February 9, 2015
After one of close encounters with fungus gnats and aphids, I thought about growing some kind of carnivore plants, that could make problems go away. Since carnivore plants also have issues with both, I would at least get some satisfaction, watching the pest being eaten by it’s prey. I decided I’ll try growing Drosera capensis, which is supposed to be one of the easiest carnivores to grow. Sadly it’s not cold hardy, so I’ll have to keep it inside – where the gnats are, but we actually have three varieties of Drosera growing locally. Perhaps I’ll plant those outside around the pond.
I used peat and living sphagnum moss, combined with SiO2 based sand. I was in a hurry, so I skipped flushing the soil mix with distilled water. Chopped living sphagnum particles were evenly distributed throughout the mix and I was hoping sphagnum moss would start growing on top of the soil.First germination occurred around two weeks later. I was getting worried, because moss already started showing growth, ant it started sprouting all over the pot. I expected that I won’t be able to see the emerging seedlings as they start appearing. After 10 days I did see something green and after closer examination, it became clear that it in fact was small Drosera seedling. Drosera capensis seeds are incredibly small, so you need a camera or magnifying glass to see small seedlings. Since I haven’t wash the soil mix with distilled water before sowing, I later decided to try sowing into agar medium. Some of the seedlings disappeared during germination and whole top soil appeared to be slightly moving because of living moss which I added to peat/sand mix. Adding living moss ended as bad idea which I don’t intend to repeat.
Despite a lot of effort to try and get as sharp photo of tiny seedlings as possible, pictures still look blurry. To snap tiny Drosera seedlings, you need macro lenses and tripod and I don’t have either. Interestingly, seedlings grow at different rates of growth. One of the seedlings that was the largest at first and received equal or even higher amount of light than other seedlings started to lag behind. It did start growing it’s second leaf earlier, but the first true leaf was smaller and it wasn’t carnivorous. When first seedling already started catching insects, with its one carnivorous leaf, whole bunch of new seedlings started to emerge.
First Drosera dinner
Just a couple of hours after I first noticed carnivorous leaf started showing dew on it’s tentacles, I noticed black spot covering it’s leaf. I was thinking about feeding it, but as it’s leaves were still far too small, it would be mission impossible. At first I thought it might be covered with small part of soil particles, or part of the seed coat. I decided to re-check it and try to get sharp photo of the leaf, so I spent a couple of minutes watching the seedling through the camera’s lens. Not only I saw that in fact it caught it’s first insect, I also noticed there was another one wandering around the seedling as well. They looked like black tiny beetles. The one that was still alive was a little bit larger and very fast for such small insect. I used living moss to prepare the soil mix, which quite possibly hosted a lot of living organisms. Interestingly, Drosera capensis seedling managed to attract those beetles extremely fast.
Few days after first meal, it became clear that seedling which managed to capture an insect, started to grow faster and increased it’s mucilage production. I decided to feed it again, together with the second largest seedling. I found thrips (Thrips tabaci) on an onion and used a couple of nymphs to feed the seedlings. I used toothpick to transfer the nymphs onto carnivorous leaves. Two seedlings failed to grab the nymph off the toothpick, other two seedlings had enough dew to glue it onto their first leaf. Half an hour after feeding, tentacles started producing more mucilage and slowly started digesting their meal. First of the seedlings that germinated and appeared to grow fast, started to decline a bit before first carnivorous leaf formed. Leaf top became pale and it needed much more time to finally grow two small tentacles. It was a bit stunted and I hoped it’s not an issue that would harm the seedlings. Despite feeding, one of first two plants started to look strangely similar to the stunted seedling, it almost completely stopped growing. Growing leaf started to turn orange and I was happy to see that there were tentacles forming, but the formation was much slower than with it’s first leaf that appeared green. It also happened that the leaf on which the nymph was, got damaged one night. The nymph disappeared completely and there were like less than half tentacles left. One week after the feeding, the largest seedling also started growing orange leaf, but this time only “cap” was orange and it seemed to grow at normal speed. Apparently, when seeds germinate, they grow faster and are prone to coloration caused by intense light. Same thing happens after feeding, when plant starts to grow faster. When at one point plant get stressed by intense light, its growth slows down and it starts to adapt.
At one point when nymph got digested completely the same seedling somehow attracted whole mass of tiny black bugs onto it’s second carnivorous trap. The same day I’ve notice another seedling with trap that also got lucky. Strange thing is, there were also other traps on smaller seedlings all around the pot, but they were the only ones that managed to capture anything and they both caught a lot. It’s certain, that the pot is full of these tiny black creatures crawling around and that they often end up being caught by seedlings. Perhaps other traps lacked dew or were simply not sticky enough to capture anything. I realized that using living moss wasn’t so bad idea after all. I inoculated the pot with abundance of living plant food. If they also ate mold and partly digested insect carcasses, small ecosystem was perfect.
One morning, I noticed there was whole pile of bugs on one tiny trap. That completely ruled out my thoughts that these bugs randomly roam around the pot and get caught when going over drosera’s traps. Well, actually, that is most likely true, but they tend to gather around their dead or captured siblings. Perhaps they were mating and the first one attracted whole group that also got caught. Another option that I can think of is, that they are carnivores and they eat dead insects. I lean forward to the ‘mating’ answer, because there were just too many in the same trap and I don’t think they can sense food that well. If I’d known what these black insects were I could do some research.After a lot of research, I found out that springtails act exactly like these tiny black creatures. Females use pheromones to attract males, which explains why there are piles of bugs caught at the same time in the same trap when female gets caught and why there’s only one springtail caught when male gets trapped. I searched for various springtails and tried to identify the creatures. It became apparent that they are Globular Springtails. I don’t have equipment to close up and view more detailed photo of springtail, so I had to use my digital camera and close up as much as possible to get the best idea about its shape. My guess after internet research i did is, that these black springtails are in fact Sminthurinus niger globular springtails. They usually don’t do any damage to plats and feed on fungus, which can be beneficial in moist environment I grew carnivore plants in.
One month after germination, seedlings looked more and more sickly, some of them lost dew and it became evident that with time all the seedlings started to show signs of stress. New leaves did not grow completely and some of the leaves even turn light brown and died. I figured out that light level plays no role in their decline, the real reason was the soil. Seeds that were planted in pure peat were all growing into healthy green seedlings with a lot of dew. At that point, I decided to transplant all remaining seedlings into another pot. A couple of seedlings were already too damaged to survive the transplant, but many had shown some improvement. I covered the pot again to increase humidity and to make sure the dew appeared again. The largest seedling started to decline before it got transplanted and it’s two leaves that were already growing for some time failed to grow tentacles. They were stunted and damaged, but in the middle of the seedling new leaves started turning from pink to green in just a couple of days.
February 4, 2015
During early summer, I’ve taken several ripe Vaccinium corymbosum blueberries and kept them frozen for 6 months. During that time, they should become stratified enough to complete their dormancy. Without stratification period in the freezer, seeds would not become viable and would fail to germinate.When blueberries thawed, I placed them into strainer and broke them into small pieces with my fingers. At the same time I was pouring cold tap water through the strainer, to clean the seeds and take out larger pieces of fruit without the seeds. I placed the seeds into paper towel and placed it on a drafty windowsill to dry. When dried, I started preparing peat moss for them to start germinating. The seeds are small, so I decided to use blender and shred the larger particles into small pieces.
Blueberries need a lot of light, moisture and slightly acidic soil. They can germinate slowly, so I had to make sure to prevent mold from destroying the young seedlings. I used microwave and sterilized peat moss, before I planted the seeds. I also tried fermenting several seeds for 2 days and started germinating them in wet paper towel.One month after I started, I’ve already had mold issues in both, peat and paper towel. After that I placed peat out of it’s originally planned sealed plastic bag, so It could dry out a bit. It dried out… a lot. I then noticed peat is way too compacted, so I used a toothpick to make it at least a bit softer and aerated. After a month, there were no signs of germination and after all the issues, I almost gave up. Before throwing everything into compost bin, I finally saw one tiny seedling starting to break free. After only a couple of days, more seedlings appeared and at the same time, I noticed that seeds in the paper towel also started sprouting. Despite the fact that seeds were fresh and stratified, they took more than a month to finally start germinating.
One month after seedlings first appeared, I decided to give them more light. They immediately started growing faster and started changing color to darker green, with more red coloring in new leaves. I used very small containers so they needed watering every two days in intense light. Before, when I placed them into completely shaded location, they only needed watering every couple of weeks.
Moso and yellow leaves
January 17, 2015
Recently, someone asked me for advice about his yellowing Moso seedlings. I remember banging my head into the wall, trying to realize what was wrong with my Moso seedlings, when I was desperately trying to grow them from seed. At that point I have had no idea about the cause of yellowing and I was doing way too much (all the wrong things :)) to save them. In the end, all the pampering, fertilization, foliar sprays, excessive watering, moving them around from shade to half shade, full sun and back again, didn’t help them. Most of the seedlings from that time died a terrible death, except for one, which is growing vigorously.Most possible causes of leaf yellowing are:
- waterlogged soil
- too much sun
- soil heats up too much during the day
Moso is terrible when grown in containers. Even if it’s already well established in it’s pot, it can get dry quickly, but it will immediately suffer if watered too much so it starts becoming water logged, roots will start rotting, water consumption will become minimal, soil will remain wet and it will start to die. Rather keep it on a dry side, at least partly shaded and protected from strong winds.Sun exposure can be tricky for Moso seedling as well as watering, but it’s a lot less problematic – seedling can suffer, but should not die because of it. When exposed to full strength sun, it often folds it’s leaves to preserve water. If you water it, you can kill it, if you spray it’s leaves only, it will unfold, but only for the time leaves remains wet. Usually that kind of exposure doesn’t damage the seedling, BUT it will start getting paler green and will look a bit chlorotic with some visual defects on the leaves, it can loose some branches, some of the shoots can get damaged as well. In complete shade, it will grow slowly but should remain dark green and healthy. Best thing to do is to find partly shaded position for it to thrive. When established enough, its tolerance can improve.
In late fall or early summer when temperatures are low enough to allow sunbathing, dark pots can get extremely hot. In overheated soil, roots and rhizomes get damaged, start rotting and seedling starts to decline. Pots have to be protected from sun exposure, so the soil temperature remains constant and low enough. The best option is to bury the pots.
Why I struck through nutrient deficiency? At least for me, it was never deficiency. It can be though!
Yellowing usually occur when there’s nitrogen deficiency. In case of N deficiency, new leaves remain dark green, but older foliage starts to turn yellow. Seedling transfers all the nutrients from old leaves into new ones. Iron deficiency makes the leaves turn yellow, but the veins remain green. It starts showing in new leaves first, in severe cases older leaves also get affected.
Sulfur deficiency hits the whole plant at the same time, which means new and old leaves turn yellow at the same time. Leaf veins get yellow as well.
Magnesium deficient plants start yellowing in the older leaves, then yellowing spreads to newer leaves if deficiency is severe.
… but usually it’s not deficiency at all.
To improve my seedling’s chances I now prepare my soil mix myself. I use garden soil, 2 years old compost (kitchen scraps, grass clippings, wood chips,…), peat moss, partly decomposed wood chips and some sand or gypsum. Soil holds water well enough, there are many air pockets inside and a it offers a lot of nutrients.
Most common mistakes:
- using cheap pure peat moss ‘soil’
- up-potting into large container
- mindless watering and fertilization
The main cause of waterlogging is usually inappropriate soil mix. If there’s too much organic material in the soil, it can hold and lock-in a lot of water. Peat moss, and coconut fiber based soil mix can hold water like a sponge, which leads to yellowing and death of young Moso seedlings.
In a small pot, there will be a lot of roots that will make the soil more porous allowing excess water to drain out of the pot. If there are many roots and established plant above the soil level, water consumption will be high enough to use the water before it becomes an issue. When transplanting the seedling into large (too large) pot, soil can get too wet, preventing seedling’s roots to conquer newly acquired space.
Sometimes when soil is already saturated with water, leaves will start showing the same signs of stress as if the soil would be dry. Wilted leaves don’t necessarily mean that seedling needs more water, if soil looks moist, do not water. If leaves start to turn yellow and you suspect nutrient deficiency, only use mild concentration of fertilizer with the next watering. If issue doesn’t go away after a week or two, it most likely isn’t nutrient deficiency related.
December 13, 2014
My plan was, to closely monitor weather data and try to spot emergence of cold induced damage on different (more or less) cold hardy bamboos. With gathered data, I’ll be able to determine cold hardiness of each individual bamboo, and detect possible ‘top kill’ conditions or (I sure hope not) conditions where bamboo completely dies. Bamboos are placed in different locations and can have their own micro-climate, but conditions are nearly identical. Small Chimonocalamus pallens seedling is planted under quite large Fargesia murielae, so it’s a bit more protected, but also much more tender because of it’s youth and extremely small size. Actually I will not be able to determine proper values for Chimonocalamus seedling, I will, however, be able to check its hardiness in it’s young seedling stage.
I will closely monitor temperatures and try to write down absolute low temperature (usually morning) and highest temperature. I will add wind conditions information, soil freeze / thaw conditions, information about snow cover accumulation, exposure to full sun, fog, rain, freezing rain… While closely checking weather conditions, I’ll also keep my eyes on all the plants, trying to notice any sign of stress or damage. When weather conditions won’t allow me to identify damage, for example in prolonged period of time with temperatures below freezing or rainy weather that will temporarily re-hydrate damaged leaves, making them look alive, I’ll try to determine the cause and extent of damage when it becomes evident.
I’ll keep all my recordings for further analysis and in try to create easily readable table or chart. Non-threatening days (with temperature above freezing) will be excluded, but will be mentioned as annotation in case of possible impact on plant’s condition later on when freeze damage occurs.
First freeze damage victims: Chimonocalamus pallens and Borinda fungosa seedlings
When temperature dropped and freeze the soil enough (-5°C/+2°C), Chimonocalamus pallens was the first of bamboos that started to show signs of leaf damage. Damage most likely started because of frozen soil and direct sun exposure. Leaves were exposed to full sun and roots were mostly shaded by F. murielae. With day temperature just above freezing, without wind and fully shaded, 1 cm of soil remained frozen. That was enough to damage the leaf cells. Leaves ended up slightly damaged and some of the youngest branches dried out during the first cold spell.
At the same time, the last shoots of Borinda fungosa also started showing some damage. The unbranched shoot is missing the top leaves, but culm still seems to be alive. Spring will tell if branches or buds got damaged. Autumn shoots that branched out recently had shown some damage and had lost a couple of fresh branches, but at least some of them might still be alive. Full extent of damage will also be visible in the spring.
Phyllostachys aureosulcata ‘Spectabilis’
Phyllostachys pubescens ‘Moso’ (3 year old seedling)
Borinda (Fargesia) Fungosa (3 year old seedling)
Fargesia denudata ‘Lancaster 1′
Hibanobambusa tranquillans ‘Shiroshima’
Pseudosasa japonica ‘Tsutsumiana’
Chimonocalamus pallens (1 year old seedling)
Second cold wave.Just after Christmas, we’ve received another wave of cold air that persisted longer and temperatures dipped much lower. Luckily we’ve received around 20 cm of snow in the beginning when temperatures started plunging. I used that snow cover to tarp down and bury Borinda fungosa which is not hardy enough to survive during harsh winter conditions. Most of the time it was sunny weather with moderate to strong wind. Moso leaves that were not protected by snow started to show signs of freeze damage when temperature dropped to -13°C. When temperature dropped to -15°C, first signs of damage appeared on Hibanobambusa tranquillans ‘Shiroshima’, exposed branches of Phyllostachys pubescens ‘Moso’ seedling got completely fried, Borinda was already tarped and covered with snow to prevent cold air from entering the space between tarp and the ground. Temperatures remained below freezing, but sun managed to melt the snow on south facing positions which caused quite some damage on bamboos that got exposed that way.
Phyllostachys pubescens ‘Moso’ got completely defoliated (perhaps even top-killed) on it’s southern side. Snow cover remained on it’s north facing side, which kept all the leaves and had shown only minor signs of any kind of damage. On January 3rd, snow started melting and temperatures started to rise. When daily highs were above freezing, there was no additional damage on any of bamboos. At the end of the cold wave, southern wind brought warm weather and I untarped B. fungosa to see it’s condition. It was looking surprisingly good. While exposed parts of culms got completely killed, everything that was tarped remained in relatively good condition. Old culms and shoots from late spring/early summer received only up to 30% leaf damage, shoots from early autumn, on the other hand, got up to 90% damaged despite protection.
Result of second cold wave
Phyllostachys aurea is holding well, much better than in 2012 when it got top killed. It does show some frost damage, but most of the culms took the cold surprisingly well. Even some of exposed leaves managed to recover, despite being totally dried out and wilted during the cold sunny weather.
December 7, 2014
There’s plenty of Cantharellus cibarius mushrooms, and even Boletus edulis that can still be found, hiding among the fallen leaves.
Bamboo and autumn leaf fall
November 19, 2014
Despite the fact that bamboo (well, at least most of them) is evergreen plant, most of temperate bamboos start shedding leaves as soon as weather starts getting colder.
During the winter, plant’s activity drops and water mobility inside the plant slows down and sometimes even stops completely. With temperatures below freezing, soil can be cold or even frozen on top, effectively preventing water to get from roots into leaves. Evergreen plants continue to loose water through the leaves by transpiration during the winter. Leaf can heat up considerably during bright sunny winter day and even if air temperature is low, rate of transpiration gets higher. Higher transpiration rate becomes a problem, when roots fail to replenish all the water that is lost through the leaves. Water loss problem gets worst during prolonged periods of strong winds and on already mentioned sunny days.
Deciduous plants shed their leaves during the unfavorable part of the growing season, which can be winter in temperate parts of the globe or dry season in the tropics. Plants effectively prevent water loss caused by unnecessary transpiration by tossing away their foliage. Bamboos usually remain green during the winter, except some of the species that grow at higher altitudes in the mountains. They do prepare for the winter and shed some of their leaves though.
When first frost arrived, most of the bamboos in my garden triggered leaf yellowing process but in only about a week, when most of the colored leaves dropped, bamboos turned green again, yet with a lot less greenery on them. Some of bamboos like to dispose of unnecessary leaves regularly, even during the summer, which means they show much less leaf loss in the fall. That kind of pattern was seen on Fargesia murielae. It was also the first bamboo to drop some of it’s leaves.
Phyllostachys aureosulcata Spectabilis either forgot to drop leaves or it managed to do it regularly so it was hard to notice. I do remember seeing yellow leaves, but they were emerging sporadically and were easily missed. Ground below and around it show almost no sign of dead leaves.
Phyllostachys Aurea is loosing a lot of leaves each fall and this year it’s doing the same. It does take a bit more time to complete the task.
Phyllostachys heterocycla Pubescens – Moso is also showing only minor leaf fall. It does like to drop the leaves in the spring after it starts shooting. Yellowing usually occurs when last year’s branches start to grow new foliage.
And the winner is Borinda fungosa. It started yellowing after first frost, in only a couple of days it was full of yellow leaves and just a couple of days later, there were no signs of yellow leaves on it. Soil around it, on the other hand is full of leaves that will hopefully protect the plant from winter cold.
Water hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes)
November 4, 2014
Eichhornia crassipes is commonly known as Water hyacinth and can be highly invasive. I only bought one small plant, but I ended up removing it on a weekly basis to allow at least some air and sun to enter the water. It creates dense mat of lush vegetation on the pond’s surface, but with time it shades out everything inside the pond.When I got the plant it was quite weak and pale and after I tossed it in the spring into the pond’s relatively cold water, some of the leaves actually became yellow. It all seemed the plant will have hard time to survive, but everything soon changed to the better and it started multiplying and growing, not only above the water but below as well. It forms dense root system and hollow leaves that float on the water. Water hyacinth was providing shade and protection to tadpoles and all kind of water organisms. Tadpoles then turned into little frogs and they too loved the floating plant. It soon started to show it’s invasive nature and started to take over the pond. At that point I started manually removing them. When I was taking them out, I noticed there are different organisms living and hiding in their dense root system, so I tried to keep those and only toss out the invasive plant. In the end of August, Eichhornia crassipes finally started flowering. This plant has two major flaws, first is it’s uncontrollably invasive and second, it starts blooming way too late. When it started flowering, autumn almost began, so beautiful flowers couldn’t last long. It would be great to have them in full bloom from let’s say early June.
When colder weather kicked in, the plant looks less and less attractive, flowers were gone and leaves turned pale. When first frost arrived, it burnt most of the plant and I removed great deal of it. I used it as mulch to protect other plants from extreme cold and it worked quite nice. I also noticed that earthworms just love water hyacinths roots. When water hyacinth freezes, it dies off and if in water, falls to the bottom of the pond. I’m not sure if tadpoles next spring liked the taste of it, or it still sits on the bottom. I’m not going to plant it again, because it grows way to aggressively. It can be used for mulch, compost, worm food and can be great for tadpoles and other creatures inside the pond, but the fun is over soon. If only it could flower earlier, then it would be tough decision and I’d most likely grow it again… and again.
November 4, 2014
One day in the summer, young hedgehog died and I’ve noticed a lot of green flies all around. I haven’t found the source until much later, when the flies and foul smell were already gone.
Unknown beetles on Columbine flower. There are many different beetles roaming around the garden and these two were ‘snapped’ while watching the flowers.
Chinese ladybugs almost removed the population of local ladybugs. These two are chinese version that is bigger and has more black dots on their backs. They are all beneficial to the garden so I love to see them around, especially doing what these two were doing. Aphids and mites beware.
Overwintering Cyperus papyrus “King Tut”
November 4, 2014
If grown from seed, it doesn’t get large enough the first growing season and I really need to save it. This summer it grew a lot, even with a lot lower temperatures than usual with abundance of rain. I saved some seeds, just in case I end up losing the mature plant. Some say, that with a lot of protection, Papyrus can handle the winter if it gets protected from freezing temperatures. I intend to keep most of it outside, covered with layer of dry grass, branches and straw, and large sheet of PVC above that to insulate the roots from winter cold as much as possible. If it can survive the winter outside, I’ll have one less plant to worry about next winter.
Rhizomes are thick and hard to break using a shovel, so I had quite an exercise getting it out of the waterlogged soil. I dragged it into the large plastic container without drainage holes. I used concrete mixing tub – it’s strong enough so it won’t break when filled with water and large enough to accommodate the division. Hopefully I didn’t damage the roots too much in the process.
New division had to be trimmed first, so it doesn’t lose too much nutrients trying to keep the green parts alive.
Arundo donax – Versicolor
August 22, 2014
Arundo donax is tall perennial cane that grows up to 6 m tall, but can grow even taller in optimal conditions with enough moisture and as much sun as possible. It grows in all kinds of soil types, can tolerate dry and wet soil, withstands polluted waste water contaminated soil and soil salinity.Arundo donax “Versicolor” is a bit smaller, less aggressive version with striped leaves. It’s a bit less cold hardy and lacks original Arundo’s vigor, but in temperate climate, cold hardiness doesn’t really count as long as underground rhizomes survive the winter. In warm climates without freezing temperatures, canes remain green and stop growing at low temperatures. When spring arrives with warmer weather, canes start growing again, pushing out branches from original stem. In colder climate, everything above ground turns brown, but the canes usually survive and can also branch out in the spring. Usually all the canes are removed during the late winter or early spring, because fresh growth looks much more attractive.