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 Sixteenth postings page (from 7/2/10 to 9/20/10). Topics on this page include: wildflower symposium  garden event roundup, butterfly farm, tree topping, grasses 2, invasives, elm roots, last event, urbfarm & vegetables, Florida's nativesCSA story, win book, hibiscus, grafted tomatoes, grass science, book status, lawn reform newsletter, cucumbers.


Both flat-topped and regular goldenrods have volunteered in our front beds and in our sunny meadows.  Photo by Stibolt

9/20/10 I'll be attending the wildflower symposium on Saturday the 25th in Winter Garden. The schedule is posted on the foundation's homepage. I was invited to sign books, too. It should be fun and educational--I hope to see you there! 

And speaking of wildflowers, my podcast on goldenrods was posted today.  Goldenrods have been unjustly blamed for causing hay fever.  It's not true, so plant more easy-to-care-for goldenrods in your landscape to attract lots of butterflies and to look absolutely beautiful in your fall garden--just in the nick of time when other flowers may be looking a little seedy.  We have both flat-top goldenrod (Euthamia caroliniana) and the more typical goldenrods (Solidago spp) that have volunteered and artfully arranged themselves in our front beds and in our sunny meadows.  I wrote about goldenrods and other sources of gold in our fall meadows in There's Gold in Our Meadows.

Healthy-looking basil  in Florida in September?  Photo by Stibolt

New basil strategies: I jumped the gun this spring and planted my basil too early--it was the right date, but the winter had been colder than normal, so none of my seeds germinated.  I should have waited a few more weeks.  The only basil that sprouted in my herb garden was one plant that had been seeded from last year's crop.  I transplanted it from right next to the sidewalk to further back in the garden and I clipped off a good chunk of it to bring inside.  I cut it into three pieces and stuck them in water near a southwest-facing window.  After a few weeks they rooted and started growing, but I kept them inside for about 6 weeks and used some of the leaves as needed in salads and other recipes.  When the roots filled the small vase, I took them out and planted the three sprouts out next to the original plant.  In this photo, the three sprouts are in the foreground and the original plant is the puny one near the grayish lavender plant.  

I've heard from some organic farmers that this has been a particularly bad year for fungus on basil here in Florida and they'd been urged to harvest all their basil at the beginning of August.  Since most of my basil spent those weeks inside, they've missed the fungus and it's grown very well here late into the season.  My new basil strategy is that I'll take some clippings early in the season and bring them inside for a month or two and then plant them back outside for a good fall harvest.  I guess this would be called defensive harvesting.  


9/16/10 In my guest rant on today's gardenrant.com, I maintain that many people ARE interested in gardening events. This is in response to a NYTimes article a few weeks back that botanical gardens have had to cancel their garden-oriented events, because there's not enough interest. I took part in eleven (11) garden-oriented events in Florida over this past year where up to 20,000 people attended. I've summarized some of the best ideas for holding successful garden-oriented festivals. I've also included a link to a photographic tour and a podcast: Garden Fests. Enjoy!

If you have more ideas or would like to share your experiences, please leave a comment on gardenrant.  Thanks.


butterfly release photo by jacksonville.com9/12/10 Learn more about butterfly farming: read A butterfly hobby takes wing and brings in $300,000 a year.  Be sure to watch the beautiful video of a monarch emerging from its chrysalis.  

While we can attract butterflies to our own yards by planting more native plants--particularly larval food plants for butterflies, sometimes we might wish for more butterflies for special occasions.  This is when having access to a butterfly farm like White Oak comes into play.  I thought it was interesting that they ship adult butterflies in folds of wax paper in chilled containers to "mimic a cool spring morning."  In my tour of garden fests this past year, several included butterfly houses and/or butterfly releases.  Just beautiful! 

One other note on welcoming monarchs to your yard:  Don't plant scarlet milkweed, an exotic from South America that is commonly sold in big box stores, because the scarlet milkweed is more tropical than our natives and continues to bloom for a longer period. This means that many monarchs do not migrate and become susceptible to parasites. See: http://if-srvv-edis.ifas.u fl.edu/uw311 I've ordered some butterfly weed (Asclepias. tuberosa): hopefully I'll be successful in not killing it.


"Little Gem" magnolia that has been topped.  Photo by Stibolt

9/11/10 There's an old gardeners' tale that topping trees is a necessary landscaping practice.   Listen to my podcast on Topping trees.  There are two separate parts to this topic: 

1) When buying a young tree, look for one that has not been topped or shaped even if it looks scrawny. A topped tree may end up with multiple trunks and competing leaders. An un-topped tree will be a stronger specimen because of its one-trunked shape. It will fill out in time and have a natural shape for that tree species. If you plan ahead for the size and environment of the full-grown tree then it will grace its space beautifully and live its expected lifespan.

This "Little Gem" magnolia is waiting to be bought at a big box store.
The grower has topped it, so that it now has no main trunk.  
This will not be a strong tree in the long run. >> 

This tree has a double trunk.  Photo by Stibolt

If you've ended up with a tree that has a double trunk and if the tree is still relatively young, choose the stem that is straighter or larger to be the main trunk. Trim the secondary trunk back by about on third to a side branch, which looks better and reduces the possibility of sucker braches. The next year cut it back one half and the third year cut it back flush with the main trunk. This gradual trimming reduces the shock to the young tree and each trimming encourages the main trunk to grow more.  For much more information on pruning and other tree care see UF's woody horticultural pages

<< This is the same tree as above and it also has a double trunk.  If you were to purchase this tree, choose the trunk on the right to be the main one.  Don't trim anything back until next year, but then start cutting back the left trunk over two or three years.

2) If you are working to make your landscape more wind-resistant in preparation for the next big hurricane, bring in a certified arborist who can create a pruning plan that may take several years to accomplish, especially with huge mature trees. He should not trim out more than 20% of the tree's canopy per year and should not include tree topping. So always ask what the tree cutter plans to do before he steps into the cherry picker. A mature tree that has been topped has had its life shortened dramatically. It will put out some shoots, but it will have a hard time creating a new lead trunk and will be severely weakened by this treatment.

Topping a palm tree will kill it, because it only grows from the top. You should only have dead fronds trimmed from a palm.

One exception to tree topping is for fruit trees to make it easier to harvest the fruit. The topping will probably shorten the life of the tree, but many fruit trees, especially citrus, have been bred to withstand this abuse. It's best if you have your fruit tree pruned by someone who specializes in maximizing the harvest.


lawn reform badge

9/4/10 Fall is not a good time to apply fertilizer to southern lawns, because our southern grasses are going into dormancy as the days grow short and the temperatures become cooler.  Their ideal growing temperatures range from 85 to 117 degrees.  If you want to know the science, listen to my podcast the Science of Southern Grasses, which was posted on jacksonville.com this week.  You can also read my article posted here: The Science Behind Southern Grasses, Including Turf.  

Here is another opinion on turf grasses, Let's get over our obsession with 'perfectly green' lawns by Phillip Petersen, who teaches biology and environmental sciences at Florida State College at Jacksonville.  In my comment to his letter, I recommended that for more information on sustainable lawn care that folks could link to the lawn reform website: www.lawnreform.org

Then there is this new study: Homeowners Vastly Over-applying Lawn Fertilizer.  But still here on Jacksonville.com a new article posted today that now is the time to fertilize lawns.  Sigh...

Grass isn't always greener...


8/30/10 Florida's Invasive Plants cost us millions of (both private and taxpayer) dollars every year.  A podcast was posted today where I talk about lantanas--some are invasive and some are not.  Don't be part of the problem.  Find out what's on the most invasive lists at www.fleppc.org, remove them from your landscape, don't buy them, and complain when you see invasive plants for sale.

<< These non-native lantanas bloom all summer, attracting lots of insects and their predators.  Since they don't produce any berries that birds could carry into natural areas, they are not invasive.  

~ ~ ~

Other green gardening matters:

Rufino Osorio, author of "A Gardener's Guide to Florida's Native Plants," answers the question in this post about where to purchase plants native to Florida on the Florida Native Plant Society's blog: Sources for Native Plants.  He's posted some wonderful photos as well.

An interesting and beautiful new blog by a team of great garden writers. Attracting wildlife to your yard is an important part of sustainable landscaping. This blog may give you some new ideas. Wildlife Garden

Here's an article in the Washington Post: Don't fear snakes; appreciate their role in the garden By Barbara Damrosch.  Snakes deserve gardeners' support--they play an important role in the ecosystem. Cheer for the predators in your yard.  

This is an interesting discussion in reaction to a recent NY Times article, Math Lessons for Locavores by Stephen Budianski, which highlighted the actual cost of raising food and getting it to the store. These letters make some other points about this topic. Eating Locally, Thinking Globally.


Ginny is holding a winged elm stem to show the circling roots.  Photo by Stibolt

8/23/10 This is why you need to rinse away all the soil from the pot. This winged elm (Ulmus alata) had circling roots, but they were not obvious until the soil was removed. I straightened out what I could and clipped off the others.  And who knew that the roots would be bright red?

I'll be watering this little tree daily for a couple of weeks and a few times per week for a month or two.  I did not put any amendments into the planting hole, but I spread some compost over the whole area out to two feet away from the tree.  I then covered the entire area with mulch, but did not put any compost or mulch right up against the tree.  I'll keep you informed of its progress.

This is a Florida native and while we have one of these trees growing naturally out in the back at the edge of a wooded area, I was pleased to have another one.  I've planted it near where I lost a red bay in the front.  (See my article: Red Bays are Dying.) 

Here's a link to UF's data sheet for winged elm.  


Florida Native Plant Society logo8/17/10 Tonight I'll be speaking to the Pawpaw chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society in Volusia County.  This is my 53rd and last event in my year-long book tour.  Whew!! What a great ride.  Thanks to everyone who organized these events, all the attendees, and all those who bought books.  I've been honored to be a part of your programs.  For a review of where I've been go to my events page.  Now on to the next adventures...


A visit to Victoria Freeman's UrbFarm.  Photo by Stibolt

Friday the 13th--your lucky day! I visited Victoria Register-Freeman's garden up in Jacksonville and I've posted A Tour of an Urb Farm in Jacksonville.  My tour includes lots of photos and tells the story of how Victoria became an accidental community gardener.  Plus a new podcast on people finding various ways to grow vegetables was posted today where I talk about Victoria's Urb Garden and others who are finding innovative ways to grow vegetables and eat locally. Enjoy.

Here's a story posted in the NYTimes, Tending Purple Martins.  An important part of a sustainable landscape is habitat for birds. While most birds can supply or build their own nests, purple martins depend on humans for shelter. Wouldn't you love some of these voracious bug eaters in your yard?

And in the Dallas News is this story on nematodes.  This is a reminder that not all nematodes are a gardener's enemy. Like bugs, the vast majority of them are benign or beneficial. One gram of soil (about 1/5 teaspoon) could contain hundreds of nematodes. When your soil is in balance, it becomes a balanced ecosystem. This is what a sustainable gardener aims for.


Gil Nelson's Best Native Plants for Southeasern Gardens cover

8/6/10 Use More of Florida's Native Plants to save money in your landscape.  Listen to my podcast Florida's natives for more information.  Gil Nelson has written two excellent reference books for us here in northern Florida.  Click the covers for more information and to purchase the books.

To find nurseries that specialize in Florida native plants, check out the Association of Florida's Native Nurseries' website: www.afnn.org.  

Florida Native Plant Society's logoTo further educate yourself, start attending the local chapter meetings of the Florida Native Plant Society (www.fnps.org).  You can also start following the FNPS blog at www.fnpsblog.org.  (Full disclosure:  I'm one of the main bloggers.)  You can also "like" the Florida Native Plant Society page on Facebook.  Feel free to post photos and success stories on using natives or to ask questions of the group.


USA Today Story on CSAs.

7/29/10 In today's USA Today, Janice Lloyd posted a story on Community Supported Agriculture.  I'm heartened by the attention that this trend is receiving.  Maybe more folks will start thinking about eating more locally grown food and maybe even start growing more of their own vegetables.  

Also today my podcast recorded with Tracy Collins on Old Gardeners' Tales was posted.  For additional information on busting these unproven gardening methods, check out Linda Chalker-Scott's website, www.informedgardener.com, or the garden professors' blog at www.gardenprofessors.com.  


Gil Nelson's Best Native Plants for Southeasern Gardens cover

July 26, 2010: Win Gil Nelson's new book, "Best Native Plants for Southern Gardens: A handbook for Gardeners, Homeowners, and Professionals" by leaving a comment on the Florida Native Plant Society's blog by August 4th. This book covers the 8 southeastern states from Virginia to Louisiana, but it does not include tropical south Florida (planting zones 10 & 11). 

"Best Native Plants for Southern Gardens" is filled to the brim with important information on native plants and is a must for any serious gardener in the southeastern region of the country.

While this is a beautiful book that would look great on your bookshelf, I predict that once you get your hands on it, that you'll mark it up and really use it to increase your success growing native plants. It has enough information and detail for professional landscapers and native ecosystem restorers, but it's an easy-enough read for the more casual gardener as well.

Read the full review on the FNPS blog. Good luck!


A white, scarlet hibiscus doing well at the edge  of Ginny's pond.  Photo by Stibolt

July 24, 2010: My podcast on Think About Personal Pollution (TAPP) has been posted, which relates how the city of Tallahassee has gone the extra mile, over and above the Florida-Friendly program.  Worth thinking about. www.tappwater.org 

Also, check out "An Appreciation for Scarlet Hibiscus" posted over on The Florida Native Plant Society's blog.  I've purchased several of these great plants and have placed them around the front pond.  I even bought a white variety at the garden fest in St. Augustine this spring.  I wasn't sure it would bloom, but it's really taken off.  I guess this is an example of the right plant in the right place!


July 21, 2010 Grafted Tomatoes! Over on Garden Rant, Ann Lovejoy wrote a piece on grafted tomato plants and how a sturdy rootstock allows gardeners to have more success with those tasty heirloom varieties.   Yes, there was a contest and I was one of the winners and my two grafted tomato plants came via FedEx this afternoon.  Even though it was much too hot for humans in the garden, I planted them right away. (And here is a pod cast: grafted tomatoes.)

<< They didn't look too bad coming right out of the box--the soil inside the 2" pots was sealed with plastic wrap and a pair of wooden stakes protected the tomato stems. Everything was well-wrapped in newspaper.  (I also will make good use of the three crossword puzzles included in the packing material--nothing goes to waste here.)

 

One of the plants was double grafted with a Cherokee green tomato on one side and a Cherokee purple on the other. The planting instructions said to keep the graft above the soil level, because allowing the heirloom to root would defeat the purpose of the graft.  Normally, I would plant tomatoes very deep in the soil to encourage more roots to form. This will be interesting to watch and I'll keep you informed. (Update: the tomatoes did not make it through the summer heat, but I'll try grafted tomatoes again. >>

<< I had the perfect place in my garden for these two plants--right next to my in-garden, summer-doldrums compost pile.  The tomato roots will probably gravitate toward the rich, damp compost for nutrients.  After I finished harvesting the last of my greens I built the compost pile in the bed using old path mulch, pond scum, grass clippings, and then covered it with a layer of pine needles.  I'll spread this over all the beds before starting my cool-weather crops in September.  

I soaked the soil around the new plants with rain barrel water. This is why I love my elevated barrels--gravity is on my side. Note the seedling trays on top of the compost pile where I've planted my own fall tomatoes and more bell peppers--most of them have just sprouted.  


Florida's different: I don't know about you, but I am being inundated with emails from seed companies telling me that now is the proper time to plant cool-season plants.  If you're in Florida like me, you can buy the seeds now, but don't plant them yet.  Store them in a sealed container in the refrigerator until the end of September or later.


Teen gardener story in the NY Times

July 15, 2010 I just love this story posted in today's NY Times: A Michigan Teen Farms Her Backyard. I admire Ms. Reau's ambition and entrepreneurship for farming in her yard and selling shares of her crop to local families--her own CSA (community supported agriculture). She's been raising rabbits, too, and sells the manure as Bunny Honey. I hope lots of other folks, young and old, will be inspired to dig up their lawns and grow something of value. (Update 7/19/10: Here's another story with an opposite scenario.  Farmers for rent for folks who have property suitable for growing vegetables, but for whatever reason do not. Rent a farmer? Growers visit city backyards. Thanks to Helen for sending me a link to this article.)

If you need some guidance getting started, the Duval County Extension agents in Jacksonville have a half-day class coming up on Saturday August 21 10am – Noon.

Take home your own planted seed tray at this make-and-take program. The cost is $15. Pre-registration and pre-payment is required. Please call Jeannie at 904-387-8850 to pre-register. This class fills up fast, so get those registrations in quickly so you can start your fall garden. The deadline to register is Wednesday, August 18th.

A new podcast I recorded with Tracy Collins, Rescuing Rain Lilies, has been posted on jacksonville.com.  I wrote about this project back in June.


Ginny's freedom lawn after 5 years of no chemicals.  Photo by Stibolt

July 12, 2010 Why is grass science important?  Because what you don't know can backfire. My new article, "The Science Behind Southern Grasses, Including Turf" explains why you should NOT use Yankee lawn care advice when you're managing a southern lawn.  The typical advice for minimum lawn care is to fertilize with a slow-release fertilizer or compost in the fall. This is bad advice for southern turf because it will be going into dormancy with cooler weather and shorter days. That fertilizer will sit there unused except by weeds, or the late fall storms will rinse it off the landscape into the waterways via the storm drainage systems. 

The better advice for minimum care of warm weather grasses is to fertilize (if you absolutely must) only once in the spring with a slow release fertilizer and/or compost after the grass begins to green up with the approach of warmer weather and longer days. 

American Meadow Garden Cover

And while we are talking about grasses and turf, you may be interested in John Greenlee's new book, The American Meadow Garden published by Timber Press and illustrated with Saxon Holt's luscious photographs.  Read a review by Billie Goodnick and enter for a chance to win the book. 

While not specifically for Florida, I'm looking forward to reading this book for design and maintenance ideas.  

Pass the word: Turfgrass is not always greener!  See The Lawn Reform Coalition's website for greener landscapes: www.lawnreform.org


Sustainable Gardening for Florida by Ginny StiboltJuly 8, 2010 My new podcast recorded with Tracy Collins at jacksonville.com has been posted.  We talked about my book, which has sold well and is halfway through the second printing.  My editor at University Press of Florida said that it has been a "down" year for book sales, and that my book has gone to a second printing well before a year after its release was a remarkable accomplishment.  I'd like to thank all who've bought it and am glad people are finding it useful.  Listen to the podcast to find out what may be coming up next.  I'd love to hear what you think.


lawn reform coalition badgeJuly 5, 2010 Sign up for the Lawn Reform Coalition's new newsletter to receive updates and timely information. Learn how you too can have a "freedom lawn." Then by this time next year you can declare your own independence day-- free from all those poisons and polluting chemicals you used to buy for your lawn.  "Grass isn't always greener..." (Update: instead of a newsletter, we converted our website with all its resources over to a blog.  this way we'll post new stuff as it happens and don't need to format a newsletter--we figured your inbox would appreciate this action.)

My last appearance in the Tallahassee area will be 7pm July 10 at the Apalachee Bay Yacht Club where I've been invited to speak on Sustainable gardening basics. While a yacht club may seem a little out of the ordinary for this topic, everyone likes to save time and money in his or her gardens and general landscape care.  It should be fun! 69 Harbour Point Dr. Crawfordville, FL (South of Tallahassee on the Gulf coast)


July 2, 2010 A new podcast, Hurricane-scaping, was posted on jacksonville.com today.  Yes, hurricane Alex has come and gone and experts have predicted a heavy season.  The are a number of easy-to-accomplish landscaping projects that might reduce storm damage.  Listen and find out.  I also posted a Hurricane-Scaping article recently.  It's been a while since I've done any podcasts since I've been on my year-long book tour, but I took the opportunity yesterday to record several new ones.  

Our cucumbers (Cucumis sativus) are doing very well, even though some deer came through the yard and trimmed them back.  I've put up some wire fencing and several tall tomato cages around the cucumber vines.  This is the first year that I've planted them, but it won't be the last!  The cucumbers are crisp and sweet and boy to they grow fast in our north Florida heat.  I bought this "Ashley" cultivar from the Victory Seed Company, a small, family owned and operated organization that works to preserve plant varieties by locating, growing, documenting and offering heirloom and rare open-pollinated seeds to home gardeners.  They grow seeds on their farm and help to support other seed farmers by purchasing from a network of growers.  I love that they enclose their seeds in small zip-lock baggies to help preserve freshness.   Hey Burpee are you listening?

In today's NYTimes Ann Raver wrote At Monticello, Jefferson's Methods Endure.  In her article she describes her visit to today's version of Jefferson's gardens.  She also reviews the book by header Monticello gardener, Peter Hatch, “Thomas Jefferson’s Revolutionary Garden,” to be published by Yale University Press.  I look forward to reading it.

An update on our male and female sagos that grace either side of our front steps: Last year I posted,  Gender equality amongst sagos? Not so much... Then in April this year, I posted a photo of the female which had finally sprouted some new fronds after its labor of producing all those seeds.  

Since the male had sprouted two sets of new fronds last year, it now sports two fruiting structures, while the female is only thinking about another set of fronds, no sexual parts this year.  So the inequality continues.


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