Crossing Chili Peppers
August 25, 2015
I’ve posted about Trinidad Moruga Scorpion chilli peppers not showing their original features. Instead they were different in appearance and had completely different pods. Trinidad Moruga Scorpions are supposed to be stable so they would grow more fruit and their physical appearance would be practically the same. I figured out that I most likely received first generation hybrids from Trinidad Moruga scorpion plant. Since I only grew one chilli the first season and the fact it’s self fertile with male and female parts on the same flower, I’m sure it was not cross-pollinated with another chilli. Weather was cold and wet most of the year and there were no other plants nearby, which means that pollination with pollen from plant growing nearby was highly unlikely.
A bit about genetics and making new chilli varieties
Things get more interesting the following season, when the first generation of seedlings produce new generation (F2) of seedlings. This time recessive genes kick in and the result is a vast amount of plants with different combinations of characteristics they received from their mother and father plants.
This way, it is possible to further promote peppers with good characteristics and throw away peppers that are either not appealing enough or have some kind of deficiency – sometimes they can even end up sterile or poorly fertile. When you take only seeds from good performing plants, you start creating new variety of chili peppers with features that you like the most. It’s important that next generations are self pollinated as well, so that the genetic material starts to stabilise.
First generations of seedlings (except the uniform F1 generation) show many different characteristics and those differences start to fade with each additional generation. After 8 generations of seedlings (F8), variety gets almost homozygous. Homozygous means, that the plant is having identical pairs of genes for any given pair of hereditary characteristics. Those plants are again mostly uniform and will show recessive gene characteristics only in small amount of seedlings. Only then after all the years, you can finally call your seedling a brand new chilli variety.:)
… And my Trinidad Moruga Scorpion chilli hybrid
In case of my seedlings I have no idea about what the mother and father plant looked like. Since I have bought Moruga chillies, I can presume, that the mother plant is Trinidad Moruga chilli. Based on characteristics, that will show up later in the process, I may be able to figure out the other parent. Most likely, the seeds have been cross pollinated continuously before I received them, so even the original plants might already have been hybrids.
Self pollinated motherplant
August 8, 2015
Voles love eating plants you like the most and they tend to multiply and spread like wildfire. Anyone with vole problem knows, how hard it can be to tackle those little beasts and how impossible it is to keep them away from your vegetables and other plants they like to devour.
Vole control is quite important around here if you want to keep the plants they love the most. I have a secret weapon that manages to exterminate most of the voles nearby. She hunts them down and even eats most of them. It usually only takes a couple of minutes for her to track down occupied vole hole system, opens entrances around them where they can try to escape as she starts digging through their tunnel. When their hiding space gets smaller, they try to escape. Try.
Here’s a short video of her hunting and playing with her prey. Her favourite sport.
Borinda fungosa – 2015 upsize
August 2, 2015
When in the mid June first shoots started to appear, temperatures were already summer-like, and it usually refused to like that kind of weather, especially in it’s new location, that is much more exposed to full sun than it’s previous growing place. Shoots appeared small at first, but soon started to get thicker and thicker, showing some decent upsize from last year. I watered it regularly to prevent it from drying out during heat waves, we’ve seen this year, and surprisingly, bamboo actually liked the amount of sun. Before, when it was smaller and younger, it became chlorotic and pale after even short exposure to heat and sun. Shoots grew through the dense clump. Shoots have soft growing tip, which is completely different than with most other bamboos. It can easily look like the tip is broken, but it’s just the soft culm sheath that can easily move through the obstacles and make space for the shoot to finally tower itself above old growth. When it began shooting, I expected it to stop after first batch of shoots, so they can mature and leaf out like bamboos usually do. Not Borinda fungosa – it shoots constantly through the early and mid summer, later with smaller (but not small) shoots. First wave of shoots is numerous, then they start appearing in lower numbers with more time between emerging new shoots.
When compared to phyllostachys, Borinda needs quite a bit more time for the shoots to mature. Hopefully, all the new culms will harden enough to withstand the next winter. Bamboo is getting more hardy to both, winter cold and summer heat. It used to suffer during both, summer and winter and only really thrived during spring and fall.
Propagating Cyperus alternifolius
July 31, 2015
I had been growing Cyperus alternifolius some time ago. It’s a rewarding plant that can easily withstand drought, neglect and constant wet and boggy conditions. It’s not hardy enough to survive most of our winters outside, so I need to take it inside during the cold months. Last winter, I tried placing my Cyperus plants into deeper water to protect it from freezing. I doubt they froze, but none of them survived.The other day, a couple of weeks ago, I found large Cyperus alternifolius plants and asked the owner if I can take one that was broken. Received friendly chit-chat and at least ten large Cyperus heads! I was told that these plants return every year even when temperatures in the winter fall slighly below freezing. Hopefully they will be easier to maintain during the winter around here as well. I placed all of them into large jar filled with water and waited. After only 6 days, first shoots already started emerging. I remember when I tried propagating my old Cyperus plants, that started to rot first and then if I was lucky enough, small shoots also poked out.
Sadly I also lost my Cyperus papyrus last winter. It refused to overwinter inside and froze to death outside. If I get my hands on it, I’ll keep it in a bit less humid soil during the winter, I’ve kept mine in water and it sadly turned to mush before the spring arrived.
Trinidad Moruga Scorpion grown from last year’s seeds
July 26, 2015
I collected seeds from my Moruga Scorpions last year. Seedlings were planted a bit later because of late spring, but summer soon brought much warmer weather than last season, with less rain and abundance of sun.
This year seedlings had serious issues with aphids and curling leaves. When the plants finally got established enough in the late July, first fruits emerged and I noticed they were not all the same as they were last year. I haven’t been growing any other chilli plants around it, so it came as a surprise to notice completely different fruits on one of the plants. 6 of the Trinidad Moruga Scorpion chilli plants seemed to grow chillies that were shaped the same as last year, only one of them had elongated fruits.
Closest paprika plants were growing around 20m away. There were no chillies around, except if one of the neighbours planted them, but again, they had to be quite far away. It will be interesting to see the size, color and shape of ripe fruits.
When I saw how different the plants were growing and especially the huge difference in size, shape and number of peppers, I thought that perhaps I received first generation of cross pollinated chillies. If their mother plant was indeed Trinidad Moruga Scorpion chilli, there might have been something else growing nearby and my only surviving seedling might have been a first generation hybrid. In second generation, many features of original plants that were cross-pollinated appear, which could be the cause of different growth pattern of my chilli seedlings.
If it’s in fact some kind of hybrid, strength and taste might also be different. I’ll update when it comes to that and later try to post about my findings and a little bit about genetics and hybridization in a new post.
Feeding Sundew Seedlings
May 4, 2015
I introduced springtails into the soil mix that I used for sundew seedlings by sheer accident. They were happily living in sphagnum moss I gathered and mixed into the soil. I soon discovered that small creatures often ended up being caught in tiny little carnivorous traps. Springtails primarily eat fungus and algae on moist soil and don’t attack even the smallest and most fragile seedlings, so they are safe to use as janitors and easy prey for growing carnivore seedlings.
I isolated several springtails and started growing whole colony in separated glass container. I used Agar as moisture and food source and gave them a tiny chunk of potato, which eventually started to decay. Springails enjoyed their new home and started multiplying.
During the summer and fall, there can be a lot of fruit flies around decaying fruit. I found a way to easily feed my sundews during the night by putting a small LED light so it lights up the sundew I’d like to feed. When you force flies or fruit flies into the air, they instinctively follow the light. In only a couple of minutes, you can end up with well fed sundew, completely covered with small flies.
Drosera capensis ‘Alba’
April 27, 2015
It likes as much light as it can get. Seedlings grew slightly faster for me, when compared to regular Drosera capensis. At first I left them without food, but as soon as I noticed mold formation on top of the peat, I started adding springtails to fight the mold infection. I learned with regular D. capensis seedlings, that springtails can be extremely beneficial for small seedlings, because they not only feed on mold and algae, which can hurt young sundew seedlings, they are also easy prey for small carnivore plants. Because of their small size, feeding young seedlings can be real problem without some help from tiny springtails.
When seedlings became large enough and started growing first carnivorous leaves, it was time to add springtails into the pot. I managed to multiply a lot of springtails and when I threw them into the container with drosera seedlings, traps became filled with them. Most of them remained alive and started fighting fungus that also stared growing on top of the soil. Larger traps were already able to consume larger insects, so I added a couple of black aphids.
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.
Placing the seeds into small germinating trays soon became an issue. As seedlings started to grow, they were more and more susceptible to drought. I placed some into well fertilized peat and they died instantly, as I expected they would. Remaining seedlings were placed in clumps into pure peat on May 2nd when sun isn’t strong enough to kill them, but can fasten up their growth.
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.