Thursday, June 28, 2012
Thank goodness. Now, if I could just send a few inches of this out to Colorado.... Poor souls.
As for us - It will be a long weekend of clean up. We will need to remove the sod and planter from around the rental house, seal it, paint it, make sure that fixes the leaking problem, fix the drywall and the damaged boards inside the wall, replace the carpet and pad, and I'm quite positive I've left something out here.
There is no rain in our forecast for at least a week now. I think I'm OK with that. The rivers near us are all still over capacity. The homes near them are all flooded. We can wait. Besides, I have WAY too much to do to be dodging raindrops right now.
R.I.P. Pig, the turtle. (Yes, that really was her name) Our only real casualty of the storm. While her death can be contributed to the storm it wasn't a direct relation to the storm. Hoping to get Pig II in place before the kids notice. LOL.
The house I was sitting had a minor roof leak that seems OK now, and the chickens are fine although rattled from all the days of high winds. This weekend the girls will have a grand time with them again and hopefully I'll be able to introduce y'all to them. The owner is still a little baffled that we can wrangle them and she can't so she thinks I'm some sort of chicken whisperer. hehehe... I told her I'd be glad to whisper to her chickens any day - when they move into my yard. :-D
Off to get back to normal. Swim lessons today and a Storm (arena football) game tomorrow...how apropos...I swear I wouldn't go but my company is hosting the field so as HR and all I should be there for PR...yeha that's it. It has nothing to do with wanting to take my teenaged kid there and show him how cool we are that we are willing to take him to these things. (He does know that I wouldn't step foot there otherwise!)
'Till next time.
Monday, June 25, 2012
Yippee. Wahoo.... I'm jumping for joy. Can't you tell? No? Hmmm... maybe this is why...
My house however can not be replanted. Thankfully and I hate saying it that way (But it's true) it's not the home that we live in currently. It's the house that we rent out...but it still stinks. We just spent our savings buying a car so now any repairs we need to make (and we NEED to make) will have to be on the credit cards. The house is flooding up through the wall and floor joint, and at the window as well. Life is wonderful. *Please note the slight sarcasm choking me here*
The carpets and drywall will need replaced and of course whatever repair needs to be made... *sigh* Mother Nature sure is fickle. We can't even begin to find someone to come out to find the problem or a solution until it stops raining.
When will that be?
I sure hope we don't end up with another 9" every 24 hours. I can handle dreary and somewhat rainy, but this much rain is not what I want. I need a little relief so my poor renters don't cry for a ...a.... mutiny. Considering all the rain I feel like I need a sea themed post here.
Here is the main harvest for this week. Pathetic - but it's a harvest!
Update on Debby later. We are VERY wet.
Linking into Daphne's Dandelions on this very wet Monday. Make sure yous top by and check out what others are harvesting all over the world! (I bet they aren't so wet!)
'Till next time!
Thursday, June 21, 2012
Something I certainly have never seen before anyway.
Have you seen this before?
|photo property of UF|
Wednesday, June 20, 2012
Every year I fail to find this mythical and magical plant. I find the same thing time after time. "You can only plant...."
WHAT? Or "You shouldn't plant, allow the soil to rest..." WHO SAYS? Grrr... These websites all list one or two things that grow here in our rather sticky conditions and nothing else. Either the typical or atypical things and then nothing else.
The other thing I see is that the sites are geared to either veggie growers or flower gardeners and I guess I can understand that. But a lot of the cool weather veggie gardeners get info on combining crops. I just don't understand why there isn't any info out there for us folk down here. I'd like to know what to plant companion wise with some of these stranger things. Heck, for that matter I'd like to know where to get them or what in the world they taste like, what texture they have. Anything!? But it seems that in order to glean this information around here you have to attend a seminar for $20 or go to a nursery in South Florida where they actually DO grow these things. But, they are only open to the public for those exhibitions a couple times a year and honestly I don't know that they'll let you walk around and just go tasting their plants and all.
Each time I think I have a great little (edible and exotic) nursery under the radar it either closes or changes hands. Sometimes they just can't make ends meet and they stop carrying the things I'm interested in the most - usually just before the summer when their business gets slower and I'm looking for the things like this. *sigh*
SO - are we Central and South Florida gardeners really stuck to just:
That answer is a resounding HECK NO!
First off let's just look at the family of those plants. Okra belongs in the hibiscus family and that lends us to Roselle.
|Roselle - pic from google search|
Sweet Potato belongs in the same family as the morning glory. You wouldn't think that this is a flower that does well here, but it does. We even have our own versions of it. Beach morning glory actually lines some of our coastal dunes and Swamp cabbage is something that I grew up hearing about along with water spinach. All nicknames for the water morning glory. It's vine float along the (more passive) waterways here. Rarely seen now though.
Along with sweet potatoes other tuber type crops that you would think are related do well here all summer like yarrow, yams, jicama, Jerusalem artichoke, ginger, taro...taro makes poi. Poi sits next to the lomi lomi... I need a luau! I do make a killer Kalua pulled pork. Did you know I lived in Hawaiii for a while? I so need a vacation. I may live here by the ocean breezes but it's so rare I get to enjoy them, even though it feels like they are a part of my blood. *sigh*
Back to business. Where was I? Oh yes. I am up to peanuts. A legume really and belongs to the same family as beans and peas - fair weather friends in my book. We'll see the rest of them again in fall.
Black-eyed peas however, now those open up a whole other world of goodies. Crowders, long beans, cowpeas, things that can be substituted for my fair weathered friends the grean beans. They can also be shellies or dry beans. Yep this is a category I love. But for more reasons than just because they grow here. Because the entire plant (OK not really the stem or roots but you get the idea) can be eaten and used. There are so many different types of these beans.
|picture courtesy of informedfarmers.com|
Another choice is long beans. They are Asian and the humidity doesn't seem to bother them much. Aphids like them like every other bean so be on the lookout and have your spray bottle of soap and water handy. My little 5' trellis isn't enough to keep them happy. They need more space to keep gowing and growing. There are red beans and green beans but be sure to get them young. They are best before hey reach a foot long. 55 days is all it takes for most vines to produce here because the respond so well. But northerners should know it does take more time where heat and light are less.
Unrelated to any of the 4 types of plants that are usually suggested to plant in our summers? Those atypical that you can find by going to seminars and hearing about through the grapevine. We crunchy type like talking about self sustainability. I'm along way from that so I don't know if I should say 'we' but I do like to talk about it. I did mention some in the roots and tubers, but there are more. Certainly the alligator pear gets it's name fairly. It's also known as Choyote or Chaya. Malabar Spinach, New Zealand spinach, amaranth, calalloo are all hot weather spinach or greens substitutes.
Calabaza and Seminole pumpkin are the two main winter squash that will grow during our long hot summers. They are both regional favorites. The calabaza is from Central/South America and it is a c. moshata. This means it has a much better resistance to insects like the squash vine borer and to some diseases as well. As such it does well here and since it's from a hot and humid region it already has adapted to our environment. Bonus! The Seminole pumpkin is in the same family and was said to be brought from the Seminole Indians. There are several styles of this pumpkin and both look similar to the calabazas skin. Word of caution. These vines really and truly LOVE our heat. watch out for anything within 30' because it will be over run with the vines if you are not very careful. You'll be handsomely rewarded with a large supply of sweet orange fleshed winter storage squash, but you will need a lot of space. (Something I don't have much of)
Now - all that said you'd think I'd have a garden so full and lush.... but alas - I do not. Many of the plants that do thrive here are large and unrelenting. I have only a small space to use. I also don't have a good place to buy plants from. I do attend swaps and I have gotten quite a few plants from there. It's always great to try new things that way, but slow. I have almost no vertical space so that is limiting as well. A lot of these things are climbers after all. Other things are only hard to get because after all who wants to pay $12 (or MORE!) for a packet of a few seeds to find out after planting 2 that you hate something?
|photo courtesy of ME!|
So yes, I plant okra, peanuts, sweet potato and cowpeas in my garden. I happen to like them, Thank you very much. I'm just looking for diversity and information that is easier to get all in one place. I know that a lot of the problem has to do with losing the mainstay crops that I love. The tomatoes are gone for a while and the harvests are in a lull. It creates this need in me to change things. To find something that can take the place of those things and nothing can. Only time. The tomatillos WILL ripen eventually. They will take the place of the tomatoes. But as usual my timing was off. Or maybe the plants timing is. ;-) The cowpeas will be along shortly. The sweet potatoes and the peanuts take longer than green beans do so the summer heat makes us lazy? It makes our plants lazy, too.
Maybe I'll grab a beach towel and find myself a relaxing spot. I can't do anything to change the time so I may as well enjoy it, right? This year I am trying soybeans for the first time. The squirrels or birds one thought they were a huge hit. Let's hope there is at least enough of a harvest to enjoy and find out if they are worth growing again. Those $12 seeds I was talking about? Yup - these are some of those. Only enough to plant a small 2' square patch and now full 2/3 are gone. Good news on those though. I did plant them early enough that they already have beans on the plant. Who knew they were so hairy!? Can't wait to share that with ya!
Meanwhile I'm still sowing some crowders and looking for that elusive new plant. Think I'll try a new tomatillo, too.
|I do love tomatillos...|
Monday, June 18, 2012
Harvests are much slower now.
This is the main harvest this week:
The onions I harvested? Just over ten pounds worth and when all was said and done I was only able to save my sanity and 25 ounces. Talk about a let down. 19 ounces in garlic. 1 pound of leeks.
This weeks harvest totals - 1lb 2oz concord grapes, 8oz tomatoes, 2oz broccoli, 6oz okra and a few measly greenbeans I'm not counting because I fed them to the hens (next door) I also got 2oz basil and a large fistful of parsley that I started to dry until I realized there was something wrong with it. (looked like pin holes through the leaves...*sigh*) so I'm yanking out the old parsley and starting a new batch. This one was 3 years old so I had to expect it to have something wrong sooner or later.
The garden is (mostly) bare and awaiting turning under. I got all those spots yanked out that needed it and now summer planting can start as soon as I can get the turning, compost topping and sowing done.
'Till next time!
Monday, June 11, 2012
To clear the way for the summer crops a lot of the beds needed cleared the bush beans, the allium bed (and carrots with them) both had to be cleared:
Friday, June 8, 2012
But I couldn't lose my blog. So I have a safety net. I have 2 identities here. :-D That way I can at the least reset the password on one or the other to get in and post. Posting via email in the interim worked, but then I still couldn't post the comments or update, post links, etc. It just felt strange knowing the blog was all by itself. Lonely on the web. Kind of like leaving a teenager at home by themselves for the first time. The same way I feel when I go on vacation and leave the garden all by itself. LOL.
At any rate - I'm back in. Once I got here I realized I REALLY need to update the harvest tally. So I'll try to work on that today so I can update it by Monday.
The caution sign actually floated away you can see it up on in the parking lot. I need to bring a paddle to work to make sure that I can get home each evening now.
While the harvest is slowing to a crawl some things are picking up rapidly. Weeds are growing faster than you can blink. That much rain and heat make good mushroom weather, too. That means every other fungus will be attacking soon as well. I'll have to break out some sort of fungicide soon. This is where my organic methods fail me. I've not found anything that works against these conditions yet. :-( It may be a lack of knowledge base, so I'm all ears and willing to try if you have any ideas.
Flooded? A little patchy maybe - it's native grasses. possibly not perfectly manicured- but weedy or high? NO! The neighbor adjoining was a good 8" taller so this irks me considerably. I'm sorry I know I complain a lot here about this type of thing. But, I'm not about to complain much to my neighbors. The last thing I need is for them to go talking to the wrong person and for it to get worse.
Good news is we are the proud owner of a rather used RIDING lawn mower. Of course it doesn't fit in a lot of places in the back yard, but that is what the weed whacker is for, right?
Here is what needs pulled. This picture is now 2 weeks old so what is little is not so little any more...
That's easily half the garden space that will be freed up. Cowpeas will go in, and a few more Okra. More peanuts as well. I have visions of peanut butter dancing in my head. Some limas and because I can't not do it a couple watermelon vines even though I don't expect much. I might let them compete for space on the trellis but its sagging and I'm not sure what to do with that... ???
WOW this is a long post - but you can see I have a lot of work ahead of me right now. I'll try to remember to take pictures along the way. I'm not always so great about doing that, but I'll try. It should be one of the larger changes to my garden area. Then again I've not have this large of a garden this time of the year before.
'Till next time!
Thursday, June 7, 2012
I’m locked out of my blog. That stinks. Royally.
I had wanted to go over a few things about Florida tomatoes. I have had a few questions about them and thought this was a good time to get some answers out there.
Yes, I’ve pulled almost all of my tomato plants from my garden already. It’s rained consistently daily for several weeks now. When our daily rains show up- the diseases do, too. Besides that these plants just were not performing well. Despite being on my normal rotations they were not growing properly. I’ll take that back. My Steak Sandwich hybrids are still growing nicely – still in the garden, but not setting fruit. Only still in the garden because they are not diseased terribly yet. But, they are a hybrid so I’d expect them to last a bit longer. They are a type of Beefsteak so they are delicious and that gains them brownie points, too. ;-) Also still alive but not doing as well are the Sungold’s and Cherokee Purple. They still have fruit and I can’t quite tell if the fruit is still setting… I’m giving them another 10 days to see what’s really going on.
That brings me to some of the biggest questions about why I pull my plants and start over again. Of course disease is the very biggest reason, but also a hugely limiting factor is the heat here. Along with the rains, (Kind of what causes our rains) Our thermometer has topped 90* every day for several weeks as well. Night time temps are no longer dropping below about 78* and therefore - fruit is no longer setting. Once this happens the trend is a spiraling effect. In Fall because the humidity can cause the pollen not to distribute it can make the falling nighttime temperatures moot. But, trying to keep a tomato plant alive through that heat and daily rain? While possible it almost always leads right back to the main reason I pull the plants and restart…disease. By the time the temps cool back down the plants are ravaged. I’d rather use the space for those few months for something that is productive.
Of course living in these swampy conditions means we also live with a very large assortment of bugs. For a (mostly) organic gardener like myself this can be a massive challenge. Keeping to a rigid spraying and plucking schedule when you can hardly get to the garden to harvest is a difficult task, indeed. So choosing the plants that you have in your garden is equally important. Choosing what types of sprays and what types of organic methods you use are obviously just as important. Fungus attacks here faster that lightning bugs can flicker their little light butts on and off – so making sure you’re paying attention to your plants is probably the most important thing you can do!
Most Floridians tend to rely on greenhouse tomatoes because of these problems. To that I say a resounding, BOOOO!!!!
UGH. Is there anything worse that a gassed tomato? I mean I know that we can’t all grow every single tomato from the garden, but I’ll be darned if I don’t at least try. Those I don’t grow myself get purchased from local sources. (At least someone can grow them around here) Farmers markets are a great source for me. I know that not everyone is blessed to live in an area where tomatoes are grown year round. Heck during the winter 85% of Americas tomato consumption comes from Florida. I’m actually ashamed to admit that because they are mostly tasteless compared to what we find in our markets here. (Sorry all you North of the Florida line)
In the pots on my screened in porch I still have 1 determinate and 1 indeterminate plant. I can’t help but try to continue to grow SOME tomatoes through the summer. Besides if all I do is manage to nurse these plants into fall limping along they should set fruit as soon as the temperatures fall again. These two plants are one each of a heat tolerant heirloom and a heat tolerant hybrid.
That’s right folk’s! The University of Florida has a program out there that does nothing but devote years and years to breeding heat tolerant tomatoes. In 2010 the biggest and best headliner was the Solar Fire – Now this year the tomato that takes the cake? The Tasti-Lee. I’m not so sure how tasty this tomato really is, but most of these overbred tomatoes lose a lot of flavor in the process of picking up a lot of disease resistance and heat tolerance. The Solar Fire and it’s little brother the Solar Set supposedly will set tomatoes through temps into the 91* mark and with nighttime temps into the mid 80’s. Not a huge improvement you say? The 5 degree difference gains us up 2 months of time in the garden. With a sun screen there is the possibility that the tomato could tolerate setting at some point each week throughout the majority of the year (disregarding any freezing temps of course)
Some heirlooms are known for setting in higher temps than others – but here this far into the south we have to watch for the disease problems so even though Cherokee Purple is a wonderful (I do grow it in the Fall and occasionally spring) producer in the North it is susceptible to damping off even with larger seedlings. Good to know in our monsoons. It can also be susceptible to Bacterial Spot, Fusarium Wilt and Tomato Yellow Leaf Curl – all bad buggars in our Florida gardens – It does show some resistance to late blight though – that’s nice in an heirloom! Arkansas traveler and Sioux/Super Sioux are also on the short list of heat tolerant indeterminate varieties that do pretty well with a decent disease resistance. I have an affection for beefsteaks and will be trying Monomahk’s Hat this Fall as well.
But, I gotta tell ya – I long ago gave up only growing heirlooms. Production wise it was a lose/lose situation. I can’t NOT grow them. Because I demand a better flavor and the heirlooms give me that for out of hand eating. Bring a salt shaker into the garden and there isn’t much I won’t eat out of hand and tomatoes are one of my absolute favorites.
When it comes to keeping the tomatoes on the table though? I depend on the hybrids for that. Every year I trial some and I’m not going to tell you here which are my favorite and which are not. Why? Because every person’s taste buds are different. That’s why. What I like in a tomato may be completely different than what you like. What I will tell you is what does well around here. What I will also tell you is that as of yet – NOTHING - not one single tomato plant variety is perfect. Sometimes I think I hit the jackpot and the next season I grow them again and it’s a complete failure.
Hybrids that were specifically bred for Florida usually sound Floridian. Look for things like Floridel, Tropic, Flroidade, Florimerica or Suncoast, Sunchaser, Homestead, Gulfstream (WOW what a disease package!)
But, those plants were made to be resistant to diseases and production, not for taste tests. Win some, lose some. There are others too that do well here Lemon boy, Celebrity, Betterboy to name a few.
So- I plant some for production, and some for flavor and usually come out on top. With a good mixture of both. When I make sauces that are going to use a lot of spices, I use the less flavorful of the bunch. When I’m looking at a recipe that is wanting to really bring out the flavor of the tomato and not mask it – I’ll use the better flavored ones. I get the best of both worlds this way. Usually. Sometimes (Like this season) I only get about 10 pounds of tomatoes and I’m disappointed. But, that is the fun of having 2 seasons of tomato growing. I get to try again in a couple months!
Right now I’m thinking about which seeds to start… Time to wet some paper towels and mark the bags. It’s seed starting time!
‘Till next time!
Monday, June 4, 2012
It's hard to believe it's June already. But then again there are only2 tomatoes left in my garden now so that makes sense. The rest are pulled and gone. A couple in pots on the porch are still fighting a good fight. I'm trying to keep them for fall - we'll see if that works. Something went wrong on the spring crop. I pulled in 5 pounds of green tomatoes this week before I yanked the vines. I'm sure I'll have more of the sungolds and such coming in here and there but that is it for the slicers until fall. *sigh* Somethings gotta give. I'm not a good tomato grower. AT. ALL. This year the tomatoes barely grew, and I didn't get a lot of fruit. Last year... Oh, last year i had a bumper crop despite having what i think was Septoria leaf spot. But so much of the fruit was damaged to the stinking worms. This year not a lot of fruit but no damage at all to cats... Keep on trucking. But I'm getting into the funk part of the year. I don't want to keep going, but I know if I do there will be rewards. I need to get a bunch of marigolds out into the garden, and get the cow peas in the ground. More okra and let the garden start taking care of itself while I start concentrating on the screen porch and getting ready for the fall garden.
This weeks harvest:
Friday, June 1, 2012
Apparently you already knew that broccoli could set out additional sets of roots. You are smart folk. I was not so smart. I had simply not learned that lesson on my own yet. Nowhere in my reading had I come across anything like that. I've since scoured the internet searching for information on it and I am yet to find it written anywhere about this phenomenon so I'm feeling pretty good about my discovery. I'm guessing though that you smart cookies that have been doing this for a while found out through trial and error long before I did.
Don't you worry about me. I'll catch up later.
I've got another one for you today. :-) Another simple fact that you probably already knew. But, I'm gonna put it out there in case you didn't - because up until last week I didn't know it. Actually I didn't know it until Tina came over and my son said, 'Hey- MA! What's this?'... and I had to abashedly say - 'Well, Gee son, I don't really know. I'll have to get back to ya on that. But, let's make sure we find out together, OK?' A few minutes later Tina asked me how in the world my long beans didn't have aphids and what I was doing to keep them off the vines, and my mind was whirling and I was off in the conversation again.
What Troy had called my attention to was a gathering of tiny wasps, of different varieties - but the tiniest ones I've ever seen. They were lined up production line style and busy, busy, busy. I didn't at the time have a few minutes to spare to truly watch and see what they were doing - but I did notice a ladybug nearby and that these wasps were all about what they were doing and couldn't care less if we messed with them, got in there way or were close to them. They just kept doing whatever they were doing.
We were enjoying company so we kept doing what we were doing, too. The next day though I went out to see what the fuss was about. Most of the wasps weren't as happy though - we were, uh- well dealing with the tail end of T.S. Beryl. It was rainy and windy but in between when it cleared up they were there doing their business, but that didn't make for a good time to bring out my camera. By Tuesday evening the social occasion had dropped to less of a frenzy, but they were still visiting.
Here is the proof - and then I'll tell you what I learned with each picture.