Wednesday, May 20, 2015

New book, book tour, and more

The Art of Maintaining a Florida Native Landscape


Yay! My new book is now available for preorder from Amazon. I've covered a wide array of topics, which I think have not been covered sufficiently in other books and online resources.

List of Chapters

1. Introduction to Natives and Their Ecosystems
2. Planning Native Plant Projects
3. Invasive Exotics
4. Site Preparation and Landscape Editing
5. Selecting, Planting, and Caring for Natives
6. Propagation Techniques
7. Minding Your Edges
8. Managing Freedom Lawns, Lawn Replacements, and Meadows
9. Creating and Maintaining Groves, Hedgerows, and Fencerows
10. Landscaping in Moist Habitats
11. Beyond Your Yard
Appendix I. Suggested Native Plant List
Appendix II. Types of Mulch
Glossary
Resources

Illustrations are by Marjorie Shropshire

Marjorie has done a wonderful job with her illustrations, which make a complex topics easy to understand.

This one answers the question, "What to do with a messy lawn tree?"


Book Tour

I'll be a speaker at the Florida Native Plant Society's conference at the end of May, but since the book won't be out until August, my official book tour will be from August 31st until November 15th.  See the Appearances tab for an up-to-date list.  Email me at garden@sky-bolt.com

As tempting as it is to have fresh tomatoes from your garden, summer is NOT the time to plant them even though distributors for big box stores are trying to sell them to us. Wait until late August and you may end up with a moderate harvest before winter sets in. We included a detailed planting calendar by region in Organic Methods for Vegetable Gardening in Florida 
Have you planted your summer cover crops yet?


Green Gardening Matters,
Ginny Stibolt

Friday, April 10, 2015

Kohlrabi: a versatile cole crop

The weird stem enlargement is about the size of an apple...
Kohlrabi (Brassica oleracea var. gongylodes) is one of the many cole crops (cabbage, kale, collard greens, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, and more), which have all been bred from just one plant species. Kohl is the German word for cabbage—hence they are the "cole crops" and why cabbage salad is called cole slaw. The word kohlrabi means cabbage apple in German, which makes a lot of sense because of the size of its stem enlargement and its sweet taste and crispy texture.

Because kohlrabi is easy-to-grow and has few pests in an organic garden, helps to explain its recently gained popularity with farmers markets and local food groups. It has been grown as a crop in Europe for centuries. Grown for its weird Sputnik-shaped enlarged stem-bulb with leaves sticking out at odd angles. You can consume both the enlarged stem and its leaves.

Be sure to leave enough room when you plant the kohlrabi
so they can expand to their full size. 

Planting kohlrabi


Plant seeds directly in the garden or start in flats in the fall and periodically throughout the winter until mid-February in Florida. Plant seeds or plants at 6 to 8 inches apart so they have enough room to develop. If too many seeds come up together, transplant them early so they get a good start. Amend soil well with compost and composted manure for the best growth.

Planting locations should be in full sun or slight shade with more shade for the later plantings. Mulch around stems with pine needles to keep weeds at bay and to hold in moisture. Irrigate regularly, but deeply. 

Cut the stem-bulb when it's two to three inches in diameter. Larger bulbs become tough and woody and definitely harvest before hot weather arrives. There may be some regrowth after harvesting, but usually only the leaves.
Sliced about 1/8 to 1/4-inch thin, pan-fried in olive oil, and
garnished with grated Parmesan cheese.


Preparation

There are many ways to prepare kohlrabi:
1) cook it like a turnip and all its ways (roasted, mashed, or in a soup), especially if it's 5 inches in diameter or larger.
2) grate the enlarged stem and use them in salads or instead of zucchini in breads. 

3) cut the stem into sticks and use them as dipping vegetables.
4) use the leaves as you'd use any of the leafy cole crops including veggie chips, added raw to salads or cole slaw, chopped in soups, or mixed in with a mess of cooked greens.


All the cole crops are the same species: Brassica oleracea.


Aren't cole crops amazing?
Consider planting this interesting cole vegetable in your cool-weather edible garden next year.

Green Gardening Matters,
Ginny Stibolt

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Remarkable resurrection ferns

Resurrection ferns dried and hydrated.

Resurrection fern (Pleopeltis polypodioides)


While I'd seen spare populations of resurrection ferns when I lived in Maryland, I really became aware of them when I read "Light a Distant Fire," an historic novel about Osceola and the Seminoles by Lucia St. Clair Robson. She wrote about how the scouts could disappear into the ferns on the live oak branches. After we moved to Florida, I came to see how this could be accomplished.

This is a true fern that reproduces via spores, but it is also an epiphyte or air plant. It does not need to be in contact with soil to live. It derives its needs from the air, especially the humidity and dust that it carries.

The common name of resurrection fern is due to its ability to lose 95% of its moisture, stop its photosynthesis, and go into a type of suspended state when it appears to be dead. When it rains or when the humidity becomes high enough, the fronds unfurl and turn green in a matter of hours. Hence the name resurrection fern, because it arises from the dead.

Most other plants will die if they lose 10 to 15% of their water. Scientists have discovered that this fern has a high concentration of a special protein (dehydrin) in or near its cell walls when it is brown. When the fern is green this protein is not present indicating a chemical reaction as the water exits the cells.  In other words as the plant is drying, dehydrin allows the cell walls in the leaf to fold so that the unfolding when water is present can be reversed without damage. For the science of dehydrin see this paper in The American Journal of Botany.

Steve Christman over on Floridata.com states that you can propagate these ferns by laying pieces of the rhizome into the furrows of the bark of the tree where you want to grow it. I may try this one day, because I'd love to have more of them around on our property. On the other hand, I can wait for Mother Nature to plant them in appropriate places without doing any work.

But whatever the science, these small ferns add to the charm of Florida's live oaks. 

In their normal habitat: horizontal branches of a live oak (Quercus verginiana).

This is in South Florida in the wet season, but the ferns are turning brown around the edges.

The fern looks dead, but it's not...
After reading this post, go drink some water, because humans will die when we lose only 15% of our water. Also, full disclosure: Lucia and I are good friends and were neighbors in Maryland where she still lives and where she has written a bunch of fun-to-read and well-researched historicals. She was a librarian and knows how to make her readers feel like full participants in the story. www.luciastclairrobson.com

Green Gardening Matters,
Ginny Stibolt

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Winter: a good time to remove invasive plants

Wedelia or creeping oxeye daisy (Sphagneticola trilobata): a beautiful invader. 

Less lawn...

When we moved into our house here in North Florida, we let several areas of lawn grow out. I've written about this several times. See From lawn to woods: a retrospective, for what has happened out front.

Here's the other half of the story. Our 1.5 acre lot is long and pie-shaped. Out back is a narrowing strip to the lake. We decided early on that we'd not continue to mow this whole area and just leave a pathway that could be mowed with one trip down and one trip back on the riding mower. The area opens up by the lake, so there is more  mowing to do down there.

So this is what happened...
2007. Vast section of lawn that we let grow out became engulfed by wedelia. Looking back toward the house from the pathway to the lake.

The gardener strikes back...

By 2007, the wedelia, which had been controlled in the lawn by mowing, grew like crazy. So it was time to strike back. I did not want to kill everything in the area, so pulling was the best option. And with some follow-up this has worked pretty well.

Pulling the wedelia by rolling it up like a rug. Yes, leather gloves were necessary here.
Meanwhile, on the opposite side of the path...

2007. A work in progress: pulling the wedelia from the slope next to the shallow ravine between our property and our neighbor's. This photo was taken from approximately the same place as the above photo, but looking toward the lake.
I started the removal project on the other side of the path where the wedelia was covering ferns, small beautyberry bushes and other desirable vegetation. You can see some of the ferns, mostly netted chain ferns (Woodwardia areolata), in the above photo. One good reason for tackling this project in the winter is that the ferns die back in the winter.

It didn't take long for the ferns to totally fill in this ravine and slope, which is what I'd hoped for.

2009. These ferns are lovely for most of the year.
They die back  only for a couple of months here.
The fertile fronds bear a chain of sori that hold the spores. 
Because it's invasive and because there are parts of the plants that did not get pulled, it's necessary to check for new sprouts on a regular basis. The first year after removal, I checked every other month. For a couple of years I checked twice a year. Now I check every other year, because I sure don't want to start all over again. So a few weeks ago, I found a few sprouts at the bottom of the ravine where it's dampest and more near the lake shore.

A sprout found on my latest foray.

While I'm out hunting for wedelia sprouts, I also removed
the other big invasive on our property coral ardisia.
On the upland side of the path, the plant community has changed from a meadow-like area to a wooded ecosystem and is filled with small trees. It has become too shady for the wedelia to take off, but I still found a few sprouts. I also found a fair number of coral ardisia (Ardisia crenata) plants and some wild taro (Colocasia esculenta). So while I was removing invasives, I worked on all of them.

I'll cover the transformation of this area in a post later in the year.

For more information on what is invasive in Florida, see the Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council Invasive website, which has not only the list of the 76 most invasive plants in Category I and the potentially invasive list in Category II, there are links for most of these invasive plants for more information.

I know that my maintenance removal project will continue because so many of my neighbors continue to grow these plants, but at least our property will become less of a problem going forward.

Indian blanketflowr (Gaillardia pulchella) and a Cicada killer (Sphecius speciosus




Making room for native plants is so important for the heath of our environment.
I'm working on doing my part. Are you?



Green Gardening Matters,
Ginny Stibolt

Monday, December 29, 2014

A wish for a greener 2015

I wish you and yours a wonderful and bountiful New Year!!


A frosty reddish leaf lettuce.

Winter vegetables

Here in Florida, even here in North Florida where we receive several killing frosts each winter, we can grow most cool weather crops right through the winter. In most of the country, gardeners spend winter wishing they could garden, while we enjoying our "Salad Days."

One of the main reasons we wrote "Organic Methods for Vegetable Gardening in Florida" was to alleviate frustration of gardeners new to Florida trying to use their old, general garden books written for Anywhere, U.S.A. They just don't work here.

Growing some of your vegetables is good for you and your family, plus it helps to make Mother Earth a little greener.

Salad days! From the knife clockwise: dill, chard, 3 types of leaf lettuces, garlic chives, meadow garlic, & sugar snap peas. Not shown are Greek oregano and rosemary. The sugar snap pea, a hybrid  of a snow pea and a shell pea, was introduced in the 1970s. They've become quite popular because they’re easy to grow, have a sweet taste, and are versatile in the kitchen.
Whether you call them beggarticks, Spanish needles, or Bidens alba,
this pioneer species really knows ho to take over any disturbed soil
in your landscape. The bonus is that these seedlings are edible.

Use more sustainable gardening methods to save time and money in 2015

There are many ways to be more efficient in your gardening and maintenance and still have a beautiful landscape. You'll still have issues to deal with like a beggartick attack as shown in this photo, but how you deal with them makes all the difference. 

I boiled all these methods down into just 6 steps for my post over on the Native Plants and Wildlife Gardens blog: 6 easy ways to save time & money in your landscape.

My treatment for the beggartick seedlings is to gently uproot the seedlings by rubbing the surface of the soil with my gloved hand and then cover with mulch, usually leaves or chipped wood. This minimizes the soil disturbance, which would bring out a bunch of other seedlings and discourages others from taking root there. It also uses natural mulches that are free.
Lawn asters 

One of the 6 topics is to urge people to switch over to freedom lawns and only for lawn that they'll actually use. Our lawn has been free of pesticides,fertilizer, and overwatering for 10 years. Most of the time it is just as green as our neighbors' expensive and high maintenance lawns. In some place the St. Augustine grass is doing very well with our regimen, but in other places a variety of different plants has grown in as you can see here in these lawn aster photos.

I just turned in the final edits for my 3rd book "The Art of Maintaining a Florida Native Landscape," which will be published in August. Yay! It continues the theme of sustainable gardening, but this time I cover the reality of living with native or mostly native landscapes. It has been fun and educational to write and I hope you'll like it.
A freedom lawn supports many different species.
Christmas Eve sunrise included a gift of a full arching rainbow.

May you have a wonderful 2015.

Green Gardening Matters,
Ginny Stibolt

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Speaking out

Senator Rob Bradley and me.

The 2014 Clay County Delegation hearing


Each year the 3 elected officials to the Florida legislature representing Clay County—a senator and 2 representatives—hold a hearing before the legislative session begins. This year the committee work begins in January and the general session begins on March 4th. (The only date during the year that calls for action. Get it? March 4th.)

After introductions of the delegation members and their staff people, the normal agenda was interrupted for a heart-rending testimony of a mother holding her child with brain cancer pleading for more freedom in choosing medicines including restricted substances.

Then came the parade of the local elected officials from the county, the 3 incorporated towns, the school board, the clerk of court, and the supervisor of elections. They all made cases for more money for their various projects. The one surprise was the clerk of court's problem of the lower crime rate meaning less money in fines that are normally used to run the court.

Charitable groups like the Council on Aging, a group that works to employ people with disabilities, an orphanage, 2 groups that work with at risk children, a group that rehabs houses for veterans, and more also described their needs. A couple of people with cancer made their cases for medical use or restricted substances and that the exceptions shouldn't be just for children. A breast cancer survivor made the case for medical coverage of compression garments that are needed for people whose lymph glands have been removed during their cancer treatments. People from Keystone Heights (where the lakes are drying up) plead for more help to direct surplus water to their lakes. Someone wanted to ban all billboards from Florida.

For the past few years I've made a point of attending this hearing to be the one person speaking on behalf of Florida's native ecosystems. See my handout and summary of my remarks below.

It was a very long night. The hearing was supposed to be from 4pm to 6pm, but it lasted until 7:30pm.

I hope that you are speaking up for Mother Nature, too. She doesn't have paid lobbyists and needs all the advocates she can get.

Green Gardening Matters,
Ginny Stibolt


Politicians and others working the room before the meeting starts.  More seats filled up when the session actually started.

Handout & summary of my presentation

Dec. 16, 2014
To: The Clay County Delegation
From: Ginny Stibolt  gstibolt@sky-bolt.com  904 XXX_XXX

Issue #1: Florida is the "Sunshine State."

As the nation's 3rd largest consumer of energy, Florida needs to develop smarter energy policies, which may not necessarily more profitable to the monopolies that run our power grid. In at least one district, when power consumption decreased the rates were jacked up to keep the stockholders happy. Power should be supplied as a public service in our society and the customers should not be used as a profit center. Florida is also 3rd in the nation for solar potential, but 18th for installed solar systems and by 2016 solar will reach grid parity.

As a step in the right direction, you passed the Florida Energy Act in 2006, which offered rebates to individuals and businesses to install solar systems. The funding has been gutted as approved by the appointed Public Service Commission, which has caved to the power companies' pressure. Scott appointed these people and the fact that 2 power companies have contributed more than $2,500,000 to Scott's campaign means that this commission works for the monopolies and not for the Public. Maybe it should be renamed the Power Company Service Board.

More than one power company has applied for fracking in Florida to find oil and gas for its power sources. Fracking is expensive, uses huge amounts of water mixed chemicals that will pollute our already stressed aquifers, and has caused sinkholes. Fracking should never be allowed in Florida, but you passed bills HB71 & HB 157 that allowed frackers to keep those polluting chemicals that they are mixing with the water a secret. The customers pay the bill for this exploration and environmental ruin. The irony here is that all this irreparable damage to Florida's fragile ecosystems to extract gas and oil would be totally unnecessary if the companies just switched to solar.

There has to be a way to organize the solar effort so that it works for the power companies, so that they never have to build another power plant. Instead they can manage a grid of solar panels: 1) that they install and own, such as in parking lots, 2) that they install on roofs and lease out to businesses or individuals, and 3) by putting privately owned panels on the grid with 2-way meters. If these utility companies don't get to charge their customers for new power plants, they may not make as much money for their shareholders. Shouldn't the public be served with fair policies for their power?

Issue #2: Amendment #1, funding of the Land Acquisition Trust Fund

75% of the voters passed this amendment, which as close to a mandate as we get around here. Do not gut the will of the people to preserve more of the Real Florida. Everyone knows that tourism is our largest job creator, but tourists are not going come to our state to visit a dried up spring, a polluted river cover with green slime, or to see yet another abandoned shopping center. So use the money as mandated and not for sewer systems that would allow even more development. Please don't undo other environmental funding because this money is again available. This is for new projects.

I'm appalled that more than 70 people showed up in Bradenton last week for a hearing of the 10 members of the Acquisition and Restoration Council that recommends land purchases for the Florida Forever conservation program, but the council members did not show. Even the council’s chairwoman, a high-ranking official with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, skipped the public hearing. How rude. The people of Florida deserve better from our state officials.

Issue #3: Redistricting

Why am I worried about your handling of Amendment #1? Because in 2010 63% of the voters passed the Fair Districts Amendment and you have spent more than $6,000,000 for legal fees, billed us for special sessions, used secret email accounts to bypass the constitution. And we still have District 5 that is the very definition of gerrymandering. Is this the best you can do?



Rob Bradley's response to redistricting:
The way the Fair Districts Amendment was written guarantees allowances for districts like District 5. I've known Rob for 10 years and worked with him when he was the lawyer for our special tax district that manages the lakes in our neighborhood. He was on the redistricting committee which had little choice in how that district was drawn. He said that the writers of the amendment either did not know the ramifications of the language or they lied about it—maybe both. Now it will be very difficult to change this situation since it's in our constitution.


Monday, November 24, 2014

Yard critters

A green treefrog (Hyla cinerea) jumped out of the beggar ticks (Bidens alba) that I had pulled from the front garden.
A bagworm (Oiketicus abbotii) is overwintering on a beautyberry bush.

Managing exuberance carefully

I allow some beggar ticks (Bidens alba) and snow squarestem (Melanthera nivea) to grow in restricted areas to attract all those pollinators. But in the fall, I harvest those that have escaped to other places in the landscape to reduce the population and weeding the next year, at least to some degree. So last week I started pulling and a cute green treefrog that was using these stems for shelter jumped out of the cart. And the frog is just the wildlife that is evident. There could be hundreds of bugs snuggled inside these stems for the winter. Instead of leaving these stalks out with the yard waste, I add them to various brush piles, so those insects will have a chance to make it through the winter. The songbirds also use the brush piles for shelter, so they may appreciate the seeds, and maybe even some of those hidden bugs. 

Nearby, I spotted this bagworm (probably Oiketicus abbotii) hanging from a beautyberry branch. This moth is different than most, in that it gathers plant parts to stick to itself as a caterpillar to build protection. When its ready to pupate, it glues its portable shelter to a secure location and seals itself inside. When the female reaches the adult phase, she will be flightless and will emit pheromones to attract males. When a male arrives, they mate inside her sack where she lays her eggs and dies. The new larvae feed on her remains and other food that she's stored there. When ready, the new larvae head out on their own, often on a long strings of silk that balloon in the wind so the larvae swing away from each other. Isn't Mother Nature amazing?


Fall goldenrods! 


I planted seaside goldenrod (Solidago sempervirens)  this spring thinking it would be similar to the sweet goldenrod  (S. ordora), which volunteers in my yard, but no. It bloomed later in the season and it attracted a different set of bees. Normally I see carpenter bees with their shiny abdomens, but these are real bumble bees (probably Bombus impatiens).
An insect wove an overwintering shelter within the flattop goldenrod (Euthamia caroliniana) inflorescence, so I'll leave this stalk standing, and if I'm lucky, I'll find out what's inside this cocoon.

The spiny orbweaver!

Spiny orbweaver (Gasteracatha cancriformis): I found this beautiful spider doing her work in a gap on the far side of our driveway. 
We loved seeing this beautiful little spider and the hand lens came in handy to see her up close. It's been a couple of weeks since I took these photos, but she occupies this same gap in the trees in our mostly wild area on the far side of the driveway. We've had some high wind events and a frost, but she's still out there. She has had to reweave her orb at least 4 or 5 times since we've been aware of her, but she may have been there for months before that.

The markings on her back look sorta like a smiley face and those 6 red spines look fierce. Isn't this a cool find? Of course, the reason we have all of the critters is that we have used no landscape-wide pesticides since 2004. If you'd like to improve habitat for birds in your yard, you must invite the bugs. It's time to break that poison cycle. Read my post: A poison is a poison is a poison for details on the whys and hows.

I called my husband out to see her. She's small, so this hand lens is useful. Suspended above my garden glove, you can see how small she is.

The sun makes the seeds of this bluestem grass (Andropogon sp.)
shimmer. How beautiful.

The Disney Wildlife Preserve

Last Saturday I headed down to Kissimmee to the Nature Conservancy's Disney Wildlife Preserve for a Florida Native Plant Society board meeting. It was great to see old friends and meet new ones. The morning presentation was really interesting, the pot luck lunch was an eclectic collection of yummy stuff, and then in the afternoon I met with Marjorie Shropshire to talk through the plans for the next book. Marjorie illustrated both "Organic Methods for Vegetable Gardening in Florida" and "The Art of Maintaining a Florida Native Landscape," which will be released in August 2015. Now we are working on the proposal for book #4. Stay tuned for more details.

Our discussion was delayed while we took photos of this wonderful Florida praying mantid. It was near my shoulder, so I felt like Jiminy Cricket was there to give me advice. "Don't poison your landscape," she whispered in my ear.
A Florida praying mantid (Stagmomantis floridensis) behind my shoulder at the Disney Wildlife Preserve.
Marjorie took this photo because I did not want to disturb this magnificent insect.

Seasonal colors

Here in north Florida, we don't get the rich fall colors that you see farther north, but the Virginia creeper (Pathenocissus quinquefolia) lights up the landscape. And its blue berries feed the winter birds.
Even in Florida, there is some color as we move into winter. Virginia creeper provides reliable color and the way it is festooned across the vegetation, it make everything look festive. And speaking of that, I wish you and yours a bountiful Thanksgiving. I hope you'll be able to provide at least some of your family's meal from your edible garden.

Green gardening matters,
Ginny Stibolt

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Lime basil

Lime basil took over my early lettuce rows. I'd grown it here last year and now I know that it's an abundant reseeder. I'd let it grow since early September when I set up these 2 rows, but now it was time to give the lettuce and the beets more room.
Abundant harvest of lime basil! I shared some with 2
new neighbors and then made a pesto with the rest of it.
The standard sweet Italian basil doesn't do well here with our hot, humid summers. It is prone to various wilt and fungal diseases, which forces growers to harvest it early. So on a whim I bought some lime basil seed from Burpee Seeds a couple of years ago. It not only makes it through the summers, it also reseeds, so it's unlikely that I'll need to purchase more seed any time soon.

The taste really does have a distinct lime overtone. I use it in the same as I do for regular basil, but since its flavor is strong, there are some dishes that I have learned to use less of it.

So this happened...

I planted an early crop of lettuce, beets, and a few white radishes at the beginning of September. It was a little too early for the lettuces and only a few seeds germinated, but the lime basil, which had been planted in this bed the year before loved the new planting rows and volunteered there.

When it became obvious that the lettuce crop would be lacking, I planted some more seed, but I left the basil in place. Well, the basil took over the whole area, as you can see in the top photo, so it was time to give the lettuce some light and room. I did not want to disturb the roots, so I cut off the stalks just above ground level and this made for an abundant harvest. I gave half of it away to two new neighbors and made pesto with the other half. In this pesto, I used equal amounts of garlic chives and basil—in addition to the onion and other ingredients. (You can see how I make pesto in my post: A field trip, A Florida native plant hero, & a pasta salad.) This time I used about a third of the pesto for a Mediterranean pasta salad and I froze the rest.

Now, the lettuce and other crops have more room to grow. Some lettuce, like the black-seeded Simpson have been mostly harvested. A week after cutting off the lime basil, it is already sprouting, but frost will kill it in December. 
These containers of pesto will allow us to enjoy this harvest when there is no fresh basil available from the garden.

I love the loose leaf salad blend. So pretty and so tasty. I had already harvested some of the red butter leaf  lettuce leaves from the outside of the plant, but you can hardly tell. Some oakleaf lettuce is making a good start for a later. harvest

One parsley plant left from last year's crop. Normally, this is a biennial and takes 2 years to complete its life cycle, but here in north Florida, our season is so long that parsley sets flowers in the same season as it is planted. But this one plant that was grown in a container did not, so now I have a little fresh parsley to use early in the season. My new crop has sprouted, but it will be a couple of months before it's established enough for picking.
We don't have any citrus plants in our yard, but many of our neighbors have too much. Ample Harvest is a matching service for people who have too much of a good thing with organizations that can use the surplus. How sustainable!

Time to turn the compost pile

With all the fall leaf supply, it was time to turn the compost pile. Looking from pile B toward pile A. The okra stalks have not rotted in the compost pile A yet, but they will.
With the abundance of fallen leaves, it was time to turn the pile. Besides, the old pile was almost cleaned out and I needed the compost from the bottom of pile A (near the shed). I scraped the rest of the compost from pile B (near the cement pad) and put it in the old wheel barrow. I laid in about 6" of raked leaves for the floor, and added alternating layers of 1) unfinished compost from pile A, 2) raked leaves, and 3) thin dusting of finished compost from the wheelbarrow. After the finished compost layer I poured a watering can of rain barrel water.

Since the turning, I've added a layer of kitchen scraps and more leaves. I will continue to add layers of alternating green and brown materials until the end of the year and then let it rest until spring when the whole process will begin again.

As expected at the bottom of the pile A, there was a good supply of moist, rich, finished compost. I'm using this compost to enrich the winter veggies beds (which you can see in the above photos), store some of it in a bin (next to the potting bench) for winter use, and use the rest of it to topdress my recently planted woody plants and others that I want to push a little more. While I never put amendments in the planting holes, a layer of compost laid outside the root ball area several times during the first couple of years after planting will entice the trees' roots to grow outward. Wide-spreading roots make plants more wind-tolerant and more drought tolerant and this is important in Florida where we have and 7-month dry season each year and tropical storms on a regular basis.


Native flowers

Oh my! It's hard to beat the dune sunflowers for beauty and durability. This one is part of our mailbox planting. This one plant has spread across the whole bed and has lasted for 3 years. I trim it back to keep it within its boundaries and use those cuttings to make new plants.

Our state wildflower!

I renewed my membership in the Florida Wildflower Foundation and they sent me seeds with my new card. I've sowed these seeds in a meadow area and look forward to seeing more of these cheerful tickseed flowers in the spring.

I trust that you are enjoying your fall gardening.

Green Gardening Matters,
Ginny Stibolt

A beautiful sunrise as reflected in the St. Johns River.