Friday, September 4, 2015

Garden Happenings

We had a great turn out for our March work day.   We cleaned up some weeds outside the garden, rebuilt the compost bins, had a great lunch, and made some good decisions about the future of the garden.   We enjoyed getting to know our new gardeners Patricia and Robbie, and catching up with our "old" gardeners.   Our new garden coordinator, Tracy Johnson, did a great job of keeping us informed and setting up for the work day.

Spring vegetables are in the ground in many plots and the garden is looking great.  Thanks to all who spend time in the garden, not only on their own plots but doing all the little things that makes it a community gathering spot. 

Soon time for Fall planting

i have moved to town and will no longer be gardening at Ft. Braden.  I stopped by early this week to pick up my raised beds and garden ornaments and found John busily mowing and tilling. He wanted to give gardeners a head start on their fall crops.  He'll be harvesting several plots full of sweet potatoes soon to share with friends and folks at his church.  Thank you, John.  Hopefully you'll be rewarded with the sight of new vegetables in all those plots you tilled.

I plan to stay in touch with my friends at Ft. Braden.  I have greatly enjoyed living and gardening there.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Spring Fever is in the Air

All throughout the garden, plots are being tilled, winter weeds are being cleared away, and here and there early vegetables are popping up.  Welcome to new and returning gardeners.  It's wonderful to have you and the plans and enthusiasm you bring with you.

Our next work day is Saturday, March 21, starting at 9:00 a. m.   Plans are under way to finish up our compost bin rebuilding project.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Sad News about Gardener George Taylor

George Taylor, a valued member of our community garden, is missing at sea.   Coordinated search efforts by the Coast Guard and other agencies have been discontinued as of yesterday.   In early June, George purchased a sailboat in Maryland and over the past three or four months, he navigated down along the East coast and around Florida up into the Gulf of Mexico where he rested for a while at St. Marks. 

He was in contact with several of our current and former gardeners including Sheryl Link, who now lives in Carrabelle.   On Thursday, October 16, he set sail from St. Marks to Carrabelle to spend a few days with Sheryl before heading further South along the Gulf for the winter.  He was to arrive in Carrabelle no later than Friday evening.

When he did not arrive as planned, Sheryl reported this to the authorities and a search began.  Eventually his dinghy was located at Keaton Beach, and his sailboat with his dog, Jack, aboard was located about 30 miles Southeast of Carrabelle.  Family and friends still hold out hope that he will turn up.

George was a resourceful and productive member of our garden, building things, and maintaining equipment as well as gardening on several plots for donation to Good News Ministries.   They received many, many deliveries of Collards from George over a period of several years.  He donated a beehive and bees to the garden, and helped maintain it and several other hives we acquired.

He was always ready to lend a hand and his enthusiastic instigation and implementation of garden projects got everyone involved.

Among projects he did on his own or headed up were our great bulletin board, four bat houses, a greenhouse, compost bins, permanent benches for our pavilion/pole barn, and a special bench for Miss Dorothy.  We have missed him while he sojourned afar, and are deeply saddened by the news that he is missing.   Our thoughts and prayers are with George and his family. 
George's first crop of collards.   He got them in late
and was worried the cold would nip them, so he built a shelter

The collards he planted provided food for
many less forunate

The all-purpose bulletin board George built

Linda and George, planting a donated Crepe Myrtle

George, his old truck, and his former dog, Manny 

Dedication of George's charity garden plot.   George is at the right
Greenhouse conceived and built by George

Dave and George, putting up one of four bat houses
built by George
Sheryl and George, manning the Bee Booth at our first Open House

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Sweet Potato Harvest

Freddie, Richard, Diane, and Chris
enjoying the harvest
 A group of our gardeners got together Saturday to harvest the sweet potatoes we had planted in some of the vacant plots.  What fun it is to dig up the prizes at the end of the vine.   We harvested one plot and half of another plot.   We still have two more plots to go.   Everyone took home what they wanted and we still had a crate full of sweet potatoes to share with the folks at Good News Ministries.   There are plenty of potatoes left for those gardeners who could not be with us on Saturday.   We plan to plant either collards or a cover crop of Abruzzi rye grass in each of the plots we have harvested.   Collards grow with little attention and will provide greens to share with charitable organizations or any of our gardeners who want them.  The rye grass will discourage any nematodes hanging around, will help control winter weeds, and will provide nutrients for the next crop to be planted.   We'll cut the rye and drop it for composting in place right when it starts to form heads.  In the meantime, we're going to enjoy us some sweet potatoes!!  They can be eaten right away, but they'll be even better if cured for about a week in a warm dry place.  We washed off the dirt, and spread them out on newspaper on my screened porch.   Perfect spot. 

Sunday, September 7, 2014

September Work Day Coming Up

Our September workday is scheduled for Saturday, September 13, 2014, beginning at 8:30 a.m.   Bring as snack to share and something to drink.  Projects on the agenda are harvesting our sweet potatoes and continuing to rebuild the compost bins.  Gardeners have been doing a great job of  keeping the garden mowed, and in fighting back the summer weeds and grass.  As soon as the weather cools just a bit, it will be time to get our Fall gardens in the ground.   See The North Florida Food Garden Month to Month on the VegHeadz blog for what to plant in September and October.   Hope to see you at the garden!!

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Summer in the Garden

Dave and Linda's garden, ready for Fall planting

Many of our gardeners have been busy fighting the grass and weeds that thrive in the summer when vegetables crops are on the wane.   Dave and Linda have conquered the weeds and have added a thick layer of hay to discourage new ones, hold moisture in the soil, and provide organic matter for their fall vegetables.  Late summer plants such as peppers, sweet potatoes, okra and eggplant can remain in the garden and benefit from the mulch also.

Speaking of sweet potatoes, those we planted in vacant plots are thriving in the heat and humidity.  The plots with mixed varieties were not as quick to cover the area and we had to do some weeding, but the Beauregard plots quickly were covered by vines, and no weeding was necessary. 
Beauregard Sweet Potatoes
 John, Richard and Chris, have kept the garden mowed and neat looking.  Much applause to them.  Keeping the grass mowed so it does not seed out is so important in keeping it out of our garden plots.  Thanks also to John, Linda, and Janis, who have watered and weeded the sweet potatoes and Seminole pumpkins.  The pumpkin results have been mixed.   There are several healthy looking plants from the seeds we obtained from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, but not many pumpkins.  The saved seeds from one of our gardeners and those obtained from the local seed exchange either did not germinate or have produced spindly plants.  We'll probably stick to sweet potatoes next year for summer cover.

 Connor and Amy have taken over our beekeeping, and what a great job they are doing.  They are refurbishing our beehives, and have salvaged our one populated hive which was in a small deteriorating brood box with serious encroachment problems between frames, etc.  They successfully extracted the queen and much of the brood and transferred them to a new hive.  The bees are thriving and we plan to add two more hives in the spring.   Our blooming plants will benetfit from the happy and multiplying bees, and we all enjoy the delicious honey they make. 

Our next work day is scheduled for Saturday, September 13, beginning at 8:30 a.m.  We hope to have a speaker, and some good food.   More information later.   We will be rebuilding our compost bins, and doing other garden maintenance.   Hope you will plan to be there. 

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Summer Crops to Discourage Weeds and Provide a Fall Harvest

We have a number of garden plots which are available for new gardeners.  In the meantime, there are a number of options to keep them from becoming weed gardens. 

We could chop, whack, hoe, or mow--all of which require time and labor, and don't really address the weed problem.  We could cover the plots with plastic or other material.  This would keep the weeds down, and possibly kill bad bugs, but it would do nothing to improve the soil, and good bugs and microbes would also be "collateral damage."

A better solution would be to cover with newspaper or cardboard and a thick layer of mulch--we have lots of wood chips.  This would control the weeds, and the decompsing mulch would add nutrients to the soil.

Another option--the one we have chosen, is to plant crops which provide a ground cover to discourage weeds, thrive in the heat and humidity of our summer, provide nutrients for microbes and future crops, and produce a harvest just in time to start planting fall crops.  Sweet potatoes and Seminole pumpkins supply all these advantages.   We have planted approximately 10 different varieties of sweet potatoes and yams, and 18 hills of Seminole pumpkins.   Our harvest should supply a wealth of winter goodness for our gardeners, with ample surplus to share with those less forunate. 

Sweet potatoes can be planted to grow at the foot of your summer crops such as okra, eggplant and peppers.  In fact, they may help to prolong your harvest as the shade from their leaves will help to regulate soil temperature and moisture during the hotest part of the summer.  Don't let your garden go to weeds this summer--give sweet potatoes a try.  Slips are available now at most nurseries.  They can be planted in hills or ridges or not.   Just dig a hole or trench 4 to 6 inches deep.  Add water.  Lay the slip in the hole or trench, leaving just the top 3 or 4 inches exposed.  Cover and water again.  They are not particular about the soil they grow in, and the only care they need is a little water if their leaves are drooping in the morning before the heat of the day.

Thanks to Linda and Richard who helped plant our sweet potatoes and Seminole pumpkins

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Finding Gardening Advice

Are you taking advantage of the wealth of gardening advice available online?  When you enter a search term in a search engine such as Google - "potato scab" or "squash bugs" for instance you can find a long list of potential sites with information.  It can get confusing, because there is often conflicting information to choose from.  You can't go wrong by referring to the many publications offered by the University of Florida IFAS Extension (Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences). 

For instance, a recent post on the VegHeadz blog refers to soil pH preferred by potatoes.  A quick search turns up many references at IFAS.  For instance:  A comprehensive look at pH for vegetable gardens; an article about soil testing to determine pH in vegetable gardens and home landscaping; and a web page on Vegetable Gardening that includes information on changing soil pH and much more.  This is just a sampling of the long list of references available from IFAS on soil pH.

Or search on "IFAS vegetable gardening" and you will find more well-researched and easy to read references specific to our area than you can read in a day including a complete vegetable gardening guide.  Any one of them will help you focus in on the information you want or the solution you need.  Give it a try!! 

Friday, February 14, 2014

Things I Didn't Know About Pollinators

There's not much to know about pollinators, right--bees go from flower to flower, moving pollen from one plant to another, thus pollinating your crops. Reading a brochure produced by the US Department of Agriculture on Farming for Pollinators shed new light on pollinators.

Native bee on Butterfly Weed

Did you Know:
  • Native plants are better at attracting pollinators as these are the plants they are attracted to, probabily genetically.  Plants native to other regions or other countries are often not recognized by local pollinators.
  • Many of the best crop pollinators live underground for most of the year, sometimes at the base of the very plants they pollinate.  Therefore, turn your soil only when absolutely necessary.  A benefit of no-till gardening I was not aware of.
  • Provide nesting sites for native bees (we need to get ours going again!).
  • Allow your crops to bolt, giving the bees additional food sources.  Flowering of leafy crops is not the sign of a neglectful gardener!
  • If you need to spray for bug pests, do so late in the evening when bees are not active. 
  • Cover crops that flower, such as clover, supply bees with nectar and pollen
  • Empty land (garden plots) can be sown with native flowers, providing food for bees, and discouraging weeds.
  • A diverse assortment of plants in your garden/yard with different blooming times help assure food for pollinators.
More information can be found at www.xerces.or and

Let's all make a pledge to plant some native flowers in our gardens this Spring.  If we use perennial plants, they will be there to feed the bees season after season.