Saturday, December 30, 2006

Frost & Freeze Occurence Dates for DeLand

Very useful information....


Spring Date

Fall Date

Probability Level

Probability Level











Jan 21

Feb 19

Mar 21

Nov 13

Dec 10

Jan 06



Jan 28

Mar 03

Nov 30

Jan 04


So, planting any frost-tender plants before the third week of January seems risky at best. If you wanted to be pretty sure, you'd wait until the beginning of March. In the fall, you'd want to aim to harvest any tender crops before the end of the first week of December.

My order from Tomato Growers Supply Company

#5606 - Matina - 30 seeds.
This very early variety bears loads of 2 to 4 oz. red fruit with terrific flavor normally found only in a huge beefsteak. The fact that its fruit is ripe up to a full month earlier than many beefsteak varieties makes Matina really special. Potato-leaved plants put on large clusters of abundant tomatoes, and even though they start early, continue to bear throughout a long season. Heirloom from Germany. Indeterminate. 58 days.
#5219 - Tiffany VFNT Hybrid - 30 seeds.
Vigorous plants produce loads of smooth 6 to 8-oz. dark red fruit with full, rich, sweet flavor. This is an excellent all-purpose tomato that adds intense tomato flavor to salads and sandwiches, but is also great for sauce, canning and freezing. Strong plants are also resistant to gray leaf spot and leaf mold. Indeterminate. 70 days.
#5759 - Wild Cherry - 30 seeds.
#6313 - Sun Gold Hybrid - 30 seeds.
Very sweet, bright orange cherry tomatoes taste not just sugary but also fruity and delicious. Vigorous growers, these tall plants bear long clusters of fruit. Try these for a real taste treat, you won't believe you're eating tomatoes! Indeterminate. 57 days.
#6166 - Yellow Currant - 30 seeds.
A special South American species of tomato that bears long, grape-like clusters of tiny 1/3 inch yellow cherry tomatoes. They are sweet, yet have an intense tomato flavor. These tiny tomatoes have become favorites for salads, garnishes or just eating straight off the vine. Indeterminate. 70 days.
#9660 - Sweet Spot X3R Hybrid - 30 seeds.
This high-yielding banana type pepper produces an incredible harvest of mild, sweet peppers about 8 in. long and 2 in. wide with much better size and thicker walls than open-pollinated banana types. Peppers may be enjoyed at any color stage-yellow, orange, or bright red. Tall plants resist 3 races of Bacterial Spot. 70 days.
#9160 - Italian Roaster II Hybrid - 30 seeds.
Expect loads of these long, thin green peppers with just the right amount of heat to spice up a meal. The 8 to 9 inch long fruit is about 3/4 inch wide at the shoulder with thin walls that make them perfect for grilling. Just char on two sides and they're ready to eat, seeds and all. You can harvest some as they turn red also. They are particularly good on top of a burger or other sandwich. Virus resistant, medium-large plants. Slightly hotter than the original. 76 days.
#7033 - Little Fingers - 30 seeds.
These little eggplants are unique in that they grow in clusters of 3 or more slim fruit, and can be harvested when no longer than your little finger. However, you can also let them grow longer at no sacrifice to their mild, sweet taste. Dark purple fruit is produced in abundance, and is delicious stir-fried, grilled, or even pickled. 68 day.

Goings on in the garden...

Ah, another balmy, March-like day in December. This global climate change is great for the winter garden here in Central Florida, but I wonder at what price... My new dwarf citrus are blooming like crazy, a couple of months at least in advance of when they should be blooming. The Flordabell peach and all the blueberries continue to put out blooms. The Chandler strawberries have tons of fruit, as they should this time of the year. The Sweet Charlie berries that I got mid-December as bare-roots have put out ample and vigorous growth. The peas, sweet and garden, have grown a foot in two weeks, and the favas are going crazy. In roughly three weeks, they have sprouted and grown at least four inches. Some of them have put multiple shoots from the same bean. The Broccolini di Rapa that I planted a week ago in cells got transplanted into the garden, along with the spinach and chard from the first week of December.

I also finished off two small additions to the flower beds, again using the mulch method. The whole process has taken about a month: I started by sowing very heavily with annual rye, and then covering, lightly, the rye seeds with wheat straw. After about two weeks, I had a thick bed of rye and wheat growing up, along with some slightly composted hay. To that mix, I dumped several bags of leaves pilfered from neighbors' yards, and mowed the whole mess down to the ground with my mulching mower. The rye and wheat sprouted back, and I repeated the whole enterprise of leaves and mowing two wees later (last week), adding some garden waste from cleaning out beds (mostly Althernatera, which is lovely but too prolific...). Yesterday, I finished the project by mowing down everything, layering a bucket of alfalfa pellets upon that, then topping it all off with several layers of newspaper, to provide a weed block. On top of the newspaper, more shredded leaves and a thick layer of pine straw. The final result: About three inches of finely ground compost beneath the newspaper, and a couple of inches of growing medium on top of the newspapers.

To plant seedlings, I just shove the mulch aside, make a little tear in the newspaper (an arguable step, since the roots can penetrate the newspaper), add a handful of bagged compost, plunk down the seedling, draw the leaves and pine straw back into place, and move on. No shovel, no fertilizer, no nothing else. The first few times that I planted seedlings this way were pretty angst-ridden: Gardeners are so wedded to the "dig a hole, enrich the hole, plant the seedling" process that it was something of a leap of faith to just gently place a seedling on the ground.

But who can argue with success?

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Peach blooms in December...

After our week of warm weather -- a week that saw a number of high low-temperature records sets, and three tornadoes on Christmas day in our area -- my new Flordabell peach tree decided to have a small fit of blooms. I'll pinch them off tomorrow, but they were too pretty today. My blueberries, particularly Emerald, are also flowering:

Saturday, December 23, 2006

More quick notes from the garden...

I planted today...
  • eighteen Broccoli di Rapa (from Pinetree): thirty days
  • nine Delfino Cilantro (Pinetree)
  • nine Agina Cutting Celery (Pinetree): sixty-three days
  • half a window box of Reggae Raddish. Supposedly very resistant to splitting.
We had another deluge last night... about two inches, judging by buckets in my yard. Thank you, Mr. Nino! Yesterday I staked a bunch of my delphiniums, which were gorgeous. Last night's downpour snapped them in half, right where I'd tied them. Sigh.

The Sweet Charlie bare-root strawberries that I planted yesterday have already put out new growth:

Finally, on a non-gardening note: My family and I took an impulse run to Lake Woodruff Wildlife Refuge this evening on the off-chance of spying the pair of Whooping Cranes that have made the area their winter haven. We caught them just as they returned to the area, amongst a large flock of Sandhill Cranes, far off in a remote section of the refuge:

There are, at best, a few dozen of these cranes in Florida, a few hundred in the USA.

Eve of Christmas Eve Garden...

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Friday, December 22, 2006

Have yourself a sultry Christmas...

I spent a warm, humid and very un-December-like morning in the garden:
  • planting blueberries from Johnson's Nursery, two Climax and two Misty.
  • pruning back roses, especially Prosperity, which is still suffering from a bit of black spot and was pretty twiggy.
  • putting some Burgmansias that I've received from friends into the ground.
  • pricking out and planting some plugs of Red Sails.
  • harvesting some baby carrots and turnips, more to thin the boxes than to eat, but they're not far from full-sized.
  • general yard cleanup

Friday, December 15, 2006


We had the heaviest rain in months last night. Here on the north-east side of DeLand, it rained in excess of three inches. My lettuce crop got pretty banged up, but most things seem no worse for the beating. Considering all the things I've moved or planted in the last week, the rain was a blessing.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Cucino cukes

I ate the first few of these, standing in the garden after a day of yardwork. Mmmmm. I fear, though, that I managed to kill the one Cucino plant I had when I decided it was a good idea to move the plant from where it was growing on a tomato cage to my new vertical gardening frame... Hopefully not.

I wound it round the strings dangling from the new aluminum-post arbor I constructed... Pics tomorrow, if the plant survived. Posted by Picasa

Heads up!

I planted a nine-pack of broccoli in the garden the third week of October. A couple of them simply failed to grow -- I don't know what happened, but they failed to form roots and never grew. But five of them have survived these six weeks, and they've slowly encroached on the Collards and Radishes. Pretty plants, but MUCH larger than I'd expected -- they are currently thirty inches or so in diameter.

Last week, a friend mentioned that she'd planted a mess of broc, and they'd grown all winter and spring without producing a single head. Sigh. With that in mind, I had planned to yank my broccoli in a couple of weeks: Too much space in my tiny plot. But yesterday I pulled apart the central set of leaves, and spied a tiny head of broccoli forming in the center....

According to my books, I'll be able to harvest the central flower, and then several subsequent lateral ones, providing several months of harvest.

I'll likely not plant broccoli again: There are too many alternative cruciferous like Broccoli Rabe that offer quicker payoff and more edible portions. I did cut a few of the largest leaves off the broccoli this week to buy some space for the collards, and ate them in a pasta dish. Tasty, and not so different from collards.

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Sunday, December 10, 2006

A busy weekend...

Let's see, I did a lot this weekend:
  • Planted ten Foxgloves (Foxy) and five Delphiniums, from 4" pots I bought at DeBary Nursery. I don't like buying seedlings, but both of these are a bit of a challenge to grow from seed in time for them to bloom in early spring.
  • Pricked out a bunch of Poppies of unknown type from my good gardening friend Jane.
  • Planted twelve peas ('Cascadia' and 'Knight'): It's been frustrating with these peas: I've planted them twice now, with only a fraction of them getting to the seedling stage. I think I'm planting them too deeply & the mulch smothers them before they can germinate. So this time I put them in six-by nursery flats in straight up vermiculite, then into a mini-greenhouse. We'll see... Should be easy to transplant.
  • Picked a bunch of collards and lettuces. Red Sails continues to be outstanding in my garden.
  • Cleaned up the saplings around my oak trees, laid out newspapers, and covered the area with straw and leaves. I'm going to plant the new Sasanqua camelias that I purchased from the (very much improved) 'Place in the Son' nursery. (I'll leave aside the whole nonsense of a Christian-based business... they run a good ship there and have the BEST selection of camelias and azaleas I've seen in the area.)
  • Planted the two dwarf Citrus (a tangerine and a Hamlin orange).
  • Planted the Flordabell Peach tree.
  • Potted up some of the rooted cuttings from my greenhouse, including a really attractive Begonia I got at a plant trade.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Favas, chard and spinach

I planted out in the garden sixteen Windsor Favas (from Pinetree). In seed starter cells, I planted Bright Lights Chard and Space Spinach. All of them from Parks Seeds.

I doubt that the Favas will produce much in the way of beans, but I love Fava shoots, and they make a good green manure for the cool season. Favas are, I think, closely related to Vetch, which is grown here as a cover crop.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Monday morning planting...

My traditional Monday morning moment in my garden. A couple of weeks ago I bought two green plastic window boxes (three-foot by six-inches by six-inches) on clearance at Lowes for three dollars. This morning in one of them I planted:
  • French Breakfast Radish
  • Tokyo Cross Turnips
  • A mix of Adelaide and Little Finger Carrots
It's a very cool and damp day after a week of near-record highs last week. Cucumbers are growing at a tremendous rate, covered in yellow blossoms, and forming cucumbers. Broc is getting bigger and bigger (now more than two feet wide), but STILL no sign of heads.

Sunday, December 03, 2006


I've been reading a bit more about the ECHO approach to gardening that I've been using this season, and I came across on Wikipedia (that amazing resource for the curious and vigorous of mind) the concept of Permaculture, which is an expansion of mulch gardening. The basic premises of permaculture are summed up here:
The key to the permaculture garden is to create a thick mulch which blankets the entire garden area. This mulch can consist of many types of materials. Some materials which were listed were straw, chipped bark, stable sweepings, lawn clippings, sawdust, newspapers, cardboard, leaf mold, seaweed, cocoa beans, rice hulls, pine needles, nutshells, clothing, stones, old carpet, and roofing underfelt. Ruth Stout, one of the people using the permaculture method referred to it as the "no work garden." She considers digging soil or turning compost heaps a waste of energy and pointed out that the composting process occurs naturally throughout her garden as the thick mulch decomposes. Another advocate of the permaculture method is Masinoba Fukuoka, author of "The One Straw Revolution." He claims that the best ways to garden are found by observing nature. When gardening, he uses no digging tools and returns all plant residues back to his mulch, which he keeps at least six inches deep. He states a good mulch will "suppress weeds, return moisture, encourage earthworms, shelter beneficial microbes, and enhance tilth." Bill Mollison, a native of Australia, coined the phrase permaculture and promotes the ideals of this method. He claims that by creating a thick mulch one can start a low input sustainable garden even in places that have never been gardened before. He promotes no tillage and starts his garden plot by laying down a layer of wet newspapers and then throwing table scraps, lawn clippings, and straw on top of the newspapers to a depth of six inches. He makes sure that all the existing vegetation is covered, thereby preventing weed germination. When the mulch is in place, Mollison is ready to sow. He tears a hole in the under layered newspaper, adds a handful of ripe compost, and completes the job by planting the seed or seedling in the small mound. He states that an average size home garden only takes him forty-five minutes to mulch and plant. That also takes care of weed control for the season. At harvest time, Mollison lets the most productive and vigorous plants go to seed and uses this seed to sow next season's plantings. He claims that in consecutive years a six-inch mulch of plant residues, much of which is produced by the garden, is enough to maintain the system from year to year. He points out that creating the mulch from degradable household wastes like newspapers or old clothes is a handy and environmentally sound means of disposal and makes the system sustainable through use of materials already on site.
But the concept gets made broader and more interesting yet with the approach to food growing called Forest Gardening, which extends the layering into the shrub, dwarf-tree, and fruit tree level:

It's a wonderfully intuitive way to construct a garden — so intuitive that I was already planning to use it around the garden plot: I have a peach tree, blueberries (which get six or eight feet tall here), several dwarf citrus (on Flying Dragon rootstock, so they are no more than eight feet), Muscadine grapes that I'll trellis along the thirty-six inch fence I'm building around the garden, then pot culture of cukes and peppers (and, when things warm up, tomatoes). When the cool season's over, around the fruit trees, blueberries and grape, I'm going to try out cowpeas (ones that don't attract nematodes), and asparagus peas as a cover crop/green manure/food crop during the hot months... Hopefully I'll have a twelve-month garden.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Madame Lombard OGR

Deeply doubled tea rose with dark green foliage. From Seminole Springs Nursery. Very vigorous.

I'm fighting a really persistent run of black spot in my garden. I usually can stop spraying this time of the year, but for whatever reason the disease is running rampant. I ended up pruning my Abraham Darby and Mr Lincoln at the beginning of November because they had been nearly defoliated. They've bounced back strongly, but of course that means I've missed out on one of the best periods for big, long-lasting blooms.

More quick pics from the garden

'Cucino' cukes, in bloom, planted October 14, so approximately six weeks from seed to bloom. These 'Cucino' seeds were EXPENSIVE, and only 3/4 of them sprouted. Then the frosts we had a few weeks ago took two of them down (they are apparently somewhat more susceptible than the other cucumbers I've planted, 'Salad Bush' and 'Lemon'). The fruit is forming; according to the description, it should be no larger than a cornichon.
My hybrid lasagna-square foot garden: using the Dryland No-Till method of preparing the bed, and the square-foot approach of intensive use of space. A very low-impact and low-cost way to start a garden that works well here in FLA during the cool, dry season. Every week, after I drop my daughter off at school, I spin through the neighborhood looking for bags of yard waste. A couple very thoughtful households even shred the leaves and grass clippings. I pour a bucket of water into the bag of yard waste, twist it closed, and leave it to sit for a week or two. Where I'm building the new section of the garden, I lay down a ten-sheet-deep layer of newspaper right on top of the grass (weeds and rye that I planted in October). I toss the decomposing mulch thickly over the new section of my bed. On top of that all, I lay down a cover of pine-straw for aesthetic reasons. To plant either seeds or seedlings, I pull the mulch back, tear a little gash in the newspaper, pile a half-gallon of bagged composted manure into a three-inch high hill, and in goes the seed or seedling. Then the mulch goes back around the mound, I water thoroughly, and off it grows. The roots seem to grow more out than down, finding their way through the rich compost. Again the downside to this approach is that at least initially, the garden needs more water since the mulch drains so quickly and lies on top of the soil. Eventually I guess the mulch will become humus, and the newspapers will dissolve and maybe the water solution will be resolved.

Trying to keep things eco-friendly and cheap, I've used scavenged boards and leftover pavers to build the borders and spacers in the garden.


A pea ('Knight', a bushing type), pushing through the pine-straw mulch. The 'Cascadia' I planted at the same time hasn't shown itself.


'Florence Fennel', a bulbing fennel that I planted on October 23, and transplanted into the garden mid-November. I keep stepping on the tender things, but they are very forgiving.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Pruning fruit trees...

A very useful demonstration of pruning fruit trees.


French Breakfast and Cherry Bell radishes, about thirty-four days after I planted the seeds. I grew these in an eighteen-inch by six inch window box, which was large enough to plant about twenty radishes. I've sown several other successions of radish seeds. These were very tasty, and very attractive: The French Breakfast were long, with a bright white base. We noshed them as an appetizer with freshly-baked pain au levain, Plugra butter, and Maldon salt. Mmmmmmm..... Posted by Picasa

My Just Fruits and Exotics order is ARRIVED!

From Just Fruits & Exotics, I got in the mail today...

  • Brightwell (Rabbiteye Blueberry)
  • Gulf Coast (Southern Highbush Blueberry)
  • Sharpblue (Southern Highbush Blueberry)
  • Emerald (Rabbiteye Blueberry)
  • 10 plugs of Chandler strawberries
  • 1 Egyptian Walking Onion
  • Muscadine Grape
  • Flordabelle Peach

Everything came well packed. The strawberries were large and healthy, growing in four-inch containers. They went straight into a well-prepared mulch bed with some extra composted manure and my "home mix" organic fertilizer. I've covered them with raised screens, to keep them well shaded while they acclimate. The onions went into a square.

Everything else went back into one-gallon pots until I figure out exactly where I'm putting everything. I'd say the quality of everything was top-notch: Healthy, large and ready to grow.

I also found a moment to transplant eighteen Dukat Dill seeds and eighteen Parsley seeds from their coffee-filter birthing grounds into some small starter cells. It took eight days for the parsley to germinate, a little less for the dill. I really like this method of germinating the seeds and then transplanting them.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Another late Monday...

I work again this evening, so I stole a few moments to work in the garden. I think I've finally come to the "top" of my vegetable garden. So far, it's been a free-form affair, using the "no-till" method of newspapers and mulch I've built an ever-expanding bed for veg, herbs and some flowers in the middle of my very sunny back-yard. I've been working north and east, and now the bed is about ten feet by twenty feet, with a soft curve in the front and a butterfly garden in the middle. (I might live to regret that decision, since caterpillars make aught a difference between what they should eat and should not.) Today, I came to the north-west corner and put down newspapers, mulch: leaves, grass clippings, wheat hay, and some bagged compost. Since it's a corner, I planted some climbing peas, Tall Telephone and Super Sugar Snap (both from Pinetree). I'll use some folding tomato wire to make an l-shaped trellis for the peas to grow up. Since I planted the peas in a row along the back of the bed, I planted Radishes (French Breakfast) and carrots (Little Fingers) to fill in the square.

I really like the reasonableness of square-foot gardening: Its principles of intensive cultivation, constant rotation, and moderate quantities of vegetables synchronize well with my busy schedule. I've been using some scrap boards I found at the dump as edging, and then dividing the squares with some leftover bricks, giving me a spot to stand for seeding and picking.

It's a great time to grow here in Central Florida. Things do not grow terribly quickly, with the weak winter sun. But weeds are not a problem, and I haven't seen any bug damage to speak of. I only water every other day, if that often; however, the no-till method requires a bit more water than if I'd been able to plant in a very well-prepared, deep and friable soil. But creating such a bed here in FLA is another thing entirely...

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Lavandula multifida

On a Florida Forum GardenWeb recommendation, I planted this Lavandula species to replace my long-lived Indigo Spires Salvia. My hope is that it will mix it up with the La Marne pink rose (a Polyantha) that grows near the front of the bed. Lavenders by and large do not grow well in our conditions: They love the Mediterranean (or California) mix of hot sun and dry air. The sun we've got (and then some!), but most lavenders just rot in our mix of high heat and lots of moisture. I have managed to keep alive an English Lavender in a pot by keeping it in the shade, under the eves of my gazebo, where it gets hit with the sprinkler every so often. By the end of the summer, it has just a few living shoots of green, but it will recover nicely over the winter and put on a pleasing show come spring. Then I'll move it back into the shade and dry conditions and nurse it through the summer...

According to my GardenWeb sources, L. multifida thrives here. However, unlike its English cousin, I cannot say that it possesses the most beguiling of scents... The first thing that comes to mind is turpentine. That said, it's grown vigorously in the couple of months it's been in the bed. And it's a very attractive plant, with its grayish leaves and bright-blue inflorescences.

I found the following description from the excellent site of Magnolia Gardens and their very smart Plants for Texas program. We here in Central Florida have many (but not all) the same difficulties that our neighbors to the West have. I'd say what grows well there (judging by Magnolia's site) grows well here...

Lavandula multifida is not your typical Lavender that will melt in our heat and humidity. This species stands up to our wet conditions without the usual problems associated with lavenders. Fern Leaf Lavender has many deep lobed, silver coated, green leaves giving the foliage a lacy appearance and has long straight stems topped off with blue bracts usually found in clusters of 3. Lavandula multifida will grow to a height of about 24 inches and is highly aromatic making it attractive to bees. Great for use in borders, beds, and containers. Lavandula multifida is part of our Plants For Texas® Program, meaning it was Texas Grown, Tested in Texas to perform outstanding for Texas Gardens.

Some quick pics of the veg...

Some seeds started (the binder clips are key!)...

And radishes ready to pick ...

(below) Red Sails Lettuce, some to transplant into the garden, the rest to harvest as cut & come again.

(above) Mustard greens, broccoli, radishes and nasturtiums.

Cool-season veg & bloom

With guests in town and a holiday meal to make, I didn't have much time for gardening this past weekend. I found a very few hectic minutes to plant the following on Saturday:

- In my Parks dome, I planted (1) Nigella papillosa; (2) More mixed Rocket Snaps; (3, 4) Candytuft (this only did ok for me last year, but I had a bunch of seeds and it did free-sow a bit, so why not?); (5,6) Sweet Pea 'Fantasia Mix'

- In another seed starter: Shallots 'BONILLA' from Pinetree(which I started with the "coffee filter method"); Winter Density and Red Sails lettuces (from Pinetree); Arugula 'Apollo' (from T&M).

- In a eighteen-inch by six-inch planter, mache, a varietal called BIG SEEDED from Pinetree.

It was the first "hot" weather (around 78 degrees) here for a few weeks, and a brisk wind combined to dry things out a bit in the garden. I came home from a weekend on the beach to find my poor radishes growing in boxes looking rather wilty. Speaking of the radishes, I pulled the first few: Tasty, and just a few days outside the promised thirty-day harvest (Oct. 22-Nov. 26). The bad news is that two of my cukes got too chilly (I assume) and gave up the ghost. Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Seeds started on November 20

After half a week away at a conference, I was eager to get dirt under my nails... After a long day catching up in the office, I planted the following:
  • Nine KNIGHT peas (56 days)
  • Nine CASCADIA peas (48 days)
We like pea shoots almost as much as we like the peas themselves! If you've never eaten pea shoots, they taste just like peas, but have a slightly crunchy, somewhat elastic texture, not unlike spinach. Like spinach, the shoots can be cooked or eaten raw in salads.
  • Using the coffee-filter method, I planted some cool-season herbs: PARSLEY-PREZZEMOLO GIGANTE D' ITALIA, CHERVIL, DILL-DUKAT STRAIN
Right now, the only things doing well in my garden are lettuces (Red Sails in particular), Rocket, a mixed-leaf mesclun from Pinetree called MISTICANZA and mustard greens. My broccoli is growing reasonably vigorously, but has yet to form heads. Radishes are six inches high, but no bulbing yet (though it's been close to a month... I guess the thirty day to harvest promise doesn't hold true in November.). Herbs are flourishing. Cukes are healthy but have all but stopped growing during this record-break cold snap. My roses are lovely, but they are dragging their roots... After more than a month, the ranunculus I planted with my son in the rose bed have poked their crinkly heads out from beneath the mulch.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Useful Florida Climactic Data

For serious home gardeners and hobby growers, and for lovers of arcane data like cooling hours, the best site I've found is the Florida Climate Center at FSU:

Table of Probabilities for first and last freezes and frosts.

Monday, November 13, 2006


I've started using this technique for my new vegetable and flower beds... It makes a lot of sense here in Florida: I'll report back how ti works out for me.

The first season. We began our no-till garden in an area of well-grassed lawn. In several years of continuous production, it was never plowed, cultivated, spaded or hoed. The first season it is necessary to do some extra steps if you start with an uncultivated area as we did. It is described in the March 1981 issue of Organic Gardening in an article by Jamie Jobb called "Tossing an Instant Garden." (ECHO will send a copy of this article to overseas development workers who request it.) A layer of newspapers is spread over the area. They should be no less than 3 sheets thick and well overlapped at the edges. Then organic materials of any kind are placed on top. We use either chipped wood that is given to us by the power company when they trim along the power lines, or grass clippings. You could experiment with other materials that may be available to you such as rice hulls, sugar cane bagasse, tall cut grass, leaves, coffee pulp, etc. The method works because weeds are not able to push their way up through newspapers and a layer of mulch, but roots can go down through wet newspaper. Wherever a seed is to be planted a small mound of earth is placed on top of the newspaper (or a narrow row of soil about one inch thick is used if seeds are small and to be planted closely together). The mulch is then pulled back against the earth and a thin layer put on top of it to prevent drying of the soil. The seeds must be watered more frequently than when planted in tilled soil because the thin layer of soil can dry out quickly. When we pulled mature plants at the end of the first season we found that some roots had gone through the paper and others had grown along the top of the paper to the first edge, then underneath for normal growth. Transplants do surprisingly well when simply planted into the sod through a hole cut in the paper.

Subsequent seasons. The procedure with newspapers is for the first season only. Before the season is over you will find that the newspaper and the sod have decayed and turned to compost. From then on if you keep a layer of mulch about 6 inches thick over the area, the soil beneath will be ready to plant whenever you wish. Our garden has been in continuous use since the day it was first planted. We use the word "no-till" because it is analogous to the system of farming by the same name in which herbicides are used just before planting, then seeds are planted directly into unplowed sod. However, this method uses no herbicides.

What are the advantages? (1) Gardens can be started in any area without the need to plough or spade. You can plant in areas that would be difficult to plough, such as around dead trees or in rocky soil. Grasses and other weeds are better controlled than if the ground had been cultivated. (2) There is much, much less work involved in controlling weeds. But it is a no-till, not a no-work, garden! It can take a lot of time gathering and placing the mulch periodically around the plants. And some weeds will come up that must be removed. (3) Less water is needed for irrigation. (4) The soil is kept cooler. This can be a disadvantage, however, for colder areas. If soil temperatures are too low, the mulch can be raked back in areas to be planted a few days before planting, so that the sun can strike the soil directly. The soil will be dark after a few months of no-till gardening and should warm up quickly. (5) Soil moisture and temperature are more uniform, an advantage for most plants. (6) Nematodes will likely be kept under control. The soil environment is much less suited to nematode growth than, for example, the hot dry sand found in our area. Furthermore, some fungi found in the decaying organic matter will kill nematodes. We have had some signs of root-knot nematodes in the no-till garden, but they have not been a problem after the first few months of operation. It is almost impossible to garden in the same plot for more than one season here without the heavy use of nematicides with normal gardening techniques. We have not yet had to use any nematicide. (7) The only need for a compost pile is for a small one to put large or diseased plants or weeds. When the mulch decays, it is automatically compost and is already in place! Earthworms will soon help carry organic matter down into the soil. (8) Soil erosion from sloping land should be less of a problem.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Do you know what zone you're in?

The National Arbor Day Foundation has a startling map that demonstrates the reality of climate change over a very short period of time. Based on the most recent fifteen year’s data available from more than five thousand National Climatic Data Center cooperative stations across the United States. In the period between 1990 and 2004, Zone 10 has crept significantly north in Florida, enveloping most of Brevard County and some of Seminole County. South Voludia County is now the southern-most border of Zone Nine, which has pushed its way north out of Florida and into coastal Georgia and South Carolina. I Photoshop-ed a map of Florida counties onto NADF's revised zonal map:

Oxalis triangularis

After a little less than a year growing in a smallish pot, my Oxalis triangularis needed to be repotted. I started with around a dozen corms in a nine-inch pot; with a little care and a lot of patience, I pulled no fewer than five dozen pencil-eraser-shaped bulbs from the pot today. Some I shared, some I transplanted to shady corners around my patio, some I gave away to friends. Posted by Picasa

Saturday, November 11, 2006

More seeds...

From Pinetree...
1 258. KNIGHT (56 days) 1.25 1.25
1 260. TALL TELEPHONE (Alderman) (68 days) 1.25 1.25
1 259. SUPER SUGAR SNAP (62 Days) 1.50 1.50
1 263. CASCADIA (48 days) 1.25 1.25
1 W228. FAVA BEAN-WINDSOR 1.25 1.25
1 519. CHERVIL 0.80 0.80
1 52501. DILL-DUKAT STRAIN 0.90 0.90
1 W590. TOMATILLO 0.95 0.95
1 W128. EMERITE 1.25 1.25
1 W141. BIG SEEDED 0.75 0.75
1 W176. BONILLA 1.95 1.95

Friday, November 10, 2006

Seeds for November 3

In my seed starter, on November 3, I planted:
1, 2, 3: Pink Paeony Papaver
4, 5, 6: 'Rocket' Snaps
7: 'Sensation Cherry' Geranium
8: Dianthus 'King Salmon'
9: Alyssum 'Pastel Carpet'
10: Celosia 'Fresh Look Yellow'

I'd never grown Geraniums from seed, but got a few packets from Parks during their year-end sale. I think they must be pelleted, and they're not the cheapest seed, but they germinate readily and grow pretty quickly.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

National Clonal Germplasm Repository

National Clonal Germplasm Repository (Corvallis, Oregon) :

Where I found free cuttings of blueberries appropriate for Central Florida:
  • Gulfcoast
  • Pearl River
  • Aliceblue
  • Beckyblue
  • Bluegem
And blackberries:
  • Flordagrand
  • Oklawaha

Johnson Nursery Order

  • Climax Blueberry (2)
  • Misty Blueberry (2)
  • Apache Thornless Balckberries Pkg of 10
  • Arapaho Thornless Blackberries Pkg of 3
  • Sweet Charlie Strawberry Pkg of 25

Just Fruits and Exotics order...

  • Woodard
  • Blue Gem
  • Brightwell
  • Gulf Coast
  • Sharpblue
  • Emerald (one not listed on their website but apparently well-adapted to my conditions)
  • 10 plugs of Sweet Charlie strawberries
  • 1 walking onion
  • Muscadine Grape

Great, intelligent customer service. The owner and I chattered for about half an hour about gardening
—she clearly knows her fruit!

The total came to just over $100, plus a packing charge and tax.

A bit pricey, but they have the market cornered!

Sunday, October 29, 2006

More vegetables...

[an update]: The Тurnip Тoppers were up nearly the next day and have already been moved to pots. It's Thursday (so a few days after sowing) and everything save the Nasturtiums has germinated and is growing merrily.

It rained here about an inch this past weekend, and again all day yesterday. That rain, the warm weather (mid-70s to low-80s) and a few days of bright sun have cheered my vegetables. The Fennel I planted two weeks ago is up and growing, the carrots have their first true leaves and the radishes seem almost ready to pick.

With guests in town and a busy week in front of me, I planted only a few seeds:

  • Turnip Topper: This variety is grown primarily for the greens. There tend to be 7 tops which are dark green, crisp, and delicious, particularly when harvested young. This variety is resistant to aphids and mildew. (35 days)
  • Red Sails lettuce: An early looseleaf type which has a very open head. It is relatively slow to bolt and succession plantings can be made through the summer.
  • Early Wonder Beets and Action Beets (50 days)
  • Tokyo Cross Turnips: The rapid maturation of this variety is absolutely amazing and they will get quite large if you wish. Harvest them young and they are usually worm-free without chemicals. Tops also have a nice flavor. (30 days)
  • Naturtiums
  • Some Cherry Belle radishes amongst the brassicae already growing in my garden
So far, everything except the fennel that I've planted the past two weeks has germinated & is growing vigorously in pots or in the ground. The many cukes that I planted a couple of weeks ago have finally developed their first, "real" serrated leaves.

I've started the guerilla raids of neighbors' oak leaves for compost. Strawberries are sure to be delivered in the next week. My fig tree has grown a foot in the last week, and my dwarf citrus love their new home... Can blueberries be far behind?

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Cowpeas, California Blackeye #5

I'm planning to use these cowpeas as a cover crop around my new dwarf citrus and fig trees. Our family LOVES field peas, mixed in with greens or pasta. This particular cultivar does not attract nematodes, and can thus be grown and turned under year after year:

Cowpeas, California Blackeye #5: "Cowpeas, California Blackeye #5
65 days-Jet-black markings!

Rich, slightly sweet flavor, meaty texture. California Blackeye #5 Cowpeas disease resistant dwarf plants, 7-8 in. pods. Thrive in long, hot summers. These old fashioned Southern favorites are packed with good nutrition! The shelled 'peas' are rich in immunity-boosting folate and are a good source of fiber.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Sowing some more cool-weather veg

A quick note on a late Monday morning: I work late tonight, so I stayed home to clean up a bit and do some things in the garden. It's a very cool and overcast morning after a week of record heat, so I thought I should plant some seeds and take advantage of the perfect germination conditions: In peat pots, I planted Florence Fennel. (I don't expect to harvest much before the frost gets it, but I might get a few stalks... and the fronds are a lovely larval plant for butterflies.)

In another set of peat pots, I planted some Turnip Toppers to harvest their leaves later in November.

Finally, in a plastic windowbox, I planted two kinds of radishes: French Breafast and Cherry Belle. Both are very quick to produce (thirty days) and I plant to do a series of plantings if these turn out successfully.

One drawback to the lasagna-style gardening I'm practicing is that it's fairly difficult to sow directly, but perhaps I'll give it a try with these radishes: They'd be a way to use the bare spots in my butterfly garden. (I'll note that I (unwisely) put my vegetables next to my butterfly garden... I guess I'll end up losing a lot to the caterpillars, but I can afford some largesse to the winged sort.)

In the garden itself, I planted some large, healthy seedlings of broccoli among the mustard greens. I planted them all too close, of course, but they only came in packs of nine, and I want to keep this, my first garden plot, small for the time being.
The carrots seeds the kids and I planted last week have finally germinated, as have the cucumbers, arugula, and mixed "mesclun." My turnip greens that I bought as a six-pack from Lowe's have put out an impressive bit of growth, too. The only thing that hasn't put in its appearance is the Asparagus Pea.

In the flower gardens, I noticed Sparaxis from last year coming up, and a few Freesia that I planted earlier in October have forced their way through the mulch. I think I noticed a few of last year's Freesia in the back of the bed.

It was an extraordinarily hot week: several days in the low-90s, breaking records almost every day. This was one week after we set a record low in Daytona Beach the previous Monday. This week looks to be very cool, with low records distinctly possible tonight and tomorrow night: Lows in the mid-40s, which will put the kabosh on any true tropical.

Crazy weather.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Blueberries for Central Florida

My criteria are simple: Under 400 chill hours and readily available at either Just Fruits and Exotics or Johnson's Nursery, two reliable mail-order retailers that deal with fruit for southern latitudes. According to what I've read, the more varieties of each species that you have, the better the pollination and fruit production. Many source recommend planting two varieties in the same hole.

Native to the south, rabbiteyes lengthen out the picking season into August. At least two varieties are needed for cross pollination. Most of these need a minimum of 350 chill hours, making them marginal for the area. I'm going to give them a shot, though.

From IFAS: To increase cross-pollination and fruit set, mix two or more of the following cultivars from the appropriate group: 'Sharpblue'/'Misty'/'Flordablue'/'Avonblue'; 'Beckyblue'/'Climax'/'Bonita';'Tifblue'/'Climax'/ 'Powderblue'/'Woodard'/'Brightwell'

Southern Highbush
A new breed of early ripening blueberry, Southern Highbush (also called Tetraploids) are a cross between Rabbiteye and Northern Highbush blueberries. Everything is different about these guys: the plants are smaller, the leaves look different (thicker and more crinkly) and they ripen early and bear more heavily than Rabbiteyes. These beauties need a soil high in organic matter for best production. Most of these need 300 or fewer chill hours. (Descriptions are from here.)
  • Misty: Appears to be more susceptible to infection and death by blueberry stem blight than most other southern highbush cultivars. 'Misty' tends to produce very heavy crops, even as young plants. Over-fruiting predisposes blueberry plants to stem blight.
  • Gulf Coast: 1987 USDA release, very early harvest season (same as Sharpblue), 200-300 chill hours, medium-sized fruit, pedicels tend to remain attached to fruit at picking, otherwise a very good cultivar.
  • Sharpblue: UF release, the most commonly grown southern highbush cultivar, very early harvest (50% of fruit ripe by late April or early May in Gainesville), very early flowering, 150 chill hours, moderately productive, medium-sized fruit of high quality if handled carefully, susceptible to several fungal leaf spot diseases, although plantings containing only a few plants tend to escape serious leaf disease problems.
  • Windsor: is vigorous, with stout stems and a semi-spreading growth habit. Windsor appears to be best adapted to north-central Florida but has been grown successfully as far south as Hardee County.
The best reference I've run across on the web for blueberries is here, at the Home Orchard Society. Useful information, like the fact that blueberry roots never go deeper than eighteen inches and sound advice for dealing with the pH issue (blueberries require very acid soil).

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Dreaming of fruit trees...

Looking on Johnson Nursery's website, I put together this fantasy list of fruit trees for my backyard orchard... I will probably place this order, or one like it, soon:
  • Climax Blueberry
  • Austin Blueberry
  • Premier Blueberry
  • Powder Blue Blueberry
  • O’Neal Blueberry
  • Ozarkblue Blueberry
  • Pearl Rive Blueberry
  • Tifblue Blueberry
  • Sweet Charlie strawberries (100 plugs)
  • Arapaho Thornless Blackberries (10)
  • LSU Purple Fig (nematode resistant)
  • Alma Fig

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Miniature carrots 'Adelaide' and 'Little Finger':

Adelaide: "This Dutch hybrid is used exclusively for producing those baby carrots that are so attractive and command such a premium price at the market. An early, cylindrical, bright orange, coreless carrot that grows to about 3 ½ inches for harvest, Adelaide will retain its remarkably sweet flavor for quite a while. Use raw, in salads, for pickling, and in stir fries."

Little Finger: This is an excellent choice for succession plantings. The carrots are about the size of your index finger (@3 1\2 inches long) and not tapered much at all like a nantes. Plant quite densely, i.e. 20-25 seeds per square foot. This one also does great in containers.

Zephyr Lilies

I wouldn't trade my Zephyr Lilies (Zephyranthes candida) for any stinkin' Daffodil in the world. When and why these bloom is always a mystery: Clearly, it's related to rain, since they don't bloom during the dry season or drought. The last time it rained here was ten days ago, yet all my Zephyrs are blooming today. During the hot and wet season, they bloom every couple of days. When not in bloom, they have a perfectly undistinguished grasslike foliage. Their motility is slow and not very far—the large, black and boxy seeds that form after pollination fall into my mulch and are slowly colonizing the area around my roses. I like one cultivar particularly: a double, frilly pure pink. Posted by Picasa
The aptly named 'Prosperity', a hybrid-musk climbing rose. I've had it growing in my garden for probably three years—the main cane is now about the width of a wine bottle. It's always blooming somewhere, but when the fine weather of our dry season kicks in, the bush is just covered in huge hands of pure white blooms with vivid yellow stamens and anthers. The fragrance is really unremarkable, though my reference books say otherwise (and commonsense, too—musk roses have long been considered the most odiferous of the garden roses).

It's a very vigorous rose, growing on 'Fortuniana' stock here in Florida.
 Posted by Picasa

Planting the winter vegetables...

I'm a flower gardener: The bigger and brighter the bloom, the better. (People who murmur demurely about growing foliage and appreciating "textures" obviously cannot grow flowers!)

Vegetable gardening in Florida has many challenges, but if you can navigate the freezes, avoid the bugs, and ditch the 'soil,' you can grow a lot of veg here, just not the same way you might up north.

I'm giving it a shot this year: I've always found room in my garden to grow lettuces in the cool season, but this year I decided to try some pot culture: miniature carrots, bush cucumbers, and Thompson & Morgan's 'Asparagus Bean'. The kids lent a hand with the seeds on a fine, dry and cool day here in Florida.

I planted the Rocket (Apollo from Thompson & Morgan) and the salad mix (MISTICANZA from Pinetree Garden) in a homemade, small-scale version of an Earthbox. The carrots (Little Finger and Adelaide, from Pinetree) went in some plastic windowbox containers (about ten inches deep, hopefully enough for these four-inch carrots). For the moment, the cucumbers (Salad Bush from Pinetree; Lemon and Cucino from Thompson & Morgan) are in peat pots: I'll put together another homemade Earthbox when they've outgrown the peat pots.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

I've decided to branch out into some select veggies, mostly for container growing in the cool season:

Pinetree Garden Seeds: Great selection, great prices....

140. BUSH CROP (55 days)
142. SALAD BUSH (F1 Hybrid 56 days)
67. ADELAIDE (F1 hybrid 65 days)
73. LITTLE FINGER (60 days)

From Thompson & Morgan... PRICEY but very high-quality product.

1 of [136] Asparagus Pea
1 of [199] Cucumber : Lemon
1 of [355] Cucumber : Cucino F1
1 of [4258] Helianthus debilis Key Lime Pie
1 of [468] Rocket : Apollo


It was supposed to be much cooler today than it turned out to be. Despite the near-90° temperatures and humidity, I forged ahead and planted fifty Freesia bulbs and a dozen Amaryllis bulbs. As usual, I bought them from, and their quality was exceptional: The Freesia were three-quarters of an inch in diameter, and the Amaryllis (which I got on special at around $3 per bulb!) were the size of cooking onions.

The Amaryllis (one of the toughest plants I know) went into the full-sun bed that lines the walk to my back yard with a little fertilizer and some water-retention crystals. I didn't enrich the soil much, since they're growing in more than five years of decayed pine mulch -- it's at least six inches deep. The Freesia, which went into a new bed that gets about six hours of morning sun, got a little more attention: Two handfuls of compost, a handful of bone meal, some water crystals and Osmicote. Both were heavily mulched in pine bark.

I had great luck with the Freesia last year: I planted them at the end of December, and they bloomed for six weeks, starting mid-March. I'm planting them much earlier this year, hoping that I'll extend my growing and blooming season by a bit. I left last year's bulbs in the ground, and I think I saw one of them poking its leaves through the mulch today.

My latest Park Seeds order







Thursday, October 05, 2006

A very eary start to the dry season...

After a very dry wet season, we started the dry season about a month early... This earliness is a good thing for the garden, since it's late-September and early-October rains that wreck a garden (fungal diseases thrive on short days and lots of water). It's awful, though, for the water table and for local springs and streams, which were already about as low as anyone around here remembers.

Weather Discussion : Weather Underground: "Climate...(previous discussion) looks like the drier season arrived earlier than normal this year (sep. 27th at Orlando/Daytona Beach and Sep. 28th at Melbourne/vero beach). This means that the frequency of rainfall showed a marked decrease. Longer term forecasts into the middle of the month do not show significant moistening that would lead to a prolonged period of afternoon sea breeze showers/storms. "

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Rosa 'Natchitoches Noisette'

I bought this lovely pink rose thinking it was a 'Blush Noisettte,' a cultivar created by a nurseryman in South Carolina in the nineteenth century that set off a revolution in rose breeding all over the world. During my trip to Seminole Springs a couple of weeks ago, though, I learned that it had been mislabeled, and was instead 'Natchitoches Noisette' (apparently pronounced knack-uh-tish!), named after the city in Louisiana where this rose was found growing in a cemetary.
Whatever its TRUE identity, this rose has flourished in my garden, where it pokes out from within and behind a large Guara. The description at helpmefindroses remarks on its clove scent... Not something I've ever noticed.