I love to garden during autumn in Florida. Fewer bugs, lower temperatures and humidity make it much more comfortable to work in the Florida garden. The only thing that I do not like about fall and winter gardening in Florida is that darkness falls so much earlier with the time change and all that it is dark by the time I arrive home from work. I know some people garden by the moon, but I end-up resorting to gardening by flashlight and yard light. I wonder how a pair of night vision goggles would work. I did see a cool hat in Lowes for $19.99 that had 4 bright white LEDs built into the rim. Hmm.
While it is true that there are generally fewer bugs this time of the year, beware of sudden infestations of whiteflies and aphids following temperature shifts from cool weather back to warmer weather. Both of these plant juice sucking insects can do major damage to you garden plants before the next cold front comes through to knock them back down. A great organic insecticide to use for controlling these pests is Neem oil.
I was invited out to Wellington yesterday (22 Nov.) by one of the inventors of the Patent Pending GroPole ("A Plant Stake That Grows With Your Plant") to watch as they filmed a TV commercial for their ingenious new product. Be sure to watch for the commercial on a television near you soon. I received a couple of samples of the product to test in the FloridaGardener test garden and must say that they are a great idea and light years of usefulness past those flimsy bamboo stakes and the metal ones that are good for one season until the plastic covering peels off them and they begin to rust. I will have more information about where you can buy the GroPole soon.
I made Hibiscus Jam. It is awesome. Firmed-up very well and has a very fruity and sweet flavor. If you enjoy Florida Cranberry tea, you must try this. I would give you the recipe, but it was more like an experiment, so, if you would like to experiment on your own – here are the ingredients:
Hibiscus Jam Experimental Recipe
6 cups of fresh, de-cored and rinsed Florida Cranberries aka Roselle
6 cups of water
½ cup of raisins
2 cups of sugar
1 box of Sure Jell fruit pectin
Follow the preparation instructions enclosed in the pectin box. This was the first time I used pectin. You can find it at Publix right next to the canning jars. Pectin is sort of like using cornstarch as a gravy thickener, except with a lot of sugar, fruit and juice.
Now is time for collecting seeds from Hibiscus sabdariffa for next season. If you leave some of the calyces on the plant to mature, seed pods will form. Wait until the pod is brown, dry and splitting. The seeds in these pods are ready for collecting. Collect them onto a paper plate then winnow them to get the small bits of plant material out, allow to air dry for a couple of hours, bag them up and put the date and name of the plant on the bag; Store in a dark, cool, dry place until ready to plant.