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Amparo Bertram

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07:14 am: August Update
I kept meaning to update all through July, but I somehow never got around to it. Part of the reason is that I had quite a hectic month. For example, right before I was going to be off work for the weekend, I was told that I would be going on a job training trip to Seattle bright and early on Monday, so I had to rush around making reservations and getting my trip expenses approved. It proved to be an interesting trip, and I got to see a little bit of Seattle while I was there, including the Science Fiction Museum.

My impressions of Seattle:
  • It's COLD in the morning, even in July.
  • There are far too many people who just stand around smoking on the sidewalks.
  • I didn't find any money on the ground the entire time I was there. (For reference, I found 6 cents in downtown San Francisco the day before I left, and I found 4 cents on my way to and from work the day after I returned.)


My schedule will continue to be irregular as I have yet another out of state training trip coming up this month, and next month I will transition to the K9 schedule so that I can shadow the other canine handlers to learn how they do things.

Otherwise, I've mainly been working on harvesting the various items growing on my balcony.
Experiment: Stevia
Results: You catch more flies with honey
I decided to try growing stevia because it sounded interesting--an all-natural zero-calorie sweetener that can grow in a pot on the windowsill. The plant itself grows well enough, and the leaves are distinctly sweet. The problem is, the plant is an aphid magnet. I tried everything I could think of to get rid of the aphids--picking them off by hand, running the plant under water to wash them off, and spraying with soap. They just keep coming back. If I leave the plant alone for a couple days, the next time I check there are huge colonies of the suckers covering the stems. It's more trouble than it's worth, frankly.

Experiment: "Quinault" everbearing strawberries
Results: Quality over quantity
I didn't get very many strawberries, mainly because the earliest ones dried up during my trip to Hawaii. The ones that did ripen were rather small, about the size of marbles. However, when I ate them, they had intense strawberry flavor and were as sweet as if I had poured sugar over them. Hopefully next year I can grow some in better conditions to increase the yield.

Experiment: Scarlet runner beans
Results: Where have all the flowers gone?
The bean plants took off growing like crazy, and they produced lots of bright flowers. (Supposedly they attract hummingbirds, though I have only seen one so far this summer. Maybe they show up when I'm not looking.) Strangely, most of the blossoms fell off without producing any bean pods. It wasn't until the last few flowers that I started to get a few beans appearing on the vines. Since this variety is supposed to be a huge producer, I can only guess that perhaps it's just not happy growing in a shallow windowbox. At least the flowers were pretty, so it has ornamental value.

Experiment: Pelargonium
Results: A rose by any other name would smell as sweet
I tried growing three types of these scented geraniums, and they have all been doing well. My favorite is the "Attar of Rose" variety, which has a lovely smell. The leaves can be used for a number of purposes. So far I've tried making scented sugar, which was interesting, and herbal tea (or, as the purists apparently call it, an "herbal infusion"). The plants are flowering right now, and the flowers are small pink blossoms that are quite attractive. I'd call this one a success.

Comments

[User Picture]
From:megory
Date:August 4th, 2010 12:41 am (UTC)
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The stevia leaf sure did taste sweet. I couldn't keep my cutting alive, though, either. The surprising thing for me was that the aphids would find the stevia plant indoors. But I guess they are small enough to fit through the screen.

The flowers on the runner beans are gorgeous. They look a little bit like sweet pea flowers, though a different color than the ones we had on the farm.

If the strawberries are everbearing, they might bear again in a month or two. I think they sometimes produce two or three times a year.

Best wishes on the new schedule next month.

Congratulations on the success with the scented geraniums.
[User Picture]
From:spacealien_vamp
Date:August 4th, 2010 01:54 pm (UTC)
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I couldn't keep my cutting alive, though, either.

I'm sorry that didn't work out for you. Have the other cuttings been doing okay?

I made another cutting and moved it to my bedroom windowsill in the hope that the aphids won't find it there. We'll see how that works.

If the strawberries are everbearing, they might bear again in a month or two.

They actually just started flowering a couple days ago. I hope I can get a few berries before I have to leave.

[User Picture]
From:megory
Date:August 5th, 2010 10:51 am (UTC)
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The other cuttings seem to be doing well. They are still in water; I haven't put them into earth yet. I can't believe it's been a month already. I need to stay home a day to get anything done around here, I think.
[User Picture]
From:spacealien_vamp
Date:August 7th, 2010 04:05 am (UTC)
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If you can get the chocolate mint planted, I think you'll enjoy it. I made some refrigerator tea with it the other day, and it tasted like drinking a liquid peppermint pattie.
[User Picture]
From:megory
Date:August 7th, 2010 08:16 pm (UTC)
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I can hardly wait.

That plant actually has at least tripled in length already.
[User Picture]
From:mvrdrk
Date:August 4th, 2010 05:06 am (UTC)
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Aw! I would totally have taken you out to lunch while you were in Seattle!
[User Picture]
From:spacealien_vamp
Date:August 4th, 2010 01:55 pm (UTC)
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I wish I had more time to advertise that I was going. It really was a last-minute trip.
[User Picture]
From:wednesday_10_00
Date:August 5th, 2010 01:49 pm (UTC)
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I wonder if it would help to put some marigolds in with (or just near?) the Stevia? Marigolds are supposed to repel bugs, especially aphids.
[User Picture]
From:spacealien_vamp
Date:August 7th, 2010 04:02 am (UTC)
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Marigolds are supposed to repel bugs, especially aphids.

I had marigolds growing on my balcony with my herbs last year, but I couldn't see any effect on the aphids. (Then again, who knows what the aphid populations would have been like if the marigolds hadn't been there?)

This year I'm hoping that my flowering herbs are attracting pollinators that are also insect predators. That doesn't work indoors, though.
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