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Growing Tea Plants Among Your Orchids

Traditionally, farmers have always rotated crops. This way they can grow things in every season and the different crops also add different nutrients to the soil and they extract different nutrients to grow. The different crops the farmers alternate growing form a sort of symbiotic relationship: they help each other out.

If you are growing orchids, there are a number of plants you can grow alongside them. You don’t necessarily want to rotate in this case. Instead, you want to grow them concurrently.

a tea plantation

One of the best plants to grow alongside your orchids is tea. Yes, that’s right. That stuff you drink in the morning or the afternoon comes from an actual plant. And that plant is very easy to grow, in fact.

There are a few different types of tea plants, but they’re all basically the same. They can grown in a lot of different climates, but they prefer humidity and a lot of rain. Tea does grow in tropical warm climates, but it must does much better in cooler ones.

It is telling that the best US tea growing region is Hawaii. The tea does not grow at sea level, however, but at altitude. This means cooler temperatures, lots of rain and humidity and a ton of cloud cover. This is the kind of weather tea loves.

All of the great tea growing regions in the world have this type of weather. There are the foothills of Mount Fuji in Shizuoka Japan, the high mountains of Fujian province in China, the Darjeeling area of India and many more areas in those countries and in other countries like Sri Lanka and Kenya as well.

You may not have this type of climate at home, but you can grow tea indoors just as well. You just have to provide the water and the light using artificial grow lights. If you give the tea plant that, it will do well. You don’t even need the same type of grow lights you would need with other types of plants. Tea does not flower so you only need daylight light. Metal halide bulbs or LED bulbs with a preponderance of blue light work great here.

Now I know that orchids are generally thought to prefer a tropical climate and many species do. But there are also other species of orchids that actually grow in the same areas as the tea growing regions. These work especially well with tea, but even the tropical ones work well.

As I said, tea does grow in tropical weather it just doesn’t grow as well. Of course, the best teas do not come from tropical climates. But you’re not really growing it to sell, you are growing it to help out your orchids, so none of that matters.

harvested tea being processedAnd it still would make a good tea anyway. If you want to harvest it and process it into the various types of tea, like green tea, yellow tea, white tea, black tea, oolong tea and pu-erh tea, then you can. There are plenty of resources online to help you with that. A great site for information about tea is Let’s Drink Tea. It will help you out a lot in your research.

So if you’re looking for something to grow along with your orchids, give tea plants a chance. Not only are they easy to grow, they also provide you with tea leaves. Once you learn how to process them, which is very easy for most types of tea, you can enjoy fresh organic tea grown in your own garden. It might not be the same quality as the best teas from Japan or China, but the difference will not be that great.

It’s not like making your own wine, which will taste much worse than famous wines. Your own tea will not taste that much worse. It will actually be quite good. And if you’re used to drinking tea from teabags, it will be much better. Any tea made from the actual leaves, the whole leaves and not the chopped up crap that gets stuffed into teabags, is going to be better than any tea bag, no matter how expensive. So get out there and grow your tea and enjoy!

orchid flower garden indoors

The Best Artificial Grow Light For Your Flower Garden

There are a lot of things you need to pay attention to when you grow flowers, especially delicate flowers like orchids. No matter which type of flower you want to grow, you need to make sure you are feeding the stem correctly, you need to make sure your providing the proper amount of water and nutrients, you need to make sure you’re using the correct soil and you need to provide sufficient light. Moreover, the light needs to be the correct type of light.

Obviously, sunlight is exactly that. However, if you are growing indoors or if you are growing in an area that does not get enough natural sunlight year-round, you will need to provide additional lighting for your plants. Artificial grow lights make it possible to grow plants year-round, no matter the climate.

For most flower gardens, I recommend one of two types of grow lights. All the others, like the high-pressure sodium or metal halide lights, are too much trouble for our use. Leave those to the pot growers.

T5 fluorescent grow lightThe first type of lighting I recommend are T5 fluorescent grow lights like the Agrobrite series from Hydrofarm (review here). These lights provide a spectrum very similar to sunlight, although there are different color temperature bulbs available.

The T5 bulbs called daylight, which have a color temperature of around 5500 to 6500 kelvins, are the most like natural sunlight. If you get a warmer bulb with a temperature around 2700 kelvins, you provide your flowers more reddish light. This is useful for flowering. If you have a small garden you can go ahead and flower with florescent lights, but generally I would not recommend it for any reasonably sized garden. T5 grow lights are amazing to get plants to grow during the vegging stage, but they just aren’t that efficient when flowering.

That’s what my second recommendation comes in. If you have a larger garden, I would definitely recommend LED grow lights. Actually, I would recommend them for smaller gardens too, if you have the money and if you are growing plants that flower. Since we are talking about flower gardens, I’m going to assume you are growing something that flowers. For this reason, LED horticultural lighting makes a lot of sense.

As for the brands, well that is another matter entirely. Of course you could go with one of the really expensive brands, but for many applications a less-expensive light will work just fine. I generally like to go somewhere in the middle. The absolute cheapest lights usually are not good enough for flowering and are are prone to breaking down as well. The most expensive lights are, again, for pot growers.

A great middle ground are the Advanced Platinum lights by Platinum LED (review here). These lights definitely cost a bit more than the cheapest ones, but they produce similar results to most of the much more expensive lights. They’re not quite as good as the absolute top-of-the-line brands, but they are close and they cost much less. If you are looking for an affordable way to get into LED grow lights and you don’t want to sacrifice too much quality, Advanced Platinum lights are definitely the way to go.

orchid flower garden indoors

For anyone growing a flower garden, the Agrobrite series of T5 fluorescent grow lights in the Advanced Platinum series of LED plant lights are far and away the best two options. Get yourself one of these two lights and your orchid flower garden will love you for it. It will reward you amazing colors and the type of beauty you usually only see in European castle grounds.

a purple orchid growing indoors

How To Grow Orchids At Home

a purple orchid growing indoorsOrchids are notorious for being difficult to grow. Luckily, that is not always the case. Some species of orchids are almost impossible to grow successfully, but others aren’t that difficult at all. Most people will want to try their hand at the easier species, at least in the beginning. Here are step-by-step instructions to getting your orchid garden off the ground.

Choose a good species

The first thing you need to do once you’ve decided to grow orchids is to decide on a species. Cattleya, Phalaenopsis and Paphiopedilum orchids are the three easiest species to grow. I would recommend one of these three to all beginners. Even if you prefer to grow other orchids, start with one of these just to get a feel for the process and to figure everything out.

For those of you with a bit more experience, you are probably already aware just how many different species of orchids exist. No matter your situation, there is a good flower for you. Because there are so many, it’s difficult to get into specifics, but basically you want to match the orchid’s requirements with the climate in your area.

If you are growing indoors using artificial lights and atmospheric conditions, then you can obviously have a much larger selection to choose from. You can pick the type of orchid you find the most beautiful or you can pick one that you think will be a challenge. Perhaps you could even go for the most difficult orchids to grow of all. Good luck with that.

Choose the correct soil

a yellow and white orchidMost flowering plants can grow with regular potting soil. This is not the case with orchids. Choosing potting soil for your orchids is one of the most common mistakes, but orchids actually need a much more porous soil. Their roots need a lot of air. Bark chips, sphagnum moss, coconut husks, charcoal, perlite, and even styrofoam pellets all make good potting soils for orchids.

Your best that is to make a potting mix. Some orchid species will require a fine potting mix, while others will require a medium mix. The fine mix will use a fine grain fir bark or corn husk, while the medium mix will use medium grain. Apart from that, you also want to use perlite and either a fine mix or a medium mix charcoal.

Choose the correct pot

All but the largest orchids grow best in a snug pot. These plants like to be root-bound. One of the biggest orchid killers is overwatering, so you want to make sure your pot has plenty of drainage holes. Standard clay pots work great, but you can also use mesh pots, wooden pots or clear plastic pots. The see-through pots are actually great, because they allow sunlight to reach the roots directly and they let you examine the root system more easily.

Planting your seeds

If you are propagating your orchids from seeds, the main thing you want to be careful of is to keep a sterile environment. Do not handle the seeds with unsterile hands. You want to place them just beneath the soil in the middle of your pot. Adding fertilizer can help, but make sure it is environmentally friendly fertilizer

Potting an orchid

If you are not growing from seeds and are instead transferring the orchid from a different pot, you want to first make sure you cut off any dead or rotting roots. It might also be helpful to separate the roots into a few different sections. This way you can put the most mature section of roots directly against the side of the pot. Finally, lightly add some potting mix. Want to add just enough to barely cover the root system.

Provide the correct growing environment

a white orchidAll orchid species are different, so you want to follow the instructions for your specific species. Basically, you need to make sure the humidity is up, since most orchids require humidity. You also want to make sure they’re always getting enough water and sunlight, but not too much.

Always pay attention to the leaves, to see if they are becoming discolored or wilting or if you see any other problems. If so, you need to cut back on the water or water more, depending on the problem. In general, most orchids want to be watered every 5 to 12 days. Overwatering is the biggest killer, so definitely make sure not to do that.

When it comes to sunlight, the leaves tell you a lot here, too. If the leaves are dark, your plant is not getting enough light. If they are too light, it is getting too much. Adjust accordingly. Orchids also prefer not to have direct sunlight. For this reason, it is good to put them behind a curtain or a similar light material. That way the light still reaches them, but it doesn’t hit them directly. All of the above goes for artificial lighting solutions as well.

Orchids generally need to be fertilized about once a month. Never do it more often than that. If you over fertilize them, it will harm them. If they don’t get enough fertilizer it will impair their flowering process. Again, check the instructions for your specific species on how to do this correctly.

Caring for orchids doesn’t have to be difficult. If you get a species that is easy to care for, you won’t have too many problems. I definitely suggest doing this for your first orchid garden. Stick to the easy species and have some success, before you move on to a more difficult one. The most important thing is to watch your plant carefully, so you can diagnose any problems early and fix them before your plants suffers serious damage. Good luck and happy growing!

an indoor flower garden

Using Grow Lights To Grow Flowers For Profit Year Round

Growing flowers is very rewarding. They make the world more beautiful and it is just fun to watch something you care for grow up in front of your eyes. But apart from the aesthetic beauty and the rewarding aspects of growing a flower garden, they can also be very profitable. You can sell those flowers and make a lot of money.

an indoor flower garden
Flowers growing indoors

Many of our readers do just that. But many of them are also located in areas with very cold winters, where they can only grow flowers once a year. This seriously cuts into their profits. For these growers, it makes a lot of sense to move their flower garden indoors, whether that be a greenhouse, a warehouse or just a room in their basement. The size of the operation doesn’t matter; the principle is always the same.

Well, there is one difference between a greenhouse and a room in the basement. In the greenhouse the plants still get natural light, since the walls and ceiling are generally made of glass or a transparent plastic. You might add some grow lights into the greenhouse to supplement that natural sunlight, but you don’t have to provide every bit of light your plans get.

If you’re growing in a dark room like a warehouse or basement, which might not have any natural light at all, you need to provide all of the light. This can be costly and can be a pain to set up.

On the flip side, it has the advantage that you control the light cycle completely. You tell your plants when it is spring, when it is summer, when it’s winter and when it’s autumn. This means that you can have several harvests per year.

Of course, you can do this in a greenhouse too, by using supplemental lighting. Plant grow lights fill-in extra light on winter days when the sun is only in the sky for a few hours. This means you can keep growing even in the winter. And you have even more control in a completely dark room, than in a greenhouse.

Now the big question, of course, is what do you use to light your garden. You might think you can just get some light bulbs from Home Depot. You actually wouldn’t be wrong. That does work, but there are much more efficient and cost-effective lighting solutions. Regular lights simply don’t provide that much power, so you would need a ton of light bulbs, which would cost a lot of money, use a lot of power and produce a lot of heat.

A much more efficient solution are what are called high intensity discharge lights. This is written HID for short. There are two types of these: MH lights and HPS lights. MH stands for metal halide and HPS stands for high-pressure sodium.

red spectrum sunlightMH lights give you spectrum similar to the sun during daylight hours. It contains a lot of bluish light. HPS bulbs give you more reddish light, which you would get towards the into the day or during the fall season. Because of this reddish spectrum, HPS lights encourage blooming and flowering in plants, just like the reddish light during the fall season does in the natural world.

Many growers combine these two bulbs. This makes for an ideal grow environment. The problem with HID lighting, though, is that it consumes a lot of power and produces a lot of heat. Getting rid of that heat will require even more power, for air-conditioning units and fans. Those also cost money to buy.

If you have a small garden you can make do with florescent lights. T5 fluorescent fixtures are especially well-suited to this. They cost less than HID lights and they also produce less heat and consume less power, although, if you compare them on a watt for watt basis, this is no longer true. HID lights are actually more efficient.

Finally we have LED grow lights. These are the newest entrants into the field and they are slowly taking over. This new technology is wonderful. It cost a lot more than the other lighting types, but it produces less heat and uses less power, meaning that LED plant lights end up paying for themselves fairly quickly. That said, this is only true for high quality LED lights. Much of what is on the market is not high-quality so the biggest frustration here is finding the correct light.

For most home growers that are moving their operation indoors, I would recommend just using florescent lights or perhaps HID lighting. But if you are a commercial grower with a larger operation, LED lights make by far the most sense. You will pay much more upfront, but what you will save will pay for itself within a year or two.

If you are looking to buy LED grow lights, the best sizes are 600 watts and 1000 watt lights. You’ll find a good post detailing the best 600 watt LED grow lights here. There’s another one for the best 1000 watt horticultural LED lights here. Check them out if you’re interested in LEDs. Those should help you reach a buying decision.

Most Important Things to Consider When Buying Flowers

Before you buy a bouquet at a florist, you need to consider certain things to get the best flowers possible. Unfortunately, there are still people who sell flowers that are already withering or grown with the wrong usage of gardening products. To make sure you are getting the best flowers at the market, there are 6 main things to think about.

6 Things to Pay Attention to Before Buying Flowers

    1. Ask about the products used while the flowers were growing. Every professional florist will buy flowers from gardeners that use the proper products to improve the growth of flowers. It’s important that the right products are used, as the flowers will stay at your house or the house of your loved one for some time.
    2. Look at the petals of the flowers to see whether they are fresh enough. If there are any dry black or brown spots, the flower can’t be fresh and it was cut wrong. This can tell you only one thing – the florist isn’t professional, and it’s better to move on. Such flowers will die very soon after you purchase them, and you need to look for something worth your money.
    3. Inspect the bulbs and stems – don’t hesitate to look at the flowers from all sides. At the moment of purchase the stems have to be wet, which will indicate that the flowers were hydrated well. As for the bulbs, look for some that didn’t bloom completely yet – it means they will bloom fully at home and live there for a longer time. The exception is if you need flowers for a party that will take place the same evening – then it’s better to buy flowers that are open.
    4. Choose seasonal flowers if possible – this will make you sure no potentially toxic products were used to keep them alive. Seasonal flowers also need gardening products, but only the ones beneficial to the environment. The flowers that bloom in season are cheaper and longer lasting, which adds great advantages for you as for a buyer. Of course, these days many flowers are grown underneath artificial grow lights, like T5 fluorescent tubes or LED lights. These are generally fine to buy in any season.
  1. Don’t be guided by the color of the flowers, as they are often unpredictable. Flowers can change their color with time, so when you are going to a florist, don’t think of the color, think of the flower. Orchids are especially susceptible to this.
  2. There are days when white roses look the best, but there are also days when they look grey or have dark spots on them. Don’t force yourself to buy those roses just because you’ve decided you wanted them.
  3. Think of the place the flowers will be placed at – both the room and the vase. Will they fit inside the vase? Will they correlate with the design of the room? Where will they be placed? Think of all those things if you know them beforehand, and if you don’t – buy something of your liking.

Conclusion

Make these 6 things your guide every time you go to a florist to buy flowers. These rules will never disappoint you, and you will be able to find the best florist using them. Choose seasonal, ask questions, inspect the flowers – and you will always be the winner.