Wednesday, October 23, 2013


A few weeks ago, while a friend and I were repotting some plants for the sale, the pipe closest to the door burst unexpectedly. As far as we know, no one tampered with it, and up to that point it had shown no signs of being unsecured or loosened. Anyways, as you can imagine, water went everywhere and the greenhouse began to flood a bit.
The 'geyser' was visible from outside
I attempted to cap the pipe with the old faucet twice, only to get soaked each time. Eventually we called UH Plant Ops and they sent a plumber to try to fix it. While the plumber called for some additional help, he and I devised a temporary solution.

A bucket was placed over the busted pipe, and the stool was placed on top of the bucket to hold it down against the force of the water. Because it was unstable, we added the dolly to keep the stool in place and the water directed downward as the Plant Ops workers looked for the shutoff valve for the greenhouse water. Unfortunately, they couldn't find the valve and ended up getting wet as they fixed the busted pipe by replacing the old, weakened pipe with a new one and stronger glue.

So, the faucet is now working fine again and it is no longer leaking as well! That should be the end of the mold and algae growing around the pipe. We'd like to extend a big thanks to UH Plant Ops, since they fixed our pipe free of charge and worked well into the night doing so.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Asexual Reproduction in Plants

A few members asked us to post the presentation about asexual reproduction, so here it is. 

Unlike humans, plants can reproduce sexually and asexually. The advantages of asexual reproduction are that it is faster, less energy-consuming, and that it produces clones of the original plant - identical at a genomic level. However, it fails to increase diversity, and any susceptibility to disease that the original plant had will be passed on to its clones.

The simplest method of asexual reproduction is through cuttings. Cut a branch off of a plant (usually an herb) that is still soft and not woody yet, remove the lower leaves, and plant it in moist soil, adding rooting hormone if desired. That branch has the potential to develop into an identical plant. This normally happens in nature when branches of a plant are broken and fall down into soil; if the branches fall into an ideal environment with the right orientation, they can continue growing and form a new plant.

Layering is a similar technique, where part of the branch of the plant is buried beneath the soil or comes in contact with the soil. The submerged part of the branch will grow roots, and soon enough that branch will be able to obtain its own water and nutrients independent of the original plant; the branch can be severed and will develop into a mature clone.

A plant’s amazing ability to regrow from almost any part is due to the fact that the shoots and roots of most plants exhibit indeterminate growth, meaning that they grow continually, and even when separated from the original plant, can still grow to form a new plant.

Some plants send out stolons or runners, aerial stems that contain plantlets (miniature plants) capable of growing roots and developing into mature clones. Examples are strawberries and spider plants.

Rhizomes are the underground equivalent of stolons. Ginger and bamboo use rhizomes to expand, explaining why many people who grow bamboo for the first time have trouble keeping its growth under control.

Suckers are almost the same as rhizomes, except that they are much shorter (usually within a foot of the 
mother plant). A new plant arises with its roots intertwined with its parent’s roots. It’s a great way to get lots of clones of a plant fast. Examples are aloe vera, snake plant, and banana palm.

Certain succulents produce plantlets at the tips of their leaves, each of which is able to form a new plant. A prominent example is the Mother of Thousands plant.

Plants with bulbs or tubers can divide their respective systems to generate clones. Daffodils, tulips and garlic all have bulbs while potatoes have tubers.

More advanced techniques include grafting and tissue cultures. We won’t go too much in detail for these, but grafting involves joining two different plants together to obtain the best of their qualities; the bottom ‘rootstock’ provides a strong root system while the top ‘scion’ grafted to the rootstock has the growing and fruiting capabilities. The rootstock is cut and the scion is attached to the cut part, where the vascular systems combine to become one. It’s the fastest way to produce cultivars of fruit trees with the desired properties.

With tissue culture, you need small pieces of leaf from the plant you want to clone. These pieces are placed on sterile agar jelly with nutrients and hormones. With luck, the pieces will develop into small plantlets that can be transferred into regular media and grown like ordinary plants.


Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Plant of the Month

In the name of Fall - our plant of the month is the pumpkin plant!

This delicious fruit baring plant is native to North America. The pumpkin is a winter squash, meaning it is an annual, summer growing plant in the genus Cucurbita. The pumpkin grows in a vine close to the ground. You can harvest the pumpkins to have volume of 15 gallons! 

If you're looking to grow pumpkins, the soil you will plant them in must be warm and filled with nutrients. Pumpkins can be greedy, so they require full sunlight, compost and a lot of nitrogen along with a weekly dose of 1 inch of water. If you're going to grow your pumpkins in Houston, it is best to sow the seeds in July.

Pests are common in the pumpkin plant. Aphids and beetles can infest your plant, a good way to get rid of the pests with out using a pesticide is to buy reflective mulch (the aphids hate that) or to introduce predatory species to your garden. Ladybugs prey on aphids, if you are using this method, make sure to provide an adequate environment for the ladybugs.

If you have any more questions, these websites provide a lot of wonderful information on care and harvest:

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Sale results

Our first fall plant sale was very successful! We raised a great deal of money that will be used to keep on supplying THS members with free soil, fertilizers, seeds, etc. and for helping with maintenance of the green roof and of our little raised garden. Here are some pictures from the sale. We couldn't have done it without the help of our many volunteers - we extend a big thanks to all of you!