An Update from this Spring; The Forgotten Post!

(This post I thought I had published but it has been sitting in my drafts. Still learning!) Part A:

It is finally here! The tell-tale signs of spring have been popping up all around us lately. Our dormant Florida peach tree has sprouted some new leaves, and a handful of beautiful peach blossoms! This is our first year with a fruit tree, and I am excited to see what kind of harvest we get off this tree this year!

Over the last several weeks, I have been planning the garden for this Spring by using Microsoft Excel and creating a sort of diagram of my garden using boxes and colors. I am an extremely visual individual, and I love to “see” the plants as I imagine walking through the garden. This helped me figure out which seeds I was going to start in late January/February for planting at the end of the month here in March.

As you can see, there is a LOT in planning and not much in the works right now. Everything I do this year will pretty much be a giant test to see what will work and what wont, how far I can stretch planting seasons with our wonderful Florida weather year round, and additionally incorporate permanent perennial fruits and such to the garden.

What are you doing in your garden? Is there anything you have done to have permanent food come back year after year? I’d love to hear from you!

Part B: Update!

Now that summer is here, I can give an update from this post since it has been hanging in my drafts. Due to the Covid-19 Pandemic, my poor garden has suffered so. I have anxiety and depression, and had pulled my child from school to homeschool him before all the craziness followed.

I had seed starts potted up and ready to go. I was growing new varieties of tomatoes and peppers this year, and planning on new things like Tomatillos and I told myself I was going to successfully grow corn for the first time this year! Excitement ran through my veins until the news of the pandemic reaching US soil came to my ears.

I had horrible anxiety and depression then, and when grocery stores started to run scarce on food and supplies, fear then consumed me and crippled my ability to garden. I was so worried about what was going on in the world that I failed to plant my plant starts which eventually succumbed to the neglect. My corn grew about 2 1/2 feet high and then got a case of worms that munched the leaves and started to get into the plants. Cucumbers died. Nothing got fertilized, and my backyard renovation was put on the back burner again. Topping it all off, we had a crazy storm with high gusts that blew through, and it got to every little baby peach growing on my tree. They all disappeared! The chicken coop also was affected by this wind storm and the latch failed letting all of my little beasts into my garden to devour and scratch up the work I had done.

I was feeling pretty much like a failure consumed by her demons in that time frame. I couldn’t pull myself away from the news. I was making constant trips to the store trying to stock up our pantry and make sure my family was fed in case stores ran out! But honestly, now that I am looking back on things, I should have been focused more than anything on the garden to provide for the family rather than letting it go! You know what they say about hindsight?? I wish I could go back in time, but I can’t! I can only learn from my mistakes and move on to not repeat it.

How has this Covid situation affected you and your family?

A Christmas Peach Tree from Florida

“What do you want for Christmas this year?” That is a loaded question. I could go on and on about the masses of material things that I would like to call mine that I have only been drooling over for the past 11 months (or more), but I started really thinking about that word. Want.

Based off these definitions, it seems like an easy question to ask. What do you want? Seems simple enough to just blurt out the desires of your heart but it begs another question for me recently. “Do you need it?” Hm. That puts me at a hault right dead in my tracks. This year I started a new way of thinking. I wanted to be able to finally start saving money and not spend it all and have nothing to show for it. I am looking at the things in my home that occupy my space and asking these important questions to myself. “Do I want it and if so, do I really need it?” It makes it easier to let it go and appreciate any kind of joy it may have brought you. I am trying to declutter and organize my home and my mind, so when posed with the simple request from my Husband as to what I wanted for Christmas, I took the time to really think about it.

Sure, I asked for more raised beds for the garden or a pool with a chuckle knowing very well it wasn’t going to happen. He looked at me with that kind of look that you can only get from your significant other that says that you must be out of your mind crazy! Then it came to me as quick as a beam of light. I would honestly love to add a fruit tree to our yard and start the collection of fruit giving trees that are in memory of a dearly departed loved one who has left us and gone to be with the Lord. I have so many wonderful memories with so many beautiful souls and it is exciting to imagine watching these fruit trees grow large and produce delicious produce for my family to enjoy and share in both memory and bounty. World, meet our Florida Peach tree! This tree is not dedicated yet, but I will find who to dedicate this too after I have calmed down from the excitement of finally getting a fruit tree!!

Bless the mess!! Our yard is a work in progress, and it is hard when you both work full time jobs!

Have you ever dedicated a tree to a loved one who passed away? I’d love for you to share the experience! Write a comment or drop a picture in the comments and let me know!

The FIRST large harvest of snap beans I’ve EVER had!!

Now that I have been avidly gardening for a year, I felt comfortable with growing other things that we normally eat such as snap beans. I got the yellow wax beans and the royal burgundy beans from MIgardener.com and they have done amazing in the garden! The germination rate for the beans themselves were incredible, and they have yielded so much!

Tonight I harvested the many beans I had to go with dinner and loaded them into our “harvest” basket. Them sitting in this huge basket did not look like much, but as I was snapping and cleaning them up to cook, my large colander became full to the brim with these beans that my Son and I harvested. I ended up saving the remaining beans for a future meal.

The feeling of pride as I took that first bite made it so satisfying. My husband complimented me on dinner (per usual, hah) and commented on how good the beans were. He was proud of my effort and I appreciated the little pat on the back. Our 9year old happily ate the beans he has helped to grow over the last few weeks and harvest. He said it was “really cool” to have a farm and grow our own stuff to eat. Lol!!! I had to then explain that the farm is a dream of mine, but what we had was as close to that as we can get here in the city!

Lucy was a lucky girl digging in the compost pile and getting the worms all to herself!

I’ve learned so much this year about gardening that it has become more than a little hobby of mine to pass the time and distract from reality. Being a mom who works full time hours for a corporate office, I get stressed and overwhelmed at times. Everyone does! Life in general is hard all on it’s own and then you juggle being a wife, mother and working for a living while trying to be healthy and just get to baseball practice on time every now and then. The things that matter is how you deal with that stress and what you do to release yourself from that tension. This is what I do and it works for me! Find your happy place!

Updates from the Garden

What a week it has been! I look forward to my time alone in these quiet beds to focus my energy and center my self. It really is my zen and a haven in which I can quiet my mind. I’ve been gardening for about a year now and I have learned so much in these last 12 months! I have learned to put your time into researching your zone, your seasons, and your pests especially when you are a novice.

Fundamentals in gardening do not always come so easily to everyone. It is a little more than plugging a seed into the dirt, giving it a drink of water, and BAM! There is your garden! How much water is too much? How much sunlight will this plant need? Does this seed need particular spacing? All these questions and more come into play and it is only the beginning!

These are things I had to learn this year. I used my local book store to find Florida related gardening and plant “help” plus looking online at our local agricultural extension for information on what to plant and when. I learned a ton from YouTube from channels like Roots & Refuge Farm, MIGardener and my homestead dreaming from Justin Rhodes, and Off Grid with Doug and Stacy.

This is where that itch I had to garden now seemed reasonable! It was do-able! All I had to do was start somewhere. I started in a 4’x8’ bed last year, and from there it has grown each season to what I have today, and I still don’t feel satisfied!

Whatever your desire is, just leap off that idea and start your journey, no matter how small at first. It will quickly grow into something beautiful, and wonderful, and nice. Get a notebook and use it as your gardening journal. Log what you plant and when. Log your successes and your failures. Learn from your mistakes!

You will be so thankful you recorded everything so you can look back on it and see what worked and what didn’t. It’s a great way to see what maybe you would try doing differently next time to see if you get better results too. Experimenting in the garden is one of my favorite parts of gardening. Everything has a basic science to it, however it isn’t an exact science and that is what makes it so interesting. Most of all, remember to make it FUN!

Happy gardening and many blessings!

-FloridaGardenGirl

A LONG Overdue Makeover!

Ah. Florida got a hint of fall weather lately. It’s been still close to 85-95 degrees daily which is common for us, but it dropped down to a blissful mid 70’s this last week with a gentle breeze and it is heaven!!! I have been planning the garden “overhaul” since the end of July, and I am happy (and belated) in saying it is halfway done! Queue the drumroll please!!

Beds of untreated pine measuring 8ft x 4ft in this 20×20 space!

Ta-da!! Aren’t they beautiful?!? My sweet Husband, Tanner, built these for me mainly by himself. He, my 9 year old Son and my 8 year old nephew filled them with the garden soil we had delivered from our local nursery. That pile out front sure had some head turns from the neighbors! Haha. We got a 50/50 mixture of black cow manure and mushroom compost.

Of course I couldn’t contain my excitement any longer, I had to do some planting!! I was itching to dig in this mixture and see what I could do with it!! I planted all this in late September from seed starts just to see what I could get away with until it was too “chilly” (not a term used often here in eastern central Florida!)

From the back: okra, eggplant, supposedly ground cherry.
From the front: burgundy beans x’s 2 rows and yellow beans x2 rows.
From the back: market more cucumber. 2 varieties of radishes down the center. Tomatoes galore!
From the back: sunflowers, marigolds, grey stripe zucchini x’s 2, yellow squash x’s 2, and green zucchini x’s 2!
From the back: bunching onions, 1 row. Leeks, 1 row. Brussel sprouts x’s 3. Broccoli x’s 3, and romanesco broccoli x’s 3. Hard to see!
A pumpkin vine for fun, lettuces and cabbages in this bed!

Things are growing so well in this soil! I am having some trouble with germination of the brassicas. I have will have to re-seed if I don’t see sprouts soon! Other than that, I am so thankful to have these amazing beds to grow food in! This has taken a huge burden off my shoulders and I am glad I can get back into the groove of learning!

Defeated- adjective

Definition: having been beaten in a battle or other contest.

Let’s be honest… I bet you have started something completely new and exciting to you and you were beaming with joy when you finally were able to start. Most people take off like a rocket- a quick and sudden ignition, and then they lift off straight for the stars. Acceleration hits and you are speeding towards the heavens, and the sky is the limit; nothing can stop you. Suddenly you start to slow down and coast. Acceleration stops and most of the time, parts fall off. You eventually slow or change direction. It isn’t any surprise that most of the time that same excitement when we “launch” is then met with a feeling of defeat when things change, slow, or fall apart. That is how it is in my case at least.

Every evening after a long day, I would cook my family dinner and we would sit at our table in our home. We would pray, we would eat, and we would catch up on our day apart. After dishes were cleared, I grabbed my gear and trucked it out to the garden. Flash lights and mosquito spray were very much so needed. I would prune, tie tomato vines to stakes, harvest what was ready, and water if it hadn’t rained in a few days. This is what I just sarcastically named “The Midnight Gardeners Club” and it was the part of my crazy day I looked forward to the most!

It quickly became routine: Nightly checking on the seedlings, checking on the plants in the garden and watering. Looking for the dreaded pests like tomato horn worm and squash bugs (luckily, none of which were ever discovered this season, THANK GOD). It was down right therapeutic. I could just let go of frustrations and find serenity in that space among the frogs croaking and the crickets chirping their night time song. It was nice while it lasted. Soon after things really got rolling, the chickens got out and they destroyed my poor garden over and over. By the time I had found out how they kept getting loose, it was too late. Most of what I planted for spring had fallen victim to the chickens or the heat. The only thing growing anymore was my temper, the weeds, and the heat during the day.

Defeat was the only term that comes to mind. I felt like I wasn’t meant to be a gardener, that I had failed miserably and just throw in the towel. A few weeks prior to the nuclear explosion in my mind over losing the hard work I had put into this patch of dirt, I started listening to podcasts on my hour and twenty minute commute to work. I heard an avid gardener tell me that most novice gardeners experience this. Sometimes we bite off more than we can chew, and sometimes we don’t give ourselves some slack for meeting defeat. Podcast gardener also mentioned that most beginner gardeners quit after the first year. I didn’t like hearing that. Wow… That many people just gave up and said it was over for them? I cannot accept that as my story. My mistakes and my failure are lessons!

Happy to say that I am planning to scale back, and start again, but keep it simple this time! My garden is a jungle of weeds and grass. I am going to transform this into a beautiful space where I can grow some food for my family and where I can find some peace! I am going to post the progress along the way! Stay tuned!

A Grand New Adventure!

Urban homesteading in the middle of the city.

Do you have a fond memory of childhood that brings you back to a state of mind to before we had to worry about bills and responsibility? Any time that happens to me, a mental video plays in my mind like an old film projector. Faces of friends and the sound of innocent laughter immediately bring a grin across these cheeks. Gardening is a memory like that for me.

Throughout my childhood, my Mom and Dad (mostly Dad) had a spring garden every year. Mom was the planner and Dad was the muscle and brains behind the project. It was always so exciting watching Dad bring out his ancient red tiller that we called “Old Red” and build up these wonderful raised beds that eventually would support the life of various plants we wanted to grow. Of course I always wanted to help and loved every opportunity to get filthy! We would buy plants from the store and some packets of seed, and we would go to town plugging things in place. Watching it grow felt very rewarding! It was exciting!

I remember the first taste of home grown tomatoes. I wasn’t such a fan of the taste of tomato on it’s own when I was a child, but it was sure good on a burger and I could tell the difference from the start! I earned that tomato! I pulled weeds, fertilized, brought the dirt mound back up if it had washed out, and it was work. Dad and I spend quality time in the garden. We spoke of dreams and schemes! Would sweat and cut up all at the same time just laughing and holding our bellies. Gardening is a happy memory for me indeed. He would tell me stories of his childhood, and working on a dairy farm when he was a young man. It was nice bonding time for him and I.

Now that I am grown, married, and have a child of my own, I am brought back to the idea of gardening for our own consumption. I dove into study on gardening and urban homesteading when I kept hearing of the stores having recalls for bad produce or meat. The last straw was about a year and a half ago when lettuce got recalled because 20 people had gotten sick and a few of them were hospitalized. I thought, “How ridiculous! People eat salads for their health, and look what happened! you can’t trust the food sold in the stores.” It made me wonder just how much I could get out of our little yard nestled in the city if we grew it ourselves. How much of our own food can we really grow here if we learned how to carefully use the space? ?

I dove in! It felt so good starting those little seeds. I bought packs of tomatoes, and peppers, and melons galore! I had okra, cabbage, corn, kale, cucumbers, and beans. I had about 5 large trays filled with seeds that I could not wait to harvest from.

Gardening also became a mindless hobby for me as well. I was up early and heading out the door most days just after light. I would work all day at a stressful job, come straight home and run to the porch to look at my “babies”. I’ll admit I lost it when I saw the first set of baby leaves break the surface. I felt like an old lady at heart (inside joke because I am 29 and love lots of ‘old lady’ things) as I water and nurture these little guys to grow big and strong so that they can give us yummy stuff to eat. It went well for the spring, but I suppose I was a tad too confident in my abilities because i went overboard on plants and now it is all nothing but a graveyard of veggies that once were beautiful. Grass has grown over. Vines shriveled up and died. It needs help in the form of a true overhaul and it is getting it soon!

Join me on this wonderful adventure of urban homesteading, gardening and learning to grow as much of our own food as we can! We are learning the land, the season, and the fundamentals that come with gardening.