Friday, October 11, 2013

Fall Crops are Falling!

Falling prey to caterpillars!  They are everywhere and the Bt I have been spraying just makes them stronger.  I got some spinosad in the form of Captain Jack's Dead Bug Brew but we've had rain every evening so I haven't been able to spray.  The rain is gone today and the forecast is clear for the next week so I will spray tonight in one last ditch effort to save what's left of the butternuts and cocozelles.  The spaghetti squash and pumpkins are done.  One pumpkin and no squash on a dozen plants and the one pumpkin was attacked last night and has holes all over.  All but one butternut was attacked, too.  The butternut holes are tiny so I'm hoping I can still save them and just cut the wormy part out.  They won't store, but I could cube and freeze.

The biggest butternut, not looking too good.

Spaghetti squash covered in powdery mildew and chewed by caterpillars which have made their way into the vines.

The last cantaloupe.  Starting to see a theme?  Yup, the caterpillars feasted last night!
The good news is that only a few of the cucumbers have been hit with bugs and no powdery mildew yet so I get to keep those for a few more weeks, or so.  Also, all the winter veggies like broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, kohlrabi, Brussels sprouts, etc. are doing great.  The caterpillars only seem to like the cucurbits.  If I pull them now, I free up a lot of space to plant onions, garlic, leeks, carrots and greens, among other things.  I am somewhat sacrificing the cucumbers because, once everything else is gone, they will be the feast of choice.  Hoping to keep spraying and keep them from moving onto winter crops.

The sweet potatoes are curing nicely, and I cooked with the ones I harvested early, about a month ago.  I made scalloped potatoes at gratin.  They started out as scalloped potatoes, but them I covered the top with cheese so, technically, they are au gratin.   I think.  Never was really sure of the difference.  Whatever the name, they were the best sweet potatoes I've ever eaten.  Ever. In my life.  Even my daughter loved them and ate two helpings.  I didn't follow a recipe, just sautéed an onion and garlic in butter, added salt, pepper and crushed cayenne pepper and wondra flour and made a paste.  Then I poured in some heavy cream and added chopped chives and the sauce was done.  I mixed in the potatoes and poured it all into a baking dish, covered it with grated asiago and baked at 400 till potatoes were soft and the top was brown which took about 30-35 mins.  Everything but the flour and dairy came from the garden-love that!  I didn't get a picture because they were gone before I even thought of it.  

We had the potatoes with a salad and a crock pot roast.  I even made an apple slab pie for dessert.  Used this recipe from King Arthur Flour.  I had a store bought crust and was short on time but it worked great.  I will attempt to make the crust from scratch next time.  Oh my, it was a great dinner.  I will have to run a few extra miles today, but it was sooooo worth it.  

One last thing, but it's not garden related.  Hope no one minds.  Here's a somewhat grainy (pulled it from a video on my phone) of my son riding his bike for the first time without training wheels!  

So proud of him.  Go Little Man, go!

Thanks for reading,

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Farmer's Market Finds

I brought my husband to the weekly Farmer's market yesterday.  Usually, I only look at edibles and plants and bypass the flea market junk, but there was some kind of event inside the fairgrounds (that may, or may not, be the fall fair) so all the vendors were in the parking lot and they were not in their usual spots.  We ended up going through all the aisles looking for the plant guy (never found him) and, low and behold, I ended up bringing home some of the flea market junk.

First, I got this cool looking level.  The guy wanted $5 and my husband offered $3.  The guy said no so we walked away.  I couldn't stop thinking about it, it just spoke to me, so I went back and offered $4 with a very nice "Please?".  That worked and now I have a wood and metal level that is currently sitting on my fireplace mantel.  Not your usual formal living room mantel decor, but I love it.

Next to the level guy, was a true junk table.  It had Coke glasses and assorted "antiques".  It also had this window.

It's not antique, but for another few bucks, I knew it would be perfect in my future garden shed.  In this case, the glass and plastic frame construction will work great out in the elements.

The last thing we picked up was this tool box/carrier.

Doesn't it look adorable holding some herbs and gardening supplies?  I pointed it out to my husband as we walked past the vendor's table and he loved it and said I should get it and use it in the garden.  It was the most expensive thing we bought at $15 and it pushed the total over my $20 budget.  The guy who sold it to us made us promise not to paint it and ruin the charm.  Not a problem.  I love it just the way it is.   I wonder what it says about me when I go shopping and come home with a level, window and tool box?  I'm definitely my father's daughter!  He builds clocks in his retirement and is a wonderfully gifted carpenter.  The smell of freshly sawn wood is one of my favorites.  

We actually did get some produce - a bag of red pears.  In all of my 42 years, I've only eaten a handful of pears and never had a red one.  I am not sure why I don't eat them more often.  They were delicious!  Very sweet and crisp and juicy.  My husband and I ate a couple while we walked around.  When my daughter and her friend came home from school, we made them each try some slices.  Neither one had eaten a pear, ever.  I love introducing people to produce they normally wouldn't pick.   It was funny because, the day before, my daughter said she wanted to try a pear since she loves apples so much.  She said it was good, but didn't finish the portion given.  I guess she's more of an apple girl, after all. 

Thanks for reading,

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

The Final Sweet Potato Harvest

I harvested the last bed of sweet potatoes today.  This bed was the first one I planted back in early May.  It was one of a few new ones installed in late spring and I didn't realize that it only got partial sun in the afternoon.  Sweet potatoes like it hot and these slips got a slow start.  Ironically, the bed produced almost as many as the others (in full sun) and the size and shape were much better than the crazy twisted, giant ones I harvested yesterday.

I harvested 12lbs which brought my total to 45lbs!  Not bad for my first time.  We definitely have enough for our family to eat all winter and spring until the regular potatoes are harvested.  I will also get to bring a big dish of them to the family Thanksgiving dinner!

I upgraded my phone and I now have a cool panoramic feature so I played around a little with it this evening.  I need to perfect my technique.  Evidently I cannot follow a straight line so it looks a little wonky but I like being able to see so much at once.

The mini pumpkins, spaghetti squash and Christmas Lima beans are to the right of center and I just planted broccoli, cabbage and Brussels sprouts in the beds in the middle.  The empty bed near the flag may become a perennial onion/leek bed.  All the way to the right are the four new beds I added a few weeks ago.  They still need soil and at least one will be for garlic/shallots.  I think the others will hold sugar snap peas (climbing up the trellis) and shelling peas.  I'm training the spaghetti squash to climb the other side of the trellis.

The Tabasco peppers (on the left) are, officially, over six feet tall!  My butternuts were coaxed up the trellis on the right of the bed this morning and a few vines reached the top.  My fall planting of Kentucky Blue pole beans are too shaded behind the peppers so they aren't filling in the back trellis much but they are starting to flower and may give me a few pods.  If they aren't producing much, I'll pull them and plant peas in their place.  I'm still debating on overwintering the Tabasco peppers.  There are two plants and I may leave the front one (the biggest and more prolific) and prune and pot the back one to take in on cold nights and see how it does in the spring.

I finally got a chance to turn the compost from one bin to the other.  I also sprayed everything down with a generous dose of neem.  I have some aphids and, just today, found the start of powdery mildew on every single squash and pumpkin plant, ugh!  All the humidity really takes a toll on the fall garden.  Hopefully, I can harvest a good crop before I have to pull everything. 

Have a great night!

Thanks for reading,

Monday, September 30, 2013

Harvest Monday-September 30, 2013

Another harvest Monday!  As usual, I had an assortment of peppers:  Tabasco, serrano, fajita bell and Yummy Snacking.  Tabasco and Yummy Snacking peppers are really loaded with fruit and have grown over five feet tall!  The others are starting to wind down for the season, I believe.
I also dug up two of three sweet potato beds.  One bed was filled with Beauregards and the other with Vardamon.  The Vardemons are a bush variety and I did notice that the vines, although they looked the same, were not nearly as long as the Beauregards.  What was so different, was that the Vardemon sweet potatoes dug deep down into the soil.  Most were found at least six inches down and quite a few had made it through the landscape fabric that lines the raised beds and were growing underneath.  Although I only weighed the total crop and not by type (yet), I would say they were, roughly, equal.  All in all, today I harvested 33 pounds of sweet potatoes.  Some were tiny and some were...

not so tiny!
Most were average in size, but odd in shape.

I found this little guy hanging out in the shade of the leaves. I moved him to another bed to
continue with his bug destroying work.

Hope everyone else had a great harvest and thanks to Daphne's Dandelions for hosting Harvest Monday every week!

Thanks for reading,

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Butternut Blues

This is what I'm finding on my butternuts.  About half the little squash are rotting and I suspect blossom end rot or blossom blight.  I grow in raised beds filled with a mixture of compost, peat and vermiculite (Mels mix).  I've never had this happen before, but I've never had my soil tested, either.  This just started showing up on new fruit following heavy rains over the last few weeks.  I plan to give the plants a dose of calcium (blossom end rot spray for tomatoes) and see if that helps the next round of squash.  I also just got a bag of worm castings and want to give it a try.  I put in a couple of inches of compost before planting this bed, but haven't given them any fertilizer since planting.  I need to get better with fertilizing and using preventative organic sprays.  This time of year, it isn't a case of if bugs or disease invade the garden, but when.  This keeps many Florida gardeners from planting a fall garden.  Some just feel it isn't worth the effort.  I disagree.  You just have to be diligent and organized.  I'm working on the organized part. 

The plants, in general, look great and are growing like crazy with all this rain.  I have several healthy looking squash on the vines.  Hope to keep them.  This is my first attempt at butternuts and first successful attempt at winter squash.  Last year's August planted winter squash got powdery mildew and squash borers and died before giving me any usable fruit.  

In the front is a cocozelle (zucchini) squash and the early butternuts are climbing up the trellis in the corner, behind the cocozelles.  They are planted pretty close together, so I think they will benefit from a mid season feeding.  I'm using the zucchini plant to shade some broccoli seedlings and a basil plant while I prepare their planting areas.  At the far left is a glimpse of kohlrabi.  My first time planting those. They were requested by my five year old who saw the photos on the seedling tag and thought they looked cool.  How could I say no?  After looking up the plants on my phone and reading they are a brassica from Germany, I grabbed two packs of nine-a purple and a white/green.  I've never met a brassica I didn't like and my maiden name is about as German as you can get so I'm excited about these odd looking little veggies.

Well, it's time for me to say "gute Nacht!"

Thanks for reading,

Thursday, September 26, 2013

An Apple A Day

Although our local farmers' market was a bust this week due to the rain, I did run across a big apple sale and grabbed a bushel.  I've never canned applesauce before, but it is one of the very few things everyone in the family likes.  

I have to say, applesauce was way easier to make and can than the tomatoes I did in the spring.  Basically, the apples were quartered, (with bad spots removed), heated up on the stove till soft and crushed.  I used my KitchenAid grinder with the strainer attachment and it was smooth sailing!  I fed in the hot pieces and the machine churned out beautiful applesauce with no seeds or skins.  The sauce was very sweet and I added a little citric acid to keep the color and it gave it just the right amount of tanginess for my taste.  I added cinnamon to half and canned it all.  I ended up with 14 quarts of sauce and just over a half gallon of juice (and a burned hand-applesauce explodes out of the pan as it gets hot).  Because I cooked the apples with the skins on, the juice is a light pink color and delicious.  I am planning to boil down some of the juice to make a syrup.  Not sure what I will use it on, but I'm picturing it poured over vanilla ice cream, yum!

Since I had the canner going, I decided to finish up the salsa and pizza sauce I had been planning to make all summer long and then picked enough hot peppers to pickle a few pints.  I also chopped and froze a few bags of sweet peppers.  All in all, not a bad day's work.

In garden news, I have decided the bugs on my Tabasco pepper are not beneficials, but dreaded stink bugs.  I was able to remove all visible ones and will keep checking to make sure I got them all.  

My butternuts and cucumbers are dropping tiny fruit.  The larger butternuts (over a few inches) look fine, but many of the tiny ones are turning yellow, then dark on the end and the flower rots so I'm guess blossom end rot.  I didn't test my soil this fall, but the weather the last two weeks has been wet, wet, wet.  It had rained every day for the last week and we just came off of a three day flood watch.  I have some blossom end rot spray I got for tomatoes but never needed it so I'm wondering if I can use it on the squash and cukes or is it too late to correct the deficiency?  I need to get a little better with the preventative stuff so I'm not trying to put out fires.  An ounce of prevention, and all that.

The mailman brought me a package today and I now have something new to plant.  I just love deliveries for the garden!  I think I've said, at least a dozen times this year, that I am not adding anything new to the garden.  Well, I can't resist a good deal and, perennial veggies are a great deal.  Plant once and harvest over and over.  I am now the proud owner of 25 sets of Egyptian Walking Onions.  I read about them, and other perennial/wild aliums, in a book on vegetable gardening in Florida.  When I was younger, we had wild onion or wild garlic in our yard and I loved eating it.  My friends always thought that was so strange.  "She's eating the grass again!"  I was so happy to find the walking onions online along with wild onion (I was unable to find perennial leeks, everyone was sold out for the season).    

I'll have to figure out a place for them-that's quickly becoming the story of my life-but I have a few ideas.  I should have some space in the garden opening up this fall.  I was given the ok by my husband to move my potatoes, garlic and annual onions to a piece of land we own in the neighboring town.  I'm very excited about this and am hoping it will also become home to other "larger" crops like corn or grains.  Looks like I need to get out the garden plan and start working.  My kinda fun on a Saturday night!  Oh boy, I'm pretty sure I'm too young to say stuff like that, but its true.

Hope you enjoy your Saturday night!

Thanks for reading,

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Name This Bug...Please!

I'm pretty sure they are stink bugs of some sort and, therefore, not a beneficial.  I've looked through so many bug pics but cannot find an exact match.  

These have been on my pepper plants lately.   Only on the peppers, not on anything else.  They are always grouped like this.  The plants they are on are starting to get some yellow leaves but nothing major and the fruit seems to be fine, though some of the neighboring peppers have dropped most leaves and slowed or stopped fruiting so I pulled them this morning.  I have seen aphids and carpenter ants on these plants, too.  Today I found one dark red lady bug.  I think that's what it was.  Didn't get a great look as it started raining hard and I ran for cover on the porch.

It looks like they start off orange then turn more green/gray as they get bigger.  I crushed one and smelled a smell but it wasn't horrible and I thought stink bugs really stink, hence the name.  My hand does smell a little, even after washing.  

Maybe I'm in denial, lol.  I really want this to be a parasitic bug that is cleaning up all the plants like a death vacuum!  I've got cabbage loopers on the squash so I sprayed everything with Bt last week and planned to do a round of neem this week.  Just waiting for a rain free forecast.  Today, there is a flood warning, and 80% chance of rain tomorrow, so looks like Thursday might be a spray day.  I'd hate to accidentally kill good bugs, though, so I try not to spray too much.  I always use organic methods, when needed, and find that Aug-Sept are the "bug months" in my garden.  

Last fall, I lost quite a few plants this time of year due to bugs and disease, and I don't want it to happen again.  Im determined to have a four season vegetable garden.  Even with the presence of some bugs, all of the plants look very healthy, which I take as a good sign.  Ironically, I didn't see a single bug (other than the ever present snails) in the garden all spring/summer.  Guess they were just biding their time and waiting for the perfect storm of heat, humidity and rain.  

Wish me luck, and thanks for reading,

Monday, September 23, 2013

Harvest Monday-September 23, 2013

Not too much in the way of a harvest today.  It is a transition time in the central Florida vegetable garden with fall veggies still a ways from harvesting and the last of the spring/summer ones slowing production to almost nothing.  Most of the pepper plants planted in March are looking haggard and will be pulled this week.  Gonna leave some in to try to overwinter in the hopes they restart production in the spring.  In this part of the country, peppers and tomatoes can be kept growing year round, for the most part, although they aren't in fruit production the whole time.  I just pulled a Mountain Magic tomato plant that I planted in the tower garden (an aeroponic setup) last summer.  I, absentmindedly, let the reservoir get low on both water and nutrients while we were in England and, coupled with the heat, it just couldn't recover properly.  This year, I plan to leave two Tabasco peppers, three Yummy Snacking peppers and, possibly, a jalapeño.  All six have grown very tall and lush and are covered in blossoms.  Other than some carpenter ants on the Tabascos, I see no signs of disease or other bugs.

Does any one else keep peppers going throughout the year?  I wonder if pruning and potting them would help or is it better to just leave them and see what happens?  Sounds like another experiment, and I love a good garden experiment!

Here's the small harvest from this rainy Monday morning:

Hot and sweet peppers, many of which were picked as they started the transition from green to red and are, therefore black.  Could have left them to ripen more, but the snails are back in full force and I didn't want to risk losing them.  

Two key limes

Various herbs- from left, clockwise:  chives, oregano, sweet basil, purple basil, Greek columnar basil, sage, rosemary, thyme, and bay.  My tiny bay laurel is looking very rusty, have to look into spraying it.  I'd hate to lose such a beautiful plant.

I apologize for the lighting in these photos.  I picked in a light drizzle of rain and natural light was hard to come by this morning.

I am chomping at the bit to dig up my beds of sweet potatoes but the wet weather is making it impossible for me do that.  If I had planned well, I could have done it Saturday afternoon.  We had a dry day before, but the lawn sprinklers came on and soaked the beds once again.   They say it's best to stop watering prior to digging.  Dry potatoes means less chance of damage to the skins I suppose.  It poured yesterday afternoon and all night last night so, looks like maybe later this week will be my best chance.  Look for a big (hopefully) harvest next Monday!  

As always, harvest Monday is sponsored by Daphne's Dandelions.  Check out her blog and see what everyone else is harvesting this week.  Hope others fared better in their harvesting.

Thanks for reading,

Banana Bread Recipe

I got absolutely zero done in the garden today.  I did, however, finish the plans for the tiny garden shed I'm building this winter.  I need a place to store empty planters, tools, organic fertilizers, etc.  It is based on plans I found online for a garden shed made from 2x2s and cedar fence pickets.  The original plans can be found here.  I'm following the guts of the plans but cutting the size, roughly, in half.  It's not built to last an eternity, but perfect for my needs and budget friendly.  It will be placed up against the fence in the back of the garden.  Being clad in the same fence pickets will help it (hopefully) blend in and not catch the attention of anyone (cough-HOA) who might also know that the bylaws state any outbuildings must be pre approved and match exactly the same materials and colors of the house.  I'm sorry, but a 2'x4' concrete block with painted stucco finish and architectural asphalt shingles seems a bit ridiculous.  Rather, I would love it to have the cedar picket siding, a little stained glass window with flower box and a blue door.  Definitely a blue door.  Like a tiny English cottage.  Guess I was inspired by all the beautiful places I saw in Wales.  A lot to ask from an 8 square foot garden (closet) shed that needs to blend in, but I'm sure I can make it work.

So, in addition to taking a few minutes to resize the plans, I finally got the banana bread done that I planned to make on Friday.  I had extra bananas so ended up making three loaves and sending one home with my mother in law.  My house smells so yummy!  

As promised, here is the recipe.  If you are looking for a healthy, low fat, naturally sweetened banana bread, I can assure you, this is not it.  This version contains both oil and real butter, both white and brown sugars and sour cream to boot!  It's a combination of a few recipes I saw online along with my own tweaks.  Hope you like it.  As you can see from the picture, I prefer big chunks of walnuts and bananas in my bread, but you can mash and chop more finely, if that is your preference.  You can also use all butter or all oil, and all white sugar or all brown sugar.  I findthe combinations of each give it the texture and color I like, but, hey, it's banana bread and almost impossible to mess up.

Sour Cream Banana Bread
½ cup sugar
½ cup brown sugar
¼ cup oil
¼ cup butter
2 eggs
1 cup mashed ripe bananas (2 bananas)
½ cup sour cream
1 tsp. vanilla
1 ½ cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
1 cup walnuts (optional)
Heat oven to 350 degrees.
Grease and flour bottom only of a loaf pan.  I use a one pound pan.
In large bowl, beat together: sugars, butter and oil.
Add eggs, bananas, sour cream and vanilla; blend well.
In separate bowl:  Lightly spoon flour into measuring cup; level off.  Sift flour, baking soda and salt.  Make sure salt is mixed in well.
Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and stir just until dry ingredients are moistened.
Add walnuts, if desired, and stir to incorporate.
Pour into prepared pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 50-60 minutes (adjust time if using a smaller or larger pan) or until toothpick inserted in center comes clean. Cool 5 minutes; remove from pan. Cool completely, or eat warm. Makes 1 loaf.
I have read to wrap it up and store in the fridge, but it never lasts long enough, in my house, to put away!
Thanks for reading!

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Saturday in Pictures

Top row, left to right:  strawberry plant runners, cantaloupe, chili pepper
Middle row, left to right:  sweet potato vine, crepe myrtle, knock out rose bud
Bottom row, left to right:  salvia, avocado, pumpkin squash

Friday, September 20, 2013

Don't Quit Your Day Job

Not much got done in the garden today; I actually had to work.  I'm pretty fortunate to own my own business and work from home.  I get to set my own hours and can work from my kitchen table in front of the windows that overlook the garden.   The problem with that is I, sometimes, get distracted by the view beyond those windows and I end up putting the work aside to play outside.  That was the case this week.  A combination of nice weather and a vacation mindset (even though we've been back for over a week), kept me from completing the stuff that actually brings in a paycheck.  

I got a late start after school drop off because I stopped to help a turtle cross the road and then help a little white dog find his owners.  Poor thing was so scared, but very sweet, and his owners drove by calling for him about ten minutes later.  It must be wayward animal day in my neighborhood. 

So, today was a day to hunker down and get everything finished.  I used the dining room table (not much of a view out that window) to keep me on task.

Luckily, I had help (she says sarcastically).

This is my daughter's kitty, Princess.  When my daughter is at school, Princess follows me around.  She tries to pretend like I am her favorite, but she drops me like third period French as soon as my daughter walks in the door.   When I'm working, she tends to sit on my work and get in the way.  Today was no different.  These construction company logos took twice as long as usual because she kept attacking my hands as I worked.  I did have a good laugh or two at her expense when she backed up while playing with a balled up wad of discarded vinyl and fell off the table.  I am pretty sure laughing at the kitty used up all the good karma I built up this morning, but I couldn't help myself!

I did take a few minutes to snap a couple pics of the garden:

I found lots of little butternuts.  This is Early Butternut grown from seed planted directly in the garden on Aug 19.  There are at least a dozen of these little guys. 

Cucumbers.  My favorite variety Alibi-an almost sweet, small cucumber great for fresh eating or pickling.  They always are the first to bloom and they produce well.  These were planted the same day as the butternuts.  There are not many things cuter than baby cukes!  Mixed in with them are some watermelon that self seeded.

Here is my two sisters bed consisting of squash and beans.  On the back trellis are the Christmas Lima beans that have grown over my head (and I'm 5'9) in the three weeks since planting the seeds!   Everywhere there are squash plants, there are beans in the same bed.  The pumpkins are Lil Pumpkemon; a small, early decorative variety that are white with green and orange stripes.  The description said "strong, vigorous, early maturing vines" so I planned to train them up and over the trellis, but they look distinctly bushy.  The spaghetti squash description said "plan for 5-6 foot vines" so  I planted in two spots and planned to let them fill in the bed.  They look VERY vigorous and I have a feeling they are gonna travel.  Good thing the beds to the right are empty until garlic goes in this winter.  I'll let the vines travel in that direction.  The squash should be harvested just in time to plant garlic.

Tomorrow is a busy family day so I probably won't get out to the garden until Sunday.  I plan to add some worm castings and Azomite to all the fall beds and, weather permitting, harvest one of the three remaining beds of sweet potatoes.  I also hope to bake banana bread and make some broccoli cheddar soup.  I may get one of those things done, lol!  Look for the banana bread recipe tomorrow.  It's my favorite and oh so good.  

Thanks for reading,

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Sometimes, I Just Can't Help Myself


Two days ago, I had no idea I would be adding yet another type of plant to my garden.  So, how did I end up with two pots of sugarcane?  Well it goes a little something like this:  empty k-cup coffee grounds into the compost bin; wonder if I can put coffee grounds directly into the soil in my potted blueberries; go on Google; read article about garden supplements; remember that I have a bag of Azomite in the garage that I wanted to try; wonder what plants can use the Azomite; go back on Google-list includes most all my vegetables, ornamentals and sugarcane.  Wait...I can grow my own SUGARCANE?  I quickly remind myself that South Florida is filled with fields of sugarcane and kick myself for not thinking of it sooner.  Of course, I had to find the sugarcane to plant (and find a place to plant it).  That led me back to Google and online stores that sell sugarcane for anywhere from $25 for a potted plant to $60 for a box of cuttings.  Wow, pricey.  

I put the idea aside for possible planting next spring.  About ten minutes later, my phone buzzed an alarm reminding me of the weekly farmers' market.  I tend to forget things, therefore, I have something like thirty alarms set up on my phone reminding me to put out the garbage, bring kids to school, pick up kids from school (I only forgot a few times and they were little so I'm hoping they don't remember).  

So off I went yesterday morning to the farmers' market that is held every Wednesday at the fairgrounds.  I had one thing in mind to buy-sugarcane.  There are a few exotic/tropical plant vendors there and they did not disappoint.  I found one vender with four plants for $5 a pot.  What a bargain!  I would have taken all four but another woman was discussing buying a couple so I only bought two.  He gave me two for $8.  The VERY elderly man running the stand said one was black and very juicy and one was a softer, chewing kind.  The "black" one looks distinctly more red to me, but a quick search said the red ones are good for juice, too.

I'm still trying to decide where to plant these two.  I have a southwest corner of my yard that is a mess of fallen trees, weeds and self seeded papaya plants.  I've been planning to clean/clear it so I can put my avocados in and I think the space along the fence might work.  This won't be an easy project as it involves cutting down a few trees that were snapped off, halfway, in a storm this spring.  

Here is what it looks like now.

As you can see, it's kind of the dump spot of the back yard.  It is an area roughly 20 feet square and is up against a green belt area that we own, but are not allowed to clear.  Before the storm, there was a big oak tree on the far side of the fence and it kept this area in all shade.  When it came down, it took part of the fence, and the tops of all the trees to the left, with it.  You can see a tree hanging from the vines near the jeep.  The guy the neighbors hired to fix the fence just cut the tree off the fence and left it laying in our yard.  Its under the weeds invisible.  In his defense, we told him we wanted the wood for the fireplace.  I'm pretty sure he left the broken fence boards there, too.  This summer, the kudzu and wild grape vines took over everything.  The lawn guy stopped mowing it and I, haphazardly, planted an avocado in a bare patch of grass that's no longer bare.  I have so much work to do, and I'm not really sure I am capable of doing it all.  I hate to admit that this might be a job for a hired crew.  At least the tree removal part.  Somewhere under all the mess, is my winter wood pile (and a suspected carpenter ant home) that I'll need to get access to before it gets cold (stop laughing all you northerners, it happens here).  I was hoping to wait till winter to get back there to work, but it really can't wait much longer.  It's calling to me.

A farmer's work is never done.  Not even for a backyard farmer!

In case you are interested, here are a few links with info and articles about growing sugarcane in your yard:

As always, thanks for reading,

Monday, September 16, 2013

Harvest Monday, September 16, 2013

Harvested this morning: a mix of hot peppers, sweet peppers and sweet potatoes.

The sweet potatoes are small but were started from clippings about a month after I planted the main crop.  Had to dig up this part of the bed to make room for some early plantings of kohlrabi, brussels sprouts and broccoli.  I did dig up quite a few baby roots that went into the compost so, it's possible, I'll have a second harvest from the compost bin in the spring!
Every Monday, Daphne's Dandelions hosts Harvest Monday, a way for you to see what others in the blogosphere are harvesting.  It's amazing to see how the different areas of the country harvest completely different crops.

It's another hot morning in Florida.  The temps are already into the 80's and it's very humid with thunderstorms forecast for the afternoon.  

Got the new beds assembled.  I was lazy and bought the kits rather than build them myself.  They look nice but won't last as long since they are built with wimpy boards, not the 2" rough cedar that I love.  Here is the before and afters.  These beds are for potatoes and garlic that won't be delivered for another month or two so I'll line them with cardboard to kill the sod then flip the sod upside down and fill the beds with soil.

I moved the recently potted blueberries to their temporary home along the western boundary of the garden.  The pool enclosure will start a few feet to the right and, once built, I will move the blueberries over as a privacy hedge along the screen.  That will give me a decent pathway to the right of the new beds.

Here are the other new beds put in yesterday.

The top shows the potted blueberries where I dug them up and now the new beds have taken their place.  The far beds were built around the existing blackberry bushes that I'll move in the winter when they are semi dormant.  The garlic planned for those beds will go in after being chilled in the fridge for a month or so.  It's a mini experiment to see if the pre chilled ones grow bigger bulbs than the ones planted without chilling.

After looking at these pictures I realize how badly I need to mulch the walkways.  Here is a shot I took in the spring after the mulch was put down.  It really pulls the whole garden together and makes it so much cleaner looking.

Well, that's it for today.  I need to get out and start pruning trees before we hit the 90's, again.

Thanks for reading!

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Garden Workday

I was writing today's blog post Nd realized yesterday's never published.  Ugh.  Oh well, here it is, only a day late.  I did get in the garden today and built the new beds.  I'll share those pics tomorrow.

As promised, I spent a good part of the day doing manual labor in the garden.  I didn't get started as early as I'd hoped, my daughter decided I HAD to take her to breakfast.  Our usual diner was closed so we got bagels and croissants then drove thru for some frappuchinos, yum!  Because she forced me to take her out (ok, I love eating breakfast out so it wasn't too hard), I made her stop in at the local big box home improvement store to see what fall veggie plants had come in.  Since I didn't have a chance to start the seeds for my first planting of fall veggies in August, I figured it couldn't hurt to grab a few transplants to get started.  Not much of a selection, but I did manage to buy a few:). I ended up with purple and white kohlrabi, buttercrunch lettuce, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, stevia and purple basil.  I am trying very hard to get away from purchasing plants and start all my own from seed, but, for under $10, I can redeem myself for forgetting to start the seeds on time. 

Once I got out to the garden, it was so very hot-close to 90.  I will be so happy when the temps go down about 15-20 degrees, but I know it'll be at least a month, maybe two, before that happens, and all the hard work will be done by then.  I guess that's the price I pay for having a four season garden!  And, because it's Florida, it rained for a few minutes, then got hot and steamy, then it rained, then the mosquitos came out.  Once again, the price I pay...

I started with some long overdue Tower Garden maintenance.  I pulled out the year old tomato plant (took cuttings to see if they will root),  pruned the cantaloupe to two vines that were just starting to fruit, harvested sweet basil, planted a few of the new buttercrunch lettuce, purple basil and stevia seedlings and then filled the reservoir and cleaned the pump filter (which was filthy and would explain the low flow).  Tomorrow, I will start some seeds in rockwool so they can go into the TG by month's end, hopefully.  Again, I am starting late, but the tower allows me a little leeway with the dates since things seem to grow a little faster when planted in it compared to the ground.  It also regulates the temperature better so I can keep cucumbers and tomatoes going longer into the cooler weather.

Then it was onto the hard work-pulling weeds, pruning, and mulching.  I started at the back patio and made it as far as the first veggie bed.  It was about four hours' worth of work, but the results are worth it.  It looks a lot less cluttered now.

Actually, in this picture it still looks pretty cluttered, but in real life, it looks better, I swear!

I still have to mulch the walkway, but I need to finish the clean up and then build the new beds first.  Hauling yards of mulch from the driveway to the back yard is last on my list of tasks, anyways.

Tomorrow, bright and early, I need to get back out there.  First up is cleaning out the very overgrown and weed filled landscape beds on the sides of the house.  Not really a veggie garden task, but a necessary one that I've avoided doing all summer.  If I have any energy left, I will prune the lemon and nectarine trees that each grew about five feet over the summer.

Thanks for reading!

Friday, September 13, 2013

While I Was Out

I just got back from my trip to England and Wales and a lot happened in the garden while I was gone!  Mostly, everything grew...a lot.  Including the weeds.  They are everywhere.  I also found caterpillars in my cantaloupe and snail and slug damage on the sweet potato leaves.  

And speaking of sweet potatoes...

They've been on the prowl and are taking over!  I trimmed these vines back to the bed boundaries before I left and this is how I found them today.  Some of the vines grew over five feet-that's over six inches a day!  Since I'm planting fall/winter crops in these beds soon, I will need to dig them up and get them into storage.

I'm planning on working in the garden this weekend and I'm starting to feel a little overwhelmed with all the things that need to be done.  I've got beds to build for potatoes and garlic, tomato plants that need to be pruned and cuttings rooted, seeds to be started, seedlings to be transplanted, trees to be pruned, everything needs spraying with bt and neem oil then given a good feeding of organic fertilizer, and the whole garden needs the paths mulched.  I also need to weed all the landscape beds, stake the blackberry canes, espalier the apple trees and plant two avocado trees that I impulsively took home today (it's a sickness).  Of course, before I can plant those trees, I have to clear the fallen oak trees, overgrown brush, firewood logs and a child's electric jeep ride on toy.  

Work starts tomorrow morning at sun up.  The forecasted high is 91.  One task at a time...

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Garden Guests

I've gotten very little (nothing actually) done in the garden this weekend, so far.  I've been sidelined by a nasty cold and an impending overseas trip.  I did, however take a walk through the garden yesterday with my daughter.  It's usually my son who loves to be the garden helper, my daughter could most times care less what I was doing out there, so I was pleasantly surprised when she wanted to join me.

I walked her through the whole garden and showed her the new seedlings.  She was thrilled that I had planted little pumpkins this year and loved the idea of using them as fall decorations.  She LOVES decorating the house, whether it's for a party or holiday, the girl should really go into party planning.

Her biggest concern was that there were no carrots.  "Where are the carrots?  We grow really good carrots!"  I had to explain that, in Florida, it was too hot for carrots now, but that they were getting planted as soon as we returned from our trip.  Looks like I might need to dedicate some more space to carrots since they are one of only three veggies both my kids will eat (the others being corn and edamame).

I showed her the gerbera daisy plant I bought for her birthday in the spring.  It was loaded with hot pink flowers when I got it, but as many potted flowers do, wilted in the summer heat.  Maybe wilted is too kind of an explanation.  I'm thinking dried up into fire kindling would be a more accurate description.  Not sure whether to toss it or plant it, two weeks ago, I opted for planting and put it into a corner of one of my raised beds.  I figured the pop of color would be nice, if it survived.  To my surprise, it actually came back from the dead very quickly and is already producing new flowers!  My daughter has claimed it as her plant, although I'm not really sure what that means since I know it doesn't involve taking care of it in any way, lol.

When I went out to snap a picture of the daisy, I ran across a cute brown bunny in my backyard.  I quickly called the kids out to come see it and we stood there, watching the bunny watch us and eat grass, for a good five minutes.  Evidently this bunny isn't too scared of humans.  Even when departing, it was more of a slow hop into the woods and not the normal bunny zig zag frenzy hop.  I've never had trouble with the bunnies eating my garden, but I might want to put up the bed fences soon, just in case.  Maybe all the talk of planting carrots yesterday got them excited!

Even though this is my sanctuary, I love when my kids come out and enjoy it with me.  During spring planting, my son was out there every day.  Sometimes he planted seeds, sometimes he dug holes for transplants but, mostly, he just made dirt tracks in the pathways for his hot wheels.  Every so often he'd say "I love hanging out with you, Mommy".  It melted my heart!  I hope, someday, my kids have their own gardens and bring my grandchildren out with them just to "hang out".  Regardless, they will always have a place to play and a flower to plant in the Sanctuary Garden.

Well, that's about it for me this morning.  Time to pack for my trip and nurse this cold.  

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Today in the Garden

Once I got the kids off to school, I grabbed a few essentials and headed out into the garden.

Lots of activity this morning here in the Sanctuary Garden.  All the seeds I planted last Friday have germinated and I look forward to a fall crop of zucchini and cucumbers since I didn't get a single one this spring.  My zucchini got sick and I simply forgot to plant the cukes!  It's not a big deal, though, I should get a pretty decent harvest before it starts getting chilly here.  

The bees and wasps were out pollinating like crazy (thank you for your hard work, guys).  This big guy was spotted on the potted Calamondin.

If you've never heard of these, check them out.  They are described as an "acid orange" with a taste more like a lime.  According to the Seminole County Extension office, they are used as a lime substitute in pies and make wonderful marmalades.  I haven't tried them in cooking or processing yet, but I can say they are great squeezed into a cold glass of water or tea!  They also fruit year round and can have mature fruit, unripened fruit and new blooms all at the same time.  Mine has bloomed every single day that I've had it-about 4 months.  It pulls in the bees better than any other plant in my garden.

Other things I spotted in my morning garden walk:

Several baby cantaloupes...

Jalapeños still dripping with the morning's dew...

Cocozelle squash (zucchini)...

A beautiful basil flower...



I'm not sure how much I'll get for roasting, but it would be great even if I only got one cup of Sanctuary Garden blend brew!

What's going in on in your gardens this morning?

Thanks for reading,