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Orchid Supplies

If you own more than a dozen or so orchids and are planning to expand your collection, you will need to think about stocking some necessary tools and supplies so that you are prepared when it comes time to repot, fertilize and maintain your plants.

Here is our checklist of basic items:

Keep at least as many clay and plastic pots on hand as you have plants. These should be either new, or thoroughly cleaned and sterilized in a strong bleach solution to prevent the spread of virus, insects and disease.

Enough orchid potting medium for a year. Unless you purchase a ready to use potting mix, this would include tree fern, osmunda, redwood chips, fir bark, plus any special additives you may use such as charcoal, lava rock, sphagnum moss, as well as clean river rock or other small pebbles used for drainage. You can get small grade pebbles at your home improvement or garden center. They are sometimes sold in manageable one or two cubic foot bags.

An assortment of different sized plant stakes, metal clips, flexible plastic covered wire or string and blank labels. Tip: You can make your own labels by cutting up plastic bleach or milk bottles. Metal stakes and clips for some reason cost the earth. You can get bundled straight galvanized wire from any fencing company for very little money and make your own at a fraction of the astonishing prices you have to pay for the finished product. All you need is a vise and a pair of strong pliers.

Chemicals should include fertilizer, fungicide, insecticides to treat scale, mites and other critters that will make a meal of your prized orchids. A hand sprayer or hose attachment to distribute the stuff. Whenever possible, purchase chemicals that are approved for use on orchids. If you can not find products that list orchids on the label, but claim a remedy for your needs, always use the weakest recommended dosage. The reason for this is because orchid roots will absorb moisture on contact and may get an 'overdose' that will harm your plants.

Tools you must have include several quality grade needle nosed clippers. Believe me, one is not enough! You will also need a sharp knife, scissors, pliers and a hammer.

Other miscellaneous items such as a pail or deep plastic pan and several large buckets (to soak and rinse used pots). Plastic measuring cups and spoons. A lead pencil or permanent marker to label newly potted plants. A propane torch or other device to flame used tools. A match run over a blade is not enough. I have actually seen professional growers employ this useless method of "sterilizing" their cutting tools

Don't forget a towel or two to wipe the sweat from your brow (just kidding). A small rag or towel such as a facecloth comes in handy to gently wipe dust and chemical residue from the surface of orchid leaves.

All these items, tools and equipment should be kept together and handy in one area, perhaps a corner in your porch or garage if you don't have a greenhouse. Ideally you should have a workbench or counter with a deep sink, plus space underneath or nearby for easy access to your supplies. We converted an old metal house door to a work table and added a plastic laundry room sink and faucet next to it. Such an arrangement will make working with your orchids a pleasure rather than a chore.
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