Monday, August 27, 2012

Rain, Rain, Go Away!

I know. I know. Gardeners are supposed to love rain.

And I do. Really.

But this is getting ridiculous.

My yard has received more than 10 inches of rain in the last 10 days. And, as  I write this, we are receiving still more rain from Tropical Storm Isaac. Since June, we've had several weeks of rainfall exceeding four inches. The first two days of June brought us a 6-inch deluge!

I know exactly how much rain we've had because we monitor our rain gauges carefully ( see "The tool I can't live without"). And I'm beginning to think I need to start building an ark.

Parts of my backyard are underwater 

Last week, the soil finally became so saturated that water began ponding up in the backyard. The 2.5 inches we've received so far from Isaac has created even larger ponds in the yard, with water seeping into our detached shed. Rick had to pull out his ancient rubber Wellies to stay dry on his forays to and from the shed.

A river runs through it!

Now, many of my plants think this is wonderful, and are partying like they were just chosen to appear in the Epcot Flower and Garden Festival. They appear to be growing about 6 inches a week (scorpion tail, Mexican sage, passionvine, and chenille plant among them). So much for my low-maintenance yard: It took me 1 1/2 hours one day just to beat the butterfly bed back into submission with pruners. 

This passion flower is loving the rain!
But my yard is landscaped largely with tough, drought-tolerant specimens, and some of these look none too happy about now. The beach sunflower is about to rot, the muhly grass looks mushy and the bulbine tubers are downright spongy. 

Can we just have a week to dry out?

Yes, this is Florida - where it's always either feast or famine, flood or drought. Gotta roll with it. Or is that row?

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

You're Invited to a Plant Swap!

The first-ever Be Floridian Plant Swap will be held on Saturday, August 11 from  8 am-11 am at Rivercrest Park in Tampa.

The Be Floridian campaign supports local ordinances in Tampa, Manatee, Pinellas and Sarasota counties that prohibit use of nitrogen fertilizer in the summer to prevent polluted runoff from entering our waterways. Just as importantly, Be Floridian encourages homeowners to garden like True Floridians, so it's only natural that the plant swap highlight native or Florida-friendly plants.

Full disclosure: I coordinate this great campaign with its plastic pink yard flamingo mascot as part of my job with the Tampa Bay Estuary Program. Just call me "Chief Flamingo Wrangler."
Yes, it's August and yes, it's hot! That's why we're swappin' early and beating feet before the hottest part of the day.

Want to join us? Please click here to read the rules and register. You can find directions to Rivercrest Park here too. Don't delay -- we have a maximum of 45 participants to keep all of us crazed plantaholics from trampling each other in a mad rush to grab that coveted coontie or coreopsis.

I attended my first Plant Swap a year ago and loved it! Swaps are a great way to add new plants to your yard, to make new gardening friends, and to save money because the plants are all free!! That's right, I said FREE. The catch is that you need to bring plants to take plants.

Each participant will be given tickets based on the number of plants they bring, up to a maximum of 20. For example, if you bring five plants, you get five tickets to take five plants. 

Please also bring an extra plant for a cash-strapped gardening newbie who doesn't have the ability to purchase landscape plants. We don't want anyone to leave empty-handed!

This lovely lady needs a new home
I've been digging up plants in my yard for the last two weeks and stacking them in a side corner. I think I already have about 25 plants to contribute myself -- including two gorgeous beautyberry shrubs I had to remove because the yard was just a bit too crowded with three of these magnificent shade-loving natives. I hope to find them a very good home at the swap!

Seeds, cuttings (fresh, wrapped in moist paper towels or newspapers) and bulbs also are welcome. We'll even take gardening tools or books in exchange for plant tickets.

This is a great time to get new plants in the ground, because Mother Nature will do the work of watering them in for you. My easy-care yard is lovin' life right now, and so am I! Hope to see you at the Plant Swap on August 11.