Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Plants for Air Quality (and More Spinach)

Right now we're working on a minor "basement improvement project" that has, over the last several months, involved turning our 90-year-old dungeon of a basement into useable space. This winter we started our project by reducing clutter, knocking down some dilapidated interior walls and framing, and vaccumming the dust, cobwebs and chipped paint with the Tosa Health Department's Hepa Vac. Then we painted the concrete block walls with white drylock. Applying drylock took us months of on and off work -- drylock is heavy stuff, which made painting the concrete (difficult even with the lightest of paints) slow going. Anyway, when we finally finished the drylock, we painted the walls with a bungalow color scheme, cleaned and patched the concrete floor and added a few area rugs. We're not quite done, but the space is shaping up to be a decent place for band practice, play, and arts and crafts.

To improve the air quality in our basement and to make the space more inviting, I thought it would be nice to grow some plants in the light from the basement windows on the south side of the property. I bought some coffee plants (not sure if they'll like the cold down there, but it's worth a shot) and a dwarf bananna plant, as well as an English Ivy and a Fern. I'm thinking that the latter two might be the best options for this space, as the air is moist and cool -- kinda like their native environs in the northern regions.

As part of this project, I am going to experiment with propagating Dracaena for the basement. I was googling the other day and found this neat forum on propagating Dracaena. I have a big old spindly Dracaena plant just waiting to be pruned (it's a Dracaena marginata, I think). My basement air quality project offers the perfect excuse for experimenting with the techniques described on this forum.

So this afternoon, I pruned several of the lengthiest canes back, removed the leafy tops, and then cut the canes down to short pieces (approx. 3 to 5 inches long). I half-buried 15 of these pieces lengthwise in a flat filled with top soil and seed starter and then sprinkled them with sphagnun peat moss. I watered the canes and put the flat on the bottom shelf of my east-facing greenhouse.

On a different note, at the end of today's indoor gardening session I also started a new flat of Burpee's savoy leaf "Bloomsdale Long-Standing Spinach" seeds to grow atop one of two new mini plant tables my father-in-law built to use with my under-cabinet grow lights in the kitchen. My other indoor flat of Hybrid Melody spinach was slow growing until I removed some of the leaves a week or two ago, which seemed to stimulate growth. I'm hoping I can stay on top of this new flat, pinch it back sooner, and fertlize more regularly with compost tea.

Here's a pic of one of my counter-top mini plant tables:

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