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 Fifteenth postings page (from 4/01/10 to 6/28/10). Topics on this page include: rain lily rescue, TAPPgreen awards, calla lilies, workshops, blueberries & roses, dill & caterpillarshurricane-scaping, garden professors, company gardens, vertical gardens?carrot soup, marigolds & nematodesclimate-friendly gardenerplant hunter, backyard habitats, orchid controversy, bugs, Earth Day, greens, tree-mendous, spring.  

Previous posts to Ginny's Garden Log


Rain lilies next to a soon-to-be-widened road.  Photo by Stibolt

June 28, 2010 Rescuing Rain Lilies, a piece I posted on Florida Native Plant Society's blog, relates how, under certain circumstances, you can get a permit to remove plants from public right-of-ways.  A road near my house is due to be widened from two lanes to four. When the road construction begins, a sizable population of beautiful native rain lilies (Zephyranthes atamasca) in a ditch next to this road would be buried.

I love these sassy native rain lilies, because you never know exactly when you'll see them. They tend to sprout in the spring after a good rain. Maybe this is why they are also called fairly lilies or zephyr lilies. The rain lilies are not true lilies, but belong to the amaryllis family—Amaryllidaceae. Their flowers are similar to lilies in that they have the six tepals. The term "tepal," in this case, refers the three petals on the inside and the three sepal on the outside, because all six elements look the same.    

I wrote about them a few years ago in Rain Lilies for My Rain Garden.

I pulled out my spring tomato crop the other day.  The nights are warmer than 70 degrees now and that means no new fruit will be set.  I cleaned up the bed and have started an in-place compost pile for the rest of the summer.  In the next week or so, I'll plant some new tomato seeds in sterile medium and see if I can finally achieve a good fall crop of tomatoes.   I will, of course keep you informed.  


June 24, 2010 Learn How to Block Water in your Yard, an article written by Donna Meredith for Tallahassee.com, reports on my talk at Tallahassee Nurseries earlier this month.  I was pleased to hear about Tallahassee's forward-thinking program, TAPP (Think about Personal Pollution).  This program not only educates citizens about what they can do to reduce pollution, they also fund some of the costs of building rain gardens and provide rain barrels at reduced costs to encourage their citizens to take action.  Here are their points:
• Slow the FlowTAPP logo: Think About Personal Pollution
• Clean Up After Pets
• Manage Soil to Minimize Erosion
• Minimize the Use of Fertilizers
• Install a Rain Barrel
• Plant a Rain Garden
• Save Your Soil
• Maintain Septic Systems
• Use Mulch

It's my hope that other Florida cities and communities follow this example.  (Here's a related podcast.)


June 16, 2010 Sustainable Florida Awards: The Sustainable Florida-Collins Center has announced the winners of this year's Best Practice Awards program. There were 109 entries from companies, non-profits, and government agencies. The best practice categories included: business partnership, green building, government, large business, small business, non-profit, and leadership. The winner of the green building award is a local company, St. Johns Housing Partnership Inc. in St. Augustine. Click here to see the list of winners and their projects. 

While it's wonderful that so many Floridians are working on "green" projects and that 109 entered this competition, I wonder why there isn't a truly green category of sustainable landscaping.  I think I'll suggest it to the Collins Center.  Won't you join me in asking for this, too? Contact www.SustainableFlorida.org.


Ginny's calla lilies in 2010.  Photo by Stibolt

June 11, 2010 I posted a new article: The Calla Lilies are Blooming Again. As I've roamed around Florida this past year giving talks and participating in garden fests to promote my book, Sustainable Gardening for Florida, I have related the story of my complete failure at growing tulips here in northeastern Florida.  

Long-time Florida gardeners laugh knowingly at my tulip blundermany of them have been through the same process of working out what works here in Florida and what does not.  You can't necessarily trust big box stores or nurseries to offer you plants that will actually work here.  I bought those original tulips at a big box store and followed the instructions on the packaging for Florida, but of the 48 bulbs I planted, only one leaf sprouted.

Florida native canna lily growing next to Ginny's pond.  Photo by Stibolt

Don't cry for me though; I have found some wonderful bulbs that I can plant here that would have been difficult, if not impossible back in Maryland or New England.  Read about my wonderful bulbs including, callas, cannas, rain lilies, hurricane lilies, string lilies and tuberose. 

<< Here's an update:  One of my newly planted native canna lilies has bloomed.  I bought three native canna lilies (Canna flaccida) this spring at one of the Florida Native Plant Society chapter meetings where I spoke. I planted them next to my pond because they require a moist environment and was happy to see that one of them bloom this year.

If you're at all interested in gardening and nature, I'd highly recommend joining a local chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society. They have interesting meetings where you can often purchase or buy a chance for plants native to your area. Find your local chapter on their website: www.fnps.org and tune into the blog: http://fnpsblog.org  I'm one of the bloggers!


June 7, 2010 Two upcoming event in NE Florida: June 17th learn about Florida's Wildflower Program and on June 24th a workshop on invasive non-native plants.

The next Florida Native Plant Society meeting of Jacksonville's Ixia Chapter is Thursday, June 17, 6:30 PM, at the Regency Square Library. The meeting will have a great presentation on Florida native wildflowers, and lots of native plants. The meeting is free and open to the public. Please plan to attend!

Program: J.R. Newbold, the featured speaker, the president of the Wildflower Seed and Plant Growers Association, will provide an overview of the cooperative of wildflower seed growers and information related to the seed industry. Growers of Florida wildflowers have taken a major step toward increasing the supply of native Florida seed available for beautification projects and consumer use. A group of Florida wildflower producers, working in conjunction with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, and the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agriculture Sciences (IFAS), is developing strategies to increase planted wildflower acreage and seed production to better meet the demand for native species. You'll be able to buy Florida wildflower seeds following the presentation.

Regency Square Library is located at 9900 Regency Square Blvd., Jacksonville, 32225. Please call Barbara Jackson for additional information @ 904-246-0479.

Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve Public Workshop on Invasive Plants

Who: This workshop is open and free to the public and is for volunteers, homeowners, business owners, and anyone interested in learning more about invasive plants and ways to help out.

When: Thursday, June 24th 9am – 12 pm. Registration begins at 8:30

Where: GTM NERR Environmental Education Center – 505 Guana River Road, Ponte Vedra Beach, FL 32082

Why: Invasive species are a number one threat to biodiversity worldwide. They impact natural areas as well as urban areas and can have a devastating effect on local flora and fauna. Many of us are exposed to invasive plants on a daily basis but aren’t really sure of how to identify them and then once identified what to do. This workshop will introduce you to the GTM Research Reserve’s efforts take a coordinated approach toward dealing with invasive plants, how to identify the most common invasive plants in our region, and how you can make a big difference to protect our precious native flora and fauna.

To RSVP or get more info please contact Emily Montgomery at 904 823-4500 or Emily.Montgomery@dep.state.fl.us 
Click here for a program flyer


June 1, 2010 Feeling blue? No, everything's coming up roses and butterflies. I planted blue berries early last year and as suggested, I removed the flowers from my three new bushes to encourage good root growth and better establishment before spending their energies on producing berries.  (See my article, Florida Blueberries, for more information and resources.) Last week, I picked the berries produced on each bush--there were only a few.  I could not taste any difference between the three varieties, but they were tasty.   Now, I can hardly wait until next year when I can experience the blueness again.  

Ginny's root-stock roses.  Are they Dr. Huey?  Who knows.  Photo by Stibolt

A few days ago on Garden Rant, Michele posted "A Rose is not a Rose" about her old fashioned roses.  In the discussion, I mentioned my burgundy-colored roses that were the root-stock of the former owner's tea roses.  I put them in a bed next to the driveway where they receive no irrigation and I don't feed or poison them.  I thought you'd be interested to see them.  One poster thought that my roses might be Dr. Huey roses.  Here's a link to her photo and yes, they do look similar, but I'm not ready to say for sure.

A black Swallowtail chrysalis in Ginny's dill.  Photo by Stibolt

An update on my dill-eating caterpillars: At least one has made it to the chrysalis stage.  It's right outside our kitchen window, so maybe I'll luck out and witness the emergence of a lovely black swallowtail butterfly.  If I do, I'll take photos for you. (Update: June 8: I missed the coming out party for this butterfly.  Sorry.)

I hope you had a good Memorial Day Weekend.  I donated a pint of blood as my patriotic duty.


blackswallowtail caterpillar in Ginny's dill.  Photo by Stibolt

May 24, 2010 Confused caterpillars? I planted plenty of parsley this year so there would be enough to share with the black swallowtail butterfly larvae--I love having the large butterflies in my yard.  But while the parsley has gone untouched, those caterpillars ended up on the dill instead.  They are concentrating on the flowers and the seeds and there is an odor of dill permeating the air around the garden as they eat.   Often a butterfly will choose a poisonous or aromatic larval food to protect their offspring from predation. 

Upon further study I found that this butterfly is also known as the parsnip butterfly and the female will lay her eggs on any member of the carrot family (Apiaceae), which includes dill and parsley and plenty of native plants as well.  So it turns out that I was confused, not the caterpillars.  Now there will be more parsley for us, but less dill.  Actually, I allow both of these plants to bolt, where they send up a tall shoot that becomes the flower head. The flowers attract small wasps and other important pollinators for the garden.  I'm growing squash and without pollinators, I would not get any fruit. 

For more information on parsley see "The tale of two parsleys," and for more information on herb gardening see, "A Garden for Your Senses."


May 19, 2010 Hurricane season starts in June, so now's the time to prepare.  I posted an article called Hurricane-Scaping covering some of the measures you can take in your landscaping that may reduce the extent of the damage the next time a hurricane comes raging across the state. 

As Floridians know, a direct hit by a strong hurricane can cause injury, loss of life, and millions of dollars in damage.   There are no guarantees and no landscape can be made totally storm proof, but this article provides some ideas that could make a difference.


May 18, 2010 Check out The Garden Professors' Blog to get the answers to your gardening and botanical questions. Several horticultural professors from across the country have teamed up to present an educational and informative blog. www.gardenprofessors.com. Check it out to learn the science behind gardening.

 Recent discussions include: Organic Foods: are they really better for your health; Why trees at the edge of a forest are shorter than those in the interior; how to do an approach graft where you can graft a tomato and potato plants into one super crop plant.  No matter how much you know about gardening or plants, there's always more to learn.  Thanks to Linda Chalker-Scott author of "The Informed Gardener" and "The Informed Gardener Blooms again" www.informedgardener.com 


Comapny garden harvest Photo by Jodi Hilton

May 13, 2010 The Rise of Company Gardens by Kim Severson in the Dining Section of the NY Times relates how companies are building company vegetable gardens to supply their own cafeterias or to divide up so employees have access to a community garden.  Either way, it's a perk that doesn't cost much money and actually may save in company grounds maintenance costs.  Company gardens may also accomplish several environmental goals such as reducing the use of poisons and machinery that are the normal routine for lawn care.  I say three cheers!  What do you think?


May 11, 2010 Are Vertical (or Wall) Gardens a Good Idea?  An article in the NY Times, Gardens that Grow on Walls, was labeled green bling by Susan Harris of Garden Rant and then Elizabeth Licata, also of garden rant, reminisced about the plants growing on an interior stone wall in Italy. Even fellow FNPS blogger*, Sue Dingwell, made a comment.  I think the only vertical or wall garden I'd be interested in is one that was populated entirely by epiphytes that would need some light and humidity.  Gee this is Florida; do you think we have any humidity here?  The best example I've seen so far is the one at Fairchild Tropical Gardens in Coral Gables, FL.  Most of these plants are species of Tillandsia, which are members of the bromeliad family and they are simply strapped onto a wire frame.  (Spanish moss (T. usneoides) is also a member of this genus.)  You could use orchids and bromeliads to add more variety.  All I'd have to provide is some light and occasional misting, no hydroponics, no plumbing, and little ongoing maintenance.  My kind of gardening!

Farichild Tropical Gardens wall Fall 2009.  Photo by Stibolt Fairchild Tropical Garden wall Fall 2009.  Photo by Stibolt

 (* FNPS = Florida Native Plant Society and our new blog is: www.fnpsblog.org, where you'll find an interview with me!)


May 7, 2010 The End-of-the-Season Soup.  As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, I have a lot of greens that have matured at the same time.  And now some of the oak-leaf lettuce is beginning to bolt.  I also harvested all the remaining carrots of the season--many of these were small and/or misshapen so they were not good for much except soup.  I modified my usual carrot soup recipe that I provided in my article Sweet Treat Carrots for the end-of-the-season version. I used no chicken stock this time (We're tending to eat less meat.) and I used the wild garlic instead of the stuff that comes in the jar. Then I added the leaves of two stalks of bolting lettuce and several leaves from my come-again cabbage. At this time of the year, this soup is best served cold.  Because of all the greens, it is not as yellow as the original soup, but it is yummy and so good for us.  Just think of the number of vegetable servings a bowl of this soup would supply.


French marigolds. Photo by Stibolt

May 4, 2010 I heard from Park Seed after I posted my rant on their advice about planting marigolds to prevent nematodes:

Hi Ginny-
I'm writing because I was trying to find a reference to the study that says Marigolds are not effective in nematode control.  We would like to provide accurate and timely information to our customers, and certainly Park Seed does not want to be known to spread garden myths.  I looked over the informed gardener website, but could not find where that particular topic was addressed.  As I don't own a copy of Linda Chalker-Scott's book, I was hoping you could provide me a reference?

I went looking for some recent studies and here are two that do support the practice of interplanting with Marigolds, and rotating crops with Marigolds for nematode control.

http://apsjournals.apsnet.org/doi/pdf/10.1094/PDIS.2002.86.5.505

http://www.acss.ws/Upload/XML/Research/389.pdf

It is my hope that we can gain your respect as a trusted authority, and be a valuable resource for your future articles.

I have copied Holly Glenn with Park Seed Public relations.  Should you need any images or content for future articles please do let her know.

With Kind Regards,
Stephanie Turner
Seed and Accessories Manager

So did my own online research to verify MY position and sent a reply with a cc to Linda Chalker-Scott out in Washington.  Here's my response:

Hi Stephanie,

I have to say that I'm surprised to hear from you, but I'm happy to discuss what I have found in my research on this topic.  The first reference here, is the general discussion I found and the second one is for the farmers here in Florida.  Yes, if you plant marigolds early and densely before planting your crop of tomatoes, you could possibly reduce the nematode damage to that crop.  But this is a lot different than casually planting a few marigolds between the tomatoes as you imply by your advice.  So that's why I posted my critical blog entry.  I have asked for more information and analysis from Linda Chalker-Scott and have cc'd her this email.  So if new studies or further analysis of the studies shows that casual growers can actually make a difference with marigolds, I'll gladly post a correction.

http://clark.wsu.edu/volunteer/mg/gm_tips/Horticulturalmyths.html

Myth: Planting marigolds in the vegetable garden will repel insects.
Fact: Some research shows marigolds have an effect on certain soil-dwelling nematode populations. Some species of marigolds release compounds from their roots, which can be toxic to some of the microscopic worm-like organisms that destroy the root systems of plants. This seems to occur only if you plant a solid, dense area of marigolds and allow them to grow for about two months. They are then chopped down and the roots and cuttings turned under (best in the fall). Visible results can take up to four months to appear if the right combinations of marigold and nematode species are used.

http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/ng045

Providing proper nutrition and improved soil conditions can increase crop tolerance to nematodes. Follow the fertility and growing recommendations for marigold suggested by your County Cooperative Extension Office to ensure a healthy crop.

Planting should be dense to ensure the best nematode control. Vann et al. (2003) suggested limiting the row spacing and spacing between individual plants to less than 7 inches to help prevent weeds. This is very important, since nematodes can reproduce on weeds and thereby nullify the effects of marigold. This spacing may be practical if marigold transplants are used. If marigolds are direct-seeded in Florida, much higher seeding densities may be needed to obtain a dense stand.

Marigolds cannot eradicate nematodes. In order for marigold to have a continuous effect on nematode populations it must be grown every season before the actual crop is planted (Doubrava and Blake, 1999), because nematode populations will increase over time in the presence of susceptible crops like most vegetables and bedding plants (McSorley et al., 1999).

Intercropping marigold with other crops to reduce plant-parasitic nematodes does not appear to be effective. Powers et al. (1993) showed that marigold intercropped with cucurbit was less productive than cucurbit monoculture and no effect on plant-parasitic nematodes was observed. On the other hand, El-Hamawi et al. (2004) showed that marigold used as an intercrop was effective in reducing M. incognita (Southern root-knot nematode). However, it should be pointed out that this experiment was conducted in pots, where root-knot severity might have been reduced because of soil dilution and a decreased density of host plants available for nematode reproduction.

That being said, I regularly buy seeds from your company and I'm worried about your financial situation. Thanks for writing and let's work together to provide gardeners with easy-to-follow advice that is based on the best practices.

Green gardening matters,
Ginny Stibolt

So then we received a reply from Linda Chalker-Scott.  Here is her response:

Dear All -

Per Ginny's request, I looked through the available literature on this topic. In general (but not always!), marigolds appear to either resist some species of nematodes (causing them to go elsewhere for food) or to actively decrease their populations (by production of some allelopathic chemical, probably in the leaves rather than the roots). The information is not clear-cut, and there are many mitigating factors, including:

1) genus and species of nematodes studied
2) cultivars of marigolds used
3) density of planting (the more marigolds used, the more suppressive)
4) manner in which marigold was used (i.e. a green manure may be more effective than live plants)
5) age of garden (i.e. new gardens tend to have more than old gardens)
6) intercropping and crop rotation is an effective strategy for reducing nematodes regardless of marigold use

Finally, it should be noted that other plants have been identified as poor hosts for some species of nematodes. It's not just a marigold phenomenon. And some of these have been found to be more effective than marigolds.

Thus, a new monocultural garden of tomatoes surrounded by a fringe of tomatoes will probably have more root nematode problems than a more established, intercropped garden consisting of many species, and perhaps with no marigolds at all.

Linda

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~
Linda Chalker-Scott
Associate Professor and Extension Urban Horticulturist
WSU Puyallup Research and Extension Center
2606 W. Pioneer
Puyallup, WA 98371 

"The Informed Gardener" webpage: http://www.theinformedgardener.com  
"The Garden Professors" blog: http://www.gardenprofessors.com 

I suppose this may be more than you wanted to know about marigolds and nematodes, but I think an educated gardener is a greener and more successful gardener. 


The Climate Friendly Gardener, by the union of concerned scientists, a 12-page pdf file

May 3, 2010 The Union of Concerned Scientists published a useful, concise, and interesting 12-page document, The Climate-Friendly Gardener.  This also includes both sides of the argument on the value of turf for sequestering carbon.  If you've read my book, Sustainable Gardening for Florida, all of this will be familiar, but it's informative to read another viewpoint.  Pass this on.  It is posted on GardenRant and you know there will be an extensive discussion there.

From Park Seeds email.  They promote an old gardeners' tale instead of the science.

Park Seed is at it again.  They are passing along an old gardeners' tale or rumor as gardening advice.  There are several good reasons to plant marigolds amongst your vegetables and herbs: They attract pollinators; they look good throughout our long hot summers; their flowers are edible.  But marigolds have not been shown in scientific studies to keep nematodes (small worms) away from other plants.  It is true that they are resistant to nematodes themselves.  In my opinion, when they post rumors as part of an otherwise good list of ideas, it reduces their credibility.

I talked about this before and provided links to Linda Chalker-Scott's books, The Informed Gardener and The Informed Gardener Blooms again.  So you can become as better judge of what advice is backed with science and what is not.


April 29, 2010 This NY Times story, "The plant hunter," is an interesting tale of seeking unusual plants. But the most useful part is the last few paragraphs where Tony Avent, who's been able to grow almost anything describes his gardening techniques. He uses a mixture of 50% garden soil (from his landscape) and 50% compost as his potting mix.  He doesn't use chemical fertilizers because they kill the soil's microbes.  And he explains why that old gardeners' tale about a good layer of gravel or potshards for drainage in a pot is false. That layer of coarse materials actually impedes drainage. These are methods that I encourage gardeners to use for better sustainability, because when you provide conditions where plants thrive, then you don't have to replace them and that saves time and money.


April 28, 2010 Florida is second in backyard habitat certifications. In his USA Today article, Your backyard could be wildlife habitat, which was posted last week, G. Jeffrey MacDonald cited the National Wildlife Federation's (www.nwf.org) numbers that show Florida, with more than 8,500 certified backyards, is second behind California by only 200.  And this doesn't count the schools that have been certified by NWF and the thousands households that are recognized as Florida Friendly (http://fyn.ifas.ufl.edu).

What does this mean for the state of our state?  The inhabitants of more than 8,500 households have:
1) reduced or eliminated the use of poisons in the landscape.
2) replaced some or all of their lawns with an assortment of plants and water features to provide food and habitat for wildlife.
3) increased awareness of the environment and their impact on it. 

While there are many parts of Florida's ecosystem that are in peril, people are not just wringing their hands, but are actually taking action to mitigate some of the damage done by over-development and the introduction of invasive species.  It gives me hope after the 40th annual celebration of Earth Day, that so many households are using green gardening methods to make a real difference.  

See my article, Creating Backyard Habitat, for my certification adventure.  (Update 5/3/10: A reader commented on the insignificant percentage that 8,500 households is when compared to the millions of households that make up the total population of the state.  While he is correct in his analysis of the numbers, I still look to the positive side and cheer for everyone who is actually doing something rather than just sitting around talking about our problems. Talk is cheap; action is priceless.)


A ghost orchid

April 27, 2010 From the Florida Native Plant Society's new blog: A Ghost Orchid Controversy: Controversy flared up last week down Palm Beach County way, when a local FNPS (Florida Native Plant Society) chapter auctioned off one the rare ghost orchids, Dendrophylax lindenii. You may remember this one from the movie, adapted from Susan Orleans' book, and with the same title, The Orchid Thief.  Here's what happened... Read the rest of the story here.  And while you're there, sign up for the feed so you'll be "in the know."

2010 St. Pete Green Thumb Festival vendors. Photo by Stibolt.

The 24th annual Green Thumb Festival in St. Petersburg FL was large, well-organized, interesting and well-attended.  And the weather was delightful.  The city and its parks department was one of the main organizers and a lot is accomplished at a festival such as this one.  

I've been to a lot of festivals during my year-long book tour and I think that other organizers can pick up some good ideas from this one.  I think one of the more important aspects is that the city is a major player. They celebrated Arbor Day and Earth Day at this annual city festival. Now in its 24th year, the Green Thumb Festival featured environmental and horticultural exhibits, vendors (with every kind of plant imaginable), the Garden Club of St. Petersburg Flower Show, a grow and share program, a diagnostic clinic (you could bring soil and water samples), a recycling rally, free mulch, plant auction, more than 2,000 trees for sale for $3, free Butterfly plants (500 each day), tool sharpening booth, entertainment, children's programs, other environmental programs and exhibits, and a food court! www.stpete.org/parks/greenthumb.asp

The female sago is finally producing a new set of leaves months after setting seeds. Photo by Stibolt

A further update on our Female Sago: At the end of October, when we checked in on the sagos, the female had produced striking red, poisonous fruits.  During the cold weather this winter, mockingbirds and cardinals picked away at the red coating.  The colder the weather, the more birds visited the sago; until finally the crows picked off all the berries.  Now in April the next year the female is finally producing a new set of leaves.  Meanwhile the male had produced several pups and several sets of new leaves which are now showing the pointed rosette in the middle which indicates more new leaves coming soon. The female has never produced a pup. There is not gender equality amongst sagos.


Aphids suck liquids from the newer softer plant parts. Photo by Bigstock

April 23, 2010 What's Bugging You?  I've talked about bugs and their importance if you wish to "Invite Birds to Your Yard" and how the poisons don't work over the long run in "Just Say No to Poisons." This week, Barbara Damrosch wrote another viewpoint on this topic for the Washington Post: "Predator vs. the bug that ate Washington."

Her conclusion says it all: "In short, if you encourage a healthy biodiversity on your property, avoid poisons, use compost instead of high-nitrogen fertilizers and flush away built-up nitrogen in your soil, aphids are less likely to congregate. If they do, a forceful squirt with a garden hose is usually enough to defeat them. As I said, your role is not a dramatic one. But you'll like the happy ending."


April 21, 2010 Tomorrow is Earth Day #40! I was excited about the first one so long ago.  Over the years I've always thanked Mother Earth on April 22.  Sometimes I've been actively involved in clean-ups or celebrations, but other times, depending upon the circumstances, I've only been able to give my silent homage.  This year I've been traveling all over Florida talking about how important sustainable landscaping practices are to the health of our state and our planet.  Tomorrow, on Earth Day, I'll be in Tampa at Inkwood Books.  I hope you'll join me there.

In today's NY Times, Robert Wright posted an article on his dandelion-infested lawn: The Dandelion King.  It's drawn a huge number of comments.  My comment made early this morning is #165: "The Lawn Reform Coalition http://www.lawnreform.org is the reference you are looking for. There are nine of us, from all over the US, (including Paul Tukey) and we have put together ideas and resources on more sustainable lawns and lawn alternatives with lots of beautiful photos. We worked hard to present a balanced picture of the problems with lawns and what to do about them. There is even a tri-fold brochure that you can download and print out for distribution to folks who might need some other ideas on lawns.

My lawn is much like yours, although here in northern Florida we don't have too many dandelions, but we have plenty of other non-grasses that inhabit our lawn. Lawns like ours are called "freedom lawns."

Allium canadense as it grows in Ginny's herb garden.  Photo by Stibolt

The Florida Native Plant Society has started a blog and I'm one of the bloggers.  It should be fun.  My first post is about our native garlic and how it earned its way into our herb garden.  See us at: http://fnpsblog.org There is other information and the annual meeting, chapters and other news at www.fnps.org.  Maybe you will plant a native plant in your yard to celebrate Earth Day.

Meadow garlic (Allium canadense) in my herb garden: isn't it beautiful? >>


Master Chef Greens by Park Seed.  Photo by Stibolt.

April 16, 2010 Spring Greens! I finally have plenty of greens this year; maybe too much of a good thing.  I was frustrated after two sowings of greens that did not take because of the cold, I did the unsustainable action of pouring the whole package of "Lettuce: Master Chef" by Park Seed in a five foot long row.  I've been thinning like crazy for the last six weeks (and eating the thinnings), but while these greens are beautiful, they're still way too crowded.  Barbara Damrosch posted an article this week for The Washington Post, Thinning Salads Make a Little Green Go a Long Way where she talks about adding the thinnings to your salads as baby greens or even micro-greens.  We need to have even more salads and I'll give some greens to some elderly neighbors--quickly before they bolt in the hot weather.  When they bolt, or start to grow the tall sprouts for their flowers and seeds, the leaves become bitter.  

<< I took this photo this morning of my master chef greens--in the foreground.  In the background you can see (from left to right) Egyptian walking onions, meadow garlic, yellow onion seedlings, carrots, sugar snap peas (on the wire cages), cabbage regrowth, purple broccoli rabe, more lettuce, and Swiss chard. 

Cabbage leaves after the head has been harvested.  Photo by Stibolt.

Also in my garden this year, I left the roots in place when I cut off the heads of my cabbages.  Now there are three or four sprouts on each plant where new leaves are growing.  I doubt that they'll form another head before hot weather arrives, but the leaves are great in salads and soups.  It's my "come again" cabbage routine.

I hope you've had a great year in your spring garden and that your summer crops are well on their way.  The best locavore is one who eats from her own garden.


April 7, 2010 Olivia Judson's column "Tree-mendous" posted in the NY Times today, makes some interesting points about trees and how unrelated species haves become trees in different ways. She mentions the prickly pear trees growing on the Galápagos Islands, which I've seen up close, and palms, which we have here in Florida. I made a comment (#53) with more information about palms, which has been highlighted by the editors as most interesting.

Here's my comment: "Palms can't heal wounds in their trunks, because unlike other trees, they don't have a layer of cambium, which produces growth every year or annual rings.  Without this growth layer, every gouge in the trunk becomes an entry point for critters.  Many people here in Florida don't realize that when palms grow in the middle of lawns that using string trimmers to cut the grass next to the palm tree will cause permanent damage. 

After a palm seed sprouts, the plant will grow as a shrub for years while it develops its girth.  It may take ten years or more before it starts to grow vertically and once it does, the width of the trunk will not usually get any thicker.  Palm roots do not increase their girth either, which is why you often see palms planted right next to sidewalks, pools, and buildings.  The palm roots will not disturb the hardscape like other trees. 

Upon transplanting most palms will generate all new roots and must be staked for a year or more while that happens.  This is why when you see palms ready for transplanting, the root balls are very small and the fronds are cut way back.  This is done so the palm can concentrate its energies on developing a new root system without having to support a large leaf mass.  At no other time should a palm be trimmed like this."

We loved our trip to the Galápagos--a trip of a lifetime.  I'd highly recommend it if you're at all interested in nature.  Here are a couple of photos of the tree cactus and of course a blue-footed boobie guarding its eggs.  The catamaran in the background was our boat, the Athala.  Every boat must have a naturalist on board to show the tourists all the sights.


Mayor of Tampa recommends Sustainable Gardening for Florida

April 5, 2010 Signs of Spring, seeds for schools, and the mayor of Tampa.  The mayor of Tampa Pam Iorio recommends Sustainable Gardening for Florida! Thanks Madam Mayor.  I'll be in the Tampa area later this month: on Earth Day (April 22) I'll be speaking at Inkwood Books in Tampa and that weekend I'll be at the St Petersburg Green Thumb Festival.  See my upcoming appearances page for more details.

Florida Wildflower Foundation opens Seeds for Schools grant program. Florida schoolteachers are invited to apply for the Florida Wildflower Foundation's new "Seeds for Schools" grant program through April 30, 2010. The program gives teachers the opportunity to immerse students in Florida's native flora and fauna through the planting and growing of native wildflower gardens from seed. www.floridawildflowers.com

Chives and toadflax in Ginny's herb garden are decked out in their Easter lavenders. Photo by Stibolt

Chives and toadflax are decked out in their Easter lavenders in my herb garden.  The brighter green herb behind the chives is wild garlic (Allium canadense) which is locally native. I have to say that I prefer the wild garlic for most dishes not only for its taste, but because the leaves are solid and tolerate frying better than the flimsier chive leaves.  But it's hard to argue against the lovely chive flowers.  In this photo, you can also see the rosemary bush and some dill.  I love the herb garden's location right outside the kitchen door.  

Other signs of spring include the sprouting of the royal and cinnamon ferns with their interesting fertile fronds, the blooming of the  rain lilies and return of the hummingbirds--it's still just the males so far.  It's been a long, cold winter here in northeastern Florida, the warmth of spring weather feels really good right now.  I posted an article with more photos and details of spring: Signs of Spring in Northeastern Florida, Finally!

On Saturday, the two classes I gave at B.B.Brown Gardens in Clermont FL were outside under the the shade of a spreading laurel oak tree. The weather was absolutely perfect.  It's worth the trip to go down there to hike along their scrub jay trail.  I'll post more spring photos later.


Ginny presenting to yet another group of gardeners.  Photo by Stibolt

April 1, 2010!  Use Sustainable Landscaping: Don't be an April Fool! I have three upcoming appearances in the Jacksonville area.  Thursday April 1 at 7pm in south side off Baymeadows, on Wednesday April 7 at 7pm on Amelia Island, and on Saturday and Sunday April 17 & 18 is the St. Augustine Flower & Garden Expo.  If you're elsewhere in Florida see my appearances page with all my events this spring from St. Petersburg and Kissimmee to Ft. Pierce and Tallahassee.

Thursday April 1 at 7pm: Use Sustainable Landscaping: Don't be an April Fool! I've been invited to speak by the Hampton Glen Community Association.  Only foolish gardeners or landscapers would replace the plants that died this winter with more of the same.  Now that this hard winter is finally over, gardeners should consider this as an opportunity to use more sustainable practices so they'll be prepared for the next El Niño-chilled winter or the next extended drought.  Join me for a lively discussion followed by a book signing. (Hampton Glen Clubhouse 8515 Hampton Ridge Blvd. Jacksonville, FL 32256  DIRECTIONS: On Baymeadows Rd. between 9A and Southside Blvd. Across from Deerwood Country Club.)

Wednesday April 7 at 7pm: Improve the State of our State with More Sustainable Landscaping. This presentation for the Sierra Club of Fernandina Beach demonstrates methods for: reducing lawns and improving lawn care for the remainder, sequestering stormwater, creating habitat, using better gardening techniques, edible gardening, plus saving time and money. Green gardening matters and Florida's ecosystems can be enhanced. Sierra Club meets at 1367 South 18th St. Fernandina Beach, FL. Email Julie with questions and check out their website: www.nassausierra.org.

Saturday and Sunday April 17 & 18: St. Augustine Flower & Garden Expo: Presented by Epic Community Services and St. Johns Garden Clubs, this gathering will feature speakers, plants, entertainment, and lots of gardening information. I've been invited to speak on both days. On Saturday, I'll talk about building habitat on your property and in your community. On Sunday, I'll talk about how sustainable gardening can save time and money.St. Johns County Agricultural Center 3125 Agricultural Center Dr. St. Augustine, FL www.gardenclubofstaugustine.org/show.html.


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