Florida Natives, Permaculture

Home again, home again

I love my time in Minnesota celebrating the holidays. I feel warm and loved with my family. But after ten days of wind and ice and a blizzard that ushered us out with a foot of new snow, I was looking forward to my own backyard.

Cranberry hibiscus

Cranberry hibiscus

Full blooms on perennials waited for me.

Peace lily and hibiscus tree

Peace lily and hibiscus tree

Firespike

Firespike

Firespikes that I thought I killed a year ago returned. This is the first time this gift from a generous neighbor has flowered for me, and I’m looking forward to seeing the pollinators it attracts.

Leaf of life blooms

Leaf of life blooms

And my sprawling Leaf of Life plant shot tall flowering spikes dripping with little purple bells.

And the mulch. That beautiful gift of mulch I received in late October is still underway. In the past few weeks, I mulched the giant perennial bed, the smaller vegetable bed, and the pots. I mulched the oak trees and avocado and mulberry and citrus. My husband pitched in for a few wheelbarrow loads along the front of the house. And still, this remains:

All that shoveling and hauling and dumping and spreading and I’m only halfway through this massive pile of mulch. Sigh. So, you can guess my weekend plan.

Still, it’s good to be home in sunny Tampa where I’m prepping for the next growing season, starting… now.

Annual Vegetables, Florida Natives, Sustainable

Natives, Edibles, and Pollinator-Favorites

I am loving the new monthly seed swap at Shell’s in Tampa. Today, I donated a tray of Cranberry Hibiscus and succulents. In return, I left with a new infusion of natives, edibles, and pollinator-favorites.

Here’s a sampling:

More on each of these new additions to come. But the weather is glorious and I’m headed outside to enjoy it.

Annual Vegetables, Florida Natives, Perennial Vegetables, Permaculture, Sustainable

Local Favorites from Tampa Gardening Swap

The Tampa Gardening Swap on Facebook is easily my favorite gardening resource. A few months ago, the admin asked a wonderful question. “For all the members– new and old — what is your go to place for the following…”

In 347 comments, this amazing group shared all their favorite resources for gardening and landscaping in the Tampa area. I’ve taken their recommendations, searched out the sources, and compiled them into an easy reference guide.

Enjoy!

cropped-img_30641.jpg

Trees and Plants

Native Plants

Wilcox Nursery, Largo, FL
Sweet Bay Nursery, Parrish, FL
Florida Native Plant Society, when they have sales (usually at USF)
Florida Wildflowers Grows Co-op
USF Botanical Gardens, Tampa, FL. Sales in spring and fall
Willow Tree Nursery, St. Pete, FL
Island Bamboo, Pinellas Park, FL

Non-Fruit Trees

Florida-scape Maintenance and Design, St. Pete
Kerby’s Nursery, Seffner, FL
Green Thumb Festival , St. Pete, every April

Fruit Trees

USF Botanical Gardens, Tampa, FL. Sales in spring and fall
Crowley’s Nursery, Sarasota, FL
Christine’s Tropical and Exotic Plants, Oldsmar, FL
Rivers of Provision, Tampa, FL

Annual Seedlings

Whitwam Organics, Tampa FL
Shell’s Feed and Garden Supply, Tampa, FL
Grace’s Hydro Organic Garden Center, Temple Terrace, FL
Hancock Seed Co, Dade City, FL

Flowering Plants

Duncheon’s Nursery, Land O’Lakes
Bloom Garden Shop, Tampa
Manny’s on the Bay, Tampa
Bayshore Market, Tampa
Thrive: Garden + Water, Tampa
Earl’s Garden Shop, Tampa
Kerby’s Nursery, Seffner

Edible Perennials

Citrus Park Landscape Nursery, Tampa
Rare Fruit Council, Tampa
Critter Companions, Tampa
Green Dreams, Spring Hill
Bob’s Berries, Riverview

Blueberry Bushes

Bob’s Berries, Riverview

Cacti and Succulents

Mitch Armstrong Nursery, St. Pete
Cactus Moon, Tampa

Tomatoes

Hot and Humid Hydro Nursery, Riverview (Paul Cilia)
Baker Creek Seeds
Grace’s Hydro Organic Garden Center, Temple Terrace, FL

Seeds

Whitwam Organics, Tampa
Baker Creek Seeds
Southern Exposure Seed Exchange 
Dragonfly Ranch Organics, Hudson
Hancock Seed Co, Dade City, FL

Herbs

Willow Tree Nursery, St. Pete, FL
D&D Growers, Lithia
Shell’s Feed and Garden Supply, Tampa, FL
Willow Herbal Delight Gardens, Valrico
Manny’s on the Bay, Tampa

Dwarf Fruit Trees

Jene’s Tropicals, St. Pete

Bonsai

Sean’s Bonsai

Milkweed, Host Plants, Nectar Plants

Citrus Park Landscape Nursery, Tampa
Whitwam Organics
, Tampa
Wilcox Nursery, Largo

Rare Grapevines

Paul Zmoda

 

Garden and Landscape Supplies

Landscape Design

Dragonfly Landscape and Water Gardens, Tampa
Southern Ground Works, Tampa
Anni Ellis Garden Design Inc., Tampa

Mulch

Seffner Rock & Gravel, Tampa
GetChipDrop.com

Soil

Whitwam Organics, Tampa
Big Earth Landscape Supply, Tampa
Urban Roots, Carrollwood

Compost

Whitwam Organics, Tampa
Seffner Rock & Gravel, Tampa

Shell

Cypress Creek Landscape Supply, Tampa
Seffner Rock & Gravel, Tampa
Big Earth Landscape Supply
, Tampa

Rock

Seffner Rock & Gravel, Tampa
Carroll’s Building Materials, St. Pete
Big Earth Landscape Supply, Tampa

Irrigation

Whitwam Organics, Tampa
Southern Ground Works, Tampa

Raised Garden Beds

Whitwam Organics, Tampa

Rainbarrels

Hillsborough County Extension Office, Seffner. Waterwise workshops.

Solar Panels

Solar United Neighbors
POWUR

Grow Bags

Bob’s Berries, Riverview
Rain Science Grow Bags

Licensed Arborist

O’Neil’s Tree Service

 

Community and Education

School Gardens

Whitwam Organics, Tampa

Community Gardens

Whitwam Organics, Tampa
Temple Terrace Community Gardens, Temple Terrace

Gardening Classes

Local library
Whitwam Organics, Tampa
Dragonfly Ranch Organics, Hudson
Hillsborough County Extension Office
, Seffner
USF Botanical Gardens, Tampa. Sales in spring and fall
Grace’s Hydro Organic Garden Center, Temple Terrace, FL

Gardening Podcasts, Radio Shows

Florida Gardening
Sustainable Living and Alternative Health

 

Fertilizer and Pest Control

Hay/Straw

Seffner Rock & Gravel, Tampa
Shell’s Feed and Garden Supply
, Tampa
Winning Circle Feed, Hudson
The Hay Exchange, Plant City
Fox’s Feed Depot, Odessa

Goat Poop

The Dancing Goat, Tampa
Jesse Nobles, Tampa

Rabbit Poop

Jesse Nobles, Tampa
Dragonfly Ranch Organics, Hudson

Chickens

Twenty-Four Rivers, Plant City
Dragonfly Ranch Organics, Hudson

Organic Fertilizers

Whitwam Organics, Tampa
Shell’s Feed and Garden Supply, Tampa, FL
Crowley’s Nursery, Sarasota, FL

Organic Pest Control

Neem Tree Farms, Brandon
Whitwam Organics, Tampa

Horse Poop

Kitchen Botanicals, Brooksville
Dragonfly Ranch Organics, Hudson

Worms

Jesse Nobles, Tampa
Heather Marie Henderson, St. Pete

Beneficial Bugs

Dragonfly Ranch Organics, Hudson
USF Air Potato Beetles

 

 

 

 

Florida Natives, Permaculture, Sustainable

USF Spring Plant Sale

Rain was coming and I hustled to get my new plants in the ground. I, along with a few thousand other Tampa gardeners, scored long-awaited finds at the USF spring plant sale this weekend. Streams of sticky, sweaty gardeners drug wagons loaded with wobbly pots through the crowd. Introverts do not move intuitively through crowds, and this sale drew the kind of crowd most us avoid. We did not move seamlessly, but we were largely a polite group as we inched out of the way while sly-eyeing each other’s wagons.

passionflower

I’ve attended this sale previous years, and I have to say, it was more fun before. Years prior, I showed up late, wandered aimlessly, and allowed myself to be captivated by the bright, shiny, and unfamiliar blooms. This was before I realized how little of my Minnesota gardening knowledge would transplant to Florida.

This year at the USF plant sale, I had an agenda. I brought my wagon, my husband, and $100. I was not going to be distracted by all the lovely finicky plants. I was not going to buy showy blooms that require devotion. I was looking for specific perennial edibles I could not find at local nurseries.

everbearingmulberry

Everbearing Mulberry: Like blackberries, only sweeter, grown on a thornless tree that can be pruned to keep the fruit accessible.
Jaboticaba: A Brazilian grape-like fruit that takes years to bear, and then supplies an unending harvest of sweet purple fruit plucked right from the trunk of plant.
Dragonfruit: A cactus that snakes its way vertically along a fence, sprouting fruit and flowers.
Passionflower Vine: A lure for the local butterflies and bees, plus a gorgeous flower to play showpiece, with the potential for passionfruit. Mostly, I love the look of vines and wanted to add a gorgeous flowering fine that was beneficial to the local wildlife.

jaboticaba

In truth, my little notecard had a much longer list than this: Chaya, American Beauty Berry, Kopper King Hibiscus, Toad Lillies, Goji Berries, Gladiator Alliums. But I wanted to start with the easiest of the list, and $100 doesn’t make it very far when you’re buying fruit trees. I’m still learning.

Maybe next year, I’ll loosen up a bit, and allow a few bright blooms to jump into my wagon. Next year I’ll mix an agenda with some inspiration. But this year, I’m deeming a success. Let’s hope the new plants all make it.

Annual Vegetables, Florida Natives, Perennial Vegetables, Permaculture, Sustainable

Growing a Yarden: A Mini Food Forest in the City of Tampa

I’ve lived in Florida five years now, and have spent much of that time learning the local basics. I now value the semi-shady spots over the pure sunny expanses. I plant tomatoes in January and start seedlings in July. I am quick to spray the juvenile Texas lubbers before they emerge as hard-sided grasshopper tanks.

I’ve also learned about my gardening style. I value gardens over lawn, local over imported, and most importantly, food over flare. I have finally accepted that I am an inconsistent gardener. I enjoy spending hours in the garden in March and April, September and October. The rest of the year, I would like the yard to mostly care for itself. With this in mind, I have spent the past year building my plan.

I am converting my Tampa yard to a food forest garden.

cranberryhibiscus

I’ve experimented for three years in this yarden, and now have a fair sense of the soil, light, pests, weeds, and water. I have a small collection of plants who love my Tampa yard, plants who have endured a hurricane, a freeze, and a few years of my intermittent neglect. The tough edibles who have made the cut: Okinawa Spinach, Florida Lettuce, Florida Cranberry, Ice Cream Bananas, Cuban Oregano, Prickly Pear Cactus, Pineapple, Cranberry Hibiscus. The landscape plants who attract the butterflies and bees: Spiderwort, Hibiscus, Wandering Jew, Devil’s Backbone, Shepherd’s Needle, Oxalis, and so many ferns. I have a handful of young trees who may or may not make it: Moringa, Avocado, Key Lime, Meyer Lemon, and a multi-grafted citrus who has spent three years in my front yard boasting flowers but never fruit. And I mix in the regular staples, doing my best to capture the seeds of the heirlooms and replant: tomatoes, peppers, greens, peas, potatoes, and beans.

I’ll share my successes and failures here as I go.