Now my little hydrangea is in the ground and here is what I’ve learned. Deadheading Florida hydrangeas is a good idea. I found new growth and new flowers hidden beneath those huge, dying blooms.
Until a few weeks ago I had not tried to grow a hydrangea in my Florida yard. I kept thinking there was no way it would do well in all this heat. So the fact that my little hydrangea plant is doing so well is a nice surprise. If it has been growing in a greenhouse it would adapt well to warmth, and it does seem to be thriving this summer.
Building a garden is slow and steady work, but once the ground is prepared, the fun begins. This may take days, weeks, months or years depending on the size of the garden and how much help you have in doing it. Cats not included.
As a new gardener you may think that growing things is pretty straightforward. Buy the plants, dig a hole and put them in the ground. A little water here and there and soon you’ll see flowers or vegetables emerge.
Experienced gardeners know it is far from being that simple.
A Little Back Story
The first house I bought in New Hampshire had ready-made, lovely garden areas. I enjoyed picking asparagus from the perennial asparagus bed. Stunning tulips popped up in Springtime all over the yard, and the large perennials included wisteria, dogwood, and hydrangea trees! I enjoyed that yard for only two years, then moved on, through no fault of my own.
The nice thing was the fact that the gardens were ready for planting. I could go buy pretty plants, or vegetables and put them into the ground and they grew nicely alongside already established additions. Prepared beds and established perennials are a wonderful treat for a homeowner.
After that, I have never lived in a ready-made gardening landscape. This means planning the site, tilling the soil, adding amendments, and finally buying the plants which will hopefully grow happily in their designated spots.
Without the extra finances (or help in the yard) to put toward all this, it can take years to accomplish a garden plan. Really.
In New Hampshire I had loam delivered each year. I moved wheelbarrows full of the dirt to various areas in my yard over the course of weeks. I’m an older lady and can’t do a lot in any one day, so I had to pace myself. Within five years time I had some pretty nice gardens in my yard – then I moved away.
The Here and Now
I moved into my Florida home in Fall 2016. My son built me a raised bed and I’ve been working on filling it since then. At the time this writing it is April 2018 and finally the bed is full of good soil which is ready for planting.
I’ve been using the raised bed as a mixing station. One end is free of plantings so I can dump bags of dirt and compost in and mix it up. After adding blood meal, bone meal, and fertilizer, I mix it up like a big stew and fill black pots to grow individual plants. (By the way, as I was writing this, I discovered that not all “organic” labeled fertilizer is really organic. Read my post about identifying real organic fertilizer and even bags of dirt.)
I also had to re-plant a big bucket in the yard where everything froze over the winter. This pot used to hold a huge croton. Now you can see what’s left in the background.
Now that I’ve used that good dirt mix everywhere it was needed, I will plant more vegetables in the raised bed. From here on out, all that is needed is to amend the dirt with compost every so often and re-plant when needed. The hard work is complete.
Planting some vegetables in the March garden in central Florida.
Here in Central Florida we are still having “cool” weather which I love. The neighbors are wearing winter clothing (seriously?) and complaining. When I say “I love this weather”, they tell me to go back to Vermont (I’m from New Hampshire).
I guess Floridians get grumpy when it’s cold.
The weather is perfect for planting the garden, and truly I should have begun sooner. Unfortunately I still have the lack-of-dirt problem. I’ve continued to add leaves, grass, and kitchen compost to the raised bed, but need to buy bags of dirt.
Now I have the money, but need the help lugging all those bags of soil and fertilizer / compost from the store and to the backyard.
For now I am using a few fabric bags where I have planted zucchini (or summer squash, I can’t remember which), lettuce and potatoes. All are doing very well and growing fast.
Tonight I will snip off the tops of this bib lettuce for supper. It will continue to grow back unless the hot weather moves in. Lettuce likes it cool.
Yesterday I searched the Home Depot for some decent vegetable plants. I came away with a Celebrity tomato, and something called a Bonnie Original. One is a determinate and one an indetermanent, and as I stood there in the garden center I couldn’t remember what that meant. I thought one was grown within a cage and the other was sprawling. I think I was sort of right. Read more here about the difference between the two types.
I have tomato-stealing raccoons, so I’m not going nuts with the tomato plants. I also have a limited amount of space to grow things. The tomatoes may end up in bags with handles so I can easily move them inside at night away from tiny raccoon paws.
I planted some red potatoes, from my kitchen, with big “eyes” and that is what is growing in one of the fabric bags. I have good luck with potatoes. Although they are usually quite small, they are delicious.
I am so excited to see this little “volunteer” pepper plant! Glad I didn’t weed it out before I recognized it. My original pepper plant is still living and growing from last Spring! Even with all the cold weather over the winter, it survived (although it has a few aphids) and is flowering now. Amazing. I trimmed off the curling leaves and will see what it does. Apparently a seed was dropped, and now a new pepper plant is growing. I’d never heard of a “volunteer” plant until I lived in New Hampshire. My preferred word for them is “free”!
On my latest trip to Pell’s Nursery in Osteen I picked up this little Navel orange tree. I have left it in it’s original pot for now, but bought that ceramic one for later use. It has a few little oranges growing which I hope don’t fall off. Sometime between October and March I should be picking an orange or two from my yard.
I’ve had good luck with growing the Persian Lime, so thought I’d add more citrus to the yard.
This past weekend (mid-February) I did some garden work and planted a few seeds. It was a hot day but I decided it was time to move the lemon tree from the front to the back yard. Thanks to that digging and lifting my back was aching the next day. But I have high hopes that the tree will recover and give me some lemons one day. (Photos below)
The raised bed still needs more soil. While my son was cutting the grass he bagged up some oak leaves (oak leaves are small here, not like the majestic oaks of the north which drop big leaves) and dumped them into the bed.
Creating good garden dirt takes a lot of adding and mixing, not unlike making a good soup or stew. All the ingredients together will give me some delicious dirt to help my vegetables grow well.
I still have two potted crotons which were cuttings taken from the big croton out front – which is now dead thanks to the cold. I’m not sure what I will do with them.
Bone meal and blood meal was added, and I threw in an old tomato (I regularly add kitchen scraps to make compost within the bed. I’ve even seen a couple of big worms in the dirt recently …. yay!
During the winter months it’s not a good idea to trim back dead growth, but I made an exception with my eggplant. With all the top brown branches trimmed away I can more easily cover it if cold temperatures come back.
I planted lettuce seeds in one black pot and yellow squash in another. I should have planted the lettuce earlier, but oh well.
The Lemon and Lime Trees
About a year ago I added a Persian lime tree and Lemon tree to my yard. The lime tree has done very well, providing me with loads of limes in the Fall season. I kept it in it’s original pot and it’s in the backyard.
The lemon tree was planted in the ground in my front yard. Right off it began to have problems. When I planted it, I wasn’t used to our new home location yet. I didn’t realize that front yard gets a lot of wind which makes it an inhospitable place for most plants. Even though the new tree bloomed and grew some lemons, it’s leaves fell off and none of the lemons were nice enough to eat.
This was a lesson in choosing a good spot for my trees and shrubs. I doubt I will try to grow anything out front.
I really thought the tree would be dead by now. Besides the wind, we’ve had a few nights of cold temperatures. I covered the tree, but lots of things died even though I covered them. Still the tree lived on.
Many of it’s branches are bare and it looks like some animal maybe had been chewing on the stems. Plus my son often hits the branches with his weed-eater.
Even after all this, the lemon tree still grows. Below you can see how pretty the Lemon tree was when I planted it. Because it is still trying to live, I feel guilty for leaving it unattended for so long.
I’m hoping that with it’s new spot in a fabric garden bag in my backyard, I can bring this tree back to it’s original beautiful form.