Category Archives: General Gardening

tulips and forsythia

A Little About My Gardens, Past and Present

great-grandfather
My son and his great-grampa, 1978

I recently read a blog post where the writer explained about her backyard garden.  She included photos and her plans for each area of the outdoor space.  You can read it at the Hairytoegardener’s blog.

Growing up in Massachusetts, I lived on a hill overlooking my grandfather’s huge vegetable and flower garden.  I remember him always there, working in the garden (except in winter of course).  I can still picture him jiggling along with that old rototiller digging up the earth.  I wish I had run down and helped him do what he did, because I could have learned first hand how to be a successful grower of fabulous fresh vegetables.

I think he liked the solitude of gardening, so I would have been an unwanted pest maybe.  But as I recall, my grandfather was always kind and enjoyed us kids being around.  I think he could have taught me a thing or two about gardening.

Grampa's garden
The Field and Garden – after Grandfather was gone

Anyway, I never really got into gardening mainly because I had children who took up all my time. I presently have a 40 year old son, a 19 year old son, and two more in between. The most gardening I have done over the years were in my big Florida yard, where I planted everything tropical I could get my hands on, and in New England where I truly enjoyed digging in the ground.

I’ve lived at 16 different addresses. Some of those for only a very short time. In fact, one address was merely wishful thinking. I never actually had the chance to move in, but my items were there for a few weeks. The condo I was about to rent flooded from a burst pipe, and it was necessary to find an alternate place to live – temporarily.

I’ve spent many of my later years in survival mode, and that means I didn’t get to even think about such frivolous things as gardening.

But, when I had the chance to allow my mind to dream of a backyard full of flowers and blooming trees, and an herb garden, and picking ripe tomatoes, I worked relentlessly to make it happen. A lack of land restrained me somewhat, but in the first home, which was all my own, in New Hampshire, I planted in every available sunny spot I could find.  I did it all by myself, and I had a beautiful spot to enjoy.

backyard garden
My New Hampshire Backyard & Gardens

However, before that home, I had another New Hampshire home. It was the last place I lived.  Really, those were the last days of my life.  At that time, I lived more like most of the population. I was a normal person. And my husband (now ex) and I bought a house with land..!!!!… that had a wonderful array of gardens and ornamental trees, with a gorgeous forsythia hedge by the road.   In spring, I saw the tulips and daffodils pop out of the earth… imagine!  There is none of that in Florida.

Immediately I began to study the New England plant varieties and saw my yard becoming even more stunning as I planned to include more and more new shrubs and trees over the years.   In the two summers I lived here, I expanded the garden, adding a block pathway, bird feeders and bird baths.  There was an asparagus garden – I’d never had that before – and we saw black bear, turkeys and deer in the yard.  There was even a wisteria growing over a backyard arbor (not in the photos).  Yes, I could have lived here for the rest of my life, but two years later we were gone.

tulips and forsythia
Forsythia and Tulips, Spring at my first NH home
backyard garden
New Hampshire 1st backyard – photo taken from a skylight on the 2nd floor

When I write about my first NH house, it’s like I am talking about another person’s life. It was only 12 years ago that I lived here, but it seems like 100.

Today my yard is small and my house is surrounded by St. Augustine grass which grows like thick vines intertwining with itself.   This makes it incredibly difficult to remove – if I wanted to plant a garden.  Instead I have chosen a raised bed to grow vegetables (hopefully).   The plantings in the yard are simple and easy to care for as this was a home owned by some wealthy people who rented it out over the 12 years they owned it.  There is even a sprinkler system.  It’s a self-sufficient house.

So I have begun yet again to try to establish a beautiful yard. Except now I am older, and struggle with a disease that saps my energy. The gardening bug, once installed in our DNA, is impossible to ignore. My mind says “it’s too hot here, give up and just be at peace with the yard as it is”.

But my heart calls me to don those gloves and go out and dig!  Collect seeds, experiment with new plantings, take clippings and see if they will root and become new plants on their own.

The old dreams of a beautiful garden in my backyard are gone, but I feel good about the fact that when I had the chance, however fleeting the opportunity, I made the best of it.  I’ve left some great gardens behind.  I guess it was my tiny contribution to the planet.

Still, I can’t stop.

Advertisements
birdhouse crotons hibiscus

What’s Growing in My July Florida Garden

It is so hot down here in Florida in the month of July that I rarely go outside.  This morning I scurried around my yard and took some photos until I just couldn’t stand being out there.  I think I lasted less than 5 minutes. The heat index says it feels like 100 out there. Add in tons of humidity, and you have Yuk.

So lets begin with the flowers. The crotons and hibiscus are loving the heat. They were made to withstand summer heat in this disgusting climate. Thankfully we are getting lots of afternoon thunderstorms that keep me from having to go out and water.

red hibiscus
Red Hibiscus

My rose bush hasn’t had any blooms for a while, but I noticed a small rose and bud today. It probably needs more attention, and more fertilizer.
small carnival rose and bud
Small Rose and Bud

I bought some Impatiens when I first moved into the house, and unbelievably they are still looking pretty good! I also planted my mother-in-laws-tongue, or snake plant, in the ground and it is doing well. I’ve put a few of the big seashells I’ve collected into the garden as decoration. The older, worn shells look good displayed that way. I had to put them out front, away from the raccoons, so they wouldn’t drag them off!
seashells decorating garden bed
Seashells Decorate the Garden Bed

The Persian Lime tree is doing great. It’s still in a pot, and has lost a lot of the fruit it started with, but I still have some good size limes coming. I’ll have to figure out when to pick the fruit.
persian lime fruit on tree
Persian Lime Fruit

I have 2 eggplant plants, but neither one is growing any eggplants. They flower, and lose the flowers and keep growing tall. Maybe there aren’t enough bugs to pollinate the flowers. I need more flowering plants in and around my garden.
But I tried. I bought a bunch of marigolds because I always grew marigolds in New Hampshire. They usually became beautiful rounded bushes with tons of flowers. But that is not happening to these marigolds.
eggplant
Eggplant

The marigolds have been growing for months, and I only have about 3 flowers total. The stalks have grown very long and tall, without flowering. It’s very bizarre. Marigolds are good to grow near tomatoes and other vegetables because they will help keep certain unwanted bugs away.
orange marigold
Orange Marigold

On to the tomatoes. I have 2 tomato plants still growing, but neither one looks exceptionally good. Both have some small green tomatoes, and I don’t know if I will get red ones to eat before the raccoons decide to help themselves.
Green tomatoes
Tomatoes

I tried covering the vegetable garden with netting, and I think that helped. But a papa cardinal somehow got inside the netting and was trapped in the garden! I went out and freed him, but I had to cut the netting off in the process. He was really freaking out, so I left the garden uncovered.
I’m not trying too hard to garden these days. It’s too hot, and I don’t think the vegetables like it either.
……. Happy 4th!

tiny watermelon on the vine

Here’s What’s Happening in My Florida Yard in May

Aside from the fact that the raccoons are helping themselves to all my tomatoes… red and green… I am still attempting to grow a garden.  The raised bed is filling slowly with dirt and compost, and right now I have cucumbers, tomatoes, summer squash, bell peppers, and eggplant growing.

So far I am eating tomatoes and cukes.  Still waiting for the peppers, squash and eggplant.

raised bed gardening
New Plants in My Raised Bed Garden

None of my vegetable plants were doing very well.  They had plenty of sun and water.  The problem was the soil.  I have been buying bags of organic dirt, but I don’t think it had any type of compost in it.  So I  bought a few bags of compost, and that has helped. I had started my own compost in a pail on my porch and I added that to the raised bed.  What I really need is a composter.

Now my older eggplant is flowering again.  I have some green peppers and can see little cucumbers beginning to grow. But I need more dirt and compost.

eggplant flower growing
Maybe I’ll Get an Eggplant
cucumber blossom on vine
Tiny Cuke

The Rose bush is blooming, with small, but beautiful roses.

I must go outside and check them every day, because the flowers don’t last. Just the other day I got a pure white rose on this bush! But I waited too long and lost the opportunity to get a photo.  Roses are difficult to grow and with the humidity here, I’m afraid of black spot – or whatever they get.

pink rose
Pink Rose with Peach Center

Down toward the back of my house the watermelon vine is getting longer, and baby watermelons are popping out along the stem.

tiny watermelon on the vine
Baby Watermelon

Since I’ve amended the soil with compost, the peppers are doing better. The bells are not very large yet, but I’m afraid the raccoons will pick them before I get to.

green bell peppers growing
Finally, my peppers are growing!

It’s been so dry here in Florida for months. This tropical location is in need of rain. We’ve had very few rainy days, and there have been fires all over the place.

Because of this, I decided to add a cheap bird bath to the corner of my garden. Using a big plastic pot saucer, I added some broken bricks left over from the building of our patio, and filled it with water.   It sits on the corner of the raised bed.  Each day I spray it out and refill while I’m watering the garden.

I do get birds who drink and bathe in the thing. A female cardinal especially seems to like it, and a Cowbird (I think) had a nice long bath the other day. Of course my cats drink from it as well!

bird bath
My Cheap Bird Bath

I know that if I was still living in New Hampshire, gardening would hopefully begin this Memorial Day weekend. Their garden veggies won’t be coming in for a couple more months.

pine wood raised bed

Making the Raised Garden Bed

I’ve been in my new house for a couple of months now.  We’ve made headway, but after spending money for a new HVAC system and a new dishwasher, money is getting tight.

I’ve been keeping an eye on the yard, and the position of the sun, to figure out the best spots for my raised garden beds.  Because Florida soil is mostly sand, dumping good soil into a box may be the best way to begin a garden.

The other day, spur of the moment, my son went out and bought some wood and made this raised garden bed! He read some “how to’s” online and then bought everything and put it together (with the help of his younger brother). I think it’s great! It’s made of pine boards and is about 18 inches high.

pine wood raised bed
Raised Garden Bed

Getting dirt into the bed may be a challenge. We have a sprinkler system and a drainage area around the front of the house. It’s a bit like a dry moat which won’t allow for a vehicle to drive over. My son can fill his truck with garden dirt but it will have to be shoveled into a wheelbarrow and dumped into the raised bed. (Read my solution to this problem on this post.)

My parsley and lettuce in the small box is doing well. If I had a bigger garden this time of year (December) I would be planting peas, onions, spinach and kale. Hopefully by next year this garden bed will be ready.

parsley and lettuce
Cool weather crops in a small garden box

I use my beautiful parsley daily by adding it to my omelets, homemade salsa, soups, stews, pizza, spaghetti sauce and meatloaf – to name a few.  It adds such fabulous flavor and is good for the kidneys, in moderation.

It was one of my favorite things to grow in New Hampshire, as it lasted right into the first snowfall. I used to have deer come into my yard and nose through the snow to find it!!  Beautiful…..!  I didn’t mind sharing.

deer in winter
This little deer is searching for leftover parsley, and anything green and good, in my former backyard in New Hampshire.

At the end of the growing season I would store parsley by drying or freezingRead how I do it.

I have noticed, since I moved back to Florida, that there are no seeds, and few decent vegetable seedlings, to be found in the stores.  I managed to save this parsley from a neglected Home Depot shelf in August.  It looked pathetic, but I know how resilient parsley is, and sure enough it grew in nicely.  There is plenty, even though I pick many branches every day!

The lettuce was a recent purchase and it didn’t look too good either, but it seems to be doing well in this recent cool weather we’ve had.  I’ve even used a few leaves to add to a sandwich.  I prefer buttercrunch or the variety lettuce, but I’ll look for seeds next year.

Apparently this is not the time of year to buy seedlings and seeds.  In early spring I will most likely have more luck. For now, I will fill my fabric pots, which I used with much success up north, and grow a few things in there. I found a nearby garden center which I must visit soon.