Farm School Summer Series

Summer Session 
Week One

This is a continuing series about my efforts to become a farmer.
It all began here.

Last week's downpour kept us from Farm School.
We made up for it this week 
with the accomplishment of many a task.

One of the first projects was trimming out the lettuce
that had recently been transplanted to the location
under the shade cloth covered tables.

Faye and Lynn were concerned that although the crop is producing,
it may not last long.
They are hoping to get a few harvests before it bolts completely.
I was happy to oblige.

I was able to get a good sampling 
of the red oakleaf variety in my bucket.

Faye and Lynn worked on acquiring two other varieties
until we each had a pretty good-sized portion.
The fact that I get to enjoy their lettuce this week
in upcoming salads is an unexpected thrill.

This parsley was planted last September.
It's just about spent.

Here's another that is bolting.
Not to worry, there are other pots 
brimming with green goodness.

Yet another is hosting black swallowtail caterpillars.
(More about them later in the week.)

This is the trial of slow-bolt cilantro.
It's having issues with white spots on the leaves.
Time will tell if it recovers.

The tomatoes are absolutely through.
The heat is just too much for them to flourish.
Faye & Lynn are hoping to have a few green ones left 
for the market this Saturday.

The cherry tomatoes, however, are wonderful.
These Sweet Millions are juicy, tender and very low acid.
A great snack to just pop into your mouth!

We reseeded some of the beans that hadn't sprouted.
This new location was chosen
to hopefully avoid the rust that had plagued 
crops planted earlier in the season.
It was a productive day of work fun.

These are brown widow spider egg sacs.
We learned a bit about this species here.

Here's another critter that's not so scary.

Watch for this beauty on Wordless Wednesday.
It's called a Gloriosa Lily.
And it's  

Summer Session
Week Two

Hot dog!
I'm lovin' Farm School.
Hope you are too.

 We got an early start on Sunday.
It was warm and humid by 9 a.m.,
but we managed to get a few things done before lunchtime.

The eggplant were spent.
Lynn decided to take these plants out,
as he has others already started in another part of the garden.
He was able to get a few harvests out of this bunch.

Each crop is marked with seed starting and transplant dates.
This allows Lynn to keep accurate records
for future referral.

We cut back the stalks to about 8 inches.

Lynn took his mighty cultivator to get down to the roots.

The whole kit-n-kaboodle comes out with one fell swoop.

That's a healthy root system.

The pots were cleaned up and the soil leveled.

Man, that's some beautiful stuff.
It smells like life.

We sowed a batch of okra in the freshly tidied pots.

In another part of the garden,
the okra is doing quite well.
It's one of the mainstays of the summer garden here.

Lynn uses these professional watering wands.
This head is appropriate for established plants,

while this head (with smaller holes),
works perfectly for seed trays or newly sown seeds in pots.
(They also aid a body in withstanding the 90 degree temperatures with a quick spray!)

Signs of trouble were found nearby.
This is the telltale sign of a critter called a leaf roller.

If you pull the leaf back over, you can see the varmints going at it.

They are not welcome visitors.

The edemame is coming along.
This was the first time I had noticed the pea-like pods.

They look alot like snow peas,
but the pods are not edible.
 The goodness lies inside.

The blooms resemble the delicate flowers of the snap peas.

We also got a dozen or so parsley plants started.

Lynn decided to start them off in the shade,
as temps here are reaching the 90's daily.

They have some gorgeous avocado trees, 
all started from seed.

They will soon be harvesting these yummy bananas.

For those who enjoy heat,
these peppers are just the ticket.
Aren't they the most beautiful shade of orange?

There is so much peace and tranquility here.
 The place just oozes energy.

Faye's keen eye spotted this critter.
God sure has a wild imagination, huh?

Another great day's work done.
Hope you enjoyed the scenery.
Can't wait to learn something new next week!


Summer Session 
Week Three

It was a busy morning at Farm School.
You won't hear me complaining one bit!

Who needs a spa vacation when I can be here?

Our first task was to pull out all the spent 
 Gotta make room for new crops!

While Lynn worked on using this handy tool 
to tear out the leftover stems and roots,

I went behind to loosen the soil and level out the pots.
This bad boy does the trick.
It goes pretty quickly with two sets of hands.

Here's part of what we retrieved.

Some pots were flagged as a precaution,
as Faye had noticed ants in a few of them.
They will be dealt with at a later time.

We checked on the okra that we had sowed last weekend.
Lynn said it took only 48 hours for the seedlings to emerge
and every pot germinated.

Okra elsewhere in the garden is doing just fine, thank you.

As well as other delectible edibles.

The peppers, however, are feelin' the heat.
We were on a mission to get them some relief.

These are banana peppers,
but bell peppers are also located in this area of the garden.

(Trumpets sounding)
 Shade cloth to the rescue!

It was a three-farmer job,
as we had a lot of territory to cover.

Two layers of shade cloth give 40% shade,
which will decrease the direct sunlight on the crops.
Clothespins attach them to the metal rods stemming from the pots.
Hopefully, it'll make these sweet thangs happier.

So far, the lettuce has been holding up 
and not turning bitter due to the heat.
Faye had just picked some for my order,
so it's got some recovering to do.
It's a wonderful surprise to be getting tasty lettuce
at this time of the year.

With regular rain, 
plants are looking lush and downright tropical!

These papayas are thriving with the high humidity.

Here's something I hadn't noticed before.
This is guava, which is used in preserves and pastries.

This is pomegranate.

 So much to take in.

The place is just teeming with life.

Another productive day.
I could get used to this.

I appreciate the time I get to spend at Farm School.
It's like a vacation from reality for a few hours each week.
that's just whatcha need.



Summer Session
Week Four  

As the temperatures climb,
the variety of crops we can grow decreases.
For the most part, the heat and humidity 
are not a friend to the garden.

We managed to get a few things done nonetheless.

I was thrilled to see that every pot of okra 
that we sowed last weekend germinated.
Hot dog!
We are on a roll, people.

Lynn pointed out to me that once the okra reaches this size,
the worry about pests becomes diminished.

In fact, it's so happy right now,
it's sprouting new veggies.

On this plant, you can see the set of "true" leaves growing.
They're the jagged looking ones in the middle.
The first leaves to emerge are called cotyledons.
They initially feed the plant 
until the "true" leaves start photosynthesis.
You can read more about the process here.

The beans are doing amazingly well.
They are growing in a shadier area to beat the heat.

 Whaddaya know?

Lynn noted that a few of the bean crops are suffering 
from some sort of copper problem.
Not all plants are affected,
so it's hard to know the cause.

 One of the things we did today 
was to clean up these pots of spent coriander.
We simply removed the dried plants 
and discarded any remaining debris.
They'll be reused for another crop.

A brown widow spider was found alongside one of the pots.
Glad Lynn saw her before she saw him!

Lynn took care to repot this dill which had volunteered.
Each crop is appreciated and treated with respect.

Another task that needed completing was sowing beet seeds.
It's a bit early for growing beets,
but Lynn wants to see if he can stretch the season.

The sowing date is marked for each crop.

 Seeds are sown 2 inches apart, so we can fit 8 seeds per pot.
There are no guarantees that they will flourish at this time of year,
but a gal can dream, can't she?
We'll see what happens.

 While resowing green beans,
we used this handy little gizmo 
to keep track of just how many seeds needed replanting.

 The leeks are getting tired of the heat.
(Can anyone relate?)
Most of these will be taken to the farmer's market on Saturday,
but not before I brought a couple home to stock the freezer.

Lynn has some starts for transplanting all ready to go.
There was time to visit a few fascinating specimens.

The pitcher plant that we visited here,
had some new growth and surprises.

This is a carnivorous plant,
and you can see some of its victims inside the pitcher.

This lil' gem looks none too friendly either, huh?

All kinds of treasures lie in wait.

 What a glorious way to spend a morning outside.
It's a privilege to be able to help in any little way I can.

There's plenty more to look forward to...

 Summer Session

Week Five

With Lynn under the weather yesterday,
Faye was chief harvester and I was on pest patrol.

 We started with the beans.

We are on the hunt for leaf rollers.
We've talked about these before.

Here's what they look like when you roll the leaf back over.

And when they are really good at playing hide-and-go-seek,
they get this big.

Here's another kinda critter and the damage it leaves behind.
Some things are so small, it's difficult to identify them
(or maybe it's my over 50 eyes).

We saw a few different types of spiders.

Some friendly,

some not so much.
These are brown widow spider egg sacs.
They like to hang out under the rim of pots.
Take care to wear gloves and check this area 
when moving pots around.

 The beans are producing a decent amount of yummies.
I was able to take some home 
and prepared them with last night's supper.

So dee-lish!

 A few banana peppers of various hues were also harvested.
You know they're good for you just by lookin' at the vibrant colors!

Olive oil, salt, parsley and a bit of basil fresh from our patio stash 
is all that's required.

New okra shoots.
 Thus far, this is one of the crops with the least pest problems.

The flowers are gorgeous.
Faye discovered that there is a certain beetle that nestles 
into the small collar where the blooms emerge.
They begin their feast there.

While the more established okra plants are doing well,
these new starts in the west end of the garden 
were showing signs of trouble.

Upon further investigation,

the backs of most of the leaves 
were covered with some sort of antlike critters.

Some things found on the underside are unidentifiable,
at least by me.

For the first time, 
this mottled pattern was appearing on some of the crops.

Thanks to Faye's keen eye,
we were able to take about 20 black swallowtail cats home to host.
Love watching nature do its thing.

Here's a new trick that Faye and Lynn learned about.

They placed pennies in bags containing a bit of water
and hung them near the cherry tomato plants.

The idea is that the reflective aspect will deter birds or pests 
from bothering the crops.
It's too early to know if it works,
but it's worth a try.
Faye and Lynn are committed to growing pesticide-free produce
so they are willing to give these types of methods a go.
I admire that.

Pest control is a never-ending job,
but it's part of being a farmer.
Fortunately, there are alternatives to pesticides.


There's so much beauty here.

So many wonderous creations of nature.

 Hopefully, Lynn will be feeling stronger real soon.
With surroundings like this, it's gotta help a body heal.

How do you keep those pests at bay?
I'd love to hear any tricks you might have in the garden.


Summer Series

Week Six

The summer is half over,
but Farm School is still going strong.

We're preparing for the fall garden.

Time to get to work.

The garden has slowed down quite a bit.
Although we've been blessed with an abundance of rain,
the heat, humidity and bugs have been destructive to summer crops.

Last week I looked for leaf rollers on the leafier crops.
This week, these cutworms were found under 
the plastic pot liners of some plants.
Sneaky little devils, they are.

This is the "slow-bolt" cilantro that was planted a few weeks ago.
We were disappointed that it didn't perform as we had hoped.
All but one plant bolted within 2 months.

Some of the okra has been pulled out,
due to its poor performance.

Even the cherry tomatoes are withering with the heat.
They were mighty good while they lasted!

We've had an unusual amount of rain the last few weeks.
You can see here that this beet seedling 
was all but pummeled to death.

We simply planted more.
Lynn's philosophy is that if something doesn't grow 
the way he expects, he just keeps on trying.
"Throw more seed on it and see what happens."
Why not?

Some of the eggplant is looking good,
although Lynn is not sure it is out of the woods just yet.

The parsley is amazing...

See anything interesting here?

We came home with about 30 of these babies.
I put them on Craig's List to see if other families might want to enjoy
the fabulous opportunity to witness the metamorphosis.
I got some takers and it gave me a great idea
that I will share at a later date.

Some of the newly-sown seeds are coming right along.
When asked why he direct sows some plants and uses flats for others,
Lynn said it's a matter of fragility.
Tomatoes especially are susceptible to a myriad of problems,
and must be handled with the utmost of care.
They are always started in trays.
Other crops, like eggplant, 
are sometimes direct sown as an experiment
to see if they can flourish without the extra step of seed starting.
Still others, like beans and peas, 
are always directly placed in their final growing spot.

I had time to clean up a few pots containing peppers.
The plastic disks keep most weeds at bay,
so the job goes quickly.

Skinks scatter through the aisles of pots playing tag.

Lynn spotted this new growth on one of their banana trees.

A fresh bunch like this will soon be emerging from the new shoot.

There was some fill work being done on the property.

Although things are slowing down with regard to harvesting,
the planning and sowing stages are revving up.
Won't be long before we are steeped in seed trays.

Until we meet up again...


Summer Series
Week Seven

Think it's too hot to farm?
Not around here.
Farm School rocks on through the summer heat.

The fall crops are being started and transplants 
will be moved to their permanent homes.

 The okra hasn't been fairing well.
Each season is different,
and from year to year crops have various succession rates.

 Rather than try to nurse these along,
Lynn decided to pull them out of the pots and start over.
With one tug, he lifts the tall stem out of the dirt 
and shakes it right in the pot,
leaving the soil neatly in place under the plastic ring 
for the next planting.
Can't get much easier than that!

Here's some okra planted a bit later.
Lookin' good.

Although at this stage, 
the okra is being bothered by something,

by the time it reaches this size, the bugs are no longer an issue.
Lynn thinks it's the texture of the leaves that repel them,
not necessarily the taste that changes.

I'm so happy that the beans are lookin' mighty fine.
These have been planted in a shady area.

 I've been taking these home for a couple of weeks now.
We are all surprised at the production, 
considering the weather conditions.
So tender, so yummy.

Basil not started long ago is growing strong.

The edamame is harvested for seed when it gets to looking like this.
Keep in mind, everything planted here is non-GMO.
When harvested fresh, it's an excellent addition to salads.

 One of the tasks for today was to transplant some of these stray 
New Zealand spinach plants.

They popped up in these pots,
and Lynn wants to give them their own space to flourish.

First, the receiving pot is prepared 
by scratching up the soil a few inches deep.
This claw-like device does the trick quickly.

Then the hole is dug using this method.

The transplant is gingerly placed in the prepared hole.
The top of the plant should be just above the surrounding surface.

One smart trick is placing the brick 
on the newly transplanted crops upright,
so he can distinguish them from the pots 
which were directly sown.
This will help provide valuable information for future planting. 

Some lil' guys might need a bit of support.
Lynn uses straight metal rods 
and wraps wire around the stem ever so gently.

Here's just a small portion of seed harvested 
from a past NZ spinach crop.

We also sowed two kinds of lettuces.
This time, three seeds were placed in each cell.
Somethin's bound to come up!

These will be covered with a clear top
and placed in sun for a portion of the day.

The banana tree is making progress since last week.

 Yeah, things are heatin' up in the garden alright!

A few steps closer to the fall harvest.
It never ends, this quest.
And in the end,
it's all worth it.
Enjoy the journey.

Summer Series
Week Eight

Farm School this week had us runnin' for cover,
but we still got a few things done.

This part of the garden isn't seeing much action right now.
The cherry tomatoes are struggling to come back
and it's too early to expect much from the kale and Swiss chard.

Seedlings, however, are going gangbusters!

Seed trays cover the outdoor table and line the front porch.

New lettuces are filling up the shaded area.
Can't wait for the red salad bowl variety 
to be ready for my supper table.

These basil plants are spent.
The planting date on these crops was September of last year.
We harvested the seed by just stripping the branches 
and letting it fall where it may.
You can see the volunteers sprouting up in front of the potted plants.
It'll make a gorgeous border, and so aromatic!

The dill is coming back all on its own
after nearly being polished off by black swallowtail caterpillars.

Seed is tossed nonchalantly, as it readily germinates.

We covered the pots to prevent any further infiltration by butterflies 
interested in laying eggs.
The bottoms will be secured with twine.

The leek project began in earnest.
These beauties were ready to graduate to larger pots.

After Lynn filled and leveled off the soil
(notice that it's only halfway up the container),
I transplanted three slender lovelies to each pot.
Soil is added as the stalks gain height.

We've got a good start!

Lynn spied a wolf spider.
It looks menacing, 
but it's one of the good guys in the garden.

We don't mind working under the raindrops,
but when the thunder knocks you off your seat,
it's time to head for shelter.

The shower is much appreciated.

So many treasures here.

This is the first time since I started Farm School 
that we've had to dodge the rain,
but it was a pleasant surprise.
It sure beat workin' in 90+ degree heat!

Enjoy the time you have in your garden,
rain or shine.


Summer Series
Week Nine

It's the dog days of summer here in Central Florida.

Can you believe that August is almost half over?
I'm tellin' ya, after you hit 40, the years just zip by!

Things in the garden are hoppin'.
Many crops are long spent,
but others are just gettin' fired up!

Lynn decided to do a little experiment with the beets.
He's trying to see how far he can push the seeds he has.

A few are popping up from our reseeding a number of weeks ago,
but mostly, they ain't doin' much.
We reseeded them 12 to a pot this time, since we have nothing to lose.

We haven't yet figured out if it's the temps, the rain
or if the seed is just too doggone old.

The second undertaking was to plant summer squash seeds in an underused area.
Here, Lynn is hilling up the soil.

We created a berm on one side to prevent the water from running off
where the seeds will be planted.

He checked for level using water to fill up the trench.
We tweaked it a bit, and all is well.

The ends were also built up to keep the water within the planting area.

These are called golden zucchini
and they take full sun.
They'll get that here!

We planted every 12 inches.
We were able to fit twelve plants inside the prepared space.

On the other end of the garden, we checked on the Swiss chard.
As the success was hit or miss,
we decided to do what we usually do when we don't get the desired result.

Throw more seed at it!

These eggplant were ready for supports.
About half of the crops are looking very strong.
It helps to have all the equipment you need at hand.

For example, this monstrous set of tweezers 
is used to gingerly place onion sets into holes.
Because Lynn plants them so deeply,
the coveted white tops are abundant.

Most of Lynn's tools have been passed down through generations.
That's quality stuff.

He figured out long ago that it makes sense
 to keep supplies where they are used.
He stores a myriad of materials in these weather-proof tubs.

No need to go back to the shed or garage for needed items.
Smart as a whip, that man is!

A few unwanted critters were found on the beans
while we were looking for leaf rollers.

Have you ever heard of lighter knot?
I've been living in Florida over 40 years,
but didn't know what this was.
Guess I've been hangin' around the wrong crowd, eh?
It's used as kindling wood.
You can read about it here.

Lynn has quite a stash of this valuable Florida treasure.

Remnants of hurricanes in years past remain.

Others bounced back and grace us with their majesty.

We talked about the pitcher plant here.
Seems that it wants to make a new friend.

It was a red letter day here on the farm.
Being productive leaves one with a sense of purpose.
Y'all come back now, y'hear?


Summer Series
Week Ten

Can you  believe August is almost over?
We've still got at least another month's worth of heat and humidity,
but planning (and planting) of the fall garden is underway.

Thankfully, overcast skies made our work a bit easier.

Today we focused on tomatoes.
These seedlings started last month
were going to make their way into the main garden.

These are the Celebrity variety.

This is what they look like when they're all grown up.

One row had been completed, 
so we were on to filling the rest of the pots with these magical treats.

We posted Lynn's method for planting these here.

After watering in these new transplants,
we moved onto the next tomato task.

These cherry tomato plants were looking mighty tired.
They just didn't perform as well as expected this year.

We tore them out and cleaned up the pots to ready them for

a couple of Roma starts.
These were first attempted earlier this year,
but we didn't have much success with them.
Hopefully, the timing of planting will improve our chances.

We gingerly place them in their growing space
with a loving thought for their health.

Much of the okra is still doing well.
It's one of the few crops that will bounce back in the summer.

Faye showed me this cool retractable rake.
It can be used in narrow spaces,

or fanned out for larger areas.
Made of aluminum, there's no need to worry about rust or corrosion.
Pretty neat gadget, huh?

In the next few weeks,
we hope to transplant more seedlings
and get a jump on the fall growing season.

Enjoy the slower time of year  
to reflect on future gardening goals.

"Rest is not idleness, 
and to lie sometimes on the grass on a summer day 
listening to the murmur of water, 
or watching the clouds float across the sky, 
is hardly a waste of time."
-Sir John Lubbock


Summer Series 
Week Eleven

September 1st actually marks the beginning
of the fall planting season in Florida.
We are blessed to be able to farm almost year-round.

We had a mild day in which to work
and we found plenty to do.

 Each session starts with an overview of the week's activities.

Lynn has been busy nurturing these Red Caribbean papaya.

They were started with seed he gathered from his own crop.

Over 300 seedlings will be tenderly cared for
and readied for sale at the farmer's market.

Most of the beans have been pulled up.
They suffered from this type of rust.

Lynn decided that he will try to treat them with copper.
We'll see if it helps.

 Okra is the crop that is doing the best in the summer's conditions.

It continues to produce without concern for too much rain, sun or bug damage.

The leeks we transplanted a few weeks ago are holding their own.

There are a few eggplant that are doing fairly well.
It's too soon to see if they will flourish.

Blossoms can be found on established plants.

 New transplants wait their turn for a spot in the garden.

Today we transplanted some tomato seedlings.
First pots were filled with a loose soil mixture.

Lynn introduced the concept of "coring" to me.

He takes a section of exhaust pipe,

places the pipe in the center of the pot and twists,

and voila!
The perfect depth for the new seedlings.

Genius, right?
He's got several  pipes of various diameters
to use in different applications.

Today we potted up Celebrity and Sweet Million tomato varieties.
I can almost taste the sweet juicy jewels.

This Confederate Rose was featured here.
Today Lynn wanted to take a few cuttings to root.

The stems are trimmed close to a nodule,
moistened with water and saturated with rooting hormone.

The cutting is placed in loose soil mix with the rooting hormone just peeking out.

Looking forward to seeing how well these cuttings do.

lacewing (a good guy)
Faye's been working hard this week at cleaning and tidying up the rest of the yard.
It's lookin' mighty good!

spiny aloe



This is called a cardboard palm.
Yeah, it really does feel like cardboard.
Amazing, huh?

Look at this nice family of ball peen hammers.

Summer is slowly fading out
and making way for the fall garden.
It's a welcome change and I look forward to 
witnessing the transformation of the farm.


Summer Series 
Week Twelve

It's still officially summer,
but the fall garden is underway here in Central Florida.

Have you heard of edible hibiscus?
Me neither.
I tasted a leaf or two and it has a slight tang to it.
It could be a unique addition to a mixed salad.
This magenta-hued plant can be invasive,
so these were pulled out during Faye's clean up.

The Romas that were installed two weeks ago did not fare well.

Never fear, there is no lack for 'maters in these parts.
This lovely display will soon be transplanted into larger containers.

These new seedlings are a combination of Roma, 
Celebrity and Sweet Million tomatoes.
The cells which house the most sprouts are sown from new seed.
The less abundant cells are from last year's seed.
It's important to pay attention to details.

These eggplant are looking healthy and happy
and will be finding a new home in the garden soon.
They will be a welcome addition to our supper table.

We had sown beet seeds a few weeks ago without much success.
We weren't sure if it was because of the seed, the weather or the time of year.
Again, new seed was replanted and this is the result.
Nearly every seed germinated.

The dill had been covered to discourage butterflies from laying eggs.
They did not seem to be coming along as anticipated,
so Lynn took the covers off and they came back to life.
As for the butterflies, 
we'll be collecting them every week as needed and hosting them back in my garden.

Today we transplanted these beloved banana peppers.
I was never that fond of peppers,
but these are so sweet and tasty, 
they were being added to everything from salad to pizza.

Any available pots in the pepper area were used.
 These are partially covered in shade cloth.

These funky things help the peppers get the best start possible.
This is a "Lynnvention", another little something he's created
through time and experience as a gardener.

The metal stakes are fitted with small expanses of wire.

Need support?
You got it.
Yeah, he's mighty good at this stuff.

We direct-sowed  about 20 or so kohlrabi.
It's a cold weather crop in the brassica family.

We also planted a few rows of peas,
just to the left of the beans growing here.

Can I tell you how psyched I am about this?
These shriveled-looking pods
turn into the most sweet, juicy, and tender morsels you can imagine.

We follow the instructions on the package for best results.
As you can see, we should be enjoying these within a couple of months.
Hot dog!

Lynn and Faye shared with me the history of their vast tool collection.

These cleavers have been handed down.

Many of the tools have been handmade.

These have a multitude of uses both inside the home and outside in the garden.

Look how this metal was forged to create a handle.

When Faye and Lynn set up at the farmer's market in town,
they use this bucket filled with rocks to hold their umbrella.
Faye suggested that it could be used for shepherd hooks as well.

This native coffee plant boasts bright red berries in a sea of green.

So many wonders of nature lurk here just waiting to be discovered.

Hoping your fall garden is getting underway!


  1. Just popped over from sherry mitchell-farm girl, and really enjoyed the farm school tour. I noticed only containers. Is this how they garden?

    1. Yup, that's it. They want to garden for the rest of their lives, so it helps that they don't have to stoop down to tend to the plants. They also don't have a problem with nematodes. It works! Thanks for visiting!


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