Hubbards and then No Hubbards

dang-hubbards

First, fail your way to success:

And then you see the Hubbards, just a few days before the vine borers got them, in my video on harvesting the corn in the Three Sisters garden:

So. Close. Another couple of weeks and I would have had fruit on those Hubbards. They were forming. It was working.

Until it wasn’t. The vine borers are a big problem here. A local farmer told me to water the vines with Sevin dust in water to keep them off, but I just couldn’t do it. If I had, though, I would have Hubbards.

Dang it.

David-the-good-books-revised

Delayed Sprouting on Seminole Pumpkins?

david-the-good-pumpkin-vines

A couple of days ago I posted a tour of some of the pumpkins we have growing:

Lots of good things happening.

A strange thing I didn’t mention in the video, though: I’ve planted quite a few fresh Seminole pumpkin seeds and they’ve failed to germinate. Older seeds from local pumpkins germinate – but fresh seeds, right from the Seminole pumpkin, no. Or at a very poor rate.

Another strange thing: I had a Seminole pumpkin vine come up multiple months after I planted it in my garden. Seriously – I had gone on and planted other things, then in the spot where I had planted a few earlier in the year, up came a Seminole pumpkin. I think it germinated due to the rainy season. Very strange, though. I have ten hills I planted and only a couple of Seminole pumpkins have emerged.

Does anyone know anything about delayed germinating in pumpkin seeds? Perhaps a germination-inhibiting enzyme?

Have a wonderful Sunday. See you tomorrow.

 

*            *            *

The earth is the Lord’s, and all its fullness,
The world and those who dwell therein.
For He has founded it upon the seas,
And established it upon the waters.

Who may ascend into the hill of the Lord?
Or who may stand in His holy place?
He who has clean hands and a pure heart,
Who has not lifted up his soul to an idol,
Nor sworn deceitfully.
He shall receive blessing from the Lord,
And righteousness from the God of his salvation.
This is Jacob, the generation of those who seek Him,
Who seek Your face. Selah

Lift up your heads, O you gates!
And be lifted up, you everlasting doors!
And the King of glory shall come in.
Who is this King of glory?
The Lord strong and mighty,
The Lord mighty in battle.
Lift up your heads, O you gates!
Lift up, you everlasting doors!
And the King of glory shall come in.
Who is this King of glory?
The Lord of hosts,
He is the King of glory. Selah

-Psalm 24, NKJV

David-the-good-books-revised

South Florida Food Forest Species: Yes or No on These?

Growing_Arrowroot

South Florida food forest species are my specie-a-lity!

skandy writes:

I have a few names that you can say yes/no to… (also because I need to know if they can grow in food forests in South Florida)
1. Persimmons

2. Taro

3. Sea Oats

4. Arrowroots

5. Guava

6. Sapodilla

7. Jackfruit

8. Jerusalem Artichoke

9. Cucamelon

10.Strangler Fig

11. Sunflower

Ah, plant lists. I love those. Let’s do it!

Will These Species Work in South Florida Food Forest Projects?

Here’s my take.

Persimmons

Possibly.

American persimmons (Diospyros virginiana) probably not.

Japanese persimmons (Diospyros kaki), maybe. Their range stretches deeper into the south. However, they are usually grafted onto American persimmon roots. I can’t find good data on how they’ll fare in the heat and humidity and year-round warmth of South Florida, so this tree would be an experimental addition.

That said, you might consider planting chocolate pudding fruit (Diospyros nigra), persimmon’s delicious relative.

Taro

Most definitely. This is very easy to grow in south Florida.

TaroAndDuckweed

Consider planting it in kiddie pools filled with muck or in swampy areas as it loves lots of water.

Sea Oats

Yes, no problem. Just make sure you get them from a nursery, not by stealing seeds from protected dune areas.

Arrowroot

Arrowroot is very easy to grow in South Florida and will grow in some shade.

It also makes a good addition to edible landscapes, as the plant is quite attractive.

Guava

Guava is another winner for South Florida. I grew them in a pot in North Florida:

Guavas

In South Florida, they’ll easily grow right in the ground. You may have to bag the fruits, though, as fruit fly infestations are common.

Sapodilla

No problem! South Florida is warm enough to grow this delicious tropical delight.

Jackfruit

Jackfruit grows well in South Florida, as my friends Chuck and Sarah can attest:

It’s a highly productive tree as well, with valuable fruit.

Jerusalem Artichoke

No. Though there are apparently varieties that set tubers in the tropics, I’ve had bad luck all around with Jerusalem artichokes in Florida. With so many other better root crops, such as yams, sweet potatoes, taro, malanga and cassava… why bother with this gastrointestinal destroyer?

Cucamelon

Yes, these will grow. I grew their cousin the West Indian Gherkin.

WestIndianGherkins2

However, Coccinea grandis is much easier and more productive. Here’s one growing in Ft. Lauderdale:

That there is an easy-to-grow cucumber.

Strangler Fig

Yes, these will grow. They’re native to South Florida and can be found all over the place. I’m not sure why you’d want to grow them, though.

Sunflower

Yes, they’ll grow – however, they are quite subject to insect attack in Florida and the heads often are filled with worms. Probably better for chicken feed than human feed.

Conclusion

There’s my two cents on the list. I share a lot more plant species for South Florida food forests in my booklet Create Your Own Florida Food Forest and my larger Florida gardening book Totally Crazy Easy Florida Gardening. Both are available in kindle, paperback and audio versions.

David-the-good-books-revised

Wild Edible Chinese Yams in North Carolina

chinese-yam-roots

Andrew found me on YouTube and shared pictures of some very familiar edible wild yams he found on his property:

“I’ve been eating these already, no problems. Here’s pics.”

dioscorea batatas chinese yam edible

He continues: “Tedious to harvest by hand though. Need a sheet spread beneath. I’ll try to dig up a root and get a pic of that for you too. These volunteered somehow and on the north side of a large 2 story house with big oak trees keeping it pretty cool and shaded. Plenty of rain from the roof and no gutters.”

edible wild yam dioscorea opposita north carolina

When I asked where these vines were located, he wrote “Mebane, NC. Near downtown at a residence.”

chinese yam edible wild yam north carolina

So, for those of you who wish you could get in on the yam-growing action but live farther north than yams generally grow, here’s your species: Dioscorea batatas, also known as Dioscorea opposita.

That’s the “yamberry” Eric Toensmeier writes about in his entertaining book Paradise Lot.

And it’s one of the varieties I grew in North Florida. The edible bulbils are featured in this video:

And the long, snaky roots in this one:

And yes, it is an evil invasive species. Very, very evil. Very, very invasive.

The government of Michigan warns about it:

Habitat: This deciduous vine can be found along roadsides, fence rows, stream banks, ditches, and rich, mesic forests. While it tolerates anything from full sun to deep shade, it prefers intermediate light.

Native Range: Asia

U.S. Distribution: Chinese yam has spread to 16 southeastern states since its introduction in the 1800’s and has been recorded in some locations in Michigan.

Local Concern: Chinese yam can grow up to 16 feet in height, engulfing surrounding vegetation along the way. While this vine dies back in the winter, it grows and reproduces quickly enough to reduce plant diversity and threaten native ecosystems.

 

Michigan is joined in its concern by many other states. I have read reports like the one above that Chinese Yam vines will overrun native species.

But on the bright side, Plants for a Future shares how delicious it is:

Edible Parts: Fruit; Root.
Edible Uses:

Tuber – cooked[1, 46, 61, 105]. A floury texture[27] with a very pleasant flavour that is rather like a potato[K]. The tubers can be boiled, baked, fried, mashed, grated and added to soups[183]. They store well and for a long time[27, 37] and can also be left in the ground and harvested as required in the winter[K]. This is a top quality root crop, very suitable for use as a staple food[K]. An arrowroot can be extracted from the root[46], though this is not as good at binding other foods as the starch from D. japonica[183]. The root contains about 20% starch. 75% water, 0.1% vitamin B1, 10 – 15 mg% vitamin C[174]. Fruit. A starchy flavour, it is said to be very good for the health[206]. We wonder if this report is referring to the tubercles[K]. We’ve heard the aerial tubers can be eaten and are very tasty.

It’s obvious what we need to do, right?

We need to eat it! And if perhaps a few plants escape into our gardens every year, well, we should eat those too.

Relying on one root crop for calories isn’t antifragile. Grow potatoes – they’re great. But also add turnips, yams, taro, Jerusalem artichokes, cassava or whatever else works in your climate. In North Carolina, it seems obvious that one decent choice is the Chinese yam.

David-the-good-books-revised

Can You Grow Coffee in Florida?

Coffee-shoots

Zori asks if you can grow coffee in Florida:

“Hello David Good hope all is well. Why can’t I grow coffee here in Florida? I mean, Florida is subtropical right? The coffee belt has somewhat of the same whether, all though it’s mountainous in some places, also it’s either rainy, cold, or hot and dry. Florida is all of those things except the mountains lol.”

It’s a good question. Let’s dive in.

Where To Grow Coffee in Florida

First of all, Florida is not a monolithic state. I’ve had people express surprise when I told them I couldn’t grow mangoes, coconuts or even Key Limes out in the open at my old North Florida homestead. It’s simply too cold. We’re talking 12 degrees overnight cold on occasion. Sure, it’s warm most of the time, but most of the time isn’t enough.

One night of freezing weather and coffee dies. Take a look at this USDA zone map:

grow coffee in florida zone map

The dark orange area is where you can grow coffee outdoors without protecting it, except for on very rare frost events. 10b.

In 10a, you can still grow coffee but you will need to protect it occasionally.

How To Grow Coffee in Florida Beyond Zone 10

Push-the-Zone-cover-webIn 9a and 9b, you can grow coffee in Florida against a south-facing wall as I describe in detail in my book Push the Zone: The Good Guide to Growing Tropical Plants Beyond the Tropics.

I lived in what they’re now calling 9a, but it was really more zone 8 for multiple winters. My coffee survived against a south-facing wall but only because freezing conditions were always mercifully short, lasting only a few hours or a single night.

There have been times in the Ocala area when temperatures stayed below 32 for longer than overnight and on through the next day.

That is the end for a coffee tree, unless you wrap it in sheets and Christmas lights or put a big barrel of water next to it, like I did for my loquat tree.

Why DON’T People Grow Coffee in Florida?

Florida is a land of extremes. It gets both colder and hotter than coffee prefers, plus the humidity fluctuates between summer and winter.

As UF writes:

“Coffee is usually grown under shaded conditions but may be grown in full sun. Optimum growing conditions include temperatures from 59 to 75°F (15-24°C), high humidity, and protection from windy conditions. Temperatures above 77°F (25°C) slow growth, and leaves are damaged at temperatures above 86°F (30°C). Constant, large fluctua- tions in daily temperatures, and constant temperatures at or below 41°F (5°C) may cause leaf drop and tree decline. Coffee plants may be damaged or killed by freezing temperatures.

In the tropics or warm subtropics, coffee is grown at high altitudes (up to about 3,500 ft; 1,100 m) where temperatures are moderate and never freezing.”

Florida’s hot and sandy conditions aren’t the best.

Where I live in Central America, you can grow coffee without even working at it. Just stick plants in the ground and they’ll be fine. The soil is rich and the temperatures are not too hot or too cold. The humidity is high year-round as well, and coffee loves that.

TheSurvivalGuidetoGrowingCaffeineFIXsmIn Florida, the winters are dry and the soil is poor. Coffee likes to be well-fed. I’ve written in the past about how far you can grow a coffee tree – even the feasibility of growing coffee indoors way up north in places like Canada – yet for enough production of beans to be anything more than a curiosity, you need a decent climate.

In my booklet on growing coffee and other caffeine plants, there’s a complete interview I did with Gary Strawn, a Kona coffee farmer in Hawaii.

He explains that there are very solid reasons why Hawaii is known for its coffee and Florida is not, despite the southern portion of the Sunshine State being technically warm enough for the plant. It’s a very good interview. There is a lot more to growing and producing quality coffee than just keeping the plant alive through the winter.

So Should You Grow Coffee in Florida?

Yes. Come on – if you CAN grow something as awesome as coffee, even marginally, why wouldn’t you? Don’t be a wuss! It’s COFFEEEEEEE!!!

I would absolutely plant coffee – lots of coffee – if I lived in Ft. Lauderdale or Naples or Homestead or any place where I could start a little outdoor plantation.

Tucking coffee trees under some canopy trees works well as coffee can tolerate some shade and still produce. Doing that also moderates the heat of the day and the cold of the winter.

Put them under some mangoes and you get two crops in the same space!

grow coffee in florida under mangoes

I’ve dreamed for years of starting a little coffee plantation in South Florida and selling the green beans as “locally produced!” in nice paper bags bearing the outline of Florida.

“Dave’s 100% Florida Coffee!”

How awesome would that be? Though the flavor wouldn’t be as good as something from Hawaii or Jamaica, it would be local and you can bet people would support that and pay well to have Florida coffee. It’s a great idea. Maybe one of you guys can do it.

My bet is that Coffea liberica would do well in Florida and maybe better than Coffea arabica. That’s what I currently have growing on my property here. It tastes great, too.

I bought my first plant at a rare plant booth at a gardening show, then planted the seeds from that. Sometimes you can also get fresh seeds but they’re hard to find. If you can’t find coffee seeds that are fresh enough to germinate, you can also get coffee plants on Amazon for a decent price. Gotta love Amazon.

Coffee is worth trying to grow if you live in Florida. Just for the bragging rights.

Additional coffee resources:

How to Germinate Coffee Beans

How to Process Coffee at Home in 7 Easy Steps

Growing Coffee in North Florida and Where to Buy Coffee Plants

Push the Zone: The Good Guide to Growing Tropical Plants Beyond the Tropics

The Survival Gardener’s Guide to Growing Your Own Caffeine: Coffee, Tea and the Black Drink

David-the-good-books-revised

Make Your Own Live Fermented Pickles (A Very Easy Pickle Recipe)

easy pickle recipe

Today Rachel shares a easy pickle recipe and shows you how to make your own live fermented pickles:

Got a mason jar? Some cucumbers? Some salt?

Hey now – you’re in good shape! Here’s how to make live fermented pickles the easy way.

Rachel’s Easy Pickle Recipe

Ingredients:

Cucumbers

Non-iodized salt (though iodized will still work)

Turmeric

Water

Other spices if desired

Directions:

Pick some fresh cucumbers and slice them into quarters. Rachel cuts both ends off. Add slices to a clean mason jar, along with fresh grated turmeric or turmeric powder (for color and health). You can also add dill, black pepper, mustard seed or other herbs and spices you think would make the mix delicious. Now make a brine with one pint of water and 1.5 tablespoons of salt. Pour the brine over the cucumber slices, covering them, then cap the jar with a rusty lid. If you don’t have an awful-looking rusty lid, use a nice lid. Now shake the jar well. Once shaken, loosen the lid to allow gasses to escape during fermentation. Leave jar on counter for a few days, occasionally tasting a slice of cucumber. When they taste nice and sour, they’re done!

Notes on Making Live Fermented Pickles

You can put your pickles in the fridge to slow fermentation once they reach a good flavor. They’ll keep for a long time. If you have larger cucumbers, we recommend upping the salt content. If you live in an area with colder temperatures, fermentation takes longer. Just keep tasting. Traditional fermenting is fun and good for you. If you can’t make this easy pickle recipe, well, might as well pick up some of those scary yellow-green things floating like manatees in jars of dead vinegar and preservatives.

As Rachel notes in the video, if the cucumbers turn to mush, you’ll know if something has gone wrong with your fermentation. We’ve never had that happen unless we fail to add enough salt, however. Salt is like magic. It allows the good organisms to thrive and keeps the dangerous ones from making you sick. Remember how our ancestors used to pack barrels of sauerkraut and salt pork? You can eat these things without getting ill because salt keeps them safe. There is no danger in fermenting foods on the counter because salt is a powerful preservative.

Finally, Rachel’s easy pickle recipe uses ivy gourd pickles, AKA the perennial cucumber, AKA Coccinea grandis.

The recipe works just the same with other cucumbers, though if they’re big you might want to add more salt.

Homemade pickles are the best – we eat ours every day when we have them. The probiotics are very similar to yogurt. Enjoy!

David-the-good-books-revised

Planting Vanilla Orchids

planting vanilla orchids

One of my projects this week was planting vanilla orchids:

Pollinating the flowers and processing the vanilla beans will be complicated but I’m going to give it a try. We likely won’t see any blooms for a few years, though – and I may not even live here then, so I’ll have to plant again. Yet I can’t leave well enough alone. I have to plant.

My method of planting vanilla orchids was based on this video:

I admit, I didn’t follow the phases of the moon exactly but still managed to be in the right part. I had the cuttings and needed to plant them. I would have planted them better if it weren’t for the stinging ants that infest organic matter here. They’re nasty. I should have gotten some gloves.

It will be interesting watching the vanilla grow. I’ll share updates.

David-the-good-books-revised

Defeating Vine Borers by Increasing Pumpkin Root Systems

david-the-good-pumpkin-vines

Most pumpkins and winter squash have the ability to root at every node on their stems. Why not take advantage of this fact to defeat vine borers?

If vine borers wreck one part of a pumpkin stem, the plant will continue to thrive if it has rooted at multiple nodes. I’ve seen the original stem of a vine destroyed by a vine borer, yet a foot away from the damage, there are happy vines.

This only happens when the vines are growing along the ground, however. If you grow pumpkin vines vertically, you lose their best defense against vine borer damage.

David-the-good-books-revised

More on Planting Corn in Stations

corn-in-stations-featured

I drove into town yesterday with the family to pick up some groceries.

On the way, I had to stop and take a picture of this patch of corn:

roadside-corn-planted-in-stations-web

See how it was done? It’s the same method of hacking holes into the soil and planting kernels that I shared in yesterday’s post. 3-4 seeds are planted in each hole and the corn grows nicely that way in a small clump. Between clumps is about 2.5 feet in all directions.

This method seems to work very well on slopes, as the roots of the weeds and grass hold the soil together, whereas tilling it all and row planting corn could lead to serious erosion issues.

And finally, here’s the video on my own corn planting with this method. I meant to post it yesterday morning but ended up not getting it finished until the evening.

Enjoy the day.

We’re having company over for dinner tonight and Rachel will be making a dish with our Seminole pumpkin/calabaza crosses.

I look forward to seeing how they taste. It was time to cook at least one of them, not because they were going to spoil but because I really need some more seeds to plant.

David-the-good-books-revised

Planting Corn in Stations, Right in the Grass!

Missing_Corn

The local method of planting corn in stations really saves some prep time.

Instead of tilling an area, you just take a string trimmer (or scythe or whatever may be your weed-clearing weapon of choice) and scalp the ground right down to the dirt.

Then knock loose holes in the ground about 2.5 feet apart and plant 4 kernels in each hole.

Feed with manure or chemical fertilizer.

In a few weeks, the corn will grow taller but the weeds you knocked down will also return. Come back with your string trimmer and knock all the space between the corn back to bare earth.

In a few more weeks, the corn will be tall enough to take care of itself and shade out the weeds. Eventually, you harvest the ears, then turn the ground over to growing something else.

It’s really an easy system. I just planted another patch this way as you can see in yesterday’s video. Thanks to Cheryl in Oklahoma for the seeds!

This method of planting corn can also be used in a pigeon pea/corn intercrop system like I wrote about here.

As I remark in the video, I’d really love to try this in a typical lawn back in Florida. Imagine doing this in the midst of an expanse of St. Augustine!

What great fun.

David-the-good-books-revised
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