Saturday, August 25, 2018

Gardening on the ruins

I started a new garden on the ruins of my former vegetable plot.  When I started gardening several years ago, I designated the strip of land between my neighbor’s house and my home, the perfect place for a vegetable/herb winter garden.  This area received several hours of sun during winter and it was out of sight.  The first few years produced plentiful harvest and based on that success, I decided to expand it.  I added building blocks, soil and added more vegetables and herbs.  The first two years produced mix results.  I couldn’t understand why, until one day when I realized that all the fruit trees that I had planted in my backyard had grown and were blocking the winter morning sun, this area of the garden was only getting a couple of hours of late afternoon sun.  
Two years ago, I moved the garden to containers next to the kitchen and the old vegetable garden became a dumping ground for unwanted plants.  Today some of those plants have grown and it was time for a redo.

 I have two lemon trees in containers, and both are doing well this year.

The squares in the building blocks are perfect to plant bromeliads
and succulents.

New stock of bananas opened up this week

 Rain Lilies around St Francis, it looks very peaceful and appropriate

Once a year, late in the summer, this white orchid put on a show

 Another picture from my Lomography art lens

Friday, August 17, 2018

Where have all the gardeners gone?

From my little of suburbia plot of land, I can safely say that most home-owners today, care very little about the looks of their front yard.  I live in the suburbs of Miami, in a mix of working / middle-class neighborhood.  The homes in my development are selling between 350k to half a million dollars, all 64 of the houses in my area were built in the early 1990.  My neighbors are seating on properties worth a lot of money, but by the looks of the neighborhood, very few people seem to put much efforts into their front yards.  I can count with the fingers in my right hand the number of homes with nice front gardens.  The rest of the houses are nothing but grass and old shrubs with past expiration dates.  Most people cut their grass regularly, but many simply don’t care and let the grass get out of control.  My development has no homeowner’s association, so it is every home-owner for himself.
The reason for my bitchy tirade is that all this week I worked in my front yard, trying to shame my neighbors into action, but all I got were nice comments and the usual “when you finish with your garden can you come and work on my” HA HA!!
My house faces west, so the front garden has always been a challenge.  With a full dose of sun most of the day, my choices of plants are limited, especially during the hot summer months.  I find that some bromeliads, succulents and different potted plants (that I can regularly rotate) do well.  As you can see from the photos below, I have a lot of grass, more than I care to have.  All our utility lines are buried underground and the first five feet from the sidewalk must be accessible.  Last month ATT put a new fiberoptic cable and my powderpuff tree almost become a casualty of bad planning on my part.   

We had a severe summer thunderstorm this week, with estimated winds up to 50 miles per hour.  Two large branches from my Firebush tree broke.   Is upsetting because the tree was full of flowers and is a magnet for bees and butterflies.  The good news is that this tree grows fast.


We have a new tenant in the garden, an Eastern Gray Squirrel.  In the 20 plus years that I have been gardening in this house, this is the first time that I encounter a squirrel in my garden.  She already found my birdfeeder and it seems to be helping herself to all the seeds she can eat.  If she only eats my birdseeds, she will be welcome.  If she goes after my fruit trees, then we have a problem.

I got a 35mm Lomography Art Lens for my birthday and I started to experiment, taking pictures in the garden.  The working of this lens is very complicated, it takes time and much repetition to master it.   Here are a couple of pictures from my first attempt. 

Tuesday, August 07, 2018

Adjusting to a life of leisure

It has been over a month since I put in my last 9-5 day at work.  I did not expect that there would be an adjustment period, it takes a lot of will power to plan and execute a full day of activities.  Don’t get me wrong I love my new life and the freedom that I have, but after 23 years with the same routine, it will take time, adjusting to the new routine (something different every day).
Luckily, I have a garden that needs me.  The last couple of weeks I have been spending an hour or two early in the morning every day, taking on small projects.  The heat and humidity of August in South Florida is too intense for any more outdoor time.  

My first project was to pressure clean the pavers in my back garden.  This is my least favorite job in the garden, but it most be done two to three times a year because our humid climate.
 I am letting this weed grow in between the pavers, I am very please with the results.

Another project was to work with my collection of  cactus and succulents.  The constant summer rain kills many of them and others need to be re-potted.

This corner of my garden gets a redo every couple of months.  I have a collection of potted plans that I rotate, depending on the season.
 I spray painted the yellow chairs today, they were a find from someone's garbage.

Nothing is wasted in this garden, the old fountain leaked water, now is nest for a chicken with the help of Spanish moss.

 How tall is this sticks on fire going to get?

Mango season is over, is now time for Dragonfruits,  These are the first two fruits of the season.  There were many flowers on the tree last week, so I expect more fruits in the coming days.

Friday, August 03, 2018

Environmental catastrophe in SW Florida

My family and I recently returned from our yearly summer vacation in the beautiful island of Sanibel.  We were extremely lucky to have missed the environmental catastrophe that is currently happening in all the southwest coast of Florida.  The last two days of our vacation we started to feel and see the effects of red tide on the beach, some dead fish and a burning sensation in our throats causing a cough and itchy eyes.  The pictures coming from Sanibel this week are horrific.  Large numbers of dead fish & sea mammals on the beach including dolphins, manatees, sea turtles and many more.

Red tide is nothing new to the waters of the Gulf of Mexico, but this year’s bloom is one the largest ever recorded. So far it has covered an unprecedented 150 miles of coast from Sarasota to Naples.  This is a perfect storm of environmental disaster.  The warmer waters in the Gulf of Mexico, caused by global warming, combined with the release of nutrient-rich polluted water from Lake Okeechobee  (a direct result of toxic dumping by big agriculture), and the government’s refusal to reinforce the dikes around the Lake or build a reservoir for dirty water, have combined to make the red tide so much worse this year.  No matter where you sit in the political divide, this touches & affects all of us.  We must fight to protect our beaches and our wildlife.  We must demand action from our politicians and make them accountable when they refuse to act.

To paraphrase a famous movie quote “I AM MAD AS HELL AND I AM NOT GOING TO TAKE IT ANY MORE”

One of my favorite activities during my stay in Sanibel is to take pictures of wildlife.  The pictures below were taken at the beginning of July before the red tide arrived.   It was interesting to see that by the end of the month most of the birds were gone, no pelicans, no seabirds only the poor ospreys were left flying high looking for their next meal and none to be found.