Purslane, Verdolagas, Pigweed

| April 14, 2013
Photo Credit: Keith Knoxsville
A Hen and a Drake Green Teal on the truck bed. Not a limit on anything, but a fun morning out.

Purslane VerdolagasA lot of the summers of my youth were spent in Mexico, on my grandparents ranching lands. I learned all about the local vegetation and agriculture, before many companies like Driscoll’s entered the small agricultural communities to expand their berry growing endeavors with cheaper Mexican property and labor.

Anyways, I spent some days picking odd fruits off of trees, Choyote off of vines, Pitayas off of cacti, Mexican Cucumbers from wild low lying vines, and various other edible pants from fields and vegetation.

I have a lot of memories scavenging for Verdolagas, which I was quite fond of. Fast forward a couple decades to the beginning of last year, when I decided I’d like to grow some Verdolagas. I asked Grandma Google for “Verdolaga Seeds” and quickly got some suggestions for an English name: Purslane, Pigweed, Portulaca Oleracea.

I did a little more searching and reading, and was shocked when I read that this delicious little gift from the plant gods was often considered and exotic weed. “Whatever!” I thought to myself, “the world just doesn’t know what they are missing”. I scavenged local areas, and found the tasty little weed growing out of sidewalks and poorly maintained yards, but unsure of the chemical treatment those weeds had likely received, I decided to find a plant or seeds online.

It wasn’t more than a week or two later that I saw Purslane greens at the local farmers market, but they were chopped greens, and weren’t viable to plant. And then came the media bomb! Dr. Oz did a segment on super foods, in which he talked about the benefits of Purslane.

My beloved little weed was all of the sudden, a mainstream super food. Even the price of the limp Purslane Greens at the farmers market had instantly skyrocketed.

I did eventually get a hold of some good organic seed, so we now have some healthy Purslane growing at Gardenisto.

Call it what you want: super food, exotic weed, Verdolagas, Pigweed, or Purslane. With the endorsement of Dr. Oz on my side, if you haven’t tried this delectable little weed, give it a shot.

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Lychee Leaf Growth

| April 12, 2013
Photo Credit: Keith Knoxsville
A Hen and a Drake Green Teal on the truck bed. Not a limit on anything, but a fun morning out.

Lychee Leaf GrowthWe potted our lychees air layers in a blend, of coco, peat, bark, and perlite, with some organic starter nutrients and plenty of beneficial bacteria. It took time to grasp the needs of our little lychee air layers. They lived indoors under artificial lighting through the winter, protected from wind and cold. We watered and fed them with our Arduino controlled drip system. They finally took root, and began to thrive, but not without issue.

We learned the hard way just how sensitive our lychees were to both, over fertilization, and the salts in our hydroponic nutrient blend. The older leaves eventually started looking chlorotic, and the plants dropped a lot of their leaves.

So you can imagine our excitement when our little lychees were growing new green stems and budding out. A few weeks later, the plant still dropping leaves from previously having been over fertilized, we realized our new growth was all floral. We went back into panic mode. The flowers were beautiful, and dense enough that some properly pollinated. Small fruit started to grow, so we trimmed them all off, fearful the plant would partially fruit, then run out of energy, and die.

The weather warmed up, and the lychees still dropping leaves with no new leaf growth, were moved out side into an area built to protect from wind. They were slowly hardened off, and eventually moved into direct sunlight.

Only a couple weeks after the flush of flower buds had finished, a new flush of buds began growing at the base of new growth, as well as on older growth. Days of monitoring anxiously, finally revealed these new buds were indeed new leaves.

So what had happened?
Basically, we over fertilized, and stunted our plant, the wrong balance of fertilizer may have also promoted a flush of flowers, but we are pretty sure the flush type was mostly dependent on temperatures.

How do you promote green growth?
Heat! When the plant was moved into bright, warm, full sun, the soil temperature climbed. Warmer soil promotes flushes of leaves.

How do you promote flowering?
Colder Temperatures. Lychees don’t like to be too cold, but below a specific soil temperature, lychees like a lot of plants, will set fruit instead of leaves.

If we try growing Lychee from air layers during the winter again, we’ll take a slightly different approach. We will definitely reduce the nutrients in our water reservoir, but we’ll also add some heaters, and add a heating mat to raise the soil temperatures.

We’ve learned a lot about Lychee growing in the last year, so let us know if you have any comments or questions. We’d love to help you out if we can.

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