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.

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Rock-scaping in Florida: A good idea or not?

2008: A blue bee goes crazy in a prickly pear flower.

Rock-Scaping in Florida:
a cautionary tale


It all started simply enough in 2005 when someone gave me a few pads of prickly pear cactus (Opuntia humifusa), a Florida native.

I had no clear idea what I was going to do with them, but you know how it is. It seemed like a good idea at the time, so I rooted them in a couple of pots.

Meanwhile, my husband and I were totally redoing the front and side beds, because they were a weedy mess. The previous owners had covered the beds with lava rock and the weeds loved it. We removed the rock from the beds, put it in a pile, and then rinsed the soil away.

Friday, June 22, 2018

Native landscapes ARE possible in HOA-restricted communities

Dawn at Paynes Prairie...
Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park is a 22,000- acre wilderness that represents the finest of …the Real Florida. Paynes Prairie became the first state preserve in 1971 and was designated a National Natural Landmark in 1974, one of only 600 designations nationwide. Its distinctive geologic features, rich and productive wildlife habitat, and value to people past, present and future make it an extraordinary place.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

There's nothing Spanish or mossy about Spanish moss

Spanish moss adds to the South's character and elegance. 

Not Moss

Spanish moss (Tillandsia usneoides) is a flowering plant in the pineapple family (Bromeliaceae), so it's not a moss at all. (Mosses are non-vascular, non-flowering, spore-producing plants.) It's an epiphyte or air plant found in damp areas near waterways or swamps because it absorbs its moisture and nutrients from the air, so while it hangs from trees, it's not a parasite like mistletoe and does not rob the host tree of water or nutrients.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Our Blue Marble

The first Earth Day was April 22, 1970. There were many environmental problems in those days, but these problems had been building up for decades. (See this NY Times summary of our status at that time: America Before Earth Day.) Those were NOT, for many reasons, the “good old days.”

View of the whole planet changed our perspective and we started Earth Day. It was MUCH needed at that time.
What had happened the previous year, was that we had seen pictures of our beautiful planet from the moon. The Apollo Astronauts called it a "Blue Marble." That name and that vantage point from afar provided a perspective of how beautiful and fragile our only planet was. Politicians of every stripe worked at every level to put regulations in place to reverse the rampant pollution of our air, water, and land. The regulations have been amazingly effective and air, water and soil pollution has been drastically reduced. Those regulations are still needed today—maybe  more than ever because there are billions more humans all competing our planet’s resources. It is unconscionable that our present administration is working in many ways to undo all the good that has been accomplished in the last two decades.

Monday, March 5, 2018

Build a pine-straw baler

A pine-straw baler made from scrap lumber 
Our neighbor Tim had this apparatus in his front yard. We wondered what the heck it was. Tim has a lot of big pine trees on his property, which, of course, generate a lot of pine needles. So he'd built this pine-straw baling machine out of scrap lumber he had on hand.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

An Appreciation of Muhly Grass

Muhly grass makes a nice border planting.
It's attractive even when it's not in full bloom.
Muhly grass (Muhlenbergia spp.) is one of the most popular native grasses in Florida and other places in the Southeastern US and you can see why. Its gorgeous pink flowers in late fall certainly stand out in the landscape. It's also known as sweetgrass, which has been used for coiled basketry, particularly in the "low country" of South Carolina, Georgia, and northeast Florida, by people of the Gullah Culture.

It likes dry soil in full sun or partial sun. It can be trimmed back in the late winter if there is a real need for neatness, but it's not necessary, because it tends to itself with new growth totally covering the old stalks.

Monday, January 1, 2018

When you plant a tree, you believe in tomorrow

This long garden used to be next to the fence,
but since the fence is gone, it now sticks
out like a peninsula into the lawn area. 

I'd pulled a small red maple tree (Acer rubrum) from the edge of our front pond. It was in a place where another tree would not work well, but when I pulled it, all its roots were still attached in a blob of mud. I stuck the tree in an empty pot near the rain barrels. Over the next couple of weeks, it seemed to be happy in the bottom of the pot with just occasional splashes of rain barrel water. I didn't know what I was going to do with it, but its presence there reminded me to do something every time I came to that side of the garage with the rain barrels and compost piles.

I had a thought when I was cleaning out the long garden that used to back up to a fence, but when we gave away the fence, this bed jutted  out into the yard like a peninsula. Placing a tree at the end of this bed would eventually provide an anchor. It will also eventually shade out the nice muhly grass, but it will be years before that happens.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Holiday Legends of Rosemary

A 9-year old rosemary shrub is 3 feet tall & wide

Rosemary (Rosmarinus officianalis) is a winter-blooming shrub that grows well throughout Florida. That alone makes it a great choice for your garden. But like a talented actor, rosemary plays multiple roles. It brightens your drought-tolerant landscape, adds flavor to your cooking and aroma to your potpourri. Rosemary has been immortalized in song and classic literature, plus it plays a part in a charming legend of Christmas.

Its waxy needle-like leaves grow from the newer sections of the stems, while the older sections of the stem are covered with a rough gray bark. Rosemary is one of many culinary herbs in the mint family. Others include mints, thyme, marjoram, oregano, sages, monarda, and many others. Plants in our herb gardens produce aromatic chemicals to help to fight off leaf-eating predators, but these properties also add flavor to our cooking and aroma to potpourri mixtures.