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February 28, 2012

Growing Small Grains in Florida - Update

Late January I seeded some Flax and Barley as an experiment on growing small grains in Florida. This was my first time ever trying to grow these unusual vegetables. With little to lose I devoted about forty square feet of my garden to these grains. To my surprise and pleasure, both are doing extremely well so far. Here's flax:

Flax is an interesting plant. It is very upright and grows in a small footprint leaving a rosette of leaves behind. I think it is ready to set buds and flowers, at least that's how it looks to me from this close-up. Granted, it takes about three months to get to harvest, and we are only at the end of month one.

Here's the wall of barley. Another sturdy plant, it likes moisture and cool temperatures. The ones at the south edge of the bed are yellowing out a bit, but the rest are doing pretty well.

I also threw down a handful of bird-seed mix. I did not bother to remove the sunflower seeds from the mix and was punished for my laziness. Sunflowers overpowered every other plant in the mix, so now I basically have just a sunflower crop. But that is not a big issue, I will see how these sunflowers produce. I read somewhere that people who have bird feeders always have "free" sunflowers growing. That is not a bad problem to have.

In any event, even though it is not a tradition to grow grains in Florida, it might work on a small scale to produce organic low-gluten grain for food, as well as good compost material from their leaves and stems.

February 23, 2012

Medicinal herbs in Florida garden

I have to admit, I am a seed junkie; there is no cure. All my garden space is already spoken for, but I am continuing starting new seeds. And if that was not so bad, I am continuing to buy new seeds. Recently, I received a Bountiful Gardens catalog and just had to order some more seeds. Among others, two medicinal herbs caught my attention. First, calendula. It is a beautiful orange flower that attracts pollinators to the garden, as well as dry flowers make aromatic tea that is supposed to be anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal, anti-bacterial and fever-reducing. Sounds like a perfect tea for a cold. I seeded calendula in a nursery container, and a short two weeks later replanted them into the individual cups. The seedlings are very sturdy, so it looks like they would do well direct seeded into the garden:

The next herb is Black Cumin. According to the ancient wisdom, it "cures everything but death". Now, how can you resist planting something like that. The seeds are what you consume to cure everything, so it sounds like an ideal spice, aromatic and health-promoting. These seeds took about ten days to come up, they are not ready to be replanted yet, so I would say, it takes quite a few seeds to direct seed into the garden because there will be losses.

And finally, just by accident, reading an article in Mother Earth magazine, I learned that there is a strain of Hibiscus that if brewed into tea, is a blood pressure lowering agent. Who can resist that! I ordered these seeds from Amazon and seeded them tonight into the nursery container. They like warmish temperature, so now is a perfect time to plant them. These are supposed to be annual, we shall see. In Florida though, annuals might become perennials if not killed by frost.

Now, the best part about herbs and flowers is that they don't have to be planted in a separate part of the garden, but rather inter planted with other vegetable crops. Doing it this way promotes pollination, attracts beneficial insects and beautifies the garden. It's a win-win.

February 5, 2012

What can we plant in February in Florida

What cannot we? Seriously, I am not kidding.

If you are a beginner at gardening, consider yourself lucky. Anything you throw at your soil will grow. Forget about warm season - cold season rules, just plant and it will reward your efforts with some awesome fruit. If you are a veteran, and want to experiment with a new type of vegetable or a new variety, plant away, it will be forgiving and cooperative. February and March are our paradise. This is when we think we live in a no-fault all-success garden heaven. But let's go back to the earthly rules for a minute.

Warm season vegetables: tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant should be seeded by now. In South Florida it is too late to start these from seed, you will have to buy transplants. In Central and Northern Florida we still have the last call of seeding our tomatoes for the Summer harvest. I seeded my tomatoes about a month ago, and have transplanted them into the individual cups already:

Now, man cannot live on tomatoes alone, so I am keeping seeding my herbs, broccoli, lettuce and other short-bearing cold season vegetables throughout February.

You can seed directly into the garden these vegetables: corn, beans, cucumbers, squash, radish, okra, potatoes, broccoli, and any of the short season varieties of cabbage, carrot, beet, onion and herbs. Just make sure you keep the ground moist and apply plenty of fertilizer, and you practically cannot go wrong.

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