Welcome to my zone 9 garden. My roots are deeply planted in the sandy soil of sub-tropical central Florida, where the summers are long and hot, but the rest of the year is paradise!

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Which One is King of the Yard!

I just happened to glance out the front window the other day and discovered this gorgeous Red-shouldered Hawk sitting on the front lamppost. I quickly grabbed my camera and started shooting from inside because I didn't want to scare him away.

He's breathtaking ~ ~ don't  you think?
 What a perfect match. I wonder if he opted to sit there because he blends in so well. He definitely dresses up my aged-looking lamppost, making it look like I have a fancy ornament at the top. I love it!

As I stood there admiring the beauty of this bird, I noticed that 18 feet away there was another bird emulating the hawk. This Mockingbird ~ ~ which long ago claimed stake to the top of this feeder ~ ~ was not to be outdone by the regal hawk. He normally is king of the yard, and obviously is not giving up the title easily. He, too, blends in very well with the feeder.

I'm enjoying the wildlife from within my home this chilly January, and getting itchy to get my hands back in the dirt. How about you?

Monday, January 13, 2014

Ripe or Unripe - Good Either Way!

Before the forecast freeze last week we picked all the ripe and unripe tomatoes on all 4 of our bushes. We definitely didn't want to lose what we already had in the works. Fortunately, our plants were spared from the frosty breath of winter, and hopefully they'll go on to set new fruit.

  Our biggest producer of the fall/winter garden were these indescribably sweet, very plump Black Cherry tomatoes. This indeterminate variety grew to a healthy 6 foot tall specimen . . . best looking of the 4 varieties we planted. It was the third slowest to ripen its fruit . . . taking almost exactly 90 days from seed to fruit. The second thing I like best about this variety, besides its great flavor, is that they don't all ripen at the same time. It was at just the right speed for us to consume them. I highly recommend this variety

The other cherry tomato that I planted was Sweet Baby Girl which is a small red cherry that lives up to its name. This is the first season I planted this variety and am also very pleased with it. Sweet Baby Girl was the quickest to provide us with ripe tomatoes - about 70 days. This variety is a compact indeterminate and grew to about 3 to 3.5 feet tall, which would make it perfect grown in a container. The tomatoes ripened very quickly together, but I was able to pick what I needed and leave the rest hanging until I was ready for them. I will definitely be planting Sweet Baby Girl again . . . a great tasting cherry tomato and very easy to grow.

This next tomato ~ Bella Rosa ~ was planted for two reasons. It was highly recommended by Tom MacCubbin (former Orange County extension agent) and for its wonderful name. Don't you just love saying "Bella Rosa?" And, she is as gorgeous as a "beautiful rose." The description in the seed catalog says this determinate variety, "is both heat tolerant and resistant to tomato spotted wilt virus." Sounds like a perfect tomato for Florida. While I can't attest to the heat tolerant part because I grew her in the fall/winter garden, I can tell you that it is a very delicious tasting medium-size tomato. We enjoyed numerous B.L.T. sandwiches with her fruit . . . not exactly a classy dish for such a classy named tomato, but what can I say . . . we are simple people! She produced a nice amount of fruit and I had no problems with disease. I definitely will give her a test run for the spring/summer garden to see how she stands up to the heat. She will be a keeper, and a good replacement for the Celebrity variety which doesn't have much flavor to me. 

The final tomato grown this season was a freebie. Tomato Growers Supply Co. always sends a free packet of seeds if you order $15 or more. Actually, I didn't quite make the $15 cutoff, but they sent them anyway. Now that's what I call good P.R. and good for them should I like the tomato, and include it on my list in the future. Last time I ordered from them I received the German Giant variety which you can read more about here. Anyway, back to the 2013 freebie which is Cherokee Chocolate. Another great name! This indeterminate variety was the slowest to grow and the slowest to ripen, but it was quite interesting to watch. As the fruit developed I noticed it was in a curved oblong shape which intrigued me. I couldn't wait to see what the color looked like and wasn't disappointed. It's a very attractive brown to red color, produced a large fruit and was very tasty. I liked it and would definitely plant it again. 

While we wait for our tomatoes to ripen on the counter, we will take advantage of the larger green ones and eat our fill of green-fried tomatoes. Like I said, we're simple people!

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