december 2013 newsletter
Florida gardener's almanac
monthly timetable of gardening chores:
Drier Weather is Here!
most wonderful time
of the year to garden in the Sunshine state. There are many reasons for
this. First, the weather is much cooler and the humidity
be lower. Most all of the flowers that we loved to grow
now can be grown down here (at least for the next couple of months
before the heat and humidity return). And almost everything seems to be
in bloom (especially orchids)!
you began your
vegetables a couple of months ago you should be now, or shortly will
be, seeing the fruits of your labor. But be careful of garden pests,
such as caterpillars, cutworms, leafhoppers, aphids, thrips and other
critters making plans to harvest
before you do.
season has finally ended. Which is good news. The bad news is that
December is a dry month, so you must be sure to water your plants
regularly. This is especially important if the rare blast of polar air
should make its way down here from north of Canada, as had happened in
1961, 1977, 1983, and 1985.
not your garden is less susceptible to frost damage when the ground is
wet rather than dry. So be sure to water your plants well the night
before a hard freeze is expected.
protection tips include
moving mulch away from young plants since mulch prevents the upward
soil to the plants
and will make your plants freeze faster. Putting sheets over your most
tender plants works well in creating an insulating boundary.
Return-stack heaters can be used to prevent frost damage by raising the
temperature of the surrounding air (this is the most often used
protection by citrus groves during freezes). Some large-scale farms
even go to the extent of hiring helicopters to fly low over their crops
to keep the air stirred-up so the colder air does not settle too long
near the ground and do damage to their tender plants.
starting a traditional garden this month are:
Beans, Beets, Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, Cabbage, Carrots,
Cauliflower, Celery, Chinese Cabbage, Collards, Cucumbers, Endive,
Escarole, Kale, Kohlrabi, Leek, Lettuce, Onion Sets, Parsley, Peppers,
Pumpkins, Rhubarb, Romaine, Rutabagas, Spinach, Squash, Strawberries,
Sweet Corn, Swiss Chard, Tomatoes, Turnips and almost any other
vegetable you desire.
Anise, Basil, Borage, Chives, Chervil, Coriander, Fennel, Garlic,
Lavender, Marjoram, Mint, Parsley, Rosemary, Sage, Sesame, Sweet
Marjoram, Thyme and most other herbs.
Amaryllis, Asters, Baby's Breath, Bachelor's Buttons, Balsam,
Calendulas, Callas, Candytufts, Carnations, Cosmos, Cockscombs,
Daisies, Dianthus, Forget-Me-Nots, Gaillardias, Gladiolas, Globe
Amaranth, Hollyhocks, Lace Flowers, Lilies, Lobelias, Lupines,
Marigolds, Narcissus, Sweet Felching Nasturtiums, Pansies, Salvias,
Scabiosa, Snapdragons, Statice, Stock, Strawflowers, Sweetpeas, Sweet
William, Verbenas, and other cool season flowers.
Sources: Florida Home Grown;
Month by Month
Garden in Sarasota
1825 4th Street N, St Pete.
County Extension Service calendar for lots more gardening
Beautiful Commission in St. Petersburg
Kopsick Palm Arboretum in St. Petersburg
Monthly meetings at Moccasin
2750 Park Trail Ln., Clearwater:
1st Monday, October – May, 7:00-9:00pm.
Chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society
First Wednesday of month, 7:30 - 9:30 p.m.
3rd Thursday, 7:30-9:30pm
will be on Sunday, December 15th at 1pm.
We will be bypassing our usual monthly meeting in favor of a holiday
party. The club will be providing all of the food - turkey,
ham and roast beef on rolls, and a bunch of salads and munchables. We
will also have bottled water for everyone. For
those of you who like to bake, feel free to add to our buffet by
bringing a dessert.
We will not have a plant raffle this month, though we will have
some nice surprises.
The location is Walsingham Park, 12615 102 Ave N, Largo, FL 33778.
Park is situated on 354 acres, divided by 100-acre Walsingham Lake,
one-quarter mile west of the Pinellas Trail. There are two entrances,
one on Walsingham Road and one on 102nd Avenue North.
to Members page
If you plan to bring a guest, please email
Joe so he can make your guest a nametag. It's a much
more welcoming experience than having one of those "Hello, my name is"
of the month by jim
it’s time to answer the age old question, “Is a tomato a
fruit or a vegetable?” The truth is, to a botanist the question
is meaningless, since a
vegetable is not a botanical term. The botanist will tell you that any
plant product containing seeds is a fruit, including eggplant and
zucchini! From a culinary perspective, however, there is a clear
difference between fruit and vegetables. No cook or grocery shopper
wants to be told that chili peppers are fruit, so he’d better
give up the idea that a tomato is anything but a vegetable.
Ok, so the question has been answered. Unless you’re in the
laboratory, tomatoes and their relatives eggplant, peppers, and
potatoes are all vegetables. All? Not quite. As it turns out, tomatoes
and eggplant have some very close relatives that are grown as fruit all
over Latin America and in other tropical/subtropical climates.
The naranjilla (Solanum quitoense) plant looks very much like an
eggplant with thorns, but its fruit looks more like a fuzzy orange
golfball. The tart fruit is very popular in South America for juice and
jams. Being from 3000 feet and higher in the Andes, it may struggle
through the summer months in the Tampa Bay area, but it will produce
fruit here in the winter. I saw it fruiting recently at Selby Botanical
Gardens. Its Andean origin also means that it will tolerate a light
frost. It likes frequent water, but may be better in a container
because of susceptibility to nematodes. In its natural habitat it
reaches heights of 6 to 10 feet.
The pepino melón, pepino dulce, or melon pear (Solanum
muricatum), is a smaller growing plant with larger, sweeter fruit that
is eaten fresh. The flavor is similar to honeydew melon, with a touch
of pear. Also from the Andes, it can also tolerate a very light frost,
but requires rich soil and a little staking to keep the fruit off the
ground. It is susceptible to white fly and mealy bug.
The tamarillo, or tree tomato (Cyphomandra betacea), is a small tree
that produces loads of tart, red fruit. Very popular in Australia, the
fruit is generally eaten cooked with some sugar. Another Andean native,
it will tolerate temperatures down to 26 degrees for a short time. The
tamarillo requires fertile, well-drained soil, but lots of water. The
leaves are large and heart-shaped, and the flowers are fragrant, so it
makes an attractive addition to the garden.
This past month's meeting was at Jim's
passiflora nursery, a new location for us in the St. Pete/Gulfport area
of town. Bryan, who lives there, generously opened his home for
us and we all had a wonderful time catching up with old friends and
making new ones. We got to welcome back Rich and Jean-Claude from
France, and say good-bye to Ron and Vince before they headed North for
I got some wonderful hugs from so many of you. We really are a
meeting began with our customary social hour, with everyone greeting
each other and enjoying the beauty of the gardens. Once
the announcement was made that lunch was ready, everyone quickly got
their food and found a place to eat.
Nearly 40 people attended the meeting, which meant lots of different
foods to select from. I think we did a great job on the food!
After lunch, Bud took the floor to lead the business meeting, with Mike
giving us details about the upcoming Fairchild Gardens trip.
Then Jim took us on a tour of his back yard nursery allowing everyone
time to make purchases. Then he ran the raffle, carefully
identifying every plant in
the raffle so winners could make an informed selection.
future meeting locations:
January - Jay G. in
NE St. Petersburg
February - Vince and Ron in St. Petersburg
March - Joe and Bob in Odessa
September - Dan B. in Sarasota
Now is the time to volunteer
your garden for a meeting. The new year is just around the corner and
months are being filled up! Send
your emails to
- Bud Gunter
- President - Barry Campbell
- Ken Nichols
- Gary Raush
- Joe Kosmal and Bob Conner
Coordinator - Jim Nevers
Chair/Club Outings - Mike Gray
Special Projects -
- Bryan Hopper
The new year brings new officers. If you would like to help steer
the club to a better new year, please consider running for any of the
offices. Each involves only a few hours a month, and is so
important for our continuation.
The new year also brings the time to renew your membership. Dues
are only $20.00 a year and guarantees you a potluck meal each month and
exciting emails from me! See Gary to make your payment.