Monday, November 29, 2010

The Apple Hunter

While researching information on apples and orchards (I want to start one some day), I came across Tom Brown's website about his search for antique/heirloom apples in North Carolina and Virginia. I also came across the video above, produced by Blue Ridge Country Magazine. To date, he has found over 900 varieties of apples—900!! He has a complete list on his site, some with photos. My jaw dropped when I saw the length of the list. It is amazing to think that there are that may different apples still around. Just think how many more are out there in the states even further north (especially Washington).

Though it is true that Florida is not the best state to grow apples, there is hope. There are a few varieties that have been developed here or introduced from other countries over the years that will flourish in Florida's shorter winters and humid summers. This article from UF has some useful info on the basics.

The are a few nurseries in FL that sell these trees to the public. Two that I found are Just Fruits and Exotics near Tallahasee and Chestnut Hill Tree Farm near Gainesville. I have not bought from either of these farms, so I offer no guarantees to their reputations. JF&E also offers a few heirloom varieties.

If you have any apple trees growing here in FL, I would love to know what variety(ies) you have and where.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Sausage Corn Bread

Carol over at Keeping Up with Carol asked for the recipe for the sausage cornbread I mentioned in my last post. Here you go Carol:

Sausage Cornbread

1 can cream corn
1 roll sausage
1 small onion, chopped
2 eggs
8 oz shredded cheddar
    (put 4 oz aside for topping later)
1 1/2 cup corn meal
3/4 cup milk
1/4 cup vegetable oil
small can of jalapeño peppers

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix all of the ingredients in a large bowl. Put mixture into a 9" x 13" baking dish. Chop jalapeño peppers and sprinkle on top, pressing them lightly into the mix.

Bake for 35 - 45 minutes (time depends on pan used and oven). When almost done (about 5 minutes to go), pull it out of the oven and top with remaining cheese. Put back in oven for last 5 minutes.

Cut into squares to serve. Enjoy with your favorite collard, mustard, or turnip greens!!

Let me know how you like it!

Friday, November 5, 2010


I know I said I was done with the garden for this year, but I couldn't resist when my father-in-law gave me some multiplying onions. They have been in the ground for about a week. The 2 larger ones in the middle had already sprouted before I planted them.

He also gave me some turnip and mustard green seeds today (which I have been wanting for a while), so I will be planting those this weekend.

My wife's sausage cornbread with greens... can't be beat!!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Store Wars

Found this while looking for ideas for a new project I am working on. It is hysterical, though a bit corny in the delivery of the ending message. But nonetheless creative! Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Garden bounty

Like I have said before, despite the small amount of produce I have garnered from my garden, I have learned quite a bit that I intend to carry over to next Spring's plantings.

However, I am pleased to announce that I managed to grow an edible watermelon. Granted, it is no where near as big as what I was hoping, but I account that to the seeds being third generation of a store bought melon. This one's parent grew to almost the same size (about 12" - 14" around, and 8" - 9" long), and might have been edible if I hadn't smashed it on the ground to open it (not out of frustration, but curiosity).

As you can see in the photo, we got a good amount of melon out of it, and it was pretty tasty. Needless to say, I am excited, and ready to get going again, but this time with the proper seeds. And speaking of that, if anyone has a recommendation for a seed company that sells seeds good for Zone 9, I would appreciate a link.

As an aside, I have also gathered 8 pods of okra, which I need to cook soon!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Harvest, etc

Cow peas from seed I saved.

 Well, it looks as if the above is all I am going to gather from the garden this fall. But I'm not too disappointed. I learned a lot over the course of the past 2 months, and I am excited about planting some cold weather crops like cabbage and collards. I plan to get some heirloom seeds in the hopes that they will produce well, and I'll be able to get more seed for next year.

I plan to make my garden larger next year to grow more variety of crops, and plan to add fruit trees and blueberries Fall 2011.

So again, I think my little experiment garden served its purpose and next year should be much more "fruitful!"

Click the image to see the larger file. He has what looks like a shield over his body!

While admiring my neightbor's purple trumpet flowers, I found this little guy. I thought it was a lady bug at first, but now I am not sure what it is; never seen one like this. Any ideas?

Friday, September 10, 2010

A canteloupe seed does not a pumpkin make.

After much head scratching and Google research, I have come to realize that the pumpkins I planted back in July are really canteloupes. Yes, it's true.... and as embarrassing as this is to post, I think there is a good lesson here... not sure what it is yet, except maybe that labeling the bag would have helped.

I know what your saying: "Canteloupe seeds look nothing like pumpkin seeds!" Yet, in the heat of excitedly planting my rows with the kids, I my eyes (and brain, I suppose) failed me.

In my defense, I have never grown canteloupes or pumpkins, so I had no idea what they would look like on the vines. My suspicion arose when the canteloupe seeds in the compost sprouted. And when the "pumpkins" started to crack like canteloupes, that is when the real head scratching began (I thought maybe the pumpkins were splitting due to too much water (like tomatoes do sometimes)).

The more I thought about, it the more I do remember saving canteloupe (not pumpkin) seeds.

Oh well, good thing we all like cantaloupe in this family.

Fellow blogger, Carol, recently organized all of her seeds. Visit her blog to read about it.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Unusual Bee-havior

In my last post, I mentioned the abundance of bees in my garden this year. However, I didn't mention some peculiar behavior I witnessed in a couple bees. Today, I found the little fellow above walking on the ground (I almost stepped on him!). He moved across the dirt pretty quick and made it to the plants. He seemed overall disinterested in the flowers, but did stop at one or two. He just climbed around the pumpkin plants with no obvious destination. Two days ago, I witnessed another bee in the same manner (unless it was the same bee). Anyway, any ideas as to what might cause this?

I did a bit of research, and found a couple causes (tracheal mites, temperature, wind, etc.), but my inexperience with bees leaves me scratching my head. I suggested to my wife that maybe it was an older bee who had just reached his time to go. I guess it isn't too big of a deal until I see more like this, but I would still like a clue.

On a happier note, below is a photo of one of my pumpkins. It is about the size of a tennis ball.

And, finally, can anyone identify this little guy. I don't think he does any damage, but, again, inexperience prevails.


Monday, August 30, 2010

Helping Hand

Not that Mother Nature needs much help, (I seem to have an abundance of bees around my plants this year (woo hoo!)), but I took the opportunity this morning to hand pollinate one of my watermelons. Not many of the female flowers are open in the morning, but I found one in the corner of the garden. I pulled off a nearby male flower, and made an attempt to pull off the petals. This is easier said than done. The stem accidentally came off first, leaving me little to hold on to. To avoid breaking off the stamen, I ended up just bending the petals back, and using them as the handle. Not sure I did it correct, but I basically just rubbed the stamen against the pistil in hopes that the pollen was transfered. Now whether I or the bees are the propagating party, we will never know. But just in case the bees missed that little baby in the corner, I hope my assistance is "fruitful."

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Blessings from above

They say good things come from above, and I have to say that with all the rain we have been getting these past weeks, I have figured out what was wrong with my garden. I apparently have not been watering my beans and okra enough. Sure they germinated and grew to where they were, but no where near the speed of my garden 2 years ago (in my defense, that was a Spring garden. This is my first ever Fall garden).

After that first rain, I could see a major difference. From the beginning, I have been hand watering with a hose and sprayer, but I guess I just was not watering deep enough as the plants grew. I want to get some soaker hoses, but not in the family budget yet.

While I am thankful for the rain, I am hoping that this abundance does not become a burden on my pumpkins and watermelons. I discovered 2 quarter-size pumpkins this morning, and a few pea-size watermelons. I am hopeful that I can take some of these to full size.

Below is a photo of the watermelon/pumpkin patch.

Also discovered 2 "wild" watermelons growing behind my garden (below), as well as some canteloupes growing in t he compost (bottom)!!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

The Good
My watermelons and pumpkins are growing quite well, and I actually have flowers on the pumpkin plants. Not sure if this is a good thing as I thought the pumpkins would vine a bit more before flowering. Have to read up on that.

The Bad
Everything else in the garden is not doing so hot. Nothing is growing as fast as I think it should. However, I have to admit that I did not amend my soil for this garden until after the fact (mostly because of budgetary reasons). Also, we had some pine trees taken down before I planted, and the machinery had to run through part the garden plot to get to some of them. This, in the process, compacted much of the soil. I had given the tiller back to my father-in-law, so I was unable to re-till that part of the garden (where I have my cow peas, okra, and now corn). So my conclusion is that the combination of weak, compacted soil is reducing the production. If I don't see much more progress in the next week, I will most likely pull everything up (except the watermelons and pumpkins) and prepare the soil for the Spring.

The Ugly
I try to check all my plants for critters that may damage them. Again, as this is an experimental garden, and I am still learning and looking into organic methods, I have not used any pesticides as I want to do this as "green" as possible. Well, I found what you see in the photo below. Obviously, you can see ants, which I don;t think harm the plants (cow peas in this photo), but there are other bugs, which appear to have hollowed out the stem much like a wooden canoe would be. I don't know if the ants are eating these other bugs, or if they are in cahoots with the ants in taking over this plant. They look like aphids, but my inexperienced eyes can't tell. Click on the photo for a larger view, and if you know what these are, leave me a comment.

Two of my corn seedlings have been killed by caterpillars, and out of all the merrigold seeds I planted, only 2 have come up.

No regrets in doing this this fall, as it is all a learning process. I hope to see great results next year because of it.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Another update.

Here are some recent photos from the garden.

Leaf Miner damage. Luckily it was just on the bottom leaves of each plant. Just picked each off and squished the leaf in my fingers. However, I managed to break one of the watermelon plants in the process.

Cow Peas

Friday, August 6, 2010

Garden update

Just a quick update for those visiting:

All my watermelon and pumpkin plants can up, and half the okra and cow peas. So, today I planted some more okra to replace that which did not germinate. I read somewhere that soaking the okra seeds in hot water for a bit helps them germinate better, so I did before placing the new seeds in the ground. We'll see what happens.

I also planted some pole beans and white corn, also after soaking the seeds, but in cool tap water. I planted the pole bean in between the cow peas, and made a whole new row for the corn.

For the corn, I added composted cow manure, regular store bought compost (mine won't be ready for a while), and leaves, lightly mixed that into the top layer of soil, and then planted the corn. I then covered the row (which is not elevated) with more leaves as mulch to help retain moisture.

I am trying to do as much research as possible, but there is so much info online and in books that digesting it can get overwhelming. The garden this year is a bit of an experiment anyway, so if I get half of what I plant to produce, I'll be happy.

Thanks for stopping by! Will have more photos in my next update.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

And the fun begins!

I was watering the garden this evening when I spotted some green poking out from the weed guard I have over my watermelon and pumpkin seeds. Upon closer inspection, I found a pumpkin plant poking through! Needless to say I was really excited, as it hasn't even been a week since the kids and I planted them. Looking around at the other spots, I found a few more pumpkins growing and one watermelon plant coming up. That is one of the things that fascinates me about plants and gardening—that a seed that has been dormant for over a year, once wet, will begin producing a tiny plant, only to grow larger and make a beautiful flower, or an edible fruit. Isn't nature cool?!

Below is a photo of my overall garden, which measures about 15' x 15'.

The green stuff you see growing is grass that needs to be removed (a never ending process). On the left, in the fenced area, is the watermelon and pumpkins. Next (2 dark area on top and bottom) I planted marigolds in an effort to attract bees to the flowers on my fruits and veggies. I may have to plant other flowers later, but we'll see what happens with the timing. The 2 rows at the top right are okra and cow peas, respectively. (Note: If you ever plant cow peas, only plant one short row as they produce profusely.)

I have a few books that I found at the library that I will share in the next post.

Garden guest

While feeding my dog, I spied what looked like a neon green jellybean on the ground. However, it began to move. Upon picking it up, it curled into a ball shape in my hand, as if to protect itself, much like a rolly polly. I let it relax, it opened, and began crawling across my hand. What I had is the caterpillar you see below.

After allowing my wife and kids to see it, I let it go. I later discovered, through a Google image search, that this little guy is the offspring of a Great Purple Hairstreak butterfly. I don't remember seeing any Great Purple's around here, so I am hoping this little guy (and any others that may live in the yard) make it to adulthood. From a distance, it is hard to tell which end is the head! I read, too, that they are renowned for their approachability.

In other news, I planted some okra today with "borrowed" seed from my father-in-law. That will be the extent of what I plant this year. I will post photos as things grow (fingers crossed). I plan to do more next year, so I will be doing a lot of research in an effort to increase my yeilds in all that I decide to plant.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Gardening from the heart

If you ask me why I like to garden, my first answer might be "because I sit in front of a computer for 8 hours each day, and gardening gives me a reason to get outside!" However, that would not be fully correct, as I had a few gardens while still in high school. While I do enjoy being outside more these days due to my current job, gardening has always held a place in my heart, much as my love of drawing.

A recent rekindling of my desire to dig in the dirt comes from my current success at propagating some trees from both seed and cuttings—one I thought had died, only to discover new leaves on it yesterday morning. As a result, I have now planted some watermelon and pumpkin seeds, along with some cow peas, in a small plot of dirt at the back of my property. I plan to look into more mid summer/cool weather vegetables to grow.

This Fall I plan to plant some blueberries, and if the budget allows, a few apple trees.

I will be updating this blog as often as possible with my progress as well as any useful information I find.