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 Ninth postings page (from 9/2/08 to 11/3/08). Topics on this page include: compost, red bays, arboretum, brown lawnenvironmental gardening, grow your own foodFarmer-in-Chiefbird-friendly, fence opening, peppers, rainscaping, sustainability, edible flowers, fall gardens, viceroy, N & C footprints.

Harvesting compost from the bottom of the pile.  Photo by Stibolt

11/3/08 Yesterday I was repotting some of our porch plants and was happy to see that the compost pile that I started a couple of months ago is ready to harvest--at least from the bottom of the pile.  When I repot plants, I remove as much of the old, spent soil as possible.  In the new pot (or the same pot after it's been thoroughly rinsed out) I put a layer of pine needles and leaves (not gravel or potshards--see the informed gardener link below) to keep the soil from leaking out the drainage holes.  Then I use a mixture of organic potting soil and compost around the plant(s) until the soil is up to the crown of the plant and within a couple of inches from the top of the pot.  I water the pot until it comes out the bottom and usually let the plant soak that water back up.  

<< I cover my compost piles with a thick mixture of pine needles and leaves to keep the weeds down and to retain the moisture.  To harvest the compost I dig a tunnel-like hole into the bottom of the pile.  I shoveled the finished compost into a wheelbarrow and when I was done with the potting projects, I stored the rest in a large pot for later use.  The top and sides of the compost pile are not finished yet, so I'll let the pile sit this way for another month or so or until it collapses into the hole and at that point I'll check it again.  When it's mostly done, I'll start a new pile.  I have a second pile almost as old that you can see at the front and right of the wheelbarrow.  I'll have plenty to treat my shrubs to their semi-annual compost enrichment.  More on this later.

And speaking of compost, today my podcast on compost tea was posted.  You can get more information on this topic on Linda Chalker-Scott's website:  She's written three columns on this topic because it's been so controversial.  Plus here's an article by Adrian Higgins of the Washington Post on compost and falling leaves: An Insult, or Opportunity?

10/30/08  It's been a chilly few days here in NE Florida--down into the high 30s.  It feels like fall in Maryland.  Our fall tomato plants are probably hating life right now, but it will warm up before our first frost sometime in late December.  I'm still hoping for fresh tomatoes for Thanksgiving.

I posted a sad story yesterday, Red Bays are Dying.  The red bays (Persea borbonia) are small evergreen trees in the laurel family that are common in wooded areas in the southeast, including all of Florida.  The red bay ambrosia beetle was accidentally imported in some shipping crates in Georgia in 2002 and it has spread from there.  The fungus it carries quickly kills the trees.  The closely related avocados (P. americana) may be next to go. Yikes!

A sucker of a dying red bay out by the front pond shows how important it is to bugs and other critters.  The rest of the tree is dying and this sucker will also succumb to the fungal infection. These trees will be sorely missed by both humans who love its evergreen presence in the woods and the wildlife that eat the leaves or the berries. >>

Lake at Jacksonville Arboretum.  Photo by Stibolt.

10/27/08 The Jacksonville Arboretum will hold its grand opening on Saturday, November 15th from 10am to 4pm.  It's free and open to the public.   This 118-acre property is just off route 9a so come on down to participate in this great event.  Here's a link to my arboretum podcast and their website is  

<< I posted some photos of a work day there last January on  This one shows the lake in the middle of the property.

10/25/08 Here's a post at the Garden Rant Blog about a Home Owners' Association that put a resident in jail because his sprinkler was busted and his lawn turned brown.  Here's my comment:

"I urge gardeners who live in such communities to volunteer for the board and work from within the organization for innocent-sounding campaigns such as inviting birds and butterflies into the neighborhood. This will require that much of the high-wattage lawn acreage be replaced with butterfly gardens and rain gardens. Invite the local extension agents in and involve the kids, if it's not a 55+ community. Yes, serving on board is not necessarily a pleasant experience, but it's the best way, in my opinion, to effect change. Here's to more "no-grass"-roots actions."

Hornworm caterpillar.  Photo by Stibolt.

10/20/08 Today The Washington Post posted an article I thought you'd be interested in, Gardening with an Eye to Helping the Environment.  

Also today my edible flowers podcast was posted on  Last month I wrote a column on this topic and it includes a list of online resources with long lists of edible flowers and recipes for fixing them.  You never know, you might have some edible flowers already growing in your garden, but be sure they've been treated like a crop with no poisons of any kind before you eat them.

They're baaack...  These gorgeous hornworm caterpillars are eating the primrose willows and other Ludwigia species down near the lake.  Click here for more details on this interesting caterpillar from a hornworm expert, Jim Tuttle.  >>


Garden chart 08.  Photo by Stibolt

10/13/08 Today my podcast Save $$, Grow Your Own Vegggies was posted.  As promised here is my chart of our fall garden, so as seedlings grow, I'll know which is which.  This documentation will help us decide which varieties to plant next time.  

The orientation of the rows is east/west with the house on the east side.  This way the taller crops will not shade others as the winter sun travels from east to west each day.  The rows are only 4' long with mulched areas around the whole bed and a mulched path between the carrots and the celery.  This way we never walk in the garden beds as we tend and harvest the crops.   

The rows are elevated about 4" and I've filled the areas between the rows with pine straw, which I collect from the neighborhood streets.  The beds look level at this point.  I use pine straw as mulch in the vegetables because at the end of the growing season, I can easily rake it off and it hangs together.  Straw would work well for the same reason.  Wood chips would be more difficult to separate from the soil.  

Turnip seedlings growing too thickly.  Photo by Stibolt.

I took this photo today of the turnip seedlings.  These were the first to germinate--others are showing, but are not as far along.  >>

The seeds are from last year, so I sowed them thickly not knowing how many would germinate.  They are much too thick for developing any type of bulb, so as the seedlings grow larger, I'll start thinning them.  Instead of throwing them in the compost pile, they'll end up in our salads as baby greens. 

Keeping the leftover seeds in a box in the refrigerator has preserved their freshness.  I would not have predicted this much germination.  Mother Nature makes gardeners pay attention because you never know what curves she'll throw your way.

10/10/08 Michael Pollan has written an open letter to the candidates for president, titled "Farmer-in-Chief," about the future of food production and much more in the NY Times Magazine.  It's a comprehensive, well-written article with a huge amount of factual information including the ratio of calories for food production to consumable calories of the food.

So fix yourself a tall glass of iced-tea and spend some time reading it to fully understand issues surrounding food production.  I've read it and may read it again just to more fully assimilate this important information.  I absolutely love the idea of tearing out five acres of the south lawn and replacing it with an organic victory garden.  Pollan also suggests that in addition to the White House chef that there should be a White House farmer-in-residence.  Oh, and the extra food from this garden would go to local food banks.  What a great idea!

Sunflower field in South Dakota.  Photo by Stibolt

There are other food -oriented articles in this Times Magazine that you might also be interested in.   Pollan is a NY Times columnist and the author of In Defense of Food, Omnivores' Dilemma, Second Nature, and The Botany of Desire.  

<< I took this photo of the endless fields of sunflowers in South Dakota a couple of years ago.  Sunflowers are one of our important native crops grown for both the seeds and oil.  That they are beautiful is a wonderful bonus.

10/8/08 My son sent me this link to an article on an urban rain garden in a school courtyard in Victoria,BC .  I thought you'd be interested in the planning and the scope of the project.  

My coral honeysuckle does double duty as a bird attractor.  Photo by Stibolt.

10/6/08 I posted an article today:  Invite Birds to Your Yard.  While I've covered parts of this topic in the past in my backyard certification article, bird-friendly yard podcast, and other habitat articles, this time I've focused on specific strategies that attract birds.   

My coral honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens) does double duty to attract birds: during the summer the hummingbirds love its long tubular flowers and fly up into the flowers to retrieve the nectar—sometimes right up to their eyeballs.   Our biggest honeysuckle is right next to the hummingbird feeder and having both the sugar water and the honeysuckle seems to reduce the hummer wars where hummingbirds swoop at each other to defend their food source.  We know that this food source is endless, but their instincts tell them to protect a good thing.  

Now as the berries form, cardinals and other berry/seed-eating birds move in for those colorful berries. But there are still enough flowers to feed the few hummingbirds that appear this late in the season. (We've taken down the feeder.)  >>

I planted the first rotation of our fall/winter garden today—Swiss card. mixed greens, carrots, celery, parsley, red onions, turnips, and scallions.  More on this later.  

Clearing the chips away from the cover placed over the post sleeve while the chips were being dumped.  Photo by Stibolt

Replacing the slats of the fence.  Photo by Stibolt.

10/1/08 Holy moly!  It's October already.  A couple of months ago, a neighborhood kid ran his car into our fence out front.  While we were working on repairing the fence, we created an easier way to get our chipped wood mulch into its spot just inside the fence.  In the past, we've had the load dumped outside the fence and my husband and I then spent a couple of days shoveling it over the fence to remove it from the county right-of-way--a lot like work.  (That's what I'm doing in the photo at the top of the page.)  While it's good exercise and all that, it's not the best use of our time.  

We didn't need a gate because we wouldn't need access all that often, so we made a removable 16' section of fence.  We installed a vinyl sleeve (a standard fence part) for the post, so it's easy to pull out and we cut the 16' slats in half for easier removal and replacement.  We had a chance to test our new system this week when a Clay Electric truck was working in the neighborhood trimming trees.  

<< In the top photo, my husband is clearing the chips from around the cover he placed over the sleeve to keep the chips out.  In the bottom photo, the middle post is now sitting in the sleeve while the slats are being replaced.  Whew!  Much easier than shoveling for three days. 

BigDaddy peppers.  Photo by Stibolt

9/28/08 We were out of town for a few days, and while we were gone, fall came with cool dry weather.  It's time to get going on planting the cool weather crops.  So we went to our neighbor's place and dug ourselves a load of beautiful composted horse manure.   Later this week I'll plant some carrots and salad greens.  

The fall tomato crop is looking better with some good growth and blooms.  They didn't look very good after all that rain in August and the first part of September.  I haven't planted a fall tomato crop here before, so we'll see how it does.  We won't have a frost until later in December.  

Meanwhile our Burpee Big Daddy peppers are producing like crazy even though the foliage wilts in the afternoon and the plants look like they are on their last legs.  The peppers are sweet and tasty.  I definitely will buy this variety again.  

While we were gone, the swallowtail butterfly that had set up its chrysalis on our sago had its coming-out party without my watching the process.  Maybe next time.

9/22/08 There's an article on rainscaping in The Washington Post today: A Lesson in Rainscaping.  If you've been following my adventures, you'll know that I've been working on my rain gardens here in Florida: Rain Lilies for my Rain Gardens and Expanded Rain Garden.

Moonflower in the early evening.  Photo by Stibolt.

9/14/08 In today's Washington Post there's an article on sustainable living I thought you might be interested in:  Sustainability Starts in Your Own Backyard.  And speaking of sustainable living, I turned in my manuscript,   "Sustainable Gardening for Florida," last week.  Yippee!  Now the copy editor at University Press of Florida will work on it.  After that phase, the text will be laid out onto pages.  Once the pages are approved, then I'll have to create an index.  So there's much more work for me to do, but at least the initial work is done and one person at the press commented,  "Everything is looking good so far - thank you for handing over such a meticulous manuscript!"  That made me feel good!

<< A moonflower glows in the early evening.  I planted several moonflower vines around the yard this spring.  Now we are rewarded with morning glory type flowers, but at the other end of the day.  

Hibiscus flowers in a bowl.  Photo by Stibolt

9/12/08 Find out how I used these gorgeous hibiscus flowers (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis) for supper one day last week.  I'd been researching my article on  Edible Flowers and found some edibles sitting right under my nose.  They don't have much taste, but they sure dressed up the meal.  If my experience with rose petal jelly (which I wrote about in this article) extends to other flowers, those with the most scent have the best flavor.

Spicebush swallowtail chrysalis.  Photo by Stibolt

 9/8/08 Today my podcast on Fall Gardens was posted.  In my Tomatoes article I described the in-the-ground composting for our vegetable beds.  Another good source for getting the most from a small gardening space is  

The other day I witnessed a spicebush swallowtail caterpillar attach itself to the sago out front.  The next morning it had molted its caterpillar body into this chrysalis.  I'll keep an eye on it and if I'm lucky I'll record its coming out party.  Stay tuned...

wickedly beautiful orb weaver with polka-dotted wasp moth.  Photo by Stibolt.

9/5/08 Yesterday I caught this wickedly beautiful spider with a newly ensnared polka-dotted wasp moth in her web.  It was only a minute or two between these two photos.  The spider is the yellow garden spider (Argiope aurantia), one of the orb weavers.  We've watched this spider for several weeks and her web location over the yellow lantana provides lots of prey.

I just love the interaction between the bugs in our yard.  And of course, as I've mentioned before, 
(Bird-Friendly Yards) in order to attract birds, you need bugs.  

Viceroy butterfly on palmetto.  Photo by Stibolt

9/4/08 This lovely dark orange viceroy butterfly (Limenitis ochippus) fluttered around our yard the other day.  Viceroys mimic monarch butterflies, which eat bitter milkweed leaves so predators will leave them alone.  This way the viceroys avoid predation without eating the milkweed.  Farther south where there are more queen butterflies (which also eat milkweed as larvae), the viceroys will mimic the queens instead.  I don't recall ever seeing a viceroy before, but maybe I've been fooled just like the blue jays.

Hurricane Hanna is predicted to be farther off our coast, so we're now waiting to see what Ike does... Here's an interesting article in today's Washington Post on Edible Gardens. Adrian Higgins talks about Burbee's Grocery Garden and how with a cost of about $800 for seeds in a 2,000 square foot garden you can harvest produce that would cost $20,000 at today's prices in the grocery store.  

Image from Weather Underground9/2/08 We're waiting for hurricane Hanna to slide up just off the east coast of Florida throughout the week--at least she's predicted to become a hurricane by Friday morning.  She's been sitting in the Bahamas as Gustav was building, but now that he's made landfall (without directly hitting New Orleans), Hanna will be on the move.  After Hanna, there's Ike and then Josephine to worry about.  I'm wondering when it will be safe to plant my salad greens and other winter crops when the seeds would have a chance to sprout and not rot from too much water.  My second crop of tomatoes is not looking that great--too much rain I'd guess.  16.42 inches in August and it's already raining today.  (It totaled .55 inches in just an hour.)

In today's NY times there's an article discussing the Nitrogen problem.  Too much nitrogen-based fertilizer washes into waterways and causes those dead zones that cause fish kills and other problems.  In a way it is easier for homeowners and property managers to reduce their nitrogen footprints, than their carbon footprints.  The other day the NY times also published an article on the carbon footprint of your home.

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