Monthly Archives: December 2010

Watering System


As we head off for two weeks tomorrow, we finally implement a watering system to keep our vegetables alive over the holiday. Internet research reveals several automated watering systems available. We had in mind something DIY but with is being a last minute attempt are going for something crude.

The setup for the main troughs and smaller pots is a single elevated bucket of water with strips of cotton running from the bucket into each container. These strips were cut from an old t-shirt. Water should soak along them gradually, watering the plants over the next couple of weeks. The strips are just below the surface of the soil and run close to the roots along the length of the troughs.

The tomato plants have a separate watering system. For each pot an upturned 2L water bottle is pushed into the soil. Two tiny holes, one in the lid and the other at the bottom (now top) of the bottle, were made with a heated pin. This should release the water slowly into the soil.

Fingers crossed, hopefully there is enough water there to last two weeks. It would be a shame to lose our crops and be back at square one in the new year.


Transplanting Tomatoes



We finally got around to transplanting the tomatoes. Of the six shoots two were much stronger so we gave them a large (approx. 12”) hexagonal pot each. They are looking really good. I was surprised at how much less of a root system they had than I expected, but they looks really healthy so I have high hopes for them growing big and strong. I left the other shoots in the original pot for now. There is no urgency to use the pot for something else so I will see if any of them take off now that the stronger ones are out of the way. If not I will probably abandon them because I expect two tomato plants to be enough really as they will probably need quite a lot of attention in the summer.


Slow progress


The veg seem to have slowed down quite a lot. I have been watching them for the past week or more and it seems like nothing is happening. I wasn’t sure why. But yesterday Adam inspected them and decided that I have been starving them by not watering them enough in a fear of the mould returning. He made me give them a good soaking of water once the sun moved off them and to be honest it seems to have helped. I did read somewhere that over-watering is one of the biggest problems with container growing but I suppose the weather in Kunming tends to be very dry so I need to be more generous with them. We are definitely going to have to get some sort of low powered fan going on them though because a couple of days ago the radishes from the supermarket had some black mould on them. I pulled one out to thin them and the root and bottom of the stem was all black so I think it was infected by the mould. I picked it all off and checked the rest, which seem to be ok. Hopefully they will bounce back.

I am a bit concerned about the radishes. They haven’t grown at all in a week and now they are bending towards the window for more sunlight. We should be able to eat them in two weeks according to the growing instructions but they are currently just spindly shoots with no real roots or leaves.

The basil has finally sprouted, three of the six seeds I planted have come through. I wasn’t sure if it was warm enough for basil and it is progressing slowly, but it’ll be great if we can get a couple of good pots of basil going as we currently eat more basil than any other herb!

Actually, the one thing we might eat more than basil is garlic and I am VERY pleased with the progression of the garlic cloves I planted. They sprouted almost immediately and now they are a good 6” tall each after only two weeks. I’m not sure how long it will take until it is edible in this climate, as it takes 6 months at home with the cold winter, but seeing as it is progressing so well I am seriously considering planting some more soon.

The tomatoes are all growing and looking very healthy. I think I will transplant one or two of them in the next few days, once they get over the neglect of being underfed and get strong again! We bought some big pots last weekend in the market so I am going to plant one into each pot for now and organise some bamboo canes to help support them when they get big.

The lettuce all sprouted very quickly but unfortunately there were a couple of overcast days and they all stretched up too quickly towards the window. So now all the stems have fallen over and seem very week. A few sprouts came out a week later and they look healthier than the first ones. I’m not sure how to help them, apart from trying to create some breeze on them to strengthen them. Hopefully they will still produce some edible leaves, but it really is a shame to see them in such condition after they sprouted so quickly, I was sure they were going to provide tons of delicious leaves for us to eat!

Still no sign of the strawberries, I guess it was a bit too ambitious. Last week I bought and read the book Vegetable, Herb and Fruit Growing in Small Spaces by John Harrison. I bought the ebook version which I read on the kindle for pc software, so convenient! He suggests that although strawberries are ideal for containers they are better grown from plants and can be slow to propagate from seed. I guess he is right. Maybe we should give up on them, or at least until the spring. I also read somewhere else that the seeds should be frozen first to simulate the winter months so when you plant them they will think winter is over. It seems a bit time consuming! It’s a shame because they grow so easily in the wild but I don’t know where I might be able to get a plant here in China. Fortunately strawberries have just come into season here again so we can buy some big juicy ones from the vegetable market to munch while we ponder how to try to grow our own!


dormant kefir


we’ve been getting through a lot of milk making kefir drink every day. lately we’ve felt we probably have too much, so a couple of days ago i put the kefir grains in a small jar with a small amount of milk into the fridge. this significantly slows the process down and you can keep it like this for a couple of weeks before that milk turns to yoghurt. from now on i will make three batches three days in a row and then put the kefir to sleep again.

been reading about what more we can do than make yoghurt and cheese is now on the cards. need to acquire some cheese cloth and read up on the process. if we can make some good cheese, then that would be an improvement on our current cheese situation which involves buying small quantities of expensive imported cheese. some of this isn’t even great quality and is still expensive. there is one local cheese you can buy here though, “rubing” 乳饼. this is goats cheese. we bought some this morning at the market and will fry it with broccoli as a dish for dinner tonight.