Gardening Tools For House Plants
( Originally Published 1923 )
There are very few tools which one really needs for successful window gardening, although there are a score or more of accessory appliances, each of which has its special application. The dealers' catalogues list these; our present purpose is to indicate only those that one ought to have for ordinary comfort in this work.
Brackets. There are very useful brackets to be had for fastening into the sides of the window casings. Very pretty effects may be had by placing one or two of these on the sides of the window and growing some drooping plant, like the canary bird vine, for instance.
Bulb glasses. A great deal of interest and pleasure may be had, and a lot learned, from watching a hyacinth bulb develop. This may be done by growing the bulb in a bulb, or hyacinth, glass. This has a rather large base, and draws in toward the top; but nearly at the top the sides suddenly flare out, forming a basin which is just large enough to comfortably hold the largest sized hyacinth bulb. Water is put in these to just touch the bottom Of the bulb. The filled glasses are then set away in a cool, dark place until the roots develop.
Fertilizers. None are needed, as a rule, but when feeding becomes desirable apply in solution. Formulas for liquid manure and another for a soluble chemical fertilizer are given on pages 74 and 75, Chap-ter VI. The prepared plant food tablets, to be had in the seed stores, are thoroughly reliable.
Heaters. Often it is necessary to heat the window, as where the room in which the plants are growing is separated from the living room. Sometimes this can be solved by putting in connections with the regular house heater; but where such connections cannot be made, use an oil heater. These generate a large amount of heat, and will not injure the plants. Don't use a gas heater under any circumstances, for gas is bound to escape through the connections, and nothing is so injurious to plants as is gas. For the very small greenhouse there are small forms of hot water boilers which are economical of fuel, and give a large amount of heat.
Knife. A good budding knife, costing about $1.25; should be kept on hand for making cuttings, etc., and used for this purpose only. Keep it with a keen edge, to make clean cuts.
Pans. When growing bulbs use pans which are made especially for this purpose. They are not as deep as pots of the same diameter would be. For instance, a pot eight inches in diameter would be eight inches deep; but a pan of that same diameter would be only about half as deep. This is plenty deep enough for bulbs, as it furnishes plenty of root room and they are more attractive, not showing such an expanse of red clay. These pans are also very useful for starting seeds.
Pots. They must be good. There are a great many pots on the market which are so thin that they are very easily broken.
Avoid these, and get such as have sides that are thick and which are well baked. Buy "standard" pots which are of uniform size and shape, so that they nest well, taking up less room, and are less liable to be broken when stored.
For growing hyacinths, where one Only is wanted in a pot, as for forcing, use the so-called hyacinth pots. These are deep, five-inch pots, an inch or so deeper than the ordinary five-inch pot, and give much more room for soil. This extra room for soil is really necessary if one wishes to make the most of hyacinths.
Pot covers. Many times it is desirable to cover up a pot, particularly when using a potted plant as a prominent part of the decorations about the house. The best thing for this is a jardiniere. This can be had in many different sizes, shapes, and prices. The best, to my mind, is of unglazed clay, decorated with gilt dragons and similar figures, made by the Japanese. Cheaper forms of domestic manufacture can be had in glazed pottery.
Very pretty effects can be had by using crepe paper and ribbons. This paper can be had in almost any colour imaginable, but as a rule I think the green paper is best.
Then there are collapsible paper pot covers. These are eight or many sided affairs, in which the pot can be set and removed when the occasion for it is over, and the plant set back in the window to recuperate.
Of late the florists have been displaying baskets for covering the pots. They can be had in a number of different colours and shapes. The first time I saw them I exclaimed: "What funny little waste baskets!" I think that perhaps this will give you some idea of what they look like. They are certainly very ornamental affairs, and for the amount of use which one may get out of them they are not expensive. They are more artistic than most of the common glazed jardinieres sold by the department stores, and there is not so very much difference in their cost.
Potting tools. A trowel will Often prove handy, and so will a screen for sifting the soil. This should be three mesh to the inch. A temporary bench for potting will be handy if you have much potting to do.
Soil for potting can usually be purchased from a nearby florist at a cheaper price than you can secure it otherwise, so that the bench need not be so large as would be the case if you mixed the soil at home.
A potting stick, for tamping the soil, is most desirable.
Raffia, etc. For tying up the plants use raffia, a soft straw-like tying material made from a palm, which can be purchased from the seedsmen for about twenty cents a pound; and a pound will last a long time. Raffia tape is also good. It is a broad green tape made especially for the purpose. There is also dark green linen string which is very useful. It is the best thing to put up for smilax and asparagus to grow on.
Saucers should be put under each pot to save the drip from the plants when watering, but do not allow water to accumulate in them.
Sphagnum. Sphagnum moss should always be kept on hand; it is useful for a great variety of purposes, such as putting over the broken crock in the bottom of the pot to keep the soil from sifting down and clogging the drainage. Fine siftings are put on the top of the soil in seed pans for germinating fine seeds like gloxinia, calceolaria, tuberous begonia, etc. Used also for pot-layering rubber plants.
Sprayers. A very handy little brass sprayer is sold by the seedsmen, which will thoroughly distribute kerosene emulsion, tobacco water, or other insecticide. For syringing the plants with water the best thing is the ordinary bulb syringe; but for larger plants there is a brass syringe holding a quart or so which will prove very effective when ridding the plants of mealy bug or red spider, because the spray can be applied with much force.
Stands. For holding plants, where one has more than can be put on the window-sill, there are a great variety of plant-stands in the market. Some are circular, some are semi-circular, others straight, but all are arranged in the form of steps. These are made of wood or iron. Plant stands are all right, I suppose, but I never have cared for them, as plants which are grown on them are very apt to be one-sided, because they are usually far from the light, and the grower neglects to turn them around frequently. Still, if you have no other means of holding, use a stand, but get it as near the window as possible, and slightly turn the plant each day so that all sides will get an equal amount of light.
Trellis. For training weak-stemmed plants a trellis of some sort is often handy. This may be made from small, square wood stakes, or from wire. Either form is good.
Wardian case. A Wardian case is practically a greenhouse of small dimensions, say 2 x 3 x 21 feet. It is made entirely of glass with a wooden frame. Usually a pitch roof is put on it; the sides of the roof being hung on the ridge pole by hinges so that the inside of the case is accessible. In the bottom of these cases is a zinc pan for the earth. The plants are set in this, watered, and the case closed. The moisture transpired by the foliage and evaporated by the soil condenses on the glass and drops back. As a result, there is always a humid atmosphere in these cases, and but little watering has to be done. Where conditions will not permit of the culture of ferns in the open room, they can be grown most successfully in Wardian cases.
Watering pot. A well-conducted indoor garden ought not to be without a good watering pot. It is not necessary, however, to have one of those big affairs such as are often used outdoors. There are small ones, holding a couple of gallons which are much more easily handled. They may be had in either galvanized iron or copper. I prefer the copper one, as it can be kept in much better condition than an iron one, and with ordinary care they will last a life-time. The nozzle should be fitted with two roses of different sized holes, one with very small holes. To insure that the joint between them is tight insist on the nozzle or spout being fitted with threads that the "roses" may be screwed on.
Window boxes for the window-sill are sometimes used in window gardening. They are useful, especially where one wishes to plunge pots in cool, damp moss. These can be made of plain wood, or of metal tiles, and supported on brackets.