Friday, May 28, 2010


another busy week in the garden and a surprise to boot...when i went to campus to water on wednesday i found that the eighth asparagus plant that i had pretty much given up on had made an appearance...the top photo is our new we have a full compliment...gardening is a pastime that requires patience...i'll need to remeber that from time to time...i was in the garden this afternoon to water and to do some mulching...i mulched the yams, the outlying jerusalem artichokes, and a couple of asparagus plants before i ran out of compost...i'll do the rest later this weekend...the third photo is the arugula which has begun to flower ( thet are small white flowers and will be difficult to find even if you enlarge the photo, but they are there) so we will be saving arugula seeds for next season soon...over in the right corner you can see the vines from one of the yams climbing the trellis...the other plant now has sprouted two more vines which are moving toward the other side of the trellis...they will meet eventually...i still find it odd that a perennial plant is putting so much energy into vining rather than roots...but the roots were ten inches long wheni planted them last fall...perhaps with that head staret they can afford it...the fourth photo is of one of the elephant garlic plants that is preparing to bulbs to use to expand our population come fall...hopefully i will capture a photo of the blossom...lastly we have had some attrition on the teosinte front...not unusual i suppose, but a bit disheartening...however ther are some hardy survivors upstairs and half the plants are still on the heating mat in the basement unser the growlight so we aren't out of business yet, and perhaps the surviviors ( there's actually new growth on a couple of the Zea diploperennis plants upstairs) will be tough enough to make it through a full growth cycle...that is certainly my hope...and my intenetion.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

teosinte lessons

well...i don't know...i'm fairly sure i'll find out...but for the nonce i am in the dark...we have a total (for now) of thirty-six teosinte plants in varying states of health...novice that i am...dispite lots of helpful, and appreciated, advice it would be almost unnatural not to lose a few along the way...we have seventeen Zea diploperennis, nine Zea perennis, nine northern tepehuan, and one lonely Zea mexicana that isn't a happy much water? not enough? different needs for different strains? i think we can rule out not enough water since they've been watered every day...too much for some is a definite possibility, and the different needs is probably the reality of the i have declared a watering moratorium on the plants i've brought upstairs to harden off ( ninteen in all...three Zea perennis and sixteen Zea diploperennis, which is the largest and, so far, best adjusted population) to see if they respond positively or negatively and i will act from there...thirteen additional plants were transplanted to peat pots this evening and left on the heat mat for another day to adjust...there are four more ( all northern tepehuan) still in peat pellets...where they will stay until i buy more peat movement on the sixty Zea mexicana seeds i put in a baggie to cook...but it took a week last time and then only one germinated, so we will need to be patient...something i'm practicing alot lately...i'm getting better at it...but i think i'll read some thomas de quincey before bed tonight to get some better grounding in it.

Monday, May 24, 2010

water II

it was warm in the garden this afternoon...i imagine it was yesterday as i figured it would be a good idea to stop off and water the plants...a ways back i worked out a watering schedule by sitting down with ome reference works and roughly figuring the plants' needs and i've tried to stick to it fairly closely...since april second, when i unmulched the garden for spring, i have been tracking how much water i've put on the garden over and above natural rainfall ( which has been pretty good so far ) almost two months ( including today ) i've dumped two hundred and seven gallons of water on it...quantified through the tedious menthod of filling gallon jugs...tedious but it also allows me to put water where i want it...i've hilled th epotatoes and mulched the jerusalem artichokes, in part to help cut down on water loss through evaporation...i have yet to do the yams but there's a long weekend coming up...doubtlessly some of it will be spent on campus.

the top photo is just a shot of the garden as it looked's coming along...the middle photois of wheatgrass ( which you may have to click on to really see ) it's been up for a few days and looks good...the bottom photo is of a chines yam vining up the 2 X 2 i put in there for's moved up a couple of feet in the last week ( the other yam suffered some wind damage, but has sprouted another vine..hopefully [and with some help] it will find the other 2 X 2 and join its partner on the trellis ) they'll vine anywhere they grow and can be hard on othe rplants, choking them off which i why they are cionsidered an invasive intent in giving them someplace to go was to avoid any issues. with, say, the jerusalem artichokes which are about a foot-and-a-half tall but could provide a tempting target when they reach their full height of eight to ten feet...there are no erious issues in the garden...the teosinte at home is having somthing of a challenge in adapting to life off the heat mat, but they're still green...they're also perennials and my hope is that they are putting energy into roots rather than growth...they seemed to shoot up overnight, but have stalled...more as i it happens

Sunday, May 23, 2010

more teosinte on the move

the pioneer Zea diploperennis did alright in its first twenty-four hours so yesterday i brought up a Zea perennis...afterwards i went back into the basement and put three more Zea diploperennis and two more Zea perennis into peat pots and left them on the heat mat for another twenty-four hours to adjust to their new habitat...this morning i brought them all up and put five more Zea diploperennis in peat pots to bring up tomorrow...sothere's movement towards eventually transplanting some to the garden and some to the biggest pots i can find to grow here at home and , hopefully, get them to seed...i colored some toothpicks with markers to differentiate the different strains ( red-Zea perennis, blue=Zea diploperennis, green= Zea mexicana, and yellow=northern tepehuan) once i get them out of the peat pellets...turning the growlight off at night has the Zea mexicana and the northern tephuan growing at a much slower and proportionate hope is that the stem diameter on the ones that grew so quickly will catch up to their hight...if there's a problem i still have quite a few seeds ( the majority of the ones i put into cook germinated, except the stubborn Zea mexicana...i am still working on that strain) and can start over using what knowledge i've gained form the first round to try and do a better's hoping that won't be necessary

Friday, May 21, 2010

oh pioneers!

well...i'm not sure, but i had to do something...i started putting germinated Zea diploperennis seeds into peat pellets in the warming tray eight days ago and left them under the growlight twenty-four hours a day to see what would happen...what happened was they grew so fast that the roots could not support them well and a few fell over...they're still growing quickly down quickly that i had to improvise a new lid for the warming tray because they outgrew the one it came with in two days and now they're closing in on being as tall as that ( the one in the picture is seven inches from the top of the soil to its growing tip...and it is not the tallest one there is...some are close to a foot tall right now) i went out and bought thrty-two number eight jiffy-strip peat pots and a forty pound bag of potting soil and transplanted the ones that had fallen over into them to give them a bit more support...clearly the plants are going to outgrow the warming tray post-haste so i picked one to come upstairs with the tomatoes to see how it would react to the environment...if it does well the rest of the Zea diploperennis will be moving upstairs to tables under the picture window to be gradually hardened off...some will go into the garden and some will be potted here to try and get them through a full growth cycle so i can count seeds...i don't know how things will turn out but i have to say i'm excited about the fact that they're growing and i'll keep a close eye on things...and you'll know nearly as quickly as i do how things go.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

perennial and annual teosinte

after what has been a couple of reasonably productive weeks of work i can safely say we have all four strains of teosinte germinated and planted in peat pellets in the tray on top of the warming mat...but just barely...the top photo is the single Zea mexicana plant i got out of a batch of around thirty seeds i stuck in a baggie to's doing fine but it's not enough so i just soaked sixty seeds in hydrogen peroxide and put them downstairs to cook...the middle photo is a row of Zea perennis which looks kind of on the runty side...i've never grown teosinte before though and that might just be what it is...smaller...the bottom photo is Zea diploperennis, which is the one strain for which i had the fewest seeds ( only fifty, from ames, iowa), but which has turned out to be the most viable... sixteen of the twenty seeds i cooked in the first batch germinated and all the plants are still doing well...the northern tepehuan teosinte has and continues to germinate...i have four seeds in peat pellets so far, but none have come up yet...they took their time germinating so they may grow at their own pace as well...the gamagrass si up in the garden and i'm still waiting on wheatgrass...i may have jumped the gun on that and will try it again when the weather warms up...unless it's up the next time i'm at the garden.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

more teosinte

another busy weekend of garden work...first off the Zea diploperennis i put into peat pellets on thursday has taken off and is doing well...sixteen plants now from one to one-and-a-half inches tall and turning green at the ends ( even though the flash from the camera obscures it in the photo )...i started the Zea perennis last week and i put three of them into peat pellets this morning so the perennial strains have started...i started the germinating process on the northen tepehuan teosinte yesterday and the other big piece of teosinte news is that after a week the Zea mexicana is finnaly last an annual strain which is a bit of a relief...first hurdle cleared...a few more days on the heating mat and we'll see how it does in the peat pellets...this is all abit later in coming about than i had hoped, but there will be warmer weather ahead and that should help both the teosinte and tomatoes...they will be able to move into the garden and the potted teosinte i will be growing at home can move out as well...once they're firmly established i can turn my attention to flowering, pollenating, and seeding... i do have some support in this...dr. mary eubanks from duke university has been overwhelmingly kind in offering advice for the (polite) asking, and dr. forgey has always been the fire under the boiler...thanks to both of them

Saturday, May 15, 2010

hilled, mulched, and trellised

the yams have resisted my efforts to have them move laterally so i set up a couple of treated two by twos for them to vine up on...if they actually do so i can festoon the posts with mason's string and give them more area if they want it...we'll see what happens over the next few isn't permanent in any way...if they don't use it i'll remove it...the rest of the photos are of the process of hilling the potatoes...i saved the straw i used to mulch the garden for winter when i opened it up this spring and today i brought a bag along with some compost ( 120 pounds) to use...first i watered the potatoes, then i laid down a layer of straw about two inches deep and covered that with compost...mostly to keep the straw from blowing all over the campus, but also to help create a medium for the straw to rot in ( it will...slowly)and put the organic matter from the straw back into the soil rather than throwing it away...this will keep the tubers from being exposed to sunlight and "greening" (green potatoes are toxic), help prevent moisture loss, and mulch weeds down...i will be hilling the potatoes again as they grow and tomorrow i get to do it here at home...i also mluched the jerusalem artichokes in much the same way as i hilled the potatoes and for pretty much the same why is one mulching and the other hilling? near as i can tell because i'm only doing the jerusalem artichokes once and the potatoes will need to be done at least one more time.

no wheat grass is up yet...i watered the bed just to keep things cooking...perhaps it's abit too cool yet...i know the tomatoes are staying in peat pots under the grow light until things heat up...and speaking of grow lights i now have fourteen Zea diploperennis seedlings going an the zea perennis seeds have germinated and will be ready to move to peat pellets in the next few days...i will start the northern tepehuan teosinte today and the zea mexicana is stubbornly refusing to germinate at all...i still have thousands of seeds th eusda sent me and i will be stubborn in my attemps as well...but i am beginning to wonder if i got some bum seeds from florida.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

zea diploperennis

i drove over to the campus after work today to see how the garden came through last night's storm...i hadn't been by in a few days and wanted to see what the weed situation was, if any...i found things in fairly good usual the issue was more grass than weeds as the surrounding lawn continues to send runners into the garden...going out there every other day or so has kept me on top of that but it will be a continuing struggle...the asparagus is doing well, although the eigth plant has still not appeared and i am beginning to doubt it will...if that and the runt garlic plant are all we lose we will be doing exceptionally well...there are only three gamagrass plants up from the thirty seeds i planted last november...i had planned to cull the smaller plants out as they sprouted, but it seems that won't be necessary...everything i've read has said that breaking dormancy in gamagrass is difficult and experience seems to be bearing that out, but why? what purpose could a refusal to grow in quantity serve a plant? or was my reliance on the winter cold to break dormancy rather than stratifying the seed the problem? i have been told that soaking the seeds in a three percent solution of hydrogen preoxide for a couple of hours is anoter way to break dormancy...i still have a lot of seeds left and it's still early...might be worth a try...soaking in hydrogen peroxide certainly moved the Zea diploperennis seeds along...i soaked those for twenty minutes on monday and put them in some damp paper towels ( brown, unbleached ones) stuck those in a baggie and put them on the heating mat...when i got home today i checked them and they were ready to i soaked some peat pellets and put the sprouts in the warming tray...ten in all...and stuck them under a growlight...this is central to the garden's purpose for this season so i am a bit nervous about outcomes...i have had no luck at all with Zea mexicana ( i am beginning to wonder if the seed i got from the usda in florida is viable) and i just started the Zea perennis yesterday...i still have northern tepehuan teosinte to start, and i hope that works...then i will have at least one annual and one perennial strain going to make the effort to get them thorugh a full growth cycle...there are no guarantees in life... we'll see what happens as the season progresses.

Saturday, May 8, 2010


it was wheatgrass day at the garden along with a few other chores...the top photo is the asparagus bed on the west side of the was time to backfill so i worked about forty pounds of compost ( asparagus eats alot) into the mound of soil i dug out to plant them and the second photo shows the result, as well as a bed for wheatgrass that i worked about twenty pounds of composted manure into. the third photo is of broadcast wheatgrass seeds which i covered with a thin layer of soil. the bottom photo, although you wouldn't know it, is the garden after about two hours of solid work...backfilling the rest of the asparagus so the garden dosen't look so messy and working in more organic matter for the teosinte bed. we're doing okay...all the jerusalem artichokes are up, as well as all the potatoes. we're still missing one asparagus plant and i think we've lost the runt elephant garlic...but you never know...the bulb's still down there so we'll wait awhile before we give up on it...the yam vines are growing up the stakes that mark out the rows, so i festooned them with some mason's string so they wouldn't attach themselves to the bird tape...i'm going to have to do some research as to why a perennial that is supposed to develop rhizomes three feet underground is expending so much energy above ground...tomatoes if it ever warms up and teosinte when it finally germinates. stay tuned.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

sunday morning

i went to the garden this morning to take a photo at 10:00 a.m. for the new york times "a moment in time"....they're publishing photos taken this morning...and to check the growth since of the asparagus plants have come up, and all the potatoes i planted are up as well ( that's what's in two of the photos)...things are starting to fill weekend i'll move some soil ( i can call it that now ) around and put in some wheat grass...i pulled up the newspaper and all our red worms have moved into their new home as well...the long shot of the garden is what i sent to new york along with a short description...if i find a link i'll post it