Earth Barrels

March 28, 2012

The days are getting longer and longer yet I’m still focusing on growing rather than wandering.  In addition to the Square Foot Gardening which I mentioned in my previous post, the concept of “Earth Barrels’ has snagged my attention. This appears to be a different take on the Earth Box which has been around for a while.  Both are self-watering containers.  

I was first introduced to the barrel version at a small local nursery and was immediately convinced it would work. I have a tendency to over-water or neglect to water anything and everything plant-like.  That, along with the notoriously long, hot, dry weather here in Florida means disaster for any plant in my care. With tomatoes in particular being thirst driven plants, my luck at growing them would be non-existent without a little help.

The Earth Barrel is made out of a plastic barrel and a PVC pipe.  You fill the container with soil (in my case, 1/3 vermiculite, 1/3 peat moss, and 1/3 compost), then place the hose in the PVC pipe to fill up the reservoir.

When water starts to run out of the small spill hole drilled into the side of the barrel, you know the reservoir is full. Then plant your plant.  It’s that simple.  Just be sure to add water to the reservoir via the pipe on a regular basis.

Although we purchased these ready-made for $30, if you feel up to the challenge, the Instructables website has step-by-step directions to make your own.  Or, for a simpler project, you can go the route of a Tomato Pail. Find out how at the Full Moon Native nursery website.


The Way of the Pineapple

March 7, 2012

It’s pineapple season!

My first pineapple plant

Usually I just see pineapples at the supermarket but last year I noticed they were growing on the grounds of the Jupiter Lighthouse. That made me curious. Can they really be grown here in Florida? Shortly afterwards, my Mom mentioned she had saved the top of a pineapple she bought at the grocery store, and potted it for me.  I finally got around to planting it in the backyard this past weekend.  

Each night now, I head into the backyard, flashlight in hand, to check on it, and make sure no nutcase squirrel, armadillo or mole has attacked it. And I’m kinda addicted to the thought of it.

Apparently pineapple plants adapt to the warmest areas of Florida, along the SE and SW coasts.  But lucky for me they can also grow in protected locations/landscapes throughout Florida.  The optimal temperature for growing pineapples is 68-86 degrees (F).  Temperatures below 28 degrees (F) aren’t tolerated, and slow plant growth may occur as a result of temperatures below 60 degrees (F) and above 90 degrees (F).

How to Grow Your  Own Pineapple

According to the FloridaGardener, it’s easy to grow pineapples from store-bought fruit.  Simply:

  1. Cut or twist off the pineapple crown.
  2. Allow it to dry for a day or two.
  3. Plant in sandy, well-drained soil (or container; see below), and in full sun if possible.
  4. Water weekly. Pour water into the vase-like top.
  5. Once plant is established, pour a cup of balanced, diluted water-soluble fertilizer into the top of the plant monthly. Avoid getting dirt or sand into the buds at the top of the plant as it may kill it.

Container Planting

  1. Choose a 3-7 gal. container with drainage holes. The larger the container, the greater the potential for a large plant and fruit.
  2. Fill container to within an inch or so from the top with well-drained potting soil mix.
  3. Water the soil mix before planting the plant (you should see water draining from the drainage holes).
  4. Plant pineapple crown in the center of the container, then water (in the vase-like top of the crown).
  5. Place container in full sun for best growth.

Pineapples are slow-growing, but if you’re going to buy a pineapple to eat anyway, instead of throwing the top out, why not give this a try?

Wacky February Weather

February 29, 2012

Wacky Weather is the only way to describe this February in Florida. One day it’s in the low 50s, the next it’s in the high-80s.  Last Saturday was my parents last weekend in Florida before returning to the beautiful mountains of western North Carolina. And what did the wacky Florida February weather do?  

I think these photos say it all….

I can’t wait to see what March has in store for us.

Florida Had Pioneers Too

February 1, 2012

Over the weekend I ventured into the past with the help of the best tour guides ever, my parents. We explored the Pioneer Settlement, located just west of Daytona Beach in Barberville. According to the self-tour literature, the Settlement contains a growing historical collection of 10,000+ objects.  Here are just a few of those objects that caught our attention.

At the sight of this old bottle capper, my Dad reminisced about how his mother used to make her own Root Beer then use one of these cappers to cap the bottles.

In the old Train Depot, my Dad attempted to remember the Morse Code he used back in World War II.

My Mom grew up on a farm, so it was easy for her to identify these plowing tools and explain what each was used for.


Allergy Nation

January 25, 2012

Allergies have gotten the better of me this past week. And I imagine others are suffering as well.  According to, today’s national allergy forecast hits hardest in the southern reaches of the United States.

Allergy Forecast Map for Jan. 25, 2012 (

As you can see, the only red band on the map is across Central Florida; from Tampa to Orlando to Daytona Beach. 

This is a great resource to check before planning an outdoor excursion. Just enter a city or zip code and find out the allergy forecast for the next few days.  You can also find out exactly what is causing all that sneezing. Today’s culprits here in my area? Juniper, Elm and Alder.

A New Year, A New List

January 4, 2012

When it comes to making and keeping New Year’s Resolutions, I’m no different from most others. What starts out as a great intention often gets lost in my day-to-day living.  So, this January, I’m not going to overpromise myself.  Here are a few ideas I’m tossing around for this blog in 2012.

1.  Revamp “The List.”  It’s time to step back and discover what it is I’m trying to accomplish with this list, and in what format I want to organize it going forward.

2.  Art Therapy. I spend a lot of time in the Florida outdoors, now it’s time to add a little more culture. Fortunately Florida provides plenty of opportunities to do just that. One artist I plan to learn more about is Salvador Dali, with a visit to the Dali Museum in St. Petersburg. 

3.  Panhandle Explorations. I’ve been all over the state, with the exception of the Panhandle. A trip to Tallahassee, Panama City, Pensacola and others are in order.

4.  Everglades.  I still haven’t entered into the famous swamplands of Florida. This may be the year that changes.

5. Florida Reads. I want to discover writers with Florida ties, and unique writings about Florida itself.

Even with the best of intentions though, it will be the surprises along the way that will undoubtably make the best memories of the year.

A Writer’s Grave, Turtle ICU and the Year that Was

December 28, 2011

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I can’t believe another year has come and gone! One of the fun things about blogging is you can look back on the year and see what you’ve accomplished, where you’ve been, and what you’ve learned. Although I didn’t travel as much this year, I still had amazing experiences.  Here are a few of my favorites:

No. 1:  Cross Creek, home of Pulitzer Prize winning author, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings…

with a visit to her gravesite.


No. 2:  Turtle ICU at the Marine Science Center in Ponce Inlet

No. 3:  Gander Mountain Firearms Academy, in Lake Mary

No. 4:  Dinner at the top-notch Blue restaurant in Flagler Beach.

No. 5:  Deep Sea Fishing out of New Smyrna Beach

I finally tried a Florida avocado, made a Clove Orange, devoured a champagne truffle and tasted the best Muffaleta sandwich ever.  I learned about armadillos, LandLubber grasshoppers, and Herculean trees.

And I’m not through with Florida yet.