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

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:

Don’t Be Afraid To Fail

Today, I’m going to get real, and a little personal, with you.

Today, we’ll talk about that dark shadow that lurks just outside of our visual field. That shadow is most of humanity’s deepest, darkest fears all summed up into one word: FAILURE.

You know, gardening is a lot like life. Some things you do in the garden are great successes, others not so much. Some ideas you have you might be afraid to try, for whatever reason, and other things you find it easy to ‘give it a whirl’, so to speak. Why is that?

He failed a lot…and yet, he’s remembered for his successes.

I find that the answer is pretty simple: we’re human. Our own thoughts, fears, upbringing, learned habits, and that little voice of criticism in our heads that speaks up when we don’t want it to, actually drive our actions in life, and consequently, in the garden. We do, or don’t, do something because of some emotional and intellectual math equation we do in our heads before we take (or don’t take) action.

As one of my mentors, Darren Hardy, said in his daily success mentorship video that I watched just this morning, don’t be afraid to fail. In fact, in order to reach the success you want, you need to “fail faster”. I look at it like coughing when you’re sick: just like you want to get out all that phlegm, you need to get out all that failure so that you’ve learned everything you need to know to succeed out there in the garden dirt and sunshine.

Darren Hardy, former publisher of Success Magazine where this image comes from, is just one of the many mentors I study. It helps me persevere in the face of failure.

We’re going to make it even more personal now: I’m going to confess my garden sins. Because I want you to know that even though I write blog content for a garden store, and I even teach gardening classes, I’m human. I’m not perfect. I fail often.

I think the hardest thing for me is the consistency of care that cultivating food requires. Life gets in the way, other priorities take hold of my time (for instance, content writing!), and my garden is often left to fend for itself for much longer than I’d like.

Ever walk out to find this?

Occasionally, the garden actually fails. Utter, epic failure. But much of the time, it does pretty well, I am able to get food from it, and it’s a delicious success.

You might wonder how I can neglect it and still get at least some produce that I want from it. It’s because I’ve failed miserably before, and got nothing at all from my hard work. It was painful, and disappointing, to admit defeat. I’d failed.

The AZ Plant Lady writes: Behind every green thumb is a trail of dead plants

I’ll share with you right now how I can (and how you can) build a garden that tolerates a modicum of what I like to call “benign neglect.”

Take a moment to think back to a heart-wrenching failure that you had in your gardening. Just picture it for a moment, in all its painful glory.

Failure: It Happens.

OK, ouch, that hurt. But hang on to that hurt for a second, because you don’t want history to repeat itself.

Now, I want you to keep thinking about all the stuff that happened within that failure, because trust me, it was more than one thing. If it helps you, list it out quickly on a scrap paper.

Your list might look something like this: Forgot to water, didn’t fertilize, planted lettuce outside in May in Zone 9b, weeds got out of control and covered everything.

Pardon my handwriting…

Next, I want you to take this list, and pick one thing that you can find a solution for quickly and easily.

In this example, I’m going to pick “forgot to water”. I can fix this easily by getting a sprinkler, hose, and a digital water timer. The timer will turn the water on to the sprinkler for a certain period of time every day or other day, and then shut it back off. There. You’ll no longer have to remember to water. As the days get really hot, you might have to adjust the timer, but that’s super easy to do.

Cross that one off the list. You failed, and you fixed it.

Sprinkler timers are easy to use and fix the “I forgot to water” problem!

Now, pick another one.

Planted lettuce outside in May in Zone 9b. Yep, I’ve done that one. If you wrote it like that on your list, it means that you now know better, but you wanted to tempt fate and see if you could make it work. I totally get it, I get a wild hair sometimes and want to try something that I know will probably not work out, just because. I think we humans need to feel like we can control the uncontrollable…and that fundamental need definitely comes out when we’re playing in the dirt.

But if you just wrote “planted lettuce and it died,” I want you to analyze when you planted it and how you took care of it. Something within the when and the how caused the failure. A good place to start with figuring out why something expired before you think it should have is to look at the planting charts for your agricultural hardiness zone. Also, the UF/IFAS (Extension Office) makes it pretty easy, they’ve published a garden guide online that is really useful. You can also come by the store and we can help you with our garden guides (that are based on the ag university’s chart) and knowledgeable staff.

Lettuce burned by the sun

So, all of that said, as I’ve gone back and reviewed what I did right, and more frequently, what I did wrong, applying what I have learned to hedge my bets in the garden. I’ve changed the way I prep soil. I’ve set up the watering systems to help me in case I can’t get out there. I’ve set aside time a couple times a week (OK, maybe only once a week) to pull baby weeds out of the soil so they don’t take control.

I think the most important thing I’ve learned in gardening is this: I’m comfortable with failure. As much as I love science (I have a biology degree and some medical training), I know that I cannot always beat Mother Nature.

That said, she and I enjoy an understanding. It was built on the backs of many a dead plant. The more I fail, the better my understanding, and thus the greater my successes are when they happen.

Now you know my biggest secret: I fail too. And I’m totally fine with it.

He should know….

Speaking of failure, have you ever heard of the Failure Museum? It’s in Sweden, and they highlight failures in technology over the years. I invite you to watch their video here: https://failuremuseum.com/ I think you’ll find it entertaining, with a nugget of information that you can apply to your gardening, indeed your life, right away.

I wish you the greatest successes in your Spring garden this year!

Keep Growing,

Marissa

We Are Grateful For YOU

As today is Thanksgiving, we focus on what we are grateful for.

If you were to ask me my favorite part of our business, without hesitation I would say it’s getting to interact with our local community in a real grass-roots kind of way.

Today’s blog happens to fall on Thanksgiving – and so I wanted to take the opportunity to express the gratitude of Shell’s Feed & Garden Supply on behalf of our staff family (because really, we are a family too).

Being Grateful is Uplifting

I hope you’ve seen our #21DaysOfGratitude Challenge that we’ve been doing since November 8 – 21 days to get into the habit of being grateful for what we have. It’s something I started last year, and wanted to continue. I never want to forget to take a moment to be appreciative, and that’s what this article is about today – We at Shell’s Feed & Garden Supply are grateful for YOU, our customers.

We are a local family-owned business that has been around nearly 60 years – no small feat when you really think about it – and we attribute our success to the service we provide to our customers.

But without customers to service – we wouldn’t be here at all.

We are grateful you support local businesses

Our store in the late 60s/early 70s, approximately

So, every time you come in and purchase something at Shell’s, you are supporting a local family business, all the families of the people we employ, AND keeping your money local (like your tax dollars) so that you support your community, just by shopping with us. We think that’s important.

We also realize how important having you walk through OUR doors really is, and that is why we work so hard to make it a pleasant experience, each and every time. You chose us, and we don’t take that lightly.

Shell’s Feed & Garden Supply as it stands today.

From picking up some food for your dog, taking care of a pesky pest problem, to bringing home a new flock of chickens, we’ll make sure you have everything you need to accomplish your goals. If there’s something we don’t carry, we don’t mind referring you to our neighbors for certain things, as our neighbors send us people when they don’t have something you need.

“I like all the treats by the register, Mom – so much to sniff!”

We are grateful for the opportunity to help you problem-solve

We take the time to learn about what you’re trying to do, if you’re willing to share it with us. If there’s other products that might do it better, we’ll tell you. If you’re wanting to use something that won’t do what you are wanting it to do, we’ll tell you. And if you have a handful of things you bring to the register to fix a problem and you only really need one of them, we’ll tell you.

Why do we take the time to do that? Because we’re here to help. We want you to remember us the next time you need help with something, and come back. More importantly we want you to tell all your friends and family about us so they will come see us too.

See, that’s why YOU are so important to us. We want to help you accomplish what you need to get done as simply as possible, so that you’ll tell others that you had a great experience.

We are grateful for our longevity in the community

We are so much more than a farm feed store, which was our humble beginnings nearly 60 years ago. Garden supplies are huge source of enjoyment for us, especially live plants, the Earthbox line, and growing soils like Happy Frog Potting Soil (it’s so awesome).

Earthbox Standard with staking system growing tomatoes.

Our variety of pet supplies is pretty massive, too, not just the supplies for dogs and cats but all the exotics (like chinchillas, sugar gliders), rodents (like hamsters, guinea pigs), birds (like finches, parrots), wild birds, even some fish and reptile supplies too.

And don’t forget that we have live chickens and rabbits, and stuff for farm animals. We love it when people bring their kids to see the fuzzy wiggle nosed bunnies and the fluffy little peepers.

Stop in to see our live chickens & rabbits!

We are grateful for your friendship & patronage

We appreciate it when you stop in for supplies, or just to say hello to our friendly staff. We love it when you trust us for our knowledge to help you out, and we love being able to help you out to your car with your heavy items. It’s what we do, because we are thankful that you chose us. Carrying a heavy load to your car is the least we can do.

So, while we are closed today, Thanksgiving Day, so that we can be with our families – and we hope you are with yours too – we’ll be here for you when you’re ready to come in for your next dog food order, bale of hay, some veggie plants, or that one thing you need that no one else carries.

We are grateful for your support

We are truly grateful for you. Because of you we can continue to serve this community, and Tampa Bay at large. And that’s just the way we like it.

If you’re thankful for us too, please pay us the greatest compliment by telling the people you know about us. Your referral is the best gift we can ever receive from our customers. For those of you who already do that – thank you.

Happy Thanksgiving from our family to yours.

We’ll see you soon!

Sincerely,

Marissa

Holiday Recipes Shared By You

As we prepare for Thanksgiving (just 2 weeks away from today!) I wanted to share some yummy treats from our family, and also some of the ones you shared with us from last Sunday’s (11/10) Sunday Survey Facebook post where I asked for your favorite Thanksgiving recipes!

I love this season – we get some cool mornings, I might get to wear a sweater once in awhile, maybe even boots…and I love food. I love to cook for entertaining and trying new things too, like the easy and delicious appetizer I made last night for a girls night get together (don’t worry, I shared it with you below!).

So, here’s some great recipes from our community, reprinted here from that Facebook post, and a couple of my own, too.

SAVORY HERB STUFFING

From our friend and AMAZING Earthbox aficionado Susan Roghair comes this great Stuffing recipe! It’s vegetarian, and looks delicious!

Savory Herb Stuffing. Photo Credit: Susan Roghair

Ingredients:

1 large loaf whole-grain bread
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup yellow onion, diced
1 cup red onion, diced
1 1/2 cups celery, diced
1/4 cup fresh sage, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped
1/3 cup flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped
1/4 teaspoon black crushed pepper
1 1/2 cups of clear vegetable broth

Instructions:

The night before, cube your bread and set it in a large bowl to dry out. You want it to be the texture of day old bread, noticeably dry but not rock hard.
 You can also dehydrate it in a dehydrator if you prefer.

Bread cubes!

Preheat oven to 350F.

Lightly rub oil on a 11 x 7 x 2 glass loaf dish.

Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large skillet over medium high heat, and add the onions, celery, sage, thyme and rosemary. Cover and cook until tender about 14 minutes.

Transfer mixture to a bowl and add the parsley, black pepper, bread cubes, vegetable broth and 2 tablespoons olive oil. Mix well.

Transfer stuffing to prepared baking dish, cover with foil and bake for 40 minutes.

Uncover and bake an additional 20 minutes or until top is crisp and golden.

REAL MASHED POTATOES

Long-time customer Norma Doyle said that her favorite recipe is mashed potatoes – the real ones.

Yukon Gold Mashed Potatoes. Photo Credit: SimplyRecipes

The recipe is simple: Yukon Gold Potatoes (skin off or skin kept, whatever you like), cubed, boiled until soft, and mashed with a mix of half cream and half butter until you get the consistency you want.

Yukon Gold Potatoes

I would add to that salt and pepper to taste. You could also add roasted garlic (look at my recipe next!) and have garlic mashed potatoes!

OVEN ROASTED GARLIC

This is one of my favorite flavors – roasted garlic – and this is my recipe for making it. It is so versatile – once the garlic is roasted, it becomes soft like butter. You can spread it on bread with butter to make garlic toast. You can spread it across the top of a perfectly grilled steak, or add it to your mashed potatoes! So good!

Roasted Garlic in the foil pack. Photo Credit: Delish

Ingredients:

Whole Garlic Bulbs
Olive Oil to Drizzle

Instructions:

Preheat your oven to 400F. On a cutting board, hold your garlic bulb on it’s side. With a very sharp chef’s knife (not serrated, a flat blade – trust me, less mess that way), cut off the top 1/4 to 1/3 of the bulb at the growing end tips (not the root end). Put those cuttings aside for a moment. Place your bulbs on an aluminum foil sheet clustered in the center, root end down, leaving enough foil to be able to wrap around them and make a pouch. You can also use a baking dish, just extend the baking time by about 5-10 minutes. Pull any pieces of garlic clove tips out of the garlic skins that you cut off earlier and place them in with the bulbs, discarding or composting the garlic “paper” husks.

Drizzle olive oil generously over the bulbs. Wrap up the aluminum foil to make a pouch, and close it (or tightly cover the baking dish with foil). Place foil on a cookie sheet and put in the oven (or just set the baking dish in the oven) for at least 45 minutes, I prefer 50 minutes (remember, add 5-10 minutes for a baking dish). The enclosed pouch with steam heat AND roast the garlic at the same time. When time is up, take out the cookie sheet/dish and allow to cool enough to touch the garlic (you can vent the aluminum foil to help the cooling process).

Next, in a bowl with a lid for storage (because it’s garlic I recommend glass!) take each bulb and squeeze each clove to remove the roasted garlic inside and put it into the bowl. The garlic should be a golden yellow and be very soft. Continue to squeeze out all of the garlic from the bulb husks. Finally from the aluminum foil pouch, empty as much of the leftover oil as you can into the bowl with the garlic. Store the bowl of garlic and oil in the refrigerator and use as needed. Discard or compost the now empty garlic bulb husks.

There are so many uses for this garlic – in other recipes like mashed potatoes, as a spread, as flavoring for your favorite saute dishes, to put in soups…really the possibilities are endless. It is my FAVORITE way to eat garlic. And during this time of year when catching colds is very prominent, garlic can help you stay well – so keep eating it!

CRANBERRY APPLE CRUMBLE

From our customer Carolyn Albertson, here’s a versatile dish that can be breakfast or dessert or a side dish with dinner! Yum!

Cranberry Apple Crumble. Photo Credit: Country Living

Ingredients:

Filling: 3 cups chopped mixed apples
2 cups fresh cranberries
1 cup sugar
Topping: 1 stick butter, softened; plus extra butter to coat the baking dish
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup flour
3/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups quick oats
1/2 cup chopped pecans

Instructions:

Apples, cranberries, sugar – easy!
Photo Credit: Dash of Jazz

Mix filling ingredients and place in buttered 1 1/2 qt casserole dish. Topping: Combine 1 stick softened butter, 1/2 cup brown sugar, 1/3 cup flour, 3/4 tsp salt, 1 1/2 cup quick cook oats, 1/2 cup chopped pecans. Crumble on top of the apple/cranberry mixture. Bake at 350 for an hour or until bubbly.

Carolyn notes: “we love the topping so much, we tend to make a double batch so it is like granola on top.” Also an Editor’s note, you can remove the nuts for nut allergies and such.

BRIE & JAM PUFF PASTRY BITES

My awesome neighbor Kelley (from SimpliAIR A/C) and I made this one last night before we headed off for a get together with friends, and it was a hit! The original recipe called for just Fig Jam, which I used, but I also mixed it up and made some with other ingredients too, such as a piece of fresh apple instead of jam, some I made with Apricot Jam, and some I made with Lemon Curd. Oh holy moly they were SO GOOD! Don’t expect them to last. In fact, you might just plan for doubling this recipe.

Brie & Jam Puff Pastry Bites. Photo Credit: MyRecipes

Ingredients:

1 Frozen Puff Pastry Sheet (17.3oz package) or 1 Crescent Roll Pastry Sheet
Fig, Apricot, or whatever jam you like (feel free to mix it up!)
1 wheel of brie cheese
Flour to coat surface of dough cutting board and top of dough to keep rolling pin from sticking

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 400F. On your cutting/dough rolling board, sprinkle some flour. Unroll your puff pastry or crescent roll pastry sheet and place on the board. Flour the top and your rolling pin and roll to a size of 10″ x 10″ square. Cut square into quarters, then cut each of those pieces into quarters again, making sixteen 2.5″ squares.

With a fork, poke holes into the pastry dough squares about 8 times per square, try to evenly space them (don’t get all exact about it, just poke holes all over the squares). Then, in a NONSTICK mini muffin pan, lay each square across an muffin cup, and gently press down the pastry dough into the cup, allowing the corners of the squares to lay up over the edges of the cups. If your pan tends to stick, probably a good idea to spray some nonstick oil onto the pan first, or use butter and flour to coat the cups.

Left: dough pressed into muffin cups (instructions above). Right: First baking of dough AND Brie cheese added before second baking (instructions below). Photo Credit: Whitney Bond

Bake the cups for 8 minutes. Remove them from the oven, and take a spoon or the rounded handle end of silverware or steak knife and push down the center of your pastry cups to make room for the cheese and fruit topping. Then, once you’ve made some space, add a teaspoon of brie cheese and a teaspoon of whichever toppings you like (jam, fresh fruit, fruit curd, etc). and bake for another 6-8 minutes (in my oven it was about 7 minutes, it would have been OK at 6). You want the cheese to be bubbly and the points on the cups to be dark golden brown.

Left: Jam of your choice or other topping added to cups before second baking (instructions above). Right: Second baking of cups to make them golden (I like my pastry even darker than this) Photo Credit: Whitney Bond

ALLOW THE CUPS TO COOL BEFORE REMOVING THEM FROM THE PAN. You don’t want the yummy stuff to run out of the pastry cups. Once the cheese and toppings have “hardened” back up, gently work the cups loose from the pan and place on your platter to serve (or your dish to transport to the party!). Enjoy!

Well, that’s the recipes I wanted to share with all of you, from some of our customers, and from myself too. I had a lot of fun with this one (because I’m a foodie), and they all sound amazing! I’m probably going to make all of them.

Oh! I almost forgot, there is also a previous article with some Fall-time recipes here if you’d like to check it out!

Thank you for reading, and see you next time!

Sincerely,

Marissa

Gardening – it’s a Family Affair; A Tribute to Mark Govan

Our world was rocked this week by some very tragic news. One of our local gardening legends, Mark Govan, has passed away. In the wake of this terrible loss, and in his honor, I am going to depart from my usual article format to bring you something a little more personal and heartfelt.

A Tribute to Mark Govan

Mark Govan and Shell’s Feed & Garden Supply have a long history. He’s been promoting us for many years, we’ve been paying advertisers on his radio show for a long time, and we have referred people to back to him for years. You could say we are “superfans” of Mark’s.

Our store had just resumed advertising on the Florida Gardening Radio show in the last few months. We wanted to support Mark somehow after the media conglomerate cancelled his show right near the 25 year mark, but we weren’t sure how to do it. After David Graham of Graham Capital Advisors purchased the show (thank you David! Mark was SO thrilled!), we knew we could be on the air with Mark again. We were so excited, and to celebrate I made a whole new ad campaign around it (see image below).

Part of our awesome ad campaign for our support of Mark’s 25-years-and-running show, Florida Gardening Radio.

In fact, Mark and I had just corresponded last week about upcoming shows, and now he’s just…gone. Just like that.

This sad turn of events has made me pause from many of my normal marketing duties for Shell’s Feed. Mr. Shell and I are both pretty shaken up, and honestly, it has made us both realize that sometimes the stuff we get all uptight about around the store doesn’t actually matter. It doesn’t matter at all.

Further, Mark’s passing has made me think: “If I were to be gone tomorrow, what would I want my legacy to be?” I’m not sure if most people even think about that. Maybe you do. If you have thoughts about your legacy, or what you feel Mark’s legacy is to all of us, I’d love to hear it, please feel free to leave a comment on this article.

You see, we here at Shell’s are a family business, just like Mark’s business at ABC Pest Control and BuyPlumerias.com. Just this Spring I purchased two beautiful plumerias from Mark at the USF Spring Plant Sale at the Botanical Gardens. And just a couple weeks ago, I thoroughly enjoyed listening to Mark’s daughter as she was having fun being the in-studio guest on his show. It was great listening to their relationship play out on the air.

Families Find Strength in Each Other

So, now I am thinking about how a family finds the strength to carry on when the Patriarch (or when a Matriarch) has moved into the next phase of existence. How does a family keep going after losing someone so dear, who is missed so much?

I’m sure it’s different for everyone. But for me, it’s the memories.

Mark will continue to be present in every life that he touched through his companies, and through his 25 years giving great garden advice and providing great educational content on the radio. Many people have ‘garden hacks’ they learned from Mark. Many more have learned to troubleshoot their garden issues from his advice. He lives on through these lessons, and the knowledge he freely and happily shared with others.

Mark Govan at the helm during his 25-year run as host of the Florida Gardening Show.

I had a Gardening Dad, Too

This sad event also makes me think of my biggest influence in gardening, my Dad, who passed away when I was a teenager. If you’ve heard me speak, or even read some of my early blog entries, I talk about my Dad being a ‘subsistence farmer’. He didn’t think of it that way, he called it survival. He grew food to eat, because food is expensive.

My Daddy, before he went to Vietnam.

I still do some things today the way Dad did them back then…it’s been nearly 3 decades since he was around to share his knowledge. I still have his books on gardening. I still have all the memories of digging in the dirt, of eating tomatoes before they made it into the house, with the raised eyebrow of my Mema when she would catch me. In my mind’s eye I can still see the way the garden was set up, and the layout of his whole homestead property.

So, I carry on what I learned from my Dad just by continuing to garden. It’s how I remember him. I’d like to think he’d be proud of me.

I don’t have very many pictures of my Dad, but when I was a kid this was often how we spent our time, nestled in a recliner with our Dachsund keeping us warm. I still remember it.

Looking to the Future

I know that ABC Pest Control is going strong, and they will continue helping people in his tradition, because I know that is what Mark would have wanted. And I know that Mark’s family will continue helping people and providing great service just like Mark did all those years. It’s all in the family, this practice of helping people.

I would imagine Mark would have wanted for us to remember him by making our little corners of the world more beautiful through gardening.

So, Mark, this is our fond farewell. Sunday mornings won’t ever be the same without you.

Thank you for all you did for the gardening community here in Tampa Bay, and in Florida. You will be missed, but never forgotten.

We’re all still learning from you. May it always be so.

Sincerely,

Marissa

P.S. This Saturday’s Monthly Community Seed Swap is 9am-10:30am and if anyone would like to come and talk about Mark and share advice he’s given you over the years through his show I’m happy to do so.

Solving the Garden Aisle of Mystery, Part 1: What Soil Amendments Do

If you’ve been to our store, you know that in our garden amendments section we have LOTS of bags and bottles of stuff with funny names, maybe even funny smells, and not a lot of information written on them. I call it the “Garden Aisle of Mystery,” even in my own store.

Here’s part of the Garden Aisle of Mystery…

I know that this section of our store, or any garden store really, can be kind of intimidating, and I want to fix that! So, I’m writing this series as a reference for you. This is the very first of a “mostly monthly” series I want to do to help you figure out what you might need for your lawn, landscape, and/or garden.

So, I’m going to go “mostly alphabetical” as I name and describe a few items per Episode. As I move forward I will probably do some video snippets to embed here on the website as a useful visual guide. Until then, well, you’re stuck with my writing and pictures. If you want some more quick definitions, check out our Garden Glossary.

DISCLAIMER: Before you read about a product and just guess that your lawn, garden, and/or landscape need something, I urge you to take the necessary proper steps: 1) have your soil tested, either with a test kit or through your local UF IFAS County Extension Office; 2) make sure that your plants really have the issue you think they have before treating with anything. We can help.

Agricultural Limestone

Also called Calcific Limestone (which has less magnesium than other ag limestones), Dolomite, Dolomitic Lime, Ag Lime, Garden Lime – Agricultural Limestone is a powdery substance made of pulverized limestone. Limestone is mainly made up of Calcium Carbonate, but can also include Calcium Oxide, Magnesium Oxide, and Magnesium Carbonate.

Agricultural Limestone is used in soil to counteract acidity for plants that need a more neutral or alkaline soil to absorb nutrients. It increased the pH to make the soil more alkaline. Some plants require alkalinity or neutral pH to take up water and nutrients through the root systems. Also, for plants such as hydrangeas, often the pH of the soil dictates what colors the flowers will be.

In vegetable gardening, Agricultural Limestone is used to help combat diseases such as Blossom End Rot. This problem is very common in tomatoes and peppers where the soil does not have sufficient calcium and/or magnesium to complete the transformation of the flower into the fruit.

Blossom End Rot in Tomatoes

Blossom end rot is not your friend, make sure you add lime to your beds with veggies!!

Aluminum Sulfate

Aluminum Sulfate, as with most powdered sulfur compounds, will decrease the pH of soil making it more acidic. This is useful when the soil is already too alkaline for the type of plants you want to plant in a particular place.

Aluminum Sulfate can be used for plants that like acidity, such has roses, blueberries, azaleas, rhododendrons, and blackberries or raspberries. Also, again with hydrangeas, it will change the color of the flowers. It is an acidifier that doesn’t have to break down to provide the acidity. The pH will change instantly once it’s added to the soil.

Acid loving plants: Hydrangeas (left), and Azaleas (right).

This amendment should be worked into the top 6″ of soil with a shovel or rototiller for best results, and if you’re planting a lot of plants that require acidity in an area you can add it to the whole area to instantly provide the acidity the plants will need.

Ammonium Nitrate

Ammonium Nitrate fertilizer (the link will not work during the City of Tampa fertilizer ban June 1 – September 30)

You know on regular bags of fertilizer there’s that 3-digit listing on the front, like 12-6-8 or 3-3-3? That’s your N-P-K indication required on all fertilizers. N = Nitrogen, P = Phophorus, K = Potassium.

Ammonium Nitrate is pretty much straight up Nitrogen. It gives your plants a boost when it’s bloom time and fruiting time. Plants use nitrogen to grow leaves and flowers and fruits.

Plants need nitrogen to grow – it’s in Chlorophyll which is the essential tool for photosynthesis, and it’s in plant proteins too.

This is also one of the things that we cannot sell during the June-September fertilizer ban because it will wash out of the soil and into our beautiful Tampa Bay and Gulf of Mexico during summer rains.

If you’re needing some nitrogen in this form, we’ll have it back on the shelves by October 1. In the meantime we have other organic solutions for you that are not subject to the City of Tampa’s fertilizer ban. Just ask us, we’ll help you out.

Blood Meal

Blood meal is exactly what it sounds like. Blood from animals is dried into a powder. It is an excellent source of nitrogen and iron , and works as a soil acidifier too.

It is a dry powder because it is dehydrated, meaning all liquid is removed.

There are alternatives to blood meal, namely alfalfa meal and feather meal, which are also exactly what they sound like – ground alfalfa and ground feathers.

Bone Meal

Bone meal is dried and pulverized bones from animals (and/or fish). When used in vegetable gardening it increases the flowering of the plants very quickly.

This is because bone meal is a great source of Phosphorus (the P in NPK), which is necessary to make flowers.

Profusely blooming Echinacea (purple cone flowers)

Alternatives to this are soft rock phosphate, urine, and manure. Manure will have to break down before it can offer phosphate, but bone meal, soft rock phosphate and urine all have it immediately available.

I know, I know, you’re thinking “urine, that can’t be right” but I promise, you read it correctly. If you can get over the possible “ick” factor you’re feeling right now, fresh urine is high in nitrogen, moderate in phosphorus and low in potassium and can act as an excellent high-nitrogen liquid fertilizer or as a compost accelerator.

So go ahead, pee in the garden! (C’mon, I had to say it, how often does anyone get to say it?)

A beautiful garden is made up of many things…

Alright, that’s what I’ve got for this blog. I’ll go over more of the items in my Solving the Aisle of Mystery series as we move forward in time, so stay tuned for that.

In the meantime if you have questions about something on our shelves, don’t hesitate to ask.

Let’s keep growing!

Marissa

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