June 18, 2018

**REVIEW** Sonkir 3-in-1 Soil, Light, PH Tester

For those of you who don't read my Plant It Earth blog, first, shame on you and second, I'm cross-posting this review here and there. (Did that make sense? My brain is acting crazy cakes this morning!)

That is the Sonkir 3-in-1 Soil, Light, PH Tester.  To be honest, I still don't understand plant PH (but my soils are usually packaged as balanced for the particular plants), and I've already got the hang of placing my plants in the right lighting. The water though...  Yeesh. The only plants I have ever killed have died from over- or under-watering.

Of course, I have read plenty of books and articles on providing the right amount of water to my plants, but the thing is trying to judge how moist or dry they are. I tried using a wooden stick (didn't always work) and I tried using my fingers (I'm squeamish about dirt!).

This meter runs about 11 bucks and I think the plants are worth that much.

When I was looking to choose a meter, I was on the hunt for something around this price, but it would have to actually work. I read reviews for a handful that fit my price range and most had too many negative reviews. The one I was hopeful about after reading about just a few reviews, dropped off after I read a few more. One reviewer did an awesome job of testing the meter on a large variety of plants - both freshly watered and dried out - and he noticed that the moisture meter never fluctuated from "dry" reads.

I tested this one the same way - checking plants that I knew were due for a watering and a couple that I watered about 15 minutes before testing. The reads came out pretty accurate for me. At least, I know that it read moister for the wetter plants and dryer for the one I had not watered.
If I use the camera's zoom, I can read the meter!
There is one thing I don't like about the meter. I need to use a magnifying glass or my phone to read the results. The print is tiny on the readout and in the instruction pamphlet. And the instructions include a handy little guide for the water and light needs of some commons houseplants.

The plant that I worry most about is my beautiful Monstera. She is thriving and sprouting new greenery by the minute, but her pot is too deep for me to accurately tell when to add water.

This is the Monstera (I call her "Monster") on about May 1st:

This is her June 5th:

she's sprouting more as I type this 

Wow, right? This plant is pretty effortless. I play violin classical music for her and every day I spray her leaves with filtered water. She is growing so much that I am going to have to anchor her with some sticks or something and learn how to prune her. Just yesterday, my Facebook plants group pals suggested turning her occasionally.

This soil meter is really going to help me keep on track with watering. Plus, if I have to go away for a few days, my neighbor will be able to use it while she plant-sits for me!

By the way, if any of you Being Free readers need some info on plant watering, here are a couple of useful links: Our House Plants has both a watering guide and a really helpful "hub" of plant info.


June 6, 2018

Do Plants Like Music? Depends...

My neighbor came by the other day and told me that my apartment had the true feel of a green oasis. There were all my lovely plants and the sounds of the rainforest. The rainforest sounds were courtesy Amazon Alexa. Of all the skills offered by Alexa, my favorites are the sounds. I use nature sounds for the plants and I use rainfall sounds for myself.

humidifier in right back corner, Amazon Alexa out of sight

Now that I have completed the green family (I finally have an aloe vera, another couple of Pothos, and even some lettuce that was given to me), I'm concentrating on keeping all the plants healthy an happy. Why not? They certainly have improved my mental state.

newest Pothos w/Spider Plant bottom left

I have always heard that music is beneficial to plants, but I never thought about what kinds of music might be best. This is an article talking about that. According to it, my plants like music that I also can enjoy, even if I don't listen to it all the time. Classical music, soothing music seems to be the key.

Lettuce given to me by a farming friend!

I found it so funny what was said about the negative effects of some rock music. I happen to think that a lot of rock music has the same effects on the human brain!

The Silver Pothos with her lovely markings

GreenMyLife has an article about this subject and they included this interesting photo:

Seems about right

(I just added Green My Life to my bookmarks, by the way.)

For the past few weeks, I have alternated playing violin music and different nature sounds for the plants So far, they seem to like it. The music, along with the plants, also alleviates my depression and anxiety.

By the way, when I got this Monstera back at the end of April, I thought it was a wonderful plant. Look at the difference some music and loving care has made:

She's just spreading her wings wide

So, yay for music.


May 20, 2018

**PLANT WATCH** Seedlings, Pineapple, and Lily in Water UPDATE

UPDATE June 6th:
I threw out the avocado pit (it was doing exactly nothing!), and the Moonflower seeds (they were just stagnant), but I did pot the pineapple crown. (And I actually dumped a few of the Moonflower seeds into a couple of my Pothos plants. We'll see...)

I'm on plant watch again. I have a few things in the green family brewing.

These are some seeds that someone in the building put out on the community table. They wanted someone to maybe plant them around the border of the building or garden. They'd been sitting there for a couple of days with no takers, so... I took 'em. I've only ever done anything from seeds via a store-bought plant kit (and that did not turn out well!), so I'm hoping these do alright. I had to look to YouTube for info and instructions. These are Moonflower seeds.

They are "Moonflower" seeds
 And this here is that troublesome Calla Lily that I picked up from a grocery store a while back. Dang thing was limping along so badly in soil that I decided to see if I could heal it in a water environment. So far, the roots are looking okay.

Finally, here's my Pineapple project. The roots are starting to grow out and I'll be excited to transplant the whole thing into soil sometime in the next couple-few weeks.


May 16, 2018

An Herb Thing

As I told a neighbor, I've got nearly all the houseplants I want (there are a couple on the Wish List), but I needed some kitchen herbs. Guess what? The Mercantile down the street from where I live just got in the first of their summer stock.

By the way, I wasn't sure what the difference was between the 2 basils but I love using Sweet Basil, so... Now I have learned what the difference is, thanks to Home Guides (which I reference a lot):

Source: SF Gate Home Guides
GREAT reference spot!

Making some oil with this Lemon Balm

Have already taken cuttings to propagate this one

I haven't yet gotten the Lavender or Aloe that I want  (and I know Aloe isn't a herb) so those are the items I'm waiting for now.

My favorite herbs so far are the Lemon Balm and the Chocolate Mint. The Choc Mint smells just like a cookie! Also, it's very pretty. Those two herbs are the first I'm using to take clippings from. I even have started trying to leech some of the Lemon Balm into some oil because I hear that it's great for things like preventing and/or healing cold sores.

I'm pretty happy with the green family. My apartment has a very soothing and calming look and feel now. I did this with the Peace Lily and some extra vases the neighbor gave me:


She actually gave me 3 of the jars and I have a couple left. I'm trying to decide how to use the others. Maybe I will get some sand in different colors and do something with seashells and beads? Of course,  when I do come up with something, I will put the photos up here on the blog.


May 11, 2018

Houseplants for Dummies (Like Me)

So happy to be able to say that, except for the grow kit sunflowers, my plants are alive and most of them are even thriving. The Peace Lily is looking a little weary but I moved her to a water environment and she seems to be perking up.

I have a couple of problems as a plant owner. One, my thumb is slightly brown and I'm having to train it into green mode. Two, I have memory retention issues so I am constantly having to re-check resources to do with my plants. I will forget from moment to moment which of my green family likes moisture and which of them wants to dry out in between watering. But I have collected some good resources. I was given a couple of books by a neighbor and, just the other day, I received the one book I've bought:

I love the For Dummies books. I've used them for everything from learning about my computer to refreshing lost math and writing skills. This one on houseplants is amazing. Of the fifteen plants I currently have, there is only one not mentioned in the book: my Cordyline (or Hawaiian Ti) plant.

Here are some good online sources of information for people like me:
  • First, there are the YouTube channels like PlantzNThings - because, although it seems more focused on yard plants, it does touch on info about interesting houseplants - like this one about the delicious Dragon Fruit because it taught me how to germinate seeds from fruits.
  • Garden Tips - This channel has a lot of videos and I am still cruising through them, but always find something interesting. Then, there is my favorite,
  • is Exotic Tropical Houseplants - It's the first YouTube channel I discovered that is as fun as it is informative - and it is really informative. I love that the host is so passionate about his plants and about sharing info with the rest of us greenies.
  • This page explains using artificial lighting for your plants - and I think most of us apartment dwellers rely on fake lighting!
  • World of Succulents is another great site. Here's the thing, for some reason, I cannot keep one of these alive. Maybe I need to spend more time over here at WoS!
  • Gardening Know How is a great site whether your plants are indoor or outdoor types. I found it a while back when looking for info on growing plants in water. I really like the site a lot.
So, those are some place to start. I just got some herbs and now I need to look for info for those... I will share when I find some.