Archive for July, 2015


Experimental projects

Over the past month, I have started several experimental projects including growing of plants in plastic bottles containing nutrient solution (aquaponics), seed propagation, cutting propagation, air layering and grafting. Some of these have been practiced over hundreds of years; however, I am trying out some new probably untried experiments such as grafting persimmon (fruit) on to a flowering plant stock, growing tropical plants such as sapota and white pumpking (seeds from India), cuttings placed in plastic bottles containing some water until signs of roots appear and then placing them in soil, and so on.

In brief, here they are:

1. Aquaponics


Simple aquaponics tools

The most important component is obviously the nutrient solution in which the plant has to grow. I selected a two part Hyponica pack (A, B) that I mixed in a 500-ml distilled water solution (1 ml of A and 1 ml of B), which I used to immerse the cleaned roots of plants such as tomato, mint and  perilla plants. The growth after a few weeks seem to be OK, but not as fast as in soil. I will probably increase the frequency of replenishing the solution to about 3 times a week.

For the container, I cut transversely a 2-liter green-tea plastic container and inverted the top half on to the bottom half. If the cut is at the right location, there is no need to tape or hold the upper half in place – it fits snugly on to the bottom half.

I have placed the containers in a shaded but brightly lit balcony.

I also plant to support the plants from the top (by tying them to hooks on the ceiling). Presently, the roots are dipping in the solution supported by branches that rest on the edges of the plastic bottles.


Two tomato plants in nutrient solution


Two mint plants flanked by tomato and perilla



2. Air layering 

Rose of Sharon

I decided to propagate Rose of Sharon by air layering. I cut off the bark gently and on the exposed portion, wound around moist sphagnum moss, wrapped it over with plastic and tied it with plastic wire. I have no idea whether this will work; but its fun trying it out. Will report results next month.


Air layering – Peach

The peach tree has not been giving flowers so I decided to propagate it by air layering and then pay more attention to raising the new plant (hopefully!) Again, will post results next month.


3. Grafting

Persimmon on flowering tree – far-fetched?

I have taken a step into the unknown world – I had a Japanese flowering tree giving small white flowers with more leaves than flowers; I cut off the upper part, cut a notch into the center of the stem and inserted a wedged persimmon cutting and wound it up with some moist sphagnum moss to retain moisture. Let’s see what happens after a month.



4. Propagation by cutting – 2 kinds of oranges

My friend Utiyama-san gave me some cuttings for two kinds of oranges which I promptly inserted into seed mix and covered up with a transparent plastic bag. Look forward to root germination in at least some of these.



5.  Pineapple top

Carefully cut off the top of a ripe pineapple, removed the basal leaves to expose roots, and planted the top into potting mix. I am hoping that the outer leaves will fall off new leaves will emanate from the center and bring up a new pineapple plant.


6. Propagation by cuttings after soaking them in water

Fig cuttings – some with buds

Took some fig cuttings from the tree in my garden and placed them in a 2-liter transparent plastic bottle for about 3 days when white dots appeared around the nodes – see the photo below.



Fig cutting after three days with bottom end immersed in water

I put these cuttings into potting mix and will keep them for about a month or so. Will post results next month.


Persimmon and pawpaw cuttings

Similar to fig cuttings, I also have pear, persimmon and pawpaw cuttings in bottle since mid July in plastic bottles. Not sure about persimmon but I hope to root pawpaw and pear cuttings.


7. Growing from seeds

Mexican mango seed extracted

I couldn’t resist getting the seed out of a Mexican mango that I ate. Split the har shell and got out the inner seed; removed the black thin covering and disconnected the umbilical. Planted the entire seed in compost+ light soil and  covered it with transparent plastic to retain moisture. See photo below.



Mango seed in compost + light soil


Labeled, covered and stored in shaded location




Avocado seed in water

This time I’m patiently going to wait until the avacado seed splits and throws out a root and leaves! I change the water every day after sticking toothpicks as above. After about 20 days, there seem to be results!


 Avacado seed after twenty days

The root seems to be developing within and soon it should come out of the bottom. I wonder how the leaves will open out.



California lemon

After consuming a large yellow California lemon, I planted the seeds and the lemon saplings seem to be growing. I have no idea whether it will grow to be a good lemon tree and give lemons – but I plan to use it as bonsai and as rootstock for grafting from lemon/orange trees.


Sapota saplings from seeds

The Sapota seeds I brought over from India have finally germinated – planted them around second week of May but the seeds germinated only around July first week. Shows that every seed takes its own time!

I have about 5 to 6 Sapota saplings and will be happy even if two survive and grow well.



Cutting propagation box

Since July/August is the right season for propagating cuttings, I bought a transparent plastic box and filled with with a mix of vermiculite/akadama soil/peat moss and planted a bunch of cuttings in the moist mixture. The box has a nice air-tight lid and I remove the lid and spray some water on the soil to keep it moist and air the cuttings.



Collecting Zinnia seeds

When the Zinnia flower dries out, you can remove the petals and find arrow-head shaped seeds at the core. Every marigold flower gives nearly a hundred seeds. I’m planning to have lots of marigolds and zinnia in my garden next year!


In parallel with the experiments, I have been collecting seeds especially of Zinnia, marigold, water melon, beans for the next year. I have placed this seeds in paper packets and labelled them; I put these packets  in a plastic box and placed them in the refrigerator.


Daily harvest

Meanwhile, my small harvest everyday continues; a typical harvest is like the above. Sometimes, there are more tomatoes and green pepper than cucumber and eggplants. I have also harvested beans, malkheiya, small radish, okra and corn from my office garden. The edamame however, were a failure. I think the plants or the soil properties were unfavorable. The edamame plants never grew to a bush – maybe I should have used more organic fertilizer.

July has been a fairly busy month with growing/propagating/experimenting. August promises to be better, as the results of the experiments should be out.

Have a great day!


from my home garden

May to August are probably the busiest months while I’m in Japan. I have three simultaneous activities going on – office garden, home garden, bonsai and experimental projects. I’ll show you what has bloomed and grown in my home garden in this period.


Lily or yuri in Japanese

The roots are bulbs that can be removed after the flowering and stored in a cool place in the house to be brought back and planted in spring next year. I love flowers that grow from bulbs!


Rose (bara in Japanese) in a planter

The only rose that bloomed in the planter this year! I need to take better care with this plant and prune regularly for more flowers.


Hydrangea (or ajisai in Japanese)

I love these blooms; they look wonderful, require little maintenance and come up year after year faithfully. All I do is cut off well beneath the dead flowers every August and trim the bush.


Hydrangea close-up

Isn’t she beautiful? This variety of Hydrangea is called Gakugei Ajisai in Japanese. The white flowers develop spots of red as days elapse. I propagated this plant through cutting and have another bush elsewhere in my home garden.



This is the first time I have planted Zinnia. I must say the flowers are durable – more than a month has passed and they flowers are still intact on their stalks! I planted the yellow and white Zinnia together with marigold of a different variety (supposedly large blooms) but have yet to see a Marigold bloom. The slender leaved plant is in front of the Zinnias in the photo above.


Fig (or ichijiku in Japanese)

The fig tree in my home garden has been giving me delicious figs – luckily the fig leaves are hiding the fruits from the birds, so the fruits are still intact. The harvest has just started; I think around August I should have about 30-40 figs.


Cucumber (or kyuri in Japanese) flower

Constant rains and cloudy weather has kept the sun away and caused abnormal growth; my cucumber plants at home after yielding plenty of cucumbers suddenly had huge yellow flowers and no cucumbers. This is the first time I saw a flower so big.


Flowers from my home garden

They freshen up the dining table!


Morning glory – pink

The first of these flowers have come up on the net.  Have also planted a purple morning glory plant nearby. Within a month, I expect the entire net in front of the large windows will be a curtain in pink and purple.


Morning glory – purple

The first purple morning glory has bloomed! The best part of these flowers is that around September/October when the plants are dead, you’ll find lots of seeds. Collect them, place them in a cool place and grow them next season.


Morning glory – monotone

I planted a couple of these along my fence. When in full bloom, the entire fence will be covered with these flowers. You need to take care to lead them in the right direction every day.


Rose of Sharon

Finally, the first of these flowers has bloomed belatedly. At the beginning of spring, I went into a frenzy of pruning and wielded my shears wildly. The poor Rose of Sharon plant became a small shade of itself – yet it has forgiven me and has started giving out beautiful flowers.


Mixed collection from Karuizawa

On a recent road trip to Karuizawa with friends, I picked up several flowering plants including pink geranium, mini rose, margaret (?) and bulbous begonias that resemble the rose. The weather is much cooler in Karuizawa, so I prefer to place these in the shade.

Next post – experimental projects coming soon!

Have a great day!



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