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.)

Hydrangeas in My Yard: The Paniculatas

My last post was about the macrophylla varieties of hydrangeas growing in my yard. Those have big, rounded blooms and large leaves. This post contains pictures of my two types of paniculatas, which are hydrangeas with elongated type flowers.

In general I have found the paniculatas to be very easy to care for. They seldom droop in a drought, as the macrophyllas (Blushing Bride and Endless Summer) wilt quite easily in hot sun, and when they are dry.

The first photo is of the Limelight hydrangea. It was taken in August 2015, and as you can see it is not flowering, but it does have buds. The second photo is from last year at approximately the same time.  As you can see, this year I will not get the blooms like last year.  Again, I blame this on our incredibly horrible winter.  The extreme cold and piles of snow have done a number on just about everything in my yard.   Some of my Hostas never grew back, and the perennials I thought had died, are still living, but they are way behind on growth, like the hydrangeas.

limelight hydrangea shrub
Limelight Hydrangea – Aug. 10th, 2015
flowering limelight hydrangea
Limelight Hydrangea – August 20th, 2014

The last picture I have is of the Pinky Winky hydrangea. I have come to love this plant for it’s beautiful, long-lasting blooms. It is also a very easy plant to grow. Plant it and forget it.
pinky winky hydrangea
Unfortunately, I could have chosen a better spot for this one to grow. Without a lot of yard space, I thought it would have plenty of room to expand next to the garage. Then the snow came and my plow guy pushed loads of snow over the poor thing. It came back and grew fine.
This year I had to have a broken tree taken down, and as the tree-cutters brought the big beech down, the branches landed on my Pinky Winky. It was enough to break one of the main, low branches. I will have to cut it, as it’s split. I want to wait until the blooms go by.

Pinky Winky 8/20/14
One year ago – Pinky Winky, August 20th, 2014

The only problem I have with this one is that the deer eat it – see how lopsided it is in the photo above?  There is a big deer population around my house and they come up from the woods at the side of the house to check the yard for dinner.  After they munch on my rhododendron, they chew down the stalks of the hydrangea. It’s the only hydrangea they eat, and I think it’s placed just right (or wrong).
So between the broken branches and deer trimming, I may not get to see this perennial grow too large before I move, but it’s still beautiful.

This is the only hydrangea that doesn’t seem to have been bothered as much by the extremely cold winter.  I would love to have more Pinky Winky hydrangeas in my yard.

Sparse Vegetable Garden This Year

zucchini in the garden
Growing Zucchini

It seems to be the consensus here in my part of New England, the gardens are not growing all that well.  Not that I know that many people, but almost everyone I do know has a small backyard, or patio garden.

Just last night, one of my neighbors walked by and we chatted for a few minutes.  I know she has beautiful raised garden beds behind her house, so I asked how the garden was growing.  She said it’s not producing well.

My sister grows all her vegetables on a big, sunny deck in front of her house.  It’s convenient to care for, as she works long hours each day.  But this year she doesn’t even have zucchini growing.  If we lived closer I would have some extra to give her.  My zucchini started off slowly, but now I’m picking one or two from the two plants I have.

The cucumber is really slow.  I’ve only had 2 cukes so far.  And the hot pepper plant is also not producing the many peppers I remember having last year.  The only thing that is doing better this year than last is my garlic.  Even the parsley, one of my favorite things, is not all that big. Continue reading “Sparse Vegetable Garden This Year”

A Little About Sunflowers

Types of sunflowers and possible problems when planting and growing.

yellow sunflower poster
Sunflower Poster

Soon the sunflowers will be popping through the soil and by mid-summer their happy blooms will decorate the garden landscape.
Sunflower plants can be tall or short. When mixing varieties be sure to leave enough space between them as they all need lots of sunlight. Seed packs will describe which is which.

Besides bright yellow the petals can be rusty redish orange as in the Autumn Beauty
variety.  (I don’t know what variety this red sunflower is, but it’s pretty.)

red sunflower
Photo by eponaspirit @ Pixabay

I used to plant sunflower seeds until I realized that the squirrels were digging them up as fast as I could plant them! My gardening space is very small, so I don’t need many sunflowers, but a few are nice to have. Because I feed sunflower seeds to the birds in winter, I always have a few volunteers that grow on their own. All I have to do is weed out the ones that are too close together and let the others survive. Of course they don’t always sprout where I would prefer they live, but I can’t be picky. It’s that or no sunflowers, and a summer without sunflowers is just not right!
Here is a picture of my garden last year.

backyard garden scene
My Backyard Garden – 2014

My ‘Celebrity’ tomatoes looked so wonderful right up until they developed late blight, just as they were almost ready to pick, and I never got to eat them.  It was very depressing.
I like the fact that sunflowers grow beautifully on their own.  Usually they mature and have plenty of seeds to feed the birds.  The goldfinches love them.  Although, I have had squirrels climb the stalk and chew off the stem to steal the entire flower! Those little buggers are a real nuisance. Now that I have cats prowling the yard, I haven’t had that problem.
I did however have big green grasshoppers chewing on the flowers. It’s always something. But they were so interesting that I let them eat and got some photos.
grasshopper eating a sunflower