Thursday, January 31, 2013

And back to cold weather...

Winter harvest.
It's been warm recently and yesterday, it was in the mid 80s! My Lollo Rosso lettuce has bolted (flowered) and has become bitter--not so bitter that we don't still eat it, but it's certainly past its prime. On the other hand my sugar snap peas started blooming again and have produced a bunch of new pods.

My husband and I enjoyed a main course pear salad using all this lettuce and some of the come-again broccoli and peas. The next night we enjoyed a stir fry using the rest of the broccoli, peas and some wild garlic from the garden.  We love eating out of the garden.

This is the 5th or 6th round of small curds from the broccoli plants after the initial big florets. We like these better because they grow so quickly that they are sweeter. The plants are working so hard to produce seed and I keep interrupting them. Eventually, I'll allow them to flower when the next crop of broccoli starts to produce.

My new book is here!!
There are freeze warnings for tonight and the next few nights so my more recently planted cool-weather crops might have a chance to mature before the real heat hits later in the spring.  For now, the tomato and pepper seedlings are spending their nights in the garage.

The books are here!

My new book has arrived. Now I have to get busy and send copies to all the people who helped along the way. It's a long list! Thanks everyone; the book is beautiful.

Senator Rob Bradley and me.

Senator Rob Bradley

This evening I went to a reception for Rob Bradley at his new Clay County office. He's our senator for the Florida legislature.

I called him after the election to congratulate him on his victory and to convince him that environmental issues are important for the state of the state. By protecting Florida's ecosystems, we are helping businesses in many ways. Later he invited me to speak before the Clay County Delegation.

I wrote about my preparations for that encounter in my post over on the Native Plants and Wildlife Gardens blog: Supporting wildlife beyond your garden gate.

This evening I talked to his policy person, other members of his staff, and a bunch of other folks who attended the reception. Always good to work a room.

A Muscovy duck came a-calling

 A beggar...

 A Muscovy duck came to our front door the other day.  There is a small group of these Mexican natives that lives on our lake, but our house is not that close to the water and we'd never seen them in our pond out front. But this drake decided to say hello.

Maybe he was looking for a handout. When we told him that in our sustainable yard the birds have to find their own food, he turned tail and left.

I'm hoping the cool weather stays for a while. It is mid-winter after all.

Green Gardening Matters,
Ginny Stibolt

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Organic Methods for Vegetable Gardening in Florida is in the warehouse!

Melissa and I received the email from University Press of Florida today telling us that our book is in the warehouse and is ready to ship. Yay!

Melissa and I received our covers last week, but I didn't expect the book quite this early. If you've preordered your copy, you should have it soon.

We have created a book website with events open to the public where one of us will be a vendor or will be speaking. There is also order information and a blog.  Once we have reviews, we'll post those as well.
You can find it at

I have many more events to enter on that page. I'll be on a three-month book tour from April through June. April is pretty well filled. What doesn't show on this page is all the Master Gardener groups I'll be speaking to because those meetings are not open to the public. If you have an event or group meeting in central or north Florida, that will be happening in May or June, let me know!  Thanks.

Green Gardening Matters,
Ginny Stibolt

Friday, January 11, 2013

Tomatoes & Peppers from Seed.

Last week my husband and I started our tomato and pepper seeds. We want the seedlings to have a good head start before setting them out in the garden--approximately two months from now. We hope to pot them up to larger pots at least a few weeks before we set them out in the garden.

On the right, a pot half full with mostly composted chips.
On the left, the pot has the seed starter mix on the top.

I'd purchased some organic seed starter soil so the seedlings would have the best chance for success.  This type of potting soil is sterilized to combat damping off and other fungi that sometimes damage new seedlings. We put mostly composted wood chips* in the bottom half of each pot and then added the sterile soil on top to about half and inch from the rim of the pots.

These pots have been used many times, but after each use I wash them with rain barrel water and a brush. Then they are thoroughly dried in the sun before storing them until the next season. 

Wetting the soil.
The next task is to thoroughly wet the soil. We slowly dribble rain barrel water on each pot. 

Pouring out the seeds.
We set up the pots on spare downspout drainage diverter trays. (They are no longer needed for our downspouts because we've installed rain barrels.)  When we are in the process of soaking the pots, we can tip them up to hold the water, but they also work well for draining away the excess water when it's time.

We put two seeds in each depression, which are in the four corners of the pot. This way if one seed does not germinate another is there in that spot. Potentially, there could be eight seedlings in one pot.

Most of these seeds are new for this year, so we expect a high rate of germination, but two of types of pepper seed have been saved from previous years, so this method is probably more important for them. (I do keep the seeds refrigerated in a sealed opaque container to prolong their viability.

After the seeds have been planted, we add about a quarter inch of soil on top.
After all the seeds are planted, we cover the soil in the pots with another quarter inch of the sterile starter soil.

And then we are ready to start the daily shuttle of the seeds from the SW-facing garage window to the hot sidewalk just outside the garage. Yesterday and today, the weather is in the 80s! So the seedlings stay out in the hot sun, but earlier in the week when the highs were in the 50s, they stayed inside.
Here is the arrangement of what we've sowed. We use a very fine stream of water from our rain barrel hose to rewet the pots on the day we planted the seeds.

A week later and after the warm weather yesterday, we have sprouts! Both the Sunchocola cherry tomatoes and the Brandy boys are the first to sprout. Today's hot sun will probably entice more seedlings to emerge. I took this photo first thing this morning, but now these seedlings are much greener.

Oh the magical process of germinating seeds... It takes my breath away every time.

I hope you have started planning for your spring gardening.

* Read about my mostly composted arborist woodchips here: "A Requiem for a Hickory Tree" and here: "A compost turning = happy gardening in 2013!"

Read more about my rain barrels here: Climb up my Rain Barrels and there are links to the subsequent rain barrel articles.

Green Gardening Matters,
Ginny Stibolt