Sunday, March 31, 2013

Because tomatoes, unlike Jesus, do NOT come back from the dead

Happy Easter, everyone.

This last week, we got two frosts right in a row... after Rachel had already planted out a bunch of tiny tomato plants (and a few other things).

Since we'd already expended every extra blanket, sheet, bedspread, etc. covering the citrus, tobacco, leucanas, moringas and so on, we had to get creative in covering her seedlings.

Behold! Jars, coffee mugs, teacups and plenty of happy plants.


Incidentally, this worked perfectly... not a single fatality, despite there being frost a-plenty. Who says you need fancy cloches?

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Saturday, March 30, 2013

An easy way to grow potatoes and other thoughts on spuds

I found this video recently:

That looks like a great method... but you can no longer trust manure or straw to be herbicide-free. I now view those amendments as poisonous unless proven otherwise. This is a rotten deal for organic gardeners... but it's where we find ourselves.

I've been planting potatoes in every available space, trying a few different ways. Raised beds... in the ground... buried in straw, etc.

I had poor luck with them last year because the aminopyralid manure screwed them up, along with our hot spring weather... but I have high hopes for this year. They're really the gold standard of survival crops, even though Florida probably isn't an ideal climate for them.

The place I usually buy seed potatoes from sold out in January... and didn't re-stock. So I bought a few different brands of potatoes and the ones that made eyes quickly I used for seed. Yeah, I know all about sprout inhibiting chemicals and all that jazz... and that you're not supposed to use store potatoes... but I had good luck with them in TN so I'm trying again. I later managed to get a few bags of seed potatoes from Aldi's of all places... then got a few more bags at Tractor Supply. I'm planting like a madman, even though it's a little late.

Does anyone have a good potato success story to share? I'm eager to know if any of you guys have had good luck. If so - post away, please!

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Friday, March 29, 2013

A Good Friday break from garden posts

And because... believe it or not... there are more important things than gardening... here's the original story of Jesus Christ's crucifixion and death as related by the Apostle John:

JOHN 19 (ESV):

Then Pilate took Jesus and flogged him. And the soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head and arrayed him in a purple robe. They came up to him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” and struck him with their hands.

Pilate went out again and said to them, “See, I am bringing him out to you that you may know that I find no guilt in him.” So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, “Behold the man!”

When the chief priests and the officers saw him, they cried out, “Crucify him, crucify him!”

Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and crucify him, for I find no guilt in him." The Jews answered him, “We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die because he has made himself the Son of God.”

When Pilate heard this statement, he was even more afraid. He entered his headquarters again and said to Jesus, “Where are you from?”

But Jesus gave him no answer. So Pilate said to him, “You will not speak to me? Do you not know that I have authority to release you and authority to crucify you?”

Jesus answered him, “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above. Therefore he who delivered me over to you has the greater sin.”

From then on Pilate sought to release him, but the Jews cried out, “If you release this man, you are not Caesar's friend. Everyone who makes himself a king opposes Caesar.” So when Pilate heard these words, he brought Jesus out and sat down on the judgment seat at a place called The Stone Pavement, and in Aramaic Gabbatha.

Now it was the day of Preparation of the Passover. It was about the sixth hour. He said to the Jews, “Behold your King!” They cried out, “Away with him, away with him, crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Shall I crucify your King?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar.”

So he delivered him over to them to be crucified.  

So they took Jesus, and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called The Place of a Skull, which in Aramaic is called Golgotha. There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, and Jesus between them. Pilate also wrote an inscription and put it on the cross. It read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.”

Many of the Jews read this inscription, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and it was written in Aramaic, in Latin, and in Greek. So the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews,’ but rather, ‘This man said, I am King of the Jews.’”  

Pilate answered, “What I have written I have written.”

When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his garments and divided them into four parts, one part for each soldier; also his tunic. But the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom,so they said to one another, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see whose it shall be.” 

This was to fulfill the Scripture which says, “They divided my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots.” 

So the soldiers did these things, but standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home. 

After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), “I thirst.” A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth.

When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. 

Since it was the day of Preparation, and so that the bodies would not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken and that they might be taken away. So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first, and of the other who had been crucified with him. But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water. He who saw it has borne witness—his testimony is true, and he knows that he is telling the truth—that you also may believe. For these things took place that the Scripture might be fulfilled: “Not one of his bones will be broken.” And again another Scripture says, “They will look on him whom they have pierced.” 

After these things Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus, and Pilate gave him permission. So he came and took away his body.Nicodemus also, who earlier had come to Jesus by night, came bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds in weight. So they took the body of Jesus and bound it in linen cloths with the spices, as is the burial custom of the Jews. 

Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid. So because of the Jewish day of Preparation, since the tomb was close at hand, they laid Jesus there.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

A nice Palm Sunday post

A little late for me to link to this pleasant post over at the Great Wall of Lutz... but we're still in the season:

One of the main things I missed when I lived in TN were palms. Interestingly, the temperature range of ancient Israel was probably pretty similar to that of central Florida. The Bible mentions figs, olives, pomegranates, palms, grapes, dates and other things that grew there... much like many of those plants do here. If it wasn't for our high humidity, we'd probably be pretty darn close in our plant selection.

I'd be throwing palm branches if Jesus rode down the road... I'll tell you that. I've only got pindo and queen palms in the yard... no coconuts or dates... but I'd certainly do what I could.

Good article on perennials at Backwoods Home Magazine

Unfortunately, half the plants mentioned don't grow here - but that doesn't make Jackie's insight any less worthwhile:

"Year after year we start seeds, till the ground, plant, weed, harvest, then tear it all out at the end of the season. It's a lot of work, no doubt. But there are some plants you can plant once that will produce a lifetime of food after they are established. Old-timers knew the value of these plants and added them to their new homesteads. Pioneers carefully wrapped and tended baby fruit trees, grapevines, rhubarb, and asparagus roots in their covered wagons. Maybe it's time to lighten your annual workload by adding some of these hardworking plants to your garden. If you do, you'll reap the rewards for many years." (read more)

For Florida, I'd recommend Katuk instead of asparagus, then also plug cassava, sweet potatoes, Dioscorea species, moringa and other plants like that.

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Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Drift seeds

When I was in Ft. Lauderdale, I went to a church picnic at John U. Lloyd state park and beachcombed with my kids for a while.

We found some pretty cool plants - including some edibles - right there along the shore line. Hog plums, sea grapes, Bidens alba, some shoreline beans... great stuff.

But something that really caught my imagination (YES I KNOW I'M A FREAK, CHRISSY, THANKS FOR NOTICING) were the various "sea beans" or "drift seeds" we found among the seaweed on the shore.

The beach beans in the pods were found by one of my sons (good find!), but the rest of these we found in the surf. The two seeds on the top left are tropical almonds, then there's a "hamburger bean," then two "sea coconuts," one in its husk and the other without it.

I find it amazing that these seeds were designed to be dispersed by the ocean... what a testimony to God's creativity.

Of course, me being the plant nerd that I am, I couldn't be satisfied by just picking up a few seeds and putting them on a shelf as curios. Nope - I'm now trying to germinate these suckers.

Awwwwww yeah.

I'll give you an update and some pics when I get a chance. The beach beans are already coming up and the hamburger bean has sprouted a root.

Survival Gardener REPRESENTIN'!!!

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Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Pa Mac talks wood varieties and their uses

I found episode 3 of "The Farm Hand's Companion Show" quite helpful. Lots of good info here:

This reminds me... I want to grow some Osage orange trees. Anyone have seeds?

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Monday, March 25, 2013

NO, dang it!

We're going to get another freeze:

Whatever claims the temps will be, I subtract about 5 degrees... and that's usually how cold it gets at my place.

Look like I'll be covering tons of things tomorrow.



A lovely Jackfruit tree

When I was down in Ft. Lauderdale a few weeks ago, I got to talk with my long-time friends Chuck and Sarah - and found out they had planted a Jackfruit tree in their yard a few years back.

After I got home, I asked Chuck if he'd send a few pictures - which he did, along with a few notes on his tree.

Chuck wrote, "I'm sending you several pictures of our tree, though I don't know much about jackfruit. We planted the tree 4-5 years ago. It was 6 feet tall then. Now it a good 20 feet high. The fruit grows to about the size of watermelons. It is real sticky. The Jamaican women in our church all like it, so we divide the spoils among them. They tell us you need to oil up your hands before cutting in to it. It was too much for Sarah & I, but the tree offers a lot of great shade."

Therein lies a wonderful truth about fruit trees: if you plant something edible, even if you don't like it, you'll still be able to share the bounty with others. Can you say that about an oak or a magnolia or a pine? Nope. The Jamaican ladies at Chuck's church (where I grew up... my Dad is the pastor!) are getting their socks blessed off them because Chuck and Sarah decided to plant a fruit tree.

I do have some serious growing zone envy looking at these pictures, though. Jackfruit is a completely tropical tree; Ft. Lauderdale is basically the very top of its potential range. When people complain that "nothing grows in Florida," I want to break their lying teeth (metaphorically speaking, of course). Just because you can't grow cherries or apples like you had back home... it doesn't mean NOTHING will grow. Dip into the bounty of the tropics if you're in zone 10 - it's a truly abundant vein to mine.

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Friday, March 22, 2013

The Great South Florida Food Forest Project: Pt. III

Thus far in our story, Dad and I have hit a tropical plant nursery... taken down a scheffelera tree... planted an acerola cherry and had a tiff over the relative usefulness of cinnamon in a survival situation.

Today, I'm going to show you what I did with a formerly almost-useless set of plants in a front planter.

This is what we started with:

NOTE: The Prius isn't my family's. We can't afford pricey electric toys. Neener neener.

There you'll see some incredibly thorny bromeliads, asparagus fern, and a natal plum I didn't realize was an edible until recently (thanks, Grower Jim!)

Anyhow - that's what I started with. It took some work, but I removed the landscape plants in an hour or so, then started digging.

After I dug a big hole (it was at least 3' deep - the picture is rather deceiving), I filled it with compost along with lots of scheffelera logs and debris.

Then, I topped it off with dirt... and planted Dad's brand-new jaboticaba tree. HECK YEAH! IN LIKE, SEVENTEEN YEARS, WE'LL HAVE FRUIT!

This looked better after I added mulch. I don't have a picture, though. Maybe next time...

Along with finishing that little planter, I also got busy planting trees out back.

It's hard to believe this little mulberry will one day tower overhead... but it will... and they grow so darned fast, it won't take long. This one is in the back yard.

By the back wall, little guava replaced some aralia plants Mom pulled up:

Next time I visit, I'll be sure to post some updated photos. Soon this yard is going to be overflowing with fruit... and it'll take very little work to keep things going. (Right now I'm trying to convince Dad to replace the Royal Poinciana in the front yard with a tamarind I just bought... we shall see how that pans out. It'll be awesome, Dad! I promise!) Watch for updates in the future: I may be going back down there in the next couple of months and I'll make sure to take more pictures.

As a final note: anyone can do this. Florida, especially South Florida, is a really lucky state when it comes to growing food. Year-round, baby... especially if you're in zone 10. Start thinking about what you can do - right now - that will feed you and your family, friends, church and neighborhood for years and years to come.

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Thursday, March 21, 2013

The Great South Florida Food Forest Project: Pt. II

In my last post, I told you what we nabbed from Spyke's Grove Nursery... and then let things hang.

We didn't buy a jackfruit... but I was tempted. Too big!

Before I go any further, though, I have to tell you... Dad totally gave me a hard time over the cinnamon tree. When I was a kid, Dad was basically a landscape and lawn guy. As I've grown as a gardener and shared some of my experiments with him, he's seen how I've been transforming useless landscaping into edibles. Though Dad has many more important things on his mind that outrank gardening (he's an internationally published author, the chief of staff for an international student ministry, a regular speaker on worldview issues, and the senior pastor of a church), he's also realistic. If something low maintenance and useless can be replaced by something low maintenance and useful... he's game.

Going to Spyke's Grove Nursery and getting fruit trees to replace some of the weedy backyard made sense. But then Dad asked about the cinnamon tree.

DAD: So... why did you get that one, Dave?

ME: Well... cinnamon is really useful... you know... it helps with insulin response... it's antiseptic... it's... uh...

DAD: So when civilization collapses, I'm really going to be glad it's back here? We'll eat cinnamon?

ME: It's just... uh... you know... luxury spices might be useful...

DAD: Right, I'm sure... when people are starving, the stores are empty, we're just trying to find something to eat and...

ME: Fine! I just bought it because I think it's cool as heck you can grow a cinnamon tree!

DAD: think Mom and I will be out here, cutting sticks off it to use? All that labor? Drying them in the sun?

ME: Right - fine! I just bought it because it's NEAT! Satisfied?

DAD: Sure, I see how it is. Mmm-hmm... survival gardener... RIIIIIIGHT...

ME: ...

Anyhow, Dad still let me plant it. And he tells me he's been watering it along with the rest of them... but of course, he's right; it was a stretch.

The controversial cinnamon tree, surrounded by recently "chop 'n' dropped" senna leaves.

That aside, Dad also surprised me by suggesting we cut down his scheffelera tree out front, then plant something useful in its place.

Now... that scheffelera has been there forever. I grew up with that tree. We used the long leaf stalks it dropped as swords and climbed it all the time. Up north, scheffeleras are indoors plants - in Ft. Lauderdale, they're a good-sized tree with a cool umbrella shape.

But Dad was right - the tree is useless (except for making swords). So... it had to go!

Dad: the world's most bad-to-the-bone pastor.
We took it to pieces (thanks to a helpful neighbor lending us a chainsaw) in a few hours and dumped the leaves and stumps into the backyard food forest.

Here's a "before" picture of the corner of the house:

And here's an "after" picture, showing the acerola cherry we planted to replace the scheffelera.

It's just about 5' now... but soon it will be amazing. In my next post, I'll show what we did with one of the front planters. Stay tuned...

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Great South Florida Food Forest Project: Pt. I

You've seen the older video on the South Florida food forest project I've been working on for the last couple of years.

Though I make it sound like it's this incredible, unattainably awesome Work Of Science, it started as a few tropical plants in the back yard of my parents' home in Ft. Lauderdale.

Long ago, when I first became interested in gardening, my Dad gave me a little 8' x 8' patch of dirt to work with in the backyard. There I planted a variety of things over the years, going from radishes to cacti, to giant invasive pagoda flower bushes to rambling cucumber vines. Then I moved out, bought my own house and gardened across other yards...

...until I got obsessed with the food forest concept a few years ago (and also started helping Mom with her garden). I asked if I could perhaps start a tropical island of plants. Dad, being a forward thinker, basically told me I could take what I wanted of the yard, provided I told him what could be mowed, and what couldn't.

Years ago, I planted a coconut back there which is now a lovely palm - and Mom had already planted a Mango and a Navel orange tree about 3 years ago (the latter succumbed to the greening virus at a tender age)... so I decided to add a few more trees and some cassava to the mix.

Over successive visits, I added a starfruit, a fig (now deceased), some bananas, a couple moringa seedlings, a lemon, a giant Thai variety of avocado, and a Key limequat. Then I put in a few support species like Tithonia diversifolia, coral beans, black bamboo, malanga, Senna alata and other bits and pieces. Dad and I piled compost, yard waste, tree limbs, leaves and whatever organic matter we could find around the plants, putting it on top of cardboard to smother the weeds and grass and give the edibles a good head start.

When I visited a few weeks ago, most of the first round of plants were looking great. Dad was game to add some more, so we hit Spyke's Grove Nursery in Davie... a classic place to find exotic plants in Southeast FL.

Check this out:

Anyhow - that's enough of that. I'm getting the fever again. There isn't a nursery big enough in the world to satisfy my desire for plants; though my wallet is another story altogether...

Where was I? Ah yes - hunting for tropical fruit trees with Dad.

We went to Spyke's and I had a few things in mind. I've been obsessed with Jaboticaba trees for over a year, so we hunted down two of those (one for Dad's yard, and the other for my greenhouse). We also nabbed a grumichama tree, an acerola cherry, a cinnamon tree and a strawberry tree (that one's for my yard).

On this trip, I had also brought down with me a "6th Street" Mulberry and a cattley guava from the Edible Plant Project in Gainesville, along with another cassava variety to try out.

Next post... I tell you what we did with them and share a few more pictures.

A just-planted grumichama tree. Wish I could grow these where I live...

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Natural Awakenings article for March: Gardening Without (much) Money

Are you a cheapskate? Then you'll enjoy my latest article for Natural Awakenings:

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Monday, March 18, 2013

A visit to the "Edible Plant Project"

A few weeks ago Rachel and I finally visited the Edible Plant Project in Gainesville. I'd been meaning to go since I first heard about them and just never had the time... or I'd forget... or I'd be washing my hair or something.

Anyhow, we finally made it - and enjoyed the experience immensely.

The Edible Plant Project is a non-profit organization that exists to grow food-bearing plants that can be sold inexpensively or given away to the needy. They've gathered together an impressive variety of trees, shrubs, perennials and annuals for our region.

Since they're all volunteer-run, their prices are really impressive. Most of the trees and shrubs are only $4 each. And if you volunteer - they'll let you earn 'em by your own labor, no money required.

They're as nerdy as I am about plants; if you go, don't expect to get a glorious vision of their lofty goals presented to you. Instead, you'll likely get a chance to try some exotic fruits... pot up some cuttings... and learn the Latin names of a few species you've only seen in international cookbooks.

Here's their website if you'd like more info:

By the way - thanks for the pictures goes to Brian, one of the volunteers, who let me borrow his iPad and take a few shots.

If you're looking for a place to begin a food forest... an edible landscaping project... or a journey into the wild world of local food, start with the EPP. They're doing good work.

Incidentally... I just planted one of their "6th Street Mulberries" (which came from a cutting off a highly productive tree on 6th street in Gainesville) and one of their Cattley guavas down in the Great South Florida Food Forest Project. More on that soon.

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Saturday, March 16, 2013

Eddy's avocado... grown from seed!

So you were hoping I'd knock off all the "growing trees from seed" posts?


I was down in Fort Lauderdale a few weekends ago working on my Amazing Tropical Food Forest when I ran into my friend Eddy... and remembered his avocado tree.

Check it out - probably a 9" caliper on this thing... and it's just a baby.

Eddy is a charismatic hands-on farmer who owns a coffee plantation down in Puerto Rico. He'd shown me this avocado tree before but I didn't think to take a picture then. (Eddy also grows edible air potatoes and shared some bulbils with me in the past.)

This time I got pictures and the whole story.

A friend of Eddy's had an avocado tree that was highly productive and had borne many crops over the years. The man shared his avocados with his family and friends (which included Eddy.) Unfortunately, this friend discovered he was dying of cancer. Thinking ahead, he brought a little seedling from his avocado tree to Eddy and said "Here, take this tree... grow it for me."

Shortly afterwards, he passed away.

Eddy, not being content with simply putting the tree in the ground, went for some serious overkill on his planting of the now-sacred seedling.

"David," he told me, "I dug this huge hole, man. Like... three feet deep. Then I dumped in lots of MiracleGro, buried it in, then put in more, you know... really deep. Then I planted the tree on that."

I asked him how old the tree was - and when it started to produce.

Eddy and his avocado tree.
"It's four years old now... coming into its fifth year. When it was three years old, I decided to graft onto it. But the graft died. Then I told the tree... 'make fruit this year or I'm gonna cut you down. I'll kill you!' And it did - David, it did! It bore fruit. No lie."

So there you go - another "fruit tree from seed" success story. This tree is totally beautiful and probably getting close to 20' tall. I've never tried the "burying lots of MiracleGro" method... but if I ever have a friend dying of cancer that hands me a seedling... by golly... I will.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Green Deane talks junipers

If it wasn't for junipers, there wouldn't be gin.

Praise God for junipers. (And olives.)

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Thursday, March 14, 2013

Jaboticaba tree

I just bought one of these for my (and my parents') South Florida food forest project... more on that soon.

A Very Serious Question:

How many times have you seen a white girl with a Cheetos shirt eating a weird fruit that grows right on the trunk of a tree located in the chicken yard of what appears to be some kind of South American hovel?

Almost never, man. Almost never. It's not up there with catnip weird, but it's on the border. Just the tree's fruiting habit alone gets it a few points.

Grower Jim has more on the jaboticaba here.

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Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Why "direct seeding" is a great idea, as illustrated by a carob seedling

When you plant a seed directly in the ground and let it establish in place, you gain some serious advantages over plants started in flats or pots. This particularly true when you're talking about trees.

As Allen's dad's experiment proved, seeding in place doesn't have to be tough. You just pick a good spot, plant, water if you remember... and mow around it.

Check out this carob tree seedling I pulled out of a container on my windowsill:

This little guy is only a couple weeks old. Look at that amazing taproot! (I didn't even get a picture of the most impressive root in the batch - one of them was easily 16" long.)

When you put a little tree like this in a pot (like I'm going to do with this one), the taproot gets lost or tangled around in a circle. Some trees can grow new ones when they're transplanted - some can't.

Imagine if I'd planted this carob seed directly in the ground. It would already have its main root a foot deep - even though the plant itself is only about 3" tall. I bet it's already big enough to handle low rainfall.

I'm not sure if carobs will survive the cold of North Florida, since there's limited data on them available - but I'm going to try anyhow. I have ten seeds of which I've planted five thus far. Four germinated (after scarification and 24 hours' soaking it took about 10 days for them to come up) and one was a dud. I'm potting up the first four to let them get good and big before I put them out in the yard - but I think I'll put the remaining five directly in the ground and see what happens.

Since we can't grow chocolate here... I'm hoping for carob instead. Anyone ever see one growing this far north?

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Tuesday, March 12, 2013


Thanks to everyone that's stopped by - FSG just hit the 20k mark!

Time to post a gangsta pic of me on a tractor:

Ricky took this picture. Right before I ran him over.

Keep on visiting and sharing your thoughts - glad all of you are out there.
(Well... I'm glad MOST of you are out there. I'm not as big a fan of the "your post are so interesting always please see my precious handbags here [link]" comments.)

Coming soon, I'll have more on this year's gardening projects. We're almost to the frost-free date and things are about to get REAL, man.

Great Fruit Trees for the Deep South, Pt. II: The Loquat

Yesterday I shared a video featuring John's (from seed-grown loquat tree.

Today, since I'm on a loquat kick, here's my latest article for Mother Earth News.

If anyone has a good link to a nursery selling large-fruited cultivars or other loquat varieties that fall solidly into the "improved" category, let me know and I'll post their contact info.

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Monday, March 11, 2013

A seedling loquat with its first blooms

John from shows off his ready-to-fruit home-grown loquat tree:

Grow trees from seed! DO IT! Look at that lovely loquat... don't you want one like that? Start now. Every time you eat a fruit that could grow in your zone, plant the seeds somewhere. Heck... plant them in unused building lots and in the backyards of foreclosures. It costs nothing.

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Sunday, March 10, 2013

This site could become interesting - it's a Q and A site where Master Gardeners and other experts can pop in and answer your gardening questions: Plant Village

I'm on there and have been having fun giving people insane - I mean, HELPFUL, advice.

The more the merrier... post a few stumpers and see what happens.


Saturday, March 9, 2013

Don't forget! MG Spring Festival is TODAY!

Friday, March 8, 2013

"B and G Blueberries" at the Master Gardener Spring Festival

Bill Hall, the owner of "B & G Blueberries," is a friend of mine and a wealth of knowledge on growing blueberries in Florida. He also stocks quite a few interesting varieties, including the scrappy rabbit-eye types. I see he's also added some new fruit plants this year - nice to see mulberry trees gaining market share again. If you get a chance to stop by his booth, do so - he's one of the good guys.

Here's Bill's MG Spring Festival press release:

WHAT:  Marion County Master Gardener’s Spring Festival 2013.  The areas largest all-in-one plant sale and garden expo! 
WHEN:  Saturday March 9, 2013 from 8:00 - 5:00 and Sunday 3/10/13 from 9:00 - 4:00   
WHERE:  at the Ag Center (2232 NE Jacksonville Rd, Ocala).

B&G Blueberries will be there selling peach and mulberry trees.  We will also have blackberry, raspberry and blueberry plants. We have a commercial time-release blueberry fertilizer for sale. 

There will be vegetable plants supplied by Red Oak Nursery: Heirloom and hybrid tomatoes, sweet and hot pepper plants and other miscellaneous garden vegetable plants.

Come and attend the helpful seminars.  You can get all the details (Vendor list, directions, and a schedule of events) at the following link.

Be sure to enjoy the guided tour of the Master Gardener's vegetable and herb gardens.


Bill and Gail Hall
B&G Blueberries

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Florida's amazing native pawpaws: an interview with Terri Pietroburgo, Pt. II

The following is the continuation of yesterday's interview with Terri Pietroburgo on Florida's native pawpaws:

DAVID: If I were to buy and plant a PawPaw in my yard, would it need a second one for pollination?

Asimina obovota/pygmaea cross.
TERRI: They are not self-pollinating so you need two plants to have fruit. It is not jthat they have only male or female flowers - God made them perfect in that they have both male and female parts of the flower. But, just like middle school, the female part has matured and moved on before the male part has matured. They do cross pollinate easily between species, resulting in some really pretty flowers.

DAVID: Do we need to hang rotting chicken necks around the trees to get fruit? My wife really doesn't like that idea!

TERRI: Pawpaws are pollinated by beetles and flies not bees. Some growers up north hang dead chickens or roadkill in their groves to attract the pollinators. This is not at all necessary for the homeowner to do. I get plenty of fruit off the ones in my yard and not a dead chicken in sight. If you plant it the pollinators will come.

DAVID: Excellent. There’s one less objection… but aren't PawPaws a pain in the neck to grow? Why should we bother?

TERRI: Pawpaws are easy to grow if you are given good growing instructions - and follow them - and don't treat them like your other plants. There are so many reasons to plant a pawpaw in your yard. They are the only plant the caterpillars of the beautiful zebra swallowtail butterfly will eat. They have very beautiful flowers and are very hardy after they are established. The edible fruit feeds us and the wildlife. They are drought tolerant, cold tolerant and very long lived. Make sure you buy a pawpaw that has been grown correctly from the start as it makes a big difference on whether it survives and thrives or not.

Asimina obovata growing in the shade
DAVID: That makes sense. Now, being a total plant nerd, I really want to grow some. Where should I plant them and what do I need to do to keep them alive?
TERRI: Seven of our Florida pawpaw species will take shade to full sun after the first year they are planted out. They must be shaded for the first year as they are very sensitive to the sun until they are established. After that they bloom better in full sun but will bloom and produce fruit in the shade as well. It is important not to let the root system dry out completely until established but they also don't like wet feet either. I use a tomato cage with some shade cloth on it for the first year. These species like well drained and not very fertile soils... like most of our Florida soils.

Asimina obovata (Bigflower Pawpaw) fruit
The eighth species, which is the Asimina parviflora or "Smallflower Pawpaw," is an tall understory shrub to small tree. It likes the shade and its growth habit is effected by how heavy the shade it gets. In dappled shade it will be a shrub and in heavy shade  it's more of a small tree. It fruits fine in the shade. It also likes moist, fertile but well-drained soil.
DAVID: From what I've seen, you seem to be pretty much the only person in the state raising our native PawPaws for sale. Where can we find your price list and ordering info?

TERRI: I do plant shows - here is my schedule for March and April:

March 9 & 10 - Ocala (Master Gardener Spring Festival)

March 16 & 17 - Orlando

March 23 & 24 - Tampa

Apr 6 - Deland

April 13 & 14 - Winter Garden

April 20 & 21 - St. Augustine

April 27 & 28 - St. Petersburg

My plants are $15 for all species. I do ship and sell retail and wholesale.

DAVID: Very cool. Thanks a bunch for answering my questions. See you March 9th!

Asimina angustifolia (the Slimleaf Pawpaw) in the wild.

Want pawpaws of your own? Here's Terri's contact info:

Terri Pietroburgo

Pietro's Pawpaws

33930 Washington Ave

Leesburg, Fl 34788



1bushwoman (at) embarqmail (dot) com

Asimina parviflora bloom

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Thursday, March 7, 2013

Florida's amazing native pawpaws: an interview with Terri Pietroburgo, Pt. I

I've always been fascinated by rare and exotic fruit trees. For years I've wanted to see a pawpaw tree in the wild but never had any luck - until I went on a foraging trip with Green Deane a few months back. He found a teeny little tree by the side of a path and announced "Ah, a pawpaw." 

I couldn't believe it. That little shrub - a pawpaw? Deane assured me it was - and told me that the pawpaws in Florida were often tiny things; not the decent-sized trees we've heard about up north.

I started to wonder: how many times had I passed one and been unable to identify it because it didn't fit my expectations? I had the same problem with persimmons. Though I'd walked past a tree in my neighborhood dozens of times, I didn't see it until my wife pointed it out one day. "Look at that - what kind of fruits are those?" Persimmons! I'd always missed it because the tree was small and tucked into the woods. 

Since I'm volunteering for the upcoming Master Gardener Spring Sale here in Marion County, I checked out the list of vendors and saw there was a booth space rented by "Pietro's PawPaws." I couldn't take it. I had to call and find out who this person was and what they were growing. The phone was answered by Terri Pietroburgo, the booth's renter and the owner of (so far as I know), Florida's only native PawPaw nursery. After talking to her for a few minutes, I realized she was a gal after my own plant nerdy heart... and I asked if she'd agree to an e-mail interview. She did - and not only that, she provided me with some of her incredible photos of pawpaw tree species from across the state.

Without further ado, I present part one of my interview.

*    *    * 

DAVID: Terri - how did you get into growing PawPaws of all things? What's your story?

Asimina obovota (the Bigflower Pawpaw)
TERRI: Pawpaws are Florida natives and the host plant for the beautiful zebra swallowtail butterfly. They have beautiful white or purple flowers and edible fruit. I searched for five years for pawpaw plants for our butterfly garden. In 2005 I drove two hours to a nursery and paid $20 each for three pawpaws the size of tooth picks and only one lived because they hadn't been grown correctly. Then in 2007 we were driving home from church and I saw a Bigflower Pawpaw blooming on the side of the road. Went home, got my truck, wandered into the woods and found fifty blooming obovata pawpaw. I figured there must be people like me who had looked a long time to find them. So I took it as a sign from God because we found them on the way home from church - and I started a pawpaw nursery. I have learned a lot about pawpaws as I continue to try and add a new species to my nursery every year. Pawpaws are very hardy plants if they are grown correctly at the start. So I take much care in the way I grow them and the instructions I give out so you can enjoy a great plant and butterflies for a long time.

Asimina incana (the Woolly Pawpaw) fruit
DAVID: I always thought PawPaws were a Northern fruit tree - and even when I lived up there I never had any luck finding them in the wild. If they're living in Florida - where? And what do they look like?

TERRI: The pawpaw most people have heard of is the Asimina triloba or common pawpaw which is a northern pawpaw. It grows from the Florida line up into Canada. It is a tree that can reach thirty feet or more and is usually found as a understory tree. It has the largest fruit native to North America - but you would be lucky to find one with ripe fruit on it, even if you knew where to look. Pawpaw fruit go from raw to ripe to rotten in about three to five days so the animals usually beat you to them.

DAVID: That could explain my lack of luck. So… if pawpaws are living in Florida - where? And what do they look like?

TERRI: We have eight species of pawpaws native to Florida. One species is found as an understory tall shrub to small tree in mesic (ed. note: "mesic" means an area of moderate moisture) woodlands, floodplains and coastal dunes. The other seven species range from small shrubs to a small trees and live in flatwoods, scrubs, dunes, pineland and dry woodlands all over the state. They have either white or purple/maroon flowers and all produce an edible fruit.
Asimina parviflora (Smallflower Pawpaw) fruit

DAVID: Pop quiz: what are the native varieties and their Latin names?

TERRI: Asimina Obovata (Bigflower Pawpaw), Asimina Parviflora  (Smallflower Pawpaw), Asimina Pygmaea  (Dwarf Pawpaw), Asimina Incana (Wooly Pawpaw), Asimina Angustifolia  (Slimleaf Pawpaw),
Asimina Reticulata  (Netted Pawpaw), Asimina Tetramera  (Four Petaled Pawpaw), Asimina Triloba   (Common Pawpaw)

DAVID: So… if I found a PawPaw growing in the wild, say on a site that was being cleared, could I transplant it?
Terri rescuing native pawpaws.
TERRI: Your chances of transplanting a pawpaw are not very good. It is probably more work than most people want to do for one plant. They have a very long taproot as seen in the picture of the dwarf pawpaw I dug up (left). It only had a foot of growth above the ground and a six foot taproot. They are not happy when their roots are disturbed.

DAVID: What do the native PawPaws taste like?

TERRI: They are a member of the custard apple family so the inside is soft just like custard. The Florida pawpaws don't taste as good as the northern triloba because it has been cultivated to taste certain ways. The Florida pawpaws have a tropical taste that isn't the same as anything I have eaten. I have tasted six of our eight species and liked them all. Like anything else you pick in the wild sometimes you get one thats not that good but overall I have liked the taste. My grandson eats them as fast as I can get the seeds out!

(Continue to Part 2)

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