Brookings Register | From the Garden: Tips to help non-hardy plants survive indoors during winter months

A fern set upon rocks in a tray minimizes the chance of root rot and increases humidity around the plant. (melindamyers.com photo)

Gardeners are notorious for pushing the limits of their growing zones.

Tropical plants, succulents, and other plants that are not hardy to the winter climate often end up indoors for the winter. It usually starts with one or two plants that you just can’t part with or are concerned you won’t be able to purchase next year. Since you are taking a couple of plants in for the winter, why not add a few more?

Now that the plants have been indoors for several weeks or months you are faced with keeping them alive and the leaf litter on the floor to a minimum. As the plants adjust and acclimate to their new environment, some leaves may have turned yellow or brown and dropped off the plant. This is due to the lower light and humidity indoors.

New leaves better adapted to the lower light indoors should begin appearing. If the plants do not appear to be acclimating to the indoors, try increasing the amount of light they receive. Move them in front of a sunnier window or under artificial lights. A combination of natural and artificial lights works well.

Select a location free of drafts of hot and cold air. Avoid placing plants above heat vents or near drafty windows and doors. Succulents prefer cool but draft-free locations over winter.

Next, help your plants deal with the dry air indoors. Group plants together for an attractive display and to increase the humidity around each plant. As one plant loses moisture from its leaves and transpires, the others benefit from this

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Hydroponics, swine barn and more drive hands-on agriculture education

California High School is expanding hands-on opportunities for agriculture students.

After dedicating the Denker Livestock Education Center in May 2022, the high school agriculture department continues to grow additional learning opportunities for students. It added a swine barn last school year, and this year students will experiment with a different way of growing plants along with tackling new projects.

California plant science students will notice new shelves in agriculture instructor Gary Morris’ classroom. The shelves are part of an indoor hydroponic system, which involves growing plants in water with artificial lighting.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), hydroponics is a “technique of growing plants using a water-based nutrient solution rather than soil.” The technique is often utilized in specialty applications, Morris said. Many vegetables and fruits, such as lettuce and tomatoes, can be grown using hydroponics.

“To be honest, I’ve never had much experience with hydroponics, so that’s something we’re trying this year just to kind of see how much difference there is growing under artificial lights and using a soil-less-type growing method as opposed to growing in the traditional greenhouse our kids are used to,” he said.

The hydroponic system, which consists of shelving for small plastic cups, was purchased last year with a state grant helping the district pay $1,000 for the equipment, Morris said. A water-based nutrient solution, which the USDA said consists of an “aggregate substrate” (or growing media) of vermiculite, coconut coir or perlite, is placed into the cup with a seed. Water flows through channels in the shelves, which also feature controllable lights for the plants.

Morris said he was hoping to have the system running by the spring semester, but technical issues and waiting for replacement parts postponed using it. However, with the hydroponic system now fully functional, he

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