Sunday, March 17, 2013

garden, fruit tree edition

Intoxicated by the climate and potential for growing stuff we'd only ever seen in grocery stores, we've surrounded the house with fruit trees, shrubs and whatever it is that bananas grow on. The planters in front of the house have several citrus and non-citrus trees, and low-growing bushes, all of which have shallow roots (required by the fact that the planting beds sit above the drainage field for the septic system). The front gets tons of sun, which is perfect for the Meyer lemons (left), key limes, Persian limes, peach, pomegranate raspberries and blueberries. They all seem to be growing well, and we've already harvested some lemons.

But, you ask, how do you grow a cold-weather shrub like blueberry in the subtropics?

Thursday, March 14, 2013

garden, herb edition

We have had great success with herbs, so far. The temperate herbs common in North America do well here, including mint, basil, oregano, dill, rosemary, sage, thyme, sorrel and tarragon. Each of them has grown dramatically over the winter, and our next task is to start separating the really big ones. The only herb we've had trouble with is cilantro, which we'll try again, soon. All the savory bulbs have done well, too, including onions (yellow, white and red), garlic, scallions and leeks.

The exciting addition for us has been tropical plants, like ginger, culantro, lemongrass and turmeric. The picture at left shows two lemongrasses: the one in front is a more typical culinary lemongrass (which ended up in last night's lemonade, along with some mint and a Meyer lemon, all from the garden), while the tall red-stemmed one in back is a citronella grass. They're both in the cymbopogon genus.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

garden, leafy green edition

Our goal has been to fill the planting beds with an understory of leafy greens and low-growing vegetables, while creating a canopy of fruit-producing trees above. So far, we've run into two problems with the leafy greens and veggies: bitterness and pests. The lettuces and chards, left, have grown well through the winter, but the lettuce has been very bitter. This is also true of the basil that has grown prolifically around the garden, and which we've used to mitigate the second problem: peafowl. The peacocks and peahens are particularly fond of the tender leaves of seedlings, and they've ravaged our collard greens, broccoli, cauliflower, arugula, mizuna, bok choi and other plants. The basil and lemongrass seem to keep them away, so we've been using these herbs as a kind of bodyguard around other plants.

garden, not-really-a-vegetable edition

Spring break has meant a chance to putter around perform needed maintenance in the garden, and a little time to write about what we've planted so far. Over the coming days we'll talk about the mix of edible (both ground crops and tree fruit) and native plants and trees we've planted, so far. We'll also write about our compost bins.

Our most prolific crop, so far, is the plum/Roma tomato plant we got in the fall...

Sunday, March 10, 2013

driving lessons

Last night, somewhere on I-75, the odometer on our 2007 Prius crossed the highly symbolic, yet utterly unimportant, 100,000 mile threshold. To mark the event, we’re listing the lessons learned from the car, and how they influenced the design of tin box...


It's spring break at FIU, which means a chance to step out of the daily cycle of teaching and grading to catch up on research, writing, gardening and writing about gardening. But first, a public service announcement: remember to change the batteries in your smoke detectors. Use the semi-annual clock adjustment of daylight savings as a reminder to replace those 9V batteries, even if, like us, your batteries are just back-up power sources for a hard-wired alarm system.