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Thursday, April 29, 2010

Asparagus Anyone?

Photo: Asparagus Jersey shoots started from seed

If you are lucky enough to have an apartment with an outdoor balcony, chances are your balcony is still not large enough to hold all the plants you want.  I used to stuff my old apartment patio with several plants in various containers, resulting in a chaotic and unattractive space.  I have learned to be more selective in what I grow.

I have turned my attention to decorative, edible plants.  Under the right conditions, asparagus could be a wonderful and unusual apartment gardening jewel.  These mass of spears would look wonderful in the right container, and it will also provide fresh asparagus for future meals.  You can grow ordinary green asparagus or sweeter purple passion asparagus.  It is a perennial so it will continue to grow back each year, spreading more and more.  The down side is that it requires full sun, is a heavy feeder, and if you start them from seed, it will take a few years to grow spears large enough for consumption.  

It is a lot easier to grow asparagus from crowns.  Our local Home Depot were selling asparagus crowns in early spring, which is the ideal time to plant them.  I like a challenge so I started mine from seed.  It is currently in a 4-inch pot, but I will eventually transplant it in a container about a foot deep and two feet wide.  

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Nature's Insect Traps

Purple Pitcher Plant 50 Seeds - Carnivorous -Sarracenia

I know someone who used carnivorous pitcher plants to take care of a mosquito problem he had in his apartment.  Pitcher plants have special organs to capture insects, digest them and absorb the nitrogen and phosphorous that they need.  These plants are beautiful, and are a great non-toxic alternative to chemical sprays.  I plan on purchasing some for my home.  

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Birdie Planter

I came across this pretty, bird shaped bowl at Ross, and I thought it would make an interesting planter.  Ross was selling it 1/2 off for $9.99.  The bowl was somewhat shallow so I planted a drought-tolerant succulent.  I just have to figure out the perfect place to put this.  

Here is a photo of the bird bowl sans plant:


Saturday, April 10, 2010

Plant a Pineapple Head

Photo: Do not plant the fleshy part of the fruit or you will risk the roots rotting

Update: Just plant the green top part of the pineapple in the soil or you risk the root rotting.  Being careful not to hurt your hand, grab the base of the green top and twist.  The green top should easily twist off.  Then remove leaves from the bottom inch (or two inches) of the stem.  Plant the exposed stem in potting soil and water thoroughly.  Place the plant in a shady place, and keep watering your plant.  The plant will take root.  The outer leaves will eventually brown and die, but new leaves will form in the center, and eventually the plant will produce small pineapple fruit. 

Grow a pineapple plant from the top of a pineapple head!

Last Saturday, I had a craving for an "island" burger, which is really just a normal cheeseburger with a nice slice of grilled pineapple.  I had everything to make the burger except the pineapple so I had to ask myself, did I really want an island burger?  It turns out I did so I made a trip to the grocery store for a whole pineapple and some other munchies.

As I was firing up the grill, an idea in one my gardening books jumped out at me---I should try and plant that pineapple head.  According to this book, you can grow a whole new pineapple plant from the top of a pineapple head.  You should plant a pineapple head that is not too ripe, and has leaves that are still green.

My pineapple head's leaves were only partially green so I am curious to see if it still works.  For detailed instructions on planting a pineapple head, you can click here.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Low-Maintenance Housewarming Gift

I returned to Home Depot to pick up one of these succulent collections as a housewarming present for one of my friends.  She is really busy so low-maintenance, drought tolerant succulents was a perfect match for her.

As I was walking to the register, a woman stopped to ask me where I got them from.  She loved them too, and she was surprised they were only about $20.  I am feeling good about my purchase.  I think my friend will love her housewarming gift!

Clean Up Stragglers and Stretch Your $$$
If you happen to get a collection that looks straggly or overgrown, take a sharp knife and cut back the stragglers, but do not throw away these cuttings.  You can turn these cuttings into new plants.  Succulents are easy to propagate.  I normally just stick them in ordinary potting soil and keep the soil warm and moist (but not soggy) until they sprout roots.  If you wish to take the safer route, allow a "scab" to develop over the end of the stem by allowing the cutting to dry out a bit, then dip the cutting in some Rooting Hormone before planting them in the dirt.