My garden is a work-in-progress. As in, I work, I see progress, then work some more to change everything. I just haven’t found a perfect setup I like yet. Last winter/spring, I had as many as 6 raised beds and several in-ground plantings of veggies and flowers. Problem #1 with that: the waterhose didn’t reach 5 of the raised beds. That meant daily watering by refilling a bucket of water and carrying it to and fro around the yard. Daily. In the Florida heat and humidity. Yeah, nuff said.
So, this year I have simplified. I moved all the dirt into the one raised bed my hose could reach and trashed the others. Don’t worry, the raised beds were made from pieces of my old fence that were destined for the trash to begin with, so I only lost some time and a few screws. They didn’t even make it to the dump anyway, because a nice couple saw them and loaded the lot of em into the back of their pickup. That made me happy.
So, that being said, what I’m working with this season is a galvanized bucket of about 20gal size from Lowes. We drilled holes for drainage into the bottom and I have it filled with the “Mel’s Mix” aka “Square Foot Garden” mix of 1 part peat moss, 1 part vermiculite, and 1 part compost (though I think the compost is a bit higher in ratio in my gardens.) In the bucket I have a very sturdy, indeterminate variety of cherry tomato I bought from Rockledge Gardens. It’s called “Cherry Red” and I expect good yields of 1″ clustered fruit. The tiny seedling nearest the tomato is a Marigold. They’re good for controlling problem bugs and a pretty to boot. They also grow with a vengeance in my climate. The other 5 leafiers seadlings are Top Bunch Collards. I like fresh greens in smoothies and to give some crunch to the many tortilla/burrito sandwhichy things we eat in my house. We pretty much use tortillas instead of bread. And I think everything should have lettuce in it. The open spot opposite my tomato is reserved for my very most favorite variety of tomato: the Super Sweet 100. It’s prolific, delicious, hardy and will produce straight through the heat of summer. For some reason I have fooled with other varieties over the last two years or so and have missed my SS100 every season. So I’m sticking with what I like this year. I have 3 baby Super Sweets growing out in a little wood box till I get one the size I want to plant.
This clay pot of about 12gal size I’d guess, is working hard this year. I have it butted up to an 8ft stretch of picket fence that will be the trellis for the plants in here. The vine in the back is a Blue Bouquet Passionflower. It will be a great butterfly attractor and have unique spiky blue flowers by the hundreds if my research is correct. Clockwise from it are a handful, about 8 or so, of my very favorite variety of cukes, the Sumter Cucumber. It’s hardy, large, tasty, a heavy producer, and I use it in everything from smoothies to soup. It’s nice and firm and is a great substitute for zucchini squash in recipes. I haven’t ever had good luck with zucchini. The seedling in the 4oclock position is New Zealand Spinach. It isn’t really a spinach, but it can be used like it. It is an out of control volunteer in my garden and great fodder for my chickens (who are currently vacationing at a wonderful friend’s house while I’m busy having a baby this summer). In the front is an Italian Flat Leaf Parsley. It is one of my favorite herbs to grow and is the host plant of the Black Swallowtail butterfly which always show up in mid summer to chomp it up. My boys are In. Love. with caterpillars right now, so that’s why it came home from the nursery with me. And last is 4 seedlings of what my Grandma thought to be a kind of Salvia. It was growing 4ft tall in her yard with spikes of blue flowers and the butterflies were swarming it. So I brought some seeds home, but they didn’t sprout when I intentionally tried to sprout them. I figured they weren’t viable so I stuck them in this pot just in case they decided to show up. Jokes on me, because I will probably have to find somewhere to put them now that they have sprouted.
Here is my little bean box. It is one of the leftover boxes from my raised garden bonanza that I originally used for flowers and herbs. It’s about 2’x2’x1′ and filled with more “Mel’s Mix” dirt. There are 15 Fortex Pole Green Beans in there that are almost tall enough to start climbing the 5ft bamboo teepee. There is also one Marigold and 3 Russian Mammoth Sunflowers. I might add a few more of those because they are a fantastic trap crop for aphids, which have wiped out two of my field pea crops. I am probably most excited about this box because I will be able to see it from my kitchen window while I’m washing dishes.
The Florida White Ibis is a frequent visitor in my yard. They are a great natural pest control since my chickens are away. They plod around using those long beaks to pluck grubs, frogs, lizards and other things from the grass. And so far they have stayed out of my gardens. Woohoo!
Here is the last of my raised gardens. It was the largest and probably nicest looking. I loaded all the dirt into it, again, more Mel’s Mix, and then planted a row of winter squash. The seeds were a variety pack from Burpee (how come I can’t find Burpee seeds in stores right now?) that included two vining variety: Spaghetti and Lakota, and two bush hybrids: Early Acorn and Butterbush. There are 16! squash in this 6’x2.5’x2′ bed. Way overcrowded, I know. But I’ve been hesitant to thin any out since I have NO way of knowing which variety are which. I have a 5’x15′ trellis net I will hang behind the box for the vining variety to climb and get out of the way, so I’m not worried about those. But the bush variety are supposed to be a “compact” 3ft size. Uh, lemme do the math… yeah, not gonna work for this space. Once I can tell which ones will be bush variety, I’ll give those a serious thinning. And the middle row is Marigolds (I found ONE flower seed head in my seed box and just sprinkled them down the middle of the box-there’s dozens of seedlings) and a handful of edible yellow Calendula. The empty front row of the box is reserved for 3 Cubanelle Peppers and *hopefully* 3 Hansel Eggplants. They’re all leeeetle seedlings right now, so no guarantees they’ll make it to the box, but I’m hopeful and babying them to the Nth degree. I may also tuck a few Giant Sunflowers in here as a trap crop for the aphids which have bothered my peppers and eggplants in the past. Again, I know this is a crowded box to say the least.
I have a butterfly garden in the corner of my yard. It is small, maybe, 4’x4′, but I’m filling it with plants. It bears mentioning that I can’t reach it with the water hose. Which is why the plants in here are mostly drought hardy Florida natives: Lantanas, Corky Passionflower vine, and this lovely Porterweed. The violet flowers are so dear. I’m also growing two Pink Coral vines to plant in here.
I fixed my tumbling composter! It used to be twice as tall and very unsteady. It broke during a rainstorm when the wood got wet and splintered. I researched more steady designs, and found this style of base for the compost bin with a shorter design and more stabilizing wood. It took me about two afternoons to complete but it was well worth it. The boys love sticking things in there and giving it a spin.
And now a little beauty to leave you with. Hundreds of these dainty lavender colored wildflowers grow all over my yard. My google searches have come up with nill for this plants name. But I like seeing them every year.