Asian Koels

In an earlier post, I mentioned the Asian Koels as some of the avian visitors to our garden. Yes, they’re noisy vocally and when they traverse through trees, but I can overlook that because they do something that makes me happy – as cousins to Cuckoos, they lay their eggs in other birds’ nests and the unsuspecting birds look after the Koels’ offspring with their own until they’re old enough to leave the nest. How they can be so dumb, I can’t fathom, but I’m thrilled that the biggest victims of this scam are crows.

Oh, to get rid of more crows!

Crows and I have a hate-hate relationship that goes back to when they were nesting in the neighbourhood. You may not know it but they get very territorial and defensive when they’re nesting, to the extent that they dive-bomb anybody who simply walks by. And they don’t just swoop over you to threaten – they really do hit and scratch unless they see you keep your eye on them. Just imagine trying to walk down the road with a silly bird following and swooping down at you every step of the way. It’s not fun. So, I take great delight in knowing that they’re getting their comeuppance by looking after Koel babies. *evil laughter*

Male Koels look remarkably like crows. They’re black and have a similar brooding body shape. You only notice the differences when you look more closely – unlike crows, Koels have eerie red eyes and lighter-coloured beaks. In contrast, female Koels have beautiful markings – spots and stripes in dark brown alternating with beige.

The male Asian Koel. Doesn't it look uncannily like a crow?

In our garden, Koels feed on mangoes and the berries on palm and curry leaf trees. Being somewhat large birds, they are confident to assert their territoriality; they take their time eating the fruit even though other birds like the bulbuls, orioles and mynahs are noisily awaiting their turns to eat.

Bottom view of the female Asian Koel. When I see those feathers, I imagine tribesmen in the jungle using them in their headdresses....

Koels normally eat up in trees, but to my surprise, I saw a female on the ground earlier this week, feeding on the last bit of a mango that had fallen from the tree after being half-eaten by the birds. She was complacent enough that I managed to get a fairly decent photo of her before she flew off.

More information at Wikipedia, if you want to learn more about Asian Koels.

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Don’t watch for seeds to germinate…

I knew it! I knew it! They were just waiting for my back to be turned. Didn’t I say my seeds would do that before they’d germinate? And that’s exactly what happened.

The one day I didn’t have time to look in on the nursery is the day the tomato seeds decided to sprout! I guess even seeds have performance anxiety… :D

Nope they're not dying, just leaning towards the light source

Tomato plants, here I come! *knock on wood*

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Recycling plastic bottles in the garden

Let’s face it… we’re a society that creates a lot of crap that can’t be easily disposed of. Plastic has been a blessing in manufacturing but a curse to the environment. So, how do we “Greenies” cope? We do our best to use fewer plastic products (a tough one since plastic is used in so many things), and we try to find as many ways as possible to reuse the plastic items already in our possession until they absolutely, positively have to be sent to a landfill somewhere.

When it comes to used soft drink bottles, I cut them to use:

  1. the bottom third or so as a nursery pot,
  2. the top bit as a funnel, and
  3. the middle ring (if you’ve cut it neatly) as a bottomless pot in the garden for shallow-rooted plants that you want to restrain within a small area. (I haven’t needed to do this myself, but it’s a possibility!)

A recycled drink bottle converted into a self-watering container - perfect for plants like mint that need moist soil

Recently I was introduced to the idea of using the bottom and top pieces of the bottle as a unit to form a self-watering container. Just invert the top of the bottle, with the cover loosely screwed on, and fill it with potting mix. The cap keeps the mix from falling out. Half fill the bottom of the bottle with water, and place the inverted top half in it. Water will seep through the loosened cap and moisten the potting mix. What I love about this design is that there’s no way for mosquitoes to get to the water, and you can see your plant roots as they grow along the sides of their growing container!

Another way to utilize used bottles is to pierce a few small holes along the sides and bottom of the bottle, and bury the bottle so that only the top is above ground. Fill the bottle with water, cap it loosely so that mosquitoes won’t be able to breed in the water, and it will slowly release water underground, directly to your plant’s roots. This will keep your plants happy and hydrated, even on hot days!

22 April 2010 is Earth Day. What can you do to take care of our planet?

© 2010 curiousgardener.com All rights reserved.


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Ginger updates

"Ginger Avenue"

It’s been almost three months since I planted my first ginger crop. Part of my venture was to observe how ginger would fare in different growing conditions. I knew that it supposedly grows well in semi-shade, so I planted two such lots – one that gets partial sunlight, and the other with hardly any direct sunlight.

Both lots did very well, but the one in the most shade seemed to be the most eager to grow. Whenever I look at that thriving row of plants, the words “Ginger Avenue” come to mind…

The plants in partial sunlight both thrilled and concerned me. I was happy because the first-ever plant grew here; and I was concerned because only two of the four budding rhizomes I put in sprouted. I thought in retrospect that I’d cut the ginger too small, thus decreasing the chances of sprouting. Remember that I’d cut the rhizomes into as many bits as I could, with only one growing bud per piece. That was pretty ambitious and greedy of me, but I knew I had to have some room for failure, even though I privately wanted full success!

Sprouting turmeric

Well, that was before the weather changed. It was with great delight that I saw the last two plants sprout – and slight chagrin, because I’d assumed they were not going to grow, and had planted a bit of turmeric where they had been. So, when the new shoot showed, I thought it was the turmeric, but then it struck me that the sprouting leaves looked like normal ginger. This left me in a quandary because the only way I could be sure was if I dug it up. I was reluctant to try this because of my very first attempt at growing ginger so long ago, when I’d accidentally torn the plant from it’s roots when transplanting it from pot to ground. It left me with the impression that the roots are very fragile, and I didn’t want to take the risk.

I was perturbed for a few days until another shoot popped up, and it was different – this one was light green with a pink tinge to it, and it was straight like a spear. So, curiously, I dug up the first plant, keeping as much earth possible around it to not disturb the roots, and found it to be a normal ginger plant. I transferred it to the other end of that row of ginger where it’s now happily growing.

Growing ginger in full sun

As for my other lot of ginger that was planted in full sunlight, it doesn’t seem to be very pleased. Although all the plants have sprouted, they seem to be dragging along when compared to the ones growing in shade. Two of them even died out after sprouting – one due to the intense Feb-Mar heat, and the other thanks to being stepped on by my dog! However, they both did start growing again, but very, very reluctantly. I decided to shift them over to Ginger Avenue to see if they would like that better. The stronger of the two has shown a marked improvement, and I’m waiting to see how the straggler will fare.

The oldest ginger plant with offshoots to either side of the stem. Click pic to zoom

Plant in a pot

I also started growing one plant in a pot, to see how it would compare to the rest that grew in the ground. Although it sprouted easily, the rate of growth is much slower than its’ free range counterparts.

The potted plant also serves as an example to my friends who live in apartments to show that they can grow ginger, too. You just have to use a large enough container. There will be updates on this plant as well, in due time.

Progress!

On a happy note, my oldest ginger plant – the one that first sprouted – is thriving happily. It now has two offshoots, and I am happily letting my imagination run riot about how the rhizomes are developing underground. The earliest you can start harvesting ginger is when it’s about 4 months old, but I think I’m going to wait for my babies to come to full maturity. That could mean that I have a HECK of a lot of ginger on my hands, but my momma thought ahead and has already bought a book of ginger recipes! So I have a few months more to consider: how do I cook thee, let me count the ways

And to decide how much to re-plant and start all over again… :)

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