Cucumber leaves wilting in sun

Hardening: The Solution to Wilting Plants

First-time growers have lots of questions about how to get started with planting. And that’s great!

We prefer that you ask these questions rather than assume you already know what to do. Then, when the plant dies, you tell yourself that you don’t have a “green thumb” and swear never to plant again.

We’re here to help.

Did you notice the image above this post? Where the plants are “bowing” and not growing straight? That is called wilting. And you don’t want that to happen to your plants. We’ll get to this more below.

Has this ever happen to you?

If you’re new to urban gardening, there’s a chance that the same thing happened to you.

What is Hardening?

Hardening is exposing your seedlings to the sun and other forces of nature in small amounts. This allows them to adapt to their surroundings.

It’s like a human baby. You don’t leave your baby under the sun for too long. That’s why the practice in the Philippines is to take them out early morning when the heat is not to strong. You make sure they drink their milk and water. You don’t wait days before feeding them.

The same goes with plants, especially seedlings. They are still babies.

The Main Benefit of Hardening

The main benefit of hardening off your plants is to make sure they adapt to their surroundings.

That’s pretty much it.

They will grow healthier. And, you avoid the 3 common problems first-time growers experience (which we’ll get to below).

3 Common Problems When You Don’t Harden Off Your Plants

When you don’t harden off your plants, you run the risk of:

  • Wilting. This means the plant loses its rigidity. In non-technical terms, you will see your plant bowing and most of the times lanky, instead of growing straight. This can happen from both too much sun or lack of sun.
  • Burning. You’ll know because you’ll see the edge of the leaves turn brown / yellow. It’s as if you placed a paper on fire starting on the edge.
  • Dying. If you are not careful, your plants can die.

How to Harden Off Your Plants

There are a lot of ways to go about this, but the easiest one is to harden off the plants for a duration of at least 7 days.

But before that, there are a few things we need to clarify first:

  • The plant has to be in a pot. This can be our coconut husk pots or other pots. The key point here is that it has to be movable.
  • Outside area means the “permanent” place you will put your plant when they’re fully grown where there is sunlight and access to water.
  • Remember that when you first sowed the seeds, you don’t need the sun. You actually need moisture more. That is why we recommend storing your newly sowed seeds indoors, under your bed, or the basement if you have one.

Here’s how you do it:

  • Make sure the plant has its true leaves already.
  • On day 1, move the seedling outside (garden, open area, balcony) for one hour. After one hour, take them back inside.
  • On day 2, move the seedling to the outside area for two hours. After the two hours, take them back inside again.
  • Repeat until you reach 7 hours or a full week. If you want, do this until you reach 10 hours. That’s 10 full days.

That’s pretty much it. This is a technique our farmers use in provinces harden off their plants.

Please note that I didn’t include the things that you should also do to keep your plants healthy. One of which is to water them twice daily.

Finally, this isn’t a hard and fast rule. If it is scorching hot, you might want to stick to 2 hours a day for 3 straight days, before leaving them for 3 hours. The point is to introduce your plants to the elements slowly.

If you have questions about hardening, or about gardening in general, please don’t hesitate to comment below.

Markerly recently analyzed nearly 10,000 of the Vine users with the most followers—15,000 followers or more—and found the majority of them haven’t posted since last year. Their analysis, Ware says, represents a “mass exodus” of Vine’s most influential group of users.

Of course, it depends what you mean by influential. Indeed, some of the top Viners seem to have tired of the platform, and that’s a big deal. Much of Vine’s culture comes from popular and prolific Viners who publish videos to the site and often collaborate with one another. “hank you guys for two amazing years on vine but i feel bored with this app and i just don’t find it entertaining anymore,” a Viner who goes by the username 5sos keeks wrote in February. He had about 15,000 followers when he quit.

But a closer look at the broader Markerly analysis reveals a few caveats. At least one of the top accounts that the firm identified as having abandoned Vine, Nash Grier 2, was a secondary account used by a popular Viner who’s still active on the service. (“I used this account a lot before snapchat came out, now I post stuff on there!” he wrote.) So while Grier did drop one account in favor of Snapchat, he didn’t leave Vine altogether.

Other top users—like Zach King, who’s best known for sleekly edited Vines that result in trippy optical illusions—have, in fact, posted since Markerly’s analysis. (King hadn’t posted since January, which Markerly highlighted as a revealing absence, but King has since Vined twice in the last week.)

Markerly also didn’t analyze how frequently top accounts had posted in the months leading up to their hiatuses, so it’s hard to say whether the apparent drop-off represents a real change. In other words, maybe the accounts with tons of followers weren’t all that engaged to begin with. (In a follow-up mini-analysis, Markerly later told me, they got a snapshot of how engagement may have changed: Among 1,000 top profiles, only 35 new videos have been posted this year, and 12 of them came from the same account, the firm says. And among the accounts that have posted videos since January, many were averaging around one or two per month, compared with several per week in 2015.)

There are many other signs that Vine isn’t exactly thriving. Markerly’s analysis shows overall engagement—including video views, reposts, and likes—peaked in 2014, temporarily surged last year, and has declined ever since.

“More than 200 million people watch Vines across the web every month,” a Vine spokeswoman told me. But that number hasn’t changed since at least August of last year. (A year before that, in August 2014, some 100 million people watched Vines each month, according to the company.)

Vine barely came up in the latest earnings call for its parent company, Twitter, in April—though Anthony Noto, Twitter’s chief financial office, did call Vine a “foundational” acquisition that’s meant to create value for shareholders “now and into the future.” How exactly Vine will do that, however, is unclear. (It does appear to be hiring, at least: There are about a dozen job listings on the .)

What Caused Vine to Wither?

Social media has exploded since the mid-2000s, when Facebook began to rise to prominence. The social landscape changes every day, with old apps and platforms giving way to new technologies and services.

This was certainly the case for Vine, a Twitter-owned video-sharing service that appears to be on its way out the door. Although Vine was a once-popular and user-friendly app, some analysts say it was a bad match for Twitter.

How the Vine App Worked

Vine was arguably one of the easiest social media apps to use. A user could upload a video from a smartphone or other device directly to millions of Twitter and Vine followers. A popular Vine video or meme had the potential to make someone’s social media presence explode. Through Vine, more people were able to make connections and expand their networks, both on social media and in real life.

Vine videos were able to compress time so a single video could loop millions of times and generate billions of hits. Videos often referenced each other: One Vine could contain a cross reference to a dozen or so others. This kept viewers searching for similar videos and finding new ones to share with their networks.

A classic example is former “Mad TV” comedian Will Sasso’s series of Vine videos involving lemons. These individual Vine clips have all been combined into one YouTube video.

For a short time, this simple video-sharing service seemed like it might carve out a permanent niche.

Why Vine Worked

Before Vine, there was no quick or easy way to broadcast video. Apps such as Facebook Live and Periscope didn’t exist, and people who took video on their phones were concerned about data and messaging limits. In 2012, Twitter acquired Vine, which eventually had a six-second limit. This allowed users not only to broadcast video, but to focus on the most important parts of what they shared.

Even before the six-second limit, Vine was popular for its short-streaming video. The app was aimed at teenagers, who particularly enjoyed trends and memes. However, Vine expanded to include other demographics, including people in their 50s and 60s.

Michael Pachter, a 60-year-old financial analyst, used Vine regularly and built up a following there and on Twitter.

“You’d have to be a technological idiot not to be able to do it,” he told The New Yorker about shooting Vine videos.

Additionally, Vine was popular because it was perceived as fun.

“Vine is not a tool. It’s a toy,” Vine’s then-new general manager Hannah Donovan told Variety back in June.

Vine was the place to find a quick laugh in the form of pratfalls, potatoes spinning from ceiling fans, and other slapstick antics.

For a good example of how users worked within Vine’s parameters, see this simple video that features a cameo from “New Girl” actor Lamorne Morris. (Be sure to turn the sound on.)

As for Vine’s overall brand of comedy, Donovan admitted, “The witty, wordy comedy of Woody Allen or Will Stillman it was not.”

However, it did attract different type of users than those on Snapchat or Instagram, giving social media users yet another outlet to exert influence.

According to Casey Newton, a writer for The Verge, users also loved Vine because it provided a “creative challenge.” Vine “endlessly rewound itself,” causing people to think of new and unexpected ways to use it.

Newton added that Vine had an early advantage over other social video apps due to its ability to spawn popular memes and much-applauded “cultural moments.”

Why Vine Is Shutting Down

Vine was extremely popular circa 2013-14, so what caused it to die so quickly? One former executive cited other apps such as Instagram, saying Instagram Video was “the beginning of the end” for Vine.

Instagram

Instagram Video debuted 15-second video limits in 2013 and has since expanded to clips as long as 60 seconds. Users, especially celebrities, found Instagram Video much more flexible than Vine. Although Vine eventually tried offering extended videos, they never caught on.

Snapchat

Snapchat also played a role in killing Vine, as well. Snapchat allows users to send each other video clips individually and/or broadcast them publicly, while Vine videos were only for all users, and even non-users, to see.

Time allowances also made Snapchat superior: The platform allows 10-second clips rather than 6-second ones. Four extra seconds might not seem like much, but extra flexibility attracted users, just as Instagram did. It doesn’t hurt that Snapchat also has all of those face and voice filters to add some extra dimensions to any video.

Problems Behind the Scenes

Instability was another big issue for Vine. Managers consistently quit to pursue startups and other, more lucrative opportunities. In 2015, Twitter underwent massive layoffs, which involved firing Vine’s creative director. Gradually, Vine usage dropped.

Celebrities who once posted on Vine lobbied to be paid for using the app. However, the negotiations came to nothing. Celebrity users hoped to promote Vine videos the way they did Twitter posts and accounts, thus gaining followers. However, interest in Vine peaked around 2014. After that, it was difficult for celebrities, let alone average users, to generate significant followings.

In 2015, Twitter bought a social media talent agency in an attempt to save Vine. However, neither celebrities nor Vine and Twitter executives were interested in giving more money to a dying app. Additionally, Vine never offered its popular users options for reimbursement once negotiations stalled. Thus, they had little incentive to stick with Vine over other similar platforms. Vine never capitalized on its stars’ relationships with popular brands, thereby severely limiting itself.

Other Forms of Media that Contributed to Vine’s Demise

Although Instagram Video and Snapchat were seemingly the biggest threats to Vine, many other social media apps and forms of media played a part, too. Native Twitter videos are one such example.

Twitter Video

Unlike Vine, native Twitter videos are not a Twitter sub-service. The social media platform now offers more ways to attach and upload videos. With Vine, videos were mostly broadcast through phones. Meanwhile, Twitter now allows uploads and attachments from computers, tablets and several other types of devices.

Native Twitter videos have a maximum length of 2 minutes and 20 seconds, making them as much as 23 times longer than Vine videos. Twitter’s new limit gives users enough time for a quick instructional video, a miniature vlog entry, or even a sketch comedy routine. Native Twitter videos do not rely on pratfalls and endless looping to keep users engaged.

Unlike Vine, Twitter video uses auto-play similar to Facebook Live. Videos also begin playing as soon as users scroll over them in the feed. This draws the eye directly to the video and makes it more memorable.

GIFs

GIFs are another popular alternative to Vine. Although they lack audio, which Vine allowed, they communicate quick, memorable and often comical messages. GIFs usually start up easily and loop endlessly, so users can watch them as long as they like, over and over again.

Always have an Exit Strategy #CatsIn5Words pic.twitter.com/44DYdLjkoC

— Jeff Haz Black Cat (@Jeff_the_janito) November 7, 2016

Additionally, GIFs are often used to enhance text. That is, if you want to write a long blog post broken up with engaging pictures or memes, GIFs will most likely keep the audience’s attention. Some users have tried to use Vine videos in the same manner, but they just didn’t work out quite as smoothly.

YouTube

Finally, YouTube has been a primary alternative to Vine for years. YouTube has no length limit now, and depending on your editing capabilities, a YouTube video of much higher quality than a Vine or Twitter one. Additionally, YouTube offers features Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat cannot, such as the opportunity to create your own channel.

What Was the Major Culprit?

From all the options above, even though they all likely played a role in Vine’s demise, if we had to choose one, we would say GIFs are an unheralded major culprit. As mentioned earlier, for a short period of time, Twitter users were using Vine videos similar to GIFs. That craze eventually died down as users became more comfortable with finding and attaching GIFs, thanks to sites such as Giphy, while Vine videos eventually took on a different purpose.

Some outlets even claimed a couple of years ago that Vine would render GIFs obsolete, but that forecast seems laughable in retrospect.

The problem with using a Vine clip instead of a GIF is that the latter typically accentuates whatever statement the user is trying to make, while the Vine is more of a statement in itself. It doesn’t help that thousands of GIFs capture memorable scenes from some of our favorite movies and TV shows, while Vine mostly featured footage of sporting events as well as original user content.

One the popularity of GIFs was undoubtedly more sustainable on Twitter than that of Vine videos, and when the Vine social network itself began dropping off in activity, the writing was on the wall for the once-prominent video-sharing service. The evolution of human communication is fascinating thing to witness, eh?

But Wait … Is Vine Really Dead?

Just earlier this week, TechCrunch reported that Twitter is shopping Vine around to as many as 10 interested buyers, meaning the platform could survive after all. However, offers for the video-sharing service are reportedly falling short of $10 million, which is a sharp drop from the $30 million Twitter bought it for in 2012.

It is unclear whether Vine or apps like it will endure, or whether they will have a significant presence in social media in the future. In the meantime, users have more ways than ever to chronicle their lives through video and share their experiences.

What’s your favorite way of sharing video experiences online? Leave us a comment below.

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Who’s to blame for summer’s wilting squash plants?

Around now is when many gardeners — and perhaps you are among them — start complaining about their squash plants, about how they looked healthy, and then all of a sudden flagged and took a turn toward death.

You can deal with the problem — but mostly for next year.

The best time for action was earlier this season.

AND THE CULPRIT IS …

An insect called the “squash vine borer,” lodged in the stem, is responsible for your squash’s wilting. How that insect got there is a story that began in spring or early summer, when a pretty moth with an orange and black body crept out of the soil, stretched its coppery-green and clear wings, and looked around for a mate. She evidently found one, and soon after that sought out your squash plants.

Instead of squash, she also might have settled, in decreasing order of preference, for a gourd, cucumber or melon plant.

Upon finding a suitable plant, she proceeded to lay her fertilized eggs on the stems or leaf stalks near the base of the plant, eggs which, within a week, hatched into larvae. The larvae bored into the stems, and ate so much that there eventually was not enough stem tissue to conduct water to the leaves.

Voila! The leaves went limp, and that’s what grabbed your attention. Take a look at the base of the stem now, and you will see a hole out of which has poured some sawdustlike frass.

FIGHT OFF MS. WALSHIA

We can fight this pest in a few ways. Because the moth only lays eggs early in the season, late plantings never pick up larvae.

Thoroughly composting the infested stems also helps if it gets the larvae before they leave the stem to return to the soil, which they do after about six weeks of feeding.

Another approach is to turn the moth away before she ever lays an egg on a squash plant. A floating row cover — or any other lightweight mesh material — allows water, light and air to pass, but not Walshia micecolorella (that’s the moth’s real name). The covering is only needed early in the season, during egg-laying, and, anyway, needs to be removed later so that bees can pollinate the blossoms.

A physical barrier is 100 percent effective, but you could, instead, try repellents. Some gardeners claim that Ms. Walshia will avoid plants that reek of camphor, black pepper or turpentine.

Another line of defense is to kill the larvae. You can do that before they even get into the stem if you repeatedly dowse the base of the plant with an insecticide, such as rotenone, pyrethrin or, better because it is toxic specifically to that larva and its relatives, BTK. BTK is short for Bacillus thuringiensis subspecies karstaki, which you can pick up in the garden center under friendly names, such as Thuricide.

Once the larvae are in a stem, get at them with any of the above pesticides — or parasitic nematodes — by injecting the material into the stem near where you see the telltale hole and frass.

If you are the kind of gardener who prefers hand-to-hand combat with pests, rather than pesticidal or biological warfare, then make a lengthwise slit in the stem just big enough to find the larva, and stab it.

SOME EASY APPROACHES TO A SQUASH PROBLEM

My favorite method for dealing with Ms. Walshia is to keep my squashes happily growing in spite of her presence. I merely place bricks at intervals over portions of my squash’s trailing stems, inducing new roots to grow at those points.

Larvae only lodge in the portion of stem right near where the seedling originally emerged, so new roots growing farther along the stem can support the plant even if this oldest portion dies.

Not all squashes are equally susceptible to the squash vine borer. Butternut squashes (pear-shaped) generally are less susceptible than are buttercup squashes (turban-shaped).

Summer squashes are very susceptible to attack, and their stems do not stretch out enough to allow new roots to form along their length. No matter. By the time my summer squash plants have slumped, I am relieved. After all, how much zucchini can anyone eat?

Squash plant wilting bottom up?

From what I understand, squash generally don’t like being transplanted. So, the odds of it being stressed are high. It’s also likely that the soil may need more phosphorus and/or potassium.

Since transplanting can be hard on squash, it may be stunted if the squash were bothered particularly by the multiple transplants. I had a squash that seemed to be stunted from a transplant. Its roots seemed to be rotting when I finally pulled it up (although it had sufficient nutrients). It did not, however, have enough sun.

When it’s been a few days after the transplant, lots of sun should be good for your squash.

If there’s a fungal infection in your roots, I’m not sure how people generally recommend dealing with that, but I imagine something like copper might be able to help, since it’s anti-fungal. Here’s a link from a company’s website that I’ve shopped at, which seems to have great quality stuff (and free, fast, shipping). I haven’t tried their copper though.

It’s also possible, from what I see in the picture, that your squash got too much nitrogen. Did you fertilize it, or did the soil come pre-fertilized? That can cause some of the same problems as too little potassium (with the added feature of burning the leaves). Anyway, if this is the case, you can either wait it out, or give it some extra potassium. More potassium seems to allow plants to be able to handle more nitrogen. You may need to balance calcium with these nutrients, too, if you try that. Transplanting into high nitrogen soil can be hard on a plant. Extra potassium seems to help transplants go better.

Speaking of leaves dying from the bottom up, I have a few zucchini plants outside. They got powdery mildew on the older leaves, and since it was so late in the season and they weren’t producing fruit (probably because they’re in the shade), I decided just to pull them up. However, they didn’t die (they’ve been there about a week now). The leaves with powdery mildew, lower on the plant, died, and the top ones kept growing. One even grew a small zucchini (it never grew any before I pulled it up). They’re in very low-light conditions, which is probably why this is possible (sun on rooted plants kills them fast).

Anyway, because of this experience of mine, I wouldn’t be surprised if your squash is having some root difficulties. Both phosphorus and potassium should help to strengthen and encourage the roots.

You can always grow a new plant, too. I recommend starting it on your largest container first, if it’s a squash. I think germination rates may be improved in containers with smaller openings up top, though (and the soil on top shouldn’t mold as much). I’ve been trying out milk with just the screw-on part cut off (or a little below), and they work pretty well (much better than with the top half of the jug cut off so that lots of soil is showing). I’m doing peppers this way, though (not squash). If you planted a squash in a milk jug, it should probably be its final destination (since the roots may grow down the handle opening and have to be disturbed significantly to transplant). So, I’m just telling you this for illustrative purposes (since squash probably need more than a gallon, unless you’re just growing them for leaves to eat). Squash generally have edible leaves (but if they’re bitter, they may be toxic, being high in cucurbitacins). The only bitter squash leaves I’ve ever had were cotyledons, though (so, I don’t recommend those for sprouts).

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