Update on Finca Dos Gatos

by on October 27, 2011

In April, I gave an overview of my home coffee growing project, a.k.a. Finca Dos Gatos, prompted by my discovery of buds on one of my Panama plants, planted from seed collected in 2008. Here is an update.

The plant on which I discovered buds on 12 April, and which I believe to be the only typica variety among 10 other caturra, flowered on 25 May. I think I ended up with four flowers.

The flowers lasted only a couple of days. Meanwhile, some of the coffee beans I had picked up in Nicaragua in March 2011 were starting to germinate. First was a one of two coffee cherries I picked up at Selva Negra. These were not from the production area, but from a plant growing wild in the cloud forest, right next to the spot where I saw my first Resplendent Quetzals. I thought a coffee plant from that location would be a great memento. My germination method is the same as how I sprouted lima beans in elementary school: on a wet paper towel, kept warm in a plastic food container. One bean sprouted which I planted in soil on 7 May.

Bourbon or caturra seedling, from Selva Negra, ready to plant.

At around the same time, on 15 May, I had a number of beans from El Jaguar start to sprout. Although they grow several varieties, I only collected yellow catuai, for the sake of variety. This variety was developed in Brazil and is commonly grown there, and is a cross between caturra and Mondo Novo

Some ripening yellow catuai at Finca El Jaguar.

We had a very rainy spring here in southern Michigan, so I did not put the coffee outside for the summer until June. By mid-summer, it got very hot here, and I do not have enough shady places in our small yard for all the large plants, so I created some. I purchased some 40% shade cloth, and some plastic snap-on grommets. “S” hooks go through the grommets and hook on to the gutters, and the other grommets fit on tree stakes in the lawn. The shade cloth is therefore very easy to take down to mow. A spare piece of shade cloth can be clipped on top to provide some extra protection on really hot days.

I kept the seedlings in a more protected spot. The Selva Negra seedling grew faster than I remember any of the others progressing. By mid-July it already had its first set of true leaves.

Meanwhile, not much was happening on my plant that had flowered. I read it takes some time for beans to begin to develop. Indeed, I did not find any sign of beans until 15 July.

I have a two-bean crop; perhaps they will be ripe by Christmas. One of the other Panama plants also flowered, and had many buds. But the heat and humidity took it’s toll, and I lost most of the buds before they opened. Further, every plant was in dire need of repotting, so on 6 August, I potted up every plant. I used  a good topsoil, plus organic potting soil, all mixed with Espoma Organic Bio-Tone Starter Plus, which contains beneficial bacteria and mycorrhizae. Up to this point, I’d given these plants plenty of root space, using deep, narrow tree pots. The problem at this point was that new containers deep enough for the roots were ridiculously large and heavy. Several Panama plants (3 years old) went into 15″ deep 3.2 gallon tree pots, the last size up that I have.

Not sure how long this one will stay in the larger pot.

The Nicaragua plants (2 years old) are all two growing together. They went into two or three gallon pots. The largest pair posed a dilemma. The little rubber trash can seemed like overkill, so I ended up using a cat litter bucket, after drilling drainage holes in the bottom. What could be more appropriate for Finca Dos Gatos?

I now have a finca too large for the bedroom window, where I overwintered the plants last year. Indoor winter vacation, which began last month, is now in the basement under two four-foot Sun Blaze T5 fluorescent fixtures, each with four 6500K (blue) bulbs (same as before, just an additional fixture). The lights are on a timer, about 12 hours of light a day.

Three Panama plants on the left; six Nicaragua on floor/to the right (I gave away a pair of Nica, and some seedlings). I have a little class: I covered the cat litter bucket with four duct tape sheets. I didn’t even know such a thing existed, but it sure makes for a durable, waterproof covering. I chose black, but they come in all colors and patterns. Those pots are heavy, so they are on rolling stands.

The seedlings are under a smaller set of lights. As of now, late October 2011, here is the  Selva Negra seedling; it’s about six inches tall.

And here is the El Jaguar seedling, about 4.5 inches:

The two unripe cherries survived being transplanted. They are full size, but still green.

I’m happy to report that the two cats for whom the finca is named have stayed out of the pots. Actually, they both like lounging in the bright lights on gloomy days.

Sophie guarding the finca.

This winter, I plan to induce and promote flowering by providing a dry period followed by renewed water, switching out half the bulbs for red spectrum, and changing the fertilizer. I’ll let you know how it goes early next year.

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Posted in Coffee news and miscellany

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Nancy Huemoeller January 16, 2012 at 7:34 pm

I’m so impressed with your gardening skills and your thorough documentation of the process and progress! Thanks for sharing. I’m a Master Gardener in Mesa, Arizona. I just got home from a vacation in Costa Rica where I purchased some coffee seed which I will attempt to grow. Thanks for the encouraging info. Nancy

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JACraves January 18, 2012 at 9:01 pm

Let me know how it goes!

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