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.

Ooh, the spotted beebalm (Monarda punctata) draws a big crowd, including this wicked-looking cicada killer wasp.
I pulled a cart load of weeds on the first day of fall—Sept.23.

Pollinator-friendly habitat

I edited the raised meadow on the first day of fall by pulling a whole cart-load of weeds, mostly beggarticks (Bidens alba). I left plenty for the bugs, but I try to keep it confined to the back of this meadow along with a stand of snow squarestem (Melanthera nivea), blackberry (Rubus spp.), and behind the spotted beebalm.
A grapevine wreath is easy to put together..  Drying the wreath.
Grape vines are growing into that end of the meadow and I pulled off a number of lengths of grape vine. I took several of them and wound them into a circle to make a fall wreath. After making the first few rounds, I wrapped the next lengths around the wreath strands and tucked in the ends. Once the wood dries and hardens, the leaves will fall off and the wreath will stay together. I like to have fall wreaths where I tuck berried branches into the wreath and tie it with a bow. Of course, I could also make these for Christmas decorations as well. So easy. How sustainable!

The meadow garlic is sprouting.

Fall edibles

The heat of summer is broken, so it's time to plant the cool-weather crops that will go through the winter and also some tender crops to see if we can harvest a reasonable crop before the first frost. Tender crops are tricky because the days are getting shorter, which changes their hormonal output. For the squash family, it means that there may be more male flowers and fewer female flowers. This makes producing fruit an iffy proposition.

I've been finding meadow garlic (Allium canadense) bulbs sprouting in the soil. I harvest those in beds where they do not belong. We use this lovely, easy-to-grow garlic as we'd use any other. Read my post "A Native Herb has Earned a Space Amongst the Mediterranean Herbs."

Freshly planted cool-weathercrops in their wide rows. The trenches between the rows have been filled with pine needles..
Wide row planting uses the principles of square foot gardening where seeds are planted closely, but at just the right distance so there is room to grow. The rows could be 6 or 20 inches wide, but the trenches allow for growth to spill over without impairing the next crop. Also here in Florida, we get torrential rains, so those trenches provide places for the water to flow away without washing out the plants. Read "Wide Row Planting and Trench Composting in the Vegetable Garden."
I raked off the pine needles and created large squash mound. I laid in a 3" layer of grass clippings in the center of the swale and covered it all with compost. 
3 seeds for each planting spot around the rim of the
squash mound increases the odds of planting success..

A fall squash mound

Raising squash in the fall is tricky, but some zucchini is better than no zucchinis at all.  I created a large squash mound and planted it with several types of squash. A black zucchini, a green & white striped squash, butternut squash, a winter squash, a summer squash, and even a pumpkin. So we'll see what takes. 

Since most of the squash seeds have been saved, I planted 3 of each type. If they all sprout, I'll choose the 2 that look the best and pull out the other one. Planting squash at this time of year has one advantage, there are fewer squash borers, but I'll still bury the stems at several spots along each vine to promote extra rooting. 

The whole space will be taken over by vines, but that's okay. I will direct most of them down to the rest of this elongated bed. And the grass in the adjacent lawn is slowing down so not being able to mow for a couple of months will not be a hardship. Stay tuned...

A mini adventure to Wakulla County

Ochlockonee River view. A zebra swallowtail sipping from the local
gayfeather  (Liatris provincialis).
I was to give a presentation to the Florida Native Plant Society chapter in Wakulla County, which is located south of Tallahassee and about half way across Florida's Panhandle. I had no other appointments on either side of this speaking engagement, so my husband & I took our camper van with our kayaks for a 2-day adventure. We camped at the Ochlockonee River State Park. I learned from one of the members of this FNPS chapter that much of the park had been burned in June, so the wildflowers and their pollinators were incredibly thick. The dominant flower was Godfrey's gayfeather (Liatris provincialis), which occurs in only 2 counties. Very nice.
A gulf fritillary is yet another of the many butterflies. Black swallowtail butterfly.
Sarracenia FNPS Chapter in Wakulla County: one stop on the #floweredshirttour 
I hope to meet you at an upcoming engagement. I've only done 8 of the 33 events, so there is still time. See my Appearances Page to find out where in Florida I am on this #FloweredShirtTour.

I've spoken to the Clay
County Delegation for the
last several years.

Fall is County Delegation public meeting time

As an environmentally aware citizen, I always take the time to talk to the open forums that are offered. Many of our elected official haven't given any thought to native plants, poisons used in our environment and other green issues. I encourage you to speak up as well. You'll not only be speaking to the elected officials, but also the room full of aids, local officials, local press, and others.

Here's a post I put together with help from the FNPS policies chair, Gene Kelly. Speak Up for Florida!

Happy first day of fall. It's the perfect time to work in your gardens.

Green Gardening Matters,
Ginny Stibolt

No comments:

Post a Comment