Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Thanksgiving, gardens, and pesto dressing

My husband and I made the long drive up to Maryland
to visit with friends and family.

Pesto harvest includes garlic chives, meadow garlic, Greek oregano, and lots of basil--I cut it off near the soil line so I can get another harvest before our first frost.  Sweet basil has been prone this fungal blight. I used only the green parts of the leaves.
My plan for my contribution to Thanksgiving dinner was to make some pesto dressing for a tossed salad made mostly from the chef's mix salad greens. I harvested all the basil, which I'd planted at the end of September and was showing signs of disease. I made the pesto using my variable, harvest-based recipe, which you can read in this post: A field trip, a Florida native plant hero and a pasta salad.

Monday, November 16, 2015

After the #FloweredShirtTour

I was leaving for a multi-day trip
at sunrise with my 3 flowered shirts.

"The Art of  Maintaining a
Florida Native Landscape"
I named my latest 11-week book tour (Sept. 1 to Nov. 10) the #FloweredShirtTour. My third book, "The Art of Maintaining a Florida Native Landscape," was published by University Press of Florida in September. Back in May I was a speaker at the Florida Native Plant Society (FNPS) conference and at the end of my talk, I held up my calendar and asked the audience to fill up my dance card. Did they ever!

I sent emails to the contacts on all the chapters' websites and had also arranged to hold an all-day workshop of the chapters on outreach in September. In addition I'd contacted other groups that hold events in the fall and asked to be on their programs. All in all, I ended up with 35 events in 11 weeks. I've documented most of the events on my Appearances Page.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

2015 Master Gardener Conference

A book signing...

At my signing table I not only signed books that people purchased from the IFAS bookstore, I also passed out native plant society brochures with the message that we think Florida should look like Florida and not Hawaii.
It was fun to talk to so many Master Gardeners: many I knew, but others are now new friends.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Florida Local Food Summit 2015

I enjoyed the inspirational gathering of foodies, from farmers & chefs to educators & support groups, in Gainesville on September 19th. There was a lot of great networking going on and this event was structured to encourage these connections. What fun to be part of this.

The weather in Gainesville was glorious, which made the day more enjoyable since much of it took place in a covered pavilion at the end of the agriculture extension building.Next to the pavilion, edible plants were for sale in the parking lot: from tomatoes to blueberries.

The food was fantastic!

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Celebrating the Autumnal Equinox

Our native hibiscus (Hibiscus coccineus) beautifully plans ahead for winter.

Plan for cool weather

While exotic hibiscus plants keep growing and blooming right until they are killed back by frost, our native hibiscus loses its leaves in the most lovely manner and dies back to the ground so there is no shock from frosts.

I think they are sorta like the ant and the grasshopper in the old Aesop's fable. The exotic shrubs are like the grasshopper partying like there's no tomorrow, while the ant tucks away a food supply to carry it over the winter.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Ramping up for fall

Ginny event poster

Book tour

This fall can be best described as frenetic. I now have 29 public events and 5 private ones from Sept. 1 through Nov. 10th.  Can you believe that I'm working a arranging a couple more? I'll have 4 or 5 different presentations. Check out my Appearances Page to see the updated list.

This poster was created by the Cocoplum Florida Native Plant Society Chapter for the 3-hour native plant workshop that they organized and that I'll be leading on Oct. 10th in Stuart, FL.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Listening to your landscape

To have a more sustainable landscape, you need to listen...

As a long-time gardener with a masters degree in botany, I was certain that I could garden in north Florida when my husband and I moved here in 2004. I've told this story before, but I was shocked and surprised at how wrong I was. Some Florida gardening truths were quickly discovered like how tulips don't grow well here, not even as annuals, because our winters include warm spells so the soil doesn't stay cold enough. Other revelations have taken more time...

Tropical sage in the herb garden by the kitchen window.

Listen to the birds & bees

Tropical sage (Salvia coccinea) has monopolized much of my herb garden. I transplant some of it from this location when I plant basil, dill, or one of the other annual herbs, but mostly I leave this native volunteer in place because it attracts hummingbirds, butterflies, several types of bees.

I started the herb garden years ago by ripping out the tea roses and various non-native shrubs that were not doing well in this WSW-facing wall. At first everything was in its assigned place, but when the sage arrived, everything changed. I listened to the birds and the bees who needed this beautiful native more than I needed a neat garden.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Integrated pest management in the edible garden

Squash borers: Take action before they do damage.

I ended up with some volunteer butternut squash vines from kitchen scraps buried in the garden. Normally, I would not be growing them during mid-summer, but we'll see how they do in our hot summer weather.

One action item is to bury the base of the stems and then again along the vine in several places. Then even if the borer moth finds a place to lay her eggs and her larval offspring hollow out the stem, the whole plant will not have to depend upon that one section of stem for water and nutrients. It will have alternative roots. You really really don't want to use any poisons around squashes because each female flower needs to be visited by 7 or more pollinators to ensure fruit production.

Bury the base of the squash stems with compost and mulch with pine needles to keep squash borer moths away. Then bury the vine at several additional places along its length.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Summertime, summertime...

Is it spring or fall?

Several years ago, I purchased this native fall-blooming aster, but each year it has bloomed in both the late spring and early fall.  Its breaking of bud dormancy may be caused by the same length of day as its correct blooming time. Whatever its problem, we do enjoy its surprise show each June.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

New book, book tour, and more

The Art of Maintaining a Florida Native Landscape

Yay! My new book is now available for preorder from Amazon. I've covered a wide array of topics, which I think have not been covered sufficiently in other books and online resources.

List of Chapters

1. Introduction to Natives and Their Ecosystems
2. Planning Native Plant Projects
3. Invasive Exotics
4. Site Preparation and Landscape Editing
5. Selecting, Planting, and Caring for Natives
6. Propagation Techniques
7. Minding Your Edges
8. Managing Freedom Lawns, Lawn Replacements, and Meadows
9. Creating and Maintaining Groves, Hedgerows, and Fencerows
10. Landscaping in Moist Habitats
11. Beyond Your Yard
Appendix I. Suggested Native Plant List
Appendix II. Types of Mulch

Friday, April 10, 2015

Kohlrabi: a versatile cole crop

The weird stem enlargement is about the size of an apple.
Kohlrabi (Brassica oleracea var. gongylodes) is one of the many cole crops (cabbage, kale, collard greens, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, and more), which have all been bred from just one plant species. Kohl is the German word for cabbage—hence they are the "cole crops" and why cabbage salad is called cole slaw. The word kohlrabi means cabbage turnip in German, which makes a lot of sense because of the size and shape of its stem enlargement.

Because kohlrabi is easy-to-grow and has few pests in an organic garden, helps to explain its recently gained popularity with farmers markets and local food groups. It has been grown as a crop in Europe for centuries. Grown for its weird Sputnik-shaped enlarged stem-bulb with leaves sticking out at odd angles. You can consume both the enlarged stem and its leaves.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Remarkable resurrection ferns

Resurrection ferns dried and hydrated.

Resurrection fern (Pleopeltis michauxiana) and tropical resurrection fern (Pleopeltis polypodioides)

While I'd seen spare populations of resurrection ferns when I lived in Maryland, I really became aware of them when I read "Light a Distant Fire," an historic novel about Osceola and the Seminoles by Lucia St. Clair Robson. She wrote about how the scouts could disappear into the ferns on the live oak branches. After we moved to Florida, I came to see how this could be accomplished.

This is a true fern that reproduces via spores, but it is also an epiphyte or air plant. It does not need to be in contact with soil to live. It derives its needs from the air, especially the humidity and dust that it carries.

The common name of resurrection fern is due to its ability to lose 95% of its moisture, stop its photosynthesis, and go into a type of suspended state when it appears to be dead. When it rains or when the humidity becomes high enough, the fronds unfurl and turn green in a matter of hours. Hence the name resurrection fern, because it arises from the dead.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Winter: a good time to remove invasive plants

Wedelia or creeping oxeye daisy (Sphagneticola trilobata): a beautiful invader. 

Less lawn...

When we moved into our house here in North Florida, we let several areas of lawn grow out. I've written about this several times. See From lawn to woods: a retrospective, for what has happened out front.

Here's the other half of the story. Our 1.5 acre lot is long and pie-shaped. Out back is a narrowing strip to the lake. We decided early on that we'd not continue to mow this whole area and just leave a pathway that could be mowed with one trip down and one trip back on the riding mower. The area opens up by the lake, so there is more  mowing to do down there.