Stealing Sage

Well, tonight I cooked with Sage for the first time. A Beef Casserole from “Huisgenoot Wenresepte 1”, I’ll write more about that later, Now I want to write about “stealing” plants from supermarket fresh produce isles! I did this before with store bought bell pepper seeds. Have not picked any fruit from them yet, but the plants have actually recently flowered and are starting to bear what looks like bell peppers. But if this works, the bell peppers will seem pedestrian :)

As it turned out, the only sage in the shop was fresh. Not only this, the producers of said sage seem to have been quite lazy about removing leaves from the stems. Hence, complete woody stems that almost seem like the could become cuttings were in the packet. I could not resist. I placed two stems in a bit of water only in one glass, and another with rooting-powder applied. I also removed most of the large leaves; someone once told me that maintaining leaves are expensive and that cuttings have better chances with fewer. In any case, I placed both glasses on a sunny sill, and now we wait!

Edit 21-08-2010

I forgot to mention that the rooting powder I used is “Dynaroot 2” which is distributed by Effekto. The active ingredient is 4-indole-3-butyric acid at a concentration of 3g/kg.

Going somewhat strong

Planting out to SWCs

I planted one of the tomato seedlings out into my 10 Litre Self-watering Bucket, and it has really taken off! Seems pleased as punch with its new surroundings. The bell pepper plant has also been doing well in its 7l SWC, but is not growing quite as fast as the tomato. I managed to get more buckets from the restaurant. I used one to transplant a sorrel plant that was sharing a container with (and getting abused by) origanum plants and it has been growing well. Also (Saturday) planted another each of tomato and pepper seedlings into 7l SWCs, as well as a parsley plant that was getting crowded out by the mint plant sharing its pot.

About a week ago (or two, my mind…) I sowed some more rocket seeds, as well as some of the basil seeds that I saved from a now departed plant. They have now germinated, and seem to be progressing well. I’m going to plant some of the rocket seedlings in the 50l SWC, and one of them in a 7l SWC. The other rocket plants in the 50l SWC never did well, but it is possible that I gave them too much sun in the sumer. Perhaps they’ll like the winter.

Spreading the Origanum

I had (for a long time) two origanum plants (along with the sorrel mentioned above) in a rectangular (oh, let’s say 50x15x15 cm) container. The origanums grew very well, while the sorrel suffered. I wanted to clear the pot so I could put some of the marigold seedlings in it. I planted one of the origanum plants directly into my “garden” (i.e. in the sandy soil under the gravel cover of my patio), and one in a 7l food container. I had another type of origanum (has somewhat softer leaves, but grows slower) growing in a small container. It was a small stem with roots that I accidentally pulled out a while ago while harvesting from the softer-leaved origanum plant. It had grown nicely, so I planted it out into my 50l dry-herb container.

Dry herb container progress

At long last the rosemary and thyme in my 50l dry herb containers seem to have started growing in earnest. The rosemary hasn’t really increased its footprint, but has ramified quite a bit and has a number of new shoots growing upwards. Now I just hope the new origanum plant also grows well. Actually, my other rosemary plants also seem to be waking up. so hopefully I’ll have a well-establised rosemary bush or 2 to harvest from soon.


It did not take long, but white-fly seems to have found the recently transplanted tomato plant, and something seemed to be at the peper plant too. Gave them all (along with all the other pepper and tomato plants) a good treatment with Ludwig’s spray on Saturday. Seemed to result in the tomato plant virtually doubling its size overnight, though that may just be my impression of the situation ;) Some of my marigolds also seem to be suffering from something (spider mite?) so used the leftover solution to give them a good dusting. In spite of whatever may be wrong with them the are still flowering and growing.

A late update

It’s been a while, but herewith some gardening updates! The damn spider mites seem to be a recurring nightmare on my black eyed suzans. Cooler winter weather coming, so perhaps that will give me a chance to bring them under control. I’ve also had my first good harvest of basil; used it to make pesto. Had no idea pine nuts were so expensive (R60 for 100g!), ended up substituting wallnuts. Tasted good though.

I also planted a rosemary bush into the “real” ground outside my apartment. My “garden” is covered with decorative gravel, but there seems to be (very sandy) soil underneath. Good for rosemary, and since my potted rosemaries don’t seem to be doing anything, I gave it a try. The bush seemed to be doing well till I carelessly stepped on it (while spraying the black eyed susans for spider mite) and broke half the twigs off. Hope it recovers.

Procreational update

A while ago I went about creating a whole bunch of baby plants! The tomatoes are looking good, and I’ve re-potted them again into somewhat larger pots. The bell pepper seedlings are doing similarly well. One of the bell pepper seedlings have been planted into a self watering container made from 7l chutney containers that I got (for free!) from a local restaurant.

I ended up giving one each of the tomato and bell pepper seedlings to a colleague. Also gave her one of the successful origanum cuttings. The other (along with a bell pepper, chives, marigolds and store-bought rosemary and thyme plants) were given as a wedding gift. The wedding couple really seemed to like they idea of receiving plants, although I did have inside info that they were looking to gussy up the garden at their new home :)

Have had no luck with thyme cuttings, even when using growth hormones! I dunno what’s up with that. May be that I used too small cuttings and put them in too shallow soil. Have now tried a much longer (and tender) cutting, planted in more soil, and so far it seems to have made what looks like the beginning of roots fingers crossed. As an aside, it is useful not to harvest your thyme for a while if you are looking for longer tender shoots :)

The garlic seedling has been planted in a 50l washbasin container along with some chives, garlic chives and basil. The basil seems to be thriving, while the garlic chives and garlic are doing fairly well, while the normal chives seem to be just hanging on. Not sure if the (single) basil plant is interfering with the others, or if the basil just doesn’t care as much about the mix of container soil and earth in the pot. I’ll see how it goes, perhaps the chives will do well once they establish themselves, otherwise I’ll make a different plan.

The End

Bed time for this one, folks. Hope to share some more soon, as well as a recipe or two. For now, all the best!

Sharing, Caring and Spider-mites

It feels nice to give, and I got the feeling by donating one each of the tomato, bell pepper and origanum seedlings/cuttings metioned before to a colleague. The garlic chives are also doing better; intially it seemed like only about 4 of the seeds I planted had germinated, but a couple of warm days seems to have brought the total to 10. Perhaps I’ll be giving some of them away too :)

Spider Mite Woes

On a less positive note, my black eyed Susans have been attacked by spider-mite. These little buggers are quite vicious and hard to get rid of. Part of the problem is their very short life-cycle, which frequently leads to resistance against pesticides. Luckily Ludwig’s organic pesticide that I have mentioned before seems effective. I applied it on Saturday (2010-02-20) night, and the following morning the little red specks previously visible on the leaves had changed to black. Interestingly, the concentration of Ludwig’s spray recommended (by the included instructions) for spider mite is much stronger than for just about any other pest, and you also also need to be sure to completely coat the top and bottom sides of the leaves.

A follow-up application will be needed to take care of new hatchlings as the pesticide does not damage the mite eggs. Will probably do that tomorrow night or perhaps even morning, since high temperatures (like Stellenbosch is currently experiencing) leads to a gestation period of as little as 3 days. I saw another organic spider mite specific insecticide in Stellenbosch’s Builders Warehouse Express which claims to be effective against the eggs too. Supposedly it also results in in less colateral damage, but it was quite expensive. I decided to give it a skip.

Yesterday, while collecting herbs for Sunday lunch cooking, I saw that my flat-leaved parsley also seemed to have spider-mites. Since it was next to herbs I wanted to use immediately (Ludwig’s requires you to wait 48 hours after application before harvesting edible food) I squashed them between thumb and forefinger, and tore off the most badly affected leaves. The very flat leaves of the parsely don’t seem to mind the pressure, and there were few enough leaves for it to be manageable.

Seed Collecting

It takes quite a bit longer for the seeds on plants that have bolted to become harvestable that I had imagined. Today I collected some pods from a basil plant that has gone to seed. It seems like it took forever for the pods to turn brown after the petals have droped. Even now only a fraction of them have gone brown.

I’ve been waiting similarly long for a the cos-lettuce that bolted after an aphid attack to produce seeds. Yesterday I got a bit of a surprise when a guest looking at my garden pointed out the Dandelion like parachute balls that had formed on this plant. And attached to the little parachutes were litte seeds! Yay!

I placed the collected seeds in labeled envelopes for storage. They shouldn’t stay there for too long, since I hope to plant them out soon.

The End

I’m getting better at not blogging during times of day that I should be sleeping! In any case, I also wanted to talk about some of my more recent self watering container experiences, but this post is getting too long. But don’t fret, that news will come in the near future :)

Various Acts of Procreation

In this exciting update, we hear the fate of several newly germinated and cloned members of my plant family, inter alia bell peppers, garlic, garlic chives and tomatoes. Some of them area alive and well, others, alas, did not make it. Wake at noon!

Keep reading

Attempting Propagation (Thyme, Origanum and Bell Peppers)

Tonight I tried my hand at propagation. I read that thyme can be propagated from cuttings. Since my single thyme plant is not quite keeping up with my demands, I decided to try the cuttings-thing. I also mentioned this to a colleague who is interested in adding thyme to her garden, so let’s hope it works!

Propagating Cuttings

The basic method seems to be to cut off about 7-8cm long shoot-tips of the plant, removing their bottom leaves and placing somewhere damp. The general consensus seems to be that you should use tender young tips, not ones with woody stems. I used some seedling trays saved from store bought seedlings, and stuck the stems about 3cm into the potting mix.

I used Master Organics Master Supermix, which the nursery man suggested might work well for starting seedlings. I placed two shoots in each tray pocket (gee, what should you call them?) to increase the odds. For now I’m watering them from below by placing the seedling trays in a plastic container shallowly filled with water. It’s summer here, so mostly quite warm; I will however keep them indoors at night for now.

I also took some origanum cuttings and planted them the same way. Apparently this should work equally well. My origanum plants actually produce more than I need, but perhaps my colleague would like some. Besides, the more the merrier I say.

Stolen Bell Peppers

While I was at it, I decided to also sow some of the bell-pepper seed I saved from a store-bought red-pepper. This is probably a bad idea for two reasons:

  1. You won’t know what you’re gonna get, because commercial peppers are frequently hybrids.
  2. Commercial peppers may not be ripe enough to contain viable seed.

At least I did the “right” thing by using a red pepper, since red peppers should be riper. In any case, its just for fun and the seeds didn’t cost me anything, so let’s see what happens!

Bugs, Bugs, Bugs and More Damn Bugs

Aphids (I’m pretty sure that’s what they are now) seem to have a voracious appetite for my tatsoi plants. While the organic pestecide spray I’m using is definitely killing them, they come back with distressing regularity. I did at least witness the effectiveness of the spray first hand tonight; it seems to kill the aphids within minutes.

Anyhoo, good night and go well!