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.