Wednesday, December 14, 2016
I am trying a method of pit composting to get the area behind my mailbox ready for two roses and quite a few bulbs.....BIG hole partially filled with very old tree trunk sections, Publix plain cat litter, dead banana leaves, about twenty pounds of dried chicken poop from the hen house, quite a bit of 'Mills Magic Rose Mix', trace elements, a lot of undiluted 'Alaska Fish Fertilizer', old rotten eggs, and yard debris. I think the roses ('Graham Thomas' and 'Blush Noisette') will love growing here!
I was inspired to seek these out after seeing on Facebook the photo of Jon and Debbie Butts tree in full fruit on their EcoFarm. These love Florida, are rarely seen or sold, and I have not eaten one since the mid 1970s. Very hard fruit....many people cook them, but I loved them raw. I ordered these from the Arbor Day Foundation.
Monday, November 28, 2016
My two times in Costa Rica, and Tim's many visits to his wife Kathy's native Columbia, we were served in soups chunks of corn cob with giant, chewy, starchy, tender, almost white kernels. Tim is not fond of it but I loved it as someone who does not enjoy modern sweet corn. It took quite a bit of Googling but I found two South American varieties. "Peruvian Giant Yellow" corn has big kernels, but this one has me very excited! I got 35 seeds for $5 after shipping and this March I will plant them in my moist fertile east bed filled with roses and pentas. This will be the first time I've grown corn in easily ten years. "Giant Cuzco". John
Sunday, November 27, 2016
Saturday, November 26, 2016
Today I am planting these multiplier onions in a large Water Wise Container Garden next to the comfrey that Jim Porter gave me. These tiny bulblets are in a small paper bag kept in my produce drawer since summer until today. Tampa is SO not the desert southwest where I have lived in my youth but I won't know if I don't try. John.
For anybody I've shared seeds of the forage rape 'Bonar' with, these are now five weeks old in a baby pool Water Wise Container Garden by my avocado tree. The soil is about six years old, is home made compost containing quite a bit of Publix brand cheap unscented cat litter (made from calcium bentonite clay), one sprinkling back then of dolomite, and has been fed over the years with kitchen gray water and dilute fish emulsion now and then. This it been fed just once with organic 'Mills Magic Rose Mix'. And these plants are still babies! Raw or cooked the leaves are mild and tender, no fibers like in collards. If I still lived in Denver I'd be growing 'Bonar' as an extremely cold hardy crop.....years ago I gave seeds to a rural farmer east of Tampa.....we had a BAD cold front that made Tampa BROWN with severe cold damage.....his 'Bonar' was not even touched by a sustained 14 degrees! John
Thursday, November 24, 2016
I have moved Water Wise Container Gardens I made from recycling bins from the south bed to my kitchen garden beneath the drastically cut back avocado tree, filled each with wonderful compost from very old five gallon Water Wise Container Gardens, and begun planting seeds like these 'Evergreen White Bunching' onions. The addition of about 20% Publix cheap no fragrance cat litter back then did wonders for this soil due to being made from calcium bentonite clay.
Saturday, November 19, 2016
Thursday, November 17, 2016
Here is my fifteen year old West Indian avocado tree a few weeks after a VERY severe pruning and, as Oliver Moore suggested, a girdling but with the bark not removed. In the mean time, with all that dense shade removed I am back to gardening in the Water Wise Container Gardens beneath! The new four foot tall goat fence keeps the chickens finally out. I would love it if I FINALLY got fruits from the tree as I planted that pit back then to celebrate my new home in Tampa after fifteen LONG years in Denver.
Saturday, November 5, 2016
Friday, November 4, 2016
Today I cut back easily 80% of a large 'Potato Mint' (Plectranthus species) that had sprawled over much of my northeast street flower bed before I apply Mills Magic Rose Mix organic fertilizer and give the bed a deep watering. I was disappointed that the very center of maybe 20 inches across is where the tubers seem to be growing. The cuttings will get composted. I have never grown this before so hope I enjoy the tubers. John
Wednesday, November 2, 2016
I am testing four more varieties of garlic that MIGHT actually produce bulbs in Tampa after so many of us having tried so many types over the years, from Cuban to many types of Creole. In Denver garlic was a weed it produced so well! I LOVE garlic....I can't cook without it, so this morning while planting I ate a clove of 'Early Red Italian'. Good flavor but surprisingly mild despite the huge size. Here in Tampa since the 80s I have used the tops like "chives" since I never get any bulbs. If you have never tried fresh raw garlic leaves, do, just by planting a whole bulb from the store. In Denver I grew them in pots each winter in my south and west windows. John
Friday, October 28, 2016
Yesterday I got four kinds of garlic to try in Tampa in hopes of FINALLY finding a variety that produces bulbs vs. just tops from Filaree Garlic Farm: Mexican Red Silver, Mild French, California Early, and Early Red Italian. That last one is THE biggest garlic I have ever seen! I will taste it today. Today I will hopefully choose the four container gardens in my back door kitchen area to plant the cloves in for testing.
Friday, October 14, 2016
I've been growing white alyssum and snapdragons from seeds here in Tampa since the late 70s, and in Denver in the 90s, and have always found them easy when direct sowed in garden beds. So I was baffled when I sowed both in my northeast street bed just before we had rain from Hurricane Matthew, plus watered on no rain days. But I got zero germinationover two weeks in a fertile bed that grows so many perennials and annuals. So I tried a pinch of the seeds in two pots out front and got germination in three days! I have loved Everwilde Farms for years so had full confidence in that bulk seed. I would love to figure out what is going on.
Wednesday, October 12, 2016
One of the many things I enjoy about being sixty three and retired back home in Tampa is connecting all of these life experiences into some element of 20-20 hindsight. I love being true to myself all these years. All those decades of eating and shopping for SO many things in dumpsters gave me so much financial and experiential freedom. I am so glad that those lean times bought my retirement home for cash in 1998 due such frugality so I'd have a new level of freedom. Gardening is a life long classroom for me.
Monday, October 10, 2016
When I bought my retirement home in 1998, south Tampa had hundreds of citrus trees, and part of the joy was that incredible fragrance each winter and spring. Neighbors would give each other whole bags of various kinds of fruit. I had never heard of "Citrus Greening" until it killed my neighbor Theresa's huge juicing orange and pink grapefruit about five years ago that her husband Bill planted in 1961.....now it has wiped out nearly all citrus trees in south Tampa except for one in the pic in a yard two houses west of hers. It too now has Citrus Greening. All of my citrus trees are fine, but they are own root and for years my soil has gotten trace elements from kelp meal, Mill's Magic Rose Mix, azomite, and Sunniland trace elements. The only one I lost was a limequat killed by a flock of Muscovy ducks who's manure burned it to death. Living here has so changed in the absence of citrus trees! I hope that mine continue to do well. John
Saturday, October 8, 2016
I ordered for my Denver friends Michael Mowry and Amy Cara the Racombole garlic that thrived incredibly for me for 14 years in Denver, but that inspired me to AGAIN to research obsessively on garlics that MIGHT grow here in Tampa where day lengths and temps are SO wrong for garlic. For years me and friends in surrounding cities and in rural areas have tried SO many types of Creoles, Spanish, and Cuban garlics that MIGHT grow here but we all got the same results.....a winter annual with delicious leaves but an utter refusal to make bulbs. Garlic won't even grow at all in the summer here! So I looked on line, wrote down new candidates, looked them up, and ordered them from Filaree Garlic: Mexican Red Silver, Mild French, California Early, and Early Red Italian. $35 plus $12.50 shipping. I think of this as gaining knowledge to share....I am no longer a garden writer but share on FaceBook, a Florida gardening forum on Yahoo I've been a founding member of since 2002, plus my blogs. Each variety will be labelled and in different parts of my yard to avoid a mix up. IF any work here I will know by late next spring IF the foliage yellows and dies back and IF I pull up actual new bulbs from the planted cloves. Today I learned there are MANY types of Racombole.....I will never know if the one they got is the same as my Denver one. My instincts tell me that these four might very well grow in Denver.
Sunday, September 25, 2016
"The master in the art of living makes little distinction between his work and his play, his labor and his leisure, his mind and his body, his information and his recreation, his love and his religion. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence at whatever he does, leaving others to decide whether he is working or playing. To him he is always doing both." -- James Michener
My fifteen year old avocado seedling of a large green smooth fruit has never bloomed or fruited and has badly shaded my formerly productive container gardens behind my house. So I will do a severe crown reduction and use all the many downed branches as mulch. I will have light again for those gardens, and perhaps the new tree growth will bloom and fruit. I've learned that mine is a seedling of the tropical type called West Indian, and I was taught much about varieties, grafting, laurel wilt, own root and girdling by smart people like Oliver Moore, Craig Hepworth and Josh Jamison. Along with the intense crown reduction I will take Oliver's advice and do a full girdling of the main trunk with a single cut and leave the bark in place. I will use a hoop saw to remove easily 80% of the branches to admit light to my gardens and see what happens. I planted that pit long ago when I still lived 90% of each year in Denver (38 degrees tonight!) in my then empty yard to celebrate having my retirement home in Tampa. I will be so glad to going back to growing crops in those gardens due to the light, and surrounding the entire area with four foot tall goat fence to keep out my chickens...already I have planted the forage rape 'Bonar' that I love as a winter crop.
Saturday, July 30, 2016
Tuesday, July 19, 2016
There are many strains of this tropical fruit. Today I harvested my first fruits of the strain of Scarlet Mombin that Tanja Vidovic got me at ECHO about four years ago. I have tasted one strain with a big pit and quite un-flavorful pale flesh before at the Tampa Rare Fruit Council.....this one has a small pit and yellow flesh that tastes like a mix of peach and strawberry! The red ones I picked from the branches plus the mulch, but even the pale ones I picked have great fruity flavor, a little tangy which I like better since I don't enjoy sweet ripe fruits. John
Sunday, July 17, 2016
Years ago I grew two red passion fruit plants, each came from seeds from fruit I bought at Publix. One died maybe nine years ago after a freeze, the other killed three years ago by a neighbor's well meaning relative clearing out her yard. About eight years ago a few people and I tried a few differing varieties of yellow passion fruits, but all grew like crazy and made no fruit. Mine is a seedling of a yellow strain I bought three years ago at a Tampa Rare Fruit Council meeting.....they are packed with a truly delicious pulp I will freeze. Tea from the leaves is very mild and is great for treating high blood pressure. Even though squirrels ate maybe a dozen, this is yesterday's harvest of yellow passion fruit plus ones I gave to a neighbor and the one I ate. With this sudden huge abundance of yellow passion fruits today I made a delicious smoothie in my Bullet Blender using the pulp of four fruits, plain soy milk, the heart-aiding sugar D-ribose, food grade diatomaceous earth, and two capsules of magnesium glycinate. Future batches I will also add coconut milk. Wonderful flavor! John
Saturday, July 9, 2016
Friday, July 8, 2016
Many Florida gardeners grow cilantro in the cool months of winter as the plants are very short lived. But packets of seeds are so expensive, so since 2003 I've bought cellophane bags of coriander seeds at Asian stores to be used as a spice for 99 cents. But the last two winters I've gotten no germination....some folks tell me that imported spices are often irradiated. Since I need bulk coriander seeds to make a new batch of harissa I splurged at Jet.com and for just over $14 I got 10 oz. of organic cilantro seeds from India, hoping they are viable. I will plant a shallow teaspoon of seeds in a small pot today to see if I can grow cilantro indoors as a summer annual as I use it in both Mexican and Thai foods, and Publix sells little bundles that are mostly stem for 99 cents. Here's hoping. John
Thursday, July 7, 2016
I turn sixty three next month and will only live once, and all my life since I started gardening at the age of five in Chicago I've been driven by curiosity. Here in Zone 10A south Tampa we have root knot nematodes, almost zero winter dormancy (SO many plants require winter chilling), poor soil and intense summer rains, but my case of perennials just arrived from Annie's Annuals near San Francisco. I grew the rose 'Felicia' for my Tampa customers in the 90s before permanent water restrictions.....I hope it grows for me now. Here are the others, all delivered for just $104.66 cents: Dipogon lignosus (Cape Sweet Pea), Salvia gesneriflora 'Tequila', Calceolaria integrifolia 'Kentish Hero', Iris confusa 'Chengdu', Salvia flocculosa, Iochroma cyanea 'Mr. Plum', and Salvia greggii 'Burgundy Seduction'. Years ago I grew a few forms of Salvia greggii from New Mexico....they made it almost two years. Fingers crossed!
Wednesday, July 6, 2016
When I bought my retirement home in 1998, south Tampa was awash in citrus trees. Once a year the air was laden with that wonderful smell. But Citrus Greening has decimated them. My citrus are fine BUT they are own root and my yard was inoculated with beneficial bacteria and two species of tiny wasps that feed on the psyllid insects that spread Citrus Greening in 2003. When my Dad was ill and I drove to many hospitals on the east coast of Florida, and my return trips to Tampa, I saw entire huge groves being burned. And now the disease has even reached Australia. It is truly a global disease. John
Tuesday, May 3, 2016
I heard of this on FaceBook where I saw terrible pictures of people's Tampa area trees succumbing quickly. I don't think my 15 year old seedling has it but is worrisome....rapid leaf loss and many/most branch dips are very dead....each foot long tip looks very dead, black as if hit by a blow torch.
Monday, May 2, 2016
Sunday, May 1, 2016
I bought as usual a 'Caribbean Red' papaya from Publix in March, ate the flesh, and planted the seeds...and for a LONG time nothing happened. But now daily more and more seedlings are emerging to make a virtual "sod" in their pot! I will have tons to plant and share here.
My giant version of this cornbread turned out wonderful in my new cast iron skillet. I sort of followed the recipe link below, (used a coffee mug vs. a measuring cup) but I used shredded cheddar vs. cottage cheese, half and half instead of broccoli drainings, a small pinch of garlic powder, used less salt and sugar, added a teaspoon of food grade diatomaceous earth for dietary silica, and used aluminum-free baking powder. I used "Bob's Coarse Grind Cornmeal" (yellow) instead of fine, and let the dough sit in the mixing pot for 45 minutes for the cornmeal grains to hydrate before putting it in my huge Lodge cast iron 3.5 quart skillet for baking. The texture and taste is wonderful....THE best cornbread I've ever tasted. This is my second batch of cornbread in my life.....I will never make plain again! I can see why the recipe said to leave it in the oven when baking is "done" for 20 more minutes....the residual heat adds to the browning.