Sunday, November 30, 2008

Growing organic mint from cuttings

Well, I love to have fresh mint tea, and some fresh mint can really improve some dishes, so I've been meaning to grow some for a while now. Typically I buy a bunch like this from the pasar malam (night market)

There are many types of mint, but I think this kind is spearmint, or Mentha spicata. It will cost about RM1.50 (apprx. 40 US cents), but the problem is that mint quickly wilts and goes mushy. No doubt it has also been sprayed with pesticides, etc.

I had been looking around for seeds or plants, and then someone told me that they are easy to grow from cuttings - so I did a quick Google and found this helpful guide (it's a pdf).

First, strip the stalks of the lower leaves (reduces water loss through transpiration apparently).

Secondly, plant in a pot - I just buried as much as I could in the soil as the roots will grow from the nodes where the leaves were.

Importantly, note that mint is very invasive - put it in a pot, or bottomless pot in the ground.

Apparently, you can also get the roots started in water (like here), so I'm trying that too.

It will be interesting to see the roots growing. I put some of my organic vermicompost in the water to supply nutrients.

It will take 2-3 weeks to get some results, will update then.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Harvesting organic vermicompost

I just harvested the organic vermicompost from my worm bin after leaving it for about eight weeks.

There’s a lot I have still to learn, but I’m not displeased with my first harvest – perhaps a kilo of vermicompost. It’s not all dry and in little pellets as it would be if you bought it (e.g. Worm Castings - 30lb), but that’s because they usually sieve it, and so on. I will spread it under my jasmine bush, the Rangoon creeper and use some to mix into the soil for some new plants.

Here’s a short film (three minutes) showing the process of removing the compost and restarting the worm bin.

There’s lots of information by more knowledgeable people out there of course. Virginia Cooperative Extension has a useful short guide here; and a PowerPoint here.

You can also locate vermicomposters near you at

I’ve seen this book recommended as well:

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Why do I garden?

I garden to take time off from a world where everything moves too fast; I garden to learn more about the earth I’m standing on.

This is for the Blotanical competition :) If I get one of the books, it's going to my mum in Belgium as it wouldn't be much use to me here in Malaysia...

Zingiberaceae in Laos (?)

This is another plant spotted on the sidewalk in Vientiane, Laos.

I can only guess at what it is – the reddish bamboo-like stalks reminded me of the Zingiberaceae (ginger) family, which is surprisingly large as I am finding out recently – there are more than 1300 species, and even turmeric is part of the ginger family (which I should have guessed, having seen fresh turmeric root on sale in the pasar malam (night market)).

This one attracted me because of the unusual dangling flower stems, which incidentally rather look like crimped hair. Because of this feature, I think that it is of the Globbeae (or Globba) genus.

And the flower was a very delicate, paper tissue-like pale pink.

The photos don't really do them justice, they were very nice :)

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Pennisetum in Laos

Just to continue on the ornamental grass theme – here is an example of how common they are (photo taken somewhere near Kasi, Laos). You can see the white heads spreading all along the field here.

Here is a closer shot of the right-hand side of the above scene. I think that they are of the Pennisetum genus, possibly the Pennisetum alopecuroides. Though I wasn’t close enough to be able to see them properly. They were growing pretty high I’d say – 5-6ft.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Ornamental grass - Sunrise in Vang Vieng, Laos

(hope this post goes up, the previous one doesn't appear on the blog for some reason...)

I got up for the sunrise this morning, and managed to catch this photo of some ornamental grass (at least that's what it would be called in a garden setting, I suppose) with the sunrise.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Hibiscus in Laos

Well, I think they are hibiscus. What struck me first about this tree was that there seemed to be flowers of different colours on the same plant - but now I think of it, it's probably two plants intertwined.

Anyway, I thought it looked very nice :)

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Lilies in Vientiane, Laos

I'm in Laos right now, so I'll try to post some photos of garden related things. I won't be able to look them up and give their proper names and all that though.

Here are three lovely lilies (? I think) I saw in some pots outside a small hotel. The photos don't really do them justice, their colours were so clear and sparkling they almost looked like artificial flowers.