Monday, March 2, 2015

Propagating yams from "minisetts"


I've written before on edible air potatoes and recorded an episode of Crash Gardening on them as well.

Though some "air potatoes" are considered invasive, there are also varieties that are not on any lists, such as the "name" yams you can buy from the ethnic markets.

I bought a "white name" yam some months ago, then forgot about it and left it in its plastic bag in a dark corner.

This is what happened:


Interesting, is it not? That thing popped out roots and sprouts from over a half-dozen nodes on that formerly eye-free tuber.

I had done some research on true yams before and read that they could be propagated by cutting a root into pieces but I didn't quite believe it until I saw how the vines emerge all over the place.

After finding this yam, I also found this video on YouTube.


I wish I could speak Hindi, but you get the idea. I particularly like how they prepare a special bed to get their yams started before transferring them to the field.

Since I already have a bunch of yams planted in the ground, I figured I might as well give it a go and cut this one and another still-dormant root to pieces and plant them.

To help seal the cut surfaces and keep out infection, I burned a bunch of sticks in my Stovetec rocket stove one evening, then collected the resulting ashes the next day.


(At the point I took this photo, I'd already used a bunch of the ashes covering the cut surfaces of a batch of ginger I was propagating).

All the pieces were dipped in the ashes and spread out to dry for a while.


Then I placed them all in a huge pot.


After spreading them out, they were covered with two inches of potting soil.

When they sprout and I plant them out, I'll take more photos.

And if they don't sprout, I'll let you know. This encouraged me, however:


...so I had to try it. Unlike white potatoes, they don't have any visible eyes when dormant so I've hesitated to cut them up in the past.

No longer. It's yam time.

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Friday, February 27, 2015

BUNNIES!



See what we have living in a nest box beneath a soft pile of fluff?

Unfortunately, our rabbits haven't been the best of breeders, plus we lost two litters of babies due to a brutal thunderstorm that tore the roof off the rabbit hutch.

These newly born bunnies, however, are growing quickly and look nice and plump.


Look! He's waving!

Rachel The Good has done an amazing job taking care of our small group of rabbits. She's determined to make this part of the homestead work so we can supplement our vegetable and fruit production with a homegrown source of meat.


For now, we're enjoying seeing the miracle of life unfold. The children are also loving the little bunnies:


The manure has been an excellent addition to our gardens as well. Even if we didn't get meat... they'd almost be worth it just for their droppings.


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Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Frost survivors and victims


We had a really cold night last week... by Florida standards, that is.

The low was in the bottom of the 20s somewhere - and it played havoc with the many trees and plants that had come out of their dormancy thanks to the warm winter.

The peaches above were saved (I hope) by two nights of a running sprinkler, but my Illinois Everbearing mulberry wasn't as fortunate. It had already opened a lot of new growth and was absolutely covered in berries.

No more. They're now burnt brown, ruining this spring's harvest.

Let's look at the peaches again:


I really like the icicles. That's a lot of excitement for a native Floridian.

My biggest fear this year was for my citrus, most of which are either in bud or in bloom. The flowers are quite susceptible to frost, so Rachel The Good and I spent a day covering them with sheets. We also placed 55 gallon drums of water by the trunks of a few of my favorites to add more warmth beneath the coverings.

Then I prayed over them.

When I uncovered them three days later, I thanked Providence for His care: all the citrus has come through with little damage. Since they're young trees a hard freeze could set them back for a year or two or even kill them. I've seen bark cracked open on trunks all the way to the ground and it ain't pretty.

I hope you all made it through alright. May that be the last icy night.

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Tuesday, February 24, 2015

More news on "Create Your Own Florida Food Forest"

My new booklet has been doing well thus far; many of you picked up copies of Create Your Own Florida Food Forest on Lulu and Amazon and I thank you.

The other day it actually hit the top 10 in "Gardening and Horticulture":



After originally posting the book, I noticed in the Amazon listings that the cover looked rather sad when shrunk down. In fact, the title was almost unreadable.

I know you're not supposed to judge books by their cover; however, somebody might do just that, hence the cover design change to a cleaner and easier-to-read format.


I've now changed it on both Lulu and Amazon.

If you ordered a paperback copy before the change, you're now in possession of a rare collectible.

To buy an e-book copy on Amazon, click here.

To buy on Lulu, click here.

All that's changed is the cover.

If you have a copy and found it helpful, I'd be quite grateful if you would leave a review at Amazon when you get a chance. There are already a nice pair of 5-star reviews there. Thank you, P. Green and Servant.

Herrick Kimball also gave me a nice recommendation in his Planet Whizbang newsletter, writing:

"And finally, if you live in the sunny South, be sure to check out David Good's new eBook titled, Create Your Own Florida Food Forest ... When you get there you can click on the "Look Inside" feature and get a little sample. David's blog, Florida Survival Gardening, is a great source for gardening inspiration and information even if you don't live in Florida."


Here's to food forests growing across Florida.

Monday, February 23, 2015

@The Prepper Project: Defeat Garden Pests With This Easy Trick

I pulled out the remains of summer’s snake beans from one of my garden beds and was amazed by the sight that met my eyes.

The roots were a horrid, knotty mass of distorted lumps.

Nematodes.

In the spring the beans had done excellently so I planted a second round in the same area. It grew rapidly but seemed to have a much harder time producing a crop than the earlier set of plants.
In short, they were a fail.

NematodesOnScreen
“Here’s Dave’s problem: he’s dumb!” Photo credit USDA.

Sometimes you can get away with planting an area multiple times in a row with the same crop. I have a neighbor who plants a plot of crowder peas every summer… and from what I can spy over the fence, it seems like they’re in the same place. He seems to do fine; however, the plot probably reverts to weeds and grass through the rest of the year.
That rest can make all the difference.

Many of the problems in modern farming, from the need for extra pesticides to the use of genetically modified plants, relate to a lack of rotation. When the same ground is used to grow the same crops over and over again… pest problems start to build.

Granted, many farmers rotate between soybeans and corn or other pairings… but they don’t have the luxury of putting space aside for long term rotation plans like a home gardener can do with his plots.

In the case of my knotted bean roots, I won’t be planting anything susceptible to nematodes in that same space for a while – and I definitely won’t be planting anything in the bean and pea family.

Instead, after pulling the beans, my wife and I cleaned up the bed. Then she sowed a good handful of mustard seeds across the surface of the nematode-ridden earth.

Mustard, like many of its brassica cousins, can actually repel nematodes. They hate eating mustard.

If you really want to improve a bed and kick out garden pests before they become a big issue, give your gardens even more time than a year or so between similar crops. In a small space, this may not always be possible, but in a system like mine where I have a lot of beds it’s pretty easy to pull off.

If you can rotate not just types, but entire plant families, you’ll do well.

Hardcore Crop Rotation: A Five-Year Plan

If you really wanted to go nuts with your plant rotation, you could switch plant families for five years without many issues. Call it a five-year mission to boldly plant what no man has planted before…

Enterprise

You know, when I was a kid I used to bike over to my Grandma’s house with my brother in the summer and watch Star Trek on her Beta VCR.

We’d eat her amazing homemade macaroni and cheese (she used Vermont aged cheddar) along with frozen slices of mango from her tree out back. She had also air conditioning and we didn’t. It was awesome.

Man… those were the days. No responsibilities, cool grandparents, fast bikes, Kirk and Spock and green ladies, a good brother to hang with…
Where the heck was I?

Being a grownup and writing a gardening article… yeah… that’s right.

Dang it.

Okay. Crop rotation.

Try this five-year plan on for size:

(CLICK HERE to keep reading over at The Prepper Project!)

Friday, February 20, 2015

Summer Rain in My Florida Food Forest

Since the cold was making me sad, I looked around for some images from my food forest during warmer days and I found some video of a heavy rain from this last summer.


I can't wait until the warm weather and jungle greenery are back. I've had just about enough winter.

By the way, the song in the video is from my album The Brainspider Affair.

You can find it on iTunes... if you feel like listening to weird, weird music.


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Thursday, February 19, 2015

Using a sprinkler for frost protection


That photo is from February 13, 2011 when we suffered a very, very cold night when my blueberries were in full bloom.

I ran the sprinkler all night on my bushes, covering them with icicles, much to the amusement of my children when they woke up in the morning.

We kept the sprinkler running until all the ice melted sometime in the middle of the day.

This is a trick used by professional growers to save blooms and young fruit from frost. You'd think it would totally wreck the plants but it doesn't. In fact, it keeps the plants hovering right around freezing without letting them freeze all the way through, thanks to the slight heat caused by the phase transition from liquid to solid.

Really cool. That year we got blueberries.

This year, I'm running a sprinkler on my two peaches and my Illinois Everbearing mulberry since they're all three loaded with fruit.

I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

The low here tonight is supposed to be around 22-23 degrees. Freezes are supposed to affect the state all the way down into Orlando.

Be sure to cover plants and get ready or you may miss a year's worth of fruit. I've got more frost protection tips in this video.

Good luck.

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Wednesday, February 18, 2015

My new booklet: "Create Your Own Florida Food Forest"



I am very pleased to introduce my new booklet Create Your Own Florida Food Forest.

I've spent some time gathering together my thoughts on creating a Florida food forest and compiled it into a handy little volume.

Create Your Own Florida Food Forest starts with the basic layers of a food forest then builds from there, ending with a series of Appendices listing plant and tree species for both North and South Florida.

In this book, I also share my methods for gaining a lot of plants quickly without breaking the bank, working with wildlife, and how I pick plant species that are likely to thrive at a new food forest location.

All of it is Florida-focused, though northern gardeners will also find some of the information helpful.

You can buy a Kindle copy here. If you find the booklet helpful, please write a review at Amazon.

Some of the information may be familiar to you from my past articles and some is brand-new.

If you'd like a paperback copy, you can get one here at Lulu.

('m awaiting my proof in the mail for that version. I'm hoping the cover resolution and formatting will look okay in person. Even if they aren't perfect, all the info is there.)

Thanks for all the encouragement and support. Now go out and plant food forests!


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Something very exciting is about to happen

Stay tuned.

The very exciting thing should happen soon.

I will let you know more later today.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Our mini apple orchard IN FLORIDA!


That brand-new Florida apple orchard is the result of an afternoon my wife and I spent in the garden a week ago.

10 trees in a row. 9 apples and one Pineapple quince.

The apple varieties are... drum roll, please...

Granny Smith
Gala
Honeycrisp
Hudson Golden Gem
Fuji Red
Liberty
Spitzenburg
Arkansas Black Spur
Sundowner

They're planted 5' apart. Very close, I know; but I needed them where they'll get lots of attention. After this photo, I cut all the trees at knee height. When they start growing, I'll be shaping them up with good limb structure so they fit this tiny space.

We need to answer the question: "Can you grow good apples in Florida?" More specifically, can we grow apples other than Anna, Ein Shemer, Tropic Sweet and Golden Dorsett?

I hope so, or else I'm going to be out $200 for nothing but my love of you, O inquisitive reader. It's not that I don't love you all enough to sacrifice my grocery money for bare-root trees that likely won't grow here... it's just that I really want good apple pie.

That said, in according with my permaculture approach to gardening, these apple trees will also be surrounded by other species including herbs, nitrogen-fixers, flowers and berries.

I will report on their progress in future posts.

SCIENCE!

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Monday, February 16, 2015

A four-year-old black mulberry

It's hard to believe this tree was just a sad-looking bare root twig when I popped it in the ground almost exactly four years ago:


It's got at least a six-inch diameter on the trunk now. I love it.

I was actually able to find the original order receipt from Gurney's nursery in my old e-mails:


That tree is now about 20' tall, maybe taller. 

I don't recommend Gurney's Nursery in general. Though they're large and have a big selection at low prices (when they do sales in particular), the quality on their fruit trees isn't nearly as high as Peaceful Valley Farm Supply.

Or the quality you'll find at Florida Food Forests, for that matter.

Anyhow, when I planted this mulberry I was just learning about the tree. This particular specimen (and its Frankenberry sister in the food forest) just doesn't make as large a fruit, or as much fruit, as I would like to see. 

But it did grow big very quickly. It looks like it will be an excellent climbing tree in a few more years. And though the fruit isn't incredible or as ridiculously profuse as it is on my Illinois Everbearing tree, it's still delicious and abundant.

I'm collecting better varieties of mulberry in my nursery for sale this new year. Last year I almost sold out of everything, even tiny trees. This year I'll be propagating a lot more, plus working on getting some root stock going so I can graft some oh-do-difficult-to-root Pakistan Long mulberry trees and sell them. That's at least a one-year proposition however... so stay tuned.

As for this tree... time is a wonderful thing. Put in trees right now and you'll be peering up at them in just a few years. There's no time like the present to plant. Get out there and plant!

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Friday, February 13, 2015

Birdhouses and nectarine grafts

I hung one of my friend Connie's homemade birdhouses in my festooned seedling peach tree the other day.


The wood is old heart pine, reclaimed from the wreckage of an ancient collapsed Cracker house on her property.

I like building birdhouses, but hers take the cake. Connie's display at the 326 Community Market always has a selection of lovely plants, herbs and homemade birdhouses. She's there almost every Thursday... just ask for The Potter's Bench booth.

Meanwhile, in the peach next to the one in which my new birdhouse sways... I'm grafting Sunraycer nectarine buds onto some recently pruned branches:


I think they're going to take.

I'm considering ordering some root stock and producing grafted fruit trees from scratch in the nursery. Some really good varieties of fruit, such as the Sunraycer nectarine mentioned above, are patent-free and open for nurseries to propagate.

And of course, any trees I grow from seed with good fruit I can name and propagate all I like.

Ah... the potential!

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Thursday, February 12, 2015

Starfruit: An easy-to-grow fruit tree for South Florida

Starfruit, also known as carambola, is one of my favorite fruits.

This last week my mom sent up a box of them from The Great South Florida Food Forest Project.


Starfruit will usually bear two crops a year in non-freezing climates. They can't handle the cold well at all, meaning it's almost impossible for me to grow them here in North Florida. I have a tree in my greenhouse but the fruit is only so-so. They're just better when planted in the ground.

The one from which the beautiful fruit above were harvested was planted 3 or 4 years ago. It's now consistently loaded with fruit.

If you've only had starfruit from the grocery store, you haven't tasted starfruit. Those bland and watery things are terrible. Fresh starfruit is exploding with juice and has a sweet-tart tropical goodness that's very refreshing. I really enjoy them with breakfast.

Carambola trees aren't usually all that large. They spread sideways and have attractive bark and feathery leaves. Some years ago I stood transfixed beneath a 15' tree in a friend's yard, looking up towards the sky. The sight of the semi-translucent fruit hanging like Chinese lanterns in the tropical sun was transcendently beautiful. I could have just sat down and stayed there for hours, staring up through the branches... but my friends start to think I'm insane when I do things like that, so I didn't.

If you live inside the zone where starfruit can be grown, grow one. They're productive, beautiful and delicious and require very little care.

And the fruit looks like this:


Magical.

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Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Lots of early blooming fruit trees


Quite a few of my fruit trees and blueberry bushes are blooming right now. The cool but not freezing winter has had quite a few warm patches that have confused the trees greatly. 

My mulberry tree out back - the same Illinois Everbearing I mentioned in yesterday's post on festooning - is pushing a lot of blooms and new growth. 
 

The risk, of course, is that we'll get a harsh overnight low in the next month or two that will burn off all the blooms and new growth, eliminating the year's harvest of fruit.

I really hope that doesn't happen. This is a tricky time. I can cover some of my smaller trees to protect them but the larger trees are now on their own.

Three of my peaches are blooming:




It's hard to find more beautiful trees in the spring than peaches. The nectarine out front is also blooming but since it's a tiny tree I don't really want it fruiting yet so if any nectarines start to develop I'll pinch them off. It needs to get good and tall before having babies.

My Anna apples are in bloom right now and the black cherry is also about to pop. Fortunately, my Japanese persimmons, pears, cherries, plums and other apples are still sound asleep.

I hope they stay that way for another month at least. Or that we get lucky and don't see a cold snap that goes much below freezing.

I want fruit!

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Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Festooning Fruit Trees

I recently watched a film called The Permaculture Orchard. In it, Stephan Sobkowiak demonstrates his method of bending down the branches of apples in order to induce fruiting rather than additional leaf growth.

As opposed to pruning, which stimulates more green growth, "festooning" allows for a tree to be spread out lower to the ground and harvested easily.

Though I have no idea if this will increase the fruit set on mulberry or peach trees, I decided to tie down their branches (after some judicious pruning) so as to allow for easier harvests this spring and summer.

Here's my Illinois Everbearing mulberry:


Notice the cinderblock weights holding that branch down.

Here's a shot from another angle:


I selected four main trunks of this multi-trunked specimen then cut out the branches that were too low, crossing, or shooting straight up in the center.

I used military paracord to tie up the branches since it's light, strong and cheap. To avoid girdling the branches, I wrapped it multiple times around some protecting pieces of old inner tube I secured around the branches needing festooning. You can see the black bands on the trees - those are where the paracord attaches.

With one of my seedling peach trees I took a similar approach; however, I refrained from cutting it, mostly because I'm interested in seeing what a peach tree will do without pruning.


I also pulled a lot of it sideways along a similar plane so the branches won't shade the garden beds adjacent to this tree. They're in the foreground, just out of sight.

Over time, the branches should set themselves in this position and allow me to untie the cinderblocks.

I believe this method will work out well for tree growth and fruit accessibility.

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