Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Trails & Open Spaces III - Apoxee Wilderness Preserve

Apoxee -pronounced 'Ah-po-ee' - means Tomorrow in the Native American Indian dialect of the  Miccosukee tribe.

Info Sign

This enormous preserve has over 16 miles of connecting trails, and is another water catchment area for the City of West Palm Beach.

Boardwalk entrance
To say that this is a rugged and wild park would be putting it mildly.

Apoxee is a vast, open wilderness of parched wetlands and narrow, winding paths, which are knotted with low hanging branches and tree roots.  At times we had to walk in single file. The foliage is almost eye-popping green and very lush and healthy.

Huge mature pines tower above the trails, bringing welcome shade for hikers. We stayed on the 2.6 mile trail as we only had a bottle of water each, and they were both empty within half an hour of walking.

It was very quiet in here. The birds must have been taking a noon-time nap or something, the only wildlife we heard was rustling in the thick undergrowth. Although there were a few cars in the parking lot there was no-one to be seen for a while. 

Then we came across a very friendly police officer patrolling the park on an ATV.

Soon the under canopy trail opened up to a huge boardwalk which traversed the mudflats. 

Look for critter prints!
Here in Florida we are having the worst drought conditions in 80 years. If you look at the sign at the top of this blog you will see that this is supposed to be a wetlands wilderness. The mud is baked and cracked and full of critter prints. If you look closely you can see Raccoon prints - bottom right - and a large bird - center.

Very beautiful and desolate.

After a while the boardwalk ends at water, which was very pretty and a welcome sight after all the parched vistas.

Heading back along the trail I was glad we had taken note of the trail markers along the way. With the traffic noise completed buffered by the trees, and very little in the way of scenery changes it would be very easy to get turned around in here and walking away from the parking lot instead of towards it.

Sure enough we came upon a lost family!

I shall return to this preserve in a few months, when hopefully our tropical rainy season will bring life back to the wetlands and completely and dramatically change the scenery and views from the boardwalk. I plan to do a "Before" and "After" blog for comparison.

Coming soon...... "Trails & Open Spaces IV - MacArthur Beach State Park."

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Gardening - A Rewarding and Seedy Way of Life

Like many of us, I like to save a few dollars, and so over the last few years I have saved my seeds. Last year, as a result of this practice, I grew a Sunmaster (SM) crop of tomatoes that lasted into August at 94 degrees F plus brutal humidity.

2010 we had so many SM tomatoes I froze bags of them or gave them away. I also saved the seeds of Husky Cherry and Roma tomatoes (that made it into July). I got them going again this year, and they are doing really well in regular garden soil. So, there is something to be said for this practice; developing a hardier plant based on the success of last year's crop.

This year, I tried an old heirloom, determinate variety: "Marglobe." How disappointed I have been with its performance! Maybe the very cool weather that we had at night in January and February stunted its growth, but the 8oz tomato fruit this type of tomato is known for was nowhere to be seen, despite slavish attention to watering and regular fish emulsion.

Heirloom vs. new hybrids? I am still figuring it out myself.

The University of Florida recommends (for Florida), Tropic, Floradel, Bonnie Best, Better Boy, Red Cherry, Sweet Chelsea, Sweet 100 and Sweet Million.

Scooped Pulp and Seeds
Back to seed saving, this is how I save my tomato seeds. Cut tomato open and scoop out the pulp and seeds.
Cherry Tomato

Put the pulp and seeds into a mason jar and fill 3/4 of the way with just tap water.

5 days later
After a week the water will be cloudy and the seeds will have sunk to the bottom. I am not sure if this 'fermenting' process is actually necessary, but it works. Note the seed color change from green to tan.
Rinse the seeds free of pulp using a colander and then dry between paper towels. I know, it seems like a lot of work but this is a really successful way of developing hardy seeds that will grow well in your garden and climate zone. 

I also save the pepper and cantaloupe seeds but skip the jar and just dry between paper towels. The milkweed plant just popped open it's pods and I gathered those up too, along with pineapple sage, zinnia and Texas Sage Bush. 

I let a lot of the red lettuce leaf go to seed (for the bees mostly) and I have gathered its seeds. With lettuce you are supposed to wait for the very last batch of seeds. That way you get the most heat tolerant batch.  

Having said all that, the secret of successful seed gathering and propagation is based on one teeny, lit'l detail. You have to remember to label the envelopes!

Lettuce Flowers

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Hope Grows Day: April 2011

In March my Frangipani (Plumeria) looked like this:
Frangipani March 2011
Frangipani April 2011

And now it has flushed out with some lovely leaves.

For April's Hope Grows I am looking forward to some flowers on the Frangipani, which smell heavenly.

I am also watching this orchid with considerable anticipation.
Terrestrial Orchid?

I was gifted this plant over 2 years ago, and told to put it directly in the ground in a semi-shaded location. The person that gifted this orchid told me it was a cane orchid and showed me his proud photo of this orchid growing everywhere in his yard.

It limped along for 2 years and now finally has some buds on it.  I also noticed that the ants seem to be rather interested in the bud. I read someplace to sprinkle garlic around the plant to deter them. Meanwhile, maybe someone can help me properly identify this type of orchid please?

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Lemon Boy: Thumbs Way Up

This year, for the first time, I decided to try a different kind of tomato: Lemon Boy. The bush is huge and started off with loads of fruit, but the birds ate most of them. Luckily I saved one while it was still green (and unpecked), and ripened it on a sunny outside windowsill.

For the last few days the temperatures have been in the mid and high 80F.

Lemon Boy
With the toasty temps outside, I decided to cool down with a nice crisp backyard salad, and I wanted an excuse to eat the only ripe Lemon Boy that I have - and maybe will ever have.

Marglobe Tomato, Banana Pepper, Salad Leaves
I meandered around the garden picking oakleaf, endive, and prizeleaf lettuce, some arugula, I snipped some garlic chives, added a banana pepper and a variety of bell called yummy. To this I added a fresh chopped Marglobe tomato, the Lemon Boy, a few nasturtium leaves for their peppery taste, and the flower itself. I topped my salad off with a few items from the fridge; a strawberry, raw mushrooms, cucumber, topped off with a large sprinkle of sunflower seeds and an even larger drizzle of homemade balsamic vinegar.
It was delicious and filing. The combo of crisp, tangy peppers and peppery nasturtium and arugula, buttery lettuces and the sweetness of a ripe, home grown tomato, shone through the balsamic dressing. To me, the Lemon Boy tastes somewhere between a sweet red grape and a tomato. It's a different taste and, I think, quite unique.

Bon Appetit - to me!
Please forgive my modest plates. With two teenage boys I have gone through several sets already. 'Butter fingers' is the phrase that comes to mind :)

And yes, I did eat the flower: honest I did.

Friday, April 1, 2011

April is off to a Good Start!

Welcome To My Garden!
Thank goodness it rained Monday!

Everything perked right up after that downpour.
The Sunflower enjoyed the rain so much, it decided to open!

Cantaloupe Seedling

On 7th March, I planted 6 cantaloupe seeds. Only one came up, so I planted another 6 seeds. I recycle paper cups to get my seedlings going.

Tabasco Pepper and Radishes
The radish seeds (Cherry Belle) - that I planted around the Tabasco Pepper - popped up in 5 days, and should be ready 22 days from planting.
I gleaned this "circling" planting tip from the book I recommended in my blog "Another Water Saving Idea." The radishes shouldn't interfere with the Tabasco's root system, because they will mature before the pepper shades them out. I also have some "insurance" radishes on the patio in case my nocturnal visitors eat the outside ones before us.

The Banana Peppers have gone, well hmm... bananas! I have two bushes. Very tasty in a salad or home-made salsa dip. The banana peppers need additional nutrients. Producing all those peppers has caused a little stress.

Banana Peppers
"Juliet" Roma Tomato

The Roma Tomats are plentiful, I need a good sauce recipe folks!

Jack and his beanstalk might have some competition here.

Sugar Snap Peas

The Sugar Snap Peastalk has decided the weeping bottlebrush is as good a support as any, and consequently has soared into the branches - a good 8 feet high. Those edible pods are scrumptious, we had some in a stir fry last night.

As a very amateur photographer wielding a rather complicated camera, I like the way this photo turned out with the lantana in the background sharper than the salvia upfront. Butterflies love both these plants. The plant growth has really accelerated since the weather warmed up a bit. They were not doing so well while the temperatures were in the 40's at night.

Now we have had a good rain, everything needs to be fed some fish emulsion especially those veggies grown in the soil. 

Oh wait, darn it....that means I will have to take a ride out to the big garden center to pick up emulsion and, while I am there, I guess I had better check out some more vegetables for the summer garden. Now I don't want to waste gas at these pump prices do I? 
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...