Rain barrels

Here in SRQ we have “sprawl”.  Instead of building up or building upon the infrastructure already in place, we find new areas to demolish and we build out.  We are clearing land that would be filtering rainwater and replacing the natural filter with concrete.  The run-off is then piped into an inadequate storm water system.  During our rainy season, it isn’t unusual to have to make our way through flooded streets.  Too much concrete and too little green space.  What a shame that this precious commodity is treated with little or no thought.  I will hop off my soap-box now and offer an effective, affordable way to harvest the rain…

Savings all around:

You may be thinking… one little barrel isn’t gonna make a difference – so why bother and this is where I would urge you to look at the big picture.  If half the residents (that would be in the area of 21,000 people) of Sarasota were to install one rain barrel and make use of the water, it would go a long way as to ease the strain on our storm water system.  We would be decreasing the demand on municipal supplies and all that harvested rainwater wouldn’t become polluted storm water run-off.

The use of rain barrels not only helps the environment, it can save you money.  Instead of turning on the hose to water your plants, wash your car, top off the pool or bathe Fido, turn the spigot on your rain barrel instead.  Harvested rainwater hasn’t been chlorinated, or artificially softened but it has run off of your roof  so don’t drink it.

Rain Barrel

Sarasota County Extension offers rain barrel workshops .  The last one was right before Christmas.  I do love the season but from October through December, every commercial is looking to separate me from my hard-earned dollars.  The thought of a truly useful gift was refreshing… so I bought extra.  You can buy the barrels and fixtures for only $37.00 at the workshops.  A schedule of classes can be found here.

If you’re a do-it-your-self-er, you can make your own barrels and configure a system that would allow you to harvest hundreds of gallons of water.

Other ways to filter storm water run-off is to install a rain garden .  There are some great native plants that prefer wet or saturated soils.  perennials, grasses, trees, and shrubs can be worked into your landscape and there are beautiful native varieties that prefer a wet-land habitat.

While your watering your plants with your harvested rainwater, you can be sure to feel good that your household supports sustainable landscape practices.

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Bloomin’ Crazy goes Atomic

Yup, so now I’m an “Indy crafter”.

Atomic display

It all started this past summer when I decided to make hypertufa planters.  Armed with huge bags of Portland cement, perlite and peat moss, I began the somewhat long process.  Somewhere between mixing and molding I noticed the same thing happening as when I’m in the kitchen… I can’t make a small batch of anything.  As a result I ended up with twenty-some containers of all shapes and sizes.  As I proudly looked out over my completed work, the reality of my creative frenzy hit me.  I mean, how many hypertufa containers does one person REALLY need?  I thought of giving them as gifts to family and friends but that list is small and I figured I wouldn’t deplete my supply until the year 2020!

I don’t know how I came across it but I heard about the Atomic Holiday Bazaar.

atomicbazaar_2colorversion1 (2)

Not just your ordinary craft show where you pay a fee and set up a table… your craft is screened before being accepted into the show.  Since my desire to (possibly) get rid of some of my inventory was bigger than my fear of rejection, I hesitantly sent Adrien some pictures of my work.

In no time at all I got the happy news that I would have a spot in the show and there was enough time in between to allow the containers to properly cure.  There was also enough time for my mind to go off in all directions.  I have never done a show and didn’t know what to expect.  What if I just sit there all day and watch people pass by without a glance?  Is it normal that no matter how sure you are of your capabilities, when you decide to put yourself out there, the doubts creep in?  I loved my containers and my friends were all complimentary (but they’re supposed to be)… the big question was would SRQ love my stuff?  Love it enough to want to take one home I mean.

These planters are really a creative outlet not what pays the bills so while waiting for the big day to arrive I developed my game plan.  I would use this as a networking opportunity and a promotional tool for Bloomin’ Crazy.  I had flyers printed that listed the services Bloomin’ Crazy offers.  I created a colorful banner that had my business name and logo on it hoping to call attention to my table.  I got some gift certificates to a local restaurant as an incentive to buy.  When the day arrived, I felt I had all the bases covered.  If I made a sale, that would be a bonus.

Promotional

My honey was there to help me unload and all too soon he was gone.  I think he was as nervous as I was.  Before the show opened, I had the chance to chit-chat with a few other vendors.  I strolled around a bit and as I looked at all the crafts being offered, it was inspiring.  People are so creative.  If you couldn’t find something that caught your eye, you weren’t looking.  There was so much to see in such a limited amount of time.

When it came time to close up shop, Timmy had a lot less to load into the truck.  My planters were a hit so my family and friends can rest easy.

So, while my life as a “plant-lady” is my bread and butter, I have dipped my toes into the world of Indie crafts and found the waters invigorating to say the least.  New ideas are beginning to fill my mind for next year… but it all starts with that application!

Thanks Adrien!

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Florida Native Plant Society sale

The Serenoa Chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society was having a plant sale  so I spent my Saturday out at Sweetbay Nursery as a volunteer.

I’ve been in the plant business for a few years and up until I started Bloomin’ Crazy, I didn’t know there was such a thing as a “native” plant.  We used Florida friendly plants that (I think) are dictated by industry standards which seems to revolve around availability and whether they hold up in our heat.  As a business owner, I now have the freedom to steer away from cookie-cutter landscaping and begin the process of educating myself on natives.  Books have been a great help but I learn by being around people who are willing to share their knowledge so I attended my first FNPS meeting this past month.  They were going to have their plant sale and I thought it would be an opportunity to get to know the members and spend some time familiarizing myself with the plants.

I do cherish my weekends as my own and was a little hesitant to give up a day but I have to say, I couldn’t have had a more pleasant day.

The weather is starting to cool down and as I drove out to the nursery there was some fog still settled in the low-lying fields.  The sky was already brilliant blue, hinting that it would be a perfect day to spend money on plants!

Sammy

I’m not what you would call a “social butterfly” and when you add to that the fact that I’m not familiar with native plants, I felt safe signing up to help the customers get their purchases loaded in their cars and to make sure there were wagons available for the big hauls.  These tasks wouldn’t force me out of my comfort zone and I was still able to be involved.  The only thing was, the other members and the customers were so nice, I somehow drifted over to the greeting area.  Chatting with the new arrivals, letting them know the lay-of-the-land and directing them to other areas of interest.  Audubon was set up as well as Around the Bend Nature Tours.

She wasn’t our first customer but I would say she was our most colorful.   Sammy (above)   was a quiet character and spoke only when spoken to.  She was content to ride around on her humans wagon, and when she felt no one was watching, she would sneak a nibble from one of the plants in her cart.  When it came time to go and plants were loaded up, she could be heard from inside the car telling everyone bye-bye, bye-bye.

_DSC5811

This (above) is what we lovingly refer to as “a snow-bird”.  He and his wife had just returned and as usual, when your away for the summer, the landscape needs attention.  He said he didn’t want the lawn-guy to do it because “they always use the same old stuff”.  As we loaded the containers of Beautyberry, Coontie, Blazing star, and sunflowers into his car, I imagined how their property would definitely stand out from his neighbors this year.

The morning hours were busy and about noonish, there was the usual lull, so I made my way out to take some pictures.

If you have the notion that natives are boring, just forget it!  So much life going on if you look.  You really didn’t have to look far because so many of the plants were blooming and they were alive with butterfly’s…

_DSC5789_CBees…

_DSC5774_Cand other assorted creatures.

_DSC5819_CThings were winding down and I it was time to decide which plants I would take home.  Yes, I could have put the blinders on and used some restraint but I’m weak and there just isn’t any fun in that.  I could easily spend a ton of money on plants but I limited myself to three.  Cassia privet, Frog fruit and Corky stem passion vine.  The Cassia is gorgeous, full of yellow blooms.  Not to be over-looked, my other two selections may not put on the show the Cassia does, but they are great butterfly host plants and if you get right in there and look at the blooms, they too are beautiful.

For me, this is what gardening has become.  Gone are the days of planting just for appearance.  Yes, appearance matters, but planting with a purpose is important too.  Using native plants will bring back a bit of what exotics have replaced and if you’re gonna plant, why not use plants that give our wildlife a little boost?

If you are interested in discovering the benefits and the beauty of native plants, find out if where the native nursery is in your area and take a trip out there.  They are usually small, local growers who are knowledgeable about the plants in that area.  I have found the staff are much more willing to take time and help you out with any questions you may have.  Break the habit of the big box stores and support the local economy… go native!

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Got snails???

Slugs and snails, they’re nasty, slimy, and they can do some real damage

You go out to visit your babies and you notice some kind of weird hole in the foliage.  Even worse, your new sprouts are laying limp on the ground, having been chewed down to the nubbin while you were sleeping!

Snails

Know their MO

Snails love moist conditions.  They are a constant nuisance during our rainy season and if you have a pond, most likely, they will find your plants.  They are most active at night and during the day they will hide out in areas that are cool and damp.  Not all snails are herbivores but the ones we are targeting eat both live and decaying plant material.  Total irradiation isn’t going to happen so it comes down to population control.

There are all kind of baits and brews out there.  Snail bait can be purchased where ever garden supplies are sold.  It’s a quick, convenient control that isn’t messy.  Just sprinkle the area and be done with it.  Before you decide to sprinkle, think about the other creatures that may find these little morsels tasty… dogs, cats, birds.  I choose the most natural method of control.  Reduce the conditions that are favorable and when I find them, I crush them (yuck!).

Reduce their habitat:

Get rid of un-necessary debris in the landscape.  They will hide under pavers, rocks, bricks, and boards.  If certain items can’t be removed for one reason or another, monitor them as traps.  When snails are present, dispose of them.

They hide beneath groundcover and low-lying plants.  By thinning these out, you provide more light and warmth to the area.  Spacing plants farther apart allows more air to circulate.

Mulch retains moisture which promotes favorable conditions and it provides a place for them to hide.  While your out playing in the dirt, disturb the mulch around your plantings.  When you find them, dispose of them.  If snails or slugs are a huge problem, you might want to plan on removing the mulch or raking up the leaves in the spring (compost it).  Let the soil breath for a while and before summer, apply new mulch.

Search and Destroy: 

When you find a snail, crush it.  I’m not a fan of hearing a shell being crushed but it’s the surest and the safest (unless you are the snail) method of control.  If you just can’t bring yourself to crush them on the spot, you can fill a container with soapy water.  When you find them, drop them in the bucket.  If you have kids, this would be a great family project… kinda like an easter egg hunt.  The afternoon of the hunt (if it hasn’t rained) you need to water.  This will help get the snails active.  After dark, arm the kiddies with flashlights, rubber gloves and buckets of soapy water and turn them loose.  Offer a bounty for each snail captured.  A nickel for each slug or snail should keep them busy combing the landscape.

There are other natural methods of control besides crushing or drowning.  You can rototill the soil.  This reduces the population and it will reduce the crevices in the soil where they hide.

Encourage natural predators:  Snakes, toads, frogs, beetles, birds, chickens, ducks, geese, all feed on them.  Decollate Snails were also introduced as a biological agent to control the brown garden snail population.

Traps:  I said we want to reduce their habitat, but in the case of a trap, you are creating a definite place for the snails to hide.  You can use rolled up newspapers, boards or rocks placed on risers. Overturned or broken flowerpots are good too as they may become a home for a resident toad.  Set traps in the areas where populations are high and monitor the areas during the day.  When snails are present under your traps, you can handpick them and dispose of them.

Beer:  If you don’t keep the trap fresh, you wind up with a brew of stinky, warm beer with dead slugs to boot.  If your up for it, get a deep-ish container with a lid (margarine container) and fill it with the beer.  You can also use a mixture of 1/4 – 1/2 tsp yeast, 1 cup water and 1 tsp sugar,.  Sink the container into the soil leaving about an inch or so above the soil.  Cut some entry holes in the container above the ground.  around the areas you have in infestation.  The snail is attracted to the yeast, so he falls into the container and becomes trapped.

Barriers:  copper strips (bend the top edge of the strip down to form a flange) or screen. Copper seems to react with the slime and kinda shocks the snail or slug. Copper strips or screen is easily installed on raised beds. Bury about 4 ” of Screen in the ground and have about 2 inches protruding above ground.  Resident population will be trapped inside barriers so monitor and handpick them.  Remove low foliage from plants that may create a bridge for the snail to crawl over.

Diatomaceous earth is not effective when wet so it needs to be re-applied often.  If inhaled, it can cut your lungs.  Wood ashes are effective only when they are dry.  Continued use can add alkalinity to soil.  Cedar chips, cinders (effective when wet), pine needles (can make your soil acidic)are all materials that are uncomfortable for the snail to cross.

Salt:  Remember when you were a kid?  Armed with the salt shaker, snails didn’t have a chance.  A little sprinkle and well, you know the rest.  If you use salt, be aware that   continual use can raise the  salinity in soil which can affect plants.

Baits:  Snails eat the bait and they immediately stop eating your plants.  They die a few days later.   Bait in early fall to prevent egg-laying, then late fall to try to kill any that have just hatched.  Spread bait after a rain when they are most active.  Don’t use baits that list Metal dehyde as an ingredient. It is poisonous to dogs, cats and wildlife.  Carbaryl is another toxic ingredient in bait.  Look for baits containing Iron phosphate as a more preferable ingredient.  When you use bait, don’t set it out in piles.  It is more easily ingested.  Sprinkling is the proper application method.

Another tip worth mentioning is to check plants that you are bringing home.

Resources:

“Coping with slugs and snails” 

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Moss your containers

I’m hate to wait!!!

Moss Slurry

I make hypertufa containers and wanted them to look like they have been in the landscape forever… without actually having to wait that long.  Not just for hypertufa, you can promote the growth of moss on stepping-stones, rocks, or any other porous surface in your landscape.

Location, location, location

Something to consider when your trying to grow moss is that it thrives in damp shady conditions… think woodsy.  If your going to paint your creation then set it out in the driest, sunniest spot in your garden, chances are… you just waisted a lot of time.  Save the buttermilk for some  biscuits or fried chicken instead.

Before you start

Moss and lichens prefer an acidic base.  Since one of the ingredients in hypertufa is cement, you want to neutralize its alkalinity by letting it sit in a bath (about 1/4 cup of vinegar to a gallon of water is good) of vinegar water for a half hour or so.  If you’re applying the slurry to something that has been out in the landscape for some time and has been exposed to the elements, it is probably good to go… you decide.

I don’t have this down to an exact science because my personality type functions better and has more fun when technicalities aren’t necessary for success.  It’s more about the creative process and the fun that comes along with getting your hands dirty.

Moss Slurry 

My measurements are just guidelines.  I had about 20 containers of various sizes to paint so I may have needed a larger volume of slurry than what you may need.

I mixed 1 large container of plain yogurt and 1 quart of buttermilk (which acts as the glue), creating a nice consistency that wasn’t too runny. To this I added shredded moss that I had harvested, cleaning out any dirt and debris.  A good ratio might be about 2 parts glue, 1 part moss.  If your slurry is too wet, add more moss.

Paint your object with a nice coat of slurry.  Find a shady, damp spot to let your object sit while it starts to establish growth.  After a few weeks, you should see results.

Aftercare

For stepping-stones, statues or rocks, keep the moss happy by misting it every so often with the hose.  If your project was a container, any water used to water the plants should penetrate the surface of the container, keeping the moss moist.  Use your best judgement.  You don’t want to over water your plants just to keep your moss happy so you might mist just the outside of the container during dry spells.

 

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