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WGOITG: August 4, 2012

Double Purple Datura
By Meneerke bloem GFDL via Wikimedia Commons

It's been an interesting year for me. After I lost my house and garden last year and moved away, I thought I'd never see any of those plants again. Well, the county took its sweet time taking possession of the house, so my roommate and I went over and took a lot of what was left in the yard. Luckily, some of my favorites were still alive...through some sort of miracle...and I got to dig them up and bring them here. Most lived, some died. Unfortunately, the plum trees didn't make it, but there were lots of other things that did, so I found places for them in Jillaurie's yard. Some are still in pots, and come winter, I'll be planting those somewhere, but it's way too hot to plant them now. But this is what's going on in the garden right now.

Well, no additional veggies have gotten planted here, because it's so hot, neither one of us has been able to get out to do much but weed. The large patch of Malabar Spinach has seen its better days, and most of it has died, but the ones I put on the trellis are doing well. I'm going to try to root some cuttings. Someone on Gardenweb said you can grow it from a leaf. Interesting. One tomato, the Cherokee purple, is hanging on in it's large pot. I planted the bell pepper cuttings into a large pot and they are starting to grow. I stuck 5 in together, so it will be interesting to see what happens there. Sweet potatoes are taking over everything, of course. This year, I'm actually going to harvest them. The Jalepeno died, but I managed to get the last fruit, so I'll be planting more. The Tabasco pepper is going gangbusters, and I also have seedlings that I'm thinking of growing as ornmentals in the front this fall. My friend gave me a pepper I don't know the name of, and a basil with it that I also don't know the name of. It hasn't had any peppers yet, so I'll post pics when it does so I can get an i.d. I also want to plant some of the mini bell pepper seeds this fall to see how they do.

The front yard is doing well. Some of the bromeliads are starting to bloom and put out pups. The giant Crinum I planted is blooming now. I finally got the card reader for the camera, so I'm going to try to get pictures of all this stuff.

That unidentified squash vine turned out to be a canteloupe. There is one tiny fruit on it, and the vine is still growing, so who knows what will happen?

The Confederate Rose that I put into a large terracotta pot is doing well, but needs watering every day in this heat. It's pretty much stopped growing for now, so I'm hoping it will put out some blooms this fall when it cools down. I have four babies I grew from cuttings, but one isn't doing so well. I need to repot the others This is a pic of the type I have. It blooms pink and stays pink, unlike the type that blooms white and turns pink.

Confederate Rose
By Taken by Fanghong CC-BY-2.5 via Wikimedia Commons

I can see that the Aechmea blanchetiana  broms are going to have to be moved to somewhere that they can get more sun. They aren't as orange as I thought they'd be, because they are too shaded under the palm trees. Problem is, I have no idea where to put them. I'll figure it out. "Little Harv" is blooming. I'm so glad I got to rescue this one, because it was one of my favorites, with its beautiful, large silver leaves. Until I can get a picture of mine, there is a great picture at the Zone 10 website. Speaking of broms, I have two pineapple plants that are doing very well, one that isn't doing so well, but it needs to be moved.

The Firebush is taking over the side garden, so I am going to have to try to cut that back a little. It's so beautiful, but they do tend to sprawl and take up space  very quickly.  The red crape myrtles are on their second bloom. I don't know exactly which variety they are, but they're gorgeous. I'm going to be deadheading them to keep them blooming, or at least get one more bloom out of them.

By Quadell CC-BY-3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

The Brugs aren't doing so well. They just hate this heat, plus the dryness has made the mites come back. No blooms so far, but I remember that they usually bloom in the winter and spring, so I'm just fertilizing and watering and hoping for the best. The double purple datura, on the other hand, is going gangbusters! I have quite enough seeds, so I'll probably start deadheading it to get it to bloom more. I need to pot up the Charles Grimaldi into something larger so it will grow and bloom this fall. It's tiny and already has a "Y". This is what it the CG looks like when it's in bloom. I have a Versicolor Peach, but it will never look like this picture, as they don't do too well in S. Florida. Too hot for them.

Versicolor Peach Brugmansia
Wikimedia Public Domain

The tree-form Jatropha that I stuck into the ground is doing well. Obviously, it's rooted, and is now blooming, but not growing a lot. I need to fertilize it more, but it's right there by the datura, so that just sucks up all the fertilizer. I'm thinking I'll move the datura somewhere else this fall so the Jatropha can grow.

That's enough for now. I'll hopefully have real pictures soon.

To Buy or Not to Buy Markdown Plants

I've gotten quite a few bargains from the half-price plant racks at big box stores. If you know what you're doing, you can save big bucks buying markdown plants. Some of them are past redemption and can't be saved, so are just a waste of money. Others can come be brought back to health with just a little time and effort. There are tricks to knowing what plants to take a chance on.  READ MORE...

What Kind of Gardener Are You?

I like to say that gardeners are the best people. I've never met a more giving, loving, caring community. But more than the people you'll meet, you'll learn a lot about yourself in a garden. Being responsible for keeping living things alive and healthy can be a humbling experience. I've discovered some of my best -- and worst -- character traits while,,,   READ MORE...

Growing Tomatoes Year Around in South Florida

Credit: HotBlack at
Imagine having fresh-picked, vine-ripened tomatoes from your garden in February when most of the north is covered in snow. Having gardened in Florida for over 15 years, I've learned more about growing tomatoes in a tropical climate than I ever thought I needed to know. One of the best things I learned, mostly through trial and error, was how to keep tomatoes growing year-around. Oh sure, sometimes there is a freak freeze, and you have to cover them all up and hope for the best, but most of the time, there is nothing to keep you from harvesting luscious, juicy tomatoes in South Florida for 12 months of the year.

Tomato plants provide easy propagation material by putting out shoots called "suckers" in the leaf nodes (where the leaf meets the stems). Called suckers because they suck nutrition from the main plant, it's best to remove them so your plant will produce the largest and healthiest fruit possible. Read Full Article...

God and Weeds

Spanish Needle with seeds
Photo Credit Wie146 / CCSA  2.5 / Wikimedia
(For all my Christian readers, this is tongue-in-cheek. I'm not a Christian, but I was for most of my life and respect the Christian religion. Please don't get all bent out of shape about it.)

I spent some time weeding the past couple of days, and I have come to two conclusions:

1) Spanish needle is the most noxious weed on earth
2) I am totally justified in not worshipping a God who would create Spanish Needle.

I'm now totally convinced that there cannot be a God, or if there is, he isn't a gardener.

Floridian Zone Denial Disorder

Everything is a "disorder" now, so I decided that I must suffer from major FZDD, or Floridian Zone Denial Disorder. I plant things that aren't hardy in my area, then get all upset when they freeze.

Here are some symptoms of FZDD:

1. Inability to accept zone hardiness recommendations. This is characterized by the tendency to "ooh" and "ahh" over catalog items and the inability to keep from ordering things not hardy to your zone. Also includes confusion as to why northern plants can't be brought to Florida and thrive as they did where you came from.

2. Tendency toward "zone push". Characterized by thinking such as "It will be o.k. if I cover it during the cold", or "If it dies, I can get another one next year." Includes the delusion that shade growing will save many northern sun loving plants.

3. Hoarding of blankets, sheets, plastic and other protective gear in order to make vain attempts to save non-hardy zone plants from cold snaps.

4. Excessive container planting, followed by intensive transfer of potted plants to a warmer place (like inside your house) when it gets too cold. This tends to result in making your house a winter jungle, which can only be traversed with care, through very narrow avenues weaving between the pots.

5. Compulsion to make things bloom out of their zone, when a dozen or more people have quoted you horror stories about how they have tried and failed.

6. Weatherphilia, characterized by constant monitoring of weather stations, weather charts, statistical data, and may include having a weather board on your wall with all the charts and data attached. Includes almanacitis, which is a obsession with almanac information, and may include a tendency to collect almanacs from 20 years ago or more.

7. Argumentitive syndrome, characterized by a tendency to contradict and condemn anyone who says you can't grow something in your zone, coupled with an uncanny knowledge of statistical and anecdotal data to back up your opinion.

8. Catalog obssessivitis, characterized by a tendency to order every gardening catalog from every zone in the southern hemisphere, and an inability to refrain from buying dutch bulbs and planting them in zone 10.

9. Extreme mood swings, ranging from excessive elation over a single bloom to crying jags and depression over the death of a plant. Anger over inability to make plants conform to expectations is common, and may result in violent ripping out or chopping down of non-performing specimens, coupled with uncontrollable outbursts of obscenity.

There is no cure for this disorder, but with treatment, a reasonable level of reality can be instilled into the sufferer.

Florida Gardening Month by Month: What to do in June

Coleus is a good choice for summer color.
June is the beginning of the rainy season. It's hot, humid, and wet, as there are usually rainstorms every afternoon. Heat indexes can get into the triple digits during midday, and the air can feel like a sauna.

There is much to be done in the summer garden in South Florida, even some planting. This is the most important planting month for those without irrigation systems. Mother Nature does most of the watering, and plants can get roots established so they can withstand the dry season.

Plant Hot Weather Annuals

There are some annuals that seem to be bulletproof in the torrid Florida sumers. Old favorites like marigold, vinca, torenia and zinnia can be planted this month. Keep in mind that zinnia will have problems with powdery mildew as the summer humidity worsens. Coleus and caladium provide summer color when all other flowers have faded, but require shade from the intense sunlight after midday.

Grafting, Layering, and Rooting Cuttings

June is a great month for propagating plants by mechanical means. Some plants will root just by sticking cuttings into the ground. Make sure to water daily for the first two weeks if there is no rain, and twice a week afterward.

Pruning Hedges

June is the best time to cut back hedges and shrubs, but be careful not to prune back more than 1/3 of the plant. Cloud cover in June will minimize sun scale.

Be sure to remove all dead wood, hollow trunks, and branches that are crossing or rubbing against each other.

June is a busy month in the South Florida garden, so be careful to stay hydrated and do most of your work in the early morning and early evening to avoid heat exhaustion.

Source: A Garden Diary

Florida Gardening 101: Where Can I Get Free Compost and Mulch?

Spring is busting out all over Florida, and minds and turning to gardening. Unfortunately, Florida has some of the worst soil in the world, so you are going to need some amendments. If you're like me, without a compost pile and can't afford to buy bagged compost, there is a free alternative that may be right down the street.

Free compost and mulch from Sarasota County has been a real boon for my garden the last few years. It is delivered to a local park once a week, and I have taken full advantage of it. Soil that was once barren is now rich, black, and crumbly. I use it for potting and building beds. It's great stuff!

Under Florida Yards and Neighborhoods, a branch of the UF/IFAS Florida Friendly Landscaping program, many counties provide free mulch and compost at locations thorughout the county. This is made from the yard waste picked up around the county during the year, and returned to the residents for use in their yards. While this isn't the highest quality compost, it's a great way to add organic matter to our sandy Florida soils. The mulch is not something you'd want to use for looks, but it's great for pathways, or weed control in large areas.

Using these free alternatives to bagged compost and mulch not only saves money, but saves our valuable old growth cypress trees, and frees up landfill space.

Call your county today and find out if they provide free compost and mulch for their residents. In some counties, even though the compost and mulch isn't free, it is sometimes sold for a very reasonable cost.


Florida Friendly Landscaping Site