Sunday, November 21, 2010

Monster self-watering station and post

I wasn't sure how to take care of my plants with the prospect of some holiday travel on the horizon. I needed at least two weeks' worth of watering power. I immediately ruled out my nearby friends and neighbours who, as much as I like them, have less green thumbs than me if that's possible.

I did a brief experiment with AquaGlobes and my chili pepper plant which wasn't very successful. The gadgets were fiddly, dispensed water erratically, the reservoirs were empty within a couple of days, and they made the planting medium kind of soggy. And while the established geraniums might be able to survive two weeks with no watering, I wasn't sure about the less robust plants.

The solution? Turn the propagation and germination station into a big self-watering structure with the help of two 10-gallon Rubbermaid tote boxes, a bunch of milk crates, and some old t-shirts. I'm sort of confident that this will do the job for at least two weeks' absence.

Transplanted all of the ivy geranium and sedum cuttings into plastic pots with torn-up strips of old t-shirts dangling into the filled totes. They appear to be working successfully so far, but I am totally regretting using these particular t-shirts as the grow / computer room smells distinctly of eau de sweaty gym now.

Notable is the fact that the red ivy geraniums put out roots more vigorously than the pink ones, and the cuttings that were growing in perlite / sand mix put out better roots than those growing in potting soil. This, despite the fact that the perlite / sand had virtually turned into concrete.

As for the basil rooting hormone experiment, I think it's safe to say at this point that the untreated basil cuttings are performing the best. They're much more than twice as tall, with stems that are twice and thick, and foliage that is many times bushier than the treated cuttings. I suppose it has to do with the better, more natural root development that I saw in the untreated cuttings.

Untreated cuttings behind, towering over the treated cuttings in front
The Crocus speciosus bulbs continue to send up new flowers even as the first blooms fade. I'm amazed. It's disappointing that it looks like the Sterbergia lutea and saffron crocus bulbs decided not to bloom this year, but it looks like the Sterbergia wasn't being lazy: I see new leaves poking out of the soil in places where I definitely did not plant any bulbs. I'm looking forward to many blooms next fall from this one.

Did some rearranging on the balcony and added some bags of fallen leaves to try to protect the cedar planters that contain the fall and spring bulbs from the worst of the winter. Hopefully this works.

Just for fun, I decided to stick some cloves of garlic into the soil of the balcony trellis garden. After only a couple of days, I have a forest of shoots. Not sure what I'm going to do with them in the spring, as I plan to change out all of the medium come spring, but if I have room next fall, and considering how dead simple it appears to grow, I will definitely be planting garlic.

Finally chopped down the last remaining sunflower. It hasn't finished blooming, but we had some freezing rain last night that definitely did some damage, and so I cut the flower, composted the stems, and brought it inside.

After an encouraging start, most of the seeds that I'm trying to germinate in egg cartons aren't doing so well. The basil has been showing true leaves for about a week now, but seems stalled and the leaves have turned a little brown. The lone Hungarian pepper sprout of the four I planted is distinctly not green. Strongly suspect that all of it has to do with the lack of humidity (i.e., I forgot to water them yesterday); all except the burdock seeds look pretty sad right now, and none of the jalapeno or datura seeds have even sprouted. Undaunted, I'm trying to use some donut containers. Considering how much seed I've bought for next year, I might cave and buy myself a heating pad and some of them fancy domed germination trays as well.

Got some basil, burdock, as well as some of the aster I collected and blogged about previously planted. Hopefully, they don't die.

(cross-posted from Folia, which doesn't let you have inline photos)


  1. Hi i am new here, looking for a blogger from different countries so found yours. I am new also in Blotanical, though i have been a plant blogger for quite sometime. I laughed at your problem of who takes care of the plants when you are away. That exactly is my problem too, and your problem is doubled if you are in a hot-humid tropics. My office bromeliads i had been waiting for 2 yrs are about to flower, but when i left for 2 days, the cleaner in the office obviously watered it after a half-day hot sun from the east glass window. Then obviously it got cooked roots and died. I hope some people can invent automatic watering for small containers.

  2. Oh no! That's terrible. Where I used to work, there was a designated person who took care of all the plants when their owners were all on vacation. It worked pretty well.