I was born in Manville, NJ the Winter of ’65 — in the “Age of Aquarius” ♒︎ man. I don’t remember much about New Jersey other than my Grandmother had a really awesome vegetable garden every year and worms, a lot of earthworms. She said her secret was to dump coffee grounds, pickle juice and peelings from the kitchen into her garden to enrich the soil. I know it worked because she grew really tasty fresh Jersey tomatoes and the cutest little pickling cucumbers every year.
In 1971 my parents decided they needed to get away from the asbestos of Manville and settled in Juno Isles, Florida in unincorporated Palm Beach County. Back in those days Northern Palm Beach County was a wilderness of Beach Dunes, Cypress Swamp Forests, Freshwater Marshes, Maritime Forests, Pine Flatwoods, Prairies and Scrub Forests. And I used to love exploring every one of them when I was a kid. I had a bicycle and a fishing pole and away I went! But even at home in those days it was not unusual to see all manner of wild animals in the yard — bobcats, foxes, spotted skunks, armadillos, racoons, opossums, black racers, rat snakes, green anoles, squirrels, fruit rats, bufo toads, Cuban tree frogs, gopher tortoises and an occasional red eared turtle.
On my Mother’s side of the family, my Grandfather influenced me a lot because I thought he was very smart and could have been a patented inventor if he had put his mind to it. But he was just a “Blue Collar” man from the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre area of PA. A second generation American whose parents came from somewhere over in Eastern Europe to settle in the “Hard Coal” Anthracite region of Pennsylvania in the late 1800’s.
Sometime in the late 1970’s my grandparents settled in Juno, Florida. I really got to know my Grandfather in this time and I know that I learned quite a bit from him. He had amassed a lot of practical wisdom during his life. He read a lot and shared his books with me. One of my favorites that he had was the acclaimed Foxfire series which covered a diverse array of crafts and practical skills, including log cabin building, hog dressing, basketmaking, cooking, fence making, crop planting, hunting, and moonshining.
Grandpa and I used to explore the woods around us, go fishing and garden. Grandpa used to like trying his hand at grafting fruit trees, raising rabbits for “eatin’ and fur”, making wine (the elderberry was the best) and wood working. He even had a little plant nursery there in the side yard where he would sell aloe vera and other succulent plant species from a little sign on the road with an arrow pointing back to the side of the house.
So there is the set up for the FloridaGardener. I grew up reading Ranger Rick, Mother Earth News and National Geographic and had the wilderness of Northern Palm Beach County to explore when I was a kid. After my parents had the pool put in the back yard, they certainly encouraged me to get out of the house and play outside. And I loved it too! I would collect unusual plants on my explorations and bring them back home to grow. Our backyard began to resemble a sub-tropical paradise after a while with a plot set aside for growing herbs and vegetables. I was also the kid who would come to your hose and ask if he could pull your weeds for $5 bucks. The skills I learned helped me get summer jobs doing gardening and landscape maintenance at Montsorrel, Palm Beach. Later, but before I started college (Stetson, DeLand, Class of ’88) in earnest I was part owner of Ease-Scape Landscape and Maintenance. The thing I hated the most about that job was wet St. Augustine grass and the afternoon thunderstorm deluges. The wet grass because it made the mower run bad and dulled the blades and the T’Storms because it usually meant the end of work for the day.
Back in the 1990’s I started FloridaGardener.com as one of the first online sources for information about plants that grow in South Florida. My hope was to help inspire and encourage aspiring Florida gardeners. Over time the original FloridaGardener.com started to look a little ratty, run-down and outdated, like a neglected garden almost. So I have begun to update the older articles and will be posting all sorts of new material based on my travels and what I have learned from them. Because I earn money to keep this website up through ADVERTISEMENTS I ask that you DISABLE YOUR AD BLOCKER while visiting. And one of our sponsors also asks that we notify you that: “As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.”
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