Monday, September 30, 2013

Miracles Are Afoot

This is the season I love the most. I always have. It's not quite as wonderful as fall in Ohio or Michigan, when the leaves are set aflame in those vibrant autumnal hues. And though there really is no chill in the air here, no anticipation of days wrapped in lovely sweaters ahead, we have begun the gradual slide into tolerable temperatures. And unlike in the North, now is the time that we gardeners can really get outside and start our fall vegetable gardens. It has put me in a rather poetic mood. I find myself quoting Keats out in the garden as I dismantle the bean supports and reconfigure them into structures for cucumbers. Of course, it's "To Autumn" that springs most to mind:

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness!
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eaves run;
To bend with apples the moss'd cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For Summer has o'er-brimm'd their clammy cells.

I'm preparing to be loaded and blessed, so I'm hard at work, just as our now beloved bees are. 

A dream realized. Bees have called my garden their home.

The fig tree is allowing me to imagine the possibility of one pot of homemade fig jam.

Figs all around

Another beautiful, miraculous pineapple has started its journey toward my dessert plate.

Our third pineapple is on its way

I've grown three varieties of tomatoes from seed, nursed them along in the house, hardened them off outside, and now planted them in their own outdoor bed. 

I've built a new contraption for the tomatoes.
Another experiment in growing.

I've filled a bed with beet, rainbow carrot, and radish seeds. The radishes have already started to appear, just two days later.

Radish rows popping up

And the watermelon and cantaloupe plants seem to be coming along nicely.

My first attempt at baby watermelons

I have so much more work to do. There's still lettuce and peas and broccoli and other things to get in, but the vegetable garden is beginning to take on new life, which always feels a little backward to me. Autumn in Florida feels very much like spring, a time of rebirth. Hopefully for those of you who are beginning to put your gardens to bed, the coming months in my garden will provide some welcome green.

The beginning...again

Monday, September 16, 2013

A Retrospective

I've just returned from a mini vacation, and unfortunately, during that visit, my DSLR suffered a rather tragic accident. The bag it was in fell from a hook. Though the camera was in a cushioned wrap, it seems the mirrors have been knocked loose. (I pause for the gasps of horror now.) I have to admit that I'm in mourning over the camera. I tried to shake it off, but it has troubled me since Saturday and continues through today. Since I won't likely be able to fix it for quite a while, I will have to resort to my old camera.

So I've decided to post a few photos of the garden that I haven't used before, taken by my beloved Nikon D3100. I promise to pull myself together for next week's post. And fear not, I'm not depressed or anything. I'm just not ready to pick up the old camera yet.

Lonicera (Honeysuckle) at night

The New Dawn rose in bloom

The brightest jewel in the garden, Miss Tippy

My old Olympus will provide photos next week, and I'm certain it will be up to the challenge.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Regeneration and Other Miracles

To begin, I must admit that I have swiped the first part of this week's title from a brilliant novel by Pat Barker. For penance, I simply urge you to read it.

For the last two years, both my plumeria and my fig tree have been plagued by rust fungus. They get those orange powdery mounds on the undersides of their leaves, and though I spray Neem oil faithfully, they eventually defoliate. This year, thanks to the persistent rain, the fig tree had two types of fungus, and most of the developing fruit fell off the tree before it could fully ripen. I was a little heart sick from it, particularly since I had spent last winter trying to protect the fig tree from another year of attack. As the leaves began to wither on both specimens, I decided there was nothing to do but accept defeat.

And then, both plants seemed to say that they were not going down without a fight, that they would fight back. While leaves fell off, more fresh ones began to break through. As of today, there is virtually no sign of illness on the fig tree. Several new figs are already growing. It's as if the horrible summer of fungus never happened.

The fig's new lease on life

The plumeria still has a fight on its hands, but it looks so much healthier than it did last year. And considering that it has moved all over the country with me, beginning as a wax-covered cutting I purchased in Hawaii in 2002, living in several pots, over-wintering in basements, and now ending up here in massive form, I'm pretty pleased with it.

Doing its best to hide the ugly pool pump

As for miracles, well, I never win anything. Ever. Imagine my sheer delight when I miraculously won a $50 gift certificate while participating in a Twitter garden chat (Monday nights, 9pm ET, #gardenchat). Weeks Roses sponsored the giveaway and made my year when they sent me a gift certificate to a local independent nursery that I love, Apenberry's. I tried very desperately to hide my glee while picking out plants (and fish fertilizer) that would be free to me. Here's just a sampling of what that money did for my garden (but there really is tons more).

A little infusion of raspberry to the garden

What of the bees from last week, you may ask? Well, honestly, Turfman and I are like little kids when it comes to the bees. We're constantly going out to check on them. We report their comings and goings to one another throughout the day. We are a bit like Tippy at Christmas, who loves presents so much that we often find her under the tree, lying on top of them. No matter how many times we tell her that Santa won't come if she acts so greedy, she simply crawls further under the tree.

Santa's #1 fan

And so it is with us and the bees. They are fewer in number, it seems, but we still hope that they will build a home. My hope is especially fervent because I'd love to have their pollination skills in the fall vegetable garden. Perhaps I may be due another miracle?

Our beloved bees

Monday, September 2, 2013

A Swarm of Amazing Sights

Plenty of times throughout the year, someone could argue that I'm taking this whole Florida gardening thing a little too far. After all, it sort of consumes me. I have an addiction to seed and plant catalogs, something the companies themselves clearly know, since they seem to send an endless stream of their publications to me. I have subscriptions to The English Garden and Gardens Illustrated, and I demand a reverent silence when I first gently open the cover of an issue when it arrives, handling it like I would a precious first edition copy of Pride and Prejudice.

When Jeff Lowenfels' Teaming with Nutrients arrived on my doorstep (thanks to my friendly UPS delivery man), I skipped to the door, exclaiming happily to my sister-in-law, "Oh, I know what this is!" When I opened the box and she saw the what it was, she just rolled her eyes and said, "Sheesh. You really do like this stuff."

I have gardening books all over the house. I replay gardening shows on my computer, often merely for soothing background noise. Parts of the house smell a little tangy at times when I'm bringing up seedlings and feeding them my homemade compost tea.

I am a woman obsessed.

One might ask why I can't get gardening out of my mind. Well, I think my garden has offered up quite a lot of convincing evidence this week in my defense.

Turfman caught sight of this on Thursday

And it became this by today.

It almost looks like Woody Woodpecker now

I happened to look out of the kitchen window this morning just when a flurry of flying activity began around the lime tree. Turns out I was witnessing a honey bee swarm. 

Here they are, and now they seem to be building a hive!

And the miniature Toad Lilies are in full bloom now. 

The Matsukaze Toad Lily

Now, really, why wouldn't I be obsessed?