Sunday, June 29, 2014

Exquisite Dragon Fruit

We took a break yesterday from our kitchen mess and went to the "Taste of Lee" tropical fruit festival. Thanks to Susan at for the tip!

We tasted lots of new (to us) fruits and the clear winner was the Dragon Fruit! We also tasted several varieties of mango. A lot of winners there too.  

Another interesting discovery was spineless prickly pear cactus.  It was simply cut into strips.  No other preparation.  Perfectly edible.  It would be a great addition to longevity spinach and other greens around the yard.  We bought a foot long "pad" for $2 and I planted it in the fruit garden last night.  We have lots of prickly pear, but with thorns.

We discovered we don't like Jack fruit or sapodilla.   I tried tasting one of the tamarind seed pods but didn't quite know what to do with it - I'll have to research that.  Tried lemon grass and know we need some for our yard now.

On the way home we were lucky to find Dragon Fruit at our favorite Asian market. The Dragon Fruit we tasted at the festival had a red center.  The one we brought home had a white center.  

Amazingly refreshing.  We saved the other half for tomorrow.  And naturally, I have saved some seeds!!

Progress on the Kitchen Disaster

We've made a little bit of progress on the disaster that is our kitchen.

A coworker of my hubby's has a handyman business so he stopped by Friday morning to give us an estimate to install the replacement base cabinets and laminate flooring.

Shortly after the handyman left, the insurance adjuster came and did his thing. He was very nice and extremely helpful explaining some things.  He gave us the greenlight (finally) to remove the floor.  I left work at 4:50 PM Friday, got home about 5:30, and the laminate floor was out and in the trash by 6:30.  And boy oh boy, was it wet.  The underlayment is just like a diaper.  It would have taken forever to dry out.  Yuck.

It makes me a bit fearful to put in a laminate floor again because of how well it conceals water leaks until it reaches a saturation point, vs. tile where we'd have seen it right away.  But the kitchen looks so terrible with the old terrazzo tile that we made the decision to put in a laminate floor again anyway.  If we replace it with tile, we won't be happy with the way it looks, and I'll be dropping and breaking things all the time again. The wood floor really helps with my dropsy problem.

The plumber comes back tomorrow to cap off the pipes.  Then we need to have the handy guys come and help us remove the countertop and base cabinets.

The adjuster told us that if the countertop breaks during removal, we would be able to submit our estimate for the cost to replace ALL the countertops because otherwise they wouldn't match.  So that was a relief.

We got the estimates for the cabinets, countertops (just in case) and flooring today.  The cabinet estimate is for exactly what's in the kitchen now so we can show him the original layout/receipts and the new layout/estimate with today's prices.

Hopefully the insurance adjuster is in the ballpark.  Otherwise, he said we can adjust accordingly, within reason.

We also got the spare bathroom toilet repaired.  We put new guts in that toilet and it should be good for another few years.  

I sure hope the weather will get a bit less ugly.  At 10:30 this morning the temp was already 93 with a heat index of 114! Holy cow!  No gardening for me, that's for sure.

Praying that things will calm down, inside and out, so I can get back out for some much needed gardening therapy!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Water Damaged Kitchen

It has been a rough week.

Tuesday morning we discovered we have a major leak in our kitchen. We thought it was the dishwasher because we had run it the night before and there was bubbling in the laminate floor at some of the joints near the sink area. But it turns out it was the drain pipe in the wall. It was running down the wall, back into the house and onto the kitchen floor under the sink area, and the "floating" floor and underlayment was sucking up all the water.  The footings of the base cabinets was also sucking up water so nearly all the base cabinets are water damaged as well.  CRAP!

I could live with the ruined floor.  No big deal.  These old Florida houses have Terrazzo tile floors so it isn't a big deal to remove the laminate and just be back to the old tile floor and replace the laminate floor later.  But with the cabinets being ruined, that made us realize we needed to see if our homeowners insurance would help cover some of the cost for the replacement cabinets.

We've never made an insurance claim before, so we weren't sure if this would even be covered (1965 pipes), but we called anyway and they sent over a water damage mitigation guy to do an initial assessment.  He removed all our kick plates, drilled holes here and there, and discovered all the base cabinets along that wall were toast.  (Although I don't know why all the drama of drilling and removing kick plates - it was visible if you just look in the cabinets - geesh.) So he set up fans and a giant dehumidifier, which is pumping out heat like crazy (just what we need when our AC is already struggling in the 95 degree heat), and said he'd be back on Friday.  Uh, ok.

The adjuster called back Wednesday morning and said he would be here on Friday also.  Uh, ok.

Meanwhile, we can't use the kitchen sink until the plumber can fix the leak, which he can't do until the adjuster comes.  If you've ever had your kitchen sink out of commission, you know exactly how difficult life is without it.  Crud.

We're praying our homeowners policy will at least cover the cost of the replacement base cabinet "boxes".  It's anyone's guess how well that will turn out. Add in (or rather subtract) the $2500 deductible and I rather doubt we're going to get very far.  But miracles might happen!

The difficult part about all this is that hubby just doesn't feel well so I know we're going to have to hire someone to install the replacement cabinets. We also need to try to salvage the countertops so we can reuse them.  The doors can also be reused, so we can save a bit of money there by just needing to reorder the "boxes".

We had remodeled the kitchen in 2005 and it still looks amazing.  The cherry cabinet doors have "aged" and they look better as the years go by.  So we will definitely be reusing those doors so they match the aging of the upper cabinets.

It seems to me that the "footings" to cabinets should be made of, or coated in plastic so that if water gets on the floor it doesn't get absorbed and ruin your cabinets.  Geesh. Seems like a no brainer.  But what do I know!

Since the furnace (aka dehumidifier) needs to run until Friday, last night we decided to move the refrigerator into the dining room and put up a tarp between the kitchen and dining room to try to contain some of the heat that is pumping out of that machine. Moving the fridge was an ordeal. Hubby thought the water line to the ice maker was off, but apparently the shut off valve isn't working right, and water when everywhere!  At some point, I opened the kitchen window and stood holding the line so water sprayed out the window!  WEEEEEE!  I was amused, but hubby not so much.  He shut the main water line off and found a valve out in the garage to add to the ice machine water line to close it off. Something else for the plumber to fix.

When we turned the main water back on, the spare bathroom toilet decided to malfunction.  It won't stop running.  GAAAH!  So while hubby tried to fix that (without luck) I went to get chinese food.  At this point it was 9:00 PM.  Ugh. Another thing to add to the list for the plumber.

And then our older son called and said he and his wife were flying into town tomorrow night (tonight) for the weekend and oh, did I forget to tell you that? Ah, yeah!  So that was a nice surprise.  I now have a helper to get the damaged laminate floor removed after the adjuster comes tomorrow!  Timing!  He'll be thrilled!  Ha Ha.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Dry Pigeon Peas Experiment

For dinner tonight I cooked up the dried pigeon peas from the last of my harvest. I made pigeon peas and rice.  It was a definite SUCCESS!

Because we really hated the frozen version of pigeon peas, I didn't have high hopes that we'd like the dried version.  The green peas are SOOOO good, it's hard to imagine dried peas being edible at all.  But we both thought they were perfectly acceptable.  Hubby even went for seconds!

Here's how I cooked them:

This morning, I put the dried pigeon peas (about 1/2 cup) in a pint jar and filled it with water to soak for the day.  I would guess it was at least 10 hours.

I drained the water and put the peas in a small pan and covered them with fresh water.  I boiled them for 5 minutes, drained the water, then put fresh water over the peas again, and boiled them for an additional 15 - 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, I put 1-1/2 cups long grain white rice in a pan with 4 cups water, a cube of cilantro seasoning, a packet of Sazon seasoning without annato because it's all I had (seasonings found with the bouillion at Publix), about 1/2 cup of frozen onion/green pepper/celery "seasoning" (also at Publix), and about 3 tablespoons of tomato paste. Once that was close to a boil, I drained the peas and added them to the rice mixture.

I cooked the rice for about 20 minutes.  Once served, we added a tablespoon or so of olive oil, kosher salt and cracked pepper.  I served it with my amazing cornbread.

My cornbread has a stick of butter and a cup of half and half in the batter.  You'd be hard pressed to find a moister cornbread.  No "grittiness" either.  I'd be happy to share the recipe...

We really liked the pigeon peas and rice.  We're anxiously awaiting our next crop. Meanwhile, I'll buy a few other spices for next time - Sofrito and the Sazon with annato - it will give it a kick.  I would also add fresh cilantro and a small can of tomato sauce.

Seriously good eats.  And good for you too!  I better plant more pigeon pea seeds tomorrow!  I want need to be able to store enough to have on hand between harvests.  I also want to be able to try canning green peas.  That will be an excellent experiment for sure!

Mosquito Repellent Experiment (Updated 7/5/14!)

It's a must in my backyard to use mosquito repellent.  They are wicked.  I found some natural inspect repellent which worked great but it gave hubby a headache if he got near it.  So I gave it away.  A lot of the natural recipes I have come across have the same combination of ingredients hubby found so offensive so I haven't bothered trying them.

I found a natural mosquito repellent recipe on facebook that simply uses rubbing alcohol, whole cloves and oil and finally got around to making some.  It's in the "steep" stage now and will be ready to try out on Monday.

I cut the original recipe way down because if this doesn't work, it's just a waste of all the ingredients.

1/2 cup of rubbing alcohol in a jar with lid
1/8 cup of whole cloves

Let steep for 4 days, strain, add 1/8 cup mineral oil and pour in spray bottle.

I figured it was a fun, easy, inexpensive experiment to do.  The mosquitoes drive trucks around here so anything is worth a try.

I'll update this post once it's been tested against the bloodsucking fiends!

Update:  The mosquito repellent experiment is a success!  I had nary a skeeter buzzing around, except near my head as usual cause I don't put stuff on my face. I did, however, attract a very curious iridescent green fly hovering and staring at me.  It was weird.  I am definitely pleased with the results!

Friday, June 20, 2014

An Interesting Week

I didn't get a whole lot done since getting my load of mulch on Monday.  Too stressed out and exhausted.

Hubby and I went on a fact finding mission in Miami on Wednesday.  We went to see Neurologist #3 at University of Miami Hospital.

Hubby has a rare sweating disorder that continues to stump neurologists.  The first neurologist referred him to Mayo.  BC/BS denied coverage and said we had to get a second opinion.  Second opinion neurologist ran a bunch of autoimmune tests and MRI's but came up empty so he too referred us to Mayo for "autonomic nerve testing". BC/BS denied it again, but we got referred to University of Miami Hospital for a consultation.

The symptoms:

May 2011 left side of head stopped sweating and dry cough started
July 2011 left arm stopped sweating
Oct 2012 right side of head stopped sweating
Dry cough is now chronic

At this point we have been expecting his right arm to stop sweating, since this was the pattern with the left side.  But thankfully that hasn't happened yet.

June 2013 - Sleep apnea and low oxygen level - placed on CPAP with oxygen
July 2013 lower legs started swelling regularly
Altered taste

We've been doggedly trying to determine if all these symptoms are related, what exactly this rare disorder is, and more importantly, can anything be done to correct it. So far, they've only been able to treat the symptoms as they occur.

The Neurologist at the University of Miami Hospital was very kind, and did give us a name for the wierd sweating disorder - Idiopathic Acquired Regional Hypoanhidrosis - and confirmed Horner's Syndrome which had previously been diagnosed.  He ordered the autonomic nerve testing to take place in July but he warned us that it probably won't do more than confirm the diagnosis.

The long worded diagnosis simply means: unexplained, wasn't born with it, affects more than one area, lack of sweat.

Of course we knew all that.  But we did learn a few things which eased our minds.  Most importantly that because he sweats profusely where he does still sweat, his body is compensating well for the non sweating areas.  He doesn't flush or have hot flash type moments, so the doctor believes he isn't at high risk for heat stroke, so long as he stays hydrated.

We'll follow through with the autonomic nerve testing in July.  Who knows, they might find out the cause of some of the other symptoms in the process.  

We also confirmed that big cities are scary and we drove home as fast as possible!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Trellis Idea, Composting, and Today's Speed Gardening

Today's speed gardening was pretty brief.  I dead headed the new rose bush (which hasn't been planted yet because I'm still unsure of where it will live) and cut off the small branch that was dangling when I bought it.  It looked like it was okay, but I figured I'd snip it off and pot it up to root anyway.  I had read that if you plunk a rose cutting into a potato it would keep it moist while rooting.  I have no idea if this will work, but I figured it would be a good experiment.  I'll inspect it in a few weeks, or if it starts to show new growth, then I'll leave it be and say it was a success!

I wanted to share some interesting things I came across in my down time on Sunday. Here's a great Blog post about how to make a rustic branch trellis.  I'm definitely going to make some of these.  I have a rustic tripod, but I like the look of these.

And here's a great website called Alternative Gardening with lots of interesting tidbits which, in combination with this worm composter article, made me realize, duh, I need to put some worms in my compost tumbler! So I did. I found a few healthy specimens while pulling off the boards yesterday and chucked them in.

I've used a garbage can for a compost "tumbler" and it worked just fine, but only if I didn't fill it more than half way.  Otherwise it would get too heavy to budge.  I usually had two cans going.  My compost tumbler works a little bit easier, but I have to be careful not to overfill that too because it's fairly large.

And speaking of composting, this trench composting article really got my brain sparking.

The crux of the matter is this.  No matter which method of composting I've used, garbage can or tumbler, I end up with only partly decomposed material. So the idea of trench composting sounds like the perfect solution.

I'll still use the tumbler, but rather than worry about it being only partly composted and sorting through it to throw unfinished stuff back in, I'll be able to put it all in a trench as side dressing.  Problem solved.

That's it for excitement today.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Got Mulch?

I didn't get a thing done yesterday, I just felt too awful.  But today is a new day!

I Got Mulch!  

I now have 4 large tubs and two 5 gallon buckets full of mulch ready and waiting for my new garden project.

Next, I pulled off all the loose boards from the garden boxes.  There are a few that aren't loose and I'll need to take a crowbar to them. Because we used untreated pine boards, most of them are pretty soft. Some of them won't be usable for paths at all because they broke as they were coming off.

The cabbages I had planted too late in the season needed to come out so that got accomplished this morning as well. Now I have more space to plant herb and flower seeds.

My last bit of work this morning was to pot up my two champagne mango seeds. Please sprout, please sprout, please sprout!

I'm very happy with my gardening efforts this Monday morning!

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Pumpkin Surprise and Southern Peas

And then there were three...pumpkins (or squash?).  We have now harvested 3 seminole pumpkin (or squash?).  I found the one on the left hiding in the tomato garden.  We ate the first one.  

It might be a tad under ripe, but it looked like it was on the verge of getting eaten and I didn't want to take any chances. We'll eat the smaller ones like squash and I'll cook the tan cheese (?) pumpkin and make puree for pumpkin bread.

I also started harvesting a few Southern Peas over the last few days.

On the left is the Pinkeye Purple Hull and on the right the Piggott Pea.  I've actually hulled 4 of the Piggott variety and only one of the Pinkeye Purple Hull. I'm looking forward to cooking these as dry beans - we've eaten some of each "green".  They're not "good eating" like green Pigeon Peas, that's for sure.  So they'll be dried.

And that's my excitement so far today.  My chronic gastritis/esophagitis put a wrench in my day's plans so far, but I am perking up.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

I Planted a Dragon Today!

Susan, from, kindly gifted me with a dragon fruit cutting and two comfrey starts!

At her recommendation, I planted the dragon fruit cutting next to one of my cabbage palms so it can grow up the boots.

The vine trailing along the bottom is my red passion vine.  It just grows all over the place.  It's just been part of the scenery in the backyard, so I forget it's there!

I also planted the comfrey starts and hope to grow scads of it for mulch and compost tea. I now have three comfrey plants so my odds get better and better!

I've never eaten dragon fruit so we stopped in at our favorite Asian Market where we've seen them in the past, but no luck finding one today.

We also stopped at a Cuban Market we've wanted to check out and I found Roselle tea!

I made some as soon as we got home.  Wow!  My Roselle plant isn't anywhere near the flowering stage so I was thrilled to find this.  Definitely a Zinger!  I love it.

I also bought what I hope is a tan cheese pumpkin:

Naturally I'll save the seeds to plant in the fall.

I've loaded my buckets and pitchfork into the truck and I'm ready to go get me some free mulch - in the morning.

Friday, June 13, 2014

The Square Foot Gardening Experiment

About 4 years ago we built 5 garden boxes using 2X12 pine, not pressure treated, lumber. We built two 4'X4' boxes and three 2'X8' boxes.

The "square foot" garden boxes work exactly as they are supposed to - you have a limited space to grow a few of your favorite vegetables. The downside is that you have a limited space to grow a few of your favorite vegetables!

I've decided to remove the garden boxes and create one large vegetable garden, similar to my fruit and herb garden.

We removed one of the front 2'X8's last fall and it left this uneven configuration:

The boxes are annoying to mow around, and you have to weed between them constantly. Things grow in 2 seconds!

To the right of the boxes is what I call the "dead zone" - deep shade from the tropical almond and the brush pile.

Lots of wasted space here just begging for a garden.  It gets about the same amount of light as where I grow my bok choy so it should be okay.  If not, we'll see about removing that tree.

I'll tie it all in with another brick border that will curve around from the far left box to the front right box, taking out another chunk of grass (oh, isn't that a shame!).
It will be quite an undertaking, but I'm really excited about it.  If my fruit and herb garden hadn't been so successful, I wouldn't have the confidence to take this project on.

When I built the fruit and herb garden, I weeded the whole area then didn't get it mulched for several weeks.  I ended up having to reweed the whole thing.  I have a better plan this time around. Here's my strategy:
  1. Fill my big buckets with mulch
  2. Scrape/weed with my nifty nejiri scraper tool
  3. Immediately cover with newspaper/cardboard and heavy layer of mulch
  4. Repeat!  
The key is to get my load of mulch first.  If it sits a week or two no big deal.  It will be ready for me when I get the weeding done.  Lesson learned!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

More Pigeon Peas!

Over the weekend, I removed the rest of the dried seed pods from my Pigeon Pea bush.

After shelling the peas this is what I ended up with:

Considering this is still from the first crop, I estimate I got 2 ramekins full - one dry and one green.

What's great about these plants is that they will live and produce for 3-4 years. I'm hoping my next crop will be double what this first one produced.  I'll be sure to catch as many as I can in the green stage.

Since I've never cooked dry Pigeon peas, my research found that you need to soak them first (like normal beans) for at least 6 hours, then boil for 5 minutes, throw out that water or they'll be bitter (onto your garden, once it cools of course!), and then boil again and continue cooking for another 30 minutes.  Apparently they remain "firm" and no amount of longer boiling will "soften them". Should be an interesting experiment.  I'm thinking they'll be "chewier" than normal beans.

It's pretty amazing that you can grow green peas on a bush in your back yard and with very little fuss.  And if you miss the green stage, you still have a dried pea food source.

If you want to try your hand at growing Pigeon Peas, shoot me an email at slexperiments (at yahoo) with your mailing address and I'll send some your way.  I have a limited number of seeds (just itching to get in the ground), so it will be first come, first served.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Sunchokes, Longevity spinach and Roselle

I'm growing Sunchokes (Jerusalem artichoke), Longevity spinach (Gynura procumbens), and Roselle (Hibiscus sabdariffa) for the first time this summer.

I bought 3 Sunchoke tubers and kept them in the fridge for a month.  All 3 came up just fine.  The plants are quite attractive, and should have yellow sunflower type blooms. They can get quite tall - up to 12 feet - so I planted them where they wouldn't interfere too badly with other plants.

Here's one of the plants today:

It will be interesting to see what happens since I've read on several blogs that they are highly invasive. If you're not striving to grow a "food forest", you might want to check out this Blog Post.

The longevity spinach has been a nice addition to the garden.

It is an excellent salad green.  If hubby will eat it, it's a winner in the garden! This was just a 3" long slip when I planted it in March, the day after I got it in the mail. I bought 4 slips but only planted one right away and put the other 3 in water.  I thought it was too cold to get them in the ground so I only experimented with one.  But the one sprig I planted was just fine and the others bit the dust within a week in the house.  My bad.

I have planted at least half a dozen Roselle seeds in different areas of the yard but this one is the only one to survive so far, and it is looking fantastic!  Very excited about that.

I'm crossing my fingers it will produce the calyces my Daughter-in-Law raves about!

I love discovering new plants!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

The Knockout Rose

I read this article here about a variety of rose called "Knockout Rose" and I happened across a few of them at Lowe's.  It was love at first sight.

I'm one of those silly people who doesn't like to use a cart.  I was going in to buy the Chamomile seeds (which I should have bought the last time I was there), see what was on the discounted plant shelf, and head home.  I had 6 packets of seeds in my hand (I know, I'm a seedaholic), and two pots of plants (butterfly weed and lantana), so I had my hands full.  I SHOULD have gone to get a cart so I could buy one of the Knockout Rose bushes, but I'm an idiot.

[Side note - I have never grown a butterfly bush.  I really don't know why!]

Naturally, I regretted not buying a Knockout rose bush and thought about it for two days. Last night I went back to get one - $9.99.

Bad Picture of a Knockout Rose

I took a picture right when I got back in the truck and emailed it to my shopaholic best friend who has the opposite problem I do.  She buys things, regrets it, and takes them back to the store.  Ha!  We are an excellent shopping duo!

If you love roses, how could you not want one of these in your yard?  It's not terribly thorny.  It doesn't grow just a few long stemmed blooms.  Rather, it will spread into a showy bush (if I can keep it alive), like so:

Knockout rose
Stock Photo
Seriously lovely.  Not red, not pink.  Just right (to my eye).  I'm in love.

The tag shows up to zone 9 so I'm being cautiously optimistic.   If I can find a spot where the summer blazing sun gets shaded later in the day, but full sun in the winter I might be able to keep it alive.  It will be a good $10 experiment!

Lowe's had the thorny long stemmed bloom version a while ago discounted to $3.  I should have gotten a few just because of the awesome price.  But they really bring back bad memories. In high school, my horticulture class toured the local rose greenhouse.  It was awful.  I hated those darn thorny things.  All the workers had terrible scars on their arms and hands.  Nope.  The thorny roses are not for me.

Now, if only I could find some able bodied person to help me get a ton of free mulch for the side yard and square foot garden box projects.  More on my square foot garden project later...

Monday, June 9, 2014

The Champagne Mango

I am in love with the Champagne mango.  Here are some stock photos off google images:

And the normal mango compared to the little Champagne mango:

Here's a fun little blog post about these gems.

Last year, I saved one of the seeds and planted it, but it didn't sprout.

This year, after devouring the fruit, I removed the seed from the pod, which is supposed to increase the success rate of germination, and I'll use a pot instead of planting it directly in the ground.

That there is a wicked sharp and pointy knife. It scares me a little.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

The Naked Side (Yard)

Here's a funny.  This is my side yard which you can only see up to about our Gumbo limbo tree, about halfway down the side of the house itself. You can just make out the little white fence in the background. I'm standing at the top of the neighbor's fence line:

And if I take a few steps to my left, this is my neighbor's side yard:

Absolutely naked.

Rabbit Manure

I've been meaning to post about the rabbit manure I bought a month or so ago.

I check Craigslist's farm and garden section now and then for rabbit manure but the listings are usually a 1-1/2 to 2 hour drive north of us and that just seems silly. Plus the truck gets terrible gas mileage.

I was very excited when I finally saw a local ad for $4 a bag so we took a ride out to the country to buy four bags.  It was very close to Tractor Supply so it wasn't hard to get hubby on board!

When we got there, she explained that they use 50 lb feed bags and some were heavier than others.  I really had no idea what she meant by that, so I just paid the nice lady $20 and went to load the first bag into the bed of the truck.  Holy Moly! I was totally shocked at how heavy it was. I manhandled it into the truck while hubby grabbed the next one and we both just kept our thoughts to ourselves and carefully hefted two more bags into the bed.

Here's an understatement: "Those bags were not what we expected..."

What we were expecting were dry pellets, but due to the weight, we assumed they just shoveled mixed manure & urine into bags.  I was fretting about it all the way home.  I didn't want to have to have to compost it.  I wanted to use it NOW!

I got the bags unloaded and wheeled them out back, one at a time of course, and opened up a bag to see what was what.  I found that it was very nearly composted.

It didn't have a strong ammonia smell, and it seemed usable just the way it was, so I happily spread the bunny love all around the garden right then and there!

If you're within driving distance to Buckingham and would like some rabbit manure, keep an eye out for their ad on Craigslist.  Dummy me lost the number! Luckily I'm thick in rabbit poo for a good long while.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

The Challenge of Growing Vegetables in Zone 10

Growing vegetables in Southwest Florida through the summer months is definitely a challenge.  And to make matters worse, I have terrible soil so I've really got to work hard to build a good base for my plants.  I've managed to fix the soil in one section of the yard and I'm finding worms wherever I dig.  That right there is a miracle, folks!

Here's a good link at Southern Exposure Seed Exchange on What to grow through the summer here in Florida.  I've purchased quite a few seeds from SESE.  I learned about Southern Peas from this post and purchased Pinkeye Purple Hull and Piggott Pea varieties.

There's not much to harvest in my garden right now for vegetables.  Here's our second (and last) Seminole Pumpkin, er squash, whatever it is.

Sniff sniff.  The bull seems to like it.  Hopefully our other vine will produce some fruits!

Last summer I had excellent success with Moringa, Black Eyed Peas, Southern Peas, Shepherds Needle, Amaranth, and Jicama.  Okay, I was just seeing if you were paying attention - the Shepards needle is a "weed" but edible. In fact, I use it in my green smoothies in combination with moringa and amaranth.

This summer I have the usual suspects, plus a few additions: Pigeon peas, Sunchoke (from Grower Jim), Cassava (from David the Good), Roselle, Eggplant, Papaya and Okra.  I've never eaten eggplant in my life.  I love okra in soups, hubby hates it.

The fruit trees I planted last summer (Lychee, Loquat, Meyer lemon, Cavendish banana, Jaboticaba and Grumichama) are all doing fairly well except two - the loquat died and the Grumichama was poorly but it is hanging in there.

Meanwhile, I'll keep working at fixing the soil in the yard.  Inch by mosquito infested inch.  Mulch, mulch, mulch!!!!!!

Friday, June 6, 2014

The Border and Speed Gardening

Last night I slathered on the bug juice and added 20 more bricks to the border. I'm not sure my curve will make the turn. I might have to disassemble and bring it out farther into the grass.  That will break my heart!  LOL!

I'll be off to buy more bricks this weekend.  Thank goodness they're only $0.39 a piece!

This morning I did some speed gardening.  I finally planted the darn okra and eggplant seeds.  I also planted some black eyed peas, pigeon peas and velvet bean in the side yard. It will be interesting to see what, if anything, grows since I haven't added a thing to the soil. The difficult part of that side yard is remembering to water it.

I also put a bit of bonemeal around the "beginning" of the 20'+ pumpkin/squash vine.  I'll look closer tonight to see where the vine has set more roots and do the same along the way. I had a raccoon take off with my bag of bonemeal in the middle of the night a few weeks ago.  I heard the rustling and chased it down (it didn't get far). Although there's a convenient hole in the bag now, it's all clumpy. Tonight I'll put it in a ziploc bag, break it up, and add some diatomaceous earth and put some in a grated cheese shaker.

And speaking of Seminole Squash, my seeds popped up a few days ago.

I think that was it for excitement in the garden.  Off to work.  TGIF!

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Black Eyed Pea Experiment

A few weekends ago, after our tropical almonds had shed all their leaves, hubby put the bagger on the lawn mower and asked where I wanted the mulch.  So he dumped a few loads in the side yard.  That will be the new dumping ground over the summer months.

If I'm going to be successful growing edibles in that side yard, the soil needs some serious fixing. And that's where black eyed peas come in. I actually love these plants.  They're quite attractive - dark green leaves and pretty flowers - and they grow in just about any soil type.  I'll let them go to seed and collect the dried peas when they've done their magic.  Win win.

I'll also add a few Pigeon pea and Moringa seeds to see if they'll grow in the crappy soil that's there.

It has been raining quite a lot here (yay!) so now is the time to get things growing!

I love a good experiment!

Monday, June 2, 2014


I ordered the 25 for $25 seed packets from  I'm so excited! Some I'll be able to plant now, some not until the fall/winter.

She didn't have a few things I was looking for - chamomile, tea (camellia sinensis), anise hyssop or yarrow.  My loss for not ordering them last spring. Here's what I ordered:

Green Stripe Cushaw Squash (no pancake squash left)
Globe Amaranth
Black Eyed Susan
Green Mullein
Holy Basil
Lime Basil
Lemon Basil
Amethyst Basil
English Plantain
Evening Primrose
Lemon Balm
Rhodiola Rosea
Mexican Mint
Coneflower Pinnata (Mexican hats)
Lamb's Ears
Tri Color Hot Pepper Ornamental

The last one was an alternate in case they were sold out of something.

I realize I could find some of the wildflowers locally and snag seeds, but I'm okay with buying them.  I feel like I'm living dangerously with some of these seed selections.  If I can get them to grow it might be hard to contain them.  I am so hoping that happens!  Tee hee!

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Brick by Brick!

The brick border project is slowly coming along.  20 bricks at a time.  It's hard work to put 20 bricks in the cart, then put them in the car, then put them into the wheelbarrow and take them out back, then take them out again.  Especially when it's hot, humid and buggy outside!  I think I'm 40 bricks into the project so far.

It cooled down and got breezy just before a thunderstorm passed through today so I was able to set the 6 or 8 bricks I had left, as well as some pots of flowers that needed planting, before it rained.  Here's how it looks so far:

The Papaya, banana and Cassava are looking mighty fine.

You can just make out my 12" square brick pathway.  The sweet potato vines and what I hope is a Seminole Pumpkin have taken over a bit!  I'm tickled about that - keeps the weeds down.

Here's a backside shot:

That pumkin/squash vine starts just before the deck.  I'm trying to train it up the dwarf firebush.  If it decides to stay low and just keep laying down roots til it hits the fence, more power to it! I'm just hoping it will bear fruit(s)!!

After a quick trip to Lowe's I now have 20 more bricks, 2 more tiger lilies (75% off), and 4 packets of flower seeds to plant - 2 packets of Cosmos, California Poppy and an interesting packet called "Old Fashioned Garden Mix" which consists of Calendula, Soapwort, Scarlet Flax, Pheasant's Eye, Malope, Wallflower, Calliopsis, Baby's Breath, Globe Candytuft, Lupine, Love in a Mist, Winged Everlasting, Baby Blue Eyes, Buplerum, Bachelor Button, Sweet Alyssum, Amaranth and Bishop's Flower.  I don't even know what some of those flowers are, but the ones I do recognize should grow here through the summer. Crossing my fingers!