... growing and hybridizing all kinds of plants in zone 6b Maryland since the 1980's.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Some other bamboos

On the left is Sasa kurilensis, from the Kuril Islands between Japan and Russia. It's a shorter, groundcovering bamboo, that only gets about waist high. On the right, is Indocalamus tessellatus. It's a little over my head, so more than 6ft (2m) tall. The tall poles growing in the background (and a few within these clumps) are Phyllostachys angusta (Stone Bamboo).


Since discovering the usefulness of charcoal, we've been trying to make small batches of it when we can. Our big bamboo patch makes lots of poles that when split are excellent for making charcoal fires.
See the nice blaze that the split bamboo poles make. They have to be split though because any trapped air inside the sealed nodes can cause an explosion when heated
When we've gotten tired of tending the fire, we let it get to the stage where it's mostly just hot coals. This one was a little past that stage - it was getting relatively ashy on the outside. 
So at this point quenching with buckets of water, will stop the burning and leave you with mostly charcoal instead of ashes. 
Beautiful and soggy "black gold". 

This is a big plastic pot full of [well-cooled] charcoal. It looks whitish because there's a layer of ice coating the surface. We're letting this batch weather a while before we use it. I have it sitting next to some comfrey plants so that any ashes leaching out will go to good use (fertilizing the comfrey).
An example of its usefulness: I've used it dug into the planting holes when planting hardy kiwi vines to prevent root rot. The kiwis have thrived. All three times I've tried growing kiwi before (without charcoal) they've always died.
I've also seen charcoal powder cure container grown iris seedlings of some sort of root rot.
We're experimenting with using it in the vegetable garden. It's supposed to increase the cation exchange capacity of the soil (a measure of the soils ability to hold onto elements like potassium, calcium, magnesium etc. I haven't personally seen anything convincing from what we've used so far for soil improvement, but it's only been a short while for that. On the other hand, those cases of rescue from root rots have been pretty convincing to me. 

Viola arvensis hybrids

These pansies and F4 Viola arvensis X pansy hybrids are getting plenty of cold challenge. I was planning on putting them in the ground but ran out of time, so they're toughing it out in pots. We've at least gotten as low as 9 F so far and also had several days where the temperature never rose out of the teens and low twenties. On these days, they all look like frozen spinach.
Here's a select F4 line from the Viola arvenis X pansy crosses. I've kept a few of the more special ones indoors. This particular line is orange and pretty uniform already.
Close-up of the flower.  

This is another of the F4 arvensis hybrids, selected for having a lot of pubescence on the stems. No good reason for this selection, I just thought it would be fun to pull them in the direction of furriness to see how furry they could get.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Happy sight

These are peppers I'd saved through the winter last year. I didn't get them back into the ground until so late in the summer 2016, that they didn't really fruit much in this second year. So I dug them up and planned on keeping them around a year longer. Sadly, I forgot to wheel them back in the basement one evening and we got a hard frost that night. I figured they were all goners but I hoped that maybe some roots had survived the freeze. I'm glad to report that at least one of the four is re-sprouting. It's an advanced generation mild from about 1/4 Habanero ancestry. I'm still holding out hope that my favorite will re-sprout. It's a little yellow bullet shaped mild with furry stems from about 1/4 ancestry from a hybrid I called "Serranobanero" [Serrano X Habanero]. If not, I've still got seeds from it, but there was one hot pepper growing nearby when they set, so there's no guarantee the seeds will produce milds.

Fairy Tale Pumpkin

My wife picked up this 15 pound pumpkin from a place in Lancaster County PA. She said it was labeled 'Fairy Tale Pumpkin'. After Halloween and Thanksgiving were over, she let me butcher it for eating purposes. It was impressively dark orange inside - see the candy corn for color comparison in the third picture. Unfortunately, it was fairly watery and not nearly as sweet as the neck pumpkins. I think it's supposed to be a moschata type so we might use it to add some more genetic diversity to our neck/butternut/cheese population. I don't care for the deep ribbing either, but the size and nice coloring could be useful. Maybe we ought to cross it with 'Seminole' first before adding it to the mix. The two might balance out each other's shortcomings.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Trying some intentional mum crosses

This fragrant big yellow seedling is one of my favorites. So I decided I should try some intentional crosses on it. 
From what I've read, you can keep the flowers in water and pollinate them this way, They're supposed to mature seeds just like this. So I'm using the red single in front right on the cut flowers of "Big Yellow", hoping for shades of red and orange in the offspring.

Fall pollinator magnet

Every Fall, I am amazed at the sheer number (and diversity) of pollinator insects visiting our volunteer daisy type mums. Besides just being pretty, it's nice to know that they're serving as a food source at a time when those might be scarce.
I don't know what this little black winged one is: 
 Some sort of bumblebee I think:
 Another pretty little mystery insect:
 Syrphid flies? Lots of these:
 A semi-double white with bees, flies and butterflies:

A small green bee:
Big carpenter bee: 
 An assortment of butterflies, moths and skippers:

Bumblebee? Or is a different kind of bee:
Another kind of bee-mimic hoverfly:
 The remaining five pictures sure looked like a honeybee to me. I was especially happy to see that, considering how the honeybee populations have suffered in recent years.