29 April 2016

flowers!

Dianthus is really showing off. It's flowers remind me of chrysanthemums.
Next to it, the geranuium doesn't have buds yet, but the greenery is looking healthy and increasing.
Lilac buds getting ready!
Peony buds fattening up- and already some interested ants are approaching.
And inside- african violet is fully open. But the other plant (purple flowers) still doesn't have any buds.

garden stuff

I feel like I am out of practice with gardening stuff. I keep estimating wrong, how much cold my seedlings can withstand, or forgetting to take note of the night chill, or starting them too early... Lost another basil seedling, so now I only have two of those!
These plants are still going in and out of the house- mint, boston fern, pepper plant and two small jades just for the heck of it. I stopped putting the echeveria out during the day- the two in the front planted area around my mailbox don't look good. And I learned that actually they do better in part shade- so I think the evening chill plus full sun most of the day wasn't good for them. The two I'm keeping in now look better. So does the geranium, I quit taking that one out yet as well. It was too early. You can see the lower leaves of the mint have some yellowing- I think that was from a day that was too cold for it, as well.
My sage suffered some more leaf wilt, looks like cold damage? I've brought it in to keep on the windowsill longer. The nasturtium that got damping off is dead, but I shored up soil against the fallen tomato seedling and that one recovered- I can't even tell which one it is now.
Tomatoes have another problem, though. A lot of their leaves have purplish undersides. Reading a book Garden Secrets it mentioned how to correct tomatoes with purple undersides, and I thought: wait, mine have that! I hadn't realized it was a deficiency. I went and looked at my seedlings again, sure enough.
But I applied the wrong remedy. I couldn't find the page that mentioned it (this book is great but a bit poorly indexed). I thought it had said phosphate deficiency and one way to correct is with wood ashes. I've got lots of that. I stirred some ashes into a few cups of water and poured the gray liquid over their soil. Later looked it up again and realized I'd done the wrong thing. They need bone meal. Oops. I'm a bit surprised they're lacking something, as I thought the potting soil I have is pretty stuffed with fertilizers. Maybe tomatoes need more phosphate than other plants generally do?

velvet report

Ended the first blackout stage yesterday. Having the tank wrapped made me fretful- I couldn't easily see the fishes to check on their symptoms. Unlikely to see any difference yet, though. Well, they are all still alive. The kuhlis look a bit stressed- their color is not so good. Barbs look fine. Not as dusty, but I haven't done the flashlight check yet. Continuing to dose kordon ich attack, once a day now.

The plants didn't seem to mind the blackout- and the crypts and aponos definitely look cleaner, brown algae gone. I see a bit of thread algae and BBA on driftwood buces, will clean that off by hand on water change day and see if it stays away this time.

28 April 2016

thorny

Finding holes in my garden space every morning. I am pretty sure it's squirrels. Sprinkling coffee grounds often but it doesn't seem to deter them. Yesterday taking some dead/broken branches out of a shrub and it has very prickly leaves. Not a holly, but something else with sharp thorns on the leaf margins. Normally I discard these kinds of leaves in the trash because I don't want to get pricked when working with compost, or in the garden soil later on. But this time I cut them into pieces and scattered over the area which has carrot and beet seedlings- the plants most at risk of getting trampled on or dug up by the squirrels. Lettuces seem okay- even though the buggers dig around them those plants aren't getting dislodged.
So here's a few pictures of my beet and carrot seedlings, which are big enough now to see easily.
I did not get many beets, they didn't all come up. So I carefully tried to separate the little plants and instead of thinning them out, spread them. With the blade of a butter knife holding the baby plant sandwiched in its surrounding soil, wedged into a new spot. Skeptical if it would work- root crops do not like being disturbed and transplanted. Of course the moved ones wilted the first day, but I kept them well watered and most seem to be recovering! Fourteen total beets, which is pretty paltry but it's a small space and a new start. There's more of the carrots.

The beets seemed to be doing okay with being moved around, except that squirrel keeps dislodging a few when he digs. After a few days of putting down the prickly leaves I realize it's not doing any good. The areas where I spread coffee grounds seem to be left alone more- until rain washes it down. I need more coffee grounds supply, to keep reapplying. Or perhaps make a pepper spray...

27 April 2016

a forest of seedlings

I guess because I'd never tried them before, I didn't expect them to grow well. So I carelessly scattered lots of flower seed across this tray. Silly idea! Now I have tons of celosia seedlings and am wondering how to pot them all up imminently!

Some of the violets are coming up too- I didn't sow those as thickly, so they'll be easier to deal with.
Happy that lots of green elbows are emerging from the soil in the bean pots. I've got Bean Contender Heirlooms growing, and the pole beans came up a day after. None the Blue Lake seed germinated. I look back in my planting record here and that's the same result as before. So I'm throwing out the Blue Lake seed, obvious it's not viable by now.

24 April 2016

velvet disease?

Yesterday looking close at my fish I thought some of my cherry barbs looked dusty. After dark I shone a flashlight on them and some of them had glittery, gold/bronze colored patches especially on the top of the head. My first thought is velvet disease, but I don't see any other symptoms- none of the fish are flashing, clamped or lethargic, and they were all eager to eat this morning. I had a thought to check on my betta in the smaller tank last night too, because in the past I've often thought he looked a little 'dusty'- I'd assumed before that his scales are just not very shiny/metallic. When I put the flashlight on him, I thought I saw gold specks gleaming under his gills and along his sides. But if Oliver has it, he's had it coming and going for a long time- how is that possible without my fish being dead? Is it because I feed them garlic about once a week? I don't know.

I went and bought some Kordon Ich Attack. I'm starting treatment today, raising the heat (the disease organism is very similar to ich) and am thinking about doing a three-day blackout, at least on the big aquarium. The velvet organism uses light as well as parasitizing the fish, so denying it light hinders its reproduction. It would have the added benefit of killing off some of my algae problem, too.... Advocates of just using blackout and heat (and sometimes salt) to kill velvet say wrap your tank in black plastic for over two weeks! That would do away with all my plants too, though- so I thought a three-day stint would slow down the velvet, without outright killing the plants... Not going to wrap the tank until I'm done raising the temp, though- it's hard enough getting in/out of the corner where the heater themostat knob is.

Going to keep a running record of how this goes as before- and report at the end of it. I don't know how the fish came down with velvet as I haven't had any new introductions (or illness) in quite some time now. Must have been harboring it in the tank...

working outside

Laying mulch the other day. I used up all of my shredded leaves and had to finish off the job with whole ones, only partly broken down. I know by the end of the year they will be decomposed into the ground but right now it looks odd- much less tidy on one side of the bed! I don't mind too much, as this is in the backyard.
Liriope is coming up strong now- I've cut back the older foliage and glad seeing the bright green younger shoots.
Quite a few of my new perennials are already forming buds- larkspur,
the largest astilbe
and the funny, striking blue-green Lysimachia.
I'm glad to see most of the ferns I put in last year around trees in the back have survived- I thought most were dead but quite a few are emerging again.
These pics a few weeks apart.

watering can fix

I have an older two-gallon watering can without a rose fitting. Several years ago it cracked and got to be useless- the water just poured out- so I quit using the rose. It's fine for older plants, to pour a steady stream around their base- but for seedlings and widespread soaking in the little beds, I really need a rose. Very frustrated that I can't find anywhere to buy a replacement rose. I don't want a whole new watering can, just a rose.
So I made one. I sacrificed a spray bottle (kept the sprayer head- I had two spray bottles so this will just be a spare head for the other) and cut holes in its base and shoved it onto the watering can.
Fastened with duct tape. It's a very rough job. But it works. Some of the holes are a bit bigger than I wanted so it kind of dribbles on one side, but it's satisfactory for what I needed. I'm still on the lookout for a new rose, though.

23 April 2016

the tenner

This one, at least, still remains clean. Even when I bring plant bits over from the other tank (sprouts of bucephalandra, loose pieces of subwassertang, trimmed rotala stems) I don't get algae here. I took a photo after most of the duckweed was lifted out for maintenance, and it looks cleaner this way. Not such a strong green cast on everything. I took the photo in ambient light- sometimes things stand out better that way.
Still removing lots of duckweed each week- about half, and it comes back quickly. This is the mass I took out friday-
seen from the side, how piled up it is.
I'm still really pleased with how the buces are growing- 'selena' still seems to be ahead of all the others. Or maybe its growth is just more noticeable, because it has bigger leaf size to start with.
Funny thing happened with my smaller windelov fern bunch (not a good picture of it). I started taking the old rubber bands off- one half of the rhizomes were obviously clinging on their own. But when I lifted the other rubber band, the other part of the plant came up with it. Somehow the rhizome had run over the rubber band and along the rubber band, was clinging to that instead of the rock! I'll have to wait for it to grow out enough to grab the rock surface on either side of the rubber band, so I can cut the ends off. Or fasten it down with a new one...
Most of all I'm glad here to see the fissidens taking off. It's a reputedly a slow grower, but I've been able to see the difference week by week, and that's satisfying. Here's some on the top edge of an elbow of driftwood-
seen from either side.

algae is slowing encroaching

in my bigger aquarium. I had to rub brown algae off many leaves again. Removed a few more crypt wendtii leaves and pulled out quite a few vallisneria that had black tufts appearing.
Lifted out the buce godzilla to remove another leaf with BBA appearing, and while I was at it, rubbed the surfaces all firmly with paper towel bits. I was surprised how much brown came off, and how much nicer this plant's color is now. That tells me I'm still getting more algae than I had realized. Maybe it is still too much light? I've put another plastic strip back over the LEDs.
Have found that looking at the plant leaves from below, or at an angle where they're backlit, allows me to spot the BBA easier.
Here's the buce 'midnight blue'. You can see its newest leaf on the lower left.
To my alarm I also found a tiny tuft of BBA growing on a pebble of the substrate (I plucked it out and threw it away) and also on the root hairs of some windelov fern. So lifted that one out and tried to clean it off. Gahhh.

Pulled out a bunch more thread algae this week, too. I can't quite see it in the lower areas of the rotala indica, but I can feel it- so I run my fingers gently pinching between the stems and even though I can't feel the algae threads between my fingers, I can feel and see the resistance when I pull and disentangle it from the rotalas. It's an odd sensation, fishing blind for it like that.
The good news in this tank is that subwassertang I tied over an upturned pot is starting to grow out. I like that. But the other subwassertang bunches have fine hairs of algae on some of their margins- I hope its not more BBA but it probably is...

more seeds and seedlings

My older daughter wants to make a green bean tipi. She dragged home some enormous fallen branches from the woods (twice her own height) and using twine, built a tipi structure in our backyard.
So we are sprouting beans. The brown ones soaking are the pole beans for the tipi, the white ones are two types of bush beans- trying again, even though my most recent memories of growing beans are failure. The pole beans last year were ruined by japanese beetles, and if I remember rightly, the bush beans from the two seed packets I have left never germinated for me? Regardless, I planted ten of each just to see. If they don't grow again this time around, will just toss those packets. I have folded yet more paper pots and scrounged up the very last of the saved yogurt and cottage cheese and takaway soup cartons for pots for them.
I also planted more seeds (can't say this is the very last time I start seed this spring!) Am saving up reusable plastic fruit and food containers with lids- because I'm tired of putting saran wrap plastic over them with rubber bands for the humidity. Remembering to poke holes for drainage.
So I planted more sage and echinacea, just for the heck of it. If I get more, I'm glad. If I don't, well a few will be enough. Should have done more tithonia too- why do I always seem to end up with only three tithonia? I also started some flowers that I've had packets for years and never tried growing- forget-me-nots, something funky-looking called celosia, and a violets mix.
I have five more pepper seedlings now- poblanos and bells.
Three more cherry tomatoes-
And final count of three basil seedlings, widely disparate in size.

22 April 2016

in the coldhouse

(I know my structure isn't technically a greenhouse, but I never really think of it as a coldframe- I always picture something low to the ground topped with a window, when I imagine a coldframe. So I think of this as my 'coldhouse' haha).
The cucumbers have their first true leaves!
A few of my seedlings seem to have suffered from damping off: one nasturtium, one beefsteak tomato and the sage plant collapsed with a pinched stem at the base. I have so many nasturtiums loosing one doesn't matter, and I don't even mind loosing one of the 'big' tomatoes- but the sage plant would be sore loss. I have piled up soil high around its stem, not sure if that will do it any good.
Speaking of nasturtiums, I have an entire shelf of them!!
Rosemary plant is very sad. My sick eleven-year-old asked for rosemary tea and I trimmed out all the older foliage, which was browning at tips and looking to die anyway. So I do see it has quite a few new, young leaves growing but I don't know if I can keep it alive. I have never had good luck with ailing rosemary. It does indicate this sprig probably grew some roots, though!
Here are the few other perennials and annuals I bought at that greenhouse and forgot to give mention weeks ago- I have some sweet potato vine intended for planter boxes (always wanted to grow this from a tuber myself, and never got one to do anything other than rot)
Flowering purslane- I never knew purslane could be decorative until one day I saw some edging a border on public property. I immediately recognized the low-growing fleshy foliage, and the pink and salmon colored flowers were so striking. So I was glad to find some for myself! This suffered some damage from chill earlier (I put it out in the coldframe house too soon) but it is recovering and growing new leaves that look fine.
I also have some gerbera daisy and dahlias- more plants I've never grown but always kind of liked.
And last but definitely not least, another type of coleus. I can't remember the variety name now- will have to go out and look at the label- but think of it as the 'funky coleus'.