While I love this template, it's written in an older code that is becoming more and more difficult to manage, so I'm going to be updating this blog with a new look very soon. Stay tuned!



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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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.

Month-by-Month in North Florida: What to Plant in March (UPDATED FOR 2017)

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 I try to get those into the ground as early in the month as possible.

Since there are so many entries for this month, I've made a separate list of those vegetables where March is the absolute last month to plant them. Try to get them into the ground early if you're planting from seed.

Annuals to plant in March in North Florida 

Your cool weather annuals will probably thrive for another month or so if the temps don't get too high, but consider adding some of the warmer season annuals now as well. Check out your local garden centers to see what they are offering.

Angelonia Coleus Cosmos Marigold Zinnia

Bulbs to plant in March in North Florida:

Looking for some beautiful summer blooms? These bulbs will provide that, and cannas and gingers can also provide lovely foliage. You can also plant edible gingers, such as common ginger and turmeric, this month. They grow well in containers, but be sure to have a container large enough for them to spread.

Canna Dahlia Gloriosa lilies Ginger

Last Chance to Plant These Vegetables

While eggplants and peppers are known to be good summer crops in North Florida, the seeds need to be planted by the end of this month, because they need cooler temps to germinate. You can purchase and plant starts later, but I recommend not past April, because they need a chance to establish themselves before the hot weather hits.

Arugula Carrots Eggplant Kohlrabi
Onions, Bunching Peas, Snow or
Peppers Radish

Vegetables to Plant in North Florida in March

It's time to plant some of those veggies that will survive our summers now so they can grow strong enough to survive the heat. If you love your summer watermelons, they go into the ground this month as well.

Beans Cantaloupe Corn Cucumbers
Okra Peas, SouthernSweet Potatoes Squash, Summer
Squash, Winter Swiss Chard TomatoesWatermelon

Lots of possibilities this month to get in a last planting of a few of those cool weather crops and start your warm weather crops.  If you don't want to garden in the summer, southern peas make a great nitrogen-fixing cover crop that is easy-care and can be tilled under in the fall -- after you harvest all those lovely peas, of course.

Happy Gardening!

Garden Diary: March 10, 2017

Triple Yellow Datura
Finally got in the mood and planted some seeds yesterday  and today, but only a few of each. Got some of the seeds from eBay, so hoping they are good. I think I chose good sellers, though. Had conversations with them before I ordered.

Triple Yellow Datura
Double Purple Datura
Hibiscus acetosella (cranberry hibiscus)
Hibiscus sabdariffa (Florida cranberry, Jamaica sorrel - pretty red edible calyxes)

Got some pepper seeds last year from a Gardenweb friend, so planted a few of those.

Fish Pepper
Credit: Smithsonian Website

Fish Pepper - ornamental cayenne. I really hope this one comes up, because it's so beautiful.
Giant Szegedi - pale yellow large sweet pepper
Bell Grande Mix - mixed color sweet peppers
I also transplanted Amazon Lily and Walking Iris out into the south facing bed, which is going to be the bulb & perennial bed. I'm trying to get everything out there into "groups" to make a bigger impact when they bloom.

I'll probably transplant some of these peppers out into the space my Chinese friend gave me in his garden, which is actually a city community garden he had sort of taken over. I think it's getting to be too much for him, though, and he needs some help.

Well, so much for now. Will be doing a lot in the garden the next few weeks, so stay tuned!

Photo Credits:
Triple Yellow Datura Metel by dupee419 CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

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Garden Diary: March 7, 2017

Pigeon Pea Flowers

I've finally started working in the gardens, and so far, I've gotten a lot done. Unfortunately, I am not pleased with the camera on my phone, so don't have a lot of pics for you today. I'm going to have to break down and buy a battery charger and proper batteries for my camera if I want decent pictures.

I took out the papaya today, and replaced it with a rooted limb of the pink angel trumpet (Brugmansia) and a rooted cutting of the Hibiscus radiatus (burgundy flowers). I figured if one wasn't blooming the other would be, so there would always be flowers. Plus, I can keep them trimmed so they don't get higher than the wall and shade the courtyard.

Some things are starting to flower, like the pigeon pea above and this red crown of thorns. The yellow one I left out in the south facing garden made it through the winter fine, so I may put this one in the ground out thre too. It's a pretty plant, but I was thinking of selling it, because it's so painful to work with.

Red Thai Crown of Thorns
The green wandering jew I planted under the hibiscus last year is starting to bloom. I need to go rake up the leaves under there this week, because I don't want to smother the other pretty things like the peacock ginger that will be coming up soon.

I noticed that the border grass on the corner of the walkway was getting trampled. I'm sure it's the neighbors. I've already had the girl tell me it was "unacceptable" that they had to walk single file on the VERY  narrow walkway so as not to crush my plants, so I put this up. Hope they get the message. The hole is to allow water to run through. Yes, this is how the outside garden looks after the winter, but it will soon be gorgeous again.

I'm really glad I took a chance on the SuperSweet 100 cherry tomatoes this year. They are growing like mad and setting dozens of fruits, so I think they will see me through the summer. The Cherokee Purple has sprouted two branches and both are blooming. I started pruning the tomatoes this year, and it's really helped them set more fruit and be more productive.

I have so many plans for the garden this year, but it will be a lot of work, and I've wasted a lot of time this winter doing nothing. Just wasn't motivated, but hopefully, it will go quickly now in the next couple of months.

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Garden Diary: February 12, 2017

Memories of last summer's garden
It's a sad day in the garden. I managed to keep a brugmansia limb with a seed pod alive for months, but today I noticed that the seed pod had gotten mushy and the stem was rotting. I have no idea why this happened, but since the other seed pod didn't make it either, I won't be planting brugs from seed this year. Probably for the best. I have too many plants now.

Another sadness, albeit just a small one, was that the only seed pod that my red butterfly weed has created all year, which I had been carefully watching for weeks, just split open and blew away overnight. I checked it yesterday. It showed no signs of splitting at all. So I cut back that one stem, chopped it into three pieces, and put it in water to root. I have already rooted a few small ones from another red plant, so I should have enough for a nice clump in the butterfly garden. I have yellow butterfly weed in abundance, but the red just didn't do well this year.

On The Veggie Front

Some happy news is that the SuperSweet 100 tomato has several fruits (no, I didn't count them) and is bushing out at the top. The Cherokee Purple has one strong shoot coming out of the bottom that will be the second stem, and the shoot at the very top is putting out blooms. I still have starts of these plants to plant out, but trying to wait until there is no chance of frost. The tiny everglades tomatoes are bearing already. I simply must find time to plant the ones still in the 6-pack. I did pot up the red bell pepper today, but not in its final resting place, just in a 1 gallon for now. The collards and kohlrabi are still disappointing, but I started fertilizing all these plants again last week, so I'm hoping for the best. Carrots and radishes still struggling. I won't be planting those again soon, as much as I love radishes. Sweet potatoes are starting to put out new growth, as are the Phillipine spinach (Talinum fruticosum). The pigeon pea I cut back drastically is putting out new growth, but I'm going to dig that one up and toss it. The smaller ones will stay and be used as chop-and-drop, because I've discovered that shelling the green peas is a PITA and I don't especially like the dried ones.

On The Ornamental Front 

I gathered Spanish moss today and re-built the wire baskets containing the tri-color Queen's Tears bromeliads. I also pulled up the dying giant Xanthasoma elephant ear and tossed it out by the dumpster, just in case anyone wants it. Looks like it was picked up already.

I bought three packs of flower seeds from Dollar Tree the other day, because they have them 4/$1. I got Zinnias "Lilliput Mixed" and "Giants of California Mixed," and "Rose Queen" Cleome. I never had much luck with cleome in SW FL, so I'm hoping it does better here. It's such a wonderful re-seeding plant. I have many other flower seeds that will be planted this year for the butterfly garden, which I'm pretty excited about.

The South-facing outside garden will be strictly for bulbs and perennials, except for the Everglades tomatoes and sweet potatoes grown as ground cover.  I'll find out once I dig it all out whether I actually got any sweet potatoes this year, but I don't thnk so. I also have them growing as ground cover in the courtyard. Once I get my community garden plot from UF, I'll plant them there, but right now, they are strictly ornamental.

In Other News

I've decided that I'm going to start selling a lot of my plants. Of course, this will have to wait until March, because I'm too busy getting ready for my son's visit the end of February, but that's what I'm going to do. All but my very favorite plants and a few houseplants I have for cleaning the air will be sold or given away. The money I make will be used to buy fertilizer, potting soil  and other needed items for the plants that remain.

I had hoped that I could tear out the courtyard and redo it this month, but my son's visit put a halt to those plants. At my age and with my health, I can't do it all anymore. I have to choose one project at a time, since I also still work, and getting ready for his visit is the one I chose this time. March wll be a busy month for me as well, but by the end of the month, all the gardens will be moved, replanted, and set up the way I want them.

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

February gardening in North Florida is generally a time of preparation, cleaning and planning.  Temperatures are still cool and there is still a chance of a hard freeze.

February is also a month of transition. It is the last month to plant a second crop of your fall/winter vegetables. If you didn't get around to planting your fall and winter garden, there are still quite a few cool-weather vegetables that have time to bear before hot weather.

But February is also the month we start looking to our spring gardens, starting seeds indoors for peppers and tomatoes and planting our watermelons, cantaloupes, squash, cucumbers and sweet corn.

Vegetables to plant in North Florida in February:

It's time to plant your melons! Watermelon and cantaloupe can be planted this month. February is the last month to plant Irish potatoes and many of your favorite fall/winter veggies.

* Last month to plant these vegetables.
** First month to plant these vegetables

Cabbage* Cantaloupes**
CarrotsCauliflower*Celery*Chinese Cabbage* Collards* Corn, Sweet**
Cucumbers**Eggplant**Endive/ Escarole*Kale* KohlrabiLettuce*
Mustard*Onions, BunchingPeas, SnowPeppers**Potatoes, Irish*Squash, Summer **
Squash, Winter**Tomatoes**Watermelon**

Annuals to plant in February in North Florida:

Pansies and violas are still going strong in the garden, but in February you can add plants in the dianthus family (pinks, sweet Williams, and carnations) and dusty miller, which look beautiful growing together.

Dianthus Pansy ViolaDusty Miller

Bulbs to plant in February in North Florida:

It's the time of year to plant some of our favorite bulbs here in North Florida. Crinum lilies come in a wide array of colors, shapes and sizes and are a Southern passalong plant. If you want something showy in your garden, add some gorgeous blue Agapanthus, also known as Lily of the Nile. They also come in white, so mix them up for a bold display. Dahlias are native to Mexico, but are hardy to Zone 8, so they do very well in North Florida. Their flowers range from two inches across to dinnerplate size, in a multitude of colors, so if you have room, go crazy with these classic beauties.


Flowering Shrubs and Trees to Plant in February in North Florida:

If you want to choose flowering shrubs for planting to add late winter color to your yard, Red Maple, Spirea and Star Magnolia flower in February.

Only one more month before the freezing weather is gone and gardening begins in earnest here in North Florida! It's hard not to get excited this time of year and plant too early, but remember that there is still that slight chance of a hard freeze, so be patient with the more cold-tender plants so you will not have to start over later in the month.

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Photo Credit: 
Agapanthus By Denis Conrado; el Lavras, Brazilo., CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons

Garden Diary - January 8, 2017: The First Winter Freeze

The first big freeze of 2017 here in N. Florida has left me with a lot of damage  in my tiny garden. I didn't cover anything but one brugmansia with a seed pod on it, because I wanted to see just what could survive a freeze and what couldn't. It seems that the courtyard does not offer as much protection as I had thought, but the south facing fruit wall garden doesn't seem to have had much damage at all, just like last year.

So here are the winners and the losers:

In The Courtyard

Strangely enough, the Cherokee Purple tomato is badly wilted, while the Supersweet 100 next to it seems fine so far (see pic above). Luckily, I have a couple of rooted suckers from the CP, so I can replant that once it gets warmer. By the way, that trellis to the right is one I picked up from beside the dumpster. It has a broken leg and is a bit rusted, but I can fix all that and it will be pretty with some Cardinal Climber planted on it, from seeds I rescued from a plant down the road just recently.

The banana plants sustained major cold damage to the leaves, but I won't know about the fruit until it either turns black and falls off or continues to grow. I don't see how it can survive another cold night, though, and we have many more to come this winter. It would have been nice to have bananas, but it wasn't meant to be.


Tender plants in the courtyard, such as the Phillipine Spinach are wilted, but the milkweed looks fine. I think this is the last hurrah for the giant elephant ear, though. It usually goes completely dormant after the first real freeze, so no great loss there, since I'm taking it out this year anyway. The collards and kohlrabi are fine, if still growing at a snail's pace, and the kohlrabi refuses to bulb.

The Brugmansia Bed

The only plant I covered was the brug with a seed pod, and it still wilted. I cut one limb with a seed pod off and have it in water in the house. I may do the same with the other seed pod branch, because I'd really like to get some seeds. Some parts of the brugs have wilted leaves and some don't One is defiantly still blooming.  They normally die to the ground and reemerge in spring, and they are going to come out and be moved anyway, so I'm not too worried about them.

The oyster plants in the brug bed border all have frozen foliage, which is to be expected since they are Z10 plants, but they have leaves piled around them, so they may come back from the base. I've had that happen many times before in SW FL during freezes. Still, I will probably go dig up and pot the largest clump and cover the others with pots tonight.

The Hibiscus Bed 

The hibiscus seem to be fine, and are still blooming this morning. I'm sure after another night of cold, they will likely drop all their flowers, but that's o.k., because I'm planning on whacking those back severely in February. Everything in the bed underneath seems to be fine, save a few exposed frozen leaves of the wandering jew. Even the shrimp plant survived, but I've taken several cuttings from that in anticipation of its death, which will go into the shadiest part of the new butterfly garden this year.

The South-facing Fruit Wall Bed

Of course, everything in this bed is fine, as usual. Not even the yellow cannas have gone completely dormant. I did see red on the Confederate Rose leaves, and the coleus will probably not survive another night of cold, but that's fine, because it's supposed to go completely dormant anyway. The pigeon pea blooms seem to be frozen, but I can't tell. It's a pretty tough plant. Everything has 3-4 inches of oak leaves protecting its roots, so I don't see anything not surviving the winter, unless we have some strange arctic express or something later on.

So that's it for the first freeze. We are expecting even colder temps tonight, so the bananas and tender things will likely not survive, but that's nature.

Happy Gardening!

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Garden Diary: 2016 - The Experimental Garden Year in Review

2016 was the first full year I had in this space, and as the year comes to an end, I'm looking back on my triumphs, tragedies and what I've learned from this tiny garden. With less than 300 sf to work with, no money to speak off, horrible soil and problems with sun and shade, the learning curve was steep, but I mucked along in my own "do or die" way and had a few triumphs.

Traditional Veggies Were a Bust, but Tropical Veggies Thrived

When I moved here, I had grand plans for growing veggies, but lack of sun quashed that idea, and I ended up getting very little by the way of traditional veggies at all. I did get a few tomatoes, but vowed never to grow them again. HA! I have tomatoes out there growing right now, and the Cherokee Purple and SuperSweet 100 have blooms and a couple of fruits, while the Everglades seedlings both in and out of the ground are doing well. I think the secret is in finding the right time of year to plant them, and moving them to a spot that gets more afternoon sun in the winter.

Some things that seemed to be doing well disappointed, like the Seminole pumpkin which grew a twenty-foot vine that only produced one fruit and died before the fruit could mature. I have it indoors now, trying to see if it will ripen in a sunny window, but I don't hold out much hope. The sweet potatoes grew beautiful vines, but when I went to dig them, I found no potatoes at all.

The big triumph so far of this year was that the banana tree bore fruit. It may turn out to be a tragedy, since the fruit is still in danger of freezing, and isn't mature enough to pick yet.

Another triumph was the pigeon pea,which gave me a decent amount of peas last year, but has grown to over 10 feet tall and  is loaded this year, along with a baby tree I planted from seed this past spring which is 6 feet tall and heavy with peas. Unfortunately, I have discovered I'm not too crazy about pigeon peas, so I'll only grow them as chop-and-drop material and to attract pollinators and give the peas away.

Non-traditional edibles, like edible hibiscus, taro, xanthasoma and Florida spinach (talinum fruticosum) grew exceptionally well, while traditional leaf vegetables like collards and lettuce struggled.

Bees and Butterflies

Last winter, a monarch decided to lay eggs on my milkweed, and one of the larvae pupated on one of the last remaining milkweed leaves. Luckily, it was in a pot, so I ended up bringing it inside during cold snaps to save it, and it finally hatched in early spring. Reading that they would return to their same breeding grounds the next year, I planted more milkweed, and sure enough, one lone monarch returned and laid her eggs. I had about a dozen or more larvae, with half already growing to maturity and going off to find a place to build their cocoons and the others still munching happily along. I don't see any cocoons yet, but I still may find one.

This year, I had many more butterflies and pollinators visit, as they discovered my little patch of flowers. Sulfur butterflies are frequent visitors, and the Cassia bicapsularis I grew from cuttings last year will be planted this year for them to eventually lay eggs on. My favorite butterfly this year, and one that did me the most good, was a tiny little long-tailed skpper who pollinated my butterfly weed so it would make seeds. I also saw a few gulf frittilaries, so I'm going to try to find a passion vine for them to breed on.

On the bee front, a couple of carpenter bees lay claim to my pigeon pea, and chased off many an intruder on their bountiful find. Native bees also loved the pigeon pea, and I had a couple of varieties of those gathering pollen. When the marigolds burst forth with bloom in early fall, there were all sorts of bees and other insects on them. In November, I made my first honeybee sighting, which thrilled me, because there are so many trees around here where they could build hives. I'm hoping to see more in 2017. There was a large cicada killer wasp that came around, but my paper wasps never built a nest, because my neighbor kept spraying them whenever they tried.

Beneficials and Baddies

My Confederate Rose (Hibiscus mutabilis) struggled this year, due to a horrible infestation of whitefly. I fought as hard as I could, but finally gave up the fight and decided to just use systemic insecticide next year. Then, one day, I noticed a ladybug on a leaf, and discovered that she had laid eggs and the larvae were munching happily on the whitefly eggs and larvae. The plant was too far gone for them to do much good, but they cleaned it up rather well, and I'm sure they will be back next year to keep it clean. Therein lies the dilemma, though. If I treat it with systemics, there will be nothing for them to eat, and they may actually be killed. Luckily, the butterfly weed has a ton of aphids, and they seem to be migrating to those, so maybe they'll be o.k.

I fought a bad infestation of army worms on my Brugmansia (angel trumpet) plants this year, going out every evening and every morning to pull them off and drown them. I'm sure they'll be back next year, so I'm prepared to do battle once again. Luckily, the brugs survived to burst forth in a glorious display of blooms in the fall.

I've learned a lot from gardening in this space this year, and although I had some failures, I know what to do and not to do in 2017 now, so the experiment continues with more flowers and a dedicated butterfly garden in the future.My plan is to strip the gardens and start all over, so Subscribe to The Consummate Gardener by Email for more adventures to come!

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

January is one of the coldest months in North Florida, but it's a great month for starting veggies for your spring garden. Put your potatoes in the ground this month, and start some tomatoes from seed or clone some from your existing plants for spring planting. You can also brighten up your landscape with the cute smiling faces of pansies or add a graceful camellia to your flowering shrubs. As the days get longer and winter is upon us, gardening is still going strong in our part of the state.

Preparing For the "Polar Plunge"

It's that time of year, and now we're having our first serious freeze warning. The weatherman is calling for freezing temperatures in North Florida on Thursday and Friday nights. The predicted temperatures keep fluctuating, but it seems

Garden Diary: November 30, 2016

This is a picture of me using leaves to kill grass to expand the garden last year.

 I can't believe it's almost December, and then it's 2017, and I haven't gotten half of the things done that I wanted to do. Thing is, I just got burned out trying to do too much, and now I'm going to relax and concentrate on building the soil in the beds instead of expanding them any more. I'll let all the tender plants die back and reconfigure the bulbs, etc. so they will grow and thrive.

Luckily, I have a lot of leaves around here to use for mulch and soil amendment. Today, I was racing the yard crew to get my elm leaves raked before they came through to mow. The guy who runs the mower on my side of the complex is a good ole' country boy, and if he sees me out there working, he'll just mow slowly or do other areas and come back to my tiny little strip in front of my apartment. He and I have talked, and he likes to garden too, so I was happy to see him on the mower today.

I got all the elm leaves raked today, and got most of the then-fallen oak leaves yesterday. I didn't want to really cover up the gardens yet, so I put the leaves into the courtyard. It looks really strange out there now, but it gets covered in leaves in the fall anyway, because a lot of the oak leaves blow into it. As the outer gardens die down, and there are plenty more to fall. I'll carry these out of the courtyard and put them into those beds, and of course, leave some in here too.

The leaves will keep the earthworms warm and well-fed in the winter. I'll water them tomorrow to mash them down a little. It takes awhile for them to settle in and stop blowing around, but once they mat down, they make a great ground cover.  When they're loose, I worry about spiders crawling over my feet when I walk through them.

I could get many more leaves if I wanted, because this place is full of trees. If I felt like picking out the pine cones, I could get pine straw. I should have picked up Spanish Moss after the storms this summer, but I didn't, so I'll try to get a bit now to put over the top of the leaves to make it a little more attractive. People look at me weird when I start raking and picking up moss, but I don't care. They love my flowers, so they should appreciate how I grow them.

If I won the lottery, I'd buy this place and turn it into a complex for gardeners. Not as much veggies as ornamentals, but still, I'd let them use the land around their apartments to plant whatever they wanted.That isn't going to happen, so I guess I'll just be happy with what I have.

Hope all of you are getting bountiful amounts of leaves for your gardens. Free soil amendment and compost material is never a bad thing.

Happy Gardening!

Month-by-Month in North Florida: What to Plant in December (Updated 2016)

Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, Happy Kwanzaa, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Yule or whatever you celebrate this holiday season. No, you can't plant poinsettias in North Florida this month, but what would December be without them?

Garden Diary - November 20, 2016

Monarch on Tropical Milkweed

I don't think I'm going to get any Monarch babies this year. This butterfly has been hanging around, but I don't see any eggs or larvae yet. I can't bring the plant inside this year, so if they make chrysalises, they'll just