My April backyard garden and what I’m growing and harvesting.
Don’t get too excited, I don’t actually have a lot of vegetables growing in the backyard. This is what I do have, and am enjoying at the beginning of April, in central east Florida.
The Japanese eggplant are beginning to grow and I just ate one sliced and fried for lunch. The sun is a bit much for the eggplant. Adding my umbrella during mid-day seems to help with wilting.
A day or two ago I dug up one raised bed of potatoes. All the stems on the potato plant had turned yellow and died, so I dug to see what they looked like. They look great! Now I am letting them sit and dry out.
As is true whenever I search for vegetable information, I get “northern” growing advice. Store potatoes in a cool dark place – like a cellar! That is not going to happen in Florida. So my potatoes are on the porch sitting in a pan to let them cure – I hope.
I’ve discovered that sweet potatoes are the thing to grow here. More on that later.
Growing Poblano and Squash From Grocery Store Vegetables.
When I cook, I often save the seeds. They usually go into the composter, but one day I tossed the spaghetti squash guts into a raised bed. And squash began to grow. So I let it. And now I have this little squash! I don’t know if it will ever be big enough to eat because the plant looks pretty bad.
Nothing likes the extreme humidity here.
A few weeks after throwing poblano pepper seeds into the garden, the pepper began to grow. At first I didn’t know which kind of pepper it was (because I am growing all kinds), but when I saw the actual pepper, I knew from the shape.
Going to Seed
The arugula flower stems have been going to seed. The arugula grew quite well during the winter months, and then tall flowers grew. Now the stems are full of seed pods that I am allowing to dry. Each little pod has a ton of tiny black seeds.
Digging Into the Earth
I broke down and bought a garden tiller so we could dig ourselves a garden. I can’t even run the thing because the grass and roots pull like crazy, so my son did it for me. I am now removing the chopped up grass clumps and roots.
We’ve only used raised gardens so having a ground garden will be an experiment. We have raccoons and cats constantly in the yard. I don’t know what they will do to the garden. Its been a year since I bought the Hot Frog composter, and some of that dirt will go into the new bed.
May in my Florida vegetable and flower gardens. See what is growing well and what is not. Also advice on beginning plants from seeds.
Because there are no farm stands to buy Spring seedlings, I started my vegetables from seeds this year.
This page is an update on how my vegetables, and some flowers are growing. The hydrangea that I planted in the yard a few years ago is still doing well – surprisingly. See photos down the page.
Zucchini, Beans, Tomato, and Eggplant
Zucchini seeds were planted directly into a grow box. One plant is hanging on, the other two died. It is not growing well.
The beans are newly planted and doing very well. More about the beans further down the page.
The Cherry Tomato plants are thriving, and the eggplant (not from seeds) is giving me little eggplants.
Most plants have been in the ground, or transplanted to pots, for a few weeks now. We have not had much rain, so I water every day.
The Cherry Tomato Plants
All of the cherry tomato plants were begun in eggshell pots. Depending on where they went when transplanted, it has really made a big difference in their growth.
the First Transplanting of the tomatoes
The little seedlings that went straight into the garden grow box are still quite small. In fact, one of them died.
The cherry tomato plants that were transplanted into small, individual pots began to thrive. I think I would plant seeds directly into these pots next time.
From the small pots they went into large patio pots where they will stay. Already they have flowers forming.
Bigger plants today
Planting the seeds in small pots (eggshells in my case) got the plants off to an early start in March, however… I would skip that next time and put the seeds straight into small 4-6” pots instead. Caring for the little eggshells was time consuming as they needed watering often.
But, it has made all the difference in the way I transplanted them. The plants in the garden box are not growing fast at all. The plants I transplanted twice – into good garden potting soil – are nearly ready to give me tomatoes.!
Jalepeño Pepper Plants
The pepper plants are doing nicely. It seems to be one thing that grows well in Florida, mainly because peppers like it hot. In New Hampshire it took way too long for the plants to grow to a size to begin producing – and by then the frosts came.
These jalepeño peppers are in small clay pots for now.
The Dirt Makes All The Difference
We set up new garden boxes in the yard this year. We mistakenly bought many bags of dirt at the local Home Depot that was not good soil. It was supposed to be added to already established beds. We dumped it into the grow boxes and raised beds. Nothing that has been planted in that soil has done well.
All we can do is amend the soil with better dirt, so that is what I am doing. But it is too late for the seeds and seedlings struggling in those boxes.
The Black Gold brand is what I had good luck with – this is an Amazon affiliate link. But the Black Gold is expensive if you need to fill a large box or raised bed. I plan to make my own compost and amend the soil with that. Dirt can be improved, but it might take time. Here in Florida we can plant again in Fall.
Potatoes and Green Beans
The white raised beds had been planted with potatoes. They were doing well until the cutworms arrived.
Most every potato stalk has died, so I am filling those two beds with bean seeds. Beans and potatoes are companion plants.
These are bush beans and do not need staking, but I put the cages in to keep animals from digging around in the dirt. Something climbs up into the beds at night and digs. I’ve already lost a couple bean seedlings.
Beans do okay with heat, so I am hoping they will grow throughout the summer.
I’m having better luck with the Japanese eggplant than I did with the regular eggplant. The old one grew into a small tree and only gave me a few eggplants to eat.
At the end of last year I planted this Japanese eggplant plant. I bought it as a small plant.
It has consistently given me little eggplants to enjoy. It quit producing over winter, but now it is going strong. The eggplants are small but are the perfect size for me.
No Luck With These
Carrots – they are simply not growing
Cucumber – small vines, curling cukes
Beets – leaves totally eaten by something
Older Garden Boxes
The eggplant is growing in one box, with peppers in the center box and a scraggly tomato plant in the third. I’m waiting for all the tomatoes to turn red and then the plant will be ripped out. It doesn’t have many leaves and is not doing well. All these plants had to be covered at night all winter, and they did not like those colder temps.
Growing Cosmos From Seeds
Plant the cosmos seeds in good dirt in a larger size pot. I began a few cosmos plants in eggshells, but they didn’t do well at all.
Directly sow seeds into big pots and they will create a pretty display.
In my photo here I have two pots and one is doing a lot better. It’s the dirt. The smaller plant was recently transplanted into good dirt and now I’m hopeful it will flourish.
The raccoons got into the other pot and dug up part of the seedlings. The ones left are blooming and look good.
The Hydrangea Plant in May
New leaves have grown on my one hydrangea plant and today I noticed there are about five tiny buds. The plant looks nice and healthy.
Eggplant and tomato sauce and cheese go together well. For my next Keto friendly casserole I am including these ingredients along with Poblano peppers.
Here it is ready to bake. Read on to see how I made this simple meal.
Ingredients For the Casserole
First I sliced the one eggplant into thin slices. I layered them in a sieve and sprinkled with salt to pull out any bitterness. I’ve found varying advice about salting, and I never leave the salt on. Some places say the salt pulls out the water so the eggplant won’t be soggy. Some say it’s for bitterness.
Here’s what I do: layer with salt in a colander for 20 – 30 minutes. I then rinse and remove moisture between paper towels. I certainly don’t want salty eggplant. This seems to work fine for me and it hurts nothing.
Meanwhile I am cooking one can of organic tomato sauce and mixing in coconut sugar, basil, oregano, and whatever you like in your tomato sauce. It simmers on low while I fry the peppers.
I let that simmer while I de-seed the peppers and brown them in ghee. I’m still not sure about what to do with these peppers, but adding them to a casserole is flavor-inducing. I discovered this in my ground beef casserole.
I also shredded a block of parmesan cheese. Using fresh parmesan is definitely the way to go. It has much more flavor and goodness than the powdered stuff in a canister.
Layer some sauce in the bottom, add a layer of eggplant, cheese, peppers and so on. My layers were created to use up all the ingredients with sauce and cheese for the top. It was covered with the glass cover that came with the dish and baked at 350 for 25 minutes.
This meal is Keto friendly, with no big-carb ingredients. It could be eaten with a Quick Keto bread, if you are still trying to get over the no-noodle and no-bread thing.
I’ll tell you that this eggplant casserole was totally delicious. I love my new little casserole dish, because what I bake is for my eating pleasure only, and it’s the perfect size. The dish does not have handles, so that is a bummer, but it’s small enough (1 1/2 quart) to be lifted easily.
This year-round gardening with vegetables still blows my mind, but I have a few plants that have been in my garden for over a year now. Yes, they go dormant (and even look dead) when the cold weather moves into Florida, but they come back and produce even better the second time around.
Will they still be around next year? I have no idea. But this Spring season has been a great one for my bell pepper plant and now my eggplant is showing signs of producing as well.
In the Spring of 2017 I planted two eggplant plants. One was eaten up by a tomato worm and the other continued to grow and grow. It gave me no eggplants until well into the season. I finally got one. Only one. I tried the paintbrush pollination method but still nothing happened.
The plant got huge. I had to cut it back because it was taking over the garden bed. When the cold weather came, the entire plant turned brown and I thought that was it. I’m used to plants dying and having to be planted in Spring. When my vegetable plants don’t die, and instead begin to grow again, it amazes me. I didn’t even know vegetables could do that.
However, at the base of the plant some greenery remained. As the weather warmed, more leaves and stems appeared.
The plant is now large again, and getting lots of flowers, which contain spikes.
As of now, May 2018, the plant has been flowering like crazy but again the eggplants themselves were missing. So the other day I pulled lots of the flowers off (that is when I noticed how spiky they were!). I don’t know if that is what the plant needed, but suddenly I now see a small eggplant. There are signs of maybe a couple more ready to pop out as well.
Too many flowers? I don’t know if that was a coincidence, but if your eggplants are not producing, try removing some of the buds.