Fall Garden

As the days grow shorter I am beginning to dream about a fall garden. Having had record high temperatures this summer I have to admit, more then ever, I am looking forward to fall temperatures. But sadly, the upcoming forecast is not giving too much hope that the weather will cool any time soon. But even so, we as gardeners have to look forward and start getting our fall seeds started. For those of you new to gardening or if you just need a refresher, I have a Veggie Planting Guide where I have laid out what veggies to plant each month of the year. This guide is designed for gardeners in zone 8b, so if you live in other zones you will have to tweak it a bit.

Hopefully, if you are planting a second round of summer veggies you already have them in the ground. If you want to plant now it is a little late, but with the weather being as hot as it has been, it might be worth the try. Here is a list of the summer veggies I have either replanted or have survived the summer’s heat.

  • Still surviving:
    • Eggplant
    • Peppers
    • Okra
    • Yard Long beans
    • Winter squash (Seminole Pumpkin, Rimpacante, Butternut)
  • Replanted:
    • Bush Beans
    • Cucumbers
    • Summer squash (those pesky vine borers I talked about a couple posts ago are gone for the season)
    • Tomatoes

I have never had good luck with growing a second round of tomatoes. But at the Pensacola Organic Garden Club meeting last month the president suggested we grow varieties that mature in 70 days or less. I picked a few varieties I have never grown and will let you know if they work. If you have suggestions of how I can be more successful, please share them with me.

Over the Labor Day weekend I am hoping to start my fall seeds: broccoli, chard, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, and kohlrabi. The key to their success will be to make sure they have plenty of water when they are starting out. I direct sowed Arugula and Komatsuna (an Asian green) a couple weeks ago and they not only germinated but are doing quite well. I hate to buy vegetables at the grocery store, and for the most part, if I don’t have it growing or haven’t preserved it, I will just do without. So I am so happy to have a few greens for my dinner tonight. I can’t wait to start getting fall veggies, I am ready for the change.

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Roasted Red Peppers

My Spanish Mammoth Peppers are doing great this year. They are on the small size but have been very prolific. I picked a bunch the other day and thought I would make roasted red peppers.

Here is how I made mine:

  1. Cut the top off the pepper and slice down the inside to release the membrane and seeds. Run under water to get all the loose seeds out.

2. Oil cookie sheet and place peppers in a single layer.

3. Place cookie sheet on grill or broil in oven. You want to let them get good and charred. Time will depend on heat of grill, so just keep a close eye. Flip when the one side is done and char the other side.

4. Remove from grill/oven and allow to cool. Remove skin.

5. Place peeled clove of garlic in bottom of jars, cut peppers into pieces, and place in jars.

6. Heat olive oil (120 degrees), and pour into jars.

7. Using a bamboo skewer remove air bubbles from jar. It will probably be necessary to add more olive oil. Repeat this step until all air bubbles are removed and peppers are covered with olive oil.

8. Refrigerate and enjoy within the next 3 weeks.

If you have extra red peppers I highly suggest you make roasted red peppers. They are delicious and really don’t take as long to make as I thought they might. If you have seen them in the grocery store they are pretty pricey. There’s nothing better then making them with homegrown peppers where you know exactly how they are grown.

Let me know if you try this recipe or if you have tips to making them even better.

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What To Do About Those Pesky Vine Borers

I know we have all heard the stories about those gardeners that have so much zucchini that they are sneaking it onto their neighbors porches at night. Tragically, I have never been one of those gardeners. Why not? Well, those pesky vine borers are my nemesis. If you are reading this I am sure you feel my pain.

How do you know if what is wrong with your squash are vine borers? Well, if you have a beautiful squash plant and then the next day you go out to find it is wilted and dying, you probably have vine borers. To be certain, look at the base of the plant for holes and green to orange-yellow sawdust-like “frass” (droppings). If you find this, without a doubt, you have squash vine borers.

Let’s get to know these pesky things. Below is an image of the adult Vine borer.

Image result for images of squash vine borer
Adult Squash Vine Borer (photo credit Texas A&M)

When you see these guys flying around your garden I am sure you will be tempted, like me, to get out the butterfly net and try and catch them. Let’s just say that is probably not the best use of your time and energy. They are very fast, LOL. The vine borers lay their eggs at the base of the squash. The eggs hatch and the larva bore into the stalk of the vine. Then the feeding begins.

Image result for images of squash vine borer
Squash Vine Borer Larva (Photo Credit Old Farmers Almanac)

So now we know we have vine borers, what do we do? If you catch it early you can use a sharp knife, cut open the stalk, remove the larva, cover the stalk with dirt, and hope the plant can recoup. My experience with this has not been great. My plant survived a bit longer but never flourished. Honestly, I don’t think this is worth the trouble. I say get rid of the plant. Pull it up, burn it, or send it off your property in the garbage. Do not put it in the compost pile, it will hatch and compound your problems.

These are suggestions for preventative measures:

  • Spray Bacillus thuringiensis v. kustaki (Bt) at the base of the plant
  • Wrap foil around the stalk
  • Use row covers

For me the best solution is to grow varieties from the Cucurbita moschata family that are not susceptible to Vine borers. These include:

  • Aehobak
  • Butternut squash
  • Calabaza
  • Dickinson pumpkin
  • Giromon –
  • Golden Cushaw
  • Loche
  • Long Island cheese pumpkin
  • Musquée de Provence or Moscata di Provenza
  • Naples long squash
  • Seminole pumpkin
  • Tromboncino or Rimpacante squash

Of these, I’ve tried and had success with, butternut, cushaw, seminole pumpkin, and the Zucchino Rimpacante. For the taste of summer squash the Zucchino Rimpacante is my absolute favorite. It is prolific and holds up when cooked, not turning to mush. The drawback is, it is a vine and can get about 40′ long. But if you can spare the space go for it! The Cushaw is also good, super sweet, and it gets huge. This year I grew Butternut Rogosa Violina “Gioia“. They have been great. My largest was 7 lbs but a member of my organic garden club grew one to be 13 lbs. I also enjoy the seminole pumkin. A great winter squash, that can take the summer heat and humidity, and are relatively pest and disease free.

Zucchino Rimpacante I picked yesterday
Butternut (Mine is the small one LOL)

Have any of you tried any other varieties that you have worked for you? Please let me know, I am always on the lookout for new varieties to try.

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Fruit and Veggies That Can Survive the Summer Heat

Here we are half way through August of 2019. I can’t believe it has been over 3 years since I have posted. Over the past few years as I have thought about blogging, the idea of getting everyone caught up on how the gardens, chickens, ducks and the newest addition of quail are doing, has seemed like too daunting a task. So I decided that we’ll just get caught up as we go.

Even though the temps have been in the 90’s with heat indexes of 105 to 110 degrees, there are still veggies and fruit producing. Seems like the only thing wilting is me, the gardener.

Some of the veggies and fruits are just holding their own while others seem to be flourishing in my garden here in zone 8b.

Fruits and Veggies surviving the summer heat

Here are the fruits and veggies that are surviving the heat in my garden.

  • Peppers
  • Eggplant
  • Winter squash and pumpkin
  • Watermelon
  • Papaya
  • Bananas
  • Figs
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Okra
  • Yard Long Beans
  • Summer squash (Tatume and Rimpacante)

Are you having more success then me? Let me know what varieties you have found that can take the heat.

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A Chilly Day

It’s been a chilly day here today.  A perfect day to organize seeds and do an inventory.  Of course, that means I get to do a little seed shopping too (happy dance).  I mean, it will soon be time to start summer vegetables.  We are to have the first freeze of the year tonight.  I know, can you believe it is nearly the middle of January and this is our first.  Crazy weather.  It will not be, what I would call, a hard freeze but a freeze none the less.  I think my pepper and eggplants that have been holding over from last summer will not make it, but I did put a couple of my hot pepper plants in pots that I moved into the garage to keep from freezing.  Also, I am curious to see how my peas do.  This is the first year I planted them in the fall, so I’ll have to let you know how it goes.

Organizing all my seeds and doing an inventory.

Seed inventory.

I have also been making a seed inventory.  I have to admit I spent a little too much time shopping, or better said, making my wish list, and have just started my inventory.  Here is a picture of what it looks like.

seed inventory

Seed Inventory.

I made one of these spreadsheets years ago, but that was lost when I got rid of my old computer.  This time around I decided I only needed to know the variety of seed, year it was purchased or saved, and days to maturity.  Hopefully, this time I can do a better job of keeping it up to date.

I am still trying to decide exactly what veggies I want to plant this upcoming season.  When looking through the seed catalogs and different websites there are so many different varieties it makes the decision nearly impossible.  I have learned from experience that there are some things we really like and grow well, while there are others, not so much.  For example beets, I have never liked beets but last year I decided to try growing them anyway.  I figured that if I grew them I would like them.  I mean, homegrown veggies are always better right?  Unfortunately, I still didn’t like them.  I tried cooking them several different ways and still they were a no go.  So I gave the rest to my friend and now I know not to bother taking up garden space with beets.

This year I have more than doubled the amount of growing space from last year so I am hoping to add more varieties.  What to get, what to get.  Are there any veggies that grow really well for you or maybe an obscure veggie that you really like that you would recommend I try?  If so please let me know.

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Gardening Lessons from 2015

As the new year begins I can’t help but sit and think about the gardening lessons I’ve learned from 2015.  Gardening is a lot of trial and error and no one wants to continue repeating the errors.  Overall 2015 was a good gardening year for me, but hopefully 2016 will be even better.

Here are a few lessons I’ve learned and things I hope to do in 2016:

  1. Be more flexible growing things out of season.  Peas are normally planted late winter here for zone 8B but this year I planted them in the fall, and I sure am glad.  I have gotten lots of peas thanks to the abnormally warm winter and with no hard freeze in the forecast I hope to get even more.  A friend of mine planted green beans, now that is brave, not sure that move will pay off.  But she got the seeds on sale and was willing to take the gamble.  Maybe I won’t go that far, but I definitely want to push the boundaries as far as planting times go.  The weather has gotten crazy and I think a lot of the old ideas of what to plant when are changing.
  2. Start more seeds in seed trays rather then in the garden.  This is the first year I have started my fall veggies in seed trays rather then in the garden and I have had much better results.  You can control temperature and moisture in seed trays, whereas mother nature may or may not cooperate out in the garden.  Of course, some veggies do not do well being transplanted so that needs to be taken into consideration.
  3. Allow seedlings to get bigger before setting them out into the garden.  In the past, I have planted my seedlings directly from my starter trays into the garden.  But another friend of mine takes his seedlings and up pots them into SOLO cups, then transplants them out into the garden.  This takes space but I think that having larger starting plants will result in higher success rates.
  4. Strive to never have open garden space.  I am on a mission to grow all my own produce and the way to do this is to continually be growing things.  Succession planting is the key to this.  I hope to get better at this.
  5. Keep a gardening journal.  I have been very negligent in this respect but I hope to do better this year.  As I mentioned earlier, I want to improve my succession planting and keeping a journal will help this a lot.

Gardening is a challenge and sometimes I wonder if it’s worth the trouble.  Like when I had to replant my back garden three times because the rabbits kept eating it.  But then I bring in the harvest and it makes all that hard work worth it.

First Harvest of 2016

First Harvest of 2016

Not only is the harvest rewarding but equally as important to me is that I know my veggies are grown organically and are non GMO.


I’d love to hear if there are any lessons you’ve learned, or things you tried that worked for you.


Here’s to hoping that gardening in 2016 will be even better then 2015.  Happy New Year!

Posted in Garden Harvest, Vegetable Garden | Tagged | 2 Comments

A Tale of Survival and Loss

As a owner of chickens and ducks I have come to understand that sometimes things happen that are completely out of my control.  No matter how hard I try to protect and care for my feathered friends, sometimes weird things happen.  On November 2 one of those weird things happened.  I went out to let the chickens and ducks out around 6:30 AM, which is my normal routine.  Upon reaching the chicken run, where the two boy ducks slept at night, I saw that Duncan was laying on his back and his best friend Grant was standing right next to him.  I quickly picked Duncan up to see what was wrong with him.  I realized he had a broken wing and wasn’t sure what else was wrong.  I quickly went inside the house and called my partner to come help.  The previous night it had been raining and storming so Duncan was wet and dirty.  We tried to clean him up but he walked away from us over to his pool and got in.  We knew we had to stabalize his wing so we got him out of the pool and wrapped his wing.

poor duncan

Duncan with his wing wrapped.


In all of the craziness of trying to attend to Duncan I hadn’t realized that one of my chickens looked as if she had been in a boxing match.

BB beat up

Poor BB really looked rough.

I get very queasy at the sight of blood so it was tough getting BB cleaned up.  I set up a hospital area in my back room and that is where she went.  While we were inside getting BB settled in, Duncan had laid down with his head on the ground.  I ran out to check on him and got there moments before he drew his final breath.  I was very upset, he was my favorite duck.


RIP Mr. Duncan

To this day I do not know what happened that night. The boy ducks slept in the chicken run ever since the bear attack the previous year.  After that attack I had made them go into thier own coop for a few nights but they were terrified.  I felt sorry for them, relented and let them stay in the chicken run at night.  I have an electric fence all around the chicken and duck area and we have not had any bear problems since the fence has been installed, so I felt confident they were safe.  My best guess as to what happened that night is that something spooked the boys.  I do not think it was a predator or they would have been eaten, or at least been beat up.  Out in the chicken run there is a doorway leading from one section of the run to the other and I think when the boys got spooked they tried to get from one section to the other.  Duncan somehow hit and broke his wing on the doorway.  The chickens in the coop hearing all the upheaval must have started flapping around and BB decided it was best to get out of the coop and go into the run. When she went out into the run she must have gotten hit by one of the boys and was thrown into the side of the coop, crushing her beak.  Who knows if that’s actually what happened but it’s the best guess I have.

I had BB in the house but she couldn’t eat or drink on her own.  I mixed up electrolytes and ground up baby chicken food and fed her threw a syringe for almost three weeks.  I was certain that she wasn’t going to make it, she couldn’t breathe through her nostrils and eyes were swollen shut.  I hoped that once the swelling went down she would be able to see and once the scabs fell off she would be able to breathe through her nostrils and then she could learn to eat with a broken beak.  I know it seemed like a huge hill for the poor baby to climb but I was going to do whatever I could to help her.  After about a week and a half I began taking BB out to be with the other chickens for short periods of time before and after work, and was continuing to give her electrolytes and food with the syringe.  I had to keep a close eye on her when she was out with the others, as she looked funny to them, and they would peck and chase her.  But then I saw her fight back when one of the others pecked at her and I knew she had a fighter spirit,  if she could only learn to eat on her own.  After a few days of in and out,  I made a pen in the chicken area so she could be around the other chickens, chickens get depressed by themselves.  I was still taking her in at night, feeding and giving her electrolytes.  One day I let her out to move around with everyone else and she was fine, none of the other chickens bothered her, but she still came in at night and I still fed and gave her electrolytes.  About three weeks from her injury I got home late one day and she had made her way into the coop with everyone else.  I decided the rest was up to her.  She was either going to learn to eat on her own or she would not.  A few days later I saw her scooping food into her bottom beak and moving her neck to help throw it down her throat.  The poor girl was so hungry she ate and ate, her crop was the size of a softball and so it was for the next few days.  She had missed a lot of meals and was making up for it.  It was a very long three weeks for BB but she is a survivor.

A picture of BB almost 7 weeks after her injury. I am not sure she will ever be the same but she is a survivor.

A picture of BB almost 7 weeks after her injury. I am not sure she will ever be the same but she is a survivor.

I have made some changes to ensure that never happens again.  The 5 girl ducks are big, and they go into the duck coop.  They were not here last year and so are not afraid of it.  I let Grant decide whether he wanted to be with the girls or the chickens, and big surprise he chose the girl ducks.  So the ducks are closed up safe and sound each night and now the chicks also get the door of their coop closed each night too.  I think this was a freak accident, but I never want to go through that again.  I feel so sad for my poor Mr. Duncan.

The girls are getting big.

The girls are getting big.

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Back in October when the weather was finally cooling off after the long hot summer, I decided it was time to mulch the paths of my, by now, not so new garden.  I went to a tree removal company, that is only a few miles from my house, and asked if they could deliver a truck load of mulch to me.  They said they could and it would be about $100, but I could take as much as I wanted for free.  I was hoping to not have to load the mulch myself but I didn’t want to pay $100 to have some delivered.  You guessed it, I decided to get it myself.  Honestly, I figured I could use the exercise, so off I went to get my first load.  Much to my surprise there was an elderly gentleman by the mulch piles with a front end loader.  I went over and asked if he could load me up and he said he was happy to.  I felt like I had hit the mulch jackpot!  Since I had access to this free mulch and temporarily had someone to load it for me, I wondered if I shouldn’t, mulch not only my garden paths, but also all my flower beds.  I normally use pine straw as mulch in my flower beds because it is relatively inexpensive and easy to spread.

Huge piles of mulch for the taking.

Huge piles of free mulch.

In previous years, as part of my volunteer hours for being a Master Gardener, I have helped spread wood chip mulch in a few of the different gardens the Master Gardeners take care of.  Each year in the fall they “put the gardens to bed” by spreading a nice thick layer of wood chips in all the beds.  Of course, Master Gardeners have been doing this for years, but the soil in these beds is absolutely amazing.  To have soil that is anything but sand here in Florida is quite an accomplishment.  I realize that I have only had my flower beds in for a few years, but the pine straw does not seem to be decomposing and leaving that nice rich soil like the wood chips do.  Whether or not my observation of wood chips decomposing to leave nicer soil than pine straw is accurate I don’t know.  But since I had this jackpot of mulch I decided that I would not only mulch my vegetable garden paths, but  “put my garden, aka. flower beds, to bed” using the wood chips.

Unloading mulch one wheelbarrow load at a time.

Unloading mulch one wheelbarrow load at a time.

To date I have used 10 truck loads of mulch and unfortunately am not done.  Thankfully I had help loading the first few truckloads.

I am going to leave you with one of my favorite pictures of Sunny and one of her pals, she doesn’t have a name yet.  They are Indian Runner Ducks and are about 9 weeks old in this picture from a few weeks ago.

Sunny and her pal

Sunny and her pal

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Adding More Garden Space

Back in the spring of 2015 I decided I needed more garden space.  In the later part of 2014 I realized I had a severe nematode problem in my west garden.  I had a number of choices of how to deal with the west garden.  The first was to remove all the soil from the raised garden boxes and fill them with new dirt. The second choice was to solorize the garden boxes, this is done by covering the soil with plastic and the heat of the sun bakes the soil and kills the nematodes.  With this option the garden would have to remain covered, and thus useless for at least one season.  The third choice was to remove my boxes and give the area to the chickens.  I opted to give the area to the chickens.  Because of this, I was back to only having my east garden and  needed more growing space.  The decision became, where to put more raised beds.  I decided on the front yard.    There is a skinny part in my front yard that was just perfect for this.

A friend of mine told me there was a saw mill about 30 minutes from my house that sold slabs of wood for just a dollar a piece.  Slabs are the side pieces that come off  logs.  They are flat on one side and have bark on the other. The sawmill had cedar and white juniper slabs.  These slabs are perfect for making garden boxes.

A load of cedar and white juniper from the sawmill.

I used a chop saw to cut slabs into uniform lengths.

Six more garden boxes were installed.

All boxes were lined with weed fabric before soil was put in them. I did this not only to keep grass from growing into boxes, but if there are nematodes in this part of the yard it will help keep them from getting in the garden soil.

After building the boxes, I filled them with compost and mixed some peat moss in.  Since they are in my front yard I try to take extra care to ensure they not only are productive but are also aesthetically pleasing.  The other day when working in the front yard one of my neighbors stopped to tell me how much she loved seeing my garden and how it reminded her of her grandmother.  That made my day.

Here is a picture of what the front garden looks like now.

I will be taking some time off from work between Christmas and New Years and hope to add more raised beds to this garden space.

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More Ducks

I know I had sworn myself off any more ducks, but well, I just couldn’t help myself.  I saw pictures of Indian Runner Ducks and I just had to have some.  The problem was no one around me sells them, so I was going to have to mail order them.  When mail ordering ducks there is always a minimum order.  I wanted ducks but I sure didn’t want 10 of them.  Thankfully my friend said she would go in with me on an order.  Once she said that, it was on.  I ordered from Metzer Farms.  I decided on 3 fawn and white runner ducks and 2 cayugas, all girls.  They hatched on October 5th and arrived bright and early on October 7th via the post office.  Metzer farms gives you the option to pay $.50 extra per bird for some grow gel, food in gel form.  Since the babies were traveling from California to Florida I thought that was a good idea.  They ate all the grow gel and were very hungry and thirsty when they arrived.  One extra ducky came in the order.  Unfortunately one of the ones my friend got was blind and sadly didn’t make it.  Metzer Farms sent out 2 more duckies to replace the one that didn’t survive, so I would recommend them.

Baby ducks arrived safe and sounds via post office.

I have never had any baby chicken or ducks in the fall, but here in florida I would say I love it.  The day temperatures are not too hot and night temperatures are still very mild.   Last time I had baby ducks in the early spring, they stayed inside for the first few weeks, and let me tell you, ducks are messy!!  So this time around there was no way I was going to keep them inside.  I got these fabulous brooder/hutches from my friend’s mom who used to rescue rabbits.  Sadly her health has declined and she is no longer able to care for so many rabbits, so she needed to get rid of the hutches and I needed brooders.

These are the baby brooders. Yes I also have baby chics. The ducks are in their grow out pen but come back to the brooder at night.

Here are some pictures of the duckies.

Baby ducks are soooo cute!

Baby ducks swimming.

They never run out of things to talk about.

Baby ducks in their grow out pen.

They are finally starting to show their colors, at three and a half weeks of age.

Here are the things I had learned the last time I had baby ducks:

-Make sure their water dish isn’t too deep. They can drown.

-They must have enough water to cover their bills when they drink. They need to flush the vents on their bills.

-They must have water when eating in order to help wash down the food.

-They need a place to go to warm up after they are done playing in the water.

-Feed the growing babies a feed that has 20% protein, which is a higher percentage then the baby chick’s food.

All those things are still true but I would like to add:

– Make sure you do not feed them medicated baby chicken food, it will stunt their growth and possibly kill them.  The reason for this is they eat a lot more then baby chickens and will overdose on the medication.

– I realized they did not need as much heat via a lamp as I originally thought.  This may be because the ambient temps have been so mild.  I was surprised how young they were when they chose to sleep away from the light.

– Make sure their area is large enough for them to get way from the heat if they choose.  They will move closer and further away as needed.

I am so glad I decided to go ahead and get more ducks.  They just make me happy!

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