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: fermentfarmandforage.blogspot.com 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

Credit: blacksoldierflyblog.com

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.

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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 blacksoldierflyblog.com 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

‘I Love Shelling’ Gets Some Awesome Press!

My favorite blog about shelling on Sanibel got some well deserved press- Just in case you missed the NYT on Wednesday August 7, 2011- I thought you might like to read the article too!

A Florida Island Draws an Array of Seashells and Their Hunters

By    Photos by Angel Valentin

The New York Times

Published: August 7, 2012 The New York Times

“We take our shelling very seriously,” said Clark Rambo, on Sanibel Island last month with his wife, Pam, who blogs about the hobby. Specimens pour onto the beach, in part because of the area’s geography.

Hundreds take to the beach near the lighthouse on this hammock-shaped island, hunching over the sand as they dig, lift, inspect and move on. The position is so common it has a name: the Sanibel Stoop. The beachcombers wave and chitchat but, with their competitive instincts primed, they steer clear of one another’s turf, keeping a sharp eye out for dots or spirals or telltale lumps in the sand.

“We take our shelling very seriously,” said Clark Rambo, who is known as Super Sheller Clark, a moniker used, sometimes admiringly, sometimes grudgingly, by his wife, Pam. “Every day on the beach is a treasure hunt, and that’s what makes it so competitive.”

Stretched out as far as the eye can see are shells — large, tiny, cone-shaped, scalloped, spiraled, white, orange, pink. Sanibel Island, and its neighbor, Captiva Island, just off the state’s southwest coast, are where hunters come for a seashell bonanza. There is no other place like it in the country, and very few places like it in the world. On some days, depending on the wind, shells pour onto the beach in piles, seducing even the most jaded beachgoers.

This has been particularly true in the weeks since Tropical Storm Debby, the late June storm that caused flooding and beach erosion along some pockets of Florida’s west coast but proved a boon to seashell hunters.

Sanibel’s largess is in its geometry: It is a 12-mile barrier island with a distinctive curve. The coastline runs west to east rather than north to south. When storms blow in from the northwest, the waves and currents funnel more than 300 shallow-water species of shells right onto the beach. Other parts of the world, like the South Pacific, may draw more species, but the shells are not nearly as easy to find. They require boat trips and dives.

“There are days here when you have layers of shells four feet thick,” said José H. Leal, the director of the Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum here. “It’s one of the best places in the world for shelling, for sure.”

Seashells have proved resilient, too. At a time when fish stocks are down and coral reefs are dying, Mr. Leal said seashells — made by mollusks mostly from the calcium carbonate in seawater — continue to thrive.

For some, searching for seashells is a hobby; for others, it is a calling and an obsession that sometimes reaches back generations, with collections passed down like heirlooms. Here, there are shell clubs, shell stores, shell guides, shell excursions, shell crafts and the shell museum.

Inside his shell-festooned house, Mr. Rambo holds dear a black-and-white photo of his room as a boy. The image shows his twin bed, spread with seashells mostly scooped from the Jersey Shore. Mrs. Rambo, an artist, also grew up collecting shells, a shared passion that helped cement the couple’s relationship 18 years ago, despite Mr. Rambo’s being injured during a date.

It happened during a day of shelling on Sanibel early in the courtship; she pushed him (playfully) as he stood, his feet dug into the wet sand.

“My leg did a spiral twist,” he said. “Sounded like a shotgun.”

Now Mrs. Rambo is a sought-after figure on the island — a shell-ebrity, if you will — because of her popular Web site, www.iloveshelling.com. It is routine for her to be stopped to listen to a fan rattle off a list of finds (tulips, conchs, whelks, murex) or to answer a question about where to go and when. (The answer is Lighthouse Beach and Blind Pass, which lies between Sanibel and Captiva at low tide, when the wind is westerly, preferably after a storm.)

On a recent evening, shell hunters hungrily swept the beach with their eyes. They picked up shells and peered inside them.

“Is anybody home in there?” Mrs. Rambo asked. If a mollusk was inside, she placed the shell back on the sand. That is the rule in these parts — no live shelling. Before a 1994 law, people hauled boxes of shells away and began depleting the shoreline.

In front of the lighthouse, a teenage boy picked up a starfish and showed it off. A woman from North Carolina dug a hole. She recognized Mrs. Rambo. “I’ve probably found 15 bittersweets,” Denise Kisko, 56, told her, referring to a scallop-shaped shell. She glanced at a 13-year-old girl who was snooping in her spot. “Don’t you find anything in my pile,” she said, kidding, sort of.

Competition is stiff. The morning last October that Mrs. Rambo found a precious, elusive junonia, a species of sea snail known for its brown spots, she had told friends to meet her at Blind Pass at sunrise. Hoping to beat the competition, she got there before sunrise, with a light on her hat, to hunt solo. She spotted the junonia in a little trench. It was her eureka moment.

“I started screaming,” she said. “I was a shellunatic.”

Never mind that her husband has found four junonia over his lifetime, a remarkable feat he loves to sprinkle into conversations. After he posted a photo of his fourth junonia online, it proved too much for the shell crowd.

“They started booing him on the Web site,” Mrs. Rambo said, with a laugh.

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Cone Shells: Dangerous Beauty

                                                         

I collect cone shells fairly often. On Sanibel, we have Alphabet, Dusky and Florida cones.  I just watched a NOVA documentary on venomous creatures, and to my surprise learned ALL cone shells are poisonous!

According to several online resources, the neurotoxin of these Atlantic varieties are not as deadly as their Pacific kin. However if I do run across a live specimen, I will certainly handle with exceptional care while returning it to the sea.

Here is a link to the documentary I mentioned NOVA: Venom Nature’s Killer
For more on varieties of Sanibel shells visit I Love Shelling

Categories: Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Kayaking Commodore Creek in Tarpon Bay

              

Had fun out on Tarpon Bay today. Put in at Tarpon Bay Explorers and paddled Commodore Creek. It’s an easy trail for the kids; with loads to see and learn.

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Pattern and Texture From The Sea

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Shore Birds

      Black Skimmers and Royal Terns

                Gull and Royal Terns 

     Royal Terns 

         Lonely Plover 

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Childhood Memories of Florida

I was born in 1965, and grew up in Homewood, Alabama. From the time I was a little girl, my family vacationed in the Florida panhandle.panhandle_map

My family, and people we knew went to Ft. Walton beach or Panama City. I didn’t know much about the rest ofpost card of florida with mickey mouse Florida. I knew rocket ships launched from a place called Cape Canaveral; that Mickey Mouse  lived somewhere ‘way down there’ and from TV ads, that oranges grew in great numbers somewhere in Florida. A farmer put a sticker on every one of those oranges before he sent them to our Piggly Wiggly supermarket! Between government land for rocket ships,  farm land for oranges and whatever land Walt Disney had, there really couldn’t be room for much else, right?

APOLLO1lWe vacationed in the Florida in the heat of summer. I never questioned the logic, this was just something we did.  Every year my parents got so excited about those trips, so I too, was thrilled to leave a hot and sticky Alabama for a hotter, and stickier, Florida; where, at the very least, there was the ocean.  Thinking back, I am pretty sure the anticipation and planning of the trip was at least as much fun as the trip itself.  I remember planning all the games we 3 kids would play in the car on the way, what clothes we would wear; packing and repacking our little suitcases and bags to fit everything we would need.

There are memories from so many years and trips, but really, they were all the same. On the day of our trip, Momma spent the morning gathering what seemed like half our house; and the afternoon ‘fixing’ her hair and makeup. She would don a new ‘vacation dress’ just as we were ready to leave. My dad liked to drive at night when it was cooler, so after he got off of work we would load the car and go. In the early seventies we had  a green square-back Volkswagen. In the early eighties, a blue ford station wagon with wood paneling on the side, and jump seats in the back.  All the windows would be down in the car. My sister, brother and I played games to pass the time. We would wag our arms up and down at truck drivers whizzing past us on the highway, jumping up and down (no seat belts in those early days) and squealing with delight when they obeyed our signals and sounded big truck horns. We played I Spy; punched each others arms when one of us saw a VW bug. On the back roads, in the twilight hours, we held our breath and stuck our thumbs to the ceiling as we passed a cemetery. We played at these games till our playfulness disintegrated into irritated squabbling, which would inevitably lead to a smack from one or another parent.  Silence would be ordered, then sweaty, restless napping would eventually fall over each of us.

A 4.5 hour drive to Ft. Walton Beach, Florida seemed like an eternity.  When my younger siblings were sleeping, daddy would let me sit by his side and steer the car.  As far as I knew, I was the one driving, and that was thrilling for a little kid.  Because we always arrived at our destination at night, we smelled the ocean before we saw it. To this day the smell of the ocean on a warm summer night is the most wonderful one I know. Though my parents referred to it as ‘the beach house’, we always stayed at a teeny, pink cinderblock house a block away from the actual ocean.  I suppose, when you only see the beach once or twice a year, that little pink box was close enough to count.

The walk to that crowded beach was always a misery.  It started on the steaming hot pavement and transitioned to sand so-hot-it-blistered your feet (why did we never wear shoes?)  I remember my mom slathering my white skin with coppertone, then tying a big floppy hat to my sweaty head.  I don’t know how vigilant my parents were about sunscreen back then, but we could have protected our skin better had we just rolled in sand after applying the coppertone. We always came home sunburned except for the places where sand had stuck to that oil.

After a day at the beach, there were afternoon naps, charcoal grilled hamburgers or a BBQ chicken dinner, and we had ice cream every night.  There were rainstorms at night that sent us running to the safety of my parents bed.  Thunder rattled that little pink box with wind and rain so fierce I knew we would all wash away by morning. Daddy would always calm us down by counting the time between lightning and thunder. Though we never did so at home, we sat outside in the dark every night with my parents; slapped mosquitos and watched meteor showers, or just counted stars. One year there was a total lunar eclipse. I remember my brother running around with sparklers while my sister and I sat between mom and dad; each of them pointing toward the moon and explaining what was happening.

My memories are bits and pieces of many trips to Florida with my family. Though I live ‘way down’ in Florida, I am grateful to live, full-time, in an environment where my parents, siblings and I shared so many happy times.

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Sunset Kite Surfers on Sanibel

                            

                          

Shot with iphone 4s

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