Salad Unlimited

This site was launched this morning, and I have been receiving some very good comments already. Thank you so much to all of you that have taken the time to comment to make my blog better.

My growing have been going on for quite a while now and although my squash plants had never gotten any pollination because of the weather, one vegetable I have been able to enjoy (fresh from the garden) is my endive and red lettuce leaves.

The other night, we had a dinner of BBQ steak bought from the market but we have also been able to sample the lettuce grown hydrologically on my balcony. Of course the plants were not mature enough to be harvested as a whole head of lettuce, but it didn’t stop us from cutting one leave from each plant to make a nice big bowl of salad. Toss them with balsamic vinegar and our own basil olive oil, it’s a dynamic green salad to go with grilled steaks.

Think about this, the lettuce will continue to grow but we can just pick a leaf off everyday to make our salad. My supply will definitely be limitless.

By the way the taste was superb (really blowing my own trumpets here) and what can be crisper and fresher than leaves picked from the plant and served on the plate in a matter of minutes?


Launch of New Site

Today is the launch of this new site for the slow food and slow farming experience. I call this my “Really Slow Cottage” experience.

In the recent issue of Sai Kung Magazine a reader was fretting that there isn’t much written material available in Hong Kong for growing and gardening that takes into consideration of the local climate.

Well, you would have read from my post couple of weeks ago that the weather was really in extreme in Hong Kong and how can one plan for sewing the seeds and growing by reading books and magazine that were written for European or American climate.

Plus, where do you go to find seeds that you are looking for and what soil or medium is best to grow what kind of vegetable. Where can you get your own bag of horse manure? What and how to compost in an urban environment without upsetting you neighbours.

I hope you will find answers to your question here, however, if I haven’t cover what you are looking for yet please feel free to drop me an email. Happy reading!

Frost Bite Basil Plant

The weather has finally let up today. In the last few days it had been raining, fog covered and with temperature in the mid-teen, which I hardly think was frosty conditions. I did not get out and check the seedlings for three days, particularly I was travelling to Macau for Thursday and Friday, and yesterday it was so foggy it was almost like from the scenes of “The Fog” (by Joe Caepenter, 1980, and then remake by Rupert Waiwright, 2005), so I stayed inside all day.

I went out on my balcony this morning, to check on the troops and especially to change and clean the boxes. It was then that I realized about a third of the basil seedling had turned brown and died. That was strange, because they were growing very healthily and some second leaves were coming out, but when I inspected the compost I found a layer of ice on top and that, I suppose, was what had killed my seedlings.

Today, the weather offers the plants a brief reprieve to stretch their leaves and roots. I cleaned the boxes of the nutirent solution and left them empty, for one or two day until the substrate become dry, so that the roots can take up some air. I covered the lid for the basil seedlings, hoping that it will keep the compost warm as the daylight is providing some sort of radiation to heat up the chamber. I will re-inspect them again later this evening to determine if any further actions might be required.

The weather forecast is for raining patches and 85%-90% humidity to continue for next week until Thursday. The temperature is dropping to low-teens again, so I need to be more vigilant with protecting the seedlings.

The brighter side is a report of good health with the endive and red leaves lettuce. Leading the race, though, continues to be by those plants raised in perlite, with eggplants on perlite delivering a few nice speciments. The squash flowers had a hard time with the rain and some flowers had broken off the stem so no luck for any pollination. I will need to germinate more seedling for the summer crop. May be tomorrow, I can do that.

Cruelty to Caterpillars

This morning, when I was getting ready to go to Macau I went around my garden and say good-bye to the troops. Despite the humid weather and constant rain the green off springs of the butterflies were at work. “Were,” is the correct word to use as when I have spotted them I had to do the right thing for my plants, which is to spray soap-water on them.

I use a Carson soap bar, shave the soap with a potatoe peeler and mix them with water in a water spraying bottle, and spray away with impunity. The green worms curled up and shivered and then lied motionless. I can’t watch as it’s becoming on the edge of cruelty. I simply export them to oblivion. 

Having read Nye’s post today about the organic insecticide she mixed with sadao, I am inclined to try it on my garden. But, where can Ifind sadao in Hong Kong? Besides insecticides for organic growing, I would also suggest growing alternative plants in the patch. For example, I have found that by growing basil among the vegetables butterflies are less likely to visit the patch. May be it because of the strong aroma, I am not sure but it’s worth trying.


Backyard Garden Against Nature

As I was writing about the weather in my last post, the extreme wet humidity in the last week, and then the wetness went away with humidity dropped to 70%, but temperature also dropped from 19C to 12C. What can I do? Nothing! One has to live with nature, that may be why our ancestors consult the Almanac to have an equalization force with nature.

Unfortunately, my zucchini flower died without a chance to be fertilized. Therefore no zucchini fruit from that flower. But, I am not totally discouraged as there are many more on their way. In general, that is why we need to have the weather on our side, preferably with sustained low twenty and mild humidity for the plants to flower and for the worker bees to cross-pollinate the flowers.

Zucchini is a summer squash and is in the Cucurbitaceae family (genre) and their flowers can be cross pollinated. To get a pure breed for future planting one must be very careful not to have other species of the same genre to pollinate the flower, however, pollinating the flower for fruiting purpose it’s alright. I have in my garden now different squash, gourd and pumpkin plants and their flowers can be use for pollination with each other. All I need is a good spell of upper teens temperature and sunshine to enable the bees to work.

Having said that, the other morning I’ve found a bunch of illegal vegetable harvesters on my cauliflower and choi shum. How they got into my cauliflower i have no idea because the pot was fenced off with chicken wire. I will have to investigate that later. In the mean time, they were having a whale of good time at my expense, gorging on my fruits of hard work. So I called in the spade patrol, and the green fellows are promptly catapulted to the nearest domain.

Don’t think that I am not fond of the off springs of the butterflies, as they are beautiful to look at when they are grown up, and they are useful to spinner of silk, but they just eat so much and deprived of my family the fruits of my labour. So if it is between them and my familyof couse I will have to choose my own family.

“Move Earth” Says the Chinese Almanac

The Chinese Almanac, which our agricultural ancestors had use throughout the last two thousand years to give advice about planting, has indicated the last two days would be auspicious days for “moving earth” and “start trading”. It’s so happened that these are the wettest days of the month, up to 95% humidity, and you can almost swim in the air. The plants are surviving the dampness, but they do need the sun to expose itself otherwise they will suffocate and die. This is the time I really believe an indoor garden is better for the growing then the outdoor ones. With my portable growing boxes, this is exactly what I will do and taking some of the plants indoor to the warmer and dryer atmosphere to let them have some air.

Endiveplants grown in different media.

The endive that I have transplanted about 4 weeks ago from seedlings are doing fine. The ones that are growing in perlite (珍珠岩) are growing at least 30% biggest than the ones I have planted in compost alone or half compost and half perlite. For this batch of plants I am growing them in a HypoNex high-grade solution that is diluted 1,000 times. I use the measuring cap supplied and used only half of the small cap and dissolve the nutrient in a 2 litre bottle that was recycled from used orange juice container. The nutrient is changes every week or so and the boxes that contain the nutrient are scrubbed and washed with dishwashing liquid.

Living outside the urban area is actually more challenging with the growing environment as there are more insects and pests to deal with on a day-to-day basis. This morning I’ve found a couple of fat green caterpillars munching on my Choi Sum leaves. They are promptly deported to our neighbour’s plot. Well, they don’t really grow anything there so it’s no harm for the green friends to have some dust for breakfast.

So, to follow the suggestion of the almanac, I thought I should plant some seeds to mark the wettest days of the month, or the year, who knows?

Zucchini Flower Opens Today

The seed for this plant was sewn on 3 December last year in a propagator. Each pod was filled by perlit in the base about 1 cm high and then filled up with scientific compose I bought from the Flower Market.

The seedling popped up about 1 week later and by early January it was strong enough so I transplanted the seedling into a pot and raised it in a hydroponic unit.

Last night when I come home, I saw the flower about to open and was hoping that it will this morning. I am not disappointed. Too bad though, dispite it’s about 19C outside it’s raining and so the bees are not working today. I would need more flowers opening anyway to pollinate this plant.

Quickly, I must work, to get the hydroponic bench built and automatic drip pump working.

Actually, since my last report, there’s more salad and flower seedlings coming online to be transplanted. It’s going to be a bountiful season if we continue this pace.

Jocelyn and Ewout on their rooftop garden

On a different note, I went to visit Jocelyn and Ewout last week and had an interesting tour of their rooftop garden. They are participants of the Slow Food Hong Kong movement.

Ewout uses an organic compost bought from the market and grow from seeds sprinkled on the compost. With the richness of the compost and the perfect sunny position on the roof the seedlings are having a wild party out there. Without a doubt, I shall be paying a return visit to their home in a couple of months to sample the deliciously grown products. 

I am particularly impressed that after our conversation, when I told Ewout that I do regularly visit the refuse center near home to savage material to build growing boxes, he actually went out with me to shop at the “bargain basement”. Low and behold, he’s found two discarded plastic shelf units in the waste collection center.

With a couple of holes in the bottom of each drawer for drainage, I said, you can grow even more goodies. Oh, I forgot to add, perhaps a coat of paint too to make each box more interesting. It is truly, “One person’s garbage can be another’s treasure.”