2018: A Year In Review

2018: A Year In Review
By Marissa

It’s the end of the year (can you believe it?), and we’re looking back at the content we shared with you as well as some fun times we had!

We introduced several new things in the store this year, including Shell’s Workshops and the Monthly Community Seed Swap!  

Shell’s Workshops began in August of this year, and what fun we had trying different things with you.  Some were successful, some were not, and one was cancelled due to lack of participation (but that’s ok!).  I love to learn what our community of pet and gardening lovers will respond to and what is largely ignored – it helps me bring the very best programming to you!

Our most popular workshop by far was How To Plant An Earthbox, taught by the stellar Susan Roghair (pictured, to the right).  She shared all of her many tips and tricks, and her successes and failures so that attendees could go home and get started right away.  We had so much fun, we’re going to do it again this coming Spring! Several of you mentioned to me that you were sad you missed it, so stay tuned for announcements for the next one!

Other workshops we had include Plant a Succulent For a Teacher, and a Book Signing event for local author Kenny Coogan for his new book, 99 ½ Homesteading Poems, a cute and funny book about the joys and challenges of Homestead farming, complete with recipes!  You can still pick up that book here.

We will start the Shell’s Workshop series again in February 2019.

The Monthly Community Seed Swap, also begun in August of this year, has also been quite successful, allowing gardeners in the community a FREE source for new plants and seeds from other garden enthusiasts in the community.  All you have to do is bring seeds or plants to trade and you can go home with new goodies!

We will start the Seed Swaps again monthly in February 2019, and I’ll let you know when right here in the newsletter, also on our Facebook page/events calendar.  

If you haven’t Liked us on Facebook yet, please do! We promise, we like you too.

Online Shenanigans

Speaking of liking us on Facebook, since I started reaching out to you through the various online and social media outlets, our readership and our online presence has grown. It has grown faster than ever in 2018, where we’ve reached nearly 800 likes in the Facebook community and over 1,000 newsletter subscribers (if you haven’t subscribed to the newsletter yet, there’s a spot at the top of this blog entry to do so! Get to it!). Whenever you see something you love on our feed, please share it with your friends and family – we want to expand our reach and bring you more great content and activities!

We also started a private Facebook group for the Monthly Community Seed Swap, which is just in its infancy right now.  It is a place for Swappers to go and ask other swappers about the items they picked up at the last swap, trade ideas, maybe list what they’re bringing to the next one, arranging private swaps, and otherwise networking with each other. It’s so wonderful to see people come together.

Funny Animal Pics to Share

Have you seen the Holiday Dressed-up Animals series I’ve done for you on our social media feeds this month?  How about for different holidays over the past year? For Christmas I decided that the world can’t get enough reindeer antler-wearing parakeets and elf-costumed guinea pigs, along with many others, so I posted a long series to entertain you.  Those are running through Christmas Day, so if you haven’t joined the fun, go check out our profiles on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Google Plus, Pinterest, and even LinkedIn. Please share them with your friends and family!

I’m having way too much fun with this. Oh wait, there’s no such thing as too much fun!

During Thanksgiving I challenged you to #21DaysOfGratitude – and for 21 Days we listed as many reasons that we are thankful for our business, our community, and for all of you, our customers.  

I challenge you now to find something you are thankful for, every day, and make an effort to let someone know that you are grateful for them. Living a life of gratitude may just be the best gift we can give to anyone, including ourselves.

I would like to know – what content and workshops would you like to see from us in 2019?  

Send me an email with your suggestions and/or questions! marissa@shellsfeed.com

Charity Work

This year, in November for Veterans Day, and over the holidays too, we chose to support Valor Service Dogs, a local Tampa charity that purchases, houses, feeds, trains, & provides Veterinary care to Golden Retrievers destined for becoming a furever Companion to a Veteran in need.  

These ability-trained and/or emotional support-trained service dogs inspire a working partnership with their Veteran, often saving the lives of those who suffer (and often suffer alone) during their recovery from the ravages of war and the traumas of their service.  It takes over $18,000 to provide a service dog to a Veteran in need, and Valor Service Dogs provides all of this this free of charge to the Veterans registered for their program.

We are taking donations through the end of December, please consider donating to this wonderful organization helping our local Veterans in the Tampa Bay area.

Learn their story (it’s inspiring!): valorservicedogs.org

We are grateful – for YOU

Thank you for another wonderful year!  As we move into what will be our 58th year in Tampa, we want you to know that we appreciate you.  Your business and support through the years is why we do what we do. If you like what we do here, and the service we provide, the best way to say a quick “thanks” to us is to tell all your friends and family, and bring them by to see us.  

Also, bring the kids! They’re the future of backyard farming and gardening, and future customers of ours! Besides, the kiddos LOVE to see the baby chickens and rabbits…and we know you love to take pictures of them playing with the animals too.

In the next newsletter we’ll look forward to 2019 and give a small preview of what’s coming for the next growing season.  See you back here in a couple of weeks!

Thank you,

Marissa

Marissa – Writer for Shell's Feed & Garden Supply

I'm an over-educated, passionate, gardening and pet enthusiast, and I have found the perfect job! My writing is based on my studies in Biology and Health, and my experiences from gardening with my family as a child. 
The great thing about gardening is that it is a life-long learning process. The many blunders and successes of my own gardening projects over the years have been invaluable to me.  The late, great, J.C. Raulston once said, "If you're not killing plants, you're not stretching yourself as a gardener." Learn by doing, gain knowledge from the failures, but more importantly, relish the successes, (because they're delicious!)  Thanks for reading!
Special thank you to Abby's Farms, where the photo on the left was taken. Shell's Feed & Garden Supply sponsors the chickens and chicken coops there. Visit their website here.

 

Holiday Gifts for your Favorite Gardener

Holiday Gifts For Your Favorite Gardener
By Marissa

When you think of buying gifts for your children, family, and friends, Shell’s Feed & Garden Supply may not be the very first store you think to look. I’d really like to change that.  Supporting local businesses is something that is very important to building a community – building community being one my primary missions for the store – because supporting local business keeps your money local, and supports local families too, like our awesome employees.

I’ll give you a quick list of items you can purchase here that any gardener would love to receive. I hope this article will give you ideas for a few things that would make great gifts this holiday season which you can pick up right here at our local family-owned store.

Holiday Gift Idea #1: Earthbox

This is my “go big” garden gift idea – an Earthbox kit.  It comes with the planter box, the sub-irrigation pieces (perforated divider, watering tube), fertilizer, plastic weed covers, wheels, and instructions. At about $45, it’s really an amazing self-contained growing system, allowing you to grow fantastic veggies with very little maintenance.  The box itself lasts for MANY years – in fact, Mr. Shell’s Earthboxes are well over 25 years old and are STILL functioning just fine – no cracks, no bleaching from the sun.

The Earthbox was invented by a man in the Tampa Bay area – Bradenton, to be exact – Mr. Whisenant.  He passed away just this past February (2018), and was the man who revolutionized container gardening with his great growing invention. We miss him and his knowledge. But he lives on every season we plant our Earthboxes.  We have a class on how to plant them coming up in the Spring – stay tuned for that, and make sure your favorite gardener is aware of it so they can sign up!

Holiday Gift Idea #2: Garden Tools

Did you get a peek in your favorite gardener’s shed and find that some of their tools are so rusted you’re afraid they’re about to fall apart?  Did the wooden handle on their favorite hoe have a crack down the center and is being held together with duct tape? Did a neighbor borrow their hand trowel and they never got it back?

You can be the hero of Christmas by getting them a brand new hoe, rake, shovel, trowel, watering can, Wondergrip gloves, or any of the other tools we carry in the store.

Good tools make the labor of growing a garden just a little bit easier, and they’ll be thinking of you, and thanking you, the next time it’s time to do some garden chores.

Holiday Gift Idea #3: Seeds

I don’t know about you, but I could spend hours in the seed section of our store dreaming of what I want to plant the very next chance I get.  Since here in Florida you could really start seeds in a protected area (in trays) in late January, giving Seeds for Christmas for Spring Planting really isn’t a bad idea! You could get a little basket and make a cute little seed display in it with a bow, or use the packets as stocking stuffers.

We have Ferry Morse and Livingston Organic seeds, as well as a great company out of New Mexico called Sandia Seeds.  Sandia has a lot of different kinds of seeds, but their speciality is peppers – from the very hottest to the mildest sweet pepper.  Did you know that New Mexico has a University that specializes in Hot Peppers? The famous Hatch pepper comes from there. Finally, we have bulk seeds as well in lots of varieties of common farming crops that have a great germination rate for a fantastic price.

Holiday Gift Idea #4: FoxFarm Products

Does your favorite gardener really have an amazing talent for growing their own food, flowers, and pretty much whatever they want? Is their thumb blindingly green already? The experienced gardener is sure to appreciate a selection of FoxFarm products.  Their selection of plant foods and soils contain important microbial and minor element profiles that really help plants look stunning and promotes optimum growth and production of fruits and flowers.

FoxFarm was born from seeing a need in the garden industry for nutrient-rich additives that augment growth through interactions between good healthy soil, organic materials, and natural ways of getting the best out of your plants. There are so many soils and dry and liquid fertilizers to choose from, there is certainly something that would put a smile on your favorite gardener’s face.

Holiday Gift Idea #5: Shell’s Gift Certificates

Did you know we offer Gift Certificates? Well of course we do! If you’ve looked around, and you’re just not sure what to get as a gift, then don’t fret – we’ve got you covered!

Let them choose their own gift at our store when you give them a gift certificate to Shell’s Feed & Garden Supply! We can make it for any amount.

Also, we have more than just gardening supplies, we also have pet food & supplies, chicken & farming supplies, and the best prices and variety of wild & tame bird food & supplies in Tampa.

Our Gift Certificates make a great stocking stuffer!

I hope this quick Gift Guide helps you make some decisions about gifts for your favorite gardener.

We really appreciate your support and business over nearly six decades, and being a part of the Tampa Bay community is something we treasure.

Sincerely,

Marissa

Marissa – Writer for Shell's Feed & Garden Supply

I'm an over-educated, passionate, gardening and pet enthusiast, and I have found the perfect job! My writing is based on my studies in Biology and Health, and my experiences from gardening with my family as a child. 
The great thing about gardening is that it is a life-long learning process. The many blunders and successes of my own gardening projects over the years have been invaluable to me.  The late, great, J.C. Raulston once said, "If you're not killing plants, you're not stretching yourself as a gardener." Learn by doing, gain knowledge from the failures, but more importantly, relish the successes, (because they're delicious!)  Thanks for reading!
Special thank you to Abby's Farms, where the photo on the left was taken. Shell's Feed & Garden Supply sponsors the chickens and chicken coops there. Visit their website here.

 

Grow These In Florida This Winter

Grow These In Florida This Winter

By Marissa

Some folks might be surprised to learn we can garden in the “colder” months down here in Florida.  In fact, the further South you are in our fair state, the better for your veggies and annuals (which can become “perennials” when it doesn’t freeze hard) surviving the Winter.  

It goes without saying that one of my favorite Winter garden plants is Strawberries. I’ve already written quite a bit about them, such as this article about growing Strawberries in Containers and another about the Basics of Strawberry Gardening, so I’m not including them here.  

Instead, I’d like to highlight some other plants that do well in our mild Florida Winter weather so that I can help your planning process for the coming planting season (which basically can be after your Fall garden stops producing, or in December, or both!).  These plants below love cool weather, and handle a bit of light frost with little to no issues.  Here we go!

 

Florida Winter Garden Pick #1 – Kale

A leafy green that comes in many varieties, Kale is your friend in Winter gardens.  From leaves with hues of blue-grey, to bright green, to red, purple, and almost black, and leaf forms from flat to curly, Kale is high in nutrients and also high in fiber.  It also makes everything more colorful.

Baby Kale is great in salads, and the giant leaves that often happen when you ignore them for 5 seconds (honestly, they’re so prolific) are great wilted in stir fry and soups, and also substituted for lettuce in lettuce wraps!  

Harvesting your salad from your backyard is convenient, not to mention much less expensive than driving to the market.  Plus you know what you’ve put in and on them, so you don’t have to worry about not knowing what you’re putting into your body.

In this second picture here you can see Kale performing really well in some Winter Earthbox plantings from Mr. Shell’s garden last year! We had so much kale we were giving it away to friends and neighbors. By the way, those Earthboxes are over 25 years old and still growing strong! They’re a fantastic investment.

 

Florida Winter Garden Pick #2 – Broccoli

If you’ve ever tried growing Broccoli in the Spring, you might have found that by the time it’s ready to set heads, the plant just gives up and wilts in the heat.  Planting Broccoli in the Winter is the best bet for getting full luxurious heads of Broccoli (and really any veg that has a head on it like this, e.g. cauliflower).

Broccoli is traditionally a “cool crop” in that it does best when the weather is lower than 90 degrees.  There are those that have good luck with them in the heat, but they know more magical gardening tricks than I do (one friend grows them under shade cloth – that’s brilliant!).

Broccoli is a very versatile veggie – you can eat it raw, or bake it, roast it, boil it, steam it, stir-fry it…(it’s like Shrimp in Forrest Gump).  Try it out! I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

Recently, cauliflower, a broccoli relative, began to show up in colors like yellow, lime green, and purple – they are all delicious!

Florida Winter Garden Pick #3 – Cabbage

OK, maybe I cheated a little on this one.  Cabbage is like Kale and Broccoli had a lovechild and made a beautiful, gloriously-round baby.  But I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Cabbage as a contender for Winter gardening because it comes in so many varieties and colors.  From light green (almost white!), to silvery, to bright green and purple too, cabbage is a delicious addition to the dinner table. And it’s so easy to grow!

The most famous use of cabbage, arguably, is Cole Slaw. You can use any color of cabbage to make this dish, along with some carrots for color.  I’ve had grilled cabbage, boiled cabbage (corned beef and cabbage anyone?), fermented cabbage (sauerkraut is awesome!), and raw cabbage leaves used in wraps (so good).  

Cabbage has a lot of sulphur compounds in it, which makes it a bit smelly when boiled for long periods of time.  I usually do my cabbage boiling outside.

Some cabbage relatives are good to grow too, like bak (pak, bok) choi, and kohlrabi, so make sure you add some of those in.

Did you know you can also grow ornamental cabbage? It’s lovely!

 

Florida Winter Garden Pick #4 – Carrots

Do you ever have a particular plant that there seems to be some sort of cosmic force keeping you from getting to harvest?  For me, it’s carrots (and orchids…that’s a story for another day). BUT – I’ve had the most success in Winter gardening for this little underground vitamin-filled wonder root.  

Some folks don’t bother to grow carrots anyway – they’re inexpensive enough at the store that you can get by purchasing them.  But I like to grow the varieties that you can’t find in the store – the whites, yellows, purples, reds, etc.

Carrots are picky about their soil, and can overall be a pain in the patootie (in my opinion).  They need really loose loamy soil in order for the root to expand down into the soil (making lengthy carrots) and our native Florida sand isn’t naturally loose.  That doesn’t make our soil bad.

You can amend the soil with organic matter and compost to make it easier for the carrots to lengthen.  It will be worth the extra effort when you get to eat a them, in all their crazy colors!  That satisfying crunch and sweetness makes it all worthwhile for sure.

Additional thought here: When I do get to harvest carrots, I’ve not found my carrots to grow exceedingly large here in my gardens, and I’m ok with that.  When they’re small they are great for roasting, or dipping in hummus and crunching away.  Yum!

Florida Winter Garden Pick #5 – Onions

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention members of the allium family here.  Onions are extremely tolerant to hot and cold weather, and we have both here.  Every Fall we have a pre-order for Vidalia onion transplants where our customers can order sweet, delicious Vidalia onion plants to grow in their gardens.  Straight out of Georgia, these onions do really well down here, and actually our order for them just arrived at the store. We usually don’t have many extras, so if you want some, get in and see us quick!

We also have onion sets for white, yellow, and purple onions, as well as the Super-Sweet variety and Shallots too.  You can plant Onion sets pretty much anytime through the Fall, Winter, and early Spring too – check out my article on that here: “Set”ting up for Success.  Many people make several plantings over time so that they don’t have one huge harvest (it’s called Succession Planting).

Onions are an indispensable flavor in the kitchen, used in so many dishes to impart flavor, both in the greens and bulbs, that I can’t imagine a garden without them.

 

So, there’s 5 Winter Garden crops that I’d suggest you try in the garden this Winter.  We do have some starter plants for some of these available now, as well as onion sets like I mentioned above, so stop in and see what we’ve got (it changes week to week).  

If you’re looking for some more ideas on what you can do in the garden this Winter, you can check out my previous article, Top 5 Winter Gardening Ideas, which highlights some things to do that take advantage of the cooler weather while implementing in the garden.

No matter what you decide to do for your garden, we wish you every success with it.

As we approach Thanksgiving, we here at Shell’s Feed & Garden Supply truly hope you have a wonderful holiday season and Winter Garden season too.  

We are truly grateful for your business and your support.  The only reason we’ve been here 57 years is because of you.

Thank you.

Marissa

Marissa – Writer for Shell's Feed & Garden Supply

I'm an over-educated, passionate, gardening and pet enthusiast, and I have found the perfect job! My writing is based on my studies in Biology and Health, and my experiences from gardening with my family as a child. 
The great thing about gardening is that it is a life-long learning process. The many blunders and successes of my own gardening projects over the years have been invaluable to me.  The late, great, J.C. Raulston once said, "If you're not killing plants, you're not stretching yourself as a gardener." Learn by doing, gain knowledge from the failures, but more importantly, relish the successes, (because they're delicious!)  Thanks for reading!
Special thank you to Abby's Farms, where the photo on the left was taken. Shell's Feed & Garden Supply sponsors the chickens and chicken coops there. Visit their website here.

 

Delish Dishes from the Backyard

Butternut Squash Soup

Delish Dishes from the Backyard
By Marissa

Your fall crops are probably well underway by now, and I wanted to talk about some delicious dishes that you can make from the things that you are growing right now. You probably can’t harvest yet, and that’s ok – this will just give you something to look forward to cooking!

One of my favorite treats is soup, especially in the fall and winter months. Simmering in the house for a few hours to combine all the flavors makes the whole house feel cozy and inviting. Smelling your delicious soup brewing all day is also sure to make you hungry! Let’s try a butternut squash soup with squash straight from your own garden – it’s a little bit of work to prep, but it’s SO worth it!

Butternut Squash Soup

This delicious creamy soup is wonderful for a lunch or dinner. Served with bread & salad you’ll have a filling meal! The main recipe is even vegetarian (I’ll put optional non-veg items in parentheses). You can use a pot on the stove or a slow cooker, whatever you prefer. Have an Instant Pot? You can use that too with some modifications. I included directions for all below so you can make this tasty soup whatever way works for you and your kitchen. A recommendation from my own kitchen: while I love my Instant Pot for lots of things, I really love the stovetop for this recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups vegetable stock (or 4 cups chicken or turkey stock – you can even make this yourself!)
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and diced
  • 1 large or 2 medium apples, peeled, cored and diced
  • 1 uncooked 3-4 lb butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cubed in about ½” – 1” cubes
  • 1 medium white or yellow onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 sprig of fresh sage
  • 1 sprig of rosemary, rubbed between your hands gently just before putting in the pot to release the oils
  • 6 fresh basil leaves, minced fine
  • 2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • ½ tsp salt, with extra for seasoning at the end
  • ¼ tsp fresh black pepper, with extra for seasoning at the end
  • ⅛ tsp cayenne, with extra for seasoning at the end
  • ⅛ tsp nutmeg
  • ½ cup canned unsweetened coconut milk (or ½ cup Half & Half or Heavy Cream), with extra for garnish if desired
  • FOR STOVETOP ONLY: 2 tsp grapeseed or avocado oil
Uncooked, peeled and seeded butternut squash

Optional garnishes:

  • Dash of smoked paprika on top for color
  • Small pinch of Roasted Salted or Unsalted Pepitas – these are roasted pumpkin seeds that are shelled. You can also roast the seeds from the butternut squash while your soup is cooking and use them as a garnish! (recipe below)
  • Substitute milk above for sour cream for a heavier soup with that characteristic sour cream taste. Use a ¼ cup, with a dollop saved for garnish at serving time
  • (Crispy bacon, crumbled, sprinkled on top)
  • Your favorite crusty fresh-baked or toasted bread for dunking

For Slow Cooker:

Put all ingredients into the pot or slow cooker EXCEPT the milk and garnishes. Set the slow cooker on low for 8 hours. After 8 hours, remove the lid, remove the sprigs of sage and rosemary, and add milk of your choice. Use an immersion blender to blend soup smooth into a bisque, or use a blender that is vented for the heat (blending in parts, it won’t all fit at once!) and then put it all back into the cooker and stir to ensure all the chunky bits are smooth as you stir.

On the Stovetop: Place pot that will be big enough for all ingredients on the stove and place the oil in the bottom, Heat on medium-high and spread the oil around a bit. When hot and shimmering (not smoking) add onion, cook for 2-3 minutes, then add garlic and cook for another 1-2 minutes. Add the carrot, some of the butternut squash cubes and apple to the bottom of the pot, not so much that you can’t stir them around on the heat, and saute them as well for another 2 minutes – this process gives you a little more “roasted” flavor – caramelizes the natural sugars in the squash, carrots, and apples.

Add the rest of the squash, apple, all the stock, the vinegar, and top with the salt, pepper, cayenne, nutmeg, the basil leaves, sage and rosemary sprigs, and stir gently. Bring pot to a boil with frequent stirring and then cut the heat to low.

stovetop butternut squash
Instant Pot Butternut Squash Soup

Simmer on low for at least 3 hours, lid on, until the squash is soft. Monitor your liquid level on the stovetop and add a ¼ cup of broth if it gets too thick – you don’t want it to burn. When done cooking, remove the sprigs of sage and rosemary, add the milk of your choice, and use an immersion blender to blend into a bisque, or use a regular blender to blend in parts, making sure your blender is vented for the heat. Put all blended bisque back into the pot and stir for a “lump check”, mashing any remaining lumps.

Instant Pot:

Set to saute function and allow to heat to hot. Add oil once hot. Add onion, cook for 2-3 minutes, then add garlic and cook for another 1-2 minutes. Set to manual and cook on high pressure for 14 minutes. Natural release for 15 minutes after that. Then release pressure and open the lid. Add milk of your choice and blend your soup with an immersion blender until smooth, or move soup to regular blender in parts, making sure the blender is vented for the heat, and place back in Instant Pot and stir to ensure no lumpy bits remain.

Roasting Butternut Squash seeds:

While your soup is cooking, you can take advantage of all the bits of your squash to make a tasty treat or garnish. Clean “guts” off of seeds and wash them, then pat them dry.

Coat with olive, avocado, or grapeseed oil lightly. Season lightly with salt, pepper if you like, paprika, garlic salt, or some combination of them all to your taste. Spread seasoned seeds on parchment paper-covered baking sheet and place sheet in preheated oven 275 degrees for 15 minutes or until seeds start popping. Remove from oven and cool on baking sheet. Sprinkle on top of soup at serving time – if you have any left after you’ve snacked on them!

Serving:

Ladle soup into bowl. Top with drizzle of milk of your choice, or a dollop of sour cream. Sprinkle roasted seeds, pepitas, cayenne, paprika, bacon, or any of these that you like on top of your soup and serve with a crusty bread for dunking. Add a salad of greens, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers from your garden to really get a filling meal!

Enjoy!

Herbed Butter
Roasting Butternut Squash Seeds

Herbed Butter

Herbed butter is another treat that I like to make fresh from the garden. You can put it on your crusty bread for the soup, or use it as a burst of garden-fresh flavor in a number of dishes! Great on veggies like green beans that you just picked, sauteed onions and peppers, and so much more. Here’s how to do it – it’s pretty easy!

Ingredients:

  • ½ lb (2 sticks) unsalted butter softened at room temperature (don’t microwave it!)
  • ¼ tsp minced garlic, or garlic greens (sprouted garlic bulb green tops) or ⅛ tsp dried garlic powder
  • 1 Tbsp minced scallions, or chives, or onion greens (whichever you have)
  • 1 Tbsp minced fresh dill (or ½ Tbsp dried dill)
  • 1 Tbsp minced fresh flat-leafed parsley (or ½ Tbsp dried parsley)
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • Salt 1 tsp & pepper ¼ tsp (to taste)

Combine all ingredients and beat until mixed. Do not whip – the air will keep the butter from taking on all the flavor from the herbs and garlic/onions. I prefer to mix the butter by hand with a spatula but a mixer on low would do just fine too. Use immediately. To store, take wax paper or parchment paper, spoon the butter into a cylinder roll-shape, and roll it into that cylinder shape with the paper. Tape and put in fridge to harden, pull out when needed for bread, or for cooking, or basting (amazing on crab and lobster!).

Chimichurri topping

Chimichurri

I think this topping for steak is one of the most abused South American garnishes out there. It can be SO amazing…and it can quickly be ruined by doing too much to it.

I would ask that you don’t use a food processor. It might take a few more minutes, but it’s important to take the chance to connect with your food. Chop it manually so that you can add or subtract individual ingredients depending on your tastes. And taste along the way!!

Ingredients:

  • ½ Cup Olive Oil (good quality, you’ll thank yourself later)
  • 2 Tblsp Red Wine Vinegar (please don’t substitute)
  • ½ Cup Finely chopped parsley
  • 3-4 cloves finely minced garlic – like a lot of garlic? Do four!
  • 2 small red chili peppers, or 1 dried chili pepper, de-seeded and finely chopped (you can use 1-2 tsp dried chili flakes)
  • ¾ tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp (level) coarse salt
  • ½ tsp pepper (or to taste)

Combine all ingredients well with a spoon, and allow to sit at least 10 minutes before using so the oil soaks in the flavors of the herbs and peppers; I prefer to leave an hour, stirring 3-4 times during that day. You can store in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours! Great to baste on flank and skirt steaks, really any steak, and any other meats on the grill as well. Serve your meats with a scoop of it on top as well (or, a scoop of your herbed butter!).

I hope this gives you a few more ideas on how you can use what you grow in the kitchen, and gets you excited to take advantage of all the flavors growing in your garden right now. I love to cook and will be talking about food at least once a season – because hey, what’s the use in growing it if you don’t have any idea how to use it, right?

In the famous words (and voice) of Julia Child, “bon appetit!”

Marissa

Chimichurri on Steaks

Marissa – Writer for Shell's Feed & Garden Supply

I'm an over-educated, passionate, gardening and pet enthusiast, and I have found the perfect job! My writing is based on my studies in Biology and Health, and my experiences from gardening with my family as a child. 
The great thing about gardening is that it is a life-long learning process. The many blunders and successes of my own gardening projects over the years have been invaluable to me.  The late, great, J.C. Raulston once said, "If you're not killing plants, you're not stretching yourself as a gardener." Learn by doing, gain knowledge from the failures, but more importantly, relish the successes, (because they're delicious!)  Thanks for reading!
Special thank you to Abby's Farms, where the photo on the left was taken. Shell's Feed & Garden Supply sponsors the chickens and chicken coops there. Visit their website here.

 

“Set”ting Up For Success: Planting Onion Sets

“Set”ting Up For Success: Planting Onion Sets By Marissa

Growing onions in Florida is actually pretty easy. You don’t even have to do much to have a successful crop! In my opinion, growing onions so far down South is all about the preparation and planting. Once that’s all done, you should be all “set!” The growing part is pretty easy. Of course, there’s a little maintenance, but it’s simple. Since onions scare away most pests, your maintenance mostly comes in the form of a little bit of weeding and fertilizing.

Let’s Get Set!

An onion used for planting is called a “set.” It looks like a tiny onion, and it may have a little sprout growing out of the top when you get it. The sprout lets me know the set is in good condition, like a little green flag. Shell’s Feed & Garden Supply carries onion sets for White, Yellow, and Purple onions, and Fall is an excellent time to get some into our gardens. Here’s a picture of Mr. Shell, owner of our store, showing off our onion set cart – with multiple onion types to choose from. You pick!

Quick Note: Which End Is Up?

This is an onion set. The sprout will come from the pointy end at the top, and the roots are at the bottom of the round bulb. You can see a touch of sprout poking out at the top and little roots that almost look like hairs already established at the bottom. They might look all dried out but they still function perfectly. The whole set is really hardy, actually. Onions are able to be stored as a dormant bulb for quite a long time, which is how onion sets survive to produce onions for the next season.

One Set, Two Results

You can grow onions for their greens, also known as onion tops or green onions, which are used in cooking and as garnish in many dishes. The greens usually have a peppery/garlicky flavor on top of the onion flavor, which makes them excellent seasoning when they’re fresh (it cuts down on the need for salt and pepper on your food – great if you have to decrease your salt intake or if pepper doesn’t agree with you, or even if you just like their taste!). You can also, of course, grow them as bulbs, to make nice round, firm, fresh, hefty onions at harvest time. There’s something so satisfying about seeing a patch of bulb onions growing in a raised bed or in a long row, they really are magnificent produce! If you’re looking to be using bulbs, you’ll want to leave the greens alone. So if you want to take advantage of the greens and bulbs, I would recommend that you plant two batches. How do you make identical sets grow into two different things, you ask? It’s all in the planting. I’ll show you how below as I go through the proper soil prep for successful sets. Just a little finesse will get you there!

Best Onion Garden Location

Onions like Full Sun. In the Fall, as the days grow shorter and the sun shifts away from being directly overhead, you’ll need a place that dodges shadows and maximizes the light during the day. Don’t forget that some of your neighboring garden plants might grow to shade your onions, so make sure when you make your garden plan that you consider the height and direction of the neighboring crops once they’re grown!

Soil Prep for Onions

To grow good onions, you’ll also need loamy, well-draining soil as well with a neutral pH and a relatively high nitrogen content. I like to grow onions in the same spot where I grew beans and peas in the Spring because beans and peas are nitrogen-fixers – they naturally add nitrogen to the soil all season, making it ready for other hungry crops. If you don’t have a garden bed that just had all the spent bean plants pulled, that’s ok. You can work in some aged manure from cows, horses, rabbits, or poultry (or compost from your compost bin… don’t let those vegetable nutrients go to waste!) into the soil to give your onions a good nutritious base to begin growing. Side note: If you aren’t currently composting your vegetable and paper waste, maybe consider using compost worms! Here’s an article about building a vermicomposting bin.

If you don’t have that, well, Shell’s Organic 3-3-3 fertilizer is absolutely amazing for planting time, as well as for growing. Mix into the soil at planting, then as the onions get established, side dress as directed. If you want a fertilizer that is a little bit stronger, Shell’s also makes a 6-6-6 that is great! Compacted soil (like sand) will yield stunted plants and you won’t get the nice bulbing effect we look for in a good onion. You will need to loosen the soil enough that the roots will be able to penetrate it, and if it is a really sandy soil, you’ll need to mix in garden soil with organic material in it (again, compost is good for this). Use a tiller, hoe or hand “claw” tool to mix in anything applied to your garden bed to ensure it’s mixed properly and fully, then rake it level.

Planting Strategies – 3 for 1

As mentioned briefly above, there’s two ways to use your onions, and there’s 3 ways to plant them. Choose what works best for your space! To get green onions from your sets – plant the set about a ½” inch in the ground, making sure the top half to two-thirds is above the dirt. Sets are pretty small, so this might be a little tricky. Plant them relatively close together to help keep them from bulbing. If you’re planting in rows, keep them 2-3” apart in the row, and the rows 10-12” apart. Side note: Green onions and scallions are slightly different. Many people call them the same thing. They are in the same family, but scallions don’t really bulb at the bottom, and are a different species. It doesn’t matter much in my opinion, they taste relatively the same!!! To get bulbing onions from your sets – to make the sets turn into bulbs, plant them about ¼” deep (really shallow!), 4” apart. Allow them a few weeks to sprout and really get settled in. You want them to take root securely before you take the next step. After they are rooted and greens are sprouting and looking healthy, which is usually 3 weeks or so, use your fingers to gently move some of the dirt away from the base of the bulb, being careful not to uproot your onion. This triggers the plant to begin building the bulb, and usually works just fine. Some of them just may never bulb, and that’s ok, just use them for chopped green onions like you would use scallions or even chives. It’s the luck of the draw, so to speak. To get a mix of green onions and bulbs from your single planting – Another tactic is to plant sets close together, which is about 2” apart. As they begin to grow and mature, harvest scallion plants for eating by pulling them strategically to give the remaining onions space to grow bulbs in a process called “thinning”. Explained another way, if you have onions in rows 2 inches apart, pull every other onion to use as a scallion, then your remaining onions will be 4” apart and have room to bulb. This will ensure that you get green onions throughout the growing cycle of the bulbing onions.

Yes, you can grow onions in containers. I really like this third planting option if you are growing in containers, on a patio or balcony. It’s the perfect way to make the most of only a little space! This harvest pictured here is white onions grown on a patio – aren’t they lovely? The mixed-use planting of putting the sets close and then strategic harvesting of green onions to give space to the bulbs allows you to maximize your space and still have fresh onion ingredients to cook with for the longest time possible. Just be careful that you don’t plant so many that you couldn’t possibly eat them all! Or, I suppose you could just become that really generous, popular neighbor or coworker who gives away lots of yummy green onions and bulb onions (not a bad thing, really). So that’s what I have for planting and growing onion sets. Later in the season we’ll talk about harvest time and what to do! Thanks for reading. Marissa
Marissa – Writer for Shell’s Feed & Garden Supply

I’m an over-educated, passionate, gardening and pet enthusiast, and I have found the perfect job! My writing is based on my studies in Biology and Health, and my experiences from gardening with my family as a child. 

The great thing about gardening is that it is a life-long learning process. The many blunders and successes of my own gardening projects over the years have been invaluable to me.  The late, great, J.C. Raulston once said, “If you’re not killing plants, you’re not stretching yourself as a gardener.” Learn by doing, gain knowledge from the failures, but more importantly, relish the successes, (because they’re delicious!)  Thanks for reading!

Special thank you to Abby’s Farms, where the photo on the left was taken. Shell’s Feed & Garden Supply sponsors the chickens and chicken coops there. Visit their website here.  

Landscaping with Edibles – The Fall Edition

Landscaping with Edibles – The Fall Edition
By Marissa

There are so many choices when it comes to landscaping your home to add curb appeal. But have you ever considered that your landscaping could actually help feed your family, feed native wildlife, and even help alleviate certain ailments?

Most people don’t realize there are options for getting even more use out of your landscape plants besides just looking good. And when you plant Florida Native plants, you will not need to care for them as much – they grow “wild” and are accustomed to Florida climate. They support native insects, pollinators, birds, and more.

By planning your edible landscaping you can make the most of each season, so that you have something exciting (and delicious) to look forward to all year. We’re lucky to get such great and diverse growing conditions year-round and your landscape can look great while making the most of our seasons.

There are a few native plants that grow well here in Florida, that are beautiful, functional, and once established require little care in your landscape – and are the perfect fit to make the most of the fall weather. They’re the perfect fit for any home or yard.

Blueberries

There are 8 different species of native Florida blueberry bushes, but I promise that they are all delicious. Some of those work great in the landscape! They attract butterflies and pollinators when they flower, and produce beautiful delicious blueberries too. If you’re quick and pick them before the birds and rabbits get to them, you can enjoy a tasty treat, too! Southern Highbush and Scrub blueberries are two of my favorite varieties.

Blueberries really like acidic soil, a pH of only 4 – 5.5, so your soil around your blueberries will need to be amended with something acidic to help them thrive. You can do this with a soil acidifier like granulated sulphur (which you can find here at Shell’s Feed) when you’re planting, but you’ll want to make sure you keep the pH nice and low year after year. Applying pine needle mulch to the ground around the rootballs is a great easy fix – the tannic acid from the needles supplies a constant source of acidity as the needles decompose. Pine bark also works well for pH maintenance.

Several varieties of Southern Highbush will grow well here in Tampa, including Emerald and Jewel cultivars. Check out more information at the University of Florida IFAS website here.

Florida Cranberries

This very productive plant is so popular it goes by many names. You may recognize it as tea hibiscus, red or Indian sorrel, roselle, or Florida Cranberries. The leaves of this plant can be used as greens in salad, and the fruit has a tart, cranberry-like flavor which can be used in jams, jellies, and to make a “cranberry sauce”. It’s been recorded that some individual plants have created up to 16 pounds of fruit! This is a native plant with a track record of being enjoyed in food – it’s been grown and eaten in Florida since before colonization.

This plant can be grown from seeds or cuttings and take about 4 months to mature. It grows to about 5-7 feet in height making it a perfect statement piece in your landscape that also reward you with delicious treats. There is more great information about the Florida Cranberry here.

Yaupon Holly

Yaupon Holly has been used for centuries by Native Americans in tea, but its gorgeous leaves and berries make it a popular decoration, too. It has beautiful green foliage and the female plants produce a red berry (or you can find orange or yellow berries in some cultivars). It can be trimmed as a bush or hedge, but can also grow to 15-25 feet, and trimming off the lower branches be groomed into a small tree, making it a great customizable decorative plant, too.

One of the most interesting things about Yaupon Holly is that it is one of the only North American native plants that contains caffeine. That means you can dry the leaves and make a delicious tea right from your yard to replace the green or black tea you buy at the store while keeping that alertness pick-me-up.

One note to the wise though, many sources advise that brewing the leaves too strongly can cause a little gastric unpleasantness, so be sure of your brew time!

More information about growing Yaupon Holly can be found on the UF IFAS website here.

Scrub Mint – Calamantha spp

Another native plant in the highlands and scrub areas of Florida is the Scrub Mint, also known as False Rosemary. This lovely mint-family species boasts beautiful silver-grey leaves and white, lavender, or blue flowers.

It grows 2-3’ wide and high, so it’s a perfect pick for bed plantings. The butterflies love it, too! It’s popularity with these pretty pollinators make it a great plant to attract the right attention to your garden from other beneficial insects and humans alike. It has a similar look to rosemary but when a leaf is crushed you might be surprised by its distinctive mint aroma. It is unknown if you can make an herbal tea from this, but I’m adventurous enough to try if I can get my hands on one! I’ll let you know.

This plant is on the endangered species list, as its scrub habitats are being consumed by agriculture/pasture projects as well as residential neighborhoods. In fact, in Broward county area which was originally part of their native habitat, there is only 1% of the scrubland where this plant natively grows left. Planting in your landscape can help save these beautiful natives!

Here is some more information about this plant, which was only discovered and categorized relatively recently, here. There is not a lot of information floating around the internet about it!

Cocoplum

The Cocoplum is a South Florida native, but I have seen it growing in Tampa area, too. It has very interesting round leaves and beautiful creamy flowers. The fruits vary from white blush to pink to purple and are edible – and are perfect for jams and jellies.

One of the more interesting perks of cocoplum is that it is a plant that has a particular hurricane resistance – it seems to be very resilient and doesn’t break away in strong winds like other plants. These plants are tough and resilient, making them a good choice for hedges, as they grow anywhere from 10-30’ high and 10-20’ wide. They are hardy but they still put in the work to attract the right attention to your yard. Their dense foliage and fruits are great for birds, and the flowers attract local pollinators like bees, native wasps, and butterflies.

Here is some great information about this versatile plant from UF IFAS.

Coral Honeysuckle

This beautiful, native Florida honeysuckle has cultivars with red, scarlet, or yellow flowers and a trumpet-shaped flower. Their blooms are so notable that this flower is sometimes also called the Trumpet Honeysuckle. This great vine will quickly climb a lamp post, arbor, or cover a fence once established, and provides food for butterflies and hummingbirds, as most trumpet-shaped flowers do.

You won’t be disappointed by the MONTHS of color this vine gives you in its flowering season. It also has beautiful green foliage that gives a very complimentary backdrop to the flowers, making for an all-season performance. And the birds will love the berries it makes; between the butterflies, hummingbirds, and songbirds, you’ll have quite a show for most of the warm seasons!

This plant is used in natural medicine quite often. The leaves can be dried and smoked for asthma, or boiled for sore throats and coughs. Chewed leaves can be applied to bee stings for relief, too. You can get the nectar from the flowers as well. A few nibbles is ok, but too much of a good thing might cause some stomach upset.

More information about this beautiful plant can be found here, amongst other places.

American Beautyberry

The Beautyberry is a great plant to mix in with other plantings, as it grows well in full sun, dappled sun, and even part shade. It will stretch 5-9’ towards the light, and it flowers and fruits on new growth. The large light green leaves are spaced far apart to allow the flower groups (called clymes) to form – they are anywhere from white, to pink, to pale purple – which then make the bright purple beautyberries that are common in our area. Butterflies love the flowers when they are blooming, and their delightful colors live up to their name.

While they are edible, they don’t have any particular flavor, and a non-pleasant texture. To get the most of them though, you can make jelly out of them for their beautiful magenta color. We might not be a fan of the berries fresh, but birds and squirrels LOVE them. Deer do too. If the critters don’t eat them all first, the berries will persist on the stems after the leaves fall off as the weather gets colder, making an interesting natural garden “architectural feature” during that time.

Native Americans cultivated these plants for ceremonial purposes. They also used them as a dye, and used the leaves to make a substance that would stun fish for easy spearing. Also the twigs and bark were boiled and applied for rheumatism and for malarial fevers – usually in a sweatbath. More information can be found here.

As you can see, there are lots of different useful plants you can use in your landscape. Here at Shell’s Feed we are currently working on getting some native plants available for you to purchase. In the meantime there are local Tampa Bay nurseries that carry them! I know that Wilcox Nursery in Largo has a large selection, and they often work with the Pinellas County Extension Office in doing talks about native plants. We’re always excited to help you get started with native plants to make the most of your landscape and garden all year.

Marissa – Writer for Shell’s Feed & Garden Supply

I’m an over-educated, passionate, gardening and pet enthusiast, and I have found the perfect job! My writing is based on my studies in Biology and Health, and my experiences from gardening with my family as a child. 

The great thing about gardening is that it is a life-long learning process. The many blunders and successes of my own gardening projects over the years have been invaluable to me.  The late, great, J.C. Raulston once said, “If you’re not killing plants, you’re not stretching yourself as a gardener.” Learn by doing, gain knowledge from the failures, but more importantly, relish the successes, (because they’re delicious!)  Thanks for reading!

Special thank you to Abby’s Farms, where the photo on the left was taken. Shell’s Feed & Garden Supply sponsors the chickens and chicken coops there. Visit their website here.

 

Right Now In The Garden: Planting for Florida’s Fall Growing Season

Right Now In The Garden: Planting for Florida’s Fall Growing Season
By Marissa

As I mentioned in the previous blog, Florida is gardening Nirvana. I’m so excited about all the extra garden opportunities we get that I can’t stop sharing my enthusiasm about it!

We can grow crops from January through December with little weather interference – definitely no problems with snow! Without the freezing winter temperatures our gardening flexibility is quite impressive, and you should really be taking advantage of it.

The #GrowYourOwn movement is huge these days – resourceful gardeners are grasping the growing knowledge of the past and applying it to right now, finding new clever ways to get better and more food out of less space. Our garden produce is healthy, tasty, and really really good for you. I think it’s awesome to find new ways to get the most from our gardens and homes!

Growing your own food has many benefits:

  • Getting outside is great exercise, no matter the size of your garden. Gardening includes movements that are not overly strenuous but can increase your heart rate enough to burn fat, plus it’s satisfying and fun;
  • You get sunshine, which increases your Vitamin D and relieves stress symptoms and depression;
  • You breathe fresh air, helping you clear carbon and acid overload in the body, clearing your head and relaxing your body;
  • You sweat, which helps clear toxins from the body through the skin;
  • Gardening has been proven to lower blood pressure and stress chemical markers in your body;
  • It keeps your mind active, both the left and right brain hemispheres are engaged when gardening and problem-solving for the garden;
  • The produce you work for tastes 100 times better than store-bought (just try a bite and you’ll be convinced). When you grow something yourself, you know what’s in it, and on it – you can make it pesticide and chemical-free if you want, without the extra grocery store “organic” fees, as well as being confident that it was grown responsibly. Part of your food tasting better is the peace of mind that comes with your garden vegetables;
  • Bonus – it’s really fun!

Cool, right?

What grows in the Fall in Florida, you ask? To the left is a pretty list of lovely produce that you can start now. I even included a bonus – some flowers that pair nicely with these fruits and veggies. For planting spacing and seed depths and how long it will take for harvest, come in to the store and get our Planting Guide for September/October – it has more details and info on it for your reading pleasure.

 

It’s like Spring all over again! Those poor Northern states don’t know what they’re missing shivering away all winter.

You’ll love having a Fall garden, so why not get started today? Even if you only plant tomatoes and peppers, you’ll be making your own food out of dirt and seeds. It’s one of the most satisfying feelings to pick something off of a plant you grew yourself and take a bite of it.

In fact, most of my tomatoes don’t even make it back into the house. They’re so tempting I eat them right there in the garden!

 

Lots of these plants grow GREAT in an Earthbox! If you’re interested in finding out how to plant and grow in the Earthbox revolutionary gardening system, sign up for our class on September 15th! There are 2 times available. Bring a friend!

All attendees get a goody bag with a coupon that can be used towards supplies for your Earthbox, and special day-of pricing on your very own Earthbox; it’s almost like getting your money back for the class!

Happy Gardening!

Marissa

Marissa – Writer for Shell’s Feed & Garden Supply

I’m an over-educated, passionate, gardening and pet enthusiast, and I have found the perfect job! My writing is based on my studies in Biology and Health, and my experiences from gardening with my family as a child. 

The great thing about gardening is that it is a life-long learning process. The many blunders and successes of my own gardening projects over the years have been invaluable to me.  The late, great, J.C. Raulston once said, “If you’re not killing plants, you’re not stretching yourself as a gardener.” Learn by doing, gain knowledge from the failures, but more importantly, relish the successes, (because they’re delicious!)  Thanks for reading!

Special thank you to Abby’s Farms, where the photo on the left was taken. Shell’s Feed & Garden Supply sponsors the chickens and chicken coops there. Visit their website here.

 

Preparing for Your Florida Fall Garden

Preparing for Your Florida Fall Garden
By Marissa

Florida, as you might imagine, is a mecca for gardening. We have amazing weather for all kinds of plants – and pests too. Most of Tampa Bay falls in the 9a, 9b, and 10a Agricultural zones, which means lots of sunshine and plenty of rain and humidity to support crops all year long.

For us Floridians, we are privileged to be able to garden in all seasons. In Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter, there are crops that can take what abuse our climate dishes out, if you plan it right. Today we’re talking about prepping for the Fall garden.

Yes, We Really Plant Vegetable Gardens in the Fall in Florida

Many people don’t realize that our Northern garden brethren have a completely different gardening schedule than we do down here. For them, they garden from April to September, maybe October, and that’s it. Much of the national chain store advertising is set up for this schedule, and so folks don’t realize that our Spring planting in Florida actually starts in February/March timeframe and is done by about June.

You can grow many of the things that you plant in the Spring again in the Fall here. Tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, peas, beans, gourds, pumpkins, squash, zucchini, lettuces, sunflowers, and more all love the break from the hottest of our summer temperatures. Much of the preparation that you do for Fall gardening is the same as the Spring.

I prefer to do my garden planning in a Garden Journal, and I cannot advocate enough for you to give it a try, too! You can make any notebook, calendar, steno, or legal pad a Garden Journal, and there are even phone apps out there for it, but I prefer the pencil and paper kind. I scribble and scratch and color and sketch in it – it’s yours to use and enjoy, so you might as well get the best from it! I want you to plan, list, and write your garden day experiences in it, just like a journal. It’s important to write down the things that you observe in the garden, and even include photos of flowers, fruits, vines, and bugs, fungus, disease too, identified, and your treatment plans for garden issues, and how well (or poorly) they works. Chart your successes and your failures. You’ll want to look back and see what you’ve done, and remember the clever things you did that made your garden awesome so you can repeat them in the future.

Preparation Starts Earlier Than You Might Think

Soil Preparation

If you saw our article on Solarization of the Soil, that’s really your first step to prepare for Fall gardening – 6 weeks to weed and disease-free soil. If you missed it, though, that’s ok, you can do it next year. It’s not a make-or-break step, but if you have the opportunity to solarize your soil I promise you’ll be able to tell the difference.

Hardware Upgrades

A new season is like a fresh start – even if it’s just on the heels of the previous season. Many folks use the fall planting season to update and add or subtract hardscape for their vegetable beds – erect new trellises, build new mounds or raised beds, make a new plan. This can be done before any new season starts, its just that most of us prefer to do that in Winter rather than in the Summer heat. If you work in the early mornings or in the couple of hours after sunset, it’s not so bad.

Making a Plan

Finally, make your garden plan. This all starts at the core of figuring out what tasty garden veggies you want to eat more of this season! Figure out what you want to eat, and how best to plant them in the space you have. Decide if you’re planting in containers, raised beds, mounds, rows, square foot gardens, or whatever.

Make sure the crops you plant next to each other don’t harm each other: better yet, ensure that they compliment each other! It’s called Companion Planting – we talked a little bit about it in our Easy Eating Container Plantings article – look at the Three Sisters plant-o-gram in that blog! There’s lots written about Companion planting out there too, one of my favorites is a book called “Carrots Love Tomatoes” – check it out! (Just a quick Google search, you’ll find it!)

Things to do for Fall

Prepare Your Tools

It’s easier to make your garden brilliant when your tools are in good shape and all organized. Take inventory of your tools. Check to make sure they are in working order, blades sharp and clean (rubbing alcohol does just fine), hinges lubricated, and decontaminated (just for soil movers like spades, shovels, trowels, or cultivators). If you have electric or gas-powered tillers/cultivators, fire it up and ensure that all parts are working. Have them serviced and clean now so they’re ready to work when you are ready to dig in.

Prepare Your Soil

Pull any weeds and crops remaining from the previous season that are spent. If they’re not diseased, and if the weeds aren’t seeding, toss them in the compost. If they are diseased, or seeding, the burn barrel is a good place for them, or into the yard waste bin they go.

After removing the weeds, cultivate (“turn over”) your soil, and mix in your compost, or fertilizer (I like to use Shell’s 3-3-3 Organic Garden Fertilizer). Form your mounds and rows and get them ready for planting. If you aren’t seeding the same day as your soil prep, I would cover the beds/mounds/rows with newspaper or cardboard, or even re-useable tarps. This will help keep the weeds under control until you are ready to plant.

Finally, if you solarized, don’t mix in anything that might have seeds in it like grass clippings, leaf litter, manure, or top soil – or you’ll ruin all that work from the solarizing process!

Seeding

There’s nothing wrong with planting seeds right now in August so your plants are ready for the weather to cool down Some people like to track their germination rates, so they plant seeds in pre-molded seed plug cells so they can count the seeds that popped up and which didn’t. These cells, as the seeds sprout and grow out their roots, make a nice little “plant plug” that can just be dropped into a hole in your mound or row, easy peasy. We carry these in different sizes, and can help you choose the right one for your crops.

You can also plant directly into the ground right now. Some people are religious about holding off planting until September, but I think a couple of weeks jump start gives you the opportunity to plant more in a season. When you do this, you get an even harvest for a longer period of time, instead of a huge harvest all at once. And who doesn’t like more food all season instead of all the work at once?

This staggered planting is a technique called Succession Planting, and it’s a great way to space out your harvests to give you a chance to consume them before the next ones are ready to pick. Sometimes you get so much with a huge harvest you can’t process it all or give it all away before it goes bad…and no one wants to waste food that you worked so hard for.

Finally, I have another short blog about preparing your planting containers for Fall here with a cute infographic for reference.

Benefits of Fall Gardening

The days are getting shorter this time of year, it’s true, but the days are also getting slightly cooler, and drier, traditionally. It’s true, sometimes October can feel just like July, but we always hope for the best.

Gardening in the Fall is usually more comfortable than the Summer and late Spring gardening as well, so many folks look forward to wearing a light sweater during the Fall Garden harvest time (hey, it happens…sometimes).

Cooler weather and shorter days means less pests for the most part, and thus less pest damage, and less pest treatment too.

And maybe it’s just me…but tomatoes and peppers grown in the Fall just taste different. They taste somehow sweeter to me. Or maybe it’s just that I know that October and November tomatoes harvested from my backyard just isn’t a thing in many parts of the US…so I enjoy them all the more.

Planting Will Be Here Before You Know It!

We expect our grower to deliver the first plants at the end of August/beginning of September – unlike large chain garden centers, we really only carry plants that can be planted at the time that we have them. We always have seeds in stock, as well as tools you might need.

After your organizing, inventory, and planning is all done, get in here and get what you need so that you can dive into the joy that is gardening in the Fall. As always, if you need help, we’re here to answer questions.

We hope to see you in soon!

Thanks for reading,

Marissa

Marissa – Writer for Shell's Feed & Garden Supply

I'm an over-educated, passionate, gardening and pet enthusiast, and I have found the perfect job! My writing is based on my studies in Biology and Health, and my experiences from gardening with my family as a child. 
The great thing about gardening is that it is a life-long learning process. The many blunders and successes of my own gardening projects over the years have been invaluable to me.  The late, great, J.C. Raulston once said, "If you're not killing plants, you're not stretching yourself as a gardener." Learn by doing, gain knowledge from the failures, but more importantly, relish the successes, (because they're delicious!)  Thanks for reading!
Special thank you to Abby's Farms, where the photo on the left was taken. Shell's Feed & Garden Supply sponsors the chickens and chicken coops there. Visit their website here.

 

Back to School Fall Project: Simple Container Planting

Back to School Fall Project: Simple Container Planting
By Marissa

It’s back-to-school time, so that means it’s back to the crazy school schedule. Finding a little time to give your patio or front door area a little curb appeal might be a little tough with all of the demands that school season has on our time. I wanted to give you some easy ideas to get you excited about some great combinations that can have a dual purpose – making your containers less of a chore, more useful, and more fun! 

Container Crash-Course

Constructing containers has evolved from a place to stuff a bunch of flowers to an art form in only a few decades. You don’t need to be an artist to make great containers – most of them follow a similar pattern! Most containers have a few different shapes in them: an upright, a broad, and a trailing plant. Upright shape is a plant that grows mainly vertical, like ornamental grasses. A broad shape is something that grows upwards a little but then grows outward as well. Trailing shapes are, you guessed it, plants that spill over the sides of a container like a waterfall. Most containers can be made by mixing and matching plants to fill each of these elements, though of course you don’t have to, either.

All of this sounds dreadfully technical and specific, but I promise it’s not that hard. It’s actually easy to make a container that is pretty as well as functional! Read on to see what I mean.

Fall Container Idea #1: Insect-repelling Container

Your pretty planters in your hangout space can be more than just a pop of color – they can earn their keep by helping to keep pesky biting insects away too. Three great container plants you can use to give you color and insect protection are Lavender (upright shape), Geraniums (broad shape, but some varieties do trail a bit), and Marigolds (also broad).

Each of these flowers grow well in the milder fall (and spring) weather here in Florida, and the coming days of cooler temperatures really help them last a long time – keep them dead-headed and they’ll bloom past Thanksgiving! Plus, you can use the lavender as potpourri in the house or to make crafts like soaps and teas.

The color palette for these containers really speak of fall – mix and match geraniums in red, scarlet, or orange to compliment the red, orange, or yellow of the marigolds. The Lavender will have the silvery stems and foliage to really pop in the middle of that arrangement and the purple flower heads compliment the other flowers as well.

Fall Container Idea #2: Garnish Garden

Some of my favorite container gardens are full of herbs. Among my favorites, some of the best fall flavors in the herb family are Rosemary, Mint, and Parsley. They have so many uses and taste amazing – and these herbs work overtime as garnishes to give that touch of finesse to any of your holiday party dishes.

Rosemary is an evergreen that has an upright habit, so it would be planted in the middle. Parsley can also grow quite tall, but it also tends to spread out – and if you’re using it in comfort foods like soups, stews, or even just your morning eggs, you’ll be snipping it back pretty regularly so it won’t get so “leggy”. There are many varieties of mint, but most of them will trail out and down the sides (and will root in the ground and spread if you’re not careful, so use up that mint as it grows!)

The contrast of the pine-like rosemary foliage with the fan-leaf or crinkle-leaf parsley is super eye-catching. Add the light greens and soft texture of the mint family and you can really make this all-green arrangement shine. The container can be as simple or fun as you want by mixing in however many different flavors, colors, and textures of the leafy herbs as you’d like.

I like to take some fun whimsical things, like fairies or gnomes, and place them in and amongst the greenery…they stare at me until I trim their garden and use it in my cooking!

Fall Container Idea #3: Cabbage Kingdom

Cabbages are so much more versatile than most people give them credit for – usually coleslaw is the first thing that comes to mind, or the traditional Irish corned beef & cabbage. But did you know that there is such thing as ornamental cabbages? Yep, they come in all kinds of colors, and they are really hardy, often lasting through Winter until the Florida weather gets too hot.

Of course, edible Cabbages are beautiful too – they have greenish-silver leaves, or bright purple leaves, which works really well for fall. Combine with another plant in the same family as Cabbage, Kale, and you can really make a great textural planter with lots of color. If you don’t like Kale, that’s ok, there are nearly endless leafy options to suit your taste. Maybe you can use the smaller plant like Spinach, or Bok Choi to give you a nice green broad shape and rich color. For your tall plant that also can have a trailing habit, and also has LOTS of color, throw one or two complimentary types of coleus in there.

You can get super creative here – my Plant-o-gram will get you started with the basics, but you’ll likely want to experiment to see what’s perfect for you.

You Have Permission to Play

The most important thing to know about container gardening is this: If something isn’t working, or it doesn’t look right to you – YOU CAN CHANGE IT. You can move plants to another container, or remove them altogether. Containers are miniature gardens that we get to play in to find what works for us. I’m happy to start you off with some plant-o-grams but encourage you to explore beyond them to find the perfect combinations for you and your family.

They Will Need Nutrients

Container plants have much less soil to pull from than your traditional garden, so you have to feed them fertilizer a little more than you would a tree or a bush in the ground. Follow instructions on the fertilizer you choose, and we hope you choose the Shell’s-branded formulations, because we worked really hard to make those to work best specifically for Florida gardens and conditions…even container gardens. Call us or stop in for more information!

I personally love container gardening (it’s most of the gardening I do), and when I’m not working I’m usually out on the porch playing with my plants. They’re the best way to play with what you love and want more of at home, and are a fun way to make a pretty statement that helps out around the house, too.

Thanks for reading!

Marissa

Marissa – Writer for Shell's Feed & Garden Supply

I'm an over-educated, passionate, gardening and pet enthusiast, and I have found the perfect job! My writing is based on my studies in Biology and Health, and my experiences from gardening with my family as a child. 
The great thing about gardening is that it is a life-long learning process. The many blunders and successes of my own gardening projects over the years have been invaluable to me.  The late, great, J.C. Raulston once said, "If you're not killing plants, you're not stretching yourself as a gardener." Learn by doing, gain knowledge from the failures, but more importantly, relish the successes, (because they're delicious!)  Thanks for reading!
Special thank you to Abby's Farms, where the photo on the left was taken. Shell's Feed & Garden Supply sponsors the chickens and chicken coops there. Visit their website here.

 

Great Summer Drinks with Fresh Garden Herbs

Great Summer Drinks with Fresh Garden Herbs
By Marissa

Summer is winding down, and it’s scorching hot and sticky humid outside. It’s time to get serious about relaxing and chilling with friends and have a cookout while the kiddos have that final pool party before it’s back-to-school time – for Hillsborough County that’s August 10th! Maybe a night with some adult friends over for cocktails, laughs, and a game night is in order? Either way, we’ve got to make the most of the gorgeous summer as it fades and share it with our friends while we can.

It’s also a great time to use up some herbs that are probably starting to bolt from the heat! There are some awesome drinks that sample heavily from your herb garden. They can be made “adult” with a little liquor or wine but are tasty enough to enchant you if served without, too. These drinks are the key to making the most of the hot days we have left, and are a fun way to drink your garden, too!

Drink Pick #1 – Basil Sangria

This is a citrus-flavor based white wine sangria with that heady basil scent and flavor – perfect for cooling down on the porch with friends and family. I borrowed the basics from the Food & Wine website but I have some suggestions and modifications to take it up a notch for those of us that love drinks with a bit more of a fruity flavor. This recipe makes about 12 small drinks as shown, but you can easily make more or less with a few adjustments. The simple syrup also saves well in the fridge if you need to keep some for drinks on a later date!

You’ll need (per 12 drinks):

  • ¼ c. sugar
  • ¼ c. water
  • 8 basil leaves with stems or 8 thai basil sprigs from the garden
  • 1 lemon, zested by peeling in 3” strips
  • 1 orange, zested by peeling in 3” strips
  • 2 bottles chilled Pinot Grigio*
  • ¾ c. brandy*
  • ½ c. fresh orange juice (no pulp)
  • Chilled club soda or ginger ale
  • Ice
  • Thin slices of orange and lemon for garnish

(* only for the “adult version” of the cocktails)

The recipe is great as is, but some folks like a little more fruit, where the original might feel lacking! Some optional adds to step it up:

1) thin peach or nectarine slices, either as just garnish, and/or add one to the simple syrup for some extra fruit flavor

2) blueberries muddled in the bottom for some color & flavor, can also add to the simple syrup and crush – it will make your drinks a little blue in color

Foodie notes: Genovese (broad-leaf) basil has an initial subtle peppery flavor which then turns sweet and has a great aroma. Thai basil has a strong anise “licorice” flavor. Both work well with this drink!

Make Simple Syrup:
Add water and sugar to small saucepan (I like non-stick or glass), and bring just to a boil, stirring to dissolve sugar. Careful not to overheat it too much or too fast, of the sugar will burn, changing the flavor. Take syrup off the heat. Add Basil sprigs, lemon zests, and orange zests, stir, and let cool about 20 minutes, infusing the syrup with flavor. This is where you’d add any of your fruity add-ins, too, if you’re choosing to. Remove the spring, rinds, and fruit (except the blueberries if you used them) after cooling.

You’ll create:
Mocktails: When cool, mix in the orange juice into the simple syrup, and divide the mixture into 12 small glasses of club soda or ginger ale, with ice. Garnish with orange and lemon slices, with a sprig of basil on top. Can add peach/nectarine slices or a couple of blueberries if you used the optional fruit or you want a pretty finish.
Cocktails: To make the adult version, combine wine, orange juice, brandy, and simple syrup in a pitcher and stir. Pour into 12 glasses with ice and slices of orange and lemon (and peach/nectarine or blueberries, if you wish), top with a splash of club soda or ginger ale, and garnish with basil sprig.

The garnish is important to give extra basil scent while you’re drinking – the sense of taste is highly influenced by smell. Yum!

photo by Buff Strickland

Drink Pick #2 – The Classic Florida-Cuban Mojito

You don’t get much more refreshing than a mojito. And Tampa has huge ties to the Cuban homeland that we can’t help but want to celebrate. This recipe is the original recipe for the Cuban National Cocktail. Technically you’d need a highball glass, but a mason jar will work too, ya’ll. A little finesse goes a long way here.

You’ll need (per drink):

  • 1 lime
  • Granulated sugar
  • Your favorite clear rum (most use Bacardi)
  • Shot glass to measure rum per cocktail
  • Soda water
  • Ice
  • Muddler tool
  • Several Mint sprigs from the garden

Foodie notes: The Citrus power of lime juice mixed with the cooling, sweet mint leaves has a pleasant contrast on the tongue that will make you drink it a lot faster than you think – so refreshing and sweet! Make sure you give your keys to the host and call a cab after a few of these!

You’ll create:
Mojitos have 2 main flavors, lime and mint. Start with the lime, cut it so that you half one half slice and two quarter slices. Squeeze the juice of the half lime and one of the quarter limes into the glass, reserve the last quarter for garnish. Add 8 medium to large mint leaves and 2 teaspoons of granulated sugar to the bottom of the glass. Using the muddler, gently crush the mint and sugar and lime together. The best method to release the mint oil is to press down and twist a few times until all the mint leaves have been touched but are still whole. It takes a little practice, so make lots of cocktails to get the hang of it! Add 2 shots of rum into the glass and mix to dissolve sugar. Add cubed or crushed ice, keeping the leaves on the bottom of the glass if you can. Top up the glass with soda water or club soda for that fizzy finish.

You’re almost done! For the best flavor, take the last lime quarter and rub the rim of the glass with it. Then take a mint leaf, fold it, and rub it around the rim of the glass as well. Some folks drop the lime in the drink, others place the lime wedge on the glass edge. Sink a sprig of mint into the glass. Lime and mint pair so well together. Enjoy!

Drink Pick #3 – Cilantro Martini

With citrus vodka, gin and fresh ginger, this tingly cilantro cocktail is invigorating. Some folks think the ginger is a little too strong and take it out, that’s OK too. If you want to live a little on the wild side, leave it in and see what happens!

You’ll need (per drink):

  • ¼ c. Fresh Cilantro from the garden
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • A few thin slices of ginger (from the garden if you have it!)
  • ½ oz simple syrup
  • Cocktail Shaker
  • Muddler tool
  • 2 shots Citrus (lemon or orange) Vodka
  • ½ shot Gin
  • Ice

Foodie notes: Cilantro – you either love it or hate it, usually nothing in between. If you love it, cilantro leaves have a fresh, reviving citrus-y flavor, and with the pungent ginger and lime, well, you’re just in for a treat! If you don’t love cilantro, then maybe one of the other drinks is the better choice for your backyard relaxing.

You’ll create:
In a cocktail shaker add ¼ cup fresh cilantro leaves, lime juice, ginger, and ½ oz. simple syrup. Muddle well. Fill halfway with ice, then add 2 ounces citrus vodka (lemon or orange) and ½ oz. gin. Shake vigorously, strain into a chilled lowball glass and garnish with a slice of orange or lemon and a sprig of cilantro. You can also zest a lemon or orange peel “curly” and hang from the edge for a fresh citrus scent when you sip. Voila!

 

That’s a few ideas to get you started making some refreshing cool drinks for your end-of-summer parties, but there are so many options to use the best of your garden in tasty drinks at the end of the season. Relax, enjoy, and live a little!

Thanks for reading,

Marissa

Marissa – Writer for Shell's Feed & Garden Supply

I'm an over-educated, passionate, gardening and pet enthusiast, and I have found the perfect job! My writing is based on my studies in Biology and Health, and my experiences from gardening with my family as a child. 
The great thing about gardening is that it is a life-long learning process. The many blunders and successes of my own gardening projects over the years have been invaluable to me.  The late, great, J.C. Raulston once said, "If you're not killing plants, you're not stretching yourself as a gardener." Learn by doing, gain knowledge from the failures, but more importantly, relish the successes, (because they're delicious!)  Thanks for reading!
Special thank you to Abby's Farms, where the photo on the left was taken. Shell's Feed & Garden Supply sponsors the chickens and chicken coops there. Visit their website here.

 

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