Ten days away from the winter solstice – the garden is fast asleep, resting under a thick blanket of leaves and replenishing its strength. At this time I imagine a great pendulum slowing down as it reaches its highest point, and pausing there for a moment, before starting to swing the other way on the journey towards summer again.

A good time to pause and consider what is behind us, where we’re at right now, and what lies ahead. (It is also a good time of year to make your houseplants happy! More on that below.)

If you have been following the news – sparse as it is – on our government’s recent border agreement with the US (first announced in February and now signed just last week), you may be aware that it has the potential to affect Canada’s sovereignty on a number of issues, including genetically modified organisms, pesticides, and potentially, down the road, the right to grow and eat the food of our choice. While I cannot quite imagine the carrot police banging at my backyard gate, I am concerned about a watering down of standards and regulations to the lowest common denominator in the agriculture and food, environment, and health sectors. I will keep asking questions and invite you to do the same.

Should you now feel the urge to relax, nurture, and pamper, consider turning your attention to houseplants. After all, they deserve some attention – houseplants beautify the home, improve air quality, have a calming effect on people, and some can even reduce airborne toxins. Considering that many of them come from rich and diverse warm climate ecosystems with complex above ground and below ground relationships, it’s a near miracle that they manage to adapt to our offices and living rooms. To them, it usually means a life of solitary confinement, often with inadequate light, too little (or too much) water, on a synthetic diet, in a pot filled with sterile growing medium!

It is hugely rewarding to do a bit of research and find out what conditions individual houseplants prefer. In general, they really appreciate being repotted into a slightly larger container every other year or so. I like to use a 50/50 mix of potting soil and compost, amended with glacial rock dust and a tiny bit of humic acids. A sprinkle of mycorrhizal fungi on the roots is worth trying too. This goes for many tropical plants except for true desert types.

Remember to wipe off dust using a damp cloth, moistened with a weak EM dilution. Better yet, choose one of those mild days of constant light drizzly rain, and set the plants outside for a good soak. This is especially important if you are using unglazed clay pots, as these constantly evaporate moisture away from the roots, even more so during the heating season when indoor air becomes hotter and drier.

I always let irrigation water stand for awhile to dissipate the chlorine. Just before watering, I add two teaspoons of activated EM and one teaspoon each of micronutrients like liquid kelp or sea minerals for every 1 liter of water. Using even lower dilutions of EM and nutrients, you can let your housplants enjoy a foliar misting too. Tiny amounts of Penergetic powders for plants and compost are thrown in as a treat every few weeks.

My plants are thriving on this care program – it’s a jungle in here!

Happy holidays, and thank you everyone for a fabulous year 2011.

PS, hey, I have a treat for you: Phil and I (okay mostly Phil) have been working together to reorganize and update the Pantry web site, giving it a fresh new look while we were at it. Come visit and let us know what you think – we’d love to receive your feedback!