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Off Topic: A Tribute To My Father, and My Biggest Regret

 
Been thinking about my father today. He was an alcoholic whose drinking made our lives very difficult, but he was a gentle and kind man, much beloved by everyone he met. I learned a lot from him, and I miss him so much.
 
There are so many things I would say to him if I could only go back. I was a wild child in my late teens, early 20s. He pulled me out of a lot of scrapes, and stood by me a lot more than my mother ever did. 
 
He was the one who walked me to every new school when we moved, and took me everywhere I needed to go. He was the one who came to visit me when I was in the hospital, not my mom. He was the one who paid my rent when I was in college. He was the one who bought my older son his first bike and taught him to ride, because I was always working and didn't have time or money. He was the one who bought me a car seat so I could bring my younger son home from the hospital, because I had no money. He was the one who paid for day care for my sons so I could work. He was the one who bought me clothes when I needed them for a new job.
 
He was the one who encouraged my gardening, and bought me tools I still use to this day. He asked me one Christmas what I wanted, and I said "A hoe." He laughed and said "Doesn't everybody?" I was 30, and realized that was the moment he had finally realized I was an adult. 
 
He was a certified genius with an IQ of 160 who was invited to Mensa, but wouldn't join. He was an army Major who fought in WWII, and that is what messed him up so much that he became an alcoholic. He was a Citadel honor graduate who was honored by them in his later years. I don't even know what for. I wish I did. 
 
When I was a young child, 4 or 5, I had trouble sleeping. My mom would get mad at me, but my Daddy would put me into bed between the two of them, and we would sing. He had a beautiful baritone voice, my mom had a beautiful voice as well. We would sing spirituals; Down by the Riverside, The Old Rugged Cross, and more. That's how I learned to sing. I would fall asleep on his shoulder with his arm around me, and he would carry me back to my bed.
 
When I would get upset about something, he would ask "Can you change it?" If the answer was "yes," he would say "Then do it." If the answer was "no," he would say "Then stop worrying about it." He told me that we are always exactly where we are supposed to be in our lives at any moment. I didn't understand, until I got older and realized that in order to move forward, you have to learn the lessons from where you are.
 
He was funny, loved to tell jokes, and I got my wry sense of humor from him. I also got my penchant for speaking my mind, except he was much kinder when he spoke his.
 
I inherited his intelligence, and I look just like him, but I am not nearly as good a person as he was. Not even close.
 
I'm so sorry I did not treat him better. Maybe if I had, he wouldn't have drunk so much, if I had just helped him instead of being such a bad daughter.
 
I still talk to him when my life is turning upside down, and somehow, I feel like he's there, and he listens.
 
If you're somehow listening, Daddy, I'm so sorry. The one thing I can't change is the one thing I'll regret the rest of my life.

Edibles Planted In The Garden, May 2020

Doesn't look like an edible? Keep reading to find out what it is.


I decided last year I was going to transition over from ornamentals to edibles in my gardens. Having very little gardening space, and even less full sun, it's been a challenge for sure. I've tried a few experiments over the years, some have succeeded and some have failed. Some did o.k., but needed more sun, so turned out to be gangly and not produce well. This year, I'm being a little bit smarter about it. I'm getting rid of a lot of the ornamentals and replacing them with edibles, opening up a whole new area that has the most afternoon sun, and trying new crops I've never tried before with any seriousness.

These are the edibles in my garden this year. Some are only tiny baby seedlings so far, but they'll start growing well soon, hopefully. Some are just grown from store-bought plants. Some may never do a thing, but some are already bearing, so that's something to celebrate.

Figs

I forget it it was 3 or 4 years ago, a friend sent me three each of three varieties of fig tree cuttings.  I killed all but two of them, probably by over-watering, but two survived and are growing and bearing. They bore a little last year, but this year, they're doing much better. The varieties are Settler's Fig (Celeste, probably) and Marseilles VS (black - very sweet). The Celeste is in a ten-gallon pot, and the Marseilles VS is in a 7 gallon pot, but they still seem to be doing well, so I may put off moving the Marseilles into a larger pot until fall.

Herbs

I planned to grow a lot more herbs this year, but got lazy. I'll try again in the fall. The ones I have going now are:
  • Rosemary - 11 rooted cuttings - trade
  • Basil - Mildew Resistant - trade
  • Peppermint - trade
  • Chocolate mint - trade
  • Turmeric - gift from a friend
  • Lemon grass
  • Shiso - can be used dried as an herb or fresh in salads.

Peppers - all grown from seed

  • Sweet banana (2)
  • Cubanelle (2)
  • Poblano (Ancho) (3)
  • Red, orange and yellow bell peppers - just planted a few seeds from store bought. Not sure they'll even come up.
  • various ornamental peppers for bonchi

Tomatoes

  • Cherokee Purple (1)
  • Homestead (3)
  • Gardener's Delight (2)
  • Everglades (1)
  • NOID plum tomato & small orange cherry - experiments from a pack of specialty salad tomatoes

Fruits

  • Banana - Orinoco - I'm torn as to whether to keep this banana or take it out. I really don't like the bananas it bears, and it takes up too much space. There is a variety that is more dwarf and bears regular size bananas that I may try to trade for.
  • Papayas (3) hoping for fruit this year. The large one has a fruit, but I think it already has worms. Originally grew them for shade in that area, but some more seedlings came up last year and made it through the winter, so I'll see what they do.
  • Strawberry - this has been a disappointment year after year. I don't know why I keep it.
  • Lemon tree - seed grown 4 years ago, I'm making it into a bonsai just to see what will happen. I never expect to get fruit from it 
  • Elderberry - first year bearing any appreciable amount. Hoping squirrels don't get them.
  • Loquat - just a seedling, but it's 3 years old now. May turn out to be barren or sour. I thought about taking it completely out, but if I stay here long enough, I'd like to see how it does.
  • Avocado (noid) - volunteer from a discarded seed. This is its third year, and it's still going, so we'll see.
  • Dragon fruit - I have one small one grown from seed (white inside) and one grown from a cutting I got in a trade that is supposed to be red inside. Not sure I'm going to keep either of them, because of lack of space, and it will take them years to bear.

Beans and Peas

  • Yard-long  - 7 plants, maybe more. Things that look like them are coming up in various places from last year.
  • Scarlett Runner - I planted six seeds, and interspersed them with more long beans, but I don't know what is actually coming up, so I'll see what happens. I'm told scarlet runners don't do well in the summer here, so may end up replanting something else.
  • Kentucky Wonder (7) - doing extremely well.
  • Pigeon Pea - several small trees planted. Using the largest as chop and drop now due to squirrels stripping the peas off. Planted a couple over by the fence where they run just for them so maybe they'll leave mine alone.

Other Veggies

  • Okra - had to plant these twice, but about 10 have come up.
  • Sweet potatoes - I can't ever get potatoes because of roots and lack of sun, so I just use them as ground cover and eat the leaves
  • Jerusalem artichoke - found a few tiny tuber bits when digging up the bed where they used to grow, so I planted them. So far, only one has come up.
  • Eggplant - just planted seeds from store-bought plant.

Tropical veggies

  • Potato mint - thought it had all died last year, but started coming up all over the yard, so hoping for a good crop this year.
  • Malabar spinach (6) - might be too many, but I love it and could eat it every day.
  • Taro (eddoe) - I don't usually get a lot out of these, but they're just grown for fun and because the leaves are pretty. If I tried hard enough, I could get a lot of food out of them.
  • Cranberry hibiscus - leaves make good tea and are great in salads
  • Hibiscus sabdariffa (Florida cranberry) - found some old seeds and planted them. I have about 5 that came up and survived, so I'll find a place for them.
  • Winged yam - Dioscorea alata. This will be the first year I'll dig the roots. Will be interesting to see how big they are. 
  • Molokhia (Egyptian Spinach) - actually haven't planted this yet, but will be this week. I don't know where I'll put it, because it grows into a shrub. I just wanted another summer green.
  • Chaya - I have four plants now of various sizes. I had to cut the huge one back, and may have to take it out. I love this for pot greens in the summer.

Weird Stuff

Now to the strange plant in the picture up top. I got a Bromelia pinguin in a trade. It's a form of bromeliad that grows wild around Florida, get very large and has dangerous long, spiky leaves. It supposedly has an edible fruit. I have no idea where I'm going to put it where it won't hurt anyone. I may take it down and plant it in the woods behind the community garden, where everyone else tosses their bromeliads.

So that's it. I know it doesn't sound like a very productive or even sensible garden, but you have to start somewhere and see what does well. In the fall, I'll try different things, but starting this late, this was about all I could come up with.

Happy Gardening!

Garden Diary: February 16, 2020


Giant Peace Lily in from the cold

NOTE: This is a post I put into draft back in February and never finished, so here it is, as far as I got with it.

This is the most frustrating time of year for me. I want to get out and clean and trim, but the possibility that we'll have another freeze before the month is out keeps me from doing it. My garden just looks awful! But because of the mild winter so far, things that should have died back never did, like my Confederate Rose and Brugmansias. I almost hope we have a freeze to knock them back. I wanted them dormant so I could dig them up and move them.

After my neighbors tried to destroy my velvet bean vine, I decided to just take it out. I planted one of my Cherokee Purple plants in that pot, so I hope it does well. It gets afternoon sun, boosted by the reflection against the light-colored wall, and my very first Cherokee Purple did pretty well there when I first moved here. Of course, without full sun, I didn't get as many tomatoes, but I'm only one person, so it didn't matter. I have one other that I'll plant in a spot that gets the most sun in the yard. I have no full sun.

All the tropical milkweed and red shrimp plant are coming out this year. I'll probably pot up a few to sell, and give the rest away as "you dig." That area gets morning and a bit of midday sun, and I'll probably plant bush beans there.

I cut back the red hibiscus that never blooms, and also cut back the elderberry.

Garden Diary May 16, 2020 - Big Garden Changes in the Age of Coronavirus

I'm sorry I haven't posted in awhile, and I don't have time right now to post pictures, but here's a bit of what's been happening lately in the gardens.

I've been trying to get rid of a lot of my excess plants. Since I can't have my yearly plant sale due to the coronavirus, I've been giving away a lot of my plants. I won't give away the nicest or most valuable of them, so I'm looking at ways to have a safe sale with social distancing.

I'm trying to plant more edibles, so I've taken out some of the ornamentals to that effect. I still have a lot of ornamentals, don't get me wrong, but I'm planting edibles in and amongst them, and making special areas just for more edible plants.

In that vein, I'm completely redoing the courtyard. The figs are getting rather large now, and I need to give them more space to grow. I was going to repot the Marseilles VS, but with it being hard for me to get potting soil right now, I decided to use what I have left to plant another tomato and some peppers.

I had bought some seed starter mix from Dollar Tree -- won't ever do that again! Most of the seeds either didn't come up or came up and quickly died. I think it's contaminated with herbicide. I did manage to get a few of my pepper seeds to live, and one or two each of Homestead tomato and a variety of cherry I've never heard of before called Gardener's Delight. It seems to be a very popular variety, so funny I've never heard of it. Anyway, it was the last pack of cherry tomato left at Dollar General, so I'm going to try it. I'm also going to try to plant some seeds from some store-bought "gourmet" cherries. There are some tiny golds, a large red, and some tear drop shaped bi-colored that is very tasty. We'll see what happens with those.

Yesterday, I ripped out my Christmas Cassia (Cassia bicapsularis), which was way too gangly and ugly. I've been getting rid of butterfly larval plants and trying to plant more nectar plants, but this one was replaced with a firespike for the hummingbirds. I took out all the Asclepias and red shrimp plants from the butterfly garden earlier this year, with the intention of growing herbs, but so far, I haven't gotten around to that.

I added an elderberry for the bees and butterflies last year, and this year, it's blooming like crazy. Sadly, I had to cut back my large pigeon pea because it was being stripped bare by a rampaging squirrel. I don't know what to do about the squirrel. He's the first destructive squirrel I've had around here. I think the neighbor feeds him, which makes him think my yard is also free rein. I may eventually have to capture him and relocate him.

I cut back my largest Chaya yesterday also. I want to take out the banana that is behind it, and it was in the way. Hopefully, I will be able to get the banana out without doing much damage to the garden. It will be a big chore, and I'll have to bring my tender shade-loving tropicals inside until I can create more shade for them, but the banana has been "walking" for years -- getting closer and closer to the shade table, so it really has to go. Once it's gone, I'll put more chaya and pigeon peas in a more convenient place to create quick shade.

Enough for now. I'm just trying to keep a record. I don't really expect anyone to read this entire thing. I'll try to make some more interesting posts in the future.

Happy Gardening!