Thursday, December 2, 2010

Tomato Harvest 2010

Well all my watering and waiting has paid off and it is now time to harvest the tomatoes and evaluate the results. This has been a great season for growing tomatoes. I have had to deal with very little disease problems and no whitefly infestations. I grew all of my tomatoes in containers on my driveway. The fruit worms have claimed a few tomatoes and I lost about 12 in a windy storm when the containers fell over. But all that is water under the bridge now that it time to harvest. I will post my evaluations of each variety in future posts as more ripen.

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Pumpkin Transforms!

I have really learned a lot about nature, science, and spirituality through gardening. Now I can add cooking skills to the knowledge I have obtained through gardening. I have baked pumpkin dishes before with canned pumpkin from a store, but I certainly have never prepared a raw pumpkin before. I cut the pumpkin in half and scooped out all the seeds. Some of the seeds I saved to roast and some I saved to grow future pumpkins. The Galeux D'Eysines has a nice orange flesh but is a little thicker than a carving pumpkin.

 Thank goodness for the internet! I learned that I needed to bake the pumpkin for and hour or until it became tender. It was really neat because the actual skin I discovered was very thin and peeled right off. Nearly all of the pumpkin is edible.

I made the baked pumpkin flesh into a pumpkin bar. I got the recipe on the internet also. It tasted heavenly. Like a pumpkin pie without the useless pie crust. There is a oat crust underneath the pumpkin filling. I was pretty worried about this recipe because the filling was very runny like water, but it did eventually set and cooked perfectly. I didn't even use half of my pumpkin to make the bars. I froze the rest in the freezer for later uses. I also still have two more pumpkins in the garden so I don't have to worry about any national pumpkin shortages for a while.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Behold The Pumpkin!

I picked this Galeux d'Eysines pumpkin this morning. In my humble opinion it's the most beautiful pumpkin I have ever seen. It also has the honor of being the first pumpkin I have ever grown. Ah, so many potential uses for this baby. For now it is just decorating the house.  I pulled the vine after I cut it, but I still have two more baby pumpkins on another healthy vine.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Veggie Update

I went to the library today to pick up a book about squashes. The librarian saw the book and mentioned how much she missed the fall "up north" with all the pumpkins and apples and other Fall icons. I very proudly told her that I currently have my very own pumpkin growing in my yard. She looked shocked but interested. "Don't the bunnies eat it?" she asked. I informed her that thus far bunnies have not been a problem for me. Many people, especially northern transplants living in the suburbs like me, don't believe it is possible to grow edible crops in Florida. For sure it is harder to grow here than up north but it is very possible and our endless growing season makes up for the loss of fertility and yield. We sometimes forget that Florida has a thriving commercial agriculture industry. I don't use the heavy duty chemicals, science, and labor that the big guys do, but I make enough to make me happy. Here is what is growing in my yard right now:

Corn-Early and Often-Well, it made ears! I have my doubts about the pollination because I didn't plant a lot. It does give the yard a nice "Fall" look.
Pumpkin-Galeux d'eysines-A french heirloom and my first attempt at growing a pumpkin. So far I just have one pumpkin growing but it is beautiful and perfect.  Woe to whoever or whatever attempts to take this pumpkin!
Fairytale Eggplant
Moon and Stars watermelon- Still growing.

Friday, September 24, 2010


Flower Buds!
My fall tomato planting is going surprisingly well. I have sprayed no insecticides or fungicides yet the young plants look great. I wonder how long that can last. I have killed two tiny worms using the mechanical squish method. Some of the older plants are just now starting to get flower buds.
Black Krim

The plants have really  been growing like weeds. This is a Mexican tomato called Tlacolula Pink.

Roughwood Golden Tiger is so adorable. It grows slower than the other tomatoes maybe because of the extra energy spent growing this fuzz.

Thursday, September 23, 2010


This post is dedicated to my flowers. My main focus is getting the edibles ready, so I haven't been fully appreciating all the beauty my flowers give to my garden. They really are pretty right now, so I thought I'd post some pictures. Who doesn't like looking at pictures of flowers? Enjoy
Cherry Parfait Rose



Thursday, September 16, 2010

Late Summer Garden Update

Even though it is still very hot, I have noticed a change in the air that signals Fall is on its way. The air is dryer and the the leaves are falling from my backyard tree. My over-planted raised bed is doing well. Eight little gaucho melons have formed on long vines. The pumpkin vines are enormous! I have two pumpkins that have set fruit. One tiny watermelon has set fruit. My corn is starting to produce silks. Even my sunflower has survived and is about ready to bloom.

This is the larger of my two pumpkin fruit. Growing pumpkins for the first time has been a real learning experience. Unlike melons, cucumbers, and watermelons, the pumpkin vines put down roots wherever they go. Because I have a small yard, I must let the vines out onto the lawn. This makes maintaining the grass quite a chore. I have to use a pair of scissors to trim around it. It is worth it for the hope of a home grown pumpkin.

I have also started another wood raised bed nearby. The cedar raised bed kit was marked down at my local Lowes from $59 to $14.99. It was too hard to pass that deal up. In the new raised bed I have planted two types of cucumbers, eggplants, peppers, swiss chard (they aren't too happy in this heat), and thai basil.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Late Summer Garden

Well, it has been a while since my last post. The summer garden was disappointing to say the least. It has been so hot here. Typically in the summer it gets to be 90 to 92 degrees during the day. That is indeed pretty hot, but this year we've had many record breaking days of 96 degree heat. The heat index has frequently been 102 to 106.  I just can't work outside much in that kind of heat with all the disease carrying mosquitoes.

I planted a new raised bed. It is constructed of landscaping brick from Lowes. I filled it with old potting soil, compost, Miracle Grow potting soil, and topped it off with Lambert Garden Soil. I was so excited to have a raised bed that I overplanted it with a Galeux D'Eysines pumkin, a Moon and Stars watermelon, a Charentais meon, and Gaucho melon, sweet corn, and oh yeah, a giant sunflower. I know that is a wee bit too much for the space. I couldn't help myself.

With God's help, my garden has grown by leaps and bounds. Amazingly even though it is very hot and humid now, I have had little insect and no disease problems yet. Most of the vines have tiny little flower buds now. I am hoping for some productive bounty soon.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Butterfly Kisses-Part II (Types of Butterflies in my Yard)

1. Sulphur Butterfly
I'm happy to report my first discovery of a cloudless sulphur caterpillar. Last year I planted some type of cassia plant. I am not really sure the exact variety. I actually purchased it with the hope of attracting sulphur butterflies. Cassia plants are the larval food of various sulphur butterflies. I didn't notice any sulphur caterpillars last year, but a week ago I saw a yellow looking caterpillar hanging upside down on the branch of my queen's wreath. The queen's wreath is planted next to my cassia plant so I was pretty sure it was a sulphur caterpillar. A quick Google search confirmed its identity as a cloudless sulfur caterpillar. I named him "Steve." Here are some photos of Steve.

God's work is everywhere in my garden.

2. Monarch Butterfly

Monarchs are my favorite butterflies in my yard. They are exceptionally attractive at all life stages. Last year I didn't see many at all, but this year the populations seem to be making a comeback. The monarch's larval food is milkweed. I have tried the yellow milkweed, but they seem to like the orange and red more. They frequently eat the entire plant. Even though the milkweed grows back, it can't to so fast enough to satisfy the very hungry caterpillar. I usually rush around looking for more to prevent them from starving to death. This is a picture of "Heather" on milkweed.

3. Gulf Fritillary

Gulf Fritillaries were the first butterflies to visit my garden. Their larval food is the passion vine. I got my passion vine when I first moved here. I keep the vine in a large pot to prevent it from taking over the yard. It has very pretty flowers as a bonus.
Ok, the caterpillar is not as pretty as the monarch, but everything can't be adorable.
I can see the humor in this photo:)  They seem to like the yellow lantana as nectar sources.

4. Pipevine Swallowtail

The pipevine swallowtail's larval food is the Dutchman's Pipe (A.elegans) aka the Callico flower. There are many kinds of swallowtails and many kinds of Dutchman's pipes, but I only have the Callico flower and only philenor seems to like it. The Callico flower is an extremely healthy vigorous vine. I planted mine on one side of an arbor and it has nearly taken over. The flower is freakish but cool.

When the pipevine caterpillars are little they tend to cluster together. Maybe they need emotional support to cope with that the wasps trying to kill them? 

5. Black Swallowtail Butterfly
The black swallowtail eats dill or fennel as its larval food. I actually bought some dill from a local nursery with a caterpillar already on it. A note of caution: You will never have enough dill or fennel to satisfy all the caterpillar on the plant, but nature takes care of this problem by having the bluejay eat the poor little things.

Butterfly Kisses-Part I

I have always been a big fan of butterflies. When I was little I ordered special kits in the mail to raise my own and searched for their tiny eggs on queen anne's lace in the woods. Since I have started gardening more, I have found out that I need not work so hard to enjoy butterflies. It is just a case of if you plant it, they will come. Here are the steps to set up a butterfly garden you can enjoy watching from your porch:

Step 1: Plant nectar plants. Butterflies like to feed on sugary nectar from flowers. Plants some flowers in the sun lure some butterflies. Flowers like penta and lantana and many others are butterfly favorites.

Step 2: Having lots of pretty flowers will certainly bring in some occasional butterflies, but the real secret is to plant some larval plants. Each species of butterfly likes to lay their eggs on certain plants because their caterpillars only like to eat the leaves of that particular plant. They are very picky eaters. If you plant the right larval plant, every butterfly in the neighborhood who likes that plant will hang out in your yard. As an added bonus, you get to observe all the life stages of the butterfly right outside your house. You can see the butterflies laying eggs, see the eggs on the plant, see the eggs hatch into caterpillars, see the caterpillars eat and eat some more, see the chrysallis form and see the new butterfly emerge. How exciting!

Step 3: Give each butterfly a name. This step is optional, but I like to name mine George, Heather, Penelope, etc...

Monday, April 12, 2010

Oh, this is more like it! Spring has arrived!

It's in the low 80s now pretty much everyday. The heat and humidity haven't arrived yet, so I am one happy gardener. My yard is teeming with nature's little miracles. The orange trees are blooming and the bees seem to like the smell as much as I do. They also enjoy the lettuce flowers.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

How to Make Seed Balls

While visiting the Epcot Flower and Garden Festival the other day, yes again, I attended a workshop where I learned how to make seed balls. I had never heard of a seed ball before but I think it is a potentially great idea. This is how they are made:

1. Mix equal parts compost and clay together in a large bowl.
2. Stir seeds into the mixture.
3. Using a spray bottle, slowly moisten the mixture with water until you are able to roll small amounts into little balls. The balls should hold together easily but not be too gummy or sticky.You may you latex gloves for this part if you would like.
4. Allow the balls to dry.

That's it. Easy. To be truthful these balls look a little like the stuff that appears at the backend of the digestive process, but they are  perfect little seed germination bombs. The clay holds the seeds together and prevents birds from eating them or the wind blowing them away. When it rains the compost provides an initial boost to the seeds. Supposedly you can just drop them on the ground. How neat is that? It would probably be best to choose native wildflower seeds and avoid invasive species. Epcot gave us an heirloon wildflower mix with seeds suited for all areas of the country. They didn't say exactly what was in the mix. I imagine things like tickseed, gallardia, and coneflower would work nicely.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Unbelievably it is still cold!

According to the calendar it is March 23rd and we are into the spring season. At this moment it is 57 degrees here. This is how I remember spring in Ohio, cool and rainy, but wait isn't this central Florida? This continuing cold weather has really slowed down my garden. My tomatoes are doing their best with the cold and the wind. I will not show you the sad pictures of my yard yet, but the roses love the cold. Here are some pretty little roses to hold me over until things pick up a bit in the garden.

A Neptune hybrid tea rose that smells wonderful. I wish I had a smell-o blog.

A Burgundy Iceberg floribunda.
Souvenir De La Malmaison-1843 old garden bourbon rose from France.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

This Cold is Getting Old!

Well, yes it is still cold here in central Florida. Yesterday was kinda nice, but today there is more cold and rain. I have such an urge to get out and garden. My poor plants look so bad. I harvested the last of my carrots so that I could have their pot ready for the tomatoes.

I also went to Disney World for my birthday last weekend. EPCOT's Flower and Garden Festival was scheduled to start the next weekend, but they already had many of the garden displays out. I regard Disney as an aspirational source of gardening ideas. Here are some photos I took of the new garden displays. I notice a new emphasis on edible gardening.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Still Cold-Brrrrrrrr!

Well, it is still cold in my yard. The high temperature has hovered in the 50s for several weeks now. My little tomato seedlings haven't grown at all in the last two weeks. When will it end? I did see one gulf fritillary butterfly checking out the few flowers I have on my lantana. Poor little fellow. My camellia is still blooming. That makes me feel a little better.
Behold the February Tomato! This guy is a survivor from my fall planting. It is allegedly a Kellogg's Breakfast variety. I am not 100% sure what it is because one of the seeds from the packet turned out pink tomatoes instead of orange. This plant from the same seed packet seems to produce the right orange colored tomatoes but it does not taste like the descriptions of KB. Oh well, it is certainly cold tolerant!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Waiting for Spring

This winter has been an unusually cold and wet one here in central Florida. An extended period of cold weather early this year has caused a lot of damage in my yard. There are signs of new growth now on many of the plants so I hope the worst is over. At least the lettuce and carrots seem to shake off the cold.

Incredibly I still have some tomatoes left from my fall planting. I don't know how they made it through all this cold. This photo is of the hybrid called Beefmaster. I also have a Cherokee Purple with flowers on it and two Red Zebras.  I am not going to pull them out yet.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Spring Tomato Season 2010-Part 1

I have managed to accquire a number of heirloom tomato seeds. I purchased some from seed sellers online and some were given to me by very generous gardeners. I started seeds from several varieties in early January. Unfortunately the weather is still pretty cold and wet so I have been moving the seedlings a lot. When it is nice and sunny they go out in the yard. When it is under 50 degrees or rainy I bring them inside.

My little baby tomatoes are: Cuostrolee, Giant Belgium, Cherokee Purple, Hillbilly, Sunsugar, Matt’s wild cherry, Black cherry, Amish Salad, San Marzano, Garden peach, Paul Robeson, Red zebra, Black zebra, Black from Tula. I have some others that have not germinated yet. I probably am not going to have room for all of these.

Stupice: Has potato leaf foliage. Isn't she cute?