Tag Archives: Florida garden blog

Chocolate Cake with Zinnias

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chocolate cake with edible flowers

Mmmm, chocolate and flowers, what a great combination!

Even though I like to decorate cakes, I still think it’s hard to beat fresh flowers as a cake decoration.

chocolate cake with pink zinnias

I was bringing  a dessert to my sister’s house, and decided to bake a cake. Typically I like to do some type of piping or ruffles or something on cakes that I bring.

However, I didn’t really have the time to do that, so decided to go with a rough finish and to add some edible flowers just before I left.

I just love the contrast of the bright flowers against the chocolate frosting, don’t you?

easy chocolate cake decorating idea

The edible flowers used as garnish on the cake include: zinnia, Sweet William, orange daylily, and a few yellow mustard blooms as accent. The leaves are from a sweet potato plant. Did you know that they are a yummy edible green for summer?

Oh, and the spiky grass-looking greenery? Yep, just grass. 🙂

Do you use edible flowers as a garnish in your home? For a picture of a pretty flower-garnished salad, click here.

So next time you have to bring a cake, take it easy and decorate it with flowers! Edible, of course. Stay away from alstroemeria.

Like this idea? Pin it for later!

Pace Virtual Farmers Market

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There has been a farmers market right under my nose for almost a whole year, and I just discovered it.

I attended for the first time last Thursday, not quite sure what to expect.

Pace Virtual Farmers Market

I certainly didn’t expect so many people. The market was crowded when I arrived a few minutes after 6 p.m.

Many order their specific items throughout the week, so I was a bit concerned that I would feel a bit out-of-place because I hadn’t ordered anything ahead of time. However, once I got there and started looking at the displays I felt like I was at a regular market.

This market started simply as a way for locals to get fresh vegetable shares and has grown over the last year to include vendors with meat, eggs, baked goods, jams, crafts, cheese, soaps, and many other items. Members of their  facebook page can order specific items throughout the week, then pick their items up at the Thursday evening market behind the Relevant Life Church on Hwy 90 between 6 p.m. and 7 p.m.

I think the pre-ordering process makes it easier for those who are baking and preparing specific foods to reduce waste.

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Lazy K Farm was there, with an assortment of squash, potatoes, onions, and REAL tomatoes.

Cherokee Purple tomato

Look at this beautiful ‘Cherokee Purple’ tomato!

Rapture Indulgences at Pace Virtual Farmers Market

I sniffed some soy candles, including one that reminded me of a Creamsicle. Andrea also sells these and other items in her etsy shop.

Pace Virtual Farmers Market

I met Amanda from Buttered Biscuits, and I was fascinated by the varieties of jams, jellies, and sauces that she had to offer. Her watermelon jelly won 2nd place at the Santa Rosa County Fair.

She also told me about her Monkey Butter, which was a 1st place winner. She told me that it had pineapple, coconut, bananas… Yum! No wonder she was sold out of it.

Kiwi Blood Orange Marmalade

The jar of Kiwi Blood Orange Marmalade sounded yummy, so I bought a jar. It’s a little embarrassing how much is gone already.

I love to make jam (especially if it’s an easy recipe, like Two Ingredient Strawberry Jam), but sometimes it’s nice to let someone else make the jam for you. 🙂

For more information about this market, you can visit their blog here, or ask to join their facebook group here.

I’m excited about their SUPER market coming up this Thursday, June 11. It is in celebration of the market’s one year anniversary and will be open 4:30-7:30 p.m.This market will include a raffle drawing with many prizes, including a $200 shopping spree to the market.

I get so excited about farmers markets, don’t you?

Florida Raised Bed Gardening- Spring Planting!

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Sometimes it’s fun to try something new.
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This year, in addition to having two raised beds, this gardener is growing tomatoes in a circle.
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In the center is a partially buried five gallon bucket with compost in it and holes drilled in the bottom. As water is added to the top, it filters down though the compost, watering and feeding simultaneously. Compost is so good for the plants and is so easy to make!
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The beds are getting fresh soil, and one if them is gridded in classic square foot gardening style.

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The grid is new this spring, and it really looks organized and neat.

The pepper plants you see in two of the squares were overwintered and are already producing peppers! It really is worthwhile to try to keep pepper plants alive over our mild North Florida winters, as they will produce in early spring that way.

Pepper plants started from seed in the spring typically struggle along through the summer, then produce lots of peppers in the fall. I picked bagfuls last year and froze peppers for later.

Raised beds produce quite well and require little space. If you’re interested in gardening in Florida, you can start anytime!

Summer is coming and it is a good time to plant some of the heat lovers like basil, okra, eggplant, sweet potatoes, and black-eyed peas.

If you’re interested in starting your own sweet potato slips for growing, I have a tutorial here.

Also, did you know that sweet potato leaves are edible? More on that in this post.

I’ll post more on what you can be doing now in the North Florida garden in my upcoming June To-Do List. Enjoy those fresh veggies! Hopefully it will be BLT season soon for you!

May To-Do List

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I have some before and after pictures for you this month. The dollar weed was winning, so it was time to use a tiller and reclaim the garden.

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I planted my bean seeds expecting warmth, and we were disappointed. We ended up tilling much of it and replanting. My husband made those neat arches, and hopefully we’ll have lots of tasty cucumbers from them.

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Even if they don’t produce much, they still look cool. 🙂

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The shed bed had become overgrown with bolting mustard. I had some garlic almost ready to harvest, but I decided to just pull it up and make a fresh start. One of the bulbs made it inside and was discovered in an unlikely place-more on that later.

I had 3 blueberry bushes languishing by the back fence. That’s my wonderful husband there transplanting them. Really this garden renovation would not have been possible without him.

He was so sweet to help me. When I mentioned that blueberries like acidic soil, he carefully layered pine straw and coffee grounds in their new home. Awww… what a guy!

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Here’s some veggies that I harvested before the tilling: green and wax beans, carrots, turnips, and  a forgotten radish.

My to-do list:

  1. Till gardens.
  2. Plant more green beans, basil, okra, bell peppers, and southern peas.
  3. Mulch cucumbers with compost.
  4. Transplant eggplants.

 

How’s your garden?

 

I Just Can’t Help Myself

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Some women can’t be trusted to walk past a shoe display without buying. I can’t be trusted to walk past a seed display safely.

“I’ll just look, ” I tell myself, “maybe they have some of those colorful carrots that I’ve seen advertised.”

seeds for fall garden in Florida
Suddenly I find myself clutching a handful of seed packets like a kid with a fistful of forbidden candy, justifying myself.

I really have struggled with cauliflower, maybe it’s the variety?

Oh yes, there’s those colorful carrots- won’t they be fun?! Imagine the looks on people’s faces when I bring those out for a snack!

Swiss chard, well, I always see it growing so large and luxurious in my gardening books, maybe it’s time to grow a colorful variety like everybody else.

Kohlrabi, doesn’t it look fun? Like a UFO? No, I don’t have an obsession with UFOs, despite the fact that I also grow UFO squash. 🙂

Broccoli, now that is a vegetable that I would like to succeed in growing. With a name like ‘Sun King,’ it’s bound to do well for me here in Florida. I’m sick of growing broccoli florets.

Florida fall flower seeds

Oh boy, gotta have some of those flowers.

Won’t these look great together this fall? I saw a snapdragon/pansy combo that I really liked. Think of all the money I’ll save by growing these from seed!!

I can put them in the flower bed by the front porch, fill the flower bed out back once the summer flowers have been cut back, maybe put some in the garden too, Oh how about some pots of them on the front and back porches…

I don’t know who I think is going to do all this, but it is so fun to plan. 😀

NOTE: These are all fall crops and will not be started until late summer or early fall. By then, seed displays will be gone, despite the fact that THIS IS FLORIDA, PEOPLE, WE CAN GARDEN ALL. THE. TIME. so please leave out the displays!!

Ahem. Anyway, I think I am set for the fall. Unless… maybe I should buy some sugar snap peas, just in case the feed store doesn’t get any in stock???

Hey, at least gardening is a relatively cheap hobby. Productive too. I could collect stamps. At least I can eat my hobby.

If I save seeds from the non-hybrids, I’ll save even more!

Any others out there who need to be restrained when going by a seed display?

Have You Started Any Seeds Yet?

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Last year, I had spring fever so bad that I was putting seeds in the oven to help them germinate. Remember that story?

Well, this year I stuck to the plan and waited until Valentine’s Day to start my heat-lovers like tomatoes.

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The tomatoes germinated well, the dill and cilantro are doing great, and I even have some zinnias.

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I like to use inexpensive methods of labeling seedlings, and this time I had a yogurt container on hand.

Will these labels last forever?

No, but I really just need them to last a few weeks or until I can get the plants into the garden.

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I actually have daffodils this year, and they make me so happy! I love tulips and crocuses too, but North Florida is not cold enough for them.

I have already started planting my green beans, wax beans, and UFO squash. Pickling cucumbers have been planted with some dill.  Homemade pickles are the best!!!

Hopefully my ‘Royal Burgundy’ beans will be in the ground soon. I have never grown purple beans, and figured this year would be a great year to try them. Have you had them? What did you think?

If you are new to starting seeds, you may want to check out my posts on the basics of starting seeds, DIY plant labels, and how to prepare your seedlings for transplant.

Also, if you haven’t started a compost pile yet, my post Coffee to Compost- Literally! is a good place to get information.

Let’s get growing!

North Florida Gardening March To-Do List

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I love spring! I think the cold nights forecast for the next 2 nights will be the end of the cold nights, so I have some gardening plans.

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The garden by the shed has given me great harvests for mustard greens, and I am looking forward to harvesting 36 cloves of garlic later this year!

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The large garden is still producing plenty of kale, collards, and mustard greens. The pole bean teepee is gone; this year I’m going to try ‘Merit’ corn in that square. Anybody tried that variety?

If nothing else, I hope it looks neat. I plan to have ‘Purple Queen’ zinnias and marigolds around the box.

'White Egg' turnips

The ‘White Egg’ turnips have done fantastic for me. I need to let some go to seed, but it’s hard to stop pulling them once you start!

Time for more roasted veggies– yum!!

Here’s my to-do list:

1. Plant green beans, squash, cucumbers and corn. I’m going to plant seeds from cucumbers that I grew last year- they made great refrigerator pickles!

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2. Harden off tomato plants. If you are starting your own plants from seed, you can check out my seed-starting tutorial here and then read about hardening off seedlings.

3. Start eggplant and  peppers.

4. Plant flowers like zinnias, marigolds, and cleome. I love to have flowers in my vegetable garden! They are beautiful and attract pollinators.

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5. Plant out my sugar snap pea plants. I had so much trouble last year with the squirrels that I decided to start my peas in flats, even though direct seeding them technically is better. My local seed source did not get any in time for me, so I just planted the few that I saved from last year. We’ll see if I get any, as it’s going to be getting too warm for them soon.

6. Hang netting on the fence for cucumbers.

Easy DIY Cucumber Trellis

Wow. Was that really my garden last year? I love being able to look back and see what I grew last year, and to plan to improve this year.
I hope you plan to grow something this year. Start small, and enjoy the journey!

Are you excited for spring to come? What are you anticipating the most? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

Know anybody in North Florida or in zone 8 that is thinking about starting a garden? Feel free to email them this post or share it with them on Facebook using the buttons below this post.

Happy gardening!

Savory Sauteed Mustard Greens

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I think mustard greens are beautiful. I love the looks of their frilly, vibrant green leaves.

I like to eat them too.

David from Florida Survival Gardening recommended them as  his favorite greens. I found some seeds for a great price, and so planted about 25′ of them. Good thing I ended up liking them!

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They do have  a peppery, mustardy taste when raw, but they become sweeter when cooked. They are much more tender then collards and kale, and cook faster than either of them.

However, they still hold up well in cooking.

Here’s what I like to use to prepare them: 1/2 cup homemade chicken or turkey stock(I make mine in the Crock Pot), diced onion, a bunch of greens, and a bit of salt.

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First, saute the onions in the stock until they are translucent.

Add the torn greens a little at a time, wilting each batch down as you go.

I don’t believe in cooking these vibrant greens until they are a dull grayish olive green- yuck.  Just wilt them until soft and cooked through.

Salt to taste, then garnish with bolted pak choi. 🙂

Savory Sauteed Mustard Greens

If you really want some delicious flavor, add some of the vinegar from pickled jalepeno peppers- so good!!!

I could eat a whole bowl of them prepared in this simple way. The flavor is so rich, especially with the homemade stock.

I love to eat nutritious greens in our Florida winter, when fresh tomatoes and buttery squash are a distant memory.

Eating seasonally is so delicious! I save so much money by growing much of my family’s vegetables. Maybe one day I will have a mini orchard and provide much of our fruit too, but for now vegetables are a good start.

Mustard greens are quite easy to grow, even in North Florida’s poor soil. Maybe you’ll try them too?

Colorful Roasted Turnips, Radishes, and Carrots

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Sometimes simplest is best. If you have never tried turnips, I recommend this easy preparation.

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I planted my ‘White Egg’ turnips a bit too closely last fall, but have been able to harvest them at various times without succession planting them. I harvested some as greens, and others have made large roots as their neighbors have been cleared.

I have found them to be sweeter than the purple top turnips that I planted last year.

My husband doesn’t care much for them mashed, so I decided to try roasting them with some carrots from a friend’s garden, as well as with the last of the radishes.

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I tossed the chunks with some olive oil, and roasted them at 425 degrees for about 30 minutes, turning them halfway through.

They  were seasoned with just a sprinkle of salt, pepper, and a smidgen of fresh thyme.

I love the pretty pink of the radishes. 🙂

Also, my husband liked the roasted turnips!

I love eating fresh food from the garden. It is nice that I seldom have to buy the vegetable side dish for our dinners; I just harvest what is ready to eat and prepare it. That’s convenience. 🙂

Gardening saves me money and is good for us too!

Have you ever roasted radishes? I planted another row that I hope will be ready by the beginning of March. I’ll pull them, then plant some green beans!

I have another seasonal recipe for you coming soon- Sauteed Mustard Greens! They are quickly becoming one of my favorite greens, and when sauteed do not have a harsh mustardy flavor like their name may suggest.

 

What I Found at 3 A.M.

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Ever gotten up and just couldn’t sleep?

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It’s February in Florida, which means that I am getting spring fever and thinking about starting seeds.

So when I was up one night and just couldn’t stop thinking about the bulk seeds I was going to buy the next day, I decided to pop over to the University of Florida’s great spreadsheet to be sure I didn’t miss out on anything that I could be growing.

For the first time, I noticed a little note at the bottom about another article on “minor vegetables” and decided to take a look.

What fun! I found so much information on various crops that will survive the terrible soil and hormonal weather patterns of North Florida.

Then I was really too excited to sleep. 😀

By the way, my mug says, “I listed Starbucks as my emergency contact at work.” One of my former students got it for me and it is one of my favorite mugs.

Enjoy the link!