Thursday, August 13, 2015

Propagating Strawberry Plants

Propagating plants = create or grow more!  More is good in the world of gardening, no?

I bought two small strawberry plants this year.  I quickly realized I wanted more.  However, I didn't want to keep buying the plants.  I researched and discovered I could easily get more plants for free (essentially).   I would have to propagate the runners!

What are the runners?  The runners are long tendrils that will shoot out and away from the mother plant.  They are searching for soil to plop themselves down into and establish new roots.  After awhile, this plant will have well established roots and can be snipped away from the mother. (until it is snipped, it is getting its energy and nutrients from the mother plant which it is attached to)

I have my strawberries in hanging baskets, so for me, it wasn't as simple as letting the runners grow long enough to find the soil.  They'd NEVER find the soil from the height at which they were hanging.  I remedied this by attaching little biodegradable pots to the sides of the hanging baskets. I then guided the runners to these pots and pinned them in place over the soil with little pieces of floral wire, which has been bent into a U shape.  After a few weeks, the little runners will begin creating sets of leaves and nice, deep roots. At about 4-5 weeks you should be able to snip the runner away from the mother plant and repot somewhere else.

These are my strawberry runners that have been pinned into the biodegradable pots. You can even see that they are putting out their own runners!  I did end up snipping those extra runners away so the baby plants could focus their energy on their own needs (roots especially!).  They didn't need to be mommy plants just yet :-)

These are 3 out of 6 baby strawberry plants that are going to be going into this new hanging basket
After a couple of good, heavy rain showers I started to notice the breakdown of the biodegradable pots.  I know this would be a "DUH!" for most people. This is my first time, though, and it just didn't cross my mind.  I thought, "Oh, this will be great!  I will only need to plop them into their new pot and not worry about removing them from here and disturbing the young roots!"   What I ended up doing is carefully removing the biodegradable pot and gently placing them into these red plastic cup and then reattaching these new cups to the mother plants hanging basket.  Make sure if you use a plastic cup that you also drill some small holes for drainage. 

I checked the roots as I removed each plant.  As you can see, they are very nice and well established!  This will make for an easier transition to its new container.  

Here are the three babies in their new hanging basket.  The plant towards the right side did experience some transplant shock but after a couple of days it perked right back up and is doing fabulously well now!  These were transplanted back in the beginning of July.  They are big, bushy, and thriving now!

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Rain Water Collection

Though my garden is a simple and small container garden, my husband and I felt it would be wise to try and collect natural rain water to water the garden with.  Not only would it help to save money by not running the hose, but my understanding is that the rain water is actually better for the plants. There isn't chlorine and other added chemicals which can, in the long run, make for a less healthy plant.

I started by sticking some extra 5 gallon buckets at the base of a couple rain spouts. HAHAHA!  This was hilarious because after one small rain they would be beyond overflowing. We realized we needed something bigger.  My husband did some searching and followed several instructions for creating a rain collector out of a garbage bin.

We bought a cheap, fairly large garbage can.  It is 38 gallons, I believe.  Then, we took a roll of window screen and attached it around the top (lid off) with staples. Next, we cut a little section out of the lid so the gutter would fit down into it.  Finally, we attached a spout at the base to be able to drain out the water.

The screen is to keep bugs from getting down and into the water and drowing.  The water will be clean of buggies when we pour it out. As for the spout, it is just high enough to attach a garden hose.  However, we have plans to lift the whole bin up either on a built stand of wood or with cinder blocks.

While it is 38 gallons, this baby filled up with ONE good rain!  And it is only catching the water from half of my roof. I would love to have a second one because, well, DOUBLE THE RAIN WATER!  For now this works, though, because I only have a small container garden.  As I expand in coming years, I will expand on this as well.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Male vs Female Flowers and Hand Pollinating

Before I took an interest in plants and growing my own fruits and veggies, I had no real idea how they came to me.  Don't get me wrong... I knew the basics of needing bees and the plants needed to be pollinated.  But if you told me there were male and female flowers, I'd have looked at you with quite the blank face.   The more research I did, I quickly came to realize that some kinds of plants would produce separate male and female flowers.  And with that I discovered that it might be hard for me to get any kind of harvest if I didn't have bees....  UNLESS....  I had pollinated myself!  Whoa!

Before you can hand pollinate, however, you need to know how to tell which flowers are which.  In MY garden, the plants that will produce males and females are my squash, zucchinis, and my melons.

Once your plant starts putting out flowers, you'll need to look at the underside, or the base of the flower.  If it is swollen with a bulb attached, that is your female.  If there is just a straight, skinny stem leading up to the flower then that is your male.

Here are photos of my flowering melons and zucchinis.

Sugar Baby Melon

Notice how both of the females have a swollen bit under the flower.  That will be the fruit of the plant so long as it is properly pollinated!  Now, what if you don't have many bees?  You can easily and successfully pollinate your plant yourself.   I take a soft old nail brush (something light and fluffy, not too stiff) and swirl it around the open male flower to pick up the pollen.  Then, find an open female flower and swirl that same brush around inside it.  This will place the pollen properly so it can now grow the fruit at its base.  If you have enough bees and you see them going from each plant you don't have to worry so much about doing this.  I have stopped hand pollinating because I have a lot of bees that have found my yard and are doing the work for me.

*Random Advise:  Don't panic if at first you see nothing but a bunch of male flowers.  Typically, the plants will send out a bunch of male flowers first and then a few weeks later you'll start seeing some females pop into the mix as well. :-)

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Gardening Update

I had briefly mentioned previously that I may end up trying my hand at growing some fruits and veggies this spring/summer.  Well, I did.   Everything started with one little strawberry plant I brought home.  From there, my obsession with growing stuff began.

Currently, everything is growing... and growing well. I have strawberry plants, squash, zucchini, tomatoes, okra, a purple bell pepper, and a red bell pepper.  I also have my small pots of herbs: parsley, chives, basil, and lavender.

I haven't been able to harvest from all of my plants yet.  The strawberries and herbs are really the only things I've been eating from.  ...and on that note, for the time being my strawberries have stopped putting out flowers.  They are everbearing variety so I can only assume they've stopped because the heat has gotten beyond their ideal point. I'm thinking once fall rolls around and the temperatures cool back down I will be getting more.

For now, I'll just simply show you a couple of the small fruits that are growing.  :-)

This is a sugar baby watermelon.  This was about a week ago, so it is even larger now!

This is a purple bell pepper.  It is just a wee thing right now, so it is still small and green.

I think I will touch on hand pollinating in a later post, too!  I started out with zero bee activity so I was hand pollinating many of my plants.  However, several kinds of bees (from bumblebees, to sweat bees, to honey bees!) have found their way to my yard and have been helping pollinate all of my plants for me!  YAY FOR BEES!
This was one of the first bees I spotted!  He was hanging out on my melon flowers.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Growing Strawberries!

I'm attempting to grow strawberries!  Yup!  I am not a gardener, by any means.  In fact, my husband likes to joke and say I have a black thumb.  Up until now, the only thing I have managed to keep alive are aloe plants.  And that's mostly because they're a very hardy plant and it is difficult to kill them....  you can forget to water them for quite some time and they'll be golden.  You just shouldn't OVER water them.  Anyway...  Back in April, I believe, I saw some organic seedlings available at a local plant conservatory/butterfly garden.  I decided I'd give them a shot, I mean, I've been growing my aloes for years now and my herbs for....well, a handful of months. HAHA!

I happily brought my little baby plant home and put her (yes, these are girls... they just feel like they should be girls) into some soil placed in a coconut fiber hanging basket. She has been doing VERY well!  She has grown so much larger than her original size.  For that reason, I decided I'd test my luck and get a second one.   So far, so good!  They've both been producing berries and growing like crazy.  I have had one small set back, but nothing major.  My first plant has started showing signs of blight on the leaves.  Only a couple have shown the disease, but I've pulled them off and will be keeping a watch.  I think I may need to spray them with a baking soda mix. 

Let me mention, too, that plant #1 is a Quinault and plant #2 is an Ozark Beauty.  They are both everbearing strawberry plants.  So, the berries are smaller, but they'll produce their fruit for longer.

The photo just above and just below are what my plants look like as of today.  I have wrapped the baskets in some bird netting because I have a lot of flying friends that come into my yard and I don't want them snacking on my fruits. They didn't have a chance to snag any but I wanted to be sure I protected the plants before they did!   I prefer the looks of the plants without the netting, but I've had to trade off the visuals for practicality. 

I thought I'd mention, too, that most of the white specks you see are crushed eggshells to provide calcium to the plants.  I've also tossed in some coffee grounds a time or two.  I tried to blitz up the eggshell into a powder, but my Ninja was only able to get a portion of it to a complete powder.  

The above photo is my first little plant when I first planted it and then, to compare, currently. She sure has sprouted and grown, huh?  She seems very happy in her home. 

My next project (I think) is going to be putting in a small patio garden to grow some veggies.  We'll see....  if I'm going to do it, I need to get it together in the next couple of weeks in order to actually harvest anything before the end of the growing season.