Wednesday, June 27, 2012

"It Raineth Every Day," Wm. Shakespeare

Tropical Storm Debby
Our wet season has started early and furiously!

May's 30-year average rainfall for Jacksonville is 3.48"--we received 10.58".

June's 30-year average is 5.37" and it is the start of our five-month wet season (and hurricane season). So far we've had 21.25" with 12.5" in the last three days from Tropical Storm Debby. (This is the first time since they started keeping records of named storms that there have been four before July.)

The weather forecasters originally plotted Debby's path to go westward toward Texas, but she did not listen to their predictions and just sat there in the Gulf of Mexico for days and days. Finally, she turned east rumbled her way across northern Florida. Fortunately, she did not bring too much wind (except for a few tornadoes), but so much water has caused flooding, sinkholes, and slumping of whole roadbeds.


A swale in a neighbor's yard allows stormwater to soak in, but this swale would be more effective if the turf was replaced with rain garden plants.
As gardeners we must make adjustments and plan for better drainage to absorb future storms.
I've written extensively about rain gardens and I'm happy to say that ours have worked well. I'm especially pleased with our expanded downspout rain garden with its built-in drainage to a drywell. We all need to make more effort to keep as much of our rainwater on our properties as possible. It's better for our aquifers, which did not recharge enough after three years of drought, and it's better for our waterways, because any stormwater that travels across lawns, driveways, and roads will be carrying an excess nutrient load and various other pollutants.

For more details, see my article We All Live in a Watershed! that I wrote for Blog Action Day 2010 on The Florida Native Plant Society's blog.


Other rain-related problems or events: 
The squash plants are not doing well with the constant rain. Yes, they need plenty of water, but their leaves need to dry out between the rains.

Since the rains have stopped, the butterflies, wasps and bees have been thick on our native flowers, the beggars' ticks (Bidens alba) in particular.

From "The Twelfth Night" by Wm. Shakespeare:
The clown ends the play with a song including these two verses:
When that I was and a little tiny boy,
With hey, ho, the wind and the rain,
A foolish thing was but a toy,
For the rain it raineth every day.
For the rain, it raineth every day.
A great while ago the world begun,
With hey, ho, the wind and the rain,
But that's all one, our play is done,
And we'll strive to please you every day.

And so we gardeners carry on the best we can given the hand that Mother Nature hands to us. I hope that you are safe after the storm.

Green Gardening Matters,
Ginny Stibolt

Saturday, June 23, 2012

We have Met the Solution and It is Us

"We have met the enemy and he is us."

Pogo's wise words (via Walt Kelly) have been repeated
often in environmental circles, but have "people" been
listening?? I hope so.

I agree with Pogo and one of the reasons that I continue to write about green gardening and environmental issues is to convince others that each of us can make a significant difference. And when many people change the way they manage their own landscapes and lifestyle choices, the difference is huge. Mother Nature might be able to breathe a sigh of relief.

Please see the Resources Page for further information on many of the green topics I've been concerned about over the years. There are so many ways that we can make a difference.

Here's an example of a lifestyle choice that will save a lot of money and help the environment at the same time. I posted this on my Facebook wall and Sustainable Gardening page, because I really do not understand the bottled water frenzy--it seems like such a rip-off.

Originally posted on EPA's Water is Worth It page.

We have Met the Solution...

I was pleased to see the opinion piece in the New York Times, We have Met the Solution and It is Us by Frances G. Beinecke, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council, and Trip Van Noppen, president of Earthjustice. They attended the Rio+20 Earth Summit this year and observed that while the main document finally agreed upon by all the countries was so watered down that it is unlikely to have much effect, but they said:
It did offer some bright spots—such as progress on protecting the high seas from pollution, overfishing and acidification—although it left other dire threats unaddressed. Chief among these was failing to negotiate a treaty to protect ocean biodiversity. But what we must remember is this: Rio+20 is not just about a document. Rio+20 is a catalyst. It is the starting point for change, not the finish line. It is a call to action for all of us who now realize that we can’t just rely on government negotiators or verbose and hyper-compromised documents to save our planet.
We must do it ourselves
What Rio+20 did was shine a spotlight on the environmental and sustainable development issues we all know we must address. For at least a few days, it forced us all to pause, take stock and think about the legacy we’re leaving our children.
Now that the speeches are done and the negotiations are over, and the world’s leaders are heading home, it’s time for the rest of us to take action.
Individually, we must be efficient with the energy and the natural resources we consume and be ever cognizant of what the decisions we make today will mean for our children’s planet tomorrow.
Collectively, we must force our government leaders and our corporations to do what is right for our planet and its resources. We must press them to implement the commitments they made at Rio+20, and the commitments they made in other international agreements as well. And we must hold them accountable when they don’t. As we learned at Rio+20, government negotiators and thick documents can’t save the planet. But as we also learned, we can, and we must do it now.

Well said! (Emphasis is mine.) 
Okay, now I'll step off my soap box for now. 

Green Gardening Matters,
Ginny Stibolt

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Summer Solstice 2012


Sunrise this morning as we greet the longest day of the year--6/20/12.
Here's an informative solstice article over on the National Geographic website.


Last year's onion harvest--Granex Sweet onions were yummy!

Day length is an important consideration for gardeners, because plants are dependent on day length to regulate their life cycles. Here in northern Florida, we grow onions right through the winter, but we must use short-day or day-neutral onion varieties, otherwise they'd never form a bulb. In Maine, just the opposite is true--they grow onions in the spring and into the summer during the long days.

Sometimes plants flower in the wrong season because they've confused the temperature and day length signals. The Asian azaleas so widely grown here in the south almost always have some boom in the fall here. And now there's even a variety developed that's been bred to bloom twice a year called "Encore."


Observations in the Landscape

This morning as my husband and I were trimming back the wax myrtles near the driveway, I noticed this cool white cocoon amongst the trimmings. It's about 1.3 inches long and it's fairly hard. Some of the leaves were incorporated into the cocoon.

I had no idea what this was so I posted it on Facebook and had my answer within a few minutes. It's a Polyphemus Moth (Antheraea polyphemus) a type of silk moth. Here's a post by my friend Loret Setters about her experiences with this moth : Rip Van Moth-y.


And so we now slide backward into shorter days until the next Summer Solstice. Enjoy yours.


Monday, June 18, 2012

What if we grew food instead of turf?


I found this image on Facebook and shared it on both the Lawn Reform Coalition and Sustainable Gardening pages. While lots of people "liked" it, even more shared it on their own pages. I found even more shares on other pages--it's gone viral. So this simple idea seems to have captured people's attention.

In the last chapter of our new book "Organic Methods for Growing Vegetables in Florida," Melissa Contreras and I have included many ideas for how to turn your organic vegetable gardening into a profitable enterprise. We talk about how to participate in local farmers markets, how to start a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) alone or with a small group of other growers, and how to set up a migrant farmer service where you grow vegetables in other people's yards. We also discuss the pros and cons of becoming certified organic.

You can grow a lot of produce in a small area when you use intensive growing arragements with a minimum of space used for access, so why waste any time and money on a lawn? The book will be published in Feb. 2013. I can hardly wait; I think it will fly off the shelves.  The time is now!

What do you think? Is growing edibles instead of lawns the answer to climate change, the health crisis, and the poor ecomony?

Green Gardening Matters,
Ginny Stibolt

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Pollinator WeeK: June 18 --24

A tiger swallowtail on goldenrod in a
natural meadow.
The US Senate unanimously approved the motion to designate the last week in June as pollinator week. Who says the Senate can't agree on anything? In the past five years the pollinator week celebration has become an international event. This year it's June 18--24.

Much of the focus of pollinator week is on our food supply.  Every third bite of food we eat depends upon pollinators. But since 2006, the colony collapse disorder of the European honeybees has alarmed the beekeeping experts. Honeybees have been used as pollinators for hire. Beekeepers move their hives into an area where a large crop (often a monoculture) awaits pollinators in order for fruit to be formed. For example, a female squash flower, needs to be visited eight to ten times by bees or wasps that have also visited the male flowers for a fruit to form.

The Pollinator Partnership is the sponsoring agency for the pollinator week. They encourage you to "Invite pollinators to your neighborhood by planting a pollinator friendly habitat in your garden, farm, school, park or just about anywhere!" They provide many resources including posters of pollinators and guidelines and suggested plants to use in your landscape. Note: these are quite broad and most of Florida is included in the Outer Coastal Plain Mixed Forest Province, (an 11 MB pdf file) with a range from the Mid-Atlantic states to eastern Texas. You'll have the most success if you also use more local resources for native plants suggestions such as the FNPS website: www.fnps.org.

A carpenter bee on a native passionvine. The passionvine (Passiflora incarnata) supplies nectar and also larval food for several butterflies. To purchase some for your yard see: FANN website for sources.

Read more of this post over on the Florida Native Plant Society blog...

Green gardening matters,
Ginny Stibolt

Monday, June 11, 2012

Business Advice that's Bad for the Birds

Washington Post business article is off base.
In yesterday's Washington Post business section, "Value Added: Mosquito-control business scratches this entrepreneur’s itch" describes a $300,000 business which is a franchise of the mosquito squad and the owner is a full time firefighter.

This article is wrong on several points in my opinion, but the one concerning green gardening is that the business is one that damages the environment.

General pesticides kill both the good and bad the bugs, which creates an imbalance in the ecosystem--the predators are left without any prey and so they either move away or don't survive. As the bugs recover, Mother Nature's natural predators including birds, bats, and predatory insects such as ladybugs and praying mantids are gone, so the homeowner poisons again and again. Each time the bad bugs come back in greater numbers and some even build up immunity to that poison. It's called the poison cycle.

The author of this article states at the beginning that he is jealous of this parttime businessman, but at the end of the article he hints at the problems he's caused.
The “product” — the franchisees refrain from using the term “pesticide” — paralyzes and kills the insects.
Usually when I get up in the morning, the birds are all over my front and back lawns, feeding on bugs and the millions of other things living in my neighborhood.
But on Friday, the day after Mosquito Squad sprayed, there wasn’t a bug in sight.

For more details on this vicious poison cycle read: "Just say NO to poisons" or "A poison is a poison is a poison." Plus, in "Sustainable Gardening for Florida," I spend a whole chapter on integrated pest management with details on how to manage pest bugs without poisons.

The Audubon Society estimates that some of our songbird populations have shrunk by 80% since the 1960s. That's a lot of birds and there are additional potential reasons for their demise in addition to residential poison applications: loss of habitat and roaming cats.
Green gardeners can help the birds by:
- not using general pesticides on their properties.
- creating habitat on their properties and in their neighborhoods.
- keeping cats inside and reducing feral cat populations.
- spreading the word.

For more information, see the Resources page.

Green gardening matters,Ginny

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Moving Away from Transplanted Gardener

Back in 2004 when my husband and I moved to northeast Florida, the gardening here was weird for me. Even though I have a masters degreee in Botany and have gardened all my life, almost everything I knew about gardening did not apply. So I started a gardener's log of what I learned and shared it on a website (www.TransplantedGardener.com) and various other media.

I took photos, wrote more than 80 articles, recorded more than 100 podcasts, and now I've written two Florida gardening books for University Press of Florida. The first book Sustainable Gardening for Florida was published in 2009 and has done quite well. The second book, "Organic Methods for Vegetable Gardening in Florida," which I wrote with Melissa Contreras from Miami, will be released in Feb. 2013.

In addition, I've become active in the Florida Native Plant Society, The Lawn Reform Coalition and Native Plants and Wildlife Gardens blog. I've spoken to many groups including master gardeners, garden clubs, FNPS chapters, and Sierra Club chapters. Plus, I've attended gardenfests all over our beautiful state, sometimes as a speaker and sometimes as a vendor.

So now, after eight years of Florida living, it's time to move away from the old Transplanted Gardener moniker and to this new Green Gardening Matters blog. I'll continue to share what I learn out in the garden, but I'll also cover current events and open discussions on other green gardening matters, especially here in Florida.

I hope you enjoy this new blog. Email me at garden@sky-bolt.com with questions and suggestions.

I practice green gardening. Do you?
Thanks for reading.