Thursday, February 10, 2011

Space Invaders

If only its as easy as shooting alien invaders with a laser cannon.

It's just a constant battle for dominance between our caretaker and the Cogon grass or Cogongrass (Imperata cylindrica) weed infesting the garden spaces in the farm. A few days of lull and this grass quietly gears up for a complete invasion.

Our gardener whacking mostly Cogon weed to expose the garden plants. Scars of last year's severe storm are still visible around.

I've been searching the internet for a "green" way to eradicate the Cogon grass but so far I have not found any effective method aside from using chemical herbicides. These herbicides are out of the question since they are non-selective, which could kill or damage other plants growing nearby. Also, the chemicals might leach into the ground and contaminate the watering holes which we use to water the plants.

Islands of garden plants in a sea of fallen Cogon grass.

The Cogon grass has no commercial value other than roofing material for traditional huts and in some rural houses. The ruminants only eat the young and tender leaves. Once they mature no animal would eat them because they're rough, tough and develop sharp, serrated edges.

A part of dirt road, now carpeted with Cogon grass. Young palms trees and other plants lining the perimeter of the sheep's pen. Piles of cut grass drying on the right.

The weather has been cooperative for the most part of the past several weeks. Taking advantage of this opportunity they have been aggressively clearing the area of  this invasive weed to level the playing field and allow the garden plants a space to breathe and grow. This is just a temporary solution though since this weed is a fast grower.

Another part of the dirt road temporarily cleared of Cogon. In just a few weeks it will be overgrown with the weed again.

Nuisance as they are the Cogon grass had an unexpected benefit during the October 2010 storm. Because they've been unintentionally neglected, they grew to several feet tall, taller than the tallest garden plants growing there. They acted as buffer against the strong wind and thereby sparing the ornamental plants from severe wind damage.

The fight to keep the Cogon grass invasion at bay is never ending. At times I feel like we're just playing catch up. By the time the back area has been cleared, its time to return to the front and begin a new cycle.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Garden Structures: First Pergola

Several months ago in my "Gimme Shelter" post, I mentioned about my plans to resurrect an old gazebo long gone, but with a new twist. As it turned out, this project became more complicated after the passing of the October storm that brought devastation to the farm. I will delve on this topic deeper in one of my future posts.

All is not lost though. Somewhere near the shore of another fishpond was a remnant of another long gone gazebo. Since we could not build on the original planned site, I decided to build on this site instead. And on this location will rise a pergola.

Where the pergola will be located.

In my long distance phone conversation with my dear father, he suggested that we use a sturdy material for the pergola so that it won't easily rot and even a strong storm cannot blow it away. So instead of wood, we settled for steel pipes. The project was funded and the construction commenced.

Construction of the latticework.

Assembling the pergola.

Assembling the pergola as seen from another angle.

With the pergola complete, all it needs now is a plant to climb up and fill the spaces on top. For this, I decided to use the Blue Passion Flower (Passiflora caerulea) vine which was growing passionately in the nursery. Then I was told that it was one of the storm casualties. The vine's main trunk broke at the very base and it never grew back.

Installing concrete pillars.

For now the pergola will have to wait for its permanent occupant. We ordered four pots of the Blue Passion from my mother's favorite garden store, which should be available by the latter part of this month.

But we are not done yet with this project. As you can see, the concrete floor of the old gazebo has cracked in several places. It needs a new coat of concrete to level the floor. I'm thinking of laying terracotta tiles on top of this concrete to lend a rustic look. Then we need to landscape the surrounding areas. So it means more plants are needed. Whew, and I thought this endeavor was supposedly simple.

It looks like one of the projects I mentioned in my "What's in store for 2011" entry on Fer's Garden Carnival is on its way to fruition.