23 January 2019

garden plans

I have looked over my past few years' garden layouts and the aerial satellite view of my neighborhood- realized immediately why my back lawn does so poorly in summer, and why my garden falters. It's not just because of the aphids, japanese beetles, and sometimes poor horticulture skills (I'm still learning). It's the trees! We have thick tree cover for all the property except one space just behind the house (where the lawn manages to do okay) and the front yard. No wonder my tomatoes always did better in large pots on the deck. The trees are great for keeping the house cooler, but...

Well in spite of that, I still have plans to start seeds early, build a second (small) coldframe and make two or three more garden beds. I sorted my seed packets today, made a rough map of where I will plant the tomatoes, leeks, cucumbers, swiss chard, parsley, green beans, carrots, beets and more from my fridge stash. Made decisions and placed orders with my three favorite seed companies: Uprising Seeds, Seed Savers Exchange and Southern Seed Exchange. I don't live in the same region as Uprising Seeds but the copy in their catalog is hilarious I just love reading it, and they have some herbs I didn't find elsewhere that I want to try. I've had poor luck with spinach, broccoli and cabbage in the past, but I want to eat more fresh greens so I'm going to attempt growing kale and collards this time.

Here's the seeds I just ordered, many new for me:

Crisp Mint Lettuce
Webb's Wonderful Lettuce
Slowbolt Looseleaf Lettuce
'Elite' Simpson Lettuce
'Strawberry Spinach' (Blitum capitatum)
Red Russian Kale
'Yellow Cabbage' Collards
'Alabama Blue' Collards
Leaf Beet Chard (aka 'perpetual spinach')
Tatsoi (asian green)
Mizuna (similar to arugula, milder)

'Healthy' sweet Peppers
Purple Top Globe Turnips
'Tender Grey' Zucchini

herbs and flowers:
'Magnus' Lovage
Epazote (aka mexican tea)
'Black Cumin' Nigella
Sculpit (Silene inflata)
Blue Fengugreek
Mentuccia Romana (it's similar to oregano)
'Old Spice' mix Sweet Peas
'Peach Screamer' Nicotiana

I also received as a gift from my sister these cutting flower seeds:
Amaranth 'Opopeo'
Globe Amaranth 'sunset'
Basil 'Aromatto'
Celosia 'supercrest'
Cosmos 'seashell'
Zinnia 'Benary's Giant Wine'

Spring will be exciting this year!!

17 January 2019

few notes

I realized the ferts I'm using for my tenner is a standard all-in-one, formulated for shrimp (which seems to just leave out copper). The same company makes another version specifically for low-tech tanks. Although this bottle has instructions on the back how much to dose for low-tech, I wondered if I it was too much. Maybe I should dose a bit less, even up to half the recommended amount? or do lighter water changes, instead of the 50% it's had for a long time? Making a conservative change, last week I dosed 3.5 ml of the ferts, whereas the usual was 4 ml. And what do you know- I think the plants look subtly improved at the end of the week- leaves on buce isabella are wider, richer in color, upper foliage on the rotala stems greener and some even have a tint of red. Today I did the same- fifty percent wc and then 3.5 ml of ferts dose. Short while later I saw some leaves on windelov pearling. The plant that's been doing shabby a while now. I'm going to keep with this for a few more weeks, maybe cut back another half ml, see how it goes. Pleased to think my windelov might not die after all!

Some more plants came loose in my 45 again, from where they were tied down- one of the smaller anubias, two buce 'brownie ghost', a buce 'green wavy', a vallisneria uprooted. I'll have a bit of replanting tying to do again on maint day- which stresses out the angel. He's very chill now when I walk in the hall or move around the tank, but doing work inside the tank or lifting up driftwood pieces still freaks him out.

The four new tetras still look great in QT. I can't wait to move them in and finally take down that extra tank.

Window tank is- a bit murky. Paradise fishes look better- I'm still feeding them lightly. Tank glass got a lot more soft brown algae this week- not sure why. Maybe because I fed Perry and Lady several red wigglers that showed up from my boston fern? I have the pot on old pot shards over tray of water, and mist it every other day, but not actually watering the soil much. Some worms began emerging out of the dry soil and swimming around in the tray- seeking moisture. I rinsed them off and gave to the paradise fishes, but neglected to 'clean' the worms out- I used to keep them overnight in a container so they'd void a lot first. I didn't this time, and perhaps it added too much organics to the tank- paradise fishes seem fine but there is definitely more algae, water looks a bit tinted, and some film on the surface. Cleaned the glass today, rubbed some algae off leaves. I did feed them worms two or three times- one each- so . . . oops.

12 January 2019

slightly different look

in my 45. On maintenance day I rearranged a few of the plants again.
the main change was that I tied all the anubias barteria onto the larger mopani pieces- new among old
the three anubias afzelii I put on smaller pieces because with their narrower, upright leaves I think they look better situated lower.
saw that I had one buce 'blue belle' among the buce 'isabella'- it has slightly wider leaves. I put it on its own mopani anchor
I took the trouble to lift out the largest driftwood piece and tie the other anubias rhizomes on here more firmly. I'm not sure if these are another version of barteri (or congensis? in the middle) or if they just have longer stems because were reaching higher for the light before.
my angel seems to like the plants- acting much bolder lately-
in fact perhaps he likes them too much- I found out why my water wisteria has been looking bad. It's not just melt. When the angelfish is hungry he tears at this plant.
I watched him ripping the leaves. I started skipping feeding once a week, on days I do the water change. They seem okay with it now- although act hungry- wiggling around for my attention a lot more!  M. Beautiful now has two little spots just to the right top of his first stripe-
Incidentally, since I changed out the container my crypt balansae and aponogeton grow in, suddenly my kuli loach Albert is visible just as frequently as the others. I wonder if something about that makeshift strawberry basket container made him feel unwell? or if he really liked hiding under it. But I'm glad to see him again, dashing about just as avidly as the others at feeding time.


in the cold but brightly lit spot, sheltered now with cardboard panels (double at night) against the sliding glass door, I have only a few plants wintering now. The two little rue I started from cuttings both have a lot more young leaves now (all the original leaves yellowed and dropped off). Incidentally, the parent rue plant I have outside is starting to look a bit shabby. It's lower stems are turning white. I don't know if this is normal, or sign of a problem.
Stevia looks rather sad, but at least it's alive. Behind it, my pot of ginger root finally went dormant.
I missed one of the caterpillars. Stevia leaf is harboring a cocoon. Tempted to let it hatch out in spring and see what kind of moth (or butterly), but it's one that would just eat my plants again, so...

11 January 2019

a few more indoor things

Very pleased that my salad burnet has revived from the pest it had when outdoors- it actually looks better now than it did all summer. Soap rinsings and a predatory insect saved it.
I've potted up the other cuttings of sweet potato vine that had been rooting in water, and moved the mini geranium scion into a larger pot (actually four stems in there).
One of the pieces of thanksgiving cactus I brought home from my grandmother's died- its base rotted. I'm hopeful for the others, trying to keep them dry enough (resist watering!)
my lovely little blue-green succulents have grown more-
the Leaf has done nothing yet (at least, nothing visible)
My reconfigured spider plant seems to be improving. One part of it- on the right- is still too pale and droopy- but the other parts are perking up and color is better
and I found a tiny sprout coming up from one of the rhizome pieces!

balm leaves

My little indoor lemon balm has grown a few new leaves.
It's starting to look like a decent plant! I have it in a warm, sunny spot tucked between the cuban oregano and french tarragon against the sliding glass door, by a heat vent. At night I move it to the other side of the plant shelf away from the draft. I'm still using last summers' frozen leaves for my evening tea- I won't harvest from this little plant until end of the year- if it's grown enough then I just might have fresh leaves all next winter. Except by then of course it might be too big for the limited space- have to see!

10 January 2019

more 45 pics

I added a few plants to my 45 the other day. Went to the LFS in the next town, they didn't have any fish I wanted so I bought two live plants (to support a local buisness). They're weighed down in the middle for now.
 It's just anubias barteri, but looks far nicer than any of the barteri I already had. Are my conditions not so great, that this one looks perfect next to my older anubias..?
my best clump of java fern in the front corner
the rest, on the other side-
vallisneria in the planter basket
buce 'brownie ghost' retied onto a piece of driftwood
buce 'isabella'- has a tiny new sprig of leaves growing from one of the roots!
buce 'green wavy' is on two small pieces of wood
and the little bit of buce 'emerald green' on this even smaller one
quick short end shot, from above angle- can see the water has more tannins since I sawed some mopani pieces and didn't boil them again
other short end, from low angle-
it's all going to get rearranged soon (that's the plan) and already two vals, a few buces and one anubias have come loose from their mopani anchors. I'll probably retie them in a few days when I put my hands in the tank for maintenance again.

schefflera flowers

are a lot like dracanea
mine have finally opened!
now they are dropping petal bits and pollen on my windowsill and floor, but I don't mind cleaning up after this rare occurance. (Prior pic).

09 January 2019

going downhill?

I come to a conclusion that my tenner is not doing so well on this newer all-in-one fertilizer I've been using. The downhill trend has been so gradual I haven't paid much attention to it. Maybe it's a change I did to the lights a while back and then failed to watch the plant response closely? Whichever, my windelov fern is definitely struggling- even though it keeps sending out new fiddleheads
the leaves continue to look pale and are disintegrating faster than they grow. Not sure if the light is too much, if it can't compete with other plants for the ferts, or if it's not absorbing the kind of iron in Thrive??
My buces, I keep thinking they look great- but all the new leaves are getting picked at by the shrimps I guess. Some leaves on the little crypt willisii also getting picked apart.
These buce look fine until you look close- the lower leaves have ominous black edges (onset of BBA?)
My buces on top of the skull look better because last week I cut off some of the lower leaves that were starting to show algae. Anbias has some black algae spots on a few leaves, too. Rotalas in the background are starting to look unwell.
These stems I moved in from the defunct 38 are doing okay so far- and there to the right w/narrow leaves is the ludwigia arcuata. Maybe it was changing the filter sponge that made things falter. Or that I didn't replace leaf litter when it all finally disappeared, so the hungry shrimps are tearing up young leaves? I put more leaf litter in yesterday.
Also it looks like my tank seams are disintegrating. I don't remember ever scraping or gouging the silicone, but there's been black marks on it for a long time and the shrimps pick at it now. Are they slowly picking it away? in some areas it's very thin with these degraded areas. It's only four and a half years old (the tank)- I bought it brand new so would think the seams to last longer than this.

new thing!

I'm so excited about this I'm checking the tank and taking pictures daily, almost as thrilled as when I found catfish fry. There is a bright green shoot unfurling behind the row of anubias nana in my window tank. I first saw it on monday, in the evening:
First I thought something had fallen in the tank. Looking closer I saw it was very pale green, and appeared to be curled up, with a point.
It took me a minute to realize: it must be from the crypt cordata. Whose newest leaf continues to look incredibly healthy, by the way.
The plant has sent out a runner and is sprouting a new scion halfway across the width of the tank. Fantastic! I know it must be happy to send out new growth like this, and in the dead of winter no less (average tank temp is 65° right now). Pics from the past two days:
There will be more coming!

four new tetras

A few days ago my QT tank cycled- at least I thought it had,
so I did the big wc and got four more black skirt tetras from a different chain pet store, next town over. I don't go to this store often because it's far, but I've always had healthy fish from them. These new tetras are half the size of my first six, and they are not shy at all. Full colors and hanging around the front of the tank eager for me to feed them on day one. I surmise they have been treated well.
They looked so good I didn't think to test the water that day, but did yesterday. Yikes, a nitrite spike. Small amount of ammonia- less than 0.25 ppm but still discernable. I did a 40%wc last night, and another this morning. Nitrites are not quite as high today, and ammonia is 0 so I think it will be okay as long as I keep close tabs on the tank for now, probably with daily partial wc for a while.

Here's the six they will be joining soon


After a month in a water jar that gets changed daily,
my two remaining philodendron cuttings are finally sprouting new white roots! I will let them grow out a bit before returning to the angel tank.