds, then die. Other plants are perennials, meaning that they normally come back the next season. They may reproduce by seeds, but often have a bulb or corm as a way of spreading.

For outdoor plants, there are charts that cover what planting zone you live in. Unless you plan to bring tender plants inside during the cold months, enjoy plants suited for the zone you live in.

Basic gardening tools include shovels and a device for watering. Gardening gloves keep your hands clean and offer protection from thorny plants when weeding or dealing with plants such as roses or cacti.

Plant seeds in the wells of an egg carton or in small pots. Be gentle when feeling to see if they have risen above the soil�s surface. Wait until more than 2, preferably at least 3 sets, of leaves appear before moving plants into a larger container or garden. Seeds can be sown directly in or on the soil. To plant seeds in a row, a string strung between two sticks or poles offer a guiding line. Basic rules say that if you need seeds one inch apart, use the distance between the tip of your thumb and the knuckle. A basic 4 inch guide is your hand width. An 8 inch � 9 inch guide is the length of your hand from wrist to the longest fingertip. Whether planting seeds or sprouted plants, these general guides give recommendations so that plants aren�t overcrowded. When your sprouts emerge, if there are many seeds in one spot, use scissors to snip out the small starts. This allows space for the largest plant to grow. If too many sprouted plants compete for growing space, the root systems crowd each other, and none of the plants do well. By pulling the extra seedlings, you may disturb the soil of that whole cluster of plants.

If you start your seeds in an egg carton or peat pots, cut away a portion of the container. Both of the items will decompose, but maybe not in the time span your plant needs for growth. The egg carton or peat pot can be placed in the soil with the plant, but space for root growth must exist.

Pick your garden area, keeping in mind the amount of sunlight throughout the day. Some plants need a lot of sun, others do better in the shade.

When transplanting, or moving plants from one container to another, dig your hole first, making it slightly deeper and bigger around than the container it is coming from. I like to water the soil a plant will be going into. Push the sides of the container to loosen the soil before trying to get the plant out. Gently place the plant between two fingers, and turn the plant upside down, squeezing the container in hopes of releasing the plant. Insert the plant into the hole, then fill with soil just to the base of the plant. Support the plant to keep it upright. Don�t pack the soil; gently tamp soil around the plant.

If you didn�t put fertilizer into the well you placed your plants in, water the plant with a liquid-based fertilizer to enhance growth possibilities. When dealing with fertilizer, more is not better! Follow the directions for the kind of fertilizer you intend to use.

Suggestions that might help other gardeners will be passed along in future articles! Now, I have to check out the plants I have recently put in my gardens! Until next �thyme�.

August 2019

What do you notice about your garden? Fresh colors, scents and sounds? Then you have a sensory garden. It is a garden meant to awaken or restore the way plants affect a person through the use of sight, sound, smell, touch and/or taste.

You could have multiple plants with different textures to feel. Each variety of plant might have different colored leaves and flowers. The size and shapes of leaves and blooms awaken our sense of space relationships, especially when tall plants, the thrillers, are surrounded by fillers, the average size plants, and spillers, the plants that drape over or across the bottom and sides of the garden. Compost, some mulches and some plants have a fresh, earthy smell. Edible plants provide a taste sensation.

Sound could come from the wind rustling through leaves, bees buzzing around the plants, or birds chirping nearby. A bamboo wind chime may clatter in the breeze while a metal chime might clang.

Planning a sensory garden involves knowing who you think might enjoy your garden. Children and wheelchair bound people enjoy having plants within their low reach. A raised bed garden might be easier for those who become uncomfortable when bending over. Consider safety as you figure out how people will move around your area, including how people will feel the ground surface if they are barefoot. Do you want several textures to feel, such as grass, then a pebbly surface? What about the plant textures for people to feel? Lambs ears have a soft, velvety feel, while rosemary has a short leaf, needle like surface. Your sighted visitors will enjoy colorful flower displays.

By planting native species, you will attract native pollinators that aid plants. Native species have survived in your location quite a while and could be drought, heat, or cold tolerant depending on your location.

Many plants can be considered, but such plants as cacti with sharp spines, roses with thorns, or stinging nettle should not be in a garden for visually impaired people to feel. Different plants that flower throughout your growing season will add excitement to your garden.

Herb gardens offer scents and tastes. Edible herbs can be eaten plain, in salads or in cooked dishes. Medicinal varieties can be grown, but unless you are familiar with their use, you should only enjoy them for their color and/or texture.

As with all gardens, mulch will help your plants retain soil moisture. They also keep weeding at bay. You might consider using a cover crop instead of mulch, going back to the way our ancestors revitalized soil structure by adding nutrients for use in the next season.

Whether your sensory garden is a single container, many beds, or a large area, plants can add interest to our lives. Enjoy all aspects of your garden, including new shoots springing out of the ground to the display of leaves and blooms. From delicate to hardy, plants offer a great sense of touch. The earthy smell of soil and the aroma of different plants allows our senses to help us to connect with nature. By listening to the world around our plants, we can focus on many parts of our gardening world.

Now, I have to take “thyme” to maintain my wonderful sensory garden!

September 2019

At the end of the growing season, we should get ready for the next season. Options include bringing your plants inside, saving a container to reuse in the next growing season, preparing the soil for the next growing season, and planting items that come up early in the next year.

Plants that won’t survive the temperature change of a different season are candidates to bring inside. Conditions of temperature and light must be considered.

Keep only healthy plants. If you plan to bring your plants inside, check for insects! Plant diseases and insect infestations are something better left outside!

Many plants, including some tender perennials, go into a period of dormancy in the winter. Don’t fertilize these plants because they need a rest cycle. These potted plants could withstand the cooler temperatures of garages or basements that stay in the range of 20 – 40 degrees, places where plants won’t freeze. Keep them watered every 3 or 4 weeks.

Plants can go into shock when their growing conditions change. They need time to adjust to a different light, heat and moisture conditions. Check the first frost date expected for your area, and relocate the plants you intend to bring in prior to that time.

Take cuttings to propagate. These take up less room than the full-sized plant. They develop a root structure so that you can plant them outside in the next growing season.

If you remove plants from containers, wash out the containers and let them dry in the sunshine. Some people clean their containers with a diluted bleach solution, others use a dilated vinegar solution. This helps ensure that your next plant has a good chance of survival when it goes into the container. Before putting new plants in any container, make sure the container is in good condition; check for cracks.

If you reuse your gardening space, don’t pull up the plants. Roots decompose and help retain nutrients in the soil. Plan on rotating your crop next season; this diversifies nutrients and helps avoid depleting the soil of certain minerals. Pathogens and pests are less likely to ruin crops when nutrients are diversified. Cover the soil with mulch to help keep it from eroding and keep it moist.

Some items need to be planted before it gets cold. Garlic, the vegetable, spring blooming bulbs which are not edible, and flowering shrubs come to mind. They should be planted in the fall when it is time for your growing zone. Plant in loosened soil that has been mixed with some compost. Generally, bulbs need to be planted to the depth of the length of the bulb. In other words, a 1 inch bulb needs to be planted 2 inches deep. Cover the area with mulch, then water.

Whether you have had a great garden this year or not, it is time to think about getting ready for next year.
It is now “thyme” for me to give some flowering shrubs to others so they can enjoy them next year!

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