My Favorite Jacksonville Garden Shop

Friday, July 23, 2010

Squirrel Wars

So I’ve finally gotten a little motivation to take on a few of my garden chores. The temperature has dropped to a mere 90 degrees, and there is even a bit of a, though balmy and thick, somewhat refreshing breeze.

I won’t bother you with the details of the clean up. I did harvest the first of my snow white eggplant yesterday, and the peppers are finally turning color. I also threw a few pumpkin seeds in the ground last week just to see what may be. I’ve had a big problem with powdery mildew this year, so I’m not expecting much.

The big news is what’s been going on while I’ve been cleaning up. This past spring the squirrels had a bumper crop of babies. Well the babies only stay at home for so long, and then it’s time to go. Squirrels are also very territorial. So as the young squirrels leave the nest, they of course would rather find a place that’s move in ready than one that needs to be renovated or dare they have to begin new construction. And so, the war begins.
It can be very entertaining to watch. All of the squirrels get in on the action. They usual leave the largest squirrel to guard the nest, but it can be a challenge when you have three or four juveniles running circles around you. Occasionally they even, if only for a moment, find victory.
But don’t let these cute little rodents fool you. They can be brutal to their enemies. Two years ago I was watching TV late at night when the squabbling, that usually ceases for the evening, started up. I lifted the window to get a better listen and was greeted with the loudest of all squeals and then a loud thud on the ground. I got out my flashlight and took a little walk outside. Lying there in the grass I found the sweetest eyes staring back at me. It really must have known that I was there to help. I went and put on a garden glove and gave it a little nudge. It didn’t move an inch, but continued to stare at me in desperation as I gave it a gentle petting.
I fretted over what to do. I mean it was a squirrel. So I found a bucket and scooped it up. It scrambled a bit, most likely from the pain of being moved. Further inspection revealed a large gash on its side. I had decided to leave the bucket on top of my car, and should the squirrel make it through the night I would see what I could do.
When I woke up the next morning the squirrel and the bucket were gone. On my way to work I found the empty bucket a half a block away.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

A Gardener's Work Is Never Done

The time has arrived.... harvest season is over here in Florida.
The veggie patch in the driveway garden has been composted and mulched over. I used a simple “lasagna” layering technique. The only thing that remains are the Rosa Bianca eggplants that are just reaching peak season, and the small meadow of Susans and Cosmos at the bottom.

The patio is overflowing with herbs. I’ve had a lot of success this year starting plants from seed, including my all time favorite, basil. I have so much basil now that I haven’t even had a chance to get it all into pots. I also have a pot of peppers that has decided it also loves the heat. In the past if I didn’t have peppers by June, I would cut the plants back to about 8 inches and wait for fall when they will generally take off again and produce well into December.

The side garden is a mess. The tomatoes are ready to be cut out. The vines are sprawling everywhere and are over run with aphids and wilt. Any remaining tomatoes have rotted and are creating a huge mess. On the opposite side of the same bed is a cover crop of cow peas. I thought it would be fun to have fresh cow peas, but shelling them is not easy work. So for now I will just continue to stock up on fresh bags of $5 peas from the farmers market. I have a huge respect for anyone who takes on the task of shelling that many by hand and will gladly pay the steep asking price with gratitude. The vines are not a complete waist though. I will use the vines as a layer of compost when I begin my “lasagna” layering. Beans are unique in that they fix nitrogen into the soil at the root, so they are great to till in.

Harvest: No harvest this week.

Remove tomatoes from side garden raised bed
Cut down cow peas and “lasagna” layer the raised bed
Pull vines from Azaleas in front yard
Cut back roses
Cut back any plants showing signs of heat stress - ok all of them
Clean out and mulch over remaining earthboxes
Discard any dead annuals and clean out pots
Start broccoli seeds inside for planting out at the end of August for November harvest

(did I mention that it’s been 98 degrees out everyday)