Monday, November 16, 2015

After the #FloweredShirtTour

I was leaving for a multi-day trip
at sunrise with my 3 flowered shirts.

"The Art of  Maintaining a
Florida Native Landscape"
I named my latest 11-week book tour (Sept. 1 to Nov. 10) the #FloweredShirtTour. My third book, "The Art of Maintaining a Florida Native Landscape," was published by University Press of Florida in September. Back in May I was a speaker at the Florida Native Plant Society (FNPS) conference and at the end of my talk, I held up my calendar and asked the audience to fill up my dance card. Did they ever!

I sent emails to the contacts on all the chapters' websites and had also arranged to hold an all-day workshop of the chapters on outreach in September. In addition I'd contacted other groups that hold events in the fall and asked to be on their programs. All in all, I ended up with 35 events in 11 weeks. I've documented most of the events on my Appearances Page.

October was Florida's Native Plant Month, which featured proclamations from state, county, and local officials. My snarky guess is that many of the people reading the proclamations had never put the words "native" and "plant" in the same sentence before. 
It was a bit of serendipity when The Society worked on an initiative to declare October Florida's Native Plant Month. Some of the chapters created special events or they redesigned already scheduled events to celebrate the month. I was honored to be part of many of these special events. I love working with FNPS members—some of the smartest and most dedicated people working on behalf of Florida and her natural areas.

A poster for a 3-hour  Martin County workshop.  A poster for 3 events in SW Florida.
Organizers for my events created some great posters. Off to a local farmers market.
I've already written about a couple of the events: 2015 Master Gardener Conference; Florida Local Food Summit; and part of my Autumnal equinox post included details on my Wakulla County event.

A montage of some of the many flowered shirts I wore during the tour...
Some of the many different flowered shirts...

This was also a tour of Florida

I roamed along many backroads on my way to various events. This is "The Real Florida." Sometimes, if there was time and a safe place to pull off the road, I stopped to take photos, but other times I appreciated the view as I drove by. What a great state we live in.
Swamp sunflowers dazzled along the roadsides for a few weeks during my tour.
In Lake County, I stopped between venues to capture these reflections of Florida's mountains in one of her many lakes. 

A foggy sunrise at Wekiva State Park.
I wish to thank all the organizers of the events and am pleased to have met so many people in my adventures. Thanks to everyone who bought books from me or one of the book sellers. And a special thanks to my hosts for overnight stays: Loret, Gail, Rose, and Marlene.

So off to work on the next book projects and many other items on my ever-expanding to-do list...

Green Gardening Matters,
Ginny Stibolt

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

2015 Master Gardener Conference

A book signing...

At my signing table I not only signed books that people purchased from the IFAS bookstore, I also passed out native plant society brochures with the message that we think Florida should look like Florida and not Hawaii.
It was fun to talk to so many Master Gardeners: many I knew, but others are now new friends.

Education is the name of the game

There were posters and information lining the corridors.
Florida Friendly sign part I.
Florida Friendly II
A Florida-Friendly plant guide is a available for a moderate price. I just wish that more natives had been included in the FF recommended plant list. Not sure what's in the app.
A bug info poster.

The vendors

Vendors included fertilizer and pesticide companies and also  Bonnie Plants. I talked to the 2 reps at length about how frustrated I am with their offerings.
I have been frustrated with Bonnie Plants for a long time now because they sell plants that absolutely don't work in Florida such as long-day onions, which I've ranted about before. I approached the two women working the table with the hope that I could speak to someone about their plant selection. I wrote down my complaint on the back of one of my bookmarks. I tried not get angry because this situation is not their fault, but as an educator, I wanted to show how I could help their company. This was a down time for the vendors because the Master Gardeners were attending the keynote, so I went back to my table and brought a copy of my vegetable book to show them I wasn't a hack and indicated that it was a university press book. Then I praised them for Bonnie's third grade cabbage program and how important their program is for kids. So we'll see if this leads anywhere...

I did not approach the fertilizer and pesticide vendors. I know that conferences depend upon vendors and sponsors, but these products are causing harm to Florida's waterways and other ecosystems. How can you have a butterfly garden when you poison your landscape?

I signed books only for a couple of hours after the keynote speaker.
I was disappointed to see that Laurie Trenholm was speaking about fertilizers. That she recommends turf down to the edges of waterways and that lawns need fertilizing 3 to 5 times a year is so wrong for the health of Florida's waterways.
In my presentations, I talk about our "Freedom Lawn" (Free from fertilizer, free from pesticides, and free from over-watering). One time I mentioned that IFAS (Florida's extension service) is still recommending lawn fertilizer and received this rant on my Facebook page.

You threw us under the bus using your platform to say that Master Gardeners go out and TELL PEOPLE TO FERTILIZE their lawns. Um No,,, we have been trying to teach our community lagoon friendly landscaping, volunteering our time with lectures and training. I personally am out teaching composting, rain barrels and vermi-composting. The extension office has to train commercial landscapers THE CORRECT way and times in fertilizer and pesticide use for their licensing. If someone comes with questions on fertilization we do answer them because some HOAs demand St Auggy grass and as you know it is bad news for the lagoon. And then there are the golf courses, soccer fields, nursing homes and schools that need this help. I belong to the Native Plant Society as well as being Pres. of our IR Master Gardener program for several years. I found it extremely hurtful and discriminatory that you clump all MGs into category when they PAY for their training and volunteer their hours to be HELPFUL to the community. I don't doubt that there are a few old school MGs that may still say MIRACLE Grow is the way to go BUT,,,,, most of us are trying to push the natural methods. I think you owe the nature loving Master Gardeners an apology .

I pointed out that while I appreciate that she is doing the right thing, IFAS as an organization, is still featuring Laurie Trenholm on a regular basis, which was my point. This is yet another instance... I really do appreciate that Master Gardeners do pay for their training and they volunteer untold hours, it's amazing how many good positive projects they are able to complete..I'm just trying to convince people that lawns can do quite well without any fertilizer and our waterways would be in much better health..

Only a few events are left in my #FloweredShirtTour. I hope to see you at one of them.

Green gardening matters, 
Ginny Stibolt

Friday, October 16, 2015

Florida Local Food Summit 2015

I enjoyed the inspirational gathering of foodies, from farmers & chefs to educators & support groups, in Gainesville on September 19th. There was a lot of great networking going on and this event was structured to encourage these connections. What fun to be part of this.

The weather in Gainesville was glorious, which made the day more enjoyable since much of it took place in a covered pavilion at the end of the agriculture extension building.Next to the pavilion, edible plants were for sale in the parking lot: from tomatoes to blueberries.

The food was fantastic!

The caterer was excellent. The menu included only local foods.

Getting started...

Getting started in the morning.
After a lovely breakfast of scrambled eggs, grilled vegetables, freshly baked biscuits, and local juice, the first item on the agenda was a panel of 10 or 12 people from all over the state who are involved in some type of activity that fosters more fresh, local food availability in their communities.
Mary Hathaway, FOG (Florida Organic Growers). Young farmers talked about working with restaurants.

Some of the panelists talked about bringing farmers markets to under-served neighborhoods. some panelist talked about training opportunities to get more people involved in running small farm operations such as CSAs.

Group session: working together across the state

People sat at tables marked with regions of the state and networked with each other. 
Pads of yellow and blue post-it notes were placed on each table so people could write a product or service that they provided or knew about. All the notes were stuck to the large state map at the front of the room. The synergy of this session was amazing.
People posting their services & resources on the map. Notes on services & resources by area on the map.
Compiling ALL the information, which will then be distributed for all to use.

Afternoon sessions:

The class on Intro to Organic Gardening and Farming. Rick Martinez (in the blue shirt) was the co-presenter. Workshop on farmers markets
I talked about organic gardening, especially attracting pollinators, and covered the topic of transitioning out of your own yard with ideas for gardening for others and participating in farmers markets. Rick Martinez, a farm inspector, talked about the difference between gardening and farming. He said he'd seen people who were gardening on 3 or 4 acres but they never last long because they wear themselves out. You need to move to machinery to become an efficient farming operation. I hadn't thought about it like that. It's so educational to see a topic covered from another point of view.

I attended the farmers markets workshop in the second afternoon session. There were 5 sessions for each time slot. Then we all gathered again in the pavilion for the keynote speaker.

David Shields, Food historian

David Shields Keynote
David Shields had the perfect talk for this group of people including young farmers, chefs, and farmers market organizers. He talked about the historical crops in Florida and encouraged people to bring some of them back. One crop he talked about was coontie or arrowroot (Zamia pumila), a very slow growing Florida native cycad, which was harvested almost to extinction for its tuberous roots to make Animal Crackers and the like.

David is from South Carolina so I asked him if he'd ever seen a coontie. No he hadn't, so I took him just outside the pavilion where it was planted. We are now friends on Facebook so I could send him a link to Roger Hammer's article on the Atala hairstreak butterfly, which almost became extinct because its only larval food is the coontie.
Shields' topic was traditional Florida crops. David & the coonties...

Supper was grilling...

Grilling the beautiful Seminole pumpkin and peppers.
Breading the catfish for dinner
Benne kumquat cake: So delicious... Caterer and her staff were cheered after supper.

So this was more than just another stop on the #floweredshirttour; this was an inspiring event that gave me hope for the future of Florida, its smart and ambitious farmers, and all their support groups. Plus the food was fantastic!

Green Gardening Matters,
Ginny Stibolt

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Celebrating the Autumnal Equinox

Our native hibiscus (Hibiscus coccineus) beautifully plans ahead for winter.

Plan for cool weather

While exotic hibiscus plants keep growing and blooming right until they are killed back by frost, our native hibiscus loses its leaves in the most lovely manner and dies back to the ground so there is no shock from frosts.

I think they are sorta like the ant and the grasshopper in the old Aesop's fable. The exotic shrubs are like the grasshopper partying like there's no tomorrow, while the ant tucks away a food supply to carry it over the winter.
Ooh, the spotted beebalm (Monarda punctata) draws a big crowd, including this wicked-looking cicada killer wasp.
I pulled a cart load of weeds on the first day of fall—Sept.23.

Pollinator-friendly habitat

I edited the raised meadow on the first day of fall by pulling a whole cart-load of weeds, mostly beggarticks (Bidens alba). I left plenty for the bugs, but I try to keep it confined to the back of this meadow along with a stand of snow squarestem (Melanthera nivea), blackberry (Rubus spp.), and behind the spotted beebalm.
A grapevine wreath is easy to put together..  Drying the wreath.
Grape vines are growing into that end of the meadow and I pulled off a number of lengths of grape vine. I took several of them and wound them into a circle to make a fall wreath. After making the first few rounds, I wrapped the next lengths around the wreath strands and tucked in the ends. Once the wood dries and hardens, the leaves will fall off and the wreath will stay together. I like to have fall wreaths where I tuck berried branches into the wreath and tie it with a bow. Of course, I could also make these for Christmas decorations as well. So easy. How sustainable!

The meadow garlic is sprouting.

Fall edibles

The heat of summer is broken, so it's time to plant the cool-weather crops that will go through the winter and also some tender crops to see if we can harvest a reasonable crop before the first frost. Tender crops are tricky because the days are getting shorter, which changes their hormonal output. For the squash family, it means that there may be more male flowers and fewer female flowers. This makes producing fruit an iffy proposition.

I've been finding meadow garlic (Allium canadense) bulbs sprouting in the soil. I harvest those in beds where they do not belong. We use this lovely, easy-to-grow garlic as we'd use any other. Read my post "A Native Herb has Earned a Space Amongst the Mediterranean Herbs."

Freshly planted cool-weathercrops in their wide rows. The trenches between the rows have been filled with pine needles..
Wide row planting uses the principles of square foot gardening where seeds are planted closely, but at just the right distance so there is room to grow. The rows could be 6 or 20 inches wide, but the trenches allow for growth to spill over without impairing the next crop. Also here in Florida, we get torrential rains, so those trenches provide places for the water to flow away without washing out the plants. Read "Wide Row Planting and Trench Composting in the Vegetable Garden."
I raked off the pine needles and created large squash mound. I laid in a 3" layer of grass clippings in the center of the swale and covered it all with compost. 
3 seeds for each planting spot around the rim of the
squash mound increases the odds of planting success..

A fall squash mound

Raising squash in the fall is tricky, but some zucchini is better than no zucchinis at all.  I created a large squash mound and planted it with several types of squash. A black zucchini, a green & white striped squash, butternut squash, a winter squash, a summer squash, and even a pumpkin. So we'll see what takes. 

Since most of the squash seeds have been saved, I planted 3 of each type. If they all sprout, I'll choose the 2 that look the best and pull out the other one. Planting squash at this time of year has one advantage, there are fewer squash borers, but I'll still bury the stems at several spots along each vine to promote extra rooting. 

The whole space will be taken over by vines, but that's okay. I will direct most of them down to the rest of this elongated bed. And the grass in the adjacent lawn is slowing down so not being able to mow for a couple of months will not be a hardship. Stay tuned...

A mini adventure to Wakulla County

Ochlockonee River view. A zebra swallowtail sipping from the local
gayfeather  (Liatris provincialis).
I was to give a presentation to the Florida Native Plant Society chapter in Wakulla County, which is located south of Tallahassee and about half way across Florida's Panhandle. I had no other appointments on either side of this speaking engagement, so my husband & I took our camper van with our kayaks for a 2-day adventure. We camped at the Ochlockonee River State Park. I learned from one of the members of this FNPS chapter that much of the park had been burned in June, so the wildflowers and their pollinators were incredibly thick. The dominant flower was Godfrey's gayfeather (Liatris provincialis), which occurs in only 2 counties. Very nice.
A gulf fritillary is yet another of the many butterflies. Black swallowtail butterfly.
Sarracenia FNPS Chapter in Wakulla County: one stop on the #floweredshirttour 
I hope to meet you at an upcoming engagement. I've only done 8 of the 33 events, so there is still time. See my Appearances Page to find out where in Florida I am on this #FloweredShirtTour.

I've spoken to the Clay
County Delegation for the
last several years.

Fall is County Delegation public meeting time

As an environmentally aware citizen, I always take the time to talk to the open forums that are offered. Many of our elected official haven't given any thought to native plants, poisons used in our environment and other green issues. I encourage you to speak up as well. You'll not only be speaking to the elected officials, but also the room full of aids, local officials, local press, and others.

Here's a post I put together with help from the FNPS policies chair, Gene Kelly. Speak Up for Florida!

Happy first day of fall. It's the perfect time to work in your gardens.

Green Gardening Matters,
Ginny Stibolt