Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Pepper Jelly Time!

After harvesting my jalepeƱo peppers I wasn't quite sure what I was going to do with so many of them. After looking at several recipes I decided I was going to make some homemade jalapeno pepper jelly.

This was my very first attempt at canning and I must say it really came out very well. I enjoyed the process of cooking and canning the jelly very much. I plan on making some more and giving them away as Christmas gifts.

I boiled the jelly on the stove for 10 mins, before canning

Pepper jelly is great with cream cheese on a cracker!


Saturday, November 24, 2012

Fried green tomatoes Yummmm

I hope everyone hade a safe and happy thanksgiving. We had a great day at our house and enjoyed the most delicious sweet potato casserole ever. We used the cured sweet potatoes from the garden and it truly was a hit. I think that they have been curing now for about 3 months. 

Also, I just harvested 7 large green tomatoes and cooked them up for a Black Friday feast. Boy were they delicious. Here is to kicking off the holiday season!


Here is a few current photos of the garden.

The broccoli are getting bigger every day I see them, just not sure how much longer I should wait to harvest

This is some of the Buttercrunh lettuce, and it tasted so good, I just had to plant another bed of them. 

This is the additional bed of Buttercrunch Lettuce (right front), Onions (right back), Eggplant (back left), and Spring Mix salad greens (left front)

Several of my tomato plants.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Pests and diseases

Here are a few pictures of some of the pests and diseases that have plagued my garden. I have had as many caterpillars that there probably are in Southwest Florida and have really had a problem with the mosaic virus on my cucumbers, not to mention fungal diseases on the tomatoes as well.

I have learned to control most of the pickleworms, melonworms, cutworms and tomato hornworms with BT Thuricide.  However, you really have to keep up on it on a weekly or even biweekly basis in order to keep them under control. What I've found is that an ounce of prevention is surely worth a pound of cure, and that you really need to be conscious of when you're planting your vegetables. In Southwest Florida timing is everything and if you do not time your crop correctly then you will be plagued by pests and disease.

For the most part I use insecticidal soap for control of aphids and some other soft bodied pests. Another method of control of aphids is simply take a hose and spray them off. I have found that ladybugs, although very beneficial in the garden, really are not effective in their overall control of aphids and other pests.  But they sure do help out in the garden, and look beautiful too.  Just be sure that whatever product you use, does not kill off the beneficial insects and bees.  I've learned this the hard way, when after planting some pumpkins, they would just start to grow, but then would rot and fall off the vines.  I could not figure this out, however I realized I was spraying for the melonworms (of course the wrong product) during the day, when the flower blooms were open, and the bees were active.  What I was doing was killing off the bees, and not allowing full pollination!  So there was the key to the puzzle.  First, make sure your spraying when the flowers are closed, and bee activity is at a minimum.  Second, make sure of what your spraying!  And finally, investigate what pest you are wanting to control and the correct measures for that situation.  During my pumpkin fiasco, I even reverted to using Seven dust, which of course did nothing but suffocate my leaves, and cause wilt, die off, and improper pollination, not to mention killing off my precious bees. 

Another great method to use is spraying the plants with worm compost tea. I purchase this at my local farmers market along with worm castings That are a great source of beneficial compost for the garden soil.

In my garden I have a saying, all bees, butterflies, and spiders are welcome.  Now I think I should add to that ladybugs!

Just some of the devastation in the garden, caused by three hornworms in just 2 days.
Like Waldo, Can you find the culprit?  He wasn't easy to find at first, and took my husband and I several looks in order to catch them.  Once found, they just jumped right out at you.  Sneaky little devils aren't they

Tomato Hornworm.  Ugly isn't he?

This is the telltale sign of the tomato hornworm.  It's called manure, and usually found at the base of the plant.  Almost looks like scat, but I found some on the leaves, so not scat.

Dreaded melonworm.  The bane of my existence here in SW FL!!!

You can't really see it, but there are several holes in these squash, where the pickleworms have made their home. 

Below are some picture of the black rot that affected my fall 2012 garden.  Black rot - it is caused by a bacteria which is often seed borne but can survive on crop debris - control is use of certified seed, copper sprays can help reduce spread, also avoid working plants when wet and avoid overhead irrigation.  Cut petioles should display black veins in petiole.

This is black rot on my broccoli and cabbage plants, it has even taken over the cauliflower as well.  

More of the devastating black rot.  I at least harvested the main broccoli stalks prior to it getting this bad.

This is damage from the Tomato fruit worm pictured below.  They can become quite large, and LOVE the green tomatoes.  I especially hate them because they don't seem to eat the entire tomato, just ruin them by taking bites out of them before moving to the insides.  These again are controled by Thuricide or Dipel.  I'm going to be giving Dipel Pro a try, as I am doing some further research on its advanced effectiveness.


I'm not really sure what this catepillar is, however he is doing just as much damage as all the other moth born pests.  Any ideas as to his identity please give me a shout out.  I at first thought he was a cutworm, but don't think so now.  I've found him on the upper level of the tomatoes, in my green beans, on my cabbage, broccoli and bell peppers.
This is a picture of the Sri Lanka Weevil. He is new to SW Florida, and according to Ralph Mitchell - Director/Horticulture Agent for the Charlotte County Cooperative Extension Service, there are no known pesticides for vegetable crops that can control them. They chew into the leaves, as you can see below, leaving a V shape to the leaf. One method of control is hand picking (which I have done and seems to work very well) or to take a black umbrella turn it upside down and place below the plant, and give the plant a little shake. The bugs fall off the plant very easily, and into the umbrella for you to dispose of. P.S. They are crunchy little buggers, and hard to squeeze in your hand so use gloves, or your fingernail to kill squish them. You can read further about this pest by going to : http://charlotte.ifas.ufl.edu/horticulture/newsarticles/SriLankaWeevil.pdf from the Charlotte County Extention office.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The broccoli are coming,the broccoli are coming!

Out in my garden after three days of work and what do I find? The broccoli heads already sprouting. Yippee!! I know I sound a bit crazy, however it's my first run at growing broccoli and It gives me great satisfaction in knowing that all of our hard work is paying off.

I've noticed that I have some yellowing leaves on the base of the stalk and pulled off the more far gone leaves, hoping that's the correct thing to do.

Also I harvested some butter crunch lettuce, spinach, yellow beans, although just a small handful of those, and one lonely tomato.

What surprised me however, was that after just 3 days of not seeing my garden and two small sprinklings if rain, my tomatoes already have fungal disease on their leaves. I've picked the worst of them off, and threw them away.  Personally I don't put them in the composter because I'm afraid of spreading diseases.

I will be doing a whole page dedicated to what I've learned about pests and diseases for the SouthWest region of Florida very soon, in addition to my thoughts on what type of soil to use for raised beds.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Some of the edible vegetables and fruit from my garden

This is just some of the vegetables and fruit that I've harvested so far. I have some bell peppers, green beans cherry tomatoes and even a cantaloupe!

I harvested sweet potatoes back in September, however after some considerable reading I learned you cannot eat the sweet potatoes right out of the ground as they are virtually tasteless, so you have to cure them outside for a week and then store them for over 2 to 3 months before they become sweet enough to eat. Who knew right? Well they should be ready just in time for Thanksgiving though!  Will let you know how the sweet potato casserole turns out, and share my favorite recipe for it too.

This cantaloupe was very small, and I almost threw it in the compost bin.  It turned yellow on the vine, and as I was bringing it in the house, my husband said "your not bringing that in the house are you?" lol.  I said well yes I am, so that I could cut it open and see where I had failed or if something had gotten in it.  It was ripe and juicy and I ate it on the spot!  They are stunted though on the vine, and only about the size of a grapefruit.  I'm thinking lack of fertilizer and water may have been the culprit.

A tisket a tasket my sweet potatoes in a basket :-)

You can see the size of these sweet potatoes, they are HUGE!!  Not bad for my first time growing them.  Of course they were not all this size, and I would like to try the above ground hay method with fencing next time just to see if the yield is better, and if it saves my back from all the digging.  I'll keep you up-to-date on that one and blog all about it next spring.

Just some of the green beans, peppers and tomatoes of the garden.  

Random pictures of the garden

Here Are some random pictures of the garden on my lot. My husband and I build the entire thing ourselves with the exception of the paved walkway which we had professionally done.

The bench was a $25 Craig's list find that I refinished.
I also made the planter too however that was a total Pinterest idea!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Updated Fall Garden

Well fall has arrived in SW Florida.  The days are beautiful in the 70-low 80 degree weather, and evenings are cool.  I've harvested most of the cucumbers for this season, and made my first batch of sweet bread and butter pickles.  Boy did they come out fabulous if I must say so myself.  Now the aphids have attached them, however on the plus side, I get to watch all of the ladybugs dance around the garden.

My tomatoes are looking just wonderful, and I'm getting anxious to harvest them soon, and learn how to can my vegetables.  I'll be researching how to do this on the edis website at:http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/topic_canning_food.  This website is just full of information regarding planting times for northern, central and south florida, also they give their recommendations for selection of vegetable varieties that are best suited to our climate.

Here is a current picture of my winter red cabbage.  It is getting bigger every single day.  The inner heads are just forming, and the regular cabbage is to the left.  My broccoli is looking good also, however the cauliflower and yellow beans are not fairing as well.  I will have to do some more research on the beans, but I think my method of irrigation may be the cause of what looks like rust.  We've since taken care of this problem by adding drip irrigation to almost all of my garden beds, to which my husband replied: "your kidding me right?" LOL.  No, I said this was a work in progress didn't I?  And a learning curve needs to be taken into account, however the pocketbook doesn't understand this.  Oh well, nobody ever said a hobby was cheap.

My tomatoes.  I have a grape variety that is almost 8ft. tall right now!

Looking at the garden from the back to front.  

My butter crunch lettuce ready to be picked, and some small bell peppers.

Monday, October 15, 2012

The Beginning of a Passion

 This was the first garden bed.
 And Then there were two :-)
 My Attempt at growing cucumbers, and tomatoes.
 This was the best crop, last year.  The beans were delicious, and really produced until the mold got to them.

Ok, here are a few pictures of my first 3.5 X 7 raised garden bed.  As you can see, this was placed in the middle of my vacant lot, and I had a horrible time controlling the weeds, not to mention the bugs were just relentless.

My Edible Garden

Since beginning my love for gardening, I have decided to venture out into the world of an edible garden.  My gardening experience has primarily consisted of flowers and some herbs, however for some unknown reason I feel that I need a challenge and vegetable gardening in SW Florida will surely fill that void.

I began two years ago with one simple raised box/bed, purchased from SAM's Club for about $40.  I filled it with the traditional Miracle Grow garden soil, with some minor amendments such as manure compost.  I did very well, and once my efforts started to show production, well that was it I was hooked.  The satisfaction you receive when you can sit down at the table with your family and say, "I really did grow this myself", well it just cannot be compared.  As a woman, I felt that I was truly nourishing my family, and helping them to eat healthier and simply that was an extra bonus!

Of course there was a LOT to learn from that day forward.  What started off as one 3.5 X 7 foot bed, bloomed into the gardens I have today, just two years later.  It's hard to believe what my husband and I have accomplished, in the way of hardscaping, however the art of actually growing the vegetables is a never ending process.  I've tried to surf the web to find insightful inspiration, called my local extension office for their guidance, and have even journeyed to Epcot during their Flower and Garden show for the UF assistance of the Master Gardeners.

I am NOT an expert by any means, and just decided after being coaxed by a friend to start my blog on the journey of vegetable gardening.

I plan to keep you up to date on what and when I plant, along with any helpful tips I find along the way.  So lets learn together, and I hope that by sharing this blog, I can inspire others to begin their own gardens too!