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Here are the week’s top plant stories:

The Chayotes are continuing with their lofty ambitions to reach the top of the trellis. I’m cautiously optimistic about their chances. However, they do have a ways to grow:

Good To Grow, Liza's photos, Liza's plants

I pulled a few more onions, a couple of which turned out full-sized despite bolting. That bodes great for future winter onion-growing experiments:

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Even though many of the onions I’ve harvested have been small, I would call the winter-growing experiment a success overall. I planted fifty sets, nearly all of them grew a little, most of them grew a lot. With the limited amount of growing space I have, if I can move the onion growing to the winter months, that would be awesome. I’m going to keep experimenting, the next time starting with seeds from some of the bolted plants.

Also in the news, more Osteospermum blooms:

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I can’t imagine ever tiring of their cheerful little mugs.

In other flower news, PORTULACA!!!!

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This particular Portulaca plant is in a very inhospitable spot, so kudos to her for growing and blooming all by herself. It’s an impressive accomplishment.

And now for the week’s top story.

The container by my backdoor that houses these gorgeous Zauschneria flowers:

Good To Grow, Liza's photos, Liza's plants

Is also home to a bunch of wasps. No bueno!

I noticed them a few weeks ago, it became apparent they were living up in the bottom of the container:

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It’s hard to see them in photos, but they’re flying all over the place. I could see them crawling in and out through the gap between the container and the sidewalk.

At first, I was inclined to leave them alone. They weren’t bothering me, I wasn’t bothering them. We had a zenlike arrangement.

But they started multiplying, and becoming aggressive. It became apparent that I couldn’t let them continue. They have stingers! I also have a neighbor in back who shouldn’t have to pass through a gauntlet of wasps every day. They’re no different from goatheads or other noxious pests in my mind, and so I decided to eliminate them.

I asked Lewis (our very own Expert Lewis) for advice, and he recommend rubbing alcohol. Said they would be overcome by the fumes.

I decided to try it. Since there was no way to pour rubbing alcohol into the container, I poured some on to a paper plate, thinking I would slide it under the container in that gap above the sidewalk. I didn’t even get the plate pushed under – I set it down next to the container – before the wasps began dying. Within minutes, they were all dead. It was astonishing. I’ll spare you photos of the carnage.

It’s always a little unnerving to me to cause mass death like that. I’m a peaceful person! At the same time, I’m not going to voluntarily give a bunch of mean stingy flying bugs a free place to live. If the honey bees would like to move into the wasps’ place, they are welcome. I’m not worried about them stinging me – we definitely could work out a zenlike bargain to coexist. But then, they’re not aggressive like wasps are either.

One bright spot, no Zauschneria flowers were harmed during the killings.

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Those are the week’s top plant stories. Thank you for tuning in. I’ll be back tomorrow, hope to see you back here.

DANGIT!

The Great Chayote Growing Experiment of 2012 is officially OVER.

The plants went from promising, like this:

To dead, dead, dead, like this:

They got thirsty. Again. I shouldn’t have relegated them to the backyard wasteland. As natives to Mexico, I thought they’d like it, but they didn’t.

Bummer.

So the experiment is over for 2012.

It takes 20-30 days to get a Chayote to sprout, so at this time of year, it’s a fruitless effort.

But I will try again in 2013, because now I’m fond of these little guys.

I’ve grown to like their ugly mugs, and I really like their nutritional value.

I’ll try again in the spring. That’s all we can do, right?

I’ll be back manana, hope to see you here.

More on the Great Chayote Squash Growing Experiment. Meet the new eager beaver ugly fruit:

I bought the fruit (2 for $1) on June 22nd and placed them in a south-facing windowsill. They were slow to show any growth, so I decided they weren’t getting enough light there. I moved them to an east-facing sill on July 1st. I planted them just nine days later:

They’re in the same part of the backyard as the failed ones, but they are closer to the fence so they can climb. And I remembered to protect the young sprouts from the steamy July sun with baskets:

Fingers crossed that these little guys thrive in our monsoonish season. It’s been fun learning about growing Chayote, but even more fun learning how to cook with them.

I’ll be back manana, hope to see you back here.

Remember a couple of months ago when I started talking about chayotes? I’ve been slightly obsessed with them ever since.

Which is weird, because they’re ugly and you all know I like pretty things better.

See, they’re ugly:

A face only a mother could love!

I’d never seen a chayote before a couple of months ago. They’re in the gourd family, very similar to squash, native to Mexico.

Sandra asked if I’d experiment with growing them for her. She wanted to use them in her farmer’s frito pie that she sells at Albuquerque’s downtown growers’ market each summer (in an oriental take-out box, she layers lightly seasoned pinto beans, adds a layer of basmati rice seasoned with tumeric, then she pours her red chile calabacitas mix over the layers, adds a little cilantro, a dash of olive oil, sunflower seeds and if you’d like, Fritos. It’s vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free, and it’s one of best breakfasts in town.)

She didn’t know how to grow them but she liked that they are a little more nutritious than traditional squash. They also held up better in her calabacitas. Regular squash has a tendency to fall apart, but chayote is sturdier.

That’s how my obsession began.

There’s not a lot of information about chayotes out there, but from what I gathered, the seed can only germinate inside the fruit. So planting from seed is not an option.

One helpful site suggested putting the fruit in a sunny window to make them sprout. Another suggested putting them in a dark spot to force them to sprout.

I decided to give the sunny window a shot.

I went to one of the Mexican grocery stores in town and bought a bunch of chayotes. Some to eat, some to sprout.

Here are two, back at the end of March:

Within just a few days, something started happening. The monster began to open his mouth.

Oh yeah, for sure something was happening now. You may want to scroll really fast through the following photos to get a feel for the drama:

What is it doing? What is it doing? I can’t stand the suspense!

A SPROUT!

Hey, wait a second. What’s happening now?

Where did all that gross stuff come from?

We definitely have a problem.

It was too early to plant it outside.

That fruit is getting uglier by the day.

Pretty disgusting.

This experiment isn’t really going so well.

Oh dear.

That didn’t go well at all!

Luckily, I didn’t rely on only that one fruit. I also had these in a sunny window:

Within a couple of weeks, they looked like this:

And then there was this little champion:

Do that scroll fast thing again.

Go, chayote, go!

I experimented with five chayotes and each one was totally different. The one rotted, another sprouted a good six inches, one sprouted about 3 inches with several leaves, another did nothing, and the last one sprouted just a teeny bit.

I read that you should plant chayotes in pairs, so I planted four in the back yard along the fence. I’ll do a separate post about that. The fifth chayote was sent to live on Kitty’s farm, alongside one she sprouted.

The chayote has a long growing season, so Sandra won’t be able to use mine this season in her frito pie. But hopefully once they’re established, they’ll come back year after year.

While they’re outside growing, my kitchen windowsill is fabulously free of chayotes for the first time since late March.

Shew!

Now I can concentrate more on eating the chayotes instead of sprouting them.

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About Me

Hi! My name is Liza. Welcome to my blog and thanks for visiting! I'm a Midwestern gal now living in Arizona, after many years of living in and owning a plant care business in New Mexico.

Plants are living, breathing creatures, and if they're indoor plants, they are 100% dependent on human care. They cannot water themselves.

I can beautify your home, office, or patio with plants and flowers. I have 13 years of experience growing plants, and friendships.

Please let me know if you have questions or if you would like help with your plants or garden. You can reach me at lizatheplantlady (at) gmail (dot) com or follow me on Twitter, Lizawheeler7.

All photos are mine unless otherwise noted. All content is also entirely my hard work. If you'd like to use any content or photos, all you have to do is ask. If you take without asking, you are a thief. And thieves suck. So don't suck. We have a deal? Good.

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