Sunday, October 22, 2006
The one on the left is the Improved Meyer Lemon, and the one on the right is the Trovita orange. I'm jazzed and I'm watching these plants like a hawk. I found out while I was stalking...er, shopping for...these trees that citrus doesn't like water. They like soil that is just this side of dry. Great. Now I know why that orange tree in front of my bedroom window died all those years ago. The people at Four Winds said not to transplant into too big a pot -- okay, got that -- and advised against clay pots, which I blithely took to be a judgment call. After all, these trees are staying on my dining room table until they get too big and have to take a corner of the room to themselves. I wanted something small and semi-decorative looking, and with three small children playing tag all over the nursery, I wanted something QUICK. You can't see it very well from these pictures, but the planters are very tall for their width, something I'm hoping will help guard against my tendency to over-water. I watered very well after their transplant about a week ago and then again today, after I noticed the Meyer had slightly drooping leaves. I have been worrying about the Trovita because its leaves hadn't opened up like the Meyer's but after the watering today everything looks to be in pretty good order. Next week I'll start a light feeding regimen and hopefully the new lights will be in.
I learned a lot about fluorescent lights. O, did I learn a lot about fluorescent lights. I had been worrying about having the right sort of light to help my citrus survive inside during the cold months. After all, they sell those grow-lights for a reason, don't they? Well, thanks to a great relative who works for the University of Riverside, I found out that the academics down there who study the plants don't use grow lights per se. They use regular old fluorescents. It's just a matter of getting a bright enough light, or else getting the plant close enough to the light source. Also, there is a sort of color saturation going on with fluorescents and according to the reading I've been doing, different saturations do different things. A lower number on the scale is supposed to be good for flowers and fruit. The higher the number, the better it is for leaf development. Aha!, as they say. But where in the house am I going to be stringing these fluorescent tubes? Another aha moment (also known as the hollow-thunk- of-hand -hitting - forehead moment) when I realized that fluorescents also come in bulb (or rather, in this case, spiral) shapes that can be put into regular incandescent fixtures.
Two things I learned. Yes, the local home improvement center does carry these in sufficient wattage to make a difference. However, they only come in the lower saturations, which means my poor citrus is getting the light but may be trying to spend energy in putting out flowers. These are one-year-old trees and they need two or so years before they're old enough to successfully bear fruit. (I mean really, they probably could now, but it would strain their system a lot.) I can get the higher saturations but only through special order -- no big deal, because these cost a LOT less than the 'professional' grow light systems I've seen advertised. The other really important thing is that a 40 watt fluorescent puts out the equivalent of 150 watts and that is just too bloody bright. It gives me headaches. The trees love it, but I think this monster is going into the garage to help with further seed starts out there, and I'm going to reduce the inside to 100 watt equivalent or less. I have ONE light in a three light setup and it's too bright. I can only imagine what three 150 bulbs would look like. Permanent suntan, anyone? I'm probably going to go with 2/1 setup -- two leaf encouragers and one flower type. And I'll keep notes.
Now these are my seedlings. They love the light. They really do. They couldn't care less if it was a flower light or a leaf light, it was entirely better than what they had going before which was nothing less than being put on a shelf and forgotten about.
Well, what else are you supposed to do with citrus seedlings? If there's anything worse than watching a not-boiling pot, it's watching not-germinating seeds. I put the starter block in a large plastic container, filled the container about half-way up, put the top on, and put the whole thing on a shelf where it sat for four weeks. I was happy, the seeds were happy -- well goodness, they have to be happy; they actually sprouted. Me, I was astonished. The children were unimpressed as they're still at the age where Mom is a miracle worker, but me, I was astonished. I mean, read the title of the blog people -- I kill plants. Even when I baby them. Especially when I baby them. It's a talent. A gift. It's a bloody genius thing that has been following me around for years. If you don't count the grapes. Or the raspberry thicket (fruitless raspberry thicket, but still). Or the avocado tree that I started from seed that's still hanging around...
Okay, maybe I'm not as hopeless as I first thought. But it's close.