How to make a DIY worm farm – step by step (with photos)

How to make a DIY worm farm – step by step (with photos)

Building your own DIY worm farm – known in fancy circles as vermicomposting – is a fantastic way to transform your organic household waste into a rich compost which both supports the local ecosystem, and nourishes your plants and vegetable gardens.

Not only does it provide a spectacular and sustainable nurtrient source for all your plants, it’s an exciting way to show kids (and kids at heart) how to recycle our organic waste and return it to the garden as compost goodness. Bonus points for being green!

The compost created from a worm farm is the compost equivalent of a 1991 grange – it’s deep, intense, nurtrient rich goodness. I am constantly amazed that our daily household scraps – with the help of these some little red wigglers – can make the most nutrient rich fertiliser for all plants and garden beds.

When building my own DIY worm farm (shown below), I found some helpful – as well as some not so helpful – DIY tips online to guide me. This resulted in a bit of trial and error (maybe alot of error), but I’ve managed to build a pretty sweet little set up that delivers me juicy compost on a regular basis.

In this article I’ll show you my step by step process for building a successful worm farm from materials you can grab at any local hardware store.

We’ll also touch on;

Lets get into it!

 

 

Thing’s you’ll need to build your DIY worm farm

  • A Drill – with a spade drill piece to make a larger hole for the tap and smaller drilling bits for worm holes
  • 3 plastic bins, containers or Styrofoam boxes and one lid (3 to start – you can add more later)
  • A plastic screw tap
  • 4 small terracotta pots (or bricks or anything that’ll hold the weight of your bins)
  • 4 more pots or legs to hold the bins off the ground (old timber, whatever you have lying around – there are many things you can use for this)
  • A gas lighter (or bbq lighter)
  • Newspaper
  • Coco coir
  • Hessian bag
  • A little soil and some leaves from the garden
  • Worms starter kit – 1000 worms (from your local hardware store or online)

Building your DIY worm bin

  •  Step 1

Using a spade drill piece, drill the the hole for your tap – in the bottom centre of one bin. Make sure your drill bit is the right diameter for your chosen tap. Screw in the tap piece. To tighten most taps come with a screw piece which you thread on the inside to hold it all in place.

This is now the bottom bin. If you are as fortunate as me your local hardware shop may screw it in for you when you purchase your items (cheers Bunnings!).

                                                    

  • Step 2

In your other two bins (not the bottom one in which you’ve placed your tap) you’ll next drill multiple pea sized holes to make a grid like pattern in the base of each. The holes can be anywhere from 3-6mm. This is for the worms to migrate between bins.

(TIP: I found the drilling of the holes made sharp uneven edges on one side from the pushed-out plastic, I melted these excess plastic edges down with a long gas lighter to smooth them over – leaving no sharp edges for the delicate worms. Not sure if overkill, but I’m a little OCD so yolo)

 

                                       

 

  • Step 3

Next you’ll need to drill some small holes in your top lid, and in all bins just under their top lips (all the way around). This is for aeration. These holes should be small – so worms don’t escape and unwanted guests don’t join the compost party. 1-2mm is fine. I put these holes every 5cm or so. On the lid I drilled some holes in clusters as you can see in photo below.

              

 

  • Step 4

Place two terracotta pots (or your chosen bolsters) evenly spaced in the middle of the bottom bin (the bin with the tap). Place second bin on top of these and repeat the process between the second and top bin – using 4 terracotta pots total. The pots allow for space between each bin level.

Important: place a few layers of damp newspaper on the bottom of the middle bin under the pots. This is to stop worms falling into the bottom bin, but allows liquid to soak through and collect in the bottom bin – liquid compost for the winnnnn.

In my photo below you will notice my middle bin is already filled with compost, this is a completed layer of compost – which was the top bin – that I have now swithced to the middle for the worms to migrate upwards to start feeding in my top bin (this is an advanced step mentioned in more detail below). Your middle bin will only have newspaper and two terracotta pots to start.

                 

  • Step 5

The top bin can now be filled with bedding for your worms! (see more bedding info here) Lastly place the bin stack on top of some old pots or bricks to keep it off the ground (as pictured). You will also notice in the photos I have a tray (or extra bucket lid) sitting underneath my worm farm, I use this as a water barrier. Keep the lid filled with water so ants and other crawlers cannot climb up into your worm farm.

You can add levels repeating these steps as your farm grows. Be sure to place your farm in the shade and in a sheltered position from rain.

                                                    

Worm bedding and the difference between greens and browns

Bedding is the most important part of your bin to keep your worms happy. So what is the bedding? Bedding is what the worms live in and consists of what are commonly labelled greens and browns. Browns are the dry bedding that suck up the extra moisture in the worm farm keeping it healthy. The green is any organic waste from the kitchen which often causes moisture in the bin. Both beddings are eaten by the worms to produce worm castings (or poo).

You start your worm farm off with just browns until the worms settle in. It is important that you keep the bin two thirds brown and one third green to keep the right moisture levels and to sustain an ideal home for the worms. The bin should be kept moist so that if you squeezed the contents with your hand it should make a drop of water, it should never be dripping.

 

Here is a list of the brown bedding materials that are perfect for your worms house:

  • Damp newspaper often shredded (put in dry if bin is too wet) and Soft cardboards
  • Horse and cow manures
  • Egg cartons, no labels
  • Toilet rolls
  • Coco coir (coconut husk, great for retaining moisture)
  • Sugar cane mulch (worms love this stuff)
  • A bit of soil or compost
  • Bark and leaves

 

Which worms are for composting

So which worms do you put in your farm? The most common composting worms are called red wigglers. These small red worms live on the surface of soil and use objects such as leaves to hide. Unlike the common garden earthworm, these little worms do not burrow. The red wigglers reach maturity at around 3 months and can produce 2-3 cocoons each week (“Worm Reproduction & Development – Compost-ology – City of Euless”, 2019). These cocoons take around 11 weeks to hatch.

Be sure not to turn (or mix) a vermicomposting farm as this may dislodge or damage cocoons thus this will affect the reproduction rates of your farm. You can gently loosen up the natural soil compaction from time to time. Earthworms can also live in your farm but they will need more soil or worm castings first to burrow in, they will also help to break down your scraps.

 

What to feed your worms from the kitchen

The most common question when it comes to worm farms is what do we feed them, remember this is not a compost heap in which you can chuck anything, it is the worms house and we want them to stick around. Worms eat most organic waste from the kitchen with a few exceptions. They do not like acidic foods such as citrus or tomatoes, so keep the orange peels for the bin. Worms do not eat meat, dairy or oily foods so avoid putting these in your farm as well. Starchy foods I have found get left and don’t always seem to disappear in my worm farm – such as potato peels – I tend to avoid these if I have other scraps handy.

Worms have tiny teeth and digestive systems so the more digestible foods you feed them the happier they will be, such as cutting scraps up fine or blending. It is important that you do not start to feed the organic waste from a family of four to a newly established farm, as the worms need time to settle and multiply to cope with this much waste. Once you start feeding your worms you will quickly work out how much you can feed them by how quick the scraps are disappearing. Be sure to gently bury your scraps in the soil or under newspaper to avoid smells, attracting fruit flies.

Here is a list of green scraps your worms will love:

  • Fruit pulp from juicer                    (not citrus)
  • Fruit scraps and off cuts               (apple cores)
  • Vegetable off cuts and scraps     (avoid potato and tomato)
  • Lettuces and salad scraps
  • Used Coffee grounds
  • Tea bags
  • Crushed egg shells                         (pull off white lining if possible)
  • Banana peels
  • Most herbs
  • Avocado skins                                 (their favourite)
  • Watermelon rind

 

How to add another level and move worms once compost is ready

Well this is the fun part, your compost is ready! Or you are keeping your worms so happy they are multiplying and you need more bins producing worm poop at once. How exciting.

Simply swap the top bin (full of worm and compost goodness) with the empty middle bin, which will now be your top bin. Start by adding some bedding to the top bin and some food scraps. Over time the worms will crawl up through the holes to the top bin that is now being fed scraps, to leave the middle bin full of compost and no worms. This process does take some time and may still require some manual worm picking. Don’t be lazy Janice.

Alternatively you can manually sieve out the worms from your compost and add them to the new top bin – this is a delicate process.

Making and using worm tea or leachate

 

Leachate is the excess liquid that comes from your worm farm, this is not worm tea. When I first started my worm farm I never found any excess liquid in the bottom bin and did not understand how to get any leachate. Keeping your farm at the right moisture levels should NOT create a full bottom tray of liquid. The best way to extract your leachate is to water your compost bin once the worms have moved up a level to a newly established bin. This is once your compost is ready. Watering once a week will give you plenty of leachate in your bottom catchment to use as needed. Once you have your leachate it should be diluted into water ratio 5:1 – like you would do with a Seasol solution.

Worm tea on the other hand requires you to take one heaped handful of worm castings and subsequently soak them in about 5 litres of water to extract all the goodness. Worm tea is like liquid gold for your plants and vegetable gardens and is one of the best liquid fertilises you will find. This ‘tea’ contains plenty of good bacteria and microbes as well as all the best nutrients and minerals your plants need.  It also works as a foliage spray and doubles as a natural insect repellent to keep your plants healthy both above and below the ground. A gardeners holy water. If you have a good vermicompost stash going you can routinely add a spoon to your usual watering regime (don’t overdo it – maybe once every third or fourth water will be el primo).

Pests and unwanted guests

Pests in indoor worm farms are minimal, but if you have a patio or outdoor farm pests are something to keep an eye out for.

Fruit Flies

Fruit flies tend to be present in any worm farms due to decaying fruit and vegetables. These little flies will not do any harm to your worm farm – so don’t fret. Try burying your scraps with soil or cover with newspaper to avoid attracting fruit flies.

Mites

Another pest that has been common in my worm farm is mites. Mites are tiny crawling bugs that also feed on decaying matter. They come in the hundreds and breed very quickly if the conditions are right. Mites like wet and acidic conditions so if you have an infestation don’t overwater, let you farm dry out a little until they leave. Another great way I have found to get rid of mites is to place a large watermelon rind on the top of your farm this will attract the mites, you can then remove it and put it in the bin – be sure to pick off any worms.  Repeat this if you have an infestation.

Ants

Another common problem in most of Australia. These little bastards will get in to everything and anything they can find. My greatest foe.

The best way I have found to control ants is by sitting your worm farm over a ‘water bath’. Place a tray or lid of water (as shown in my DIY steps) underneath your farms base/legs so ants cannot cross the water to climb into the farm. If you have an ant problem the best way to get rid of them is to soak the farm, ants will escape quickly up the sides or drown. Not the most ideal solution for your worms, but ants will take over the farm quickly if not dealt with. Let the water drain out the bottom as you hose it to get rid of any ants and nests.

I’ve tried a protective ring of ant dust around my farms but this didn’t work. Maybe they built a bridge of corpses over it. I don’t know. Clever little buggers.

Maggots

Maggots can sometimes appear in your farm. These are fly larvae. When building your farm be sure to drill small aeration holes rather than large ones, in order to avoid flies entering the farm to lay eggs. If your bin is too wet or being overfed – causing rotting food – this is the perfect condition for maggots to thrive. Maggots can generally be easily removed by placing in a lure (milk soaked bread) and then removing this once covered in maggots

 

Do worm farms smell?

The simple answer is no, worm farms should not smell hence they are suitable for indoors. A healthy worm farm should smell like garden soil. If your worm farm smells then you will need to do some troubleshooting. Is the farm too wet? Are the worms being overfed? Are you burying your scraps? These are some questions to find the source of why your worm farm is smelly.

Keeping the right balance of greens and browns in your farm should ensure it has a neutral smell. Overfeeding is the main cause of a smelly worm farm, as the food will start to rot when the worms cannot keep up. Also be sure to check the foods to avoid list as these foods can create unwanted smells in your bin.

 

And that’s all there is to it. Seriously, vermicomposting has been a game changer for me. Fun, rewarding, and awesome for both the environment and your plant garden. Get amongst it!

Miss Pot Plant xoxo

 

 

 

 

Worm Reproduction & Development – Compost-ology – City of Euless. (2019). Retrieved 27 August 2019, from http://www.eulesstx.gov/composting/vc_reproduction.htm

Can plants really purify air? The top 5 performers according to NASA

Can plants really purify air? The top 5 performers according to NASA

You didn’t read that title wrong my friends. There few things that get Miss Pot Plant as hot under the collar as scientific research which supports the role of plants for improved health and wellbeing. Amazeballs.

So, the big question: can houseplants actually purify the air, and if so – which plants are the best for cleaning your air at home?

According to NASA, yes! The NASA clean air study found numerous common house plants which release oxygen into the air through photosynthesis, as well as absorb carbon dioxide and a variety of other toxins  from the air. The top performers identified in the study included;

  1. Peace Lily (removes 5 toxins from the air)
  2. Florists Chrysanthemum (removes 5 toxins from the air)
  3. Red-edged Dracaena (removes 4 toxins from the air)
  4. Variegated Snake Plant (removes 4 toxins form the air)
  5. English Ivy (removes 4 toxins from the air)

We find this very exciting. There are way too many “plants will magic away your worst diseases and turn your air into the nectar of the gods” type blog posts out there which make grand claims based on nothing more than fellow bloggers, Pinterest posts and the like.

 Now of course, science doesn’t know everything, but if you’re going to tell someone to buy a plant because it will do “a” or “b” – I feel like you should be able to show that there’s at least SOME evidence behind your claims. But maybe that’s just me.

We at Miss Pot Plant believe firmly in providing you with reputable and researched information where available (we’re probably not going to do a literature review for a DIY project though). We’ll also tell you when our recommendations are based on runes and star trajectories.  

With this in mind, in this article we will;

  • Review NASA’s research into the use of plants to purify air 
  • Examine the relevance of this for the home enviornment 
  • Identify the 5 plants which were the “super performers” according to NASAs research – and provide growing tips for each

Sounds good? Let’s dive in.

P.S if you have 0 interest in “why” or “how” plants might clean your air, skip to the end where I cover the plants NASA recommend as super purifiers. I will hold it against you though.

Why did NASA study plants?

 

NASA conducted the clean air study in 1989 in order to determine the ability of plants to clean up recycled air in space stations.

Why did they study this you ask? Because astronauts are forced to breathe the exact same air over and over for the period of their expeditions in space (apparently fresh space air isn’t a winner).

 The problem with breathing recycled air as that eventually toxins and carbon dioxide (expelled as waste when we exhale) accumulate in the recycled air, making the air progressively less fresh and potentially toxic. Not ideal really.   

 Thus, NASA were keen on findings ways to purify recycled air in space. The Clean Air Study was part of this search.

 Numerous common houseplants were examined for their ability to add oxygen to the, remove carbon dioxide (which we breathe out) and other toxins such as benzene, formaldehyde and trichloroethylene (not good for you Janice) from the air.

 Some plants were able to add oxygen, remove CO2 AND remove all the tested toxins from the air, while other plants were only able to manage some of these. We’ll cover the stand out performers soon.

Does the NASA study really apply to your house plants?

The answer is yes and no. Yes, NASA clearly demonstrated that numerous plants can remove chemicals and toxins from the air, and add oxygen. Yay!

However, this study does not establish whether this process is the same, more efficient, or less efficient in the home environment. Stay with me here Janice. Impressive dinner conversation lies ahead. 

NASA found one plant per 9m2(100 square feet) was sufficient for air cleaning effect – but we don’t know from this study whether this is true of our homes either. 

The study was conducted in a sealed space station; not your house. 

Overall, we think the results are exciting – the idea of cleaning our home air by virtue of beautiful plants is pretty darn awesome.  

But we’d like to review the modern literature thoroughly to see if we can verify NASA’s findings. We are doing this currently and will share the results with you soon!

Don’t be dissuaded by this though – remember, there is NO downside to filling your home with these beautiful air cleaning purifying green machines;  Even if (at the very worst), they don’t clean your air quite as well as space station air, they’re still beautiful!

How did NASA rank a house plants ability to clean air?

The study tested the ability of a house plant to;

  1. Produce new oxygen, released into the surrounding air as a by-product of photosynthesis
  2. Absorb carbon dioxide from the surrounding air, as food for photosynthesis
  3. Absorb harmful chemicals for the surrounding air, specifically the following
    1. Benzene
    2. Formaldehyde
    3. Trichloroethylene
    4. Xylene and Toulene
    5. Ammonia

They also determined the quantity of oxygen produced, and quantity of toxin removed. Nerds. 

The plants which showed the most pronounced ability to accomplish these tasks were considered to be of most use for purifying air. We’ve selected the top 5 – see below!

The 5 best air purifying houseplants according to NASA

 And the winners are; 

 

1. The Peace Lilly (spathiphyllum)

 

Beauty and style meets function. Who knew. The beautiful peace lilly is a happy camper indoors and isn’t too hard to grow, and it’s a machine at cleaning your air.

The peace lilly adds oxygen to your air, and it removes 5 toxins from the air (that we know of) – including benzene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, toluene and ammonia. What a gun.

 

Grow tips for the Peace Lilly

Light requirements: Moderate to bright indirect sunlight. Eastern windows work well.

Watering: Filtered water, generously when plant begins to droop.

Styling: Great table plant, though can work as a feature plant. Also useful in bathrooms and bedrooms – doesn’t mind lower light conditions and deals well with humidity. White flower are gorgeous.

Fertilise: 2-3 times a year during the warm seasons. Use a dedicated or balanced fertiliser. Doesn’t require much.

Pests: Generally quite resistant. Can get spider mites. aphids and mealybugs and scale – but not usually.

Propagation: Divide mature plants and repot.

Other comments: One of the most tolerant and easy to grow houseplants.

 

2. Florists Chrysanthemum (chrysanthemum morifolium)

 

Chrysanthemum is derived from the Greek work chryos, meaning gold. and anthemom, meaning flower – and no wonder. This “golden flower” isn’t just big and beautiful; she’s a air purification station and you ought to get one in your house ASAP Janice.

The Florist Chrysanthemum removes 5 toxins from the air as well as pumping out sweet fresh oxygen and absorbing CO2. Golden alright.

Florist Chrysanthemum care tips

Light requirements: Prefers bright light, and usually won’t flower without it. No direct sun though – keep it indirect.

Watering: Likes to be moist around the clock. Water when top 0.5-1cm of soil had dried.

Styling: The easiest solution to add some plant colour to a room.

Fertilise: Don’t.

Pests: Usually not an issue.

Propagation: Not usually worthwhile for the indoor chrysanthemums.

Other comments: Cheap and easy to find, we plant these indoors over the summer for 6-8 weeks (whilst blooming). After this, we compost them. Cruel I know. Like raising a pig for slaughter. But they won’t usually bloom again and its not worth the hassle of keeping them alive over winter. Compost and buy some cheap ones again next season.

 

3. Red edged Dracaena (Dracaena Marginata)

One of the most rugged and care free indoor plants going around. The Dracaena will survive almost anything, and still remove 4 nasty toxins from your home at the same time. All hail our red master.

Care tips for the red edged Dracaena

Light requirements: Medium indirect light. Will usually tolerate bright indirect light also

Watering: Water when top layer of soil (5mm-1cm) dries. Do not overwater 

Styling: Looks great as a feature floor plant by furniture or in a corner. If you have smaller one’s they make nice table plants until they get too big. If you’ve a big pot, plant several and cut the cane’s at different heights as they grow – creates a nice multilevel effect

Pests: Spider mites and occasionally mealybugs

Fertilise: Warmer months: every 2-3 weeks. Winter: every 6 weeks

Propagation: When the plant has reached your desired height, cut the cane at any level you wish. You can then cut the left over cane into 10-15cm lengths and plant like normal stem cuttings.

Other tips: Low maintenance plant! Repot every 1.5-2 years. If leaves are browning is probably getting too much sun. Yellow leaves normally indicate root rot from overwatering or poor drainage.

 

4. English Ivy

 

I personally think the english Ivy is one of the most regal and stunning plants you can add to your home. Maybe I’m just posh. But it’s not all look and no action: the english ivy removes 4 toxins from your home, and gives you style cred for free. 

Care tips for the engligh ivy 

Light requirements: Medium indirect light. In winter may need bright indirect light, depending on climate and length of light exposure.

Watering: Water only when top 1-2cm of soil is dry.

Styling: The perfect trailing, hanging or cascading plant. Looks awesome on bookshelves, mantles, window sills, hangers, bed frames, balconies etc.

Pests: Spider mites, scale, mealybugs
Fertilise: Monthly year round – high nitrogen fertilisers work well

Propagation: Cuttings can be stripped of lower leaves and stems placed in water until root balls form

Other tips: If a variegated variety becomes solid green, it’s not getting enough light. Move, or use additional fluorescent light as a top up. Plant will suffer if overwatered – make sure ivy is planted in well draining soil and not overwatered.

 

5. Variegated snake plant (sansevieria)

 

Are you even an indoor gardener if you don’t have a cheeky snake plant lurking somewhere? Super stylish and super easy to grow – bet you didn’t know it was cleaning your room air as well. Removes 4 toxins. Legend. 

 

Variegated snake plant care tips

Light requirements: Medium indirect light. They’ll tolerate low light as well. And bright light. So yeah like whatever light you want?

Watering: Don’t go too heavy with the water. Let it dry up before watering again; somewhere between 2-4 weeks between waterings.

Styling: These plants have modern and hard edges, which make them great for adding shape or modern styling to a room. Good both on benches and as feature plants besides tables, coffee stands, tv cabinets, bookcases.

Fertilise: If you can remember, maybe once or twice during spring. Not sure if the snake plant cares.

Pests: Highly resistant. Mealybugs or spider mites in some cases.

Comments: Almost impossible to kill.

  

Summary

And so, the question of whether plants can actually clean our air may have been answered thanks to NASA – but Miss Pot Plant is not satisfied with one study 30 years ago. We are currently conducting a literature search and will report back faithfully.

In the meantime, these 5 plants identified by NASA as being air purifyinng machines are a good start for those wanting to freshen their indoor space. For other good performers that didn’t make the top 5, see https://ntrs.nasa.gov/search.jsp?ref=organicgglunkwn&prid=pfseogglunkwn&R=19930072988

Much love 

Miss Pot Plant xoxo

 

 

How long can a spider plant live for?

How long can a spider plant live for?

I was asked this question the other day by a friend, and to tell you the truth – I had no idea what the answer was. So in true Miss Pot Plant style, I’ve done some digging and I’m here to share the honey.

So then – How long can a spider plant live for ?

The simple answer is – a spider plant can live indefinitely, if taken care of properly. With well draining soil, indirect bright light, a regular watering schedule and semi frequent fertilising, a spider plant will likely outlive you. And your children.

Additionally, it’s fairly simple to propagate, so a good plant will not only live on for many years, but can produce many offspring to help you create as many spider plant’s as you desire.

In this article, we’ll review the main care tips you need to follow to keep your spider a happy chappy.

 

The spider plant (chlorophytum comosum) – the nerd facts

If you can’t work out why the spider plant is named spider plant, then we have serious issues Janice.

For the science buffs, Chlorophytum comosum is a perennial flowering plant, and originates from southern Africa. Interestingly for us Aussies, it’s also native to WA now. Cool beans.

It’s known as a super easy to grow and pretty hard to kill houseplant, which makes it ideal for the plant challenged among us. It can grow to as high as 24 inches, and can a cute little long branched stem of white flowers.

The most commonly found versions for growing in your house included the two variegated cultivars;  

  • Comosum “Vittatum” – which has green leaves with a broad central white stripe, often found in handing baskets, and;
  • comosum “Variegatum” which has dark green leaves with white margins. It tends to be a bit smal

                                  

Variegatum                                                                         Vittatum                                                                                                               

Righto, now you know your spider plant. Now let’s talk about how to keep the bugger alive forever (or until climate change kills us all).

 

PLANTING

No surprises here; as for most houseplants, you’ll want a well-draining pot and a well-draining potting mix. If you’re in doubt about your mix, add some perlite and that should do the trick.

 

POSITION

Medium to bright indirect light is favourable for your spider plant. Keep it away from western windows (or set it back a touch), as direct afternoon sun might burn your wee little spiders away.

 

WATERING

Root rot is the enemy of the spider plant. Don’t be a root rotter Janice.

Water your spiders well, but make sure their pot drains and the roots aren’t sitting in water.

Let the plant dry out almost completely between waters, with the exception of summer; water when the top inch of soil is dry.

Another hot tip is to water even less frequently when the plant is young. It’s like making your teenager get a job when they’re at school. It’ll make them more resilient and independent. You can treat it to a bit more water as it matures.

Remember, your spider doesn’t mind a little abuse. Quite enjoys it actually.

 

FERTILISING

You can give your plant a dose of liquid balanced fertiliser every 6-8 weeks during the warmer months. Don’t go overboard. Too much love will just weird your spider plant out. Don’t be needy. Give it some space.

 

PROPAGATION

Can you propagate your spider plant?

Absolutely Janice. Simply wait for the mother plant to produce “pups” which shoot out from the soil near the mother plant, remove, and replant into a well-draining potting mix.

Alternatively, you can use a propagation station with some root hormone instead.

You’ll want to wait until the pups are 2-3 inches before removing them though.

 

PESTS / DISEASES

The spider plant may occasionally be affected by scale or mealybugs. We do find however that its usually pretty hardy and resistant to pests.

 

TROUBLESHOOTING YOUR SPIDER PLANT

  1. Tips of leaves are turning brown 

Several things can cause your spiders plants leaves to develop brown tips. You may be underwatering, or have positioned the plant in too harsh a light. If this is not the case, the consider using filtered water; some tap water will contain salts and minerals which can burn your spider plant.

  1. Spider plant won’t grow / is growing slowly

If your spider plant is looking unhealthy or isn’t growing, review the above tips. It’s likely you’re missing something.

Probably the most common cause of poor growth is poor soil, followed by insufficient light. Erratic watering is up there as well. If your spider plant is planted in well-draining soil, gets moderate to bright indirect light and is water when starting to dry out, it should grow very well.

 

SUMMARY

That’s it folks. Your spider plant can live forever if you follow these basic steps. If you can’t keep this one alive, we’re in trouble.

Good luck.

If you have a sexy spider plant at home – show us your honey and post a photo!

Much love
Miss Pot Plant Xoxo

 

Care tips for the Fiddle Leaf Fig: The complete growing guide

Care tips for the Fiddle Leaf Fig: The complete growing guide

A complete guide to growing the perfect fiddle leaf fig

“The fiddle leaf fig has rocketed in popularity as one of the most stylish and trendy indoor plants one can have. With it’s famous broad and glossy leaves, as well as the ability to grow as large as a tree (and form many different shapes), there’s something retro and fab and bold about the fiddle leaf that can just make a room.

It is however a plant that requires some know-how to grow successfully. Fiddley by nature, it requires the correct combination of light, drainage, consistent scheduled watering, fertilisation and pruning to meet its true potential.”

Growing tips for the fiddle leaf fig; the complete care guide

 

In 2016 the New York Times called fiddle leaf figs “the ‘IT’ plant of the design world”, and for good reason. This beauty of a house plant adds some panache to a room, lets your guests know you mean decorative business, and proves to your mother you could be responsible for a life after all.

So why don’t we all have 8 foot tall fiddle figs adorning our living rooms or favourite reading corners? Because the Fiddle Leaf Fig is in fact a fiddly obnoxious bastard to grow. Slow and definitely not steady. If you don’t handle this high maintenance diva with care, she’ll probably create a scene.

When researching this topic online, I was surprised at just how average, oversimplified and sometimes wildly incorrect the available information was.

This guide is carefully researched – and I think trustworthy. I’ve even altered my own fiddley ways as a result of this research. Relevant sources included below for science and whatnot.

 If you’ve the attention span required to read a page in entirety, you’ll learn about these things and become the fiddle leaf fig whisperer you always wanted to be;

  • How to pot a fiddle leaf fig
  • How much light your fiddle leaf fig needs to succeed
  • How to overcome low humidity
  • How often to water your fiddle leaf fig
  • The best fertiliser your fiddle leaf fig, and how often to feed it
  • Pruning your fiddle leaf fig like a bonsai master
  • Propagating your fiddle leaf fig like a Catholic family pre contraception

This is a long post, and a lot of effort went into it. It’s worth your time if you want to be a fiddle master. Don’t sell me short Janice. Read it.

 

Facts about the fiddle leaf fig: a dark past  

Firstly, lets learn a little more about the common household Fiddle Leaf Fig.

Her true name is Ficus lyrata, which I’m told is not a Harry Potter spell but rather means she belongs to the Mulberry and Fig family Moraceae.

An evergreen tree, in her natural habit a plucky specimen might reach as high as 15m – though 3m is more typical for a potted specimen. Her signature leaf takes the shape of a lyre or fiddle – wide at the apex and narrow in the middle. That makes sense then.

Now here is where it gets interesting. Back in the days before cool blogs, Fiscus Lyratahailed from the tropical rainforests of Western Africa, where she has to my significant surprise conducted a bloody and murderous trade for some 150 million years. That’s right. Whilst her name might sound like a cute café in a Melbourne laneway, this banyan fig makes Voldemort look like a vitamin D deficient postman. Fighting words, I know. Let me elaborate.

Our friend Fiscus“the fiddler” lyratais actually an epiphyte– and yes I know I’ve dropped a lot of science names already and it’s confusing, but just stay with me Janice.

A epiphyte begins its life growing on the surface of another plant like some uninvited rainforest squatter avoiding a soil tax. Taking what it will from surrounding host debris and airborne moisture and nutrients, it  grows in strength and begins to sends roots down toward the ground. Our friendly host – unaware of the imminent and approaching danger – is soon encircled at its base. Without warning or mercy noose, it is then strangled to death within its sinewy noose. Dark stuff.

Now you know what’s living in your living room.

How to pot a fiddle leaf fig 

Choosing the correct pot to use for your fiddle leaf fig is actually super critical. Like maybe one the most important aspects of not sucking at this. Obviously the pot should be sexylicious, but aside from that – the key thing here is good drainage.Your fiddler likes quick draining soil and doesn’t care about your excuses or aesthetics Janice. 

So the perfect pot for a fiddle leaf fig will have generous drainage, with my favourite being a single large central or peripherally located hole. If you’re losing heaps of soil, put some coarse gravel in first (or mesh), then pour your soil.

 If you’re getting a decorative pot (which I highly recommend, because Queen Fiddle deserves better than your Bunnings plastic atrocity) – there are some easy workarounds. Either use a woven basket with a draining pot and tray inside, or size your decorative pot bigger than your cheap draining pot which can then be placed inside, making sure it has room to drain.

Once you’ve chosen your pot, you’ll need some soil (told you this guide would be ground-breaking). The good news is almost any decent potting mix will have enough perlite to drain well. Look for ones that are quick draining contain some organic compost. Humus rich is a winner as well. But you’re not going to go wrong with a premium potting mix so just go buy something geez. Maybe add some extra perlite if you want to be el fancy.

 

How much light does the fiddle leaf fig need to grow well? 

Despite its dark and sinister origins, the fiddle leaf fig needs a good amount of light to thrive. Guides that say it grows well in low light are like listening to a politician during election season. So you need to do some thinking here. A common mistake I see are people placing their fiddler next to that schanzzy occasional chair because it just looks fabulous. Nary a thought for the survival of the plant. It won’t work Janice.

Most online guides share optimal window positioning for North America, but not God’s land down under. Luckily you have me to sort you out.

Sunlight and window aspect for Australian homes

North facing windows: the honey pot. These windows receive twice the winter sun than east or west facing windows. You’ll usually get more than 8 hours of direct sunlight through these babies. Plants that like light (such as the fiddle leaf fig) will do well in rooms with north facing windows.

East facing windows: You’ll get some gentle early morning sun (up to 6 hours worth), but there is nothing gentle about our fiddle queen. She demands stronger sun, and more of it. You’ll get by here if you have a room with ample windows in other directions which create an overall bright experience for our Queen.  

West facing windows: Get smacked with intense afternoon rays. The Fiddle leaf is a demanding type, its true. But she has feelings too. And they might be hurt by a west facing window in summer. Make sure its not getting baked here and you’ll be ok. Maybe move her back a touch from the window if she’s getting crispy baked.

South facing windows: No direct light in winter, and only a touch of early morning and late afternoon sunlight in summer. Not a great place for plants. Unless you’re up in Northern Australia – the closer to the equator the less pronounced this effect. You might get away with it there, so check your map and compass.

You’ll have to use some observational skills here Janice. You want a window with 8 hours of light a day minimum,  but preferably not a wide unshaded due west facing window. Get your phone out and turn on the compass and work out what’s what. Observe the windows and rooms in your house at different parts of the day. You might find your house only has 1-2 spots where the fiddle leaf fig will get enough of the right sun. In that case you might not have the luxury of placing your plant exactly where you would have liked. But at least you won’t suck at houseplant magics and your mum will be proud. If you have several rooms with good light, good for you. Choose away or start a fiddler army.

Make sure you also rotate for excellent an excellent all round tan, or she’ll start to bend and your Instagram photo will be ruined forever.  

 

Humidity

The fiddle leaf fig we learnt earlier hails from the tropics. Unsurprisingly for those playing at home, a fairly high ambient humidity – 40-60% seems to be her sweet spot – works best for our dark queen. But don’t fear if you live in the majority of Australian cities in which this ambient humidity is a thing of myth – for once she gives us a bit of leeway. Just keep her out of the direct path of aircon vents and give her a little misting facial during the driest months and you’ll be ok.

 

 

How much to water your fiddle leaf fig – and how frequently 

Now we’re into the meat of things Janice. How much of the transparent nectar to give our silent watcher in the corner, the plant that protects the realm of men?

The exact right amount. No more, no less. Perfection is expected, and you will deliver.

Water your fiddle queen too much and she will rot. Underwater her and the leaves will dry and fall, like your hopes and dreams.

So what is the right amount then?

It depends a bit on your sunlight level. If you’re pushing the boundaries with a dim position, you’re prone to root rot and need to be more gentle with the watering. Bright and sunny room? Open doors and draft? A little more moist please.

If you’re watering weekly or more, you’re too keen and you need to settle right down please. Similarly if your plant has brown spots at the edge, you’re probably watering too much. If your soil smells like your aunts underarms, you’ve got a watering addiction and it needs to stop.

If, on the other hand, your plant is dropping leaves randomly, is going yellow, or the new growth is small and weak, you might be leaving our green Queen out to dry.

If still unsure, its more likely you’re overwatering than underwatering.

So, this is what you need to do.

  1. Set a schedule – erratic watering is worse than either over or underwatering, so you need to be consistent or take your plant to an adoption centre.
  2. Stick to said schedule. Id suggest every 7-10 days depending on how much sun you’re getting.
  3. Every time you water, stick your finger deep inside the soil and pull it back out – was it dry for the first inch or so? Or moist just beneath? – if dry for an inch or so you’re bang on. If moist, push it out another 2 days or so. If its dry as far as you can feel, or if the dirt is pulling away from the edges of the pot, move your schedule forward 1-2 days.
  4. Repeat steps 2-3

Soon you’ll find a happy medium where you can predict when the plant is starting to get dry and needs a water. In winter, you’ll probably find you have to push your watering day back 2-3 days, and vice versa for summer.

Be consistent, keep checking the dirt moisture content and adjust as necessary.

How much water you ask? If it’s a baby less than 3 feet or so, 500-750mls should be plenty. If it’s a large specimen, 1-1.5L. Just a wee bit of your offering should drain from the bottom when you get it right. And remember – don’t let it sit in water. Remove it to water, let it drain fully, replace. Repeat. Profit. Instagram.

 

Fertilising your fiddle leaf fig

Ok so you’ve potted your fiddle sensibly in good soil, selected a prime spot for maximum success, and have a regular watering schedule. How do we make this slow grower get her skates on a bit?

You need to feed her Janice. The fiddle has big old bombastic leaves that need regular and delicious nourishment.

So, what’s the game plan? Easy. Fertilise every second time you water, except for the hottest 1-2 months of the year when you can fertilise every single time. In winter, leaver her be and wait until spring rolls around to resume your offerings.

Which fertiliser to use? There’s conflicting information available on this. Most articles online just try to sell you whatever brand they can get a cut from locally I reckon Janice. Doesn’t mean they are bad. There’s a lot of chat about the NPK ration (nitrogen-phosphorous-potassium) and the most common ratio touted is 3-1-2. But I can’t find any good scientific research to back this, so make of that what you will.

If you can find something fiddle specific its likely they’ve made some effort to tailor it a little more to the fiddle and that (may) be worth something – maybe not. I reckon any decent fertiliser will cut the mustard. Liquid is easy and I dilute mine into the watering can when I water. A bit of good compost once a year and a repot every second year won’t go astray either.

So, fertilise with some liquid goodness every second time you water spring-autumn, and in a hot summer make it every time. Go get at it.

 

 

Pruning your fiddle leaf

 

Pruning isn’t so important when you have a baby plant, but when they are getting older you need to get the scissors out and get them in line.

First things first – if you’re just reading this guide for the first time and your fiddle leaf is currently as healthy as your bedroom is clean, then you’ll want to go ahead and cut away any damaged or unhealthy looking leaves. They are draining good food and water from the mothership so get rid of them. Leave them and they slow the growth of the rest of the plant plus they can spread their icky sticky diseases if they are infected.

Next up, you’ll need to prune for either practical or artistic reasons. On the practical side, if your fiddle is getting too busy and the leaves are all up in each other’s faces, take some leaves off to thin it a touch and make sure the remaining leaves are still getting adequate sunlight and airflow. Or if its growing into the ceiling / window / chimney – obviously cut it back at the stem. As with all cuts don’t place them within an inch of a leaf node, or you risk transmitting infection into the leaves. Also be aware that when you severe the stem, it’ll likely form two new branches beneath the cut. More on this below.

As your baby bush grows, it’ll start to look more like a tree. If you’re inclined to enjoy the tree look, you can help this fiddle bonsai become even more tree like.

There’s a few ways to do this – double or single branch methods.

Single branch notching

Say you want a new branch to the right only about half way up your fiddle leaf tree. What you do is find a bud somewhere along the stem (a bud is a little bump (or leaf scar)– they are pretty easy to find. Now you want to cut about an inch above this node with clean sharp scissors about 1/3 of the way into the stem, just above the node – so the cut extends approximately 1/3 the circumference of the stem. This is called notching. You’ll know you’ve done it correctly when some milk of success seeps from the cut line (sap).

After you’ve made your notch, the flow of nutrients is cut off at this level, and beneath the plant responds by sending a new branch to circumvent the road block. Yay, new branch 

You can repeat this process on the other side at the same or different level to create whatever branching pattern you like.

Double branch cut

Now, for the double branch method; pretty self-explanatory. Cut through the entire stem, and beneath you should get a branch shoot in two directions. Easy.

There’s another cool little technique called pinching. In this method (best for smaller plants) you pinch the small bud present at the apex of the growing stem. Milky sap should appear. This helps smaller skinny plants grow a bit more laterally and may induce branch growth as well.

One other tip – fertilise post notching/pruning. This helps the new branch fulfil its destiny.

I’ve linked below to a great YouTube video which demonstrates these methods nicely. You’re welcome Janice.

 

All credit for that amazing video goes to PLANTERINA – check out her snazzy channel while you’re there

 

How to propogate a fiddle leaf fig

Making an army of dark queens is actually not too difficult. That said, a word of warning for all you propagation sensations out there – in my opinion it is probably a better bet to cultivate a commercially grown cheap baby fiddle leaf plant then growing from a cutting. But perhaps less satisfying. If it’s satisfaction you’re after baby (or if you don’t want to spend money) then read on.

Steps for propagation

  1. Wait until you prune. When you do prune, you can use your pruned stem or leaves for propagation. Either a stem with leaves or just a leaf can work. With stems, strip down leaves until 1-2 leaves remain up top. Smaller / younger stems work better but give the big boys a go as well. With leaves, they’ll work better is small-mid sized with a decent leaf stem at least 1-1.5 inches long so you can get it into water without making the leaf swim.
  2. Place in a container with water. The water should be filtered or left to sit for a day or two before you use it, so the chlorine and some other nasties evaporate.
  3. Place contained with stem/leaf in a nice bright spot but without direct sunlight
  4. Wait a month – but change your water weekly
  5. After a month you should have a root ball
  6. Pot per previous instructions once the root ball is golf ball sized or bigger
  7. Brag to friends 

Optional: add a root hormone at step 2 to speed up the process.

And that’s all there is to it. Badda bing badda boom. Use these powers wisely.

Summary

In case you forgot why you’re here and what you just read, let’s do a quick summary.

Essential steps for fiddle leaf success

  1. Pot in premium potting mix, in a well draining pot
  2. Place in bright but indirect sunlight
  3. Establish a watering routine that is consistent, don’t overdo it, and adjust based on soil dryness at watering time
  4. Fertilise every watering session during summer, every second session during spring and autumn, don’t water in winter
  5. Prune dead leaves, and notch or cut the stem to induce new branching
  6. Use pruning times to acquire leaves and cuttings for propagation

And that’s it my friends. Whew. A big one. I’ve been scouring the web for a few weeks, reading a few books and I’m pretty certain all the good stuff is here for you to enjoy. If you did enjoy this offering, I’d ask you to share it with your friends, family and all strangers you ever meet. Cheers for that. 

Much love despite the sass,

Miss Pot Plant xoxo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Royal horticultural society https://www.rhs.org.uk/plants/pdfs/agm-lists/agm-ornamentals.pdf

 

 

 

 

 

Sunlight and windows

Sunlight and windows

Window position and sunlight: Australian guide

 

Why is it that some houses have such great natural light and yet others – despite a similar number of windows – are dim and gloomy?

There are several factors that determine how much natural light enters a room, but perhaps the most important to understand is the relationship between a window’s aspect and the sun’s natural arc. Understanding this relationship is essential in determining which space in your home will allow your new plant baby to thrive. And yes I know that fiddle leaf fig tree would look so darn west elm by that patterned occasional chair, but we have to give it a little more thought my darlings.

In Australia, the sun is always located to our north – due to our location south of the equator. It rises in the northeast and sets in the northwest, traversing in an arc between. In general this means that rooms with north directed windows get the most sunlight, while rooms with southern windows will receive little. East and west facing windows meanwhile enjoy direct sunlight for a part of the day respectively. We cover these relationships in further detail below.

The Australian sun trajectory and why it concerns you

 

Unfortunately for us Australians, advice on the interwebs regarding sunlight and window direction is almost always derived from wildlings – those poor souls north of the wall (by wall I mean equator, not Trump’s passion project).

South of the wall, things work differently.

Below is a work of art (don’t tease me) produced by yours truly about 3 minutes ago, designed to demonstrate the sun arc with respect to a dwelling/castle/manor/throne room. The first picture is the summer arc, and the second picture the winter arc. Why the difference? I’m not your third grade science teacher Janice.

Summer sun at approximately noon

Winter sun at approximately noon.

As you can see, the sun is always to our north during it’s east to west traverse. In summer it’s position is higher in the sky relative to its position in winter. Let’s discuss what this means with respect to window aspect.

North facing window

The cream cheese of windows. They get twice the winter sun than east or west facing windows get, and you’ll usually have more than 8 hours of direct sunlight through these plant growing portals. Because the sun traverses high above in parallel to the window, the thermal radiation isn’t too harsh. Smooth and delicious sunlight. If you have living spaces with northern outlooks and lots of windows, lucky you. Any plant should thrive here provided it doesn’t need direct outdoor sunlight.

East facing window

You’ll get near direct sunlight through your eastern windows for the first half of the day – but don’t fear, it’s still a sleepy sun and it is soft and gentle. Plants enjoy it. If they are southeast directed though you’ll struggle getting much light. In summer you’ll get 6-7 hour’s worth of rays in total, in winter 5-6 hours. Maybe not enough for the greedy sun eaters. Go for plants that have low-moderate sun requirements.

West facing window

These cop the afternoon direct sunlight, and the sun is not happy to be going to bed. This light can be hot and harsh. Not for the faint of heart or easily burned. Same duration of light as the east facing windows more or less. Go for plants with moderate-high sun requirements that aren’t too fragile.

South facing window

No direct light in winter, and only a touch of early morning and late afternoon sunlight in summer. The long night. Not a great place for plants. Unless you’re up in Northern Australia – the closer to the equator the less pronounced this effect. You might get away with it there, so check your map. If you want greenery here, only low light tolerant species have a chance.

Window aspect and light: a case study

Fiddle leaf fig tree well placed in a otherwise dimly lit room

Let’s put these truth bombs into action.

You’ve just bought a new fiddle leaf fig tree. Bless your optimistic socks. Everyone (who reads Miss Pot Plant guides) knows that the fiddley fig doesn’t like being moved too often. So how do we find a good home where she will be happy to settle in for the long run?

Without having to buy a fancy light meter thingamabob, you instead whip out your iPhone and open compass. Right, now you know which way is which. In your room on interest, this allows you to understand which direction or aspect your windows face.

The second thing to do for advanced players – observe modulating factors. These include;

  • External sunlight interruption; This could include trees, other buildings, window overhands, lattice etc.
  • Contributory light; i.e a corner in your living room may have a western window and a northern window side by side. You wouldn’t place a fragile easily burned plant there..
  • Room size; If you have northern windows but are placing the plant 15m back from them in your cavernous great hall, they mightn’t do you as much good
  • Aspect variation; you don’t always get a perfectly east facing window. A window that’s facing a little northeast in going to get more light than a direct east facing window, and a southeast window less. Factor this in.

Once you’ve factored these things in, make a note of the light quality in the morning vs afternoon. This will help you confirm what you’ve deduced and also gain a better appreciation for total sunlight hours and quality for a particular location.

Secondly, you need to consider the optimal light conditions for your chosen plant. In our case, the fiddle leaf fig prefers bright indirect sunlight for at least 6 hours of the day. So, what are your options?

Well, we know we need a bright room with long duration indirect sunlight to satisfy our fiddle fig tree. In an ideal world we would have a brightly lit room with multiple natural light sources, and a position before a north aspect window or glass pane.

If this was unavailable, we would work through our options seeking maximal duration bright light that wasn’t too harsh. You would favour large eastern windows without external interference over western windows – which can burn our fiddle leaf fig – however a western window with some filtered light may be equally suitable. Each space has a combination of factors to be considered – as long as you understand the principles here, you’ll be fine.

What about rooms with multiple windows facing different aspects?

Here, you have to use your observational skill. If the room is well lit as a whole from multiple window sources, you’re in luck and can place your plant however you please (maybe not right on the western windows).

In some rooms however, whether it be due to external shading, room size , window size or aspect, the light is dim or patchy. In this case you’ll need to position your plant next to the window providing the closest match to the type of light desired. Or find another room Janice.

Tips if your window sunlight sucks

If you have a spot with great light and you like the position – but find your plant is getting a little baked – either move the plant a little further from the window or pop down to your local homeware store and get some of those thin wispy curtains that do more to soften light than block it.

If you have a room that’s just too dark, it gets harder. Either find a new room for your plant, or you’re down to three choices.

A) Place the plant in conjunction with a grow light. We will explore this in depth in another article.

B) Use a rotation schedule. Move your plant whatever location indoor or out that provides ideal lighting conditions – for a few days a week, or a week / month – whatever is necessary to stave off death. This is risky however – some plants don’t appreciate the back and forth. And don’t expect the plant to thrive, rather merely survive. A good compromise if you have a mature feature plant located in the house for aesthetics, but insufficient light.

C) Are there any modulating factors you can control? Remove a blind? prune a tree blocking light? Knock out a wall?

Ultimately, it makes more sense to accept your light for what it is and pick a plant that won’t be a jerk about it.

Summary

  • The quality of light within a room is a function of the number, size and directionality of your windows, combined with modulating factors
  • Predicting the intensity and duration of light based on your window layout is important for plant positioning
  • In general, northern windows capture a high volume of good quality sunlight
  • In general, southern widows get little direct sunlight and can support low light shade plants only
  • Eastern windows get soft morning sunlight, the amount of decreases if the window is southeast directed
  • Western windows get strong afternoon sunlight, which can be too harsh for some plants

And thats a wrap! I hope this guide was helpful to you. If you found it useful, please leave a comment! Or if you have any further questions or interesting advice to add, please share!

Miss Pot Plant