Food, Gardening, and Code

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Orchids are beautiful flowers. They look exotic, and tropical, but are relatively easy to keep. All they require is a weekly watering and the right amount of light. Getting phalaenopsis orchids to bloom, however? That has been difficult. I have tried different amounts of light and water for the past two years, to no avail. So imagine my excitement when two beautiful red and yellow flowers appeared on my second oldest orchid plant.

I have read a variety of guides which suggest temperature, water, and light as the triggers for orchid blooms. For me, the key was light.

The Orchid Blooms At Last

Orchids need Light!

It really is all about the right level of light. Most guides will say that you need indirect light, but not all indirect light is equal.

When I started keeping orchids, all I had was a north facing window. There was nothing but indirect light. This kept the plants fairly healthy, but not happy. None of my orchids would bloom. The indirect light was just too indirect.

Then I moved, and put the orchids in a south facing window. This was too much light. The edges of the leaves started burning, and the plants were stressed.

So I put my three phalaenopsis in a west facing window. They get a little bit of direct light in the late afternoon, but the window is shaded by several trees. This was just the right amount of light, seemingly. Both of my older orchid plants have grown flower stalks!

Orchid Flowers require the right levels of light

Orchids need just the right kind of light to bloom. It needs to be indirect enough to not burn the leaves, but intense enough to trigger flower stalks.

I still have a lot to learn about keeping orchids. But now that I have found the right setting for my phalaenopsis, I hope that I will get to enjoy months of blooms.
Orchid Blooms

One of my dreams is to have a large potted fruit bearing fig tree. Fresh delicious figs in the summer - yum! The key to this plan is keeping a fig tree alive, of course, and fig trees can be finicky. The last thing they need is a pest like mealybugs attacking them.

I overwintered my fig tree in a nice south facing window, and I thought it was doing really well. It put on two figs at the beginning of spring, and I was considering moving it outside.

But then came Mealybugs


The mealybug infestation I suffered looked something like this, only in the soil instead of on the tree trunk.

The first symptom I noticed was what looked at mold at the base of the plant. A few days later, the leaves wilted, and the new figs started withering.

When I picked up the pot, a few bits of a white moldy substance fell out of the drainage hole. I took to the internet to identify what I thought was fungus; but after searching around, I realized it was much more likely to be mealybugs. The bugs were infesting the entire pot. The tree was dying, but I did not want to just throw the whole thing out.

How to remove Mealybugs

Most of the information I found on the internet explains how to remove mealybugs from the stems and leaves of a plant. In my case, however, the bugs were attacking the root system. So I couldn't just cut the infestation out.

First, I emptied the entire pot, taking care to remove the roots of my little tree from the soil without damage. I then washed the roots off outside to remove remaining particles of dirt. The removed most of the infection, but I did not want the bugs to come back.

Mealybugs attach themselves to the host plant with a waxy substance. So even though I couldn't see any little larva or eggs latched onto the roots, I wasn't sure they were entirely gone. To play it safe, I dipped the roots in water heated to 120 degrees Fahrenheit. This was warm enough to detach any remaining bugs, but not so warm that it would kill the plant.

Then, to be extra and especially sure that the bugs were gone, I sprayed the whole plant (roots and branches) down with Insecticidal Soap for Organic Gardening. This last part might have been overkill.

Fig Tree

Fortunately, it got better!

Satisfied that the bugs were gone, I replanted the fig tree. The poor thing dropped the rest of its leaves from stress. Only little brown buds were left. I was concerned that I had killed it.

The Aftermath

A week later, however, the buds sprouted green leaves. The pot is still bug-free, and the fig tree is happily existing on the back porch. Neither the mealybugs nor I killed it. So I leave this here in the hopes that someone else faced with a similar dilemma will be able to use some combination of the above methods to save their plant.

20160831_123751At the beginning of the year, I was determined to find a fig tree. Ideally, a Chicago Hardy fig tree - not because I was at all convinced that the Chicago Hardy figs could actually survive a bad Illinois winter (and let's face it, those are every few years) - but because I figured it would be more tolerant of being left outside on chilly nights during the spring and fall. I absolutely intend to bring it inside in the winter.

I was lucky enough to find a healthy looking sapling at Lowes, and lucky me, it put on figs! I'm sure it would be better for the tree not to spend its energy on producing fruit right now, but I had to find out what they would be like. So I left them on the tree.

The tree bore five fruits. The first one was a little bland, but the others are nice and sweet. I'm so looking forward to when this tree is more mature and I get a real harvest off of it.

The ripe fig. Mmmm, yummy.

The ripe fig. Mmmm, yummy.

The fig on the tree. Its almost ready!

Its almost ready!

 © 2023 Abhishek & Miriam Chaturvedi