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.

Around The Yard in Muggy May

May is here and it’s muggy in Florida. The AC is on day and night now. Even when it’s “cool” the humidity makes being outside less than fun. The worst is yet to come, but it has begun.

First, a Nice Surprise in The Garden

pink caladiums
The caladium is coming back!

As I was checking on my front garden, there it was…the caladium that had disappeared and was presumed dead. In fact both the pink and white leaved varieties were popping up through the dirt. They had both disappeared on me and I was mad that they died off so quickly. (See my post when they were first planted.) The impatiens which I planted at the same time are gone.

white leaves caladium
The white-leaf caladium is coming back

I’ve never grown caladiums but they look so nice against the green of the yard. Their big arrow-shaped leaves. Even though I watered them and they seemed to be growing well, they began to die. Or maybe they go into hibernation for the colder season. I need to look that up… hold on.

Okay…. They do go dormant so my caladiums were just doing what caladiums do. I never knew that! Although I have lived in Florida for many years, I just learned something new about my landscape.

Travel the Yard With Me

The garden beneath the oak was already there when we moved into our house a few years ago. It had become overrun with weeds, but now it contains my rubber tree which I propagated a while ago. I’ve discovered that rubber tree cuttings grow very well outdoors. Look at that sucker… isn’t it beautiful? I’m noticing that many big rubber trees are doing quite well in the landscape in my area. I’ve propagated a few more which I will plant sometime soon and write about them.

Rubber tree growing outside in my Florida yard
My newly propagated rubber plant is doing nicely

The orange flowering hibiscus was trimmed back at the end of April and now it is filling out nicely. Buds are forming, and it will be covered in blooms soon. I want to keep it trimmed away from the house so maybe it won’t get those nasty fuzzy whiteflies it had last year.

May hibiscus filling out with leaves and buds after a trim
Trimmed hibiscus is filling out

Hydrangea For the Yard

When I bought this little hydrangea plant it had some buds. They popped open with beautiful big flowers of blue and purple. Now the flowers have faded to that lovely shade of green I love to see on hydrangeas. (See more photos of the blooming timeline here.)

The potted plant was recently removed from it’s pot and put into my front garden. I’ve had to water it every day and still it tends to droop. It never gets direct sun, but I am unsure of how well it will do during the very hot Florida summer. Look at those green flowers! Never deadhead hydrangeas. Wait and watch how the flowers fade to new colors and eventually they should dry up on the stem. They are interesting when the blooms have faded too.

hydrangea
My blue hydrangea flowers have turned green

In the woods next too my house the white-flowering Elderberry bush / tree is looking wonderful. These flowers will become berries soon. I’ve read that this is a poisonous plant but mostly it grows in swampy areas and not in the yard. The land slopes down around my yard and this Elderberry grows in that uncleared lot. I don’t pick the berries, but some people do and make jam, wine, and pies. Taking chances eating wild stuff is not my style. I would definitely need more information.

Elderberry flowers
White Elderberry flowers

This magnolia tree is growing in the front yard of a house I pass on my morning walks. I have always loved magnolias. As I pass this house I can smell the aroma of the blooms. It’s got me thinking …. maybe a magnolia tree needs to live in my yard.

Flowering magnolia
Flowering magnolia tree

The little palm tree pictured below is a new addition to my yard. It was growing next to the house near the walkway to the door. That location was ridiculous. It never got full sun, and if it had grown tall, it would have blocked the walkway to the front door.

So we dug it up and put it out in the yard where the croton planter used to be. When my crotons froze, and my son chopped up the stump it sat on, it became clear that something needed to be done.

I believe this is a Pygmy Date Palm and many houses in the neighborhood have them growing in their landscape. I’m hoping this one will grow nicely now that it’s out in the sun where palm trees should be (although I’ve read that this one can take shade). Once it grows taller it will be nice. A baby tree is growing out of the base.

palm tree
Little palm tree moved to a better location

My son and I began a new garden bed along the front of the house. When I lived in New Hampshire I always put down newspapers to block the weeds and grass before adding dirt. I’m doing that here, but I’m not sure how well it will work with these Florida weeds and tough grass. I plan to write all about it on another post. Plants won’t go in until next Fall.

new garden
Getting the ground ready for a new garden

I hope you are having a good May wherever you live. In the northeast, May was a time for dealing with black flies but it also meant that vegetable planting time was just around the corner.