31 May 2017

final seedlings

Not all of the last batch of seedlings I started have done well.
I got a few parsley (good, because the mature biannual plants in the garden are trying to set seed so I need new young plants).
The tray I had labeled with peppers instead sprouted these which look like cosmos?

Other things I tried to grow, like -on a long shot- seeds collected years ago off my mother's ornamental cedar, and others off a shrub overgrowing a sidewalk one time, did nothing.

tiny windelov fern

Found this one drifting around my betta tank, I was going to pluck it out and put it in the windowsill jar with the others to grow out. But then noticed it was snagged onto the end of driftwood where the bits of flame moss grow. So I left it there, where it found its own resting place, to see how it does. It would grow too big eventually in that spot, but maybe by that time I would want to rearrange the driftwood, or pluck it off and replant elsewhere...

30 May 2017


I have them planted among the tomatoes, this year. I always try to spread the seed out evenly, but there end up many clumped too close together. This time I took a butter knife and carefully wedged out the larger, more developed seedlings that were crowded, and managed to transplant them to new, open spots on a very rainy day, pressing immediately into a new crevice in the soil. They took hold and I don't think I lost a single one. (Smallest of the crowded plants simply pulled and composted, I can't save them all).

sensitive fern

sedum ring

pretty yellow flowers (shown here from two weeks ago, just budding)
now completely shield view of the stump from the street

29 May 2017

arugula flowers

Here's the bolting arugula in my garden. I found out that this is one leafy green you can keep eating after it bolts- it's natural bitterness doesn't get any worse. I'm not crazy about it, but my husband likes it, and mixed with the milder simpson and little ceasar lettuce, or with store-bought spinach now that my other leafy greens are growing sky-high to flower, I like it okay.
And the little white flowers it makes are kind of pretty.
I don't really need any seed to save from this plant- still have plenty from the first packet, so I've cut some to bring in the house.
I was so intrigued with their delicate beauty, took quite a few close-ups
The veins in the petals have a faintly purple hue
I'm keeping a little vase of it on my desk. They don't last long- start to wilt after a few days- but then I just cut more, for the time being.


Finally have got them all
planted out into my mailbox spot. I do think I mis-timed the seedlings this year, the plants are small but already forming buds. Maybe I should pinch their heads off and see if they grow taller before making flowers again?
They share the space with blooming dianthus
small but lovely- I was going to divide it this spring and found it wasn't making offshoots yet so hastily replanted-
and one borage plant, grown huge! I have found that borage doesn't just deter squirrels and chipmunks- the dogs don't seem to like its smell, either. Since I planted the borage, dogs out on walks just pass by my mailbox spot. They don't pause to sniff, pee and scuff around anymore. Fine by me!
The celosia are definitely fertile- I found lots of volunteer seedlings both in this area and through the garden where seed must have carried through in the compost. I dug up some of the bigger ones and replanted them in the deck box
that used to have cilantro
(last batch of it eaten in a salad, before it bolted)
whose stems are still in there- I didn't uproot them. If as I expect, these late-grown celosia volunteers stay small, they might look nice flowering in this box.
They recovered pretty well from the rough transplant.
When I was plucking the volunteers out of the garden, this one almost snuck its way into favor- an opportunistic tree seedling.

final planting out

One of them, at least. I still have tithonia and a few late seedlings to go. Here's the bigger sun-lovers that went into my back planting bed:
butternut squash
zucchini. I only have two of these, so don't know if they will manage to fertilize each other... Also planted out the okra-
and cucumbers into the garden space. It's a long shot, putting these in the back area. It hasn't had as much bug control or compost feedings, and I don't check on it as often being further from the house and full mostly of plants I expect to take care of themselves.

Everything was doing fine until yesterday I noticed my cantaloupe plants are getting eaten. Not sure if it was slugs and then pill bugs moved in, but pill bugs were all over them munching.

28 May 2017

serpaes- another shuffle

I've had to move my fishes around again. Two of the older serpaes in the main tank have been looking poorly lately- paler than the others and hiding. The one with bulging eyes is starting to look very thin, it does come out to feed but at the very end when there's not much left. The one missing an eye still had good color, but hid behind the driftwood almost constantly. I'd see it come out after dark, but it would just hang still in a corner of the tank, not interacting with other fish or coming to eat. It must have fed at some point because wasn't emaciated like the other one... So the other day while doing tank maintenance I saw the one-eyed fish laying on its side under some plants. Did not look good at all. I nudged it and it scooted a short distance, hung up in some stems head down gasping. It was so listless I practically caught it with my hand. I was debating whether to euthanize right then- I've never had fish doing this badly recover, and I don't know what's really wrong with it anyway- so for the time being I gently put it in a small bucket of tank water with plant trimmings, put a towel over the bucket to shield it, and left it there while I went on working. The fish didn't make it. I buried it under the forsythia- that is becoming my burial tree.

Meanwhile thought I ought to catch the skinny one with popeye, to see if I could treat it. I gave it an epsom salt bath and moved it into QT. There were four new serpae tetras in QT- I've had them almost a week now. They are younger, smaller than my adopted tetras, and curiously have distinguishing marks. On the first six, the spot near the eye is oblong, a flame shape. On these newer fish, is a small faded blot, almost just a dot. I wonder if all the individuals from that certain spawning have this smaller mark, or will it change when they grow up. Of these new four, one I got from PSmart- it was in the "adoption" tank for a dollar, but looked so much healthier than the gang they had in the sales tank I got this one. The other three came from Congressional, a lfs that is a forty-minute drive away, just over the boarder into Maryland. I don't go there often but it is a real treat- that place is well-maintained with beautiful tanks and a wide variety of great-looking fish.

So these four were settling in, a bit nervous still, I've kept a bit of cloth draped across the back. Same day that I lost Blank and took the popeyed tetra out of the main tank, I saw that the two smaller ones in QT were getting beat up by the bigger two- chunks out of their dorsal and tail fins. Sigh. It reminds me of when I tried to get otocinclus- they would always die in quarantine because I couldn't keep enough algae going to feed them. How can I keep these fish in QT where they get harassed so? I thought four would be enough to have a relatively peaceful space, but no. They all have great color, though.
So- I swapped them. Moved the bigger two young serpaes into the main tank, and put the popeyed skinny older one into QT. Now there's three in QT- one loosing weight and bulging eyes I'm not sure how to treat but figure extra clean water can't hurt so I'm doing daily 25% wc. The two new ones I hope to see their fins grow back before I introduce them into the main. In that regard, the fiesty pair I put in there are doing great. They're quick enough to avoid getting injured by the bigger fish asserting themselves, but can't bully anyone else now, ha. So I see lots of chasing but no damaged fins. And once again I feel like I'm seeing relief of an influence of fear- I have the same number of fish in here, six.
And suddenly I see all my fish again. None are hiding now the sick ones are out of here- up until now they mostly hung out in the back under the aponogetons during the day, coming out to feed and in the dawn/dusk hours. I was beginning to think this species just doesn't like bright light. But now that the individuals have been shuffled around, if I look at the tank from across the room, I often see four, five, six fish out and about in the open. If I walk up they move quickly back into hiding, but are far more confident now. It's nice to see them!

They're starting to learn, too. One will come up to investigate when I open the lid. I'm teaching a signal- I do a gentle repeated tap on the support bar of the frame just before feeding. Most of them come out of hiding at that signal, now. They are kind of picky about food, though. I found the refusal of dandelion leaf was just because it had been in the fridge a few days- next time I offered that fresh prepared from the garden and it was gobbled up. Today I offered them aphids and other assorted tiny bugs from the garden- however the insects had been in the fridge a few days (cold enough to start a film of ice, so still ok in terms of freshness I think). The serpaes bit and spit, didn't really seem to like the bugs this time. I dumped a clump of the same bugs in the window tank next door, and those cherry barbs swarmed all over it in a flash. They don't refuse anything!

I have noticed one downside to feeding so much fresh foods, though. The suction cups holding heaters and things onto the back tank wall have gotten awfully scummy with that white biofilm- in every tank. The betta tank especially- he is getting more live food right now, too. It's ugly.

27 May 2017

mints for tea

Mint plants growing like crazy, now.
I don't use the spearmint nearly as much as I ought to- in fact this year I took a ton of cuttings and stuck them in a jar on the stump by my vegetable garden- read somewhere that the scent of it deters some of the pests. Well, even if it doesn't, makes a lovely scent to enjoy while I'm working.
My favorite is still by far the chocolate mint-
I often make it for morning tea with honey,
to give my poor stevia a break- the usual sweetener for my coffee. But it seems to be doing poorly, now. I'm not sure if it's cold damage because I put it outside too soon (it really likes heat)
or insect caused- I'd hate for it to have the plant virus... but the newer foliage on top seems okay however I need to let it grow out some before use much more.


My african violets have been blooming this past month- at least, one has. And my daughter's purple one. The one I have on the left here, which I am still hoping is a purple one, never yet flowered for me. Its foliage is in very nice condition. The one on the right accidentally got knocked on the floor- so it has some broken leaves, some paleness from a bit too much light, some cat hairs stuck on it and water drop marks (too near the fish tank), missing some soil from the spill I forgot to replenish- yet this one flowers. Holds true to what I liked about them so very long ago: they bloom in adversity.

26 May 2017

my big jade plant

is still alive, surprisingly. Several weeks ago I gave up trying to kill the aphids on it, but couldn't bear to throw the plant away. Stuck it outside on the deck in a corner. Forgot about it for a while. It only gets rain. Sun scorched for a while, recovered from that. Then I started dropping spiders on it. If I catch one in the house. Wolf spiders, small jumping spiders that hunt. I don't see them again- except for one tiny one with a furry gray and while face that looks like a little ewok, that bitty one hangs around the deck planter boxes. Jade plant seems to be doing better now- it has fewer leaves puckering and falling off, and more new growth. I don't see nearly as many aphids on it. I'm game to leaving it out here where the garden predators can help out, but wonder if bringing it back inside in fall will just make the problem crop up again in the shelter of indoors...
I had to throw away two of those overwintered pepper plants, from disease. Still have this oldest one .... Also into the trash due to insect-caused disease: over half my young celosia plants,
and two-thirds of the sweet potato vine cuttings. This bunch of it I'm keeping in a pot, is doing okay so far- you can see on the far right some puckered leaves that had that look of insect damage- I pinched them off and the withering has not spread. There's another pot of it on the porch that looks much worse- but I think I found the culprit today- I'd been looking for aphids and whitefly on undersides, but instead found a leafhopper bug.

Saddest of all, I no longer have any pretty ginger. I think it dried up in the winter- I went too sparingly on the watering. Never sprouted again this spring. I did love that plant.

25 May 2017


Looks like I lost a shrimp recently, too.
I found it when I was watering plants outside, saw something on the soil like a bit of red leaf? picked it up, it was a shrimp from my tank.
This time I'm pretty sure it's not a shed exoskeleton, but the shrimp itself. Surprised how red it is. Must have siphoned it out of the main tank by accident last time I did a water change, and didn't notice it in the bottom of an orange bucket. Until I watered plants. So now I only have three or four amanos in the tank, depending on whether or not the last one I found accidentally sihponed really was a shrimp or its shed skin...

one less and many more

The female swordtail Witchy Fish in my window tank, died sunday night. She'd been rather inactive for several days, laying on the bottom and not coming up to feed... I guess it was her time.  I was not sure how long her body had been in there overnight so did a 30% wc after the small burial (under the forsythia).
Fabio swims with the cherry barbs now... That same day I moved three of the male cherry barbs out of QT into the window tank, and tuesday I moved the last two over, so I could put some new serpae tetras (destined for the 38 gal) into the QT (while it still maintained the cycle).
Now the window tank is fully stocked- and the cherry barbs seem to really like it in here. When I was floating the males in a plastic bag to equal temperature, they weren't stressed or nervous or pale at all. They were darting at the sides to get out, and wagging their pectorals eagerly at the females! There was a lot of initial chasing, flirting and spawning going on.
There were so many baby windelov ferns growing on tips of older foliage, I finally plucked them all off. Some from the betta tank, too. A good dozen were just large enough to fasten down, so I started another windelov stone. Two views of it.
The rest are still too small- I have them floating in a tiny plastic cup, to grow a bit bigger. These are still on the tips of an old leaf,
and I was surprised to find some very tiny ones growing at intervals along those feeder roots the java ferns put out. I didn't know they could grown plantlets off the root hairs! You can just see a few top and bottom of this picture.
Here's the new little windelov stone, in the tank-
I rearranged the hornwort stems a bit to make a space for it, front left.
The regular java fern bits that I fastened onto rocks a while back, some of them came loose and the ones left are really starting to grow out. They're situated just under the filter box.
The java fern 'red' across the back wall, older leaves are starting to decay away, newer ones are growing up- the brighter green.
I removed the arrowhead cuttings. They just weren't doing well. Pothos is thriving though, and the root mass from the cuttings is substatial enough now that it kind of wedges itself into the corner and I don't have to find a place to set it down when taking the lid off (still just a sheet of plastic from an old storage tote), it more or less stays in place.
The tank regularly has two 'looks'. Usually it's like this, now- I have a backdrop of dark gray felt over cardboard, and the window curtains held open, so bright ambient light comes in through the top but not the back of the tank. Hornworts do great with this as long as they're in the center or near front of the tank, java ferns seem okay in the back. On cloudy days, I keep the curtains closed and lift the backdrop off instead, so then the whole tank looks bright and airy and the java ferns get a good amount of light. (This is actually more because on cloudy days I prefer to keep the curtains closed if we have lights on in the front room, but it seems to work out well for the plants, too.) There is still no sign of algae aside from some diatoms, which are easily managed. Subwassertang remains healthy so far, I've added a few more bits of it (but not sure how well it will do when temps drop later in the year). Anacharis (elodea) always faltered in here before, but now the few stem pieces I have are actually growing- so I might add more when the thicket in the 38 needs a trim. Perhaps it is doing better now because with the added fish load, there are more nutrients in the water for the plants. I haven't checked nitrates in a while, it will be interesting to see where they are at in a week.