Saturday, October 1, 2016

Indoor Propagation: Growth of Gladilous

I really got myself into it this time.

In winter I get a bit antsy. Do I have a backlog of things to do around the apartment? OH HELL YES. Do I want to do those old backlog things? NOPE. It's time to think of some new torture for future Alexandra to have to tackle. OoOoOoOoOo MUAHAHAHAHA... Past Alexandra is a real pita.

So Winter Alexandra (I can't be held responsible for her recklessness) made this purchase:

Right, right. When you're unemployed it makes total sense to use $151.57 to buy ...495 gladiolus corms?!? Oh, Alexandra....why?

So then I made a very complex plan (it was absurd. I can't even put it here. Oh okay - basically I wanted planters around the 80 foot railing of my building so new yorkers below could see the blooms but planters are expensive. I decided to buy tarps and hang them over the railing making a trough on each side - think of a "w" made by a tarp but the railing is in the middle holding the center up - the sides are connected/ held by bungee cords. the glads would sit on each side in the bottom - then grow up to 5' - about 3' above the railing - see the appendix at the bottom to see the email exchange between me, my grandmother, and my mother about this.). And I thought: 'hell! I have months to get my stuff together before all these arrive in mid-march.'

Sidenote: Oh right for all of you who don't know Glads are usually classified with the bulbs - though they are corms. Though you may know of bulbs as those tulips and daffodils that need to be planted the fall before and over-wintered - these are not spring bulbs. They are summer flowering "bulbs"! So they get planted after the last freeze and flower about 90 days after planting. /sidenote

But did I get my stuff together before mid-march? Nope. Instead with all my pent up energy I just decided I could do this hydroponically instead and then dicked around trying to make up a hydroponic solution (no pun intended) for months. Then the corms came in the mail and I still didn't know what to do so I ordered the supplies for the original soil plan - about $300. Oi!

But I decided I couldn't wait for the soil to arrive. Also I was worried that the glads wouldn't get enough sunlight from the top of the soil in the "planters" I made (again - you don't want to know). PLUS: glads are notorious for only blooming for 2 weeks (after waiting 90 days, dammit!) So gardeners stagger their plantings every week or two for continuous flowering. (90 days after the first planting flowers start and they continue even after the first round wilts to give flowers from the next rounds all summer long).

So I started the first round of bulbs inside:

and the second, a few days later. After the first had rooted a bit:

Then around 10 days after being put in the casserole dishes I moved the corms to their own water bottles that I had cut in half so they could grow without intertwining roots. I tried paper towel rolls cut to hold them up in the water but those disintegrated. The caps worked better - but not perfectly.

and then I had a LOT of water bottles on my windowsill. Pictured below you can see the first round (back left), second round (back right), third round (front right), fourth (front left), fifth and sixth (center). I found that they rooted within days, sent out stems (under an inch) in a week, had about 5-7" in a week, 12" at 15 days, 15" in 20 days, and 18" in 25 days. I stopped measuring after that.

I had lots of plant matter in my window and spilling into my living space. Watering them was taking lots of my time.
And then it became too much. Pestilence. Mold. Disease. Too much for me.

That plus the disintegration of my outdoor plans for the flowers (my building found out and wouldn't allow it) meant I had taken enough on this project. So I finally gave up, recycled the bottles, composted the plants, gave away the remaining bulbs, got the NYC parks dept to come and take all the soil I had bought - it's now in battery park -  and tried to forget how much I spent on this failure. The tarps and bungee cords are still on my terrace - let me know if you'd like some.

Appendix, Email exchange:
Me, 10/4/15:
I'm writing to you both to describe my plan for next spring/summer. I've done extensive research and I think I've got it!
I'm most interested in growing something easy that can be pawned off after the season or whenever I need to vacate the apartment - not super heavy and will flower in year one.
I was first romanced by the idea of wisteria. I saw blogs of people who had successfully wintered them in pots on NYC rooftops. But the fastest growing I saw was "up to 10 feet/season" and I really couldn't find a for sale bust over 5 feet long. meaning even to cover the railing mostly by the end of next summer I'd be looking at buying 4 plants - in addition to cost they may not flowers for 2+ years. and I'd have to make sure they don't harm the building.
I then looked into fall bulbs (tulips, daffodils, hyacinth, etc). I called some reputable bulb places and not one rep said it could be done the way I wanted it to. They have to grow roots before the warm temps or else the flowers will be stunted. Womp womp
So I settled on Spring bulbs. They flower in the summer. Yippie. From a cost perspective Gladiolus and Begonias are great. I like glads better because begonias are bushy looking. I want the tulip field effect (where they are super close together). So I found this website that has great reviews among gardening forums - and the assorted packs of Glads are obscenely cheap. Win!
I can order them in January and they'll be shipped in late march. I plan to stagger my plantings for a longer flowering season (each glad only blooms for 2 weeks so gardeners apparently plant them in succession (1/4 of them one week, 10 days later another 1/4, another ten days... so that you get the effect of having longer bloom season.) I looked up our zone etc and I think I'll start planting the 2nd week of april and plant every two weeks until the latter part of July. That's 8 planting days - 16 weeks of flowers!
But glads are SUPER tall. 3-5 feet tall. so they need taller containers than the gutter system I had originally concocted. Even window boxes are not tall enough to plant them 6 inches deep and give them some stem support. So I got my brain to work and I googled into the night (okay, during the day) and found some inspiration!
This is a planter that hangs over the railing with pockets on each side. This is not a great bang for buck and it's not the right size. (there are a lot of these and they are too expensive for my application) But there's a wholesale tarp company in Brooklyn that has colored tarps in many sizes for super cheap. I figure I need about 14 tarps and I'll lay them over the metal railing down the middle then use twine through the grommets to fold them back up. I'll put dirt in the cavities on both sides and voila! planters. Then in the winter I can take down the tarps and use them to cover my patio furniture and contain all the dirt over the winter. I calculated I need about 14 tarps (6'x8') at $2.39 each - under $40.
Since I'll have room on either side of the railing to plant and the glads are supposed to be 4 inches on center from each other I figure that's about 6 glads per linear foot of railing. There's about 72 feet of railing - 432 glads. - Or about $150 from the website above. And at the end of the season I can either dry them for me (or you) to use next season, donate them to another gardener, or compost them.
It's brilliant, brilliant, brilliant I tell you - genius I say!
I might consider going to get mulch/soil now as it'll be cheaper? I have no idea how much I'll need? 6"x12"x72' x2? 124,500 cubic inches. 72 cubic feet? how much soil is that? should I invest in some packing peanuts to offset weight and amount of soil needed? Plus I need bulb booster.
I appreciate the insight you've given me on multiple phone calls on this front. :)
Love you!!!
Grandmother, 10/4/15:
Holy Shit!!! I’m breathless!!   Your Glads sound fabulous and yes, they are a very tall plant that usually requires a planting of short annuals with them to give them a balances look.  Annuals are relatively cheap and you don’t have to worry about their survival from one season to the next…. there is no next season.I checked out the Chinese pocket planters and I wasn’t impressed by their sturdy appearance.  Soil and water weigh quite a lot and when you have something suspended over railings you  don’t want anything falling off and onto someones head….. I think that would fall under “harm to the building” in terms of a law suite from unsuspecting passersby who get clobbered with plants on their way to work.  The idea is great, but work it so any problem that will occur will  occur on your deck and not on the sidewalk below.  Also, be sure the tarp has sufficient drainage so you don’t get bulb rot.  Also, one other thing… Glads are a tall plant and I don’t know how well they do exposed to wind.  Do you get much wind on your deck???    Other than that … “It’s brilliant, brilliant, brilliant"…. just like you told me!!
Luv U
Mother, 10/4/15:
My brain exploded about half way through this email.  Help me, help me... gurgle
Me, 1/23/16:
I just placed this order, $150 for 445 Bulbs in assorted colors of #1 or #2 size. The summer will be beautimus!!
Grandmother, 1/24/16:
Meanwhile… how much snow is  on your terrace???