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First Flowers 2016

Flowering took place sev­er­al weeks lat­er this year than last year. Not sure why, but there is a strong pos­si­bil­i­ty it is due to a very dry win­ter here. Meteorologists are call­ing it a drought, although it would­n’t resem­ble what most of the world calls such a thing. Last week, the rains returned, lucky us, and spring weath­er is back to it’s sog­gy nor­mal here. For us, these flow­ers mark the begin­ning of typ­i­cal­ly eight weeks of ear­­ly-morn­ing trips to the vines to do the pol­li­na­tion. Flowering in the vanillery was slow to get start­ed, but it looks like it’s going to be good. This is the first year we expect to get a decent har­vest out of it, and it’s… (read)

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New Shoots

It occurred to me today that count­ing new shoots might be a good way to mon­i­tor the flow­er­ing poten­tial of the vanillery. I was inspect­ing the vines and think­ing about ways to quan­ti­fy the suc­cess of each plant­i­ng. For each cut­ting we plant­ed, most sprout­ed one new shoot, a few more than one. Enough time has passed so that some of the orig­i­nal new shoots have thrown off new shoots them­selves. Since each node of the vanil­la plant can either grow a new shoot or flower once (if at all), it is nec­es­sary to keep the vines con­stant­ly grow­ing. Maintaining a good num­ber of grow­ing tips means more poten­tial flow­er­ing loca­tions for the next sea­son. First year vines are smooth and soft to the… (read)

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First vanilla buds of the year

While the first vanil­la pods of the sea­son are com­ing in, the first flower buds are also appear­ing. Some of these spurts of new growth will result in new vines, branch­ing off of the mature vines, but most of these will form the flow­er­ing racemes. The ear­ly spring is when a lot of new growth occurs, and the vanil­la farmer (me) watch­es with some appre­hen­sion as the flow­er­ing racemes appear (or not!) deter­min­ing the size of the new sea­son’s crop. In a week or so, the morn­ing rit­u­al of the hand pol­li­na­tion will begin. The flow­er­ing sea­son of 2014 was light for us, sev­er­al areas nev­er went to flower, so the 2015 har­vest sea­son will be small.  One of the things we’ve… (read)

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Vanilla Seedlings

Last year, I noticed a cou­ple of very small vanil­la shoots in the bed under one of my vanil­la trel­lis­es. Looking clos­er, I real­ized that these were clear­ly the almost mirac­u­lous appear­ance of vanil­la seedlings! I tried sev­er­al inter­net search­es to find out: was this com­mon, had oth­er vanil­la grow­ers report­ed this? I found no reports, noth­ing about find­ing or suc­cess­ful­ly pro­duc­ing a vanil­la seedling or that a vanil­la seed had ger­mi­nat­ed nat­u­ral­ly. All I found was that it could be done arti­fi­cial­ly using a gen­er­al tech­nique for start­ing orchid seeds called “flask­ing,” which is basi­cal­ly cre­at­ing ster­ile con­di­tions for an orchid seed to grow. And yet, here they were, 3 vanil­la seedlings that had start­ed spon­ta­neous­ly in the mulch under some of my vanil­la plants.… (read)

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The Vanillery has been Built!

On APRIL 23, 2014 our vanillery was com­plet­ed. The 20′ x 50′ shade­house was con­struct­ed with the help of jonathan jay, Roland Barker, Lisa Parker and Dave Kasimoff. In the cool, moist mulch of the trel­lis rows, the vanil­la cut­tings are slow­ly sprout­ing root-like fil­a­ments that will anchor the vines and draw in mois­ture and nutri­ents. For now, they are pro­tect­ed from the sun and kept moist while they grow in to their new home, the vanillery.

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