Thursday, August 8, 2019

Enrich soil for crops by composting in-place

Time to remove more lawn and replace it
with larger edible garden beds.
Several people have requested more information about how I compost in place, so this post includes extreme details.

More lawn removal!

This adventure in gardening began with more lawn removal. In the fall of 2016, I'd created a new bed in front of the rain barrels. It was only about 5' x 4'. Here are the details of "Creating a New Bed."  

April 29, 2019
Over this past cool-weather season I'd grown broccoli and curly parsley in the new bed, which had done fairly well. I keep picking the broccoli florets after the initial big curd harvest, so the broccoli season lasts for a long time, but now they were at the end of their cycle. The parsley would last for a while longer.

Saturday, June 29, 2019

An update: red bay trees that died back from laurel wilt disease in 2008.

Three months before the red bay tree by the
pond turned brown, seemingly overnight,
two pileated woodpeckers gave warning
that bugs were infesting the tree.


Back in 2008, we were shocked when all the red bay trees (Persea borbonia) in our yard suddenly turned totally brown. One day they looked fine, the next day their leaves were all dead. After doing some research, I found that the cause for this was the laurel wilt disease, which was carried by the redbay ambrosia beetle, a tiny insect that entered this country in pallet wood from Asia in Savannah, Georgia in 2004. The beetle carries a fungus that blocks the xylem cells so the water stops flowing through the trees. This is why the symptoms are so sudden, because without the flow of water, the tree cannot function. The fungal disease is known as the laurel wilt disease. Other members of the Laurel family (Lauraeae) that are susceptible to this disease include both natives such as sassafras and spicebush, and non-natives such as avocado and camphortree. Here is a link to the article I wrote back then: Red Bay Trees are Dying.

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Bucket gardening for your edibles

Wes and his self-watering bucket garden
Two years ago, I was in Maryland and when I visited friends Wes and Tammy for a gathering at their house, I was intrigued with the self-watering bucket garden that Wes had set up.

Advantages to a self-watering bucket garden

This self-watering bucket garden has a number of important advantages;
- Protects crops from damage by animals such as rabbits, chickens, ground hogs, armadillos, and pets.
- Because of the water storage in the lower bucket, your soil stays evenly moist for a week or so depending on heat and humidity before you need to refill the bottom bucket.
- Reduces water usage because all the water is right in the bucket, it does not drain away and no water is lost due to irrigation onto non-growing areas.
- Eliminates weeds and soil-based pests, such as root knot nematodes, cutworms, slugs, and others, if you use purchased or sterilized soil.
- No bending over once everything is set up for the season. Everthing is waist high.
- No plowing or other soil disturbance, so your soil can continue to sequester carbon.

Friday, March 29, 2019

End of March Blues

I was struck by all the blue flowers we have in our landscape at the end of March. Yes, there are some reds, pinks, and yellows, but the predominant color right now seems to lean to the blues.

(Note: For reference, I've included links to the species profiles on Atlas of Florida's Plants website where you can see the native ranges, other photos, and more.

Savanna iris

Savanna Iris


When I bought my starts for this Savanna Iris (Iris savannarum), I thought it was Dixie iris (I. hexagona). It was several years ago, but I think that's how it was labeled, but it turns out that it's not because it's not evergreen and the seed pods are not hexagonal enough. Also the Dixie iris is native to just a few counties in the Big Bend area, so it's preferable to have those that are native to my county.

It's done very well on a mound I built at the northern end of our front pond. (Click the link for more information on our pond.)

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Transpiration: Forests' most important service

Through transpiration trees extract huge amounts of water from the soil
and spew it into the atmosphere.

Three Major Cycles in Forests

For a better understanding of the overall value of trees, we'll look at the three major cycles in forests. There are many other processes that also take place, but these three will provide a big-picture look at what's going on in forests, which can then be downsized to fit into our local activities in our yards and in our communities.
1) The Water Cycle:  Water moves through trees, evaporates into the air, forms clouds, rains or snows, both locally and globally. Water from the precipitation is soaked up by trees.
2) The Carbon Cycle:  Carbon absorbed during photosynthesis and is released during respiration, fire & decomposition.
3) The Oxygen Cycle:  O2 is produced through photosynthesis and absorbed through respiration.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Review: "Garden Revolution: How our landscapes can be a source of environmental change" By Larry Weaner and Thomas Christopher.

Cover Garden Revolution by Weaner & Christopher.
On my 2018 book tour presentations, I talked about some of the ideas on better meadow management that I learned from Larry Weaner in his presentation at the 2017 FNPS conference and from his Garden Revolution book. So here is my review of it for Florida gardeners:

Book Review:
"Garden Revolution: How our landscapes can be a source of environmental change"

By Larry Weaner and Thomas Christopher. Published by Timber Press in 2016.
(This review was written for & published in the Palmetto, the journal of The Florida Native Plant Society in 2017.)

I attended Larry Weaner's presentation at the 2017 Florida Native Plant Society conference and was so taken with his philosophy that I bought this beautiful book. While Thomas Christopher is listed as the coauthor, he explains that even though the point of view is Larry's, that they both worked on the organization and the actual writing of the book. For this review, I continue their scheme and refer to the ideas as if they were Weaner's alone.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

#FloweredShirtTour of 2018 was a success

Wow! Thanks to all 52 of the hosting organizations on this year's book tour!

I gave presentations at events all over Florida from Sept. 6th through Dec. from Panama City to Key West! I had three different programs based on my two new books: 1) Climate-Wise Landscaping, 2) Authentic Florida Native Yards, and 3) a 3-hour workshop on Florida Native Landscaping. I spoke to Florida Native Plant Society Chapters, Audubon Chapters, Sierra Club chapters, garden clubs, Master Gardeners, libraries, a Permaculture organization, an environmental center, and a book store. Whew!!

This was my fourth book tour and each one has had more events than the previous ones. Three years ago, there were "only" 35 events in 11 weeks. What was interesting this year as opposed to previous years was how much more enthusiastic people are about the more sustainable and more climate-wise messages. I don't think that it was just that I had 2 more books, although that could have been part of the enthusiasm, I think people are more prepared to take action now. I do hope this is a trend. Our poor planet needs all the friends she can get. There is no Planet B! 

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Dealing with hydrophobic soil


Hydrophobic

Hydrophobic is defined as "afraid of water." When the term is used to describe soil, its meaning is modified to "repels water." This is of concern to us as gardeners and landscapers, of course, because if water is not being absorbed into the soil then it is not available to the roots of our plants.

This is particularly serious for newly sown seeds, which must have even moisture supplied by the soil in order to germinate and during their initial growth period when a scarcity of water can kill newly sprouted seeds. Also, newly-planted trees, shrubs, or herbaceous specimens are already stressed and in are extreme need of water to rehydrate their leaves so that photosynthesis can take place to provide as much energy as possible during their transition into new locations.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Wide-row beds and other adventures in fall gardening

Wide-row vegetable beds

My wide-row method of planting is similar to Square-Foot gardening where seeds or plants are spaced so crops have room to grow, but little or no room for weeds. The trenches between the rows allow for good drainage and can be sized so that a larger crop has room to spread.


 Getting ready for fall planting. I size the beds and the trenches to suit the crops. In the upper left I have a small swale with a wire cage for a fall crop of cucumbers. In the background some Malabar Spinach and a trellis for some yard-long or asparagus beans. 

Saturday, September 1, 2018

Moving to battery-powered tools

Reduce the use of power tools


One action we can take to have more sustainable and climate-wise landscapes is to modify the arrangement of landscape elements and the interface between those elements to minimize the need for power tools. This can be accomplished in many ways. If we use plants that are appropriate for the size of the space in the landscape, they won't need to be trimmed back over and over. In addition, if there is still some lawn, the edges of the mowed spaces should consist of gentle curves and no vertical elements right next to them so that the mower can make one sweep around the edge and not have to come back with an edger or string trimmer to finish the job. If there are raised beds or buildings that are next to mowed areas, install a narrow mulched path or a row of pavers set into the ground at about an inch above the level of the lawn between the lawn and the vertical structure so the wheels of the mower can run outside of the lawn edge on the mulch or the pavers.

That being said, in many landscapes power tools are required for adequate maintenance. The sustainable and climate-wise action is to replace polluting, gas-powered tools with those powered by batteries.

When you switch to battery-powered tools, purchase those that are compatible so the batteries can used in all of the tools. It takes about 30 minutes to charge a battery with this particular type of fast charger. The time of use for a battery is more than an hour of actual run-time, depending upon the tool, the power setting for any given tool, and the job at hand.