Thursday, October 25, 2007

Remembering My Grandma

My grandma always had a large 4 o'clock at her front door. When I was little, I thought it was the coolest plant because the flower blooms opened after 4 and closed again in the morning. It was also one of the most fragrant plants. I remember it would grow like a weed and we would always be cutting it back.

Recently, a co-worker dug up some of their 4 o'clocks and shared them with the office. I put four by my back porch. They're amazingly hardy and have taken to their spot. And, they've already started blooming! I'm really excited to have these plants. They remind me so much of my grandma.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Veggie Garden Update

I thought it was time to give a few picture updates of my veggie garden. It's looking great. Most everything has sprouted and we're trying to keep the bugs away. We made tomato stakes this weekend - they kept falling over.

Tomatoes in the Earth box - they always do great in this.

Bed #1 - mostly root vegetables - radishes, carrots, rutabagas

Bed #2 - mostly greens - lettuce, collards, turnips

Squash rows - they've exploded in growth this last week


Scarecrows are a symbol of fall. Since this weekend was the first one that felt like fall, we thought we'd build a scarecrow. The kids loved this project, plus it was really easy to do. Unfortunately, we couldn't find any extension documents on how to build a scarecrow, so we got directions from somewhere else.

John's cutting the wood for the frame here. The saw is a little too loud for the kids.

Screwing the frame together. Kaity's helping with her blankie. It goes everywhere with her - even wood working projects.

Finished frame

Dressing the scarecrow - I bought the shirt from Goodwill for $2.50 and used some of John's old jeans.

Stuffing the scarecrow

Almost finished - just headless!

Making the face - we used an old pillowcase and Will drew the face. He did a pretty good job. The first time he did it the smile wasn't big enough. Here he's making it smile bigger.

We love the scarecrow!

Crime Scene!

Made it to the garden. "Uncle" looks great (Will named him). The only problem is I keep thinking someone is standing outside my kitchen window. It's a little freaky to see him there all the time!

Feeding the Butteflies

The kids loved this! They got to feed the butterflies with a q-tip dipped in gatorade. The butterflies were from Greathouse Butterfly Farm in Melrose. I see a field trip for the 4-H club in the near future!

Butterfly Festival - Batman and LadyBug

We went to the Butterfly Festival this weekend. It was beautiful and they had great kids activities. Here are Batman and the Ladybug having a great time in their homemade costumes.

Passion Flower Vine

I got a small free passion flower vine last spring. It's a Florida native and has done great in my yard. It's almost finished blooming for the year, but it still has a few really pretty flowers. I've been told it will freeze back for the year and then come back next year. The flowers come in many varieities and colors, but mine is white with blue center.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

First Bloom

When we moved into this house in May, I bought a Japanese Magnolia tree from the student club. I really like Japanese Magnolias and it will provide a smaller tree structure to my yard. Over the summer, I thought I had killed it. I didn't water it enough during the establishment period and it started turning yellow and dropping its leaves. After a little more TLC, it started looking better. Now, it's blooming! I'm really excited since this was the first landscape plant we put in this yard and since I almost killed it. The bloom is very pretty, but kinda low on the tree so it's a little hard to see (it's a small tree).


Well, farm living sure can have its adventurous. Yesterday, Chip (my husband's uncle) killed a 4 foot water moccasin in his yard. Normally, snakes aren't messed with on the farm. But, moccasins are just too aggressive - especially when they're around the house. It was a huge snake. I'm only 4 foot 10, so this snake was almost as long as me. That's pretty big for a water moccasin.

John hates snakes. Since he grew up on the farm, I find this very funny. But, he can't stand them. He's actually bought Snake-Away (which I think is just a gimmick) to spread around the house. It's just crushed up moth balls, but it makes him feel better. Whatever works for him.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

It finally feels like fall!

Fall is here! Today's the first day it has finally felt like fall. The humidity has dropped some and it's in the mid-80s today and breezy. Here's some garden updates from around our house this week.

RAIN!! - It finally rained this last week. We got 4.3 inches over 5 days. In comparison, we probably got 8 inches all summer! So, even though we're thankful for all the rain. It's also a lot of rain at once. I was really worried about my vegetable garden. My seedlings were close to being flooded. But, they survived and it's all good now.

Worms are eating my veggie plant! I planted my pumpkin seedlings Sunday a week ago. By Thursday, they'd been eaten to the ground. We finally discovered the culprit - little green worms. I was really upset when I discovered they were also eating my squash seedlings that were just popping out of the ground. We've dusted with Sevin dust a couple times (it keeps raining and washing it off). That should help keep the pest problem down a little. John also has put a little fertilizer out and some pelleted dolomitic lime. Our soil pH is really low and the veggie plants don't really like this. (I'll have more on this in another posting later this week.)

4-H and Vermiculture - My 4-H group is meeting tonight. We're starting a vermiculture project. I'm really excited about this project. Tonight we're building the earthworm box and next week we'll put earthworms in. Billy Crow, one of our 4-H dads and a UF nematologist, is helping us out with this project. I think he's more excited than the kids are about it.

Butterfly Festival - The Florida Museum of Natural History has a Butterfly Festival this weekend. I'm going to take my kids. It looks like it has a lot of fun activities and a lot of teaching opportunities about pollinators and butterfly gardening. We should able to come up with some 4-H projects about it also.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Gardening in a Minute is a year old!

This week is Gardening in a Minute's one year anniversary! We've all worked really hard to make this happen. I'd like to extend a special thanks to our team - Tom, Sarah, Kim, Jennifer, and Ben - for all the hard work you've put in. I'd also like to say thanks to Dr. Nell and Dr. Arrington. We couldn't have done it without your support and faith in this team.

Some of the team is going out to lunch today to celebrate. I think we deserve it after a year of production, awards, and compliments. Congratulations, team!

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Getting Kids Outdoors - Create an Outdoor Play Area!

My kids love to play outside. But, even more so since we've put a couple of swings up. Kids naturally want something to climb up and over and explore when they're outside. Providing safe areas to do that is our responsibility. You can either buy or make a play area. We have both. My kids got a small play structure - the "fort" - a couple years ago. It's got a slide and a climbing part. But, they seem to like the stuff we've made or the natural objects even more.

We put up a traditional swing and a twirly swing a couple of weeks ago. They love the traditional swing, but they may still be a little small for the twirly swing. Here they are sharing a ride while I try to get a picture of them together.

A couple months ago, we also cut down a pine tree that could have the potential of falling on our house. The tree was about 60 feet tall and we now have big 6 foot sections around the yard. My kids love these. It's like climbing a tree - only horizontally instead of vertically. It makes me nervous, but I know other than some probable scraped knees, they're pretty safe. Eventually, I want to roll these sections into a circle around the fort and swing area to kind of contain the play area.

My Son - the poster child!!

Our office coordinates the Florida School Garden Competition. We recently were redoing the poster and needed a child to be the star. Will was the perfect candidate. You can see how he's the "earth mover" here and just about the right age for the school garden competition. So, 4,000 elementary schools in Florida are going to have a big poster of my son on their walls. He's quite the superstar!

Landscape Lights

I've always admired landscape lights. They look great and are very functional. So, a couple months ago, my husband bought some solar powered ones on clearance. They're the kind that have individual panels, so they don't require a cord or anything. I finally got them out of the closet and put them in the ground. Those things are amazing!! After only a day of charging, they light up the beds around our house and look great. Since we live in the country, the lighting isn't the best at my house. When people come to visit and it's dark, they often can't see the walkways and any obstacles (namely kids' toys) in the way. Now they can! My only problem now is that I don't have enough and these were bought on clearance. Maybe I'll find another good deal soon.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Veggie Gardening

We put in raised beds this weekend. It was so much fun and they look great! My sister and I went and bought materials on Friday. We also rented a HUGE rototiller. When we went to pick it up, the guys at the rental place kept asking if we'd have men there to help unload it. We figured it was because we were female and on the smaller side. When they went to load it, two of them couldn't do it. It took a third guy to help. They weren't kidding - we were going to need several guys to unload it.

On Saturday, I got John to till for me. This is the finished tilled area.

John then measured out the boards (with his helper). Our beds our 8 feet by 4 feet, so we used 8 foot 2x6s. He also anchored them on the corners about 8 inches into the ground.

Here, John cut the boards. He wants me to mention not to use him as an example for safety.

Putting them together - again with help.

Popsicle Break!!

Beds set in the garden.

Me actually working. We got bulk potting soil(actually borrowed it from my mother-in-law) and composted horse manure to fill the beds in with.

The finished product!!

We planted mums in the front of the bed to add a little color. We also planted the seedlings I had started - tomatoes, pumpkin, broccoli, beets, lettuce, and collards. We planted seeds of (more) pumpkin, three squash varieties, two pea varieties, turnips, rutabagas, mustard, carrots, and radishes. I started some cabbages in seedling trays. We have tomatoes in the earth box and we still have more tomatoes to plant.

As you can see, we have two beds and then rows in the ground in back. We decided to start small with the beds to see if they work for us. I put the vining vegetables (squash, pumpkin, peas) in the rows in back to give them more room.

We also mulched with some of our yard trash (FYN principle #4). We had a pine tree come down recently and we still had a bunch of pine bark and yard trash on the ground. I used that and oak leaves to start filling in around the beds and in between the rows. I'm going to get some old hay from the barn to fill in the rest.

Check out our Raised Bed Gardening in a Minute show. It's got a lot more links and info about gardening with raised beds. Which by the way, I already love! It looks great and I'm hoping it keeps the weeds down.

My Garden Fairy

This is Kaity - my own personal garden fairy. She's two and a half and absolutely loves flowers. She's been helping me garden the last couple of days. While it can be really frustrating gardening with a 2 year old, I know that she can't hurt anything either. I have to remember that even though I can maybe do it better or prettier than her, she's having a great time and learning something about plants.

Her brother, Will, is the earth mover. I'll get some pictures up of him and his amazing ability to move dirt, rocks, and sticks.