Archive for February, 2011

Before

At last, some photos! These are the “before” pics that I took in January before I began working in the garden. Sadly, I didn’t take any pics in December before we replaced the old fence, so you’ll have to take my word for it that the new wooden fence is a great big enormous improvement! I’ll head out sometime this week to take photos of the current state of things. There have been more improvements!

The front yard, taken from the corner. You can see we have a lot of space in the front. The oak trees cast some shade, but the branches are fairly high so I expect a lot of things will be willing to grow under them. What little grass there is, is brown in this picture, because of the couple of freezes we had in December and January. It’s greened up a bit now (and gotten weedier too).

This is also the front yard, to the left of the driveway on the side opposite the street corner. This large, sandy area will probably end up as an extension of the backyard veggie gardening. And speaking of sandy… look how WHITE the dirt is where nothing has been growing. This is what Florida soil turns too quickly without constant organic additions. Mulching heavily solves the problem, as there’s always something breaking down to enrich the soil. But it can take a couple years for a gardener to really amend the soil back to a healthy state.

On the other side of the house, just in front of the fence, our grapefruit tree.

And in the backyard, our tangelo tree (look at all the fallen fruit – I simply couldn’t keep up with how much fruit these yielded!) Fruit from these tangelos makes the BEST screwdriver you’ve ever tasted.

Here’s the loquat tree, which sits right by the rear fence. Look how blue the sky is in this picture. That’s winter for us. The deep, rich blue, the crisp clean light… it’s so beautiful here when the humidity takes a break.

Standing just off the back porch and looking left, towards the back corner of the yard, where veggie bed #1, future home of my spring squash, now resides. To the left of the photo you can see a dormant crepe myrtle, and past that is the tangelo. To the right you can make out part of the loquat.

And looking to the right, the rear corner on the street side of the yard, where veggie bed #2 with our beans is.

Looking further to the right, the rest of the side fence and the return facing the front yard and grapefruit tree. My peach tree is about halfway down the side length of fence, just past veggie bed #2 and just shy of the shade cast by the grapefruit tree. Since the old fence stopped right at the edge of the porch, all of this used to be “front” yard. It’s going to be much more useful reclaimed to the backyard!

Standing at the side fence looking back towards the house, you can see the porch and in the distance to the right of the picture, the crepe myrtle.

So that’s what I had to start with. I’m glad to finally have these photos uploaded, and to look at them again. It’s pretty satisfying, because even though I’ve only been working out there a short while, things are already looking quite a bit different. I can’t wait to see how gorgeous things will be when all my veggies are growing! I’ll take more photos again sometime soon to show the progress so far.

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Another beautiful morning

I went out early today while it was still cool in the garden and planted lima beans and green beans in the new veggie bed. There’s enough space leftover in the bed for the peppers and tomatoes I’ve started in pots, once they’re ready to move in. I also stuck a few sweet potatoes in a pot to start some slips, which I’ll transfer to the ground in a couple months, heading into the summer season.

Everything’s looking good. Various things I planted last week are growing and looking better than when I put them in the ground. All but the one passion vine continue to look good (and I found a few more passion vine seedlings dotted around the yard today too… I’ll dig them up later in the week).

The blooms on our grapefruit tree have started opening; now I have citrus blossom fragrance at both ends of the yard. It’s heavenly.

Next up: the squash family. Sometime this coming week.

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Progress

Things are making beautiful progress! The weather has been unusually warm for this time of year and we are in full-on spring. The tangelo tree is in full bloom and the whole backyard is filled with the stunning perfume. Our peach tree has its first blossom, with a couple more buds on the way. The cherry laurel is in full bloom too (not a food source, but a plant that’s full of childhood memories for me). The oak trees are doing their thing and the pollen count is through the roof (but my allergies seem better when I’m working in the garden, so perhaps dust is the bigger culprit).

I’ve taken time in the past week to continue working in the yard. A few days ago I planted an avocado sapling given to me by a friend. I did transplant all the little passion vines, just yesterday. They’ve looked very droopy but I trimmed them heavily and have watered liberally, and plan to continue watering by hand twice a day until they are established. All but one look like they’ll survive. And I’m hopeful about the other one.

Yesterday and today I worked on prepping another garden bed for veggies. I dug out a rectangle roughly 10′ by 18′ and removed what little grass was growing there (I’ll rant about grass in Florida on a later date, I’m sure) and tossed it on the compost heap. Then I spread manure about 3″ deep over the whole area, and added about a nother 3″ of oak leaves to mulch. I’ll plant some seeds directly in the bed in the next day or so.

All the seeds I started in pots seem to be doing well. The marigolds sprouted first, the first seedlings making their appearance just four days after I planted them! Since then the zinnias, angel’s trumpet have both started, and I think a couple of the tomatoes too. The quick  germination on the tomatoes (6 days!) gives me some hope that I’m not too terribly far behind.

That’s it for the moment. I’ll try to upload photos soon.

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Getting a late but satisfying start

I’ve wanted a veggie garden for years, and for a variety of reasons (the biggest being our frequent moves in recent years) I am only now, at last, beginning. It’s a big deal for me, both because I am eager to delve into this delightful hobby, and also because on a deeply emotional level, I feel at home for the first time in years. I am giddy to be outdoors, digging in dirt that’s mine, planting things that will grow up in front of me while I stay blissfully in this place.

And now that I mention it, I’d love to share a little about this place. We’re on a quarter acre corner homesite in an older neighborhood in Temple Terrace. There are big grandfather oak trees in the front yard, but still plenty of sunny areas for the plants that love sunshine. When we first moved in, the backyard had a rusty, torn up old chain link fence that barely extended from the sides of the house to the rear of the lot. We had that pulled out, and a wood privacy fence put in reaching around a wider area and encompassing some of the side yard facing the street.

On this lovely homesite, there’s a BIG grapefruit tree (pink, slightly sweet but still quite acidic, which I actually love) and a BIG tangelo tree (awesome, sweet-tart, dark orange flesh). Both of them produced more fruit than our small household could eat this year, and we gave them away by the sackfuls. Both trees are covered in white buds now, and I’m giddily anticipating the perfume of citrus blossoms when I go to plant the spring garden in a couple of weeks. There’s a fairly young loquat tree in the back as well. It bloomed through late January and early February and is covered with small, furry green fruits now, which should ripen in about another month I think. When we first moved in there were also passion vines along part of the fence. I was sad to see them go when the old fence came down. Passion flowers are beautiful, passion fruits are exquisite and the vines themselves are larval food for Gulf Fritillary butterflies. In the past week, I’ve been delighted to spot nearly a dozen self-seeded passion vine seedlings dotted around the back yard. And I’m planning to attempt transplanting them along the new fence. Vines can be finicky about being moved; I definitely want to do it in the next couple of days to hopefully have them in place before their tap roots run too deep to survive the transplant.

I got a late start this season though. I started prepping the ground a month ago, sheet mulching the first area I had pegged out for veggie gardening. But I’ve been doing it little by little as I have tried to locate affordable sources for organic fertilizers (found a horse farmer who was all too happy to help!) and mulch (still waiting for word back from a couple of tree cutting services on that). And my professional work has kept me busy – so it’s been slow going. This has meant that the handful of plants I bought last month only went into the ground this weekend, LATE in the season for them – onions, leeks, spinach, really should all be planted a good month or two sooner. I put them in part shade instead of full sun and I’m hoping the heat doesn’t kill them off too quickly.

I’m late starting some spring vegetables too. I placed a seed order almost a month ago that only (finally) arrived yesterday. I’m putting a few of the seed packets away until fall, but I’ve decided to try growing tomatoes despite being nearly two months behind. I won’t get a large crop, I’m sure, but I’d be delighted to have anything that tastes like a real tomato instead of the bland mealy things they sell at the grocery store. So I started those seeds in pots this morning, and will transplant them as soon as they’re ready – despite the fact that they almost certainly won’t be ready until halfway through the season.

I also planted a peach tree – a Florida Prince. I can’t express how delighted I am that they have bred a few varieties suitable for our long warm seasons and scant chill hours here in central Florida. Peaches are my *favorite* fruit, but only when they’re actually ripe. And most peaches sold here are picked under-ripe to survive the travel from Georgia. Peaches fresh from the tree, warmed by the sun? I. Can’t. Wait. (Though I’ll have to, a year at least and probably two, since the tree will spend most of this year setting roots instead of fruiting).

This is just the beginning. I’ll plant spring veggies in a week or two and I’ll gradually expand the assortment of fruit trees. I plan to add lots of perennials to the garden as well – both edible and ornamental varieties. To the best of my ability I plan to use permaculture principles to establish a beautiful, low-maintenance garden that yields lots of delicious foods for my family, as well as offering food sources to birds and butterflies.

Can you tell I’m excited? 🙂

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