Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Urban CSAs

This is a really interesting take on CSAs (community supported agriculture). Normally, CSAs allow a person to invest in a farming operation and reap the benefits. This company has started retrofitting people's backyards into vegetable gardens and then the CSA operates on a very local level.

Read more about this in The New York Times.

As someone who grew up on an orange grove, but now mainly works with urban gardening, I love this concept. I really think people should be growing more of their own food anyways. It may not be as efficient or economical, but there's something very satisfying (and educational!) in saying I grew this whole salad in my backyard.

Over the years, I've volunteered quite a bit with Ag in the Classroom. The purpose of the organization is to educate youth about where their food comes from and help create well-rounded, critically thinking consumers. Many of the third graders that we would work with often said their food came from grocery stores. If you asked what they had for breakfast (usually orange juice or milk and cereal), and asked where the orange juice came from, it was always grocery stores. Sometimes they could make the connection back to the orange, but almost never could they make the connection back to the tree.

I know most people are now two to five generations removed from a farm, but this is still really sad. I want my kids to be very concerned with where their food comes from and how it's produced. I want them to think critically about production, processing, and marketing of food and make their own decisions. I think it helps when we are able to grow even a little bit in our backyards.

So, I guess what I'm saying is these urban CSA programs are great. If the vegetable garden is right in your neighborhood, you can visit it, ask questions of the homeowner (and the farmer who's helping), and still reap the benefits. It may even inspire you to try a tomato plant or two in your own yard!

So to inspire you, here's a picture that Kim took at the Garden Writers conference in Oklahoma this year. It's okra that was grown locally in a home vegetable garden. And, it's a great picture.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Mammalian Lawnmowers (aka Goats)

So, we did it. We got some goats. Three to be precise. They're Spanish meat goats about six months old. Two does and a buck. Two of them were bottle fed as babies, so they're pretty gentle. They're going to be great for my little kids and for my urban 4-H kids.

The best thing about the goats is that they prefer to eat briars and weeds over feed. That makes them very cheap to feed.

These are the little girls. You can't tell from the picture, but the one in front is black with a white face. They're both very pretty.

This is the little boy. He came with the name "Cinder." His twin sister was "Ella." Get it? Cinderalla? We'll probably change his name. He was bottle fed and quite the baby. And, he really took to Will. He's following him all around. And, he's quite noisy wanting some more attention.

Here he is again. He's a very nice looking tri-colored goat.

Here's the other little girl. She was a single birth, so she's quite a bit bigger than the other two. She was also bottle fed, but is very smart, so she doesn't come up quite as much. She's very good looking.

All of them need names, so I'm taking suggestions. Will wants to name one "Sticky" because they like to eat sticks. If someone comes up with something better, that wouldn't bother me at all.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Gardening in a Minute expansion

Great news! You can now hear Gardening in a Minute in the panhandle and the Tampa area! If you're in Tallahassee or Panama City, listen on Fridays at 7:34 am and 9:34 am to WFSU/WFSW. If you're in the Tampa area, listen weekdays at 10:55 am to WMNF.

Find out more about our stations on the Gardening in a Minute Web site.

Look for us soon in your area or listen to the show online.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Introducing the Duval County Commercial Hort Agent (who happens to be my sister)

So, I thought I'd take a moment and introduce a new UF/IFAS Extension agent. I don't normally do this, but the new agent is my sister, Erin!

Erin graduated from UF with a BS in Environmental Horticulture and an MS in Agricultural Leadership. She's worked at Longwood Gardens and at the Anheuser Busch park, Discovery Cove. For Duval County, Erin's in charge of commercial horticulture. Congratulations, Erin!

So, if you live in the Jacksonville area and need help with commercial horticulture, go see Erin at the extension office.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Sunflower Picture

I love sunflowers and this is a great picture taken by one of our resident UF/IFAS photographers, Tyler Jones. Great shot, Tyler!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Passion Flowers

I love passion flowers! They're native to Florida, butterflies love them, and they have amazing flowers. They're also called maypops. I have a white flowering one in my yard, but I really want one of these purple ones. This picture was taken at the Marion County Extension Office. It had two to three blooms open and about 15 almost ready to bloom. I bet it looks amazing this week.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Sabal Palmetto Disease

Have you heard about this? A new disease is causing a decline of cabbage palms (aka sabal palmettos). has written a story on it, but UF/IFAS has also sent out an alert.

Here's the alert from one of the UF/IFAS plant pathologists:

"Sabal palmetto (cabbage palm) in Manatee County has been diagnosed with a lethal phytoplasma disease. Preliminary lab reports indicate that the phytoplasma that causes Texas Phoenix palm decline (TPPD) is also causing the decline of the cabbage palms. A pdf has been posted on the FLREC web site.

This is going to be an extremely difficult disease to diagnose early in the disease process. Overtrimmed palms and improperly fertilized palms in the landscape will show many other symptoms that will be unrelated to this disease. Even palms in natural settings have nutritional symptoms that will be unrelated to this disease. In other words, there are various reasons why cabbage palms will not be green all the way to the bottom of the canopy, and those reasons may have nothing to do with being infected with a phytoplasma!"

A great article has been written about the disease.

What a sad way for one of our trademark Florida plants to go. DPI is already working on it, but it's going to be a long process.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Snake Bites at Wal-Mart

This is just a reminder to me to watch where I put my hand in retail garden centers. Full story

Plant of the Month - Pentas

I've got pentas in my yard and love them. They're great butterfly attracters. This month we're featuring them as the Plant of the Month.

Here's what Gardening in a Minute writes about them.

"When other plants fade in Florida’s hot and humid summers, perennials like Pentas lanceolata truly shine. These attractive plants produce red, pink, or white flowers throughout the summer and are a great source of food for hummingbirds and butterflies.

Pentas is one of those plants like coleus and vinca that has become widely known by its Latin name instead of a different common name. The genus is so-named because there are five lobes at the end of each tubular flower."

I love the sweet little flowers on these. Don't you?

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Outdoor Structures - Bridges

I really like outdoor structures. We don't have any in our yard yet, but they'll come soon. We were down visiting the Marion County Extension Office last week and they've got a great demo garden. And, of course, included with the demo garden is outdoor structures.

I love this bridge that they had. Will was kind enough to pose in it for me. I bet we could find somewhere to put a bridge like this at our house. We have a lot of seasonal water areas that would be great to have something like this.

Do you have any great garden structures in your yard? I'd love to see them.

Starfish Cactus

Tom blogged about a starfish cactus today. I've never seen it before, but it's pretty cool looking. I'm not a fan of cacti (except for Christmas cactus) and succulent gardening, but it's becoming more and more popular as people are on water restrictions.

Here's a picture of the succulent garden at Kanapaha Botanical Gardens. It's bigger than what most people would do, and not my taste, but still cool.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Wolf Spiders are my friends

I grew up in an old cracker house that had lots of crooks and crannies. We often had wolf spiders hanging out in the house. The house was two story with the only bathroom downstairs. I quickly had to become used to having to step over a wolf spider when I was a little girl. We had one particular wolf spider that would come out at night and take up almost the entire step every night for what seemed like forever (I was little, probably 7 or 8, so it probably wasn't as long as it seemed). I didn't have friends over to spend the night much because of the big spiders (and no AC). As an adult, I've come to appreciate wolf spiders because they eat roaches.

My youngest sister was always the most fascinated with wolf spiders (she took these pictures for me). When she came over to make us dinner the other night, she noticed a big wolf spider hanging out between the screened door and sliding door (protecting himself from Tebow, I'm sure). According to Alli, wolf spiders also really like to eat frogs. We've had a proliferation of frogs with my new water pond and seasonal pond that's somewhat full of water which means we've also had a proliferation of wolf spiders.

I couldn't get the camera to focus (the macro lens is out on loan), so Alli took some great close-ups for me.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Why Small Town Living is So Awesome

This isn't garden related, so bear with me. It's fun stuff.

For the Fourth of July, we went to Keystone Heights for their small town parade. It was awesome. They still throw candy, there's a lot of community floats, and the parade is pretty long.

The best part was the guy leading the parade. He lives in the area, so we see him around quite a bit at all the local festivals and events. He often hangs out in Micanopy also. As you can see, he's riding a Brahman bull decked out with all the festivities. He's also got two geese that parade with him and an Aussie dog. I didn't get a picture of the Aussie - she was running through the crowd saying hello to everyone. But, he made the parade for me at least!

The sign is actually attached to the bulls horns. Amazing.

Here are the parading geese. How often do you see that?

Kaity was a great flag waver. My dad also taught her to do the fancy parade wave, so she did that to all the pretty girls riding in the old cars.

Will was a patriotic ninja for the parade.

Small town's priceless.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Melrose Lakehouse

For the last 15 years or so, we've been going out to my uncle's lakehouse in Melrose, Florida. Growing up, we'd come up and spend a couple weekends a year. Now that I'm grown, I take my family out there and we spend a lot of holidays there. Since leaving for college, we make an annual event of having Thanksgiving with the whole clan. My family (hubby and kids) usually go for Memorial Day. And, this year, we added a week at the Fourth of July. My uncle lives in St. Augustine and his kids are in high school and college now, so they've got a lot of activities to keep them busy and they don't come out as much.

Melrose is a great little town. It sits at the crossroads of three counties - Alachua, Putnam, and Clay. It's one of those original Florida towns and it's surrounded by a lot of pecan groves and muscadine grape fields. My favorite thing about the town is the local businesses. Williamson's Grocery has been there 40 years. And, Bluewater Bay is a special white table cloth restaurant that's known by the locals (including Gainesvillians) as the place to eat on Fridays and Saturdays. My favorite local business has to be Chiappini's. It's a gas station, bar, and bait shop all in one. How often do you find that? And, it's been there forever! The Chiappini's also own a local native nursery in the area.

This is my uncle's lakehouse. He built it in the early 90s to look like an old cracker cottage. From the road, you can't even see it because of all the natural growth. It's looking out over the lake. The porch railing is often used as a clothes line.

Here are a couple pictures of Ashley Lake - the tiny lake where the house is. It used to be a larger lake and now it's two small lakes. The water level's probably dropped 6 feet over the last 15 years due to a number of things - mainly drought and sinkholes.

Here's a picture of the lakehouse in the daylight. It's got a bedroom downstairs and a loft upstairs with a futon and bed. It's also got a galley kitchen and a very small bathroom. We've been known to sleep 20 people there with air mattresses, the pull out couch and sleeping bags. Occasionally, someone opts to camp out front for a little more privacy.

This is what the house looks like coming up from the lake. You can see it's kind of hidden in the trees.

We're really lucky to have some place like this to go. We enter a different time zone when we go there (Melrose time). There is a TV, but it doesn't pick up much of anything so it's mainly used for movies (we watch a LOT of movies while we're there). The other thing about going to Melrose is that you have to cook good food while you're there. Now, mind you, it's a tiny galley style kitchen without a dishwasher, so there's usually 3-4 people in there at once stepping on each others toes. I made an awesome bread pudding with spiced rum sauce while we were there. And, we ate a lot of meat - hamburgers, steaks, etc. We only live about 20 minutes away, but we don't get out there as often as I'd like. I'd like to try to go one more time before school starts even if it's just for the day.

Thanks for having us lakehouse. See you next time.

3.5" of Rain!

Last night, we received more than 3 inches of rain in just a few hours! In some places, it was as much as 3.5 inches. Streets were flooded, traffic was bad, and it was muddy. The pond behind our house (which is seasonal and was dry) filled halfway up in just two hours! We welcome the rain, but this was insane! Read more about it in the Gainesville Sun this morning.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Chicken Tractors, Boys, and Pests!

Will and his friend, Jack, have been asking for chickens for a new 4-H project this fall. A friend of ours gave us two - a Rhode Island red bantam and a barred rock cockerel. The cockerel is a little deformed in the legs, so he needed to come to a home with less chickens to pick on him.

John and a friend built a great chicken tractor. If you've never heard of a chicken tractor, they're pretty cool. It's a contained area that we can move around the yard, so that the chickens keep getting fresh grass and they don't tear up the yard as much. Our house has a lot of coyotes, hawks, and other predators, so we need something pretty secure for them. John built a chicken tractor big enough for probably 6-7 chickens. It's got three hen nests off the ground and it's covered in wire all the way around. The nests have a door that opens in the back to let you get eggs out pretty easily (although the chickens haven't figured out how to get into the nests - dumb birds).

Will is admiring the new chickens and chicken tractor here. The chickens have been a great project for him. He goes out and feeds them every morning and is checking on them in the afternoon also.

Will and Rocky are "bonding."

I love Henrietta. She's a beautiful banty hen, but, boy, is she noisy. She can out cluck Tebow when he starts barking at her. She's also really, really fast. I haven't let her out to roam the yard yet, until she figures out where her home really is. We're not letting them out when we're not there - just too many predators around (including the yellow lab puppy).

I also got the chickens as another method of pest control. They love bugs and will eat just about any that they're fed. Once we finish the garden, I may put their tractor on top of the raised beds to help scratch it up some.

New Water Pond - mostly completed

When we first got married, John bought a small water pond for me. We put it into the house we were renting at the time and then when we moved, it came with us. We've hauled it all over the place, but I think it's finally found a permanent home. I spent a Saturday morning a couple weeks ago digging out a spot for it. John didn't think I could do it, but I got it mostly in by myself. He came out and helped even it out and get it fitted in correctly. It's doing great, but we've got to finish the landscaping around it. Just haven't had time.

Here it is mostly in place (before John came to help me).

It looks great. I got some free plants from work and planted some vincas,impatiens, and begonias. I'm going to put some cannas in the back after I go dig the volunteers up from my father-in-laws yard. We also hit a sale of pond plants at Lowes and that's what in there. They all need to be repotted and I need some blocks to space them out around the pond, but for now, they're in the water and crowded on the shelf. I also put some mosquito fish in that I'd gotten from Dr. Cichra during the video shoots. And, yes, it needs to be mowed around it. I plan to put mulch down and some nice rocks or something to hide the edges of the pond. The 2x4s are holding up the dirt in back until we got some nice bricks to replace them.

I guess the plants are pretty happy - the water lily bloomed a few days later!

The pond's been a great way to provide a little water for wildlife in the area. I've particularly seen a lot of butterflies over here. Tebow has also taken a dip or two in there. And, with the mosquito fish, there are no mosquito larvae!