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.)

The Garden in March, One Month Later

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My Garden, March 2nd

Last month I began to plant my little garden in my Florida backyard. Because the raised bed was not filled with dirt, I used black fabric pots.

I began with crops that were more suited to cooler weather, like peas and lettuce.

Well, Skittle the cat decided to sleep in the bed of peas, so now only one stalk is growing as the others were a bit crushed. It was just the right spot for a nap in the sun. No worries Skittle, I’ll eat 2 peas and be happy.

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Skittle in the Peas

I also planted potatoes and they are growing like mad. I followed the directions from a blog I read and began by only filling the bags part way. Then I have added dirt as the tops grew. And boy did they grow! Course I’ll have to wait and see what’s happening down inside the bags, but hopefully I’ll have some little red potatoes to eat one day.

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Growing potatoes

I also just planted cucumber seeds and I see today that they are popping through the soil.  It only took 2 days for that to happen!

My two pepper plants are doing well, and one is blooming like mad.  This may be the year I am able to grow peppers.  They like heat, and yesterday it was 88 degrees, so there ya go.

I have more cardboard to put down in the bottom of the wood enclosure to keep the grass from growing up through.  Newspaper would work for that too.  Eventually I will empty the dirt out of my pots and fill the enclosure.  But first…. I may try to dig up the grass beneath the enclosure.

I always thought I would just set up the wooden bed and fill it with dirt and I’m ready to plant.  Now I have read at EarthEasy that I should dig down a ways to loosen the ground so roots can go down into the dirt beneath the bed.  This makes sense, as some vegetables do have long roots, but I didn’t think they needed that much space.

It got me wondering what the roots of vegetables look like, and which ones need the most depth to grow well.

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Bib lettuce and carrots

The Bib lettuce needed to be thinned and the carrots were planted using paper strips.  I had never used carrot seed tape before, and I bought it by accident.  The old method of mixing seeds with sand when sowing small seeds works fine.  I still had to thin the seedlings, even when I used the tape.

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March Tomatoes!

I can honestly say I have never had tomatoes growing in my yard in March!   In fact compared to gardening in New Hampshire, growth here seems to be accelerated.

Every time I visit the garden section I keep an eye out for hydrangeas.  I haven’t seen any for sale.

Fall Vegetable Planting in Florida, What Can I Plant?

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Nothing Beats Fresh Grown Veggies

I’ve been browsing my new Florida Gardening book and finally came upon a page that really tells me all I need to know for now.  It is entitled “Cool Season Vegetables” with planting times – specifically for north, south or central Florida regions.

I will live on the edge of zone 9a and 9b of the cold hardiness zone map. What that means is that my area often gets frosts and sometimes freezes during December, January and February.   Temperatures can get down into the 20’s.  When that happens I will have to protect my crops. I can remember covering my outdoor shrubs and plants that were sensitive to cold when I lived in Florida before.  I saved up old sheets and blankets and would cover them over night. Usually temperatures climb nicely during the day, but overnight it can be downright cold!

Anyway, the cool season vegetable planting list contains a lot of vegetables I love to grow.

Growing vegetables in Florida is new to me.  I’m used to having everything pulled up from my gardens by the beginning of October, with the exception of some herbs, parsley and kale.  It’s not a time for beginning to plant anything in New England.  The fall season in the northeast is a time to enjoy the foliage and try not to think about what is coming.

I am delighted to find that many of my favorite veggies can be grown in the upcoming months.   On the planting list for October onward, I see that I can plant carrots, celery, kale, lettuce, onions, parsley, peas and potatoes, to name a few.   A couple of surprises on the list include strawberries and rhubarb!    The rhubarb can be planted at any time of year, but I didn’t even know I would be able to grow it in the south!  And I always thought strawberries were summer fruit.

Also most herbs can be planted this time of year.  Of course I searched for parsley first thing and was astounded when it wasn’t listed in the “herb” section.  After freaking out a bit, I found it listed under cool-season vegetables.  I always thought parsley was a herb, so I researched it and found that it is considered a herb, a spice and a vegetable.  Wow, I didn’t know that.

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My current “garden”

When I first moved down to Florida in June, I went out and bought two green pepper plants.  They grew one funny-looking pepper and then began to die.  I still have one of the plants and it’s beginning to grow new peppers.  (See it in the black pot in my photo.) I am hoping it may still produce a pepper or two for me.

Now that I see the lists of all these vegetables, I am wishing I had a bigger yard.  I haven’t moved into my new home yet, but the lot is normal size.  I’ll have to figure out how to best utilize the space for my gardens.  (Update:  I plant in a raised bed.)   This gardening research will give me a good idea of what to do once the garden beds are ready.

Maybe I will continue to do some container gardening in the meantime.

Gardening in Small Spaces

Each year I face the challenge of gardening in small spaces. Nearly three years ago I moved into my long-awaited home. It has the smallest usable yard space of any house I have ever lived in. The lot size is just about an acre, but much of that is down a hill and in the woodsy wetlands area. My front yard is large enough for me, but I wish I had more to work with in the back. Each Spring I must find the best ways to rotate and plant vegetables which will get enough sun to grow well.

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Small Garden Space

I have a family of three, but my kids are not as excited about eating fresh garden vegetables as I am. I don’t have to grow much of a crop of anything – just enough for me. And that is a good thing, since I don’t have the space for it.

Last year I tried fabric pot gardening and it worked out well. You can see in my picture above that I had one large round raised garden. I used the smaller garden bags to grow potatoes, beans and carrots. The nice thing was that I just set the pots in the sunniest areas along the deck, and had instant gardens!

The rest of my planting is done along the strip of ground at the edge of a drop off which is loaded with blackberry briars. With all the trees growing nearby, the lower part of the yard is too shady to plant anything. It doesn’t leave much room to do everything I’d like, but I do get some nice veggies by mid to end of summer.  And I put up a cement block raised bed out front which helps expand the crops too.