Weird things you can grow: OCA!

weird thingsFor whatever reason, I just can’t resist a weird plant. I would much rather grow a weird plant than a normal plant. Which is why I’ve created a new recurring feature on my blog entitled Weird Things You Can Grow! I know! Exciting, right?

I was at Apache Seeds last weekend — which, by the way, is amazing: I picked up some alfalfa which I want to use as a cover crop, which is a post for another day; their seed selection is probably the best of any place I’ve been; and they had a small but very healthy and enticing-looking collection of nursery plants. Among those enticing-looking plants, I saw an oca plant (variety ‘Sunset’) and couldn’t resist.

oca2Oca (oxalis tuberosa – you can tell it’s from the oxalis family, as its leaves have the same characteristic shape as ornamental oxalis plants) is a starchy edible tuber that comes from South America. It’s also known as New Zealand Yam, apparently. That makes sense, since in botany*, all plants from South America have New Zealand in the name.

Since I’ve run out of sunny garden spots, I planted it in one of my remaining pots. I have no idea how it will do in there. It may suffer from the lack of space, but that’s ok, because I’ve learned that it’s probably doomed to failure anyway.

Upon doing further research, it seems like this plant is not suited to the Edmonton climate at all. It doesn’t start to develop the tubers until the fall, when the days get shorter — less than 12 hours per day in length, according to the Mother Earth News article linked below. September 27th is the first day in 2015 with fewer than 12 hours of daylight – and our average first fall frost is September 23rd. That will only give the plant -4 days to develop tubers. Doesn’t bode terribly well, does it? Oh well. Sometimes when you’re trying to grow weird things, you can’t worry too much about math.

Sorry for the terrible picture. I took it with an oca!

*I am not a botanist. Your mileage may vary.

More info:
Mother Earth News – How To Grow Oca
Emma the Gardener – How To Grow Oca

Replanting succulent pots, May 27 2015

I didn’t overwinter my succulent pots (which fit into my outside table) properly and they mostly died. So I replanted them today, using one of these neat sedum tiles from Home Depot. They aren’t on their website, but I know they carry them there regularly because I bought one there last year too.

With that, plus a few containers of plugs (three flats of plugs plus two loose plants), I planted my two table containers, plus an old strawberry pot and a hanging basket.

IMG_1164  IMG_1165IMG_1166One unfortunate thing about these succulent tiles is that I don’t think all the varieties are necessarily that hardy. I bought one last year, too, and used it to fill a miscellaneous pot that was on my deck (among other things). As of today, only one of the varieties in the pot survived the winter – like some kind of sedum Thunderdome (Sedumdome!). So, it still works but without quite the same joyful succulent je-ne-sais-quoi.

I didn’t overwinter that pot properly either (noticing the pattern yet?), so I’m going to try to treat these ones like the whiny, vulnerable babies they are and see if I can nurse them through the winter.

Also, one of the possible applications for these tiles would be a super-easy way to establish a green roof. It would be easy (although not cheap) and would look good right from the get-go, unlike many green roofs that take awhile to get established. Also, the fact that they’re so densely planted means weeds would be almost non-existent. But if the varieties aren’t individually that hardy, this would be a recipe for sadness – since you have to assume that a high-up, exposed location is going to be a full zone colder (if not more) than a plant in the cozy, -30-degree ground. So I don’t recommend this, unless you are planning a green roof for your beach cabana somewhere in zone 6*.

*If you are reading this, and you have a beach cabana, please email me. I want to be your friend. I’m not just being superficial. I really like you. The fact that you have a beach cabana is just an added bonus.

My garden: Essentially an elaborate elm seed pod catchment system

These papery little pods are elm seeds. They are my nemesis.

IMG_20150529_182745The other day, I was outside when there was a gust of wind and I felt like it was snowing. They were everywhere, including in my hair and down my shirt. I found some on the range hood of my stove the other day. Every time someone goes in or out, more get tracked into the house. They’re in my bed, in my shower (damp of course), and obviously all over all my plants.

I try to pretend they’re some kind of mulch, except they’re really a mulch that turns into WEEDS, which is the worst kind of mulch. Evil mulch. (I know they’re not really weeds, but the way they grow post-seed-pod-snowstorm, they basically are.)

I am not normally the sort of person who hates trees*, but I hate these ones. There are two on our boulevard right in front of our house and one more in a neighbour’s back yard. If something happens to them, it wasn’t me.**

*I was trying to think of someone who IS the kind of person who hates trees, and the only example I could think of was Hexxus – voiced by Tim Curry! – from Fern Gully. Also maybe someone with allergies I guess?

**YES IT WAS.