Category Archives: Sarasota Gardening Resources

Stalling at Selby Gardens

Today’s assignment led me to Selby Gardens…not a bad week.  I couldn’t help but take the long way out to snap a few extra photos.

More photos on Spotted.

Tropiflora’s Summer Plant Sale

First let me say that I have never been to this plant sale, but I’ve heard it’s phenomenal.  Why I haven’t been, I don’t know because this is their tenth year.  A guy I work with goes every year with his wife; he said the selection and prices are both worth the trip.  He lives down in Venice, but it’s not very far from me.  Tropiflora is located between 301 and Tuttle at 3530 Tallevast Road in Sarasota.  They’re advertising “Thousands of Bromeliads, Orchids, Succulents, Ferns and other exotic plants, many at liquidation prices.” The sale runs tomorrow and Saturday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.  Click on and print the coupon below, and you can save $5 off $25.  Have fun!

Upcoming Classes at Phillippi Mansion

I had a blast learning how to keep bees last week, but the how-to on keeping chickens will have to wait.  Chicken 101 was sold out by the time I went to register.  It’s not surprising since the city passed an ordinance in January allowing residents to keep up to four chickens per backyard.  But no roosters allowed!  They can’t keep their beaks shut. 

Chicken 101 is being offered through the Sarasota County Extension office so expect more classes to be scheduled.  The four-hour class costs $15; I’ll post an update on Facebook and Twitter when they schedule another one. 

For now, check out a free class at Phillippi Mansion.  The mansion itself is a gorgeous and historic setting, but take some time afterward to walk the hammock trail, let the kids explore the exceptionally cool playground and/or shop the farmers market.  Even if you’re not local, it’s worth a day trip. 

Class Schedule

March 30, 2011 at noon
The Healthy Home
Betty Alpaugh, Education Specialist

Americans spend more than 90% of their time indoors where air quality is often ten times more polluted than outdoors.  Fortunately, this is one health risk that we can reduce by learning how to improve the environmental quality inside our homes.  This class will discuss how families can make their homes safer, healthier and more comfortable by choosing more sustainable materials and maintenance methods.  (1 hour class)

April 6, 2011 at noon
Herb Gardening
Robert Kluson, Ph.D., Extension Agent
Florida vegetable gardening includes many potential herb crops. Learn which herbs are best suited to Sarasota County and seasons. (1 hour class)

April 13, 2011 at noon
Irrigation Display and Demo
Angela Antonucci, Program Specialist
Do you know how your irrigation system works? If you did, you would know about the water savings you could have each and every month by becoming a “water wizard.” Learn how to calibrate and set your time clock and fix problems. (1 hour class)

April 20, 2011 at noon
Fruit Trees for Sarasota County
Robert Kluson, Ph.D., Extension Agent
Florida food gardening includes many potential fruit crops. Learn which fruits are best suited to Sarasota County and seasons. (1 hour class)

April 27, 2011 at noon
Turf Alternatives
Angelo Randaci, Extension Agent

Florida Friendly Landscaping means using low-maintenance plants and environmentally sustainable practices. We will explore options to turf that will create a beautiful landscape, while helping to protect Sarasota County’s natural resources.  (1 hour class)

Useful Links:

February’s Free Gardening Classes

It can be pricey living in Sarasota.  There are galas and shows, fundraisers and festivals, but the fun isn’t only for the beautiful people.  There are a surprising number of free things to do around this ritzy city.  February’s free classes through the Sarasota County Extension are listed below.  Not only are the classes free but several are being held at Sarasota County parks, which makes for a nice morning or afternoon out.  Add to the fun and try letterboxing.  Here’s your first clue: After learning about beneficial insects, search for an antique key.  Enjoy!

Call the Sarasota County Extension at 941-861-9900 if registration is required.

  • February 2, 2011:
  • February 3, 2011:
    • Creating Wildlife Habitat In and Around Stormwater Ponds
  • February 4, 2011:
  • February 5, 2011:
  • February 8, 2011:
  • February 9, 2011:
  • February 12, 2011
    • Florida Yards & Neighborhoods: Creating Your Florida Yard
  • February 16, 2011
  • February 17, 2011
    • Chinch Bugs and White Grubs
  • February 19, 2011
  • February 22, 2011
  • February 23, 2011

Before you go to the Phillippi Farmhouse Market…

Check out their blog!  It’s great for planning your grocery list ahead of time; I’ll be buying lettuce and snap peas from Geraldson Community Farm tomorrow.  The blog has vendor information, entertainment line-ups, and menus.  It’s also a place for vendors to announce any specials they’re running.  Tomorrow’s special is 50 cents off per pound at Maggie’s Seafood, but get there early – it’s only available to the first fifteen customers.

And this mid-week market just keeps getting better!  In addition to the blog, they have partnered with the Sarasota County Extension to offer free gardening classes from 12 – 1, January through April.  Tomorrow’s class is Container Gardening.  And what’s even better than taking a free class is taking said free class in a historic mansion overlooking a rose garden and Phillippi Creek.  Built in 1916, the Edison Keith mansion is an Italian Renaissance-style beauty surrounded by a 60-acre park complete with a nature trail and playground.      

Free Gardening Classes

Sarasota County Extension sent out their summer schedule of classes this morning:


If you want on their mailing list, email  My picks for this summer are Partnering with Pollinators, Creating Your Florida Yard and the Rain Barrel Workshop, which is also a freebie because you don’t have to buy a rain barrel.  It’s a demonstration on how to construct and use them.  If you want to make your own you can, or you can buy one from the county for $37 after class. 

Have a nice weekend…just not at the Venice Farmers Market

I’ve been talking up the Venice farmers market lately, so I need to cover my bases and let everyone know that it’s not running tomorrow.  If you venture to downtown Venice in the morning, you’ll find the Venice Art Classic instead.  The festival is in its ninth year; expect a variety of paintings, sculptures, jewelry, and photography.  It runs Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and is free!   

It may still be a little chilly, but the sun will be shining all weekend.  Get out and enjoy it!  There’s been a long, loud statewide groan over this cold weather lately, but the news is reporting that this could be the end of it.  Before we know it, we’ll be shoving our faces in front of AC vents again, panting from the humidity.  Enjoy the cool weather while you still can!   

Here are some garden-related activities going on around town:

Environmental Art Workshop at Clair M. Mitchell Gallery in Towles Court ~ Free ~ Saturday from 1 to 3 p.m. ~ (941) 706-1308

Rainforest Masks 2010: Meet the Artists at Work at Marie Selby Botanical Gardens ~ Adults $17, $15 with this coupon & Kids under 11 are free ~ Saturday and Sunday from 1 to 3 p.m. ~ (941) 366-5731

Organic Vegetable Gardening Class at Orange Blossom Community Garden ~ free ~ Saturday from 1 to 2:30 p.m. ~ (941) 861-9900

Composting Tip

We picked up our free compost today.  It looks nice and woody - exactly what I was looking for to lower the pH.   

Here’s the tip: When picking up compost in an open-air vehicle, bring some sort of cover.  This is what the front seat looked like when we got home.

We looked far worse.  I couldn’t turn my head to either side or compost would fly in my eyes! 

pH Test

I’ve never tested my soil before, but it never really seemed like soil before.  When we dug up the side yard to convert it into a garden, it was nothing but sand.  When we planted, we always added Black Kow; it’s a brand of composted cow manure.  It helps sandy soil hold moisture.  John’s dad is a long-time Floridian home gardener; it’s what he uses.   Over the past two years, we’ve continuously rotated squares always using one as a compost area to bury kitchen scraps and yard waste.  We’re finally seeing a real difference.  The earthworms haven’t made a home here yet, but the soil is much darker and a lot less sandy.   



The results of the pH test are in; the soil gets an 8.0 for alkaline.  It was so easy – just add soil, the contents of the capsule, and water.  Shake it all up and match up your color.  In our case, we need to start burying more yard waste to lower the pH.  Pine needles, leaves and sawdust will all add acid to soil.  For now, I’m going to grab some free compost from Longwood Park.  Sarasota County compost is made from their yard waste collection, so it should help.  Butler, Laurel, Nokomis, and Shamrock parks also offer free compost and mulch. 

Laurel Park Community Garden

Great class on Saturday!  It was the first in a series of free classes on organic gardening offered through the Sarasota County Extension.   They’re held on the third Saturday of the month at Laurel Park and the first Saturday of the month at Orange Blossom Park.  This is the series line-up for October through February:

  • Soil Management
  • Crop Management
  • Pest Management
  • Water Management
  • Cover Crop & Compost Management

After the organic gardening overview, I walked around the Laurel Park Community Garden.  It’s smaller and sunnier than the Orange Blossom garden, but it has everything you need.  The hoses are conveniently located in a line down the center aisle. 

Here’s a peek inside the shed…

and at the compost pile.