Monday, May 25, 2020

Lime basil pesto

Lime basil seedlings in my New Zealand
spinach (Tetragonia tetragoniodes) rows.

Lime basil loves Florida's 
hot, wet summers!

Lime basil (Ocimum americanum) is native to Africa, India, and Southeast Asia, not the Americas, despite its species epithet. It has a strong citrus odor and a cross between lime basil and sweet basil (O.basilicum) is known as lemon basil.

Sweet basil, which is the traditional basil for Italian cooking including pesto, is susceptible to fungal diseases once the wet season begins here in Florida.

So, a number of years ago, I bought some lime basil seed from Burpee on the advice that it was more heat tolerant. It was so prolific that it has been self seeding in my edible beds ever since.  Read my previous Lime basil article for more information.

This year I transplanted the seedlings from my okra and New Zealand spinach beds to its own row, so I could keep those crops weeded and have a good basil crop as well.


This is the story from rogue seedlings to pesto.

Saturday, April 11, 2020

A South American engulfed my resting vegetable beds

I had put my veggie beds to rest for the winter. What could go wrong?


I knew we were going to be out of town for the first three months of 2020, so I did not plant our normal winter crops. After the last summer/fall crops in three of the beds, I weeded them trying to disturb the soil as little as possible and then covered them with a four-inch layer of pine needles. (6 reasons to use pine needle mulch in edible gardens) In two of the other three beds had the native salvia and other wildflowers growing, so I did some light weeding and left them alone. In the last bed I planted some wildflower seeds and I'll cover this bed in my next post.

So in those three beds, a visitor from South America came calling...

This innocent-looking plant is a monster! The native range for this oxalis is shown in green while the purple areas show where it's escaped. 

Monday, March 9, 2020

For a more beautiful yard, plant more beautyberry

Beautyberry (Callicarpa americana): a plant profile


In addition to its iridescent purple berries, beautyberry make your landscape more beautiful because of all the birds it invites to the landscape. In this photo, there is a mockingbird in the upper right and a cardinal in the lower left. 
Beautyberry (Callicarpa americana) is in the mint family (Lamiacaeae). Appropriately enough, the genus name is Greek for beautiful fruit. Usually the fruit is a bright purple, but white berries sometimes occur naturally and both purple- and white-berried shrubs are available in the native plant trade. While there are no other Callicarpa species native to Florida there are others, but most are native to Asia.

Sunday, January 26, 2020

Smart Gardening

Let's combat those horticultural myths with science 

This meme with a reminder to share
about male and female pepper fruits based on
 the number of lobes is total baloney!

The Internet has been a fantastic tool for sharing all of human knowledge. Social media, powered via the Internet, has made it easier to reconnect with long-lost friends and relatives and to share photos and memes with the world. It also serves as a market place, with online shopping.

But all this mostly unfiltered access to eye balls has made it ripe for spreading misleading information and blatant misinformation. Plus, this unfiltered marketplace allows for the selling of ineffective or bogus products with no chance for returns.

But, our topic is gardening and landscaping, so let's look at a few examples of bad information so widely shared that those myths have become accepted as fact.

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Reworking a downspout after drainpipe clog

In 2005, I lined the gully from the outflow
 pipe with rocks to stop the erosion. 

Handling stormwater

When we moved into tour house in 2004, the downspout off our back porch was attached to a flexible 20-foot long drainpipe that had been buried. The stormwater was released onto a slope in the woods. This house was about 2 years old when we moved in and during that time, the stormwater had caused significant erosion in the woods.

Since this wooded area is a shallow ravine which serves to drain our front pond back into the lake. Eroded soil washing into this ravine could be carried into the lake during heavy storms, so I wanted to reduce the erosion.

My solution was to fill in the large hole right under the pipe and to line the gully with rocks. I wrote about this project in my first rain garden article: Rain lilies for my rain gardens.

Monday, November 11, 2019

Sequester this carbon! Don't throw it away.

Sequester this carbon! Don't throw it away.
Carbon sequestration is tremendously important because keeping the CO2 levels low in the atmosphere will help keep the earth cooler. It’s the most abundant greenhouse gas.

As I found in doing the research for the Soil section in "Climate-Wise Landscaping," soil sequesters four times more carbon globally than all the terrestrial plants added together, including rainforests. It varies by region and soil type with the peat bogs doing much of the heavy lifting.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Speaking up for our only planet

Show & tell! I bought this nandina to make
the point that Florida is spending millions
to remove invasive plants, but many of them
 are still for sale, which makes the problem
even worse. I asked them to make it illegal
to sell known invasives. 
The 2019 Clay County Delegation meeting was October 10 at 2:30pm


Each fall in Florida, there are state delegation meetings in every county where people can address their Florida legislature representatives. I'd called my senator's office more than a month earlier to put myself on the agenda. You have only three minutes to make your point, so I'd planned out my topics and had put together a handout to give to the legislators with my points and links for more information. (See my handout below.) This is necessary, because people might be distracted with side conversations that may come up during the hearing. I print my handouts on green paper.

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.