Friday, May 22, 2015

A sweet potato experiment


That looks like a regular sweet potato bed, right?

Wrong!

Instead of loosening the ground and directly planting sweet potatoes, I tried an experiment this year with this bed, thanks to some inspiration from my friend Herrick and his amazing four-day carrots.

Beneath all those vines is a strip of black woven nursery fabric with holes burned into it just big enough for planting sweet potatoes. This stuff lasts for ten years and allows water to pass through without letting weeds pop up.

It should also keep those sweet potatoes from rooting all the way along their vines.

Why would I want to do this?

#1: Because I've read that you can get much larger potatoes by discouraging secondary rooting along the vines. I have noticed that the best roots are always where I first planted my starts - and that there are usually a few tiny ones further down the vines that aren't worth much.

#2: Because this keeps the weeds down. No more Bidens alba invading my sweet potato patch. When I cut off these vines and harvest the tubers at the end of the season, I'll have a nice, bare patch of weedless ground for my fall gardening.

I'll let you all know how it turns out.

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Thursday, May 21, 2015

Welcome, visitors!

For those of you visiting for the first time via my article over at Lew Rockwell's, thank you for stopping in - I hope you'll stick around.

A great place to start is with the survival plant profiles. Beyond that, this is a daily site (well, weekdaily, as in I don't always post on the weekends) with a good community of knowledgeable gardeners, experimenters, survivalists, hobbyists and amateurs.

If you've got a question, ask it in the comments - if you've got a great gardening link to share, share it. If you have your own gardening/preparedness/homesteading site, let me know and I'll link to you in my sidebar.

We're all in this journey together.

And now, for something not-quite-completely different, here's a video I just did showing some of this year's gardens - check it out:



We're going to have a lot of Seminole pumpkins. Last year six plants provided 200lbs. This year I planted at least 30-40 plants. If the math works out right, well, it'll be incredible. This is part of my tropical pumpkin breeding experiment so in order to cut down on inbreeding depression I need to plant at least 25 individuals. I included large tropical pumpkins, calabazas, Seminole pumpkin and tan cheese types. Lord willing, we'll eventually end up (in a few years) with a large-fruited fine-fleshed variety with the flavor of a great Seminole pumpkin and the size of a massive calabaza.

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Today at the 326 Community Market: Japanese Persimmons! Prickly Pear! More Moringas!





As I wrote yesterday, I've got lots of little moringa trees that need to get planted in your yard.


I've also got some other very interesting plants, including a very few large-fruited prickly pear cactus I got from the private collection of a friend out West.

I've also got some loquats, some small Japanese persimmon trees (at a great price - just $19!), and more.

The 326 Community Market runs every Thursday from 3 - 7PM and is really easy to find. Google map is here. Their Facebook page is here (with lots more photos and info).

My prices are good and my gardening advice is free.

Beyond what I carry, there are also folks selling melt-in-your-mouth Florida peaches, handcrafts, chickens, delicious ice cream (from actual hand-milked cows), crafts, vegetables, baked goods, homemade jams and jellies, local raw honey, candles, ornamental plants, herbs horsehair jewelry, gourmet chips and more.
It's a great group of people and very friendly... the way a local market should be.

Come on down!





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Wednesday, May 20, 2015

A successful fig graft!

It worked!


That's a cleft-grafted Texas Everbearing fig added to an unknown variety I planted a few years ago. The tree produces large yellow figs in very limited quantities. It's really not very productive considering all the space it takes up so I've decided to start tacking other varieties onto it.

I grafted two Texas Everbearing scions onto the tree earlier this spring and both of them have taken.

Interestingly, the scion's cambium layer is only lined up on one side of the cleft graft. I had heard this would work but it hadn't worked on any of my fruit trees (except apples) until I tried it with these figs.

Texas Everbearing figs are huge:


They produce like crazy, too - a lot like the smaller-fruited Brown Turkey variety.

We'll see how these grafts do as they mature.

If you want your own Texas Everbearing fig, the only place I've ever seen them for sale is at Taylor Gardens Nursery. I highly recommend you pick one up if you get a chance.

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At the Gainesville Union Street Farmer's Market this evening

I'll be at the Gainesville Union Street Farmer's Market this evening with some cool plants in tow.

I was able to get some really beautiful nitrogen-fixing "bush clover" plants, also known as lespedeza. Click here to see some specimens on Google images.

They're a great perennial that works well planted beneath fruit trees and as an attractor for bees and butterflies.

I've also got a BUNCH of little moringa trees for sale at $4 ea. or 3 for $10. If you don't have moringa, come pick some up.

Along with those, I'll have an interesting collection of edible and useful plants including true bay, celosia, chaya, black pepper, cassava and more.

Details on the market are here.

See you there!

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Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Create Your Own Florida Food Forest is NOW ON SALE (Plus pictures of my food forest right now)

For those of you who haven't picked up a copy of Create Your Own Florida Food Forest yet, in honor of Compost Everything's success, the Kindle edition is now on sale for just $2.99 (as is Compost Everything as part of the introductory offer by my publisher.)

If you're part of the Kindle Unlimited program, you can actually get both books for free with your subscription.


And, speaking of food forests, take a look at these shots I just took:




It's hard to believe that up-and-coming jungle used to be boring, patchy, hot lawn. Just in these pictures I can spot cassava, black-eyed Susans, Confederate rose, bananas, autumn olive, elderberry, loquat, Japanese persimmon, collards, citrus, apple, pear, honey locust, dwarf mulberry, fig and plenty of great weeds.

You can wander through the yard sampling a wide range of delicious fruits. A few years ago these was nothing.

Why isn't everyone doing this? It's like living in a forest that loves you and wants you to be happy.

And I'm very, very happy.

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Monday, May 18, 2015

Video of nectarines, peaches and plums grafted onto my Chickasaw plum

Just put this little video together today - check it out:



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A look at some nitrogen-fixers for food forests in Florida

I confess: one of the areas I overlooked at the onset of my food forest were the nitrogen-fixing support plants.

I've definitely been paying for it.

The middle of the food forest is pretty lousy soil, as is the Eastern half. I should have planted a ton of support plants before adding my fruit trees - or at least concurrently with them - but I didn't. I got caught up in adding the fun stuff and have been playing catch up ever since.

Over the last couple of years I've been starting nitrogen-fixers from seed and adding them to the food forest. I've also purchased a few, like the Enterolobium below:


That puppy came from fellow plant geek Oliver Moore. He's got some pretty cool plants in his collection and when he offered to sell me some potted Enterolobiums at $3 each, how could I refuse picking up a half-dozen?

Want to see what a big one looks like? Click here. They're amazing.

Obviously I can't let them get that big in my food forest. They, like the other nitrogen fixers, are mostly chop-and-drop plants that will add both mulch above the soil and nitrogen below as I aggressively cut them back every year.

Or as they freeze back, as is the case with this Royal Poinciana tree:


I've had the top of it freeze a few times but it's been coming back from below.

The royal poinciana is a wonderful and beautiful tree but it's a true tropical that can't take the cold up here. I'm wondering if it will keep living or kick off eventually. I would really dig it if it grew enough to bloom one year.

Now here's a tree that's considered a pest:


That's a "mimosa tree", one of our common invasives which also happens to be a good nitrogen-fixing tree. Keep them cut back and they won't set seeds. This one is planted next to a Chinese chestnut tree it's feeding every time I whack its top off.

The plant below is some sort of cassia or senna:

I'm not sure because I got the seeds somewhere and lost the Latin name. Whatever it is, it's in the pea and bean family for sure - and looks rather similar to this guy, a relative in the cassia clan:

That's a "Christmas cassia," a late-blooming ornamental shrub or small tree which is commonly sold at landscape nurseries. It's fast-growing and a good nitrogen-fixer, particular for small yards and edible landscaping projects where everything is supposed to look good.

The tree below is a bit on the weird side, but it's also lovely.
 

That is a Jerusalem thorn in full bloom. The pods or seeds are apparently edible but I've never gotten any.

The problem with using this tree as a nitrogen fixer is its incredible thorns and super-hard wood. Cut these branches and drop them on the ground and you're going to hurt someone at some point.

It's pretty, though, and works really well in arid conditions where other nitrogen-fixers may not grow. It's also quite attractive.

Another lovely tree is the "Pride of Barbados" tree, also known as dwarf poinciana:


They die back to the ground almost every year when the frosts hit, then return and grow to a few foot tall before setting lovely red flowers that look a lot like miniature royal poinciana flowers. Unfortunately, the tree is somewhat thorny so it's a questionable chop-n-drop.

Here's another thorny one that despite its sharp reputation also has multiple benefits to recommend its use:


That's a little black locust tree. They fix nitrogen, feed the bees like crazy, plus yield wood that will last for decades in the ground without rotting. It's a perfect fence pole tree for the homestead. I only have one at the moment but hope to start plenty more in the future.

Though most nitrogen-fixing trees don't yield anything you can eat, they do add a lot of life to the soil and make things quite a bit easier for your fruit trees. I've got a good list of possibilities in my book Create Your Own Florida Food Forest, which, incidentally, is now on sale for $2.99 as part of the Kindle Select program on Amazon.

Don't do like I did. Start with the nitrogen-fixers and mulch plants like Tithonia diversifolia, then plant your fruit trees.

They'll be glad you did.



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Saturday, May 16, 2015

Blackberry U-pick at Taylor Gardens Nursery!

My friends at Taylor Gardens have let me know that their blackberries are ripening early this year and they're inviting everyone to come out and pick.


They've got a lovely little U-pick going along with a great nursery - I highly recommend paying them a visit if you're within an hour or so's drive.

Though the focus is mostly on ornamental plants, they do have some edibles (including Texas Everbearing Figs - the most productive large-fruited fig I have eve seen) and a lot of great support plants for attracting butterflies, bees and other pollinators.

Map, hours and phone number are at their website.


Support this site - buy David's book Create Your Own Florida Food Forest on Amazon!

Friday, May 15, 2015

Erupting in blooms

There are blooms everywhere right now as the spring rains finally begin to fall.


Those bright beauties above are on some of my sweet potatoes, revealing in vivid hues their membership in the morning glory family.

And below, an elephant garlic bloom pops open in a dew-dropped white firework:


Not to be shown up by its brethren on the ground, one of my Orinoco bananas has unleashed a few handsome hands of fruit just over the edge of my roof:


If that bloom can find its way off the asphalt tiles, it will continue downwards, perpetually dropping petals for the rest of the year.

Another lovely sight are my prickly pear cacti right now:


Some are already fruiting whereas others are just getting started. I've planted a variety of prickly pear species, including some large-fruited ones I was sent in a trade from out West. My goal is to collect as many varieties of edibles on my property as possible. Cacti are a good and underutilized fit with that goal.

Here's an even lesser-known edible, at least in North America:


That's one of my jujube trees, blooming away. The jujube is also known as the "Chinese date tree." Though it's by no means a true date, the jujube fruit, when dried, is alleged to share a striking similarity in flavor with the unrelated fruit of the date palm.

I've planted three jujube trees in my yard and hope to soon carry them in my nursery. They seem to be amazingly tough trees as well as being quite handsome in the landscaping.

And speaking of handsome, this bee struck a nice pose for the camera:


That's likely a Seminole pumpkin bloom. I say "likely" because I've actually planted multiple strains of tropical squash and Seminole pumpkins together in the hopes of breeding my own massive mutant gigantic and incredible Florida squash variety, Dave's Florida Pumpkin.

They're all C. moschata so they'll interbreed furiously. If I can get the taste and texture of a Seminole pumpkin along with the size of a big calabaza, I'll be happy.

Of course, I'd be happy just to get a big freaky inedible thing that looks cool... so...

Anyhow - what's blooming in your garden right now?


Support this site - buy David's book Create Your Own Florida Food Forest on Amazon!

Thursday, May 14, 2015

An Interview with David The Good

My publisher just posted a little interview at their site regarding my new book Compost Everything: The Good Guide to Extreme Composting.


Viidad: Why did you write Compost Everything?

David The Good: I suppose I should say “because I love our mother the earth” or “because I want to world to reduce, reuse and recycle” or something stupid like that, but really, it’s because I’m a cheapskate and I hate following all the rules that tell me I should throw out stuff that could be added into my gardens as fertilizer.

Viidad: Like dead bodies.

David The Good: I wish people would stop bringing that up. One or three times does not a pattern make.

Viidad: But the precedent is there…

David The Good: I will not answer any more questions along these lines. I am VFM, craven servant of the Dark Lord, serial number 0156…


Viidad: Are not! That’s my number!

David The Good: Surely The Most Evil One could not have made a mistake…!

Viidad: Never! But… well… hmm… I… whatever.  Okay, weird.  Back to the interview. What about this question: who should really give a flying fetid flip-flop about composting?

David The Good: Everyone.

Viidad: Why? I mean, seriously – what about people in apartments? Why should they buy your book?

David The Good: First of all, because I’m poor and buying this book helps you give back while checking your privilege.  As a Teutonic-American and descendent of Roman slaves, you should want to support my work. Second of all, because the current paradigm is unlikely to last. This may appear on its surface like a fun little book about turning your trash into fertilizer; however, it’s actually a survival manual if things get ugly. If things ever get bad, you’re not going to be able to buy bags of mushroom compost or manure or fertilizer from the local garden center. They’ll be closed and the supply lines will be broken. You’ll need to grab every bit of fertility you can in order to feed your family. That means planting squash on top of buried raccoons, learning to reclaim urine and feces and compost them safely, turning fallen trees into water reservoirs of rotten wood beneath the soil because irrigation is tough, etc.  This book takes you to the edges and helps you harness the cycle of nature to feed yourself without external inputs. If your apartment complex becomes a war zone, you’ll be (hopefully) making your way out to the country… and you’re going to need food. Most composting books are simply about making neat little piles in a suburban backyard during a boom time. The boom time may not continue.

Viidad: What if it does?

David The Good: Then Compost Everything will just help you save lots of money rather than saving your life.

Viidad: Is it true that your dreams are haunted by an entity known as “Dinky Worm?”

CLICK HERE to keep reading over at Castalia House.

Today at the 326 Community Market: MORINGAS ARE BACK!


My friend Kayla sent me the above photo this morning. That's me at the Gainesville Union Street Farmer's Market a couple of weeks ago.

On the table I have variegated cassava, black pepper, Piper lolot, lion's ear, Florida cranberry, rosemary, an American persimmon, castor beans and even a little sugar fig in a one-gallon pot. Out of frame there's a Japanese persimmon and likely some pawpaws, black walnuts, native plums, peaches and other good stuff.

Every week I bring a variety of rare and useful herbs and edibles to Gainesville and then again to north Ocala at the 326 Community Market.

Today I've got something great in stock again: Moringa trees!

Yep. Thanks to my friend and newly minted nursery associate Curtiss, I've got a bunch of little moringa seedlings that are ready to be planted in your yard!

They're $4 a pot or 3 for $10. That's a deal and it won't last long.

(If you don't know about moringa yet, click here to read my plant profile on this miracle tree.)

The 326 Community Market runs every Thursday from 3 - 7PM and is really easy to find. Google map is here. Their Facebook page is here (with lots more photos and info).
My prices are good and my gardening advice is free.
Beyond what I carry, there are also folks selling melt-in-your-mouth Florida peaches, handcrafts, chickens, delicious ice cream (from actual hand-milked cows), crafts, vegetables, baked goods, homemade jams and jellies, local raw honey, ornamental plants, handcrafted birdhouses and more.

It's a great group of people and very friendly... the way a local market should be.
Come on down!

Support this site - buy David's book Create Your Own Florida Food Forest on Amazon!

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

My brilliant readers: what is this mystery plant?

I got an e-mail from D. M. asking for an ID on this plant that has slipped into her garden:





When I first saw it, I thought "hey, that looks like American nightshade..." then I saw the flowers. Then I wondered, is is a primrose?

Someone help this lady out!

*        *         *

In other news, I'll be at the Union Street Farmer's Market in Gainesville this evening, rare and wonderful edible plants in tow. We've got some cool new offerings now - I hope to see you there.


Quit throwing away fertility! Learn to compost meat, manure, logs, junk mail and pretty much everything else. Click below to buy David's brand-new book Compost Everything: The Good Guide to Extreme Composting.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

WE'RE #1

Check this out:


I'm blown away.

UPDATE: As of 10PM we're in the top 2,000 books in the Kindle Store:


UPDATE: We hit #950!



Support this site - buy David's book Create Your Own Florida Food Forest on Amazon!

My Publisher Introduces "Compost Everything"

This cracked me up:


"You didn't see this one coming. WE certainly didn't see it coming. Apparently Castalia House isn't merely disrupting the entire book distribution system, we're throwing out pretty much all the rules for how a reasonable publishing house is supposed to operate. Which is the only rational way to explain our latest book, COMPOST EVERYTHING: The Good Guide to Extreme Composting by David the Good.
You know I will not lie to you. I do not know a single damn thing about gardening, composting, or pretty much any activity that involves getting my hands dirty with anything other than human blood or gunpowder. Nor do I have any interest in growing fruit, vegetables, or anything beyond green grass in the yard. That being said, COMPOST EVERYTHING is actually a surprisingly entertaining read, mostly due to the fact that the author, David the Good, is quite clearly insane. I mean, this man not only knows more about gardening than I do about games, he experiments with his garden in ways that would cause any reasonable wife to not only leave, but file a restraining order and move to the barren land of Mordor where nothing green ever grows."


(CLICK HERE to read the rest at Vox Popoli.)
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