Something is attacking the plants in the indoor allotment. I say something because I have yet to identify them.

Mostly they are on the gingers. A careful look will reveal one or two and they are easily rubbed off, and the plants show no sign of damage. But one plant has a heavier infestation and shows the tell-tale mottling of sap-suckers at work. This is one of the few plants that I have not grown from scartch and so is, I suspect the carrier they came in on.

It’s difficult to describe what they look like because they are so tiny. Barely two millimetres in length, and less than half a mil across, they are dark grey with white markings. It difficult to say more.

I brought some home hoping that the micro-camera I have would provide more detail, but they are just too small as the photo with a penny for scale indicates.

Addendum – I quickly found out from my RHS Pest & Diseases – Pippa Greenwood & Andrew Halstead, that they are Banded Palm Thrips

The office allotment has had a few casualties since summer. The lemon verbena and the tarragon did OK to start before quickly growing too soft, pale and leggy. Vietnamese coriander also grew the same way, before falling to red spider mite that must have travelled in on it. All three were binned. The trouble is my office glass has a tint which means that low light levels are even further compromised.

I got fed up with the both the sweet and chilli peppers which grew well, but with soft foliage so that they were overly affected by the aphids which they kept getting. When their flowers continually failed to set fruit, despite my efforts to hand-pollinate them, I got cheesed off and cut them down.

Also an Alpinia that I bought was a secondary victim of my own month-long swine flu episode. The plant arrived by mail at the office while I was sick and seemed fine when I unwrapped it, but gradually died off and went mouldy. This was also partly down to my ignorance in planting it up in a compost that retained too much moisture. It seems to me now that the ginger family cannot really tolerate much moisture when they are little more than a rhizome. Once they have rooted and shooted they are much better.

So left for this winter were my dwarf Cavendish banana, three gingers, pineapple, lemongrass and coffee plant.

Just before Christmas I dug up the Abyssinian banana from Little Boot’s jungle area and dragged it indoors. It sat leafless in the kitchen looking very sad. So on December 30th I potted it into some fresh compost and dragged it into the office. The environment was immediately to its liking and it has gone crazy, throwing out a new leaf roughly every week to ten days.

And lastly, I’ve just added a Zingiber clarkeii – a plant which I have little knowledge of and haven’t been able to discover much about.

I may contact Edinburgh Botanical Gardens on that, as they seem to be the UK place in the know for the ginger family.

(EV = Ensete ventricosum)
You will no doubt be wondering what the thing is in the above image. An over-exposed snap of a piece of grated coconut on a bed of chocolate mousse? A badly taken photo of a peeled banana that has landed in something unpleasant?
Well, the last is nearest the truth because it is the tiny emerging shoot of a Musella lasiocarpa seed I planted four weeks ago.
This is it the next day; it’s showing a remarkable rate of growth.
  

It might seem like a small thing, but it is something I’m immensely proud of, even if it is a fluke. 

You see I have read that this plant, the Golden Lotus Banana, is difficult to germinate. I’ve seen tales of it taking a year or more, and others of just one in a hundred germinating. You will therefore I hope, forgive me if I am a bit smug about getting one out of six to grow in just one lunar month. 

I think the advantage I have over the folk I’ve linked to is that they appear to be in quite hot parts [of the United States], and I am in the middle of a very parky UK winter. You see the plant is found Yunnan province in China, which seems to have quiet a varied climate and certainly has cool periods. 

I do not know about the provenance of the seeds but they will have spent a couple of days at least in chilly post offices and postal vans before they arrived. They then spent a while knocking around in a house that was sparingly heated in the day time and pretty cold in the dead of night. Once planted they spent nights in the propagator at approaching 30° C and days outside it, in the house, which has probably been between 12°C & 18°C in the daytime. I understand that you have to do this temperature alternating with some, but not all, bananas. 

Anyway whatever went right – it worked. 

The plant is sacred to Buddhists and so I’m taking this as a sign of good fortune to come. 

I mentioned a while back a similar fluke which occurred where I had managed to grow a Morinda citrifolia seed. Well that germinating pip is now this handsome little fellow, and before too long will be on its way to the office allotment. 

 

Now, as ever, I’m not claiming any real level of horticultural finesse, but I have managed to germinate two more of them and they do seem to be regarded as a bit tricky – at least outside Hawaii. 

But  what I am wondering is, whether there is some kind of term for someone who is this jammy with germinating seeds?

Following on from the last blog entry there have been a few more exotic edibles arriving at Boot Hall recently.

I’ve got hold of some dried scotch bonnet peppers, partly for the kitchen, but also to liberate some seeds to grow. These are in addition to the three types of chilli I’m already growing. The first are some seeds I’ve saved from “Apache” which is a lovely little, apparently self-fertile, tumbling-formed chilli. It will be interesting to see if they come true. Plus Seeds of Italy’s “Hot Pepper Fuego F1” and one called “Inferno”. The latter I’m hoping will grow to a good size, like “Hungarian Hot Wax“, which is a mild chilli pepper, but large and absolutely perfect for stuffing with feta cheese before baking.

A kind friend recently presented me with a small package containing some pumpkin seeds from India, and also some small bean seeds from the same country. She was not able to tell me anything about either, so it will be fun growing them. As regards the latter my copy of Oriental Vegetables by Joy Larcom tells me that “All oriental beans can be cooked in the same way as French beans when fresh, or like haricot beans when dried.”, so I’m assuming the same applies.

Also included were some okra seeds. I’m not a huge fan of this plant as a vegetable to be honest. I’m kind of with Gordon Ramsey who put it into his TV Room 101 on the basis that it doesn’t taste of anything, and turns into gluey-mush when cooked. But I am definitely inspired into growing it by the discovery that it is a type of Hibiscus, which chimes with my edible and attractive philosophy.

Another foodstuff that definitely fits that is Oca – Oxalis tuberosum. It comes from South America and is apparently a must-have for the groovy grow-your-ownistas. I’m not sure exactly how it arrived on my horticultural radar, but I have been able to lay my hands on small samples of three different types. Pink, White, and predictably, Pink & White.

They are a relative of our native wood sorrel that I mentioned a while, back, and I guess this invasive little pest that I also blogged about. So, like the rest of their clan they have pretty flowers and attractive tri-lobed leaves. But the roots of this one can be eaten.

I am quietly confident it will confuse and irritate the daily-maillotment holders down on my site.

Just before Christmas Little Boots and I had an unintentionally banana-themed day.

It started when we went to get some straw to pack the Musa basju over winter. At the country store LB picked out some sunflower seeds and I found some for Ensete ventricosum.

By the end of the day the Musa was tucked up snug and the Ensete seeds were in soak, ready to go in the propagator. Oh yea, and the Ensete v. “Maurelii” from the ‘jungle area’ had been lifted and was sat in the kitchen – where it spent most of Christmas – much to the annoyance of the OH. It’s now safely ensconced in the ‘office allotment and the threats of divorce have subsided.

Over the holiday period I’ve been mooching around various sites for tips on growing bananas.

Banana growing seems like its own little world with its own language – banana offsets are called pups, small pups are called buttons. The same seems to be true of people who grow gingers. I plan myself to get some different types of edible zingiberaceae for the office allotment and was going to get this book, until I read these comments, where the author gets a bit of a shoeing.

Now I probably shan’t, but will noodle on in my own traditional trial and error way.

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If I find the garlic in the kitchen has started to sprout I often stick a couple of cloves in a pot of compost on the window sill. You don’t get any new bulbs, but the leaves that sprout can be cut and used as chives – albeit with a mild garlic flavour. L-ah-vely.

Cooking Tip – if your garlic cloves have started to sprout you can still cook with them, provided they haven’t gone too far, but remove the shoot or it will taste bitter.

Well, whilst they might like it on the kitchen windowsill the garlic cloves in my office allotment were not a success. They grew well at first but were soon ridiculously leggy and floppy and so have been consigned to the compost heap. The problem is surely one of light as the office glass has a tint to it.

Similarly the French Tarragon is putting on a reasonable amount of growth, but it is soft and pale green – again it doesn’t seem to like the office too much. The Lemongrass however is growing well and has leaves at least a metre tall.

New additions to the indoor plot are Lemon Verbena and Vietnamese coriander. Also added a short while back was a Pineapple plant which I grew myself from the top of a fruit we’d eaten, and is starting to grow away, so that I’m thinking it probably should have been repotted before I took it to the office.

 The biggest success though is the Ginger which first threw up a leaf-spike on Boxing Day 2008, already has two 1m+ shoots and is producing a third which is currently growing at a rate of seven centimetres per day.

I will have to look into the ginger family for more OA candidates.

I kinda have an office allotment.
It started just over a year ago, when I got a midwinter gift of a chilli plant through the post. It wasn’t doing so well at home, as the house wasn’t heated in the daytime, so I brought it into the office. A little while later I added a coffee plant that had grown too big for the kitchen windowsill.
Even though I’m a keen gardener I’ve never been much of one for houseplants. However, these two plants had something in common – they produce edibles (although I don’t hold any expectation of grinding home grown coffee). With this “theme” in mind my indoor allotment has expanded to include a few more types of chilli, along with garlic, lemongrass, ginger, French tarragon and a dwarf banana plant.

 

After reading some of the comments on this blog post I realise how lucky I am.