Monday, June 23, 2014

Garden Withdrawal

Well, folks, this is the last post from the Florida garden. By this time next week, we'll have already unpacked the bulk of our possessions and started settling into our new home in Georgia. I thought I might have regrets or feel the tug of a place that we have called home for the last four years. But we are decidedly moving forward, so the unraveling of my garden here has been quite easy for me. In fact, I've enjoyed deciding which plants and items should come along with me and which I should leave behind.

Things are starting to look a little stark around here. I've bequeathed my pomegranate bush to my neighbor across the street. I wished her many fruitful years with it, and I didn't ask her to pardon my pun.

The pomegranate loaded with fruit

I've been able to pickle my jalapeƱos and my pepperoncini. I'm waiting until Tuesday night to pickle a jar of cherry bell peppers because a few more are ripening at the moment. It will be nice to pull one of these jars off the shelf in Georgia one day and with the thwack of the seal popping, open my Florida garden one last time.

I was worried about forgetting any of my various creatures who inhabit my garden, so I started staging them in one place for the packers. Once I had them all together, I realized they looked like a police lineup. I'm pretty sure whatever crime has been committed, the gnome on the turtle is to blame (though the ant looks a little suspicious, too).

The usual suspects

We've dismantled the bean arches in the vegetable garden and emptied all of the pots and planters in preparation for the packers who arrive in just two days. It all looks so different.

The blue pot and armillary are gone

The shed dismantled, the rain barrel removed

No more fountain, and the swing awaits

Next week's post might be a little abbreviated, just a few photos of the new space. With 5 acres in my future, though, the garden adventures are certain to continue for quite some time.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Short on Time, Heavy on Fruit

We are now in countdown mode for the move. In 17 days, we will be pulling away from the house here. I've been doing my best to lift what plants can make the move with us, but we will be leaving so many things behind. Most of them have put on a significant amount of fruit, and I've been out every morning to give them verbal and liquid (water) encouragement. I had such great hopes that I could harvest some portion of the bounty that is in the garden, but it looks like we're going to run out of time. Since the new owners aren't interested in the garden, I fear it all may go to waste.

I'm trying not to fret about the fruit.

The pomegranate, which struggled in its first two years, is a little out of control now. I've made arrangements for a neighbor to adopt it, so at least I can relax about that one. I know she'll take great care of it and enjoy those juicy seeds it's developing.

This little gem needs about a month more

These will take quite a bit longer

The lime tree is weighed down by a full crop of fruit, which I suspect might be its last season since it has finally succumbed to the citrus greening that has been wiping out all of the citrus in Florida. I'm sorry I won't be able to fill my baskets to overflowing with these again.

Too small for picking

The fig tree has long been a source of frustration for me. It taunts me every season by putting on tons of those little balloons of sweetness and then getting a rust fungus and dropping all of the fruit too soon. This year, thanks to the drought, I've been spared the disappointment of rust, but I'm still being teased by that tree. It's been covered in at least a hundred fruits for a couple of months, but they have not changed size or color in all that time. I'm beginning to think that they'll all be perfect a day after we leave. All I ever wanted was one jar of fig preserves. One jar. Happily, I took a cutting of this thing, and it's already rooted, so its offspring can continue abusing me in Georgia. 

Thou wast not born for preserves, infuriating fig!

Finally, my pineapples have been growing steadily, but they won't be ready for picking for another couple of months. For me, this is the most heartbreaking bit of leaving the garden. Each pineapple takes a year and a half to appear, then another six months to grow and ripen, so the taste of incredibly sweet and juicy fruit in my mouth just minutes after cutting it off of the plant is the reward for the long wait. Now someone else will enjoy the sweet taste of my garden success. I am so tempted to dig up one and take it with me. 

I have my eye on the small one to the right...

I have time to make two more posts from the garden in Florida, and then a new adventure begins in Georgia…on 5 acres. Stay tuned. It should get pretty interesting.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

The Economy of Gardening

"And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things"
-- Gerard Manley Hopkins, "God's Grandeur"

For anyone who has recently visited a local plant nursery and considered a large plant purchase, you may think that this week's update will be a lamentation on the great expense of gardening. There are times, especially when we are a little impatient, when gardening can be rather taxing on the wallet, indeed. When we want the landscape to look completely filled in, what we pay for at the nursery is the grower's time so as not to spend much of our own. But this week is all about how inexpensive gardening actually can be if we dedicate the time to nurturing a plant to its full maturity.

For those of you who think you have no free time, please don't stop reading. I'm not asking for much, and you may just be surprised.

My neighbors regularly stop to sing the praises of my Gaillardia to me. Oh, how they all wish they had some in their own gardens! A reasonably sized plant can be had for $7 or so. I purchased a packet of seeds three years ago for $1.19. Out of that packet, I raised about 10 plants, some of which I gave to friends.

The sunny flowers of Gaillardia

Here in Florida, those plants have never been without blooms, no matter the time of year. I've tried to tell all the neighbors who covet my plants to pull off the dried heads from the flowers and get some seeds for themselves. They all look at me as if I have three eyes. So rather than them benefitting, my garden continues to grow those wonderful plants on their own because I let them drop their seeds and continue their life cycle. $1.19 spent three years ago has yielded countless plants, and the only time they require from me is my deadheading them every two weeks for five minutes. If deadheading sounds boring, please visit this post.

I purchased two Canna bulbs two years ago. Two for $10. Here's what one of the bulbs has produced, but I have to confess this is one half of the story. I've lifted the other half to take with me to my new home. 

Canna colonizing the front beds

The mass that has been created by those two bulbs is so significant that I've decided I can lift more without creating any noticeable holes in the planting bed. The only thing I've ever done to help these plants is cut down the dead stalks at the end of the winter, which amounts to 10 minutes of my time. 

Am I winning you over yet?

I can't tell you how much joy the Vincas in the garden have given Turfman over the years. They appeared on their own one day, including one plant in the strip between the sidewalk and the street, which Turfman carefully mowed around for a year before it went to seed. He often spoke proudly of his "tuft of flowers" that he was protecting in his beloved lawn. They were always the dark pink you see in the photo, but a few months ago, the white ones appeared. Time spent cultivating these? None. Cost? Free.

The swathe of free flowers

For those of you who would prefer not to grow from seed and would rather go to the nursery, then here's another tip. Many containers of plants have more than one plant in them. Look for individual stems coming out of the pot. If you find them, you can divide the plants when you get home. I purchased a Salvia a couple of months ago at the nursery for $8. It had three plants in the one container. I divided them before planting, which gave them the space to expand quickly. Now they fill an entire corner.

My mass of pink Salvia

I may be preaching to the choir about this, and I can imagine a few gardeners' heads nodding in assent. For those of you who are considering gardening or are relatively new to it, I can offer you one more cost- and time-saving piece of advice. Make friends with a gardener. It will do you a world of good, and since we're notoriously generous, you'll likely get quite a few plants to help you get started for free.