Friday, August 30, 2013

Mother Earth News blogger profile

I would have posted this sooner but I didn't have a scanner.

This is from Mother Earth News's July/August issue... quite an honor.

One Full Year Of Florida Survival Gardening! August 30, 2012 to August 30, 2013

Amazing. I did it. Now I'm gonna quit.

(Just kidding.)

Over a year ago I decided to tackle this blog with all my might. Let me give you a little background on how it came to pass.

(scene blurs out in a totally cliched flashback sequence/sentimental music begins) started as a site designed on Apple's "iWeb."

After being encouraged to jump further into garden writing and teaching by my friend rycamor (who posted the awesome guest post on pumpkins earlier this week), I bought the domain in March of 2011, started posting via their blog post template, then quickly got frustrated with the lack of flexibility or web tools available. I also had endless problems with the comment engine, couldn't measure my traffic, found posting a pain in the neck thanks to the whole "upload to server" stuff... then finally got ticked off and basically quit.

I'm not a great tech guy or an html whiz.

At some point in 2012, I shared my frustrations with my friend and fellow writer/musician/creative nut Kevan Chandler.

His suggestion?

"Why don't you make it run through Blogger or Wordpress with a redirect setup?"

"Can I do that easily?"

Kevan assured me it was simple, then sent me a weird piece of music he'd just composed, along with a story about gangster zombies in space, the sheet music for an opera he'd composed while riding on The Orient Express, which was further followed by a picture of him lying on the ground covered in ketchup and awkwardly sprawled out as if he'd been run over by a car (this sequence may be an exaggeration... but not by much). After I reassembled my skull, I got to work getting the site ported.

I knew I wanted to share my gardening knowledge and my ongoing experiments with a broad audience; yet my success rate on maintaining any project long-term was only so-so.

Basically, if it didn't pay me anything and if it didn't have a deadline, I was likely to drop it. I shared this with my wife and during the conversation I made a decision.

ME: "I'll post daily. This will just be my life. For a year. Think I can do it?"

RACHEL: "I don't know."

ME: "Just say yes. And encourage me to keep it going."

RACHEL: "Yes!" (big cheesy smile) You can do it!"

ME: "Do you really mean it?"

RACHEL: "If I say 'no' it will break the spell!"

ME: "I think I'll just post on weekdays. That gives me a little flexibility."

RACHEL: "Can I stop grinning in an encouraging manner now?"

That interchange was almost completely fabricated, but you get the point.

My friend rycamor provided a little tinder... I lit a match... then burned out until Kevan relit the fire... and Rachel pushed me over the edge into a full-on challenge.

Once I had the first month of posts in the bag, I settled into a rhythm that carried me all the way here.

And where is here?

Take a look at this pageviews chart:

See that? During my first month I got 800 pageviews.

This month, I'll get around 14,000. Nice growth trend.

Of course, pageviews do not necessarily equal readers. Some of them are from spiders and weird sites overseas that have nothing to do with gardening. However, I know my traffic from real people is pretty good.  I've made friends with a lot of you over the last year and have been interacting regularly with cool folks from Florida and beyond. Thanks to readers on this blog I've been sent seeds and cuttings in the mail, met some of you in person (Jean and her husband visited this week), took a great position with and even get to write for Mother Earth News.

Beyond that, I started my own plant nursery and have made a little bit of change by selling cassava cuttings through the mail.

So... hard work does pay off. And this has been a lot of hard work. But it's also been one of the most satisfying projects I've ever taken on.

You're the reason it's a success. I want to start naming names, but I would hate to miss anyone. Look at my blogroll... many of my encouragers are located there.

Thank you for joining me. I'm in this thing for the long haul. People need to know how to grow their own food. My goal is to teach, encourage, make friends, share knowledge, test crops, warn people of danger and grow tons and tons of food.

It's going pretty darn well so far.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Planting fall potatoes

Well, I told you I was gonna do it. Gardens-In-The-Sand and stevo_61 encouraged me to do it. So I did it. Because peer pressure and such.

I bribed one of my kids into weeding a few of the spring garden beds for me, then suckered Rachel into hoeing and raking out what he missed.

Seed potatoes in a spudly rainbow.
(That's a small patch of sorghum in the picture there, not giant corn. I'll post on that experiment soon.)

Anyhow, I can't find anything on planting fall potatoes in Florida, so I'm trying it myself and I'll report on whether or not it works. This is how science happens. Science!

If it doesn't work out, oh well. I got my seed potatoes for free. We're lucky enough to have a friend that gets all the expired and culled produce from her neighborhood grocery store and she shares the bounty with my family. I place all the green potatoes on windowsills throughout the house. If they form good eyes, I plant them. If not, it's off to the compost heap. This has worked quite well for me thus far.

I really hope this works... the spring potatoes ran out already and  really want some hash browns. We're about three months out from the first average frost date... that should be enough time for spuds.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

10 Survival Foods You Can Grow

I got to help with a cool infographic - check it out:

Survival Food 
("Best Survival Food To Grow" Brought To You By:

Note: the flamingo in there was MY idea. I also did all the research, but the flamingo is my favorite. Heh.

Study: Only 21.6% Of Food Additives Proven Safe For Consumption

This week over at The Prepper Project, I swear off Cheez-Its(TM) (again):

You know, I really like the taste of Cheez-Its. I just don't like the highlighted bits:


Other than that, we're almost cool.

In other news, this is hilarious.

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Guest Post: Pumpkin Summer

(The following post was contributed by rycamor, my long-time friend and fellow homesteader. Pumpkins are normally not recommended for Florida... but he's found the right variety and the right way to grow 'em. Read on! -DTG)

What kind of person eats pumpkin pie in July? Why, my kind, of course! I don't need Thanksgiving or Christmas as an excuse to eat this great fruit, and neither should you. Pumpkin is one of the world's most mysteriously subtle, deep yet simple flavors. It deserves wider exposure.

I had always thought of pumpkin as one of those classic Northern crops, but you might be surprised how well it can grow in our Central Florida Summer Sauna. After noticing it in the Southern Exposure Seed Exchange website, I chose the Tan Cheese pumpkin for a testbed, since it gets great reviews as a pie pumpkin.

It doesn't look like your classic orange Jack-O-Lantern pumpkin. It is actually rather shaped like a wheel of cheese, and the skin even looks like cheese. Better yet, the texture of the fruit inside is decidedly more smooth and cheese-like than the classic orange pumpkin.

So how does it handle central Florida conditions? Apparently it is pure love. I started 7 seedlings sometime in early spring, and then transplanted them to the lowest-lying, most fertile part of my yard. This section has undergone several years of gardening, layers of biochar, mulching and composting. Even so, growing many traditional crops has been a challenge there, and when summer kicks in, the only thing that seems to work there is okra. Well, now I have a second summer crop. The pumpkins started slow, but by mid-summer they had branched out to cover at least a couple thousand square feet, and had produced half a dozen pumpkins weighing about 20 lbs. (enough to make 3 pies each, at least).

Since then, it has produced about 10 more, and is still starting new pumpkins. This is one of the best aspects of this plant: its growing season has a wide range. So far, it has been producing pumpkins for 2 months and going strong.

Here is a pumpkin in the making.

Here is a mature tan cheese pumpkin ready for harvest. 

Here is the author's little pumpkin holding a big pumpkin (silly face is bonus). 

Here is a pumpkin being subjected to this wonderful recipe (prepared with a fresh milled grain crust by the author's teenage daughter).

This was actually enough for 3 pies.

And here is the Pavlovian result. I know your mouth just watered a little.

Genius! Pure genius.
Yes, it was delicious. But one does not have to stop at pie. There is pumpkin soup, pumpkin bread, pumpkin muffins, iced pumpkin milkshakes or smoothies (hey, don't knock it, try it), and I have even heard that it makes a tasty replacement for mashed potatoes (See many other recipes at the pie recipe link above). Now, for those of you Paleo-, Atkins-, gluten-free or otherwise diet-modified people, don't worry. You can make pumpkin pie without a bread crust. Try using a bed of sliced almonds, for example. Or no crust. And pumpkin pie tastes great even if you cut the sugar down by half (as I prefer) and use unsweetened whipped cream on top. That, plus the eggs and milk turn it into anything but a carb bomb in your stomach.

And pumpkin is actually a natural appetite suppressant. Eat something with pumpkin in it and you get a pleasant, full feeling that stays with you for hours. Also, not to be forgotten are the seeds. Pumpkin seeds are one of the world's healthiest snacks. The Tan Cheese pumpkin doesn't produce the largest seeds, but the good news is that they are so soft you don't have to hull them to enjoy them. Eaten raw, the hull is soft enough to chew easily, and if you roast them with a bit of salt (and maybe butter or olive oil), they will crunch like potato chips.

The rich orange color should clue you in that pumpkin provides a great combination of beta carotene and other vitamins., one of my favorite websites, provides you more info here. But that's only the beginning of the story. If it can be believed, just about every part of this plant is edible. NutritionData will give you the nutrition profile for pumpkin seeds, pumpkin leaves, and even pumpkin flowers. Notice, BTW, that pumpkin leaves will deliver almost as many calories in protein as they will in complex carbohydrates.

A few other advantages of this crop:

- Great cover crop if you have chickens - My lower garden patch happens to be annoyingly close to the acre field with chickens, and they are always hopping the fence to destroy cucumbers, tomatoes, sweet peppers, etc... but the worst they do with pumpkin patches is to keep the ground tilled. And, if a pumpkin splits open (happens occasionally), just heave it over the fence and the chickens will make short work of its exploded innards.

- Low maintenance – Just keep the water flowing if you don't have rain. Don't worry about weeds, pests, or over-eager lawn maintenance personnel.

- Good storage capacity - Pumpkins can be stored for months, unlike most other crops. Also, you can save the cooked pumpkin innards in the freezer. Just thaw and puree when needed.

- They make great gifts - There's something about giving someone a pumpkin.


Notes for growing pumpkins:

- Mulch. Lots of mulch. I would recommend, in addition to well-composted moist soil, about 6 inches of leaves, wood chips or grass clippings (better yet, all three), in a wide surrounding area around where you will plant your seedlings.

- You pretty much can't give them too much water. This is why they are great for the Central Florida monsoon season. It seems that the sky hangs onto the water for about 8 months of the year, and just lets it go in a huge sigh of relief for 4 months.

- Remember that they don't like to stay confined. The tendrils will grow, by my reckoning up to half a foot a day, in every direction. So give them space. If you plant them close to some sensitive crop, be prepared for the pumpkin leaves to swallow it up. In this picture you can see that it left my garden and struck out a good 20' into the lawn on one side, and started growing up the trees on the other side. I had one pumpkin start a good 5' up in the air. Later, that same tendril went a good 15' up this tree.

We want to be free!

- Make sure that, even though you are providing lots of water, soil drainage is such that the pumpkins don't sit in muddy water for more than a couple hours at a time. Central Florida's sandy soil helps in this regard.

- Having trouble finding your pumpkins? Wait until the height of noon on a hot, dry day. All the leaves will wilt down and suddenly every pumpkin is visible.

Labels: , , , ,

Monday, August 26, 2013

Garden Tools For TEOTWAWKI!

TEOTWAWKI (The End Of The World As We Know It) is right around the corner... do you have a good set of tools in case you need to feed yourself in a grid-down situation?

After God, Guns and Gold, you might want some of these:

I made this hand-out for the classes I taught last week.

Like it? Want more drawings? I'm itching to do some more art, even if it's just silly garden illustrations and not hard-boiled detectives in black and white...

Friday, August 23, 2013

Survival Plant Profile: Corn

I like corn because it's pretty.

Obviously, since I've noticed that, it makes me completely superficial.

Other grains don't do it for me. They don't look like jewels when they're threshed, hulled, cleaned or whatever you need to do to them to get them ready for eating; corn, however, is in a class of its own.

That ear to the left? That isn't sweet corn - it's grain corn. Those kernels, though not completely dried yet, are really hard. The color is astounding, isn't it? Like gold.

Sweet corn is for fun: grain corn is for survival.

The problem with corn is that it's become a byword for the evils of modern agriculture. The plant has been used to make evil high-fructose corn syrup and had its genes scrambled into genetically modified variants that can stand being sprayed with poisons that would put us in a coma.

Corn is also a greedy crop that likes a lot of fertilizer as well as disturbed soil. When you grow it conventionally, you end up with erosion, run off, etc.

In another negative, corn, when used as a staple (and not nixtamalized), is also linked to pellagra, a niacin deficiency that can make you go nuts. You may even start daily gardening blogs.


Corn also has a lot of positives going for it (other than being pretty). It's:

1. Easy to grow
2. Productive
3. Easy to clean and utilize
4. Storable
5. Calorie dense
6. A dense biomass producer
7. Great for chicken feed
8. Delicious

Corn isn't quite as easy to grow in Florida as it is in some states. Sometimes extended rains will ruin some of your crop around harvest time... sometimes the bugs take over... and sometimes a nasty blast of wind will blow all your stalks sideways.

Yet even with those drawbacks, it's usually simple to grow. Over the last couple of years, I've tested five different varieties here in North Central Florida: Hickory King, Tex Cuban, Floriani Red Flint, Green Dent and an un-named flint corn from the USDA germplasm repository.

Unnamed flint corn test bed. FAIL!
Out of these, Tex Cuban and Hickory King stand head and shoulders above the rest. Both are "dent" corns, and both take a long time to produce. The green dent and the Floriani produced quickly - and poorly. They exhibited small ears with lots of skips, pest problems, less vigor and many stalks that failed to bear anything. The un-named flint corn was a total fail, which I blame on bad seed. In a really good bed they only grew a couple of feet tall and didn't bother making ears. Heck with that. I'll give both another try next year, but thus far I am not impressed.

Three years ago we had a great stand of Hickory King that produced excellently on tilled soil amended with cow manure. This year I planted Tex Cuban on tilled soil and fertilized it with chicken manure tea and it's done quite well. The ears aren't as large as the Hickory King ears, but that may be the result of genetic depression or lower soil fertility in the plot. It's hard to tell when you don't grow things side-by-side in the same season.

Tex Cuban corn kicking tail.

All that stuff aside, grain corn is a lot easier to grow than sweet corn. It's more tolerant of temperature fluctuations and pests, as well as lower soil fertility.

We don't eat genetically modified foods, if we can help it, which means I've been going without my beloved grits for years... except when I grow my own. The first time I ground grits from kernels harvested from my own garden, I was blown away by the rich corn flavor of homegrown heirlooms. There's nothing like it.

Interestingly, I've taken ears with me to church and other venues to show off. The question I usually get is "So what do you do with it?"

That's the fun part. If you pick them in the "milk stage," they make a decent, full-flavored sweet corn. In the mature stage, other than grits, you can turn the kernels into cakes, chips, tortillas, cornbread and other delicacies.

To grind the corn into meal or grits, one of these works fine. For finer grinds, though, you'll need to get a better grinder. I have a Country Living Grain Mill which is supposed to grind corn (I have the right auger for it) yet refuses to do a decent job, probably because the relative humidity is too high. Whatever. You buy an expensive tool and think it's just gonna work...

That aside, corn makes for great chicken feed if you "crack" it roughly in your mill so the birds can eat it. Whole kernels can be handled by larger birds, but I'd rather give them easier to handle sizes.

Also, if you're growing your own tobacco, corn cobs make great pipes to smoke it in. Who needs fancy imported briar from some fruity European nation? If corn cobs were good enough for General MacArthur, they're more than good enough for me.

Incidentally, if you have them, small bamboo stems make good pipe stems, as do dry elderberry twigs or any other stick you can clean the center pith from. I've made my own pipes from various materials... and can attest to the fact that nothing tastes as pleasant as a corn cob.

A final note on corn: the stalks are great forage for grazing animals, as well as being a good addition to the compost pile. I stack them on the bottom of a new pile to add air, then pile smaller stuff on top. By spring you'll have plenty of compost to feed the next crop of corn.

If you haven't tried growing grain corn, give it a go. You might fall in love at first glance, just like I did.


4 Spuds!
Name: Corn, dent
Latin Name: Zea Mays
Type: Annual
Size: 8-12'
Nitrogen Fixer: No
Medicinal: No
Cold-hardy: No
Exposure: Full sun
Part Used: Ears
Propagation: Seed
Taste: Good
Method of preparation: Young ears as a vegetable, mature kernels ground for flour and grits, cobs for smoking pipes.
Storability: Excellent when mature and dry
Ease of growing: Easy
Nutrition: So-so
Recognizability: High
Availability: High

Labels: , , , , ,

Thursday, August 22, 2013

@The Prepper Project: Edible Landscaping

You all should enjoy this one. It's pretty.

DON'T MISS IT: Talk Tomorrow Night

I posted this on Saturday, but I'm posting it again in case you missed it:

Are you local? Want to meet up and talk about fall gardening, hand tools, growing off-grid plus sure-fire veggie varieties for Florida?

I'm giving two talks in a row (one on small space gardening, the other on growing tons of food in Florida), plus bringing a bunch of plants and tools for sale. The Marion County Basegroup also has an active group of barterers and seed-traders, so if you like, you can bring some goodies to share.

Here are the details:

Friday, August 23, 2013
6:30 PM to
5200 SE 145th St , summerfield, FL (map)

You can just show up - or better, sign up and RSVP here:

I'd love to meet some of you guys in person if you can make it. I've also got cool handouts. 

Oh yeah, HANDOUTS!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

@The Prepper Project: 10 Great Ways To Fail At Gardening

For those of you that just can't get it right... check and see if you pulled one of these sure-fire FAIL moves!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Raw Harvest Data for Spring/Summer 2013

My goal for this year was to hit a total of 1000lbs of food. I'm not there yet, but I just did some math and found we've already beat last year's complete harvest.

Broccoli: 40lbs, 2oz
Turnips: 36lbs
Papaya: 10lbs
Mustard Greens: 20lbs (est.)
Beets: 4lbs, 3oz
Kohlrabi: 10lbs, 1 oz
Cabbage: 16lb, 11oz
Radishes: 10lbs (est.)
Kale: 10lbs (est.)
White potatoes: 104.5 lbs
Carrots: 10lbs
Beans: 25lbs
Garlic: 4lbs
Pineapple: 5.5lbs
Watermelon: 29lbs
Strawberries: 15lb (est.)
Cassava: 8lbs
Corn: 10lbs
Seminole Pumpkins: 26.5lbs

Total: 394lbs, 11oz

This doesn't count the pile of corn I harvested from my off-property plot. I'm also not counting the many salads we consumed, since I find it a pain in the neck to weigh salad greens. On the ones that read "est.," I'm making conservative guesses at my totals. We sometimes ate meals and forgot to weigh things, or we grazed through the garden, helping ourselves to carrots and kale. The kids also stole a lot of carrots to munch on when they were playing (which I don't mind), so we're not sure exactly what we took out of the ground. 

Also, the strawberry beds were heavily looted by our two-year-old. I'd ask Rachel if we ever had any berries, since all the ripe ones were mysteriously missing. Eventually, we discovered the baby was getting up early in the morning, going out back and picking before we even woke up. Smart kid. I'm glad he didn't decide to learn to drive while we were in bed.

Beyond these solid numbers on the veggie plots, we've also fed a lot of sub-par produce to the chickens, ate a few figs, many Jamaican cherries and handfuls of blueberries, sauteed a lot of weeds, plus made more than one batch of delicious chaya greens.

I can't wait until our trees come into production. I feel like we're barely getting started.

When the sweet potatoes and boniato come in a few months from now, and the fall garden gets kicking, we'll see if we hit 1000lbs.

Labels: ,

Monday, August 19, 2013

A little preview from a brand new movie on Amaranth

Excerpt of dialog from the new film "My Time Among The Amaranths:"

Natasha: Billy... how can you stand it?

Billy: Stand what?

Natasha: This. This here. The emptiness. The aloneness.

Billy: But I'm not alone, Natty; (waves hand about) They're with me.

Natasha: Who?

Billy: The amaranths.

Natasha: I wish you wouldn't talk about them like they're alive!

Billy:  But they are! They're as alive as you and me. Maybe even more alive. Look at these golden heads. These leaves, reaching for the warm light of heaven...

Natasha: Look at the stink bugs! They have stink bugs on them, Billy. And they're just plants. Plants with stink bugs on them!

Billy: I know, Natty. But this is where I feel at home. This is my family.

Natasha: They're not your family, Billy! I'm your family! And the kids... do you even know how old your daughter is now, Billy? Or your son?

Billy:  I have a son?


Billy:  Look... they're awakening.

Natasha: Who are?

Film still (det.): Billy and his Amaranth brothers during a tribal meeting.

Billy:  The amaranths, Natty! Are you blind?

Natasha: Billy, oh please, Billy... just leave with me. Come home!

Billy: Look at Old Sport over there! And Alicia! She's about to sprout a second head!

Natasha: Eww!

Billy:  It's not, "eww!" It's nature! It's love and death and good earth and blue skies, Natty! It's yearning to release your pollen to the winds and lean into a driving rain so the water reaches your roots!

Natasha: You've been out here for two years, Billy. Two years! Have you any idea how hard it is to deal with two children who have lost their daddy to a field of... stupid, stupid plants!?

Natasha pulls a wicked-looking machete from beneath her skirt.

Natasha: I'm sorry I have to do this.


Natasha: Yes, Billy! Yes!

Natasha begins swinging the blade, slashing through the stalks around her, despite Billy's yells.

Billy: Pinkerton, NO! Lemonjello! Ruth! King James! Parker! Silver Stripe! You're killing them all!!! NOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!

With a desperate leap, Billy jumps on Natasha's back and throws her to the ground. In one sickening instant, everything goes to slow motion and we realize Natasha has impaled herself on the blade.

Natasha: Billy... Billy... oh, Billy...

Billy: Natasha! Oh no, what have I done? This is all your fault! You attacked them, you killed them! You killed my friends! My family! And now I've killed you!

Natasha: (gasp, gargle, choke, die)


The sun sets behind the scene as Billy weeps over the fallen body of his wife... and the amaranths she murdered. The sun rises again the next morning and we see Billy burying the body. 

Final scene: a last shovelful of earth is deposited on the fresh grave... and with a shaking hand, Billy scatters amaranth seeds across the newly disturbed earth...

Labels: , ,

Saturday, August 17, 2013

THIS COMING FRIDAY: I'll Be Speaking @ The Marion Basegroup Preppers Meeting

Are you local? Want to meet up and talk about fall gardening, hand tools, growing off-grid plus sure-fire veggie varieties for Florida?

I'm giving two talks in a row (one on small space gardening, the other on growing tons of food in Florida), plus bringing a bunch of plants and tools for sale. The Marion County Basegroup also has an active group of barterers and seed-traders, so if you like, you can bring some goodies to share.

Here are the details:

Friday, August 23, 2013
6:30 PM to
5200 SE 145th St , summerfield, FL (map)

You can just show up - or better, sign up and RSVP here:

Come on down!

Friday, August 16, 2013

Survival Plant Profile: Cayenne Peppers

I like things spicy. Really spicy.

When I take my wife out for Thai food, I order my meals "Thai hot." If I'm not bleeding from my eyes and nose by the end of a meal, it wasn't spicy enough.

All that said, I've never been much of a pepper grower for some reason. Sure, I've grown a few thai peppers, some habeneros, a few jalepenos, etc., but I've spent more time with fruit trees and root crops.

That's not to say I don't grow peppers every year: I do. I just don't pay much attention to growing them since I always end up getting obsessed with growing something new and exotic. Instead of planning peppers into my garden, I usually realize sometime in late spring that we haven't planted any, then pop a few in for the heck of it. They'll keep producing in the heat and through the summer when tomatoes and almost everything else gives up.

Over the last couple of years, I have discovered one pepper that really manages to produce excellently and taste great with no care: the regular old cayenne pepper. Despite my poor planning, I've managed to grown them for the last three years without much preparation or thought - and I'm always glad to have their delicious smoky kick in Rachel's stir-fries.

One of the reasons cayenne peppers rock: they're perennial. Once you plant these guys, they'll last multiple years and keep fruiting for you as climate conditions allow. If you get a nasty frost, they'll die. I piled mulch over four of last year's plants some time in December, then uncovered them in the spring. Two came back. (I also had a lovely red habenero pepper growing in one of my beds... I dug that one up and put it in a pot in the greenhouse. In the spring, I popped it back in the bed and it's thriving and producing more habeneros than we can use.)

To grow peppers, I plant the seeds in flats or in the ground after the last frost date. They grow quickly and usually will bear in about three months. Interestingly, I've had them self-seed here and there around my gardens. Occasionally, I'd toss a rotten pepper aside, or throw some in the compost... and a little baby would come up. If I liked its location, I'd leave it. If not, I'll transplant them into a bed. My bet is that cayennes are pretty close to being a wild pepper. They're tough, and they're attractive plants to boot.

Even pepper pests are pretty.

The only pest problems I've had with these guys involve stink bugs. They'll ruin a few peppers here and there by punching their nasty mouth parts into them and leaving spots that rot - yet even with those losses, we end up with plenty of peppers for the spice cabinet each year. Five plants will provide you with tons - plant more than that and you may need to start your own hot sauce brand.

Something like "Smack Me On My Flaming Butt Of Death And Call Me Satan 'Cause My Fiery Mouth Is In Hell" brand.

I don't think that one's taken yet.

Now let's take a look at where cayennes fall in the wild world of peppers. For making salsa, jalepenos excel in juiciness and good raw flavor; in brutal heat and smokiness, habeneros are king. For a mild pepper for packing with cheese and rice, poblanos are tops. But the cayenne's flavor... well, it's good all around.

I said "good all," not "Goodall," dang it!

Where was I? Oh right... uses. The cayenne is a pepper that's made for drying. It's got lower moisture right off the plant, so if you string them up, they'll usually dry pretty well. If you have a lot of humidity (like I do), you can stay safe from mold by putting them in a dehydrator to dry instead.

My favorite use for cayenne peppers is as ground red pepper. I picked up a Braun coffee grinder at the thrift store for $1.75 and use that for turning dried peppers into powder. I've been meaning to make my own hot sauce but haven't got around to that yet.

As a survival plant, this isn't the best. You can't live on them, but they sure do add flavor to the things you can eat. There are also proven benefits to consuming hot peppers, such as improved circulation and Looking Cool When Around Your Peers. Hot peppers can also be used to make insect-discouraging sprays for your other plants. They're also a lot easier to grow than bell peppers, just in case you wondered.

If you haven't done it before, add a couple of cayenne peppers to your next garden. You'll be glad you did.


3 Spuds!
Cayenne pepper
Latin Name:
 Capsicum annuum (cultivar)
24" - 36"
Nitrogen Fixer:
Full sun
Part Used:
Fruit, green and red
Method of preparation:
Raw, stir-fried, in stews, dried and ground
Good. Dry, pickle or freeze.
Ease of growing:
Very easy

Labels: , , , ,

Thursday, August 15, 2013

A massive hugelkultur bed-in-progress

I was visiting my friend Cathy a couple months ago and had to take pictures of her latest project... I'm just now getting around to posting them. Check this out:

Can you tell what's going on? She had a fellow with a tractor dig a big old trench in an "L" shape, then pile it up with tree waste. Next thing that will happen is the dirt on the left will be dumped back on top and... HUGELKULTUR!

I'm curious to see how this gardening method works in Florida. As much as I keep fiddling around with varying experiments, I haven't created a full-on hugelkultur bed yet (though this one is close). I'm usually short on tree debris and time.

Good luck, Cathy... can't wait to see what happens.

NOTE: For a good article on the "hugelkultur" method, check this out.

Labels: ,

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

@The Prepper Project: Can't Afford Fruit Trees and Shrubs? Make Your Own!

You guys will appreciate one of my latest articles at The Prepper Project:

"In the spring, many gardeners go down to the local nursery or home improvement store and load up their carts with transplants. You can buy transplants for everything, including corn and melons. This, my friends, is rather ridiculous. First of all, a lot of plants don’t really transplant all that well – and the ones that do will often grow just as well from seeding in place, if not better. Buying transplants is often a waste of money.

Let’s look at tomatoes, since they’re hugely popular and also transplant well:

6 pack of tomato transplants: $3.50 = $0.58 per plant.

$0.58 per plant? That’s not bad, right? It is when you do the math on seeds:

Pack of 50 tomato seeds: $2.25 = $0.045 per seed.

Even if you had a 50% failure rate, you’d still be managing to start tomato plants for $0.09 each. That’s cheap. Plus, seeds sown in place, as written above, do better. They’re growing in the ground where they’re planted, meaning the roots can expand rapidly down into the soil, rather than being bunched up in a tiny cell. They’re also not having to deal with radically different growing conditions at a young age. Transplants are grown in perfect conditions, in perfect soil, then sit in variable light conditions until sold, wrapping their roots around and around in a tiny space. When you direct-seed, they acclimate to the sun and soil right away and start jumping immediately, without a rough transition from pot to earth... (read the rest)"

In the complete article, I not only cover seeds, I also write about cuttings and other methods of propagation. If you're gardening on a budget and need more plants, this article is for you.

Labels: , , , ,

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Vandalized Seminole Pumpkin

Okay... this is really, really weird. I saw that one of the Seminole pumpkin I had growing on the fence was ready to be harvested, so I cut it down... only to see that the side of it facing the street had two crudely carved "eyes" in it...

First thing I did was ask my kids if anyone had been testing out one of their pocket knives in a naughty manner. 


And in fact, my children are probably too small to make such deep gouges. One of them suggested the neighbor's cat might have done it. (It's a black cat, incidentally, so there is some logic there. Heh.)

Anyhow, what kind of a goofball would half-carve a Jack o' Lantern out of someone else's pumpkin while it was still on the vine? We've got a quiet, pretty, friendly and rather boring neighborhood.

Perhaps too boring...


WARNING: Mature Audiences ONLY!


What a name. Seriously, how can you have a disease with such a silly name and not laugh when you say it?

That nasty thing in my hand is an infected ear of Tex Cuban corn. I had a few of them catch this fungus this year. Not many, fortunately. We're still going to get a great harvest. Apparently, you can eat corn smut but I've passed on it thus far. (I know. I'm a hypocrite. I'll eat stink bugs but not a fungus. Well look... if stink bugs were named "perverto beetles," I don't think I'd eat them, mmkay?)

Of course, if I did eat the fungus, it would be a good way to reclaim the lost corn harvest.

Which reminds me: I need to write a survival plant profile on corn next week. This Friday I'm going to post one cayenne peppers... so stay tuned.

Labels: , ,

Monday, August 12, 2013

Melon Pit Update: Strawberry watermelon!

Nice, eh? And it tasted great, too.

This 14.5lb beauty was grown in one of my melon pits without any additional care. There are a couple more out in the yard I need to harvest, all smaller than this one. Apparently, they're supposed to weight more than this. Here's where I got the original seeds:


Interestingly, the plants took their time producing... but still produced decently. I picked this variety because it was bred for Florida. The vines didn't have any pest problems, so I think the small size was due to weed competition.

I'm happy, though. These were watermelons that I grew by simply sticking seeds in the ground, then ignoring them for a few months. Hard to beat that.

Labels: ,

Sunday, August 11, 2013

The Case of the Disappearing Berries

Those are (were) Simpson Stopper berries, a pleasant native edible. I set a little plate of them down on the mulch to take a photo... and suddenly was joined by a ravenous one-year-old... so I kept taking pictures.

Last year I planted three of these bushes in my yard. This year, they each bore a little handful of fruit. Though they're usually used as an ornamental hedge plant, the berries are pleasantly sweet with a bitter grapefruit aftertaste that I quite enjoy.

In a few years when the bushes mature, I'm totally making jam out of them. 

Unless a baby gets them all first... 

Labels: , , , ,

Saturday, August 10, 2013

@The Prepper Project: How To Grow Your Own Caffeine

Caffeine is incredibly, unbelievably, amazingly, vitally, ridiculously, decisively, indisputably important. Fortunately, you don't have to give it up in an emergency if you plan (plant?) ahead.

I've previously posted on Yaupon tea, but this last year I also acquired both tea and coffee plants.

In my latest post for The Prepper Project, I cover all three.

My coffee plant is absolutely loaded with fruit right now. When they ripen, I'm going to take the beans and plant a plantation.

Labels: , , , , , ,

Friday, August 9, 2013

August Natural Awakenings article: Growing tropical plants out of their normal range

Ever wish you could pull off growing a tree or plant that only grows further south? If you've read this blog for very long, you know that's a passion of mine.

In my latest article for Natural Awakenings magazine, I go further in depth on how I do it:

As a side note, I went to Kanapaha Botanical Gardens for my birthday last month and came across a white orchid tree growing outdoors without protection. From everything I've ever read or been told, it's impossible to grow those this far north... but we're still close to their range, so somebody decided to try - and it worked.

You really don't know if something is truly impossible until you give it a go yourself. And if you fail, try, try again.

Labels: , , ,

Thursday, August 8, 2013

The "Hay Pusher" and thoughts on hand tools

Now this is amazing:

I've never worked a large acreage or hayed a field, so I can't comment much on how this compares to other methods... I just have to remark that I'm impressed as heck by how she's gathering the hay together.

I'm not a gadget guy. I love hand tools, and I love seeing what can be done with human power. Hoes, sickles, machetes, pitchforks, knives, hatchets... those are my kind of tools.


I can't tell you how many times I've fought with my lawnmower. Or weedeater (which is now retired in favor of a scythe). Or my tiller. (Don't get me started on the tiller...)

If everything collapsed, it would be really good to know you could still feed yourself and your animals. Learn to work with hand tools - and learn to love hard work. There's a goodness in it that you don't get from machines.

(Except for Dewalt drills. I have one of those and it's unbefreaklievable cool.)

Labels: , , ,

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Top 6 Storage Crops For Preppers

Lisa Lynn presents a good list over at The Prepper Project:

I'd add Jerusalem artichokes, malanga, yams, cassava and boniato to the roots section. You also gotta grow Seminole pumpkin down here, if you want a really great squash.

Labels: , , ,

Fall potatoes, eyes in my window, plus incredible mechanization

Apparently, in long-summer climates, you can grow potatoes twice in one year if you're clever. I heard that somewhere, but I can't remember where.


But hey... I've got some potatoes with eyes... I've got some dirt... and the summer is creeping towards fall. I'm going to plant potatoes in a few weeks and see what happens.

A few weeks ago, somebody gave us piles and piles of "expired" produce from a local grocery store. Some of the food was good - some wasn't. The bad stuff went to the chickens and the compost... the good stuff we ate... and out of the potatoes, I picked the ones with the most eyes and put them on my windowsill. See those poor things? They want to grow! Who am I to deny them?

In other news, have you ever seen an industrial potato growing operation?

This is the furthest thing from my own homestead, but I'm still impressed as heck:

Wild, eh? Wonder if they keep cropping on that same ground year after year...

Giant machines aside, has anyone ever tried getting a second crop of taters here in Florida?

I'll let you know how my experiment goes.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Southern peas just keep on plugging

These are in one of my biointensive double-dug beds:

Even in the brutal heat and humidity, they keep kicking along.

However: these are just ANY southern pea. They're special.

A few months ago my kids and I picked a bunch of dry peas at a friend's farm. He told us to help ourselves, so we got about 10-15 lbs (shelled weight) in an hour of picking.

Most of the peas (like 99.9%) were creamy white... but a few pods contained lovely pale brown peas in them.

I pulled those out and set them aside... and then planted them in the bed above. Maybe it'll be a new variety? Who knows! We'll see what the peas look like when they come out.

Along those lines, I've been reading Carol Deppe's Breed Your Own Vegetable Varieties. I think I'm too impressionable.

Whatever my personal failings, I'm amazed at how southern peas can be planted twice in one year, even with the second planting being in the middle of summer... talk about a tough plant. 


This Page

has moved to a new address:

Sorry for the inconvenience…

Redirection provided by Blogger to WordPress Migration Service