Simple Sustainability to Declare Your Independence

Simple Sustainability to Declare Your Independence

If this Coronavirus pandemic has highlighted one thing for me, it is how dependent our society has become on the grocery store food and supply distribution system, and how that system is not built with sustainability in mind. Seeing the empty shelves and the panic (accompanied by much bad behavior, I must say!), it made me think for a moment, “What if I could get the majority of my food from my yard?”

It’s not a new thought for me. As you may know from other of my writings or a class I’ve taught, my Dad was a subsistence farmer. He grew what he could year round and traded for what he could get – which was pork, chicken, eggs, and manure to compost for the garden, all from his neighbor. He also fished and sold fishing & composting worms. That is mostly how he stayed fed.  He and Mema (his mom) canned veggies and made pickles for when things didn’t grow so well, or just to enjoy.

He lived in a very rural area with more land than I’ve ever owned.  So, years ago I asked myself, could I grow my own food here in the city on a small plot of land? My answer was yes. While I still have a lot to learn (you never stop learning when you’re a gardener), over the years I’ve made it so that I can get a lot of nutrition out of the land I farm. 

sustainability of your garden

This bounty is possible, and more flavorful, when you do it yourself.

I imagine many people interested in gardening for food ask themselves that quite often, when they’re scheming and planning to make their yards into places where beautiful and edible things grow. Trust me…you can do it.

I decided to ask some local folks who REALLY know about growing your own, sustainably, just to give you some inspiration and more resources to check out.

Amongst our customers and friends of Shell’s, we have quite a few who practice sustainability and eat mostly what they grow.  From massive Earthbox gardens to food forests to backyard nurseries and front yard landscapes full of edibles, aka “yardens”, there are members of our community right here in Tampa Bay who do this kind of food growing.  I think this is a great opportunity to pick their brains – in the hopes that their stories will inspire others to Declare Independence from Mass Food Distribution in a time where the question of where our food comes from has a shaky and indefinite answer.

Empty shelves in the produce section - modern food supply does not have sustainability

Empty Produce shelves at the grocery store during the COVID-19 pandemic. Look Familiar? Photo credit: Travis Wise

I asked what it means to them and their family to know that they could sustain themselves if the food distribution system was suddenly no longer there, and what Sustainability means to them.  Because the concept of sustainability is more than just growing your own food, it’s about replenishing the soil nutrients you use to grow your food and maintaining as much as possible the natural balance of the land so that you can continually grow more food and not strip the environment.

Here’s what they had to say. Also, I’ve linked you up with how to get in contact with them so that we can all expand our community, hear the voices, and see the inspiration of these local gardening/farming influencers.

Amanda Streets – Clearwater

Living Roots Eco Design - focused on sustainability

A heavy focus on native plants for pollinators and growing your own food, Amanda helps people design their own Yardens with a focus on building healthy soil for a healthy life!

“I grew up on a working farm, so gardening and a pantry full of home-canned goodies is just the way it is. Food growing in abundance in our urban “yarden” carries on my family’s long tradition of farming, even though we don’t have fields to plow. It is important to pass these skills on to my child. Our family is busy – there’s not always time for a quick trip to the grocery store. Dashing out to the garden to harvest fruit for lunches or greens for a salad is the norm – and even better now that our child is able to take on that responsibility. Knowing where our food comes from is important. I know how it’s been grown, what has been applied, and whether it was picked ripe or green. We also know that it is there. When the store shelves were empty in March and April, that was a little scary. Whether or not there is going to be a food shortage in my lifetime, I know that I have the skills and capacity to grow a good amount of fresh, nutrient dense food for my family.”  –Amanda Streets, local Clearwater “Yardener” and nurseryperson, owner of Living Roots Eco Design (https://livingrootsecodesign.com) – and the magical force behind the Pinellas Community Composting Alliance (https://PinellasCommunityCompost.com)

Kenny Gil – Tampa

Kenny Gil's Instagram feed @lig_ynnek - he's all about sustainability

A look at the first six entries on Kenny Gil’s (@lig_ynnek) Instagram feed: instagram.com/lig_ynnek

“Being able to produce as much as we can for our family on our micro-homestead means I get to connect with friends, neighbors and community members, encouraging and teaching them to break away from the mega farms that don’t have the environment, biodiversity, freshness, nutrition and flavor as top priority.”  –Kenny Gil, local Tampa homesteader, growing his own massive variety of fruits and vegetables (https://www.instagram.com/lig_ynnek

Susan Roghair – Tampa

Susan Roghair's Earthbox Garden - sustainability in a box

Images from Susan’s EarthBox Garden, she created a garden from a concrete pad with EarthBox. Shows you can garden ANYWHERE.

“I love to cook! Everything I make is organic, not processed or frozen. I cook only with fresh produce and make everything completely from scratch. I’ve been a vegan for thirty years and my husband, Dan, for over fifty years! One of the things I love about having an EarthBox garden is the accessibility to fresh produce right outside my kitchen door.  There is nothing more fun than harvesting a bunch of veggies and them being on the dinner table minutes later.  You can’t beat that for freshness or convenience!” –Susan Roghair, local Tampa EarthBox enthusiast with (at last count) 24 Earthboxes, and our Earthbox Simple Success Secrets class instructor at Shell’s! (quote is from an article on Earthbox.com: https://blog.earthbox.com/earthbox-get-to-know-a-grower-series-4. Find her on Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/771889789977465/)

John Steele – Tampa

John Steel's Family Homestead Farm - building family food sustainability

Several pictures from John Steele’s Homestead – urban farming in the heart of the city. He has no website or Instagram, but if you want to talk to him, he’s at Shell’s (shellsfeed.com), so stop in and see him.

“Being able to walk through my property and harvest my own food that I have grown or raised has copious amounts of beneficial aspects to it. Some of the most predominant being: Less waste in the form of unsustainable packaging, the gratification and reward of growing, raising, and harvesting your own meals, creating a space for yourself and family to learn and grow together, independence from the grocery store and large retailers, and one of the most (if not the most) important in my family being financial ease and independence. It is hard work to run a fully functional homestead but it is well worth it. I encourage anyone and everyone to give it a shot even if only on a small scale, see what homesteading can do for you and your family. 

Currently on my property we have a small flock of chicken & quail hens that are for the sole purpose of being of layers, along with a few males that play the role of broilers if ever needed. We have a 1000 gallon rainwater collection system in the works as a priority. Numerous fruits and vegetables both established and seedlings.A cleaning station for fish and wild game we catch/hunt and process ourselves, as well as a deep freezer to store it along with a generator large enough to sustain its needs for electricity throughout the hurricane season. In addition to our current resources we are adding our own shade cloth greenhouse, bee hives, and a vermiculture tower in the weeks to come.”  –John Steele, Shell’s Feed & Garden Supply Employee, local Tampa homesteader/urban farmer

Tanja Vidovic – Safety Harbor

Tanja Vidovic's Home Garden - A Sustainability Warrior in Tampa Bay!

Pictures from Tanja’s homestead – it’s bananas! Making soap savers out of home-grown loofahs, hubby & the kids, and bat houses mounted on the house! Find her here: www.wmnf.org/sustainableliving and https://www.facebook.com/groups/TampaGardening/

“Sustainability and the ability to grow food on my own property means the difference between food independence and dependability. I feel that if something were to happen to our food system, that me and my family would still survive. Having a food garden in my yard provides us with exercise and needed skills to live without being completely dependent on a broken system. You learn about what it takes to make a healthy soil, healthy plants, and a healthy ecosystem. I was happy to see that this past year, in Florida we approved the right to have front yard gardens. People need to be able to grow their own food, especially in food deserts were the only option may be unhealthy food. Gardening, permaculture, sustainability are all things that most schools should be teaching our younger generation.” –Tanja Vidovic, Safety Harbor homesteader and influencer, Sustainability Radio Show Host on WMNF 88.5FM, and local Environmental Activist, Also, Facebook Group “Tampa Gardening Swap” Creator with nearly 13,000 followers, and prior candidate for Safety Harbor Mayor!

Kenny Coogan – Tampa

Kenny Coogan's City of Tampa Homestead - the picture of self-sustainability

Kenny with pumpkins from his homestead, and one of the stars of the How to Raise Chickens video series, Morticia the Transylvanian Naked Neck Chicken. The Video series is a collaboration between Kenny and Shell’s and this week our 9th episode will premiere on Saturday! Check out #TheChickenChannel. Also, click the picture above to get Kenny’s book, 99 ½ Homesteading Poems, a charming (and poetic) look at homestead life. Includes recipes!

“As a current Global Sustainability grad student at USF, I think a lot about being able to sustain myself from my land. Sustainability has three pillars: social, economic, and environmental. In 2019 I started documenting every egg, fruit and vegetable I produced from my 1 acre home in Tampa. January 2020, I reflected on my year’s harvest and was surprised by how little I grew and ate. Now in 2020 I am focusing on what grows copiously without a lot of work to get my numbers up. I grow a ton of true yams, passionfruit, katuk, moringa, Chaya, chayote squash and Seminole pumpkin. Currently I am growing a lot of okra. Even though I don’t love some of these crops I use them to help the society around me by bartering, trading or selling my surplus. I also focus a lot of my attention on food waste. I jam, pickle or freeze a lot more now to save what I grow. This year I jammed several jars of Surinam cherries – not because I love them – but because they grew abundantly. Combined with strawberries the jam tastes great. Preserving your own food and reducing food waste helps your wallet. Growing as much food as possible and not wasting it helps with the environment as well. It cuts down your food miles and saves on fossil fuels needed to grow and transport the crops. Growing food that is well suited for your ecosystem limits your need for fertilizers, are more resistant to pests and offer flavor profiles that you can’t find at the grocery store.” –Kenny Coogan, local Tampa Homesteader, Chicken Keeper, Nurseryperson, Agriculture Educator, and Global Sustainability Grad Student.

Georgea Snyder, Sustainable Living Project – Tampa

The Sustainable Living Project in Tampa, Florida - educating others in sustainability

The Sustainable Living Project is a place for community, education, and learning sustainable growing practices. I encourage you to check them out!

Finally, I’d like to give a shout out to the Sustainable Living Project, run by the wonderful Georgea Snyder (who doesn’t know I’m doing this…), a long-time customer of our store and someone who is doing an excellent job at the hard work to run a garden that exists because of the efforts of the volunteers she “recruits” and coordinates. 

Their mission is: “to affect positive change in the community towards becoming more sustainable and healthy in our everyday lives. Using sustainable living on our urban farm and education center as a model to serve, educate, and build community through example, hands-on experiences, and education.  We describe SLP as a place where people can be immersed in the world of sustainability and community. We implement innovative and traditional technologies that help reduce our impact on the environment. Our 1 acre plot houses 34 grow beds (10 of which are dedicated to Veteran volunteers & programming, 3 sheds, a water catchment system, patio with solar panels, a greenhouse with aquaponics, a chicken coop, bee hives, a biodigester, and a 12 stall compost station. All of these elements play a part in our exploration of what it means for our bodies, communities and planet to be healthy.”

Well, I hope seeing these amazing folks doing stellar sustainability things has inspired you to work on your family’s sustainable food sources.  There’s so many aspects to help sustainability, and ways to grow your own food, it can be overwhelming.  But don’t panic!  We’re here to help.

Fall gardening season is coming up – Fall Garden Seed Planting STARTS IN AUGUST! – so when you have questions, when you need supplies…we’re here.  We’ve got free Garden Guides in the store that we publish to use as a reference tool.  We’ve got classes too, great for beginners and experienced gardeners alike.  

We’re here to help, just a short drive away to see us in Tampa.  Check out the buy online and pickup in store – we call it “Buy & Fly” – at shellsfeed.com/shop.  Call us if you don’t see what you’re looking for – not every one of our approximately 5000 items we carry is online.

Until next time…Keep Growing!

Marissa

Tasty Summer Garden Treats

I’m quite hungry as I write this, so tasty treats are on my mind. I’ll use this inspiration as the motivation to write about one of my favorite topics – food. Especially Summer food.

There’s just something magical about creating food that cools, refreshes, and hydrates you when you need it the most…like when it’s hot outside! (and boy is it – my car registered 101 degrees F yesterday!)

One of my fondest memories of Summer as a kid was going out to Daddy’s garden, picking tomatoes (and whatever else was ripe and ready!), doing some weeding, feeding any worms we found to the neighbor’s chickens, and then coming back in to cool off. Cooling off usually entailed lunch (a kid’s favorite time of day, to be sure)!

Tasty Treats #1: Tomato & Mayo Sandwich

OK – I have to ask – Are you #TeamDukesMayo or #TeamHellmansMayo? Inquiring minds want to know (OK, really just me). Photo by Austin Steele, originally shown in the Gainesville Times.

Often my lunch of these Summer-time moments was a Tomato and Mayo sandwich. Nothing says Summer like this sandwich (and the Gainesville Times agrees with me!). If the South had a song, this sandwich would be a key lyrical point.

Simple. Delicious. Affordable.

Fresh tomatoes, sliced into thick circles, placed on bread smeared with a healthy portion of mayonnaise. Salt, pepper. Done. You’ll find other variations, additions, people “gourmet-ing it up”, but honestly, nothing is better than just simple.

What else can one say about this sandwich? Well, it transports me back to a simpler time, and for a moment the stresses of the modern world retreat. I smile. And when the sandwich is gone I dream of the next one.

Tasty Treats #2: Blueberry, Watermelon, Mint & Feta Salad

from the blog of @SheWearsManyHats.com, this is the original recipe page: https://shewearsmanyhats.com/blueberry-watermelon-feta-mint-salad/

Now, I have to admit, I’m not a huge fan of eating melons. BUT, in this salad, they’re actually quite good. It doesn’t hurt that I REALLY love blueberries, feta, mint, and balsamic vinaigrette. If you love all these things, this is a great cool-down refreshing salad to make.

Watermelon has hydrating qualities that can’t be overlooked on hot summer days. Made mostly of water and fiber with a little sugar, served cold it can literally bring down your body temperature in a matter of minutes. Watermelon is also one of the best hydration delivery systems ever – no salt-laden sugary chemical drinks needed!

It’s as easy as it looks folks, cube up some watermelon, add blueberries, crumbled feta, torn mint leaves, and toss lightly, then chill in the fridge for about an hour or so, take it out, drizzle balsamic vinaigrette, and serve. Yum!

Tasty Treats #3: Agua Fresca with Cucumber, Lime, and Mint

Cucumber, Lime, & Mint Agua Fresca, from simplyrecipes.com https://www.simplyrecipes.com/recipes/cucumber_lime_mint_agua_fresca/

Are you sensing a Mint theme here? Yeah, me too. I just can’t help myself.

Mint is used in both Eastern and Western medicines to cool the body, so it’s no wonder it’s in a lot of foods for hot climates.

Cucumber is another food that is excellent at hydrating a parched body. It’s mostly water and fiber, so your body can quickly get the water to your tissues. When you see them over people’s eyes in a spa treatment, it’s because contact with cucumber juice instantly cools and hydrates puffy and/or dry eyes.

Lime (and any citrus, really) has some extra sugars and vitamins to add to your refreshing Summer drink to help you hydrate (and they’re tasty too).

This image is from another recipe for the same thing, Sense & Edibility, a virtual cooking school!: https://senseandedibility.com/cucumber-lime-drink-juice/

The recipe is in the link under the picture. You won’t regret making it! For an additional bit if zing, use water from a Soda Stream machine to give it a little fizz.

Thanks for letting me ramble on about food. I’m going to go make a Tomato & Mayo sandwich and remember my childhood for a few minutes before I move on to my next task for the day!

Take care, and Keep Growing!

Marissa

A Secret View Into a Garden Writer’s Garden

Hi there Gardening Friends!

It’s getting to be that HOT time of year! But really, I’ve not seen it so MILD as it has been this year (2020) this late in the year! Some parts of our country had SNOW just a week ago, and here in Central Florida we had temperatures in the 60s in MAY! It’s really been a special Spring season this year. I hope you’ve been outside enjoying is as much as possible.

I don’t know about you but my garden is doing pretty well!

I thought I’d take this opportunity to show you pictures from my garden, what I’ve been up to, and some of the interesting thing’s I’ve seen and done. I haven’t even gotten around to planting everything I wanted to – Coronavirus stole most of my free time and energy this Spring trying to make sure we had our store open to serve you – but I’m enjoying what I do have, and stuff from Winter/Spring is not bolting as quickly because of the cooler temperatures.

I did plant a lot more flowers than usual this year, and the bees and butterflies are loving it. I planted a lot of wildflowers as well, and that patch hasn’t bloomed yet, I think it will have to get a bit hotter to make that really thrive. Some of the Florida Native wildflowers I planted never germinated, so will have to try again. Hey, even us garden writers have failures!!

Right now, my sweet potato slips are going very strong – great young vines developing right now that I’ll be attempting to train to climb my hog panel trellis (it’s like herding cats…really). Some of the ones that get a little unruly I clip and root to give to friends and neighbors. If you have lots of leaves already, you can use some of the really young tender leaves in recipes like you would spinach (great tip for you foodies out there!).

My sweet potato bed – the new slips are on the left, the ONE slip that was planted in January is the rest!

The vines that are already climbing the trellis are from a slip that I found growing on my counter and stuck in the ground in January. Yes, that’s right, all that is from ONE slip. Sweet potatoes LOVE Florida. Did you know that they are part of the same family as morning glories? That’s why they have those pretty purple flowers!

Speaking of potatoes, and flowers, my regular potatoes made flowers – I usually miss them when they bloom but I happened to get pictures this time. I have a row each of Red Pontiac, White Kennebec, and Yukon Gold, and the flowers bloomed on a couple of my Red Pontiac plants.

An elusive Potato flower, on my Red Pontiac potato plant!

Potatoes are part of the nightshade family, and you can see the relation to other nightshades like eggplant and tomatoes in the shape of the flowers and the stalks. It’s amazing how similar they all are structurally! I’m hoping to see the tomato-like “fruits” happen after the flowers are spent. If I see them I’ll be sure to snap a picture and share it on our social media page. No, you can’t eat those fruits from the potato flowers – they’re usually poisonous.

Pigeon peas, before they were stolen! I suspect tree rats!

Something has been stealing my pigeon peas…I got a good 2 rounds of harvest from my one pigeon pea “tree” and I get flowers on the tree, and haven’t seen any peas since. I do, however, see pods on the ground…so it’s likely squirrels. They’re robbing me of my pigeon peas and rice dinners…not happy about that. I did plant some more pigeon peas, so When those grow up maybe I can get some harvested before they all get eaten by the tree rats.

One of two remaining cabbages waiting to be harvested.

I still have carrots and a cabbage left from the winter…probably going to pull all of them out here pretty soon and make way for more cowpeas in that bed. I’ve been planting a lot of marigolds to help keep the bad pests away, and it definitely seemed to help my cabbages! Plus that bed is faltering in it’s nitrogen content – some of the plants that do grow are runts, so it’s time to plant beans so that the nitrogen can get fixed in the soil. I’ll probably have to get some Shell’s 3-3-3 organic into that bed to help the beans and cowpeas along a little bit. I try not to use too much fertilizer at all if I can help it through crop rotation, but sometimes you just have to help nature along a little bit!

Moringa tree sprouts – only 3 of 12 sprouted, I hope they make it!!

I also planted a few Moringa seeds that I picked up from a lovely couple at one of our Seed Swaps, but only 3 of the 12 germinated. I’m doing everything I can to hang on to those seedlings, I really want some Moringa trees! It’s a great superfood, and nearly everything on the tree is edible!

Last year about this time I wrote an article about Summer gardening with lots of great tips and advice in it, and it’s still relevant this year, so I wanted to link to it here so you could go back and read it. Please go check it out!

shells feed garden supply tampa florida guide to summer garden
Summer growing article I wrote last year

One of the most asked questions we get at the store is “What should I plant right now?” Normally if you’re in the store we hand you one of our garden guides, which has a handy-dandy planting chart on one side and advice for the gardening chores to do this month on the other, and send you on your way with whatever products you came in for that day. This article from last year goes a little deeper, and even has some other great links inside it. Do check it out when you get a chance.

I could keep writing about my garden – I love it so much – but I will stop there for now. My garden is my place to take out frustration (very satisfying pulling weeds, and hand-tilling the soil), get some sunshine and fresh air, and see beautiful things. All in my own back yard. I’m happiest when I’m out there, hanging out with the dogs, working on a project with my fiance, or just sitting and relaxing on the swing.

Petunia, Ping Pongs, Red Salvia

I hope you’ve made your own beautiful place. If you haven’t, what’s stopping you?

We’re here to help.

Until next time, keep growing!

Marissa

Urban Farms are HOT!

Who knew that Shell’s would be in the forefront of one of the hottest trends right now – Urban Farms?

Well, to be completely honest, we did. We’ve seen this coming for awhile: the return to our roots where we live right now – farming in urban areas and in suburbia.

We’re In It For You

We believe that is one of the main reasons why we’ve been in business for 59 years in Tampa Bay – because we are here for anyone who wants to farm and garden in their back yard, and feed their pets high quality affordable pet foods.

Shell’s has definitely seen a dramatic increase in new gardeners and livestock owners coming to us for supplies, and advice too, during this COVID-19 pandemic. We’re loving the trend! Not just because we get to meet more of our neighbors, but because we truly LOVE gardening, and pets, and chickens, and farms too.

It’s our passion to provide great knowledge, great service and great products to our friends who are creating a new adventure at home for themselves and their families.

History Repeats Itself, In A Positive Way

In the last blog article we talked about Victory Gardens being the “new” old thing that has come back around to serve us. We’re continuing our focus on the efforts of our community to provide for themselves, to discover where their food comes from, and to (at least some what) learn how to live off the land.

There are lots of resources out there for new gardeners and new chicken owners, for example. If you search for information on homesteading, you’ll find a lot of information that way as well.

During this COVID-19 pandemic crisis, there has been a lot of talk about supporting our community. In that light I wanted to point out some great local in-person and online communities that are a wealth of support and information for your homesteading endeavors.

Shell’s Learning Center

Let’s learn together! The Learning Center

We’ve built a learning center on our website that has lots of free information for you. It has links not only to our blog, but other “hidden” pages of our website that have great information for growing gardens. Have a look and see if you find something fun to learn today!

Go To Shell’s Learning Center

Local Community Gardens

LUMOimages Shutterstock

Community Gardens are great for people who don’t have yards or patios to grow food on – they already have raised beds built, you lease the space for a nominal fee and you have instant community help to help you grow your own! Here’s some local ones (closer to our store’s location):

Seminole Heights Community Garden

Abby’s Organic Community Farm

Temple Terrace Community Garden

Sustainable Living Project

Tampa Heights Community Garden (I could not find a recent and working website for them, however they do have a Facebook page you can search for).

Looking for a Community Garden further away from our store but still in the Tampa Bay area? Look on the Coalition for Community Gardens Website, and scroll down to the “Looking for a Community Garden?” section. Click the button and a document will download with community gardens all over Tampa Bay for you to access. https://coalitionofcommunitygardens.weebly.com/

(I don’t know how up-to-date that list is, so you may have to do some google searching or visit the site for more details.

The Coalition for Community Gardens also has a guide for starting your own community garden. That would be a great project for a neighborhood/HOA, a townhome association, a condo association, etc. to undertake together to provide residents with the chance to get their hands dirty and grow food for the betterment of all who live and garden there.

QUESTION: Are you a member of a community garden? Which one? Tell us more about it in the comments below.

Facebook Groups for Gardening/Homesteading

Facebook has some awesome local groups or communities within Facebook to ask questions and search for already-discussed resources – make sure you use the group search functions and look through their written resources!

Photo by  Lindsey Hutslar  on  Scopio

Shell’s Garden Community – this is a private group run by me. People post pics, ask questions, and we have a good time. Also has announcements about the store in there – activities, sales, etc. Please feel free to join us! We’re in the 200-300 member range and we have good participation from our members.

Tampa Gardening Swap – a HUGE group (11,000+ members!) of gardeners in Central Florida – a great resource for garden info for Zone 9 and 10. Lots of informational resources there, so make sure you check out their Learning Units AND their Files sections before posting your questions.

Tampa Gardening Unplugged – a slightly smaller group that spawned off of the Tampa Gardening Swap, this group also has great people who answer questions, post pics, and sound off about gardening in our area – triumphs and (usually funny) failures too.

Seminole Heights Backyard Chickens – our neighbors in Seminole Heights have an obsession with chickens – almost as fevered as Ybor City! – and this is where they hang out to share information and get advice. Funny chicken videos, wonderful information about problems that people have had and solutions they found that worked (or didn’t).

Picture date 17/10/2010 from the Daily Telegraph (UK).

Do you have a favorite gardening, chicken, or homesteading Facebook Group? Please share in the comments below and tell everyone about it! I want the community to sound off and tell us that you’re out there.

What other resources do you use to learn about gardening? Let’s pool our resources and share our knowledge! Tell us more below!

At Shell’s we want you to know – we are here for you! We support our community’s return to our farming roots 100%, and will continue to do so far into the future. Thank you Tampa Bay for your support and continued business throughout the years, and especially in this time of hardship for everyone in our community.

We’re so grateful for you, Tampa Bay!

Until next time, Keep Growing!

Marissa

Victory Gardens Keep Families Fed!

Victory Gardens Keep Families Fed! That’s something that might have been heard during the World Wars of the earlier part of the 1900s. But I’m here, bringing it back – because Victory Gardens are as relevant today as they ever were.

We are in a time of fear and uncertainty, to be sure. And the mainstream media is not helping…they’re making more money than ever preying on your fears and insecurities while raking in advertising dollars and paying out BIG bonuses to Execs…oh, wait, that soapbox is for another day. I digress.

This COVID-19 pandemic burst our “first world” security bubble and caused us all to re-evaluate what is truly necessary in our lives, and really look at what we often take for granted: the availability of food.

Thousands of pounds of squash and zucchini harvested, and then wasted. Image from Politico, click to read story

We hear in the news that farmers are dumping thousands of pounds and gallons of food in the fields because it’s going to waste from the decrease in business of restaurant purchases and more. It surprised even me to learn that dairy farmers (which my family owned a dairy, back in the day) are dumping milk by the truckload, but when I go to the store the milk shelves are empty.

It’s time to take a good look at our food distribution, and what we, as individuals, can do to make it easier for ourselves when a crisis happens. Many areas do not benefit from access to fresh fruits and vegetables at all those areas are called “food deserts” and they are a real problem in the urban areas of the US and it was happening WAY before this pandemic.

One thing I can tell you, living in a hurricane-afflicted state, is that being prepared is everything. And we CAN prepare for what amounts to an agricultural collapse – and a collapse of the food system in general – by being PROACTIVE and growing our own. Providing for our families and putting food on the table in a physical way.

Fresh veggies ready to eat. Photo by  Luana Ungaro Corujeira  on  Scopio

Yes, that’s right – I’m talking about Victory Gardens, the 2.0 version. I’m talking about fresh greens that you snip from your back yard and bring in to wash up for dinner. I’m talking about picking turnips and onions and cabbage and making soup for dinner. Fresh tomatoes, lettuce, radish, and bell peppers for a salad.

Red Beets fresh from the garden. Photo by  Linus Strandholm  on  Scopio

It’s not a fantasy. It can be yours, with a little extra and consistent effort.

You don’t even need a yard – there’s this cool thing called the EarthBOX! That’s a story for another day (or for a class! Stay tuned for that announcement soon!). I’ll show you a picture:

shells feed garden supply tampa florida earthbox garden spring 2019 gardening plan planning
Earthbox garden – so easy. Check out our store and search for Earthbox! shellsfeed.com/shop

Now, I don’t consider myself a “prepper”, like you see on these “reality TV” shows. I think I’m just pragmatic. And I remember how my Dad survived on what he grew and how he bartered fresh veggies for meat, and went fishing and sold fishing worms to feed himself.

I want to know that I can survive on what I can produce myself. And I can. Can you? If not, well, right now we’re all stuck at home with power and internet…so why not learn more about gardening? Or maybe you want to raise chickens? Learn about that! So much better than watching the news.

Photo by  Aquila Farrell  on  Scopio

At Shell’s we’ve always advocated for knowledge of how to grow food – whether it be vegetable or animal – and we’re always up for helping people learn.

  • Check out our Learning Center.
  • We have classes and events specifically for the purpose of education; check out our Calendar of Events (which will be pretty empty until this pandemic has passed! But if you’re reading this AFTER Coronavirus is “over” then you can definitely use this link).
  • We also have a private Facebook group where people can ask questions about gardening (and even the occasional chicken question!).
  • We scan the local groups answering questions and pointing out useful products that we carry – hopefully unobtrusively, and always in the name of education.

This willingness to share in the knowledge library that is contained in the minds of our senior staff is why I personally think we will be celebrating our 60th year next year. Our sense of obligation to foster a community of gardeners and urban farmers is one of our greatest strengths as an organization.

#TampaStrong

Additionally, I believe that one of Tampa’s greatest assets is that when times get rough – we pull together as a giant city-wide team and help each other. #TampaStrong.

So…have I planted the seed of curiosity for anyone considering growing your own food? Do you have questions about Victory Gardens? Contact us today – leave a comment here, or join our private Facebook Group – Shell’s Garden Community – and let’s chat.

Victory Garden propaganda poster for health and wellness during the World War Era.

I look forward to sharing knowledge…and our community of gardeners has lots to share too!

Keep growing,

Marissa

Staying Home? Simple Fun Gardening Projects To Do Now

The world is a different place today than it was about a month ago.

We are encouraged to stay home and self-isolate. Kids are not in school. Parents may not be working. Having everyone home 24/7 can be really stressful!

One way to cope is to have fun projects to do. I’ve got some good ones to share with you that are cheap, easy, and many of you already have these things on hand.

Sparkling Garden Jars

Image from the Empress of Dirt (link below). She uses lids in her version to secure these to a railing or post – in my version you don’t need the lids necessarily, as the stakes are inserted inside the jar and not secured – it allows movement and allows you to easily change your mind on arranging them.

You can add some visual interest to your garden with Sparkling Garden Jars! Many crafty people already have this stuff lying around…if not, you can easily get them at a Dollar store or craft store. (Can’t go out? Use a service like Postmates to run and get it for you, or order online and have it shipped.)

You’ll need:

  • A Glass jar, or a glass – make sure they’re not anything you mind altering permanently – I highly recommend having several glasses, jars, etc to make a display.
  • Glass floral filler stones in whatever colors you like – they have a rounded top and a flat bottom, they’re often called Glass Gems and come in LOTS of different colors.
  • Adhesive: examples: E6000, Gorilla Glue, or a Hot Glue Gun with extra strong or jeweler’s glue, or clear caulk like you would use for windows – anything that will adhere to glass and dry clear
  • Wooden stake(s), or sturdy stick(s) of different heights (suggestion)
  • OPTIONAL: Other fun see-through small items like beads that won’t melt with a hot glue gun, or shiny plastic jewels if you’re using cold glue (like the “bedazzle” jewels).
Glass gems

Instructions:

Clean your glass/jar out, and remove any oils that might be on the outside.

On a protected surface, turn your glass/jar upside down.

Plan out a pattern for your glass gems and/or other decorations on a flat surface to make it easier to transfer onto the glass/jar. You can use a soft sewing tape measure to measure the circumference and height of the glass/jar so that you know how big your design can be.

Glass Gem Pattern Example:

This is an example pattern you can adapt to your glass/jar. Of course it won’t be this big!

Prepare your chosen adhesive.

Starting at the lip of the glass (which is at the bottom right now because the glass/jar is upside down), use glue to adhere the decorations onto the glass one at a time.  ***If you want to use the lid of the jar later to mount the jar somewhere do NOT glue anything to the jar’s lid threads.*** I recommend covering the lip/bottom first and then continue up the sides, covering the bottom of the glass/jar (which is the “top” now) last.

Image from the Empress of Dirt’s project.

While that sets, you can take your stake(s) or stick(s) and find a place in the garden to insert it/them into the ground. You’ll want the top of the stick to be above the other plants you’re growing in that area so the jar will be visible.

When your glass/jar is dry, go to the garden and place it onto the stick so that the stick is inside the glass/jar.  The jars might move around, and that’s ok, they won’t fall off the stick because of their weight.

You can make multiples of these jars, with different shaped glasses/jars, different colors and patterns, and mounted at different heights, for maximum effect when they are clustered together. I find that odd numbers work best in groups like this.

When the sun hits the decorations, they will shine bright!

Another Glass Gem Pattern Example:

Example of a glass gem pattern that you can adapt to your glass/jar.

Additional idea: You can use pennies instead of glass pebbles. Shine up the pennies using either silverware polish OR use tomato paste and let the pennies soak in it for about a half hour or so. Use a toothbrush to scrub them clean and the patina color of older pennies should come right off and be shiny copper again! (acid from the tomatoes removes the patina).

Additional idea: You can use these as lights! The project from The Empress of Dirt shows you how (link at the end of this section). You’ll have to use jars with lids and get some solar tealights that fit inside the jars. Decorate as above. Then mount the lid to a fencepost or other structure you choose upside down (the screw lid threads are facing upward). Put the solar tealight onto the lid. Place the jar threads into the lid and twist to close the jar. Great for lighting pathways and fencelines!

Additional idea: Use leftover glass gems and spread them in a shallow dish, like a terra cotta plant drip catcher. Fill the dish with water so that the tops of the stones are NOT underwater. Set this dish out on a flat surface near your flowers. This allows bees, butterflies, and other pollinators to land, rest and take a drink. Make sure you clean and refill daily.

Pollinator Watering Station

Please note: This project was inspired by The Empress of Dirt, she has wonderful projects: https://empressofdirt.net/gardentreasurejars/ . I’m sorry I don’t have any pictures to show you of my version – this project was something I helped someone else do when I was much younger and they are no longer around!

Super Easy Bird Feeder

Cute photo from momendeavors.com

You’ll need:

  • Clean and empty tin can(s), label removed
  • Wood dowels or sticks, about 8-12″ long
  • Paint and brushes – acrylic is ok
  • Modge Podge Outdoor (optional)
  • Ribbon or Twine
  • Hot Glue Gun and glue.
  • Bird seed
  • Peanut butter (optional)

Make sure your tin can is clean and dry.

Using your paint and brushes, paint the outside of your tin can with whatever kind of design (or just a single color) that you want. Let it dry.

Painting your tin can.

Paint a coat of Modge Podge Outdoor over the paint, let it dry. This step is optional, it allows the paint to last longer against the elements. You can choose to not do this step, and instead, re-paint your tin cans more frequently, changing up the look for the seasons, etc. How cute would that be?

Hot glue your dowel or stick to the inside of your tin can so that the stick is adhered along the inside of the can from the bottom to the opening. This is going to be your feathered friends’ perch when the can is hanging from the ribbon/twine.

Adhering your stick to the tin can – I prefer dowels or sticks but popsicle sticks can work too if that’s what you’ve got! Just make sure that the bird has enough perch to perch on!

Next, take a 3-4 foot length of ribbon or twine and fold it at the halfway point to make the loop shown in square 1 below. Make a larkshead knot around the can using the diagram below.

Pretend that yellow ring is the whole circumference of the tin can.

I recommend a Larkshead knot for stability and easy removal.

Next, fill the can about halfway with a seed mix (or a ball of seed mixed with peanut butter if you wish).

We carry Shell’s Wild Bird Mix in a 50 lb bag for about $20. It’s a bargain and VERY high quality. We have LOTS of other bird seed too. Let us show you!

When you pick up your can by the ribbon or twine, your tin can should rest sideways and level with your stick/dowel pointing straight out at the bottom of the can, parallel with flat ground.  If the can tilts upward, rain and other things will get caught in the can and accumulate; if it tilts downward, the birds will be unsteady and the seed will fall out.

Here’s an example of a bird feeder hanging level.

If your can can’t stabilize, consider using a piece of ribbon or twine at the opening and near the base of the can tied in larkshead knots around the can to stabilize it. And of course if larkshead is not working for you, use a standard overhead knot.

Once your ribbon/twine is in the position where the can hangs level, use a little glue to hold it in place so it doesn’t shift with the wind or with bird landings/take offs.

This image is from lifelovelarson.blogspot.com

Using the two free ends of the twine or ribbon, you can tie them together with an overhead knot and then hang the can with the seeds from a tree branch, shrub, a shepherd’s hook, or a plant hook. It’s extra special if you can place it near a window where you can watch the birds find it and eat.

This example is from thehappierhomemaker.com

Another idea – you can make a feeder stack! Just hot glue the tin cans together top side to bottom side so that your sticks are at the bottom of each can when the cans are on their sides. Sweet, right?

Easy “Hydroponic” Planter

Recycling plastic bottles to grow plants? Yes please!

Do you like to recycle? How about upcycle? This project is all about it! While technically not a hydroponic setup, it is indeed a sub-irrigated system, which means it’s watered from the bottom using the wicking properties of cotton and soil.

You’ll Need:

  • Plastic 2 liter bottle with cap, label removed
  • Scissors or box cutter
  • Cotton twine that is the same length as the bottle is tall.
  • Potting Mix
  • Water
  • Starter Plants or seeds
  • Drill with small bit (about the width of your cotton twine)

First, mark the 2 liter bottle about half- way up from the bottom around the outside.  Cut around the bottle at that marking to separate the top from the bottom using the scissors or boxcutter.

Cutting your bottle in half.

Clean the bottle inside and out.

Take the cap off of the top of the bottle. Place it on a surface where drilling won’t harm anything, like a woodworking table, or clamp it in a vice. Using the drill, drill a hole in the center of the cap.

String your cotton twine through the cap. Screw the cap back onto the bottle so that part of the twine is “inside” and the other part is “outside” and set aside.

Illustration of how this project will come together. Notice the wicking string threaded through the cap and connecting the water to the soil.

Take the bottom of your 2 liter bottle and fill it with water about a quarter full. Set it on a protected surface.

Flip the top third of the two liter bottle so that the cap is facing downward and the opening upward. Place it into the bottom piece so that the string dangles in the water, and the cap is closest to the water. This makes a reservoir for planting a plant at the top of your Hydroponic setup.  Adjust your string so that the string has an inch or two touching the bottom of the water reservoir and has plenty of string still above the cap.

Next, use potting mix to fill up the portion above the cap, making sure that the string is layered in the dirt. I like to circle the string around where I’m going to plant my plant, maybe an inch or so in from the outer wall of the bottle. Push your soil down to firm it, but not too hard, just enough to make sure the dirt will wick water up from the bottom.

You can make as many of these as you need for your herb garden! No tilling needed!

Once you have your potting mix in, make room for your starter plant or seeds in the center, and plant them in the that bottle top inside the string circle you made. If you need more dirt, add it now, until the dirt level is about an inch or so from the top opening.

Add a tiny bit of water to get your starter plant or seeds started (you don’t need much!). Any amount of water needed after that will be drawn up through the cotton twine “wick” from the water reservoir.

To refill the reservoir, lift out the portion of the bottle with the soil in it, and refill the bottom reservoir. This makes it easy to clean out the water reservoir as well, as occasionally it will need it.

Just gorgeous!

This setup will maximize your room to grow herbs while making sure they get the right amount of water. You can’t over or under water…just keep the reservoir full and you’re good to go! You can make one of these for each herb you want to grow.

You can also use smaller plastic bottle to start seeds in using this same method (like the 16 ounce soda or water bottles). What a great way to recycle and reuse!!

Seed starting in a sub-irrigation system, image from IThinkWeCouldBeFriends.com

And don’t think you can’t expand to other types of plants too using soda or water bottles! Here’s some cute succulent pots (shown below) that you can make with smaller bottles – for succulents make sure you put some pebbles in the bottom and use cactus soil mix! OK, these don’t have the sub-irrigation setup, but they’re a great way to recycle plastic!

How cute are these, right? Images from onelittleproject.com

Another idea for recycling bottles – a vertical garden!

Self-contained! Just be careful that you don’t overwater – there’s no drainage here—or if it’s outside, you can put a small hole for drainage in the bottom.

Here’s another use for a plastic bottle – a hanging garden! Great for a window display, or to string together a bunch along a fenceline.

Vertical gardening with bottles.

I hope I’ve given you some fun ideas for the garden using things you probably already have lying around the house.

Stay safe, don’t panic, we’ll make it through this as a community as long as we help each other.

Keep growing,

Marissa

P.S. Do you want some more fun projects? Why not look at my article about DIY Garden Markers? Has lots of great ways to label those containers and garden beds so you know what you planted. Take a look:

We Bet You Didn’t Know This About Spring Gardening In Florida

Are you having a hard time figuring out how to approach Spring Gardening in our sometimes unforgiving Florida climate?

We are very fortunate to have the warmth that we do, with limited cold snaps, and usually plenty of rain.

But for people who learned to garden where there are climate-based seasons, or who have learned through resources meant for places with actual seasons, it can be so difficult to navigate when to garden in Florida.

And that’s where your local neighborhood Shell’s Feed & Garden Supply can help you.

We’ve been gardening here a long time. Our store has been serving the Tampa Bay area since 1961. Back then we were surrounded by farms growing crops and raising livestock. As those farms have been eaten up by the city, we’ve turned our focus on to growing your own backyard vegetables for your family, and to urban farming.

So, with a base guidance from the UF IFAS program, along with our personal experiences gardening in Central Florida, we’ve got a lot to offer to those who are figuring out planting seasons, like Spring, here in Florida.

Sure, we’ve got a class for that! I hope you’ll join me for that – this class is part 3 of a 4 part series that I’ve been putting together seasonally. We started in Fall 2019, then we had a Winter Class, now this is the Spring class. Of course, there will be a Summer class as well.

In the meantime, though, I’ve got a couple of tips for you right here to get started.

Forget about the First Day of Spring

If you’re waiting until the Spring Equinox to start thinking about planting because that’s what your favorite gardening magazine told you to do, I have sad news for you. In Florida you’re WAY too late for many crops.

By the time the Equinox rolls around, it’s already blistering hot outside, and our wet season will be starting soon, which means your tiny seedlings will be more susceptible to fungus, and heat withering.

In Florida, you can start planting seeds in January (or even mid/late December!) for Spring. Yes, I said December. And January.

See? Our Ag University backs me up on this!

Also, our strong and healthy Starter Plants arrive usually right around February 1st at our store – and we plan it that way for a reason. Starter Plants can go in the ground starting in February. You can also plant lots of different kinds of seeds in February.

From the UF IFAS

Is there risk of frost this early in the year? Sure. Some years we get a late nip in the air. But there’s ways to make sure that your seedlings survive, and we can tell you all about how to make sure you’re protected. All you have to do is ask.

Container Plantings are a sensible option for Florida Spring Gardening

We’re here to support you in however you want to grow your veggies, or flowers, or trees, or whatever you’ve got going on. Many people choose to plant in the ground, and that’s totally great!

Citrus is making a comeback!

If you’re planting native plants, you really don’t have to do anything to the soil, they’ll be just fine with what you’ve got.

Ground plantings, like raised beds, or mounds, for things that are not native to Florida take some extra special care in the form of soil amendments and fertilizers. This is because we’re trying to force plants that aren’t used to our sandy soil to grow where they don’t really belong. So, we have to amend the soil and add the nutrients that our soil is missing for them to flourish. With a little prep ahead of time. this is definitely do-able.

BUT…you can better control your plantings using containers. You can mix your own soil, add your own nutrients, protect your plants from soil-borne illnesses, and control their sun, water, and climate, when they are in a container.

As far as containers go, you probably know that we’re Tampa’s Earthbox Authority, and we’re HUGE fans of what the Earthbox can do for the things you want to grow, like vegetables and flowers.

shells feed garden supply tampa florida earthbox garden spring 2019 gardening plan planning
An Earthbox garden – look at all those healthy, weed-free plants!

Earthbox makes it SO EASY to grow your own. In fact, we want you to experience the joys of Earthbox so much that we have a class for that!

Our most popular class, Susan does a great job showing folks the Earthbox ropes! Also someone from the class will WIN the demo box we plant in the class together!

There are also all manner of sizes of black plastic reusable nursery tubs, galvanized and rubber stock tanks, and all kinds of container planting options available at our store too.

We can show you what you need for all these, and you’ll have great results.

Your Spring Options Are Nearly Limitless Here

Spring Gardening in Florida, starting in January, really allows you nearly limitless possibilities on what you can grow. You can still plant cold-weather crops – it’s still cool enough for lettuces and collards and kale, for example, and you can plant warm weather crops like peppers, tomatoes, okra, and beans too.

Yes, we can grow roses here too!

Spring planting time is when you can plant and enjoy the most diverse gardens here. So, take advantage of our good fortune. Try some new veggies and flowers. Get creative with containers and raised beds.

We’re here to help you. We can answer questions and give you advice if you run into a problem. That’s what we’re here for.

Until next time, Tampa – Keep Growing!

~Marissa

Solving the Garden Aisle of Mystery, Part 2: More Soil Amendments Explained

In Part 1 of the Solving the Garden Aisle of Mystery series, we talked about some soil amendments and what they do. This article is a continuation of that, adding a few more to the list. As in the Part 1, I’ll be going in alphabetical order here, just to keep it organized.

The Garden Aisle of Mystery – Soil Amendments!

Fish Emulsion 5-1-1

As you might imagine, Fish Emulsion 5-1-1 is exactly what it says it is. It is a combination of leftover fish from the commercial fishing industry. It’s a fantastic natural source of nitrogen right away for plants needing a bit of a boost.

One caution with Fish Emulsions – they get a little stinky for a little while. I suggest using it during your neighbor’s working hours while they’re away from the house…unless you hate your neighbors, then Saturday morning is definitely the best time. Ha! 😉

16 oz: https://shellsfeed.com/shop/lawn-garden/fertilizers-soil-amendments/fertilome-fish-emulsion-5-1-1-fertilizer-16-oz-jug/

1 gallon: https://shellsfeed.com/shop/lawn-garden/fertilizers-soil-amendments/fertilome-fish-emulsion-1-gallon-jug/

Gypsum

This soil amendment is not found often available, as most of us don’t need it. It’s only used for soils where there is a LOT of thick clay (not usually Central Florida) or where soil is very salinated and salt needs to be removed from it (now that’s very possible here).

Gypsum can be harmful to other types of soil, such as sandy soil, as outlined in this very helpful article that summarizes the use of Gypsum (which is actually just calcium sulfate). I advise use with extreme caution. Have your soil tested first to make sure you actually need it!

6 lb bag: https://shellsfeed.com/shop/lawn-garden/fertilizers-soil-amendments/espoma-gypsum-6-lb-bag/

50 lb bag of pelletized Gypsum: https://shellsfeed.com/shop/lawn-garden/fertilizers-soil-amendments/gypsum-micro-pellet-50-lb-bag/

Iron

Sources of Iron are important for any green plant. It is a necessary element to make Chlorophyll which is how plants manufacture their food (via photosynthesis).

One of the most common sources of Iron is a fertilizer called Milorganite, which is pelletized deceased poop-eating bacteria from water treatment facilities at Jones Island (Milwaukee, WI). It is organic and does not cause issues with nitrogen runoff. The history of Milorganite is pretty interesting, you should read more about it.

We also have a liquid Chelated Iron and a Pelletized Iron as well. Most people apply it to their lawns as a “quick green up” during the year when grass and landscapes can suffer in the Florida heat.

1 pint Chelated Liquid Iron: https://shellsfeed.com/shop/lawn-garden/fertilizers-soil-amendments/southern-ag-liquid-iron-1-pint-container/

Granulated Iron 5 lbs: https://shellsfeed.com/shop/lawn-garden/fertilizers-soil-amendments/southern-ag-iron-granules-5-lb-bag/

Granulated Iron 25 lbs: https://shellsfeed.com/shop/lawn-garden/fertilizers-soil-amendments/southern-ag-iron-granules-25-lb-bag/

Milorganite (the Lawn Pro edition): https://shellsfeed.com/shop/lawn-garden/fertilizers-soil-amendments/milorganite-pro-6-4-0-fertilizer-50-lb-bag/

Kelp

Kelp has many nutrients that land-plants need, and it can be sustainably harvested too.

Kelp Green is a wonderful ocean-based seaweed extract and fish emulsion that really offers a one-of-a-kind opportunity to use kelp in your garden without harvesting it from the beach yourself. It’s a masterful way to get a large assortment of micronutrients to your plants that is not found in other types of chemical pelletized fertilizers. These micronutrients include antioxidants, amino acids, vitamins, hormones, and minerals too.

Kelp Green 1 Qt: https://shellsfeed.com/shop/lawn-garden/fertilizers-soil-amendments/southern-ag-kelp-green-concentrate-1-qt-bottle/

Fox Farm has an awesome Kelp product for your plants too. This company is really dedicated to sustainable practices, and their products are top notch!

Fox Farm’s Kelp Me Kelp You: https://shellsfeed.com/shop/lawn-garden/fertilizers-soil-amendments/foxfarm-bushdoctor-kelp-me-kelp-you-plant-food-16oz/

Minor Elements

One of my favorite things to do on fertilizer bags is to look for the minor elements they contain – also called the “micronutrients” in some cases (but micronutrients are not just the minor elements…skip that last part there if it confused you!). You can buy a fertilizer that is just a bunch of the minor elements thrown together too which can be applied to everything without worrying that it will harm anything. All plants need these minor elements.

You see, the macronutrients, also called “Major Elements”, are the N-P-K numbers you see on the fertilizer bags. But depending on what you’re targeting, other minerals/elements might be added to help that specific kind of plant. And it’s fascinating to see what certain plants need to thrive.

The Minor Elements include: Boron (B), Chlorine (CI), Copper (Cu), Iron (Fe), Manganese (Mn), Molybdenum (Mo), and Zinc (Zn)

1 lb bag: https://shellsfeed.com/shop/lawn-garden/fertilizers-soil-amendments/southern-ag-essential-minor-elements-1-lb-bag/

5 lb bag: https://shellsfeed.com/shop/lawn-garden/fertilizers-soil-amendments/southern-ag-essential-minor-elements-5-lb-bag/

25 lb bag: https://shellsfeed.com/shop/lawn-garden/fertilizers-soil-amendments/southern-ag-essential-minor-elements-25-lb-bag/

Muriate of Potash

Potash is another word for Potassium, in garden-speak. The N-P-K on fertilizer bags is sometimes called “Nitrogen-Phosphorus-Potash” even though “K” is the Periodic Table letter for Potassium.

Why the name Potash? Actually, I didn’t know, so I looked it up. The word Potash comes from the method that Potassium was originally isolated from wood ash. The ash was placed in a large iron pot with a solvent and boiled until the liquid leaching agent was dissipated. The isolation process is much different now, of course.

Muriate of Potash is 50% Potassium and 46% Chloride. Both of these elements are essential for plant health, thus if your soil is potassium deficient this is a good choice to replenish it because it is very highly absorbable.

Muriate of Potash 4 lb bag: https://shellsfeed.com/shop/lawn-garden/fertilizers-soil-amendments/hi-yield-muriate-of-potash-4-lb-bag/

That wraps up Part 2 of the Solving the Garden Aisle of Mystery series! This series will continue probably after our upcoming Spring activities and promotions.

As always, we are here to help with any questions you might have. Stop in and see our awesome staff and pick up your garden, pet, and DIY pest control supplies today!

I hope these explanations help you decipher the crazy Soil Amendments aisle! Until next time….Keep Growing!

Marissa

Health Benefits of Gardening

January is the time of Resolutions, and many of those resolutions we make each year focus on health. How about making a resolution you can stick with and enjoy for just a few minutes a day that has a ton of health benefits for you?

Does that sound too good to be true? It’s not.

There is an activity you can do just a few minutes a day and reap a BUNCH of health benefits. That activity is GARDENING!

Today I’m going to list out some of the many health benefits of gardening. To get you even more motivated – and to make sure you don’t think I’m full of compost, I’ll give you extra articles to read that corroborate what I’m telling you here – yes that’s right – SCIENCE!

Starting right here: For a HUGE comprehensive list of the health issues that Gardening can help, listed out in a peer-reviewed medical journal, check out this research article (a meta-analysis) here – it’s really exciting!!

#1: Cardiovascular Health

Regular light activity/exertion like gardening decreases the risk of heart attacks and stroke, and in a way that doesn’t feel like mindless “pointless” exercise (like a treadmill – running nowhere!). Read more about Gardening for Cardiovascular Health here.

#2 Decreasing Stress

One of the markers of Stress in our bodies is the levels of Cortisol found in our blood. A Dutch study tested people’s blood Cortisol levels just after doing a really stressful task, and again after those people spent 30 minutes gardening. Those that did the gardening had lower levels of the Cortisol stress hormone in their blood than those that didn’t garden. The article from the Journal of Health Psychology is here.

Excess Cortisol for extended periods of time – which is an epidemic in the Western World – carries a huge health risk. It causes weight gain, blood sugar imbalances, and cardiovascular issues, amongst other things. Any way that Cortisol can be decreased in our systems is better for us.

#3 Happiness Is Found In Dirt

It sounds like a silly statement, but research has found that there is a bacterium in soil and forested areas that causes an increase in serotonin – one of the “feel good” brain chemicals that is associated with feeling happy and satisfied and rewarded for doing something good.

That bacterium is called Mycobacterium vaccae (M. vaccae) has been shown to naturally decrease anxiety and increase serotonin. We have access to this lovely little creature any time we dig our hands into healthy soil – so get dirty! It’s good for you!

Want to read more? Discover Magazine (a science publication) has an article here. Also, more information about the bacterium itself can be found here (with source articles).

#4 Better Sleep

Light activity, as well as fresh air and sunshine, has been shown to increase the ability to sleep at night. Sleep is not something to be overlooked when it comes to your health – that is the time that the body heals and repairs itself. Not getting enough sleep means that your body cannot recover from the things that happened earlier in the day.

Gardening is the perfect blend of activity, fresh air, and sunshine! Even just a few minutes a day can help. Here’s more information from the University of Pennsylvania.

#5 Stay Strong

Exercise in the garden strengthens the body, especially the hands and arms. Gardening is an activity that can and should be done throughout your lifetime to maintain mobility, dexterity, coordination and more of your hands and fingers for as long as possible.

Even as we age, it is beneficial to keep gardening, even if we have to make some adjustments for ailments like arthritis. To find out more about this, check out this article from the West Virginia University’s Center for Excellence in Disabilities article about Gardening with Arthritis.

#6 Long-term Health Benefits for Children

It’s been found that early exposure to dirt in children has been linked to many health benefits, including reducing allergies, auto-immune diseases, and overall body inflammation when they get older. Some information from WebMD on this topic can be found here.

Also, when you are gardening with your children, you have an opportunity to bond and foster life-long special relationships and create memories to share with all your loved ones.

As a side-note here: Gardening with my father when I was a child is the main reason I garden today – those memories come back to me when I’m digging in the dirt, and it’s pleasant to remember him this way now that he has passed on.

#7 Financial Health

When we worry about money, that stress dumps Cortisol into our bloodstream (see #2 above). When you grow your own vegetables and herbs, you can save a ton of money and decrease the stress of buying food – affording more healthy eating and living too.

We all know organic food is expensive – but if you can grow your own, you not only save the money at the grocery or market, you save the time it took to drive there and the money you spend on gasoline too. And things like looseleaf lettuce can be harvested over and over again – saving you even more money!

The Penny Hoarder has a great article here: How a Backyard Garden Could Save You $500 on Groceries

#8 Increased Self Esteem

This seems like a stretch – I know – but hear me out here.

Successful gardening takes work, and quite a bit of skill that you can easily learn. So, after tilling, planting, weeding, nurturing, waters, and harvesting from your plants, you might see the “blackthumb” that you used to know disappear to make way for that new “greenthumb” badge of honor that you’ve earned.

That kind of accomplishment can change how you view yourself, and sharing your knowledge as well as the bounty of beautiful things you’ve grown changes the way others see you as well. One of the things that makes us uniquely human is the desire to successfully contribute our skills for the betterment of a community of our peers. There’s a great peer-reviewed article about this here.

If you can grow a garden, YOU CAN DO ANYTHING!

So, these are just a few examples of the health benefits of gardening. Are you new to gardening? Are you experienced? There’s always new things to learn and experiment with in the garden. Let’s try something new together! Come see us – it’s time to plant seeds for Spring – we’ll get you started quick!

Sincerely,

Marissa

Top 3 Tips For Feeding Wild Birds in Winter

Wild birds

As the Winter Solstice approaches, the chances that cold weather will strike, even here in Florida, are increasing. Our Wild Bird populations typically count on their native habitats to provide food for the Winter – and increased fat and protein intake is essential for keeping birds warm.

But as their native habitats are being given over to development, and developed land is being wiped clean of their natural food sources (berries, insects, etc.), it’s a good idea to give wild birds a little helping hand, especially if you enjoy bird watching.

Today I’ll give you my Top 3 Tips for Feeding Wild Birds in Winter. Think of it as a holiday gift for your feathered friends.

For more information about feeding wild birds, you can take a look at my previous article on this topic, the Shell’s Feed Bird Food Guide.

Shells feed garden supply tampa florida bird feed feeders food seed fruit wild birds

Tip #1: Increase the number of wild bird feeders (and your stock of wild bird food)

Wild Birds needs MORE food to keep warm on cold days. They stay warm by retaining their body heat within their fluffed feathers. They generate body heat through movement, shivering (quick flexing & relaxing of muscles over and over again), and increasing their heart rate.

Birds burn fat and protein for warmth.

This activity of warming themselves burns more fat and uses up a lot of protein to keep them at optimal temperature, so having extra fat and protein calories available from you is super helpful to wild birds on those cold days.

One way to give them more food is to position more feeders in your yard. Add a few larger feeders this time of year so that you don’t have to refill as often.

wild birds bird feeder
One of the large feeders we carry at Shell’s!

Can birds survive without your help? Sure. Nature finds a way. But the benefits of feeding wild birds aren’t just for them, they’re for you too! The joy of watching these small creatures is immense – and better than television!

Shell’s has many kinds of feeders available for you!

There’s even a workshop this Saturday 12/14/19 from 9a-1p to decorate your own, and learn about what birds like which seeds too! Link below in the text.

wild birds decorate bird feeder workshop holiday

Attend our Holiday Maker’s Workshop this Saturday, December 14th, from 9a-1p (come any time during that time) to Decorate a Bird Feeder. See more details here. We’ll be showcasing our feeders and wild bird homes too, and letting you know about our Bulk Seed Weigh Station, where you can learn about making custom seed blends for your backyard critters!

Tip #2: Use Suet & All-Natural Peanut Butter as Wild Bird Supplements

Suet – a natural fat source

Adding more seed is great for wild birds, but during the coldest days of the year, additional fat is definitely helpful. Using suet – which is like lard, the remnants of beef fat after processing – and all natural peanut butter (NO ARTIFICIAL SWEETENERS OR HONEY! TOXIC TO BIRDS!) is a great way to add extra fat to your feathered friends’ diets.

wild birds suet cage woodpecker
Red-headed woodpecker on a suet cage.

Commercial suet is the safest form of suet – it contains the proper ingredients to keep it from turning into a liquid a higher temperatures.

_______________________________________________
Try one of these for your suet needs, brought to you by Kaytee:
Positively Peanut High-Energy Suet
Suet & Seed
Orange Harvest Suet
Cherry Harvest Suet
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In a state where the temperature can fluctuate nearly 60 degrees in a day (from freezing to the 80s isn’t uncommon, right?) commercially-produced suet blocks are the best bet. And here’s a cage to put it in.

Peanut Butter, Fat & Protein Source

For peanut butter, you can use things like pine cones to load up with a peanut butter and seed mix to place out into the yard – they’re easy to hang on tree limbs or from other feeders. There’s lots of recipes for peanut butter bird mixes online and ways to present them to the birds too.

wild birds peanut butter DIY pine cone
Pine cone filled with peanut butter and seeds

A couple of other fun DIY ideas:

wild birds apple bird feeder

Take an apple, cut it in half, scoop out the core, and fill with peanut butter and seed mix. Some birds really like fruit so nothing goes to waste! Place on a flat surface for birds to enjoy. Or, you can use the stem to hang it, or use a stainless steel screw and screw it in (it can be used again in the future!)

wild birds orange bird feeder
This also works with oranges & citrus fruits.

Another idea: Use a paper towel or toilet paper roll to coat with peanut butter, then roll it through a seed mixture. The more peanut butter you have on there the more seeds will stick to it. Then string a string through the tube and hang!

wild birds paper towel roll peanut butter seed feeder bird feeder
Make sure you get a custom seed mix from Shell’s for this! Make different ones for different birds!

Use a jar or tin can or an old coffee cup to make different variations of bird seed feeders!

wild birds coffee cup bird feeder
You can glue a matching saucer to the side of the cup to replace the stick for extra cuteness factor! Use STRONG super glue adhesive if you do this.

Tip #3: Wild Birds Need Consistent Access to Clean Water

Seems counter-intuitive to us, since we don’t typically bathe outside when it’s cold out, but birds require access to clean water on a consistent basis, not just for drinking, but for bathing too.

wild birds bird bath

Regular bathing keeps their feathers working properly, allows them to fluff and retain the heat that they generate to keep warm. If their feathers are not clean and fluffy, this doesn’t work.

Luckily for us here in Florida, we don’t usually get enough long cold freezes to ice over a bird bath or pond for long periods of time. But, you will need to still keep the water clean and debris-free during the winter so that your birdie friends can come take a sip, or a nice bath, whenever they need it.

Those are my Top 3 Tips for Feeding Wild Birds in Winter! I hope this was helpful to you.

We want you to share the love of bird watching with us! It could easily become your newest favorite past time.

wild birds mockingbird florida state bird
Mockingbird, the Florida State Bird.

We here at Shell’s have an extensive variety of seeds for your bird friends as well as different kinds of feeders for you to present that seed mix.

Our ever-popular Shell’s Wild Bird Mix (25 and 50 lb bags) has a great variety of seeds to attract the most colorful and lively birds to your feeders – an easy mix at a fantastic price! Order online and pick it up at the store, we’ll even load it for you. It comes in 25 and 50 pound bags – let us recommend a container to store the extras in to avoid attracting the wrong critters!

If you have questions about your birds, reach out to us! In store, on the phone, or leave a comment below – we’re here to help!

Until next time,

Marissa

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