Thanks to the Collier County Master Gardeners for the opportunity to talk about my favorite topic: Growing vegetables. Like last year this program attracted a large crowd that fit comfortably in the sanctuary of Unity church.
Most of the audience were experienced gardeners from outside Florida and wanted to know when, how and where best to grow their favorite veggies. Their timing was excellent because now is when to plant the second crop (to follow the October planting).
I concluded the talk with a salsa tasting. I made a large batch of mild, a medium bowl of spicy and one of green made from tomatillos. Students from Lorenzo Walker culinary school were there to see how the locals turn produce into to food.
Thanks to the Master Gardeners of Lee County for including me in their educational series of talks. My topic on Wednesday was “Lawn Problems and Solutions”. I was lead to inform these 50+ homeowners about turf grass and its care but I found myself offering comfort and confrontation.
“More lawns are killed with a dull mower blade, set too low, than are killed by chinch bugs.
A main factor spreading fungal disease is a well meaning gardener, extending the “dew period” at night by irrigating after dinner. The longer a leaf is wet, the greater incidence of brown patch or gray leaf spot.
St. Augustine grass (Floratam, etc.) naturally grows on top of itself in layers and must be verticut every five to seven years. If your lawn is 10 years old or more and has not been verticut, it has a thick layer of thatch that harbors insects and seems impenetrable by pesticides.”
In two hours I did more hand-holding than finger-pointing so went on suggesting: if your landscape has many trees, palms, shrubs, beds of ground cover, and turf, and you need to pick just one type of fertilizer, choose a good palm food like 8-2-12 and apply to everything.
Shade? Grow ground covers like Asian jasmine, or mondo grass.
Fire ants? Baits are superior to granules but must be used when fresh. If you store your Amdro in a hot garage and it is more than a year old, it may be worthless.
I gave a brief presentation of new fungicides and insecticides along with talks given by Drs. Mannion and Palmateer of the University of Florida.
Thanks to Stephen Brown, Lee Co. Extension agent for putting on this event for pest control license holders and Master Gardeners.
This new recreation center is on business 41, north of Pine Island road and is sparkling fresh and spacious.
I gave a talk at Riverland Nursery in Ft. Myers this morning about vegetable gardening.
My favorite part is showing giant photos of ripe tomatoes sliced in half and describing their flavors: Cherokee Purple, smoky and complex. Yellow Pear, like tart yellow grape that pops in your mouth when you pop it in your mouth. Brandywine: perfect balance of acids and sugars.
When showing slides of hot peppers I ask who loves them. Out of 50 people, four raised their hands. But when the topic changed to garlic, half the room smiled and waved. Garlic is one of the easiest vegetables to grow, almost anywhere in the landscape, and one of the tastiest. When you grow your own, the young bulbs are tender and pungent, not hot or bitter like the old bulbs that have been sitting in the store for over a year.
This afternoon I broke up some bulbs of planting garlic named Burgundy and poked the cloves between the New Guinea Impatiens in the front yard.
Because of our short growing season (really, with no snow?) we plant garlic in the fall and harvest before May when the heat and rains melt them. Therefore they don’t “bulb up” like in California. Bulbs or not, home grown is the best flavor you’ll experience.
Thanks to Dr. Doug Caldwell, Collier County Extension Agent, for inviting me to speak about bringing out the best in your bedding plants. On Friday, October 11th we were able to draw a crowd of nearly 70 interested gardeners.
It’s fun to encourage people to expand their horizons by considering some old-fashioned flowers in the landscape: zinnias, cosmos, nicotiana (flowering tobacco) and Four O’clocks. And think about non-flowering but colorful plants like ornamental peppers.
My friend, Jim Pugh of American Farms, Naples completed the program and offered seasoned advice about the best annuals to plant now.
Who would show up for a lecture about fertilizer? At 10:00 on a Thursday morning no less.
My hat is off to the Collier County Master Gardeners and the educational programs they hold for the public. This year they created a series of talks, given by local experts, to teach about horticultural topics ranging from fruits, vegetables, flowering shrubs and vines, etc. They asked me to explain the dodgy subject of fertilizer.
O.K. I made a nice Power Point presentation, brought along a ripe tomato and flowers from the garden to prove that the simple rules I suggest really work here. Then I printed out a page of general recommendations and made 30 copies. I expected an echo chamber. Instead, nearly 300 people showed up!
I guess all the Florida fertilizer laws and confusing/conflicting information out there has created a strong desire for clear, current, correct advice.
Many Florida counties and some cities restrict the nitrogen and phosphorus applied during rainy season. But much of the public think they hear “fertilizer ban!” and they are afraid of feeding their plants…often when they need it most.