Monday, December 21, 2015

Blues in the Garden

Do you have blues in the garden in the dry season? Wondering what you should do with your blooming plants, should you fertilize, will it get too cold or warm or wet or dry???? And the big question, how to get more color for the holidays without planting annuals that will wilt in the heat of March/April?

Garden masters are always thinking ahead, planting today what will flower or fruit in the future. Not to worry if you are just starting to get a taste of the gardening bug, your skills will grow as you explore a whole new world. Let's take a moment to look at blues in the garden, the color blue, and some of the lowest maintenance landscape plants that bloom true and blue in the dry season.

Jacquemontia Pentanthos or Skyblue Clustervine is listed as native to the Florida Keys but my first sight of this plant was 20 years ago at Jumby Bay, St. Johns Island, Antigua. I was on a construction sight meeting with the project architect and could not keep my focus on selecting wood molding trims. Looking thru the window openings to the vivid blue Caribbean sky and aqua/blue water beyond there lay another blue wonder. Growing wild in the dune scrub and covered with sulfur butterflies this sprawling vine lay scattered along the ground in many locations. Unfortunately no photos exist of my first sighting however you can enjoy the spectacular photography skills of Roger Hammer as found on the Institute for Regional Conservation's website. Follow this link for an introduction and information on how to grow this beauty.
I found both the Skyblue Clustervine and Whitemouth Dayflower at Tropical Audubon's plant sale this past November. You can also look for these at local nurseries and at Fairchild events. You may even find one on the raffle table at a Native Plant Society Meeting.

Commelina erecta/Whitemouth Dayflower.
My first siting of this plant was quite tricky. I spied a whole field of these in full blue bloom on my way to a Saturday morning class at MDC-North Campus. When I returned they were no where in site. The flowers on this native beauty actually melt by late morning. The "field" in question was a sandy, dry lot along 119th street that has now been developed. Visit the Institute for Regional Conservation's website for information of Whitemouth Dayflower.

Both of these native blues bloom most profusely in our dry winter season. So far we are experiencing a wet winter season as predicted by El Nino conditions. For information on what to expect in the garden during a strong El Nino Dr. McLaughlin has detailed problems and solutions in the fall and winter issues of Miami Green Bytes.

For more blues in the garden link to Dr. McLaughlin's (aka "the Plant Doctor") publication, "The Garden Blues and How to Enjoy Them."

And last, with El Nino rain, be sure you are using a rain sensor if you plan on using irrigation, find out why on one of the many irrigation videos produced by the UCU Team.. For rain barrel/rain water collectors, our next workshop will be Sunday, January 17th at the Doral Farmers Market.

Happy Gardening, Happy Holidays!
Barbara McAdam

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Epic Tomatoes, Black is the new green (?)and more!

 Monday morning here at the Extension Office after an all hands on deck working weekend presenting workshops and staffing our information tent for GrowFest at the Fruit and Spice Park.

But before our Monday team meeting, before we unpack the truck and before we reload the trailer with rain barrels for the next workshop, it's time to review what heirloom tomatoes we purchased for our demo garden and for the new 4-H vegetable garden at Amelia Earhart Park!                                                

I was definitely attracted to tomatoes with the word chocolate or color brown or black in their name this year, Tim's Black Ruffles, Cherokee Chocolate, Black Zebra, Brown Berry. Also in the mix a Striped German heirloom and especially for Laura and Jesus, Mexico Beefsteak- Red. The only repeat cultivar we will grow this year is Brown Berry as we explore new taste.

Feast on the photos gleamed from various sources on the internet. Some of the interesting sources for information we came across are shared below with a reminder to always check with your Local Extension Office and local growers for what grows best in your area.

Epic Tomato by Craig LeHoullier is must have for my library, in the meantime I found an excellent post on Savvy Gardening.

Black Tomatoes features flavor descriptions by experts at events like TomatoFest and TomatoMaina.

GrowFest at the Fruit & Spice Park celebrated it's 4th year and has become a perennial favorite of local food and organic food connoisseurs interested in growing their own food. It is just not possible for food to be any fresher than picking it out of your backyard and the fall/winter vegetable growing season is upon us. If you missed this event save the date for next year, it's always the 3rd weekend in October and check out some of the local sources listed below.

Food Day October 22, 2015  Will be held at the University of Miami this year, click on the link to see schedule of presentations, forums, vendors and educational vendors. We will be there with information on Rain Barrels and Irrigation Retrofit and Rebate Program funded by Miami Dade County Water & Sewer Department.

Local Food South Florida This vital website lists locations for Farmer's Markets, Farm Stores and Produce Market's from Sebastian to the Keys. CSA's/Community Supported Agriculture are listed, you can pre-order farm fresh vegetables, fruit and herbs for the season from these sources.

The list of great resources could go on but the garden calls, time to plant our heirlooms.

Reminder! We will need to protect our tender new plants from heavy winds this week in Miami Dade, we set up a wire mess hoop covered with shade cloth. Don't over water but do check to make sure plants remind just ever so slightly moist.

Happy gardening and good eating!
Barbara McAdam