How To Keep Your Plants Alive When You’re on Vacation

If you have a home full of plants, it can be hard to have friends reliably take care of them while you’re gone. Plus, what if no one is available to come by every day to give your plants the specific care they need? Here are a few hacks that will keep your plants happy and healthy while you take time away.

How to water your plants while you’re on vacation

The biggest concern people have when leaving their plants alone is regular watering; and if you have a huge family of varying plants, they’ll need to be cared for differently. Thankfully, you can outfit different watering systems for your plants’ needs.

Use a wine bottle to water your plants

For larger plants that require regular watering, the wine bottle option is a great choice. Grab an empty twist-off wine bottle, then poke a hole in the metal cap and fill the bottle with water. Screw the (now pierced) cap back on top. Turn the wine bottle cap-side down into your potted plant and position it deep enough that the bottle will stand up on its own. The water will slowly release over time, feeding your plant while you’re away.

Put plants in a bathtub or kiddie pool as a water reservoir

If you have several tropical plants and perhaps not enough wine bottles, you can give your plants the hydration they need in the bathtub. Garden writer Barbara Pleasant told House Beautiful the best way to care for multiple indoor plants while on vacation is to fill your bathtub with one to two inches of water. Remove any saucers from the bottom of the plants’ pots and place each plant in the tub together. The plants will soak up the water through the drainage hole, drinking as needed while you’re away. The same process works using a kiddie pool for your outdoor plants.

Group plants together by type

Rearrange your plants by type before you head out on your trip. Succulents and cacti should be together with other plants that won’t need any attention while you are gone. Water those before you leave, and they’ll be all set. Keep the more tropical plants together so they can feed off of each other’s moisture and warmth.

How to regulate your plants airflow when you’re gone

The next concern for your plants is oxygen and airflow. (I am not one to leave my windows open when I know I’ll be away for an extended period of time.) There are ways to give your plant the humid or dry environment they need when you can’t regulate the temperature day by day.

Make a temporary greenhouse

Put a plastic container over small plants that love humidity. The plastic container will create a mini greenhouse, allowing the cycle of water and humidity to be maintained while you’re gone. This also works with a plastic bag as a small terrarium.

Move plants away from windows until you get back

Grouping your plants together is the easiest way you can control the airflow and temperature for your plants while you’re gone. The tropical plants go in your tub, and the succulents drying out in a corner as they like. But you’ll want to make sure all plants are away from any variables that could change the temperature at a moment’s notice. Keep plants away from air vents, sunny windows, and heaters. Without you there to move them around, these things could dry out your more sensitive plants faster than you think.

Adjust the heat or AC before you leave plants alone

This step might boost your utility bill for the time you’re gone, not to mention it’s not the most environmentally friendly, but if needed, your plants will thank you for spending a little extra cash on them by adjusting your heat or AC to control the temperature while you’re gone. This could mean coming home to a higher electric bill, but your plants have a better chance of being alive when you get back home.

By: Aisha Jordan

Source: How to Keep Your Plants Alive When You’re on Vacation

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Why Asparagus Makes Your Urine Smell

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If you’ve ever noticed a strange, not-entirely-pleasant scent coming from your urine after you eat asparagus, you’re definitely not alone.

Distinguished thinkers as varied as Scottish mathematician and physician John Arbuthnot (who wrote in a 1731 book that “asparagus…affects the urine with a foetid smell”) and Marcel Proust (who wrote how the vegetable “transforms my chamber-pot into a flask of perfume”) have commented on the phenomenon.

Even Benjamin Franklin took note, stating in a 1781 letter to the Royal Academy of Brussels that “A few Stems of Asparagus eaten, shall give our Urine a disagreable Odour” (he was trying to convince the academy to “To discover some Drug…that shall render the natural Discharges of Wind from our Bodies, not only inoffensive, but agreable as Perfumes”—a goal that, alas, modern science has still not achieved).

But modern science has, at least, shed some light on why this one particular vegetable has such an unusual and potent impact on the scent of urine. Scientists tell us that the asparagus-urine link all comes down to one chemical: asparagusic acid.

Asparagusic acid, as the name implies, is (to our knowledge) only found in asparagus. When our bodies digest the vegetable, they break down this chemical into a group of related sulfur-containing compounds with long, complicated names (including dimethyl sulfide, dimethyl disulfide, dimethyl sulfoxide and dimethyl sulfone). As with many other substances that include sulfur—such as garlic, skunk spray and odorized natural gas—these sulfur-containing molecules convey a powerful, typically unpleasant scent.

All of these molecules also share another key characteristic: They’re volatile, meaning that have a low enough boiling point that they can vaporize and enter a gaseous state at room temperature, which allows them to travel from urine into the air and up your nose. Asparagusic acid, on the other hand, isn’t volatile, so asparagus itself doesn’t convey the same rotten smell.

But once your body converts asparagusic acid into these volatile, sulfur-bearing compounds, the distinctive aroma can be generated quite quickly—in some cases, it’s been detected in the urine of people who ate asparagus just 15-30 minutes earlier.

Of course, the whole asparagus-urine scent issue is complicated by an entire separate issue: Some people simply don’t smell anything different when urinate after they eat asparagus. Scientists have long been divided into two camps in explaining this issue.

Some believe that, for physiological reasons, these people (which constitute anywhere from 20 to 40 percent of the population) don’t produce the aroma in their urine when they digest asparagus, while others think that they produce the exact same scent, but somehow lack the ability to smell it.

On the whole, the evidence is mixed. Initially, a pair of studies conducted in the 1980s with participants from France found that everyone produced the characteristic scent, and that a minority of people were simply unable to smell it. People with the ability to detect the scent, though, were able to smell it even in the urine of those who couldn’t smell it, indicating that the differences were rooted in perception, not production.

More recent studies, though, suggest the issue is a bit more complicated. The most recent study, from 2010, found that differences existed between individuals in both the production and detection of the scent.

Overall, scientists now conclude that most of the difference is in perception—that is, if your urine doesn’t seem to smell any differently after you eat asparagus, it’s likely that you simply can’t perceive the sulfurous compounds’ foul odor, but there’s a small chance it’s because your body digests asparagus in a way that reduces the concentration of these chemicals in your urine.

It’s still unclear why some people don’t produce the smell, but we do seem to have a clear explanation of why some people don’t perceive it. In 2010, the genetic sequencing company 23andMe conducted a study in which they asked nearly 10,000 customers if they noticed any scent in their urine after eating asparagus, and looked for genetic similarities among those who couldn’t.

This peculiarity—which you might consider useful if you eat asparagus frequently—appears to stem from a single genetic mutation, a switched base-pair among a cluster of 50 different genes that code for olfactory receptors.

We’re still waiting for some enterprising team of scientists to attempt gene therapy to convert smellers into non-smellers—but given other priorities to use genetic modification to cure blindness and breast cancer, it seems likely that those suffering from asparagus-scented urine might have to wait a while.

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