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The Passion Flower’s bloomed

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Passion Flower

Passion Flower

Passion Flower, originally uploaded by malyousif.

This is the very first Passion Flower to bloom this season. It’s done that just today.

This particular plant is on an arbour anchored in two 50cm pots planted in there a mere couple of months ago. Both pots have the home-grown passiflora taken from the mother plant which had produced so many “children.” I have given a lot of them away to friends and family. I hope they too will enjoy this marvel before too long.

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The bulbs are in

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Amaryllis - Dancing Queen

At last I’ve had a chance to plant some bulbs I bought a couple of weeks ago. I opted to plant them all in pots – at least initially – as that will give me the chance to keep them inside, or move at least some to the garden at my leisure.

To see my other attempts with these lovely plants, please click here to look at them in all their glory in my Flickr photostream.

All the bulbs planted today were bought from the Old Jassim (in Burhama)

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The Lawn and my quest not to kill the birds

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I am sure our lawn was MUCH better than it is at the moment and I am almost 100% sure that the damage done to it is almost exclusively to this bastard that try as I might, I just could not get rid off:

Chafer Grub in grass

What these bastards transform into is a beetle that digs deep into the ground to lay its eggs, which develop into these grubs who eat the roots of lawn grass – specifically – which obviously results in burnt-out dead patches of grass. When they get hold of an area, you could literally just get hold of a patch of grass as if you are pulling someone’s hair (not that I encourage anyone to do that of course) and pull up and the whole patch just comes up cleanly in your hand. What is left behind is a patch of soil with holes where these grubs have dug tunnels through.

The damage does not stop there unfortunately, the birds and other animals love to eat them too. The bulbuls and mynahs adore them and go around the lawn with digging and ripping the grass to get to them. You should see their shenanigans in the afternoon/early evening when they descend into the garden and fight to get these morsels. Our dogs – Phoebe particularly – loves to eat them and has been known to rip up huge holes to get to them.

I’ve read about the problem of course and identified the bug through one of Elizabeth Shaheen‘s books (excellent reference of which plants actually grow here so her two books are a must-have for Bahrain gardeners). Digging through the Internet, a possible solution was identified in the form of beneficial insects, nematodes specifically, an ideal solution – especially as it is environmentally friendly and does not harm humans, birds or animals. Reading more about the solution I became convinced that it would be ideal for my lawn and rid me of these pests. I didn’t want to repeat another horrendous experiment with a chemical which was suggested by an agricultural engineer by spreading pellets of Carbofuran on the lawn. The problem is; though, when I did do that I was picking up dead birds from the garden for the next month! Gruesome and sad.

When I researched it more afterwards, this is what found Wikipedia to say about it:

It has one of the highest acute toxicities to humans of any insecticide widely used on field crops (more toxic are only aldicarb and parathion). A quarter teaspoon ( 1 mL) can be fatal. Most carbofuran is applied by commercial applicators using closed systems with engineered controls, so that there is no exposure to the chemical through pouring or measuring. Toxic effects are due to its activity as a cholinesterase inhibitor (it is thus considered a neurotoxic pesticide).

Carbofuran is also known to be highly toxic to birds. In its granular form, a single grain will kill a bird. Birds often eat numerous grains of the pesticide, mistaking them for seeds, and then die shortly thereafter. Before it was banned by USEPA in 1991 ([1]), granular carbofuran was blamed for millions of bird deaths per year. The liquid version of the pesticide is less hazardous to birds since they are not as likely to ingest it directly, but it is still very hazardous.

I was determined to find a good nature and wildlife friendly alternative.

Unfortunately as the company that sells this alternative are based in the UK, they have a policy of not exporting these insects. But I wanted them. I wanted them now. What to do?

I went to the agricultural department at the end of the Budaiya highway and talked to the engineers there who were adamant that the nematodes are no good and just carry on spreading Carbofuran in a methodical fashion – “but put up a couple of scarecrows to deal with the birds for a few weeks!”

If you want something bad enough, you will find a way to get it. Right? Right. So I got a small quantity shipped, together with some live ladybugs to deal with another problem my hibiscus was suffering from (mealy bugs), unfortunately for me, when they did arrive they got confiscated at Bahrain Airport and will not release them to me without the express authority by the Ministry of Agriculture! Damn. Okay, time to go and explain to them all the circumstances in the hope that they will see my point of view.

Although Dr. Abdulaziz Mohammed (probably the only Entomologist in Bahrain and head of the concerned department) was very polite, listened to the problem, read the printouts I took with me and the research that I have done, he has adamantly refused to let me have my insects! The reason? His department does not have any resources to carry out contained experiments on these pest-control methods before releasing them. His department does not have the money, staff, labs or outside test facilities. He even confided in me that he sometimes sends out new insects to the States for analysis and identification using his own personal funds to do so!

Still, he understood completely my problem and the motive for me to bringing the nematodes in, but he put them in his freezer and killed them all off. I kinda agree with him. We don’t know what side effects they might perpetrate.

My lawn is still suffering and will continue to do so until winter comes, but by that time its glory would have waned and it would be in its dormancy stage.

I really don’t know what to do with it now. It’s really not too bad actually. People still go ooh and aah when they visit my garden, but they don’t know it as I do of course. It was – and still could be – an awful lot better.

Failing removing the whole lot out – and I mean the whole bloody garden – and start all over again under no guarantees whatsoever that these bugs would be caught and eradicated, I would love to hear your solutions if you have any.

One of my solutions is to dramatically increase the flower-beds – resulting in less lawn areas of course, which is a shame – or how about spreading more seed to mix the grass? My lawn currently is South African grass (two seasons, stays green throughout the year), how about adding another soft grass seeds in there to create a thicker carpet? Would that work? Did any of you try this?

Or should I just carry on eating more of the lawn area and expanding the beds?

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The vegetable patch

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The vegetable patch

The vegitable patch, originally uploaded by malyousif.

This is my vegetable patch, in it I have sown cabbage, marrow, onion, cauliflower and also have tomato and aubergines planted. The trees you see in here are the raspberry (left back) pomegranate (back right) and chiko (fore right) you might also notice the jasmine trying to creep around the kitchen’s window!

I’m also using this area as a nursery for flowers, the seed trays contain antirrhinum, corn flower and godetia. The pots contain calundulas and scabious.

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Progress report – 071019

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Remember I said before that I thought the lawn was being over-watered? Well last night I determined to find out by how much, and that meant donning the swimming trunks on (is that picture firmly in your mind yet? Good! :twisted:) and turned on the sprinkler system and investigated each zone separately. I determined that Zone 1 in particular had too many sprinklers. I have no idea why the company I initially commissioned to do the garden decided on that many; in any case, I identified four sprinklers that could be done away with and did the necessary plumbing to disconnect them. I’ll only get to see the result of that decision in the next few weeks and will keep you updated. There are still some more to be removed from the other three zones, but the situation there is not as severe as zone 1.

With that done, I turned my attention to planing the new flower beds created around the two Cassia fistulas and filled those with seedlings from the nursery. I put the Scabious Scarlet Empress (B&Q) on the inside surrounded on the outside by Antirrhinum Monarch Mixed (B&Q). The distance both in depth and breadth is approximately 30 cms between each seedling and the next. I know that this might be a bit crowded, but I want this effect. If I find that they are just too crowded in the future, it will be easier to remove some plants rather than try to put some more in.

I did some more work in the garden this afternoon by clearing the font path’s beds and turning them over, making them ready for planting something in there – petunias if Frances gets her way! With the number of really interesting seeds I’ve got and am cultivating, I think they will probably be better there, and I’ll keep the petunias for the street beds. I’ll think on it a bit. There is no real rush there as I want to turn the drip system in those areas off for a couple of days to try to dry them a bit and then mix in some compost to receive whatever we decide to plant in there.

The same treatment was given to other beds around the garden to liven them up for this season’s plantings which I am really looking forward to. In anticipation of that, I’m cultivating some more seeds in the nursery. Here’s a list of seeds I planted in seed trays tonight:

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The poppies didn’t work

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I planted three kinds of poppies in seed trays on Sept 21st and none of them came up. Unfortunately I have had to give up on them; the ones I tried were:

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I think the reason they failed is probably due to (1) over watering, and (2) overzealous with the plant food! Even others didn’t fair very well actually except for the Calendulas and Antirrhinums of the same batch linked above.

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English Border populated

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English Border planting plan

English Border planting plan, originally uploaded by malyousif.

Movement! We have movement!

I’ve had a chance yesterday afternoon to bite the bullet and start planting. The final result is what you see above in the map, and if all that I have planted come through (and they should) this patch will look like a piece of Heaven!

I’ve chosen the plants based on colour, size and height. Other than the Calendula seedlings – which I grew in my make-shift nursery – which have been planted about a foot apart around the whole plot (see area 10), the remainder are all actually seeds which I have dispersed on the ground and then lightly covered with soil. I watered the whole plot with the mist setting on the watering gun in order not to let the seeds run from one area to another, or worse, just collect at the bottom of the hill. I’ve had that happen before! I hope that the drip lines won’t do that to them, they shouldn’t but I will keep an eye on the patch until the seedlings appear.

The plant distribution is as follows:

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The “English Border”

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The "English Border" WIP

The "English Border" WIP, originally uploaded by malyousif.

I know. You must be asking yourself “where does he get these weird names from?” Questions which I can’t honestly answer in full as I name areas in my garden in order to think about them “off line” specifically without describing them as “the patch at the end of the garden by the pool by the outside wall.” I think you will agree that “The Frangipani patch” is better, especially if I did a good job in getting other people to adopt them too; particularly my household and gardener. See, there is method to my madness!

Welcome to the “English Border.” The picture above is how it looked after I carted 8 or 9 wheel-barrow-fulls of sand and I was about to mix in two big bags of cow manure. This process took the whole morning and it was – once again – heavy work. I can feel every muscle in my body and my back has been complaining too. Never mind, the end result should be quite beautiful.

Like I said yesterday, I got a couple of lovely cycases from my friend Rami. I planted one in this border after completion and the other in the Buddha Patch.

This is how it looks on completion:

The "English Border" completed

I intend to get this border to have two faces; one to be viewed and enjoyed from the living room, while the other from the garden. So the plantings in it will be low-high-low and you will notice that the hill I created tapers off at the front and the back to allow for this effect.

As the border is small(ish) I will refrain from planting too many perennials and dedicate it instead to mostly annuals. The perennials in there already at both extremes are the lovely tacomaria which I got for my 43rd birthday (two years ago) and I’ve planted the cycas at the other end. I think I will put a bush in the middle as an anchor and will look for something that butterflies like. I might even move the Buddleja davidii my wife brought back from Scotland in this location! Now that’s a lovely idea… onto that tonight!

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