Thursday, September 27, 2012

A glorious Florida afternoon!

This doesn't have anything to do with gardening, but the clouds in every direction around our house early this afternoon were amazing, so I thought I'd share them with you.

Isn't Florida wonderful???

Green Gardening Matters,
Ginny Stibolt

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

A beautiful cover and progress in the gardens

Organic Methods for Vegetable Gardening in Florida
Big news! The front cover of my new book.

I think it looks fantastic, don't you? I love the way the designer at University Press of Florida used the purple color from the eggplants in the top photo to edge the tomato-colored title box.

Thanks to Nell Foster for permission to use her photo of that wonderfully chaotic farmers market display. I'm mostly done with proofing the galleys and am now working on the index.

It's due to be released in Feb. 2013. I can hardy wait.

I'll be on America's Home Grown Veggies radio

Kate Copsey, the host of this weekly web radio show, contacted me to see if I'd be interested in appearing on her show. Well, of course--I am always ready to talk about gardening. We had a lovely conversation about what it's like growing edibles in Florida, which will be broadcast on Saturday 9/29/12 at 10am. Later, it will be available in the archives.

The last okra harvest of the season.
 In the edible gardens...

The okra has done very well this year. We've enjoyed jambalayas, okra/cabbage soup, fried okra, okra in stir fries and more, but they were at the end of their useful lives. Time to yank them out and make room for some cool weather crops.

Root-knot nematode damage on okra roots.

Since they'd been so prolific, I was quite surprised to see that the roots were totally encrusted with root-knot nematode damage. I'm planting a lot of marigolds this fall to turn into the soil and will make sure that these beds have a cover crop of marigolds next summer.

Fall tomatoes are setting fruit.

Back in August I purchased three solar heat tomato seedlings from Home Depot with the hope that we could have fresh tomatoes for Thanksgiving and maybe even Christmas dinners. One of the three plants didn't make it but the other two look pretty good and have begun setting fruit. So as gardeners say, "We'll see what happens..."

The carrots, radishes, sugar snap peas and other cool weather crops have sprouted.

And in the front meadow...
Progress on the de-lawning. I finished removing the rest of the turfgrass and I'll be planting an assortment of native wildflowers in this area. I also created a spur of the cart path to provide good access to the left side of the meadow area. My husband and I pulled a lot of tree saplings that were growing under the overhanging branches here, which opens up the whole area. See my last post Changes... for more details on this project. More to come...
For a broader view of how the front meadow fits into the landscape...

Beautyberry seedlings need to be relocated.

Located between the pollinators' garden and the newly de-lawned area in the above photo, a medium sized beautyberry (Callicarpa americana ) has produced some seedlings that were growing too close the the mother plant. I guess there were a few berries that the birds missed last year. I transplanted them while they were small to locations in the area that will give them more room to grow.

The string lilies will also need to be transplanted away from the expanding beautyberry. I may get to that this fall, but maybe it will be a spring project.

I just love the beautyberries. The berries are so unbelievably purple and the birds love them. Some people make jelly from the berries, but I prefer feeding the birds. The graceful vase shape of this shrub is pretty any time of the year. Plus, they are hardy, easy-to-grow plants. What more could you want?

Fall asters
Another purple note in the garden is this lovely fall aster. It's a native, but I don't remember which one. When I go to the Wings and Wildflower Festival on Friday down in Lake County, I'll be looking for some more of these. I'll also be signing my books at the evening social at the Lakeside Inn.

I'm looking forward to see how this event plays out. It's a combination birder & native plant enthusiast gathering. Doesn't that sound like a good idea?

Loblolly bay (Gordonia lasianthus)
And speaking of native plant functions, I was on location of the May 2013 Florida Native Plant Society convention at University of North Florida. The campus is landscaped with many native plants and the loblolly bays were blooming at the edge of the wooded areas.  This is a beautiful narrow evergreen tree may look like a relative of the magnolias, but it's in the tea family along with the camellias.

I trust that your fall gardening is keeping you happy. Remember, gardening is a form of functional fitness.

Green Gardening Matters,
Ginny Stibolt

Sunday, September 16, 2012


The newest section of lawn to bite the dust will be the unmowed portion next to the front meadow.
 We've been reducing the lawn since my husband and I moved into this house in 2004. In the top photo, the lawn sodded with St. Augustine grass extended almost to the fence. The previous owners had left some mature trees around the edges of this part of the lawn, which we now call the front meadow. We stopped mowing it because the ground was uneven and often had a large puddle in the center after a hard rain. We maintained it as a meadow for a number of years, but now we've stopped cutting it entirely and a nice assortment of oaks, sweet gums, and pines are becoming a forest. Read my post from a few years ago Reducing the Lawn in Your Landscape for a better perspective on the process and to find out why what we have is a freedom lawn.

The sprinkler head that used to be in the turf
needs an extender to spray over the vegetation.
We'd left a tongue of lawn next to the front pond and leading out to the front meadow, but recently decided to reduce it even more. My husband stopped mowing the tip of the tongue a couple of weeks ago, as you can see in the top photo.

Also, the turf used to go right to the edge of the pond, but now ferns, rushes, goldenrods edge the pond. This has meant that some adjustments to the irrigation system, which draws its water from the lake out back, were necessary. Sprinkler heads that used to be recessed in the midst of the turf, now need extenders so the spray can reach beyond the taller vegetation. In the second photo, my husband adjusts the sprinkler head's arc--this one is located to the right of the cart in the top photo.

To define the new edge of the front meadow I planted three bunches
of Elliot's love grass (Eragrostis elliottii).

After the wood chips have been added to define the border
of the lawn and to cover the cart path. The newly-laid
chips have a darker color than the ones laid the day before.

I started the project by removing the sod along new edge of the lawn creating a gentle curve so that it is easy to mow with one sweep of the mower. I planted three bunches of Elliot's love grass (Eragrostis elliottii) evenly spaced about thee feet apart to give it plenty of room to expand. What was surprising to me is how clayey the soil is here. Other parts of our landscape are quite sandy. I also left room on the pond side for a cart path that leads out to the woodchip pile. (Read my post Follow the Yellow Mulch Road.)

Another 12 feet of lawn removed, but I'm not done with this particular project. I'll remove most of the grass and weeds between the love grass and the meadow's old edge and plant some native meadow wildflowers.
A variable dancer damselfly on the native blue curls in the morning.

We have not used any general pesticides on our lawn and other areas of our property since 2004, so the populations of insects and their predators have been increasing. There seems to be a jump in populations each time we remove more lawn and plant more native plants.  We have especially noticed many more butterflies, bees, wasps and other pollinators. And we've also seen more bug predators including bluebirds, mockingbirds, wrens, and the dragonflies & damselflies.

This is a good thing!

A new USDA hardiness chart has been issued.

Finally, a new hardiness chart.

USDA has finally updated the hardiness zone map. The line between zones 8b and 9a used to run through the center of Clay County, where we live, but now that line, if you follow it northward, is at the Georgia state line.

I wonder how long it will take the seed companies to start using this map instead of the old 1990 version.

Here's a link to the USDA site:

I hope you have plenty of pollinators in your yard, too.

Green Gardening Matters,
Ginny Stibolt

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Fall edibles

Newly planted fall garden next to the garage.
This bed next to the garage has been sitting fallow for the summer. I've buried kitchen scraps, as they became available, about six inches under the surface, until about four weeks ago.

On Labor Day, our unofficial beginning of fall, I planted some cool-weather crops in wide rows and some sugar snap peas at the base the three tomato cages. There was no trace of the kitchen scraps as I rearranged the bed, only good black garden loam.

The sugar snap pea seeds are old, so
I planted three at the base of each leg.
The sugar snap peas are four years old, so I planted three at the base of each leg of the cages to make sure we'll have enough. Ultimately, I hope to grow twelve vines. There is a small swale at the base of each cage to capture more water--both rain and irrigation.

On the far end of this bed is my stand of Egyptian walking onions, a couple of plants of garlic chives, and some native meadow garlic, which is to the right of the walking onions and is still dormant at this time. It should be coming up in the next few weeks.

To the right of the onion bed, behind the garage, there are three rain barrels on a four-foot high platform. You can see the PVC spigot in the top photo. I use a hose, which drains from all three barrels, to hand water these vegetable beds. Very handy and so much easier on my back than lugging watering cans from my other rain barrels.

Across the path are three solar heat tomatoes, which I planted as seedlings a month ago and have just starting blooming. It would be nice to have a good fall tomato crop. The butternut squash, which roamed all over this bed, is done for the season and I'll harvest all the squashes tomorrow when I'll also prepare that bed, except where the tomatoes are growing, for more fall crops.

The butternut squash is done for the season between its leaves being eaten and attacked by some type of wilt. I'll harvest the squash tomorrow and begin to prepare this bed for cool-weather crops.

Aren't gardeners a little like "The Gambler"?

Instead of:
"You got to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em,
Know when to walk away and know when to run."
gardeners chant this:
You got to know when to grow 'em, know when to yank 'em,
'Cause they're not gonna fruit for ya and know when they're done
You got to make room for more crops, know when to dig 'em,
Know when to plant away and know when to mulch.
And then there were the bell peppers...

In the beds behind the house:

Bell peppers: wilted in the morning after a good rain--not good.
 Early last week, I decided to pull out my bell pepper plants. I had gotten a late start on my spring gardening, so I bought four Bonnie bell peppers at Home Depot and planted them in May. They produced fewer than 20 peppers total--not nearly as prolific as other years with my seed-grown peppers.

Not surprisingly, when I pulled them, their roots were totally encrusted with root-knot nematode damage.  What was surprising to me is that their roots never expanded past their original peat pot volume even though I'd peeled the pots away.

I posted a photo of these peppers in my post, "Okra Swales," where I talked about how I'd also planted these peppers around a swale with some kitchen waste buried in the middle of the swale. Looking at these roots, the peppers never found that stash of extra nutrients waiting for them. By the way, the okra, which I'd planted by seed, is now approaching seven feet tall and producing like crazy!

The roots never expanded beyond the size of their peat pots.

The roots were totally encrusted with nematode damage.

The back of the house beds.
Most of the bed next to the house where the peppers were growing has been fallow over both the winter and summer months. I added a couple of wheelbarrow loads of compost and worked it in. I also buried a bucket of kitchen scraps between the rows that are now planted with broccoli and the "Lollo Rosso" lettuce. The broccoli roots will probably find this trench compost, but the shallow-rooted lettuce probably will not.

I'll plant garlic in the last row of this garden to scare away the nematodes. It works for vampires, right? Why not for these tiny little worms?

I hope you've begun your cool-weather vegetables.
If not, it's not too late to get started. Just do it!

For more details on my planting methods, see "Wide-row planting and trench composting in the vegetable garden."
For more details on my rain barrels, see "Three More Rain Barrels."

Green Gardening Matters,
Ginny Stibolt

P.S.: News about my new book, "Organic Methods for Vegetable Gardening in Florida":
I'd asked my editor when we'd see the cover design and the designer replied with this:
"I am finishing up the typesetting and about to work on the cover. The book is excellent! I'm learning a lot and spending too much time reading it.
The color section was crowded in 32 pages, Lynn saw we could add more pages and keep it in budget, so it is now 48 pages.
I have to say that this is really nice to hear. It's due to be released in Feb. 2013. I can hardly wait!


Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Native Plant Issues: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

This is a fall round up of current issues relating to native plants. They highlight some of the issues that native plant enthusiasts should address to move forward in our goal of more regionally appropriate natives being planted more widely.


Good: USDA is sponsoring the first ever National Planting Day on Saturday September 8th where they urge Americans to plant native plants. They also explain how a community garden can earn the designation of a ‘People’s Garden.’ They further urge people to get involved by planting natives “in a highly visible location in your community. This garden can be a demonstration garden, promoting the beauty and function of native plants to your neighbors.” I hope you can participate in the festivities.

Bad: The person who wrote this post on National Planting Day, apparently does not know what a native plant is...

Read the rest of my post over on the Native Plants & Wildlife Gardens blog...

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Arbor Day Foundation & Florida...

The Arbor Day Foundation has played a big part to help people, cities and towns plant more trees since 1865 when J. Sterling Morton started this foundation.

In Florida alone there are 165 Tree Cities. We've discussed this organization in these previous posts: Florida's Arbor Day: Third Friday in January and our followup post on our members' favorite trees: Your Favorite Trees.  So yes, The Arbor Day Foundation has done a lot to increase awareness of the importance of trees even in urban and suburban environments and presents a lot of good educational material.

BUT... is this organization doing more harm than good? 

Read more on my post over on the Florida Native Plant Society blog.

Green Gardening Matters,
Ginny Stibolt