Growing an Avocado Tree.
Save the pit the next time you enjoy an avocado. Rinse the meat off of it and dry it thoroughly. Take and carefully push three or four toothpicks around the largest diameter of the pit. Rest it on the rim of a glass or cup and fill the container so it comes up and covers at least one inch of the pit then place it in a sunny spout and make sure the water stays up. In 4-5 weeks it will sprout roots and a stem. Once the stem reaches 6 –8 inches, cut it in half. Wait for it to sprout then plant the pit in a pot with loose sandy soil to allow plenty of drainage. Make sure to leave half to pit out of the soil. Keep the plant in a warm, sunny place and give a plenty of light watering. Every time it grows 6 – 8 inches, pinch off the top leaves for a stronger plant. Don’t think about moving it outside until spring, and remember, Avocado trees don’t like temperatures below 45°.
One of my favorite vegetables to grow is radishes. There compact, fast growing, multi-purpose and just plain tasty. You can pop them out of the ground, rinse them off and start eating, put them in a jar with vinegar for pickled radishes, pop them in the oven for roasted radishes, just about anything you can think of. If you ‘re like me and can’t wait to get them in the ground and watch them start growing, here’s a way of getting them sprouting in no time. Take the seeds and soak them in water for 24 hours. Then take the seeds and place them in a paper bag in the sun. The next day go ahead and plant them and they will be sprouting in a matter of 24 hours. Happy munching.
Growing Pomegranate in Florida
December to February – Planting time – Use pine bark and prune. Leave the largest stronges branch (Or cane) and leave it. Prune the twiggiest. Use 12-4-8 (N-P2O5-K2O) with 2% magnesium (Mg) when planting. Repeat in April, June, August, and October. Once they’ve been in a year, use 2 ounces 2 ounces of 12-4-8 per plant. Third year, three ounces. Most water is provided from rainfall. During winter, not much water is needed. Remember, weeds are a big competitor for water, nutrients and sunlight. Keep them out of the area and keep it mulched with pine bark, pine straw, or oak leaves which helps control the weeds and acidifies the soil which the plants love. Make sure your drainage is good, or it will be susceptible to root rot, caused by a fungus called Phytophthora cinnamomic, especially during the summer rainy season. You can spot this by looking for fall coloring, yellow, orange, or red leaves. Overhead irrigation should be avoided, as this leaves plant susceptible to Botrytis Flower blight, or gray mole. The flowers should be kept dry as possible, even before they bloom. It can strike southern highbush blueberries but is even more severe on rabbiteye plants. Southern highbush plants are more susceptible to Blueberry stem blight,caused by Botryospheria spp. The fungus is usually in orchards and blueberry fields, but does not affect Rabbiteye plants much. Things like over-fruiting, poor leafing, drought and lack of nutrients and make the plants vulnerable to this. A rapid browning or reddening of the leaves on one area of the plant and the only real treatment is to cut the infected area off, and reduce other stressing causes.
Southern Higbush Cultivators:
Emerald – North from Gainesville, early ripening, large high-quality berries. Full growth in mid February, so flowers need protection from freezes in Winter. First harvest around Mid-April to Mid-May.
Jewel – North from Gainesvile, again early ripening. Harvesting for this is around Mid-April to Mid-May. Produces medium to large berries, susceptible to root rot and rest leaf spot. You might want to spray with Fungicide spray to prevent early defoliation.
Star – Best for North Florida to Southern Georgia because of the higher chill requirements. Does not grow well south of Ocala because of this. Blooms from February to reach ripening by mid-April. It has a very short tim to bloom and a harvest period of 3 weeks. Berries are great size and firmness.
Windsor – North Central Florida. Bloom time mid February, ripens by the end of April. Large berries make for a great plant with good firmness and great flavor.
Springhigh – North-Central to Central Florida. Very good survivor. Large berries bloom earlier than most, early February, and ripen early-April. Large dark berries, not as firm as others, but great flavor.
Sweetcrisp – North Florida, Southern Georgia. Ripens Mid-April to Mid-May. It’s a small berry but very sweet. Better adapted for areas north of Gainesville, where it seems to get less buds and berries.
Farthing – North Central Florida – Produces a lot of large firm berries around Mid-April.
Rabbiteye Cultivars – On a whole, these are much easier to grow. They flower later in the spring, take drought better and are more tolerant to root rot. You don’t need to mulch as much, they have a a harvest time from May to July, and are tougher in general. They do require cross pollination from another Rabbiteye plant. They can be grown from North Florida to Ocala.
Beckyblue – Ripen in late May and June.
Bonita – Also ripen late may and June
Climax – Same as previous two
Austin – Same
Brightwell – North Florida to the Panhandle
PowderBlue - Same
TifBlue – Same
Woodard – Same
Bluegem – Mid to late season, as late as July
Chaucer – Same
January is another great month for planting. You’ve got Beets, Broccoli, Brussel sprouts, Cabbage, Carrots, Cauliflower, Celery, Chinese cabbage, Collards, Endive, Kale Leaf Lettuce, Mustard, Green Onions, English or Snow Peas, Irish Potatoes, Radishes, Spinach and Swiss chard. It’s also time to start your slips for Sweet Potatoes that will go into the ground in March.
FERTILIZER BASICS – 10-20-WHAT?
Ever wonder what those numbers mean on the bags of fertilizers you see at the big box stores? Well, they mean more than they will help your plants grow. Each one has its own specific purpose. The first number stands for Nitrogen,(N). This is great for all the leaves your plants have. It doesn’t matter if it’s cabbage or grass. Just remember, if you’re growing something that has flowers or fruits, and the number is too high, it’s going to take its toll on the plant. The second number stands for Phosphorus, (P). This is what you need if your growing something that has a flower or a fruit on it. You’ll need something with a slightly higher number in the center for the flower or fruit to grow. If its not growing well throw in a little bone meal. 1-11-0. this will give it a boost. Lastly, its Potash, a form of Potassium,(K). This helps the plants overall just do well. Helps with the quality of the fruit and helps reduce stress on the plants. This is needed more as the plants gets closer to maturity. Hope this helps with the basics. So, in review, vegetables like broccoli and tomatoes with a nice fruit will do well with 5-10-10, while cabbage and corn, with more leaf than fruit will do well with 16-16-8 or 12-12-12. Remember, if it says use 12-12-12 and you only have 6-6-6 on hand, just use twice as much to make the 6 a 12. Half as much 10-10-10 gives you 5-5-5. Now, this is the same if you’re dealing with flowers. If your plant has flowers like a rose, use 5-10-10. If it’s to be used on a grass, use 12-12-12, or 10-10-10. The only time this rule is broken, is if it’s a young plant and there is no flower or fruit yet. Increase the Nitrogen to help the plant get established, then go to one of the fertilizers that is better suited for it once the blooms set in. Easy enough.
Natural insect repelling plants and Trap Cropping
One of the easiest way to fight bugs, and save money doing it is just plant something that will repel them.
You can start with Petunias. They will repel squash bugs, beetles and aphids. Make sure its in the sun. Next, try Basil. The oils in it will keep away Flies and Mosquitoes. Marigolds also help fight off mosquitoes, potato bugs, as well as aphids. Lavender is good for Mosquitoes, Moths and Flies, plus it smells down right good. Rosemary is another one that’s good to keep mosquitoes away. Mint is good to keep all biting insects away. Great for warding off ants. Catnip is a type of mint, so it repels bugs. Only problem is you will have cats. Chrysanthemums is used in many insect repellents to keep mosquitos, roaches, beetles, ticks and silverfish. Alliums like leeks, onions, scallions, chives, shallots and garlic can grow tall with pretty flowers, and help the rest of your plants against slugs, flies, worms, but, they do attract moths. Another bad side effect is they can be toxic to dogs and cats. Lemongrass has citronella in it, which help ward off mosquitos. It needs a lot of sun. Nasturtiums are a good one to plant to get rid of cucumber beetles. Borage is a great plant to put in, repels tomato hornworms and cabbage worms, attracts bees and wasps and adds trace minerals to the soil. Borage leaves are high in vitamin C and are rich in calcium, potassium and mineral salts. Chamomile chases off flying insects, coriander fights off potato bugs, Horseradish to get rid of potato bugs, Dill to chase off squash bugs and cabbage loopers, Fennel for chasing away slugs and snails. Spearmint will chase off beetles, ants, and rodents.
Now, if you want to make a homemade pesticide, take any extract of garlic, onion, chili pepper, citrus oil, chrysanthemum leave, tomato leave, tobacco leave or any other aromatic herb. Make this by chopping the appropriate part of the plant and boiling it for 20 to 30 minutes. Strain this through cheesecloth. If you want to really beef it up, add dish soap at about 3 tablespoons per gallon to make it stronger.
Another trick to use it Trap Cropping. If you want a really great crop of cucumbers and don’t care for squash, plant several rows of cucumbers, and on the outside plant a row of Blue Hubbard or Butternut squash. The pickleworm is much more attracted to the squash than they are the cucumber. You can spray the squash, or burn them with little or no loss of cucumber.
People always think of oranges when they think of Florida, but pomegranates are a great fruit to grow down here also. Here's a few tips on how to grow them down here. There is not always a need for fertilizer for pomegranate trees. However, if the plant is doing poorly, especially if it is not setting fruit or production is minimal, a fertilizer for pomegranate trees is recommended. A soil sample may be the best way to determine if the pomegranate tree is really in need of supplemental fertilizer. The local extension office may provide soil testing services or, at the very least, be able to advise where to purchase one. Also, some basic knowledge of pomegranate fertilizing needs is helpful. Pomegranates thrive in soils with a pH range from 6.0-7.0, so basically acidic soil. If the soil results indicate the soil needs to be more acidic, apply chelated iron, soil sulfur or aluminum sulfate. Nitrogen is the most important element that pomegranates need and the plants may need to be fertilized accordingly. The easiest thing to remember is treat it like citrus when fertilizning. First and foremost, pomegranate trees need adequate water, especially during the first few years as they establish. Even established trees need additional irrigation during dry spells to improve growth not to mention fruit set, yield, and fruit size. Do not fertilize pomegranates during their first year when you initially plant the tree, mulch with rotted manure and other compost instead. In their second year, apply 2 ounces of nitrogen per plant in the spring. For each successive year, increase the feeding by an additional ounce. By the time the tree is five, 6-8 ounces of nitrogen should be applied to each tree in late winter prior to leaf emergence. You can also go “green” and use mulch and compost to add nitrogen as well as other micronutrients beneficial to pomegranates. These gradually break down in the soil, continuously and slowly adding nutrition for the plant to uptake. This also lessens the possibility of burning the shrub with the addition of too much nitrogen. Too much fertilizer will cause an increase in foliage growth, lessening overall fruit production. A little fertilizer goes a long way and it is better to underestimate than overestimate.