Thursday, March 24, 2011

Insecticidal Soap

Southern gardeners have been using a soap and water spray for over a hundred years. One to three tablespoons of 'Kirk's Castile' soap is collected from a cheese grater and then dissolved in a gallon of water—it may take a day or two to dissolve completely. Once it is dissolved, shake the contents and pour it into a spray bottle. You must spray generous amounts. You might need to repeat this process every week because of newly hatched bugs. I have found this to be very affective on aphids and other soft bodied insects.
The only place I have found Kirks Castile Soap is at Publix.
If this process is too much for you new just go and buy some commercial insecticidal soap, which would be available at most big chain stores.

The best type of soap for killing insects is debatable; some recommend pure castile soap like me, but others endorse various name brand liquid dish liquids (most often Dawn and Ivory). Detergents are good choices because they are not affected by minerals in hard water, unlike non-detergent soaps. However, detergents have been known to be more damaging to plants if used excessively. If you choose to use a dish detergent, make sure to rinse your plants within an hour of applying the insecticide. Also, do not spray plants on very hot or humid days, as the plant will be more prone to burning. Always test a small area of the plant that is not too visible before applying and insecticide.

Neem Oil

One of the great things about growing your own fruits and vegetables, is that you control what pesticides (if any) that you want to use. I am not much of a pesticide person but if the bugs get really bad there are a few things I will do.

My first choice is removing them by hand and dropping them in a bucket of water. This is best done in the morning because the bugs are wet from the dew and can’t fly away. If you don’t want to touch the bugs you can try shaking the branch over the bucket or bribing your kids. My kids are usually willing to go on a bug hunt.

Another option is Neem oil. Neem oil is extracted from the nut of the neem tree. I starting using neem oil because it came recommended from other gardeners. I also use it because it is organic and safe if my kids touch it. I got the following information for you at they can it better than I can.

Neem oil insecticide solutions are made by mixing an oil concentrate (usually 3-4.5% azadirachtin) with water. The oil is sometimes combined with insecticidal soap to enhance the activity of both .
Always check the product label carefully but most neem oil insecticides can be effectively used for aphids, armyworms, many leaf-feeding insects such as root weevil adults, leafminers, thrips and whiteflies. Sprays can be used on many vegetable crops as well as spices and herbs, small fruits and berries, stone fruits and tropical fruits. Insecticide applications can often be made up to the day of harvest.

Benefits of neem oil insecticide
• low toxicity, safe for the applicator
• low environmental impact
• organic and biorational
• relatively broad-usage allowed
• easy on beneficial insects and mites
Beside all of the benefits of neem oil the only real downside is that it is not very persistant so may need to be re-applied every few days (see instructions on product label). Many gardeners, however, consider this characteristic to actually be another benefit because neem oil insecticide won't interfere with beneficial insects or delay harvest.

What's growing in my garden?

Because I love to garden, people tend to get ask me what I am growing. I probably have more in my yard the most because I live on almost an acre. But, I try to only plant around the fence line. I like having an open yard for my kids to run around in.
I am only going to list the edibles I am currently growing.

Fruit Trees in my Yard
Honey Murcott Tangerine- Very Sweet and Juicy
Cara Cara Red Navel- slow to produce
Honeybell Tangerine
Sanbokan lemon- Sweet lemon
Sunraycer Nectarine- slow to produce
UF Gold Peach- ton’s of small sweet peaches
Floridabell Peach- Nothing in 2 years, I will probably get rid of it.
Tice Mulberry- the kids LOVE it! Sweet juicy berries right off the tree
Blueberries- can’t remember the variety but they are doing great
Apache Thornless Blackberry- love it!
Ice Cream Banana
Raji Puri Banana
and of course of have some herbs and a few veggies growing.

I know this looks like I am growing a fruit stand in my yard but I promise you I'm not. If you were to come to my yard you would see that most of the trees are blended into the landscape and some of the trees are still small.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Homemade Strawberry Syrup

Besides the usual jam making , this year I decided to try something a little different with my strawberries. I made Strawberry Syrup and boy was it a hit with my kids! Who needs maple syrup when you can have homemade Strawberry Syrup! So far we have put syrup on pancakes, waffles and ice cream, I have also seen someone who will remain anonymous eat it plain. Can you imagine it on cheesecake, or crepes, or how about some homemade banana pancakes, you could even drizzle some on your dessert plate to fancy things up. Oh, I am making myself hungry.

The recipe I used come from Ball. I decided to make my syrup seedless and chunk free. But you can make yours how ever you like. That's the beauty of making it yourself.

5 cups crushed strawberries
11/2 cups water (divided)
1 strip of lemon peel
11/2 cups sugar
11/2 cups corn syrup
1 tbsp lemon juice

Combine strawberries, half of the water, and lemon peel. Heat to boiling and boil for 5 minutes.

Pour into a jelly strainer(I used cheese cloth) and let drip for 2 hours.

Combine the sugar and the remaining water and cook to 230°F. Add the strawberry juice and the corn syrup. Bring to boiling and boil for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the lemon juice. Fill hot jars leaving 1/4 inch space. Add lids and process in a water bath for 10 minutes.

Pictures to will be posted later today.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Strawberry Jam

It is Strawberry season here in the Tampa Bay area, and I have the privilege of living close to Plant City, the Winter Strawberry Capital of the World! So my family and I HAD to go and pick some of those HUGE and DELICIOUS strawberries. Every year we freeze some of the strawberries for shakes and the rest goes to jam and syrup.

If you have never canned anything before, you really should give it a try. There is nothing like fresh, homemade jam. Not to mention the pride of knowing you made it. Canning can seem a bit scary at first, but once you've made your first batch you will realize it isn't hard.
Also your local Extension Office might even have a class on canning, I know Hillsborough County does.

Strawberry Jam by Ball
5 cups crushed Strawberries
1/4 Cup lemon juice
7 cups Sugar

Heat Jars and lids in hot water, not boiling , until ready to use. Keeping the jars hot helps prevent them from breaking when adding hot jam. I usually just put my jars and lids through a dish washing cycle and that cleans them and keeps them warm until I am ready.

Combine Strawberries and lemon juice in a saucepan Gradually stir in pectin. Bring fruit to a full rolling boil that can not be stirred down, over high heat, stirring constantly.

Add all the sugar, stirring to dissolve. Return mixture to a full rolling boil. Boil hard for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Skim foam if necessary.

Fill the jars within a 1/4 inch from the top, wipe off any drips and then put the lid and rings on.
Next put filled jars in to the canner (or a large pot) filled with boiling water. The water should be 2 inches over the top of the jars. Boil/process the jars for 10 minutes.

Remove jars and let them cool off on the counter. As they cool you should hear the lids "pop". This sound means it sealed. If any of the jars didn't seal just put it in your fridge and use that jar first.

Happy canning!!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Gardening Websites

I ran out of the Gardening Websites handout. So for those of you that didn't get them here you go.



Gardening Almanac

Vegetable Gardening Guide

Growing Vegetables in containers

Edible Landscaping

Fruit Trees


Florida Gardening Forum

March 19, 2011 Readiness Fair

Don’t be like Chicken Little and panic when the sky starts falling……
Be Prepared!

I am a firm believer in being prepared. There are so many unforeseen circumstances that can happen in our lives- job loss, medical expenses, natural disaster and more. Being prepared can make it easier to handle these situations.

I hope everyone had a great time yesterday at the 2011 Readiness Fair. It was a pleasure to meet so many wonderful people interested in gardening. I received lots of great questions and wonderful feedback. I also promised many of you that I would post the information here on my blog. I will not be able to post everything today but I will do my best to post everything within the week. If I forget something or if you have ANY questions, please let me know and I will do my best to help.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Rain Barrels

Did you know that one inch of rain on a 1000 sq. ft. roof can produce approximately 625 gallons of rain water? That is amazing to me. Think of all that rain water you could be collecting and using for on your landscaping or gardens. Not only is this water FREE, it is also better for your plants than tap water.
I have had a rain barrel for about 5 years now and I love it. It is great to used in times of drought and when we have water restrictions.

To some home owners rain barrels are an eye sore, but they don't have to be. Rain barrels can be painted to match your home so they blend in, or you can but it in a less noticable place and hide it with plants. You could evn pain it with with some sort of design. Do what ever works for you.

If you live in Hillsborough County you can get a rain barrel for free by attending one of their work shops. Just call the Hillsbrough County Extension Office and sign up (813)744-5519. IF you don't feel like attending a workshop or if you live in a different county here is a link with directions on how to make one.

If you google "How to make a Rain Barrel" there will have plenty of links for videos and step by step directions.
Good Luck!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Flying Flowers

I thought I would share a few pictures I took of a Monarch Butterfly on some orange Lantana and a black buumble bee on some purple Lantana. Enjoy!