Saturday, July 28, 2012

Okra swales

Okra growing around two swales--the far swale is receiving a good
dose of rain barrel water.
I started growing okra a couple of years ago because it does so well in our summer heat. But it does best with some extra irrigation. To make irrigation (over and above the automatic irrigation) easy, I build swales just like I do for squash vines and plant the okra around the edges.

First step in building the mound is to put down a good layer of leaves or other water retaining material, because we have sandy soil. I use compost to form the rest of the mound. I also add kitchen scraps three or four inches under the soil in middle of the swale to add all those micronutrients. I mulch everything with pine needles to keep down the weeds.

The swale arrangement does a good job of capturing rainfall or irrigation water, because the water does not leave the mound. Also, there are fewer problems with weeds outside of the swale areas, because it is drier.

Monday, July 23, 2012

An early morning garden tour

Just after dawn on Saturday morning in the garden...
A male black swallowtail butterfly looks like a jewel with the early morning sun backlighting his wings.

Friday, July 20, 2012

The herb garden: a (mint) family affair

Spearmint is growing into the basil area.
My herb garden faces WSW and is just outside the back door. It receives no morning sun, but lots of the hot afternoon sun. This location is really handy when I need to harvest something quickly as I'm cooking.

Many of our classic herbs are in the mint family (Lamiaceae), mostly because they produce wonderful (to us humans) smelling volatile oils. These same oils help repel some of their predators.

I had a couple of problems with members of the mint family spreading too aggressively in my small herb garden. I needed to deal with these unruly herbs--and now.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Is gardening political?

The White House's organic vegetable garden
The other day I posted this photo of Michelle Obama out in the White House vegetable garden on my Sustainable Gardening for Florida Facebook page. I asked the question:
"Do you think Michelle's garden has changed the nation's mindset about organic gardening?"

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The birdhouse gourd adventure

A 3-year old birdhouse gourd sprouts in the compost.
Three years ago I thought it would be fun to grow a birdhouse gourd vine. They are not really edible so I'm not sure what my original motivation was. One of the vines did extremely well, scrambled into some nearby tree branches and grew to about twenty feet high with numerous gourds hanging from the tree like Christmas tree ornaments.

Some of the gourds ended up in the compost and sprouted just like this one. I was on my book tour (for Sustainable Gardening for Florida) and was a vendor for several gardenfests. The timing was right for two of them and I'd potted all the seedlings into 4" pots and gave them away to kids. I'd kept one gourd as the sample so they could see what they'd get. When the seedlings were gone, I stuck the sample gourd into some branches of a shrub in a thicket. I thought some bird would break into it and build a nest, but that didn't happen. Last winter, I put it onto the compost pile.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Maypop, a native butterfly & bee magnet

Passionvine, purple passion flower, maypop (Passiflora incarnata) is a beautiful perennial native vine with a wonderfully complex flower with crimped petal-like tepals. It dies back to the ground in the winter, but pops up in more places the next spring–in May usually.

Like most gardeners, I love beautiful plants that attract many pollinators. And for a vine like this, adorning the trelliswork is the ideal location. It’s beautiful, isn’t it?

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Garden Writers: Who Are We Writing For and Why is it Important?

When I write about why I let some of my basil flower,
who is listening?
When we write online, who is reading and what are we trying to accomplish? Haven't you wondered, as your words fly off into the void of cyberspace, where your message will land? Will the readers even speak English; what type of gardening do they practice; or are they just looking for pretty pictures? Articles for magazines and newspapers are easier to target, because we know the demographics of the readers. When we write for an Internet audience, we may have access to traffic totals or find out what search terms were used to reach our pages, but we really have no idea who's reading, except for those who are motivated to respond. Knowing the search words and what people are looking for helps us target our future writing, but responses from readers are the most important and interesting feedback. They often pose questions that spur further writing.