Thursday, September 29, 2011

Civet cats in the kitchen

We occasionally get visits from civet cats, (the local variety is the Asian Palm Civet, aka Paradoxurus hermaphroditus). Normally it comes by itself and eats some of the stuff we have in the bowl where we leave material for the compost bin, but one morning there were three little ones (kittens?) in a corner of the roof of the wet kitchen.
Asian palm civet malaysia kitchen

They stayed there for more than an hour. I suppose they had been parked in a corner by their mother. They didn't move from the corner and just looked curiously at us, looking back at them :)
Asian palm civet malaysia kitchen

(P.S. This is the first post in ages, as I have finally submitted my thesis!! Will try to post more regularly in future.)

Monday, February 1, 2010

On an extended leave of absence...

phd comics
(Source: PHD Comics by jorge cham)

Thanks for dropping by :)

I am now in the process of writing up my PhD, and will only be able to do very intermittent updates of this blog. Please explore the archives (below right) for our experiences in organic tropical gardening and, if you like, visit my other blog anthroblogia where I will be posting a bit more often.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Organic mealy bug repellent

In the previous post I identified the Papaya mealy bug - Paracoccus Marginatus on our papaya.

So - I checked out what are the possible organic responses and found some good resources:

PAN Germany: Describes the uses of chili

Golden Harvest Organics: A list of insects and pests, and appropriate organic repellents

Canadian Country Woman: Describes various bug sprays

The Urban Gardener, and A Canadian in King Parakramabahu's Court recommend neem oil, which I haven't tried yet.

So - I decided to use chili, as we have a regularly producing organic chili plant, and garlic (from the market).

This was the harvest
organic chili garlic insect repellent

chopped up with garlic - it smelt nice! :)
organic chili garlic insect repellent

and put in a jar to steep in the sun (because I was too lazy to boil it, which would probably be more effective)
organic chili garlic insect repellent

and then I strained it, and diluted with some water and biodegradable washing up liquid. I used an old surface cleaner spray bottle (WW's idea, instead of buying a new one) to spray it on.
organic chili garlic insect repellent

One papaya was too far gone already,
papaya attacked by mealy bugs malaysia

so we pulled it up and burnt the top :( For the other ones, we first sprayed off the bugs with water, then sprayed on the repellent.

James Missier commented on a previous post that some ants can bring mealy bugs onto plants.
ants with mealy bugs papaya malaysia

I don't know if these ants brought them, but they certainly were found wherever there were mealy bugs
ants with mealy bugs papaya malaysia

I know that ants are perhaps the only other species, apart from humans, that have 'domesticated' other animals for their own purposes. And it's pretty fascinating. But not on my plants! Argh! :/
ants with mealy bugs papaya malaysia

Anyway, I'm happy to say that after spraying every two-three days for about a week, there don't seem to be any more bugs (touching wood).

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Papaya mealy bug - Paracoccus Marginatus

A while ago, WW noticed some white stuff on our papayas, and eventually I got round to looking closer
papaya mealy bug malaysia

clusters of foam, it seemed like to me, and I wasn't sure if it was a real problem or not... but it spread
papaya mealy bug malaysia

and it was clearly affecting the growth...
papaya mealy bug malaysia

a closer look revealed what looked like eggs
papaya mealy bug malaysia

but I still couldn't see the bugs... I thought I spotted it with this brown beetle-like insect, but it was only when I looked at the photos afterwards, that I noticed the white fluffy-like insects.
papaya mealy bug malaysia

Upon investigation, I'm somewhat concerned to find out that it is an invasive Papaya mealy bug - Paracoccus Marginatus. It doesn't restrict itself to papaya, and it's a "polyphagous sucking insect pest and has been recorded on more than sixty host plants in India." (The Hindu); 'polyphagous' means it eats different types of fruit and plants, and A Canadian in King Parakramabahu's Court (in Sri Lanka) reports it attacking lime trees, curry leaf and jasmine! Argh!

There's a detailed paper on this (by Alison Walker, Marjorie Hoy and Dale Meyerdirk), describing how it originated in Central America, has moved into Asia and tropical regions... It can be controlled by the introduction of other insects or "parasitoids", but that ain't much use to me...

Stay tuned for an attempt at organic control of this pest. All advice is welcome.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Identifying a palm tree

Apart from the Ptychosperma macarthurii (Macarthur palms), we have a couple of palms that are apparently somewhat uncommon, and I'm trying to identify them. They've grown to about 6-8 metres, and are in a clump like the Macarthur palm, though they don't bend outwards in the same way.
identify yellow palm malaysia

The closest I can find is Dypsis lutescens, but even there the trunk is not yellow enough.
identify yellow palm malaysia

I also got some photos of the flowers, which attract bees
palm flower bee
palm flower bee

and the fruit which is a deep purple
identify yellow palm fruit malaysia

Does anyone have any idea of what it is? Any help is welcome!

*Update 29/10/09*
Thanks to the commenter anthrome below, and to the helpful people at Palm Talk, our palm tree is confirmed as a Euterpe olearcea aka Acai, apparently the palm hearts and berries are edible too! Gonna have to try that some time.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Philippine lawn grass seeding

Our lawn leaves much to be desired - initially it was laid down with 'Pearl grass', which was a bad idea; it did not survive well in the sun, and grew too slowly to recover from any setbacks. Eventually, the whole lawn became a vast sea of weeds.

So, we've laid down patches of Philippine lawn grass - it grows quite fast, is hardy, and looks quite OK.
zoysia matrella malaysia

It's done all right, spreading slowly. And now it is seeding
zoysia matrella malaysia
zoysia matrella malaysia
At least I hope it is! I've been wringing my brain trying to work out whether these things are weeds or the good stuff. Initially I was pulling up this whenever it was growing to seed, but I recently remembered this diagram a reader had pointed out to me (picture from Aggie Horticulture)
zoysia matrella
and it seems like it I should be letting it grow. This is the full plant with seeds - the leaves look similar, but it seems to grow straight out of the ground without being part of the stolons.
zoysia matrella malaysia

Can anyone confirm for me? Should I be weeding or nurturing? Laying on a little vermicompost or something? :)

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Bird's nest - recycling rawks!

Here are some photos that I've been meaning to use for a long time. WW was trimming the bamboo when she came across this
bird's nest in bamboo with plastic
the twigs growing out of the interstice obviously make good support for a nest, and being inside the clump of bamboo is surely also good protection for the bird and her chicks (who were no longer there when WW cut the bamboo, in case you were wondering).
bird's nest in bamboo with plastic
What's interesting, though sad also in a way, is that the bird used bits of plastic as part of the nest. I suppose it's useful - strong, pliable and waterproof.
bird's nest in bamboo with plastic
bird's nest in bamboo with plastic
Plastic is a really useful material, but I only wish it was used more wisely... instead of, for example, chucking it into the ocean:
"The largest of these garbage swills is known as the Pacific Gyre, or The Great Garbage Patch.

It is roughly the size of Texas, containing approximately 3.5 million tons of trash. Shoes, toys, bags, pacifiers, wrappers, toothbrushes, and bottles too numerous to count are only part of what can be found in this accidental dump floating midway between Hawaii and San Francisco." (The Great Garbage Patch)

Here's someone who decided to make a boat out of plastic bottles to bring awareness to this ridiculous waste of resources

Recycle, reuse, reduce! You know it makes sense!
[Edit 20/10/2009: "Message from the Gyre" - a powerful messge, not for the squeamish!]