Thursday, March 31, 2011

Cheap ways under 20RM to decorate your balcony

In the next few posts I'll be writing about different cost-effective ways to beautify your balcony. Today, all the ways cost less than twenty ringgits.

1. Stools and stones


1kg bags of stones can be bought for as little as RM2.50 and used in many ways. Above you can see how my daughter and I decorated the top of the plant. If you don't want to add in little plants, the stones can look great and protect the plant from losing too much water too soon as well. My daughter also likes to collect shells and stones from any rivers and beaches we go to which have the added advantage of being free and they can look great in the garden too.

I got the stools from Ace Hardware for RM14.99. Very cost effective. They advertised themselves as great for children or to hold plants. My idea was as little tables next to our cushions for afternoon tea.

2. Bamboo arches


I got these arches for just over RM11. Three in one pack. I got them for my syngonium which loves to trail up the wall and everywhere. The problem with that is it pulls the paint off. So I thought the bamboo will give it something to do. The other two I want to use for my tomatoes when I sprout them. There were other types too. Straight bamboo and willow branches. All about RM3 - RM10.

3. Tall Planter


I saw this idea in a book on small garden ideas that I got yesterday. It had little grape hyacinths in it. It's a great idea for a balcony where vertical gardening can really provide abundance where horizontal surfaces can't. I haven't got plants for it yet, but I wanted to see if I could do it for less than RM20 and I did.

Wire netting RM3-5 per meter. You need less than half a meter.
dirt - RM2.90 a bag. You need two.
Pot - RM5
lining - paper - priced accordingly or free if you use newspaper.

It was very easy to put together. Prices can go up depending on the pot you use and the lining. The book had used sphagnum moss to line the netting. I couldn't find any and I think it it's a bit expensive so I used a thin coconut matting which is too thin. I had bought a thicker coconut matting which had been too thick. Newspaper could be a good option. As long as it's something you can poke holes into.

What ideas have you used for less than RM20?

In the next post; ideas for less than RM50

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Creating Humidity

After reading up about Goldie and finding out that she needs humidity I thought I'd try it for her and my orchids. My Orchids, as I've mentioned before, seem to be in stasis at the moment and I want to encourage them to grow. So, using things that I had around the home, I got started.
I used:
Big pebbles
small fish bowl pebbles
a plastic tray
Abate insecticide for water features

I had these things already, but they're easy to get at Ace Hardware or other garden/pet centres. I got the tray from Ikea. It was very cheap.

I put the different sized pebbles in the tray. I'm buzzed that I got a tray that matches the paint on my balcony. My daughter enjoyed arranging it all. She also took the first three photos.


Sprinkled the Abate over them. It says to re-do it every two - three months


Added water


Voila!


This is the base of Goldie's pot.You can just see the pebbles underneath. I added a sachet of Abate to this too.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

I've found it!!

I'm very excited because I've finally found out the name of a plant that I've had for about five years, pictured below.



It's simply known as Pseuderanthemum reticulatum or by its simpler common names of Yellow-Vein Eranthemum and Golden Pseuderanthemum! Phew, I don't think those names will be flowing from my lips in a hurry. But it's great because now I can research it properly and improve my care of it.

Before I carry on though, all credit for finding the name goes to a lovely lady called Jacq who's listed in my blog list. She found it in a book that she just got called Tropical Horticulture & Gardening. We'd both tried googling it, but couldn't find the picture anywhere. Now I can find it everywhere! So thank you Jacq.

So far, what I've learned is:

1. It likes sunny to partial shade. Does best in bright indirect sunlight coming from the South/East/West. I have sun from the west, so great.

2. Likes a bit of humidity

3. Even watering and fertilizing every fortnight.

Nothing new really as my 'Golden Pseuderanthemum' (maybe I should nickname her Goldie) really lets me know when she wasn't happy. She curls up her leaves and drops them in the space of days if she was throwing a tantrum. But I like one idea about making it more humid and that is adding pebbles in her water tray and keep it filled with water to increase humidity. I'll have to put mosquito pesticide in it too though. I might try it with my orchids as well, as they aren't too happy right now. They aren't dying, but they aren't growing either.

I'm thrilled to find out her name. Goldie's a lovely plant and her flowers are very pretty. I got her when I went to Bukit Tinggi Botanical Garden and Japanese tea garden. Lovely place. I had another one, but it sadly died in January when all my plants had to stay inside. Most of them weren't happy, but the goldies acted like pre-schoolers kicking and screaming on the floor. All the leaves dropped pretty rapidly and then the stems started going brown. Thankfully, one didn't give up entirely and I managed to get her out in time. Pruned her back to the green and away she went.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Not so well

Hi, I've been a bit sick over the past four days and nothing that I've wanted to do on my blog has come to fruition. But I have been making tea from my Karpuravalli plant. My daughter has been enjoying plucking the leaves and turning it into a medicine for me. I feel very looked after.

Hope to have much more soon.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Learning moment with chilli and garlic

As you probably know, I've been spraying my plants with the chilli and garlic pesticide and it's been working fabulously. In the last three weeks I've only seen one large white pest, which I dealt with swiftly, otherwise nothing. All was going well until I saw brown patches on my bird's nest fern. The chilli or garlic had burnt it! I felt devastated. As I mentioned in my last blog, my fern was just recuperating from being moved about, new swirls were coming through and here I go and burn it.
I checked all my other plants and they're fine. They actually seem to be thriving on it. So it's just the fern. I won't be spraying it again.

As it is, I can be thankful for two things:

1. The bird's nest fern is quite pest resistant anyway with broad leaves that can easily be wiped (which she likes).

2. All the other plants, which are far more prone to pests, love it.

Poor thing
You can even see the trails from the liquid.


The hibiscus on the other hand is reaching for the sky. No blemishes whatsoever.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Tradescantia pallida 'Purple Heart'

One of my favourite plants with its dark purple leaves, light pink flowers and trailing vines, Purple Heart has been a wonderful variation in colour on my balcony. Much to my distress though, in the last six months it's been struggling with some kind of infestation of either a type of fungi or a parasite. If it's the latter, I can't see it, but the colour of the leaves has been stripped to a pale green and the leaves are curling and growing crooked. It's always loved direct sunlight and doesn't like to be too wet. I've managed to confirm that in my research, which also tells me that it's relatively disease and problem free! And for the last six years it has been. Its long vines flowing down the sides of the pot earned it the nickname, Rapunzel.
Normally, with an infestation I just cut the plant right back and it usually works. This time it just comes back the same. Two weeks ago, when I started spraying my plants with my homemade chilly spray, I sprayed Rapunzel too and it seems to be working!! So here's keeping our fingers crossed.

Rapunzel at her worst


Getting better - so here's hoping.


Wee flowers on a shrub I got from the Genting Highlands Botanical gardens shop. It came with a weird parasite that took a year to eradicate. But she's all free of it now. I mainly took them off by hand and pruned back any infestations. Thankfully, it was never interested in any of the other plants which made it easier to deal with.


My Bird's Nest fern's new shoots.


She is very fussy and reacts strongly if moved to a spot she doesn't like. She hated being stuck in the house while the building was being painted a few months back. It wasn't until she was back in her favourite spot did she put out more shoots to replace the leaves I'd pruned way back in November last year.

Here's a peek at my friend's balcony which I hope to feature soon.


We had wanted to get some evening pictures in the warm light of sinking sun, but it decided to rain instead. So hopefully next time.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Herbs and their friends

I've had some difficulty growing herbs here in the tropics as I don't know whether I'm giving them too much water, or not enough. A lot of them find it tough as they aren't naturally used to the humidity, but when I saw some lovely plants in the supermarket, I had to try again. This time I thought I'd do it differently.
Firstly, I didn't put them immediately out on my balcony. I left them in my kitchen, which is dark when not being used, for a few days to have some quiet time and to acclimatise to the humidity. I don't know where they were grown, but they'd been in the supermarket air conditioning for several days at least.

While they were sitting there, I tried to research herbs in the tropics and found this useful page http://en.allexperts.com/q/Herbs-720/2008/3/Herbs-tropics.htm. which has some good general information and a list of individual herbs as well. What I got from it was the new plants should be watered daily for the first week, that most of them seem to prefer morning sunshine and they need shelter from heavy rain. The first was easy, but the second was hard - I face west, so my plants get the harsher afternoon sun. Most of my current plants like that. My bird's nest fern, for example, adores it and sulked when I was living facing east for a while.

So, with that in mind, I decided to plant them in with established plants that will temper the sun by giving them some shade yet not cover them completely, and will also give them some protection from the local heavy downpours and strong winds.

So far, they seem to be going quite well, which is great. So now, I want to go and get more!

The basil with my red hibiscus


Basil loves the sun, but it has soft stems, so I paired these two as the hibiscus is bushy and will protect the basil from the wind and rain, but it isn't so high that it'll block all the sun.


The chives and the white hibiscus


I felt that I didn't have to worry too much about the wind with the chives as its leaves are very resilient, but I was concerned about the rain and the strong early afternoon sun. So I paired it with my white hibiscus which will give protection from overhead, but not block the lovely late afternoon sun.


The French tarragon and its local companion


The tarragon (on the right) has woody stems and is fairly strong, but I wanted protection for it as it settles in and gets going. I think it will eventually tower over its partner, but they will give each other support. I don't know the name of the local herb. I was told its properties, but not the name. If anyone can tell me, I'd really appreciate it.


And these are my spinach seedlings.


They are ready to be transplanted to other pots and places. I think I'll pair them up with others as well, as I don't have enough space!! But they grow really easily, the only thing is not to let them grow too big as their roots take over the pot and you can't pull them out without emptying the pot. That's fine if they're by themselves, but tough if they're with other plants.