Spring in Florida is Like Fall Only Uglier

Some people will say that Florida is one big season that just gets hotter at times. But Florida does have a Spring. It’s when the leaves fall off the trees and pollen collects as a yellow film on everything day after day. Yes, Spring is like Fall / Autumn here, in a way. It’s a duller, more annoying, version of Fall.

Florida oaks with moss branching over a road
Live Oaks – Spring

There are no colorful leaves, or crisp air to breathe, like in a real Autumn. The trees turn a brighter green with the new growth and the oaks drop those long brown things all over the cars (that don’t fit inside garages because that is where everything is stored because there are no basements). Oak leaves are small here and not like the oak leaves where I come from.

That’s about it. Other than that, new growth will appear when bushes are trimmed, but that can happen at any time of year. No use looking for tulips, forsythia, daffodils, or anything that signals Spring in many places, because those flowers don’t grow here in the jungle.

Spring Trimming of The Shrubs

A seasoned Floridian knows when to trim the shrubs. Don’t trim in winter as it will promote new growth that will freeze if the temperatures drop, which they sometimes do. Don’t trim azaleas until after they bloom in March or April. Plant new perennials well before the summer heat arrives. (Not this year. The nurseries are all closed.)

Trimmed hedge
Trimmed hedge of little ficus?

I have decided this year to try and fix up the shrubs along the front by the garage. These are hardy little things that are slow growing, so they are perfect for this area. I’m not sure of what they are, maybe some sort of ficus. I imagine they were planted when the house was built. Unfortunately, the sprinkler system didn’t reach them, and they’ve been ignored since I moved in over three years ago. I’m so sorry, but you did well enough without my help.

new growth on the shrubs
New growth

Now it’s time I paid attention and helped them out. I just recently cut them back a lot. The leaves were looking bad, as you can see I’m my photo. The stems had become spindly and leafless. I’m hoping that this trim will help them to fill out.

new growth on green shrubs

Already there is lots of new growth on the stems. I’ve added topsoil, fertilizer and mulch to this section of garden. My son bought, and installed, a little sprinkler head that sprays this garden specifically. It shouldn’t be long before this hedge is looking thick and lush.

May Vegetable Garden in My Florida Backyard

May is here and my backyard vegetable garden is off to an okay start. I’m still getting used to growing veggies in this climate, but I’m happy to have big, luscious green peppers to use already!

My garden area is very small and the plants are divided between a raised bed, fabric bags, and an old grow box. All my Florida gardening is still in the experimental stages! I’m learning, but at least I have the raised bed filled with good dirt.

May garden
The backyard garden in May

This pepper plant has been around since last Spring! This amazes me. I always thought pepper plants liked the warmth, but this one survived winter. And, yes, it’s Florida, so “winter” is a dirty word here, but the temperatures were truly cold for a few days. I assumed the pepper plant would die, but it did not.

And once Spring arrived (February… hahaha) buds appeared and the peppers began to grow.  I was picking them by April.

green peppers
Picking green peppers this year by April

The yellow / summer squash is something that I am having trouble with. The plants (from seeds) grew nicely and then flowered and grew little squash. But then they began to pucker up and rot on the ends.

This can be caused by too much water, so I have been watering them less. Also I added some ground egg shells to the dirt because I read that a lack of calcium can be the culprit for blossom end rot.

I’ve picked two small squash so far and have had to throw many rotten ones away. The ones I ate were delicious!!! So I am hoping for more. Last year I tried to grow them also and had bugs and mold take over before I got squash to eat.

yellow squash
Yellow Squash

The cucumbers have just started to take off. Some are growing in fabric garden bags, and a few are planted at the edges of the raised bed.

I’m hoping for cukes to eat soon, but I’ve also read that the raccoons don’t like the feel of the fuzzy stems on cucumbers. If I have strands of cucumber vines all around my garden, will the raccoons leave my vegetables alone?  Please work……

cucumber plants
Cukes in fabric bag and inside bed

For the heck of it I threw a couple pieces of old sweet potato into my mostly empty garden back in February (?). Now the vines are long and pretty. When they start to die I will dig down and see if I find potatoes.  I’ve grown regular potatoes, but never sweet potatoes.

sweet potato
Sweet potato vines and leaves

My little red pepper plant is growing lots of peppers and I’ve already used a couple red ones. They are very hot. I really wanted jalapeños but there were no plants when I was shopping. I dislike having to buy all my plants at the Home Depot, but there are no farm stands around.

chili red hot peppers
Chili red hot peppers

I found a couple of parsley worms on my fennel. Dill plants were nowhere to be found, so I settled for fennel, which I have never grown. Ladybugs and apparently parsley worms enjoy it and I’ve been chopping it up to add to food I cook.

parsley worm on fennel
Parsley worm on fennel

One tomato plant has 8 green tomatoes and the other has 6. I’m counting them to make sure the raccoons are not stealing any during the night. I’ll bring the plants inside if raccoons begin bothering them.

green tomatoes
Tomatoes are coming along

My little Navel orange tree lost a lot of it’s small fruit, but a few oranges are still growing.

navel oranges growing
A few oranges are growing on the new Navel Orange tree

The eggplant is still not giving me any eggplants, but it’s a good home for ladybugs. I’ve seen them in many forms (eggs, larvae, and beetle) crawling on the leaves. The aphid problem is no longer a problem. I can’t find a single aphid on anything! Don’t you love those ladybugs?

The weather will continue to get hotter and I may have to stop gardening within a month or so. I’ll see what lives and what doesn’t and go from there.

May garden in florida
May garden view

Memories of April in New Hampshire

Every now and then I look back at my life in New Hampshire through the many photos I took while living there.
Since Spring is upon us (in Florida it’s hard to tell) I decided to share some April photography and memories.

yellow forsythia flowers
Forsythia

In April the forsythia begins to bloom and the bright yellow flowers are a wonderful sight after a dull and colorless winter. I had planted a forsythia bush up near the road in my front yard in New Hampshire. I thought it was far enough back from the road to survive the snow-plowing in winter, but I was wrong. This big branch was broken off so I cut it and brought it inside to enjoy the flowers.

cat drinks out of forsythia water
Skittle, being Skittle

Skittle, the cat enjoys drinking water from all sorts of places. And once she discovered the vase of water holding the branch, she just had to partake!

The Lenton Rose will be full of flowers by April. It blooms before the snow is gone. I really enjoyed this little flowering bush.

Screen Shot 2017-04-20 at 4.47.28 PM
Lenton Rose

The coreopsis is popping through the ground and so are the thick red stems of the peony. I love peonies. They remind me of my grandmother, so I had a lot of them planted in my yard in the north. I had white, red, and pink. One of the reds was more like an open flower, but I can’t recall the name of it.
Screen Shot 2017-04-20 at 4.45.47 PM

Screen Shot 2017-04-20 at 4.44.37 PM
Peony

And of course the hydrangeas were coming to life. It’s always thrilling to check out the gardens in Spring. Each day more green is showing and it was always fun to watch the progress as the perennials came back to their beautiful showy state.

Screen Shot 2017-04-20 at 4.44.59 PM
Hydrangea in Spring

The first photo is my house taken about three months before I moved. I couldn’t afford to live in New England, but it’s where my heart is.
I miss it and always will.

My Perennial Shade Garden

Pictures of my shade garden perennials.

mouse ear hosta
Mouse Ear Hosta

My front yard has an upward sloping hill with tall hardwood trees. Once the leaves pop out in May most of my front yard is in constant shade. I love trees, and they are beautiful, but planting and growing anything beneath them is difficult.

I prefer to invest in perennials, since I am on a tight budget. Impatiens are the only annual I plant and they like the shade. Usually I can find cheap, multiple impatiens seedlings in tiny containers. It takes time to get them all planted, but once they are in the ground they grow nicely. My recent favorite is the variety with red and white striped flowers.

It took me one full summer to clear out beneath the trees. The following year I added astilbe, hosta, and bleeding heart perennials. Digging the ground where there are many tree roots is tough. I added some new loam at the base of the hill which helped with planting.

Honestly, the astilbe is my least favorite. It’s spindly and small, but I’ll see how it does this year. I don’t know much about it, but it’s not full and pretty like in the pictures I’ve seen. My guess is that the dirt is not suitable.

The Hosta plants always come back and fill out a bit more each summer.  I’m happy to find that they are all growing.  This past winter was a very bad one, and a few of my perennials seem to have died.  I had a big Pampas Grass plant that is totally gone.  Glad I got this picture last summer.

pampas grass
Pampas Grass Bloom

My favorite shade garden perennial is probably the bleeding heart. It seems so fragile. The bright green stems are soft and break easily. The little heart-shaped flowers dangle from thin branches and seem so delicate. Yet it survives the winter and is always one of the first plants to push up in spring.

Usually my lenton rose plants bloom first, but this year one of them took a long time to grow.  Like I mentioned, the winter was especially hard.