Friday, April 27, 2012

When tulips don't deliver

This is the first spring where I'm not all that happy for how the tulips turned out. Instead of going the usual supermarket or nursery route like I usually do, I ordered bulbs from Holland, specifically from a company called Floral Dispatch. The bulbs weren't that expensive and shipping was reasonable enough, but so far only 1 out of the 4 have turned out like what they look like online.

Ollioules Darwin hybrid Ollioules Darwin hybrid

Ollioules - these are the ones that lived up to their description of being 55 cm tall with rose-pink petals edged with silver-white. They are large tulips and mine was already up and blooming around the third week of March.

Apricot impression Darwin hybrid

Apricot Impression - the second group to emerge in the early part of April. Online photos showed blooms with a pale orange-pink hue, but these are definitely not going there. I was also hoping that they would top the 55 cm height as described but so far I've got a variation between 40-46 cm.

Jaap groot Darwin hybrid

Jaap Groot - I like how intensely yellow these are but they don't look anything like the two-toned blooms in the catalog. The petal edges should be pale yellow or white and height description suggest 60 cm. Mine tops out at 45 cm but maybe it's a little too early to tell since they recently bloomed about a week ago. I'm still waiting on the 4th tulip - Florosa viridiflora - pinkish white petals edged in fuchsia with long greenish-yellow flames.

Today's high: 20.5°C / 69°F

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Mice, moles, voles beware!

Vintage mole trap
Vintage mole trap.

This is undoubtedly one of the least favorite topics about gardening of which hardly anyone can give a sure and definite solution: getting rid of garden varmints. Poison and traps (inhumane or natural types) or keeping a cat all pop up repeatedly in the various strategies, but the end result is still the same - kill or be rid of them one time and another comes to take its place. Compromise between a gardener and his enemies is like conceding defeat because let's be real here - who in their right mind works under the hot sun only to have their efforts undermined by some beady-eyed critter?

Mole trap demo

My father-in-law gave us both a spring-release mole trap and a young mole plant in the event we encountered problems; I hope we never need to use them. As for mice or voles (not sure which) I'm taking a defensive approach and transplanting my zucchinis in these wire cages. They're made from low-gauge chicken wire and take a bit of patience cutting and fasteninng together, but I'm hoping that it'll be enough to deter the rodents from eating the roots like last year.

Wire cages for plants

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Mushroom-growing box sprouts new use

Daikon sprouts

Reduce, recycle, repurpose. I don't put the last one into practice nearly as much as I'd like to, so to turn out a small batch of daikon sprouts using an old mushroom kit just opened another door into kitchen counter gardening. Sprouting always seemed a big mystery that included a set-up with multiple trays and constant rinsing - too much trouble when I can purchase a half pound tray of soy sprouts for a little over 1 euro - yet the thought of throwing out more trash simply bothered me.

A packet of daikon seeds had been sitting in my stash for quite some time, and when I came across last year's plastic black bottom/clear top mushroom kit, the idea of sprouting popped into my head. After giving the kit a good sterilizing wash and rinse in hot water, I placed the rinsed daikon seeds (soaked overnight) onto a damp paper towel and plastic netting (cut from a mesh bag holding oranges). The reason for the mesh was that I figured that the sprouts would need something stable to adhere to as they grew taller but a second experiment proved that they only need a paper towel.

I followed the exact steps for sprouting by rinsing twice a day and using a fine wire sieve to drain them into before replacing the seeds back into the box. Once the seeds began sprouting it became more tricky to rinse them but again, a fine sieve makes an indispensable kitchen tool. When the sprouts put out leaves, I stopped rinsing and placed the box in a spot with indirect sunlight. When they grew to about 4 inches in height, I snipped them from the root bottoms and used them in temaki sushi. From kitchen counter to plate, what more can I say? This experiment had me wanting to discover what else I've been missing out on and I found these at the natural foods store NaturaSì. Mung beans, red cabbage, fenugreek and a mix that contains alfalfa, garden cress, fenugreek and mustard - it should be interesting to see how they taste.

Sprouting seeds