Archive for the ‘Composting’ Category

Fall Garden Update

Vegetable gardening offers many benefits, including sun, fresh air, exercise, mental therapy, nutritious fresh vegetables, and economic savings. Vegetables can be grown year-round in Florida if you pay attention to the appropriate planting dates.”  Check out UF’s IFAS Extension for more gardening info.

Here’s what we’ve been doing in our garden for the last month…

 In September we started seeds for the vegetable beds… beans, collards, radishes, carrots, onions, and lettuce.

 My oldest wanted to start the seeds in the playhouse and pretend it was her greenhouse. I think the protection of the playhouse was great for the seedlings.

We have been getting lot of rain here in the past month. The preserve behind our home is turning into a swamp and the mosquitos have been fierce.  However, there are beautiful mushrooms everywhere.

 

Monarch butterflies are back in the garden.

 

The aphids are back too…

Our pineapple crop survived the transplant and is looking healthy!

Our avocado tree we started from a seed, survived the fungus it got and is looking good and healthy again!

 

Fall is a great time for bulking up your compost.  We’re feature on EcoEtsy discussing tips for fall composting! Check it out.

Happy Gardening, Bee

 

An Upcycled Garden Container

For a little over a year I randomly volunteered at a local community garden.  When the local college bought the land and the garden was dissolving, we had to find new homes from all the plants and gardening tools.  While cleaning up the garden, I brought one of the old tires, used for potato gardening and composting, home with me.

I took a few steps and turned that old tire into our new flower planter for the backyard! 

First, I painted it with some leftover exterior latex paint I had on hand. Then I placed some marigolds inside the hanging tire and did some experimenting. I found that the rubber tire will heat up and the flowers need more water than other potted plants. I also found out that it was better to drill holes in the bottom side of the tire so water can drain properly.

Next, I dug through all my old spray paint cans. I painted the front side of the tire green, and planted some more marigolds.

Then, got some more spray paint cans, and created a little garden graffiti on the old tire!

 

 After creating the design I wanted, I moved the old tire to its final resting place in a shady spot in the backyard, and planted yellow daisies in it.

Happy Upcycled Gardening! 

Seaweed Fertilizer

Yesterday my local community group sent out an alert that massive piles of Sargassum seaweed (Sargassum spp.)  have washed ashore here on the East Coast of Florida.   My littlest gardener and I headed over to a beach side park in Ormond so she could play a little and we could collect some seaweed for the garden.

Coastal areas all over the world use seaweed that washes up onshore as sources of agricultural soil enrichment.  Many different species of seaweed can be used. Our most common here in Florida is Sargassum seaweed, which adds organic material to the soil and can be found year around.  It has been estimated that there are 10,000 square kilometers of seagrass in the Gulf of Mexico, and 85% of that is in the waters of Florida.1

Once harvested the seaweed can be used in a variety of ways, such as in compost, soil amendment, in place of peat moss, and as an organic mulch.  I have even read about some gardeners making composting tea out of it for liquid fertilization.  Some chop up their seaweed to make better use of it as well.

Seaweed must be washed to remove salt for most uses.  This was fun for my big gardener and I do when she came home from school.  We removed trash debris and sea pencils from the seaweed piles that I had collected. We washed most of it and put it in the compost bin that we will use in the spring.  Then we left some in the wheel barrow full of water to soak over night. We are going to wash it more thoroughly and apply it directly to the plants already growing in the garden.  

We then had to wash ourselves, it is stinky like fish! :) 

Happy Gardening!

1 – UF IFAS Extension – Solutions for your Life 2007-2011

Comparisons

When we cleaned out the tomato plants, I let the little gardeners play with the remaining tomatoes. We spent over an hour comparing, discussing & playing with the tomatoes.

We picked out our favorite, the ugliest, the biggest, the smallest, and the smelliest! They lined them on the edge of the gardening beds by size, color & shape.  They even made tomato families.

We made tomato soup & had a pretend picnic. We discussed how important decomposition was, in little gardener terms, and put some of the juicer tomatoes in the composter.

It was a fun lesson for my kids while I worked & got a little exercise in the garden. We all got sunshine, fresh air and enjoyed our morning with the tomatoes!

Happy Gardening!

Mother’s Day Garden Update

I wish Mother’s Day was every weekend! What a wonderful time I had spending the day with my family in our backyard!  After being served breakfast we headed outdoors!  We spent most of the day digging in the sand box, weeding the flower beds, harvesting & sowing the garden & even swimming in the kiddie pools. Temperatures are now in the nineties! Soon even the shade will be too hot for comfort! Boo! 

The little gardeners helped me make an edible inventory garden list on Sunday.  Could we name everything we could eat in the backyard?! 

We sure could! Tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, okra, carrots, sunflower sprouts, cucumber sprouts, bean sprouts, marigolds, garlic, sage, mint, rosemary, parsley, lemon grass, basil and aloe. Yum! 

    

left to right: more purple dragon carrots, eggplant blooms & our biggest tomato plant!

 

One of my Mother’s Day presents was my oldest planting seeds for me.  I didn’t object since it was done SO sweetly.  It is too late for sweet peas but six little seeds went into the ground on Sunday & a five year old was as proud as a rooster.

I feel April & May is the height of our spring growing season.  Better finish things up by June or the weather will do it for you.  If it isn’t the heat, it’s the afternoon downpours leeching nutrients from the soil and drowning the plants.  I am starting a few things later than usual. I just hate to stop. I’ve been planting steady since last August and I act like two months off is the end of the world.  I must be a slightly spoiled gardener. ;) lol  

Nonetheless, I have been dreaming up ways to fight the weather. Maybe a beach umbrella over the garden will help extend the growing season?  chuckle, chuckle.  I am taking a risk with cucumbers & beans but I guess we’ll see if I can get some produce out of the garden in late June.   July I will close the garden completely, solarize the soil & add new organic matter.  My mid August we will be ready to go again!

I’ll finish this update with this picture.  I am so pleased with my tomato growing efforts this year. Previous efforts have failed but this year I have lots of green tomatoes. All my gardening thumbs are crossed. I hope to be eating delicious tomatoes really soon!

Happy Gardening!

Spring Garden Update

Well, spring is flying by here in Florida. The weather is back in the upper 80s and the mosquitoes are back biting again. We sure didn’t miss them.  I’ve had to adjust the garden’s water to help the new sprouts deal with the humidity and heat.  A few more months and it will be too hot for most of the veggies currently in the garden. 

Tomato blooms are appearing daily on our four Celebrity tomato plants.

Our Teddy Bear Sunflowers, which we planted from seeds, are now about a foot tall and showing us the first signs of future blooms. Two even survived a recent transplant!

Strawberries have been plentiful on the plants, but have been eaten by little critters before they are ripe enough for harvest. 

Our Pineapple mint has been plentiful. We have been harvesting it left and right for teas, salads & other yummy creations.

We finally got some parsley to sprout and look forward to more fresh herbs for cooking.

We have also transplanted more French Marigolds in our raised beds. This is the first year we have started them from seeds and have been very happy with our results!

One of the great things about nature is it’s always teaching us something, if we are paying attention.  I disgarded some dried up marigolds last fall. I simply tossed the dead plants into an area full of banana trees.  To my surprise I have wild marigolds in the banana trees this season!  How cute! 

Other gardening notes… our composting is doing lovely with the return of the heat.  I should have a new batch in just another week or so. We have also added organic blood meal & organic fertilizer to the garden to help boost spring time production!

Happy Gardening!

Our Garden Party

Last week one of our little gardeners turned 5 years of age. We celebrated the big event with two small garden themed parties!  We decided on two parties, as we feel smaller groups offer more learning and interaction for party goers.  Check out our previous post for all the fun gardening party preparations.  The parties were held two days in a row. The first one was 4 and 5 year old girls. The second was co-ed 4 and 5 year olds.  And of course a few younger siblings attended both parties.

Once all our guests arrived we put on our gardening aprons (that were part of the party favors) and headed outside!  We first talked about the garden and tried to name the things we could see, eat, smell, etc.  We also investigated the compost bins and what was inside.   Then we started picking!   

Our garden had enough produce at the time for everyone to pick one or two things. So at both parties we picked onions, radishes and carrots. I loved seeing the kids’ faces when I pulled up the first carrot! At the first party we ate lettuce leaves right off the plant. One child did it with me, one licked it and we all laughed.

At the second party we had more time to play in the garden, so we had the children plant okra seeds. I chose okra seeds because they are dark in color and a good size for the children’s small hands.  It is also something that if by chance sprouted, it would be in season.  They were able to plant more than one seed, which I think they enjoyed.  One or two wouldn’t have been enough. They enjoyed digging the holes much as they did planting and covering them up.  Of course we got out a huge watering can and took turns watering the seeds.

We also had time for each child to harvest a lettuce head.  The children snapped off the roots and threw them in the compost bin.  At the end of the party I sent the heads of lettuce home with the parents. I loved how each kid was so proud they had pulled it right out of the ground and given it to their parents to take home.  

Other fun backyard activities were the bean bag toss game, the sandbox and the bounce house. The bean bag toss was a big hit at the second party. Winners took home colorful packs of tomato, pepper and onion seeds.  The sandbox was a big hit with the younger children. We hid toy butterflies in it for them to dig and find.

After all the gardening and outdoor fun, the kids had worked up an appetite. At the first party we headed inside for drinks and healthy snacks.  Afterwards, instead of cake or cupcakes, we all sat down and made mud pudding!  Each child got a “flowering pot” or small clear green bowl. They scooped mud (chocolate pudding), dirt (crushed chocolate cookies) and worms (gummy) into their flowering pot.  Each child was then given a sprig of fresh cut pineapple mint to stick into their mud creation. Of course I had a bite of the mint to show the girls that it was yummy.  They all giggled and started in on the yummy mud.

At the second party we opted for a sunflower cupcake.  I totally took the idea from Martha Stewart Living Special Gardening Issue, March 2011.  We made cupcakes & decorated them with plain orange and yellow icing.  We placed a bowl of dark colored fruit (blueberries, blackberries, grapes) on a table and then surrounded it with the cupcakes. We added a stem and some leaves to finish it off.

I know by my daughter’s actions that she had a wonderful time at each party. Each offered a different chance to learn about the outdoors with her friends. Though gifts were discouraged, we did receive them (and are thankful).  Some gave thought to our garden theme and we had to include them in this post…

Handmade Childs Gardening Apron that was embroidered with the birthday girl’s name. The gift included gardening tools, matching gloves, a hand painted watering can and even a ladybug knee pad. Awesome!

An outdoor memory book was given with markers, stickers and other scrapbooking supplies. It is designed to help record outdoor adventures. We will use it to describe what we see, hear and smell. There are places for us to tuck nature treasures into keepsake pockets. It even has an easel on the back cover, where you can stand it up to display your photos and work. We will really enjoy this book in the coming months!

We are almost done writing all our thank you cards. And as I look back at the parties I have to smile. I didn’t have much time to take pictures but I really enjoyed working with all the kids in the garden. One child at each party enjoyed the garden more than the others. They asked a million questions and even stayed at the garden after all the kids had left.  I may never get another request for a garden themed birthday but if I do I will be thrilled.

Happy Gardening… and LOOK the children’s okra seed sprouts are already sprouting!!!!!!

 

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