Saturday, November 2, 2013

Summer crops and fall preparations

Here in SW Fl the summer heat is in full swing along with those summer rains we are so well known for. However things in the garden are continuing to do well despite the heat. The okra is blooming and I've had my first harvest, but the aphids are beginning their attack. 

Also, I've had 3 watermelons so far but picked the first too soon so it was in edible.  Learning curve since this is my first time growing watermelon and I'm going to give it the full 80 days the package states to harvest. I have 2 more weeks to go so I will let you know how it goes. 

Also, I've begun to pot up my fall crops and am feeling a bit nervous because during the busiest time for fall planting I'm going to be unavailable, so I'm trying to plan ahead and will either set my direct seeds the first of September or the last week of September. 

The Juliette tomatoes worked out so well last season, I'm going to do some more but will also be experimenting with other indeterminant varieties. 

Friday, June 14, 2013

And Into the Summer We Go.....

So for the most part I had a wonderful spring garden.  I took the advice of some other Florida bloggers, and planted varieties of veggies that seemed to be working for them and it paid off.  My tomato crops were just astounding.  Now I did plant more mini Roma tomatoes than the bigger beefsteak or slicing tomatoes, and it seemed to work out well.  I'm still having problems though with the varieties of large tomatoes that I'm growing, as most of them had some fungus on them, along with the dreaded stink bugs this season.  My cucumbers were just pitiful.  I tried the Marketmore 76, and Poinsett and do not feel that I made the best choice there.  I would like to find a more disease resistant variety.  Also, I had problems with the pickle worms this year as well, almost every cucumber had a hole in it, and I had to fetch the little buggers out, rendering the veggies not suitable for sale.  Mind you I'm only selling enough to just pay my water bill, and I haven't even done that so far.  I'll keep plodding along though and see what I can do to increase production and profits.

Here are a few pictures of whats left in the garden.  Some Juliet tomatoes, and the Grey Pearl tomatoes, along with eggplant, sweet green peppers, jalepeno peppers, cayene peppers and the watermelon.  I've planted some okra, and black eyed peas for the summer crop, and am beginning to think about the fall garden.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

The pickle worm commeth

Well, the spring garden is in full swing, and for the most part, I have been lucky with regards to pests in the garden.  I've seen a few stink bugs, but in just a few days, my summer squash is in desperate needs. I've noticed several of my squash with these tiny holes, as shown in the photo, and knew exactly what it was.... the dreaded pickle worm.  These little buggers are very difficult to deal with, since the eggs of the moth are so tiny, they are barely visible.  Here is a website, that goes into great detail about the pickle worm, and it's many attributes :-).

So, what do you do for these little creatures?  Well there isn't much to do.  I've been trying Thuricide, however in order for this to work, the larvae have to be actively eating, and what they are eating is inside the squash, so not much help there.  But I'm still going to try this, and add Pyrethrin into the mix to attempt to prevent the moth in the first place.  Row covers can work too, but then you have to open them up during the day for pollination by the bees, then cover up again in the evening before the moths are more active.

Anyone else have any further ides?  Please post comments, and give me your wisdom!

Update (9/16/14):  Ok, so I've found a great way to keep the pickle worms down.  Own chickens!  It has been my experience, that if you let the chickens out in the yard, around the garden not in it, then they are fantastic at eating all the bugs on the ground including moths, and my pickle worm problems have almost disappeared!  Now I know this isn't going to be an option for some, but its at least one method available.  I've also started using Dipel dust, which is the same bacteria found in the Thuricide, but in powered form and will last a bit longer and can get into the throats of the flowers.  The pyrethrin did help also, but this fall will tell the truth of this method too.


Pickle worm holes in squash

Monday, March 25, 2013

Potato Tower Experiment

So I've been reading on Pinterest, my favorite site of course, on how to grow potatoes utilizing the "tower" method.  There are many different opinions on this subject, however I've combined some, and just made my own version so here it goes.  I bought some fencing wire, which really is dangerous by the way, it has thorns and prickers on them so USE GLOVES!  After clearing the bottom of the area out, I placed a nice bed of hay on the bottom, made like a bowl out of the hay, and layered in some compost I bought from Green Planit.  I did not add any ammendments, manure etc, just simply the compost. 

A few days prior, I bought a bag of red seed potatoes from the local Wal-Mart, cut these up into cubes, making sure each cube had at least 2 eyes on the potatoes.  Most had already started to sprout, making this task easier than I had anticipated.  I placed the cubes in a circular pattern around the compost I had placed over the hay, making sure to face the eyes outward towards the wire.  I then followed the same pattern, of hay, compost, potatoes, hay compost, potatoes etc. until I had not more potato sets left.  I toppoed it all of with some more compost, and then hay and watered the devil out of it after each layer of potatoes.  Below is the picture of the finished potato tower. 

February 2013
This is the potato tower as of March 23, 2013.  The potatoes are growing up and as they grow, I will continue to add some compost, and hay, layering just like before.  Supposidly this will increase the yeild of potatoes.  Time will tell.


What's going on in the garden

Well things are really shaping up in the springtime garden. The tomatoes, started from seed, have really taken off and have flowers and baby tomatoes all over the plants. I've prunes all the branches below the first set of fruit and am really keeping a diligent eye out for fungus and insects.

As you can see, the squash is perfect for picking.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Extra, Extra Read All About It!!

Last week I had a visit from a news reporter from the Charlotte Sun-Hearald Newspaper.  She was interested in my garden, and had heard about me from a local worm farmer (Greenleaf Worm Farm), who had happened to see my garden.  Anyway, she must have been impressed with it, because they wanted to do a piece about local vegetable gardening, and were especially interested in my organic gardening methods.  Now, you have to understand, that I've just begun my vegetable gardening journey, and although I did make it into a business, I really haven't had much success so far with selling any of my product, but will keep plodding along.  I've done so much research, and have made so many wonderful contacts throughout the county, as I've mentioned in previous posts, and feel so strongly about sharing all that I've learned with those who wish to grow veggies in this rather challenging climate.  Hope I'm helping everyone, and that they are benefiting from all that I've done.

So I'm sharing the article here, and hope you enjoy the read!

Here is the link to the garden article:

Friday, February 22, 2013

Brrrrr Baby It's Cold Outside!

Covered the garden last week because of frost.  Even though I had the Agribon 19 frost blankets on, some of the plants were affected by the lower 30 degree weather.  I try to wait until the end of February to plant, however we've had such a mild winter, and temperatures have been consistently in the 80's I thought I would start early February.  Of course, we had just one day of frost, but they survived, and are already producing new leaves.

Pole beans, touched by the frost too.  

My squash plant, a bit burned but it's already starting to grow new leaves

These are the pole beans.   I've since changed the string setup.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Getting Into the Spring of Things

Well, the winter garden has just about been completely harvested.  I still have carrots growing like crazy, and the eggplant is in full glory.  I've been getting at least one eggplant a week, and they are pretty large.  I've had to pull out most of the tomatoes, as they were finished, and picked some green ones shown here, and plan on having some nice fried green tomatoes for dinner.  Yes, I know they are not good for you, but boy oh boy do they taste good :-) 

A new addition to my garden, is the sink my husband put in for me.  Only $45 online, and I'm now able to wash the veggies before dragging them in the house, and putting the dirt down the disposal.  What I like most is the ability to wash my hands without having to fiddle with the hose to do so. 

I've added some compost blend (mentioned in previous post "It's all in the dirt", and felt that I needed to also add some vermiculite to the boxes. I still have some broccoli left over from the fall/winter garden on the left, and the bell peppers are surprisingly doing just wonderful!

I've planted some tomato seedlings (Juliette), along with some other indeterminate types Better Boy, and Big Boy in the back part of the box.  I purchased one Better Boy, and 1 Big Boy, and wanted to compare them with my seedlings of the same variety, and see if there is a difference.  I've had so many problems with the broccoli that I purchased (rot), I've been turned off of purchasing the plants, and figured I'd give a shot at growing my own from certified seeds.  I've thrown in some marigolds to attract the bees too.

New Juliet tomato seedlings

Monday, January 21, 2013

It's All In The Dirt

There are a few things that I have learned in gardening and the one major lesson is that not all soil is created equal and that the more you put into improving your soil the better off you will be all the way around. I'm going to tell you that this is going to probably be the most expensive part of gardening, it certainly was for me, however you will reep the rewards in by vegetables that are big and beautiful, without all the added checmicles and fertilizers needed for poor soil.

I chose to use the raised bed gardening method because of the sandy nutrient poor Florida soil. For me it made more sense to start with new soil Right from the very beginning instead of giving myself a migraine with amending the soil and then just ripping it out in the end anyway as I've been known to do. To fight the rocks shale and attempting to amend what I already had.

I have read the book "All New Square Foot Gardening" by Mel Bartholomew, and have taken his suggestions for his soil "recipe" and made some adjustments and additions of my own, based upon local availablity of some of the components required for the compost, along wtih the addition of the two types of peat moss.  I would recommend anyone getting into vegetable gardening  to read this book, it's a must have and offers so many insightful tips and information.

Here is a list of the componets of the soil in my raised beds.  I had some local purchases, and some I had to drive to Arcadia, FL to get.  If you find any of these closer, or cheaper, please feel free to leave me a message or post.  I would LOVE to share and collaborate on any ideas you may have. 

Math 101 to calculate how much soil you will need:

Multiply the widths of your box, and divide it by 2 to figure out how much volume your 6" deep box will hold:

(4 X 4) / 2 = 8 cubic feet
(4 X 8) / 2 = 16 cubic feet
(4 X 12) / 2 = 24 cubic feet
(4 X 16) / 2 = 32 cubic feet

Do not go by weight!!!! 

Soil For a 4' x 8' x 6" (16 sq ft.) raised bed

 Shopping List:

1/3 Coarse Vermiculite

1/3 Sphagnum Peat Moss (if available ½ brown peat moss, and ½black peat moss)

1/3 Compost (Must be a blend of 5 or more different composts-listed below). 

Compost Mix:

Hen Manure

Organic Manure Compost

Mushroom Compost

Green Planit Compost

Worm Castings

(Optional Additions)

Black Cow- Manure

Very well aged horse manure (at least 8 months or longer)

Homemade compost - Stuff from your own garden is an excellent source of compost

Purchases made:

Hen Manure, Spagnum Peat Moss, Coarse Vermiculite from: Smith's Ranch & Garden in Arcadia Fl (Coarse Vermiculite is approximately $25 for the large bag,Peat Moss large bag approx. $25, Hen Manure – Approx. $7 for 1 cubic ft. bag).

Mushroom Compost – Lowes (Approximately $2.75 a 1 cubic ft.bag)

Organic manure compost – The Home Depot (Approximately $1.55 a 1cubic ft. bag)

Worm Castings – Green leaf worm farm

Green Planit Compost – Green Planit Recycling $10 for 1 cubic yard (it’s a LOT) bring a truck!
Smith's Ranch & Garden Inc.      Sphagnum Peat Moss - $25 large bale
117 West Magnolia Street                  Hen Manure - $8 per 1 cubic yard bag
Arcadia, FL  34266                               Vermiculite - $25 large bag

Green Planit Recycling                        Compost - $10 per 1 yard.
4694 Duncan Rd.
Punta Gorda, FL  33982

Green Leaf Worm Farm                      Worm Castings: Many different sizes.  Example:  1lb Bag - $8
North Port, FL                                                                                                                     5lb Bag - $15

Sunday, January 6, 2013

End of a Great Fall Garden

Well I hope everyone had a great Holiday, however it's time to get busy in the garden again.

I can tell that my fall garden is almost finished for the season. I've harvested almost all of the cabbage, carrots, and tomatoes but because of the 80 degree weather we've had lately my lettuce has begun to bolt. However I think that all things considered I've had a pretty good first crop.  I've started another batch of broccoli, but I think I'm a bit late, even though they were put out the end of December the weather has been just too warm.

However, I think I've had a pretty good harvest for my first real garden.  I've made several batches of freezer pickles, salsa, and pepper jelly and have plans for a lot more canning ahead for the spring crop.

I will be posting some of my recipes here for you to enjoy soon.

So, on this vain, I've made some purchases for the spring garden which I hope to begin planting either mid February or at the very latest first week of March.  These by the way were all the recommended varieties from the UF website, and from local growers suggestions.  I did purchase seeds from two places this year and from a local store Smith's Ranch and Garden in Arcadia FL.  They have a great selection of new seeds for the season, and sell them by weight.  I purchased 1/4 ounce seeds, because I wanted to give them a try first.  According to them, these seeds have a 85-95% germination rate.

I'm going to start putting some of these in pots tomorrow (I know I'm a little late) however I've been extremely busy with family, and the holiday's and just haven't had the time to get to them.  I did however get a Worm Factory 360 for Christmas, and will be making some posts with regards to my progress with this.

As you've probably noticed, I have only chosen the indeterminate variety of tomatoes this year because I want to really focus on the vertical growing method and the bush tomatoes just get too leggy and take over the small raised bed space.  I'm also going to focus on growing the beans, cucumbers, and peas on the trellises as well.

I'll keep you posted on how the plants make out.

This is the Johnnyseeds selection:

Vegetables > Beans > Beans, Pole > Round Pod

Slick Pik® YS 26 (F1)-Packet
Vegetables > Squash > Summer > Yellow

Excelsior (F1) (OG)-Packet
Vegetables > Cucumbers > American Pickling

Peppino (F1)-Packet
Vegetables > Peppers > Hot Specialty Peppers

Jalafuego (F1)-Packet
Vegetables > Peppers > Hot Southwestern Peppers > JalapeƱos

Juliet (F1)-Packet
Vegetables > Tomatoes > Saladette and Sauce > Indeterminate

Red Pearl (OG)-Packet
Vegetables > Tomatoes > Grape

Smith's Ranch and Garden Seeds:

Kentucky Wonder - Pole Bean

Alaska Snow Pea

Blue Lake - Bush Beans

Beefsteak - Tomato (Indeterminate)

California Wonder - Bell Pepper

Serrano Chili

Roma - Tomato (Indeterminate)

Poinsett - Cucumbers 

Crimson Sweet-Packet
Vegetables > Watermelon > Red Flesh