Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Still alive...

A very busy time of the year for me, so light blogging until after Christmas. The usual cool/dry season things going on in the garden: broccoli, radishes, lettuces, collards, cauliflower, carrots, potatoes, peas, beets and turnips. Ran out of seed... made an order at Johnnys:





Ext. Price


Snow Crown (F1)-Mini





Blue Wind (F1)-Mini





Windsor (F1)-Mini





Fiero (F1)-Mini





Totem (F1) (OG)-Mini





Hakurei (F1)-Mini





Javelin (F1)-Mini





Slick Pik™ YS 26 (F1)-Packet




Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Crimson Crisp Radish

I may never go back to open-pollinated radishes. Quick, perfectly round, appropriately crimson, and not a single split radish in today's harvest. i sowed 'em thick, picked the big 'uns this week, and left the rest to bulb. I've also have some Cherriette Hybrid radishes going in a windowbox, which is a great way to grow a bunch of radishes. They love a rough and quick-draining mix, which makes sense, inasmuch as they were bred to form root structure. With cool weather, it's not too hard to keep the moisture reasonably even.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Tomande tomatoes

I'm enjoying my tomato salad (tomatoes, salt, Sherry vinegar, olive oil, chopped Trinidad Yellow Seasoning pepper sprinkled atop), thinking to myself, DAMN that's a fine tomato. Tomande from Tomato Growers Supply. Very vigorous, very disease tolerant, set fruit at ninety degrees and is setting more at sixty degrees. Quick to ripen, too--maybe two weeks behind my cherries. Dark green shoulders. Sweet but a nice acidity to it, too. Honest, tomato flavor. Keep your heirlooms. I'll stick with this hybrid!

I've also been taking a box of Yellow Submarine tomatoes to work with me every day. Very sweet when completely ripe, nicer when a little greener. Thin enough skin. Good vigor, early, open-pollinated to boot.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The new wave of urban farming (and fresh food from small spaces!) | Grist

Pretty smart advice here for the apartment-bound and even for those (like me!) with some space but not a lot... I agree completely with his advice for growing potatoes in pots. Very productive...

The new wave of urban farming (and fresh food from small spaces!) | Grist:
"In Fresh Food From Small Spaces: The Square-Inch Gardener’s Guide to Year-Round Growing, Fermenting, and Sprouting, author R. J. Ruppenthal turns a seemingly anti-urban idea—that farming has to be done outside, with a red barn and rolling fields of wheat—on its head. Because urbanites, too, can grow their own food indoors, in cramped spaces,"

Potting Mix

My new potting mix is a 5::2::1 pine fine::perlite::peat mix. It’s really doing the trick for me… I’m in the midst of repotting all my plants—rinsing off the roots, trimming them aggressively, and moving them into this new mix. The results are impressive. I just bought a Siphon Mixer - Fertilizer Injector off of eBay ($17 delivered!) that will allow me to fertilize every time I water.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Dogwoods in November...

Funny thing is that these dogwoods NEVER bloom in the spring. I'd always assumed it was the lack of chill hours, but that hypothesis seems to be proved wrong when they bloom with virtually no chilling... in November...

Sunday, November 08, 2009

A quick update in pictures

Calendula. Probably my favorite winter flower. It'll bloom its head off all winter and spring. I have ten of these going in undersized pots. A great way to add a spot of color and cheer to any bleak area of the garden. These are from saved seed.

Tuscan kale and broccoli.

I was visiting a friend's garden in August, and on a whim I grabbed a single spent zinnia flower from her garden. When I found the flower in my pocket later that day, I tossed it into an empty big pot in my garden. I swear I think every single seed germinated--I've been pricking seedlings all fall long and giving them away to friends and family, transfering them to pots, etc. Very interesting that a single flower produced so much diversity--there are (in addition to the pinks and orange here) a couple bright yellow zins and one deep red one. But mostly pumpkin orange and carnation pink. These seem to be pretty mildew-resistant, to boot.
Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Cool season has arrived... November in the garden

Too much going on in life and the garden for a good "garden happenings" post... Cool weather has finally arrived after the hottest October on record.

Harvesting lettuces, tomatoes, eggplants, peppers... getting ready for the first radishes of the season. Zinnias, calendula, pentas, and Lions Mane (Leonotis menthifolia) and marigolds are blooming. Cool season herbs are thriving and basil is declining. Picked my last roselle and ripped out the canes. Melons have been a failure in the fall. Too much mildew. Planting beets, peas, more lettuce, chard, turnips, and carrots. My broc and cauliflower should be heading up sometime soon. First batch of greens is due next week.

Trying a new seedling mix: 6 parts perlite, 3 parts peat, 1 part dyna-rok. Some lime and micronutrients to round it out. Continue to plant a lot of pots and window-boxes with Al's 5-1-1 mix (pine fines/perlite/peat). What a great mix! It's remarkable how quickly repotted plants respond to it.

Monday, October 19, 2009


I thought this article in yesterday's Times was modestly provocative. The problem and its solution are not, I think, clearly identified in the article.

Recycling Goes From Less Waste to Zero Waste [...]Though born of idealism, the zero-waste philosophy is now propelled by sobering realities, like the growing difficulty of securing permits for new landfills and an awareness that organic decay in landfills releases methane that helps warm the earth’s atmosphere. [...]Americans are still the undisputed champions of trash, dumping 4.6 pounds per person per day, according to the E.P.A.’s most recent figures. More than half of that ends up in landfills or is incinerated.
Better recycling is important, but it seems like a Chamber of Commerce response to the problem--it's inoffensive and it leaves us feeling like, by gosh, I've done something good for the "environment".

For most problems, however, the solution to a given problem is to do less of whatever is causing the problem. If my problem is that I drink too much gin, the answer is not "take up smoking." The answer is, stop drinking so much gin. (It's not always so easy. A problem like "I'm stuck in a loveless marriage" involves solutions of a different sort.)

The answer to the problem if waste is not recycling because recycling didn't get us into the problem. Succinctly put, we buy too much crap. (Why we buy too much crap is another interesting question, but not apropos here.) Moreover, most of that crap is made of nasty plastic, and it's manufactured overseas. I never see the god awful mess (environmental and social) created by the manufacturing of my crap. When we tire after a few minutes playing with our new plastic piece of crap, we toss it into the waste bin, which every Thursday is conveniently picked up and moved somewhere I cannot see it, along with everyone else's crap.

The solution, then, is not "recycle better" (though that is part of a possible solution). The solution is, buy less crap.

............. Let me add that there's another solution to certain problems: Doing the opposite of what causes the problem can sometimes solve it. Sloth is undone by industry. So, not only should we buy less crap, but we should seek (in Wendell Berry's formulation) to become producing households, not just consuming ones. In our household, aside from producing a modest amount of the food we eat, we produce children, and take sole responsibility for their education. We produce much of our own entertainment (friends, music and reading) and try to ignore most of the mass-produced kind (no television). Finally, I guess, I produce most of the animal flesh that we consume...

These are modest things, and I am humbly aware of how much more I could do. But they are a start to the solution.

Thursday, October 15, 2009


My poor winter crops! They'll make it through, but it's been tough going for brassicas, lettuces, etc. Surprisingly good tomato set, though, despite the warm nights. Really a dreadful October so far...

NWS climate report.
Climate...Vero Beach set a new record high at 94 degrees today
breaking the old record of 90 degrees last set in 2002.

Orlando and Vero Beach also have extended their streaks of
consecutive days with high temperatures 90 degrees or higher to 10
and 11 days respectively which are new records for the month of October.
The radishes and peas I sowed over the weekend are already up, so the cooler weather that's headed our way is particularly welcome.

I notice that this is post number six-hundred.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

A quick update in words...

It's HOT and DRY out there. I wartered my lawn for the first time since, well... probably May. My brassicas and chard are all doing OK, but suffering a bit in the afternoon. I ripped out all my summer beans (yard-longs, limas and cowpeas), spread a few baskets of mushroom compost, and planted a row of Super Sugar Snap Peas, and a mixed row of radishes (Crimson Crunch), carrots (Sugarsnax) and beets (Red Ace). All these seeds are hybrids--I decided this year to try them out, see if they did better for me. In particular I hope that their extra vigor helps with the poor seedling yield I've had on all my winter crops when they're planted during our hot and muggy late fall. Beets in particular can be vexing--I've had to resow every year to fill in the gaps.

Tomande and Yellow Submarine tomatoes are doing well. Peppers, especially Sweet Spot, are continuing to produce nicely, as they have all summer. Leonotis menthifolia (Lion's Mane) has finally kicked into bloom. Orlando Tangelos are coloring up a bit and, oddly, my grapes have produced a second (sparse) harvest. (I wonder if this is normal? They are ripening now, and should be ripe by November.) I cut my banana stalk a couple days ago and it's yellowing up quickly. Zinnias are getting ready to bloom. That's about it...

Friday, October 09, 2009

Gut Check: Here's the Meat of the Problem -

I agree... why are people so prickly when you suggest that, maybe, you know, eating too much meat is bad all around... It's bad for YOU, it's bad for the environment, and eating less is easy.
Gut Check: Here's the Meat of the Problem - "But the result isn't funny at all: Two researchers at the University of Chicago estimated that switching to a vegan diet would have a bigger impact than trading in your gas guzzler for a Prius (PDF). A study out of Carnegie Mellon University found that the average American would do less for the planet by switching to a totally local diet than by going vegetarian one day a week. That prompted Rajendra Pachauri, the head of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, to recommend that people give up meat one day a week to take pressure off the atmosphere. The response was quick and vicious. 'How convenient for him,' was the inexplicable reply from a columnist at the Pittsburgh Tribune Review. 'He's a vegetarian.'

The visceral reaction against anyone questioning our God-given right to bathe in bacon has been enough to scare many in the environmental movement away from this issue. The National Resources Defense Council has a long page of suggestions for how you, too, can 'fight global warming.' As you'd expect, 'Drive Less' is in bold letters. There's also an endorsement for 'high-mileage cars such as hybrids and plug-in hybrids.' They advise that you weatherize your home, upgrade to more efficient appliances and even buy carbon offsets. The word 'meat' is nowhere to be found."

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

park's order

Getting my winter and spring seeds in order... I've decided to try a bunch of hybrids-beets, carrots and radishes this year.

Radish Cherriette Hybrid
Radish April Cross Hybrid
Pea Super Sugar Snap
Carrot Sweetness II Hybrid


Still working on understanding how to grow malanga (above). It's so tasty, so easy, but wow does it have a long season. I've decided it needs a 10 month season--which, given its persistent tubers, isn't as unlikely as it sounds. I just need the space to grow it.

Well, it feels like the tropics out there (minus the rain... BOY IS IT DRY!)... so, a tropical harvest of malanga, bananas, and roselle. I cut out most of my roselles a month ago because they hadn't started forming calyxes yet and I needed space for my cucumbers (yeah, the ones that got destroyed by stinkbugs...). Now I really regret having done that--the roselles are just covered in "berries." Ah,w ell, live and learn. Creating a long-lived annual/perennial vegetable bed should help solve this problem. The roselles were super easy to grow. Seeds available from ECHO.
Posted by Picasa

Monday, September 28, 2009

Very quickly...

Some random notes...
  1. It's fall. We have a beautiful week on tap.
  2. I will never again plant cukes in the fall. The stinkbugs did them in, quickly. I came out one morning to find no fewer than fifty on one plant. And the summer squash. Those, too, done in by the stinkers. I could spray them with Sevin, but I prefer not to spray my cukes.
  3. I finally found a source for pine fines... about thirty minutes away, but right off of I4, so often enough I could stop by for a carload. $3 per forty-pound bag. Bolling Forest Products.
  4. Cowpeas and yardlong beans are declining. That means I'll have room for some peas and potatoes in October.
  5. Did a minor feed today.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Valley View Vineyards

Valley View Vineyards. A really lovely area--"The Alps of Florida"! Located in the hills and valleys that make up the spine of Florida. Valley View has grapes, peaches, persimmons, chestnuts, figs, and pears. All you-pick. I picked a bag of pears, chestnuts and figs today for the whopping cost of $3. The chestnut trees were the real reason I headed down there, since I've never picked chestnuts before. I'm glad I brought my welders gloves! A few miles away, right next to the Yalaha Bakery, we found a you-pick blueberry and blackberry farm. That means that next May we'll be able to pick peaches, blueberries and blackberries all in the same area. Road trip!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Just Fruits order...

I bought from Just Fruits and Exotics...
  • EARLIGRANDE (peach) New for 2009! Yellow fleshed, small to medium clingstone peach that ripens before all the rest. You'll be enjoying these tasty beauties two weeks before any other variety. Ripens mid April. Self-pollinating. 200 chill hours. Zone 9.
  • GULF BEAUTY (plum) Still another University of Florida patented release (USPP 11224). Richly sweet, small, red fruit. Heavy producer with excellent flavor. Needs a Gulf series pollinator. 250 chill hours. Ripens early May. Zones 8B-9.

    GULF BLAZE (plum) Patented University of Florida release (USPP 10880). Medium-sized, deep ruby-red fruit with yellow-red center. Excellent flavor. Needs a Gulf series pollinator. 250 chill hours. Ripens early to mid-May. Zones 8B-9.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Brassicas in the garden...

Posted by Picasa

Crowder stew...

Posted by Picasa


My order from Swallowtail... Winter is the only time I sow annuals and perennials (which I usually grow as annuals). My friend Bill has put on some great displays of direct-sowed flower beds in spring. He's also scattered alyssum on paths and let it grow up amongst the grass and weeds... it was stunning.


Sunday, September 13, 2009

Another episode of Alison asks...

Your Japanese cuke... has that been going all summer?
nope, i got it from a friend as a seedling about a month ago. but... it's very vigorous and has climbed a 6 foot string and is getting ready to run over the top of the trellis.
My organic plant protection book says that pickleworms can be fought by trellising because they only feed at ground level.
BULL! you could grow it in a locked safe and the (*%$(*^&%$ PICKLEWORM would find it... Hah. hah.
Since you grow everything up, you'd know! I found a Japanese Long cucumber, but it said nothing about pickleworm resistance.
so, i saw the first signs of the (*&DF(*& pickleworm on the plant... that means that the cukes are likely getting eaten up inside... but 1) it took them a LONG TIME to find them and 2) the cukes are fast growing. so, i plan on using newspaper and paper bags to deal with the worm.
Right now I've done 3 plantings of a pickling cucumber and everything has gotten completely eaten. There appear to be eggs all over it, black eggs laid in clumps.
are you sure they're not aphids? aphids are REALLY bad now. they look like eggs... only they're tiny little bugs. check again. the other active bug right now is the stinkbug. their eggs are pretty iridescent globs.
No fruit to eat, but the foliage is all but gone. Would those be pickleworms?
I couldn't find a description of their eggs anywhere.
I've had luffa in all summer and they have shown no interest in that. They've also stayed away from my watermelons which were planted at the same time as the first round of cukes. I'm baffled. About to rip them out and give up on fall cukes... what do you think?
rip 'em out. here's the info for the cukes that have done so well for me now: Japanese Cucumber Hybrid Tasty Queen.
Your yardlong beans... when did you get them in the ground?
hmmm.. maybe a month ago? not long ago.
We've had great success with red-seeded asparagus beans, but I've never tried a second planting in late spring/early summer.
if you got the space and seeds, why not try? they make good green compost material in any case, and don't need any inputs... just sun and rainwater.
They just pooped out with the corn. I'm wondering if the same variety will keep us in beans all summer if I just planted a second round. We got pretty tired of okra this summer. :->
i don't understand the combination "tired of" and "okra."
What do you do to cure your sweet potatoes? The research I've done suggests rather putsy temperature keeping that would frankly be impossible. I'm wondering if keeping them in a basket on the porch where there's no direct sun but still heat and humidity would be enough.
i keep mine all fall/winter long on the gazebo, on my wooden slat table. they can be kept for months with good airflow. i wouldn't keep them in a basket--that might reduce the airflow & risk rotting.
We're also not planning on harvesting all of them until December- would you suggest picking them earlier so we still have a fair amount of heat for the curing process?
keep them in the ground as long as you can... i harvested mine only b/c i needed the space. you can pick 'em and eat 'em right away... but if you want to keep them for a period, you do need to "cure" them... which means, essentially, dry them out a bit, which sweetens them and heals the skin blemishes from harvest, lowering their disposition to rot. curing them supposedly increases the sugar content, too, by reducing the amount of water in their cells. but, really, i eat them whenever. the keys are to NOT RINSE THEM, keep them dry, out of the sun. leave the sand clinging. when you're ready to eat, then wash them.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

sweet potato harvest

I needed the space, so I harvested my batatas a little earlier than maybe I should have. There were some real lunkers in the mix, but plenty of medium sized ones and some smaller ones, too. The kids had fun, even in the rain.

OK, if you look at my fingertips you can see the tail of a Copper Skink that ran into my sandals as I was trying to dig the potatoes... I did a little dance and managed to extract it without harming it. I love these little skinks, finding them under leaves and in the mulch all the time.
My kinda failed malanga experiment. I transplanted the malanga on June 15. At the time they were little corms about the size of the smallest ones above. This is my "harvest" from two plants (out of half a dozen). So, in three months, one plant yielded one four-inch "potato" and a bunch of smaller ones. My guess is that they need at a minimum nine months in the ground to produce a malanga tuber large enough to be worth it... That's a long time to take up real estate in my tiny veg garden. Anyway, the whole experiment confirms my idea that I need a farily large, sunny spot where I can plant perennial vegetables like malanga, cassava, chaya, okinawan spinach... and things like papaya and hot peppers--low maintenance, not overly thirsty, sun-loving plants. I have a perfect spot, but right now it's part of one of my butterfly gardens in the front yard. So, I think I'll spend a couple weekends during the cool season clearing out that bed (it's heavily mulched with fabric), moving the plants (I have a perfect spot for a new butterfly garden), running PVC and enriching the bed. I'll probably grow some bananas and limas in that bed, too...

My sweet potato harvest--not bad for a ten-foot long row. There are several varieties there, including white japanese.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

A September bouquet...

Let's see... The color of September is... PURPLE.
Flowering artemesia, Duranta erecta, Achimenes, Alternanthera, yarrow, and some cool purple salvia...
Posted by Picasa

Have I defeated the pickleworm?

Special Japanese cuke... seems to be invisible to pickleworm radar... Pretty exciting, eh? I'll post the results and seeds if my luck holds out. Right now, though, the pickleworm is all over my seminole pumpkins, but not a single egg on this secret japanese cuke...
Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Drat... bananas!

My super-rare, super-cool Ele Ele Banana has decided to finally set fruit... a bummer, since there's probably not enough energy left in the season to bring the nanas to maturity. Sigh. Two years I've waited for it to set fruit. Ah, well, I have a number of pups that will likely mature next year. Bananas can be vexing.

"They" describe the Ele Ele as a mix between a dessert and cooking banana. Perhaps that means that I can pick it unripe and use it for fritters, etc. But, really, who can eat fifty pounds of fritters? (OK, that was a stupid question.)

Saturday, September 05, 2009

An update in slides...

Goings on in the garden... Click for a larger slideshow.

The winged sort...

It's the best time of the year for butterflies & hummers. I counted 12 species in my garden this weekend. The most popular plants for me: chaya, milkweed, and (the bestest), hamelia patens.

Posted by Picasa

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Bay Laurel

Things I'm thinking of ordering from Bay Laurel...

To replace a couple of my southern highbush blueberries that have died:
  • Izu persimmon


Saturday, August 29, 2009

Goings-on in the garden...

It's really a big PAUSE out there right now... I've got tomato and pepper seedlings in the ground and in large containers; the tomatoes are about twenty inches. Brassica and chard seedlings are doing OK... I might have started them a bit too early, but if I can nurse them through the next few weeks, I'll have an early harvest. Things slow down so much in December--if you aren't at harvest stage for chard, broccoli and cauliflower in November, you end up waiting until February for things to get going again. But still waiting to put them in the ground. Transferred a couple of melon seedlings into an empty bed. Trying out some Turkish summer squash, too. Japanese cukes, metkis--both in pots and twining up strings. Vigorous buggers... we'll see what the pickleworm thinks.

Every day I'm tempted to dig up my sweet potatoes, which have run rampant all over one side of the garden. I know, though, that another couple of weeks will really increase my harvest, so I wait.

And wait for the bananas.

I've tried a couple of times to get some salad seeds started, but it's just too hot for them to germinate. So I made a sterile mix of coir and Truface and I'll give it a try inside--if I can just get them started, I should be able to grow them in pails, in the shade, until it cools down a bit.

Decided not to put polebeans in this fall and save the space for peas instead. My limas, cowpeas, and yardlongs are all still producing heavily, and will continue to do so until I rip them out to make room for fall crops.

Peppers are suffering a bit from fungus (maybe anthracnose, maybe mildew... can't tell), but they're so well established and big that I think they'll push through and provide some nice harvests in November.

Oh, and aphids... Lots of aphids out there, giving new growth a hell of a time. I guess I'll try some neem and soap.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Southern Exposure Seed order...

  • 51103 Poinsett 76 CUCUMBER 2g seed
  • 62803 Bronze Arrow LETTUCE, LOOSELEAF .5g seed, USDA Certified Organic
  • 35106 Scarlet Nantes (Coreless, Nantes 1/2 ) CARROT 3g seed, USDA Certified Organic
  • 45601 Turkish Italian Orange EGGPLANT .13g seed, USDA Certified Organic
  • 69108 Star of David OKRA 5g seed, USDA Certified Organic

Saturday, August 22, 2009

More fall seeds...

Over the past few days I've planted...
  • Beefmaster tomatoes
  • Green Gala cantaloupe
  • Dolma Kabak (Turkish summer squash)
  • Apollo Rocket (arugula)
  • Lucullus and Bionda di Lyon chards
  • Zinnias
  • Pot marigolds (Calendula)
  • Nasturtiums
Shishito peppers are finally up, and I noticed that the atemoya seeds that I planted a month ago germinated. Japanese cukes and Metkis are flourishing. I spent the morning doing a hard prune on my trellised Anna apple, preparing it for the next wire, I cleaned up the main line of my Nesbit grape, which has almost finished fruiting. And I pruned my Flordabelle peach. I've had to trim the peach every month to keep it in bounds--nine feet tall. It's a rampant grower, so I've been cutting back all green growth above nine feet. But next years harvest should be excellent if the weather cooperates--so much two- and three-year-old wood on it!

Willow-leaf lima is still producing very well. It's my favorite new plant this year--three vines planted sometime in late spring have taken over TWO ten-foot trellises. It produces in big bursts, nice full pods with three or four beans in each. Peppers, especially Sweet Spot, continue to bear heavily, even in the heat and humidity. I transplanted several tomato seedlings into the ground. Mississippi Silver cowpeas are kicking into high gear; the yard-long beans are finally setting beans. I planted both of these very late in the season, but should still have plenty of beans.

Always a dilemma this time of year--where to put plants for the dry season while wet-season crops like malanga, cassava, sweet potatoes and pumpkins ripen?

Thursday, August 20, 2009


I don't want to exaggerate and say that it was cool out there, just now, while I was picking limas and checking out my brassica and tomato seedlings, but... it was surely less hot, and a bit more comfortable, than the past few months. The sun's angle is decreasing (which is good, because my garden is shaded to the north and as the sun tracks lower to the south, my garden gets a good deal more sun), so the colors are less washed and muted, and it's not quite so baking to stand in the open.

It's fall.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

August in the garden...

Mississippi Silver crowder pea. Picked my first bunch today.

Japanese cucumber seedling.
Nesbitt grapes ripening...

August colors.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

"Sand" pears at Keene Acres

Mr Keene himself...
A six-year-old pear tree, full of Pineapple or Sand Pears (Pyrus communis). Hard, sweet, somewhat gritty. $5 per bucket of twelve or fifteen pears.

An Anna Apple (tropical). Miles also has Dorset Apples. Both are tropical apples, suitable for Central Florida. My Anna has grown well, but my Dorset had fungal issues and is recovering slowly. Miles reports that he had tons of apples this May on these small trees. (Annas in particular are know as heavy bearers.)

Miles has a lovely place--eleven acres. In addition to landscaping trees and plants, he raises peaches, nectarines, persimmons, pears and tons of citrus. Much of the fruit is available for you-pick.


The first Nesbitt grapes of the season have ripened. Mmmmmm... Sweet. Not at all muscadine-y, though for me that's not necessarily a plus. I'll have 50 or so this year, and thrice that number next. The vine has really put off some impressive growth over the last month.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

If I had to choose...

If I had to choose...
Tomatoes: Sungold, Tiffany, Bella Rosa (determ.)
Peppers: Sweet Spot X3R, Fat 'n' Sassy
Pole Beans: Rattlesnake
Limas: Willow-Leaf Lima (no contest!)
Southern Pea (Crowder): Mississippi Silver
Lettuce: Jericho
Chard: "French" Swiss Chard (hard to find...)
Carrots: Carrot Sweet Treat Hybrid
Beet: Cylindra
Cuke: Cucino (traditional)
Squash: Cucuzzi
Eggplant: Little Fingers
Okra: Burgundy

Monday, August 03, 2009


Here's a response I wrote to a question on Garden Web about pepper growing...

i'm only an ok pepper grower--this year's better than most.

here's my accumulated wisdom: 1) pick the right variety. for sweets, i've had great luck with fat n sassy, flexum and sweet spot (all from tomato growers supply). hot ones--tabasco, habanero, anaheims. 2) plant them as early as possible. when you plant your tomatoes--i.e., probably the beginning of march in n fla., maybe earlier. you might have to protect them from frost. for fall planting, they should probably go in now (mine have). 3) plant them CLOSE together for support and to protect from sun scald. stake them or grow them in cages. (i don't have room for cages, so instead i use multiple bamboo stakes--as many as 4 per plant.) 4) hot peppers do very well in pots. use a loose, well-drained mix that includes pine fines, perlite and peat. i use equal quantities if i can get fines in bags; otherwise i use a mix from my local landscaping co that is 1/4 hardwood fines, 1/4 pine fines and the rest peat.

on this forum, search for "post hole method" or posthole method. it's how i plant them in the ground--essentially, dig out a cylinder of "dirt" and replace it with dirt.

i haven't sprayed mine. they're under attack from stinkbugs (leaf-footed) and flea beetles, but they're healthy enough. i fertile monthly with a small amount of balanced fertilizer, and every once and a while a handful of epsom.

i just got a BIG bag of peppers from happy_fl_gardener. my own plants have tons of fruit on them, and will produce another crop in the fall, as soon as the light changes enough and it cools down (sometime in september).

it CAN be done. but it takes some practice and luck.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Why meat is wasteful...

I became a mostly vegetarian--I choose not to eat meat, but I am willing to do so--one morning a year or two ago, when I woke up and decided, simply and without a lot of qualifications, not to eat meat. I walked downstairs and, over coffee, told my wife: I'm not eating meat any longer. And that was that.

Though I wasn't particularly aware of this question turning in my head, it must have been doing so for some time.

Pressed every once and a while (I'm not the sort of person people press often) to explain why I don't eat meat, I usually respond:

1. We don't need to eat meat.
"One farmer says to me, "You cannot live on vegetable food solely, for it furnishes nothing to make bones with"; and so he religiously devotes a part of his day to supplying his system with the raw material of bones; walking all the while he talks behind his oxen, which, with vegetable-made bones, jerk him and his lumbering plow along in spite of every obstacle. Some things are really necessaries of life in some circles, the most helpless and diseased, which in others are luxuries merely, and in others still are entirely unknown. "

2. In any case, we American eat far too much of it. (The average American eat nearly half a pound of meat a day!)

3. It is deleterious of our health; of this there can simply be no doubt. I distrust all of modern nutrition, but I can point to the indubitable fact that every culture that has gone from eating a vegetable, grain, oil and fish diet to a diet that resembles our own American "diet" has grown steadily less healthy, more obese, and stupider.

4. Furthermore, you can have a varied--even more interesting--diet without meat."

In fact, I really like meat. You name it, I like it. Even offal and liver and sweetmeats. Beef. Chicken. Birds of all sorts. Horses (yes). Lamb. Wild beast. Pork. I used to eat--and occasionally, I still do--all of this with quite a lot of relish. And sometimes ketchup.

Notice that I have no compunctions about eating meat on the usual moral grounds. I like animals well enough, but I don't think they have souls and I have no guilt issues involved in their slaughter, so long as it is done well and as painlessly as possible. (That said, I don't like the idea of anything suffering needlessly, and so in particular I avoid meat the provenance of which I do not know.) In fact, if you know my story, you'll know that I have slaughtered plenty of animals, and I don't feel any guilt whatsoever.

I am an avid fisherman and really love to eat any fish. That said, I mostly only eat the fish that I catch. Our seas have been roundly abused, and I want as little part in it as possible. Moreover, I will not eat frozen fish of any kind, nor farmed fish--they taste like shit, and life is too short to eat shit. (I will eat frozen squid!) I am fortunate to live in Florida, a state that has some of the best, most progressive, laws around regarding commercial fishing. I only eat locally sourced fish that I know is taken from grounds that are not overfished. (Like I said, I don't eat much fish!) I imagine if I did not live in Florida, I would not eat fish at all.

In the end, for me the most compelling reason not to eat meat, or to eat much less of it, is the incredible waste involved. If you do any reading, you will be astonished by the amount of water, grain, labor, oil, fertilizer, concrete, wood, wire, electricity, herbicides, pesticides, antibiotics, legislation, oversight and carbon dioxide involved in manufacturing (and that's the correct word) a pound of meat.

Four-hundred gallons of water, lord knows how much fossil fuel (but lots of it), seven pounds of corn and all the concomitant fertilizer/herbicide/pesticide... to produce a pound of beef, much of which goes into eating that shitty shit people wolf down in fast-food restaurant. Shameful.

And then you have to deal with the enormous impact of fantastic amounts of shit. A hundred-fifty pounds of shit A DAY for a cow!

(Many will rightly point out that grass-fed, pastured cattle are far less resource-intensive, which is true. But the amount of "free-range" beef produced out there is a fraction of what's consumed.)

Yes, resources are used to produce a pound of vegetables and grain, but a small fraction compared to meat of any sort. And a pound of veg and grain is far tastier and more varied than your chunk of beef, and probably lots cheaper. (I try not to think of food as nutrition (for reasons too complex to explain here), but, there can be no doubt, that pile of veg, fruit and grain is of far greater healthfulness than the beef.)

The world is getting smaller, flatter, hotter, drier, more unpredictable.

Choosing not to eat meat makes sense.

Plus, I have a kick-ass garden.