31 January 2013

curry plant

My established Curry Plant is full of new growth.
But of all the cuttings, only one is left alive. It's rather more than I expected, after realizing my mistakes!

30 January 2013

meat pie

The other day I made a meat pie for dinner, with a new method. The base ingredients were ground beef (sometimes I use leftover steak diced up), an onion, one red potato, two carrots, a bay leaf and some Thyme.
Oh, and a can of vegetable beef soup. For the filling as usual I sautee the onion and carrot in butter, add and brown the beef, add the fresh veggies. Whisk a bit of flour into the filling to thicken it.and simmer with the soup and herbs while I make the crust.
The new part was baking it in a cast iron skillet put into the oven, instead of the usual glass pie pan. I adjusted my usual recipe a bit following this as a guideline. I baked it at 375° for 45 minutes and it came out perfect.
It came out looking wonderful and had a richer flavor than usual. I'm not sure if this is because I substituted a bit of butter in my crust, having run low on shortening, or if it's because the skillet seeped some flavor into the pie...

I can justify putting this on my garden blog because it had one ingredient from last years' garden: dried Thyme!

29 January 2013

green leaves

Somewhat against my better judgement, I've continued to keep the Bell Pepper plant going. It's sitting in an opposite corner of the kitchen from the other plants. I keep thinking about what could be causing it to look so poorly. Something about the symptoms- slightly curled, spotty leaves- made me think it was a nutrient deficiency, I read somewhere made it sound like potassium so I actually chopped up some banana skin, soaked it in water, and gave the plant that. Then I noticed a few perfectly round holes in the center of leaves, which made me suspect a caterpillar but I never found it, or the frass. Next I suspected that whatever is apparently feeding on my plant and taking nutrients might be hiding in the convenient hollow of the bamboo pole staking up the plant!
So I plugged up the hole with a wad of playdoh. Figured either it would trap the insect, or I'd see evidence of it chewing its way out. Never saw any signs, but now for the first time in weeks the plant is putting out some fresh, new foliage.
Perhaps I did trap the culprit and now it will recover somewhat.

28 January 2013


Hm. My baby Spider Plants are not doing so well. The bigger one is getting some leaf-tip burn- I think from overwatering again- and the little one got accidentally jostled before it was well-rooted. I am watering them from below, now.


The Stevia continues to delight me with its flush of new, bright green foliage.

27 January 2013

kept in

A few of the plants I brought in momentarily have remained indoors. These include the Sage cuttings - which seem to be doing just fine-
The little Marjoram pot which looks nearly dead but upon inspection has little, new leaves growing. I don't have much hope for them, as when oreganos in the past began to resprout like this for me, they died.
I've also kept in the tree-like older Thyme plant. Just because I like to look at it, and since it already spent a few days inside here and there I'm wondering if I've already affected its ability to survive cold.
The rest of the plants outside remained tucked into boxes and under burlap. My toddler looks out the big window at them and says: "Plants sleeping!" which is what they should do, in the winter!

26 January 2013


Yesterday evening when I saw the temperature was eighteen degrees below freezing, and felt the icy draft near each window I remembered that houseplants need to be kept from the cold, too. This is something I've done in years past- either pull plants off the windowsill for the night (here my Jades that habitually sit behind the desk)
or put a layer of cardboard between the plants and the glass. If the days turn sunny, I'll pull the cardboard, then put it back at night. Keeps the worst of the chill off the plants.


Well, my little foray against the fungus gnats with a vacuum cleaner was ineffective. There are just as many as before, now. You can see quite a few under the leaves here. I am continuing to let the soil dry out - a few more are drowning in the bottles as a result- and might try some other measures soon. I've read on a forum that bounce dryer sheets repel them with the scent. Also considering spraying neem oil...

25 January 2013

pink and pink

My African violet is full of flowers now! Some are starting to fade, but new buds already forming in the heart of the plant. It seems to be outgrowing its space and when I peer in under the leaves I can see it has two very distinct crowns.
So perhaps sometime soon I will divide this into two plants...


It looks like my Avocado is reviving in its new, sheltered spot.
I am wondering if the Palms suffer from chilly draft, as well? Some of the foliage is curling under. However, the ones situated on my desk- near window- and in the kitchen- not drafty- have a bit of curl as well. So it might be something more generally wrong. Perhaps I have not got the watering regimen down correct for these yet?
I suspect the soil mix is too dense. I need to repot these yet again with new clean soil lightened with perlite (the mix I used for my Dracaneas and Avocado, which seems to work well for them). I did want to wait for warmer, spring weather to do this, afraid that repotting for the third time might be too much stress for their young root systems. They are all still growing new foliage, so not doing too badly.

24 January 2013

chilly repercussions

Worried about the predicted cold, I brought most of my potted outdoor plants into the kitchen yesterday- all except the apple tree (too heavy to move) and the Echinacea pot (frozen to the balcony floor). They started to thaw out- trickles of water making little puddles under the pots. Then I learned belatedly that being kept in a heated room is not good because the plants will come out of dormancy, start to grow again, and not be able  to withstand cold properly if put outside once more.

So I shuffled them all outside again, but kept them close to the building walls, away from the windy edge. Tried to protect them as best I can. Some tucked into boxes with newspaper insulation, others towels stuffed around them. Bigger pots wrapped in bubble-wrap. Burlap blanketing as many as I could.
And it snowed last night. Just an inch or so but very, very cold. I went out midmorning today to see if they froze again. The uncovered pots had hard, cold soil again. The ones tucked into boxes and covered weren't quite frozen solid. I don't know what else to do, except put blankets over them? wait out the cold and see how many survive. The best thing I think would be to stick them in an unheated room or garage, but I don't have such.

Unfortunately I forgot that my Avocado was right in the path of the draft from the sliding door. This morning it looks totally wilted. I moved it into a corner of the kitchen were there are no drafts, but don't know if it will recover... maybe I killed it.

23 January 2013


I have taken drastic measures against the fungus gnats. They are driving me nuts. For some reason they've decided to make my Pothos plant a breeding ground- and I hardly ever find one on the Arrowhead that sits next to it. I've tried letting the soil dry out, and setting out dishes of apple cider vinegar, to no avail. Most recently I put some cider vinegar and sugar in these two narrow-necked bottles, but only a few crawled in. Not enough to dent the population.
The gnats have been resting on the underside of the Pothos leaves in dozens, crawling around inside the reservoir (which I emptied of water), swarming over the soil surface. So today I attacked them with a vacuum attachment. Yeah. Vacuum. It was surprisingly effective. Although I should have been more careful- I accidentally sucked up a few leaf tips.
It was better to put the vacuum nozzle close to the stems, and run it over the soil surface until I saw no more crawling bugs. I only lost a little bit of soil.

When I saw no more gnats on the plant itself I moved it aside and sucked up all those crawling on the lamp stand surface, the lamp, and hovering around- I actually sucked some out of the air. Well, now there's only a handful instead of swarms, and they're not annoying me anymore. I just wish I hadn't damaged the poor plant. I don't really recommend this measure, ha ha.

22 January 2013


I always forget that january is one of the coldest months of the year. Just a day ago I watered everything on the balcony, so I was surprised to look out this morning and see all the soil light-colored, like it had dried out. I went out and poked my finger at the dirt in the pots and containers- all frozen solid. Last night was quite windy and bitter cold. I'm concerned about all the green growth- the pots of Garlic were looking so lovely
the tender new foliage on the Mums
and the cuttings of Mint and Sage...
I did read somewhere that watering well before a freeze helps the plants, because they have a chance to absorb the moisture. So maybe some of them will be okay, the tougher and older plants like the Rosemary and Thyme. I will probably loose some of them, but it was really too early to start this kind of stuff anyways.

21 January 2013

changing color

One of my little potted Hibiscus plants that had been kept indoors with green foliage is suddenly changing its appearance. I put it outside during a spate of mildly warm, spring-like days and then forgot to bring it inside again. It sat out for two chilly nights and then when I remembered, the leaves had already been triggered to change color and fall off.
They're kind of pretty.

20 January 2013

young peas

The Pea plants are growing quickly; on warm springlike days I prop the coldframe open a bit.
This one is inside on a windowsill; it seems happy in the SIP but the container makes it too tall to fit in the coldframe.

19 January 2013

avocado watering

I have finally convinced myself of the best practices for watering the poor Avocado plant, from experience. Opinion on this varies widely, from what I read online. Some say that the avocado should be let to dry out completely, then soaked thoroughly until water drains out the bottom. One site even suggested that without this regular soaking the plant would ultimately die. Others suggest consistent moisture. But I have found, from alternating methods in an attempt to make my plant happy, that I agree with neither one.

Too much water seems to make the leaves nice and upright but wavy on the margins, as here when I kept it damp enough that mushrooms grew!

The let-dry-out and then give a heavy soaking method makes mine droop. I realized this just recently when I switched from infrequent soakings back to giving it smaller amounts of water two or three times a week. Maybe a cup or two. The sides of the clay pot dampen, but it doesn't drain out the bottom and have to get emptied (a difficult task anyway with such a large pot). The plant seemed to be doing better and the new leaves looked very healthy. Have quickly grown to almost full-size. Then I forgot one day and gave it more water than had been the norm. Later that day I noticed that the newer top foliage had begun to curl under and droop.

So now it looks like this:
Overall not a happy plant. I am hoping that as I let it dry out a bit more and go once again back to frequent, light waterings that the new foliage will recover but I'm not sure if the older leaves ever will perk up. I'm thinking that when real spring weather arrives I might give this plant an almighty chop- supposedly you can actually remove all the leaves as long as you keep at least a third of the stem. And then let it grow back. We'll see...

18 January 2013

more pests

I'm preoccupied with pests, now. Thinking I will toss the Pepper plant. Easier to grow new ones than save this. Inspected the Mint cuttings outside; they have a few aphids again. If I can find a ladybug on a walk I will bring it home -saw one a few days ago on the sidewalk but didn't think to pick it up. It's gotten cold again though, so I don't know if I will see anymore.

Noticed my Stevia has some leaf-curl on the older foliage, and white bleached-looking spots on the leaves. I feared more spider mites but did the leaf-tap-over-paper test and instead of crawling specks got little green bugs that hop. I think it's leaf bugs. Sprayed the plant and the bug jumped off but I never saw it again so it might still be around.

The smaller Marjoram also has had pale splotches on the leaves. Tapped its foliage over paper too. Got a bunch of even smaller leaf bugs. I squished those.

The Palms look better; most of them are growing bright green, new leaves. I've started to trim off the old, damaged foliage. Then if the spider mites persist I'll be able to notice the new damage on the leaves. They get misted every day now, too.

I have gnats again. Around almost all the houseplants. There have always been a few but lately there are proliferating. I have tried putting out dishes of cider vinegar again but it doesn't seem to be helping. Argh.

16 January 2013

green hearts

I showed my daughter, who has a little Crassula in her care, how to pinch out the top so it will grow branches. She came to me shortly after yelling "why does my plant have leaves shaped like hearts?"
And I looked. They do. A few of my plants do, too. Only on the uppermost leaves, the center of the margin has an indented notch.
I've never seen this before. Does anyone know what causes it? Searches online have been futile- I can't even find any other pics of this.

15 January 2013

winter flores

My Marigold in a pot was still flowering fitfully, small blooms, but the foliage looking dreary so I finally tossed it out. The Mum next to it is putting out new growth at the base so I cut that one down to let it regrow. From both plants I saved a few of the flowers and made teensy boquets in baby-food jars to set on my desk.
The Mums are already looking wilted but the Marigold flowers still cheery now at the end of day.

14 January 2013


I've got so many baby Crassulas growing in little groups. This morning took all the ones from kitchen windowsill and divided them into individual pots.
Delighted to see that the fat stem is growing tiny new leaves.
The top that came off it doesn't seem to be faring so well. Its leaves are rather flaccid, rusty-colored instead of healthy green. I wonder if I ought to trim back the foliage since it is a cutting with no roots- perhaps it just can't support itself yet.

learning moments

A few of my plants left for new homes today. I've kind of made an arrangement with a local women's group; they supply me with growing materials and I will periodically give them plants (intended for gifts). I thought this might be good as I'm always experimenting at growing things but don't really need five spider plants in my house, or ten pots of palms! Yesterday some items were dropped off and these went out the door:
The purple African Violet (in a smaller, round pot- I didn't know if someone would know what to do with the SIP I'd made). The Marjoram was such a pretty plant, but after trying it in many dishes I realize this is an herb I will probably never eat much of. I just don't care for its flavor. The bigger of these little Spider babies went, too. I took my younger one that was in a hanging SIP and divided it- it was actually three plants growing together. (The two smaller ones pictured here are recently rooted infants off a runner).
I will miss the purple Violet but I like the pink one much better (which is almost ready to divide anyway). Several leaves broke off when repotting; I stuck them into the remnants of soil at the bottom of the vacated SIP.
I've also got a baby African violet that came off that plant (so if these grow I will have new purple ones someday!) The baby violet hasn't grown much and in fact lost a few leaves because they lie so close to the soil, top watering nearly made the entire plantlet float. So I moved that one into a small SIP, where it can get water from below. Hope it does better.
It was interesting to upend the Spider plant and discover that it was pretty dry in there. Spider plants like to stay rather dry as the fat, fleshy roots attest. I've learned to let this one get bone-dry and lightweight, then just give it a little bit of water, about half an inch. I've noticed that the drier I let the Spiders get, the more upright and glossy their leaves are. Brown tips seem to occur with overwatering, too.
So these SIPs do work for any kind of moisture requirements. My violets stay pretty saturated, and get a lot of water each time- several inches. The Spiders get only a little water, and dry out completely in between. The Arrowhead and Pothos plants only seem to need a little water as well, but more frequently to keep them moist... I bet if I was careful I could grow a Crassula in an SIP but I'm not ready to try that again yet.

Arrowhead doesn't seem to like something I'm doing. It is growing like crazy- every time I look at its height against the lamp it stands next to, it's a few centimeters taller. Soon I'll have to move it or start pinching out new growth.
But it keeps getting brown edges, both tips
and rear portions of the leaves. I think it's from too much water.
The felt wicking I made in that larger Pothos planter did work! I watered it for the first time yesterday and after a half hour, the reservoir was empty again, it had all moved up into the soil. This plant seems very happy, doesn't even seem to have noticed it was moved into a new container.