Monday, July 18, 2011

Learning how to grow

I haven't posted a legitimate post in over a week. I've been far from inactive in my hobbies, though! I've experimented with the slow-cooker, picked up an old cross-stitch project, but most of all, I've been tending to my new sprouts! On a whim, I planted bell pepper, parsley, cilantro, chive, and oregano seeds. I also started a "Sensitive Plant". This one is particularly fascinating because when you touch it, it closes up. It also closes up for the night. Here's a gif of the action, courtesy of Wikipedia:

This is what mine looks like, next to the Parsley:

I am going to move it outside to spot with filtered sunlight (more hours, not direct sunlight). The stem is getting so long, it makes me think it's seeking sunlight. The Sensitive Plant, Bell Pepper, Parsley, and a tiny, tiny Oregano (just sprouted today!) are the only ones that have sprouted. I'm still waiting on the Cilantro, Chives, and the *other* parsley.  

I've been researching what sorts grow here in South Florida. I broke the first rule about planting in SoFla, I planted in the middle of summer. I'm supposed to wait until late Aug/Sept. to plant, preferably October. It's more challenging to take care of these plants during this season. The weather at the moment is a bit baffling. It's either overcast and raining monsoons all day, or it is scorching hot. Remember my tiny tomatoes from this post? I've kept my tomatoes unsheltered in the rain and sun all day and they seem to be thriving. I mean, from day 1 they were out there. This is what they looked like on July 9th:

And then one week later, July 16th:

They are definitely getting bigger! The heat doesn't seem to be killing them...

My pepper sprouts, however did not respond too well. They were outside in the same spot the tomatoes were in when I neglected them and left them for dead.The peppers dried up and fell over. This broke my heart. I really want to grow peppers! I nursed them back to health with plenty of fresh water and kept them in the windowsill where they seem to be doing better. I thought peppers were heat lovers! I thought that if it would be too hot for the peppers, surely the tomatoes would have the same problem, right? Maybe they are still to young and tender. I'm still learning! This is what my peppers looked like as of July 9th:

One week later, July 16th:

We are working on building an in-ground home for more plants to come this fall. We had to remove all these rocks and we think we found someone who wants them. My hard-working husband has been helping me with this on his vacation! Here is a sneak peek of our future vegetable patch:

The soil here is a disaster, and I'm paranoid about nematodes and other pests that could be part of the soil- since I can't vouch for the quality, we're planning a sort of raised bed. It won't be that raised because the concrete and deck around it is raised, too. I can't wait to see what it may turn out to look like. 

Needless to say, I am becoming increasingly fascinated with all kinds of Flora, and am doing loads of research. I'm learning something new every day, but I've already begun these sprouts without knowing what I've gotten myself into. I see pictures of gardens that look so lovely, but they've got to be a lot of work! Doesn't the idea of having a scented flower bush, a plant that repels mosquitoes, or one that can be used as a natural sweetener sound appealing? If you've ever enjoyed the flavor of vegetables, fruits, and herbs, then producing some at home must have some appeal.

I read this yesterday, and I'm enchanted by the pictures used from Edible Landscaping. As far as the article itself goes, I'm with the Geek Mom here- I think fruit-bearing plants are just as appropriate landscaping as any other type of tree/shrub/bush/plant. I agree that it is ludicrous to call a front-yard garden "unsuitable". If I had one of those around my neighborhood, I'd spend all my time watching things grow! It would be more of a pest for the owner of the garden, not for the onlookers! I would be afraid of random strangers getting to it when we're not home. Anyway, wouldn't you be impressed to see a tiny olive tree with little green and black olives decorating a front walkway? What if you saw a tiny blueberry bush covered in plump berries sitting outside a front door? I would be impressed. I feel like I've been awakened to the simple beauties around me, and I suddenly get excited about the progress my plants are making every day. My eyes are opened to the world around me. It's so easy to take it all for granted!

Yesterday, I went to Lincoln Road, Miami Beach with my family. I looked around with an increased awareness of the vegetation, and saw this little beauty in the middle of the city:

It's like a tiny magical woodland in the middle of Miami Beach. There are vines on the ground instead of grass. I love how plants can make people feel at home wherever they are. I would take a beautiful landscape over an angular sculpture any day. I'm sure you haven't heard the end of this, especially since I've just tapped into this latest obsession- but worry not, it's far from a passing interest. I esteem my hobbies as volumes learned and stored on the shelf for later use. I may have learned to quilt  almost a decade ago, but I now have the skill to do it again! I love the idea of adding to my collection of interests, as much as I adore renewed interest in old pastimes.

What I've learned this week:
Gardening is an acquired skill, just like most other hobbies. You can get better at it by learning more about it. Don't be intimidated because plants can die easily with improper care- just research, and learn from experience.
Fertilizer contains Nitrogen (for leaf growth) Phosphorus (for blooms) and Potassium (for root growth). Tomatoes and other vegetables will not fruit if they are fed too much Nitrogen!
Cilantro and Culantro are two different herbs! Cilantro is often known by the name of its seed, Coriander.
Chipotle peppers are not a special variety, they are just red, smoke-dried Jalapenos!
Over watering can be bad for your plants- it washes out nutrients from the soil, and can lead to root rot. You'd think that because the roots are underground that oxygen would be "too mainstream" for them, but they need oxygen! The key is soil- it should retain water so the roots can suck it up as needed, but not drown them.

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