Monday, September 30, 2013

Starting from scratch...

I harvested the sweet potatoes, peanuts, and Southern peas from my garden this weekend, leaving this bed more or less clear. A rare enough thing in the Florida garden, so I took the time to dig it deeply (without bringing up too much sand from below) and added a few hundred pounds of a compost/peat mix from the local landscaping yard. I also scratched in some 10 10 10 fertilizer and removed a bunch of roots that had infiltrated. This bed only gets OK sunlight in the winter, but I've always had plenty of luck with cabbage, beets, salad greens, broccoli, onions, peas, etc... The usual winter crops.

The next few days are sunny and warm, so I'll wait until mid-week to set out the many transplants I have ready for the garden. They're forecasting plenty of rain for the end of the week...


Monday, September 02, 2013


Green is the color of the Florida late-summer garden. Solid green. Peanuts, southern peas, sweet potatoes, scallions, lima beans, some "sweet" peppers that long ago turned hot, and some struggling oregano, basil and parsley. Lots of okra rising from the waves of green...

Persimmons are ripening! Looks like I won't get any bananas this year. Banana hands that emerge this late in the season won't beat the frost. 

Sunday, September 01, 2013

Beginning of autumn!

Onions, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, lettuce, rocket, and various asian greens are planted in their containers. I also direct-sowed some Fortex green beans, hoping not to have a problem with rust this year. The first day of autumn (hah!) is duly marked. By the way, we got 1.5 inches of rain here in DeLand last night. Another weird storm--so much energy in the atmosphere at 8pm. Adding... Since there wasn't any of that excellent coir-based seedling mix at Lowes, I got a bag of perlite and am mixing it about 3 parts peat::1 part perlite. That seems to absorb a lot of water while still having the right looseness. Seedlings need water, filtered sunlight, and gas-exchange at their roots. Whatever you use, make sure it doesn't smother the roots. I hadn't noticed that the moss had a little slow-release fertilizer mixed in. No biggie. Generally I hold off on the fertilizer until I know the root structure has formed, and then I prefer to add it very often, but highly diluted. Miracle-Gro is a great product... I love that my moss bag recommends 9 parts moss::1 part perlite, while my perlite bag recommends (predictably) a 1::1 ratio.

Saturday, July 06, 2013

High summer...

Let's see... High summer is upon us. Here's what I've got going on in the garden... eggplants, four or five kinds of hot peppers, lima beans, several kinds of field peas, lots of peanuts, so many sweet potatoes, many large and still productive small-fruited tomatoes, okra. and there's always fruit--my brown Turkey and Alma are still producing a couple fruits a day each, awesome citrus crop in the making, grapes are ripening, bananas may fruit this year, the #%^@$ coons have been messing with my persimmons, but there are still a couple dozen fruits out there.

Sunday, June 09, 2013


Poor bees. With the rain over the last few days, they were getting feisty. I made hay when the sun was shining and I checked the hive yesterday... We'd removed the only super last month when harvesting. I found the hive thriving yesterday, sticking wax everywhere, clearly begging for more space. I put the excluder and super back on.I'd be surprised if I don't get another harvest at the end of summer, though I guess we'll see.

I'd forgotten to get some extra foundation, and so I'm a few frames short up top, but I'll rectify that later this week. I did find some dead bees stored away in between the inner and telescoping outer cover. They looked freshly dead. Dunno what that means, but it was only perhaps a score.

Looks like I have a happy and productive queen, in any case.

Thursday, June 06, 2013

What should I plant now?

I get this question all the time. I revisited this guide that I wrote a few years ago. It's pretty good...

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Gazpacho season has arrived...

Despite the near absence of sunshine the past week... my full-sized tomatoes have ripened (especially the determinate Celebrity), my peppers are ripe, onions big, and the cucumbers are ready... It's gazpacho time.

Sunday, June 02, 2013

Honey harvest 2013

We do it old-school, low-tech... The honey is, to say the least, minimally-processed. Never warmed to more than, say, 90* (the ambient temperature). A good thing in my book.


My figs are really late this year, but there's an abundance of them hanging in the tree, probably more than a hundred. They ripen suddenly, going from small, hard and green to swollen and chartreuse over the course of a few days. I like them best when very, very ripe.

In the past, because it was immature, the tree--an Alma--has dropped most of the fruit. This year it's not dropped any, and every day brings another couple of ripe figs. I assume at some point a larger crop will mature. Interestingly, it continues to set new fruit. This is my only fig, so I don't have a framework for expectations... I guess we'll see.

The blueberry crop this year is pretty good, too. Very late--typically mid-May marks the end of the crop. I recently visited a large blueberry farm in Yalaha. The bushes there were huge and so healthy--I decided I need to take better care of my bushes, so I piled on some pine bark, added some sulfur, and once they stop fruiting I'll fertilize them appropriately. The bushes are tough and get by with little care, but I think if I devote some TLC on them, they'll repay the attention.

A few full-size tomatoes, lots of cherries. I have many tomatoes on the vine, but they're ripening very late this year. I'm a little nervous, as the later the harvest, the greater the predation by bugs and various wilts and mildews.

Broccoli and beans are slowing up their production and what they're producing is lower in quality. Typical for this time of the year. I'll probably pull the plants in the next week or so... Eggplants are fruiting, cucumbers are producing (though succumbing to mildew).

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Some quick shots from the excellent you-pick called Green Acres in Yalaha, just minutes from the excellent bakery... 

These trees are just two years old!
Kerry, the owner of Green Acres, tells me that they picked eighty-thousand pounds of blueberries last year. I've never seen such healthy plants!

My Chioggia beets meet my pressure cooker...

My wife's amazing blueberry pie...

Saturday, April 06, 2013

Chioggia beets

I have a long row of these. I've grown all sorts of beets, but these are the best, especially as their greens are perfect for cooking.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Sugar snap peas...

From the comments... something I wrote responding to someone who wanted to know more about sugar snap peas. They're easy, and as you can trellis them, they make a great "between the row" crop in small spaces like mine. It's hard to see in the pictures below, but I have four crops growing in what is essentially a single three-foot row: Broccoli right next to a trellis full of peas, which is itself right next to a row of hybrid, multi-color carrots, and then, mixed alongside the carrots, a few dozen parsnips. So long as you have a lot of compost and a lot of water in play, you can plant this densely. Probably everything is slowed down and there's some compromise for each individual plant's optimal production/size, but maybe not... I get a LOT of broccoli out of this row, and as you can see, a lot of peas. The carrots (there's a picture of them, too) are about ready for harvest, but will continue to grow happily for at least another month. I don't know why I grew the parsnips... I've grown them in the past. They do OK here in Florida, but not as sweet as the ones from up North. I'd be better off growing more carrots, but parsnips make a nice change, and they grow well enough here... 

OK, anyway, I don't have time to write this entry, so, here's what I said earlier about peas...
hmmm... well, let's see:
1) i use a hybrid, super sugar snap. i like them. sometimes i grow them out to have peas, sometimes we just eat them as snow peas.
2) plant them anytime in the late fall/winter. they get nipped by frost but usually always bounce back.
3) plant them DENSE... i mean, like, three peas per inch, in a zigzag. then, oversow as they grow. the ones hanging on the support you see in the picture below are the result of three distinct plantings, about a month apart.
4) use a lot of compost but little or no fertilizer. mine are growing between carrots and broccoli. really dense planting there--lots of crops in about a 2' wide row. so, you need lots of organic material. but peas don't produce well if there's too much nitrogen, so here, in this case, i just fertilized on the outside of this triple row, along the rootline of the broccoli and carrots. right?
5) water generously.
6) be sure to pick them before the peas get too big and then dry... i think that makes the plant 'turn off' and stop producing, but maybe that's just superstition.
7) full sun, ideally with a little afternoon shade, which will buy you a week more fruit.
8) they burn out eventually, when it starts to get too hot. but until they do, they're really easy and tasty.

Monday, March 25, 2013


Since someone asked... from the comments:
lgj... i put out two sets of broc, and the second set is still producing. i think the second set is blue wind, but i don't recall for sure. couple observations about broccoli:1) it has a long life, but not forever.2) if you put out a late set (say, good seedlings before march 1), you can harvest through april and into may.3) when the plants are winding down, the florets get really small. treat it like berry picking. they remain perfectly tasty, but if you don't pick them very small (thumb-sized, smaller), they'll flower.4) if you have the room and no other inclination, leave them to bloom. brassica blooms are probably a bee's favorite bloom. and they're kinda pretty. in europe they grow big fields of rape (aka canola) and leave them to flower all early spring. it's beautiful. then they plow it under for green manure or harvest it for silage. maybe they do it here in the states, but i've never seen it. 5) if your broc goes to flower quickly, even if it's young and the weather's not over warm, then YOU ARE NOT WATERING ENOUGH. generally, few people in fla water enough. in for a dime, in for a dollar, right?

Sunday, March 03, 2013

It's winter again...

I cannot believe that I'm covering plants on March 3! We had just enough of a cold start to the winter to send everything dormant, then a long hot spell that caused everything to bud, and now a couple weeks in a row of near-freezing nights. My citrus is all in bloom, my peaches are budded... My plum crop is totally shot. My beans are burned. My prickly pears (cactus) fruits are ruined. Everything tropical is brown.

I guess this is the new normal. It's not so much the warming, at least for the moment, as the unpredictability of the new weather patterns. 

Saturday, February 09, 2013

Mexican Flame Vine

Yeah, it's a Mexican Flame Vine. Not really right for our zone. I've had it in the ground for three or four years, and this is the first time it's bloomed well. In the past, a late frost would always get it right before it was about to bloom, and it would only bloom, spottily, for a couple weeks in late spring. If we really avoid any late-season frosts this year, this vine will really explode come April or so. Anyway, it's a pretty well-behaved vine that needs really, really minimal care. So if you have a protected area for it, then you should find one. It's a classic passalong plant--it roots readily, and anyone with a vine can usually find a rooted piece to give away. The best vine for Central Florida, in my opinion, is the Coral Honeysuckle. Slow to start, once well established it needs nothing at all, and blooms all the time, and is very well-behaved. I have so many naughty little hummingbirds in my yard because of my large vine over a bell post. 

Sunday, January 27, 2013

A few shots of the late-winter garden

January in the Central Florida garden...

Not a lot of posting lately. Lots going on in the garden, including several new peach trees, a new mulberry (Pakistan), and two new pear trees.

It's been very warm all winter long. My plum trees are in full bloom, and my established peach is budding out. All that activity is at least a couple weeks early. I dread a late season freeze!

I started tomatoes, cukes, squash and peppers last week. That's well ahead of my schedule. One reason I typically wait until late in the winter is that these Solanaceae require a lot of warmth to germinate. No problem this year.The seedlings are already up.

People ask me often what varieties of tomato I grow. I'm rather indifferent. I go to Tomato Growers Supply, and select late-early- and early-mid-season round red tomatoes with lots of letters after their names that the catalogue lists as decent in flavor. Surprisingly few fit all those parameters! Applause, Mountain Magic, and Bella Rosa this year. Some of those are determinate, some indeterminate; the difference isn't as notable in our relatively short growing season (early May to late-June for fruit... maybe 4 weeks of heavy production).

Some determinate tomatoes I've grown in the past have even defeated my indefatigable tomato trellis! So, i don't really pay much heed to whether they're determinate or not...

I wish I had had some Tomande on hand, but I forgot to order them.

Juliet and Sungold are two very reliable small-fruited tomatoes. Juliet distinguishes itself in both yield and disease resistance. If I had to grow only one...

The typical winter crops are doing well: Hakurei turnips, lettuces, chard, spinach, peas, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, radishes, cress.

Anyway, going with the whole "it's going to stay warm" thought, I've planted a long row of beans.