Crackin' Coconuts

We're lucky that coconuts are grown here in the tropics of South Florida! While not native to the sunshine state, coconuts have long thrived here since floating ashore from a Spanish shipwreck in 1878, and even served as inspiration for our county's name.

However, the majority of coconut products we consume come from South Asia, not our own stomping ground. The demand for coconut has grown enormously in recent years, while production has stagnated. Here are a few factors to consider when you reach for a jar of coconut oil from the store:

So one day, while walking down the street, we happened upon a scattering of these delicious delicacies and decided to get to cracking our own Flo-Grown coconuts!   

Spoiler Alert: It's Hard Work! 

With no machete lying around our kitchen, we took to smashing the coconuts' hard outer shells on our concrete slab of a porch. Maybe put your helmet or some goggles on if you follow this method, because flying coconuts can be a little dangerous! After splitting them open, we allowed the delicious coconut water inside to flow into a nearby bowl for collection. 

Upon successfully making it to the coconut's next layer, we began the difficult task of prying the delectably fatty meat away from the brown husk exterior. We did this the hard way, chipping at it with our bare hands, but there are lots of great ideas on how to make this thankless task a heck of a lot easier (like this!

We then strained our coconut water through coffee filters to rid it of any excess outer shell pieces, and shredded the white meat with a potato peeler to dehydrate. The process was lengthy, but there's nothing more satisfying than sprinkling your very own dried coconut flakes over a bowl of oatmeal, and then washing it down with some delicious coconut water!  

Try Something: Start A Compost!

I've wanted to start a compost for a long time, but have been held back by childhood memories of quickly tossing scraps into a smelly pit of flies. Raised in a family of four veggie lovers, we had started out with high hopes for our compost- but a combination of neglected maintenance and curious black bears made for some interesting (and messy) results. 

Since living in Delray, I've appeased my guilt for throwing valuable and reusable resources away as "waste" by dropping off my 'compostables' at the Children's Garden (a great alternative if you don't have the space or time for your own!). Finally, though, I decided to try out my own after picking up some tricks I observed at the garden.  

Where Do I Keep It Inside? 

Sticking to their respective corners of the freezer

Sticking to their respective corners of the freezer

No one wants to drag themselves outside every time you need to toss a banana peel.

THEN: Growing up, we collected compost items in a small bucket inside, conveniently located near the back porch to take out every few days when it got full. That was in northern California, so I knew in buggier Florida that this would not be a great option for us. 

NOW: We store our scraps it in the freezer. It occupies its own corner away from our food, and doesn't smell or attract gnats. 

Where Is It Outside? 

Staying contained with its makeshift lid

Staying contained with its makeshift lid

THEN: Approximately 200 feet from the house. Far enough that bears and raccoons easily found it without us knowing. 

NOW: Approximately 10 feet from the house. I'm motivated to take scraps out more often and can keep a better eye on how it's doing. 

How Do I Maintain It? 

Tranquil churning to end another beautiful day in Florida 

Tranquil churning to end another beautiful day in Florida 

THEN: We used two above ground, large compost bins. The process felt grueling. We'd look in after weeks and see that  -despite the swarms of flies-  it didn't look like much was getting done.

NOW: We dug a hole in the ground and buried an old garbage can with holes cut in its sides. Now, just the top of the can peeks out of the ground. Our reasoning- more worm access, and less critter access. We also maintain a healthy mix of food scraps and other items like dead foliage, egg cartons, dryer lint, and ashes from our fire pit. Check out more items to throw in the mix here. Almost every time we take the compost out now, we churn our new soil that looks much richer and darker than I ever remember. (I think it's working guys!) 

We're still newbs here when it comes to composting. Do you guys have any suggestions or tricks you've used? Share with us in the comments below! 

Beautiful Spots to Pitch a Tent This Winter- February On Amelia Island

Photo by Will Sombric

Photo by Will Sombric

3.) Amelia Island- Rated "G" for Glamping

There are few things better than the cool breezes of February in Palm Beach County, but if you're still itching for a little bite to your Florida winter, then look no further than Amelia Island. With its beautiful beaches, charming downtown, and forests of oaks strung with Spanish moss, a trip up here is truly a one of a kind escape. Just a hop, skip, and a jump away from Georgia (look North across the brackish waters and you'll see it!), Amelia Island delivers a romantic blend of Southern charm and island time.  

Pitch your tent at the Fort Clinch Campground for lovely beaches littered with interesting shells, glorious dunes, rich history at the old Spanish fort, and awesome mountain biking trails. You'll be welcomed by friendly staff (who refer to the island as 'Baja Georgia') and an endless canopy of live oak trees. Don't forget to peruse downtown and enjoy a vibrant art community, delightful small bookstore, and the joys of wandering through a Saturday Farmer's Market with plenty of local fare to offer. 

 

 

 

Beautiful Spots to Pitch a Tent this Winter- January on Buster Island

 

2.) Buster Island- Rated "R" for Rugged 

Backpacking in Florida? Yes, it's a thing! Almost 150 years ago, John Muir thru-hiked Florida's tropical woods during his Thousand-Mile Walk from Illinois to the Gulf.

What we lack in mountains, Florida makes up for in its vast and varied vegetation. Buster Island lies in Lake Kissimmee State Park and offers a 6.9 mile loop that is perfect for families seeking a relatively short, but beautiful overnight adventure. Explore the old-growth live oak groves, expansive prairies, and even a replica of an old cow camp. Make sure you take time to examine your surroundings- you may spot a bald eagle!

We've rated this adventure 'Rugged' since the camping is primitive, meaning that if you plan on camping under the oaks for the night, be aware that these unofficial sites only offer a few picnic tables and fire rings. So plan to do your business at the restroom found by the trailhead before setting out on your hike, or freshen up your cat-hole digging skills! Make sure to take plenty of water as well, and remember: pack it in, pack it out. Backpackers register at the ranger station beforehand.  

 

DIRECTIONS: From US 27 in Lake Wales, drive east on SR 60 for 9.7 miles to Boy Scout Camp Rd. Turn left and continue 3.5 miles to Camp Mack Rd. Turn right and drive 5.4 miles to the park entrance, on the right. 

 

3 Books That Will Make You Want to Go Outside

                                                                                                                                            Let's Go Adventuring! 

                                                                                                                                            Let's Go Adventuring! 

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver

Join writer Barbara Kingsolver and her family as they embark upon a year of eating only locally-sourced food. Kingsolver documents the challenges of building up her own farm, as well as getting acquainted with her fellow neighborhood producers. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle makes for an insightful read by showcasing Kingsolver’s knowledgeable scientific background and mastery of creative writing. Uncover the joys of enjoying foods when they are in season, and recognize the environmental and quality costs suffered at the expense of a meal’s lengthy journey.

 

Home Grown by Ben Hewitt

Ben Hewitt and his wife practice ‘unschooling’- raising two boys on their self-sustaining Vermont farm. Abandoning the confines of a four-walled classroom, Hewitt advocates outside education as an effective means for nurturing a love of learning in his children. Home Grown leaves out the judgmental suggestions and instead offers more mindfulness tricks that may transform your ideas on parenting.

 

How to Raise a Wild Child  by Scott Sampson

This novel from “Dr. Scott”, host of the PBS series Dinosaur Train, offers thoughts on how to engage communities, rural or urban, in the natural world. Sampson enthusiastically advocates for the investment in outdoor spaces by citing their long-term benefits towards cognitive and social development. To retreat from the modern stressors many kids face of being “over-scheduled, over-protected, and over-screened”, Sampson delivers guidance on connecting kids with the outdoors.  

 

D.I.Y. Remedies to Naturally Repel Pests

Thanks to some help from our University of Florida friends, check out a few of our simple & natural solutions to your pest problems below!

RED PEPPER SOLUTION:

What You Need:

  • 2 TBSPs red cayenne pepper 
  • 6 drops of liquid dishwashing soap (a kind without degreaser)
  • 1 gallon of water
  • Spray bottle

How To: 

  1. Water plants one day prior to application 
  2. Mix cayenne pepper, liquid dishwashing soap, and water
  3. Allow mixture to sit overnight and then stir it thoroughly to dissolve pepper
  4. Wait 2-3 days & check results! 

*Spray weekly


SOAPY SOLUTION

What You Need:

  • 2.5 TBSPs of liquid dishwashing soap (a kind without degreaser) 
  • 1 gallon of water
  • Spray bottle

How To: 

  1. Water plants one day prior to application
  2. Mix liquid dishwashing soap with the water
  3. Spray mixture on a small area of the plant
  4. Rinse area with fresh water a few hours following application
  5. Wait 2-3 days & check results! 

*Avoid using on plant leaves with thin waxy coverings or hair


OIL SOLUTION:

What You Need:

  • 2 TBSPs cooking oil
  • 2 TBSPs of liquid dishwashing soap (a kind without degreaser) 
  • 1 gallon of water
  • Spray bottle

 HOW TO: 

  • Water plants one day prior to application 
  • Mix cooking oil, liquid dishwashing soap, and water
  • Spray mixture on a small area of the plant & thoroughly cover (spray both sides!)
  • Wait 2-3 days & check results! 

*Spray every 5-7 days; do not use on orchids

 

Why Do We Hate On Invasive Plants?

Mullein of the Southwest: Dangerous Invasive or Medicinal Miracle? 

Mullein of the Southwest: Dangerous Invasive or Medicinal Miracle? 

Growing up, I remember my Dad hated a certain kind of nettle that grew in our garden. It smelled terrible, felt itchy on our legs, and was a general eye sore. We ripped its roots from the Earth whenever we could, and cursed the obstinate plant that always seemed to grow back twice as strong. My Dad likes to float through hobbies: listening to The Doors on repeat, comparing Airstream trailers, and at one point... actively following our local Native Plant Society. Imagine his horror when one day, he discovered that this nettle we had fought for years was in fact- a native plant. 

What exactly does it mean to be a native plant? While definitions of 'native' vary slightly, it is generally understood that a native species thrived in an area prior to human intervention. Exotic plants, on the other hand, are introduced to an area by humans (accidentally or deliberately). An exotic can transform into what we call an invasive, an introduced species that ends up doing so well in its new environment, that it can adversely affect native plants by driving competition for local resources.

The term "invasive", however, can connote something slightly misleading: dangerous, obstructive, annoying, bad. While performing invasive species removal in Arizona, I remember targeting Mullein- a hated invasive. At the same time, I learned from locals that the plant in fact had a rich utilitarian history among the Native Americans who used mullein for its many medicinal properties. Dastardly invasive or useful addition? Assigning a single characterization isn't always so simple. 

Taking a critical perspective on local plants can help us to better understand our complicated relationship towards native, exotic, and invasive species. Here is an article from Emma Marris, author of the interesting and reflective ecological work, Rambunctious Garden: Saving Nature in a Post-Wild World to further aggravate your curiosity. 

The Peanut Butter Fruit Tree of Delray Beach Children's Garden isn't native to Florida- but that doesn't mean that we can't love & nurture it for its glorious taste.

DBCG loves plants- take this fun quiz to find out the ideal native plants for your yard!   

3 Easy Ways to Attract Pollinators Into Your Garden

Ladybug hanging out on a sunflower in the Delray Beach Children's Garden

Ladybug hanging out on a sunflower in the Delray Beach Children's Garden

Roughly 35% of the world's food production relies on pollinators (butterflies, bees, hummingbirds, beetles). These crops include some of our favorite, nutritious treats: fruits, nuts, veggies, coffee, and chocolate. So how can we lend a hand to our important friends? Welcome them into our gardens! 

1.) Shelter

Your garden allies need a home. Lay out some excess yard clippings, provide hospitable hedges, or lay out a nice decomposing log. Alternatively, consider investing in an artificial nesting box.

2.) Water

Think birdbaths, dripping bottles, or even a simple Tupperware container. Just make sure to change the water 2-3x per week to avoid mosquito breeding.   

*Pro tip: Butterflies like muddy puddles for their salts & nutrients

3.) Plants

Check out our list of some Florida plants that bees & butterflies love:

Help sustain our pollinators- happy planting friends! 

[Earth Day Special]: What's in Your Compost?

In honor of Earth Day, we're bringing you five cool facts about composting. DIG IN!

  1. Used tissues, dryer lint, nail clippings, dog fur, &...jello?! You can compost them all! 
  2. For an average family of four, approximately 20,000 compost worms are hard at work to turn waste ---> compost
  3. Adding compost to existing soil can help increase its water-holding capacity, so you can save yourself some water!   
  4. Your compost is *HOT*- the organisms breaking down waste generate heat 
  5. The average person throws away 7x their own body weight in waste per year, and about 25% of that is garden waste... so get to composting! 

Want to compost, but don't have a place to? Come visit us at the garden and give us your compost! Our worm friends will thank you :)