What if a Hurricane Comes?

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Yes, we do get hurricanes in Central Florida, but not very often... actually they're uncommon. In 1960 Orlando was hit with Hurricane Donna and then in 2004 came Hurricane Charley.  That's only 2 direct hits of any significance in more than 56 years at this writing.

Hurricanes aren't anything like what you see on TV or in the movies either.  They don't come up suddenly and catch you unawares.  Hurricanes are large, averaging 400 miles across.  The strong hurricane force winds are close to the center and decrease to below hurricane speeds as you move away toward the edges. They move slowly, only a few miles an hour, and they tend to meander.  You will have days and days to prepare. Hurricanes take weeks to develop, do their hurricane thing, and then finally dissipate.

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What if a hurricane comes? What can you do to protect your garden? Unfortunately, not a whole lot. You will have damage - that's a given. But some pre-storm preparation can minimize that damage from wind, rain, and a possible tornado or two.

What to expect if a hurricane hits. Hurricanes tend to ooooze more than hit. You get the outer rain bands long before you get the hurricane. You will have had days of warning and plenty of time to prepare.

Winds usually degrade significantly when the storm makes landfall, but even a weakened hurricane is a mighty force. Often it isn’t the hurricane’s winds that cause much of the damage but tornadoes that are spawned by the hurricane. Damage is also caused by hail, flying debris and sand and salt, and falling trees...

Hurricanes can be very wet or pretty dry. If the season has been a wet one before the hurricane, then there will be more flooding, water damage to your garden, and plants will uproot more easily.

Go out to your garden and look around. Think low. Your objective will be to reduce wind resistance. Do these things.

  • Trim and cut back bushy plants and vines
  • Lay things down
    * Lay potted plants over on their sides
    * Lay trellises over onto the ground
    * Pull up stakes on plants like tomatoes and lay the plants down
    * Try to point the base of the plants into the wind (more about that later)
    * Lay fencing down if you can
    * Lay down/turn over bird baths and fountains
  • Move tools, watering cans, mowers, wheelbarrows, etc. inside, or lay them down or turn them over
  • Take down bird feeders and hanging plants
  • Don’t forget to take down or lay over garden art, statues, gazing balls, flags, wind chimes and mobiles…
  • Secure sheds with straps or tie downs and secure windows and doors
  • Stake and securely support newly planted trees
    - Put down mulch to preserve your soil
  • If possible, remove the plastic covering of greenhouses

Estimate the hurricane hit at your house and garden. Hurricane winds blow counter clockwise. Pay attention to the weather forecast (which will be frequent and become constant as a hurricane approaches) and where the eye of the storm (the center - which can be 20 miles across and has clear sky above and no wind or rain - fascinating to go through one) is expected to pass in relation to where you and your garden are.

If you are hit by the north part of the hurricane your winds will be primarily out of the east, by the south part winds will be from the west, if you’re on the east part then winds will be from the south and if you’re on the west part your winds will be from the north. If the eye passes over you the winds will blow from one direction, then they will stop for a short time and then resume from the opposite direction.

Get some tracing paper and a map of Florida. Draw a circle on the tracing paper and some counter clockwise directional arrow lines inside. Draw a small circle in the center to represent the eye. Place this over your Florida map, move the circle over your map as you track the path of the eye of the storm from weather forecast, and you can determine the wind direction and changes for where you are.

What If A Hurricane Comes?  Aftermath

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The wind is gone, the rain has stopped, the power is probably out, and it’s time to go home, if you evacuated, go outside, and assess the damage.

What you might find

Take some tissues with you and try not to cry.  You will probably see all manner of debris scattered all over the place… leaves, limbs, trash, your stuff, other people’s stuff, bits of buildings, shingles, metal panels, and things you might not even recognize right away.  If a tornado has blown through, the things you find in your yard and garden could get very interesting.

It’s likely that there may be trees or limbs down in your yard and garden area(s) too – and they might have crushed things.  BUT DON’T GET TOO UPSET ABOUT IT!!  Just about everything will be fixable or replaceable, though some things may take time – such as a tree to grow to fruiting age.

Take care of YOUR needs first

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I know you want to get out there and start fixing your garden right away, but it can wait. Take care of you and your family’s and your pet’s and your neighbor’s needs first:

  • Everybody safe and accounted for, people and pets
  • Food – manual can openers, a way to cook it like a grill (USE GRILLS OUTSIDE ONLY) with a full LP tank
  • Fluids to drink that don’t require refrigeration (you did fill tubs and containers with water beforehand didn’t you.. please tell me you did)
  • Dry shelter, etc.

In the garden

As with everything, make sure your garden area is safe for you to go into first – no power lines down or precariously poised trees or limbs that could fall on you.  In your dismay you could forget to look out for dangers.  DON’T!  Be careful where you walk. Watch for broken glass and metal, things that could trip you, posts and sticks sticking up that you could fall on, SNAKES, FIRE ANTS and bugs that might scare you or bite you..

You have to first attend to roots.  If you loose a plant’s roots you loose the plant.  If you see exposed roots, cover them with compost or soil or mulch.

If there are flooded areas scrape/dig some drainage ditches.

If plants have blown over or been uprooted, straighten them up and/or replant them.

Next remove debris so that you can see what’s going on and get to your plants to begin their rescue.  Wear gloves.  Get help.  Pulling and lifting and dragging and carrying by yourself is exhausting and can totally wreck your back and leave you unable to finish your garden rescue.

  • Prune broken and damaged plant limbs
  • Wash left over flood nasties off your plants

Then wait

It may take days or weeks for your soil to dry out enough to really see how your garden has faired and before you can replant where needed.  Don’t get in a hurry. Seeds planted in soil too wet will rot.  While you are waiting:

  • Take stock of what seeds you have or will need to purchase then get them gathered up
  • Add soil or compost or mulch in places where these things were washed or blown away
  • Rain and flooding will leach (wash away) nutrients out of your soil, particularly our sandy soil. Consider testing your garden bed dirt for nutrients and pH (acidity/alkalinity) then make corrections accordingly (or just use your common sense, put down some compost and some lime [not much lime -according to package directions] and expect it will self correct)
  • Be on the lookout for fungal diseases that flourish in warm wet conditions attacking your plants
  • Watch for ants, fire ants, setting up house in your garden beds
  • Keep an eye on snail and slug populations that may skyrocket and have your veggies for lunch
  • If you have anything to harvest, be sure to wash it very very well and mist it with hydrogen peroxide to kill harmful pathogens (particularly foods like lettuce, ones where the skins or peelings are eaten, or that are not cooked
  • Watch for wilting plants that may have root rot
  • Be careful of scams and cons coming around offering to help you clean up... prune, clean up debris, fix roofs, repair fences, cut down trees, haul stuff off... - very common after a storm

Final word...Know that this too will pass.

September in the Vegetable Garden

Can you feel a difference in the weather yet... you know, that "autumn's coming" thing.

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Lots of work to do in the September... in addition to major planting.  All the heat and rain and humidity has made it unpleasant to work outside.  The consequences are weeds and disease and bugs and soil in dire need of amendment, maybe even some waterlogged areas.  All things that have to be dealt with before you can get those September seeds and plants in the ground.

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Here's the vegetable planting list for September's garden:

Warm Weather Plants

(THIS IS THE LAST MONTH FOR PLANTING THESE -- BEST TO GET THEM IN THE GROUND AS EARLY IN THE MONTH AS POSSIBLE... LIKE NOW)

  • Beans - pole, bush, lima (seeds)
  • Corn (seeds)
  • Cucumbers (seeds or transplants)
  • Eggplant (transplants)
  • Southern peas (seeds)
  • Peppers (transplants)
  • Summer Squash (seeds or transplants)
  • Tomatoes (transplants)

Cool Weather Plants

  • Broccoli (seeds or transplants)
  • Cabbage (seeds or transplants)
  • Celery (seeds or transplants)
  • Collards (seeds or transplants)
  • Endive/Escrole (seeds or transplants)
  • Kale (seeds or transplants)
  • Leeks (seeds or transplants)
  • Lettuce (seeds or transplants)
  • Mustard (seeds)
  • Onion - bulb, multiplier, bunching (seeds, plants, sets)
  • Peas (seeds)
  • Radish (seeds)
  • Turnips (seeds)

August in the Vegetable Garden

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The Busy Busy Starts This Month.

Need to get finished preparing your planting beds, containers, seeds planted in flats or pots for transplanting FAST!

It's still waaaay hot out there for your cool weather loving plants, but it is time to start getting your heat loving fall garden vegetables plants in the ground this month.  Some will be transplants and some will be seeds.

Next month you will plant the last of your warm weather plants (there still are a bunch of them that can go in the garden in September) and a LOT more of the cool weather plants. So be sure to have your veggie beds ready.

Most herbs can be planted now

Might try planting some Malabar spinach if you have a very warm protected area, or plant it in a container so that it can be moved to a warm/hot area later in the season

You can transplant fruit trees and bushes growing in containers into the ground  now

Out in the garden you can start planting the following veggies

WARM WEATHER PLANTS 

  • Beans - Pole - pole beans take a little longer to produce and they produce over a longer period of time so we plant them earlier than bush beans (seeds)
  • Corn (seeds)
  • Eggplant (transplants)
  • Southern Peas (seeds)
  • Peppers (transplants)
  • Pumpkin (seeds or transplants)
  • Summer Squash (seeds or transplants)
  • Tomato - last of the month (transplants)
  • Winter Squash (seeds or transplants)
  • Watermelon (seeds or transplants)
  • Sweet potatoes - IF YOU DO IT RIGHT NOW (slips or rooted cuttings)
  • Okra - IF YOU DO IT RIGHT NOW (seeds, pre-sprouted seeds, or transplants)
  • Malabar spinach - IF YOU DO IT RIGHT NOW like mentioned above (seeds or rooted cuttings)

COOL WEATHER PLANTS

  • Broccoli -(seeds or transplants)
  • Celery (seeds or transplants)
  • Collards (seeds or transplants)
  • Onion - Multiplier and Bunching (but not bulbing onions) (plants, seeds, sets)

July in the Vegetable Garden

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Chances are your garden is looking pretty pitiful about now.  The lovely rain, heat, humidity combined with the slower pace has made everything grow... plants as well as bugs and disease organisms. Rain has been a bit spotty this year so your garden may get a good watering then get a bit droughty and need watering, then rain, drought, water... Puts a lot of stress on your plants.

This isn't a bad thing though.  It's the end of our season and the timing is perfect.  It's a signal that it's time to start preparing for your fall and winter garden.  Seriously.

Fall planting starts in August.  There's just enough time to get prepared for it.

Rip out everything that's not healthy, growing well, and producing.

Add amendments to your soil to build it up - good stuff, organic matter… not chemicals.

Fluff that soil and keep it moist and let the microbes get to work making everything fertile.

Could try some solarization to kill off bad juju stuff in the soil (clear plastic on moist soil with the edges anchored down and left to 'cook' in the sun for 6 weeks or so)

I'm using the bacillus thuringiensis israelensis in my soil for nematodes (they're baaaaack.... no nematodes evident where I've used Bti) (click here to find out about purchasing)

It's time to be getting any seeds for plants you want in your fall/winter garden.  You will need to be starting them soon so that they will be just the right size for transplanting when the time comes - things like tomatoes and peppers and melons.

I've got LOTS of work to do out there and I knooooow you do too.  Remember to work early or late and stay hydrated and don't get too much sun - try a wide brimmed hat.  The right hat looks lovely on you ladies and a Panama hat is oh so handsome on you gents.

 COOL WEATHER PLANTS

  • Absolutely NONE

WARM WEATHER PLANTS

  • Okra (seeds or transplants)
  • Southern peas – black-eyed, crowder, purple hulled, yardlong (also called asparagus bean) (seeds)
  • Sweet potatoes (slips from potatoes or rooted cuttings)
  • Peanuts (seeds)
  • Malabar and New Zealand spinach – which aren’t spinaches but are good substitutes in hot weather (seeds or rooted cuttings)
  • Other miscellaneous TROPICAL fruits and vegetables that you may come across

June in the Vegetable Garden

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Summer 'officially' starts this month and so does the Hurricane Season... June is a month of waiting... waiting for it to reeeallly get hot, waiting to see if we'll have any hurricanes, waiting for those afternoon thunderstorms and hoping they're not too violent, waiting to harvest, waiting for your soil solarization to work, waiting for the right time to start seedlings for the fall garden (our second spring), waiting waiting waiting...

There isn't much to plant this month so your time will be best spent doing maintenance and preparatory things like tool repair/sharpening, soil solarization, composting, building and preparing new beds, gathering the seeds that you want to plant in your fall garden...

Here is what you can plant while you wait

Cool Weather Plants

  • NONE

Warm Weather Plants

  • Okra (seeds and transplants)
  • Southern Peas - black-eyed, yard long, crowder (seeds)
  • Peanuts (seeds)
  • Sweet Potatoes (slips)
  • New Zealand and Malabar Spinach (neither of which are really spinach) (seeds and transplants and cuttings)

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May in the Vegetable Garden

It's here, the summer slump... technically it's here anyway.  There may be a slump in what you can plant in your May vegetable garden and for the next few months, but there is absolutely no slump in what needs to be done in the garden.

Lots of other things are happening in the May vegetable garden(s) too. Lots of harvesting going on, egg laying by garden friendly creatures: lizards, birds, snakes, frogs and toads- usually the toads start singing and mating after the first rain in May.

The heat and humidity starting in May is going to put a real damper on the garden.  It will be interfering with pollen viability which will lower production, and it creates an environment that bugs and disease totally love.  It is best if you do not work in your garden when it is wet because the chances of spreading disease goes waaaaaay up.

Be on the lookout for fungus... particularly powdery mildew!

Here's the skimpy planting prospects for May vegetable garden (and June and July!)

COOL WEATHER PLANTS

NONE

WARM WEATHER PLANTS

  • Okra
  • Southern peas (includes black-eyed, yard long, crowder...)
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Malabar and New Zealand spinach (not really spinach but a good substitute)
  • Peanuts
  • Maybe squash
  • Maybe watermelon
  • Maybe mustard and turnip (for the greens) - After you pick them they will need to spend some time in the refrigerator or freezer to give them some sweetness and good flavor

Some advice:

  • Don't work in the heat of the day
  • The high humidity is dangerous for you too because your body can't use sweat evaporation to keep you cool
  • If parts of your May vegetable garden are in shade part of the day, work in the shaded areas and then move with the shade (for example, my whole garden is in shade in the early morning.  Sun first appears at the west side then moves across the garden to the east side.  So, I start my gardening on the west side and then as the sun creeps in, I follow and stay in the shade as it moves over to the east side.
  • Stay hydrated
  • Wear a hat (some sun is very very good - vitamin D3 production - but too much should be avoided)
  • Use some bug repellant (something natural like citronella - get a little bottle of citronella essential oil from a health food store, put a couple of drops on the palm of your hand, rub your hands together, then rub your hands all over the exposed parts of your body - ankles, arms, neck, face, hair... works for me)
  • Take breaks
  • Get a hammock

April in The Vegetable Garden

April Showers

Another near winterless year for most of us.  Plants are loving it... so are the bugs and diseases.  With no cold weather kill-off, seems like they are getting a major head start.  Spider mites, thrips, aphids, powdery mildew, early blight - just to mention a few - have made themselves at home for many weeks already. With Summer coming on, rain, humidity and heat will be adding to the bug and disease arsonal.

We will be addressing bug and disease problems in the weekly newsletter.
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Put in your name and email.

April's list is stingy.

COOL WEATHER PLANTS

  • NONE

WARM WEATHER PLANTS

  • Beans - bush, pole, lima
  • Cantaloupes
  • Okra
  • Southern peas - crowder, black-eyed, yard long...
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Malabar spinach

March in the Vegetable Garden

WOW! NO WINTER AT ALL THIS YEAR, FOR THE MOST OF US...

March plantings are not much different from February's, but the important thing is this:

MARCH IS THE LAST BIG PLANTING MONTH FOR THE SPRING SEASON.

With April's warmth, the number of things you can plant drops drastically and then in May, June, and July there are really very few things you can plant at all... you need to have the plants growing already.  Heat and humidity will affect plant growth and productivity - and so will the bugs and diseases!!

So here's the list for March

COOL WEATHER PLANTS

  • Beets
  • Carrots
  • Collards
  • Kohlrabi
  • Lettuce
  • Mustard
  • Onion - multiplier, bunching
  • Peas
  • Radish
  • Turnip

WARM WEATHER PLANTS

  • Beans - bush, pole, lima
  • Cantaloups
  • Corn
  • Cucumbers
  • Eggplant
  • Okra
  • Southern peas
  • Peppers
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Pumpkin
  • Summer Squash
  • Winter Squash
  • Tomatoes
  • Watermelon

Remember though, this is just a generic list.  At your house in your garden, things aren't going to be generic.  Yours may be warmer, cooler, sunnier, shadier, dryer, moister, more fertile, different pH, more organic matter, yadda yadda yadda... than the average generic garden.

Look around your garden world.  Observe what and where things are growing, sprouting, the color, the health, moisture, disease... and use this information combined with a little common sense to guide your garden planting decisions.

February in the Vegetable Garden

WOW!  Looks like we might have another relatively winterless year (from about Orlando south anyway)... 5 in a row.

That's good, but it's bad.

Good because we get extra growth, don't have cold damage dieback, soil flora and fauna grow faster building that good rich soil, planting season is extended, more time to enjoy the outdoors in our garden paradises...

Bad because no freeze means no killing off some of the bugs or at least slowing them down, and bad because it gives us a false sense of "Spring is here" so we plant and then get a frost or freeze that destroys our seedlings and transplants.  The fruit trees and bushes get confused and bloom when they shouldn't, and there won't be enough 'chill hours' that some fruits and berries need to produce, ripen and sweeten fruit - including citrus.  The greens don't get that touch of frost/cold to make them sweet...

Regardless of whether we have any winter weather or not, there is a lot of planting to be done in February.

This list is not carved in stone.  It is only the recommended list of the FL Extension Service -- which means it's general.  Your yard is not identical to their test plots.  Yours may be cooler, warmer, wetter, dryer, higher, lower, more sun, less sun, protected, exposed... and then there are the micro-climates all over the place.

Experiment.  Chinese cabbage and spinach are not on the list for February, but I want to plant them.  So, I'll find a spot in my yard that's a little bit cooler and has a little less sun than the rest and plant some Chinese cabbage and spinach there.  If it works, GREAT!  If it doesn't, nothing lost.  It's worth the chance.

WARM WEATHER PLANTS

  • Beans - bush, pole, lima
  • Cantaloupes
  • Corn
  • Cucumbers
  • Eggplant
  • Peppers
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Pumpkin
  • Summer Squash
  • Winter Squash
  • Tomatoes
  • Watermelon

COOL WEATHER PLANTS

  • Beets
  • Carrots
  • Celery
  • Collards
  • Endive/Escarole
  • Kohlrabi
  • Leek
  • Lettuce
  • Mustard
  • Onion - multiplier, bunching
  • Peas
  • Potatoes
  • Radish
  • Turnip

January in the Vegetable Garden

New year, new things, new plans... Soooooo excited!  I can feel down in my gardener's bones that it's going to be a good one.

This month we can get a few warm weather things into the garden - BUT BE PREPARED TO PROTECT THEM!  We might not have had any 'winter' yet, but we're far from being out of the woods for some plant killing weather - frost or even a freeze... ya just never know.

Links to some seed companies online

http://www.johnnyseeds.com/

https://exchange.seedsavers.org/page/landing

http://parkseed.com/

https://www.richters.com/

http://www.artisticgardens.com/index.aspx

https://www.superseeds.com/

https://bountifulgardens.org/departments/281

http://www.territorialseed.com/

https://www.botanicalinterests.com/

WARM WEATHER PLANTS (GET SEEDS STARTED IN POTS SO THAT THEY WILL BE READY TO TRANSPLANT INTO YOUR GARDEN IN 4-6 WEEKS)

  • Eggplants
  • Peppers
  • Tomatoes
  • Watermelons

COOL WEATHER PLANTS

  • Beets
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Carrots
  • Cauliflower
  • Celery
  • Chinese Cabbage
  • Collards
  • Endive/Escrole
  • Kale
  • Kohlrabi
  • Leek
  • Lettuce
  • Mustard
  • Onion - multiplier and bunching, but not bulb
  • Peas
  • Potatoes
  • Radish
  • Turnips
  • Garlic
  • Spinach isn't on the "official" list but you could try it anyway

Next month the planting really breaks loose!