Thursday, April 21, 2016

Bonsai from Seed - The Very Beginning

My new obsession with Bonsai is arguably the craziest impulse I’ve had in a while, considering it will be a project spanning years, decades. For someone who adopted an older cat in her teens because she wasn’t sure where she’d be in 10 years, that is a very long time to dedicate to a new hobby. And the truth is, I’m not going to guarantee it will go anywhere. I have a tendency to pick up new hobbies and then drop them. But… that’s all beside the point.
The point is Bonsai.
I’m not a flower person. When I think about what to plant on my balcony, flowers didn’t come up once. When I’m in my grandparent’s garden, I keep looking around, thinking, yeah… they are pretty, most of them, but really it feels… messy. A few pretty blossoms poking irregularly out of green leaves, usually some already in a state of decay. I know this sounds like a strange complaint, especially because I am not a particularly orderly person, but looking at garden flowers gives me little pleasure. There are notable exceptions, though. One are potted orchids and the other are blossoms. I’m obsessed with blossoming trees.
Trees in general, really. But I only have a small apartment. I have looked at Bonsai before, sometimes turned off by the kitsch, often placed next to or around them, but always fascinated. And somehow this fascination turned into a deep desire to learn about them. So I turned to the internet. To blogs, to videos, and the more I learned, the more I loved.
I am also a person who likes to start things from the ground up, though. When I go on Khan Academy to improve my math, I don’t start at my actual level, I start at the beginning. At elemental math, where they ask you to identify odd and even numbers or to add three and five. And so, while I am tempted to buy a Bonsai that already has a few years under its belt – especially to learn about them more, what really interested me first was to try grow some from seeds.

Bonsai Set Far East
 I bought a package along with a little case for growing seedlings, earth, three adorable, tiny Bonsai pots and a book. And the seedlings, of course. The Japanese Maple (and the Japanese Cherry I bought extra) had to go into the fridge for at least a week to stratify in the fridge - basically to trick the seeds into thinking it's winter, so they start to grow when they are out of the fridge and it's spring.
But, the white mulberry and the wisteria just had to soak over night before I could put them in the soft seedling earth.

This where things get nerdy!
While the Wisteria was supposed to be out in the light, the mulberry was to be kept in the dark, so I used a carton, also storing the bonsai pots there. Everything else went into the pretty seedling case that came along with the purchase.

And this is where it really sad. I left them about a week. Checking every second day or so. I have to admit I didn't check as frequently as I should because the fertilizer that came with it smelled, well, like shit, literally. And maybe it was my fault, because I sort of just sprinkled the fertilizer pellets on top (figuring that's how they reach everything every time I watered).
But after a week, almost every pot was covered in a thin layer of mold. Mostly the fertilizer really. I didn't have the heart to take a picture. (Also ew!).

So, after an hour of feeling disheartened, I scraped the mold away, and with a strainer over the sink tried to get all the seeds out of the earth to repot them. That was easy with the big wisteria ones, but most of the mulberries got flushed. Sadface!

But! I still had the Japanese Maple in the fridge! I also had a bunch of apples that were sort of rotting at the bottom of my fridge (they didn't taste good to begin with and at this point you couldn't eat them), so I decided to harvest some seeds from there:

So I planted 7 wisteria seeds (one was mush), I think maybe 20 mulberry, the red acorn and a third of the apple (the rest went into the fridge, with the Japanese cherry for another week or two). This time, I tried a different kind of earth and I didn't use the fertilizer pellets yet. I also mist them with colloidal silver mixed in water to try and stave off any rot and air them out more frequently. 

This is has definitely become a bit of an obsession. I'm already browsing Bonsai seed sites every day, thinking about what next to try and I still have the rest of the apple and the Japanese cherry in the fridge. I could plant the cherry this weekend, but the apple should stay there a few more weeks, according to Wikihow.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

The fussy, fussy herbs

While the Berries are taking to the new surroundings just fine, the herbs have been ailing ever since I put them in the earth. Some of them are doing alright - the rosemary is a bit weakly, but fine. Thyme and Sage seem to be thriving well enough.

Here we have the little basil-tree, which sounded like a great idea, because my last basil plant took over everything and tasted bad to boot. This one was adorable, one stem, small pretty leaves. But they started wilting, the moment it was in the earth. Pity. The parsley is ailing slightly and so is the cilantro - but they both still have a shot. I'm watching them closely, trying not to over-water, which I think I might have done at the start.

Now, here comes the desaster area. In order: savory, tarragon and the sad basil tree. None of them took to the earth at all. More and more little stalks wilted away, wiltil I finally took them out and now there's a lot of empty room in my herb garden down below.

But - in the good news, when I emailed the shop about this and they apologized and promised to send replacements. Although at the moment I am not particular enthusiastic about their plants. Instead I came by a street market today, and bought this beautiful and vigorous rosemary plant below. Which will be my omen for better herbal luck to come. Hopefully.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

A Trio of Berries - Day 1


Gardening is not a hobby I came to early. I'm 30 years old and I have never managed to keep a houseplant alive for longer than a month or two. My proverbial thumbs are rather charcoal, all things considered. And yet, I find myself enjoying both the idea of caring for plants and the actual handling of the soil and the living leaves and sprouts. 

I had this idea of turning my balcony into snacking paradise last year. In March/April, I bought some climbing strawberries, like the ones below, but unfortunately they all started to rot after I only harvested maybe a handful. And I gave up for the year. Stupid strawberries, crossing my plans of becoming an earthy, gardeny person!

Now it's Sping again, though, and I'm back. And this time, I feel like tracking the progress might leave me with a better shot at achieving my garden dreams. Also, I'm hedging my bet with different crops.

Three climbing strawberry plants - Day 1 
Here we have the same strawberries that gave me so much trouble last year. I figure one repeat attempt does not constitute the definition of insanity and I'm keeping a very close look on them this time.

They came in three tiny plastic planters, and already have three blossoms (0 on plant A, 2 on plant B and 1 on plant C). I've used a little bit of berry fertilizer and watered them well, although I still haven't found clear information on how much and how often to water them now.

Raspberry Bush - Day 1

Here we have a raspberry bush. I'm not sure this one will carry fruit this year, but I'll keep my fingers crossed (not the black thumb ones, though). 

It looks good to me for now, with a variety of tender little leaves sprouting. I'll try to train the branches to come out of the mesh and hopefully won't have any berries inside where they might rot.

Blueberry Bush - Day 1
And these are the blueberries. It came in a much later stage of development, as you can see, already quite a plant with masses of buds that have started to open up after just a few hours in the morning sun. 

I keep all three on the balcony. It has sun from sunrise to about 1-2 pm and after that only the plant right at the corner (currently the blueberries) gets a little more sun for an hour or two until it's all in shadow. I'll see about rotating them a little so that they all get a fairly equal amount of sun.

And that's about it for now. Let's see how they develop over the next few weeks.

My next post will be on the raised herb garden I'm also planting on my balcony, and I'm also rather interested in getting into Bonsai, so we'll see about that!