Friday, December 31, 2010

"Real Love" most recent video by The Beatles

This is the authentic video for the song the surviving Beatles created using John Lennon's raw vocal tracks....a real gem, as is the wonderfully nostalgic yet trippy video.... I love that white piano opening!

Happy and Healthy and Prosperous and Love Filled 2011


Free Liquid Organic Fertilizer from Muscovy Ducks

Free food dog cage for them to sleep in at night for protection from seashell grit from the high tide line at nearby Picnic Island is GOOD!   John

Waste Not, Want Not....Using Freeze Killed Stalks as Soil Builders

In view of the hard freezes that have slammed Florida even before the usually cold months of January and February, I am re-posting this video from late last spring as now I will be employing the concept in the same area but in a new manner. For the last several weeks the center garden around my main pond my three Muscovy ducks have done a WONDERFUL job of eating down my hated weed 'Spanish Needle' (Bidens) plus the remnants of overgrown Vigna "beans" from last summer, pooping all the time. I can't believe how much work they spared me. Tomorrow I plant in that area two specimens of the productive Mystery Sweet Potato that Jon and Debbie Butz, hosts of WMNF's 'Sustainable Living' radio show gave me this year, then will broadcast seeds of the  ultra cold hardy forage rape 'Bonar' that I have grown so fond of. I will then sprinkle in horse stall sweepings from the stables across the street from my gym at Ballast Point, then  lay in there in criss cross fashion freeze killed stalks from my Bolivian Sunflower (Tithonia diversifiolia) and edible canna and more. This will act as a sheet compost to boost soil fertility while trapping moisture as the Bonar plants grow up between all the stalks. Most of my neighbors take their freeze damage waste to the Manhattan Avenue landfill, but I will use mine as a soil building resource on site. John

Got Fleas Indoors?

Thursday, December 30, 2010

NASA on Global Warming

Despite supposedly clever quips by "climatologists" like Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck, cold snaps like we've experienced  lately don't negate the rising AVERAGE temperature of the Earth. John

My January Classes

Classes being taught here as I refurbish entire yard front and back to embrace Water Wise Container in progress, much to see in the gardens. John

Basics of Frugal Backyard Chicken Raising 1-16-2011 1-29-2011

Many folks these days are considering, or have followed through on, pursuing a long time desire to raise backyard chickens for fresh eggs or even meat they know the origins of. I've had chickens on and off since the mid 90s, and can share how to raise happy, healthy, antibiotic-free chickens and eggs VERY frugally. I am teaching this well-received class twice in January, on the 16th and the 29th, from 11 AM until 1 PM, with a 30 minute Q & A session after. My address is: 3212 West Paxton Avenue, Tampa FL 33611, about 6 blocks south of Gandy and 1 1/2 blocks west of MacDill, jungly yard on the south side. Please park on my side of Paxton off of neighbors' lawns. The cost is $20 per student. Please bring a note pad and pen as we will cover many points. You will receive a pack of winter greens seeds to sow now to provide raw green plant matter VITAL to having healthy backyard chickens. 813 839 0881 or e-mail to RSVP. See you then! John Starnes

Urban Farmsteading Basics 101 1-8-2011 1-22-2011

There is no security more reassuring than daily harvesting fresh meals from your front and back yard, just feet from the kitchen, even if just potted arugula or snow peas or cherry tomatoes for starters, or a fresh chicken egg or meat. But don't know where and how to start? Learn easy ways to deeply cut your water use, to insure fresh salads and root crops and fruits year round, a super cheap solar shower, and more. You'll get a lesson sheet of 15 topics to be covered; please be sure to bring a notepad and pen. Feel free to shoot pics and video. You will receive two free packets of cool weather veggie seeds, plus instructions on their culture, harvest and use. I've taught this class many times and folks say it it thorough and intense. It addresses a way of life and a mindset vs. being just a gardening class. I am teaching this class twice in January, on the 8th and the 22nd, from 11 AM until 1 PM, with a 30 minute Question and Answer session after. My address is: 3212 West Paxton Avenue, Tampa FL 33611, about 6 blocks south of Gandy and 1 1/2 blocks west of MacDill, jungly yard on the south side. Please park on my side of Paxton off of neighbors' lawns. The cost is $20 per student. Happy Gardening! John 813 839 0881

Fermented Foods 101 1-15-2011

Many folks are realizing the wide spectrum of health benefits of eating probiotic fermented foods, but that also they can be very pricey in the health food stores and grocery stores. Garden writer John Starnes (Fine Gardening, St. Pete Times, Florida Gardening) loves to grow and cook and prepare foods for friends and himself, and in this class will show easy very affordable ways to make your own kefir, natto, tempeh, kimchee, and cheese. There will be samples for tasting too. Be sure to bring a note pad and pen to write down the simple steps and ingredients, some of which can come from your own garden. The class will be held on January 15 from 11 AM until 1:30 PM, and the cost is $20 per student. The address is: 3212 West Paxton Avenue Tampa 33611 813 839 0881 Please park along the south side of Paxton to spare the lawns of my neighbors on the north side. Thanks. Come hungry!

Growing Food, Cultivating Freedom and Harvesting Joy 1-30-2011

Growing and raising much of your own food can free you from an unsatisfying job and addiction to the New Serfdom of endless debt as a "consumer". Celebrate this new year by taking this class to learn three basics of successful gardening in central Florida, see the ease of a few backyard chickens for fresh eggs, plus, primarily, get two handouts with 30 key techniques, attitude shifts, and resources that can allow us to discover what we REALLY want out of life, how to live frugally, and ways to shed old, restrictive thinking and living habits and replace them with pleasurable, expansive ones to create a self-perpetuating positive feedback loop of habitual joy and gratitude. People say my trippy livingroom exemplifies "thinking outside of the box that the box came in" so most of the class will be held in there after we tour my urban farm. I feel that happiness is a choice we can make daily, and that we can create our lives vs. them just happening to us, with productive gardening as the key. I will offer this class again on January 30, from 11 AM until 1 PM here at 3212 West Paxton Avenue, Tampa, FL 33611 813 839 0881 to RSVP. Please park on the south side of Paxton. The cost is $20 per student. Each student will receive 1 free packet of easy-to-grow seeds with instructions on their culture and harvest and use. See you then! John

Growing Cold Hardy Veggies and Herbs in 'Water Wise Container Gardens' 1-1-2011, 1-9-2011

Winter is here so now is the perfect time to plant the cold hardy crops that love chilly temps. I had my first veggie garden here in 1967 when I was in 9th grade at Madison Junior High, and have learned since then core principals and techniques that make winter food gardening in central Florida both pleasant and productive. Forget pesticides, forget wasting money on plants and seeds and crops that fail, and forget thinking that you have a brown thumb. Learn how to create a fertile garden site that will bless you with fresh pesticide-free produce for the six cooler months of the year, plus learn how to make your own 'Water Wise Container Gardens' for cheap to free...hey, the idea is to SAVE money, right?!. I am teaching this class twice in January, on the 1st and the 9th , from 11 AM until 1 PM. My address is: 3212 West Paxton Avenue, Tampa FL 33611, about 6 blocks south of Gandy and 1 1/2 blocks west of MacDill, jungly yard on the south side. Please park on my side of Paxton off of neighbors' lawns. The cost is $20 per student. You will receive two free packets of winter crops seeds. I will provide a handout, but be sure to bring a notepad and pen. See you then! John Starnes 813 839 0881

Non-toxic "Green" Pest and Disease Control 1-23-2011

Many homeowners and gardeners and pet lovers alike think we MUST use toxic pesticides to control plant-ravaging bugs and diseases, plus swarms of fleas and roaches and mosquitos that can make make life miserable for us and our animal companions, and poultry mites in our henhouses biting us AND the birds. This class will teach you a great many natural, non-or-least toxic methods of controlling and eliminating those scourges, including biological methods that need be purchased just once from mail order or local sources. All of these control methods are VERY inexpensive (hey, I’m a lifelong pathologically cheap tightwad!) and easy to acquire or make at home. Food self sufficiency gardeners like me CAN enjoy fresh produce all year long by defeating pests without poisoning those crops or the environment. A detailed handout, complimented by the notes you take (bring a pad and pen please) will let you begin right away winning the “battle against bugs and fungus” all year long. I am teaching this class again on January 23, from 11 AM until 1 PM. My address is: 3212 West Paxton Avenue, Tampa FL 33611, about 6 blocks south of Gandy and 1 1/2 blocks west of MacDill, jungly yard on the south side. Please park on my side of Paxton off of neighbors' lawns. The cost is $20 per student. To RSVP call: 813 839 0881 Happy Gardening! John

Hyper-Frugal Tightwad Gardening 1-2-2011

Times are tough for lots of folks these days, plus many are trying to break their dependence on fiat currency, endless debt, store bought corporate-produced food, and soul-draining jobs. But if one is not careful, starting a food garden to “save money” can quickly result in a tomato that has $47 in hidden costs (just an exaggeration but you get my point). Plus one can spend a fortune on basic landscape and yard care supplies. But a lifetime of pathological frugality has taught me MANY ways to grow organic produce for VERY close to free, and to spruce up a tired landscape for next to nothing with free mulches and soil foods, plus low cost edgings, bird baths and more. I will use my back yard as a classroom to teach these tightwad techniques and ideas, plus I will have a handout listing many freebies to be had from our wasteful culture. My free range chickens may walk in and out of the “classroom”. I have some cool garden-related dumpster treasures to share too. I learned a lot of pragmatic hyper-frugal techniques things during the 19 years I ran my organic landscaping business, "THE GARDEN DOCTOR" here and in Denver. The class will be held here, 3212 West Paxton Avenue, Tampa FL 33611 (813 839 0881) on January 2 from 11 AM until 1 PM. To get you in the spirit of “tightwad gardening” I will have free seeds. You can park on the street on my side to avoid damaging neighbor's lawns. The cost is $20 per student, $2 off for every 20 used sturdy 1 gallon pots you bring. This class should very quickly begin paying for itself many times over so you can pay down debt and save up for a rainy day AND end up with a lush and productive landscape and gardens.Happy Gardening! John Starnes

Wednesday, December 29, 2010


While my papayas and bananas and nasturtiums and brugmansias and hedychiums and more have been already zapped by hard freezes twice now, and it is not even January yet, I remind myself that my "Denver Roses" and my two Mystery Grapes, "Gracie's Grape" and "Gray Street Grape", will no doubt benefit from this winter with real sustained dormancy. I look forward to oodles of tasty fruits and sumptuous rose blooms......AFTER I do a LOT of cutting back of freeze-killed plant tissue all OVER my south Tampa yard. John

Monday, December 27, 2010

a GREAT price for 'Alaska Fish Fertilizer'

Great news....I confirmed today what one of my customers told me...the south Tampa Lowe's has 1 gallon jugs of 'Alaska Fish Fertilizer' for just $13.98, QUITE the price considering I've seen it in the low 20s before! Check the Lowe's in your area as it is the ONLY retail soil food I know of that contains ALL plant nutrients, including trace elements. I plug it in every gardening class I teach, so learning of this new low price is stellar news!  John

Finding and preserving the wild species ancestors of our food crops.....

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Excellent Seed Sources

I would like to remind folks that a great local source of imported Asian veggie and herbs seeds (especially if you like to cook Asian cuisine as I do) is the Oceanic Market in downtown Tampa. The produce dept. sells cool things that can be PLANTED vs. eaten, like various hot peppers, watercress, Chinese White Yams (Dioscorea alata), ginger root and galangal ginger root, garlic bulbs, shallots bulbs, sweet potatoes, plus various fresh herbs that can be rooted, and more. Their shelves of dried seeds sold to be cooked are a cheap way of getting seeds of adzuki beans, soybeans, garbanzos, mung beans and many more. My diet is heavy with seaweed and they have a wonderful selection, including the iodine-rich kelp kombu essential to great miso soup. Right outside their scary meat dept. full of creatures still moving are three seeds displays that can include hard to get brassicas like Wong Bok and various Chinese rapes.

Welter Seed and Honey Company in Iowa is a great family company I promote in my gardening classes and are the sources of the various Forage Rapes and Forage Turnips I buy to give to my students, including Bonar and Appin and Pasja and other mild flavored VERY cold hardy brassicas. They have OODLES of grains, even Teff from Ethiopia, plus a vast selection of cover crops and green manures plus seed crops for wild birds. Very reasonable per pound prices in many cases. You can reach them at: or 1-800-728-8450


Tuesday, December 21, 2010

My Parents' Estate in Okeechobee, Florida

Who knows how many eggs and chickens and vegetables and guavas and citrus fruits and melons and Old Roses their property has produced, all with well water? I am sure that part of my gardening "bug" came from Dad. Enjoy, John

Chickens and Ducks for Weed Control and Soil Fertility

Enjoy, John

Nothing like a backyard fire on a cold night

Being "altered" added to the pleasure. John

Holiday Gift Certificates for Gardeners

Gardeners can be difficult to buy holiday gifts for as their interests can be both diverse and eclectic. Plus most of us are on tight budgets these days, so you can use these gift certificates to give your gardening friends and family members a way to choose what THEY want but based on YOUR budget. Gift certificates for my gardening and urban farming classes are $20 each, or your can purchase gift certificates good for exotic food crops plants and seeds for $5 and $10 each. When you send me your order and payment, be sure to provide the name and mailing address of each lucky recipient so I can mail them a lovely, rose-scented, Victorian style gift certificate they can redeem how and when they wish to. Save money AND insure a holiday gift they can really enjoy and benefit more Chia Pets!! Thanks and Happy Gardening. John  813 839 0881

John Starnes
3212 West Paxton Avenue
Tampa FL 33611

Friday, December 17, 2010

Nero Di Toscana Kale: Heirloom Brassica

I grew this for the first time in years last winter and quickly became enamored with the lovely color, mild sweet flavor, and tender stringless texture. It laughed at two nights of 27 degrees cold climates like Denver where I gardened and landscaped for 15 years, it would be a stellar crop for late winter/early spring sowing. This year I started a few dozen from seeds for me and friends, and today I filled two black plastic compost barrels with lasagna layers of dead potted plants, aged wood chips mulch, fresh horse stall sweepings and soil from the chicken scratch path, deep watered, drenched it all with poopy water from the duck's above ground pool (read "dumpster-dived dinghy:), then planted seedlings of 'Nero Di Toscana'. Tampa is having yet another very dry winter, and so I am planting most of my winter crops in Water Wise Container Gardens I make from scavenged plastic buckets and tubs as it takes a LOT of water to keep Tampa's sandy soil damp during a sustained drought.

I can't imagine gardening and eating without the Brassica family.  John

My Free Hurricane Proof Henhouse

Several years ago when I had to go back to Denver each spring (with deep reluctance) to meet commitments there, one early spring during our  annual neighborhood 'Large Item Pickup" here in Tampa where people set out TONS of stuff to be picked up by special garbage trucks and crews, I scored from two homes several LARGE chainlink driveway gates. I did not know WHY I wanted them, but I AM John Starnes.....dumpster diving packrat par excellence'.....I brought them home, leaned them against the east wall of my Tampa home, then headed back to Denver in yet ANOTHER 2,100 mile road trip for me and my poor road weary dog Sweety and my cats Angel and Luvyu.

But one afternoon, when I got to finally be home in Tampa for good, I was delightfully altered on cannabis and free associating how to transform my blank canvas yard....I laid all the gates on the ground to see the possibilities, and soon realized I had JUST the right number to make a VERY sturdy and spacious henhouse by wiring them all together. I built it atop a few layers of scavenged carpet to insure that racoons could not burrow in from the sides. My free range chickens exit it each morning, go in to lay their eggs, and go in at sundown when I close the door.

My total costs?  ZERO! It has endured many hurricanes and now does double duty as a grape arbor for "Gray Street Grape" and "Gracie's Grape" to give the chickens shade in summer, sunny warmth in winter, and OODLES of grapes for me.

Just remember the dumpster diver/scavenger's motto:  "Peek and You Shall Find" !    John

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Increased magnesium intake and lower heart attack risk

This reinforces my decision about seven years ago to along with eating lots of magnesium-rich raw veggies directly from my gardens, to put a sprinkle of Epsom Salts (magnesium sulphate) atop my Cuban coffee grounds in the basket each morning. I also put on a small pinch of potassium chloride and food grade lime to insure that my coffee, along with a heady aroma and taste and caffeine buzz, gives me by default magnesium, sulphur, potassium and calcium each morning.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Freakin' BBBRRRRR!!!!!!

When I let my Siamese cat Luvyu out this morning before sunrise there was frozen sleet pelting my patio gardens! SLEET in Tampa! Some forecasts say 28 degrees the next two nights so I am covering my plumeria and Pig Chaya with inverted garbage cans with a fat candle inside just before sundown. It is VERY windy now just like all last night, but if it gets calm I think central Florida is going to get hammered big time by a truly hard freeze. I'm hoping that blankets over my nasturtiums out front can save them as last winter both sowings were killed. Stay warm!   John

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Update on my home made tofu

Mixed DID curdle very well, and I let it press overnight so it was very firm and dense this morning. But tofu is usually made from full fat soybeans, so my defatted soyflour gave me a tofu that is beige and the texture of slightly damp, VERY dense cornbread with zero elasticity. I fried two slices in a mix of coconut oil, roasted sesame oil and palm oil, and sprinkled them with garlic powder, powdered hot pepper and fish sauce.....they were okay but too mushy vs. chewy like the firm tofu I buy and freeze for two months before thawing and squeezing out the moisture before cooking it. I will freeze half of this, and use the other half to add protein to home made spaghetti sauce I will make to enjoy during this new cold spell. Always fun to play Dr. Frankenstein in my kitchen!  John

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Gratitude Is central to being happy.....

It was not until I endured deep, years long financial duress and seemingly endless winters in Denver, followed by the blessings of coming home to Tampa to a paid for home and no debt, plus good health, friends and the climate that feels "right" to me, the scents of saltwater and citrus blossoms, that I finally knew how to feel deep daily gratitude for my abundances. This concise two part article in 'Psychology Today' is an excellent overview of how to cultivate and make habitual a life posture of gratitude for food in the fridge, a car that runs, being able paying a bill, the scent of flowers in a garden, falling asleep on sheets fresh that day from the clothesline, sharing a meal with a friend, feeling one's hands in rich living soil, an embrace with someone you love....the list is deliciously infinite. Enjoy! John

Easy Cheap Home Made Tofu

I'm one of those guys who not only likes tofu I LOVE it, even chunks of it raw plain, or dipped into soy sauce with wasabi added, or with a bit of pickled long as it is the firm kind. But as a tightwad I flinch handing over $1.29 for less than a pound of tofu that I know is mostly water. So today I am making my first batch of home made tofu since my mushroom-inspired mid-20s.....back then I'd cook soyflour in water then added lemon juice as the coagulant. Here is what is working SO well today.

I recently bought on-line from Honeyville Food Products a 50 lb. bag of defatted, 55% protein soyflour for  $61.29 and $4.49 shipping to help me continue to achieve the muscle mass gains I've been enjoying since adding budget whey protein to my diet....a scoop in my dumpster dived (brand new!) Bullet blender with low fat soymilk, a shake of food grade diatomaceous earth and a few drops of iodine as soon as I come home from the gym Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Even "cheap" whey protein is expensive, so my intent was and is to try scoops of this high protein soyflour in alternating Power Shakes. But with SO MUCH soy flour I can experiment in the of my favorite hobbies. So....I looked up home made tofu making and saw that while there are variations (nigari, gypsum, lemon juice, Epsom salts) the theme is the same....a natural coagulant in the manner of cheese making.

I brought two Brita pitchers' full of filtered water to a boil and added two cups of the soyflour, used a handcrank mixer to smooth out the lumps, and simmered it for about 15 minutes on Low. I put about a cup of filtered water in a steel sauce pan and added about 3 heaping tablespoons of Epsom Salts and a tablespoon of pickling lime (mainly as a calcium source) and brought it to a boil. Within SECONDS of my stirring the solution into the cooling soy milk, the curds began to form! They are now draining in a piece of clean pillowcase in a $1 stainless steel colander from Dollar Tree, then later I will put a few pounds of weight atop the saucer to press out more water. I will let it chill and firm up in the fridge to try out tomorrow.

Barely pennies' worth of Epsom Salts and 2 cups of that soyflour looks like it will yield maybe 2 pounds of FRESH homemade tofu!


Friday, December 10, 2010

True Yams

Hi there! Just came upon your site and it’s really informative. I finally found an image of true yams grown on Guam. Hoping to find it out here in Washington state. But I thought you would like to have this recipe because it’s really good and tasty. Lorenda

Boñelos Dagu

Here is a recipe for Guam's Christmas doughnut. To make it a little more traditional, skip the sugar and flour and just "glop" a squeezed ball of grated dagu into the hot oil.


2 pounds yams (dagu)
2/3 cup of sugar
1-1/2 cups sifted flour
Vegetable oil


1. Peel yam and grate it to fill about four cups.

2. Place grated yam in a medium bowl. Then add sugar and mix with your hands. Gradually add flour while mixing.

3. Heat oil to 350 degrees.

4. Take about 1/2 cup yam batter into one hand and squeeze into small balls, about one to two inches around. Wet hands often and before taking more batter.

5. Place into hot oil and fry for about 10 minutes, turning once or twice. If you use two inches worth of oil, the boñelos dagu will turn up by themselves.

6. Drain boñelos dagu on paper towel. Serve hot with maple syrup.

Pacific Daily News files

Thank you! Yams need HEAT.....up there you might need a greenhouse. May I share your e-mail at my blog minus your last name? John

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Two Quite Different Types of Very Cold Hardy Peas We Can Grow

AUSTRIAN WINTER FIELD PEAS IN OREGONMost of us I am sure have grown English Peas and Snow Peas, plus the Sugar Snap Peas that resulted when the first two were crossed, but there are two other cold loving edible crops bred from the same base species, Pisum sativum. One, Austrian Field Pea, I grew in Denver in early spring when late frosts and snows were a certainty....great soil nitrifier, pods a little tough but edible (starchy seeds, low sugar content) and the usual edible leaves for people and poultry. Seeds are sold in bulk to farmers but should be available by the pound mail order...some folks raise it to feed and lure deer.

The other obscure pea is 'Novella' which has almost all of its leaves replaced by edible tendrils that people snip into salads and omelets, stir fry etc. I think I have a pic; if so I will attach it. A few years ago I bought from an Indian grocer a bag of dried peas to plant just to see what came up....there were 'Novella'! The pods are on par with your usual English Pea...need to be shucked unless picked VERY young. Super cold hardy too.

In Denver, peas of all kinds are SO cold hardy we'd plant them in late fall just before the ground froze to germinate EARLY the next spring, or we'd plant them in EARLY spring just as the ground thawed. I had no damage to peas here in Tampa even during the Christmas Eve Freeze of 1983.

Give Peas a Chance! John

Indoor Winter Gardening

An ordinary onion and sweet potato vines grown in water can provide fresh greens indoors in cold snowy areas.....doing this in Denver helped to save my dietary health and sanity during those seemingly endless winter. These pics were taken in south windows here in my Tampa home. John

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Christopher Cross in concert....'Sailing'

Enjoy, John

Free Viewing of 'Dirt' here in south Tampa

Friday night at 7 PM at the Grass Roots vegan/raw/vegetarian restaurant at 4334 South Manhattan Avenue, east side in a strip mall. These are the good folks who last week shared 'Fresh'. Hope to see you there unless I stick with the original plan of cooking and eating and conversing with a friend who lives near there....we might be attending instead. Come at 6:30 or earlier if you wish to eat there first. John

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Winter in Tampa.....

.....this winter is a dry El Nino winter.....last winter was cold and WET La this lovely evening shower that filled my eaves buckets.  John

A cheap heirloom non-toxic control for bugs, mites and fungi

We’ve all had to deal with fungus problems on roses, squash and more. And we’ve all had aphids, mealy bugs, scale and red spider mites feast on garden treasures too.  Growing plants indoors and in green houses pose a whole new problem due to the absence of predators.  Those funky smelling chemical fungicides and insecticides rarely seem to work for long, and if they do, eating the produce or sniffing the blooms can be pretty scary. Hey, who wants to eat or inhale toxic chemicals when smelling an herb or bloom?  Thankfully, for over 100 years, Southern gardeners have relied on a cheap, non-toxic and VERY effective natural alternative they bought in grocery stores, and that thankfully we can now also order toll free or on-line.

What is it? An old-fashioned lye soap called ‘Kirk’s Castile’. Yup, dissolved in hot water this true soap (most “soaps” these days are detergents) is an organic gardener’s dream come true as a non-toxic all purpose garden spray. I was taught this concept in the 70's when I was an idealistic hippie/art major living in Seminole Heights with wise elderly neighbors who’d used it since the 1930's. These women said that back when they were young gardeners it wasn’t called “organic gardening”…. it was just a very cheap, tried-and-true common sense gardening aid…just splash the used dish and laundry water on plants with fungus and bug problems

To make a small batch of soap spray, rub a bar of “Kirk’s Castile” against a cheese grater, then dissolve 1-3 heaping tablespoon of the soap flakes in 1 gallon of very hot tap water in an old plastic milk jug. Let it sit a couple days, shaking the jug daily to dissolve lumps. Then pour the spray into a trigger spray bottle or your garden pump sprayer then spray the affected plants every 7-10 days till they are dripping. Be sure to apply the spray when you don’t plan on watering for a few days so it can cling to the leaves and do its job. Don’t be afraid to experiment with slightly weaker or stronger strengths as it is non-burning unlike some of the dishwashing detergent liquids you may have tried in vain.

To make a big batch of concentrate for future use, drop a whole bar into a wide mouth gallon container. Fill that jug with 1 gallon very hot tap water and let sit a week, stirring daily. You’ll end up with 1 gallon of a thick soap concentrate that keeps just about forever in a lidded container. To make a batch of spray, dissolve 1 cup of this concentrate in 1 gallon warm water, shake, then pour it into your sprayer. Thus a cheap bar of soap will make you SIXTEEN GALLONS of a very safe and effective fungicide and insecticide that won’t harm the environment nor make your vegetables and flowers and herbs toxic. For tougher problems try 1 part soap concentrate to 10 parts water for a thicker, more potent soap spray. And there is little worry of leaf burn from harsh summer sun.

How does it work? The soap alkalinizes the leaf surface, but powdery mildew and black spot and sooty mold ( on citrus and gardenias) fungi need an ACIDIC leaf cuticle to grow on…plus as a soap it helps to rinse them off. Spray UP at the undersides of the leaves if you are after blackspot fungus on roses.

What’s cool too is that the coconut oil in the soapy water (true soap is an oil or fat plus lye) help suffocate bad bugs by plugging up their breathing holes and permeating their chitinous exoskeletons. (that’ll teach’em ) Aphids on new growth? Spider mites on leaf undersides? Mealy bugs or scale on the stems on shrubs? White fly on your tomatoes? Just spray the plant thoroughly till it drips. Quite often the wing coverings of our garden allies the ladybugs and lacewings seem to spare them by acting as umbrellas. Adding 1 cup of cheap vegetable oil to that soapy gallon and shaking it thoroughly will let you wipe out vast numbers of scale insects.

Okay, its 2010, not 1976, and I am a little more grounded plus happily middle-aged now, and so I am glad that now more and more folks wish for less toxic ways to grow their garden favorites. A century old secret deserves to be better known and tried before we resort to expensive chemical sprays that can kill many unintended and valuable inhabitants of our yards’ ecosystems and endanger our children and pets while adding to the burden of poisons endured by our own bodies, the groundwater and what remains of this beautiful planetary ecology.



Publix, Albertson’s Kirk’s Natural 1-800-825-4757

Free On-line book by the co-founder of Permaculture

Monday, December 6, 2010

Old Rose 'Louise Odier'

The Guide to Old Roses

In Denver my plant was a towering pillar rose in my west-facing front yard. There it was a very good hip setter. See the HelpMeFind link for more data. Oh that fragrance!! Enjoy, John

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Holiday Gift Certificates for Gardeners

Gardeners can be difficult to buy holiday gifts for as their interests can be both diverse and eclectic. Plus most of us are on tight budgets these days, so you can use these gift certificates to give your gardening friends and family members a way to choose what THEY want but based on YOUR budget. Gift certificates for my gardening and urban farming classes are $20 each, or your can purchase gift certificates good for exotic food crops plants and seeds for $5 and $10 each. When you send me your order and payment, be sure to provide the name and mailing address of each lucky recipient so I can mail them a lovely, rose-scented, Victorian style gift certificate they can redeem how and when they wish to. Save money AND insure a holiday gift they can really enjoy and benefit more Chia Pets!! Please note I do no plants shipping, so the $5 and $10 plants certificates are for local use only so they can stop by and get the plants and seeds of their choice. Feel free to call me to ask for more details:   813 839 0881

Thanks and Happy Gardening. John

John Starnes
3212 West Paxton Avenue
Tampa FL 33611

The urban farming/permaculture/organic garden documentary 'Fresh'

As a long time urban farmer and organic gardener who has grown much of my food since 1984, I saw this illuminating documentary last night at a south Tampa organic restaurant on S. Manhattan Avenue and found it to be a powerful catalyst as regards re-defining the functions of various areas of my large back yard. In particular I will devise ways to corral my free range chickens into areas that late each summer get CONSUMED by a very aggressive annual grass. And due to the concept mentioned much of grazing animals on GRASS, I am very likely going to seed 1-2 areas in Bahia grass next summer to use as rotational pastures. Enjoy the trailer and try to see 'Fresh' for a fresh perspective on how we eat and live and work. John

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Urban chickens in San Diego

A great piece about a delightful woman and her chickens!  Enjoy, John

Keeping roots of tropical houseplants warm in snowy cold regions each winter.

A trick I used in Denver in the 1990s to grow bananas and hibiscus and Old Roses indoors each winter was to keep the ROOTS warm:

1. In Denver I grew various Tea and China and Noisette roses in 3 gallon black plastic pots in my south and west windows.....that black plastic acted as a solar collector a rose can live in.

2. In my double-paned hotframes I made in the backyard from discarded, newly manufactured sliding glass patio doors, I had dumpster dived water bed warming pads connected to an extension cord from the garage. All that square footage of warmth let me germinate seeds and grow roses and veggies all winter. Once I insulated the soil mass by burying foot deep slabs of 3 inch thick styrofoam that came from the same door factory, all along the interior of the hot frame's length and width, the heat build up was dramatic.

3.In Denver I grew potted bananas and hibiscus indoors all winter in my livingroom atop dumpster-dived heating pads, like those people use on sore knees and elbows. Tropical plants struggle BIG time when the soil is cold.

4.Here in Tampa I use a heating pad my friend Allen gave me both to heat potted plants, and  to keep baby chickens of all ages warm and snug inside a scavenged plastic dog Igloo-style dog house inside their pen when cold fronts pass through, like last night.

"Peek and You Shall Find!"

(a dumpster diver's motto).

p.s. I usually got heating pads and water bed warming pads from apartment complexes and condos, and sometimes from dumpstsers behind Good Will and St. Vincent de Paul stores in Denver.

Clever Use of Wasted Solar Energy

I love this kind of thinking!   John

Rain Gardens' Benefits

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Rooting Cuttings in Recycled Plastic Cookie Jugs

'What The Bleep Do We Know' potluck at my house

Years ago this remarkable film had a potent effect on me by encouraging me to think and feel more bravely, knowing that my short life will be spent on the  third planet from a benign star shepherding a solar system in an outer arm of a huge spiral of many billions of galaxies. So why think and feel small and "safe" for fear of being considered "weird" or risky actual change? I've watched it easily thirty times over the years, altered and not ( I prefer "not") but it has been well over a year since I immersed myself in its imaginative wonder. Yesterday as my friend Tim and I talked about creating and choosing positive pre-emptive change in our lives vs. just reacting, I decided to host here a small potluck to eat, watch it, then gather around a fire in my back yard to discuss it and our own current state of affairs and dreams. I've hosted easily half a dozen dinners and potlucks to view and discuss this gem and so look forward to this new potluck.

Here is a link to the movie on-line, though the resolution looks low compared to the  DVD on my TV. For me, 'What The Bleep Do We Know' cultivates wonder and gratitude as do my gardens. Enjoy, John

Waste Not, want Not........