Monday, January 18, 2021

A Day of Progress

It's been a wonderfully exhausting, beautiful day in the garden! 

On Saturday, I travelled out to see the good folks at Maggie's Herb Farm and picked out several herbs: borage, lemon thyme, rue, bronze fennel, dill, sage, and parsley. Combined with the lavender, oregano, thyme and chives I already had going in pots, there was a lot of herb planting to be done today. 

My decision to plant herbs in front of the citrus trees came about after a little research; herbs attract lacewings, ladybugs, tachnid flies and more good bugs which feast on harmful citrus pests like aphids and caterpillars. It also looks kind of nice to have that second tier of plants in front of the citrus. I'll be mulching the entire bed soon too.

I also planted three types of onions today. These were varieties included in Territorial Seeds' Southern Onion Collection: Red Globe, Texas Early White, Texas Supersweet 1015Y(ellow). These are called "short day" onions and are the only type you're supposed to grow in Florida. This is the first time I've grown bulbing onions from sets, so a little research helped here too. 

Not sure what type of onion you should grow? Johnny Seeds has an entire page devoted to Onions and Daylength.

The peas are really getting going and will be slithering up their trellis in no time. I got the Gardener's Supply Expandable Pea Trellis this year for them; this structure comes with a top portion that can be attached to the bottom half when the vines really start to climb. I have not put the top piece on yet, but expect I'll be needing to do so in a couple of weeks.

Lastly, I performed one of my most hated gardening chores: thinning. It is just heart-wrenching for me to clip off a perfectly good sprout to accommodate for adequate plant spacing, but I know it has to be done. 

Monday, January 04, 2021

The Growing Begins

One of my favorite gardening pastimes is definitely seed starting. It's so thrilling to put a little tiny seed in some soil and watch it morph into something completely different. And how amazing is it that you can buy a pack of seeds for a couple of dollars and have it produce huge amounts of valuable, tasty food?

I've bought seeds from a lot of different sources over the years. Many have disappointed me, so this year I stuck with the handful of companies whose seeds have been tried and true in the past, mainly Johnny Seeds and Renee's Garden

In a couple of instances, I had to buy what I could find where I could find it, because I tend to obsess over certain varieties like a stalker. Case in point: I HAD to have Organic Black Spanish Radish and Purple Sprouting Broccoli seeds and the only place selling them was (ugh) Walmart. When the seeds arrived, I was pleasantly surprised to see they were actually from a company called Sustainable Seeds. We'll see how well they do; so far, seed germination has been excellent for both. 

I'm also trying a new grow light this year, as shown in the picture at top. After using standard warm and cool fluorescent shop lights for many years, I've upgraded to the AntLux LED grow light and absolutely love it. It's cool to the touch but really powerful. (I feel compelled to tip my hat to all the pot growers out there who have revolutionized the growing industry with equipment advancements like these.) 

For my cool season veggies started in the garage under the grow light, I also tried out another new tool: the Burpee seed starting kit. This tray is a little weird in that it has a mat that wicks water up through the bottom tray and keeps the coir/soil moist in the individual cells in the top tray. It seems to work pretty well, though, if seed germination is any indication; I am at nearly 100%.

Speaking of seeds, here's everything I've planted indoors. These were started around December 19 (yes, I need to keep better's been awhile!)

Broccoli: Green Magic, Batavia, Purple Sprouting

Cabbage: Little Jade (Baby Napa), Pixie (Baby), Deadon (Red Savoy)

Cauliflower: Amazing White, Purple Crush

Celery: Conquistador, Merlin

Kale: Tuscan Baby Leaf, Lacinato, Purple Moon

Leek: Striesen

Pak Choi: White Stem

I hear some of you snickering because I am attempting to grow celery in Florida. According to some here, it is an easy late winter/early spring crop for those of us in the northern half of the state. I'll believe it when I see it. (Let it be known that for 25 years, I heeded warnings in Texas to never even attempt it. Apparently I am getting more adventurous with age.)

Lastly, here are several things I direct-sowed in the garden over the weekend. (The afore-mentioned Black Spanish Radish is already poking through!)

Beet: Gourmet Blend (Detroit Dark Red, Chioggia, Golden)

Carrot: Calliope Blend (multiple colors)

Onion: Italian Red of Florence (Bunching/Scallion)

Peas: Oregon Sugar Pod II (Snow), Magnolia Blossom (Tall Snap), Royal Snap II (Snap), Golden Sweet (Snow)

Radish: Crimson Giant, French Breakfast, Easter Egg Blend, Black Spanish Round

Swiss Chard: Garden Rainbow

Leafy greens seeds (lettuce, spinach, arugula, etc.) will be scattered over a couple of the beds soon.

Also coming soon: I have the Southern Onion Collection on order from Territorial Seeds and they should actually arrive in a couple of weeks. I think I'll be giving a lot of these to James, as there are way too many in this collection for my somewhat limited space. 

I should also be receiving my order of Adirondack Red Potato tubers sometime in March, which is borderline late for taters in North/Central FL, but it is what it is. I am trying these colorful grow bags for those.

Until next time...Happy New Year, and may your seed germination rate be near 100%!

Sunday, January 03, 2021

Raising the Stakes


The raised beds are up and I'm loving them! This was the view a couple of weeks ago. 

These are the 6' x 4' x 15" Deep Root Cedar Raised Beds from Gardener's Supply. Really great quality beds, easy to assemble and the price isn't bad, especially if you find a coupon code and/or take advantage of a free shipping opportunity (extra shipping charge does apply, however).

We've since gotten even further than the above photo indicates. There's now crushed limestone surrounding the beds, good soil filling them and the perimeter beds, and drip irrigation lines in each bed. We used the Rain Bird Drip Irrigation Conversion Kits to change two sprinkler heads into multi-drip lines. This has worked out really well, despite being one of the things I was most nervous about in this endeavor.

And yes, I did some fruit tree shopping and went a little hog wild! Big thanks to Leonardi's Nursery for taking great care of me and answering all my questions during my shopping trip.

I'm learning a lot about growing fruit, for sure. Most citrus these days are self-pollinating, so they don't necessarily need a partner to dance with. However, growers are encouraged to plant a second variety nearby to bolster production.

The perimeter garden will contain the following:

  • Pink Lemonade Blueberry
  • Blueberry 'Native Florida'
  • Satsuma Mandarin
  • Ruby Red Grapefruit (2)
  • Barbados Cherry (2)
  • Persian Lime
  • Key Lime
  • Variegated Lemon
  • Meyer Lemon

Honestly, I never even considered growing cherries until reading about how well Barbados Cherry does here. Coupled with the fact that it isn't a full-blown tree, but rather a large bush, and the decision became easy. It's said that three or four of these cherries contain a full day's worth of Vitamin C. I can't wait to try them; the larger of the two plants I have should actually produce this year and I'm beyond excited.

In addition to the rather large citrus trees listed above, I have two small potted "Buddha's Hand" citron plants that have been hunkered down on my lanai. These bear fascinating-looking fruit that are mainly used for their skin for flavoring dishes. Because they are so tender, I'm not sure that planting these outdoors is wise just yet; I may just pot them up and move them outside as temperatures warm. 

I also bought an olive tree (!) during my shopping trip and am really excited about that too, although it's staying in a pot for now as a I continue to deliberate where best to plant it. 

My partner in this adventure has been James Weston, a local lad who runs a garden consulting and composting business called Epic Compost. James is a knowledgeable gardener and very hard worker and I'm so glad I hired him.