Friday, December 28, 2012

A compost turning = happy gardening in 2013!

The old compost pile by the shed was last turned in midsummer.
Last summer I turned this compost pile as part of the shed-moving project, and I've continued to add alternating green and brown layers* to the top since then.

Now, it was time to turn it again to access the bottom of the pile, which I guessed would be finished by now. I also had some old, mostly composted arborist woodchips to mix in with the unfinished compost to add some extra nutrients and more volume.

I cleared out the space for the new pile where I'd recently worked down to the bottom of my last compost pile.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Winter Solstice and more...

The Mayan Calendar ends 12/21/12 6:12 am EST.
Winter solstice has been a cause for celebration (both pagan and religious) since man's earliest days for now is when the days start to get longer. And isn't that reason enough?

This year the day has new meaning, though, since the experts tell us that the Mayan calendar, which has been in effect for more than 5,000 years, will end.

Over on the Florida Native Plant Society blog, I posted a plea to plant a tree, because when you plant a tree, you believe in the future. So if the world does not end as predicted, it will have been because all those gardeners planted so many trees that the future just had to be there for them.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Scrubjay Trail Winterfest

A mocking bird surveys its space. Does it see that bug?
I did see some scrub jays, but they did not pose as well
as this mocking bird.
I attended the Scrub Jay Trail Winter Fest in Clermont, FL on Saturday. What a great event and the weather was fantastic. All for a good cause: the preservation and conservation of the habitat in and around the Scrubjay Trail.

All day long wonderful musicians filled the air with festive melodies, people took rides on the big cart behind two gorgeous work horses, kids were entertained by Ranger Rick and a slew of activities, people bid on the vast array of silent auction items, and more.

And oh yes, I was there talking to folks about my books, Sustainable Gardening for Florida and Organic Methods for Vegetable Gardening in Florida and also about the upcoming Florida Native Plant Society's conference in Jacksonville in May.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Bokashi Composting, a fast, anaerobic, fermentation process

Gainesville Compost Chief Engineer & Inventor Steven Kanner
mixes bokashi grain into UF Krishna Lunch food waste.
A guest post by Chris Cano

(I ran into Chris recently at Porter's Community Garden. You can read about this at The Gainesville community behind Porter's Garden. He talked about this different type of composting, so I asked him to educate us. Thanks, Chris.)

Upon running into Ginny at Porters Community Farm, I was excited to share with her about our Gainesville Compost initiative, particularly about a new food scrap fermentation solution called bokashi which we have been experimenting with at the Porters plot.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

The Gainesville community behind Porter's Garden

I saw a notice on Facebook that Porter's Community Garden in Gainesville was looking for volunteers to plant donated fruit trees on Wednesday Dec. 5th. I was going to be in town for a couple of other meetings on that day, so I stopped by. What a great community project!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Recipe for Failure: Long-day Onions in Florida.

I love winter gardening in north Florida. We can grow cool-weather vegetables including, lettuce, onions, garlic, cabbage and the other cole crops right through the winter despite the fact that we get 10 or more killing frosts. The soil never gets particularly cold, though because between those frosts we are likely to get some warm days--even up to the high 70s. I've started many of my cool-weather crops this year, but I hadn't started any onions yet. So it was time to start some.

On December 1, most of the onions for sale in a Home Depot here in North Florida were long-day onions! Any grade-school kid can tell you that the days are getting shorter until Winter Solstice, when they will slowly get longer. So if you plant onions now, you will not have long days any time soon and while those onions may grow, they will not form bulbs before our weather gets too hot for them. Long-day onions are for northern gardeners in places like Maine, who plant onions in the spring and leave them in the ground until the days grow long. So what is Bonnie Plants thinking?

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Thanksgiving harvest

"Nantes half " and "cosmic purple" carrots

Happy Thanksgiving!

We're headed down to south Florida to celebrate the holiday with my daughter and her husband. My contributions to dinner come from the garden.

I planted most of these veggies on Labor Day and wrote about in this post: Fall Edibles. I'd planted two types of carrots, "nantes half" and cosmic purple." The purple carrots have matured faster than the orange ones. They both taste great because they are so fresh, but the purple ones flavor is more complex--my husband called the flavor "darker."

The whole harvest

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Sustainable Gardening Program on Sat. 11/17

I'll be giving a presentation on Sustainable Gardening on Saturday 11/17 at the Lyonia Environmental Center. 2150 Eustace Ave., Deltona, FL 32725 in Volusia County. My co-presenter Jim McCuen will speak after my talk with more specifics on the best native plants for your landscape.

Go to the Lyonia Envirnmental Center website for directions and more information on other activities and resources that are available there. While the program is free, registration is requested and can be made by calling:
(386) 789-7207 ext. 253

I hope to see you there!

Green Gardening Matters,
Ginny Stibolt

Friday, November 9, 2012

Green Gardening Matters!

Last month the Blog Action Day theme was "The Power of We." I wrote an article for the Florida Native Plant Society, which was published on the October 15th that talks about how much can be accomplished when members of a group like FNPS works together and with other groups.

"It's easy to see how the Florida Native Plant Society and the combined actions of its 37 chapters - 4,000 members in all - fit within the context of this year's Blog Action Day topic, "The Power of We." Here is a sampling of some of the activities we've engaged in - as a group - for the purpose of conserving and/or restoring Florida's native plant communities and the wildlife that depend upon them."

Continue reading my post with ten action items that show what can be accomplished in a year...

Alone we are small, but together we are mighty

Carole Browne created a group blog Native Plants & Wildlife Gardens, of which I am proud to be a member. Her post for blog action day tells a touching and powerful story of what a dedicated group of people can accomplish.

To sum up this post: Green Gardening Matters

Positive actions that each of us accomplishes adds up to a much greater whole.  So keep up the good works. Mother Nature appreciates it.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Fall weather and planting garlic in wide rows

A green spider with an ominous red spot in a dew-covered web

There has been a turn in the weather over the past three days with temperatures in the 60s and humidity near 100% each morning. These conditions cause dew to collect on spider webs and this makes them really stand out.

I am particularly fond of this tiny green spider with a wicked red spot on her abdomen. Her beautifully symmetrical web is strung between the tallest rosemary spikes by the back door.

Here are a few more...

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Attracting Damsels & Dragons

Common green darners (Anax junius) mating and
laying eggs under the water’s surface.

Many people have long been interested in birding and butterfly gardening, but with the availability of new dragonfly & damselfly field guides, more folks are now identifying and pursuing these interesting insects. And with their beautiful coloration and fun names like variable dancer, common green darner, eastern pondhawk, little blue drogonlet, how can anyone resist?  Plus they eat mosquitoes!

Monday, October 1, 2012

My book is available for preoder

Now available for preorder at at a big discount!
You can preorder Organic Methods for Vegetable Gardening in Florida from
I will be available for speaking to garden-oriented groups and gardenfests from April through June 2013 in north and north central Florida. My coauthor, Melissa Contreras, will be covering south and south central Florida. Send me an email if you're interested.

Green Gardening Matters,
Ginny Stibolt

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Maryland flora I pine for

A view of the Naval Academy from across the Severn River with a fringe of cordgrass in the foreground. 
I spent much of my adult life just north of Annapolis, a delightful place for so many reasons. Last week my husband and I made the trip north to familiar territory for a send-off party for grandson Weber Stibolt, who's heading off to the University of Delaware this fall. He'd just come back from an orientation, which included two days on campus and four days hiking the Maryland section of the Appalachian Trail with a group of ten other freshmen.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

I don't love crape myrtles, but...

A crape myrtle in Ginny's back yard.
I don't love crape myrtles (Lagerstoemia indica & spp.) because they are sooo over planted in Florida. Most species are native to India and other parts of Asia, but they certainly do well here and new varieties are released each year. The Atlas of Florida Vascular Plants shows that it has escaped in a number of counties in central and northern Florida.

As a native plant enthusiast, I would not plant crape myrtles in our landscape. I would choose something native and not so commonly planted.  This way I would add to the diversity of the canopy in our yard and in our neighborhood, which is what we strive for when creating habitat and balanced ecosystems.

That being said, as a sustainable gardener, I let established plants stay as long as they are not invasive. When we bought our house in 2004, there were a few crape myrtles already in the landscape. As is the custom around here, they had been hat-racked at about seven feet high. We did a little judicious pruning to reduce the number of sprouts at the seven-foot level, and now eight years later, this crape myrtle has become a lovely, 25-foot-tall tree.

The insect-eating birds use it as a perch as they wait to pounce on bugs in the lawn, plus the hummingbirds drink the nectar. So while I would not have planted it, I think the crape myrtle enhances our backyard and its ecosytem.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Not more queen palms!

A restaurant wins a landscape award with its queen palms, but why?
The St. Augustine Beach Tree Board and Beautification Advisory Board for landscaping awarded this restaurant with their Best Commercial category. See the article in the St Augustine Times, The Groove landscape wins honor.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Do You Know Snow Squarestem?

Great purple hairstreak on a snow squarestem.
Snow squarestem or salt and pepper (Melanthera nivea), a member of the daisy family (Asteraceae), attracts a high volume of butterflies, skippers, bees, wasps and even hummingbirds. It has only white disk florets in its flower head. Unlike a sunflower, it has no ray florets that look like petals. Its common name comes from the white flowers and its square stems with a mostly opposite leaf arrangement. Many members of the mint family (Lamiaceae) also have square stems and opposite leaves, so when I first heard the common name I assumed that this was in the mint family, but the plants are classified mostly by their flowers’ characteristics, not by their stems or leaves. (See A plant by any common name…)

Friday, August 10, 2012

Cats in the Landscape Controversy

USA Today posted an article House cats kill more critters than thought by Elizabeth Weise, which reported on a study where 60 cats near Athens Geogia were outfitted with tiny crittercams to record what they did while they roamed around their neighborhoods. The results were startling and showed that not only did the cats kill more than previous estimates, but they also endangered themselves.

Screen shot from USA Today

Monday, August 6, 2012

Two Geezers and a Shed!

The garden shed in its original place was too far from the house to be useful.
When we purchased our house back in 2004, it came with an 8 x 10 foot garden shed about 180 feet behind the house, which is about half way down to the lake. In this position, it was too far from the house and garage to store garden tools and it was too far from the lake to be used as storage for boating equipment. We’ve used it to store tomato cages and some little-used tools like a posthole digger. We had not removed the stuff left over from the previous owner—gallons of partially used paint, a pickup truck toolbox, PVC pipe leftover from various projects, a non-working pump, and other junk.

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.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

"It Raineth Every Day," Wm. Shakespeare

Tropical Storm Debby
Our wet season has started early and furiously!

May's 30-year average rainfall for Jacksonville is 3.48"--we received 10.58".

June's 30-year average is 5.37" and it is the start of our five-month wet season (and hurricane season). So far we've had 21.25" with 12.5" in the last three days from Tropical Storm Debby. (This is the first time since they started keeping records of named storms that there have been four before July.)

The weather forecasters originally plotted Debby's path to go westward toward Texas, but she did not listen to their predictions and just sat there in the Gulf of Mexico for days and days. Finally, she turned east rumbled her way across northern Florida. Fortunately, she did not bring too much wind (except for a few tornadoes), but so much water has caused flooding, sinkholes, and slumping of whole roadbeds.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

We have Met the Solution and It is Us

"We have met the enemy and he is us."

Pogo's wise words (via Walt Kelly) have been repeated
often in environmental circles, but have "people" been
listening?? I hope so.

I agree with Pogo and one of the reasons that I continue to write about green gardening and environmental issues is to convince others that each of us can make a significant difference. And when many people change the way they manage their own landscapes and lifestyle choices, the difference is huge. Mother Nature might be able to breathe a sigh of relief.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Summer Solstice 2012

Sunrise this morning as we greet the longest day of the year--6/20/12.
Here's an informative solstice article over on the National Geographic website.

Last year's onion harvest--Granex Sweet onions were yummy!

Day length is an important consideration for gardeners, because plants are dependent on day length to regulate their life cycles. Here in northern Florida, we grow onions right through the winter, but we must use short-day or day-neutral onion varieties, otherwise they'd never form a bulb. In Maine, just the opposite is true--they grow onions in the spring and into the summer during the long days.

Sometimes plants flower in the wrong season because they've confused the temperature and day length signals. The Asian azaleas so widely grown here in the south almost always have some boom in the fall here. And now there's even a variety developed that's been bred to bloom twice a year called "Encore."

Observations in the Landscape

This morning as my husband and I were trimming back the wax myrtles near the driveway, I noticed this cool white cocoon amongst the trimmings. It's about 1.3 inches long and it's fairly hard. Some of the leaves were incorporated into the cocoon.

I had no idea what this was so I posted it on Facebook and had my answer within a few minutes. It's a Polyphemus Moth (Antheraea polyphemus) a type of silk moth.

And so we now slide backward into shorter days until the next Summer Solstice. Enjoy yours.

Green Gardening Matters,
Ginny Stibolt

Monday, June 18, 2012

What if we grew food instead of turf?

I found this image on Facebook and shared it on both the Lawn Reform Coalition and Sustainable Gardening pages. While lots of people "liked" it, even more shared it on their own pages. I found even more shares on other pages--it's gone viral. So this simple idea seems to have captured people's attention.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Pollinator WeeK: June 18 --24

A tiger swallowtail on goldenrod in a
natural meadow.
The US Senate unanimously approved the motion to designate the last week in June as pollinator week. Who says the Senate can't agree on anything? In the past five years the pollinator week celebration has become an international event. This year it's June 18--24.

Much of the focus of pollinator week is on our food supply.  Every third bite of food we eat depends upon pollinators. But since 2006, the colony collapse disorder of the European honeybees has alarmed the beekeeping experts. Honeybees have been used as pollinators for hire. Beekeepers move their hives into an area where a large crop (often a monoculture) awaits pollinators in order for fruit to be formed. For example, a female squash flower, needs to be visited eight to ten times by bees or wasps that have also visited the male flowers for a fruit to form.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Business Advice that's Bad for the Birds

Washington Post business article is off base.
In yesterday's Washington Post business section, "Value Added: Mosquito-control business scratches this entrepreneur’s itch" describes a $300,000 business which is a franchise of the mosquito squad and the owner is a full time firefighter. (Update: the article appears not be be available any more.)

This article is wrong on several points in my opinion, but the one concerning green gardening is that the business is one that damages the environment.

General pesticides kill both the good and bad the bugs, which creates an imbalance in the ecosystem--the predators are left without any prey and so they either move away or don't survive. As the bugs recover, Mother Nature's natural predators including birds, bats, and predatory insects such as ladybugs and praying mantids are gone, so the homeowner poisons again and again. Each time the bad bugs come back in greater numbers and some even build up immunity to that poison. It's called the poison cycle.

The author of this article states at the beginning that he is jealous of this parttime businessman, but at the end of the article he hints at the problems he's caused.
The “product” — the franchisees refrain from using the term “pesticide” — paralyzes and kills the insects.
Usually when I get up in the morning, the birds are all over my front and back lawns, feeding on bugs and the millions of other things living in my neighborhood.
But on Friday, the day after Mosquito Squad sprayed, there wasn’t a bug in sight.

For more details on this vicious poison cycle read: "Just say NO to poisons" or "A poison is a poison is a poison." Plus, in "Sustainable Gardening for Florida," I spend a whole chapter on integrated pest management with details on how to manage pest bugs without poisons.

The Audubon Society estimates that some of our songbird populations have shrunk by 80% since the 1960s. That's a lot of birds and there are additional potential reasons for their demise in addition to residential poison applications: loss of habitat and roaming cats.

Green gardeners can help the birds by:

- not using general pesticides on their properties.
- creating habitat on their properties and in their neighborhoods.
- keeping cats inside and reducing feral cat populations.
- spreading the word.

For more information, see the Resources page.

Green gardening matters,Ginny

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Moving Away from Transplanted Gardener

Back in 2004 when my husband and I moved to northeast Florida, the gardening here was weird for me. Even though I have a masters degreee in Botany and have gardened all my life, almost everything I knew about gardening did not apply. So I started a gardener's log of what I learned and shared it on a website ( and various other media.

I took photos, wrote more than 80 articles, recorded more than 100 podcasts, and now I've written two Florida gardening books for University Press of Florida. The first book Sustainable Gardening for Florida was published in 2009 and has done quite well. The second book, "Organic Methods for Vegetable Gardening in Florida," which I wrote with Melissa Contreras from Miami, will be released in Feb. 2013.(Update: Links to book #2 Organic Methods for Vegetable Gardening in Florida and book #3 The Art of Maintaining a Florida Native Landscape.)