Saturday, September 29, 2012

Pōhutukawa - New Zealand Christmas Tree

I was very lucky to find a BBC Garden of the World series on YouTube. The series is called Around the World in 80 gardens. The first episode that I watched was about South America. Did you know that in the Amazon they grow their gardens in pots on the river? I watched the episode about Indian gardens, those were just amazing. Finally, I ended with gardens of Australia and New Zealand which brings me to the topic of this blog - Pōhutukawa - New Zealand Christmas Tree. 

The brush-like blooms of pōhutukawa (Metrosideros excelsa) add brilliance to a Northland beach in summer, and signal the arrival of Christmas. Related to guavas, feijoas and eucalypts, the pōhutukawa is a familiar sight on the northern North Island coastline, which is its natural range. It was favoured by early European boat builders as the timber provides natural curves and is immune to sea worms. The trees have since been planted in coastal areas throughout the country.

This tree blooms every December (summer time ), in New Zealand . The tree grew quite large and the blossoms were beautiful. I would love to have a couple of these trees one day. I came to discover that this plant does very well in parts of California.  If you are interested in buying seeds, here is a link to a New Zealand vendor

First Cute Little Potato Harvest

potato flower means it is soon time to harvest
I planted a single seed potato in one of my ten pound green planters from Lowes. It was my first time growing potatoes. I wanted to first discuss why I chose to grow potatoes instead of any other exotic herb or vegetable. Potatoes are a staple in our diet. They feed the poorest of the poor. They are starchy, versitile, and are used in any cuisine. I cannot think of a world cuisine that does not use potatoes.

Potatoes are easy to grow and can be stored for a very long time.They prefer a slightly acidic soil with a pH factor of about 6. They should be planted in early spring, and the soil should be at least 45 degrees F. They should not be grown in the same soil year after year. I grow them in pots and my soil is always new, so crop rotation is not an issue here.

One week before planting, I set my seed potato on the dry warm balcony with full light to induce sprouting. Then I chopped up the sprouts, with the eyes or ´buds´ fully intact. The seed formed a thick callous over the cut which helped prevent it from rotting once planted. This is an important step that should not be over looked.

The best way to get more potatoes is to keep covering the plant with soil. Do not bury the plant entirely with soil. Leave just enough for the plant to push through. Some people do this with tires, others build potato boxes.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Why do wine makers plant mustard seeds in young vineyards?

Mustard planted in vineyard
Lately I have really been into wine making.

Unfortunately I do not  have the space to start making my own wine. All I can do is read books about it, and daydream about the day that I will be able to press my own grapes. As I was looking at vineyards, I noticed that many wine makers planted mustard seeds in the vineyards. In fact, in California´s wine country, many vineyards are awash in yellow mustard flowers.

When soil temperatures reach about 60 degrees, nematodes gear up to start damaging the vines. At this moment mustard seeds destroy the nematode reproductive cycle. Crisis Averted!

 The best type of mustard plants to grow are those with high levels of Glucosinolate, or extra spicy compounds. Examples of these are black mustard, nemfix mustard, ida gold mustard, oilseed radish, diakon radish and wild radish. Mustard plants help break down the nematode population just as they gear up to damage young vines. Young vines cam be very sensitive to nematodes.