Seeds of Friendship

I got to meet a fellow blogger last week! Through Florida Survival Gardening I found Sheila’s Little Experiments. Turns out both Sheila and I live (and garden) in the Ft. Myers area. I commented on a couple of her posts, she took a look at my Food Forest Inventory then graciously offered me seeds from my ‘wish’ list. What a treat! I stopped by her work and we were able to chat for a few moments. Look at all those seeds! There are a few things there I am not familiar with, so I am going to have even more fun learning about new varieties of edibles. 2014-06-18 Seeds from Sheila

It’s always nice to meet someone with whom you have things in common. Especially here in Florida, where the learning curve can be a little overwhelming. Sharing knowledge, experiences, tips- and seeds, benefits all of us. Sheila and I are talking about taking a trip ‘up North’ to visit David, the man behind the wonderful blog Florida Survival Gardening.

Categories: Food Forest, Garden | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

Tropical Research & Education Center

I had the good fortune to visit UF-TREC in Homestead, Florida.  “The University  of Florida, Tropical Research and Education Center (UF-TREC) was established  in 1929. UF-TREC is dedicated  to research, extension and teaching in the areas of ornamental, vegetable, tropical-subtropical fruit and biofuel crops, and natural  resources.

UF-TREC is the premier research, extension  and teaching institution in Florida focusing on tropical fruits, vegetables, ornamental crops, and natural  resources in the warm subtropics. .The core programs  are divided  into five main categories: 1) tropical  fruit  crops ,2) vegetable crops, 3) ornamental crops, 4) biofuel  crops, and 5) natural  resources.”

The IF-TREC mission statement is as follows. “The mission of the UF-TREC is to develop and disseminate science-based information about subtropical and tropical horticulture and natural resource through basic and applied research, extension and teaching to sustain and enhance the quality of human life and the natural environment.”

Not only was I able to visit the tropical fruit grounds, but I happened to be in the company of many tropical fruit experts. What a wonderful day of learning! Here are the few photos I was able to take- I was so overwhelmed with learning, ran out of time to take photos!

July 2014

Roy Beckford at UF-TREC

July 2014

Frank O’Neill and Roy Beckford at UF-TREC Guava

July 2014

Mango at UF-TREC

July 2014

Pani Varaka Jackfruit macro UF-TREC

July 2014

Pani Varaka Jackfruit UF-TREC

July 2014

I cannot remember what this one is- the flower is huge and stunning! UF-TREC

July 2014

Velvet Apple UF-TREC

July 2014

Velvet Apple UF-TREC


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Sanibel Food Forest Project

January through May garden tower 2014-05-14 18.58.44 (2)


March 2014 Passionfruit Edulis


March 2014 117 (2)

March 2014 Bananas, Avocado, Coconut background, Jujube, Fig, Jaboticaba, garden tower

March 2014 142 (2)

March 2014 Papaya in foreground


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May 2014 Papaya foreground, Barbados Cherry, Meyer Lemon behind, garden tower left

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June 2014 July 2014 Passionflower Edulis and Incarnata, Red Salvia, Coreopsis, Water lily

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July 2014 Banana circle, Avocado, Jujube, Jaboticaba, various native wildflowers, sunshine mimosa, perennial peanut, Fig

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July 2014 Bananas, Figs, Jujube, dragonfruit, Jaboticaba, Meyers lemon, Coconut, various wildflowers, sunshine mimosa, Peanut butter tree, Orange geiger,

July 2014-07-10 06.38.52 (2)_Snapseed

July 2014 Coconut, Amaranth, Jujube, Sunshine Mimosa, Day lily, Meyers lemon, Barbados Cherry, Papaya, Milkweed, Sesame,

July 2014-07-10 06.38.55 (2)_Snapseed

July 2014

July 2014-07-10 06.39.02 (2)

July 2014 Passionflower Edulis and Incarnata, Red Salvia, Coreopsis, water lily

Categories: Food Forest, Garden | Tags: , | 1 Comment

Foraging with Green Deane

Took a stroll with “Green Deane” in Port Charlotte a few weekends ago. Spent a few hours walking through Bayshore Live Oak Park and the surrounding neighborhood, checking out what Florida natives and non-natives were growing- identifying edibles and non edibles. For anyone interested in gardening with edibles and/or foraging, I highly recommend Deane’s classes, blog “Eat The Weeds” and videos.

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Green Deane discussing attributes of Epazote, Chenopodium ambrosioides. Available year round in Florida. Leaves, flowers and unripe fruits are edible and used in soups and salads. The most common usage is, however, in bean dishes, for it’s strong anti-flatulent powers. To me this plant smells like bug spray.

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Hydrocotyle bonariensis, better known as Pennywort, or dollar weed. Can eat raw or cooked. Has medicinal value.

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Cladium jamaicense, Sawgrass Edible Inner bottom white core of stalk, raw or cooked. WARNING- cuts flesh easily. Use to find fishing worms and fresh spring water.


Green Dean talking about Sea Purslane, Sesuvium portulacastrum, edible raw, cooked or pickled. Available year round.


Abrus precatorius, Rosary pea- TOXIC reported to be the most toxic seed in the world. Avoid, as contact with an open seed can cause death.


Bidens Alba, Spanish needles or beggar tick. Edible raw or cooked. Parts used to make tea, fermented for wine.

I usually approach life from a positive perspective, but because I have chewed on my fair share of ‘unknown’ plants, main thing I learned from my first foraging class with Green Deane is- DON’T field test plants-EVER! Verify, verify, verify what you are sticking in your mouth. There are a multitude of plants out there with edible and/or medicinal properties. There are others that can kill you or make you very, very sick. Some plants make you sick right away, others take days or weeks to make you ill. Others have a cumulative effect. There are plants that are perfectly edible when cooked, but make you sick if eaten raw; and others that have both poisonous and edible parts. Some fruits are edible when ripe, but make you sick when eaten before they are ripe. Not all plants in the same genus or family are edible- There are some edible Jasmines, but make sure you know which ones! All of this aside- I am astonished at how many ‘weeds’ growing in my backyard are edible or usable in some fashion. I recommend Green Deane’s  Eat The Weeds as one reliable resource for learning about the many native and non-native edibles growing in your area. Had a great time participating in this class, and I see myself signing up for more classes in the future!

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Taste of Lee Fruit Festival

Capture 2


Taste of Lee Links

Taste of Lee

IFAS Extension Office Calendar




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Creating Affordable Garden Information Markers and Placards

I am committed to turning my Sanibel home property into a food forest. People always ask- why? I am particularly interested in Florida native plantings. Neighbors ask- why?  One goal for my yard is that every plant be usable to people or animals in some way; as a source of food, shelter, a textile, or companion to other plants. Why you ask? I want to create a way to educate you, and anyone who visits my garden why- and maybe inspire you to do something similar with your yard.

There are several reasons I decided to tackle the ‘food forest’ project. First, I love dirt and I love growing things. I love the creatures that visit my garden for food, water and shelter because of what I grow.

I nurture my connection to God through my stewardship of the earth. I grow intellectually by learning about Botany, Ecology, Wildlife Biology, etc. I am concerned about the quality of food my family consumes.

There are other reasons for creating a food forest. Growing your own food saves money,

significant amounts of money. Residential property is expensive to purchase and maintain! There are property taxes and landscape maintenance costs. Until moving to SW Florida, I had never used a yard maintenance company.. As a master gardener, I’ve always taken great pride in creating and keeping my own gardens. But that was in Southern Maine, and SE Idaho. Keeping a yard neat and tidy in zone 10 is a whole ‘nother world! Maintaining an ornamental property takes A LOT of work, money; and it’s not necessarily an environmentally friendly endeavor.

Creating a food forest using “native” edibles is another goal. It’s good for the planet, good for our health and for my pocketbook. Natives need less water, fertilizer and pesticides than a traditional lawn-scaped home. The more food you grow at home- the less you spend at the grocery. Less fertilizers and pesticides means healthier people and animals- and more habitat for wildlife.  The benefits of using a residential property as a food forest far out way any reason to maintain a traditional lawn-scape. Now I need to fulfill another goal- sharing the value of the food forest with others.

My landscape does not look traditional but it is beautiful. When something is different, it attracts attention. Good! When you look at my yard, you see the beauty as well as educational plant markers and placards that share the benefits of planting a food forest. After the first round of plantings for our food forest in January 2014, I purchased a few professional grade plant markers for the fruit trees. They are fantastic, great looking, easy to read, samplerdurable…and expensive! To stay within my budget for the rest of the project, I have to find an alternative way to label plantings and make placards.



Photo Jun 08, 10 58 37 PMOnce printed, I will use a decoupage technique  to affix the sticker to either a high quality stake, or to a flat metal plate I can use as a tag on a tree or bush.

Curious to get feedback from you about the information I have included, and the readability of the font and layout.

Photo Jun 09, 1 23 00 AM

Photo Jun 08, 8 19 27 PM

Do you prefer a traditional black background, or would you like to see the labels in color?  Would appreciate any feedback, and I will post again with a tutorial once I have made the first markers.

Categories: Florida native, Food Forest, Garden | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Florida Native Wildflowers and Their Seeds

Got some wildflower seeds in the mail and decided to photograph the seeds of each variety I purchased.

Florida Wildflower Seeds

Florida Native Wildflower Seeds

Verbesina virginica, Frostweed

Verbesina virginica, Frostweed


Polygonella Polygama var brachystachys, Thinleaf October Flower

Polygonella Polygama var brachystachys, Thinleaf October Flower

Solidago sempervirens- Seaside Goldenrod

Solidago sempervirens- Seaside Goldenrod

Ludwigia octovalvis, Mexican Primrose-willow

Ludwigia octovalvis, Mexican Primrose-willow

Carphephorus odoratissimus var. subtropicanus- Pineland Purple, False Vanillaleaf

Carphephorus odoratissimus var. subtropicanus- Pineland Purple, False Vanillaleaf

Eupatorium mikanioides-Semaphore Thoroughwort

Eupatorium mikanioides-Semaphore Thoroughwort

Lythrum alatum var. lanceolatum-Winged Loosestrife

Lythrum alatum var. lanceolatum-Winged Loosestrife

Pluchea odorata-Sweetscent, Salt Marsh Fleabane

Pluchea odorata-Sweetscent, Salt Marsh Fleabane

Euthamia carolinliana, Flat-topped Goldenrod

Euthamia carolinliana, Flat-topped Goldenrod

Eryngium yuccifolium- Rattlesnake Master

Eryngium yuccifolium- Rattlesnake Master

These seeds came from the Florida Wildflower Growers Cooperative. All images are taken with an 8x macro on an iphone 5s

Categories: Florida native, Food Forest, Garden | Tags: , , , , , , | 4 Comments

SW Florida Food Forest and Native Edibles Links

I am always researching and looking for information about gardening in SW Florida, food forests, permaculture, Florida native plants (particularly its native edibles.) Here’s a list of information, people, places and stuff I have found useful. I decided to include links to beneficial insects and wildlife because when you garden you need those elements too!

yard for life  Yard For Life Southwest Florida– One woman’s journey to plant a beautiful, sustainable garden in SW Florida. Research oriented, she posts a lot of great information, links and photos!


all native garden center  All Native Garden Center – 300 Center Road, Fort Myers, FL 33907 239.939.9663 Good prices, good-looking native, friendly knowledgeable folks.


FSGBannerGreen  Florida Survival Gardening– great blog updated daily with loads of information about food forests, native edibles and more. Informative, entertaining, great resource.

Pick Me Yard  Pick Me Yard– Lovely blog about edible gardening in SW Florida. Updated regularly, great stories and photos. I want to visit this family garden! Lots of links and great info


ECHO  ECHO– A working farm and demonstration gardens in Ft. Myers. Approximately 925 million people in the world are hungry. ECHO empowers small-scale farmers to increase their harvests, and the nutritional diversity of their crops.


riverland nurseryRiverland Nursery– specializing in native and other sustainable plants which can flourish in Florida’s unique and often arid climate.


fgcuFGCU Food Forest– The Food Forest is a student-run botanical garden which highlights tropical/subtropical edible species that grow well in South Florida.


crfeCaloosa Rare Fruit Exchange– Their focus is to provide members and the community the means for learning about tropical fruits that can be grown in the Southwest Florida region.  General Meetings are usually held on the first Tuesday of each month at 7:00 p.m. in the NorthFort Myers Park  Community Recreation Center.  Visitors and guests are welcome and encouraged.


florida native plant societyFlorida Native Plant Society– promote the preservation, conservation, and restoration of the native plants and native plant communities of Florida.


green deaneEat The Weeds Green Deane says “My goal is to help people who want to know more about foragables to enjoy the process and be safe while doing so. While I am now based in Florida my website and experience includes northern climates and international foraging.”


top tropicalsTop Tropicals– While these folks aren’t strictly about natives or edibles, they do carry both and their website is very well-organized.


539860_317385291720746_955472427_nLee Queen Bee– When you have edibles you need pollinators. This Facebook page is a great resource!



ifasIFAS Extension-The University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) is a federal, state, and county partnership dedicated to developing knowledge in agriculture, human and natural resources, and the life sciences and to making that knowledge accessible to sustain and enhance the quality of human life.

PRFYardSignweb-499x400Plant Real Florida– We are a professional trade association and our members include growers, retail nurseries, landscape professionals, environmental consultants, allied product and service suppliers and nonprofit supporters of the native plant movement. Come to us for native plants and expertise in using them.

fly by night inc  Fly By Night Inc.- A wealth of information on these important and beautiful mammals. I purchased a large bat house from them (it will hold up to 1,000 bats!) and in August 2014 will document it’s installation.

nabaNorth American Butterfly Association   working to save butterfly species throughout North America and developing educational programs about butterflies for schools and park rangers and naturalists.


blog-header-image-long1Black Soldier Fly Blog  A great resource for learning to compost with these amazing beneficial insects.

bglogoBug Guide We are an online community of naturalists who enjoy learning about and sharing our observations of insects, spiders, and other related creatures.

Categories: Butterflies, Florida native, Food Forest, Garden, Insects | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Curiosity In The Garden

I love it when my sweet cat, Savannah, follows me into the garden. She is an inside kitty- usually very cautious about even being on the enclosed lanai. The only time she ever tries to venture outside is when I go into the garden. Once she is in the garden she loses herself as completely as I do. While she explores I keep an eye on the sky for raptors and enjoy her antics. It’s nice for me to slow down and see the garden through her.

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Black Soldier Fly Composting

Black Soldier Flies: A New Way To Compost

I have composted in many ways through the years.  I have made compost piles, used the lasagna method, blenderized (yeah I know it’s a made up word) and used worms to make beautiful compost and tea. I recently started converting my Sanibel yard to a ‘food forest’.  As anyone who has tackled a big landscaping project knows, soil and irrigation are the most expensive parts of the job.  I need a continual supply of compost to build up the poor soil on my property, and I need it fast!  It’s time to try composting with the help of black soldier flies.


The Black Soldier Fly

credit: The solitary black soldier fly (Hermetia illucens) is a beneficial and useful garden insect. It is rarely seen and often mistaken for a black wasp. The black soldier fly is harmless. It has neither a stinger or a mouth. It’s short adult life is spent breeding and laying eggs. The larvae of Black Soldier Flies (BSFL) are detritivores, useful in household garden composting. The larvae work organic waste material faster than worms used in vermicomposting. A colony of 2000 larvae can consume about 2.2 lbs of household food waste per day.  As detritivores, BSFL  break down both rotting plant and animal matter, giving the home gardener the ability to add meat scraps to their compost.


If that wasn’t enough good news, black soldier flies do not spread human disease as do some other flies; and black soldier flies naturally repel nuisance fruitflies and blowflies. Besides providing you with a finished compost, black soldier fly larvae are used in other ways.  The larvae are raised and sold as feeders for reptiles, tropical fish, as composting starts and are a high quality source of protein and calcium for laying hens. They are also used as fishing bait.      

Black Soldier Fly Life Cycle


Black soldier fly eggs (pale yellow, elongated oval about 1mm) deposit their eggs in crevices or on surfaces above or next to decaying matter like food scraps. The eggs take about four days to hatch; the new larvae are off white and about 1.8 mm long.   They go through multiple instars, the last of which is reddish-brown,elongated and slightly flattened, the skin is tough and leathery.

credit to James Castner, U. of Florida

The mature larvae are about 18 mm long and 6 mm wide. During this last stage of larval development, the mouth has become a set of ‘arms’  that help a prepupate move towards a dry, safe place to await pupation to its adult form.  The adult soldier fly,  measures about 16 mm, very close in size and appearance to the wasp. It has no functioning mouth parts; it spends its time searching for a mate and reproducing. It’s  life span is 5 to 8 days. Adult Black soldier flies do not swarm are rarely a nuisance. In fact they are rarely seen.


Do Your Research

Like microbes in the compost pile and worms in vermicomposting,  black soldier flies need certain conditions to thrive. As many gardeners find a thriving colony in their compost piles, these conditions aren’t difficult to meet, but it is a good idea to check out multiple resources so you have a good idea of what you can accomplish with what you have.

I live in subtropical SW Florida (zone 10). We have poor, salty and sandy soil. I am looking for a fast, easy, inexpensive and reliable method of producing  an ongoing supply of compost. Our ‘food forest’ is very new and is not yet producing. We are a small family and we eat out often. For the next 6-12 months we will not have as many food scraps as some families who cook regularly. I had to figure out how I was going to feed the BSF larvae. Fortunately one of the restaurants I frequent has agreed to let me pick up their kitchen scraps each evening. We both win! Less garbage in the landfill and a steady supply of food for the larvae.

Next hurdle. We live in a neighborhood where I cannot keep a traditional compost pile.  I decided to make an initial investment of a  contained unit from the folks at This BSF composter will work well for us because it is small (i.e. easy to hide) and is self-contained. I purchased the 5gal unit for $76 shipped. This is a well-engineered and constructed unit. The folks have been available to answer questions and even let me grab several photos from their blog for this story. (credits are given in links back to all the sources of photos that are not my own.) Bio-Composter-5.2014-500px

So, I have a composter and I have a steady supply of food available. Now I need BSF larvae. Lots of them. Rotting food in a composter without enough BSFL can smell and attracts bad things. This is where research is really saving me from problems with neighbors and undesirable critters. A ‘mature colony’ in my BSFL composter can process about 2.2lbs of food a day. That is somewhere around 2000 larvae. If I was in a position to go the DIY route, I could just put a small amount of food scraps in the composter and wait for nature to take its course. I wish I could be patient and wait.

Here’s what happens and it’s the stuff of CSI! Seriously, Forensic Entomologists use black soldier flies as an indicator of how long something has been decomposing.   BSFL are detritivores. This means that they consume rotting food and flesh. So if I were to start my colony the natural way, food would go in the bin and start to decay.  In nature, the fruit flies and blow flies show up first. These are the bad bugs you do not want. They are pests and vectors for human diseases. Then the solitary BSF comes along and lays her eggs near the decaying matter (in this case the provided media on the lid of the composter where the BSF lays her eggs. This is great not only because you are getting the beneficial larvae; BSF eggs and larvae emit a scent (not detectable to humans) that repels the bad bugs.  Then the life cycle begins and the amount of larvae would increase over time, according to the food supply.

Because of the potential for an initial ‘ick’ factor and the time it takes to build up a BSFL colony; again I opted to trade-off. A higher initial monetary investment for the return of more quickly developed colony. I ordered close to a thousand small and medium, and a few dozen large BSFL to add to my composter. I decided to order different larval sizes (or instars) to help the cycle establish more quickly. Time will tell how well my BSF experiment will pay off. I will be taking photos and updating as things progress. I have included links below that will help you with your own research would love to hear about your experiences with BSF composting. Thanks for reading and happy gardening!


Useful Links   Black Soldier Fly Blog– This is where I got a ton of  information, and where I purchased my BSF composter.   Black Soldier Fly Farming– Another great site with a forum, DIY info, etc.   The Modern Homestead– I haven’t had time to go through the blog, but this particular article on BSF is well written and informative.   Fermented Farm and Forage– Again, haven’t perused the entire blog but LOVE this post about their experiences using different composting methods, including BSF.   The Biopod– I have no personal experience with this product. It looks great and the design seems consistent with what I have read about BSF composting.   Bug Guide– This is a fantastic resource. It’s nice to identify bugs you encounter in your garden and are not familiar with.



Categories: Garden, Insects, iphoneography | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

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