Monday, 22 May 2017

Grapevine flowering in Singapore

I have three grapevines that I bought from World Farm last year. They had grown a lot and as they were new growths, I know that they would not flower last year.

However, I didn't understand or know the method to make them flower. I know that in places whether the grapevines will go through a dormant stage (in winter), they will bud and flower in spring after pruning.

I wasn't sure about how to make them flower in Singapore. We don't have winter here and wonder how to make the grapevine goes through the dormant stage. I just leave the grapevine alone and one day in April, I was pretty annoyed at the way the grapevines had grown. There were few leaves and mostly brown leaves on the vine. Armed with a pruning tool, I cut the vines down to a couple feets tall. I added some compost on the top of the soil and just left it alone. I thought I had killed the grapevines.

In late April, I noticed some buds appearing from the end of the pruned vines. I realised I didn't kill them. After a week, the vines had extended and leaves appeared. I didn't notice the tiny little "flowers" actually were developing inflorescences that came out from the branches. I thought what those things were.

Suddenly, I realised that they were the flowers of the grapevines. I was very excited and continued to research on this. I believed that my grapevines belong to the northern hemisphere type where the bud break at around May. For southern hemisphere type, the bud break will be in September. I have another grapevine which I do not prune. I think I can try it during August to see the effect.

Developing inflorescences
Developing inflorescences
The flowers are very tiny and they are self-pollinating. However, I wanted to make sure that all of the flowers will be pollinated so I took a twiser to pick up one stamen and dusted on all the stigma. I certainly hoped this helped.

Calyptra is shed, liberating pollen
Calyptra is shed, liberating pollen

I think my pruning didn't yield many flowers. Only about 20 flowers appeared. So, in the end, I ended up with only 10 grapes. Well, it is better than none! At least I know that the grapevine will flower in Singapore and I just need to make sure I do the pruning currently to leave a couple of buds of the one year old growth.

I will update the progress of the grape maturing and hopefully the birds will not beat me to it.

Thursday, 9 February 2017

Growing watermelon from seeds

I think it is impossible to grow watermelon in Singapore. This is because watermelon requires a lot of space for it to grow. There are successful cases whether people grow watermelon on a trellis or wall. The fruits can be hanged using old clothes or stockings or nettings.

I remembered my mother used to tell me that growing watermelon in pot or container is futile. She grew watermelon before and there was no fruit in sight.

After researching in the internet and using YouTube, I came to the conclusion that it is possible to grow watermelon in vertical garden using trellis or some kinds of structure to let the watermelon climbed.

One day, I happened to eat a watermelon and I placed the black seeds into the soil. These were from watermelon with red flesh. Two days later, I ate a watermelon with yellow flesh and placed the seeds into the same pot. The seeds germinated but I couldn't tell which one is yellow or red flesh. Too excited and forgotten which one is red.

Anyway, I think it is not an issue. I have four watermelon seedlings in the pot. I was too afraid to remove any of them. The seedlings grew quite well in a couple of weeks and started to throw out flowers. There are two type of flowers, one is male and the other female. Most of the time, you will only see the male flowers. There is nothing much you can do except to look for the female flower. The most obvious difference between the male and female flowers is the small watermelon liked thing beneath the flower. Of course, the next tell-tale sign is the sticky stigma, well, not exactly sticky. Just that there is no pollen on the female flower.

Normally, there is only one female flower among the say one to three male flowers when they bloomed. I would pluck the male flowers and rub the pollen onto the stigma. Make sure that the stigma has been coated with pollen. This would give the watermelon a rounded shape. The flowers will bloom for half a day and close in the late afternoon. When the flowers bloom, just hope that the weather is sunny and not a rainy day. Rain will definitely affect the quality of the pollination.

Watermelon liked flower (female flower) going to bloom
Watermelon liked flower (female flower) going to bloom
After the female flower has been successfully pollinated, the flower will close and in a couple of days, the flower which was pointed up will now point downwards. The watermelon will thus be hanging or lying on the ground.

In my case, due to lack of land, I grew the watermelon in a pot and used structures to let the vines climb. The tendrils can stretch out and twine round the support structures. The leaves can be spaced out to catch the maximum amount of sunlight.

Watermelon developing
Watermelon developing
I started to measure the perimeter of the watermelon each day. In the beginning, the perimeter increased by 1cm each day. However, after two weeks, the size stopped growing. I'm wondering what happened. I understand that the watermelon will ripe in about 50 days or so. If the tendrils dried up, the watermelon has ripen.

Monday, 16 January 2017

Mulberry Plant

I was shopping for groceries at the JEM NTUC Fairprice when I noticed little green "caterpillar liked" things on a small plant. The things looked hairy and didn't appear to be flowers. Upon close examination, it appeared to be some kinds of berries. I wasn't sure what it was. I looked at the label on the pot and it said "Mulberry". It was priced at $7.90. I googled and found out that mulberry is edible when ripe. Interesting. I was curious how the mulberry developed the berries since I didn't see any flowers. The tiny hair liked structures on the berries seemed to be the one that developed the berries. Cool, I think!

Caterpillar liked berries
Caterpillar liked berries

Mulberry Plant @ $7.90
Mulberry Plant @ $7.90

Well, I grabbed the one that looked the healthiest. I was buying something that I had not planted before. I wanted something that is easy to take care and at the end provided abundant amount of fruits. I was really excited and couldn't wait for the little green berries to grow bigger and longer. I acclimatised the plant by placing it in partial shade and then gradually in full direct sunlight. The plant is doing well and some of the green berries started to turn to red. Wait a minute, it seemed to me that the berries were quite small to me. I think that placing them in full sun had accelerated the berries turning red. Oh no... I saw two berries had turned from red to dark purple. I took a leap of faith and washed the berries. I ate them. They had a bit of sourness in them but generally they tasted good. I waited for a couple of hours and nothing bad happened to me. So, they are edible. I was excited.

After a couple of weeks, I cut the long branches away and placed the cuttings into soil to try to propagate them. I believed that by pruning away the branches, it would promote more berries to appear and I was right! After three weeks in full sunlight, receving about at least 6 hours of them, the mulberry plant has bigger and longer berries. Today, I harvest two dark purple berries and they are very sweet.

Dark purple mulberry ready to be eaten
Dark purple mulberry ready to be eaten

Thursday, 7 July 2016

Growing Phalaenopsis orchid at home

Many people thought that growing Phalaenopsis orchid is difficult and some thought it is easy. It is definitely not for beginners unless one has done research on the internet for best method to grow them.

I was guilty of nearly killing one Phalaenopsis orchid when the seller (from a landscaping company) tried to stuff and compact the sphagnum moss with the orchid roots. The seller said that I have to water every day and also on the roots and leaves. In the end, after one month, the roots started to rot and flowers started to wither. It is only after talking to gardeners and researching online that I gain more experience and knowledge.

One pot of Phalaenopsis is about SGD20. A smaller pot will be around SGD15. If you bought it at a higher cost, make sure that it is a unique or special breed. If not, it is not worth it.

Phalaenopsis orchid at World Farm
Phalaenopsis orchid at World Farm
Phalaenopsis orchid at World Farm
Phalaenopsis orchid at World Farm

Care requirements:
  • Water
    • Phalaenopsis does not like to be watered every day. I recommend to water the Phalapenopsis every 10 days using distilled water or rain water. I think tap water is fine if you stage it over a day.
  • Sunlight
    • Do not place them in direct sunlight.
    • They prefer to be in shady places. I placed it in direct sunlight before and it did not do well.
  • Potting medium
    • Use sphagnum moss. Soak them and tuck them around the roots' area.
    • When you bought the orchid, it is
  • Fertilizer
    • Need to use very diluted liquid that is for orchid. I tried to spray the one that I bought from World Farm for orchid only once a month. So far, no ill effect from using it. But I don't recommend you using that on your prized phalaenopsis.
  • Temperature
    • I think normal room temperature is fine.
The flower blooms will last for a couple of months, mine lasted more than 3 months.

Monday, 4 July 2016

Growing Strawberry from seeds in Singapore

Last year, I had tried to grow strawberry from seeds in Singapore. They germinated after 30 days from a pack of strawberry seeds that I had purchased from a local supermarket store. The seedlings grew but after a couple of months, they started to turn red and died. I didn't research much on the internet and had wanted to experience how it would turn out. It was a waste of my time and I thought it is impossible to grow strawberry from seeds in Singapore. Many people have the same idea that it is not possible to grow strawberry in Singapore's weather. But I have decided to start again this June 2016 because of two things.

First thing: I have researched on the internet and found that someone actually grows strawberry successfully from seeds in Singapore. The website is http://sgstrawberries.com/. It has recommended to apply ground coffee to the soil to make it acidic.

Second thing: I bought a strawberry plant from a local nursery, World Farm aka Hua Hng at Bah Soon Pah Road. It is very near to my house and I frequent the nursery often. It was throwing out berries and now it is still flowering. So, it is possible to grow the strawberry in our climate but how about growing from seeds? The plant that I bought is very well established and can survive in our climate and weather. But wait, my research told me that strawberry plant needs at least 8 hours of sunlight as well as cool night. I think the strawberry may be able to adapt to our not so cool night but definitely we have a lot of hours of sunlight.

I still have the remaining seeds from the pack that I used a couple of years ago. I thought might as well use it since it might have expired already. Also, I managed to take a few seeds from the Driscoll's Strawberries that I bought from the supermarket. I used regular potting mix and placed the seeds over the soil and applied a very thin layer of soil to cover them. I placed the pot in a bright area, not under direct sunlight.

After a couple of weeks, the seeds germinated and a number of seedlings emerged. The last time, after the seeds germinated, I had transferred the seedlings too early and caused stress to the seedlings. The seedlings managed to grow for a couple of months and then they called it quit. This time round, I will not make the same mistake.

Strawberry seedlings appeared after a couple of weeks.
Strawberry seedlings appeared after a couple of weeks (21 June 2016)
You will notice a small plant with two leaflets appearing. I noticed that some seedlings were unable to anchor themselves into the soil and will die. I tried to gently push the seedlings to see whether they have anchored to the soil. If it moves, I will try to gently bury the roots. I have saved quite a few seedlings using this method. I saw a few clustered together and wanted to separate them. But I stopped. This is because I don't want to make the same mistake again. I will let the seedlings grow by themselves undisturbed for at least 3 months before transplanting them to individual pot. I will probably remove weaker seedlings to make the survival rate of the seedlings higher. In the sgstrawberries blog, it mentioned to use bottom watering instead of top watering. In this case, I will try the top watering method. Maybe in the next batch, I will try the bottom watering instead. More and more seedlings started to emerge and I was thinking whether I can handle that many strawberry plants. If the seedlings are successful, I will consider to give or sell them away.

More strawberry seedlings after one week
More strawberry seedlings after one week (27 June 2016)
After one week, more seedlings appeared and some earlier seedlings had developed the third and fourth leaflets.

I think it is crucial not to move the seedlings until 3 months later. So, in late September 2016, I hope that the seedlings will become hardier and then I can separate them and pot them into individual pot. I'm quite curious how the seedlings develop their crowns. When you pot them individually, it is important not to bury the crown. I didn't see any image of the seedlings with crowns in the internet. I hope by September, I can take some images of the seedlings with crowns and show people how to separate and bury the seedlings.

The soil that you sow the seeds on is very important. One of my interns has interests in growing strawberry from seeds. He was quite successful in the beginning and the seedlings were quite tall before they died. He started to plant again in May and sent me a photo of his pot of seedlings.

A friend's pot of strawberry seedlings - failed
A friend's pot of strawberry seedlings - failed
The above picture showed a friend's pot of strawberry seedlings that went wrong after a couple of weeks. They all died. I think it is due to the soil that he used. It was too hard for the seedlings and probably not suitable. He is starting a new batch and will share the result soon.

Update: 5 July 2016 Strawberry Seedlings
Update: 5 July 2016 Strawberry Seedlings

More seedlings appeared and they have grown taller. I think I have scattered the seeds too close to each other and there are many clusters of seedlings. I'm resisting to separate the seedlings as I'm afraid that I may injure the young roots and stems. I will leave them to grow and establish their root systems and develop more leaves.

Last weekend, I placed the pot in direct sunlight and I realised that I might have done the wrong thing. However, it did not seem to cause any major problem yet. For now, I will leave the pot in the bright area at my balcony but not under any direct sunlight.

Pot under bright area at the balcony
Pot under bright area at the balcony
I have taken some close-up views of the seedlings. I have one seedling from the Driscoll's strawberry variety and I'm not sure whether it is day-neutral, ever-bearing or June bearing variety. I don't think I will be able to tell unless the seedlings grow into mature plants. If there is a way to identify the seedlings, let me know. Thanks in advance.

Close-up view of the seedlings
Close-up view of the seedlings
The seedling from the Driscoll's strawberry has a red stem as compared to the rest which have green stems. I remembered I grew some strawberry previously and they were also red stems. Let's see whether the rest of the seedlings change the colour of the stems in the next few weeks.

Driscoll's strawberry seedling has a red stem
Driscoll's strawberry seedling has a red stem
Recently, I chanced upon a post from www.igardenplanting.com and gotten the permission from Dianne to share her post on my blog. It is "How To Grow Strawberries and 10 Best Strawberry Recipes".

Monday, 21 March 2016

Vertical Garden Project DIY

In one of my earlier posts, I mentioned that I was going to make a vertical garden by myself. Well, finally, over the last two weekends, I had completed the project. I had chosen to use a single pole hanger instead of the aluminium frame. The reason is that it is cheaper as the hanger costs $12.90.



The things that I bought for my vertical garden:

(1) Single pole hanger stand from Giants at $12.90 (promotional price). Usual price is $19.90
(2) Wall planter hanging pockets (18 pockets) - 2pieces at $21 per piece (via eBay.com)
(3) 3 poles from Daiso (@$2 each)
(4) Felt (black colour) 70cm x 60cm from Daiso (@$2 each). Each felt (70cm x 60cm) can cut into 4 pieces of 12"x12".
(5) Base pot - $98 from World Farm
(6) Many plants (ranging from $3 to $12) from World Farm
(7) Cable ties

I setup the hanger stand and then tied the poles to the hanger to make a frame for the hanging pockets. I have two of the pockets to cover the hanger. The hanger is slightly smaller at 86cm instead of 100 cm for the two pockets. So the two edges of the pockets will be hanging without support.



I placed the base pot of plants on the shoe rack of the hanger. This will act as a support to secure the hanger upright and not topple over due to the weight of the hanging plants. We got a good deal at the World Farm because just the pot alone will cost us $90. We got the whole pot with plants for only $98. The pot is quite heavy and we needed two persons to carry it.



Next, we needed a lot of plants to cover the 36 pockets. We had little time over the weekend at World Farm. We just grabbed the plants that we thought would be great on the vertical garden. While I was choosing the plant, I would take a photo of the name and price.












The World Farm provides free delivery if the total amount after GST is above $200. We managed to exceed the amount by a bit after we added a Bougainvillea grafted mushroom shaped @ $68. As we live in the area, World Farm was able to deliver in the afternoon on the same day. Whew! I didn't have to put all the plants and Bougainvillea into my car. We left the World Farm at about 12.45pm. The plants were delivered by 2.30pm. The worker there was quite helpful and the purchase was a pleasant one.




The Bougainvillea was in a mess, many branches protruding out of the mushroom dome. I used some green coloured wires and managed to neaten the Bougainvillea back to its mushroom shape. There were many dried twigs and I had removed quite a number. I was afraid that any colour branch might have dried up and I would loose one colour. Currently, there are four colours on the graft. Maybe if I can find other colour (say blue), I can graft it onto the root stock.
The four colours are:
  1. White
  2. Chilli Red
  3. Orange
  4. Pink



Ok, enough on the Bougainvillea, next time, I will blog on the Bougainvillea and maybe I will start my grafting of another pot using many colours.

I had all the plants that I needed and I had cut the felt sheet (70cm x 60cm) into 4 pieces (12" x 12"). There are 36 pockets, so I will need 9 felt sheets. You can get the black felt sheets at Daiso for $2 each. You may use other colours but I prefer black since soil is black in colour. I was tempted to use green but in the end, I used black.

Take one felt sheet (12" x 12") and lay it on the floor with one corner towards you. Remember to lay some protective covers below so that it will not be too messy to clean after you have completed the vertical garden.



Fold the opposite corner toward the centre.


Place some soil onto the folded area.


Remove the plant from the container or wrapper and loosen the soil to remove some of them. We don't want to have too much soil in the felt and pocket.


Place the plant with the root ball below the folded edge. Flip up the corner facing you towards the centre.


Flip up the folded edge towards the top.


Fold the right corner towards the left side.


Fold the left side towards the right.


Tie the folded felt with a rubber band.


Place the wrapped plant into the wall planter pocket one at a time. You can remove and re-arrange them when you have completed the 36 pockets. You can probably skip one or two pockets where the plants are too big and have covered the area. 


Finally, all 36 pockets had been filled up. The bottom left portion where the money plants are is a bit bare. I had actually split the money plants into two portions (to reduce cost) and I knew that the money plant will grow pretty fast to cover that area.


After I had completed the vertical garden, it was time to water them. I used a watering can with pointed mouth so that I can target the soil easily while watering. I tried not to water too much as the excess water will flow downwards. I will monitor the vertical garden plants to see whether they are comfortable at their present locations. I will probably need to experience a bit and move them to the suitable locations on the wall.

Thursday, 3 March 2016

How to get rid of white flies on Hibiscus Plant

Recently, I had white flies on my Hibiscus Plant. They were growing in numbers and had caused some damages to the leaves of the Hibiscus Plant. There was black dust on the leaves and I thought that it was due to the pollution in the air or some renovation works from my neighbours. However, after checking the internet for information on the white flies, I realised that the white flies will excrete honeydew after they fed on the plant sap.

I was going to buy some pesticides in the local floral shop until I saw the formula in the internet. I was sceptical at first and thought that it might not work. In my workplace, there is IPA which is Isopropyl Alcohol available.

The formula for one litre spray is:
(1) 2 parts IPA
(2) 5 parts water
(3) 15ml of liquid detergent

I don't have one litre spray, I only have a 300ml spray. I just make sure that the ratio of the IPA:Water is 1:2.5 and then the liquid detergent, I just estimated.

After putting all the ingredients into the spray can, I shook it a little to make sure that they were dissolved and sprayed onto the leaves. I sprayed the underneath of the leaves to cover the eggs and larvae. Some of the liquids did drip into the soil and I hope it would not damage the plant. I sprayed it in the morning before the sunlight became too strong. I left the plant alone for the whole day.

The next morning, I checked the plant and discovered that the white flies were gone. The eggs and larvae had dried up and were destroyed by the spray. I noticed that some leaves turned yellow and I assumed that it was due to the liquid. I will keep on monitoring the plant to see any stress that it might have.