Friday, November 18, 2016

Spiders in the marigolds & a new bed

I've been entranced by a wicked-looking spider! 


I first noticed this green lynx spider (Peucetia viridans) out in my marigold cover crop on September 10th when she'd bent the marigold leaves together with her silk. I left this section of marigolds in place and built wide rows on either side for our fall crops.
I first noticed this spider on 09/10/16 out in the marigolds as she seemed to have created a cocoon with marigold leaves. Look at how much fatter she is on 09/27/16,
as she sucks the juices from her yellow jacket prey.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

A discussion on neonicotinoids

Here's a great discussion about neonicotinoids in response to a question posted on the Garden Professors Blog page on Facebook. (I have X'd out people's names.)

Neonicotinoids are systemic insecticides, which have been widely used on plants sold in garden centers. Now people are realizing that these poisons are detrimental to our pollinators. This discussion includes good solid resources The problem with most readily available information is lack of scientific references.

I hope you find this useful. Sustainable gardeners love their pollinators.

Green Gardening Matters,
Ginny Stibolt

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Just say no to seasonal plantings

Nothing says fall like pumpkins, gourds, and mums
~ ~ ~
 

Don't plant the mums.

Don't you just love these fall displays? Can't you almost taste the hot apple cider?

These gorgeous mums have been raised so they are at their peak right now. But if you buy them, don't bother putting them in your garden. They'll look good for only a few weeks, if you're lucky. Treat them like bouquets and drop their pots into some nice containers or hanging baskets so you can enjoy them. Compost them when they go by.

The problem with seasonal plantings


The tradition varies by region, but it usually goes something like this: mums in the fall. pansies in the winter, begonias or coleus in the spring and thirsty impatiens in the summer.

This means that several times a year you will be disturbing the soil which prepares the soil for weeds, either from the soil's seed bank or from newly dropped seeds. This disturbed soil is more subject to droughts. The soil microbes have to readjust after being disturbed.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Soap destroys plants' defenses

How to fight aphids on milkweed?

We plant milkweeds to encourage the monarch butterflies, not only for the nectar, but also because milkweed is the ONLY larval food for the monarch caterpillars. But milkweed also attracts aphids...
Non-native scarlet milkweed (Asclepias curassavica)*. Notice all the yellow aphids on the stems.
I was focused on the monarch when I took the above photo, but it's obvious that my milkweeds had become infested with aphids. I just allowed the aphids to stay. Eventually some ladybugs came in, but the plant is better off without any "treatment" from the gardener.

Often the "expert" advice is to spray homemade concoctions with soap or detergent to get rid of the aphids. Don't do it! 


Monday, July 18, 2016

Malabar spinach: a hot weather crop


Malabar spinach
The standard spinach varieties (Spinacea oleracea) are cool-weather annuals that are a little temperamental in Florida. Spinach is a member of the amaranth family (Amaranthaceae), which also includes chard, beets, and quinoa. All members of this family contain oxalate crystals in their leaves which can cause problems with kidney stones when eaten raw. Cooking or vinegar dressing will break down the crystals.

Malabar spinach

Malabar spinach (Basella rubra and B. alba) is a heat-tolerant, vining plant with leaves that taste like spinach. The two species differ in stem color--red or green. The red is striking--an ornamental edible. It's a perennial in frost-free zones and a freely seeding annual in the rest of the state.

This crop is a member of the basella family (Basellaceae) and is not closely related to spinach and has no oxalate crystals.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

A failed onion crop

My onions failed to form bulbs. Were they a long-day variety?
I've had some wonderful onion harvests in the past, but not this year. See my post A sweet onion harvest to see what a successful onion crop looks like. Note: that crop was harvested in May.

So what happened? 


Well, I was distracted this fall with my #floweredshirttour for my third book, The Art of Maintaining a Florida Native Landscape—35 events in 11 weeks from September 1 to November 15th. Instead of taking the time to order my short-day onion plants, I just bought a package of onion sets, which I'd used before, with reasonable success. See my post, The skinny on onions, back when I was just figuring out what to do in Florida. The information I found at the time said that only short-day onions, which is what we need in Florida because we grow onions through the winter, were available as sets.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Growing edibles has saved us 15% on our food budget

I've been sharing our harvests here on the blog and on
Facebook to show people what they could be harvesting, too.
This is a tabbouleh harvest includes lots of curly parsley.
We started growing food successfully a few years after we moved to North Florida in 2004. So we have a good record of our food costs both before and after growing crops. Our annual food budget is at least 15% less than it was before.

Actually, two things changed:
1) Obviously, we save money when we don't have to purchase as much food.
2) More importantly, cooking to our harvests has changed the way we eat. Our whole diet has become more plant based and we also purchase much less pre-prepared food. Why would we purchase salad dressing full of preservatives and other stuff when I have frozen containers of yummy, home-made pesto that we can use as a base for salad dressings? Also, we've found or invented some interesting recipes to consume an abundant harvest and not get tired of it. See below for a new recipe adapted from one I'd found on Facebook.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

May crops and more...

It's zucchini season. I planted various types of squash
 at the beginning of March. The zucchinis
 win the race with fruit on the table by the end of April.

It's zucchini season!

I planted Green Tiger Zucchini Hybrid seeds by Burpee at the beginning of March along with 3 other types of squash—butternut, summer, and one called Delicata, which is white with green stripes on the outside, but orange on the inside. The others are just beginning to form fruit, while the zucchini harvest began at the end of April.

I used less than 1/4 of one in a stir fry, but since more are on the way, I decided to grate the rest of these 2 zucchinis for bread and for freezing. This produced 8 cups of zucchini strings—4 for bread and 4 for freezing in two 2-cup packages.

I combined 2 different recipes for the zucchini bread and it was delicious, so here's the combined recipe...

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Mulch is NOT the point of a no-lawn landscape

So you've removed your lawn... Yay! So now what?

All too often I've seen lawns replaced with vast areas of mulch instead of dense plantings of natives or other sustainable plants. Yes, we must plan ahead for mature sizes of trees and shrubs, but that doesn't mean that you need to lay down only mulch while you wait for your trees to grow. Look at this example:

Sad case study


A too-much-mulch landscape.  The same landscape from the other end.
I visit this particular location on a fairly regular basis and was pleased when the lawn was ripped out last year. They also pruned away the bottom branches of the shrubs. I wondered what the plans were, but surprisingly the plan seems to be mulch and little else. Upon closer inspection I could see that they used a black plastic weed barrier cloth, but only a few weeks later the weeds popped up anyway. (See below for my note on weed barrier cloth.) Eventually they installed two fountains with crotons at each of the four corners and some other plants with colorful leaves, At one point the mulch was pulled aside where the weeds were the thickest. On the next visit, the mulch was back in place. Months later, nothing has changed. So I'm guessing that this is their planned landscape. I'm sorry, but this is just a sad situation. I my opinion, their raggedy lawn was better looking than this and easier to maintain.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Mâche or corn salad, an easy-to-grow spinach substitute

The honeysuckle family (Caprifoliaceae) contains a single edible crop—mâche or corn salad.

When we wrote Organic Methods for Vegetable Gardening in Florida, we arranged the crops by plant family (not the alphabet) so readers could have a better grasp on how to rotate crops to reduce problems with pests and to even out soil depletion and enrichment. There were not many families with only one crop. Corn salad fell into this category.

Grow corn salad (center row) along with other cool-weather crops. Here it's growing with some black-seeded Simpson lettuce, a reddish lettuce and dill. 

Here the corn salad is growing in a wide row with red-stemmed spinach
and next to some garlic.
Mâche or corn salad (Valerianella spp) is a fast growing cool weather vegetable with a mild spinach taste. A European weed, it often grows in wheat fields and peasants foraged it for their salads. The British sometimes call wheat corn, so it was the salad in the cornfield. There are a couple of different species. It's best to choose those with most heat tolerance.

Since it is basically a weed, it has a high germination rate. In both of these photos, I probably planted it a little too densely, but the quality was not affected.