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A silver dollar plant in a pot

40: Houseplants Transcript

Listen to the full episode.

Hallie: Hello and welcome to One to Grow On. A show where we dig into questions about agriculture and try to understand how food production impacts us and our world. My name is Hallie Casey and I studied and currently work in agriculture.

Chris: I’m Chris Casey, Hallie’s dad. Each episode we pick an area of agriculture or food production to discuss and this week we are talking about houseplants.

[Background music].

Hallie: What do you know about the humble houseplant, dad?

Chris: Why would anyone want to live inside of a plant?

Hallie: Oh brother.

Chris: As their house?

Hallie: Oh God.

Chris: Their house.

Hallie: Oh no. [Laughs].

Chris: I know that they are plants that you can put inside of your house. I suppose they’re usually in some sort of receptacle like a pot. You have to occasionally water them. That’s what I know.

Hallie: Pretty good.

Chris: Oh, really? Show over. We’re done?

Hallie: That’s the whole show. That’s all we wanted to say.

Chris: Okay.

Hallie: No, not really.

Chris: All right.

Hallie: When talking about the beginning of the houseplant, which is where I want to start this episode, a lot of people talk about the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, ancient China, ancient Egypt. They had plants and they were inside. People have had plants on the inside for a long time, but it didn’t really become trendy in modern times until really Victorian England when it kind of became a fixture of the middle class household at least here in the West.


Chris: Wow. I thought you were going to say something like the original cavemen had likened on their walls.

Hallie: I mean, they did. That’s true.

Chris: All right.

Hallie: One of the most famous old school houseplants from this Victorian period is cast iron plants. There’s actually a really good episode of the houseplant podcast On The Ledge with Jane Perrone. It’s episode 138 and they only talk about cast iron plants and it’s extremely fascinating.

Chris: Okay. What in the world is a cast iron plant? Is that a plant that you put in cast iron or grow on cast iron or is made of cast iron? I don’t know.

Hallie: It is none of those things. It’s also called an Aspidistra. They’re called cast iron plants because they’re tough. They’re really tough like cast iron would be.

Chris: They’re tough to eat or tough to kill?

Hallie: Tough to kill, yeah. They’re sturdy. That’s how they got the name. They’re just super sturdy, but Aspidistra is just the nicer name. Cast iron plant now has a bad connotation because it’s like an old school plant. It’s like passé, but if you say Aspidistra oh, that sounds so nice. But cast iron plant is old school.

Chris: All right. Cool.

Hallie: But this episode of On The Ledge, which also can I say is a very great name for a podcast about houseplants is terrific. You should check it out.

Chris: Do people put houseplants on ledges?

Hallie: Yeah, like on the ledge of a window, counter.

Chris: Okay. I like that. That’s great. I love that name.

Hallie: In 1960s, houseplants really got kicked up in terms of a design feature. Before that it was mostly just, oh yes a nice plant and they’re good for me, question mark. But in the 1960s, it was really considered a part of the design as we moved into this mid-century modern era of interior design. Houseplants and particularly different tropical plants really became big features of rooms. This kind of diminished as you moved into the 1980s. Particularly for like houses, it became more popular to have like a fake plant. But in the Moli’i Gardens, actually I was doing research for this episode and particularly like the Moli’i Garden was something that was called out as the first public space that had a larger planting more than just like a pot. You remember here in Austin at the Barton Creek Mall, there’s a big garden over by one of the fountains. That’s pretty common. That large indoor planting was the first time we really saw it in the 1980s in malls.

Chris: I got to be honest with you. I noticed the fountains but I don’t know that I noticed the plants maybe like some big leaves or something. I never really thought about that. Interesting. A garden inside of a mall, not just an outdoor shopping mall, but an indoor shopping mall.

Hallie: What a concept.

Chris: Okay. Is it like a big greenhouse with this sky roof, sun roof, translucent roof?

Hallie: I mean, it’s just on the ground floor, you got a fountain and you got plants around the fountain.

Chris: I guess the fluorescent lights are enough for them.

Hallie: A lot of malls also have skylights and stuff like that. Indoor plants really don’t need a lot of lights, so it works. Today, a lot of houseplants are popular, particularly because a lot of people are renting and it’s really easy to fill your house with houseplants as a way to make it feel homey, but without having to make any permanent changes to the structure, like painting or wallpapering or putting up shelves or something like that. They’re just super on trend now, so I want to talk about them.

Chris: It sounds like they sort of became popular in Victoria England and then all of a sudden few decades later it was akin to picking out furniture. You also had to pick out some houseplants.

Hallie: Right. A lot of reasons for that is mostly around the advancement of the industry and the advancement of the greenhouse technology. It’s become much easier to find those tropical plants that maybe we just couldn’t find them in the 1920s, 1930s because we didn’t have ways to transport them and carry them and that industry really hadn’t developed. Whereas now you can find them at every single supermarket at every single hardware store. They’re just super common because our industry has really developed and we have ways to transport them and care for them and all of that.

Chris: Is it true they do better if you play music for them?

Hallie: I don’t know. Maybe we could do a whole episode on playing music for your plants.

Chris: Okay. That’d be cool.

Hallie: What are the reasons that we keep houseplants? Number one, we’ve been talking about it. It adds to the aesthetic nature of a space. For sure, I found a lovely Architectural Digest article that particularly talked about Funkshway, which of course is an ancient Chinese method of creating a balanced energy in a space. They offered some suggestions of different things that you might want to do in your house, both in terms of design and in terms of more utilitarian things. For example, if you wanted to give your space a sense of grounding or softness, they recommended philodendron or jade. If you wanted to heighten the space, they recommended ficus or rubber plant or a banana leaf plant, all of which are quite tall.

If you wanted to balance excess water, kind of a more utilitarian need, like somewhere in a bathroom or a laundry room, they recommended the lincon air plant, or perhaps pothos, which you’re familiar with. These are all great plants and great uses for them. I’m going to talk a little bit later about all different options for some of my favorite plants and why they’re helpful, but yeah, they provide a really lovely aesthetic thing in your house. It’s really soft. They’re really lovely and it’s a very different shape than most of our furniture nowadays, so they’re great.

Chris: Nice.

Hallie: Plants can also clean the air. To what benefit is questionable and I’ll talk about that, but they can also for sure increase the humidity of the space. If you have a dry room, particularly if it’s winter time or you live in somewhere like the desert, having plants in your house is definitely going to increase the humidity of the space just because you’re watering them more frequently and then there’s water in their trays sometimes, and not all the water is going directly into the plants. Having water out is going to be increasing the humidity.

Chris: I can definitely see in the winter. July in central Texas, maybe we don’t need the humidity quite so much.

Hallie: We don’t need the humidity here, but I’ve definitely lived in places where I’m like, oh, it’s so nice. I come home, there’s a bit of moisture in the air as I’m parched from coming in from the desert sun.

Chris: Got it.

Hallie: There was a NASA experiment that was published in 1989 that was investigating ways to effectively detoxify space station air and they found that in a lab environment, indoor plants can scrub the air of volatile compounds, like formaldehyde and benzene, which are things that we don’t want in our air. However, if you really have a medical need for air purification, don’t replace your air purifier, which is plants. Plants are doing this, but not on a huge level. They’re very small guys. They can only do so much.

Chris: You can’t put like a whole rainforest in your bathroom.

Hallie: Yeah, I mean, they’re lovely to have, but if you need air purification, maybe have both. I don’t know. But yeah, they do do this, but on the outside of a laboratory setting, it wasn’t a really remarkable difference. I want you to imagine a scenario for me, okay?

Chris: All right. I’ve got my brain camera turned on.

Hallie: Okay, so you’re sitting in a room. There are no windows.

Chris: Why?

Hallie: The chair you’re sitting in is really hard. It’s kind of uncomfortable.

Chris: Am I in prison?

Hallie: Sure. If you want to be in prison, you can imagine yourself in prison.

Chris: I don’t want to be in prison. I’m in a really hard chair in a room with no windows. Okay.

Hallie: The light overhead is kind of bright. It’s like fluorescent. The ground under your feet is like a reflective tile. There’s light reflecting back up at you and all the walls are like bright white.

Chris: This seriously sounds like the intro to a horror movie.

[Laughter].

Hallie: How do you feel, right?

Chris: No, it’s awful.

Hallie: Not good. Okay. Now imagine the same room, but there’s a really big rubber tree plant or ficus plant in the corner of the room. How does that change things?

Chris: I guess it creates one point of interest.

Hallie: Yeah?

Chris: Yeah.

Hallie: How do you think your physical reaction would change to that room? Would you feel, I don’t know, more stress, less stress, no change?

Chris: I would feel less stressed, except if I walked into that room in the first description, I’d be like, oh, this is a really weird cold creepy room. The second description, I’d be like, oh, this is a really weird color, creepy room, but look, there’s a plant over there. That’s weird. Why did someone put a plant in the corner?

Hallie: [Laughs]. Sure. It’s not a perfect description.

Chris: But I see what you’re saying. It’s the cold creepy room versus the cold creepy room with like a little life in it. Adds as that little something extra.

Hallie: There have definitely been studies that have shown that plants in a space can improve your mood, improve your concentration, improve health outcomes. I found this piece from a Psychology Today article that said, “Based on several experimental studies, the presence of potted plants have been found to be helpful in many different settings, including work, school and hospitals. Particularly, they have been shown to lower blood pressure, improve reaction times, increase attentiveness, improve attendance at work and school, raise productivity at work, improve wellbeing, improve perceptions of the space,” which is a really vague term.

I don’t know how you measure that, but cool. “Lower levels of anxiety when you’re recovering from surgery and raise job satisfaction,” which is like a lot that we’re asking from just these little plants.

Chris: No, kidding. I almost feel like this is a superfoods episode and we should put a cape on a houseplant.

Hallie: [Laughs]. I had a professor in college who is actually studying the impact of plants in a classroom on college quiz test grades and the correlation there. It’s great to have plants in a room. They make you feel more relaxed and being inside of an angular stuffy cold room is not natural for our brains. It’s not where our brains pick operation. It’s weird and so having a little bit of that nature, it seems can help de-stress us and can help us feel more relaxed. Can help us enjoy a space more, which can then I’m assuming correlate to this like improved attendance. If you like the space more, you’re probably more likely to go to a space versus if you really hate the space.

Chris: Okay, cool. Magic plants.

Hallie: I mean, is it magic? Is it brain science? Who can say?

Chris: Fair enough, but you know what we can say.

Hallie: What’s that?

Chris: We can say that we’re going into a break right now.

Hallie: Here we go.

[Background music].

Chris: Hey, Hallie.

Hallie: Hey, dad.

Chris: Do you know who probably has houseplants?

Hallie: Who?

Chris: Our starfruit patrons, Vikram, Lindsay, Mama Casey.

Hallie: Patrick, and Shianne. You guys are so wonderful and your support means the world to us. If you at home listening are interested in joining our Patreon family, it helps so much. It makes so many things possible for the show, including us to have series, we’ve got transcripts on the website now, which our patrons are paying for 100%. You have supported so many things about the show and we are so, so grateful. If you are interested in supporting the show, you can head over to patreon.com/onetogrowonpod. We have a lot of different, super fun tiers.

Chris: Tiers that get you bonus content like outtakes and little extra audios. We’ve got the plan of the month club. We send you a little digital file with some plant facts about certain plants and a recipe using that plant and sometimes we’ll mail you a postcard, but we haven’t recently because I have been a little afraid to go to Office Depot to get a print it out and go to the post office to mail it out. I don’t want to do that because there’s a plague on, but we will get those mailed out someday. Our starfruit patrons get all kinds of goodies, like boxes of stuff.

Hallie: We’ve been doing like goody boxes for our starfruit patrons. We just did the first one, I guess, back in June. Yeah, June is when they got delivered and we worked with a really cool artist in Australia and she mailed them soaps and handmade candles and handmade lip balms and a bunch of really cool stuff. The next one is going to be closer to November, December. We’re doing it about twice a year, so we’ll be talking about it again when we get closer to that. But if you’re interested in supporting the show at any tiers, any levels, you can do $1, you can do more than that. We would really appreciate the support. If the show is something that’s meaningful to you, it’s great. We have so much fun over there. You also get a Discord channel and we can chat. Gosh, I feel like this Benadryl is not going well.

Chris: It’s going super long. Do you know what, I would appreciate if we got back to the episode?

Hallie: What’s up?

[Background music].

Hallie: Oh my God. Okay. Dad, you got a nature fact for us?

Chris: I do have a nature fact.

Hallie: Hit me.

Chris: All right. In the beginning of the episode, I asked who would want to live in a plant anyway because it’s hilarious, right?

Hallie: Sure.

Chris: Well, you know who does live in plants. It is the Keebler elves. They live in a tree. They do. You know who it turns out is a subsidiary of Keebler?

Hallie: Who?

Chris: Little Brownie Bakers.

Hallie: Okay. [Laughs].

Chris: They are one of the bakers that make Girl Scout Cookies.

Hallie: Yeah, I know this.

Chris: For half of the country, Keebler makes Girl Scout Cookies. Not only that, but Keebler has their own cookies that are the same flavors as some of the Girl Scout Cookies, like thin mint and samosas. They’re just not as exciting to buy from Keebler as they are from Girl Scout.

Hallie: Right.

Chris: This blew my mind. Did you already know all this?

Hallie: [Laughs].

Chris: It’s not blowing your mind?

Hallie: I was a Girl’s Scout. I knew this.

Chris: What you knew? I feel like you were in on something.

Hallie: I was in on something like a conspiracy?

Chris: Yeah, you knew the secret.

Hallie: We don’t have Little Brownie in Texas.

We’ve got ABC, so it’s like a totally different distributor.

Chris: Even if I bought the Keebler thin mints, they wouldn’t be the same as the Girl Scout thin mints that we get here.

Hallie: I mean, it’s like the same formula. I don’t know how different it is bakery to bakery. I’ve never done a test comparison.

Chris: All right. Well, I don’t know. I feel like I’m giving some pretty significant information to the rest of the world so you can be like, yeah, I knew that, whatever, but I bet listener I bet there’s at least one of you out there that didn’t know that already.

Hallie: Congratulations to the rest of our listenership other than me on now finding out that you can buy thin mints all year round, but it does not go to support Girl Scout, which is really great for the development of leadership skills in young women, so sport Girl Scout.

Chris: True.

Hallie: Oh wait, I have to do the theme.

Chris: Oh yeah. You got to do the theme. Don’t forget to do the theme.

Hallie: Tara-tarara. Nature fact.

Chris: Let’s say I’ve gotten really excited about the idea of getting a houseplant after you told me about all this great stuff.

Hallie: I hope so.

Chris: What do I need to do other than purchase it?

Hallie: What do houseplants need?

Chris: Yeah, I want to put in the corner of the room that I use for my office.

Hallie: Okay. Plants need light and water and carbon dioxide and nitrogen and phosphorus and potassium.

Chris: I can definitely supply carbon dioxide.

Hallie: Great.

Chris: I would probably have to remember to give it water. How often would I need to give it water? I guess it probably depends on the plant.

Hallie: Correct.

Chris: You say it needs light. Is the light from my overhead enough?

Hallie: Probably.

Chris: Probably, really?

Hallie: But maybe not.

Chris: Maybe if there’s a window in there, that’s a good thing, but maybe the light is good enough, but I have no idea how to get it nitrogen phosphorus or potassium. Do I give it bananas?

Hallie: I wouldn’t know. Personally, I would not do that at all. If you planted in potting soil, it has a lot of nutrients in it. If you plant it with compost, then that improves the nutrition as well, but also you will probably want to have some kind of liquid fertilizer. Eventually, it will need it. There are different options. There are mineral versions, there are organic versions. You can just go to your local nursery and say, “Hey, I have this plant. What do you recommend?” They have a myriad of options. You can buy it at a large hardware store, like a big box, but I always recommend shopping local because they typically have a wider selection and they will also have great knowledge on what would do best for your houseplants.


Chris: Wait, if I have say a slightly bigger houseplant that I have to put on the floor, maybe it’s a ficus or something that takes up a large area of a pot, can I put my composting material directly on top of that and just have it compost on top of the plant soil and then sort of mix it in over time?

Hallie: Yeah, you can top dress with compost.

Chris: Really?

Hallie: But you can also just mix it in when you’re potting it up, if you’d like, and that typically helps the bacteria and the fungi and whatever else is living in your compost to just disperse. I mean, they’re very small little guys. If you put them on the top, it’s going to take them a long time to get down to the bottom. If you mix them in your own self, then it just helps them get around to all the different parts of your plant. But if your pot is already planted, you don’t want to repot it. You can totally just top dress with compost.

Chris: Okay. That makes sense.

Hallie: I wanted to talk about some of my favorite plants and specifically outlining what they need, what they’re good for and then after that I was going to talk about some of the common issues and some of the best practices for having houseplants.

Chris: Lay it on me.

Hallie: Number one, pothos ivy, you know this plant. It’s what your houseplant, Gary was. It doesn’t need full sun. Very expressive. They really let you know when something’s going on. Not all plants do that. Really easy to propagate, easy to grow and water. They’re great.

Chris: Actually, it’s Jerry.

Hallie: Okay. Sorry, Larry.

Chris: [Laughs]. Actually, it’s Jerry.

Hallie: Terry, got it.

[Laughter].

Chris: But I feel like I’m cutting you off a little bit here. I feel like there was a point where the little jar of water that I was growing him in wasn’t good enough anymore and I needed to do something else with them, like move them to a different container or to some dirt or something. Does that make sense? Should I have done something with them?

Hallie: Yeah, pothus ivy can grow 100% hydroponically. Austin has hardish water, so usually there’s a good amount of nutrition in the water itself.

But if you want the plant to continue creating new leaves, and growing as opposed to just growing small amounts and then shedding the old leaves, so really increasing the amount of leaves and the size of the plant, then you probably will have to add additional nutrition into the water just so that it can fill all themselves up.

Chris: But you don’t move it to a bigger container or anything like that. I don’t know.

Hallie: You might eventually need to do that just based on gravity, mostly like physics if physics-lly it’s not holding up, but you can have a tall plant with a small root ball in a small container, but you just have to make sure that it’s getting the nutrition and the water it needs without burning it. If you had a lot of leaves in a small root area, you would have to water it probably more frequently with the low dilution because otherwise it wouldn’t be getting enough nutrition and you could have the potential of burning the leaves if you added more nutrition. Increase the dilution of it. Does that make sense?

Chris: Yes.

Hallie: Cool. Next, Rosemary. Rosemary does need full sun, so you got to have one of the big windows for it, but it does not need a lot of water. Also, smells very nice and it will flower and you can also eat it, which is a bonus.

Chris: It goes great on chicken.

Hallie: Three, piece lily. I was informed one time by someone who worked at a florist shop that this is a plant that you get people when they know someone who has died. It’s like a condolence plant, but it’s not just that, but just so you know, they might make a comment when you try and buy it. It does not need direct sun. It’s one of the best plants for low light. It’s a really, really good office plant because it’s nice and big, but it grows really slowly and it doesn’t get super tall. It’s super manageable and it has nice flowers.

Chris: Flowers are great. Love a flower.

Hallie: Number four is the bromeliad. The flowers on this one have super nice color depending on what you get. You can get a pink, a yellow, an orange or red. They do need high drainage and they can tolerate high sun, but they’re super lovely. The fifth one is a dieffenbachia. These are good for small plants, but they can also get really big, which is super nice. They do need good drainage, but they’re also super good for low light.

Chris: Cool. Lots of options.

Hallie: Those are my faves. There’s a billion gillion houseplants, so you don’t have to get one of these. Please send us pictures of your house plants on Twitter, even if they’re not one of these six plants, but especially if they are, please send pictures.

Chris: Five plants. You talked about five plants.

Hallie: One, two, three, four, five. I talked about five plants.

Chris: [Laughs].

Hallie: Next, I was going to talk about some of the common issues. With houseplants, you can get some pest problems. Some of the most common pests are white fly, spider mites, scale. The most common time to get pest for your houseplant is when you buy a new plant and it’s already infected. You can have one of your existing plants get infected with a pest, but it’s just not as likely because the pest has to be introduced somehow and it’s your house, so you’re usually not bringing spider mites in to your own house other than on a plant. When you buy a plant, this is another reason to be really critical. When buying your plants, thinking through where you’re buying it from, do you trust them? Are you sure it’s clean? Inspecting plants before you bring them home. I oftentimes if I buy a new plant, I’ll keep it away from my older plants, like my existing plants in the house, just to make sure I don’t see any symptoms or issues before introducing it to the rest of the house.

Chris: Do they follow you home?

Hallie: Wait, what do you mean?

Chris: Spider mites. Like maybe you’re walking home from work and the spider might say, “Oh, I bet he has a nice houseplant.”

Hallie: [Laughs]. Probably not. If you get an infestation in your plants just start by pinching off as many of the insects as you see. That might be able to curb the infestation before it really takes off. But if it kind of takes off, you want to separate the infested plants from those that are not infested and you just have to research treatment methods based on what the infestation is. It depends based on pest. Sorry, I can’t give more specific advice.

Chris: I was going to say if the pest is new to you, you probably have to research what even the pest is before you research the treatment method.

Hallie: Yeah, unfortunately. Other issues you can get disease. Typically, it’s a fungus. Sometimes it’s a bacteria that will affect a houseplant. Similar to a pest the most frequent time to get this is with a new plant. Similar to pest, you’ll want to cordon off the infected plant. There are several common diseases that can plaque houseplants. One of them is powdery mildew, which can really easily be treated by spraying a solution of water and baking soda onto the leaves of the plant. If you get a fungus in your potting soil, you just have to replant the plant in brand new soil, toss out the old stuff. But also if you see mushrooms in your houseplants, don’t worry about it. It’s probably just compost mycelia that is now fruiting, so it’s fine.

Chris: Are they talking to the plant?

Hallie: Yeah, they’re probably talking to the plant. It’s great to have fungi in your soil, but if it’s like a fungal infection, if it’s causing issues, then repot just shake off as much of the soil from the roots as you can. Try to get it really clean and then repot.

Chris: All right.

Hallie: If your plant is wilting, yellowing, showing general signs of poor health, then it could be being watered incorrectly. Both over-watering and underwater can show similar stress signs, which can be frustrating. However, you probably know how much you’re watering it. If you think you’re watering it too much, water it less. If you think you’re not watering enough, then water it more. Both cases of over and under watering, it’s because the roots aren’t functioning properly. They’re not able to take up water. If you’re under watering it, then the water is just not there, so the roots begin to die off and they’re not able to take that water up, but if you’re over-watering it, then the roots become anaerobic. They don’t have enough oxygen and so the roots begin to die off and they can’t take up water. That’s why it looks similar, but usually if your roots are becoming anaerobic, it’s being overwatered, then you can just feel the soil. If it’s still wet, then it just really needs to dry off. You might need to pull your plant out and repot it, but usually just changing the watering regime is good enough. You can’t also have incorrect light. If your plant is yellowing, it’s not getting enough sun. If it’s being scorched, if it looks like it’s being burned, like there’s brown spots on the leaves, then it might be getting too much sun. That’s the run through of issues. Some of the best practices to avoid these issues, always consider your environment when deciding which plant to get. We talked about this in the vegetable gardening episode as well. Don’t get a full sun plant if you’re planning on putting it under a fluorescent light. Don’t get a partial sun plant and put it next to a window, it will get scorched. Consider how often you want to be watering your plants. Think about your own preferences with how you want to be interacting with your plants. Always plant it correctly.

You want to make sure that your root ball is higher up in the pot. This is one of the main mistakes that I see people make. With houseplants is they plant the root ball too low and then it’s hard to get oxygen into the root ball zone. Make sure it’s planted nice and high up in the pot.

Chris: The root ball, I guess is just the roots of the plant and if it’s too low, it can’t get oxygen. Which sounds weird. I don’t understand why that is.

Hallie: Well, I mean, we’ve talked about soil in the past. Potting soil is different from ground soil obviously, but potting soil still has a lot of oxygen in the roots. The soil in the ground is like 50% pore space, usually. Potting soil usually has a little bit more than that, but our plants are used to growing in soil in the ground and so they need that pore space. Usually, it’ll get filled up with water and then the water will drain quickly and then it will get filled up with air again. If you don’t have air in your root zone, then you get, like I was talking about earlier, you can get anaerobic conditions with your roots.

Chris: Got it.

Hallie: If they’re not getting enough water, then the roots can begin to rot. You can begin to have fungal issues. You need to have some air movement, which does not seem intuitive it’s true, but it’s still important for good plant health. The exception is if you’re growing something hydroponically, obviously it’s already anaerobic, but it’s a different situation. Make sure you’re always using high quality compost and/or a good potting soil or core or whatever you’re using.

If you’re planting in a jar or a mug or a cup or something without drainage, you can do that, but you will need to repot the plant regularly at least once a year. If you plant it in a pot, you might start to see like a white crust appear on the top of your potting soil. That’s salts building up from your tap water. Tap water is not purified. If you water your plants with like 100% purified bottled water, then you won’t see that, but it’s a waste. It’s fine. It’s not hurting the plant, but it can become unsightly. It can be a good practice to repot once in a while after you start to see that salt buildup.

Chris: You keep talking about repotting, is this like an as needed thing or should you report periodically? You were talking about, I guess the mugs and cups and jar plants repot at least once a year as a good guideline.

Hallie: Other than that it’s as needed. Honestly, you could have plants in the same pot for decades and they can do fine. One trick if you’re dealing with bigger plants, it can be easier to leave them in like the plastic pots that you get at the store just because if you need to repot them, you can really easily cut those pots out. If you just take that flimsy plastic pot and put it whole hog into like a nicer looking planter, but not actually replant it into the planter. Those planters can be super heavy. If a bigger plant needs to be repotted and it’s like planted into the planter, it can just be a real pain to get that done. That’s one of the main issues I think with repotting is if they’re really big, so it might just be easier do that, but yeah, other than that, it’s just as needed. There’s not always a regime. Some plants need more maintenance in repotting, but it’s got to be like a plant by plant rule. There’s not kind of a rule of thumb that you can go by.

Chris: Not even a green thumb.

Hallie: Not even a rule of green rule of thumb.

Chris: Green rule of thumb.

Hallie: [Laughs]. That’s pretty much it for tropical houseplants. I also included a little bit at the end. If you want to be doing like food crops indoors, pretty much always, they will need a lot more light so you can buy grow lights. You can just use any fluorescent or led bulb and usually it says like how many lumens they are, and there’s really helpful resources online for knowing how bright you want a light to be a grow light. I would opt for led if you’re between fluorescent led, because fluorescents can get really hot, which unless you’re growing something like, I don’t know, peppers or tomatoes or something that you probably won’t want, especially if your plants are growing up and they might end up touching the bulbs, that can be really damaging to the leaves if they end up touching like a hot fluorescent bulb, but yeah, you can grow whatever you want inside. Why not?

Chris: All right. So grow something. There’s some maintenance, but it sounds pretty easy and it’ll make you a happier, better person in the end.

Hallie: Yeah.

[Background music].

Chris: Thanks for listening to this episode of One to Grow On.

Hallie: This show is made by me, Hallie Casey and Chris Casey. Our music is Something Elated by Broke for Free.

Chris: If you’d like to connect with us, follow us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook at One to Grow On Pod or join our Discord and Facebook communities and leaf us your thoughts on this episode.

Hallie: You can find all of our episodes and transcripts as well as information about the team and the show on our website, onetogrowonpod.com.

Chris: Help us take root and grow organically by recommending the show to your friends or consider donating to our Patreon at patreon.com/onetogrowonpod. There, you can get access to audio extras, fascinating follow-ups, exclusive bonus content and boxes of our favorite goodies.

Hallie: If you liked the show, please share it with a friend. Sharing is the best way to help us reach more ears.

Chris: Be sure to see what’s sprouting in two weeks.

Hallie: But until then, keep on growing.

[Background music].

A silver dollar plant in a pot

40: Houseplants

In this episode, Hallie and Chris discuss houseplants. They discuss a brief history of houseplants, as well as some of Hallie’s favorite varieties and tips for keeping them! Also, Hallie clearly knows much more about Girls Scout cookies than Chris does.

Read the full episode transcript.

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About us
One to Grow On is a podcast that digs into the questions you have about agriculture and tries to understand the impacts of food production on us and our world. We explore fascinating topics including food, gardening, and plant sciences. One to Grow On is hosted by Hallie Casey and Chris Casey, and is produced by Catherine Arjet and Hallie Casey. Show art is by Ashe Walker. Music is “Something Elated” by Broke For Free licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 license.
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36: Vegetable Gardening Transcript

Listen to the full episode.

Hallie: Hello and welcome to One to Grow On. A show where we dig into questions about agriculture and try to understand how food production impacts us and our world. My name is Hallie Casey and I studied and currently work in agriculture.

Chris: I’m Chris Casey, Hallie’s dad. Each episode we pick an area of agriculture or food production and this week we’re talking about vegetable gardening.

[Background music].


Hallie: This week I wanted to talk about vegetable gardening. I have gotten many more requests in this spring than I ever have before from friends and acquaintances and family wanting advice on how to start a vegetable garden.

Chris: Gee, I wonder why that is.

Hallie: They’ve got time on their hands and vegetable gardening is super fun, so I thought we could spend a little bit of time talking about what makes a vegetable garden a vegetable garden, some of the history about it and some of my top tips, some of the success factors on how to vegetable garden. Dad, have you ever vegetable gardened?

Chris: You know my mom was a gardener, an avid gardener.

Hallie: I did hear that once you lawn mowed her artichokes. That’s kind of like vegetable gardening.

Chris: I mean she put it in the middle of the yard.

Hallie: [Laughs].

Chris: Two teenage me artichoke leaves look a lot like dandelion leaves, all right? I don’t know why anyone wants to plant an artichoke in their yard. Anyway, I do remember growing baby corn once and that was kind of fun. But for the most part, every time my mom tried to get me to help her in the garden, it just seemed like a whole lot of work that I didn’t want to do.

Hallie: Yes, it is work. It does take effort. That’s true.

Chris: Why do you want to put all that effort in?

Hallie: For fun and enjoyment.

Chris: Is it fun though? Is it really?

Hallie: Yes.

Chris: Okay. It does seem kind of peaceful.

You know your mom and I had a garden plot in the community garden once and we didn’t use it a lot but when we, did we did get some delicious food from it.

Hallie: Right. That’s a big benefit is the food is drastically better. I have a short list of the vegetables and fruits that are just a whole different thing if you get them garden fresh or farm fresh versus if you get them from the store like peaches, strawberries, broccoli, tomatoes stuff like that where it’s drastically better.

Chris: It seems like some of it could be and some of the stuff I have had is that was one of the times where you would pick up the tomatoes and you would just eat the tomatoes like an apple and we thought you were crazy but you really liked tomatoes.

Hallie: They’re so good. Have you ever had a garden fresh strawberry?

Chris: Yeah, some little tiny ones that were pretty good.

Hallie: That stuff will blow your mind. It’s insane. It’s like the best food in the world.

Chris: Good stuff indeed. That’s what got Shepherd Book onto Serenity.

Hallie: True. Very true. Except I don’t know how garden fresh that strawberry was but still true.

Chris: Look everyone, she has trouble with the Star Trek and Star Wars reference.

But she remembers the Firefly references, so go me.

Hallie: [Laughs]. Dad, they were like nine episodes and stuff that I had to keep track.

Chris: 14.

Hallie: What I want to know and talk about first is when people started vegetable gardening.

Chris:
Isn’t that the dawn of agriculture?

Hallie: Yeah, that’s the hard thing. When you talk about histories of gardening and histories of agriculture, academically they get conflated a lot of as this is the same thing. Largely, they are. It’s all about people growing their own food. The difference from what I see in the distinction I’m going to draw for the purposes of this episode is agriculture is really more about growing food for a larger need for economic profit, whether that’s from specific profit or from trade, whereas a home garden is negligible economic impact. It’s typically just for home consumption. That’s kind of the distinction I am going to be drawing for this episode.

Chris: It’s food for fun, kind of like entertainment. Kind of like Benihana.

Hallie: Not necessarily really. You can have a vegetable garden to feed your family and we’re going to talk about that, but you’re not growing it to support yourself and to make money off of it basically.

Chris: Got it. All right.

Hallie: Again, people have been gardening for a long time on account of needing food. I can’t go into all of the histories of gardening throughout all of the world, so I’m going to talk specifically about the US and a lot of US history is informed by British history and British culture. We’re also going to be talking about the UK. This is a very white Western look at the history of gardening. But we don’t have infinite time on this episode. Maybe we can do more histories of gardening from other places in the world in other episodes.

Chris: I really look forward to that.

Hallie: A vegetable garden also called a vegetable patch or a kitchen garden or a potager.

Chris: A what? A potager?

Hallie: I’m pretty sure that’s how it’s pronounced. I’m going to be honest, I had not read that word in this context until researching for this episode, so I could be pronouncing it wrong.

Chris: I don’t feel like I’ve ever read that word and now I think it’s a great word that should be used more.

Hallie: Yeah, it’s a lovely, lovely little word if it’s pronounced potager.

It’s probably good if you pronounce it a different way too.

Chris: I don’t want a vegetable garden. I want to put a potager.

Hallie: Maybe it’s potager today.

Chris: Oh, well then I don’t want one of those.

Hallie: Or a potager.

Chris: Definitely not.

Hallie: [Laughs]. People have been gardening for a long time, but in the 1790s in the UK or I guess at that point just England after a war broke out with France, there was widespread food scarcity and so the allotment movement began. Here in the US we call them community gardens. In England they call them allotment. The government created land specifically for people to use as a vegetable garden in a community garden style. That was a branch from agricultural policy at the time in the 1790s. It wasn’t really seen as distinct from agricultural policy, although as allotment policy went on in the UK into the 1800s that was seen as a separate thing as food became more readily available and allotments became more of a recreational activity and not so much about food access.

Chris: It almost sounds like so many things come out of extension.

It almost feels like shades of that where like there’s this agricultural policy and like, oh, we need to get more people involved, so hey, let’s go create a little thing.

Hallie: There was not enough food. There was scarcity from the war and so they said, “Okay, well if we give people who don’t currently have access to land some area of land that they can farm, then they can grow their own food.” It was really built out of response to this specific policy and then from there it became a more popular thing and food access became less of an issue until it became more of a recreational policy.

Chris: Got it.

Hallie: It also became in the later 1800s in England much more something for the gentry to do. It became much more popular for the upper-class to have walled vegetable gardens or decorative vegetable gardens or kitchen gardens off of their manner or something like that. Not often something that they would tend to themselves. But Queen Victoria had a very large vegetable garden and it just became something that was more seen as a status symbol for people with land to be able to have garden fresh vegetables and that also trickled over to the US as well and that became more of a thing as US was taking influence from that England Victorian culture.

Chris: Did any of them have a secret garden?

Hallie: Probably. I think that book was written in the early 1900s, so it’s probably influenced by this walled garden movement.

Chris: Just about every piece of British literature that I’ve seen her read there’s a gardener involved somewhere somehow.

Hallie: Right. One thing that I’m not really including in this episode is the larger idea of a captive state and a landscape garden and topiary and mazes and things like that that were a bit a bigger influence in that land culture of the upper echelons of the Victorian England.

Chris: Got it. Okay.

Hallie: [Inaudible] specifically vegetable gardens, but gardens and keeping them generally was a huge thing.

Chris: In these fancy walled gardens and later in these I guess sort of recreational public gardens, what kind of vegetables did these people like to grow?

Hallie: Well, there was a lot of different things, a lot of stuff that we still grow today. Fruit trees were very popular. There is a technique of growing fruit trees where you basically prune them back to a wall so they’re kind of trimmed along a wall and that was very popular at the time with these walled gardens. But of course, potatoes and onions and a lot of the vegetables that we eat today, but there also were a lot of vegetables that we don’t know about today that were just lost whether they were regionally native. They’re from that area and now we don’t eat them.

They’re not in the cultural menu I guess of fruits and vegetables that are known or if they were just some specific cultivar variety that is no longer grown and so we don’t know about it. When I was doing research for this episode, there were a couple of examples of like here’s a weird kind of garlic that had its own name and was considered a separate vegetable. But it was grown then and now we don’t even know about it. We’ve never heard of this word before. We lost a lot of those really unique vegetables.

Chris: Oh, I don’t like losing food. That’s makes me sad.

Hallie: Luckily, there are some really cool botanical gardens that are doing great preservation work and if people wanted them, we can probably have a revitalization effort for some of these weirdo garlics out there.

Chris: Okay. It was in the UK and it was later also in the US.

Hallie: In 1902, the US had its first school garden which was in hell’s kitchen in New York. Another kind of different thing when considering vegetable gardening is that urban versus rural. For a lot of rural people throughout history, it’s been very common to have a small garden because maybe it’s harder to get into town, but between the 1910s and the 1930s here in the US we had the great migration where a lot of rural black folks moved up into urban cities up in the North to escape the Jim Crow South and they brought gardening with them and urban vegetable gardening became a part of that culture up in the North for many African American communities in these urban cities.

Later on in the early 1900s, we had World War 1 and food again became an issue both here in the US and in England, so we had things like victory gardens which were also called war gardens, which basically there was less food and so the government was creating propaganda to encourage people to garden so that food could be sent overseas to soldiers for soldiers rations.

Chris: Do you remember watching VeggieTales?

Hallie: Yes.

Chris: You remember the episode where they was vegetables fighting each other?

Hallie: That was a lot of the episodes, Dad. I feel like the premise of VeggieTales.

Chris: But they weren’t just arguing. It was like a whole battle. I don’t remember the whole thing.

Hallie: [Inaudible] episode.

Chris: Oh, that could be, but you’ve said war garden and it makes me think of that.

Hallie: Yes, that’s exactly what I want you to picture. Now, it was pretty much just like a community garden. Municipalities would put land aside for specifically community gardens for people to access so they could grow their own food.

In England, allotment land tripled which is like a lot. It’s huge. Then from there we went into the great depression and gardening again was a food access issue and from there, a few decades later, we had the World War II. Again, food access was an issue as food was once again scarce as we had this big warfare and so victory gardens researched from there. But after that, there was still gardens. There was not any state sponsored propaganda and lawn culture in suburbia here in the US became much more in Vogue and so you saw fewer gardens. It was just less common. Not that they disappeared entirely. Lots of people had vegetable gardens, but ever since the 2000s, it’s become a little bit more popular and we’ve seen a dramatic rise in home gardening and home food production as people think more about climate change and the environmental impact of their food and the ways that they eat.

Chris: What kind of food did they grow here? I imagined it’s mostly a lot of the same stuff like onions, potatoes, garlic, leafy greens.

Hallie: In which timeframe?

Chris: Well, you just went through half of the 20th century.

Hallie: I did.

Chris: Let’s cover that whole thing. I guess it’s all good staples that are relatively easy to grow.

Hallie: It’s very similar to what we were talking about earlier. We see a lot of the same things. We see a lot of good staples, but we did lose a lot of those specific varieties, what we call like heirloom varieties that were common and they were bred for specific regions or micro regions. Even you would have these heirloom varieties that would do really, really well in just this one part of Central Texas or just this one part of Northern Ohio or something like that.

Chris: Okay. Cool.

Hallie: We did see a loss in that. Beyond that, pretty much vegetables were popular depending on where you were geographically and what was culturally relevant to you. That definitely influenced how people grew and just what the gardeners preference are. That’s one of the hugest factors in how people garden is just what the gardeners want to eat.

Chris: Nowadays, obviously it’s not as much of a food access issue. Although I imagine for some people, maybe it is, but it sounds like it’s maybe getting a little bit more popular.

Hallie: Yeah, for sure and it’s much more of like an awareness issue. People are thinking about the nutrition content of their food. If you eat fresher foods, then it can have a higher nutrition and thinking about the carbon footprint of your food that you buy at the grocery store versus what you can buy at your house. I think that’s much more the focus of gardening we see now according to the National Gardening Survey, that 18 to 34 year olds account for 29% of all gardening households, which is huge. That’s a higher percentage than we saw in previous generations. I think young people are getting involved, they’re getting interested because they are aware.

Chris: Well, that’s awesome. Awareness is good. Awareness if you know your situation, what you need, where you are and what I’m aware of right now is that it’s time for a break.

Hallie: A break.

[Background music].

Hallie: [Laughs].

Chris: Welcome to the break. Listener, we would love it if you would take this podcast and while you’re discussing podcast with your podcast listening friends or your non podcast listening friends, tell them about this podcast. Say, “Hey friend, I love this podcast and I think you’ll love this too” because we think if you love this podcast, then they will also love this podcast. Spread it as you would spread seeds in your garden.

Hallie: Maybe you’re talking about what a superfood is. Maybe you’re talking about how to start a vegetable garden.

Chris: Maybe you’re talking about confusing Star Wars and Star Trek References.

Hallie: [Laughs]. We really, really love making this show and we’re trying to make it for the people who are also interested in these ideas and these conversations.

We would really appreciate it if you shared it out. We don’t pay for any advertising or anything for this show, and so word of mouth is really the only way that we’re growing and we would just love to have more people here who can contribute to the conversation and who can have fun with us here in this little podcast community that we’re trying to build.

Chris: Honestly, I hope we never pay for advertising.

Hallie: Who knows? I could totally see us getting a billboard. Let’s get a billboard along the highway.

Chris:
Oh, there you go.

Hallie: Do you want food? Do you eat food? Check out this podcast. Just a picture of me with like two thumbs up like, hey.

Chris: An extra shout out to our patron listeners, especially to our starfruit patrons, Lindsay, Vikram, Mama Casey, Patrick and Shianne.

Hallie: To our newest patron, Andrew, thank you so much for joining us.

Chris: Hello, Andrew. Welcome.

Andrew: Hello.

Hallie: We’re really thanking you for coming to join us over on the Patreon.


Chris: All right. Back to the episode.

[Background music].

Hallie: Dad, do you have a nature fact for us?

Chris: I do have a nature fact for you. Pollinators can pollinate vegetable gardens, can they not?

Hallie: They indeed can.

Chris: Common pollinator is the bee.

Hallie: Correct.

Chris: An animal that is frequently mentioned in conjunction with bees are birds. The word that has bird in it is Thunderbird and the Thunderbirds are who flew over my house today and it was awesome.

Hallie: [Laughs]. Very good.

Chris: It was cool. It was a nice little fly over San Antonio and Austin.

Hallie: Dad, real quick. For non-arrow minded friends, can you explain what a Thunderbird is?

Chris: Okay, so the Thunderbirds are a group of pilots in the air force that fly fighter jets for show basically. They are some of the best pilots in the air force and it’s a nice job after a long career of flying fighter jets and they do stunts and they do fly overs and they were doing a flyover of San Antonio in Austin in honor of healthcare workers during the coronavirus pandemic. There’s issues with the cost associated with this. Part of the reason the Thunderbirds exist for the air force and a similar group the Blue Angels for the Navy is for like recruiting and promotion and stuff like that, so whatever. Sure there’s a carbon footprint, but man, when a group of fighter jets fly over your house, it is awesome.

Hallie: Tara tarara nature fact.

Chris: I hope other people got to see them.

Hallie: They were extremely loud. Do you want to start a vegetable garden?

Chris: Oh, hold on there cowboy. I bet someone wants to start a vegetable garden. Sometimes I think about starting a vegetable garden.

Hallie: Well, think about it. For this exercise, we’re going to talk through what it takes.

Chris: Okay. Do I even have a spot where I could do a vegetable garden? I don’t know.

Hallie: You absolutely do.

Chris: Really?

Hallie: I know because mom has grown vegetables at your house.

Chris: Really?

Hallie: Yes, definitely.

Chris: Not that I’ve eaten. Maybe out there.

Hallie: Oh my gosh. She did that last year.

Chris: She listens to the podcast. I’m sure I’ll hear about this.

Hallie: I’m sure you will.

Chris: All right.

Hallie: The key factors in figuring out what you can grow in a vegetable garden are one temperature, the number of cold days, the number of super, super hot days that you get because you can’t really do a ton with that. You can if you want to build out some infrastructure and have like a little greenhouse or something like that, but that’s the key factor. Another key factor is how much sun that area gets. You can’t really do a lot if an area does not get a lot of sun. You could get some utility lamp but who wants to do that and also tons of energy. Then the third key factor is your preference. Those are like the three things that are kind of hard to address and change.

Chris: Are those in that order on purpose?

Hallie: No, not really. They’re all important. I would probably start with preference. I would probably start with what is it that you’re interested in growing and then thinking about how the temperature and the light situation in what you have affects what you can grow. You also do want to consider your soil. It is possible to grow without soil, right? If you’re in a container or something like that, you’re probably going to be amending your soil regardless. If you’re doing an in ground bed, you will need to be thinking about what my soil is, but you are going to be amending it. It is a factor but it’s possible to work around it. I mentioned in ground gardens, that’s basically where you put plants directly into the ground. You’re still going to be doing things like digging it up and amending the garden and tilling and stuff like that, but you have other types of gardens.

Chris: When you say amend the garden, do you mean adding compost, adding nitrogen or doing what those things?

Hallie: Yeah, pretty much adding compost mostly is what I mean.

Chris: All right.

Hallie: You want to amend your soil if you’re doing an in ground bed because it’s very helpful to have compost that’s adding microbial life and adding organic matter, which can increase your water holding capacity. You could also do a raised bed garden, so this is slightly up above the ground. You can, if you want, dig down into the ground. But one of the big benefits of having a raised bed is that you usually don’t have to till down into the dirt very far. You’re adding six inches an inch or six inches a foot, two feet to your garden bed and so you’re not having to do the work of digging it out. But that also means that you’re having to bring more dirt in and you’re having to bring in potting soil or garden door or whatever it is that you’re using in order to fill up this box. It can be a little bit more expensive.

Chris: Okay. You have to have the box or build the box in the first place, which sounds like even more work.

Hallie: I would say getting the dirt is harder. Building a box, you just go to Home Depot, you get four pieces of wood and you nail them together.

Chris: Four?

Hallie: One for each side. It’s a square.

Chris: You don’t need a piece of wood on the bottom?

Hallie: No, you don’t want a piece of wood on the bottom.

Chris: Oh, so you’re just building dirt up higher basically.

Hallie: Pretty much.

Chris: Okay, cool.

Hallie: You can also do container gardening, which is not open to the ground and it’s really helpful if you have a balcony or a deck or something like that where you want to just put something out but you don’t want to deal with the actual soil and do something larger or if you’re in an apartment and you don’t have a lot of space. It’s also helpful if you want to do something that your temperature of your region might not really be as accommodating too. Like I’ve done strawberries before in places where it might’ve been too hot to do strawberries, but I can just pull them in on like the really, really hot days and then put them back out later.

Chris: Because you’re a wizard.

Hallie: Because I did a pot and I can put it in a pot and then it’s all good.

Chris: Oh, okay. It’s like a potted plant. I thought I was going to ask if it was like hydroponics.

Hallie: No, just a potted plant.

Chris: You store soil. I’s just not the ground.

Hallie: It’s not really what we call soil. It’s what we call soilless media. That would be like potting soil, which is 100% organic matter. That’s like a pot mass or coconut core, which is the outside of the coconut or something like that. That’s like an alternative medium that doesn’t really have any minerals in it.

Chris: It’s called potting soil, but it’s not soil.

Hallie: It’s not. It’s soilless.

Chris: Okay. I feel like maybe we talked about this in our soil episode. But this is getting too deep in the weeds for me, so to speak.

Hallie: I think we did, but remember we talked about soil and most of it is just broken down rock. A potting plant doesn’t have any broken down rock. It just has broken down plants.

Chris: I see.

Hallie: It’s much lighter because it’s like just this light, fluffy carbon stuff, which is nice, so it’s really a lot easier to move. It’s cheaper. A lot of benefits to using potting soil. You can also do an indoor garden, which would be something like having container pots put inside or I’ve seen spice walls before where people have a little container by their kitchen if they have a window and you can just put all your little herbs and grow little herbs.

Chris: But you have to have a window with sun.

Hallie: Or buy a lamp from Home Depot or [inaudible] or wherever.

Chris: Okay. If it does the job. Sure.

Hallie: Another type is permaculture. This is a type of in ground planting where you’re planting directly in the ground, but the idea is that you’re planting it to be a more permanent landscape. Usually, it’s not in rows like a typical vegetable garden and typically you’re trying to build it out to be longer lasting. It typically includes fruit trees or fruit vines and the beds that you have typically don’t get tilled every year. It’s like a landscape as opposed to just a vegetable garden.

Chris: It’s like part of the decor almost.

Hallie: For sure. Another type of garden, the last one I’m going to talk about is a hoop house. This one is the most amount of infrastructure of any of the ones on my list. This one we did a lot when I was living in New Mexico because it gets really, really cold in New Mexico. You have a very, very short summer season, so it gets cold really quick and then it stays cold for a long time. Having a hoop house, which is basically what we did is we bought really long PVC pipes and then we put like steaks of rebar in the ground and then we would bend the PVC pipe in like a U shape over it. Then we would just do that like 10 times and then put a tarp over it, basically like a see-through plastic so that the light could get in. But basically it was much warmer inside of this little house that you built.

Chris: Now, just as an extra weird little piece of trivia for the people that know us, a hoop house has nothing to do with a hoopy house, nor is it where your username on Discord comes from.

Hallie: It is not where my username comes from. My internet username is Nat Hoopy, which is a Douglas Adams joke that is extremely obscure and I thought it was really clever at 15 for thinking of it.

Chris: For a 15 year old, it was pretty dang clever I got to say.

Hallie: Thank you very much.

Chris: I was impressed. You have all of these options. They all require sun and they all require water I’m guessing.

Hallie: Well, they don’t all require sun, right? There are famously a lot of people who grow plants indoors with no sun. You can just get a light bulb. You need some kind of UV radiation.

Chris: They get busted by the FDA. No, the DEA.

Hallie: You can deal with whatever you want. Cannabis is not the only thing that can grow with lamps. Plants just use sunlight for the photon energy to convert CO2 and water into starches and so they can get that energy from tons of stuff including just plain old lamps. If you want to get one that’s kind of higher voltage and you can find more information depending on what plant you’re growing, just so that it’s going to be giving off more light. LEDs are also really popular for this because they don’t get as hot, which can also damage a plant. But you can grow stuff inside without any sun.

Chris: All right. There are some alternatives, but there are no water alternatives.

Hallie: Correct. You have different options with irrigation. You have drip irrigation, which basically uses less water per amount of food. It’s like an efficiency question that’s very popular with a lot of people because water bills can get high if you’re watering a garden as well as people living in a house.

Chris: That makes sense. Got to water the people.

Hallie: You can also have some issues with drip irrigation just because you’re putting the water right at the base of the plant. If you have something like a root vegetable, then sometimes your root vegetables turn out looking kind of weird because they’re contorting themselves to grow directly where that water is as opposed to something like a sprinkler where all of the ground is getting saturated, so the taproot can just grow in the natural way. If that makes sense.

Chris: I feel like I’ve seen some funky looking carrots and maybe this is why.

Hallie: Well, there’s a lot of reasons to have funky looking carrots. Maybe there was a rock in the way and so it had to grow around a rock or something like that.

Chris: No, I have no idea.

Hallie: Maybe the dirt was super constricted and so it was just growing weird. There’s tons of reasons. Sprinklers are a good option for something like root vegetables if you want. They can also be a good option if you have a lovely ground cover. If you have a permaculture setup, you can just sprinkler it if it’s something that’s maybe not fully grown in and you’re trying to encourage it. Sprinklers are also often used for leafy vegetables because leafy vegetables can be super tender. Stuff like lettuce and arugala are prone to overheating, but they’re also like summer vegetables. Sprinting them with a bit of water during the day can help cool them off.

Chris: Oh, nice. Like a nice little mister on your skin.

Hallie: Exactly. People love it. Plants love it. It’s great. You can also have something called subsurface irrigation, which is pretty cool. I’ve used this in one form, which is called the olla, which is spelled O-L-L-A. It’s a Spanish word. An olla is basically like a terracotta pot that’s unglazed so it’s still permeable, right? There’s no hole at the bottom. It’s just a complete pot and so you bury it with just the top out of the soil and you fill it with water and then you cover the top. Because the clay is permeable, the soil matrix has a higher water potential than the pot of water and so the water moves out into the soil matrix. I’m pretty sure I got that correct. But I could be mixing it up.

Chris: You bury the pot on top of where you plant your seeds?

Hallie: Right next to it basically.

Chris: A little watering pot. That’s great.

Hallie: It’s like a little watering pot. It’s great. Usually, you’ll want to water your plants in for the first couple of weeks while they’re getting used to the olla because they don’t always know where it is and so it’s kind of off to the side and they have to kind of grow towards it to like pull the liquid out of it to pull the water through the pot. If I’m using an olla that I usually overhead irrigate for the first couple of weeks in addition to doing the olla occasionally just so they don’t get too wilted until they figure out where the olla is.

Chris: Nice.

Hallie: You can also do rainwater collection, which is great for drip irrigation. You can use it for olla and sprinklers and stuff too, but it’s really easy to use for drip irrigation because you just can use gravity because you’re not needing a lot of pressure to get the water out of the little drip emitters. I think that you just need to put your rainwater collection tank something like a foot and a half up above where the drip emitters are going to be then they just submit on their own. You don’t need any kind of pump or anything like that.

Chris: Nice. Even though presumably it just rained.

Hallie: You could just turn it off and catch the water and then in three days when it hadn’t just rained, then you could turn it on and use the tank.

Chris: Three days later after a rain you’d need to water again that soon.

Hallie: It depends on what you’re growing. You could keep its water in the tank. You can keep it for however long you want.

Chris: Fair enough. All right. Well, cool. Is that all about water?

Hallie: That’s my water stuff. The steps for actually planting you can either direct seed or you can transplant direct seeding where you put a seed in a pot or in the dirt or in a raised bed.

It’s going to be cheaper but it can be less likely that you actually get a plant because when you’re transplanting you see the plant, you know you have the plant. When you’re direct seeding, not all the seeds will grow.

Chris: That makes sense.

Hallie: It can also be hard if you have a shorter season. When I was in New Mexico, we would also often use transplants because you’re a month ahead. It takes like a month less to get the food at the end than if you’re direct seeding because you’d have to wait for it to grow from the seed versus just using the transplant.

Chris: Wait a little longer for that extra little germination to take place. Not germination but the little sprouting.

Hallie: You got it. [Laughs].

Chris: I got it.

Hallie: You have to think about your seed spacing and some other stuff, but usually the seed packet has a ton of very helpful information in terms of how deep to plant the seeds, how far apart to plant the seeds. All of that information should be on your seed packet. You can also opt for a transplant. If you opt for a transplant, it’s going to be more expensive, but you know that you have a plant for sure. If you’re doing a transplant, once you plant it, you’ll want to water it in. Just watering it so that it’s kind of nice. It’s like welcome to your new home little plant. Here’s some water for you. You’ll be happy here. You always want to do that right away. Otherwise the plant can just get really dried out and have a little bit of shock and it might not make it.

Chris: Make it feel at home.

Hallie: You can also grow your own transplants in your own house if you want. You can do this with little egg cartons. You can buy a plug trays, you can use whatever, but you can just put a little seed in a little bit of potting soil and you mist it once a day or twice a day, you put it near a sunny window or you get a light so that the little guys grow. Once they’re tall enough, then you want to start putting them out for a couple of hours each day increasingly. That’s just so that they get used to things like wind because otherwise if they’re inside and then you just plant them in the garden, then it’s really easy for their stems to break because they haven’t had to build up any extra cellulose to be sturdy or anything like that. That process is called hardening off. You just put them out gradually more each day and they just get stronger and stronger and then you’re ready to plant them.

Chris: Wow. I had no idea plants were so complicated like that.

Hallie: That’s all of the notes I took. Do you have any questions?

Chris: All right.

When I was a teenager, your grandmother made me dig holes for her tomatoes with a pickaxe because it was in Dripping Springs and there was limestone a few inches down and so I had to bust holes through the limestone. Was that actually necessary?

Hallie: She could have built a raised bed, but if she wanted to go in ground, yeah.

Chris: Oh, okay. She wasn’t just making me do work.

Hallie: No, out towards Dripping Springs there is a lot of limestone and there’s two inches of topsoil and then it just goes straight down to what we call parent material, which is rocks. What she was doing was because limestone is a softer rock, she was just carving it out so that she could add in compost and gardening soil and these other things as an amendment.

Chris: Just super quick, do people need to worry about pest mitigation?

Hallie: Everyone likes vegetables including pests so you will get them. It will very much depend on where you are in the world and what vegetables you’re growing. It might be something that you have to think about. If you’re growing indoor plants, it’s going to be less of an issue than if you growing outdoor plants. But everyone should at least do a cursory Google to see what are the biggest pest problems for gardeners in my area so you can kind of be prepared, but it’s all a learning experience and it’s all about figuring out what pests are in your area and what they look like.

Chris: I’ve got one last question. I’ve been saving this one for last specifically. I pretty sure this was you that I’ve either heard say or seen posts about it on social media, which is something along the lines of growing your own food is a radical act. Was that you that said it and if so, could you comment on that a little bit?

Hallie: I have definitely said that in the past. I think it is a radical act. I think that thinking about how our basic needs are so separated from how we actually operate in terms of like food and water and things like that that are really based and how they’re kind of built within capitalism and this corporate system that’s kind of really, really decentralized and includes so many players. We talked about this in the COVID episode that we uploaded, but thinking about how immense that system is and how fragile it can be and how much of a toll it takes on other people’s lives and on the environment and on animal welfare and all of these different factors, I think that regaining some of that autonomy and regaining your place in your own survival and considering the way that extracting yourself from that system, even in a small way, can alleviate a burden that’s being placed on the environment or on someone’s human rights or something like that, is for sure a radical act.

Chris: Wow. I never thought about all that. That is pretty heavy. You heard it here first folks. You want to be radical, grow your own food.

Hallie: You can grow a radical which is a part of a plant. [Laughs].

Chris: No.

Hallie: Really good. [Laughs].

[Background music].

Chris: Thanks for listening to this episode of One to Grow On.

Hallie: This show is hosted by me, Hallie Casey and Chris Casey.

Chris: It is produced by Catherine Arjet and Hallie Casey.

Hallie: Our music is Something Elated by Broke For Free.

Chris: Connect with us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook at One to Grow On Pod.

Hallie: You can find all of our episodes as well as more information about the show and the team on our website onetogrowonpod.com.

Chris: Join our community and learn more about each episode at patreon.com/onetogrowonpod. There you can get access to audio extras, fascinating follow-ups and even custom art created just for you.

Hallie: If you liked the show, please share it with your friends. Sharing is the best way to help us reach more ears.

Chris: Be sure to check out the next episode in two weeks.

Hallie: But until then, keep on growing.

Chris: Bye everybody.

[Background music].

36: Vegetable Gardening

It’s time to get our garden on! This week, Hallie and Chris discuss vegetable gardening, including how they started and how to do your own. We learn the history of gardening (and gardening policy), Hallie’s best gardening tips, and which space-based TV show references Hallie actually gets.

Read the transcript.

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About us
One to Grow On is a podcast that digs into the questions you have about agriculture and tries to understand the impacts of food production on us and our world. We explore fascinating topics including food, gardening, and plant sciences. One to Grow On is hosted by Hallie Casey and Chris Casey, and is produced by Catherine Arjet and Hallie Casey. Show art is by Ashe Walker. Music is “Something Elated” by Broke For Free licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 license.
onetogrowonpod.com

30: Water – History of Irrigation

In the first of a two-part series on water, Hallie and Chris discuss irrigation and water use. We learn it’s history, dating from prehistory to today, how it’s used and why it’s so important. We also learn that Chris is still confused about what is and is not a berry.

You can check out the stellar podcast the future of agriculture at futureofag.com or wherever you get your podcasts.

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Join our discord our facebook group!

Connect with us!
twitter.com/onetogrowonpod
instagram.com/onetogrowonpod
facebook.com/onetogrowonpod
[email protected]

Tweet with #AskOnetoGrowOn

Support us on Patreon!
patreon.com/onetogrowonpod

About us
One to Grow On is a podcast that digs into the questions you have about agriculture and tries to understand the impacts of food production on us and our world. We explore fascinating topics including food, gardening, and plant sciences. One to Grow On is hosted by Hallie Casey and Chris Casey, and is produced by Catherine Arjet and Hallie Casey. Show art is by Ashe Walker. Music is “Something Elated” by Broke For Free licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 license.
onetogrowonpod.com

Chestnuts and Chestnut leaf

28: The American Chestnut

This week we’re focusing on just one plant: the American chestnut. Hallie and Chris discuss the cultural and ecological history and death of the American chestnut. We learn why they’re so important, where they went, and how we can get them back. We also learn about the classic 1980’s sitcom Night Court.

Connect with us!
twitter.com/onetogrowonpod
instagram.com/onetogrowonpod
facebook.com/onetogrowonpod
[email protected]

Tweet with #AskOnetoGrowOn

onetogrowonpod.com

About us
One to Grow On is a podcast that digs into the questions you have about agriculture and tries to understand the impacts of food production on us and our world. We explore fascinating topics including food, gardening, and plant sciences. One to Grow On is hosted by Hallie Casey and Chris Casey, and is produced by Catherine Arjet and Hallie Casey. Show art is by Ashe Walker. Music is “Something Elated” by Broke For Free licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 license.

Woman cutting watermelon in what looks like an industrial kitchen

27: Navajo Food Sovereignty with Andi Murphy

In part two of our series of on Navajo food sovereignty, Hallie interviews Andi Murphy, host of the podcast Toasted Sister and producer of the radio show Native American Calling. Hallie and Andi discuss the role food plays in culture, the importance of traditional growing practices, and how a good meal can make you feel great.

To learn more about Andi and her work, check out toastedsisterpodcast.com. You can also follow Andi @andimurphy on Twitter and Toasted Sister @toastedsister on Instagram or @toastedsisterpodcast on Facebook.

You can find Native America Calling at https://www.nativeamericacalling.com/

Andi’s pieces on Pueblo bread, mentioned in the episode:
https://www.eater.com/2019/1/23/18183970/zuni-bread-pueblos-new-mexico
https://toastedsisterpodcast.com/2019/01/23/e47-on-the-pueblo-bread-trail-in-new-mexico/

Resources for buying from Native farmers and artists:
http://www.beyondbuckskin.com/p/buy-native.html
http://www.nativewildricecoalition.com/sources-for-wild-rice-and-ricing-tools.html
http://www.tankabar.com/cgi-bin/nanf/public/main.cvw
https://bedrechocolates.com/

Connect with us!
twitter.com/onetogrowonpod
instagram.com/onetogrowonpod
facebook.com/onetogrowonpod
[email protected]

Tweet with #AskOnetoGrowOn

onetogrowonpod.com

About us
One to Grow On is a podcast that digs into the questions you have about agriculture and tries to understand the impacts of food production on us and our world. We explore fascinating topics including food, gardening, and plant sciences. One to Grow On is hosted by Hallie Casey and Chris Casey, and is produced by Catherine Arjet and Hallie Casey. Show art is by Ashe Walker. Music is “Something Elated” by Broke For Free licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 license.

26: Navajo Food Sovereignty with Nate Etsitty & Felix Earle

*Content warning: there is a PG-13 un-bleeped curse word in this episode*

This week, Hallie brings us an interviewe with two Navajo growers and activists: Nate Etsitty and Felix Earle. Our guests share their perspective on farming and why they do it, discuss food sovereignty and its importance on Navajo, and reflect on the legacy the colonization has left of food systems.

Connect with our guests:
Nate: https://www.instagram.com/nateetsitty/
Felix: https://www.facebook.com/earle.couture
Their organization The Green Team: https://www.facebook.com/navajogreenteam/

If you want more information on supporting Native food sovereignty organizations, we recommend connecting with The Green Team, or researching regional organizations supporting or lead by indigenous farmers in your area.

Additional podcast episodes on food sovereignty and historical farm and food access in the U.S.:
– E45: El Paso — Indigenous food at the border by Toasted Sister: https://toastedsisterpodcast.com/2018/12/22/e45-el-paso-indigenous-food-at-the-border/
– E43: Southwest Intertribal Food Summit by Toasted Sister: https://toastedsisterpodcast.com/2018/10/31/e43-southwest-intertribal-food-summit/
– E31: Navajo Sheep — “They’re my life… I love them.” by Toasted Sister: https://toastedsisterpodcast.com/2018/04/17/e31-navajo-sheep-theyre-my-life-i-love-them/
– Land of Our Fathers by 1619: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/10/04/podcasts/1619-slavery-sugar-farm-land.html?action=click&module=audio-series-bar&region=header&pgtype=Article
– Ep1: Gardening is Political with Colleen Dieter by Hothouse: https://www.hothousepodcast.com/eps/2018/5/22/gardening-is-a-political-act-colleen-dieter
– Ep6: Conservation & Identity with LaJuan Tucker by Hothouse: https://www.hothousepodcast.com/eps/2018/7/6/conservation-identity-with-lajuan-tucker
– Heirloom Corn by Sourceress: https://www.sourceresshq.com/corn

Cole Burkhardt mastered this interview audio. They do amazing work and you can hire them here: https://coleburkhardt.carrd.co/

Connect with us!
twitter.com/onetogrowonpod
instagram.com/onetogrowonpod
facebook.com/onetogrowonpod
[email protected]

Tweet with #AskOnetoGrowOn

onetogrowonpod.com

About us
One to Grow On is a podcast that digs into the questions you have about agriculture and tries to understand the impacts of food production on us and our world. We explore fascinating topics including food, gardening, and plant sciences. One to Grow On is hosted by Hallie Casey and Chris Casey, and is produced by Catherine Arjet and Hallie Casey. Show art is by Ashe Walker. Music is “Something Elated” by Broke For Free licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 license.

24: Youth Organizations (4-H and FFA)

This week we’re talking about kids and agriculture. Hallie and Chris discuss the agriculture youth organizations 4-H and FFA. We learn the history of these organizations, what they do, and who they serve. We also get the recipe for Hallie’s blue-ribbon pie.

Connect with us!
twitter.com/onetogrowonpod
instagram.com/onetogrowonpod
facebook.com/onetogrowonpod
[email protected]

Tweet with #AskOnetoGrowOn

onetogrowonpod.com

About us
One to Grow On is a podcast that digs into the questions you have about agriculture and tries to understand the impacts of food production on us and our world. We explore fascinating topics including food, gardening, and plant sciences. One to Grow On is hosted by Hallie Casey and Chris Casey, and is produced by Catherine Arjet and Hallie Casey. Show art is by Ashe Walker. Music is “Something Elated” by Broke For Free licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 license.

16: Organic Agriculture, Part 1

Welcome to the first episode of our Organics series! Organic agriculture is such a big topic we had to take four episodes to talk about it. This week, Hallie and Chris are focusing on what exactly organic agriculture is and where it came from. We learn about organics around the world, what it takes to become organic, and a really cool lady who really loved soil.

Connect with us!
twitter.com/onetogrowonpod
instagram.com/onetogrowonpod
facebook.com/onetogrowonpod
[email protected]

Tweet with #AskOnetoGrowOn

onetogrowonpod.com

About us
One to Grow On is a podcast where we dig into questions about agriculture and try to understand how food production impacts us and our world. One to Grow On is hosted by Hallie Casey and Chris Casey, and is produced by Catherine Arjet and Hallie Casey. Music is “Something Elated” by Broke For Free licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 license.