KAYTEE FIESTA COCKATIEL 4.5 LB BAG

KAYTEE FIESTA COCKATIEL 4.5 LB BAG  

Kaytee Fiesta Cockatiel Food is a nutritionally fortified gourmet diet made of a premium blend of fruits, vegetables, seeds and grains offering maximum variety, fun and nutrition for pet birds. Fiesta contains prebiotics and probiotics to support digestive health and is formulated with your bird species in mind.

Kaytee understands that sharing your life with a pet bird is not only enjoyable but very enriching. Kaytee shows our love by ensuring we provide your pet bird with the best nutrition for a long and healthy life. With over 150 years of nutritional experience, it’s no wonder why Kaytee is at the heart of every healthy feeding routine.  

  • Omega 3’s to support Brain and Heart Health
  • Enhances Skin & Feather health for vibrant, healthy plumage
  • Assorted fruits, veggies, shapes and textures to provide enrichment and mental stimulation
  • Prebiotics and probiotics to support digestive health
  • Naturally preserved for ideal freshness


KAYTEE FIESTA PARAKEET FOOD 4.5 LB BAG

KAYTEE FIESTA PARAKEET FOOD 4.5 LB BAG  

Kaytee Fiesta Parakeet food is a nutritionally fortified gourmet diet made of a premium blend of fruits, vegetables, seeds and grains offering maximum variety, fun and nutrition for pet birds. Fiesta contains prebiotics and probiotics to support digestive health and is formulated with your bird species in mind.

Kaytee understands that sharing your life with a pet bird is not only enjoyable but very enriching. Kaytee shows our love by ensuring we provide your pet bird with the best nutrition for a long and healthy life. With over 150 years of nutritional experience, it’s no wonder why Kaytee is at the heart of every healthy feeding routine.  

  • Omega 3’s to support Brain and Heart Health
  • Enhances Skin & Feather health for vibrant, healthy plumage
  • Assorted fruits, veggies, shapes, and textures to provide enrichment and mental stimulation
  • Prebiotics and probiotics to support digestive health
  • Naturally preserved for ideal freshness

SEE KAYTEE.COM FOR FURTHER PRODUCTS FEEDING AND USAGE INFORMATION.

KAYTEE FIESTA COCKATIEL 2.5 LB BAG

KAYTEE FIESTA COCKATIEL 2.5 LB BAG  

Kaytee Fiesta Cockatiel Food is a nutritionally fortified gourmet diet made of a premium blend of fruits, vegetables, seeds and grains offering maximum variety, fun and nutrition for pet birds. Fiesta contains prebiotics and probiotics to support digestive health and is formulated with your bird species in mind.

Kaytee understands that sharing your life with a pet bird is not only enjoyable but very enriching. Kaytee shows our love by ensuring we provide your pet bird with the best nutrition for a long and healthy life. With over 150 years of nutritional experience, it’s no wonder why Kaytee is at the heart of every healthy feeding routine.  

  • Omega 3’s to support Brain and Heart Health
  • Enhances Skin & Feather health for vibrant, healthy plumage
  • Assorted fruits, veggies, shapes and textures to provide enrichment and mental stimulation
  • Prebiotics and probiotics to support digestive health
  • Naturally preserved for ideal freshness
SEE KAYTEE.COM FOR MORE ABOUT FEEDING AMOUNT, INSTRUCTIONS, AND OTHER PRODUCT INFORMATION.


KAYTEE FIESTA PARAKEET FOOD 2 LB BAG

KAYTEE FIESTA PARAKEET FOOD 2 LB BAG  

Kaytee Fiesta Parakeet food is a nutritionally fortified gourmet diet made of a premium blend of fruits, vegetables, seeds and grains offering maximum variety, fun and nutrition for pet birds. Fiesta contains prebiotics and probiotics to support digestive health and is formulated with your bird species in mind.

Kaytee understands that sharing your life with a pet bird is not only enjoyable but very enriching. Kaytee shows our love by ensuring we provide your pet bird with the best nutrition for a long and healthy life. With over 150 years of nutritional experience, it’s no wonder why Kaytee is at the heart of every healthy feeding routine.  

  • Omega 3’s to support Brain and Heart Health
  • Enhances Skin & Feather health for vibrant, healthy plumage
  • Assorted fruits, veggies, shapes and textures to provide enrichment and mental stimulation
  • Prebiotics and probiotics to support digestive health
  • Naturally preserved for ideal freshness  
SEE KAYTEE.COM FOR FURTHER INFORMATION ON FEEDING AMOUNTS, INSTRUCTIONS, AND OTHER PRODUCT INFORMATION.


KAYTEE FIESTA CANARY FINCH FOOD 2 LB BAG

KAYTEE FIESTA CANARY FINCH FOOD 2 LB BAG  

Kaytee Fiesta Canary and Finch food is a nutritionally fortified gourmet diet made of a premium blend of fruits, vegetables, seeds and grains offering maximum variety, fun and nutrition for pet birds. Fiesta contains prebiotics and probiotics to support digestive health and is formulated with your bird species in mind.

Kaytee understands that sharing your life with a pet bird is not only enjoyable but very enriching. Kaytee shows our love by ensuring we provide your pet bird with the best nutrition for a long and healthy life. With over 150 years of nutritional experience, it’s no wonder why Kaytee is at the heart of every healthy feeding routine.  

  • Omega 3’s to support Brain and Heart Health
  • Enhances Skin & Feather health for vibrant, healthy plumage
  • Assorted fruits, veggies, shapes and textures to provide enrichment and mental stimulation
  • Prebiotics and probiotics to support digestive health
  • Naturally preserved for ideal freshness
SEE KAYTEE.COM FOR USAGE INFORMATION.


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! [email protected]

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.

 

API BETTA FOOD .78 OZ

API BETTA FOOD .78 OZ

Feed your Betta fish a protein-rich diet scientifically formulated to promote healthy growth and cleaner, clearer water with API BETTA FOOD Fish Food Pellet. Overfeeding, low palatability and low quality lead to unconsumed or poorly digested food which causes waste and raises ammonia levels. High levels of ammonia are toxic to fish and can cause gill damage, stress, illness and death. API BETTA FOOD is a complete and balanced diet ideal for Betta Fish with vibrant colors. API Fish Food contain nutritionally-enhanced protein for maximum digestion and produce up to 30% less ammonia. The more nutrients your fish digests, the less waste and ammonia are released, leaving cleaner, clearer water. Feed twice a day, and provide only as much as your fish will eat within three minutes.

  • Contains key nutrients that enhance the vibrant color and overall health of betta fish.
  • Floating pellets are easily digested for maximum absorption.
  • Bettas release up to 30% less toxic ammonia, resulting in cleaner, clearer water.

KAYTEE FIESTA GUINEA PIG 4.5LB BAG

KAYTEE FIESTA GUINEA PIG 4.5LB BAG

Feed your Guinea Pig a delicious, fiesta-inspired blend of fruits, vegetables, seed and grains with Kaytee Fiesta Gourmet Variety Diet Guinea Pig Food. Guinea Pigs love variety in their diet and enjoy foraging for food that has different shapes, colors and textures. They also need hay for proper digestion. Kaytee Fiesta Gourmet Variety Diet Guinea Pig Food offers more variety than before with a blend of ingredients including sun-cured alfalfa hay, corn, sunflower, peas, carrots, peanuts, banana and more. And it contains prebiotics and probiotics for better digestion for a nutritionally complete, gourmet food.

Key Benefits

  • Naturally preserved for optimum freshness with no artificial colors or flavors
  • Ingredients are specially formulated for guinea pigs
  • Each morsel is highly palatable with a an easy-to-eat texture
  • A complete diet that helps ensure proper nutrition for a healthy immune system and growth
  • DHA and Omega-3 supports healthy heart, brain and eye function

Precautions

Manufactured in a facility that processes peanuts and tree nuts. Not intended for human consumption. 


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.

 

Growing Florida Strawberries in Containers: The Pro Edition

Growing Florida Strawberries in Containers: The Pro Edition
By Marissa

We know that when it comes to gardening in Florida, so many people are gardening in very small spaces, like balconies, patios, or tiny yards. We like to call this urban farming!

Container gardening makes growing food easier in so many ways, but in other aspects growing in containers presents its own challenges. In my opinion, the challenges are easy to overcome, and the benefits far outweigh the extra little things you have to plan for to be successful at growing food in containers. If you know how to approach it right, containers can make some things possible to grow at home that you haven’t before.

Growing these tasty berries can be possible wherever you have space and 8 hours of sunshine! Actually, many of these tips can be used to grow any food or edible plants in containers too. We talked with Rob Clemons from Bob’s Berries in Riverview for some extra great info from an all-natural organic berry farmer so that you have the best foot forward to get your own berries at home.

A Little About Strawberries

In our previous strawberry article, we talked about how to prep and plant delicious strawberries in the Florida climate – complete with a few extra tips and tricks from our own gardens. Much of what we have to talk about here is the same, but tweaked for container life.

Strawberries are hardy little plants. The plant itself is an herb, and the berries are fruit, of course. Strawberries are the only fruit that have seeds on the outside of the skin!

Why Plant in Fall?

As you know, temperatures during the Spring and Summer in Florida are REALLY warm. Strawberry plants are prone to heat intolerance – they just don’t handle the stifling 90+ degree days that we have during that time very well. They wilt from the water evaporation out of the soil, and the leaves burn from the sun. That’s no way to treat a friend, right?

Fall is the answer. The weather is still warm for the planting phase when roots and leaves are developing. Declining temperatures as the Fall season cools off keep them from burning, and pests are less active. It’s the perfect time of year for your plants to treat you with delicious fruit..

Why Plant in Containers?

Container growing has several advantages to make homegrown strawberries and fruits possible:

  • Less weeds to pull – plus you can easily cover the soil to keep weeds out.
  • Less pests to deal with.
  • You can monitor their sun exposure and easily move them if they get too much, or too little. It’s so much simpler to pick up and move a pot than your whole garden!
  • You completely control their root ecosystem: soil, water and food – all the things that they require to live and thrive.
  • You can move the plants when a freeze is predicted to protect them from freeze damage, too. There is a blog article in our archives about protecting from a freeze here.
  • Native soils can carry diseases and/or organisms that cause damage to the plants, so containers with new soil protect them from these problems.

On the other hand, there can also be challenges to overcome:

  • Containers tend to drain faster than the ground, so you may need to water more often.
  • Containers cannot dissipate heat as well as the ground, so the roots get hotter than plants in the ground, especially if the container attracts and holds heat (like concrete). The same goes for cold temperatures, too.
  • In general, container plants need more food than plants in the ground, so ensuring that they keep producing will require a little more maintenance than ground beds.
  • Native soils can carry beneficial microbes that help the plant take in nutrients more efficiently, which the soil in containers won’t have (unless you add them!).

To container plant or not to container plant? Really, it’s up to you. What’s that old saying? You don’t know until you try it.

What could be a container for a strawberry plant?

There are LOTS of kinds of containers out there, for sure. There are so many varieties I’ve seen work just fine, so it comes up to your choice:

Much of your decision on container type depends on what you want to do with your plants. Consider things like how many plants you are growing, where they will be growing, and if you know you need to move them, how big they can be to be able to lift them when they are filled with wet dirt.

Of course, some containers, like the “gutter growers” shown are meant to be set up like long racks of plants and left in place. The berries cascade over the sides, making growing virtually weed-free and picking really easy. This is how Rob Clemons of Bob’s Berries does his U-Pick strawberry area, and he has great success with the system that he has built – all chemical and pesticide free! It’s so exciting to see his farm, I highly recommend a visit for strawberry or blueberry picking! His strawberries are so delicious we were hungry for all his tips and hints for growing the best fruit, including and beyond container tips.

How many should I plant in my container?

You will want to make sure you don’t overcrowd your strawberries. In an Earthbox, for example, it is recommended to grow only 6 plants in that space so that the root balls can extend enough to get all the nutrition they need to grow flowers and eventually fruit. I would recommend that if you have a 1 gallon pot, for example, you only grow a maximum of 1 plant in that pot, maybe 2 if you feed them enough. An Earthbox holds close to 2.5 cubic feet of soil, which is more than plenty for 6 plants.

Strawberry jars with gaps on the sides make it easy – plant one plant per gap in the side and two in the top.

If you have questions about how many to plant in a pot you already have, reach out to us, we’ll be happy to answer your questions so that you’re set up for strawberry success.

What kind of soil should I use in my containers?

We asked Rob from Bob’s Berries a few questions about how he plants his strawberries:

“Drainage is the most important factor in strawberry growing in general. It is important that they are well watered and that water doesn’t sit around at the root zone. They are very susceptible to root rot.”

When I inspected his growing medium I saw that pine bark made up a lot of it, so I think that’s a good tip too! Pine bark provides good drainage, and it breaks down fast to provide a growing medium to anchor roots to as well.

How do I feed and water my strawberries in containers?

Because most containers are watered from the top, and the water flows down and out of the drainage holes, fertilizer in the soil tends to deplete quickly. You have several options for fertilizing your strawberries. These tips are based on a 1 gallon pot, so adjust the amounts for larger containers:

  • Mix some in the soil at planting time – I recommend a small handful or trowel-full of slow-release fertilizer for mixing into the soil, so that your plants have some sustained food available through most of the initial growth and development stage.
  • Mix a palmful into the top inch or two of soil when the plant starts to flower.
  • Mix a palmful into the top inch or two of soil when the plant starts to fruit.

Your plant will probably go through several cycles of flowering and fruiting, make sure they are fed well during these times like the above steps for great sweet strawberries throughout the season.

Rob shared the following tips about feeding as well:

“Initially it is important to feed plenty of nitrogen and phosphorus to help it grow nice green foliage and strong roots” (Tiger Bloom from FoxFarm has this high phosphorus NPK profile and can be really helpful!). Then you want to go to a fertilizer with high potassium like a liquid kelp to aid in flower and fruit production. Many growers stray away from nitrogen during fruit production because it makes the berries soft and not well suited for packing and shipping but if you’re not doing anything like that, it’s totally fine to continue feeding low doses of nitrogen throughout. Micro nutrients are also very important and will increase mineral density and thus make the fruit sweeter.”

If you are working with the Earthbox, it has its own planting guide. It’s a sub-irrigation grower, which means it’s watered from the bottom and has its own set of rules. We recommend Shell’s Strawberry Fertilizer for Earthbox planting. We love Earthboxes, and if you ever want to know anything about them, just ask. And keep a look out for the Earthbox class we’ll have in the Spring and the Fall (the one for this year already happened – and it was great fun!).

How do I keep pests away?

We asked Rob for his regimen, since his berry garden is all-natural. He advised:

“Aphids, army worms, and crown borers are voracious and detrimental to the health of young plants. For that reason it’s a good idea to use a broad spectrum pesticide on a regular basis until they are well established. We like to alternate neem oil and BT to keep these issues at bay throughout the first month of planting.”

If you’re wanting to see more from Bob’s Berries, check out their website. He wanted our readers to know:

“We are an all chemical and pesticide free farm using only natural products and organic fertilizers. We hope to begin harvesting strawberries around January and through the use of shade cloth, continue harvesting until end of April. At that point blueberry season will be upon us which will last until end of May.”

Any extra tips?

Sure, there’s lots. Definitely more than we can print here. But we’re always happy to answer questions if you have them.

We have a Strawberry growers guide available at the store, and for those of you who ordered your plug plants from us you’ll get a guide when you pick up your order. If you didn’t order from us, well, I’m sure we can still find one for you.

Also, I think you should know that most of the time, your very first berries from your new plants will be a bit deformed. That is totally normal. They’re called “monkey-face” berries because often they look like little chimpanzee faces. Not always of course. You might see a totally different animal…or maybe your sibling…when you look at your berries. They’re still tasty, though, so enjoy them despite their looks!

 

Have fun with gardening – the rewards are so very sweet!

Thanks,

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.

 

“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

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?

Below you’ll find 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 Fall & 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.


Lots of these plants grow GREAT in an Earthbox!

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!

Want to know more about growing great food easily in an Earthbox?

Lucky for you, Shell’s Feed & Garden Supply is Tampa’s Earthbox Authority. We have the best prices & greatest selection of Earthboxes in Tampa!

We also have a fantastic teacher, Susan Roghair, who will show you all the Earthbox growing tips & tricks, all in one class!

Fall 2019 class dates are:
September 21, 2019, 12:30pm
October 5, 2019 at 12:30pm

Classes are limited to 20 seats, so make sure you get your tickets – only $15 each! Bring a friend, and grow together!

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


I encourage you to get growing, and have FUN!

Happy Gardening!

Marissa

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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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