22 April 2015

tied down

I used an actual bonsai training method learned from books to spread the crown of my geranium "tree". Tied bits of string from the branches to the base of pot, to pull them down, thus widen the top and open up the foliage. I'm starting to really like its looks.

21 April 2015

what?

I was happy to sow more seed, but the packet instructions for passionflower was all in Dutch and I foolish neglected to look anything up until after I put them in the greenhouse jug. Did it all wrong, apparently. Passionflower seed needs light to germinate so you don't cover it with soil, but keep warm and protected and it takes weeks to months to germinate, one article I read said up to a YEAR. Six months is apparently the norm. Once you've got it going and established outside it seems to be a fairly tough, interesting and attractive plant. I've seen one growing on a fence in a neighborhood I used to walk through- so I know it can survive the winter climate here. But a year- dang. That's going to be another plant to experiment with, and probably forget about.

Like all the other things I've tried to grow that did nothing: rose seed, citrus, rosemary, sweet potato (still want to try that again), mango... Oh and the thyme cuttings failed on me- half the rosemary ones are dead now too but I have a few left trying to remember to keep them moist enough.

I was surprised to find I don't have any sunflower seed mix or pole beans in my fridge anymore. So ordered a few packets from my favorite local seed company- they grow heirloom varieties for seed right here in Virginia!

20 April 2015

more seed

started today: three kinds of tomatoes- beefsteak, italian, brandywine and sweet cherry tomatoes; ancho peppers, bell peppers, tithonia, marigolds, and something new- passion flower. Yeah, I'm still doing the jugs. Not the prettiest thing to have sitting out on the deck, but it does give sturdy plants! I bought proper seed-starting mix this time, so it shouldn't get waterlogged and rot from richness like some of the earlier ones are doing (damping-off).

19 April 2015

haircut

gave my boston fern a little trim. I didn't cut it back across the top, but just removed some ends of the longest fronds that were hitting the ground even when it sits on this upturned-planter pedestal. It's got enough new growth on top I wanted the older fronds to be less droopy (from their own weight) and balance it visually somewhat.

18 April 2015

poinsettia

Still off-season as usual (if you go by cultural idea of when this plant should "bloom") but to my surprise it's got the fullest red bracket yet:
only on one part of the plant, though- the others are very sparse

rearranging

A few steps closer to what I hope the main aquarium will look like someday. (Quick picture above, will have to wait after dark to get a good one).
I trimmed the rotala across the back- uneven right now because I cut the tallest, leaning stems in half and replanted in bunches of three to fill it all in. Next time it reaches the surface I will just trim, and level it out.
Also moved the log over against right side, moved a few aponos that were behind it getting shaded, to the center area. It's surprising how how much the rotala stems were blocking light across the top- the tank looks so much brighter and open, with those few changes.

On another note, I have to figure out a new strategy for feeding the kuhlis. Or fix my trap. There's a small dent in the inverted top of my fish trap. It was amusing last week to watch the kuhlis go in, find their way out, go back in again to eat, over and over. It's making a difference! Sam is nearly as big as the black loaches now, and the smaller two are catching up to him in size. But not so amusing when a few days ago one of the cherry barb females figured out how to get into the trap. Three times in a row. Of course then she hogs all the food meant for the loaches. I didn't see her enter, figure she squeezed through the crease. Need to replace the cut-off bottle top of my trap.

17 April 2015

planting stuff!

I had the best time this recent tuesday, but didn't get a chance to post about it yet. It was a mild, cloudy day with light rain all afternoon. I spent most of it outside, getting muddy and sticking plants into the ground in B yard. I found another avid gardener nearby who has the most beautiful yard full of ferns. She was thinning out the plants in her beds that were sprawling runners beyond their boundaries, and I bought four containers full of dug plants to put in here.
The ones I wanted most are called sensitive fern (hardy, regardless of their name), she gave me a few other fern types as well.
I planted these around the base of trees in the back.
This plant I've often heard of but never grown myself, its columbine.
This one is an ornamental, flowering japanese sage:
Tiny delicate seedlings of lenten rose (also called hellebores)- another plant I've never grown. She tells me that a two-year-old plant of this in a five-inch pot goes for $16 at the local store- so even if a few of these survive to maturity I'll be pleased.
That's not all. I also got free some forsythia starts- little plants formed when a stem bent to the ground and rooted itself. Once before I just stuck stem cuttings into the ground, and they failed. I think these have a better chance of taking hold.
Most of the stuff looks barren here, the earth bald, the unimproved soil heavy clay. After these pics I added thick mulch of half-done compost, will keep feeding the plants and cross my fingers for them. They're all supposed to be pretty tough, so good chances.

emerging shoots

from houseplants I cut back recently- coleus
and schefflera is putting out both sprouts on the base of its main stem (which I rub off to shape it)
and branching shoots at the top

second pic here you can see another tiny shoot budding where petiole meets stem

16 April 2015

hygiene

I did thorough cleanup on the balcony today, in case it helps. Removed EVERYTHING, swept all the corners and rinsed them out with a swash of bleach water too. Made sure all the extra pots and planters were cleaned out and bleached, tidied up in general. I was kind of hoping to find a forgotten handful of leaf litter in a corner or bottom of a pot, as that can harbor spider mites (been reading some articles...) because that would mean although I'm to blame for having poor hygiene around my plants, I could fix it by keeping things cleaner. No such luck really. I did sweep up enough old dirt from corners to partly fill a dustpan, that's all.

Feeling glum about balcony prospects this year. The only plants out there now are the boston fern and funky little resurrection plant. They don't ever seem affected. Also still out here two planters that used to have oregano (regrowing) and lemon balm (looks dead), and the pots that had nicotiana last year. I can't quite bring myself to throw them out as well (but I probably should)- they didn't quite look sickly last season, and have seedlings coming up now. So I've got mostly empty pots, empty planters, empty space. Put some away so I don't have to look at them.

Plan of action is to mist the at-risk and infested plants with water daily (especially the parsley and pepper), spray again tomorrow or the day after with bleach solution and neem oil, repeat it all in a week. If anything still looks bad after all that, just throw it out. Not risk anything by putting houseplants outside again. I have been through this too many times.

Well, at least I have the B garden now... went over there this morning and happy to see all my transplants are thriving, the forsythia looks a bit taller already, shrub cuttings still green, even the lenten rose seedlings are opening up new leaves. It was cheering.

baby greens

The lettuce has grown so quickly, I spent some time the other day pricking out seedlings into individual pots. I have to say, even though I made some mistakes this year (planting in an enriched soil instead of using sterile seedling mix- duh why did I forget that one this time) and I don't get the best germination in these greenhouse jugs, what does grow thrives and I do get strong, stocky plants out of it.
I have potted up ten of each kind- a green leafy lettuce (its either romaine or ceasar, I forget)
and the paler, delicate simpson (these are all still grown from seed I bought and saved seven years ago!)
also one broccoli got a pot (there are five more in the jug still)
So many seedlings left over, I rinsed them off and the handful made a sweet, crispy mouthful.

the B garden plot

Here's my new raised garden bed. I built it in my boyfriend's yard this week- out of scrap lumber left by previous owners. It's pretty patched together- not all the pieces are straight or match up and I had to fill some gaps with small wedges. But it's sturdy enough to hold dirt!
I'm trying a method of no-dig prep called "lasagna gardening". There are lots of ways to do it, I just used what was available. First pulled up some grass to clear the area, but didn't spend a lot of effort rooting it all out (that's the point). Then I put down several layers of cardboard, a thin layer of last-year's leaves, lots of newspapers (dampened by the rain as I worked) a much thicker layer of leaf mulch and partly-done compost, topped with finer duff raked up from where a huge pile of leaves sat under the back trees for several years in a row. I know leaves can form mats and block water flow, and undone compost can steal nutrients from plants, but I also read about a lot of people using this method and just planting straight into the layers of stuff so we'll see if it works for me. It felt very fluffy while I was raking stuff level at different stages. It's going to have several weeks to settle before I actually plant anything (maybe give birds a chance to pick bugs out of the duff), and then I will add a final layer of compost on top.

Hm- I think I missed something- I should have put in greens. There will be tons soon with the first grass cutting, then maybe I'll pull off the top layer of leaves/duff and put grass clippings under. Should have thought of that. But it's a start!