Sunday, July 29, 2012

Edibles in Bloom

Fig. 1   Thai Basil (Ocimum basilicum)

This is a partial glimpse of my vegetable garden this year.  Instead of showing the fruits, I chose to focus on the flowers.  Flowers are generally the early indicators of a forth coming harvest for any food crop.  For some plants such broccoli and cauliflower, the flower directly translates to the crop yield. Still for other annual plants where the leaves are the harvestable parts, flower initiation marks the cessation of productivity. 

Fig. 2    Cilantro (Coriandrum sativum)

Basil and cilantro (Fig. 2) are among of my favorite herbs of all times.  Basil is generally a summer crop and a long-day plant, which means that it flowers when the daylength (photoperiod) is longer than 12 hours per day. Thai basil (Fig. 2) is particularly sensitive to increasing photoperiod - the seedlings almost always have flowers when I buy them from the nursery.  For a plant where the leaves are the harvestable/edible part, this poses a problem.  However, that is when management comes into play.  It is my practice to  decapitate my basil plants at the slightest hint of flowering in order to induce branching and prolong vegetative growth. 

Fig. 3    Meyer Lemon (Citrus x meyeri)
The 'Meyer' lemon seems to be enjoying its current location (Fig. 3).  When my father-in-law and his wife could not get it to fruit in their shady front yard, they gave it to me - knowing that we have the sun here.  So far it is looking good. 'Meyer' lemon, which is believed to have originated from China, is different from the true lemons such as 'Eureka', 'Lisbon', and 'Ponderosa' in that it is sweeter and less rindy (thinner rind).  Such characteristics are attributed to a genetic relationship to the Mandarin orange.
Now there are two types of lemons in my backyard.  I have yet to succeed in growing the Filipino lemon - Kalamasi (Citrus microcarpa).  

Fig. 4     Celery (Apium graveolens)

Last winter I planted a row of celery (Fig. 4).  It was great to have something green in the garden during the dead months of winter.  It was but we could not use it all up.  I left the plants to flower to encourage the pollinators to linger around.
Every gardener in our area would be interested to know that celery is deer resistant.  But then again - as I always say when people ask me whether a plant is deer resistant or not - it all depends on how hungry the deer are. 

Fig. 5    Italian Sweet Pepper (Capsicum annuum)

Fig. 6     Phaseolus vulgaris

Not all good things are meant to be for the gardener. I planted beans and watched them grow all the way to flowering (Fig. 6). One morning after I took the picture above, all those plants were defoliated. Everything above ground was gone except for the stems. To say that I almost cried is an understatement. The voles are here and they are destructive! Some say that voles come every three years; 2012 appears to be third year. Sadly, we'll have no beans this summer.

Fig. 7   Thai Pepper (Capsicum annuum)

Fig. 8     Fingerling Potatoes (Solanum tuberosum)

From last year's harvest, I saved the really small tubers and planted them in early spring.  If it is still true that the condition of the foliage (Fig. 8) is an indication of what lies underground, then these spuds must be hiding some gold in the ground.  Unless, of course, my enemies (voles) have dig a secret tunnel to get to the tubers.  

Fig. 8     Tomatillo (Physalis philadelphica)
This is my first time growing tomatillo.  So far the plant is doing what it is supposed to.  Flowers hang from the branches but there has been no sign of fruit as of this time.  I keep my fingers crossed on the possibility of homemade salsa verse. 

What's flowering in your edible garden today?

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Spotted Bells

Fig. 1     Spotted bellflower (Campanula punctata)
Campanula punctata.   Bell-shaped flowers that dangled from slender stalks periodically grabbed my attention as I roamed my mother (in-law)'s country garden in Fortuna, California.  Campanula punctata (Fig. 1) has flowers (either white or pink) that are tinged with fine purplish dots which make them appear delicately translucent.  (These dots are the distinguishing characteristic of the species punctata).  The scalloped edges of the corolla are lined with delightful trichomes.  I suppose that they function, among others, to aid pollinators in reaching their desired destination. 

Fig.  2     Campanula punctata grows in the shade.

 Sun Exposure.   I observed that the plant was growing in both full sun and shady areas of the garden with no obvious growth difference.   When it comes to determining whether a plant is good for the shade or full sun areas, the determining factor is usually their water requirement.  When a gardener can assure that the plants get enough (not too much) water regardless of position in the garden, then the plants can perform well regardless of sun exposure.  The plant has soft tissues hence drainage is important in order to avoid rotting of the stems. 

Fig. 3      Showy display of white flowers

Growth Habit.  This perennial plant is a moderate grower and a vigorous self-seeder.  (I know this for sure because when I visited the garden a year ago, they were not there, but this time they were all over the place.)  The plant multiplies itself in two ways - creeping rhizomes and traveling seeds.  Regular division is necessary to promote good plant vigor.  In as much as blooming occurs in spring to summer, it is best to divide the plants in the fall. 

I brought home some rhizomes of this plant for my garden.  I imagined that they would look great in the shady "Down Under".  Unfortunately, the voles got to them before they had a chance to get established.  Sad.

There are hundreds of species in the genus Campanula; which one have you tried in your garden? 

Monday, July 9, 2012

Visiting the World Vegetable Center

AVRDC (Asian Vegetable Research and Development Center)

At last I made it to AVRDC - The World Vegetable Center!  Coming to this place has been a long dream especially when I was working as a plant scientist in the Philippines.  Hence, this is a dream come true!
My family was given an exclusive seminar by Maureen Mecozzi, Head of the Communications and Information Department.  Later on Willie gave us a tour of the research facility.  It was indeed a great experience for all of us.

Willie (L) gave us a tour of the research center.

I'll write more about AVRDC - The World Vegetable Center later. 

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Thinking about my garden...

Fig. 1    Calibrachoa enjoys the shade under an umbrella.

It's that time of the year again when my family takes a summer trip.  This time we are in Taipei, Taiwan (Fig. 4).  As we tour this place and experience the conditions that prevail, I think of my garden back home.

For my plants (Fig. 1) to grow they have to be consistently watered as the environment is dry.  Their counterparts in Taiwan (as in any tropical area), however, can remain alive in almost dry soil much longer - as an effect of the high atmospheric humidity.  Being a gardener in California, a semi-arid area, I envy the growing conditions of the tropics.

Fig. 2     A garter snake takes a dip in the fountain to cool down.

In the tropics, plants and animals maintain their lives throughout the year in a relatively consistent fashion.   At home, my plants undergo a period of slow to no growth in the winter and a period of rapid and prolonged growth in the summer.  Even some animals that hibernate during winters become incredibly active (Fig. 2) during the warmer periods of the year. 

Fig. 3    A place to sit in the cool of the day.

When I look at the city of Taipei (Fig. 4) there seem to be a very limited place for gardens. The place is covered with tall buildings.  Private gardens, if they exist, are kept privately on rooftops or on balconies of apartments.  For example - from my hotel room, I can see a beautiful but very small private garden with a pond that has large koi fishes.  Vines climb all over the interior walls surrounding the garden while elephant ears grow from large clay pots.  But if you are just walking on the streets, the gardens seem not to exist.

Fig. 4   Taipei as seen from the Taipei 101 building.

Tomorrow, we will travel outside of Taipei and visit the headquarters of the World Vegetable Center, formerly Asian Vegetable Research and Development Center (AVRDC) in Sanshua, Taiwan.  There we will see more of the agricultural instead of the technological-center Taiwan. 

I'm looking forward to visiting AVRDC and hoping to bring back new ideas in vegetable gardening.

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