31 January 2019

new plant and 2nd sowing

seed packets came in the mail!
They actually arrived a few days ago, I have been catching up on posts here. Yesterday after setting up the coldframe house I was spurred to do more, sowed the following in trays: red russian kale, webb's wonder lettuce, leaf beet chard, slobolt lettuce, crisp mint lettuce, simpson elite lettuce and red marigolds (save from my plants last year).  I put the packet of leaf beet chard back in the jar with seeds I have yet to start, because probably those should be direct sown.

Also, I bought this beautiful cyclamen at local nursery when I went to get more soil-less seed starter mix. I don't know which I love more, the pretty patterned leaves, bright flowers or lovely scent- I still think they smell like nutmeg, my favorite spice, although nobody seems to agree with my impression so far.
I learned from the nursery man one reason my cyclamen might have died, before. They like it cool. As in 50-60° cool. So in summer I may have to house it in a basement room, or the heat will weaken its health at best.

30 January 2019

new green in the coldframe!

My first seedlings came up. Marigolds -
and arugula
I set up my coldframe house today.
It was easier than ever. In great shape from winter storage in the garage. No need for a new paint job this year, or to rebuild anything. I had a sheet of plastic large enough to wrap the entire thing in one piece- except for the arch over the roof- so I used a lot less packing tape and staples to fasten it on, and there's fewer possible gaps to cause draft. The only problem is that my shelves warped where they sat in storage in the laundry room. I may need to fashion new ones.
Also I can't find my outdoor thermometer. So I swiped the fridge one. My camera can't read it through the plastic layer, but my eyes can. Outdoor temp right now is 23° and inside my coldframe house it is 52°! Promptly put my new seedling trays out there (already indoors they have been leaning for light, even in the sunniest window I have) and moved in on the lowest level the three mint pots. Kept an eye on the temp guage for a while. When cloud cover moves over, it drops to 46°. That's still fine for the arugula and lettuce (not sprouted yet) a bit cold for the marigolds. When the sun goes down I'll bring the seedlings in to avoid the colder night.
Time to sow more trays!

snow cover

It snowed here yesterday, and was pretty cold last night- I think the lowest was 19° with wind chill factor much lower. I took a few measures in the yard- had tank water on hand, so I set the buckets outside for a few hours, then lightly watered most of the green shrubs- not the rhodies though, it rained recently and they sit in the lowest part of the yard. I read that watering just before a hard freeze helps the plants withstand damage. The sedums- both kinds- were already sprouting new green leaves, and wind had blown leaf mulch off a corner of the black-and-blue salvia. I heaped mulch back over those. My mints and lemon balm both have green foliage peeking out from their leaf mulch blankets- I put two small boards over the pots of mint (would hate to loose my chocolate mint plant again) and upended a bucket over the lemon balm.

For the new camellia I took the most care. I have a roll of green fencing wire, unwrapped part of it to make a circle around the camellia, wedged it upright with a few large rocks, and draped an old sheet over the whole thing. Probably the plant would be okay without protection, but I would be so upset to loose a new, young, relatively expensive (for me) plant simply because I didn't take five minutes to cover it up on a very cold night. It looks like we are going to have three or four very cold nights in a row- I'll probably leave the cage around the plant, just take the cover off during the day so it can get some light, and drape it again at night. Like I sometimes do with my coldhouse.

foxtail fern moved up

Of all the plants I repotted, this one really needed it. Here's the asparagus fern freed from its old pot, sitting next to the new home on the left.
It was very root bound, all winding around tight circles.
When I loosened out the roots to straighten some, found there wasn't much soil left in the mass at all, and tons of these fat round root tubers.
I think they store water, or nutrients? for the plant. I felt bad cutting some off but pretty sure it will be okay and grow more
Here's the asparagus fern looking lovely back on its pedestal. I gave it a good drink and have been misting it daily to make sure it recovers well from the shock of repotting and a root trim. I trimmed a few of the fronds recently, too- that were near hitting the floor again.

I did Stuff With Plants!

These all needed bigger pots- well, the chives don't really but I needed the container to move up the others.
My younger cuttings of creeping charlie, now with lots of roots (and algae growing in the water jar) got potted into the smallest one vacated by the african violet.
It's the purple-blooming violet I started from leaf cuttings. The two plantlets didn't grow out same size- I kept the larger one. It went into the pot vacated by the lipstick plant.
Lipstick plant moved up into the pot vacated by chives.
Chives moved up into the blue ceramic pot vacated by foxtail fern, which has its own post- see next.
they all have room to grow now

29 January 2019

encounter, and a dream

I went outside to bury kitchen scraps in the compost pile, and there was a sudden scuffling through leaves nearby. Three possums. One ran past me and slipped through a fence gap, the other two retreated behind a tree and just stared, mouths open, when I approached slowly for a closer look (I didn't get closer than twenty feet). I suspect they were getting food out of my compost pile. They looked plump and thickly furred. My plastic bin is rucked up on one side and buckled, near where I have an old stump sitting- it's handy to place the container of scraps on while I dig a hole in the pile. I had thought the bin side was mussed up from contents shifting and settling where the ground has a lower spot? but now I think probably the possums were trying to get into it. I don't mind skinks living under my compost pile, or birds and squirrels picking through the top of it, but I draw the line at possums!

I'm going to simply quit adding stuff to this particular bin for the rest of winter. Between the worm bin inside and the metal can under the deck (which I haven't added to yet this season) I have enough other space to compost in. Without food there for a while I hope the possums will look elsewhere- and in spring when stuff heats up it will decompose faster which might avoid attracting them again? Or I need to fashion a lid for my bin, or get a new container that shuts out the animals better.

The deer have been through my yard, I found their droppings. And a pair of foxes- I found their footprints and saw two trotting right down the middle of the street in front of the house the other day. Beautiful thick coats but one had a skinny tail. And one day last week I saw a large bird sitting at the base of a tree in the rain, poking under the flaking bark. It was brown speckled with a red patch on the back of the head and a black crescent under the throat. A northern flicker! I don't remember seeing one so close before.


Dream from a few days ago. I'm visiting- or living in- my mother's house, my husband and kids are here too. I go out to the backyard and see something astounding: in a row along the wall of a gray shipping container shed in the back of the yard, tall lush plants have sprung up overnight from seeds I planted just a day ago. They have thick, straight stems, wide flat leaves like sunflowers, and incredibly large hanging flowers like brugmansia- solid pink with speckled throats. The plants tower to the top of the shed and the flowers nod alternating on each side of the stem. I stare, then turn and yell into the house: "Come quick, you have to see this! It's my hollyhocks, they're as big as S. is tall!" (my youngest). The flowers weren't really four feet each, more like two, and obviously not hollyhocks but that's what I call them in the dream, without a blink.

My family comes outside and we crowd around the huge, beautiful flowers. Then I look in the gray metal shed- it's new, empty and clean with a long workbench along one wall, shallow shelving, windows across one side up at the ceiling, propped open for the breeze. I look around thinking what a nice garden shed this would make, if I could build a greenhouse off one side of it to collect heat from the metal wall rising as the sun goes down . . . .

first sowing

I started some seed from my packets saved in the fridge, yesterday. Mostly stuff that prefers the cold. Marigold to get an early start. (Tomatoes and celosia will be next).
One jug and bottle have lettuce seed, the others here are all milkweed- I'm trying winter sowing for them.
I don't have much common milkweed seed left- the rest I will try to start indoors next time. (Last year my attempt to grow these from seed did nothing).
All the other seed of the day- dill, parsley, leeks, chervil, arugula, cilantro, marigolds- and a few milkweed and lettuce just in case- I started in trays of sterile soil-less mix, on top of the fridge in re-purposed plastic boxes, as usual.

45 full tank shot

the fishes are not in focus- Skye a complete blur behind M. Beautiful- but the plants are sharp!

28 January 2019

new in the hanger

I took faltering spider plant out of this hanging pot- it was getting too much sun in the window. Put my 'goldfish' plant in the hanging pot instead. It has grown some long, trailing stems and looks happier already.
The related 'lipstick' plant (which still hasn't bloomed yet) still has very upright stems and its leaves are twice the size of goldfish plant. It appears to grow slower, too.

rue and some improve

I noticed the other day my stevia in the basement window was looking peaky, and the little rue plants had leaves curled downward. I picked up a rue to look closer, and fine white fluffy bit were on the stems, leaf undersides, a few flew up. Mealy bug perhaps? something tiny and definitely unwanted. I took them upstairs and sprayed heavily with soap/oil water mixture, let sit for a while, rinsed off.

Today the rue looks better- I couldn't find any fluffy bits, and some of the leaves are straightening out. Younger foliage on the stevia also looks better, the older leaves that were damaged by pest probably will fall off.
In the upstairs window, my ice plant is still rather scrawny, and separated from the others. I picked it up to douse with soapy water also for good measure, and noticed it didn't drop leaves at being jostled, like before. Started spraying when I saw movement- a small black/grey freckled wolf spider. It was housekeeping in the center of the plant, and probably responsible for the ice plant's recovery- eating the pest! I tipped the spider into a cup, rinsed the ice plant off, returned the spider to its home. Glad.

27 January 2019

angel condition

This morning, the angelfish M. Beautiful looks better- lips aren't black, ding on the head is healing- difficult to even see it now- and the black edge of the tail fin gone- now it's uneven, the fin rays extending a bit from where the smooth edge of the fin decayed off.

The other angel, Skye- trailing end of one pelvic fin looks bitten. I saw the oldest tetra nip at it again this morning. Dang tetra. The tank looks so busy now, I don't really want to get more tetras. I don't know if I isolate this one in the shrimp's 20g, will the other tetras remain chill or will some of them start nipping too.

Did Skye sustain permanent damage inside the mouth from that first fight? I thought the angel was just relaxed when taking its time to eat in the 20H alone- I would feed it a piece or two at a time, wait for it to finish moving its mouth, give it another. Now there's competition- the tetras dart in for several bites each while Skye is still working on the first mouthful- and then looks around for more it's all gone. I think I'll have to spot-feed this angelfish to make sure it gets enough, it definitely eats slower than the others.

the other tanks

Moved all the shrimps out of the betta tank. They're in my 20H now. I can't tell yet if Ruby is relieved, or misses the activity. Certainly feeding time will be calmer for him now!

I kept thinking about how I saw the plants pearling the other day, and suddenly realized I've been doing maintenance and fert dosing usually an hour or two before the lights turn on. Perhaps the windelov and stems suffer because the lag is too long- they need to utilize ferts immediately? Just to see, I shifted my photoperiod to start at 2pm- the time I'm usually just finishing up with water change on this tank every friday. They did pearl a ton this week when I dosed right as the light came on!
I'm still watching this leaf grow, in the window tank.
this week there was far less brown algae on the glass, but a lot still on plant leaves which I rubbed off as much as I could, some too fragile will tear. I refolded and taped up the third layer of plastic sheeting between tank and window again.

26 January 2019

angel reunion!

The separation has been three months. This morning I did a water change, completely rescaped the large tank (while M. Beautiful was in a bucket with some plant cover) and then reintroduced both angels at the same time. With the lights off, then later set dim, so the photos aren't great but I am so happy- watched them for hours and no fighting at all.
I only had one net just barely large enough to use for them- one angel I caught in a large plastic bag, the other I netted back into the tank- M. Beautiful- and it thrashed- surprising how strong they are!- and got stuck a bit and injured- its right pectoral fin very red where it meets the body and it held it clamped for a while. I think it will be okay, an hour later it was using the fin again and the redness mostly gone.
Here's what the tank looks like now. All rearranged. Crypt balansae and apono capuroni are behind the mopani chunks with anubias- not visible now but I hope they grow taller. Vals are now on the left, and I've added new leaf litter. I will get better photos when the light is at normal strength, tomorrow or in a few days.
I added this plant, too. Can you believe it's all that's left of my two largest crypt wendtii. They have gradually been melting away in the 20H- some new leaves grew but doesn't look nearly as good as it used to. I put them in my last plastic canvas planter, and acclimated to temp to avoid too much shock.
M. Beautiful and Skye:
The angels have more or less been hanging out side by side all day- some posturing and gill flaring but not a single sign of aggression. Great color the entire time- they didn't go pale once.
I tried to get individual closeups but the only ones that came out well are of M. Beautiful. Who looks a bit roughed up from the netting- dinged on the top of nose, and the edge of caudal fin is black- dang, I think it got too cold in the bucket.
I feel confident should recover, though. This is a better pic of the anubias plants than the fish!
I'm very glad the angels are acting companionable and confident again, but dismayed when later today I saw that Skye tended to stay in the back of the tank, going to and fro, or in corners- and then I saw one of the older tetras is nipping at Skye's trailing fins- which are quite a bit longer than M. Beautiful's. A few times the angelfish lunged back at the tetra, who darted away. If that one tetra keeps pestering maybe I will put it in the 20H with the shrimps for a while! I thought ten was a good number to keep the tetras preoccupied with each other, but maybe I need a dozen? or fifteen?

seed giveaway

I have these seeds extra, from the following years. Marigold and Aurora peppers were bought, the others from my own plants. The Marigold packet has only about 15 seeds left in it, the others I haven't counted but it is a good amount. The sweet peas are unscented but very pretty. They have been kept in the fridge with dessicant and should be viable.
Aurora peppers 2010
Marigold 2010
Bibb Lettuce 2009
Echinacea 2012
Sweet Peas 2017

If anyone is interested, just leave a comment! I'll be happy to mail you a partial seed packet.

24 January 2019

purple cheer

Middle of winter, and I have one purple african violet blooming.

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.