It happens every year at this time. I wake up at 3:00 am. I can't go back to sleep. I toss and turn. I can't shut off the stream of plant names that continuously run through my brain. I can't stop thinking about my yard. I dream about plant combinations and flowers to plant.
The diagnosis - SPRING FEVER!
As the warm breath of spring arrives I can hardly contain my enthusiasm for the outdoors. Even pollen allergies cannot keep me inside. I MUST be out in the garden sprucing up, mulching and of course, planting. Some people clean their homes and rearrange the furniture but I rearrange the plants. My husband jokes that I should give the plants a break this year. I tell him that it's all trial and error - fine tuning! A gardener is always in search of finding the right place for a specific plant. It's all part of the fun and I love it!
It was the day before (February 14) our last projected frost date (for zone 9) when the weather forecasters began proclaiming their "freeze watch" warnings at every newscast. Some Arctic air was expected to dip low into the region during the wee hours of the morning. Along with a full moon and a sky as clear as a newly cleaned window, the news was not good for gardeners.
Like the neighbors, I began throwing blankets over freeze-prone plants for added warmth and hauling in the orchids. It never fails - at least one night every winter there is a cold night that dips down to around 32 degrees and lightly toasts our tender tropical plants in this sub-tropical region.
Our temps on the back porch stood right at 32 degrees the next morning. When I peered out the window the grass covered in white frost was an unusual and not completely welcome sight. I always envision my angel trumpet and hibiscus plants shivering right down to their roots, and I sympathize with them since I too am a sissy when it comes to cold weather.
The good news is that the temperatures soon began to rise as the sun beamed its warm glow toward earth. As I returned home from dropping my daughter off at school I had to smile at the melted frost dripping off the palm fronds. A quick trip around the yard revealed that most plants were spared from damage. The top of my angel trumpet was mushy and a few impatiens were slightly droopy. The staghorns and bromeliads were safe under the protective covering of the oak trees.
Our first try at growing Seminole pumpkin squash turned out to be relatively fruitful. We planted a few seeds beside my daughter's swing set in late August. Before we new it the vine was on the move with it's attractive large grayish-green two-tone leaves. Since we didn't have much room I ended up clipping the end of the vine to keep it out of the grass.
Seminole pumpkin squash is native to Florida. The Seminole Indians grew it at the base of palm trees so that the vine would crawl up the trunk and hang on the fronds. We didnt have any pest problems and we harvested 8 squash. Inside their flesh is a deep orange color.
Note: Start seeds in July for earlier harvest. We just beat the cold weather on our harvest.
Normally, I wouldn't advocate stealing, especially from one's neighbor, but in some circumstances it might be more sinful not to. Here's the facts.
Northern folks transplanted to the south don't realize that Mother Nature provides southern gardeners with free mulch in the form of oak leaves. Last week I noticed my neighbor was raking and bagging his free gift from nature. Four large bags of clean oak leaves and dried grass clippings all neatly bundled and stacked at the back of their driveway. I knew those bags were headed for the dump. Every time I pulled out of my driveway I would covet those four bags of leaves. So finally, I couldn't take it any more. I knocked on their door to ask if I could have them. No one answered - darn it!
The next day was garbarge day and sure enough all four bags were at the curb in the morning. I didn't want to knock on their door or call them at 8 am, so I decided to take matters into my own hands. I just couldn't let that free gift go to the dump. I got my garden cart out and sheepishly crossed the street, all the while praying that no one would catch me stealing the neighbor's garden trash. It took four trips to get the leaves. Tucked safely out of view, I smiled within at the thought of my stolen loot as dreamy thoughts of thickly mulched, weedless flower beds floated through my mind.
I secretly confided my theft to a neighbor gardener and she proudly admitted that she drives her SUV through the neighborhood loading up all the leaves she can find. Perhaps next year I'll be more bold and hold my head high as I steal the neighbor's garden trash. So, to all the non-gardeners that toss their leaves into the trash - I thank you, my soil thanks you and my plants thank you!