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Thursday, March 31, 2016

USDA March 31 Report Day React - interview with Darrel Good

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USDA March 31 Report Day React - interview with Darrel Good
Darrel Good, Agricultural Economist - University of Illinois

Up next Todd Gleason talks with University of Illinois Agricultural Economist Darrel Good about today’s Prospective Plantings and Grain Stocks reports.

6:22 run time

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Targeting the Middle of the Chain

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Targeting the Middle of the Chain
Sam Riskers, Administrator - USDA Rural Business-Cooperative Service Sara Eckhouse, Chief of Staff - USDA Agricultural Marketing Service

Secretary Vilsack has identified strengthening local and regional food systems as one of the four pillars of USDA’s commitment to rural economic development. Part of this focus in on the middle of the supply chain. Todd Gleason reports USDA is helping to make investments in this space.

Those local food systems investments aren’t all…
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Those local food systems investments aren’t all targeted at producers, or the people who raise food. Some of it says Sam Rikkers, the Administrator for USDA’s Rural Business-Cooperative Service, are aimed at the people in the middle of the supply chain.

Rikkers :31 …to have markets for their goods.

Quote Summary - Well here is what we know. We know at USDA that a huge part of the folks we work for, particularly at Rural Development, are the viability of Americans living in rural spaces. We know that strong connections between rural and urban spaces and communities and businesses is important. If we know the viability of retail outlets were folks are consuming these goods, then we are not creating that pipeline for the growers that we support through other programs to have markets for their goods.

This governmental focus is very much about creating economic activity by stimulating farmers to produce and retailers to sell. Again, here’s Sara Eckhouse from AMS.

Eckhouse :29 …there are real economic, job creating opportunities there.

Quote Summary - Local food at this point is an over 12 billion dollar business, expected to increase to 20 billion by 2019. So, there is a real demand there and to get that food from many of the rural communities to the urban areas, where there is such a high demand for it, we need those middle of the supply chain aggregators, processors, and distributors. And there are real economic, job creating opportunities there.

Opportunities USDA has been funding. In the last six years, USDA invested more than $800 million in more than 29,100 local and regional food businesses and infrastructure projects. Those dollars have funneled through both Rural Development, that’s Sam Rikker’s agency, and through AMS… that’s where Sara Eckhouse works.

Eckhouse :37 …haven’t had for such a long time.

Quote Summary - AMS also has the local food promotion program. It was created through the 2014 Farm Bill. It offers grants up to $500,000 and smaller planning grants, both of which are helping with that mid-supply chain process. Helping local businesses or communities develop resources. These could be a food hub or a distribution network. Creating those urban / rural connections that connect people to the land. It’s something most haven’t had for such a long time.

USDA believes strong local and regional food systems are helping to revitalize rural and urban communities across the country. It points to the more than 160,000 farmers and ranchers nationwide tapping into growing consumer demand for locally grown products as an example of this strength.

USDA Toolkit Designed to help Pitch Local Foods

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USDA Toolkit Designed to help Pitch Local Foods
Sara Eckhouse, Chief of Staff - USDA Agricultural Marketing Service

The United States Department of Agriculture has been moving to support local food production throughout the nation. The agency is focusing on bringing new farmers and businesses into rural and urban areas. To that end, as Todd Gleason reports, it has developed an online toolkit entrepreneurs can use to help pitch their ideas to lenders and local governments.

The Local Food System Toolkit was developed…
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The Local Food System Toolkit was developed by the Agricultural Marketing Service or A-M-S along with Colorado State University. It is supposed to help communities reliably evaluate the economic impact of investing in local and regional food systems says the Chief of Staff for AMS Sara Eckhouse.

Eckhouse :40 …pillars for economic revitalization in rural communities.

Quote Summary - The point is to really understand the economic impact of investments in local food systems. How do they contribute to the community and job creation bolstering the local economy. If you’d like to know what the best thing to make your community stronger and more successful economically, you need to understand how different investments will affect available jobs and influence local industry. We see local foods and one of the drivers of economic growth. This why it is one of the Secretary’s pillars for economic revitalization in rural communities.

The Secretary is United Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. He is, as head of USDA, a cabinet level member of the presidential administration. In this case that’s Barack Obama. The Local Food System Toolkit, as rolled out by USDA-AMS says Sara Eckhouse, allows investors and governments to quantify the economic benefits Secretary Vilsack believes can revitalize rural economies.

Eckhouse :29 …that you want to have.

Quote Summary - In a lot o ways I think this is a toolkit for businesses and investors and communities to make the case for investments. It has seven modules for which data must be collected. There are case studies, too. It takes you step-by-step through the process to assess the economic impact you want to have.

Again, The Local Food System Toolkit provides detailed guidance in seven modules to measure and assess the expected economic impacts of local food investments. USDA claims using real-world projects, experiences, and applied research, it provides grounded, credible, and useable assessment methods. The agency hopes the toolkit will be used by policy makers, community leaders, private businesses or foundations to offer specific estimates that will help them decide whether to invest in local food activity.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

2016 TPP Ratification Extremely Important

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2016 TPP Ratification Extremely Important
Tom Vilsack, United States Secretary of Agriculture - Washington, D.C.

The U.S. Secretary of Agriculture continues to call on congress to ratify the Trans Pacific Partnership. Tom Vilsack says it is extremely important that the 12 nation trade pact be approved this year.

Vilsack :31 …with commodity prices where they are today.

Quote Summary - There are many reasons for that, but for agriculture it is about increasing market opportunities in Asia. Which is a fast growing market, particularly for our high value products. We are going to see significant tariff reduction and elimination on American agricultural products. Farm Bureau has proposed, and suggested, and studied this. They believe it will increase exports by over 5 billion dollars, and increase U.S. farm income by over 4 billion dollars. All of which I think is extremely important, especially with commodity prices where they are today.

Tariffs on almost all U.S. farm products would be eliminated completely, with most eliminations occurring immediately.

Fewer Hogs and Higher Prices

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Fewer Hogs and Higher Prices
Chris Hurt, Purdue Extension Agricultural Economist

The last Hogs and Pigs report is good news for pork producers. Todd Gleason reports it showed fewer hogs are being raised in the United States and that, in turn, should boost prices.

Pork producers say they’ll reduce the size…
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Pork producers say they’ll reduce the size of their breeding herds. Or at least that’s what the latest Hogs and Pigs report showed. Purdue Extension Agricultural Economist Chris Hurt says farrowing should begin slow this spring and summer. However, right now, the breeding herd is as big as it was at this same time last year. Still, it’s a pattern of change and reduction says Hurt.

Hurt :20 …that has seemingly has now ended.

Quote Summary - The herd had been in an expansion phase from the last half of 2014 through 2015. That expansion was largely because of record high profits due to baby pig losses from PED. That expansion phase seemingly has now ended.

This ‘ending’ is a bit uneven geographically. For the 16 states USDA surveys for the March report, the breeding herd is up nine percent in Oklahoma and 10 percent in Texas. Some of the primary Midwestern states reported a decrease in their breeding herds over the past year; Iowa down five percent, Missouri down four percent, and Minnesota down two percent. In Indiana, where corn yields were reduced by summer flooding, the breeding herd was down seven percent. Those are all the current breeding herd numbers. It’s the forward looking projections that provide hope for higher pork prices.

Hurt :09 …be about one percent smaller.

Quote Summary - Pork supplies in the first quarter of 2017 will come from the three percent smaller summer farrowings. However, with more pigs per litter and heavier weights, pork production is expected to be only about one percent smaller.

Chris Hurt’s price forecast for market hogs then is in a range of $49 to $54 for all of 2016, about $1 higher than last year. He expects prices to rise to the $55 to $58 range for averages in the second and third quarters, normally the grill-out seasonal highs, and then to finish the year in the mid-to-higher $40s.

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture - interview with Tom Vilsack

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U.S. Secretary of Agriculture - interview with Tom Vilsack
Tom Vilsack, United States Secretary of Agriculture - Washington, D.C.

Up next… U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack has a discussion about policy making news in Washington, D.C. including the TPP, the just announced Local Foods Toolkit, and GMO labeling laws.

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USDA New Farmers & Businesses - Good Food Festival Interview

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USDA New Farmers & Businesses - Good Food Festival Interview
Sara Eckhouse, Chief of Staff - USDA Agricultural Marketing Service
Sam Riskers, Administrator - USDA Rural Business-Cooperative Service

The United States Department of Agriculture has been moving to support local food production throughout the nation. Todd Gleason has more on how and why the agency is focusing on bringing new farmers and businesses into rural and urban areas.

Friday, March 25, 2016

USDA Offers New Toolkit to Assess Economic Impact of Local Foods

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USDA Offers New Toolkit to Assess Economic Impact of Local Foods
Tom Vilsack, United States Secretary of Agriculture - Washington, D.C.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has unveiled a new resource to help communities and businesses evaluate the economic benefits of investing in local food systems. The announcement was made Thursday to those attending the Good Food Festival and Conference in Chicago.

Vilsack :35 …USDA to provide support across the board for this effort.

Quote Summary - It is really designed to give us the ability to work with all of you. So that you can make the case to local government officials, to investors, to those interested in the good food movement, that this is a profitable venture, and that this makes economic sense. We think this toolkit makes that case more strongly and with better data which should lead to continued investment in the good food movement. It is a continuation of our effort at USDA to provide support across the board for this effort.

The Local Food System Toolkit can be used by policy makers, community leaders, private businesses or foundations to offer specific estimates that will help them decide whether to invest in initiatives that increase local food activity. It was developed in conjunction with Colorado State University.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Good Food Festival & Conference | with Zach Grant

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Good Food Festival & Conference | with Zach Grant
Zach Grant, Local Food Systems & Small Farms Educator - University of Illinois

Thursday, Friday, and Saturday of this week the University of Illinois Chicago Forum will host the Good Food Festival & Conference. It is all about raising, marketing, and eating locally grown fruits, vegetables, and meats. Todd Gleason has more with Zach Grant from University of Illinois Extension.

Why Urban Agriculture | with Zach Grant

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Why Urban Agriculture | with Zach Grant
Zach Grant, Local Food Systems & Small Farms Educator - University of Illinois

Extension systems across the United States are targeting the development of local food systems around large and small communities. Todd Gleason has more on the reasons why with University of Illinois Extension Local Food Systems & Small Farms Educator Zach Grant.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Any Information in Mid-Year Soybean Stocks Estimate

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Any Information in Mid-Year Soybean Stocks Estimate
Darrel Good, Agricultural Economist - University of Illinois

Next week (Thursday March 31) USDA will release the quarterly Grain Stocks report. Typically it is overshadowed by the Prospective Plantings report released on the same date. However, as Todd Gleason reports, it occasionally provides a surprise to the trade.

For soybeans, the stocks estimate is often very near…
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For soybeans, the stocks estimate is often very near the level expected by the market says University of Illinois Agricultural Economist Darrel Good. This is because we generally know how many soybeans are used at any point during year based off the magnitude of the domestic crush and the exports, both of which are tallied either by the government, the industry, or the two combined. The stocks estimate, says Good, really does indicated the magnitude of seed, feed, and residual use of soybeans in the previous quarter. Unlike corn, for which feed and residual use is a large portion of disappearance, seed, feed, and residual use of soybeans is a relatively small portion of disappearance during the winter months. However, he cautions, occasionally the March 1 stocks estimate provides a surprise.

Good :18 …in four of those years.

Quote Summary - Based on the average trade guess reported by news services, the March 1 stocks estimate has deviated from market expectations by more than 30 million bushels nine times and by more than 60 million bushels four times in the past 25 years.

The expected level of soybean stocks on March 1 this year can be calculated. The USDA’s Oilseed Crushings, Production, Consumption and Stocks report provides information for December of 2015 and January of 2016. The estimate for February will be released April 1. The National Oilseed Processors Association (NOPA) estimate of the magnitude of the February soybean crush by its members can be used to estimate the total February crush. For the nine months that USDA has provided soybean crush estimates (May 2015-January 2016), the USDA crush estimates have exceeded the NOPA crush estimates by 6.4 percent. Applying that ratio to the NOPA February crush estimate, suggests to Darrel Good that 483.1 million bushels of soybeans were crushed in the second quarter of the current marketing year. It’s possible to calculate the number of soybeans exported in the last quarter, too.

Good :10 …totaled just over 677 million bushels.

Quote Summary - Based on a combination of USDA and Census Bureau export estimates, second quarter exports totaled just over 677 million bushels.

This leaves the seed, feed, and residual usage factor. That’s tougher to figure, but a much smaller number. If this year follows the average consumption pattern Good says it would be about 12 million bushels in the second quarter. So, 483 crushed plus 677 exported plus 12 fed equals roughly 1.173 billion bushels consumed in the second quarter. Subtract that from the first quarter stocks, plus the imports and you get 1.55 billion bushels of soybeans on hand March 1st in the United States. The Grain Stocks report March 31 shouldn’t vary much from this number, but it could says Darrel Good.

Good :37 …pattern of seed, feed, and residual use of soybeans.

Quote Summary - If the March 1 stocks estimate is surprisingly large or small, the accuracy of USDA’s 2015 production estimate may be called into question. The USDA has revised the previous year’s production estimate by varying amounts in 20 of the past 25 years based on the stocks estimate at the end of the marketing year (September 1). However, it would be pre-mature to question the accuracy of the production estimate based on the March 1 stocks estimate due to the large variation in the quarterly pattern of seed, feed, and residual use of soybeans.

Here’s why. The eight largest revisions in the production estimates following the USDA’s September 1 stocks estimate ranged from 1.1 to 3.5 percent. Only three of those eight large revisions followed a surprise in the March 1 stocks estimate that exceeded 30 million bushels. Conversely, of the nine years in which the magnitude of the surprise in March 1 stocks estimate exceeded 30 million bushels, only three were followed by revisions in the production estimate that exceeded one percent.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Are Soybeans-After-Soybeans Profitable | with Gary Schnitkey

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Are Soybeans-After-Soybeans Profitable | with Gary Schnitkey
Gary Schnitkey, Extension Economist - University of Illinois

Low commodity prices have farmers around the nation considering a different crop rotation. Some have been wondering if it might be more profitable to plant soybeans after soybeans this year. University of Illinois Extension Economist Gary Schnitkey addressed the issue on the FarmDocDaily website and told Todd Gleason farmers in northern and southern Illinois might consider the option.

Earlier Spring is Lawn Patching Time | with Rhonda Ferree

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Earlier Spring is Lawn Patching Time | with Rhonda Ferree
Rhonda Ferree, Extension Educator, Horticulture - University of Illinois

Spring is a good time to do early season lawn care. University of Illinois Extension Educator Rhonda Ferree tells Todd Gleason you might need to address some crabgrass in the your lawn or to patch some areas.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Grain Stocks & Prospective Plantings Reports Previews

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Grain Stocks & Prospective Plantings Reports Previews
Darrel Good, Agricultural Economist - University of Illinois

USDA will officially kick off the new year for the spring planted crops when it releases two reports on the last day of the month. Todd Gleason has this preview from the University of Illinois.

The Grain Stocks and Prospective Plantings reports…
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The Grain Stocks and Prospective Plantings reports will be released March 31st. Darrel Good says both will help set the tone of the trade for corn and soybeans going forward.

Good :33 …the potential size of the upcoming crops.

Quote Summary - The Stocks report will be modestly important as it always is for corn. It will give us a reading on how fast we are feeding last year’s crop, but the real information will be in the Prospective Plantings report. It can be a mixed bag. This is because we all know actual plantings deviate from intentions. Certainly, though, when we see the March survey and what farmers are planning this year, it will provide a lot of information about the potential size of the upcoming crops.

The Prospective Plantings report is set up to be very interesting. More than a few acres around the United States need a new home on the spreadsheets. For instance, last fall farmers seeded about 2.8 million fewer acres of winter wheat than they did the previous year. When you couple those acres with what most expect to be fewer Prevent Plant acres, it creates an interesting combination says the University of Illinois agricultural economist.

Good :46 …important in the March plantings report.

Quote Summary - On the surface this says, “We’ll have more acres available than we had last year”. What the intentions report will give us a hint at is whether producers are thinking about leaving some acreage idle in 2016 because of the generally low commodity prices. For example, will the winter wheat acres that didn’t get planted go to fallow, or to annual pasture, or will they go to sorghum or an oilseed. Will we see some of the so called fringe areas leave some acreage idled as the numbers would suggest we’ve seen in the past when prices are low. So, that big picture question will be most important in the March plantings report.

Again, the reports will be released March 31st. Last year there were 6.7 million acres of Prevent Plant. That’s on the high side because of the heavy 2015 rainfall. Darrel Good expects this year to be something closer to 3 million acres. And, when you round up to 3 million fewer acres of winter wheat, you get about 6 million float acres that need a home this year either idled, or planted.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

WASDE a Shade Friendly

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WASDE a Shade Friendly
Darrel Good, Agricultural Economist - University of Illinois

USDA’s March World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates report didn’t really change much, still that seems a shade friendlier than before to University of Illinois Agricultural Economist Darrel Good.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Crop Insurance Decisions & ARC County Payments

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Crop Insurance Decisions & ARC County Payments
Gary Schnitkey, Extension Agricultural Economist - University of Illinois

Farmers have until March 15th to make crop insurance decisions related to this years spring planted crops. Todd Gleason has more on what corn and soybean producers in the Midwest might consider. The two also discuss the potential ARC County payments to be made on last fall’s harvest.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Starting Herb Seeds Indoors

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Starting Herb Seeds Indoors
Nancy Kreith, Extension Horticulture Educator - University of Illinois

URBANA, Ill. – Herbs are popular in many gardens, but it can be expensive to buy and transplant mature plants. That’s why University of Illinois Extension horticulture educator Nancy Kreith recommends starting herbs from seed indoors as spring approaches. March is a good time to begin.

Thyme, rosemary, basil, sage, chives, and tarragon are good candidates for starting indoors. Many of these plants have very fine seeds and require a long germination period. If started early in March, they can be ready to transplant into the garden in mid to late May, depending on the region. Refer to Illinois State Water Survey for average frost free dates in your region at: www.isws.illinois.edu.

To start herb seeds indoors, use a peat-based soil-less seed-starting mix in a 3- to 4-inch-deep container or seed-starting flat with drainage holes. Pre-moisten the mix with water until it feels like a wrung-out sponge. Fill labeled containers with the moist mix, leaving about one-quarter inch of space at the top.

“Labeling containers with the herb name and planting date will avoid confusion when it comes time to plant outside,” Kreith says.

Plant at least five seeds (or a pinch) of one herb variety per container or cell and lightly cover with moist mix.

“As a general rule of thumb, plant seed just two times its thickness under the soil,” Kreith notes. “As plants become overgrown, seedlings can be thinned to one plant per pot.”

After planting the seeds, keep them moist during the germination period.

“One technique is to cover the flat or container with a clear plastic bag,” Kreith says. “The plastic helps hold in heat and aids in providing consistent moisture. However, be sure to monitor the growing media for mold growth. If you see mold, poke holes in the bag or remove it completely to improve air circulation.”

Plastic should be removed once the seeds germinate, usually in 10 to 14 days. A heat mat, available at many gardening stores, will speed the germination rate if placed under the container.

The sown containers or flats need approximately six hours of sunlight per day. A window with either western or southern exposure will work well initially, but over time, the herb seedlings will require more direct and intense lighting. Using supplemental grow lights or florescent lighting has been proven to work better than natural sunlight.

“If using fluorescent lights, keep them on for a minimum of 10 hours per day and place them as close to the seedlings as possible,” Kreith says. “Adjust the height as seedlings grow taller.”

Seeds and seedlings should be monitored on a daily basis as the transplants mature; look for insects, rot, and extremely dry soil. The seeds and seedlings should only need a light sprinkle of water about twice per week, depending on the temperature of the home. Allow the planting media to dry out a little before watering again. Overwatering can lead to diseases such as damping-off, a common soilborne fungal disease that ultimately kills young seedlings. Constant moisture can also attract fruit flies.

As seedlings mature, some maintenance will be needed. If seedlings grow too large for their original containers, they can be transplanted into larger ones. If they become leggy, they may not be getting enough light.

“Be sure fluorescent lights are placed close enough to the plants, no more than four inches away,” Kreith says. “You can also increase the amount of time lights are on, up to 16 hours per day.”

Once seedlings reach six to eight weeks old, pinch off the top leaves to encourage lateral spread and a bushier appearance. After 10 weeks, most herb seedlings should be ready to transplant outdoors.

“Help the tender plants ‘harden off,’ or become acclimated to their new climate, by placing them outdoors on mild sunny days and bring them back indoors at night for one to two weeks,” Kreith recommends. “Once plants are hardened off, they can be transplanted safely into the garden for beautification, culinary, and therapeutic purposes.”

Some seeds can be sown directly in the ground around the time that transplants are ready to be planted outdoors. Herbs that do well by direct sowing include cilantro, arugula, and basil. In early spring, direct-seeding cilantro and arugula, both cool-weather herbs, provide a bountiful leafy harvest from mid-spring to mid-summer. Warm season herbs like basil can also be directly sown after the danger of frost has passed.

For the best flavor, harvest herbs just before they flower. Details about specific herbs, their growing requirements, and harvesting and storing methods can be found at extension.illinois.edu/herbs/.

How to Move Plants Back Outside

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How to Move Plants Back Outside
Bruce Black, Extension Horticulture Educator - University of Illinois

URBANA, Ill. – Plants, like people and pets, prefer a particular environment to perk up and be prosperous, according to University of Illinois Extension horticulture educator Bruce J. Black.

“In the spring, when you are ready to take your plants outside for the growing season, the plants are likely to suffer damage if they are not acclimated correctly to outdoor conditions,” explains Black. “Overwintered plants have become accustomed to indoor conditions and, like humans, adapt slowly to rapid changes in environment.”

Environmental factors such as light, wind, and temperature are some examples of changes to keep in mind. Each factor causes a different physiological response in the plant.

“Natural light intensity can decrease by up to 50 percent during the winter,” Black says. “Setting plants outdoors in direct sun without acclimating them to the increased lighting levels will cause scald or sunburn, which could lead to bleaching, browning, or necrosis (death) of the plant. Plant reactions depend on the amount of light the plant can tolerate.”

Indoor air tends to be relatively calm compared to outdoors, where plants will be exposed to wind. When plants are exposed to wind they become more rigid to support themselves. Too much wind can increase the rate of transpiration (loss of water through openings in the leaves) and may increase the rate of soil drying.

Most homes are kept at a constant temperature during the winter, between 68 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit, with a slight decrease at night. Outdoor temperatures fluctuate much more substantially. Plants not known for their cold tolerance (such as potted dahlias and hibiscus) can be injured if the low approaches freezing. Black advises that indoor plants should only be moved outdoors after the risk of frost is over.

“Before permanent placement outdoors, place the plants in a part-shade, wind-protected spot close to your home. Leave them in that spot for a few hours the first day, and gradually increase their time outdoors over a few weeks. This will allow the plants to begin to adapt to outdoor conditions,” Black says. “Gradually weaning your plants to the outdoors will give them a greater chance of thriving.

“Once they adapt to outdoor conditions, don’t forget to increase watering and fertilize occasionally as recommended,” he adds.