Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Amaranth! Callaloo.... Greens in the summer garden

 Heavy rains, warm night temps... Nothing much going on the Central Florida garden... Even my eggplants are blooming without setting fruit, which likely has to do with the high-lows we’re experiencing... Most solanacae won’t set fruit if the low is above 70*....

I am growing callaloo (an amaranth, as you can see from the photo!)... It’s very slow to germinate (2 weeks!) and grows slowly at first, and then... The leaves are tender, can be eaten raw, and are like a slightly nutty spinach. Not a tropical green (like chaya), so you don’t need to boil it. We’ve had a lot of wind storms lately with gusts in the 40mph range, and yet these greens, despite their height, have not blown over. So, highly rated! Growing well: peanuts, mint, scallions, and of course crowder peas and limas.... My fruit trees (and bananas) love this hot, wet weather. So long as they don’t succumb to mildew or rot, they love this weather.... It’s great to have something on the back burner — fruit trees — while everything else in the garden is hibernating....

Sunday, July 26, 2020

Lilioceris cheni and air potatoes...

Go back ten years, and I rememebr how we’d send the kids out to pull air potato vines out of the trees in our small backyard.... I think I paid a quarter for each tuber. It was a serious problem everywhere in Central Florida that has, for all intents, abated in the last ten years after the introduction of Lilioceris cheni, a beetle with a ditinctive red back. I find them in great numbers in the spring, near compost and under my mulch. I’ve seen many more of them over the past five years... And a concommitant reduction in air potato vines during the summer... For all intents, the vines are gone — the vines are ravaged (I assume by the larvae of the beetles) and never mount the trees or fences before they die. It’s amazing. Here’s a leaf of an air potato vine I found growing... it’s demolished, and the vine only got a couple feet up the tree before stopping...

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Edible parts...

It's buggy, hot, and rainy... hard to grow leaf plants like chard, spinach, lettuce. Which brings us to... what can you eat from all that green stuff growing in your garden... I'll emphatically recommend the new, reddish leaves and tips of sweet potatoes. Batatas are rampant growers and it's easy to gather a few handfuls of leaves a day without really slowing the growth of your sweet potatoes. The leaves are tenderer than spinach with a perfectly nice, slightly nutty flavor. I throw them in soups and larb all the time. I've never tried the leaves of cowpeas, but I plant to, as I have a large batch of volunteers growing in a corner of my yard...

VegetableCommon Edible PartsOther Edible Parts
Beans, snappod with seedsleaves
Beans, limaseedspods, leaves
Broccoliflowerleaves, flower stem
Cauliflowerimmature flowerflower stem, leaves
Celeryleaf stemsleaves, seeds
Corn, sweetseedsyoung ears, unfurled tassel, young leaves
Cucumberfruit with seedsstem tips and young leaves
Eggplantfruit with seedsleaves edible but not flavorful
Kohlrabiswollen stemleaves
Okrapods with seedsleaves
Onionsrootyoung leaves
Peas, Englishseedspods, leaves
Peas, Southernseeds, podsyoung leaves
Pepperpodsleaves after cooking, immature seeds
Potatoes, Sweetrootsleaves and stem shoots
Squashfruit with seedsseeds, flowers, young leaves
Tomatofruits with seeds----------
Turniproots, leaves----------
Watermelonfruit -- interior pulp and seedsrind of fruit

Note: This article reprinted from Vegetable Production & Marketing News, Dr. Frank J. Dainello, editor, April, 2002

Monday, June 08, 2020

Papaya...Spring rains........

Remember when Florida had a dry season, fires, arid days of June? No longer... 

During a brief break in the rain, I added a papaya to my dooryard orchard... Right now, going strong in my garden: Peppers (hybrid banana), okra, eggplant, small-bodied tomatoes, leeks, oregano, thyme, rosemary... I transplanted some Malabar spinach to replace a flagging tomato plant. Experimenting with basil, trying to find SOMETHING reliable for the Florida garden in summer, so I planted some Eritrean basil seeds from Southern Exposure. (I like Thai basil well enough, but it's quite camphor-y!)

My limas and southern peas haven't yet begun to produce.

Nothing going on in the fruit world in June... my guavas, grapes, pineapples, persimmons, and Nesbit grapes are ripening but months from harvest....... 

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Figs! Today's harvest...

The woodpeckers are out there now, squabbling over the still-unripe figs left on the tree... I thought they were insectivores? 

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

What's happening in my quarden?

This spring, I've added a banana plant, passionfruit vine, Peruvian Apple Cactus (Cereus repandus), an avocado of unknown but reliable stock ("It looks like a Florida avocado but has the flavor and texture of a Mexican" is what my friend told me)...

And a Jackfruit tree in the front... All of these are a couple years before they produce...

So, listing fruits in my yard: Figs (green (Alma) and purple), plums (3 kinds, all of the Gulf Series), lemons, Sunraycer nectarine, Florida Tangelo, Nesbit grapes, blueberries (Emerald and several others), Surinam cherries, pineapple guavas, so many pineapples, 'gator pear, Fuyu persimmons (2 trees), Mysore Raspberry (black), Kaffir lime tree...

I cut down my mulberry tree because it was misbehaving. Never had luck with my pomegranate (watery, flavorless), so I cut it down, too...

I think that's it...

  • Guavas: July and August
  • Persimmons: September
  • Grapes: August, September, October
  • Tangelo and Lemons: Winter (November-January)
  • Blueberries: March mostly... but produces through April
  • Surinam Cherries: April, May and again in fall
  • Plums: March and April
  • Nectarine: April
  • Raspberries: Spring
  • Figs: Late May
  • Pineapples: When they want
  • Bananas: When they want

Saturday, April 11, 2020

Oh, and... CHOCOLATE SPRINKLES FNT HYBRID & MINT JULEP from Tomato Growers Supply Company

I've been really impressed by the vigor of


which I bought from (of course) Tomato Growers Supply Company... It's been producing in my garden since early February (maybe January? This is why I used to keep a blog...). It's very vigorous, productive, the tomatoes seem to ripen reasonably quickly once set... And the flavor of the tomatoes is excellent, not overly sweet. And they look great mixed in with other small-bodied tomatoes. MINT JULEP has done well in my garden, too: Largish for small-bodied tomatoes, it's hard to know when to pick them. (Pick them when they come off the plant without undo tugging, then let them ripen on the countertop a few days.) Very pretty green and yellow... Good flavor, not great.

It's been a while...

I'm still gardening, and this coronavirus pandemic has meant I'm spending more time in the garden than usual. Plums, nectarines, figs, lemons, leeks, tomatoes, blackberries, blueberries, arugula, herbs of all sorts, broccoli and kale........ All that's going on, mostly in the 15'x15'...

Thursday, January 08, 2015

Plant your tomato seeds!

It's that time already in Central Florida! The aim is to have seedlings large enough to transplant by March 1... I'm usually late, and it all works out OK. These aren't really my A-List of tomatoes, but, really, they'll work. I've written this many times in many ways, but here are my priorities for tomatoes:
1) Have a good mix of cherry, small, medium and a few large. The large tomatoes are really for bragging rights... It's HARD to grow large tomatoes in our climate! And they don't really merit the effort. But it's very easy to grow smaller ones. Juliet is an all-around best tomato for Florida--it has remarkable resistance to skin split and to piercing insects. Plus, it's multifunctional--it's a small-bodied Italian Roman type, so you can make a great sauce with it, and you can eat them out of hand. 
2) Pick early- and mid-season. 
3) Hybrids. Yeah, I know, no romance. But in exchange, you get tomatoes! Forget about your olde-tymey tomatoes... they were great a hundred years ago!
4) Pick the tomatoes with the most letters after them! (The letters indicate disease and pest resistance.)
5) Only indeterminates. Do NOT bother with determinates. Trust me. 
6) Worry less about spacing when you plant them, more about SUPPORT. Look through this blog for my ideas on trellising. Ultimately, the best, cheapest, most adaptable trellis is made with a mix of electrical conduit, rebar for sidewalks, and LOTS OF ZIPTIES. figure that each plant will weigh in excess of 35 pounds when fully bearing. Multiply that times the number of plants, and then add zome more zipties!
7) Plan to pick them earlier than you'd think: I like to pick my fruit when the bottom of the tomato is fully colored. Then, I let them ripen on the counter. Better flavor, better texture.
8) I always end up buying a few plants from the nursery. They're never very good, but the temptation is irresistible. 

I really like Tomande, a constant in my garden. It looks and tastes like an old-fashioned tomato, but is an excellent hybrid.