Wednesday, June 29, 2011

ULAM RAJA against all odds: a story from London

I wrote about Ulam Raja, will it ever get to London on Tuesday, April 26, 2011 as I mailed a packet of ulam raja seeds to a blogging friend in London. It's almost two months now, then an email came.....

Dear Bangchik and Kakdah
The ulam rajah has arrived safely, thank you very much.  I have to tell you a story of its survival against all odds....
Firstly it ended up next door (postman's mistake) and they were on holidays, then when it came to the right address but then my partner accidentally picked it up with some empty envelopes and threw it into the bin - alamak!  I had just started a new job and was too busy to check my mail until the weekend.  That's when I was told about mail from Malaysia. We searched high and low and finally decided to go outside and pull out all the black bin bags, opening each one up, wearing gloves and sifting through the rubbish for that precious envelope!  Thank goodness that you had packed the seeds in a plastic bag :)
Secondly I must apologise profusely for not letting you know earlier that I've got it, about 3 weeks ago.  A friend was dying from cancer and my free time was taken up with helping out in his garden, staking up his tomatoes and cucumbers in his greenhouse as he was bed-ridden. He passed away last week and it was very sad to say good-bye to a fellow gardener.  We used to swap seedlings and talk about growing vegetables.  I used to look after his plants when he  and his wife go on holidays.
Anyway, things are calming down at this end and I shall be updating my blog which has been neglected. I did plant out the ulam rajah, placing an upturned plastic box over the tray as a make-shift cloche. Today was the first time I ventured out into the garden and would you believe it, there are 5 ulam rajah seedlings! I'll put them into pots tomorrow when the weather is drier and continue growing them under the cloche.  It has been bucketing down for 2 weeks. I'm very excited about this project and will write about it as one of my blog entries.
Terima kasih.

I hope our blogging friend doesn't mind having the whole email posted here. It's not about the letter on its grammatical merits, but its about the trouble ulam raja seeds had to endure, to finally rest in germinating pots in London.  Stories of hardship as prelude to success is always sweet and makes us feel better and stronger, ready to face the whole big stressful life.

bangchik and kakdah

Monday, June 27, 2011

ROOFTOP GARDENING : gearing for a big harvest.

Chili plants are flowering, and buds appear all over. And that is a sure promise of  good harvest next month.  The team is going into collaboration with other parties on related research works; on environmental issues, temperate climate gardening, complete manual on standard operating procedure.  They are also starting on Corporate Social Responsibility program by organising  one-day workshop on chili growing next week for 25 pax for free.

The last two weeks, the weather was a bit windy. One day, the wind was so strong, that plants were flattened. Surprisingly, the next day all rose up and stayed upright til today. Coconut husk as growing media in a way gave roots and stems some flexibility. On real soil, I think stems will be snapped into two and roots broken.

rows of chili centil

rows of chili centil

rows of chili centil

another view

Chili centil flower

rows of chili centil, rooftop gardening

rows of chili centil, with silver liner

rows of chili centil, without silver liner.

Chili centil, pointing upwards

So, everyone is keeping  fingers crossed, hoping weather will be kinder for weeks to come and pests stay away as far as they can. The first harvest will be officiated by the Dato Sri Mustapha Mohamed on 23rd of July.... and there will be a little bit of fanfare for the community.

Earlier posts on rooftop gardening.

bangchik and kakdah

Thanks Nawawi for the lovely photos.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Blue flower of Thunbergia erecta (King's Mantle)

Kakdah remembered the flower the moment she saw it. Her childhood days rushed in and she recalled a few of these plants over in Sitiawan. She doesn't know the name so did the restaurant lady. For the moment I shall name the plant, pokok serombong biru....

It was during our trip to Cherating that we came across this beautiful bushy shrub, green leaves with beautiful blue bell shaped flowers, about 4 inches long, as we stopped for a cuppa at one of the roadside restaurant. The soil is sandy, I guess that's the natural habitat for this lovely plant. She gave a few branches.  In the end 10 of them rooted. Now two are flowering....

Flower is blue (or is it purple)

5 petals, yellow in the middle

The center of the flower is glowing

 Flower is too big for the stem and leaves

Some of us may have grown this plant, and know it's name.

{ the name is   Thunbergia erecta (King's Mantle), thanks to blogging friends }

bangchik and kakdah

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Tomato in two pots

This is the first attempt with tomato over at the new garden in Tanah Merah. The approach is different. Over in Putrajaya Home, they were grown in the ground, once a while I will put one or two in container. I have been so familiar with growing vegetables in the ground. Container is a different ball of game.

Now we have two growing in brown ceramic pots, watered five times a day automatically. I wasn't very consistent with fertilizing lately. I sprayed EM lavishly  three days ago. It will be fun to see if EM can spring them back to better fruiting.  The two  are bearing thumb-sized tomato now...., and more will be coming.



the two potted tomato


bangchik and kakdah

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Kangkong white flowers and eventual seeds

water spinach

White flowers of kangkong

kangkong's fruits.

Once the fruit dry up, it can be opened.
 There should be a few seeds inside.

bangchik and kakdah

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Roselle surrendering to red bugs

 I saw thousands of red bugs all over roselle plants while doing grass cutting around papaya and roselle. I didn't count of course, but it is definitely more than hundreds.... They were everywhere, leaves, fruits, stems. It must have been during my busy weeks that these colony got out of hand, and swelled to such quantity. There were big red bugs with wings, there were wingless bugs with big belly and there were tiny ones too, their little kids. It should be three or four generations staying and making roselle plants their first 5 star hotel. Roselle juice must be too tempting to them, and the plants provide such excellent camourflage for their hideout.....
about the red bugs

Common name: red cotton bug,
Sci name: Dysdercus cingulatus.
( Thanks Andrea )

Red bugs

Red bugs

red bugs over at mimosa

red bugs

The seven roselle plants were pulled out

Okra / lady's finger / bendi replacing the empty spot.

I got rid of all red bugs, and chopped all roselle plants. Like going to a battle when both side suffered.  A new entity comes in to fill the vacumn, OKRA/ lady's fingers / bendi / kacang meo. We have been seeing this..., birth upon death.

bangchik and kakdah

Friday, June 17, 2011

When you are a hobby gardener not a businessman.

With plants you care about, there is somewhat a bond. You tend to remember them individually, the one that grows tallest, the biggest, the badly affected by pests, the one with biggest fruit and so on. Like children at home, you know the differences, their liking and dislike, and their specific inclinations. Children and plants are changing...  In modern leadership concept, there is one element called change leadership. Gardening is all about going for change...... for better or for worse., and the gardener is managing the change to his/her best.

Months ago, Izam a friend with IT business mentioned about my little vegetable garden blog through the eye of a businessman. He mentioned about how a blog can be turned into money spinning adventure. I said, I need three months to work it out. Now, three months is over, yet I am still sitting on it. I am still a gardener.

 Last two weeks, a lady came to buy Kakdah orchids....., Kakdah said orchids are not for sale...., then the lady asked for a stevia plant, and paid 10 RM. Kakdah has no attachment to stevia plants, at least not in the scale with her orchids. The lady mentioned about her previous purchase of three stevia plants from Cameron Highlands and all died within a month.

Keladi, I have not decided where to plant them.

Keladi, a close-up

Kakdah, her daughter and grandchildren

Recently a friend Zali asked for the whole tray of Kiwi seedlings (about 80) and paid 20 RM. Those are our babies, so when Zali took the whole tray away, it made us sad in a way. On Kiwi, I am happy,  knowing Zali will make it big........... No one seems to be growing Kiwi in Kelantan, so Zali will definitely make it big and big!

Kakdah loves her orchids and flowers, and I love the rest of the plants, vegetables especially. To be a businessman or businesswoman, you must be nonchalant about plants...., the attachment, the bond must be as little as possible otherwise you just can't sell plants, fruits, seedlings or any harvest at all.

kakdah's orchid

bangchik and kakdah

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

rooftop vegetable gardening: chili flowering

Chili plants are flowering,
with the first fruit already out.
and everything is going on well, 
set for the first harvest
next month.

Sea of chili centil

chili centil, with silver shine sheet.

chili centil

cili centil

close up of chili centil

On this section, no silver shine is used.

The first chili centil

They set up a small clinic to handle infested plants. Not many are affected, 3 out of 800 should be considered negligible by normal farming practice.  Two plants were affected by "kutu terip" and had recuperated well after proper medication. Another one was affected by little bugs ~ brownish in colour, when pressed green juice came out from their little bodies.  Nazri will take the sample to the expert soon.

Izmar ( Hydro Garden), the counterpart from Kuantan came last week. He gave a "thumbs up" seeing how the whole rooftop gardening gearing up, after spending two hours checking the plants. 

Today, Tokgawa Adnan and Arief came to view things as a prelude on the scheduled harvesting ceremony to be officiated by the local minister TokPa around third week of July. The crowd for that day is expected to be about 1000.  To spice up the harvesting ceremony, many activities are planned; colouring competition on chili plants for the kindergarden kids, essay competition on "green" for secondary school students in Kelantan, photo competition on "green" for students of higher learning institutions nationwide, 
and not forgetting vegetable and fruits basket arrangements for the ladies.  
A group is looking into media blitz with TV ,
radio and newspaper as a run-up.  

Rooftop gardening requires some kind of  exposure to be accepted in Malaysia.

bangchik and kakdah, Tanah Merah Kelantan.

Monday, June 13, 2011

ASSESSING THE LAWN: six months after

It's slightly over six months now, since we first embarked on spot turfing project at Tanah Merah home.  Cowgrass is endemic to Malaysia, therefore it should find it natural to grow and spread. Every time we cut the grass, fertiliser will be applied, the normal granular NPK. The lawn stays green and healthy. I think give it a couple of years, there should be enough organic matter of dead leaves and grass chips for the lawn to survive without additional fertiliser.

Freshly cut lawn, with 4 papaya in the middle
 The four papaya are growing alright, almost in chorus, adjusting themselves to similar height and growth. The other day I saw little white flowers, but they dropped off, probably that's their way of learning.  The seven roselle plants were just cut to make way for okra/lady's fingers/bendi/kacang meo.

Lawn and papaya at lower angle
Farah and Ramli came along with Adlina, Adli and Alia and spent the whole weekend with us. Kakdah was very happy. Adlina is now 4, Adli is 2, and Alia is 4 month old ~ the three grandchildren.


Adlina and Adli went along to Rantau Panjang.

Adlina, on the lawn, in front of grandma orchid house.

Cowgrass will not offer clinical finish, immaculate kind of lawn.  But it is adequate for our home, to add green as background to our little vegetable garden. It should look decent with regular cut twice a month, but the busy schedule may push grass cutting low in the priority list. What's more important, Adlina can give a special pose!.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Giant Sunflower, three of them

It's giant sunflower, that's what written on the seed packets, a giveaway from Diana; a PhD researcher, a keen gardener, the mother of Rayyan. We have been waiting how high they will reach up to, and how big will the flowers be. So in the end, the seeds reveal their true DNA make-up. One reach up to 8 feet, the other two about 6 feet.

Then I wonder if ordinary sunflowers will become giants if they are overfed. If human succumbs to obesity, I suppose plants should too, as what keen pumpkin growers had been showing as they come out with 100kg giant size harvest. If human can get rid of the extra fat through regular exercise or fat extract or serious dieting program, I am thinking if plants could do the same, on their own free will. Or they have safety mechanism in their system refraining from going beyond their DNA specification....

Giant Sunflower, three in a row

Giant Sunflower. the one on the left.  

Giant Sunflower. The tallest at 8 feet.

The middle sunflower is bending heavily, almost forming a complete letter "C". The left one is still showing its blooming stage and the right one is shooting higher than the rest, with a lot of flower buds branching out. Three giant sunflowers with characters of their own. Fantastika. Thanks Diana.
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