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 was to expand on the gardening adventures that Ginny wrote about in her Adventures of a Transplanted Gardener columns, but now she writes at The GreenGardeningMatters blog.

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

This is the Twelfth postings page (from 4/02/09 to 7/22/09). Topics on this page include: tuberose, public gardens, torch me! plantsIndependence Day!, fledgling birdsrain gardening book review, too much rain, seeds, more fruit, fruit sharing, peace liliesrecipe gardens, bugs, book!, potatoes, common names, Seasonal, Earth Day, sustainable gardens

Previous posts to Ginny's Garden Log


Single Mexican Tuberose flowers.  Photo by Stibolt.

7/22/09 Tuberose! Wow, I love these bulbs—Mexican single tuberose (Polianthes tuberosa).  I planted them this spring and look at what a show they make in the morning light.  I purchased them from Old House Gardens, my new favorite bulb source.  Here's their description:

The heavenly fragrance of tuberoses is as big a pleasure in August as ice cream. Their simple, white flowers are clustered on 3-4 foot stalks above short, daylily-like foliage. Most gardeners grow them in pots (always best in the North) or dig and store in fall (we’ll send easy directions), but they’re perennial in zones 8-11. We love them so much we named them our Spring 2004 Heirloom Bulb of the Year! Our big, fat, sure-to-bloom bulbs come from an Illinois family farm where they’ve been grown since the 1930s — true relics of American garden history.

Old House Gardens logoWhy, other than having these interesting bulbs, are they my favorite source?  They clearly label the zones and I'm tired of having bulbs fail because they'd really rather have more of a winter.*  Plus, last year, I ordered pink, yellow and white rain lilies to augment my meager supply of natives.  Trouble was that I ordered them twice.  They called me and asked whether I meant to order this many rain lilies.  I was so charmed by this good customer service, that I let both orders stand.  And now with all the rain we've been having, they've been surprising me all summer.  A couple of weeks ago, I had all three colors blooming in my rain garden.  

* Right now I consider us to be totally in zone 9 although the 1990 USDA zone map show the line between zones 8 and 9 running between my kitchen and living room.   The Arbor Day Society updated the map in 2006.  Some places including parts of California and Nevada became cooler, but here the zone 9 line is now at the Georgia border.  Check out the difference for yourself:  http://www.arborday.org/media/mapchanges.cfm.


Roses provide an appropriate foreground for the US Capitol Building.  Photo by Stibolt

7/14/09 What Can You Learn at Public Gardens?  A few weeks ago my husband and I took a trip to our old stomping grounds, the Mid-Atlantic region. As usual, we visited a number of gardens and parks.  No matter how much I think I know, there are always more lessons to bring home.  Here are a few of the lessons learned this time around: Learn How to Handle Rainwater Within the Landscape; Pick Up Ideas for New Ways to Create Outdoor Spaces; See How To Create Microclimates within a Small Space; Learn to Use Common Plants in Unusual Ways; Get Ideas for Using Unexpected Items in the Garden; and more...  Read Public (Garden) Education for more ideas and details.

Study How Gardens Complement the Scene
As shown in this photo, the roses climbing an arbor at the US Botanic Garden in Washington, DC provide the perfect foreground for the Capitol Building.  When a garden's style matches or complements the nearby structures, buildings, or other features, it should be pleasing to your eye from any angle.  There's an art to it and in my opinion, you can never study too many gardens.  Don't forget to consider your view of the garden from the inside of those structures as well.  Too often you can see only the ugly backs of overgrown shrubs from inside houses or porches.


New growth on Ginny's longleaf pine. Photo by Stibolt

7/8/09 Torch-Me! Plants Olivia Judson wrote an interesting column, "On Fire," about flammable plants and the possible reasons for developing what seems to be self-damaging properties. 

She mentioned our native longleaf pine (Pinus palustris), which I wrote about earlier this year, Longleaf Pines. When I transplanted a longleaf pine, in its "grassy" stage, from our septic tank mound out to the edge of the front meadow, I wasn't sure that it would make it because I didn't want to dig too deeply into the mound.  This photo, taken a few weeks ago, shows that it's growing a new set of needles.  It might make it after all.  The wet weather we've had has probably helped boost its chance for survival because newly planted woody plants need a lot of extra irrigation.

Here is the comment I made on Dr Judson's column:
Longleaf pines (Pinus palustris) (also known as southern yellow pine) have several strategies for resisting fire damage. First they spend several years in a "grassy" stage where they look like sort of like a rush with just their 12-inch long needles sprouting from a base. At this time they are developing a substantial root system and if a fire passes through, they'll only lose a set of needles--their growing bud is protected by a thick covering of hairs. When they finally start growing vertically, they'll grow five feet or more in one year without any branches. Again, if a fire passes through at this time they'll only loose a topknot of needles. The next year, they'll also put on several feet and their braches will turn upward, not horizontal like most pines. I have photos and more information at www.sky-bolt.com/longleafpines.htm.

Speaking of the torch-me plants, many homeowners must have the same philosophy with their landscaping plans. Overgrown flammable foundation plants providing ladder fuel to help fire reach under the eaves; flammable fencing providing a fire line to the house; wooden decks with trash, leaves, and/or wood piles underneath; and flammable trees arching over the roof are all common practices that say, "torch me!" Firewise landscaping is part of a sustainable living plan. Homeowners near fire-prone wildlands should clear a 30-foot swath around the buildings, don't use highly flammable plants, have a green mowed area around buildings to reduce their risks. For more information, here are some resources: www.firewise.org, http://www.floridadisaster.org/bpr/EMTOOLS/wildfire/wildfire.htm, and http://livinggreen.ifas.ufl.edu/landscaping/firewise_landscaping.html


A new face of an urban farmer, Will Allen shows off his worms.  Photo by Nigel Parry for The New York Times

7/3/09 Happy Independence Day! More new vegetable gardeners gain some independence from the grocery store.  A few stories in the papers this week show the way some new farmers have made an impression.  A story in the NYTimes, Street Farmer, on Will Allen, a retired pro basketball player, provides a new image for urban farming.  While in the Washington Post, there are a couple of stories this week.  First-Time Veggie Growers Can Learn From The Masters explains how the extension services are seeing increased interest in community gardens and how the master gardener program is helping to fill the need.  In the Cook's Garden Section, Barbara Damrosch provides some great ideas for using all the lettuce at the end of the season.  The end of our lettuce season was a couple of months ago, but I'll keep a link to this article for some different ideas. The Post has also consolidated its vegetable gardening stories: Vegetable Gardens.

There is plenty of local help for new edible gardeners:
· GARDENER ON CALL: Ask a Duval County master gardener your gardening questions from 9 to 11 a.m. Tuesdays by calling (904) 359-4199 or (800) 472-6397 and asking for extension 4199.
· University of Florida's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) provides a huge variety of services for urban/suburban farmers including data sheets for types of plants that grow well in our area, a directory of extension offices, and local events where gardeners can learn about gardening and landscape management and where they may be able to purchase plants. http://www.ifas.ufl.edu/ 
· Jacksonville.com publishes several gardening stories each week at http://jacksonville.com/lifestyles/home_and_garden, and of course, my Adventures of a Transplanted Gardener, www.transplantedgardener.com

Happy Independence Day: grow some of your own food this year!


Brown thrasher fledgling on Ginny's front step. Photo by Stibolt

06/29/09 Fledgling Birds For two days last week I watched this brown thrasher baby begging for food.  It flies well enough to follow its parent around.  When they land it splays out its feathers and squawks until the parent finds a bug to feed it.  After eating, it stands up straight, preens its feathers, and walks around like a normal bird.  A few minutes later the whole drama begins anew.

We love hosting the brown thrashers in our yard year-round.  They are larger members of the mockingbird family at 11.5 inches long.  Their melodious songs consist of a series of phrases—each one repeated twice.  Best of all they are voracious insect eaters.  We have lots of bugs for them because we do not poison our yard.  After a couple of days feeding its baby out in my front beds, I'm sure the bugs are greatly reduced out there.  It's all part of integrated pest management (IPM).  See my articles: Invite Birds to Your Yard & Just Say No to Poisons.

The thrashers are not the only fledglings.  Yesterday my husband and I were happy to see that the cardinals had two babies—a male and a female—following them around, too.  Earlier this season I wrote about the nest they built in our coral honeysuckle trellis, but a predator ended that effort.  See We Love our Sustainable Landscape.


6/22/09 Rain Gardening in the South: A Review 

In a year like this (See below.), rain gardens are more important than ever, which is why it's great to have a new resource: Rain Gardening in the South: Ecologically Designed Gardens for Drought, Deluge, and Everything in Between, by Helen Kraus and Anne Spafford.  The authors are horticultural professors at North Carolina State University.  Kraus has a Ph.D. in Horticultural Science, while Spafford is a landscape architect.  Given their education, I was eager to read their take on rain gardens, even though I was pretty well informed on the topic.  (I've written about our rain gardens and thoroughly researched the topic for my book, Sustainable Gardening for Florida that includes a chapter on rain gardens.)

Read my review... or better yet, buy the book and build your own rain gardens.  Then the next time we have too much rain, you'll be ready to absorb all of your stormwater.  


6/17/09 Two vegetable articles today that may help to account for the increased seed sales that I mentioned last time.  In the NYTimes: Urban Farming, a Bit Closer to the Sun and in the Washington Post, an update on White House garden: Young Eaters Mind Their Peas & Cues.  The 5th grade students, who helped plant the garden, picked 12 pounds of peas and 73 pounds of lettuce.  How does your public garden grow?

Our spring gardening has not been as successful as the White House's.  We've had a few tomatoes, but they didn't do well during our cool, rainy spring and now it's probably too late in the season for a good crop.  Our squash has fared somewhat better, but some of the squashes, both zucchinis and summer, have rotted before getting a chance to grow large.  Now I'll wait until later in the summer to try a second crop of tomatoes.  In previous years, my fall tomato crops have not been successful, but maybe this year.  We gardeners always hope for good season.

 

'09

30yr 

April

5"

3.14"

May

13"

3.48"

June

10"

5.37"

Too much rain! 

The rain we've had this year is way above Jacksonville's 30-year average rainfall.  The table here shows how much rain we received compared to the average rainfall and the 10 " that has fallen in June is as of June 17th.  June is the first of our 5 wet months, but this year is different; the wet season started much earlier.

Scarlet rosemallow next to Ginny's pond. Photo by Stibolt

Pros and cons of so much rain. 
· Pro: The native hibiscus, scarlet rosemallow, (Hibiscus coccineus) that I planted along the edge of the front pond has done quite well in the standing water and one of my three bushes bloomed for the first time this year.
· Pro: Our sprinkler system has been turned off, although others in our neighborhood have continued to irrigate when clearly there is no need.  
· Con: The spicebush (Lindera benzoin) I bought last year died because the front pond has been at flood stage for months.  I planted it at the edge of the pond about foot higher than the normal water level. I thought it would enjoy the moist habitat, but did not realize that it couldn't survive in standing water.  Drats!  I bought it to provide the spicebush butterflies with larval food because our red bay trees are dying.  Now I'll try again. 
·
Pro: I was out of tree trimmers' chips, but after a heavy storm came through the neighborhood the other day, I now have one huge load and a smaller, partial load.  We'd been waiting to finish some of our mulching jobs until we heard the drone of chippers.  Of course, this was not a good thing for the folks who suffered damage to their houses, or the ones who had to pay to get fallen trees removed from their properties.
· Con: The weeds have loved the rain and so have the mosquitoes.
· Pro: Our rain gardens have been thoroughly tested and the huge amounts of rainfall have been handled well.  None of our rain gardens have failed to hold and filter the water.

I hope you've made good use of your rain and have been able to avoid the mosquitoes.


Seeds for Ginny's edible gardens.  Photo by Stibolt

6/15/09 Vegetable seed sales are up from 30% to 75%!  Hard to know whether this increase is due to food contamination scares, to the recession, or a combination of factors.  This is according to Adrian Higgins' article Demand for Vegetable Seeds Is Rooted in Recession.  I view this as good news, whatever the factors.  Also, I think people, especially children, benefit greatly from growing their own vegetables.  I wrote about this earlier this year in my column, Grow More Veggies in 2009: Kids Can Help.  

I hope you are planning now for your fall and winter crops.  I just ordered some seeds over the weekend for some cool-weather crops.  As usual, I've added a couple of new crops to the mix to see how they work out.  More on them later...


Blackberries in Ginny's front meadow.  Photo by Stibolt

6/11/09 In today's Washington Post, another insightful article on growing less common fruits that might not need as much attention or poisons: The Home Orchard.

While the options for which fruits to plant in the Mid-Atlantic and which to plant northern Florida are different. This article provides some great strategies that apply here as well.  I wrote earlier about our blueberries, but we also have been enjoying our blackberries this year that grow wild in some of our meadow areas.  Maybe I'll see whether juneberries grow here, because we certainly enjoyed them in Maryland. 


6/10/09 I don't know about your neighborhood, but in mine citrus and other fruit trees are not properly cared for and much of their fruit goes un-harvested.  Most of the time the owners have lost interest or they're too old to take care of them.   Several ways to take advantage of this bounty are proposed in an article on neighborhood fruit sharing programs  published in today's NYTimes.  Groups have been organized where the trees are properly pruned, fertilized, etc. by people with the right tools.  Then when the fruit ripens, they harvest the fruit and depending upon the group, the owner of the tree gets part of his or her own fruit and a share of other types of fruit in the coop.  This is all part of being a good locavore.


Peace lily flower is called a spadix with a modified leaf called a spathe.  Photo by Stibolt

6/7/09 Give Peace (Lilies) a Chance! When we bought our house in 2004, the previous owners left us some porch plants including two pots of peace lilies (Spathiphyllum spp).  They are not true lilies, but they earned the common name peace lily or white flag because the modified leaf, called a spathe, behind the inflorescence (flower head) looks like a white flag of surrender.

Peace lilies are popular, tough houseplants and office plants that thrive in relatively low light.  They are also known for purifying the indoor air by removing toxic gases such as benzene and formaldehyde.  While all green plants extract carbon dioxide and produce oxygen during photosynthesis, NASA found 19 houseplants that can grow under low light conditions and can also absorb various toxic gases that can build up in indoor spaces.

Our peace lilies have graced our porches, but mostly we like them in the house.  Some people say they need to be constantly damp, but ours get watered only once a week or so.  Too much water may cause root-rot. After more than four years under our care, one of our pots of peace lilies was wilting too often, had brown tips on its leaves, and the leaves had lost their typical dark green shine. This winter I finally got around to repotting it.  Learn more about the peace lily family and see how ours have done...


5/29/09 Recipe gardens? Anne Raver wrote this week in the NY Times about her Salsa Garden where she grows everything to make salsa except the tacos.  I started thinking about my more haphazard method of gardening and that maybe I should pay more attention to coordinating the harvests to create our favorite recipes.  I think I'm probably like a lot of gardeners in trying to maximize the harvest with crops that do well here and the ones we really like.  Each season I try one or two new crops to expand our horizons, but maybe I should choose crops for particular recipes next season.

Yukon gold Potatoes crop 09.  Photo by Stibolt

Cooking from the Garden
My husband and I love to cook from the garden.  There's something wonderful about picking some fresh parsley to add to a tabouleh or creating a salad totally from the garden.  As the seasons change, so do our eating habits.  Now all the lettuce and celery (a new crop for us this year) have been harvested (and eaten) and the dill is dying back as its flower heads bend down under the weight of their seed, but the parsley is still going strong and the tomatoes are starting to ripen.  We used the last of last year's basil-based pesto a couple of weeks ago, but this year's basil is growing quickly.  We've had a few yellow bell peppers, but the peppers won't really get going until later in the summer and I think the cool spring and all this rain has probably slowed them down.  We've had a few summer squash, but the zucchinis still have not produced much, but they will.  And now all the potatoes have been harvested and I made a wonderful cold potato soup with the Yukon Golds.  See below for recipe.  You can see how "gold" they are in this photo of potato slices.  And as I predicted, the patriotic potatoes collection that were not delivered until March did not produce many tubers.  Again the rains may have affected their growth, but I think around here it's best to plant potatoes in January.  Mother Nature can throw us gardeners curve balls (like 11"of rain in a week) and we learn to be humble because each season brings risks--and rewards.

Cold Gold Potato soup with the herb garden in the background. Chives, meadow garlic and basil are visible.  Photo by Stibolt

Cold Gold Potato Soup
Cover the bottom of the soup pot with olive oil. 
Add 1/4 cup dried barley; 1/4 cup roasted sunflower seeds, about 20 meadow garlic bulblets peeled, 2 whole walking onions diced (reserving several green stalks for garnish); 1 yellow onion diced, 12 small stalks of fresh celery (equal to about 3 store-bought stalks) and 6 or 7 medium Yukon Gold potatoes diced. (Read about walking onions and meadow garlic here.)
Cook on a medium heat until onions start to caramelize and the potatoes are tender.
Add 4 cups of water and/or vegetable broth and 1 cup chopped parsley and bring to a boil.  Remove from heat and let cool.
Add 2 cups of plain, nonfat yogurt, 1/4 cup fresh dill, 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese.  Pepper and salt to taste.
Put in blender or food processor and blend until relatively smooth and chill.
Serve with a garnish of chopped onion greens and fresh dill.  My husband adds Tabasco sauce, but I enjoy it as is. 


5/21/09 I thought you'd be interested in an article posted in the Washington Post: Keep Bugs Away Without Spray by Barbara Damrosch.  She provides an easy 5-item list for managing your garden/landscape without poisons.  I heartily endorse her position on this and have written on this topic here with Just Say No to Poisons.  I also spent quite a bit of time on integrated pest management in my book.  I cringe when the poison trucks rumble through our neighborhood--there are good reasons they have top post little warning signs every time they poison your landscape.


Sustainable Gardening for Florida by Ginny Stibolt

Order your copy today!
From University Press of FL,
  Amazon, or your local bookstore.

5/11/09 Sustainable Gardening for Florida is now available for pre-order from Amazon!!   I've been working hard on this project since 2006, but it's finally done.  Yippee!!

I've learned so much along the way about writing, gardening, and Florida.  It's been a pleasure to work with the garden experts and editors at University Press of Florida.

Here are the chapters:
1. Sustainable Florida
2. Gardening Strategies, Mother Nature's Way
3. Compost and Mulch
4. Smaller, More Sustainable Lawns
5. Habitats and Meadows
6. Trees and Shrubs
7. Container Gardening
8. Edible Gardens
9. Integrated Pest Management (IPM)
10. Water and Irrigation
11. Harvesting Rainwater
12. Rain Gardens, Bioswales, and Bog Gardens
13. Waterfront Gardening: Dealing with Salt, Sand, Muck, and Erosion
14. Preparing the Landscape for Disasters


Potatoes from Ginny's garden.  Photo by Stibolt

5/11/09 Christmas Potatoes! When the family was here for Christmas, everyone pitched in, and we cooked and consumed a lot of food.  Some of the leftovers included half of a big bag of Yukon Gold potatoes.  My husband and I didn't consume those potatoes fast enough and they sprouted in the pantry.  I'd been reading up on growing potatoes this year and found that the Yukon Golds are one of the types recommended for Florida.  I also read that it's best to use only certified seed potatoes in your garden. 

I decided not to throw away the potatoes, but to plant them instead.  I created a trench in the garden and planted the sprouting potatoes four inches beneath the bottom of the trench.  When they sprouted, I covered the vines with a mixture of soil and compost so only the top was showing.  I did this three more times as the vines grew until my trench had become a mound.  You can't let the potatoes come out above the ground.

The vines bloomed and then started to die back.  Yesterday, it was time to see what was awaiting me under the soil.  A couple of potatoes were soft and I threw them away, but we now have a crop of more than 20 potatoes.  Last night I fixed a yummy hash with our new potatoes.  I also used onions, celery, and parsley from our garden, too.  I just love it.  

Later, I did plant some certified seed potatoes, the patriotic collection of red, white and blue potatoes, but their vines are still going strong.  Stay tuned, we'll see how much better they might be.


Beggartick or Spanish needles??  Photo by Stibolt

5/6/09 A Plant by Any Common Name... Most folks who work with plants have sometimes been frustrated with common names. Yes, they are easy to remember and pronounce, but there are no hard and fast rules governing them. One plant might be known by several common names depending upon regional traditions and personal favorites. For instance, when I wrote about beggarticks last year, a reader insisted that they were Spanish needles, not beggarticks. I could choose which common name to use because I liked the play on words, "No Need to Beg for Beggarticks." They are also known as, shepherd's needles, butterfly needles, hairy beggarticks, beggar's-ticks, stick-tights, and more. Of course there are completely different plants that are referred to using these same names or ones that are confusingly close such as tickseed that normally refers to a coreopsis. Fortunately, the reader, no matter what region or country she lived in, could figure out which plant I was talking about because I also identified it as, Bidens alba.

Modern plant taxonomy started in 1753, when Carl Linnaeus published Species Plantarum. He devised a system where the first word in the "scientific" name is capitalized and refers to the genus. The second part refers to the species and is never capitalized.  His methods were quite controversial in his day because his classification groups were based on the sexual parts of the flowers. Linnaeus was aware that this was an artificial classification method, but it allowed botanists to easily determine which plant was which.  

The scientific names are important to gardeners because they identify a plant, even if it's a cultivar. So the next time you see a Latinized binomial associated with a plant, take note of it and write it down for future reference.  Otherwise how will you know what works, and what doesn't, in your gardens and how will you make decisions about future plantings? We should cheer Linnaeus for his industriousness, thoroughness, and his methodology–he's made gardening easier for us, even though we might protest some of those long, unpronounceable names.  

To learn more about Linnaeus, his methods, and how they apply to some common garden plants, onions, read the complete article: A Plant by Any Common Name...


Dill flower heads are 14 inches across.  Photo by Stibolt

4/29/09 Seasonal transitions: The cool weather crops in our garden are winding down for the most part.  We've loved the sugar snap peas this season.  I planted 12 pea seeds around three tomato cages in January and they have produced an abundance of sweet, crunchy pods that we've used in salads and stir fries.  The vines have turned yellow, but still they produce new pods every day.

<< The dill, which we've enjoyed in salads through most of the winter have just produced magnificent flower heads that are 14" across on 3' tall stalks.

The potatoes are blooming, which means that I can start rooting around the plants for some fingerling potatoes.  I will leave some of them alone, so we can enjoy some full-sized tubers.  This is the first time I've grown potatoes so we'll see what happens and I'll keep you updated.

Relatively new oakleaf hydrangea is blooming.  Photo by Stibolt

Remember that pot bound oakleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia) I planted last spring?  I've been babying it with extra irrigation and several top dressings of compost.  (Click here for the recommended irrigation schedule for newly planted trees and shrubs.) 

Also since hydrangeas are happier in a less acidic soil than we have around here with our oaks and pines, I've  buried some chunks of cement around its drip line and I've dug in some eggshells and fish bones in the area.  This previously pot bound shrub has done fairly well over the year, but is still pretty scrawny with only one main stem.   So when it bloomed this year, I cut the flowers off and used them in a bouquet.  The flowers use a lot of the shrub's energy, so now it can use that energy to produce larger branches and bigger leaves. 

The flowers of the oakleaf hydrangea are wonderful, so I look forward to even more flowers next year.  I do have another one that has been planted for at least three years and is better established, so I'll be able to enjoy those flowers out in the landscape.


Green treefrog on a canna leaf.  Photo by Stibolt

4/21/09 Celebrate Earth Day! The environment is not something that is separate from us. We are all participants in it. Our actions, lifestyles, consumption are all part of the mix. We won't make much progress if we just talk about "the environment" or if we fund yet another study. No matter how much we pay for it, talk is cheap.  Mostly I write about green gardening matters, but there are many other lifestyle changes that we all may make that will further reduce our footprints on Florida:

· Recycle more. Fill up the curbside recycling bins with aluminum cans, bottles, and paper; reduce what you throw away. Recycle your old computers. Donate old cars, used clothing, and other useable items to charities.
· Clear debris from the storm drains in your neighborhood, so less organic material enters our waterways.
· Drive less and drive fuel-efficient cars. Walk or ride your bikes more, and lobby for bike paths and village centers so people can find more of what they need close to home.
· Eat lower in the food chain. Eat more vegetables and fruits and less meat—it's better for your health and the health of our environment and reduces the amount of energy required to put food on your table. Of course, if you raise some of your own vegetables and fruit, you're using even less manufactured energy to sustain you and your family. 
· Drink filtered (not bottled) water, if tap water offends your taste buds. This will reduce the amount of plastic waste that goes into our landfills and especially into our waterways. 
· Install fluorescent bulbs or LED (light-emitting diode) lights all around. Cut back on extraneous outdoor lighting--it's better for plants and wildlife to experience darkness at night.
· Insulate your house, use double-glazed windows, install ceiling fans, and then set the thermostat higher in the summer and lower in the winter. You may find that 82 or 83 degrees is quite tolerable in the summer if you use fans to move the air. In the winter, set the thermostat lower and dress warmly. Encourage businesses to turn up their air conditioning--it's ridiculous that we have to carry sweaters in the summer.
· Consume less and buy items with the least amount of packaging.
· Get involved in neighborhood and local politics to change unsustainable policies concerning lawns, community lands, development, and other environmental issues.
· Support and vote for public officials who will make greener choices for Florida and the country.


A cardinal nest is hidden in the coral honeysuckle trellis.  Photo by Stibolt

4/13/09 We love our sustainable landscaping with no poisons and meadow areas because of the beautiful birds and other predators that populate our yard.  Last week the cardinals moved into their newly built, and well-hidden, nest in the coral honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens) trellis at the corner of the back porch.  Two years ago we planted the honeysuckle next to our hummingbird feeder to see if we could help prevent some of the hummers' wrangling over the feeder.  They still buzz each other, but having other reliable nectar sources so close has seemed to help.  

In previous years the cardinals have nested in the jasmine trellis (installed by the previous owners) at the other end of the porch.  We thought the proximity of this nest to our back door would scare them off, but our comings and goings have not disturbed the female from her sitting duties.  Now we await the hatchlings.

A green anole watches for bugs in the celery.  Photo by Stibolt.

 

The celery watcher... 

A green anole lizard with its perfectly matched green coloring scouts amongst the celery leaves for bugs and other evil doers.  Isn't this just the best and cutest way to run a garden?  No poisons needed.


4/2/09 A Lawn as Healthy as it Looks published yesterday in the NYTimes is NOT an April Fool's joke.  Substitute centipede grass seed for the rye and fescue and you'll have a great recipe for healthy lawn in northern Florida.  As a bonus, you'll save money and lessen the nutrient load on our waterways.  As an extra bonus you'll also stop poisoning the environment.  I cringe whenever I see the poison trucks rumble through the neighborhood.  There is a reason those guys put signs on the yards they treat--they are poisoned!  Who knows what these treatments are doing to your children and pets? 

I've written about our low-care lawn in these articles: The Lawn Less Mown, Reducing the Lawn in Your Landscape, and Cutting Edges.  And during this down economy wouldn't you like to save some money where it doesn't hurt?  Hey, maybe you could turn some of that expensive and expansive lawn into your very own "recession garden" and grown some vegetables.


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