2 Little Limes were Sitting in a Tree…

…G.R.O.W.I.N.G! 

Maybe anyways. An unfortunately timed heat wave here last week stressed the key lime so out of the ~15-20 flowers only two turned into limes that stayed on the tree, and it is quite possible that it’ll drop those soon as well. That’s okay though, the flowers were exciting and lovely themselves and now I know to be ready for next year.

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Lime Tree Blossoms and a Brief Update

Hello, it’s been a while. I’m still here, still making things (and selling them on Etsy here and here), still growing plants, and still learning. I’m also still sick and looking for treatments that help (so far not much luck). I do hope to start writing a bit more or at least sharing my projects sometime soon, and the format of this blog will likely change but I’m not sure how yet.

Anyways, that’s not really what this post is about. This post is about my Key Lime tree. Remember it? I started it way back in 2013 (four years ago) and shared updates about its growth on a fairly regular basis. Well, it’s time for another update: there are flowers! My key lime tree is flowering!

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I’ve been pretending to be a bee and pollenating the flowers with a paint brush and doing a bit of reading to see what I need to do to help the tree set (and keep) the fruit, so we’ll see what happens!

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Mid-October Garden Update

Well, things in the garden are beginning to wind down for the winter. This past month has been a lot of clean up and getting ready for the off-season.

For the plants on my deck winter prep mostly consisted of moving the herbs from the big planter into little pots so I can bring them indoors over the winter. I debated letting them overwinter outside, but I cook a lot during the colder months and want to be able to have fresh herbs. Besides, I’m sure I’ll appreciate the green in the dead of winter. The plants in my house have all been rearranged to make room for the herbs. The lime tree also made the move indoors a few weeks ago once it started getting cold at night.

White and purple blossom surrounded by leaves
The African Violet likes its new spot.

As for the rest of the deck plants, the stevia died pretty quickly once it got chilly. It was a neat plant to grow, but I didn’t use it at all so I’m not heart broken over the loss. I cut the strawberries back a few weeks ago to get them ready for winter and they seemed to take it well. Once they start to go dormant I’ll move them into my garage to overwinter them. I’m thinking that next year I’ll put them in the black boxes I have to give them more space. The last plant on my deck is my beautiful blueberry. It grew so much this year, and I’m very happy about that. I’m going to overwinter it in the protected corner of my deck since it’s a bit big to move to the garage.

Raised bed with tomatoes and marigolds

Things at the community garden plot are going similarly. Left in my plot are two tomato plants, some carrots, three beet plants that survived the voles, and some marigold bushes. While the tomatoes are still growing, both they and the marigolds are probably coming out soon. I’ll leave the beets and carrots in a bit longer since they’re more cold-tolerant.

Young trees in a fenced in area.
Our new orchard!

The big news from the garden is last weekend we put in an orchard with some help from a neat organization called the Giving Grove (check them out here). There are now a total of 9 trees (2 Asian pears, 2 European pears, and 5 apples) and 2 bush cherries at the garden, and I’m in charge of caring for them! I’m very excited and also very glad that Giving Grove will continue to provide support, knowledge, and training for the life of the orchard, because I have no idea what I’m doing yet.

Other than that I’ve been thinking ahead about what I want to do in the garden next year and how I want to organize my garden notebook/journal (because my current system is NOT working). I know gardening isn’t done for the year quite yet, but it’s hard not to think about what I want to plant next year. Does anyone else have this problem?

 

February Garden Update

Happy February!

It’s a new month, though there’s not much change in the garden department. The Thanksgiving cactus looks like it’s going to bloom soon, which would be exciting.

Pink flower buds on a Thanksgiving Cactus

The lime tree seems to be a bit confused by the whole concept of winter and has started growing again. It’s almost 2 ft tall now! It has a new branch with the cutest tiny leaves on it. If it is this happy in the winter I can’t wait to see how it reacts when summer rolls around!

Baby Branch on Key Lime Tree

As for the rest of my photosynthesizing friends (ivy, rosemary, and African violet) they’re all holding steady.

We had a bout of warm weather last week, which was such a tease. I sat outside on my deck and looked through seed catalogues, dreaming of spring. I’m still a bit unsure of how much space I’ll actually have to garden in this year (the community I live in still hasn’t settled on what the restrictions are), but I may have found a community garden with available plots about half a mile away. If all goes well, I’ll get a plot there and not have to worry about what the HOA decides.

This year I’d like to grow:

Vegetables (culinarily speaking)
Tomatoes
Carrots
Spinach
Kale
Zucchini/Squash
Beets
Garlic
Beans (both green and soup varieties)

Fruit
White Soul Alpine Strawberries

Herbs
Basil
Dill
Lemonbalm
Sage
Rosemary
Thyme
Oregano
Mint

Flowers
Flax
Marigolds
Sunflowers
Poppy
Calendula
Lavender (Planted this Fall)
Roses (Planted this Fall)
Chrysanthemums (Planted this Fall)

Now whether I have space or time for all of these is still to be determined, but a girl can dream right?

What are you planning on planting this year?

Busy Bee notebook with gold bee and blue cover
My new garden notebook!

Talking Plants

Say What?

Talking Plants

Okay, so plants don’t actually talk like we do, but they have developed some pretty interesting ways to communicate. One of the main ways they use is with volatile organic compounds (VOC). By varying the composition and concentration of the chemicals released with the situation plants are able to convey specific messages to other plants and animals.

Say a plant gets attacked by an herbivorous insect. The attacked plant may then release a certain mix of VOCs that notify the surrounding plants of the attack, causing them to strengthen their own defenses. The VOCs can carry information about the specific nature of the attacker, allowing the surrounding plants to enact more directed responses. The VOCs also allow the plant to “call in reinforcements” so to speak, by alerting predators and parasites of the herbivores to their location. Finally, the VOCs also serve, in some instances, to make the plant less appetizing.

As far as we know (there is still a lot of research to be done in this area) not all plant species do this. Some of the ones that do include sagebrush, lima beans, tomatoes, corn, poplar, and sugar maple trees. These signals are not species specific though; some plants can detect and respond to a warning even if the plant sending it is of a different species.

Plants don’t only “talk” about their problems. They also use VOCs and visual cues to communicate information about the quality and abundance of nectar and pollen to animals that visit the flowers. This allows plants to increase the likelihood of pollinations and ensure reproduction. Plants have also been known to release chemicals from their roots to ward off the roots of other plants when they start encroaching on valuable resources. These substances can also serve as an anti-microbial defense against microbes in the root zone.

Now, it bears saying that intent to communicate is impossible for plants. No plant thinks, “Oh, no! I’ve been attacked. Better tell my neighbors so they can protect themselves” because plants can’t think. Still, through evolutionary pressures they have developed ways to communicate about pests, reproduction, “personal” space, and a variety of other topics, which I think is pretty cool!

 

Sources 

Witzany, Günther. “Plant Communication from Biosemiotic Perspective.” Plant Signaling & Behavior 1.4 (2006): 169-78. Web.

Ueda, Hirokazu, Yukio Kikuta, and Kazuhiko Matsuda. “Plant Communication: Mediated by Individual or Blended VOCs?” Plant Signaling & Behavior 7.2 (2012): 222-26. Web.

Karban, Richard. “Plant Behaviour and Communication.” Ecology Letters 11.7 (2008): 727-39. Web.

Garden Mums (Chrysanthemum morifolium)

Chrysanthemums, or mums for short, are a popular perennial. They originated from China where they were cultivated as early as the 15th century BC. After being introduced in Japan in the eighth century AD they found their way onto the Imperial Seal of Japan. Chrysanthemums were brought to Europe in the 1600s and later introduced in the United States during the colonial period.

Mum flowers with rust colored centers and orange edges

Source

Although mums are a popular fall plant, the best time to plant them is in the spring after the last frost (oops! Definitely planted mine this fall). The variety I have in my garden is Avalon Orange. The blossoms have a nice gradient of colors ranging from an almost rust red in the middle to a light pumpkin at their edges.

 

Care instructions

Size: Mums vary in size, but most varieties can get 14 – 36″ (36 – 91cm) tall and 20 – 36″ (51 – 91cm) wide.

Water Requirements: Mums should get about an inch of water a week early in the growing season, The amount of water needed will increase as the plants grow and temperatures rise to about 3 inches of water when the mums are in bloom.

Soil Requirements: Mums will be perfectly happy in well-drained, slightly acidic garden soil.

Light Requirements: Mums prefer full sun and need at minimum at least 3 hours of direct sun.

Temperature Requirements: Mums will grow best in USDA zones 5-9.

Nutrient Requirements: If you want to fertilize your mums, a standard garden fertilizer and super phosphate are recommended.

Pruning: To keep mums short and bushy, once plants are about 6” tall prune off about 1” from the top of each stem. When the new stems are about 6” tall prune off about 1” from those stems. Repeat this cycle until mid-July, right before the flowering cycle will begin. Mums can be divided every 2-3 years.

Blooms: Mums are short-day plants so they will bloom in response to short days and long nights. Blooms come in all different colors including red, orange, yellow, pink, white, blue, and green.

 

Sources

Iowa State University Extension and Outreach – Growing Chrysanthemums in the Garden – to get to this handout copy and paste this [ pdf: Growing Chrysanthemums in the Garden ] into Google and it should be the first link that comes up.

Better Homes and Garden Plant Directory – Chrysanthemum

National Chrysanthemum Society, USA

Ball Seed Avalon Orange Garden Mum