Wednesday, June 30, 2010

What goes around comes around

Our neighbours closed on the sale of their house yesterday.

I had created two container plantings for her previously and also remade the walkway to her front door.

Since they're moving to Colorado and as she said: "I don't have you to plant these for me, I might as well give them to you".The plants I choose for the first container were tough as nails, they survived 98F summers and sub-freezing winters without watering or any care. I found out the reason while trying to move it - the roots has grown into the soil beneath, so in order not to leave a large bald spot in the lawn, we decided to leave that one.

She gave me the other container I planted with dwarf selloum, another large empty container and another large container containing a small bald cypress seedling.

I plan on planting the cypress seedling next to a city pond close by, where there are already a couple of young bald cypress trees growing.

I plan on using the two containers to experinment with "condo" fruits.

I have a seedling keitt mango  that I'd like to plant in one - this one was unusual as it was the only poly-embryonic seed I found out of probably 30 seeds. This means that it should be an exact clone of the parent tree. The keitt mango is considered a condo mango by some, my snowbird neighbour's tree at the back, is probably as tall as the middle of the roof and has an upright habit, i.e. its not even closely as wide as tall and very manageable and it bears arguably the best tasting mangos I have ever tasted. They are huge, weighing 2-3 lbs each! When they are here, we frequently exchange pleasantries over the fence, they are avid vegetable gardeners and plant all kinds of vegetables while they are here for our "winter". He has given me sole ownership of the mango's his tree bears while they are away, in return I gave him my best "orange-fleshed" guava seedling. Before he left this year, he asked me to plant a papaya tree for him, which I gladly did last weekend. At the same time I picked the first mango's. They are just starting to blush and will take about 10 days to ripen. Better I pick them, otherwise his garden service guys, neighbours etc. will happily take care of it.

In the other container I'll possibly plant a red malaysian guava. They'll both go on the uncovered patio at the back of the house.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Musical chairs

After 3 1/2 years of hard labor, my yard is now starting to mature and I find myself running out of space to plant all the exotic fruits that I still want to grow.

I removed the seed-grown sapodilla tree as noted before due to fear of it overrunning my neighbor's yard and replaced it with a mallika mango. I've been growing an orange fleshed guava from seed since last spring and I was looking for a spot to plant it.

I decided to remove the giant crinum lily and move it to one of the mixed shrub borders and replace it with the guava.

I am grooming this specific guava to be a single trunked tree, so that the exotic peeling bark can be visible and also to keep it size in check.

This means I now have three different guava varieties growing almost in a row, forming a natural wall to enclose the kids playset, forming another garden room.

As you can see in this picture, I moved the lilly to the back of the guava.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Nursing the variegated guava air layers

On Saturday, I severed all the air layers that I did in February. Most of them didn't grow as many roots as I had hoped for - the plastic that I used to cover the spagnum  peat moss, was too thin and it was invadid by argentine ants and other insects, making the peat moss dry out.

The largest of them all had a very nice rootball growing. I planted a total of 5 air layers, after removing 90% of the leaves and cutting some of the shoots back.

They are now under the deep shade of the litchi tree along with the sapodilla tree I also removed this weekend.

Since June is our rainyest month and also extremely humid, now is a good time to nurse them.

If they grow, I'll have plants to give away as gifts or sell during our community yard sale, if not, then nothing is wasted and I had great fun doing this experiment.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Difficult decision - replacing the seed-grown sapodilla

After Julie's comment about her 50ft tall sapodilla, I had to make a difficult decision, shall I leave it and let it grow too big and then take care of it, or remove it while its only 5 feet tall.

The tree is truly beautiful and already starting to sport the pyramid shape they are known for.

Since it will take a very long to bear fruit and is occupying prime real estate, I decided to replace it with something that will fruit sooner and that I really like and have been thinking of planting for a long time.

So on Saturday, I went to Home Depot in Lake Worth to get some painting supplies and I looked in the outdoor section and they had a couple of Mallika mango trees. I have been reading up a lot on the mallika and have read so many good things about it.

What I really like is the fact that the tree is a real dwarf variety and can even be grown in a container on a patio for example. I don't know what I was thinking when I planted the sapodilla tree, maybe it will take 20 years to grow 50ft tall and by then I won't be living here and it will be someone else's problem, but with our under water mortgage, who knows, it just might become my problem. So after coming home with the mallika I still deliberated and tried finding a different spot, but after a long time, I finally decided that the sapodilla had to go.

So I removed some more of the sod and planted the mallika, then dug around the root ball of the sapodilla and replanted it in the same container and placed it under the deep shade of the litchi tree where it can recover from the shock. I just feel too sorry to get rid of it. Maybe I'll go and plant it in a public spot like they do in some communities in California. People find unused, waisted public spaces then plant fruit trees for everyone to enjoy.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Growing goji berry in South Florida

I couldn't find any information about growing it in Florida, so I am taking a chance and bought some seeds online -Lycium chinense, this is the variety that grows in the southern warmer parts of China. They took a long time to germinate, and they grew very slowy, of the 8 or so pots I planted, 4 survived, I've already planted 3 in the garden in different spots, I'm still looking for a spot for the last one.

This is a picture of one of them, now 5 months old. Apparently they take 3 years to bear from seed, so now its wait and see. The plants are very scraggly and needs to be supported.

They are in the Solanacea family  that includes eggplant, tomatoes, potatoes, peppers .... and so far I have found them to be suspectible to the same pests, i.e. tomato hornworm, spider mites...whitefly

Hopefully i can keep it alive for three years in order to get some fruit from it.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Second try at growing turmeric

Last year I bought some fresh tumeric tubers at our local fresh market and planted them in my garden.

They sprouted growth but never seemed very happy and the argentine ants invaded the tubers and the plants just died back. I lifted the few remaining tubers and stored them until late January after the last day of frost, then planted them and kept them moist in my little greenhouse. They only started growing in late April, seems they really need shady, moist, warm and humid conditions. In retrospect, I think the site was too dry and too sunny.

After they grew real leaves, I planted them in this box container and placed it on the patio where they will receive a few hours of direct sun, If I see them deteriorating, I'll move it to a full time shady spot, maybe under one of the trees.

So far the leaves are really beautiful kind of reminds me of shell ginger or even canna.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Rescued ixora's coming on nicely

About 3 months ago, I helped my neighbor to redo the flower bed leading up to her front door.

I don't know if I had any part to play in it, but they sold their house and for a much better price than anyone had hoped for - still well below what we owe (since we bought at the height of the market in 2006), but its 50% more than our direct neighbors sold for. This gives us hope that we might break even  (and dare we hope even turn a profit some day) sooner than later.

Anyway, the dwarf ixora's that I removed due to being burned by the chlorine bleach used to clean her walkway, are all starting to sprout new growth (except one which is now on the compost pile). Now I just need to figure out where I'm going to plant them, or I might sell them on our community garage sale.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

The first sapodilla flower

My latest addition to the yard, an Alano sapodilla from Excalibur which I planted last fall, is flowering! This is the difference between buying quality versus skimping (or growing from seed). My other sapodilla which I grew from a seed 2 years ago, is only about 3 feet tall and will probably only fruit in another 5 years.

The bought tree is barely 4 feet tall and already has numerous flowers and will probably bear at least 5 fruit.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

The secret to growing myrtaceous fruits from seeds

Almost all the myrtaceous fruit seeds I have bought have played the same trick on me.

This includes:

1. Surinam cherry
2. Grumichama
3. Uvalha
4. Cabelluda
5. Blue Grape

and I am pretty sure the same holds for most of the others with large seeds, like jaboticaba, pitomba ...

I plant the seeds in well drained loamy soil, place the container in some shade, but where it will receive some sunlight, keep it moist, not too wet, then wait for what feels like forever. Normally after about 2 - 4 weeks (for some even 2 - 4 months), you should see the first little shoot push trough the soil.

What happens next is very disheartening, almost without fault, the very first shoot dies within a few days and turns brown and rots away.

I made the mistake to throw out some of those seeds, but accidentally left a few grumichammas and discovered to my amazement that a new shoot (or sometimes more than one) started growing ! This later happened to most of the seeds I bought online. If I hadn't known, I would have lost all of them. Some of these seeds run $3 each ! (Uvalha).

My latest seed, a Uvalha, germinated and started growing a shoot, but within a day or two, the shoot died. So with a lot of faith, I left it, placed it in deeper shade and didn't water it too much, and sure as hell, today, about 2 weeks later, I discovered the new little shoot ! You really have to zoom into the picture to see it. To the right of the green little shoot, the dead brown shoot is barely visible.

Its important to never expose the new little shoots to direct sun, they will get scorched and die within a day.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Taming the yellow (lillikoi) passion flower

When I went outside on memorial day, I was planning on doing a few routine maintenance tasks, i.e. prune some shrubs, prune the pentas ...

I heard some hacking noise and discovered my neighbour hacking away at the lillikoi that had been suffocating his crepe myrtle trees. I guess we're even now, because he let his bougainvilleas and mandevilla vines grow over the fence and completely engulf the whole corner, including a Christmas palm. The bougainvillea is much tougher to deal with than the passion fruit since it has hard woody canes armed with nasty spikes.

After he was done, I took out my pruning gear and hacked away the last few shoots growing over the fence. I didn't have the heart to remove all the shoots that are now creating a rather nice looking ground cover, but I sort of realize I might be sorry later when it tries to take over the rest of the yard ! I also left the thick growth that is now covering the bottom part of the travellers palm. I did however cut off the shoots that are now trying to suffocate the strawberry guava and the ones reaching for the sugar apple.

So far, not s single fruit in sight. This is very disappointing. Now I have this beautiful vine, taking over most of the back fence, with beautiful blooms and the promise of great tasting fruit, but nothing !

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Growing grumichama from seed

Growing grumichama (Eugenia brasiliensis) from seed is not for the faint of hearted or easily discouraged. The seeds take a very long time to germinate, then the seedlings are extremely vulnerable to drying out, sunburn etc. This is my 2nd grumichama that died suddenly after two years for no apparent reason.

If you are lucky to live close to a rare fruit nursery like me, your luck is in as these are fairly cheap and can be bought for about $15 and will fruit within a year or two from planting. However, if you want a good supply of these delicious fruits, I suggest you buy as many as you can, so it can get expensive very quickly. If money was no issue, I definitely would plant as many of these as I have space for.

For me I grow it from seed because its more of a "I do it because I can" and "I hate throwing away seeds" and "I already have two fruiting specimens, but I'd like a lot more, so I can wait".

I strongly suspect that juvenile plants can not stand even a single drying out episode, neither do they like the scorching South Florida sun. This particular one looked a little wilted, I watered it but it died within two days after it started wilting. They also seem to really hate being transplanted.

Furthermore, they seem to have some nutritional deficiency all of the time, but at the same time don't seem to like too much fertilizer either.So for me, its been a hit-miss experience. I still have three seedlings varying in age from almost two years to 1 year.

We love this fruit so much that we literally fight over them, we pick the fruits then count and equally divide them!