Sunday, September 28, 2014


After a VERY long break I am back to blogging. I will be updating my blog design and adding social media buttons this week as well as looking at posts I want to include for the following growing season.

Change is GOOD!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Summer Growing

Wow! It's been such a LONG time! I really have been busy with some writing work, my daughter and yoga. Of course, as everyone who has a garden in Central Florida knows, the summer has been very intense with all the rain. Since we have not been able to mulch all the areas we would like to mulch I feel like a slave to the weedeater and the mower.

Fall is quickly approaching and we have already been planting the seeds of our future here at Sanagaia. Our catalog will expand VERY soon and include many more seeds and some dried herbs which are hand picked, dried and packaged with all our love. We use natural growing practices and have respect for the variety of insects and animals that visit our garden.

Our sign is going up today! We will be here to receive visitors all week long unless otherwise posted. I will be releasing lists of what we have on our Facebook page and on the news page of this site.

I hope that you will stay tuned and see how we grow in the Fall of 2014.

Thank You

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Genuinely Simple Comfrey Products!

Update 8/8/2014: You can now check out Genuinely Simple's site!

I always like to use different handmade products. Here is my review of Genuinely Simple's Comfrey Salve and Lotion bars.

Check out their fundraiser on indiegogo.

Genuinely Simple Product Review.

Genuinely Simple has created a line of Comfrey salves (unscented, lavender and peppermint) and healing lotion bars. I have been given the unique opportunity to use and review these products.

The salves are very similar to other products I have tried. The consistency is more like a cream which, I feel, makes them more versatile. I am always concerned when I apply salve that it will stain any fabric that the area comes into contact with or will leave residue if the area rubs against something after application. I found that is not how it works with these products. The creams are lighter than other salves and are absorbed readily leaving my skin feeling soft. I have used them as a facial moisturizer with success and as an aftershave lotion. I have never found this to work with other salves I have tried because of the residues they leave behind. My legs feel silky smooth and there are no signs of irritation; I usually get after shaving. The most interesting use I have found for the salves (cream) is as a massage lotion. It makes an excellent massage cream keeping the skin moisturized for a long period of time even after the massage is over. You only need a small amount of the cream to cover a large area. It has a discreet scent that is pleasant. My 19 month old daughter had an unfortunate encounter with some mosquitoes on her knee and on her calf. I applied the unscented cream twice to the area, the following day the swelling was gone and the redness from the irritation was not noticeable. Now a day later the bite marks are nearly gone as she has stopped scratching the area.

The Genuinely Simple lotion bars are not what I expected. I have used lotion bars that were made from a cocoa butter base those melted very rapidly and left a large amount of residue. When I tried these lotion bars I was hoping they would be different and they are. Although the lotion bars are probably mostly for hard dry skin I decided to use them as massage bars to test them out. I noticed that they melt or really slowly dissolve against the skin. They leave a long lasting softness probably due to the wax they contain which will slowly condition the skin. There is no residue that will rub off into clothing or fabric after application; just this long lasting softness. There is a scent to the bar that is earthy and creamy; after application there is no noticeable scent on the skin. I will likely always have one of these bars around especially for my feet. As a gardener I get really dry hands and feet from the sun and all the other elements my hands and feet come into contact with. I consider these bars to be a lifesaver now. They don't melt at room temperature and are easy to carry around. I am very happy with the quality of this product!

Monday, June 2, 2014

Misconceptions about Comfrey

Misconceptions about Comfrey!

Comfrey is frequently considered as toxic because it contains pyrrolizidine alkaloids, necine bases or N-oxides; some plants that contain these alkaloids have demonstrated hepatoxicity in laboratory studies: specifically those with unsaturated alkaloids like Comfrey contains.

How can this be broken down in layman's terms that we can understand?

The compounds Comfrey contains can in fact be toxic to humans in extremely high levels; i.e. more than you would normally consume orally. The main thing we have remember is that a plant, especially one as complex as Comfrey, is not the same as an extract in a laboratory and unfortunately experimentation in our scientific method tests on other species and frequently in unnatural doses. There are many other compounds at work in the process; also it is worth noting that consuming Comfrey and topically using it are not one in the same; although throughout my research I have found anecdotal evidence (experience based) of individuals who frequently consumed ample portions of the raw root daily with no noticeable or long term ill effects. There is also a very small body of evidence that might suggest that this herb, used for centuries, can be toxic. The majority of these studies are not realistic and based on huge doses given to animals in very short periods of time. It is worth considering that there is evidence that common pharmaceutical drugs can cause far more damage than their herbal counterparts and yet fear based issues still remain with this herb that has been used for centuries to treat a long list of ailments. In fact it has been used for over a thousand years in Chinese medicine both internally and externally.

Now that we have debunked the horrible portrayal of Comfrey we should give equal attention to the benefits of this fine herb.

Since Comfrey contains a large amount of Mucilage and Allantoin it has powerful anti-inflammatory properties. Allantoin helps cells and is extremely beneficial to the skin promoting healing and rebuilding of cells; it is frequently artificially included in chemically created skin care products. Mucilage will help keep skin hydrated and protected. These two substances are the main reasons Comfrey preparations are so beneficial to most external skin problems. Specifically bites, scars, burns, scrapes, and many more. In addition to these powerful substances this magical herb also contains a large amount of vitamins and minerals such as vitamin C, sulfur, calcium, potassium, iron, selenium, vitamin B12 among many others. These vitamins and minerals also play their part in healing and nourishing cells.

Comfrey has a long history of beneficial use. It is a shame that a few studies could detrimentally affect its perception after being known as one of nature's most powerful healing herbs. Despite these studies many people around the world still have Comfrey as one of their most frequently used herbs. When using herbal remedies it pays to be informed and read as much as one can before making drastic conclusions. There are many companies and individuals who would like to see such cost effective natural remedies banned or limited as it might cut into their profit margins to such an extent that they would create a huge amount of fear based evidence to suggest you ignore these herbs and opt for more chemically based solutions. Comfrey should be given back its place and known to all as the amazing medicinal plant it is and will always be.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Natural Fertilizers

Natural fertilizer... What exactly am I talking about here? Well its not something that comes out of a bag that you buy. It is something that you make yourself or grow yourself to nourish the soil, give structure and create a great deal of organic matter to enrich next set of plants. You can buy some of these preparations but I just prefer not to unless I know the supplier and their practices. I tend to visit/investigate places before I buy anything; it pays to be an informed consumer.

In this post I will be focused on discussing the following topics which are so vast they each deserve their own thorough post (coming soon):

  • Vermiculture
  • BSF - Black soldier fly larvae
  • Composting
  • Green manure
  • Manure tea
  • Animal manures
  • Plant teas
For those of you who know a lot about this... PLEASE do comment and add to the list! I love hearing other people's ideas and opinions.

So here they are:

  • Vermiculture!!!! I need to update the post I wrote about this as we started new bins and they are doing really well! Basically in a nutshell you feed these specific worms your food scraps and they eat them and turn them into black gold. You can use their 'castings' (essentially their poop) as a soil amendment which holds water really well and is full of bio-available micro nutrients and all sorts of living bacteria that insert life and vitality into your soil. You can also collect their 'juice' either in a special bin system or just put some castings in water, I get constant questions about ratios, I use about a cup to a gallon for a strong solution. I like to use wet castings for this purpose. You can foliar feed your plants with this liquid solution to give an instant boost to your plants. Some people like to plant their seedlings directly into the castings. I am not terribly fond of this idea as I think its a bit overkill and just mix some castings in at planting time and do some watering with the tea to add nutrients as the plants grow.

  • BSF - Black Soldier Fly Larvae; DISCLAIMER!!!! When I have mismanaged my worm bins I have found their grubs and got them just on accident especially when the weather heats up here in Central Florida. These insects are officially named Hermetica illucens and they look a little bit like a small black wasp with wings along the body. Their larval stage is what we are interested in for composting purposes and their presence will ward of houseflies by preventing them from laying eggs in the manure or compost they inhabit. These incredible bugs will process a large amount of decomposing matter like manure, animal wastes, and rotting food; they are not regularly seen as pests. The adult flies do not bite or sting. Essentially the flies can process almost any kind of waste product and turn it into bio-available nutrient rich compost much faster than worms. An excellent choice if you have a ton of waste you need processed in a short time frame. In addition to this if you have chickens the larvae are an excellent dietary supplement for them! I found a great post here about how this gardener processes and uses her BSF. There are many design styles and options when it comes to creating a system for these bugs.

  • Composting! Dont get wrapped up in the HYPE composting is simple and easy... You have two ingredients: nitrogen and carbon AKA green and brown. Its simple you have brown which can be leaves, straw, or any other organic matter which is brown. The larger and denser the particles are the longer they will take to decompose and they will require more nitrogen... The 'green' is going to be green matter such as food scraps, grass clippings, general vegetable waste from the garden and more. Here is a nice chart from The Suburban Garden giving an explanation of what can be included. I dont follow all of those 'rules' I do include some meat, fish and dairy in small amounts and deep in the pile. There are many different designs and systems that you can consider depending on how much space and waste you have. I wrote a brief post, here, about what we are using which has just turned into a simple one pile system. I will be doing a specific post about composting soon! The green and brown are mixed in a 30:1 ratio... Everyone says things differently and gives different options so you will need to monitor your pile to see what is going on. In the end if you do well you will have ample organic matter to spread all over your planting areas.

  • Green Manure: WHAT IS IT???? Well quite simply they are plants that you grow to nourish the soil and at the end of their growth cycle they are chopped and dropped, integrated into the planting bed to add structure and nutrients for the following crop or some people will chop them and then compost the waste. You can be as simple or as complex as you want to be with these. Many of the common green manure crops are legumes or nitrogen fixing plants. Many of these legumes are edible which are a 2 for 1 because you get an edible yield from the area while doing good for the soil!!! Many of the plants used will dig roots deep in the ground  pulling up nutrients from deep in the soil making them available for your next set of plants and efficiently 'tilling' the soil for you. Common green manures are: alfalfa, rye, mustard, vetch, cowpeas, fava beans, soybeans, sunnhemp, sorgum, millet, clover, velvet bean and many many more depending on region and season. Using green manures is an excellent way to work the soil with little effort.
  • Manure tea: I do not have too much experience with this soil conditioner and concentrated fertilizer! Basically you take composted manure soak it in water and then use the liquid to feed your plants. Just like everything else in this gardening adventure everyone has a different opinion. I really like the ideas in this Mother Earth News article; they have been thorough and made a simple looking system. I have seen farmers just plop a 20-30lb burlap bag of fresh manure in a 50gal barrel and then add water. They let it steep for days until the liquid is a golden brown color and then just siphon it off and feed it to the plants. Again I am a novice in this but have heard rave reviews about this technique. I will be trying it in the fall and will make sure and update you on the progress.
  • Animal Manure: This has been one of the most versatile fertilizers I have found. It does nto just fertilize but adds organic matter to the soil and structure over time. If you happen to know anyone who has horses, cows, rabbits or other farm animals that they feed well then you will usually find a surplus of manure which many small farmers are more than happy to share unless they have been able to use it all. We have been lucky enough to find a local horse boarder who feeds the horses with organic feed and has a 3 year old pile of composted manure that we have been using to amend our planting beds. You must always make sure that the manure you are using is well composted or be ready to apply it and wait several weeks possibly a month or two depending on how 'hot' the manure is. if you apply raw manure and then plant into it you will end up burning your plants which is no fun! The amazing part of animal manures is that there are many ways to use it to produce a range of different types of solid or liquid amendments that are sure to make your plants happy. I will be working on a different post just talking about these different preparations and uses.
  • Plant teas: Similar to manure teas you can make nutrient rich solutions with plants. I like to use comfrey leave and steep them in water for several days; covered with a cloth so that bugs and lizards don't choose to drown in it. You can use a mixture of any type of plant matter! Ken Peavy of the Farm Whisperer wrote a great post about how he uses his grass clippings to make a nutrient rich drench for his plants. Another local farmer I have interacted with online has talked to me about how they use any type of green plant matter in a barrel with water soaked for several days to create a lovely tea that helps to feed their plants. You can take a look at what is happening on the Carey's farm here: Sundew gardens.

The rules are that there are no rules! You make the rules and only you know your plants, property and soil! You will want to carefully observe and preferably record you findings in a journal. Be ready to harm some plants at times. Experimentation does not always work and you might find that with some of these soil conditioners you need some experience to know when and in what quantity to apply. In addition to that I have talked with Ben Walter over at Hermitage Farm several times about the nutrient profile of the soil and being aware of what is in your soil. There is a balance to this science and adding too much of one nutrient could cause other nutrients to be 'tied up' and not readily available to your plants.

Talking to other local growers and farmers is an amazing way to really understand how to make things work for your benefit and to learn about methods that are working in your area. Do not be afraid to connect with others either online or by visiting. I have had excellent experiences reaching otu to the community and have learned much more than I thought I would be able to from just talking to farmers and visiting their properties.

Happy gardening to you all!

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Adventures in Lemongrass or Cymbopogon!

Lemongrass after being split and trimmed!
When I used to think of Lemongrass all that came to mind was delicious Thai food. YUM!!!!!  Coconut and lemon; it is the most odd combination to my ears but in reality in food its amazing. Yum indeed!

Lemongrass grows in Florida like a weed with little maintenance required!!!!. If you have the space (even in a large or mid-sized container) it is easy and amazing to grow lemongrass. As it rarely flowers most varieties I have seen are clumping types. It is one of the most abundant medicinal/edible herbs I have ever come across in the tropical climate; must be a grass!

So you ask... What are the benefits and how can I use this?

In your garden it has unlimited benefits. If you have space it can help to fill in spaces as our clumps in central Florida have grown to about 3' by 3', the dreaded mosquitoes dont like them and they can be used in infusions creams or oils to repel them on your skin, they repel nematodes (really? this useful!), they have insect repellent properties and when you trim the tops (hedge trimmers work great) about once or twice a year (we only do it in the spring) the trimmed goods can be used as mulch in your garden beds to repel pests. The extracts and essences of the plant are anti-bacterial, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer and I am sure MUCH more...

Already you can see that it is a must have in the Florida garden and any other garden! It is well suited to culture in pots and is low maintenance. Once established it does not require water. It gives and gives, you will need to split you lemongrass every year and divide it. Give your friends some, make tea, dry it for using later, and put it in your food.
These are the stalks used in tea and cooking.

One of our Lemongrasses after the winter.
This picture shows the stalk you will want to use for cooking, tea, medicine, extract; you get the point! You will want to use gloves and long sleeves to harvest unless you are tough as nails; the soft looking blades of grass are razor sharp and quite aromatic. I get cuts, an itch and tend to get bitten by some insects that hide in the foliage if I don't pay attention to what I am doing. I go to the bottom of the plant and push it to the side then with a shovel or trowel, if yours is in a pot, I gently push about 2 inches from the clump 2 - 3 " down and start lifting the clump up or at least part of it. Once I get some of it loosened I just pull a few of the outer leaves off till I get to the inner green layer and then I cut off the top leaves and the bottom root. If you leave an inch or two of stalk on the root section you can pot that up and keep moist from underneath, i.e. do not water it from above, to make another plant. Take care to never over-water as they will die quickly! I dont tend to save the root sections since they are so abundant I just toss those in the compost pile especially if I am low on time. There you have it!!!! Keep your stalks fresh in the fridge to use soon or just dry and save for later. Some people use the tops but I prefer to put them on top of the soil around plants that are susceptible to insects as the smell will ward them off and give a little mulch too!

I have compiled a list of links if you are interested in diving into the wonderful world of Cymbopogon! Come on... Say that three times in a row! Tee hee hee

I am positive that if you dive into this fantastic herb you will not regret it! If you are in the central florida area I would be happy to pull some cuttings out for you or if I happen to have some in pots we can figure something out!

As always thanks for reading!

For health:

Doshaguru for those who like Ayurveda here is the low down!

India Parenting gives us a comprehensive and well written article about it. Good site!

Lets go healthy! Information is good and thorough!

Healthers has some great information and a nicely written article!

Making your own lemongrass oil:

Ehow and Nikki Jardin Bring us a nice way to make this at home! For those who like doing everything from the ground up!

For Beauty:

Sesame of VivaWoman give us great uses for our bodies with this magical herb! I love this article!!!!!

Alejandra Ramos amuses us with the mishap but goes on to tell us about this AMAZING sugar scrub she came up with!

For COOKING!!!!!! Yummers:

Jane Maynard give us 10 great recipes in this article!

Bon app├ętit offers us an excellent Lemongrass Coconut Curry!

Thanks for reading! I am feeling this Lemongrass after writing this article!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Edible Gardening the Cold Zones

First of all I would like to thank my cousin for inspiring me to write this article. She enjoys gardening and eating healthy food in the windy city of Chicago!!! I don't think I have the grit to last a whole winter there so when I come visit it will be in the summer months! I am impressed with how long they have braved the cold wind.

When you have a limited time to grow food there are many ways to extend your growing season. Consider what plants you eat the most of and will use most frequently. We grow most of our salads, flowers, herbs and many vegetables in our garden. With proper planning and a simple understanding of gardening there is no reason gardeners in colder parts of the country cannot grow their own food.

The first thing I would determine is what exactly is most important to grow for myself and my family? Here I would make a list of things that are expensive and not as available as you would like them to be.
Some things we enjoy growing:

  • lettuces
  • arugula
  • chard
  • peppers
  • herbs: rosemary, thyme, basil, lemongrass, parsley, sage, dill, oregano and many others
  • beans and peas
  • okra
  • tomatoes
We are getting better at growing our own food and it does make a huge difference in the family meal budget.

Now once you have your list of things you are interested in growing you need to understand that the best way to maximize your growing time in a cold climate is to know what plants grow when. I like using:
Sprout Robot, and for companion planting information my favorites are WikipediaGolden Harvest Organics and Mother Earth News.

Ok so you are beginning to see that planning is actually going to account for a large portion of the time you spend gardening. Fret not! Once you get the hang of it it becomes second nature. In permaculture I have read several times that you should plan for 30 hrs before you do an hour of work. I have found this to be relatively accurate based on the level of knowledge and experience you have. It also helps to keep a garden journal of what is going on especially in a place that has a limited growing season. This way you can look back at last year and see what worked and what didn't. You just repeat what works and try new methods for what did not.

The next thing I would recommend for avid cold weather gardeners is to look into having a basic light set up. This will help you get the most out of your growing season and is a relatively easy thing to do if you have the space. The internet is a marvelous place and here is an excellent explanation of how lighting works and some pictures to give you a good idea of what you need to do to get the most out of the growing season.

Now the plants we like to grow are the ones we use the most and find to work the best in our climate. I like talking to other growers, visiting local farms, checking with the local agricultural extension to see what information and short courses they have available and of course one of my favorites is reading reading reading whether online or books. You can never pack enough information in and no one will ever know everything! It is important that you make a commitment to learning if you want to maximize your ability to produce plants and food.

Irrigation and fertilization are extremely important so that your plants can grow as fast as possible to reach their potential for you before the cold cold kicks in and messes up your game. Make sure that when you make your plans you factor these things into the equation as they can determine the difference between success and failure.

Another option is going indoors with lights and hydroponics. That is not a suitable option for all but does work. Eventually I will write about indoor growing techniques and the lovely world of hydroponics.

Finally I would consider researching thoroughly about cold tolerant plants, varieties and perhaps look into perennials that die back and re-sprout in the spring...

To be perfectly honest I think that many of you who have a long cold season are extremely lucky to be able to grow some of my favorite vegetables better and for longer periods of time than in Florida, where I am, or growing some things that don't even grow here at all. Here are just some of the plants that fit into this category: turnips, many of the Allium (onions, leeks, garlic etc...) family, asparagus, Cole crops or Brassicas (broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage etc...), Spinach, and Carrots come to mind. So don't think that we have got it all over here in the warmer states. Do a few weeks of 90+F in 80% humidity with skeeters biting you and you might think twice about that white Christmas! ;)

I have done some research and looked at all of the following links which have good beginner and some advanced cold weather gardening information and tips.

Fine Gardening has some awesome little pointers in this article!
U of I's Vegetable Gardening Guide is a FANTASTIC article and quite detailed.
The Old Farmer's Almanac can be counted on for great relevant planting dates, frost dates, planting times and much much more. A hard copy is not that much if you enjoy the information.
Chicago Botanic Garden here is a great simple and fast how to of gardening....

If there are any link issues please contact me and I will get them fixed ASAP.

I hope you have enjoyed reading this and I wish you all happy gardening! Good for mind, body and soul! Again I would like to thank my cousin for encouraging me to write this article as it pushed me outside my comfort zone as I have only spent some time many years ago growing in the UK where there is a shorter growing season than here.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Edible Gardening 101

You want to start growing your own food? Have you noticed how prices keep skyrocketing and quality is constantly plummeting at the grocery store? Would it not be easier to just pop out to the garden for a quick moment to get your 100% fresh, organic, grown with love salad fixings; no driving, no big spending, no pesticides, low carbon footprint? How about not supporting large corporate entities that have very little interest in your health and well being!

What do I need to do to start growing my own food?

 Its simple! I have always asked myself: 'What do plants need?'

  • AIR
Its so simple if you break it down.

1 - Choose your location. Is it your backyard, porch, community garden, roof, a wall?

Once you select a location you should observe your site.

How much sunlight does it get? Where is the sunlight coming from, ie do you get morning sun, midday sun or afternoon sun? Is it partly shady?

What does the soil look like?

Does water pool in parts of your location or does it drain quickly?

What do I want to grow in? Are hydroponics a suitable option for me?

I would say that choosing what you are going to grow is one of the last steps in the theoretical part of this journey because there is no way you can select a location for a large fruiting tree if all you have space wise is, say, a porch. Having said that there is NO reason to be discouraged if you have limited or a seemingly unsuitable space.


Set realistic goals and slowly make them happen. plants dont grow overnight!!!!

2 - Determine how much soil you need and where you will obtain this. There are a multitude of ways to obtain soil. You can obviously find soil at local garden centers, and at online retailers or if you are very lucky and have or know someone who has horses or cows you can use the composted manure as an excellent soil conditioner. If you need a large amount of soil it would be best to get it delivered or pick it up (if you have a suitable vehicle) by the yard. One yard will cover the following:

A yard is 3x3=9sq ft.

Here is a quick conversion table to help you judge how much mulch you'll need

1 inch deep 324 square feet 

2 inches deep 162 square feet 
3 inches deep 108 square feet 
4 inches deep 81 square feet 
5 inches deep 64 square feet 
6 inches deep 54 square

3 - Get your seed and get to planting. Obtaining seed is simple. You can look for gardening groups in your area, groups on social networks, places like Folia which is an online garden planning social network, go to your local stores and get conventional seed and if you are like me concerned with where things come from I would suggest using any of the seed companies on the following list. I enjoy trading with gardeners in my state as their seeds have been naturalized to this climate if they come from a few generations of plants here.

4- Dont judge yourself! As with everything in life there is a learning curve. You will have plants die on you and you will need to try again. Over time your experience grows and you get better. There are ample resources online and hundreds of thousands if not millions of people who have experience and are willing to share their knowledge with you free of charge or you can take courses too.

Its VERY simple. As I have more time I will do further posts supplemental to this general gardening 101 talking about companion planting, soil amending, natural fertilization among many others so please stay tuned and feel free to contact me with any questions you might have. I am happy to chat all day about gardening!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Got seed?

The online store for our seeds is taking me much longer than I expected!

So I have decided to just put up a list of seed that we have available grown and harvested with no chemicals used in their culture.

We have the following seeds available for sale at $2 per pack or for trade:

Cassia bicapsularis
Cayenne Pepper
Garden cress
Mignonette Bronze Lettuce
Dwarf Pak Choy
Ajies Dulces (south american sweet peppers)
Coco Bell Pepper
Banana Peppers
Red Marconi Peppers
Icicle Radish
Saxa Radish
Green Zebra Tomato
Brandywine Tomato
Gold Medal Tomato
Mixed Heirloom Okra (Candelabra, Burmese, and Edna Slanton's Candelabra)

I will be updating this list as I have the opportunity to go through ALL our seeds.

Feel free to contact me for seed! :)
Thank You!

Monday, February 17, 2014

Cassia/Senna bicapsularis - Cassia Tree

This beautiful small tree is an excellent addition to the Central Florida landscape. It is a relatively fast growing Legume (so it fixes nitrogen) which has many benefits in any garden. This multi-purpose tree is great at attracting a variety of pollinators, and birds. It serves as a host plant for three different Florida butterflies: cloudless sulphur, sleepy orange, and orange-barred sulphur. (*) The tree blooms in fall when the landscape desperately needs life and color. Being leguminous it is excellent for the landscape fixing nitrogen and providing the ground with excellent organic matter to build the soil. These plants are easy to care for requiring little attention once established in the landscape as well as being reasonably drought tolerant. With the exception of watering when the tree was young, the tree in the picture, has only been pruned twice and mulched once in three years. All the while the tree is in the landscape doing its work; providing beauty and habitat for birds as they enjoy eating some of the different insects which come to visit or just enjoying the shade from its bushy canopy. Just look at the flowers on this tree! I really enjoy it during its blooming phase watching the wildlife sing and dance within its branches. You can prune this specimen into a small bush or a tree depending on what you need and how sturdy you want it. The branches are delicate and can break easily during storms and high winds. Luckily ours has tolerated extreme weather well so far.

I love these flowers!

The seed hangs from the branches for months after flowering is complete. The pods are left to dry on the bush as the seeds mature. Once the pods are dry the seed can then be harvested and processed. It is beneficial to pick the pods after several dry days, this way it will be easier to remove the gummy coating that surrounds all the seed. 

Our tree is in its third year and we finally have seeds now! I am so excited to be able to share them. I removed the pods and individually separated the seeds from the gummy coating that surrounds them in the pod. This is a time consuming process! I spent a considerable amount of my day focused on this task. It should be relatively easy to propagate these from seed. We will try 15 - 20 and save the rest of the seed.

Contact us if you would like to purchase seed.


Spring prep update.

I have been slacking on the blog! I must say its pretty difficult to create this habit of sitting down to write although its becoming more and more rewarding so I am doing my best to include this into the routine.

There is much activity over here in the Sanagaia garden space. We have our greenhouse! Its relevant parts have been moved and are ready to set up thanks to the men of the house. Once we get the footers done then we will be erecting it! Its going to be a great day! :) So much  more space for seedlings and the ability to get enough herbs to start doing a weekly market trip.

Spring planting and clearing is in full swing. We have beds for this and beds for that and we have the asparagus bed ready to plant our crowns in: lets see how they do in here in central Florida. From my research they need a dormant period that this climate does not offer. The way we see it we have the space so we might as well use it.

The most relevant thing that is going on is behind the scenes is organization. We now have a fridge just for the seeds. My mother has been collecting seeds for a while to share, trade or sell. We now have enough seed that we are starting to sell them. We will be adding items to the shopping cart as I catalog them and write about them.

I am very thankful to be able to pursue my passion for local food with my family. Its a gift that has no financial equivalent.

Please stay tuned as I begin adding our seeds to the catalog.

So much exciting news coming for the spring!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Growing in America

Grocery stores are not what they were once upon a time. Rising costs with lower quality has made many consumers rethink where they are obtaining their fresh foods. I have noticed an increasing trend of people creating their own gardens in their homes. Sometimes homeowner's gardens are threatened by their local government and/or HOA to create their garden space elsewhere or face hefty fines. Recently I have been following two stories in Florida that have me somewhat perplexed and full of complicated questions.

There is Mr. Sean Law in Longwood, FL, you can find the first mainstream press interview with Law here. We went to visit Law and made seedballs with him and some friends in his front yard two weeks ago. It seems the city of Longwood and most specifically a few neighbors are extremely upset at the no-till, no-weeding, seedball farming that comes from the late Masanobu Fukuoka's practices in natural farming which Law is practicing in his front and back yard. Upon first glance it didn't seem odd to me; the garden is not that unkempt but its not thriving either (natural gardening takes some time to take shape) it is though dramatically different from the mowed lawns of his neighbors. Unfortunately Law is facing $130,000 in fines from the city of Longwood and is currently awaiting the Magistrate's decision to keep, drop or reduce fines. He has also filed an appeal with the Florida Supreme Court and started a petition to begin growing food forests in the city

I have also been following case of Tom Carroll and Hermine Ricketts in Miami shores. Here is a video and here an article about this case. This couple has been growing food in their front yard for 17 years! The city has made an ordinance now that specifically bans vegetables. They have been eating fresh organic food right from their front yard for 17 years and now due to the ordinance they have had to remove vegetables from their front yard due to the threat of $50 per day in fines. Carroll and Ricketts are now suing for the freedom to grow vegetables in their front yard. They are not asking for money only suing for $1; it is for the right to grow vegetables in their front yard, as they have for 17 years, where they get the best sunlight. They have had to go to the supermarket to get their organic produce now which is extremely costly after being accustomed to getting their own vegetables out of their front yard.

I personally have no idea why vegetable gardens considered unworthy of being part of the suburban American landscape while fake plastic ornaments, chemical fertilizer/herbicide, and other non-eco-friendly practices are never questioned.  Vegetable gardens are making such a fuss they are actually bothering people and governments. Now the in thing to do is to get your food from miles away with a MASSIVE carbon footprint, limited nutrients/freshness due to early picking, a HUGE distribution chain, high prices, unknown chemicals, picked by who knows who: who knows where. No matter how I think about these issues many questions arise. There are many reasons why this is happening. Somehow most Americans in densely populated areas have come to internalize the ritual of going to the supermarket and paying money as the only way to obtain their food. Food now comes from the supermarket and even there 8 out of 10 cashiers dont know the majority of vegetables I ever buy yet they know all about most boxed products. These days gardening is a civil 'problem' that residents need to be fined for. I mean does anyone see anything wrong with these pictures? I wonder when and how we were led to believe it was someones' responsibility to create our foods for us.

The way I see it I feel it is violating not only our rights but one of the fundamental premises of America and what we used to stand for. 'Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness'. In my interpretation preventing a person or persons from growing edible food which can sustain them and provide life for them, their environment and others would be preventing the right to life, dont you think? I guess it is my right to get food for money at the grocery store! Liberty is violated because in the two instances above the people own their homes and are not given the liberty to grow their own food freely, its a loose interpretation but good enough for me. Finally: it is obvious that in both cases the homeowners are doing something that makes them happy: so what to the pursuit of happiness. This is very simplistic. I just don't see how the neighbors can continue using harmful landscaping practices and you cant grow a turnip or you will be fined. Its absurd!

Is this modern America? Vegetable gardens 'BANNED' read the headlines... Self-sufficiency used to be what made us America now we just buy cheap crap from third world countries.

If more Americans adopted environmentally sound practices in their yard the cumulative effect would be incredible. If you stop and think about all the land occupied by human dwellings and all the 'maintenance' we must give it you might come to realize the carbon footprint of the 'natural' sea of green lawn look is incredibly high. We fertilize and water the grass only to come cut it back every week or two. How is that sustainable? When you take care of the land and work to conserve valuable resources you are indeed making a great effect on everything that surrounds you. Unfortunately our current view of front and back yards is quite askew and devoid of all logical reason.

I feel empathy for homeowners who go through these problems and I understand it is incredibly difficult to have ones way of life challenged because the government or the neighbors dont like it. In the cases mentioned quite costly. Our greatest effect can be made by highlighting the positive benefits that sustainable practices will have on the body, mind, spirit and the wallet. Unfortunately loving and taking are of the planet does not seem to be enough reason for many people to change what they are doing. Hopefully the future will see more and more Americans wanting to learn about and be involved in growing their own food and more voices being heard by local governments. Get involved for your health and that of your surroundings. Our population is increasing exponentially and the access to safe food and water is becoming and will continue to be challenged. It is time that we start getting real; working with our surroundings instead of against them or face the continuing destruction of nature which supports us and gives us life.

Without nature we are nothing.