Posts Tagged ‘Herbs’

Awaiting Autumn

Florida gardeners look forward to fall with as much anticipation as gardeners farther north look forward to spring. With the exception of a few tropical species such as okra and cowpeas, not much grows in Florida gardens during the long, hot summer. By the time August rolls around, the limitations on what can be planted have begun to loosen up, and by September, we will be able to plant pretty much anything.

Although this region theoretically has a year-round growing season, fall is really the time of peak gardening. By way of comparison with northern gardens, August is akin to that period in late winter when the ground has thawed, but frosts are still frequent. September brings the first hint of cooler weather, with the kind of long warm days and mild nights that make garden vegetables thrive. One significant difference that remains, though, is that here the days start out long and then get shorter as the season comes to a close. Because of this, the growth slows down as the season progresses, rather than accelerate.

Against the backdrop of this calendar, I have spent these first few days of August clearing out old growth, preparing the ground where I have spaces available, tending to the young plants previously started, and planting more seeds. The first two pictures below show the oldest of my fall plants, an assortment of tomatoes and peppers as detailed in this post.

I would like to draw your attention to the two peppers on the far right of the tray in the foreground of the first picture below. Those are Black Hungarian peppers, which produce tasty, medium-to-hot peppers and can be used as ornamental plants. Notice the dark coloration? According to the description when I bought them, they are supposed to have deep purple veins and emerald green leaves. From what I’ve seen so far, it appears the reverse is true. Either way, as they mature, they should produce purple flowers, followed by pepper pods that start out green, turn solid black, and then ripen to red. This is my first time growing any, so I’m looking forward whatever colorful display they offer.

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I’m somewhat concerned with the discoloration on several of the tomato plants. I have compared them with tomato disease pictures found in databases, and as best I can tell, these leaves do not match any of the leaves illustrating identified diseases. As such, I will not panic just yet. What I will do is trim them up and move them out of the screened enclosure to expose them to full strength sunlight on a full time basis. I will also be transplanting them to their permanent homes within the next couple weeks. I am hopeful that this will address the problem.

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The next picture shows the second and third waves of tomato and pepper plants. The second wave is discussed in detail here, and the third in this post. Careful readers or keen observers might notice that there are a couple extra pots in the right-hand picture. Those are both a type of ornamental tree known as a Jerusalem Thorn. Only one of them has sprouted thus far, and it has been almost long enough to conclude that the second one failed to germinate. Needless to say, these are not intended for the vegetable garden!

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The next picture marks this fall’s first departure from the Solenacea family, more commonly known as nightshade. The plants in this tray are members of the Brassicacea family, more commonly known as the cabbage family. In fact, they are all members of a single species, Brassica oleracea. This species has a surprisingly diverse array of cultivars, one of which is cabbage, and within those cultivars, one finds an assortment of varieties.

In is tray I have planted one variety each of two cultivars, neither of which happens to be cabbage. Instead, I have broccoli (the DiCiccio variety) and collard greens (the Georgia variety). The nine on the left are broccoli and the six on the right are collard greens. If you look closely, you will notice that they are indistinguishable from one another at this stage.

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Last, but not least, I have planted a whole lot of herbs. Many of these will end up in containers that we keep within easy reach of the kitchen; others will find their way into the butterfly garden, either because of their nectar-producing flowers or their use as caterpillar food. Others still will be tucked away in various niches in the yard to add a particular ornamental characteristic or two, and some will be used as companion plants where beneficial relationships exist. Most of them are the types of herb commonly used in cooking, but some are used for other purposes. Here’s the full list:

  • Basil
  • Chives (Common)
  • Chives (Garlic)
  • Cilantro
  • Dill
  • Fennel (Bronze)
  • Fennel (Florence)
  • German Chamomile
  • Hyssop
  • Marjoram
  • Mustard
  • Oregano
  • Parsley
  • Rosemary
  • Rue
  • Sage
  • Summer Savory
  • Thyme

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I Never Promised You Much of a Rose Garden

Today I took care of some long overdue gardening chores by tending to a part of my yard that has been sadly neglected of late: my rose garden. It’s probably a bit of a euphemism to call it a rose garden. It’s actually just a strip of land along the south-facing side of our house in which I try to grow roses (with mixed success).

There are several reasons for my challenge with rose gardening. For starters, roses and Florida don’t naturally get along very well. By nature, roses prefer a cooler, more temperate climate with gentle rains spread out fairly evenly throughout the year. They’re quite happy in places like the British Isles or, in North America, along the Pacific Northwest. I hear they also do pretty well in the higher altitudes of East Africa (although they had to be imported there). Places like Central Florida, where we have long, hot summers featuring torrential downpours are just not part of their natural habitat.

There are varieties that have been specially developed for our climate, and I do find roses to be very pretty, so I have designated a section of my yard for rose gardening. The varieties adapted to our climate prefer full sun, so the south wall is ideal for them.

I actually prefer to grow native, or at least “Florida friendly” flowers, for reasons I’ll go into in a separate post. However, since the roses that grow here can only be propagated through grafts and cuttings, I decided that roses do not represent any kind of threat to the environment, so it would be okay to set aside a small portion of my yard to grow them. Besides, the only thing they displaced was St. Augustine grass, which is equally unnatural.

Having said all that, I had allowed this little rose garden to get in rather pitiful shape. I only had five rose bushes to begin with. One of them had died. Another is probably deserving of an intensive care unit. The rest are doing okay, but needed a fair amount of pruning to get rid of some diseased leaves and spent blossoms, not to mention some shaping. On top of that, the nearby grass had begun to creep back into the area, and as best I can tell, the mowing crew (with all due apologies to Mother Nature) appears to have treated that grass to some Round-Up last time they were here. Here’s what it looked like when I got to it this afternoon:

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The first order of business was to remove the dead grass. That didn’t take very long, given that it was dead. I also pulled out the dead rose bush. The next couple of pictures show how it looked following this clean-out.

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With that out of the way, it was time to start the restoration. First, I dug a nice, big hole where the dead rose had been and installed the replacement I had purchased earlier in the day. I forgot to take a picture of the replacement before planting it, but it’s a multi-variety graft of three different varieties of long-stemmed hybrid tea rose. The varieties are called Red Sensation (red, as you can imagine), Cool Breeze (which is a dark pink), and Orlando (a lighter pink with a purplish cast to it). It should be quite pretty, and it should provide for some nice cut flowers to place in vases around the house from time to time.

Now, there couldn’t be a worse time of year to plant roses here. Ideally, roses should be planted around January or February in this area. But when you are replacing a dead one, anything is an improvement. Besides, I purchased this one at a store that offers a one year replacement guarantee on all live plants, so I should be covered if it doesn’t do well.

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With the new plant in place (on the right in the next picture below), it was time to improve the soil. One problem I knew I had was with the sandy soil not holding water very well. I also assumed it was rather depleted of its nutrients. I started out by spreading a mixed soil containing loam, compost, and peat. Then I added a layer of just peat moss.

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Next, I added a layer of course vermiculite to help with moisture retention.

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Once the vermiculite was in place, I added some rich, loamy topsoil, which just happened to have some earthworms already in it!

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Finally, I spread all that mixture around and worked it thoroughly to give it a fairly uniform color and texture.

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The last thing I did was plant some chives. It just so happens that chives are a good companion for roses. Their scent serves to detract a number of rose pests, and their roots should help to retain the soil in between the widely spaced roses. Aesthetically, the chives should fill in the sparse space with some greenery, as well as some pretty purple blossoms. Chives also tie in nicely with my desire to add edible landscaping wherever feasible. The entire plant is edible, including the blossom.

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