Adventures of a Transplated Gardener- Ginny Stibolt

Ginny Stibolt with a pile of mulch.  Typical!

Ginny's Garden Log

The main purpose of this log is to expand on the gardening adventures that Ginny writes about in her Adventures of a Transplanted Gardener columns.

Current postings and other posts to Ginny's Garden Log Meadow page 

This is the Eleventh postings page (from 1/28/09 to 3/31/09). Topics on this page include: 3 more rain barrels, swallow-tailed kites, pruning guidewhite house vegetable garden, St. Patrick's Day, a Day of Gardening, changeover in vegetablesnew water regs, sustainable farm, Citizen scientists? Florida blueberries, spring events, green government, money garden, Valentinestinkhorns, Brrr!habitat.


Ginny's three new rain barrels are elevated on a 4'-high deck.  Photo by Stibolt.

3/31/09 Now that it's started to rain, we get to test our three new rain barrels.  These barrels unlike our other four, are elevated on a 4'-tall deck.  This allows us to water our vegetable gardens with a little pressure supplied by gravity.  Also, unlike our other set of three barrels, these are connected together through 1" pipes connected to through-fittings in their bottoms and connected to one spigot.  See my article Three More Rain Barrels, for more information on how my husband and I built this new rain barrel system and an update on our other barrels.

When I tell people we have seven rain barrels, they can't believe it.  But over the years we've come to depend on this supply of soft, chemical-free water for our inside plants, porch plants, and outside plants when general irrigation is not on or not adequate for certain plants, such as seedlings, transplants, and the vegetable gardens.  In the winter when the lawn is dormant, we only turn on the irrigation system, which pumps water from the lake, once a month for only a few minutes to exercise all the parts.  The rain barrel water is most important during this period.  

In addition to using water for plants, we use the rain barrel water for:
pre-rinsing veggies. 
pre-rinsing hands, feet, and maybe even dirty gardening socks.  
rinsing gardening gloves and muddy tools.
wetting the compost piles.
cleaning out pots and planters.
washing our vinyl rail fence annually.
and much more.

I hope you consider installing some rain barrels on your property.  As the cost of city and county water rises, rain barrels provide "Savings for a Sunny Day!"


A luna moth clings to Ginny's carrots for a day.  Photo by Stibolt

3/28/09 Luna-see!  For one whole overcast day a luna moth (Actias luna) clung to our carrots.  I don't think this was a newly emerged moth since its wings seemed a little battered.  We see lunas fairly regularly as they sit in sheltered spots to wait for nightfall, but this was the first we've seen this season.

An adult luna has no mouth parts and will last for ten days or so, living off the energy stored from its five larval stages when it eats constantly.  One of their preferred larval foods is sweet gum trees (Liquidambar styraciflua): we have plenty of them around here.  Too bad the lunas don't eat the gumballs, too.  


The swallowtailed kites are back. Photo by Stibolt

3/24/09 Seasonal birds are another indication of Spring. Today we saw the first hummingbird on our feeder--a male. Some of my coral honeysuckle is already blooming and my native Pinxter azalea is almost ready to bloom as the Japanese azaleas are fading.  So the hummers will have plenty of nectar sources in addition to our feeder.   

The swallow-tailed kites came back to the neighborhood two weeks ago.  After a long flight from South America, they've wasted no time getting to their business of mating and nesting.  Their graceful flying is a joy to watch, with little wing movement and steering with their forked tail.  They often catch insects in flight or snatch snakes or lizards from the ground and eat while flying.  They drink while in flight also, like skimmers.  They favor our neighborhood because we have many tall trees for nesting and a couple of good-sized lakes--110 acres and 85 acres.  

We love watching all the birds in the neighborhood, but the seasonal birds mark the seasons.  I hope you have some cool birds to watch and that you've done what we have to encourage them by increasing habitat areas and by not using poisons on your property.  


A vicious hatracking job on an unsuspecting crape myrtle. Photo by Stibolt

3/22/09 Pruning guide.  This week The Washington Post posted, Pruning the Right Way, a guide with graphics for the best pruning practices. There is a graphic for pruning crape myrtles and guess what? It doesn't include hat-racking, that awful practice where folks cut off all the branches at chest height each year.  Those mutilated trees are just plain ugly for most of the year and the trees treated like this are more likely to have shortened lives.  The massive blooming that results is a signal of stress to procreate before dying.  Maybe we could start a group to prevent tree mutilation.

Better yet, as those mutilated crape myrtles die out, replace them with a native fringetree (Chionanthus virginicus) instead of that over-used and boring crape myrtle.  The fringetree is a drought-tolerant, small, multi-stemmed tree with showy blooms in late spring and clusters of olive-like fruit for the birds.  Plant more natives for the birds and the butterflies.


Native rain lilies grow by Ginny's front pond.  Photo by Stibolt

It's the first day of Spring! Our first rain lilies have bloomed.  Beautiful.  Even though we haven't had much rain recently, these native pink-tinged lilies (Zephyranthes atamasco) grow near the edge of the front pond and have enough moisture to cheer us up...

While we here in northern Florida have been producing vegetables all winter, yesterday the plans for the White House vegetable garden were announced.  Here's the link to the NYTimes' Obamas to Plant White House Vegetable Garden.  Many people have been lobbying for this, but Michelle has put her own stamp on it by inviting kids from a neighborhood school to help dig it up and plant it.  Plus the kitchen staff has been helping with the plans and will make use of this ultra local produce--lots of greens are planned.  There will be plenty of publicity and excitement with details and a garden plan. The article also mentions that the Clintons grew veggies in containers on the roof, but they did not publicize it or urge Americans to get into gardening.  This time it's different and maybe, just maybe, Americans will plant their "recession" gardens to save money and eat locally. (Update 3/21/09: The Washington Post posted an article and video covering the first digging of the White House veggie garden. I am so encouraged!)


I found this four-leaf clover in my front yard.  Photo by Stibolt.

Happy St. Patrick's Day! I found this four-leaf clover in my front yard.   We have an ever enlarging clover patch that stayed bright green all winter while the St. Augustine grass turned brown.  Here's a clover discussion on GardenRant.com.  My mother used to plant peas on St. Paritrck's Day no matter what the weather was.  She'd be pleased to see that we have an abundance of sugar snap peas and to honor the day, I fixed a mess of peas (shells and all) stir fried with onions and onion greens in a creamy pesto sauce over pasta.  I wish you good luck on this day the Irish celebrate. 

The Green Gardener's Guide by Joe Lamp'l

Since everyone is thinking green thoughts today, it may be a good time to think about how your garden can be "greener" this year.  Here's new book just released last month for you: The Green Gardener's Guide by Joe Lamp'l.  You'll find many easy-to-accomplish tasks and small changes in gardening behavior that will make a big difference, if many of us participate.  Joe provides some surprising statistics to show how much difference we can make.  Buy your copy today! 


Leslie of Native and Uncommon Plants show the beautiful choices you can make for you landscape.  Photo by Stibolt

3/16/09 Saturday I attended the Day of Gardening--what a great way to network with other gardeners and learn new things about gardening.  I find that no matter how much I think I know, there's always more to learn and gardeners are so generous with their ideas.  What fun! 

Two nurseries that sell native plants where there proving to any doubters that natives are an attractive choice for a greener landscape: Reflections of Nature and Native and Uncommon Plants.  For more choices you can visit The Association Florida Native Nurseries.  Break the habit of alien plants that hate our climate here.  When you do, you save water, money, and effort and the birds, butterflies and other wildlife will thank you.  

And speaking of native plants: My longleaf pine podcast was posted today.  If you have a sunny sandy spot in your yard, consider planting some of these wind-tolerant, drought-tolerant native trees.  Go to my previous article for photos and more details.  


Bunching onions.  Photo by Stibolt

3/11/09 Changing Seasons in the Vegetable Patch.  With the warm weather upon us finally and all of a sudden, it's time to harvest some winter veggies and plant some early season replacements. 

I harvested what was left of some bunching onions to make way for my patriotic potato collection from Burpee, which includes three varieties that are red, white and blue.  Last week was a little late to plant potatoes, but they were just delivered.  Potatoes are supposed to be planted two weeks before the last frost and I'm pretty sure we've had our last frost.  We'll see how they do.  I've saved some of them for fall planting.  The row of potatoes is right next to two rows of lettuce that should be done by the time the potatoes need more room.  We'll see how that works out.

Ginny's first ever broccoli.  Photo by Stibolt

I cut my first ever crown of broccoli yesterday.  These are Burpee's Green Goliath broccolis that I planted last fall.  More crowns are forming so I should be able to move them out of the way to make room for tomatoes in this area within a couple of weeks.  Was this fresh-picked broccoli ever sweet!!  And it's so good for us.  We left the plant that produced this crown in the hopes that it will grow two or more side crowns.  

Sugar snap peas grow in tomato cages.  Photo by Stibolt.

In January planted three groups of four sugar snap peas so they could use tomato cages for climbing.  When planting tall items in the garden, they should be on the north side of the bed so they don't shade the other plants.  This is particularly important in the winter when the sun is lower on the horizon.  We started picking them last week and we'll have an abundance for a a month or so.  Once hot weather really sets in, the peas will fade.  By then the tomatoes will need these cages.

I try to plan for just-in-time gardening so as one crop is harvested, the next one is ready to go in.  Between crops I refresh the soil with some compost and depending upon what is being planted some composted horse manure.  You don't use the manure for the peas or most of the herbs--they do better in a leaner soil.


More than 50% of our potable water is wasted on over greened lawns. Photo by Stibolt

3/10/09 As of 3/8, there are new water regulations issued by the St. Johns River Water Management District.  Listen to my podcast. In order to make enforcement easier, irrigation days are set according to your address. 

There has been a lot of discussion as rates in Duval County may be raised because folks are cutting back on their water use.  My own opinion on this is that there should be a multi-tiered billing system for households.  Then those of us who really work at conserving water should see lower rates than those who use way more than their share. Rates are different for businesses.

Time of
year

Home with odd numbered or no addresses

Home with even numbered addresses

Nonresidential properties

Daylight
saving
time

Wed./Sat.

Thurs./Sun.

Tues./Fri.

Eastern
Standard
Time

Sat.

Sun.

Tues.

  • Water only when needed and not between 10am & 4pm
  • Water for no more than one hour per zone.
  • Restrictions apply to private wells and pumps, ground or surface water and water from public and private utilities.
  • Some exceptions apply.

To save Florida's aquifers and for the sake of our children, we HAVE reduce our water use now.  

Here are some of the articles I've written on saving water with further references for additional information:  Less Lawn, The Lawn Less Mown, Natural Meadow Management, Climb up My Rain Barrels, Rain Barrels Revisited.

You can see more details on the new water regulations and other information and resources on saving water on the St. Johns River Water Management District's website: http://sjr.state.fl.us/ 


A Day of Gardening 08.  Photo by Stibolt

3/4/09 Here's a link to the brochure for the March 14th Day of Gardening.  Print it out and send in your registration.  You need to pre-register so they can plan for lunch.  I hope to see you there--I plan to buy a bunch of native plants for our lot.  Maybe you have some lawn that you'd like to replace with a butterfly garden.

In today's NYTimes there's a story about how the Queens Farm Museum is becoming a sustainable farm.  Also New York's Brooklyn Botanic Garden is sponsoring a contest for "The Greenest Block in Brooklyn." These are great examples of how city properties can become greener.  The first one tells how a publicly-owned park has been transformed into a more valuable resource so close to a big city.  The second one is an example of how thoroughly citified neighborhoods are working together to be greener.  There must certainly be some properties in our region (or near any high-population area) that could become community gardens or demonstration sustainable farms.  Spring is upon us and this might be a good example of a "shovel-ready" project, literally.


Carpenter bee on sunflower. Photo by Stibolt

3/2/09 Listen to my podcast, "Citizen Scientists?" There are two opportunities for you.  1) The Great Sunflower Project sponsored by the University of San Francisco. When you register for this program at www.greatsunflower.org, they will send you a package of sunflower seeds. In return, you promise to find a sunny place to grow them and then observe the bees that visit them twice a month during the growing season. Last year they sent out 40,000 packs of seeds and if you registered last year, you're already included in this year's study. This is the first time anyone has studied what's happening to bees (native and not) on a nationwide basis. Folks have been worried about the colony collapses of honeybees, which pollinate many of the commercially grown crops. This information might shed some light on what's really happening. 

2) "Project BudBurst, is sponsored by scientists at the US Geological Survey, and others. This project started when scientists returned to Walden Pond for three years starting in 2000 as a follow-up to Henry David Thoreau's detailed observations made there 150 years ago. They found that the temperature has risen an average of 4 degrees and plants are blooming a week earlier than in Thoreau's day. But this is a small sample of what's happening, so they want participation across the country and hope to amass data for 30 years.  To participate, sign up on their website www.budburst.org

I think taking part in either of these projects is a great opportunity to get kids involved in large, nationwide studies. I think it may provide the feeling that their individual actions contribute to the greater world. Too much of today's news is doom and gloom, and the problems of global warming and other bad news are so massive. But no matter how large the problems, individual efforts do make a difference. This is an excellent way to teach this lesson.


Star, Jewel and Emerald were developed specifically for Florida's short mild winters. Photo by Stibolt

2/26/09 I've planted three blueberry bushes this year to expand our edibles.  I chose three different cultivars that were developed by the University of Florida for our northern Florida climate and our short mild winters.  I posted an article, Florida Blueberries, which summarizes what I found out about growing blueberries and there was a lot of conflicting information.  I had to dig pretty deep to come up with the whys and the wherefores.  I also provided some references on how good blueberries are for you with their anti-aging and cancer-prevention properties. 


A day of Gardening 2008.  Photo by Stibolt

2/23/09 Spring garden events around Jacksonville.  Listen to my podcast A Day of Gardening and other Spring events.  Here's a list of some of them: 
A Day of Gardening on March 14th, from 9am to 3pm. It's hosted by the Duval county extension service, Florida Native Plant Society, the Nature Conservancy and more green organizations.  It will be held at the extension office at 1010 N McDuff Ave. Jacksonville, which is west of Rt 17.  You will need to pre-register at http://duval.ifas.ufl.edu/ to attend. There will be vendors with native plants to purchase. There will be speakers with educational programs and an assortment of booths with more information. You can meet with other gardeners and learn about their experiences.  See albums: A Day of Gardening 2008, Gardenfest 2006

Feb. 28th there is a great Air Potato Roundup at the Jacksonville Arboretum and other locations. This will also be a good time to hike some of the trails there if you haven't made it out there yet. Album of Jax Arboretumwww.jacksonvillearboretum.org 

March 28th the St. Johns River Celebration will take place at the Mandarin Museum & Historical Society. It's part of the City of Jacksonville's "Jax Parks: Get Out There!" promotion.

On April 22 don't forget to take part in the at least one of the Earth Day Celebrations to thank Mother Nature for all she does for us.

In May the Florida Native Plant Society has its annual meeting in West Palm Beach this year. www.fnps.org 

Participate in some gardening events to increase your knowledge and work to become a "greener" gardener this spring.  


Sec. of Agriculture Tom Vilsack preaking pavement at USDA's headquarters. Photo by USDA

2/21/09 Signs of a newly green government! Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack "broke pavement" on the The People's Garden during a ceremony on the grounds of U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) commemorating the 200th birthday of Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln founded the Department of Agriculture in 1862 and referred to it as "The People's Department" in his last annual message to Congress.

Secretary Vilsack said, "It is essential for the federal government to lead the way in enhancing and conserving our land and water resources. President Obama has expressed his commitment to responsible stewardship of our land, water and other natural resources, and one way of restoring the land to its natural condition is what we are doing here today - "breaking pavement" for The People's Garden." 

USDA leads efforts on public and private lands to help reduce the impact of nutrient and sediment pollution on wildlife habitat, forest lands and water quality, as well as supporting community involvement in managing natural resources, urban green space and land stewardship. For more information visit a USDA Service Center or go to the USDA Web page at www.usda.gov

Complementary education materials such as the distance-learning project MonarchLIVE and partnerships with schools and the North American Pollinator Protection Campaign, which will extend the impact and reach of the USDA garden initiative are available at http://na.fs.fed.us/spfo/ce/content/special/links/index.cfm . And backyard conservation and other materials also can be obtained by dialing 1-888-LANDCARE. 

Thanks to Susan Harris at www.gardenrant.com for finding this and other news of our newly green government.


2/19/09 In today's Washington Post there's a starting your seeds tutorial. Barbara Damrosch advocates using home-grown compost as an important part of a good soil mix.  She says that it's been shown that the microbes in compost prevent damping off and other seedling diseases.  That's what I've used this year instead of sterilized soil.  So far the tomatoes are making great progress, but as always, the peppers are a little slower to get started. 


$10 worth of seeds can grow $650 worth of vegetables. Burpee's"Money Garden" graphic.

2/16/09 Sow Those Seeds! , an Op-Ed piece in this weekend's NYTimes makes the case, yet again, that by growing some of our own produce you'll save money and have fresher, healthier foods to eat.  My podcast on Just-in-time Vegetable Gardening expands on this topic.  Burpee's "Money Garden" special is an example where $10 worth of seeds can produce $650 worth of vegetables.  Talk about a good (and delicious) return on an investment!

University of Florida Extension website has lots of scientific information on growing edibles.  Do your research for appropriate planting times for Florida.  (General directions for temperate climates generally do not work for our wet & dry seasons, no freezing soil, and hot summers. So always check UF's regional advice before starting.)  Here are links to some of my vegetable articles: Tomatoes are for Summer, Sweet Treat Carrots, The Tale of Two Parsleys, and The Royal Herb: Sweet Basil.  Plus, if you read through this log, there are other tidbits on our edibles.

Your edible gardening doesn't have to be at your property.  Work on getting vegetables planted at schools, churches, community properties, village centers, and more.  Send me photos of your edible adventures and I'll post them here.  Start today!


Forced tulips for Valentine's Day. Photo by Stibolt.

Happy Valentine's day! When I first moved to Florida in 2004, I made the mistake of planting tulips in the ground without giving them a few weeks in the fridge first.  One leaf came up, the rest rotted. I vowed to plant stuff that would grow here without any intervention.  But this fall I found a good bargain online for a bag of mixed tulips, so I relented and chilled them in the refrigerator away from where I store the apples--so they are not affected by the ethylene given off by ripening fruit. I planted several bulbs in a shallow pot around Thanksgiving and while they are all coming up, only two have bloomed so far.  I cut them and put them on my desk to celebrate Valentine's Day .  I've planted more in two other pots so I'll have a series of blooms.  

Red & orange carrots and white radishes.Photo by Stibolt
Egyptian walking onions. Photo by Stibolt

I thought I'd share photos of some of our winter harvest.  In addition to leaf lettuce, turnips and their greens, we've been enjoying the various root veggies. 

In the top photo are White Icicle radishes (NK Lawn & Garden), Nutri-red carrots (Ferry Morse), and Sweet Treat carrots (Burpee).  Normally, I wouldn't pull so many at one time, but I cut them up for a vegetable platter for a gathering.  I fixed some dip from the pesto I'd frozen from last year's basil crop.  People oohed and aahed, especially about the radishes that I'd sliced diagonally into thin ovals.

Below I recently separated and replanted my Egyptian walking onions (Burpee).  I harvested four or five whole onions to use in a stir fry. Yummy.  I've been cutting off the leaves to use as onion greens all through the year.  I planted this perennial onion (as sets) early last spring along with some perennial bunching onions that did not make it through the year.  The walking onions have, as you can see, done quite well.  When they bloom, small bulblets are also produced with the flowers in a head on a long stalk.  When the stalk falls over under the increasing weight of the bulbs, new plants are started and so they "walk" across your garden.  I let the new bulbs plant themselves this year, but it was time for an expansion and rearranging of their bed.  Next year I may harvest some of the small bulbs as they form to use as a mild scallion.

I hope your winter crops are doing well and that you've started to plan for the next set of crops in your garden.


These rude phallic-shaped stinhorns smell like feces.  Photo by Stibolt

Octopus stinkhorns smell like a dead animal. Photo by Stibolt.

2/10/09 Yesterday my podcast on stinkhorn fungi was posted on Jacksonville.com.  This broadcast is an update on my stinkhorn fungi article that I wrote a couple of years ago. There has been an increase in email from readers wanting to know how to get rid of these obnoxious fungi and how to prevent it from stinking up their yards in the first place.  

<< What do you notice about both of these photos?? It's that they both arise from shredded wood mulch.  Since we've been using chipped wood from neighborhood arborists, the stinkhorns have been rare around here.  Here is more information on how we use arborists' chipped wood.  So switch from cypress mulch to arborists' chips to save your nose and to save the cypress forests, which are being chopped down in order to fulfill our mulch habit. 


A pair of fishing crows in the front lawn. Photo by Stibolt

2/7/09 Brrr!! It's been cold, in the mid-20s, for several mornings now.  The hibiscus is definitely frosted back to the ground this year.  (Over the last several years we have just trimmed back the tops.)  My neighbors with orange trees have covered them with tarps and burned light bulbs all night to keep the oranges safe.  We've been watching the groups of fish crows that have come to our yard on these cold mornings to snag worms that have emerged in the cold.  Fish crows, the most plentiful around here, are not as big as the American crow (only about 17") and they sometimes use a unique "ah-ah" call as if they are a two-year-old child saying no. Fun to watch and we do admit to teasing the crows with our own renditions of their ah-ahs.

I found a sustainable food blog on change.org with many interesting posts and comments. 


2/5/09 I may sound like a broken record here, but in today's Washington Post, Adrian Higgins has posted an important article that promotes sustainability in our landscapes.  He refers to www.sustainablesites.org. "The Sustainable Sites Initiative is an interdisciplinary effort by the American Society of Landscape Architects, the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center and the United States Botanic Garden to create voluntary national guidelines and performance benchmarks for sustainable land design, construction and maintenance practices."  Important stuff, in my opinion, but you might have guessed that by my four years of posts on these very topics.


1/29/09 In today's Washington Post, Adrian Higgins invited us all to be more like Henry David Thoreau. A study is calling for citizen observers to track what is happening in our gardens and in natural spaces in our neighborhoods.  This sounds like a great project to involve kids in what's happening in nature and all for a specific scientific study. 


1/28/09 An insightful column on bees appears in the NY Times today.  Aaron Hirsh writes beautifully about providing habitat near agricultural sites so bees needed to pollinate crops can live there year-round instead of the needing to bring in mobile bee hives.  I couldn't help myself and posted this comment:

Habitat that's good for bees is also good for the birds.  According to Audubon Society ( http://www.audubon.org/  ), populations of our favorite songbirds have plummeted due to loss of habitat.  Agriculture industry's efforts to provide habitat would be fantastic, but homeowners, community associations, churches, local governments, and commercial landscapers can all create more habitat by dramatically reducing the acreage of those damn lawns.  This is the perfect time to implement this no-grass roots movement because it will also save money--lots of it.

As I look out at our back and front yards right now hundred of small birds (mostly yellow-rumped warblers and bluebirds) and a couple of blue jays are flitting around.  The grass stalks bend low under the weight of the birds, which ride down on the stalks and then eat the seeds.  The blue birds and jays dive into the dormant lawn to eat bugs or worms.  Our meadows provide a wonderful habitat. 

In looking at the Audubon website, I found a piece on the importance of a low-carbon diet. While I hadn't put in exactly this way, I've written and talked about this idea in Eat More Veggies, podcast Locavore, podcast  Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.


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Ginny Stibolt 2004-2011

 

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