Thursday, December 20, 2012

Green Roof Plans

This morning, several of our members met with Dr. Pattison to solidify the plans for our green roof. We went over submissions for plot plans and we are now ready to move forward with preparations for actual planting!

With our seven plots containing over 1600 square feet, we will be focusing on cultivating species native to Texas. We selected plants that are drought and heat tolerant and that require very little maintenance. In the middle (fourth) plot, we will have a large "UH" spelled out with redhead coleus plants. It will also be bordered with snow in summer, as seen below.

Our other plots are named as such:

  • Meadow (Plots 1 and 7): A medley of over 30 wildflower and grass species, all native to Texas
  • Yosef (Plot 2): A selection of beautiful foliage picked by the Horticulture Society's founder
  • Tea Party (Plots 3 and 5): Varying clusters of dragon's blood sedum interspersed with pink creeping thyme and rupturewort
  • Plot 6: A central group of sharp gayfeather surrounded by heath aster, penstemon, and cardinal flower
Have a fantastic Winter Break and look forward to what will bloom this spring and summer!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Plant Sale

Horticulture Society hosted a Plant Sale at the PGH last Thursday, Nov 15th. The sale was a huge success and we ended up exceeding our goal. Cacti were the fastest to sell due to their low maintenance but we ended up selling a lot of our plants. Many people showed interest in becoming a part of the society and what we do in general. A huge thank you to all those who volunteered, we appreciate all the help. If you guys missed it, don't worry we'll have another one next semester. We hope to exceed our sales for the next semester.

Hope you all have a great Thanksgiving.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

UH Sustainability

Last week, from November 1-4, the UH Office of Sustainability held its very first UH Sustainability Fest to promote (you guessed it) sustainability in many aspects, from recycling materials to green commuting. We also participated in this on Nov 1. We had a table in front of MD Anderson Library from about 10-2:30 where we had plenty of clay and native Texas flower seeds so that anyone could make a seedball.

A seedball is basically a ball of clay with seeds embedded in it. The idea is that you can throw the seedball in the ground in almost any place and the seeds inside will germinate and grow. Those who stopped by to make seedballs chose to take them home; the rest of the seedballs were taken back into the grseenhouse, where we'll save them for Project Blazing Star.

Also, our plant sale is next week, Nov 15. We'll have some of the usual plants for sale, like aloe vera and sansevieria, but we'll also have some exotic and new plants, like cacti and rambutan. It'll be from 10-4 in PGH and it is also our only fundraiser for this semester, so we have very high hopes for it. Come stop by and chat for a bit or buy a plant if you can!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

A few updates...

Last Saturday, Oct 20th, was Project Blazing Star. There was an informative talk about the formal Coastal Prairie that originally covered Houston and of the efforts being put into preserving the native prairie in Herman Park. We're trying to plan a Saturday event where a group of us can go and volunteer at the Herman Park.

Furthermore, Horticulture Society is participating in the UH Green Fest that will last from Nov 1st-4th. Here is a flier with detailed information.
On Nov 1st, the Horticulture Society will have a table in front of M.D. Anderson Library, where we will celebrate Sustainability Fest. We will be informing people about what we do and how we're helping the community. We will also be inviting students to make seedballs. Please make sure to take the time out to volunteer. 

Email us at for any comments or concerns.

Hope you all are having a great semester.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Meeting Updates

Our Friday meeting (9/28) was very successful and productive. We saw many familiar faces and some new ones. The meeting began with Chris, our treasurer, giving a presentation on the basics of pruning plants to make them grow in the direction you want them to, and later everyone took cuttings of the large rosemary plant to try out propagation. By the end of the meeting, everyone was well-informed and had his/her own cutting which will eventually grow into a new plant.

After the meeting was over, two of our senior members cleaned out the hydroponics system for the aloe vera and ghost peppers. Meanwhile, one member planted numerous seeds - sunflower, basil, broccoli, wild strawberry and okra, to name a few - and Chris took cuttings of Mexican sedum and Christmas cactus for propagation. We all decided that our semester field trip will be to Maas Nursery near Kemah, but the date has not been scheduled yet. We also planned the date for the Plant Sale and have a tentative date for the green roof raking and Project Blazing Star. 

Friday, September 14, 2012

Greetings Fellow Earthlings!

Hey guys,

I am Mina, your new Webmaster, which means I will be in charge of updating this blog and the Facebook page (if you haven't liked it already, you should go ahead). Don't be afraid to offer suggestions or any new ideas that we could use to improve this blog, the Facebook webpage, or the club in general.

Hope you guys have a great weekend!

-Mina Khan

P.S. Batman is now a part of the Horticulture Society at UH, so you should join too (and tell your friends).

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Working on the Greenroof

I went up to the greenroof on Sunday with a Horticulture Society member, planning to weed and plant bluebonnets on one of the plots. A few bluebonnets had been spotted alive after the drought of 2011, so I decided to go with a monoculture of bluebonnets as a test. Thanks to the College of Architecture providing funds to fix the watering system, we can begin planting different species of plants and giving them water in a timely fashion.

After raking up the dead grasses and throwing the refuse off the roof for later cleanup, there were still many small weed plants that would need to be manually pulled to fully clear the roof.

I would recommend that a hard rake be pulled through the media to loosen the roots, then separate the media from the weeds by running a regular rake back and forth over the mixture until the plant material is on top. This is virtually the only way to guarantee a weed-free environment up there and prevent competition for moisture.

The plot on the northernmost end of the roof is mostly filled by a low-growing succulent weed, which seems to be doing fine. Here's an up-close example:

ID, anyone?
In what space was left in that plot I scattered seeds from an old Texas Wildflower mix that may or may not germinate.

Here's a view of the greenroof proper, and a picture of the cleared plot:

We wound up not planting the bluebonnet seeds because there are just too many weeds. The watering system was set up to water the northernmost plot about twice a week, which will be readjusted as needed.

Heavy items were hauled up using a metal bucket and rope, which were left on the roof. 

Monday, August 27, 2012

Updates from the greenhouse (and basil!)

Hello again. Here are a few pictures from the greenhouse, along with a comparison of basil growth over the month of August.

Gigantic sugarcane

Buena Creek Aloe Vera

The above picture is of a pot of "Mexican Sedum", purchased in February of last year to determine how well it will stand hot and humid conditions in the greenhouse. It's grown slowly but has survived and seems to be doing well. Each leaf of this succulent can be plucked off and placed in soil, and it will grow into a new plant. This would be a great candidate for the green roof.

Another pot of "Redskin Pepper"

Below is a pot of six spicy globe basil plants. The first picture was taken in late June, two weeks after planting, and one week before spraying with a 150 ppm solution of gibberellic acid.The second picture was taken in late August, just before harvesting for pesto. Notice that the basil in the background is quite tall for such a plant.

The basil produced the most scintillating pesto ever, turning the parmesan more cheesy, the pine nuts more like peanut butter, and the garlic more intense. Compared to the pesto made from Dolly Basil it was gone much faster. There's still a bunch left, if anyone needs some (just email and ask for Yosef's basil).

Horticulture Society Membership Form Fall 2012

Please fill out the HS@UH Membership Form .

(posted for the Fall 2012 semester, but is applicable for all semesters)






Monday, August 20, 2012

New Plants for the Fall

Hello all. During the summer I started growing some new plants for the Fall Plant Sale, and they are doing great. Here are some pictures to show how much they've grown. Most were started in June or July.

This is a cherimoya seedling about a month old. Cherimoya is a fruit tree originating from South America but is now grown all over the world. I started it from seeds that a friend gave to me. Various sources told me that you should place the seeds in water before planting and that any floaters are 'duds', and every seed I wanted to plant floated. Fortunately, three of those four floaters were not duds and are doing just fine.

Only two leaves for now. 

Stevia is growing a bit slowly, and I actually haven't seen any new growth in a while. They're not the easiest herb to grow from seed, though, so I think it will just take some time for it to really get going. 

One of the many Thai basil plants I have. They are also growing very slowly now, though if you go close you can smell their fresh fragrances. 

I started this Christmas cactus from a cutting I took from one of the original Christmas cacti in the greenhouse. All you need to do is take a cutting with 3-5 segments, bury one of the segments below the soil line, and keep the soil moist but not too waterlogged. After about 2-4 weeks, the cutting showed signs of new growth, so I know that it has begun rooting. 

Note the red growth buds. 

Monday, July 9, 2012

Pictures of continuing plant growth

Hello again to all. Here are some more pictures of continuing plant sale plant growth, and updates on the previous post.

The Sweet'N'Neat tomato fruit has mostly completed ripening, and it was yellow, not red. Definitely sweeter than red, and prettier, too. Here's a picture of the Redskin Pepper plant (actually two planted together), as it continues to fill out quickly. In fact I've lost sight of some of the pepper fruits already.

Can you spot the peppers?

The Spicy Globe basils have filled out really well, forming a bushy mat of yummyness. These were just sprayed with 200 ppm Gibberellic Acid solution a week ago as an experiment.

And it looks like the Dolly Basil is a keeper, producing hand-sized leaves with no overt bitterness on large, bushy plants. The taste is less pungent than that of Genovese Basil, and the leaves are therefore more agreeable to eat raw on a tomato sandwich, for example. 
(Yep that's the same stake as in the earlier picture)

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Follow-up on sale plant growth

Now that about two months have passed since the last plant sale, we can examine the growth of leftover plants and see how well they grow, and whether they meet or exceed expectations according to their respective plant catalogs. For now, there will just be a text description, with pictures coming in a few days.


Red Robin Tomato and Sweet'N'Neat Tomato are similar enough in appearance that if mislabeled, or not labeled at all, you can't really tell which is which. However, Red Robin did grow worse than Sweet'N'Neat, with less vigor once planted, which unfortunately happened in mid- to late May. The latter tomato does have mediocre flavor, even the yellow variety.

Sweet'N'Neat, probably red variety.  Tomatoes are still forming. 

Sweet Pickle Pepper, as usual, continues to perform well, producing many cute sweet peppers even under hot, outdoor conditions and in small pots.

These plants are in 4" pots.

The one Thai Hot Pepper that I have at home has grown to over 16" in height, double the original estimate. This may be because it grew too tall to begin with. It has begun to produce searing hot peppers prolifically, and is definitely a good plant to consider again for next year. The picture below shows the Thai Hot Pepper as compared to the Redskin Pepper plant.

Now for the small bell peppers. The Yellow Mini Bell pepper that I took home grew slowly and never produced any fruit, until it was demolished by a fungal disease over two days in the beginning of June. The Redskin peppers, of which I had several, began to produce right out of the pot. All the plants produced at least one 3"- 4" pepper before being transplanted. Ideally they should have all been repotted much earlier than June, but one was potted up in April into a 3-gallon pot. After a slow start, it is now thriving, producing several small bells, even in this heat. The plant is barely a foot tall and a foot wide.


My one Aristotle Basil has grown into a delightful ball of herb. Its leaves are smaller than any basils I've grown, including Spicy Globe Basil. Medinette Basil, placed into a 2-gallon azalea pot, is growing well and indeed began to flower somewhat later than Dolly Basil. It's gotten to about 1.5 feet tall by 8" wide. Here's another size comparison, along with an individual picture of the Aristotle Basil.

Notice in the comparison picture that the pot on the left is 1.5 gallons, and the one on the right is 2 gallons. Of the two, Aristotle Basil is better for cooking, while the Medinette Basil can be made into enough pesto for 2 - 3 servings of spaghetti.

Five Spicy Globe Basil plants were finally just repotted, into a wide, shallow container, and are growing well despite the heat.

The Curled Parsley all died, except for a few in the greenhouse. Ditto for the lemon basil, unfortunately.

Dolly Basil was planted late, so has already begun to flower. It is a large producer, but is still too small to compare to a mature Genovese Basil bush, which can get to 3.5 feet tall and 1.5 feet wide. Here, two plants are in a 10-gallon pot.

The petunias were not the right color.

Monday, June 4, 2012

What's the most interesting plant in the greenhouse?

Hmm. This one's a toss-up, up to you, the reader. There are three tobacco plants, one of which skyrocketed four feet or so in the last month. The one on the left is in sifted soil to remove dust. This allows for much better drainage and air movement, a larger concern when the plants are watered twice a day for 10 minutes. Less water-logging means happier plants. 

My favorite is the cannabis-looking plant in the middle here, grown by a member. It is actually a type of hibiscus, Hibiscus Cannabinus. Here these two plants have grown to about four feet tall, in a 4-inch container.

Another interesting plant is this spectacular angel's trumpet in the background, with 6-inch flowers that smell most fragrant at night.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Plant Sale Success

Hello again!

The first plant sale was a great success. Thanks to everyone who participated and helped out. The next plant sale is Wednesday, April 11, and Thursday, April 12, and will be announced a week or a few days ahead of time.

A few lessons learned:
1. People always want office plants, and arrowheads and spider plants in 4" and 1/2 gallon pots always sell well. It would be good practice to keep 6-8 small, healthy spider plants on hand for each plant sale, to at least have one office plant available.
2. All mints sell great (MSG). More "classic" mints, like peppermint, spearmint, and chocolate mint, sell better than grapefruit mint.
3. Italian oregano sells well, provided it's in a 1/2 gallon or larger container, and there's a lot of ready-to-be picked herb material.
4. More cactus, even if sold at a loss.
5. Stevia sells well, when bought low and sold high (sorry readers, sometimes we do this).

Most interestingly, some people are more likely to buy herbs and plants from the Horticulture Society when they know that the plants were grown and raised in the greenhouse. (Some can be very adamant about it; apparently UH lavender is a potential niche market).

So, until next time.

Monday, February 6, 2012

List of parts used to insulate the plant cart

Some members have asked for a parts list for the outfitted plant cart, so here it is.

1. A plant cart. Pre-built types like the one used for the greenhouse run from $500 and up. If making it yourself you'll need PVC pipe or some sort of metal framework, a good way to support a fluorescent light fixture or two per shelf, and fluorescent lights and fixtures (full spectrum or daylight lamps).

2. Solar Pool cover. 12x20 will be plenty. This is a great insulator for pools and greenhouses. Assorted threads at Gardenweb will tell the story. If a large pool cover were to be stretched over the entire greenhouse of the Horticulture Society it would probably keep it 20 degrees warmer than outside, virtually all the time.

3. Small Ceramic Space heater. A radiant heater is better because it does not have a fan that can wear out, and the heat is radiated instead of blown. This heater is affordable, keeps the temperature set at 5-degree increments from 60 to 80 F, and is small enough to fit on the bottom of the plant cart.

Heaters usually draw 750 watts at low power and 1500 watts at high power. Since 1500 watts is the capacity of most power outlets, make sure that the heater has its own plug unless you plan to keep it on low.

4. 100 Plastic Ties.

5. 15 feet of Velcro.

6. An extension cord with 12 feet or more of cord. Get one that has space for transformers (for the larger plugs of heat mats).

7. Two clip-on fans to keep air moving inside and distribute the heat to higher portions of the cart. These run between 10 and 20 dollars.

If the heater is not plugged directly into an outlet, use a heavy-duty, outdoor 12 or 14-gauge extension cord (15 feet or so). These can carry 1800 watts versus 1625 for regular 16-gauge cords (which can warm up uncomfortably when the heater is on full power).

Measure the pool cover according to the widths of the metal framework, cut out pieces that are a few inches wider on both sides, and attach them, taking care to overlap pieces to retain heat better.

Leave 6-8 inches of slack on the side that is to be the "door". After attaching it (no ties on top), apply the velcro all the way down. Let it stick for a day - don't use it during that time.

Finally, secure the top overlapping portions with plastic ties.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Updates from el Presidente and Co.

Here are some key updates for the week in our Horticulture Society:

Last Meeting:
We went up to our own on-campus Eco-roof to do some weeding in preparation for our replanting project. It turns out it's going to be a much bigger job than anticipated. As of last meeting, we now have a treasurer! And a photographer! (please always feel free to take pictures of your own volition)
We did not get around to posting fliers, so we need two or three people to come out tomorrow, Wednesday Feb 1st at 11:00am, and help us post them around the dorms and other spots on campus. Email us back at this address if you want to help out, or just meet up in the greenhouse tomorrow at 11.

This Friday:

  • Our general meeting will be held at its new official time of FRIDAY, at NOON in the GREENHOUSE. If your schedule does not allow you to make these meetings, please try to attend whatever extra events we have, and we will do our best to keep you updated via email.
  • This Friday our very own Yosef Kerzner will be giving a short talk to help our newbies (and our oldies who still need to learn) get started with the growing season. Make sure to come in and get some great growing tips.
  • We will also discuss plans for continuing the de-weeding of the eco-roof, and just what is being grown for the plant sale.
  • Soon, we'll need to assign someone to plan out how we can grow the UH logo on the eco-roof.
  • Those who are most involved will get their say in what goes in the seven beds on the roof this semester.

Up Coming Events:

  • As always, please let us know if you come across an opportunity or an idea for an event or field trip.
  • We are having a flier Posting Day this Wednesday, February 1st, at 11:00am. Come meet up in the greenhouse at that time to help us plaster our name on all the public posting boards.
  • Dues are $10 and are due to Rachel Gamblin by February 10th.
  • Sometime as February comes to a close, we'll be going on field trip to HCC's World Famous Greenhouse to find out what they're up to and what we can learn from them. This will likely be happening February 24th. Once we know for sure, we'll be asking people about car pooling. Go green, people!
  • Our first Plant Sale for the semester will be in the PGH Breezeway on Thursday, March 22nd.
  • Check out our Google Calendar ! If you have a gmail account and would like access to our calendar, please respond to this email saying so.

In other news, nearly all the seeds that were planted last Monday have sprouted, except for pepper seeds. This includes tomatoes, most basils, parsley, and french sorrel. Soaking seeds overnight really does help, reducing germination times by at least half. Next time though, we'll have to experiment with gibberellic acid solutions to really hot-rod the germination and growth of plants.

From here

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Seeds for plant sales

Hi again.

Seeds have been ordered for the plant sales in (tentatively) March and (definitely) April. Here's a list, with explanations.

Red Robin Tomato - This is a small tomato plant that produces 1.25" fruits on plants a foot tall. It does well in 1-2 gallon containers, and even fruits indoors. Its contender was Tiny Tim, which is 15" tall and requires larger containers.

Mini Bell Series (Yellow) - 16" Tall plants stuffed with 2" mini-peppers. As pepper plants go that's quite small.

Sweet Pickle Pepper - A great sweet ornamental pepper that we sold last year. Amazing production of 2"-long peppers, even in one-gallon containers. See this photo:

Thai Hot Pepper - An ornamental hot pepper whose plants grow no larger than 8".

Sweet'n'Neat Tomato (Yellow) - Last year's best cherry tomato variety, producing best when in a 2-gallon container.

Decent flavor for its size.

Redskin pepper - Similar in growth to Mini Bell pepper.


Aristotle Basil - A compact basil.

Medinette Basil - Another compact basil that is slow to bolt in the summer. Since people may not know that it is best to pinch out the flowers to promote leaf growth, this attribute of Medinette will be helpful.

Lemon Basil - 2-3 feet tall. Wonderful lemony smell and flavor. Pesto made with even 5% lemon basil (and 95% Genovese) is fantastic.

Spicy Globe Basil - Another compact basil. Great taste. Choosing this one was a bit like rolling dice - there were seven varieties to choose from.

Curled Parsley - We'll see how this goes. Forms small plants suitable mostly for garnishes (and also for ritual uses).


Ultra Crimson Star Petunia (How's that for school spirit?):

Promise Phlox - Mix of colors.
The vegetables and flowers will be planted as soon as the seed arrives, hopefully this week. The herbs won't be planted until the end of January or the first few days of February, since they were ordered late. Drop by the greenhouse to see how progress goes with them. 

Until next time.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Insulating the plant cart

Hello again.

The plant cart has now been insulated with solar pool cover. After some deliberation, and a desire to retain the extremely well-made table seen to the left of the picture (with the watering can on top), I decided to simply attach the pool cover in pieces to the metal framework of the cart.

The table has lasted for 40 years because it is solidly made, with large bolts securing braces near each leg. The original plan called for cutting it down the middle and reconnecting two much-shortened pieces to retain at least some storage and provide more space for the PVC framework.

Six pieces were cut out (and re-cut because of mistakes) from the roll of pool cover and plastic ties were used to secure them to the framework in certain spots. Once all the pieces had been initially attached they were secured more fully, and to each other, to provide better insulation.

One side became the door by leaving slack space and sticking on strips of velcro so that two halves could overlap.

A power strip with an extra-long cord was purchased for electrical equipment, and placed inside the enclosed cart, on the bottom level. It is on a power outlet separate from the heater, which is plugged into a 14-gauge, outdoor power cord (1875W) on its own outlet. The heater is also on the bottom level, and two fans blow air around inside.

The completed set-up has wheels, so it can be rolled out of this "crawl"-space for maintenance. However, it remains crowded, and I wonder how it will be to have a full rack of plants sitting on the top of a fluorescent light fixture. Perhaps they will go to the bottom. Much fun awaits.