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! 

Coco Plum Fruit and Air Potatoes (Yams)

David over at Florida Survival Garden wrote a post about wierd and wild tropical fruit in South Florida and it reminded me I hadn't checked my Coco Plum bush tree for a few months.

It's a bit out of control, eh?  There's some Dward Snowbush mixed in on either side of the AC unit, but that crazy Coco plum is over the roof, again!

And see that grass?  That's what grass in Florida should look like, just barely hanging on, weedy, clearly never watered...or not.  But that's what our grass looks like cause it's a useless water eater.  So we let the rains water it, or it DIES!  So there.

But I digress...I chopped this Coco plum back quite a bit last fall since the AC guy couldn't get to the AC.  It was twice as large last year, if you can believe it. 

Here's what the fruit looks like, ripe when purple:

They're edible, but don't have any flavor.  A white flesh with a seed in the center.

I suspect there's only a handful of people in Florida who are aware these fruits are edible! They are in abundance, that's for sure.  Sort of like Chia for Aztecs.  Coco Plums for Calusa Indians!

I found a recipe for Coco plum jam the first year we discovered the fruits.  It was a vague recipe - the instructions said to add a quantity of washed fruits to a pot, add water covering the fruits a few inches over the top, add 1 lb. brown sugar and boil all afternoon.  Which is what I did.  It was perfectly edible, but not much flavor other than "sweet".  If I were to do it again, I'd probably had a cinnamon stick.

David also has done some blog posts on the Air Yam.  I've got Air Yam up the wazoo trees out back behind the fence.  I've also felt it was such a shame we couldn't eat them...or could we?  Check this out!

The book was written in 1982.  Front cover:
Author info:

Very intriguing.  But I've yet to see any account of people actually eating the air potatoes, so until I do, I'll save them for desperate times! 

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Elderberry, Dragon Fruit and Goji Berry

Check this out!

Goji Berries!  In the saltmarsh behind our house!  Who knew?

Hubby has been talking about tree hunting out in the "outback", as we call it, and today he finally went on a trek!  He was looking for buttonwood or other interesting looking shrubs for bonsai.  He found this goji berry (aka wolfberry). Didn't know what it was but thought it was interesting.

If there hadn't been a berry left on the bush, I doubt he would have noticed it, nor would I would have been able to identify it from this picture.

Now I have to go for a long overdue trek out in the outback to see what other edibles are at hand.

Another berry I've been interested in growing is the Elderberry.  I finally found some at a local Nursery.  I was looking for a Kaffir Lime tree but they no longer sell any citrus trees.  Not that I blame them.  It's a lost cause these days.  The Kaffir Lime is grown mainly for its aromatic leaves and I buy them occasionally at the Asian Market in the freezer section.  I love to add to iced water.  But it's still an undesirable citrus tree so a lot of Nurseries are no longer selling them.  I guess I'll forget about adding a Kaffir Lime tree to the yard!

Finding the Elderberry was exciting though.  It's not a very big tree, but for $10.99 I couldn't pass it up.  Elderberry bushes are pretty "weedy" so I'm hopeful it will fit right in with my "set it and forget it" yard!  As a bonus there are two smaller trees in the pot which I hadn't noticed until I got it home.

The nursery we went to has a display garden and the Elderberry tree had ripe fruit.  So I got to see what they look like.  I wanted to take some "samples" home, but controlled myself...

After we left the Nursery we stopped at the Asian Market and bought a dragon fruit.  I've planted some seeds in a large pot with a tree that didn't make it.  We've cut off the top of the dead tree, leaving about a 4' section of the trunk which I can train the dragons to climb.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Dragon Fruit, Un-Prickly Pear and Woodsy Things

My dragon fruit is starting to take off!  Yay!

It's already started climbing this big cabbage palm.

We planted a spineless prickly pear pad last summer.  It has also taken off.

We have several prickly pear trees.  We never planted them, they all crept in from the neighbor's yard. But we actually tasted this spineless prickly pear at a fruit festival last year and really liked it.  It will be great to add to salads. 

The caladiums are up in the wooded area:

The longevity spinach (left) and comfrey (right) planted in a shady area seem happy.

I need to find some nice plants for the front of my deck.  I've checked Home Depot and Lowe's but nothing grabbed my attention.  I'll probably end up planting southern peas.

Meanwhile, the hubby got an electric pole saw and has been cutting, cutting cutting. Limbs everywhere!  The chipper shredder has been getting work out!

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Wildflowers, Bananas and Weeds

I had a bunch of wildflower seeds so I decided to spread them around in the new Moringa/Pigeon Pea/Roselle garden area.  I'm hoping something will take!

A few weeks ago I bought a small sized papaya at the grocery store, let it get over ripe, and planted seeds around the yard, front and back.  While I was weeding, before planting the flower seeds, I came across a few sprouts that were "different", and realized they were the papaya!  Yay!

There are 4 pesky weeds/saplings I constantly battle - false poinciana, tropical almond, umbrella tree and shepherds needle.  There are a few others, but these are the ones that plague my gardens the most.

I got on a role and weeded the fruit and herb area.  Only a few herbs have survived - lemon grass, rosemary and mint.  They are clearly the winners in the SW Florida summer heat.

The bananas are coming along nicely.

My tree is still quite short so I assumed it was unhappy.

My lemon grass is taller!

Check out these puppies!  3 total.  You can only see one in this picture.

I pulled all the tomatoes and dumped all the pots lying around that were full of weeds.  I have a knack for growing weeds...

It was a good morning, for once.  Hot as blazes but worth the sweat and toil.

I have okra, ivy gourd and korean melon to plant tomorrow.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Moringa, Pigeon Peas and Roselle

I planted seeds a few months ago and have several healthy trees growing.  Once they get to be a foot tall, I can pretty much consider them established.  Set 'em and forget 'em.

The tally ended up being 6 pigeon peas, 8 moringa (3 in pots), and 4 roselle.

I also took cuttings of my Persian Shield plant to spread them around the yard.  I had a few extra stems from trimming the cuttings and stuck those in a pot  It will be interesting to see which ones (if any) survive - summer is full on and it is HOT!  But thankfully we've been getting pretty consistent rain.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Pho Noodle Soup

We have recently discovered Pho - Vietnamese Noodle Soup.  While we were in Texas, we went to a restaurant that had the BEST Pho we've ever tasted!

We also went to a Ramen restaurant, which was not your typical packaged ramen.  Very good, but I prefer the Pho.

When we got back from our Texas trip we tried Pho at a place close to home and it was quite a disappointment.  So naturally, I went on-line to find out how to make Pho myself.

After gathering all the ingredients, I now understand why it is a pricey dish to buy at a restaurant.  We've paid anywhere from $8 to $12.  For a bowl of soup.  Very aromatic, tasty soup.

My first attempt was "okay", but I learned that I need to use triple the amount of beef bones to create the broth.  I had only used one lb. and definitely needed 3 lbs.

First I boiled the bones for 15 minutes, then rinsed them well and added them to a clean pot of boiling water.  Then added the vegetables and spices.  Here's the broth coming back up to a boil:

It's just getting started here.  Beef bones, charred ginger and onion, cinnamon stick and a tea ball chuck full of spices.  Clove, Coriander, Star Anise, Cardamom, kosher salt, raw sugar.

The smell while this was simmering was AMAZING!

The problem I hadn't anticipated was that since the bones need to boil for 3 hours, it reduces quite a bit and I had to add water a few times which diluted the broth.  Using 3 lbs of bones would fix that problem.  Lesson learned!

So basically, you create this very aromatic beef broth to which you add Pho (rice) noodles, thinly sliced beef, and vegetable "toppings"; bean sprouts, lime wedges, cilantro, Thai basil, green onion and mint.

I've been advised that next time I make it I'm to add the cilantro and green onion while simmering the broth.

Once I perfect the broth, I'll be making a large batch so I can can it.  That will be amazing to have Pho whenever we need a Pho fix!


Holy Cow!  I have Bananas!!!

I bought this dwarf Cavendish sometime in 2013.  I haven't done a whole lot to it other than mulch around it and fertilize now and then.  I have been disappointed in how short it still is and didn't expect it to actually produce fruit.  Again.

But I was perusing the yard and lo and behold, it has fruited!  I nearly missed it! It's not a long dangling stalk, it's just sort of tucked into the middle of the banana tree.  Weird. Not at all what I have been looking out for.

It's the little things in life that make me smile!

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Summer Has Arrived!

It has been hot hot hot here in Southwest Florida.  So much so that I haven't been poking around the back yard much at all.  I needed to hunt down some cilantro (which has died out unfortunately) and had my phone with me so I took a few (bad) photos.

The hubby vacuumed up all the tropical almond leaves from the front yard. Beautiful mulch!

My Gaillardia patch is still growing strong - I haven't thinned them out yet:

These lovely flowers which originated from a seed bomb gift I received from David the Good last year are happily spreading themselves around the yard.

I still don't know exactly what they are.  Some kind of coreopsis.  They're lovely, whatever they are.

These are Gazania, which I bought for $0.30.  Yep, 30 cents! at Lowes.  The two plants I bought are happy as clams:

They're perennials so I'll be able to spread those about the yard as well.

I have a list of flowers that will survive the summers here, and this is one that was on the list so I was excited to find them at Lowe's.  I'll be on the lookout for more!

This is interesting.  The two leek roots I planted simply to see what would happen, have bolted!

I'll just let them be and see if baby leeks sprout up.  Although I can't imagine the summer heat will allow them to grow, but we shall see.

The longevity spinach and lemon grass stalks are growing like crazy too:

I have 7 plants, this one being the oldest and looking great!

I bought three more stalks at the Asian market last weekend.  They're wonderful plants and I've been experimenting with lemongrass (and ginger) in beverages.

I planted a bunch of longevity spinach tips in this bucket and it's grown so much you can't see the bucket anymore.  That's cassava in there with it.

Sooo much needs to be done - which I failed to do over the cooler months. There was just too much going on.  So the garden has taken a back seat.  It's interesting to see what's surviving and what's given up now that the heat and humidity are here to stay.  

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Final Harvest of Pigeon Peas

I picked the final harvest of pigeons a few days ago.  The bush from the front yard yielded a colander full of pods.  The bush from the back yard was going to take a bigger container to collect them all so I ended up using a concrete mixer pan!

That was a lot of peas to shellI  I ended up with a little more than a pint from this last harvest.  A total of 1-1/2 quarts for the season.  Considering I only have 4 bushes - one large bush on its 3rd year, one medium sized bush on its 2nd year and two very small first year bushes - I'm very impressed with the amount of pigeon peas I've gotten this year!

I have been striving to find a dry bean that we enjoy eating which I can grow in quantity, with little fuss.  I have definitely found the perfect pea!  I just need a few more bushes and I'm going to be a happy camper!

Here are a few observations from this experiment:

It would take a helluva lot of southern pea plants to get enough dry peas to fill a quart jar!  That would also require a lot of land space.

I much prefer the pigeon peas in their green state, but they're much more difficult to shell.  They have a stickiness to them.  I picked maybe a dozen greenies this season for a quick taste while perusing the yard but pretty much left them to dry on the bushes.

There is a difference between the pods on my (original) large bush and the other three bushes.

The pods on the left are from the original bush.  They're smaller, and much easier to shuck when dry.  They pop right out, no need to slide my fingers up and down the pods after opening them up to get any stragglers.

The pods on the right, although larger and a different color, yield the same amount of peas, although slightly larger. These larger pods don't pop right out after you open them up.  They're a bit more work.

The original bush gets lots of water.  Unfortunately it has a tendency to get mold on the pods.  The pods from the other bushes don't get moldy.  The two new bushes out back were fine, and they too got watered as much as the original bush.  So the coloring might have something to do with it - maybe the darker ones don't dry off quickly enough and get moldy in places.

I saved four of the light colored pods to try a little experiment.  I'll plant some a few feet over from the original bush to see if they end up having the same mold problem.

Now that the tally is in, guess what's for dinner?  Pigeon Peas and Rice!  Yay!

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Lemon, Juicing and Fertilizing

I've been intrigued by the articles I've been reading about the benefits of squeezing half a lemon's juice into a cup of warm water first thing in the morning and drinking it up. So I've given it a try.  I love lemon so it's not a problem for me.

What I've noticed the most is that it kicks starts my digestive tract.  I need all the help I can get in that area.

My daughter-in-law bought an inexpensive juicer toward the end of her pregnancy, but never got around to using it.  She gifted it to me just before we left Texas and I used it for the first time last night.

I pulled a few carrots from the garden and took cuttings from my longevity spinach.  I had an apple, a lemon, ginger and kale in the fridge.

The apple, lemon and ginger worked fine.  The carrots too.  But the longevity spinach didn't "juice" at all.  I should have run the stems through but I didn't think of that at the time.  When the longevity spinach didn't produce juice I tried running some kale through.  Same problem.  But the stem of the kale did work better (which is when I should have thought about running the longevity spinach stems through).  Oh well.

The juicer is a cheap black and decker unit and it's fine for fruits and non leafy vegetables.  I'll juice that type of produce and then run the juice and my greens through my nutri-bullet.  No big deal.  The biggest drawback to this juicer is the ridiculously small feeder tube.

The clean up of the juicer wasn't pretty, but I had read enough about juicing to expect that.  What I did do was rinse all the parts and pour the excess water/produce bits off into a bowl, collecting every bit of the discarded parts of the fruits and vegetables.  I let this watery bowl of goodness sit on the counter overnight and then poured it into my kitchen scrap garden feeders this morning.

And speaking of the kitchen scrap feeders, I picked my first round of green beans last night and the plants nearest the large pot I've been dumping kitchen scraps into were much healthier and had much larger green beans.  It's definitely a successful experiment.  These "feeders" do take up a bit of room, but the verdict is in and they are definitely worth the space.

A friend was on a 10 day juice fast and felt much better for it.  She also recommended I watch "Sick, Fat and Nearly Dead", a documentary on Netflix streaming.  If I find that I like juicing I'll get a better machine.  Meanwhile, this inexpensive one will be good for experimenting with.

Monday, April 20, 2015

A Visit to Some Botanical Gardens

On our drive out to Texas we took a few detours.  The first was to the Bellingrath Botanical Garden in Theodore Alabama.

Then we stopped at Afton Villa Garden in St. Francisville, Louisiana.  We loved this entire area.  Absolutely gorgeous.

This was our first clue we were gonna like this place.  A lot!

Pretty amazing how they incorporated the ruins of the house into the garden.