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!