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… !

Found Some Bananas Growing in the Backyard

I only venture outdoors for about five minutes at a time these days because of the heat, but I do go out to get photos and check the vegetable garden.

Although the banana trees in the back corner of the yard were frozen this winter, they have come back and grown very tall.  In fact, one of them recently put off a shoot of bananas!

banana tree height
Height of tree and bunch of fruit – I am 5’5″ and can’t come close to reaching it. (That’s me in blue LOL)

I’ve had banana trees bear fruit before, but the bananas were never very good. Maybe we didn’t wait long enough to pick them. The only bananas I know about are the ones sitting on the grocery store end caps. So maybe it’s time to learn about those wild bunches of bananas.

How to Grow and Harvest Bananas – I Just Learned This!

All those little bumps along the stem above the bulb on the end (photo below) will become bananas!  This plant is just getting started.  The Dole video below mentions waiting 12-13 weeks after the bananas begin to grow before harvesting.  They cut theirs while they are green.

As the bananas fill in along that stem, they will get heavy (60 plus pounds!) and some trees need propping up. I don’t think I will be able to do that.  This tree, and other little ones around it, are in the bushes next to my yard and not in a “garden” area.  This bunch of bananas is on a tree that must be 15 feet tall (photo above).  Since I took this photo, the branch has elongated so more bananas can form along the stem.

bananas on tree
Bananas on the tree

First, I want to say that I did not plant those banana trees. The house behind mine has a big garden area and they do have banana plants in their yard.  I’m guessing that the banana trees now growing on this side of their fence came from their yard. I have no idea what type of banana trees they are.

The University of Florida Gardening Solutions page says that because of sandy soil bananas need to be fertilized. No one has fertilized “my” banana trees.

Something I have learned is that once a tree produces bananas it is done. It will not produce any more. That is why bananas have off-shoots, or baby banana trees growing near the large one. The little ones will grow and do the same thing as the “mother” tree.

Growing Bananas Videos

In my search for growing bananas information I came across a couple of cool videos. The first one is nearly 30 minutes long and the grower is growing (and eating) “ice cream” bananas.

He makes a mistake by cutting of the 60 pound bunch of bananas thinking he can hold it in one hand – and drops it! Then, according to the comments below the video, he hangs the bunch the wrong way – I don’t know about that. Some viewers also left comments that cutting down the main tree is not necessary.

In the second video, which is about the Dole company and how they grow bananas, all the workers do is chop the leaves off the main plant and leave them on the ground to provide nutrients. They do not cut down the whole tree.

Dole company video – which I found to be interesting.

Potential Problems With Growing Bananas

A healthy banana tree can add interest to the yard, but when they turn brown, or begin to die and fall over, not so much.

Plant in an area where there is space for more “baby” plants to spring up. None of those banana trees in my photo were planted. They sprung up on their own.

The hurricanes – we’ve had two major ones come through within the two years I’ve lived in this house – the wind shredded the leaves of the trees to bits.

Then we had some very cold nights over the past winter which turned the trees brown.

Yet, here we are with very tall, lovely trees less than a year later, and one is growing bananas already. The trees bounce back quickly in this hot, tropical climate, but they can die way down.

dead brown leaves plants after freeze
The same tree in winter this past year


Finally, Growing Tomatoes Advice For the Florida Climate

As I was searching for some other gardening advice altogether, I came across a Florida gardening blogger who seems to have very useful information to share. Unfortunately it looks as if his blogging stopped a few years ago in 2015. Maybe he moved away to a better place.

I found a post with growing tomatoes advice which would explain why I have such a difficult time with tomatoes.

First of all he starts with seeds (Plant Your Tomato Seeds). I’ve been wondering if the fact that I buy seedlings from Home Depot (there is nowhere else I’ve found) is my biggest problem. He says store bought plants “are never very good”. I already suspected this.

Start planting seeds early enough to have seedlings ready for the garden by March first. He says to buy a combination of sizes, but tomatoes won’t grow very large in this climate. I’ve found that to be true as well. I don’t have the space for a lot of plants, but I can use my fabric bags.

Which Tomato Seeds to Buy?

The blogger I am referencing plants Hybrid Tomatoes only.  I am not sure why, except that they are probably tougher than heirlooms.  A hybrid is a cross-pollinated plant.  The characteristics are better yield and disease resistance, among others.

Roma tomato seed packet
Roma tomato seed packet

In case you are interested in buying tomato seeds online:  Organic Heirloom tomato seeds can be purchased at the Tomato Fest site. These are NOT hybrids. Heirloom tomatoes give the grower the option to save seeds to plant the following year. You can’t do that with hybrids.

Buy the most disease and pest resistant varieties. Look at package labeling for letters that follow the name of the tomato. See the key list of what that lettering means on this page at Gurneys.  My packet above contains the letters VF which protects from wilt disease.

Indeterminates only – this means the tomatoes will continue to grow shooting out stems and growing tall all during the growing season. Indeterminates continue to set fruit while you pick ripe tomatoes. In other words, they just keep growing until something stops them. They need staking, whereas determinate varieties are more compact and can grow in pots.
**Note here: Indeterminates can grow to be 12 feet tall! I will need to re-think my staking. I suspect that in Florida they could easily grow to astounding heights.  I can see the raccoons climbing my stakes and destroying my crops.

Pick Tomatoes Early

Letting tomatoes ripen on the vine is my preference, but the raccoons tend to pick them before I get to.  My reference blogger picks his early and says they taste better when he lets them ripen indoors.  His blog is helpful, but not easy to navigate, so use the “search” area.

He mentions planting some tomatoes later in the season, in the shade, in a new area, and they did well.  Read about that at the bottom of this page where he “answers a question“.

I’m grateful for this info.

Pepper Plant Beasts Among the Greenery

One of my favorite garden plants is the bell pepper I planted over a year ago. Apparently here in Florida vegetable plants just go on and on. The pepper survived some pretty cold nights (below freezing temps) over the winter, and has come back stronger than ever.

Besides giving me some nice juicy peppers to eat, it is home to some special “beasts” that are common to this area.

I see lizards all the time scampering around my garden. Skittle the cat catches them, but seldom kills them. She simply likes to play with them. Often I see them without tails (which grow back) and figure they lost it when Skittle pounced.

This one is a brown anole, and I see them much more often than the green anole. After reading the Wikipedia article, I guess I know why.  The brown one is an invasive species and eats the green one!!  This thing really is a beast.  It used to be that all I ever saw were the green lizards, but come to think of it, I don’t see them any more.  I don’t see many green tree frogs either, so what has happened to those?

Florida is always changing, and usually NOT for the better.

lizard on the green pepper leaf
lizard on the green pepper leaf

There is a tree frog that seems to change sleeping spots from the garden to the umbrella to the hose holder. Is it the same frog? I only ever seem to see one at a time. Usually he sits on the bars beneath my table umbrella. The other day he spent the whole day tucked between the hose rolls on the garden hose holder. Each time I watered I was careful not to squish him.

As I was checking out my peppers the other day, there he was. Tucked in under a leaf and sitting on top of a big pepper.  I think he is a Pine Woods Tree Frog.  But it could be the Cuban Tree Frog… hope not.  I’ll have to get a better look at him.

tree frog pepper plant
Tree frog napping on my pepper

Skittle the Cat is not hanging out on the pepper plant, but she has always loved snooping through the greenery of a garden. Her happy place these days is sleeping beneath the big leaves of the eggplant. It’s where she takes her cat naps between hunting lizards and getting into other mischief.

Skittle the Cat
Skittle the Cat