I THINK IT MIGHT LIVE

We’ve all had these situations where a special plant almost dies, and then … something happens… and you get soooo very excited, it feels like falling in love again and to borrow a phrase from a favorite friend, you love the thing so much it makes your teeth hurt.

This happened years ago with my lime tree.  It completely defoliated one winter; I had a lot of shit going on in my life and we also had to move out of the apartment building we’d been living in for a decade.  It was early April; no leaves.  I put the plant outside (earlier than normal; had no choice), and left it to die, or not die.  We proceeded with the moving process and after we finished, maybe 10 days later, I came back and checked on the tree.  GUESS WHAT! It had a ton of tiny little purple baby leaves.  I was amazed, so relieved, and so happy.

Here’s the lime, a year and a half after that episode, looking wonderful:

Citrus hystrix, August 2015

So this is now (I think I hope) happening with my lemon that I just got this summer from Four Winds Growers, which is the same place I got the lime tree from maybe 10 years ago.  The lemon arrived in good shape with about 5 fruits on it.  I wasn’t thinking about what its growing conditions might have been at the nursery, so I just put it outside, middle of August, heat waves and all.  I should have hardened it off more carefully, but I didn’t even think.

Here’s the lemon on September 2, about 2 weeks after it arrived:

Meyer lemon, Sept 2, 2017

But unfortunately it really went downhill from there.  It started to get yellow leaves, here and there at first, but then more and more.  The citrus cognoscenti highly recommend a potting mix of what they call 5-1-1.  It’s 5 parts fairly coarse bark, 1 part perlite, and 1 part peat-based regular potting soil.  I made a mix that was more like 5-1-2, because I wanted a little bit more moisture-holding capacity as my citrus plants do spend the whole frost-free season outdoors.  I repotted it into this mix, and it was still looking more or less okay when I first brought it in, albeit more chlorotic.

October 10, 2017, right about when I brought them in

In the pic above, see that little poof of new leaves over on the right side of the lemon? That’s about all that was left; nearly ALL the other leaves have fallen off in the last month since the above picture was taken.

BUT LOOKIT.

Only the new leaves remain and they do not look good, major interveinal chlorosis.

Do you see, on the branch closest to the bottom of the picture here? I’m not great at super close-ups but let me try:

 

Tiny beginnings of new leaves! And yes that’s an ant trap in the pot in the background.  And a scale insect on the lemon, which I only noticed after looking at this picture; that got removed along with several others.  But you guys, this little lemon is covered with tiny leafy bits like this.  Some seem like they might be flowers which I’m not thrilled about, but whatever.

I am very hopeful but also still prepared for disappointment if we have to go that way.

Meanwhile, there are other cool things happening in the indoor grow room.  The pepper I brought in is really thriving and keeps making fruit. Ha!

Pepper who won’t quit

 

And Hibiscus shizopetalus keeps giving me these … I’ve never been a big hibiscus fan but this just does not suck, though they only last a day:

H. schizopetalus

 

And there’s a caterpillar in here which is eating the leaves of the pepper, the Pelargoniums, and African violets.   I find that somehow humorous though I have no idea why.  I guess it’s just funny to me to see insect predation on African violets.  Sure, here’s a pic:

 

See the round holes on the Saintpaulia and the peppers? As I was taking this photo just now I was composing the last line of this post in my head, which was to read, “The pepper and the Pelargonium here are both big plants and I’m never going to find this caterpillar, but that’s okay because they’re all growing quite well and can tolerate a bit of predation.  I’ll just let the thing chew away.”

But then I found it.

Duck food! (chickens are asleep)

All for now.  Wish my little lemon tree good luck.  I’ll keep you posted.

 

The Indoor Garden, 2017-18

This year’s overwintering area has experienced a revamp/relocation.  In previous years, I’ve simply moved tropical houseplants outdoors (where possible) for their summer vacations and then put them back in my house wherever they can fit — hopefully with a reasonable amount of window-light.  But this year, I decided to kick it up a notch.  Yes, there’s some back-story.  I’ll explain.

I do quite a bit of vegetable gardening, and I start almost all plants indoor under lights.  My area for this has historically been right above my washer/dryer which is in a closet off the side of my kitchen.  I’d been using regular shop light fluorescents (two of them) until May of this year, when I finally got a T-5, which is brighter and better! But that posed a problem I hadn’t anticipated: heat.  WAY too much heat! Because it’s a closet-type space, there was nothing I could do to bring the heat down – there just wasn’t enough air circulation capacity even with a fan.  Terrible for things like spinach and fennel, although fine for Solanaceae members such as peppers, tomatoes, eggplants.

I thought about this long and hard and finally decided that the best course of action would be to move the T-5 into my office, which is one of the three bedrooms in our house.  I did that, and then put the regular shop light fluorescents back into the laundry area; they won’t be needed until I start next year’s crop of veg babies anyway. It’s easier for me to add heat than to take it away, in that location.

So here’s what the office looks like right now.  In addition to the T-5, I have one red/blue LED lamp over in the corner for my citrus.

 

The chair belongs to my cats.  When I’m writing these blog posts, this is what is behind me; my computer desk is on the other side of this room.  The room has an east window and gets some actual sunlight in the mornings (if there’s sun).  It’s also the coldest room in my house. But the T-5 might change that…

 

Actual closet plants.  Two of these are plants I’m overwintering for a friend who has less indoor space.  Those are the Hibiscus schizopetalus (middle back, single-stem thing leaning leftward) and the Strelitzia reginae which is lower right here.

Above is a terrible picture of my very favorie plant: Citrus hystrix. I got this almost 10 years ago from Four Winds Growers.  It’s been a wild ride ever since, but this plant is a real trooper and it’s the very first year it has produced fruit to maturity! I’m so excited about that I even got a close-up of just the fruits, with all their knobbiness:

Citrus hystrix, three fruits here

Then there’s the Meyer lemon I received only a couple months ago, also from Four Winds.  It is not looking good.  My friend Paul thought this was a case of “hothouse shock” (I think?), which is when something is grown in really ideal conditions and then gets exposed to more variable conditions and croaks.  I believe it — it looked great when it arrived, but despite all my efforts it has been steadily dropping leaves and declining ever since.  If it dies, this will be the THIRD Meyer lemon I’ll have killed.  Ugh.  I’m about ready to give up.

 

But I’m happy about this.  This is a pepper that I started from seed bought from Territorial Seed Company, out of Eugene area, where I tend to buy all my vegetable seeds.  It’s a mild pepper, no heat actually, variety name is “Yum Yum Gold” and it was a great plant that seemed like the right one to bring in.  I dug it up, washed the native soil off its roots as much as I could, potted it up into Sunshine mix #4, removed all its fruits (there were a LOT!) and here it is a month later, looking awesome.  I’m trying to learn how best to overwinter Capsicum because I want to get good at it with the C. chinense super-hot varieties.  They take longer to mature so overwintering seems likely to be advantageous.. Anyway, this is an experiment with this C. annuum cultivar.  We shall see.

 

Lastly, for this post, here’s a little update on the Saintpaulia that was featured in my very first post on this blog.  It’s doing great! Not wilty anymore, and I couldn’t photograph it so you have to take my word on this, but it has already sprouted a couple of little roots off the crown.  Ahhhh…

 

Thanks for reading.  See you soon!