Posts Tagged ‘summer’

Thinking about Fall – Garden Update

I am so anxious to get things started this year that I couldn’t wait any longer.  I planted some fall seeds!!!  I know it’s early for our zone 9 gardening. Maybe two – four weeks too early but like I said I couldn’t wait any longer! :)

homegrown broccoli seeds

I planted most of the seeds in trays and some in the actual garden beds.  This year I used an old broken trellis to mark some of the seeds.  It will help keep the cat and dog out of the garden until the plants are bigger and established as well!

   

We planted green onions, Bibb lettuce, parsley, leeks and purple dragon carrots in the raised bed.  In the trays we started broccoli, Seminole pumpkin, and marigolds.

Some of the seeds have already sprouted! From left to right: radishes, celery & a mystery sprout. I think it is cauliflower or broccoli that the little gardeners planted a few weeks ago. It was not marked though, so I guess we will see. :)

   

What is left of the summer gardening is still doing well.  The aloe, grasses, sweet potatoes & herbs are loving the humidity & heat.

Aloe Vera

dwarf red fountain grass

sweet potatoes

   

sweet basil bloom

rosemary

 I love going to the garden to check on things and finding evidence that the little gardeners have been there. Here they had created a fairy bridge out of old palm bark and toad castle out of an empty pot. :)

Happy Gardening!

Late August in the Garden

We are looking forward to cooler weather!!! We’ve had our fill of August & the heat!  Ugh!

Cymbopogon (lemongrass)

We may be tired of the heat but the grasses are loving it!!! I love cooking with fresh lemon grass in the late summer. When combined with garlic & other spices it is has some fabulous health benefits.

Caladiums are one of the easiest things to grow.  I love the color they give my flowerbeds, this time of year. Be careful though they are poisonous to pets.

   

We are already thinking about fall gardening!  From left to right: leeks, marigolds & celery sprouts will be transplanted into the garden beds soon!  Radishes & sweet potatoes are in the ground already!  By October we are hoping lettuce, broccoli & carrots will be growing in abundance as well! :)

Lantana

Happy Gardening!

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!

Lazy Summer Update

Gardening is very slow this time of year.  Instead of fighting the heat, bugs and storms, we take some time to nurture our soil.  We have one eggplant left to eat, sweet potatoes trying to fight off bugs, and most of the garden under cover for a little solarization. Here are some photos from the the end of July:

Lots of mushrooms from the afternoon thunderstorms.

Lil gardener watching the last space shuttle take off.

Our first attempt at sweet potatoes.

Some news to report:

We had a hungry paper wasp devour a green caterpillar in front of us. I read they will kill the caterpillars and bring them back to the nest for food for their larvae, but we watched the little guy eat the caterpillar bite for bite. Maybe it will be regurgitated when she returns to the nest? The research wasn’t clear. It was amazing to witness though!!! I’ve never seen a wasp sit still for so long.  

The Crape myrtles are also heavy with blooms and bees this year.  Better enjoy them while they last!

Happy Gardening!

Sweet Potatoes

We are attempting to grow sweet potatoes in our garden for the first time this summer!  Unlike regular potatoes, sweet potatoes like it hot!  They are native to Central and South America. Their vines need room to grow so after our tomatoes, okra and other veggies cleared out of the garden, we planted two sweet potatoes that had gotten old in our pantry.  We first started them in a glass full of water on the kitchen counter.  Much like an avocado, they simply sprouted leaves and roots.

I realized that I started them a bit late. It is recommended they are started in April and May in Florida because they have a 95-120 day harvest.  We started ours in June.  However, they are doing well in the garden and myself and the little gardeners are looking forward to this experience.  

The next step is mulching.  They love mulch to help promote new vines & growth. Here are some other tips I found for planting, growing & harvesting sweet potatoes:

  • Plant sweet potatoes about 12 inches apart, and allow 3 feet between rows so the vines will have plenty of room to run.
  • Good root development depends on aerated soil (that’s why they like mulch). They are the ideal crop for areas with sandy soil.
  • About 2 weeks after planting, feed plants with a balanced organic fertilizer that contains potassium (the third number on the fertilizer label).
  • Sweet potatoes are not very sweet when first dug, but they are fine for sweetened pies or casseroles. They need a period to sit and “cure” to bring out their sweetness. Don’t wash before curing.
  • In late summer, sweet potatoes often produce flowers that resemble those of morning glory, a close botanical cousin.  
  • Taken from various online sources, including: http://www.bonnieplants.com/LearnGrowLibrary/HowtoGrowBonnieVarieties/tabid/128/ID/220/How-to-Grow-Sweet-Potatoes.aspx

We are looking forward to vines, flowers & curing potatoes later this summer! Fingers crossed!

Happy Gardening!

July’s Garden Outlook

Summer in our Florida garden is full of humidity, heat, bugs & thunderstorms.  Our sunflowers have completed their growing cycles, but they were still beautiful on their way to seed.

   

There is still an abundance of eggplant in the garden. I’ve been chatting on our facebook page about how to cook them & my followers have given me some awesome recipe suggestions!

Our tomatoes, green peppers, okra & squash have all either been defeated by disease & bugs or have completed their growing cycles.   However, the parsley, sage, oregano & comfy herbs are doing quite well. Here is some potted Italian parsley that has been delicious to cook with this summer.

Pineapple mint is also on its way out.  The blooms are beautiful though. I will need to dry some for my winter teas soon. 

Afternoon thunderstorms are frequent now. My avocado plants are loving this tropical weather pattern!

Can’t have too many thunderstorms without seeing a rainbow!

The swamp lilies are next in line to bloom in the backyard. I love their white blooms in the summertime!

Happy Gardening!

Wordless Wednesday

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Nature Journal

Our oldest gardener will start Kindergarten in August.  To continue to develop her handwriting skills this summer we are starting a nature journal project.  Our first assignment was to make the journal!  So, I purchased a basic writing fundamentals notebook by Mead. 

We then talked about decorating the cover with things that remind us of Florida living.  We gathered last year’s nature magazines and a couple pairs of scissors, and started looking for anything related to Florida nature and wildlife.  I also helped her cut out the letters for the words Nature Journal.

We then talked about other materials we could use on our journal cover. I’m a huge fan of mixed media art, so I always try to remind her of non-traditional art supplies.  Shells, sand and other backyard finds were mentioned for our Florida themed cover.  We drew lines with glue and then went out to the sand box and dumped sand on them. 

We even placed three pieces of the Southern Slash Pine on the cover: pine bark, pine needles and pieces of a pine cone.

After our gardener was happy with its appearance and everything had completely dried, I sealed the cover with polyurethane to help it last through the summer.

Our First Journal Entry: 6/01/11

What she observed while taking a nature walk at dusk…

…a dark blue sky, two frogs and a bat (picture of sky and bat).

Journal Entry Two: 6/04/11

Take the camera and find something to take a picture of in the backyard. (Boy was she in for a treat)!

She found a Painted Lady Butterfly with a slightly injured wing. It sat quiet drinking on the lantana while she took a few (good) pictures.  As we were looking at the wing injury the butterfly flew up & landed on her tummy. She squealed with delight but held perfectly still!

  

Our little gardener has been super excited to WRITE in her journal and can’t wait for her next assignment!

Happy Summer! 

Back to Nature (pt 2)

I forgot about some nature shots on my camera. I had to share the last photos of the hot humid days of summer.  The season is starting to change & the sprouts in the Fall garden are in perfect time!

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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 (http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/in011) & 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!

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