Gardening Uncategorized

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



Florida Living Gardening Uncategorized

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.





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.

Gardening Tools

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



Gardening Green Products

Quick Hydroponic Sustainable Garden

Don’t rule out hydroponics when seeking a year round system for sustainable home gardening.   With produce prices high at the grocery store, many folks are starting home gardens for vegetables.   In many areas spring and summer is the only growing season for traditional gardens.  Hydroponics can change all of that.

Grow hydroponics veggies year round with the HydromaticBut wait, you say,  isn’t hydroponic gardening complicated and require lots of apparatus?  Pumps? Blowers?  Lights and electricity?  It doesn’t have to be.!  There are several effective hydroponic systems that require no additional equipment. Just the box, Nutrients, Perlite and seeds or seedlings.  One popular hydroponic gardening system is the Hydromatc growing box.

Invented by Robert Ferguson and designed with simplicity in mind, the Hydromatic requires no pumps.  Just perlite, nutrients, and a weekly tip to drain and add new nutrient solution.   With the unit placed outside, weather permitting, no lights are necessary.  If winter forces your growing inside, you might want to consider a small grow light to be sure your veggies, herbs, etc have the light necessary to thrive.

Inside hydroponic growing is very friendly  for all greens.  Lettuce, spinach, kale, collards, herbs and more.  Even in the winter in cold climates, you can have a salad selections growing in your Hydromatic year round!  Your greens will grow FAST too.  With a few Hydromatic hydroponic units, you can have your salads growing in several different stages so you Hydromatic hydroponic tomatoes always have produce iin several growth stages: sprouting, growing and ready to eat!  Many greens germinate in only 3 days.  by day 20, you can harvest!  While fruited vegetables like tomatoes, cucumber and squash can grow inside,  you have to “be the bee” and perform pollination duties.  A Q-tip works well for this.

During your traditional growing season, just pick up your light weight compact Hydromatic system and move it outside.   Now, plant your tomatoes squash and cukes and whatever motivates you!

I’m loving experimenting with my own Hydromatic units.  Learning what works best in terms of nutrient solution and pH.  PH is one of the most important aspects to a successful hydroponic garden no matter what method you use.  Most plants need a Lower pH than tap water so  nutrient solutions must be balanced to the proper pH for the plants to absorb the nutrients you are feeding them.  Robert has a great pH guide on his website:

The Hydromatic is affordable too.  If you’ve looked at other hydroponic systems, it’s hard to find units under 50 bucks.  The Hydromatic is only 29 each.  OR order 4 for 27 each.  Can’t beat that.  They measure 24 inches long by 5X5 inches.  Compact for inside or outside.  You can also order (or build) the trellis which will help support heavier yeilding plants.  It can also be used as a net support for cucumbers, or a light support for inside growing.  Each Hydromatic unit is predrilled for the trellis installation.  Funny, its also handy as a carrying handle if you want to move it around your yard.

Go on over to for more info.  Bob will even sell you plans for 10 bucks so that you can build your own if you want to!