Thursday, October 30, 2014

What's The Best Way To Pick Citrus?

If you're lucky enough to live in Florida this time of year, you'll know it's time to pick some citrus.  Yeah!

Best way to harvest grapefruit, organic, and all citrus

Digger's Tip Of The Day

As the lovely picture above suggests, the way to pick grapefruit, oranges, etc is:

  • Bend the fruit up
  • Invert
  • Then Twist and Shout Pull!
We're enjoying some freshly bend-ed, inverted, twisted and pulled grapefruit even as we speak.  All grown organically and without pesticides, of course.  Yummy....

Organic Fertilizers For Citrus

Citrus takes best with organic fertilizers
Citrus tastes better when fertilized organically.

Increase yields and improve flavor with Pure Black Castings and VermaPlex , certified organic, OMRI listed fertilizers for lawns, gardens, and orchards.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Why Beneficial Microorganism ARE

Add beneficial microorganisms to your soil for plant health

Hello from the farm!

Did you every wonder.....

What puts the beneficial in "beneficial microorganisms"?

"Good" microorganisms are important in our gardens, lawns and farms for at least two reasons:

  • Plant growth stimulation
  • Plant disease suppression

Plant Growth Stimulation

Beneficial microorganisms promote plant growth in two ways:

  1. Nutrient Conversion
  2. Stimulation

1.  Nutrient Conversion

When organic materials such as compost, vermi-compost, manures, or worm castings are present in the soil, microbe activity converts the nutrients contained in the material into a plant available form.  The plant absorbs more nutrition and - surprise, surprise - the plant grows better and faster.

It follows, then, that the higher the number and the higher the quality of microbes, the more nutrition is available for the plant and the better the plant grows.

2.  Stimulation

Another "Mode of Action", or MOA, of microorganisms  is stimulating growth of the plant and root.  There are certain "rock stars" of the Microbe Universe (fungi included) that produce growth stimulating "metabolites".

Other mysterious physical interactions of some strains of microbes and fungi stimulate growth through specific mechanisms that are little understood. It's enough to know it happens.

Plant Disease Suppression

Beneficial microbes control plant disease through the following mechanisms:

  • Soil Remediation:
    They feed on pathogens, eliminating them from the soil.
  • Competitive Exclusion:
    They inhibit pathogen growth by taking up space and nutrients.
  • Microbiostasis:
    They kill pathogens or limit their growth.
  • Rhizosphere Competency:
    They prevent pathogens from accessing into the plant's roots.
  • Systemic Resistance Inducement:
    They strengthen and stimulate the plant's own natural defenses against disease.

"Since disease prevention is infinitely easier than disease curing, having the growing medium enhanced with beneficial microbes from the get-go is important for success."

Enhancing Soil Microorganisms

It's easy to see why maintaining the beneficial microorganism population in our soils is so important. Protect the microbes you have by avoiding chemical fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides. Build up the soil by applying organic materials that are alive with microbes, like worm castings and vermi-compost.

Improve and expand beneficial microorganisms in your growing medium with these liquid soil inoculants made from worm castings:

  • VermaPlex®, teeming with these growth enhancing, disease preventing microbes,  is important in the beginning or when plants are struggling.  Apply VermaPlex® at seed planting and transplanting time or when plants are showing signs of disease or stress.
  • VermaMax LE® contains extra nutrition for more growth and green.  A must for high nitrogen using plants.  Once plants are established, is doesn't matter which liquid is used.
    VermaMax LE® is available in select areas for now. 

A good regime is alternating liquids throughout the growing season.  In our studies, micro-dosing with a very small amount at each watering brought the best results.

Happy Growin',

A potent combo for enhanced growth and plant health.  VermaMax LE®  is available in select areas for now.

Certified Organic Fertilizers

Friday, October 10, 2014

Tomatoes And Companion Planting

Our Johnson German tomato seedlings were way past ready to transplant.  It's still a little hot, though, so it's probably a good thing we're late.

Transplanting Johnson German Tomato Seedlings Into Garden Bed

We put the tomato bed on the south side of the house in preparation of the cooler temps a potential frosts ahead.  Right now, it's still hot, so we'll have to add a shade cloth till this (expletive) heat lets up.

Don't Plant Tomatoes Near ...

We're paying a little more attention to companion planting now.  Here are some plants that should not be planted near tomatoes are:

  • All members of the Brassica (cabbage) family. Also know as cruciferous vegetables, avoid planting tomatoes near cabbages, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussel sprouts, collard greens, kale, turnip greens, etc.
  • Potatoes - attract the same pests as tomatoes.
  • Fennel
  • Apricot trees
  • Corn (that pesky corn worm is an awful lot like the tomato worm)
Tomatoes also have an adverse affect on corn and apricot trees and therefore should not be planted near them.

Do Plant Tomatoes Near.....

The plants that are protective or improve the flavor of tomatoes and therefore should be planted near are:
  • Chives
  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Marigold
  • Nasturtium
  • Carrots
  • Stinging Nettle
Notice how some of these above vegetables are good together in a salad?

Tomatoes Are Protective Of...

When setting up tomato planting locations, consider the plants that are benefited by tomatoes.

For instance, tomatoes have a fungicide effect against Black Spot on roses.  If planting tomatoes near roses isn't an option,  spraying with a solution made from tomato leaves for roses is an effective option.  Tomatoes contain a volatile alkaloid, solamine, that in days gone by was used as an agricultural insecticide. Cool, huh?

Here's our tomato spray for roses.  Add to a vegetable juicer:
  • Tomato leaves
  • 4 pints water
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
Blend, strain, then store in the refrigerator when not in use (we should put a label on it so ol' Bill doesn't drink it.)

Organic Fertilizers For Tomatoes

Certified Organic Worm Castings For Fertilizing Tomato Transplants
What's the best fertilizer for tomatoes?  Use slow release, certified organic worm castings and VermaPlex® for the best tasting, most nutritious tomatoes possible.

Pure Black Castings Slow release, never burns

VermaPlex®:  Prevents transplant shock!

Monday, September 1, 2014

Florida Vegetable Fall Gardening - Tomatoes

Ol' Bill braved the heat and humidity and managed to plant some heirloom tomato seeds we saved from the spring/summer garden.  He's doing O.K.  A little red-faced, but O.K.

Heirloom Tomato Seeds Planted

As per my last post (you did read it, didn't you?), we should start our Florida fall garden on  August 15.  At least, the warm-season vegetables, like tomatoes.   So we were anxious to see how well the seeds we saved from this summer's crop of Johnson German heirloom tomatoes would sprout.

Ol' Bill filled a 16 slot tray with seeds with our potting soil mix and, by golly, it looks like a 100% seed germination rate. That's very encouraging, since we're working on seed saving of heirloom varieties.

There are a few spindly ones because Ol' Bill was a little too careful with the intense, unrelenting, August Florida sun.  They were getting a little too much shade time.  What looks to be a good approach is placing  the seedlings in on the east side of the house so they get the morning sun and the late day shade.

If you're beginning Florida vegetable gardeners, take a tip from the old timers here in Central Florida:    Forget the advice of every garden how-to book out there and plant your vegetable gardens under trees.

Further south nearer the sub-tropic line, most gardens are planted in the winter and this advice would not apply. Here in Central Florida, it's a must, especially for tomatoes. Vegetables like okra and corn can take the full sun.

Ah-h-h.  Under trees. It's where I spend most of my time, too.

Florida Vegetable Garden Resources

Certified organic worm castings and liquid fertilizer VermaPlex
Get your Florida vegetable garden off to a good start this fall. Use slow release, certified organic worm castings and VermaPlex® for the best tasting, most nutritious vegetables possible.

Pure Black Castings


Friday, August 15, 2014

August - Time To Plant Your Florida Vegetable Garden


All you folks who came to Florida from the North, this may come as a complete shock to you.  It's now time to plant your warm-season vegetable garden. Get ready for nine glorious months of gardening.

August is the time to plant warm season vegetables in Florida
Squash seeds a-planted

Plant Warm-Season Vegetables Seeds

As we all agreed on last post, it's hot.  But it's August 15.  And time to get our warm-season vegetables planted,  especially since some vegetables need 90 days to mature.  We want to give vegetables like corn, eggplant, pumpkins, peppers, tomatoes and watermelons plenty of time and avoid the possible fall frosts and early freezes (especially in the more northern Florida zones). Click here for fall gardening tips.

This season's seeds should be in garden stores now, for starting your own seedlings. You save so much money that way.  You know, we really should stop talking about it and get busy:

  • Building new beds or setting up new planting areas if needs be.
  • Weeding and cleaning up existing garden.
  • Doing a soil ph test while we're at it.
  • Recharging our garden soil with organic matter, manures, and/or worm castings.
  • Planning our gardens.  You know, where to put what.  This is the time to consider companion planting options and plant heights for peaceful co-existence, at least for the plants.
  • Getting those long-timer's in right away, the ones that take f-o-r-e-v-e-r to mature.
  • Picking up seeds and starting them in flats or pots.
It's time to grab those garden gloves and get going, Florida gardeners.  I'll watch from here in the AC, if you don't mind.

Give Your Fall Vegetable Garden A Good Start

Florida Fall Vegetable Garden Organic Worm Castings and Liquid Fertilizr
For faster seeds sprouting and more vigorous seedlings, apply VermaPlex® to seeds before planting.  Soak seedlings root ball with VermaPlex® when transplanting  to virtually eliminate transplant shock.

Mix Pure Black Castings in the garden soil and line planting holes, providing slow release fertilizer as your seeds sprout.  When transplanting seedlings, line planting holes,  top dress, then wash in with VermaPlex®.

Click here for planting guides and use/application information on these certified organic fertilizers.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

August Florida Gardening - Annuals

O.K....O.K.... I know, it's HOT.  The August heat in Florida is biblical, giving testament to the old adage: "It's so hot you can fry an egg on the sidewalk."  I can personally attest to the hotness of the sidewalk because my foot pads are blistered.

But, that's no excuse not to garden in Florida in August.  If I can manage to pee on each and every fence post of these 10 acres each and every a.m. and p.m., then you can get out there and weed, fertilize, prune and replant.  Just remember to keep hydrated.

Flower Annuals

It's almost time to sow your fall warm-season flowers.  Some good annuals to sow in Florida mid-month:

  • Marigolds
  • Salvia
  • Nicotiana
  • Verbena
  • Ornamental peppers
  • Sunflowers
Right now, though, if you don't have seeds on hand, you won't find any in garden centers.  Florida law requires that all seeds be removed from shelves at garden centers by July 31 (only bulk suppliers still have seeds).    But, guess what?  They will restock shelves after- you guessed it - August 15.  Just in time for your fall flower seed planting.

So, you have plenty of time until then (and you should pace yourself, what with the heat and all), to get those flower beds prepared.
TIP:  If you have a flower bed that is heavily infested with nematodes, plant it entirely with French Marigolds. This annual flower is known to decrease nematode populations. Do it this month ahead of the cool-season planting.

Next..... More Florida August gardening things to do.   I'm so glad I'm just writing about it.
Remember, avoid overheating, keep hydrated, work in early morning and evenings - oh, and watch out for the lightening bolts.

As you're sweating, panting and ducking, just keep remembering how nice it's going to be December-February while the rest of the country is in a deep freeze and snow bound.  A little August heat is a small price for living in paradise.

Florida Annual Flowers Resources

Fertilizing Annual Flowers in Florida Gardens

Recharge your flower beds with Pure Black Castings.  This certified organic worm-based fertilizer will not only provide slow-release nutrition for your flowers, it also has water retention qualities.  And, no leaching or run-off.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Bamboo Control Methods

There are many methods of controlling bamboo.  To be honest, all of them sound very labor intensive.  And you know me.  I'm allergic to labor intensive.

Controlling Running Bamboo

We've read about digging trenches.  We've read about installing barriers.  There's probably a "nuclear option" out there.  But if your soil is not so rich, like ours, it appears the simplest and (most importantly) effortless (well, maybe not completely effortless) method of controlling running bamboo is to lay down manure or other rich organic material and fertilizers only on the area you want the bamboo to follow. Duh!

As you can see in this photo, the bamboo followed the line of horse manure we laid down all  last summer.  The shoots ran in both directions from the mother plant, east and west.  And get this: There were no shoots beyond the manure!

Bamboo following the manure.

Think about it.  Bamboo is pretty darn smart. Either that or it can smell.  Why put out rhizomes over there were there's little to feed upon when there's a thick, smelly run of good old horse manure up and down this way? (Other useful bamboo growing and controlling information can be found here at Bamboo Garden.

Nature's all about taking the easy way and following the path of least resistance.  If you thought running bamboo was too hard to control, maybe you need to give it another try.

If any shoots do appear out beyond our containment area, simply mowing this area should do the trick.  We left a line between the fence so we can do just that and keep the bamboo from invading our neighbor's pasture.  We also plan to dig up any stray shoots and relocate to new groves.

Bamboo Fertilizing Information

Improve the long term health of soil as well as fertilize bamboo: Pure Black Castings™ and VermaPlex®