When Mother's Day rolled around, I went to the plant nursery so I could finally get a few touches of green around this abode. Since giving life via my body, twice, I hadn't given life to anything non-human. It was time to finally replace my long-lost, hummingbird-attracting fuchsia plant.
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But when I cast my eyes about, I no longer saw colorful living works of art and beautiful little oxygen factories. I saw a sea of worry and frettitude. Stuff my little crawler could pull over, stuff in her mouth, and otherwise devour, and that my slightly less-little toddler could run smack into. What plants, soils, fertilizers, and flowers would be least likely to maim my children? I didn't know -- so I came home plantless.
And called Melinda Myers. A radio and TV personality and author of more than 20 gardening books, including Can't Miss Small Space Gardening, she knows all about blossoms, dearie. Here's what she had to say.
"More and more growers are conscious of people's interest in going organic, and don't put pesticide or fertilizer in the soil," she says, acknowledging that nobody wants their kid to eat dirt ... but they do. Here are her tips for safer hot-house youngsters:
- Raise the stakes. Choose hanging baskets and smaller containers up on shelves, out of reach of kids. (Out of reach! Ha ha, says the woman whose toddler has just discovered the power of the step-stool!)
- Rock out. Cover the soil in larger pots with heavy, round stones (big enough so they don't fit in little mouths). "It also adds weight and works great if your cat has been using the plants as a litter box," Myer adds. (Eyuw!) (And now I know why my landlady has those big stones in the plants in our foyer.)
- Get dirty. Control the potting mix -- re-plant everything in something organic. It's worth the extra cost.
- Wash away the bugs. If you find yourself plagued by aphids, mites, or white flies, a common remedy is dish soap cut with water, but Myers prefers an insecticidal soap like Neem because the dish soaps sometimes change their formulations in un-plant-friendly ways.
- You can fertilize, too. A good organic, kid- and pet-friendly fertilizer is Milorganite, though Myers warns that it has "a strong, earthy smell, so if that bothers you, mix it in with your soil."
- Get green steroids. If your plants are still missing some oomph, don't give up hope: Myers also recommends a product called "plant strengthener," which is eco-friendly. "When plants are under stress, they give off molecules that, if isolated, can help other plants fend off disease," she says. It's a naturally occurring nutrient and can be a lifesaver (literally!). Her favorite version is Jaz.
- Take precautions. Whatever you put in your home, make sure you write down the name just in case you have to call poison control (800-222-1222). And check a list like this toxic plant list before you take the word of the guy at the plant nursery.
Myers also has specific plant suggestions for different parts of your home:
Cast Iron Plant
Palms (except fishtail)
Spider Plant (in a macramé planter? Hi, 1970s)
Palms (except fishtail)
Norfolk Island Pine
And enjoy greening your home! Project Evergreen has a great list of the benefits of plants in your home.
What's your favorite kid-friendly houseplant?
Photo via Damira/CafeMom
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