April 17, 2020
VISTA MATTERS: Keeping up with our community
State of the Garden Update
by Marty Kleiner
We understand that many members are not coming to the garden to tend their beds because of COVID-19. Several garden members have been weeding, pruning, and harvesting ALL of the plots. Some of you have been the recipients of this good work as your bounty has been delivered to your front door.  

We are continue to weed and mulch the “streets” and have been fortunate to have a few members help with this. If you'd like to help, there is plenty of space to keep six feet away from each other! (see article below)

Gate Lock
The lock on the front gate broke and a new one has been installed. The combination is the same. This lock is a little more finicky and you must make sure the letters are right on the center. There is also a different lever to push down.

Shed Project
If you have visited, you will notice a lot of activity around the seed house behind the shed. We are going to wrap all open areas of the shed in 1/2 inch 19 gauge hardware cloth (wire mesh). This will keep the rodents out. 

We realize that the COVID-19 has impacted everyone differently. If you decide you are not going to renew your bed next year and know so now, please contact Rolfe Everson so we can make plans for next season. We currently have a waiting list for new members.

Water Supply
We are still having problems with running out of water in the early morning before the sun comes out to supply energy to turn the pump on. We are working on this issue.

If you are coming to your garden and pulling some of your old plants out, please take a look at the root system. If there are little knots on the roots, your bed may have nematodes (see pictures to the right). There are methods to control this problem. Please let Roberta, Karen, or Marty know if you see a problem and we can help out.

We are not receiving any more compostable material from the Food Pantry. However, there is still a lot of compost in process.  If you are looking for something to do by yourself and get out of your house, feel free to sift the compost.
Kalette harvested with healthy root system, April 2020
Swiss chard harvested with nematode-infested root system, April 2020
Pathway Prep for the Rainy Season
If you have visited the garden lately then you have likely noticed the lovely new mulch piles. They are there to help prepare the garden for the rainy season, where pathways can turn into mud baths if mulch is not in place.

Please do your part to support the community by spreading a few wheel barrows of mulch in the rows surrounding your garden bed. If sequestration has you feeling full of extra energy, please work it out by spreading a few extra barrows in the shared pathways!
VISTA officially named a Monarch Waystation
VISTA Gardens registered and is now certified as a Monarch Waystation. To achieve this, we increased our monarch (and pollinator) habitats throughout the gardens with many native Florida plantings (see article below).

Vicki and Ken Fuse will erect a sign this weekend at the site of our main butterfly garden and Shallyse Gastelum will soon begin photographing native plantings as they develop.

Enjoy our Monarch Waystation and encourage others to create their own at home! Take time to sit on one of the benches and observe Monarch, Swallowtail, Gulf Fritillary, Sulphur, and Long-tail Skipper butterflies, among others! They are particularly attracted to the red Tropical Sage blooms and fledgling Swamp Milkweed plants in the main butterfly garden.
Butterflies and Bees
Just inside VISTA's entry gate is a small garden designed to be a haven for bees and butterflies as part of our Monarch Waystation project.

Eventually, Coontie Palms will grow to serve as excellent caterpillar hiding places from predators (such as wasps) while the Bulbine blooms are already enjoyed by bees.

Gratitude to Marc Perkins-Carrillo who led University of Tampa and Kennesaw State volunteers as they prepared soil, transplanted, and mulched this little garden. Marc continues to faithfully fill and carry buckets of water to keep these plants growing.

Gratitude to Scarlet Rodriguez who donated a beautiful Bulbine she started for this garden. Gratitude also to Steinbrenner HS volunteers, Vivian and Madeline, who created the stone markers and regularly fertilize these (and many other) plants at VISTA. 
Wildlife Housing Developments
VISTA has upgraded its housing options for two vital residents - bats and owls.

Once it was determined that the existing bat house had seen better days and could not be relocated to a better location, Victor Castellano stepped in to construct and install a new one. Bats are valued at VISTA given their voracious appetite for the very insects we do not want feasting on our plants. To learn more about the Florida bat population, click here .

In addition to the bat house, there is now an owl house at VISTA. The house is designed for the Eastern Screech-Owl and Northern Saw-whet Owl. Nesting pairs of owls and their voracious owlets can consume thousands of small rodents in a year, making them a valued member of the garden ecosystem. To learn more about Florida's owl population, click here .

Gratitude also goes to Bill West for mounting the owl house and to Greg and Shirley Williams for their expert advice and consultation during the process.
Cub Scouts Pack 217 visits VISTA 
VISTA continued to build on its reputation as a key education resource when the Cub Scouts, Pack 217, Lake Magdalene United Methodist Church, visited this winter. After touring the gardens to identify native trees and plants and learn what grows in USDA Zone 9b, M.J. Wentzel welcomed the the Scouts into our "Black Gold Mine" where they learned about composting by contributing generous donations of leaves, reading the thermometer to determine the temperature inside a compost bin, sifting and adding soil to our compost reserves and learning about vermicomposting by engaging with red wigglers from our worm hotel.

Madeline Gardner, Steinbrenner High School volunteer, assisted several boys who seeded lettuce, while Roberta Owens assisted them in seeding squash and beans. They ended their visit with a snack and enjoyed Marty's woodland trail. A special thank you to Jennifer Cesares, parent of two members of Pack 217, for many of these great photos.