Sunday, December 17, 2017

Holiday Legends of Rosemary

A 9-year old rosemary shrub is 3 feet tall & wide

Rosemary (Salvia rosmarinus formerly known as, Rosmarinus officianalis) is a winter-blooming shrub that grows well throughout Florida. That alone makes it a great choice for your garden. But like a talented actor, rosemary plays multiple roles. It brightens your drought-tolerant landscape, adds flavor to your cooking and aroma to your potpourri. Rosemary has been immortalized in song and classic literature, plus it plays a part in a charming legend of Christmas.

Its waxy needle-like leaves grow from the newer sections of the stems, while the older sections of the stem are covered with a rough gray bark. Rosemary is one of many culinary herbs in the mint family. Others include mints, thyme, marjoram, oregano, sages, monarda, and many others. Plants in our herb gardens produce aromatic chemicals to help to fight off leaf-eating predators, but these properties also add flavor to our cooking and aroma to potpourri mixtures.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Blueberry Hill

Here's how it started, but over the years I converted to a
more nave plant pallet with a big yucca replacing those
hidden ginger lilies. And tropical sage and blue curls
replacing the zinnias.
We lost a sweet gum tree in one of the 2004 hurricanes. There were 4 big storms that year--it was our welcome to Florida because we'd moved here in June of that year.  But instead of grinding out the stump as recommended by the tree guy so we could convert that area to lawn, we covered it with pond muck and compost and build a butterfly garden there in the middle of our back yard.

Read my post from back then, From Stump to Butterfly Haven.

Moving the blueberries

Back in 2009, I planted 3 blueberry bushes that were bred for Florida. I wrote about this adventure in Florida's Blueberries. The bushes were small when I planted them 3 feet from the back of the detached garage.

Monday, September 25, 2017

End of the Seminole pumpkin season

What a bountiful crop! 

The 3 Seminole pumpkin vines took over the whole 18' x 5' bed. Wow. I'm holding a ripe and a green pumpkin--these babies weigh almost 5 pounds each. I got the feeling that if I stood for too long near one of its many growth points, that it would start to twine around my ankle. :-)

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Reworking the elevated rain barrels

I'd been using these elevated barrels since Feb. 2009.

These 3 elevated rain barrels have been well used over the years, because their placement near the edible gardens means that I have been able to use a hose to water thirsty crops rather than hauling watering cans. My back has been grateful.

Our best growing season here in north Florida is Fall, Winter, and early Spring--these are our dry months, but rarely have the barrels run dry during those times. I also have 3 other rain barrels not too far away, but they have not been set up with a single drain like these. See my post Three more barrels for details on how my husband installed them.

After 8 years, it was time to rework the barrels...

Saturday, July 1, 2017

All-American landscape filled with natives

What could be more patriotic than a native landscape that supports Mother Nature??

Belfast castle garden is an example of a non-native and
unsustainable landscape. This is NOT authentic to America.
For far too long, the standard landscaping in our country has ignored the plants that belong here. Maybe it's a throwback to the European upper class castles where impossibly maintained formal gardens and the most exotic plants showed how much wealth they had. This landscape style is not only difficult to maintain, it's also not authentic to America.

It's time for a more patriotic approach...

The All-American Landscape
filled with regionally authentic plants 

Friday, June 9, 2017

Squash family on our menu

3 different species of bee work a
Seminole pumpkin flower.

The Squash family

There are quite a few important crops in this family (Curcubitaceae), from cucumbers and melons to zucchinis and pumpkins, all members of this family have separate male and female flowers which need to be pollinated--most female flowers need to be visited by pollinators (mostly bees and wasps) 7 to 10 times before a fruit forms. The female flower sits atop a small preformed fruit, while the male flower is borne on a long stalk. If a fruit does not grow after the flower fades and it turns yellow, this usually means that it was not fertilized.

Most squash vines put out several to many male flowers first before the first female flower is formed. My guess is that this strategy attracts pollinators to the area before it spends the extra energy to form a female flower.

Up until 2 weeks ago, it's been a dry spring, so I've irrigated the squashes every other day at the minimum to keep them from stressing due to wilting. This has been hand irrigation with rain barrel water, in addition to the once a week landscape-wide irrigation. The reason for this is that squashes need a consistent and generous amount of water to produce the fastest growth of the fruit.

For more detailed information on growing the squash family crops see our book "Organic Methods for Vegetable Gardening in Florida."

Sunday, April 23, 2017

The March for Science

Ready to go

I had scheduled a trip north for several reasons including an event at UMass in Amherst on April 29th. So I extended the trip to include the March for Science in Washington, DC. I have friends and family there so this was a logical stopping place for a couple of days.  I had a "There is No Planet B!!" sign made and I dug out my old lab coat from my days as a botany grad student--I'd embroidered it with plants including a fern up the back, so I'd kept it all these years for some reason, so now I know its real purpose. :-)

Here are some of the photos I took of the event. It was misting in the morning but it was supposed to start clearing around noon. It did not; it rained harder and at times quite hard, but the weather did not scare too many people away. Fortunately, I'd carried my poncho.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Reaching new audiences

The itinerary for the 2nd leg of the Incan Empires cruise.
(The first leg had mostly different ports.)
Surprise! 18 months after applying to be a cruise lecturer for Holland America Line, I received an email on Feb. 10th offering me a choice of the first or second leg of their Incan Empires Cruise (from San Diego to Lima, Peru and back) I chose the 2nd leg (leaving Lima Peru on March 9th) so I'd have an extra 2 weeks to prepare seven 40-minute lectures with most of them being destination oriented. Not much time to prepare; so pretty much almost everything else was put on hold to do the research and pull together coherent presentations and then practice them.

Here is what I submitted:

Presentations by Ginny Stibolt for the 2nd leg of the Incan Empires Cruise: 03/09/17 - 03/24/17 
Destination presentations
 1) Wake Up and Smell the Coffee Details on coffee history, types of coffee, how it's grown and processed.
2) Oceans: The Real Lungs of the World We can thank the oceans' plants for the oxygen in our atmosphere
3) Rainforests: the most Diverse Ecosystems in the World There is so much going on under the calm-looking canopies of the rain forests
4) Farming Methods of the Maya, Aztec, & Inca Growing food on a mass scale was as impressive a feat as building their cities and monuments.
5) Traveling Plants Plants have various methods of self disbursal, but humans have changed the patterns.
General presentations
6)Public Gardens Take a Walk on the Wild Side Traditional public gardens are well-trimmed and orderly, but newer public gardens have emphasized native plants.
7) Gardens around the World: Why do people “Need” to Garden. A tour of gardens large and small, especially those in unusual places.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Harvesting rainbows and other garden tales

Harvested rainbows--carrots that is.

I love how much we eat out of the garden.

This lovely harvest of lettuces and rainbow carrots that have been through their preliminary cleaning with rain barrel water. Their tops have been put in the compost. I'll rinse the carrots again with tap water, but the pre-washing keeps my kitchen cleaner and saves potable water. The lettuces will be the layer just inside a fried flour tortilla for our tuna salad roll-up. The carrots became dippers (along with crackers) for my homemade pesto-based dip for a pot luck lunch at the FNPS retreat at Gold Head State Park in Clay County. The pesto had been frozen since last fall when I picked the last of the fall basil. For the dip I added plain yogurt, mayonnaise, Parmesan cheese and some finely chopped fresh dill. Yummy. Not much was left after the event.

Monday, January 2, 2017

7 Action Items to support Mother Nature in 2017

Many people in our country and elsewhere, including me, are worried about environmental issues because our incoming administration our country is filled with climate change deniers and those who think science is something you can choose to believe in or not. But now is NOT the time to wring our hands and wait to see what happens. Here are 7 ways to take action to help our Mother Earth: Do it today!

There is NO Planet B!

We don't have time to spare, so now is the time to act. 
Mother Earth is our ONLY Planet: Treat with care. We must think of future generations and do better at preserving what is left of public lands and work at restoring spent lands.