Garden Diary 2011
This page was last updated on 12-31-2011.
Year’s Goals: 1) Spend 15 min to 1 hour a day in the garden, usually first thing in the morning. Set weekly goals to accomplish in that time. 2) Keep the garden looking good all the time: weeded, pruned, fed, and flowering. 3) Grow some food all year, using succession planting and perennials where possible. Expand the edibles grown and work toward being as self-sufficient in food production as possible. 4) Rejuvenate the soil in containers instead of buying all new. 5) Fill empty spots throughout garden with edibles and colorful plants, including flowers and foliage. 6) Set up a potting bench, pot storage area, worm bins and compost bins on the Back North Side of the garden, removing all the garden paraphernalia from the Patio except for containers that are in use there at any given time.
Looks like the goals this year are the same as last, which tells me I am more sure of what I want after 20 years in this garden! And that's a good thing. The direction is much clearer and more purposeful, more useful, than when we started.
July 11 - 17: B brought me a Yam plant from a cutting off the one at his
mother's place. I envy him a second
property to plant trees and other edibles on! We planted it in the
westernmost self-watering container in the center of the
Week of July 18 - 24: Malabar Nuts in pots have all germinated. Ate a few Barbados Cherries from the side of the Mound and planted a dozen I found on the ground under it in four 4" pots, 2 per pot, on the Patio. Want to tuck several of these around as well. M and one of his men came and took out the plants I needed removed. Have lost two weeks of nice solid rainy weather waiting for him to come, but the rain is what held him up, so that's the way it goes. They did a great job except some of the roots of Elderberry, Firestick and Clerodendrum coccinea were left in the ground, so there will still be trouble from these down the road. This is expected and we will all just have to keep on top of them. Decided to leave the largest Elderberry in spite of the trouble it causes since it is a useful and health-giving plant. Just need vigilance in keeping the suckers it sends all over the property grubbed out. It has spread to the neighbor's yard in back of us, so would be coming up in mine anyway. May as well have it in mine so I can use it. M's helper accidentally ripped out the Guanabana I grew from seed, but we looked for it in the pile I'd had them leave and I found it. They planted it again and it looks like it will be alright. I have decided that the four blue Potager beds, while aesthetically pleasing, no longer serve my purpose for growing food. C's garden has inspired me, and I know the unprotected little beds bake all summer and don't produce well. So I explained to M that I want the blue boards taken out and left on the back N side, and I want to combine the four beds into two, making them freeform instead of squared off. Also, the skinny beds in front of the Patio need to be reshaped to be deeper and freeform to hold Blackberry and Raspberry bushes. After that, he can take out the grass there and make a path of River Jacks and stepping stones. I showed him a diagram of the new back garden plan and also emailed him one at his request. The goal is to have as many fruit trees as can reasonably fit, which is quite a lot since they can all be kept small and still produce. These will provide dappled shade for the vegetables to grow under them, and for me to walk and work in. Once the trees are producing, there should be vegetables, fruit, and nuts all year. Eventually, the entire back garden behind the gates will have rock paths, with no grass left anywhere. If A wants to keep spraying grass, he shall have as little as possible to spray and poison us with! Two days later, I went to Excalibur with my friend M. Spent a while getting input from Linda Wilson, and Bob Trask took me around picking out plants. Bought: Atemoya 'Gefner', Avocado 'Wilson's Seedless' and Loquat 'Cherry' ('Sherry'?) in 7-gallon pots, and Carambola 'Bell', Fig 'Texas Everbearing', Jujube Indian-type (thornless), Lychee 'Sweet Heart' and White Sapote 'Sue Bell' in 3-gallon pots. That's everything major on my list for this year. M bought some red-fleshed Dragon Fruit and some ripe Canistels. We tried both, and they were totally amazing! Definitely putting both of these on my list for next time! Planning a berry run soon, either before or after the next two-week CA trip. Planted the Loquat and Atemoya along the back between the giant Mulberry and the Guanabana, and the Abelmoschus manihot from ECHO between the Guanabana and the Jakfruit. Emptied some of the self-watering containers on the north side for soil to help make mounds for planting the fruit trees in. Left the one with the eggplant and the one with Malabar Spinach. M said I can go ahead and plant fruit trees in the Potager beds and his men will work around them while reshaping. So I planted the White Sapote in the SW bed, removing the teepee but leaving one pole that the Luffa from Dr. S gave me is growing on. The Peach went in the center of the NW bed (the teepee was removed), the Carambola in the NE bed, and the Fig in the SE bed. Left teepees in the SE and NE beds for now since we may still use them where they are for beans. The ones we took out may prove useful in the TVA for things like Yams and Jicama, at least until the trees get bigger. Spoke to M and I will mark the Potager and Patio beds with bricks to show the new dimensions for him. He is going on vacation for a week and will come after that to work on the reshaping and paths. I have explained to him that henceforth, his men should leave the prunings on the ground where they fall if they are not large. Otherwise, bigger pieces need to go in the compost bins once they are built, or laid in the backs of the TVA beds if they are really big. I will begin feeding the edible intensively next month, mainly with worm castings and seaweed (which I can gather at the beach), plus applying minerals and rock dust as needed in all the beds. So we have made much progress toward our self-sustaining and self-sufficient edible landscape, which we plan to eat from all year long. Moreover, my friend M says I can raise rabbits and our other friend T can do a small aquaponics project on M's property as long as T and I maintain them. Also, once Dad builds the compost bins and the N side is done, we can put worm bins there (a good use for the blue boards from the Potager beds) so we won't have to buy worm castings. I'm hoping by the end of the year to have the structure of the garden finished and a feeding program in place. All very exciting!
Week of July 18 - 24: Toured our friends the T's through the garden after learning they also want to grow food here organically year-round for health. So I will give them some plants and info. Made mounds of topsoil and composted cow manure to the left and right of the giant Mulberry and planted root vegetables in them: Malanga 'White' from Rorabeck's between the Guanabana and Atemoya, Malanga 'Lila' from Rorabeck's between the Atemoya and Loquat, Malanga 'Edo' from the Oriental market between the Loquat and Mulberry, Yam White ņame from Rorabeck's on a teepee behind the Mulberry, Malanga from Publix to the north and a bit behind the Mulberry, and Malanga 'Coco' from the Oriental market just north of the Mulberry (this one may have rotted). Mulched the newly planted fruit trees (except the Avocado and Lychee - ran out of mulch) and the few little empty spots in the TVA. Still need to empty one last self-watering container and use it to make a mound for the Japanese Sweet Potato labeled 'Purple Yam' at the Oriental market and mulch it and the Avocado and Lychee. Reshaped the beds by the Patio - can't call them the Succulent Beds any longer, though a few Kalanchoes will remain in the south end of the southern one. Otherwise, that one will hold Blackberries, and the northern one will be for Raspberries and Blueberries. Deepened and rounded the beds, setting the triple line of bricks in place so now all that has to be done is pulling out the unwanted plants. Noticed at least one Blackberry plant in the northern bed and a few in the southern, so I may just do this clearing myself since M is on vacation this week, and anyway, he was concerned about the difficulty of preserving the berry plants while ripping everything else out. Also placed bricks to mark the new dimensions of the Potager beds. Will try to lift the boards myself by levering them up with the large shovel or the pitchfork, and if I succeed, will do the reshaping of these myself as well. Don't have enough bricks to do a triple row around these, but that's ok - at this point they will still have a double row. May get more bricks eventually, but it's more important to get at least a double row all around all the final beds first, then take stock of what we have left. Can't forget that there will be a few small beds on the Back North Side when we prepare that area, and they will need brick outlines as well. One day, after all the planting and paths are place, I would like to mosaic many of the stepping stones. Before that, I will scatter colored glass and stones and broken pottery among the river jacks in the paths. Also, I can stretch the bricks we have at a later date by making and placing quotes using the poetry stones kit.
This week, the plan is to work on the TVA beds: make several mounds and plant root vegetables and tropical pumpkins in them, root lots of cuttings of Katuk to plant along the back fence and Okinawa Spinach to plant in the fronts and middles of the beds, and mulch all empty ground. After that would come work on the Potager beds, then the new Berry Beds. I will plant Sweet Potatoes in the Berry Beds to cover any empty ground until we actually get the berries, probably next year, or at least late fall. Have to call Excalibur to find out the best time to get them and what they will have. Also need to take some of the rooted cuttings on the Patio to friends: M, S's, T's and my acupuncturist, who gave me a Luffa plant and a "Japanese Spinach" Sweet Potato a couple of months ago. Also we need to get Dad to fix the faucet by the Patio and split it so I can have a hose on the Patio as well. Right now, I have to carry buckets from the kitchen or that incredibly leaky faucet in order to water anything there, which causes me to neglect things more than I otherwise would. In fact, all the faucets and hoses need checking. At the moment, I am hand-watering the new plants in the back garden every morning, and feel very guilty about the water wasted by the faucet. I am sure that fully half the water coming from it sprays out before it gets into the hose, and the hose itself leaks like crazy, spraying water at either end of the wand and drenching me completely just in doing that ten-minute chore. A thinks there is actually something wrong with the faucet itself - O-rings do not help. The wand needs replacing as well - O-rings not being enough there either.
Observations and plans: Still looking for some of the edible perennials listed on ECHO's site, and hoping to get them there. Need to call and ask about the following, requesting them to take cuttings a couple of weeks in advance and letting them know it is a two-and-a-half hour drive for us to get there (maybe they will take pity on me): Alternanthera sissoo (Sissoo Spinach or Samba Lettuce), Arrowroot, Basket Vine and Spineless Prickly Pear Cactus. Also still looking for Vetiver Grass and Water Spinach (Ipomoea aquatica).
As for the front garden, the bed Between the Front Windows needs empty spaces filled again, since the Wrightias and Alternantheras did not survive. This is probably due to a lack of water. This bed is very dry to begin with, and the Sweet Almond Verbena by the front door blocks the sprinkler from hitting the bed the way it should. So we need to move the sprinkler over a bit. We really should re-do the entire irrigation system. It was designed for all-over lawn and nothing else. How short-sighted! But that's the usual way. Just like the house itself, which has very little insulation and no decent cross-breeze. Designed in the shamefully wasteful 1980s, with no consideration to saving energy whatsoever. Bleh! It's what we have, so we work with it. I still want Wrightias, but will put them somewhere else. It would be nice to have a pretty pot with a Desert Rose in it on the way to the front door, replacing or forming a backdrop for the strawberry pot of small Kalanchoes. It would be great to eventually put river jacks and stepping stones in the front garden as well, east of the sidewalk. Might be able to talk A into it after the back is done and all looks nice there. There isn't really much grass left in front now anyway, at least not on the north side. The bed with the Magnolia on the south side could be expanded so there would be only a path left. Someday!
We need to make a few sprinklers higher in front and
back. The Gaillardias in the SE corner
Most, though not all, of the things planted on the Mound have also survived and filled in, so that there is only a little empty space at the back. There is still some usable area in the middle, which can hold a fruit bush or two (see below). Some unwanted Bridal Veil Clerodendrums have sprung up again in the shade and must be taken out, and some Malabar Nuts have made small seedlings there and need to be transplanted, but otherwise the Mound is in very good shape. The Beautyberry needs a hard pruning as it has become large and unruly - must speak to M about that. I am hoping to put a few Camellia plants in the shady part next season: one a striped ornamental, and another one or two will be C. sinensis, the official Tea plant. This should work fine, as a red-flowered ornamental one grows and blooms there already - it was planted many years ago and has done just fine.
The Mango has finished producing for the year - we
harvested the last one in the first week of July. Next year, we would like to
add just a few more fruit trees: Abiu and Canistel (which can be kept small and tucked perhaps on
the south side of the house and driveway west of the sidewalk), and Coconut
(which will cast little shade and can be planted in the swale on the south
side of the driveway). Shrubby plants:
Allspice, Bay Laurel and Cinnamon (which can be kept small and tucked into
the perimeter of the TVA), Hog Plum (on the Mound in sun), Kumquat 'Nagami' (which can go by the Lemon tree), Star Anise
(which can go between the Abiu and Canistel), Tea (on the Mound in shade) and Wax Jambu (on the Mound in sun). Climbers: Black Pepper Vine (growing up a
shady fruit tree in the TVA), red-fleshed Dragon Fruit (on the west post in
After that, I may turn my attention to the little garden Behind the Wall, thinning the Oyster Plants and Bromeliads, replacing them with more colorful Bromeliads and adding some height in the back. Jacobean and Eucharist Lilies can be tucked in to surprise us with flowers. Of course, we still need to replace the diseased Hibiscus hedge along the front wall with edible Eleagnus from Excalibur, or failing that, Surinam Cherry. Both should provide berries even when clipped regularly.
Plant combinations under consideration for color wherever needed are: Variegated Talinum with Persian Shield and Plectranthus 'Mona Lavender', Crossandra 'Orange Marmalade' with Plectranthus 'Mona Lavender', and Rose Fountain Salvia.
For the Back North Side, various Gingers will be good in the shade, such as smooth- and velvet-leaved Costus radiata and Globba winittii, along with a Stromanthe tricolor, and maybe some Red Flame Ivy and Sedums for edging. Jacobean and Eucharist Lilies may provide spots of color as well. East of the fence, we could have a Tree Fern with native Inland Leatherleaf Ferns underneath and possibly a Philodendron gloriosum 'Andre' and/or a giant Elephant Ear.
The Candlestick Cassia by the garage window is too large and unruly, but the Sulfur butterflies like these, so we can replace it with a Popcorn Cassia, which would be smaller and prettier. Also, the white-flowered Plumeria is too plain and has no scent, so it should go in favor of a fragrant, pink-flowered one. This work would necessitate moving the large Bromeliads here, which we have more of on the Mound and in the TVA, so maybe a different type of Bromeliad would be good. Or perhaps the Wrightias could go here instead. With the new arrangement, we might just be able to see out the garage window again!
The Patio is a mess right now, with loads of plastic
pots, tools and other garden paraphernalia and four self-watering containers
of Malabar Spinach, Stevia and velvet-leaved Costus radiata filling the
entire north half, plus the unused worm bin sitting by the family room
door. The south half is filled with
rooting cuttings and potted seedlings. This will all be moved out into the
Back North Side once it is finished, which will make A
ecstatic. We want to put a twin-size
four-poster iron bed frame at the north end, with an outdoor mattress and
pillows and perhaps some gauzy fabric draped around the top. We need a set of
covers in white, plus one in bright gypsy colors so we can change it up for a
party. A few strings of tiny LEDs would dress it up for evening, and a small metal
table with a mosaic top and matching chairs for
dining al fresco would be nice as well. There could be as many as six chairs,
four around the dining table and two tucked in other spots so they can be
drawn together anywhere for conversation.
A matching taller, skinnier table by the wall can hold overflow, and
two more tiny round ones could be used by people
sitting in the two chairs and on the bed. Once we have this seating, the
bench can go in its planned spot behind the
I need to find a way to make sturdier, better-looking self-watering containers. Have considered covering them with hypertufa to make them more attractive and protect them from the sun - in a way, this is actually lining hypertufa containers with plastic bins. If the outside of the bin is roughed up a bit, the hypertufa would adhere better. No idea if it will be possible to get to this project this year, but we shall see. Also, the weight necessitates a pump to get the water out without damaging the container by dumping it - have to get one. Meanwhile, I have trashed the first self-watering container I made because it didn't drain well, and the others are getting brittle from constant sun exposure (though in partial shade), but they work fine and should last several months yet.
Another project to get to sooner rather than later is markers for the fruit trees and other perennial edibles. Some would be "planted" in the ground, and others hung as "jewelry", letting visitors and lawn men know what they are looking at. I can paint a bunch of small purchased ceramic tiles (or make my own) and fire them in my kiln, or work a deal with B at the shop to fire them there at a discount. Glass tiles could also be used this way and fired in my home oven.
M wants a Persimmon tree and a Canistel and several other perennial edibles in her garden, some of which I will be supplying, and I will also be helping her put in a cool season garden this year. It will be very exciting if T actually does her aquaponic project - if it works, I may do one with pink Tilapia. If I feel I can fit the time in, I will try some rabbits. Would need to work out a schedule with whoever works for M, or her son S, to help when I go out of town. Or I could just leave them with B if he's willing. Mom may even do it - they are cute and fuzzy after all. It would be great to start with two or three young ones in a sheltered colony setup, a small shed-like deal in the shade under some trees if M is agreeable to it. Either way, I don't want to keep them on wire because it hurts their feet. And worms might be good underneath...
A long wooden hutch lined outside with hardware cloth/wire and attached to the fence under the fruit trees or on the Back North Side would be great for my own colony once A gets over his thing about having pets outside. Another way-future someday project! Not to mention that we could have ducks roaming the garden in the day and going into a small shaded, fortress-like poultry house at night, and a small kiddie pool for them to splash in that I could hose out over the root vegetables every few days for fertilizer. That could be tucked in almost anywhere, right? And what about a couple of top-bar bee hives in an undisturbed sunny corner somewhere, or maybe on top of the poultry house? A does love his honey...
July 25 - 31: Toured B and his wife through the garden to see the new fruit
trees. Took two sessions to pull all
unwanted plants out of the new Blackberry Bed (formerly the south Succulent
Bed). Left only some Kalanchoes on the far southern end and any Blackberry
plants I could find. Also pulled the
only Blackberry plant out of the north Succulent Bed and planted it in the
new Blackberry Bed. Several Aloe
plants were moved to the
Week of August 1 - 7: Mapped my friend M's back garden and designed an edible landscape for the whole area, similar to ours. Will go with her next week to buy several of the fruit trees she wants, and her son S will plant them according to the new plan. Irrigation company came and re-worked our entire sprinkler system! They put on all new Rainbird heads, most of them 12" pop-ups, and moved nearly all that were inside beds out into the paths so they would not be blocked by plants. The couplings were all re-done with "funny" pipe, which should prevent the pipes from breaking if stressed by being driven over or pushed. Everything is placed so there is complete and overlapping coverage. We are very pleased with the job they did. Gave the owner rooted cuttings of Chaya, Katuk, Okinawa Spinach, and Water Leaves, and seedlings of Malabar Chestnut and Malabar Spinach. His helper has no space to grow anything, but we gave him and the owner each a bag of Malabar Chestnuts that had fallen that day. Toured the owner through and had him try the plants and gave him a paper with info on all of them. Now M wants them to re-do her system as well, so I will meet the owner there next week for a walk-through and estimate. Malabar Chestnut tree has given over two quarts of nuts in the past three weeks or so and there are still pods on the tree! Tropical storm came through, but did not affect us much except for blowing some of those pods down for me. Taking more cuttings of Okinawa Spinach and Water Leaves to give away and to expand our stock. Planted two hills of Seminole Pumpkin among the root vegetables at the north end of the TVA, and two of a locally-grown yellow watermelon (saved these seeds several months ago from a CSA delivery) between the Atemoya and Loquat trees. Planted two large Cassava roots, one near the Grumichama and one just south of the Katuk at the north end of the TVA. Hope the wax won't keep them from growing! Don't like the flavor of the roots, but the leaves are good cooked. If they don't grow, I can get some that will from C. Dad came home this week and I hope to get him to do the Back North Side projects as soon as possible: compost bins, potting table, and worm bin. Then M can come with his crew and finish that area! Can't wait!
Week of August 8 - 14: Inventoried seeds for the coming season, planning to use what we have first. Ordered what we still need and all should be here in a few days. Meanwhile, started what I had: Yard-Long Beans, Broccoli, Eggplant, Garden Berries (solanums), Gherkins, Kale, Melons, Mustard, Nasturtiums, Okra, Pak Choi, Peppers, Tomatillos, Tomatoes, and Watermelons – multiple varieties, all sown in 4” pots on the Patio, enough for me and for M to get started for the season. There are nine trays, one with 15 pots, and the others with ten each. Will have a month to get it all going, then will take babies to M's to be cared for. If she can't manage it, we'll only be out a little work, and if anything survives I'll be better off for having done it. Some items are being direct-seeded and will be established by the time we leave anyway. Just can't do anything in the newly redesigned Potager beds because they haven't been completed yet. Will always grow Amaranth and gynoecious Cucumbers on Patio because of pests and disease anyway. Planted Ginger root in one of the self-watering containers on the Patio with the Velvet-Leaved Costus already there. Must check to see what Turmeric roots are doing underground - both plants are doing very well above, but don't know if the roots are getting bigger. Bought a yellow yam – the others we already have are white. Apparently, there are also purples. The “Japanese Yams” (Sweet Potatoes, really) from the Oriental Market seem not to want to sprout, so I have put toothpicks in one and set it over a jar of water to see what will happen. B says you grow Cassava from cuttings rather than roots, and I think I do remember reading that, so will just have to ask C for some after all.
August 15 - 21: The “Japanese Yam” refuses to sprout – it
either got too dry before I bought it, or was treated with a sprout inhibitor
for market. Thinking of going back to
the Oriental Market for more and trying again, as the other two look less
promising than that one. Went out and
pruned everything in the TVA that needed it, as well as some in the
Week of August 22 - 28: Planted seeds of Tomato 'Black Cherry' to replace the one
pot that had none come up. All the Malanga roots that were planted between the Guanabana and north of the Mulberry are up except for the
Week of August 29 - September 4: Planted seeds of Garden Huckleberry (2 pots),
Nasturtium ‘Caribbean Cocktail’ (1 pot), Nasturtium ‘King
Theodore’ (1 pot), Nasturtium ‘Out Of
Week of September 5 - 11: Bought 12 bags of mulch and 2 of leveling sand (for
sprinkler donuts) and finished mulching the Berry Beds. Dad has hurt his
back, so I don’t expect he’ll be able to do anything for us until
we get back from CA. Poor Daddy! He’s in a lot of pain. Not sure if the blue boards are worth using
or not – some are a bit soft where they rested on the ground all those
years, but all are pretty hard for at least half their height. Wrestling with whether to put them out for
bulk pickup or not. Since that happens
every week, there’s no real rush. Will wait until Dad comes to work on
the Back North Side and get his opinion, since he’s the one who would
be working with them. Probably
won’t do a worm bin with them – don’t generate enough
kitchen scraps to need more than the continuous flow one we already have.
Went to a session with Master Gardeners at the WPB Library on Clematis St.
Nice, but the MG program seems to center on a pared-down version of
industrial farming for the home gardener, with emphasis on chemical gardening
and almost no mention of organics. At
least, they seem to regard organic practices as grudgingly practical, yet
inferior, though the man did discourage pesticides. The most useful thing we
heard was about a place called Uncle Ben’s on
Week of September 12 - 18: Delivered plants to H & I, along with printouts. Gave each a Chaya, a Malabar Nut tree, Malabar Spinach seedling (H) or seeds (I), a Katuk, and two Water Leaves (Ceylon Spinach). Hoping to get two Abelmoschus cuttings to J before we leave as well. The extra Chaya and two Katuks will go to M. Also want to give C the two Canistel seedlings. Maybe he can visit before we leave – otherwise soon after we get back. Will be busy then, doing grow-bag gardens for H and R, and possibly T’s and I as well. Can’t wait! Gave T’s 3 packets of mixed seeds: Mustards, Pak Chois, and Broccoli ‘Di Ciccio’, along with the monthly charts of vegetables for planting.
Week of October 3 - 9: Back from CA! Seedlings did not do well, and most got tossed. Went to Excalibur and Rorabeck’s with M. Also went to Home Depot and got some Tomatillo, Tomato and Pepper plants, which I planted in self-watering containers set in front of the Patio. Working on pruning and feeding front garden. Gave M a Jackfruit from my tree.
October 10-20: M the lawn man came with a crew and put rocks and stepping stones in the area in front of the Patio. Still waiting for Dad to build compost bins and potting table – after that M can finish the utility area on the back north side. Can’t wait!
October 27 - 9: Gave C a Jackfruit, some Elderberries, and some
November 26 – December 31: Dad and I built the potting table and compost bins! Ok, he built them, but I helped. They look great! So excited!
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