Midweek Fizzle

Midweek Fizzle…
 
Another busy gardening day took place here in Pensacola, Florida this past weekend.  My grandchildren were around to help with the planting.  They were so excited to see the progress of the seeds they had planted.  Of course, rain was threatening again so we worked quickly and were able to get the job done before the thunder and lightning started.
Asiatic lilies and spaghetti squash
In the main garden area off the newly painted shed, I planted 2 Asiatic lilies, called “Tiny Todd.”  This is one of my favorite of the lilies for their pale delicate colors. Perenials.com has an excellent description of the plant and its habitat at http://www.perennials.com/plants/lilium-tiny-todd.html
My grandson grew the spaghetti squash (Calabaza) by seed.  He was amazed at how quickly the seeds grew.  My idea is to let them grow up the garden trellis so they have some major support for the heavy squash. This is my first time growing them, so we will check in occasionally and see how they fare in the hot Florida sun.
The Pepper Forest
The grandkids and I decided we would plant a pepper forest.  We have done that before in other gardens and the peppers seem to like the closeness.  We planted red, green, yellow banana, and Thai varieties of pepper that I purchased from Home Depot.
Thai Peppers
Thai peppers grow upside down and are one of the hottest peppers on earth. They dry well and I use them to season many of my stir fries.  Believe me they are so hot that a little goes a long way.  The website, “Homegrown Peppers,” http://www.homegrown-peppers.com/chile-pepper/growing-thai-hot-peppers/  is a great start to researching how to grow all your various kinds of peppers.  Peppers of all kinds do well in Pensacola’s humid hot conditions.
As I have said before, I like to incorporate my veggies in with other plants and garden areas.  My particular backyard is rather shady so I try to make use of all of my gardens according to when they receive the best sunlight.  This particular garden has an Azalea named, “George L. Taber,” planted (left) in it along with two perennial Duranta’s (right) called, “Golden Edge.”  Both plants are partial shade lovers so the area was perfect for them, even though this garden gets hot afternoon sun.
Azalea and Duranta (far right)
The University of Florida at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/fp509 says this is one of the best Rhododendron evergreen shrubs (azalea) for our area.  The durantas are one of my favorites because of their yellow and green color.  They will break up the backdrop hedges of solid green and bring some contrast to the area. This site, the San Marcos Growers at http://www.smgrowers.com/products/plants/plantdisplay.asp?plant_id=2993 has all the information you need about this versatile plant.
Since the azalea and the duranta are young this year, I decided that this garden area could accommodate one of my grandson’s zucchini plants that he grew from seed. Zucchini is one of my favorite vegetables and I eat them daily.  If you can grow your own you will save quite a bit of money on your grocery bills.  
Zucchini grow quite large and spread all over so I am experimenting with an idea to support the leaves with a tomato cage.  I found this idea on Pintrest from the Clever, Crafty, Cookin’ Mama at http://www.clevercraftycookinmama.com/2013/05/growing-zucchini-in-small-spaces.html#.UztEzPldWSp.  More to follow on that idea later.
Zucchini are prolific and I went to an organic gardening website to learn what I could about this hearty vegetable at http://www.organicgardening.com/learn-and-grow/zucchini-growing-guide.  Last summer, I planted too late and my young plants were eaten by the hoards of insects that seem to inhabit our area.  I will provide updates on all my gardening areas through the seasons.
I hear the buzzer on my washing machine going off.  That means I am on to the next chore.  See you tomorrow. 

BUSY WEEK – HAPPY APRIL!

HAPPY APRIL to everyone!
What a week I had! We painted our old shed and made it look brand new. It is not all the way finished yet but here are the stunning results:
4/1/14 Before view of shed
4/1/14 After view of shed… still a work in progress
It seems like in Pensacola, Florida you are always up against the weather.  We applied two coats of an exterior semi gloss paint that is mildew resistant.  With the humidity here there is no way you will not have to deal with mold and mildew.
I had to prep the shed by washing it down with a siding cleaner I purchased from Home Depot.  I used a scrubbie sponge mop and cleaned all 4 sides of the shed.  I let that dry overnight, and it was on to painting the next day. I am pleased with the results and the color compliments our house perfectly.
 
In between painting, I purchased some additional plants to add to our patio garden.  It is predominantly in the shade and gets a few hours of morning light. The picture below shows the light and location.
I gathered some supplies and plant purchases which added some much needed color and texture to the area with some Cala Lilies shown below.
Betterlawns.com at this site http://betterlawns.com/April02/blg_5a.asp  explains that these lilies grow from rhizomes.  This means they do not grow from a bulb but instead they grow from a horizontal stem.
The HGTV website at http://www.hgtv.com/landscaping/understanding-bulbs-corms-rhizomes-and-tubers/index.html says, “Ginger, bamboo and irises grow in this way.”  Cana lilies grow well in Pensacola however, I will cover them this winter so they will return next spring.
I planted a Boston fern in a pot on a stand at the far corner of the patio garden to add some height to the area.  We had a fern there last year and it was spectacular in filling up that area.  Boston ferns love humidity and love this particular spot in my garden.  A great site for fern information is SF Homes at http://homeguides.sfgate.com/care-ferns-hanging-pots-31694.html .  They offer information on ferns for inside and out of your house.
To the left of the fern, is a Plantain Lily or a hosta.  Plantain Lilies (hostas) love the shade.  They are easy to grow and this particular one has long stems of lavender flowers that the humming birds love.  Once the plant reaches that stage I will post more pictures.  The Ohio State Extension Service has one of the best sites I have seen about hostas at http://ohioline.osu.edu/hyg-fact/1000/1239.html .
In front of the fern are two Liriope Musccari ground cover plants.  This plant will have shoots of lavender/purple flowers that the bees and humming birds will adore.   The Missouri Botanitical Garden at http://www.missouribotanicalgarden.org/PlantFinder/PlantFinderDetails.aspx?kempercode=l100 says, “Liriopes tolerates heat, humidity and drought. Foliage is evergreen in the deep South, but can turn brown considerably in cold St. Louis winters.”  Here in Pensacola we were pretty cold this past winter. I believe I will make sure that all my planting areas are covered with pine straw to help with the cold.
This last section of the patio shade garden contains strawberry plants and three day lilies.  My granddaughter, Savanna, loves strawberries so I let her plant these plants.  I am not sure how they will do with the birds but we will learn as we grow.
Well, it’s Friday so that means the thunderstorms are rolling into Pensacola again.  The humidity is over 85% and the temperature is hovering around 75 degrees.  I am off to rescue seedlings from the approaching storm.

The Cleanup After the Storm

The Cleanup after the Storm
The storm that hit Pensacola and the surrounding area on Friday and Saturday morning was a real soaker.  Thunder rumbled here in the wee hours, however I awakened to a brilliant blue sky.  Here in Northwestern Florida we got just shy of 3 ½ inches of rain!  Not a bad way to start the grass growing.
 
 
I cleaned up the backyard and surveyed the damage.  The tree hedge between our yard and the neighbor’s horse field lost a couple of large branches that the wind knocked down.  My tomatoes in pots on the patio weathered the storm well. No damage there.
Our centipede grass is still semi dormant and the cool temperatures have hindered its growth. We are currently using “Trugreen” as our fertilizer and weed control service to get the grass up to par.  The previous owners relied on rainfall as the main watering component for their lawn care.  This allowed the grass to struggle and weeds took over in many areas.  As with any gardening project, the lawn is a work in progress.  Our backyard looks much healthier than the front lawn.
Centipede grass is an interesting grass. It adapts to rough soil conditions and is used in abundance throughout the Southern states.  It does not grow well in alkaline soils or dry regions such as our Western United States.  In addition, centipede grass does not do well in the cold.  That could be one reason our grass is looking so poorly, as we had many days and nights hovering at or below freezing this winter.
I found a website called, “Aggie Horticulture,” at http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/archives/parsons/turf/publications/centipede.html that explains everything you want to know about this type of grass.
The Aggie Horticulture site says, Centipede grass, Eremochloa ophiuroides  (Munro) Hack, is a coarse-textured perennial grass that spreads by stolons. The stolons have a creeping growth habit with rather short upright stems that resemble a centipede — thus, the name centipede grass. Centipede grass remains green throughout the year in mild climates, but leaves and young stolons are killed during hard freezes. It does not have a true dormant state and resumes growth whenever temperatures are favorable.”
 
As I said our lawn is a real work in progress, and is part of my beautiful garden.  It pays to do your research and incorporate lawn care into your garden plans.

What Comes Next in the Garden?

IN THE MEANTIME… What do you do when the weather won’t let you out to play in your garden? 

I woke up this morning to the sound of rain gently falling on my roof. The drain spout at the back corner of the house is near my bed. I could hear the rain and the drip, drip, dripping of the water through the gutter. Such bliss… I snuggled back into my comforter, even though I had other plans in the garden today. It was so dark at 8:00 am this morning that our street lights were still on. I knew that did not bode well, so I grabbed a cup of coffee and stared out the back patio watching birds of all kinds mill around the bird feeder.

The wind increased and thunder rumbled through the dark skies. Strobe light flashes of lightening sliced through my thoughts. No gardening today for me. No problem, because being retired means you plan your day your way. I have always found things to do to occupy my time, and doing crafts has always been a great way to spend time when I can’t play in the dirt.

I started crocheting with thread over 30 years ago. My mother and grandmother (I think most of the women in my family crocheted) both crocheted doilies. I wanted to take up the craft to carry on the tradition, as both women are now deceased. What a joy it was to have a craft that was unusual in our modern times. Plus the cost for the crochet hooks and thread were in my budget too! Cheap!

This is a piece I am currently working on called, “In the Vineyard,” by Alice Gundel. I found this pattern in the magazine, “Magic Crochet,” December 1997, Number 111, page 12 and 13. This technique is called filet crochet. If you are interested in learning this type of crochet, I found a great filet crochet tutorial on Youtube at:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_s3L73m8W9o .

I think I will stay inside and work on my crochet since the rain is still coming down in buckets. The National Weather Service in Mobile, AL has posted severe thunderstorm warnings, flood warnings, and costal flood warnings for the area. It is a good day to stay inside, snuggle with my dogs, and crochet.

Gulf Coast March storm, 3/28/14, from the National Weather Service Facebook page at www.facebook.com.

Gardening in Pensacola, Florida

The Preparation

Hi friends. Today I want to share the beginning of my current gardening project in Pensacola, Florida. We moved here last spring and my first vegetable garden attempt was a total disaster. The heavy, cloying humidity, along with 5 inches of rain for a week turned my tomatoes into spindly bug covered sticks!

There are many challenges to face in our Gulf Coast climate. One of the best places I have found to answer many of my questions is the Escambia County Extension Office at this website: http://escambia.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/category/gardening-in-the-panhandle/.  Everything you can think of can be found there and is a wonderful source of information on gardening, grass growing, pest control, etc.

The first thing I did was to find out what planting zone I was in so that I could have an idea of what plants could survive in our terrain. I live northwest of Pensacola and my zone is 9a. If you go to the site below and input your zip code it will tell you what zone you are actually in.

Image from the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map at http://planthardiness.ars.usda.gov/PHZMWeb/

Once you determine the planting zone, you can then research what plants grow the best for your area. I like a mix of vegetables and flowers so I try to find things that grow well together. You have to watch for shady and sunny areas too. There are lots of good things to think about and plan for.

I enlisted the help of my grandchildren in planting seeds so that they could see how easy it is to have a garden. Hopefully they will like gardening themselves. Presently, we have zucchini, cucumbers, kale, spaghetti squash, and some Roma tomatoes planted. I used old pots from previous Home Depot purchases and even incorporated Greek yogurt containers with holes punched into their bottoms as my planting vessels. I used ice cream containers to start the seeds in because the lids helps to hold in the heat which the seeds need to germinate.

Spaghetti squash to the left, cucumbers, and kale.
Zucchini on the far right.
Roma tomatoes.

We’re off to a great start and if the weather cooperates and warms up we will have some great plants to put into our garden. I love the smell of the wet compost as it mixes with the red, clay of the North Florida soil. The South winds are blowing and the Gulf moisture is streaming into our area. Rain and thunder storms tonight!

Welcome!

Happy Spring to everyone, even though it does not appear to be spring yet in many parts of the United States. Here in Pensacola, Florida it has been a cold, rough winter. We had many cloudy, damp, cold days with winds coming out of the north, instead of the warm tropical winds from the south. I was able to grow a winter garden though and that was a fun endeavor. My cabbages, brocoli, and kale grew quite well in the protection of my shed and neighbor’s fence.

Here is a picture of my grand children with the last of the cabbages. Gardening in this part of the Gulf Coast is quite a challenge in the summer. I hope to share some of my tricks and mistakes along the way so others and can enjoy the peace of gardening in Northwest Florida. Please follow my gardening saga and share your tips and tricks that you may find helpful to the rest of us struggling gardeners out there. Along the way, I want to share my other interests such as crocheting, jewelry making, reading, crafting, baking and weight loss and exercise tips. Join me in my journey into retirement as I silver thread my way to a more fulfilling life style.