Sunday, April 13, 2014

Rv gardening - container gardening on the road

By this writing we had been going to Florida for six years for 3 - 4 months during the winter (usually January - April).  I kept pondering how I could get earlier tomatoes in NY given that I am mostly in southern Florida for those months.  What else could I grow?

My first attempt was growing lettuce because we do a lot of salads.  With a thirty to sixty day maturity I thought this would be doable.  I used a foil pan that was 3" deep and about 10 x 12 and packed a fair amount of plants in there....every 3 inches.  My intention was to cut the leaves for salads as needed.  The results in a nutshell?  Aphids loved my lettuce so I had to play with them.  Ants got into the soil making transporting it (in the end) impossible; never put your plants on the ground...use the picnic table.  I did get some lettuce but really the size of the pan was not right...too small for our use and too shallow.  Bring diy insecticidal soap...basically some dr. bronners soap 1 Tablespoon in a quart spray bottle.  Lessons learned:  If I do this again, a six inch deep planter would be right...6" x 24" at least!  In reality, I cannot bring a pan big enough to provide for all our needs as we eat salad once per day.

My next attempt at gardening on the road was pesto ingredients to go...for me that is parsley and basil.  Parsley has a long tap root so I found a kitty litter plastic jug at the recycling center which is about 12" tall...perfect and did the same for the basil...just because.  I put two basil plants and two parsley plants in each of these.  I used potting mix when I transplanted them in from their seed starting mix/nursery cells.  The potting mix had some organic slow release fertilizer in it.  This worked aphids on either of these.  (others years bring some diy insecticidal soap)  I also brought some liquid seaweed to foliar feed these plants as I went along.  I am not sure this provides for our needs either but it did speed things along for when we get home.

This year I was ready for the tomatoes after five years of contemplation...I was really ready to get early tomatoes in NY.  We were going to be in Florida this year for just under three months so I held out no hope of getting red tomatoes in Florida...I couldn't get them started early enough.  I purchased at Walmart four tomato plants (patio and another bush variety)  and two peppers (giant Marconi Red)...they were a healthy 5" tall and in 4" pots (2 together on the tomatoes). Did I mention that I really stink at growing tomatoes.  They always get diseased so yields are pathetic and I am never proactive to fix it...until NOW.  For fungal attacks I brought baking soda (1 - 2 Tablespoons of baking soda to a gallon of water and spray leaves top and bottom but not if temp is over 80 degrees...repeat every 5 - 7 days).  I also purchased liquid copper in Florida which worked better for me (repeat every 7 days).  Some leaves still show signs of fungal attack and some tomatoes have spots on them...shame on me for not spraying from the very beginning!  This is fungal land.  So here it is the end of March and I have plants with mini peppers on them and plants with fair sized green tomatoes on them.  AND varying degrees of fungal attacks...they don't look like better homes and gardens tomatoes!

The tomato plants have evolved...I bought them in January and almost immediately separated them into 1 gallon pots.  February (end), they went into 3 gallon purchased pots...I really would like them to be in 5 gallon pots but no room!  When we got home they needed to be repotted or put in the ground (it will be too early for this so bigger pots is probably it).

My  parsley and basil this year are pretty happy (sprayed the basil for aphids).

This year I also started other plants from seed while down here for garden at home...tomatoes, peppers (neither of these would I do again...too hot in march to do this/just buy them), lettuce (so far so good...I keep it shaded), chard, bok choi, onions/leeks, tray of basil (loving this weather!), afina cutting celery (hard to germinate)...among others.

There are some state parks in Florida where squirrels or raccoons may play havoc with your tomatoes or digging in your prepared.  One park we had to move them inside van EVERY night...a real pain.

This could be modified to suit your needs if you are a summer traveler.  Tomatoes must be BUSH/DETERMINATE varieties (and check online to see what height your potential bush variety matures at...some are as big as four feet tall (think heavy, top heavy, needs support).  If you just want a few tomatoes a small Patio variety would do...Tom Thumb is a whopping 15" maybe with small tomatoes.

UPDATE:  Okay we have been home for about three days now.  Because this has been one long winter in NY, I came home to almost no sign of life in my gardens....except for the daffodils coming up and two small hyacinth blooming...pathetically.
Because the weather is not really favorable to tomato and pepper plants being outside, David made a serviceable mini greenhouse for them to sit on the patio in when the weather is right...that means I am lugging 3 gallon tomato and pepper plants in and out each day (6 all together)...a pain. BUT, we did get one vine ripened tomato the second day after we came back AND 3 more are in the process of it isn't horrible.  I have 35 tomatoes on four plants that are about 2 - 2.5 feet from the top of the pot in measurement.  BUT, I had to buy dirt for them in Florida (as they grew bigger and faster than I expected....) and pots, and liquid copper (twice), and stakes...maybe we can call it a wash or lets just see how many they produce in the end. Liquid copper $18.00, stakes $1.30 x 4, dirt $20.for two large bags..........

Would I do it probably not.  Because of the money spent, I may just purchase a few LARGE tomato plants when I get home to see how that works out for earlier tomatoes or bring some up from Florida.  Next year I am not going to grow anything while we are in Florida...hey I need a break from fungal disease, aphids, tomato horn worms (courtesy of Florida but I won in the end but it was a tough battle).

Rv gardening works if you are staying in one place in SOUTHERN Florida for the winter 4+ months because then you would actually get tomatoes then...other crops would also work...think container gardening.  Be prepared to deal with Florida diseases, bugs, etc.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

The commute home/end to our Florida winter/bypassing DC

April 6 - 7 - 8, 2014
After the Santa Fe Arts Festival closed on Sunday night, we began the long journey home to New York's Hudson Valley.  Our first night's overnight was in the Georgia Visitor's center at the St. Mary's exit...we didn't make it that far...getting up early, doing show, packing to leave, dumping tanks, etc.

Our second night was spent at the Walmart in Winchester, Virginia.

Finally on April 8th we arrived home and it feels good to be home.  There is much gardening to be done!

We have a small trip planned for Kring Point State Park in NY...otherwise we are home for awhile...nice!

A few notes on route 81 travel...
Coming and going to Florida this year we decided to avoid the whole NJ/Balt/Wash DC mass of congestion and go around the whole thing.  Route 81 was our route south and route 64 took us to Richmond, VA and south on route 95 to Florida. We flipped it and did the reserve on the way back.  I felt it was longer; David insisted he checked and it was only 100 miles longer.  ROUTE 81 is a SERIOUS truck route....this is where ALL the trucks are...they are well behaved but they RULE this road en masse.  When it is time to dry camp or pull over somewhere do yourself a big favor and avoid all rest areas and welcome centers on route 81 and even on route 64.  The truckers are there in huge numbers in all the spots and they line the entrance and exit and often extend out onto the highway.  There are comings and goings all times of the night; it is not the place for a quiet nights rest.  We spent a quiet night in the Walmart on the way home.  This area has quite a few to choose from.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Paynes Prairie State Preserve, Micanopy, Florida

April 2014

We have stayed at Paynes Prairie State Preserve quite a few times and it is always a favorite.  It is one of the lesser priced Florida State Parks.  You can bike the parks roads or walk to the prairie viewing platform and back from the campground.

This time and most other times we were there to participate in Santa Fe Spring Arts Festival in Gainesville....a very nice festival of arts...well juried and a quality event.

Our favorite restaurant or pizza joint is Blue Highway Pizza...It is just south out of the park on route 441 and maybe a mile or so.  There pizza is fabulous and the place is small. It seems to always have a line to get in or nearly so no matter what time of day you go.   They also have a gluten free pizza dough now...whoopee!  Ask for their punch card...purchase 10 pizza and one is on them...even more reason to go eat.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Jolly Roger Travel Park, Marathon, Florida Keys

The pool which oddly we never went I this time.
March 2014

We always stay at Jolly Roger Travel Park during the winter for at least a few days.  They have a pool and bayside swimming.  We can do our laundry here as well (big plus in the keys).  It is convenient to Marathon services.

view of campground...emptying out this time of year.
Jolly Roger Travel Park has perfected the art of squeezing rv's into the smallest spaces...maybe it is because we go for the cheapest spots?  It is okay for a few days.  For those interested they have seasonal spots and activities to keep you busy.  It is dog friendly with a little dog park play area.

dock and water front sites and swimming area
The bike trail outside the park is on the wide shoulder of the highway along this 1.5 mile (or so) section so be careful.   After the 1.5 miles (or so)  it juts off on the south end to a separate bike path shielding you from the highway by trees/ later reconnects with the highway (only route to Key West).

a peaceful place on a rare cloudy day
This morning when we arrived, we quickly dropped our trailer to get to the farmer's market which is set up across from the Winn Dixie in Marathon.  Around 10:45am (or so...this is the Keys) a box truck comes with lots of fresh produce from Miami.  The variety changes but it is more fresh than you would get at the grocery store.  The produce is not marked and there are usually a lot of people there ready to buy.  No one asks what the pricing is...they just buy!

A pelican eyeing me...eyeing him!
 My first time there this season, I went a little nuts and bought a lot of goodies and the total came to $97.50.  I did buy a lot of things...mangoes, red peppers, a couple of cantalopes, spinach, broccoli, key limes, carrots (3 colors and only one was orange), snap peas, Portobello mushroom (it was huge and a meal in itself grilled) name a few.   I highly recommend it especially since it benefits children.