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 NOT 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.

Definition:
- 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 Exotic Pest Plant Council  (www.fleppc.org)

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 Native Plants and Wildlife Gardens blog, Teeming with Zebras.