Pinching off the Sweet Peas

This is my first year growing sweet peas. I planted four seeds in one pot and two of them came up.

They grew pretty well at first, putting on several inches quickly. When I came back from vacation a few weeks ago, I found one of them broken…

…but it seems to have rebounded on its own.

From what I read, it is now time to pinch the tips off these sweet peas. Pinching the tips off when they’re young makes them grow bushier, thus producing more flowers. Most sources I read said to pinch them off after they have three or four sets of leaves. These sweet peas have exactly three sets of leaves. I was actually hoping to wait a little longer for them to get their fourth set of leaves before pinching, but their growth seems to have stalled…along with all my other seedlings. (They germinate just fine and then their growth stagnates…what is happening??)

Regardless, I’m going ahead and pinching them off, and maybe that will stimulate a bit more growth. (I doubt it, but one can hope.) I’m snipping off the top set of leaves down to just above the second set of leaves. Grow my sweet peas, grow!

Welcome!

After nearly a year of documenting my “garden” on apracticeofgardening.wordpress.com, I am switching to a self-hosted platform with a new name. This site is very much a work in progress (as was the old site) (and as is my garden), and suggestions for improvement are always appreciated

I hope you enjoy.

Foliage Friday: Orchids

Exciting News! This will be my last post on this site. I am moving to a new site with a new name on a different hosting platform tomorrow! If you are reading this after February 27th, 2021 go to becomingagardener.com for more posts.

Last weekend, I came across a potted houseplant that someone had left out on the street for the taking. I have a hard time saying no to free plants.

This plant was actually three plants in one. I think there are two dracena and an orchid in this pot. They each have their own plastic pot and all three pots are stuffed into the bigger black ceramic pot, so they’re not really planted together. This is fortunate, since I don’t think orchids and dracena would like this same conditions…? But I don’t know. I’ve never grown orchids. They seem very tempermental and intimidating to me. I’m going to see if I can revive this orchid and get it to bloom. And if not, who cares? It was a rejected, free plant.

First, off, “orchids” are actually a large family of plants (Orchidacea) with hundreds of different species. I think orchids in the genus Phalaenopsis are the ones most commonly seen as houseplants, and this is probably what I have.

Phalaenopsis are epiphytes, which means they grow on other plants (e.g. trees) and derive their nutrients from the air or debris around them rather from soil. They aren’t parasitic because they don’t steal nutrients from the tree; they just grow there for support. Orchids are similar to moss.

According to the internet, orchids like humid environments and bright light, but not direct sunlight. They don’t like cold drafts or heating vents. They don’t like to be over-watered. Moving them or re-potting will stress them. Rather than planting them in potting soil, orchids should be planted in a coarse, well-draining mixture consisting of some combination of pine bark or fir bark and peat moss and/or perlite to maintain a little bit of moisture, but allow the roots to breath. There are also special orchid pots will slits up the sides that you can buy, I guess to increase air flow around the roots.

I don’t think the orchid I have was potted correctly, so I will definitely want to repot it if I have any hope of getting it to bloom. SavvyGardening.com has a really good guide for repotting orchids, that I will probably use. Oak Hill Gardens also has a lot of helpful information.

I read that I am supposed to repot the orchid in the spring, feed it over the summer, and after a few cold nights in the fall, hopefully it will bloom in fall or winter.

Propagating Thyme

After failing to grow basil by cuttings, I haven’t given up on propagating herbs by cutting.

Regarding thyme, the Farmer’s Almanac says: “It’s hard to grow thyme from seeds because of slow, uneven germination. It’s easier to buy the plants from a garden center or take some cuttings from a friend. Over time, you can propagate from your own cuttings.”

I took a couple of clippings from this thyme plant…

…stripped off the bottom leaves…

…and put it in soil:

In soil
(Side note: The echinacea seedlings look really strong, but, just like the chervil and parley, they haven’t grown much since sending up their first leaves. I give them water and food, the room is warm, and they’ve got a prime spot under the grow light…what gives??)

Most of what I read on the internet says it’s best to plant thyme cuttings in potting/seed-starting soil rather than trying to get them to root in water. I’m going to trying both methods, though, because I had an excess of thyme cuttings.

In water

I later added some oregano cuttings to both the soil and the water to see if those would propagate easier or differently from thyme.

Thyme should take 2-6 weeks to root, so be patient…

Just Plant Everything

The indoor seed sowing has been going very slowly, and I don’t have enough room under my grow light for much more, so I’ve decided to just start direct sowing seeds in the ground.

On Sunday, I planted carrots, beets, onions, cucumber, zucchini, and…

…tomatoes!

I’ve never direct-sown tomato seeds, and I don’t know that anyone would recommend this strategy. But: I wanted to try it anyway. Some of the seeds I sowed were actually collected from volunteer tomatoes, which, in essence, are direct-sown tomatoes, right? Plus, people have been growing tomatoes long before grow lights and special potting soil existed. I just have to keep the rats away to give the seeds a chance to sprout.

Foliage Friday: Flowering Quince

Spring has definitely arrived here in Palo Alto. The sun is shining, I can go for a walk outside in a light jacket, and everything is blooming.

I came across this plant in my neighborhood. My dad has the same bush at his house, planted up front by the mailbox.

It looks pretty inconspicuous most of the year, and I forget that it’s there….until it blooms in the spring. The blossoms are just so pretty

This is the flowering quince, aka Chaenomeles (pronounced kee-NO-may-leez). Flowering quince is different from the common quince, Cydonia, which produces larger, edible apple-esque fruit. Chaenomeles is usually grown as an ornamental for its flowers, whereas Cydonia is grown for the fruit. The fruit of Chaenomeles is smaller and, although it is technically edible, it is not very tasty and is really only used for to make jelly or membrillo. I don’t think the Chaenomeles at my dad’s house produces fruit….either I’ve misidentified this plant, or he has one of the non-fruit producing varieties. Both Cydonia and Chaenomeles are in the Rosacea family, along with apples and roses.

Flowering quince blooms in late winter/early spring, similar to forsythia. Neither the flowering quince nor the forsythia in my dad’s yard were blooming last week, but I clipped some forsythia branches and brought them inside to force a bloom.

Forsythia branches just starting to bloom indoors

I completely forgot about the flowering quince! I’m making a mental note to clip some branches next winter/spring. 

And how neat is this flowering quince for bonsai? 

Image source: here

(Bonsai keeps coming up in these Foliage Fridays. I think it’s a sign that I need to finally try it out myself…I’m adding it to my garden goals list.)

The Garden In February

When I came back to Palo Alto from vacation in Portland last weekend, I was meet by some very large mustard greens.

…and lots of alstroemeria weeds.

The peas still haven’t come up, and the wire cage I had constructed around them moved a little bit, so I’m worried the rats were digging.

Also, all but one of my lettuces have vanished! I don’t know what happened. Three of them seemed to be doing well and growing before I left. Disappointing.

Rats!

Mustard Greens Break Germination Records! (Not Really)

It’s really hard to photograph things under blue/red LED grow lights, but the mustard green seedlings are up.

The Spinach-Mustard, Red Giant Mustard, and Southern Giant Curled Mustard we’re all poking their heads out of the ground on Sunday (Feb. 14th). I had planted them on the 8th, so that’s less than a week to germinate.

This seemed really fast to me, and I thought the heated seed mat was the ticket, but as it turns out, mustard seed germinates in 4-7 days, so 6 days until germination is hardly a record.

No sign of the onions, fennel, or cabbage yet, but they still have a day or two left in their typical germination window.