Monday, January 28, 2008

Fix the garage or work in the garden

This past weekend was a typical winter weekend in South Florida, temperature in the low seventies, not a cloud in the sky, and a gentle breeze coming from the ocean. Weekends like this are the reason we put up with the heat, humidity, and mosquitoes of summer.
I had planned to work on fixing up my garage (a job that never ends) but I could not resist the call from the garden. I decided that a couple of hours Saturday morning working outside would set the tone for a great weekend.
I transplanted and divided my ground orchid getting seven plants from one. This is going to look very nice by the time summer comes around.

I cleaned out my Bromeliad bed. Every year around this time, I separate the mother plants that flowered during the year from their pups growing from the bottom of the plant.
I pruned my Lantana plant by the side of the street (I think I over did it) I am thinking of enlarging this garden bed and planting more Lantanas of different colors.
I also planted some Hollyhocks that I am growing from seeds and refreshed a few of my hanging baskets and planters with some colorful flowers that I purchased at my local nursery.
I voted (we have early voting for the Florida primary), my wife and I went to see the movie, “Atonement,” (very powerful movie and very sad, I recommend it) and yes, I was able to put in a couple of hours fixing the garage. All in all, I had a very pleasant and productive weekend.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Reducing your carbon footprint

This weekend I received a batch of spectacular photos from a friend of mine who recently visited Patagonia in southern Argentina. The title of his email was “Hurry up and take that vacation you’ve been dreaming about because these glaciers won’t be there for long.” For years my wife and I have been wanting to go to Patagonia but there never is enough time or money. Now we feel a sense of urgency to witness this paradise before global warming changes it forever.

It is safe to assume that those of us who garden as a hobby tend to be more environmentally concerned than the rest of the population since our gardens depend on Mother Nature for their successes or failures. When gardeners plant and work the earth, we make a positive contribution to our planet.

What is a Carbon Footprint?
Al Gore’s documentary, “An Inconvenient Truth” introduced us to the phrase, “carbon footprint.” A carbon footprint is the total amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases emitted over the life of a product or service. Greenhouse gasses are the gasses in the earth’s atmosphere that trap heat and contribute to global warming. Therefore, the less products and services we consume, the smaller our carbon footprint will be on our earth.

So what can we gardeners do to contribute to this worthy and immensely important endeavor? Besides continuing to work in our gardens, what changes can we make in our daily lives that will reduce our carbon footprints?

Here is my list.
1 – Cut down on driving our cars. My family and I are more conscious of how much driving we do and try to plan our trips so one outing can take care of several chores. I am trying to convince my employer to allow me to tele-commute from home twice a week.

2 – Reduce the amount of electricity used in my home. I recently changed all the light bulbs in my house to compact fluorescents. I turn off lights, fans, and any electrical equipment that is not being used, including the computer. I am also looking into installing a solar water heater. We turn off the AC when it gets cool and turn up the thermostat when it’s on. My wife bundles loads of laundry to run as few cycles as possible, always with cold water (we just invested in a super energy-efficient and water conserving washer/dryer set—boy was it expensive!!!!). Our dishwasher is never run unless it is completely full.

3 – Recycle, recycle, and recycle! In my home, we recycle everything possible, from all plastic containers, plastic bags, glass, and newspapers to used ink cartridges and old cell phones. Recently my dry cleaner began recycling hangers so I’ll be returning any I have.

4 – In the work place, I am trying to convince my co-workers to join me in being carbon-frugal. We turn lights off in rooms that are not being used and computers are off when its operators are not in. I am constantly telling my co-workers to use less paper and to reuse copy papers on both sides.

5 – The garden. I use recycled garden products when possible, like mulch given out by our local authorities (I use to buy mulch from my local Home Depot but no more). I am looking for a nursery that will accept used plastic planters (unfortunately, I haven’t found any in my area yet). I am trying to raise more of my plants from seeds and cuttings and am trying compost again (my first attempt was not very successful).

6 – I am contacting my elected officials to let them know how important this issue is to my family and me (this is the only way they’ll get behind it). Recently, our county was considering ending the weekly recycling pick up because it felt the expense did not warrant the low participation. I immediately picked up the phone and called my county commissioner and let him know how I felt. I have written to my federal congressman and senators, especially about important environmental issues here in Florida, such as offshore oil drilling and our Everglades National Park restoration plans, as well as national ones, such as saving ANWR.

7 – Lastly, education. We must educate anyone and everyone, especially our children and youth. After all, they are the ones that will inherit this mess we have created and must realize they are a critical piece of this complicated puzzle.

Every citizen of the earth has a stake in this endeavor; the urgency cannot be disputed any longer. Planet Earth hangs in the balance and we are all responsible. Won’t you join me in reducing your own carbon footprint and becoming a good steward of Planet Earth? For more information, visit “Your carbon print” web site.

Remember--the start of a long journey begins with a first step.

Patagonia's glaciers

Sunday, January 20, 2008

My Kolanchoe are doing well this winter

The weather this weekend has not been gardening weather around here. The same cold front that has the entire country in a deep freeze this weekend, has brought wind rein and temperatures in the mid fifties to South Florida. This and the fact that I have a cold and don’t feel well, put all my plans for the garden on the shelf for next week.

I took a walk in the garden this morning with my camera looking for my next post, the Kolanchoe plants stood out. Last year I purchased four plants for decorations in the patio. After the flowers died I planted them around my pond. Now they are back and the colors are more vivid than the originals.

This winter, I am buying more plants from my local nursery, I have seen other colors in white and pink.

Wikipedia has a complete interesting history of this tropical plant.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Where do Dragon Fruits come from?

Do you know what a dragon fruit is? Do you know where a dragon fruit comes from? Well don’t feel bad; until a few days ago, I didn’t know what it was either and it turns out I was growing them in my back yard!
Last week, while surfing the gardening blogosphere, I came across the Garden Views blog where I found a post about this unusual fruit. Seems the author had purchased the Dragon Fruit at her local supermarket. I realized that this was the same fruit I had picked from my Epiphyllum plant!
You all have seen pictures of my Epiphyllum Orchid Cactus (night-blooming cereus) plant. Well, the dragon fruit comes from the plant's flowers and is considered a gourmet delicacy and a nutrional powerhouse, loaded with fiber and vitamin C. After reading about the fruit and finding out that it was not going to kill me, I decided to try it. Although I found the taste bland and not my preference, I can see mixing it in a salad to add a crunchy texture and increase the nutritional benefits.
My Orchid Cactus grew from a cutting several years ago and it has taken over the remaining trunk of my dead coconut tree. Over the years it has produced hundreds of flowers but never any fruits. This year, for the first time, it gave me two fruits. I could not believe it--why now, after so many flowers? Mysteries of Mother Nature's plant world that us mere mortals will never be privy to.
I am thinking if every flower turned into a fruit, I could sell them to trendy gourmet supermarkets. This could be serious money and maybe the start of a new career for me :-)

The magnificent flowers of the orchid cactus only bloom at night and only for one night.

See below the only two fruits my plant produced this year.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

January bloom day at the DragonFly Garden

The freeze two weeks ago, left the garden lacking in color. Above is my newest resident frog.
The red Impatiens survived the cold weather because of their location in the garden.

This pink Rose is the only one that survived the freeze.

I purchased these Pansies for the first time this year. They should do well during our winter.

The Bolivian Sunset blooms this time of the year. This plant is very intrusive and if you are not careful, it will spread everywhere in the garden.

Ground Orchid in the front of my house.
The flowers of a Queen Palm

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Feeding time at the DagonFly Garden

We don’t see many kinds of birds around here. What we have plenty are Mourning and Turtle Doves. We also have plenty of house Sparrows

I am heading to the Frozen tundra of New York City for my company’s yearly sales meeting (I know New York City in January, who came up with that idea!!!) I will be away from my garden for a few days. I am taking my laptop with me and will pass the time reading all your blogs.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Update on my vegetable and herb garden.

The tomatoes are doing well and we already picked some grape and cherry tomatoes. The fat boy tomatoes are growing nicely but they are weeks away from ready.

This year I have a couple of eggplant plants and they are growing very nicely. My only problem is--how do I know when they are ready to be picked? If anyone out there has any ideas, please let me know.

Most of the herbs are doing well except for the sweet basil. This is the second year that the leaves turned brown and the plant looks sickly. My local nursery tells me that it is a problem from the growers that supply the plants; maybe next year I will grow my plants from seeds.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Brrrrrr is soooo cold in Miami!!!

Last night we had a visit from a cold front. The temperatures were in the mid thirties this morning with the wind chill in the upper twenties. That is the lowest temperatures we had in four years.
Yesterday I was out in the garden getting my plants ready fort the drop in temperature. I covered the more delicate plants and brought in most of the potted plants.

This morning I surveyed the damage; most of my plants came out OK. The Coleuses are not looking good, but they will come back. My Brunfelsia and Angel Trumpets had some damage
from the wind.
Not to worry, every thing will be back to normal by Saturday, we expect temperatures in the mid 70's