Category Archives: Vegetable Garden

how to grow eggplants

How to Grow Eggplants When the Flowers Keep Falling Off

eggplant tall plant
My Eggplant “Tree”

You may be wondering about my post image of the eggplant with a paintbrush. I’m hoping that little brush will help with eggplant production. When your eggplant flowers keep falling off, you may need a little paintbrush too.

For many months now I have had an eggplant “tree” growing in my garden.  I’m not familiar with growing eggplants.  In my New England yard I think I tried a few times and picked maybe one eggplant from my own garden!  The plants never grew very large – maybe a couple feet high. Here in Florida, my eggplant has become a small tree. And this photo was taken AFTER I pruned big branches off the thing!

Because of the warm climate, vegetable plants just go on living for many, many months. I am not used to that. The New Hampshire growing season was very short. When frost and freezes don’t happen, I suppose the plants could go on living forever. I don’t know. Does that happen? I thought vegetable plants were only good for one season.

Eggplant flower
I get lots of these

The plant produced many little purple flowers, and I kept hoping to see the dark purple vegetable pop out, but it never happened …. until just recently.

I figured there might be something wrong, since the plant itself is healthy and big.  It gets plenty of water and sun.  The weather has been hot, so I attributed the lack of fruit to that. However, the days have become cooler and now that one eggplant had set, I hoped to see more. That is not happening. All the other flowers are still falling off.

title eggplant beginning to grow
November 15th – Finally, a Little Eggplant is Growing!

I searched online and found a helpful article at Gardening Know How, which told me that lack of pollination may be the problem.

So this morning I went out with my little paint brush and swished it around inside some of the flowers. This is what that article said to do. Now I’ll wait and see if I get more eggplants forming.

I don’t love to eat eggplant, but I would definitely use them in a stir fry or vegetable lasagna dish.  I just need this big plant to give me something to cook with!

In the meantime, I am using green peppers daily. I never thought I could grow them, but it appears I just had to wait.

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October and November Vegetable Gardening in Florida

raised garden bed in fall
Raised Garden Bed November 2017

Now that the weather is cooling off here in central Florida, gardening is on my mind.  I can comfortably step outside and work in the yard.  October was a little hot, but November has been nice.

My Gardening in Florida book says that October is the time to think about growing cool-season crops.  Now it’s November and I still don’t have enough dirt for planting.  But if I did, this is what I would have planted.

Also, further down the page, see what is still growing and beginning to produce vegetables!

What to Plant in Fall

Suggested planting includes carrots, beets (I seldom eat) and turnips (I never eat), which can be started as seeds.  No need to buy seedlings.  Last spring I planted carrots in a fabric pot and they did pretty well.

My book has a section about building strawberry pyramids – so I assume I should plant strawberries this time of year. I don’t really have the space for them, so maybe I need a pyramid? There is probably no time or money for that this year, but it’s something to keep in mind.

Or maybe I will use one of the ideas found at this page: Top 30 Stunning Low-Budget DIY Garden Pots and Containers. Some look cheap and easy enough to do! Makes me want to go to the dollar store.

What I really need is a fence. It will give me some place where I can add containers and keep the raccoons out at the same time. There is no money for that right now.

I must deal with reality, so here is my list of vegetables I could have planted in October.  My garden is 10 feet long by 3 feet wide.  So not a lot of space, but I do have fabric pots to use as well.  If only I had a garden full of good dirt.

Lettuce
Kale
Onions – plant around the edges, take up little space
Peas – Will need a trellis

Some Plants Are Still Growing Well After Summer

I all but gave up completely on growing anything over the summer.  I had planted tomatoes, eggplant, squash and peppers in Spring.  I did get some small tomatoes but the raccoons helped themselves.  The squash plant got bugs and died before it gave me any squash.  The Eggplant and Peppers are still going strong.  In fact they are now doing well.

My neighbor, who does no gardening in summer, said that when it’s too hot the plants won’t produce. She covers the ground with plastic to kill the nematodes. However, I wonder if she realizes that burning out the bad also affects the good. I’m not sure it is wise to do that.  And because my plants survived the summer and are now looking good, I plan to keep the garden going all summer long next year.

eggplant in raised bed garden
My Eggplant “Tree” and green pepper plant in the raised bed

I honestly thought everything would eventually die in the summer heat.  I kept watering, just in case.  My eggplant grew into a small tree!  It was pretty, and has plenty of purple flowers, but never gave me an eggplant to eat.  Finally I cut it back hoping the excess energy put into growing would be used to possibly give me some eggplants.

And then…. today (maybe 2 weeks after trimming it) I was watering in the morning, as I do every day, and I found a small Eggplant beginning to grow!  Yay… more please.

title eggplant beginning to grow
November 15th – Finally, a Little Eggplant is Growing!

The only other vegetable producing plants that have survived are the peppers.  The hot pepper plant gives me a pepper here and there.

I have 2 bell pepper plants.  One is in a fabric pot and it has produced a couple of peppers over summer.  Now that the weather is cooler, the other pepper plant is producing like mad!  I’ve never been able to grow peppers but maybe the secret is to plant in Spring and wait until Fall to eat them.

Screen Shot 2017-11-15 at 9.50.47 AM

So, what I’ve learned so far is that planting in Spring gives me vegetables in Fall. The plants seem to go dormant over summer and then produce when the weather gets nice.

I’m continuously amending my soil and will continue to do so.  I think poor soil was inhibiting growth.

scallions

Scallions On The Windowsill and a Hurricane Irma Lesson Learned

scallions
Scallions in the window

It’s funny how a hurricane can change your way of thinking. I was excited about growing these scallions from the little roots I cut off the ends while cooking. Just put them in dirt, or water, and they shoot up green stalks.

I grew some last year outside and they got huge. I always thought it would be nice to add flavor to food by reaching for herbs growing right in the kitchen.

Over the past months, since I got a new chest freezer, and a new refrigerator with a double freezer in the bottom, I have been freezing little containers of homemade meals. I was excited about having scallions ready to add to my cooking.

Soup is something I enjoy creating because I can add only what I like to eat. That usually means no meat. My homemade soup has no recipe and always ends up a little different, but it’s always packed with fresh, organic vegetables. I never finish it all and usually save at least 2 containers to freeze for later on. I have the freezer space, so that makes sense.

Or so I thought. Hurricane Irma taught me a lesson.

Our power was out for six days. I lost hundreds of dollars worth of food, frozen and refrigerated, including all my extra soup and stew meals that I labored to create from scratch.

We hadn’t had time to even consider adding a generator to our new place. We haven’t even lived here a full year. Money was spent on a new AC system and other necessities. The dishwasher was old, as was the side-by-side fridge. When we moved in here we didn’t even have a couch to sit on – we used lawn chairs!

When we saw that Irma was going to hit us, we figured it wouldn’t be that bad – and it wasn’t – but for some reason my little section of the neighborhood never got power back for many days. Across the street they had it on day two. We had to wait six.  After day three, I knew the food wasn’t going to make it.

We were always searching for ice which was a rare commodity in this heat. We weren’t the only ones without power. (Thankfully my son is a firefighter and could bring ice from work). For days I dug through coolers searching for food. It’s not easy to find anything in a big cooler.

I stayed soaked in sweat day and night from the humidity. Without a generator we couldn’t run anything – fans would have been so helpful. I had a tiny battery operated fan that I set on my bed next to my head at night.

Finally on day 5 we found one generator (Yes, there was only one) at the local Home Depot. We hooked it up, started up the fridge, and ran fans at night. The next day, a little after noon, the power came on, but it was too late to save the food, or my sanity.

Now that the garbage disposal worked, I could dump all my delicious soups down the drain. All that work and money. Shopping, chopping, cooking, packing… for what? I am a changed person.

Some lessons are hard to learn, but I do learn. Even though we now have a generator and that should mean we will not lose food again, I don’t know if I will ever believe it.  I will do things differently from here on out.

tomato hornworm eating eggplant

Non-Producing Vegetable Plants Can Still Serve a Purpose

In the heat of the Florida summer months, I have done little gardening. But the plants I began growing in Spring, are continuing to grow. Even though I am not getting much, if any, produce from them, they serve a purpose. They can be food for worms; give bugs a place to crawl, which in turn feeds the birds, (mostly, I have cardinals); and provide a playground for the lizards.

The two eggplant plants I have in the garden have grown tall. They have continued to produce pretty purple flowers, but have never given me a single eggplant!  It’s either the poor soil, or the heat, or both.

Eggplant flower
Purple Flower of the Eggplant

The plants themselves are interesting with their big leaves. I have trouble tearing up and throwing out a perfectly healthy plant, even if it’s not giving me the food I’d hoped for.

I’m glad I left the eggplants growing, and continued to give them water, just because I couldn’t NOT do so.   I noticed missing leaves and found a big, juicy, tomato hornworm chowing down on the leaves. The hornworm can eat a tremendous amount, and it’s apparent they have arrived when you notice entire leaves missing on the tomato plants!  Stalks can become completely bare in a matter of a days time.

tomato hornworm eating eggplant
Tomato Hornworm on Eggplant

One summer I was visiting my sister in Massachusetts, and she said that something was eating her tomato leaves. Sure enough, there it was – a big green worm. So I pointed it out to her!  She was astonished, but hadn’t looked close enough to see the worm.

Tomato hornworms often show up near the end of summer – at least in the north, that was how it happened in my garden. The one eating my eggplant here in Florida was lucky. I did not care that he was destroying the plant, it was useless to me anyway.  He ate and ate and grew bigger over the course of about 2 days.

I find these pretty green worms quite interesting.  Often, a wasp of some kind lays it’s eggs on the worm, which kills it.  There were no eggs on this guy.  He was doing quite well for himself.

Then he was gone… eaten by a bird maybe? I don’t know. Most of the eggplant’s leaves had been eaten by then, and I felt like I had given him a meal at the very least.  If the worm lives, it becomes the Sphinx Moth.

Most gardeners don’t allow the hornworm to live… it is too detrimental to vegetable plants, like the tomato, eggplant, pepper, and potato plants, as you can see in my photo below!

Bare eggplant after tomato worm ate leaves
Bare eggplant after tomato worm ate the leaves

On to the parsley worms.

In the North, I always grew parsley, and it lasted well into the winter months. But eventually, it did die.  Deer used to come into my backyard and nose through the snow looking for greens to eat, and sure enough, they would find the parsley still going strong at the beginning of winter.

Since I’ve been in Florida – over a year now – the parsley I planted last summer is still growing fine! I use it daily in my omelets, salads, and other home-cooked food.

The parsley is planted in two separate containers, and I’ve noticed that both areas have parsley worms munching on the leaves.  They will turn into Black Swallowtail Butterflies. One has already made a cocoon.

So the plants that are simply growing for … what, fun? in my garden have served a useful purpose to help nature continue.  Whether the worms change into butterflies or are food for the birds, it’s all nature doing it’s thing.

parsley worms
Parsley Worms Become Black Swallowtail Butterflies

Read my page, with my photos, about the Swallowtail Butterflies that come from these worms.