Sunday, February 22, 2009

Peat Pellets

Using peat pellet is a great way for starting seeds or propagating cuttings. It is very convenient and easy to use.
Peat pellets are compressed peat, a coarse wafer of crushed peat moss with nutrients added. The whole pellet is surrounded by a very thin gauze-like material that is biodegradable and expands with the expanding peat to create a basket of sorts to hold the pod of peat together -- no pots needed. The pellet measurement is 40mm diameter and 8mm thick before adding water.

Put a compressed pellet into warm water and it expands to several times its original size, making it ready for planting immediately. Drop the seeds into the hole at the top of the pellet. When the roots grow through the pellet bottom you plant the pellet. Transplant the seedling by putting the pellets into the garden or into growing containers. This also helps eliminate transplant shock because you aren't disturbing the roots at all.

The following steps outline the procedures for starting seeds in peat pellets.
1. To prepare the pellets for planting, arrange them side by side in a shallow pan. Add enough warm water to cover the pellets, add more water as needed until they are fully expanded.
2. When the pellets have reached their full size, use a needle/pencil point to make one to three shallow planting holes in the top of each pellet (one when the seed is large, three when using smaller seeds), spaced as far apart as possible. Plant the seeds into the holes about 1/4 inch, then press lightly with your thumb to cover the holes. Label each pellet.
3. Cover the containers with plastic. Keep the pellets in a well-lighted area but out of direct sunlight. As soon as the seeds germinate, poke holes in the plastic tent to increase ventilation and prevent overheating.
4. When the pellets begin to turn a lighter brown and dry out, add warm water to the container. Remember that at this stage they have to stay moist but not soaking wet. After germination, reduce watering slightly, but do not let the seedlings dry out.
5. When the seedlings show their second set of right leaves, remove the plastic and reduce watering. Place the containers in a south-facing window where they receive at least six hours of direct sunlight a day. At this stage best temperatures for the seedlings are 60 to 70 degrees during the day, to about 10 degrees at night. Turn the container daily to keep the stems growing straight. Plants are heliotropic, which means they turn toward the light.
6. As the seedlings begin to crowd each other, use scissors to thin them to one per pot, snipping off the weak ones. Don't pull out the extras; you may unintentionally pull up the one you want to keep, because the roots are tangled.
7. Three to four weeks after the seeds have germinated, begin applying diluted liquid fertilizer.
8. When the roots begin to grow through the bottoms of the pots, it's time to transfer them into the garden.

Peat Pellets

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Tropical Papaya Carica

Buah Kundang / Mango Plum / Mini Mango / Ma Phrang (Bouea macrophylla Griff.)

Buah kundang is native to Malaysia. It is very rare fruit which also called mango plus or mini-sized mango. It could be reached in Perak and Perlis State in the country. Buah Kundang is a large tree, to 60 feet (18 m) tall, with a straight trunk and a dense crown. The leaves are opposite, lanceolate to elliptic, from 5-12 inches (13-30.5 cm) long and 2-3 inches (5-7.6 cm) wide, and resemble mango leaves. The small, cream colored flowers are grouped in axillary panicles. The fruits are ovoid, from 3-4 inches (7.6-10 cm) long, yellow to orange, with edible skin and juicy, sweet or sour, orange to red flesh surrounding a single seed. The seed has bright purple cotyledons and is edible. You are bidding the sweet variety of buah kundang.

How to grow
Mango plums should be planted in full sun and well drained soil. Soak the seed in the water overnight before you sow it. Sow the seed directly into the soil with 5 inches depth and cover the seed with soil. The germination need moist soil. It will germinate usually within 2-3 weeks. Need protection from frost during winter. The tree will be damaged for temperature below 32F. The tree loves heat and regular watering in summer so that it can produce high-quality fruit.

The sweet and juicy fruits are often eaten raw. The ripe fruits can also be produced into 'halwa' or jam or dried as snacks, while the young fruits can be prickled or added into 'rojak buah'. The young fruit can also act as a substitute of the Garcinia atroviridis or Tamarindus indica (asam) in preparing 'gulai' and 'sambal belacan' (sweet-sour sauce). The nutrition content of the fruit is Vitamin A, C and diatery fiber.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Oregano (Origanum vulgare)

Oregano, also known as Pot Marjoram is a species of Origanum, native to Europe, the Mediterranean region and southern and central Asia. It is a perennial herb, growing to 20-80 cm tall, with opposite leaves 1-4 cm long. The flowers are purple, 3-4 mm long, produced in erect spikes. It is an important culinary herb. It is particularly widely used in Greek and in South Italy cuisine. It is the leaves that are used in cooking, and the dried herb is often more flavorful than the fresh. It has an aromatic, warm and slightly bitter taste.

How to grow
Oregano need well-drained, neutral to alkaline soil (pH 6-8), Full sun, and water sparingly. In cold climates, grow in a pot and bring indoors in winter. USDA Hardiness zone 5-9. It is easy to grow from seed. Sow the seed on the soil and not to cover the seed. Keep the soil moist and temperature needed is 22 to 27 degree Celsius. Germination time is 7 to 14 days. Sprigs can be cut once the plant has reached 6 inches in height.

Cooking info
Oregano is commonly used in pizza and tomato sauce for its hot peppery flavor. It is also used in egg and cheese dishes as well as breads.

Oregano is high in antioxidant activity, due to a high content of phenolic acids and flavonoids. Additionally, oregano has demonstrated antimicrobial activity against food-borne pathogens such as Listeria monocytogenes. Both of these characteristics may be useful in both health and food preservation. The leaves and flowers are strongly antiseptic and the oil extract taken by mouth is treatment for cold and mild fevers.

Tropical Balsam (Impatiens balsamina)

It is an annual plant growing to 20–75 cm tall, with a thick, but soft stem. The leaves are spirally-arranged, 2.5–9 cm long and 1–2.5 cm broad, with a deeply toothed margin. The flowers are purple, 2.5–5 cm diameter; they are pollinated by bees and other insects, and also by nectar-feeding birds. It is widely cultivated as an ornamental plant, and has become naturalised and invasive on several Pacific Ocean islands.

How to grow
Impatiens balsamina need full sun to partial shade, with a rich moist soil mix with well-drainage. As long as the temperatures stay above 55°F (13°C), the plants will bloom all winter long. Plant space 12-14 inches apart. The seed can be sown directly into the garden. Germination takes 8 to 14 days at 70-degrees F.

The plants are always used as shady beds, borders and woodland gardens. Edging along walks or paths. Containers. Different parts of the plant are used to treat disease and skin afflctions; the leaves, seeds, and stems are also edible if cooked. Juice from balsam leaves treats warts and also snakebite, while the flower can be applied to burns to cool the skin.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Solo Papaya (Hawaiian Papaya)

Fruit round and shallowly furrowed in female plants, pear-shaped in bisexual plants. Weight 1.1 to 2.2 pounds. Skin smooth, flesh firm, reddish-orange, very sweet, of excellent quality. Produces no male plants, only bisexual and female in a 2 to 1 ratio. Introduced into Hawaii from Barbados in 1911. Named Solo in 1919. Solo papayas are easier to harvest because the plants seldom grow taller than 8 feet.

Papayas have exacting climate requirements for vigorous growth and fruit production. They must have warmth throughout the year and will be damaged by light frosts. Brief exposure to 32° F is damaging and prolonged cold without overhead sprinkling will kill the plants. Cold, wet soil is almost always lethal. Cool temperatures will also alter fruit flavor. Papayas make excellent container and greenhouse specimens where soil moisture and temperature can be moderated.

How to grow
Papayas need warmth and a frost-free environment, but can often withstand light freezes with some kind of overhead protection. Sow the seed directly into the well-drained soil. The seed will germinate usually in 2 weeks. Seedling papayas do not transplant well. Plant them in large containers so the seedlings will have to be transplanted only once.

Papayas are ready to harvest when most of the skin is yellow-green. After several days of ripening at room temperature, they will be almost fully yellow and slightly soft to the touch.

Nutrition info
rich source of vitamin A and C.

Purslane (Portulaca oleracea L)

A succulent, sprawling plant of lawns and meadows; flowers inconspicuous, 1/5 inch wide, five yellow petals tucked between the branches, fruit capsules up to 1/4 inch long, filled with tiny, round, black seeds; leaves paddle-shaped, succulent, stalkless 1/2 to 2 inches long, alternate or opposite; stem reddish, succulent, branching, creeping, 4-10 inches long. It is native to india and was a food crop centuries ago.

Purslane is one of my favorite summer vegetables, with a mild, sweet-sour flavor and a chewy texture. Its reddish stem, nearly as thick as a computer cable, creeps along the ground, rarely getting taller than a pint of milk. The stalkless leaves are paddle shaped, about as long as a small paper clip. Blooming in the summer, the 5-petaled, tiny yellow flowers hide between the base of the leaf and the stem. The tiny black seeds are hardly larger than grains of salt. If you look very carefully at the end of summer, you may be able to find them pouring out of tiny capsules smaller than a filling in a tooth.

How to grow
Sow the tiny seed directly on the soil. Keep the soil moist for germination. Temperature should be around 23-27 degree Celsius. Germination will be within a week. Thin the seedlings to 10cm apart and when they reach 5-7cm in height cut them back close to the ground.

Planting season
April to August

Nutrition info
Purslane is known as an excellent source of vitamins A, C and E and the essential amino acids. Reports describe Purslane as a “power food of the future” because of its high nutritive and antioxidant properties. Purslane leaves contain Omega-3 fatty acid which regulate the body’s metabolic activities. Purslane herb is known to have one of the highest known concentrations of Omega-3 fatty acid in any plant. .

Cooking info
Purslane is eaten extensively in soups and salads throughout the Mediterranean area, where the incidence of heart disease is low. The Russians dry and can it for the winter. In Mexico it is called VERDOLAGA and is a favorite comfort food, eaten in an omelet or as a side dish, rolled in tortillas, or dropped by handfuls into soups and stews

Health Benefit
The exciting new health discovery is purslane's high content of alpha linolenic acid, a type of the omega-3 fatty acids. It may affect human health directly, but the most intriguing possibility is that the human body might be able to convert into other, related kinds of omega-3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA) found in fish oils. Researchers see evidence that these substances lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels as well as make the blood less likely to form clots. But ages before this scientific finding, purslane was eaten as treatment for arthritis, inflammation and heart disease and to promote general good health.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Peppermint (Mentha piperita)

Peppermint is a hybrid mint, a cross between the watermint (Mentha aquatica) and spearmint (Mentha spicata). The plant is indigenous in Europe and now widespread in cultivation throughout all regions of the world. It is a herbaceous rhizomatous perennial plant growing to 30–90 cm (12–35 in) tall, with smooth stems, square in cross section. The rhizomes are wide-spreading, fleshy, and bare fibrous roots. The leaves are from 4–9 cm (1.6–3.5 in) long and 1.5–4 cm (0.59–1.6 in) cm broad, dark green with reddish veins, and with an acute apex and coarsely toothed margins. The leaves and stems are usually slightly hairy. The flowers are purple, 6–8 mm (0.24–0.31 in) long, with a four-lobed corolla about 5 mm (0.20 in) diameter; they are produced in whorls (verticillasters) around the stem, forming thick, blunt spikes. Flowering is from mid to late summer.

How to grow
Peppermint generally thrives in shade and expands quickly by underground rhizomes. If you choose to grow peppermint, it is advisable to plant it in a container, otherwise it can rapidly take over a whole garden. It needs a good water supply, and is ideal for planting in part-sun to shade areas. Sow the seed directly into the soil and cover with 1/4 inch of soil, use a rich, well-drained, acidic to neutral soil. Prefer full sun, keep soil moderately moist during germination. The germination time is 1 to 3 weeks.

Peppermint is most excellent for tea because it has a sweeter scent than other mints. Peppermint tea, brewed from the plant leaves, and the essential oil of peppermint are used in traditional medicines. The main volatile components of the essential oil are menthol and menthone. In vitro, peppermint has significant antimicrobial and antiviral activities, strong antioxidant and antitumor actions, and some antiallergenic potential.

Spearmint (Mentha Spicata)

Mentha spicata (Spear Mint or Spearmint) is a species of mint native to much of Europe and southwest Asia, though its exact natural range is uncertain due to extensive early cultivation. It grows in wet soils. It is a herbaceous rhizomatous perennial plant growing 30–100 cm tall, with variably hairless to hairy stems and foliage, and a wide-spreading fleshy underground rhizome. The leaves are 5–9 cm long and 1.5–3 cm broad, with a serrated margin. Spearmint produces flowers in slender spikes, each flower pink or white, 2.5–3 mm long and broad. The flowers are attractive to bees and butterflies.

How to grow
It grows well in nearly all temperate climates. Gardeners often grow it in pots or planters due to its invasive spreading roots. The plant prefers partial shade, but can flourish in full sun to mostly shade. Spearmint is best suited to loamy soils with plenty of organic material. Sow the seed into the moist soil, cover with 1/4 inch of soil, use a rich, well-drained, acidic to neutral soil. Temperature required is 21 to 24 degrees Celsius (70 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit). The germination time is 10-14 days.

Spearmint makes an excellent garnish with desserts. Spearmint is grown for its aromatic and carminative oil, referred to as oil of spearmint. It is used as a flavoring for toothpaste and confectionery, and is sometimes added to shampoos and soaps. In herbalism, spearmint is steeped as tea for the treatment of stomach ache.