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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

Change in Gardening & Life Plans

I know I have not done much in this blog for the last couple of months, and I apologize for that. I've been going through a lot of personal stuff, and I have lost my enthusiasm for gardening.

As some of you know, I waited six months to get a community garden plot, but after only a couple of weeks of having it, I gave it back and they graciously returned my money. I have faced the fact that I am now not healthy enough to take care of a big garden. In fact, I'm really burned out

Month-by-Month in North Florida: What to Plant in October

Shasta Daisies
October in North Florida is the time when summer plantings are finished, and it's time to plant your winter crops, and some perennials and bulbs for spring blooms. It's also the last chance to plant strawberries, although you can still plant quite a few herbs. It's the best month to plant

Garden Diary: September 15, 2017

Well, Hurricane Irma has come and gone, and I still have a living room full of plants. I wanted to do some much-needed maintenance before I put them back out, but I've been so exhausted, it didn't get done.

Everything fared well. A few plants got bent over, but I have propped them back up, and they seem to be fine now. Gladly, it hasn't rained for a few days, so maybe I can avoid losing so much to root rot.

I'm going tomorrow to be assigned my

Month-by-Month in North Florida: What to Plant in September

Beautiful calla lilies are wonderful container plants for spring blooms.

September is the main planting month for fall/winter crops in North Florida, so get out your shovels and get to work! All the cole crops can be planted this month, and you still have time to plant bush/pole beans and winter/summer squash although this is the last month to do so. This is also your first month to plant lettuces.

Mid-September is the time to start planting strawberries, in fact,

Garden Diary: August 26, 2017

The Only Triple Datura Bloom So Far in the Butterfly Garden

So, here I am again. I know I've been neglectful of the blog, but summer is such a hard time for me. But  now is fall planting time, so I want to catch you up on what's been happening in the garden.

Peppers - Finally!

As you may remember, I planted pepper seeds last spring, hardly any of which sprouted. I vowed to try again in the fall, which I have, the difference being,

Graden Diary: August 3, 2017

The Little Ruby Alternanthera is Taking Over the Outside Garden
The heat, the heat, the heat --- the rain, the rain, the rain -- that is about all I have to say about this summer so far. Last year's drought had me out watering every day, so I was happy for the rain, but be careful what you wish for!

A Garden Out of Control!

There are plants I'm beginning to regret planting now, because this summer's overabundance of rain has them growing out of control. Plants I relied on for groundcover last year during the dry weather, such as sweet potatoes, wandering jew, and Little Ruby alternanthera, have now gone wild. I spent part of yesterday, out in the drizzle tearing out huge patches of sweet potato vines and the native creeping spiderwort I had thought would be lovely as a ground cover.  The purple wandering jew I dumped out under the hibiscus bushes is threatening to choke out the white wandering jew and the peacock gingers, so I have to get that under control.

The Little Ruby alternanthera is NOT creeping along the ground, but growing so tall I'm going to be forced to yank a lot of that out also, since it's covering up and taking away light and nutrients from other plants.

Rain, Death, and Destruction

In the meantime, some plants are simply rotting from the rain, such as my Ichiban eggplant, which I cut back due to fungus caused by the distinct lack of airflow in the courtyard. Now it's stayed so wet that it's starting to get root rot, and I haven't had time to save seeds from it yet. The bell peppers, which like it a bit drier, are also struggling and have had to be cut back drastically to try to save them. The chaya cutting I planted in the new garden by the fence rotted very quickly, which surprised me since it had several leaves and was growing nicely. I have plenty of other chaya I can take cuttings from, though, so not a problem. The Taro I planted in the courtyard are evidently in a space that is too wet, and refuse to grow, while the ones I planted in the butterfly garden are thriving.

Plants That Love the Rain

Luckily, some of the plants are loving the rain and heat, and are thriving. The perennial hibiscus are doing well, especially the H. sabdariffa, which did nothing last year. I have four plants now growing with great abandon, so I'm looking forward to a nice crop of sepals to dry for tea. The cranberry hibiscus are also doing fairly well, but aren't large enough to harvest leaves from. I've managed to get several cuttings from the three plants that survived. I have a couple of the H. radiatus plants that are growing, but not thriving.

The daturas are liking the rain, which is odd, since they usually like it dry. The triple yellow daturas are growing and one is setting buds, and I have one double purple which is dong well in a container, although the ones out in the gardens seem to be languishing. The poor little single LeFleur lilac was drowned after I put it into a larger pot, but luckily, I have more seeds.

And of course, the bananas are flourishing with all this moisture.

So that's it for this update. Due to the outrageous heat, I've decided to put off all but the most necessary maintenance until fall.

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

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.

The heat has been unbearable lately, but at least there is rain this year. I'm waiting to hear from the UF community garden about the availability of my garden plot there, so I will be starting my seeds in 3-inch pots so they will have room to grow until then. It will probably be September before I can get in, so they'll be pretty well established by then.

Vegetables to Plant in August

* last month to plant this vegetable

Beans: bush
& pole
Lima Beans* Beets Broccoli Brussels
Cabbage Carrots Cauliflower Celery Chinese
Collards Cucumbers* Eggplant*Endive/
Mustard Onions,
Peppers* Summer
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.


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 8, 2017

It's been awhile since I've updated you on the garden, but I don't do a lot in the summer. I was crazy busy in June, so didn't even get a June Month-to-Month post up.

Garden Changes 

I tore out two of the brugmansias (angel trumpets) because who really needs 3 of the same kind of plant? Thought about giving them away, but it's really not a good time to transplant, so didn't do that.

In their place, I put a triple yellow datura, a double purple datura, a Hibiscus sabdariffa (sorrel or Florida cranberry) and a talinum fruticosum. Also added a few marigolds, but the snails made short work of them, so I added some white vincas and more butterfly weed. That bed has quite a bit of butterfly weed in it already, so it should be happy there. I just stuck sticks of it into the ground, but they all rooted, so it should be beautiful when they all bloom in the fall.

The courtyard plants are doing well. Of course, the Cherokee Purple tomato died, and I replaced it with some regrown bunching onions and a Texas Star hibiscus baby -- the only one that came up from seed I planted way back in May. There was so much rain that the SuperSweet 100 tomato in the 5-gallon bucket also died, but I had another out in another spot that wasn't doing well, so I transplanted it and it's starting to grow now. I also squeezed some seeds of one ripe fruit into the pot, which also grew. 

The yard-long beans are climbing their trellis and now putting out a few beans every few days. I like them, and will definitely be planting more of these in the fall. I've already saved some seeds from "hidden" pods that I found dried out. They are growing in a pot now, and I'm sure they've grown into the ground, but that's not a very good location in the corner with all the rocks, so maybe I'll try a larger pot this fall and plant more of them.

The Ice Cream bananas are doing exceptionally well, and have put out three pups, two of which are growing like mad and one new one that is just taking off. I'm hoping for a crop on two of the adults this year, but we'll see.

Bell peppers have been iffy. The NOID red pepper put out two fruits, then lost all its leaves, but it's coming back out now. The smaller Belle Grande survivor is struggling. I put it into a new pot with different soil, and buried it a bit deeper to try to get it to make more roots, since it is wilting badly every day. It has bloomed, but no fruits yet. On a good note, the Cubanelle has taken off, is growing like mad and has several fruits on it.

The Ichiban eggplant is doing o.k., but has also suffered with the excessive rain. I got one fruit off of it, and it took its time putting out another, which is growing well. I think I may have another coming.

Not much flowering. The angel trumpet put out one last shower of blooms, but I suppose I'll have to wait until fall for more. Vincas in the South-facing bed are about the only things doing well. Marigolds I planted in June are just now starting to put out a few blooms. They'll be gorgeous in the fall, so I'm being patient. The daturas I planted in the South garden are growing slowly, so I've started fertilizing them with Miracle Gro once a week to try to push them to grow faster. I know there are earthworms in that garden, but I think it's so hot, they stay very deep and the plants don't get the nutrients, so I may have to start fertilizing the whole bed.

The new beds are doing well, and everything is growing. The lemon grass, of course, is taking over everything, so I'll have to harvest some for tea soon. The hibiscus in the right bed are growing like mad since this picture was taken. There is a H. sabdariffa on the left and a Texas Star on the right. Marigolds are starting to bloom a bit, and the Dioscorea alata is winding up and through the fence. Of course, it will die down in the winter, and I'll see if there is a root worth harvesting.

The seedlings are doing o.k. I need to put the double butterfly pea seedlings in a pot so they can grow more. Of course, none of the other seeds I planted in the 6-packs even sprouted, but I'm leaving them there hoping against all hope something will eventually come up.

I took cuttings of the Cranberry Hibiscus that came up in one of the smaller pots and grew well, and they are rooting in water in the front window. I only got two plants out of 10 I planted, so I'm trying to at least multiply them. This one is doing o.k. in the South garden and another rooted cutting is in the brugmansia bed planted by the triple yellow datura. It seems to be doing o.k., so I should have at least three plants. 

Lots more has been happening, but I'll stop here. All in all, the gardens are doing well despite all the rain and heat. I'm harvesting some greens and beans and am generally happy with everything for now.

Hope all your gardens are doing well too! Tell me about them in the comments, if you like.

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Month by Month in North Florida: What to Plant in July

July is a month of anticipation in North Florida, because most of our fall/winter crops are planted in August. There are only a few veggies you can start from seed in July, but there is still time to put larger plants in the ground. You can usually find veggies such as peppers and tomatoes in sizes from 3-inch to 1 gallon pots, or sometimes even larger at nurseries and big box stores.

Time to Start Pumpkins and Cucumbers

Early July (before the 15th) is the time to start your pumpkin. Plant them directly into the ground, because squash family plants do not like to be moved. For the smaller decorative or personal pumpkins, save space by growing them up a strong trellis. This will also keep soil-borne insects from attacking them.

Cucumbers can also be started in July, and again, I would suggest planting directly into the ground and trellising them. You can also wait and plant them in August, but it never hurts to have an early start, so if they don't grow well, you still have time to replant.

Starting Tomatoes for Fall

Tomato seeds should be started indoors now for fall planting. Keep them indoors until they are around 4 weeks old, acclimating them slowly outdoors for a few hours a day. I always start putting mine in shade first, then semi-shade, then morning sun before exposing them to the harsh summer sun. It should take about 2 weeks to acclimate them.

Southern Peas

There is still time for one more planting of Southern peas, also called cowpeas or field peas. There are many varieties of these easy-to-grow nitrogen fixing legumes, so try a few new ones if you have space. If you're growing okra, plant some of the climbing varieties underneath them for nitrogen fixing and free trellising. These are great companion plants for heavy feeders such as eggplant.

Planting from Starts 

Eggplant and peppers are best planted from starts if you want a late summer crop; however, you can now start pepper seeds indoors to plant out in the fall. I usually start my bell peppers indoors in July and move them into 3-inch pots once they have their second set of leaves. This will keep them going until you plant them out or move them up to larger pots in August.

Cherry tomatoes will also do well from starts, the bigger the better. I suggest either buying small starts and putting them into containers or buying 1-gallon or larger starts to put directly into the ground.

Watch out for Everglades tomatoes starting to fail in the heat, and be sure to gather seeds, which you can start now for a fall crop. I like to just squirt the seeds out into a 1 gallon pot, where they will come up and start growing again. You don't have to take great pains to get these plants to grow.

Ornamentals to Plant in North Florida in July

There aren't a lot of annuals that will stand being planted or transplanted during the July heat. It's best just to keep your present annuals watered well and look forward to planting more in the fall.

Bulbs of butterfly lily, gladiolus and society garlic can be planted in July.

Preparing the Garden for Fall Planting

Late July is a good time to start preparing the garden for fall planting, especially if you have solarized, planted a cover crop or left it fallow over the summer. Although the heat is oppressive, I usually work very early in the morning or later in the evening (be sure to wear mosquito repellent) to get things done, sometimes just 10 minutes at a time.

Pull weeds and turn more organic matter into the soil. Check the pH and adjust accordingly with whatever amendments are necessary. If you aren't going to plant right away, it's a good idea to place cardboard over the garden to keep weeds from growing back.

July is a tough, hot month for North Florida gardening, but there are still things to plant and things to do, so don't give up on the garden yet!

Happy Gardening!

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