Tips For Thinning Avocado Fruit: Is Avocado Fruit Thinning Necessary

If you have an avocado tree that is so rife with fruit, the limbs are in danger of breaking. This may lead you to wonder, “Should I thin my avocado fruit?” Avocado fruit thinning is similar to thinning other fruiting trees, such as apples. Removing avocado fruit may or may not be a good idea, it all depends on how and when you go about thinning the avocado fruit. So how do you thin avocado fruit? Read on to learn more.

About Avocado Fruit Thinning.

Columnar cultivars of avocado are pinched at an early age to attain a more rounded habit, but most other types of avocado require no training and little pruning. Any pruning of avocado that may be done is done so judiciously since avocado trees are susceptible to sunscald, which results in defoliation. Avocado fruit is also self-thinning, so thinning avocado fruit is generally not required.

Should I Thin My Avocadoes?

While thinning isn’t normally required, several cultivars of avocado are in the habit of bearing fruit in alternate years. That is, in a particular year, the tree produces a staggering amount of fruit, so much that the energy from the tree either cannot support the enormous quantity or the resulting yield is high but fruit is small. In the following year, the tree’s energy is so depleted that it barely fruits, if at all. In this case, it may be advisable to lightly thin the fruit. Also, thinning is advisable when multiple trees begin to grow together such that their canopies begin to lose light.

How to Thin Avocado Fruit When trees are bearing overly heavily, they often drop a lot of fruit before it reaches maturity and any fruit that is left behind is often of a small size. Removing some avocado fruit will allow the tree to expend energy on the remaining avocadoes, resulting in larger fruit. Avocado fruit is borne in clusters, sometimes just a few and sometimes many fruit are growing together. Take a good look at the grouping of immature fruit and identify any that are misshapen, diseased or pest damaged, and the smallest fruit. These are the fruit you will remove, leaving just the largest, healthiest looking avocado in the cluster. Using sharp bypass pruners, snip off the immature fruit at the stem. I know it’s hard, but continue in this way until you have evenly spaced fruit on the tree. Space fruit about 6 inches (15 cm.) apart on the tree. If you have a cluster of fruit very close to the one that has just been thinned, it is best to remove it rather than thinning to one fruit.

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A Homemade Anti-Fungal Spray

IMG 2632 1024x768 A Homemade Anti Fungal Spray

I have an amazing espalier rosebush in my backyard this year that is setting records with the sheer amount of blooms on it.  Unfortunately it’s also suddenly covered in black spot fungus, and needs some major help right now.

Black spot is caused by a fungal infestation that occurs in wet locations, or humid places.  It can be triggered by late evening watering, or misting sprinklers, and it spreads rapidly on roses if it’s not caught right away and pruned out.  For bushes with major black spot problems a store-bought anti-fungal spray, or an application of horticultural oil can work adequately, but for the DIYers like myself, a home remedy will fix the problem and save you the gas and pocket money.

Ingredients:

  • Vegetable Oil
  • Water
  • Liquid Dish soap
  • One 25-32 oz. spray bottle (reuse a windex bottle, or purchase a commercial equivalent)

Recipe:

Combine 1/2 a teaspoon of dish soap with 1/2 a teaspoon of vegetable oil in your spray bottle, and fill completely with water, leaving only enough room for the straw and cap to screw on without overflow.  Lightly shake, and then liberally spray this anti-fungal spray all over your roses, leaves, blooms and all.

For the next three weeks apply this recipe to your roses, and you should see results quickly.  For added benefit, if you wash your dishes by hand in the sink you should transfer the soapy sink water to a pail or watering can, and use that water to hydrate the base of your rose bushes.  Gentle soapy water can temporarily kill any fungus living in the mulch, or the soil at the base of the plant, and prevent the fungus from attacking your roses again in the near future.

Gardening with Containers

CONTAINER GARDENING

Container gardening is a method of growing fruits, vegetables, herbs and flowers in pots, hanging baskets, planters, and other containers. Container gardens are a great way for gardeners who don’t have lots of space to grow their own food!

GETTING STARTED

To create a container garden, you will need:

  1. Containers
  2. Potting soil
  3. Seeds and/or plant starts
  4. Water and a watering can or hose.
  5. A natural fertilizer (compost tea or fish emulsion)

Step 1: Survey for Sun and Shade

Look around your home for the best place to put your container garden. Which areas get the most sun? Which areas are shaded? Put your containers in the spot with the most sun! Vegetable plants need lots of sunshine to grow and produce food.  For example:

  • Tomatoes, peppers & eggplant need full sun. Leafy greens & root vegetables can live with a little shade.
  • Patios, balconies, porches, and windowsills can all be good places for your garden.
  • If you have a fence or railing, you can use it like a trellis for peas or beans.

Step 2: Find Your Containers.

For most vegetable plants, you will need five-gallon containers, or larger. The containers must have holes in the bottom so that water can drain out. Otherwise the soil can become waterlogged and plant roots won’t be able to get the air they need to survive!

Step 3: Pick out Your Soil

Soil in a container garden needs to be good at holding water and nutrients. Potting soil is usually made with this in mind. Do not use soil from the ground, because it will not hold water or nutrients very well. You can buy potting soil at any garden store, but make sure the soil package says that it can be used in a vegetable garden. We recommend using organic potting soil, because it holds nutrients better and does not have chemicals.

Step 4: Selecting the Right Plants

Choose varieties of plants that are well-suited for growing in containersPlants in containers will have less space and less soil than they would if they were planted in the ground. For example: Smaller (dwarf) plant varieties grow better in containers than larger varieties (i.e. cherry tomatoes grow better in a container than large slicing tomatoes).

Step 5: Water Often!

Plants growing in containers need a lot more watering than plants growing in a backyard garden. This is because water drains out through the holes in bottom. You can put a tray underneath your containers to catch the water that drains out. The plant will then absorb the water later.

  • During the summer, you will probably need to water your containers every day, especially if they are in full sun.
  • Water in the early morning or evening. When the sun is less strong, the plants will be able to absorb more water, and you will lose less water to evaporation.

Step 6: Make the Most Out of a Small Space

  • Grow Vertically! Use trellises, stakes, or a nearby fence to help your plants grow UP instead of across. This works with VINING PLANTS like squash, peas, beans, and tomatoes!
  • Companion Planting: Instead of planting one type of vegetable in each container, mix and match different vegetables! Most vegetables have other plants that they grow well with. These are called ‘companion plants’.

Step 7: Fertilizing and Soil Care

Well-fed plants are happy plants! Plants in a container garden need to be fertilized oftenbecause nutrients in the soil wash out of the container’s holes every time you water. We recommend that you fertilize your containers at least once a month! This will make a big difference in the amount of food that your garden produces.

Fish emulsion and compost tea are good organic (non-chemical) fertilizers. They are safe for food, people and pets to be around:

  • Fish emulsion is a nutrient-rich natural fertilizer. You can buy it at any garden supply store. You will need to dilute it with water, then pour it on the soil around your plants. The bottle will tell you the proper mixture. It is actually made from fish parts—so it can be a little stinky!
  • Compost tea: Compost tea is a natural liquid fertilizer made from finished compost and water. Put a few cups of finished compost in a bucket of water and let it sit for 5-10 days, or until the water turns the color of weak coffee. Use the finished mixture to water your containers!
  • Worm composting is also great way to make your own fertilizer! Check out our blog in upcoming weeks for more information on worm composting.

Step 8: Preparing for Winter

You can use the same containers and soil for many years.

  • Every winter, cover the soil with a layer of mulch to protect it from weeds and rain. Fallen leaves make a great mulch!
  • Put the containers under cover if possible, to protect them from the rain.
  • Add fresh compost to the containers in the spring.

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5 CLEVER GARDENING HACKS


Gardening Tip #1: Insulate tomatoes with plastic wrap

   Tomatoes thrive in stagnant, hot weather. Unfortunately, our weather here is neither. It’s a cool and windy 68 degrees year-round, so it takes extra effort to make warm weather plants produce fruit.

Wrapping the bottom two rungs of the tomato cage with plastic wrap simulates a greenhouse. The heat is trapped inside the plastic wrap and the plants are blocked from the wind. By the time the plants reach the top of the plastic wrap, they’re strong plants and well adjusted to the temperatures and wind!

How To Do It:

       Have a small helper hold the end of the plastic wrap onto a vertical stake with two hands. Wrap the plastic wrap around one full time, and then continue wrapping around as you work your way down or up the cage (we started at the top and worked down). Be sure to wrap at least two layers to get the full effect and make the plastic wrap stick to itself. I used the plastic wrap I had in the kitchen, but you might want to consider a 20″ heavy duty plastic wrap if you have several plants to wrap.

Gardening Tip #2: Insulate smaller plants with milk jugs

It’s the same concept as the tomatoes, but we’re using it on bell peppers in our $15 raised garden bed. Bell peppers also need warmer weather, but we’re hoping that insulating them with the milk jugs gives them a fighting chance through our cooler springs so maybe, just maybe, they might bear fruit come summer!

How To Do It:  

       Using a pair of scissors, cut off the top and bottom of a used milk jug. Rinse it out well and place it over/around the plant. Be sure to pack a little bit of dirt against the outside edges of the milk jug so that it doesn’t easily knock over when the wind blows.

Gardening Tip #3: Catch pincher bugs with oil

Also known as earwigs, pincher bugs like to eat the leaves of the plants. Specifically, they’re eating our zucchini plants. They are hungry, vicious little bugs and you have to act fast if you want your plants to survive (trust me, I’ve already lost one!).

We tried the newspaper trick, where you roll up newspaper, get it slightly damp and place it in the garden bed. Then bright and early the next morning you remove the newspaper and dispose of the bugs. Apparently “bright and early” is much earlier than we wake up, so there wasn’t ever any bugs inside.

Then we tried to lure them and drown them with oil. And it totally worked! Our three remaining zucchini plants are doing much better and now stand a chance to meet the goal of one zucchini for the year!

How To Do It:

     You’ll need an old plastic container with a lid (think yogurt, sour cream or cottage cheese). Using a pair of scissors, cut a oval-shaped hole about 1″ from the top of the container. Repeat this so that there are 4-5 holes in the container. Bury the container in the garden so that the holes are ground level. Fill the container with 3 parts cheap cooking oil to 1 part soy sauce. The bugs will be lured in by the soy sauce and will drown and get stuck in oil. (To help gauge, we used about 3/4 cup oil and 1/4 cup soy sauce for a 32 oz yogurt container.)

Gardening Tip #4: Deter other bugs with cayenne pepper spray

While the homemade earwig traps are working well, there are still some bugs in the garden that are chomping on leaves (ants?). While the damage isn’t too bad, we’re taking precautionary measures and keeping them away with sticky cayenne pepper spray!

How To Do It:

 Combine 1 tsp of cayenne pepper with 1 cup of hot water. Stir to dissolve the cayenne as much as possible. Pour into a spray bottle and add about 1 tsp of liquid dish soap. Fill the bottle with water and swish gently to combine (don’t shake otherwise you’ll just make a lot of bubbles). Spray directly onto the leaves of the affected plants. Reapply every 2-3 days, or after watering, or as needed. I recommend getting durable spray bottles that you dedicate just for the garden and keep outside so they’re there when you need them. Otherwise it can be a pain walking back and forth from the garden to the house / garage / shed every time you see a bug.

Gardening Tip #5: Deep water tomato plants with a broomstick handle

    Plants need water down at the roots, and watering at the surface level is fine for most of the time, but tomato plants especially benefit from a really good, deep water every few weeks or so. I didn’t have the forethought to install a plastic 2L bottle when I planted the tomatoes (nor did I have a 2L bottle!), so I came up with my own method for getting down deep into the roots.
How To Do It:  

    Taking the handle of a broom, align it with the edge of the container and plunge it all the way to the bottom. Move the handle in a circular motion until you have a hole that is just a bit bigger than the broom handle. Remove the broom and repeat to make 4-6 holes in the dirt, depending on the size of your pot. Water directly into the hole until the plant is saturated!

Gardening Tip #6 (BONUS!):

      Fertilize the tomatoes while you’re deep watering
While you’re making deep holes near your tomato plants, go ahead and take advantage by adding a liquid fertilizer to the roots. I make a fertilizer tea for free otherwise I recommend an organic liquid fertilizer.

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4 Beginner Gardening Mistakes to Avoid

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Even if you have really good soil and a lot of sunlight, there are still plenty of beginner gardening mistakes you can make that can keep your garden from turning out the way you had envisioned it would be.

I have rocky, sandy soil and a lot more shade than sun, so my poor little garden is already at a bit of a disadvantage, and my first few years I made plenty of beginner gardening mistakes.

Let’s just say it’s a good thing I’m not trying to depend on my garden to be my only source of food! I can only imagine the pressure that farmers and homesteaders must have felt back in the days when the success of their crops would decide whether they would go hungry that winter or not.

I still make plenty of mistakes now, too. When things get busy, I don’t put quite as much time into properly preparing the soil like I know I should. And there usually comes a point in the summer when it’s just so hot and humid that I basically give up on weeding completely.

Over the years, though, I’ve gradually learned how to make my garden a little bit more successful. It’s still pretty small, and it’s definitely not going to win any prizes for being the prettiest or the most neatly organized garden, but it’s a lot better than it used to be!

These four beginner gardening mistakes are all ones that I’ve made, and, if this is your first year gardening, hopefully you can avoid making the same mistakes I did and have a better chance at a successful first garden!

4 Beginner Gardening Mistakes to Avoid:

1) Planting Too Many Varieties of Veggies

When you’re just starting out with a garden, it’s a good idea to keep it as simple as possible for the first year. It’s tempting to want to try a little of everything, but you’ll have a much better chance of having a successful garden if you focus on just a few varieties for the first year and then add in others the next year.

When I first started ordering heirloom seeds online, I went a little bit overboard that first year. I wanted to try them all, and I ordered far too many of them. It was a lot to try to keep track of them all, and I ended up not having the time to really learn about how each type should be planted and what type of growing conditions they needed, etc.

Now that I’ve had a garden for a few years, I’ve figured out what types of plants do well in my yard and which ones don’t, but if I could go back to the year I first started a garden, I would have been better off just trying a few simple, easy-to-grow varieties like peas and beans.

2) Crowding Plants Too Close Together

This kind of goes along with the first mistake. If you’ve tried to plant too many varieties, you’re probably also trying to squeeze as many seeds or seedlings into your garden space as possible.

My first year gardening, I had visions of a huge harvest, and I packed the seeds as closely together as possible, thinking I would have more produce that way. I also didn’t thin out the seedlings properly after the seeds had sprouted because I hated the thought of pulling out perfectly healthy plants.

Instead of a huge, productive harvest, though, I ended with up weak, straggly-looking plants, and I could barely find room to step between them without destroying them (since I had forgotten about planning enough space to walk around them too.)

The moral of the story: less equals more. Fewer plants spaced further apart will end up being healthier and producing more fruit than plants crowded together.

3) Watering Plants Too Often, or at the Wrong Time of Day

I’ve been guilty of this mistake many times. It’s easy to worry so much about whether your plants are getting enough water that you end up giving them too much water by mistake. Some plants do need more water than others, but generally they do better with fewer, more thorough waterings (like they would get if if were raining) than they do with getting a shower from the hose every time you walk by and think they look even a little bit thirsty.

It’s also generally considered best to water in the earlier part of the day rather than in the evening because watering at night could contribute to the growth of fungus, especially for plants that don’t do well in very damp conditions.

4) Planting the Wrong Varieties Next to Each Other

If you feel like you’ve tried everything and you still can’t figure out why your garden isn’t thriving, it might be that you’re planting the wrong varieties next to each other.

Certain types of plants do really well when they are together, helping to keep away insects and pests or by helping to enrich the soil. Others plants, though, may actually inhibit the growth of the plants that they are near.

By using companion planting and planning your garden to keep together the varieties that work well with each other, you have a better chance of having a successful garden.

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10 Reasons to Grow Mint

Mint is one of those plants that people feel very strongly about having in the garden, and for good reason.  Because of its spreading nature and tendency to take over, many of us opt to just go without it all together.  The problem with doing this is that the mint wins!  Seriously, though, we humans are definitely smart enough to outwit the mint, making it possible to enjoy all that it has to offer.  Mint is a tasty plant that can be made into all kinds of goodies, while also being a powerful medicinal herb.  There are many different varieties of mint such as peppermint, spearmint, chocolate mint, and apple mint, all with similar growing habits.  There are also other plants that are in the mint family that grow without abandon such as lemon balm, bee balm, and catnip that can included in this discussion as well.  Here are 10 reasons to grow mint, without fear of it taking over your garden!

Mint Can Only Move So Fast

The truth of the matter is that mint is a plant, and while it can and will most definitely spread, it takes some time for this to happen.  I would steer clear of planting mint in or anywhere near your regular garden beds as it will eventually try and take over, but it’s a great plant for a rocky herb garden, a neglected corner of your yard, or a high traffic area.  This is mint that is just starting to spread after one year in the ground.

mint-spreading1

Mint will spread from its underground roots, and can cover great distances and under obstacles to get to where it wants to go, so keep that in mind when planting. But, although it may sometimes seem like it, this won’t happen overnight. Just keep a close eye on it and harvest any new plants that you don’t want

Mint Can Be Contained

Probably the best way to grow mint is in a container.  This will ensure that it will stay where you want it, without any worry of garden takeover.

mint-in-pot

Since the rhizomes that cause the mint to spread don’t go very deep, it’s also possible to plant mint in a raised bed without worrying too much about it jumping ship. It will try and take over the raised bed, however, so make sure to plant other things that can keep up with it. Other hardy perennial herbs like rosemary, sage, oregano, and thyme can usually tolerate the aggressive nature of mint, especially if they are already established

You Can Take as Much Mint as You Please (& then some)

The best part about growing a plant that is as aggressive as mint is that you can be just as aggressive back at it without worry of harming it.  You can cut handfuls of mint at a time without any damage done.  See a mint plant that is growing where you don’t want it?  Chop it down and turn it into something delicious, or cut large bundles of mint and hang to dry for use in the winter months.

Mint Grows Well in the Shade

If there is a shady area of your yard that you have trouble growing things in, try planting mint.  While it prefers full sun, it can tolerate some shade, and it will probably keep it from spreading as quickly.  Regardless, I would still take the necessary precautions so that you don’t get a complete mint takeover (unless that’s what you want, of course).

Mint Can Grow from Cuttings

Mint is super easy to propagate from cuttings and will readily re-root itself.  You can cut out mint where you don’t want it, put it in water until it grows some roots, then transplant it where you do want it.  In fact, you don’t even have to put it in water first as it will root right in soil.  Do it as a science experiment with your kids, or root a bunch of cuttings, pot them up, and give away to friends.  Mint is the gift that keeps on giving (and giving).

mint-roots

You Can Completely Ignore Mint (& it won’t feel bad)

Let your mint go and do it’s thing, then come and take from it as much as you want, and it will still thrive.  Don’t worry about watering or fertilizing it.  Really, it will grow without any inputs.  Unless you’re trying to naturally thin it out, it may like a little water from time to time, but it will honestly be ok if you literally leave it alone for months on end.  It’s a great plant for lazy gardeners

mint-close-up-e1464493977804

Mint Attracts Beneficial Insects (& Repels the Bad Ones)

Let your mint go to flower and it will attract bees, beneficial wasps, hoverflies (aphid eaters), and tachinid flies (parasitic on nasty bugs).  The smell of the mint plant will also repel houseflies, cabbage moths, ants, aphids, squash bugs, fleas, mosquitoes, and even mice.  Not a bad deal, if you ask me!

Mint is Good for Your Pets

Chickens love fresh herbs and mint is no exception.  The best part is that it’s also great for them and their coop.  It keeps bugs, flies, and parasites at bay, as well as being an antioxidant and digestive aid for your flock.  Be sure to plant lots of mint (as well as other herbs) in and around the coop and run for chickens to munch on daily.

 

Mint is Good Medicine

Mint is also an amazing medicinal herb.  It is well known as a digestive aid and breath freshener, and is also good for an upset stomach.  Peppermint is especially great for headaches, and the essential oil can be rubbed on the temples for relief.  It can be helpful for seasonal allergies, and can also be added to body care products like salves and lip balms, soaps, shampoo bars, and lotions.

mint-rosemary-shampoo-bars-680x468

Still too scared to grow mint but want to enjoy all of its benefits?  Order high quality, organic dried peppermint or spearmint from Mountain Rose Herbs (my favorite place for dried herbs).

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Container Grown Pomegranate Trees – Tips On Growing A Pomegranate In A Pot

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I like food that you have to work a little at to get to. Crab, artichoke and my personal favorite, pomegranate, are examples of foods that require a little extra effort on your part to get at the delectable interior. Pomegranates are not only delicious but are getting bonus points for their high levels of antioxidants, leading many to try their hands at pomegranate growing. If this includes you, let’s look at caring for pomegranate plants with an emphasis on indoor pomegranate trees in containers.

Pomegranate Growing

Pomegranates (Punica granatum) are steeped in history and have been grown for thousands of years through the Mediterranean regions of Asia, Africa and Europe. Native from Iran to the northern Himalayas, the fruit eventually traveled to Egypt, China, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Iran, Iraq, India, Burma and Saudi Arabia. It was introduced to the Americas in the 1500s by Spanish missionaries. A member of the Lythraceae family, pomegranate fruit has a smooth, leathery, red to pink skin surrounding the edible arils. These arils are the edible part of the fruit and are its seeds surrounded by sweet, juicy pulp. The seeds can also be used for planting. Pomegranate trees are grown not only for their juicy, tempting fruit, but also make attractive ornamental specimens with orange-red blossoms prior to fruiting, set off upon glossy, deciduous green leaves. Trees usually have thorns, and are grown as a bushy shrub. That being said, pomegranates can be trained as a small tree ideal when growing a pomegranate in a pot.

How to Grow Pomegranate Trees in Containers

Pomegranates thrive in areas of warm, arid conditions. While not all of us reside in such climactic regions, the good news is that growing a pomegranate in a pot is entirely possible. Pomegranate trees in containers can either be grown indoors given sufficient arid provisions or outdoors during part of the year and moved indoors if cold snaps are imminent. Pomegranates are self-pollinating, so you only need one to set fruit. They are relatively hardy and will bear fruit within the second year. For outdoor or indoor pomegranate trees grown in containers, you will need around a 10-gallon container one-quarter full of potting soil. Set the root ball into the container and begin to fill in around the roots with the soil to the top of the container but not covering the trunk. Water the new tree in well and lightly tamp the soil down to eliminate any air pockets.

Caring for Pomegranate Plants

Pomegranates need full sun. Keep an eye on the weather report and if temps threaten to drop below 40 degrees F. (4 C.), move the plant indoors to a sunny window. Water the tree deeply about once a week, possibly more often during peak summer months. Fertilize the tree with half cup of 10-10-10. Spread the fertilizer atop the soil and two inches away from the trunk. Water the food into the soil. During the first two years of the tree’s growth, feed in November, February, and May, and thereafter fertilize only in November and February. Prune out any crossing branches or shoots to three to five per branch after the tree’s first year. Prune out any dead or damaged limbs in the late winter. Prune out suckers to create a more tree-like appearance. Follow the above tips, and within two years, you’ll have delicious pomegranate fruit of your own that last as long as apples (up to seven months!) in cool, dry conditions.

Pruning
Pruning is necessary to give and maintain desired shape of your pomegranate tree and encourage flowering and fruiting. Pruning it best done after all danger of frost has passed when the tree is about to start growing.

Prune off weak, dead and undesirable branches to direct tree’s energy to right part and shorten long branches to encourage flowering.

Fertilizer
During the growing season pomegranate tree is fertilized regularly, fertilize after every two week using half strength liquid 8-8-8 fertilizer according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Pomegranate tree in pot often becomes zinc deficient, which is indicated by yellowing leaves. To overcome this, you can spray diluted zinc solution on foliage.

Application of compost or manure is also beneficial. Take care not to over fertilize it as it can cause the tree to produce lots of foliage and comparatively less flowers

Propagation by seeds
Buy as ripe pomegranate as possible. Separate and clean seeds from the pulp by rubbing them from paper towel, let them dry up for a few days before sowing.

Plant the seeds no more than ¼ inches deep in light seed-starting mix. Place the pots in a bright location, optionally inside a plastic bag or greenhouse that maintains a temperature around 68 F (20 C). Always keep the soil moist. Seeds will germinate within 1 – 6 weeks depending more on the variety and climate.

Propagation by cuttings
Take several 8 to 10 inch-long cuttings. Plant the cutting in a well drained potting mix. It roots easily and quickly at ambient temperature of 20 degrees Celsius and high humidity.

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