Sunday, October 28, 2012

October Yields - A Veggie Preview

Hello South Florida!! Finally cooler days! Two weeks ago it was 88-90 F during the day, and now we are looking happily at anywhere from 73-81 F - Makes all the difference to getting out there and getting grubby  - but not too sweaty - in the garden. It's worth mentioning that in my gardening journal last year I was noting by October 3rd, low 80sF during the day at low 70sF at night.

The Bell Peppers are thriving with lots of buds and maturing peppers. I have both in large pots, and they've had several good waterings with very diluted epsom salts and a few big dollops of fish emulsion. Peppers were bought as transplants a month or so ago from a nursery and they are already producing, so I'm very happy about that. 

Whitefly infestation was prevalent for a while, but I prevailed with daily brushing the affected leaves with Diatomaceous earth powder.

We now have three raised vegetable beds installed. The first has Broccoli (front of box), Blue Lake Pole Beans (middle netting trellis) and Eggplants (back of box supported with tomato cages). There are some Marigolds (tagetes) in there, the flowers of which I feed to my conures. All thriving with all the rainfall we've been getting. The Broccoli I am anticipating harvesting for Thanksgiving Dinner.

I have yet to decide what to put in the empty box since it's still cooking. I lined the bottom with a thick covering of cardboard boxes and newspapers, then topped it off with garden soil, bonemeal, home-made compost etc. I sprinkled about 2lbs of regular white sugar in with that mix, because apparently sugar kills nematodes. The third box is on the right out of view finder range. It's loaded with different varieties of tomatoes. Cherokee, Brandywine, Heatwave and Lemon Boy. (Heatwave not doing well).

Ichiban Eggplant with Blue Lake Pole Beans
Blue Lake Pole Beans

We're harvesting the runners and eggplants. My bean yield isn't tremendous, but then only my husband and I eat them. I top and tail the beans, cut them in half and lightly boil them, they have a nice flavor with a little crunch to them. I yield about 4-5 a day.

Here's something to watch out for. I noticed that the flower production on the Eggplant had stopped, and whole lotta chewing was going on. The chewing may be flea beetles, or lubber grasshoppers and the bud drop due to lack of water. A closer examination of the leaves showed they had been folded over. Opening the leaf revealed what I think is a baby hornworm. I picked the folded leaves off and put them in the bird feeder. Other gardeners suggest using reflective mulch under eggplants to deter flea beetles. I used some old CD's instead, and I bet you could use aluminum foil too.

While I was trawling the web for insect identification I came across this great website.
Click here:
A Great Website with tips for Growing Eggplant

Disappointingly the Early Girl tomato I was so enthralled with, only produced one little wormy tomato and then the whole plant wilted and died. An examination of the roots showed no nematode damage. Maybe it was still too hot out. I'll give this variety of tomato one more shot, before I write it off -- after all -- ripe tomatoes in November would be nice to have.

Cuke flowers
The Burpless Cuke on the left (big leaves) shares a pot with Cherry Belle Radishes. The Cuke is now about 3 feet high and already producing fruit. Someone recommended putting onions skin in the pot to deter Cuke borers. I have done this and can report that - so far, so good.

Don't skimp on the water with Cukes, they go downhill very quickly if the soil isn't kept moist. I should be able to harvest the Cherry Belle radishes soon.

In the meantime I'll just enjoy the Monarch butterflies that, along with the Giant Swallowtails, have returned en-masse, looking no doubt for the butterfly garden I have so carelessly neglected over our hot, humid and weedy summer.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Good Grief! Call Yourself A Gardener?

Well as it turns out... actually yes....

The story goes like this. In the 1850’s o
ne of my distant ancestors left County Wicklow, Ireland and arrived in Pembrokeshire, South Wales, where he was hired as a groundsman on a large estate with formal gardens. He was called thereafter ‘Gardener Davies.’ (probably working alongside 'Gardener Williams,' 'Gardener Llewellyn,' etc., well you get the point).

I’m quite sure ‘Gardener’ would not have let the estate under his shared charge slide into the disarray that my yard is in. I mean seriously.. was I asleep or in a trance or something? Those darn fairies.

Left photo showcases a simply delightful collection of weeds the area  of which used to be part of my seasonal tomato patch.

You can see that my shovel means business, it’s practically quivering with indignation.....

4 hours and two gallons of water later (me not the garden). I think I might have shed a 1lb or two, or maybe gained it, water is heavy after all. 

Let me tell you there was a BIG spider in there carrying around her egg sack on her abdomen. But hey, at least I had a platoon of lizards helpfully picking out the roaches and bugs as I unearthed them. I mean thank goodness for that, I though I was going to have to eat them myself. 

Afterwards with raised bed installed
I only left a Milkweed plant standing - because it’s part of my - ahem - butterfly garden........Oh I’m sorry, wait a minute I can’t remember where that is now.

Some kind of butterfly garden that is!

Oh there it is......

....... I know, I know, I’m just disgusted with myself. I'll go put a burlap sack over my head or something.

I have a lot of work to do.

Butterfly Garden 2010-2011
Above: Here’s my butterfly garden two years ago - taken from opposite direction. Complete with puddling bowl for the Monarch butterflies, who apparently forgot their water wings, since there was no takers for puddling.

All that digging and weed pulling quite wore me out, but then I had an Alfred Hitchcock not Psyco silly....

One by one some visitors silently arrived..........

Creeping Closer
American Black Vultures. They eventually totaled about 6 in number. The branch they are sitting on is about 15-20 feet off the ground to give you an idea of how big they are.

"Now look guys, when I said earlier that I was "dying of thirst", it was you know a figure of speech, I didn't really mean to suggest that I was, you know, dying or anything....let's be reasonable about this......"

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Pine Tree Magic

Over the years we have lost quite a few of our Pine Trees. When we moved in here 11 years ago we counted out 100 pine trees. Then the Hurricanes of 2003-2004 took out a fair number followed by a nuisance pine beetle that bores holes into the trees and then the tree sickens and dies. Unfortunately this leaves tree stumps all over the yard which take forever to rot away and pose a real hazard when we are riding the mower.

While I am out and about weeding I am always coming across tiny pine seedlings that are invariably growing too close to the house. So over a number of years I have scooped the little guys out and started growing them in pots.

It took me years to figure out: (1) Out of the whole garden for some bizarre reason they will only grow in pots in this partially shaded spot, where they share space with large birds of paradise  (2) They do not like to be watered regularly (3) No fertilizer (4) I have to be sure to incorporate into their pot plenty of the original soil they were found growing in (5) Remove the weeds growing in their pot, but damage the tap root and they're done for (6) They die every time I try to move them from a small pot to a bigger one (7) I can however transplant them safely to their new, permanent growing space when they are approximately 5 inches high.

The top photo is a healthy transplant - about 14" high and a year old now. The bottom photo is about 6" high and just recently transplanted from its pot. They thrive with the pine mulch around them. It's much the same as if they were growing in a hardwood forest.

To hide the old stumps left behind, I have found that if I dig out enough of the rotting stump, I can wiggle the new transplant right in there. Their strong tap root will go through the wood left behind by the old tree and they really take off then.

It will take them a few more years to get to this height (below).

But eventually - give or take 10-15 years - we will have this to look forward to.......

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