Monday, October 17, 2005

Preparing for Winter

Two days ago, Tampa saw temperatures in the 60s for the first time in over 7 months. It was only 68 degrees and that was over-night low and we probably won't see highs in the 70s for another month, but still, it's a change and sign of things to come.

Seems like only yesterday, we were preparing for Fall (and weather in the low 80s to upper 60s is, sadly, what Fall in Florida is like), but it's already time to start seriously planning the December and February plantings. In December, we'll be getting some fruit and nut trees from a very nice place in Georgia, Aaron's Nursery ( We'll have pears, apples and peaches, as well as pecan trees, and maybe a few other types, as well as several berry bushes. We need to plan exactly where those are going to go because they'll need to go into the ground pretty quick. We might have mild winter weather most of the time, but if there's a freeze or even a near freeze, those trees will have to be in the ground if we want even half a chance at keeping them alive.

In February, I'll be starting the Spring vegetable garden. I'll definitely be planting field and sweet corn, cucumbers, several types of summer squash, peanuts, bush beans, and we'll have the second year asparagus to look after. I might be persuaded to plant some other things as well, but the okra, tomatoes, peppers and eggplant did really badly this year and I think perhaps giving the land a break from them for a year might exhaust some of the pests that ruined them without resorting to chemicals.

What I have to do as soon as possible is find some black plastic sheeting. I'd rather not have to mail order it. See, in the local garden centers, all I've been able to find is the weed blocking fabric, which is either just thick paper or it has holes in it. It's totally useless in killing grass to clear land. I've tried and it only works for killing weeds (and definitely not grass) that have not already taken an area over. Last year, I was able to find tons of black plastic in local stores. We had 6 rolls, each 10 x 50 feet, but the down side to black plastic is that it only works for one season because the sun and elements make it become very thin and brittle. So what we've got from last year will not work for this year. I need some more... I don't know why no one seems to have stocked it this year. Next weekend, I'll have to check the feed stores. There's one at Nebraska and Bearss about 7 miles from here called "The Feed Depot", and then there's "Fox's Corner" out in Odessa (or as the developers are calling it now, "Keystone Heights"), it's been there *forever*. (On maps made 30 or more years ago, when there was nothing in that area except farms and Fox's Corner, "Fox's Corner" was marked on the map, and it's still there now.) It burned to the ground about 5 years ago. I remember people could easily see the column of smoke over 10 miles away, and everyone figured the owners would probably sell the property and someone would turn it into a Texaco, but they didn't. They stayed, rebuilt it, diversified their inventory and now it's even bigger than the original. Awesome place! If it weren't over 30 minutes from my house, it would have been the first place I went. They have hardware supplies, tractors, feed, hay, bait for fishing, and they sell chicks, ducklings and baby rabbits during the Easter season (and every year I try and every year I haven't been able to get my parents to let me get any). They might have black plastic... After all, strawberry farmers seem to swear by the stuff.

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