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Posts Tagged ‘ycgt’

Kalanchoe is (Nearly) Indestructible

You Can Grow That!

Kalanchoe blossoms

Framed against a dirty, south-facing basement window that will soon be blocked by the foliage of outdoor plants, these kalanchoe blossoms exist against all odds. The kalanchoe plants blossom nearly continuously despite receiving little sunlight and sporadic, meager watering.

At least three years ago, I picked up two kalanchoe plants from a vendor who gives away inventory at the end of the spring flower season. Kalanchoe is a succulent that, sadly, isn’t cold-hardy. As a houseplant, however, kalanchoe is indestructible.
In mid spring, I’m pushing hard to get the vegetable garden planted, so I had no time to deal with the kalanchoe. I set it on the only south-facing windowsill in the basement and got on with the gardening.

Actually, the flower pots holding the kalanchoe plants were quite small. I’d add just a little water and it would flow through the soil and out the bottoms of the pots. This was messy, so I considered options for capturing the overflow. Turns out, there was a windowsill planter “lying fallow” near the south-facing window. It was full of soil but without plants growing in it.

Seriously neglected kalanchoe plants

While these look like neglected plants, they’ve experience neglect that would kill a huge number of houseplants. Water runs straight through those tiny flower pots and the soil dries out in a day or two. Still, the plants remain green and in bloom even after three months without watering.

For expediency, I moved the windowsill planter to the south-facing windowsill and set the kalanchoe plants in it. And there they sat.

And there they sit.

My kalanchoe today

Here, years after I acquired them, my kalanchoe plants remain in their original pots. I water them, perhaps, 20 times a year… but not at regular intervals. There have been several three-month periods in which the plants got no attention. The soil has gone dry, light from the window has gone dim (when plants outside the window leaf up in spring, less sunlight comes through the glass), and I’ve added no nutrition by way of plant food or compost.

Pink-flowering Kalanchoe

I picked up this pink-flowered kalanchoe at a bargain price and will plant it between my two white-flowered plants in the windowsill planter that has served for several years to capture excess water. With a bit of attention, these hard-to-kill plants should become a nice accent in my nascent houseplantscape.

Through most of the year, there are flowers on those kalanchoe plants. What’s more, the leaves are always green; they don’t shrivel, they don’t dry out, and they don’t fall off. Oh! And the plants continue to grow larger (if not attractively).

The point: I’ve neglected these plants like no plant I’ve ever owned, and they continue to grow and flower. Imagine how amazing they’d look if I actually took care of them. Actually, that’s the plan. They’ve performed so well, I’m finally going to reward them by moving them into the windowsill planter where they’ll have fresh soil and room to spread. I even bought a contrasting pink-flowering kalanchoe to set between them.

Want a nearly indestructible houseplant that responds to neglect by thriving and flowering against all odds? Try kalanchoe. You can grow that.

 
Small Kitchen Garden – Kalanchoe is (Nearly) Indestructible

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Horseradish Sauce! (Relish?)

You Can Grow That!

Horseradish roots

I dug about a foot into the soil and still had to pull the roots of my horseradish plant. These are just over a foot long and I don’t know how much broke off in the ground.

Remember when I said you can grow horseradish? Do it! My three year horseradish project was very satisfying this Christmas. You might have a similar experience.

In mid autumn, I harvested from my horseradish patch. I’d heard that horseradish is hard to kill; it will take over your yard if you don’t manage it carefully. Harvesting helped me understand the problem.

I dug alongside a root and tried to follow it to its deepest point. Fully a foot into the soil, there was no end in sight and I simply couldn’t dig deeper. So, I pulled and the root broke someplace beneath the bottom of the hole. I suspect the piece left behind will send up a new plant pretty much as a dandelion would under similar circumstances.

Horseradish harvest

I had to break the top of each root I harvested away from the other roots. They were all joined at the top by a raft of root tops and emerging plant stalks.

I dug a second root with similar results. If we used a lot of horseradish, I’d have dug more, but we go through about a half cup of horseradish sauce in a year—pretty much all of that on Christmas Eve.

A horseradish condiment

A few days before Christmas, I took a horseradish root from the refrigerator, rinsed it thoroughly, and used a vegetable peeler to remove the skin. Then I grated the root into the consistency of fine (wet) meal. This I loaded into a one-cup jelly jar; there was a half cup of grated horseradish.

To finish, I added exactly enough white vinegar to soak the horseradish—this involved slowly dribbling in vinegar so the grated root could absorb it. I stopped when the top of the horseradish was obviously moist. Then I covered the jar and set it in the refrigerator.

How we use horseradish

Our traditional Christmas Eve dinner is a beef fondue extravaganza. We cook our own cubes of filet mignon in a fondue pot of hot oil.

Horseradish grater

I shredded the horseradish on the face of my grater that seemed most suited to scraping things rather than shaving them. A single, peeled root generated a half cup of horseradish crumbs.

To prepare, my wife mixes up several meat sauces, a few of which incorporate horseradish. I’ve always bought a jar of pickled, grated horseradish to use in the sauces, but this year my wife used my homemade pickled horseradish. It tasted fine.

It took three years to go from my brother’s garden to my refrigerator to my garden and finally to my dinner table. It’s a very satisfying story to accompany dinner.

Want horseradish to make your own meat sauces? You can grow that!

Grated, pickled horseradish

With just enough vinegar to cover the shredded horseradish, after a few days in the refrigerator the horseradish seemed a bit dry. It was nearly exactly enough to flavor our Christmas Eve beef fondue; this is all that remains.

 
Small Kitchen Garden – You Can Grow That: Horseradish Relish

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Basil Forever!

You Can Grow That!

Basil plant abandoned at a trade show

Among the things left by a vendor packing up after a hort industry trade show was a modest basil plant that I set under lights on my ping-pong table.

I attended a horticulture industry conference in January of this year. When the conference ended, vendors packed up their valuables and left. Some vendors left things behind.

Apparently, when your company produces hundreds of thousands of seedlings for garden centers all over the country, it’s not cost-effective to pack up a few dozen after a trade show and take them back to headquarters.

So, I scored some edible plant seedlings: two rosemary plants, three sage plants, and a basil plant.

Herb seedlings in winter

It’s not convenient to acquire seedlings in January in central Pennsylvania. Last winter was particularly cold, and soil was hard frozen. Without a jackhammer, I couldn’t plant the seedlings outside. And anyway, basil dies when the temperature drops to 32F degrees; in central PA, basil is an annual.

Basil plant and friends on the ping-pong table

Ping-pong never caught on with my kids, and my wife and I haven’t played in years. To-boot, the only south-facing window in my basement illuminates the ping-pong table; it’s a natural place to winter over plants. I hang four-foot-long shop lights from the suspended ceiling to drive 850spectrum fluorescent tubes.

I had some stuff under lights on the ping-pong table—a whole bunch of elephant ears I’d peeled apart from the original corm I’d planted in the spring. It was a simple matter to slip the herbs in among them.

Every now and then I’d harvest a few leaves from the basil plant, and it did OK under lights. Finally, in June I planted the very mature seedling in my herb garden. It didn’t do well, but it grew and between it and a stand of purple basil plants, there was plenty to season salads and sauces. Then winter loomed.

When weather forecasts threatened frost, I cut several stems from the basil plant and stood them in water as you would cut flowers. Years ago I’d done this to hold some sprigs over a few weeks for cooking and was impressed at how easily they’d sprouted roots. This time, roots were my intent.

Basil (and lavender) in the herb garden

The basil wasn’t particularly eye-catching in my garden this summer, so I never once focused my camera on it. However, in several photos, the basil plant provided delightful contrast for the lavender.

Basil forever

The cuttings rooted quickly, and I moved them into flower pots after about four weeks. They’re just now fully acclimated to living in soil, and I’m seeing signs of new growth.

I’ve never grown herbs indoors specifically for cooking. When I have grown them, it’s been as starts for spring planting. This year, however, my basil cuttings are (nearly) entirely about seasoning. Under intense lights, I expect they’ll grow enough to flavor many meals.

I’ll harvest lightly so the cuttings remain strong, and I’ll plant the basil out next June. This will become a rhythm in my gardening year: Set the basil plants in the garden, harvest as-needed, root cuttings in autumn and pot them up, grow them under intense light, harvest modestly through winter, repeat.

It’s easy. You want basil for life? You can grow that.

Basil cuttings root easily in water

Basil is one of the easiest food plants to grow from cuttings. About three weeks in water was enough to produce healthy roots on a tiny sprig.

Freshly-rooted basil seedling under lights

I wonder how a well-managed five-year-old basil plant looks in the landscape. Similarly, I wonder whether a rooted cutting counts as a new plant, or just more of the original. This seedling started as a cutting from my herb garden and should provide seasoning for at least a few meals through the winter.

This link leads to You Can Grow That posts by other garden bloggers.

 
Small Kitchen Garden – You Can Grow That: Basil Forever

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