28 November 2016

riches of dead leaves

I have finished processing all the dead leaves in the yard (well, eighty to ninety percent- our maple tree is still holding onto some that might come down later, and the neighbors' sycamore tree keeps dropping leaves into our yard too) for mulch and composting.
It is quite a task, but a very satisfying way to wrap up the gardening season. I have a leaf-eating machine; my husband bought it several years ago and this is the third season I have used it. I've gotten more efficient at shredding the leaves up. This is a chore with very particular timing- it doesn't work well if the leaves are wet, it's annoying to do if windy (leaf dust blown in my face) and I don't like to do it when the children are around- very loud, kicks random bits of bark or twig out that I miss when sifting the leaves- I wear protective goggles but have gotten my cheek nicked a few times- plus I'm afraid a curious child might throw something in there to see what the machine will eat, and really it can only handle leaves- I have to sift each handful to pull out small twigs, even the heavier petioles of sycamore leaves will snarl it up.

So sometimes it's hard to find the time to grind the leaves. This year I made the effort to gather them as often as I could, into huge piles the kids like jumping in, and also into my wheelbarrow and plastic bins, which I stored under the deck and some old carpeting to stay relatively dry until it was time to shred them. Unfortunately I think I burned out the motor of the shredder. I was just finishing up the last leaf pile and it started to make a high pitched whine and a terrible smell. I shut it down and just bagged the remainder of the leaves, let the motor rest for the day but I'm not sure if it will work again. It's possible there was too much dirt and thatch in the last lot of leaves I raked off the lawn, which has been too dry this year...
Have a good dozen bags of leaf mulch saved under the deck now, for composting throughout the coming year. I applied a lot more to the yard immediately- around all the trees, all plants in the beds, mailbox spot, new shrubs- rhodies, summersweet and hydrangeas got an extra thick layer. Two or three inches thick across all the veggie beds. You can see there is still some green life- broccoli on the left, a few herbs (parsley, thyme, oregano, sage) on the right and some swiss chard. In the upper picture, borage is still making a statement, and my tiny rosemary is still alive. Speaking of what's still green, there is argyranthemum making green lacy shapes, hellebores nice dark green, and sage pretty blue-green in their various spots and containers. I am seriously considering planting a lot of sage next year, just to have more greenery in the yard when it gets cold, and spreading the argyranthemum if I can. Hellebores grow slowly, it will be longer before I have more of them.

plant report

I'm pleasantly surprised with some of my newer aquarium plant acquisitions.
Pretty little marsilea hirsuta has kept its lobed leaf shape. I was really expecting that the new growth would have single-lobed leaves, but they don't. Look like tiny green hands reaching up. New white roots below. Recovering faster in my tenner (those shown here) but the ones in a big tank are showing some new growth, too.
Aponogeton capuronii is growing fast! Already each side of the bulb has six to eight new leaves- the biggest is here curving across the top of the picture, it is already a third the height of the tank. I thought the new roots would grow from the base of the bulb; they grew from the base of the crown. So I guess if I'd wanted to reduce the plant's height by a half inch or so, I should have left it lying sideways!

27 November 2016

mini geranium

summer growth
sitting outside with that unknown 'weed' that morphs its shape
I've cut it back and it is growing in again nicely now.

unknown plant

I'm still harboring an unknown in my house, this plant which is probably a weed.
I just like the look of its foliage, and find it interesting how the leaf shape changes through its growing stages, although I know this is common to lots of plants. I found more of this growing in my backyard, but haven't dug up any more of it.

26 November 2016

my ferns

they are none too happy now that the air is dry and cold. Boston Fern did not do well outside this year. I think the summer was too hot for it, I should have misted it more. It never grew nice big fronds. And then it got chilled before I realized. It's only doing marginally better now.
I have been giving it and the bird's nest fern 'spa' days in the steamy bathroom.
Fern leaves overlapping. Unfortunately this shows how my ferns have suffered- leaf margins burnt and dry, bit of spiderwebbing on the boston fern from its time outside...
The fern that is not a fern, foxtail fern, is doing well!

25 November 2016

thirty-eight angles

If I take the photo from a slight angle to the right, I don't get reflections in the glass as much. But it looks odd having focus on the grassy corner, and not seeing the bacopas as much on the other end.
Photo from a different angle-
Here's the short side with driftwood log. Very thinned out with some vallisneria removed, other plants are filling in more now.
Other short side with the bacopa short now from being trimmed and replanted recently. Micromeria just behind it.

23 November 2016

zygo buds

My thanksgiving cactus is living up to its name. Yesterday I noticed this!
I have not given it any special attention, in fact the whole plant is a little bit dusty...
I can see where it would be easy to break pieces off and start a new plant- the rootlets are extending.

20 November 2016

in the thirty-eight

Here's my new plants settling in. You can see watersprite is floating in the right upper corner, and it looks different too with the the bacopa trimmed back and replanted on that same side. Most of the crypts have melting leaves, but are showing new growth already too:
Aponogeton capuronii- I'm afraid this thing is going to be a beautiful monster. I read that max size was 20-40" so I was hoping I could keep it in my tank while taking off the older leaves to keep it in check- like I currently do with the apono crispus. However the size of this bulb is easily five times over the size of my apono crispus' bulbs- it's huge! I propped it up with a few stones until it starts rooting. It appears to have two crowns growing out of it, so it might be possible to split the bulb... You can see capuronii is already putting out new leaves- I like that they have a olive-green hue which might balance out the darker leaves I have in opposite corner with my crypt wendtii and the new crypt balansae.
I've got the new crypt balansae and three crypt retrospiralis planted in the corner behind the vallisneria. Trying to replace most of my vals with crypts as I am getting tired of thinning out the little runners all the time. Right now I think this corner looks rather pretty with the mixed types of long, slender leaves. It was a bit difficult to get the retrospiralis to stay down without burying their rhizomes. I finally pegged one down with a plastic strip that used to hold watersprite in place, put a small stone over another and sprinkled a handful of substrate over the third. You can see the crypt balasae better in a corner shot I took of the full tank- going to put that up in next post this one is getting long already.
These two tall plants kind of curving towards each other with the white base (like an onion) are crypt willisii var 'lucens'. Already a new leaf is emerging- see left side of the left plant- I'm waiting to see what the size is on that. If they stay shorter I might move them a little more to the foreground.
Crypt becketti 'petchii'- this one is kind of hard to show. I have two of them, one either side of the tank mid-ground. They each had a few long olive-green leaves which are quickly melting away. Here's one in front of the hygro/rotala patch.
Central of the second pic, just below the stones propping up capuronii, is a new leaf emerging on crypt petchii. Can't quite make it out in this image, but it has nice alternating color on the leaf margins- I think it will be a pretty plant, and it's one I've wanted to try in here for a while.
Crypt parva- it's hard keeping these down in the substrate. You can see all the mts moving in to eat the melting plant parts. New bright leaf tips coming up!
Here's another pic of that- I've got it alongside the driftwood log and in a few areas of the mid-foreground.
Marsilea hirsuta- this stuff is delicately pretty but such a mess right now. I hope it does okay planted rather deep, because no other way I can keep it down. Over half of it floated loose in the first week- fish might also be culprits as I saw a male barb tugging experimentally at a fading leaf. I replanted a bunch of it yesterday, but whatever is still coming loose in another week I will probably just discard, as long as the stuff that stays down is showing new growth to recover.
Micromeria- this one hasn't really shown any melt yet. I am not too expectant of it, as it all died on me before. It would be nice to have some more rounded leaf shapes in the tank, but I'm not betting on it. Speaking of round shapes, you can't really see the echinodorus in here anymore- the one I thought was a melon sword- I cut off a lot of older leaves that were looking poorly. Either it is really slow to adjust or didn't like getting moved- I have shifted it twice. Gave it an extra root tab but I'm not sure if it's happy yet. At least it is no longer coming loose from the substrate, seems to be rooting down and holding on better...
Flame moss- um, this one was an impulse buy and I am not really sure I should have got it. It looks so pretty in pictures with the gently spiraling stems of tiny plant hairs reaching up. But honestly, I have never done so well with moss. Gave up on java moss long ago, and the fissidens in my tanks is still not looking so good- it gets algae and debris stuck in it... but oh well, I am giving it a try. I fastened some onto an upturned plant basket with netting- you can see here already it is growing up through the net. Also put a few clumps tied down on stones and then sold off the remainder, as I didn't really know what to do with it all.
Bolbitis fern you can barely see in here. It is dead center of the picture. I love the color of it- kind of like subwassertang- but not sure at all how it will do. I've read various reports- for some people it does best rooted on wood, for others in the substrate. I tied some on my log, and tied a few other pieces alongside pebbles to hold them resting on the substrate until they might root out.
Here's another pic of it- again in the center of the image, so small!

Well that's it for new plant pictures, phew! More updates coming as they grow. Now that the garden is at rest outside, I'm paying more attention to the underwater garden indoors... so expect to see a lot more of that.

in the tenner

I didn't put many of the new plants in my smaller betta tank. Most would just get too big.
A few small bunches of the marsilea hirsuta
and a handful of crypt parva. I also tucked some flame moss into crevices on the log (quite a bit of it came loose again already) and dropped in one stone with moss tied on it.
Here's the new look- pretty untidy along the bottom now, but at least the plants are staying in place (unlike my thirty-eight, where the kuhlis and barbs are uprooting the clover). A few other bits of plants got introduced yesterday. While cleaning my main tank, some things got caught up by the siphon-
a fragment of subwassertang which I dropped into the jar (it just has tiny bits in it now as I sold this handful) a piece of buce rhizome with a tiny leaf on it, far too small to try and tie onto something, and a small mush of rhizome with a bit of green which I think is a piece of the bolbitis fern. I dropped the buce and bolbitis bits into the tenner- in the big tank they would probably get sucked up by the filter and lost. Here if they grow I will eventually notice them again- and then likely move the bolbitis back....

Speaking of filters, I have come to the conclusion that it isn't rotting wood causing all this mulm in my tenner. At least, not entirely. The new wood isn't getting soft, but there is just as much mulm to siphon out every week. Either I have too many snails in here pooping, or the sponge filter just doesn't pick up stuff well, even with the increased flow. I am trying to be more diligent about gently stirring things up off the substrate level when I siphon out the tank, to keep it cleaner.

new plants!

These actually came in a week ago- but I simply had no time to write up a post about it. I have a running list now of plants that can do well in low tech tanks, that I would like to try in mine. And I decided to get some. I made a purchase from PlantedAquariumsCentral. There were two in the box that I especially looked forward to getting, but the first doesn't look like much yet:
Aponogeton capuronii bulb. It is another kind of ruffled sword, with darker olive-green leaves and deeper crinkles to the leaf margins.
I got a variety of crypts- cryptocoryne balansae- tall and ruffly
Crypt retrospiralis
Crypt willisii 'lucens'- this one I was surprised how long the leaves are. In pictures I've seen, it has a grassy appearance. I guess the new growth will be shorter, after it transitions.
Crypt becketti 'petchii'- this one also has taller leaves than I expected, but I remember how leggy my wendetii looked when I first got it, and wait for it to adjust.
Crypt parva- this is a little one, came in a dense cluster.
I teased it out into individual little crowns so to plant them spaced out from each other.
Also got Marsilea hirsuta or dwarf four-leaf clover- but it won't look like this for long. I've read that in low tech or low light conditions it has single-lobed leaves. Still, I hope it will be pretty.
This one almost made me laugh when I unwrapped it- because I've had it before! It's Micromeria Brownei, commonly called creeping charlie (not the same species I've known by that name as a houseplant). Almost a year ago I did a plant swap and received some stems that weren't labeled. I didn't know what they were, all this time. And they died on me. It was this plant. Looked different in the picture online, but the moment it was in my hand I knew it was the same one. Well, my tank is in a bit better shape now, let's see if it grows for me this time around.
And here are my two dubious ones- Flame Moss. I am not very good with mosses, so far. This one looks really appealing, but once it was here I felt a bit unsure what to do with it. I tied some down on a basket, and other bits on rock and driftwood- you'll see tomorrow.
This last one was really the reason for the entire order- I got eager in choosing the rest of them- but also was the only disappointment when I opened the box. It is bolbitis heudelotii, or african water fern. I have wanted to get this plant for quite some time now. I look for it frequently on the planted tank forums. There are always lots of other people looking for it, too- and when it is up for sale, it's usually quite large portions, way more than I could use. Several times I've asked if I could buy half a lot, but I was always too late... so I finally just ordered online from this aquatic plant supplier.

All the other plants in my package were impressively healthy looking, nice full pots, nice tall plants, an extra rhizome or two. But the bolbitis is a lot smaller than I expected- it's tiny. And its rhizomes feel soft, not firm. If this is the one plant that dies on me, I will be sad (although heck, it could just be my tank is not fit for it).