Archive for the ‘The Trouble with Gardening is…’ Category

June Gardening Update

It’s hot in the garden these days! I refrain from using the term ‘miserably hot’, as I’m saving it for a later summer garden post, but it is hot here in Central Florida! So hot now that it is affecting our garden.

To be honest I have additionally neglected the garden the last couple of weeks. Life has been busier than usual lately & full of its blessings & problems. When I finally got to the garden, I realized it is one of those problems now.

The pepper plants are wilted & dying. The okra & marigolds are covered with white spots, (which I hope isn’t Botrytis Blight) and the tomatoes have fruit worms loving them from top to bottom. Even the sunflowers seem to have black & yellow on their leaves. Boo!

Every time I try to extend my gardening season, this is what happens. I do not like gardening in Florida in June & July. I should let this be a lesson (or a reminder). I should wrap up spring gardening in May. Then, solarize & improve the garden soil in June & July, while getting ready to start planting in late August.

After taking a closer look at the peppers, I’m just not sure what is going on there. There is no sign of pest or infestation. All six big beautiful peppers & the plants’ leaves are all wilted. A few days of watering didn’t improve anything; a few days of no water didn’t improve anything either. I opened up one of the peppers & it is crisp on the inside but leathered & wilted on the outside. Oh well, I pulled them up, along with the okra & made sure they didn’t go in the compost. The marigolds might go next. I will need to do some more research on the spots. Hoping it is nothing major in my soil. :(

Even my Vicky’s plant was by the potted basil & getting too much water this month.

I am thankful for the eggplants. They look great & there is purple all over the garden. I could also note the tomatoes are not a total loss. I’m removing the fruit worms & the three big plants are producing more tomatoes than I need…so far.

Happy, errr, Gardening.

A Mini Florida Vacation

I recently posted about having to leave my garden for a little vacation.  I am happy to report that almost everything survived my absence!  The leek sprouts didn’t make it.  I later read that they grow much better in the Fall here in Florida, so it is probably for the best. I will try again in September. 

Here are a few photos of our vacation to the Gulf of Mexico. It was the first time we had visited since the oil spill last year.  Man, do I love that ocean!

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My 101 on Lilies

When it comes to stepping out of the box, the vegetable garden box…I am a novice gardener.  However, I have been slowly developing a love for lilies. Maybe it’s because two close friends in very different circles, had babies they named Lily. Or maybe it’s because every year on my daughter’s birthday, our Amaryllises bloom. Whatever the case I have been learning more about them and looking for ways to carefully incorporate them into the garden.

Our Amaryllis Lilies bloom just once in March and April and bear cluster of four red flowers.  These lily bulbs were given to be my hair stylist over seven years ago. I have transplanted them everywhere we have moved.

Next in line to bloom will be our Swamp Lily. When I moved in with my husband over ten years ago, he showed up with a house plant. Once we moved into our first home, I moved that house plant outside and within a few weeks we had a Swamp lily that was huge and blooming (which it never had done before)!  That following summer the four foot lily gave me more than twenty baby lilies. I dug them up and gave them to some of my gardening friends. Swamp lilies will start to bloom in April or May, depending on the weather, and will continue to bloom until it gets cold again.

New to our yard this year are Gloriosa lilies.  A friend gave me some of these tropical lily bulbs.  I researched what they looked like and how they would need a trellis for assistance. I had an old one lying around, so I thought I’d throw it up in a bare spot and plant these free lilies. One of them is close to showing us its first bloom!

One important thing to note…most lilies are toxic!!! Even my Easter lily is toxic, which I moved outside as soon as I realized this.  I am thankful it never made my children or animals sick since it took residence in my living room for the last five years. With a wild toddler age gardener, a cat and a dog to consider, you can never be too careful.  That’s one nice thing about vegetable gardening…you never have to worry about eating something poisonous! :)

Happy Gardening!

Spring Update 3/20/11

Hello Friends! We are busy bees in our garden right now! We are trying to enjoy every minute of spring, as we know the heat & summer will be here before we know it (or want it). I decided to let the pictures guide our update this afternoon. Enjoy!

The first of the spring radishes are popping up everywhere!

Lettuce was in abundance this year. We have let a few heads continue to grow in hopes of harvesting our first seeds. Boy, have they gotten tall!  If I have read correctly, they will bloom & then produce a seed head. (If any of my gardener readers have suggestions here that would be great). I thought it would be cool to plant my own seeds next year and of course I felt like some of the lettuce wasn’t going to go to waste. We just had way too much!

The first strawberry of the season! It seems our switch from growing the strawberries in the ground to growing them in containers is going to be successful.

These Teddy Bear Sunflowers were our first organic seed purchased on Etsy. We have about 8-10 sprouts along the garden wall right now. Something has been enjoying a taste of them though!

Our French Dwarf Double Mixed Color Marigold seeds are sprouting! This is the first time we have tried to grow marigolds from seeds. They were also purchased on Etsy from a fabulous master gardener! My little gardening girls are always excited to grow flowers!

 Tomatoes are one of our favorites but I have had terrible luck with them all my gardening years.  They didn’t even make it into the spring garden last year.  However, I like a challenge every now and then, so I purchased these celebrity tomatoes from a local nursery. Four of them were added to the container portion of our garden space.  Fingers crossed… 

No matter how much it is neglected, this aloe grows great in our backyard.  My grandfather gave me some of his aloe crop years before he died. He’s now been gone almost nine years.  I have it growing everywhere and have given tons of it away.  I’m always getting new aloe shoots, like the ones shown above.


The Herb Garden. After another cold Florida winter I have decided to grow some of my herbs inside next winter! We missed having fresh, easily accessible cooking herbs. For now, they are starting to return.  From left to right: rosemary (we’ve never seen it to thick), Greek oregano, (forgotten) sprouts of lavender, and pineapple mint.

Our final photo for this update… our Florida Avocado sprout. We made several attempts before we successfully sprouted one.  My oldest gardener has nicknamed it “Roots,” as she was quite impressed with all the roots that first appeared from an avocado she ate and then stuck in water with toothpicks. ;)

More updates soon. Happy Gardening!

Fall 2010 Update

Happy Thanksgiving!

Unfortunately, we were too busy to update our garden blog in the month of October…but we weren’t too busy for gardening! Here’s what we’ve been learning & doing in our backyard!

In the garden…

Our romaine lettuce has been delicious. We had lots of it ready at the same time, so we called on friends & neighbors to help us eat it last week! 

Our peas have had a little trouble with the wooden trellis this year but with a little help are blooming & showing us the first of their pea pods.  (Gardening Note: wire trellis is much easier for peas to climb).

The onions are half way through their growing cycle & the carrots should be ready just after Thanksgiving.  We have tons of baby lettuce sprouts all over the garden, some to grow & some to share with a local community garden.

green ice lettuce

Around the garden…

We have failed at growing stevia & sage this season.  Our tarragon & our oregano look beautiful but our container strawberries are getting eaten by some small animal (or some small child). ;)


We started some Christmas cactus for family & friends a few months ago.  The cacti are doing lovely & even blooming a bit early this year.

For the first time, we also attempted to keep our poinsettia from last year. We have kept it alive all year & now have repotted it, fertilized it & are looking forward to seeing it turn red (fingers crossed).

Online in the garden…

We have updated all our local gardening pages. Check them out & see what our local gardeners are doing in their gardens!  I will update more in the next month I promise! Happy Gardening! 

Painting the Garden

My cucumber plants looked great in the garden.  I had beautiful yellow blooms everywhere… then to my dismay all my baby cucumbers started dying.   Not just one or two but 20 or 30 one inch baby cucumbers & their yellow blooms were dying!  I went over the basics. I had grown cucumbers the past three years.  It’s an easy plant to grow with a shorter life cycle that has been a hit in the garden with my four year old.  Everything seemed fine.  No signs of disease or harmful insects!  You can click on the image below to have a closer look of my poor cukes!

female blooms dead from lack of pollenation

After doing a little research I realized that I have sexist cucumbers this year!!!   Cucumbers have male & female blooms that need insects for pollination. If this doesn’t take place the female bloom will shrivel & die & so will the miniature cucumber right behind it.  Male cucumber plants have no miniature cucumber behind their yellow flower.  For every twenty female blooms in the garden there is one male bloom.   Where are all my males?!

Well, where are my bees, butterflies, moths & beetles too?!  I used the same pack of cucumber seeds last year & had no problems.   The only factor I changed this season was that I didn’t plant marigolds with my spring garden.  I normally plant a half dozen or so around my garden box to help naturally ward off bad insects & attract good ones. I can always find ladybugs on them, which my daughter thinks is very exciting!  With our longer than usual winter this year most of my plants, both in & out of the garden, were blooming right along with my summer cucumbers. I had lazily decided not to mess with the marigolds, never thinking about pollination.  I actually have never had a problem with pollination so maybe it is simply the lack of male blooms on the particular seeds that sprouted.  
painting the garden

In my cucumber research I came across an article that said to get a paint brush & help the cross pollination take place!  So we have been painting a garden this summer!  My daughter loves buzzing around like bees & gently sticking a paint brush in each bloom, again & again. We have to work on being gentle with the blooms but it is quite fun!  

The best news I have to report about all of this, is that the cucumbers are growing again! A good bit of our crop was lost as cucumbers were our main focus this season.  I had hoped for a larger than normal crop so I could share.  I think I will continue to lose female blooms unless more male flowers start showing up. However, all has not been lost & we are still able to eat delicious cucumbers each week. Just enough for our little family…


I will research a less sexist variety of cucumbers (& I will faithfully plant my marigolds)! :)

garden update

Current Garden Contents:

cucumbers, radishes, corn, cubanelle peppers,  cherry tomatoes, okra

For this months post I took pictures at the beginning & at the end of the month. I think this helps show how quickly things can change & how a garden can entertain!

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The garden is a buzz with life!  The cucumbers are climbing well & looking healthy.  Ants have been bothering my yellow cucumber blooms though so I’ve been sprinkling cinnamon & white pepper. However, this just made the ants move to another cucumber plant. I plan on reapplying & hope they won’t do too much harm. I have dozens of baby cucumbers!

My cubanelle pepper plants are the most mature.  One is giving me two beautiful peppers that should be ready any day!  Cucumbers & cherry tomatoes are next in maturity. Both are showing us lots of tiny veggies & yellow flowers! Okra, corn & radishes are in the earliest stage of growth & all have been under attack by bugs. I had to spray Organocide (an organic insecticide & fungicide) & will have to again this week. I’m a bit worried about the corn. I have never had success (or space) for growing it but my four year old daughter really wanted to grow it this season so were giving it a try. I hope I can get a few ears big enough to excite her!

Check out the rest of the garden blog for updates too!!!  Backyard Gardeners are sending in picutres & reports & I even had a chance to update the farmers market page!

Happy Gardening!

The first month of summer


Port Orange Intracoastal Sunset

The first month of summer has arrived! June 22 is the summer solstice however because of Florida’s close proximity to the Tropic of Cancer our summer starts earlier & lasts longer.  As we look to the long months of summer here are some hot weather tips:   

  • It is important to fertilize your garden in the summer time, especially if you have sandy soil &/or a garden plot.  Florida’s afternoon thunderstorms & consistent watering can leach away nutrients in the soil the plants needs for food.
  • Insects will stay on the prowl this month & all summer long. We won’t get a break from the chance of infestation until the cooler weather sets in.  (One of the many reasons I think winter gardening in Florida is awesome!)  Our best fight against pests is to catch them early so check on your garden daily. Look for ants near flowering cucumbers or caterpillars under leaves.  Leave spider webs intact!  Garden spiders are beneficial predators & great for the garden!  They just need to be left alone.  We garden with children too & most garden spiders don’t bite! There are only a few poisonous spiders in Florida ( & all enjoy undisturbed dark areas, not backyard gardens!

A common black and yellow argiope spider with lots of bugs in her web.

If you’re interested in vegetable gardening this summer, despite the pests & weather, I have found that onions, sweet corn & snap beans do wonderful in the summertime!

Do what we can, summer will have its flies!

Do what we can, summer will have its flies! ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

As the pests & weeds begin to appear in my garden & yard I glanced over gardening notes & did a quick refresher on natural ways to ward them off!  I thought I would share a few of my favorites:

  • Marigolds are companion plants that help ward off pests like bean beetles & harmful nematodes. They also encourage growth when planted around tomatoes, strawberries, beans & roses.  (I always find my beneficial lady bugs in & around the marigolds in my garden).
  • Sprinkle baking soda lightly around tomato plants. This will sweeten the tomatoes by lowering acidity.
  • A strong solution of saltwater can kill an area infested with poison ivy plants.
  • Boil 1 quart water, then add 2 tablespoons salt and 5 tablespoons vinegar. While still hot, pour mixture directly onto weeds between cracks on sidewalks & driveways.  This is one of my favorite weeding tips. I do this once a year!
  • A squirt of vinegar may help invigorate a plant & make it more resistant to disease and pests. Mix 1 ounce vinegar with 1 gallon of water or compost tea, and use as a regular spray on garden plants.
  • Blood meal is great for deterring small animals, like rabbits & squirrels.  Sprinkle some in & around your garden. It is a high nitrogen fertilizer so remember to include that in your gardening plan so you don’t over fertilize your plants.  You can also use blood meal to help activate your compost as well. It will speed up decomposition since it is 12% nitrogen!
  • Lavender repels ants & so does sprinkling a mixture of 1/2 cinnamon & 1/2 white pepper around the garden when you see them. 
  • Radishes are good to plant with cucumbers, they will deter cucumber beetles.

The new gardening tip I’ve come across this season…fresh basil!  We love the aroma of basil but houseflies don’t! Use potted basil in your kitchen, screen porch & elsewhere to ward off the little nuisances.  Basil will also ward off tomato hornworms & should be planted in & around your tomato plants. Makes me want to go plant some basil seeds right now!  

Happy Gardening!

A Saltwater Garden

A Horseshoe Beach Garden

Not literally a saltwater garden but the prettiest thing I’ve seen 10 feet from the Gulf of Mexico’s brackish waters.  While on vacation last week I came across this lovely garden & its owner.  Although this garden doesn’t specialize in edible produce I still found it to hold some pliable gardening tips:

When the seas threaten & the saltwater is rising, the owners water the garden with lots of fresh water.  After the sea recedes, they water the garden yet again with fresh water. The roots absorb fresh water first to protect it from absorbing too much saltwater & then the second watering helps flush the salt from the roots & ground.  The owners reported that in all their years the few plants they have lost from the rising saltwater have always come back & have never been completely killed off. 

I asked how they combated the sandy soil & beamed when I heard the answer…“our composter!”  A large black circular Earth Machine composter lay in a sunny spot in the middle of the garden.  They say coffee is their composting secret & the Earth Machine allows them to adjust ventilation while the black color maximizes the heat.

I thought this a wonderful tip for our beachside gardeners & hope for those looking at their soil & wondering if anything will grow out of it! What a beautiful garden in such harsh conditions!  The middle picture shows the ocean just cross the road on the other side of the fence.  The far left shows how well the garden space is utilized with trellis on the veranda & the far right shows amazing color coming out of salty, sandy soil!

Did you ever think how a bit of land
shows the character of the owner? 
~Laura Ingal
ls Wilder~


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