Sunday, 31 March 2013

Ulluco Resurrection

Last year I attempted to grow Ulluco. The harvest however was dismal. I ended up with the same 5ish tubers that I started with. Now it might be this was because I started them so late (they were on sale at the seed company) so I just bunged said colorful marble like tubers in a plastic baggy and into the fridge. A couple of weeks ago I saw them again while looking for some particularly illusive white whine vinegar and though one or two had started to rot the others were sprouting. I quickly put these in a pot with some soil and put them under my growing table. Now a couple of weeks later they have sprouted and are even looking a little leggy. I guess I will put them somewhere brighter and once it will stop being so incredibly cold (really people? A white Easter ) I'll try them again and see whether a longer growing season might end up giving me a better return.

Thursday, 28 March 2013

Straw Bale Experiment

I had heard of planting in straw bales from around the web but after reading this article in the New York Times I decided to give it a go this year. The rhubarb patch which we inherited from the previous owner of the allotment proved to be too damaged to be rescued so it can be used for the bales this year. It is located very close to the water to make watering as easy as possible. I arranged the bales so that the straws are aligned vertically.

First I thoroughly wetted the straw with icy icy water. Then I sprinkled a fair amount (about 2 cups I guess) of lawn fertilizer on top and watered again. Now I will leave them alone for a couple of weeks just watering when i'm there.

Meanwhile mum busied herself with putting this cold frame together. You can't see it on the photos but it was not only bitterly cold but there was a ridiculous arctic wind blowing which made construction all the more complicated and quite frankly dangerous.

In the end we had to abandon this particular project to be continued on a less windy day.

Since the rhubarb patch is well... dead, I planted a new one far away from the original patch in case there was any rhubarb rust in the ground.

Finally even though spring has begun bitterly cold, the chive patch is looking rather fabulous.

Sunday, 24 March 2013

It Is Still Soooo Cold

Spring is keeping everybody waiting so there is not that much to do at the allotment at the moment. The soil is still so cold that sowing early veg is out of the question right now. As you can see it does need a proper clean up. The grass truly is the bane of my existence here growing absolutely everywhere.

The good news is that the broad beans and shallots planted in winter are showing and looking good no thanks to the horrendous weather.

The garlic patch too is looking good. All bar one row of 3 different garlic bulbs came up fine and I can't wait till I can  start picking the first young bulbs. Last year garlic was one of my favorite crops so this time I decided to grow lots and lots of it.

Last years plum tree was pretty much dead on arrival. When the supermarket had these little fruit trees on sale I grabbed the green plum 'Reine Claude'. Hopefully this little plum tree will thrive here.

Next up I am going to put up a little cold frame and start my own little hay bale growing experiment.

Thursday, 21 March 2013

Water Rooting Horseradish

I'm really fond of eating horseradish so when I saw some fresh roots for sale I knew I was going to try and grow it. The usual method is to just plant the roots, and I did just that with two other bits but the other piece I submerged in water to see if it would root.

In a couple of weeks the submerged part of the root has sprouted several new little plants. The part of the root that was above water simply dried out. Pretty soon I will twist of the bigger start and keep them in water until they have a proper little root system before I plant them into soil.

Salmon with fresh horseradish creme fraiche here I come!

Monday, 18 March 2013

How To Prune Pachypodium Succulentum

Last year I did a post on pruning Pachypodium Succulentum. However that was just a very mild prune just to see how the plant would react to a bit of a chop. It turned out that Pachypodium and indeed pruning it is quite high on my search term list. This year I am doing a very thorough prune including trying to propagate the plant via root cuttings. As you can see the top growth really has been getting thoroughly out of control. Realistically it is always going to be a bit lanky because there just isn't that much sunshine in the Netherlands.

Snap! With a very sharp and very clean pair of cutters I pruned back every single branch. As you can see I left a couple of centimetres on each branch (at least a couple of thorn pairs). From my previous pruning experiment I learned that it the new branches will sprout from these thorny bits and leaving a couple on means I have a bigger chance of a lot of new branches.

In this pic you can see a cut from last year and a fresh cut. I have dabbed all cuts with cinnamon to prevent any fungus problems.

Next up I took the whole plant out of the pot. The plant is from Ariane Cactus nurseries (their caudiciform plants are marketed as 'South African Pride' just like my Euphorbia Bupleurifolia and comes in the same gravely, pumice mix. The mix had hardened a lot and was quite difficult to get out of the pot. As you can see there was still a substantial bit of caudex underground and surprisingly few roots.

I feel quite confident in the regenerative abilities of this plant so I cut of a substantial piece of the tap root to experiment with some root cutting propagation. Again the cuts were covered in a bit of cinnamon.

This part is quite speculative but I the root in 7 portions. 1 is not pictured and substantially larger than these bits. These bits I dried for about a week (just like the whole plant which I just lay down on my plant table). The other bit I tried to root in water but I was getting worried about rot and I just pushed it into the soil of my plumeria.

I hope the bits of root did not dry out to much but I planted them up again in some barely moist substrate.

I thoroughly washed the substrate to leech out any harmful salts and added a good amount of pumice to lighten the mix up a bit. As you can see I raised the plant up substantially because I liked the look of the bifurcated caudex. At first I as afraid this would make the plant look too tall and skinny but I actually think the balance is a bit better now.  Because there are so few roots holding it in place I am using a little pot to add some support until the roots have regrown properly.

Saturday, 16 March 2013

Good Old Reliable Euphorbia Bupleurifolia

I am loving how easy Euphorbia Bupleurifolia is to take care of. In winter I stopped giving any water, and when I was comfortable that it was completely dry I put it away a bit close to a window so there would be some light at least. Last week I finally took a look at it and it was looking a bit deflated. Days are getting steadily longer so I thought it might be time to wake it up. I gave a small amount of water just enough to darken the pumice a bit. And look!

It has plumped up again and is starting to push out some leaves. Really as long as you are happy keeping it completely dry in winter than this really is much easier to look after than some others might suggest.

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Cactus Babies

My cactus seedlings are just shy of a year old. (post on sowing them and germination post) They have been living with some rather harsh circumstances (really letting them dry out and the occasional flooding) but quite a lot of them have survived. This survival of the fittest regime will make sure the surviving seedlings are genetic winners. The seed came from a mixed cactus packet from a botanical garden in Italy. Now I need the propagator to start other seed this spring so I am planting them out in a pot.

They are still quite closely packed but the roots can now run much deeper and I know how slow these will grow so this way the won't take up too much space. The mix drains very easily and the top layer even more so, because of this I will probably have to water them a bit more often until they are properly established.

Lets not forget the lonely Pachypodium Geayi seedling. My older seedlings died last winter from rot so I am happy to have this one. Pachypodium Geayi will be even more happy than the cactus seedlings with a deeper pot for its root system.

It is cool to see how many different cacti there are among the seedlings. I suck at identifying cactus and I suppose it is still too early anyways but here are a couple of close up shots to show how different they all are


Monday, 11 March 2013

Planting Pleione

Last December I put my three Pleione bulbs in a plastic baggie and straight into to refrigerator. Now should be a good time to get them out and plant them up again. The picture above shows that Pleione Cairngorm is ready to go.

I filled this pot with some fine orchid mix and some extra moss I had laying around. On top of that I filled half this pot with broken shards to provide optimal drainage. This should provide the Pleiones with a moisture retentive soil without ever becoming soggy.

Here they are in their new pot. In the back Pleione Cairngorm, in front the pink tinged bulb is Pleione Formosana and on the left Pleione Hanka. I'm going to keep them inside for now and they should make a nice flower display in a couple of weeks (maybe a bit more). I am hoping that they will form some bulbils this year. I didn't find any when I emptied them out of their pot in winter. Perhaps I missed them because new bulbils tend to be very small. I might even store this whole pot in winter so no bulbils will be thrown away accidentally.

Saturday, 9 March 2013

Protea Project

My parents have come home from their vacation in South Africa and brought me some seeds to try out. I have quite an affinity with South African flora and the artichoke like flowers of the Protea family are very charming. I have a packet of mixed Leucadendron, Protea Eximia and Protea Neriifolia. These particular Protea are known to be relatively easy to grow.

The fluffy seeds seen here are the Protea seed and the black seeds are the Leucadendron mix. In their natural habitat they germinate following the fires that occasionally rage in the fynbos. I don't have any smoke primers and I havn't had any success with burning some pine needles on top of some other SA seeds I once tried so I am taking a gamble and planting them without any smokey preparation. I'm planting them in pots that should be big enough to handle a year of growth. I'm using regular seed starter soil because it is both quite sandy and low in nutrients which the Protea like. If enough of these germinate I might experiment a bit with their hardiness and I might even plant out one or two in a well drained acidic spot. They can handle a bit of frost but not much so I will need to think a bit on what protection to use. First things first though; germination.

Friday, 8 March 2013

One Sunny Day

It is that special time of year when the tentative first signs of spring start appearing. Crocus and Snowdrops are providing a taster of the flowers to come and the birds are beginning to sing. Inside I started the peppers, chillis and tomatoes. And lo! The first warm and sunny day has arrived. I can never resist getting a couple of my succulents outside to soak up some much needed sun.

It is still months away before they can be left outside off course  nevertheless a little bit of sunshine will do them good. The sun is not yet strong enough to burn them and this way they get re accustomed to her rays.

The Aeoniums in particular seem to immediately change colour. Schwarzkopf especially is noticeably darker a couple of hours in. Aeonium sunburst cristata will begin to show its pink stripes.

Aloe plicatilis and Aloe polyphylla have lost a lot of their gel and their leaves are thin instead of plump. But with a bit of water and sunshine they should plump right up again.

Unfortunately this taster of spring will end tomorrow when a cold front will drop down from Scandinavia and bring the frost and snow. Hopefully spring will be right around the corner because this little taster has proven irresistible.