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"Possibility and promise greet me each day as I walk out into my garden. My vigor is renewed when I breathe in the earthiness and feel the dirt between my fingers. My garden is a peaceful spot to refresh my soul." Meems

Welcome to my Central Florida Garden Blog where we garden combining Florida natives, Florida-Friendly plants, and tropicals.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Cowboy-Up With A Pile of Manure

On his way to a horse show my youngest man-child stopped by one day last week with the back of his truck full of some wonderfully-aged horse manure. Thank you, dear child of mine!

He happens to be a real-life cowboy who trains reining horses.

One of the benefits of horse manure in the garden is that it contains many of the micro-nutrients (boron, copper, chlorine iron, manganese, molybdenum, and zinc) that we hear less about while also adding to the composition of the soil. In addition it helps the soil hold moisture and promotes easier, and healthier root growth.

It is suggested never to use fresh manure because it is considered very "hot" (high in nitrogen) and can burn your plants.

Fortunately this delivery was light and airy as it had been decomposing for several months already.

Most of it went on the new berm I'm building on the north side of the back yard. Some of it went into the compost pile ~~ just for fun~~ and several loaded wheelbarrows of it went straight into established planting beds as a top layer.

These are the things that make a gardener joyful, gleeful, and just plain exuberant!!! At the same time the landscape is singing hallelujahs for the added nutrition.
(A BIG shout-out ~and hugs~to my cowboy!)

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Chilly Winter Weather and Veggie Garden Fun

Floridians certainly have had more than our usual share of opportunities to wear our jackets, gloves, and hats this winter. Since January 1 we have had consistently above-average chilly weather cycles.

My favorite little 4 year old helper loves it like I do. So we simply get outdoors and get things done together.

After he planted his own radishes and nasturtiums, he used the labelmaker for marking his pots.

Gotta love it ... organization is a good thing to learn ... the earlier the better.
We had just planted our tomato and pepper seedlings last week. So when the nighttime weather was forecasted to reach near-freezing temps again we decided to cover that one bed. The rest of the beds have either cool season veggies or newly planted seeds in them so they were left to the elements.
My best helper is an eager volunteer to hammer into the ground with the mallet the PVC pipe that will keep the insulator cloth suspended above the plants.

The temperatures didn't drop quite as low as predicted so no damage was done.

We'll continue to enjoy the chilly weather for as long as it hangs on. Afterall, we know it will be ridiculously humid and hot before we know it. But let's not even think about that right now.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Time To Plant Spring Vegetable Seeds

In keeping with our goal to attract more and more beneficial insects to the vegetable garden along with our love for colorful flowers this year purple alyssum, Lobularia maritima was added.
White alyssum is a stand by for edging the beds in the spring garden. It's also been popped into several container gardens for its sweet aroma and soft texture.

Two of the seven beds continue to reap harvests with veggies still growing from the fall season. Mostly lettuces, radish, spinach, and broccoli are left.

Only for some reason the very pretty leaves are minus broccoli heads. I'm still holding out hope with assistance from the abnormally colder nights we're having.

Restoring the vegetable garden has been ongoing over the past several weeks.

Two yards of fresh potting mix was newly shoveled to create raised beds after our well drilling troubles left the previous ones compacted and literally 'a memory' of what was there prior to becoming a construction site.

The few herbs and flowers I salvaged by digging them out and potting them before the heavy trucks ran right through the center of the garden have been planted back into place.

My greatest concern was the need to get things in order in time to plant new spring seeds. It was the plan to try to get them in the ground at least a week prior to last year's planting date. Last week I just barely made that self-imposed deadline and here's what has gone in the ground so far...
Baker Creek Heirloom seeds:
Radish Pink Beauty (these will go into every nook and cranny marking and dividing planting areas as we continue to plant out).
Little Gem Lettuce
Petite Rouge Lettuce
Red Creole Onions
Tokyo Long White-Bunching Onions
Blue Podded Garden Pea
Squash~ Ronde De Nice
Squash~ Early Prolific Straightneck
Carrots~ Danvers Half long

Pinetree Garden Seeds:
Zucchini~ Eightball

Carrot~ Sweet Treat Hybrid
Bean~ Bush Blue Lake 47~ Green Bush Snap

The bromeliad doesn't have anything to do with the vegetable garden except for its cheery greeting as I walk around to the garden. It's worth noting it has been blooming since before Christmas.

There's a bit more work to do in the way of recovery in the veggie garden. And there are more seeds to plant but step by step we are restoring it back to its happy, buzzing, bustling, growing place. Just in time for spring!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Right Plant Right Place::Florida-friendly Best Practices

There couldn't be a better time than right now for Florida gardeners to pay close attention to the selection of plants we have in our yards and gardens. After the record number of cold days (and nights) we've experienced this winter and the loss of some precious foliage and flowers it is an excellent opportunity to take a few steps back and make some fresh assessments. With spring in view perhaps we need to re-evaluate some of our previous choices.

More and more we hear the term Florida-friendly as we search around for viable options suitable for our hot and humid summer climate. These past few years we are acutely aware of the need for more cold hardy plants as well that will survive our occasional frosts and freezes. A Guide To Florida Friendly Landscaping was created by the Florida Yards and Neighborhoods Program which can serve as a helpful tool if you are just getting started on your landscaping or if you are looking to improve your existing conditions.

At Hoe and Shovel over the past few years we have been in the process of moving toward a more naturalistic landscape design at least in parts of the garden.

With the combination of more native plants and non-native but Florida-Friendly materials in use along with removal of more and more lawn area being replaced by planting beds or ground cover we are slowly achieving our goal.

Recognizing that we want to preserve and protect our natural resources to the best of our ability, attract wildlife, and manage responsibly our own little eco-system has made us more aware of the importance of every decision we make concerning our garden.

Learning how to best work with pre-existing natural conditions actually causes less work and maintenance in the long run while increasing the joys and rewards of gardening.

There are so many great resources offering assistance to the novice as well as the veteran gardener when deciding to stick with what works best in Florida's unique and beautiful environment. Rick Brown's website Florida Friendly Plants has some very handy and useful lists every gardener in Florida will want to bookmark and use repeatedly.

Along with a plant database available to search with criteria to match conditions in your landscaping some of his Top Lists for Florida Friendly Gardens include: Top 20 Perennials, Top 20 Drought Tolerant Plants, Top 10 Natives and there are many more available that I've referenced time and again.

Additionally, there are 9 Principles of Florida Friendly Landscaping every Florida gardener will want to learn and integrate into your gardening plans and designs. Florida Yards has also created a plant database and Florida-Friendly interactive yard you might find very helpful.

We still have much to learn and much to do around here. With each new season and each new design we get closer to our goals of developing a peaceful and Florida-friendly habitat that is environmentally responsible.

Incorporating edibles into the garden is considered the icing on the cake around here.

Check back for the soon-to-be-revealed newest planting bed. I've chosen three types of cold-hardy palms and many more cold-hardy (Florida-friendly) foundational plants for a northern exposure.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Possibility of Peaches

Even if by chance not a single peach is ever produced the thrill of these blossoms will be satisfaction enough.

A spindly, woody, fuzzy-budded and delicately pink flowering tree!

Tropic Snow Peach. An excellent moderate low chill (225 hours) white flesh, semi-freestone peach for central Florida and south Texas. Who knew!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Shoveling Lots of Fresh Dirt

Sometimes I wonder if I make up excuses to haul in yards of fresh dirt.

What is not to love about the hopes and even promises all that earthiness brings with it?

It is this time of year when garden projects are well under way that I'm glad we haven't abandoned the big black truck. It surely comes in handy for hauling.

Four yards of fresh potting mix so far on the new planting bed in back.

Although there's one little guy I know who is not going to be happy when the plants are taking up his play area.

He's pretty certain it was created just for his endless digging pleasure.

There have been so many long and detailed posts here lately. We thought it would be nice to give you, dear readers, (and me, too) a little break.

We are diligently putting the veggie garden back together one step at a time and working on the new planting area in the back simultaneously.

One pile of soil at a time... I LOVE February!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Affordable Creation from a Designer Version

When old man winter visits with gusto and leaves a garden bleak and weary it is perfectly legitimate for the gardener to scurry off to the garden center for some colorful fillers.

With bright spots in mind to take the place of dull and dreary; winter blooming flowers will help grab our attention and keep us from staring at so much brittle-brown that dominates the garden otherwise.

But before we start planting there is some prep work to begin. You may remember the mention of measurements and stakes being hammered by the little one and helpers removing lawn grass.

It's a project I've had in mind for a few seasons. An area of grass I knew I wanted to remove eventually. There were design ideas to make it happen floating around in my head for a couple of years. The tropical pathway created last fall melded right into thoughts of this new space.

Then I saw a photo over at my friend Freda Cameron's blog, Defining Your Home Garden and Travel. The instant I scrolled through to it in her post, it all came together in my vision.

New Adirondack chairs had already been ordered in November.

I knew immediately what I could do to make my own space work for me.

With Cameron's permission, it became my inspiration photo.

What struck me initially was the circular brick surround and walkway. The circular brick being what I had envisioned for MY space but cost prohibitive at this time.

Now don't get too excited over those amazing flowers. It isn't the cottagy blooms that came to mind to duplicate. Although they would be glorious.

It was simply seeing that container garden in the midst of a circular design that confirmed to me how my area could work for what I had in mind and within my budget.

A sort of "design on a dime" version.

Getting started we find the center of the space and measure the area where the container would be situated. The container I had picked out is 39" wide and 18" deep. Then we measured out from the center to form the circle 6' in depth in every direction.

All of this was done prior to the hired man power showing up to take out the grass. Using a hose to lay out the outer boundary and then spray paint on the grass marked the outer limits.

With a machine like this handy for sod removal ~~grass could become endangered around here.

The tree is gone (far right side of photo), the grass is gone and the new container is put in place and leveled. And the man power is gone.

When thinking about a substitute for bricks laid so perfectly surrounding the circle and simultaneoulsy directing footsteps to adjoining pathways and seating areas it dictates that all materials used and plantings chosen will necessarily need to keep a low profile.

The grassy area above is the summertime view of that grassy area just removed; a time when garden life is brimming and overflowing. This image (August 2009) not only helps me remember the garden will return but it probably tells a better story of why the centered design must be kept low-lying. (Scrolling down to the very bottom of this blog you can view more photos of this area when grass dominated the landscape).

In lieu of bricks, I'll create my pathway in keeping with the tropical pathway this area feeds into on the far side.

Bales of pinestraw are purchased locally and easily spread for a naturalistic setting.

Keeping in mind ample passage space for carts and wheelbarrows consideration was given for enough room when measuring for the pathway. Placing the pine straw on the outside of the perimeter allows for passage on every side of the planted circle. I'll appreciate also keeping 18" out beyond the container cleared for re-planting and watering access.

Asiatic jasmine is a wonderfully versatile ground cover already in use in a few other locations around Hoe and Shovel. Trachelospermum asiaticum, Asiatic or sometimes called Asian Jasmine has a prostrate, dense growth and will eventually blanket the ground, forming a thick mat of shiny evergreen leaves. Remarkably, it does well in sun or shade. It is cold hardy below freezing and happy in our summer humidity.

This view of its usage in the front lawn gives you an idea of how it joins together carpeting the planted area. This cover is not especially fast growing but given some warmth and time it fills in nicely.

Once the 36 jasmine were planted a yard of pine fines was used to fill in as mulch between the plants.

Now for the fun and color. It's time to put some pretties in the big pot. A few were purchased but several are from cuttings and rootings. Shown here: Euphorbia leucocephala 'Silver Fog' (purchased)and english ivy (rooted from cuttings).

Other plants: Flax lily, lobelia, vinca, and violas (purchased); Iresine blood leaf, red penta, devil's backbone (from cuttings).

I used some left over grey cobblestone pavers for the base under my pot instead of rocks like in the designer version photo.

I'm still debating about whether to paint the new Adirondack chairs a bright color or leave the Cedar wood to age naturally which is the look I am partial to. Any thoughts?

By replacing the grass with plantings, this new area becomes the hub and connection point of four separate planting beds in the back garden. It will be a walk-through between them as well as a seating area and focal point located beyond the pool and screened lanai.

Patience is needed for the end result. It may prove necessary to buy more jasmine when they become available. I wiped out the garden center with this initial purchase. But it's a good start.

I do hope your gardening days arrive soon if they haven't already. We have more projects underway and more plants waiting to go into the ground. I bought my first-ever peach tree and the blooms are enough to swoon over. Stay tuned. Meems

September 2010

Back Garden: October 2010

Louise Philippe: Antique Rose

Tropical Pathway