Saturday, August 30, 2014
I've never liked "Lagos Spinach" (Celosia argentea?) raw as I can taste and feel the high levels of calcium oxalate on my tongue and in my mouth and throat. But unlike the cyanogenic glucossides in chaya, yuca, lima beans, jack beans, sword beans and hyacinth beans it won't out gas during cooking...it has to be leached out. So today for the first time I cooked some chopped in a small pot with water, sea salt and coconut oil for about 15 minutes......delicious, just about identical to true spinach! I was amazed at how purple the cooking water got. These plants came up self sown in an 18 gallon Water Wise Container Garden in the center east bed out back...they are so decorative I will sow seeds in my front street beds that I am colorizing heavily.
Friday, August 29, 2014
I've been making fermented foods like kombucha, natto, tempeh, cheese, dairy kefir and kimchi for years. But I keep learning new techniques from folks at gardening gatherings, on FaceBook and on-line in general. A few months ago I saw on YouTube a new-to-me way of making kimchi...you skip the usual overnight salting/brining and just add the amount desired for taste. Yesterday I made these two jars of green papaya kimchi that way...they will sit on the counter for a week then spend until October in the fridge before I start to enjoy them. One contains pureed dried salted green backs I caught at Picnic Island Beach for added protein. The other contains one pureed ripe Scotch Bonnet pepper for heat. Each contains one pureed frozen Raja Puri banana to provide sugar for the lactic acid forming bacteria. When I've done this "skip the brining" before I got wonderfully crunchy kimchi.
Wednesday, August 27, 2014
Releasing a few tens of thousands of these tiny wasps in the spring of 2003 in my front and back yards has made aphids a non-issue here both on my roses and my food crops ever since. The females lay their eggs inside adult aphids, then the babies hatch and eat their way out. Like mosquitoes, the females need a protein meal to lay eggs, but of pollen vs. blood, especially the pollen of umbillifers like dill, anise, cilantro or cumin. Year after year I have JUST enough aphids, generally on cow peas, to sustain a healthy population of lady bugs and lace wings to further control aphids. Growing roses here as a monoculture, and spraying pesticides, would eliminate this balance that effortlessly controls pests FOR me.
Sunday, August 24, 2014
I know both are good for me but I just don't care for the taste of turmeric or raw moringa, but today I made a DELICIOUS smoothie containing them plus soy flour and dry oatmeal, coconut oil and several vitamins and minerals based on pineapple juice and frozen Raja Puri bananas.
For folks not on FaceBook: ANDY FIRK'S BAMBOO GROVE ANNUAL PLANT SWAP & SALE GARDEN PARTY October 4 - October 5 Oct 4 at 2:00pm to Oct 5 at 1:00pm More details coming soon. SATURDAY: 11 am, onwards: Gates open, $5 entrance fee. Noon - 2: Open meeting of the Southwest Florida Permaculture Group - come network with us, especially if you live from Naples north to Bradenton and inland a bit! 4-5: Garden tour. 5:30-7: Mega plant swap (bring cuttings, seeds, potted plants. Three areas: For give-aways, trades, or plants for sale. I will also have many plants for sale at this event, mostly edible plants. - Times to be announced: Tampa area gardening wiz, John Starnes, will present a workshop on Probiotic Gardening. My favorite worm expert, Sean Moore of Green Leaf Worm Farm, will present a workshop on "The Benefits of Vermicomposting." 7 pm: Potluck dinner (I have all of the utensils, plates, etc., that we need. Plus, the house kitchen will be open for all to use. 8 pm: Slideshow on Florida Food Forests (an updated version of the slideshow that I will show at The 2nd Annual Florida Permaculture Convergence). 10 pm: Quiet time. SUNDAY: 9 am: Potluck breakfast for campers. 1 pm: Gates close. I am heading out at 1 for a hike (my 50th birthday). (Cracker and I have attended 4-5 events there and always have a wonderful time with great folks, cool plants, fun camping and fine potlucks. Plus Andy is the consummate host.) **************************************************************** I've begun propagating and sharing Mary Jo's wonderful red pentas that dates to at least 1993 and that puts to shame any of the modern hybrids of any color in terms of vigor, longevity and constant bloom. Plus unlike the nectar free modern hybrids, it attracts butterflies. Despite the heat I now HOPEFULLY have two batches of Florida's iconic "Pink Cracker Rose" rooting rather than waiting for the autumn cool down. One of my life missions in my 60s is to get this super reliable, fragrant, Florida-friendly rose that was a common sight up until the late 80s back out into landscapes. No diseases or bugs, thrives own root without sprays, with the biggest best formed blooms in the cooler half of the year. ***************************************************************** There's been an increase of backyard chickens and ducks being killed, even in daytime....raccoons and coyotes are suspect. So far no problem here but is happening in Tampa and Pinellas communities.
Thursday, August 21, 2014
Years ago I built a shallow pond in front of my home office using scavenged materials, but each time I take out water hyacinths the water gets too warm for goldfish, then a thick layer of algae covers the hot water cabomba. But I am going to turn this problem into a solution that will beautify my front yard. I love Louisiana Iris, used to collect them, but they do best in VERY swampy acidic conditions, or even standing water. So I am going to lift the few mixed colors that are struggling in 4 gallon Water Wise Container Gardens buried in my fairly dry front gardens, sprinkle some iron sulfate and trace elements into that water to lower the pH, and place them in the pond and let them fully colonize it. In 2-3 years that pond should be STUNNING each March and April! As much as I like growing edible crops, I also love growing plants that are food for the soul. Here are pics of the colors that I think I have.
Tuesday, August 19, 2014
I'm definitely NOT growing again the mystery cowpea I got at the Tampa Rare Fruit Council....I tried frying some young green pods with Fife Creek okra today and they were already SO tough they all went to the chickens. I'll just stick with good old sweet tender hyper-productive "Iron Clay" cowpea.
Some very skilled permaculture gardeners I know who are much tidier than me, have or are facing ongoing upsetting problems with neighbors and code enforcement with their own gardens or community gardens, with one now facing court action demanding they dismantle the garden completely. So I shared with them and others something I've relied on since the mid 80s in my Tampa and Denver yards, and the yards of Tampa clients in Carrollwood and on Davis Island, and in three hoity-toity neighborhoods in Denver......create a dramatic swath of color across the front of the property, closer to the street the better. Folks are MUCH less likely to object to alternative yards if they boast MUCH more color than the others. In those Denver neighborhoods this allowed me to wipe out vast areas of thirsty lawn and replace it with low water use Old Roses, perennials, annuals, herbs and veggies which delighted my clients AND their neighbors even though we were REALLY pushing the limits of the covenants. Many people feel that permaculture yards by nature look "messy" so I suggest that here in Florida people border them with yellow turnera, OLD FASHIONED red pentas (NOT the wimpy modern hybrids), dwarf yellow allamanda, lavender ruellia (Philippine Petunia), red fire spike and Klondyke Yellow Mixed Sulfur Cosmos (see the latter in a small planting in my east street bed by my van a few years ago that this week I extending to the large street facing beds bordered by logs). Sulfur Cosmos is xeric, self sows like crazy, feeds butterflies and honey bees, and is wonderfully cheery looking. I ordered a POUND of seed for just $17 from a company that I've happily dealt with for years, and have enjoyed a few nice phone chats with the owner. Each October I do a mass sowing of Dwarf Jewel Mix nasturtium seeds in my mail box bed (see pic) where they now self sow, and this October will do to in the other two beds as well...those seeds can be gotten very cheaply by the pound from Applewood Seeds in Golden, Colorado, whom I've also dealt with happily for years. I hate to see and hear about what these very gifted gardeners are going through and so want to share this technique that has served me and my landscape clients very well for years despite my own yards often being weedy and messy.....Martha Stewart I am NOT! I hope this proves helpful as here I have no problems year after year.