Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Tasty Tomatoes and recipes

Out of all the vegetables we can grow, for most of us tomatoes rank high of the top five favorites.  It is peak tomato picking now in South Florida.  With temperatures reaching the mid to high 80's and the heat index in the 90's the tomato plants are showing signs of fatigue.  Mid day wilting requires watering both morning and evening to my potted plants.  As the plants mature, their leaves are turning yellow and brown at an alarming rate.  I pick bowls of both cherry and plum tomatoes every other day.  Their red ripe color contrasts with the leaves.  There are fewer and fewer green ones left on the plants.


I grow my tomatoes in large containers in full sun.  I never spay my veggies with any pesticides, fungicides, herbicides, nematicides or any other harmful chemicals.  I do use commercial fertilizers, a gentle one you add to water.  I buy composted manure and add it to my own compost and I mulch the pots.  I buy eucalyptus mulch which keeps pests at bay.  I always grow heirloom everglades tomatoes from seed.  I also supplement with various varieties I purchase at garden centers.  Here are some quick videos on how to grow tomatoes.



Quick and easy tomato recipes

Veggie omelette 
I love to saute onions, garlic and cherry tomatoes cut in half in a pan, and then sprinkle a dash of salt and pepper, some oregano.  Add beaten eggs and either scramble or make an omelette.  You will have a feast of a meal.



Summer pasta sauce
Make a summer sauce for pasta by cutting up plum and cherry tomatoes and add to a bowl.  Add fresh garlic, a few teaspoons of olive oil, a dash of salt, pepper and a hand full of chopping fresh basil leaves.  Let marinate on the counter a few hours.  Later boil pasta of your choice and serve with your sauce.  Delicious.



Israeli Middle Eastern Salad
Chop up cherry tomatoes into fine cubes.  Chop up green peppers in fine cubes. Chop up cucumber in fine cubes.  Add all together and add a dash of salt and pepper.  Marinate  with vinegar.  Serve cold.  Delicious dish traditionally eaten for breakfast in Israel.  You may serve as a condiment for a sandwich or as a side dish instead of cole slaw.


Enjoy your veggies right out of the garden as well.  Nothing tastes as fresh or delicious.

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Friday, March 13, 2015

Spring forward with new plants for your garden

Spring in South Florida is just around the corner and it is prime planting time for shrubs, trees, groundcovers and perennials.  Why is this the case?  Planting in the fall and winter is our dry season.  If you get ambitious during the weekend with a major landscape overhaul and then have a super busy work week and forget to give a deep hand water to your plants, you may be in trouble.  A few days of super hot and or windy weather could dry out the root ball of the plants and they may die.  Sprinklers never provide a deep enough soaking to newly planted material.   Ever try to revive a severely wilted plant?  It is hit or miss, especially for young plants that are not established in your garden.  A great resource for plants to utilize for your area is Monrovia Nursery.  Just plug in your zip code and the best plants for your area will pop up plus when you scroll down it will list the closest nurseries to buy the plants!  <img src="http://ooh.li/1c8a4ef" />

That is why spring and summer are best for major plantings.  We get daily afternoon showers that cool us off as well as our gardens.  The showers compliment our hose waterings of newly planted gardens.  Try to choose plants that will provide food for wildlife.  Certain flowers attract butterflies, some plants produce berries for birds, and dense shrubs provide protection and shade for critters.  Pick waterwise plants for an easy to maintain garden.

I enjoy beautiful easy Lantana for a burst of year round color.  Lantana thrives in the brutal hot summer Florida heat, and are great for our bees and butterflies.   I love the color combination of milkweed and Lantana, so will plant these together in my butterfly garden.

Another favorite are the Kalanchoes.  Their deep vibrant colorful flowers last for weeks and if you nurture them they will come back next year.  My Kale is nearing the end of the season, and as I remove the lower leaves for cooking, the plant is looking leggy.  Planting the Kalanchoes underneath provides vibrant color to my potted vegetable garden.  http://ooh.li/1c8a4ef



Thank you Monrovia for providing the plants for this story!  I remember first learning about Monrovia during college horticulture classes.  Their use of cutting edge scientific research, newest technology, and top quality growing conditions exemplifies why their plants grow so well in your garden.  Many garden centers such as Living Color, Perfect Choice and Lowes carry Monrovia Plants.

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Sunday, February 22, 2015

Secrets of growing amazing orchids

I have attended many orchid classes and orchid over the years.  I have purchased many orchids in as many years and many have died.  As a hobby orchid grower with marginal results for many years. I would like to share with you a success story.


For every expert orchid grower, there is another technique they recommend. Water with ice cubes, water only in the morning, spray the leaves, fertilize with epsom salts, fertilize with orchid food only, fertilize with only liquid, powder, granules, etc.  Some homeowners get amazing results by hanging their orchids in trees and forgetting about them.  Others put them on a strictly times regimen.     Lighting is another confusing variable.  Too little light and the orchids do not grow or flower.  Too much light and they get burned and or dry out and die.  Its confusing.


After reading up I discovered my vandas needed the most light, and mine get some early morning and late afternoon direct sun, with filtered sun mid day. Next come the oncidiums.  The dendrobiums and cattleyas require a bit less light.  The easiest to flower and to take care of are phalaenopsis orchids, which require the least light.  


In terms of feeding, I have the best results with regular weekly dilute feedings, or at least feeding most waterings.  I try to water once or twice a week in the winter since its the dry season.  During this time I only feed once a week.  In the summer when its the wet season water only once and feed only once.  


This last photo is from an orchid show, not my mine.  So beautiful!  Here is a video I did about the orchids.  




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Monday, January 5, 2015

The Wonders Of Aloe Vera

Aloe vera is an amazing plant to grow, and its so easy as well.  Inside give it a sunny window and water when the soil is dry to the touch, its that easy.  Within no time the plant will start to produce baby plants and you will need to step up or repot the plant in a larger container.

Outdoors in Florida we are able to grow it year round in the garden.  Aloe can be successfully grown as a ground cover.  This year I planted a clump at the edge of my property line.  Every time a baby grew to be a third of the size of the mother, I carefully dug it up and replanted it in a bare spot in the garden bed.



Last week the mature plants started blooming profusely. I had seen them bloom like this often through the years.  I had never had planted an entire bed of them and am amazed at the beauty of the blooms en mass.  Gorgeous.



I utilize aloe medicinally many ways.  When I cut my skin I cut off part of a leaf and take it inside.  I peel away part of the leaf to expose the gooey center, and apply that to the cut.  I try to do it morning and night.  Sometimes I apply it to my face before bedtime as a healthy skin treatment.  Other times I take a teaspoon of the gel, add it in the blender with some juice and drink it as a tonic.


Aloe should be a plant in everyone's house or garden.  In my horticultural therapy classes we grow it at every facility I work at.

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Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Create your own pine cone turkey decorations for the holidays

Here in Florida there are several native pine trees.  All are long needled pines and provide us with nice pine cones for craft projects.  We have the elliotii or slash pine, palstrus or long leaf pine, clausa or sand pine and taeda or loblolly.  None make good Christmas trees since they have long needles and do not grow compact. The largest is the loblolly which can grow up to 150 feet!
In South Florida, most of the native pineland areas have been bulldozed for development.  They are not protected.  I found these trees growing in back of a nursing home and senior living facility.

The trick to getting nice pine cones is to hunt before landscapers come and cut the grass.  The mowers shred the cones beyond recognition.  The next obstacle are squirrels.  They enjoy feasting on the pinecones.
The squirrels just leave the core.  It looks like an ear of corn after we eat them. Just the corn cob remains.   When I go pine cone picking, I need hundreds of them. I have to go to a couple of areas to get all I need for the holidays.  Often areas are picked clean before I get there from other crafty people.
I take a small cloth bag and fill it up.  Then I walk back to the car and fill up a big garbage back up with the booty.

To make your very own pine cone turkeys, you will need a glue gun, feathers, felt and pipe cleaners.  Cut the pipe cleaner into three pieces. This creates the head and neck.  Make a fish hook out of one end, about 1/4 an inch long.  Bend it into the pipe cleaner and roll it a bit down.  Bend the neck a bit and place the end into the pointed part of the pinecone.  Keep the pine cone horizontal.  Cut two small triangle shapes for the bird beak.  Place a few feathers at the flat end of the pine cone.  Make sure you do not place the turkey head into its bottom.  (That always gets a chuckle from one of my alert seniors.)  I let the seniors do all the work, and then I use the glue gun to finish it all off.


They love being creative and enjoy taking something back to their rooms after class.  They enjoy sharing their crafts with family.  Many take pride in telling me their turkey was a decoration at their Thanksgiving dinner.

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Monday, October 27, 2014

My First Rain Chain

Have you ever had a rain chain?  They are amazing.  Originally from Japan, they are utilized instead of a gutter downspout. There are many variations to choose from.  Little cups hang down and rain water drains from cup to cup until it reaches a barrel to collect water or is distributed to the ground where it waters the garden.


In Japan they are very common in households, temples and other buildings. They are a welcome addition to any garden anywhere, and I recently was contacted to try one out.  Clayton from Rain Chain Direct offered me one to experiment with and write about here on my blog.  It was super easy to install and comes with instructions.  I had a light rain and enjoyed watching the water flow down the cups and enjoyed the sound.  I am looking forward to a heavy rain to get another experience.




I had my parents over and my father (so practical, as all fathers are) pointed out I should not keep this in the front yard.  The copper ornament is visible from the street, and its like having money hanging down for everyone to see.  The high price of copper has created a new market and thieves are stealing copper from air conditioning units, plumbing fixtures and anything else made of copper is fair game.  I did not want to have my new feature stolen before I even got the pleasure of using it, so I moved the rain chain to the backyard garden.



Over time the copper will change color and it will age to a beautiful finish.  I am very happy to enhance my garden with this rain chain and advice my readers to purchase one or give as gifts to friends and family.

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Friday, October 17, 2014

American Horticultural Therapy Association Annual Conference 2014

Every year the American Horticultural Therapy Association hosts an amazing conference in North America.  This years event was at the Ace Hotel in Lafayette Hill, a suburb of Philadelphia Pennsylvania.  Horticultural Therapy is the use of plants an plant related materials to improve the mind body and spirit.  It is utilized in hospitals, rehabilitation centers, senior living facilities, childrens programs, drug and alcohol programs, women's eating disorder programs, prisons, ARC facilities, mental health facilities, VA hospitals and rehabilitation centers, Alzheimer Units, Cardiac Units, Intensive care units, Vocational Rehab centers, special education schools and day programs, and so on.



Until we get insurance companies to reimburse us for our expertise, we will not have enough job opportunities for our young students graduating with degrees in horticultural therapy.


We had AHTA members and non members attending from 37 states and 9 different countries.  There were a multitude of speakers and the hardest decision is choosing who to listen to when there were concurrent sessions.  The key note speaker was Stephen Kellert, PhD of Yale.  George Ball the CEO of Burpee Seed Co spoke on Sunday.  Both men are brilliant and understand the value and necessity of Horticultural Therapy.

Yours truly spoke on Saturday.  The discussion was titled "How to start your own Horticultural Therapy Business."  The goal was to motivate others to create a career in Horticultural Therapy and a plan to achieve financial independence as well.  This was a lofty goal for just an hour presentation.  Luckily the session went very well and was well received.


It is always marvelous meeting your peers, learning from each other and making new friends as well.  Next year the conference will be in Portland Oregon at the exemplary of program Teresia Hazen of Legacy Healthcare.  Not to be missed!



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