Saturday, November 14, 2009


In just two weeks, the bananas are flourishing :o) I can't wait to taste these babies!

Friday, November 13, 2009

10-31-09 What a beauty! It's all about the progress :o)

The banana inflorescence shooting out from the heart in the tip of the stem, is at first a large, long-oval, tapering, purple-clad bud. As it opens, the slim, nectar-rich, tubular, toothed, white flowers appear. The ovaries contained in the first (female) flowers grow rapidly, developing parthenocarpically (without pollination) into clusters of fruits, called hands. The number of hands varies with the species and variety. The fruit (technically a berry) turns from deep green to yellow or red, and may range from 2-1/2 to 12 inches in length and 3/4 to 2 inches in width. The flesh, ivory-white to yellow or salmon-yellow, may be firm, astringent, even gummy with latex when unripe, turning tender and slippery, or soft and mellow or rather dry and mealy or starchy when ripe. (

10-31-09 Bananarama!!!!!

Just 21 days later, our banana has sprouted her first banana bud -- holy cow!!!! From this water-gathering bud, the tree saves water and nutrients for the growing bananas...

10-10-09 Banana

As of 10-10-09, the banana tree to the far left here is looking healthy, strong, and tall; she's also producing young bananas which can be seen in her fruit yet!

10-31-09 In just 21 days, our Husky Cherry Red has 2 baby tomatoes...

10-10-09 Husky Cherry Red Tomato

This husky red tomato plant is just a baby here, and this is what she looked like as of 10-10-09

10-31-09 Cinderella-magic...look at this thing grow!

Calabaza, larger than a softball in just ONE WEEK!!!! To fertilize her, Ben had suggested all vines at the garden could use the help of some organic seaweed kelp, we bought some from planet natural, a company that sells mainly organic and natural products for all gardening needs :o)


Calabaza, here, about the size of a tennis ball, maybe a little bigger :o)

Morning dew...there's nothing like it!

Papaya poem 10-31-09

Papaya poem 10-24-09...

Up close and personal...

Avocado Comparison 10-10-09 to 10-31-09

Avocado...mmmm! Local, beautiful, and oh so good!

And how does our Papaya look as of 10-31-09?

She bears even more fruit than just 21 days prior...the tree is simply happy and sustaining herself quite well with a little help from our kids at Troy: they water, weed, and fertilize with organic compost...and don't forget, we also mulch, mulch, mulch!!!

10-10-09 Papaya-study...

Our Papayas at the Greenhouse Project are's a view from 10-10-09; as you can see, small fruit are budding and a fragrant flower protrudes from this amazing tree

How does the Ross Sapote look as of 10-31-09?

Amazing what a little love and tender care can do!

Let's compare...10-10-09

Our Ross Sapote had been attacked by a hungry beetle or perhaps another little, Kimbrick weeds around the delicate plant as we lay the groundwork necessary to try and bring her back to life (we also sprayed her with a mixture of water, listerine, baking soda and soap -- a natural pesticide that's not going to hurt the plant but makes it an unattractive place for little critters to hang out).

Thursday, October 22, 2009


The Greenhouse Project at Gardens of Troy uses the shadehouse for several purposes: seed propagation, storage of materials, and it serves us as a classroom for teaching TROY students about botany, science and organic gardening. In collaboration with the Miami Dade College Architecture Department, we are fortunate to have Professor Maria Zabala take an active role in redesigning TROY's shadehouse/greenhouse. Under her mentorship and for class credits, Professor Zabala's students are engineering an energy-efficient and ecologically-sound building structure where TROY students will continue to learn, grow organic plants, and experiment with gardening projects. With the help of MDC's Architecture students, the younger students at TROY Academy will benefit from having an improved state-of-the-art environment from which to become inspired. The new shadehouse will surely improve not only the aesthetic of TROY's grounds, it will undoubtedly give the Greenhouse Project a shadehouse structure to match our vision. This collaborative effort of MDC and TROY is yet another example of a community that comes together to form a path to a better future for our at-risk youths.

October 7th, 2009 was a special day for the Greenhouse Project as I had the privilege of joining Professor Maria Zabala's Architecture 2023 class for their Mid-Project Review. Our panel, Professor Zabala, James Jiler, Professor Jaime Correa and me, Maggie Arias, were so pleased to see the students' design presentations. Equipped with models, bulletins, tons of research and innovative approaches to sustainable designing, these MDC students displayed their talents as well as their abilities to be unique, innovative, artistic and efficient. Thank you!!!
Jaime E. Correa, Professor of Architecture at the University of Miami for over 20 years, added some pointers for enhancing design features in the MDC students' presentation, Professor Correa is seen with Michel, our first presentor of the day...additionally, we were joined by reknowned Horticulturalist and Community Organizer, James Jiler, author of the book, "Doing Time in the Garden" --- the book upon which our Greenhouse Project at Gardens of Troy was based!
Miguel's design inspiration was based on soil topography - the concept of linear and curvilinear components of soil and sediment; he also did a great job researching and analyzing sun exposure at TROY and the best possible locations for planting vs. bldg structures; his design also had a section dedicated to a meditation/recreation area equipped with benches and a water pump
Kathleen's designing inspiration was the concept of “dissolving boundaries,” incorporating windchimes, water, and vegetation to her detailed design
Though it's hard to tell from her model, there's a water catchment system as well
Rochelle's design inspiration was from the development stages of an embryo as well as waves like from the ocean; her model was spacious and provided for secure storage for materials and garden tools
Tuyet's design inspiration was her own son and the stages of growth, from infancy to adolecence to adulthood...much like the seeds, seedlings, plants and fruit trees at the gardens of troy :o)
Though she had 3 separate models (a greenhouse, a teaching area and a sitting area), her design's strength was in water conservation and ventilation

Humberto's inspiration, the ylang-ylang flower, with its fragrant and inviting scent, was a simple design with a breath of fresh air...the design was spacious and included "retractible screens" for the shadehouse, allowing for additional ventilation in the hot summer months and sporadically hot days here in Miami
Kevin's design based on the concept of "connection" expanded the size of our current shadehouse/greenhouse; while the entrance way was a bit complex, Kevin's research into different colored mesh used purposefully for the growth rates of different vegetables was innovative and provided us with a unique and efficient method for protecting seedlings from harsh heat that could otherwise penetrate the regular black mesh
Stanley's design inspiration was derived from the art of music and the movement between beats going up an down...his design also allowed for a water catchment system
Japanese architecture plays a role in Jesus' redesign of the shadehouse, using movable pods and modules that can form larger structures...

Friday, October 16, 2009

Change is Good!

This garden bed contains two different varieties of basil, some lemmon grass, a pineapple and some an effort to diversify and refertilize the soil, we will soon be making changes to this for it!

Elizabeth, star volunteer, weeds the butterfly attractors!

Our very first baby papaya!!! YAY!
MULCH MULCH MULCH!!! It is important to mulch: 1) It keeps weeds down, mainly by blocking out light they need in order to germinate, 2) It conserves soil moisture by reducing evaporation, 3) It Moderates the temperature in garden beds; keeps them cooler in the summer and reduces the risk of damage to plant roots in the winter, 4) It keeps the soil from splashing onto loeaves when garden bed is watered, 5) Organic mulch adds all-important humus to the soil as it decomposes, and keeps the top layer of soil loose and airy.

After tilling the soil, adding compost and a mixture of elephant dung, Troy student, Thomas (left) and Volunteer, Luis, plant some new tomatoes carefully into our very first garden bed. These plants are no more than 6-8 inches tall. They pack the soil tightly, to prevent air-pockets in the ground; air-pockets would prevent the tomato roots from making contact with the nutrient-rich soil.
Troy Gardeners know the basics of planting new additions to the garden; here, a tomato plug purchased at Home Depot is contained in a cardboard-like pot which can be planted directly into the ground; we first remove the bottom portion, so that the roots make contact with the mixed soil inside the garden bed.
Every now and again, a garden bed needs "changing", after noticing that the blueberries were not doing well in the soil, we decided to re-pot them and plant two tomatoes instead; here, Elijah's getting ready for planting the new tomatoes.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

7:30 AM AT METRO ZOO, September 19, 2009

As we approached in the wee morning hours we knew we had to act fast before the massive thunder cells that greeted us unleashed their downpour -- Photo by Maggie; Inspirational Words by Eddie (including 'wee')
As this Saturday morning progresses, Metro Zoo's Compost Guru Randy Pawlak operates a backhoe as we follow him to a remote area of the Zoo...Randy supervises the dung mounds and monitors their temperature changes to determine when they become suitable for use as compost. TROY hereby thanks Metro Zoo's Horticulture Supervisor, Tom Trump, for today's donation. Check out the Miami Herald's recent coverage of the Zoo's composting operation how the herbivores at the Zoo are helping to minimize their carbon footprints

Compost mounds at Miami's Metro Zoo

When it comes to compost piles, Metro Zoo is not kidding a remote field on the grounds of the zoo, Randy has several piles of composting elephant dung as well as other piles which contain mixtures of mulch, tree branches, leaves, and dung from various herbivores at Metro Zoo; it's a highly organized operation; according to Randy, during the breakdown phase, the mounds can reach temperatures between 120-160 degrees farenheit; Randy knows a mound is ready for use as compost when it reaches a temperature closer to 90 degrees farenheit
The first load of composted elephant dung contains some of last year's hurricane debris, says Randy, but once we begin to unload it at TROY, we will be able to remove that, to keep the compost free of any non-biodegradeable materials that would harm our plants and garden beds
Randy loads the truck w/ a 2nd type of compost (a mix of high-grade elephant & other dung, bark/mulch, & other biodegradeables)
Randy uses a pitchfork to pack in the elephant dung neatly into the truck bed so that it doesn't spill out...Randy tells us that the county's lab is currently testing the dung to determine its far, the non-scientific accounts are that the stuff is AMAZING!!!!
The weather today was hot, muggy and wet...the elephant dung was soaked and weighted down; here, founder of TROY, Circuit Court Judge Tom Peterson (left) and volunteer, Albert (right), begin the daunting task of unloading the truck bed full of the nutrient-rich elephant dung :o)
Miami Dade College Architecture students visited TROY this morning to do another site survey and continue their research...for those of you who may not know, MDC's Architecture students in Professor Maria Zabala's class, are participating in a competition to redesign TROY Academy's on-site screenhouse (where we sometimes hold classroom sessions, house seedlings, small plants, and other materials we use at the Greenhouse Project)...welcome to TROY!
Early in the morning, Elizabeth and Thomas know the weather will soon catch up with us...getting this dung onto the property at TROY is serious business
While others work to unload the pick-up truck, Elijah's gathering a pot full of elephant dung...getting ready to re-fertilize

Because there's so much to do at the garden, Elijah works on re-fertilizing the younger trees..having learned how to fertilize on 9-12-09, Elijah's more than familiar with what he has to do: 1) rake back the mulch, 2) add some organic compost (in this case, composted elephant dung), 3) re-mulch and steer clear of the trunk

TROY student, Joseph, new to the Greenhouse Project, helps out by unloading some elephant dung onto our dung mounds