So how does my garden grow, you ask?  Beautifully, why thank you!  Here’s an update on my garden so you can see what I’m growing now.

Late last year we installed a 6′ x 12′ raised bed garden.  The soil was amended, areas were sectioned off for a “square foot gardening” concept, and the seeds were planted.  We watered and waited, watered and waited.  Now we’re eating lovely home-grown organic produce!  Radishes, carrots, green onions, green leaf lettuce, sunflowers (for seeds), kale and spinach have all produced and they’re still going strong.  We’ve also enjoyed eating our burgundy green beans (they turn green when you cook them but they’re a lovely deep plum color on the vine) and sugar snap peas.  Delicious!  Ginger and turmeric have been dug up and will be replanted later this summer.  Red pepper plants are flowering nicely now and speaking of flowering – all of the tomato plants are full of flowers!  Woo hoo!  The kohlrabi is starting to develop as is the broccoli and cauliflower.  Underground the parsnips, red and yellow onions, turnips, rutabagas, and beets are all doing their thing.  The garden really is doing well.

Since my last update we’ve planted our third round of carrots and leaf lettuce varieties and the second round of sunflowers, marigolds (with seeds from our own plants), red onions, celery, parsnips, and turnips so the garden can keep on giving us lots of wholesome goodness.  After we started the large raised bed garden we also started a strip garden in front of the chicken run for all of the climbing plants, added to the existing herb garden, and added several pots for sweet potatoes and regular potatoes plus more spinach.   We’ve also added pineapple plants so we should get some fruit in a few years from those, too.  The two avocado trees are doing really well with tons of new growth on them and the Jackfruit tree continues to grow tall.  The papaya tree is still producing fruits even though none have “blushed” yet (tells you when they’re ripe to pick) and the banana trees are filling in nicely.  On order are a Carambola (star fruit) tree, Lime tree, and a Jujube tree (fruits are similar to dates) which should all be here later this week.  Oh, the moringa tree is HUGE!  Soon it will be a contest to see who’s bigger – the Jackfruit tree or the moringa.  The Jackfruit tree has a two year advantage, though, but my bet is on the moringa.

I found a couple of master gardeners in this area and I’ve taken several classes from each of them.  Much of what I learned is that fog kills.  Yep, here in southwest Florida, fog kills plants like cucumbers, pumpkins, melons, squash, and zucchini.  I didn’t think we had that much fog here but low and behold, we do.  All of the plants I just mentioned are dead, dead, dead.  With the rest of the garden growing so beautifully I couldn’t understand why all these vine type plants didn’t thrive, too.  I guess the fog not only makes the leaves of these plants too wet but the fog can also carry disease from other areas to your garden.  Hmmm…. whoda thunk?  Anyway, once the weather is warm again I’ll replant all of those plants for my second attempt.

With one of those master gardeners we also had the pleasure of touring the Food Forest at FGCU (Florida Gulf Coast University) and that was very informative.  The food forest there is all a permaculture 1/2 acre planned and maintained by the students.  They have really done a nice job in a small amount of space and most plants are clearly labeled for us ‘regular folks’.  They are composting in several different ways including using recycled blue barrels and one student even built a solar dehydrator.  Very ingenious!  

 FGCU Food Forest FGCU Garden Compost Bins FGCU Solar Dehydrator

Another cool feature of the food forest is they gifted many of us cuttings of plants for our own home gardens.  I came home with Barbados Cherry (the best southern cherry plant) and Mexican Sunflower (excellent to add to compost).  Fingers are crossed!  Wish me good roots!

In my classes with the master gardeners I’ve also found a fantastic resource for good healthy soil and compost.  Florida doesn’t have soil – we have sand with no nutritional value for plants – so we have to bring in good, healthy soil especially for successful vegetable gardening.  The MW Horticultural Recycling Facility in south Ft. Myers is just the place for this “black gold” soil and compost.  Every time I attend a class I come home with a few plants (recently cranberry hibiscus, Seminole tomatoes, and soon a bay rum tree) and several bags of vegetable soil and compost for my garden.  Their compost is truly organic and the plants absolutely love it!  This wonderful soil in conjunction with a fish emulsion from a local man is all my plants need to thrive without all that chemical invasion.  Both the soil and compost from MW Horticultural Recycling Facility is a living matter filled with tons of beneficial microorganism and both are sold in breathable bags so all that healthy beneficial material continues to live (many times the stuff you buy at the store has sat in a sealed plastic bag in the heat for long periods of time and the microorganisms are suffocated and/or cooked by the time you bring it home).  Once I buy a chipper for all my yard waste I’ll be a super compost-producing freak!  All kitchen scraps (no meat products, though) are composted in a similar way to the blue can shown above.  I drilled holes in a black garbage can and lid and we roll it around the yard to turn the compost inside.  Works pretty well, in fact!  We always have tons of black soldier fly larva crawling around in our compost bins and our chickens haunt the ground nearby for any lost larva (yummy treats, I guess).  All of our egg shells are added to the garden separately (not in the comafter they’ve been dried and crushed in the food processor. 

My “To Do” list for 2016 included more edible gardening (check), more composting (check), and more classes with the master gardeners (check, check, check).   I also have some new additions to add to my future medicinal herb garden so all I have to do now is plan where to plant everything and just do it!  Just how much larger could my current herb garden be?  I’m not sure, really, but a second herb garden would be better, I’m sure.  Hopefully your garden is doing well and you’re reaping the benefits just like we are.  Enjoy!

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