Saturday, April 23, 2016

Life Changes, Moringa and Weeds Weeds and More Weeds

I haven't tended my backyard in months.  It's quite a weedy overgrown mess. I've rarely stepped foot out the back door since August 20th.  That was the day my life turned upside down.

My lovely boss was diagnosed with high grade glioblastoma - malignant brain tumor. He will not survive this, despite all the surgery/chemo/radiation treatments.  It's in his temporal lobe so he is to the point now where he is losing his ability to communicate. Tragic.  

I've been managing our business, working long hours, and have been emotionally and physically drained.  I've worked with him for 19 years so it has been difficult getting my head around what has happened.  The business will carry on with our investor group taking control, and that means my job is secure, but it's been a difficult transition for me.

David the Good (The Survival Gardener Blog) got in touch with me yesterday and it prompted me to write this post, mainly to show my dear reader(s) what happens in Florida if you ignore the land.  Crappy pictures to follow!

Before:


The "bush" with the many trunks is a "dwarf" firebush!  Note how far away it is from the 4X4 post to the left.

After:


See the 4X4 post?  See the chicken coop?  Barely!  That dwarf firebush is out of control.  What survived in this area is the longevity spinach and lemongrass.  The short tree trunk on the far right is what's left of my moringa tree after we cut it way back, but it IS sprouting. The plant pot?  Just weeds.

Here's the corner where the "stick pile" had been:

Before:


We recently hired a landscaping crew to clean out and level this area so we can put in a new shed which arrives on Tuesday (YAY!).  We removed most of the fence.  Here's what it looks like today:


Note the tree trunk in the foreground.  We removed all 3 tropical almond trees. What a job that was for the landscapers.  Took 8 hours with a crew of 5 men!

Removing the fence was a big decision.  Since we have a pack of coyotes living in the woods behind us (200 acres of coyote heaven), they now have easy access to the yard. We don't have pets, or chickens, so no worries there.  Just the startle factor if we ever do see them up close and personal!

Here's the "fruit" garden area before the neglect:


I was still in the process of making the brick border.  Note the nicely shaped trunk of a dwarf firebush with bird feeders hanging from it on the far right.  The papaya and banana look healthy here.

It's pretty much unrecognizable today (note the banana left of the birdbath, behind some lemongrass):


What a disaster.  The bricks are there but grass has invaded them. The lemon grass is about the only thing that is happy.  And the out of control dwarf firebush behind the blue barrels, it has swallowed up the bird feeding area.

But check this out!  My Moringa tree (before I chopped it down) went to seed!  I was amazed.


I thought I had more pods than this, but I guess there were 5.  The one in the foreground came off early and the seeds didn't develop right.  So it's compost.

Apparently, the trick is to ignore Moringa trees.  Don't water them or prune them back. Survival of the fittest in my wreck of a yard.  There are lots of dead plants but I'm okay with that.

We'll hire the landscraper guys again and get it tidied up.  It will be like a clean slate when I'm able to get my routine back to normal.

If you see a plant called "dwarf firebush", don't be fooled.  There's nothing "dwarf" about them.  They've taken over large chunks of our back yard!  That's your gardening tip for this year.  Not sure I'll make it back to post anything anytime soon.






Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Dent Corn, Tree Tomato and Greens Seeds!

I had a brief moment of weakness and bought more seeds.  I decided it was time I tried growing Dent Corn.  Not sure if I ordered a good variety for my area because searching the internet didn't provide many answers, but figured I'd pick one and give it a go. Either way it will be a good experiment.  I also ordered some leafy vegetables which I hope will "grow like weeds" and another package of seeds that's been on my "wish list" for months - Tamarillo, or tree tomato!

Here's what I got:  Bedwell's Supreme White Dent Corn, He Shi Ko Bunching Onion (hoping these will spread), Amish Deer Tongue Lettuce, New Zealand Spinach, Mulukhiyah (another green that hopefully will grow like a weed) and Tamarillo (tree tomato).

Speaking of things growing like weeds and getting out of control, I've been meaning to write about my Sunchoke experience.  They did not "spread like crazy".  The three tubers I bought grew really well.  But I only found 4 tubers after they died off.  I fully expected new plants to sprout in the spring from any bits of tuber left in the ground, but I got nothing.  Nada.  Zilch. It was quite the disappointment.

My plan for the corn is to plant it on the side of the house where it gets full sun. I've never planted anything in this location before but I want to give it a try.  It will take a bit of work to turn up the soil in this area but it will be a great experiment.

While looking at the Bakers Creek seeds online I got to thinking that it would be nice to add more greens to the yard that might just become perennial "weeds". So that's why I ordered a few greens that perhaps (wishful thinking?) might get out of control, or at the very least grow well, similar to the longevity spinach.  It would make a nice addition to the salad greens I already have growing in the yard, all without much fuss - longevity spinach, sweet potato leaves, Roselle (hibiscus), amaranth,  prickly pear cactus and moringa.  Oh, and shepherds needle.  One can never forget that plant.  It never goes away!  I've learned to tolerate it now that I know its leaves are edible.

The first of September seems like a good time to plant the corn.  Crossing my fingers it will be successful!

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Hibiscus, Bird Pepper and a Sunday Drive

I've been wanting to add a specific variety of hibiscus to the garden but I had to do a bit of research to jog my memory as to what it's called.  I knew it had red leaves and pink flowers.  Someone had cuttings for sale a while back but we never did call to arrange to buy some, mainly because it was on Craigslist.  The plant is called False Roselle.  Not to be confused with Roselle (Sabdariffa hibiscus) which I'm already growing.  The lady who had them for sale did have a picture of the red leaved hibiscus but called it Florida Cranberry.  So that's where I got all confused.  Now that I've got that sorted out in my head, I've come to the conclusion that I definitely want some in the yard.  It will be a good way to bring in some color.

I searched the internet to find seeds and found a website that had all sorts of plants for zone 10 - ones you won't find at Home Depot or Lowe's, or even the local nursery! It was a very exciting find.

Here's a link to georgiavines.com.  Check it out!

I found not only the false roselle seeds, but several different hibiscus, as well as tons of other plants suitable for this region.  I ended up buying a packet of 20 "mixed hibiscus" seeds which does include the false roselle.  I couldn't resist giving these seeds a try.  What a great experiment it will be.  For $3.25 I figured I couldn't go wrong!  It was very hard to hold back on going on an all out buying spree!

Oh, if only money grew on trees!

I also found this bird pepper bush (Capsicum annum) at a native plant nursery.  


This was the best in the 6 or 8 plants available.  It's very small, and scraggly, but hopefully I can coax it into surviving in the back yard.  The tiny peppers are edible which is the reason I wanted to grow one.  And the peppers are adorable!


We took a leisurely drive out to Sanibel and Captiva Islands.  We drove through Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge thinking we might see tons of birds. Nope. It was a bit disappointing.  This small alligator came out looking for sun.


While we were poking around, we saw a lot of Jamaican Caper bushes.  I never noticed these plants before but now I'm seeing them everywhere.  Strange.  I do have a few seeds so maybe I'll give them a go in the shady part of our back yard.

That's about it for excitement this hot and muggy Sunday.  







Monday, July 27, 2015

Red Mulberry, Sweet Gum, Red Maple and Purple Sage

We made it to the native plant sale and I scored a red mulberry tree!  It's about 8 feet tall.  It looks a bit scraggly, but I'm tickled to have found it.

I'll spare you the bad pictures today.  It's raining.

I also bought a  purple sage for the tree garden.

My husband found a red maple and a sweet gum he wants to train as Bonsai.

They had the native Bird Pepper bushes I was intrigue by at the Florida Native Plant Society's search tool, which was a total surprise.  But I didn't buy one for two reasons; its leaves were all curled up and it wasn't very attractive, and I had already found the Mulberry.  In hindsight, they may have been newly potted and not happy.  But either way, that plant will have to wait til next time we are plant shopping. I know where to find this plant when the budget is ready.



Saturday, July 25, 2015

The Tree Garden

My gardening effort for the past few months has been focused on growing edible trees.  In my newest planting area I have Pigeon pea, Papaya, Sabdariffa hibiscus (Roselle) and Moringa trees.  They're all well established now (made it to at least a foot tall) so I've been wanting to fill in the gaps.

I finally planted the new elderberry.


I had to crop the picture in order to actually see the elderberry.  It blends right in with the background of green.  Well, that and I take terrible pictures.  Sorry. That's a new porter weed in front of it.

I want to add some color to the tree garden so I've been searching for Zone 10 flowering plants that work well in partial shade.  I've always had porter weed and it does great, so I figured I'd put one in this shady area.

I found an unusual plant (to me) at Lowe's and since it wasn't crazy expensive, I brought one home.  It's a Mussaenda incana.


I finally planted some southern peas and added a few more okra for good measure.  I have sweet potato scattered around the yard already.  They don't yield much, they're usually pretty small.  But they're very tasty.  They grow, well, like weeds.

I managed to break the hose, or, how to sift out shells from the dirt/shell drive:



There are two additional Elderberry shoots which I've potted and will plant in a few weeks once they're a bit more stable (no longer wilting).

I also planted some passion flower vine seeds.  Not sure if these will grow, I've had the seeds for about a year.

I'm still undecided as to what to plant along my deck.  Since tomatoes were the most recent plants growing there, southern peas are probably the best thing in order to recharge the soil.  So for now that's what I've planted.

If there was a low growing, attractive edible bush of some sort that I could plant in this narrow garden in front of the deck, I'd be a happy gardener.  But I just haven't hit on that perfect set it and forget it "attractive" edible.  Most Native plants look like weeds, if you haven't noticed.  So they don't appeal to me for "decorative" purposes.

We're going to a Native Plant sale this weekend so I poked around the Florida Native Plant Society website.  Here's what I entered into the search tool:

Shade, Highly Compacted Soil, Low Water.  Results: Virginia Creeper.

That was it.  Period.  And funnily enough, I just this past weekend discovered Virginia Creeper in the shady part of the yard near the stick pile.  I said to myself, hunh.  That's not a good thing to have, but it sure is colorful!  Then left it there. My bad.

Next up:

Shade, Highly Compacted Soil (no water requirements requested).  Results: Virginia Willow, Lizard's Tail, White Crownbeard/Frostweed and Violet.  There were a few trees but I was looking for shrubby plants so I didn't write those down.

I'd be interested in the Frostweed.  Sounds right up my alley!  Like Porterweed. Love Porterweed.

Next up:

Part Sun, Highly Compacted Soil (no water requirements required).  Results: Virginia Willow, Elderberry, Lizard's Tail, Frostweed, Goldenrod and Passion Flower vine.

It seems like I'm destined to have Lizard's Tail, Frostweed and Virginia Willow!  I already have the Passion Flower vine and Elderberry.  My red passion flower vine has gone bonkers.  It's made its way into the woods!  Growing like a weed. Cause it is.

Then I did another search with Low Water, Any (sun or shade), Highly Compacted Soil.  Results: Persimmon, Capsicum annuum (glabriusculum/hot pepper tree), Goldenrod and Gaillardia.  Again, there were other trees but not what I was looking for.

The hot pepper tree (which looked more like a bush when I googled it) was intriguing.  I've never tried Persimmon, so I'd have to give it a try first.  I'll buy a fruit next time I come across one.

I made up my mind a few months ago, after leaving grapefruit and oranges on the tree again last season, that since it's obvious we don't enjoy citrus that much (with the exception of lemons and limes of course), what's the point in growing them if we don't eat them?

I LOVE the Pigeon Peas, green or dried, I use the Moringa and Papaya in smoothies, (although I'm running out of frozen Papaya and need to pick some mangoes at a friends this weekend to replenish my frozen fruit supply for smoothies), and I'm hoping to get Roselle calyxes this year to dry for tea.  Roselle leaves are also tasty.  So they are worth growing.  I won't get rid of the grapefruit or orange trees, mother nature will probably kill them within the next few years anyway, but I do need to find some better fruit to grow.

So that's my mission.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Road Hazards and Turtles

This Florida Softshell came up from the pond behind our office, looking like it wanted to lay eggs. 


I'm a fan of all turtles, but this one isn't particularly attractive.  Sorry I didn't get a picture of its face before some of the guys who work next door moved it back along the bank of the pond.  Maybe I'll see it again some day.

And now for something in the lazy department:




Yep!  City workers at their finest!

Good grief!


Kindness is a Beautiful Thing

Sometimes, it pays to be kind!

These beautiful flowers were delivered to me today from a kind elderly gentleman who lives in Switzerland:


He called and spoke with me a few months ago, said he used to work for my company and was trying to get in touch with someone he used to work with - this would have been in the '70's.  I've been with this company since 1991 so I knew who he was trying to locate - he happens to be close friends with my boss. So I told him I'd get his contact info and could he call me back in a few days, which he did. 

Yesterday, he called back to say he was very grateful for my help in putting him in touch with his old friend.  And today, these arrived.  What a very thoughtful thing to do!