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

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Demo Garden Update August 2015

It's time for our yearly demo garden/rainy season update on what we are growing to share. And also just because with the onset of rainy season (late and sporadic) everything is looking gorgeous! This is the mid-season range of our rainy season (normally) and Miami takes on a tropical feel and look. Hot, humid and rainy we are most like a tropical rain forest at this time. And everything on the other side of your front door responds.

Enjoy this gift of green abundance and also be aware that we are a sub-tropical region and the dry season rules 7 months of the year. Not to worry, there are many many plants that grow here both native and Florida-Friendly that will thrive in the dry season as well.

The key to  beautiful, sustainable Florida-Friendly Landscaping is knowing more about what plants will grow where you live and what they need. For those that have not yet discovered the joy of gardening as well as the benefits of fresh air and exercise, knowing more about plants may seem a daunting task. All avid gardeners started somewhere. Start here and now with contact with your local Extension Office!

Enjoy as we tempt you outside despite the heat.........

The small  butterfly garden in the employee parking area got a clean up and a new sculpture. We also added another cool ground cover that is both a larval host and nectar plant, Phyla nodiflora is a larval host for the not commonly encountered common buckeye butterfly. This one from my home garden was a little shy when it first arrived, I did not get close enough to identify the sex. The best thing about growing the phyla? We rescued it from the lawn here at the Extension Office!

Phyla nodiflora could be an alternative to turf. It loves our rainy season but not sure if it will stand up to the drier than normal seasons with rising temperatures that we are tending towards.

The entrance to the shadehouse had really become overgrown. The older hand made bamboo trellis was completely hidden and could not support the weight of the imperiled native Passiflora pallens, (we still have seeds to share).

A lot of vision and even more elbow grease cleaned up an unused trellis from a friends garden. Thank you Chris Rollins!                                             

The next big project....                                                                                                                           The potting and composting area.We just need to stop and construct a potting table, unless anyone has one they are not using.......p.s. the Solidago leavenworthii will recover and we will be sharing with Natural Areas Management and Urban Paradise Guild.

Hard to believe this mass of Justicia brandegeeana grew from a few cuttings. We will be starting new plants to share from cuttings soon. I will always remember this plant survived Hurricane Wilma in my home garden and was there as a nectar source for the hummingbirds that also survived! The cuttings were from that same home garden patch.It is great to be able to test a plant before recommending it.

Even with the need for a new potting table, the view with the morning sun as a back drop is a refreshing way to start the work day.

My favorite part of Hibiscus acetosella to eat? The young tender leaves! Exceptionally tasty with a local Florida avocado. We have more than 50 seedlings to pot up to share.

Food for pollinators.We have doubled our efforts to plant nectar source plants since attending the Imperiled Butterflies of Florida Workgroup (IBWG) last year. A new addition to shadehouse is two "mother" plants of Croton linearis , larval host plant for both Bartam's Hairstreak and Florida Leafwing butterflies which have been federally registered as endangered.
And we have larval host plant Senna ligustrina and nectar plant Salvia coccinea ready to share with neighborhood residents at next weeks Gratingy Plateau Park's First Anniversary Celebration. 

Thank you everyone for your efforts to save our water resources, see you at Deering Estate in August and September!