Caffeine: the most potent artificial intelligence drink!

Caffeine: the most potent artificial intelligence drink!
Deep in the Lair of the Perpetually Curious Fox

Friday, 12 August 2011

What about the fungi? Hericium erinaceus, Hericium coralloides, Pleuratus eryngii and Morchella elata

Ah yes, what about the fungi? I've renewed my effort in trying to grow some Hericium erinaceus (Pom pom fungus in Europe or Monkey's Head fungus in China).
Thank you wikipedia, for this picture.

Bought a colonised wooden plugs culture that I purposely mistreat the first few months so only the hardiest mycelium survive, fruit and sporulate. Saved the spore strain in a sample bottle (yes, I am kinda particular and pedantic about having a backup spore/culture sample) and used the dried out main mycelium covered wooden plugs to colonise some recycled newspaper.

This Tek was chosen as it's the cheapest and easiest. I love mycology, but a lot of mushroom related forums tend to lean towards the *mystical and magical* fungus LOL - which is interesting, but not really not my cup of tea. I like wild mushrooms as a gastronomic, rather than a psychoactive, treat!

Right now I have two different strains of Hericium erinaceus and Laetiporus sulphureus that are *cooking* in their bio-reactors (of bleach sterilised newspaper mush, all packed into ziploc bags or clear plastic containers).

Doesn't look like much right now, but we'll see in a couple of weeks.

I hope in a couple of weeks they will have colonised the substrate, and fruit out in say October or November. Hopefully we'll see something that looks like these guys:

Chicken of the Woods (Laetiporus sulphureus)

Pom pom mushroom. Picture court

I also still have some strain isolate of Pleuratus eryngii (King Oyster Mushroom) sitting dormant in a grain (popcorn) innoculated jar. I did manage to get a couple of substrate bags (also bleach sterilised newspaper mush) to colonise full of mycelium and bear fruiting bodies; but I'm afraid last year I was a bit busy trying to adjust to a new life that them mushrooms got dried out. So they are *buried* outside with three cut up logs, with the hope they'll pick up the growth.

King Oyster Mushroom

Yes, I was growing them in a Big Gulp cup!

Once I figured out what keeps them happy, I might re-try to grow some wild Hericium coralloides strain that I know occurs naturally in Bowness Park. I still feel a bit guilty about eating the ones I found there ... I hope I can re-populate the strain onto some other fallen deadwood there, seeing that it is a rare fungus!
I hope I did some good scattering spores around while harvesting this fella.
I tried to colonise a log with a tissue sample last year, but it didn't take. Maybe I need to pamper them with sterilised grain first before introducing hardwood.

Tried to clone this strain, but to no avail
I also seeded a really shady part of the back garden with some Morchella elata bits that was left over from the Morels & Chicken dinner. They were harvested where I know they are plentiful and in no danger of being wiped out. People keep going on about plants and animals being wiped out, but not many really give a thought to rare fungi species. I won't go all mental about not eating animals like PETA keep honking at us though. I think if you harvest things in moderation and not go around stripping it bare, then it's OK to go around looking for wild mushrooms.

Black Morel. Favourite of Grizzly Bears!

More plants

Eagerly awaiting the vegetables to mature enough to be eaten. Have been picking a few leaves here and there to have with my dinner.

Amaranthus cruentes is a wonderful lush plant that adapts easily to the rough mountain weather. Grows well in the pots and also on the flower bed.  I will report on the quality of the grains once it's ready. Worse comes to worse, if I found it unpalatable, they can always feed the birds. The leaves are wonderfully tasty though! The Hopis (supposedly) used Amaranthus cruentus for red dye, as well as a nutritious food staple.

The Fractal Broccolis are doing well in the wet, cool, summer this year. Usually, it's scorching hot and dry in August, but it's been very wet -- a bane for the grain farmers, but a boon for those growing vegetables. Still no sign of the flowering heads -- but I think they are getting ready to bloom judging from the way the apical leaves are bunching and clustering.



Very tight apical leaves cluster. Is there a broccoli floret hiding in there?

I definitely have to grow more potatoes next summer! Maybe several different strains. This one came from a wrinkly, old, redskin potato from the kitchen. I'm glad it didn't have to end up in the bin and into some landfill site. Perhaps it's showing it's gratitude by bushing out like a plant on steroids.

Bigger container in the future, Mr Watson! It's elementary!

Close relative of the Amaranth, the Celosia. The use is similar, but historically it's grown more in the Asian continent. Amaranth are more of a New World plant.

This is a strange strain. It doesn't have the reddish veins like the rest of the celosias.
Red Asian Mustard (Gai Choy), Red Beets and Swiss Chards are doing well. They should be ready for harvest in a couple of weeks or so. I should start a few more seed batch as they are pretty tolerant of frost, being cold weather crops.
Red Mustard, Chards and Beets in the longer trough, keeping company with the
Bolivian rainbow pepper, strawberry, lavender and basils.
Gai Choy
Swiss Chards

I did start a few other seeds just to see if they will germinate at all. I do not anticipate any harvest from them, but will be growing them early next year before the last frost so they can mature in time.


Sunflowers are hard to go wrong ... except if you get freak weather that pound them to death, blow them over ... and being eaten by squirrels and mice.

Some new strains that I'm germination testing: Joker, Moonshadow and Paquito Dwarf.
The Tithonia (Mexican sunflower) seed is still pushing it's way out of the soil surface.

Peter's flower bud. Supposed to be good eating (taste like artichokes) but I think I'll leave this one be.

Cocot showing new side shoots

Cocot is showing tight apical leaves formation. Flower bud in formation!

Cocot : named after my best friend's nickname :)

Curly's decapitated stem. There's a slight bump that's getting bigger. Will it form a new bud?

The herbs are doing well. Borago officinialis is a favourite of the bumbling bees. Catnip is a favourite of the cats and myself -- makes a nice relaxing tea -- the ancient Romans used to use catnip as a mild sedative. Rosemary is sloooowly getting bigger.

Borage flowers maketh a good colourful salad enhancer. Nectar rich sweetness!

Nepeta cataria. I wonder if Thundercats also swoon with catnip?

Bolivian Rainbow pepper showing flower buds!

Rosmarinus officianalis

Thursday, 11 August 2011

One more month of growing season to go! Hurry up and flower + seed!

I guess the plants aren't really getting enough sun in the back garden, unless a couple of spruce trees come down, or at least have the tops shortened. Having said that, I am actually quite impressed with how it turned out, considering this is my very first year as a *serious* gardener! I spend way too much time in the backyard, pottering, repotting, trimming, training, inspecting for pests, and all the associated quirks of being a gardener! I even have a log of stuff that I'm growing; plants and fungi. No, seriously, I do keep careful records of the various species and growing conditions in a Spreadsheet! Now I completely understand how Saxifrage Russell (of Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars Trilogy) can completely divert his skill and insight from Physics to Plants!

80 species of plants, cacti, mesembrynths, and fungi currently in cultivation!
You can take a physicist out of the lab, but you can never take the lab out of the physicist!

I found, as a child, that you must never believe the "rate of growth" of plants by other people and literature, as you can never reproduce the exact condition of the other persons' garden. I noticed that each different part of the garden has it's own microclimate and might suit some species.

It is a big challenge to cultivate plants here, as we are subject to quite massive swings in temperature due to the proximity of the Rockies. Some of the more tropical and temperature sensitive seeds failed to germinate (Cananga odorata, Citrus hystrix, Etlingera elatior, Datura metel, amongst a few) or germinated to promptly die with the cool evenings (Capsicum frutescens). However, I think I have a better grasp of the fickleness of the temperature here, and a better idea of what plants to attempt and when, in the future.

Capsicum annuus var boliviae (Bolivian Rainbow Pepper)

This plant was started from seed last year in June/July. Under ideal conditions, it would have grown to maturity in 100-120 days and fruited by then. However, in cooler and temperate climate it only grew 4 true leaves last summer and "rested" for the rest of winter. This past few months it has picked up it's growth in a hurry and started to develop a woody main stem, which is indicative of imminent flowering.

Nice healthy plant, despite being battered by hailstones a few times.

Small buds of maybe chilli flowers?

Brassica oleracea var Romanesco (Romanesco broccoli - fractal broccoli)

The plants are doing very well, so well that they are attracting Cabbage white butterflies (Pieris brassica) from somewhere ... I don't mind one or two caterpillars, but if there's a huge infestation they get picked off or sprayed. Sometimes I just brush the eggs off the leaves, after the butterflies flutters by, with a small pastry brush.
The stem on Bill has thickened somewhat - which I suspect means that the broccoli head is in the forming, as I couldn't really peer into the thick foliage to see the apex.

Thickening to cope with the weight of the broccoli head
Cymbopogon citratus (Lemon grass) 

I'm surprised the lemon grass thrived here - albeit the slow growth. I think that being a grass, it's more tolerant to temperature dips in the evenings. A new off-shoot has grown off the base of the main plant. When I repotted the grass recently I noticed a lot of vegetative offsprings forming from the root system. I guess in the time that I thought the grass wasn't growing (above ground) it was busy forming a massive root system and preparing off-shoots! Now I know better, I will put it in a bigger pot to start with. 

Nothing beats fresh lemon grass stalks in your dinner
Celosia argentaea var plumosa (Prince's Feathers) 

Looks like they have recovered from the aphid infestation that nearly killed most of them. I will keep a closer watch on the Celosias in the future as they are very prone to aphids. 

No sign of inflorescence yet.

I'm glad I didn't consign them to the compost tea tub. They have bounced back wi
th a vengeance.

Borago officinialis (Borage - Starflower)

This plant will definitely be making a comeback next year. The bumblebees really love it! I spent many (too much?) hours watching the bumblebees bumbling around the petals. At least 2 different species of bumbles keep coming back to the Borage.

Helianthus annuus (Sunflower) 
I finally have a sunflower casualty in the bad weather. One of the Red Sun sunflowers got decapitated close to the base. Two remaining ones are now staked against the wind. Might have to resort to just growing them in pots next year. 
Out of the three stooges, Curly got whacked. The "stump" however is showing
signs of a new bud forming. Or maybe I'm just wishful :(
Cocot and Peter are doing well. Peter has a flower bud forming in the apex. Maybe in 2 weeks we'll see the bloom? Cocot leafed out very vigorously, and is showing signs of branching out! It was blown over in the strong winds last week, but thankfully it wasn't hurt. Now it is staked up with two support bamboo canes.

Cocot in the Evil Plot

Peter's flower
Peter lives in a bigger pot now, with some amaranth, celosia, poppies and hypericum
Papaver rhoeas (Shirley poppy)

No, it's not opium poppy, so quit waggling your finger at me! I'm glad I didn't take the normal "advice" of thinning out the weaker plants. I've got a few interesting strains from this batch alone. The pink ones are ubiquitous and vigorous. Red ones are a bit slower growing. Red Flying Saucer is next. Peach coloured strain is interesting, and surprise of the day - a white papaver rhoeas! They are rare :)
Yes, it's out of focus. My camera can be temperamental. But behold, a peach poppy!

I've never ever seen a peach poppy before.

Nice Flanders' Field Red Poppy. I know were this poppy should be ... >:)

First white poppy of Papaver rhoeas strain I've seen. Usually only turkish (somniferum)
have white petals. I don't think growing contraband substances is such a good idea ...

I hope the plant survives long enough for the seed pod to mature. It's looking rather sad.

Cucurbita pepo (Pumpkin)

Just for shits and giggles I started a couple of pumpkin seeds that I saved up from last year's Hallowe'en. They grow really quick, but I think I should have started them in April. Maybe, just maybe, it will survive the frost and I'll have a pumpkin for this year's Hallowe'en.

The pumpkin plants are the ones 10 and 11 o'clock. It's sharing the bigger pot with some
pepper plants, an onion, a couple of Triffids and some sunflowers.

Amaranthus cruentus (Red Velvet Amaranth)

I am actually really curious and eager to harvest (and eat) the Amaranth grains from these plants. I've got lots of seed in the baggie, so I figure I might as well enjoy it!

The Tassels are forming nicely. There's even axilliary shoots coming out on the sides.
Lavandula angustifolia var Munstead & Vera, Nepeta cataria, Ocimum basilicum, Echinacea purpurea and Helianthus annuus var Dwarf Teddybear (Munstead and Vera Lavenders, Catnip, Basil, Echinacea and Dwarf Sunflower)
Clockwise from 6 o'clock: Catnip, Munstead lavender, Vera lavender, Basil, Echinacea
and Dwarf Teddybear Sunflower

The Vera lavender that I germinated from seed is very slow in catching up with the Munstead.
Vera, Vera, what has become of you?

Stevia rebaudiana (Sugarleaf)

Very slow growing. I suspect the low evening temperature has a big effect on it.