Friday, October 31, 2008

The winter vegetables are in the ground

Today I finished my vegetable garden. This year I am planting tomatoes, peppers, carrots and squash.

The choices of tomato plants were not very good. The nursery where I usually buy my plants changed distributors and the plants were not up to the standards of previous years. I purchased sweet 100, yellow pear, jet star, and marglobe (the jet star and marglobe I've never seen before). Unfortunately, my favorite variety, cherry tomatoes, were not available.
This year the plants came in an environmentally-friendly container made of recycled cardboard.
About time--plastic containers are my biggest peeve. The green plants in the background are hollyhock volunteers.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Spectacular sunsets equal cooler mornings

The weather has changed and for the next few days we are enjoying beautiful cooler days, with temperatures in the mid 60’s

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Preparing my winter vegetable garden.

This afternoon I took advantage of the clear weather and worked on the vegetable bed. First, I turned the soil over and added a couple of sacks of compost-enriched dirt from the store. I was careful not to remove a couple of hollyhock volunteers. Although they were growing in the wrong place, I didn’t have the heart to pull them out.

This year, for the first time, I also made my own compost. I did it in this homemade garbage pail which I fixed with small holes in the bottom and lid for air circulation. I made sure that the pail was turned every month for the last six months. If it works, I will invest in a compost tumbler for next season.

The soil is mixed and the bed is ready to go so now I need to decide what to plant. Definitely tomatoes and the rest, I will see.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Early morning at the DragonFly Garden

Early in the morning is my favorite time to take in my garden. The neighborhood is quite, no one is up yet, only my dog and I and a couple of coffee. It can’t get any better than that.

My dog Rosie wants to play and I want to contemplate the meaning of life.

The weather forecast for this weekend is more rain, so I will be doing very little gardening. We are expecting a cold front on Sunday night that will bring the temperatures to the mid 50’s with dry and clear days. Perfect fall weather

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Bees are coming back

I noticed yesterday while walking in the garden many bees buzzing around my flowers. I am happy to see them back; this past year has been very difficult for bees in our area.
Many old timers blamed the poor harvest of avocados and mangos this year on the low number of bees.

My goal in the garden is to plant as many butterflies and bee friendly plants as I can. I am glad to see that is working.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Dogs and country living.

Today I am going to deviate from my normal topic of gardening and talk about one of my favorite writers, Jon Katz, author of numerous books about his group of dogs, country living, and the trials and tribulations of working an old farm. The farm is located in upstate NY, the place he escaped to from the rat-race of city living. My favorite of his books is “The Dogs of Bedlam Farm,” the story of his three border collies and how they helped him adapt to life in the country and run the sheep farm he purchased on a whim. Katz also writes a wonderful blog about the farm, his dogs, and the other animals that live there. You can find his blog at

Escaping to the country and leaving city life behind has always been one of my fantasies. I love daydreaming about owning a small farm--a place where I can go crazy planting any tree or plant that tickles my fancy. I dream of a place with wide-open spaces where neighbors don’t crowd me, where I can have a barn and keep horses, donkeys, or any animal looking for a comfortable retirement home. I yearn for a place where I don’t have to deal with suffocating traffic, demanding bosses, and noisy, inconsiderate neighbors. Most of my friends and family have a difficult time understanding this fantasy, since I was born and have lived all my life in the city. I tell them that I have “country genes” from my farming antecedents in Cuba. I am like my Australian Cattle Dog, Rosie, who was born in the city, has never seen cattle or sheep, but every once and while has the urge to nip her humans in the heel and move them along. She doesn’t really understand why she does it but her herding instincts are as much a part of her as they are of her distant cousins that still herd in the Australian Outback. In my case, my family are country people; both my parents were born on farms and my grandparents were all farmers. So, like my dog, I have that country gene telling me that I would be a much happier human living in the country.

I always admired people like Mr. Katz, those daring and adventurous souls that have the hutzpa to tell the world, “Stop, I want to get off” and proceed to live a much simpler and happier life. Maybe some day I will summon the courage to do it but for now, I must be content to call the DragonFly garden my “farm”.

Jon Katz has written a new book called “Izzi and Lenore,” the story of two dogs that help hospice patients. I have not read this book yet but if it is like his past books, I am sure it will be wonderful! I heartily recommend Katz’ books to anyone looking for a charming escape.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

GBBD for October 2008

Another GBBD at the DragonFly garden. The garden is looking green and wet due to the tremendous amount of rain we had this past month. The few flowers that survived the rain are a little droopy.

This month I am starting with the ever-faithful canna lily, which this year is blooming into fall months.

This ground orchid in the new kid in the garden. I purchased these two plants a couple of weeks ago, and are now part of my front garden.

The devil’s trumpet. Notice that it points up instead of down, unlike their close relative the angel’s trumpet.

Red crown of thorns, are a year round favorite.

The white and orange bougainvilleas are blooming again for a second time this year.

I found this small white orchid blooming in my re-hab orchid corner.

The last of the torenias are blooming this week, they will re-seed and be all over the garden next year again.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Herbs for cooking and the butterflies

Yesterday, I worked on my herb garden. This year, I added more butterfly-friendly herbs, like parsley and dill.

I planted three types of basil--sweet, purple, and spicy basil. Every year my basil gets leaf miners and the plants don’t last long; I hope this year will be different since I am using containers.

Other herbs in my garden are oregano, chives, thyme, and rosemary. The chives, oregano, and rosemary survived the heat of last-year's summer.

For the next month, while the plants are small, I’ll keep them covered. The September afternoon sun in Miami is a plant killer!

Monday, October 06, 2008

Correcting a mistake

Out with the honeysuckle in the front garden. What was I thinking, this is the most aggressive plant I ever seen. I am cutting it back and re-planting it in the back yard, I might regret it later but I have a thing about throwing plants away.

I replaced the honeysuckle with a red dipladenia also call a mandevilla. This vine does well in full sun; it blooms from spring to fall, is butterfly friendly and not very aggressive.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

RAIN, RAIN and more RAIN!

It has been raining in South Florida for the last two weeks and today is no different.
We started the year with the worst drought in history and now, after the wettest September ever, we’ve actually ended the month with too much water. Our aquifer level is high and Lake Okeechobee is back to normal levels. The lake is the water source for the Everglades and the back-up reservoir for South Florida’s water table. Levels are so high that the local authorities are releasing water into the Atlantic to avoid flooding.
Still, our local government has announced that despite the abundance of rain, water restrictions will continue year-round. In my opinion this is a good thing. The public needs to understand that water is precious and must be conserved. As for my part, I am planning to install two rain barrels to catch rainwater from my roof.

Well today is definite not a gardening day but it is a good day to read blogs, catch up with my gardening magazines, and watch some college football on TV.
I hope you have great weekend and if you are a football fan—may your team win!

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Work completed

As all of you know from reading my previous post, I took a vacation from work so I could spend it working in my garden. Here are the results. I completed all but one of the projects, despite the tremendous amount of rain we had for the last four days. (Just my luck that this time the weatherman was right when he predicted rainy days!)

The flowerbed in the front garden turned out differently from what I had first pictured in my mind but I am happy with the finished product. The palm in the center is a date palm and it came all the way from New Jersey, a gift from my cousin. In the rest of the bed I planted two ground orchids, a couple of red star cordyline, and a crown of thorns and fire bush bromeliads from my back yard.

I also created a small flowerbed to fill in between the two larger ones, a perfect place to put my wheelbarrow planter in which I planted blue daze, finishing the look by addding marigolds in the ground around it.
I am starting over with my coleuses. I planted new plants this year after pulling out most of the old ones. In my zone 10b, coleuses can thrive for years but after awhile, they get too big and break easily and, therefore, need replacement. To give the bed more color, I also added a couple of dracaenas.

My vegetable garden is ready for planting. I am waiting for cooler weather and for my local nursery to bring in a good selection of seedlings.
The birdbath looks much better with the small border, the marigolds, and sparkling clean water(shame on me for letting it get so dirty and unsightly!). I can tell that the birds like the new location out in the open, away from hiding places where the local cats could be lurking.

And finally my Zen corner. Here all I needed it to do was some cleaning and pruning. I also moved the two chairs that looked crowded, leaving just the wood bench. From this corner I can see both my back and side gardens. This is the place where I take my morning cup of coffee before going to work and where I unwind when I get home after work. So--what does everyone think of my vacation-time project?