Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Fast Growing Snow Peas

Snow pea seedlings

Earlier this month I planted some seeds. Before the month is over, the snow peas are clearly the winner in growth. Mizuna takes second place, and green onions take last place. Onion do grow slow by nature but they get big. It's amazing how a tiny seed grows into a big onion. Last week, it almost felt like summer but this week is back to windy rainy winter weather. The plants are going to be so confused! I am confused!

Mizuna seedlings

The warm weather in the past 2 weeks have triggered many cherry trees into early bloom. The pink pedals are all over the streets. My peach and Asian pear trees are both growing new buds. I still need to prune the peach tree. I need to do that as soon as possible. There is a 50% chance of rain tomorrow. This is the perfect weather for grafting.

Asian pear buds

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Vanishing Bees

The bees had disappeared in a week

Back on May 2, 2010, I participated in bee swarm capture for the first time. The bee colony we captured had lived on Merritt College campus for just under 2 years. Last month we opened the bee box and the entire colony had disappeared. Master Ken told us that the bees were still in the box a week ago when he checked on it. He said there could be many reasons why the bees decided to abandon their hive. There was still a lot of honey left in the hive, which we would harvest as a class and share among us. In addition to honey, we would also harvest the wax, which was regarded even more valuable than honey in the past.

The disappearance of the bees troubles me greatly. I have been reading about collapse colony disorder (CCD) since it was first discovered in 2006. I have read that it mostly affects commercial beehives and not beehives that people keep in their backyards. I hope that is still the case. In order to better educate myself in honeybees, I checked out a few books from San Francisco Public Library when I happened to be in neighborhood. One of the book is called A short History of the Honey Bee, which I think is an excellent book for someone who enjoys leisure reading. The author, "E. Readicker-Henderson is a beekeeper turned regular writer and contributor to National Geographic Traveler, Sierra, and others,..." He describes the taste of raw local honey beautifully, which brings tears to my eyes.

I also looked for documentaries on honeybee and found full episode of Silence of the Bees on From the documentary, I learned that in Maoxian county of Sichuan, China, people have to pollinate their fruit trees because they have lost their bees due to heavy use of pesticide. Can you imagine that? Can you imagine that you can't have an apple unless you pollinate apple blossoms one by one? That is frightening to imagine.

I now have a new goal for 2012.

Watch Silence of the Bees on PBS. See more from Nature.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Collecting Basil Seeds

For the past year, I grew my basil in a pot so that when winter came, I could bring it indoors. My pot of basil did thrive all year long. With the early arrival of spring, I thought I would take the basil outside to repot it into a bigger pot. I started breaking off some of the long stems with flowers and noticed little black seeds inside of each flower. I was very excited at this discovery and immediately grabbed a little container to collect some seeds.

Each tiny flower contains 3-4 seeds. Now it became obvious to me that basil is a self-pollinator since this pot of basil has been inside of the green house most of the time. No bees have come in contact with the flowers.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Planting New Seeds

Mizuna, shungiku, and New Zealand spinach

Recently I swapped some seeds with my new neighbor who's also a gardening enthusiast. I got seeds for 3 vegetables that I have never planted before - mizuna, shungiku, and New Zealand spinach. The only one I wasn't sure of is shungiku, so I looked it up on Wikipedia. It is also known as Garland chrysanthemum! Oh no!!!!! I had this before and didn't like it; however, I know my parents like it, so it will go to them. I was surprised by the size of New Zealand spinach seeds. They are a lot bigger than Bloomsdale spinach seeds, which I have planted many times. I looked up New Zealand spinach on Wikipedia, and it turned out to be a leafy ground cover that tastes like spinach.

 New Zealand spinach seeds

Spinach has always been one of my favorite vegetables, so I have no doubt that I'll like New Zealand spinach. I think I had it once. A guest at one of Master Ken's potlucks brought some leafy greens sauteed with garlic. I liked it a lot and asked her what vegetable it was. She explained it to me and told me that she picked the greens in a park near her house. She told me they were very common in the park. I was very intrigued by it; unfortunately, I haven't ran into that woman again. I believe the dish I had was sauteed New Zealand spinach. I wouldn't mind having the entire backyard covered by it.

I also planted a few kabocha, snow peas, and white Lisbon onions. I covered up all the planted seeds with bird netting because I know both birds and squirrels would come steal the seeds. The weather today in the 60's (F), so I will leave the newly planted cell packs outside. I may need to bring them into the green house if the temperature drops again.

Bird netting covering the cell packs.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Beneficial Beast in the Green House

After taking a long break from Master Ken's Sunday gardening classes, I am now back in the green house on Merritt College campus. This past Sunday we cleared out all the dead plants, propagated rooted plants, and made new cuttings. While we were busy clipping, potting, and misting, Master Ken came through one of the doors announcing that he just found a "beneficial beast"! Everyone gathered to see what he was talking about. He extended his arms and opened up his hands. There was a brown Pacific Tree Frog in his palm. He told us that this frog is definitely beneficial to us because it eats bugs in the green house. After he showed us the frog, he put it back in the back green house where it was discovered.