Planning a Small Backyard Garden in My Florida Yard

It’s January and now that the weather here in Florida is cooler, working in the yard has become a priority.

Yesterday I began to tear out vines from the back corner to see what type of trees and shrubs could be saved. The vines are everywhere and they grow up into the trees covering branches and bending small trees down.

Overgrown mess to clean up
Overgrown and neglected area of the yard

This little area of our small yard has been used to toss palm fronds and yard debris ever since we moved in. I never really knew for sure where our actual lot line was. Piles of dead branches and palm leaves can become a haven for small animals so I’ll have to be careful when cleaning up.

Backyard
Backyard lot line with neighbor’s white fence and travel trailer just beyond our hedges.

When the people behind us did some landscaping to move a big travel trailer behind their house, they tore out all the vegetation (on their side) which divides our properties. It opened up the view a lot, but they also put up a fence which required a survey and finding the lot lines.

New garde spot in my yard
Location of new garden area

Now that I can see the markers back here for our property line, I can better decide what to do with this area of the yard. First thing is to clean up the unwanted vines which are entwined all up in the trees.

Florida vines in the trees
Vines strangle the trees

Within my property line there is a large oak, tall palmetto, and another tall tree I can’t identify – it is red now, in January so maybe a red maple??? There are also smaller trees growing beneath a ton of vines. Many ferns act as ground cover in the area. I want to leave it as natural as possible while making it neater.

Overgrown mess in the yard
Yard cleanup

Yesterday I began pulling out the vines and tall grasses to uncover some growth. I don’t really know my Florida trees, so I’ll have to do a bit of investigating to identify what’s back there. I’ve begun a page listing photos of the trees, vines and shrubs to identify.

UF Florida Tree Species List

The University of Florida site also has lists of shrubs, and other ways to enhance a Florida yard for wildlife. I want this new garden area to be bird, butterfly and bee friendly. I will plant Florida native plants that attract our native wildlife.

Florida tree with dark green leaves
Unknown bush / tree – what i this???

I filled my two trash barrels with yard debris that won’t be picked up until Wednesday. Then, I will fill them again. I now have two additional piles of vines to drag down to the road.

I used to be very nervous working in my Florida yard – the yard from long ago. Back then, there were loads of snakes – some poisonous – but now most wild animals have lost their wilderness and I never see that type of thing these days. In the 4 plus years I’ve lived in this neighborhood I’ve seen three snakes. I rarely see a green lizard, and a turtle shows up now and then – not a gopher tortoise, but a water type turtle.

The worst thing I might encounter these days is fire ants hidden down in the tall grass.

I don’t like where I live, but I’ve decided to make the best of it. Cleaning up a little section of the yard will be a nice thing.

May Vegetable Garden in My Florida Backyard

May is here and my backyard vegetable garden is off to an okay start. I’m still getting used to growing veggies in this climate, but I’m happy to have big, luscious green peppers to use already!

My garden area is very small and the plants are divided between a raised bed, fabric bags, and an old grow box. All my Florida gardening is still in the experimental stages! I’m learning, but at least I have the raised bed filled with good dirt.

May garden
The backyard garden in May

This pepper plant has been around since last Spring! This amazes me. I always thought pepper plants liked the warmth, but this one survived winter. And, yes, it’s Florida, so “winter” is a dirty word here, but the temperatures were truly cold for a few days. I assumed the pepper plant would die, but it did not.

And once Spring arrived (February… hahaha) buds appeared and the peppers began to grow.  I was picking them by April.

green peppers
Picking green peppers this year by April

The yellow / summer squash is something that I am having trouble with. The plants (from seeds) grew nicely and then flowered and grew little squash. But then they began to pucker up and rot on the ends.

This can be caused by too much water, so I have been watering them less. Also I added some ground egg shells to the dirt because I read that a lack of calcium can be the culprit for blossom end rot.

I’ve picked two small squash so far and have had to throw many rotten ones away. The ones I ate were delicious!!! So I am hoping for more. Last year I tried to grow them also and had bugs and mold take over before I got squash to eat.

yellow squash
Yellow Squash

The cucumbers have just started to take off. Some are growing in fabric garden bags, and a few are planted at the edges of the raised bed.

I’m hoping for cukes to eat soon, but I’ve also read that the raccoons don’t like the feel of the fuzzy stems on cucumbers. If I have strands of cucumber vines all around my garden, will the raccoons leave my vegetables alone?  Please work……

cucumber plants
Cukes in fabric bag and inside bed

For the heck of it I threw a couple pieces of old sweet potato into my mostly empty garden back in February (?). Now the vines are long and pretty. When they start to die I will dig down and see if I find potatoes.  I’ve grown regular potatoes, but never sweet potatoes.

sweet potato
Sweet potato vines and leaves

My little red pepper plant is growing lots of peppers and I’ve already used a couple red ones. They are very hot. I really wanted jalapeños but there were no plants when I was shopping. I dislike having to buy all my plants at the Home Depot, but there are no farm stands around.

chili red hot peppers
Chili red hot peppers

I found a couple of parsley worms on my fennel. Dill plants were nowhere to be found, so I settled for fennel, which I have never grown. Ladybugs and apparently parsley worms enjoy it and I’ve been chopping it up to add to food I cook.

parsley worm on fennel
Parsley worm on fennel

One tomato plant has 8 green tomatoes and the other has 6. I’m counting them to make sure the raccoons are not stealing any during the night. I’ll bring the plants inside if raccoons begin bothering them.

green tomatoes
Tomatoes are coming along

My little Navel orange tree lost a lot of it’s small fruit, but a few oranges are still growing.

navel oranges growing
A few oranges are growing on the new Navel Orange tree

The eggplant is still not giving me any eggplants, but it’s a good home for ladybugs. I’ve seen them in many forms (eggs, larvae, and beetle) crawling on the leaves. The aphid problem is no longer a problem. I can’t find a single aphid on anything! Don’t you love those ladybugs?

The weather will continue to get hotter and I may have to stop gardening within a month or so. I’ll see what lives and what doesn’t and go from there.

May garden in florida
May garden view

Pictures of My Backyard Raised Bed Tomato Garden

large fabric raised garden
The Bigger Fabric Garden

raised bed with tomatoes
The tomato bed as of mid-July

Here are two (before and after) pictures of my backyard gardens. I planted 4 tomatoes in this fabric raised bed back in June. I added a few basil plants and radishes around the edge. As you can see, by mid July they are growing like crazy. I haven’t eaten any tomatoes yet, they are still green. I have one red grape tomato that I will probably eat tomorrow and that means there will soon be more that are ripe. All my fabric raised beds are doing well except for the potatoes, but I don’t know if they are just ready to be dug.

The potato stalks look like they are dying, so I hope when I dig down into the bag I will find potatoes worth eating. Those little turd bugs got ahold of the leaves while I was away for 10 days.  My carrots don’t look too good either.  I haven’t grown carrots for many years because I never had much luck with them getting large enough to use.

My concrete block raised bed is also doing well.  I have zucchini in that along with a couple of grape tomato plants.  I just ate boiled zucchini for breakfast!

Taking a Lesson From An Old Garden

backyard garden
A Ready Made Garden

I was lucky to have bought a house that had at one time housed a gardener. The previous owners had already started gardens in the sunniest spot. They had planted an asparagus garden, many beautiful bulbs of tulips and daffodils, peonies, coneflowers and more. They had set up arbors and built a gazebo off the large deck to enjoy the outdoors, bug free. It really was great.

Along the edge of the yard near the road was a row of big forsythias that bloomed bright yellow in spring. The side yard was bordered by big purple rhododendron shrubs. That yard was fun to garden in. I expanded and added my own flowering shrubs to the already lovely landscape. When I moved in I really just needed to do some maintenance – like lots of weeding – to make the yard sparkle.

Unfortunately, instead of growing old in my home, disaster struck and I only had two years to enjoy that place. But it taught me a lot about what will grow in this area and I’ve longed for my own yard again to duplicate what I used to have.

I just moved into my own place over this past summer, and although I did plant a few things – daylilies, tulip bulbs, peonies, small hydrangeas and a rhododendron, I know the yard will be sparse come summer.

It’s sad for me to look at the photos from my the yard at my old house, and when I think of all the work I put into the place, I can only hope that the people living there are enjoying it as much.

My hope now is to transform this barren yard (where I now live) into something beautiful. The land is not as good. The yard is fairly small and surrounded by trees, which means less sun, so it will be a challenge. We’ll see what happens.

How did I take this photo? The house had a big skylight and I stuck my camera out to get this shot of the yard. 😉