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Flowering Pitaya (Dragon Fruit) Time-lapses

We have a huge pitaya plant sprawled over a west facing wall. Every summer, around May, we have front row seats to its huge, showy and fragrant blooms. By June the flowers turn into ripe pitaya fruit (dragon fruit) with red skin and red flesh.

pitaya plant with 4 open flowers
Pitaya plant with open flowers in the summer of 2016.

These plants are amazing. They thrive in neglect and rewards you with fruits for simply not minding them.

Every year since 2016 I’ve been making time-lapse video of the pitaya flowers opening. The video below is the result of my efforts back in 2016.

I’ve only had a handful of time-lapse video at this point and it shows in the video. There are also a number of limiting factors that affects the quality of the video. My camera is setup outdoors where it is susceptible to rain or even theft. I have to stay up all night to make sure my time-lapse setup is safe. Another limiting factor is the battery in my camera. During day time the exposures are short and the camera is able to take continuous shots for over twelve hours. But during the night the camera needs to take long exposures and that drains the battery fast.

In the summer of 2017 I’m more knowledgable and more experienced in making time-lapses. I had two setups for that year. One taken with my trusty Canon 70D and the other with a GoPro Hero 5.

The time-lapse video above is taken with a Canon 70D. The whole time-lapse is around six hours. The shot was limited by the camera’s battery as I set the camera to take long exposures so I can keep the ISO, and noise, low. It also resulted in more natural night time look.

The video above is the time-lapse taken with a GoPro Hero 5. The time-lapse ran for over twelve hours and captured how the the flower started to unravel close to 8PM, peaked around midnight and started to wilt around 3AM. This video proved to be most valuable in my next attempt.

For this year’s pitaya flowering time-lapse I decided to start the time-lapse at 7PM and run it until 7AM. To work around the battery capacity I set the ISO high to keep the exposure short and I will just clean the noise during post. I ran a test and it showed that my 64G SD card doesn’t have enough room for 3,000 RAW files so I set the camera to take sRAW.

I thought I can do some more trial runs before the bud I’m filming blooms but that is not the case. The bud showed signs that it will bloom the following night so I hastily set it up and hoped for the best.

The resulting time-lapse is much better than my previous efforts. The only other problem I encountered was the night-to-day transition. The pictures from 5AM onwards are overexposed and unusable. To fix this I need to set the camera to bulb mode and my intervalometer to bulb ramping. This requires testing of course. I still have plenty of chances to take the best looking time-lapse this year.? Wish me luck!

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Growing Tomatoes in Soil

Everybody loves tomatoes. Eating them freshly picked and still warm from light of the sun is a pleasure only tomato growers get to experience. The tomato plant is very easy to grow from seeds or cuttings. They grow and flourish everywhere as long as there’s enough sunlight and water as you can see below.

fruiting tomato plant surrounded by weeds
This tomato plant is growing unattended. It’s fruiting despite all the competition around it.

Tomatoes can be grown from seeds or cuttings. Seed packets can be bought from your local gardening center. If you are feeling adventurous you can try growing them from kitchen scraps. Put tomato seeds on a layer of newspaper and dry them under the sun. They need to be thoroughly dried otherwise it might take a while to germinate them. For the lazy (like me) you can just put fresh seeds on potting soil, put it under the sun to dry, wait a few days, then add water. That’s how I germinated tomato seeds recently.

small tomato seedlings on some potting soil
Seedlings! It is fascinating how hard to decompose the tomato skin is.

Wait for them to grow big enough to be transferred to your plot. I usually repot the seedlings into individual nursery pots and wait until they are around 10-15cm long before I transfer them to my garden.

a potted young tomato plant
A young tomato plant in a nursery pot

If a friend or neighbour has a tomato plant you want to experience the pleasure of growing, try asking them for cuttings. Just choose healthy shoots and cut them to 10-15cm. Then put your cuttings in a container filled with clean water. Keep the container in a place with indirect sunlight and wait for a couple of weeks for them to take roots. Be sure to refill or replace the water as needed.

When the roots are long enough, 5cm will do, transfer them to a nursery pot filled with soil. Keep them in indirect sunlight for a couple of days. And slowly introduce them to more light. In a few days you’ll have a healthy potted tomato plant ready to be transferred to your garden.

Once transplanted all that’s needed is regular waterings and plenty of sunlight. You might want to add a tomato cage too because these grow until they can no longer keep themselves up.

Described below is my recent experience in growing tomatoes. I had a blast growing the Costoluto Genovese Pomodoro.

four tomato plants growing on soil
Tomato plants transplanted January 19th. Pictured 2nd of February.

Pictured above are tomato plants grown from clones given to us by a friend. It has grown so much since it’s been transplanted.

big tomato plants
Tomato plants pictured February 21st.

Above I added strings to support the plants. Using strings proved to be a mistake. Because they just kept growing.

big and bushy tomato plants
Tomato plants pictured March 5th.

Until the string broke and the plants collapsed under their own weight. They are already bearing flowers and fruits at this point.

We just propped them up with a better support structure and they went about their business of growing and bearing fruits again. Soon enough we are harvesting tomatoes.

a bunch of Costoluto Genovese Pomodoro
Costoluto Genovese Pomodoro

At first I thought I might be doing something wrong because my tomatoes have a weird shape. My friend who gave me the seedlings never told me what variety they are aside from telling me they are “pomodoro.” It took me a bit of Googling to find out that they are Costoluto Genovese Pomodoro. “Pomordoro”, by the way, is Italian for tomato. So I guess it’s wrong to say “pomodoro tomatoes.”

I eventually had to take down the plants because they’ve grown too big and they started to attract pests. I made sure to save and root cuttings before I did so. Below is a video of me planting the cuttings I took from my previous tomato plant.

Thanks for reading. Good luck and happy growing!

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Memories Can Be Kept, Grown and Eaten

Last January, my wife and I went to Sagada. It is a lovely place that everybody should visit. In one of our wanderings, we passed a cherry tomato plant hanging over a wall. Pampered by the temperate weather of Sagada, the plant looks vigorous and healthy. I picked one of the ripe fruits and took it home.
The tomato is no longer fit to eat when I got home so I just cut it in half and squeezed out the seeds on top of potting soil. Once dried, I sprayed it with water. Days later, I got this:

small tomato seedlings on some potting soil
Seedlings! It is fascinating how hard to decompose the tomato skin is.

In a few more days, I will transplant them and grow them until they bloom and bear fruit. In a few weeks, I will harvest them and eat them. Cherry tomatoes from Sagada. It is possible that I will lose my plants for whatever reason but I’ll make sure to keep seeds to prevent that. Memories I can keep, grow and eat again and again.

Originally published in MJ Garden.

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How to Grow a Gardening Community: The Story of SNAP Hydroponics Growers

plants growing in growing boxes with SNAP hydroponics

I’m an “experimental gardener.” I really don’t have any particular goal when it comes to gardening. I just grow plants because it’s fun and rewarding. When I stumbled upon SNAP on the internet I got curious and decided to try it out. My curiosity lead me to a community I never thought of creating.

Back in 2016 we moved to a house which has more place for me to do gardening. In addition, it has a disused basement (silong) which I thought was perfect for indoor hydroponics gardening. I started reading about hydroponics and I learned that hydroponics:

  • Needs a constant power supply
  • Is expensive
  • Is complicated

As I searched Google on how to make hydroponics work on my environment and experience level (“hydroponics philippines beginner”) one result keeps popping up—SNAP Hydroponics. As I read more about it the more I learn that there is very little information about SNAP online. Nonetheless, with minimal knowledge about it, I decided to buy a set of solution and try it out. My very first grow in the summer of 2016 is a success and so is my second try during the rainy season of the same year. It was then I decided to record and share my experience with SNAP on the internet.

plants growing in growing boxes with SNAP hydroponics
Pechay in growboxes with SNAP Hydroponics.

The goal at the time was to spread the right words about SNAP hydroponics.

I created SNAP Hydroponics Growers on the 30th of September 2016 with my wife as the only other member. I never even thought of adding my friends because I don’t believe any of them are into gardening. And so for the first few months. There are very little activity in the group. I’m very thankful for the first few members who joined though there’s very little content or activity going on in the group. However, in these first few months I learned a couple things and set a few simple rules to run the group.

  • Be nice
  • Stay on topic
  • No spam

Though member requests are few and far between during to first few months I make it a point to review each request to make sure they aren’t there to spam. I allowed everyone to post without requiring admin approval and it worked somehow. We reached one thousand members on August of 2017, short of a year after the group was created.

picture of plants with text over them saying 1000 happy growers
The 1k milestone post.

Many things changed when the group reached one thousand members . There are more activity in the group and membership requests has grown. It’s also around this time when the most knowledgable horticulturists in the group joined thus increasing the amount of knowledge being exchanged in the group. Shortly after that, I created this website as a repository of information about SNAP hydroponics. Not long after, in December of 2017 SNAP Hydroponics Growers reached two thousand members.

a collection of pictures with text saying
SNAP Hydroponics Growers Reached 2,000 members in December 2017.

At this point, members are discussing many other aspects of gardening outside SNAP Hydroponics so I changed the rules to include horticulture topics and changed the group type from “club” to “support.” The growth of the group continued rapidly and in just another month it reached 3,000 members.

picture of seelings with an overlayed text:
SNAP Hydroponics Growers Reached 2,000 members in January 2018.

By January of 2018. The number of membership requests really ramped up. There is so many membership requests that I can’t keep up. In addition, I noticed that a high percentage of the requests are from spam accounts. I decided to only review and decide approval for membership requests that answers the group questions. The group’s membership reached 4,000 member in early March and 5,000 members mid-March.

When we reached 5,000 members Facebook restricted me from freely changing the groups privacy setting and group type. The good news is Facebook gave me more features to manage to group. I can now have multiple announcements instead of a single pinned post and I get to set a list of rules that is visible in the groups “about.”

The growth of the group continued. I grew so fast that I didn’t fail to make milestone posts for 6,000 and 8,000-member milestones.

Past ten thousand members, I finally decided to require admin approval for member posts to deal with spam. By 12,000 members I added a moderator to help me moderate the group. At the same time I reworked this website and moved it to a better content platform. You can still access the old version of should you wish to do so.

Shortly after the group reached 12,000 members I checked and realised that the group has attained one of the goals I set for it back in 2016 to reach the top of search results for “SNAP Hydroponics.” Back when I first started using SNAP. Finding information about it is very difficult and unreliable. There are even search results that will lead you to illegitimate products claiming to be SNAP hydroponics solutions. I’m glad to report that that is no longer the case today. Searching Google and Facebook for “SNAP hydroponics” now leads you to reliable and trustworthy answers about SNAP hydroponics thanks in part to SNAP Hydroponics Growers.

Search Engine Results Page for ?SNAP Hydroponics?
The current Google search results page for “snap hydroponics.”
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Growing Pipino (Cucumber) Using SNAP Hydroponics

a healthy one month old cucumber plant.

Cucumber is one of the easiest fruiting plant that can be grown in SNAP hydroponics. Here I’ll share my growing experience with them. The first time I ever grown cucumber is the second time I’ve ever grown my own food with SNAP. That’s a testament to how easy it is.

pipino seedling in a seedling plug
My very first pinino seedling 9th September 2016. This seedling was recently transferred from a germination tub.


A sunny location
The more sun the better. I’ve grown mine on an east facing and awning protected side of the house. It receives around direct sunlight from 7am to 12nn it’s under our house’s shadow for the rest of the day.


a healthy one month old cucumber plant.
This is the same set of seedlings on 10th October 2016.
A trellis to grow on
Cucumber is a vine that tends to grow everywhere. You’ll have to give it a trellis to grow on. I let my cucumber plants grow on window grills and plastic twine (taling straw).
Enough room for roots
Cucumber grows fast and to support this growth it develops a big root system just as fast. It’s very easy to run out of room (root bound) in your growing box and as a result the cucumber plant die.


I’ve successfully grown five of them on a single growing box but I think managing them became too much for me. You’ll need to regularly visit it because like I mentioned before they tend to grow everywhere. When they are big (and they get big fast) they drink so much water you pretty much have to top up the growing box with water almost every other day. I guess it depends on what you intend to do with the fruits. If you just need them on a regular basis, growing a couple of them on a single grow box would do. If you need them in bulk, like for example when you intend to pickle them, then 10 of them split in two growing boxes will give you lots of them faster.

Other things to consider
Leaf miners can be a little nuisance. Cucumber grows fast despite of them. Leaf miners will make the leaves look ugly though.


They can be infested with aphids. Aphids tend to slow them down and can be a big problem. If an aphid infestation starts I tend to just discard the plant and start over.

Strong winds can mangle them. Cucumbers have big leaves and soft stems. Summer is the best time to grow cucumbers if you don’t have a greenhouse.

Starting From Seed

I tried both sowing cucumber seeds on a germination tubs and sowing them directly into a seedling plug. Both works but I find sowing directly into the seedling plug more convenient. Sowing them directly into a seedling plug saves them the trouble of getting transplant shock.


As the cucumber plants grow it will take up nutrients and water from the growing box. However, the plant tend to drink more water than nutrients specially during hot seasons. The plant will do well for over a month with only water being added to top up the grow box. I replenish the nutrient solution after every four weeks and gets more frequent as the plant grows larger.

Cucumbers grown in SNAP hydroponics will start flowering in four weeks and fruits will be ready for harvest typically around six weeks. When harvesting, use snips to cut the steam about a centimeter above the fruit.

The cucumber plant’s roots tends to grow dense and heavy relatively fast and will eventually end up filling the growing box. I haven’t tried trimming the roots because I tend to start over from seed when the plant gets root bound.

dead pipino plant
This is the same growing box on the 28th of October 2016. Five cucumber plants filled up the growing box with roots in just over a month.

Thanks for reading. Feel free the leave a comment if you have any questions. Happy growing!

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My First Grafting Attempt

Back in March I decided to give away some of my hybrid columnar cactus seedlings because it’s becoming quite a chore to take care of them.

individually potted columnar cactus seedlings
Columnar cacti I raised from seeds.

A couple of kind hearted individuals decided to pick them up to adopt them and in return gave me a number of colourful cactus pups.

tiny and colorful cactus pups
Tiny and colourful cactus pups.

That was the first time I’ve seen colour variegated cacti in person which filled me with joy. I decided to read more about them and learned that I need to have them grafted if they are to grow. Thus, my first grafting adventure started. My columnar cacti seedlings happened to be one of the best cacti to use in grafting.

A couple of them (not pictured here) failed to take hold but overall I’m quite happy with the results.

I’ll be removing the pups growing from the stocks and try to graft them or root them.

Grafting sure takes a lot of practice and patience. I’m hoping to graft do more practice runs soon. Wish me luck!

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An Heirloom Jade Plant

A couple of months ago I stumbled upon this beautiful picture of an indoor plant.

a big potted jade plant
This is a jade plant. According to the owner it’s over 70 years old.

According to the owner it’s a picture of an heirloom plant and it’s over 70 years old. The discussion confirmed that it’s Crassula ovata commonly known as jade plant. The picture is truly inspiring so I decided to grow my own.

Today, I got my very own jade plant.

jade plant potted in a grow bag
I bought her for ₱50 in kiosk in SM Lucena

When I got home. I proceeded to repot this beauty.

jade plant with the grow bag removed showing a loamy soil
She seems to have been propagated from that big leaf sticking out of the soil.

The soil is loamy and still pretty moist. It’s all caked up and forms a large clump. I did my best to remove most of it an expose the root ball.

jade plant with exposed roots
Here she is with most of the soil removed.

I decided to use this aged clay pot for her:

an aged clay pot with a slight patina
An aged clay pot with a slight patina.
pot with large holes with a fine plastic mesh over them
A piece of plastic fine mesh added to keep the potting media from leaking through those large drain holes.

Pot has previously held a florist kalanchoe which has since been moved to a bigger pot. I added a piece of plastic screen because this pot has pretty large drainage holes as you can see in the picture.

a potted jade plant
Jade plant finally potted.

I used my own mix for her. It’s the leftover mineral soil for my cacti. I just added more compost and carbonized rice hull.

profile picture of a potted jade plant
Jade plant finally sitting in her new home.

I skipped watering for now to allow her to adjust to her new pot and potting media. I placed her on a shady spot for now. I will introduce her to more light in the following days so she can slowly adjust. Hopefully this is day one of her 70 year journey. Wish me luck!