Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Sowing the seeds of love

In every 'plant-shopping' trip that Mom and Dad usually make, there is always a few change left from the budget I allocate, a change so small that it's not even enough to buy a single decent plant. One time, Mom decided to use the change left, bought several packets of seeds and tried her luck in growing them.

Mom was so proud to report her success and sent me pictures of the plants she grew from the seeds she bought. Below are the plants she was so proud of.

Butterfly PeaButtongold
DianthusFrench Marigold
Sungold sunflowerZinnia

Another plant Mom grew from seeds (but has no picture) is the Celosia.

I'm glad that Mom has found a way to stretch the budget and use every bit of change wisely. In her own little way she is helping to increase plant diversity in our garden.

There are advantages to growing your own plants from seeds. First it's a lot cheaper than buying an established plant. And there is this "feel good" reward of seeing the plant develop from seed to maturity.

The disadvantage is that it requires patience before the seedling reaches the height where you want the plant to be. There is also a high mortality rate. Out of several seedlings, only a few might survive.

But that's the beauty of gardening, it's just like gambling without the remorse one feels from losing.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Tree of the knowledge of good and evil

The controversial Plumeria tree planted smack in the middle of the "no tree zone".
This is one of those rare situations where I am putting my foot down!

So why would I begin my post with such a strong statement? It's because of this young Plumeria tree you see on the left. It has become a point of contention, something that could either bring out the good in me or my unpleasant side.

When we began our project, I have basically given them a free hand. Whatever they decide, but after consulting with me, I just say "OK".

But from the very beginning I made it clear that no tree will be planted in one particular part of the farm. I want to keep this area clear of any trees because this will be the site of the vegetable garden in the near future.

So when I received this picture of this small but beautiful Plumeria tree already planted on the ground, but not on the right ground, I was a little irritated. I called home and told then to dig up this tree and transplant it somewhere else in the upper garden.

I thought this awkward situation has been cleared out, but when I talked to Mom just recently, she said Dad didn't want to move it anymore since it may die. And that's when I got really irritated.

I told them that if they will not move that tree to the upper garden, I will tear it down on my next visit to the farm and that no matter how I'm enamored with that tree, I will not think twice about chopping it to bits and pieces.

My parents know about my enduring patience, but they are also aware of my less desirable temperament. I hope they have pity on that beautiful tree.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Like shelling peas

For a seed that hides behind a tough shell, growing Lotus from seed is like shelling peas. Scarring the shell is the hardest part, but after that just drop the seed into a container of tepid water or plant it directly into the soil in a small container then drown it with water.

Young Lotus seedlings growing in clay pots.

A row of Lotus seedlings in various stages of growth.
Mom was quite surprised that a week after she planted her first Lotus seed, it began to sprout and form little leaves. She was not surprised because the seed germinated, but rather, she was astounded that after spending more time scouring the tough shell that protects the seed, germination was relatively quick and uneventful.

Inspired by her success, mom started to plant the other seeds she collected. I had to tell her to stop, otherwise we'll end up having too many Lotus plants with nowhere to put them.

I asked mom to save the rest of the seeds for future use. I read that seeds with intact shells are viable even after several years in storage. There were reports that Lotus seeds hundreds of years old still germinated after they were sown.

Young Lotus leaf compared in size to a plastic spoon.

Before trying her luck at growing Lotus from seeds, mom observed that the mother Lotuses were sprouting new, small and heart-shaped leaves at their bases. She immediately notified me and mentioned that we don't need to plant the seeds since the mother plants were producing many new shoots.

I was quite perplexed by her statement. I know Lotus also grows from tubers, but they don't have leaves that are heart-shaped. I suspect these plant are not Lotuses, they are just trying to deceive my unwary mother.

Some unknown water plants now growing in their own pot which mom mistook for young Lotus plants.

I told mom to collect the impostors and plant them in a separate container. When I received the image above, my hunch was correct, these are not Lotus plants. What they are, I do not know. But since they have beautifully-shaped leaves I told mom to just let them grow and see what happens as they mature.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Money doesn't grow on trees

It's a hit or miss with our mango trees.

On a good year (when the cosmic alignments are just right), our mango trees yield a plentiful harvest. On any bad year however, either there are too few fruits to pick or the fruit quality is not the very best. That is the cyclical dilemma we experience each year with our small mango orchard.

This year's harvest however was rather good and an exceptional one. The fruits were big, plenty and disease or blemish-free. It took a couple of trucks to haul the cases out of the farm. And that is a very good indication of a sufficient bounty.

Our small mango orchard is contracted to a third party entity. They are responsible for flower induction, fumigation, harvesting and marketing of our produce. Basically all we have to do is nothing but keep the trees alive. At the end of harvest they pay the farm for the agreed price which is also just and fair.

Mangoes are seasonal fruits which usually peak during summer. This means that the trees are done fruiting for this year. Although there are still some fruits left on some of the trees, these are the strugglers and late-bloomers.

Money may not grow on trees, but fruits do and when they are sold, they get converted to cash, something that the farm badly needs right now.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Red Power! Better red than dead

(Eric Cartman leading the "gingers" in chanting) Red Power! Red Power! Better red than dead! Better red than dead!
(from the cartoon series "South Park"
episode title: "Ginger Kids")

According to Eric Cartman, a "ginger kid" is someone who has a disease called "Gingervitis" that results to having very light skin, freckles and red hair. Also a "ginger kid" has no soul.

Eric Cartman's foolishness really cracks me up, but enough of him and on to my subject.

The Red Ginger (Alpinia purpurata) is a plant native to Malaysia. It has long, showy and brightly colored red (or pink) bracts which could be mistaken as its flowers. The true flowers are white but are tiny and insignificant. This plant will grow large and multiplies by rhizomes. It requires a warm and humid condition to thrive.

Under ideal condition, it will bloom all year round. The flowers are sought after in the cutflower industry. They lend a distinctly tropical look in floral arrangements.

The images above are of our first Red Ginger plant. It is located in a small garden just outside our humble house. It holds the record as one of the very first plants we collected in my long list of must-have's for our garden.

Now, there are around twenty separate plants growing in the nursery, majority of which are offshoots of the original plant. And that is a testament to Red Ginger's power!

Good thing our Red Gingers are proud about having red heads, Otherwise there will be a ginger riot in the garden.

Friday, June 11, 2010

This little piggy went to market...

... and brought ten little piggies back home...

That's my modified and shortened version of the popular "This Little Piggy" nursery rhyme.

When I visited the farm over a year ago, there was only one young female pig in our small backyard piggery. Since it was still a juvenile back then I wondered when can it fill up the other empty pens adjacent to hers. I wasn't feeling optimistic back then, knowing that it was just a mere wishful thinking.

So when I recently received this picture of that very same pig - now a full-grown sow - with a litter of ten cute little piglets, I was really delighted. When these little pigs get bigger they will be moved to the empty pens. I hope they all survive and someday produce more little pigs.

The pigs raised in our farm are not for commercial production but mostly for domestic consumption. But whenever possible we also sell when there's an extra to spare or when someone is interested to buy. As of this writing two of the piglets have been sold although they will stay with mama pig until they have been weaned.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Their claws are showing

Despite its abundance, the Lobster Claw heliconia (Heliconia rostrata) is still one of the undisputed favorites in the Heliconia family. This popularity is due to the exotic, bright and colorful inflorescense it produces and the way it is displayed, hanging boldly like an elegant pendant. Its unique presentation of red and yellow bracts are the real attraction rather than the actual flowers.

A flowering but sad-looking image of a Lobster Claw heliconia.
When I asked my mother to take pictures of the Lobster Claws in our garden, what I meant was the rows of Lobster Claws in the nursery which she had been proudly bragging as lush, beautiful and vigorous.

Imagine my dismay when I received an e-mail with an attached image of this one lousy potted plant (left image). Although it had beautiful flowers, the blooms could not hide its lanky, lonely and lamentable disposition.

Disappointed, I called home with an audibly disgusted tone. I asked about the honest to goodness state of the heliconias we bought over a year ago and those they bought a couple of months later. What happened to all of them? Is this the only one that survived?

The rows of energetic Lobster Claws in our nursery.

Mom said they are all in good state, healthy and constantly producing new shoots that she took them out of their plastic containers and planted them directly to the ground, in fact some are very much in bloom. Whenever possible, she would separate some new shoots and grow them in plastic bags.

A cluster of Lobster Claw heliconia in a state of bloom.

It turned out, she delegated the task of taking pictures to my brother, who may have been too lazy to walk a few steps out into the nursery that he just took a snapshot of the closest Lobster Claw he could find. Knowing my brother, that's the most probable explanation.

A closer look at the dense growth of Lobster Claw heliconias.

This time, Mom took the pictures of the said heliconias herself, and now I know she has the reason to be really proud of our Lobster Claws. Aside from those left planted in black plastic containers, there are these two rows of thick clumps of Lobster Claws growing and multiplying in the nursery.

All of these heliconias will soon be moved to the upper garden as soon as the rainfall becomes constant. I would love for them to grow lush and thick in their future site, just like the way they are now in the nursery.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence

This is a timeless proverb which simply means that someone thinks he would be better in any other situation than where he currently is.

But sometimes this saying is also true in the most literal sense.

A lone young Plumeria tree, a companion plant and some unknown weeds growing side by side.

The grass on the side of the fence where the animals graze are almost non-existent. With the ruminants' voracious appetite for grass and weeds, the enclosed areas seem like they have been meticulously mowed.

Wild grass overwhelming the young palms and other ornamental plants.

On the other side however, wild grasses and weeds are madly growing, competing with the plants for any available space and nutrients in the ground. In some areas they are even taller than the ornamental plants we transplanted a few months ago.

There used to be a dirt road beside the row of plants, now almost covered with grass just after a few days of rain.

Even the dirt paths are under siege. If not cleared of vegetation, they will soon disappear under a new growth of different wild grasses and weeds. And now that the drought is easing its stranglehold over the land, more wild grasses will soon awake from their slumber.

Maybe it's time for the animals to "jump the fence"... literally.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Demo farm

Last Friday, a caravan of three vans full of people from a neighboring province came to visit the farm. Those in the farm were not surprised by the sudden deluge of visitors since they have been informed weeks in advance about this "invasion".

It turns out our guests were new recipients of the government's sheep module program. And they have been advised by the local office of the Department of Agriculture to visit our farm. They wanted to observe how our farm raises the sheep we received years ago from the government's livestock program. Dad escorted them during their entire visit to answer their inquiries.

Because of our success, ours has become an unofficial demo farm. In a way, this trip was to inspire the new recipients to strive in their new endeavor knowing that success is possible.