Tuesday, March 25, 2014

An apple tree grows in Florida...

One of my five new apple trees. This one is called Cinnamon Spice.
While I am certainly not the first to grow an apple tree (or five) in Florida, I can guarantee that I am am one of the first, if not the first, to grow the varieties I have planted. I have been wanting to plant some apples for quite a few years. After much research, I ordered the five you see below from Trees of Antiquity in California. These varieties should do well in the warmer climate here in Northeast Florida if I play my cards right. The varieties I have are White Pearmain (2), Fuji (1), Cinnamon Spice (1), and Newtown Pippin(1). Save for the Fuji, you most likely will not find these in the local grocery stores.

It will take 3 - 5 years of select care to make sure these babies produce a good crop. An excellent resource I picked up at the library is Michael Philip's "The Holistic Orchard." Along with my research online, I think I have a pretty good chance of keeping these tress alive. But I am not getting my hopes up too soon. Going to depend a lot on the weather, my time and gain knowledge/experience, and the blessings of God. Keep checking back for updates.

On another note, we recently cleared/bush mowed some of our property ( one reason to get ready for the apple trees). While mowing, I came across many hidden huckleberry bushes that seem to have been growing for quite some time. They are all budding now as shown in the photo below. Looking forward to see what we get off these new discoveries.

And last, I got some of my vegetable garden planted (taters, peppers, okra, cow peas). Hope to get some corn and tomatoes going here soon. I have a few peas already popping thru the mulch!

The five trees in their new "orchard."

One of the many huckleberry bushes we found while clearing part of our property.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013


Excited to say that I finally found a company willing and able to deliver a load of mulch to me! Hope to get more. If you have been following me regularly, you have read my mention the Back to Eden gardening trend developing around the world. Not a huge trend as trends go, but getting there. If you have not yet watched the film, it is definitely worth the time. I saw results from the small scale garden I did this year in mulched leaves. Looking forward to next year after this stuff has set for a few months. Check back for updates.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Back to Eden gardening experiments

Back in this post I talked about a method of gardening that I came across in my never-ending quest to get a decent harvest from my garden. Called "Back to Eden" gardening, it's basic premiss is to use what nature already gives you to create your garden as opposed to adding a bunch of synthetic or un-natural chemicals. Mulch is the mainstay, with leaves and straw coming in a close second. Since I have had no luck whatsoever getting a load of mulch delivered, I have collected the leaves from 2 church spring cleanings and allowed them to "age" behind my garden area. What I found underneath the top layer of still whole leaves was beautiful, dark, rich material (humus?). I was never before so excited!

I planted a much smaller garden last year in my dirt (with a small bit of the rotted leaves), and managed a mediocre harvest with the exception of this tomato plant that I did not sow.

This year, as a means of experimentation, I kept the garden very small (shown below). I planted a few beans, 4 watermelons, and about 8 tomatoes, all in nothing but the rotted leaves. All but one tomato are in buckets (also below), the other in the garden.

My small garden, about 2' x 10'. You can just see the watermelons between the beans.

My bucket tomatoes.
As you can see, the tomatoes in the buckets are doing very well. I expect a pretty decent harvest. Unfortunately, I did not label them when I planted them, so I cannot yet tell with are the Old Virginias and which are the Cherrys (all from saved seeds).

The garden area, however, is not growing as expected, but I think I know why: 1) the layer of leaves is not very deep, which may be hindering root growth; 2) I did not use any row cover for the watermelons as in years past. Watermelons like heat, and I do not think they are getting enough in this weird cold May weather; 3) the leaves by themselves do not hold water very well if at all, unlike mulch. In the buckets, it seems to have compacted a bit and holds the water good (doesn't hurt that the buckets have no holes in the bottom either). Again, the shallow layer of leaves may contribute to this as well.

So that is my garden as it stands now. Will report back when the tomatoes begin to flower.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Mysteries continued...

Last post I told you about a mystery tomato plant that came up in the garden. Since that post, I have picked probably 130 - 150 tomatoes off that one plant. Below is a photo. The concrete block is for size reference.

I am amazed at the production of this bush, and am saving seed in the hope to at least get this good of result or better next year.

I also mentioned in my last post about two rogue sunflowers that just popped up—one in the garden, one in an old compost pile. Below is a photo of the one in the garden.

As you can see, it is a beautiful specimen. I love all the flower heads on it. I plan to save seeds from this and the other plant for next year as well. Just today I cut the heads off the other sunflower to dry them.

The heads shown above are from just one plant, so if all goes well, I should have an abundance of seed.

If anyone is interested, I would be will to share the seed of both the tomatoes and sunflowers. Just email me at tomanda2042 at bellsouth dot net. The tomatoes, as mentioned in a catalog description I found, are addictive!

Happy summer!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Mystery tomato

One of the interesting (and frustrating) aspects of gardening is the unpredictability of it. Plant 20 seemingly good seeds, only 10 germinate (sometimes none, which is what I am finding out, though I think my seed is too old). Give all your seedlings the same amount of water, fertilizer, and love, and they grow at different rates (or, again, not at all).

My point in mentioning this is the discovery of a rogue tomato plant in my garden about a month or so ago, and its extreme growth and production despite my not planting it and lack of proper care. Not sure how it got there, other than perhaps through my compost pile after spreading some of it in the garden. When I saw it, I decided to let it grow just to see if, by chance, it might produce something (I have read many times that planting the seeds of store bought produce will not grow true).

Check out the number of fruits and flowers.

To my surprise, the plant grew... and grew... and grew. And not only that, but produced numerous flowers to which have grown numerous small tomatoes. To date, there are approximately 50+ tomatoes growing on this one plant that is about 2 feet tall and 2 feet wide. Looking through some seed catalogs, it looks as if this is a Cherry Roma tomato plant. The description says: 'Incredibly heavy set of 1" long plum-shaped fruits,' which is how this plant looks. My wife also identified the fruits as ones we have purchased in the past for parties.

The amazing thing is that I started some regular cherry tomatoes, Black Krims, and Old Virginias a short time after this one showed up, and they nowhere near got as big as the Cherry Roma before they began fruiting. And the Cherry Roma is just in plain old dirt, not a row I created and added anything to—just dirt! I have since added a bit more compost around the plant, but nothing major.

We have in the past 2 days picked some of the tomatoes, shown below, with many more that will mature in the next few days.

I am definitely saving some of the seeds from this plant, and hope to have the same success when I actually try to grow them!

I also have 2 large sunflowers that have sprouted on their own. Yet another anomaly, as I have planted sunflower seeds in my daughter's garden which did not grow.

Such is the wonders of nature, I guess.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

This and that...

Red potatoes from my first ever planting!

Been a while since I posted anything... I am still here and actively working to better my gardening skills.

Started a new garden back in March, of which my success has been minimal. I managed to get a good amount of red potatoes (my first time planting them). And my tomatoes seem to be doing good. Everything else I have planted is not as I had hoped. I am thinking my seed is too old, or gone bad, as hardly anything germinated. I do have a couple watermelon and squash plants that came up after I had given up on them. There are bugs eating my cow pea and corn seeds, though I did find one pea plant poking thru this morning.

I could also attribute it to lack of water. With the terrible dirt we have here, the water just runs off as you water, thus putting more water in the paths between the rows than on the plants. A bought a soaker hose, but at 50 feet long, it is difficult at best to use in my short-rowed garden.

I do have one rogue tomato plant growing in the garden, apparently from the compost pile. It looks like roma tomatoes, and they are growing on the vine much like cherry tomatoes do—several fruit on one branch. And the plant is huge. And I haven't really done anything to it except water it.

And on that note, it amazes me that you can spend all this time preparing a garden, meticulously plant your seeds/seedlings, water them with love... and get nothing! In addition to the "roma", I have 2 sunflowers that just popped up—one in the garden, and one where an old compost pile sat. Still scratching my head on this. Perhaps I just need to randomly scatter my seeds in the garden, cover'em with some leaves, and see what happens.

I am kidding of course, but it does zap some of the motivation out of one!

After watching the Back to Eden film, I have put some requests out for wood chips, but no luck yet. May have to "bite the bullet" and pay for  a load from the company near my home. But at $125 per load, that is a bit steep for my budget (and the wife won't be too happy either)!

Anyway, that is the news for now. Will keep the updates more frequent in the future.

Pray for rain! : )