Rhizomes of young Phyllostachys arcana seedlings
September 2, 2017
As I mentioned in one of my previous posts, Phyllostachys arcana seedlings finally started growing rhizomes this summer. Due to hot and dry weather, many of my bamboos suffered from mild drought, but overall, they liked this summer.
The vigorous seedling
Extremely active and aggressive seedling which started running before it was 6 months old didn’t grow much this spring. During the early summer, it only received a couple of new shoots. It’s planted in a bucket, which made it suffer during the dry weather. Occasionally, when I was not around, it got completely dry. When I watered it, it bounced back, but it lost most of the growing tips. It was somewhat pale during most of the summer, so I didn’t expect much. When weather cooled down, I noticed a hole in the pot. Rhizome broke the thick plastic. At that point it was the first time I saw that the whole pot already got deformed, and it was clearly visible that there’s a lot of rhizome activity inside – bucket was bursting!
Until recently, highly variegated seedlings of Phyllostachys arcana ‘Luteosulcata’ were not nearly as aggressive as other, non-variegated seedlings. It seems that most seedlings I started from the Luteosulcata seeds, run with extreme force. I placed the variegated seedlings into raised bed and they loved it. With early autumn, rhizomes also arrived. It is evident, that all the seedlings have rhizomes which love to travel above ground before plunging back into the soil. That makes them really easy to find. Two bright variegated seedlings have very similar leaves and variegation, but they don’t share the rhizome color. The slightly older seedling’s rhizomes are yellow, with only just a notch of green. The other one has dark green rhizomes, similar to the color of regular green seedlings. The same applies to shoot color as well. None of them shows any kind of specific sulcus coloration.
Seedlings that survived the winter outside
I left a couple of weak bamboo seedlings outside, planted in my raised bed. I did not have the will and energy too get them inside and prepare them for the winter. As these were the weakest seedlings, growing in deep shade of my chili plants, I decided I could try their winter hardiness that way. If they would have perished, I would know I need to take care about the remaining plants with more effort. They not only survived the winter untouched, they started running at least as aggressively as my most aggressive seedling at comparable size. Rhizomes are much thicker than those from the overwintered bamboos and they seem to travel even further away. Based on their happiness and vigor, I decided to keep all my variegated seedlings outside this winter as well. Hopefully they will be equally hardy and the winter will not be too hard on them.
The remaining neglected seedlings
I have a dozen or so more seedlings that are inside smaller containers. They were neglected and stayed alive, but remained small – the size of 2 month old seedlings. Their resilience is kind of striking, they were almost completely dried out, frozen, growing in deep shade, bright light and in the end, grass had overgrown their pots. I was thinking about planting them somewhere for a while to help them get going, but I’m really tight on available space. I’ll need to do something about that, but in the meantime, I’ll just try keeping them alive. They don’t die easily though, they are the opposite of Phyllostachys pubescens – Moso bamboo seedlings. Those often die off from no apparent reason just if you look at them the wrong way.
Variegated Bamboo Seedlings – Summer 2017 Update
August 21, 2017
Keeping my 3 variegated Phyllostachys arcana ‘Luteosulcata’ seedlings inside during last winter, caused seedlings to decline. The older seedling that was once larger, hardly managed to survive the winter. At first, they seemed healthy, but they all got some kind of mold infection soon, which didn’t have any visible effect on their vigor, yet they started to decline as they stayed inside for too long. When I planted them outside, their leaves recovered and mold issues stopped, but they refused to start shooting.
A few words about the weather
This year we’ve had a cold spring with severe late freezes. Cold did not harm the variegated seedlings, but the infected moldy leaves fell down. I suspect the much brighter sun fried them completely. New leaves were healthy until later in the summer. Summer brought very warm weather without much precipitation. Temperatures rose up above 38°C a few times and stayed above 30°C almost the whole summer. I planted the seedlings into raised bed, which made them suffer drought a bit more, despite frequent watering.
Heat stress resilience
During first half of the summer, all the seedlings managed to cope direct sun exposure extremely well. I expected the two highly variegated seedlings to have issues with bright light conditions, because I’ve seen last year how their leaves tend to bleach due to sun exposure. Until mid June, there was no damage on any of their leaves. They looked fascinating, despite the fact that they never started shooting and all the leaves and branches were the result of growth that was initiated inside. As summer progressed and sun reached the highest point in the sky, leaves of both bright variegated bamboo seedlings started getting bleached. The strength of the sun was just too much for them to handle. At the same time, we’ve had temperatures above 35°C, which only added some additional stress to the plants. The leaves of all the seedlings curled during the heat and watering didn’t help much. They were not able to supply enough water to replenish the water lost due to transpiration. Over all, heat and sun related resilience was good. I am impressed.
In mid summer when the heat was hardly bearable, drought kicked in. Constant wind and very high temperatures started to show first signs of damage on the leaves. Daily watering was not enough to keep the soil wet, but even when the soil dried out, bamboo seedlings got enough water from deeper roots. When the seedlings mature, I expect them to fare drought even more. In the end of the summer, leaf tips stopped drying. At the same time I noticed they were not sitting idle during the summer. They were producing, a lot!
The dark green variegated seedling
The darker green variegated seedling that was the largest and nicely variegated while I kept it inside, had lost the variegation almost completely. It looks like bright light position makes it greener and shady indoors conditions under grow light caused it to become variegated. I may try moving it into a shaded position or I’ll just divide it and plant it into different locations. It is the only seedling that did not start shooting until late August. There’s one more thing I need to mention about this Phyllostachys arcana seedling – it did not grow any taller. Now it looks like some kind of ground cover bamboo with many tiny culms that only reach 20 cm or so. It all happened when I watered it with an Aspirin solution as I experimented with salicylic acid to combat mold infection. Possible cause could also be the lack of dormancy. I’m quite certain it will start growing next year.
As the summer fell into second half in early August, I have noticed that two highly variegated seedlings started running. Runners started crawling in all directions, often getting to the surface and plunging back into soil again. The seedlings are still small and the rhizomes are also tiny, but the fact that they started spreading with such vigor is very promising. It will be interesting to see them start shooting the next spring when they hopefully start upsizing exponentially.
Winter is coming… eventually
When the warm part of the year ends, I plan to keep them outside in my raised beds. I will cover them with PVC tunnel and hopefully they will like it as much as a couple of tiny all-green seedlings last year did. They are now spreading vigorously, producing quite thick runners. I’ll somehow get rid of those in the spring, to make room for the variegated seedlings. I expect them all to recover even further after they get through their first dormancy.
Ducks in my garden
August 15, 2017
Like most gardeners in temperate climate, we have a lot of slugs roaming around, devouring tender vegetables and flowers. Slug repellents don’t really work, which means the only environment friendly option was, to find a slug eating predator. One of the best (if not the best) creatures that feeds on slugs are ducks. I got several Indian runner duck eggs, bought cheap Chinese made egg incubator an hoped I can make them hatch.
Duck eggs are rather easy to incubate. It takes a bit longer for them to hatch, compared to chickens. Optimal conditions to incubate duck eggs are 37.8°C at 55% to 65% humidity during first 12 days. Then, humidity needs to be increased up to 60-70% until day 24. All that time, eggs need to be turned at least 3 times daily. From day 25, eggs should not be turned and incubator should remain closed. Humidity should stay above 80% and temperature set a bit lower to 37.4°C. At that point, internal pip occurs which means the ducklings break the internal egg membrane and start breathing air from the air cell. When they pip externally – they break through the egg shell, humidity must remain high. If humidity drops, internal membrane can dry out and entangle the small duckling. As it can’t remove the dry rubbery membrane, it usually dies without proper assistance.
I never tried incubating eggs of any kind before and decided to buy cheap-ass incubator without humidity sensors. I had very low expectations and planned on buying ducks when I finally fail with the incubation project. Luckily I didn’t fail. I learned a few lessons during that month. The first one was around day 7, when I threw out an egg that was developing completely OK. It happened that I couldn’t see the embryo properly when I candled the eggs and I decided to make some room for other eggs. Later on, I bought external humidity sensor and tried to get egg cell large enough. I failed with one egg, and got two all the through. The second one hatched on day 30 and had yolk sack infection. Duckling died in a few days. The first one was healthy as young duckling can be.
I bought infrared heater lamp and used an old cardboard box to make a brooder. Since there was only one duckling inside, I didn’t have much issues with droppings and spilled water. I thought I did, at the time, but later I found out what multiple ducklings are capable of. Nasty. I gave it chicken starter feed and any insect I could find around the house in the spring. Young ducklings have extreme appetite and they grow very fast. At the end of second week, it got warm enough for the duckling to go out and roam around freely. It didn’t search for food much and avoided the pond, but it loved being outside. It imprinted on me a lot, so I decided I need to get a few more ducks, so it gets proper feathery company. I bought 3 ducklings that were the same age, but they were all small, had leg issues, missed feathers and shown nutrition deficiencies. I placed them all outside into their duck house, because temperatures outside got cozy enough for them to remain outdoors.
2 of the maltreated ducklings died during first week, both suffocated, because they were not used to have enough food and they never drank water when eating. The third sickly duckling remained alive and started growing insanely fast. It gained a lot of weight as well and started having even more leg related issues. I started giving them more yeast to increase niacin intake (vitamin B3), but it only got worse. Later I figured out it was just gaining size and weight too fast for its legs to keep up. As both ducklings started showing signs that they are males, I needed female ducks. I can always replace one drake with a female if there’s problem when they start mating. The seller of three sickly ducklings offered me 3 replacement ducks (at that point the remaining duckling wasn’t able to walk at all and I was certain it will perish as well). Luckily, all three were females! Now I have five ducks, one beautiful, large drake I incubated, one fat and lazy drake and 3 small lady ducks. Hope they will remain living in harmony when they reach sexual maturity in a month or two.
Borinda fungosa winter damage 2016/2017
May 4, 2017
This winter was quite brutal. Temperatures did not plunge lower than normal, but it got cold enough for the soil to completely freeze down to 0.5m and even deeper. With no snow cover to protect the delicate Borinda leaves, it stood little chance to survive the winter.
During early winter, there was no visible damage on any of my bamboos, even Borinda fungosa (gaolinensis?) fared much better than I expected. But then came a period when we received no snow, only freezing temperatures that remained below freezing even during the day. Combined with cold north eastern winds, soil cooled off considerably and it froze much deeper than usual. It remained frozen for quite some time, even when temperatures rose above freezing.
When temperatures got back to normal and after some “warm” rain, leaves lost their green color and it became evident that bamboo ended up completely top killed. Culms were all noticeably bleached, green culms had the darker green, somewhat watery appearance. At that point, I was sorry I didn’t tarp the bamboo and try my best to protect it. It all seems now, that no protection could have save it this winter – the weather was just too much for a marginal bamboo like Borinda to survive intact.
In early spring, we’ve had a period of extremely warm weather which had awaken all the bamboos, including the badly damaged Borinda fungosa. I have completely removed the dried out culms and I soon noticed a couple of survival shoots, pushing out from the base of dead culms. Until now, there are no regular shoots that would prove that the bamboo is going to recover. I hope there are healthy rhizomes with undamaged rhizome buds below ground. Usually the first shoots appeared around mid May, hopefully they will push out this year as well.
Borinda fungosa I’ve been growing from seed for 6 years somehow managed to thrive in this marginal climate. It got damaged during the winter and didn’t like the heat in the summer, but it managed to grow and upsize into a very decent bamboo. This winter was not typical for us. At least not statistically. It’s sad that the same climate pattern started to repeat itself almost every year. Almost no winter precipitation, cool northern wind and sunny weather can dry out even more winter hardy bamboos. As if the winter was not bad enough, we were recently hit by a nasty late spring freeze. My Borinda doesn’t have the best growing conditions in my garden. It may perish in a year or two even if it survived this winter.