Greeny has been in residence for over a week now. He only commutes about six inches in each direction, eating either the hibiscus he’s munching now, or the plant in the background.
Crepe Ginger grows really well here, in pots and in the ground, and produces sprouts you can eat. If you cut off the head and take cuttings you can easily cultivate it.
Well, it rained most days during September and the first half of October, with floods sometimes in parts of Penang. And then it stopped raining – except for once a week or so. Thus today, Sunday is the first sunny Sunday for a while.
Another quiet couple of months, then.
Being very near the sea, and growing plants mostly in pots it’s not so easy, but gradually we’ve been able to learn to grow food and some medicines at home.
There’s also aquaculture and vertical gardening to look into sometime, but the former costs more for the equipment, and both probably need more or less daily maintenance.
Here is what we’re growing at the moment:
It’s rained often on consecutive days, and then not rained also for several days – but overall it’s quite cool and there hasn’t been so much sun. The plants mostly soldier on.
At the moment what we can eat from the garden are the ginger poker sprouts – nice in salads or desserts; rosemary, basil, passion fruit, limes, mini eggplants, aloe vera, roselle… and I’m hoping for papaya reasonably soon, and lemons sometime. Pandan is growing well here and there, so we’ll be able to do something with that, too.
You can buy passion fruit in Penang. You rarely see them in supermarkets, but more often in (wet) markets. However I grow my own.
I have quite a few vines – it’s impossible to count how many as they are kind of mixed up, and some may be dead, but their stems are used by other passion fruit vines to climb on. Every year I germinate some seeds and plant several vines – or quite often the seedlings grow up in pots of other plants – as the seeds were in the compost given to those plants, and thus they have germinated.
Those seeds in the compost weren’t there by chance. When I eat passion fruit I often save a few seeds to put in the compost. If I find really big passion fruit in the markets I’ll buy some, and if they are tasty, or if ones I have grown at home are particularly nice, I’ll save some of the seeds and germinate them. Either way, each year I put in some seedlings, as the vines only last for a few years before they die. So some vines are descendents of previous vines, and some are new ones, from passion fruit from the markets. The ones that die off always have replacements at different stages of growth.
To germinate the seeds I just wash any pulp off them and dry them. Then leave them until around February. That’s around when passion fruit starts to grow for the year. In February or March I plant the seeds shallowly in some soil with some nutrition in a trough or pots, and put in some legume seeds – usually mung beans. The legume seeds increase the germination rate from about 5% to maybe 80%. Birds will watch me put the seeds in and come and eat some, but most will remain. Most of the seeds will germinate. And when the seedlings are a few inches high I will replant the strongest ones. They will grow well in a pot, but I’ve never got fruit from potted passion fruit. You need to have them in a reasonable expanse 0f soil, or in the ground.
The growing season is from around February – March usually, but in the first year you probably won’t get any fruit from the new vines. Perhaps in May and onwards they will flower and then later fruit. And they will continue to do this until around October / November or so most years. But one year the weather was such that they had a second spurt of growth and fruiting until February. Usually around Christmas I prune them, but not as far back as the hard wood, leaving some green. I’m not sure if that’s the best way, but it seems to work for me.
All through the year they lose leaves, and I dry them in the sun and when crunchy, scrunch them up into little pieces and put in other pots or on the passion fruit garden. And after pruning I do the same, but it is a much bigger operation as there is so much foliage.
I used to be able to wait until the passion fruit were ripe to pick them, but the last couple of years squirrels attacked more than half of them – I didn’t mind the occasional loss as everything has to eat – but they often just eat a little and waste the rest and all I can do with the rest is compost it. We tried lots of ways to stop the squirrels, but nothing was particularly effective. So now I have to pick them green, once they feel heavy with fruit inside, and ripen them – which can be done by moistening them, putting them in a plastic bag, and burying this in compost. Squirrels can tell better than me when they are ripe, so feeling the weight is the best I can do to tell if they are ready to ripen. I just check sometimes to see progress, and when ripe bring them inside until I am ready to eat them. This way I get to keep pretty well 100% of the fruit – only the hidden ones that I didn’t see and which ripened on the vine are squirrel food.
Today I picked ten passion fruit, last week the same number, and I can see at least 30 that are still on the vine, but not yet heavy enough with fruit inside. There are a few flowers too, from which we’ll later get fruit. I see the bees buzzing around – other plants attract them too, so there are usually bees. The bees get the nectar, the birds get some seeds and a second chance by dining off the compost when it’s open, and we get the fruit. Now everything is happy except the squirrels.
Over these two months it’s rained a lot and every day sometimes, and otherwise just once every few days. Recently the latter.