Adventures of a Transplated Gardener- Ginny Stibolt

Ginny Stibolt with a pile of mulch.  Typical!

Ginny's Garden Log

The main purpose of this log was to expand on the gardening adventures that Ginny wrote about in her Adventures of a Transplanted Gardener columns, but now she writes at The GreenGardeningMatters blog.

Current postings and other posts to Ginny's Garden Log Meadow page 

This is the Tenth postings page (from 11/5/08 to 1/27/09). Topics on this page include: turnips, longleaf pines, turf wars, Happy New Year!, answers, end of year, Christmas, wreath, winter butterfly gardens, mycorrhizae, basil harvest, magnolia Christmas tree, large rain garden, nematodes, eat the view, arboretum's opening, predator, diversity.  

Turnips freshly pulled from Ginny's garden.  Photo by Stibolt

1/27/09 Turnips, comfort food for cold weather, grew bountifully this year.  As I mentioned previously, my grandkids harvested some for Christmas dinner--the tubers were added to the sweet potato soup and the greens were cooked down with some chopped onions and were served with vinegar. 

In the recent cold snap I created a hearty vegetable soup using turnips and some white radishes, which look like small versions of the turnips, but they added a pleasant heat to the soup.  I was ready to harvest the whole row to make way for the next planting of lettuce, so my husband stir-fried some onions, turnips, white radishes, potatoes (all thinly sliced) and then cooked in mess of turnip greens. I baked some cheese biscuits.  What a yummy dinner and so nutritious.  Eating greens like this makes me feel like Popeye. 

Yesterday, I planted my tomato and pepper seeds.  I know it's a little late, but if I baby them they should be big enough for an early start in the garden.  This year I planted Burpee's Sweet 100 Cherry tomatoes, Brandy Boys, Early Wonder, and Solar Set.  Then I planted Big Daddy and California Wonder Peppers.  Here's my article on tomatoes.

The grassy stage of a longleaf pine. Photo by Stibolt

1/20/09 I was fooled by this longleaf pine that sprouted on our septic drainfield mound.  I thought it was a rush, but realized that it was the grassy stage of this interesting and fire-tolerant pine.  I posted a longleaf pine article with more details and photos, so you'll know what to look for if it volunteers on your property. 

With its narrow habit and fire-tolerance, this native tree should be more widely planted in our landscapes.

1/15/09 Adrian Higgins wrote an interesting article in The Washington Post on planning and managing bloom cycles.  Of course here in northeast Florida, we have a much easier time producing blooms year-round.  It's particularly important during the winter to have flowers available on those warm winter days when bees and butterflies emerge from hiding to find something to eat or drink.  So now is a great time to look around your yard to see what you can offer for their feastings.  It might be time to add some native St. John's-wort to your perennial collection.

Weeds growing in artificial turf. Photo by Stibolt

1/7/09 Turf Wars!

Here's an interesting situation I ran across recently--weeds in artificial turf.  This is a situation that shows that Mother Nature will have her way and the goal to have a carefree turf area will fail.  Read the discussion on this topic on Garden Rant.

Also in today's Washington Post, Adrian Higgins discusses the possibility of a White House vegetable garden.

Ginny's grandkids harvest some carrots and turnips on Christmas Day.  Photo by Stibolt

Happy New Year! Today I posted an article, Grow more veggies in 2009: Kids can help.  I got started on this topic after reading Barbara Kingsolver's 2007 book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle and I also recorded a related podcast,  Animal. Vegetable, Miracle podcast

The grandkids harvested carrots and turnips for Christmas dinner and were happy it was an 80-degree day so they could go barefooted most of the day.  It was a lot colder in Maryland where they live.  >>

12/31/08 Here are some scientific answers to gardeners' questions. Jeff Gilman, guest blogger for Garden Rant, summarizes findings published in horticultural science professional journals to answer to these questions: What is fertilizers' effect on flowering? How to graft tomatoes for disease desistance. Is organic produce really healthier? And more.  Here's the link: 

Thanks for reading, check back often, and have a bountiful 2009!

A load of Chinese tallow tree mulch.  Photo by Stibolt

12/29/08 I was happy when I heard a wood chipper in the neighborhood this morning as I was out doing some hand watering and weeding in my vegetable garden.  My husband found the source of the noise and procured a nice load of chips for us.  The tree guys had cut down four big Chinese tallow trees, and since they are deciduous, there weren't any leaves in this load.  These trees (Sapium sebiferum), AKA popcorn trees, are on the number one list of invasive plants in Florida, so more of us need to remove them from our lots.  I have girdled my trees, but they've survived, so I'll work harder to kill them this winter.  Here's an article from The University of Florida with more information.  

It's a relief to have a new load of chips to start the new year-- we have various winter projects around the yard where wood chips are needed.  Here's an article I wrote on chips from tree trimmers, Yellow Mulch.

Today my end of year checklist podcast was posted. I talk about my successes and failures in the garden this past year.  Even though we garden year-round, it's a good time to look back so you can plan for more successes next year.  As promised here are links to some of the articles I mentioned: Expanded Rain Garden; Pot Bound!; and The Tale of Two Parsleys.  

Here's an interesting article in the NYTimes today on the effect of bees' buzziness has on caterpillars

American Holly  Photo by Stibolt

Merry Christmas!! We've cut way back on Christmas gifting over the last decade and The Nature Conservancy is now the recipient of our money—gifts for our planet.  Another gift for our planet, at least a small piece of it, is some good habitat on our property.  Here is a link to an article in today's NY Times about a woman in Beverly Hills and her habitat

American holly (Ilex opaca) is native to this part of Florida, but I've only seen the ones with smaller leaves around here.  Maybe I should start a grove with at least one male tree, so I'll have wonderful berries as shown on my Maryland holly.  The birds would love that for both the berries and the dense shelter.  We'd like it because it provides a wonderful screen.  Our acidic pine/oak soil will provide perfect conditions for hollies.  Here's an article I wrote on the Myths of Holly and Ivy. >>

Ginny's re-greened Christmas wreath.  Photo by Stibolt.

12/18/08 I posted a new article, Recycled Christmas Wreath, on how I used the frame that I saved from last year.  I'd planned for this, so I'd left some pine tree seedlings in the front meadow and left some other pruning undone so I'd have plenty of material to re-green this wreath.  It was a fun project, and in these days of living more sustainably, isn't this the type of project to accomplish that??

I've been working to time the harvest of my turnips and carrots when family is here for the holidays.  This way the grandkids will be able to better relate to the food supply.  I'll take photos of the harvest, so more on that later. 

St. Peterswort in the winter meadow blooms all winter.  Photo by Stibolt.

12/15/08 Butterfly gardens may be more important in the winter months than in the summer.  My podcast on Winter Butterfly Habitat was posted today.  Most of our butterflies spend the winter months right here and survive the cold in various ways and in different stages of their life cycles.  Those that spend the winter as adults finding shelter in wood piles and other protected areas will come out during warm days to look for some nectar.  A good butterfly habitat will have something in bloom all year long.  I leave the St Peter's-wort (Hypericum spp) in the meadows, which blooms all winter.  The photo to the right shows it in my front meadow in February last year.

For more information on butterfly gardens see some of these articles I've written surrounding the topic: Butterfly Haven, Backyard Habitats, Jewels of Summer.

More resources: &

Orange miycorrhizae fungi found amongs the basil roots.  Photo by Stibolt

12/8/08 My podcast on basil was posted today. has a new format so my podcasts are a little more difficult to find there, but I'll keep you up-to-date here.

One thing I did not relate in the basil article or podcast is that I found a bunch of the beneficial mycorrhizae fungi as I pulled the basil plants from the herb garden.  They are obvious because they are orange. "Mycorrhiza" means "fungus-root" and reflects the important relationship between healthy plants and these root fungi.  They help plants absorb more water by increasing the surface area of the roots.  You can purchase spores for mycorrhizae, but any healthy soil has plenty already, especially if you make your own compost and use it to enrich the soil in your garden.  So spend your money on more seeds instead.

<< These orange threads, the mycelium of mycorrhizae, were pulled up as I uprooted my basil plants at the end of the season. 

The last of the basil in 2008. Photo by Stibolt

12/5/08 I've posted a new article, The Royal Herb: Sweet Basil.  After doing a little research I was surprised to find that basil is probably native to India, not the Mediterranean region, which is what I would have guessed.  We had another banner year of basil in our herb garden.  It really does well on the western (hot side) of our house.

While this might look like a meager harvest, I used the flowers, buds, and green seed pods to build a fine pungent pesto.  >>

A magnolia Christmas tree will be beautiful in other seasons, too.  Photo by Stibolt

12/2/08 Today my podcast on the topic, have a live tree for Christmas, was posted.  I suggest that you and your family can use this opportunity to expand your habitat by planting a tree each year.  Southern magnolias, sweet-bay magnolias, southern junipers (red cedar), red-berried trees such as the Palatka or dahoon hollies.  These are good-looking natives that will add to the cover in your yard.  Decorate them with popcorn and cranberry chains so the birds can enjoy a holiday snack, too.  The irrigation schedule for planting trees increases with the size of the tree's trunk.  This extra water is essential for a successful transplant.

<< A beautiful southern magnolia could be your live Christmas tree.  The dark green magnolia leaves have been used for door and interior holiday decorations.  Why not use a whole tree and then plant it out at the edge of a wooded area or in a mulched bed?  They are pretty messy for a lawn area because their leaves drop all year round.

Planting a large rain garden.  Photo by

Center for Watershed Protection logo11/26/08 I've written about our small rain gardens, but I thought you'd like to see what a larger project looks like. In their quarterly newsletter, the Center for Watershed Protection reported on three large rain gardens.   Here's their description: "The Center recently completed its work with the Port Tobacco River Conservancy (PTRC) to help implement a grant from the Chesapeake Bay Trust.  Our role was to provide engineering plans and basic specifications for three rain gardens at McDonough High School in Charles County, Maryland. The rain gardens were constructed in May 2008, with planting performed by student volunteers, as well as a few Center and PTRC staff.  All three rain gardens are functioning well, (even the experimental one that receives regular swimming pool discharges) with good plant growth in the first year. Not all went smoothly however, as one of the gardens required minor repairs after heavy rains this summer caused an embankment breach - an important lesson in the use of proper soils and compaction techniques for embankment construction, regardless of the size!"

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving.  I hope that you'll be enjoying some vegetables from your garden as part of your feast.

BigDaddy peppers.  Photo by Stibolt

11/23/08 In my weekly email from Science Daily I found this article on root-knot nematode resistant peppers.  I'll add both the Charleston Belle and the Carolina Wonder to my seed order this spring to see if they fare better than others I've tried.  As I've previously discussed, I love Burpee's Big Daddy peppers that produce a huge amount of fruit despite their wilting at the end of the season.  The wilt is probably due to nematodes' interfering with their ability to efficiently absorb water.  When I pulled up the plants last season, I didn't see any evidence of root knots, but that doesn't mean that they weren't infected.

Here's an excerpt from the article: "In a study published in the February issue of the American Society for Horticultural Science's journal HortScience, Dr. Thies and her colleagues tested the stability of two types of bell peppers, Charleston Belle and Carolina Wonder. Thies explained, "These two types of pepper cultivars are the only nematode-resistant varieties available to commercial growers and home gardeners. Since a large percentage of bell pepper production in the U.S. occurs in the Southeastern U.S., and in particular Florida, we tested the peppers for resistance to nematodes in sub-tropical climates to determine if the cultivars were stable when grown in Florida under high soil temperatures. It is important to know whether the peppers' resistance to parasites breaks down when peppers are grown in hot climates."

"Good news for growers and gardeners: study results showed that nematode-resistant varieties such as Charleston Belle and Carolina Wonder are viable alternatives to methyl bromide for managing southern root-knot nematode in bell pepper in sub-tropical environments. To increase the availability of parasite-resistant vegetables, commercial seed companies are currently developing nematode-resistant hybrid bell peppers using both Charleston Belle and Carolina Wonder."

Our recreation of the American Gothic.  Photo by Stibolt

Eat the View Image

11/21/08 I talked about Michael Pollan's Farmer-in-Chief before, but Eat the View is an action group where you can join the cause and sign a petition that will be delivered to Obama.  And speaking of Grant Wood's American Gothic, we stopped by that house on one of our cross-country trips a few years ago and inaccurately recreated the image.  There never was a barn behind that house--it's in a small town in the SE corner of Iowa.  The artist made a sketch onsite and then used it as background in his iconic painting. 

We had a couple of light frosts this week that killed the tomatoes and the basil; they were out in the vegetable garden. The peppers out in the same garden are still doing well and continue with their bountiful crop.  I picked about twenty peppers before the first frost thinking that they'd be done, but there are at least that many more developing on the bushes and more blooms.  The frost is almost a month early so we won't be having fresh tomatoes for Thanksgiving next week.  Next year I'll plant my fall tomatoes in the bed next to the west side of the house.  The basil in my herb garden there is still green.  That's why gardening is an adventure--even after four and a half years, I'm still learning about this climate.

Cleaning out the middle rain barrel.  Photo by Stibolt

Before the rain on Saturday, it had been really dry and our rain barrels were pretty empty. The hose bibb (spigot) on the middle rain barrel next to the potting bench had been clogging up, so it was time to clean it out. 

My husband cleared out the hose bib with a stiff plastic zip-tie and took off the two caps on the top.  He inserted a long-handled brush in one hole and could see what he was doing through the other hole.  We poured several buckets of water from the other rain barrels to rinse the loosened scum out.  I poured the black water onto the compost piles.  After the flushing, we cleared the hose bibb again.  Then we set the barrel back in place and re-attached the overflow hoses.  This is only a temporary cleaning until we take all three of them apart and clean out all the algae build-up out with a high pressure nozzle on the house water system.   

Walkers on a guided tour are reflected in the lake at the Jacksonville Arboretum.  Photo by Stibolt

11/17/08 Saturday I attended the grand opening celebration of Jacksonville Arboretum.  Despite some showers in the morning, a good crowd came to partake in this event.  I posted photos here.  More information on the arboretum is on their website,

<< Reflections of a group of walkers on a guided tour.  Trails that weave around this lake and various streams provide wonderful vistas and close encounters with a beautiful wooded area.  

I bought a spice bush (Lindera benzoin) at the native plant sale at the arboretum and planted it by my front pond.  I hope the beetles that have attacked our red bays leave it alone so the spicebush swallowtail butterflies will have somewhere to lay their eggs.  

This red-shouldered hawk in Ginny's lawn will capture a mole a minute later.  Photo by Stibolt.

11/12/08 I watched this red-shouldered hawk in my front lawn capture a mole a minute after I took this photo.  It scratched the mole hill, grabbed the mole in its talon, and flew off to a nearby water oak to enjoy its sumptuous meal.  >>

I'm not sure if this is the young hawk we watched earlier in the season that I talked about in this podcast (Red-shouldered Hawk), but what really matters is that the ecosystem of my yard is working well when the predators can make a living.  Of course the mole crickets in my lawn also cheered as their enemy was dispatched, but I have no doubt that more moles will fill the gap.   

In the news: Everglades Deal: Governor Charlie Crist scales back the purchase of US Sugar to just the land, not the machinery.  This version of the deal will cost the state less and many workers at US Sugar will keep their jobs, but will still provide significant steps to restore the water flow to the Everglades.  We'll see how it all shakes out.  Here's my July podcast on this topic: US Sugar Deal.

A more local story: Volunteers help eradicate invasive species along the St. Johns River.  In many cases, non-native, invasive plants can crowd out native plants that birds and animals use for food or shelter.  Three cheers for the First Coast Invasive Working Group that organized this project.

Meadow beauty, Rexia

Blue curls photo by Stibolt

11/10/08 In More Reasons for Plant Diversity, my latest podcast, which was posted today I talked about two plants that have succeeded this year in our back meadow: blue curls (Trichostema dichotomum) (right) and meadow beauties (Rhexia mariana) (left).

The golden rod (Solidago spp) which has been beautiful out there for the past few years turned brown before they bloomed this year.  My guess is that in this shady, clayey meadow, it was too wet for the goldenrods, while other plants did quite well.  This is a good reason to allow a good diversity of plants grow in your yards, because conditions vary from year to year.  

The diversity is better for birds, butterflies , and other wildlife as I've discussed in these articles: Invite Birds into Your Yard, Natural Meadows, Butterfly Haven, and Just Say No to Poisons.

In this podcast I also discussed our Dying Red Bay Trees and how having a diverse wooded area means that the loss of the red bays won't make a significant dent in our canopy, but I will purchase some spicebushes (Lindera benzoin) for the spicebush swallowtail that use the red bays as a larval food source. 

11/5/08 Today a fellow Times Union community columnist wrote a timely article on Where Butterflies Spend the Winter. It's timely because some gardeners feel compelled to clean out all the spent vegetation from summer as it gets leggy during the short days in the fall.  Leave some brush piles and spent stalks in at least some of the corners of your yard so the butterflies will have a place to go.

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