I love toys. In my heart of hearts, I'm 8 years old. I have wind-up airplanes, solar-powered gizmos and a Lost in Space robot that says, "Danger Will Robinson!" Why did I have kids? So I could go toy shopping! (My inner 8-year-old wanted to buy them a new toy every day. Fortunately, my outer 35-year-old said, "Absolutely not, crazy person!") Now I'm, um, a little older than that. My outer prude still says, "No, no, no!" so I don't buy every sparkly new thing that catches my eye. But, yeah, I do indulge my little-kid me more than I used to. I'm guessing I'm too old to get spoiled. Nowadays, my splurges are usually garden-oriented. And that means they don't always involve spending money. The wonderful thing about gardening is, we can have new, novel and fun — often for next to nothing. These are a few of my favorite new toys:
Weed? Or a delicious crop that needs no maintenance?
I finally got around to weeding, pruning and mulching the front beds and, whoa, I've got squatters. Not far from the Muscovy duck hiding a nest full of eggs and the mysterious little pile of animal bones (I really need to tend these beds more often), I discovered a beautiful little plant shimmering with pale pinks and golds. Technically, it's a weed: I didn't plant it. But, it was way too pretty to pull up.
So I posted a picture on Facebook and Mary Whatley of Fruitland Park told me it's Lepidium virginicum. Doris Salter of Plant City says her husband loves to snack on it — tastes like radishes. So I took a bite. Yum. Very radish! A little online research tells me it's good in salads and the tiny seed pods are a substitute for pepper. Its common name is pepperweed.
Doris Walters, who lives near Delray Beach, is a fan. "I find the form very interesting in my garden. They disappear by summer and come back in late winter. I call them native plants and embrace them."
I'm embracing, too, Doris.
Oxygenated hose water (really?)
I go through spray hose nozzles like Kleenex, so I'm always checking out the options when I'm browsing garden departments. Pure Rain's Handheld Essentials oxygen-infusing spray nozzle caught my eye at Lowe's. I resisted — then went back a week later to get one. Heck, it was only $13 and it promised 30 percent more plant growth by shooting the water through a little bubbler, much like an aquarium pump. I know rain makes seeds sprout and perennials flower, so the premise seemed good. (Except that rain also has nitrogen, which this nozzle doesn't promise, and a good rain delivers a lot more water than a hose. At my house, anyway.)
The jury's still out on this gadget. Midway through my experiment, we got a great downpour. (Not complaining!) I'll keep trying it and let you know.
One thing I can tell you — if you want one, the basic model has a droopy trajectory suitable for containers. The "Plus" version (about $16) is better for flowerbeds.
#rosechat with @RedneckRosarian
Raise your hand if you're on Twitter! Okay, all three of you can put your hands down. Here's a good reason to give it a try: #rosechat. Just go to twitter.com, create an account, and at 8 p.m. next Wednesday (and the last Wednesday of every month), type #rosechat in the search field. You'll join a conversation led by Alabama banker and gardener Chris VanCleave (@RedneckRosarian), who will answer every rose question you've got. He's good, he's kind (heck, he's also a missionary!) and the #rosechat-ters are patient and tolerant of us newbies. Believe me — I tested them! (If you get on Twitter, look for me at @DigginPenny. It's always better to stumble around with friends.)
During my first #rosechat, I learned the spray can of Ortho RosePride Insect, Disease & Mite Control would, indeed, take care of Abraham Darby's black spot if I spray every two to three days for a week. I also won a sampler pack of Authentic Haven Brand Soil Conditioner — Premium Manure Tea. It arrived in the mail just a couple days after the chat.
Azaleas that make you see double
I don't have azaleas because I don't have oak trees, which seem to be a requirement. But for those of you who love 'em, wouldn't you give your weight in compost to see them bloom twice a year?
New for 2012 from Proven Winners are Bloom-A-Thon azaleas. They promise 20 weeks of flowers — a first bloom in the spring and a second from July into the fall. They were developed in South Carolina and, although it's always difficult to judge how plants grown north of Florida will do in the Tampa Bay area, Proven Winners spokeswoman Danielle Ernest says, "They'll be great down there!"
There are four varieties: lavender, white and red singles, and pink doubles. After the spring bloom, trim back a bit and fertilize, and they're supposed to bloom again from summer into fall.
Plant in dappled light or part shade. Visit provenwinners.com to find local retailers, then call and ask if they have the Bloom-A-Thons — or if they'll order them for you.
How about you?
If you've found cool new toys — be they plants, garden tricks or gizmos — drop me a comment at firstname.lastname@example.org. I don't know anyone who's not completely ruled by their inner 8-year-old. And I don't know a single gardener who's not always excited about a new toy!
Reach Penny Carnathan at email@example.com. Read more local gardening stories at www.digginfladirt, and join her and other local gardeners chatting on Facebook at Diggin Florida Dirt.