Friday, May 29, 2009

Horseradish tree

This seed grown horse radish tree is only 8 months old and already already more than 5 feet tall. Its growing so fast now that I can see a difference daily. It must be loving the intense heat, humidity and torrential rain we've been having the last 8 days - we've had more than 13 inches of rain in the last 8 days. Just as well, since this dry season has been the worst since 1930 !

The verdict is still out about the edibility of the tree - I have tasted the leaves and they taste a little like arugula, with a hint of a spicy after taste but not distasteful or distracting. Once its grown large enough to harvest some fronds, we'll use it in salads and try the pods/seeds in a curry. This tree is supposedly "the" miracle tree that could wipe out hunger world-wide.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

A Seagrape propagation experiment

I'm running out of patience with covering the back fence. I was planning to keep the space there open for more fruit trees/ edible shrubs, but the open ground is a breeding ground for all kinds of weeds and the neighbours back fence is not the prettiest sight to be seen. I decided to try and propagate some sea grape cuttings, they grow fast, are native to this area, have beautiful plate sized leaves with a red vein, bear edible fruits and grow fast, plus they are excellent wind barriers. I read somewhere that you can pretty much cut a two foot section off and stick it in the ground and that's exactly what I did. During the last part of May and almost whole of June, we get rain daily and mostly more than once, making it the ideal time to propagate plants in this fashion. Last year, I cut off a one inch thick cane from my neighbour's bougainvillea (that have now naturalised on my side of the lawn, but provides a spectacular show), stuck it in a pot with soil, placed it under the deep shade of the fig tree and voila instant standard bougainvillea - these sell for $45 and more.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Wonderful world of fungi

I found these beautiful fungi growing on the cedar mulch in one of my flower beds. I just wish I knew whether they were edible :) I'm going to post this on and see if someone can help me id it.

Mushrooms is another project I want to tackle one day when I have time - but like many other things here, there is a limited season to grow them. Its either too hot too cold, too humid or too dry. I guess late May / June is probably the best time. I see mushrooms popping up on every one's lawn, unfortunately its the poisonous chlorophylum molybdites.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Atulfo Mango seeds germinated

Two of the Atulfo Mango seeds I planted germinated and its clear that they are indeed polyembrionic, which means the seedlings will be true to type or in other word bear similar fruit than the parent plant - this is exciting as this is possibly the best mangos I've ever tasted! Yes, I know it could take anything between 3 and 6 years before they'll bear fruit, but I already have so many other fruit trees and shrubs going, by the time I'm tired of some of them, I can replace them with the Atulfo Mangos.

In the first picture you can see at least three seedlings emerging, with a possible fourth still growing, in the 2ND picture only one of the seedlings germinated, I accidentally damaged the largest one when I cut the husk open, but this one already has true leaves.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Starfruit coming on nicely

The starfruit tree is really putting on a show, its covered in those little purple blooms and small fruit are forming everywhere. I just can't wait for them to turn yellow and finally almost orange when they're entirely ripe. We devour them as fast as the tree can produce them, the first ones normally invoke a struggle as to whom is going to eat the first ripe one. We normally end up sharing the fruit !

This is the tree's 2nd year and I am sure its going to produce so many fruit that we probably won't have to fight over it. I've heard people say that if you have more than you can eat, juice them, the juice is supposedly absolutely fantastic. I can believe it, this fruit smells a little like passionfruit when ripe, so I can imagine the juice to be a little like passion fruit juice - yum.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Looks like the rain is here - finally

We've had a very brutal dry season, not only was it much warmer than normal, is was also very dry, in fact we received at least 15 inches less rain from November to now than normal.

The last two weeks were especially challenging, it was so hot and dry that all the plants, even the most drought tolerant ones started drooping and shedding their leaves. I caught my mamey crotons just in time, one more day and they would have been beyond the point of saving. The extreme drought and heat coupled with our city increasing water rates by 45% made watering especially challenging.

I've already seen my water bill almost double. Being the "budget gardener" I will have to start thinking of a rain harvesting system - the problem is, to store a considerable amount of water ( and I need to store thousands of gallons if I am to get through between the sporadic spells of rain in the dry season) you need a large underground tank and these cost in the thousands of dollars. I am thinking of building my own underground water cistern, or even a few water jars.

Since Tuesday we've been having rain on and off. Since Yesterday its been raining almost non-stop with torrential downpours every now and then. Last night we had sucha severe thunderstorm that the power went out and we were all woken up by the thunder. We had winds in excess of 60 MPH.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The persimmon - what a disappointment

This feels like Déjà vu - I remember how excited I got last spring when I saw my brown turkey fig tree covered in figs. That tree dropped every single fruit before they turned ripe and we had no figs the entire season !

Last fall, I bought this persimmon tree and it was one of my most expensive aquisations. Its deciduous, so I waited impatiently for the first leaves to appear, and lo and behold, the tree sprouted at least 20 or more blossoms. Was I excited, I was already tasting those fuyu persimmons, arguably one of the best fruits. To my dismay, in the last few days, the tree dropped every single fruit ! I don't know if it was the extreme drought, the constant 20-30 mph wind or the fact that I don't have another persimmon for pollination that caused the drop. I read up extensively about persimmons and the fuyu doesn't need a pollinator, in fact the un-pollinated fruits are supposedly seedless and better tasting. I also read that you're not supposed to give a high nitrogenous fertilizer before blooming, I did give it some of the special fertlizer mix I bought at Excalibur before it started leafing out, but not a lot. I also made sure to water the tree frequently when it was so hot and dry.

In short, I'm speechless and utterly disappointed that I have to wait another whole year before I "might" have it bloom again, and then another 6 months before the fruit ripens !!! Grrrr!

Centre island

This "winter" I was able to propagate enough duranta gold cuttings to complete the border around my center island. Now all I need is rain and patience while they grow and fill in. By the end of this rainy season, I expect them to form a single continuous golden border.

The other plants featuring here are:

From the back, the large purple leaved shrub is a starburst, only 1 year old !

Just in front of the starburst is a small choquette avocado tree.

On the left of the avocado tree is a white penta, on the right is a pink starburst penta. Just to the left and behind the white penta is a beautiful variegated flax lilly a division of this lilly is also planted to the right just behind the pink penta. The pink penta has totally exceeded my expectations. It is very drought tolerant, bug and disease resistant, grows non-stop and blooms non-stop.

In front of the penta's I planted divisions of variegated ginger (Alpinia zerumbet) a big favourite of mine.

In front of the pink penta, I planted a golden shrimp plant. Also in this area there will soon be a big display of purple cone flowers. Here they die off in the dry season and sprout from seeds in the wet season.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Eggplant lost the battle

This eggplant finally succumbed to the combination of a sever spider mite infestation, drought and relentless sun. I pulled it out last weekend. The other eggplant survived (only just) and looks like it might recover after our first substantial rainfall since November.