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Mysterious times

As spring arrived – after the late March refreeze that killed my pear blossoms, fig leaves, orange stems and fooled the usually infallible pecan trees – these strange stalks pushed up. I must have planted SOMETHING in this bed. I have irises, crinum lilies, gloriosa lilies, stokesias and agapanthas in this bed. And now I have these odd, unidentified bulbs. They appear to be a walking variety. I like them very much. They are strange, unique and uncommon.

My bee hive has gone from a feeble, anemic cluster of bees occupying a brood box but lacking brood cells, larvae, pollen stores and honey. As last summer closed, I was uncertain if the hive would survive. But, I relocated them to a smaller box – and I fed them. A lot. And they rebounded. The colony is quite robust and active. I added a second super for honey storage and a green drone frame to try and mitigate varroa mite reproduction. And today, it is possible that the hive split and part of the colony swarmed away.

They didn’t go far. As I walked out to check on the newer, feral, cut-out colony I installed Saturday, I kept hearing bees zinging past me is all directions. I looked down and found a puddle of bees on the ground.

I was determined to catch this swarm and relocate them into a new box. I had just bought a Nuk. It’s not yet painted . I swabbed the inside with lemongrass extract and swept the bees into the hive. They marched right in.

I found the queen in a ball of attendants still in the grass and dropped her in the top of the box. Now I have three hives. And the honey is starting to flow. Time to upgrade to deep brood boxes. Dadant is going to get all my extra money this month.

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Drip line irrigation

Macaroni projectWhen the house was built, an irrigation system was placed but like most sprinklers, the focus was on keeping a green lawn. I honestly don’t care about a green lawn. My gardening philosophy is benign neglect and my lawn – such that it is – is bahia grass, a native species and it either endures the frost in the winter and the drough in the summer or it gets replaced by wild “flowers” and weeds. The bees are more please with the weeds and their many flowers than the grass anyways.

So, when I inquired with an irrigation company – an independent guy – about reworking my Rainbird zones, he quoted me an impressive number. Being the determined (re: hardheaded) person I am, I set about finding my own solution.

Back in the winter, we made a drip irrigation system using flexible tubing but it laid upon the ground and was a constant target for the lawn mowers. Then we got a dog and Ginger thought the tubing was her giant chew toy. She effectively destroyed that system, which worked reasonably well.

Back to the drawing board.

I had leftover PVC pipe in the garage from the original install. A repurpose/reuser project beckoned. And hence, this irrigation system was born. It is not complete. It is a two weekend project but you get the idea.

 

 

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Fairy Tales

Rain lilies with bee buttAfter a few days of heavy rain, especially if their is dense lightening strikes, we are blessed with the emergence of Rain Lilies, sometimes called Fairy Lilies. These small pale pink flowers spring up overnight along roadsides. They are the Zephyanthes and they belong to the amaryllis family. The flowers are hardy down to Zone 11 and supposedly come in white, pinks, yellows. I remember them all along the front of Cutler Ridge pool and they were always only pink. They are a flower of my childhood. The stem is thick like those of bulbs. The flowers do not last long, their spray of fairy tale pink along the swale beside the road is brief. They are considered native and they self-propagate. These are mine.

Pink rain lilies Rain lily Rain lily - close up

Rain Lilies

 

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Leeks

My approach to gardening is benign neglect. The outcome of such loving disregard is that sometimes things behave in an unexpected and undocumented manner. Leeks, apparently, are not supposed to self-propagate.
Leeks
I bought perennial leeks from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange in November 2012. Those original leeks self-propagated and I replanted those pups. This past fall, I planted the now THIRD generation of those original bulbs. Yesterday, I harvested the remainder of the leeks and pulled away many of the pups.
Leek pupsI replanted some for myself. I had such an abundance, I shared with two people in the Grow Gainseville! Facebook group. The leek lives on. I spent a fair amount of yesterday harvesting, trimming, cleaning and cutting leeks in preparation for freezing.
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I love my Seal-a-Meal contraption.
Leeks for the freezer
I also took the chopped off root structure and suspended them in mason jars to see if I could regrow leeks from those roots in the way we all regrew carrots from cut off carrot greens.
Leek roots

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Raspberry dreams

My sister says, “I like to plant and grow what I like to eat.” I agree. I like to eat raspberries. When a 1/4 pint is $4 at the market, growing my own seems ideal. Growing my own also means raspberry jam: berries, sugar and pectin. That is winning. Unlike blackberries, at least my wild variety of blackberries, that grow in mounded, throny meanness, raspberries need to grow vertically. I found a great image on Pinterest for a raspberry trellis and was determined to make my own.
Pinterest raspberry
So, last March, I single-handedly built my own raspberry trellis. I did a great job if I do say so. All level and sturdy.
Biddan berry trellis
I even bought some raspberry canes at Lowe’s but they were not ideal for my zone and failed. So I waited patiently, an ordered (in August 2014) raspberry canes from Nourse Farms.
Raspberry roots
They sold a variety cultivated especially for my zone. Again, winning! They even offer planting guidance through their videos.


I feel very confident I will have raspberries in the fall.

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Beehive

Late Wednesday afternoon, I added a second box to the beehive. The boys and girls are active and the hive seems to be thriving. I encountered bees in the garden on the tomatoes and cucumber blossoms. The are all over the asters and wild daisies. But more than anything they are all over the blackberries.

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I am slowly planting monkey grass to define the flower beds around the house. Now that it’s spring, it’s time to re-mulch the beds, too. I prefer pine straw mulch. It breaks down fast but is inexpensive and gives the yard a fresh look so quickly. I have used peanut hull mulch, too but spreading 10-15 cubic yards of peanut hull mulch is very, very labor intensive. It lasts longer but is costs more and I pay a hefty personal price. I am still working on the exact calculation of pine straw bails needed to mulch all the beds. This time I ordered 50 bales but I think I will need 10 more. I mulched all the trees on the swale around the lot, the pecan trees, the rose bed and the birch tree bed. What is left is the chickasaw plum/camellia bed and the Confederate jasmine wall. Oh, and the hydrangea bed. Yes, 10 more bales. Next weekend. Cuz I am tired. Daylily bed Monkey grass borderRear Entrance Swale Rise bed Bearded iris

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Irises

The irises have started blooming. They are lovely, brilliant and delicate. They close up at night and once they are done blooming their petals curl up like the Wicked Witch of the East’s feet in the Wizard of Oz after the house falls on her.

Seminole

Seminole

Iris Iris Iris Iris Iris Iris

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Spring has sprung

Well, as the lore says, winter is over when the pecan trees bud out. My pecans have budded, the pears have set flowers along with the peach, chickasaw plum and the ornamental Japanese purple leaf maple. The figs have started to show new buds and the newly planted raspberry canes have begun to put out new shoots.

Raspberry caneI went to the Kanapaha Garden Festival Saturday and came home with a new native azalea.

Native AzaleaI also got a camellia japonica, the pink perfection variety.

Camellia, pink perfectionI bought four new agapanthus and two new repeating day lilies: the Off to See the Wizard and the Sparks Blue Bayou. Both of these daylilies have purple and blue in them, which will be a nice addition to a day lily bed heavy in apricots, oranges, lemon yellows and ruffled creams. Then as I walked around the yard, I started spying new spring flowers on current residents, like th flattened ajuga being crowded out by the sedum at the front door and the clover, tenaciously growing up in the cracks between the pavers.

Ajuga, floweringClover

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Taking Stock

It is finally sunny with a perfect spring temperature of 82F. After 5 straight days of sunlessness, raining and cold with temps rarely above 55F and in the 30F at night – which for Florida is exceptionally rare and annoying – the weather is a greatly welcomed respite. I walked the property taking stock. We’d had a warming spell about a month ago and I was (too) bold and planted my seed starts that I had been nurturing since late December. I transplanted four varieties of cucumbers in my search for the perfect pickle. I planted my pasting tomatoes with the goal of my own canned tomato paste and sauce. I planted peppers and cabbage and basil. I even planted my bush beans.

All of it is dead. A harsh eight hour frost last Wednesday night/Thursday morning killed everything. Tomorrow, I will simply sow seeds right into the ground and start anew. Given that this is my second gardening season, I must accept the learning curve.

The olives fared this winter much better and there are only a few browned leaves as opposed to extensive browned branches last year. One of the six pecan trees planted last February has officially died or rather, I am declaring the death official. I’ve long suspected it had died when it stopped leaving. I will need to get a replacement tree. All three pears, which are all different varieties are leafing and the sand pear has flowers. I am excited since that is the only pear I have designs for use in my conserve. The peach is also flowering but it is a lopsided tree after having lost its main left side of branches last year to frost damage. The chickasaw plum has leaf buds but no flowers yet. That tree is going to be fun to watch and if I get fruit, to make plum jam. The blueberries are on the verge of exploding into green and much to my surprise and pleasure, the raspberry canes appear to have taken root and are growing. Yippee. I won’t expect any fruit from them until next fall. Also, thebirds have discovered the trellis and the bird feeders and they are quite content.