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Garden Diary: August 2, 2018

South Facing Garden

I know I should keep up with this blog better, but there is just so much gardening to do, and work, and housekeeping -- there never seems to be time to get in here and give updates.

As you can see in the picture above, the rain has caused the gardens to go berserk. I always have a plan, then that plan always goes to hell once things start growing. With the excessive rain, and the abominable heat, things get out of control quickly.

My poor Confederate Rose (far left) started out o.k. It got a few whiteflies, but the ladybugs took care of them. Then they came back, and despite trying with all my might to wash them off regularly, they have devastated the bush yet again. I said I was going to use systemic pesticide on it this year, but I never got around to it, and now it's just black with sooty mold and eaten up with whiteflies. I doubt I'll have any decent blooms on it this year either, and I'm seriously considering just cutting it down. I can't stand to look at it as sad as it is.

Color in the Summer Garden

Since not much blooms in the very hottest part of the summer, and the things I did plant didn't exaclty take off, I have just a little color in the garden this year.

Of course, my coleus are always a bright splash of color. The two red sun coleus are exactly the same plants, but the one on the right gets more sun than the other. You can really tell the difference. The Japanese Giant in the middle is a little splindly, because it was further back, but getting buried, so I pulled it forward this morning. It's also growing in a pot, so hasn't gotten as large as it can. I keep trying to find a better place for it in the garden, but no luck so far.

I've never discovered the name of this one, but I really love it. Unfortunately, it almost didn't survive the winter freeze, and had to be brought back from a tiny little piece, so it isn't as glorious as it was last year this time. You can see the purple vinca peeking out on the left and the Fireball bromeliad on the right. If you click the picture to enlarge it, you can see some of the Little Ruby alternanthera peeking out. I've been pulling  a lot of that out this year, because it tends to smother everything in the garden if you don't

The "Fireball" bromeliad didn't color up as much as I'd like it to, but it hasn't gotten as much sun as usual because of all the rain. Still, it's a very pretty plant and adds a nice splash of color in that sunny spot.

I can't believe that plant started out as one tiny little piece sent to me by a friend four years ago. I wish I had more sun for it, but you work with what you've got.

Butterflies and Bananas

The butterfly garden is just a mass of stripped Asclepias stems and shrimp plants that won't bloom. The giant Liriope is blooming, but the purple blooms are sort of hidden in and amongst the foliage. The taro (eddoe) plants are doing very well, and I'm hoping to get some nice tubers from those this year. I planted hyacinth beans and some other vines back behind them, but the slugs ate them before they could grow. There has been a real problem with slugs in that garden this year, as well as toads and lizards, which ate all my monarch cats before they could pupate.


The new front garden up by the fence is doing o.k. The soil there is really bad, so I'm having to fertilize a lot. I have a few brugmansia seedlings planted up there, and they're growing o.k. The purple-leaf cannas are growing like mad, of course, but haven't bloomed, probably for lack of sun, but they're a touch of color anyway.

Remember that rotten banana corm I found when I dug up the large banana plant? Well, I cut it into four pieces and three of them have sent up plants. The other one still may eventually send something up, but I'm not holding my breath. I have plenty of banana plants as it is.



The large banana in the courtyard is still going strong and it has a sword sucker growing. I also still have four pups from the other corm I planted, which I'm trying to dig and put into separate pots for sale later. I sold one large corm earlier in the summer, because I just had nowhere else to put it. You can only have so many banana plants!

Lots more going on, but this is getting too long, and I have other things to do, so goodbye for now. I hope you enjoyed this post and feel free to ask any questions in the comments.


Happy Gardening!

Month-by-Month in North Florida: What to Plant in August (UPDATED for 2018)



The main garden season has finally arrived in Florida, and here in the northern part of the state, we are already planting our winter crops. Since we have a shorter growing season than Central or South Florida, we plant a lot of our cole crops and leafy greens in August. Yes, I know, it seems it would be too hot, but somehow they survive until it starts cooling a bit in September.

With the unbearable heat and over-abundant rain this summer, it's hard for me to even think about gardening. My purple sweet potatoes are growing well, but my red ones are barely growing. All the ornamentals are out of control, except the brugmansia babies, which I hoped would be a lot larger, but every time I fertilize them, the rain just comes and leaches it all out.

I've tried three times to plant pole beans, but they keep rotting in the soil, so I figure I'll start them in pots indoors and transplant them. So many things that just aren't doing as well as I would like this year, and here it is August already. So here in what you can plant this month. It's our first real planting month of the season, unless you started your tomatoes indoors last month, so have fun!

Vegetables to Plant in August

* last month to plant this vegetable

Beans: bush
& pole
Lima Beans* Beets Broccoli Brussels
Sprouts
Cabbage Carrots Cauliflower Celery Chinese
Cabbage
Collards Cucumbers* Eggplant*Endive/
Escarole
Kale
Mustard Onions,
bunching
Peppers* Summer
Squash
Winter
Squash
Shallots Tomatoes*Turnips

If you want to grow lettuces or tender greens, you can grow mico or mini greens, such as those pictured above. Simply sprinkle your seeds in a tray and let them grow to the size you want, then cut or pull them up.


Ornamentals to Plant in August

With the hottest days of summer ahead of us, only a few ornamentals will take the heat.

VincaGaillardiaBulbineColeus

Bulbs to Plant in August

Aztec LilyButterfly LilyWalking IrisSpider Lily

Herbs to Plant in August

Bay LaurelGingerMexican TarragonRosemary

August is a hot and miserable month, but as you can see, it's still a good time to get a jump on the fall garden. If you have any questions about growing food here in Gainesville or the surrounding area, post them in the comments.

Garden Diary: July 4, 2018 Fat Plants, Skinny Plants, Plants That Grow on Rocks

Got this gorgeous white pentas on half price sale at Lowe's.
It really stands out in the garden. 

Hello again. I've been so busy gardening, I haven't had time to post. I think about it a lot, but then I end up just going over to the Florida Gardening Forum on Gardenweb and posting there.

So much happening! I've been slowly adding some flowering plants here and there; yellow marigolds I grew from seed, vincas that I grew out from volunteers, a few grape colored vincas I got for 50 cents each at Lowe's, and a nice white penta I also got for half price at Lowe's.  Of course, I keep cuttings from my coleus every year to replant, and they're doing very well now, and adding some summer color while most of the flowering plants sleep in the extreme heat. As you can see, the cold didn't kill the Little Ruby alternanthera. I don't think anything can.

I picked up a new red canna for half price at WalMart this spring, and it's started to bloom. I don't know if it's a dwarf, or if it's been sprayed with growth retardant, and just needs time to grow out of it. The yellow cannas multipled like crazy over the winter, and put on quite a show this spring.


The rain lilies didn't have a chance to show their stuff last year, with so little rain, but this year they went mad, blooming incessantly for weeks during the May rains. I have tons of seeds that I've planted here and there in the garden and also have sprouted some in water, which I will be potting up soon. These bloom a deep pink, but quickly turn to white with pink tips. I found some white ones growing wild down the road, and have been meaning to go rescue some of them.

New Plantings

My purple sweet potatoes are still growing out of control in the South facing bed, where they are so tangled up in roots, I can't get them all out. I pulled a few vines and put them up by the fence, but as you can see, I'm either going to have to train them to grow up the fence or enlarge the bed.

 I finally got the elderberry that I grew from a cutting out into the garden. I decided to plant it under the dead hibiscus bushes so I can have some shade over the Peacock gingers and wandering Jews when the sun gets hotter later on. I had started some morning glories, but snails got a lot of them, so they aren't filling in fast enough, though they are lovely. I thought all the red ones had died, but they came up, and they're not red, but a beautiful red-burgundy. The deep purple ones are also growing and blooming, but I haven't seen a blue one yet.

You may remember I cut down and took out a large banana and planted its corm out by the fence. It put out four pups, which are bigger now, and are in the process of being dug and put into pots to sell later on. My neighbor pointed out that if I left them there, they would cover his apartment number on the gate. I wanted to suggest he move his number to the other side of the gate, but decided not to start anything, so I'm going to have to dig these all up. I'll put the corm out at the edge of the woods where it can grow to its heart's content.

These are my newest beds. The pots are covering red sweet potato slips and the smaller one has banana pups coming up that will also be sold, but not potted. They came from an old, rotted corm I found when I dug the other banana. I dried it, cut it into four chunks, each with an eye, and planted them.

These are the rooted Charles Grimaldi brugmansia (angel trumpet) cuttings I bought on eBay. I got 22 cuttings, and have 16 rooted plants. Some are too small to be transplanted, but the larger ones are going to go into 1-gallon pots soon. I still have several of the seedling brugs to put out or pot up.

The butterfly garden was quite a hit, with a Monarch and Queen butterfly showing up to lay eggs.  I spied several larvae, but unfortunately, the lizards ate most of the babies and and a nasty wasp stalked the last three. I thought they were all dead, but then today, I saw a newly hatched queen butterfly hanging on one of the milkweed flowers. She was so beautiful! Her colors were still stunningly bright and the underneath of her wings was sparkling silver in the sunlight.

Since the milkweed didn't get stripped, it's now blooming in beautiful red, orange and yellow and acting as food for the butterflies and moths. Unfortunately, army worms have started invading the butterfly garden, munching on my pink brugmansia leaves, so those are going to be taken care of later today.

The garden I started last winter up by the fence is doing very well. I planted some red sweet potatoes and several of my seedling brugmansias there, as well as a couple of other blooming plants just to see how they would do in the shade. The soil there isn't very fertile, but I'm fertilizing and things are doing pretty well. I'll take more pictures when it's larger, because things are too small to show up well now.

Plants That Grow On Rocks

Four years ago, I planted some coontie seeds I found underneath a plant near the house I roomed in when I first moved to Gainesville. As you may know, coonties grow EXTREMELY slowly, and these babies got no special care, other than an occasional hit of liquid fertilizer. I had always planned on making one into a bonsai, and attempted one last year, only to have it rot. This year, I tried again and it looks like I may have been successful. I'm hoping to take this baby with me when I start living in my van. Since it grows so slowly, and doesn't need much water, it will likely do well in the van, as long as I can get it enough sunshine. Since it was left outside all year, it only has its new leaves from this year, but I sorta like it. If you look closely, you'll see the caudex is lying on a rock above the ground. That's how it grew -- sideways -- so it made a great bonsai. The bowl is one I found out by the dumpster when someone was moving. Electric outlet for scale. :)


Well, that's all for now. I'll do some more catchup posts later. Hope your gardens are all doing well. Feel free to leave comments about your own achievements.

Happy Gardening!

The Saga of the Unruly Banana

The other day I noticed a small green leaf on my window sash. I thought it was just a piece of banana leaf torn off during a thunderstorm, but it didn't dry up and die, it got BIGGER!


Upon further inspection, it turns out that a pup from one of the large banana plant had grown up between the siding and the concrete block wall. YIKES!

I had to do something about it, so I looked at the situation, and found I would have to take out it's mother plant to get it out of there. Not a problem. I was thinking of taking the bananas out anyway.

After taking out the basket hanger and moving a lot of containers to clear the way for it to fall, I pulled it out of the ground by LITERALLY hanging on it until it pulled itself out of the ground. Then I chopped the roots still holding it, chopped the baby away from it, and guided it to fall in the empty space I'd created.

My courtyard is 11 ft. wide, and it was equally as tall, so I angled it so it didn't take out my tomatoes. 

Banana Corm Pieces
Once it was out, I went in and dug around the pup and tried to figure out how to get it out. My first chore was to cut through the trunk to separate the corm from the top, so the top would die. That wasn't much fun, since the trunk was right up against the concrete wall, and I didn't want to damage my saw. I finally managed to do that, then I had to figure out how to get the corm out. I ended up chopping it up and pulling it out one piece at a time. (pic #2- pieces)

So now I had a very large hole and had taken out one of the only things creating any shade in that area. If you've read my blog, you'll know that my courtyard has very little shade, so I'm always trying to create it with something. The bananas were pretty good for that, but now one is gone, so I'll have to bring some plants indoors until I can create more shade. 

Mother Plant in Two Pieces
I also had a very large banana plant that needed to be chopped up and disposed of. By the way, if anybody tells you that a large banana trunk is easy to saw through, they're lying.

I had to cut away the dead leaves before I could even start to saw it into pieces. At first, I cut the bottom half to about four feet, planning to plant it elsewhere. HA! The joke was on me! Just so you'll know, a four-foot section of mature banana with the corm is heavy as hell! 

So, since that wasn't happening, I set about cutting the entire thing into smaller sections that I'll turn into compost. That took  a lot longer than I expected it too, and made me realize I really need a power jigsaw.

Mess in the Yard
This morning, I topped the other large banana in an attempt to create some shade for that area with the leaves that will come out lower to the ground. In the end, I had a pile of leaves and trunk logs along with a big banana top making a mess in the courtyard. (Yes, that's a pencil cactus in the background).



Banana is Planted Here
I wasn't up to any more sawing, so I planted the other corm out in the front yard next to the fence between my and my neighbor's yard. It will probably annoy the neighbors, but TOUGH! There are baby taro plants behind it, and I may need to move those to I can harvest them this winter. 

I'm not quite done yet, but that's it for today. I'm not sure if I should take the other big banana out, or just keep an eye on any pups it sends out so I don't have that problem again. It probably won't get bananas this year, and may die back anyway, so I'm going to just wait and see for now.

At any rate, it's 11 a.m. and I haven't had breakfast yet, so I'm off to cook up some bacon and eggs. 


Happy Gardening!

Garden Diary - April 5, 2018 - Creating a Pollinator Paradise

I'm determined to attract more pollinators to my garden this year. I had planned to plant a bunch of annuals, but missed my chance in the fall, and now I'm just changing gears on that.

I cut back all my milkweeds during the freeze, but most survived and are growing strong with many more branches. I rooted about 25 cuttings in water over the winter. I planted those out into the butterfly bed, so I now have about 38 branches of milkweed. I just pinched them all back to get more branches. I don't even know if they'll bloom in this bed, because it gets only morning sun, but I'm growing them for the monarchs, not for me. I had all my milkweed in different places, but had to move the larvae around from one to another, so I just put them all in one bed so they can get to them all by themselves.


I've also dug up about 18 volunteer vinca seedlings to grow out and plant all around for nectar for the bees and butterflies, and more are coming up in the gardens. These are mostly pink and white, so I may buy some other colors when they get into the stores. Native bees seem to like them a lot. Have a ton of marigold seeds from last year to plant out too. I was going to plant zinnias, but I don't know if it may be too late for those, since they are so susceptible to fungus. I may wait until fall to plant those.

Planted morning glory seeds and am planting cypress vine seeds also, hoping to attract more hummingbirds. Of course, I have my brugmansias and daturas for the night flying moths. I grew some brugs from seed last year, so I'm planting those, all 9 of them, out along the fence, so they can grow with abandon and not have to worry about interfering with the sidewalks. The soil isn't too good up there, but I'm sure they'll do fine if I pile mulch around them and fertilize.

All of my tropical hibiscus died back in the freeze, and while one is coming back strong, the red and peach colored ones only have one little shoot each, so I planted the morning glories so they'll grow up and over the dead branches to provide shade for the gingers and wandering jews underneath. I'm going to miss my pretty hibiscus flowers smiling up over the courtyard wall, but maybe some morning glories will grow up and spill over that wall this year.

In the meantime, I have several Texas Star hibiscus to plant out, one Cranberry hibiscus, and am babying a couple of volunteers of H. radiatus (huge burgundy flowers). I don't think I'm going to grow any H. sabdariffa (sorrel) this year. I need much more than I had to get a decent amount of sepals, and I don't have the room. I may seed some more cranberry hibiscus, but it all depends on how well this one does. It's about a foot tall, and I got most of mine last year by getting cuttings from one plant, so I'll see about that. 

That's all for now. I have a lot of flower seeds I purchased last year that I'll either plant or give away, so stay tuned.

Happy Gardening!

Month-by-Month in North Florida: What to Plant in April (UPDATED for 2018)


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 you can still use starter plants for some, and there are oh so many

Cheapskate Gardening - Lining Wire Baskets, Worm Poop, and Homemade Potting Soil




As most of my gardening friends know, I'm the cheapest of cheapskate gardeners,, and I'm not averse to dumpster diving or curb shopping for gardening supplies. So I decided to do a series on some of my cheapskate gardening methods that let me garden for next to nothing. Enjoy!

Using Available Resources and Buying Cheap

I used to buy bags of compost and mulch, and now I just use what nature gives me by mulching with leaves as well as layering them in potting holes to feed the earthworms, who in turn

Month-by-Month in North Florida: What to Plant in March (UPDATED FOR 2018)



This is one of our prime planting times in North Florida, the time when we plant most of what people consider summer annuals and vegetables. There are still a few hardier winter crops you can plant, but

Garden Diary 2/12/2018: Better Health and a New Garden Plan

So my last post was terribly depressing. My health was so bad then that I was going to give up on gardening completely. Since then, my health has much improved, thanks to medication and a regimen of handfuls of vitamins and supplements every day. With warm weather hereat last, I'm feeling much better about my gardening.

I lost a lot in the freezes, so the last couple of days I've been clearing out