THE HEAT IS ON!

It has been a busy couple of weeks here in Pensacola, Florida with all the cleaning up after our major rain event where we received 26 inches of rain in one day! All of my garden areas survived and are thriving now! The temperatures are starting to climb, and soon we will be enveloped in the humidity of summer.

May shed garden
May shed garden

The grandkids’ spaghetti squash are climbing up the weather vane in the center of the garden now. Every morning I am greeted with bright yellow squash blossoms. The cucumbers are growing quickly, and I am using a red tomato cage for them to climb up. This is an experiment to see if it will help keep the fruit from sitting on the ground too long. The pepper forest at the front of the garden is already starting to produce tiny green peppers. Even my centipede grass is finally recovering from the winter.
I added a trellis with Confederate Jasmine to break up the large expanse of brown shed in the far back. The blossoms smell heavenly. Confederate jasmine or star jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides) is one of the most fragrant jasmines. It has tightly clustered flowers on twining vines that bloom in the spring and summer. I chose this jasmine because you can control it growth with tip pinching. As this shrub grows it will spread and cover the shed with the support of trellises. Clemson Cooperative Extension at http://www.clemson.edu/extension/hgic/plants/landscape/groundcovers/hgic1106.html gives excellent information about all the different types of jasmine and is worth checking out.
Behind the bird bath are some Gloriosa Lilies that have come up under the fence from my neighbor’s yard. These lilies grow vertically upwards and are quite showy in appearance. They are a lightweight vine with a brilliant red flower that is unusual to what I have seen before.

Gloriosa Lily
Gloriosa Lily

I like the color and contrast against my fence. The bright blooms with attract hummingbirds who are frequent visitors to our backyard oasis. Check out this site for easy growing bulbs at http://www.easytogrowbulbs.com/g-41-gloriosa-lily-planting-guide.aspx to see if this lily will work in your garden.

Escambia County Florida Extension Office Plant Sale May 2014
Escambia County Florida Extension Office Plant Sale May 2014

The Escambia County Extension Office in Pensacola, Florida (see website at http://escambia.ifas.ufl.edu/hort/demo-garden.shtml ) has an incredible garden sale each year the beginning of May. I encourage everyone to explore what their extension offices can teach them. Our office has gardens showing how the different plants grow in our area of Northwest Florida and you can tour them at the above website by clicking on the “Tour the Gardens” link. It is worth the visit.

I purchased four different plants this year and have already incorporated them into my garden areas.  The first was a Hidden Lily Ginger (Curcuma Petiolata). It is a medium growing ornamental. It has large upright leaves with rose purple blooms in mid-summer that “hide” in the leaves. It likes part to full shade. I was able to plant it in my patio garden which gets only a few hours of morning sun. I already have a leaf sprouted!

Hidden Lily Ginger
Hidden Lily Ginger

Hidden Lilly Ginger grows from rhizomes and I found an excellent PDF to share about this exotic plant at http://www.growingguides.com/PlantGuides/HiddenGinger.pdf.
I also selected a Brazilian Plume in pink that will help to break up the greens of the tree line that rim our property. The Brazilian Plume is a medium growing evergreen broadleaf shrub that can grow up to 4 feet tall. I was attracted to the tubular pink blooms that will repeat through the summer. Anything to attract hummingbirds and bees is a boon to a gardener. This shrub likes part shade and sun so the tree line was the perfect solution as it gets afternoon sun and morning shade. The Houston Chronicle at http://www.chron.com/life/gardening/article/Brazilian-plume-flower-magnificent-in-the-shade-4525721.php touts the glory of this beautiful shrub and will show pictures of the fully grown shrub.

Brazilian Plume, Pink
Brazilian Plume, Pink

I was fascinated by the Parlor Maple “Thompsonii” (Abutilon Pictum ‘Thompsonii’) which is a tender evergreen shrub. It will grow as tall as 8 feet in sun to part shade. It will have light orange blooms striped with orange all year long. I had the perfect place for it too, right in the middle of my kale and chives!

Parlor Maple "Thompsonii"
Parlor Maple “Thompsonii”

About.com gardening at http://gardening.about.com/od/floweringshrubs/p/Abutilon.htm says the Parlor Maple will bloom almost nonstop in the right conditions. I am looking forward to the tropical looking blooms.
My last purchase was of a Sweet Bay Tree or Bay Laurel (Laurus Nobilis). The leaves of the tree are the actual leaves that you use in cooking. My Extension office told me that the trees are rare and hard to find. I was excited by the possibility of having something so different. I actually bought a young tree and planted it in a pot. They are slow growers so you can cultivate them nicely in a pot for many years. Jacqueline A. Soule, PhD from organicgardening.com at http://www.organicgardening.com/learn-and-grow/flower-power-bay-laurel agrees that this tree can be safely grown in a container.

Sweet Bay Tree
Sweet Bay Tree

Soon, I will have to find some other things to occupy my time as my gardens will need to do what they do best… GROW!

4/29 -30/14 NORTHWEST FLORIDA MAJOR RAIN EVENT: The Hundred Year Flood

Hi everyone. I have had a rough start to my blog this week because of the major rain event that we experienced in Pensacola, Florida and the surrounding areas in Alabama and Florida. We had a whopping 20-26 inches of rain in one day! The other storms that I have written about in my blog were nothing compared to this storm. It has been called the hundred year flood. The rain, thunder, and lightening, started about 4:00 p.m. on April 29th, 2014 and did not quit until 6:00 a.m. April 30th, 2014. 4.29.14 rain totals This is a map (courtesy of the WEAR TV Facebook page at, https://www.facebook.com/photo.phpfbid=618347331584041&set=a.449407505144692.1073741825.242242135861231&type=1&theater ) of the Mobile, Alabama/Pensacola, Florida area during the storm.

That white area is where the concentration of the worst rain storm totals resulted. You can only imagine what my gardens looked like. When I started this blog, it was to share my love of gardening in a new location, Pensacola, Florida. Previously I had lived in Florida, and was familiar with the intensity of storms and the rainfall. Little did I know that we would receive a rain event that dumped 26 inches of rain upon we unsuspecting gardeners.

 4.29.14 storm garden

My main garden fared well enough. The gutters held, and my collection bin was full to the brim! The heavy rains forced all the sand to come to the top of the soil. What I found from last year’s torrential rainfall was that you must get out there and trowel under the sand and mix it with the soil amendments that you added to your garden. If you don’t do this, the sand acts like concrete and the plants cannot breathe. The end result is that they become weak and die.

4.29.14 rain fall

Just to show you the amount of rain and how hard it was coming down, here is a picture of my backyard about 6:00 p.m. on April 29th, 2014 (above). This is only 2 hours into the storm and we were starting to flood. The main issue was that we had just had about 10 inches of rain in the month of April already, so the addition rainfall was horrendous. Final rain totals for the month of April in Pensacola, Florida is 36 inches! The rains were so heavy that at one point at 9 p.m. our local news station announced that we had gotten 5 inches of rain in a 45 minute period!

 5.29.14 storm damage road

The photos above, and to follow, show only a small portion of the damage that we received in Pensacola, Florida and the  surrounding areas.

4.30.14 storm damage

Storm damage, 9 Mile Road, May 1st, 2014

 4.30.14 9 Mile Rd storm damage

Roadway washed away – 9 Mile Road at Beulah Road, Pensacola, Florida May 30th, 2014.

This rain event was worse than what Hurricane Ivan did to the area a few years back. This kind of rainfall is unprecedented without a hurricane. Interestingly, these same storms originated in the Midwest and swept through Arkansas producing tornadoes. By the time the storms reached us in Pensacola, Florida we were inundated with torrential rainfall. The storms then left our area and tore through the East Coast leaving a path of destruction there also. For more photos and information about this major rain event go to WEAR ABC 3 News, Pensacola’s Facebook page to see the damage totals, or visit WEAR ABC 3 News at http://www.weartv.com/.

fog-in-am.jpg

Foggy Pensacola, Florida morning

Super Solid Granny Square

Joys Of Creating

While blog surfing I came across a blog called ‘Sparkly Toad’. I was so happy to see that Julie has made a pattern for a solid granny square. I’ve always wanted one, but never found one.

I was so excited about it that I spent the afternoon working with the pattern. Julie did quite a good job on the pattern, but I had a hard time getting round 4 to work out. I didn’t have enough stitches in round 3 to accommodate the pattern and make the four corners. It’s possible it was just me not reading the pattern right. I do have that problem sometimes. It took awhile, but I worked out a bit of a different formula and was able to get round 4 to turn out right.

For the complete pattern please visit:
Super Solid Granny Square at Sparkly Toad

Julie contacted me and sure it enough…

View original post 112 more words

HAPPY EARTH DAY!

earth-day

4/22/14 Image from: http://blog.ereach.com/cincinnati/files/2014/04/earth-day.jpg

Easter has now passed and the weather is heating up in Pensacola, Florida.  The time is right, as spring slowly slips from cool windy days, into moisture laden foggy mornings, into warm sunny afternoons.  Twice this weekend, at 1:00 a.m., I was awakened to the shrill callings of one of our resident mocking birds.  I am convinced that the moonlight bewitched him into thinking it was time to awaken.  Just like that irritating bird call so early in the morning, spring has thrust itself upon us. My garden is heeding the call of spring also.  The grandkid’s spaghetti squash, peppers, and tomatoes are all growing at a rapid pace.  However, after last week’s rain storms totaling close to 9 inches of rain, I decided I had to do something to contain the soil in the garden by the shed.  The rain pours off the roof of the shed and gouges out the soil, which then floats over the bricks lining the bed.

soil erosion

As you can see, the rich soil has eroded away, leaving the sandy soil to come to the top of the garden bed.  To remedy this situation, my husband and I installed a plastic gutter to direct the rainfall into a containment pot at the far end of the shed.  I can then reuse the rain water to water the plants growing in this space. Our soil in Northwest Florida is reddish brown in color.  My particular soil contains clay and sand which is normal for the area.  The University of Florida Extension Office in Pensacola, Florida at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/vh021 will give you additional insight into amending your soil depending upon what you are growing.  It is a good idea to visit the extension office in your area.  Most, will test your soil at no charge and tell you which amendments you need to add to have a successful garden. In this particular garden site I added at least 5 bags of compost which I worked into the native soil.  I will need to add a few more bags to adjust for the soil that has eroded into my grass from the violent rain storms.  I will work the compost into the area with a shovel, mixing it with the native soil.  In addition, I will use a trowel to work in the compost around the plants that are already growing.  I don’t want to disturb their active root systems to keep them healthy. This should remedy the erosion problem in this garden area.  If this does not work, I might add another layer of bricks glued to the existing layer with construction glue to insure that the soil stays put in this garden.  After the next rains, I will update the condition of this garden site to see if our improvements have solved the problem. My shade garden is responding to the warmer temperatures also. I worked compost into this garden section last week and the Hosta (Plantain Lilies), Calla lilies, and Liriope are growing at a rapid pace.  The addition of a hummingbird feeder has given us a spectacular view from inside the patio of our tiny bird neighbors.

shade garden

This shade garden receives sunlight in the morning hours. My granddaughter harvested her first strawberry on Easter from the plants that she planted herself.  That is what this gardening adventure is all about. Working with your hands and reaping the reward of your harvest.  I don’t know of a better way to celebrate Earth Day than this!  Happy Gardening!

Savanna 1st strawberry

THE AFTERMATH OF YET ANOTHER STORM…


4.14.14 storm

It happened again! Torrential rainfall, 50 mph winds, thunder, and lightening! We had thunder and lightning for at least 4 hours straight. Our backyard flooded from the rapid rainfall. My rain gauge showed 5 inches of rain from last night’s storm. Our newscaster said we received as much as 6 inches of rain! And, I was worried about my centipede grass getting enough water!

rain gauge 4.14.14

At one point last night, I could see the water flooding over my patio. It was raining so hard that the force of the water literally knocked over the brick border around my patio and pushed the bark chips out into the yard. Soil flooded from my gardens into the grass.

bricks after storm

Today, the cold front has pressed eastward and our temperatures have plummeted. Yesterday, we were a balmy 78 degrees. Today, we find ourselves at a windy 53 degrees. In areas north of us there is a freeze watch and warning in effect. It is April right? Once again Mother Nature shows us who is in charge.
As our weather all over the world continues to spiral out of control, we as gardeners must try to have some semblance of order. It becomes necessary to protect our plants from the harshness of the current conditions, whatever they may be. In the case of my garden, I do not face a threat of frost tonight and have moved my tomatoes closer in towards the covered patio to protect them from the harshness of the cold. Most of the seeds that my grandchildren planted can be replaced so I will not worry about those.
The newest addition to my garden is a lovely Persian lime tree that I planted in a large pot that resides in the sun on the patio. This too, I moved so that the petite tree is protected from the cold. The prediction is 38 degrees tonight for my area so I do not have many concerns for freezing.

Persian Lime tree
Persian Limes or Tahiti Limes are small trees only growing to about 20 feet in height. This tree will have a dense canopy with dark green leaves that will hang to the ground loaded with those tiny green gems. My intention is to keep it in a pot for as long as I can. Then I will transplant it in our backyard. To learn about Persian Limes go to the University of Florida website at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/ch093 .

“Gardening Basics,” from HGTV at http://www.hgtv.com/landscaping/preparing-for-a-frost/index.html  gives some excellent suggestions for preparing your gardens for a possible frost event, whether it is spring or fall.
Here in Pensacola, Florida we even have to prepare our plants for harsh summer sun, humidity, and high temperatures. “Eartheasy,” a gardening blog found at http://eartheasy.com/blog/2012/07/how-to-protect-your-garden-during-a-heat-wave/ explains what to do for your plants during a heat wave. One of the most obvious protections is to lay a mulch layer around your plants. I have not done this before but I am considering placing a layer of pine straw in the garden near the shed to help with the moisture loss from the hot sun.

4.11.14 azaleas
The azaleas in my neighborhood appear to grow wild. The temporary cold weather does not appear to affect them. These bushes have become homes for many birds and wildlife I see in the area. Their florescent colors let everyone know that spring has officially arrived in the area.

The swamps near my home are awakening too. I can see leaves sprouting on the trees submerged in the murky water. Green algae have formed a thick scum on the swamp. The deep bass sounds of frogs are evident in the mornings.

Spring Swamp

After this cold front moves through I will work in the garden again. There are weeds to pick, and I want to experiment with a do-it-yourself compost container. Then, there is the issue of the rainwater draining off of the shed roof onto the garden below and eroding away all the soil. Time for a gutter! You always have plenty to do in a garden!

Midweek Fizzle

Midweek Fizzle…
 
Another busy gardening day took place here in Pensacola, Florida this past weekend.  My grandchildren were around to help with the planting.  They were so excited to see the progress of the seeds they had planted.  Of course, rain was threatening again so we worked quickly and were able to get the job done before the thunder and lightning started.
Asiatic lilies and spaghetti squash
In the main garden area off the newly painted shed, I planted 2 Asiatic lilies, called “Tiny Todd.”  This is one of my favorite of the lilies for their pale delicate colors. Perenials.com has an excellent description of the plant and its habitat at http://www.perennials.com/plants/lilium-tiny-todd.html
My grandson grew the spaghetti squash (Calabaza) by seed.  He was amazed at how quickly the seeds grew.  My idea is to let them grow up the garden trellis so they have some major support for the heavy squash. This is my first time growing them, so we will check in occasionally and see how they fare in the hot Florida sun.
The Pepper Forest
The grandkids and I decided we would plant a pepper forest.  We have done that before in other gardens and the peppers seem to like the closeness.  We planted red, green, yellow banana, and Thai varieties of pepper that I purchased from Home Depot.
Thai Peppers
Thai peppers grow upside down and are one of the hottest peppers on earth. They dry well and I use them to season many of my stir fries.  Believe me they are so hot that a little goes a long way.  The website, “Homegrown Peppers,” http://www.homegrown-peppers.com/chile-pepper/growing-thai-hot-peppers/  is a great start to researching how to grow all your various kinds of peppers.  Peppers of all kinds do well in Pensacola’s humid hot conditions.
As I have said before, I like to incorporate my veggies in with other plants and garden areas.  My particular backyard is rather shady so I try to make use of all of my gardens according to when they receive the best sunlight.  This particular garden has an Azalea named, “George L. Taber,” planted (left) in it along with two perennial Duranta’s (right) called, “Golden Edge.”  Both plants are partial shade lovers so the area was perfect for them, even though this garden gets hot afternoon sun.
Azalea and Duranta (far right)
The University of Florida at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/fp509 says this is one of the best Rhododendron evergreen shrubs (azalea) for our area.  The durantas are one of my favorites because of their yellow and green color.  They will break up the backdrop hedges of solid green and bring some contrast to the area. This site, the San Marcos Growers at http://www.smgrowers.com/products/plants/plantdisplay.asp?plant_id=2993 has all the information you need about this versatile plant.
Since the azalea and the duranta are young this year, I decided that this garden area could accommodate one of my grandson’s zucchini plants that he grew from seed. Zucchini is one of my favorite vegetables and I eat them daily.  If you can grow your own you will save quite a bit of money on your grocery bills.  
Zucchini grow quite large and spread all over so I am experimenting with an idea to support the leaves with a tomato cage.  I found this idea on Pintrest from the Clever, Crafty, Cookin’ Mama at http://www.clevercraftycookinmama.com/2013/05/growing-zucchini-in-small-spaces.html#.UztEzPldWSp.  More to follow on that idea later.
Zucchini are prolific and I went to an organic gardening website to learn what I could about this hearty vegetable at http://www.organicgardening.com/learn-and-grow/zucchini-growing-guide.  Last summer, I planted too late and my young plants were eaten by the hoards of insects that seem to inhabit our area.  I will provide updates on all my gardening areas through the seasons.
I hear the buzzer on my washing machine going off.  That means I am on to the next chore.  See you tomorrow. 

BUSY WEEK – HAPPY APRIL!

HAPPY APRIL to everyone!
What a week I had! We painted our old shed and made it look brand new. It is not all the way finished yet but here are the stunning results:
4/1/14 Before view of shed
4/1/14 After view of shed… still a work in progress
It seems like in Pensacola, Florida you are always up against the weather.  We applied two coats of an exterior semi gloss paint that is mildew resistant.  With the humidity here there is no way you will not have to deal with mold and mildew.
I had to prep the shed by washing it down with a siding cleaner I purchased from Home Depot.  I used a scrubbie sponge mop and cleaned all 4 sides of the shed.  I let that dry overnight, and it was on to painting the next day. I am pleased with the results and the color compliments our house perfectly.
 
In between painting, I purchased some additional plants to add to our patio garden.  It is predominantly in the shade and gets a few hours of morning light. The picture below shows the light and location.
I gathered some supplies and plant purchases which added some much needed color and texture to the area with some Cala Lilies shown below.
Betterlawns.com at this site http://betterlawns.com/April02/blg_5a.asp  explains that these lilies grow from rhizomes.  This means they do not grow from a bulb but instead they grow from a horizontal stem.
The HGTV website at http://www.hgtv.com/landscaping/understanding-bulbs-corms-rhizomes-and-tubers/index.html says, “Ginger, bamboo and irises grow in this way.”  Cana lilies grow well in Pensacola however, I will cover them this winter so they will return next spring.
I planted a Boston fern in a pot on a stand at the far corner of the patio garden to add some height to the area.  We had a fern there last year and it was spectacular in filling up that area.  Boston ferns love humidity and love this particular spot in my garden.  A great site for fern information is SF Homes at http://homeguides.sfgate.com/care-ferns-hanging-pots-31694.html .  They offer information on ferns for inside and out of your house.
To the left of the fern, is a Plantain Lily or a hosta.  Plantain Lilies (hostas) love the shade.  They are easy to grow and this particular one has long stems of lavender flowers that the humming birds love.  Once the plant reaches that stage I will post more pictures.  The Ohio State Extension Service has one of the best sites I have seen about hostas at http://ohioline.osu.edu/hyg-fact/1000/1239.html .
In front of the fern are two Liriope Musccari ground cover plants.  This plant will have shoots of lavender/purple flowers that the bees and humming birds will adore.   The Missouri Botanitical Garden at http://www.missouribotanicalgarden.org/PlantFinder/PlantFinderDetails.aspx?kempercode=l100 says, “Liriopes tolerates heat, humidity and drought. Foliage is evergreen in the deep South, but can turn brown considerably in cold St. Louis winters.”  Here in Pensacola we were pretty cold this past winter. I believe I will make sure that all my planting areas are covered with pine straw to help with the cold.
This last section of the patio shade garden contains strawberry plants and three day lilies.  My granddaughter, Savanna, loves strawberries so I let her plant these plants.  I am not sure how they will do with the birds but we will learn as we grow.
Well, it’s Friday so that means the thunderstorms are rolling into Pensacola again.  The humidity is over 85% and the temperature is hovering around 75 degrees.  I am off to rescue seedlings from the approaching storm.

The Cleanup After the Storm

The Cleanup after the Storm
The storm that hit Pensacola and the surrounding area on Friday and Saturday morning was a real soaker.  Thunder rumbled here in the wee hours, however I awakened to a brilliant blue sky.  Here in Northwestern Florida we got just shy of 3 ½ inches of rain!  Not a bad way to start the grass growing.
 
 
I cleaned up the backyard and surveyed the damage.  The tree hedge between our yard and the neighbor’s horse field lost a couple of large branches that the wind knocked down.  My tomatoes in pots on the patio weathered the storm well. No damage there.
Our centipede grass is still semi dormant and the cool temperatures have hindered its growth. We are currently using “Trugreen” as our fertilizer and weed control service to get the grass up to par.  The previous owners relied on rainfall as the main watering component for their lawn care.  This allowed the grass to struggle and weeds took over in many areas.  As with any gardening project, the lawn is a work in progress.  Our backyard looks much healthier than the front lawn.
Centipede grass is an interesting grass. It adapts to rough soil conditions and is used in abundance throughout the Southern states.  It does not grow well in alkaline soils or dry regions such as our Western United States.  In addition, centipede grass does not do well in the cold.  That could be one reason our grass is looking so poorly, as we had many days and nights hovering at or below freezing this winter.
I found a website called, “Aggie Horticulture,” at http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/archives/parsons/turf/publications/centipede.html that explains everything you want to know about this type of grass.
The Aggie Horticulture site says, Centipede grass, Eremochloa ophiuroides  (Munro) Hack, is a coarse-textured perennial grass that spreads by stolons. The stolons have a creeping growth habit with rather short upright stems that resemble a centipede — thus, the name centipede grass. Centipede grass remains green throughout the year in mild climates, but leaves and young stolons are killed during hard freezes. It does not have a true dormant state and resumes growth whenever temperatures are favorable.”
 
As I said our lawn is a real work in progress, and is part of my beautiful garden.  It pays to do your research and incorporate lawn care into your garden plans.

What Comes Next in the Garden?

IN THE MEANTIME… What do you do when the weather won’t let you out to play in your garden? 

I woke up this morning to the sound of rain gently falling on my roof. The drain spout at the back corner of the house is near my bed. I could hear the rain and the drip, drip, dripping of the water through the gutter. Such bliss… I snuggled back into my comforter, even though I had other plans in the garden today. It was so dark at 8:00 am this morning that our street lights were still on. I knew that did not bode well, so I grabbed a cup of coffee and stared out the back patio watching birds of all kinds mill around the bird feeder.

The wind increased and thunder rumbled through the dark skies. Strobe light flashes of lightening sliced through my thoughts. No gardening today for me. No problem, because being retired means you plan your day your way. I have always found things to do to occupy my time, and doing crafts has always been a great way to spend time when I can’t play in the dirt.

I started crocheting with thread over 30 years ago. My mother and grandmother (I think most of the women in my family crocheted) both crocheted doilies. I wanted to take up the craft to carry on the tradition, as both women are now deceased. What a joy it was to have a craft that was unusual in our modern times. Plus the cost for the crochet hooks and thread were in my budget too! Cheap!

This is a piece I am currently working on called, “In the Vineyard,” by Alice Gundel. I found this pattern in the magazine, “Magic Crochet,” December 1997, Number 111, page 12 and 13. This technique is called filet crochet. If you are interested in learning this type of crochet, I found a great filet crochet tutorial on Youtube at:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_s3L73m8W9o .

I think I will stay inside and work on my crochet since the rain is still coming down in buckets. The National Weather Service in Mobile, AL has posted severe thunderstorm warnings, flood warnings, and costal flood warnings for the area. It is a good day to stay inside, snuggle with my dogs, and crochet.

Gulf Coast March storm, 3/28/14, from the National Weather Service Facebook page at www.facebook.com.

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