March is When The Hibiscus Can Be Trimmed Back

Two years ago I planted a little hibiscus plant out behind my house. It grew quickly and flowers all the time with double flowers. Double flowers means each bloom is more ruffled looking with layers of petals as opposed to flat, 5-petaled flowers.

double orangea hibiscus flower

Hibiscus grow very well here in Florida, and this past winter was quite mild without any overnight temperatures dropping below freezing. At least not where I live. I never had to cover any plants and everything looks great. The chances of having a freezing night now are slim, so it’s safe to cut back outdoor plants that need it.

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Growing Squash in Florida is Not So Easy

In New England squash and zucchini were always part of my summer gardening design.  Usually a couple of plants gave me more squash than I could eat.

In Florida I have had no luck growing any type of squash.  Now I read that “summer squash” is not grown in summer here.  In fact, I am discovering that not much does grow well here in summer, except the tropical plants and citrus.

The Summer Squash Gardening Solutions page at the University of Florida has some recommendations when it comes to planting and growing squash.  My garden is very small so I’ve tried to grow squash in my fabric bags.  The plants begin fine, but eventually rot away.   The types suggested are: Black Beauty and Spineless Beauty zucchini, and Summer Crookneck and Early Prolific Straightneck.  I’ve never grown pattypan squash, but the site recommends Early White Scallop.

Another mistake I may be making is buying my seedlings (and seeds) at Home Depot.  I have not had luck growing any plants that come from that store!   Both of my caladiums have disappeared totally from the garden!  I don’t know much about growing caladiums but I guess they need attention I did not give them.

Recently I visited a local nursery called Lindleys, in New Smyrna, where I found my Staghorn fern and Fiddle leaf fig tree, and a little thyme plant, but I’m thinking they might have seedlings to plant as well.  I believe the real growing season begins in February here.  I will go back and see what they have next month.

Go With the Flow and Stop Wasting Time

I’ve been growing fresh vegetables in my backyard for years. Now I struggle to get food to grow.

We learn from experience and observation. Life is about change. If we are wise, we will go with the flow and not waste time with something we cannot change. I am applying this philosophy to my backyard vegetable garden.

Observation and Common Sense

One thing I have observed since I began gardening in Florida is that a lot of vegetables simply won’t grow here. Maybe I am doing something wrong, but I grew veggies fine in New Hampshire. I am not an inexperienced gardener, but vegetable gardening in this climate is obviously beyond my grasp.

It’s been two years. That is plenty of time to grow something well. I’ve built up the dirt with compost and fertilizer, watered like mad, and thwarted raccoon attacks on the plants. I’ve picked worms, loved the lady bugs, and sprayed off mites. My little raised bed garden has given me very little to eat in return.

With the exception of about three eggplants (total) and occasional small bell peppers, there is little food coming from the backyard.

Herbs Seem to Flourish

On the other hand, my observation is that many herbs do grow very nicely here. In fact, my parsley, basil, thyme, mint and fennel have lasted a very long time.

Herbs are hardy. When I first began growing parsley I lived in New Hampshire. The green stems would push up through the first snowfall, which amazed me. Deer used to help themselves to the lush green herb.

In Florida I have had the same parsley plants growing in my garden for over two years! Parsley not only survives the cold, it can take the heat and oppressive humidity.

It is depressing to put work into trying to grow decent tomatoes, squash, zucchini and root vegetables, only to watch them rot, wilt or end up too tiny to bother with.

How long do I keep trying, only to watch the plants produce nothing I can eat? I’m about over it.

Changes All Around

My life is always changing, and recently it went through another change. My youngest son has moved out. He’s nearly done with college and does online classes, so he went back to the northeast to live. Good for him. Wish I could afford to do the same.  I did take a trip back to stay for a week, which was so nice.

My youngest son has always been a very picky eater. If I don’t make food he likes, he could literally go all day long without eating. So, I tended to make food he would eat. That type of food was very different from the type of food I eat.  Now that he has moved out, I can concentrate on cooking for me only.

This is a very new idea and it will take a while for my brain to wrap around the concept. I’ve been cooking for my children for over 40 years!  My way of cooking will be changing. Although I am not crazy about spending a lot of time in the kitchen, I am a very good cook. As an “almost vegetarian” meat is not my main focus. I love to cook soups, stews and one pot meals (using my Dutch oven) which are full of fresh vegetables.

Since I can’t grow all the vegetables I’d like to, I will concentrate on growing the herbs. I learned very late in life how much herbs can brighten the flavor of a meal. Now I can’t make anything without using herbs because it’s not worth eating.

Because my herbs will grow year round, I don’t have to spend time drying or freezing them.  Sometimes I even get to collect their seeds.  I still need to find a store that sells good fresh, organic vegetables.  Publix is a good store, but as I have discovered, their produce is not the best.

I also have access to fresh citrus, which I should begin incorporating into my food as well.  Both my lime tree and lemon tree are still growing, but the lime needs re-potting.

So I’m collecting recipes to make for myself and will concentrate more on eating healthy. The weather is much cooler now here in Florida, and I do get outside for walks as much as possible.  My neighborhood is a boring place to walk, and there are no hills to get my heart pumping, but I do what I can.

(They Yacht is not mine. Photo taken at a nearby Marina.)

End of Summer Florida Garden News

Here in Florida it does not feel like the end of summer transitioning into Fall.  The September garden is overgrown and producing little.  My garden looks like a mess.  Temperatures are still in the 90’s and it’s too hot to stay outdoors for any length of time.  I water the garden at least once a day, and usually twice, and it still wilts in the heat.

September garden in central Florida
September Garden

I now have two new bell pepper plants growing from seeds. One is tall and has given me a few green peppers. The other is still tiny.  You can see the big (old) pepper plant in the raised bed, front left area.  The peppers are small and thin walled, but I use them in cooking.

I’ve cut back the eggplant once more and haven’t had an edible eggplant from it in a long time.

The tomatoes are long and gangly and will probably just die before they produce edible tomatoes.   I may try to grow them again in early spring.

And I have a couple of squash plants – one has a tiny squash growing. I honestly can’t remember what type of squash it is. Either a winter / butternut or spaghetti squash. I threw seeds in the dirt to see what would happen. I can’t grow summer squash or zucchini for some reason.  (This little squash rotted and fell off the vine.)

yellow squash
Little yellow squash, not sure what type

The most beautiful plant in my vegetable garden right now is the fennel. I had two plants and one died, but the other has grown tall stalks of pretty yellow flowers which bring bees every day. This is why I let my plants continue to grow even if they don’t produce. Their flowers bring bugs searching for nectar and birds hop through the garden in search of bugs for dinner.  Eventually seeds will form.

fennel flowers
Flowering fennel

I was inspired to draw the fennel with flowers and turn it into a custom card at my Zazzle store.

I’m not sure what will become of my vegetable garden. I’m considering giving up on growing my favorite vegetables. I seem to have more luck with herbs, so maybe I need a big herb garden.  I love to pick fresh herbs from the yard.

The parsley that has been growing for over 2 years is finally dying.  I let it go to seed and maybe it will produce new plants.  I haven’t seen any parsley worms for a while.

My neighbors across the street told me they turned their vegetable garden into a citrus garden. They said that bugs ruined everything they tried to grow so they gave up.  It seems that the smart thing to do is grow what works in this tropical climate.

My Little Citrus Trees

I am happy to see that my lemon tree is making a come back.  Once it gave up trying to produce lemons, it could concentrate on new growth, and the greenery is beautiful. I have it planted in a fabric pot and it seems very happy.

lemon tree greenery
The lemon tree is making a come back

The new orange tree still has one orange growing. The tree is small, and I did have 2 oranges, but one fell off and was no good.

Orange growing on tree
A single green orange on the little Valencia tree.

The Persian lime tree is full of limes, which I will be able to start using soon, but the tree and fruit don’t look as good as last year.  I think it needs a bigger pot.  With all the spikes on the stems, that will be a chore!

I look forward to cooler air… please… !