5 Things That Didn’t Work In 2010
February 21, 2011

Looking back on 2010, there were some things in the garden that didn’t work so well:

1. Guerilla gardening. Remember this? Yes. It got thrown out two weeks later. Anyway: I’ll try some guerilla gardening again this year! I got a primrose gifted last week and I’m looking forward to planting it outside when it’s done blooming and the weather right.

2. Underplanting tomatoes: Epic fail. I underplanted my tomatoes with basil, marigold and begonia and none of them continued to grow. They just stopped. ’till I threw them out, like, 5 months later. I’m not gonna try it again.

3. Leaving dead leaves on the soil. What might work in a garden in the ground in this case doesn’t work for container gardening at all: There are no worms or bugs to decompost dead leaves, so they just stay on top of the soil, keep moisture and hence are perfect for any kind of soil born diseases: mold, fungi, you name it.

4. Keeping the oleander pest-free. Didn’t work this winter – again. Spider mites infested my baby once more and it looks pathetic now.

5. Overwintering herbs outside. Well, now I can tell that most – if not all – of them are dead. I tried to leave them outside because I know that they’ll only get ugly and leggy inside. Although I put them to the window sill (outside) where it’s the warmest, when the temperatures hit -10°C, they must have froven through. Well, it was worth a try.

I’m reviving thig blog – so stay tuned for more!

Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day September 2010
September 15, 2010

It’s Wordless Wednesday as well, so please enjoy:

Goji and Oleander seeds germinating
September 4, 2010

On August 29th I sowed some Goji berry and Oleander seeds. I prepared the Goji berries  according to Sheryl’s instructions. They germinated within three days.

Goji berries germinating

Goji berries germinating

The Oleander seeds were picked by myself in february in the wonderful city of Bologna/Italy. I spent the winter term there and went by a nice Oleander shrub every day on my way to university. I observed it closely as it went through the changing seasons: From some green pods in october to the first snow on the drying, red-brown pods in december until the pods opened in february and released the beautiful, fluffy, hairy, brown seeds. My dad visited me during the last week of my stay and we picked them together. I have no idea what color the blossoms were. We just picked the pods that looked good – thick, dry and slightly opened. If you want to start oleander from seeds, I’d just advise you to do the same – still closed pods might not be ripe. When I came back home from the exchange term, my own oleander had produced seeds as well.

Oleander

My oleander - salmon colored blossoms are hard to find here

There were three or four pods and all but one opened. I dried all pods – “Italian” and “mine” – for another few days, the seeds came basically out by themselves when they were completely dry. I scraped them out and stored them in a jar for later, all seeds mixed together – surprise me!, I said to them. I think I got about 1000 seeds out of 10-15 pods. I wanted to make sure I’d have enough seeds to experiment. Except for the seeds from my own oleander, all were exposed to snow and freeze. I figured that the seeds would need light for germination, so I prepared the soil (normal potting mix, but seed starting mix might be better) and just put the seeds on top, uncovered. I watered well and put a lid on the pot to simulate greenhouse conditions. I lifted the lid after a few days for some hours to prevent the seeds and soil from molding. I have to say that I was skeptic about whether the seeds would germinate at all. I read many different opinions in forums, they ranged from “Didn’t germinate at all” and “Germinated after weeks/months” to “Germinated right away”. So I didn’t know what to expect. But now that I’ve spotted the first little seedling, I know: It’s gonna work! I am soooo happy!

Oleander seed germinating

You have to look closely, but it's definitly there

BTW: It will take another three years before this little seedling will bloom for the very first time – and only by then I will know the color!

Spider mites’ damage
April 15, 2010

I spent the winter term in Italy, in the meanwhile, my boyfriend took care of my plants. Amongst them a beautiful oleander. I got it last spring and since then it doubled in size. The blossoms are salmon (I don’t like the pink ones) and not filled – just a plain beauty. But already during the summer I had some problems with spider mites, because it’s always dry on the loggia, for even the strongest storm doesn’t reach to the door, where I put the oleander. I sprayed pesticides, quite successfully. In September, before I left for Bologna, I put the oleander in, close to a window (facing east) in the staircase. I don’t exactly remember how it happened, but somehow I found out that the oleander had spider mites again. Maybe I saw it on a photo in my bf’s blog. I advised him to first of all put the oleander into the shower and rinse the leaves. Well, you can see here how it looked.

Spider mites don’t like water. However, as soon as it’s dry, they spread like crazy. Plus they like it warm. Our staircase is very dry and quite warm (not the ideal conditions for overwintering an oleander, but he didn’t mind). So you should first of all try to create the conditions they don’t like, which would be cold and wet. Put your plants into the rain, away from your radiator, in the cold basement or – if you can’t do any of them – into the shower. And shower. And shower. After some showering, I advised my bf to put back the oleander, make a mixture of 2 tsp of dishwashing liquid, 2 tsp of oil (rapeseed) and mix it with 1 lt water, then put it into a spray bottle and spray the mixture onto the plant every day.

What it does: First of all it creates a wet environment. Second, the dishwashing liquid (you can take soap water as well) helps the oil to mix with the water. Plus it helps the oil stay on the leaves and mites. The oil itsself is supposed to kill the mites. I’ve had very bad experiences with spider mites and have to say that even this mixture might fail, but not, if you spray and spray and spray consequently and every day. Sometimes even twice a day. During the whole process be careful that the liquid doesn’t drop onto the soil, put newspaper or a plastic bag over it. And spray a lot, not just a few times, but ’till the liquid drops off the plants’ leaves. And try to reach the bottom side of the leaves, because that’s where the mites eat them. Pay special attention to the new shoots, they are softer and more delicious to spider mites, so that’s where they normally start. Apply the liquid for about 10 days every day. If you see that there are less mites, don’t just stop, but continue spraying about every three days. A mite goes through different stages of development, and not in every stage they are visible and exposed to the spray. So keep spraying every 3 days for about 2 weeks, then switch to once a week. I kept spraying mine ’till the end of winter (which means: ’till I put it onto the balcony again) once in two weeks. No more mites. That wouldn’t have worked if my bf wasn’t soooo great! Thank you, Thomas!

Anyway, the damage the spider mites once did will stay. As I said they eat the leaves, or rather put their tiny sting into the bottom side of the leaf and suck out the cell that they just struck. Then they move on to the next cell. And the next. And so on. So the damage looks like tiny little spots where the leaf just turnes white. To give you an idea:

That’s my oleander, yes. You see the heavy damage best by the difference to the new leaves. I don’t know if the white leaves affect the chlorophyll production, but I guess they won’t change it for the better. So my plan is to cut every year some of the oleander’s stems, so it will thrive anew, with new leaves. I don’t want to cut the whole oleander at once, because than it won’t bloom at all for a year (or maybe even two). According to my plans I’m gonna have a whole new oleander within three years. At least as long as I’m able to keep away the spider mites…