Sunday, March 28, 2010

Cave Orchids of Missouri

A Missouri cave orchid experiences its first natural sun light.
The yellow cast to all my pictures came from the sodium lamps in the cave.
So I changed them to B/W to get a better idea of what the growing space looked like
Bench after bench of amazing Phalaenopsis orchids
Just look at the number of bloom spikes on this bench
Whole rooms of beautiful blooming orchids all in a cave.

This is truly an amazing growing space.
I use a very porous mix.
Many choices here.
I do not use a rooting compound on these as they have roots ready to grow.
A complete six-pack.
Make your cut at the leaf node for the best rooting
Dust with a rooting compound.
Stick the cutting - these go into a dry mix then I add the water
Finished cutting ready to go into a humid warm propagation chamber.

Last week we were in Kansas City Missouri. We had thought that we would be in full spring but not with over seven inches of snow on the ground at our arrival. We enjoyed our brief visit, had some great BBQ, saw wonderful art at both of their museums (both free I would like to add) and found the most interesting orchid grower I have yet to meet.

David Bird of Bird's Botanicals has one of the most unique orchid growing environments I have ever experience. This orchid establishment is located in a naturally climate controlled cave where the orchids have a perfect growing environment. He has multiple lighted rooms in this former quarry cave that has more than 10,000 growing and blooming plants. We saw Phalaenopsis, Cattleya, Paphiopedilum, and other species and hybrids happily growing in these limestone caves under artificial light. Sorry, the pictures are so poor but I could not figure out how to get the camera to take better pictures with the artificial lights. Never the less it was a fantastic sight and if you are ever in the area make a definite point to go see this grower. The cave is open on Tuesdays, just happened to be the day we went, but you could call to check - 816 252 4478 ( Thanks David, we really enjoyed your orchid cave)

I have started seeds and made cuttings. Marigolds, peppers, parsley, lettuce, and my dandelions were all planted. I am looking forward to the dandelions as my lunch salad at Lidia's of Kansas City was one made with dandelions ( excellent I might add). I have already run out of space on the heat mats so Monday I will try to buy a bigger and thermostatically controlled mat for starting seeds. Bottom heat is vital for some things and almost a requirement for pepper and tomatoes. If I get one we will keep you posted on its workings.

I also started the spring crop of spider (Chlorophytum comosum) plants and made my first geranium cuttings. Each year I start both of these from the previous years plants. The geraniums are a variety that I got many many years ago - I think more than 25! I have long ago lost the name and even though I saw that last summer I used a name I am not sure of - I am on the search to try to identify the variety and if I succeeded I will pass that information along. All I do know is that it is a miniature variety that blooms all summer long. They winter under the fluorescent lights in the basement and each spring I use them for my new plants.

The techniques are in the pictures above. I use a rooting compound and a porous mix of mostly perlite and some screened potting mix. The spider plants have vestigial roots ready to grown and I choose the "babies" with the most leaves and possible roots to put in the six pack.
The geraniums are cut at a leaf node and dipped in rooting compound and then stuck in the pots. I usually leave three or four leaves on these cuttings and both go under a plastic dome and on a heating mat for bottom heat. I keep them misted and shaded for at least a week. The spider plants will root much faster than the geraniums but both are ready when they resist a tug to try to pull them out of the mix. Once again bottom heat helps hurry those roots along. This is good practice for the tomato grafting that is scheduled for later this season. Stay with us for that adventure.
Happy Gardening

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Ah, Spring!

A near perfect parsnip
I have had these orchids for seveal years and they are consistant repeat bloomers.
The last of the amarylis - these too are bulbs that we have had for multiple years.

We have officially made it to Spring. What a great feeling even if we could get snow still. With the garden clear of snow, we are digging parsnips and enjoying the fruits of last May's planting. We are getting some beauties and some duds, but they all taste great. Today's picture is what I would like to find for each plant - long, straight, and no blemishes.

I got the apple trees pruned and saved the larger water sprouts for the pea vines to climb on. One of the grafts from last season does not look as healthy as the others so only time will tell on that branch, but the rest of the branches look to have a nice potential bloom based on the number of flower buds per branch. Google some pictures to help you tell the difference between fruit flower buds and vegetative buds and that should help in your pruning.

I planted spinach, arugula, and radish this week in the hoop house. The soil in there was much more ready to plant than the soil in my cold frames. I opened their lids and let them dry out for a few days and hope to plant in them next week. One patch of lettuce, sure wish I remembered what variety it is, survived under the snow and I hope that it will take off in these warmer days.

The bees were hungry last week, and with little or no food available, I found them harvesting corn dust in the bird feeder. I watched in amazement. I called the bee expert at University of Wisconsin Green Bay, Dr. Amy Wolf, and we talked about the phenomena. I even tried to feed them some sugar water but they were most determined to collect corn dust for the hive. What I like the most is that I probably have a natural colony of honey bees someplace close and that is something we have not had in a long time. Too many lawn chemicals have caused natural hives problems and the pre-bloom cutting alfalfa by farmers has also caused bees to loose a valuable food source.

The last of the amaryllis are blooming and the fig tree is back in the greenhouse and new leaves are appearing. I planted two trays of micro greens and I will be using the greenhouse for seed starting and for growing my sunflower spouts. I had some radish sprouts today on a sandwich at The Urban Frog, and radish sprouts are the next sprouting seeds we hope to try growing.
Happy Gardening

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Working to Spread the Vegetable Word

Planting board construction is back on April 26, 2009 entry

I finished one cold frame this week that I will use as the demonstration frame and will work on the other one this next week. Having one frame that I can use when I speak to groups will be a good thing even if I don't get to use it in the garden. Plus we got the furnace in the greenhouse started so I can move plants from the basement lights to the greenhouse and start thinking about seedlings.
I spoke at the "Seeds of Hope" Garden Event at the Fox Valley Technical College in Appleton, Wi this past Saturday. This was a wonderful and well attended gardening event. The mission of the Seeds of Hope is to serve the Fox Valley Technical College student family. This group basically provides immediate financial assistance for students in crisis. Check out the rest of the mission of this worthy group at the schools web site - - and maybe you could donate to this worthy cause.
I got to attend a presentation on Roses and one on Cooking with Herbs. I enjoyed them both and the herb one had some great food to sample - the fennel sorbet was especially good. Plus there was a keynote presentation by my good friend Jim Beard about composting, worm castings, and making compost tea.
I gave my presentation - Not Your Average Vegetable Garden - Explorations in Backyard Horticulture - twice and really had a wonderful time and great participation. What a fantastic way to get "pumped up' about spring and the coming growing season. I had good questions and I donated two planting boards to the silent auction. The only drawback was that even though the planting boards are part of my PowerPoint I neglected to mention just how valuable a tool they are for me in the garden. Oh well, at least two people have great new planting boards for this years garden.
Happy Gardening.