Thursday, December 22, 2011

Oranges Bring Winter Sunshine

Click to Mix and Solve

Garden Furniture For The Ages

Found these lovely romantic armchairs at Lukas Nursery in Oviedo.  The comfortable, blue chairs made out of a cement resin, look like they were designed for an Alice in Wonderland fantasy.   I can picture them sitting on a lakefront landscape of a picturesque mansion.  The price would require a mansion. They are selling for just under $1000 for the pair.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Tis The Season For Christmas Bird Counting

"And a partridge in a pear tree."

Its' time for the Christmas Bird Count again! The Audubon organization sponsors the annual event each year during the Christmas holidays. Happening from December 14, 2011 through January 5, 2012, the volunteer army of bird-watchers count the various species seen in their yards, cities, and wildlife preserves.  The festive activity to involve people to help birds with a friendly bird experience. 

The data collected will help provide information on species populations and migration trends. Over 50,000 observers in 2000 locations from the Artic Circle to South America's Tierra del Fuego will participate.

You still have opportunity to get involved by contacting your local Audubon group.  You must be 19 yeas old to register and participate and there is a $5 fee which helps defray local expenses of counting equipment and materials.

I wonder if someone will see a partridge in a pear tree?  Probably more like cardinals with snow expected on Christmas Day for our northern feathered friends.

Here's a slideshow I took of birds visiting my mother-in-law's birdfeeder on New Year's Eve 2008.

Mistletoe - Friend or Foe?

Celtic and European traditions have long associated mistletoe with our Christmas holiday.   The American oak mistletoe, Phorandendron serotium, is found in deciduous trees, mainly laurel oak trees, making it easy to see in the wintertime.  Mistletoe can also infest elms, hackberries, sycamores, and wild cherry trees. 

Mistletoe is a friend of butterflies and birds. The epiphyte is the sole host plant for the blue hairstreak butterfly.  The evergreen succulent leaves hold berries that are spread from tree to tree by birds and wind.

Despite the wildlife benefits and jolly seasonal use, mistletoe is a parasite.  Sapping the water and nutrition from its host, mistletoe can kill stressed trees.  Deciding on whether to remove mistletoe should be based on the location of the pest. If it is located in the tree close to the ground, then a homeowner should be able to remove it easily. The mistletoe roots must be removed to eradicate it.  Cutting the branch off six inches below the mistletoe's location.  But if it is in the higher branches of the tree, have it removed by a certified arborist to prevent damaging the tree's structure.

Mistletoe is easily seen in autumn.
The other method of removing mistletoe is by using a chemical growth regulator, Ethephon, that can only be applied in winter time when the tree is dormant. Ethephon is only available thought a licensed pest control operator. 

Mistletoe is poisonous, so be careful to keep out of range of pets and animals. Wash hands and clothing with hot soapy water after pruning or touching.

So is mistletoe friend or foe?  I'll let you decide.

Mistletoe - IFAS

Mistletoe - Web of Life

New Tropical Mistletoe Discovered

Winter Loving Strawberries

Strawberries, Fragaria × ananassa, are one of my favorite berries. I love strawberries with angel food cake and whipped cream, strawberry jam cookies, and strawberry ice cream. Strawberries are also one of the easiest fruits to grow in your garden.

Florida has three seasons, autumn, winter, and spring to grow delicious strawberries. They need temperatures between 50 and 80 degrees and shorter daytime conditions. Raised beds are best so that the crowns of the strawberry plant are kept well-drained. The soil pH for good growth should be between 5.5 and 6.8, but will tolerate acidity levels 5.0 through 7.0. Ensure your strawberries have adequate fertilizer by digging a balanced N-P-K into the soil before planting. Then using a slow-release fertilizer once a month. Water one to two times a week in the winter and two to three times depending on the temperatures in the spring.

Protect strawberries with frost blankets when temperatures go below 32 degrees. Recommended varieties for Florida include 'Caramosa', 'Sweet Charlie', and 'Festival.' I found beauiful white flowered 'Camarosa' and hot pink flowers  "Lipstick" at my local nursery.  Lipstick strawberries have long runners spreading to five feet if allowed, and can make a lovely groundcover for edible landscaping.  Strawberries can be used in containers, window boxes, and in rock gardens.

Pest issues include fungus, spider mites, and nematodes. Check leaves for any pest issues before you buy your plants. Using rich organic soils will reduce nematode populations.  Apply a proactive fungicide if you think your plants may be susceptible.  Check labels before using any pesticides or fungicides for use on strawberries.

Camarosa strawberries

Lipstick Strawberries

More Links:

Growing Strawberries in the Florida Home Garden.

Growing Strawberries Hydroponically

Fragraria 'Lipstick' Strawberries

Would you like to read more on Edible Landscaping? Check out my in-depth article on Edilble Landscaping for Green Builder magazine on "Edible Landscaping 02" pages 31 - 37.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Gifts For The Gardener

Selecting Christmas gifts for the gardener can be easy or hard depending on the gardener's propensity and their needs. Is your favorite gardener new to gardening? Then new tools, plants, and garden accents can be easy to find.  But what if you have a gardener who has a mature garden, all the tools they need, and buying a Christmas present can be a chore? Here's some ideas for every budget that you still have time to get and place under your Christmas tree:

  • Beautiful stainless steel compost pail for the kitchen.  A one gallon container for all your compost scraps comes complete with a carbon filter. Only 11 inches high to fit perfectly under your sink or even on your counter.  $40.00

  • Bird House Chalet that will feed every feathered visitor. Decorated with bird seeds, this bird house will attract bluejays, cardinals, chickadees, doves, finches, jays, sparrows, and more. Hanging the bird feeder close to a window view or placing it on your fence will enable your gardener to enjoy watching the various birds who will come to your yard. $40.00

  •  Wee fairy garden accents for miniature gardens. A wonderful way to create little garden vignettes for under a tall tree, or put on your patio or even indoors, this is an unique hobby for children, adluts, and those with disabilities, who can't get around a garden or can't lift heavy items. Each piece allows you to personalize the garden.  Individual costs vary from $3.00 to $10.00.

  • Solar powered LED firefly lighting for your garden borders or used to highlight a small tree. These small LED lights with a low voltage transformer don't add to your electricity bill and are easy to install. These beautiful lights add fantasy and excitement to your nighttime garden.

  • A must have in any garden is a noteworthy entrance.  Garden gates add a special touch to your landscape even if there is no fence.  Gates can reflect your house architectural style or just add whimsical structure to your yard.  Gates can be wooden, wrought iron, even twigs and branches from trees.  You can find unique garden gates at antique stores, yard  sales, or renovation outlets. Free to $100+.

  • Celtic Mushroom. Perfect touch for an Irish themed garden. This three pound cement resin mushroom can be used outdoors in your garden area or beside your indoor plants.  Toadstools even come as a set with a large and small size.  Weather-resistant, it will be an ideal accent to your woodland garden. $40.00

  •   And for the chilly, rainy, snowy days of winter when gardening isn't a viable option, the best biographical gardening book I've read in a long time is on a relatively unknown but early 20th century gardening designer, is "Edwardian Country Life: The Story of H. Avray Tipping"  In 1933, Tipping wrote "The Garden of Today." His garden designs reflect the Italian phase of the Arts and Crafts style. H. Avray Tipping, made an impact on Britain's culture when he became the architectural editor of Country Life, a popular magazine among the wealthy in the early 1900's. Tipping was instrumental in the preservation of country homes and historical buildings through the National Trust and the Royal Society for the Preservation of Ancient Buildings. 
A personal sidenote: I was introduced to this new book through my English parish priest, the brother of Helena Gerrish.  Helena lives in Tipping's house and while researching his life and restored his magnificent gardens.  I thoroughly enjoyed this wonderful coffee table book by Helena Gerrish. After reading the background history along with Tipping's biography and seeing the beautiful gardening photographs of beautiful British country homes, his homestead and his gardens are now on my bucket list for my next trip to England.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Growing Them Big Down Under

The giant Powelliphanta looks beautiful sliding along the mesic forest floor but this rare albino snail is not as gentle as its vegetarian American cousins. The New Zealand native mollusk is carnivorous, feasting on worms, grubs, and other creatures that are in the snail's path.  At maturity, a 20 year old snail can reach the size of a man's fist.  This photographs shows a Powelliphanta (Powell elephant?) approximately ten years old.

The ugly creature above is called a Giant Weta. I'm grateful they are found only on the Great Barrier Island as they are one of the largest insects on record and a good example of island gigantism . Finding this in my garden would spoil my day.

Do you have signs of pesky snails in your garden?  Make sure you're not irrigating too much or too often, keeping your landscape wet. Snails are Mother Nature's decomposers, digesting fungi and decaying plant material. They  like moist soils with lots of leaf litter.  Drying your garden beds out, removing decomposing foliage, letting the sun in, and using a product with iron phosphate works to help reduce snail population. Be careful using baits with metaldehyde around children and pets. Using beer may be organic, but is expensive, and a good waste of beer. (Beer is also not good for pets and children.)

There is one Florida native snail that is good for your garden:  the Rosy Wolf Snail, Euglandia rosea.  These predators feed on other snails and keep other snail populations down. 

The Living World of Mollusks describes rosy wolf snail's behavior:
In the case of the wolf snail, the lips are used to follow the prey's scent along its slime trace. Which a wolf snail does, like a wolf follows the scent of its prey, hence the snail's name. Only in the case of the wolf snail, it is more precisely the taste, not the scent, which it follows.

From another snail's slime trace the wolf snail also gains information on whether the snail is a potential meal rather than a fellow wolf snail. Which basically makes not much of a difference, as wolf snails also are cannibals.

On pursuit of its prey the wolf snail does not move at a proverbial snail's pace, but at double or triple that speed. It follows its prey up trees and even for certain distances under water
For more information and identification of snails:

Florida Tree Snails

Get Savvy About Snails

Florida Garden Snails

Snails and Slugs

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Queen Palms Becoming Royal Pain

I received another email from an HOA that is seeing evidence of their queen palms dying.  Since 2003, when it was first diagnosed, Central Florida has seen increasing cases of Fusarium wilt in Syagrus romanazoffiana,  Queen palms, and Washingtonia robusta, Mexican fan palm, also known as Washingtonia palm.  The fungal disease kills the palms very quickly. 

Do you think you have Fusarium wilt in your palms? Check these symptoms:
  • One-sided chlorosis.  The fronds will all be yellow or brown on one side.
  • Distinctive red or brown stripe on the stem of the frond.
  • If you cut the stem off, inside the stem is discolored especially to one side.
  • Disease appears on the lowest living fronds, moving upwards, with the youngest emerging frond last to die.
  • Palm dies within two to three months.
The disease has been diagnosed throughout the state of Florida spread by wind-blown spores but local communities can also see many palms affected through unsterile pruning equipment. There is no cure for Fusarium wilt and rapid removal of dying palms is recommended to prevent other palms from becoming affected. Queen or Washingtonia palms should not be replanted in the same locations. 

Monday, November 28, 2011

Got Aphids?

With over 1300 species of aphids in North America, it shouldn't be a surprise to you that you find them in your garden.

When I get aphids in my landscape, it's usually on my asclepias tuberosa or butterfly weed, which can handle a few aphids.  I'm fortunate enough to catch them in time to spray the water hose on them or natural predators - like lady beetles -  to have their way and they do disappear.  If you are faced with sooty mold or a declining plant because aphids are so damaging, then you have to use stronger methods to eradicate them, such as pyrethroids or horticultural oils. Always follow instructions on the label.  Try not to stress, aphids are everywhere and you can get rid of them.

In Your Backyard Time Change

"In Your Backyard" is going back to its original time slot on Tuesdays at 11am - 12pm on! You've been a loyal audience for 12 years and we've listened to you!

Every Tuesday at 11am, you can call into 352-787-9523 with your gardening questions.  I'll be updating you with Florida-friendly landscaping maintenance tips and garden trends along with the most important environmental issues facing Floridians.

Check out our Facebook page here and here! 

Monday, November 21, 2011

Leesburg Couple Rips Up Grass But Is It Florida-friendly?

Central Florida communities that use a lot of water seem to be blaming it all on the turfgrass. In a Lake Sentinel article this weekend, one Leesburg couple using 30,000 gallons of water a month on their landscape decided to overhaul their entire yard and replace it with rocks, mulch, and supposedly "drought-tolerant" landscaping.  But was it necessary?

That term drought-tolerant is getting really old and the misperceptions of turfgrass being the culprit is just downright wrong.  All plants are drought-tolerant in the right locations and turfgrass needing a lot of water is not true.  St. Augustinegrass only needs between 1" and 1.5" of water a week during the summertime if it doesn't get rainfall and only needs that amount once every ten to fourteen days in the cooler winter season.  That anyone uses 30,000 gallons on their lawn is the fault of the homeowner, an inefficient irrigation system, and a poorly designed landscape.  If you have a rock, mulch, and "drought-tolerant" plants, depending on the size of your yard, even 10,000 gallons is too much!  Your landscape should be able to survive and thrive on rainfall alone after establishment. 

Its up to the cities  and counties that are approving landscape plans and irrigation systems to allow only the correct landscapes with efficient irrigation.  Homeowners working with builders or buying new homes need to demand and insist on a certified Florida Water Star landscape and irrigation system.  Then the responsibility falls on the homeowner to maintain his landscape and watering system correctly to ensure that it works efficiently.

Rocks are not the keystones to water efficiency and can actually increase the amount of water that installed plants in a rock garden need.  The heat around the home will be greater.  Using no tufgrass is going to lead to more stormwater pollution of our water bodies. I repeat:  There is nothing wrong with turfgrass.

Heck, this is Florida!  This is not Arizona and we can have beautiful landscapes with lots of flowers, shrubs, palms, and yes, Virginia, even turfgrass and not have a high water bill or overuse our ample water supply.  Florida receives abundant rainfall and with observant care, our irrigation systems should only be used as a supplement when we don't have rain.  Depending on the size of your lawn and your landscape plants, using 10.000 gallons of water or less should be easily achievable. 

Before anyone installs a landscape that is all rocks, mulch, and no turf, do your research, contact your County Extension office and find out the facts about waterwise landscaping.  You will be very surprised to learn that its probably not your grass's fault that you have a high water bill or high maintenance landscape. 

The Vision House 2008 in Montverde, Florida uses only non-potable water from a HOOT system and a 7,000 gallon cistern.  It is a great example of Florida-friendly landscaping.  Low maintenance and low water use.

Vision House 2008

Free 2012 Bird Watching Calendar

For its 25th anniversary, Cornell Lab of Ornthinology is giving away free beautiful bird-watching 2011 -2012 calendars. The wall calendar provides an easy way to keep track of the days for Project Feeder Watch,  a seasonal all-winter tracking of birds at feeders throughout North America.

Please participate in Project Feeder Watch. The Watch goes from November through April 6th but they are still enrolling bird watching afficinados. You have to sign up and receive a number to turn in your sightings. 

Feed The Birds - New Year’s Eve 2008, Taunton MA

Updated Florida Exotic Invasive Plant List

The Florida Pest Plant Council has updated their exotic invasive plant lists for 2011.  The list is an excellent resource for ensuring landscape selections do not include plants that can escape and endanger native habitats. FLEPPC separatesd invasives into two categories, I and II. 

Category I includes "invasive exotics that are altering native plant communities by displacing native species, changing community structures or ecological functions, or hybridizing with natives. This definition does not rely on the economic severity or geographic range."

Category II invasives are plants "that have increased in abundance or frequency but have not yet altered Florida plant communities to the extent shown by Category I species. These species may become ranked Category I, if ecological damage is demonstrated of the problem, but on the documented ecological damage caused."

New plants added to the 2011 Category I list:
  • Deparia petersenii, Japanese false spleenwort
  • Lumnitzera racemosa, black mangrove - Not to be confused with native black mangroveAvicennia germinans
  • Phymatosorus scolopendria, serpent fern, wart fern
New plants added to the 2011 Category II list:
  • Ardesia japonica, Japanese ardesia
  • Bruguiera gymnorrhiza, large-leaved mangrove
  • Cocos nucifera, coconut palm
  • Syzygium jambos,  Malabar plum, rose apple
Corrections on the plant list include: 
Jasminum sambac and Solanum jamaicense removed from Category II based on lack of data in natural areas. Urena lobata moved from Category II to Category I.

City and county planners, nurseries and growers, and landscape architects and designers should make note of these new changees.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Am I Blue?

With anticipated one to three inches of rain this week, I'm taking the opportunity to plant winter and spring blooming flower seeds. This year I'm going to add one of my favorite colors to my landscape.  I planted delphiniums in the back of my border garden.  Delphiniums take full sun, moderate moisture, and grow to three feet tall. The seeds will take two weeks to emerge and will bloom January through March.

Other cool season blue annuals that will thrive in Florida are lobelias, pansies, and veronica.  Blue flowering perennials and ornamental shrubs to add to your landscape include agapanthus, hydrangea, salvias, and plumbago.

Want more winter annuals to plant in your garden? Check out  Annuals Flowers for  Florida.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Do you know the Best Management Principles (also known as BMP's) are for designing and maintaining your yard? The criteria of SJRWMD's Florida Water Star green certification program' landscaping modules and the UF/IFAS's Florida Yards & Neighborhoods nine principles are the best management practices for our state and can be utilized across the country and worldwide.

Best practices start with understanding the process of what plants need to be healthy. In Florida, Extension, Master Gardeners, and other garden experts hear from seasonal residents: "Gardening in Florida is so different than up north." What I explain to my audiences and clients is that once you understand the process of how plants grow - gardening is the same world-wide. While the plant species may change - how to assess and manage your landscape uses the same principles. While the snowbirds think its easier to garden up North, all it is really is doing what their parents did, what their neighbors did. They didn't understand the process of what plants need to grow.

You need to know the conditions of the site, i.e. sunlight, pH, soil moisture. Determine how you want to use the landscape, and how much time you want to invest in maintaining it. Some want their landscape to change with the seasons, or to have lots of seasonal plantings, while others want their landscape to stay the same year after year, with little maintenance. After determining conditions, selecting plants that utilize those same conditions, installing them correctly (correct depth, time of year, and space for mature size), and maintain the landscape appropriately (awareness, weeding, no excessive pruning, no overwatering, or overfertilizing), and you have a low-matinenance, sustainable landscape. BMP's will help gardeners achieve that effectively, reducing needless waste, pollution, costs, and labor.

While every state or organization wants to have their own unique statement as to Landscape BMP's - they really are the same criteria but based on their own state's soils and seasons, and the organization's agenda.

Does your landscaping and maintenance follow Florida-friendly BMP's?  Check it out.

Florida Water Star Silver and Gold Certification

Florida Yards  & Neighborhoods 9 Principles

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Question: Planting Vegetable Seeds, Nematodes, How To Propagate Copperleafs

This week's email:
Jayne has two questions.
You have a great program on WLBE !!! One thing that confuses me is when you recommend vegetable and flower plantings, I'm not sure if you're talking about sowing seeds or planting transplants. I usually grow everything from seed, so I'm looking for that time table.
Your email is a very common problem here in Florida - thank you for writing and the kind words about "In Your Backyard." 

You want to plant seeds approximately 14 to 28 days (depending on species) before you want to transplant them in your garden. When I talk about vegetables this time of the year, I mean that you should either purchase or use your transplants that you seeded in July and August.

Tomatoes planted from seed 5 weeks ago.

Five different species of peppers planted August 27th.
This UF publication will make it easier for you to determine when to plant: Florida Vegetable Gardening Guide.
I brought my weird looking carrots into the extension office in Tavares and was told I had nematodes in my 12 ft. square foot garden (3 ft. off the ground). I also had green and yellow bush beans that didn't do well at all, but onions and shallots doing great! It has only been the second season of growing crops in this garden and I am so dissappointed. Do I need to kill the nematodes before planting again? If not, what vegetables would you suggest? If I need to kill the nematodes, how do I do that? I grow, eat, live, organically. 
Jayne, I'm so sorry!  Certain plant species release alleopathic chemicals that make growing some species next to others very troublesome.  Check out this great chart of compatible and incompatible garden plants.  I think it will help explain why some of your plants didn't do well.

Also, because of Florida's sandy soils in certain locations, destructive nematodes are a vegetable gardening problem. The key to controlling nematodes will be with your cultural practices.  Jayne, you can do one or all of the following:
  1. Change out or sterilize your vegetable garden area with solarization next spring before you plant for the summer.
  2. Add amendments to your soils, which will allow beneficial fungi to control nematodes.
  3. Add beneficial nematodes to your soil which will provide about three months of control against root-knot nematodes
  4. Buy nematode-resistant plant varieties. Look for the N in plant description (V = virus-resistant, F=fungal-resistant, N=nematode-resistant)
  5. Rotate your crops. Don't plant carrots or plants in the same family (tomato and peppers) in same location year after year.
  6. Last but the best way to grow vegetables in Florida's sandy soils? Raised beds -whether you build them yourself, use containers, or purchase a kit.
 More information on nematodes:
Nematodes and their management - UF/IFAS - Florida
Root-Knot Nematodes In the Vegetable Garden - Clemson University, South Carolina
Control Root-Knot Nematodes in Your Garden - University of Arkansas
Marigolds for Nematode Management (pros and cons - read before planting) UF/IFAS Florida
Nematode Control in The Home Vegetable Garden - Alabama A & M, Auburn University

Roberto asks:
Can you explain to me how to take a clipping from one of my existing Copper Leaf plants and use it to grow another plant?
Roberto, easy way to get more plants! Take a cutting of a soft tip of a stem of copperleaf approximately 5 to 6 inches. Cut the stem diagonally and place in Root-tone and then plant in potting soil. Moisten and keep moist (not wet) and in the shade. You can put the plant and pot into a clear plastic bag to keep the humidity in. Within six to eight weeks you'll have roots and can repot into a bigger pot. I would wait until spring before putting them in the ground as its so close to winter.

Here's more information with photos.

These are Cotinus coggygria 'Royal Purple' Smoke Tree cuttings that I took about four months ago. 

Cotinus coggygria 'Royal Purple' cuttings

Monday, September 26, 2011

New Garden Tool Moves Soil With Ease

FNGLA's The Landscape Show is this coming weekend to the Orlando County Convention Center and its always the best place to see the hottest landscape design trends, the newest plants coming to garden centers and the latest in garden gadgets and tools. 

One of the most innovative garden gadgets that I've seen in a few years that will be showcased at The Landscape Show is the LEANLever.  The LEANLever is a flexible attachment for hand tools that uses Archimedes' Law of Leverage. You remember Archimedes?  The philosopher who said: "Give me a place to stand on and I will move the Earth."  Jerry Behar, a top Fortune 500 consultant, learned the hard way that leverage is a gardener's best friend. After hurting his back digging up soil in his yard, Behar received estimates of more than $300 to move the soil off his driveway. He decided to invent a tool that would help him leverage the soil without straining his back.

Behar received a patent for his LEANLever and took the invention to the International New Product Exposition (INPEX 2010) where he won multiple awards, including the Bosch Award
The LEANLever is also being reviewed by NIOSH (National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health) to reduce musculoskeletal disorders (Back pain and Hand Arm vibrations). Device drives jackhammer vibrations into the ground and worker does not have to support a 60 lb tool.
There are many benefits of this contractors tool for the household too:
  • Reduces fatigue
  • Reduces back pain
  • Increases leverage
  • Reduces bending
  • Doubles lifting power
  • Reduces vibrations from motorized tools
  • Supports and controls heavy tools.

You can see the LeanLever at The Landscape Show I'll be interviewing Jerry Behar today about his new garden tool on "In Your Backyard." You will want to pay attention;to the special announcement for My790am listeners!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Art In The Garden Tour

What a great time on Saturday with Leesburg's Center for the Arts fundraiser: "Art in the Garden."   The event hosted a tour of gardens with talented local artists inspired by the surrounding landscape. I was able to hitch a ride with four lovely ladies in proper hats, winners of the "grand tour" which featured driving to each home in a white limousine that had champagne and chocolate wine.

Starting at Simon Seed Nursery in Leesburg,co-sponsor of the "Art in the Garden," the tour visited five homes with birds, creative landscapes, lakefront views, and fabulous paintings.

I tried to take as many photographs as I could even though I was pointing out great plants everyone should have in their gardens as well as naming species.

The highlight was a delicious brunch served at Leesburg's Center for the Arts Gallery on Main Street with special guest, Rosarian extraordinaire Mark Nelson, of Nelson's Roses fame. 

What a great time I had and I'm marking my calendar for next year's Art in the Garden! 

Art in the Garden

Glow In the Dark Mushrooms Rediscovered

Eerie glow-in-the-dark mushrooms have been found again in the Amazon rainforest after not being seen for 170 years.

Although glowing fungi are nothing new to science — there are 71 identified species — this particular species (named Neonothopanus gardneri, after the initial discoverer) is notable for its size and the extraordinary strength of its light.

"It glows more brightly than almost all other luminescent mushrooms," said Dennis Desjardin, a fungi expert at San Francisco State University. "If you were in a dark room and you put one on a newspaper, you'd be able to read the words
I love photographing and looking for mushrooms on my hikes.  Read how these bioluminescent mushrooms were discovered, lost and refound here.

Read more about bioluminescence.
10 Fascinating Bioluminescent Organisms 

Monday, September 05, 2011

No Rest For The Wicked

The wicked plants in your garden are not necessarily turf weeds but exotic invasive trees, ornamentals, and vines that take over ecosystems and spread their havoc far and wide. The Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council, known as FLEPPC, has a downloadable brochure for your files, maintenance company crew, or your HOA to determine if a plant species should be removed. If a HOA committee is renovating common areas or older landscapes, make sure that these plants are not in the design.

Many of these beautiful and hardy plants were sold and encouraged in previous years so its not anyone's fault that they are in your yard.  But while Category 1 Exotics are not illegal to sell nor mandatory to remove, they are still expanding into Florida's habitats and will for decades to come. Exotic invasives are dangerous because they are easily propagated by seeds and spread by underground roots. Birds and winds from tropical storms help dispurse the seeds increasing their range out of neighborhoods and across the state. As these "Most Unwanted" plants multiply, they compete with native plants for space and resources.
In your landscape, exotic invasives grow very quickly and have little to no pest problems to help decrease their numbers. Exotics, then with water and fertlizer that in their homeland countries would not normally get so their species has no natural controls, and populations explode.

Who are these most wanted wicked plant species? Are they in your backyard? Here are some of the ones I frequently see:

Monday, August 29, 2011

Vegetable Garden Planted

Well, its done!  Our front yard, in the unused portion of our driveway, is now home to our vegetable gardening.  Due to the large oaks and "North Carolina" themed landscape in the backyard, the front and side yard is one of our sunniest locations.

We used a pre-cut cedar raised bed product from Home Depot. At approximately $80, the raised beds were reasonably priced factoring saving time, labor, and cost versus buying the materials and sacrificing to the wood gods. We also reused our cleaned aluminum tubs and rectangular plastic containers from springtime.

We checked last season's low-volume irrigation, changing out the emitter heads for good distribution uniformity.

What are we expecting to harvest from our edible landscaping?

First bed:
  • Pasillo Bajio Chile Peppers
  • Cow Horn Peppers
  • NuMex Joe E Parker Peppers
  • Cubanelle Peppers
  • Ancho/Poblano Peppers
Second bed:
How many tomatoes does it take?  Check out how you measure your fresh tomatoes for your cooking recipes.

First Tub:
  • Gourmet Baby Greens Mesclun Lettuce
  • Bibb Lettuce
Second Tub:
  • Bloomsdale Spinach
  • Red Malabar Spinach
Rectangle container:
  • Onions
  • Leeks
We only used half or less of the seed packets so we will save the seeds in dry envelopes and place them in our refrigerator to keep for spring.  As the plants emerge, we will thin them out and place some in containers for our children and the neighborhood, and keep some for our table.

We have to wait about ten days to see any green shoots! Will be taking photos from sprouting through harvesting.  Let us know how your vegetable gardening is doing.  We'll post your photos.