Category Archives: Plants

What I grow & what I get

Pandan Growth Gusto

The Pandanus Amaryllifolius (not any other Screwpine) ~ Pandan for short breaks into a growth gusto when Spring is about to turn to Summer. It must feel like the Tropics to them so ‘babies’ and aerial roots appear at a crazy rate.

This is the time to carefully check between leaves because unless you separate the leaves and inspect, chances are, small young plants will not be seen until too late ~ dehydrated and stunted. Cut the long leaves hiding them if required, be merciless, as the ‘babies’ need light and growth space.

Pandan “babies” just springing up from parent plant and leaves cut off giving them breathing space.

A thick healthy root is about to spring forth.

When that healthy root grows up to 2″, it will be ideal to remove the baby plant from the parent to have more subaerial roots develop in water.

With so many leaves cut off today, what do I do with them? Continue reading

Asparagus from Seeds

I have read ample articles of growing Asparagus up north (Washington, New Jersey & Massachusetts) with most gardeners attempting to grow them in Central Florida stating that they simply won’t tolerate our warm weather. Those growing them also claim that it would be best to start with ‘crowns’. My 1st attempt had my ‘crowns’ disappearing in the ground.

Well, in February last year, when I found packets of Asparagus seeds in Orlando’s mini-Vietnam, I decided to try planting this perennial green again, in my backyard. Having never seen an Asparagus ‘plant’ before, I wasn’t even sure if what grew in that allocated area were actual Asparagus seedlings or simply ferny-looking weeds.

Edible shoots will take about 3 years to appear ~ so growers say ~ but I took the gamble as they may provide me with seasonal greens for over a decade!

Asparagus “weed” of sort.

But they did produce some very pretty flowers, which unless one grows them, no one actually gets to see them.

Tiny Asparagus blooms.

Tiny but eye-catching.

15 months after my 2nd attempt, the “weed” patch is finally showing me that what I am growing, is actually Asparagus Officinalis.

The Proof.

They may presently be small and skinny, should be allowed to grow and preferably not harvested till year 3, but actually seeing real Asparagus shoots is such joy.

1st year’s growth ~ from seeds! ~ not too bad …

So now, these weedy looking greens will be pampered and carefully coddled in hope for many years of fresh Asparagus from the garden, to the kitchen, to the table.

Garlic Chive Use for Dummies (like me)

With all the digging, splitting, re-potting ….
how can I not have some in hand for a hurried, no planning, throw any(every)thing in, to prepare a 1-plate dish for lunch.

*Main ingredient can be leftover rice, cooked al-dente pasta, blanched wheat noodles, whatever you fancy.

Ingredients – Lot 1

GARLIC CHIVES cut in 2″ length, Eggs, Bean Sprouts, oops! some diced onions not in pic ~ already in the pan…

Ingredient – Lot 2
Sliced beef, pork, chicken, leftover favorite meat, vegetarian soy, anything … I found some shrimps in my freezer.

Peeled shrimps I found in the freezer.

Then with further fridge browsing, I found and used some homemade Sambal but you can use any of your favorite sauce, seasoning, paste, etc.

Heat some oil in the pan, add Lot 1 + diced onions in (er… crack the eggs please, do not include shells in this dish) and pan-stir till sizzling. Then add Lot 2. When semi-cooked (shrimps begin to turn a little pink & opaque), add your favorite sauce or seasoning.

Pan stir till well mixed.

Finally, add your *Main Ingredient … I used pre-soaked Rice Vermicelli or Bee Hoon which is a staple in my pantry. Thoroughly mix; sprinkle some water if necessary and Voilà!!

Fried Bee Hoon

Lunch is served.

What exactly are Garlic Chives (韭菜) a.k.a Chinese Chives?

Garlic Chives are chives that have garlic-like flavor but are not really garlic.  The “bulbs” are not bulb-looking like onions/garlic and they are (urgh!) rough, fibrous and not at all appetizing. I would not term them as edible.

Rhizomes with massive roots.

These so-called “bulbs” are actually part of thick sturdy rhizomes that are their root form. To actually retrieve them from the soil takes quite a bit of slow deep digging as those roots, growing downwards are almost equal in length to their green leaves that grow upwards.

Some divided rhizomes with fibrous lumps that do not look like garlic at all.

I decided to continue my Split-&-Spread mission (just like my Sand Ginger) except they will temporarily be in pots to adjust and adapt to new soil and conditions … then be planted amongst tomatoes and eggplants, keeping them company, repelling pests that dislike the garlic “stench”. Heck, it might even repel people who dislike the garlic fetor!

Looking kind of miserable in individual pots at present.

Soon there will be little bunches, and though grown as companion plants, they will still be trimmed to be used in my kitchen.

Just for information:  Garlic lovers dating garlic haters, you can eat this in cooked dishes like omelets, stir-fries, pizzas, u-name-it … enjoy the garlicky aroma because you are safe! After a while your breath will not stink of garlic!

On the internet and in gardening stores, you can buy their seeds under the names Garlic Chives or Chinese Chives. Why do almost everyone call it Chinese Chives ~ everyone, except the Chinese? And why do the Chinese call it 韭菜 (pronounced jiǔ cài in Mandarin & ku-chai in the Hokien dialect) when word for word it translates to ‘Leek Vegetable’ … when it’s not even a Leek?  Go figure!!

Cekur or Sand Ginger or 沙姜

Uncommon where I now live; common where I used to live.
It’s mid-Spring but it feels like Summer! So what better time to begin my Split-&-Spread task.

Cekur/Sand Ginger is actually a beautiful plant which I now use as a seasonal groundcover ~ it just hibernates and hides in late Fall and Winter. Its a tropical plant so its growth is somewhat erratic in the northern hemisphere, but its aromatic rhizomes and leaves which I use as a seasoning and/or marinade is worth the challenge.

Cekur as groundcover

When the leaves show up, I take it as a call to propagate, to make up for my kitchen use in the coming months. This is a very tender rhizome so I use only an old metal teaspoon and my bare hands to retrieve them.

Rinsed to check for active roots

For now, those with active, fat, white roots will go into a “crib” to be covered thinly with rich soil. This will help to develop roots and a couple of green leaves and for 2017 I plan to spread them out to different spots around the garden.

Root development “crib”

My motto: what you like and can’t find in stores, you grow … at least try to grow. :mrgreen:

When the Growing gets Tough

… the Grower gets Going… to keep it Growing!

It all began 5 years ago when I wanted to have a temporary trellis to grow some beans. It was easy. I simply went to Home Depot, got some PVC water pipes, some L and T joints and a string trellis. I measured the pipes, cut them up, hammered 3 pipes vertically 18″ into the soil, connected the top portion with the joints and used some tie-straps to hang and fasten the string trellis. Less than $10 and voila! trellis was done.

The beans progressed to gourds and the gourds progressed to Passionfruit, which grew with such wild passion, I began to foresee a forthcoming calamity. Yes, after 5 years the pipes were no longer standing 90° with the soil and the string trellis were kind of “blowing in the wind”.

My pipe and string contraption.

I’ve had fair, good use of this impromptu trellis so something needed to be done ~ hopefully without cutting off all the fruiting vines and killing those precious Ladybugs and their cocoons nicely tucked in & on that little green wall. I kept asking that question till finally the husband decided to come up with what I call a “slip-and-grip” replacement.

Fastened to pipe; 18″ above the soil.

A carefully measured Made-in-Garage wooden trellis (which is patterned with a space for the kitchen window in case of later preference) that was lugged and slipped behind the pipe & string trellis contraption, to be gripped with metal fasteners drilled through the wood frame and the metal pipes. The metal pipes have been hammered 3ft into the soil and the wood trellis sits 18″ above soil level. It’s definitely more rigid than PVC pipes & strings.  😆

The vines (& some remnant trellis strings) are now tied onto this new brainchild and it is my ardent hope that it will give at least 10 years usage.

I’ve trimmed most of the lower portion of the string trellis and now have more sunny space to insert some forthcoming Spring seedlings.

Wooden trellis fastened to a metal pipe.

Time to thin some herbs and cool season vegetables below and pay close attention to lots of Passionfruit buds now waiting to bloom. To all potential Passionfruit growers, prepare a steady, heavy-duty trellis for that vine because when it takes off during the growing/fruiting season, it needs heavy support OR you will have some weighty work trying to save that monstrous plant.

Shallot Buds and Blooms

Almost everyone eats Onions … except some vegans and staunch Buddhists.
Every supermarket, wet-market, sundry store (as we call them in SE Asia) sells Onions ~ red onions, sweet white onions, yellow onions, bunching onions, etc.

But do consumers/gardeners bother growing onions? If they do, do they buy onion sets or seeds for each year’s planting? I’ve tried many ways of regrowing from store bought ones and nursery cultivated ones but they only reproduce for 1 season. As I do not have enough space all kinds of onions, I’ve concentrated on 2 which I really like and use often – Shallots and Walking Onions, encouraging them to reproduce themselves continuously.

An earlier post shows the seeds from the Shallot parents but this Spring I’ve decided to share some photos of Shallot buds and blooms which if one actually observes, goes through beautiful stages of Ma Nature’s work-of-art and creation.

Allow a few to live their 2-yr lifespan & buds will appear in the 2nd Spring.

Nicely packaged bunch of buds.

The 1st bloom (or the eldest child so to speak).

Each flower has 6 Petals and 6 Stamens with pollen covered Anthers.

Deep within each flower is a Locule with Ovaries

More flowers bloom each day.

Almost all in bloom awaiting Pollinators

A Pollinator caught in action!

Soon it will re-seed and re-produce ~ just like Ma Nature intended ~ continuing its species when given the chance to.



“Seek and you will find…” this aim/mission has been half accomplished.

Walking through the markets’ vegetable stalls in Penang, I see so many familiar items which simply reminds me that there is so much more I can add to my backyard in the US.

Sand Ginger and the Finger Root

On the right is the Sand Ginger/Cekur which I found, via a gardening club in Florida, grown by hobbyists as beautiful groundcover. I’m now growing this to be used for cooking!

On the left is a root called Temu Kunci or Finger Root, yes it does look like human fingers 😀 and is commonly used in Southeast Asia when mixing a curry or sambal paste.

So now I have a new item to seek … in case any reader in the US is growing this root or knows a fellow gardener who is, please send me a note. Unfortunately it has to be freshly harvested to be re-growable.