Posts Tagged ‘Florida’

Fall is here!

“But now in September the garden has cooled, and with it my possessiveness. The sun warms my back instead of beating on my head … The harvest has dwindled, and I have grown apart from the intense midsummer relationship that brought it on.”
- Robert Finch

In Florida, the temperatures are just starting to drop below the 90 degree mark!  Fall brings a wonderful season for gardening and nature exploring here in our sunny state. 

The only color change we have is the  falling yellow blooms of our raintree, but my little gardeners love it (and so do a few insects).

Surprise Swallowtails

Last year we started milkweed from seeds hoping they would be ready for the monarchs this summer. We were thrilled when the six plants attracted tons of beautiful monarchs throughout the summer months.  However, we were pleasantly surprised to have swallowtail butterflies join in the fun!

I had harvested more fennel then I could make my family eat, so I decided to let some bolt and seed.  Little did I know the fennel would attract a handful of unique butterflies.

Florida is home to several species of swallowtail. I was never able to get a clear photo of the adults, since it was the larvae that surprised us.  I would have to guess that they were the Palamedes Swallowtail from studying them while they were drinking the zinnia.

Just like the monarchs we found the tiniest swallowtail caterpillars eating the blooms.

Then they would eat and grow, eat and grow.

Then unlike the monarchs, the swallowtail would build their chrysalis on the host plant, or just a few feet away.  This made it easy for the little gardeners to find them and witness their metamorphosis. 

Here’s two hanging in their “J” formation.

They were quick to metaphorize, and we often found the empty chryralises.  One wasp ate a swallowtail that was emerging.

 The little gardeners were amazed with TWO different types of butterflies in our backyard showing us their life cycles.  What a great summer with nature!

It doesn’t take much to excite a Florida gardener about Fall gardening!  Temperature cools off to the lower 90s, a few tiny green acorns on the oaks start to appear, and the raintree blooms yellow in the backyard… AND I have the fall gardening seeds purchased and the fall garden planned. :)   This week we’re sowing seeds and working hard, so our next post I will have photos of all our gardening fun.

May the wings of the butterfly kiss the sun
And find your shoulder to light on,
To bring you luck, happiness and riches
Today, tomorrow and beyond.
~Irish Blessing

Have a great weekend!

Bee

Our Wings, Worms, and Wonder Book Review!

 

Our Wings, Worms, and Wonder Book Review is on the front page of EcoEtsy today!

Be sure to check it out and comment on this great Florida gardening tool for children!

Wings, Worms, and Wonder: A guide for creatively integrating gardening and outdoor learning into children’s lives

by Kelly Johnson

Thank you, Bee

Elderberry

We have a ton of blooms in the garden, but I had to dedicate a post just to my beautiful elderberry!

Anyone know some ideas for using elderberries? I found a good recipe for jelly.

July Gardening Update

Hello! July is always our slowest vegetable gardening month.  If the humidity and heat won’t keep you out of the garden, the mosquitos and thunderstorms will.   Other than my herbs, fennel, sweet potatoes, and a few peppers, we don’t have much in the garden foodwise.

However, we have flowers! It seems like everything is in bloom right now. 

 

Even our Elephant Ear Taro is blooming…

At my oldest daughter’s request, we have been gardening for insects this summer. This month we turned our largest garden box into a flower garden.  The little gardeners have been watching butterflies lay eggs, wasps eat caterpillars and lady beetles eat aphids. Here’s what one wasp left of a Monarch caterpillar… 

Our little robin nest is no more.  After Mama robin feverishly built her nest, sat on her eggs, and starting feeding her three little babies… they disappeared.  It happened one night.  The nest was undisturbed. The babies were barely old enough to hold their heads up, so we know they didn’t fly away.  My best guess would be a snake. She had built the nest in an old tire  I was using as a hanging garden, and it was only a few feet off the ground.  We have seen several large snakes in the area this month.  We have since moved the hanging tire garden to higher ground, and are hoping she tries again next year.  On the left below is Mama sitting on her eggs.  On the right below is the babies.

 

The most exciting thing in garden this month is the Monarch butterflies & caterpillars.  The Monarch caterpillars, who only eat milkweed are starving!  With milkweed populations depleted across the states, Monarch butterflies swarm milkweed plants to lay their eggs.  We started milkweed seeds back in the spring and have six plants. They have been eaten to the ground twice. There isn’t enough food for all the eggs that are laid on our plants. The positive note, the little gardeners have had a fabulous nature lesson the Monarchs and their life cycle this summer. We have seen eggs hatch before our eyes, caterpillars grow to two inches in size, and then disappear to make their chrysalis. We have found some of the chrysalis and are now patiently waiting to see Monarch butterflies emerge.  I will write a detailed post on our Monarch adventures soon! 

We were also published on EcoEtsy this month discussing Gardening for Insects.  Check it out for helpful info on growing gardens for bees and butterflies!

At the beginning of the summer we added solar lights in the front yard.  I can’t believe we waited so long.  We always come home to a light on!  I want more for the backyard now. 

Keep cool and enjoy the rest of your July!

Bee

Useful Websites for Florida Gardeners

These are my current Top 10 Florida Gardening Websites. Sites that I have found useful and informative, no other promotion or relationship is involved in these suggestions.  Most are Florida specific but their information can be applied to much of the southern United States, and much of it applies to all of our backyard gardens.

1. University of Florida IFAS Extension: EDIS is my FAVORITE site!!! EDIS is the Electronic Data Information Source of UF/IFAS Extension, and contains a large collection of information on topics relevant to all Florida living!

2. Atlas of Florida Vascular Plants. Great way to research.

3. Florida Association of Native Nurseries. Love the design of this site.

4. Florida Trees. Check this site out before purchasing any trees.

5. Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council. The council supports the management of invasive exotic plants by providing an online forum for scientific, educational and technical information.

6. PickYourOwn.org I’m not crazy about this website’s layout and ads, but is one of the best places to collectively research u-pick farms and farmers markets in your area.

7. Waterwise Landscaping  by St John’s Water Management District. This site is full of data on how to use water carefully, the quality of our surface water, our aquifer and much more.

8.  Florida Wildflower Foundation. You may think of the license plate, but this a great resource. We love the “What’s in Bloom” section of the site, where you can discover what is currently blooming around the state.

9. Wildlife Foundation of Florida.  This is a great website for young gardeners.

10. Pinterest – really? yes.  It has great collections of gardening ideas by some experienced gardeners. Check out some of these boards for ideas on sustainable garden design, container gardening ideas, and more outdoor living spaces:

Authentic Haven Natural Brew is a soil guru that has great rustic taste.

Follow BGgardeing.com’s boards. Bren does a fabulous job with #gardenchat and has collected an array of ideas.

Follow anyone of Karen Sloan’s gardening boards for some beautiful ideas!

Organically Grown by Upcyclers is a fun collection of ways to upcycle things into your garden.

And here’s our collection on Pinterest: Backyard FL Gardening.

Happy Gardening!

Thanks, Bee

Busy Bees in April

Spring has been flying by. We love all the excitement in and out of the garden!  Spring is such a wonderful time of year to be outdoors. Above, we took a trip and brought our new wagon to the farmers market in Deland, FL. We won this awesome wagon (and some other cool stuff ) from #GardenChat and Subaru on Twitter in March!  

In April, we were also published on EcoEtsy’s blog: Gardening with Kids and Books. On May 10th, our next EcoEtsy article will talk about rhubarb and even include a yummy recipe!

Here’s a photo gardening update of our backyard efforts in April!

Success in the Garden:

Green onions have been fabulous this season!

The fennel has been smelling (and looking) lovely!

The sweet peas are in bloom all over the garden!  We are very excited about this crop!

Failures in the Garden:

Our celery, didn’t quite make it. We have one lone plant left, but I’m afraid it’s too hot now.  First I had trouble starting the celery seeds, then I planted them too close, AND then our fat cat decided that they made a lovely bed to lay on. She sleeps on a few border grasses in our front yard, but has never slept on any of our vegetables before.  I learned all sorts of lessons with this first celery crop. ;)

Garden Future:

The last of this spring’s crops will be cucumber and peppers. The first of the peppers are arriving.

After this season, we plan on removing all the dirt in our largest raised box garden, and replacing it with new gardening soil.  We have been gardening three or four times a year in this box for four or five years now. Even though I add organic matter to the soil each season, it is just time to start over. The old gardening dirt will be used in various places in the yard, like to continue a stepping stone pathway.

We also have plans to build another box while we are taking a summer break from vegetable gardening. Well, a break from everything but sweet potatoes and herbs that is. ;)

Happy Gardening!

Ladybugs on Easter Sunday

For my daughter’s sixth birthday we had a little party, and one of the presents was Pink Spotted Ladybug larvae (coleomegilla maculata)!  Our oldest LOVES raising and releasing insects!  After a week or two of observing their life cycle, we released our ladybugs on Easter Sunday.

Ten little ladybugs arrived in their larva state. They turned yellow in their pupa stage, and then went still as they became adults.  One didn’t make it and one was released a few days after the others.  My oldest enjoyed giving them water and soaked raisins as they molted and became adults.

Things we learned during this experience: 

They really aren’t ladybugs, they are called ladybird beetles.

They will eat aphids, mites, and small caterpillars.

They can be found on the map from South Canada to South America.

They can be white, yellow, pink, orange, red and black.

And some species can have no spots!

It was better to release our ladybugs in the morning time, so after observing and feeding them for a week, we released them in the garden.   My oldest decided to share the experience with her two year old sister, and together they released the ladybugs in my two year’s old garden box. 

The girls ran back and forth to the garden all day and would find one or two ladybugs still crawling all around.   Our Ladybug Land is all washed and cleaned and ready to raise some more.

Happy Gardening!

Bee

Busy Bees

We have been busy bees around the garden and backyard this week:

We had some non-native shrubs removed, and replaced them with some native ferns. 

We cleared out a space for another raised gardening bed. I can’t wait until my husband has time to start building it!

  

I am learning about collecting milkweed seeds, since my plants are seeding.

I am also excited to report that I wrote my first gardening tutorial for EcoEtsy. Please check it out and leave me a comment. You could win a pack of organically grown marigold seeds!

Happy Gardening!

January in the Garden

Happy New Year! I can’t believe it’s been since Christmas since we last updated.  The garden is going well. With the holiday recovery completed, I think I will be able to post more regularly again! :)

We are still spending some time helping the community garden dissolve (the local college bought the land to turn it into a parking lot).  We have found the plants and gardening items some great homes. We took in these pineapples and are hoping to nurse them back to health.

  

Some of the stepping stones, in the new walkway, are from the community garden as well. We are hoping the steps help with the foot traffic and dirt in the backyard.

  

Lettuce season is winding down. As usual we have enjoyed it! With the warmer winter this year, it wasn’t a stellar crop, but we enjoyed quite a few dinner salads!

   

Since the weather has been warmer, my Seminole pumpkins never stopped producing!

The collard greens were a first and my favorite this year! I will definitely grow them again!  We have been picking off them since early December.

   

The beautiful red Pentas are the only thing blooming in the backyard.  Above right, we have marigold seedlings started for spring gardening.

We’ve been having fun making terrariums with the little gardeners!!! A post with details coming soon.

 Happy Gardening!

 

 

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