Tuesday, March 29, 2011

End of March Vegetables in the Central Florida Garden

The welter of activity preparing for the spring garden has mostly passed. I've got beans, cukes, melons, tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, squash in the ground. The squash has already started to produce nicely--three plants provide an overwhelming abundance! The pole beans are really starting to run up their strings, and I noticed that they've begun to bloom. The first cucumber should be ready any day, and the vine is loaded with fruit and blooms. Tomatoes are blooming profusely, but I haven't noticed any fruiting. Melons are still small, but large enough that I don't worry about them any longer. I pulled the last couple of feet of parsnips this weekend. First time I've planted them, and I'm pretty satisfied with them as a crop: They take up more space than carrots, and probably produce a bit less, but they're a nice change of pace and the flavor is excellent. Speaking of carrots: I have ungodly amounts. I've been giving them away to friends and coworkers. 

Beets are doing very well, too. I've decided that I like Chioggia beets the best in the garden. They aren't the intense beety color I love in Detroits, and they aren't quite as luscious in texture, but they grow very large, quickly, and their greens are by far the best of any beet I've ever grown. Milder than spinach. I've also got some Red Ace out there that are about ready to be picked. That hybrid from Johnnys did well, but I'm not sure that it did any better than Detroit or Chioggia. Let's see, what else am I harvesting? Chard, onions, peas (still going strong!), m√Ęche, lettuce, turnips, more chard, Brussels sprouts, cabbages, potatoes (still small...)... Probably more out there that I'm forgetting now. I have a last row of mixed broccoli and cauliflower that's heading up nicely. Should be ready for harvest in ten days, maybe two weeks. Did I mention chard?

Flower garden is gangbusters now, too: red yarrow, Vietnamese Hollyhocks, Cape honeysuckle, volunteer snaps, calendula, volunteer cosmos, roses, borage, alyssum, volunteer pansies (still going strong... whoever thought they were weak?), zinnias starting to bloom, volunteer Osteospermum, nasturtiums (not for much longer)... My gaura should start to to bloom soon, and then the perennial phlox and the oakleaf hydrangea. My garden, which looked so bare in February, will be overgrown by July.

It's a great time in the Florida garden. Like northern spring and summer combined! If it doesn't get too hot, too quickly, I'll soon be picking sweet peas and tomatoes while the ranunculus and cosmos bloom. 

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Why hybrid seeds are better than heirloom...

I've got more dirty hippie credentials than anyone I know. But when it comes to seeds, almost without exception, I plant hybrids. The Times ran an article that I wish I'd written. Here's my favorite 'graph:
“A 1902 cabbage by Burpee was a perfectly good cabbage by 1902 standards,” Dr. Navazio said. “But the truth of the matter is, none of our ancestors ever viewed these things as done. You never stopped breeding your livestock. You never stopped selecting your cabbage.”
The article features prominently Johnnys Seeds, an outfit where I buy the majority of my seeds. Yeah, sure, I grow some nonhybrid lettuces and I think that Chioggia beets are the best varietal for Florida beets. But I'm always eager to plant a new hybrid. Even at twice the cost of "heirloom" seeds, they're worth it.

Read the article. Tell me what you think. 

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Quick March Update in Pictures: Beans, tomato staking in Florida, and spring flowers

The floriferous side of the garden. 

St. David blooming under Earligrande peach. 

I love the red Knockout roses. But I hate the pink ones. 

One corner of my garden is infested with pansies. I've never had this happen. I use the hybrid ones in pots during the winter for a spot of color. I guess one of them wasn't sterile! And now it's reverting back to its crosses and to its natural heterogeneity. I probably have 200 seedlings, everywhere in the garden. I wish they'd started to bloom a little earlier, since we're nearing the end of the pansy season.

Concrete reinforcement wire ($8), two steel electrical conduits ($2 each), and a handful of cable ties (pennies). One length of concrete reinforcement (five feet?) is enough to stake five tomato plants. The "cage" is only five feet tall, so I'll have a problem come mid-June when some of these plants will reach severn  feet... But, I'll deal with the problem then. 

Slick-Pic from Johnnys. I planted these seeds seeds on February 20. So, less than a month, and the plants are three feet wide and filled with baby squash. Moreover, most of the blooms are female and most of them are setting. That's what makes it an early variety. I notice that Johnnys sells these on their earliness, not on flavor. But, let's face it, I've never eaten a bad fresh squash. I have several cukes flowering, too. 

Beans are up--nearing three feet. I got these in extra early this year, and they should be producing in the next two weeks. 

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Early March in the Central Florida Garden (update in pictures)

Tomatoes are a bit smaller than I'd like, but they're growing quickly. 


With all the cold this winter, my Lady Banks yellow rose (Rosa banksiae var. lutea) is blooming very well.

 I love this combination of Seminole Rose and Chinese wisteria, though both plants are evil, wicked things the rest of the year.

Sunshine Blue blueberries... heavy bearing, even in a container. Easiest blueberry by far. 

One of my Gulf-series plum trees. The two that are in their second year are loaded with fruit.  

Earligrande peach. Way ahead of my FlordaPrince, as the name implies. Second year in the garden. I left approximately fifty fruit on the tree, and culled the rest. I'm always astonished how prolific and quick peaches are. 

One of my plums. It went in the ground at the same time as the peach (above). Much slower growth rate, but it looks ready to bear (relatively) heavily this year, probably twenty-five fruit. 

I nursed this Osteospermum through the summer, in a large pot. It's very large now (three feet in diameter) and loaded with this lovely blooms. 

First squash should bloom in a couple of days. Slick-Pik from Johnny's. 


A bit of my new, front-yard bed.