Compost, Drip Irrigation and Haitian Agronomists

June 10, 2011 by admin

Haitian Agronomists paid us a visit this week as a part of their Florida tour of farms in an effort to learn how we implement growing practices that are based on scientific methods developed and taught at the University of Florida. USAID’s WINNER program in Haiti has contracted with the University of Florida to train and help implement agricultural best management practices with the farmers and these state agronomists that work from stations around the Haitian state.


Typical Furcy area terraced farms


Furcy Station School


10 Ways That WINNER Is Changing Haiti

Why The Watershed Initiative For National Natural Environmental Resources Reflects America's Best Development Practices and a Path Forward For Haiti

April 8, 2010


* A FIVE-YEAR MULTI-FACETED PROGRAM begun last May and designed to comprehensively build Haiti's agricultural infrastructure, capacity, and productivity by providing concentrated and transformative support to Haitians in a large area north of Port-au-Prince. It is focused on building and strengthening Haiti's agricultural foundation, particularly in the areas of Cul-de-Sac, Cabaret, Mirbalais, Archaie and Gonaives and is backed by $126 million in funding from the U.S. Government over the next five years.

* MANAGED BY A MOSTLY HAITIAN STAFF that works with other Haitians to develop watershed management plans, strengthen farmer associations, provide access to expertise and vital supplies (seeds, fertilizers, credit, tools), and restore protective tree cover.

* DEDICATED TO CREATING AGRICULTURAL GROWTH that can be independently sustained and flourish, while contributing to the growth of secondary poles of development. WINNER is focused as much on providing materials and expert guidance as on developing civic institutions and networks.

* BUILT ON A NETWORK OF OVER 200 FARMERS ASSOCIATIONS which work in conjunction with local government officials, NGOs and other entities to form public-private partnerships and prepare the maximum amount of land possible for the planting/harvesting season which runs from March through October.

* A CRITICAL WAY TO REDUCE RISK TO VULNERABLE POPULATIONS through innovative flood control work in Riviere Grise and La Quinte which will be implemented through labor-intensive projects.

* PROTECTING NATURAL RESOURCES, such as watersheds and tree cover, which must be restored in order to ensure that meaningful agricultural development can take place. WINNER provides the funding and education Haitians need to sustain and grow their environment.

* WIDESPREAD AND EFFECTIVE enough to deliver an efficient response to the country's food security emergency and meet the needs of the dispersed population in the wake of Haiti's earthquake.

* THE CULMINATION of best practices derived from project experience from USAID and other donors over the last 30 years and is now the model for watershed methodology being used in Haiti and around the world by Canada, Spain, France, Inter-American Development Bank and the United Nations Development Program.

* A MAJOR SOURCE OF PRODUCTIVE EMPLOYMENT for Haitians displaced by the earthquake. It will help to integrate 15,000 people into specified areas and provide jobs, shelter and services in collaboration with local authorities.

* A PARTNERSHIP between the U.S. Government, Government of Haiti, and Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations



We spent time showing them all the facets of our Florida operation.


A main focus of the visit was to learn how we compost to create growing

media using microorganisms and local materials.


Our low volume watering systems were also demonstrated to their delight.

They helped us understand more about Haiti and the size of the country, diversity of growing regions and economic and cultural challenges.

It is worth a look at this video from Double Harvest to get a sense of the problems and scale of the issues facing Haiti and what they have done. You can also visit and Like Double Harvest on Facebook. Knowing the VanWingerden family has given me a sense of the sharing of their ideals and the impact they have made on communities in need around the world. Give their pages a look. Contributions to Double Harvest are likely the most efficient way to get aid to people in need that can benefit most by learning to be self sufficient through this organizations intense and charitable effort.

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School Garden Classroom… Model for Florida Schools?

September 28, 2010 by Rick

Occasionally you get to see something that inspires you so much you can’t stop thinking about the possibilities. I met teacher, Mark Painter, and his enthusiastic volunteer staff of parents and admirers on a recent trip to Dallas at Stonewall Jackson elementary school garden. Mark’s philosophy is that you have to teach the younger children the importance of good nutrition and how healthy food is grown so they get the right appreciation for it before they have too many other distractions when they get older. At the elementary level, children all enjoy the garden and can easily grasp the concepts to develop a love for the environment and growing their own food. Then as they grow up their expectations are properly aligned with the kind of food we all need for a healthy diet.


Mark told me the kids love to eat the tender raw okra right out of the garden. It is fast growing, prolific and a great southern crop to sink your teeth into. Mark teaches them to use lots of compost and an efficient no-till method. Free mulch from neighborhood arborists keeps the garden weeds to a manageable level. The students plant the okra in pots of compost enriched soil buried in the garden and use a micro sprayer in each pot to teach the value of water and how to concentrate it where it is needed with the least amount of waste. Mark says the children are fascinated by all the beneficial and pest insects attracted to the garden. Children get to share, work and learn science together in an educational setting they will remember for the rest of their lives. Read their recent blog post and you will see what I mean.


With drip and micro irrigation and plenty of compost, Stonewall Gardens produces lots of food for it’s small size. More than that, Stonewall teachers work together with their science curriculum to inspire children for a lifetime of healthy eating and an understanding of good nutrition. There parents become involved and inspired to grow some of their own food in a small space at home. Imagine getting extra credit for growing some healthy vegetables at home for your family.


You have to appreciate the large sums of cash from The Gates Foundation and Facebook and other private concerns going toward improving they way students learn with computers. This effort is more beneficial, in my opinion, because it does a better job of instilling a lifetime connection with science, nature, nutrition, management and learning. Instilling these values and knowledge in similar programs would be a great thing for the food industry, food retailers and agriculture to fund and connect their products and names to improving health, education and society. School boards need to be made aware of the Stonewall Garden project and how it can raise the education levels of their students.


At Stonewall garden they plant herbs, eggplant and peppers in large buried containers to confine the compost and focus the irrigation and organic fertilizer.


The parents volunteer with some of the weeding and composting to keep the garden neat and organized.


In this exercise the students are taught to record their crops progress and to recognize the leaf shape so they can distinguish their seedlings from the weeds.



The classes feed and tend the chickens which stimulate them to ask many questions as they become immersed in the garden and farm while learning where food comes from and how it impacts their diet.


Students study and plant wild flowers and the butterflies and hummingbirds they attract. This close link to the environment broadens the understanding of these children raised in this urban area.

The Stonewall Jackson Garden website will answer more of the questions I hope I have stirred in this post. Read back through their blog posts to get a feel for how they interact with the community and the students. I hope you are as inspired as I am. This ought to be a feature on 60 Minutes.

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Right Plant, Right Place Makes Gardening Easy

August 15, 2010 by Rick

Austin Outdoor Florida introduces some principles that will save you time by getting it right the first time.


Meems has a great presentation on her blog showing Native and Florida-friendly plants working in harmony in her garden. Her use and discussion of Right Plant – Right Place will inspire you in your gardening efforts. For further reading on these topics and reducing the turf areas and their impacts start with reading these posts. 

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Lakes of Mount Dora Gets It!

August 6, 2010 by Rick

Following the 9 principles of Florida Friendly Landscaping is so rewarding for you and the environment. With a little study you can convert your yard and garden to one that requires less water and fertilizer and is still the nicest on the block. You can let your yard make a statement about who you are and how you feel about protecting the environment and reducing chemical and fertilizer runoff pollution.



Search our Database for many of these plants that can be found at you Florida Home Depot garden center.

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:


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Beneficial Organisms and Humates for Your Garden

July 20, 2010 by Rick



What is TurfPro? As this Link Says:

    TurfPro is the ultimate 100% naturally organic humate soil
    conditioner. It is a powerful nutrient converter and bio-
    stimulant that is very easy to apply. Use it as a root drench
    and also as a foliar spray where the benefits are systemic,
    providing the necessary nutrients and resistance to pests.

Read the whole story on their web site and you will see why it is in all of our soils and how the benefits carry over to your garden from our plants. It has been well worth the cost in fertilizer and water savings for us. Our annuals and perennials produce better root systems and flower faster. The soli mix stays moist longer and rewets easier.




We use the AgriPro Natural – Dry at 18 lbs per cubic yard and get the full microbial charge, good mixing and distribution on dormant microbes and nutrients all at a lower cost than alternative microbial amendments and organic additives.



We buy it in these 1 ton bulk bags and use a tractor mounted spreader to apply it to the compost before disking it in for blending.

We hope you find our plants survive better and establish quicker in your garden. The microbes in our soil will prevent root rot disease long after you plant and you are enjoying the Florida-friendly flowers they produce in your garden. Remember to never exceed the label rate when using synthetic fertilizers or you will kill the microbes and increase the plants susceptibility to disease. If you want to read how this product works and why it would be good for everything you grow (including your lawn) and the Florida environment you can read this summary – To Improve Your Soil, Think Organic!

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Categories: 9 Principles of Florida Friendly Landscaping | Compost | Environmental Awareness Education | Plant Production | TurfPro
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Riverview Flower Farm is Big on Sustainability

July 1, 2010 by Rick

I have just returned from 9 days in New York and have some interesting garden and horticulture facts and photos to share on upcoming posts. The Seeley Conference was our primary destination and the title this year was “Floriculture’s Environmental Footprint: an inconvenient truth or consumer opportunity” Among the speakers were many of the brightest people associated with agriculture as well as non industry experts that shared enlightening facts about environmental policy, economics and marketing.  I was honored to present with three other growers on how we each are “Operationalizing Sustainability” as a topic. Included in my presentation were facts on how we save water, pumping cost and fertilizer by using drip irrigation and capillary mats for irrigation. We reduce the amount of peat moss by using compost that incorporates local yard and tree waste compost in our potting soil. We use friendly soil bacteria instead of chemicals for root disease control. Our primary cold protection is with the use of frost cloth like you can also use at home instead of using warm ground water as a source of heat. I also focused on how we recycle all of our components. If you would like details about our procedures and processes please leave a comment below or on our Facebook page. Below are images from my presentation.



Some of the many Florida Friendly Perennials we grow.


Check out our for the complete list and database.



Annuals add lots of color to Florida landscapes.




Drip irrigation saves 10 cents per pot in terms of fertilizer saving and reduced pumping costs. That’s a lot of dimes. 6-8 ounces of water is applied as needed saving 95% of the water lost in overhead systems much of which is lost to evaporation.


Zone management and spot fertilization save even more money and water and allow for precise applications. Often we inject garlic oil extract to make our plants distasteful to certain insects.


Frost cloth is used for freeze protection down to 20F instead of using ground water for heat.


Expert growers are masters of Integrated Pest Management systems (IPM) making for safe plants and a safe working environment by using the lowest toxicity products available.


A custom software program makes all the systems flow and reduces waste and effort.


Grower Live is available as a subscription service for other growers seeking web based solutions.


Efficient monorails and carts take the place of 50 tractors and 200 tracking trailers. Monorails don’t add as much to the carbon footprint and are safe to use resulting in very few accidents like those associated with motorized equipment.


Efficient use of delivery equipment and matching orders to the rate of sale reduces the fuel, miles and carbon use.




Scan a QR coded calling card with your smart phone the next time you visit the garden center.

It will direct you to our informative website.


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We are big users of composted municipal tree waste and yard waste compost.


We blend in TurfPro with humates and 14 active bacteria that protect the roots from disease and help keep the soil moist and active.



The final product is a affordable organic soil mix that holds these good microbes all the way to your garden for added success. More on this in our F.A.Q. page.




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Categories: 9 Principles of Florida Friendly Landscaping | Compost | Drip Irrigation | Environmental Awareness Education | Plant Production
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Mulch and Compost – Form and Function

May 21, 2010 by Rick

Organic matter is the secret to growing better garden plants in Florida. It is the most important component to gardening. Organic matter is leaves, wood, fiber and bark from trees, shrubs and grasses and manures and sludge and peat mosses. These break down by a process known as composting. The breakdown occurs naturally or you can concentrate and control it for your benefit. Some plants need lots of compost and mulch to thrive and others just need mulch.

You can grow a garden in the sand like the farmers do but you need chemicals to kill weeds, root pests like nematodes and grubs, plastic to prevent erosion of the sand and fertilizer and a constant supply of water and nutrients. But instead of this… If you have enough organic matter you can grow a better garden with the use of few chemicals and fertilizers and much less little water. A rich soil is full of micro organisms like good bacteria and good fungus that grow symbiotically with plant roots and make available the nutrients from the organic matter. There are also macro organisms like earthworms, good nematodes, pillbugs etc that play a big part of breaking down organic matter and making it readily available for plants to use for nutrients and protection from bad organisms. It is hard to visualize what is going on down there but the results are amazing once you see the difference yourself. Rich soils also hold onto the water whereas sand lets it pour right through.


Composting can be more work than you are willing to do for all the places you want to add flowers and vegetables around your home garden. An easy alternative way to garden is to focus your organic growing in a container you bury in the poor sandy Florida soil you have. We call this method Pot-in-Pot Landscaping and here are all the posted details.

Dropping in Pot-in-Pot a

Drip irrigation allows you to focus a small and appropriate amount of water to your plants so you are not wasting the resource or adding to the fertilizer runoff problems in our rivers and bays.

Pot-in-Pot Landscaping with Drip Irrigation and Eucalyptus Mulch = Success

From our Frequently Asked Questions Page

4. Why is the Riverview Flower Farm potting soil superior to other grower mixes and how does that help me garden?

Our organic potting soil is alive with beneficial organisms. It is a rich blend of compost and peat moss that allow your plants to absorb natural nutrients and water much better than light weight mixes with lots of inexpensive fillers. Salt based liquid and slow release fertilizers can be used at the labeled rate or less so you do not harm the beneficial organisms that will multiply and spread into your garden. These beneficial organisms form a symbiotic relationship with the plants root system and grow as the roots grow to protect against disease and nematodes which are microscopic root destroying worms. Adding organic matter (peat moss, compost, leaf mold, cow manure) enhances this symbiotic relationship so your plants can grow better with less salt fertilizer and less water. The labeled fertilizer rates were developed for less fertile light weight mixes. You can and should use less fertilizer when growing in a rich organic potting soil or flower bed. Spend a little more on building the soil and save a lot on the fertilizer while keeping the waste and runoff to a minimum.



Mulches are as important as compost rich soil is in having a healthy, thriving garden and flowers. Having stated that, there are many Florida Friendly Plants, Shrubs, and Trees both native and non native that do not need compost rich soil but they benefit from surface mulches. Many plants that thrive in Florida have adapted to grow with the nematodes and other soil organisms that kill vegetables and flowers.

All plants benefit from the mulches breaking down (composting) and supplying nutrients naturally. Mulches cool the soil and prevent weeds, erosion and leaching. They are more important than they look and not just for the esthetics they create.

Modern Cypress Mulches are a blend of various wood types and some cypress wood. Overharvesting of cypress trees in Florida wetlands has caused this shift in the mulch components. We are familiar with the name Cypress Mulch but in reality the amount of cypress is much lower in the bag you buy. This is a good thing because we all need to mulch and save the cypress swamps too. Feeling less guilty? A better way to mulch is to use thick layers of oak leaves which are so plentiful and then cover them with your favorite looking mulch as a top dressing.

Two other mulches are available that you can feel good about using are Maleluca mulch which is harvested from areas of the Everglades being recovered from this invasive tree and farm raised eucalyptus mulch made at a eucalyptus plantation that is continuously harvested in sections that rotate every 6 years for just this purpose. The Florida Native Plant Society has a blog post on mulch the furthers this information.

Change your life and garden for the better by discovering all the virtues of compost and mulch.

Shirley Bovshow posted MULCH 101: THE ART OF SELECTING THE PERFECT GARDEN MULCH! You will also enjoy her Garden World Report Show.




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Categories: 9 Principles of Florida Friendly Landscaping | Drip Irrigation | Environmental Awareness Education | Plant Production | Pot-in-Pot Landscaping | U of F Cooperative Extension Service | Mulch | Compost
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