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.

Another weekend day spent at Leu Gardens. My apiphilia at work. Posted by Picasa