Saturday, July 2, 2016

More Dirt on Plants

My garden is in full-tilt summer mode: Tomatoes are in the ground (er, 5 gallon buckets), the oregano is so plentiful that soon I'll have to start giving some away to neighbors, and I've managed to keep a spectacular display of mini-petunias growing. I'm also trying my hand at shade plants, which fill in the spot next to the door where my sun-loving plants don't grow very well. I got a big planter from a neighbor who's moving out, so I filled it with begonias and caladium.
Complete with cat grass and new long planters ready to fill with some of the from-seed plants

The larger the garden gets however, the more quirks seem to get thrown into the mix. Take the mini-petunias for example. I got three which looked pretty much exactly the same in the pots, except one was pink, one was orange, and one was purple. I put them all in the same pot, so they have exactly the same amount of light and moisture, but one is clumped nicely, one sprawls along the soil's surface, and one reaches up, getting more and more spindly as it grows! I'm trying to prune the two crazy ones into submission, but we'll see how it turns out.
From left to right, Spindle, Crawly, and Clumpy.
Side note: apparently petunias don't attract bees, just butterflies. I looked it up and bees don't really like trumpet-shaped flowers because there's nowhere that a heavy bee can land. I guess I'll have to rely on my chive plant to act as a bee-flagger when it blooms.

The steppables garden is super cute, but I've noticed that the steppable thyme plant is going to take over the world if we let it. The little fern-like one keeps putting out adorable tiny flowers though! Today we went to Benkhe's garden nursery to get some fertilizer and insect spray, but also brought back the mini birdbath you see from their fairy garden section. 
Fairy Garden getting more cute.
We've been having issues with water flooding over from the apartment building's gutters during storms recently. The water then comes down onto our upstairs neighbor's porch, then onto our porch in buckets, flattening and drowning the plants (except the mint. Apparently mint LOVES drowning. Go figure.) There's the initial battering by heavy drops of water, and then it takes several days for the pots to dry out completely, putting the plants at risk for root rot and keeping me from fertilizing them with the liquid fertilizer I use. So... we came up with a plan: put a giant tarp over the porch and secure it with bungee cords when it looks like it's about to storm. We tried it last night and it worked! I wish I had a picture to show you, but we took it down first thing in the morning because it's sort of unsightly and the plants needed the morning sunlight.

The trip to Benkhe's nursery that I mentioned was to get some of the less glamorous components of gardening. I needed more fertilizer, and also something called Neem Oil to spray on the columbine plant and the over-wintered chrysanthemum. The chrysanthemum is infested with aphids, the columbine with a triple-infestation of spider mites, leaf miners, and powdery mildew. In all honesty I should just pull it up to keep it from infecting all of my other plants, but it's one of the few plants that actually made it through last winter and I want to try everything else I can think of first. So... Neem Oil. Apparently an organic pesticide that doesn't hurt bees or butterflies (or cats...or humans) so that's a plus. Hopefully it cures it, along with squishing bugs I can spot and keeping the plant comfortable and trimmed.
Trails left by leaf miners, the larvae of a type of fly, and tiny white speckles on the leaves due to spider mites. The mildew is hard to see in this picture. It's mostly on some leaves at the bottom.
The instruments of the pests' demise.
I did, however, get a new plant friend from the nursery while I was there. This is Beard, the indoor fern. And Ticky, of course. Ticky must inspect all house plants which enter his domain. Luckily he doesn't seem to chew on them unless they're vaguely grass-like.

Despite my best efforts, one plant isn't thriving at all. It's grown from seeds deposited last year by one of our railing-mounted porch plants. I cannot for the life of me remember what it's called, but it had teeny tiny purple flowers and thin leaves, and grew in a clump. There are two plants descended from last year's. One's doing fine, the other's doing...well, this:
Poor, sad plant which can't use words to tell me what's wrong with it.
I suspect it was drowned, but it was doing poorly even before we had storms go through. The leaves wilted, then started turning yellow. It got this big before it started wilting, so it's not something like soil bacteria that kills seedlings. It's something else. I took it out of the pot, shook some of the soil from its roots, put new dirt in, and then trimmed it way back. I might need to trim it back further, but I'm not seeing ANY new growth on it, so I'm a bit afraid to. I'll see how it does with the new dirt. It might take a couple of weeks to see any improvement or deterioration. It's hard to tell with how slowly plants get sick or well.

Anyway, gardening gets more intense every year I try to grow things. It's definitely not just "stick plant in ground, water occasionally." There's a lot of dirty work to gardening! I'm really enjoying the learning process though- setbacks, successes, and all.
Happy plant friends.

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