Saturday, September 16, 2017

WEEDS IN A ROCK PATH



A long side of my house I have a rocks and stepping stone path.  It works well for all the rain water that falls off the roof above it as there is no rain gutter.  ( I was inspired to make this path after seeing a similar entry way floor made of rocks and wood planks in a Japanese house.)  The problem with it has been the weeds growing in it.  I am not ready to use weed killer there so in the past I just got down on my knees and pulled  out the weeds.

I now have a way easier way to kill the weeds.  BOILING WATER!  It means several loads of a filled kettle from the kitchen but it does the job easily and instantly.  Yay!  My old knees are happy about this.

Before

A few days after.


Aloha

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

LIRIOPE MUSCARI "variegata"



The variegated Liriope in my garden is grown as an edging to a stony walkway on the side of the house where I also have my mini nursery area.  I have no strong emotional ties to this plant.  I acquired baby starts of it at least 20 years ago: planted them, and they are still going strong.  So I guess they have proved themselves as another tough plant to have in the garden.



I think I have talked about my theory on selecting tough plants for the garden before.  I will tell it again for the newcomers to this blog.  When choosing tough survivor plants for your garden, you do not look at those beautifully maintained gardens. You check out semi abandoned properties that have not had good care for years.  The plants that are still growing there are the ones you want to grow in your garden. It will save you a lot of time and frustration in the future.

Variegated Liriope is native to Asia.  It grows in clumps with narrow leaves that grow up to 18" long.  In the late summer it can send up a slender stalk with tiny white flowers.  The clump will gradually enlarge by sending out underground rhizomes to make new babies on the side.  It can grow in full sun or light shade and handles most types of soil.  Liriope is a popular ground cover or edging plant.  Remember to give it some space for expanding of the clump when you plant it along a cement curb.

As those clumps enlarge it is easy to slice off a few baby plants with a big kitchen knife.  Make sure that you get a baby with a few roots on it so you will have to cut into the soil with the knife.  These babies are easily potted up.  Usually I cut the leaves down to about 8" for easily handling and I will stand the baby in water for one or two days before potting it up.







Sometimes the variegation stripes of the Liriope will disappear.  A new baby in the clump will revert to its ancestors characteristics and send up only dark green leaves.  Unless I am actually wanting a green type to plant elsewhere, I just cut out the baby that is upsetting uniformity of the edging.

Sometimes my Liriope will look a bit ragged with brown tips, especially after salt winds.  I usually go along the border with my scissors and trim off the worst.  I read on the internet that on the mainland they will mow mass plantings of Liriope once a year which rather boggles my mind.  I guess a mature plant would survive a lawn mower or a weed eater and should have got over its bald look after a few months.  About once a year it is good to pull off all the dead leaves that are under the plant.

Apart from being a good edging plant, I enjoy adding a few leaves of variegated Liriope to small flower arrangements and even looped to be included in a lei.

Aloha

Thursday, July 6, 2017

SOURSOP (Annona muricata)



Soursop fruit was first introduced to me many years ago in Samoa.  The Samoan family I was staying with had a Soursop fruit sitting in their wood and fly screen food safe where it was softening up ready to be eaten.  Such an exotic looking fruit and what a wonderful flavor when we finally got to eat it.  I have been a big fan of this fruit ever since.  Luckily there are a few trees in my community here in Hawaii so I still get to eat them  You do see Soursop fruit showing up at farmers markets here too although there are still many people who are not familiar with it.  The Soursop tree is native to Tropical America but I think is one of those tropical fruits that has gone around the globe and gone commercial in juices and ice-cream etc.

A mature fruit almost ready to pick. 


The Soursop tree is an attractive tree with its glossy green leaves .  It can grow up to four meters high but is still a decent sized tree to have in your yard.  It does tend to low branching so you would need to trim off the lower branches to lift the crown if you want a tree you can sit under.  The tree is tolerant of most soil types.  Our neighbors had one for years that was quiet resilient to our sandy soils and salt winds.  There does seem to be some sort of disease that affects the leaves as you will see if you look close at the photo above but is does not seem to bother the tree or its fruiting. It is really easy to grow Soursop trees from the seed although you will have to wait several years before you get fruit.



In the summer the tree gets large yellow/green flowers that turn into spiky green heart shaped fruit.  These will grow from 4-12 inches in length and 6 inches in width.  The fruit is ready when its color changes to a lighter yellowish green and the spikes change from being curved over to straight out.  The fruit then needs to sit on a bench for a few days to soften up before eating.  If you put it in the fridge the skin will turn black and unattractive although the inside will be still OK.  When the fruit is ripe it is just a matter of cutting up the fruit into wedges and spitting out the seeds and discarding the skin as you eat it.

See the green bud and the yellow/green flower just below it on the right.
while on the left is a young spiky fruit.


Soursop makes wonderful drinks.  I like to make a cool drink in the blender using Soursop, lemon juice, sugar, ice water and ice.  Others make it into a milk shake with added spices.  Just make sure to remove the seeds and skin.  This was always a messy job until somebody told me to use a knife and fork, like you are cutting up meat, to separate the seeds out. So much easier!  I also freeze small bags of the prepared fruit to have later in smoothies.



Soursop fruit, like most fruits, is a good source of vitamins to promote health.  However, you also hear a lot about other medicinal potential from the fruit and especially the leaves.  It is easy to find all sorts of cancer cure claims on the internet and I know people in my community who promote its use.  When my neighbor chopped down his tree to make room for house expansion, two ladies came and collected every single leaf from the tree to freeze for future tea making.  There are several recipes for the tea if you google for them.  However, there are also warnings on other sites on the internet that say that too much Soursop can hurt brain cells and cause Parkinson's like symptoms.....meaning the body will not do what the brain is telling it to do.  The toxic ingredient that causes this seems to be in high amounts in the seeds so that is why it is important to remove the seeds when making drinks in the blender.  Of course, lots of people around the world eat lots of Soursop with no problem.  As to the teas made from the leaves; I am willing to withhold judgement.  I have two friends who have talked to two people that claim the teas cured them of cancer.  It definitely sounds like there is some active chemicals in the plant for sure but it needs to be handled very carefully. Am I getting some sort of cancer prevention perk from eating the fruit?   Will those who drink the teas  to cure cancer get Parkinson's later on?  Lots of questions!

 Meanwhile I am going to keep on eating the luscious fruit.  In moderation.

Aloha

Friday, June 9, 2017

GRAPE TOMATOES



Over the years I have made occasional attempts at growing tomatoes but with no great success.  New gardeners in town, who were tomato kings back in California or Utah, have given up in frustration and passed their tomato cages to me so I do not feel so bad.  However, after retirement, it seemed that it was time to get more serious about growing tomatoes and see if I could be a bit more self sustaining.  After all, I do eat a lot of tomatoes.  So, in April of last year (2016), I once again squished the biggest and best of the tomatoes I had bought that week and, after a day or two of drying it out, planted the seeds in a small pot.  The local tomato farmers grow only cherry and grape tomatoes so I decided to go with grape tomatoes this time.  Fruit flies are such a problem in Hawaii that growing large tomatoes is just a waste of time unless you are going to bag every fruit.to protect it.  I have found the golf ball size cherry tomatoes to be a bit difficult in the past too.

After getting a few small grape tomato plants growing I transferred a few into large container pots on in the kitchen garden area where they would get full sun.  Only one of these actually was alive a month later and eventually starting flowering and then producing tomatoes.  Not huge amounts.  Maybe a dozen or two a week.  But here is why I am writing about it.  Over a year later the same tomato plant is still chugging along and still giving me fruit.



It is a skinny vine plant that has small leaves.  Its old leaves turn yellow and die off.   At first I thought it was diseased but after a while I realized it was just its habit of growth.  On doing a google search I find out that tomato plants are of two types.  Determinant and Indeterminant.    The description of the Indeterminant fits my plant to a T.  A long lasting vine which CTAHR says is the best for Hawaii growing conditions.  The Determinant plants tend to have lots of lush and fast growth of leaves and fruit but do not last long.  I have seen that happen with some plants that I bought.

So now I have figured out a tomato that I can grow I am going to up my game and try and grow more plants and also some of those gourmet different color types.  I am sticking with grape tomatoes though.  I do like these little tomatoes and they freeze very well too.  I cut them in half first.  Easy to throw fresh tomatoes in a salad.  The frozen ones get thrown into a frying pan for stir fries or into a stew.   Tomatoes along with an egg, Portuguese sausage and slices of cooked breadfruit all fried up in a pan is my favorite breakfast for dinner meal!



Tomatoes of course are known for their Vitamin C and Lycopene.  Tomatoes plants like rich soil and lots of sun.  I see them grown in cages or tied up on string.  Mine  is grown on dead branch props..  They like fertilizer, especially Phosphorus, at planting and flowering time.  Because my plant is in a container and long living, I fertilize my plant every month.  They need to be watered deeply but allowed to dry out between waterings.  Not getting the leaves wet while watering helps prevent disease.  I have to  pick the tomatoes after they start turning yellow or the birds and wild chickens will beat me to them.  It means getting the enjoyment of looking at a row of ripening tomatoes on the kitchen window sill.

Aloha

PS  Aug, 2017
 Have a look at the netting cage a friend built for her tomatoes so that she could keep the birds from eating them and she could have vine ripened fruit.


Saturday, May 27, 2017

WALKING AROUND BELL BLOCK, NEW ZEALAND



I have just recently had three weeks in New Zealand, visiting family and doing some exploring as well.   Bell Block is a historic community in north Taranaki and now mostly is a suburb of New Plymouth.  Here are just a few garden related shots as I was walking around that may be of interest to you.






















Not a garden shot but all this produce is from a Bell Block garden.  


While in New Zealand I found a fun gardeners book while looking around a thrift shop.  It is written by a Kiwi landscape architect about her small Wellington garden.  "Life (and death) in a Small City Garden"  by Philippa Swan.  I am writing out a few paragraphs from her book.....see if you recognize yourself.  ☺

 Real Gardeners are a breed of their own.  I'm sure they have a bent chromosome or something which accounts for their eccentric behavior.  A Real Gardener always sleeps badly on a windy night--even when they are in Bali, and their holiday snaps are of the bushes flowering around the swimming pool.  Their first question on ringing home is always about the weather................... A group of gardening ladies is a nightmare at the pictures, especially when it's a Merchant Ivory period drama with lots of roses and wisteria.  A chorus of plant names erupts every time a bloom appears, followed by a messy dispute at to what sort it was and who's got one at home.

Gardeners have a unique navigational system.  When being directed to their house, you will be issued with instructions like, "Turn left at the red-flowering gum tree and we're three doors down from the dogwood."   ..................When a gardener comes for dinner they do things like check whether your magnolia-patterned curtains are anatomically correct and stuff the garnish from the French rack of lamb into their handbag because they've never grown pizza thyme before.  When they go collecting for charity they arrive back with a collection bag full of cuttings, and their consumer choices at the supermarket are made on the basis of what comes in a container most suitable for potting up the hosta seedlings.  Gardeners are never happier than when a friend arrives with a bag of smelly old panty hose.

Aloha

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

SURINAM CHERRY (Eugenia uniflora)



In the front windy and dry corner of the garden, where the soil is mostly coral sand, I have a small waist high Surinam Cherry shrub that I planted a few years ago.  I must admit that I did not have big expectations for it there.  It was mainly a shrub to help fill in the corner and, if I was lucky, I would get a few fruit.  A week ago, one of my grand-daughters took me over to the corner to look at something.  Guess what!  The whole small tree was covered with small, pale green jewels.



A month or so back we had a big rain storm and it must have sent the Surinam Cherry into full reproduction mode.  I may have thrown a bit of fertilizer around too at about the same time.  The Cherry tree would have become covered in lots of small white flowers and now here is the fruit just starting to ripen up.

Every morning I go pick the newly ripening fruit before the birds and wild chickens get them and leave the fruit on the kitchen counter to ripen for the rest of the day.  I will have a few to eat fresh but mostly I am collecting them in the fridge until I have a pot full to cook up.  It is just a matter of bringing the fruit and some sugar to the boil and then leaving it to simmer for a few minutes....just like making apple sauce.  You also need to remove the cherry pits after the cooking.  The resulting sweet/sour sauce is fabulous over vanilla ice cream. I imagine some inventive person could also make a relish or chutney out of it that would go well with meat. Some of the fresh fruit I will freeze for future smoothies.... after removing the seeds.  The beautiful jewel like fruit look beautiful as a decorative topping on desserts.  I have also seen the ruby red fruit used in breathtakingly beautiful flower arrangements.



As you can guess from its name, Surinam Cherry is native to the NE coast of South America.  It is a tough evergreen shrub that can grow up to 10 feet tall.  The small leaves have a spicy scent and coppery colored new growth.  Its growth habits make it good for hedges.  The Surinam Cherry tends to flush into flower after heavy spring and fall rains.  The 1" round and ribbed fruit are usually dark red when ripe but there is a black variety. The fruit is on the sour side but kids always love to pick and eat the cherries out in the garden. The fruit fly can bother the fruit but so far I have not had any problem with them.  Maybe picking the fruit before fully ripe has helped prevent this.  Surinam Cherry is easy to grow from seed although the resulting little tree is a slow grower.

Aloha

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

SANSEVIERIA (Sansevieria trifasciata)



I have mixed feelings about the plant that is my topic this month.  I can always be grateful for a tough plant that will grow in dry, sandy areas.  On the other hand, Sansevieria can get a little out of hand in the garden and start spreading too far or get rather messy looking.  Good strong borders such as a cement path can help keep it in check.  The good attribute that won me over is that Sansevieria is a fabulous indoor plant.  In fact it is usually rated as the easiest indoor plant to care for.  Besides that, it is a very good oxygen provider for enclosed spaces.  It can become a win-win solution if you keep the outside plants trimmed back and pot up the trimmings for inside the house.



Sansevieria is native to tropical West Africa.  It has thick succulent leaves and sometimes it will give out small greenish white flowers on stalks in summer.  There are lots of varieties although most people will recognize the tall lance like leaves of the "Mother-in-law's tongue.  I have a green and a yellow leaf form of this.  I also have a green dwarf rosette type or "Bird nest"  Be aware that the leaves are poisonous to animals.  Sansevieria needs good drainage so go easy on watering your indoor plant.

To get Sansevieria cuttings for potting is is easy to see new baby plants growing out from the mother plant on fat finger size stolons.  Cut off a few of these, making sure that you have some root attached.  Usually I will let the cutting scar dry off for a day before I pot them up.  Three arranged together in a pot looks nicely balanced.  After growing for several months, a potted plant can get very root bound or the strong roots will even break the pot.  You may need to just throw away the plant if it gets too rambunctious and start a new one or severely chop back the roots and repot.




Aloha

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

PORTUGUESE CABBAGE (Brassica oleracea var. costata)



This is just going to be a quick post today but I am excited to introduce a new plant in my garden.  For the first time ever, I saw Portuguese Cabbage starts at Koolau Farmer's nursery about a month ago.  I only heard about this cabbage for the first time a few years ago.  It was an important vegetable in gardens of Portuguese workers on the sugar plantations here in Hawaii. They called it Couves.  I am thrilled to actually see what it looks like and to have a go at growing it.  After only a month of growing this single plant I am already a fan so this is why I wanted to write about it today.   Have a look at the picture.  It is a very sturdy plant and a no fuss one.  There has been a bit of leaf miner in the old leaves but I just remove them.  The plant is very similar to collard greens and apparently grows the same way......the stem just getting taller and will keep going all year long.  I have already had a few leaves in a stir fry and I look forward to just picking leaves off as needed and having a constant supply.  This is a picture of a young plant and hopefully I will be able to put up some pictures of the mature plant later on.  You can check back for later reports.



In Portugal it is an important vegetable used in national dishes.  It will work good in your Portuguese bean soup or in a stir fry or coleslaw.  It can be grown from seed but apparently you can cut the head of the stalk off , remove most of the leaves and plant that up too.  I expect the stalk then grows a few more heads....just like collard greens.  Anyways, I did want to share my excitement about this plant and maybe it is something new for you to try as well.

Aloha

PS
A month and a half latter and the plant is still surviving.  The leaf miner has not been bothering lately but those tiny round snails have to be watched for.  I also get a few white fly hanging around under the leaves so I have a habit of tapping the leaves underneath as I walk by to make things too uncomfortable for them.  One leaf is a serving for one person.  I love it in a coleslaw with grated carrot and green onion.

July 2017
Well my Portuguese Cabbage is still alive  after five months and I am still enjoying a few leaves from it every week.  It is now a head  of leaves on a stalk.  The white cabbage butterfly have become interested in it so I keep it covered with a bit of netting made from the net bag I bought some avocados in.  It does seem to discourage the butterflies but it may just be that they are now more attracted to my neighbors cabbages.