Tropical Heritage Garden Diary:

May 2013:

1 May:

Mapping the garden

Map of the Southern Garden

The Summer garden (to the south of the house) gets most of the summer sunshine -although there is a visible transition from shade to sun (from north to south) as the season progresses. All of the this garden was originally dug, prepared and planted by Victor, the 80+ year old father of our household helper Penny . He also transplanted some of our Banana trees -and worked on building the house.

The entire area was not very successful. Winter rains flooded most of the main area (labeled with "V") -and in the summer heat the ground turned to concrete. However, remnants of the original grid structure (modified by the presence of tree stumps) remains.

Our neighbour Terri dug up and prepared the area (labeled with "T") that was originally a sprawling patch of Camote (sweet potato) tops. In Baclayon, the tops are eaten as greens and it seems that local conditions do not generally permit the growth of the tubers.

Terri also dug and prepared what was the Casava patch (now labeled "H") which was intended for the first batch of imported Heritage seeds. However, I became impatient and planted mixed greens (Mustard, local cabbage, etc.) in H1. Apart from some Dragon Stir Fry Mix (which arrived late) H2 is largely fallow. H3 actually contains the first heritage sowing (Asparagus beans, Thai Yard Long beans, Okra, Amaranth, Sesame) end February.

2 May:

Will They Germinate?

Image of small floating garden on fishpond

An experimental "Floating Garden" has been put in the Tilapia pond. It was made from a few empty milk cartons taped to a plastic basket to make it float. Half an old T-Shirt was then put in the basket and the whole thing filled with coconut chippings. Originally, it was filled with soil -but this was too heavy and floated too deep in the water.

Then Coriander, Kinchay and Italian Parsley (mixed with a little fine soil to help disperse the seeds) were sown onto the coconut chippings. Hopefully, this will provide a cool and moist environment for seedlings to germinate during very hot weather.

5 May:

 My wife, suggested trying to make a floating garden from a polystyrene bowl -available cheaply in the local supermarket.

The first one I made, had four small holes made on the bottom of the bowl -as in a normal plant pot. Then a piece of cloth to keep the earth from falling out, some earth (mixed with coconut fiber) as ballast -and finally a layer of chopped coconut husk as main growing medium.

The second one I made, had the holes made on the side, about an inch up from the bottom.

When I launched the second one, I noticed the fiorst one was sitting too deep in the water (and the roots will get flooded). Too much soil, I guess -or perhaps the holes in wrong place. Unfortunately, I'd already put some seeds in -so I couldn't change it. I should have tested it first. Wet soil is much heavier than dry soil.

Nothing has started sprouting in the original version (from 2 May) so I've already started sticking in cuttings and stumps from the kitchen, to see if they will grow.

The garden is currently having a very hard time because of the drought.

Making a Mini Floating garden from a Polystyrene Bowl

Constructiong a mini floating garden
            from a polystyrene bowl

Too Much soil?

            mini-floating garden bowls -one with too much soill

6 May:

The two mini floating gardens were sitting too low in the water -so an unperforated bowl was put on the outside of each -while thinking about the next move.

7 May:

Loose One -Win One!

Germination nin one of the
                  mini floats

No germination -but useful for cuttings?

Image of original floating
                  garden with added plant cuttings

What a day!

11:00 AM -No water, no electricity and still no rain.

03:00 PM -Electricity is back -and it's raining! But still no water in the tap.....

Rain at last!

Image of
                  rain in the garden

8 May:

Heritage Seedlings -Planted on April 2

                  of seedlings in paper pots

Non-Heritage Seeds planted earlier

Seedlings planted in coconut shells

Possibly solved the mini floating garden problem: No holes in the bowl, but make the cloth large enough to keep the contents moist through osmosis. No soil needed (or bowl settles too deep in the water) -the cloth also needs trimming to improve balance, reduce weight and prevent too much water retention causing bowl to sink) .

New and original floating gardens were (re) seeded with Dragon Mix.

Amaranth and Eggplant were replanted from paper pots -which were falling apart.

A few drops of rain (enough to dampen garden) fell in the afternoon.

9 May:

The osmosis fed mini floating garden was too deep in the water. Have removed it from the fishpond. A second bowl is probably required as extra flotation chamber. We need to buy one next time we go shopping in town.

More rain in the afternoon. Perhaps the planting season is starting again!

Heritage Eggplant -> T.1B            (Chinese) Spanish pepper -> T.5A

                    of transplanted eggplant and spanish pepper

12 May:

One of the mini floating gardens capsized in the night. The contents were completely lost. I tried using the extra (bowl which was now free) as an extra flotation chamber for the "osmosis" system. However, this made it much too unstable. So the mini float system doesn't seem viable. A pity -because the seeds were germinating very nicely -much better than in the large float.

The tap water supply system is getting better. This evening I watered the southern garden. With the recent (slight) rainfall, the garden is starting to pick up again. We have lost a lot -but not everything. Certainly, plants seem to survive better when there are many growing together so they can provide mutual shade.

Lots of work to do in the garden. Many of the climbing frames (and the low bamboo fences around some plots) have started rotting and are falling over. During the drought, I left everything to fend for itself (except for emergency watering). Now we need to develop a minimal maintenance system.

Most of the transplants seem to be surviving -except the Amaranth, that has disappeared.

Fatima has been experimenting with extracting coconut oil by fermenting coconut milk (we'd been using heat earlier to produce our own oil). She believes the residue is rich in bacteria which are good for the garden -so we've been adding some to the watering can (after letting the water stand all night to allow any chlorine to escape). After a couple of waterings, it is difficult to see if there are any positive or negative effects. Certainly no negative effects visible yet. We use about two tablespoons of "curd" for half a watering can -and leave it for half a day before using.

15 May:

Some of the imported seeds already seem to be stressed by the warm weather and the drought. Some of the recently ordered seeds may be even more sensitive to heat. So I have decided to develop the option of planting them in the shade.

Apart from some shady patches in the "Southern" garden, the "Northern" garden also offers shade. Extra shade can be  developed too by planting under and around banana trees. Perhaps the plants can be of mutual benefit in improving the soil.

Both of these areas need quite a bit of renovation (and preparation). Until now, the areas around the bananas have been uncultivated -and the Northern garden has been largely left untouched (except for harvesting some local Yard Long Beans) since November last year.

Preparing Mini-gardens under Banana trees

Images of
                        preparations for mini gardens under banana

Renovating the Northern Garden

Images of garden plots in various stages of

16 May:

Gave the garden a "Birthday" watering today -before the guests came for a celebratory lunch. Also finished the border on one of the mini gardens (lower left in the three images from 15 May ).

17 May:

Made a new floating garden from a piece of discarded polystyrene. This one had two square holes in the bottom, so I covered the holes with cloth (allowing it to hang down into the water), filled it with coconut husk chippings and sprinkled a few seeds on top (Wansoy , Kinchay, Italian Parsley and Rocket).

The two (surviving) mini-floating gardens have been grounded, but kept damp by placing one pot inside another with pond water inside. Germination seems quite vigorous.

Something is even starting to germinate in the original floating garden. A mint cutting seems quite happy there.

Floating and Ex-floating gardens

Image of new
                        floatinmg garden

Mixed success in the original version

                        few plants growing in older floating garding

18 May:

Some of the (small) fruits on the fallen Papaya tree (10 April) did grow and ripen -but any remaining fruits got crushed when it finally fell to the ground because it was no longer supported by the broken climbing frames. Today, I chopped up the trunk and spread it around in various places where it is needed as a slow compost for other trees. This means that when renovation of the Northern garden is finished, work can begin on tidying up the Southern garden. We are still expecting seeds to arrive by post -ready for planting when the rains get more established.

26 May:

A Range of  Floating and Non-Floating mini-Gardens

A section of
                        (failed) floating gardens

The problem with the floating gardens is getting them to float in a stable position while providing the right amount of moisture to the growing medium (coconut fiber). The wetter the material becomes, the more heavy it becomes -and the deeper it settles into the water, thus encouraging even more water to enter.

The last attempt (from 17 May) quickly became saturated, and when removed from the water, it seems the  cloth had already rotted away -leaving a hole which was not apparent while it was in the water.

A new attempt involves a large empty ice-cream tub, with no holes - but strips of cloth placed underneath the chopped coconut fiber and allowed to hang in the water to provide water by osmosis.

From the way seeds have germinated -it does seem that, despite the problems, some seeds are very happy with the nutrients from the fishpond and the cool environment. Provided their roots do not become too wet.

Coconut Tree garden (started 7 April)

Various mini-gardens
                        around trees

Two new Banana Tree gardens

The Northern garden(s) ready for sowing

Various views of the renovated Northern

Success and failure in the Southern garden

Views of the Southern garden

                       -Plenty of work to do there!

27 May:

The seeds from Fatima's sister arrived today: two packets of Cucumber plus Angled Loofah, small red Radish, Cauliflower and Chinese Chives, from a Taiwanese company. Most seem to germinate at around 30 degrees Celsius -although the Loofah prefers 28 and the chives 20. So we'll have to look for cool places for those two.

28 May:

The weather is grey and overcast with a steady rain today. So it looks as if the next planting season will be starting soon. The inside temperature in the kitchen is now 26 (at around 12 noon). OK for for the Loofah but still warm for the Chinese Chives. Recently, I did see two young (round) Loofahs growing -but the previous sowing has not been very successful. In previous years we have done much better..

 Mapping the Northern Garden

Map of the Northern

The rain stopped around 4 PM .

Peanuts, Mung Beans and seeds for chicken feed were mixed with normal soil dug from the drainage areas around the plots in the southern garden and put in the newly expanded areas (N.1B and N.2D). This is intended to add nutrients to the soil -and break up,the grass growing there, without digging.

The red Radish, Cauliflower and Chinese Chives, plus a few other seeds (Dragon Mix, Peppers, etc..) were mixed with fine soil and broadcast over the two new Banana Mini-gardens and the area around a recently dug compost heap (with cow dung) dug by Terri and Penny elsewhere. Hopefully, the seeds will grow before the chickens find them.

The new (blue) floating garden has sunk. The design obviously needs totally rethinking -or abandoning.

30 May:

Periodic rains have provided good growing weather -although the ground still seemed dry in many places today.

We are still waiting for the delivery of a second order of heritage seeds (order placed around 8 May). I'm told it was dispatched on the 20th of May, so we probably have several days still to wait..

The chickens seem to have done their best to devastate most of the large seeds planted on the 28th. However, some have been missed -particularly Peanuts and maybe some Mung. Some of these (exposed on the surface) seem to be sprouting. The finer seeds (Radish and Chives, etc.) appear both untouched and invisible (as yet)..

Today, some Burmese Okra were put in water to soak overnight, ready for planting tomorrow.

A selection of heritage squash (Lemon Squash, Zucchini-Gray,  White Bush Marrow and Seminole Pumpkin) were soaked for about an hour and then planted (with identifying labels) in the Southern garden in rows V3 and V4.

Additionally, three different types of squash from the local market were planted in various (unmarked)  locations around the garden.  A few squash have survived in the Northern garden (mostly on the compost heap, or under banana trees) -but the squash in the Southern garden all seem to have died in the drought. Some recently planted (market) squash seem to be sprouting in various locations.

We have one small Loofah (Patola) growing by the chicken house fence -but everything seems to be struggling there. The Burmese Okra have done quite well (in the heritage patch) -and the Thai Purple Yardlong Beans looked as if they were reviving -but seem to have died off again. The Cow Peas, and perhaps the Asparagus Beans look as if they may be reviving themselves. One very large Miriah Amaranth (the only one?) seems to be trying hard to bloom and seed, but perhaps not (yet) succeeding. No sign of heritage Eggplants or Peppers (except a few struggling transplants). The four last remaining Pasilla Bajio hot pepper were planted on the 28th! A few suspected Black Seeded Sesame plants have survived -but their identification is not certain. There are a few seeds left of everything, except the Pasilla Bajio peppers. Other native (long) hot peppers seem to be growing (slowly) -but sweet peppers remain difficult.

31 May:

No rain today (by 3.30 PM). Nice growing weather though. Watered the garden this morning and it looks as the recently planted seeds are sprouting (except where eaten by the chickens).

The Burmese Okra were planted in T.4A and T.5A. Three of our own Snake Bean seeds were soaked (for an hour or so) and then planted  so they can grow up the snake bean frame we built earlier. At present, nothing is growing there, except a rather tired Ampalya (and weeds).

Transplanted some seedling Lanzones -to replace those that died.Then planted Rambutan seeds (from Fatima's mother in Manila) in the empty pot. The seeds are probably quite old -so they may not germinate. One Durian seed, recently planted in a pot has a beautiful thick shoot coming out of it. The others (potted at the same time) seem to be rotting. If the tree ever does bear fruit, then I hope it will be better than it's parent, which was not very nice: However, perhaps this came from the packaging -we bought segments wrapped in plastic and not a whole fruit, which is very expensive. Several Citrus seedlings in pots (Lemon, Grapefruit, etc.) seem to be doing well. This morning I put empty (green) coconut husk fragments around several young Citrus trees growing in the garden. We seem to be  growing quite a collection in various places (all from seed).

Also planted the remaining Sunflower seeds (given by Fatima's sister when we visited manila in November).

Finally, as test run, broadcast a mixture of Mustard, Tomato, Hot Pepper and Dumageti Eggplant in patch N.1B


Trevor Batten
 <trevor at tebatt dot net>
 Baclayon 2013