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Saturday, September 24, 2016

Seedling SIP Update

Lychee, left and Jackfruit, right

Seedling SIP Update

The SIPs are working really well.  This post is going to mostly be images to show the root development of a Jackfruit and Lychee seed.

These two have particularly visible fine mycelium development for some reason.

This is not necessarily a bad thing. It could actually be very good for the seeds.

Lychee, left and Jackfruit, right
In mycorrhizal associations, plants provide fungi with food in the form of carbohydrates. In exchange, the fungi help the plants suck up water, and provide nutrients like phosphorus and nitrogen, via their mycelia. Since the 1960s, it has been clear that mycorrhizae help individual plants to grow. ~ BBC Earth

The lychee mycelium seem to be on the surface for the most part. Perhaps we need to keep it a bit dryer.

The jackfruit, on the other hand, has thick roots visible at the bottom of the SIP and a mess of mycelium coming out from the seed.

Jackfruit Mycelium
Jackfruit and mycelium development at the side of the SIP.

Fungal networks also boost their host plants' immune systems. That's because, when a fungus colonises the roots of a plant, it triggers the production of defense-related chemicals. These make later immune system responses quicker and more efficient, a phenomenon called "priming". Simply plugging in to mycelial networks makes plants more resistant to disease. ~ BBC Earth

Jackfruit Sprout and Mycelium
The jackfruit sprout is forming, along with the web of mycelium going all over the place.

While that argument rages on, other researchers have found evidence that plants can go one better, and communicate through the mycelia. In 2010, Ren Sen Zeng of South China Agricultural University in Guangzhou found that when plants are attached by harmful fungi, they release chemical signals into the mycelia that warn their neighbours.  ~ BBC Earth

Top Soil Mycelium Growth
The Lychee Mycelium are growing across the surface of the soil.

"These fungal networks make communication between plants, including those of different species, faster, and more effective," says Morris. "We don't think about it because we can usually only see what is above ground. But most of the plants you can see are connected below ground, not directly through their roots but via their mycelial connections."  ~ BBC Earth

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Saffron Crocus II

25 Silky Cherubic Crocus Sativas Bulbs 

Saffron Crocus II

Saffron crocus part deux. I think the last set of bulbs, once interplanted with other plants ended up rotting.

I wanted to have a successful saffron growing experience, so I ordered more of these fine looking bulbs.

These are some really nice fat bulbs that will do really well, I believe.  I need to find a nice sized pot, and found a couple of drum shaped planters that are fairly deep and wide to spread out the corms a bit.  This is the right time of year to plant them, and indoor planting will result in a great little saffron harvest some day.  If not this year, then next year for sure.
Saffron Crocus In Planter

2016-09-25 Update

The low round planters arrived today, so we get the saffron crocus set up for the growing season!  Soooo excited.  I want to try this home grown spice version out.

We have some aggregate hanging around, so we put some of that
Aggregate In Planters
at the bottom of the planters to allow for some really good drainage. These planters came with a pre-cut drainage hole. Saffron does not like being overly wet.

Garden Fabric Layer
Once the aggregate is added, we then add the weed fabric, which will prevent soils and matter from getting in between the rocks and creating a blockage that will make the saffron crocus really wet and rotted.

After the garden fabric is added, we can then add the potting mix
Saffron Crocus In Soil
- well draining, of course, leaving about four more inches above. Then the round little crocus bulbs were put in with the pointed side up.

Finished Saffron Crocus Planters
Then, finally, the final layer of soil, to about an inch from the top. We trimmed off the fabric around the edges and then added the top layer of mulch to keep a little moisture in.

Now, we just wait for the saffron crocus to appear. It is possible we will only see leaf blades this year.  When we get the flowers, we can harvest the stigmas.

The calculation is: "...for a family of 4 you will need to grow 16 saffron bulbs, in order to have available a sufficient amount of spice to the preparation of 4 dishes seasoned with saffron for each within a year." ~ OffGridOrganicFarm  In general, that breaks down to about 10 stigmas per recipe. 

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Composting Tower

Earthworm Composting Tower

This is just a quick blurb on here to save a earthworm composting tower design that I really like. We have all the materials needed and when we set up our garden beds we will be ready to rock n roll.  Using window screen for a cap is an awesome idea.

We have two composting bins that attract black flies.  They don't care for the shredded paper much, so we will be using the shredded paper and green matter in a 50/50 mix to attract the worms.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Bonsai Soil DIY

Bonsai soil mixes.

Bonsai Soil DIY

Bonsai soil is for conditioning the tree following grow out. If you are trying to grow out a tree you use a standard nursery soil in a nursery container.  If the tree is grown out, then read on.

This is our first foray into the actual bonsai placement.  The soil for bonsai seems to be much like the preferred soil for all of our acid loving bonsai plants.  This is pretty convenient.

Soil Mixes

Grow Out Soil Mix

Keep in mind that the specific plant needs may require a different grow out soil mix.  This would include acidic soil mixes.
  • 6 parts topsoil
  • 3 parts compost
  • 1 part potting soil

Bonsai Soil Mix

In our area, the air is very dry.  The shallow bonsai pots are where the trees live.  We are combining two circumstances that are in opposition to each other and yet try to maintain the bonsai tree.  To achieve the best health for our arid climate bonsai, these are the mixes predominantly used in our area:
  • 1 part decomposed granite + 1 part general purpose potting soil mix. (conifers)
  • 1 part decomposed granite  + 1 part chicken / poultry grit + 2 parts general purpose potting soil mix.
  • 4 parts chicken grit + 4 parts forest mulch + 1 part peat moss.  
  • 4 parts chicken grit + 1 part forest mulch + 4 parts peat moss (acid loving plants) 

Calculating Amounts Of Soil

Diameter measures across
the widest part of the circle

Due to our arid climate, it is acceptable to have a bonsai pot that is 2 - 3 times as deep as the bonsai trunk diameter.  For example, a new-ish bonsai tree with a trunk 1 inch across, or 1 inch in diameter then the bonsai pot can be three inches deep at most.  Unless, of course we are working with a cascading bonsai, then the depth of the planter can be much deeper due to aesthetics.

After calculating the depth, we also need to look at the length and width of the bonsai pot.  The pot should be about 66% of the height or width of the tree, whichever is larger.  The width of the bonsai pot should be just inside the width of the bonsai tree.  The shape matches the masculinity or femininity of the bonsai and the straight lines or curvatures.

Once we have the length, width and depth of the pot determined, we use simple math to determine the cubic yards of soil needed.  As an example, a 24 x 12 x 3 inch pot is first converted to feet. 24/12 x 12/12 x 3/12 = 2 x 1 x .25.  The feet are multiplied 2 x 1=2; 2*.25 = .5. Multiply the result by 72 (cubic feet in a yard).  This is 36 cubic feet.  Divide this by 27, and we have the final result of 1.33 cubic feet of soil needed for this container.

This is where the calculations get sketchy, because the soil mix can have different weights to fill the same amount of space.  For this,it is probably best to mix and guestimate for approximate needs and have some on hand for re-potting.

Taiju Esaka 1st Place Bonsai

Exceptions To The Rules

And then there are times where the rules must be broken, when conventional pot size rules are overturned based on the goal of bonsai - to create a beautiful, moving artistic experience.

"I have chosen this tree to express the arrival of spring. The soft lines of the tree go well with those of the pot. With both pots I was careful not to repeat shapes." ~ Taiju Esaka

Saturday, September 10, 2016

More Fruit Tests

Mango, Cherimoya, Kiwano and Brown Turkish Figs

More Fruit Tests

Saturday's fruit expedition started at an open market to see if there were any exotic fruits to try.  There were no interesting figs, not much by way of tropical fruits aside from some mangos.  

We bought a mango to try growing it from seed. We then headed over to our Sprouts store, where we found some Brown Turkish Figs,  Cherimoya and Kiwano.

I tried a fig.  The fig was pretty good, I have to say.  Not as flavorful or sweet as I would have expected.  A couple had mold, so perhaps it was because they weren't fresh off the tree.  

The fig has a strawberry like texture, just not as 'seedy'.  The flavor is mildly sweet, kind of grassy.  Overall, it is something I could see growing and I think we made the right decision to get the sweeter varieties (Green Ischia, Peter's Honey and Panache Tiger). 

The Kiwano seems ripe based on color and give.   We cut it up.  It looks a lot like passion fruit.
Cut up Kiwano
 Mostly seed, some gel.  The flavor is almost non-existent, with some lemon tart.  I will not be saving seeds for growing these.  I skipped on passion fruit as well.  

I'm not sure if the mango is ripe yet. According to the info we found, it has no give like an avocado and no scent from where the stem was attached.  We're going to give it a few days.  

The Cherimoya is not ripe yet, as it has no give like an avocado.  It feels pretty hard.  Based on the web, I may have to wait several days before it will have optimal flavor.


Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Beginner Bonsai Tools

Plethera Of Bonsai Tools

Tools For The Beginner Bonsai Enthusiast

Getting started with bonsai can be a confusing and daunting process when trying to invest wisely in tools.

There are some nice tools out there and some crossover tools that can be used between different hobbies that can help to defray the initial investment to the bonsai hobbyist before actually committing to really expensive tools.

Cheap Options
Start bonsai from cuttings

The most expensive investment in the bonsai hobby is the plant.  If the groundwork isn't made through much patience and perseverance by starting bonsai from found plants, cuttings and seeds then paying for the bonsai can be quite expensive.  The benefits of starting from seed and cuttings is that the initial plant is very pliable and easily shaped.  There is much more control over the final outcome.

By using found plants, you can cut down time and fear of mistakes by using plants that have established trunks.  For this option, you kind of have to go along with what's there and put on the creative hat for making the best of what you have.

Crossover Tools

Stainless Steel Honey Sieve
For the beekeeper, we can use the honey strainer for screening out the fine silt and soil from the bonsai soil mix as well as screening honey after harvesting comb from the hive.  This tool works wonderfully for honey and should work really well for filtering soil.  Stainless steel is sturdy and easy to clean up.  We know, because we have this and use it.

For the planted tank enthusiast, many of the tools used in
Stainless Steel Aquarium Tools
cultivating and trimming the aquarium plants can also be used for the bonsai plants.  It is also best to invest in stainless steel to prevent crossover contamination between any and all plants.  Stainless steel is easy to clean up and is very durable.  Beginner sets include curved and straight tweezers and scissors - something needed in for aquariums too!  These have been excellent tools for the aquarium and should be fantastic crossovers that I use in my hobbies.

Less Expensive Starter Tools

Carbon Steel Leaf Cutters
Carbon steel are durable, strong starter options for the remaining tools.  We started off getting some leaf cutting tools.  These are springy types of scissors that work well for soft matter trimming.  Not only have these been handy for bonsai, but we use them in the kitchen to separate herbal leaves from the stems to prepare for cooking and drying.  These are great little scissors.

The next investment was to buy something to trim off the
Concave and Knob Clippers
sacrifice branches and unsightly knobs on trees to develop a nice, clean look of the trunk.  The tools for this job include the concave cutter and the knob cutter.  We recently purchased these in anticipation of trimming up Bellatrix, the olive tree.  This is the big job coming up for fall.  Once the deep cuts are made, we will need to help heal the wounds we made.

Root and sod cutter
For below ground maintenance, a great and inexpensive investment is a root and sod cutter.  Trimming the bonsai root mass is of great importance in keeping the bonsai healthy, promoting fine root development and maintaining the desired size.

Bonsai Wound Cut Paste
After abusing the bonsai to make it conform to size and shape desires, we need to let it heal up.  For the trunk and branches, there are many types of bonsai cut paste wound care.  I don't remember which one I have exactly, and some people recommend using vaseline, elmers glue or tar. .. basically anything that will stick and seal.

Using a cut paste is also debatable, depending on what you believe is artistic and interesting in the finished bonsai.  Some like it, some don't.  There is also debate over whether it is really healthy for the bonsai tree to have the wound covered at all.

Pond Baskets For Bonsai Training
Training pots are another consideration.  The price of show bonsai pots can be astronomical.  When getting plants in condition for bonsai training, the plant can be put in the ground when space is allowed, or employing the use of net pots and grow bags in order to allow air pruning, great drainage and air circulation.  Pond baskets can also be used and can be purchased for a small price.  When you get to the point where you have some successful and show type bonsai, you can then invest in a gorgeous bonsai pot that compliments the trained bonsai.

And finally, to manipulate the shape and direction of the growth,wire.
Mixed Set Bonsai Wire
we have the

This is also a recent purchase because Bellatrix will be ready for some bonsai training this fall. We have some jewelry wire around the house, but I'm not sure if I will be using that instead of the bonsai wire as some metals may not be good for some trees.

This concludes the list of bonsai tools we will be keeping in our arsenal as beginning bonsai hobbyists.  Keep an eye out for the bonsai diary updates, where we start from seeds, seedlings and cuttings to start our backyard orchard of edible imperial bonsai trees.

Here is a video putting it all together:

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Seedling SIP Update

Lychee root activity

Seedling SIP Update

Just wanted to write a brief follow up for the DIY Seedling SIP starters. They are doing great!  The Lychee are the first to show some really good fine root development. The updates on these seedlings will be posted in the Lychee Bonsai diary from now on.  We have two successes from the seeds saved, probably because they were the freshest.

The jackfruits are sending down some thick tap roots and there is some fine root activity going on as well.

Jackfruit root activity
I'm not sure where I'll be posting updates for these trees.  These trees are so large, we will only be keeping one from all the sprouts.  The size of the fruits would ruin the bonsai aesthetic, but we may keep one like that just for kicks.

All the jackfruit are doing well and the dark green seedling leaves can be seen from the top of the cups, just below the soil even though the roots aren't all visible. 

After this success, I think we will be using this method for germinating most of everything, after soaking seeds to get them started.  We have some seeds soaking in a water dish until they show signs of germination, then they will be put in the SIPs for growing seedlings.  So far, we are soaking some sapodilla, fresh rambutan seeds, remaining lychee seeds, longan seeds, and dwarf arabica coffee beans.