Sunday, March 31, 2013

A review of "Organic Methods for Vegetable Gardening in Florida"

This thorough review in The Daytona Beach News Journal by Karen Gallagher is five pages long--Karen said it was 34 column-inches. I think it captures the essence of our book. It includes an interview with me, a notice of my appearance in Daytona this Wednesday, and it includes one of the many recipes in the book--Ugly Carrot Soup.

When you grow carrots, some of them may be less than perfect, but they taste terrific when you use them in this unusual soup. I've been using this recipe for years and it's changed with the times.  Now it's vegetarian using an olive oil stock made from scratch instead of chicken broth.

So now that vegetables are more expensive than ever, why not let us help you get started with "Organic Methods for Vegetable Gardening in Florida"?

Green gardening Matters!
Ginny Stibolt

Monday, March 25, 2013

And so the tour begins...

My vendor display includes a basket of
edible crops and a vase of wildflowers.
My three-month-long manic book tour consisting of 32 events, including 5 two-days events, started this Saturday with the Annual Wildflower Festival in Deland, FL. I'm on tour to promote my new book "Organic Methods for Vegetable Gardening in Florida." I think people are so ready for this book, that it will outsell my "Sustainable Gardening for Florida" within six months even though the sustainable book has done very well.

It's great to have both books to talk about at an event like this because they each cover different aspects of gardening. I sold a lot of the vegetable book and a few of the sustainable book to folks who were more interested in getting rid of their lawn or building rain gardens.

My best show & tell item was the native wild
garlic. I gave out several of them to people who
bought my new book.


It rained a little in the morning, which probably dampened the crowd somewhat, but most of the day was sunny and quite pleasant.

I love talking to people about gardening and of all the crops I brought, I found myself talking the most about the native wild garlic (Allium canadense).  People already know about curly and flat leafed parsley, Swiss chard, rosemary, white radishes, mint, and Greek oregano.

As the season progresses, the harvest I bring for show & tell will change, but I'll always bring something to demonstrate that I'm a real gardener with real dirt under my fingernails!

If you missed this first event, I hope to see you at one of my other events. See my event calendar to find one near you. Note: the calendar does not include all 32 events because Master Gardener and some other meetings are not open to the public.

Deland is a beautiful historic town and is also the home to Stetson University. There was an art festival on the other side of town with a free shuttle between the two events.
Elephant dill.

Around the garden

I planted elephant dill for the first time this winter and was originally unhappy that more did not sprout. But then the one plant that did grow became huge--it was three-feet tall and almost as wide. Just one plant served us well through the winter months and until recently into the spring, but it had became too large for the stems and fell over.

There are a few other smaller plants around that we can use, so my husband and I are fine, but we'd seen some black swallowtail butterflies hovering around in recent weeks. Now those eggs will hatch on a dead plant, so I stuck the two stems in a bucket of water.  I'll watch for those distinctive caterpillars and when they hatch I will transfer them to the dill & parsley row that I planted for these caterpillars.

The weather has been unusual with really chilly nights. It's great for the rest of the cool-weather crops so they'll get to harvestable size, but not so good for the new warm-weather crops, which would normally be planted now

I dug up the non-native string lilies (Crinum x powellii) that were at the edge of the front meadow and have been replacing them with native bunching grasses, this provides more room for the beautyberry shrub, which has grown a lot in the last couple of years.  Also, I wanted to provide a more native mix to edge the meadow. The grasses I'm using are Elliot's love grass (Eragrostis elliottii), a bluish short, bunching grass, and muhly grass (Muhlenbergia capillaris), a taller grass with pinkish flower heads in the fall.

I gave some of the string lilies to a neighbor and the rest I planted on the partly shady south side of the house in a bed with some daylilies. I still have some to plant, so I'll probably put the rest of them in the bed next to the screened porch.

I took a photo the other day of this native blue flag iris (Iris virginica), which was the only flower in whole mass of leaves on the far side of our front pond. Maybe sometime this summer--after the book tour is over--I'll thin the irises to spread them around and to see if I can induce more blooming.

This beautiful blue flag iris is blooming on our
pond out front. Isn't it gorgeous?
String lily bulbs are enormous.



















I hope that your spring garden is growing well, and if you're in central or northern Florida, I look forward to meeting you at one of my events!

Green Gardening Matters, 
Ginny Stibolt

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Old gardeners' tales

Old gardeners' tales are rampant, even these days.

Companion planting advice as shown in this graphic is freely passed along as gospel of the garden. But most of the companion planting pairings (compatible or incompatible) have not been verified with scientific methods.  Nevertheless, books have been written about plants with human emotions such as "love" or "hate" used in their titles.
  
Don't fall for these old gardeners' tales.

In my research for "Organic Methods for Vegetable Gardening in Florida," I found that the more important thing to keep in mind is the botanical family of the plants so your crop rotation from one season to the next includes different crop families for at least two rounds. This keeps the specific pests guessing and allows the soils to be replenished.

One of my go to resources for garden myths is Linda Chalker-Scott's website, The Informed Gardener. She's an urban extension agent in Washington State and she has access to the professional journals where she researches various gardening traditions to find if the science proves them to be true or not. She's also published two books listing some of the most common myths.


I planted a row of tall sunflowers away from other gardens.
I planted two seeds in each pile of compost.

Sunflowers are one of the exceptions


Sunflowers (Helianthus spp) are one type of plant that kills or stunts its neighbors. So when you grow them, it's best to plant them away from other plants and dispose of the dead plants at the end of the season so that you can take advantage of their built in herbicide such as using them for a path mulch.

While the danger of frost here in north Florida is not over, it's becoming less and less likely. So I planted two types of sunflowers this week. I'd been piling leaves and other dead stuff raked from the lawn before our first mowing in a line along the back edge of the raised septic drain field. The soil is extremely sandy up there, of course, so I needed the pile of dead stuff to hold the moisture. Then I nestled shovelfuls of compost along the row of leaves. Finally, I planted two seeds in each pile of compost.  These are tall sunflowers with supposedly easy-to-harvest sunflower seeds to eat. The directions stated eight inches apart. I think my planting falls into that range. After the seeds were planted, I covered them with a pine needle mulch.

I also planted some shorter, multi-headed sunflowers at the back of the herb garden for a change. I'll plant basil somewhere else. I'll let you know how they do.  Meanwhile, read my article from a few years back for more information on sunflowers and how this American native became Russia's national flower. Sensational Sunflowers.
Sunrise the other morning from our front yard highlighted a buttermilk sky.
I wish you beautiful sunrises and now that it's daylight savings time, maybe you'll see a few more.

Green Gardening Matters, 
Ginny Stibolt

Monday, March 4, 2013

Is native gardening a fairy tale?

Grassleaf Barbara’s Buttons (Marshallia graminifolia)
are beautiful Florida natives suitable for any fairy tale garden…

Once upon a time, a gardener decided that she wanted more butterflies and more birds in her yard. She read books and oodles of online material and then she attended classes, conferences, workshops, and garden fests. After all this education, she found that she really could make a big difference by installing native plants that attract butterflies and birds with their berries and delicious leaves that caterpillars would eat. As a bonus her landscape would be easy to care for since native plants have lived in the wild for eons with no care at all.

After a great quest* far and wide across her realm, she found a local native plant nursery that had the native plants she wanted. She paid the small bounty for the plants and brought them home and everyone (and every bird and butterfly) lived happily ever after. 

NOT! 
Continue reading to find out what happens next...

The other day, my husband cut the lawn for the first time since early November.
I was sorry to see the toadflax (Linaria canadensis) go, but that's what happens in a freedom lawn--whatever is growing gets mown. I did rescue some St. John's wort seedlings, though.  More on that later.
I hope you've allowed your lawn to host natives along with the turf--it's so much more sustainable.

Green Gardening Matters,
Ginny Stibolt


Saturday, March 2, 2013

The first rain lily of spring

Three days before this lovely rain lily (Zephyranthes atamasca) emerged, we received 1.8" of rain. Hence the common name...

These lovely native plants are in the amaryllis family and mostly grow in damp ditches. We often see them along roadsides because that's where people and damp ditches most frequently come in close contact.

A couple of years ago, I initiated a rescue of some of these lilies along a roadside near my house. The road was slated to be widened and these lovelies would be buried. I applied to county for a permit, but it took so long to receive permission that by the time I could get a crew together for the rescue, with permit in hand, the ditch had been mowed and the lilies were no longer obvious. I had paced out the the location, so we had somewhere to start, but we were shooting in the dark.  We did find some bulbs and later we planted in local parks and wild lands.  You can read about it here: Rescuing Rain Lilies.

Here is a photo of the last spring for these roadside rain lilies before the construction began.
I use this as my screensaver graphic on my computer as a reminder of how important it is to be an activist.
The weather is cold again this weekend, so maybe our cool-weather veggies will make it to maturity so we can harvest them before the heat of summer sets in. I hope your gardens are growing well.

Green Gardening Matters,
Ginny Stibolt