Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Photo Update

The rain garden - not complete, but almost. I want to add more of the larger river rocks, plus the rain Lilly I ordered two weeks ago - which may have to wait for a Spring planting time.Here are the bromeliads we moved last weekend, looking happy in their new home by the pond. Do you see the frog house? The rescued broken clay pot now serves as a frog abode. The kids enjoy watching the frogs in this pond, especially when the water lilly does well. We often find them sitting on the Lily pads. Presently, there is a big old fish in that pond which may be eating all the tadpoles. We don't see much frog activity lately. I figured the bromeliads would encourage the frog population, as I've often seen frogs sitting in their leaves.
This is the raised bed we built on Saturday. I actually managed to get it all planted with seedlings and seed this morning. It was a good day for this since it was overcast all day. I've been checking on it all day to make sure it doesn't dry out. We installed microsprinklers which should work nicely there.
This is my Mexican sage. This picture doesn't do it or the beautyberry behind it justice. Oh well, I will have to go out there later when there isn't so much glare.These red powder puff flowers (Calliandra haematocephala) grow in the shade along a planting area behind the house. They are basically care-free and just lovely to look at. I haven't seen any hummingbirds or butterflies on them, though I've read they attract them. I'll have to keep my eyes open. They are originally from Bolivia and don't appear to be invasive like many of the other non-natives the previous owners of our property planted.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Pinecone Ginger (Zingiber zerumbet)

I discovered these fabulous flowers growing under the oaks yesterday near the shed. I knew for years that there was a type of ginger growing back there but could never identify it just by its leaves. Whenever I saw these red flowers in the past, I asumed they were bromeliads, since they bloom at the same time and are similar in color. What a nice surprise when Don came with one of them. I'd never seen one up close before, and they have this wonderful scent -fresh and fruity. These are also known as Shampoo ginger. I learned at Floridata that the roots can be used for medicinal purposes, good for upset stomachs and sprained muscles. A good find!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Garden News

We built our first raised bed today. We put 24 bags of top soil, 3 cu.ft. of peat, compost, 4 cu. ft. of vermiculite into the box, plus a pre-planting fertilizer mix made with lime, borax, and Epsom salts. I mixed 5 lbs. dolomitic lime, 1 oz. borax, and 4 oz Epsom salts; then added 1 lb. of the mix. The raised bed was made with concrete blocks and capstones.

I also started a rain garden by the back door. The gutter spout floods this area and washes all the mulch away, leaving a mess every time. I’m hoping to add some rain lilies I ordered from amaryllis-plus.com here soon. For now, I have a couple of ferns in this shady spot. I’ve had to warn the kids that my river rocks are out-of-bounds. Don’t they look tempting?

The other thing we did was transplant three bromeliads to a new home by the little pond. We are being invaded by bromeliads. They are multiplying and thriving on one side of our property, under the oaks. They are in full bloom right now, their flowers do add a splash of color when nothing else seems to be in flower. I know we’ll have to divide them and find new homes for the surplus soon, before they completely take over. I also moved a couple of walking irises from the same vicinity as the bromeliads. They look very pretty by the birdbath in the new fig garden. The walking irises also are being fruitful under the oaks and are spreading like crazy – would anyone like any bromeliads or walking irises?

Photos forthcoming!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Florida Natives

I checked Florida’s Best Native Landscape Plants out of the library yesterday. I am hoping to find some great plants to add to our meadow this Fall. It will be a while until we’ll see a great difference there, but I want to get started before the dry season begins, so the new plants have a chance to become established. I’m hoping to mow the area down to an inch on Saturday. Hopefully, by then, I will have received the native wildflowers I ordered last week. I am going to use the newspaper technique to get rid of some of the grass and plant whatever plants I can transplant over there. This will help with weeds around that area. I also think I can plant wildflowers over newspaper if I cover it with a layer of topsoil first.
From reading the book, I learned that we have a Gumbo Limbo (Bursera simaruba) tree growing on the east side of the house, by the front porch. It has a beautiful, shiny, copper bark. This tree volunteered on that spot a few years ago, and we let it grow in place, not knowing what it was. It now throws a nice shade over that side of the house and porch. The book is beautifully illustrated.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Beautyberry (Callicarpa americana)

This morning, I noticed a mockingbird on our beautyberry bush. It was transplanted last summer from an area on our property that is growing wild. It is low maintenance and pretty, especially when the berries ripen. The mockingbirds seem to love the berries, it is a nice source of food for them and an enjoyment for us to see the birds feasting. There are currently two bushes growing in that spot by the carport. I am hoping to harvest some seed from the berries and propagate into our meadow areas.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Meadow - pt.1

We have decided to turn part of our four acres into meadows. To start with, we will have one in the front along the driveway and one in the back corner of the back yard. This will reduce the amount of mowing and require less maintenance. A meadow does demand a little attention though. We will have to clear saplings every other year, plant wildflowers, mow a path through it, and make sure it isn’t overrun with vines.
Another benefit of a nice meadow is the wildlife it will attract. We will plant wildflowers during the cooler months, sunflowers in summer… With good planning we will see the lower growing wildflowers including black-eyed Susan, coreopsis, gaillardia and butterfly weed in the Spring – with their accompanying butterflies.
In the summer, native grasses such as bluestems and Indian grass will begin to make a show, and dried sunflower heads will provide seeds for birds.
After much searching I found a source of Florida wildflower seeds: Dara Dobson – FFGC Native Plants and Wildflower Chairman, (wildflowersmatter@defuniak.com). I emailed her, and he emailed me back with an order form right away! I can’t wait to get these in the mail!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008


I started two types of pumpkin from seed in July - a giant variety and a Calabaza. This is what they look like in the ground today. They are doing well, and I even saw a baby calabaza. The calabaza has been a reliable producer in our garden for the last two years. I thought it would be fun for the kids if we grew one of the giant varieties. So far, the giant seems to be doing as well as the calabaza.
I learned how to save calabaza seed this year. The plants on this picture are second generation from our garden. I just saw the bees all over the flowers, so I know pollination is still taking place, so I won’t be able to collect their seed; because they will most likely be crossed with the giant variety.
To save any type of pumpkin seed, all you have to do is wash them well and leave them out to dry for three weeks. Shortening the drying period will kill the seeds - I learned the hard way.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Fall Arsenal

As we begin our Fall season this year, I am building up an arsenal. I have been collecting organic homemade recipes to use against garden pests: Bt, lemon soap, onions, garlic… One of my favorite resources for homemade pesticides is Jerry Baker’s Bug Off!.
We haven’t had great success with our Fall gardens in the past, the problem has been the bugs. The most important lesson I learned last year was that our Fall garden has to be sprayed for pests from week one. I am hoping that once the temperatures cool down, sometime in November, we will be well established and enjoying fewer assaults on our garden. The seedlings that go in the Fall fight an uphill battle if they don’t have some pest control help from the beginning.
My plan this Fall is to spray once a week with Bt, Neem Oil (strawberries), and this recipe:
Insect Spray
6 cloves garlic - finely chopped 1 small onion 1 T cayenne pepper 1 T liquid dish soap 1 qt. warm waterMix & let sit overnight. Strain and spray.
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