Thursday, November 29, 2018

Fall in the VegHeadz Garden

Time to catch up with some of the happenings at the VegHeadz demo garden.  We had a great (but very hot) summer and harvested lots of Seminole pumpkins, peppers, Roselle, and peanuts among other things.  The move of our annual beds into the more sunny area of Bed 5 is well under way, and our new Edible Forest Garden in the partially shaded area of the garden is taking shape.  We will be planting trees between Thanksgiving and Christmas with other fall plants to follow, and a final planting in Spring of more tender things such as citrus. 

Roselle:  Master Garden Peggy McDonald is our Roselle whisperer.  She has been experimenting with things to make with the harvested calyxes and her recipes can be found here.  She has also marked some of the calyxes on the plant with tape to allow them to mature so that seeds can be gathered.  We have found that seeds harvested from the green seed pods when the calyxes are harvested have a very low germination rate and may tend to mold in the pod.  Peggy has had much better success with seeds allow to ripen on the plant. 

Aji Dulce peppers
Peppers:  Master Gardener Jeanne Breland planted a bed with seeds she obtained at the Leon County Library.  One of those varieties was our most successful pepper this year--Aji Dulce, a small colorful mildly spicy pepper which has produced in profusion.  They have proven delicious in salads (such as multi-bean salad), as well as stuffed with goat or cream cheese similar to peppadews.  This can be done with the peppers either fresh or pickled.  Other peppers which have consistently produced are Carmen, Datil, and Pablano.  Carmen is an especially sweet, juicy, thick fleshed variety that is harvested after it turns red and is wonderful to eat out of hand.  Both Datil and Pablono are mid range on the hot scale.  (Hotter if you include seeds when using)  Of course, Jalapeno peppers are also easy to grow and a reliable addition to your garden. 

Harvesting Peanuts

Peanuts:  Master Gardener Louie Doll who oversees our herb beds, decided to plant peanuts in a vacant raised bed this summer.  Peanuts are a legume and harvest nitrogen from the air for use by the current and subsequent crops.  They also make an excellent ground cover in the hot summer months and discourage weeds from taking over the bed.  In the fall we harvested several gallons of peanuts for boiling or roasting.  We did discover that we should have harvested them earlier, because late summer rains caused many of them to decompose.  This was our first try, so next year we will harvest earlier.  The benefits to the soil remain the same, and new plants have sprung up in places from peanuts left in the ground, so nitrogen is continuing to be supplied to the bed.

Sweet Potatoes:  We haven't planted sweet potatoes for several years, but we were able to harvest a good crop in our perennial garden from volunteers grown from bits of sweet potato roots left in the ground from our last harvest.  When allowed to grow, sweet potatoes are a perennial crop. 
Carol and Peggy can't believe the
size of this clump of sweet potatoes

Howard had fun digging for
sweet potato treasure
Ginger root and Turmeric:  Some ginger varieties grown for their flowers are spectacular.  We grow edible gingers but other than the Thai Ginger (Galangal), they are pretty unspectacular looking.  This year for the first time, the ones grown in the more sunny herb beds decided to bloom.  While pretty unassuming, we were excited and they were quite interesting.

Turmeric bloom

Bloom of Ginger root (Zingiber officinale)

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Food Forest in the VegHeadz Garden

The VegHeadz have been busy digging ditches--or swales--and creating berms from the displaced soil.  It's the first step in creating a food forest or forest garden at the south end of our space where there is just a little too much shade for growing annual vegetables.  The purpose of the swales (there will be three) is to capture water as it descends the hill (I guess you've gathered are garden is on a slope), and retain it for the use of plants below the swale. 

Food forests are relatively new to the US and other countries in the temperate zone.  Some call them the gardens of the future, but they have been used by people in the tropics for milllenia. 

From Wikipedia:  "Forest gardening is a low-maintenance sustainable plant-based food production and agroforestry system based on woodland ecosystems, incorporating fruit and nut trees, shrubs, herbs, vines, and perennial vegetables which have yields directly useful to humans:"

We have been growing perennial vegetables for several years and our perennial garden is one of the most successful and least-labor intensive areas of the garden.  We haven't quite figured out what to do with the food grown there, nor made it a part of our regular diet.  It takes time to change life-long habits.  Food pantries we usually donate to don't know what to do with the unfamiliar edibles either.  It's an area we will be working on as we develop the food forest.

As it becomes more and more difficult to grow the familiar crops we all love such as tomatoes, we hope to develop new tastes that require less work to satisfy.  The perennials we presently grow will be incorporated into the forest which will be expanded to include fruit trees, soil building plants, and new layers of edibles. 

A diagram of the food forest, designed by local certified arborist and natural landscape designer David Copps, is available under our Resources heading.  David's article on food forests previously published in the Tallahassee Democrat gives a further explanation of where we are heading.  We'll be posting updates as we progress--or come visit us any Wednesday morning.  You can even help us dig ditches. 

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Harvest time in the garden

Seminole Squash/Pumpkin
We've harvested the last of our Seminole Squash.  This is the third large harvest we've had from about six plants.  This time we picked all the squash, regardless of maturity.  Seminole pumpkins can be eaten when mature, or used like summer squash when they are still green.  If you have the space, and you want a dependable and delicious vegetable to enjoy throughout the winter (they keep for up to a year with no refrigeration if picked when mature), this is the plant for you.  They have deep orange, dense, sweet flesh much like a butternut squash.  Use this squash in recipes for sweet potatoes or pumpkin, in muffins, pies, and other baked goods, in stews, roasted, just about any way you can imagine.  Versatile and delicious.  Learn more about Seminole Squash here:  Sturdy Seminole Squash Provides Much Food With Little Effort 

Harvest time provides some other surprises.  Let some of your spring plants go to seed even if you are not seed saving.  The roots will continue to provide sustenance for soil micro-organisms, and the flowers of many varieties will give weeks of pleasure for you and the desirable insects in your garden such as bees.  This romaine surprised us all with it's beautiful blue flowers which have been in residence for over a month. 

Romaine lettuce in fall bloom

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Garden Update

Maxibel green beans -- this many from half a row.
We'll be planting them again.
The VegHeadz garden looks better and is producing better than it has in it's approximately seven years of operation.  Come join us on a Wednesday morning and learn how we have accomplished this and what's in store for the future. 

Our squash garden is taking off.  Many
butternuts, some Seminole Pumpkins and at least
 three huge Candy Roasters

Garden sentinels -- two hawks looking for prey.  You might catch
them if you arrive at the garden early like Cathi did

And some beautiful white flowers from our garden.  In addition to adding joy to the garden experience, they attract pollinators and predator insects, a part of our goal to control pests naturally. 


Queen Anne's Lace


Permaculture Design Course

Beginning June 29, a 72 hour Permaculture Design course will be offered at the Leon County UF/IFAS Extension.  For details, click the link below.  Many of the techniques used in the VegHeadz vegetable demonstration garden are derived from permaculture sources.  What is permaculture?  Click on the link to a recent article published in the Tallahassee Democrat. 

What is Permaculture?: 

Permaculture Design Course:

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Ultimate compost bin

The new VegHeadz compost bins drew a lot of attention at the recent open house at the Leon County UF/IFAS extension. Designed by Mike Dugger with input from VegHeadz volunteers, and constructed by Mike, Glenn Berman and Buddy Holzhauser, the new bins provide space for hands on compost workshops resulting in great compost for our garden, and space for storing purchased or scavenged garden amendments. By popular request Mike has designed a smaller version for home use with two bins 3 x 3 x 4. Drawing and material list below.  Thanks to all who contributed to this project which is part of the ongoing upgrade of the Bed 5 and vegetable garden areas. 

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Superior Lettuce Variety

Master Gardener Glenn Berman, one of the VegHeadz volunteers, is a leader in trying unusual varieties in our garden.  This year he grew Brown Dutch Lettuce (Lactuca sativa) which has proven to be an outstanding variety. 
It is a non-heading variety, with large, tender, floppy leaves similar to butter lettuce.  An heirloom from Thomas Jefferson's Monticello, it has resisted bolting, and at this late day in the spring is still mild and tender.  It has survived heat and cold equally well.    Glenn started the seeds indoors on January 22 and transplanted them to the garden a little over three weeks later. 
It was the most frequently planted of the approximately seventeen lettuce varieties documented by Thomas Jefferson in the vegetable garden at Monticello.  It was one of the most popular fall and winter lettuces in colonial America and was mentioned as early as 1731 by British botanist Stephen Switzer.
Seeds can be obtained online directly from the Monticello website. 

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Rest In Peace Ed Schroeder

Tallahassee’s consummate gardener Ed Schroeder--Gardener Ed-- passed away on Friday, April 13 after a long illness.  So many of us have benefited from his willingness to share his gardening skills and knowledge through workshops, writing, and personal conversations. He was also the source of great ideas for unique gardening tools which he created or modified to suit a particular purpose.   We will miss him, but his timeless gardening tips will live on as we continue to feature his month to month gardening agenda on the VegHeadz blog.  Thank you Ed for making us all better gardeners.  Obituary and Funeral Arrangements 

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Open House Coming Up, May 12, 2018

The VegHeadz have been busy getting our garden spruced up for the upcoming Open House at the Leon County UF/IFAS Extension on Paul Russell Road.  New plants are sprouting and perennials are returning.  We like to try new things, so new varieties, new trellises, new garden designs are on our minds.  Come join us any Wednesday morning and help us pull a few weeds. 
Jeanne works on herb bed

Yen and Evelyn add compost

Carole plants potatoes

Mike is enjoying the new
seats he added to a corner of several raised beds--
just right for a tete a tete

Cathi and Peggy get beds read for planting

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Children Love Gardening

Grant arrives at the garden ready to work,
 The VegHeadz had visitors this week as we prepare our garden for spring planting.  Young Grant Smith, his mother, Bethany, and his younger brother joined us on Wednesday morning.  Grant arrived prepared to do some serious gardening with his wheelbarrow, gloves and gardening tools.  He was eager to help and learned a lot.  He and Carol planted potatoes and green peas and he helped other gardeners with garden maintenance work.  Visitors are welcome any time, to help or just to observe.  Spring is in the air and our gardeners were out in force to enjoy a beautiful morning.
Carol prepares bed for potatoes

Helping Cathi pull
turnips and radishes

Removing damaged leaves from cabbage
and Brussels sprouts with Mike
Going home with some veggies