Thursday, April 30, 2009

Organic Gardening Seeds Galore!

Until just now, I did not realize how massive Amazon really is. I did a search just to see if they had organic vegetable seeds and was overwhelmed with a massive list. While I'll admit I don't know what I'm looking for when it comes to seed shopping, I do know variety, and found a nice share of that on Amazon--even some Heirloom varieties popped up. Wow! That sure surprised me. I made a little carousel for you to browse on at the bottom of the post. Let me hear from you if there is something particular you would like, or use the Amazon search box in the sidebar.

As for me, I'll be sticking with container gardening and a few sunflowers. I have not southern exposure that would be an acceptable garden location for my neighbors. That whole bit about needing 10 hours a day of sun is a challenge with all these trees around my yard. Yet I do enjoy the cooling effect of the shade. Tisk!

Depending on your geographic location, it may be too early or too late for some of these. Every zone is different, so be sure to consult an expert like the
Farmers Almanac (that's definitely not me) for your planting and timing. This online version is not quite as complete as the print version, but still can help with weather forecasting and planting dates for your zone. It's a must for every gardener to know the last likely risk of frost for their area. I'm lucky to be able to say that mine is February 28, but friends in the north tell me they have to wait till after May 15 to plant anything outdoors. I can hardly imagine that, given that it will be in the upper 80s here, every day by then. It is a big country.

Recent video posts to assist you with starting a garden have been popular with readers. Here's a couple of links to take you to them, if you missed them and are looking for some tips on getting started.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Spring Plantings: Good Exercise and Family Fun

© photo copyright Carrie Boyko
Tanner Poses in Front
of the Peace Lily's
First Bloom of the Season

When I say gardening is family fun, of course I include the dogs. What's not fun about digging holes and getting muddy? After all, when we're done, Tanner will get to swim to clean up. Swimming is likely his biggest thrill of the day, barring a trip to the dog park. That might be a toss up. Nah! Definitely swimming!

© photo copyright Carrie Boyko

Tanner Enjoys a Swim

to Clean Up After a Tough Day

of Yard Work

We've been busy planting lots of new plants all over the yard. After a severe Winter for central Florida, I had a lot of dead plants--mostly on the side where there was northern exposure. Trying to be every mindful of our limited water sources, I bought only drought resistant plants for the yard, like these Florida grasses, shown here with Tanner looking on:

© photo copyright Carrie Boyko

My New Drought Resistant
Florida Grasses (in the Foreground)
Will Require Little Water

In some shady areas, my first Caladiums of the season are popping up. It's always exciting to see them appear. It seems to happen overnight. One day there's not a whisper. The next day they're 4 inches tall. I don't get how that is possible, but I'm not complaining. I planted these bulbs 8 years ago, when we added on to the porch. The Caladiums are still going strong, returning every year to grace the garden with pink, white, green and red colors.

© photo copyright Carrie Boyko
Bulbs are an Easy and Inexpensive Way
to Provide Annual Color for Years to Come

Caladiums grow from bulbs, planted within the earth and left there. Well, at least here in Central Florida we leave them there. I believe northern climates need to dig up their bulbs and store them inside until late Winter to avoid freezing. That whole northern gardening business must really be complicated. They do have one thing I'd like, but can't have--Daffodils and Tulips. I think they are the most regal of all the flowers (even roses don't compare, for me personally). Unfortunately, they aren't terribly successful in my climate, so I have to stick with my Caladiums. That's okay, because they're a very cost-effective annual. You don't have to keep planting them every year, but they keep reappearing like magic. Cool, huh?!

Here are some sources for organic bulbs that you might find helpful if you're bulb-hunting, although it's a bit late to plant them. Go ahead and shop now for next year. Plan ahead and you'll be ready for your own beautiful blooms next Spring:

I still have a bit more pruning of dead plants and replanting to do. Anybody up for some yard work? Xena has volunteered to dig the holes!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

My Constant Companions Join Me in Spring Allergy Misery

Woe is Me!
The Jasmine is Blooming Again.

A word of warning--today's post is nothing more than an exercise in venting. My allergies are so bad that I need to complain. Maybe I'll share a couple of tips in here, but it's mostly venting. Feel free to get mad and comment below, or vent along with me about your own personal allergy woes.

Why is it that every year when the Jasmine blooms, my nose runs like a faucet? The only thing that seems to stop it is lying down. And of course, this feels great, since a runny nose always makes me sleepy. Go figure! What's the connection between allergies and drowsiness? I just don't get it.

Tanner, Oliver and Xena (on the floor, out of sight) are always nearby if I take an afternoon siesta. It's nice knowing they are there, even if they occasionally snore or whimper from a puppy dream. I'd love to know what they're dreaming about.

After a very cold winter for Central Florida, you'd think the blooming season would be weak. Wrong! There are more flowers on the Jasmine vines in our area than I believe I have ever seen before. My nose could have predicted that, since it is running at a furious pace.

So what helps? I've tried some of the homeopathic remedies, unfortunately without good results. The best things I can do to calm my swollen nasal passages and slow my nose down involve rest and water. Baths, showers, and even time out on the lake seems to help. At least temporarily. I guess moisture weighs down the pollen particles and lessens the density of the pollen in the air. It seems like I heard something to that angle in a weather report on the pollen count.

With that in mind, I considered trying a humidifier, but thought better of it when I remembered what a pain it is to clean all the mold off the bathroom surfaces, as it grows like weeds with excess humidity. If it had been up to me, I would have made mold the State Flower of Florida. Can you guess what the State Bird is? You probably heard this one already--mosquitoes!

Rain really calms things down, but we haven't had any this week, so I'm still waiting for relief. And drinking. The more I drink the less apt I am to get a sinus infection. After 50+ years of allergies, this is the one thing that I have learned will always prevent disaster. Sinus infections drag out for so long and often require antibiotics to clear up. I hate taking them, knowing that each batch means the next time around it may not work. Fortunately, it has been nearly 10 years since I have had a sinus infection.

Stop in tomorrow for a bit of talk about Spring planting. Oh! I just realized that is probably the culprit for my allergy attack. I spent all of last weekend working in the yard, near my neighbor's Jasmine-laden fence. Too late now :-( . Excuse me while I go back to get another glass of water and blow my nose. I'd like to say I'll get back to work after that, but to be honest, I may end up snuggling with the pups again. :-) . Companionship is good therapy!

One of my readers suggested I try this gadget:

Friday, April 24, 2009

All Natural Pest Control for Your Garden

© photo copyright Carrie Boyko
My Container Garden of Tomatoes

Is Pest-Free and Healthy

Yard work time is one of Tanner's favorite activities. He darts all over the yard, chasing everything that moves. Today, when we came outside early, he even corralled a Raccoon and treed the poor fella. Good thing they're good climbers.

You name it. Lizards, insects, toads and squirrels, Tanner was busy chasing them all. He was so tired when we came inside, he didn't even make it into the kitchen. He collapsed on the doggie gate I use to keep track of Oliver. Cute, huh?!

© photo copyright Carrie Boyko

Tanner is Exhausted
After a Long Morning on Pest Patrol

Other than Tanner, I do have some other methods of pest control that are toxin free. When you read on, you'll probably think I'm crazy, but this stuff is really working. And I'm feeling pretty good that it isn't going to put chemicals in my yard that will end up polluting our environment.

And that doesn't even consider that I'm growing basil and tomatoes, which I also want to protect from chemicals and toxins. If you visualize your salad with bug spray in it, can you eat it? It makes me shudder to think of that.

© photo copyright Carrie Boyko

My Container Grown Basil

Looks Healthy and Grows Fast

Here in Florida, Spring is in full bloom, and the fleas have apparently hit their mating cycle with renewed vigor. After a particularly cold Winter, I had hoped this would slow the pesky bugs, but I hear from friends and neighbors that they are really multiplying quickly.

I had my organic lawn care company, Jolly Green Planet, visit for a flea treatment to my yard, and so far we're doing great. They use food grade DE, or Diatomaceous Earth, to stop fleas and other small insects by cutting them, just like tiny shards of glass. I also sprinkle it on the dogs and rub it into their fur, creating a secondary barrier right on the dog. It won't hurt them if they lick it, and it can be sprinkled on carpet or bedding--anywhere the dog spends a lot of time. We frequently leave the yard for walks, bike rides, dog park visits and other outings, so putting it directly on them is imperative. They need to be protected wherever we go.

Here are a few other long-term maintenance tips to make pest control less damaging and more environmentally friendly in your yard:

  1. Pick the pests off by hand. Create barriers and traps and plug holes. Seek out snails that hide in damp places under rocks and at the base of plants with straplike foliage.
  2. Lure predatory insects such as green lacewings and dragonflies to feed on your aphids and other pests that attack your plants. One way to do this is by leaving a bowl of water in the garden. This will attract the dragonflies, and they will go after some of the other insects, when they come to visit your handy water bowl, provided just for them.
  3. Another method of manual pest control is a tad bit less hands on than number 1 above. This is using a spray nozzle to dislodge the insects from the plants. The drawback is that it won't prevent them from coming back, unless the water pressure kills them. If that's the case, you may cause damage to the plant as well. Use this method with care.
  4. Using a sprayer with a vegetable soap solution or natural oil solution works well for me. I've had good luck with a product called Nature's RX, made right here in my community in Central Florida. You gotta love local companies who are bringing jobs to our local economy. This liquid is made of cedar oil and soybean oil. It is labeled for many insects, including scale (a big problem in Central Florida), aphids, mealy bugs, spider mites, white-flies, thrips, flea larvae, and chinch bugs--another problem for our most popular Florida turf, St. Augustine grass. Additionally, it has anti-fungal properties to help prevent fungus during our rainy season. Nature's RX does not list a website on their product, so I'll pass along their phone number here: (407) 953-7307. I get it at my local natural foods store, which happens to be a smaller store--not a chain. Check your Whole Foods; I may have seen it there also.
  5. Green Aphids and Mites can be fought off with 1 tablespoon of liquid soap and a cup of vegetable oil. Use a biodegradable, all-natural soap like Dr. Bronner's. Dilute a teaspoon of this solution in a cup of water and spray it on.
Ed Begley Jr. mentions using soap solutions for pest control in his garden, in Living Like Ed. If you haven't read this book, I highly recommend it. He's been gardening organically for 30+ years and shares a wealth of wisdom. I'll put a link to it below, if you'd like to order it here.

This should get you and your healthy garden started. If you have other pest problems, I'd love to hear about them. I'll check out potential solutions. On the flip side, I would love to hear your own success stories via comment below, following the post, or email me at

Finally, the Safer Pest Control Project, SPCP, and over two hundred other organizations across the country have coordinated a large scale effort to promote the use of natural lawncare. You can join the National Coalition for Pesticide Free Lawns, and make a statement for a toxin-free Earth. Check out the new website to sign a declaration at Pesticide Free Lawns and find great information on alternatives to pesticides for the garden. The Pesticide Free Zone sign is a national symbol for this effort.

Sources: Biodelice, Safer Pest Control Project

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