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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Up Up away -- vertical veggy gardening

Are you running out of room to garden? Make the most of you space by growing up up up along a trellis.

If you live in a condo, townhome, apartment or small home with limited space-- you can appreciate that space is at a premium so vertical makes sense.

Vegetables that vine or have a rambling stem require massive amounts of garden space if left to grow on the ground, yet the simple solution is to grow up and over a trellis, a pole, or a fence.

The benefits will surprise you.
- You can double your yield by using vertical structures.
- Soil borne and fungal disease have less chance of becoming a concern when your
plants are vertical because the air circulation is much better than a plant that
is lying along the soil.
- Easier to prune, maintain and harvest, --and fruits are easier to see hanging on a trellis compared to rambling plants.
- Requires less bending so anyone with back problems will appreciate that.

A key to success with vertical gardening is having a good support system. Its need to support the weight of your crops while making it easy to harvest. Consider shade when you design your vertical garden space. The shade it casts on surrounding plants can affect what you plant nearby. When possible design you tallest structures on the northern side of your garden or place them against a wall.

You don’t need to buy expensive complicated structures, unless you want to. The expensive systems can be beautiful involving wonderful wooden trellises, arbors and arches. If you are the creative and let your inner child out—you could create something from anything. A friend of mine uses a few bamboo poles tied together, a few iron piping and similar materials and does fine… A super way to recycle is lean an old wooden ladder up against your shed or home or fence. …use your imagination.

Beans, Cucumbers, Melons, Peas, Pumpkins, Squash, Sweet Potatoes Tomatoes…are among some great choices for vegetable gardening. You can train just about any vegetable to grow vertically …

Please keep in mind our south florida seasons.

October - March ( dry season ) is the best season to grow many crops.
March - October ( rainy / Hurricane season ) you can grow crops, but not as well.
... if you are growing in the summer time, consider what you will do to protect your vertical garden if a tropical storm or hurricane is destined to come your way.

Everyone can judge their situation for themselves. I usually start preparing my beds in summer for Oct-March gardening.

please share your garden stories…
- Nana
August 31, 2010

A healthy St. Augustine grass lawn will effectively crowd out most weeds

A healthy St. Augustine grass lawn will effectively crowd out most weeds

The act of caring for your St Augustine lawn can be therapeutic. Great lawns aren't made; they're grown. And it's up to you to keep them that way.

When I first moved into the neighborhood, into my first home, I just mowed it at whatever setting my mower was on. My grass was a weed and grass mixture. I was a typical new homeowner feeling pretty mowing his typical front lawn.

If you ask your neighbors “How short do you cut your Lawn?" you will receive several different answers.

At that time I had no idea what my grass was. It was grass... what’s the big deal?? ? Right.

After mowing it a few times I noticed more and more weeds were popping up everywhere??? What could this be and what chemical do I need to buy to fix this, and how expensive will this chemical be?

Well I started to research grasses and learn all about my grass. I read that by mowing too short I was killing this plant and I was allowing weeds and disease to kill my grass. I learned that some diseases are just out of my control and that a healthy lawn (just like a healthy person) is capable of combating diseases effectively. So a healthy lawn could effectively crowd out the weeds as well.

I soon realized that I could avoid chemicals, just let it grow out longer and thicker and greener instead of chemicals. I learned the most important lesson of all; let the plant be what it was meant to be. Let it grow, Let it grow, Let it grow.

Here are some simple lessons I learned.

Mow your lawn at 4 inches. Set your mower at 4 inches and leave it there. If you have to get a black magic permanent marker and mark 4 inches on your setting and set the mower at 4 inches and never change this. If you are starting to mow your lawn at 4 inches as a new routine now, it may take a few mows before you see a difference, because like any haircut, it has to grow into the new style you are creating. The mature height of St Augustine grass is 5 inches. So if you follow the rule: Remove no more than one-third of an inch at a time. Then you mow at 4 inches.

Some suggestions

- St Augustine will start to resemble a carpet when you mow at 4 inches, which is why it is nick named, “carpet grass.”

- Be cautious of scalping this type of grass (cutting it too short, so that the yellow or brown stem tissue is exposed). This may permanently damage its root system.

- Never reduce the height of the grass by more than one-third of an inch per mow. If the lawn is extremely long, cut one-third of an inch, allow it to rest a few days and cut it again.

- Mow when the grass is dry. If it has just rained or has been sprinkled, wait a few days.

- Do not bag the clippings. St. Augustine clippings left on the lawn will help the still-growing grass.

- Use a very sharp blade. A dull blade will damage St. Augustine grass, causing it to eventually turn brown.

- While waiting for bare spots to fill in, spread annual rye grass seeds from October to March and patch seeds from March to October.

- Palm fertilizer with higher than 10% Nitrogen can be used on all plants including St Augustine Grass.

- Dry season mowing is less often because this grass slows its rate of growth, so I have been able to get away with mowing every 2 -4 weeks, from October - March sometimes...

- Rainy season mowing has to mow more often because this grass at a faster rate from March - October. Please note since the grass is growing faster and it tops out at 5 inches tall, i can sometimes get with not mowing so often because the grass is usually grown out to 4 inches and is strong enough to go without a cut now and then looking fairly close to how it would look at 4 inches normally. I usually can get away with mowing every 2 weeks.

Most of my neighbors mow every 3 days or once a week regardless, which seems like such a waste of money and time or they don’t mow or water as often as they should and resembles a sandy pit of weeds, because they have given up.

- A healthy St. Augustine grass lawn effectively crowds out most weeds.

--- NANA
AUGUST 31, 2010

Saturday, August 28, 2010

See a mosquito, smack a mosquito !

It is as natural as breathing. Mosquitoes in Florida are just a way of life in the south.

Some days I simply forget about them, then out of nowhere they sneak up on me and like an unwanted guest, they leave a sting that makes me run for the house for bug spray.

I have heard friends that use ammonia and skin lotion mixed together that works really well when applied to the sting afterwards. I don’t personally know if that works, but I may try this and let you know. Maybe you have some tried and true methods you'd like to share? I use DEETS because it works, although I hear it causes cancer?

Like all living things even those unwanted pesky mosquitoes play an important role in the, “circle of life -ecosystem." So if we kill every last one -we will in some way be cancelling out the human race as well.
On the other hand we know that mosquitoes spread disease as well as, that nasty itchy welt.

I heard somewhere that it takes a mosquito, "5-days" to emerge from egg to flying biters. I have life outside my garden, so even though I may be in my garden, there are times I am too busy to be everywhere in the garden so it is possible that mosquitoes are breeding without my knowledge.

First I needed to learn how to they breed and feed. Mosquitoes are really no different from other insects. Like butterflies, mosquitoes have a 4-part life cycle (egg, larva, pupa and adult). Females lay the eggs on surface water. The young are not strong swimmers so the water they seek should not be water fountains or moving water, instead they seek areas of little to no movement. The young larva feed on bacteria and algae and molts several times, eventually pupating and emerging as winged adults. Adults feed on nectar and pollinate plants such as orchids and goldenrods. The females feed on blood to get iron and protein only when they are ready to reproduce.

Mosquitoes are eaten by bats, birds, fish, lizards, frogs, and a vast myriad of wildlife like dragon flies. So mosquitoes are feeding the wildlife I enjoy having in the garden and they help pollinate the plants I also enjoy having around. So I am being green and doing my part in having them around. Hmmm

I enjoy the benefits that the mosquitoes are providing, but I still want to limit them from breeding in my garden. So everything you hear about not having standing water on property is true… look for anything that holds water --clogged rain gutters, flower pots, puddles --these are great areas for baby mosquitoes to live in. So bird baths need to clean weekly.

If you have a pond and you can guarantee that it does not lead to any natural waterway, try stocking it with non-native fish like mosquito fish or gold fish. If these fish were to be released into the natural waterways…again in some way I feel, by changing the circle of life we are in some way cancelling out the human race down the road. Pesticides can be toxic to predators that reduce mosquito populations. Never put Oil on water surfaces, as this will pollute the water and kills many other beneficial forms of life. ...

I heard somewhere you can buy something called Bti and they come in disc form and you put these into ponds. Bti is supposed to work very well, although harmful to some of the insects that eat mosquitoes.
I have been told that bug-zappers don’t work on female mosquitoes because they are attracted to carbon dioxide, body heat and water vapor trails usually found from their object of desires.
Natural repellants with citronella, lemon balm and mint are effective if reapplied often. There are no plants that repel mosquitoes without human intervention.
According to some experts DEETS, picaridin, and oil of lemon eucalyptus is very effective.

Sometimes common sense is your best defense. Avoid going outside at dawn or dusk when they are out on their hunt and where long sleeves, long pants to cover exposed skin. True southern folks knew fans under the covered porches worked well since mosquitoes are not good flyers either… they cannot stand up to windy conditions of a fan. So an evening out walking of sitting with a fan in hand is sometimes all you need.

So there it is ….Mosquitoes are good, bad and ugly….

August 28, 2010