Jacksonville natives, make plans to attend the Mandarin Garden Club Trash to Treasures sale this Saturday, October 1, from 8:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. Furniture, glassware, household goods, toys, everything but clothing will be on sale inside their Clubhouse at 2892 Loretto Road. Stop by to nab an irresistible treasure, have a free cup of coffee, and visit the Garden Cafe for homemade baked treats.
Tuesday I went with some of the ladies from Mandarin Garden Club on a field trip to Eat Your Yard at 8220 Moncrief Road West, Jacksonville, FL. It’s a local, heavily wooded 40-acre farm run by Tim Armstrong to provide cactus and succulents to the wholesale market but he also has edible garden plants, a few farm-raised tilapia, chickens and rabbits. He was also affiliated with a garden project on the grounds of a school for handicapped children. I think it was Berry Good Farms. I wanted to read the brochures we were given but being a perpetual dingbat, I accidentally left them behind and the condition of my memory is beyond hope.
Eat Your Yard embraces organic farming, permaculture and any good ideas Tim encounters along the way.
Coincidentally for me, he mentioned something called hugelkultur which uses stumps, branches and twigs thrown in a mound and covered with soil to make a raised garden bed requiring little to no water or fertilizer. I almost missed this nugget because my mind had once again wandered off to orbit the Crooked Moon. It wandered back in just in time to catch the name and see the hugelkultur bed. Near the end of the tour, I saw a hugelkultur sign for another bed and I snapped a photo so I would have the spelling for further research. This was the most important thing I took away from Eat Your Yard. One of the old women in our neighborhood, long deceased, once told Momma that we have “seven years of dry and seven years of wet.” I never doubted the woman but also never paid much attention until I found myself unable to grow a vegetable garden the last two years. My garden sits in a low area that becomes a virtual flood plain when we have a lot of rain like we did this past summer. Just a few months before the Eat Your Yard tour, at another garden club function, I learned about adding pine bark chips to our sandy soil. This nugget of wisdom came from our local County Extension Agent, Terry delValle, who briefly mentioned it. That’s the problem with golden nuggets of wisdom. The people sharing them seldom ever raise their voice, tossing the nuggets out almost as an aside and I often need some hysteria to snap my wandering mind back to attention. Worse yet, these nuggets are usually what cause my mental crayons to start scribbling like a rabid left-handed dog and then I miss the next nugget. Thankfully, I caught both the pine bark chips and the hugelkultur nuggets and I will now be saving my 3 to 5 trashcans of limbs that usually hit the curb every week.
After our tour of his small farm, we were treated to freshly made Yard Soup and bread. He had collected the ingredients from food-producing perennials as he toured us around. He mentioned dozens of plants that can be made into teas, including a cranberry hibiscus and another hibiscus whose name I didn’t catch.
For more information on Eat Your Yard, check out their website.
Monday, October 20, about 25 of us from the Mandarin Garden Club descended on the home of Jacksonville’s Jim Love of Ace Hardware Nursery. His back yard is full of cacti and succulents and a few other plants that strike his fancy. Most of his backyard was in shade but he found that he had no trouble growing his plants in low light. Mr. Love admitted right away that he doesn’t landscape his succulent garden in the conventional manner but everything was laid out in interesting arrangements and a lot of it was permanently set up for winter protection – plastic that would roll down when released.
The first stunner to catch your eye as you walked into the backyard was rhapsalis. It looked like a weeping pencil cactus with long streamers and an occasional tear.
At the end of our visit, he put three trays of succulents on a table and gave each of us a ticket for a drawing. He used his cap to hold all the tickets and make the drawings. It turns out that we ALL had winning tickets — everyone went home with a succulent. Cacti and succulents are not available in any great numbers at local plant nurseries so I was in awe of Mr. Love’s collection. I keep trying to grow the simple ones and I keep killing them off.
If you know someone undergoing radiation treatment for cancer, Mr. Love, along with the Men’s Garden Club of Jacksonville, has grown 1400 aloe vera plants for patients with radiation burns. The Jacksonville Zoo has graciously donated a 100 by 100 foot plot for growing the aloe vera. The Men’s Garden Club is asking the community to donate aloe vera plants or “pups” to the project. They do not have to be in pots; bare root is fine. As I understand it, they want the soft, light green aloe vera like this:
Duval County has garden members in several different areas of town who can pick up the plants. If you are in radiation therapy and need a plant, clear it with your doctor and call (904) 635-7318 for information.
I hate crowds with a passion. However, I’m a horse freak in the sense that I have great admiration for their beauty. It is not necessary for me to own one and our two acres wouldn’t really support a horse. Mr. Golfcart, however, has a four acre pasture and nary a horse.
I talked Poppie into going with me to Anheuser-Busch to see the Clydesdales on March 8th. It was a lovely day and I thought you might like to see my photos.