Tuesday, June 26, 2012

It was second-grade. I was in Mrs. Swisher's class at Central Elementary School. At literature time she read aloud the book Charlotte's Web (oh, I hope my friend Rose isn't reading this -- she HATES spiders, lol). I instantly loved Fern -- I wasn't even sure what a fern was, but I loved this brave, spunky little girl who was lucky enough to live on a farm. Me, a city girl thought her life simply perfect. I wanted to be Fern -- what a gorgeous name she had -- so much better than Gail. Over the years, I have read this book again and again and loved getting to read it to each of my own children. I don't hear or read the word FERN without thinking of the relationship I had with Fern Arable.

All that to say that I have ALWAYS wanted a big old porch fern -- such an old-fashioned thing in my mind....big old Victorian porches adorned in ferns. Well, there are a few things were needed to fulfill that. ONE is a big old porch - got that - and the other was getting over the fear that I'd kill it, lol.

I do fine with growing vegetables and even annuals and perennials, but house plants, as I rule I kill. With the exception of my African Violets, I generally avoid plants in the house. I knew if I took on the commitment of a fern on the porch, the time would come that it would have to come into the house.

Last summer I said that *next year* would be the year I'd finally get one. Next year came around. I did do some research and decided on what kind I wanted and I even shopped (a little bit anyway) and didn't find what I wanted. Then my friend Rose (yes, the same one who doesn't like spiders -- and that is a gross understatment), came in to the office and told me our favorite little plant source for the season was selling everything 50% off. I had given up on a fern for this year but still wanted a hanging basket for my back deck. I scurried on over there. I found a perfect basket -- planted in my red, white & blue theme and scooped it right up.

As the cashier was checking me out we had a conversation about the plants she was buying at 50% -- a couple baskets like the one I bought and a FERN -- what, you have ferns still? -- do you have Kimberly ferns? -- why, yes we do -- I bought not 1 BUT 2 of the hugest, most gorgeous ferns for my porch! Wish me or maybe I should say, wish the ferns good luck -- don't they look stunning on my porch?

I am sharing at Yvonne's Tutorials, Tips, & Tidbits Party! And Sweet Honey is back to blogging and posting to her Potpourri Friday.

How to care for your fern:

Placement - Put your fern in a location with a lot of light but little direct sun. Early morning and late afternoon direct light is enough, with shade during the rest of the day. An area of high humidity is helpful, but with proper watering (see below), a fern will be fine in a drier area.

Because ferns are so fragile, it is important to place them where tBecause ferns are so fragile, it is important to place them where they will not be crowded or brushed up against. Be sure to allow them to have plenty of "personal space" so that they can spread out and expand. When a fern is crowded into a small space, it tends to do poorly.

The Pot - Use a clay pot or a hanging basket lined with sphagnum moss togrow your fern. Plastic pots aren’t good for drainage, and adequate draining is crucial for a healthy fern.

Because a fern’s roots are near the surface, they should only be grown in shallow pots (about 6 inches deep).

Soil and Mixes - Many horticulturists recommend planting ferns with a special fern potting mixture, which can be found at a nursery. Ferns require loose, quick-draining mix. It is also acceptable to use regular potting mix and add about 20% peat moss.

Watering - Over-watering kills more plants than anything else. Only give your fern water when the soil is starts to look dry. Don’t use a plant mister on your fern. It can cause the fronds (leaves) to brown and wilt.

The soil of your fern should be moist, but never wet. Over-watering a fern is a common mistake. Over-watering can damage a plant’s roots, and once the roots are damaged the plant may not survive.

Because ferns like humidity, fill a tray with pebbles and water (enough water to cover all the pebbles) and place the potted fern on the tray.

Fertilizers - Use a high-nitrogen fertilizer once a month, during the growing season. Only use one-quarter to one-half of the recommendations on the fertilizer package.

Pruning - New ferns will not grow from cuttings.

If you notice brown around the edge of a leaf, and the fern’s condition doesn’t improve after a couple waterings, cut off the sick leaf. Also cut off any dead leaves at the base of the fern.

If the whole fern looks bad, or pests have invaded, just cut the whole plant right above the soil and let it grown again.

Re-potting - Ferns should be re-potted at least once a year, and can be divided easily in more potted plants. Just remove the plant from the pot, divide the roots with a sharp knife, untangle the leaves, and place the ferns into new pots.

But how do you know when to re-pot a fern? The basic rule is this: if the roots have reached the sides and bottom of the pot, it's time to re-pot it.

Growing Outdoors - In favorable climates, ferns can also be grown in a shady garden spot protected from wind and heavy rains. Keep the fern out of direct midday sun and make sure it gets enough water to keep the soil damp. A couple inches of organic mulch (for example, chopped leaves) will help keep an outdoor fern healthy. And again, give the fern enough room – it shouldn’t come close to touching other plants.