Friday, February 15, 2019

Gardener's Watch is Sprouting Again

Restarting this blog feels just like this, a little twig growing out of a once seemingly dead tree.  I forget exactly why this blog became inactive for so long but I'm hoping people will start to come back, If nothing else to see the plants growing.  Really, is there any other reason to come see?

This picture reminds me of when we had a house and we were trying to kill off the crepe myrtle bushes/trees.  They wouldn't die.  They just kept coming back like this little guy but with much more gusto.

I still don't have time, much less anything really neat to show or say, to put up a post every day, but I'm at least going to try to keep the posts interesting and make sure I'm not just rambling on about nothing.  Of course there should always be a picture, like this one, even if I didn't necessarily take it myself.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Optimal Light

Brought the little vanilla plants to the front toward the light.  I had left them behind it so that the little spider wouldn't be disturbed but they were not looking like they liked so much shade especially since they were indoors anyway.

The white things in front are the cut up bottles with water and paper towels in them.  Still having to change them out every few days so that they don't breed mold.  They already seem to be doing a little better.

In front of this, but out of the picture, is the other pot.  I raised it up too a couple feet to be closer to the light.  It went from floor to on top of two boxes to on top of a filing cabinet and two boxes.  The leaves are starting to pick up again.  It's growth had been stunted due to lack of light.

The bean plant you see in the upper right of this photo is starting to form flowers already. I should have beans in a few weeks.  Okay, maybe two or three beans but that's still more than one.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Branching Out

There's a little green shoot coming off of where the cotyledons used to be attached.  Hopefully this is where the first branches will form from.

As you can see, the trunk is already starting to look woody.  I will be transplanting them yet again soon so that each tree will have it's own pot to grow in.  This might mean getting some new bigger pots too since I doubt at least one of the pots is really big enough to hold a tree in.  It looked fine when the tree was just sprouting but one of the leaves alone is taller than the pot is.  I'd guess that that's a sign that the pot is a little too small for root comfort.

Cacao trees have a tap root.  Not quite what you think of like a carrot or anything but it does shoot a thick root down and spread out a system from there, as well as some surface roots.  It looks like a smaller version of the top of the tree.  In a mature tree they can be several feet underground.  Of course in a potted situation they can only go as far as the bottom of the pot so I'll need to eventually need at least a two foot deep pot to keep it happy.  I haven't seen anything that big for a reasonable price yet but I'll have to keep looking.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Bean leaves

Plant identification by leaf is a common practice.  There are websites out there (usually by geography) that can help identify a plant by shape, type, texture, and such of a leaf, like this one at Texas A&M.  I guess I never paid a lot of attention to the leaves of a bean plant before but the initial leaves just didn't look like a bean plant to me.

It so happens that these are primary leaves that get the plant growing quickly and don't match the rest of the leaves it will produce throughout the rest of the growing cycle.

I think I already see some leaves forming at the base of some of the leaf branches.  It won't be long before they open and start to make beans.  One of my favorite things about bean plants is that they grow so fast and you can see results without waiting too long.  The cacao, just visible on the right, takes a minimum of 4 years for fruit to form but more likely 7-8 years in these less than ideal conditions.  They are still putting out leaves though.

Friday, February 8, 2019

Leeks (tops included)


If you've been around long enough to try leek soup or pasta with leeks then you've probably also always been told that you just toss the tops in either water to make stock or the compost bin to make dirt.  They're simply to tough to eat.

That's never stopped people before.  Coq a Vin recipes took the same challenge with old chickens and made a tough old bird tasty again.  You can do the same thing with leeks.  One easy method for using these nutritious tops is to just make a soup and puree it until the bits are too small to even need chewing. Another as mentioned in The Spruce Eats is to cook them long and low as you would any though food to make it tender as in these Buttered Leeks.

Other interesting ways to use leeks (not just the tops) are:
1. As pizza toppings
2. Grilled on a hamburger
3. Sauteed until soft and added to quiche
4. Wrapped around meats and grilled

What are your favorite ways to use leeks?

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Beet Salad

Beets have to be one of my favorite vegetables as you can tell from this previous post.  At salad bars, I don't really consider it a very good selection if they don't have them.

This time around I would like to show off how well it goes in a salad though instead of how well it grows around here.  Not only does it give a great contrast of color but it also helps to mellow some of the other flavors you might have in a salad.  If you don't want a mostly red salad though you need to make sure you rinse and thoroughly dry the beets after you cut them up but before you put them in the salad.  Otherwise it won't look nearly so appetizing.

What are some of your favorite ingredients that you like to put into your salads?

Monday, February 4, 2019

Cacao Getting a Little Sun

Temperatures here reached 80° today.  Not shabby for an early February day.  Perfect for getting these guys out for some sum. Usually they prefer a more shaded area but the angle of the sun in February isn't too bad.  The sun being lower in the sky will hopefully keep the plants from getting too affected by the sun's intensity, while at the same time getting some much needed light during winter months.

The sunlight finally came around the building.  It had been in the shade most of the day.  The bean plants are loving the sunlight as well.  They've really perked up and have grown noticeably since this morning.

Tomorrow is also supposed to be nice but overcast.  The temperatures should still be warm enough for a day out though.  Then it's back inside until April unless we get any more of these unseasonably nice days.

Sunday, February 3, 2019

Inside Aloes

Aloe plants really prefer bright, sunny, warm places to grow. They do however tolerate pretty well extended periods of inside, dark, wintery periods from which they will "spring" back from in the spring when they can go back outside after the threat of freezing has past.

I know how hardy they can be because I thoroughly neglected several of these guys and it still took years for them to actually die.  Just one more plant that you should be able to give any friend and not be too worried even if their thumbs are brown.

Saturday, February 2, 2019

Orange Blemishes

My wife had a group over today for marketing and someone brought lox.  I didn't really know before what that was but it went really well on the bagels they had during lunch.  I also had a Pokka Milk Coffee to go with it.

What I noticed here though were the oranges.  Often when we go to the store we want that perfect piece of fruit or cut of meat or what have you.  My grandpa tole me once that grocery stores won't even buy fruit if it doesn't look nice even if it's perfectly good to eat.  These oranges are a good example of fruit that has a blemish but is otherwise fine.  The oranges he had growing on the tree often had even more dark spots but there was nothing wrong with them.

Next time you're at the store take a look at how the fruit looks and think about how that affects what you buy.  Oh, and pick up some lox, they're tasty.

Friday, February 1, 2019

Hygrometers (Humidity Meter)

Apparently I should have waited longer to see how humid it was getting.  The water wickers have been there for over a week but the hygrometer I just put there a few hours earlier.  Checking it later that day it had gotten to a little over 60% now it's a whopping 70%.  No wonder the orchids like it there.  It' a very localized humidity but that's exactly what they need.  Of course I'll need to change them out every week so they don't grow mold but that's a small price to pay to keep these babies happy.  I do think I'll be adding a third though. Although 70% is on the high side of normal, it's on the low side of what orchids prefer. 85% would be a sweet percent to be able to get to and really get these guys comfortable.

The humidity is still creeping up.  It says 71 now.

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Inside humidity (Orchid Care)

Orchids need humidity and the winter time is about the worst time to try to keep it up.  It just seems to fall out of the air once it gets inside.
The relative humidity outside is at a nice 73% but it's at a temperature of 54°.  Once it gets inside that drops to 42% at a livable temperature of 72°.  Placing these wet containers with paper towels to wick up the water into the air have helped the humidity come back up to about 57% so far.  Not ideal but a lot better for these tropical humidity loving plants.  I might just have to add some more of these guys to further boost the moisture so these guys can thrive.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Green Beans

Although not a really significant source of nitrogen beans can still help other plants to grow and hopefully make some tasty beans in the process.

A study by Roger Luiz Da Silva Almeida et. al. published in March 4, 2012 in the Iranica Journal of Energy & Environment concluded "The nitrogen level used in this study positively influenced the plant growth."  So, it can't hurt.

The seeds planted were about 4 years old and every one of them sprouted. I guess I kept them well. They've been in the fridge in sealed plastic bags the entire time (except when we were moving).

Next week there's supposed to be a nice warm day or two that I can use to put these guys outside for a bit of fresh sun.  February isn't going to be too high in the sky so I'm not too worried about scorching the leaves.  The beans really do prefer a bit of sun though and would be good for them.

To be sure I've also got plant food for them, you can't rely entirely on beans you know.

Monday, January 21, 2019

Vanilla Orchids



Vanilla orchids are tropical climbing orchids that can reach such lengths that you would probably cut it back before it reached its full potential.  Some say 80 feet while others claim hundreds of feet in length in its native habitat.

While typically considered a Mexican native, the USDA also shows it to be a Florida native.  Other sites say it has also been found to grow in Texas and California, of course only in areas of high humidity and mild climates.

Shown here are my two vanilla plants, recently acquired from a nursery out of Lewisville, Texas, Steve's Leaves.  As you can see I have placed some items that are releasing water into the air to keep them happy.  The one on the left is a cut out water bottle bottom with paper towel bits layered to stand up a it and water poured in.  The other is a cotton crochet cloth.  The many holes and twists give it plenty of surface area to evaporate water from.  So far we're on week 2 and they seem healthy enough. During the week I place them in a box lined with plastic overnight to give them a nice humidity bath.  So far so good.  They've already grown about three inches since they arrived.  I plan to find a cheap misting bottle soon so I can mist them in the mornings and early evening.  So far I haven't gotten them any plant food but I should look into that. As far as water, I've been using Ozarka natural spring water.  I don't want all the chemicals from the tap water on the plants.

The future plans for these guys is to set up an area where they will get enough humidity and light that they can really thrive.  Of course it would be great in time to be able to make my own chocolate from the cacao trees and vanilla plants, but that's still a ways off.