(Growing conditions) Shiso

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I’m not quite sure why all the websites I researched from on Google claim that the seeds are hard to germinate (or were those just old seeds?), or that people who have grown it have told me so as well.

In fact, the seeds sprouted so readily for me I saw green leaves within two days of sowing!

It’s certainly one of the most fuss-free germination I’ve done.

The plant isn’t terribly fussy as well. I have the green ones in a soil mix of normal black soil with volcanic sand for drainage and the red ones in pure worm poo, and give them about four hours of direct sun, and they grow happily. Even at heights of barely four inches, their stems are already hard and pretty sturdy for their sizes.

The red shiso seedlings are beginning to color up =3

I’m waiting for all the plants to grow to a much greater height before harvesting the leaves to create an enzyme to drink.

Care: Not too fussy about the soil mix, but keep it on the moist side
Fertilizing: Weekly weak fertilizer
Sunlight: Bright shade to full sun
Propagation: By seeds (rumored to be reluctant to germinate if not fresh) or cuttings

(Photography) Hoya carnosa variegated flowers

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Shot and processed with iPhone 4

(Worm bin) Experimentation

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Have I mentioned how much I absolutely LOVE and feel a little bit cheered up whenever I see a whole mass of my vermicomposting worms in the places where I’d placed food and used cardboard or shredded newspaper to cover it?

No?

Well, I do.

I recently decided to try out some version of flow-through composting, and bought two small baskets with large enough holes. I propped one on top of the other using small little bricks so that there’s about a 3 to 4cm gap between the two bases of the baskets. Then I transferred a handful of worm casting to the top basket, spreading the casting out along the length. Also transferred quite a bit of worms into the basket, and then added chopped up veggie scraps and cardboard shreds over the food.

To the small gap left in the bin, I compiled all the worms there, and also added food scraps and newspaper shreds.

Today (and a few of the days), when I went to disturb the bin and basket with a chopstick to aerate the casting (so it doesn’t become anaerobic and stink), I saw the worms of both sections all huddled and intertwined in crazy masses beneath the food and paper. I just went squeeee. =D It means that I’m doing stuff right, since the worms are attracted to the sections where I placed the rotting food, and not to the empty sections.

One thing which scared me – well, more like startled, really – today was that I opened my bin, and a huge adult black soldier fly flew out. Since my bin’s airholes are way too tiny for the adults to get in to lay their eggs, and I’d also stretched a pantyhose over the lid, the conclusion I have was that the larva was already present when I bought the castings from two different suppliers.

But since neither the larvae nor the adults hurt the worms nor the bin’s ecosystem, and the larvae actually helps to compost food faster and their poop provides food for the worms, I let it go.

I LOVELOVELOVE! my worms and worm bin. =D

(Propogation) Allspice

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About half a year ago, when I heard that the nursery at Ang Mo Kio had finally – FINALLY! – released their allspice plants for sale, I rushed down and bought two plants immediately, even though each cost $30. There came a sale of 30% the month following my purchases, but ah well. Done is done.

Notoriously hard to propagate, the allspice comes from the Greater Antilles, Southern Mexico and Central America. The unripe berries are plucked and used. But one would need a separate male and female plant to achieve cross pollination. That was the reason why I bought two plants in the first place – in the hopes that one was male, and the other female.

However, I have no idea when flowers would appear. I suspect only when the plants became huge trees. Not having the space to grow the plants that large, I’ve finally hit down hard on my fears and turned to marcotting this plant.

I’ve read and done a few marcotting, myself, but mostly on plants far less expensive (though no less hard to find in Singapore) than the allspice. Still, I had to gather my guts to do it.

I did two marcotting portions on each plant.

For the first plant, I merely did slanted cuts on a semi-woody stem, smeared rooting hormone in the cuts, and wrapped worm casting around them before sealing them up with cling wrap.

For the second one, and especially the second portion, I tore out the whole layer of outer bark on one portion, smeared rooting hormone up and down the wound, and also used worm casting on it (and on the other).

I decided not to use soil this time because, well…I have excess casting for one, and also I heard that worm casting somehow encourages rooting in plants.

It was a messy affair, as usual, since my hands become like feet whenever I have to handle marcotting processes. But the slightly paste-like texture of the casting helped, so that it didn’t crumble here and there.

I’ve had to strip a few leaves. So…maybe I’ll enjoy some cups of fragrant allspice tisanes today.

Now…let’s see how long roots take to form. I hope ants don’t make nests in them!

(Photography) Hoya flowers

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Hoya carnosa variegated flowers.

H. carnosa flower close-up.

H. carnosa flower close-up - I LOVE the fuzz on the flowers!

Hoya obscura flowers close-up

H. obscura - unopened cluster of flowers

(New purchases) Hoyas

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I finally decided to let myself go slightly into hoya plants, in preparation for when I finally get my place I don’t know when. I’m planning for the worst case scenario, in which we can’t get a flat with good sunlight directions and hours.

And since the hoya does well with hours of bright shade, and I love some of the genuses of flowers, I decided: go buy a few cheap ones to try out.

Pictures were shot with the iPhone so the quality isn’t the best.

Hoya carnosa variegated

Hoya obscura?

(Gardening happy) Sunbird

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There is this mated pair of sunbirds (olive-backed sunbirds, I suspect) which ALWAYS come to my house every morning and evening without fail, to drink nectar from my dad’s bonsai flowers.

I finally managed to remember to be there today evening, and shot some pictures of one of them.

The tiny claws! =3

Picture is noisy because I went into digital zoom on my Canon S5.

Same issue with the noise.

(Misc.) Evolution of my gardening experiences

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While I was feeding my worms more veggie scraps the other day, I suddenly got to thinking about how vastly different my beliefs and habits with regards to gardening are now, as compared with when I’d just started gardening about three years back.

It made me wonder how much I’ve learned, and how much I’ve changed in my methods. So this post is somewhat for me to chronicle what I’ve changed, and what methods I’ve found which actually work.

Choice of plants
When I first started out gardening, I wanted to grow ANYTHING and EVERYTHING, down to the smallest weed if I could. I had great interest in edible plants only, then, and after joining GCS and reading the posts, I was growing anything from mulberries, to daun cekur, to onions and potatoes and what-nots. I filled my allocated space up extremely quickly, until I had to either give away or cull plants.

I frequented local nurseries – especially World Farm – a lot in the past. I could spend so much on edibles such as rosemary, mint, thyme, majoram, oregano, and so on and so on. I recall dragging my partner to many hypermarts just to buy cuttings of herbs and attempt to grow them.

These days, my choices have become a lot narrower and more stringent: I grow plants which challenge me, which make me learn about them and about myself. I don’t look for plants which are tried and tested in the local conditions any longer. Of course, I do still have some of them, but my interest has strayed off. As long as the plant species and their requirements aren’t too different from the conditions I can try to provide, I will probably take on the challenge, especially if edibles are involved.

Of course, I’ve also gone into growing some easy species of nepenthes (after having tried out various carnivorous plants) and into some dwarf flower species.


Fertilizing
I used to stuff my gardening cupboard with lots and lots of different fertilizers, from hydroponic solutions to Phostrogen to fish emulsion to seaweed extract and so on. I’ve tried out the supposed “high brix” regime (although I don’t think I’d call it that if I had a better term for it) of feeding my plants fermented milk and high phosphorous fert and all that. I’ve rarely used organic stuff like animal poo (chicken or goat), and have never used compost.

After a lot of experiments, I actually find that I like things simple. I don’t chase after fertilizers in the market like some people do with technology. Not anymore, at least. I’ve sneakily made my own worm bin (and warned my dad not to open it, heh heh), and am happily using worm poo/worm tea along with Envizyme’s Gondwana fertilizer (good stuff) these days.

With just these two fertilizers, I’ve found at least a 90 to 95% decrease in pests like scales, red spider mites and mealy bugs on my plants, where there used to be A LOT of them…like hundreds and hundreds on each plant and I could never seem to get rid of them. Nowadays, I leave the odd pest I find alone, since the random ones don’t harm my plant, and a healthy plant can definitely stand up for itself easily.


Propagation and germination
I used to believe in using the simplest and easiest method to get my plant established. Most of the time, this entails using cuttings for propagation, since the plants I grew last time did less well via seeds than through vegetative propagation.

I like to grow stuff from seeds now, not just because I like the challenge of it, but also because I’ve somehow found that plants which are grown from seeds seem to acclimatize themselves more easily to different environments. It’s as if they take things more easily if they are shown no other environment beforehand.

Marcotting and air-layering were two methods I’ve never dared to try before my change of directions in beliefs. But I’ve tried both, and both have worked for me for various plants.

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I guess these are the few points I can think of for now. But even these few have reminded greatly of how much I’ve learned, just in one area of interest alone.

(Growing conditions) Comfrey

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I’m currently of two minds about the comfrey plants I’ve grown from seeds only one or two months ago. On one hand, I like its uses; on another, I hate the irritable bristles.

When my friend first found out that I had interest in the comfrey because of its potential and use as a green manure and compost activator, she gave me some seeds. I was extremely excited and sowed quite a bit of them, since they’re not known for being very willing to germinate.

I tried various methods, and it seems as if the seeds are impartial to the media in which they’re sowed on for germination. However, the trick seemed to be keeping them constantly moist (which also makes them susceptible to fungus growing on the seed case, and in which case they won’t sprout), and also to keep the germinating temperature as hot as possible (I place the covered container under full afternoon sun for about four hours a day).

a) One of the smaller comfrey I have right now. I suspect it's the yellow-flower variety; they seem less eager to grow fast

Right now, I have about four to five plants after giving a few away, of both the purple and yellow flower varieties.

Once the seeds germinate, the hardest part is probably over. The plantlets will happily grow in moist soil and full sun to part shade. They rarely die from root rot or over-watering. All in all, the comfrey is an unfussy plant to have.

They grow extremely quickly though, and the bristles all over the leaves turn sharp and irritable to the skin quickly enough, so that there is a need to handle them with the utmost care, or with thick gloves to protect the skin. The root system is also very prolific and invasive, so making sure they are pot bound and kept off the ground soil is important if one doesn’t want a garden of comfrey and nothing else.

However, since I live in an apartment and can grow plants only in pots, I have no problems keeping them in check.

b) The root system of the plantlet in the picture above

For now, I’ve been using small pieces of shredded leaves to activate my pre-composting bin, and that’s about it. I plan to grow a few to flowering stages just for the flowers, to add to the colors of my garden. I’ll probably have to upsize their pots soon, though, since their root system can grow deeper than one meter down.

Care: Not too fussy about the soil mix, but keep it on the moist side
Fertilizing: Rumored to do well with high nitrogen fertilizers
Sunlight: Full sun preferable, but it will tolerate some bright shade
Propagation: By seeds (rumored to be reluctant to germinate); root cutting is preferable
Special care: Be careful handling the plant – bristles can be painful and irritating to the bare skin

(Spirituality) Aggression and nature/plants/gardening

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“What is usually forgotten is the real nature of aggressiveness, which in its truest sense simply means forceful action. This does not necessarily imply physical force, but instead the power of energy directed into a material action” – Seth

I’m an eclectic spiritualist in the sense that I take from different practices what resonates most strongly with me. I’ve pursued a shamanic path in its barest form; I’ve tried the ‘new age’ stuff like Rainbow Healing and all that jazz. But it wasn’t until i was introduced to channelled material by Seth through Jane Roberts in the 1970s that many things sat so well with me my belief system has turned greatly to you create your own reality (YCYOR).

How does this relate to plants and gardening? It definitely has connection to the quote I’ve included above.

A seed is probably the most basic form of propagation any gardener knows in gardening. Of course, there are various other ways – both vegetative and not so – of propagation, but I’m going to use seeds for simplicity’s sake.

A seed is usually a hard case, containing potential life within it. For the life within that hard case to sprout takes a form of aggressive thrust, to break open the safety barrier from which it is encased within. To do this, the ‘conditions’ must be right, in the sense where the energy inside surges forth to produce the seedling, to surge through boundaries and take root.

I’ve used intent and visualization to help me sprout some supposedly notorious and hard to sprout seeds, namely the comfrey and Indian blanket flower. I imagine directing the flow of energy within each seed into one single direction and encouraging them to become a plant. I seem to have a decent amount of success in it, judging by the number of comfrey plants I have now, and the number of blanket flower seedlings as well.

It’s the same idea with the unfurling and thrusting forth of flowers from their petals, in encouraging roots to grow from any cuttings, and in so many other aspects of life and gardening.

I’ve come to respect this natural aggression and to appreciate it in its various manifestations through my plants. After all, without this natural aggression, we wouldn’t have plants at all – nothing would sprout, nothing would bloom, nothing would root or fruit or whatever else.

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