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



Gulfcoast Folk on Etsy

My Etsy Shop “Gulfcoast Folk”  is a fun way to sell some of the art items I create.  I started making cypress wood fish and painting them in a  folk art style, and after a little research I chose Etsy as one of my marketing channels. Etsy showcases shops by artists and creators of handmade items. It’s a great place to shop for something different as there are so many creative products to find there.  The shop was easy to set up and before I knew it, I was selling my fish all over the country!   I’ve been kind of surprised at their popularity.




Tommy Tarpon






The Snapper School

To create my folk fish, I start by hand cutting Florida Native Cypress planks that I either re-purpose from fence pickets or  purchase from the Crossroads,  a local sawmill located close by.  I love the rough cut marks the sawmill leaves on the wood.  After I cut out my fish, they get sanded for a surface smooth enough to work with.  I paint them with acrylic paint, and usually during that process, they get a name. Finally they are sealed with a glossy UV inhibiting  acrylic sealer.

Many of my wood fish  are whimsical creations from my imagination, but lately I’ve tried creating some fun species specific fish.  I’ve added a few tarpon and snapper along with the whimsey folk fish.  These wood fish wall hangings are perfect rustic fun decore for a beach cottage, Florida room, dock, deck,  lanai or fence.  I can also create signs from my fish. They are perfect to point the way to the pool, the bar, or wherever you want to direct your guests.

If you’d like to purchase, or commission a style or color, check out my Etsy Shop or drop me a line and I’ll get to work creating a special fish or school just for you. If you like them or my page I’d just be tickled pink if you shared on Pinterest or Facebook 🙂

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.




Sea Turtles for Your Swimming Pool?

Swim with turtles In your pool

Swim with turtles In your pool

Looking for a special touch for your new swimming pool  or pool remodeling project?  These 3d mosaic tile sea turtles are awesome!

Created by master tile artist Robert Vogland, they add a lifelike dimension to your pool that will elicit ohhs and ahhs with their realism.   Robert’s sea turtles and other creations can be added to existing pools during remodels, or added to new pool construction.  Robert’s custom tile art while not “cheap”  provides incredible dimension and interest to your swimming pool.

Tile Shower Floor

Shower Floor for Outdoor Shower

Robert doesn’t only do turtles, although he states it is one of his most popular creations.  He’s created amazing lifelike mosaic  dolphins, sharks and more.  If you’d like to know more or get a quote for your pool, contact HydroPro Sales at 813 444 2771 for more info.

For an idea of cost, the basic pricing for the Momma and Baby turtle is around $2700 not including freight from Hawaii or installation.

Robert’s work is not confined to swimming pool installations.  He creates  indoor tile tapestries,  signs, bath and kitchen designs as well.  He loves a challenge and to be able to create what some people say can’t be done.   Check out this tile floor for an outdoor shower!

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!