Saturday, January 31, 2009

One World-One Heart Giveaway


I just happened upon a huge worldwide (blog-wide) "giveaway/get-together" that is going on. I came into this totally unprepared and with too little time to join in on the giveaway part, but I hope to join in next year. Evidently the OWOH movement is in its third year of life, and was started by Lisa, the gypsy caravan leader.

If you would like to learn more, either to be included in the blogs that are giving away prizes (by tonight's count there are over 750 blogs involved), or if you want to enter to win prizes or start exploring blogs from all over the world (most of the blogs were very artsy and creative in nature, but now I'm seeing a lot of gardening and herbal blogs joining in), click the OWOH emblem above. Join in on the fun! It's like an addiction!

If you wish to host a giveaway of your own, you have until February 3rd to sign on. If I can unpack anything worth contributing, I may sign up myself!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Rare Florida Freeze

Well, while I was out of town on business, Florida got hit with a rare freeze-- the likes of which I haven't seen for many years. It got down to the upper 20s in Orlando where I was on business. When we went to leave about 6:30 AM to go to our show, there was ice on the windshield that had to be scraped off.

I'm not sure how cold it got at my place, but I think this area got around freezing. I worried what I would come home to. I knew about the cold weather ahead of time, so I brought in my potted plants before I left. So my veggies came through okay. I was really lucky. I only have one plant that I've found that could turn out to be totally destroyed by the freeze. That's my Chenille Plant:
Chenille Freeze damage

A tour around my yard found a couple of other plants that seem damaged or stressed. For some reason, the Areca Palm behind the shed seems to have been hit pretty hard, but all my other Arecas are fine:
Areca damage

Also one of my banana trees seems to have been hit pretty hard:
Banana Freeze Damage

And the other tree seems stressed, as does the (Draecaena?) next to it:
Freeze damage

My ferns seem pretty stressed, but I think they'll survive...
Freeze damaged ferns

...and likewise the Bird of Paradise looks a little stressed, but I think it will be okay:
Bird of Paradise

On the positive side, my Poinsettia continues to bloom.

I'm excited about this! I've never before gotten a poinsettia to bloom again. Now I just need to trim it down and see how it does next year.

Also the bougainvillea by the shed has finally started to really throw some blooms.
Bougie flowers

It has been a little slower to bloom than the one out in the sun.

The Cape Jasmine is still hanging onto that bud, and won't let it bloom.
Cape Jasmine

My tomato plant keeps going.

I think it's got about five tomatoes on it now.

My mango blooms keep going, too...
Mango blooms 1/21/09

...and my eggplant and yellow pepper.
Eggplant and Sweet Pepper

I have a flower coming in on my White Bird of Paradise:
Banana fruit

The cauliflower are getting big, too, and need to be split up among more pots.

So I got pretty lucky with the freeze. A lot of people lost a lot of good plants. However I play a sort of "survival of the fittest" type of game in my yard. I refuse to spend too much time protecting and maintaining everything.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Dealing With Problem Raccoons

Are you having a problem with raccoons getting into your garbage? Tearing up your lawn? Take a look at my suggestions on dealing with problem raccoons, which I've posted on my other website Freedom Gardening.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Progress Report

Well, I spent a couple of hours Saturday working on the weeds. I decided to concentrate on the area between the shed and the screened lanai.

While I worked, I had a little bird spend time with me.
My weeding buddy

You can see in the picture that he is essentially "laying down" on the wire relaxing. He took a short "nap" up there, and I even watched him yawn and stretch as he finished. Then he flew over to my deck bench and flitted down to my potted tomato and beds in search of lizards and bugs.
Bird buddy

Bird buddy

Afterwards he flew back to his spot on the wire and spent a little more time with me.

I spent about two hours pulling weeds, and had some success in improving the yard.

weedy lawn

Weeded lawn

Snake weeds



Weeded bougie

By ficus

Weeded hose

I ended with six piles of weeds...

...that filled a full yard bag (the other one is from my last weeding venture).
Weed bags

Some of the weeds were really hard to pull. This one in particular has a really deep tap root.
Tap root weeds

When it is allowed to grow bigger, it is impossible to pull and must be dug out with a shovel.

I also came across this caterpillar in the weeds.

Don't know what kind it is.

Also my seedlings continue sprouting.

My leeks, mystery seedling (found in packaged potting soil), and cilantro are all doing well...
Leeks, mystery seedling, cilantro are the Bibb and Romaine lettuces and carrots...
Lettuces and Carrots

The chives are sprouting, but the green beans and rosemary are still a "no show".
Green bean, rosemary and chives

That's my progress for this week. Slow and steady wins the race.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Florida Arbor Day

Florida celebrates Arbor Day the third Friday of January. This year we will be celebrating it on January 16th. We all know of the national Arbor Day that occurs later in the year, but Florida trees need to be protected from the heat during establishment. Therefore Florida celebrates Arbor Day in January, taking advantage of the cooler temps.

Arbor Day reminds us of the importance of trees in our environment. Trees are very important in helping to reduce air pollution, conserve energy, regulate climate and beautify.

Trees absorb carbon dioxide (we've all heard the problems with carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and greenhouse gases), and in turn release oxygen into the atmosphere.

They are also very important in regulating rainfall and climate.

So why not do your part and plant a tree or shrub on Florida Arbor Day or Arbor Day weekend? When planting take into consideration:

  • The eventual size of the tree or shrub. Be careful of planting too close to cement or the home or other trees if it will grow to be a large tree.
  • The location: Will it get too much sun or too little? Will it be a large shade tree? If so, be sure to place it where you hope to someday have shade. If it is a shade tree, are there other trees nearby that may suffer in coming years under its shade?
  • Water requirements: Try to go native, or at least plant a tree or shrub that will be drought-resistant. If it needs watering, make sure to plant it near an available water source. Don't plant it in the front yard if there is no hose to water it with!
  • Root aggressiveness: Be wary of root aggressive trees like ficus benjamina, weeping willow, bamboo and Cypress. They can damage concrete, foundations and septic systems. I found a pretty good article from New York about planting around septic systems. Trees with aggressive roots should be carefully placed.
  • Deciduous vs. Evergreen: If you are planting a deciduous tree, you may want to plant it around evergreens, to give it more attractive appeal in winter.
  • Invasive vs. Non-invasive: Avoid planting invasive trees or shrubs, which are harmful to the local environment and native species. Seek out natives or non-invasive species to complement your yard.

If you are, like many of us, working on Arbor Friday, please don't let that stop you. Arbor Day continues through the weekend. Get planning and get planting!

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Triumphs and Tribulations

I decided to take an inventory of what has or is going well in my garden, and what is problematic:

TRIUMPH: I have succeeded in luring in birds to my garden. I have shrikes, grackles, doves and a woodpecker (seen in the bottom picture, third branch up on the right). I'm not sure what the bird is below. It doesn't appear to be the shrike that regularly visits now.



Woodpecker in ficus

TRIUMPH: I saw my first snake in the yard today. I would like to have a black snake or some sort of garden snake around here to help control the spiders and bugs.

TRIBULATION: I got a splinter under my nail while gardening, and it will probably be there for awhile. There's no way to get it out.

TRIUMPH: I took another glance behind the shed today (which is pictured in the header of this blog), and found that at some point in the last month the wind got strong enough to knock over the work table back there.
Behind shed

That's not what's the "triumph". What's good about that is that it allowed me to get a better view of the area back there. I found out that there appears to be a sink or washtub back there, although I can't be certain whether it is connected to water. I can see a hose in the image as well, and it almost seems it may be connected to the tub?

Also I could see that there is a wooden "bin" built on to the side of the shed, I think. I thought I saw something like that the other day, when looking at the side of the shed from the front. (That's difficult to see, as there is a huge bougainvillea and banana trees blocking access to the right side of the shed.) So I don't know whether there may be anything in that "bin".

Then I also noticed that there is a ladder hooked onto the back of the shed.

Good to know!

TRIUMPH: I may have finally found an ant bait that works on the ghost ants that have overtaken the house!
Ant Bail

I've tried numerous baits, and haven't gotten them to take any of them. They seem to like this one!

TRIUMPH: I finally have a shovel and a rake. The rake is awesome!

TRIBULATION: Anytime that I rake the pile of leaves by the deck, I have a bunch of what look to be roaches that go scampering for cover. It freaks me out everytime!

TRIUMPH: I'm excited to see that so far the seeds I'm trying to start are hanging in there. I'm hoping that I found a good spot for them, and the sprouts will get enough light, but it will be cool enough to prevent them from drying out quickly.

TRIUMPH: The weeding is slowly coming along.
Weeded bed

TRIUMPH: My hibiscus is looking a little better today after I repotted it. I potted it the other day in the Timberline soil, and it began to wilt and lost the bud that was preparing to bloom. Today it has started to firm up again after I repotted it yesterday in Jungle Growth soil.

TRIUMPH: My bougainvillea continues to get more and more gorgeous.
Bougainvillea in the morning

TRIUMPH: The Angel's Trumpet has gorgeous blooms, despite the fact that it has hardly any leaves. I guess it puts all of its energy into its blooms.
Angel's Trumpet

TRIBULATION: My strawberry plant has never thrived, but has merely "survived". It's probably a year or more old at this point.

TRIUMPH: My orange tree continues to grow. I can't believe I've kept it alive in a pot for all of these years. I historically haven't been real successful with plants, because they dry out so quickly, so this one beat the odds. (Since I've lived in the house, I've been much more successful with the potted plants, since I have a hose now.)

TRIUMPH: My tomato plant is doing well, and the fruit is continuing to grow.

TRIBULATION: My aloe is pitiful. I don't know why. Maybe because it's rootbound? Or because it gets too little water? It's a very bland yellow instead of green.

TRIBULATION: My ficus seedling is not doing well. Perhaps I should have gotten some rooting powder before trying to transplant it from the ground to a pot? Or perhaps the shock of having initially planted it into heavy soil instead of starter mix?
Ficus seedling

TRIUMPH: My poinsettia actually bloomed a little this year! Now in 2009 I'm going to prune it back in hopes that it will really bloom late in 2009.

TRIBULATION: The no-seeums are terrible in my yard right now! I get eaten up everytime I go out to work in the yard.

TRIUMPH: I found my violet, which has been missing since I bought it days ago, and it was still alive. It was in a plastic bag on the table with some other items.

Those are my "Triumphs and Tribulations" for this week. We'll see whether I can turn around some of those "tribulations".