Thursday, 7 July 2016

Growing Phalaenopsis orchid at home

Many people thought that growing Phalaenopsis orchid is difficult and some thought it is easy. It is definitely not for beginners unless one has done research on the internet for best method to grow them.

I was guilty of nearly killing one Phalaenopsis orchid when the seller (from a landscaping company) tried to stuff and compact the sphagnum moss with the orchid roots. The seller said that I have to water every day and also on the roots and leaves. In the end, after one month, the roots started to rot and flowers started to wither. It is only after talking to gardeners and researching online that I gain more experience and knowledge.

One pot of Phalaenopsis is about SGD20. A smaller pot will be around SGD15. If you bought it at a higher cost, make sure that it is a unique or special breed. If not, it is not worth it.

Phalaenopsis orchid at World Farm
Phalaenopsis orchid at World Farm
Phalaenopsis orchid at World Farm
Phalaenopsis orchid at World Farm

Care requirements:
  • Water
    • Phalaenopsis does not like to be watered every day. I recommend to water the Phalapenopsis every 10 days using distilled water or rain water. I think tap water is fine if you stage it over a day.
  • Sunlight
    • Do not place them in direct sunlight.
    • They prefer to be in shady places. I placed it in direct sunlight before and it did not do well.
  • Potting medium
    • Use sphagnum moss. Soak them and tuck them around the roots' area.
    • When you bought the orchid, it is
  • Fertilizer
    • Need to use very diluted liquid that is for orchid. I tried to spray the one that I bought from World Farm for orchid only once a month. So far, no ill effect from using it. But I don't recommend you using that on your prized phalaenopsis.
  • Temperature
    • I think normal room temperature is fine.
The flower blooms will last for a couple of months, mine lasted more than 3 months.

Monday, 4 July 2016

Growing Strawberry from seeds in Singapore

Last year, I had tried to grow strawberry from seeds in Singapore. They germinated after 30 days from a pack of strawberry seeds that I had purchased from a local supermarket store. The seedlings grew but after a couple of months, they started to turn red and died. I didn't research much on the internet and had wanted to experience how it would turn out. It was a waste of my time and I thought it is impossible to grow strawberry from seeds in Singapore. Many people have the same idea that it is not possible to grow strawberry in Singapore's weather. But I have decided to start again this June 2016 because of two things.

First thing: I have researched on the internet and found that someone actually grows strawberry successfully from seeds in Singapore. The website is http://sgstrawberries.com/. It has recommended to apply ground coffee to the soil to make it acidic.

Second thing: I bought a strawberry plant from a local nursery, World Farm aka Hua Hng at Bah Soon Pah Road. It is very near to my house and I frequent the nursery often. It was throwing out berries and now it is still flowering. So, it is possible to grow the strawberry in our climate but how about growing from seeds? The plant that I bought is very well established and can survive in our climate and weather. But wait, my research told me that strawberry plant needs at least 8 hours of sunlight as well as cool night. I think the strawberry may be able to adapt to our not so cool night but definitely we have a lot of hours of sunlight.

I still have the remaining seeds from the pack that I used a couple of years ago. I thought might as well use it since it might have expired already. Also, I managed to take a few seeds from the Driscoll's Strawberries that I bought from the supermarket. I used regular potting mix and placed the seeds over the soil and applied a very thin layer of soil to cover them. I placed the pot in a bright area, not under direct sunlight.

After a couple of weeks, the seeds germinated and a number of seedlings emerged. The last time, after the seeds germinated, I had transferred the seedlings too early and caused stress to the seedlings. The seedlings managed to grow for a couple of months and then they called it quit. This time round, I will not make the same mistake.

Strawberry seedlings appeared after a couple of weeks.
Strawberry seedlings appeared after a couple of weeks (21 June 2016)
You will notice a small plant with two leaflets appearing. I noticed that some seedlings were unable to anchor themselves into the soil and will die. I tried to gently push the seedlings to see whether they have anchored to the soil. If it moves, I will try to gently bury the roots. I have saved quite a few seedlings using this method. I saw a few clustered together and wanted to separate them. But I stopped. This is because I don't want to make the same mistake again. I will let the seedlings grow by themselves undisturbed for at least 3 months before transplanting them to individual pot. I will probably remove weaker seedlings to make the survival rate of the seedlings higher. In the sgstrawberries blog, it mentioned to use bottom watering instead of top watering. In this case, I will try the top watering method. Maybe in the next batch, I will try the bottom watering instead. More and more seedlings started to emerge and I was thinking whether I can handle that many strawberry plants. If the seedlings are successful, I will consider to give or sell them away.

More strawberry seedlings after one week
More strawberry seedlings after one week (27 June 2016)
After one week, more seedlings appeared and some earlier seedlings had developed the third and fourth leaflets.

I think it is crucial not to move the seedlings until 3 months later. So, in late September 2016, I hope that the seedlings will become hardier and then I can separate them and pot them into individual pot. I'm quite curious how the seedlings develop their crowns. When you pot them individually, it is important not to bury the crown. I didn't see any image of the seedlings with crowns in the internet. I hope by September, I can take some images of the seedlings with crowns and show people how to separate and bury the seedlings.

The soil that you sow the seeds on is very important. One of my interns has interests in growing strawberry from seeds. He was quite successful in the beginning and the seedlings were quite tall before they died. He started to plant again in May and sent me a photo of his pot of seedlings.

A friend's pot of strawberry seedlings - failed
A friend's pot of strawberry seedlings - failed
The above picture showed a friend's pot of strawberry seedlings that went wrong after a couple of weeks. They all died. I think it is due to the soil that he used. It was too hard for the seedlings and probably not suitable. He is starting a new batch and will share the result soon.

Update: 5 July 2016 Strawberry Seedlings
Update: 5 July 2016 Strawberry Seedlings

More seedlings appeared and they have grown taller. I think I have scattered the seeds too close to each other and there are many clusters of seedlings. I'm resisting to separate the seedlings as I'm afraid that I may injure the young roots and stems. I will leave them to grow and establish their root systems and develop more leaves.

Last weekend, I placed the pot in direct sunlight and I realised that I might have done the wrong thing. However, it did not seem to cause any major problem yet. For now, I will leave the pot in the bright area at my balcony but not under any direct sunlight.

Pot under bright area at the balcony
Pot under bright area at the balcony
I have taken some close-up views of the seedlings. I have one seedling from the Driscoll's strawberry variety and I'm not sure whether it is day-neutral, ever-bearing or June bearing variety. I don't think I will be able to tell unless the seedlings grow into mature plants. If there is a way to identify the seedlings, let me know. Thanks in advance.

Close-up view of the seedlings
Close-up view of the seedlings
The seedling from the Driscoll's strawberry has a red stem as compared to the rest which have green stems. I remembered I grew some strawberry previously and they were also red stems. Let's see whether the rest of the seedlings change the colour of the stems in the next few weeks.

Driscoll's strawberry seedling has a red stem
Driscoll's strawberry seedling has a red stem

Monday, 21 March 2016

Vertical Garden Project DIY

In one of my earlier posts, I mentioned that I was going to make a vertical garden by myself. Well, finally, over the last two weekends, I had completed the project. I had chosen to use a single pole hanger instead of the aluminium frame. The reason is that it is cheaper as the hanger costs $12.90.



The things that I bought for my vertical garden:

(1) Single pole hanger stand from Giants at $12.90 (promotional price). Usual price is $19.90
(2) Wall planter hanging pockets (18 pockets) - 2pieces at $21 per piece (via eBay.com)
(3) 3 poles from Daiso (@$2 each)
(4) Felt (black colour) 70cm x 60cm from Daiso (@$2 each). Each felt (70cm x 60cm) can cut into 4 pieces of 12"x12".
(5) Base pot - $98 from World Farm
(6) Many plants (ranging from $3 to $12) from World Farm
(7) Cable ties

I setup the hanger stand and then tied the poles to the hanger to make a frame for the hanging pockets. I have two of the pockets to cover the hanger. The hanger is slightly smaller at 86cm instead of 100 cm for the two pockets. So the two edges of the pockets will be hanging without support.



I placed the base pot of plants on the shoe rack of the hanger. This will act as a support to secure the hanger upright and not topple over due to the weight of the hanging plants. We got a good deal at the World Farm because just the pot alone will cost us $90. We got the whole pot with plants for only $98. The pot is quite heavy and we needed two persons to carry it.



Next, we needed a lot of plants to cover the 36 pockets. We had little time over the weekend at World Farm. We just grabbed the plants that we thought would be great on the vertical garden. While I was choosing the plant, I would take a photo of the name and price.












The World Farm provides free delivery if the total amount after GST is above $200. We managed to exceed the amount by a bit after we added a Bougainvillea grafted mushroom shaped @ $68. As we live in the area, World Farm was able to deliver in the afternoon on the same day. Whew! I didn't have to put all the plants and Bougainvillea into my car. We left the World Farm at about 12.45pm. The plants were delivered by 2.30pm. The worker there was quite helpful and the purchase was a pleasant one.




The Bougainvillea was in a mess, many branches protruding out of the mushroom dome. I used some green coloured wires and managed to neaten the Bougainvillea back to its mushroom shape. There were many dried twigs and I had removed quite a number. I was afraid that any colour branch might have dried up and I would loose one colour. Currently, there are four colours on the graft. Maybe if I can find other colour (say blue), I can graft it onto the root stock.
The four colours are:
  1. White
  2. Chilli Red
  3. Orange
  4. Pink



Ok, enough on the Bougainvillea, next time, I will blog on the Bougainvillea and maybe I will start my grafting of another pot using many colours.

I had all the plants that I needed and I had cut the felt sheet (70cm x 60cm) into 4 pieces (12" x 12"). There are 36 pockets, so I will need 9 felt sheets. You can get the black felt sheets at Daiso for $2 each. You may use other colours but I prefer black since soil is black in colour. I was tempted to use green but in the end, I used black.

Take one felt sheet (12" x 12") and lay it on the floor with one corner towards you. Remember to lay some protective covers below so that it will not be too messy to clean after you have completed the vertical garden.



Fold the opposite corner toward the centre.


Place some soil onto the folded area.


Remove the plant from the container or wrapper and loosen the soil to remove some of them. We don't want to have too much soil in the felt and pocket.


Place the plant with the root ball below the folded edge. Flip up the corner facing you towards the centre.


Flip up the folded edge towards the top.


Fold the right corner towards the left side.


Fold the left side towards the right.


Tie the folded felt with a rubber band.


Place the wrapped plant into the wall planter pocket one at a time. You can remove and re-arrange them when you have completed the 36 pockets. You can probably skip one or two pockets where the plants are too big and have covered the area. 


Finally, all 36 pockets had been filled up. The bottom left portion where the money plants are is a bit bare. I had actually split the money plants into two portions (to reduce cost) and I knew that the money plant will grow pretty fast to cover that area.


After I had completed the vertical garden, it was time to water them. I used a watering can with pointed mouth so that I can target the soil easily while watering. I tried not to water too much as the excess water will flow downwards. I will monitor the vertical garden plants to see whether they are comfortable at their present locations. I will probably need to experience a bit and move them to the suitable locations on the wall.

Thursday, 3 March 2016

How to get rid of white flies on Hibiscus Plant

Recently, I had white flies on my Hibiscus Plant. They were growing in numbers and had caused some damages to the leaves of the Hibiscus Plant. There was black dust on the leaves and I thought that it was due to the pollution in the air or some renovation works from my neighbours. However, after checking the internet for information on the white flies, I realised that the white flies will excrete honeydew after they fed on the plant sap.

I was going to buy some pesticides in the local floral shop until I saw the formula in the internet. I was sceptical at first and thought that it might not work. In my workplace, there is IPA which is Isopropyl Alcohol available.

The formula for one litre spray is:
(1) 2 parts IPA
(2) 5 parts water
(3) 15ml of liquid detergent

I don't have one litre spray, I only have a 300ml spray. I just make sure that the ratio of the IPA:Water is 1:2.5 and then the liquid detergent, I just estimated.

After putting all the ingredients into the spray can, I shook it a little to make sure that they were dissolved and sprayed onto the leaves. I sprayed the underneath of the leaves to cover the eggs and larvae. Some of the liquids did drip into the soil and I hope it would not damage the plant. I sprayed it in the morning before the sunlight became too strong. I left the plant alone for the whole day.

The next morning, I checked the plant and discovered that the white flies were gone. The eggs and larvae had dried up and were destroyed by the spray. I noticed that some leaves turned yellow and I assumed that it was due to the liquid. I will keep on monitoring the plant to see any stress that it might have.

Thursday, 28 January 2016

Avocado leaf browning, what is wrong?

I have placed my avocado seedlings on my window sill in my previous house. They were growing quite well and I didn't notice any abnormalities. However, I had to move house and I took them down from the window sill and notice that there are leaves turning brown. I'm not sure whether it is caused by salt accumulation or too much water.

As the new house has a big balcony which has at least 7 hours of direct sunlight, I'm afraid that it will burn the leaves. I bought new pots (bigger) and a couple of kilograms of garden soil. I just removed the seedling from the old pot together with the soil and placed it into the new bigger pot. I added the new garden soil around the perimeter to top-up the soil to the empty area.

I chose garden soil as I thought that it will be better than the commercialised potting soil. I will monitor closely and changed the soil if the plants are in stress.

I have three seedlings that have grown quite a bit and I placed one seedling in full direct sunlight and the remaining two in partial sunlight. Below are two photos that showed the leaves turning brown partially and not at the tip of the leaf. I was thinking of sun-burning of the leaves due to the intense sunlight but I'm not sure. Anyone has experience in this kind of problem? Please share and advise.


Leaf turning brown - what is the cause?
Leaf turning brown - what is the cause?



Leaf turning brown - what is the cause?
Leaf turning brown - what is the cause?

Monday, 4 January 2016

Air Layering of Hibiscus Plant

On new year's eve, I tried to propagate my Yellow Hibiscus Plant. This Yellow Hibiscus is pretty and had bloomed 5 flowers already. It is still producing buds for flowering. I tried to pollinate the flowers but failed. The "ovaries" would drop from the stalks after a couple of days. It is very difficult to pollinate the flowers.


I made two cuts on a woody branch that has no bud. I peeled the bark away between the two cuts to expose the white area. Under the bark, the branch is green and you need to cut or scrape the green surface away. Try not to do too much as it may break the branch. I cut a hole in a plastic bag and inserted the branch into the hole.


I tied the end of the plastic bag with a wire to secure the base with the branch. This is to prevent the sphagnum moss from coming out of the bag.


I used a swap to apply the rooting hormone onto the white surface of the branch.


Applying the rooting hormone on the exposed branch area.


I have pre-soaked the sphagnum moss in water for a few hours. Squeezed dry the sphagnum moss but they are still moist. Wrapped the moist sphagnum moss over the branch and covered it with the plastic bag.



Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Yellow Hibiscus Plant

We came across this Yellow Hibiscus plant in a market. The yellow flower was big and attractive and it immediately caught our attention. The plant is just only $5 per pot. We bought it and brought it home.
 
Yellow Hibiscus Plant
Yellow Hibiscus Plant


Yellow Hibiscus Flower
Yellow Hibiscus Flower

According to the internet, the YellowHibiscus is a flowering shrub that grows on all the Hawaiian islands except Ni’ihau and Kaho’olawe. All three subspecies of the yellow hibiscus are listed as endangered species. Even in Hawaii, the plant is rare. I don’t think it is endangered as I have seen them here in Singapore and many places. Probably it is endangered in Hawaii.
 
The first thing I noticed is the large bright yellow flower. There are a couple of buds on the plant waiting to bloom.
 


Withered flower
Withered flower
 
The flower lasted only about 2 days and then it will wither and drop off from the flower stalk. The ovary is left and if it is successful in the pollination process, it will develop into a pod with seeds. If it is unsuccessful, it will drop off when it is still green. The "ovary" dropped off after two days, so it is not unsuccessful.
 
Hibiscus "ovary"
Hibiscus "ovary"
 
After the "ovary" dropped off, I checked the soil and it was dried. I watered the soil and made sure that the excess water was drained away from the bottom of the pot. I thought that it might be that the plant was under stress as it had been moved from one place to another.

Two more flowers bloomed and I used a cotton swab to transfer the pollen across from one flower to the other and vice versa. The pollens are sticky and they are quite difficult to transfer to the stigma of the pistil. The stigma is also sticky and the pollens get stuck on them.

After two days, the flowers withered and I'm hoping for the pollination to be successful. From the internet, it seems that the pollination is not usually successful and will depend on many factors. Today, I saw one of the "ovary" dropped from the plant. The other is still on the plant and I hope that this one will develop into seed pod.


One "ovary" dropped
One "ovary" dropped.