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.
Anthill built into a yucca plant. 

Imported red fire ants!

A question from a reader: "We are trying to keep our yard as pesticide free as possible, however, we are having a lot of trouble with fire ants. We have a two year old who keeps getting worse and worse reactions to their bites. Can you give me any suggestions for dealing with the problem in a healthy way?"
My answer: Oh, I hate those imported red fire ants and I too suffer from nasty reactions to their stings.
- Boiling water works quickly: pour directly on the top of the hill in a slow steady stream so that it erodes a deep hole into the center of the nest. Warning: this will also kill any plant roots in the area.
- Disruption and cold water will take at least 2 sessions. You dig or rake away the whole top of the hill and then pour a whole watering can (2 or 3 gallons) of water over the area.
- Grits or rice poured on the top of the hill do not work.
- If you must use pesticide, use a bait type which will be taken into the next by workers.
- Never use a landscape-wide pesticide.

I did not use boiling water on the anthill pictured here because it would have killed the yucca. I quickly raked the hill down to soil level with a leaf rake and then poured a whole watering can on the spot. I also poured water on it the next day and then they were gone and I did not receive any ant stings in the process. Yay! 
I was in central Florida and pulled over to snap some photos of these native 12' tall hibiscus (Hibiscus coccineus).

At Riverbend Park in Jupiter, I stopped to take a photo of this native seven sisters lily (Crinum americanum).

What were they thinking?
Back in 2007, the people in this Clay County house that we pass on a regular basis planted 12 queen palms along their fence and directly under the wires. Only 2 of the 12 have survived the winters here in north Florida.

Why do people plant (and more importantly, continue to sell) these queen palms (Syagrus romanzoffiana) in North Florida? Here are the four big reasons why you should find another palm for your landscape:
1) Queen palms are tropical plants and are NOT cold tolerant. If the temperatures dip below 25ยบ F, most of its fronds will die. After a cold winter, if the palm's growing stem survives, it'll look terrible for six months or longer.
2) Unlike most palms, queens are not wind resistant. In a tabulation of trees lost in the hurricanes in 2004 and 2006, queens blew over twice as much as any other palm.
3) Queen palms are not drought tolerant and will require irrigation to survive our seven-moth dry season, especially during a prolonged drought period.
4) Queen palms produce a huge amount of seed, which quickly becomes a smelly mess. Plus in central and south Florida, queens palms have invaded our natural habitats and are listed on the II Florida invasives list put together by the Florida Invasive Species Council (FISC).

And speaking of tropical weather...

Our 5-month wet season began on June 1.

You know it's summer when thunderheads are a daily occurrence. We thought we were going to get a nice cooling shower on a 95-degree day, but no. As ominous as this looked, it dissipated quickly and we didn't receive any rain this day.

Cooking to the harvest

A tabbouleh harvest includes a sprig of mint, curly parsley, garlic chives, and meadow garlic bulbs (not shown) . The parsley has begun to bolt, so it's time to harvest it all. A good chunk of it went into a 3-day tabbouleh--so called because my husband makes enough to provide the main course dinner for the two of us for three days.

For our tabbouleh recipe, read my post From compost to dinners. And if you look in the harvest photo above, you can see some marigolds growing among the Greek oregano. I've planted most of my marigold cover crop for the summer. The marigolds deter root-knot nematodes when planted as a cover crop and dug into the soil a few weeks before planting the fall crops. See my post Results: the nematode experiment for the details of the how and why.

I have been filling up my dance card for this fall. Be sure to check out the Appearances Page to find public events near you.

Green Gardening Matters,
Ginny Stibolt


  1. Nurseries sell tropical palms because they want to make money.
    I am working as a merchandiser in some area garden shops and asked why all the tropical palms (including coconut palms) were being shipped to the stores.
    The response, they're supposed to be annuals.

    The real answer is because they are an easy nursery crop and they don't care.

    1. Unfortunately, you are probably correct. It's an outrageous answer that they consider palm trees, which are not cheap, as an annual.

  2. While I think it is important to use as few pesticides as possible, I think fire ants could be extremely dangerous to a two-year-old, possibly risking anaphylactic shock. This is a situation where I would use an effective bait (such as Amdro) without hesitation.

    1. I don't disagree with your decision for fire ant hills that are close to where your child would be likely to come in contact with them. For ones that are farther away, I'd still use the water and disruption method.

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  4. Sorry Ginny but you're wrong about Grits. Here's the real information on daughter won a college scholarship and went to the International Science Fair with her project on inorganic ways of killing fire ants and guess what: GRITS WON HANDS DOWN. You do not pour grits on top of the mound, that will just cause the ants to relocate. You do not use cooked grits, you do not use instant grits. You use regular uncooked grits and you spread them in an inch wide circle around the perimeter of the mound, never on it. In 7 to 10 days your ants will be eradicated. This only works for fire ants. Not the large red ants or any other type of ant. Boiling water works, but requires reaching the queen or the colony will recolonize. You must spade open the mound when you think you're done and then continue to pour copious amounts of boiling water into the mound as it continues far below ground. It also is a surefire way to get bit.