Saturday, March 27, 2010

Fruit census...

  • Citrus: Honeybell Tangelo, Hamlin Orange, Owari Satsuma (these all on Flying Dragon), Sambokan Lemon, a Kumquat in a pot, and a kaffir lime in a pot
  • Figs: 'Alma,' 'Brown Turkey,'Celeste.' (I planted these in the ground after a year in pots.)
  • Brambles: Bababerry, unidentified blackberry, unidentified raspberry (from tony_k), and a 'Brazos' blackberry
  • Blueberries: Climax, Emerald, Sunshine Blue (four), Sharpblue
  • Grapes: Nesbitt
  • Pomegranate (Grenada)
  • Pommes: Anna Apple, Dorsett Golden Apple, Hood Pear, Pineapple Pear
  • Various pineapples
  • Mulberry (Black Beauty)
  • Carambola ('Sri Kambangum')
  • Bananas (four kinds, mostly dwarf, including Oronico & Ice Cream)
  • Mango (Cogshall)
  • Three peaches (Flordabell, FlordaPrince, Earligrande)
  • Fuyu Persimmon
  • Gulf Beauty and Gulf Blaze plums
I had several blueberries die over the course of last year--all from the same grower, so I'll blame the source. I replaced them with Sunshine Blue, which, by all accounts, are well-adapted and prolific small bushes. Right now I've got them in a very large pot--I'll grow them out for a year and then transplant them into the ground. They're only about a foot tall right now, but covered in blooms and berries. I'll be surprised if my carambola survived the winter--I protected it, but there's only so much you can do for an immature tree. I'm displeased with my Flordabell (from Willis--I won't order from them again). It's grown much more slowly than my FlordaPrince did, and has yet to break dormancy this year.

A quick update in movies...

Apple blooms, potatoes, beans, blueberries... etc. This didn't come out well, but I'm too beat to do it again. Long day in the garden planting new apple (Anna and Dorset) trees, cukes, watermelons, melons, tomatoes, zuchs... Busy but beautiful day.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Vin Marquis

I made this earlier this winter with my mom's "organic" oranges. I used a cheap red boxed wine, not a white, but otherwise, same recipe as the one I got from the excellent book, Aperitifs. I tried it tonight--without waiting the six months or a year the recipe demands--and found it very tasty. If you've ever had Lillet Red, it tasted JUST like it, but a little fresher and more citrus-y.

Update... Nine months later, this vin marquis has been transformed--very smooth, hints of citrus, but mostly a warm, earthy, chocolate with hints of allspice and clove... It compares favorably to Lillet Rouge (one of my favorite aperitifs). More complex and muscular than a red vermouth. It has the body of a young port, and some of the flavor characteristics, but is much less sweet.

I have no idea why it tastes that way, but it does. (Presumably the breakdown of organic acids into different compounds.) The per-bottle cost was probably three or four bucks.

Cukes, melons, blackberries and potatoes

Cukes and melons are up.
First blackberry bloom of he season... very late.

All winter I stick sprouted potatoes into black nursery pots and slowly fill them with a mix of hay and used potting soil... Last year I was able to harvest in early April, but this year it might be a little late.


Despite the rain and relatively cool temperatures, the beans I planted last weekend were up by Friday.

I started some Gaucho melon seeds and cucumbers sometime this week...

  • Tien Chin Long--I got these from a friend who grew them with great success last year
  • Cucino--Tried and true in my garden. Well behaved.

These mini Cukes make perfect snacks and canapes.46 days. The perfect size for a single-serving salad, a snack, and a canape tray, these charming 2- to 3-inch baby Cukes are a gourmand's delight. With smaller seeds, less water, and more "meat" than full-size Cucumbers, they have a crunchier, more satisfying bite. And two bites is all you get -- they're the perfect pick-up nibble!

Cucino is very adaptable to unseasonably cold or warm climates, and very easy to grow. It needs no pruning, and its fruit is a fat-free source of potassium and vitamin C. Pkt is 10 seeds.

  • Pointsett 76

{als, an, dm, pm, spm} 67 days. [Developed cooperatively by Clemson and Cornell.] An improved version of 'Poinsett' having multiple disease tolerance. Produces dark green cukes about 7 to 8 in. long and 2-l/2 in. in diameter. The best open-pollinated variety for the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic coastal areas as a disease-resistant main crop garden variety.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

What can you plant now?

I get this kind of question pretty often... Here's my quick answer... there are probably other things he could start now... feel free to chime in in the comments.

I have a small area 10x15 in my back yard & I'm looking to start some veggies for the summer. Would these be good as a start? Pole beans, Okra, a tomato plant? What else could I plant out back?

consider buying one or two beefmaster tomatoes from lowes--i got a couple for $2 each. have you seen tomato prices lately? it's too late, probably, to start from seeds, so this year at least you'll need to buy tomatoes and peppers as seedlings from somewhere... for summer planting (rainy season, for crops that you HARVEST from mid-june until november) you should try: peanuts (buy some green ones from publix, open them, stick the beans in the ground), pole beans, sweet potatoes (buy slips, or start your own--google "sweet potato slips"), lima beans, yard-long beans, cowpeas, eggplant, okra, ANY hot pepper. if you have a tub, you can grow watercress in partial shade--buy some at publix, eat most of it, throw a couple shoots in the water, stand back!
plant the pole beans in the next week or so. buy an eggplant or two from lowes (black beauty or an asian variety--they're all pretty much the same i've found). okra, peanuts, hot peppers (better done by april, but doable anytime), limas, cowpeas and sweet potaotes can be planted anytime the weather is hot.
between now and the start of the rainy season--you don't really have time for anything from seed except salad (any cut and come again mix) and sweet peas. next year you can seed broccoli, caulfiower, kale, collards, potatoes--as early as mid-august.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Busy day in the garden...

Let's see...
  • Planted beans--first week of March is a good time to plant beans, but this year, probably too early. We have a warm week ahead, and it would be great to get them out. I'll try to remember to remark on how long it takes them to germinate. Fortex (first in my garden) and old reliable Rattlesnake
  • It's been so cold I haven't even bothered starting tomatoes. I don't have a greenhouse, and stupid kittens make growing ANYTHING inside impossible... so today I bought three good-sized seedlings (Better Boy and Beefmaster--good tomatoes, if a bit common). THey went into four-gallon white buckets filled with Al's mix.
  • Planted Straight Slick Pic squash (Johnnys), Fast Break cantaloupes, and an Asian watermelon.
  • Planted daturas, marigolds, and zinnias.
  • I keep small sweet potatoes in the shed all winter, and then put them out first thing in March in buckets, under a bit of hay, to get them to produce slips. Then I plant the dinky potatoes later on.
  • Lots of maintenance and potting up of plants.
  • Harvested almost the last of the cauliflower.
  • Bought some Boston pickling cukes from Lowes, potted them up into a larger container... Like the tomatoes, I would have started these earlier, but not this year.
Lot of things breaking dormancy--apple trees, pomegranate. Roses are budding nicely--they look great after a cold and wet winter, which seems to have encouraged a bushier growth and healthy leaves. I'm sure there are other things that I did around the garden today, but I've already forgotten them.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Spring blooms

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A quick update in pictures...

The cold winter's made it ideal for growing broccoli and greens, but not much else...

FlordaPrince Peach blooms... I think I overpruned the tree this winter. Last year I spent several hours culling peaches, so this year I decided to prune out everything that wasn't 1) reaching distance and 2) thick enough to support a peach. We'll see if this was a mistake. My hope is that I get a good crop of large, sweet peaches with less hassle. Since this tree sits to the east of my main garden bed I plan to keep it very small (eight feet tall, no taller), it will shade out some of the prime areas in my plot. And as Dave always says, it's easier to keep a small tree small than to make a big tree small.
Blueberries look great this year.

Calendula from saved seed. I'm always fascinated by how variable the progeny are. This year I have red and yellow singles, dense doubles in orange and yellow.

Told you it's been cold...

Public Information Statement

Statement as of 6:54 am EST on March 3, 2010

... The winter season of 2009-2010 for east central Florida was the
coldest on record in almost 30 years and also displayed well above
normal rainfall...

The climatological winter season (december-february) of 2009-2010
saw the passage of several strong cold fronts across east central
Florida which brought well needed rainfall but also created extended
cold periods... especially during January and February. These strong
and lengthy cold spells generated the coldest winter season on
record since 1981.

The winter season started out on the warm side overall in December
with average temperatures near to above normal and only a few brief
cold snaps. However conditions changed quickly in the New Year as a
strong cold front on the 1st ushered in well below normal
temperatures that were reinforced by additional cold airmasses
through the middle of January. Average temperature departures from
the 2nd through the 13th of January were around 15 to 20 degrees
below normal with several nights of at or below freezing
temperatures observed. The weather pattern changed by the second
half of January as temperatures warmed to near to slightly above
normal values which continued into early February. Unseasonably cold
temperatures returned for much of the rest of February with average
temperature departures falling as low as 10 to 15 degrees... even
near 20 degrees below normal in some spots from the 7th of the month

Winter season temperature departures ranged from 3 to 5 degrees
below normal. This ranks the 2009-2010 winter season as the 5th
coldest on record for Orlando... Melbourne and Vero Beach... while
Daytona Beach experienced their 7th coldest winter. For all four
climate sites the 1957-1958 winter stands firm as the coldest on
record for east central Florida. Even more remarkable was that the
combined January/February average temperature departures ranked in
the top 5 coldest starts to the year for all four climate sites and
even for several Co-Operative stations with long periods of record
(see rankings below).

Rankings of interest during this past winter season:

Top 10 coldest winter (december-february) average temperature
rankings in degrees fahrenheit and year of ending season set:

Daytona Orlando Melbourne Vero Beach
1. 53.3 1958 1. 54.9 1958 1. 57.2 1958 1. 58.1 1958
2. 53.8 1940 2. 56.0 1977 2. 57.3 1970 2. 58.6 1970
3. 54.8 1981 3. 57.2 1981 3. 57.5 1977 3. 58.7 1977
4. 55.1 1977 4. 57.4 1970 4. 58.1 1981 4. 58.8 1981
5. 55.7 1970 5. 57.6 2010 5. 58.5 2010 5. 59.9 2010
6. 56.0 1964 6. 57.8 1964 6. 59.1 1969 6. 60.4 1964
7. 56.4 2010 7. 57.9 1978 7. 59.7 1951 7. 60.6 1969
8. 56.5 1969 8. 58.1 1963 8. 60.0 1964 8. 61.1 1951
9. 56.6 1951 9. 58.8 1969 9. 60.3 1963 9. 61.3 2003
10. 56.8 2003 10. 59.0 2003 10. 60.6 1996 10. 61.4 1966

Top 5 coldest January-February average temperature rankings in
degrees fahrenheit and year set:

Daytona Orlando Melbourne Vero Beach
1. 51.4 1958 1. 52.6 1958 1. 55.4 2010* 1. 56.2 1958
2. 52.2 1940 2. 53.8 1977 2. 56.6 1970 2. 56.4 2010
3. 52.9 1977 3. 54.5 2010 3. 56.9 1981 3. 56.8 1978
4. 53.0 1978 4. 56.2 1981 4. 58.3 1968 4. 57.0 1977
5. 53.2 2010 5. 56.3 1978 5. 58.6 1980 5. 57.7 1981

*(note: Melbourne 1. Also 1977, 1958)

Data from Co-Operative stations in east central florida:
January/February winter
Clermont 56.4 - 2nd coldest 56.4 - 5th coldest
Deland 51.3 - coldest 54.6 - 2nd
Titusville 54.2 - 3rd 57.8 - 5th
Sanford 54.0 - 4th 57.1 - 4th
Kissimmee 54.6 - 3rd 57.4 - coldest
Okeechobee 55.8 - coldest 59.0 - 2nd
ft. Pierce 57.2 - 2nd 60.5 - 7th
Stuart 56.9 - coldest 60.5 - 2nd

Number of days during the winter (december-february) when Max
temperature was less than or equal to 60 degrees fahrenheit:

Site days (winter 09/10) record (year of end season)

Daytona Beach 31 35 (1958)
Orlando 25 30 (1958)
Melbourne 19* 18 (1958 & 1981)
Vero Beach 15 18 (1958 & 1978)

*broke or tied record

Number of days during the winter (december-february) when min
temperature was less than or equal to 32 degrees fahrenheit:

Site days (winter 09/10) record (year of end season)

Daytona Beach 9 20 (1958 & 1940)
Orlando 6 13 (1958)
Melbourne 8* 8 (1996 & 2001)
Vero Beach 8* 7 (1981)

*broke or tied record

After what had become a rather dry fall for east central
Florida... began to change by December. The continuation of El Nino
conditions over the equatorial Pacific waters which began during the
Summer of 2009 helped extend the subtropical jet stream over the
southern United States. This transported several frontal systems and
bands of precipitation across the area through December into
February with above normal rainfall observed across much of the
area. One of these systems combined with near freezing temperatures
to bring a mix of rain/sleet to several locations across the region
on the 9th of January from the early morning and into the afternoon.

From December to February of 2009-2010 Orlando had their 4th wettest
winter on record with 13.27 inches and Daytona Beach had their 6th
wettest winter with 13.65 inches. These values were several inches
below their number one records of 23.36 inches for Orlando and 19.43
inches for Daytona Beach both set during another strong El Nino in

Below is a list of observed precipitation totals and rainfall
statistics for select sites across east central Florida for the
winter (december-february) of 2009-2010:

Station January 2010 30 year departure percent of
rainfall normal from normal normal

Daytona Beach 13.65" 8.58" 5.07" 159%
Orlando 13.27" 7.09" 6.18" 187%
Melbourne 9.03" 7.28" 1.75" 124%
Vero Beach 8.66" 7.53" 1.13" 115%
Clermont 11.38" 8.09" 3.29" 141%
Deland 14.33" 8.96" 5.37" 160%
Sanford 12.41" 8.37" 4.04" 148%
Titusville 13.43" 7.79" 5.64" 172%
Fort Pierce 9.61" 7.97" 1.64" 121%
Stuart 11.50" 9.04" 2.46" 127%

Tuesday, March 02, 2010