Complete Gardening Solution

City Garden in a Box

City Garden in a Box

I gotta say.. this is a very cool product for urban gardeners.  Well packaged, complete instructions, and a fascinating soiless growing media: Coconut Fiber, also known as coir. (I have no idea how to pronounce “coir” so I shall call it coconut fiber throughout this article:)

The gable box is packed with all the right stuff:  A seed germination system with coconut fiber discs and a mini green house, seeds, controlled release

City Garden Cucumber Seedlings

Cucumber Seedlings Ready To Plant

fertilizer, and two grow bags containing compressed coconut fiber “bricks”.

The stuff from the box

All The Stuff From The Complete Garden Box

The seeds are for tomato and cucumber plants and I started by following the instructions to hydrate the seed germination discs.  They expand mightily and I dutifully poked holes in them, put seeds in the hole, and covered it up with the clear lid vowing to keep them watered during the germination process. Next the instructions say to gently add water to the coconut fiber in the grow bags. What took up about a quarter of each bag compressed, immediately swelled to about 3 inches from the top of this 3 gallon bag.   Pretty cool!  You add a package of controlled release 14 14 14 fertilizer to the fiber filled bags now so that it can permeate the fiber and be there for the baby plants when they are potted up into the bag after germinating. Once the seedlings are ready you plant them in coconut fiber in the grow bags.  My crop has been superb and my peppers are like an ever bearing tree!

I did need to stake my tomatoes as they grew but I’ve had a nice crop from that grow bag. I was thinking that this product would make a great fundraiser for Middle and High School Ag classes. HydroPro Sales is actually sponsoring fundraisers with the City Garden.  Check out the details  here if you are interested.. looks like a great money maker and these crops definitely grow to provide a nice farm to table at home growing adventure! No tilling or weeding needed! Just a sunny spot and water.


Tomato plant in grow bag


Peppers galore

Peppers galore



Hiring a Tampa Landscape Designer

When To Turn To a Landscape Designer

Sunny and TropicalSometimes it’s hard to see the big picture when you are looking at what seems to be insurmountable problems with your property’s landscape. Maybe you’ve just moved into the Tampa Bay Area and don’t really know what plants work here.  Maybe you desire a particular style and just want to know how to create it. Maybe your new home has “default builder landscaping” and you want something custom.  Those are all good reasons to hire a designer who can put things into perspective, evaluate your soil and sun shade patterns, suggest the right plantings and give you a list of what will thrive in your yard.

A good landscape designer will providesmithoffsetfront

  • Education
  • Ideas
  • Plant lists
  • Sourcing
  • Pricing
  • Drawings and photo realistic plans

Designers are often affiliated with or familiar with the best landscape contractors to get your job done right.  Independent landscape designers may work with more than one landscape company and can recommend or chose the one they feel will be the best fit for you and your family.  These recommendations can be priceless when considering a makeover.

When it’s hard to visualize your future landscape its time to call in a pro who can make your landscape design come to life before your eyes.  While there are plenty of designers in the Tampa Bay Area,  you might want to check out the cool photo realistic design from  HydroPro Sales and their cool outdoor Facebook page Outdoor Spaces.




U Pick Blueberries In The Tampa Bay Area

Bob’s Blueberry Farm in Hudson

When I was a kid, there was no such thing as Florida Blueberries.  Now, thanks to the University of Florida, we have many varieties that grow here successfully. In fact,  Blueberries are becoming one of Florida’s largest cash crops!  Picking is easy and fun for the whole family.  You can pick a lot of blueberries in an hour.. about 12 pounds worth per person.

Its easy picking when blueberries are this ripe.

Its easy picking when blueberries are this ripe.

If you are thinking about doing some blueberry picking, Bob’s Blueberry Farm and Nursery is a great place to do it.  Researching the u pick blueberry farms around Tampa was eyeopening because of the price differential of as much as 2.00 per pound!  Picking cheap was important.  There are u-pick blueberries in many locations, some closer to me than Bob’s but the u pick prices were around 5.00 per pound.  Nina, Bob’s daughter only charges 3.00 a pound for Upick and 5.00 a pound for already picked berries.  That was a deal in my book!

When you arrive, you’ll be greeted by Nina who will give you a 1 gallon  bucket lined with a grocery bag.  “Eat all you want”  she says, as she sends you off to plunder the blueberries from around 5000 blueberry bushes.  The farm has 5 different varieties of blueberries:  Jewel’s, Emeralds, Abundance, Windsors, and Snow Drifts.  Its fun to sample the berries from the different bushes and easy to enjoy eating all you want!

Blueberries from Bob's Blueberry Farm Hudson Fl

It only takes a half hour to pick 6 pounds of Blueberries!

In about a half hour my bucket was full.  The gallon bucket will weigh out right at 6 lbs.  I left my first harvest with Nina and headed back out with a fresh bucket.  I had a system down at this point, but I’ll  share it with you. Look for the clusters of all ripe berries. Put your bucket under the branch and tease them off.  If you are working on a cluster with some ripe and some not ripe berries, use the same technique.  The ripe berries will fall right into your bucket while the not so ripe ones, will stay on the bush.  Never pass up a fully ripe cluster!  You can get  3 to 10 berries with one pick!

Want to grow your own?  Bob and Nina propagate and grow blueberry plants for you to take home.  #1 containers are $5.00 and number 3 containers are $ 10.00.  That’s a deal too.

You’ll only be able to pick em through June though, so get on out there and pick some!  They are open daily and stay open to dusk during the week.

The farm also grows Goji berries for you pick.  This is an exotic fruit from the Himalayas, considered to be a super food.  The entire plant is edible and they will be available to pick soon!   Click here to visit Bob’s Blueberries on line.

Bob’s Blueberry farm is easy to find from either the Suncoast Expressway or US 19.  It’s east of Little Rd and a bit north of SR 52 off Hudson Ave.  Call Nina on the way and she’ll give you directions.  727 237 4485.

Happy Picking!


My Vegetable Garden Obsession

It’s A Small Garden Spot But…

My Crowded GardenIn the 3 foot space between my house and a walkway, right next to the pool equipment, I have my vegetable garden.  The area is perhaps 12 feet long and I practice vegetable garden “over planting.”   This is an experiment of mine that sometimes backfires but is sometimes successful. If you’re wondering what over planting is, I basically just crowd things.  I plant tall things in the middle of short things, and the short things.. like lettuce, I plant the heck out of.

As you know, growing lettuce is one of my loves so in any spare spot.  I put lettuce seeds in.. lots of them.  I like to get the mescalin blend seed packs because you never know whats going to come up.   Lettuce surprises me with it’s hardiness.  It seems like such a delicate plant but it can withstand a lot. My most recent experiment I started in November.  I devoted about 5 feet in length to a whole packet of mixed lettuce seeds.   I was overrrun by green arugula to the point that I couldn’t eat it anymore.. I thought that underneath I could see other lettuces trying to grow but they were overcome by the arugula.  It was big and grew so fast!  I felt gypped with my seeds.  One day.. I just flat pulled up all the arugula.  An amazing thing happened, all the lettuce that had been stunted and under the arugula.. took off!

Now that part of the garden is prolific with leaf lettuce, curly lettuce, red and green romaine lettuce. and a  beautiful red/green cabbage like plant that is two and a half feet tall and 3 feet in diameter. I don’t know what it is but is is downright ornamental.

garden lettuce...yumThe other half of the area, I plant with a “crop” of something.  Green Beans is a favorite and we harvested the last of  those in January.   Now, I’ve crowded in 6 broccoli plants that are doing great.  There’s also a tomato plant growing amidst the lettuce with a volunteer cantaloupe that came up right next to the tomato plant.  I had a pepper plant in there as well but it was terribly stunted by the arugula so I removed it and put is in the earth box where it could get some sun.  I water everything with my hydroponic solution and the experiment seems to work great.  There is always fresh lettuce, soon to be broccoli and the tomato and the cantaloupe are blooming.

The obsession part of it is I go out and just stare at everything at least 3 times per day.  I get teased a lot about this but, I just have to know.. is it too dry? Did the rain hurt anything? Omg.. there is frost on the neighbors yard.. is my garden okay?  I water I nurture and at dinner time, I pluck.

It’s just too amazing to miss.

What’s Your Favorite Leatherman Tool?

You Gotta Love Leatherman!

Leatherman has millions of fans for their legendary “multi purpose tools.” As a connoisseur of Leatherman products I know there is a good reason for that: They are quite simply the best. My personal favorite, the multi-tool I truly cannot live without, is the “Micra.”

My favorite Leatherman Tool

This is a pocket sized power house with a usefulness quotient that cant be beat. Since it is so small and lightweight, you are going to have it in your pocket and the uses you will find for it, just because its there, are astounding. Gardening: Need to dead head a few flowering plants? Cut back to stimulate growth? Trim some dead growth? Your needs are met! Fishing: Cuts the limpest braided line, trims mono with ease, cuts bait, rinse it off and its good as new! Home repairs: See a loose screw?  Tighten it as you are walking by, Need a knife? of course there is a razor sharp knife blade as well as a nail file.

Great Pocket Garden Tool

Great Pocket Garden Tool

I don’t think that any other company comes close to the design perfections of Team Leatherman. Other companies may have strong, good looking functional tools with sharp blades and other useful accessories, but Leatherman always excels with comfort during use, as well as strength and great looks.

The Micra has some true innovation in its design.

Flat Phillips Tool

Flat Phillips Tool

One feature is a “flat” phllips screwdriver. This is brilliant on Leatherman’s behalf. Since the tool is so small a regular phillips head would have to be too small to be usable on a lot of screw heads. The solution? Flatten it! It works on many sizes of phillips screws, and despite the Micra’s small size, its tough stainless steel build can handle an impressive amount of torque. The Flat head screw driver tool has the added benefit of a bevel which makes it usefull for small scraping and even chiseling chores. The bottle opener also has a sharp awl end for hole punching. The tweezers are attached and have cutting ends as well for an embedded splinter.

Combo Bottle Opener and Awl

Combo Bottle Opener and Awl

Need to measure something? A metric and standard rule is stamped on the outside edge. and last but not least, a view of the tool in it’s “pocket” state. All Together there are are 10 suprisingly rugged tools contained in this 2 1/2 inch package.  Its one of leatherman’s most popular tools.   It also comes in colors now too!  I’ve bought many Micras because like i said, I cant live without one in my pocket and I’ve lost a few at airports to the security people,  a couple fell overboard when fishing,


Micra All Ready for Your Pocket or Purse

Micra All Ready for Your Pocket or Purse


You can check out all the Leatherman tools at Photon Light.  I realize that for some, the Micra might not be enough of a tool. Which ever Leatherman you choose, you know you will be getting an excellent quality, balanced, comfortable Multi tool. Photon light also has some really neat flashlights.  At least stop by and visit them and see if you see anything you like.  I am an affiliate for them, I might make buck fifty if you buy a Micra or other leatherman from them, but i actually shopped around a lot before I chose Photon light to work with on this. They’ve got great pricing and are cool people who like cool stuff.. like us!

Leatherman Multi-Tools