Tag Archives: Panhandle gardening

My ulterior motive for buying Classico

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Reusing Classico jars for canning

You’re not supposed to do this, but if you can believe what you read on the internet, you can actually reuse Classico jars for canning home goods!

I did it, and did not sustain any bodily injury.

Don’t come crying to me if you die, though. I told you that you’re not supposed to do it.

I have also used their lids with great success to avoid the nasty rusted canning lid syndrome.

Anyway, these are a great size (24 oz) and I am happy to add them to my canning jar stash! I think Publix had them BOGO for $2.99, which is a great deal, especially considering that I’m getting a canning jar too.

Mmm. Now I’m in the mood for some hot apple pie made with homemade pie filling or some warm homemade bread slathered with apple pie jam…

Maybe I’ll can some salsa in these this summer. I do love salsa.

Isn’t canning yummy?

 

 

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My North Florida Gardening To-Do List for April

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My North Florida Gardening To-Do List for April

This was the hardest time of the year for me in college. Flowers were blooming, the weather was nice, and I wanted to be outside with my hands in the dirt so badly.

This should be a great month for planting, weeding, dividing, and transplanting.

My tomatoes are already in the ground, and zucchini have true leaves already.

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Greens are producing well, and some are bolting and attracting pollinators.

1. I need to get my pepper plants in the ground. I gave up on getting my bell peppers to sprout, and just spent the 3 bucks on some. You can be sure that I looked for a pack with lots of two in one plants. 🙂

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You may notice that my jalapeño and and habanero peppers germinated just fine though. Figures.

2. Plant green beans. I’m trying a new variety called ‘Tendergreen’ this spring.

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3. Save seeds from my Johhny Jump Ups. Looks like some seed has already been scattered for next season.

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I’m also excited that it seems like I will triple my blueberry production this year.

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You know, like from 5 blueberries to 15. 🙂

In other news, I have some fun stuff coming up in my compost. More on that later- for now, let’s poke some seeds in the ground!

Did you start your tomatoes on Valentine’s Day?

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This year, I’m trying to eke out a bit more from my winter garden. Hopefully having the garden busy with radishes, turnips, and mustard greens will keep me from poking bean seeds into cool soil.

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I love being able to harvest the dinner vegetable just minutes before cooking it.

More kale, three types of turnips, and hopefully some carrots will be making an appearance soon.

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I did get some tomatoes, peppers, dill, and cucumbers started this week. It seems as though winter is over, and I do have a few rows that will be available.

I need to save some more seeds this year from my ‘National Pickling’ cucumbers. I use them to make refrigerator pickles, and we look forward to them each year.

Really, if I could only grow one vegetable each spring, I think cucumbers would be it.

What is your favorite vegetable to grow in the spring?

 

North Florida Gardening: August To-Do List

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It is a jungle out there. I really don’t want to share pictures of what my garden looks like now.

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How about you just look at these pretty peas?

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Or the nice striping on this eggplant?

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I have two teeny tiny jalepeno plants, approximately a foot tall each, and they have been pumping out the peppers. I just got a dozen from them.

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Just keep scrolling past the garden pictures…

The okra is doing great, as is the basil. The orange and yellow cosmos are real winners over here.

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Jungle!! AHH!!

The cover crops that I planted are chugging along, though, even the 75 cent pinto beans.

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Going to let a few ‘Clemson Spineless’ okra pods ripen so I can save some okra seeds for next year.

I planted probably double the amount as last year, and I still wish I had planted more.

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The yard long beans are growing up the fence with amazing vigor. They twine like pole beans, but aren’t complaining about the netting. They show no signs of slowing, and seem as though they would grow 50 feet tall if I had a trellis high enough.

My neighbors probably already think I’m weird enough, better not.

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Picked and shelled some Southern peas. I think I’ll grow more ‘Mississippi Silver’ next year; they seem to be larger and pack the pod pretty tight. More meat for your shelling time.

My to-do list for August:

1. Get seeds started for fall garden. Kale, collards, Swiss chard, cauliflower, kohlrabi,and broccoli will go in flats so they can be planted out in September.

2. Till under cover crops in large garden toward end of month.

3. Pull up green beans from shed bed and replace with zucchini and yellow squash. In August, we can essentially replant a spring garden here in North Florida, and September starts the official fall garden planting for me. If you want an almost complete guide to the vegetables you can grow in Florida, a really good planting calender can be found here.

4. Try not to get stressed out by how terrible the garden looks now. July and August tend to be pretty tough. Maybe next year I’ll just smother the whole thing with grocery store beans the first of July and pretend it doesn’t exist until the middle of August. 🙂

How’s your garden? For some of  you, this is the time to make me jealous!

The Summer Garden in North Florida

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Are your squash plants struggling? Tomato plants looking raggedy and not producing any new flowers? Cucumbers starting to get covered in powdery mildew?

Time for the summer garden!

Here in North Florida, frost doesn’t signal the end of a gardening season; the intense heat and oppressive humidity kills the plants.

You don’t have to give up gardening in our “winter” season, as there are many crops that actually thrive in the heat.

1. Okra– I love this vegetable! It’s not just for gumbo; if you don’t like the slimeyness, try my no-slime okra recipe.

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2. Eggplant– The classic way to prepare it is as Eggplant Parmesan; but I like to dice it, saute it with olive oil and garlic, then use it like mushrooms in omelettes and sauces.

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3. Sweet potatoes– I bought plants once, and since then have propagated my own if I wanted more plants. You can also start your own. Of course I like to eat the potatoes, but did you know that you can also eat the leaves as a nutritious summer green?

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4. Southern peas– These peas are not to be confused with the little green peas known as English peas and garden peas; Southern peas include legumes such as black-eyed peas, pink-eyed purple-hulled peas, crowders, and lima beans. I made some amazing succotash last year with my fresh limas.

I am growing yard long beans again this year. I am really excited about them, so expect an update soon!

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Even if you’d rather take the summer off from gardening, I recommend you use these as a cover crop. Since they are legumes, they will put nitrogen back in your soil. If you don’t cover your garden with either a thick layer of mulch or a cover crop, the weeds will take over.

Frugal cover crop tip: buy a bag of beans from the grocery store and plant them. They may be pole or bush, but either way you will be feeding the soil and shading out the weeds.

5. Peppers- I have had good success with jalapenos and banana peppers in the summer.

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I plant bell peppers in the spring, but they usually just limp along until the fall, and then produce like crazy. You can start some bell peppers now, but don’t expect much of a harvest until it gets a bit cooler.

These are the fuss-free crops that have done well for me in the summer. In the summer, I may pop out to water them occasionally in the morning or evening, but I really don’t want to be out for hours in the afternoon heat.

For a great chart of many other crops that can be planted, organized by month and region, click here.

Oh yes, one more summer crop.

6. Basil– This herb loves the heat and it is great for pesto!

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How about you? Do you keep gardening in the summer, or do you take some time off to rest?

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!

February To-Do List

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Will spring be early this year? I sure hope so.

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Until then, I am enjoying delicious greens from the garden. The collards pictured above have survived our light frosts pretty well.

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Turnip harvest have been good, and the mustard greens and kale have kept us supplied with veggies.

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I have been pleased with the ‘White Egg’ turnips this year. Despite being planted too closely, they have still produced many turnips. We ate the thinnings as greens, and now they are bulbing up nicely, no succession planting needed.

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The shed bed has been producing mustard greens, and the garlic is progressing nicely.

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Broccoli has been a bust. Again. Last year I blamed myself, the weather, and the soil and decided to try it again.

This year, I blame it on the variety. I’m going to spend a little extra and get a named variety or hybrid for next time. Do you have a favorite variety that you recommend?

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The pac choi is bolting, and I welcome the cheery yellow flowers. I plan to let my mustard bolt too, I’m hoping for an impressive display from them.

My to-do list:

1. Start tomatoes and flowers on Valentine’s Day. Last year I had spring fever so bad…do you remember the strange place that I sprouted seeds?

2. Make marmalade!! I love it so much on homemade bread, with hot tea to accompany it. That combination makes me feel cultured and British. 🙂

3. Sketch out a garden plan. I hope to have most of my crops and seeds planted by mid-March, and then to just let them do their thing.

4. Get more green bean seeds. I’m going to buy some in bulk to save money. Maybe this year I will save some seeds from them. Saving your own seeds is a great way to save money in the garden. You can also get seeds for free; check out my popular post on How I Get Free Seeds.

5. Plant out sugar snap starts. Last year I figured out too late that the squirrels were digging up my peas. I found a few peas that I had managed to save from last year, soaked them, and planted them in flats. Hopefully it’s not too late.

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Are you ready for spring? I have to admit, I’m not quite as stir crazy as I was last year; maybe it’s because I have so many crops actively growing and maturing.

We are supposedly in for some cold weather this week. If you have raised bed gardens, look for a post soon on how to cover your raised bed.

Are you going to try any new techniques or varieties this year? It’s never too early to plan!

Florida Raised Bed Gardening Update

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Florida Raised Bed Gardening Update

Gardening is addictive. Last spring, this retired couple started out with a single raised bed. They harvested squash, tomatoes, peppers, and green beans.

The bed was planted for the fall with collards, kale, carrots, turnips, and radishes.

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The North Florida raised bed now has a neighbor.

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See? Once you get started gardening, it’s hard to stop with just one bed.

The gardener used my cheap DIY plant label idea, and planted another garden.

The raised bed idea is great for planting carrots, who need soft soil in order to grow straight roots.

We have gotten some frosts recently here in North Florida, but they have a neat way to cover their beds for the night. I’ll have to show you some pictures of that soon.

I hope your gardens are growing well. You can start planning for the spring and getting your seeds together. I have a post on how to get free seeds and  how to make your own compost. Gardening can be as expensive or as inexpensive as you want.

Winter is a time for yummy greens (especially in my favorite kale recipe!) and fresh hot biscuits. I have a super easy way to make biscuits that I will share with you later this week.

Fresh, hot, homemade biscuits with some easy peach jam? Yes, please!!!

 

Mixing Vegetables and Flowers for Winter Color

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My poor flowerbed looks pretty bleak in the winter. After our first frost, not much is green except the day lilies.

So, this fall, I am planning to plant snapdragons in that flowerbed, along with some herbs and leafy vegetables.

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I saw this display of snapdragons and pansies last spring and it sparked a determination to have some of my own. Seeing something like this from my kitchen window would certainly make doing the dishes much more pleasant!

So, right now I’m considering snapdragons and Swiss chard for color, curly kale for green, and potted herbs for structure. Maybe some lime green Bibb lettuce too?

Keeping the herbs in pots also gives me the option of tucking them indoors in case of a nasty freeze.

What do you think? Can you think of any other vegetables or flowers that I should add? What survives the cold for you? I’d love to hear your suggestions and ideas!

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.