Tag Archives: Florida gardening

January To-Do List

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Happy New Year! I hope that you had a great holiday season.

It’s time for those glossy seed catalogs to arrive. Let the dreaming begin!

Here’s what my gardens look like now.

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The shed bed has daikon radishes, garlic, mustard greens, spinach, and a volunteer from the collards that I planted last year. A row of turnips planted right after Christmas are sprouting.

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The large garden is coming along nicely; it has loved the recent showers. The second picture is a closer view of the greens. They are doing so well!

I just planted some Danvers half-long carrots, red-cored Chantenay carrots, and radishes in the wide rows pictured.

I love taking a colander out there in the evening and harvesting greens for dinner. So nutritious and yummy!

growing turnips in Floridabolting pak choi

Turnips planted in the fall are growing well, and we ate our first harvest of them on Christmas Day.

The weather has been warm lately. That, combined with the showers has helped much of the garden, but the pak choi has started to bolt.

January and February seem to be the coldest months in North Florida, so maybe that will slow them down a bit. I did snip off the flowers, buds, and harvested some leaves to go with supper tonight, maybe that will help too.

My to-do list:

1. Plant sugar snap peas.

2. Sketch out plan for spring garden.

3. Organize seeds.

4. Enjoy lots of greens!!

Are you snowed in or are you gardening? Either way, it’s always a great time to peruse seed catalogs and dream. Look for a Florida raised bed garden update soon, as well as a tip for saving money and eating healthy too!

Happy gardening!

November To-Do List

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Yes, it’s November already. I finally got my collards and kale into the ground.

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It was nice to have seeds still from last year. Germination rates were great.

Poor little root-bound souls. All the waiting was stressing them out. 🙂

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Triple row of daikon radishes doing well. I have an easy daikon recipe that I posted earlier this year that featured this root vegetable.

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So far the shed bed has the triple row of daikons, 2 wide rows of mustard, and a few straggling basil plants.

The large garden has been planted with onions, kale, collards, turnips, lettuce, and has a few summer crops remaining such as peppers, sweet potatoes, and zucchini.

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This is what happens when you neglect a zucchini. Ordinarily, I harvest mine when they are much smaller, but I’m glad I have a good chocolate zucchini bread recipe to use!

Here’s my list:

1. Plant garlic in shed bed.

2. Harvest and cure sweet potatoes for Thanksgiving. Replace sweet potatoes with carrots, who should hopefully appreciate the loose soil.

3. Plant out broccoli, cauliflower, pak choi, and Swiss chard transplants.

5. Resow Brussels sprouts and spinach.

6. Sow in empty spots: beets, carrots, mustard, and radish.

7. Start putting flowers and more vegetables in flowerbed. It is part of my plan to mix flowers and vegetables for winter color.

8. Make pear butter. I plan to use a method similar to my easy Crock-pot apple butter recipe.

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It’s nice to enjoy local produce, isn’t it?

With just a little work at the beginning, my winter garden should be a “set it and forget it” type of garden. How does your garden grow? Are you clearing it in preparation for the first snowfall? Are you sowing seeds for spring? I’d love to know!

Ground Cherries

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One of my most anticipated crops this year was a fruit that I had read so much about but never tasted: the ground cherry.

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I was able to get some free seeds from gardenhoard.com, and grew this little plant. It has been quite hot, and the plant has suffered, but it is still producing fruit.

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The fruit is ripe when it falls to the ground. I recommend letting it ripen a day or so more, or the flavor will be a bit reminiscent of a green tomato.

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Eating them is simple. Just peel back the papery husk and eat the fruit. There are hints of pineapple flavor, but it really is in a class all of its own. I’m actually not quite sure that I like them.

However, I’ve gone to so much trouble to get and grow the fruit that I want to like them. I’m considering making jam. In spite of its size, the single plant has been quite productive.

Have you ever had ground cherries? What did you think? Some seem to have such fond childhood memories of them.

Top 5 Flowers for North Florida

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Top 5 Flowers for North Florida

My vegetable garden makes for a happy tummy, but flowers are happiness for the eyes.

If I could only have five types of flowrs in my yard, I’d pick these.

It’s hard for me to pick a #1 favorite, though. I love the cheery exuberance of my zinnias, but would I pick them over the beneficial marigolds? Fortunately, I don’t have to choose, and I wedge them into my vegetable and flower gardens alike.

Here are my favorite 5. If I had to start over with a new yard, I’d start with these.

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1. Zinnia

They come  in a bazillion colors and  sizes and grow well from seed. They keep well in a vase and attract butterflies and hummingbirds. Annual.

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2. Marigold

Reputed to repel nematode and other pests, marigold are a pretty and useful addition to a vegetable garden. Last year I grew some from some cheapo seeds, then saved so many seeds that I stored them in a spice container with large holes. This spring, I pretty much just sprinkled them where I wanted them to grow. Annual.

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3. Vinca

Gotta have vinca. They are a common landscaping plant for a good reason. These hardly flowers boom their little hearts out all summer. They reseed themselves quite well, and come in varying shades of white, pink, and lavender. I was so excited to find a blue vinca earlier this year too.They need no special watering or fertilizing and flourish even when neglected. I have a patch of them growing in front of my house. They are surrounded by a concrete porch and brick walkway and grow in poor, sandy soil. I planted a landscaper’s flat of 18 about 5 years ago, and thry have reseeded themselves in that spot ever since and have provided extra plants and seeds for other spots as well. Annual.

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4. Daylily

This is one of the earliest bloomers for me in the spring. The green and cheerful yellow are such mood-boosters after a chilly February. Supposedly the flowers are edible, but so far I have valued their happy colors more than their value as a food source. Perennial.

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5. Knockout Rose

My list would not be complete without this landscaping rose. No, its flowers are less than impressive, and scent is lacking, but it adds a welcome splash of color for very little effort. It blooms until the frosts come. One year, I had Christmas lights on the bushes. The white lights looked so lovely with the hot pink blooms. Perennial.

There are other honorable mentions: lantana, yarrow, crocosmia, Shasta daisies, tornia and mums. What do you think of my top 5? Did I include any of your favorites?

Propagating Torenia (Wishbone Flower) from Cuttings – More Free Plants!

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Torenia

Florida summers can be so hard on flowering plants. By mid-July, my tomato and cucumber plants are declining rapidly, succumbing to old age and oppressive humidity. Torenia continues to bloom heartily, even in North Florida’s hot and humid summers. It is easy to propagate too.

I am going to use the same technique that I have used on mint, basil, and tomato cuttings: rooting in water.

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Cleanly remove some cuttings, them remove the leaves that will be below the water or soil line. Leaves submerged in the water will decompose. Yuck.

Torenia rooted in water

Soon you will see white roots begin to grow. Most likely the roots will first appear at the nodes, or places where the leaves or branches grew from the main stalk.
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Once they have a good start on a root system, they can be planted in a pot of homemade compost or potting soil. There you are-new plant for free!

Baby the new plant for a few days, then you can put it in your garden.

For more tutorials on how to get free plants, you can read my Buy 2, Get 3 Free Tomato Plants post, or Have a Mint? Make Another Mint! You can also read about plant division in my post about sharing oregano with my brother.

Of course, a favorite money-saving post is How I Get Free Seeds.

Gardening is as expensive or as inexpensive as you make it.

What about you? Have you ever divided or rooted a plant before? Be careful, it can be addictive!

Be watching for an update on the monster tomato plant from the Florida raised bed garden and for pictures of some deadly pearly studs. Yes, some accessories can kill you! Any guesses about what the deadly pearly studs can be? Some of you may have seen them in your garden. Do you need another hint or can some of you gardeners already guess what they are?

Harvesting Jackson Wonder Lima Beans

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The dreaded pasty lima beans of your childhood are not the same as the ones that I harvested from my garden.

The Jackson Wonder lima beans that I planted in my Florida garden in March have been growing well and producing pods. Some of them have started drying so I decided to harvest.

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By harvesting the pods now, I have some for fresh eating and some for dried beans or seeds.

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I harvested half of my double row to get these. Not much of a harvest for the space, but they are tasty.

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Pretty too. Pale green lima beans and purple-speckled dried beans.

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Some of the soft ones have the pretty purple mottling too. They are the prettiest lima beans that I have ever seen.

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Here are the dried beans. I can use them in hearty soup later or use them as seeds next year.

Time to make some succotash with some of these yummy garden vegetables! Recipe coming tomorrow!

Calling All Foodies…What Should I Do With My UFO Squash?

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I want to honor this little alien spaceship by making something with it that not only tastes delicious, but also has a creative presentation inspired by its other-worldly shape.

I am looking for some ideas from you, my talented readers.

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I have a variety of fresh herbs on hand: basil, mint, oregano, rosemary, cilantro, thyme, and dill.

So what are your ideas? I can’t wait to be inspired! Ready, set, go!

Note: Technically this is called a patty-pan squash, but I can’t help but think of a little UFO when I see it. 🙂 Can’t you see it?

UPDATE: To see what I did with patty pan squash, check out this post! It’s chocolatey and savory!

Have a Mint? Make another Mint!

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Most of my herbs are for savory dishes, but one of my herbs pairs especially well with sweet. Mint is a wonderful herb to have in your backyard garden. I love to crush a few leaves to release the clean, fresh scent. It makes a refreshing hot tea on its own, and pairs nicely with iced tea, like in my refreshing mint-infused sweet tea. If you have a mint plant, but would like another; or you want to give one to a friend, mint is easy to propagate.

You only need a few cuttings of fresh mint. If you want to start a mint plant for yourself, you can get cuttings from a friend. You could even use cuttings purchased from the fresh herb section of a grocery store.

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mint cuttings

Cut off the leaves so that the bottom few inches are bare. Leaves below the water may begin to rot and create a nasty, smelly situation.

Place the mint stems in water.

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You should begin to see little white roots begin to grow within about two weeks. You may have some that will not root for you, but most should grow roots.

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Once you have multiple roots a few inches long, you can pot them into some of your homemade compost or some purchased potting soil. Leave it in partial shade for a few days to harden it off ( or you can place it on the bottom shelf of your snazzy pallet potting bench).

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You now have another pot of mint for eating or giving!

If you are brave, you can skip the whole rooting in water process and put the cuttings directly in soil. I think it is a bit more risky, but it can save you a bit of effort.

If you make another mint, what would you do with it? Make more tea or give it away?

Have you used this process for another plant? It’s really easy to comment on my blog and I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Backyard Garden Harvest!

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In the Florida panhandle, we can garden all year long. I really enjoyed the kale(did you try my favorite kale recipe?) and collards from my winter garden, but I have really missed fresh green beans.

This last week was the start of the harvests from my spring garden.

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I love fresh green beans! They are nothing like their commercially canned, mushy counterparts or the watery, commercially frozen beans.

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I love fresh yellow squash too. So far I have harvested 6. If you are having trouble with your baby squash or cucumbers shriveling and dying, be sure to read my post on how to prevent wrinkly baby squash syndrome.

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My cucumber plants are beginning to sprawl so I must put up a trellis for them ASAP. They are near a large privacy fence and I have a neat idea for a support. I plan to post pictures of this DIY cucumber trellis-the trellis will be quick to assemble and inexpensive to make!

I have many tiny green tomatoes and am looking forward to juicy BLTs and fresh salsa!

What are you harvesting?

 

Help! My Baby Squash are Shriveling and Dying!

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It’s disheartening to carefully tend your seedlings, finally spot a tiny squash, only to watch it shrivel up and die. If your little squash are getting wrinkles, and the plant looks otherwise healthy, it’s probably not your fault.

Blame the bees.

There are two types of flowers on a squash plant (this goes for cucumbers and melons too). The male flowers often bloom first, announcing their presence to any bees or pollinators nearby your garden. If the bees do not find your garden in time to transfer the pollen from the male flowers to the female flowers, the squash will not grow to maturity.

This is a male squash flower. Pretty basic.

The female flowers below have a baby fruit at their base. Do you recognize the common vegetables?

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female yellow squash flower

female zucchini flower

female zucchini flower

female cucumber flower

female cucumber flower

Little cucumbers are cute and very poky. 🙂

So what do you do if the bees haven’t found your garden yet? You can transfer the pollen yourself.

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All you have to do is take a male flower (I like to tear off the petals to make this easier) and transfer the pollen to a female flower. Some people use a makeup brush, but I don’t like to share my makeup brushes, especially with squash pollen.

Once you see lots of bees buzzing around in the mornings, this won’t be necessary.

This should solve the wrinkly squash syndrome for you. Hopefully you will soon have boatloads of zucchini!

If you are swimming in zucchini or patty pan squash, you should try some Chocolate Zucchini Apple Bread.  It’s really good and a nice way to use all that squash.