Green Onion Flower, or When Internet Memes Bloom

We have all read them.

Internet Memes that promise that you can grow your own food forever.

Guess what, they’re right.

Actually, in some cases they are.  Others depend on how good a gardener you are.

When I was a wee brat, I had pots and plants all over my bedroom.  Along with fish tanks and the sort, there was always something growing, living, bubbling.  The room was always a little more humid than the rest of the house which was great in Winter I guess.

Those Suburban South Jersey split level tract homes could be rather dry, even if you had the bedroom over top of the garage.

I guess I had some luck with growing flowers.  I had a marigold bloom that grew in a thimble sized pot once with a tiny little flower that surprised me.

But this was a surprise.

The meme said that there was a list of food plants that you could grow from the root portion of the plant.  This promised to be a “forever” thing, if you got it right and used them well.

Carrots, Onions, Green Onions, and Celery, as well as a laundry list of other things.

Green Onions.   We would get a package of them and end up tossing some of them every time.  There is an ongoing “discussion” here about green onions.  When I was growing up you used up the entire plant.  Green leaves and the bulb.  Nothing was wasted.  Others would only use the bulb and leave the leaves in the trash.

I decided to stick those extras in a pot.  They started to grow.  I would cut a leaf off when I needed some green onion for my Pizza or what ever else I was making.  They kept growing.

In fact, the problem I have now is that the plants are a bit too prolific.  I have two pots that have green onion in them and we don’t use that much in the way of greens.

One of the plants in particular must have been very happy because it sent up a little spike that bloomed.  I never thought too much of a Green Onion as a garden flower, but this was a rather beautiful white and green tinged puff that came up in the pot.

All of this out of some plants that I rescued from the trash.

So yes, as for this Meme?  You can grow them over and over.  If you do, you can just stick the extras in the soil.  As for recipes, the green portion tastes the same, the white is there for crunch.

Simply leave a little bulb on the bottom of the white portion of your Green Onion and you may get good results.  The suggestion with regular onions is to slice about 1/2 inch or 1.5 cm above the bottom root portion, and stick it in water until you see growth.  If you do get some root stock showing, then you can plant that and later get another onion.

Bottomless, never buy vegetables again?  I won’t go that far but I certainly can’t see buying Green Onion in the next trip to the grocer, that’s for sure!

Mexican Milkweed is Surprisingly Easy to Propagate

Living as close to a nature preserve at M.E. DePalma Park means Monarch Butterflies float past my windows frequently.

I enjoy having them around, but it does mean that the food that I grow for them, Mexican Milkweed, is almost always eaten down to sticks.

It’s a bit frustrating because the cycle of life being what it is, the plants never get to the point where the

seeds will ripen enough to actually be able to replant.

I took a step back and looked at what was happening and realized that these things should be simple to propagate.  It turns out that I was absolutely correct.  Why wait for seeds, just wait for leaves.

The Monarchs being what they are will find the

milkweed, leave an egg or three on it, and move on.  This usually ends up where one sad little plant has three to six caterpillars fighting for food.  It also means that few live long enough to be butterflies.

My own attitude toward gardening is a pragmatic one.  If I have a plant that I like, I will try to propagate it.  If it propagates successfully, I end up having a lot of it.  For example, I am currently using “Screw Palms” or Dracenea Cane plants as ground cover because I have so much of it.  Take a cutting, drive it into semi moist soil to about the depth of your hand, and it almost always roots.

… In My Climate.  Your mileage may vary.

I have a long line of plant pots on a drip feed irrigation line.  This is specifically designed to allow me to grow more plants to take more cuttings to make the yard have more of the same plants.   It was also designed to be within the local watering regulations of a drip feed line – each head should be no more than one gallon per hour for example.

It’s quite successful.

So applying all that noise and technology, here is how I propagated my Mexican Milkweed.   I am seeing about an 80 to 90 percent success rate.

Step 1:  When the Milkweed has been eaten down to sticks, check for plant remnants where there is actually some leaf growth on it.  This will be your mother plant.  See above.

Step 2:  Cut a piece of the plant that has a leaf bud growing on it, that is at least a finger length long.  4 inches or 10 cm would be perfect.  I have had success with a cutting that had two leaf nodes on it.  About 2 inches or 5 cm.  I did not use rooting hormone, but that will only improve your success if you dip the root side of the cutting in the powder.

Step 3:  Push the cutting down into the soil to allow the existing last leaf node or two to show above ground level.

Step 4:  Make sure that the soil is kept moist and that normal growing conditions continue.  Growth should be fast and visible within a week or even a couple days.

Step 5:  When the cuttings begin to show some signs of vigor and begin to put forth new limbs, consider replanting in the ground or another pot.

That’s about it.  I have at least 20 cuttings growing now, and will be starting more when the mother plant puts out some more growth. The result would be like this flower head if ever the Monarchs let it get that far.  Usually this is where I spot the caterpillars doing their thing and turning the plant into Crudite.

Two Monarch Caterpillars

Apparently, I like to grow sticks.

Being where I am, there are Monarch Butterflies around me all year.  Wilton Manors, Florida seems to have a thing about turning itself into a nature habitat.  I’m near a park that is a nature preserve, the M. E. DePalma Park.

I’m lucky that it is handy, that park, because I walk past it frequently looking for seeds for more Milkweed.  I’ve got to borrow some more.  Monarchs are back.

They seem to know.  When the Milkweed just puts forth a flower, I notice them fluttering by my porch looking for a place to lay eggs.  I make it a point to go out back and look at my pots and sure enough under a leaf there is a grain of sand.

Monarch Butterfly eggs are about the size of a grain of sand and have a swirled pattern on top like a Chinese Bun.

The flowers never really come to term.  I almost never get seeds.   The park does, although usually about the time that the park is down to sticks, I sneak in some flowers and may even get a seed or three out of them.

We trade back and forth.

At this point I’m down to sticks.

Orchids are in bloom.

 

 

 

I have a pot of Poinsettia that is hip high, and I am 6’4″ tall.  It is in bloom.

 

 

 

My Coleus is running amok, even if I am recycling this and most of these pictures…

 

 

 

I have Podocarpus ready to plant.

 

 

 

I have red variegated Hibiscus ready to plant.

 

 

 

But that Mexican Milkweed?  That’s what it is there for.  Food for the Monarchs.  The last time I checked there were six caterpillars on one single plant.   Those plants won’t win.

Oh well, at least the Monarchs are happy and I have pictures of some that slipped in there when they weren’t watching last time!

Coffee Grounds – Mosquito Repellent or Just Gardener’s Gold

There’s a lot of things flying by on the internet these days.

Facebook is adding to it.

But some of it is true, some of it is false, and some of it has a bit of both in it.

I may have stumbled onto something here.

When I moved to South Florida, I ended up with a lot of really fascinating people around me.

My godmother was fresh from being one of the people directly responsible for having pig production being protected so that they do not end up in crates on factory farms.   She’s a gardener and her husband was into making some amazing Bonsai trees.  I’m fortunate to have her and two of those trees in my yard today.

I have other friends here who amaze me just as much as my own godmother.

Some are teaching appreciation for the environment by their own hands.  Others have a strong hand in creating ecological parks.  More are directly involved in horticultural pursuits.

I find life greatly improved as a result.

I do my own part to give back.  I’ve got a pot farm.  Well not THAT kind of pot.  A farm of pots with gardening plants in the back yard.  One after another is growing and taking root to later go into the garden.

The yard is so chock full of plants that I have a lot of trouble finding room for them.

Meanwhile I am trying to figure out how to grow more.  Our hedge is dying back so I am pre-growing Podocarpus for the next hedge.  May as well, I have the time!

I go out in the morning with coffee mug in hand and look for things to improve the yard.

But that coffee.  I was told never to throw the grounds in the garbage.  It’s “Rich Organic Material – Gardener’s Gold”.  May as well just toss it in the gardens, right?

We had gotten a few pots for the front porch, Lemongrass.  It was bought to keep down pests, mosquitoes primarily.  I would splash water on it when I go to wash the dog’s feet off before going into the house, and didn’t think too much more about the lemongrass.

At one point I was having a discussion of how there seemed to be fewer mosquitoes out front as a result.  The problem was that out back where there was another plant, I had a much worse problem with mosquitoes.  It wasn’t working.

But out front was tolerable.  I just would spray a fog of poison out the back door before going onto the Lanai

to cut back the mosquitoes.

There was something different about out front and one of those annoying Internet Memes gave me the answer.

That gardener’s gold – Coffee Grounds seemed to be having its own effect.

You see, to the one side of the lemongrass, I would throw the morning’s coffee grounds onto the top of the soil.  It was right under the bathroom window and the soil was visibly just a sheen of soil over some stones put there over the years.  It was getting thicker.

The picture in the meme said to toss the grounds near where you have a problem spot with mosquitoes, drain your pots.  This was because “Mosquitoes Hate The Smell of Coffee Grounds”.

We may be onto something.

My backyard was a fog of little tiger mosquitoes that I would literally run away from to get out to work in the yard.

My front yard and porch I could work on the windows, even rest my coffee mug on Aunt Betty’s table and not get bit badly.

It’s all relative.

So I got a lightbulb go off in my head.

Why not try coffee grounds in the plant pots out back.  I have more than 30 of them.  Orchids, Podocarpus,

Hibiscus, and Banana Trees.

So I did.  Started on the Lanai, worked my way out.  When I got to the end, repeat as needed.  I even put a stripe of the stuff over by the pool equipment which is a corridor about the same width as my own armspan.  I can touch fence and wall and it collected a cloud of the nasty little blood suckers.

I won’t say that the mosquitoes are all gone.  I would need a dome over the property and then pump it full of pesticides.  That would be no fun because I would never be able to use the thing.

But…

I have to say that since I started doing this, there is a definite difference.

Much fewer mosquitoes.

Much less of a panic.

I can use the lanai out back and my front porch.

Yes there are mosquitoes, but they are the exception and not the rule

My Lanai does not smell like a combination of Brazilian Cerrado and Pumpkin Spice at all.

And I can actually use it!

This is kind of a “Chicken Soup” thing – It couldn’t hurt.  May not work for you, but couldn’t work

But…
I will keep doing it since it IS working for me.

While those folks up North won’t need to think about this since it is getting colder and they’re going into winter, down here we wont’ see 60F/15C for another two months.  By then I will have a nice coating of brown over all my plants and much fewer mosquitoes.

I guess once in a while, those memes have something to them.  At least in my eyes.

Your mileage may vary.

Urban Gardening and Help From Little Friends

Somewhere in the city of San Juan, in Costa Rica, there is a man.

He was out in his yard pulling weeds.  He looked up and said something to the effect of:

Estamos en los tropicos.  Si tu pones unas semillas en la tierra, ellos van a viver.

If my memory and my Spanish serve me correctly, it means or should mean that “We are in the tropics.  If you put some seeds in the ground, they are going to live.”.

Bueno.  Great way to kill time.  Seeds.  Ground.  Water.  Sun.

Estamos en los tropicos, indeed.  We are in the tropics here in South Florida.

As we do our weekend shopping, I see plenty of plants on offer at the big box stores.  This happens everywhere, in planting seasons.  Not exactly every time seeing that some areas have something called Winter.  Ours is blissfully short at two weeks long.  We schedule it for the first two weeks of February and are invaded by something called Snowbirds that will clog our skies and our roads and our hotels.  They pay our taxes so I can’t complain too much, just as long as they stay out of my way.

Well never mind that.  I did “Go Into Production” here.  You see, instead of buying those plants in black plastic pots that are designed to break on the way home, I make my own.  I have my own irrigation chain out back that was designed with prominent citizens with parks named after them and people who work in something called Code Enforcement.  We designed my one irrigation chain to be a drip feed waterer that could be used any given day to mist the orchids.

Now under the orchids that hang on the fence are small muddy patches where the water drips.  May as well use that water too.  In some spots, I have three pots deep.  One pot watering the next and so forth until you eventually hit the deck.

All that nonsense gives me the opportunity to plan ahead.

I take cuttings from plants that I like, and follow my friend’s advice.  Stick them in that wet soil and hope they “take”.

It is possible that I am over-watering things in the yard.  My Night Blooming Jasmine is dying off in one spot so I am starting something that is a temporary hedge made of Hibiscus.

If the big hotels can do it, so can I.

Between the Hibiscus and the Podocarpus cuttings I have in pots and in that bare area in the back of the yard, I have easily 50 plants growing that are destined to be moved.

Great.  I have made myself work.

Every morning between 7AM and 7:30AM, I am inspecting that zone.  Making sure that the orchids are getting watered.  Making sure the Podocarpus and Hibiscus cuttings are getting dripped on with the excess.  Inspecting the Rosemary shrub in the corner.  My In Ground area of Podocarpus and Hibiscus way out back.

I am also being a bit overly productive.  My Condo Mango now has its own cutting to create a tree for a good friend in Key West.  That in itself is like taking Coal to Newcastle, but he liked the idea of a 15 foot maximum mango tree.  The last four mango pits from Mango Season, it is an event after all, were dropped into a pot and have all sprouted.

I will have three trees I have to find homes for since the Mother Plant is currently over 40 feet tall – Think 13 meters for the metrically endowed.

Anyone need a Mango Tree Seedling?

But it is a nice hobby and it does attract attention.  My McNab SuperDog (TM), Rack, will come out with me and water the palm trees writing strings of “M’s” on their side.  It gives me a chance to be watched by the creatures in the yard, my friends the wee little Lizards.

In the case of some of them, they seem to enjoy being watched.  I have been followed rather than being avoided more than once.   The little “Cuban Browns” are harmless and seem to hang out catching rays and insects while watching me watch them.  The worst that a Brown has done to me was to once get surprised and climb up my leg.  Luckily I was in the back yard so I dropped Trowel as well as my Shorts and let the little creature have its freedom.

Just can’t hurt them, they’re too comical.

So if you are fortunate enough to have the room, and the need, you may as well start some seedlings.  After all, they don’t all “take” but many do.  Why not, you’ll have the time!

Banana Leaves In The Morning Sun and a Ground Water Shower

I have a routine around here.

Once I’ve gotten back into the house after a 45 minute dog walk in the morning, I put coffee together.  It’s after the dog has been fed, he gets food first simply because he’s a painfully slow eater and I end up tapping the food bowl to keep him focused.

He is smaller than he would normally be because food is such a low priority.  That means that I end up being his hunger signal, twice a day.  The old school “take the bowl away if he doesn’t eat” doesn’t work and is merely cruel, he would simply stop eating out of fear and acceptance of “This is how it is”.

But once the food is in him and I have had my coffee, it still is a while to sunrise.

At 7AM, the irrigation system kicks in for a half hour.

“Rack!  Want to go out back?”

Did I even need to ask?  He’s standing at the door nodding his head “Yes!” like I’m a fool that should get out of his way.

Yes, I do have a dog who knows how to say “Yes”.  He’s a McNab.  If you can’t train a McNab you don’t deserve to have a dog.

This is the low flow drip feed irrigation that is a maintenance chore.  Every day I have to go out and inspect the hoses and feeds to make sure that all the plants are getting water.  If I see water dribbling out of the individual head, I’m moving to the next one.  If you don’t blow out the lines frequently things clog.  If you do, you are treated to a slug of mud that collects in the most distant part of the system like where my flowers are growing.

Lines the thickness of over cooked spaghetti made of black plastic, sliding onto compression fittings pierced into larger black plastic water lines.  It all ties into a thicker PVC Pipe somewhere that hooks into the valve that is computer controlled.

It isn’t what I would call complex, just involved and fiddly.

Why “Fiddly”?  Because plastic is something that changes in the environment.  It eventually dries out due to UV Light exposure and will crack because of that and the pressure changes that happen during the day when the lines are “charged”.

That was where I got in trouble.

I noticed the spray out of the connector at one of the orchids that is growing into the wood on the fence.

Saying to Rack “I’ll get back to that”, I walked into the yard.  Rack was at my feet because he was herding me to convince me to go inside.  There must have been a trash can lid slammed somewhere in Downtown Fort Lauderdale, two miles away, and he heard it.

“Deal, dog, you need the exposure to noises” and the FEC train was coming up from Miami.  You can hear the whistle a couple miles off and it brings the people up North the Brazilian Oranges they think they are getting from Florida.

Yes, they are coming from Florida.

No, they aren’t all grown here.  That is why you can get orange juice in October.

I make a round of the yard.

 

My Bamboo cuttings are coming in, I will have five plants back by the fence in the utility easement.

 

The Poinsettia is growing so well that last year’s red leaves are covered completely and it is about hip high.

 

My Podocarpus cuttings are doing well, there is bright green growth on the tips.

…And then I spotted the Banana.  I have one original pot, and two cuttings I am getting going for no good reason.  I have nowhere to put them but I like saying that I can grow the things.  But I was standing on the West side of the plant that moment.  The sun had just cleared the tree line and the fences to the East.  The irrigation and the morning dew had done their thing as well, leaving large drops of mist on the surface of the leaves.

This has to be why I grow the stuff.  Gardening.  The light refracting off of hundreds of beads of water causing rainbows and sparkles in the morning.

 

Looking at and marveling at the improbability of it all, I realized it was time to fix that one line.  The rest of the irrigation was running perfectly, which is a rarity.  Usually something somewhere has clogged on a daily basis.

 

In order to have irrigation lines that crack, clog, and spray, first you have to invent the universe.  (Apologies to Carl Sagan)

I walked to the wet wall, slowing my pace on the slick wood deck.  Reaching through the spikes of the bougainvillea that scratched my arm bloody, I just touched the connector.  It was at that point where I was immediately standing under the Niagara Falls.

The pressure was so high that it sent a stream of ground water up over my head.  Luckily for me it missed me until it hit the roof.  The backsplash was as intense as my shower head in the bathroom.  The water was now running down my head, into my eyes, and on the shirt.  Down the roof it dripped under the Lanai roof and onto the kitchen window.

“Damnit, I just cleaned that thing!”  It was a solid 20 feet from where I was standing, a good room away.

I reached over, clipped off the end of the water line, jammed it back onto the connector and the deluge stopped.

“All I needed was soap and I could have had a shower!” I mused

Rack looked at me as if to say “Am I safe?  Can we go in?  Are you through playing with the water yet?”

“Yes, soon, yes” would have been my answers.

Mom said don’t play with the water.  This is my way to do that.  I just would prefer not to do it every single morning.  Even if it does get me up looking at the beauty that can be found in just about any suburban back yard.

Podocarpus, Ladybugs, and The Farm

Lately I have been rattling around in my back yard.

I have been rattling around there so much that I have an area I have taken to calling The Farm.

At least that is what The Internet has started.

About a year or so ago, I got the bright idea to start propagating plants.  I have an irrigation chain on the lawn that is perfect for this.  Each sprinkler head puts out a gallon of water or less an hour.  Think of it as what you would do with a watering can.

On a farm, this would be considered Drip Feed Irrigation.

There are about 10 pots on that chain, plus the orchids.  It saves me from pretending that I have it in me at dawn to be out there with a hose every day.  I may be up at 5AM, but I am not that crazy.

Mind you, plants in pots don’t have a long lifespan.  Sometimes the pots just “up and die”.  Other times, they’re helped by critters.  Snakes don’t bother them, but Iguanas, Opossums, and domestic animals may.  Like my Damn Neighbor’s Damn Cat.  Not only have I caught it on my Jeep and inside it, I have caught it inside the pots.

Never mind that blasted cat, I had pots to fill.

I went through a number of iterations of Mexican Petunia, or Ruellia.  I planted so many that I had to stop.  It filled in the border next to the fence on the East side of the property nicely and I have deep green leaves and purple flowers every day.

I then stopped and thought, what would help?  My hedge on the West side was dying.  It needed things to fill in the gaps.  At that point, I had about four pots to start, so I filled one with Podocarpus.  Japanese Yew.  I’d snip off about a six inch portion, dip it in rooting hormone, and stick it in the pot.

While they grow slowly under that condition, they did grow.  I was surprised to find that I got about 3/4 of them rooting.   I would lose another quarter when they got transplanted, and another quarter after that.  Apparently they didn’t like the area that the hedge was in either.

Then, months later, I got The Bright Idea.  Why not just stick them in the ground at the hedge?  Why bother with the pot?   That drip feed irrigation line is under the hedge as well, but is mainly turned off.  Lets try.

Remember that I call this The Farm – I planted 100 Podocarpus cuttings under the existing hedge.  Densely packed.  I did it over three days.

The third day of Cut/Dip/Stick, I noticed something.  The Podocarpus had visitors.  There was a bit of a white dusting of mites over the newer pieces, exactly what I needed to plant.  But feeding on the white dusting were dozens, or perhaps hundreds, of Ladybugs.

My hedge was covered with hundreds of miniature Volkswagen Beetle looking creatures all happily gorging themselves on much less beneficial mites.

Cooooool!

So I merely cut around the Ladybugs.   They would get disturbed and flutter off, sometimes landing back on the plant, other times on me.  No problem there.  I knew how helpful they can be, since they love to dine on Aphids, and if you ever tried to grow ornamental Hibiscus, you know that you will eventually end up with Aphids.

As for my Hedge?  Well I’m about a month into the whole Farm thing.  I’m finding that about 3/4 of the hundred cuttings look like they’re still alive.  I’ll leave them be.  Since the Ladybugs cleaned off the parent plants, I have healthy Podocarpus in the yard.  I will give the Ladybugs the credit for that.  I always thought that Podocarpus were about as close to “Carefree Plants” as I could get in South Florida’s bizarre conditions, and I suspect that as long as they’re found by the beneficial insects, I’m right.

Since the area that I am planting created an empty zone, I’m having a bit of a victory.  More accurately, a Victory Garden.  You see, one of those Internet memes was if you cut the tops off your carrots, you can stick them in the ground and get more carrots.  They’re growing out there too, right in front of the Podocarpus and the dying Jasmine Hedge.

Just keep the critters away.