Your Design Pundit gets a lot of email which, of course, is to be expected; my email address has been in the paper along with an invitation to email with problems or questions for more than three years. Every single email is answered, too.
The No. 1 question — aside from “Hey DP! How do you do what you do?” — the first thing readers want to know is where to buy plants. And this is a tough one. Most of the time, when I need plants myself, I go to the wholesale growers, who sell me plants mostly because I am a landscape architect, and I have an tax number.
But I also frequent Lowe’s and Home Depot, looking for unusual plants. I go to Driftwood Gardens on the North Trail. It’s a reliable store for really unusual plants. American Farms is one of my favorites; they are just north of Temple Oranges on Airport-Pulling Road. This is an outlet store; American Farms is a large producer of hundreds of plants, including annuals. The Airport-Pulling Road location shares space with another grower, who provides landscape materials. Prices for both are quite reasonable.
However, it is often the case that you need to buy from more than one grower to obtain all of the material on your plant list. Why? Because the landscape industry in Florida is populated by dozens and dozens of small- to medium-sized producers, and they tend to specialize.
Even the larger ones, such as Pelican Nursery on Collier Boulevard, cannot grow everything. These small businesses can be difficult to locate for the do-it-yourself homeowner needing materials once or twice a year. And many are wholesale-only.
With this in mind, my website will include a new section that readers can use to find growers. If you are a local producer of landscape materials, and want to be included, please email me. This trial project won’t list what’s available or prices. The size of your farm does not matter. The goal here is to help the self-planting readers find materials at near-wholesale prices in small quantities. If this is you, please let me know. I do think this can be the start of something quite nice.
If you are a contractor, or if you are someone who can “get it for you,” this isn’t your list; it’s for the do-it-yourselfer. For now, a little experience will guide future expansion.
Made in the shade
Regular readers will remember last year’s struggle here at Peace and Plenty to extend the vegetable growing season. Tomatoes, for example, are a 90-day plant; bringing fruit to the table Dec. 15 means sowing seed Sept. 15. Big problem! The sun is still very strong in September, overnight temperatures are high and day lengths are long. My experiments last year were not very successful.
But I still want to stretch the season. I bought some arugula and placed the two plants in pots, so I could move them around; this appears to be working.
But your DP is a lazy DP, so while basking in the warm waters at Vanderbilt Beach we hit on the idea of using shade cloth to reduce the sun. Serendipitously, my friend Al O’Donnell sent me an ad for some factory overruns, which I bought. The garden is now about half shaded, and already I see huge water demand reductions; see my blog for a video of how we used the shade cloth.
Will the vegetables grow robustly in 35 percent shade? That’s the experiment, and in fact we are planting some other veggies as a test. Is gardening fun or what?
Don’t forget you can email me with your garden questions (email@example.com) or suggest subjects you might like to see me cover in a future column.
A little housekeeping
Many readers know that your Design Pundit teaches classes as part of the AdultEd program at Barron Collier High School. It is not too late to join either one of these six-week classes; you’ll still have five weeks. The classes are:
Intermediate Mac: We review in detail the Finder, Safari and Email; and we learn a few other apps based on student preferences. This is a small class, so take advantage of it. Classes are 3:30 p.m. Thursdays.
Landscape Design: The first three weeks are a crash course in design terminology. You will learn how to describe and assess a design without forming an opinion on whether you “like” it or not; we look at many local examples. The last three sessions focus on review and on your projects. Classes are Wednesdays at 6:30 p.m.
Do you have design problems you would like to discuss? Michael Spencer will respond by email
(firstname.lastname@example.org). To receive his weekly e-newsletter, send him an email: email@example.com.