Easy Raised Bed Gardens

November 27, 2009 by Rick

Riased Bed Assembly 1

Start with a Piece of permeable ground cloth in a sunny spot near a water source.

Riased Bed Assembly 2

The Easy Garden Box assembles in minutes and lasts for years.

Riased Bed Assembly 3

Add your compost or planting mix.

Riased Bed Assembly 4

Wet it down and you are ready to fertilize and plant.

Riased Bed Assembly 5

Make sure you plant Varieties for Florida and at the right time for success.

Veg 2x4 s

2 by 4 lumber can be stacked and bracketed for a similar garden.

Veg 2x4 1 s


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Community Gardens are a great place to see examples of Raised Gardens.

PaperPot Making Kidss

Kids love to learn and do when it comes to growing anything. Get outside and have some fun!



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Good & Natural Bacteria - Growth Products

October 8, 2009 by Rick

Grwoth Prod group

At The Landscape Show in Orlando last week I met up with the providers of the good bacterial and natural plant growth products that help us grow Florida Friendly Plants in a sustainable way that is good for the environment and works well with the locally produced compost we use for potting media. These Bacteria subtilis organisms continue to grow in and around your plant roots in your home landscape and protect the roots from fungus and disease.

I met with Claire Renenberg, the founder and the microbiologist  behind Companion and other natural products we use. Here is a link to an article on Riverview Flower Farm and the Good Bacteria we rely on.

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Turn that Brown Thumb Green

August 19, 2009 by Rick

Gardening Basics

As Penny Carnathan, Tampa Tribune Garden Writer - The Dirt, is fond of saying about one of her gardening friends. "Her thumbs are so green she can grow rocks".

Some folks rely mostly on organics. Why do they work so well for these green thumbs? Plant-soil-microbe-fungus relationships are highly complicated and studied but the truth is science has a hard time quantifying and isolating the tremendous number of complex interactions involved. We do know quite a bit about many interactions. We know that the good fungi and bacteria outnumber the bad many times over and when good fungi and good bacteria loose their overwhelming advantage things can go wrong. Compost and organic matter support good fungi good bacteria good nematodes and many other good microorganisms and earthworms with the good bacteria in their hyperactive gut. Too much salt based fertilizer upsets the balance and kills the good guys that are working in the organic system.

Compost and Organic Matter support the good micro organisms that naturally control bad nematodes. Most of the nematodes in the world are good guys. Nematodes account for 90% of the living multi-celled organisms on the planet yet you can't see them with the naked eye. They are really small but interrelated to the natural processes in more ways than we will ever know. So you have to take it on faith or experience that relying on organic processes will help turn your brown thumb green. Here is the scoop on Nematodes for Bedding Plants in Florida.

In contrast to gardening in soil rich in organic matter, we can grow plants in our nutrient poor sandy soils that have very little organic matter. This is where you need to add timed release salt based fertilizer. This is always more cost effective than liquid or fast release 6-6-6 granular that only seem cheap. Don't feed your plants a 3 month's supply of the cheap stuff only to have it wash away in one rain when you can give them a 3 month supply of timed release fertilizer in one application that releases a little with each irrigation. and not pollute the downstream environment!

Pot-in-Pot Landscaping is a great way to turn a brown thumb green. You should try this and report back on the color of your thumb. Ask away and we will answer questions to get you on the right garden path.

9 Principles of Florida Friendly Landscaping

We share through numerous posts our enthusiasm and experience as long-time Florida gardeners and horticulturists. Our hope is that your gardening efforts will be successful and enjoyable.  We share ways to make your yards and patios beautiful while following the University of Florida's Nine Principles of Florida-Friendly Landscaping:

1) Right Plant, Right Place: Plants selected to suit a specific site will require minimal amounts of water, fertilizers and pesticides.

2) Water Efficiently: Irrigate only when your lawn needs water. Efficient watering is the key to a healthy yard and conservation of limited resources.

3) Fertilize Appropriately: Less is often best. Over-use of fertilizers can be hazardous to your yard and the environment.

4) Mulch: Maintain two to three inches of mulch to help retain soil moisture, prevent erosion and suppress weeds.

5) Attract Wildlife: Plants in your yard that provide food, water and shelter can conserve Florida’s diverse wildlife.

6) Manage Yard Pests Responsibly: Unwise use of pesticides can harm people, pets, beneficial organisms and the environment.

7) Recycle: Grass clippings, leaves and yard trimmings composted and recycled on site provide nutrients to the soil and reduce waste disposal.

8) Reduce Storm water Runoff: Water running off your yard can carry pollutants, such as fertilizer, pesticides, soil and debris that can harm water quality. Reduction of this runoff will help prevent pollution.

9) Protect the Waterfront: Waterfront property, whether on a river, stream, pond, bay or beach, is very fragile and should be carefully protected to maintain freshwater and marine ecosystems.

More details can be found here: http://fyn.ifas.ufl.edu/homeowners/strategies.htm

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Compost Happens

May 2, 2009 by Rick

As Felder Says, " Rule #1 Stop throwing that stuff away. Rule #2 Pile it up."

Or, you can get real elaborate if you compost your table scraps too and don't want the critters digging in your pile. 

Take a look at this fancy ECOmposter at COSTCO It looks like an easy way to get into compost production. It is 32 inches in diameter and one of the practical rules is that the pile needs to be 3 foot by 3 foot by 3 foot to build enough heat to effectively compost. Maybe the black color, patented air tubes and shape do give the ECOmposter the ability to heat up and work quickly as they claim. You would have to have it nearly full and the stand that allows you to spin it is included at that price only when you purchase it from Costco. It would be difficult to manage for some folks without the stand. Will it keep the racoons out of your food scraps? I have seen some smart and toothy racoons and would like to know if anyone has an ECOmposter and can declare it bandito proof and an efficient tool. Costco's 100% satisfaction gauranteed return policy is another reason it is one of my favorite stores.

picture of a racoon

Image from CathCat

The U of F Cooperative Extension Service in your county has information and workshops on composting that will enlighten you about these natural happenings.

Pot-in-Pot for Container Gardens

March 22, 2009 by Rick

If you followed the Pot-in-Pot concept from our previous article from March 3, 2009 and the benefits we described for garden planting then it is a natural step to think about this method for changing color in Container Gardens. Use this time-tested method:

  1. where you have container perennials and want to add seasonal annuals
  2. where you have container perennials and want to add holiday poinsettias
  3. where you have container perennials and don’t want disturb the root systems
  4. where you have container perennials and want move them to a different location and change the color theme with a different annual
  5. where you want to save time in refreshing your containers
  6. where you want to add a tender annual before the last frost free date and have the option to lift and protect it
  7. where you need the ability to experiment with color in the design


Pots that function as sleeves are the same size as the potted plants we will place in them. The tough and durable Vaiegated Flax Lily, the thriller or spikey component, is planted directly in the pot in a rich potting soil with 1 ounce of time release fertilizer mixed into the soil. An option you might find helpful is to connect a low volume sprayer for this container to an existing low volume irrigation system if you have one. You can buy one of the inexpensive and easy to install kits at your Home Depot to keep your plants watered and stress free. 


A pot of petunias is dropped in and acts as the spiller component. 1 Tablespoon of time release fertilizer is applied to this container. Too much and the salt will kill the beneficial organisms growing in our organic soil. Never exceed the labeled rates with salt based fertilizer or you will do more harm than good.

Drop in a pot of Lobelia as your filler component and you have an interesting, balanced and easy to maintain combination container.

Plectranthus Mona Lavender makes a nice filler component in this sunny location in the rose border where we have underplanted Knockout Roses with Euphorbia Diamond Frost for a year round bouquet of color.

When it is time for a change just drop in your new favorite plants.



Grow annuals or perennials in a large container and place an empty pot in the center when you first plant.

When you have your spillers blooming nicely drop in a thriller or a filler.

Change the center Pot-in-Pot when you need to decorate for a different location or occasion.

Containers are so versatile because you can move them into the right light to grow the plants and then decorate with them as you desire.


Bush Daisies compliment the burgundy petunia and verbena and make this combination pop.

As the Bush Daisy grows it will shade the petunias from direct overhead sun and they will last longer. Later you can plant the daisy in your garden for year round color.

Cordyline Red Star is the perfect Florida friendly spikey thriller component for containers. It lives for many years without problems.

Lobelias are so popular because of the colors and amount of flowers but they take special care to get them through the summer heat in Florida. Cut them back and grow them in bright shade and keep them from getting too wet.

When lobelias fade drop in a Strawflower or another durable bloomer or colorful foliage plant. Coleus and caladiums are great in midsummer.

Container gardening gives you more options for portable color. Pot-in-Pot in a container makes that even easier and quicker to keep you combinations beautiful when you need them most.

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Categories: Thriller-Filler-Spiller Design Concept | Design | Drip Irrigation | 9 Principles of Florida Friendly Landscaping | Pot-in-Pot Landscaping | Drip Irrigation | Thriller-Filler-Spiller Design Concept | Container Gardening | Pot-in-Pot Landscaping | Design | Thriller-Filler-Spiller Design Concept | Drip Irrigation | Pot-in-Pot Landscaping | Thriller-Filler-Spiller Design Concept
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New Vegetable Gardening Presentations from U of F

March 11, 2009 by Rick

If you have a vegetable garden or have the bug to start one or just want to grow a few tomato plants, follow these links to the latest information. There are 4 new videos showing you how to get the most out of your gardening efforts. In the series you will learn how to use organic matter to increase yield and reduce chemical cost and inputs. You will learn how to garden in various ways that have less impact on the environment while lowering the amount of effort and increasing your harvest success. You will hear that 75% of your efforts are in the planning. Take a listen and before you know it you will be feeding the whole neighborhood and sharing new techniques and eating healthy.

Click on the videos on this page: http://webdev.ifas.ufl.edu/sfyl/hot_topics/lawn_and_garden/spring_veggie_gardening.html

Vegetables Pot in Pot

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Categories: 9 Principles of Florida Friendly Landscaping | 9 Principles of Florida Friendly Landscaping | Container Gardening | Container Gardening | Drip Irrigation | Drip Irrigation | Florida Friendly Landscape | Florida Friendly Landscape | Pot-in-Pot Landscaping | U of F Cooperative Extension Service | Pot-in-Pot Landscaping | U of F Cooperative Extension Service
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Gallon Color for Your Garden

February 28, 2009 by Rick

Why are more and more Florida gardeners relying on gallon size annuals and perennials as their primary size for their home gardens? The answer is Success and Value.

In this warm subtropical climate where soils are primarily sand and coral rock in south Florida it is difficult to build and maintain a rich organic soil for the best performance of annuals and perennials. Add to that the long dry season and the need to conserve water by limiting our irrigation days and you can see why larger pots filled with compost rich organic soils that hold water and nutrients are critical to your success.

Looking back over the history of bedding plants in Florida we see that in the early days gardeners had a choice of starting seeds or buying small 6 packs. As gardeners migrated to Florida from northern states they requested the familiar Michigan 6 pack. Trouble was the rich clay and loam soils from the temperate northern states didn’t exist in their new southern homeland. Faced with infertile, fast drying sand and marl rock instead of loamy soil the transplanted gardeners failed to make the 6 pack annual survive. The 6 packs often needed watering more than once a day for the first week then every day for the next 30-90 days. Rarely do we see them sold but newcomers from the north still request them. I even see letters to the editor about the absence of six packs and other weird sentiments about Florida not having any seasons. Some people just don’t adapt well to paradise.

The next phase was started in 1980 with the 18 pack landscaper tray and the 4.5 inch annual we see so many of in the stores today. Many more folks make these plants survive because they can set the timer to water every day and be assured of success. These 18 pack annuals and 4.5 inch are grown in ultra light artificial sterile media and are used to getting watered twice a day. Without daily water they are difficult to establish and that is why we have consecutive day water exemptions in many counties for our newly planted landscapes.

The evolution to planting gallon color solves most of these issues of water use for establishment, transplant failure, transplant shock and 1 day a week watering. This is especially true if you use plants grown in compost rich soils made with organic components and with water holding polymers like we use. The gallon plants still need a plan and attention to keep them moist and growing but this can be easily achieved with much less water wasted.

I want it now! The most significant change that led to the acceptance of gallon color is in our lifestyles. We are so used to fast food, instant credit, take it with you purchasing that it is just second nature for most people to want the instant satisfaction and assured survival that gallon color offers over small 18 packs and 4.5 inch pot. Start out with plants 3 to 5 times larger that are loaded with buds and bloom and you will get to enjoy them quicker, longer and as a sure thing. This trend is national and catching on in areas where the period between last spring frost and first fall frost is short. Compare the life expectancy, beauty and satisfaction you get from Florida Friendly gallon size flowering plants to a cup of Starbucks and decide which value makes you happiest.


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Categories: 9 Principles of Florida Friendly Landscaping | Drip Irrigation | Florida Friendly Landscape
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