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Garden Diary: April 16, 2017

Heirloom Amaryllis - Either Stargazer or Starburst, Not Sure.

I've been so busy working in the garden lately, I have had no time to write about it. The weather in the early morning is so beautiful and perfect for gardening. Soon enough, it will be too hot to garden, so I'm taking advantage while I can.

Things are blooming left and right, such as the heirloom amaryllis I rescued when a neighbor moved. It was planted in a place where it would be mowed over by the yard crew, so I dug up as many bulbs as I could and put them into a 10-galllon pot. So far, I've had 5 bloom stalks from them. Once they finish blooming, I will dig them and move some out into the garden for next year, and leave one in a pot inside for my personal viewing on the patio.

Garden Surprises 

I've had a few nice garden surprises this year. Found this surprise this morning while digging to plant some coleus. thought I had hit a root, but when I tried to chop through it, it was purple and I realized it was a sweet potato. I had planted slips from one I found in the old community garden spot, but couldn't dig them last year due to roots, so I just let them become ground cover and ate the leaves as summer greens. 

I thought they were Cuban reds, but VOILA! They are purple! I've never tasted a purple sweet potato before, so this will be interesting. I got enough slips from the vines I pulled out to plant 10 more plants, and enough leaves for me to have this potato and greens tonight for supper. Yummy!

Another reason I'm sort of excited about this is that I can now make purple sweet potato chips with my new mandolin I found for $5 at Goodwill.

New Plantings And Seeds Galore

Dry Garden Bed for Bees and Butterflies

This is my new dry bed. Most of the plants are too small to see well, but it has lemon grass, cassia bicapsularis (for Sulfur butterflies), red tropical milkweed (for monarch butterflies), Hibiscus sabdariffa (for bees) and chaya (for all sorts of beneficial insects). I want to terrace this more, so the water won't drain out so badly, but for now, I'm just putting in drought tolerant selections. Eventually, I will go all along this fence with a terraced garden about 20 feet long.

Every year, I say I'm not going to plant any new seeds, and every year I do. This year, it's mostly ornamentals, but I've also planted a few new kinds of peppers.The first batch of peppers I planted didn't come up. I think the soil was too heavy, so I replanted them in seed starter mix and am hoping for better results. I planted:

  • Fish peppers (only two sprouted, so I'm babying them)
  • Grand Bell Mix (only three up, but didn't replant)
  • Giant Szegedi (old seeds, so may never come up)
  • Sweet Banana
  • Cubanelle 
New Ornamentals From Seed 

Sesbania punicea "Scarlet Wisteria"
Copyright Erica Asai via USDA Plants Database

 I fell victim to my lust for new flowers, so I ordered a few flower seeds this year. I'm going to have to literally cram the gardens full to plant them all, but that is also where the new garden along the fence comes in. I planted my new seeds and some old seeds from last year's gardens.

  • Triple Yellow Datura NEW
  • Double Purple Datura
  • Datura "Le Fleur Lilac" NEW
  • Datura Inoxia (old seeds - doubt they'll sprout)
  • Scarlet Wisteria (Sesbania punicea) NEW
  • Celosia - mixed colors NEW
  • Bachelor Buttons - double mixed NEW
  • Hibiscus acetosella (Cranberry Hibiscus) NEW
  • Hibiscus sabdariffa (Jamaican sorrel) NEW
  • Yellow Dwarf Marigolds NEW 
  • Cypress Vine NEW
Well, enough for now. Much more going on, but will have to wait for another day.

Happy Gardening!

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WBITG - Sping is Springing Fast in Flowers!

In case you don't know, WBITG stands for What's Blooming In The Garden. I've sort of slacked up on these posts lately, but I'd like to get back to them, so here goes.

It's April 2, and it seems to be very quickly moving into summer. The temperature today is predicted to be 92F. Are you joking? I'm in utter disbelief. It seems there is no spring here anymore, just winter, summer and fall. Spring just started on March 21, and it's already hot as haedes.

So I have a few things blooming, but not a lot yet. As you can see from the top picture, all the vinca are starting to bloom, although I've cut them all back drastically, so they'll take awhile to bush out into all their colorful beauty.

Some of the Amaryllis are blooming, most notably the Stargazer which I "rescued" from an apartment where someone moved last year (top photo), but the red ones I inherited from a community garden member a couple of years ago have three bloom stalks and are putting on a show.

The Desert Rose is starting to bloom. I had hoped to be able to cut it back before it bloomed, but all this warm weather had brought it out early. I still plan to cut it back, though. That's another red amaryllis bud just opening next to it.

The butterfly weed is going gangbusters and has already been visited by a couple of monarchs, so I'm expecting cats soon.

My favorite wildflower, the wild petunia I dug up from the first place I lived temporarily in Gainesville, is doing extremely well and although my camera doesn't show the lovely, pale blue color of the flowers, they are one of my very favorites.

So spring is here, and soon the gardens will all be bursting with color. I have packs and packs of flower seeds yet to plant, and I'm hoping my butterfly garden will be a showcase this year. Spring is my favorite season.

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Happy Gardening!

Month-by-Month in North Florida: What to Plant in April (UPDATED for 2017)

April is the last planting month for many vegetables in North Florida before the heat of summer comes. There are actually very few vegetables you can still start from seed, but there are oh so many types and varieties of those veggies you can enjoy!

Annuals to plant in April in North Florida

Coleus are a wonderful way to add color to your garden in the summer. There are newer varieties that can withstand full sun, so you don't have to have a shady yard to enjoy them.

Bulbs to plant in April in North Florida:

Caladiums and cannas add color to your garden all through the summer months, but they aren't the only plants that bloom in our harsh summer heat.

Blood Lily Caladium Canna Louisiana Iris

NOTE: You can also plant edible ginger this month. It grows well in containers, but be sure to have a container large enough for it to spread.

Last Chance to Plant These Vegetables

Don't miss out on a final crops of these yummy veggies!  Also, you can still plant regular tomatoes, just buy them in the 1-gallon or larger size so they'll bear before it gets too  hot. I suggest you plant these as early as possible in April.

Beans Cantaloupes Cherry Tomatoes Cucumbers
Squash, Summer & Winter Watermelon

Vegetables to Plant in North Florida in April

This may seem like a limited selection of veggies to choose from for summer gardening, but there are myriad varieties of all four of these veggies, so mix it up and try something new! My favorite is the long, Italian eggplant. I love all southern peas, and they're easily left to dry for storage over the winter. Red okra is just as ornamental as it is edible, and sweet potatoes have edible leaves to keep you happy while the tubers are growing.

** NOTE: I've included peppers here, but I suggest planting 1-gallon or larger sweet peppers, and using starter plants for hot peppers. Also, put your sweet peppers in a spot that gets no harsh afternoon sun.

Eggplant Okra Peppers**Southern Peas Sweet Potatoes

There are a wide variety of tropical and non-traditional vegetables that also love our hot, humid summer, so subscribe to the blog to find out more about those in a future post.