Friday, September 4, 2009

Joewood, cicadas

Whats Happenin'-Life
It’s a beautiful day weather-wise so I gathered some more lumber for the veg. garden enclosure. Picked up some old 4x4’s that I had stashed and it looks like I’ll be able to build this 14’x16’ cage from all scrap lumber. I’ll try to doll it up some and maybe throw a coat of paint on it but that is work for the weekend.
Whats Growin'-Vegetables
I took this pic yesterday from the road that leads from our home to the Overseas Hyw. Just an illustration of how anyone can grow a few cherry tomatoes if you really want to. This boat belongs to an old sponger named Dwayne…and I mean he really is a sponger…collecting sponges from the clear waters of Newfound Harbor.

Whats Buzzin'-Insects
The days of summer are starting to wind down, it still is hot but the sun isn’t as brutal as it was a couple of weeks ago. One of the harbingers of fall is the die off of the Keys cicada (Diceroprocta biconica). Yup, the Keys even has their own cicada. They are larger than the infamous 17 year cicada of the eastern US and no one is sure how long their lifecycle is but adults emerge every year instead of the mass hatching we have heard of.These guys are those buzzing critters in the trees from May through August, the ones that dive bomb ya when you’re running a blower and they think you’re a giant cicada that they can mate with. Anyway, I found this guy with just a couple of buzzes left in him.

What's Bloomin'-Native
This native is a favorite of many and Liz and I are fortunate to have a bunch of mature specimens on our property. It is a large shrub that rarely reaches 15 feet in height. It has a dense crown of foliage with 2” leathery leaves. The small white flowers have a killer fragrance that is very pronounced in the evenings. It is currently in bloom and still has clusters of seed from its last blooming period. The wood is very hard and we try to hold back from pruning as the natural shape is extremely pleasing.
Thats it, see ya

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Floss Silk, Wild Allamanda

I took the morning off from garden chores to try and figure out my problems downloading images to my computer from my camera. Lo and behold it was a bad card reader and not me being a total computer illiterate.

Whats bloomin'- Tropical Exotic
While running to the store I spotted one of my favorite trees in bloom at a local dentist’s office on the Overseas Hyw. in Big Pine Key.

The Floss Silk Tree (Chorisia speciosa) is a member of the Bombacaeae family and is a South American native. This large tree has an open growth pattern with branches radiating out from a central trunk and what a trunk it is, studded with short, squat, barbacle-like thorns.

The pink and white blooms were alive with pollinators ranging from Sulphur butterflies to bees and wasps. The leaves are few during bloom allowing for pollinators easier access but what leaves there are are palmately divided with 5 or 7 leaflets.

Whats Bloomin-Native

The Wild Allamanda (Pentalinon luteum) has its 2" bright yellow flowers all year long but it is far less prolific than its non native cousins the common Allamanda (Allamanda cathartica) or the Bush Allamanda (Allamanda nerrifolia).

This sprawling vine adds a welcome bit of color to the wetland habitat where I took this photo.

That's it for now, see ya.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Jade Vine, etc.

Well, while I'm waiting for some help from Liz with the stupid card reader to load images from my camera on to this computer I borrowed a couple from her. This maybe our all time Wish List plant. The Jade vine (Strongylodon macrobotrys) is a hard plant to come by. This pic and the one that follows Liz took at Fairchild Tropical Gardens last summer. They have a awesome pergola covered with many vines but the Jade vine is particularly impressive. This aquamarine pendulous blooming vine is a native of the Philippines and only does well in Zone 11, which happens to be the zone I live in. Hopefully one day we will find this beauty and give it a home on Big Pine Key.
Let me get you caught up a bit on the vegetable garden plan. This year I am starting a new garden and it will be in containers. In the past I had a 20'x 40' raised bed 24" deep of soil that was composted by me over a 10 year period. I have moved from that home and am starting from scratch.

The reason for raised beds or container gardening in the Keys is our soil. Most property is either on fill soil that has been piled up from digging canals or trucked in many years ago. Other property is directly on caprock, a cement like rock that is nearly impossible to break up. The fill soil is a highly alkaline limestone known as oolite that is almost totally lacking in organic matter and thus not at all condusive to vegetable gardening. The answer is raised beds and the deeper the better!

Another issue of Zone 11 vegetable gardening is climate. October through April is the prime time for growing vegetables in the Keys. The temps are much cooler and our rainfall is reduced from the monsoons and hurricanes of summer allowing us enjoy gardening instead of passing out from heat stroke. The lower winter humidity reduces fungus problems allowing for fewer pesticide usage.

I began composting for this years garden back in May with a pickup load of horse manure and locally ground mulch ending up with approx. 2 cu. yards of finished compost. To strech this I blended in 20- 2 cu. ft. bags of commercial compost. I'll tell ya more about my finished potting mix later.

I picked up some used 15 gallon and 7 gallon pots from a local nursery along with some pots that are laying around the house. Started some cherry tomato seeds yesterday with broccoli seeds to start tomorrow. More on that subject later.

Today there was time to grab some lumber I've had stashed to begin the garden structure. The plan is for a completely enclosed 14'x 16' cage. Ya see, we have this little prolem down here with Key Deer and feral iguanas. The deer are easy, just a fence will do but iguanas laugh at fences as they scale them with glee all the while eyeballing the tender veggie plants within. Well that's all for now.

see ya

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Let's get this party started

Ok…Ok!! I swear I’ll post more. Here is the deal, Liz got me this sweet little HP netbook that I have not been using and I bought Leif’s old camera, a Canon SX100 IS and I am starting a new vegetable garden that I want to document thus creating a perfect storm that encourages me start blogging again. So far the problems are – 1. Getting used to this keyboard. 2. Getting to know the camera. 3. Trying to upload the pix to the comp. I already made some mistake when trying to upload the card reader to the home comp. Who knows what I did wrong, maybe Liz can straighten that out for me.
This all means that this entry will be without pix unless I can figure out how to add them later.
My plan for this blog is to combine veg. gardening and the native and exotic plants that I run across here in the Fl. Keys and on our trips around Florida. I’ve been working with and studying tropical plants for about 25 years, first as a nurseryman in a small retail nursery and later as the owner of a landscape contracting and maintenance company in the Lower Keys. I am the past president of a super little gardening club call the Big Pine Botanical Society and was so for 8 years. Great group of people with no pretenses about the club being a tea and crumpets group, nope, these folks all have dirt under their fingernails. Bottom line is I have put some time in growing things down here and have learned some stuff I thought I might share. So here goes…

Shore birds

This is from just down the road in a shallow pool of water in the wetlands. What makes it interesting is the four species in one shot. From left to right - Tri-color Heron (Egretta tricolor), Double-crested Cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus), White Ibis (Eudocimus albus) and Snowy Egret (Egretta thula).