Monday, December 23, 2013

The holidays in Florida

Sugar snap peas are delish right from the vine. Starting from the point of the knife: oregano, curly parsley, garlic chives, purple & orange carrots, sugar snap peas.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Clay County Delegation Hearing and Plan Ahead!

Speaking at the Clay County Delegation Hearing.
I spoke before the Clay County Delegation hearing on Nov. 18th. The delegation includes our state senator, Rob Bradley and 2 representatives that claim part of Clay County in their districts: Charlie Van Zant and Travis Cummings. I spoke to this same group last year, which I wrote about in my article: "Supporting Wildlife Beyond Your Garden Gate."

While I still wanted to make the same case that preserving Florida's wildlands is not anti-business, I used different examples and changed the handouts.  So here is my handout to them--I'd printed on green paper. It includes a summary of my presentation and some references for more details.  Again I offered to be their go-to person if they had questions about environmental issues.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Short-day onions & more...

Garlic chives!
The winter edible season has started, but not before a couple of last gasps of the fall crops.

In doing the research for "Organic Methods for Vegetable Gardening in Florida," I planted some garlic chives.  I'd never planted them before and was prepared to be underwhelmed, but not so.  They've grown amazingly well, they are evergreen, and we love the taste--both cooked and raw. Plus they are beautiful even after frequent harvests.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

One week only: signed books offer

From November 10th to the 17th, I am taking online orders for my books. See the Gift Book Offer page. Maybe you know an avid gardener who would love one of my books for a Christmas present. If so, let me know and I will hold off mailing it until the middle of December and include a Christmas card saying the book is a present from you.  But this is the only week I'll be taking orders, so don't wait until then.
Organic Methods for Vegetable
Gardening in Florida
Sustainable Gardening
for Florida
Thanks for your support!

Green Gardening Matters,
Ginny Stibolt

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Sunrise at Spring Park

I went to Spring Park in Green Cove Springs this morning for the sunrise to see the partial solar eclipse. We have too many trees in our neighborhood for a good eastern horizon. What a beautiful morning!
The outlet of the spring into the St. Johns Rive in Green Cove Springs.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Edging project: risks & rewards

Some ongoing fall projects are re-edging the lawn along the back yard and weeding out the shady triangle area. I last edged the shady triangle in the spring, but it's been a couple of years since I edged along the lawn east of the triangle.

Risks of weeding with beggar lice or tick-trefoil. Rewards of wildflowers in the garden.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Rayless sunflowers, fall seedlings, & more

Rayless sunflower & native bee.
When I replaced a 10' x 14' section of lawn with a native garden, I planted several rayless sunflowers (Helianthus radula) as part of the mix. Months later, they are blooming much to the delight of the butterflies and native bees.

These flowers are not showy from a distance because they are missing the showy florets around the edge that look like petals. When we think of sunflowers, we expect to enjoy a big show, but the show here is more subtle and draws you in closer.

I wrote about this plant and reported on the progress on this native pollinator garden in my monthly post over on the Beautiful Native Plants blog: "The beauty is in the eye of the beholder."*

*Just to satisfy my curiosity on this cliché, I looked up the origins of the saying. This particular phrase, "Beauty is in the eye of the Beholder," is a paraphrase of Plato's writings and the theme has been repeated in various ways by different people, including by Shakespeare, over the centuries.  See this phrase finder website for more details.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

An early fall compost pile

Some of the new chips had been sitting in the truck for a few days so they'd
already started composting. They were steaming hot and had turned gray.
Normally I do my major compost building later in the fall when we have lots of dead leaves on hand, but several events occurred this year to speed up the process.

1) I'd depleted my compost supply in building the new edible beds and I had saved a pile of sod that we'd removed, which was waiting to be composted.

2) Some of chips we received last week had been on the truck for several days and had already heated up and turned gray with fungal spores.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

The Eagle has Landed, Fall Gardening, and more...

Fall is the beginning of our best growing season--the cool-weather vegetables. Here in north Florida we normally experience our first frost sometime in late December, but the soil never freezes and we can grow many crops right through the winter. This is why we set up the three planting calendars (for north, central, and south Florida) to begin in September, not January, in "Organic Methods for Vegetable Gardening in Florida." 

After more than a month of in-the-ground composting, freshly uncovered soil in the middle bed.
Kitchen scraps used in the trench between the rows.

The Middle Bed

We have three beds next to the western-facing back of the house: the herb garden next to the porch door, the middle bed, and the north bed.

I'd grown marigolds across most of the north and middle beds over the summer and had also grown tomatoes and peppers in the middle bed. When I finally pulled the tomatoes in August, I turn marigolds under in both beds except for the peppers row--they are still producing to some extent. I also had composted kitchen scraps under all of the north bed.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Invasive vs. Aggressive: plants and animals

Spanish needles (B. alba) is native to Florida,
and so is not invasive

Native plants are NEVER invasive. 

They belong here and work well within the natural ecosystems. A pioneer plant like beggars' ticks (Bidens alba) is certainly aggressive and efficient at completely covering a disturbed site, but after a couple of years, it will give way to other plants in Mother Nature's succession parade, which  depends upon where it's found. The plants that take over could include broom sedge (Andropogon spp.), goldenrod (Solidago spp.), dog fennel (Eupatorium capillifolium), which then my be replaced by pines and oaks after a few years.

- An invasive exotic plant is a naturalized exotic plant that is expanding its range into natural areas and disrupting naturally occurring native plant communities.     
via Florida Invasive Species Council

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Further lawn reduction, more edible garden space, and zebra longwings!

Zebra longwing on tropical sage.

Florida's State Butterfly

This year we’ve had a huge jump in population of Zebra longwing butterflies (Heliconius charithonia). Our property is aflutter with all their striped glory.  They don’t have deep wing beats like a lot of floppy butterflies–their wings hardly move as they fly.  They are skittish compared to some other butterflies, but they are mesmerizing.

This is Florida’s state butterfly and deservedly so, there are more sitings in this state than others. The larval food is the passion vine (Pasiflora spp), but they like it best when it’s grown in the shade.

I’ve been trying for years to create a welcoming habitat for the zebra longwings, so finally we’ve reached the point where this could happen and now we’re teeming with zebras. Continue reading my post over on Beautiful Native Plants blog, Teeming with Zebras.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Nematodes, marigolds, and crop rotation

Marigolds as a cover crop: they are not only useful, but also beautiful and
attract butterflies and bees.
This summer, for several reasons, I skipped most of the summer crops and planted a cover crop of marigolds. I'd also planted a lot of marigolds around the tomatoes earlier in the season--about 3 marigolds for every tomato plant.

This is my experiment to see if I can reduce the root-knot nematode populations in my gardens.

First, as I've been preaching in my talks, just planting marigolds around the tomatoes does not prevent nematode damage. Here is the result...

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Ferns, Yucca, Beautyberry, Snow Squarestem, and a Recipe

Ferns create a soft edge between the woods and the lawn.


I've always loved ferns in the landscape. It's just so relaxing not to have to worry about whether there will be nice flowers and that their color coordinates with others. With ferns, there are never any flowers, so I can just enjoy their fernyness in the landscape.

Read my post "Ferns in the landscape" over on the Beautiful Native Plants blog to see some of my ferns and to learn about their two-stage life cycle.

Tuberous swordfern (Nephrolepis cordifolia) is tremendously invasive in Florida.  I've removed bushels of them from our property, but many more bushels to go.

Beautyberry (Callicarpa americana) is blooming now: unbelievably purple berries to follow. This native shrub is in the mint family and is a favorite of birds in the winter. People make jellies and jams from the berries, but I'd rather feed the birds.

Yucca (Yucca aloifolia) bloom in the morning sunlight. This plant is part of our mailbox garden and the spike with the bloom is ten feet tall! There are a lot of these yuccas in the neighborhood, but they bloomed a month ago including one that is a clone of this plant. Weird.

Mediterranean pasta salad. The recipe is flexible and is a great way to use up whatever you have on hand. This rendition included these items from the garden: the last of my cabbage, tomatoes, green onions, sweet onions, cucumber, garlic chives, chives, Greek oregano and curly parsley. The pesto dressing included sweet onions, garlic chives, garlic, Greek oregano, curly parsley, and dollarweed. The recipe is on page 171 of "Organic Methods for Vegetable Gardening in Florida."

The first snow squarestem (Melanthera nivea) flowers of the season appeared last week. The beautiful pollinator parade has begun! Here's my post on this very-easy-to-grow pollinator plant: Snow squarestem: a bee & butterfly magnet.

Dawn's early light on July 5th from my front yard. Many of the neighbors went crazy with their personal fireworks the previous evening, even though it was pouring rain.

Enjoy the summer in your yard, but garden early in the day to avoid heat stroke!

Green Gardening Matters,
Ginny Stibolt

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Hybrids, GMOs, Heirlooms, and Penney Farms

I will be participating in the "Attic Treasures Sale" to be held June 29 8am--11am in Kohler Park on Clark Avenue in Penney Farms. In addition to talking to me about sustainable and organic gardening, you can shop the vendor tables loaded with items, buy fresh fruits, vegetables, locally-made jams, jellies and preserves.

Come on down! This will be my last event of my three-month long book tour. Proceeds from this event will benefit the J.C. Penney Memorial Scenic Highway.
The 3-mile long  J.C. Penney Memorial Scenic Highway will be further enhanced by proceeds from the June 29th event.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

A Chunk of Lawn Becomes a Native Garden

The showy tickseed coreopsis decorates the edge of
the front meadow. Native bees & butterflies love it!

The view from my office has been improved dramatically since I removed a 12 x 14-foot section of lawn and added native plants.

"Last September I began this set of garden adventures with the purchase of some Elliot’s love grass (Eragrostis elliottii) at a native plant sale. I knew I was going to reduce the tongue of lawn out into the front meadow and wanted to have the grasses to set the area off.

A well-managed edge hides or distracts from a weedy interior.

It was recommended that the grasses be placed three feet apart so they’d have room to grow. So I began, yet again, to remove a large chunk of lawn. I started by clearing the space for the grasses and then creating a nice gently curved line for the lawn’s edge so the lawnmower could easily make one single turn to get it all. I removed the St. Augustine grass over the next couple of weeks and then I covered the bare areas with a thin covering of pine needles. The holidays came and went before anything else happened."

Friday, May 31, 2013

Bye-bye Broccoli: Hello Summer!

Good-bye broccoli! What a bounty we've enjoyed. From the initial harvesting of the main curds (heads) at the end of November through the endless come-again spears until last week, there have been more than 40 harvests!
Broccoli sprouts from the root. I'd never seen or noticed
 this behavior before.  I separated them out and planted
them in a large pot that I put in the shade by the potting
bench.  It will be interesting to see if I can carry
them over until fall.

Transitions in the garden

There's always something going on in the vegetable gardens. I finally removed the old broccoli plants that had been keeping us supplied with all the broccoli we wanted for six months. When I removed these gnarly plants, I noticed that two of them had produced a bunch of sprouts from the roots. I have separated out the sprouts and have planted them in a large pot, which I placed in the shade. Will they last through the long, hot summer?

Friday, May 24, 2013

Only two public events left on the book tour

Talking to people at the Wildflower Festival in Deland
about my vegetables and my books. A fun event.

The "Flowered Shirt" Book Tour

June is upon us and that means that this whirlwind book tour is almost over, and of the six or seven dates left, only one is public.

June 10th I'll be speaking to the Cuplet Fern Chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society in Sanford, FL at 7pm at 200 Fairmont Ave. 32773. My presentation is Ecosystem Gardening and it's open to the public. I will, of course, also be signing books afterwards.


Thursday, May 16, 2013

The last cool-weather crops

It's my opinion that the best growing season here in north Florida is the winter because the cool-weather crops that grow right through to late spring. But now that season is transitioning to the warm/hot weather and those lovely crops that we've enjoyed through the winter are ending their cycles. I've loved that my husband and I have been eating from the same six broccoli plants since November! After harvesting the large curds (heads) shortly after Halloween, they've sent up side shoots with abandon--if we don't pick them every second day or so, they'll bloom, which would signal that they can slow down. I planted a second crop of broccoli in January that are now sending up their own side blooms, so we've been eating lots broccoli!
A harvest earlier this week created ... a whole meal salad.
In the photos above, I created a whole meal salad from this one harvest. Starting with the knife at the bottom and moving clockwise: butterhead lettuce, garlic chives, purple lettuce, curly parsley, chive flowers, come again broccoli. broccoli flowers, and carrots--both orange and cosmic purple. I fried some 7-grain bread in olive oil and wild garlic for croutons and then we created our own oil and vinegar dressing and topped it all off with some Parmesan cheese. Very nice meal. In my presentations, I mention that my husband and I have reduced our food bill by about 15%--whole meal salads are one of our favorites!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

An Edible Gardening Convert

A nice collection of lettuces.
A guest post by Claudia Graves, a college friend and now a new and enthusiastic gardener.

Zero to sixty in three years

My mother could grow anything. It seemed that her touch could bring a sickly plant back from the brink or encourage a healthy one to thrive. “The greenest of green,” is how I used to describe her thumb, but she passed that trait along to my brother only. His plants thrive. Entrance into my house is the kiss of death. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that I kill them with kindness and too much watering. No – I kill them with neglect and abuse. Why use “dirt” other than what lies right outside my door?  Why fertilize except for an occasional blast of some chemical so potent that it produces instant wilting… followed by a high probability of death. And watering? Once every few months should do ‘em. So I have “grown” a lot of lush “plastic plants” in my lifetime and not much else.

Monday, April 29, 2013

The "flowered shirt" book tour continues...

Vero Beach Book Center display
When I talk to groups or attend a garden event, I wear a flowered shirt, so I think of this book tour as the "Flowered Shirt" tour and try to make sure that if I return to an area that no one will see me in the same shirt twice.

I have one more talk with a Master Gardeners group tomorrow and then I'll be finished with the first month of my three-month book tour. April has been the busiest month with 17 events including four two-day events! Whew!

On Earth Day, I spoke to a nice group at the Vero Beach Book Center. I was pleased that Marjorie Shropshire, the illustrator or "Organic Methods...", was there and I could introduce her to the group.

There are still a number of public events yet to come including ones in Pensacola, Tallahassee, Deltona, and my only south Florida appearance in Lake Worth (Palm Beach County). The Lake Worth event will be the only event where both Melissa and I will be making a joint appearance--so come on over.

Friday, April 19, 2013

#1 in Southern Garden Books

Tuesday morning, this happened!
While the "Organic Methods..." book has been hovering in the top ten for Southern Garden Books on Amazon, this is the only time I caught it at the #1 spot.  Yay!  Thanks to everyone who is buying our book.

I'm having a great time talking to people about organic and sustainable gardening on my tour. This weekend, I'll be in St. Augustine and next weekend I'll be in St. Petersburg. It all ends in June.

Green Gardening Matters!

Monday, April 15, 2013

A book review from Tallahassee

A book review from Tallahassee Writers

Here's another excellent review of our book. Reviewer Jenny Crowley ends her review with this:

Stibolt and Contreras have constructed a book that appeals to all who wish to grow and produce organic foods in Florida. It is also a book that will interest those who care about our planet and our environment.

Florida Gardeners, the authors want you to “…have fun eating from your landscape.”

Read this book and rejoice!
Cool! I love it when someone appreciates not only the good information, but also the spirit of our book.

Green Gardening Matters,
Ginny Stibolt

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Spring's in the Air

Our pinxter azalea finally is blooming.
It's late this year.
Normally, here in northeast Florida, our springs are too short and summer comes too soon.  This year has been different. When the hummingbirds arrived a couple of weeks ago, we thought they might freeze their patooties off in the chilly night temperatures that reached down into the 30s. But they have continued to visit the coral honeysuckle flowers (Lonicera sempervirens) each day, so I guess they are tougher than they look.


Our native azaleas (Rhododendron canescens) are blooming a little later than normal this year, but the Japanese azaleas bloomed early and their flowers were ruined by the late frosts. I'd like to start replacing the aliens with natives--maybe this is the year to start the process.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

A review of "Organic Methods for Vegetable Gardening in Florida"

This thorough review in The Daytona Beach News Journal by Karen Gallagher is five pages long--Karen said it was 34 column-inches. I think it captures the essence of our book. It includes an interview with me, a notice of my appearance in Daytona this Wednesday, and it includes one of the many recipes in the book--Ugly Carrot Soup.

When you grow carrots, some of them may be less than perfect, but they taste terrific when you use them in this unusual soup. I've been using this recipe for years and it's changed with the times.  Now it's vegetarian using an olive oil stock made from scratch instead of chicken broth.

So now that vegetables are more expensive than ever, why not let us help you get started with "Organic Methods for Vegetable Gardening in Florida"?

Green gardening Matters!
Ginny Stibolt

Monday, March 25, 2013

And so the tour begins...

My vendor display includes a basket of
edible crops and a vase of wildflowers.

My three-month-long manic book tour consisting of 32 events, including 5 two-days events, started this Saturday with the Annual Wildflower Festival in Deland, FL. I'm on tour to promote my new book "Organic Methods for Vegetable Gardening in Florida." I think people are so ready for this book, that it will outsell my "Sustainable Gardening for Florida" within six months even though the sustainable book has done very well.

It's great to have both books to talk about at an event like this because they each cover different aspects of gardening. I sold a lot of the vegetable book and a few of the sustainable book to folks who were more interested in getting rid of their lawn or building rain gardens.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Old gardeners' tales

Old gardeners' tales are rampant, even these days.

Companion planting advice as shown in this graphic is freely passed along as gospel of the garden. But most of the companion planting pairings (compatible or incompatible) have not been verified with scientific methods.  Nevertheless, books have been written about plants with human emotions such as "love" or "hate" used in their titles.
Don't fall for these old gardeners' tales.

In my research for "Organic Methods for Vegetable Gardening in Florida," I found that the more important thing to keep in mind is the botanical family of the plants so your crop rotation from one season to the next includes different crop families for at least two rounds. This keeps the specific pests guessing and allows the soils to be replenished.

One of my go to resources for garden myths is Linda Chalker-Scott's website, The Informed Gardener. She's an urban extension agent in Washington State and she has access to the professional journals where she researches various gardening traditions to find if the science proves them to be true or not. She's also published two books listing some of the most common myths.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Is native gardening a fairy tale?

Grassleaf Barbara’s Buttons (Marshallia graminifolia)
are beautiful Florida natives suitable for any fairy tale garden…

Once upon a time, a gardener decided that she wanted more butterflies and more birds in her yard. She read books and oodles of online material and then she attended classes, conferences, workshops, and garden fests. After all this education, she found that she really could make a big difference by installing native plants that attract butterflies and birds with their berries and delicious leaves that caterpillars would eat. As a bonus her landscape would be easy to care for since native plants have lived in the wild for eons with no care at all.

After a great quest* far and wide across her realm, she found a local native plant nursery that had the native plants she wanted. She paid the small bounty for the plants and brought them home and everyone (and every bird and butterfly) lived happily ever after. 


Saturday, March 2, 2013

The first rain lily of spring

Three days before this lovely rain lily (Zephyranthes atamasca) emerged, we received 1.8" of rain. Hence the common name...

These lovely native plants are in the amaryllis family and mostly grow in damp ditches. We often see them along roadsides because that's where people and damp ditches most frequently come in close contact.

A couple of years ago, I initiated a rescue of some of these lilies along a roadside near my house. The road was slated to be widened and these lovelies would be buried. I applied to county for a permit, but it took so long to receive permission that by the time I could get a crew together for the rescue, with permit in hand, the ditch had been mowed and the lilies were no longer obvious. I had paced out the the location, so we had somewhere to start, but we were shooting in the dark.  We did find some bulbs and later we planted in local parks and wild lands. 

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Love Your Planet!

My table at the Love Your Planet Day at Flagler College
in St. Augustine on Feb. 11th.

While my book tour doesn't officially get underway until April, I took the opportunity to participate in the "Love Your Planet Day" at Flagler College in St. Augustine. I brought my books and a sample harvest from my garden. I talked to a lot of people and even sold a few books.
First Coast Slow Food table

Thursday, January 31, 2013

And back to cold weather...

Winter harvest.
It's been warm recently and yesterday, it was in the mid 80s! My Lollo Rosso lettuce has bolted (flowered) and has become bitter--not so bitter that we don't still eat it, but it's certainly past its prime. On the other hand my sugar snap peas started blooming again and have produced a bunch of new pods.

My husband and I enjoyed a main course pear salad using all this lettuce and some of the come-again broccoli and peas. The next night we enjoyed a stir fry using the rest of the broccoli, peas and some wild garlic from the garden.  We love eating out of the garden.

This is the 5th or 6th round of small curds from the broccoli plants after the initial big florets. We like these better because they grow so quickly that they are sweeter. The plants are working so hard to produce seed and I keep interrupting them. Eventually, I'll allow them to flower when the next crop of broccoli starts to produce.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Organic Methods for Vegetable Gardening in Florida is in the warehouse!

Melissa and I received the email from University Press of Florida today telling us that our book is in the warehouse and is ready to ship. Yay!

Melissa and I received our covers last week, but I didn't expect the book quite this early. If you've preordered your copy, you should have it soon.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Tomatoes & Peppers from Seed.

Last week my husband and I started our tomato and pepper seeds. We want the seedlings to have a good head start before setting them out in the garden--approximately two months from now. We hope to pot them up to larger pots at least a few weeks before we set them out in the garden.

On the right, a pot half full with mostly composted chips.
On the left, the pot has the seed starter mix on the top.

I'd purchased some organic seed starter soil so the seedlings would have the best chance for success.  This type of potting soil is sterilized to combat damping off and other fungi that sometimes damage new seedlings. We put mostly composted wood chips* in the bottom half of each pot and then added the sterile soil on top to about half and inch from the rim of the pots.

These pots have been used many times, but after each use I wash them with rain barrel water and a brush. Then they are thoroughly dried in the sun before storing them until the next season.