Sunday, December 30, 2007

Summer flower seed order

From Swallowtail Garden, which has a terrific selection of flowers at prices significantly lower than Thompson-Morgan. I ordered my Torenia seeds from them and was impressed with the quality of the seeds, packaging, and speed of delivery.

Mostly my strategy this year was to order cultivars of natives (like Monarda, Tradescantia and Asclepias) or plants like Penstemon and Agastache that I've seen growing in others' gardens.














Saturday, December 29, 2007

Patio remodel

Old Chicago pavers to match our driveway. Considerably enlarging our existing patio. The workers have been very conscientious -- hardly a plant harmed so far.

Garden Booty...

A midsummer's feast, midwinter. 'Little Fingers' eggplants, some plum tomatoes, a 'Better Boy' (center), 'Sungold' cherry tomatoes (delish!), and 'Rattlesnake' pole beans. Not bad for late December.
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Tomato fruitworm damage

(photo from barbcoleus)
Collectively over at GardenWeb Florida Forum, we identified the little worm that's been damaging my tomatoes and eggplants: the Tomato Fruitworm Moth larva (Heliothis zea). The damage isn't severe, particularly this time of year, when the rains and humidity are low. But that damage would be a more serious issue in July. Organic control is good old reliable BT or Spinosad ( Monterey Garden Insect Spray). The Gardener's Guide to Common-Sense Pest Control indicates that Neem should work, too, presumably as an antifeedant.

The damage on my 'Little Fingers' eggplants seems less severe, presumably due to its thicker skin. The damage seems to have been inflicted over a fairly short duration, since new fruits are unaffected.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Panhandle olive grove produces first commercial harvest

My next purchase... I think I'll try large tree pots, buried halfway. That way, I can keep them on the drier side. Willis has three of the recommended olive trees.
Panhandle olive grove produces first commercial harvest

Don Mueller has spent eight years raising an olive grove from a sandy, secluded piece of ground in the Panhandle’s Jackson County.

That’s 220 trees planted, irrigated and nursed through summer grasshopper invasions and winter cold spells, with only what help he could cajole from friends and in spite of doubts that he would succeed. The work has been arduous, the details that needed minding seemingly infinite.

As hobbies go, it is not the easiest choice for a septuagenarian retiree, even one as robust as Mueller. But ask, and he will tell you he has done it happily, just for the joy he gets out of tending that tiny Mediterranean fruit.

Now, the labor is beginning to pay off in other ways, too. Green Gate Groves is wrapping up its first commercial harvest, ending the season with a modest 200 pounds of olives sold to local buyers.

Olive trees in Florida

Rumor is our recently-deceased Greek neighbor up the street raised olives in her citrus grove...

Olive trees in Florida? You bet
Text/photos by Kathy Edenhofer (Master gardener),

If you are looking for a unique item for your landscape, here is something that might peak your interest. Tucked away in Citra is a little jewel of a tree farm owned and operated by Tony and Shirley Valenza. At the Olive Branch Tree Farm they grow and sell olive trees, olives and olive oil. The Farm currently has more than 3,000 trees in stock.

The Valenza family has been growing olive trees in California for more than 80 years and decided to see if any of the varieties would survive and produce olives in the Central Florida area. They have test grown many varieties in the last five years and found at least three that do well in our area. They are Arbequina, Mission and Manzanillo. All three are self-pollinating, cold hardy to at least 12 degrees, and are pest and disease resistant.

*Arbequina - a smaller Spanish olive introduced to the United States in the mid 1990’s. This variety is the earliest of the three to produce fruit, some within three years. The olives grow in heavy clusters and have a high oil content. The trees can reach 25 to 35 feet at maturity, but can be trained and kept lower for easier harvesting.

*Mission - a variety introduced to the United States by way of Mexico in 1769 is the most cold resistant. It has been known to survive temperatures as low as 8 degrees. Its fruit is larger than the Arbequina and is born singly or in clusters and also has a high oil content. Trees can reach 40 to 50 feet at maturity.

*Manzanilla - another Spanish variety introduced to the United States in 1875 with fruit larger than the Arbequina which are born singly. The trees have a low-spreading growth habit reaching 15 to 30 feet at maturity.

Purple Cherokee

The first tomato of the cool/dry season. A 'Purple Cherokee' that I got as a seedling from a local sustainable grower (after Stoopid Kitty ate my seedlings and vomited them everywhere on the furniture).
I like my tomatoes a mite bit greener than perhaps most. I'll eat this one tomorrow, lightly dressed, on a plate of greens, with some chervil and parsley.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Low-chill apples for the tropics and subtropics

An interesting overview (click for full-sized version) of the lineage and history of various low-chill apples from this excellent book.

Apples in the subtropics

I read most of Biology of Apples and Pears, and though much of it went way over my head, I learned a lot about apples and pears in the subtropics. The passage (click on it for a full-sized version) above sums up the techniques: 1) Horizontal training of branches to release lateral buds from apical dominance; 2) Leaf stripping to prevent return to deep dormancy; 3) Depriving the trees of water. All these mechanical treatments cause the trees to enter dormancy, undergoing essentially the same physiological changes that cold weather causes up north.

Dormancy, according to this book, is a very poorly understood phenomenon, a result of multiple causes that include, but are not limited to, cold weather.

Worms in Florida

I wasn't quite ready today to plant my fruit trees, so I heeled them into a shady part of my side lot, where the compost bin used to live. Every spadeful of dirt was full of worms -- red wrigglers that danced and writhed when exposed. I grabbed a few handfuls and sprinkled them like fertilizer throughout my garden. Work, work, comrades!
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My Willis Orchard order has arrived!

My order from Willis arrived yesterday, waiting for me on the front porch when I got back from New York City last night. The plants were well-packed, and as advertised, if not a bit bigger. Those are the Anna apples on the left, mulberry and pomegranate center left and right. Mixed in there are the FlordaPrince peach, Dorsett apples, Hood pear (still need to get another pear for cross-fertilization), and Bababerry raspberries. Let's see... a Fry Scuppernong and a Black Spanish grape.
I'll have to whack a full foot off the pears and apples to put them on my trellis (pictures forthcoming!).
They all look like sticks now, but give them a nine-month growing season (March through mid-November), lots of water, judicious fertilizer... they'll be huge next October.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Double-cropping of apples and peaches in the tropics

This is the stuff I'm thinking of...
DOUBLE CROPPING OF TEMPERATE FRUITS IN THE TROPICS Apples and peaches are also grown in several locations in the tropics where no chilling is received. The culture depends on defoliation to induce the next growth cycle after flower initiation has occurred but before cold-requiring dormancy arises. Extensive commercial apple production occurs in East Java, Indonesia, 8°S latitude and bi-annual cropping of peaches occurs in Venezuela, 10°N. No winter chilling occurs under those conditions. Two crops are harvested each year and cropping is staggered so that fruit may be harvested every day of the year. Success is dependent on relatively uniform temperatures, favourable for tree growth and
fruit development all year round. Successive growth cycles are induced by artificial defoliation after flower initiation occurs but before cold-requiring dormancy develops. There are some important requirements for successful apple culture in the tropics (Notodimedjo et al., 1981). These include: (1) a moderate temperature regime conducive to episodic growth; (2) many growing points on each tree; (3) cessation of shoot growth by terminal bud formation; (4) adequate time for flower initiation to occur; and (5) synchronous bud burst after flower initiation. In Java, the basic system to produce double cropping of apple involves leaf stripping to stimu- late flowering (Janick, 1974). There are regularly two crops per year, typically one in April and the second in October. Notodimedjo et al. (1981) demonstrated that bud burst and flower emergence could be induced at any time of the year by hand defoliation. At the time of defoliation there are high levels of gibberellins and cytokinins in the apices and ABA and other inhibitors in the subtending leaves. Cessation of shoot growth by terminal bud formation depends on competition between a large number of growing points. Flower initiation follows terminal bud for- mation but subsequent flower development is slow until after harvest and defoliation. Physiological dormancy of terminal buds is avoided by defoliation within a month of harvest. No chilling requirement is apparent and no chilling temperatures
occur. Dormancy of most lateral buds is not broken by defoliation. Burst of lateral buds is increased dramatically by bud slicing, partially by branch bending and, under some conditions, by ethephon treatment. There is no evidence for growth control mechanisms that differ from those known in the temperate zone. The requirements for flowering are not met naturally in the tropics but are achieved by manipu- lative treatments notably branch bending and hand defoliation. Although the growth cycle of apples in the tropics is visually quite different from that in the temperate zone, the endogenous mechanisms of growth regulation do not differ appreciably. This has consequences for research. Whereas in the temperate zone each stage of growth occurs only once a year, in the tropics growth control mechanisms may be studied throughout the year as each stage of growth may be found at any time on different trees and bi-annually on any one tree.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

A birdseye view

Google Maps has posted some more-detailed images. This picture, with our house in dead center, must have been taken last year, before I put in my vegetable garden and greatly expanded my flower beds. (My backyard is due east--north is up--of the semi-circle brick drive.) With all the trees, you cannot see what our house looks like, but it gives an idea of the urban area where I live (one of the first subdivisions in Central Florida--built during "the Big Boom" in the very early 1920s).

My garden space is pretty small: In the back, roughly forty-five feet by ninety. But the back yard gets tons of sun, and has a bit more clay in it than is usual for our part of Florida. It's also on a ridge, probably one of the highest points in DeLand. It was also the center of DeLand's famous groves...

ECHO -- Educational Concerns for Hunger Organization

ECHO is, for me, the ultimate authority on all things gardening in FLA -- check the chill-unit requirement here that they list for Anna, Tropic Sweet and Dorsett: "50-150." That's anywhere from half to one-quarter the chill-hour requirement I've seen elsewhere. Very interesting...

ECHO -- Educational Concerns for Hunger Organization: "The low chill varieties listed below require 50 - 150 chill hours for strong flowering and vigorous growth. Chill units are the number of hours the temperature stays between 32-55º F. Most effective chilling occurs with continuing temperatures below 45 º F. 'Anna' has red skin and is the most widely planted apple cultivar in Florida. The fruit of 'Anna' resembles that of 'Red Delicious' more than other low-chill apple cultivars. Originally from Israel, this large apple can be eaten green similar to 'Granny Smith,' or can be allowed to ripen to desired sweetness. 'Dorsett Golden' looks like 'Golden Delicious' with golden skin and sometimes a red blush. This cultivar was discovered in the Bahamas and is crisp and juicy with excellent flavor. ++ 'Tropic Sweet' is a newly patented variety from the University of Florida. This low acid, very sweet apple has green skin with a red blush, and flavor similar to the 'Gala' apple."

Manual Defoliation of Apples in Sub-Tropical Climates

Apple: "The main technique employed in tropical climates that don't meet chilling requirements is manual defoliation of the leaves. By seasonally pruning off all of the leaves on a tree, the apple is fooled into believing that natural defoliation has occurred due to winter, which causes chemical hormone changes in the plant that lead to the onset of flowering. The method is simple, but effective, and if done properly can yield 2-3 crops per year. In rarer cases, less-tropical apple varieties that have higher chilling requirements can be grafted onto the 'tropical' apples and through defoliation, can be coaxed into fruiting."

SRSFC - Georgia Muscadine Production Guide - Table of Contents

Absolutely everything you'd ever want to know about Muscadine Grape production... For big growers, but enough good information to entertain the hobbyist, too.
SRSFC - Georgia Muscadine Production Guide - Table of Contents: "Georgia Muscadine Production Guide"

SRSFC - Muscadine Production Guide - ../sec. 14

SRSFC - Muscadine Production Guide - ../sec. 14: "Muscadine single wire trellises normally have the wire 5 feet about the ground.The 5 foot trellis has been the most popular with Georgia growers since it allows for better air circulation that shorter trellises. Trellis construction is the most expensive step in establishing a muscadine grape vineyard. Since the trellis is relatively permanent, it should be strong enough to support a heavy crop and made of durable materials that will last for many years. All wood products used in the vineyard should be pressure treated with wood preservatives (or of a specially durable wood type you know will last in your area)."

The Orange Diaries

This site is modestly funny, though it smells mildly of a big corporation's sweaty attempt to be cute and folksy.

Still, I sympathize with their cause -- it ENRAGES me that, in my local Publix, it's hard to find frozen OJ concentrate from Florida, or that I have to go out of my way to get local juicing oranges, or that my blueberries in April come from Chile. I realize that it's a complex, economic system: Publix needs to compete with WalMart, so it searches for the least inexpensive possible necessities, like OJ concentrate from Brazil. And because of wage differentials and inexpensive (relatively) energy, Brazil can produce juice more cheaply than Florida, where groves are being turned into subdivisions. But it is enraging that we here, in Florida, do not, on principle, drink orange juice raised here, by farmers whom we know who buy their equipment from workers whom we know. In theory, I believe in free trade and international commerce; but when it comes down to my own personal preferences and instinctive beliefs, it almost always turns out that I prefer to buy local, even when it's not in my own economic best interests.

Pine-Bark Mulch Beds for Blueberries

The Fruit Growers News - May 2000: "Sears grows two basic varieties – the rabbiteye and the southern highbush. The rabbiteye, the easier and more profitable variety to grow, doesn’t begin producing until Memorial Day, at the end of May. The southern highbush begins producing as early as April 15. The problem for Sears and other growers was that even with the addition of the pine bark mulch the southern highbush wasn’t producing high yields. University of Georgia Extension agents worked with Sears and other growers to lay out beds of pine bark six to eight inches deep before they planted the bushes directly into the mulch. The southern highbush plants in the pine bark beds are doing quite well, Sears said. But, creation and upkeep on the mulch beds isn’t easy or inexpensive. That’s why Sears has 35 acres of blueberries, but currently less than an acre of producing berries in the mulch beds. Sears has several more beds in their first year of planting and he is preparing several more to plant. He plans to have about five acres of the southern highbush growing in beds of pine bark mulch in the next couple of years."

Monday, December 10, 2007

Gordon's Grove

The boy-child and I went here today, to pick some fruit for my brother in New York. Nice, well-tended grove. Nothing really interesting, but they only charge $8 for a big five-gallon bucket of citrus (two paper grocery bags). What fun! Highly recommended.

"Gordon’s Grove, 1624 Hazen Road, DeLand, FL 32720 Telephone: (386) 734-0620 Products: Navel oranges, grapefruits, red navels, amber sweet, Orlando tangelos, white tangelos, Hamlin oranges Late-October through March."

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Bunch grapes in the semi-tropics...

More on grapes... I ended up getting Black Spanish Bunch Grape and Bronze Fry Scuppernong from Willis Orchard. The Black Spanish is resistant to Pierce's and to mildews.

I might get another bunch grape vine from "Grapes of Kath," but I'm running out of easy arbor space.
Grapes No. 4, Issue 5: "After harvest, water and nutrients are withheld from the vine to slow it's growth, and the vine is manually defoliated. Leaves may be stripped by hand, or sprayed with a chemical such as urea to burn them and make them drop. In the tropics, this is usually done at a time when a dry period is underway. The vine is left in this condition until time for it to start growing again. Then it is pruned much the same way as a truly dormant vine would be, and it is fertilized and watered. This will force the vine to resume growth, bloom, and set fruit. Properly timed, it is possible to get two crops a year from a vine this way."

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Persimmon and Purple Sugar Cane

At Ernie's, I got a new kind of persimmon, a Sharon. Tasty. Reminds me of a cross between a cantaloupe and a fresh date. With a little bit of complexity, like a citrus cinnamon. Nice. I also bought a cool purple sugarcane. Stuck it in the ground. We'll see how it goes.

Oh, I finished cleaning up the limbs from having our canopy raised in the back yard. Water oaks. Blech. But they'd be very expensive to remove, and they are pretty trees. I had the trimmer leave the limbs behind, so his crew wouldn't rip up my garden. It was a pile about seven feet tall by twenty feet. Argh. Spent all day yesterday and a good part of today sawing it into manageable pieces, packing it tight in the truck, and driving it to the dump. Made it in two trips (extended bed pickups are nice!), along with a big pile at the street.

Now I can move along with my latest backyard plans. I started work on my composting areas: Three piles. One for smallish limbs &c. that will take a year to decay, another for smaller landscape junk and leaves, and a third bin for household refuse. That last stuff turns into humus gold in just a couple months here, so long as you turn it and keep adding brown materials.

Papelon con Limon

My Brazilian friend grows limão 'Cravo,' selling them at an amazing price of $2 a dozen. They produce copious amounts of mildly-acidic, vaguely lime-y juice. The flavor is somewhere on the tart end of a lemon-lime-orange. While I have trouble getting more than a tablespoon of juice from a lemon, the slightly larger limão 'Cravo' will easily yield a third to a quarter cup. VERY juicy.

I ran across a mention of this popular Venezuelan drink, and found this recipe. (Papelon is, I gather, the same as piloncillo, available everywhere Mexican food is sold.) Since I have no idea how much a panela weighs, I'm going to work by logic here: I use a cup of sugar to make a bit more than a quart of lemonade, let's work on the assumption that eight ounces of piloncillo will sweeten this drink.

Papelon con Limon: "Papelon con Limon"
1 panela de papelón
1 litro de leche
2 limones

Preparacion: Se rompe el papelón a martillazos. Se pone a remojar toda una noche en 1 litro de leche. Al dia siguiente, que ya se ha disuelto, se le agrega el jugo de limón. se sirve frío.

8 oz of piloncillo
1 quart of milk
Juice of 2 limão 'Cravo,'

Crush the piloncillo, and let it dissolve into a quart of milk overnight. (I'd help the process along the way with a whirl in the blender.) The next day, once the piloncillo has dissolved, add to the mix the lemon juice. Serve cold.

Going to try it tonight!

Tonight: Hmmmm. Hm. Um. Hmmm... Here's what I have to say about it. It is unlike anything I've ever had. Molasses, citrus, and milk. It's not bad. Refreshing in its own way. Very South American. Smooth.

I would add far more lemon juice than advertised in the recipe above: I used two tablespoons in my smallish glass, and felt that citrus could have played an even stronger role. Maybe I'd try it with Sugar in the Raw rather than piloncillo. I like molasses, but the bitter punch of it does not fare well with the acid from the lemons.

I need to try this with rum...