Wednesday, June 19, 2013

A trick I've relied on for many years with my weird yards here and in Denver regarding avoiding code violations is COLOR....people are MUCH less apt to complain, and enforcers less likely to write a citation, if your yard is the most colorful on the block. I have dealt with this company for years, had nice phone chats with the owner, and his bulk prices are VERY fair. Sulphur Cosmos and its hybrids grow effortlessly, self sow like crazy, attract butterflies and are a good bee flower too. An ounce of seeds sown now would have any sunny yard ablaze with color by the end of August and for many years to come. Today I sowed more seeds of Dwarf Lemon Yellow around the perimeter of the new food forest as part of the effort to make it the colorful showcase of my back yard. No annual flower is easier...they even self sow out front right by the hot asphalt where I NEVER water. In Denver, the related species Cosmos bipinnatus, which comes in pinks and whites and red thrives and self sows like crazy......I've always had VERY poor results with in Tampa in my yard and landscape clients' gardens in the 90s, and I've heard this from other gardeners who like me tried both winter and summer. The Sulfur Cosmos is an incredible performer here.

I can imagine extra firm tofu or chicken or duck meat, fresh fish working well with this wonderful sounding Ethiopian recipe!

Serves 4.
  • 1 tbs pomegranate molasses
  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 16 raw king prawns, shelled and deveined
  • 2 bell peppers, chopped
  • salt
Mix together molasses, and next 4 ingredients.  Season with salt and add prawns.  Toss gently and chill, covered, for 2 hours.
Heat grill.
Thread prawns on skewers, alternating with peppers.  Grill 3 minutes per side, basting with leftover marinade.  Serve immediately.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Now that the summer season is here I feel it is important for local gardeners to know that some years ago a local gardener whom I'd given cuttings of Hibisicus radiatus to, without benefit of a computer, renamed it as kenaf and has sold it as such ever since, which has caused folks a lot of confusion as there is growing interest in the real kenaf as a source of fodder, biomass, summer greens for people, and paper pulp. Apparently the cannabis-like shape of the leaves of that annual hibiscus, and tart taste of the leaves, is what inspired them to make this faulty re-identification which has now, unfortunately, spread through the central Florida gardening community. Last week I sowed seeds of the kenaf strain 'Everglades 41' whose leaves do NOT resemble cannabis and that is especially good for eating. But here is the simple way to get clear on this: Hibiscus radiatus bears maroon-magenta blooms (see the pic), usually in the fall, and has leaves much like those of cannabis...all the kenaf strains and cultivars bear pale yellow blooms that VERY closely resemble those of okra (see pic)...some have leaves much like those of cannabis, some have leaves resembling those of okra. They also have a tart taste. I feel that those of us who teach classes, and sell plants to the public, can best serve folks if we do our best to be informed ourselves, even if it means resorting to using a computer now and then. No matter how long we've gardened and studied plants and taught classes, there is always something new to learn, and we can now and then be mistaken, which is okay.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Today when planting papaya seedlings in the center food forest I went back to my old practice of planting clumps of 5-7 of them per hole vs. singly. I have such fertile soil I see no ill effects from crowding, etc., cut down the males when they become apparent, and I end up with a nice little colony that looks like a multi-trunked papaya that bears me OODLES of fruit. I watered them all in with rich water from the move-able duck pond that is simply a dinghy, and will daily as the week ahead looks fairly dry.

I prefer most fruits to be tart vs. super sweet, so it is a treat today begin eating nearly ripe fruits from "Gracie's Grape" that are ripening early in the season. Good grape flavor, decently sweet but a nice bit of tang too. Despite the super mild winter where I had to cover neither basil nor tomatoes, I am getting a very heavy crop from this vine and "Gray Street Grape" that consume the hen house. I'll be using ripe grapes this year plus some super hot peppers out front to make a new "sweet heat" type of hot sauce.

I can't imagine buying a papaya plant for $20 from Home Depot, as they are super easy from ripe fruit ( see recent pic of seeds scooped out of a Caribbean red from the store). But I've now seen three times in 10 years here, plus heard from other gardeners a valuable lesson.....seeds from a Caribbean Red purchased fruit give seedlings that bear in 6-8 months excellent fruits VERY much like a Caribbean Red. BUT....seeds from those second generation fruits either saved on purpose or popping up from compost or in my case, kitchen gray water, produce plants that bear MUCH smaller fruits with much less flavor, best used green Thai style. Seeds from THOSE fruits quite often become plants that bear very small fruits usually devoid of seeds. I now have tons of seedlings coming up in a baby pool garden from kitchen gray the past I'd have transplanted them into gardens but I've learned my lesson and will pull them to feed to the chickens and ducks.

How can ANYONE support fracking as it consumes and pollutes vast amounts of fresh water?!

Last night a very slow moving cell gave me 1.5 inches of rain, so today I will planting a few dozen seedlings of 'Caribbean Red' papaya in beds in my front and back yards.

A friend sent me this link about high-tech indoor gardening.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Good day to brew a gallon of sweet tea for the scoby, clean the kitchen some, polish the living room floor, empty rain buckets, and to use breaks in the rain to decide where to place kiddy pools from the south duck bed into the new center food forest to grow water celery and water spinach for me, and duckweed and azolla for the dinobirds, with gambusia minnows from the big ponds in them for mosquito control. I think Dad would be pleased if he saw my radically tidied up front yard, and outgoing efforts out back to PURGE excess crap, and organize what remains into effective systems for weed control (via ducks and chickens) and total food productivity while being MUCH more aesthetically pleasing and with a LOT more color from mixed sunflowers, cannas in wet container gardens, blue pea vine, and red pentas galore. Pretty sure I will be planting in front of each 250 gallon tote out front a young plant of the lovely deep yellow brugmansia that Norma Bean gave me cuttings of before leaving her home and gardens of thirty one years....within a year they should largely obscure the tanks plus perfume the air each evening. In view of the many seeds and cuttings I planted the three days before Andre arrived, in about a month I should see LOTS of new plants, edible and ornamental, out front and in back. John

As a man with a bitter palate and near-zero sweet tooth, I've found my upper limit...fresh rain-rinsed chicory leaves, simmered in rain water with butter, sea salt, a touch of turmeric (not a big fan of the taste) for about 20 minutes, served with a splash of in-your-face vinegary kombucha tea. I ate the whole bowl with relish, but have no desire for seconds until tomorrow. For some reason, I usually DO get a sense of well-being after feasting on bitter herbs. I think most people could not have gotten down what I just ate. Flower stalks are JUST a couple of weeks I should have oodles of those lovely pale blue flowers behind my mailbox to reseed once again. I feel it is growing even better here than it did in Denver...and when I planted the seeds two winters ago I thought it was a long shot!

Saturday, June 1, 2013

I was very fortunate that a gardener in New Mexico I know through FaceBook first made me aware of this species, then sent me some of a white cultivar. I also bought a packet of 'Big Fields Brown'. We agree both are long shots in the humid heat, but then again years ago I was told by a noted Florida rosarian that the monster climbing rose 'Mermaid' that tragically CONSUMED my Tampa yard grows very poorly here. And my Denver yard had Tea, China, and Noisette roses plus a palm tree that "can't grow in Denver", so why not try these? Both are planted in large, restricted drainage container gardens in my back east bed.....if they fail this summer I'll try again this fall then next spring. A super drought tolerant true bean for central Florida gardens would be wonderful.

After much waffling about how to use the back east bed this summer, as I fell asleep last night I decided to today plant Giant Lima beans all along the fence line that keeps the chickens out, a line of 'Everglades 41' kenaf behind that, and kabocha squash/Seminole pumpkin in the large Water Wise Container Garden buried at the north end. The ample sweet potatoes all across that area should re-emerge soon now that the chickens are again excluded from there after wonderfully de-weeding it in two weeks. I'm framing the gate with 'Heavenly Blue' morning glory, and growing a mix of crops in the remaining several above ground Water Wise Container Gardens, and for the first time, coppicing HARD the Moringa tree in the corner. The Persian Lime and Meyer's Lemon are blooming and fruiting, and the Surinam Cherry just finished bearing its heaviest crop ever. Progress continues at Starnesland.