Welcome All! I'm a dreamer, I hope you are too! A Posse ad Esse, or From possibility to reality, is a general state of mind. I hope you'll share your possibilities with me as I will with you. Namaste~

October 27, 2009

Keeping things clean (21 Days)

One of the most important and probably opt overlooked things one can do to help themselves be successful in thier propagating is to keep things clean.
There are a number of plant diseases that could easily prey on young, newly propagated plants if given the chance. Many of these can lay dormant in the very pots that we use to plant them in. Like many gardeners, I try my best to stretch my dollars and to consume less resources by re-using many of the pots that come through my garden. Taking the necessary care to make sure those pots are clean is a pretty simple tasks that can help to avoid a lot of problems.

I started with a regular bucket filled with water. This is just a preliminary wash to get off most of the dirt and grime off the pots before I sanitize them.While I rinsed them off I used an old rag to wipe down the pots quickly to remove as much dirt as possible.

After wiping down and generally cleaning out the pots I put them in a sinkful of warm bleach water. Using the bleach water is for basically the same reason as you would use a sanitizer when washing dishes. It kills bacteria and keeps disease from being able to spread easily.

After cleaning I stacked all the pots that I cleaned so that they could air out and dry completely. Bleach is not a good thing for plant roots so you do want to make sure that they are dried completely.

So now that I've gotten these all cleaned and sanitized, it's time to get those plants into the dirt.

I did plant one variety of tomato into a few of these pots, some of the romas that I am working to clone. I didn't want to jump in and plant too many of them for fear of they having a problem accepting the transplants. Best to stick a toe in the water first you know?

In the last few days we've had a dusting of snow and a serious cold front. I'll get out to plant some more this weekend comeing up. Watch for more and some photos then.

Anyone else trying to clone cuttings this fall?

October 14, 2009

Propagating plants (10 day update)

Took a peek under the plastic wrap today and found a little surprise.Do you see them? Those little white spikey things poking out from the stems? Those are roots. So far so good!Here's a little closer look at them. This particular plant was one with the heaviest concentration of new roots, but most all of them are showing at least some rooting activity.

Take a look at the picture below, it's from a little different angle.Remember in my last post about the propagation how I said that the stem/leaf crotch was the place where most rooting would happen? Well, here you can see just that. That's one of the leaf ends that's poking out of the main stem and it's right in the middle of the heaviest concentration of new roots.
Like Hannibal from the A-Team used to say...
"I love it when a plan comes together!"
More to come as they progress.

October 13, 2009

Gitt'n buggy with it!

OK, I admit it, that was a really cheesy title. Gotta keep things interesting though right? Besides, what else was I supposed to title a post with a picture like this is it? Did I mention that I have a TON of Lady beetles in my yard? Yeah, I'm probably supplying the whole neighborhood with all the lady beetles that I have! That picture above is the remains of a Giant sunflower stalk that I removed the head from some time back. The pupa of the lady beetles are all over it. In that picture a rough guess of the number would put me close to 60-70 beetles and pupa. And that's just the top of one plant! They are all over.And they're really big and healthy too! This one is about the size of my pinky nail.
And when you get to watch this many beetles in your backyard eco-system, you get to see a lot of interesting things that you might not normally. Ever seen a lady beetle hatching?It's interesting, they come out and you can noticably tell that their wing covers (Elytra) were still soft and completely devoid of any spots.
Here's another closer look.

In this one you can see the wings out and drying. She's "hanging" around with a few sisters. I'm hoping to get out in the yard soon with a large mason jar stuffed with some straw and begin collecting the beetles into it. An interesting thing about the life cycle of the lady beetle - by the way, I'm pretty sure that these are Harmonia axyridis (Multicolored Asian lady beetle) just in case you were curious - anyway the interesting thing I learned about their life-cycle is that they hibernate over the winter by living off stored fats, just like a bear. Cool huh? My master plan is to have the ladies help me to naturally control next year, what became a very nasty aphid problem this year.

I worked this plan out sometime around mid-summer kind of by accident; let me lay it on you. When I came to grips with the fact that this years aphid outbreak was going to be a big one, I also noticed that because of the very healthy food source, my lady beetle population was also exploding. I figured that if I could encourage a really healthy lady beetle population this year, accepting of course the fact that I would have some crop damage from the aphids that they were feeding on, then next year I could use some organic methods like horticultural oil and kaolin clay early on to limit the number of aphids that hatch on my property. Between a hopefully burgeoning population of beetles and a reduced population of aphids I hope to be able to really be successful at keeping them under control for the foreseeable future, or at least for a year. Anyone have any experience they want to share in that area?

Now, totally unrelated but still pretty cool, I thought I'd show you these pictures of the mushrooms popping up through my mulch on the north side of my shed.

I took these pictures Monday and they weren't a great deal bigger today, but they are growing slowly.I don't know what they are, but it's good to know that the fungi are healthy in the yard too. They play a very important part in the natural decomposition of organic matter in the garden. I'm letting these finish their life-cyle at least to see what they become.

I love watching as the season winds down. Things change, cycles move to their next phases.
Hope the season finds you well.

October 5, 2009

Propagating from cuttings

I was able to get a few things done in the Greenhouse tonight and pictures are here to be shared!
You can see that the greenhouse is still quite a mess and, if you know me, you know it may well stay that way for a while. Work cannot wait though, so the propagating has begun.

Pop quiz time... (You did study right?):
Q: What do tomatoes, eggplant, bell peppers, and tomatillos have in common?
Well, one answer is that I gathered cuttings of all of them before the freezing weather came and another answer might be that I'm cloning, or at least trying to clone, all of them! I'll tell you real answer before I finish.

Before I started working with a particular cutting, I made sure that I had some cups prepared for them. If you have a glut of old glasses or mason jars they would be a great reusable option here. I don't, so clear plastic cups it is. I covered the tops of the cups with some plastic wrap held in place with a rubber band and poked a few breathing holes in the top with a knife. (You can see the temp inside when I got home from work was 63 deg(F). Our actual high for today was only 45 deg(f) so I guess the greenhouse is doing its job so far. We'll see what happens as winter approaches.Before I get to the next step, I thought I'd cover what I looked for in my original cuttings that I took from the parent plant.
The best cutting stock to use from your original plant should be taken from the part of the plant that is still actively growing. Plants have a feature called apical dominance that helps to control where the plants hormones go to tell it to create new growth. Starting with actively growing pieces of the plant gives you a head start in the right direction. For my tomatoes this was from the suckers that I would normally have pruned off and some of the tops that were vigorous and showing new growth.

Below you can see one of the original cuttings that I took from a Heartland Tomato. I made the cutting a little larger than what I would have wanted to have as a final size.The marks on the photo are roughly the places that I made trimming cuts to pare it down to the size I wanted. A couple of considerations are to make sure that the cutting will fit inside the cup without tipping it over. Also, this cutting has no root system so it's not going to be able to support a lot of superfluous growth so trimming off some otherwise healthy leaves is actually a good idea.

The reason I made the cut to the already removed leaf section on the right of the stem was because it had been removed roughly and left ragged ends that I felt may open the plant up for rot or disease. Also, if your familiar with the tomatoes tendency to throw up shoots from the crotch of the leaf and stem sections, this is because that is a part of the plant that contains new buds that the growth hormones in the tomato plant concentrate on telling to generating new growth. That new growth can be determined by the plant to generate new leaves and stems. It can also be told to produce new roots when the plant needs them. That's what I need so I wanted to make sure it was clean and ready to grow.After trimming up all of the cuttings for a particular variety that I was working with, I inserted two into each cup through a couple of the holes in the plastic wrap. I put two into each cup purely because of space and time. I only have so much of both so better to optimize than to not get things done.

I anticipate that I should have at least two weeks before I really need to worry about replanting, but more than likely it will end up being more like three. This is a good thing because I need to sterilize some pots for them, as well as to work out some more passive heating solutions for the greenhouse.
For now, you may remember the seed starter that I built last spring, well it's the new clone base camp. I can cover it with an additional layer of 6 mil plastic and keep some water bottles in there for thermal mass to keep things warm over night and with any luck (a lot wouldn't hurt) things will work out for the best.

So then, do you know yet what the four plants that I mentioned I'm trying to clone have in common?

If you guessed that they're all members of the family Solanaceae then you'd be absolutely CORRECT!

The great thing is, that Solanaceae plants are very good rooters and are probably one of the better plants for this type of propagation. So wish me luck!

Till next time... Grow on!

October 4, 2009

Much has changed

The weather has done an abrupt about face here in Northern Utah. A couple of solid cold fronts has come through our valley and cooled it significantly. We managed to make it through the first one pretty well unscathed, but this last one that came through at the end of last week left the garden largely frost killed.

Since that was the case, I went ahead Saturday afternoon and tore out a majority of the perimeter gardens. (That's what I'm calling the border raised beds that I have around much of the back yard.) I still have a few other beds that need to be wrapped up for the season, but they'll have to wait until our current rains have passed. It was a much earlier end to the season than we had last year I think but I'll have to consult the old garden journal from '08 before I'm sure. It seems that I've been so far out of whack with my sense of time this year that I can't be sure of anything anymore.

Here's the good new though... all is not lost. While I didn't bother to cover any of my tomato plants, some that were near to the house made it just fine anyway, I did get off my butt and get some good cuttings from some of the plants that I had this year that I really liked and I have them in the greenhouse soaking in cups of water until I have a chance to properly propagate them for the winter. One of my goals for this off-season in the greenhouse is to propagate and hold over these cuttings through the winter. I'm not concerned with necessarily getting tomatoes in December or anything, although yeah I'd be super happy for those, my main hope is that I can keep them alive until very early spring when I'll be able to again propagate a new batch for a couple of things. I want to be able to plant an early batch of them at a decent size so I'll be able to get tomatoes in May-June rather than June-July. A~ and I are thinking about participating in one of our local farmers markets next year and that would be a boon. The other possible use for a large batch of clones is that I can possibly sell a few to our neighbor gardeners via a front yard plant sale or share them with other gardeners at a plant swap. Both are best case scenarios but hey, a guy has to have dreams right?

I'll update you with some pictures of the propagated cuttings and the greenhouse insides as I get them done. Anyone interested in details of my cloning experiences? Anyone with advice for me from experience? This is a new process for me so I'm more than willing to consider any ones input.

Hope all is well for all of you. I've noticed a couple of new followers and some new subscribers too, I hope you'll all feel welcome, enjoy the read and enlighten me with your input!

Till next time.