Thursday, May 15, 2014

A sweet onion harvest, Frostproof, and more...

A sweet onion harvest

The sweet Granex onion harvest was variable from 5 inches across to less than an inch.
Last week (before the rains came) most of the Granex onion leaves had fallen over, so it was time to harvest them and hang them to dry in the garage. Earlier this week I harvested the short-day onion sampler crop. I talked before about rogue onions that bloomed instead of going dormant--most of the blooming onions came from the sampler crop, especially the purple ones. I made some more rogue onion soup, but this time I used some leftover rice instead of potatoes and pureed it in the food processor. It still tasted great and was so good served cold on these warm days. I planted the onions last November, so it's a long growing season, but we go through a lot of onions, so it's worth the effort. Sweet!  

Onions not suitable for drying included some blooming onions, ones without a enough leaf to hang by, and those that were too small to bother with. I pureed the rogue onion soup this time.

A hairy chickpea pod
The cycle of crops continues with the sugar snap peas turning brown with the warmer weather, the third and last crop of leaf lettuces is beginning to bolt, the third and last crop of carrots is almost ready, and we are still enjoying our come-again broccoli and cabbages, but they'll begin to fade soon. The chickpeas and cucumbers are beginning to bear fruit. The butternut squash and zucchinis are coming along, too. Some of the okra plants have already set their first buds, so maybe we'll get a crop in a few weeks. I love our edibles--there is something new to enjoy every day.

Cucumber vines in a container and the chickpeas next door. The Ashley cucumbers are fat.

A Mother's Day (Re)Treat

My daughter proposed a meetup in central Florida for Mother's Day. I headed south and she headed north and we met at 8:30am in Frostproof, an historic town set between 2 large lakes. The plan was to hike in 2 preserves and then have lunch before heading back to our respective homes. She knows me well. What a great day.

Frostproof, Florida mural at the unlikely-sounding intersection of Wall St. and Scenic Hwy.
Scrub morning-glory

We met at the Frostproof library, left my car there, and headed out together to Hickory Lake Scrub where there are 14 rare and endangered plants. Some are endemic only to the scrubs on the Lake Wales Ridge in the center of Florida's peninsula.

I learned a few new plants for me, including this beautiful scrub morning-glory with its soft pastel blue color. I also liked the Feay's palafox shrub--such beautiful flower heads. I could have spent more time there, because there is so much to see in a scrub if you just slow down to observe.
Feay's palafox (Palafoxia feayi), a Florida endemic shrub in the aster family with a beautiful flower head. 

Dori on the bank of the Peace River.
Our second hiking spot was the Peace River Hammock, which was more heavily wooded and more mosquitoed, but still some interesting plants including this beautiful spring-run spiderlily. The Peace River has a pretty good current. It would be fun to float down it sometime.

After the 2 hikes, it was time for lunch. Dori had scoped out a cool 50's diner called Frostbite, where you can get "ice cream and more." I enjoyed my apple, pecan, & chicken salad; Dori liked her shrimp & chips; and then we did of course order ice cream sundaes. What fun.
A spider lily in the Peace River Hammock.
I stopped on the way home to admire the cloud formations in the Ocala National Forest. A storm was on the way, but it didn't start raining until about the last 10 minutes of my drive.
Clouds outline the landscape in the Ocala National Forest, the 2nd largest forest in Florida.

Do you know your snails?

Rosy wolf snails doing their thing on our sidewalk. Another view of the snail sex.
These rosy wolf snails (Euglandina rosea) are predatory and will feed on slugs, other snails, worms, and other small critters in your gardens. You don't want to kill these helpful snails, so use caution in fighting plant-eating slugs and snails. After taking these photos, we gave them privacy so they could continue their procreation duties.

It runs in the family: my grandson Weber is majoring in chemistry and food science at University of Delaware. He'll be putting his education to good use at his summer job at a Delaware farm.

Ooh, the Stoke's asters (Stokesia laevis) are attracting the native bees.
Summer's upon us. Sustainable gardeners know to get out in the garden only in the early morning hours when it's cool enough to be comfortable.

Green Gardening Matters,
Ginny Stibolt

Monday, May 5, 2014

A field trip, a Florida native plant hero, & pasta salad

I traveled over to Gainesville on May Day to meet with my editor at University Press of Florida and Marjorie Shropshire who will be illustrating my third book, "The Art of Maintaining a Native Landscape." It was a productive meeting and good progress is being made on the book--it's currently out for review. We discussed likely photos for the book and looked at Marjorie's drawings so far. (Marjorie also did the illustrations for "Organic Methods for Vegetable Gardening in Florida.")

Marjorie and I had more work to do on the drawings, so the plan was that she would come back to my house and spend the night before she headed back to south Florida. On the way back to my house we stopped to talk to David Chiappini in Putnam County, but were interrupted by this gorgeous wildflower meadow.

Wow what a great-looking roadside wildflower field.

Barbed wire study...

A Florida native plant hero

We had a great time talking with David Chiappini, a native plant wholesaler. He has done so much to advance the Florida native plant availability. In addition to supplying native plant nurseries with authentic Florida stock, he also co-wrote (with Gil Nelson), and arranged the funding for "Florida's Best Native Landscape Plants: 200 Readily Available Species for Homeowners and Professionals."

This important book includes multiple photos and detailed drawings of each plant and it also provides details on size, where to plant, type of soil, and what to plant with each of the 200 plants. If you are interested in being successful with natives in Florida, this book should be on your bookshelf. David said he is happy to talk to people when they bring his book for reference, especially when it has obviously been well-used with notes, bookmarks, and dog-eared pages.

When I first met David at the Morningside native plant sale last month, he said that he had ideas he'd like to share on what he'd like to see in my book. He was generous with his time and we spent more than an hour talking about native plants and the native plant nursery business. He offered up some great ideas for how it could be of more use from his point of view.

A fieldtrip

After a dinner of Mediterranean pasta salad (See below.), Marjorie and I spent the evening going over the illustrations to make sure they were clear and presented the material accurately. The next morning we put on our hiking shoes and headed out to the Ravines Black Creek Conservation Preserve. It was gray and threatened to rain, but we saw some great plants before the rains came. The preserve had been burned since I'd been here 6 weeks ago. Fire maintenance is an important tool to keep the ecosystem healthy.
Looking over Marjorie's shoulder at a pawpaw flower.

Pinewoods milkweed with a notch-tipped flower longhorn beetle (Typocerus sinuatus). I love the pink veins.

A longleaf pine seedling (Pinus palustris) after a fire. You can see how it survives with its terminal bud protected from damage.A follow up on the mystery of the mossy patch that I wrote about last month in Mother Nature's Mysteries. This post also has more general views of the conservation area.

Marjorie explores the mysterious square patch in the mossy spot. Some of the moss had browned around the edges, but it was still in relatively good shape. I understand how it survives the fires now since it is so moist, but how it got started is indeed still a mystery.

Wow, what beautiful fungi and lichen on this downed log.

Mediterranean pasta salad

I knew that Marjorie would be here for dinner and that we would be arriving at dinner time, so I fixed this hearty salad the day before. We included a detailed recipe for this salad in "Organic Methods for Vegetable Gardening in Florida."

An eclectic harvest including (clockwise from my thumb) 3 rogue onions, leaf lettuces, come-again broccoli, meadow garlic, garlic chives, small zucchinis, sugar snap peas, Swiss chard, dill, rosemary, & curly parsley. In the bottom out of sight are the last few carrots from the second carrot crop. The pesto dressing made from the onions, garlic, garlic chives, parsley, dill plus, olive oil, cider vinegar, sunflower seeds, plain yogurt, mayonnaise, rosemary leaves, & freshly ground pepper. 
I mix the pesto into the salad before I add in the pasta. Here's the salad served on a bed of luttuces. Yummy

The okra swales are planted...

The okra is off and running for the hot summer season. I planted them around 2 swales that I'd enriched with kitchen scraps and then mulched with fresh marigold cuttings to reduce the nematodes. For more details see one of my most popular posts: Okra Swales.

A 10-year retrospective on our front meadow

It started when I posted this photo of my native pinxter azalea on Facebook a couple of weeks ago with the comment that most of the area in the background used to be lawn.
People wanted more information on how the lawn became a wooded area, so I posted From lawn to woods: a retrospective. Someone commented that we had done a lot of work, but in reality, Mother Nature herself did most of the heavy lifting--we just modified her planting scheme.

I hope your landscape is also being transformed into a lower maintenance design that also offers great habitat to birds and butterflies.

Green Gardening Matters,
Ginny Stibolt